The Gettysburg Address


The colossal statue within Washington DC’s Lincoln Memorial
(Click to enlarge.)


Today is the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s peerless Gettysburg Address.


I hope that you’ll be hearing a fair amount about it today.  But, at the very least, take two or three minutes to read it through.  Here is the standard version, attributed to Colonel Alexander Bliss:


Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Abraham Lincoln
November 19, 1863



"Religion poisons everything!" (8)
New Testament 141
"Who will stand?"
New Testament 140
  • Tornogal


    I love the Gettysburg address, and especially President Lincoln’s proclamation that all men are created equal.

    How do you reconcile this beautiful message against these words by the LDS prophet at the time, Brigham Young?

    “You see some classes of the human family that are black, uncouth, uncomely, disagreeable and low in their habits, wild, and seemingly deprived of nearly all the blessings of the intelligence that is generally bestowed upon mankind….Cain slew his brother. Cain might have been killed, and that would have put a termination to that line of human beings. This was not to be, and the Lord put a mark upon him, which is the flat nose and black skin.” (Journal of Discourses, vol. 7, p. 290).

    “In our first settlement in Missouri, it was said by our enemies that we intended to tamper with the slaves, not that we had any idea of the kind, for such a thing never entered our minds. We knew that the children of Ham were to be the “servant of servants,” and no power under heaven could hinder it, so long as the Lord would permit them to welter under the curse and those were known to be our religious views concerning them.” (Journal of Discourses, vol. 2, p. 172).

    • CaliforniaLDS

      He doesn’t have to. Brigham Young served a different purpose and had different opinions. His ideas on blacks were wrong. I am sure Lincoln believed things you don’t agree with as well. Humans are complicated, even when inspired by God. His beliefs were corrected. Move on.

      • Tornogal

        You are correct, Young’s ideas on Blacks were wrong.

        This supposed prophet discounted a segment of humanity as “uncouth, uncomely, disagreeable and low in their habits, wild, and seemingly deprived of nearly all the blessings of the intelligence that is generally bestowed upon mankind.”

        And yet the Mormon church continues to revere him as a “prophet of God.” His statue adorns Salt Lake City. And the LDS church university system is still named for him. But he was a vile bigot.

        It’s amazing that people give a pass to a man who supposedly spoke for the god they believe in. “He was wrong.” Yes, he was. And the notion that he was a prophet was wrong, as is the notion that any head of the LDS church has ever spoken for deity.

        Brigham Young could in no way have been the designated representative of any loving god unless that loving god was okay with his representative despising a part of humanity based entirely on the color of their skin.

        • CaliforniaLDS

          He was a prophet of God. He got a lot of God’s work going. Oprah supposedly stands for the people, yet she just did the race card and talked about how Whites need to die off. People are more complicated than the black and white pictures you want them isolated to.

          • Tornogal

            No, being a prophet isn’t that “complicated.” If you are speaking for a god, you better represent the things a god represents. So either the Mormon god was racist, or Brigham Young didn’t speak for him or her.

            Last I checked, Oprah Winfrey never claimed to be a prophet. And for that matter, Abraham Lincoln didn’t either.

            But Brigham Young did claim to be such. He even said every sermon he gave–including the racist ones, we are left to understand–was scripture.

          • CaliforniaLDS

            So when Brigham Young says “hey, I need to go to the bathroom”, that is God speaking? When he had sex, was that God having sex with the girl? When he tripped on a stone, was that God tripping? You are creating rules to fit your need to denounce him.

          • Tornogal

            LOL. Do you REALLY want to go down the road of Brigham Young’s sexual practices? Can we discuss Joseph Smith and teenage girls next?

            A man who claims to be a prophet dismissing a race of people as less human than Whites is hardly announcing that he is going to the bathroom or “tripping on a stone.” It is a profound reflection of ungodly bigotry. And that is not what a prophet manifests.

