George Q. Cannon

 September 24th, 1893

 

THE CHICAGO PARLIAMENT OF RELIGIONS

REMARKS
Delivered by President George Q. Cannon,
at the Tabernacle,
Salt Lake City,
Sunday, September 24th, 1893.


I have been very much interested in the remarks that have been made by Elder Moses Thatcher, and I am sure that when I say we were glad to hear his voice once more in our midst I only express the feelings of every heart. He has had a very severe illness, and for a while his life seemed to be almost nearing its close; but the Lord, in answer to prayer, coupled with good nursing and care, has restored him to comparative health, and I am very glad to hear him speak as he has today. I can bear testimony to the truths he has spoken concerning the Gospel and the divinity of the mission of the Prophet Joseph and the future of this work. And this is the privilege that we all have. This constitutes the strength of this latter-day work. Every man and woman connected with it has the privilege of knowing for himself and herself respecting the truths that are taught by the Elders of this Church. The Lord has given His Holy Spirit to every one who has obeyed the Gospel in sincerity and in truth; and however little they may know in some directions, our Father, in His infinite kindness, has given them a knowledge in that direction which is of the utmost importance to them concerning their salvation. A man may not be very learned; he may not know much about the sciences of the world; he may not be able to comprehend many principles that are taught, but when the vital principles of truth connected with man's salvation are set forth in his hearing he is able to discern truth from error and to grasp the truth and testify to it. This makes him a power. And when thousands are united who are in possession of this gift, it makes a mighty power in the earth.

The First Presidency have just returned from Chicago, as doubtless you all know. We have had a very interesting visit. President Woodruff's health, notwithstanding we had some little fear about his enduring the fatigue of the journey, is better, I believe, than it has been since the dedication of the Temple. He has received benefit physically from the trip. Being with the choir was a source of continued delight to us, to see the manner in which the choir acquitted itself, the character of the receptions which were given to it, and the good feeling that was manifested on every hand. It has often been remarked since the choir left here that their visit would be productive of greater good than almost any number of missionaries. I am prepared to believe this statement. It shows how the influence of this work is going forth. We have an exhibition of the manner in which our Father can dispel prejudice and soften the hearts of the people, as He promised He would do from time to time, in behalf of His church. Suppose it had been announced five years ago that within that period the Tabernacle choir would go to Chicago and enter upon a musical contest to which the singing organizations of the whole country had been invited to come and participate, and that they would be received with honor and be credited with the best singing, though only receiving the second prize, who could have believed it? It would have been a difficult matter for the people to have comprehended, under the then existing circumstances. And to be told that audiences, after having paid a dollar for admission, would ask to have sung that hymn which is so sweet to our ears, the composition of Sister Eliza R. Snow, "O, my Father, Thou that dwellest," etc., would have sounded incredible to the bulk of the people. But it shows what the Lord can do.

At Chicago everything went off in the most pleasant manner. It would be difficult to ask for kinder treatment; in fact, I do not see how it could be given to us. I feel very thankful that this is the case. I am thankful to see people free from prejudice; to see them look at the Latter-day Saints as they truly are; to see us in our true light, and recognize the fact that we are struggling, with them, in our way, to advance the human family and to make progress. For there is a spirit of progress abroad in the world at the present time—a disposition to improve. Of course, there are differences in views as to how this progress shall be effected, and the methods that shall be adopted to achieve the ends. Naturally, we think that our method is the best. Others have not agreed with us in this view. But people now are almost compelled to acknowledge that, with all our alleged faults and sins, we have been making progress, and that we are a progressive people, and that the lines which we have adopted as our lines of progress are worthy of consideration and examination, because the results are such as to warrant the world in paying attention to this. Of course, we need not expect that there will be any very great hurry in acknowledging our worth or recognizing us in our true character. The air has been filled with misrepresentation. The very atmosphere has been so beclouded with falsehood and misrepresentation that it has been almost impossible to see us through it. But it is gradually clearing up, and men and women are beginning to look at us with different lights and to acknowledge that indeed the Latter-day Saints are accomplishing a great work.

