B.H. Roberts: The Church of the Lamb and the Church of the Devil

B.H. Roberts of the Presidency of the Seventy.

B.H. Roberts of the Presidency of the Seventy.

Among the things important for the Saints of God to understand, among the things important for the world to understand respecting the Latter-day Saints, is the relationship that we sustain to the religious world; and I do not know that there is anything to which I could devote the few minutes at my disposal to better advantage than pointing out that relationship, if I can obtain, through your faith and mine, the liberty that comes from the possession of the Spirit of the Lord.

The first revelation that the Lord gave to the Prophet Joseph Smith had a bearing upon this subject. You remember that the Prophet went to the Lord to ascertain which of all the sects of religion was His church, desiring, of course, to unite himself with that church which the Lord would designate as His. In reply to that question the Lord, in substance, said that they were all wrong; that He did not acknowledge them as His church; and told the Prophet he must join none of them, but promised that in due time He would use the Prophet as His instrument in the establishment of His Church in the earth. Because of this great revelation, by which the errors of ages were swept aside and the ground cleared for the re-establishment of the Church of Christ among men, it has placed us in a way in an attitude of antagonism to the religious world. We have been resisted to some extent because of this attitude of antagonism; and it is quite possible that we ourselves have not understood the true relationship in which we stand to the religious world, by more or less of misapprehension respecting this great revelation. I rejoice in the plainness and emphasis of this revelation, because from it I am made to realize that there is a very important reason for the existence of the work with which we are identified. I am glad to know that “Mormonism” did not come into existence because its founders chanced to disagree with prevailing notions about the form or object of baptism; that it did not come into existence through a disagreement as to the character of the government of the Church. From the revelation referred to I learn that “Mormonism” came into existence because there was an absolute necessity [p.14] for a new dispensation of the Gospel, a re-establishment of the Church of Christ among men. The Gospel had been corrupted; its ordinances had been changed; its laws transgressed, its truths so far lost to the children of men that it rendered this new dispensation of the Gospel of Christ—miscalled “Mormonism”—necessary. I say that I rejoice in the fact that “Mormonism” came into the world, and exists in the world today, because the world stood in sore need of it. But does this re-establishment of the Church of Christ, this new dispensation of the Gospel, which we have received, make our relationship to the children of men one of unfriendliness? I answer, No. On the contrary our relationship to men is one of absolute friendship and anxiety to do the world good. We ought to understand that. We do understand it. And it is important that the world should understand it, that they may come to regard us in our true light, as friends of humanity, and not enemies.

A stained-glass window depiction of the First Vision on display in the Redlands, California Temple

A stained-glass window depiction of the First Vision on display in the Redlands, California Temple

If you will look through some of the revelations given in the early history of the Church, you will find that from time to time the Lord was under the necessity of correcting the ideas of the brethren respecting their attitude towards religious world. The Lord said to Martin Harris, by way of correction:

“Thou shalt declare glad tidings, yea, publish it upon the mountains, and upon every high place, and among every people that thou shalt be permitted to see. And thou shalt do it with all humility, trusting in me, reviling not against revilers. And of tenets thou shalt not talk, but thou shalt declare repentance and faith on the Savior, and remission of sin by baptism and by fire, yea, even the Holy Ghost.” [D&C 19:29-31.]

The Prophet also from time to time found it necessary to correct the Elders of the Church in respect of their attacking other churches. At Kirtland, in 1836, when many of the Elders were upon the eve of taking their departure for their fields of labor he instructed them as follows:

“While waiting [for the Sacrament] I made the following remarks: The time that we were required to tarry in Kirtland to be endowed would be fulfilled in a few days, and then the Elders would go forth, and each stand for himself . . . . to go in all meekness, in sobriety, and preach Christ and Him crucified; not to contend with others on account of their faith or systems of religion, but pursue a steady course. This I delivered by way of commandment; and all who observe it not, will pull down persecution upon their heads, while those who do, shall always be filled with the Holy Ghost; this I pronounced as a prophesy.” (History of the Church, vol. n, p. 431.)

Missionaries for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“Our relationship to men is one of absolute friendship and anxiety to do the world good.”
Image courtesy of LDS.org.

In other words, because the Lord has opened the heavens and has given a new dispensation of the Gospel, it does not follow that His servants or His people are to be contentious; that they are to make war upon other people for holding different views respecting religion. Hence this caution to the Elders of the Church that they should not contend against other churches, make war upon their tenets, or revile even the revilers. At an earlier date still, the Lord had said to Oliver Cowdery and David Whitmer:

“If you have not faith, hope and Charity, you can do nothing. Contend against no church, save it be the church of the devil. Take upon you the name of Christ, and speak the truth in soberness.” (Doc. & Cov. Sec. 18, 19-21.)

“The church of the devil” here alluded to I understand to mean not any particular church among men, or any one sect of religion, but something larger than that—something worldwide—something that includes within its boundaries all evil wherever it may be found; as well in schools of philosophy as in Christian sects; as well in systems of ethics as in systems of religion—something that includes the whole empire of Satan—what I shall call “The Kingdom of Evil.”

This descriptive phrase, “the church of the devil,” is also used in the Book of Mormon; and while in attendance at a conference in one of the border stakes of Zion, a question was propounded to me in relation to its meaning. The passage occurs in the writings of the first Nephi. An angel of the Lord is represented as saying to Nephi, “Behold, there are save two [p.15] churches only: the one is the church of the Lamb of God, and the “Other is the church of the devil.” [1 Nephi 14:10.] The question submitted to me was, “Is the Catholic church the church here referred to—the church of the devil?” “Well,” said I, in answer, “I would not like to take that position, because it would leave me with a lot of churches on my hands that I might not then be able to classify.” So far as the Catholic church is concerned, I believe that there: is just as much truth, nay, personally I believe it has retained even more truth than other divisions of so-called Christendom; and there is just as much virtue, and I am sure there is more strength in the Roman Catholic church than there is in Protestant Christendom.

I would not like, therefore, to designate the Catholic church as the church of the devil. Neither would I like to designate any one or all of the various divisions and subdivisions of Protestant Christendom combined as such, church; nor the Greek Catholic church; nor the Buddhist sects: nor the followers of Confucius; nor the followers of Mohammed; nor would I like to designate even the societies formed by deists and atheists as constituting the church of the devil. The Book of Mormon text ought to be read in connection with its context—with the chapter that precedes it and the remaining portions of the chapter in which It is found—then, I think, those who study it in that manner will be forced to the conclusion that the Prophet here has In mind no particular church, no particular division of Christendom, but he has in mind, as just stated, the whole empire of Satan; and perhaps the thought of the passage would be more nearly expressed if we use the term “the kingdom of evil” as constituting the church of the devil.

A printing of James E. Talmage's The Great Apostasy with a cover indicative of the Catholic Church.

A printing of James E. Talmage’s The Great Apostasy with a cover indicative of the Catholic Church.

I understand the injunction to Oliver Cowdery to “contend against no church, save it be the church of the devil,” to mean that he shall contend against evil, against untruth, against all combinations of wicked men. They constitute the church of the devil, the kingdom of evil, a federation of unrighteousness; and the servants of God have a right to contend against that which is evil, let it appear where it will, in Catholic or in Protestant Christendom, among the philosophical societies of deists and atheists, and even within the Church of Christ, if, unhappily, it should make its appearance there. But, let it be understood, we are not brought necessarily into antagonism with the various sects of Christianity as such. So far as they have retained fragments of Christian truth—and each of them has some measure of truth—that far they are acceptable unto the Lord; and it would be poor policy for us to contend against them without discrimination. Wherever we find truth, whether it exists in complete form or only in fragments, we recognize that truth as part of that sacred whole of which the Church of Jesus Christ is the custodian; and I repeat that our relationship to the religious world is not one that calls for the denunciation of sectarian churches as composing the church of the devil. All that makes for untruth, for unrighteousness  constitutes the kingdom of evil—the church of the devil. All that makes for truth, for righteousness, is of God; it constitutes the kingdom of righteousness—the empire of Jehovah; and, in a certain sense at least, constitutes the Church of Christ. With the latter—the kingdom of righteousness—we have no warfare. On the contrary both the spirit of the Lord’s commandments to His servants and the dictates of right reason would suggest that we seek to enlarge this kingdom of righteousness both by recognizing such truths as it possesses and seeking the friendship and co-operation of the righteous men and women who constitute its membership.

