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Mollie Higginson: Religious Liberty (1915)

By: Ardis E. Parshall - July 08, 2013

Religious Liberty.

“We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.”

Such is the eleventh article of the ‘Mormon’ faith, and such we practice. We ask nothing from those around us but to be allowed to worship our God as conscience dictates, and we grant to all men the same privilege we ask. Freedom of worship! Surely in a Christian country that is not a great thing to ask, surely freedom of worship is denied no man! Ah! I sit not? Then whence the martyred prophet? He suffered martyrdom simply because he practiced this eleventh article of our faith, and his followers are often subjected to the grossest insults and persecution because they dare to stand up for their right, for it is every man’s God-given right to exercise his free-agency, and he is but a coward who will not do so in religious matters. In our pre-existent state that right was ours, and our God never took it from us. Why! Was not Lucifer’s plan of salvation rejected simply because he sought to destroy this free-agency of man, because he would force us back to Heaven whether we would or no?

Well, the question is often asked of the “Mormon”elders.”If you believe in man’s free-agency and that every man has the right to serve God as he thinks best, why do you come out here preaching your religion? Why do you not stay at home – live your own religion and let the rest of the world do the same? We don’t want your religion, we have one of our own. Why do you not practice what you preach?”

“If we did not believe the Bible,” the elders answer, “did not believe it exactly as it is written, and if we could take that Bible and leave out Ez.3:17-21,then we most certainly would do as you say, we would stay at home and leave you alone. But Ezekiel says he was sent on a mission, and was so overcome by the wickedness he saw, he just was afraid or too thunderstruck to proceed with what he had been sent to do until God jogged his memory by speaking to him in vision, and telling him that unless he gave the people warning they would die in their sins, but their blood God would require at his hands. I guess that put Ezekiel on his mettle pretty quickly, and since we believe God has given us the same mission he gave Ezekiel, and since we do not want Him to have to give us any gentle reminders we are up and doing, for we believe Christendom has gone astray and the reason there are so many churches in the world today is because for ages men have been earnestly seeking for the Truth. Earnest souls saw by carefully studying the Bible, that the minister of the church to which they belonged was not teaching the doctrine found in the Bible, and so they left that church and founded another enlarging on one especial principle. There is truth in all these churches, some truth.”

But now listen to this: –Joseph Smith, a boy of fourteen summers, attending a revival meeting, grew confused amidst all the varying denominations, and prayed to God to tell him which church amongst them was the true church, and God told him none were true, for none held the Priesthood, and without that none could have authority to preach the Gospel.

Now this is the message that has been given to the “Mormon” people and they have been bidden go forth and proclaim it to all the world; and they dare not disobey for reasons stated above, and so you find the elders leaving their homes and all they hold dear and going forth into the cold, unwelcoming world to bear the message entrusted to them by God.

Friends of mine out in the world, won’t you play fair? If a man from any of the recognized churches of the world came to your door today and offered you a tract, would you meet him with insults and upbraidings? Would you not give him fair hearing? You are not forced to believe him, but courtesy demands in this age of civilization that you hear what he has to say, and you do hear him. But, when a young “Mormon” elder comes along, he has only to breathe that hated word “Mormon” and down comes a whole shower of insulting epithets upon his defenseless head.

Say, is it fair, is it allowing him religious liberty? We do not ask you to accept his religion, all we ask is a fair hearing. If you do not want his religion, after investigation you have only to say so in plain English and you will be left to follow your own devices.

We believe we have a better religion than any other religious denomination in existence today, and this we offer for your inspection: If you do not choose to accept it, cannot see the truth in it, well, leave it alone, and we will leave you alone.

I knew an elder in the mission field in England, and he had the courage (impudence the one concerned called it) to call on a minister. For his pains he got kicked out, and as the minister stood on the steps shaking with rage he said: “Don’t you ever call here again!” “No,” said the elder, in a saddened voice, “I certainly won’t. You have rejected the counsel of God against yourself. No, I will never call again.”

Now the same privilege is yours. I do not mean, you may forcibly eject our elders when they call upon you, but, you have the privilege of accepting or rejecting the message they bring you; but remember this: When the Jews rejected Christ they were speedily cut off as a nation, and to this day are suffering for their sins. The elders offer you the Gospel, come to you vested with full authority from God, authority that is held by no man on earth outside the “Mormon” Church. If you accept it – well. – If you reject it, there cometh the day of reckoning; but for your rejection I am not going to consign you to the flames of hell. Oh, no! We “Mormons”believe in modern revelation, and it teaches us that every man who will accept the plan of life and salvation laid down by Christ will reach heaven eventually. “Every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that I am the Lord,” but, all will not receive the same degree of glory. Some will find they have only just managed to get inside the gate as it were, and these will have no glory, they will be menials, servants throughout all the ages to those who have merited higher glory.

