March 25, 2008

Angels and Outhouses

Jedediah M. Grant August 3, 1856 I wonder if an informal poll was taken how many people on the street would say that the phrase "cleanliness is next to Godliness" can be found in the scriptures. It can't. Some have traced the phrase's origin to a 1791 sermon by John Wesley which said "Slovenliness is no part of religion. Cleanliness is indeed next to Godliness," but it seems he was referring to the phrase as though it were already in common usage. An earlier reference, though in different verbiage, was employed in Sir Francis Bacon's 1605 work Advancement of Learning: "Cleanness of body was ever deemed to proceed from a due reverence to God."[1] As part of the "Mormon Reformation" of the late 1850s Jedediah Grant, or as some of the Saints called him, "Brigham's Hammer" traveled through the Utah territory preaching fiery sermons enjoining residents to reform their lives in every way, spiritually, morally, and even physically. This excerpt does well to show how the spiritual and temporal could be blended together, as Grant refers to angels and cleaning outhouses:

I am aware that the Latter-day Saints require a great deal of preaching, and some of that, too, on subjects very easy of comprehension; I will tell you what I said to one of our home missionaries a few days ago, and I said the same to one of the brethren from Grantsville, when speaking to him about the petty wrangling there. They wanted a new local President and a new local Bishop, they wanted this, that, and the other, and wished to know what we had to say. I remarked, if you wish to know what I have to say, I will tell you. Said I, if an angel of God should come to that village, he would say to its inhabitants, "Repent and wash your bodies, repent and clean up your dooryards, repent and cleanse your outhouses," all of which I seriously think that they have very much need to do. After they have actually cleansed themselves and commenced doing right, and have cleansed their locality, I presume that then an angel, or a man of God, might tell them what further to do. I actually suppose that in the instructions which an angel of God would give, the very first lesson would be to teach cleanliness to the filthy, and then instruct them to keep themselves cleanly all the time. This is what our President is frequently teaching you; and yet you may go into some parts of this city, and you would actually think that affords no more water than would suffice for cleansing them. I like a place constantly kept clean, and that must be so to satisfy me, I not only want the history of a people's being clean, and of their having cleansed up their dooryards, outbuildings, and grounds, but I want them to do it. We have preached cleanliness at Fillmore, last winter; and when I went there lately I was pleased to see that they had made some little improvement. But there is still by far too much carelessness in this matter, and some people seem to love to live amidst filth, and to snuff its nauseous and unhealthy odors, when it would be far better to apply it to enriching your soil (JD 4:19-20).
Footnotes: [1] The exact origin of the phrase "Cleanliness is next to Godliness" is not certain. See William and Mary Morris, Morris Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins, (HarperCollins, New York, 1977, 1988. Gregory Y. Titelman attributes the saying to an early Rabbi:
According to the fourteenth edition of Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, it is an old Hebrew proverb used in the late 2nd century by Rabbi Phinehas ben-Yair.
See Titelman, Random House Dictionary of Popular Proverbs and Sayings" (1996). The writers of BibleUFO.com make this comment:
"Cleanliness is next to Godliness" This is not in the Bible and no similar verses or concepts are found in the Bible, God does not seem to rate hygiene as a high priority. The origin is John Wesley, from a sermon he gave called “On Dress".
The writers of BibleUFO are careful to note that they do believe God travels in UFOs, but they do not believe God is an "alien."

6 comments:

Doctor Steuss said...

I'm glad the peeps at BibleUFO realize that G-d isnt' an alien.

That makes me happy.

(Brilliant blog title BTW).

Hugs,
Stu

LifeOnaPlate said...

This post may be one of those "testing...testing...1,2,3" kind of things and apparently, at least where Doc Stu is sitting, the mic is on. (Or it's really quiet but words like 'outhouse' are picked up more easily in the subconscious.)

Hugs back,

Blair

LifeOnaPlate said...

ps- you actually read footnotes?!

Doctor Steuss said...

I always read footnotes. In many books (like Shindler's OPR biography) I actually pay closer attention to the footnotes than the actual text.

LifeOnaPlate said...

Excellent. I believe we both commiserated at one time over people who put footnotes at the end of the book as opposed to the bottom margins of the page.

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