I’ve been reading through the journal of George Q. Cannon, which the church has posted online. I find it interesting and inspiring to see both how normal he was and also how faithful a servant of God he was.
While Elder George Q. Cannon was on a mission to England, he and his presidency wrote the following letter on 8 Nov 1861 to Elders Van der Woude and Paul A. Schettler, who were serving missions in Amsterdam, Holland:
“Dear Brethren,Your favors of the 18th ult. and 4th inst. have both been received and would have been replied to earlier had not a press of other business presented. On the 2nd. inst a letter was forwarded to you enclosing a Bank Note for £5, which we hope you have duly recd and that your wants have been supplied.We discover a considerable difference between the tone and spirit of your letter of the 18th Oct. & that of the 4th Nov. In the first you say that there are many honest-hearted people in that country who are seeking after the truth; but in your last you seem, (or at least Bro. Van der Woude in whose name the two letters alluded to are written,) to be almost, if not entirely, discouraged, and think that you cannot do much more in Amsterdam;
becausebut you have turned that city up side down. From reading your last letter we are led to conclude that as your money has decreased your faith has decreased with it, and that the fear of imprisonment &c has had an injurious effect upon your efforts and energies. Brethren, it is useless for you to attempt to open the gospel door to a nation if you suffer such feelings of doubt and fear – feelings so utterly unworthy of you as Elders and messengers to the nations, to assail you. Every man who goes forth to bear this gospel to a nation who has never heard it must meet with difficulties, or at least should be prepared to have them to encounter, and should never think that the Lord would send him on an idle errand. He should have faith that when he is sent the Lord will assist him and open his way before him, and though he may not be so successful in the beginning as he could wish, that if he will only continue faithful, perseveringly seeking to proclaim the message in wisdom with which he is intrusted, he will be successful in magnifying his priesthood and clearing his skirts from their blood, whether he should baptize any or not.We do not wish you to suffer or to be put to any inconvenience for want of necessary funds; but suppose there were no “Church” for you to call on for assistance, as has been the case in repeated instances before this with our Elders in opening up new countries and places, what would you do? Do you suppose that you would be justified in leaving that people or nation unwarned & the honest-in heart ungathered, because you would be imprisoned for not having money if you remained? That very imprisonment, should that be your fate, might be the means of opening a door for the effectual preaching of the gospel. Prisons have not retarded the preaching of the Gospel in past times, and we do not believe they will in future times. If you were put in prison, we suppose you would be fed, and therefore could live, and they could not keep you very well from telling the truth, & the telling of the truth might convert the jailor (it has done it before) and your fellow-prisoners.There is another point, mentioned in your letter of the 18th Oct. that we wish to call your attention to. You say, “we would have done much good, if polygamy was not; but this is a very great obstacle,” and add further that it “has stopped Bro. Schettler’s endeavors in this city also.” It may be that our belief in the doctrine of polygamy may be urged against you, and you may think you have cause for believing that you might have done much good if it were not for polygamy; but if polygamy should be unknown, they would find some other objection that would afford them sufficient foundation, in their opinion, for rejecting your message, and illtreating and persecuting you. The messengers of the Gospel were hated, reviled, imprisoned, cast out and killed before polygamy was believed or known by us as a people. Indeed, these effects followed the preaching of the gospel just as much before polygamy was revealed as they have since. You give the Adversary an opportunity to weaken you, therefore, by permitting the thought to enter your mind that God has revealed principle that in and of itself acts as a barrier or obstacle in the way of the people receiving the truth. He will not fail to avail himself of this weak spot in your armour and it will be to your injury. Pure honest-hearted & virtuous people are & will be prepared for the reception of this principle, though it may be opposed to their traditions and prejudices, & they will believe, comprehend & rejoice in it. Do not, therefore, be fearful upon this point, or think any longer that if it were not for this principle you could do much good, for it will carry its own conviction with it.In writing this to you, dear brethren, we do not wish you to think that we are indulging in fault-finding. We write to you in this strain because we think you have too easily bent before the storm you have had to meet, and because we wish to strengthen you and have you act the part of good soldiers and faithful ministers of our God. We desire to see you magnify your priesthood and do a good work on the earth. Be humble, be wise in your conversation & address, & seek for the spirit and power of your good & you will do a good work, & rejoice in your labors whether you baptize any or not. Remember that a great city or a great nation is not warned in a week or a month. Seek for the Spirit of revelation & wisdom, that you may be directed to the honest-in heart & if you are led to leave Amsterdam and go elsewhere, follow the dictation of the spirit. In relation to printing, be wise & move considerately. Be careful what you publish & that it is correct. May the Lord bless & sustain you is prayer of your brethren in the Lord.Amasa M. Lyman,Charles C. Rich,George Q. Cannon.”
I love the way they use faith and principles to counter the doubts and fears of the struggling elders. There is a buoyant optimism and hope there that demonstrates how we must use the shield of faith to counter the fiery darts of the adversary.
I also appreciate that he points out that if polygamy had been unknown, some other principle would have been made the basis for objecting to the church. This pattern continues today. Today it is the church's stand on the traditional family. There will always be people objecting to something or other about the restored gospel, and the honest-hearted and virtuous will be prepared to receive the gospel message, regardless of their initial prejudices.
These are not the instructions of one who has not been tested and tried himself. He wrote a book telling the story of his first mission to Hawaii when a teenager, and his faith-promoting experiences rival the those of Elder Groberg’s to New Zealand. (That book, “My First Mission” is actually available on Kindle. I highly recommend it.)