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AN UNEXPECTED TESTIMONY TO THE
STRENGTH OF “MORMONISM."
BY JOSEPH W. M'MURRIN, OF THE FIRST COUNCIL OF SEVENTY.
In the year 1887, while engaged in missionary work in the city of Bristol, England, I attended a lecture delivered by the celebrated English infidel, Charles Bradlaugh. There was an association in Bristol, called the Free Thinkers, and the lecture was delivered under their auspices. Among the prominent members of this organization was a Mr. John W. White; it was at his solicitation that I attended the lecture. Mr.White had gained the warm friendship of the “Mormon” missionaries, in the Bristol conference, by a very earnest and manly defense he made in behalf of the “Mormon” people as a whole, and their missionaries in particular, in answer to the false and dreadful accusations made against them by an apostate, William Jarman. Mr. White challenged Jarman to a public debate on the “Mormon” question, and he defended our elders, and people, through the public press of the city. At the time Mr. White commenced his defense of the Latter-day Saints, it required considerable courage to speak in their favor. It was during the period known as the "crusade," and there were but few non-"Mormons," at home or elsewhere, possessed of sufficient fortitude to defend the people who were at that time so universally spoken against. Mr. White made the missionaries welcome at his home, and treated them with the greatest kindness. When he invited me to attend the Bradlaugh lecture, I felt it was my duty to do so out of courtesy to him, and I had a desire as well to hear the noted lecturer. The title of the lecture
was, "Is Christianity a Persecuting Religion?” The subject was one that would readily attract a person engaged in missionary work.
At the appointed time, I found myself one of a large audience composed entirely of men. Mr. Bradlaugh proved to be a very entertaining speaker, and commanded the strict attention of all present. The gentleman wasted no time on preliminaries, but at once launched into the subject. It was evident from the very start that he was well acquainted with the religious history of the world, so far as it in any way related to persecution. Before he took his seat, he had made a terrible arraignment of more than one religious denomination. He portrayed in graphic, touching, and telling language, many of the dark and damning deeds of the Inquisition. The dreadful massacre of St. Bartholomew, and other heartless and murderous deeds, that had stained with a blackness that cannot be erased, some of the pages of the religious history of mankind. He also proved that the great Mother church did not stand alone in deeds of blood. It was shown that some of the Protestant churches, when in full power, were ready to lay an iron hand upon those who differed from them in belief, and that they also had not hesitated to imbue their hands in the blood of their fellows. Mr. Bradlaugh presented evidence that established beyond all question the fact that the sects of Christendom, in the past, had frequently given way to a spirit of hatred and persecution entirely at variance with what the spirit of Christianity is understood to be.
While I sat listening to the story that was related, I could not help noticing that in all that was said, not one word from the scriptures justifying persecution had been produced. No act of either Jesus or his apostles was referred to as permitting persecution. It had been proven that the sects had persecuted each other, but no proof had been advanced tending to show that the gospel of Jesus Christ had aught in it of a persecuting character.
At the close of the lecture, a young man by the name of Proctor arose, and asked the following questions:
In the early days of Christianity, were not the converts few in number, and drawn gunerally from the ranks of the common people; and
were they not entirely without power or influence in the affairs of the government?
Mr. Proctor.—Is it not also true, that against this handful of people there was arrayed the great Roman Empire, with its soldiers, civil officers and other powers; and in addition to this, the religious bigotry and hatred of the people, especially of the Jews; all combined in a determined effort to destroy the Christian church?
Mr. Bradlaugh.—They were bitterly opposed.
Mr. Proctor.—Does not the growth of the Christian church, in the face of such deadly opposition, from a government possessed of such unbounded and overwhelming power, prove that the gospel story is true, and that the early Christians were preserved by some supernatural power that was more potent than even the mighty empire of Rome?
I thought Mr. Proctor had propounded a question that could not be easily answered. I was all attention when Mr. Bradlaugh gave the following reply:
The growth of the early Christian Church in the face of hatred, opposition, and overwhelming numbers was not as remarkable as the growth of the “Mormon” Church in America, under similar conditions. Will you say, because of this extraordinary success, that God has been with the "Mormon" people?
As Mr. Bradlaugh took his seat, a ripple of laughter passed over the audience, and Mr. Proctor sat down in considerable embarrassment. It was evident from the reply, that Mr. Bradlaugh was unable to account for the wonderful preservation of the early Christian church. He dodged the question, by hiding behind the mountain of prejudice which he knew existed against the Latterday Saints; feeling sure, no doubt, that no one in his audience would for a moment admit that God had been with the “Mormon” people.
The history of the world abundantly proves that whenever a very strong power has made war upon a very weak power, the latter has been destroyed.
The two most notable exceptions to this general rule is found in the history of the primitive Christian church, and in the history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Both flourished and gained strength in the face of the opposition of the
mightiest forces that could be arrayed against them. Writers on Christian evidences point to the vitality of the early church as one of the most remarkable proofs of Divine favor. That history has a parallel in these latter times in the followers of Joseph Smith.
The cry of the Saints today, as in the past, in the face of mobbings, drivings, plunder and death, is the same as it was anciently: “Peace on earth, good will to men." This spirit of forbearance is a strong testimony that God is with the "Mormon” people. The unbelief of Mr. Bradlaugh and his audience does not alter this glorious truth.
MY FLOWER OF LOVE.
WRITTEN FOR THE ERA.
When life was young,-its promises of bliss
The sun filtered among the crystals, and the grains
Ah, how I watched it! How I nursed the shoot
And how I wept when floods of bitterness
“My love is gone,” I cried, and hid my faco, Straightway refusing to be comforted: "Life holds no more of her high-crowning grace, Nor hope, nor joy for planting, in its stead!"
Blinded by grief, storm-beaten, bruised, dismayed,
Deep in the virgin forest's dim recess,
When lo! within a crevice of the rock,
My plant of love! strong, tender, verdant, blessed;