Letters and Manuscripts — Volume 2 (1869 - 1875)


Lt 16, 1869

White, J. E.

Battle Creek, Michigan

December 11, 1869

Previously unpublished.

Dear Son Edson:

This is the first time I have attempted to write you since your absence. We have not forgotten you or ceased to pray for you, although we have not written. We have no evidence that our letters have been of any use to you, or rather that you have been benefitted by them or that you have even welcomed them. You have seldom ever taken any notice of them or made the least reference to them. We have thought we would not trouble you with letters, but I am not willing to come upon my bed of sickness, perhaps of death, without penning a few lines to you. Every line that I now write is in pain. My anxiety for you will never cease as long as you and I may live. Your father, as well as myself, is anxious for you to make a success of life. 2LtMs, Lt 16, 1869, par. 1

Some things have stood in the way of your prosperity in temporal and spiritual things. And what is discouraging is that you seem to be blind in regard to these things. You do not learn to shun the course which you have pursued which has brought unhappy results. I decided to let you follow your own course and learn by dear experience that which you would learn in no other way. This is a hard, painful position for a mother to be compelled to take toward a child she has an intense interest for. I do so dread to have you disappointed and mortified, when a right course of conduct pursued by yourself would save you and your friends disagreeable trials. 2LtMs, Lt 16, 1869, par. 2

You, my son, have not started right in life to make anything a success and when you fail as you have done in your hopes and expectations, you do not study carefully from cause to effect and take it to heart seriously that yourself is the cause of your many failures. You do not choose to learn to shun the cause which brings the trouble. 2LtMs, Lt 16, 1869, par. 3

You have false ideas of life. You have given unmistakable proofs of this every year since you have been old enough to act in any way for yourself. You have shown a positive weakness in vanity of dress, in ardent plans which would not admit of any delay in being carried out. Your views of the matter were of more value to you than the advice of your father or mother or their experience. To rush a thing through without delay has been your habit. Anything once in your mind must be acted upon. You would allow nothing to divert you from your purpose. As the result of this enthusiastic, headstrong, willful course, your entire life is composed of inglorious failures, and it will never be otherwise until you become a truly humble-minded, teachable boy. 2LtMs, Lt 16, 1869, par. 4

Your ways look right in your own eyes. But others know, others see. Men will not trust you. You wish to make a success of their business. You have the experience of your father and mother, of slowly and surely rising all the time, practicing the strictest economy. We know that God has blessed us and His prospering hand has attended us for our economy, our self-denial, and our careful use of the means He has entrusted to our care. You have these lessons all to learn. You have been unwilling to learn the lessons God would have you learn. You have been anxious to follow any new style of fashion and have shown but little soundness of mind in this respect. 2LtMs, Lt 16, 1869, par. 5

Brother Carr is a cautious man. He needs to be. He says he is hoping you will make a success of the business you are in, but he has his fears that you will fail. He sees you too liberal with your means, not careful to economize your pence, and no man can make a successful businessman who regards money so lightly as to let it slip from his fingers so readily. Every businessman is afraid of having one in his employ who spends money readily. You made the remark to him while you were at Battle Creek that you were going to take some comfort in going through the world, you were not going to be careful to work all the time, but take comfort as you go. Sensible men are afraid of such remarks as these. 2LtMs, Lt 16, 1869, par. 6

All these things hurt you, and the class of persons who thus boast and spread themselves are not the ones to take comfort or reap happiness as they go through the world. They are ever troubled with an unrest, a dissatisfaction. The only road for true happiness, whether you have ever experienced it or not, is in moving from principle, not impulse, not to make a show, not superficial in actions. Such men have a motive, an aim in life, and move forward steadily to the mark. No influence will be strong enough to cause them to swerve from their purposes of right and of virtuous, godly self-denial. Duty, industry first, and pleasure—the sweetest pleasure and most unalloyed happiness—will be found therein. 2LtMs, Lt 16, 1869, par. 7

I cannot feel reconciled to have you so slow to learn how sadly such remarks as I have written you work against your own interest. You may depend on it, when you are taken on trial in a business where much is at stake, you will be watched in the little things. If you are economical and faithful in the littles you will be judged faithful in larger things, but if unfaithful in the littles you will be unfaithful in greater matters. You cannot be depended on unless there is seen in the smallest matters a principle reaching down deep and controlling the springs of all your actions. 2LtMs, Lt 16, 1869, par. 8

