Skip main navigation
close
Skip main navigation

Treasures

of the Collection

Erastus Snow, February 20, 1853

Recollections of the Danish Mission and Teachings on Zion

Transcribed by LaJean Purcell Carruth

On His Reticence to Speak

Being called upon to occupy some time this morning, I assure you, my brethren and sisters, that it is with a little degree of diffidence that I arise before you, and with too considerable [a] degree [I] feel my weakness. But as I am called upon, I will endeavor to occupy the time to the best of my ability, according to the grace of God [which] shall be bestowed upon me—and I desire of my brethren and sisters goodness and a concentration of their minds and faith and prayers.  For I truly feel this morning that if we are edified and comforted, it will not be by me, but it will be through your united faith and prayers by the Holy Spirit.

It is a long time since I have been in the habit of lifting up my voice among the saints and I have done it but little … since returning from my mission to Europe. We have been permitted to hear from the servants of the Lord much good instruction continually from this stand, and from those who have more experience than myself, from our brethren who are placed here in the Lord to preside, and on whom rests copiously the spirit of their calling to comprehend the wants and necessity of this people, and on [whom] the spirit rests to teach them everything that is necessary for their welfare.

It has been to me a great pleasure to have the privilege of coming home to rest for a little season and receive instructions, to mingle in [the] society of my brethren, whom I love, and I don't feel that spirit resting upon me to speak and teach the saints in this public room of saints in this city as I do when I am abroad in the vineyard preaching to the world. …

When I am brought among the nations of the earth to bear testimony of [the] fullness of the gospel, [I am] in [my] legitimate sphere. But … when I am here, I feel much as the lad did at sea—I will tell the anecdote; it is an old Methodist anecdote:

A sea captain took his little boy with him on a voyage, and during the voyage there arose some severe storms and all [people on] board seemed to be much alarmed at the severity of the storm, [except] the little lad, who was very mirthfully going and playing all the while as if [there were] no danger. And when asked the reason he was so unconcerned…his reply was, pointing at the helm, “Dad was at the helm.”

It is [the] same, [you see], with me. I suppose, in part, that is the cause of my feelings here.  I feel all is right, that it is impossible for me to better anything, and I feel considerably unstrong.

On Sacrifice

I can assure you, my brethren and sisters, that I live wholly and solely for this kingdom and for the interest of this people. … I am on hand all the time, all the day long, to be a sacrifice with all that I possess, with all that the Lord has given me, and with all that he shall hereafter give me—both of my time, talent, and [strength and] bodily powers, my wives and children, my property, [and] everything I possess. I am on hand all the time. I feel that myself, [along] with all that the Lord [has] give[n] me, is continually upon the altar of sacrifice—whenever the Lord or my brethren require, whoever [is] placed over me in the Lord. These are my feelings.

I live wholly and solely for this kingdom and for the interest of this people

I contend that I have ever had no other [feelings] than these since I have embraced the fullness of the gospel, which is now over twenty years. I contend that I have ever had no other feelings—and these feelings have constantly increased and strengthened in my bosom as the love of God and his work has been increasing in my heart. And I believe, if I know my own spirit, that his love has been increasing in my heart and the love of his cause and interest and welfare of his people [have increased] in proportion as my knowledge and experience and wisdom [have] been increasing… since the testimony of Holy Ghost was given me of the truth of this work when I first embraced it.

On Past Persecution

I was always glad and rejoiced that it has been my privilege now, [as] it has always been, to be associated with my brethren in all these scenes which I have witnessed—and now to look back upon them, I can't name any trying circumstances or scenes through which [we] passed but what has been profitable to me, and which I am exceedingly thankful to Heavenly Father [it has] been my privilege to endure [and] pass through in common with my brethren. … No earthly consideration would tempt me, if it were possible, to be deprived of that experience [or] to be free from it … In [the] most difficult circumstances in which we shall be placed, I desire to be found among my brethren. So far from feeling, as some have felt, that if trouble [or] trial awaits the people of God, they wish to look for some place of retreat, some chance [to] make their escape so that the strength and power of it not fall upon them—so far from feelings of this kind, … when [there have] been brooding clouds gathering around and persecutions…then is the time I have always felt the strongest.