Allusion has been made to our financial matters. I believe that in other communities if the same indebtedness and obligations had been resting upon them that have rested upon us, there would have been a great deal more financial trouble than we have had. There has not been a failure yet of any of our banking institutions. But I believe there would have been had it not been for the conservatism of the people and for the disposition to be patient and not get excited. I am delighted in seeing this feature of our character exhibited and recognized. The spirit which the Gospel brings is among the people. You can feel it. There is a serenity of mind, a calmness, and a disposition not to become excited or to run to extremes. I have remarked once before here that in my intercourse with leading men I have endeavored to create the impression in their mind that we could be relied upon, and not be carried away by every will-o'the-wisp. This is our true character, and it is well to have it understood and known.

Referring again to Chicago, there is an extraordinary spectacle being witnessed there in the convocation of this parliament of religions, as it is called. I suppose all of you who read the papers know more or less concerning this. While we were there, there was a Japanese, a learned man, who took the opportunity afforded him—very much, however, to the disturbance of some of his hearers—to give his reasons why the Japanese, or the heathen as he called them, did not receive Christianity. He held up the conduct of the Christians in a light that was not very flattering to us—if we come within that category. At any rate, he attacked the conduct of our nation as a Christian nation—and we are part of the nation—for the manner in which the Japanese had been treated, and said if the fruits of Christianity as they had been shown to them were the genuine fruits of that religion, they were not willing to accept Christianity. I thought that if the purpose of this parliament of religions was to see ourselves as others see us, his address would be one of the most profitable that had been delivered. It is better to have plain talk about faults and defects, and have them set forth plainly in a kind spirit, than it is to be told that we are perfect. I would rather listen to censures, if they are just, and fair criticism upon our methods, than to be told we had no faults. Common sense ought to tell every one that we are not faultless. We have many faults, and we have many characteristics that can be properly criticised. But, of course, if we are criticised, we would like to be criticised in the right spirit and with a proper feeling.

There are some things that are going to puzzle this parliament after a while, as I view it—that is, the orthodox Christian part of it. I consider we are Christians, though we are not recognized always as orthodox. But the orthodox Christians in their teachings have conveyed the idea that the Savior came and taught truths which had never been heard of before in the world. One speaker in his address said that there had been some truths that had not been revealed until Jesus came, and that there had been a great many things, for instance in the Old Testament, that were suited to a barbarous age, and that the men who practiced them had not much knowledge of God. He alluded to the sacrifices under and previous to the law of Moses and thought how improper they were; only suited to a barbarous people and age. But the inhabitants of the earth had emerged from barbarism and ignorance into light—conveying the idea that Abraham and Moses and the prophets knew but little concerning God and the plan of salvation as taught by the Lord Jesus Christ. But here come the Buddhists and the followers of Confucius and they prove that long before the Savior was born many of the truths which He proclaimed were taught by their leading men. This is likely to furnish good ground for infidelity and for men thinking that after all there is not so much in this Christian religion as those who advocate it assume; because if Buddha and Confucius knew these truths, where are the claims of the Christians that the Savior was the first to introduce them in His sermon on the Mount? Men put themselves in a false position by making such statements; for the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ is as old as eternity.

Happily we have been delivered from that foolish error by the revelations which God has given unto us. God has revealed unto us that Adam himself was taught the Gospel in the same purity and with the same power and gifts that it was taught to the Twelve apostles whom the Lord chose as His disciples. We have been taught that Jesus Himself was the Revelator, so to speak. He was the Being who revealed to Adam and to his children, to Abraham, to Moses and to the prophets, the plan of salvation, and gave them the laws which they practiced. The offering of bullocks and other animals and fowls was typical of the great offering that should be made, and there was a purpose in view in making these offerings. But it is consummate folly for this generation to suppose they can measure and judge the Lord by their knowledge, or can fully understand His methods of dealing with the children of men in former ages unless He reveals this knowledge to them. This generation should not lift itself up in pride and think that it embodies all knowledge and is superior to every preceding generation. That has been a conceit that all generations have more or less entertained, and it has proved the ruin and downfall of many of them. They have thought they were the foremost in the ranks of men and that no one until they lived had made such progress as they. Too many of our scientific men and religious teachers are puffed up with this kind of pride. They think they understand science, and the constant endeavor of some is to reconcile the Bible with science; while there are others who think they cannot be reconciled. But it is the fashion now to extol science; and many ministers of religion almost worship it. In doing so they think they are keeping abreast of the spirit of the age. Yet the truths of the Gospel are eternal, and after all it will be found that science will have to agree with them. The truths which God has revealed are immutable and they cannot be weakened or shaken by science or discussion. If scientific theories differ from them, the theories must go down.

