How I Gained My Testimony

Seymour B. Young Sr.

Young Woman’s Journal, vol. 4. no. 5 (Feb 1893), pp. 217–23


Editor Young Woman’s Journal.

Dear Editor,—Your request for a statement from me, in relation to the time and manner in which I became convinced of the truth, and knew that I had a [p. 218] testimony of the gospel as revealed through the Prophet Joseph Smith, has caused me some reflection. In answer to your kind and sisterly note, I will devote as much time and give it the consideration due to so weighty a matter so far as I am able.

From my cradle I was taught the gospel. No opportunity was neglected by my father to impress its obligations upon his children, though in a very quiet, meek and fatherly way, and his teachings to us were characterized more by example than by precept. At the time of the martyrdom of our great leaders, Joseph and Hyrum Smith, I remember well, though only a very small boy at that time, seeing them pass with others near our house on their way to be offered up as a sacrifice to the hate and bigotry of apostate brethren and sectarian priests, assisted and aided by some of the State militia. On June 28, at about 5 o’clock in the morning a messenger came to our door with the awful intelligence that during the afternoon of the preceding day cruelty and hatred had triumphed, that the Prophet and Patriarch had been butchered while being held in jail, and under the pledged protection of the Governor of the State, nay that prominent among their murderers were the Carthage Greys, who were known to be the body guard of the Governor, and that their bleeding remains had already arrived at the Nauvoo mansion, where they would be viewed by the Saints during the day. Of course this awful deed made a deep and lasting impression upon my mind.

Child as I was, through the teachings of my parents I had learned to look upon Joseph Smith as a great prophet, and he was one who had impressed me as he did others of more mature years, with his heavenly and divine intelligence. My next recollections of a leader for Latter-day Israel, was of Brigham Young. From the first time I saw him, after the Prophet’s death, my heart went out to him in deep love and veneration, for I recognized him as the man who stood in the place of the martyred prophet, and soon learned the fact that he was loved and honored as such by all the Saints.

These incidents I mention as showing the tendency of my thoughts and the events which came within my experience which made a deep and lasting impression upon me, though too young at the time to desire or know how to seek for a testimony of the principles of truth, which the gospel principles taught.

In the year 1849 I was introduced to Oliver Cowdery, and the impression made upon me by this introduction was that I beheld a man who had fallen from the grace of God. At the age of eleven I received baptism, and was confirmed a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, in Pottawatomie [p. 219] County, Iowa, at about the same time and near the same spot where I met the, man who once stood next to Joseph Smith in favor with God. and as the second Elder in the Church. I mention these items in my early life’s history as coincidental, and as having impressed me more and more with the solemn truths which had been revealed through the gospel of the Lord Jesus to a benighted world.

In the following year (1850) my father and his family crossed the plains and came to Utah. The Asiatic cholera was on the plains that season, and gathered in its merciless and unrelenting grasp many hundreds of emigrants who were in the mad race for wealth to the golden sands of California. The camps of the Saints did not entirely escape the dreaded scourge, and a few were stricken down and were laid in lonely graves by the wayside. In our company of thirty-six men, with their families, three were stricken by this terrible malady.

Two of them coming into camp in the evening feeling somewhat unwell, began cramping and vomiting, and were both dead before morning. After burying the dead we moved our camp a few miles, and an encampment was made on the banks of a small sluggish stream for the night. Some time about the middle of the night we were awakened by the screams of the third victim of the cholera scourge, and during the very short intervals of release from the awful cramps and vomiting he pleaded for Brother Joseph (meaning my father) to come and lay hands on him.

Father immediately dressed and repaired to the couch of the sufferer, and addressed him in these words: “David, if I administer to you and ask the Lord to raise you up will you covenant this night that you will serve him all the days of your life?”

The young man immediately made the .solemn promise that he would be a true and loyal servant to his Lord and Savior forever. Father laid his hands upon him, and in the name of Jesus Christ rebuked the power of the destroyer, when the retching and cramps immediately ceased, and the next morning Brother David Lewis, restored from this attack of cholera, was at his post and driving his team as usual. This case and the power of God manifested in his healing made a deep and lasting impression upon my mind, and every night on retiring I prayed long and fervently that God would save me from the cholera, and permit me to arrive safely in the valley, where I could once more behold the face of His prophet, Brigham Young; and like Brother Lewis, I made the most solemn covenants during these supplications that if my life were spared to again see this great man, and hear his voice, and live where he lived, that I, too, would be a faithful servant [p. 220] of God all the days of my life. Late in the following September we arrived safely in Salt Lake City. When President Brigham Young came to see us, and with words of blessing welcomed my father and his family to the home of the Saints in the valleys of the mountains, so impressed was I with his prophetic influence and calling I could have kissed the dust at his feet. I was present at the laying of the cornerstones of the Salt Lake Temple, in 1853, and at that time was again impressed with his prophetic calling. In January, 1857, he called me to take a mission to Great Britain, and informed me that it was required of the outgoing missionaries at that time that they go on foot across the plains to the Missouri River, without any animals or wagons to ride upon, but pulling hand carts on which would be carried their provisions and bedding. I felt perfectly satisfied with the call, and recognized that the Lord spoke through His prophet; no thought or dread of the hardship the journey would entail upon me, but only from that time till the day of starting an intense desire to be up and away on this mighty mission of preaching the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Again in 1862 President Young called me to be one of a battalion of one hundred men to be enlisted in the service of our country, to fill a requirement made by President Abraham Lincoln for volunteers from Utah, to serve ninety days, or longer if needed, in the war of the Rebellion.

