Rigdon's 4th of July 1838 Address, published at the Journal Office at Far West
Oration Delivered by Sidney Rigdon on the 4th of July, 1838
Friends and Fellow Citizens;
No country, of which we have any knowledge, has offered so fair an opportunity for determining the great hostility which exists, naturally in the human heart against God and against his work, as this one. In other countries, persecutions were carried on under pretext of law; but in this country, where the constitution of the United States, and the constitution of every State in the Union, guarantees unto every person, the rights of conscience, and the liberty of worshipping as he pleases, to witness such scenes of persecution, as those which have followed this church from the beginning, in despite of law, justice, equity, and truth, and at war with the very genius of our republican institutions, and contrary to the spirit and design of our government; surely evinces the depravity of the human heart, and the great hostility there exists in the hearts of the human family, against the work and purposes of God; and most fully confirms the apostle's saying; that, "the carnal mind is enmity against God."
But notwithstanding all this violence, we can say as did Paul to the Corinthians: "We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair ; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed." We have until this time, endured this great fight of affliction, and kept the faith. If the ancient saints had to endure as seeing him who is invisible-so have we. If they had to suffer the contradiction of sinners against themselves--so have we. If they had to undergo fears within, and fightings without--so have we. If they had to suffer stripes and imprisonments, for their religion's sake--so have we. If they were often in journeyings, in perils of water, in perils among robbers, in perils by their own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren. In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness--so are we. If they had to commend themselves to God, in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses, in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in watchings, in fastings; by pureness, by knowledge, by long suffering, by kindness, by the Holy Ghost, by love unfeigned, by the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, by honor and dishonor, by evil report and good report; as deceivers, and yet true; as unknown and yet well known; as dying and, behold, they lived; as chastened, and not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things--so have we. If they went up through much tribulation, and washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb--so have we to go up through as great tribulations; and we trust in so doing, we will also wash our robes, and make them white in the blood of the Lamb.
One cause of our heavy persecutions, is the influence which those have in the world, whom we have separated from the fellowship of the church for their wickedness; who attempted to gratify their vengeance on us, and also to hide their own shame, by foul slanders and base calumny. We were at one time represented by them, as having all things common: at another as being enemies to the government: and in other places we were reported to be abolitionists, and indeed any thing, they thought best calculated to stir up the public mind, and to excite popular indignation; and if possible, put an end to the work, by sacrificing some of those who were considered as most active in supporting and defending the cause. But through the mercy of God, we are still in existence, and have the opportunity of joining with you in the privileges of this day.
In assembling on this occasion, our object is, not only to comply with the custom of our nation in celebrating the birth day of our liberties; but also to lay the corner stones of the edifice, about to be built in this place in honor of our God, to whom we ascribe the glory of our national freedom, as well as our eternal salvation; and whose worship we esteem of more consequence, than we do the treasures of Missouri; ready at all times, to offer unto him the sacrifice of our first fruits, and by untiring perseverance, patient industry, and faithful devotion to the cause of our God, rear this building to his name, designed, for the double purpose, of a house of worship and an institution of learning. The first floor will be for sacred devotion, and the two others, for the purpose of education. The building to be one hundred and ten feet by eighty, with three floors and not far from thirty feet between the floors: all to be finished, according to the best stile of such buildings in our country. The entire experience, calculated at not far from one hundred thousand dollars: all when finished, to stand as a monument, of the power of union of effort and concert of action.
Next to the worship of our God, we esteem the education of our children and of the rising generation. For what is wealth without society, or society without intelligence. And how is intelligence to be obtained?--by education. It is that which forms the youthful mind: it is that alone, which renders society agreeable, and adds interest and importance, to the worship of God. What is religion without intelligence!--an empty sound. Intelligence is the root, from which all true enjoyments flow. Intelligence is religion, and religion is intelligence, if it is any thing. Take intelligence from it, and what is left? a name--a sound without meaning. If a person desires to be truly pious in the sight of God, he must be purely intelligent. Piety without intelligence, is fanaticism, and devotion without understanding, is enthusiasm.
The object of our religion, is to make us more intelligent, than we could be without it, not so much, to make us acquainted with what we do see, as with what we do not see. It is designed to evolve the faculties, to enlighten the understanding, and through this medium, purify the heart. It is calculated to make men better, by making them wiser; more useful, by making them more intelligent; not intelligent on some subjects only, but on all subjects, on which intelligence can be obtained: and when science fails, revelation supplies its place, and unfolds the secrets and mysteries of the unseen world, leads the mind into the knowledge of the future existence of men, makes it acquainted with angels, principalities, and powers, in the eternal world; carries it into heaven and heavenly places, makes it acquainted with God, its Redeemer, and its associates in the eternal mansions; so that when science fails, and philosophy vanishes away, revelation, more extensive in its operations begins where they [science and philosophy] ends, and feasts the mind with intelligence, pure and holy, from the presence of God. --Tells of eternal mansions, of immortal glories, of everlasting dominions, of angelic throngs, of heavenly hosts, of flaming seraphs, of crowns of glory, of palms of victory, of the saint's eternal triumph through a glorious resurrection, of songs of everlasting joy, of God the father of all, of Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and of the blood of the sprinkling, which speaketh better things, than that of righteous Abel.