Report on the Danish Mission

When I was in Denmark during [my] last mission—I have not said much about it yet, but the circumstances [which] surrounded us there were calculated in nature to call forth all the wisdom and power and faith of the servants of God to maintain their position in that land. And more than we possessed of ourselves, more wisdom than I of myself could command, I felt and realized continually… Nothing but the continual inspiration of [the] Almighty and the wisdom and power of God to guide my mind and to counsel the minds of my brethren could preserve us from the snares of our enemies.

And more than we possessed of ourselves, more wisdom than I of myself could command, I felt and realized continually.

The Lord showed to me that the government was continually on the lookout, watching for a chance to get some[thing], that by it they could have some appearance of excuse for abridging our privileges and hedging up [our] way and stopping our broad minds and there removing us from the country…[But] they could not bring us to break any law and found [us] always submissive to the law. And many times in matters wherein I was ignorant of [the] law, I found by a[n] overruling providence some enforcing need to alter my course, when afterwards I would find that was the very thing [that] saved me from their hands. And in matters [where] I was really not acquainted with the law, …I saw [the] hand of God preserve [us] from their set minds time and time again … I never allowed myself to be drawn into any conflict with them but steadily pursued the vision eternal of my course: writing and publishing [and] sending forth brethren without purse and scrip.

On Mobs in Denmark

You have seen lately in letters [how] two brethren [were] mobbed, how the native brethren [have] been whipped, imprisoned, beaten, and left for death. This was the case even when I was there also, and many times [there have] been in my own meetings mobs urged on by the police, [which have] beat[en] brethren, thrown [them] off cliffs, beat them … until they are nearly dead. Mobs [have come] upon them, going to and fro [and] assembling in opposition to all law. And when police and legislators referred to the officers like those of the United States, [they] looked tamely on to give encouragement to mobs as I saw before.  These scenes [have been] common from the commencement of this work and the first elders witnessed them in [the] earliest stages of it in America … The main body of this people have been subjected to similar persecutions of the law [in the] states of Illinois and Missouri.  In the midst of these trying circumstances, when every pore of my soul called [me] to action, [it took all the] wisdom and thought I could muster to steer clear and move on in [the] work. …

When  every pore of my soul called [me] to action, [it took all the] wisdom and thought I could muster to steer clear and move on in [the] work.

I know this is the way every other servant of God feels who is magnifying his office and doing his duty. [When he] acts, he is not alone [but] feels and realizes that his Father in Heaven [is] with him [and] has a power round about him and [has] inspired him. And the wisdom of God, such as not possessed naturally, is obtained only by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost.

Purification on the Lord’s Threshing Floor

When the saints first began to assemble in Jackson County, Missouri, they began to congregate themselves together on that chosen land. We expect[ed to] have found a paradise—not to have a trial and labor for it. [They] expect[ed] it immediately to their hands; they supposed they were going upon [the] most beautiful of all lands set upon the land of Joseph1… to rear up [a] holy temple to the Lord Almighty …

They could read in [the] revelations [that] 'after much tribulation cometh the blessings'…But they could not realize they [must] bring this scripture home to their own hearts

They could read in [the] revelations [that] “after much tribulation cometh the blessings.” They could read in scripture [that] God [must] have [a] tried people [and] that God in [the] last days [would] wash their robes in [the] blood of [the] Lamb…But they could not realize they [must] bring this scripture home to their own hearts, and realize they had got to be subjected to these trials before [they could] inherit the blessing. They imagined at first they were going [as an] entire community [into the] enjoyment of it before [they had] been found worthy through trial, forgetting [the Brethren] preached it early…that the good [must] be ferreted out from the bad before the good [can] be secured in vessels.  Notwithstanding they preached these things early, they could not realize it that it must be so with themselves. But by and by the veil began to be taken from their minds when the weakness of men ousted the veil and revealed that truth, as it was, through the wickedness of man.  [They were] subjected to all manner of trials and afflictions. Then [they] took up the revelations and realize[d] them.  When they saw the light wheat blown away among the chaff, the smut2 and kinds gathered among the saints departing among their midst in great many places in and through their midst, and the good wheat still remaining among them, they could think [it] was the fulfillment of word of Lord.

