Living Faith—The Secret of “Mormon” Success
By Elder Nephi Pratt, President of the Northwestern States Mission, Spokane, Wash.
[The following synopsis of a discourse delivered an evening in September, 1902, by Elder Pratt, on a street corner, in the city of Spokane, Washington, is a fair sample of what the missionaries are proclaiming to the world concerning the people generally known as “Mormons,” relating to the restoration of the Gospel of Christ. It will be read with interest by the young men who contemplate missions, and will serve also to draw the busy mind at home to a contemplation of the things of God, and to the need of living more closely to the letter of our professions. Elder Pratt, who is a son of the great early Church missionary, Parley P. Pratt, has charge of about fifty elders, and his mission embraces most of Montana, Oregon and Washington, and parts of Idaho and British Columbia, with headquarters at Spokane.—Editors.]
Friends and Fellow Citizens:—The labor of myself and these young elders, in the city of Spokane, consists of preaching on the streets on week-nights, holding cottage meetings on Sundays, distributing tracts each afternoon from door to door, and holding gospel conversations with people who will listen to us. Our experiences are often painful, at times amusing, and, for days together, discouraging. We meet with bigotry such as crucified Christ, with intolerance such as caused Christians to burn each other at the stake, and with atheism and positivism which deny the existence of anything that cannot be seen, heard or felt by the five senses. We are often opposed by fools, whose senseless gabble is applauded by refined bigotry, as though it were the greatest wisdom, for no other reason than that “Mormonism” i the thing they are attempting to destroy. Indeed, many enlightened Christians of this great century, who are well able to reason accurately, on any and every ordinary subject, count logic, reason, and common sense, well lost, if only “Mormonism” can be temporarily disposed of. Drown the voice of its elders with noise; silence them with the threats and blackguardism of drunkards; stifle its voice with violence; turn away its advocates by hisses, sneers, and groans; in short everything, or anything, that can be thought of or devised on earth, to drive from the world these unorthodox and unpopular doctrines.
It is reasonably certain that corruption is the underlying cause of this state of affairs. This wonderful age, with its progress in art, in science, in literature, in invention; with its mighty engines of power, by which it moves the commerce of the world, circumscribes the globe with its electrical appliances, carrying the world’s occurrences into the uttermost parts of the earth, in a moment; with its labor-saving machinery, its improved methods of dealing with the elements of nature, stimulating and increasing production thereby; and with its multiplied powers in all directions, whereby man, under wise and honest government, might be happier, healthier, better fed, clothed, housed, educated, developed, enriched, enobled, and crowned with a success never before attained in any age, since the beginning of time; this age, with all its wonderful progress, has utterly failed, thus far, in bringing about these desirable conditions for man. Is man redeemed from the degradation of groveling poverty, penury and want? Is he emancipated from the necessity of becoming a wolf, and devouring his neighbor? In fact, is he not almost compelled to do so, or starve? Is he morally nobler than in the days of his grandfather, before science and invention had brought about these wonderful changes? Is it not easily proved from the records that there is one hundred murders, adulteries, fornications, whoredoms, thefts, suicides, homicides, rapes, cruelties and crimes of all descriptions now, where there was one, a hundred years ago? Oh, what an awful, what a melancholy thought; and yet how impossible to deny!
Where, then, shall we look for the cause of such a deplorable state of affairs? Is it not accounted for, in the fact that the religion, the theology of the fathers, that was cast in the mold of other ages, stands unchanged, covered with the cobwebs of other centuries, not having moved a single step in advance for hundreds of years, thus leaving its votaries morally and spiritually dwarfed, shriveled, and dead?
What possible advancement can there be in a system of theology which has neither apostles, prophets, nor other inspired or divinely authorized servants of God; and which denies revelation, visions, the visitation of holy angels, tongues, prophesyings, healings, interpretations, etc.? Since, then, science has proved itself unable to save and elevate man; the arts have failed, inventions have not accomplished it, and a system of religion shorn of its power for centuries, being dead, root and branch, has done nothing for his elevation, was it not high time that the God of heaven should again put forth his hand to restore to the earth a system of salvation for his children? The spirit that actuated the ancient servants of God, and the Church of God that was established by Jesus Christ, gave life, growth, development, advancement, enlightenment and progress in things religious.
Such a religion goes in advance in all things pertaining to man’s material and eternal welfare.
Such a system has been revealed to the earth, through the ministering of holy angels, in this our day. The enemies of truth have sought to drive it from the earth. They have fought it with ridicule, denunciation, and invective. The press, the pulpit, and the lecture platform, have filled the world with falsehoods, in regard to it. Its votaries have been driven, whipped, imprisoned, plundered, robbed, ravished, and murdered. This great system has been misnamed “Mormonism.” By the Spirit of God, it is solving the problems of socialism. Through its teachings, ninety per cent of the “Mormon” people live in their own houses; are colonizing with great unanimity and success in many states and countries, and are acknowledged everywhere to be thrifty, successful and independent, accomplishing, by their united efforts, that which would cost others millions in money to perform.
