Letters and Manuscripts — Volume 1 (1844 - 1868)


Lt 4, 1865

White, J. E.

Crane’s Grove, Illinois

June 20, 1865

Portions of this letter are published in 4MR 173-177; 6MR 298-299.

[Note written at top of page:] Read this alone, Private:

My dear Son Edson:

We received letters from home with gladness, but were a little disappointed that none came from you or Willie. I should not have expected much from Willie, but you can write, Edson. 1LtMs, Lt 4, 1865, par. 1

I think much of home and cannot but be quite anxious for you, Edson, especially. When all around me are locked in slumber I am kept awake with anxiety and I can only obtain relief in silent prayer to God. I understand your dangers and your temptations as few parents can, for He who understandeth the secrets of the heart has been pleased to show me your peculiar dangers and besetments. I do not think you understand your dangers. It is my anxiety and fears in regard to you which have prevented my sleeping nights and have brought upon me dyspepsia. Sadness of spirits and heaviness of heart, which are wearing me down and bringing debility upon me affect the digestive organs and cause inaction of the liver. 1LtMs, Lt 4, 1865, par. 2

I am troubled in regard to you and do not feel at ease at any time. And when I see you disposed to take a course which is not in accordance with your profession, and which I know will prove an injury to yourself by placing you in the enemy’s power, my feelings are intense and a weight of sadness settles upon me which it seems impossible for me to throw off. It binds me like fetters. 1LtMs, Lt 4, 1865, par. 3

As I have seen in you, my poor boy, a disposition to disobedience, I have also seen a yielding to temptation to prevaricate—to speak plainly, to deceive us. This commenced by an unwillingness to let us know the secrets of your heart. You would have plans formed which you would keep secret from your father and mother, fearing that you would meet opposition in some of your projects or fond plans, and when questioned you have evaded or thrown a different shade upon and around the matter under inspection. Too frequently this has been received by us and we have thus been deceived. You knew we did not know just how the matter stood; you wished us to be in darkness in regard to your doings. 1LtMs, Lt 4, 1865, par. 4

This spirit of concealment has increased upon you until you are controlled by it in a great measure and your course has been marked by deception and falsehood and you have tried to hide the enormity of this thing from your own conscience. By frequently violating your conscience it has lost much of its tender susceptibility. Every instance when you fall into this deplorable habit binds the chains of the enemy upon you and makes you his captive and a more easy subject for his entire control. You may have become so darkened and hardened by these repeated efforts at concealment and deception that these facts plainly written by a mother’s hand, painfully and with an aching heart, may seem like idle tales and may make no lasting impression upon you for good. 1LtMs, Lt 4, 1865, par. 5

I could refer you to many instances of your equivocating, but perhaps this would be of no use. The only instance I will now mention is your deception practiced upon us in regard to obtaining a carriage after Adelia’s marriage. You deceived us, to all intents and purposes. I cannot gloss this over, neither have I been able to for a moment since the occurrence. In my own mind I can call it nothing but falsehood, dark falsehood. Satan may have so deceived you that it may look to you like a light matter, that unnecessary words are used about it. But, Edson, such things are recorded in God’s book as falsehoods, nothing less. I intended to talk with you again and present that matter in its true, unvarnished bearings before you, but did not. I saw so much of a disposition in you to violate your conscience and force yourself to think the matter all right that I said to myself, It is no use. My words fail to make the slightest impression. Satan has such control of his mind that he has glossed over glaring lies and made them as though truth to him. 1LtMs, Lt 4, 1865, par. 6

These traits in your character cause me such grief, such continued and constant sadness, that life to me is not very pleasant or desirable. The future—O how I dread it, day and night! You—now my oldest son, ripening into manhood—you who should be the soul of honor! Your parents, who live for you and are desirous of your present and future happiness, see you taking a course which leads them often to doubt what you say and to look upon you distrustingly because they know that you are often planning and entering into schemes and enterprises and concealing it from those who gave you birth, who have the right to know every cherished plan, that they may give the advice a boy of your critical age needs. This concealment has led to serious, dangerous, and soul-destroying evils, to which you, my poor, erring boy, have suffered Satan to blind your mind. This habit of deceiving us has grown upon you. Deception and lying join hands with disobedience. 1LtMs, Lt 4, 1865, par. 7