Running parallel with these thoughts, I may be pardoned if I call your attention to a remark I made in one of these general conferences some time ago, to the effect that when misrepresentations are made of us, or our faith, or when persecution arises against us, it must not embitter our minds, or make us feel hateful toward our fellowmen, or lead us to regard the whole world as [p.16] our enemies. We must keep the sweetness of our own disposition. The language of the Savior wherein He says, “Marvel not if the world hate you: it  hated me before it hated you, if you were of the world, the world would love its own,” etc., I contended then and believe now that the truth of that declaration will be more plainly seen if we read it in this way: “Marvel not if the worldly hate you.” If the ungodly, if those who make and love a lie—if such classes as this hate you, marvel not; for they were the classes that hated the Christ and the light and truth that He brought into the world, because their deeds were evil, and His light and truth were a reproof to their evil ways. And as we say concerning the “kingdom of evil,” so we say with reference to those who hate the truth and make war upon the righteous, they are not of any one class, or confined to any one sect or division of the religious world, but, unhappily, are found here and there among all classes of people, among all Christian sects, among all religions and sects of philosophy. We ought to rightly divide, not only the word of truth, but the wicked and the ungodly from those who in common with us are seeking to know God and to keep His commandments. And there are millions who are hungering and thirsting for that knowledge; and we from time to time shall find them and lead them into God’s temple of truth, where they shall be satisfied at the feast that the Lord is preparing for all those who hunger and thirst after righteousness.

The purpose of the Lord in instituting His Church in the earth is very beautifully set forth in one of the revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants, as follows:

(I discover that I do not readily find the passage, and so I pass it for the moment.) The thought that I desire to express and leave with you, however, is this, that as in the matter of physical warfare so also In the matter of theological contention, I believe it is proper for the Latter-day Saints to renounce war and proclaim peace; not to take such a course as would excite the antagonism of the world, but seeking rather such ground-work of truth as may be held in common between them and ourselves; for the Lord has brought forth His work in the last days, not for the purpose of subtracting from such truth as men may possess, but to add to that truth, to increase it, to enlarge it, until at the last God, through the agencies He has appointed, shall gather together in one system all truth.

The passage I was looking for is kindly handed to me, and is as follows:

“If this generation harden not their hearts, I will establish my Church among them.

“Now I do not say this to destroy my Church, but I say this to build up my Church.

“Therefore, whosoever belongeth to my Church need not fear, for such shall inherit the kingdom of heaven.

“But it is they who do not fear me, neither keep my commandments, but build up churches unto themselves to get gain, yea, and all those that do wickedly and build up the kingdom of the devil; yea, verily, verily,-I say unto you, that it is they that I will disturb, and cause to tremble and shake to the center.” [D&C 10:53-56.]

I read this in confirmation of the word I spoke, saying that the purpose of God in the introduction of the Dispensation of the Fulness of Times was not to destroy any truth that existed in the world, but to add to that truth, to increase it, and to draw together all truth and develop it into a beautiful system in which men may rest contented, knowing God and their relationship to Him, knowing of the future and their relation unto it.

Image courtesy of LDS.org.

Image courtesy of LDS.org.

We should present our message to the world in the spirit of peace, charity and longsuffering; and avoid contention; for as our Book of Mormon tells us, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of God. I would the world could understand the unselfishness of our motives in presenting the Gospel of Jesus Christ to them; if they could only know that our only desire was that they should come to a knowledge of the great principles of [p.17] truth that are so comforting to us; that we desire their repentance and acceptance of the fulness of the truth, only that they might find favor with God, and share in our hopes of that eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised before the world was—if our fellowmen could be made to understand that this was our only purpose, it seems to me that many of the barriers that now separate us from our fellowmen would be broken down, and we would be able to reach the hearts of the people. I believe that as time passes and we become wiser in the methods of work we adopt, we will do that more and more, causing yet, not only hundreds of thousands but millions of our Father’s children to partake of those great blessings that the Gospel has brought to us. To make known these truths and to make the children of men participate in the blessings that we ourselves enjoy, we yearly send hundreds of our Elders to the various nations of the earth. They sacrifice the fond associations of home, the society of wives and children, parents and friends; they sacrifice professional advantages and business opportunities; and sometimes sacrifice health and even life itself to proclaim to the world the truth which God has made known to us—enduring the world’s reproach and contumely, because the world does not understand them nor their message; and there is still need. Of the prayer on our part, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” For the benefit of those who have passed away from the earth without a knowledge of the great truths and saving power of the Gospel of Christ, we rear costly temples, whose spires pierce the skies of our beloved Utah; and within them at great sacrifice of time and means the saints of God assemble to apply the principles of the everlasting Gospel to, those who have passed away without the privilege of accepting them while upon the earth. A more completely unselfish work than this does not exist among men. On every hand the work of God bears the stamp of unselfishness upon it. Our Book of Mormon says: “The laborers in Zion shall labor for Zion; for if they labor for money, they shall perish.” So through all the communications of God to His people shines the glorious principle of absolute unselfishness. Not only is it to be found in the words of our books, but a like testimony is written in the works of the Latter-day Saints—in their actions. Everywhere unselfishness abounds in the Church of Christ, both in theory and practice. Now, if we can only get the people of the world to understand this fact of unselfishness—this very genius of Mormonism—if they could be made to know that Mormonism is here to do good, to raise mankind from the low levels on which they walk to the higher plains where God would have them walk, that they might have sweet fellowship with God, much of our difficulty in preaching the gospel would disappear. That the Lord may hasten the day when the world shall know the Saints and the work of God better, is my prayer in the name of Jesus. Amen.

B. H. Roberts, Address, General Conference Report, April 1906, 13-17.

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.

“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).

Temple Worship by John A. Widtsoe

Elder John A. Widtsoe was born on 31 January 1872 in Frøya, Norway. His family converted to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, then moved to Utah in 1883. His professional career was in agriculture and education, and he taught agriculture and biology at what are now Utah State University and at Brigham Young University. Prior to his call as an apostle of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1921, Widtsoe also served as president of present-day Utah State University and then at University of Utah. Elder Widtsoe died in Salt Lake City on 29 November 1952 at age 80. He is noted for his many writings on Latter-day Saint theology and for compilations of Brigham Young and Joseph F. Smith’s teachings.

John A. Widtsoe

John A. Widtsoe

TEMPLE WORSHIP

By Dr. John A. Widtsoe.

April, 1921

A Lecture, delivered under the auspices of the Genealogical Society of Utah, at the Assembly Hall, Temple Block; Salt Lake City, Tuesday evening, October 12, 1920.

 

My brethren and sisters, when those in charge of this work were planning the program, I urged upon them that they do not call this meeting for the Assembly Hall. I felt sure the congregation would be so small that we would all be unhappy. I am happily disappointed; and I am quite sure that neither the drawing power of Joseph Fielding Smith nor myself is the cause of this large attendance, but the conviction in the hearts of the Latter-day Saints that all that pertains to temples and to temple work, to the salvation for the dead, is of tremendous worth. I regret, of course, that Elder Joseph Fielding Smith is not here tonight. I am sorry for those of you who came to hear him speak, for you will have to come again, because he speaks tomorrow. He is filling an important engagement, and we simply ‘ exchanged evenings. I regret, however, for my own sake, that he is not here, because what I have to say needs as a background the splendid talk that he has for us. He will deal with the spirit and the mission of Elijah. I was asked to speak about temple worship. He was to take up the great generalization, the great body of principles upon which this work rests ; and I was to take one small part of the application of the work, for my theme. I feel just a little embarrassed to speak on temple worship without the background of Elder Smith’s discourse. I am embarrassed also because I realize how utterly impossible it is to deal with so vast and comprehensive a subject in the few moments that I can take tonight, especially in the presence of so many of you who have spent your lives in temple service and who understand [p.50] the subject so well. But, like you, I am willing to obey orders and to do the best I can; and with the assistance of your faith and your prayers, I shall try to discuss with you some of the high points pertaining to temple worship which all should understand, whether we have received the blessings of the temple or whether we are candidates for temple blessings. It is to be an elementary, non-technical discussion.

SECTION TWO.

"Almost the first words of the Lord to the Prophet Joseph Smith, when as a boy he was called to restore the Gospel of Jesus Christ, dealt with the subject that we are discussing"

“Almost the first words of the Lord to the Prophet Joseph Smith, when as a boy he was called to restore the Gospel of Jesus Christ, dealt with the subject that we are discussing”

If an apology were needed for speaking on temple worship, I would simply call your attention to Section 2 of the Doctrine and Covenants, the first recorded revelation of the Lord in these latter days, through the Angel Moroni to Joseph Smith.

“Behold I will reveal unto you the Priesthood, by the hand of Elijah the prophet, before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord;

”And he shall plant in the hearts of the children the promises made to the fathers, and the hearts of the children shall turn to their fathers;

“If it were not so, the whole earth would be utterly wasted at its coming.”

Some day, no doubt, this Society will call us together and devote one evening or more to a discussion of this magnificent revelation—its meaning, historical and doctrinal. Almost the first words of the Lord to the Prophet Joseph Smith, when as a boy he was called to restore the Gospel of Jesus Christ, dealt with the subject that we are discussing throughout this week; and almost the last words spoken by God to the prophet before the Prophet’s death, as far as we can tell, dealt with the same subject.

PRESENT INCREASED INTEREST IN TEMPLE WORK.

