I have written out quite fully the case of Brother E and family because this one illustrates the true state of many families, and God would have these families take this as though written specially for their benefit. There are many more cases I might designate, but I have named enough already. Young girls are not as a general thing clear of the crime of self-abuse. They practice it, and, as the result, their constitutions are being ruined. Some who are just entering womanhood are in danger of paralysis of the brain. Already the moral and intellectual powers are weakened and benumbed, while the animal passions are gaining the ascendancy and corrupting body and soul. The youth, whether male or female, cannot be Christians unless they entirely cease to practice this hellish, soul-and-body-destroying vice.
Many of the young are eager for books. They read everything they can obtain. Exciting love stories and impure pictures have a corrupting influence. Novels are eagerly perused by many, and, as the result, their imagination becomes defiled. In the cars, photographs of females in a state of nudity are frequently circulated for sale. These disgusting pictures are also found in daguerrean saloons, and are hung upon the walls of those who deal in engravings. This is an age when corruption is teeming everywhere. The lust of the eye and corrupt passions are aroused by beholding and by reading. The heart is corrupted through the imagination. The mind takes pleasure in contemplating scenes which awaken the lower and baser passions. These vile images, seen through defiled imagination, corrupt the morals and prepare the deluded, infatuated beings to give loose rein to lustful passions. Then follow sins and crimes which drag beings formed in the image of God down to a level with the beasts, sinking them at last in perdition. Avoid reading and seeing things which will suggest impure thoughts. Cultivate the moral and intellectual powers. Let not these noble powers become enfeebled and perverted by much reading of even storybooks. I know of strong minds that have been unbalanced and partially benumbed, or paralyzed, by intemperance in reading.
I appeal to parents to control the reading of their children. Much reading does them only harm. Especially do not permit upon your tables the magazines and newspapers wherein are found love stories. It is impossible for the youth to possess a healthy tone of mind and correct religious principles unless they enjoy the perusal of the word of God. This book contains the most interesting history, points out the way of salvation through Christ, and is their guide to a higher and better life. They would all pronounce it the most interesting book they ever perused, if their imagination had not become perverted by exciting stories of a fictitious character. You who are looking for your Lord to come the second time to change your mortal bodies, and to fashion them like unto His most glorious body, must come up upon a higher plane of action. You must work from a higher standpoint than you have hitherto done, or you will not be of that number who will receive the finishing touch of immortality.
Chapter 55—True Love at Home
At Adams Center I was shown that you greatly lacked an unselfish spirit while at the Institute; you did not exert the influence that you should. You might have let your light shine there, but you did not. You often neglected your duty for amusements. You failed to take care and to bear responsibility. You do not enjoy active exercise. You love your ease; you and hard work are at variance. This is selfish. You allowed the property of the Institute to run down and be destroyed, when it was your business to see that it was kept up, and that everything was in order, and preserved with greater interest and care than if it were your own. You were an unfaithful steward. Every time you permitted yourself to engage in amusements, playing croquet or anything of the kind, you were using time for which you were paid and which did not belong to you. You would be just as excusable should you take money which you had not earned and appropriate it to yourself.
Brethren Loughborough, Andrews, Aldrich, and others did not know you. They estimated you too highly. You could not fill the place they employed you to fill. They erred in judgment when they paid you so high a price for your labor. You did not earn the money that you received. You were very slow and lacked greatly in energy. You were not enough interested and awake to see and do, and things were terribly neglected by you.
My brother, you are far from God; you are in a state of backsliding. You do not possess noble moral courage. You yield to your own desires instead of denying self. In seeking after happiness, you have attended places of amusement which God does not approve, and in so doing have weakened your own soul. My brother, you have much to learn. You indulge your appetite by eating more food than your system can convert into good blood. It is sin to be intemperate in the quantity of food eaten, even if the quality is unobjectionable. Many feel that, if they do not eat meat and the grosser articles of food, they may eat of simple food until they cannot well eat more. This is a mistake. Many professed health reformers are nothing less than gluttons. They lay upon the digestive organs so great a burden that the vitality of the system is exhausted in the effort to dispose of it. It also has a depressing influence upon the intellect, for the brain nerve power is called upon to assist the stomach in its work. Overeating, even of the simplest food, benumbs the sensitive nerves of the brain and weakens its vitality. Overeating has a worse effect upon the system than overworking; the energies of the soul are more effectually prostrated by intemperate eating than by intemperate working.
