Letters and Manuscripts — Volume 2 (1869 - 1875)


Lt 6, 1871

White, J. E.

Battle Creek, Michigan

April 2, 1871

Previously unpublished.

Dear Son Edson:

I have read your last two letters to your father and am not pleased with the tone of them. I fear you are standing in your own light. 2LtMs, Lt 6, 1871, par. 1

My dear son, your father has dealt very liberally with you. Please look back and consider the money he has expended on you, commencing at Albion. Your time was his until you were twenty-one; all you earned belonged rightly to your father. But consider you were no help to us. We were helping you, but never you us. Now my son, had your father had your time in faithful service until you were twenty-one, then you would be entitled to consideration; but he did not have it. You were a grief to us instead of a blessing. 2LtMs, Lt 6, 1871, par. 2

Now, Edson, your father has been disposed to do more for you than I ever thought he would feel that he conscientiously could. His heart has been drawn out in love to you. Nothing could make us feel disinclined to help you like the manifestation on your part of distrust and of grasping. We fear that to do for you would only increase your acquisitiveness and be as so many bands to fasten you to the world and separate you farther from God by your placing affections upon it. 2LtMs, Lt 6, 1871, par. 3

We are God’s stewards, and we must render an account for all the means He has entrusted to our care. Although you are our son, it would be wrong for us to put means in your hands to place your heart upon and draw your affections from God. 2LtMs, Lt 6, 1871, par. 4

My dear boy, we do love you sincerely. If we thought God would be glorified by our giving you the farm outright, we would do so. But we dare not do it; and we feel grieved that you feel just as you do. It only has the effect to lead us to fear we have been hasty in doing as much as we have. We do not want you to work beyond your strength for the bread that perisheth while you neglect to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. Trust in your father; be grateful for his liberality and kindness that you have not merited, and be content to climb slowly, making religion the basis of your action. Your father will do his part, I warrant you. You need not mistrust him. 2LtMs, Lt 6, 1871, par. 5

Father is unwilling to encourage you to give a mortgage on your place. He wants you either to send the deed from Brother McDearmon or return the money. You, my son, are working against yourself. There is no manor of reason for this anxiety on your part. Your father, to help you, pays for the place, takes the deed, and saves you above one hundred dollars interest per year, and yet you are not satisfied. If, say you, Father should meet with misfortune you would lose all. Your father has been a careful, judicious manager and there is not one chance in a thousand of your father, by mismanagement, meeting with loss. This property is located where it will not decrease in value, but increase. There is insurance on this place; also upon the one in Iowa. 2LtMs, Lt 6, 1871, par. 6

My dear son, we are anxious to see you governed by right motives and principles. You are too anxious. Whenever you have come in a strait place we have helped you, and if you take a course that we think God would approbate, we shall continue to do so. But Edson, if you make that small spot of land your highest ambition, to the neglect of your eternal interest, you will meet with a loss for which you can never be compensated. If, while you are trying to acquire earthly treasure necessary for your sustenance, you feel still that above every earthly advantage the eternal must be made secure by your laying up a treasure in heaven, you are safe. You are not then building upon the sand, but upon the rock. If sickness or adversity comes, like a wise master builder you have made provision and are safe. 2LtMs, Lt 6, 1871, par. 7

We fear for you, my dear boy. We want you and Emma to be comfortable and happy in this life, but above all to have the better life. While you are so anxious to secure a right to a title to an earthly, perishable treasure, we long to see a corresponding zeal in securing a sure title to the mansion above. While you are zealous that you should run no risk here of meeting with loss of a small spot of this earth, we want you to feel the necessity of making sure to have a treasure in the heavens that is imperishable, where no thief approacheth or moth corrupteth; where there is no danger of investing time or interest without large returns. If you pursue a course which God can approbate and you can have His blessing, you are rich indeed, if you own not one foot of earthly soil. 2LtMs, Lt 6, 1871, par. 8

I appeal to you, my dear children, Edson and Emma, to make diligent work in securing the eternal. Neglect not a preparation for the better life. Seek, o seek diligently, for purity of heart and holiness of life, and be the servants of the heavenly King who has given you every evidence of how highly He values your souls by dying to ransom you from the claims of Satan. Now will you show your allegiance to this your best, your truest Friend, by yielding to Him your best and holiest affections? Will you lay at His feet your all—your influence, your talents, your entire being—to work for His glory? Your interest should not come first. Said the heavenly Teacher: “Seek ye first (in all the pursuits of life) the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all things shall be added.” [Matthew 6:33.] 2LtMs, Lt 6, 1871, par. 9

Why do you labor and fret yourselves for that which is not bread, for the meat which perisheth? Is not the eternal, immortal life more than meat? Hang your hopes upon Jesus. Maintain a close walk with God. Be true to your own soul, be true to God, and His blessing will attend you. He will prosper all you set your hand unto. His love will encircle you. His guarding angels will minister unto you. But if you neglect your duty to God, if you cease to walk humbly before Him, if you turn your heart from God and forget Him, how can you expect prosperity, health, or peace? All that is good comes from above. Look not then to the earth alone to bring you happiness and prosperity, because if you do you will be miserably disappointed. Look up. Make God your trust. Walk tremblingly and carefully before Him. Fear to move without His counsel, and you are safe whether you live or die. 2LtMs, Lt 6, 1871, par. 10

