Evidences and Reconciliations
Aids to Faith in a Modern Day
John A. Widtsoe
Books come into being in many different ways—some because writers choose to write, and some, like this one, because readers make insistent demands.
Throughout his professional life as scientist, educator, public servant, and churchman—a distinguished and almost unbelievably varied career going back nearly half a century—Dr. John A. Widtsoe has been receiving questions from confused and alert and honest and eager students—students of life, students of the gospel, and students engaged in formal academic pursuits. These questions have come by letter, in Church gatherings, from the mission field, in the classroom, and on informal occasions.
Some years ago Dr. Widtsoe began to make permanent record of such questions as they came to him and, beginning nearly five years ago, to answer in print in the pages of the Improvement Era those most persistently and most frequently asked. "Evidences and Reconciliations" was the general title adopted, with a subtitle "Aids to Faith in a Modern Day"; and that the series filled an urgent need is attested by the fact that requests for permanent compilation began to increase as the writings progressed through the months—thus repeating the experience of other writers who, by reason of demand, have been obliged to publish their serial efforts in book form.
Dr. Widtsoe's pen has long been active in the cause of truth—all truth. His scientific papers are numerous. His articles and books crusading for better irrigation and dry-farming practice have been translated into many languages. His Church books, courses of study, and compilations go back to his early young manhood. Books and manuals written by him and published number more than a score and a half, in addition to magazine and newspaper articles, pamphlets, tracts, and encyclopedic and other writings.
As a research scholar schooled in the finest institutions of two continents, as a former president first of a state agricultural college and then of a state university, as a consulting chemist, as director of an agricultural experiment station, as a member of government commissions and of scientific societies, as a churchman of many assignments, and as a world traveler, he has the stimulating manner of a true teacher, the open mind of a true scholar, the engaging charm of a true gentleman, and the true humility of a man of God. His pen, sparing in its use of words and direct in its approach, is nevertheless colorful in expression—and it quickly focuses attention on fact, avoiding unsupportable generalization.
With this brief glimpse of a man and his work, neither of which needs introduction, it is gratifying to bring this volume to the readers who have asked for it and to the many students, both of science and religion, who will find in it many "aids to faith in a modern day."
RICHARD L. EVANS
Salt Lake City, Utah
Insistent questions of numerous gospel students, young and old, led to a series of answers in The Improvement Era under the title of "Evidences and Reconciliations." As the series progressed, there arose an increasing demand that the articles be assembled in book form. In this volume the first sixty-eight are reprinted.
The articles have been grouped under several general subject headings, but there has been no attempt to discuss all the themes that might come under each heading. This volume is but a collection of answers to some of the many questions from the field—and the questions are still arriving.
Most of the queries, often hot from the anvil of life and thought, were asked by young people engaged in secular pursuits and study. Therefore, themes, treatment, and style have been chosen with inquiring youth in mind. However, letters of commendation have come from veteran students of the gospel. That is encouraging. When young and old see alike, there need be no fear of the future.
The attempt has been made to have every answer conform to accepted gospel doctrine. Therefore, the reading of these answers should help advance the student's understanding of the gospel.
Inquiries from honest searchers after truth should always be welcomed. Intelligent learners, in any field of knowledge, ask for explanations as problems appear in their studies. Indeed, the questions asked often mark the degree of proficiency attained. Those to whom no problems occur are asleep at the wheel of truth.
To George Q. Morris and Lucy Grant Cannon, general and associate managers of The Improvement Era, sincere thanks for permission to reprint these articles; and to its capable managing editor, my colleague and valued friend, Elder Richard L. Evans, cordial appreciation for suggesting this volume, and accepting the toil of publication.—J. A. W.
The Approach to Truth
1. WHAT IS TRUTH?
Truth is the desired objective of all rational human action. Science and religion alike are built on truth. Jesus, the Christ, frankly declared to Pilate that "To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth." (John 18:37)
The meaning of a word so commonly used should be generally and correctly understood. Yet, subjected to philosophical speculation, truth has often been given diverse meanings, or left befogged in clouds of abstraction.
In a revelation to the Prophet Joseph Smith occurs a very simple yet comprehensive definition, "Truth is knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come." (D. & C. 93:24)—that is, truth is synonymous with accurate knowledge or a product of it.
This cuts away all underbrush. Without knowledge, truth may not be found. Truth is revealed by knowledge; and knowledge is gained by man through his various senses assisted by such aids as he may secure. That is, the facts of observation, in the visible or invisible world, lead to truth; and truth must conform to human experience. To the seeker after knowledge, truth is constantly being revealed.
The dictionary agrees well in one of its several definitions with the Prophet: "Truth is conformity with fact or reality; exact accordance with that which is, or has been, or will be." This also expresses the thought that truth issues from knowledge.
This throws the burden of discovering truth upon the individual. As he obtains knowledge in any field, he will gain truth. But the knowledge must be correct, factual, or it does not lead to truth.
There has been endless speaking and writing about ultimate or final truth. It may as well be admitted at once, and without reservation, that mortal man, gathering knowledge through imperfect senses—his only avenues to truth—must remain content, in many fields of endeavor, with partial truth. The eye of man, sweeping the heavens, gathers some knowledge of the universe; with the aid of telescope and spectroscope more is won; but full knowledge of the starry heavens is yet far beyond man's reach. Nevertheless, the knowledge gained by the bare eye, or by the aid of instruments, reveals truth—partial but noble truth, fit to stand by the side of all other truth. With the progress of time, knowledge-seeking, truth-loving man will ever approach the fulness of truth.
The attempt has also been made to limit man's search for truth to the material universe. This implies that there is no other universe, or that man is incapable of exploring spiritual domains. Both alternatives are unacceptable to sound thinking. Man and the eternal universe cannot be confined within the limits of materialism. Therefore, in the search for truth man may touch the source of life, as also the immobile stone; the eternal past, as the endless future; the Lord of the heavens, as the humblest of His creatures; the spiritual, as the material worlds.
In the search for truth it becomes, of course, evident that there are divisions of knowledge. One deals with facts alone; another with the use of the facts for man's good or evil; yet another, to those who believe in God, with the conformity of statements or actions to divine laws.
In a world of living things, knowledge that helps man is of greatest importance, and highest value. Indeed, knowledge of the universe is of value only as it serves man in his upward, progressive journey. Within that statement lie the truths of religion; and therein the importance of religion becomes evident. Simply to gather truth without regard to man's welfare spells an empty life. Or, to gather truth for the purpose of injuring man, makes a devil of such a seeker after knowledge. Only those who seek to find the use of truth for every man's advancement, are the acceptable seekers after truth.