The digestive organs should never be burdened with a quantity or quality of food which it will tax the system to appropriate. All that is taken into the stomach above what the system can use to convert into good blood, clogs the machinery; for it cannot be made into either flesh or blood, and its presence burdens the liver and produces a morbid condition of the system. The stomach is overworked in its efforts to dispose of it, and then there is a sense of languor, which is interpreted to mean hunger; and without allowing the digestive organs time to rest from their severe labor, to recruit their energies, another immoderate amount is taken into the stomach, to set the weary machinery again in motion. The system receives less nourishment from too great a quantity of food, even of the right quality, than from a moderate quantity taken at regular periods.
My brother, your brain is benumbed. A man who disposes of the quantity of food that you do should be a laboring man. Exercise is important to digestion and to a healthy condition of body and mind. You need physical exercise. You move and act as if you were wooden, as though you had no elasticity. Healthy, active exercise is what you need. This will invigorate the mind. Neither study nor violent exercise should be engaged in immediately after a full meal; this would be a violation of the laws of the system. Immediately after eating there is a strong draft upon the nervous energy. The brain force is called into active exercise to assist the stomach; therefore, when the mind or body is taxed heavily after eating, the process of digestion is hindered. The vitality of the system, which is needed to carry on the work in one direction, is called away and set to work in another.
You need to exercise temperance in all things. Cultivate the higher powers of the mind, and there will be less strength of growth of the animal. It is impossible for you to increase in spiritual strength while your appetite and passions are not under perfect control. Says the inspired apostle: “I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.”
My brother, arouse yourself, I pray you, and let the work of the Spirit of God reach deeper than the external; let it reach down to the deep springs of every action. It is principle that is wanted, firm principle, and vigor of action in spiritual as well as temporal things. Your efforts lack earnestness. Oh, how many are low in the scale of spirituality because they will not deny their appetite! The brain nerve energy is benumbed and almost paralyzed by overeating. When such go to the house of God upon the Sabbath, they cannot hold their eyes open. The most earnest appeals fail to arouse their leaden, insensible intellects. The truth may be presented with deep feeling, but it does not awaken the moral sensibilities or enlighten the understanding. Have such studied to glorify God in all things?
It is impossible to have clear conceptions of eternal things unless the mind is trained to dwell upon elevated themes. All the passions must be brought under perfect subjection to the moral powers. When men and women profess strong faith and earnest spirituality, I know that their profession is false if they have not brought all their passions under control. God requires this. The reason why such spiritual darkness prevails is that the mind is content to take a low level and is not directed upward in a pure, holy, and heavenly channel.
I saw in regard to your family, Brother M, that you were not happy. Your wife has been disappointed, and you have been disappointed. Your wife expected to find in you a person of more noble, refined organization. She has been very unhappy. She has a large amount of pride. Her family connections upon her mother’s side are naturally conscientious, yet proud and aristocratic. She partakes largely of these traits of character. She is not demonstrative. It is not natural for her to make advances and manifest affection. She looks upon the manifestation of affection between husband and wife as weak and childish. She has felt that if she encouraged affection, it would not be answered by fine, elevated love, but by the lower order of passions; that these would be strengthened, but not pure, deep, holy love.
Your wife should make strong efforts to come out of her retired, dignified reserve, and cultivate simplicity in all her actions. And when the higher order of faculties is aroused in you, and strengthened by exercise, you will better understand the wants of women; you will understand that the soul craves love of a higher, purer order than exists in the low order of animal passions. These passions have been strengthened in you by encouragement and exercise. If now in the fear of God you keep your body under, and seek to meet your wife with pure, elevated love, the wants of her nature will be met. Take her to your heart; esteem her highly.
You have been exalted and have taken a position above your wife. You have not understood yourself. You have had a high appreciation of your religious experience and advancement in the divine life. These things have hindered, instead of helping, your wife. She feared for you, feared that you did not really understand yourself, and that you would go too fast. Your union has not been happy. You have been unsuited to each other. Your wife has a timid, fearful, shrinking nature. You have utterly failed to understand her. She hesitates and fears to move out because she is afraid of going too fast. She needs confidence in herself and should encourage independence.
Brother M, you fail to encourage the confidence of your wife. You are lacking in courteousness and in constant, kindly regard for her. You sometimes manifest love, but it is a selfish love. It is not principle with you, reaching down deep and underlying all your actions. It is not an unselfish love, which prompts a continual forethought for her and a care to have her in your society, showing her that you prefer her company above all others. You have sought for your own amusement, leaving her at home lonely and often sad. You pursued this course before moving to this place and have continued to do so since in a less degree for want of opportunity or excuse.