In order to illustrate the mighty power of this system and the way it operated upon those who gladly received it, let us take a retrospective view of this wonderful people, commencing away back in 1847. In the blistering month of July, of that eventful year, the advance guard of the “Mormon” people, with stormbeaten visages, cracked and bleeding lips, sunburnt faces and weary limbs; with ox teams, cow teams, horse teams, and teams of oxen and cows yoked together, and some few with no teams, all hungry, leg-weary and foot-sore, wended their way slowly down the plateaus of the great range of Wasatch mountains, and gazed for the first time upon the sterility and awful desolation of no one knows how many centuries of time. Except for the willows and cottonwood trees that skirted the streams, there was no green thing to gladden and brighten the landscape; no pines, spruce, nor other trees of any kind to be seen, except in the canyons and gorges, and on the rocky steeps and high slopes of the rock-bound, snow-crowned mountains, which surrounded the valley of the Great Salt Lake. When these lonely wanderers looked about them, they gazed upon a vast area of country, seamed and cracked and baked by the suns of a thousand rainless summers. If they looked at the earth they beheld an ash heap; if at the sky, a merciless sun, sending down its scorching rays with pittiless persistence upon their unprotected heads. If they looked to the west, they gazed upon a dead sea, so impregnated with salt that no creature that lives in the rivers or marshes, that is known on the land, or which inhabits the ocean, could endure even a temporary existence in its deadly waters. These devoted followers of inspiration and revelation, with their prophets, apostles, bishops, counselors and leading men, were the advance guard of a mighty people, who, fleeing from Christian mobs, in an enlightened country, in the blazing light of the nineteenth century civilization, were seeking homes where they might worship God in peace, according to the dictates of their consciences. Their former homes, built upon lands purchased from the government, were now in ashes, their altars desecrated, their grain fields laid waste, their resources cut off. Their prophet and patriarch, Joseph and Hyrum Smith, had been murdered in cold blood, many scores of their brethren, shot to death, women, single and married, ravished, and all the cruelties heaped upon their defenseless heads, that the ingenuity of cruel enemies could invent. In this desolate, barren, unsmiling and untried desert, began a gathering together of multitudes of destitute, homeless creatures, under circumstances such as the world never witnessed since the beginning of time, and may never behold again till eternity is ushered in, and time shall be no more. They were between ten and eleven hundred miles from civilization on the east, and nine hundred miles from California, on the west. They knew nothing of irrigation; nothing as to whether the soil they were settling upon would produce the necessaries of life or not. They could not return to the land from whence they had just fled, even if peace could have been secured for them; neither could they advance to the green, smiling, productive fields of California; for were not their teams worn out, and they and their wives and little ones without the power of endurance to drag themselves any farther? Under these circumstances, it resolved into one of two things: either to remain in Salt Lake valley and live, or remain in Salt Lake valley and die. They had brought with them all the wheat and other cereals they could hope to carry across the plains. It is very easy to understand that their supply was very limited, for their women and children must have room to ride, their bedding and clothing must be stowed away, and all the necessary articles for use, have place within their wagons, besides the flour and other articles of food which must be carried. Under these conditions, only enough seed grain, and a few potatoes, and other seeds to plant a limited crop, were brought along. Then came the fateful question: if we sow in this untried desert, shall we ever reap? and if we do not reap a plentiful harvest the coming year, what will become of us, our wives and little ones, before the snows of our second winter shall have whitened the earth? We cannot go forward, we cannot go backward; and, if we do not reap, we shall, by the sure process of slow starvation, all go down to death, with no eye to pity, no arm to save, and no hand to give us burial. These were the appalling conditions which confronted several hundred Saints, in that first trying autumn, in Great Salt Lake valley, in the year of our Lord, 1847.
In the midst of such unheard of, unparalleled circumstances, let it be told from generation to generation, down through all the ages, to their everlasting credit, that not one man in all that “Mormon” host weakened. Neither men, women nor children gave up to the slightest degree of despair; no weak knees, no trembling lips, no tears, no regrets, no hesitancy. In that then unknown, untrodden, untried wilderness of barren mountains and lifeless deserts, with an alacrity born of faith that knows no wavering, of energy that recognizes no defeat, they commenced to lay the foundations deep and strong, of that splendid commonwealth, which has since risen to such greatness and renown.
Can the history of the world furnish a parallel to this? Yet the explanation is most simple. These people possessed a living faith in a true and living God. They had heard his voice, received divine inspiration from him, and experienced his power. They were led by living prophets, by divinely called and inspired apostles, who had never yet, in all their varied experience lied to them, or predicted that which did not come to pass. Did they not have for their leader that vigorous, courageous, dauntless, vigilant, invincible Brigham Young? Had not he and his great apostles decided upon that land as a gathering place for the hosts of Israel, who should be brought out of every nation? Had not that land, and the gathering in of the people upon it, been the theme of the ancient prophets? Isaiah had predicted that “in the last days the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the tops of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills, and all nations shall flow unto it.” Ezekiel, Jeremiah, and others of the Jewish prophets, had foreseen and foretold these same strange events: the Prophet Joseph Smith, just prior to his martyrdom, had predicted that the Saints should become a mighty people in the midst of the Rocky mountains. And, last but not least, had not the Prophet Brigham Young, standing in the Great Salt Lake valley, on the backbone of the Rockies, sticking the point of his walking cane into the soil, declared: “here shall be erected the temple of our God,” and, motioning with his hand so as to take in all points of the compass, exclaimed: “Here shall be builded a great city?” These testimonies of ancient and modern prophets were enough.