In its noblest sense, truth is knowledge gathered and used for human welfare.
Truth is the most precious possession of man. Light is its fellow traveler. He who walks in the light, may travel intelligently and safely. (D. & C. 93:29, 36) There, also, is a test of truth. (D. & C. 50:23, 24)
2. HOW MAY A TESTIMONY OF THE TRUTH OF THE GOSPEL BE OBTAINED?
Members of the Church frequently "bear testimonies," one to the other. They declare that they know the restored gospel to be true, and voice the joy found in the possession of the gospel.
Such testimonies are statements of certainty of belief. They imply that the united experiences and powers of the man or woman confirm the truth of the gospel. Doubt is dismissed. Faith becomes the ruling power.
The beginning of a testimony is faith in God as the Father of the spirits of men; then in a divine plan of salvation for all men, with Jesus, the Christ, at the head; and finally in the restoration of the gospel or the plan and Priesthood authority through the instrumentality of the Prophet Joseph Smith.
The learned and the unlearned, the youth and the veteran, the high and the humble, may bear such a testimony alike. Each one learns the truth through his own powers. To each one may come the conviction that truth is the substance of the gospel and its claims. The man, rich in learning and experience, may be able to marshall more evidences for his belief than the adolescent lad; but, since both have tested the gospel with the means at their command, and found it not wanting, they may both claim respect for their separate testimonies.
A conviction of the truth of the gospel, a testimony, must be sought if it is to be found. It does not come as the dew from heaven. It is the result of man's eagerness to know truth. Often it requires battle with traditions, former opinions and appetites, and a long testing of the gospel by every available fact and standard. "Faith is a gift of God," but faith must be used to be of service to man. The Lord lets it rain upon the just and the unjust, but he whose field is well plowed is most benefited by the moisture from the sky.
Specifically, what must a person do in his quest for a testimony?
First, there must be a desire for truth. That is the beginning of all human progress, in school, in active life, in every human occupation. The desire to know the truth of the gospel must be insistent, constant, overwhelming, burning. It must be a driving force. A "devil-may-care" attitude will not do. Otherwise, the seeker will not pay the required price for the testimony.
A testimony comes only to those who desire it. Saul, as an enemy of Christ, was sincere in his persecutions. As his desire for truth developed, the Lord could bring to him the conviction of his error. Running through the Pauline epistles is the glorification of truth as the foundation of all wisdom.
Desire must precede all else in the winning of a testimony.
Second, the seeker for a testimony must recognize his own limitations. He is on a royal road, traveling towards the palace of truth, in which all human good may be found. There are truths beyond the material universe. Indeed, a testimony may be said to begin with the acceptance of God, who transcends as well as encompasses material things. The seeker for a testimony feels the need of help beyond his own powers, as the astronomer uses the telescope to enlarge his natural vision. The seeker for a testimony prays to the Lord for help. Such a prayer must be as insistent and constant as the desire. They must move together as the palm and back of the hand. Then help will come. Many a man has strayed from the road because his desire has not been coupled with prayer.
Prayer must accompany desire in the quest for a testimony.
Third, an effort must be put forth to learn the gospel, to understand it, to comprehend the relationship of its principles. The gospel must be studied, otherwise no test of its truth may sanely be applied to it. That study must be wide, for the gospel is so organized that in it is a place for every truth, of every name and nature. That study must be constantly continued, for the content of the gospel is illimitable.
It is a paradox that men will gladly devote time every day for many years to learn a science or an art; yet will expect to win a knowledge of the gospel, which comprehends all sciences and arts, through perfunctory glances at books or occasional listening to sermons. The gospel should be studied more intensively than any school or college subject. They who pass opinion on the gospel without having given it intimate and careful study are not lovers of truth, and their opinions are worthless.
To secure a testimony, then, study must accompany desire and prayer.
Fourth, the gospel must be woven into the pattern of life. It must be tested in practice. The gospel must be used in life. That is the ultimate test in the winning of a testimony.
Certainly, the experience of others who have consistently obeyed gospel requirements is of value to the seeker after a testimony. Children are wise in accepting the experiences of their parents. Beginners do well to trust those who are seasoned in gospel living. But, there comes a time when every person must find out for himself, in his own daily life, the value of the gospel. A sufficient testimony comes only to him who "stands upon his own feet."
A testimony of the truth of the gospel comes, then, from: (1) Desire, (2) Prayer, (3) Study, and (4) Practice.
This is really the formula given by Moroni, the Nephite prophet:
And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.
And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things. (Book of Mormon, Moroni 10:4, 5)
Thousands have tried this approach to truth; and have found the testimonies they sought. So far, no one who, with flaming desire, sincere prayer, earnest study, and fearless practice, has sought the truth of "Mormonism" has failed to find it. Some, for lack of courage, though truth stared them in the face, have kept it to themselves. But, the approach never fails, so declares fearlessly the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
3. HOW CAN THE EXISTENCE OF GOD BE VERIFIED?
There is really no more important question before man. And, in the words of the Apostle Peter, we should "be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you." (I Peter 3:15)
However, it is useless to attempt to satisfy anyone who asks this question unless he really desires to know God. Desire to know always precedes knowledge.
Religious truth begins with a knowledge of God. Once the existence and nature of our Father in heaven have been established, religious doubts soon vanish, and life's proper course of action becomes clear. Too often theological misunderstandings come because the testimony of God's reality has not been obtained.
In winning a certainty of God's existence, every power and faculty possessed by man may be employed. Observation, experimentation, feeling, prayer, and every process of thought are legitimate avenues to a knowledge of God. The attempt to confine the pursuit of religious truth within a compartment away from many-sided life simply leads to confusion and mystification. In every other activity man is obliged to use his natural gifts—senses of body and spirit, and power of mind to arrange acquired knowledge in an orderly manner—so why not in the search for God? All methods by which truth is discovered may be used in finding the answer to this foremost question.
Man knows things chiefly by their effects or by reports from others.
Likewise, in the search for religious truth we often know things, conditions, persons and personages from their effects, or the testimony of others. God, who does not reveal Himself in person to all, may be known through His works, or through His revelations to others. Jesus, the Christ, declared a search for truth through its effects to be legitimate.
If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not.
But if I do, though ye believe not me, believe the works: that ye may know and believe ... (John 10:37, 38)
By this test we, two thousand years later, may know that Jesus of Nazareth was indeed the Son of God. By this test we may know that there is a God.
So important is the question concerning the existence of God that thousands of men, from the earliest times, have sought for the answer. Out of this long search have come convincing evidences for the reality of God. These evidences have increased as men have more diligently sought God and respected truth. The existence of God, tested by all human powers, is the most firmly established fact in man's possession.