It not only acquaints us with these eternal things, but it makes known unto us the future history of man in time, of the purposes of God, which have to be accomplished before the end of all things comes. It warns and forewarns, of the wars, the pestilences, the famines, the earthquakes, and the desolations, which are coming on the earth. The rising and falling of nations: and also the desolation of the earth itself: the falling of the mountains, the rising of the valleys , the melting of the rocks, the purifying of the elements by fire: of the sun's veiling his face, the moon's turning to blood, the stars of heaven falling: of the heavens rolling away as a scroll; and of Christ's descending from heaven in a cloud, with the shout of the arch angel, and the trump of God. And of the wicked's fearing and trembling, of their faces gathering blackness, and of their seeking a refuge under the mountains, and of their calling upon the rocks to hide them from the face of him that sitteth upon the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; "For the great day of his wrath has come, and who shall be able to stand?"
All this mass of important intelligence, together with the final end of all thrones, and dominions, and principalities, and powers, and governments, which nothing else but revelation could make known, (for science, with all her powers, could never declare it, neither could philosophy, with her utmost stretch, reach it,) we obtain by our holy religion; for this is her province; it is the theatre where she acts; it is the business we have for her; it is to tell us things which nothing else could tell; it is to fill us with that kind of wisdom, which cometh down from above, and which is alone obtained by revelation, and by the powers which our holy religion confers, and by nothing else. In view then, of what we have already obtained, and of what there is to be obtained, we have assembled ourselves together in this remote land, to prepare for that which is coming on earth, and we have this day laid the corner stones of this temple of God, and design, with as little delay as possible, to complete it, and to rear up to the name of our God in this city, "Far West," a house, which shall be a house of prayer, a house of learning, a house of order, and a house of God; where all the sciences, languages &c., which are taught in our country, in schools of the highest order, shall be taught. And the object is, to have it on a plan accessible to all classes, the poor, as well as the rich, that all persons in our midst, may have an opportunity to educate their children, both male and female, to any extent they please. So that all the talents in our midst, may be called forth, in order that we may avail ourselves, of all the means God puts into our hands, and put it into the power of all, to deliver themselves, from the impositions, and frauds, which are practicing upon the more illiterate part of the community, by those who have had superior advantages, or as far, at least, as learning can go to obtain this object. One part of the house, shall be set apart for a place of worship, where we shall invoke our God for revelations, when we have gone as far as human learning can carry us, that by revelations, visions &c. we may fill the vacuum still left, after science and philosophy have done all they can do. So that we may have the understanding, and that wisdom which brings salvation, and that knowledge which is unto eternal life.
That whether there are wars, or famines, or pestilences, or earthquakes, or distress of nations, or whatever may come according to the purposes of our God, that we may know it before hand, and be prepared for it, so that none of these things shall overtake us as a thief in the night, and while we are crying peace and safety, sudden destruction come upon us.
The Savior of the world himself, while he was here with the disciples, said, that, "As it was in the days of Noah, so should it be at the coming of the Son of man. They were eating, they were drinking, they were marrying, and giving in marriage, and knew not, till the flood came and swept them all away--So shall it be, at the coming of the Son of man." And Paul declared to the saints of his day, "That the day of the Lord so cometh, as a thief in the night. That when the people are crying peace and safety, then sudden destruction cometh upon them, and they shall not escape. And that wicked men and seducers, would wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived." They will, says Peter, say, "where is the promise of his coming; for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation."
Such is to be the state of the world, at the most important period in the existence of man's earthly residence. The description given by Isaiah, is tremendous in the extreme. "Behold, the Lord maketh the earth empty, and maketh it waste, and turneth it up side down, and scattereth abroad the inhabitants thereof. And it shall be, as with the people so with the priest; as with the servant so with his master, as with the maid so with her mistress; as with the buyer, so with the seller; as with the lender so with the borrower; as with the taker of usury, so with the giver of usury to him; the land shall be utterly emptied, and utterly spoiled: for the Lord hath spoken this word. The earth mourneth and fadeth away, the world languisheth, and fadeth away; the haughty people of the earth do languish. The earth is also defiled under the inhabitants thereof, because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinances, broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore hath the curse devoured the earth, and they that dwell therein are desolate: therefore the inhabitants of the earth are burned, and few men left."