We hear considerable about evolution. Who is there that believes more in true evolution than the Latter-day Saints?—the evolution of man until he shall become a god; until he shall sit at the right hand of the Father; until he shall be a joint heir with Jesus! That is the Gospel of Jesus Christ, believed in by the Latter-day Saints. That is the kind of evolution we believe in; but not the evolution of man from some low type of animal life. There is a tendency today in the scientific world to entertain and advocate such ideas concerning the origin of man. The attempt is made to prove that man has come up from the lowest depths through the stone age, the bronze age, the iron age, until he has reached his present condition. This is incorrect. Man is the son of God, and came here perfect from the eternal worlds. Adam was made in the image of God, and he stood upright before Him. His children, however, fell into darkness and sin, and corrupted themselves; and probably there were times when they used flints, just as geologists now attempt to prove, and afterwards, bronze and iron. But that was not man's original condition. He came from God perfect, and he was so intelligent as to give names to all the animal creation, and he became their lord and master. He knew God and walked with Him. And God was not a simpleton then. He knew just as much as scientific men do now, I think. It has not been necessary for Him to go to school since the days of Adam in order to learn knowledge. He always knew what He comprehends today, and He could teach Adam everything that was necessary to be taught. Not only that, but men who lived as long as they did must have learned an immense amount. Think of it, Adam living nearly a thousand years! What progress he would make in the knowledge of earthly things, even supposing he started out ignorant! So with the others, until the earth was filled with knowledge. But men corrupted themselves and fell into darkness and sin, and became so wicked that God, in order that wickedness might not destroy His purposes, had to send a flood to wipe them out, excepting a few. Enoch walked with God three hundred and sixty-five years, and the Bible says he was not, for God took him. If he walked with God that length of time, he must have known something about Him, and about the heavens, and about the organization of the earth, and something about what is called science now, geological as well as astronomical. Our revelations tell us that not only he but his city was translated. They were all taken, with the exception of Methusaleh, who was left on the earth, because the promise had been made to him that through him one should arise who should be the progenitor of a new world. This proved to be Noah, his grandson. After that the earth waxed worse and worse until the flood was sent and destroyed the world. I might read you something to show you how much Adam knew about the Gospel. There are many precious parts of the Bible which have been taken from it. It has passed through a great many hands and has been mutilated to a very great extent, many parts that would throw great light upon God's dealings with men having been taken away from it. But this part that I read from has been restored by revelation in our day.

 

And he called upon our father Adam by his own voice, saying, I am God; I made the world and men before they were in the flesh; and he also said unto him, If thou wilt turn unto me and hearken unto my voice, and believe, and repent of all thy transgressions, and be baptized, even in water, in the name of mine Only Begotten Son, who is full of grace and truth, which is Jesus Christ, the only name which shall be given under heaven, whereby salvation shall come unto the children of men, ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, asking all things in His name, and whatsoever ye shall ask it shall be given you.

And our father Adam spake unto the Lord, and said, Why is it that men must repent and be baptized in water? And the Lord said unto Adam, Behold I have forgiven thee thy transgression in the Garden of Eden. Hence came the saying abroad among the people, That the Son of God hath atoned for original guilt, wherein the sins of the parents cannot be answered upon the heads of the children, for they are whole from the foundation of the world.

And the Lord spake unto Adam, saying, Inasmuch as thy children are conceived in sin, even so when they begin to grow up, sin conceiveth in their hearts, and they taste the bitter, that they may know to prize the good. And it is given unto them to know good from evil; wherefore they are agents unto themselves, and I have given unto you another law and commandment. Wherefore teach it unto your children; that all men, everywhere, must repent, or they can in no wise inherit the kingdom of God, for no unclean thing can dwell there, or dwell in his presence; for, in the language of Adam, Man of Holiness is his name; and the name of his Only Begotten is the Son of Man, even Jesus Christ, a righteous Judge who shall come in the meridian of time. Therefore I give unto you a commandment, to teach these things freely unto your children, saying, That by reason of transgression cometh the fall, which fall bringeth death, and inasmuch as ye were born into the world by water, and blood, and the spirit, which I have made, and so became of dust a living soul, even so ye must be born again into the kingdom of heaven, of water, and of the Spirit, and be cleansed by blood, even the blood of mine Only Begotten; that ye might be sanctified from all sin, and enjoy the words of eternal life in this world, and eternal life in the world to come, even immortal glory: For by the water ye keep the commandment; by the Spirit ye are justified, and by the blood ye are sanctified; therefore it is given to abide in you; the record of heaven; the Comforter; the peaceable things of immortal glory; the truth of all things; that which quickeneth all things, which maketh alive all things; that which knoweth all things, and hath all power, according to wisdom, mercy, truth, justice, and judgment.

