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George Durrant and Susan Easton Black

George Durrant and Susan Easton Black

29 Mar. 2017

Transcript

We Have Received so Many Answers

While they [the choir] are returning to their seats, I will add my name to the list of those who like that song about as much as any song they’ve ever heard, and I’ve never heard it sung better. And I loved it. Thanks for coming.

Susan and I have been married for four years—we waited to get married until we had paid off our student loans. My wife had passed away, and Susan’s husband had passed away. And I said to my daughter after a few weeks’ time that I would like to maybe date; I’m not good at being alone.

She said, “Who would you date?”

I said, “Maybe Susan Easton Black, except she’s out of my league.”

My daughter said, “Father, nobody is out of your league.” And that gave me courage. I called Susan on the phone and made arrangements to go see her. Before going, because I was scared to death, I went over to the park where I go to pray, and stood on a rock out in the stream. I asked Heavenly Father—I told Him that I’d like to have something develop between Susan and myself, but I’m not good enough for her. And Heavenly Father spoke to me in my mind and said, “If you’re not good enough for her, why don’t you step up?” I decided to try to do that, so I put on my navy blue suit and drove to Provo. I prayed all the way there, and I stood on her porch and knocked. I could hear her footsteps coming toward the door.

I said to myself, “I am a priesthood man.” I stood up straight, you know, like a priesthood man stands—not only physically, but spiritually. He stands up and looks people in the eye and lets them know he means business. So, she finally appeared in the doorway, and I was overwhelmed by her beauty. Standing there as a priesthood man with the door open, she fell into my arms. The reason for that is, how do you resist a priesthood man?

You guys, you just step it up. The ones who were destroyed in the Book of Mormon, the ones that were left, the first thing the Savior said to them was “You got through that; why don’t you step up now? Be somebody. Why don’t you go forth in the name of Jesus Christ, make a difference.[1]” So, I have found out that if you have Jesus Christ’s image in your countenance because His name is written in your heart, you can do stuff. You can go forth in the name of Jesus Christ and accomplish mighty things. And the more you think you can’t—I like that thought by Andre. He said that you’re not supposed to be afraid of what can go wrong in your future, but think about what can go right.

It took a lot of courage to marry Susan. That first day I was inspired of the Lord in the front room to ask her to marry me. Of course, that’s the missionary approach; you ask people to get baptized. But I put a clause on it; “As quick as you fall in love with me.” I knew that wouldn’t take long. If you are a good person, people fall in love with you. It doesn’t matter how you look; if you’ve got the energy of Christ in your face, you look like Him. I like all the artists trying to paint what Jesus Christ looks like; He looks like all the good points that you’ve got and I’ve got, all put together into a countenance that appears on our face. And when you’ve got that, you might not be good-looking, but you look good.

This pretty well concludes my remarks. I believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.[2] I love this Church. I’m going to hang on’ how would it be to walk away from this? It would be about the most unwise thing a person could do. You get married in the name of Jesus Christ, and you raise your children in the name of Jesus Christ. You go off to work in the name of Jesus Christ. And it’s all kind of put together in the church of Jesus Christ.

We’re not a perfect people. We would be if we could be; we’re just too dumb to pull it off. When we get to the celestial gates and say we did all this that was wrong, all you have to do is say, “I didn’t want to.” . . . Anyway, that’s the judgment. What do you want? Do you want to be clever and sarcastic, or do you want to be sweet? Do you want everybody that meets you to be a little discouraged when they walk away, or a little filled with hope? Jesus Christ did most of the great things He did when He was on His way to do something else. Treat people with love and respect.