This call came from President Lincoln on April 27th, 1862, and on April 29th, in connection with the rest of the Utah volunteers, we reported to Captain Lot Smith for duty, and were immediately mustered into the volunteer service of the United States, rendering faithful service until we were mustered out in March, 1863, nearly one year after. Again in 1866 President Young called me to take a mission into Sanpete and Sevier Counties, to assist in protecting the Saints in those outlying districts from Chief Black Hawk’s Indian raiders, during the celebrated Black Hawk war, which service was cheerfully performed by me as long as required.

In 1870 President Young called me to go on a mission to Great Britain with my father. These missionary calls were accepted always with a testimony to me that the inspiration of the Holy Spirit prompted them in every instance, and during these labors, which at times were arduous and exhausting in the extreme, I always felt a firm reliance on the Lord, knowing that He had called me, and that the promises of His servants made to me of a safe return to my home would be realized.

In all these labors my heart and judgment have been convinced that they were prompted by the inspiration of the Spirit [p. 221] of God, and with joy and thankfulness I placed myself in a position to obey these calls. At the death of President Young the First Presidency was again disorganized, and the Twelve Apostles became the presiding quorum in the Church, with John Taylor as chief Apostle and president of that quorum. When the First Presidency was again organized John Taylor became the President of the Church, and Wilford Woodruff as chief Apostle in the quorum of the Twelve, became the president of the quorum. When President John Taylor passed away the quorum of the First Presidency became for the third time disorganized, leaving again the presiding authority with the Twelve Apostles, with Wilford Woodruff at their head. The order of succession in the priesthood is one eternal round, and a perfect system in all its ramification, and all Latter-day Saints that were in touch with the spirit of the gospel could know that when the quorum of the First Presidency was again organized the office of President of the High Priesthood would most fittingly fall on the shoulders of President Wilford Woodruff, and so the organization was consummated according to that immutable law of heaven, the order of the Holy Priesthood. For said Jesus, “My house is a house of order, and not a house of confusion.” Under the administration of the Prophet Brigham I was called to be a Seventy, and by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit of God through him was called to many important missions and labors. Under the administration of the Prophet John Taylor I was called by revelation to a very honorable position among my brethren, and since that time to labor as a missionary in all the Stakes of Zion, and during all these years this has been a labor of love to me.

The complete organization of all the quorums of the priesthood is divine evidence to me of this perfect system which God commanded Joseph Smith to inaugurate, and which has continued to be perfected by the Prophet Presidents of the Church who have succeeded him in the apostolic administration.

I said I would try to tell you how I received a testimony of the truth. Jesus said: “The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh and whither it goeth: so is everyone that is born of the Spirit.” I never have received a call to perform a mission, or for any labor in the Church, but what to me the divine influence of the Spirit of God was manifest in the voice of him who made the call. Though, like one of old, I can truly say, “No thunder of heaven, nor vivid lightnings no upheavals of the earth or rending of its rock-ribbed fastenings have marked any testimony of mine;’ but rather have I found the soul satisfying [p. 222] evidence in the still small voice of the Spirit of God, and every act of obedience to the will of him who said, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every living creature,” has brought to my mind and heart, and to my judgment, renewed faith, knowledge, power and testimonies of the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and the divine mission of Joseph Smith. Without this testimony, in which is perfect knowledge, individuals could not be sustained, the Church as a body could not maintain its existence.

Emerson says: “As a ship aground is battered by the waves, so man imprisoned in mortal life, lies open to the mercy of coming events; but a truth separated by the intellect is no longer a subject of destiny. The mind that grows could not predict the times, the mode the means of that spontaniety. God enters by a private door into every individual who prepares to receive Him. Long prior to the age of reflection is the thinking of the mind, out of darkness it came; insensibility into the marvelous light of day, a truth now for the first time bursting upon our minds awakes it to immeasurable greatness.”

I have beheld the sick healed and evil spirits cast out by the ministration of God’s servants; I have seen Prophets and Elders slain for the testimony of Jesus; I have beheld several thousands of the Saints driven out from their beautiful city of Nauvoo, in the winter season, to encamp in the snows, until the warm breath of summer brought warmth to the frozen marrow of their bones; nay, I have seen them accept joyfully the despoiling of their goods. I have seen the Saints driven into a mountain and desert country, stripped, and pealed and bleeding, by the cruelty of their so-called Christian brethren; I have seen a Christian nation, in their mistaken zeal for self-justification, by their paid officers, commit such cruelties in raiding our towns and villages in the dead hours of night, dragging husbands and fathers from their homes, and bringing such terror and suffering upon women and innocent little children that would only have been admissible in the palmiest days of the Spanish Inquisition, and by the acts of their law officers so scattered the people and terrorized them that the nation in their hearts supposed that they had covered their unpopular Christian brethren so deeply in the ashes of their burning wrath, that the organizations of the holy priesthood could never be perfected again. “I will empty those stands occupied by the authorities of the Church,” was the boast of a United States deputy marshal, and he did.

But I have lived to see the Saints of God rise phoenix-like from the ashes of destruction heaped upon them by their enemies, and to me these things are living testimonies, strong as [p. 223] holy writ, that God lives, that He is watching over His people, and that He will continue to bless them abundantly and reward them with eternal life for all their sufferings. I add my testimonies to those of my brethren that Joseph Smith was a living prophet of God, and though now dead to earth, he lives in the spirit world: yes,

His home’s in the skies,
He dwells with the Gods.

And that Brigham Young. John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff, and the rest of the Apostles living and dead, are and were his Apostles, his faithful followers, and that they are all Apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Very truly your brother,
Seymour B. Young