The searcher for God may turn for evidence to the external universe, to his own inner self, and to human history for his answer.
Three hundred years of advancing science have revealed many of the secrets of nature. In one respect the result of the study of nature has always been the same. Every process of nature is orderly. Chance, disorder, chaos are ruled out of the physical universe. If every condition involved in a system is precisely the same, the result, anywhere, everywhere, today or at any other time, will be the same. The sun does not rise in the east today and in the west tomorrow. That means that the phenomena of nature are products of law. The infinitely large or the infinitely small move in obedience to law. In man's earnest search for truth, no exception to this process has been found. Apparent deviations, such as the famous uncertainty principle operating in the sub-atomic world, are but expressions of man's incomplete knowledge, which always disappear with increasing knowledge. The universe exists under a reign of eternal law, surpassing the imperfect laws of human government.
Such orderliness, such domination by law, imply intelligent planning and purpose. Nothing happens of itself. Nowhere, in the age-old experience of man, has continued order been found except as the product of intelligent direction. Man's simplest machine, from the Indian scalping knife to the high-powered automobile, is a product of intelligent action. So convincing has the accumulated knowledge of man become that sober men of science, of foremost rank, declare that to them the universe appears as a Great Thought. The conclusion is evident. There can be no planning or purpose without a mind; there can be no thought without a thinker. The universe, itself, declares that there is intelligent purpose in nature, and that there must be, therefore, a supreme intelligence directing the universe. This is God.
Thus, every discovery in science becomes an additional evidence for God. The day of materialism is laid low. Only those who are content to gather facts without thinking about their meaning in the scheme of things are atheists in this day of enlightenment. "Faith in science is faith in God."
The evidence for God which comes from the invisible world, the world as yet only feebly explored by science, is equally convincing. Man's knowledge of the universe is not confined to the narrowly limited senses of seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling, and tactile feeling. He has other senses which enable him to gather truth from the larger part of the universe beyond the reach of eye or ear. The existence of such scenes and fields is no longer questioned by sound thinkers. It is recognized that in the invisible as in the visible world cause and effect travel together, and may be sensed by the human organism; and that when a person uses these powers, places himself "in tune," he receives knowledge pertaining to the part of the universe closed to the grosser senses.
Such, for example, is the evidence of conscience. If one seeks to do right, he is warned whenever he is tempted to stray from the proper path. Similar is the evidence of prayer. The vast majority of mankind agree that prayer helps people meet or solve the problems of life. Or, note the results of obedience to the law of the Lord. They who obey law find a joy not otherwise to be secured. From such conformity, prayer, and heed to conscience has come to millions of people the revelation, the certain conviction, that God lives and guides His children on earth. The message is as real as the words issuing from the radio tuned to the broadcaster. Certain it is that man has within himself the power to find and to know God.
The reality and validity of such knowledge or convictions, often called spiritual, is now very generally admitted. It certainly should be. That there are mountains on the moon is accepted as a fact because thousands of normal people testify that they have seen them through the telescope. That prayers are heard; that guidance is received from the unseen world; or that God lives, have been testified to, throughout out the generations of time, by more thousands of honest, normal persons than have ever testified to a scientific fact. And it is notable that there is full agreement among the believers in God as to the nature of their experiences. The very tests applied to the science of the external world, may properly be used in testing spiritual experiences. And the results should be received with equal respect. Scoffing is the refuge of the uninformed.
An evidence of the highest value remains. Millions of men and women have come to be believers in God, and have sought to place themselves in harmony with him, by yielding obedience to His will. As a result they have undergone a thorough-going change. As they have accepted God fully, and in sincerity, this change has become more marked. They have become more law-abiding. They have increased in power. They have been more useful to society. They have learned to accept the vicissitudes of life with more equanimity, and to look with more tolerance upon their fellow men. Love has flowed from them. They are the ones who have moved the world forward. The study of the world's history justifies these statements. Believers in God reflect His qualities; even as the warm earth represents the warmth of the sun. Under the law of cause and effect this is a powerful evidence for the existence of God, the source of strength and love and progress.
As a supplementary evidence is the further historical fact that a number of men have declared that they have seen God, and even spoken with Him, or that they have received messages from Him for themselves and others. The historicity of their claims is in most cases well established. That which was done, for example, by Paul the Apostle and Joseph Smith the Prophet after their heavenly experiences helps confirm the truth of their claims.
The existence of God may then be verified from external nature, from the "inner nature" of man, from the effects of conformity to God's law, and from the statements of men who have seen God. The first three types of evidence rest upon the testimonies of hundreds of thousands of men and women, increasing tremendously the probability of truth.
It must be added that no knowledge of God can be won unless it is earnestly, honestly, and prayerfully sought. Those who thus seek will receive the testimony, by the Holy Ghost, that God lives.
The knowledge so received is as genuine as if God had revealed Himself in person. So, innumerable lovers of truth, who have sought Him in spirit and deed, have testified. No knowledge to them has become more certain than that God lives and directs the affairs of men. To them, "closer is he than breathing, and nearer than hands and feet." (Tennyson, "The Higher Pantheism") And they are the happy ones on earth.
4. DOES THE CHURCH HAVE A MONOPOLY ON TRUTH?
Such a question reflects a complete misapprehension of the claims of the restored Church of Christ.
A monopoly of truth would mean the possession of all available truth, and the exclusion of those not in the Church from participation in the benefits of truth.
Nothing could be farther from the teachings of the Church. It has been taught from the days of the Prophet Joseph Smith that the light of truth enlightens every man born into the earth. All who seek truth may find it, whether in or out of the Church. Those who seek earnestly in libraries, laboratories, or open nature will be rewarded from the inexhaustible fountain of truth. The Author of truth is generous. The Church urges that in every clime, by all men, at all times, the search for truth be continued; for as truth multiplies among men, human joys may increase.
However, there are many kinds of truth. Some truths concern themselves with the physical conditions of earth and the heavens, under which material things move and operate. That is valuable knowledge, which has brought humanity many of its blessings. The discovery of such truth has called into being our present civilization which speaks with the stars and gives light and comfort to the humblest home.
There are higher kinds of truth—such as pertain to human conduct, that is, to man's manner of using the knowledge that he possesses; truths concerning the God of heaven and man's relationship to his divine Father; truths that explain the mystery of the past, reveal the meaning of the present, and foretell the future destiny of humanity; truths that enable man, if he but uses them, to approach, forever, the likeness of God.
