The Grand Destiny of Man

Discourse Delivered in the Mill Creek Ward, on Sunday, July 14th, 1901, by President Lorenzo Snow.

Lorenzo Snow

Lorenzo Snow

Your Bishop, brethren and sisters, wishes me to address you for a short time, and I have pleasure in answering to his wishes. Over sixty years ago I saw for the first time Joseph Smith, the Prophet of the Lord. He was holding a meeting in the town of Hiram. He was about three miles from where I was born and brought up. He was standing by a door and talking to an audience of about two hundred and fifty persons under a bowery. I was about eighteen years of age. I had heard something about the ”Mormon” Prophet, I felt some anxiety to see him and judge for myself, as he was generally believed to be a false prophet. My mother and my two sisters (one of whom was Eliza R. Snow) received the principles of “Mormonism,” and were baptized. At the time I refer to, Joseph Smith was not what would be called a fluent speaker. He simply bore his testimony to what the Lord had manifested to him, to the dispensation of the Gospel which had been committed to him, and to the authority that he. possessed. As I looked upon him and listened, I thought to myself that a man bearing such a wonderful testimony as he did, and having such a countenance as he possessed, could hardly be a false prophet. He certainly could not have been deceived, it seemed to me, and if he was a deceiver, he was deceiving the people knowingly; for when he testified that he had had a conversation with Jesus, the Son of God, and talked with Him personally, as Moses is said to have talked with God upon Mount Sinai, and that he had also heard the voice of the Father, he was telling something that he either knew to be false or positively true. I was not at that time what might be called a religious boy, but I was interested in what I saw and heard there. However, being busy in other directions, it passed measurably out of my mind. Some two-and-a-half years later, business called me to Kirtland. My two sisters had been there for some time, and I made my home with them. There I became perfectly acquainted with Joseph Smith, the Prophet. I sat at his table and had a number of conversations with him. I also became somewhat intimate with his father. The first time I saw Father Smith he was holding a patriarchal blessing meeting, at which there were twelve or fifteen persons present. I was then searching to know whether there was any truth in “Mormonism.” I have never experienced anything supernatural with one slight exception, and I did not know that anything supernatural had ever been exhibited among the children of men. I had heard Methodists, Presbyterians and others relate their experiences, but I thought I could attribute all they said to natural causes. It was hard for me to be convinced that there could be such extraordinary manifestations as I saw exhibited in visiting the temple and listening to the testimonies of persons and hearing the extraordinary accounts of what the Lord had manifested to them. Talking with President Joseph Smith, and being with him and his father, I could not help but believe that there was something more than common in what was called “Mormonism.” [p.542]

At this meeting that Father Smith held I listened with astonishment to him telling the brethren and sisters their parentage, their lineage, and other things I could not help but believe he knew nothing about, save as the Spirit manifested them unto him. After he got through with this meeting, I was introduced to him, and in the course of the conversation he remarked, ”Why, Brother Snow (he called me Brother Snow, although I had not been baptized, and did not know that I ever would be) do not worry; I discover that you are trying to understand the principles of ‘Mormonism.'” I replied that that was the object I had in view. “Well,” said he, “do not worry, but pray to the Lord and satisfy yourself; study the matter over, compare the Scriptures with what we are teaching; talk with the brethren that you are acquainted with, and after a time you will be convinced that “Mormonism” is of God, and you will be baptized, and you will become as great as you will want to be—as great as God Himself, and you cannot wish to be greater.” Of course, such expressions as those I could not understand. I thought it was wonderful that a man professing what he did should talk in that way. Anyone seeing old Father Smith as he then appeared, and having read of old Father Abraham in the Scriptures, would be apt to think that Father Smith looked a good deal like Abraham did; at least, that is what I thought. I do not know that any man among the Saints was more loved than Father Smith; and when anyone was seriously sick Father Smith would be called for, whether it was night or day. He was as noble and generous a man as I have ever seen.

Joseph Smith, Jr.

Joseph Smith, Jr.

One Sunday the Prophet Joseph Smith arose in the pulpit just before the meeting closed and said, “A young man by the name of Lorenzo Snow wishes to be baptized, and Brother John Boynton (who was then one of Twelve Apostles) will baptize him.” I was baptized in the stream that ran through Kirtland, and hands were laid upon me by Hyrum Smith and some others. I received no special manifestation at that time, but I was perfectly satisfied that I had done what was wisdom for me to do under the circumstances. I had studied the Scriptures and was convinced that the Gospel as preached by the Latter-day Saints was in accordance with that taught by the Son of God and His Apostles in former days. A peaceable, good spirit came upon me that I had never experienced before, and I felt satisfied at the sacrifice I had made. Since then I have been ashamed to call it a sacrifice, but at that time it was a sacrifice to me, because I could see that it would change my whole future and perhaps destroy all my worldly prospects and aspirations, besides being a great disappointment to my relatives and friends.

