December 21, 2007

Utah: "Saint-raising country"

Brigham Young June 22, 1856 Three women accompanied the vanguard pioneer train to Utah. An old legend holds that when Brigham arrived in the valley one of the women told him "I've walked one thousand miles to get here, and I'll gladly walk one thousand more if we don't have to stop here." The first few years, especially, were difficult. Brigham explained his feelings on the unique trials faced by the early Saints:

If the troubles of this people from the commencement of this work, from the early history of the Prophet, and the persecutions of the Saints, could be presented before this congregation you would be astonished, you would marvel at them. You would not believe that a people could endure so much as this people have endured, you would think it an impossibility for men and women to endure and pass through what a great many in this Church have. Truly it is a miracle that we are here.

Perhaps some would have hoped for a miracle involving a more hospitable climate. Brigham continued:
Taking these things into consideration, and viewing our present circumstances and the privileges we enjoy, there is not a heart that fully realizes what we have passed through and the blessings we now enjoy, without praising God continually and feeling to exclaim, "O praise the name of our God."
Praising God for hard times?
True, many think and feel that we have hard times here, that it is a hard country to live in. We have long cold winters, and we have a great many difficulties to encounter-the Indian wars, the cricket wars, the grasshopper wars, and the drouths. What we have suffered during the two years past comes before us, and now the prospect is gloomy pertaining to sustenance for man. How many are there who feel and say like this? "Were it not for 'Mormonism' I should know at once what to do; I know the course I would pursue." What would you do, brother? "I would pick up my duds and leave; I would sell what I have here, if I could, and if I could not I would leave it." These are the feelings of some. I will tell you what my feelings are, they are, praise God for hard times, for I feel that it is one of the greatest privileges to be in a country that is not desirable, where the wicked will pass by.

