A Looking Glass

In Which to Examine Ourselves, to See Whether We Be in the Faith

Editor Mormon.

Dear Sir—

I find in my travels in the United States, many who profess to be brethren, or members of the church of the Saints.  Among these there are a few who appear to me to deceive themselves, and think that they are in the faith when they are not.

If we inquire of a man whether he is in the faith, he will say, O yes, I am firm in the faith of “Mormonism.”  I cannot consistently be anything else.  I can see as clear as the noon day sun, that the doctrine is scriptural, and that other modern systems are inconsistent with themselves, with each other, and with the Bible.  Now this same man, who considers himself thus firm in the faith, being a man of means, will not lift a finger in the cause which he professes to believe.  Of if he does, it is in a small way, and but very seldom—it is also done grudgingly—and in many cases because somebody urged, or teased him into the measure.  He does nothing willingly or voluntarily, except, perhaps, the customary hospitality, of lodging and feeding the Elders.

When it comes to clothing an Elder, or bearing his traveling expenses, or assisting to support his family, it is out of the question, the man never dreams of such a thing.

When tithing or donations are called for, or when he is required to sell out and gather with the Saints, he never makes a move.  In short, he never thinks of cooperating with the Priesthood and Kingdom of god.

If he is questioned to the point, it will be found that he does not exactly believe in the gathering, or in tithing, or in some other peculiarities of the faith.

Well, brother, what it the peculiar system which you do believe?  Or what is “Mormonism,” as embraced by you?

Why, sir, I believe in the first principles—the Bible doctrines of faith, repentance, baptism for the remission of sins, and the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost, &c.  I also believe in praying, going to meeting, singing, &c., and in living a moral life.  But all this has very little to do with money, or with gathering to some particular place, or cooperating with the body of Saints in temporal affairs.  If I sing and pray on, I shall inherit the kingdom of God at last.

Now it appears to me that such an one is deceiving himself, and that, in reality, he is not in the faith at all.

Let us look at this kind of faith in the mirror of another age, and see what it will amount to.  Noah, for instance, was a Prophet, a preacher of righteousness.  He, of course, taught first principles, as all God’s messengers do.  He required repentance, and the fruits of righteousness.  He, no doubt, required the converts to obey the ordinances of God—to live morally, go to meeting, sing, pray, preach, &c.  But he also foretold the destruction of the wicked, and the way of escape, or the means of temporal salvation for the righteous.

His followers must, therefore, not only believe and repeat, and obey the ordinances, and live moral lives, and attend church, and pray, but they must close their business, gather up their means, withdraw from the fellowship of the world, and cease to intermarry with them, if they would save their children.

They must actually remove to the vicinity of the Ark with all their means, and there be dictated by the authority of Noah, his agents, and assistants, so as to cooperate with others in the same interests, in all their means and labours.  Thus an ark could be prepared, with all its water, provisions, &c., for man and beast, and fowl and creeping thing.  They must, perhaps, produce food to support the hands while they laboured on the ark, or they must burn coal, or work in the smith’s shop, to make and repair the tools, or to manufacture the nails, pins, and spikes; or they must make a road to the forest, or to assist in felling trees, and hewing and transporting timbers, or sawing plank; or perhaps it would fall to their lot to work on the body of the ark, inside or out; or in planning and fitting flooring, or decking, or partition ceilings, or stalls for animals, or storage rooms.  Ot they might perhaps work in the cooper’s shop in preparing water casks, or in the meadows in cutting hay for the animals, or in gathering it and storing it away in the ark; or in drying meats and fruits, and gathering grains and other provisions.  Or is it possible they might be appointed to travel and preach; and warn the world; or to select and purchase cattle or horses, sheep or swine, male and female, for the preservation of the best breeds of these animals.  And finally they must put themselves and their families on board, with all the necessaries of life.  And if they had any gold or silver or precious jewels left after all these outlays, they must, if they would preserve them, bring them on board, and treasure them up in the ark.  Thus it is evident that they must be wholly dictated to by the leaders of Prophets, in their labours, and in all their temporal affairs and interests.

Now let us suppose, in the days of Noah some converts who received the first principles of Noah’s preaching, who believed and repented and lived moral lives, and obeyed the ordinances; and who attended church, sung, prayed, preached, commented on the old prophecies of Enoch, and Seth, &c.

In process of time Noah, being too busy with the ark to go himself, sends out missionaries to these pious branches of the Church, or professed Noahites, to instruct them in their duty, and to inquire if they were firm in the faith of Noahism.  O yes, says every one of them, we are firm Noahites.  Well, then, says the messenger, God requires you to sell your possessions and gather up your means, and emigrate to the vicinity of the ark, and devote your money, your goods, your time, and your entire interests in furthering the Cause of the Ark, &c.  But, as this will take some little time, you are invited in the mean time to furnish what ready means you can consistently spare, in pushing forward the great work of temporal salvation; that we, through faithfulness, may be heirs of the world when it is cleansed from the wicked by water.