About two weeks after that, Elder Sherwood, at that time one of the right hand men of the Prophet’s, said to me, “Brother Snow, have you received the Holy Ghost since you were baptized?” That question struck me almost with consternation. The fact was, while I had received all I needed perhaps, I had not received that which I had anticipated; and after Brother Sherwood put this question to me I felt dissatisfied, not with what I had done, but with myself. With that feeling I retired in the evening to a place where I had been accustomed to offer my devotions to the Lord. I knelt down under the shade of a tree, and immediately I heard [p.543] a noise over my head like the rustle of silken garments, and there descended upon me the Spirit and power of God. That will never be erased from my memory as long as memory endures. It came upon me and enveloped my whole system, and I received a perfect knowledge that there was a God, that Jesus who died upon Calvary was His Son, and that Joseph the Prophet had received the authority which he professed to have. The satisfaction and the glory of the manifestation no language can express! I returned to my lodgings. I could now testify to the whole world that I knew, by positive knowledge, that the Gospel of the Son of God had been restored and that Joseph was a Prophet of God, authorized to preach in His name, just as Noah was in his day.

I do not remember ever having related these incidents before in a public meeting as I now tell them to you, but I felt, from the remarks made by Brother Winter, that it would be a good opportunity for me to testify something in regard to my first experience in connection with this holy Gospel. I received these truths with an open heart, and I was determined not to stop there. I was then attending a high school in the Temple at Kirtland, and preparing myself for some eastern college or university. A professor by the name of Haws was teaching us, and President Woodruff and other brethren attended this school. I began to be a little worried in my mind whether, after having received this wonderful knowledge, it was proper for me to remain without testifying in reference to it. Young men who had been sent out upon missions were returning and testifying of the blessings that had attended them in their traveling without purse and scrip in Ohio and other places, and I began to think that, instead of preparing myself for an eastern college or university, I ought to start out and bear testimony to what the Lord had so fully given me knowledge of. At the same time I did not like to give up my prospects of an education, because I had had it in mind for a long time, and I then had the opportunity and the means to accomplish it. I concluded to go for advice to President Rigdon, who was then President Joseph Smith’s first counselor, and with whom I had been acquainted before he joined the “Mormons,” when he was a Campbellite and used to preach in my father’s neighborhood. I told him what I wanted, and he said, “Brother Snow, I would not give anyone else such counsel as I feel to give you, under the circumstances. If I were in your place, I would go on with my intentions and get an education.” That was just the very thing I wanted him to say, and it pleased me. I was contented for a time; but in the winter season, hearing these young Elders testify of their success in preaching the Gospel, I began to think of it still more. The Lord had given me a knowledge that He was coming upon the earth, and that there was a preparation necessary to be made; He had given me all I had asked for, and more; for the baptism which I received, of the Holy Ghost and the perfect knowledge then given to me, was more real and convincing than my immersion in the cold water; and I felt that there was a responsibility resting upon me. So I shut up my books, laid my Latin and Greek aside, and I have never seen them since. I started out without purse and scrip, and under the circumstances that was about as great a sacrifice as I have ever made. I had not [p.544] been accustomed to depend upon anybody for food or shelter. If I were going off any distance, my father would make sure that I started out with plenty of money for my expenses. And now, to go out and ask for some, thing to eat and for a place to lay my head, was very trying to me, it being so different to my training. [p.545]

Lorenzo Snow Praying

Lorenzo Snow Praying

I remember my experience the first night after I started out. About twenty miles from Kirtland I stopped at my aunt’s. She was a Presbyterian, a very wealthy woman, and a woman of considerable experience. I was telling her that I expected to be treated like other Elders, turned out of doors, etc., and she said, “Lorenzo, I don’t believe a word of that. They will know you are an honest man, and you will not be turned out.” “Well,” I replied, “I do not expect to be treated any better than my brethren,”—and I was not. After leaving my aunt that night, I walked several miles, and as the sun was going down I thought it was about time to make an experiment and ask for some place in which to stop. I did so, and I never shall forget the house—where it stood, its distance from the road, the picket fence, and the gate that I went through. I walked up to the house, knocked, and was bidden to come in. A gentlemen and his wife were there, and I told them I was a “Mormon” Elder, traveling without purse or scrip, and would be very much obliged if I could get a night’s lodgings. They made some kind of an excuse. I told them I was not particular; the privilege to lie down on the floor with a blanket would suit me. But no; they did not want to keep me. Well, I had a little more courage when I came to the next house, but was met with the same objection. So it went on until I got to the ninth house, where I got a [p.546] night’s lodging, but had to leave without breakfast. The next day or two I arrived at one of my aunt’s, and preached there for the first time in my life. I was quite bashful then, and, not having spoken in public before, it was a very difficult thing for me to get up there and preach to my kindred and the neighbors who were called in. 1 remember that I prayed nearly all day preceding the night I was to speak. I went out by myself and asked the Lord to give me something to say. My aunt told me afterwards that she almost trembled when she saw me getting up to speak; but I opened my mouth, and what I said I never did know, but my aunt said I spoke fine for about three quarters of an hour. I held another meeting the next night, and the night after that I was invited to speak in the Medina court house by the party who had it in charge. After I got through speaking there a gentleman came to me and said, “Now, Elder Snow, I am a much older man than you are. You are a young man, just starting out, I see, to be a minister. I want to give you a little counsel. If you continue to talk as loud as you talked to-night, in six mouths you will be taken to the cemetery.” I thanked him very much and told him I would try and benefit by his counsel. Then I thought I owed a duty to my uncles and aunts and schoolmates, and they let me have the school house in which to preach to them. The house was nearly filled by my grandfather, my uncles and aunts, and a numerous lot of cousins. I thought I was going to convert them all, but after I got through talking and bearing testimony, all I could get from them was, “Well, Lorenzo is an honest boy, but he is deceived.” Then I got the town house in the place where I was born, and preached there, as well as in a Presbyterian meeting house. The result of it all was, I baptized a few, very few, of my classmates.

