Latter Day Saints' Messenger and Advocate/Volume 2/Number 7/Letter from Warren A. Cowdery (Apr. 1836)
The following extract of a letter written to a friend in the State of N. Y. may be of some consequence to the numerous readers of the Messenger and advocate: if you think so you are at liberty to insert it in its columns.
DEAR SIR:—Yours of a recent date has been received and read, I trust, with that attention which the nature of the subject requires. Every man has his peculiarities, his peculiar feelings, his peculiar taste, and his mode of reasoning or arriving at conclusions from any premises.—You have yours and I have mine; and without pretending to tell yours, suffice it to say, that I arrive at mine in the following manner. If I am requested to solve a question in arithmetic, I know there are certain rules, by which, if I proceed, I am sure of a correct result, and inasmuch as I love and value the truth, with just so much intensity of thought and fixedness of purpose I shall pursue that course, that will enable me in the conclusion to arrive at the object of my desire,—If I have no confidence in the rule I shall most assuredly take my own way and when I have gone through with my process and find I have failed, ought I to blame the correct rule, or the author of it, or say that either or both are changed? Certainly not; Again, if I, with all the zeal and energy of my soul, should labor with you to prove that six and four make twelve, how do you think I should succeed? Poorly I trust, poorly you would respond truly. Why, I ask, have I not been sincere and unwearied in my efforts to convince you? Certainly I have. Why then are you not bound to believe me? Your answer will no doubt be ready. My dear friend, I am bound to respect your feelings and treat you with becoming reverence, but I cannot concede to your opinion or your judgment with regard to your operation with the figures. The result of your process was incorrect for the reason, that you applied the wrong rules. Although you labored unremittingly, and seem to be positive in your own mind that you are correct, still, you will say, I do know and can fully prove by a correct process, and strict application of known rules, that six and four, make but just ten, that they do not make twelve nor never did. What then is the difficulty with me? I pretend to believe in just principles and correct rules as much as you do, I certainly have as much anxiety and as much zeal? Your answer will again be ready, My friend, you neither believe me nor the rule I take to arrive at my conclusions, if you did, we should draw like inferences from the same premises, and it would be a clearly demonstrable fact in your mind as it is in mine that six and four make just ten.
You will examine the foregoing remarks and say they are correct and that you never doubted them. Let us look at another subject although equally plain with the simple one I have adduced for a figure, and see if there be not some who, through prejudice or wil[l]ful blindness are not, to say the least, as much in error with regard to the gospel as I have made myself in relation to the subject of figures.—When God said in his holy word, "these signs shall follow them that believe," I receive it as proof positive that he meant just what he said. Now Sir, any operation or any process you may take to bring out a conclusion, if you do not come at the one shown us by inspiration, you will permit me to say to you, it will be as hard for you to convince me that your religion is approbated by the God of heaven, as it was for me to persuade you into the belief that six and four make twelve. You may show me some of the characteristics: So I showed you a part of what was necessary to make up the number twelve, but they actually fell short of it. Just so you must allow me to look upon your religion, in the light of divine truth, the only correct rule, it is a base counterfeit. If the scriptures be our guide such must be the fact; and it is just as useless in my opinion, to blend some good things that obtain at the present day among the different sects with their errors in principle and practice, and call the compound the religion of the bible, as would be the vain attempt to weld iron and clay. Thus you see people do not believe the rule that God has given, all their boasted pretentions to the contrary notwithstanding. It is often boastingly said that, God, our heavenly Father has ceased to reveal himself to the children of men, that the day of miracles has gone by, that the canon of scripture is full. Can you point me to that passage in his word where he has made any such declaration? Can you tell me how the scriptures of the old and new testament are to be fulfilled without miracles and without revelation from heaven, do enlighten my mind on this subject. I read that it shall come to pass in the last days that God shall pour out his spirit upon all flesh, some will see visions, others all flesh, some will see vision, others dream dreams, and other still will prophesy. These, you know, were anciently the effects of the true gospel, you will recollect there was a little specimen of it on the day of pentecost, which virtually continued while the church was led by revelation. Do you think if the Lord should lead a people as he led his church in the days of the apostles, there would be more than one faith or one mode of baptism. Certainly not,—Then is it not an argument, strong and conclusive, that God has no respect for the doctrines, commandments and precepts of the professing christian world. This generation is not blameable because their fathers lost the power and authority to hold intercourse with heaven. They come under condemnation for resisting authority (the priesthood) now that he has given it again. It is worse than useless for the different religious sects of this generation to pretend to the least vestige of authority to administer in holy things, that is not mere assumption to come down to them through the mother of abominations.
You must be aware, Sir, from but even a cursory view of this subject, that if the mother church had any authority that was of divine origin, she was sure to divest her dissenting members of any. Not only so, but they were treated as heretics and outlaws. Now you know they were anciently made ministers and clothed with authority to act in that high and holy calling, in a certain way; they were witnesses of Jesus and required to bear testimony in his name. They could truly say that flesh and blood had not revealed it to them. The religion they preached, and urged upon their auditors, was truly the power of God unto salvation unto every one that believed and obeyed its mandates. Just so I believe the religion of heaven always was and always will be. It is vain to tell me this power was confined to the apostles, unless you convince me the gospel was confined to them, for it is abundantly evident that those who embraced the gospel from their preaching participated in the same power, the power of God. Any thing short of this, is not the power of God unto salvation consequently it is not then the gospel, and if it be not the gospel, will it save men? I pause for a reply. But I am aware you will say that the religion of the professing christian world, saves men from vice, and makes them love God and one another: to which I reply, I fear many are awfully deceived, even in those two points. If they love God they will keep his commandments, and if they keep his commandments they know it and they know they please him. You know the scripture says he [the Lord] is no respecter of persons. Then it is clear as the noon day sun, that in order to please him we must obey him in all things, and if we obey him we certainly embrace the gospel, and if we have that in its fulness, we have the power of God unto salvation. Any thing short of this cannot be the true gospel however nearly it may resemble it.
Try all the rules you please and six and four will never make twelve, nor will seven eighths of an integer, even of the true parts, constitute the whole. The whole is equal to all the parts, and all the parts are but just equivalent to the whole. You have too much good sense not to see, Sir, that the sectarian world have lost all their authority to administer in any of the ordinances of his house, all they have is assumed, and you have as much divine right to officiate in any of them as they have. Tell me nothing about their goodness, their piety or their purity. Do you think they are really any better than Cornelius was before Peter baptized him? He had that power with God, and so far pleased him that an angel was sent to converse with him and instruct him.—What was the subject of communication to him? Here mark the direction given by this messenger of heaven.—"Send men to Joppa and call for Simon whose surname is Peter, he lodgeth with one Simon, a tanner, whose house is by the sea-side; he shall tell thee what thou oughtest to do."
Now, Sir, for a moment examine this subject in the light of reason and revelation. If Cornelius could have been saved without complying with the requisitions of the gospel as preached by Peter, then the Lord required something unnecessary. And again if Cornelius could be saved without those things required in the gospel another man can be, and if another man can be, all men can be. If all men can be, then it necessarily follows that the gospel is unnecessary, and if it be unnecessary the wisdom of the author of it stands impeached, and we cannot avoid it.
Yours truly, W