Let us hear from you, my children. We want to know whether you will live for God; whether you will be true and loyal servants of the Most High God or serve your own interest and risk the consequences. We have given ourselves to the service of God. We have not studied our own interest, our ease, or our earthly advantage. We have not dared to move in anything without praying to God to lead and control our matters Himself. This is why we have been blessed and prospered of God. This is why we have something in this life. And we dare not take this means and without the sanction of God give it to our son, even if we love him ever so dearly, when we have evidences his own interest is first with him, his eternal secondary. 2LtMs, Lt 6, 1871, par. 11

We feel but little satisfaction in helping you as you now feel, and with the spirit you now manifest. Look, O look, my dear children, at what I have written candidly. Do not pass it by without taking it to heart. Father has not asked me to write or told me what to write. I am writing from a sense of duty. 2LtMs, Lt 6, 1871, par. 12

Your affectionate Mother. 2LtMs, Lt 6, 1871, par. 13

A Few Words

Dear children, you are both of you qualified to do good. You have both had advantages. The light of truth has shone upon your pathway. Do not fail to realize that you are accountable to God for all these things. Your talents are not given you of God for the purpose of merely serving yourselves, of benefiting and pleasing yourselves. God will require the talents He has lent you, even if it were only one. You have the example of the man in the Scripture to whom He entrusted only one talent. He hid it in the earth, and you are acquainted with his reward, or the merited punishment he received. You have, neither of you, any right to bury your whole interest in the earth and benefit only yourselves by your living. Your talents, which God has lent you, are given you to improve upon and to increase. If you have large talents, you are accountable for their improvement. If you have less, you are accountable not for a large number of talents but for a lesser number of talents. 2LtMs, Lt 6, 1871, par. 14

May the Lord impress your mind with the duties resting upon you. Your influence can be of that character to benefit others, to bless others. In what way shall this influence be exerted? Shall it lead minds, by your example and precepts, to ambition and zeal to obtain the things of this life? Or shall your influence be ever tending to lead the affections up to God and to secure the better life? 2LtMs, Lt 6, 1871, par. 15

Dear children: Live for God. Watch and pray. Do not, I entreat of you, neglect secret prayer. Glorify God upon the Sabbath. Do not seek to divert your minds with reading or with writing which will not increase your spiritual strength. Remember the claims that God has upon you. When the Master comes He will say, Give account of thy stewardship. The mind will not naturally tend upward. Every earthly influence has a tendency to draw the affections from God. Therefore we must train the mind to be elevated heavenward, loving that which God loves, hating that which God hates. Will you dedicate yourselves anew to God? Will you strive to educate the mind to love to meditate upon heavenly things? 2LtMs, Lt 6, 1871, par. 16


Now, Edson, I deeply regret that you have written what you have, because I have urged your father to do some things he would not have done in his own judgment. And now he feels that he has made a mistake. Please look this matter right in the face. You plead in one letter that you could not have courage to work as though the place were your own because it would seem that you were working to improve another man’s place. Who is that other man but your own father? How much better would your letter have sounded had it run thus, that you would seek to improve the place, although you could not call it your own until the payments were met, and “in taking care of your property, Father, which I one day hope to possess, I will by my care and judicious labor seek to redeem the past neglect of my life which should have benefited you.” 2LtMs, Lt 6, 1871, par. 17

You manifest extreme selfishness. Look at it, Edson. Have we not helped you liberally to clothing when you were married? Did not your father do more than you had any right to expect of him? Did he not manifest an unselfish, liberal spirit? We then helped you to some things which you did not expect in bedclothing. With your father’s sanction, I sent you trunks containing things you needed in order to save your paying out means. I also took Emma to my heart as a dear daughter and helped her to some things gladly, with father’s consent. I carried you furniture with his sanction. 2LtMs, Lt 6, 1871, par. 18

When you came here last with Emma, we did all we could to help you. Father interested himself for you, let you have his horse and helped you to a wagon. The horse we have really needed, but father has inconvenienced himself to help you. He has given you [much] from time to time, as he did the seeds and sums of money. Then, Edson, you know what I have done besides this. In view of these things, your letters are certainly out of place. They place you in an unfavorable light before us and lead us to think we have erred, that the more we do the more you expect we will do, and the more will you try to get by imprudent labor beyond your strength. 2LtMs, Lt 6, 1871, par. 19

If you can in any way remove the unfavorable impression that you do not appreciate and are not thankful for what has been done, I hope you will do so. You had no need to lay out so much work and labor so hard. We have our fears that you will be suddenly prostrated by sickness, but we hope not. We wish you happiness and prosperity. 2LtMs, Lt 6, 1871, par. 20

Your Mother. 2LtMs, Lt 6, 1871, par. 21

P.S. Now, Edson, your letters only confirm your father in the fears that he has had that he has done too much for you. When you left he stated to me your feelings in reference to the seeds, which led him to feel that you were grasping, that you did not feel grateful for what we had done for you. Remember, these things live in your father’s mind. An unfavorable impression is not easily effaced. Do what you can now to undo the effect of these letters. 2LtMs, Lt 6, 1871, par. 22

Remember, Edson, you could have shared our burdens but did not. Children generally work for their parents’ interest and help them to gather what they have. You have not done this, and you have no part in what the Lord has given us only as we feel it our duty to help you to think seriously of these things. For you to come up boldly to claims, like a son who has been true and served us, is out of place. 2LtMs, Lt 6, 1871, par. 23