Your reckless use of means and the little remorse you feel over the matter is marked. Your going, as you have done, out to Brother McDearmon’s so often has savored of weakness and extravagance. They do not think more highly of you for this extravagance. All these things cause them perplexity. In their consideration and calm judgment they know it is not the course for one to pursue who is trying to make himself capable of supporting a wife. A boy who has acquired nothing, although he has had good opportunities to lay up means, as the young men have had in the office, is looked upon with distrust. “We can’t trust him,” is the sentiment of more than half a dozen who could have given you a good chance. 2LtMs, Lt 16, 1869, par. 9

Yet you are so foolish you think happiness consists in doing just as you please and taking things easy. You “ain’t a-going to make yourself unhappy over a little money.” You will see, my poor boy, that you view matters from a wrong standpoint. You are not uniformly industrious. All who make a success of life had to be diligent, to deny self, mortifying self instead of making proud boasts of spreading themselves and indulging their vanity and their pride. The time is come for me to speak plainly. If we were worth a million of money, we could not conscientiously entrust you with one dollar while you pursue the course you have in the past. 2LtMs, Lt 16, 1869, par. 10

Brother and Sister McDearmon have a lively interest with us in your prosperity. They want you to succeed in business through your own individual effort. These were the conditions they required of you before they could commit their daughter to your care. Brother McDearmon repeated the same while on a visit to us a few days since. “Edson must,” said he, “prove himself a man of fixed principles, of steady, industrious habits, or we can never feel safe to trust a child of ours in his hands. Emma said he will do just as we say in the matter. She loves Edson with unwavering affection, but she is a girl of principle. We love her too well to let her go out from us upon uncertainties. If you, Brother White, should give Edson a sum of money, that would make no difference. We must see in him qualifications to handle and keep money and that he can economize as well as to gain by industry.” 2LtMs, Lt 16, 1869, par. 11

Emma has been living with us and will remain with us till New Year’s. We love her much. She is worth her weight in gold, yet we would not, even to gain her for a daughter, have her marry you, as you are not, with your present views and principles, worthy of Emma or capable of making her happy. You need a most thorough transformation. Heaven or eternity do not seem to have any weight with you. Your will, your way, your purposes are first and last with you. I have hardly mentioned your name to Emma, for I had no heart to do it. I have no pride or satisfaction in my son, no faithfulness to commend, or filial affection to boast of. 2LtMs, Lt 16, 1869, par. 12

You have upon holidays made presents, but they come out of us generally. Now, Edson, principle would lead you to be just before being generous. You have no sense of the battles of life. You will have to learn by dear experience. You might have been a sincere Christian, a dutiful son, a good business manager, but you spurned the advice given. It would be the delight of your father and myself to entrust you with means to help you, but we have fully decided that it would be squandering the money lent us of the Lord to do this. We never shall. You must from henceforth depend upon your own resources. 2LtMs, Lt 16, 1869, par. 13

When you can earn in strict industry and honesty the sum your father has named, he will add to it according to agreement. No better offer can we make you than this. Until you can show yourself capable of providing a home for a wife, we shall never sanction your having one. To have a fine, noble girl commit her happiness to your keeping in your present condition, with your false views and feelings, we shall hinder if we can. God would not hold us guiltless if we did not do this. 2LtMs, Lt 16, 1869, par. 14

We love you. You can be a man if you will. You can be a true Christian, governed by true religious principles. You can redeem the past. You seem to be infatuated by the devil. You don’t see yourself as you are. 2LtMs, Lt 16, 1869, par. 15

You made the remark to your mother that you would be glad when you were twenty-one. What a remark on your part! You who had been so dependent and so helpless to aid us, so selfish in all your views and plans. Money from us seemed to be all you cared for. Hundreds of dollars have been spent on your account, clothes purchased for you, your board paid. As yet you have never earned enough to clothe yourself, when you had your time as your own. And you were rejoicing that you were nearly twenty-one! How unbecoming! How blind in a boy that has been only a burden all his life. 2LtMs, Lt 16, 1869, par. 16

Now, my son, I speak plainly, for unless you awake soon to see yourself in your true light, you are ruined beyond remedy. How much treasure have you laid up in heaven? What reward have you there? What fruit have we in all the labor spent for you? You have become more and more indifferent and alienated from us, your true friends. You are a hopeless case unless you make an entire change. The greatest reformation must take place with you before you can be prepared for immortality. 2LtMs, Lt 16, 1869, par. 17

Dear son, it is sincere love for your soul that leads me to write. I warn you to beware how you move, what course you pursue. Be truthful, be strictly honest, be just what God can approve and we will be the happiest parents alive. 2LtMs, Lt 16, 1869, par. 18

Last night news came that the place was ours in Iowa. They had taken us at our offer. 2LtMs, Lt 16, 1869, par. 19

Your mother. 2LtMs, Lt 16, 1869, par. 20