The first time I ever attempted to speak was at one of Father Smith’s evening testimony meetings, at which there were probably twenty or twenty-five brethren and sisters present. Father Smith was an exceedingly kind and gentle old soul, and he would beg the brethren to get up and speak. He would not want the meeting dismissed until every one had spoken. He would say in a kindly spirit, “Now brother (or sister) you must get up and say something, no matter how little, or if you don’t you will be sorry when you leave, and I am afraid you will lose the Spirit.” But I did not like to get up, I was so bashful and diffident; nevertheless I could not bear the idea of having the meeting dismissed without making the attempt; so when nearly all had spoken I got up, and everything I could think of was said in about one minute.

I am telling you these things so that if any of you can derive any benefit from my inexperience, I want you to have it. We were talking here this morning about President Snow being a Prophet, and creating almost a furore among the children to hear a Prophet, and I imagined that when I got up they would expect to hear something extraordinary, but I told them that they would probably hear no more than they had heard before. I tell you these things, brethren and sisters, that none of you need be discouraged. You that are members of the Young Men’s and Young Ladies’ Mutual Improvement associations, do not be afraid to get up and speak; you cannot do worse than the President of the Church has done; [p.547] you cannot make yourselves any less than he has done, not only once, but several times. But there is one thing to say in this connection: When the Lord gave aae the i-evelation that I have mentioned, I made up my mind that I would do my duty, and that has been my guide through life.

A Young Lorenzo Snow

A Young Lorenzo Snow

Now, I have told you what Father Smith said to me, that I should become as great as I could want to be, even as great as God Himself. About two years and a half after, in Nauvoo, I asked Elder Sherwood to explain a certain passage of Scripture, and while he was endeavoring to give an explanation the Spirit of God fell upon me to a marked extent, and the Lord revealed to me, just as plainly as the sun at noonday, this principle, which I put in a couplet:

As man now is, God once was;

As God now is, man may be.

That fulfilled Father Smith’s declaration. Nothing was ever revealed more distinctly than that was to me. Of course, now that it is so well known it may not appear such a wonderful manifestation, but when I received it, the knowledge was marvelous to me. This principle, in substance, is found also in the Scriptures. The Lord said to John, as recorded in the third chapter of his Revelation:

“To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in His throne.”

Have you ever heard the ministers of the day preach a doctrine of that kind? They read it, but do not believe it. Paul says in his second epistle to the Corinthians, 12th chapter:

“I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven.

And I knew such a man, (whether in the body or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;)

How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.”

This same Paul, writing to the Phillipians, says:

“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God.”

Do we ever hear ministers try to explain that? But these things are undoubtedly clear to your minds. I say to you sisters, your husbands, if they are faithful, will be Gods in eternity. After we have passed through the various ordeals of life and go to the other life, where our Father dwells, even the God of heaven, the promise is that we shall be like Him. The Apostle John says:

“Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him.”

As an illustration, here is an infant upon its mother’s breast. It is without power or knowledge to feed and clothe itself. It is so helpless that it has to be fed by its mother. But see its possibilities! This infant has a father and a mother, though it knows scarcely anything about them; and when it gets to be quite a little boy it does not know much about them. [p.548] Who is its father? Who is its mother? Why, its father is an emperor, its mother is an empress, and they sit upon a throne, governing an empire. This little infant will some day, in all probability, sit upon his father’s throne, and govern and control the empire, just as King Edward of England now sits upon the throne of his mother. We should have this in mind; for we are the sons of God, as much so and more, if possible, than we are the sons of our earthly fathers. You sisters, I suppose, have read that poem which my sister composed years ago, and which is sung quite frequently now in our meetings. It tells us that we not only have a Father in “that high and glorious place,” but that we have a mother too; and you will become as great as your Mother, if you are faithful.

