An Interesting Experience.
I remember once in England I was arguing the question of “belief only” with a Methodist preacher. Friends had been invited to the house where I was staying, for the express purpose of shaking my faith in “Mormonism.” I was on a visit to friends. “Come and stay with us,” my friend had written; “the flowers in May are not more welcome than you, for we who know you best love you most. Come to us, Mollie, and see if our love cannot wean you from those elders. No power on earth but love has ever had any influence over you. Come! all the desires of your heart shall be showered upon you, only give up the ‘Mormons.’ Oh, Mollie, give them up!” And so this day I stood amongst the friends who loved me and no darker hour has my soul ever known.
As in duty bound, the minister led the discussion. “Well, Mollie,” he said, “I hope you are prepared with all your arguments. They tell me father spent six or seven hours with you last Sunday with no avail.” “That is true,” I said, “and I am prepared to say that you can spend as many with a like result.” “You think so? we will see. Now, you say that no man can enter heaven without baptism.” “No, I do not say so.” “What!” he exclaimed,”are you going back on your own words?” “Oh, no, I merely say they are not my words; they are the words of the Christ, in whom you profess to believe, and since He said them do you not think there is a possibility that they may be true?” “But, you are wrong,” he said. “Christ never once said, ‘You must be baptized.’ You cannot point to a single passage which says, ‘if you are not baptized you will go to hell!’”
“Maybe not,”I answered, “but Christ did say, ‘Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven,’ so that is as near equal to saying if you are not baptized you will go to hell’ as I can get it, although, mind you, the ‘Mormon’ religion does not teach that doctrine, neither do I believe it.” In order to enter the kingdom of heaven you must be baptized, but baptism alone does not take a single soul to heaven, neither does refusing to comply with the ordinance take one soul to hell.”
“Look here,” he said, “you don’t know what you are talking about. A man has either to go to heave nor to hell – has he not?” “Certainly not. What about Paradise, to which place Christ promised the penitent thief he should go?” “Yes,” he said, “what of that? you say that thief went to heaven, and he was not baptized, then if it was not necessary for him to be baptized, it is not necessary for me.”
“You make a mistake,” I said; “that thief did not go to heaven, neither did he go to hell. He went where Christ said he should go, to paradise, the intermediate state between heaven and hell, where all departed spirits go and where the Gospel is again preached and all who will may accept it.
“Now, see here,” he said,”you stay with your Bible! We want none of your ‘Mormon’ doctrine, and your ‘Mormon’ Bible we will not have.” “All that I have spoken is clearly written in your own Bible,” I answered. “You lie, it is not,” he thundered.
“Have it so, if you will,” I answered, “but keep your temper; I don’t want it. I was under the impression that you were a gentleman.”
We discussed baptism but all to no purpose. Then he said, “Do you mean to say that the three thousand added to the church on the day of Pentecost were baptized?” “Why, yes,” I answered, and if my face depicted half the astonishment I felt at his ignorance of the Scriptures, he could hardly have been flattered. “By what authority do you make such a statement?” he demanded; “I have said before and I repeat again, we will not have your ‘Mormon’ Bible. We will have Scripture or nothing. Now what authority have you for such a statement?”
“The same authority you quote when you say they were added to the Church – Acts 2.” “But it does not say they were baptized!” “Does it not? That shows how little you know of your Bible, and, opening the book at the second chapter of Acts, I pointed him to verse 41. Closing the book with a bang, he threw it on the table before me. “I’ve finished,” he said. Then, turning to the others in the room, he muttered, “Who can argue with a girl like that? She has the Bible at her finger ends.” Again, turning to me, he said, “No one has any chance with you, Mollie; you know your Bible too well.” “Thank you,” I said, “but let me tell you, I think you ought to be ashamed of yourself – you, calling yourself a minister of God to tell me I know my Bible too well; and anyway, when you stand up before a congregation, seeing you do not know what the Bible contains, what do you preach about?” “I do not preach that Joseph Smith was a prophet, neither do I preach that you cannot enter heaven without baptism.” “No, but for your own future happiness it might be better if you did; and anyway no power on earth will make me believe you have authority from God to preach His Gospel when you do not know the message He would have you deliver.”
