3rd President of the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
October 10, 1880 – July 25, 1887

President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (April 10, 1875 – October 10, 1880)

Member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (December 19, 1838 – October 10, 1880)

General Conference Addresses

  • April 1880 General Conference
    • Welcome to Conference
      • “And while we are assembled together in the capacity of a Conference, it is proper that our hearts and feelings and affections should be turned to God, that we may reflect upon his kindness, his mercy and salvation extended to us as a people; that we may also reflect upon our weaknesses, our infirmities, our follies and our foibles, and be enabled to lay them aside, feeling that we are the Saints of God, with responsibilities to attend to; and that it is our duty and our delight to listen to and be governed by those great principles which God has revealed for the salvation of the human family.”
    • Square Our Lives
      • “In regard to the work in which we are engaged, we all feel to a certain extent interested therein, and there are many points that it will be necessary for us to reflect upon. One is, that it is “not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, that shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.” And it is for us to square our lives according to the principles laid down for all of us ; for all of the officers ; for the Twelve and their Counselors; for the Presidents of Stakes and their Counselors; for High Priests, for Seventies, Elders, Priests, Teachers and Deacons ; and for every man to magnify his calling with singleness of heart before God, and to feel that God demands of us righteousness, truth and integrity in our hearts ; that we cleave unto him, observe his laws and keep his commandments; and if we do this, then the blessings of which we have heard are ours; if we do not we shall not possess them.”
    • Jubilee Year
      • “If you find people owing you who are distressed, if you will go to work and try to relieve them as much as you can, under the circumstances, God will relieve you when you get into difficulties. I will tell you that in the name of the Lord. Let us act on a kind, generous, brotherly principle, doing good one to another and carrying out the principles of the everlasting gospel in our lives.”
    • Sustaining Missionaries
      • “We want the missionaries’ wives and children made comfortable and taken care of. The sisters have voted to let us have some of their wheat for the relief of the poor. Then on the other hand, let us do something for them. It does not matter how much we pray for them, for this is in accordance with our covenants or voting. Some people would rather pray for them than relieve them. Prayers are all well enough; but a little flour, a little pork, a little beef, sugar, store goods, and temporal comforts are a great deal better than all our prayers without this material assistance.”
    • Our Duties
      • “We will forgive the poor and let them go, and the others may go if they want to. But we will not release them from their indebtedness if they are able to pay it. Is not that just? I think it is. We will relieve the poor and needy; but as to those people who have called upon you—and you have sent out your teams and have loaded those teams with provisions of all kinds, and you have either gone yourselves or sent your sons to drive them, to help them in, if those men do not feel like acting just and right, let them be considered among the unjust who have used your means which was appropriated by you to relieve the necessitous and have not had the honesty to return it, but as to the poor, the needy and distressed, we will come to their relief and help them, the same as we are obliged to go to God our Heavenly Father and ask him to help us, for we are all dependent upon the mercy of God, we live in him, we move in him, and to him-we are indebted for our existence as well as for every blessing that we enjoy pertaining to time or eternity.”
      • “Then let us feel after the welfare of our brethren, and we will not dwell much upon one another’s weaknesses, for God knows that all of us have enough of them, at least, I feel I have, and I think my brethren feel that they have, and I do not think that many of you are very much better than we are.”
      • “Why, we expect our sisters—our wives—to be with us not only in time, but in eternity; and let us treat them accordingly, with kindness, with affection, with love and with esteem. And then let the sisters turn round and treat their husbands and brothers and fathers in the same way; and let us all cultivate those principles that are calculated to promote one another’s happiness and peace, that it may reign in our own bosoms, and dwell in our habitations, and prevail throughout the land, that the peace of God and the blessing of God may rest upon us. And while we feel a disposition to do right and to keep the commandments of God, God will bless us and sustain us in all of our operations ; and every plot and every contrivance devised against us will fall to the ground, for God will be our deliverer and our protector.”
      • “And, then, do not pursue that licentious course exhibited around us here. It is this d—d infernal “civilization” that has introduced these infamies into our midst. Let us purge ourselves from them, and not mix up with their ungodly doings. Excuse me for the remarks, but they are true before God; they are both damned and infernal, for those who practice them will be damned, and they are infernal, because they proceed from the infernal regions. I do not care who sustains them, whether governors, judges, priests, or whatever they may be; they are of their father, the devil, who sustains those things and maintains them. Those crimes are not original with us; they are brought here to try to corrupt and enslave and debase and pollute us. Keep yourselves pure from these corruptions, and walk worthily of the high vocation whereunto you are called.”