          • CaliforniaLDS

            I can see dialogue is not what you are interested in. You simply want to pontificate. Good luck with that chip on your shoulder and your inability to see the other side of things.

          • DanielPeterson

            If you’re intending to use the comment section of my blog as a venue for your entire scattershot repertoire of criticisms of Mormonism, Tornogal, I’ll start blocking your comments.

            Feel free to start your own blog or website for such things.

          • ClintonKing

            So if God has communicated with me personally, independent from any other human being, that Brigham Young was one of His prophets (apart from any character flaws hat Brigham had), and you, Tornogal, say that Brigham is not, who should I believe?

          • DanielPeterson

            It’s easily demonstrated, too, that Brigham Young didn’t believe in the inerrancy of scripture — so it seems rather doubtful that he was claiming inerrancy for his sermons.

            Please don’t weary us — and abuse my blog — with a standard-issue, rapid-fire litany of anti-Mormon talking points.

            Your view of what prophethood means isn’t a Latter-day Saint view, and we’re not responsible for it. Prophets, in our view, are neither infallible nor superhuman.

          • kiwi57

            Tornogal: “No, being a prophet isn’t that ‘complicated.’ If you are speaking for a god, you better represent the things a god represents. So either the Mormon god was racist, or Brigham Young didn’t speak for him or her. ”

            That is a textbook example of the fallacy of the false dilemma. For the unscrupulous, that is a useful polemical device, but those who are genuinely interested in truth eschew it.

            The fact, contrary to your argument, is that there is no Mormon doctrine that holds that a prophet becomes inerrant in all of his statements. The notion that a prophet is never wrong is not found in the Bible. It is an invented standard, intended to make a prophet an easier target.

            As such, it is fundamentally dishonest.

        • brotheroflogan

          Tornogal My grandmother died a few years ago. She was one of the kindest, best people I have ever known.

          But she grew up during World War 2 and had prejudice against Japanese people. She heard so many stories of their atrocities (true or false) that it was hard for her to lay aside her prejudices. Would I call her a vile bigot? Of course not. Since the main strength of her character was good, I have faith that given time, she will, in the next life, fully conquor her prejudice toward the Japanese people. When Brigham Young’s full character is understood, I think we can also have confidence that he would overcome his prejudice as well. I hve the feeling that you are not really interested in knowing Brigham Young fully. Only in tearing down Mormonism. Am I wrong?

    • DanielPeterson

      President Young was a man of his time and, on the whole, shared the tastes, preferences, attitudes, and opinions of his time. A prophet is a prophet only when speaking as such. Otherwise, he’s a fairly typical human being.

      As was Abraham Lincoln, as even this (justifiable) defense of him concedes:

      And remember, too, that equality before the law, which Lincoln and I both support, is a rather different thing from the claim of absolute equality, which is just plain factually untrue: Some people are smarter, more intelligent, morally better, richer, more popular, healthier, luckier, more beautiful, more capable, and/or more sane than others — and that’s just the way it is.

      • Tornogal


        Brigham Young was very much a man of his time. And that’s the problem.

        The notion that “a prophet is only a prophet when speaking as such” is a retrospective device used to validate what you wish to be true. If he got things right, then you can say he was a prophet. If an after-the-fact assessment shows he was wrong, well, “He was just speaking as a man.” How convenient.

        The fact is, we ALL get some things right and some things wrong. There’s nothing special about that quality in a person.

        (And I am sure President Lincoln would be happy to hear that Dan Peterson joins him in supporting equality before the law. That’s quite a sentence you wrote there, Dan. LOL)

        And no one is disputing that people can be more–or less–intelligent than others. But Brigham Young said people were lesser BASED ON RACE. I surely hope that’s not what you are saying, Dan.

        • DanielPeterson

          The notion that “a prophet is only a prophet when speaking as such” is no “retrospective device,” Tornogal, as you would certainly know if you would look up for a moment from your hackneyed list of anti-Mormon talking points.

