Letters and Manuscripts — Volume 2 (1869 - 1875)


Ms 3, 1872

Orphan Children



Previously unpublished.

The cases of orphan children have been shown me, their dangers and their errors. Among them I was shown the case of the Curtis children. They had serious defects in their organization that made it a discouraging business for anyone who should have a care for them. The young girls are impulsive and act without due consideration and forethought. They move just as they happen to feel. They do not love discipline or order. They do not lay their plans in the morning, take care and relieve others of responsibilities. They do what they are told, if it pleases them so to do. And if they are not pleased, if they are reproved for carelessness and neglect, they think that they are not treated kindly, and cherish thoughts that they are misused, and that those who have the responsibility of their case are exacting, overbearing, and hard upon them. This makes it a thankless task for those who have the care of them. They have to be put to the inconvenience of being constantly annoyed with their lack of care, their thoughtless inattention to duty, their reckless ways. And if their guardians speak to them as they should to correct their faults, there are unhappy feelings at once. 2LtMs, Ms 3, 1872, par. 1

These children do not consider how much trouble and anxiety they make others, but they feel grieved that they are reproved, instead of feeling grieved over their errors and wrongs. And what makes the case still worse, these sisters, when they get together, talk over the matters that have transpired where they have thought that they were not dealt tenderly with. They give mutual expression of their feelings, and strengthen each other to feel dissatisfied with their condition, and they really think that they are having a hard time. 2LtMs, Ms 3, 1872, par. 2

It is unfortunate that these children have the stamp of character which they now bear. The mother of these children was a good woman, but lacked essential qualifications necessary for a wife and mother. She did not love domestic duties. The father has not foresight and calculation. He moves as he feels, acts from impulse, is weak in moral power, and deficient in discernment. He picks at straws, stumbles over little things, sees much to find fault with that he should not notice. He ever sees something to be tried with. He does not know how to use means judiciously. Their children have the stamp of character of their parents, which is their misfortune. Had the father been a man of stability of character, having principle underlying the spring of action, he would not have pursued the course he has in shifting the responsibility of his family upon others. Had he felt the manly, paternal feelings which should dwell in the bosom of every father, he would not, for any consideration, have suffered his children to be separated from him and from one another. The father in a certain sense divorces his children, the fruit of his own body, and marries a family who have no claims upon him. 2LtMs, Ms 3, 1872, par. 3

These children need to be transformed. They need to cultivate a love of submission and obedience. They may overcome almost wholly the natural defects in their organization by careful culture of the faculties where they are deficient. One of the greatest deficiencies in their character is their seeming inability to take care. They have not cultivated principle. They feel under no moral obligation to be true and faithful from a religious standpoint. 2LtMs, Ms 3, 1872, par. 4

It is a sad thing that these children bear the stamp of character that they do. They need to be transformed. They should with resolution take hold of the work, and cultivate a love of submission and obedience. They can overcome the defects in their organization if they make earnest and persevering efforts. One great lack is inability to take care unless someone is by to enumerate every item to be done at the very time you want them done. If they reasoned, they might know that these things must be done every day; yet every day you must repeat the same things, and those with whom they live must bear these things on their minds because they have these girls with them who neglect to think themselves, but leave others to do their thinking for them. 2LtMs, Ms 3, 1872, par. 5

Although these children are more or less religiously inclined, yet they are not at all conscientious. Emma and May, especially, are very deficient. They feel under no moral obligation to be true and faithful because it is a duty they owe to their guardians, and to God. They are eyeservants. They have professed to be followers of Christ, but they are not transformed by the renewing of the mind; they are not sanctified through the truth. They have a great sense of moving as they please, with a persistent way of their own, and when interfered with they are inclined to feel that they are misused. There is a difference. Some of the children are of a sullen disposition, secretive, and they do not frankly express their feelings. But if their guardians require them to do that which is not agreeable, they are offended in spirit and cherish hateful feelings which they will not hesitate to talk to others, and give impressions that are incorrect, and create sympathy which they do not deserve. 2LtMs, Ms 3, 1872, par. 6