You have a strong, set will. You make up your mind to do a thing and do not discipline your mind to yield, to be submissive, to give up your plans which are very pleasing to your own fancy. When opposed by your parents in something you had planned, you outwardly yielded, yet kept it all in your mind, did not give it up at once but kept studying upon it. Your many notions may seem valuable and right to your own inexperienced mind. The experienced minds of your parents may see the foolishness and perhaps hidden danger in these things. But you cherish your own notions and then Satan tempts you to carry out your strong desires unbeknown to your parents. Thus you have been led on to think you understand what is right and best. In our presence you may comply with our wishes, but in our absence you feel restraint gone and do those things that, if you would reflect you would know that we would not allow or consent to your doing. This is what has led you into nearly all the trouble you have ever known. You disobey us in our absence. 1LtMs, Lt 4, 1865, par. 8

When we went to Monterey last summer, for instance, you went into the river four times and not only disobeyed us yourself but led Willie to disobedience. A thorn has been planted in my heart from that time, when I became convinced that you could not be trusted. I am not easy any time, whether at home or abroad. You have followed your own will and projects so many times, concealing all from us, going directly contrary to all our counsel, advice, and prohibitions, that we cannot depend upon you, and this painful fact has been so evinced in your character that you are associated in my mind not with pleasant thoughts but with most painful fears and forebodings. Instead of being a comfort you are a source of painful anxiety. We are puzzled, and at times stupefied with amazement and anguish. We promise nothing in regard to you. Unless you can see these sad traits in your character and shall take hold of your case with zeal, obtaining your strength from God, your case is hopeless. 1LtMs, Lt 4, 1865, par. 9

My reflections are very sad in connection with you, Edson. You who ought to be my noble, truthful boy, a staff to your father, who is worn with care and constant labor, a comfort to your mother who has nursed you in sickness and cared for you in health. What can cause greater sorrow to parents with high principles and a keen sense of the beauty and importance of truth than to become convinced of the fact that their children are not truthful, that they have learned to deceive? I have felt sometimes as though a blight had fallen over all our future prospects, as though my precious plants were already blighted. Thorns and briers have sprung up in my garden and choked the seed which I have tried to sow. You may say, “Dear me, Mother feels very keenly over trifles. I may not have been exactly truthful in little trifles.” Trifles! Dear boy, there are no such things as trifles. Till truth itself is a trifle and valueless, no departure from it in any case can be called so. 1LtMs, Lt 4, 1865, par. 10

Dear Edson, permit your own deep-feeling, tender-hearted Mother to appeal to you while her tears cannot be restrained. You have so long cherished little habits of concealment (especially from your dear father), so long retreated from openness and candor, that you have become habitually secretive, even when there is often no inducement to be so. This makes you unsatisfactory, unstable, and insincere in character. Your habit of excusing and justifying yourself is often contrary to your convictions of truth. Every act of this kind is doing much toward forming your character hereafter. 1LtMs, Lt 4, 1865, par. 11

Edson, in youth or early years we can trace the characteristics of riper years. The rank and noisome weeds of falsehood and deceit, which choke the precious plants of candor and truth, are sown in the springtime of youth. They flourish in a soil too friendly to their growth, even the human unrenewed heart which God’s Word declares to be “deceitful above all things and desperately wicked.” [Jeremiah 17:9.] After indulging in deception or concealing things from your parents, prevarication comes next; which is a mean, cowardly sort of lying. The path of truth is always safe, straight, and easy; that of deceit has so many windings and turnings that one deviation from uprightness and candor may lead to a thousand deceptions which were not anticipated at the first. A love for candor and truth is respected and loved by everyone not excepting those who place no estimate upon it for its own sake. Concealment, my dear boy, is the child of transgression. 1LtMs, Lt 4, 1865, par. 12