The prophet Malachi describing the same scene and the same period of calumny says, "For behold, the day cometh that shall burn as an oven; and ALL the proud, and ALL that do wickedly, shall be stubble; and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the Lord of Hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch.
The psalmist David, in the majesty of his prophetic power, has left us a warning also, when he says, "The mighty God, even the Lord hath spoken, and called the earth from the rising of the sun to the going down thereof. Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God hath shined. Our God shall come, and shall not keep silence; a fire shall devour before, him and it shall be very tempestuous round about Him. He shall call to the heavens from above and to the earth (that he may judge his people). Gather my saints together unto me, those that have made a covenant with me by sacrifice. And the heavens shall declare his righteousness; for God is Judge himself."
Having then knowledge of these things, and the voice of God being unto us, to gather together, and make a covenant with our God by sacrifice. We have given heed hereunto, and, are here this day as witnesses for God, that he has not spoken in vain, neither has he said in vain. But the day and the hour of his judgements sleepeth not, neither do they slumber: and whether men believe or do not believe, it alters not the word which God has caused to be spoken, but come it must, and come it will, and that to the astonishment, the confusion, and the dismay, of thousands who believe not, neither will they regard, until overtaken by it as a thief in the night, and sudden destruction come upon them, and there be none to deliver.
Knowing therefore the terrors of the Lord, we warn our fellow men, not only by precept, but example also, by leaving our former homes, to which we were bound by the strongest ties, suffering a sacrifice of the greatest share of our earthly possessions. Many of us, in times past, were rich, but for Jesus' sake, and at the command of our God we have become poor, because he [Christ] became poor for our sakes; so in like manner, we follow his example, and become poor for his sake. And as Moses left Egypt not fearing the wrath of the king, and refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season, having respect to the recompense of reward. So do we, we choose to suffer affliction with the people of God, rather than enjoy the flatteries of the world for a season.
It is not because we cannot, if we were so disposed, enjoy both the honors and flatteries of the world, but we have voluntarily offered them in sacrifice, and the riches of the world also, for a more durable substance. Our God has promised us a reward of eternal inheritance, and we have believed his promise, and though we wade through great tribulation, we are in nothing discouraged, for we know he that has promised is faithful. The promise is sure, and the reward is certain. It is because of this, that we have taken the spoiling of our goods. Our cheeks have been given to the smiters, and our heads to those who have plucked off the hair. We have not only when smitten on one cheek turned the other, but we have done it, again and again, until we are wearied of being smitten, and tired of being trampled upon. We have proved the world with kindness; we have suffered their abuse without cause, with patience, and have endured without resentment, until this day, and still their persecutions and violence does not cease. But from this day and this hour, we will suffer it no more.
We take God and all the holy angels to witness this day, that we warn all men in the name of Jesus Christ, to come on us no more forever, for from this hour, we will bear it no more, our rights shall no more be trampled on with impunity. The man or the set of men, who attempts it, does it at the expense of their lives. And that mob that comes on us to disturb us; it shall be between us and them a war of extermination, for we will follow them, till the last drop of their blood is spilled, or else they will have to exterminate us: for we will carry the seal of war to their own houses, and their own families, and one party or the other shall be utterly destroyed. --Remember it then all MEN. We will never be the aggressors, we will infringe on the rights of no people; but shall stand for our own until death. We claim our own rights, and are willing that all others shall enjoy theirs.
No man shall be at liberty to come into our streets, to threaten us with mobs, for if he does, he shall atone for it before he leaves the place, neither shall he be at liberty, to villify and slander any of us, for suffer it we will not in this place. We therefore, take all men to record this day, that we proclaim our liberty on this day, as did our fathers. And we pledge this day to one another, our fortunes, our lives, and our sacred honors, to be delivered from the persecutions which we have had to endure, for the last nine years, or nearly that. Neither will we indulge any man, or set of men, in instituting vexatious law suits against us, to cheat us out of our just rights, if they attempt it we say we be unto them.
We this day then proclaim ourselves free, with a purpose and a determination, that never can be broken, "no never! no never!! NO NEVER"!!!
William Swartzell and Brother Barnes walked from Adam-ondi-Ahman for the Far West celebration of the fourth. Swartzell recalled, "Within eight miles of the city, [we] saw a beautiful white flag, from a high hill, whereupon we set up a loud shout. " [William Swartzell, Mormonism Exposed:.Being a Journal of a Residence in Missouri from 28th of May to 20th of August 1838.