clouds-769487-gallery

Wives, be faithful to your husbands. I know you have to put up with many unpleasant things, and your husbands have to put up with some things as well. Doubtless you are sometimes tried by your husbands, on account, perhaps, of the ignorance of your husbands, or perchance at times because of your own ignorance. I wonder if any of my sisters whom I am now addressing ever saw a time when they wished they had a better husband, and perhaps entertained the idea of getting a divorce. I tell you how 1 used to do when I was President of the Box Elder Stake of Zion. Once in a while a woman would come to me with the information that she had been abused by her husband, and she wanted a bill of divorce. What has your husband done? I would ask. Well, he had done such and such things. Have you ever done wrong? said I. Well, she thought perhaps she might have done wrong sometimes. “Have you ever prayed that your husband might be a better man?” She did not know that she had prayed for him very hard, because at times he had been so abusive that she could scarcely exercise much faith in that direction. “Well,” said I, “you go home and think about it; see if you have not been unwise sometimes and offended your husband; and go into a secret place and pray for him.” I had at that time some very nice apples growing in an orchard which I had planted in an early day. One tree especially yielded some choice red apples, and I would pick six apples from that tree and give them to her, three for herself and three for her husband, and I would ask her to be sure and give him those three apples without saying that I gave them to her for that purpose. “Then,” I said to her, “if things do not get better in about two or three months, come to me again and I will see what I can do for you.” Well, the apples I gave and what I said to her accomplished the object. Sisters, I do not say but that your husbands are bad—just as bad as you are, and probably some of them are worse; but, never mind; try to endure the unpleasantnesses which arise at times, and when you meet each other in the next life you will feel glad that you put up with those things. To the husbands, I say: Many of you do not value your wives as you should— unless you are different from any audience of this size that I have ever had before me. Be kind to them. When they go out to meeting you carry the baby at least half the time. When it needs rocking, and you have not much to do, rock it. Be kind when sometimes you have to make a little sacrifice to do so; feel kind, anyway, no matter what the sacrifice. [p.549]

I wonder if there are any bachelors in this audience. Now, when a young man is twenty-one years of age he ought to get married; and if he does not get married, let the Bishop or the President of the Stake send me his name, and we will send him on a mission for two or three years.  On the other hand, if he gets married when he is twenty-one, and he happens to be called to go on a mission, just let me know and we will give him the privilege of staying at home for one year. That is what they did in Ancient Israel, and Israel did just right in some things. You will find this provision recorded in the 24th chapter of Deuteronomy:

“When a man hath taken a new wife, he shall not go out to war, neither shall he be charged with any business: but he shall be free at home one year, and shall cheer up his wife which he hath taken.”

I think we ought to be as liberal as the old Israelites were.

Now, God bless you, my brethren and sisters. I am pleased that your Bishop was determined I should come to see you. He came to my office three or four times to remind me that I was to come to-day; and I have come, and have talked to you as I have, and I trust I have done you no harm. God bless you. Amen.

“The Grand Destiny of Man,” Millennnial Star, 15 August 1901, 541-544; 22 Aug. 1901, 545-549.

All images courtesy LDS.org.

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“An Experience of My Father’s”: Lorenzo Snow’s Vision of Christ

An Experience of My Father’s

By LeRoy C. Snow

FOR some time President Woodruff’s health had been failing. Nearly every evening President Lorenzo Snow visited him at his home. This particular evening the doctors said that President Woodruff could not live much longer, that he was becoming weaker every day. President Snow was greatly worried. We cannot realize today what a terrible financial condition the Church was in at that time—owing millions of dollars and not being able to pay even the interest on its indebtedness.

President Lorenzo Snow Image courtesy lds.org.

President Lorenzo Snow
Image courtesy lds.org.

My father went to his room in the Salt Lake Temple, dressed in his robes of the Priesthood, knelt at the sacred altar in the Holy of Holies in the House of the Lord and there plead to the Lord to spare President Woodruff’is life, that President Woodruff might outlive him and that the great responsibility of Church leadership would not fall upon his shoulders. Yet he promised the Lord that he would devotedly perform any duty required at his hands. At this time he was in his eighty-sixth year.

Soon after this President Woodruff was taken to California where he died Friday morning at 6:40 o’clock September 2nd, 1898. President George Q. Cannon at once wired the information to the President’s office in Salt Lake City. Word was forwarded to President Snow who was in Brigham City. The telegram was delivered to him on the street in Brigham, He read it to President Rudger Clawson, then President of Boxelder Stake, who was with him, went to the telegraph office and replied that he would leave on the train about 5:30 that evening. He reached Salt Lake City about 7:15, proceeded to the President’s office, gave some instructions and then went to his private room in the Salt Lake Temple.

The Holy of Holies in the Salt Lake City Temple

The Holy of Holies in the Salt Lake City Temple

President Snow put on his holy temple robes, repaired again to the same sacred altar, offered up the signs of the Priesthood and poured out his heart to the Lord. He reminded the Lord how he plead for President Woodruff’s life to be spared, that President Woodruff’s days would be lengthened beyond his own; that he might never be called upon to bear the heavy burdens and responsibilities of the Church. “Nevertheless,” he said, “Thy will be done. I have not sought this responsibility but if it be Thy will, I now present myself before Thee for Thy guidance and instruction. I ask that Thou show me what Thou wouldst have me do.”