There is at present an unusual increased interest in temple activity. Our temples are crowded. The last time that I attended the Salt Lake Temple I was a member of the third company. One started early in the morning, one late in the forenoon, and my company started about 2 o’clock in the afternoon. It was about 6 p. m. before we had completed the day’s work.

The number of temples is also increasing. The Hawaiian temple has only recently been dedicated; the Canadian temple is being rushed to completion, the Arizona temple is being planned, and numerous communities in the Church are anxiously waiting and praying for the time that they may have temples.

There is a renewed spirit in behalf of temple work, not because people are wealthier than they were before, nor because [p.51] temples are more accessible, but because the time has come for more temple work to be done. The spirit is abroad among the people, and those who are honest in heart and understand the Gospel of Jesus Christ, are willing to give their time and means more liberally in behalf of temple work.

OPPOSITION AND BLESSINGS FROM TEMPLE WORK.

In view of this great temple activity, we may well prepare ourselves for opposition. There never yet has been a time in the history of the world when temple work has increased without a corresponding increase in the opposition to it. Some three or four years after the pioneers came to this valley. President Brigham Young said that it was time to begin the building of a, temple; and some of the old timers here will probably remember that thousands of the Saints dreaded the command, because they said, “Just as soon as we lay the cornerstone of a temple, all hell will be turned loose upon us and we will be driven out of the valleys.” President Young thought that was true, but that they also would have, if temple work were undertaken, a corresponding increase in power to overcome all evil. Men grow mighty under the results of temple service; women grow strong under it; the community increases in power; until the devil has less influence than he ever had before. The opposition to truth is relatively smaller if the people are engaged actively in the ordinances of the temple.

TEMPLE WORK FOR ALL THE PEOPLE.

Accra, Ghana temple

Accra, Ghana temple

We need more workers to accomplish the wonderful work that was outlined last night at the reception given by the First Presidency. Even three companies a day in each temple will not be enough; we shall have to organize four, or five, and for all I know, the day may come, unless we build more temples, when we shall keep the temples open twenty-four hours a day. We need more converts to temple work, drawn from all ages, from the young, from the middle-aged, and from the rich and poor, from among the busy and those of leisure. The time has come, I verily believe, in this new temple movement, to bring into active service all the people, of all ages. From the children doing baptisms, to the aged grandparents doing endowments for the dead, all the members of the family, if we do our duty well, must be brought into the work. Temple work is quite of as much benefit to the young and the active, as it is to the aged, who have laid behind them many of the burdens of life. The young man needs his place in the temple even more than his fathet and his grandfather, who are steadied by a life of ex[p.52]perience; and the young girl just entering life, needs the spirit, influence and direction that come from participation in the temple ordinances. If I say nothing else tonight that will linger, I hope you will remember that temple work is for the young and for the middle aged and for the aged—for all—and not for one specialized, separated class within the Church organization.

HISTORICAL DISTRIBUTION OF TEMPLES.

What is a temple? According to the ordinary definition, it is any place set apart for sacred purposes and dedicated to a sacred purpose—a house of God.

All people of all ages have had temples in one form or another. When the history of human thought shall be written from the point of view of temple worship, it may well be found that temples and the work done in them have been the dominating influence in shaping human thought from the beginning of the race. Even today political controversies are as nothing in determining the temper of a people, as compared with religious sentiments and convictions, especially as practiced in the temples of the people.

In every land and in every age temples have been built and used. In China, age old with four thousand years of written history; in India; on the islands of the sea; in South America; in North America; in Africa and in Australia ; everywhere there are evidences of the existence and use of temples.

TEMPLES OF THE PRIESTHOOD.

Solomon's Temple

Solomon’s Temple

There is a fairly complete history of some of the temples of the priesthood, the temples built by the chosen people of God. There are evidences that even in patriarchal days, in the days of Adam, there was the equivalent of temples, for the priesthood was held in its fulness, as far as the people needed it ; and there is every reason to believe that from Adam to Noah, temple worship was in operation. After the flood the Holy Priesthood was continued; and we have reason to believe, in sacred places, the ordinances of the temple were given to those entitled to receive them.

When Israel was in Egypt, the Priesthood was with them, and we may believe from certain sayings of the Scriptures that Israel had in Egypt a temple or its equivalent, the mysterious “testimony.” When Israel was in the wilderness temple worship was provided for, for the Lord said to the Prophet Joseph (D. & C, 124:38):

“For, for this cause I commanded Moses that he should build a tabernacle, that they should bear it with them in the [p.53] wilderness, and to build a house in the land of promise, that those ordinances might be revealed which had been hid from before the world was.”

In the tabernacle (or temple) of the wilderness, the ordinances of God’s house were given to a certain extent, at least, as we give them today.

I need not review with you the history of the temples of Israel, the temple of the wilderness or “tabernacle of the congregation,” later placed at Shiloh; the temple of Solomon; the temple of Zerubbabel after the captivity; the restoration of this temple by Herod, and so on. We need simply remember that the story of ancient Israel, the chosen people of God, centers upon their temples.

The Book of Mormon indicates that from about 600 years B. C. until about 35 or 40 years A. D., temples, under the authority of the holy priesthood, were found on this continent. Nephi says distinctly that he proceeded to gather up all the precious things of the people and to build a temple according to the pattern of the temple of Solomon.

TEMPLE WORSHIP ETERNALLY A PART OF THE GOSPEL.

When Joseph Smith was commissioned to restore the Gospel and to re-establish the Church of Jesus Christ, the building of temples and temple worship became almost the first and the last issue of his life. The temple site in Independence, dedicated shortly after the organization of the Church; the building and completion of the Kirtland temple and the wonderful things that happened there; the building of the Nauvoo temple and the giving of endowments in the temple after the death of the Prophet; the dedication of other temple sites and many revelations concerning temples, indicate, altogether, that the main concern of the Prophet Joseph Smith in the restoration of the Gospel in these latter days was the founding, building, and completion of temples in which the ordinances “hid from before the foundation of the world” might be given. In fact, the Lord declared repeatedly to the Prophet that unless temples were built and used, the plan of salvation could neither be in full operation nor fully accomplished.

Let me suggest that the reason why temple building and temple worship have been found in every age, on every hand, and among every people, is because the Gospel in its fullness was revealed to Adam, and that all religions and religious practices are therefore derived from the remnants of the truth given to Adam and transmitted by him to the patriarchs. The ordinances of the temple in so far as then necessary, were given, no doubt, in those early days, and very naturally corruptions of [p.54] them have been handed down the ages. Those who understand the eternal nature of the gospel—planned before the foundations of the earth—understand clearly why all history seems to revolve about the building and use of temples.

ETERNAL NATURE OF MAN.

Spirit World Mural

To understand the meaning of temple worship, it is necessary to understand the plan of  salvation and its relation to temple worship. The human race were “in the beginning with God,” and were created spiritual beings in a day before the arrival upon this earth. Mankind is here because of its acceptance of the Plan of Salvation, and satisfactory pre-existent lives. We have won the right to be here; we have not been forced to come here; we have won our place upon the earth. We shall pass into another sphere of existence, and shall continue upward and onward forever and forever, if we obey the high laws of eternal existence.

The plan of salvation for eternal beings involves the principle that God’s work with respect to this earth will not be complete until every soul has been taught the Gospel and has been offered the privilege of accepting salvation and the accompanying great blessings which the Lord has in store for his children. Until that is done the work is unfinished.

Men frequently ask when the last day shall come and when the earth shall go through its great change. Men attempt uselessly to figure out the dates of these coming events from the sayings of Daniel and the other prophets. We know that the Lord will come when we are ready to receive him; that is when we have done the work he requires of us; not before, not later; but when the labor of the day has been accomplished, the present day will end and a new stage of action will be set. When the work assigned to the earth children has been done in accordance with the Plan of Salvation, the Lord will remember his promises, and the end of the earth, which is the beginning of a new day of advancement, will occur.

We who travel the earth journey are working out an eternal problem. An endless journey is ours; the earth life is a fraction of it; the purpose is unending.

CONDITIONS OF ETERNAL PROGRESS.

It has been ordained that to follow the path God has laid out for us, we must have faith, we must repent, and we must show our obedience by going into the waters of baptism, and then as our great reward we shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. Some people, having obeyed these first principles, be-[p.55]lieve their work done. They have found entrance into the Church, they are members of God’s chosen people—what more need they? In fact, however, the gift of the Holy Ghost, according to the Prophet Joseph Smith, is a promise of increasing intelligence, it is a beginning of things to be. It is a promise of larger, fuller knowledge, of something new, more wonderful, and vaster, in its intent and purpose than  anything that we have known before. It is a promise of growth into a larger life and a larger condition of life. In my opinion, the gift of the Holy Ghost which implies a promise of added intelligence is realized in part at least in the worship and ordinances of the temples of the Lord. The request of the soul, which leads a man into obedience to the first principles, is answered by one method through the institution of the eternal ordinances which all the faithful may enjoy.

SALVATION vs. EXALTATION.

