The New CES (Correctional Ephraimite Society) foretold in scripture as the “Repentant Gentiles,” welcomes you to this, our first Fireside. We hope it is well with you, and we trust that it “will be well with” us all if we repent and are numbered among the “Remnant” according to the words of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. In His name we open these proceedings and present to you our keynote speaker this evening.
Having received far less “formal education” than even his contemporary, Joseph Smith Jr., Frederick Douglass nonetheless became one of America’s most eloquent and stirring writers and orators. One anecdote regarding the renegade education of this self-taught man relates how he used his god-given wisdom to gain knowledge of the world which would prove useful in his earthly mission. He was taught the basics of reading and writing by a kind mistress who after being reprimanded by the master of the house, immediately ceased the helpful instruction. She had been the kindest white person young Frederick had ever met up to that point, but because she was led by her husband, who was in turn led by a code of ethic, she sinned against her own heart and Frederick watched as she over the course of time became one of the meanest mistresses.
But ever the believer, Frederick determined to continue his education with God’s help. This he did by approaching schooled white boys and boldly proclaiming that he could read and write. This announcement was usually met with great incredulity. How could a little slave boy know how to read and write. Young Frederick would meet their skepticism with added boldness and say that he could write better than any of them. This was cunning on Frederick’s part designed to challenge the young white boys pride and thereby extract the desired secret knowledge which his “master” had sought to keep from him. Douglass would propose a demonstration and purposely select a word which he did not yet know how to spell but was desirous to learn. After scrawling out letters with a stick in the dirt, the pride of the white boys obligated them to prove their supposed “supieriority” by grabbing the stick and showing the correct spelling of the disputed word. Douglass took careful note of the correction and thus perfected his English, eventually surpassing the knowledge of most white people.
Douglass was very accustomed to addressing audiences where the overwhelming majority of the members were white, so he feels right at home speaking in an LDS setting. During his mortal mission, Elder Douglass worked closely with many abolitionist groups in the U.S. and Canada. He also served several missions to Ireland in the cause of Irish Home Rule. Another cause which he champions is women’s rights. Some of these things may seem to us to be non-issues today, but Frederick wants us to know that they are as alive and well as ever, and so is he. Brother Douglass is a shining example of the Latter-Day Saint adage which says that we should be “anxiously engaged in a good cause.” Being very familiar with the truths which we as Latter-Day Saints sometimes have a tendency to think of as exclusive to our Church, Frederick’s work reminds us that the Lord is not under any obligation to accept what we call being “anxiously engaged in a good cause” but will only accept those works done of our “own free will.”
It is on this point which we have asked Brother Douglass to speak to us this afternoon. He has said that he is very excited to be working with us in the cause of Zion and that he “will unite with any one to do right, and with no one to do wrong!” Douglass was and is a great person. He once said, “I prefer to be true to myself, even at the hazard of incurring the ridicule of others, rather than to be false, and to incur my own abhorrence.” His message of faith and freedom can be summed up beautifully by this quote, which says, “I prayed for twenty years but received no answer until I prayed with my legs.” Brothers and sisters, unless we are praying with our legs, something is wrong and we should be concerned. We are grateful and honored to have Brother Douglass speak to us in the Spirit today.
A WEEKEND STATE OF MIND IS A WEAKENED STATE OF MIND
My dear brothers and sisters in Zion, I thank Heavenly Father for this opportunity to address my thoughts and feelings to you from beyond the veil. I pray that the Holy Spirit will convey them with the same or greater power than would be possible were I with you in person. I feel honored to have been called upon by Higher Powers to join with a people who have so much good in their hearts. As Elder Chantdown said in his gracious introduction, it is my hope that we can get that good out and into the world where it is sorely needed. In the days of my mortal mission I faced what, to many, would seem insurmountable odds. But God is Great and with Him I overcame those odds. As I continue in Christ, I find God’s power grants me the ability to experience even greater breakthroughs beyond the grasp of death. True freedom is a wonderful gift from God. I pray that my words may inspire many of you to ask Him for it. For our Savior has said, “ask and ye shall receive.”
What is it that keeps us from asking for true freedom? The simple fact that we believe we are free enough is the greatest stumbling block to establishing a Zion where God’s True Freedom may flourish. In my narratives I describe how, as slaves were granted the days between Christmas and New Year’s Day as holidays. This was done, not out of any goodness on the part of the slave masters, but as a safety valve to carry off the rebellious human spirit. I see that your latter-day state is ruled by modern slave masters who have condensed the process to a weekly ritual for diverting the energies of the slaves and protecting the interests of the oppressors. In my day, as in current times, this is carried out most drastically through alcohol abuse. I know that most LDS do not drink alcohol; however, I wish to impress upon your minds the more subtle and therefore far greater danger which you are faced with. Now, we all can see how wild and raucous living, especially on a 7 day cycle, has such dire effects on the masses. But do we realize the similar effects of spiritual, mental and physical slavery that are perpetuated when we go ignorantly back and forth between the programs of the Church and State? An alcoholic will often, due to the extreme nature of his captivity, come to a moment of clarity which converts him to God in an equally extreme manner. As in the story of Young Alma contained in Mormon scripture. When presented with a false freedom – especially one that seems very convincing, soft and safe – we will feel that we might as well be slaves to men, systems and unseen devils since the highly anticipated WEEK END always leaves us in a WEAKENED state.
