Shaker Studies: Enfield Shaker Sayings
The tradition of preserving Shaker sayings and Shaker thoughts began with Testimonies of the Life, Character, Revelations and Doctrines of Mother Ann Lee and the Elders with Her, which was first printed in 1816 by the Shakers at their community in Hancock, Massachusetts. Testimonies was published in answer to the request of the younger Shakers who had never seen or heard Mother Ann Lee or the other early Shaker leaders firsthand and who wished to have a record of their “precepts and examples”.
We have gathered here a sample of Shaker sayings from the brothers and sisters who lived at the Enfield, New Hampshire Shaker community.
Sister Mary Basford (1842-1929):
“Is not one of the purposes of life that out of our own strength or weakness, we gather that which serves some other life?”1
“I would rather be known as one who stoops to raise the fallen, than to belong to the class whose attitude is,
‘Stand by thyself, come not near to me for I am holier than thou.'”2
Brother George H. Baxter (1861-1924):
“Let those that are sheltered beneath the canopy of truth give to others
that stimulating influence, by word perfumed with the sweetness of purity,
and the results will be revealed to you by those over whom you have cast your influence.”1
“With humility do good and thus grow good.”2
“What purer work is there than to uplift fallen humanity,
and give to society that culture which makes all free and equal, intelligent and happy?”3
“Storms are necessary gifts of creation; they invigorate more than they destroy.”4
“All nature gives evidence of growth, ever new, yet ever of the same life-giving elements;
and from its voluminous life we can cull many a lesson teaching us to do likewise,
to pass from sameness into newness of growth.”5
“Be temperate in all things and thus help to bring about the full resurrection of our being
from all things that bring disease to mind, soul and body.”6
“We must walk in life’s path as we find it, resolved to “stand as the oak midst the tempest and storm,”
sacrificing at no shrine save that of honor and truth.”7
“Whatever be our lot, may we be givers as well as sharers of the goodness and mercy of God.”8
“The important work of man is to first know himself.”9
“True gratitude is more than mere sentiment.”10
“So long as wrong exists the true spirit of peace cannot bear sway.”11
“No one can justifiably remain ignorant in regard to the events of the day.”12
Elder John Bradford (1823-1904):
“Idleness is inconsistent with a Christian life.”13
“If we wish to be found in old age walking in the paths of wisdom and virtue,
we must yield ourselves to the counsels of religion in the days of our youth.”1
“Those whose declining years are dignified by virtue and purity are, for the greater part,
those who sought wisdom early and found her.”2
Sister Mary Ella Briggs (1852-1913):
“Every sacrifice made for the well being of another, every kind word or act,
will prove a shining thread woven into the garment that shall enrobe the spirit form.”1
Sister Melissa Chase (1828-1902):
“How much easier it is for any of us to see another’s fault’s than our own.”1
Eldress Rosetta Cummings (1841-1925):
“It is not the spurt at the start, but the continued, unhasting advance that wins the day.”1
“Store up the sweet things of life and give small space to the bitter.”2
“The truths we least wish to hear are those which it is most to our advantage to know.”3
“Never mind where you work; care more about how you work.”4
“You have less to do with being successful than with being faithful.”5
“No man or woman is indispensible. The world is not made on that plan.
Therefore the busiest person may pause to breathe and so to be able to live longer.
And work harder.”6
“Do not wait for a Special day in which to be thankful.
He who waits for Thanksgiving day to be thankful will not be thankful when it comes.”7
“If religion has done nothing for your temper, it has done nothing for your soul.”8
“Duties left undone litter up our lives as scattered papers in an unswept room.
We all need to learn the art of keeping things Picked Up!”9
“There is very little difference between a good person and a bad person after all.
Get well acquainted with a good man and you will find much to condemn,
and an initimate acquaintance with a bad man will probably result in the discovery of much to commend.”10
“It is always easy to find reasons why other people should be patient,
always an excuse for your own impatience.”11
“In any community fitly joined together there must be many who are inconspicuous,
but who for the solid substance without which the wholesome community could not exist.