Through obedience to the first principles of the Gospel, and a subsequent blameless life, a person may win salvation for himself. But in God’s kingdom are many gradations, which lead to exaltation upon exaltation. Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness and labor for the fulfillment of the promise involved in the gift of the Holy Ghost will advance farther than those who placidly sit by with no driving desire within them. Temple worship is an avenue to exaltation in God’s kingdom. god’s definition of a temple. God’s definition of a temple is given over and over again in this good book, the Doctrine and Covenants. A temple is a place in which those whom he has chosen are endowed with power from on high. And what is power? Knowledge made alive and useful—that is intelligence; and intelligence in action —that is power. Our temples give us power—a power based on enlarged knowledge and intelligence—a power from on high, of a quality with God’s own power.

PURPOSES OF TEMPLES.

The Ogden, Utah Temple

The Ogden, Utah Temple

This is accomplished through the various purposes of temples. A temple is a place where God will come; a place where the pure in heart shall see God; a place where baptisms for the dead are performed; a place where sealings for time and for eternity are done; a place where the endowment of the priesthood is given; a place where the keys of the priesthood are com-[p.56]mitted in abundance; and a place where many other wonderful things may occur and should occur and in fact do occur.

Communion of God and man. It is a great promise that to the temples God will come, and that in them man shall see God. What does this promised communion mean ? Does it mean that once in a while God may come into the temples, and that once in a while the pure in heart may see God there ; or does it mean the larger thing, that the pure in heart who go into the temples, may, there, by the Spirit of God, always have a wonderfully rich communion with God? I think that is what it means to me and to you and to most of us. We have gone into these holy houses, with our minds freed from the ordinary earthly cares, and have literally felt the presence of God. In this way, the temples are always places where God manifests himself to man and increases his intelligence. A temple is a place of revelation.

"the pure in heart who go into the temples, may, there, by the Spirit of God, always have a wonderfully rich communion with God"

“The pure in heart who go into the temples, may, there, by the Spirit of God, always have a wonderfully rich communion with God”

Baptisms for the dead. Baptism for the dead will be discussed in all probability tomorrow night by Elder Smith. The ordinance of baptism for the dead fits into the scheme of salvation It is an acknowledgment of itself that the whole plan is eternal, and that the past, the present and the future are parts of one continuous whole. Were the life of man discontinuous there would be no need of labors for the dead.

The Nauvoo Temple baptismal font.

The Nauvoo Temple baptismal font.

Sealings. Sealings, for time and for eternity, have the purpose of tying together father and son, mother and daughter, the living and the dead, from age to age. In addition it emphasizes the authority of the priesthood. No merely earthly power could accomplish a union of a condition of this earth with a condition beyond this earth ; a person of this life with a person of the life hereafter, or of the life before. When man contemplates the full meaning of the sealing ordinance—if I may call it an ordinance—he is overwhelmed with the boundless power that it implies and the weight of authority that it represents. The mere words of sealing may be easily spoken at the altars of the holy temples, but they are so full of meaning that any man with even a particle of imagination who witnesses or participates in the sealing ordinance must be overcome with the feeling of responsibility and opportunity and enjoyment that it carries with it.

San Antonio Temple sealing room

San Antonio Temple sealing room

The endowment. In the wonderful Section 124, of the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord has described the work to be done in the temples, including the holy endowment.

“For a baptismal font there is not upon the earth, that they, mv Saints, rnay be baptized for those who are dead;

“For this ordinance belongeth to my house, and cannot be acceptable to me, only in the days of your poverty, wherein ye are not able to build a house unto me. * * * [p.57]

“For therein are the keys of the Holy Priesthood, ordained that you may receive honor and glory. * * *

“And again, verily I say unto you, How shall your washings be acceptable unto me, except ye perform them in a house which you have built to my name?

“For, for this cause I commanded Moses that he should build a tabernacle, that they should bear it with them in the wilderness, and to build a house in the land of promise, that those ordinances might be revealed which had been hid from before the world was;

“Therefore, verily I say unto you, that your anointings, and your washings, and your baptisms for the dead, and your solemn assemblies, and your memorials for your sacrifices, by the sons of Levi, and for your oracle in your most holy places, wherein you receive conversations, and your statutes and judgments, for the beginning of the revelations and foundation of Zion, and for the glory, honor and endowment of all her municipals, are so ordained by the ordinance of my holy house which my people are always commanded to build unto my holy name.”

At first reading the full meaning may not be clear, yet in these few verses lie the germs of practically everything that belongs to and is done in the house of the Lord.

Ordinance Room, Manti Temple

Ordinance Room, Manti Temple

Dr. James E. Talmage, under authority of the Church, has also discussed the meaning of endowment, in the book called “The House of the Lord.” I will read a part of it.

The Temple Endowment, as administered in modern temples, comprises instruction relating to the significance and sequence of past dispensations, and the importance of the present as the greatest and grandest era in human history. This course of instruction includes a recital of the most prominent events of the creative period, the condition of our first parents in the Garden of Eden, their disobedience and consequent expulsion from that blissful abode, their condition in the lone and dreary world when doomed to live by labor and sweat, the plan of redemption by which the great transgression may be atoned, the period of the great apostasy, the restoration of the Gospel with all its ancient powers and privileges, the absolute and indispensable condition of personal purity and devotion to the right in present life, and a strict compliance with Gospel requirements.

“As will be shown, the temples erected by the Latter-day Saints provide for the giving of these instructions in separate rooms, each devoted to a particular part of the course; and by this provision it is possible to have several classes under instruction at one time.

“The ordinances of the endowment embody certain obligations on the part of the individual, such as covenant and promise to observe the law of strict virtue and chastity, to be chari-[p.58]table, benevolent, tolerant and pure; to devote both talent and material means to the spread of truth and the uplifting of the race; to maintain devotion to the cause of truth; and to seek in every way to contribute to the great preparation that the earth may be made ready to receive her King—the Lord Jesus Christ. With the taking of each covenant and the assuming of each obligation a promised blessing is pronounced, contingent upon the faithful observance of the conditions.

“No jot, iota, or tittle of the temple rites is otherwise than uplifting and sanctifying. In every detail the endowment ceremony contributes to covenants of morality of life, consecration of person to high ideals, devotion to truth, patriotism to nation, and allegiance to God. The blessings of the House of the Lord are restricted to no privileged class; every member of the Church may have admission to the temple with the right to participate in the ordinances thereof, if he comes duly accredited as of worthy life and conduct.”

In no part of the temple service is the spirit of the purpose of temple worship so completely shown as in the endowment.

Salt Lake City Temple Celestial Room

Salt Lake City Temple Celestial Room

INTERNAL EVIDENCE OF VERACITY.

I desire to leave with you as the next thought that the work done in temples brings to those of pure and sincere hearts the evidence of its veracity. This is said in view of the question so often asked, Is there anything in the temple ordinances themselves that speaks for their truth.

The temple ordinances encompass the whole plan of salvation, as taught from time to time by the leaders of the Church, and elucidate matters difficult of understanding. There is no warping or twisting in fitting the temple teachings into the great scheme of salvation. The philosophical completeness of the endowment is one of the great arguments for the veracity of the temple ordinances. Moreover, this completeness of survey and expounding of the Gospel plan, makes temple worship one of the most effective methods of refreshing the memory concerning the whole structure of the Gospel.

"The temple ordinances encompass the whole plan of salvation."

“The temple ordinances encompass the whole plan of salvation.”

Another fact has always appealed to me as a strong internal evidence for the truth of temple work. The endowment and the temple work as revealed by the Lord to the Prophet Joseph Smith (see also Dr. Talmage’s The House of the Lord) fall clearly into four distinct parts : the preparatory ordinances ; the giving of instructions by lectures and representations ; covenants; and, finally, tests of knowledge. I doubt that the Prophet Joseph, unlearned and untrained in logic, could of himself have made the thing so logically complete. The candidate for the temple service is prepared, as in any earthly affair, for work to [p.59] be done. Once prepared, he is instructed in the things that he should know. When instructed, he covenants to use the imparted knowledge, and at once the new knowledge, which of itself is dead, leaps into living life. At last, tests are given him, whereby those who are entitled to know may determine whether the man has properly learned the lesson. The brethren and sisters who go through the temple should observe all these things and recognize the wonderful coherence and logical nature of the carefully worked out system, with a beginning and an end, fitting every known law of God and nature, which constitutes temple worship.

The wonderful pedagogy of the temple service, especially appealing to me as a professional teacher, carries with it evidence of the truth of temple work. We go to the temple to be informed and directed, to be built up and to be blessed. How is all this accomplished? First by the spoken word, through lectures and conversations, just as we do in the class room, except with more elaborate care, then by the appeal to the eye by representations by living, moving beings; and by pictorial representations in the wonderfully decorated rooms (as any one may see in Dr. Talmage’s book.) Meanwhile. the recipients themselves, the candidates for blessings, engage actively in the temple service as they move from room to room, with the progress of the course of instruction. Altogether our temple worship follows a most excellent pedagogical system. I wish instruction were given so well in every school room throughout the land, for we would then teach with more effect than we now do.

