James Edward Talmage.

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Salt Lake City




The Vitality of "Mormonism

An Address






Salt Lake City



The following pages embody an address delivered by
invitation at a meeting of the Denver Philosophical So-
ciety, at Denver, Colorado, December 14th, 1916, by Dr.
James E. Talmage.

The address has already been printed through the
daily press and in magazine pages; and it is presented
herewith in convenient form, suitable for preservation.

The conciseness, clearness, and accuracy with which
the subject is treated commend it to the attention of inter-
ested and studious readers.

Salt Lake City, Utah,

January, 1917.


The Vitality of "Mormonism

Why does "Mormonism" persist? Determined
attempts were made both openly and by stealth to
strangle the system at its birth, to destroy the mus-
tard seed at the time of the planting; and, as the fact
of its survival has become prominent the certainty of
its impending demise has been announced time and
again; the fall of the umbrageous tree, amidst whose
branches the birds of search continue to find food and
shelter, has been often predicted.

On the 6th of April, 1830, the Church of Jesus
Christ of Latter-day Saints was organized as a body
corporate at Fayette in the State of New York ; and
the names of but six persons are of record as those of
actual participants. True, by that time a few times
six had identified themselves with the new and un-
precedented movement; but, as the laws of the State
specified six as the required number of i'ncorporators,
only that number took part in the legal procedure.
And they, save one, were relatively unknown and in
fact obscure.

The name of Joseph Smith had already been
heard beyond his home district. He was at the time a
subject of rapidly spreading notoriety if not of envia-
ble fame. The Book of Mormon, purporting to be a
record of the aboriginal peoples of the Western Con-
tinent, particularly an account of the dealings of God
with those peoples, in short the Scriptures of what
came afterward to be called the New World, had al-


ready been published. It was in reference to the title
page of this work that the appellation "Mormon," first
given in derision as a nickname, was fastened upon
the members of the Church.

Such a beginning as that of the Church of Jesus
Christ of Latter-day Saints may seem to afford little
ground of either hope or fear as to future develop-
ments; nevertheless, the newly established Church
was made the subject of assault from its inception.
What was there to cause hostile concern over the vol-
untary association of six men and a few of their friends
in an organization of openly expressed purpose, and
that purpose the peaceful promulgation of what they
verily believed to be. the uplifting religion of life, the
Gospel of Jesus Christ?

Whatever may be the answer to the query, the
fact that the Church met determined opposition, in-
creasingly severe from the beginning, is abundantly
attested by history. While active persecutors and
openly avowed assailants were comparatively few, the
majority of those who gave any attention to the mat-
ter treated "Mormonism" with aggressive disdain; and
contempt in the affairs of human endeavor has not in-
frequently proved itself a more effective weapon than
physical assault. In this instance violence and out-
rage resulted.

I invite your attention to "The Vitality of 'Mor-
monism' " under a convenient classification, though,
as will be seen, the divisions are inter-related and
merge intimately together. Let us consider:

1. Facts attesting the vitality and virility of the

2. Some causes thereof.

3. Some of the results.


J. ~~

Facts attesting the Vitality and Virility of the Church.

Today the "Mormon" Church is known by name
at least throughout the civilized world as well as
amongst most of the semi-cultured peoples in the re-
moter parts of the" earth and on the islands of the sea.
Since 1830 every year has witnessed an increase in
membership and an extension of "Mormon" propa-
ganda. The six have increased to over half a million
adherents. In Utah and adjacent States, in Canada
and Mexico, between seventy and eighty "Stakes of
Zion" have been established, each Stake comprising
several Wards, of which there are now over seven
hundred and fifty; and the greater part of North
America outside the established Stakes, as also many
foreign countries, are covered by well organized Mis-
sions, each with its component Conferences and

The growth of the Church is apparent to even the
poorly informed. But the Church has not only grown ;
it has developed. Between growth and development
there is a difference of the most essential kind; and
not a few of the grave mistakes of men, even in every
day affairs, in business, in politics, in statesmanship
are traceable to our confusing and confounding the
two. Growth alone is the result of accretion, the ac-
cumulation of material, the amassing of stuff. Devel-
opment involves an extension of function, a gradation
of efficiency, a passing from immaturity to maturity,,
from infancy to manhood.