To be a person of that sort is worthy of one’s ambition.”12
“True dignity does not depend on the place we occupy in life,
but upon the spirit and the manner in which the duties of the place are acquitted.”13
Elder Odilon O. B. Elkins (1848-1884):
“Intuition transcends Reason, as the sun transcends the moon.”1
“Let us cultivate thankful hearts.”2
Brother George H. Kirkley (1867-1940):
“No half way work, no vain pretense, can satisfy the soul.”1
“Wait patiently for the reward of well doing.”2
“The way of life is easy when we walk in it aright.”3
Sister Florence M. Peck (1873-?):
“Life is so short and the good that we might do is so little that all of our life forces must be brought to bear
upon whatever talents we may possess.”1
Elder Abraham Perkins (1807-1900):
“The acts of our lives shape our destiny; there is no destiny other than that which we create.”1
“He who knows the most of himself finds the most in his own heart to condemn,
where corrections should first begin; rather than make attempts at amendments in the lives of others.”2
“He who respects himself is interested in the preservation of an unstained character.”3
“The greater the sacrifice required and conscientiously made, the greater the progress, purification and freedom of the soul.”4
“Nothing short of genuine Christianity gives man perfect control over himself.”5
“If our sole purpose is to make the principles of honesty and truth the guide and governor of action,
we shall reap the fruits of those principles, which are always love, peace, and joy.”6
“Our own hearts are our accusers, whether our tongues confess or do not confess.”7
“The quality of that which is cheap in price is generally in equal proportion to price,
and in the end the most expensive and the least to be prized.”8
Sister Isabella Russell (1833-1900):
“We may not always know the cause that fills another’s heart with pain,
Far wiser, then indeed, for us from words of censure to refrain.”1
Elder James G. Russell (1843-1888):
“Perfection consists of maintaining the right, in body, in mind, and in soul.”1
“Though oft the waste basket thy toils receive; try yet again, do not despair nor grieve”2
Brother Arthur Theobald (1864-1944):
“Everyone has a part to act in life and that faithfully performed, brings its reward.”1
“We have no right by our neglect, to place another in any position or circumstance in which we ourselves would be unwilling to stand.”2
Brother Frank Theobald (1864-1944):
“Every thought and word that tends to strengthen our care for each other and for things good and pure, is an inspiration from God.”1
“Truth is everything and the truth will conquer.”2
Sister Mary Jane Thurson (1828-1887):
“If it were possible to see others as they really are, we should often find what seems to us a cold and selfish exterior to contain a heart full of love and affection.”1
Sources of Enfield Shaker Sayings
Click here to read Testimonies of the Life, Character, Revelations and Doctrines of Mother Ann Lee (1827 edition) in its entirety online.
- “The Manifesto”, 20:2 February 1890, p. 34
- Ibid, p. 43.
George H. Baxter
- “The Manifesto”, 15:2 February 1885, p. 41.
- “The Manifesto”, 23:3 March 1893, p. 73.
- “The Manifesto”, 23:4 April 1893, p. 95.
- “The Manifesto”, 27:2 February 1897, p. 31.
- “The Manifesto”, 23:6 June 1892, p. 148.
- “The Manifesto”, 24:5 May 1894, p. 119.
- “The Manifesto”, 25:4 April 1895, p. 83.
- “The Manifesto”, 25:6 June 1895, p. 139.
- “The Manifesto”, 25:11 November 1895, p. 262.
- “The Manifesto”, 26:12 December 1896, p. 197.
- “The Manifesto”, 27:4 April 1897, p. 61.
- “The Manifesto”, 28:5 May 1898, p. 76.
- “The Manifesto”, 28:7 July 1898, p. 110.
- “The Manifesto”, 20:3 March 1890, p. 58
- Ibid, p. 58.
Mary Ella Briggs
- “The Manifesto”, 12:12 December 1882, p. 274.
- Letter to Elder Henry Greene, Alfred, Maine Shaker Community, January 3, 1875
Sabbathday Lake Shaker Library, Call No. Single Sheet Manuscripts, Box 14.
- -13. “Eldress Rosetta Cumings kept a hand written journal from Sept 17th, 1893 until the time of her death in 1925. The entries were for the most part sayings and writings by others; such as other Shakers, well known religious and political leaders of the time, as well as writers, poets, philosophers, etc. These “sayings” were attributed to each author in every instance. However, interspersed throughout the one hundred pages of the journal were entries that were unsigned. A careful study of each would indicate that each and every one of them was the thought and feeling of Eldress Rosetta, herself. Starting with the earliest unsigned entry to the final one, they are as follows:” Wendell B. Hess (1908-2000). Wendell Hess Shaker Collection.
- “The Manifesto”, 14:11 November 1884, p. 250
- “The Manifesto”, 15:3 March 1885, p. 70.
George H. Kirkley
- “The Manifesto”, 25:5 May 1895, p. 106.
- “The Manifesto”, 25:2 February 1895, p. 43.
- Ibid, p. 43.
Florence M. Peck
- “The Manifesto”, 25:6 June 1895, p. 130
- “The Manifesto”, 9:8, August 1879, p. 170.
- “The Manifesto”, 11:1 January 1881, p. 16.
- Ibid, p. 16.
- “The Manifesto”, 12:4 April 1882, p. 81.
- “The Manifesto”, 12:7 July 1882, p. 150.
- “The Manifesto”, 14:5 May 1884, p. 97.
- Ibid, p. 97.
- “The Manifesto”, 15:9 September 1885, p. 197.
- “The Manifesto”, 25:12 December 1895, p. 272
James G. Russell
- “The Manifesto”, 8:2 February 1878, p. 31.
- “The Manifesto”, 13:5 May 1883, p. 104.
- “The Manifesto”, 12:3 March 1882, p. 60.
- “The Manifesto”, 13:5 May 1883, p. 108.
- “The Manifesto”, 25:6 June 1895, p. 124.”
- “The Manifesto”, 26:1 January 1896, p. 7.
Mary Jane Thurston
- “The Manifesto”, 16:12 December 1886, p. 284.”
Read The Manifesto online.
The Shakers published The Manifesto as their official monthly periodical from 1871 to 1899. Every Shaker community contributed “Home Notes”; Shaker authors contributed articles on theology, farming practices, current events, etc.; and many Shakers were memorialized with comprehensive obituaries. The entire run of this periodical totals 16 volumes, 349 issues, and 8,136 pages. Fully indexed and searchable.