This latter kind of truth forms the framework of the plan of salvation as set forth in the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. The gospel is a product of the mind and will of the Lord. It teaches that a divine purpose runs through the universe, encompassing every fact, law, and principle, and en- livening all the works of nature. Thus the gospel in its fulness becomes the home of truth, into which all truth, of every kind, may be fitted. As the home of truth, the gospel includes all truth, and places every truth in its proper place and position with respect to the present and future welfare of man.
The truths of the gospel, as all other truths, are available to all mankind. Indeed, perhaps all men possess a part of this basic knowledge for their comfort. Certainly in every church professing God there is some of this higher truth. That is the doctrine of the Latter-day Saints.
The gospel is operated on earth under the authority of the Lord. He placed man on earth and gave him the gospel. He has watched over the children of men throughout the ages of time and has reestablished His Church from time to time as the apostasy of man made it necessary. To the care of the Church the gospel has been committed, together with the Lord's authority, called the Priesthood. Only the Church possessing this authority is the complete Church of Christ, and there can be but one. All others lack the necessary authority and are therefore incomplete.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints posesses the full truth relative to the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, the one divine plan of salvation, and also the authority to officiate in God's name in the upbuilding of the Church of Christ. There is but one gospel; there can be but one Priesthood; there is but one Church which encompasses the whole truth of the gospel, and into which all truth may find its place. In that sense the Church claims to possess the full fundamental truth, call it monopoly if you choose, necessary for full salvation in the celestial kingdom of God. This the Church does humbly and gratefully, keenly sensible of its high commission and vast responsibility, to lead all mankind into a fulness of the knowledge leading to eternal progression in the presence of the Lord.
5. CAN THE EXPERIMENTAL METHOD BE EMPLOYED IN RELIGION?
Civilization and enlightenment have come when men, using the experimental method, have begun to test the correctness of their beliefs. The highway to truth is paved with such rigid tests.
On the contrary, the black cloud of superstition and confusion, twin enemies of progress, has obscured human vision when untested opinions or unverified claims or personal guesses have ruled human actions, or when assumed authority has claimed precedence over patient inquiry. The blind acceptance of unsupported statements, or placing theories upon a pedestal for human worship, has always been a source of sorrow.
Whenever men have set up devices or experiments to test the validity of their opinions, whenever men have demanded proofs of the verity of offered teachings, the world has moved forward. To test current beliefs, Galileo dropped stones of unequal weights from a height; Lavoisier weighed mercury before and after heating; Pasteur filtered air through tufts of cotton; Lister washed wounds with a solution of carbolic acid—and each destroyed a false belief and revealed a new truth: stones of all sizes fall through the air with equal velocity; mercury becomes heavier when heated in air; microscopic living things, in the air, are often capable of injury to man; in wounds are germs which if not destroyed may delay healing. Out of each of these experiments a vast volume of truth has grown. Our civilization rests upon innumerable such experiments.
The same principle appears in the field of living things, from animals to men. The complex relationships of social living must be tested for their value, if the path of safety is to be found. Though experimentation in this field is somewhat more difficult because of the human will (the power to accept or reject) yet, for example, the desirability of organization, cooperation, and democracy, and the ill effects of autocracy, tyranny, and dictatorships, have been demonstrated by actual trial.
Spiritual principles that affect human life, are likewise subject to experiment. Prayer, attendance at Church meetings, the Word of Wisdom, tithing are but remote beliefs until put into practice and thus tested for their value. Intelligent man cannot pass worth-while opinion on these and other principles until he has tried them himself or observed their effects on others.
Authority, itself, must bow before the experimental method. The reality of authority is best established by the efficacy of that which it declares and commands. Authority which is not willing to submit to such a test may well be questioned. There are today innumerable fantastic cults, leading thousands astray, which have no foundation beyond the unsupported claims of their originators.
This does not mean that the experimental method is the only approach to truth, but that it is one of the most important. Nor does it mean that every man must get drunk to learn the evils of alcohol. Human experience is filled with the sad examples of those who have toyed with evil and have been destroyed by it. We can learn from the experience of others, as from our own, as to that which is good or evil.
We can also learn from those wiser than we are. But in accepting guidance from them we must be certain of their wisdom.
The gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ advises men to test its truths in human life. It approves distinctly of the experimental method. The Savior laid down the principle in a luminous statement: "My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me. If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself." (John 7:16, 17) On another occasion He repeated the thought: "If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not. But if I do, though ye believe not me, believe the works." (John 10:37, 38) The words of the Apostle Paul, "Prove all things; hold fast that which is good." (I Thessalonians 5:21), are of the same import. There is constant advice in the scriptures to let the effects of gospel living be evidence of its truth, as for example: "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven" (Matthew 5:16); or "Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evil-doers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation." (I Peter 2:12)
Joseph Smith, the Prophet, recognized this method of testing truth. He read the words of James, "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him" (James 1:5); and, believing in God, he went into the grove to test the reality of the promise there made. Thus came the great First Vision.
Running through the scriptures is the doctrine that truth as well as untruth may be recognized by its effects, and the counsel is given to test the claims of the gospel by rendering obedience to its principles of action. Obedience itself becomes but a call to do certain things so that certain rewards may be received. Obedience may therefore be counted as a phase of the experimental method.
All should test their religious beliefs. But all such testing must be done in the right spirit and by the right method. Every testing must be a sincere and honest search for truth. The truth or the goodness, not the untruth or the evil, of a system must be sought; then untruth or evil, if it exists, is automatically discovered. There must be no bending of means or methods to bolster up prejudice. An honest seeker after truth must accept truth unhesitatingly when found, and yield full surrender to it. The truth-seeker must be single-minded—for truth. Errors must be thrown out, however appealing they may be to man-made appetites.
The experimental method is applicable and should be used in the field of religion as in every other field of human activity. Only then can a full conviction of its truth be won. "Practicing our religion" is the most direct method of gaining a "testimony of its truth," and that should be the constant concern of every Latter-day Saint.
6. CAN FAITH BE BUILT ON THEORIES?
There is danger in confusing facts and theories. Let it not be held, however, that theories are in themselves objectionable. They play an important part in human progress. They are man's best inferential explanations of existing facts. The history of theories is largely the history of the world of thought. They have been steppingstones to the discovery of truth. Only when theories have been held aloft as unchanging facts or guides to life, have they become dangerous in the search for truth.
New facts of observation as discovered either confirm or disprove a theory. When increasing knowledge confirms a theory, that theory approaches the status of an unchanging fact of nature; if such knowledge weakens the theory, the inference must be modified or abandoned. Most theories are forever changing as new truth appears. That is the main reason why one cannot build firmly and finally on a theory, and feel assured that he is on the safe road to truth.
