[Elder Cannon quotes D&C 43:1-7
It is a good thing for us, as a people, to let our minds dwell upon the principles which God our Heavenly Father has given unto us by revelation in this, as well as in preceding ages. The Lord, in His goodness and mercy unto His children, has not left them in ignorance concerning the plan of salvation, nor the manner in which He intends His Church to be built up. He has revealed unto us many principles for our guidance, and they are essentially necessary to enable us to grow and increase in the things of His kingdom; for in these days, as well as in preceding days, as the apostle has said, there are many spirits gone forth into the world and there are many influences brought to bear upon the minds of the children of men. There are many creeds, doctrines, and views propagated industriously by those who entertain them, and unless we cling to the truth and pursue the path which our Heavenly Father desires His children to walk in, with all our claims, and the promises which have been made unto us, we are as liable to go astray as any other people. If we treat these things as matters of no importance, and are careless and negligent in relation to that which we believe, and to those whom we follow, we are sure to err.
There are some principles which have become firmly rooted in the minds of the Latter-day Saints. It is a difficult thing to cause them to doubt in relation to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, repentance of sin, baptism for the remission of sins and the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost. These principles seem to be clearly understood, and in them the people are apparently fully indoctrinated; and though men may deny the faith, in one sense, and turn away from the path of righteousness, and dissolve their connection with the Church, yet they will cling, in most instances, to what we term the first principles of the Gospel of Christ; and it is a very rare thing to see those who have been members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints turning away and joining what we call sectarian churches. If they leave this Church, it is an exceedingly difficult thing for them to connect themselves with other denominations, because the Scriptures are so familiar to them, the principles contained therein are so plain to their understanding that, unless there is some speculation, some mercenary or other end to be gained by their alliance with people of other creeds, they are very apt to stand aloof; that is, where they have a thorough understanding of the principles of the Gospel.
But there are other principles more advanced with which the people are not so familiar, and of this the adversary seeks to take advantage; and when men deny the faith, they are apt to deny these principles; and when they get into the dark, there is probably no point upon which they differ more frequently than that which relates to the authority that is exercised in presiding. This is a point that the adversary always aims at. I suppose it was so in ancient days. We read of false prophets then, and also of men turning away; and there is no doubt but what the rock upon which they split was the question of the right and authority of those presiding over them.
It seems as though the adversary, in the day in which we live, seeks, by every means in his power, to undermine the influence and the authority of the man whom God has called to preside over His people.
There were others during Joseph's day, who professed to have the authority which he possessed, or, as they said, which he had once possessed. At one time, in the early days of the Church, there was a number of elders among whom were some of the Twelve Apostles and one or two of the First Presidency, who banded themselves together and declared that Joseph was a fallen prophet, that he had taught correct doctrines, that he had been the instrument in the hands of God, of revealing the truth and of bringing forth the Book of Mormon, restoring the holy Priesthood and of organizing the Church; but that he had fallen. The doctrines which he had first taught were correct, they said, and the position which he first assumed was acceptable in the sight of God; but through some cause, he had strayed from the path and had become a fallen prophet. Said they, “We now have the right and the authority which he once had. We have the right to organize the Saints, to build up the Church and carry out the work of which Joseph was the founder, but which, through transgression, he has forfeited the right to lead.”
There was one peculiarity, however, connected with these pretenders, which distinguished their course from that pursued by Joseph. Instead of being the subject of all the evil remarks, all the calumny, all the hatred, slander, bloodthirstiness, and denunciations applied to the Prophet Joseph, singular to state, when you take into consideration the pretensions of those men, the wicked hailed them as brethren, consorted with them, became very brotherly, very fraternal, and looked upon them as very good, clever fellows.
Many men wonder and say, “You Latter-day Saints are bowed down in tyranny and are groaning under despotism. Why are you not free to exercise your liberty? Why don't you do as you please? Why do you always do as your prophet and leader tells you?” Because we have proved during twenty-five long years, that God has blessed him in everything he has told us to do, and we have been blessed of God in carrying out his counsels. When we have prayed to the Almighty to give us wisdom and humility to obey the counsels of His servant, He has given unto us His Holy Spirit and witnessed unto our hearts that this course was pleasing and acceptable in His sight. Rebel against him and his authority! As well might we rebel against Jehovah Himself, or against Jesus!
See the blessings that have followed the administrations of these men in our midst. Who would exchange the peace, the joy, and the knowledge we have concerning the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ for the meager and vague ideas of God and His kingdom that prevailed before the people became acquainted with it?
Let me assure you, brethren and sisters, if there is anything in our hearts that interferes with our complete love of God and our reverence for Him and His work, we shall have to banish it, or sooner or later we shall lose our standing in the Church of God; for He wants a people who will render implicit obedience to His laws and the requirements of His Gospel, and who will love Him better than any earthly thing, and place a higher value on the gifts of the Spirit than on worldly possessions or even life itself.
Think not, my brethren and sisters, because God has chosen earthly vessels to hold this power and authority, that therefore you can treat lightly the holy Priesthood. I have noticed from my boyhood, and it has been a constant lesson to me, that those who speak against the authorities and lift their hands against the holy Priesthood of this Church invariably deny the faith. I have never seen it otherwise. You may trace the history of this people from the beginning and you will find that every man who has indulged in this spirit has always come out and denied the faith.
(Discourse by Elder George Q. Cannon, delivered in the Tabernacle, Salt Lake City, December 5, 1869. Reported By: John Grimshaw)