Letters and Manuscripts — Volume 1 (1844 - 1868)


Lt 7, 1865

White, J. E.

Dansville, New York, “Our Home”

October 19, 1865

Portions of this letter are published in 4MR 95; 5MR 385.

Dear Son Edson:

It is now half past six o’clock. It is a dismal, dark, rainy morning. Can scarcely see to trace the lines while I write. 1LtMs, Lt 7, 1865, par. 1

Your father has passed a very restless night. He suffers considerably. Everything he eats hurts him but mush, yet he is patient and tries to bear up with good courage. He was troubled considerably last night with numbness. I rubbed his shoulders and arms, which gave him some relief. We find comfort in prayer and are often blessed. 1LtMs, Lt 7, 1865, par. 2

We received your letter and were pleased with it. At the same time we received one from Adelia giving us the particulars of your misfortune. This caused us sadness and grief and much anxiety. 1LtMs, Lt 7, 1865, par. 3

You know, Edson, I talked with you in regard to guns and firearms, and cautioned you to restrain yourself on these points lest you should obtain a passion to possess such things, which are dangerous. Do you remember this? But perhaps it had so little weight with you that you never thought of it again. When I have tried to counsel you kindly and reason with you, you have sat and made no response, as though you were a piece of machinery I was talking to instead of a reasoning being. This has grieved me, that my eldest son could not at all appreciate a mother’s anxious solicitude for her boy enough to frankly open his mind to her and confidingly let her know his heart secrets. I wish you to read again the long letter written you from Illinois. Had that letter had the influence on you it should have had, your present misfortune would not have been. 1LtMs, Lt 7, 1865, par. 4

Edson, I cannot tell you how badly I have felt to have individuals tell me that I did not know you nor know what you were doing much of the time. I have reason to know that there was at least reason for them to make this statement. Now we have been laboring directly with you in regard to keeping things from us and not giving us your confidence, yet at the same time you continued to keep your secrets, to have your notions and plans and fancies, and to hide them from your father and mother, who have a right to know what you are doing. I have said enough on this point. 1LtMs, Lt 7, 1865, par. 5

You may feel to blame the brethren and sisters because they surmise things in regard to you that are not correct. But, Edson, your own course, my poor boy, has led them to suspicion you, and they may have done so in instances when you were not guilty. But when they see you going directly against that which they know to be our express wishes, see you secretly making trades, borrowing firearms, and concealing it carefully from us, can you, my dear boy, wonder that they lack confidence in you as an obedient, faithful, truthful boy? They may imagine you would go to any lengths in deception. You write me in regard to your keeping your promise to me in regard to eating. I see nothing to censure in the instances you have mentioned to me. You say to me, “You do not know your son.” Perhaps we do not, but, Edson, late revelations have shown us that we did not know you. We did not know to what lengths the enemy was leading you. 1LtMs, Lt 7, 1865, par. 6

We want to know our son, to know that we can rely upon his fidelity to us and that he will be true to what he knows to be right principles. You can, by your noble frankness in your future course, blot out this now dark blot upon your Christian character, and you can take a course to establish our confidence in you. Your father and myself have the tenderest, kindest feelings towards you. We sympathize with you in your present suffering, and if your hand proves to be crippled that you can no longer play on the melodeon we shall try to comfort and not blame you. You are a boy who can feel, and you must have felt punished for your disregard of our wishes and for your disobedience to us. 1LtMs, Lt 7, 1865, par. 7

I have faithfully warned you of your influence over Willie. You have been teaching him terrible lessons of deception. May God forgive you! I entreat of you to closely examine yourself—your past course—and write me frankly what you think of it, if your right hand is not the afflicted one. If you cannot write, let Adelia write for you. This is no time, my dear boy, to deceive yourself or to deceive us. We are in deep affliction on account of your father. God is bringing us very low, making us very humble, and it becomes us, your parents, to carefully consider the events of our past life and see the wrongs, the mistakes we have made and confess them before God and others that they may now be healed and finally be blotted out. 1LtMs, Lt 7, 1865, par. 8

It becomes you, Edson, to humble yourself before God. Confess your errors, your mistakes, to God, to us, and to those who have manifested an interest for you that you may be healed, forgiven of God for your past offenses, and by your thorough repentance and reform establish the confidence of your parents in you that those whom God loves can love you and confide in you. As a family let us draw nigh to God that He may draw nigh to us. Oh, Edson, look at your example! Reflect and inquire of what profit will it be for you in the end to choose your own way, to follow the course you have done. You will reap what you have sowed. 1LtMs, Lt 7, 1865, par. 9

In answer to our earnest prayers your heavenly Father has raised you up several times when you seemed to be almost in the icy arms of death. How anxiously should you labor to make your lease of life which God has granted you of service to others and to glorify God by your Christian course. Henry, my first-born, was removed from us to save him. Oh, Edson, will you suffer your mind to be controlled by the enemy until, to save us from being brought to shame by an ungrateful, disobedient boy, you will be cut down just as you enter your manhood, and we be compelled to lay you away to molder to dust? God forbid it, is our prayer. May our children live and by their obedience and right doing honor us and be a comfort to us. You know just what course to pursue to do right and adorn your profession. O, seek to be thorough in all your Christian duties. 1LtMs, Lt 7, 1865, par. 10

Edson, we think Marcus has had an injurious influence upon you. We have told you to shun his company. And now it is your father and mother’s special request that you keep no company with Marcus Ashley. I have told Edson that his own sister and mother have said he was reckless and kept dissolute company. Shut out the tempter every way you can. “One sinner doeth much harm.” [Ecclesiastes 9:18.] It has been told me that you were seen riding with the Walters girl. I do not charge this upon you as a grievous sin, but you are well aware that we would not approve of your showing partiality or attention to any young miss at your age. When you are old enough to begin to manifest preference for any particular one we are the ones to be consulted and to choose for you. I wish you to be careful of your acts, not make yourself foolish and a subject of ridicule. You are but a boy yet. Will you please to remember it, and rely upon your parents’ advice and instruction? 1LtMs, Lt 7, 1865, par. 11

Now, dear Son, I have written this hurriedly for I have but little time. It takes most all my time to wait upon your father. But be assured no one can have half the interest for you that we have, no one can have that tender solicitude and affection that we have. Your father and myself bow before God three times a day and pray earnestly that God will have a care for you and will love you, and that His angels will guard you. 1LtMs, Lt 7, 1865, par. 12

We are hoping and praying to get well that we may return to you—not to plunge into business as we have done and leave you poor boys to take care of yourselves, but we are going to spend more time with you, seeking to make you and Willie happy. We will have more recreation and less work. Only be a good boy, seek to get into an acceptable state before God, and we will love you and confide in you and will not censure your little mistakes but will advise and counsel you for your good. 1LtMs, Lt 7, 1865, par. 13

From your affectionate mother. 1LtMs, Lt 7, 1865, par. 14