For these reasons, among many others, I have always felt that temple work is a direct evidence of the truth of the work reestablished by the Prophet Joseph Smith. It may be that the temple endowment and the other temple ordinances form the strongest available evidence of the divine inspiration of the Prophet Joseph Smith.

OBJECTIONS TO TEMPLE WORSHIP.

Logan, Utah Temple

Logan, Utah Temple

I said near the beginning of this address that with any increase in temple activity we must expect a new and a vigorous opposition to temple work, from evil forces, which however will be wholly subdued if the work is continued. This opposition will not wholly come from without; some will come from within the Church. Unfortunately, that is also a natural law. Young people and sometimes older people, will question this or that thing about the temple service. “Is this or that necessary?” “Is this or that thing reasonable?” “Why should I do this or that?” Even though such questions should be needless, it is best to answer them, especially if they are asked by those who are [p.60] untrained and inexperienced, and therefore unable to think clearly for themselves.

WHY A HOUSE?

House of hte Lord

The objection is sometimes raised that a house is not needed for temple worship. ”Why should a house be required, when God is everywhere, the God who made the trees and the mountains and the valleys?” “Why should God require the poor Saints in Illinois and Ohio and Missouri, to build temples at tremendous expense?” Of course, the Lord does not need a house, and temple work may be done elsewhere than in a house. The Lord has specifically stated that under certain conditions the temple endowment may be given on the tops of the mountains, but as men multiply upon the face of the earth, it will be increasingly difficult to conduct temple worship, except in especially dedicated places away from the multitude and the chaos and the rattle and the disturbance of ordinary life.

The holy endowment is deeply symbolic. “Going through the temple” is not a very good phrase; for temple worship implies a great effort of mind and concentration if we are to understand the mighty symbols that pass in review before us. Everything must be arranged to attune our hearts, our minds, and our souls to the work. Everything about us must contribute to the peace of mind that enables us to study and to understand the mysteries, if you choose, that are unfolded before us. We would not give our family dinners out of doors, in the crowd; why should anyone ask us to do our most sacred work in the face of the crowd.

SACRED vs. SECRET.

Some young persons do not like temple work “because the things done in it are secret, and we do not believe in secret things ; we want to stand in the sunshine.” In fact, there is nothing secret about the temple. I have found nothing secret in or about our temples ; I have found many things that are sacred. There is a vast difference between things secret and things sacred—the thing hidden away from the light, and the thing sacred, which plays in the light, and is protected from darkness and impurity and all unworthy conditions.

God has declared that He will not enter a defiled temple, whether that temple be the body of a man or a dedicated grove or a mountain top, or a house, like the temple on these grounds. The Holy Spirit will withdraw from a defiled place. People who have no faith in temple worship, who desire simply as tourists to inspect unsympathetically our holy house, in spite of [p.61] themselves defile it. We desire to present our temple ordinances to those who are believers. Moreover, visitors in temples would interefere with the procedure of the work. Of itself there is no reason why at proper times the temple may not be inspected.

COVENANTS AND PROMISES.

Many young people object to temple work because, ‘*We must make covenants and promises, and we do not like to be tied; we want full freedom.” This objection arises from a misunderstanding of the meaning of covenants. Knowledge becomes serviceable only when it is used; the covenant made in the temple, or elsewhere, if of the right kind, is merely a promise to give life to knowledge, by making knowledge useful and helpful in man’s daily progress. Temple work, or any other work, would have no meaning unless accompanied with covenants. It would consist simply of bits of information for ornament; the covenant gives life to truth ; and makes possible the blessings that reward all those who use knowledge properly; or the penalties that overtake those who misuse knowledge. That knowledge of itself is valueless, and that its use or misuse brings about inevitable results are the a b c of every scientific laboratory. The electric current properly used lights this building; improperly used, it may go through the body of the man and leave death behind. Unused, the electric current is to the man as if it were not. Penalties and rewards hang upon the use of knowledge.

LACK OF BEAUTY.

Salt Lake City Temple Terrestrial Room

Salt Lake City Temple Terrestrial Room

Others say that the temple ordinances are unbeautiful. Some young man ready for a mission, or some young lady just married, says, *’It is unbeautiful; I did not enjoy it.” Again, the misunderstanding. They have gone through the temple looking at the outward form and not the inner meaning of things. The form of the endowment is of earthly nature, but it symbolizes great spiritual truths. All that we do on this earth is earthly, but all is symbolic of great spiritual truths. To build this temple, earth had to be dug; wood had to be cut; stone was quarried and brought down the canyon. It was dusty and dirty work, and made us sweat—it was of this earth—yet it was the necessary preparation for the mighty spiritual ordinances that are carried on daily in this magnificent temple. The endowment itself is symbolic; it is a series of symbols of vast realities, too vast for full understanding. Those who go through the temple and come out feeling that the service is unbeautiful have been so occupied with the outward form as to fail to understand [p.62] the inner meaning. It is the meaning of things that counts in life.

SYMBOLISM.

Nauvoo Temple sunstone replica

Nauvoo Temple sunstone replica

This brings me to a few words concerning symbolism. We live in a world of symbols. We know nothing, except by symbols. We make a few marks on a sheet of paper, and we say that they form a word, which stands for love, or hate, or charity, or God or eternity. The marks may not be very beautiful to the eye. No one finds fault with the symbols on the pages of a book because they are not as mighty in their own beauty as the things which they represent. We do not quarrel with the symbol G-o-d because it is not very beautiful, yet represents the majesty of God. We are glad to have symbols, if only the meaning of the symbols is brought home to us. I speak to you tonight; you have not quarreled very much with my manner of delivery, or my choice of words; in following the meaning of the thoughts I have tried to bring home to you, you have forgotten words and manner. There are men who object to Santa Claus, because he does not exist! Such men need spectacles to see that Santa Claus is a symbol; a symbol of the love and joy of Christmas and the Christmas spirit. In the land of my birth there was no Santa Claus, but a little goat was shoved into the room, carrying with it a basket of Christmas toys and gifts. The goat of itself counted for nothing; but the Christmas spirit, which it symbolized, counted for a tremendous lot.

We live in a world of symbols. No man or woman can come out of the temple endowed as he should be, unless he has seen, beyond the symbol, the mighty realities for which the symbols stand.

CORRUPTIONS OF TEMPLE WORSHIP.

Many apostates have tried to reveal the ordinances of the House of the Lord. Some of their accounts form a fairly complete and correct story of the outward form of the temple service; but they are pitiful failures in making clear the eternal meaning of temple worship and the exaltation of spirit that is awakened by the understanding of that meaning. Such attempts are only words ; symbols without meaning. Is anything more lifeless than a symbol of an unknown meaning?

Such attempted improper revelations of temple worship have led in all ages to corruptions of temple ordinances. The fact that such corruptions of ordinances and ceremonies have always existed is a strong evidence of the continuity of temple worship, under the Priesthood, from the days of Adam. Sister Gates handed me this afternoon a quotation from a book that she had [p.63] picked up, in which it is related that Moses adopted a holy garment from Jethro, which he wore, and in turn communicated it to his brother Aaron, who adopted it, and who in turn communicated it to the priests of Israel; from whom in turn it was taken in some form by the priests of false gods. Such corruptions of temple worship are found everywhere; but they are poor, lifeless imitations, symbols from which the meaning has been wrested.

THE REVELATION OF THE TEMPLE.

Gilbert, Arizona Temple

Gilbert, Arizona Temple

If we are correct in believing that the blessings obtained in the temples of the Lord are a partial fulfillment, at least, of the promise made when the Holy Ghost, which is a Revelator, is conferred upon man, it would be expected that temple ordinances would be in the nature of a revelation to those who participate. Certainly the temple is a place where revelations may be expected.

But, whether in the temple or elsewhere, how do men receive revelations? How did the Prophet Joseph Smith obtain his first revelation, his first vision? He desired something. In the woods, away from human confusion, he summoned all the strength of his nature; there he fought the demon of evil, and, at length, because of the strength of his desire and the great effort that he made, the Father and the Son descended out of the heavens and spoke eternal truth to him. So, revelation always comes; it is not imposed upon a person; it must be drawn to us by faith, seeking and working. Just so; to the man or woman who goes through the temple, with open eyes, heeding the symbols and the covenants, and making a steady, continuous effort to understand the full meaning, God speaks his word, and revelations come. The endowment is so richly symbolic that only a fool would attempt to describe it ; it is so packed full of revelations to those who exercise their strength to seek and see, that no human words can explain or make clear the possibilities that reside in the temple service. The endowment which was given by revelation can best be understood by revelation; and to those who seek most vigorously, with pure hearts, will the revelation be greatest. I believe that the busy person on the farm, in the shop, in the office, or in the household, who has his worries and troubles, can solve his problems better and more quickly in the house of the Lord than anywhere else. If he will leave his problems behind and in the temple work for himself and for his dead, he will confer a mighty blessing upon those who have gone before, and quite as large a blessing will come to him, for at the most unexpected moments, in or out of the temple will come to him, as a revelation, the solution of the problems that vex his [p.64] life. That is the gift that comes to those who enter the temple properly, because it is a place where revelations may be expected. I bear you my personal testimony that this is so.