After finishing his prayer he expected a reply, some special manifestation from the Lord. So he waited,—and waited—and waited. There was no reply, no voice, no visitation, no manifestation. He left the altar and the room in great disappointment. Passing through the  Celestial room and out into the large corridor a glorious manifestation wasgiven President Snow which I relate in the words of his grand-daughter, Allie Young Pond, now the wife of Elder Noah S. Pond, recently president of the Northern States Mission:

“One evening while I was visiting grandpa Snow in his room in the Salt Lake Temple, I remained until the door keepers had gone and the night-watchmen had not yet come in, so grand-pa said he would take me to the main front entrance and let mc out that way. He got his bunch of keys from his dresser. After we left his room and while we were still in the large corridor leading into the celestial room, I was walking several steps ahead of grand-pa when he stopped me and said: ‘Wait a moment, Allie, I want to tell you something. It was right here that the Lord Jesus Christ appeared to me at the time of the death of President Woodruff. He instructed me to go right ahead and reorganize the First Presidency of the Church at once and not wait as had been done after the death of the previous presidents, and that I was to succeed President Woodruff.’

“Then grand-pa came a step nearer and held out his left hand and said; ‘He stood right here, about three feet above the floor. It looked as though He stood on a plate of solid gold.’

“Grand-pa told me what a glorious personage the Savior is and described His hands, feet, countenance and beautiful white robes, all of which were of such a glory of whiteness and brightness that he could hardly gaze upon Him.

“Then he came another step nearer and put his right hand on my head and said: ‘Now, grand-daughter, I want you to remember that this is the testimony of your grand-father, that he told you with his own lips that he actually saw the Savior, here in the Temple, and talked with Him face to face.’

Lorenzo Snow had a vision of Christ in the Salt Lake Temple, similar in some ways to the one Joseph Smith described in the Kirtland Temple.

Lorenzo Snow had a vision of Christ in the Salt Lake Temple, similar in some ways to the one Joseph Smith described in the Kirtland Temple.

During the June conference in 1919 at an M. I. A. officers’ meeting in the Assembly Hall I related the above testimony. President Heber J. Grant immediately arose and said:

In confirmation of the testimony given by Brother LeRoi C. Snow quoting the grand-daughter of Lorenzo Snow, I want to call attention to the fact that several years elapsed after the death of the Prophet Joseph before President Young was sustained as the president of the Church; after the death of President Young, several years elapsed again before President Taylor was sustained, and again when he died several years elapsed before President Woodruff was sustained.

After the funeral of President Wilford Woodruff, the apostles met in the office of the First Presidency and brother Francis M. Lyman said: “I feel impressed, although one of the younger members of the quorum, to say that I believe it would be pleasing in the sight of the Lord if the First Presidency of the Church was reorganized right here and right now. If I am in error regarding this impression. President Snow and the senior members of the council can correct me.”

President Snow said that he would be pleased to hear from all the brethren upon this question, and each and all of us expressed ourselves as believing it would be pleasing to the Lord and that it would be the proper thing to have the Presidency organized at once.

When we had finished, then and not till then, did Brother Snow tell us that he was instructed of the Lord in the temple the night after President Woodruff died, to organize the Presidency of the Church at once. President Anthon H. Lund and myself are the only men now living who were present at that meeting.

May the Lord bless and guide us by his spirit continually and may the testimony that we possess of the divinity of the work ever abide with us and our faithfulness be an inspiration to lead others to a knowledge of the gospel, [p.679] is my prayer and I ask it in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

A few days after the M. I. A, conference, in an interview with President Lund in his office, he retold the incident to me as given by President Grant regarding the meeting in the office of the First Presidency on Tuesday morning, September 13th, 1898, at which Lorenzo Snow was chosen President of the Church. He also said that he heard father tell a number of times of the Savior’s appearance to him after he had dressed in his temple robes, presented himself before the Lord and offered up the signs of the Priesthood.

I related this experience in the Eighteenth ward sacramental service. After the meeting Elder Arthur Winter told me he also had heard my father tell of the Savior’s appearance to him in the Temple instructing him not only to reorganize the First Presidency at once but also to select the same counselors that President Woodruff had. Presidents George Q. Cannon and Joseph F. Smith.

President Lorenzo Snow with his counselors and the Quorum of the Twelve. Image courtesy LDS.org.

President Lorenzo Snow with his counselors and the Quorum of the Twelve.
Image courtesy LDS.org.

LeRoi C. Snow, “An Experience of My Father’s,” The Improvement Era, 36, no. 11 (Sept. 1933): 677, 679.

Elder Orson F. Whitney, April 1928

Orson F. Whitney

Orson F. Whitney

No servant of the Lord should ever arise before a congregation and say, I have nothing upon my mind. A people who have been commanded of God to “seek for wisdom out of the best of books”—to “seek learning by study and also by faith,” ought to have something upon their minds. I have something upon my mind, but I need the Spirit of the Lord to enable me to bring it forth, in such a way as to feed your souls with the bread of life and build you up in the faith of the everlasting gospel. That Spirit I now invoke.