Claudius Ptolemy, an Egyptian astronomer, living about one hundred fifty years after Christ, inferred from the daily movement of the sun from east to west, that the earth was the center of the solar system. This theory ruled for many centuries until an accumulation of observations threw doubt on its correctness. At last, Copernicus, born 1473 A. D., from existing facts concluded that day and night result from the earth's rotation upon its axis. The theory of Ptolemy fell with a crash. The telescope was invented; more observations were recorded. All heavenly bodies were found to be in motion and rotation. Mighty men appeared: Bruno, Galileo, Kepler, and many others. Our new theories of the solar system are supported by all available knowledge. Yet we are ready to change or modify them as new knowledge appears.
The best thinkers among the Greeks believed that fire was an element, the ultimate principle of the universe. In the seventh century after Christ, a careful investigator, Stahl, set up the theory that an inflammable principle, largely immaterial, devoid of weight, escapes from a burning substance. This he called phlogiston. Every combustible body contains, therefore, more or less phlogiston. This theory was accepted by the scientific world only to be overthrown within a hundred years. Lavoisier, called the father of chemistry, showed by a simple experiment that fire is but the energy released where combustible substances combine with the element oxygen.
Modern theories of the structure and origin of the earth, of the structure of matter, of heat, light, disease, population, the mind and man, are but heirs of earlier, mistaken inferences. The history of theories forms one of the most engaging chapters of human progress. No fault is found with those who propose theories, provided they base their theories on existing facts, and treat them as theories and not as facts.
The history of the theory of evolution is an excellent answer to the question at the head of this writing. The theory of evolution, a storm center of thought for many years, has been modified until it is vastly different from its original form. Leaving aside the doctrine that all life has a common beginning (see also pages 150-158), the basic idea in Darwinism was that the many life forms on the earth could be traced back to "natural selection," the "survival of the fittest" in the struggle for existence. Students of life in every department seized avidly upon this explanation of conditions among men and lower animals. Thousands of books and pamphlets in the fields of natural, economic, and social sciences have been based on the theory of natural selection.
During the last generation, however, facts have appeared to cast serious doubt upon the validity of the doctrine of natural selection. Recently, two books, almost epoch-making, written by men of the highest scientific standing, declare natural selection to be insufficient to explain the variety in nature. Moreover, these two notable investigators have proposed new explanations, inferences from their own work and that of others, to replace the doctrine of natural selection.
Dr. Richard Goldschmidt, American scientist, declares, among other things, that "species and the higher categories," originate in single steps, independent of natural selection as "completely new genetic systems." That is, they appear by sudden variation, which is mutation. He adds that he believes such independent appearances to be the result of processes which are very simple. "If life phenomena were not based on very simple principles, no organism could exist." Such views would have been heretical two generations ago.
Dr. J. C. Willis, European scientist, frankly entitles his book The Course of Evolution, "by differentiation or divergent mutation rather than by selection." He concludes that "The process of evolution appears not to be a matter of natural selection or chance variations of adaptational value. Rather, it is working upon some definite law that we do not yet comprehend. The law probably began its operations with the commencement of life, and it is carrying this on according to some definite plan. ... Evolution is no longer a matter of chance, but of law. It has no need of any support from natural selection. ... The theory of natural selection is no longer getting us anywhere, except in politics (the dead hand)." He goes on to argue for the explanation of "the increasing divergencies of characters as one goes up the scale from species to family," by mutation, a law in opposition to natural selection.
In essence these two eminent experimenters and thinkers are in agreement. Future basic changes in the doctrine of evolution may well be expected.
Had the proponents as well as the opponents of evolution, as a whole or in part, kept in mind that they were discussing a theory, subject to frequent and fundamental change, the civilized world would have been spared much unseemly behavior.
Again the warning: Distinguish clearly between facts and the inferences from facts.
Certainly, it is a mistake to accept theories in building faith in anything, from religion to our everyday life pursuits.
7. IS IT WRONG TO DOUBT?
Doubt usually means uncertainty. You doubt the presence of gold in the ore, though there are yellow flakes in it; or that the man is a thief, though stolen goods are found in his possession; or that a principle of the gospel is correctly interpreted by the speaker. What you really mean is that the evidence in your possession is insufficient to convince you that there is gold in the ore, or that the man is a thief, or that the gospel principle has been explained correctly. Doubt arises from lack of evidence.
Intelligent people cannot long endure such doubt. It must be resolved. Proof must be secured of the presence of gold in the ore, or of the dishonesty of the man, or of the correctness of the doctrinal exposition. Consequently, we set about to remove doubt by gathering information and making tests concerning the subject in question. Doubt, then, becomes converted into inquiry or investigation.
After proper inquiries, using all the powers at our command, the truth concerning the subject becomes known, or it remains unknown to be unravelled perhaps at some future time. The weight of evidence is on one side or the other. Doubt is removed. Doubt, therefore, can be and should be only a temporary condition. Certainly, a question cannot forever be suspended between heaven and earth; it is either answered or unanswered. As the results of an inquiry appear, doubt must flee.
In other words, doubt, which ever is or should be a passing condition, must never itself be an end. Doubt as an objective of life is an intellectual and a spiritual offense. A lasting doubt implies an unwillingness on the part of the individual to seek the solution of his problem, or a fear to face the truth. Doubt should vanish as it appears, or as soon as proper inquiry can place it either with the known or the unknown facts of life; with the solvable or the unsolvable; with the knowable or the unknowable.
The strong man is not afraid to say, "I do not know"; the weak man simpers and answers, "I doubt." Doubt, unless transmuted into inquiry, has no value or worth in the world. Of itself it has never lifted a brick, driven a nail, or turned a furrow. To take pride in being a doubter, without earnestly seeking to remove the doubt, is to reveal shallowness of thought and purpose.
Perhaps you are questioning the correctness of a gospel principle. Call it doubt if you prefer. Proceed to take it out of the region of doubt by examination and practice. Soon it will be understood, or left with the many things not yet within the reach of man. But remember: failure to understand one principle does not vitiate other principles. When proved false, one doctrine may cast distrust upon other doctrines, but the others must be tested for their own correctness.
Doubt of the right kind—that is, honest questioning—leads to faith. Such doubt impels men to inquiry which always opens the door to truth. The scientist in his laboratory, the explorer in distant parts, the prayerful man upon his knees—these and all inquirers like them find truth. They learn that some things are known, others are not. They cease to doubt. They settle down with the knowledge they possess to make the forces of nature do their bidding, knowing well that they will be victorious; and that more knowledge will come to them, if sought, to yield new power.
