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Mormon Media Observer: A story from history reaffirmed my faith in the LDS Church

Published: Monday, July 9 2012 1:59 p.m. MDT

This insight came as I read B.H. Roberts' wonderful biography of LDS Church President John Taylor. President Taylor opened France to missionary work. Roberts records Taylor's conversation with a radical newspaper editor in Paris named Krolokoski, a vocal supporter of Cabet's efforts at Nauvoo.

According to Roberts, President Taylor said:

“Monsieur Krolokoski, you sent Monsieur Cabet to Nauvoo, some time ago. He was considered your leader — the most talented man you had. He went to Nauvoo shortly after we had deserted it. Houses and lands could be obtained at a mere nominal sum. Rich farms were deserted, and thousands of us had left our houses and furniture in them, and almost everything calculated to promote the happiness of man was there. Never could a person go to a place under more happy circumstances.

“Besides all the advantages of having everything made ready to his hand, M. Cabet had a select company of colonists. He and his company went to Nauvoo — what is the result? I read in all your reports from there — published in your own paper here, in Paris, a continued cry for help. The cry is money, money! We want money to help us carry out our designs.

"While your colony in Nauvoo with all the advantages of our deserted fields and homes — that they had only to move into — have been dragging out a miserable existence, the Latter-day Saints, though stripped of their all and banished from civilized society into the valleys of the Rocky Mountains … there our people have built houses, enclosed lands, cultivated gardens, built school-houses, and have organized a government and are prospering in all the blessings of civilized life. Not only this, but they have sent thousands and thousands of dollars over to Europe to assist the suffering poor to go to America, where they might find an asylum.

"… Our people have not been seeking the influence of the world, nor the power of government, but they have obtained both. Whilst you, with your philosophy, independent of God, have been seeking to build up a system of communism and a government which is, according to your accounts, the way to introduce the Millennial reign. Now, which is the best, our religion, or your philosophy?”

According to B.H. Roberts, the editor replied, “Well, Mr. Taylor, I can say nothing.”

The kinds of ideas that shaped Marx and Cabet and Krolokoski still influence the world today. Yet, in a noteworthy experiment in Nauvoo, these ideas failed while the Latter-day Saints quietly grew there and in their desert home.

Something in John Taylor's interchange taught me that my Latter-day Saint belief is capable of saving the world. It's not just a set of lovely moral teachings. I don't expect the story to have the same effect on anyone else, but that's what happened to me. It was a beautiful moment.

In short, I don't believe that The Church of Jesus Christ could have survived the turmoil of the 19th century if it hadn't provided truth, especially when contrasted with the failure of the grand romantic revolutionary Etienne Cabet.

Floating around the Internet is this idea that there are things in history that can counter faith. Yet, my experience shows that history — coupled with testimony — cuts both ways. My testimony has grown thereby.

Lane Williams teaches journalism and communication at BYU-Idaho. He is a former journalist whose scholarly interests include Mormon portrayals in the media, media and religion, and religion and politics.

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