      • “I heard the other day from one of our speakers that there were Elders, High Priests and Seventies who got drunk. What are the Bishops doing? What are the Presidents of Stakes doing? Why do you not bring them up and cut them off from the Church—any such Elder, any such High Priest, or any such Seventy, or any- of the Saints who may be found guilty of such thing? For they are hypocrites, and want dealing with and severing from the Church. Furthermore, I have heard of some Bishops who have been seeking to cover up the iniquities of men; I tell them, in the name of God, they will have to bear them themselves, and meet that judgment; and I tell you that any man who tampers with iniquity, he will have to bear that iniquity, and if any of you want to partake of the sins of men, or uphold them, you will have to bear them. Do you hear it, you Bishops and you Presidents? God will require it at your hands. You are not placed in position to tamper with the principles of righteousness, nor to cover up the infamies and corruptions of men. Now, do not say you did not know anything about it; I have given you fair warning, and I clear my skirts of your blood; and their infamies will cleave to you unless you attend to it.”
    • Our Children
      • “God has given unto us the most precious of gifts—children, and has placed us over them as the fathers and mothers of lives. They are eternal beings, and it should be our constant care to train them up in the fear of God. And we want the Bishops and the Presidents to sustain them, which I believe they do, and all good brethren and all good sisters should take an interest in the welfare of the rising generation, and do all they can to train the children in the fear of God.”
  • April 1853 General Conference
    • Legitimacy and Illegitimacy
      • “We may take our little enjoyments in our social assemblies, but when the man comes to reflect, when the Saint of God considers, and the visions of eternity are open to his view, and the unalterable purposes of God are developed to his mind—when he contemplates his true position before God, angels, and men, then he soars above the things of time and sense, and bursts the cords that bind him to earthly objects; he contemplates God and his own destiny in the economy of heaven, and rejoices in a blooming hope of an immortal glory.”
      • “I have no complaints to make about our father Adam eating the forbidden fruit, as some have, for I do not know but any of us would have done the same. I find myself here in the midst of the creations of God, and it is for me to make use of the intelligence God has given me, and not condescend to anything that is low, mean, groveling, and degrading—to anything that is calculated to debase the immortal mind of man, but to follow after things that are in their nature calculated to exalt, ennoble, and dignify, that I may stand in my true position before God, angels, and men, and rise to take my seat among the Gods of eternity.”
      • “What then has been the position of the world for generations past? They have been governed by rulers not appointed of God; if they were appointed by Him, it was merely as a scourge to the people for their wickedness, or for temporary rulers in the absence of those whose right it was to govern. They had not the legitimate rule, Priesthood, and authority of God on the earth, to act as His representatives in regulating and presiding over the affairs of His kingdom.”
      • “If any man wishes to introduce peace into his family or among his friends, let him cultivate it in his own bosom; for sterling peace can only be had according to the legitimate rule and authority of heaven, and obedience to its laws.”
      • “If there is any form of government under the heavens where we can have legitimate rule and authority, it is among the Saints. In the first place, we have a man appointed by God, and, in the second place, by the people. This man is chosen by yourselves, and every person raises his hand to sanction the choice. Here is our President, Brigham Young, whom we made choice of yesterday, who is he? He is the legitimate ruler among this people. Can anybody dispossess him? They cannot, because it is his legitimate right, and he reigns in the hearts of the people. He obtains his authority first from God, and secondly from the people; and if a man possesses five grains of common sense, when he has a privilege of voting for or against a man, he will not vote for a man that oppresses the people; he will vote according to the dictates of his conscience, for this is the right and duty of this people in the choice of their President, and other leading officers of the kingdom of God. While this is being done here, it is being done in every part of the world, wherever the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a footing.”
      • “To do right in our present state, then, we must carry out the principle of legitimacy according to a correct rule, and, if we profess to be subjects of the kingdom of God, we must be subject to the dominion, rule, legitimacy, and authority of God. No person can escape from this, unless he apostatizes, and goes to the devil, like a fool. He must be a fool who would barter away eternal life, thrones, principalities, and powers in the eternal world, for the paltry trash which exists in the shape of wealth and worldly honor: to let go his chance of heaven and of God, of being a King and Priest unto Him, of living and reigning forever, and of standing among the chiefs of Israel. I cannot help calling such men fools, for they are damned now in making such a choice, and will be hereafter.”

