Testimonies for the Truth – Part One
In continuing with my trend to publish some of the more rare and lesser known parts of Church History I have really fallen in love with the many men and women who lived lives of such implicit and great faith. One of those people I’ve come to love more dearly is Benjamin Brown.
This post is Part One of what will be a four part series. The text from these posts themselves will not be my own (although I’ve transcribed them), but will come Brother Brown himself via a pamphlet he wrote and published in England in 1853 while serving a mission. It was not uncommon for missionaries at the time to publish pamphlets themselves and use the extra income from their sales to supplement their own mission expenses, or even the expenses of their families back home. Benjamin Brown wrote in the Preface to his own thirty-two page pamphlet:
My principal object, in writing the following brief history of my experience, was, in the first place, to preserve, for the benefit of my posterity, a record of some of the remarkable testimonies I have received.
But the deep feeling I entertain that the manifestations of the goodness of God, as here recorded, ought not to be buried in oblivion or forgetfulness, a desire to add my mite to the great ocean of testimony which the Lord has given on behalf of His Latter-day Work, and the request of several of my friends, have induced me to publish the history to the world.
That the following pages may do something towards removing the great darkness and unbelief that prevail, relative to revelations through the medium of visions, or other miraculous gifts, convincing some of the unchangeableness of the God of Heaven, in these respects, as well as helping to confirm those who already believe in these truths, is my prayer in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
I could not add much more to Benjamin Brown’s own words other than to say that after his conversion he served faithfully. He was a friend of the Prophet Joseph Smith. He was ordained a Seventy and served multiple missions for the Church. He was called as a special bishop while living in Winter Quarters, and would serve as the bishop of the Salt Lake City Fourth Ward for nearly 29 and a half years until the time of his death at age 83.
So without further delay I present to you the first chapter of Benjamin Brown’s own, and long-entitled pamphlet, TESTIMONIES FOR THE TRUTH: A RECORD OF Manifestations of the Power of God, Miraculous and Providential, WITNESSED IN THE TRAVELS AND EXPERIENCE OF BENJAMIN BROWN, HIGH PRIEST IN THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST OF LATTER-DAY SAINTS, Pastor of the London, Reading, and Essex Conferences.
AUTHOR’S BIRTH AND PARENTAGE—EARLY RELIGIOUS IMPRESSIONS MARRIAGE—VISION OF HIS BROTHER, AND OF THE BIBLE THE AUTHOR DREAMS OF PREACHING—ATTENDS A “PROTRACTED MEETING”—HIS IMPRESSIONS WHILST THERE—HE MEETS WITH THE LATTER-DAY SAINTS—VISION OF TWO NEPHITE APOSTLES.
I WAS born on the 30th of September, in the year 1794, in the town of Queensbury, Washington county, state of New York. My father, Asa Brown, belonged to the denomination of ” Friend Quakers.” His business was that of a farmer. I worked with him chiefly until I was twenty years of age. During my boyhood I was much deprived of the benefits of education, owing to my father’s removing from place to place, in new settlements, they affording him greater facilities for the purchase of cheap land than older ones. By these means he was enabled to have his children settle around, him. Being thus brought up, far from the abodes of the religious sectaries of the day, my ideas of religion were just those which are naturally instilled into the mind by the statements of Scripture, where no priestcraft exists to pervert them, diminish their force, or cloud their meaning, consequently I believed in the Bible just as it read, where the self-evident rendering of the context did not prove it figurative or parabolic.
The idea that revelation from God was unattainable in this age, or that the ancient gifts of the Gospel had ceased for ever, never entered my head, until I gathered the notion from the creeds of churches with which I became acquainted in after years. I can remember many times, on occasions of sickness amongst my relatives, while yet quite a boy, retiring to some barn, or other convenient place of the kind, and their being suddenly restored to health, in answer to prayers offered there, by me, in their behalf.