Susan now is madly in love with me, not because of me but because I try to be good. When I foul up, I am quick to repent. What a wonderful wife she is, and now you get to hear from one of the greatest teachers of this dispensation. She knows more about Joseph Smith than any other living person. She knows he is a Prophet. She knows he might have had some flaws, but what a man. Joseph Smith, the Prophet. I know he was, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Sister Black:

I view it as a great honor to be able to speak to you. I am also very honored to follow George. What a magnificent husband he has been to me. So, women out there, don’t settle. You want somebody that looks really good in a blue suit. Because if you’re a Latter-day Saint man and you look good in a blue suit, you’re going places, right? And you want someone that will love you forever and honor his priesthood.

Now, George and I are a lot different in so many different ways. You probably noticed they had to raise the podium with him. And you may just as well have noticed that they had to lower it for me. I didn’t really know if I could marry George Durrant. It was the craziest thing. Imagine, there was no first date. There were no flowers. It was a precursor of what I could expect. But nevertheless, I learned something important about it, and perhaps you have taken a note about it. There is a cheaper, easier way than perhaps what you are doing to fall madly in love.

But George and I have, in many respects, a lot in common. We both have a testimony that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is true. We meet some young people that are telling us they are leaving the Church because they have questions. And we are saying, “Well, not us. We’re staying because we have found so many answers.”

So with that, I thought I would share with you my talent, and you obviously will be able to compare and contrast with George, and maybe say, “I like George’s best.” But actually, I like mine. So, here it goes.

You know what else I like about George? He’s really glad I got an education. And you know, I would never have met him if I had stopped going to school. Isn’t that interesting? So, I’m very grateful for that.

What I’d like to talk to you about today is politics. I figure, you turn on the TV and it’s everywhere. And you go, “What the heck is going on in our nation?” Well, I don’t have too many answers for that, but I sure know who I would have voted for in the year 1844. So with that, I now begin.

I’m going to share with you about a man that had a lot of courage, like Andre. He just stepped out and wanted to make a difference. We know that Joseph Smith was a great prophet; we know that he was a great translator. Just the Book of Mormon alone says all of that. But did you know that Joseph Smith, in the year 1844, was a candidate for the US presidency? We’re going to learn a little something about that.

What was the United States like in 1844? The United States—here was our flag. Notice, if we stopped here long enough, you would be able to count the number of states here in the United States at that time, and we had twenty-six. Of our United States, we had—here shows the states. They’re in blue and kind of purple—you see, there are your 26 states. Your farthest western town was a town called Independence, Missouri. And if you look at this, you would say that the United States, at that time, was divided basically between two political parties. One was the Democratic party, and the other one was called the Whigs.

The Whig party, at the time, had all the purple states. They could count on those to be able to support their candidate. And the blue states you see up there, they were going to support a Democratic candidate.

What were the issues on the table in the year 1844? There was much talk in the United States in 1844 of something called Manifest Destiny—which meant that there was much hope that the United States would one day go “from sea to shining sea.”[3] In fact, they were saying such things as that the United States was a little stone cut out without hands that would roll forward and fill the whole earth. They compared the United States to Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and Daniel’s interpretation.[4]

In the United States, as they talked about issues, they wanted to go from sea to shining sea all right, but in ’44, what did they want to annex first to the United States? Well, they wanted to annex Texas. What they also wanted to do was to abolish slavery, or at least it was a topic of discussion because not all states wanted that.

There was another issue that was faced in 1844, and it was Mormonism. Latter-day Saints had been kicked out of the state of Missouri, and Illinois was now wondering what to do with them. In November of 1843, many men—in fact, seven—had put their hats in the political arena and said that they would like to be the next president of the United States. Joseph Smith is very concerned about the seven men.

One man is Martin Van Buren, who Joseph had met in the early 1840s and had met with him in Washington, DC. He had served as our president, and when Joseph indicated the problems his people had faced in Missouri and wanted a redress for our wrongs, Martin Van Buren had the audacity to say, “Your cause is just, but I will do nothing for you.”[5]

Another one was John C. Calhoun, you see right here. His hairdo would probably be in vogue today. But nevertheless, John C. Calhoun, as you look at him, he is your states’ rights man. He thinks that every state can decide if they want slavery or not.

