The Mormon Battalion: Its History and Achievements

Library of Alexandria
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Library of Alexandria
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Dec 31, 1919
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96
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English
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The leading spirits whom the Prophet Joseph Smith gathered about him in his brief but glorious career, were remarkable men. Not remarkable for illustrious birth, for they were of humble origin; not for scholarly attainments, for such were the conditions of their early life that scholastic education of a very high order was out of the question: but they were remarkable for character—that mysterious something which exists independent of birth, education or fortune.

It has become proverbial that all great movements, all reformations, all revolutions must produce their own leaders; and this is as true of the great work of the last days, the establishment of the Church of Christ on the earth, as it is of any other great movement. Leaders in established usages and institutions, political, social or religious, are very seldom converted to innovations. They usually consider it to their interest to oppose changes, especially those changes which from their very nature cast any shadow of doubt upon the correctness of existing customs or institutions with which they are connected. Hence it happened that the Jewish rabbis, the priests, the scribes, the members of the great Sanhedrin—leaders in their nation—did not accept the doctrines of Messiah and become the chief apostles, seventies and elders of the new church. On the contrary, this class were the stubbornest opponents to the doctrines taught by the Son of God, and His most implacable enemies. It was the common people who heard Him gladly: and from their number He chose the apostles, who, through the God-given powers of the priesthood conferred upon them, shook the old systems of morals and religion from their foundations.

Nor can it be doubted that the hand of the Lord is in this matter of choosing men to be His messengers, His prophets and His rulers. Many of them are chosen before they are born in the flesh. The messenger that was to prepare the way for the coming of the Son of God, John the Baptist, was so chosen. Jeremiah was ordained a prophet to the nations before he was born. Cyrus the Great, the war prince of Persia, was selected to be the deliverer of Israel from Babylonian bondage more than a century before his birth. Indeed, we are given to understand from the revelations of God, that from among the nobler class of spirits that dwell in His presence, the Father hath chosen those who are to be His rulers.

From the very nature of things it must be necessary that men whose minds are unwarped by prevailing customs and traditions, should be selected to establish a new order of religion, of government or of society. How could the Jewish priests and rabbis, bound by long custom to a slavish adherence to the outward forms and ceremonies of the Mosaic ritual, the spirit and purpose of which had long been made of no effect by the rubbish of false traditions, open their minds to receive the larger and nobler doctrines of the gospel of Christ, unmixed with the pomp and circumstance which they of that age and nation considered essential to religion?

Can men educated to an attachment for despotic government, and whose interests are bound up with its maintenance, be expected to look with favor on democratic principles, or become the champions of a republic?

The following paper was prepared by the writer for presentation at the Parliament of Religions, held at the World's Columbian Exposition, Chicago, 1893. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was not invited to participate in the proceedings of that Parliament, although Mormonism is the most distinctively American religious movement yet developed in our country; and as such the position and doctrine of the Church should have been of special interest in such a gathering as the Parliament purported to be. Learning that the Church would not be invited to the Parliament, under a sense of duty to make known the faith and message to the world, her presiding authorities sought opportunity for a hearing from the Parliament platform. After much solicitation and persistent urging as to the right of the Church to a hearing in such a gathering, a reluctant consent was finally given for a presentation of the following paper. But after this consent was given, a very unworthy effort was made by the President and chairman of the Parliament to side-track the paper by asking the representative of the Church to read it in one of the auxiliary departments of the Parliament,—namely, the Scientific Department, which meetings were held in a room capable of accommodating about fifty hearers, and presided over by Mr. Mervin Marie Snell. In response to that suggestion the writer, who had the honor to the representative of the Church to the Parliament, replied that such a hearing as could be had in Hall III (Scientific Department of the Parliament) was not the kind of hearing the Mormon Church had asked for or could accept. She had asked to speak from the same platform from which the great religious faiths had spoken—Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism—from the platform of Columbus Hall, where her position and principles could be compared and contrasted with the viewpoint and doctrines of other religions, by the enlightened thought of the age. The officers in charge of the Parliament, however, refused to change the terms on which a hearing could be obtained for Mormonism, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had the distinction of being refused a hearing in the World's Parliament of Religions.
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