On the other hand, the stagnant doubter, one content with himself, unwilling to make the effort, to pay the price of discovery, inevitably reaches unbelief and miry darkness. His doubts grow like poisonous mushrooms in the dim shadows of his mental and spiritual chambers. At last, blind like the mole in his burrow, he usually substitutes ridicule for reason, and indolence for labor. The simplest truth is worth the sum of all such doubts. He joins the unhappy army of doubters who, weakened by their doubts, have at all periods of human history allowed others, men of faith, to move the world into increasing light.
Faith is practically the opposite of doubt. Faith rests securely upon "evidences" and "assurances." Note the definition by the Apostle Paul: "Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." Faith knows, and goes forth courageously to use knowledge in the affairs of men. It declares itself the master of things; it lays mountains low; it lifts valleys; it promotes the welfare of man.
Joseph Smith is an excellent example of proper doubt. The ministers of his day were contending for the membership of the boy. He went to God for help; received it; and doubt disappeared. From that day on, doubt did not reappear. His doubt was lost in the desired knowledge he gained from proper inquiry. So may every man do.
The unknown universe, material, mental, spiritual, is greater than the known. If we seek, we shall forever add knowledge to knowledge. That which seems dark today, will be crystal clear tomorrow. Eternal progress means the unending elucidation of things not known or understood today.
No! Doubt is not wrong unless it becomes an end of life. It rises to high dignity when it becomes an active search for, and practice of, truth.
Doubt which immediately leads to honest inquiry, and thereby removes itself, is wholesome. But that doubt which feeds and grows upon itself, and, with stubborn indolence, breeds more doubt, is evil.
8. DOES HIGHER EDUCATION TEND TO DIMINISH FAITH IN THE GOSPEL?
Higher education usually means education beyond high school. Since the main purpose of education, lower or higher, is the same, the above question should probably read. "Does education tend to diminish faith in the gospel?"
Really, the constant advocacy by the Church, over a hundred years, of study and learning should be a sufficient answer to this question. Schools and universities mark the course of Mormon history. Today the largest single expenditure of the Church is for education. Mormon students are found everywhere in collegiate institutions. In proportion to its membership, no group of like size in the world has higher literacy or more graduates of colleges and universities. The Church has ever been mindful of the doctrine that "The glory of God is intelligence" (D. & C. 93:36); and its great objective is to become increasingly like God.
If education had been found to destroy faith, such support would not have been given it.
The true objectives of education—to gather knowledge, and to learn how to use it for human welfare—are fully accepted by the Church. Therefore, any decrease of faith among educated men does not depend upon their education, but upon some other coincident factor or factors. For example:
Faith in the gospel is much like a living organism. To be healthy and vigorous it must be fed. If starved, it sickens, weakens, and may die. Loss of faith may always be traced to neglect, mistreatment, or sin.
The food of faith is simple but imperative. Knowledge of the gospel must be maintained and increased by regular, continuous study; and this knowledge must be made alive by active obedience to the practices and requirements of the Church. Real intelligence or wisdom, the true purpose of education, is a compound of knowledge and the use of that knowledge for human welfare, according to the plan of salvation.
Neglect to maintain familiarity with gospel principles through regular study, coupled with neglect to practice gospel precepts in daily life, is a fruitful cause of loss of faith. It is always a pathetic picture to see a man who through long studious years has moved towards an advanced degree in some academic principle—chemistry or biology, English or economics—but who during that time has given only passing attention to his religion—sit in judgment on the gospel. It is an erroneous assumption on his part, unworthy of an educated man, that knowledge of the gospel comes as it were, with breathing, while to secure academic knowledge requires toil and more toil.
One wonders at the intelligence quotient of the man who does not comprehend that the prayerful man alone can pass upon the virtue of prayer; the Word of Wisdom keeper upon the Word of Wisdom; the tithe payer upon tithing; the regular student of the gospel upon the content and meaning of the gospel, and so on throughout the several gospel requirements. Some so-called educated men make themselves absurd by passing opinions on spiritual matters when they live only material lives. To become an adept in religion—which includes the science of human behavior—requires more study and practice than to become the master of any one of the many groups of knowledge recognized by collegiate institutions. And one cannot depend on previous knowledge. The past fades away with the progress of time. Every person whether in religion or science must keep his knowledge fresh and up-to-date, else he goes "on the shelf."
The student who, every day, will place his needs before the Lord, who will spend say ten minutes in gospel study, and conform to gospel requirements, will find his faith grows as he increases in secular knowledge. His understanding of the true meaning of all his efforts will become clearer and more comprehensive.
Excuses for neglect of Church duties are easily found by students of higher education. There may be no Church meetings in the university town; and the Sabbath is spent as any other day. Urgency of work makes prayers irregular. A meagre purse justifies disobedience to the law of sacrifice. These are specious excuses, which, if nurtured, take on the aspects of necessity.
At least one group of three, the only Church members, in a university town, held regular Sunday meetings, partook of the Sacrament, bore testimony to one another, studied the gospel together, remembered to give of their slender means, and now after many years, rejoice in a robust faith in the gospel, and at the same time have record of distinguished service to their fellow men. Others have done likewise; and others may happily follow their examples.
Loss of faith may be suffered also by those who adopt habits of their colleagues—students or teachers—contrary to gospel teachings. They who do so have not the courage to maintain their own convictions. They are weak, timid souls, not destined for leadership. They drink, smoke, or carouse with the group with which they associate. A distinguished scholar is a nicotine victim, therefore they imitate him; another sips his cocktails; yet another scoffs at faith. They who imitate such leaders fail to understand that men are often great in some field despite their weaknesses, and they forget that he who battles for the right always wins the esteem of his fellows, be they of one kind or another.
The diminution of faith that follows the tampering with forbidden things cannot be charged to education.
Some students, while in pursuit of truth, fall into immoral practices. Unless quick and sincere repentance follows, they are certain to fall into unbelief. The unclean life poisons faith. As a rule, the person who has lost his faith because of sexual impurity, becomes an enemy of spiritual truth, and seek to find occasion against the Church. He displays an evil type of self-justification.
Here then are four of the factors that have contributed to loss of faith among a small proportion of those who seek or have sought higher education: (1) Starvation of faith through lack of study and practice of gospel principles; (2) imitation of persons who have acquired improper habits of life; (3) immorality; and (4) the failure to understand the real relationship that religion bears to all truth.
These are among the most important causes of unbelief. The unbelief or gratuitous judgment of the gospel by those who are guilty of one or more of these things is really unworthy of discussion. Let one set his own house in order before he passes judgment upon the abodes of others.