Every soul in the camps of Israel believed every word of these things. People possessing such mighty faith as was here exhibited, never did fail in any age of the world; and so it was upon this supreme occasion: they sowed in faith, and they reaped in abundance; they planted, saying: “God never led us here to starve,” and they gathered in an hundred fold. They builded their cabins of logs, with a sure premonition that one day they would be turned into palaces, their poverty into riches, and their desolate land into fruitful fields. These, as they wrought, were their visions by day, and their dreams by night, inspired by the God of Daniel. How abundantly their faith was rewarded may be seen by a visit to the land where they now dwell. What do we behold today? A magnificent temple which is the joy and glory of the western world; the corner stone of which was laid April 6, 1853, and which was completed and dedicated April 6, 1893; ninety-nine feet wide by one hundred and eighty-six feet long; with a foundation ten feet thick at the base, and five feet thick at the square; one hundred feet high from basement to square; built of great solid blocks of beautiful, white granite; with six towers,—three on the west and three on the east, the east center tower being two hundred and twenty feet high, surmounted by an angelic figure twelve and one half feet high, made of copper and gilded with gold leaf, the whole costing $4,000,000.
Then there is the great tabernacle, one hundred and fifty feet wide by two hundred and fifty feet long; eighty feet high; seating capacity about ten thousand, without pillars in the center to obstruct the sound of the voice; its mammoth arches resting upon forty-four stone pillars; with its twenty double doors, which renders it easy to empty the vast structure in five minutes; cost $300,000.
Here we see the grand organ, thirty feet wide by thirty-three feet long, and forty-eight feet high; with its bellows operated by electricity; with sixty-seven stops and two thousand, six hundred and forty-eight pipes; about the greatest instrument in the world.
From these great structures you gaze upon the city of Salt Lake, with its wide and beautiful streets, its thousands of palatial residences; its gardens, pleasure grounds, rivulets and parks; its landscapes, fruits, flowers and fountains; and finally a hundred other cities, towns and villages, three of which contain, each, a magnificent temple,—besides thousands of farms, orchards, stock ranches, mines of gold and silver and precious stones.
All these things are the most perfect fulfilment of every word spoken by the mouths of their prophets, and are at least a partial realization of their dreams. These evidences all unite to testify that the faith of this marvelous people was not in vain; that the God of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young was the true and living God; the same who led ancient Israel dry-shod through the Red sea; that their prophets and apostles were called and inspired of God. In the face of such facts as these, no one need attempt to make the Latter-day Saints believe that they are not daily led by revelation from God. Those revelations contained in the Old and New Testaments, would not have fitted their case. This people situated as they were, were compelled to have something later or perish.
Revealed religion was always in advance of science, in fact, it was revealed religion that introduced science to the earth; and as in the days of Abraham and Moses, so, in this day, “Mormonism” was solving the problems of the age, of the rocks of which the earth is made, while geology was yet in its infancy, and was making known things pertaining to our solar system, that science sneered at, but acknowledged the truth of sixty years later.
“Mormonism” deals, in an unmistakable manner, with those great questions of life in a pre-existent state; of life here in this material world; of life beyond the grave in the spiritual world; and of life in the resurrection world. It solves the problems of our relationship to God, to angels, to spirits unborn, and to departed spirits; gives us a knowledge of man’s responsibilities to God; of his relationship to his wife, children and parents, and gives him a complete and perfect system of eternal relationship with kindred spirits beyond the grave. In short it reveals principles pertaining to time and eternity, such as never entered into the heart of man to conceive of, who were not inspired by the spirit and power of God.
Now, where did “Mormonism” get its growth, its power, the mighty and potent influence it wields over the minds of men, its certainty, its boundless knowledge, its perfect adaptability to all kinds of men, and to all conditions surrounding them?
This “ism” is from God. It came by revelation from him. It has been sustained and perpetuated by him through scenes of opposition that would have destroyed anything emenating from a lesser source. It contains all heights and depths of knowledge, wisdom and power, defies the ravages of time, and will stand through time and eternity, mighty, powerful and potent to save men from their sins, and from poverty and sickness, and deliver them from death, hell and the grave.
It makes plain the principles of eternal marriage between a man and the woman he loves, puts him in possession of the science of endless lives, and renders it possible for him to possess all things worth having in time and in eternity.
Such, my dear friends and brethren of Spokane, are in part the great principles of the gospel of the Son of God, as revealed to the ancient prophets and Saints, and as restored to the earth by the ministration of holy angels, in this day, through Joseph, Smith, the mighty prophet of this dispensation, and I testify to it, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
[Improvement Era, 1903]
[transcribed and proofread by David Grow, May 2006]