THE CONFERENCE KEYNOTE

The keynote of this conference, if I heard it aright, was struck by the president of the Church in his opening address yesterday morning, when he referred to the great and marvelous work in which the Latter-day Saints are taking part. I wish to elaborate that theme.[1]

A PROPHECY AND ITS FULFILMENT

It was about seven hundred years before the birth of the Savior, when a prophet of God upon the Eastern hemisphere predicted the coming forth of “a marvelous work and a wonder.” The reason assigned for its coming was given in the language of the Lord, as follows:

Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honor me, but have removed their heart far from me,…

Therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a ‘marvelous work among this people, even a marvelous work and a wonder; for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid.—Isa. 29:13, 14.

If you wish to know when and where this prophecy began to be fulfilled, follow me down the ages to the spring of the year 1820, and into the rural districts of New York State, where then dwelt a humble family by the name of Smith. One member of that family was a boy between fourteen and fifteen years of age. Anxious for his soul’s salvation, young Joseph Smith went into the woods near his father’s home, and inquired of the Lord which of all the churches then extant was the true Church of Christ, in order that he might join it. While praying he was seized upon by an evil power, which strove to destroy him; but he was delivered by a vision of light, in the midst of which stood two glorious personages, one of whom, pointing to the other, said : “This is my beloved Son—hear him.”

Joseph Smith's First Vision in the Restoration video.

Joseph Smith’s First Vision in the Restoration video.

In answer to his inquiry as to the churches, the boy was told, to his astonishment, that none of them was the true Church of Christ, and that he must not connect himself with any of them ; but await the coming of the true Church, in the founding of which he was destined to play an important part. Said the Son of God, in relation to the churches then existing : “They draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me;”—thus linking together the ancient prophecy pertaining to the “marvelous work and wonder” and the work inaugurated by Joseph Smith in this the Dispensation of the Fulness of Times.[p.57]

MARVELS AND WONDERS

And what a wonderful work it is! What could be more so? At a time when all over the Christian world—to say nothing of the heathen world—it was popularly supposed that the heavens were sealed, and the canon of Scripture full; that visions and revelations had ceased, and that angels no longer communicated with men—at that very time the heavens burst, and not only angels, but God himself comes down, and proclaims to a little fourteen-year-old boy the opening of a new gospel dispensation! Could anything be more marvelous?

Three years pass, and an angel appears to Joseph, giving his name as Moroni, and stating that in mortal life he was a prophet to an ancient people called Nephites, the civilized ancestors of the present-day American Indians. Among other things the youth was told that a record engraved upon gold plates, compiled by Moroni’s father, another prophet named Mormon, would be found in a neighboring hill, where Moroni had concealed it centuries before. This record contained the fulness of the everlasting gospel, as delivered to the Nephites by the Savior, who claimed them as his “other sheep”—a branch of the House of Israel. (John 10:16; 3 Nephi 15:21.) That book, translated by Joseph Smith, reveals the wonderful past and the yet more wonderful future of America, the Land of Zion, otherwise known as the Land of Joseph, referred to by the Patriarch Jacob when blessing his twelve sons (Gen. 49:22-26), and by the Prophet Moses, in giving his farewell benediction to the tribes of Israel (Deut. 33:13-17.) America is shown to be the place of the New Jerusalem, a holy city to he built by a gathering of scattered Israel, prior to the glorious coming of the Lord.

Next came John the Baptist, another angel, who conferred upon Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery the Aaronic Priesthood, authorizing them to preach the gospel in its restored purity, and to baptize by immersion for the remission of sins. And this was followed by a visitation from three other heavenly messengers—namely, Peter, James and John, who ordained them to the Melchizedek Priesthood, thus empowering them to bestow upon their baptized converts the gift of the Holy Ghost. By virtue of these ordinations, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was organized, April 6, 1830, at Fayette, Seneca county, New York. And thus was fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy of the lifting up of the Ensign for the gathering of scattered Israel (Tsa. 11:11-16.) This movement was authorized by Moses, who as an angel delivered to Joseph and Oliver the keys of the Gathering; that the dispersed of Judah and the outcasts of Israel—including the Lost Tribes in “the land of the North”—might assemble in fulfilment of prophecy—the Jews to Palestine, to rebuild the old Jerusalem ; the other tribes to America, where the new Jerusalem is to rise. Elias also appeared and committed to Joseph and Oliver “the dispensation of the gospel of Abraham.” These men were descendants of the great Hebrew patriarch, and were to begin a work having as its object the eternal welfare of Abraham’s posterity. Then Elijah came, [p.58] “to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children and the children to the fathers,” that the dead as well as the living might share in the blessings of the Final Dispensation, wherein, pursuantly to divine purpose, all things that are Christ’s, both in heaven and on earth, will be brought together in one.