Growth produces big things, and not only things
of this sort but men. Between bigness and greatness,
however, there is a distinction of kind, not alone of
degree. Growth is a measure of bulk, of quantity; it
is defined as "so many" or "so much." Development
is a gradation of quality; its terms are "so good" or


"so bad." America boasts of a constantly increasing
host of big men; the great men of the land may be
more easily counted. And as with men so with insti-

Dead things may grow, as witness the tiny salt
crystal in its mother-brine at first a microscopic cube,
then a huge hexahedron limited only by the size of the
container or other external conditions. Development,
however, is the characteristic of life to which mere
growth is essentially secondary and subordinate. The
acorn holds in potential reserve all the possibilities of
the stately oak ; within the tiny egg of the butterfly lies
the future caterpillar and the hidden glory of the ma-
ture imago.

The vital character of the Church of Jesus Christ
of Latter-day Saints was evident from the first. In
masterly parable, superb in conception and applica-
tion, the kingdom of heaven has been likened -unto
leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures
of meal ; and, behold, from it the mass became leav-
ened. I make bold to affirm that the leaven of "Mor-
monism" is leavening the world and its theology.

The most objectionable feature of "Mormonism"
today appears to be its name. The fundamental prin-
ciples of the system, its revealed truths, are more read-
ily accepted when unlabeled. Every studious reader
of recent commentaries on the Holy Scriptures, and of
theological treatises in general, is aware of a surpris-
ing progressiveness in modern views of things spir-
itual, amounting in many instances to an abandonment
of what were once regarded as the fundamentals of

In the new theology "Mormonism" has pioneered the
way. L admit that so radical an assertion calls for evi-
dence ; and in its support I shall ask your unbiased
consideration of a few illustrative instances. As the


examples to be cited, however, must have place in any
exposition of the causes to which the vitality of the
"Mormon" system of religion is to be ascribed, and as
I assume that the actuality of the growth and vitality
of "Mormonism" will not be contested, I pass in the
interest of brevity to the second division.

2. Some Causes to which the Vitality of "Mormonism"

is due.

"Mormonism" is definite and incisive in its claims.
It speaks to the world in no uncertain tone. Its voice
is virile; its activities are strong. It presents an un-
broken front, and is unafraid. Its attitude is not hos-
tile, nevertheless it is strongly aggressive. Its meth-
ods of work are those of reason and persuasion, coup-
led with a fearless affirmation of testimony as to the
surpassing importance of its message, which message
it labors to convey to every nation, kindred, tongue
and people.

"Mormonism" lives because it is healthy, normal
and undeformed. In general, a healthy organism is
assured of life, barring destruction from external vio-
lence or deprivation of physical necessities ; whereas
one that is abnormal and sickly is doomed to decline.
Opposition to the Church, the pitiless maltreatment to
which its people have been subjected, comprising mob-
bings, drivings, spoliation, scourgings, assassination,
and murder marked by every conceivable accompani-
ment of barbarity, have operated to strengthen the
Church, body and soul. True, the heat of persecution
has scorched and withered a few of the sickly plants
such as had no depth of sincerity; but the general
effect has been to promote a fuller growth, and to
make richer and more fertile the Garden of the Lord.

"Mormonism" thrives and is extending its influ-


ence, leavening the thoughts of men, because its dis-
tinctive doctrines are those of progression, in accord
with the better manifestations of the spirit of the
times, best adapted to meet the vital needs of the age.
The timeliness of its establishment is significant and
largely explanatory of its success.

The seed of the restored Gospel was planted by
the Divine Husbandman only after due preparation of
the soil. The place of planting was no less carefully
selected than the time of seeding. In the economy of
God, America, which is veritably the land of Zion, was
aforetime consecrated as the home of a free and in-
dependent nation. Only in such soil could the germ
of the Gospel of true liberty sprout and thrive.