I continued thus until about fifteen years of age, when circumstances caused me to live in settlements where the sects of the day had established some of their churches, and I was unfortunate enough to hear their preaching. I soon began to lose my pure, simple ideas of God, and imbibe those more generally received, and, shortly after, by listening to the contending opinions of these parties, I found the hitherto simple Bible a perfect mystery. I had previously been seriously and religiously inclined, but the jarrings and uncertainty of my new ideas shook that simple faith which I had reposed in the Scriptures, and in God, until I began to mix with light or vain company. I at times thought little about such matters, but, in moments of reflection, the Spirit of the Lord would often show me the folly of my conduct, and bring to my remembrance the goodness of God manifested to me in past times.
Tho Universalist system appeared to me the most reasonable of the various denominations I came in contact with. The horrible hell and damnation theories of most of the other parties, in my idea, being inconsistent with the mercies and love of God. However, I did not actually join the Universalists. But their doctrine, with respect to the eternity of punishment, &c., savoured to me of a more generous and Godlike nature, than the contracted notions held by the other denominations, concerning God’s purposes towards the human family.
Amidst all the folly which, for short periods, I gave way to, a deep anxiety possessed me to find the truth, and I visited, and, to some extent, mingled with, the religious professors of many of the sects, at their meetings, and took part in the same.
About the age of twenty-five, I married, and settled on a small farm of my own. About nine or ten years later than this, after a fatiguing day’s labour, I returned home one evening, and having partaken of my supper, turned my back to the fire, as my custom was, and leaned, with my head on my arms, on the chair top, to rest myself, and dry my clothes, which were moistened with the perspiration caused by the heat. My wife retired to rest, expecting me shortly to follow. Thus left alone, I was musing on things generally, but not particularly on any religious subject, when a vision of my brother, who had died some fourteen or fifteen years previous, appeared before me, praying. I heard his voice clearly and distinctly, and listened attentively.
In the course of his prayer, he referred to a great work to be done on the earth during the last days, quoting several Scriptures. I did not, however, fully comprehend the meaning of them, until, coming into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, years after, I saw the applicability of his words to the views of that people, with regard to the restoration of the Gospel gifts, the great work of gathering the Saints of all nations in the last days, and the fulness of the Latter-day glory, for he particularly prayed for the hastening of these things. Soon he disappeared from my view, when suddenly, to use a Scripture phrase, a sound, as of a rushing mighty wind, with some accompanying influence, seemed to fill the house and myself, and I heard a voice saying—” This is the spirit of understanding.” An open Bible appeared before me, so peculiarly placed, that I could see portions of several books of the Prophets and Apostles at once. Directly I heard the above words, I began to read, understanding and intelligence burst upon my mind, and the glory and beauty that seemed to shine forth in the subjects treated of, no language can describe. The despatch with which I read, astonished me, for I seemed able to read a chapter in the time usually occupied in reading a verse, and the contents of a whole book were laid before my mind about as quickly as otherwise I could have perused a single chapter. With the rapidity of lightning, various truths of the Bible were presented to my mind, and what each Prophet or Apostle had said on each particular subject met my eyes, in consecutive order, concentrated and connected, showing that each and all of those men were inspired by the same Spirit, and had a distinct knowledge of the same grand events and glorious truths, partlicularly those which I had heard my brother pray about. I never before saw such connection between the Scriptures. What one Prophet had said on a subject met my sight, and directly. with the quickness of thought, I read what each of the other Prophets or Apostles had said about the same thing. I saw the whole at a glance, brought as it were to a focus. Such a chain of testimonies, and an interweaving of evidences accompanied with that perception and comprehension which the Holy Ghost alone can give, none can realize, but those who have received that Spirit and revelations unto themselves. Such persons know just how it is.
I was disturbed, apparently in the midst of my vision, by my wife’s calling to me, when the vision left me, and I felt just like a hungry man who is called or snatched suddenly away from a feast. But the joy and peace with which my spirit was filled remained with me, and I glorified God.