In preaching the gospel to the world and gathering Israel from the nations, the Latter-day Saints—children of Ephraim—are helping to fulfil the covenant made by Jehovah with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob: “In thee and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.” So runs the ancient promise—fulfilled by Jehovah himself in coming through the lineage of those patriarchs as the Savior of the world; and further fulfilled by the dispersion of Israel among the nations, blessed by this racial admixture and by the gathering that has begun.

These are some of the marvels connected with the mighty work in which we are taking part—the wonderful work of Almighty God, in this the last and greatest of the gospel dispensations. What can compare with it? Is there anything half so wonderful?

ALMOST AS WONDERFUL

Yes, there is something almost as wonderful—and that is, that the wise men of this world do not see in it anything worthy of their special care or attention. “Mormonism,” to its devotees, is the most glorious thing in existence—the sublimest poem that was ever written, the profoundest system of philosophy that the world has ever known. But the “wise” and “prudent” pass it by as a thing of naught, or stand at a distance, sneering at it and pelting it with unsavory epithets. Why is it?

LINCOLN AND GREELEY

Why couldn’t Abraham Lincoln, that good and great man, see in “Mormonism” what we see in it, and what it really is—the Everlasting Gospel? He and Joseph Smith lived almost within a stone’s throw of each other in Illinois. Why did not the future president recognize in the prophet of God what the Latter-day Saints recognize in him—the most remarkable human being that has walked this earth in two thousand years? Why couldn’t Lincoln see it? The great emancipator was no enemy to the “Mormon” people. When asked, after his election as president, how he intended to treat the “Mormon” question which was bothering the politicians as well as the priests—he answered in his quaint, characteristic way: “I intend to treat it as a farmer on the frontier would treat an old water-soaked elm log lying upon his land—too heavy to move, too knotty to split, and too wet to burn. I’m going to plow round it.” And he did.

Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln

Horace Greeley, another great character, the founder and editor of the New York Tribune, a man whose utterances were more potent in his day than those of the president of the United States—he came out to Utah in early times when the fastest means of travel between the Missouri river and the Pacific Coast, was the ox-team, the pack [p.59] mule, or Ben Holliday’s stage line. Greeley came by stage, and on his way to California, tarried certain days in Salt Lake City. He had repeated interviews with President Brigham Young, and in a book afterwards written and published he paid high compliment to the pioneers and early settlers of these mountain solitudes. He didn’t believe the “Mormons” were robbers and murderers, as he had been told, and he spoke of them as honest and industrious people. But that was all. Brigham Young’s views on marriage and slavery interested the great editor, but the “Mormon” religion in its sublimest phases was a sealed book to him. Why?

OUTSIDE AND INSIDE AUXILIARIES

Well, doubtless there were good reasons for it; and I will venture to advance one. Perhaps the Lord needs such men on the outside of his Church, to help it along. They are among its auxiliaries, and can do more good for the cause where the Lord has placed them, than anywhere else. And the same is true of the priesthood and its auxiliaries inside the Church. Hence, some are drawn into the fold and receive a testimony of the Truth; while others remain unconverted—for the present; the beauties and glories of the gospel being veiled temporarily from their view, for a wise purpose. The Lord will open their eyes in his own due time.

ISRAEL AND THE GENTILES

God is using more than one people for the accomplishment of his great and marvelous work. The Latter-day Saints cannot do it all. It is too vast, too arduous, for any one people. Our part in it is the greatest. We have the gospel and the priesthood, with a mission to gather Israel, build the New Jerusalem, and prepare the way for the advent of the King of kings. And this duty has been laid upon us because we belong to the house of Israel. It is the God of Israel who is coming to reign and we are the right people to prepare the way before him.

But we don’t own the steamships and the railroads and other means of rapid transit and communication, whereby the Lord’s people are being gathered out from the nations—flying “upon the shoulders of the Philistines,” as Isaiah predicted. The risen Savior, when he appeared to the Nephites and spoke of the glorious future, said that the Gentiles would assist his people in gathering to their promised lands. And are they not doing this ? Is it not the ships and railroads of the Gentiles—”the shoulders of the Philistines”—that are bringing the children of Ephraim to this Land of Joseph, and carrying the children of Judah to their ancient homeland—dedicated for their return by direction of the Prophet of Ephraim—Joseph Smith?

We have no quarrel with the Gentiles. They are our partners in a certain sense. The name Gentile is not with us a term of reproach. It comes from Gentiles, meaning, of a nation, a family or a people not of Israel—that is all. “Mormon” is a nickname for Latter-day Saint, [p.60] but “Gentile” is not a nickname. It simply means, with us, one who does not belong to the Church. We need the Gentiles, and they need us, but they don’t know it, and we do. They are wiser than we are in material things— the things of Earth and Time. But when it comes to spiritual things—the things of Heaven and Eternity, we can teach them. We need their wealth and worldly wisdom, their wonderful skill in managing and manipulating temporalities. And they need the Gospel and the Priesthood. They need us, for we hold in our hands the Key to their eternal salvation.