They believed they'd found a unique place that wouldn't be coveted by others where they could live without fear of being driven from their homes once again.[1] If they would reflect on the past persecutions, they'd thank God for Utah:
Now, do we all realize this? No, we do not; though I have no doubt but that some do. I will tell you what will make you realize it; to suffer the loss of all things here by the enemy's coming along and driving you out of your houses, from your farms and fields, and taking your horses, cattle, farming implements, and what little substance you have, and banishing you from this place and sending you off five or six hundred miles, bereft of all you possessed, without suitable clothing and provisions for the journey. Then you go to work, and toil and labor with all your might, for a few years, to get another home, and then let another set come and drive you out of that place, taking your cattle, your farms, and all you have, telling you that they want your possessions, and by the time they had thus driven you four or five times, as they have many of us, and made you leave every thing you have, and threatened you with death, and watched for you by day and by night, to get a chance to kill you, and they suffered to go at large with impunity, and would kill you in open daylight if they dare, after having passed through fifteen or sixteen years of this kind of persecution, you would thank God for hard times, for a country where mobs do not wish to live... Here we are in the valleys of these mountains, and I say that there is not a people on the earth that would live here but the Latter-day Saints, and it seems almost more than they can do to stay here. Now if they would be as swift to hearken to counsel as they are to get rich, and as they are in pleasing their own dispositions, we should not see the hard times that we now see.
Some immigrants didn't have the experience of being driven from their homes; some had likely left better climate. Brigham knew the valley wasn't a Garden of Eden, but he wanted the people to enjoy their new home. He saw all these experiences as part of the education God intends for His children, and he believed it takes time to learn. We're all in this together, so have compassion on others as you would want compassion:
I look upon the people, and as I frequently say, I have compassion upon them, for all have not experience. It was told you this morning that you could not be made perfect Saints in one day, that is impossible. You might as well undertake to learn a child every branch of English literature during its first week's attendance at school, this cannot be done. We are not capacitated to receive in one day, nor in one year, the knowledge and experience calculated to make us perfect Saints, but we learn from time to time, from day to day, consequently we are to have compassion one upon another, to look upon each other as we would wish others to look upon us, and to remember that we are frail mortal beings, and that we can be changed for the better only by the Gospel of salvation.
Through our experiences in life we are given choices between good and evil, and everything in between. Brigham felt our duty is to learn God's will and discern between the good and evil. The valley seemed calculated to provide excellent experiences for the Saints to learn:
A man, or a woman, desiring to know the will of God, and having an opportunity to know it, will apply their hearts to this wisdom until it becomes easy and familiar to them, and they will love to do good instead of evil. They will love to promote every good principle, and will soon abhor everything that tends to evil; they will gain light and knowledge to discern between evil and good. The person that applies his heart to wisdom, and seeks diligently for understanding, will grow to be mighty in Israel...
All I ask of you is to apply your hearts to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and be Saints. I will not ask anything else on this earth of you only to live so as to know the mind and will of God when you receive it, and then abide in it. If you will do that, you will be prepared to do a great many things, and you will find that there is much good to be done... I wish to be tyrannical enough, if that is the proper term, to make you good men and good women. Go to with your might this year, and see if we cannot prepare for another. This is a great Saint raising country; we have seen wheat grow here almost spontaneously, and there could not be a better Saint raising country...
It is our business to live our religion, and it is all that we have to do. "But," says one, "I thought we had got to raise grain." I have told you, many a time, that I would not give you anything for your faith, without you add works. How are you going to work to build up the kingdom (JD 3:362-375).[2]
The earth itself is great "Saint-raising country." Our mortal probation here parallels that of the Saints; the strange wanderers in a strange lane; as Jacob expressed in the Book of Mormon:
And it came to pass that I, Jacob, began to be old; ...wherefore, I conclude this record, declaring that I have written according to the best of my knowledge, by saying that the time passed away with us, and also our lives passed away like as it were unto us a dream, we being a lonesome and a solemn people, wanderers, cast out from Jerusalem, born in tribulation, in a wilderness, and hated of our brethren, which caused wars and contentions; wherefore, we did mourn out our days (Jacob 7:26).
The motif repeats again and again, at the beginning with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, cast out to the wilderness; the children of Israel seeking the promise land through the wilderness for forty years, our spirits leaving the presence of God to come to earth as wanderers and pilgrims, our experiences calculated to teach us, and get us back to the paradise again. We're all in Saint-raising country. It is our business here, as Brigham declared, to live our religion, and that is all we have to do. Footnotes: [1] Six days later, Heber C. Kimball echoed these sentiments while talking about the grain shortage and encouraging Saints not to sell grain to Gentiles. Not only did the Saints need to save grain for themselves, but for Saints on the way to the valley:
The hand-carts are rolling, and those with them can sleep at night and be up in the mornings, and the carts will jingle through the day... Brethren and sisters, take care of your grain; do not waste any of your grain, for you will need it all; and do not make an unwise or unsaintly disposition of it. I beg of you to attend to this counsel, for I have told it three or four times; not because I profess to be a Prophet, but because I naturally see the necessity for so doing... Suppose all this people had been wise and taken counsel, would they have suffered the present destitution? No, they would not. Much of our grain has been consumed by our enemies... In addition to our present number, according to accounts that I see, there are five thousand Saints ready for the Plains at one place, and five thousand more at another... I speak of these things to warn and forewarn you to take care of your grain and save it, and it will be better for you to do this, even though in so doing you have to go bare-footed. .. I do firmly believe that our bread has been blest and multiplied this season, for I know there was not enough in the Territory to sustain the people. However, the present scarcity is one of the best things that ever happened to this people, for it will teach them wisdom. This is one of the poorest countries for occupancy for Gentiles that I have ever seen, though for the same reasons it is at present the very best for the Saints, for we can get along in it better than any other people (JD 4:1).
[2] Brigham would return to the "saint-raising country" theme several times. On August 17, 1856 he lighted on the subject:
My soul feels hallelujah, it exults in God, that He has planted this people in a place that is not desired by the wicked; for if the wicked come here they do not wish to stay, no matter how well they are treated, and I thank the Lord for it; and I want hard times, so that every person that does not wish to stay, for the sake of his religion, will leave. This is a good place to make Saints, and it is a good place for Saints to live; it is the place the Lord has appointed, and we shall stay here until He tells us to go somewhere else (JD 4:32).