Another man that has thrown his hat in the political arena, and both that you see here, Lewis Cash as well as Richard Johnson, have served as vice presidents. You also get Henry Clay. He was your famous speaker of the Senate that could literally stun everyone by his ability to address a large audience. Then of course, James K. Polk, who will ultimately win.

The question was, which of these candidates will win in the year 1844? Early pollsters—like we have pollsters today, like the Gallup Poll—will go through the 26 states to try and decide which state is the swing state that will be able to name the next president in the year 1844. The conclusion was the state of Illinois. And who is the most famous man living in the state of Illinois? It’s none other than the Prophet Joseph Smith.

Joseph Smith, at this time, claims that he controls 20,000 votes. Twenty thousand is the majority that will literally tip the way that Illinois will choose. And Joseph now believes that he can actually name who will be the next president of these United States. So he decides that he will write to each of those seven presidential candidates and ask them just one question, and the question went like this: if you were elected president of these United States, what would you do in your presidential power to get the people you call Mormons their lands of inheritance back in Jackson County?

Well, he wrote the letter to all of them. Not everyone responds. I’m going to assume that there were some issues with the postal system, but of the ones that did respond, I’m going to feature two. One is Henry Clay, and the other is John C. Calhoun. Henry Clay, as you recall, is your great speaker of the Senate of the United States. John C. Calhoun believes that every state has the right to choose slavery or non-slavery. They will respond to Joseph Smith’s question. But they do it in a very political, posturing pose.

Each of them, as they respond, they indicate it’s such a big issue—getting you back your lands in Jackson County, Missouri—they conclude that when they become the president, they will form some kind of committee and then they will take it up. In other words, we don’t want to make this decision while we’re a candidate; we want your vote, we want the vote of the state of Illinois.

Joseph Smith, January 1844: Joseph is frustrated. He literally does not believe that any of the presidential candidates will do anything to help his people. As a result . . . Here shows Joseph Smith’s reconstructed red brick store in Nauvoo. There were 38 general stores in Nauvoo; on the bottom floor of his store, that’s where you would shop. And being a shopper, obviously, I would have hit all 38 and wondered why there weren’t more, right? But on the second floor, that’s where you wanted to be. On the top story, that’s where Joseph will write the 13 Articles of Faith; all of you that have memorized it. That’s where Relief Society will be organized. That’s where he will translate the book of Abraham. That’s where he will write the History of the Church. That’s where the first endowments, first sealings, and–in January ’44—Joseph Smith called his first national political meeting.

Nobody like us would be attending the meeting. Women couldn’t vote back then. I obviously would be instantly excluded. But Joseph Smith will invite the Quorum of the Twelve, the First Presidency, and the Presiding Bishop, Newel K. Whitney. So, if you are looking far over there, there is Orson Pratt, there’s Parley P. Pratt, here’s Wilford Woodruff, Orson Hyde, Brigham Young, Joseph’s brother William Smith. And the question was, “Who shall we vote for? In 1844, nobody will do anything for us.”[6]

There was one man who stood up; he was an apostle, kind of a junior apostle. He stood up; his name was Willard Richards. And he had concluded, “Well, I want to vote, but I can’t vote for either the Democrats or the Whigs because nobody will do anything to get me my land back in Jackson County.” So Willard Richards said, “There is only one man I know, if elected president of these United States, who would get me my lands of inheritance back in Jackson County.” And he said, “That man is General Joseph Smith.”

Now, notice that when Joseph runs for president, he doesn’t run as the Prophet Joseph Smith, but he runs as General Joseph Smith. It’s always General—advertisements, political whatever—General Joseph Smith.

Now, when you run for president of these United States, you need to have a vice-presidential candidate. Joseph will write to several men in the United States—for example, he writes to the man who is over a large newspaper in New York City, named J. Garlington Bennett. He says, “Will you be my vice presidential running mate?” He writes back and says, “Don’t associate my name with yours. Are you kidding me? No.”[7] No letters were lost in this case. Joseph will also write to a man named Copeland from Tennessee. He will have the same response.

