Sunday, March 1, 1970

Defend the oppressed

History of the Church Volume 6 pages 293-295

[General Conference Minutes of the Church, April, 1844.]

Elder John Taylor [of the twelve], being called upon to address the congregation, said—It gives me pleasure to meet and associate with so large an assemblage of the Saints. I always feel at home among the brethren. I consider them the honorable of the earth; and if I can do anything to conduce to their happiness, or that will in anywise tend to their edification, I am satisfied.

I therefore address this congregation with cheerfulness and pleasure, and if by unfolding any of the principles of truth that I am in possession of, or laying before you anything pertaining to the kingdom—if my ideas will enlarge your minds, or produce beneficial results to any, I shall consider myself on this, as on all other occasions, amply repaid.

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Many things have been spoken by Elder Rigdon concerning the early history of this Church. There is no person who has searched the oracles of eternal truth, but his mind will be touched with the remarks made by our venerable friend, which unfold the dispensation of Jehovah, and have a tendency to produce the most thrilling feelings in the

in the bosoms of many who are this day present, and to promote our general edification. He traces with pleasure on the historic page—the rise of nations, kingdoms and empires. Historians dwell with great minuteness on the heroic deeds, the chivalrous acts, the dangers and deliverances, the tact, bravery, and heroism of their chieftains, generals and governments.

We, as Republicans, look back to the time when this nation was under the iron rule of Great Britain, and groaned under the power, tyranny and oppression of that powerful nation. We trace with delight the name of a Washington, a Jefferson, a LaFayette, and an Adams, in whose bosoms burned the spark of liberty. These themes are dwelt upon with delight by our legislators, our governors and presidents; they are subjects, which fire our souls with patriotic ardor.

But if these things animate them so much, how much more great, noble and exalted are the things laid before us! They were engaged in founding kingdoms and empires that were destined to dissolution and decay; and although many of them were great, formidable and powerful, they now exist only in name. Their cloud-capped towers, their solemn temples, are dissolved, and nothing now remains of their former magnificence or ancient grandeur but a few dilapidated buildings and broken columns. A few shattered fragments remain to tell to this and to other generations the perishable nature of earthly pomp and worldly glory.

They were engaged in founding empires and establishing kingdoms and powers that had in themselves the seeds of destruction, and were destined to decay. We are laying the foundation of a kingdom that shall last forever—that shall bloom in time and blossom in eternity. We are engaged in a greater work than ever occupied the attention of mortals. We live in a day that prophets and kings desired to see, but died without the sight.

When we hear the history of the rise of this kingdom from one who has been with it from its infancy—from the lips of our venerable friend who has taken an active part in all the history of the Church, can we be surprised if he should feel animated, and that his soul should burn with heavenly zeal? We see in him a man of God who can contemplate the glories of heaven, the visions of eternity, and yet who looks forward to the opening glories which the great Elohim has manifested to him pertaining to righteousness and peace—a man who now beholds the things roll on which he has long since beheld in prophetic vision.

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Most men have established themselves in authority by laying desolate other kingdoms and the destruction of other powers. Their kingdoms have been founded in blood, and supported in tyranny and oppression. The greatest chieftains of the earth have obtained their glory—if glory it can be called—by blood, carnage and ruin. One nation has been built up at the expense and ruin of another and one man has been made at the expense of another; and yet these great men were called honorable for their inglorious deeds of rapine. They have slain their thousands, and caused the orphans to weep and the widows to mourn.

Men did these things because they could do it—because they had power to desolate nations, and spread terror and desolation. They have made themselves immortal as great men. The patriots of this country had indeed a laudable object in view—a plausible excuse for the course they took. They stood in defense of their rights, liberty and freedom. But where are now those principles of freedom? Where are the laws that protect all men in their religious opinions? Where the laws that say, "A man shall worship God according to the dictates of his own conscience? What say ye, ye Saints—ye who are exiles in the land of liberty? How came you here? Can you in this land of equal rights return in safety to your possessions in Missouri? No. You are exiles from thence, and there is no power, no voice, and no arm to redress your grievance. Is this the gracious boon for which your fathers fought and struggled and died? Shades of the venerable dead could you but gaze upon this scene, and witness tens of thousands of Americans in exile on Columbia's soil—if pity could touch your bosoms, how you would mourn for the oppressed! If indignation, how would you curse the heartless wretches that have so desecrated and polluted the temple of liberty? "How has the gold become dim, and the fine gold, how has it changed." Let it not be told among the monarchs of Europe, lest they laugh and say, "Ha; so would we have it."