Behind all these causes lie the desire and the will to retain and develop faith. Without a strong desire for faith, the cause is helpless. There is no personal progress in any activity, scientific or religious, except upon the condition of desire coupled with a determined vigorous will.
Education, higher or lower, does not diminish faith; but the lives and attitudes of those who seek education do determine the nature and the degree of faith.
9. WHAT IS A LIBERAL RELIGION?
The word liberal, correctly used, has a noble meaning. The true liberal hates slavery of every kind. He battles for human freedom. He wants liberty in thought and action. He is tolerant, free from bigotry, and generous in all his deeds. He places truth above all else and hungers for full truth. He welcomes all new improvements and calls for more—the telegraph, electric light, telephone, printing press, typewriter, railroad, airship, radio. He insists that every new invention must be used for human welfare, with full respect to civil and moral law. In short, the liberal seeks to make better the day in which he lives, and he becomes therefore a crusader for the betterment of the human race.
Such a liberal, to accomplish his purpose, holds fast, without the least concession, to the convictions of his soul. He is anchored to the rock of truth, as he may see it. He never wavers from the basic, underlying principles of the cause, whether of church or state, to which he is committed. All the world knows how and where he stands.
His liberalism lies in his constant attempt to make the underlying unchanging principles of the cause he represents serve the changing conditions of the day. He may differ with the superficial conventions of the past, but not with its established truths. He may refuse to continue the church architecture of the past but will insist that the ancient truths of the gospel be taught in every building dedicated to worship. He may be forever seeking, under changing conditions, to make the doctrine of human brotherhood more effective in behalf of the needy. He is a believer who seeks to use his beliefs in every concern of his life.
Unfortunately, the word liberal is not always properly used. It has been used, or misused, for so many purposes that its original meaning has largely vanished. Word-juggling, making a good word cover a doubtful or an ugly cause, is an age-old pastime. Words are too often used as shields to hide or disguise truth. Many men are inclined to hide their true motives behind a word.
It is folly to speak of a liberal religion, if that religion claims that it rests upon unchanging truth. Neither can one be a liberal in religion except in the application of the underlying doctrine to human needs. It would be as preposterous as speaking of a liberal science, since science rests upon truthful observations of nature. It is only in the use of scientific discoveries that the word liberal may be used. One either accepts or rejects truth. There is no middle course.
Under the true definition of liberalism, the Church of Jesus Christ is preeminently liberal. First, it makes truth and love of truth its foundation. The whole latter-day work was initiated by Joseph Smith's search for truth. "In the midst of this war of words and tumult of opinions, I often said to myself: What is to be done? Who of all these parties are right ...?" Thus came the first great vision of Joseph Smith; and as a consequence of his search for truth came the other revelations, and the enduring light-giving structure of the Church. In his differences with the beliefs of the churches of his day, he did not seek cover under the name of an existing church. Instead he frankly formed another Church and fought out the issue on the basis of his own fundamental doctrine. It is understood that every worthy member of the Church must likewise seek and find truth for himself. Then, the Church insists that its truths must be used for human good. The gospel has value only as it fosters the welfare of those who have accepted it. Further, the Church recognizes that there is constant change on earth but insists that every change must respect and use the basic doctrine of the Church. It declares that men "live and move and have their being" under the law of progress. Change steps upon the heels of change in the unfolding of a progressive universe. The simple eternal truths of existence are combined and combined again, in different ways, but progressively, to serve man on his never-ending journey. It is much as the endless combination of the few numerical digits from simple to increasingly larger numbers. Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints do not need to look elsewhere for a liberal Church.
10. WHY ARE THE LATTER-DAY SAINTS A PECULIAR PEOPLE?
In looks, clothes, language, education, business pursuits, and the ordinary social practices, Mormons are like other people. When the term "peculiar" is applied to us, reference is made to our religious beliefs, and our practices based upon those beliefs—matters which are wholly of a personal nature, but in which we differ from other Christian creeds and churches.
These differences are vital, and cannot be denied. They will make us a peculiar people until the world comes to a unity of faith. We do not flaunt our differences before our friends of other faiths. Neither do we try to hide them. We are proud of them, for they are founded in truth, and truth is our dearest possession. We know, moreover, that if our uniqueness were everywhere followed, peace would again descend upon the earth.
The peculiarities of the Latter-day Saints fall under five main heads:
First. The Church claims without reservation that it was founded by direct revelation from God. The Father and the Son through personal appearance to Joseph Smith initiated the work that led to the organization of the Church. By this appearance, God was shown to be in the form of a man who spoke with his own voice to the young Prophet, and instructed him. In an age when most men believe that God is an ethereal essence, bodiless and formless, who long since has ceased to speak to man, this claim of the Church is really its foremost peculiarity. This difference is emphasized in the further claim that heavenly beings, men who had lived on earth, had died, and then had been resurrected, gave Joseph Smith further instruction and guidance in the work he was called to perform. This intimate connection between the seen and the unseen world is in some respects strange to the Christian world, and makes of us a peculiar people.
Second. A most formidable difference lies in the claim that the Restored Church, patterned precisely after the Primitive Church of Christ, is the one official instrument through which the Lord works out on earth His plan of salvation for the children of men. The mission of the Church of Christ is to establish the kingdom of God on earth. To do this, the necessary power to perform with authority the ordinances of the kingdom is required. This has been given the Church. The Holy Priesthood has been bestowed upon it by the ancient worthies who held it when the Church was undefiled. Since apostacy from the Primitive Church has occurred, and all other Christian churches lack the authority of the Priesthood, all who desire to enter the kingdom of God must come within the confines of the Restored Church of Christ. It is the Lord's authoritative Church. Under such conditions the destiny of the Church is secure. The Lord is always victorious; so will His Church be.
To those of other faiths, these seem daring claims, but only such a faith gives courage and stability to the members of the Church. In the face of such faith fear of the future vanishes, if we but seek earnestly to carry out the purposes of the Lord.
Third. The body of doctrine or beliefs of the Church is a distinguishing difference. The Church is the custodian of the gospel of Jesus Christ—the fulness of it. A principle of truth here, another there, characterizes the Christian churches. The true Church is not content unless it possesses the complete truth of the gospel. It claims to possess all the principles of the plan of salvation. Therefore, it accepts principles rejected or ignored by many or all other churches.
Note some of these beliefs foreign to most modern Christian churches: God is the Father of our spirits. We lived with Him before we came on earth. Under His divine plan these pre-existent spirits have been clothed with bodies on earth. He watches over His earthly children; and when occasion arises He may speak to His children through the Holy Spirit, by messengers, or by His very voice. The Church is guided by the Lord through continuous revelation. The God who spoke to His ancient Church has the power to speak and does speak to His authorized servants today. Such old doctrines are new to the churches of today.