Things went on much as usual, till something like a year afterwards, when I had a singular dream, which, as it had a bearing on my future life, I will relate. I dreamed that I had been called to preach the Gospel, and the first time I thus officiated, it was in a school-house, in an adjoining town, with which I was well acquainted. I saw all the members of the congregation, which was small, and, when I awoke, I could distinctly remember the position each person occupied in the room. This so impressed my mind that I told my wife of it, and said I believed it would be realized, but she scouted the idea. What was I, a working man, to do with preaching! Well, at other times, it would have appeared equally foolish to myself, but it had been given to me that her mother, living at the place, knew by a dream the same thing, and I told this to my wife. At last she consented that if it turned out to be the case, she would believe the dream to be true. In a day or so, we paid her mother a visit, and found that she had dreamed, that night, that I was coming to preach in the town where she lived, and we learned, from her friends, that she had been entreating one of her relatives to carry her to my residence, that she might tell me of it. Although the truth of the dream was thus evidenced to me, I little thought what doctrines I was to preach, and in connection with what people or church. But I was to have greater evidence of the truth of my dream, as will be seen hereafter.
Five years more passed, and I was still unconnected with any religious party. At this time, what were called “Protracted Meetings,” or religious services, continuing for days, and sometimes weeks, were very popular in America. In common with the rest of the ” Universalists,” I felt unfavourable to these meetings, but such magnificent reports of their results—the wholesale “conversion of souls,” led me to attend one. I humbled myself, and determined to divest my mind of all prejudice, and put myself at least in a position to receive all the good that could be obtained. Before going, I covenanted with the Lord, that if He would reveal His mind and will unto me, whatever sacrifice or duty He might require at my hands, I would do it. Little did I think of the way my truthfulness would be tried, or possibly I might have shunned such a contract.
As soon as I began to attend, I felt the Spirit of the Lord operating upon me, so that I seemed filled to overflowing with its teachings, a continual stream of glorious truths passed through my mind, my happiness was great, and my mind was so absorbed in spiritual things, that all the time the meeting lasted, which was about fifteen days, I scarcely eat or drank anything. At other times, that which I subsisted on during these fifteen days, could not possibly have sustained life, but the Spirit of the Lord so operated on my system, that I felt full at the time, and had no desire to eat or partake of anything.
The subject of ” Freemasonry” was just then agitating the public mind, so that many of the churches were divided about it, more especially the one to which most of the members attending this meeting belonged, being divided into “Masons” and “Anti-Masons.” This meeting was called the “Masonic party.” The other minister of the some church held Anti-Masonic principles, and refused to meet with the Masonic party, and kept most of his party away. This caused a great deal of quarrelling and contention, and much anger and bad feeling, of which I knew but little until afterwards. I had heard of the two parties, but had not interested myself in the matter, and consequently did not care much about it.
While sitting in the meeting, listening to the preaching, being much interested in what was being said, the Spirit of the Lord came upon me, and revealed that I was to visit the minister of the Anti-Masonic party, Judge Cushing, and tell him of his foolishness and wickedness in increasing the spirit of division between those who ought to be united as brethren in one common interest. It rained hard at the time, and feeling rather taken up with the preaching, I thought I would delay until the close of the meeting. This mission to me was a very hard task. How was I, a man from the thrashing-floor, to reprove a minister, and, moreover, a Judge? But a few minutes had scarcely elapsed, before the Word of the Lord came to me again, with greater power than before, that I was to go at once! I had covenanted with the Lord, and I felt determined to fulfill, if it killed me; so I sprang to my feet, took my hat, and departed from the meeting.
