I pray that I may say a few words that will be helpful in connection with the great ideals that we have already heard during this conference.
I want to mention very briefly an organization in America known as “The America-Christian Palestine Committee,” of which I have the honor of being a member with Right Reverend Arthur W. Moulton of the Episcopal Church. The two of us are on the executive committee of this great organization. There are over two hundred different religious sects in the United States, and many sects here in Utah. They vary, of course, in their activities, but every group follows ideals and looks to God for help.
When Christopher Columbus reached this western world in 1492, he in time expressed to the king and queen of Spain that he was “the agent in the hands of God, to go forth upon the mighty waters.” According to Washington Irving, Columbus when he set foot on the island of San Salvador uttered the following prayer in Latin. Translated it reads:
Oh God, our eternal Father, eternal, eternally an omnipotent creator of heaven and earth and sea, we glorify thy holy word for our protection and the protection of the world.
That is one of the most singular statements that could possibly be made, for it has been carried out and the world has been blessed with an organization which is for the world.
The words of Pastor Robinson recall what Roger Williams, the founder of Providence, Rhode Island, once said. Williams was much disturbed as to his right to administer the ordinances of the church, and finally he came to the conclusion that there could “be no recovery out of the apostasy till Christ shall send forth new apostles to plant churches anew.”
Edward Winslow was the third signer of the Mayflower Compact, and it was he who recorded the following parting words of Pastor Robinson, as the Pilgrims left the shore of Holland for their long journey:
Brethren, we are now quickly to part from one another, and whether I may ever live to see your face on earth any more, the God of Heaven only knows: but whether the Lord hath appointed that or not, I charge you before God and His blessed angels, that you follow me no farther than you have seen me follow the Lord Jesus Christ. If God reveal anything to you, by any other instrument of His, be as ready to receive it, as ever you were to receive truth, by my ministry; for I am fully persuaded, I am very confident that the Lord has more truth yet to break forth out of His holy word. For my part, I cannot sufficiently bewail the condition of the reformed churches, who are come to a period in religion, and will go at present no further than the instruments of their reformation. The Lutherans cannot be drawn to go beyond what Luther saw; whatever part of his will or good God has revealed to Calvin, they will rather die than embrace it, and the Calvinists, you see, stick fast, where they were left by that great man of God, who yet saw not all things. This is a misery much to be lamented; for though they were burning and shining lights in their times, yet they penetrated not into the whole counsel of God; but were they now living, would be as willing to embrace further light as that which they at first received. I beseech you to remember it as an article in your church Covenant. “That you be ready to receive whatever truth shall be made known to you from the written word of God.” But I must herewith exhort you to take heed what you receive as truth. Examine it, consider it, and compare it with other scriptures of truth, before you receive it; for it is not possible that the Christian world should come so lately out of thick anti-Christian darkness, and that perfection of knowledge should break forth at once.
It is interesting to know that God has never forsaken his children. All nations have had something of the truths of God.
Carlyle in his Heroes and Hero Worship notes that the “calling of a prophet, the Man of God, the man, that is, who speaks to the people of God, has penetrated into the secret of the sacred mystery of the Universe. The prophet is the revelator of what we are to do.”
Throughout the ages, the truths of religion have become closely identified with the thoughts and habits of mankind. Religion in the most intelligent use of the term confesses the divine relationship between man and his God. It is more than knowledge and obedience, for its home is in the deepest nature of man, where, in its allegiance to truth and its devotion to right, it governs life.
The religious principles of ancient Israel brought about the highest system of ethical life, which to this day remains the most vital to human conduct. The elements the Israelitish character idealized were the homely virtues of a rustic people: industry, frugality, chastity, uprightness; and then the hardier virtues, like bravery, and a fortitude that can endure all except defeat. Finally, the people to whom God spoke in the days of Abraham, Moses, and the ages after them learned a deep-seated piety, obedience to the declarations of the Lord their God, and perfect trust in the revelations of him who mode the world and created man. Superbly did Israel rise to the knowledge of the true and living God.
The early history of Israel shows a people with aspiration for a righteous social order and an ultimate unification of mankind. “Of these ideals,” says Israel Zangwill, “the race of Abraham originally conceived and still conceives itself to be the divine medium for a knowledge of God.” The characteristics of the people are made known to us.
The Israelites had their planting and harvest songs, and like the Navajo Indians, they ascribed all the gifts of nature to a merciful and loving God. The Prophet Isaiah describes the glory of redeeming the land:
The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose.
It shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice even with joy and singing: The glory of Lebanon shall be given unto it, the excellency of Carmel and Sharon, they shall see the glory of the Lord, and the excellency of our God.
Strengthen ye the weak hands and confirm the feeble knees.
Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not: behold, your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompense; he will come and save you.
Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped.
Then shall the lame leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing: for in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert.
And the parched ground shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water: in the habitation of dragons, where each lay, shall be grass with reeds and rushes (Isa. 35:1-7).
We can see on the frescoes in the tombs of the Pharaohs, dams enclosing basins—”Just as they are built today,” says Emil Ludwig, “and it can be concluded from inscriptions by what state-craft the water, after the lapse of fixed periods, was conveyed from one basin into another.” We know how the shepherds dug wells and cisterns four thousand years ago and how the farmer prepared the land for the seed and made the threshing floors. There is an aqueduct near Jerusalem with an inscription on it written by King Hezekiah about 700 B. C. Palestine has been referred to as a “dry and thirsty land” (Ps. 63:1), and yet the melting snows of Lebanon, Mermon, and Carmel, as well as other heights sink into the ground and come forth again as springs of water. Wells became the center of community life, supplying water for household purposes as well as for the flocks and herds.
There have been holy men, prophets of God, throughout the ages. They have felt the divine, creative presence of God. They believed in Providence, and felt there was a power around and beyond them which gave them a concept of their ever-loving Father. Those holy men knew their Creator, listened to him, spoke to him, loved him. Moses communed with him on Mount Sinai and received from him the commandments which have molded the true concept of government throughout the civilized world. History knows no more magnificent men than the prophets of Israel. They were the idealists of the ancient world. They grappled with the same problems which we have today: war, hate of one nation for another, hunger, wrong, sin, and dishonor. They were the servants of God who gave the world light and guidance which have lasted to this day.
It is the idealism of the different ages that has saved the world. There is a hidden reality in the hearts of men. Truth, beauty, and goodness belong to the ideal world of men’s hopes, and to God they have turned for revealed truth. The prophets taught man the glory of the invisible world and gave him the glow of heavenly light. They lived with the eye of faith and knew that nature and man had glory beyond that which the senses could understand.
A new nation had come into being at the beginning of the nineteenth century. It had been ordained of God to accomplish his divine purposes. The past and the future met within it, for the formation of the government of the United States was an event ordered of God for the bringing in of his Kingdom upon the earth. A republic is the highest form of political institution, De Tocqueville wrote, and this we know to be true. Our government was made up of different nationalities brought under one government and one flag. Such a republic had been unknown before in history. John Winthrop, one of the founders, wrote concerning it:
It will be a service to the Church of great consequence to carry the Gospel into those parts of the world to help on the coming of the fulness of the Gentiles.
These words of the early statesman and missionary truly record the suggestion and intention which brought Englishmen to these shores, and the historic spirit leads us to an understanding of the exalted purposes of God in this world, who like the ancient astronomers looked into the sky and sang: “The heavens declare the glory of God” (Ps. 19:1). The founders set forth and longed for a knowledge of how to live life as it should be lived.
When Joseph Smith went into the woods to pray on a spring morning in 1820, “grace was poured out upon his lips and God blessed him forever” (Ps. 45:2). God came to him and spoke, and with him was Jesus Christ the Redeemer of the world. Joseph heard from the divine lips the message that a new day was at hand. Out of it came the knowledge of the weaknesses of the necessities of man’s spirit. The eternal truth that man is himself a God in latent power had long been forgotten, for the religion of Jesus Christ had taught faith in the possibility of ascent from height to height. So the boy prayed for light and understanding.
When we get the spirit of this new age, then it is that we come to understand the divine truths of the gospel more and more. Many things make our history beautiful. The Prophet Joseph Smith inaugurated a new age of culture and heavenly gifts. We all know what this means through our testimonies of divine truths. In conclusion, may I give just one example of what I mean. During the days when the pioneers were working hard to establish their homes and redeem the soil they gave examples of their culture in many ways. For example, they built a theatre here in Salt Lake City which became known throughout America and in England, France, and Italy. Famous actors came to play on its stage. President Brigham Young gave the people a love for the drama. It was he who had the theatre built. One time a noted actress, Julia Deane Hayne, in leaving to return to New York, gave her good-bye message to President Young and the people in a very beautiful statement. The theatre became known to the world as a place of divine art years before the railroad reached Salt Lake City. It was truly a creation of pioneer days, the theatre, for it was built by the inspiration of God. May we learn more and more every day about the history of the gospel in this day and age of the world, I ask in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.