In temple worship, as in all else, we probably gain understanding according to our differing knowledge and capacity; but I believe that we can increase in knowledge and enlarge our capacity, and in that way receive greater gifts from God. I would therefore urge upon you that we teach those who go into the temples to do so with a strong desire to have God’s will revealed to them, for comfort, peace, and success in our daily lives, not for publication, or for conversation, but for our own good, for the satisfying of our hearts.

PREPARATION FOR TEMPLE WORSHIP.

Colonel Willard Young said last night, in casual conversation, that we should give more attention to preparing our young people and some of the older people, for the work they are to do in the temple. He is undoubtedly right in his view. It is not quite fair to let the young girl or young man enter the temple unprepared, unwarned, if you choose, with no explanation of the glorious possibilities of the first fine day in the temple. Neither is it quite fair to pass opinion on temple worship after one day’s participation followed by an absence of many years. The work should be repeated several times in quick succession, so that the lessons of the temple may be fastened upon the mind.

San Diego Temple

San Diego Temple

CONCLUSION.

The beginning and the end of the Gospel is written, from one point of view, in Section 2 of the Book of Doctrine and Covenants. If I read this section correctly, the work which in part has been committed by the Church to this Society is the keystone of the wonderful Gospel arch. If this center stone is weakened, and falls out, the whole arch falls into a heap of unorganized doctrinal blocks. It is a high privilege for young or old to be allowed to enter the House of the Lord, there to serve God and to win power.

I hope that temple worship will increase in our midst, that we shall have a finer understanding of its meaning, and that more temples may be built to supply the demands of the living and the dead, and to hasten the coming of the great day of the Lord.

May the Lord bless us in this work, I ask in the name of Jesus. Amen.

Brigham City, Utah Temple

Brigham City, Utah Temple

Widtsoe, John A. “Temple Worship.” The Utah Genealogical and Historical Magazine 12 (April 1921), 49-64.

Temple photos mainly from ldschurchtemples.com.

The Divinity of Jesus Christ by Orson F. Whitney

Orson F. Whitney was born on 1 July 1855 in Salt Lake City, Utah. He was ordained to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles on 9 April 1906 by President Joseph F. Smith. Elder Whitney died on 16 May 1931 in Salt Lake City at age 75. This is an address delivered at the Sunday evening session of the MIA Jubilee Conference held on 7 June 1925.

Orson F. Whitney

Orson F. Whitney

THE DIVINITY OF JESUS CHRIST

By Elder Orson F. Whitney, of the Council of the Twelve

Presbyterianism’s Problem

An American newspaper of recent date has a communicated article from which I take the following:

Columbus, Ohio, May 19, 1925.—The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, which for the purpose of Church government corresponds to the Congress of the United States, is likely to decide within the next week whether a minister may still remain a minister if he answers: ‘I don’t know,’ or ‘I don’t believe so,’ when asked whether Jesus Christ really raised the dead, walked on water and was born of a virgin mother. * * *

The Presbyterian Church will face* its problem with two determined groups standing militant on either side of the question and a third group in the middle.

The fundamentalists, who accept the Bible as the Divine word, hold that Jesus, to be God, must be omnipotent, capable of any miracle. * * * the all-powerful God of the universe.

The modernists, or religious radicals of the clergy, who have been most conspicuous in New York, do not assert that Jesus Christ was no miracle worker. They do not claim that he would be unable, if so minded, to perform a modern miracle. They simply aren’t convinced that he was or could.

The fundamentalists want the dissenters to accept the Presbyterian religion as it is, or get out of the Presbyterian clergy. The modernists, regarding themselves as advanced thinkers, want the rest to catch up with them. And the element in between, who seem to be divided as to their leanings, want above all a constitutional, judicial trial of the case and abhor the idea of summary action.”

Thus far the article in question.

The M. I. A. Slogan

At a time when the Divine character and mission of the world’s Redeemer are being questioned, even by many professing Christians, it is a cause for congratulation and rejoicing that there is still found [p.220] “faith on the earth”—faith in Jesus Christ as the very Son of God, as the virgin-born Savior of mankind, as the anointed and foreordained messenger of Him who “so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

Among those who hold fast to this conviction, are the Latter-day Saints, or “Mormons.” And tonight we unfurl our banner, emblazoned with the slogan of the young men and young women of Zion: “We stand for an individual testimony of the divinity of Jesus Christ.”

it is a cause for congratulation and rejoicing that there is still found "faith on the earth"—faith in Jesus Christ as the very Son of God.

it is a cause for congratulation and rejoicing that there is still found “faith on the earth”—faith in Jesus Christ as the very Son of God.
Image courtesy LDS.org

How Testimony Comes

Such testimony can come but in one way—God’s way, not man’s. Books can not give it. Schools can not bestow it. No human power can impart it. It comes, if it comes at all, as a gift of God, by direct and immediate revelation from on high.

Said Jesus to his chief Apostle: “Whom say ye that I am?” Peter answered: “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Then said Jesus: “Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona, for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 16:15-17).

Such was the basis of Peter’s testimony and such is the basis of every real testimony of like character. They all rest upon the same foundation.

Testimony means evidence, and it may consist of divers things, fruits of the Gospel’s varied gifts. Dreams, visions, prophecies, tongues and their interpretation, healings and other manifestations of the Divine Spirit, are all included in the category.

The Surest Evidence

But the greatest and most convincing of all testimonies is the soul’s illumination under the kindling and enlightening power of the Holy Ghost—the Comforter, promised by the Savior to his disciples, to abide with them after he had departed, to bring things past to their remembrance and show them things to come, making manifest the things of God, past, present and future.

God’s Greatest Gift

By that Spirit and by that alone can men know God and Jesus Christ whom he hath sent—to know whom, and to act consistently with that knowledge, is to lay hold upon eternal life. No greater thing can come to men while in the flesh than the knowledge of how to secure that greatest of all heavenly gifts.

To know God, man must know himself, must know whence he came, why he is here, what is expected of him by the One who sent him here, where he is going when he leaves this mortal life, and what awaits him in the great hereafter. The Holy Spirit is the [p.221] fountain from which flows this knowledge, the most precious that men can possess. By means of it comes the testimony that Jesus Christ was and is Divine.

The Everlasting Gospel

Such a testimony was had by the patriarchs and prophets of old. They were not without the gospel, and its glorious gifts. The Holy Ghost did not make its first appearance upon this planet in the days of Jesus and his Apostles. Men had seen God before that time, and had enjoyed the sweet influence and wonder-working power of his Spirit. Framed in the heavens before this earth was organized, the gospel had been among men in a series of dispensations, long before it was preached by the Apostles in the meridian of time.

Testimony of the Ages

 It took a God to die for all men—foes as well as friends—and that act alone stamps divinity upon the character and mission of Jesus Christ. Image courtesy LDS.org

It took a God to die for all men—foes as well as friends—and that act alone stamps divinity upon the character and mission of Jesus Christ.
Image courtesy LDS.org

“I know that my Redeemer liveth”—the burden of righteous Job’s exultant cry, welling up from the depths of his sorely tried, suffering, yet patient soul—is echoed from ten thousand hearts, yea, ten thousand times ten thousand of the faithful and the just, whose heaven-inspired testimonies have come ringing down the ages, from the days of Adam to the days of Joseph Smith. The Holy Scriptures are replete with testimonies of Christ’s divinity, attested by miracles and wonders manifold.

A Life and Death Divine

But even if Christ had wrought no miracle—even if he had not walked upon the water, healed the sick, cast out devils, given sight to the blind, caused the lame to walk, or done anything else that men deem supernatural, was there not that about him which bore unimpeachable testimony to his divinity?

What could be more divine than the life of One who “went about doing good,” teaching men to forgive their enemies, to pray for those who persecuted them, and to do unto others as they would that others should do unto them? And did he not set the example of Godlike magnanimity, by craving, while upon the cross in the agonies of death, Heaven’s pardon upon his guilty murderers? “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.”

What could be more divine than that. Who but a God could offer such a prayer at such a time? “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” But here was One who could lay down his life for his enemies, as well as his friends. No mere man could do that. It took a God to die for all men—foes as well as friends—and that act alone stamps divinity upon the character and mission of Jesus Christ.