These dear children will have to work diligently if they form characters that God can accept. Time is short, and they have no time to devote to following inclination rather than duty. It is the most difficult task to discipline these children to habits of order. They are reckless and careless. If they had their own way they would lie in bed in the morning and sit up, if they were inclined so to do, till very late at night, not because they were compelled to, but from habit and desire. These irregular habits unfit them to think and to do their duty with care and faithfulness during the day. 2LtMs, Ms 3, 1872, par. 7

These sisters talk together and sympathize with one another. Yet these children cannot get along with one another in living together. They are too much alike to be patient and forbearing with each other. They are better separated. But there is a mutual agreement in questioning and finding fault with those who have the care and burdens, because of a peculiar temperament of these children. If these sisters would have wisdom to call the attention of each other to their faults, to correct and reform where they need to improve, then they would be helping in the right direction. But it is a thankless task for those who have these children in their families, when they do not see their own errors and think they are abused if they are reproved and disciplined. 2LtMs, Ms 3, 1872, par. 8

These sisters appeal to their own sympathizers, look upon the dark side, and inwardly fret when they dare not give expression to their feelings. They have much to learn to put away their sullen tempers, weeping over their supposed hard fate, instead of trying earnestly to be faithful, to think, to take care, to be true, and to cherish habits of order and train their minds to redeem the defects in their character. 2LtMs, Ms 3, 1872, par. 9

These children must be willing to be corrected, and not despise reproof, or they will be useless. The same imperfections existing in the duties and transactions of their temporal life, will be carried into their religious experience, and they will be found wanting in their religious life. Now is the time for them to wash their robes and make them white in the blood of the Lamb. They may remove the defects in their character by washing in the blood of Christ. If these sisters would not inflame each other and help on the dissatisfaction existing, it would be much better for them all. 2LtMs, Ms 3, 1872, par. 10

Some of these children have made great improvement, but there is room left for greater improvement still. There is room for every one of these young girls to improve in care-taking and in thinking. If many moments that are spent in singing should be devoted to self-examination and prayer, they would make greater advancement in thinking of their duties that should be done so that others may not be brought into perplexity by finding things neglected, that they expect to find done, because they forget to do them. 2LtMs, Ms 3, 1872, par. 11

There is a time to sing, a time to talk, a time to weep, but to mix up all these exercises with important duties is not just the thing. When a throw-off-care singing is indulged in, and the mind is not taxed to have care and do the duties that should be done, it is like the schoolboy playing truant to get rid of the lessons at school. 2LtMs, Ms 3, 1872, par. 12

Of course, such workers as these are only burdens; they bring a heavier care than all they can do will be worth. When the thinking is done for the day, and when singing will not lead to reckless forgetfulness, it is no sin to sing. 2LtMs, Ms 3, 1872, par. 13

It is a disagreeable task for the head of the family in the household department to be obliged to see for herself what must be done and tell her help everything that needs to be done. They have eyes and capabilities and can see if they choose to see and can do if they choose to do. But the inclination to neglect and pass over things that ought every day to be done and is in their line of duty to perform, displeases God and heavenly angels. Can Jesus say to these girls, who neglect their duty and make burdens for others by their heedlessness, “Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things”? [Matthew 25:23.] Christ will not commend any for faithfulness unless they have earned this commendation by diligent use of their privileges and the faithful discharge of their duty. The sin of the slothful servant was not because of his great vileness and unsurpassed wickedness, but he was neglectful in doing the work he ought to have done. His sin was in not doing. He was a slothful servant and lost all because he did not do the things he might have done. He neglected to perform the everyday duties of life. Simple though these may be, they are of consequence in the sight of God. Oh, how many will lose heaven because they do not attach sufficient importance to the little duties of life. 2LtMs, Ms 3, 1872, par. 14

May, you have your mind occupied with reading or talking, constantly talking. If you disregard religious things, and have no interest for your own soul’s salvation, there is no virtue in our trying to help you to a home, and to do for you. I think now you had better go to the Institute and quit school for awhile and labor in the Institute and be disciplined there until you are reformed and you have a different spirit. I sent Loa from me, the reasons you know as well as I, because she did not improve and appreciate the blessings we bestowed on her. We shall do the same by you. You need to be converted, for as you are you will certainly be unfit for heaven. 2LtMs, Ms 3, 1872, par. 15