"Mormonism" lives because its claims are con-
sistent and its position impregnable. It affirms the
literal fulfilment of scriptural predictions of a great
falling away from the truth, a cessation of spiritual
gifts and Divine authority, in short a world-wide apos-
tasy from the Church established by the Lord Jesus
Christ in the meridian of time. This condition of
apostasy is that pictured by Isaiah :

"The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants

thereof; because they have transgressed the laws,

changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting cove-
nant." (Isaiah 24:5.)

And by Amos, in his fateful utterance :

"Behold, the days come, saith the Lord God, that
I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread,
nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the
Lord : And they shall wander from sea to sea, and
from the north even to the east, they shall run to and
fro to seek the word of the Lord, and shall not find it."
(Amos 8:11, 12.)


The certainty of a general declension in spiritual-
ity among men, the rise of false Christs and false
prophets, of mystic and deceiving voices from the
desert and from secret chambers was foretold by the
Christ Himself (Matt. 24:4-5, 10, 13, 25-26). So
avowed also the Apostles Peter (2 Peter 2:1-3), and
Paul (Acts 20:29-30, 1 Tim. 4:1-3, 2 Tim. 4:1-4, 2
Thess. 2:3-4), Jude (17, 18), and John (Rev. 13:4,

The apostate condition of Christendom has been
recognized and affirmed by high ecclesiastical author-
ity. Let a single citation suffice. The Church of Eng-
land thus proclaims the fact of degeneracy, as set forth
in her "Homily against Peril of Idolatry," published
about the middle of the sixteenth century and retained
to this day as an official declaration :

"So that laity and clergy, learned and unlearned,
all ages, sects, and degrees of men, women, and chil-
dren of whole Christendom an horrible and most
dreadful thing to think have been at once drowned in
abominable idolatry ; of all other vices most detested of
God, and most damnable to man ; and that by the space
of eight hundred years and more."

No less definite than the prophecy of apostasy is
the scriptural prediction of a restoration in the last
days :

"And I saw another angel fly in the midst of
heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto
them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and
kindred, and tongue, and people, Saying with a loud
voice, Fear God, and give ,glory to him ; for the hour
of his judgment is come : and worship him that made
heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of
waters." (Rev. 14:6-7.)


"Mormonism" affirms that the "everlasting Gos-
pel" has been restored to earth in the manner speci-
fied, that is by angelic ministration. The necessity of
a restoration postulates the prior removal of the thing
restored ; and the restoration of the Gospel is proof of
the precedent apostasy of mankind. But, it may be
asked, had not we the Holy Bible, the scriptural re-
pository of the Gospel record? The letter, yes. But
surely the Gospel is more than a book. The Holy
Bible prescribes administrative ordinances as essential
to salvation baptism by water and the bestowal of the
Holy Ghost by the authoritative imposition of hands,
the rebirth of water and of the Spirit, without which,
unless the Lord Christ spoke to Nicodemus falsely, no
man can enter the kingdom of God. Who will ven-
ture to affirm that a possession of a copy of the Holy
Bible, or even a letter-perfect memorization of the
contents thereof, can give to men the right to admin-
ister in the ordinances therein prescribed?

The angel seen by the Revelator while on Patmos
was to restore not the letter of requirement as to bap-
tism and other essentials, for this the world had; but
he was to bring again to earth the commission to
officiate in those saving ordinances, that is, to restore
the authority of the Holy Priesthood.

"Mormonism" affirms that on the 15th of May,
1829, a heavenly messenger descended in light and
glory, and, laying his hands upon Joseph Smith and
his companion in the ministry, Oliver Cowdery, be-
stowed upon them the Lesser or Aaronic Priesthood,

"Upon you my fellow servants, in the name of
Messiah, I confer the Priesthood of Aaron, which holds
the keys of the ministering of angels, and of the gospel
of repentance, and of baptism by immersion for the re-
mission of sins."