 

There is much of the same character in this revelation, which shows plainly that in that early day God sent His angels to Adam; that he repented of his sins and was baptized in water by an angel, and he received the Holy Ghost, just as much as we who live now do, and probably in greater power. These are the principles of the Gospel, and this was in the beginning. Every principle that was taught to men by the Savior in His day, so far as pertaineth to the Gospel, was taught in those early days. It is the height of folly, it is a libel on our Father in heaven, to say that those men who lived in those days dwelt in ignorance, or that the revelations of God to them were imperfect, or that God has improved since their day. He was perfect then; He knew all things then; and He taught that which was necessary then for man's salvation. The name of Jesus is the only name given under heaven whereby man can be saved. No man could be saved in the beginning without that name, and if he did not hear it on the earth he would have to hear it somewhere else, or he could not be saved. Paul speaks of this in the third chapter of Galatians, where he says: "Foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham." Abraham understood the Gospel. Melchisedec understood the Gospel. He was a priest of the Most High God, it is said, and he received tithes from Abraham. Jesus became a High Priest after the order of Melchisedec, although he belonged to the tribe of Judah, concerning which Paul says Moses had said nothing about priesthood.

Brethren and sisters, the world is progressing, in its own way. God will overrule and control all these things for good. I look upon this parliament to which I have alluded as likely to be productive of great good. It is a good thing for men to get together and compare their views. They are not so far apart as they imagine. If it will only have the effect to lessen our conceit—I speak now of our nation—I shall be very thankful. We are very conceited. We think that anything we don't know is not worth knowing. But there are other people in the world who do know a great deal, and some of their views about God and about the proper method of living are very correct. There was one man from Hindostan who preached from a Unitarian pulpit the Sunday we were there, and he told the congregation that he had come to preach to them the truths which Christ taught, which they professed to believe but which they did not practice. This kind of talk hurts self-love, and some of the newspapers had to take it up. But the Buddhists and the Shintovists and the believers in Confucius have a great many truths among them, and they are not so imperfect and heathenish as we have been in the habit in this country of believing them to be. They show that they are capable of setting forth their own doctrines and of advocating them in a way that brings conviction to the minds at least of their own people. They do not believe in Jesus as the Savior of the world, though many of them do believe that he was a great man.

I rejoice exceedingly in our situation. We are a very imperfect people. We have much to learn. But, as I said, God has reveled some things to us, and we know they are true; and we can bring all the science of the world to that standard which God has given unto us. As I have told many of our young men when they have been going to college, how valuable it is to know that these doctrines of Darwin are incorrect, and that man has not come up from that low condition, through thousands or millions of years, to his present statue and reasoning faculties, etc. It is worth something to know that, to begin with, and not spend time over it. So it is with many things that are taught by scientific men. It gives the Latter-day Saints an advantage over every other people and our young men will make progress in science that will surprise the world because of this, having certain fixed principles of truth to commence with which God has revealed, and which they know are true. This is our condition as an entire people. There are cartloads of books being written from time to time to prove certain things that are not true. The Lord having revealed to us the truth, and having His Spirit to enlighten us, by which we can go to Him and ask concerning matters about which we are ignorant, He will give us light and dispel darkness.

I am rejoiced to be with you this afternoon. I am thankful for the blessings that God has bestowed upon us. I trust that we shall profit by all that we are passing through. These lessons are intended to make us a better people, a more perfect people. Let us cultivate honesty and truthfulness and punctuality in all our dealings and in all our associations one with another and with the world. If we do this we shall continue to maintain the character that we have obtained; yes, and to increase in the estimation of the good everywhere. I pray God to bless you all, in the name of Jesus. Amen.


(George Q. Cannon quoted in Brian H. Stuy, ed., Collected Discourses, 5 vols. [Burbank, Calif., and Woodland Hills, Ut.: B.H.S. Publishing, 1987-1992], vol. 3.) 

 
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