          It’s a direct quotation from Joseph Smith, who said it while he was still alive, not “retrospectively,” and long before the comments of Brigham Young to which you refer.

          I can understand why somebody would bring Brigham Young’s comments up to a Mormon blogger who has just cited Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address approvingly. There are legitimate issues here for discussion.

          But I don’t sense, at all, that that’s what you’re interested in, and I’m not pleased that you’ve plainly decided to hijack the anniversary of Lincoln’s great speech as an opportunity to attack my faith.

    • kiwi57

      You may be interested to know that Lincoln himself held views that would be considered “racist” today. The Emancipation Proclamation was only made as a strategic measure for the purposes of winning the war. Lincoln expected that freed slaves would be repatriated to Africa, even those that were multi-generation Americans.

      I’m sure you will be willing to forgive Lincoln for not being a fully sanitised 21st century man. Perhaps, if you are prepared to abandon your double standards, you might do the same for Brigham.

  • DeCon Structor

    It must be quite confusing for Mormons to determine when a prophet is simply speaking as a man, since Mormons are authoritatively counseled never to think after a prophet has spoken. The next question that should be asked is what is the real value of modern prophecy? Apparently the biggest problems in the world, which require god to need a mouthpiece, are multiple earrings, tattoos, flip flops in church, and the need for a $5 billion Jesus mall in SLC.

    • DanielPeterson

      Why on earth, DCS, would you imagine that those are the biggest problems in the world? What a weird view of things you seem to have!

      I love the idea, though, that “Mormons are authoritatively counseled never to think after a prophet has spoken.”

      A former president of the Church, George Albert Smith, believed by Mormons to have been a prophet, actually denounced that idea. Which must mean, the prophet having spoken, that Mormons such as I cannot think about the topic anymore. The matter is settled. The question is definitively answered. Mormons have been authoritatively counseled to think.

      It’s been rather fun to see anti-Mormons like DCS and Tornogal scurry over here with their rote lists of stale criticisms, trying to hijack a thread about Abraham Lincoln and press it into the service of their crusade.

      • Ray Agostini

        I’ll boldly make a prediction, with Christmas just around the corner. On December 23rd you’ll do a post about Joseph Smith’s birthday. Then there’ll be about 50 comments telling you it’s really “Smithmas”, and you *worship* Joseph Smith. Have I got the hang of it yet?

        • Jeff Elhardt

          yes, you’ve got it.

        • DanielPeterson

          I think you’ve got it down. And I would bet good money on your prediction’s coming true.

  • RaymondSwenson

    Brigham Young had some choice words to say about lawyers. Nevertheless, he sent several of his sons to law school, with some very sober words about the importance of being an honest advocate at law.
    Young’s negative attitude toward people of African descent was very much in synch with many of his Protestant contemporaries, even in the northern states.
    However, Young was much more positive in his attitude toward American Indians than many of his contemporaries, and he taught the Mormons to treat them differently than many other white settlers did, feeding them when they were in need and sending missionaries like Jacob Hamblin to teach and baptize them. He also sent Mormon missionaries to Hawaii and Tahiti, with the purpose of recruiting polynesians into the LDS Church. BYU Hawaii and the large Mormon presence among the Maori, Samoans and Tongans is a direct legacy of his desire to bring those darker-skinned peoples into the Church.

    • paul

      Raymond, some weeks ago I suggested that you DISAGREE with Daniel C. occasionally. Otherwise you’ll be considered his sycophant.
      FYI DCP has a rather bad reputation in some circles (the educated, the objective, scientists, reputable scholars, etc., etc.). What you DON’T want is guilt by association (unless you teach at a church school, in which case it’s de rigueur) and the career damage said association can cause.

      • DanielPeterson

        “FYI DCP has a rather bad reputation in some circles (the educated, the objective, scientists, reputable scholars, etc., etc.).”