[They] realize[d] it for themselves:  so have we realized from year to year [that] these promises of cleansing and purification [are] going on [in the] midst of this people all the day long.  It is continual from morning [to] night, week to week, month [to] month, year to year. It is a fining3 mill in which the wheat is cleaned: and the light wheat, smut wheat, chaff and every thing [is] purged from our midst.

[A] light wind blows away the light wheat. A strong gale blows away that which is still too light. The Lord said that he would gather together his sheaves upon the threshing floor and his fan was in his hand and he would thoroughly purge his floor and the chaff should be burned up with unquenchable fire. Yes, we are like [wheat] passing through [a] fining mill, gathered together upon the Lord's threshing floor. So it is.

Yes, we are like [wheat] passing through [a] fining mill, gathered together upon the Lord's threshing floor.

It is so in Utah Territory in these valleys of [the] mountains. It used to be in Jackson County, [then] removed to Clay [and] Caldwell County. And Pottowatamie: that was when the [tailings]4 of [the] fining fell. The threshing floor is here at headquarters.

[The wind] catched the light stuff … and of course some heavy stuff with it and others too. [A] lot [of people] blow away with the wind, that when they got this far on the road to [the] threshing floor, the wind [is] so strong [it] takes them away to California.

The Missouri River on the one side and gold mines on the other catch [the] tailing[s] of the fining mill, but here is the threshing floor. Here the saints gathered together. Would you have it otherwise?

I would not if I could: I just believe as the Lord orders these things as well as I could if I should try [a] little better.

I have no disposition at all to put forth my hand to stop the machinery. It works first rate.

On Missionary Work

Go out! Preach the gospel to all the world! It is [as] free to all mankind as the air we breathe. We carry salvation to them, [and] bear testimony to the truth. Open wide the door of salvation: whosoever will come, may—and partake of [the] waters of [life] freely. Whosoever will abide the law of the celestial kingdom [will] inherit a celestial glory, and whosoever will not abide the celestial law may receive telestial. Every man [has a] chance to prove himself as worthy to choose as much as he can get. The door is open: come!

Preach the gospel to all the world! It is [as] free to all mankind as the air we breathe.

[We] need [to call] Israel, Gentiles, Tatars, Turks, Mohammadans …[people] from all the nations of the earth, to the mountain of house of the Lord, to [the] house of [the] God of Jacob. Come learn his ways and walk in his path. The door [is] open wide— who will lay and sit in your way?

Why Some People Are Disappointed in Zion

Anybody in all the settlements of saints in these valleys of [the] mountains that feel[s] cramped in [their] feelings… that has not liberty here: what is the trouble? Who has cramped them? They have contracted their own minds.

They are straightened in their own balance5 because [they have] not enlarged their hearts to keep the commandments of God, because [they have] not come here full of faith and [the] Holy Ghost—but they have come here to see whether [it is] best for them to stay or not. They have come here to find out—to see whether Brother Brigham [is an] apostle of Jesus Christ or not, whether the Latter-day Saints are truly the church and kingdom of God or not. To see and find out whether this [is] Zion or not, whether we are apostles or not. And they are coming to judge the prophets and apostles…

All [who] comply to this, never with [an] interest of judging themselves, to common purpose set themselves down here to judge of this people—and then clear out. They might have just as well spared themselves [the] trouble of coming in first place.

I constantly told my brethren in Denmark that if they could not make a little Zion before they started, you need not come over America to make any. Zion is [the] pure in heart.

I constantly told my brethren in Denmark that if they could not make a little Zion before they started, you need not come over America to make any. Zion is [the] pure in heart. And if [they] wanted to know the land for them to assemble upon, [go to the] land of Joseph6 but if [they] expect to find Zion [when they] come here, they must bring it with them. [If they] could not serve the Lord at home, [they] could not here.

It is true they might escape some of the jeers of [the] wicked, but … if [they] didn't come because the Lord wanted them and because this was the land of Zion and they knew it, better stay at home.

On the Next Generation of Pioneers

This is [a] different experience in this territory. 