Again I say, the Lord’s Work has need of auxiliaries outside as well as inside, to help it along. Because of their worldly influence —which would depart if they connected themselves with the Church—many are kept where they are, where the Lord has placed them, and can best use them for the good of all.

THE WISE AND PRUDENT

Many years ago I had an interesting conversation with a man who was a member of the Roman Catholic church. He was a great scholar; he must have had a dozen languages at his tongue’s end, and seemed to know all about history, science, law, philosophy, and all the rest of it. We were frank and friendly with each other, and one day he said to me:

“You ‘Mormons’ are all ignoramuses. You don’t even know the strength of your own position. It is so strong that there is only one other position tenable in the whole Christian world, and that is the position of the Roman Catholic church. The issue is between ‘Mormonism’ and Catholicism. If you are right, we are wrong. If we are right, you are wrong, and that’s all there is to it. These Protestant sects haven’t a leg to stand on; for if we are right, we cut them off long ago, as apostates; and if we are wrong, they are wrong with us, for they were a part of us and came out of us. If we have the apostolic succession from St. Peter, as we claim, there was no need of Joseph Smith and ‘Mormonism;’ but if we have not that apostolic succession, then such a man as Joseph Smith was necessary, and ‘Mormonism’s position is the only consistent one. It is either the perpetuation of the Gospel from ancient times or the restoration of the Gospel in latter days.”

“Doctor,” said I, “that is a very clear and concise statement, and I agree with it in almost every particular. But don’t deceive yourself with the notion that we ‘Mormons’ don’t know the strength of our own position. We know it better than you do. We know it better than any other people can know it. We haven’t all been to college, we can’t all speak the dead languages, and we may be ignoramuses as you say; but we know we are right, and we know you are wrong.” I was just as frank with him as he had been with me.

Now what was this great scholar’s viewpoint? With all his learning, he could not see into the heart of “Mormonism.” He recognized the strength of its position; but he supposed that to be an accident. [p.61] He thought Joseph Smith had stumbled upon something of which he did not know the true value.[2] He was wise in worldly wisdom; but his wisdom perished in the presence of this mighty and marvelous problem.

Possible photo of Joseph Smith.

Possible photo of Joseph Smith.

Another instance and I am done. A learned gentleman named Riley applied for a doctor’s degree at Yale University, and as the basis of his application, he wrote a thesis entitled “Joseph Smith, the Founder of Mormonism.” And what did he bring forth? Simply this: That Joseph Smith was an epileptic, who fell in a fit and imagined that he saw the Father and the Son; imagined that Moroni revealed to him the Hook of Mormon; that John the Baptist conferred upon him the Aaronic Priesthood, and Peter, James and John the Melchizedek Priesthood; that Moses restored the keys of the gathering, and that Elias and Elijah also appeared to him. All imagination, said Mr. Riley.

But this wise man overlooked one important fact: A tree is known by its fruit; a fountain, by the stream that issues from it. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as a system of government, challenges the admiration of intelligent men all over the world. It is conceded to be a wonderful organization. And the doctrines of “Mormonism” are replete with poetry and philosophy—are beautiful, glorious and sublime. Joseph Smith declared that these things were revealed to him—that they came right down from God out of heaven; but Mr. Riley would have us believe that they all sprang from the diseased brain of a fourteen-year-old boy who had fallen in an epileptic fit!

There are some things that do not need answering, and this one of them. Well was it said in days of old, with reference to the days in which we live: “The wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid.”

ONLY ONE WAY

There is but one way to understand “Mormonism”—and that is God’s way, not man’s. Books and schools cannot give a testimony of the Truth. Those who sneer at the Everlasting Gospel, and pelt it with nicknames, will never understand it—unless they repent, and are baptized, and receive the Holy Ghost, whereby the things of God are made manifest. What Peter said to the multitude in his great Pentecostal sermon, is just as true today as when it was first spoken. The Gospel does not change ; it is the same yesterday, today and forever and what was necessary to save a soul two thousand years ago, is necessary to save one now. Amen.

Orson F. Whitney, in Conference Report, Apr. 1928, 56-61


[1] See Heber J. Grant, in Conference Report, Apr. 1928, 5-10.

[2] Joseph Smith did understand this point, as he once stated that the “old Catholic Church is worth more than all—here is a princ. of logic—that men have no more sense—I will illustrate an old apple tree—here jumps off a branch & says I am the true tree. & you are corrupt—if the whole tree is corrupt how can any true thing come out of it[?]… God always sent a new dispensatn. into the world—when men come out & build upon o[the]r men’s foundatn.—did I build on anotr. mans foundtn. but my own[?]—I have got all the truth & an indepent. rev[elatio]n. in the bargain” (Cook, Lyndon W. [2009-09-03]. The Words of Joseph Smith [Kindle Locations 7030-7036]. Deseret Book Company. Kindle Edition).