I have many fears that your strong, set will will prove your ruin. Your favorite plans look so perfect to you you cannot see anything like failure in them, and when we oppose them then you still cherish them and secretly nourish them and carry them out if you possibly can, when you know well enough that it is contrary to our judgment and wishes. You have chosen your own judgment and followed the bent of your own mind which has led to greater evil. One evil has been unfaithfulness. The most positive and particular directions given to you are not remembered to the fulfilling of them. Your mind is almost constantly in such a frame as to make it easy to forget. Perhaps you neglect to do these things when you do remember, through a desire to do something which strikes your mind as more pleasing. These constant failures wear us, and compel us to come to the conclusion that instead of being our comfort, our dependence, you will be a source of grief and anxiety as long as you live. 1LtMs, Lt 4, 1865, par. 13

Unfaithfulness is a characteristic of your life. Your mind seems all unsettled. You are not thorough in that which you undertake. I am satisfied that you see no necessity of disciplining your mind. You do not have any system. This you could have if you are inclined to, but you let your mind ramble too much upon this and that scheme and different projects, and do not confine your mind upon the everyday duties which devolve upon you. He that is unfaithful in little is unfaithful in much. Unfaithfulness marks your life, and you deceive yourself in the matter and think that the failure is in others instead of yourself. 1LtMs, Lt 4, 1865, par. 14

Now, Edson, I wish to speak of the evil of these things in another direction. We are not only distressed beyond measure at the seeming hopelessness of reform in you, but a gloom which I cannot express shrouds our minds in regard to your influence upon Willie. You lead him into habits of disobedience and concealment and prevarication. This influence, we have seen, has affected our noble-hearted, truthful Willie. You do things and enjoin upon him strict secrecy, and when questioned he evades it by saying, “I don’t know,” when he does know, and thus you lead him to lie in order to keep concealed your cherished, darling projects. This is the most heart-rending of all. You reason and talk and make things appear all smooth to him, when he cannot see through the matter. He adopts your view of it and he is in danger of losing his candor, his frankness. 1LtMs, Lt 4, 1865, par. 15

O, Edson, it is the knowledge of these things that is wearing me out and bringing upon me discouragement which will compel me to cease laboring in the cause of God. Such anxiety for Edson and your younger brother is destroying [my] courage and making me too weak to labor in the gospel field. Can you see the weighty responsibility which rests upon you? Satan controls your mind and you yield your mind to his control. He knows that it is the surest dart he can aim at us to hinder our labors among God’s people, to so influence your mind that we shall have sorrow and a weight of sadness on your account. Are you willing to bear this responsibility? If Willie’s mind is injured and his fine sense of right blunted, you can reflect it is your own work. You have had a greater influence over him than any other one. 1LtMs, Lt 4, 1865, par. 16

We have again felt very sorry that you had so little sense of the true value of character. You seemed as much pleased in the society of Marcus Ashley as with your own innocent brother Willie. You never prized him as he deserved to be prized. He is a treasure, beloved of God, but I fear your influence will ruin him. My poor Willie! I see no way for us but to cease traveling and do what we can to save our own children. I have lost confidence in you and I think you would avail yourself of opportunities in our absence to gratify your propensity to go on the water. You know that we should not be pleased with this, but I fear this would not be sufficient to restrain you in your strong desire to go on the river. I think every day it would be nothing strange if my boys should go on the water contrary to our wishes, and one or both of them be drowned in their act of disobedience. Satan would then have gained his object and our cup of sorrow would be full. We should go down to the grave mourning that our boys were forever separated from us, that we should not meet them in the resurrection morning. 1LtMs, Lt 4, 1865, par. 17

My dear Edson, you must render an account for the influence you exert. You have been blessed with good instruction and more is expected of you than of the generality of boys. I do not love to cause you pain, but I dare not withhold from you the light in which I view your case. Edson, I have seen in you a sort of vanity and pride which has hurt me. I felt sad every time I saw you wear that gold watch with that heavy chain. 1LtMs, Lt 4, 1865, par. 18