Your wife would scorn to let you know that she marked the deficiencies in you. She has a fear of you. Had you possessed genuine love, which such a nature as hers requires, you would have found an answering chord in her heart. You are too cold and stiff. You have at times manifested affection, but it has not awakened love in return because you have not been courteous and attentive, and manifested a kind regard for your wife by consulting her happiness. You have too many times felt at liberty to saunter off in pursuit of your own pleasure without consulting her pleasure or happiness at all.
True, pure love is precious. It is heavenly in its influence. It is deep and abiding. It is not spasmodic in its manifestations. It is not a selfish passion. It bears fruit. It will lead to a constant effort to make your wife happy. If you have this love, it will come natural to make this effort. It will not appear to be forced. If you go out for a walk or to attend a meeting, it will be as natural as your breath to choose your wife to accompany you and to seek to make her happy in your society. You regard her spiritual attainments as inferior to your own, but I saw that God was better pleased with her spirit than with that possessed by yourself. You are not worthy of your wife. She is too good for you. She is a frail, sensitive plant; she needs to be cared for tenderly. She earnestly desires to do the will of God. But she has a proud spirit, and is timid, shrinking from reproach. It is as death to her to be the subject of observation or remark. Let your wife be loved, honored, and cherished, in fulfillment of the marriage vow, and she will come out of that reticent, diffident position which is natural to her.
Only let a woman realize that she is appreciated by her husband and is precious to him, not merely because she is useful and convenient in his house, but because she is a part of himself, and she will respond to his affection and reflect the love bestowed upon her. Let your wife be the object of your special and hearty attention. When you feel as God would have you, you will feel lost without the society of your wife. You think her faith not worth having, yet it will bring answers sooner than the faith which you possess.
Brother M, you fail to understand the heart of a woman. You do not reason from cause to effect. You know that your wife is not so cheerful and happy as you wish to see her, but you do not investigate the cause. You do not analyze your deportment to see if the difficulty does not exist in yourself. Love your wife. She is hungering for deep, true, elevating love. Let her have tangible proof that her care and interest for you, shown in her attention to your comfort, is appreciated and returned. Seek her opinion and approval in whatever you engage in. Respect her judgment. Do not feel that you know all that is worth knowing.
A house with love in it, where love is expressed in words and looks and deeds, is a place where angels love to manifest their presence, and hallow the scene by rays of light from glory. There the humble household duties have a charm in them. None of life’s duties will be unpleasant to your wife under such circumstances. She will perform them with cheerfulness of spirit and will be like a sunbeam to all around her, and she will be making melody in her heart to the Lord. At present she feels that she has not your heart’s affections. You have given her occasion to feel thus. You perform the necessary duties devolving upon you as head of the family, but there is a lack. There is a serious lack of love’s precious influence which leads to kindly attentions. Love should be seen in the looks and manners, and heard in the tones of the voice.
Your wife does not venture to open her heart to you; for as soon as she utters a sentiment differing from you, you repel it. You talk so strong that she has no courage to say another word. You are not one in heart. You take a position above her and maintain a bearing as though her judgment and opinion were of no account. You consider your spiritual attainments far in advance of hers. My brother, you do not know yourself. God looks at the heart, not at the words or profession. The externals do not weigh with God as with men. A humble heart and a contrite spirit God values. Our Saviour is acquainted with the life conflicts of every soul. He judgeth not according to appearances, but righteously.
Your spirit is strong. When you take a position you do not weigh the matter well and consider what must be the effect of your maintaining your views and in an independent manner weaving them into your prayers and conversation, when you know that your wife does not hold the same views that you do. Instead of respecting the feelings of your wife, and kindly avoiding, as a gentleman would, those subjects upon which you know you differ, you have been forward to dwell upon objectionable points, and have manifested a persistency in expressing your views regardless of any around you. You have felt that others had no right to see matters differently from yourself. These fruits do not grow upon the Christian tree.
In the case of Sister N, you did not view things in their true light. If she had been healed in answer to the prayers of yourself and others, it would have proved the ruin of more than two or three of you. A wise God had oversight of this matter. He could read the motives and purposes of the heart.
Your wife has just as much right to her opinion as you have to yours. Her marriage relation does not destroy her identity. She has an individual responsibility. You will not feel clear till you take things out of her way and manifest toward her a more charitable, Christlike spirit of forbearance, and regard others in the light in which you wish to be regarded. You have yet to learn to “let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.” “Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honor preferring one another; not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord.”
Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 2 pp. 409-418