Other Reported Talks

  • The Worship of God, The Sacredness of the Sabbath, Discourse delivered at Bountiful, Utah, June 26, 1881
    • “I will tell you how I feel on a Sabbath morning. I realize this is a day set apart to worship Almighty God: now I ought to worship God myself, and I ought to look after my family and discover whether they are engaged in the same thing or not.”
  • An Important Age, etc., Discourse Delivered in the Tabernacle, Salt Lake City, July 7, 1878
    • “I call upon you, ye latter day saints, to repent of your iniquities, and keep the Sabbath day holy, set it aside as a day of rest, a day to meet together to perform your sacraments and listen to the words of life, and thus be found keeping the commandments, and setting a good example before your children. Let us do that which is right, honor our God and magnify our calling, and the Spirit and blessing of God will rest upon us. But if we do not these things, his Spirit will depart from us, and we be left to ourselves.”
    • “We talk about being a good people. Well, we are when compared with the rest of the world; but we ought to be twenty times better than we are today. And if we, as Latter-day saints were to strictly observe the Sabbath day, and pay our tithes and offerings, and meet our engagements, and be less worldly minded, be united in temporal and spiritual things, Zion would arise and shine, and the glory of God would rest upon her. And it would not be long before all nations would call us blessed. But we are slothful and careless and indifferent, and we neglect our duty and the responsibilities that devolve upon us.”
  • The Spirit of Zion and the Spirit of the World, Remarks in Salt Lake City, August 9, 1857
    • “Talk of honesty! It is a thing in theory; and they will preach about it as loud and as long as anybody. As a matter of theory, it is honorable to be honest—to be men of truth theoretically; but when you come to put your finger upon it, you cannot find it, it is like a shadow—it vanishes from your grasp. Where are the men of truth—nationally, socially, religiously, morally, politically, or in any other way? Where are the patriots? Where are the men of God? I declare before you and high heaven, I have not found them. Sometimes I have thought I had got my hand upon them, but they slipped out of my fingers.”
    • “But I do not want trials; I do not want to put a straw in anybody’s way; and, if I know my own feelings, I do not want to hurt any man under the heavens, nor injure the hair of any person’s head. I would like to do every man good. These are the feelings, the spirit which the Gospel has implanted in my bosom, and that the Spirit of God implants in the bosoms of my brethren. And if men will pursue an improper course, the evil, of course, must be on their own heads.”
    • “I used to think, if I were the Lord, I would not suffer people to be tried as they are; but I have changed my mind on that subject. Now I think I would, if I were the Lord, because it purges out the meanness and corruption that stick around the Saints, like flies around molasses.”
    • “True, there is a great profession of truth, and a great deal of apparent abhorrence of lies and falsehood, because falsehood is not popular, although it is practiced all the time.”
    • “If a little Scripture will suit them, they put it in; but if it won’t, they keep it out, and talk about expediency. Expediency is the great principle by which men are governed.”
    • “Those who love the truth are scarce. There are, however, a great many scattered all over the United States, who believe “Mormonism” is truth, and have not moral courage to embrace it; but if it is policy, they dare once in awhile say a few words, but in a kind of milk-and-water way: they dare not say much, because it is unpopular; and many dare not read a “Mormon” paper; it is unpopular.”
  • Men Eternal Beings, Discourse in Salt Lake City, April 19, 1854
    • “There are many things that seem to us trials and difficulties, that perplex, annoy, and harass our spirits; yet these very things, as one justly observed, are blessings in disguise, so many helps to us to develop our weaknesses and infirmities, and lead us to put our trust in God, and rely upon Him to give us a knowledge of ourselves, of our neighbors, and of the work of God.”
    • “I think adversity is a blessing in many instances; and in some, prosperity; but nothing is a blessing to us that is not calculated to enlighten our minds, and lead us to God, and put us in possession of true principles, and prepare us for an exaltation in the eternal world.”
    • “Hence the world in general sit in judgment upon the actions of God that are passing among them, they make use of the weak judgment that God has given them to scan the designs of God, to unravel the mysteries that are past, and things that are still hid, forgetting that no man knows the things of God but by the Spirit of God; forgetting that the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God; forgetting that no man in and of himself is competent to unravel the designs and know the purposes of Jehovah, whether in relation to the past, present, or future; and hence, forgetting this, they fall into all kinds of blunders; they blunder over things that are contained in the Scriptures, some of which are a representation of the follies and weaknesses of men, and some of them perhaps may be the wisdom and intelligence of God, that are as far above their wisdom and intelligence as the heavens are above the earth.”