O, say the professed Noahites, then it is our money and goods, and labours that you are after, is it?  You wish to control our temporal interests!  Well, sir, you can go home again and inform Mr. Noah, that it is only in spiritual things, or in matters of religion that we are willing to be dictated.  We profess to be able to manage our own affairs, and no man shall dictate our financial matters, nor teach us where to emigrate, or when or where to go or come.  “We are individual sovereigns,” and no man shall rule over us.  Not but what we are firm believers in Noahism.  That is, we believe in the first principles just as he has laid them down; we believe in faith, repentance, and obedience to the ordinances.  We also believe in a moral life, and in going to church, singing, praying, preaching, &c., but nothing more.

But still, lest you might consider us indifferent or unfriendly, we will treat you with hospitality.  But as to clothing, traveling expenses, and aid for your families while you are round warning the world, or teaching us, you must run in debt for it, or do without it, or get it where you can; we have no concern in that matter.  But—stop a moment—let me see—here is a dollar for you; we wish to be liberal—and finally, come to take second thought, we will donate a few dimes to the building of the ark; but you must consider it a mere charity on our part, and thank and bless us for it.  We, of course, have no personal interest in the matter, but we wish to be charitable to our brethren.  O!—By the bye, we wish you to stay till tomorrow; a wedding comes off.  Our daughter is going to be married to a rich gentleman; he is not exactly a Noahite, but he is a very fine man, a real gentleman; he thinks everything of our daughter, and will make a most excellent husband.  Besides, this is the last single daughter we have.  The other have all “married well,” and are very well situated in life, although none of them exactly believe Noahism, but they come to meeting once in a while just to please us—in short, they are very friendly.

The messenger sees how it is, stays to the wedding, pities all parties, but cannot enlighten them.  He finally blesses them for their hospitality and charity, and returns to Noah to report progress.

Now query: What would Noah say of these Noahites?

Why! he would doubtless say: Poor blind souls, they are to be pitied.  They think they are Noahites, but alas, they deceive themselves.  We will thank and bless them for their little kindnesses and charities, and will struggle on as well as we can in our duties of building the ark, and warning the world.

These professed Noahites have no real faith; they are not, in fact, Noahites at all.  They are not fit for the kingdom of God, and to be joint heirs with us to a new world after the flood.  They must, therefore, with all their prayers, religion, morality, and charity, perish with the disobedient, and miss salvation in the kingdom of God.

At length the ark is finished, furnished, and peopled.  The obedient sail off in triumph over the fragments of a ruined world, and finally become heirs of a whole earth, when it is cleansed by water.

The professed Noahites lose their lives and all their property.  Their sons and daughters, mixed up with the world, although they “married well,” raised up children and heaped up property to perish with them in the flood.

“And so,” said Jesus, “shall it be in the days of the coming of the Son of Man.”

“Mormonism” has come forth, not only to call people to believe in Jesus Christ, repent, live a moral life, obey the ordinances of God, go to church, sing, pray, and preach; but it has come forth to prepare the way for the coming of the Son of Man.  It has come to gather the Saints, and build up the kingdom of God as a strong-hold, or refuge, in the day when the wicked are overthrown.  If a person has any interest at all in the kingdom of God, all his interests are in it.  He cannot consistently have any interests outside of it.

In short, if a man believes “Mormonism” at all, he must believe, not only in faith, repentance, and baptism, and the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost, morality, prayer, and singing; but in the utter overthrow of the present political, religious, moral, and social institutions, and the building up of the kingdom of God, and its righteousness in their stead, to stand forever.  Therefore he can have no interests, motives, or affections aside from the same.

Such a man, as soon as he sees the light of the kingdom, will begin, with all his might, mind, and strength to shape his affairs, and to place himself, his family, his property, his labours, and all his interests, in a situation to be controlled, and properly directed by the Lord and His servants, in a way to cooperate with others who are interested in the same joint interests.

He will, in the mean time, if a man of means, in all wisdom and prudence, assist the Elders in their travels and missions, and bear their expenses and burdens.  He will tithe himself, and also donate liberally from time to time, while he is getting ready to gather with the Saints.  He will say to his son or daughter, do not marry out of the Church, and raise up children to perish with Great Babylon, for all corrupt institutions are about to be overthrown.

He will, in short, to use a figure,

Spend his treasures and his labours purely to build and provision the Ark, and warn the world; and then will get into it himself with his family, and all his remaining treasures.  And thus he will lay the foundation of permanent riches, and become a joint heir with the Saints in the inheritance of a renovated world, when the wicked are cleared out of it by the judgments of the Almighty.

Yours, &c.,
P.P. Pratt

Philadelphia, January 19, 1857

[Millennial Star, 19:22]
[Journal History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Jan. 19, 1857, 1-2]

[transcribed and proofread by David Grow, Aug. 2006]

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