        Good stuff, paul. Who writes your material? Is it original with you? If so, you should take it on the road.

        back in Washington DC to deliver a paper before
        a conference of educated, reputable scholars;
        fresh off a conference, convened by an organization
        he chairs, featuring presentations by about fifteen
        quite legitimate and respected scientists

        • paul

          No doubt a real high-powered affair, Dan. Would this be the Flat Earth Society or the Creationist Coalition?

          • DanielPeterson

            Nope. It’s the Association for the Study of the Middle East and Africa.

            I didn’t even know that the Flat Earth Society and the Creationist Coalition were meeting right now. Have you merged the two organizations? Are you guys in Rio Linda again? Or have you finally moved up to Waxahatchee, as you had long dreamed?

            Anyway, I won’t be able to be there with you. If you’ll just look at your program, you’ll see that I’m not on it. As with every other year previously, I . . . um, have other commitments.

      • kiwi57


        I’m afraid you’ve misidentified the rather myopic little “circles” in which Dan “has a rather bad reputation.” Very few in Scratch’s Echo Chamber could be described as “educated” or “objective” or “scientists” or “reputable scholars, etc., etc.”

        Certainly nobody there has displayed any objectivity or intelligence on the subject of Dan’s reputation.

        The “reputation” to which you refer is an intentionally, if not maliciously, manufactured thing.

        But I rather expect you know that.

      • Anyotheruser

        Wait, so to stay on the good side of ‘the educated’ and ‘the objective’, someone should disagree with someone else, not because they actually believe they are wrong, but to avoid guilt by association and resulting career damage? Because of course it’s a characteristic of the truly ‘objective’ engage in petty acts on the basis of guilt by association?

        That doesn’t make any sense!

      • RaymondSwenson

        Paul, the few people I know in my professional circle who even know who Dan Peterson is are likely to be fans of his work already. The rest of the people in my professional circles have no idea who he is and don’t care. You sound like you are threatening some kind of defamation. I cannot conceive of how you could actually impair my professional reputation, but in the hypothetical case that you did, I can represent myself as a plaintiff, since I am an attorney and a former prosecutor.

        I agree with Professor Dan on many topics because we are both intelligent and well educated persons who have seen quite a bit of the world.

    • Lucy Mcgee

      Didn’t Brigham Young’s attitude toward the various tribes originate from his belief that they would be valuable allies in a war against the United Sates, that they could be proselytized into accepting the Gospel of their forefathers and after several generations, become “white and delightsome”?

      • kiwi57


        You really ought to approach the anti-Mormon Kool-aid with a little more caution. Brigham’s benign interest in the Native American tribes in the Great Basin considerably pre-dated Buchanan’s Blunder.

        Which, in case you were wondering, was not a confrontation Brigham was in any sense eager to bring about.

        • Lucy Mcgee

          All I did was read the journals of Wilford Woodruff. What I wrote was nothing but historical record which I can provide a link to. There is a story far larger than offered by Mr. Swenson, and I wasn’t suggesting anti-anything as your Kool-aid snark suggests. Brigham Young’s words are his own. If you are eager to ague on behalf of something meaningful, bring facts. Period.

          • DanielPeterson

            So you’ve been reading the journals of Wilford Woodruff? Do you own the set? I do. It cost me a minor fortune. I’m impressed at the intensity of your casual interest in Mormonism. Have you been through all the volumes?

          • Lucy Mcgee

            What I first read (summer 2012), Dr. Peterson, was “Waiting for World’s End: The Diaries of Wilford Woodruff”. I read it twice as I found the partial works extremely interesting and an often touching narrative of the Saint’s early history. There is also a partial Woodruff journal online in pdf format from Kraut’s Pioneer Press.

            As I’ve indicated before, before early 2012 I didn’t know who Joseph Smith was. Mormon history was never taught at any school I attended, and although I grew up adjacent to many LDS faithful, I had zero understanding about the people, religion or the struggles the Saints endured.

