Letters and Manuscripts — Volume 1 (1844 - 1868)


Lt 15, 1867

White, J. E.; White, W. C.

Norridgewock, Maine

November 9, 1867

Portions of this letter are published in 3MR 127-128; 5MR 390.

Dear Children, Edson and Willie:

We received your letter stating you had written us to Topsham, Maine. The letter has not come to hand yet, but doubtless we shall receive it soon. We are pleased to read your letters, and we wish you to be free to ask advice and counsel of your parents. We will candidly consider all your plans, sympathize with you in all your perplexities, and will give you counsel and encouragement as far as we can for your best good. But you have your heavenly Father to go to, who is too wise to err. He loves to have you bring all your burdens and all your troubles to Him. He will guide the inexperienced feet of youth. He will with every temptation make a way for your escape. 1LtMs, Lt 15, 1867, par. 1

Your parents, you must remember, are praying for you. Although separated from you, we do not have you out of mind. God has called us to deny ourselves, a considerable part of the time, the pleasure of the society of our children and the privilege of personally superintending their education. But the Lord understands all about this; He knows the sacrifice is painful to us. But we can pray for you and write to you and we will not have one murmuring thought. I believe that God hears our prayers and that He will give our dear children moral power to resist the manifold temptations which encompass the path of youth. 1LtMs, Lt 15, 1867, par. 2

In your letter, Edson, you ask our counsel in regard to your studying grammar and reciting to Elder Smith. If he will permit you to do this, if it is consistent with his other duties, if he can spare the time, you have our hearts’ approval. We are desirous for you to gain a thorough knowledge of the common branches of education and then, if you are balanced with good principles, if you show true earnestness, you may go to any length in cultivation of the mind. If you are careless, if you choose that class of society whose mind and character have been cast in an inferior mold, we shall have no courage to help you. We wish to do all on our part that we can do, that you may make life a success. Without education you will not be fitted to engage in any work without embarrassment. 1LtMs, Lt 15, 1867, par. 3

You will have to study economy, for our means is limited, but you may depend on us that we will do on our part, if you are as earnest and faithful as you should be to do on your part. Economize your time, for you can do but little unless you do. Do not let your attention be taken up with the plans and projects of other youth around you, in seeking amusement and gratification, following your own desires, but work for your present and future good. 1LtMs, Lt 15, 1867, par. 4

Never be in so great a hurry, either for your own amusement or in your studies, as to forget to be attentive to your aged Grandfather and Grandmother White. Their heads are white with the frost of age. How long we may have the privilege of their presence and society we cannot tell, but while God spares them to us, let us love them and be very courteous to them. You can make them happy by your thoughtful attentions. Your youthful feet can run for them and you should always have something pleasant to tell them. Gather up no disagreeable things to relate to them, which will leave the faintest shadow upon their minds. And how happy you can make them by the knowledge that you are grandchildren of whom they are not ashamed. Let your conduct be such as will do credit to your father and mother and to your grandparents. We feel a reverence for the aged and we want you should show them respect whenever you meet them. I am pained as I travel from place to place to see how little respect and reverence is manifest by youth of this age toward men and women of gray hairs. Ever treat the aged with marked respect, be they strangers or acquaintances and relatives. If your grandfather and grandmother advise or reprove you, show them respect by heeding their counsel as readily as you would ours, and show them that you prize the interest that they manifest for you. God will bless you children if you will do right. 1LtMs, Lt 15, 1867, par. 5

In regard to your education, you will accomplish your purpose if you are not in too great haste. Edson, you were always in a hurry. Your safety is to make haste slowly. It requires time to obtain an education. Education means far more than many take in. It means a knowledge of practical life as well as book knowledge. If you move cautiously you will not fail. But I know you cannot endure constant application to study. We meet with physical and mental wrecks everywhere. These started in all wrong. They gave themselves wholly to the confinement of study, neglecting physical exercise. These should be beacons of warning to others not to be presumptuous and cherish only one idea and sacrifice everything that makes life valuable to obtain knowledge, which when gained they cannot put to practical use because health has been sacrificed in their efforts. Had these taken more time, combining physical labor with the taxation of the mind, they would have preserved both physical and mental vigor. 1LtMs, Lt 15, 1867, par. 6

We feel sad as we see youth so inconsiderate and thoughtless of health. They have been accustomed to active exertion in the open air. They change this for the confinement of the schoolroom or college, and soon health fails and they are obliged to give up the studying they commenced. They never reach that intellectual height they had hoped to reach. These began wrong and continued wrong. They did not mingle work with the taxation of the mental powers. The brain was overworked while other organs were left inactive. The result was the ruin of the physical and mental too. The value of health and how to preserve it should be your first study. Health is enjoyment and life. Health dedicated to God becomes the richest possession. No honor or wealth or learning will compensate for the loss of health. A capital of health is a fortune at interest and will support you. Squandered, it is a loss which never can be regained. 1LtMs, Lt 15, 1867, par. 7

For you to move cautiously is the only path of safety. And above everything else never forget the claims which God has upon you. It is our duty to pursue a course that will ensure to you health and vigor, that you may present to God a living sacrifice, not a diseased, half-decayed offering. You should feel that God enjoins upon you to eat and drink and dress and work and study in accordance with the laws of health and life, that no organ of your body or mind shall become enfeebled. After you do what you can on your part, you may then come to God and cast all your care upon Him who careth for you. 1LtMs, Lt 15, 1867, par. 8

There are many who complain of suffering much with debility and nameless complaints, when all they need is to become intelligent in regard to their own course of action to prevent disease. Students commit a great sin against themselves in shutting themselves up within enclosed walls to sedentary employment, or to study without indulging themselves in the luxury of spending hours daily in the fresh out-of-door air, cold or warm. Men and women must have plenty of sunlight and plenty of fresh air if they expect health. Do not say “Children, hover over the stove,” even on a cold day. Walk out, run, exercise yourselves at the wood pile. In this way you will harden yourselves to changes of weather. 1LtMs, Lt 15, 1867, par. 9

If the schoolroom is illy ventilated, do not remain in it the entire period of school hours. Ask to take your book and go into the open air. If in winter, put on your overcoat and mittens. Walk and study, for in this way you will give food to your lungs and strengthen your system to endure any amount of taxation. You have complained of headache because of heated rooms. If teachers and scholars are ignorant of the bad effects of these over-heated rooms, and will close the windows and take into their lungs the impure air, modestly ask the teacher to excuse you, telling them it is the positive request of your mother. If this is not granted, your only alternative is to leave school and we will be at the expense to employ a private teacher. I feel the necessity of your regarding these matters in their true light. Act up to the knowledge and intelligence you have. Health and life are not to be sacrificed to others’ whims. Because of their deficient education and their wrong habits, they have been educated and trained in these habits all their lives. Others should not be made to suffer for want of pure air to breathe because of these health destroying habits of some. 1LtMs, Lt 15, 1867, par. 10