It does not matter whether that weekend is filled with worship or wine. When we fall into this trap then we do not advance the cause of truth. Zion falters and the suffering continues. Why do you live like slaves or prisoners even in such an affluent society? What are you afraid of? Why is it so difficult for you to explain the corruption that you do see to so many of your close friends and family? Why are so many of the best examples you have before you of Christian living, of truly Christ-like lives, from Non-Christian people? I have been called upon to preach a very specific message to a very specific audience. Please, liken my life to your own. I lived as best I could and that means that, like my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, I lived my life for you, my brothers and sisters. While the truth that flows through me from God is applicable to all men, I will tailor my words so that they may be of special help to you. I speak to the LATTER-DAY SLAVES.
Frederick Douglass Speaks Seriously to Latter-Day Slaves
Sunday was my only leisure time. I spent this in a sort of stupor, between sleep and wake, under some large tree. [You, under a steeple, may find a similar lulling induced while listening to a High Councilman’s talk.] At times I would rise up, a flash of energetic freedom would dart through my soul, accompanied with a faint beam of hope [for ZION] that flickered for a moment, and then vanished… This time we regarded as [the Lord’s Day], by the grace of our masters [Clergy of the Church&State]. Those of us who had families [and callings], were generally allowed to spend [part of] the day in their society… But by far the larger part engaged in such activities as [meetings, meetings and more meetings] – drinking [spiritual] whisky [like the Drunkards of Ephraim as you are called in Isaiah 28]; and this latter mode of spending the time was by far the most agreeable to the feelings of our masters. A slave who would [watch and warn] during the holiday [Holy Day] was considered by our masters (bishops) as scarcely deserving [a temple recommend]. He was regarded as one who rejected the favor of his master. It was deemed a disgrace not to get drunk [with the doctrine of the Drunkards of Ephraim]… From what I know of the effect of these holidays upon the slave, I believe them to be among the most effective means in the hands of the slaveholder in keeping down the [Holy] Spirit of insurrection… Their object seems to be, to [bore] their slaves with freedom [of religion], [to lull them to sleep and distract them from even the thought of ZION with busy-work].
For instance, the slaveholders not only like to see the slave drink of his own accord, but will adopt various plans to make him drunk [with Strong Delusion as per 2 Thessalonians 2:10-13]. One plan is to make bets on their slaves as to who can drink the most whisky [me(s)morize the most scriptures, baptize the most CONverts, chug a whole Book of Mormon within 5 months, as Hinckley encouraged you to do]; and in this way they succeed in getting whole multitudes to drink to excess. Thus, when the slave asks for virtuous freedom [aka ZION], the cunning slaveholder/stake holder/stake president, knowing his ignorance, cheats him with a dose of vicious [Babylonian Business], artfully labelled with the Name of Liberty [the Name of Jesus Christ]. The most of us used to drink it down, and the result was just what might be supposed; many of us were led [to err, led by the precepts of men] to think that there was little to choose between liberty and slavery. We felt, and very properly too, that we had almost as well be slaves to [Washington] as to [Salt Lake]. So, when the [three hour block of Sunday meetings] ended, we staggered up from the filth of our wallowing [Tables full of vomit and filthiness – no place clean – as those described in Isaiah 28:8] we took a long breath, and marched to the field – feeling, upon the whole, rather glad to go, from what our master had deceived us into a belief was [ZION or even an organization dedicated to establishing ZION], back to the arms of slavery.
I have said that this mode of treatment is a part of the whole system of fraud and inhumanity of [Church & State]. It is so… Between the Christianity of this land, and the Christianity of Christ, I recognize the widest possible difference — so wide, that to receive the one as good, pure, and holy, is of necessity to reject the other as bad, corrupt, and wicked. To be the friend of The One, is of necessity to be the enemy of the other. I love the pure, peaceable, and impartial Christianity of Christ: I therefore hate the corrupt, slaveholding, women-whipping, cradle-plundering, partial and hypocritical Christianity [Christ-Shun-Insanity] of this land. Indeed, I can see no reason, but the most deceitful one, for calling the religion of this land Christianity [for calling the Nu-Mormonism true Mormonism…for calling Utah Zion]. I look upon it as the climax of all misnomers, the boldest of all frauds, and the grossest of all libels. Never was there a clearer case of ʺstealing the livery of the court of heaven to serve the devil in.ʺ
The report got abroad that I was hard to whip; that I was guilty of [questioning my priesthood leaders, of not following the “Brethren”, of evil speaking of the Lord’s anointed], and that, though generally a good-natured [Latter-Day Slave], I sometimes “got the devil in me.” These sayings were rife in [my ward and stake] and distinguished me among my servile brethren [by a tag on my membership records]. Trained from the cradle up to think and feel that their leaders were some kind of [spiritual giants] and invested with a sort of sacredness, there were few who could rise above the control which that sentiment exercised. I had freed myself from it, and the thing was known. One bad sheep will spoil a whole flock/ward. I was a bad sheep. I hated [spiritual] slavery, slaveholders, and all pertaining to them; and I did not fail to inspire other [members] with the same feeling whenever the opportunity was presented.
As anyone who has read my narratives will know, my road to freedom was not an easy one. Neither will it be an easy task for you to shake off the shackles which bind your spirits. It will not be easy to leave the Field, so Large and Spacious, as if it were a World. Your escape will be made exceedingly difficult by the people, both old and young, both male and female; whose manner of dress is exceedingly fine; who fill the Great and Spacious House and who are in the attitude of mocking and pointing their fingers, even shouting orders towards you who have come at and are picking The Fruit of The Love of God. But you must eventually leave the Planet-ation at any cost and this you can only do by the grace and power of God. Come ye out from Her and touch not her unclean things. The process of following Christ to life and liberty is one that leads us spiritually, emotionally, intellectually and physically closer to Heavenly Father. Do not stop until you have reached Him. Once you have tasted of His Love, do not feel ashamed and do not settle for less. Love and encourage one another in pressing forward along the path to freedom. I share these words with you, in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.