Who is willing to run for vice president? Sidney Rigdon. Sidney Rigdon was no longer living in Nauvoo; Sidney had moved to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. So, notice what the campaign looked like. Notice, running for president of these United States in 1844, General Joseph Smith of Nauvoo, Illinois, and his vice presidential candidate Sidney Rigdon of Pennsylvania. He was living in Pittsburgh.

What would Joseph Smith stand for if he became president? What would he have done? He actually had a man named William W. Phelps write out for him his views of the government. So, the very same man that originated “The Spirit of God like a fire is burning”[8] and “Praise to the Man,”[9] also wrote Joseph’s political platform, with Joseph saying, “This is what I want in it.”

Notice that if Joseph were to become president, what he would have done in the year 1844. He would have restored the land lost in Missouri back to the Latter-day Saints. Notice what else he would have done—he would have reduced the pay of Congress. Right away he’d get my vote.

Now, the crazy thing—you say, “Well, how much did he want to reduce the pay of Congress?” He wanted to reduce it to $2.00 a day. When asked, “Why would you give those men such a small wage?” he said, “The difference between a politician and a farmer”—he said a farmer made about $2.00 a day—and he said, “The difference between a politician and a farmer is that a farmer is honest and a politician is not.”[10] Ah. He had strong feelings.

Notice what else Joseph would do. He would greatly expand the United States. In fact, he said if elected to one term, he would take the entire hemisphere—meaning the entire northern hemisphere—as the United States. So, when you get other candidates saying, “We’ll take in Texas,” or maybe even James K. Polk was talking Oregon, notice what Joseph would have taken into the United States. He would have taken Alaska, Canada, Mexico, Central America—do you see that? And when asked, “Why would you pull all of that in?” he said, “Well, after all, it’s all Zion. And if elected second term,” he said, “I’d pull in all the southern hemisphere.” So our great friend over here from Brazil, if Joseph had won, notice. And when asked, “Why would you do that?” he said, “Well, after all, it’s Zion, too.”

Joseph would have also eliminated slavery. Isn’t that interesting? It was talked about, you know there is going to be a war if we didn’t do something about it. And Joseph had an idea of how to eliminate slavery so we wouldn’t have gone through the horrible Civil War. He said, “You know what? With all that land that is now a part of the United States, we’ll let the Southerners—they think the slaves are their property; I would give the Southerners large tracts of land and buy the freedom of the people who had been slaves, and then I would give them a choice. One, you could stay here and be free, or at government expense, if you want to go back to your homelands—even all the way back to Africa—” he said, “at government expense, we would take ships.” So, he would solve that.[11]

He would also solve the monetary problem and back our banks with gold or silver. He would reform jails and prisons—at that time, you had 70,000 men in prison for debt. He said that jails should be institutions of learning.

Well, did Joseph have a ghost of a chance to win? I’d say, in January, absolutely not. In February of ’44, no chance. But then, in March of ’44, Joseph formed a council called the Council of Fifty, which no longer exists today. That Council of Fifty had a lot of men in it, and one of their leading men was a man down here in the middle named Brigham Young.

Brigham Young stood 5′10″. He had red hair, freckles, and the temperament that went with that kind of look. He now goes to Joseph Smith and says, “I’ve got a plan. I’d like to be able to call political missionaries to forward your campaign in the 26 states of the United States.” And Joseph says, “I can’t authorize you to do that, Brigham. But I’ll tell you what—if there is anybody who would like to volunteer, you just pass the list by me and I’ll go over it and see if I can spare those men. Then, Brigham, you can send them out through the 26 states.”

So Brigham asks for political volunteers. Eventually, you get about 2,000. But the first 350, Joseph looks over the list, and as he looks over the list, he goes, “Okay, Brigham, you can take every one of them but two.” He said, “I need two people to stay with me.” Notice who he chooses—John Taylor and Willard Richards.