The angelic personage announced himself as
John, known of old as the Baptist, and declared that
he acted under instructions from Peter, James, and
John, who held the presidency of the Higher or Mel-
chizedek Priesthood in the apostolic dispensation of
old. At a later date Joseph Smith and his fellow
laborer were visited by Peter, James, and John, who
ordained the two to the Priesthood after the order of
Melchizedek, which comprises all the authority opera-
tive in the Church of Jesus Christ.

Whatever criticism may be offered, exception
taken, or denial asserted against these solemn declara-
tions, the consistency of the claims themselves must
be admitted. Authority to officiate in the ordinances
of the Gospel was brought by angel messengers,
and they the very ones in whom were vested the
powers of the respective order of Priesthood in the
earlier Gospel dispensation. This same strict con-
sistency appears in subsequent manifestations. Thus.
Moses appeared in the Temple at Kirtland, Ohio, and
conferred the keys of the gathering of the tribes of
Israel after their long dispersion, which work is abun-
dantly predicted in ancient scripture as a characteristic
feature of the latter days the time immediately
precedent to the glorious advent of the Son of Man.
Elijah the prophet, in literal fulfilment of Malachi's
prediction (Mai. 4:5-6) has brought and committed
to the modern prophet the authority of vicarious labor
in behalf of the dead, by which the hearts of the de-
parted fathers are turned to their living posterity, and
the hearts of the yet mortal children drawn to their
progenitors in the spirit world. True to this partic-
ular commission, the restored Church rears temples
to the name and service of the living God, and in those
sacred structures carries forward vicarious service for
the redemption of the uncounted dead who have


passed away in ignorance as to the necessity of com-
pliance with the laws and ordinances of the Gospel,
without which compliance no man may see the king-
dom of God.

Such facts as those cited attest the consistency
of the distinctive claims of "Mormonism" ; and con-
sistency goes far to establish genuineness. "Mormon-
ism" would long since have gone the way of all false
creeds and systems had its precepts been inconsistent,
incongruous, or unscriptural.

' "Mormon" doctrines are characteristically ad-
vanced and progressive, and herein lies a further ex-
planation of the virility of the system. While in no
respect at variance with earlier scriptures, "Mormon-
ism" carries principles forw r ard, and many of the ob-
scure passages of ancient writ are illumined by the
rays of modern revelation. As stated, "Mormonism"
leads the way to higher truths. Now, by way of a
few examples as promised :

(A) The unscriptural and repellent dogma of
inherent degeneracy and the contaminating effect of
original sin, by which every child is born vile in the
sight and judgment of God, long cast its dark shadow
over the minds of men. From this conception sprang
the practise of infant baptism and the perverted doc-
trine of assured damnation for all innocent babes who
die unbaptized. Even the Catholic church has mod-
ified its teaching on this subject and today permits its
members to believe that children who die without bap-
tism pass to a state of partial happiness and content,
though forever denied the supreme blessing of the
beatific vision of God. It is conceded, of course, that
no dictum, dogma, or doctrine of men can determine
the fate of souls, infant or adult, in the hereafter;
nevertheless, theological teachings have direct effect
upon the thoughts and lives of mankind. It is cheer-


ing to know that practically all Christendom today
repudiates the frightful heresy of the eternal con-
demnation of babes who die without baptism.

Hear now the word of "Mormonism" on the mat-
ter and note the time of its enunciation. In 1830 the
Book of Mormon was given to the world. Therein
we read, in an epistle of the ancient prophet Mormon
to his son Moroni :

"Listen to the words of Christ, your Redeemer,
your Lord and your God. Behold, I came into the
world not to call the righteous, but sinners to repent-
ance : the whole need no physician, but they that are
sick; wherefore little children are whole, for they are
not capable of committing sin ; wherefore the curse of
Adam is taken from them in me, that it hath no power
over them ; and the law of circumcision is done away
in me. And after this manner did the Holy Ghost
manifest the word of God unto me; wherefore my be-
loved son, I know that it is solemn mockery before
God, that ye should baptize little children. Behold I say
unto you, That this thing shall ye teach, repentance and
baptism unto those who are accountable and capable of
committing sin; yea, teach parents that they must re-
pent and be baptized, and humble themselves as their
little children, and they shall all be saved with their
little children. And their little children need no re-
pentance, neither baptism. Behold, baptism is unto
repentance to the fulfilling the commandments unto the
remission of sins. But little children are alive in
Christ, even from the foundation of the world." (Mo-
roni 8:8-12.)

