Letters and Manuscripts — Volume 4 (1883 - 1886)


Ms 53, 1886

At Bienne

Lausanne, Switzerland

March 22, 1886

Portions of this manuscript are published in EGWE 172.

Left Basel March 19 for Bienne in company with Elder Whitney, W. C. White, and Mary White. We had a most favorable day for viewing the scenery, which was very grand. We were four hours on the cars, making the distance of sixty miles. The cars moving so moderately gave us a favorable opportunity to view the scenery as we glided slowly along. When a few miles from Basel we viewed a castle at our left, built upon the brink of a high precipice; and still a few miles on we viewed another castle of larger dimensions. These old ruins have a history, but we are none the wiser for it at the present time. Why did they build their castles in so wild and mountainous places, and the castles themselves upon the brink or edge of precipices of rocks? 4LtMs, Ms 53, 1886, par. 1

The cars passed through a tunnel in the rocky mountain directly under a grand old castle. Still farther on, at the left, we viewed the ruins of another castle. The walls still remain upon the very edge of the mountain rock which ascends hundreds of feet from the valley below. We pass those ancient scenes with feelings of regret that we cannot be informed in regard to these scenes. We have a varied scenery. Mountains clothed with shrubs and trees, and the bare perpendicular rocks rising to a great height, and then valleys of all shape and dimension lying in between the mountains. 4LtMs, Ms 53, 1886, par. 2

Villages are frequent—some quite ancient in appearance. The ancient houses now standing are several hundreds of years old, and they are very uncouth in appearance, without form and comeliness. The steep roofs tower up very high, and in these steep roofs are windows, tier above tier, showing that there are several stories reaching to the highest peak. These houses are huddled in close together as in the largest cities. The houses are not placed regularly, with any uniformity of arrangement, but they are ill-shaped and irregular. 4LtMs, Ms 53, 1886, par. 3

We see men and women both at work on the land that can be cultivated—women with their hoes and spades, digging in the soil with diligence and energy. Men are working also, with far less diligence. One or more is standing by with his hands in his pockets, looking on or directing these women in their work. The working women in Europe generally bear the heaviest part of the burdens. It is a common thing to see women walking, driving the load, with two or three men riding upon the load drawn by a couple of large cows. Sometimes horses draw the load, but this is rare. Most of the work is done by milk cows. 4LtMs, Ms 53, 1886, par. 4

Every spot of land that can be used is improved. The rocky hills are set out to grapes. Higher and still higher the vineyards extend, terrace above terrace to the very mountain top. Stone walks are made around these terraces to prevent the earth from washing away. In many places the earth is carried upon the backs of men and women and laid on the rocks, and then the grapes are set and the moisture from the rocks keeps them nourished and in a fertile condition, although they are upon the rocky mountain, stretching upward, steep as the roof of a house. Little women and men are engaged in trimming the grapes, and every little bit of vine is preserved and carefully treasured, cut in lengths, about one foot in length, and tied up in bundles for sale or for use as home fuel. 4LtMs, Ms 53, 1886, par. 5

There are waterfalls that come tumbling down from the very tops of the highest mountains. There are rocks, mountains of rocks of every conceivable shape, and they look as smooth upon the surface as if they had been washed by the waters of the ocean; and upon those bare rocks fir trees and shrubs are flourishing. Nothing can sustain them, but the moisture drawn from the rocks. In many places nature has thrown up a massive wall of rocks, almost regular in shape, like masonry, which extends for a great distance. There the scene is enlivened by a forest of fir trees and cataracts pouring down from the heights above. Then rocks, massive and grand, thousands of feet high, and then of less heights—natural fortifications resembling the work of art. The train wound through rocky gorges. 4LtMs, Ms 53, 1886, par. 6

Small farms nestled in among the mountains and foothills. We passed some wonderful rocky scenery, and there was revealed a narrow strip of land and a farm house and orchards. There was a wall of rock, slab-like in appearance, as if rocks were set on edge; and on the very top of these pointed rocks a chapel was erected, called the House of Prayer. We could not see how the people could get access to this chapel, for there was a precipice on the front and back, and these pointed rocks set on edge reached a long distance. 4LtMs, Ms 53, 1886, par. 7

We see chapels placed upon the sides and top of high, perpendicular rocky heights, and these were built in this way that the Protestants might have the privilege, at great cost to themselves, of getting together to worship the Lord according to the dictates of their own conscience. They felt more secure amid the wild, ferocious beasts of the mountains than among human beings who were more cruel than bloodthirsty wolves, if men and women dared to differ from them in their religious faith. The men and women who would not sacrifice principle, but who claimed it as their right to worship God according to the dictates of their conscience and to take the Bible as the foundation of their faith, were hunted down by the Papists like beasts of prey. God’s people met together to worship Him in these secluded mountain retreats, unapproachable upon two and three sides, and reached only by a bridle path which was guarded. Yet they dared not worship without taking their arms of warfare. Sentinels were place to guard the worshipers from being surprised, and if danger arose, through the crusaders who had the command from the pope or legates to exterminate every reformer, they could either flee or make a defense. 4LtMs, Ms 53, 1886, par. 8

Their only crime was in making the Bible the foundation of their faith, and not receiving the doctrines of men. In searching the Scriptures they found that Jesus Christ was their only Saviour. Their confessions must be made to Him, for there is only one Mediator between God and man, only One who can forgive sins. They were almost overpowered with this new light, and with the sense of how worthless had been their formal worship, the adoration of images, the worship of the pope, and the confessions made to men. In refusing to give to man that devotion which belonged alone to God, they must stand alone against customs and practices that were separating the people from God. The cross was a heavy one to lift and endangered their every earthly prosperity and even life itself. They would be branded as criminals, as blasphemous—their reward to be poverty, shame, and death. 4LtMs, Ms 53, 1886, par. 9

Crosses we saw erected everywhere. Niches had been drilled out in the rocks and images of the Saviour on the cross placed in them. There was much outward show of respect for Christ, but the people were as destitute of the Spirit of Christ as were the men who cried out, “Crucify Him, crucify Him.” [Luke 23:21.] They were Christ’s enemies, full of wrath and bitterness, because they themselves were not obeyed as God. The Word of God was taken by the conscientious ones seeking for truth as the voice of God to them, which was more powerful than the mandate of kings or popes or prelates. 4LtMs, Ms 53, 1886, par. 10

Within those men who began to search the Scriptures, the Lord put a spirit that would not be satisfied with forms and ceremonies and doctrines of men. They longed for something loftier, more spiritual, and with a more sure foundation. The Word of God supplied this lack. 4LtMs, Ms 53, 1886, par. 11