John Taylor was the newspaper man in town, and Willard Richards, besides being an apostle, he was Joseph’s secretary. Who is with Joseph, when he dies? Notice–you’ll say, “Where is Brigham?” Well, he is a political volunteer. He is out there in Boston. Where is Wilford Woodruff? He is Brigham’s companion in Boston? What about Joseph’s brother William? He’s up in Michigan. And Parley P. Pratt is fanned out through Illinois; Orson Hyde and Orson Pratt are in Washington, DC. Who are the two apostles left behind not serving political missions? When Joseph goes to Carthage, it is these two. They will become witnesses; they saw the martyrdom.

Well, how was Joseph’s campaign from March to June? It was amazing. Conventions, rallies—you’re talking Philadelphia. There are 5,000 people, “We want General Joseph Smith! You know what he’s going to do? He’s an expansionist. We’ve never had a president that’s an expansionist like Joseph. He’ll change jails. He’ll get rid of slavery. There won’t be a fight; there won’t be a conflict.”

And these men who were out there would then clip the notices from newspapers about the rallies they would hold, and conventions, and they would send it to Joseph Smith. Joseph Smith, in the meantime, was living in this house, called the Mansion House, in Nauvoo. As he was living there he would receive these letters from the political volunteers. As he received the letters, he started to say, “I can’t believe it. I’m becoming popular.”

Now, in any case, he knows how to be persecuted. You know, he is “wont to swim in deep waters.”[12] But he says, “I’m popular!” And then he says, “There is enough speaking ability out there”—I mean, try to imagine having a Wilford Woodruff on your team as you run for student body president—the guy who, 36 days after he is in England, has already baptized 600 people, and two spies sent from the Church of England, and a constable that came to arrest him. He baptized them all. And if he were out there campaigning for you, let alone a Brigham Young or an Orson Hyde—pretty soon, Joseph is saying, “I am afraid that I am going to win on a first electoral ballot.”

So, the first electoral ballot he’s worried about that because of the political volunteers. As Joseph would receive these letters, he would then hand them to John Taylor, and John Taylor would print them in these newspapers called The Nauvoo Neighbor. You can imagine—was Joseph out campaigning? No, he never leaves Nauvoo. He doesn’t have to; look who is on his team.

There is one man in Nauvoo, and we should probably all hiss and boo, but his name was William Law. He didn’t like it. He didn’t like the idea that Joseph might become the next president. He formed a group called the conspirators. The conspirators eventually publish a newspaper of their own, called The Nauvoo Expositor. Let us expose Joseph Smith to the world, the man they believe they know. Let us expose Mormonism.

What is the impact of one man? The impact of one man for ill will ultimately lead to what we know as Carthage Jail and will lead to the martyrdom. Joseph Smith was shot and killed while running for president of these United States. Who was the next presidential candidate to be shot and killed while running for president of the United States? It was John F. Kennedy’s brother, Robert. So, in my lifetime was the next—not in most of yours—but there was the next.

How did the election turn out in 1844? It was a really close popular vote. The popular vote, the second circle you see here, only divided by about 2 million. And you are very, very close. The electoral vote, however, will go to the Democrats. Who wins in that case? This man, James K. Polk. And James K. Polk becomes president. His issue was Manifest Destiny. He declared war with Mexico. The United States goes to war. As it goes to war, Latter-day Saints become involved as we organize into what is called the Mormon Battalion.

I’d like to close, and I’d like to invite Big George to come up and stand next to me. I love this man. You know, when he showed up at my doorstep and the first time I was seeing him—we had met 38 years before, and I hadn’t had many occasions to bump into him—and the first time he came to see me, he asked me to marry him.

I called one of my sons, and he came rushing over with a can of mace. And he said, “You know, Mom, you don’t have to go through this.” I called another son, and he said, “Mom, do you really think a better man will ever knock on your door?” And I said, “Well, that’s not the point.”