The Men Who Knew

The Twelve Apostles were his special witnesses. As such they had to know beyond all question that he was what he claimed to be. Image courtesy LDS.org

The Twelve Apostles were his special witnesses. As such they had to know beyond all question that he was what he claimed to be.
Image courtesy LDS.org

The Twelve Apostles were his special witnesses. As such they [p.222] had to know beyond all question that he was what he claimed to be. It was a new thing that was required of them. They were to vouch for his resurrection—and there had been no resurrection upon this planet until Christ came forth from the grave. He was “the first fruits of them that slept.” Those Apostles had to know, not merely believe. They could not go into the world and say: “We believe Jesus has risen from the dead—such is our opinion, our conviction.” What impression would that have made upon a sin-hardened generation? No; mere belief would not suffice in their case. They must know, and they did know, for they had seen and heard him, had even been permitted to touch him, that they might be convinced that he was indeed the resurrection and the life. It was their right to possess this knowledge, owing to the unique character of their mission. But the world at large was required to believe what the Apostles testified concerning him.

The Case of Thomas

One of the Twelve was absent when his brethren received their first visitation from the risen Redeemer; and when they said, “We have seen the Lord,” he—Thomas—answered: “Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

Subsequently the Savior appeared to Thomas, saying: “Behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing.” “My Lord and my God,” exclaimed the doubter—and was convinced (John 20:24-28.

Thomas has been censured for demanding to see and to feel before he would believe. How much blame attaches to him for doubting, I will not presume to say. But this much seems clear: He had the same right as the rest of the Twelve to a personal appearing of the Lord—the right to come in contact with him of whose resurrection he was required to testify. The others had seen and heard—perhaps had even felt, for Jesus offered them that privilege. Why should not Thomas share in the same experience? What else could completely qualify him as a special witness of the resurrection?

Belief and Knowledge

Sign-seeking is an abomination, indicating an adulterous disposition. It is blessed to believe without seeing, since by the exercise of faith comes spiritual development, one of the great objects of man’s earthly existence; while knowledge, by swallowing up faith, prevents its exercise, thus hindering that development. “Knowledge is power;” and all things are to be known in due season. But premature knowledge—knowing at the wrong time—is fatal both to progress and to happiness.

The case of the Apostles was exceptional. They stood in a peculiar position. It was better for them to know—nay, absolutely [p.223] essential—in order to give the requisite force and power to their tremendous testimony.

Power From on High

And yet, even in their case, something more than the seeing of the eye, than the hearing of the ear, than the touch of the senses, was necessary to enable them to know and to testify of Christ’s divinity. Peter knew, before the resurrection, that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God—knew it by divine revelation; and his brethren of the Twelve were entitled to the same knowledge, by the same means of imparting it.

That something besides his appearing to them in a resurrected state was necessary to qualify them for their work is shown by the fact that after that appearing, and after he had commissioned them to go “into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature,” they were commanded by him to tarry at Jerusalem until they were “endued with power from on high.” They obeyed, and the power came upon them—”a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind.” “Cloven tongues like as of fire * * * sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:2-4).

That same power the Apostles gave to others, even to all who had faith in Jesus Christ, who had repented of their sins, and had been cleansed by baptism at the hands of those having divine authority to so officiate; to the end that they might receive the Holy Ghost and by continued obedience win life everlasting.

Latter-day Testimony

Joseph, the martyred Prophet, who gave his life to lay the foundations of this work—he left upon record more than one mighty testimony to the divinity of Jesus Christ. Image courtesy LDS.org

Joseph, the martyred Prophet, who gave his life to lay the foundations of this work—he left upon record more than one mighty testimony to the divinity of Jesus Christ.
Image courtesy LDS.org

So much for the days of old. Now as to modern times. Joseph Smith, to whom the Father and the Son revealed themselves in the early decades of the nineteenth century, and through whom the everlasting gospel, with all its ancient gifts and blessings, was restored at the opening of this last and greatest of the gospel dispensations; Joseph Smith, who with Sidney Rigdon saw the Son of God sitting on the right hand of God, and gazed upon the glories of eternity; Joseph Smith, who with Oliver Cowdery beheld Jehovah, even Jesus Christ, standing upon the breastwork of the pulpit in the Kirtland Temple; Joseph, the martyred Prophet, who gave his life to lay the foundations of this work—he left upon record more than one mighty testimony to the divinity of Jesus Christ. And tens of thousands of faithful Saints have rejoiced and are rejoicing in those testimonies, confirmed to them by the all-convincing power of the Holy Ghost.

In the Mission Field

May I add my mite to the mass of evidence upon this all-important theme? Fifty years ago, or something less, I was a young [p.224] missionary in the State of Pennsylvania. I had been praying for a testimony of the truth, but beyond that had not displayed much zeal in missionary labor. My companion, a veteran in the cause, chided me for my lack of diligence in this direction. “You ought to be studying the books of the Church,” said he; “you were sent out to preach the Gospel, not to write for the newspapers”—for that was what I was doing at the time.

I knew he was right, but I still kept on, fascinated by the discovery that I could wield a pen, and preferring that to any other occupation except the drama, my early ambition, which I had laid upon the altar when, as a youth of twenty-one, I accepted a call to the mission field.

In Gethsemane

He arose and walked to where the Apostles were kneeling—fast asleep! Image courtesy LDS.org.

He arose and walked to where the Apostles were kneeling—fast asleep!
Image courtesy LDS.org.

One night I dreamed—if dream it may be called—that I was in the Garden of Gethsemane, a witness of the Savior’s agony. I saw Him as plainly as I see this congregation. I stood behind a tree in the foreground, where I could see without being seen. Jesus, with Peter, James and John, came through a little wicket gate at my right. Leaving the three Apostles there, after telling them to kneel and pray, he passed over to the other side, where he also knelt and prayed. It was the same prayer with which we are all familiar: “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt” (Matt. 26:36-44; Mark 14:32-41; Luke 22:42).

As he prayed the tears streamed down his face, which was toward me. I was so moved at the sight that I wept also, out of pure sympathy with his great sorrow. My whole heart went out to him, I loved him with all my soul, and longed to be with him as I longed for nothing else.

Presently he arose and walked to where the Apostles were kneeling—fast asleep! He shook them gently, awoke them, and in a tone of tender reproach, untinctured by the least suggestion of anger or scolding asked them if they could not watch with him one hour. There he was, with the weight of the world’s sin upon his shoulders, with the pangs of every man, woman and child shooting through his sensitive soul—and they could not watch with him one poor hour!

Returning to his place, he prayed again, and then went back and found them again sleeping. Again he awoke them, admonished them, and returned and prayed as before. Three times this happened, until I was perfectly familiar with his appearance—face, form and movements. He was of noble stature and of majestic mien—not at all the weak, effeminate being that some painters have portrayed—a very God among men, yet as meek and lowly as a little child.

All at once the circumstance seemed to change, the scene remaining just the same. Instead of before, it was after the crucifixion, and the Savior, with those three Apostles, now stood together in a group [p.225] at my left. They were about to depart and ascend into Heaven. I could endure it no longer. I ran out from behind the tree, fell at his feet, clasped him around the knees, and begged him to take me with him.

I shall never forget the kind and gentle manner in which He stooped and raised me up and embraced me. It was so vivid, so real, that I felt the very warmth of his bosom against which I rested. Then He said: “No, my son; these have finished their work, and they may go with me, but you must stay and finish yours.” Still I clung to him. Gazing up into his face—for he was taller than I—I besought him most earnestly: “Well, promise me that I will come to you at the last.” He smiled sweetly and tenderly and replied: “That will depend entirely upon yourself.” I awoke with a sob in my throat, and it was morning.

The Moral of the Tale

“That’s from God,” said my companion (Elder A. M. Musser), when I had related it to him. “I don’t need to be told that,” was my reply. I saw the moral clearly. I had never thought that I would be an Apostle, or hold any other office in the Church; and it did not occur to me even then. Yet I knew that those sleeping apostles meant me. I was asleep at my post—as any man is, or any woman, who, having been divinely appointed to do one thing, does another.

President Young’s Counsel

But from that hour all was changed—I was a different man. I did not give up writing, for President Brigham Young, having noticed some of my contributions in the home papers, wrote advising me to cultivate what he called my “gift for writing” so that I might use it in future years “for the establishment of truth and righteousness upon the earth.” This was his last word of counsel to me. He died the same year, while I was still in the mission field, though laboring then in the State of Ohio. I continued to write, but it was for the Church and Kingdom of God. I held that first and foremost; all else was secondary.

The Speaker’s Testimony

Then came the divine illumination, which is greater than all dreams, visions, and other manifestations combined. By the light of God’s candle—the gift of the Holy Ghost—I saw what till then I had never seen, I learned what till then I had never known, I loved the Lord as I had never loved Him before. My soul was satisfied, my joy was full, for I had a testimony of the truth, and it has remained with me to this day.

I know that my Redeemer liveth. Not even Job knew it better. I have evidence that I can not doubt; and this is why I am found among those who tonight unfurl the slogan for which we stand, possessing [p.226] and proclaiming an individual testimony of the divinity of Jesus Christ.

I know that my Redeemer liveth.. Image courtesy LDS.org

I know that my Redeemer liveth.
Image courtesy LDS.org

THE DIVINE REDEEMER

 

He wandered through the faithless world,

A Prince in shepherd guise;

He called his scattered flock, but few

The voice could recognize;

For minds upborne by hollow pride.