            It seems to me that the LDS Church could digitize the volumes, and spare everyone interested a large expense. I believe I’m correct in writing that there is no more complete history of that period within Mormon history than Woodruff’s journals.

          • DanielPeterson

            That’s an interesting — really, a rather unusual — entree into Mormon history and Mormon studies more generally.

          • Lucy Mcgee

            Yup, and admittedly thin.

          • kiwi57


            Just so you know: Brigham Young is a man I like and respect. Was there possibly some “snark” in view when you trotted out that string of umm, stuff?

            Yes, there is indeed “a story far larger than offered by Mr. Swenson,” or indeed than anything you can see on a blog comment. The story that is larger than Mr Swenson’s comments is ipso facto larger, by several orders of magnitude, than Ms McGee’s offering.

            Where, in Wilford Woodruff’s journals, can I read that “Brigham Young’s attitude toward the various tribes originate from his belief that they would be valuable allies in a war against the United Sates?” [sic]

            Brigham Young arrived in the Salt Lake Valley in 1847. The Utah War took place in 1857. Do Wilford Woodruff’s journals say that Brigham took no interest in the Indians for an entire decade, until he learned that Colonel Harney was on his way?

            If so, where?

            There’s no doubt that Brigham was interested in proselytizing the Indians. News flash: he was interested in proselytizing everybody. He served as a missionary in, among other places, England. That fact alone ought to tell a thoughtful reader that he didn’t equate missionary work with colonisation or subjugation of the ignorant savages.

            Are you a thoughtful reader, Lucy?

            I make no apology for the fact that Brigham Young was not a 21st century man. Many of his views look ridiculous by modern standards; therefore, cherry-picking his words for something to ridicule is a trivially easy exercise that requires no talent at all. Finding out what he really thought and did takes a bit more effort.

            There you go, Lucy: I brought facts. Period.

          • Lucy Mcgee

            I again read the paragraphs that led me to believe Brigham Young was committed to war against the United States and to avenge the deaths of Joseph and Hyrum Smith. It is also clear he was interested in proselytizing the tribes, who he believed would become white and delightsome. I claim no talent or insight other than reading from the words of the man. I did not make any statements which would ridicule your prophet.

            Are you suffering from some persecution complex? How is what I wrote ridiculing Brigham Young? He would wage war if pushed. He would convert natives. He believed that they would become white.

          • kiwi57

            Lucy Mcgee: “I again read the paragraphs that led me to believe Brigham Young was committed to war against the United States and to avenge the deaths of Joseph and Hyrum Smith.”

            Good for you. Care to quote them?

            The fact is that Brigham wasn’t “committed to war against the United States” until the United States decided to invade its own territory and make war against its own people. He was then “committed” to defend his people, and that commitment lasted until he was able to conclude peace on satisfactory terms.

            And you have yet again failed to deal with the fact that Brigham showed a genuine interest in wellbeing of the Native American tribes in the Great Basin for ten years prior to the advent of Johnston’s Army. Ergo, the notion that his interest in them “originated” from that event is demonstrably false.

            “It is also clear he was interested in proselytizing the tribes,”
            Just like he was interested in proselytizing everyone else.
            “Who he believed would become white and delightsome. ”

            And how is that relevant to anything? How does that little tidbit respond to anything Raymond Swenson wrote?