In the revelations of the current dispensation we
read that children are accounted innocent before God
until they come to the age of understanding and ac-
countability, and that baptism is required of all who
have attained that condition. Thus we read:


"All those who humble themselves before God,
and desire to be baptized and come forth with broken
hearts and contrite spirits, and witness before the
church that they hav,e truly repented of all their sins,
and are willing to take upon them the name of Jesus
Christ, having a determination to serve him to the end,
and truly manifest by their works that they have re-
ceived of the Spirit of Christ unto the remission of
their sins, shall be received by baptism into his church."
(Doctrine and Covenants 20:37.)

(B) The one-time general conception of heaven
and hell is regarded today as antiquated, unreason-
able, unscriptural and untrue. I speak of the heaven
and the hell once thought of as the only places or con-
ditions prepared for the souls of men, to one or the
other of which states every being that has or shall
have tabernacled in the flesh is to be consigned, per-
haps on a very narrow margin of merit or desert.
True, the support of scriptural warrant was lacking
for the churchly dogma; but many centuries were re-
quired for the world to discover the fact. Paul, writ-
ing to the Corinthians in the long ago, said:

"There are also celestial bodies, and bodies ter-
restrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the
glory of the terrestrial is another. There is one glory
of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another
glory of the stars : for one star differeth from another
star in glory. So also is the resurrection of the dead."
(I Cor. 15:40-42.)

To this portentous scripture a very narrow ex-
position was accorded in the dogmatic exegesis of the
earlier commentaries, and the dictum of a heaven and
a hell was scarcely shaken thereby. Belief in graded
conditions in the hereafter is widespread today, and in


this rational substitution of ennobling truth for de-
grading error, "Mormonism" is again the world's
teacher. Joseph Smith avowed that in February 1832
he received a Divine revelation, in which conditions
in the hereafter were shown to be the direct result of
the individual life in mortality, and by which the ex-
istence of distinct kingdoms of glory, each with its
own numerous gradations, was made plain. These
are called in descending order the Celestial, the Ter-
restrial and the Telestial. Far below the lowest of
these is the state prepared for the hopelessly unregen-
erate, those who have sinned against light and knowl-
edge, those who, having learned the laws of righteous-
ness and having received the testimony of the Christ
have ruthlessly trodden the priceless pearls into the
mire, those few who are fit companions for the devil
and his angels throughout eternity, those who are
known by the awful name "sons of perdition." Of
them the revelation last referred to avers :

"Thus saith the Lord, concerning all those who
know my power, and have been made partakers there-
of, and suffered themselves, through the power of the
devil, to be overcome, and to deny the truth and defy
my power They are they who are the sons of perdi-
tion, of whom I say that it had been better for them
never to have been born, For they are vessels of wrath,
doomed to suffer the wrath of God, with the devil and
his angels in eternity; Concerning whom I have said
there is no forgiveness in this world nor in the world
to come, Having denied the Holy Spirit after having
received it, and having denied the Only Begotten Son
of the Father having crucified him unto themselves,
and put him to an open shame. These are they who
shall go away into the lake of fire and brimstone, with
the devil and his angels, And the only ones on whom
the second death shall have any power ; Yea, verily, the



only ones who shall not be redeemed in the due time of
the Lord, after the sufferings' of his wrath." (Doc-
trine and Covenants 76:31-38.)

In immeasurable contrast is the state of those
who attain not only salvation but exaltation in the
Celestial kingdom. We read:

"They are they who received the testimony of
Jesus, and believed on his name and were baptized
after the manner of his burial, being buried in the
water in his name, and this according to the command-
ment which he has given, That by keeping the com-
mandments they might be washed and cleansed from
all their sins, and receive the Holy Spirit by the laying


Online LibraryJames Edward TalmageThe vitality of Mormonism : an address → online text (page 1 of 2)