    • “It is necessary that men should possess the Spirit of God before they can know the things of God: hence the great difficulty that the servants of God have had to labor under, in different ages of the world, in the propagation of the truth, is, what would be right in the eyes of God would seem wrong to the understanding of mankind; hence His servants have been persecuted, afflicted, tried, driven, hunted, put to death, and endured every kind of torment and affliction that the ingenuity of wicked men, and the hellish malice of demons could contrive, and all this for the lack of understanding and of love for the principles of truth.”
    • “I do not care how wise and intelligent you may be, there is not one among you independent of God, or of the teachings of His servants. That I know, and that you know.”
  • Motives and Feelings of the Saints, Discourse in the Tabernacle, Salt Lake City, June 12, 1853
    • “The world, at the present time, is all confused, and it seems to me, sometimes, that even we have made very little improvement indeed, according to the light and intelligence God has communicated to us. But what has the world done? Whether you look at it morally, religiously, philosophically, or politically, or in what way you please, you will find it is all a chaotic mass. Confusion, disorder, weakness, corruption, and vice of every kind are abounding, and the whole world seems to be confused and retrograding. The human family have departed from the principles which God has laid down for their guidance, direction, and support; they have forsaken Him the fountain of living waters, and hewn out to themselves cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.”
    • “The difference between them and us is, they think they do not know a better way than that they are pursuing; we think we do, and some of us know we do. I confess, myself, that if I knew no other religion, than the religions that are propagated abroad, I would not be a religious man at all, but I would lay it all aside, as something beneath my notice, and worship God as the great Supreme of the Universe, according to my own judgment, independent of the opinions of man, and without having any regard to the ridiculous dogmas taught in the world.”
    • “Everything associated with the Gospel that we believe in is eternal. If it were not so, I would want nothing to do with it. I do not want to make a profession, and worship a God because this one, that one, or the other one does it, and I not know whether I am right, and those whom I imitate not know, anymore than myself, whether they are right or wrong.”
    • “If I am an eternal being, I want to know something about that eternity with which I am associated. I want to know something about God, the devil, heaven, and hell. If hell is a place of misery, and heaven a place of happiness, I want to know how to escape the one, and obtain the other. If I cannot know something about these things which are to come in the eternal world, I have no religion, I would not have any, I would not give a straw for it.”
    • “I believe in obtaining from Him, intelligence to enable me to comprehend all the works of God, to comprehend all the purposes of God.”
    • “The Catholics have many pieces of truth; so have the Protestants, the Mahometans, and Heathens; and am I to embrace one of these systems because it has got certain things that are right? No. Suppose a person should tell me that two multiplied by two makes four. Well, that is right. I believe it with all my heart. But suppose he believes and teaches also, that six and four make twenty, and exhorts me to believe it, saying—I was right in the other calculation, did I not prove the other to you? O yes, but you did not prove that six and four make twenty. I will take out the truth and leave the error.”
    • “Am I going to weep over the condition of the world? No. God made it, and if He suffers millions to dwell upon it in ignorance of Him, I have nothing to do with it. All I have to do is, when God sends me, to go and teach the people the principles of light, intelligence, and truth, so far as I know them, and no further; and if they reject them, it is none of my business. In many instances, they do it for want of information, and according to the government, priestcraft, prejudices, &c., of which they are under the dominion. It is difficult for them to comprehend correct principles when they hear them, or to know the light when they see it shine. The light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehendeth it not. They understand many things, perhaps better than you do, but they do not understand the principles of the Gospel as you do, for want of the light of the Spirit of God. No man can understand that without the Spirit. A great many among the prevailing sects of the day have to some considerable extent encompassed sea and land to make proselytes, and in the majority of instances where they have been successful, they have made them ten fold more the children of hell than they were before. They have taught them hypocrisy, and evils of many kinds, of which they were ignorant before. They do not understand how to propagate true principles, for they do not understand them themselves, and how can they teach them to others? But I will love them, and let them go.”
  • Condition of the World, Remarks delivered in the Tabernacle, Salt Lake City, August 28, 1852
    • “I suppose it is necessary, before the world is burned up, that the good wheat should be saved and gathered into the garner, and prepare to take a fresh start in peopling the earth and placing affairs upon a proper foundation.”