  • RaymondSwenson

    One quibble about the closing phrase: “that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” ALL government is government “OF the people”. A king or emperor governed “the people”. The definition of democracy is when the government of the people is done BY the people themselves. In the contemporary statements I have read, the formula was usually stated as “government of the people BY the people.” Lincoln added the phrase “and for the people”, suggesting that beyond the simple fact of power being in the hands of elected representatives, it should be wielded with the goal of improving the situation of the people of the nation, a people including men and women in slavery or recently legally emancipated by his wartime proclamation.
    If Lincoln had failed at holding the Union together, not only would the Confederacy have gone its own way as a weak agglomeration of sovereign states, but the remaining Union itself would have been immeasurably weakened, with a Federal government unable to legislate beyond the lowest common denominator of its states, and ambitious men looking to increase their own power by taking California and the Oregon Territory out of the Union.
    When World War I and II came along, there would have been no United States capable of coming to the rescue of Britain, Europe and Asia. There would have been no unified United States able to confront the USSR, and without Seward’s post-war purchase of Alaska, Soviet territory would have stretched to Juneau and Ketchikan. Engaging in and winning the Cold War would have been an unlikely dream. If Lincoln had lost, all of Europe and Asia could be under the sway of dictatorships based in Berlin, Moscow and Tokyo, including the european colonies in Africa, the Indian subcontinent, and Indo-China.

  • Mosiah NL

    Dr. Peterson, I have to ask: you seem to take Joseph Smith’s statement that a prophet is only a prophet when acting as such rather seriously. Am I correct in that assumption?

    My reason for asking is that this statement is very reminiscent of the Epimenides paradox. What if your prophet is speaking as a man when he says: “I am speaking as a prophet”?

    There’s just no way one can advance this statement as an argument and still expect to be taken seriously.

    • DanielPeterson

      Sigh. Then there seems no point in my trying to respond to you. So I won’t.

      • Jeff Elhardt

        C’mon Dr. P
        give it a shot!

    • kiwi57

      I’m sorry you feel that way.

      Because a moment’s thought reveals that the statement is quite the opposite of the Epimenides paradox.

      If Joseph was speaking as a man when he made any statement at all, then that is empirical evidence that the statement is true as a matter of demonstrable fact.

      OTOH, if he was speaking as a prophet when he made that statement, or any other, then that statement becomes true as a matter of LDS doctrine.

      In order for your hypothetical what-if to become relevant to anything, you would need to cite an actual example of Joseph rather explicitly saying something equivalent to “I am speaking as a prophet” and where the Church does not accept that he was.

      From my experience in such discussions, it seems clear that the only reason anyone has a problem with Joseph’s rather straightforward and non-controversial dictum is that there are some people who want to be able to cherry-pick statements made by him and other Latter-day prophets in order to exploit them for polemical purposes. Joseph’s dictum takes the wind out of their rather over-inflated sails.

      Which is a good thing.

      But I’m afraid that there’s just no way one can dispute this statement and still expect to be taken seriously.

  • DanielPeterson

    There is, indeed. Try it!

    • Paul

      Not presently in a laughing mood, Dan, because the Lord’s One True & Living University just stank up the football field. It’s one thing to stink it up v. Wisconsin, Virginia or, heaven forbid, Utah – but Notre Dame? No, not a happy camper way out here on the prairie, and I would ask you to use what influence you have at BYU to have offensive & defensive coordinators fired. Forget BoM historicity, buddy. Do something important!

      • DanielPeterson

        You live in a very strange universe. I hope you enjoy it.

  • Paul

    Dan, the only thing worse than BYU losing to Notre Dame was Kansas losing to Iowa State. In fact, compared with KU’s performance (34-0 at the hands of a team that had won only one game all season, and that against Tulsa), BYU’s was masterful.

    Is this important? Well, if one’s Mormon faith is infused with a healthy dose of existential realism, yes, of course it is. Football matters. In the words of the late, great Jacques Lacan, “From an analytic point of view, the only thing one can be guilty of is having given ground relative to one’s desire.”
    I think that says it all. Now off to church.

  • RaymondSwenson

    Try using the appropriate emoticon to let us know if you are trying to be ironic.

  • DanielPeterson

    Yes. And there’s a difference between “attempt” and “accomplish.”

  • Paul

    When one is disappointed, one is always wrong. You should never be disappointed with the answers you receive, because if you are, that’s wonderful, it proves that it was a real answer, that is to say exactly what you weren’t expecting.
    Lacan, Jacques and Sylvana Tomaselli (Translator). Seminar II. 1954-55.