I found the Judge at a public inn, engaged in making some purchase. I requested to speak with him for a few minutes in private. He said he would attend to me presently. I sat down, but I had hardly done so before the Spirit of the Lord was again upon me, like fire in my bones, commanding me to deliver my message directly. I again requested to speak with the Judge, stating that my business was urgent. He complied this time, and retired with me outside the house. The Spirit of the Lord gave me utterance, and filled my mouth with words, and I laid before him, in language which was given me, the impropriety of his conduct. The same Spirit bearing witness, the Judge acknowledged his folly, said he would amend, and told me that he had had many sleepless nights on the same subject. He also said that, directly I sat down, something told him for what I had come, although I was a stranger to him. In fact, he knew nearly as well before I had spoken, as after. This confirmed my faith that the Lord had sent me, but it was a great trial to my feelings at the time. However, I had another trial to undergo, which occurred some days after, during the same meeting. While the minister was preaching, it was revealed to me to rise up and declare to the congregation, that they, before coming together to pray for the conversion of others, ought first to be reconciled one to the other, so that their gifts of prayer might be accepted by the Lord. The Spirit also said, that some in the congregation were guilty of oppressing the poor, taking unlawful usury, oppressing the hireling in his wages, and many other sins of the kind. I waited until the preacher had finished his discourse, during which the idea of having to rise and speak before this congregation of about fifteen hundred people, most of whom being members of Christian societies, I considered better persons than myself, filled me with fear, and the perspiration rolled off me profusely. Could such a thing have availed, I would sooner have given five hundred dollars than have buckled up to this task, but there was no escape, I had covenanted, and the moment the minister ceased speaking I delivered my message. It was received very well by the congregation, many fancying I was converted to their faith, and, being blessed with such gifts, a bit of a prize. On coming out, two men, one a justice of the peace, and the other a colonel, came up to me. The justice asked why, if I had anything against him, I did not, as the Scripture directs, go to him privately, and not expose him before all the congregation. The other said, “If you have got a man by the throat, you need not think that because it is pleasant to you, it is so to him.” I told them that as the cap seemed to fit they might wear it. But I was much surprised, for I was not aware they were present.
About a day previous to the close of this meeting, I received a more important communication than either of the previous ones. A knowledge was given me that the ancient gifts of the Gospel—speaking in tongues, the power to heal the sick, the spirit of prophecy, &c., were just about to be restored to the believers in Christ. The revelation was a perfect knowledge of the fact, so sure and certain, that I felt as though the truth had been, stereotyped upon me. I knew it from the crown of my head to the sole of my foot—in the whole of my system, being filled with the Holy Ghost! I can compare it to nothing better than the change made on a clean sheet of paper by a printing press, leaving an indelible impression behind.
As the Spirit did not tell me to whom these things were to be restored, I at first fancied, in my ignorance, that the people with whom I had been meeting were about to be blessed with these things, so I joyfully visited the minister of the meeting, and laid before him the intelligence I had received. But, to my great astonishment, I met with an utter repulse. He told me, “It was all of the Devil, for such things had ceased for ever!” Had any one knocked me down with a beetle, I could not have felt more sensibly the opposition between the spirits by which we were actuated. I soon found, by the bold and determined way in which he fought against the principle of present revelation, &c., that it was not to him or his people that these gifts would be given. So I sought for them elsewhere. A few days after, curiosity led me to visit the Latter-day Saints, amongst whom I witnessed a fulfilment of the prediction, for I beheld a manifestation of the gifts of prophecy and tongues, and received the latter myself.