Some have said, well, if we are all to get to Heaven at last, why worry, so we get inside the gate, we ask no more. But listen – do you want to be but a servant throughout all eternity? Is this all your aim? You who in this life have had servants to do your bidding, how will you like being servants to these? They who hear the Gospel in this life and reject it, will never enter the highest glory. In the next world the Gospel will again be preached to them. Christ Himself was the first missionary to the Spirit world as witness (I Peter iii:18-20 and 4, 6), and since then the great work of preaching to the dead has rolled on apace – but none who reject it here can have full glory even tho’ they accept it there. This point is worth considering. No force is going to be used, no compulsion,.We simply offer you the Gospel, place the truth before you and show you the results that will follow your rejection of it and then leave you to your own devices. Yours is the choice, take it or reject it. Our responsibility ends when we have presented it to you. If you reject it, we then ask nothing further than that you continue serving God as you think best, and leave us to do the same, but when next we meet at the bar of God’s judgment, the Great God shall judge between us, and His judgment will be just. Serve God as you please, let the “Mormons” do the same. They hurt you none by trying to show you a better way, if you do not consider that way worth considering, well, leave both it and them alone. This is all we ask, but do not forget the Great Book says “Straight is the gate and narrow is the way.” The road that admits of some six or seven hundred different entrances (the varying churches) is certainly neither narrow nor straight but the road that admits of but one entrance – when we consider the nations that have lived on earth since its foundation, all of which either here or in the spirit world, will have the Gospel preached to them and must go in by the one entrance – the waters of baptism – it must be confessed that that entrance is very narrow.

Freedom of choice is yours, freedom of worship, absolute freedom. The air around you is not more free than you are, my friends, to choose the way you will go. Only remember – only one way leads back to Heaven, and that is a narrow one. Only one Church holds the Priesthood – authority from God to act in His name. Consider well, ’ere you make your choice, and, having made it, allow all men the same privilege: – freedom to worship God as conscience may dictate.



4 Comments »

  1. Ah! I sit not?” etc.,???

    This seems a little hyperventilated and leaves me depressed. But maybe that’s just me.

    I’ll bet she was a follower of Carrie Nation. And if alive today, she would probably be a spokesperson for the Eagle Forum.

    Comment by Grant — July 8, 2013 @ 12:29 pm

  2. If a father says to his son: “You have freedom of choice, absolute freedom. When you grow up you can either be a doctor, like me, or an engineer, like your uncle,” or perhaps instead, “a doctor or a homeless street person,” we would protest. That’s not absolute freedom!
    And yet the church says the same thing: “You have freedom of choice, absolute freedom. Choose the church and have eternal life. Make any other choice and you have spiritual death.”
    It’s beautiful mansion or dingy prison cell. But the promise of reward coupled with the threat of miserable consequences compel a particular choice. There may be 1000 different paths, but if you insist there is only ONE right one, then the other 999 are only different ways to fail. This is not absolute freedom or freedom of choice.

    Comment by Jeff Blackmer — July 9, 2013 @ 11:29 am

  3. Of course you have absolute freedom to choose! No one is compelled to follow Christ, and the evidence of that is all around you, in crime and sin and lives wrecked by people who have chosen not to follow him.

    What you cannot do is choose to reject the gospel and then reap the rewards of having accepted the gospel and been obedient to it. You can’t get on a plane headed for New York and expect to end up in Los Angeles. You can’t play computer games in your mother’s basement throughout your 20s and emerge with the respect and productivity of someone who went to school and work. You can’t live on crackers and coke and expect to win an Olympic gold medal in anything. What would be your judgment of someone who expected any of these outcomes, or who complained when they didn’t happen?

    But you have the absolute choice as to which way you will go. “For this eternal truth is giv’n: God will force no man to heaven.”

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — July 9, 2013 @ 11:49 am

  4. Because one choice is obviously better, it compels you? On what planet does that make sense?

    “But Mom, I WANT to go play on the freeway! When you tell me that it will kill me, you’re just taking away my freedom by scaring me!”

    “No. Giving you information about where your choices will lead you is giving you true freedom to choose your outcome.”

    Comment by Carol — July 9, 2013 @ 12:11 pm

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