Ye Saints, never let it go abroad that ye are exiles in the land of liberty, lest ye disgrace your republic in the eyes of the nations of the earth; but tell it to those who robbed and plundered and refused to give you your rights. Tell your rulers that all their deeds of fame are tarnished, and their glory is departed.

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Are we now, indeed, in a land of liberty, of freedom, of equal rights? Would to God I could answer, Yes. But no, no, I cannot! They have robbed us, we are stripped of our possessions, many of our friends are slain, and our government says, "Your cause is just, but we can do nothing for you."

Hear it, ye great men, we are here in exile! Here are thousands of men in bondage in a land of liberty—of freedom! If ye have any patriotism, shake off your fetters and come and proclaim us free, and give us our rights. I speak of this government as being one of the best of governments—as one of the greatest and purest; and yet, what a melancholy picture! O ye venerable fathers who fought for your liberty, blush for your children, and mourn, mourn over your country's shame! We are now talking about a government which sets herself up as a pattern for the nations of the earth, and yet, oh, what a picture! If this is the best, the most patriotic, the most free, what is the situation of the rest?

Here we speak with national pride of a Washington, a LaFayette, a Monroe and a Jefferson, who fought for their liberties, achieved one of the greatest victories ever won; and scarcely has one generation passed away before fifteen thousand citizens petition government for redress of their wrongs, and they turn a deaf ear to their cry.

Let us compare this with the Church of Christ. Fourteen years ago a few men assembled in a log cabin; they saw the visions of heaven, and gazed upon the eternal world; they looked through the rent vista of futurity, and beheld the glories of eternity; they were planting those principles which were concocted in the bosom of Jehovah; they were laying a foundation for the salvation of the world, and those principles which they then planted have not yet begun to dwindle; but the fire still burns in their bones; the principles are planted in different nations and are wafted on every breeze.

When I gaze upon this company of men, I see those who are actuated by patriotic and noble principles, who will stand up in defense of the oppressed, of whatever country, nation, color or clime. I see it in their countenances. It is planted by the Spirit of God. They have received it from the great Elohim, and all the power or influence of mobs, priestcraft or corrupt men cannot quench it. It will burn. It is comprehensive as the designs of God, and as expansive as the universe and reaches to the entire world. No matter whether it was an Indian, a Negro or any other man or set of men that are oppressed, you would stand forth in their defense.

I say unto you, continue to cherish those principles. Let them expand. And if the tree of liberty has been blasted in this nation—if it has been gnawed by worms, and already blight has overspread it, we will stand up in defense of our liberties, and proclaim ourselves free in time and in eternity.

Lynch law will not do in Nauvoo

History of the Church Volume 6 Page 284-285

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Monday, April 1, 1844. —In the courtroom in the Mansion, Mr. J. Easton was brought up as being accessory to whipping Chism, [a Negro]. Referred the case to Alderman Wells. On investigation, it appeared to the satisfaction of the court that he had been on trial for the same offense before Robert D. Foster, and acquitted.

I extract from the Neighbor: —

Comment on the Negro Chism's Case.

After the court dismissed the case, General Smith fearlessly stated that he believed that it was a plot on the part of those who were instrumental in getting up the previous trial to thwart the ends of justice and screen the prisoner from the condemnation he justly deserves. Mr. Foster then stated, by way of an apology, that at the time he issued the warrant he did not know that the prisoner was under an arrest, or that there was any process out against him.

We hope, for the honor of such a man as Mr. Foster, that his statement is true. Mr. Foster, however, called upon one of his jurors, Mr. Carn, to corroborate what he had said; but, to our astonishment, he replied that when Mr. Foster summoned him to appear and act as a juryman, he was not informed what case he was to act upon, nor did he learn until he entered the office, where he acted according to the evidence given; but believed then, as well as now, that it was a sham trial, and a mere mockery of justice. We state facts as they are, and let the public judge for themselves.

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The statement of the Negro was that Messrs. Easton, Townsend, and Lawyer W. H. J. Mart were the persons engaged in this diabolical affair. Mr. Gibbs, one of the witnesses against Townsend, believed the above persons were engaged in it; but as a Negro knows nothing in this state, and Mr. Gibbs could not positively swear to it, of course we don't know; but we have our opinion, and so have the public. We don't remember ever having seen more indignation manifest than was manifested on this occasion, and the public mind is not satisfied at the turn affairs have taken. Lynch law will not do in Nauvoo, and those who engage in it must expect to be visited by the wrath of an indignant people, not according to the rule of Judge Lynch, but according to law and equity.

It was thought best to acquit Easton and leave the case to the Circuit Court