You know, it actually took me a year to fall in love with George. But we’re finally . . . We were in Southern Utah, and we were up at a place called Coal. I don’t know if you’ve been there. It’s beautiful. One of our beautiful mountain ranges. And we hiked up about as far as old duffers can hike, which means we opened the door and stepped out to the edge. And George said, “Here’s the ring. And if you look close, you’ll see it’s a diamond.”

I said, “Maybe I just don’t have it in the right light, George. I’m just not seeing it.”

He said, “Now, if you squint, you’re going to see this.” And he says, “Marry me, or I’m going to jump.” I don’t know if it was so many hours of learning about compassion in Relief Society, but here we are.

Now, what has been the blessing for me is that I am happy. You know, as a widow, I couldn’t really see to find this permanent happiness. But George is fun. We have many occasions to laugh every day, and that is fun. He’s not high maintenance, and that is also great. You’ll never find him shopping at Nordstrom’s, and vice versa. But we’ve learned to work it out and to be very happy.

He says if you want to see a woman in love, look at me. And I think he’s probably right. Now, if you were to say about the two of us, “Boy, your styles are dramatically different.” And what a blessing that is.

We have a message for you. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is true. I’ve studied Joseph Smith’s life backwards and forwards, and I can’t find anything that has thrown me off. In other words, he was a prophet, trying to make a difference in this world. He even ran for president of the United States.

George is trying to share with you that, if you are a Christian man, your dreams will come true. And so, with that, I’m going to have George give our testimony. We are so honored to come—you must not have known we were speaking. But thank you. Thank you. I want you to hear his testimony again because ladies, this is what you want.

Brother Durrant:

I’d like you to all go the celestial kingdom because I want to see you again. Perhaps the most surprising thing you will see in the celestial kingdom is the surprised look on other peoples’ faces. I found out that—when I was in high school, I didn’t have much confidence, self-confidence, but I learned later that you don’t have to have self-confidence; you just have to have Christ-confidence. In His name, all things will work together for your good.

I pray that you will find somebody. I know it’s not easy sometimes to find a priesthood man. That’s why all those priesthood men have got to be good ones, so there’s enough to go around. But bless your hearts, just take it one step at a time, and if your dreams are not coming true yet, as Susan said, they will. And we love you. We love each other, and life is good. “Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God.”[13] That’s what King George said during the Second World War: it’s better than a light, and safer than a known light.[14] Stay close to religion.

Religion is fun; it’s not sour and hard. It’s soft and gentle and sweet. The only way you can achieve it is in the name of Jesus Christ and with the holy influence of the Holy Ghost. I love Susan. I think I’ll keep her forever. I wish we could go on and on, but if we don’t get out of here, we’ll be in trouble with President Richards. What a man he is, and his wife—how to grow up to be like them. Don’t settle for anything less.

I love you, Susan. Thanks for letting me come back and speak with you. I was kind of dead, you know, sitting in a chair at home watching Dancing with the Stars. Susan took me and resurrected me. Do you want to say anything?

Sister Black:

No, you said it. And we say this in Jesus’ name, amen.

 


[1] See 3 Nephi 9.

[2] See Articles of Faith 1:1.

[3] Katherine Lee Bates and Samuel A. Ward, “America the Beautiful.”

[4] See Daniel 2:31–45.

[5] See History of the Church, 4:80.

[6] See History of the Church, 6:214–216.

[7] See History of the Church, 6:71–73.

[8] “The Spirit of God,” Hymns, no. 2.

[9] “Praise to the Man,” Hymns, no. 27.

[10] See History of the Church, 6:204–205.

[11] See History of the Church, 6: 205, 208

[12] See D&C 127:2.

[13] King George VI quoted in “The King’s (Christmas) Speech,” The National WWII Museum, http://www.nww2m.com/2011/12/the-kings-christmas-speech/.

[14] See “The King’s (Christmas) Speech.”