Twenty years [ago] those saints have had a round of experience from Jackson County, Clay [County], and Caldwell County, Missouri through Illinois. …I need not say anything to them by way of illustrating their liberties and [the] blessings [they are] enjoying.  It is the blessing of Almighty God upon them for their suffering, [which] they endured with patience. If [they] hadn't done this with patience, [they would] never [have the] knowledge to appreciate [their] happiness…Others don't appreciate them because [they] never had the opposite.

So cheer up and have as good a story to tell as [the] rest of us.

We had the cheering promises from the president [the] other morning: those [who] had not the privilege of enjoying the opposite should have plenty of time to have it. So cheer up and have as good a story to tell as [the] rest of us.

Conclusion and Testimony

These are some of my feelings. As I said when I began, I felt a[s] though I was poor in my spirit [as] far as instructing the saints [is] concerned. [But] I feel full of gladness and joy in [the] work of [the] Lord and [the] contemplation of his providences to us as [a] people, and all the day long feel continually to repeat that “all is right.”  But my experience has added testimony to testimony … that the work [of] the Lord [is] true, [that] Joseph Smith [was a] prophet, [that the] Book of Mormon [is] true, [and] that those revelations [were] given to lay [the] foundation of this kingdom from God. I received that from the beginning. I have never doubted it—all the experiences with this people has been adding testimony to testimony to confer enough hope, and [the] hope of every saint of God whose eyes [are] enlightened [is] to discern the dealings of God with this people.  

But my experience has added testimony to testimony … that the work [of] the Lord [is] true

Do we know that Brigham Young [is a] prophet, with the keys of priesthood power? [That what] was upon Joseph rested down upon him? [Do we know] that those of our brethren [who lead] are placed there and sustained by the Almighty [and] are his servants today? …  

He that wishes to know [if] Mormonism [is the] word of Lord [or have] knowledge for himself whether Brother [Brigham is a] prophet [or whether] these are the servants of [the] Lord [and] this is the work of the Lord and his kingdom, let them live Mormonism—and they shall know it!

This is the only way. [You] can't know it any other way.

I may know it for myself … [Can] I prove [to] every man and woman the same?

I can't know it for [the] rest of you. No one can learn it for another. Every man has to learn it for themselves and profess its own testimony for itself to all living. Hell can't contradict it and our names, written in Lamb's book of life, seal a testimony of the Holy Ghost upon us.

That testimony never becomes dim, that knowledge never vanishes except [it] be through transgression. [But if we] depart from the Lord, [we] sink into degradation and weakness and [the] spirit of [the] Lord [is] withdrawn from us, and we are given over to the devil. I know, and every saint, man and woman, [who] keeps the commandments of Lord knows for themselves.

What excuse have [we] to plead? None but the weakness of humanity. We have all [got to] nerve ourselves up and fight against ourselves until we conquer ourselves. What?  To subdue ourselves, govern our passions, propensities, trial[s and], weakness, [and] bring them unto …the law of God, and so seek to live [and] walk in light of Holy Spirit.  And then we shall have the living testimony abiding in us all the time.

Well, may the Lord God of Israel bless all his people. That is my prayer in name of Jesus Christ, amen.

 

The full transcription of this sermon is available to read via the Church History Catalog. Learn more about our Lost Sermons editorial method.

Footnotes

[1] i.e. Joseph the son of the Biblical patriarch Jacob. The reference is to the land of the “everlasting hills” promised to Joseph’s descendants in the book of Genesis. In the Book of Mormon, the Americas are a promised land for Joseph’s descendants.

[2] Wheat heads rotted black with fungus.

[3] Or refining

[4] Another term for the chaff, or light parts of the grain that are supposed to be separated in processing.

[5] In this phrase, "straitened" means narrowed and a "balance" is a scale. The meaning seems to be that they are unable to weigh the full range of evidence because they focus narrowly on a few loaded questions.

[6] i.e. Joseph the son of the Biblical patriarch Jacob. The reference is to the land of the “everlasting hills” promised to Joseph’s descendants in the book of Genesis. In the Book of Mormon, the Americas are a promised land for Joseph’s descendants.