Notwithstanding that the above confirmation which I received of the truth of the Church of the Latter-day Saints, was very great, I did not feel sufficiently convinced to be induced to join them at once. I had experienced the Spirit of the Lord in a similar way elsewhere, so that when the Elders of the Church, at this meeting, urged upon me to yield obedience to the Gospel they preached, which possessed such evidences as the manifestation of the ancient gifts, I treated the Elders very lightly, and replied, that as for the gift of tongues, I could speak in tongues as well as any of them. So I could, for directly one of them manifested this gift, the gift of tongues rested upon me, and gave me the same power. Thus did the Devil seek to blind me, and turn that testimony which the Lord had given me for the truth, almost into an evidence against it! However, I procured a Book of Mormon, and took it home to read, determined to investigate until I was fully satisfied. But I had scarcely begun to read, before I felt greatly to dislike the book. Ere I had perused ten pages, I rejected it altogether. Acting in this bigoted manner, I had resigned myself to the evil influence that was gaining power over me, so that, directly after, I felt a similar dislike seize me towards the Bible. Its statements of miracles, &c., appeared to me to be compounds of the grossest absurdity possible. I could see no light or good in it at all! and actually resolved never to read it again! But, oh! the darkness that seized me as soon as I had made this resolution! The light that was in me became darkness, and how great it was, no language can describe. All knowledge of religious truth seemed to forsake me, and if I attempted to quote Scripture, my recollection failed, after the first word or so! So remarkable was this, that it excited reflection, and caused me to marvel, and finally I determined to repent of my resolve respecting the Bible, and I commenced to read again. The book was hardly in my hand, when, as in a moment, my light and recollection returned us usual. This made me rejoice, and immediately the idea fashed across my mind, “What have you done with the Book of Mormon? Behave as fairly to that.” I soon reprocured it. But, even this time. I felt prejudiced against the book. I resolved, however, to read it through, and I persevered in its perusal, till I came to that part where Jesus, on visiting the continent of America, after his resurrection, grants the request of three of the twelve whom he had chosen, to permit them to live until his second coming on the earth (like unto John spoken of in the Bible). Here my mind half yielded to the belief which arose within me, that perhaps it might be true, whereupon I took the book and laid it before the Lord, and pleaded with Him in prayer for a testimony whether it was true or false, and, as I found it stated that the three Nephites had power to show themselves to any persons they might wish, Jews or Gentiles, I asked the Lord to allow me to see them for a witness and testimony of the truth of the Book of Mormon, and I covenanted with Him, if He complied with my request, that I would preach it even at the expense of my life, should it be necessary.
The Lord heard my prayer, and, about five days after, two of the three visited me in my bed-room. I did not see them come, but I found them there. One spoke to me for some time, and reproved me sharply on account of my behaviour at the time when I first attended the meeting of the Saints, and treated so lightly the gift of tongues. He told me never, as long as I lived, to do so again, for I had grieved the Spirit of the Lord, by whose power that gift had been given. This personage spoke in the Nephite language, but I understood, by the Spirit which accompanied him, every word as plainly as if he had spoken in English. I recognized the language to be the same as that in which I had heard Father Fisher speak at the meeting. Such a rebuke, with such power, I never had in my life before or since, and never wish to have again. I was dumb before my rebuker, for I knew that what he said was right, and I felt deserving of it.
How these men went, I do not know, but directly they were gone, the Spirit of the Lord said to me, “Now, you know for yourself! You have seen and heard! If you now fall away, there is no forgiveness for you.” Did I not know then, that the Book of Mormon was true, and that Joseph Smith was a Prophet of the Lord? Surely I did, and I do now, as surely as I know that I live. The world wonders at the zeal and faith of “Mormon” missionaries in diffusing their principles over the world; but the surprise of the world would soon cease did they know by what evidences the truth of the faith of the Latter-day Saints had been evidenced unto them, for by such proofs as the above, and by the revelations of the Holy Ghost, in tongues, prophecyings, visions, &c., has the work of the last days been attested unto thousands upon thousands, and in ways so peculiar, and attended with such circumstances, that no power of sophistry’ or reason can possibly show these proofs to be the effects of a fanatical mind or a diseased imagination. And even could these proofs be overturned, the Latter-day Saints have the still stronger proofs found in the evidences of glorious principles, never before discovered, harmonizing with each other, and every known truth, and clearing up and connecting Scripture statements from beginning to end, unlocking the great science of life, shedding light on our existence, and discovering, in the arrangement and combination of these truths, an infinite intelligence that none but a mind that knew the end from the beginning could display! Bear me witness, every spirit that has drunk at the fountain of these truths, the glory, majesty, sublimity, and completeness of which, have again and again made your hearts leap with joy, and caused you to feel that surely such principles are of God, for they have their Father’s name enstamped upon their foreheads!
End of Chapter I
To continue reading please go ahead with Testimonies for the Truth – Part Two