    • “The Lord has shone upon us: he has lit up a candle of intelligence in our souls—has imparted to us the principles of eternal truth, opened the heavens, and sent his holy angel to put us in possession of principles that will exalt us in the scale of intelligence among men, and raise us up to be associates of the Gods in the eternal worlds.”
    • “Then shall we who have thus been blessed with the visions of eternity—with light and intelligence—we who are filled with the Spirit of God burning in our hearts, who have gazed upon the hidden things of eternity, and contemplated the purposes of God in their majesty and glory—I say, shall we shrink from the task of going forth to snatch these fallen sons of men from everlasting burning? Should we refuse to do so, it would testify that we had not a single spark of humanity in our bosoms, and were not fit to live in the world, much less to associate with the Gods in the eternal worlds.”
    • “You cannot go and convert the world all at once; for it is too far sunken in folly and vice.”
    • “This is the difference between us and the world. They meet with difficulties, and they quash down under them, while we ride over them and become victorious. This is the reason why there are so many institutions among the Gentiles that come to naught. They meet with difficulties and fall before them: we meet with the same, but we have a God at the helm, and we triumph over them.”
  • John Taylor’s Mission to Europe, Discourse given in the Tabernacle, Salt Lake City, August 22, 1852
    • “I feel perfectly at home, in fact I feel at home wherever I meet with the Saints of God—in this country, or in other countries, but this is the grand home, this is the home for the gathering of the Saints of the Most High God, the place where the oracles of God dwell, and where the Spirit of God is preeminently poured out, where we have come to learn, of the great Jehovah, the sacred things pertaining to, and associated with His kingdom.”
    • “I rejoice in afflictions, for they are necessary to humble and prove us, that we may comprehend ourselves, become acquainted with our weakness and infirmities; and I rejoice when I triumph over them, because God answers my prayers, therefore I feel to rejoice all the day long.”
    • “We are becoming notorious in the eyes of the nations; and the time is not far distant when the kings of the earth will be glad to come to our Elders to ask counsel to help them out of their difficulties; for their troubles are coming upon them like a flood, and they do not know how to extricate themselves.”
    • “We found many difficulties to combat, for it is not an easy thing to go into France and learn to talk French well; but at the same time, if a man sets to work in good earnest, he can do it. I have scratched the word “can’t” out of my vocabulary long since, and I have not got it in my French one.”
    • ““Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, and Brotherhood,” was written almost upon every door. You had liberty to speak, but might be put in prison for doing so. You had liberty to print, but they might burn what you had printed, and put you into confinement for it. The nations of Europe know nothing about liberty, except England; and there it is much the same as here, that is, liberty to do right.”
    • “I am not surprised that infidelity should prevail in such countries. I declare, personally, if I could see nothing better than what is called Christianity there, I would be an infidel too; and I say the same also in regard to Protestantism. The Protestants talk a great deal about Catholic priests, but I believe they are much more honest in the sight of man, and will do more for their pay, than any Protestant minister you can find. You will find them up at five o’clock in the morning, saying mass, and attending to what they consider are their religious duties—visiting the sick, and going among fevers and plagues, where Protestant ministers dare not go. This is my notion of that. (A voice in the stand—The children are always lazier than their daddy.) The idea of taking Protestantism among the French people is nonsense, for one Catholic priest could prevail over fifty Protestants. The Catholic priests are more intelligent, they know the basis upon which their church is founded, and they can reason upon principles the Protestants cannot enter into. Protestants can do very well when they have got a mass of their own people around them.”
    • “I used to think there was a good deal of intelligence among the world, but I have sought for it so long I have given up all hopes of ever finding it there. Some philosophers came to visit me in France, and while conversing, I had to laugh a little at them for the word philosophy is about every tenth word they speak. One of them, a Jesuit priest, who had come in the Church, a well educated man, was a little annoyed in his feelings at some of my remarks, on their philosophy. I asked them if any of them had ever asked me one question that I could not answer. They answered in the negative. But, said I, I can ask you fifty that you cannot answer.”
    • “There are a great many false principles in the world, and as I said before, whether you examine their religion, their philosophy, their politics, or their national policy, you will find it a mess of complete baby work, there is nothing substantial about it, nothing to take hold of. There is no place that I have found under the whole heavens where there is true intelligence, but in the land of Zion.”
    • “I have found that all intelligence is good, and there is a good deal in the world, mixed up with all their follies.”

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