Or dimmed by sordid lust.

Ne’er look for kings in peasant’s garb.

For diamonds in the dust.

 

Wept he above a city doomed,

Her temple, walls and towers.

O’er palaces where recreant priests

Usurped unhallowed powers.

“I am the Way, the Life, the Light!”

Alas! ’twas heeded not.

Ignored—nay, mocked God’s Messenger,

And spurned the gift he brought.

 

O bane of damning unbelief!

Thou source of lasting strife.

Thou stumbling stone, thou barrier ‘thwart

The gates of endless life!

O love of self, and Mammon’s lust.

Twin portals to despair,

Where bigotry, the blinded bat,

Flaps through the midnight air!

 

Through these, gloom-wrapt Gethsemane!

Thy glens of guilty shade

Grieved o’er the sinless Son of God,

By gold-bought kiss betrayed:

Beheld him unresisting dragged.

Forsaken, friendless, lone,

To halls where dark-browed Hatred sat

On Judgment’s lofty throne.

 

As sheep before his shearers, dumb.

Those patient lips were mute;

The clamorous charge of taunting tongues

He deigned not to dispute.

They smote with cruel palm a face

Which felt yet bore the sting;

Then crowned with thorns his quivering blow,

And, mocking, hailed him, “King!”

 

Transfixed he hung—O crime of crimes!

The God whom worlds adore.

“Father forgive them!” Drained the dregs:

Immanuel was no more.

No more where thunders shook the earth,

Where lightnings, ‘thwart the gloom,

Saw that unconquered Spirit spurn [p.227]

 

Far-flashing on its wings of light,

A falchion from its sheath,

It cleft the realms of darkness and

Dissolved the bands of death.

Hell’s dungeons burst, wide open swung

The everlasting bars,

Whereby the ransomed soul shall win

Those heights beyond the stars.

 

ELIAS, part of Canto 3.

Whitney, Orson F. “The Divinity of Jesus Christ.” Improvement Era Vol. 29, No. 3 (Jan 1926), 119-127.

The Sincere Investigator, by Hugh B. Brown

President Hugh B. Brown served as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and also as a member of the First Presidency for a number of years and was among the best-loved general authorities of his time. This eloquent testimony of the search for truth comes from the Memoirs of Hugh B. Brown compiled by his grandson Edwin B. Firmage mostly from personal interviews recorded over eighteen months, but also from speeches, and other source material created during President Brown’s lifetime. The title is my own addition, but most of the text comes from the final chapter of An Abundant Life: The Memoirs of Hugh B. Brown.

Hugh B. Brown

Hugh B. Brown. Image courtesy of LDS.org

The Sincere Investigator

President Hugh B. Brown

THERE SEEMS TODAY TO be a tendency toward flippant thinking, a lack of thought. There seems to be a tendency to belittle what our fathers and mothers thought because we feel we have made some progress scientifically. We are too ready to conclude that everything from past generations is now folly and that our main duty today, as far as the past is concerned, is to get away from it.

There is not enough of the attitude of the sincere investigator among us. When we come into a new field of research that will challenge our due and honest consideration, we should be warned against coming too quickly to a conclusion, of forming a decision too hastily. We should be scientific—that is, open-minded, approaching new problems without prejudice, deferring a decision until all the facts are in.

Some say that the open-minded leave room for doubt. But I believe we should doubt some of the things we hear. Doubt has a place if it can stir in one an interest to go out and find the truth for one’s self. I should like to awaken in everyone a desire to investigate, to make an independent study of religion, and to know for themselves whether or not the teachings of the Mormon church are true.

I should like to see everyone prepared to defend the religion of his or her parents, not because it was the religion of our fathers and mothers but because they have found it to be the true religion. If one approaches it with an open mind, with a desire to know the truth, and if one questions with a sincere heart what one hears from time to time, he or she will be on the road to growth and service.

There are altogether too many people in the world who are willing to accept as true whatever is printed in a book or delivered from a pulpit. Their faith never goes below the surface soil of authority.

I plead with everyone I meet that they may drive their faith down through that soil and get hold of the solid truth that they may be able to withstand the winds and storms of indecision and of doubt, of opposition and persecution. Then, and only then, will we be able to defend our religion successfully. When I speak of defending our religion, I do not mean such defense as an army makes on the battlefield but the defense of clean and upright and virtuous life lived in harmony with an intelligent belief and understanding of the gospel. As Mormons, we should do with religion as we do with music, not defend it but simply render it. It needs no defense. The living of religion is, after all, the greatest sermon, and if all of us would live it, we would create a symphony which would be appreciated by all. . . .

I have been very grateful that the freedom, dignity, and integrity of the individual are basic in church doctrine. We are free to think and express our opinions in the church. Fear will not stifle thought. God himself refuses to trammel free agency even though its exercise sometimes teaches painful lessons. Both creative science and revealed religion find their fullest and truest expression in the climate of freedom.

As we all proceed to make our individual “declarations of independence,” I hope we can all distinguish between liberty and license, that we can realize that freedom is only a blessing if it is accompanied by wisdom and intelligence. At the same time, we all need to resist the down-drag of mental laziness which sometimes leads to the premature hardening of the intellectual arteries. And I would especially urge all of us to avoid sluggishness of spirit, which is the worst kind of lethargy. Some people are phlegmatic to the degree that would make a turtle seem intolerably vivacious.

I admire men and women who have developed the questing spirit, who are unafraid of new ideas as stepping stones to progress. We should, of course, respect the opinions of others, but we should also be unafraid to dissent—if we are informed. Thoughts and expressions compete in the marketplace of thought, and in that competition truth emerges triumphant. Only error fears freedom of expression.

Both science and religion beget humility. Scientists and teachers of religion disagree among themselves on theological and other subjects. Even in our own church men and women take issue with one another and contend for their own interpretations. This free exchange of ideas is not to be deplored as long as men and women remain humble and teachable. Neither fear of consequence nor any kind of coercion should ever be used to secure uniformity of thought in the church. People should express their problems and opinions and be unafraid to think.

We should all be interested in academic research. We must go out on the research front and continue to explore the vast unknown. We should be in the forefront of learning in all fields, for revelation does not come only through the prophet of God nor only directly from heaven in visions or dreams. Revelation may come in the laboratory, out of the test tube, out of the thinking mind and the inquiring soul, out of search and research and prayer and inspiration. We must be unafraid to contend for what we are thinking and to combat error with truth in this divided and imperiled world, and we must do it with the unfaltering faith that God is still in his heaven even though all is not well with the world.

We should be dauntless in our pursuit of truth and resist all demands for unthinking conformity. No one would have us become mere tape recorders of other people’s thoughts. We should be modest and teachable and seek to know the truth by study and faith. There have been times when progress was halted by thought control. Tolerance and truth demand that all be heard and that competing ideas be tested against each other so that the best, which might not always be our own, can prevail. Knowledge is most complete and dependable when all points of view are heard. We are in a world of restlessness and skepticism, where old things are not only challenged but often disappear, but also a world of miraculous achievement, undreamed of accomplishment, and terrifying power….

One of the most important things in the world is freedom of the mind; from this all other freedoms spring. Such freedom is necessarily dangerous, for one cannot think right without running the risk of thinking wrong, but generally more thinking is the antidote for the evils that spring from wrong thinking.

More thinking is required, and we should all exercise our God-given right to think and be unafraid to express our opinions, with proper respect for those to whom we talk and proper acknowledgement of our own shortcomings….

While I believe all that God has revealed, I am not quite sure I understand what he has revealed, and the fact that God has promised further revelation is to me a challenge to keep an open mind and be prepared to follow wherever my search for truth may lead.

We Mormons have been blessed with much knowledge by revelation from God which, in some part, the world lacks. But there is an incomprehensibly greater part of truth yet to be discovered. Revealed insights should leave us stricken with the knowledge of how little we really know. It should never lead to an emotional arrogance based upon a false assumption that we somehow have all the answers—that we in fact have a corner on truth. For we do not.

And while all members should respect, support, and heed the teachings of the authorities of the church, no one should accept a statement and base his or her testimony upon it, no matter who makes it, until he or she has, under mature examination, found it to be true and worthwhile; then one’s logical deductions may be confirmed by the spirit of revelation to his or her spirit, because real conversion must come from within.

I hope that the spirit of the Holy Ghost rests upon everyone and leads us all back into the presence of our heavenly parents. I hope that everyone might conduct his or her life in such a manner as to be worthy of God’s continued blessings. And I especially hope that we might all be able, as we go forward, to walk figuratively and almost literally with our hand in God’s hand and to feel the effect of God’s presence in our lives, doing everything in Jesus’ name and with God’s blessings.

 

Brown, Hugh B., Edwin B. Firmage (ed. An Abundant Life: The Memoirs of Hugh B. Brown, 2nd ed. Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1999, 135–40.