Not another word would he speak. The others took up the subject and for two hours longer kept up a constant fire. They accused the elders and the inhabitants of Utah of deeds the most horrible until it felt as though the blood were freezing within me. One of the number declared he had been in Utah whilst I had not, and he had proof for all he uttered. Such awful lies are only equalled in Jarman’s “Hell upon Earth,” I was afterwards given to read.
For a moment it seemed I stood alone and the very blackness of hell surrounded me. I backed away from them and leaned against the wall, partly for support, for I had been under fire fully three hours and was getting exhausted, partly that the power of the evil one might not quite surround me. They pressed forward. Then the voice of one of them (a young boy of twenty-two, since dead) spoke words of cheer. “Don’t give in, Mollie,” he said, “you are doing fine; cheer up, you’ve nearly won. You’ve silenced one, keep going, you’ll win”; and then the voice of one of the first elders I met sounded clear through the blackness, “Be faithful, Mollie!” Ah! what mattered anything now? the Spirit of my God had revealed Himself anew, what mattered all the lies of men?
I felt strength and courage radiate through my whole body. I stepped towards the centre of the room and looked on those around me. They fell back, and utter amazement was written upon every face; then a cry came from the parted lips of my college chum. She came towards me with outstretched hands, warding the rest away from me. “Leave her alone! For God’s sake, leave her alone!” she exclaimed. “Look at her face!” “Not another word shall you say against her religion in my hearing. Out of this house goes the first one to say another word against Mollie’s religion and the people she believes in.” Then her arms closed round me. “Mollie,” she said, “where do you get your strength? You with your pale, sweet face to stand what you have stood tonight. I for one am ashamed of myself. Keep your religion. A ‘Mormon’ you are and a ‘Mormon’ you’ll die. I do not pretend to understand it, but this much I know, if one with a drawn sword stood before you and said ‘Give up your religion or die’ you would still look at him with that steady gaze and say ‘I am a “Mormon.”’ Be a ‘Mormon’ and if it is being a ‘Mormon’ makes you what you are, I would I were one, too. Not another word against your religion will you ever hear from me.” She was true to her word; we had many conversations on the principles of “Mormonism” and she believed them, but she never met the elders.
Thus in the hour of need the Lord sustained me and strengthened my testimony, and never once since I joined the Church has the Holy Spirit failed me, never once have I failed to answer any question put tome.
A few days after the event recorded, another uncle having heard something of what took place on this occasion, said, “Bring her up to me! I’ll put her to silence in half an hour.”
We went. On the way my friend told me he was well read and a good talker. “Aren’t you afraid, Mollie?” she said. “Not I; I have God and the truth on my side and he will need some knowledge to beat that. He is trusting in his own strength; I am trusting in God. I know what I believe and if he knows more about ‘Mormonism’ than I do, then it is going to be good for me.” Well, we got busy and the half hour went by, one hour, two hours. Mollie still had something to say. When three and a half hours had gone by the gentleman’s wife said, “Now you’ve gone far enough; leave her alone.” “Child, you must be tired,” she said, “come and have some supper.” Then the gentleman stepped up to me and placed his hand upon my shoulder. “My dear young lady,” he said,” I admire you. I admire the way you speak up for a people everywhere spoken against. Keep your religion. Keep your faith in your elders; it is the most beautiful thing I ever say. Never in my life have I met anyone quite like you. It is beautiful.” I told him, seeing I was the first ‘Mormon’ he had met, there ought to be some little difference between me and the rest of the community. “Ah!” he smiled, “I don’t know, it seems to me I do not understand; but if all the ‘Mormons’ are like you, then would we were all ‘Mormons.’” I gave him some literature and when he had read it, he said, “The men who can write like that are not what the world calls them. After this I believe nothing I hear against the ‘Mormons.’”
These are the things that have helped to build up my testimony in our grand old Gospel. I know it is true, for time and time again have I stood and seen our accusers put to silence; time and time again has the Spirit made its presence felt within my bosom. I am a “Mormon,” not because my mother is one, not because it is the easiest religion to live, but because the God of heaven who made me and placed me here upon earth has revealed to my soul, in answer to deep study and earnest prayer, that the “Mormon” people are His people, the “Mormon” Church is His Church, and to be a “Mormon” means to be perfectly happy and to know no fear.