The doctrine of graded salvation, based upon our works; eternal progression in the hereafter; and salvation for the dead by the vicarious service of the living are as an unknown language to the churches of today. That the body is a sacred house of the spirit which must be kept free from all contamination or that the law of cause and effect is operative in the spiritual world; or that the children of men are literally the children of God and that therefore, mankind forms a real and genuine brotherhood, does not seem to have dawned upon the minds of today's religious thinkers. Yet these and many other truths, belonging to the complete gospel of Jesus Christ, are really age old. But since they have been rejected or forgotten, they make us who accept them seem different. In such a larger and more complete knowledge we rejoice.
Fourth. Even more peculiar to the thoughtless crowds of the day, is the Mormon insistence that using truth is just as important as knowing truth; that "faith without works is dead." Every act of life should be influenced and directed by the laws of the gospel. The purpose of the plan of salvation should be the purpose, directly or indirectly, of every human undertaking. Life under the gospel can not be placed on one side, and our daily tasks made independent of the gospel on another. The gospel must be lived daily. It must be lived sincerely. Obedience to the Lord's law—whatever it may be—daily, steadily, always—is the true measure of success.
Certainly, many Christians try to obey the Lord's law, as they understand it. More do not. Hence, drunkenness, immorality, murders, and other acts of darkness characterize an age rich in knowledge.
In this day, a Church that makes religion a week-day affair is peculiar, indeed.
Fifth. Most astonishing of all, the most peculiar thing about the Latter-day Saints—so it seems to our weak generation—is that its members have the courage to live up to their beliefs in the face of adverse practices. The Mormon in a social gathering refuses the cocktail with a smile and a "thank you." Among companions who smoke he keeps his mouth and lungs clean and sweet. When others make Sunday a boisterous holiday, he spends part of it attending to his Church duties. Amidst immorality, he keeps himself clean, and goes to his wife as pure as he expects her to be and continues so throughout life. He tries to follow the admonition of the Savior, to be in the world, but not of the world.
The world marvels at such daring, but admires it. Men who love truth above all else, who are guided in their lives by the principles of truth and who dare to conform to them, despite temptation or scoffing companions, are the truly honored ones in the minds of saints or sinners. They are the ones the world is hoping and praying for to lead humanity into peace and happiness. But such courage makes of us a peculiar people.
We should indeed be proud to exchange error for truth, to seek urgently for all truth, and to build truth, every day and everywhere into our lives. By that path we shall reach individual and collective happiness and power, and become able to serve our confused and unhappy world. If these be peculiarities, let us thank the Lord for them.
The Latter-day Saints are a peculiar people. So were the Former-day Saints. Hear the words of Peter, the apostle, "Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light." (1 Peter 2:9)
11. WHY CAN NOT THINGS OF GOD BE KNOWN EXCEPT BY THE SPIRIT OF GOD?
The Savior while on earth declared that "It is the spirit that quickeneth" (John 6:63); and in modern times, speaking to Joseph Smith the Prophet, He said, "the Spirit beareth record" (D. & C. 1:39; 59:24); and "the Spirit giveth light to every man." (D. & C. 84:46)
The Apostle Paul, interpreting life in terms of this doctrine, wrote "the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God." (I Corinthians 2:11)
This profound yet almost self-evident truth is the beginning of an understanding of the gospel.
The radio now found in almost every household illustrates the meaning of this doctrine. Broadcast throughout space are countless messages, music or the spoken word—some good, others bad. We are immersed in these radio waves or radiations or whatever they may be; they beat upon our senses as waves upon the ocean shore. Yet, we are not conscious of them unless our receiving set is tuned to catch them. Then they are converted into sound waves that activate our eardrums. That which eluded our senses, suddenly enters our world of hearing.
Similarly, the astronomer must have his telescope to scan the depths of space; the biologist, his microscope to perceive the minute things of life; the physicist, his electron-microscope to bring the world of molecules within his range of vision. There would be no progress unless this were done. If the astronomer should attempt to survey the heavens with a microscope, or the biologist set out with a telescope to make the world of small things visible, only confusion or blackness would result.
This is a universal law. In every department of knowledge the seeker for truth must choose his tools with reference to the field to be explored; and the procedure of his studies must fit the needs of the search. While instruments, aids to the senses, are important, indeed often indispensable, they are of little value unless the senses themselves are in a condition to receive that which the instruments transmit. Eye, ear, and all other sense organs must be normal for dependable observation. Otherwise the observations may be misleading.
In addition, man himself must also be able not only to receive but also to interpret that which comes through his senses. The mental interpretation is as important as the physical observation. Unless he can do this, his knowledge is but as rain splashing upon a granite dome, when it might fall upon friendly, absorbing soil to germinate seed or to induce plant growth. In every pursuit of knowledge, therefore, the fitness and power of the man to observe and to interpret become of first consequence. The inner meaning of phenomena is revealed only to one competent to receive the truth sought.
It is so in the pursuit of spiritual truth. There, the seeker deals with living, personal realities; not primarily with the inert, impersonal things and forces of science. The Holy Spirit, which is in touch with every person born into the world, is the communicating agent. In this field, man, a living being, must be the chief instrument of reception as well as the interpreter of the knowledge offered by the Spirit of God. Therefore, the individual must be properly prepared, tuned, if he is to receive and to comprehend spiritual truth. In short, to understand "things of God," a person, who is the receiving apparatus, must qualify himself spiritually.
Mere knowledge of spiritual truth, information that may be drawn from the encyclopedia, for instance, that there is a God, that prayers may be heard, or that it is wrong to steal, is never really understood unless the person is spiritually prepared. The absence of such preparation explains why many who can glibly recite the Ten Commandments or the Beatitudes may violate them with equal ease; or why, though reared in a religious atmosphere, they are irreligious. Such persons believe that spiritual knowledge may be poured into them with no consideration of their fitness and with no effort on their part. That cannot be done in the lower fields of knowledge and less so in the highest, the spiritual field. It would be in opposition to natural law. Such people are out of spiritual focus, and then impressions are blurred, much as a telescope out of focus gives only indistinct and confused images. Or, to use another figure of speech, there is static in their lives which mars the beauty of life's melody. On the contrary, when a person does fit and qualify himself, spiritual messages, waiting to be revealed, come to him. Then, and only then, is spiritual knowledge quickened into living comprehension leading to activity. When there is such correspondence between an individual and the spiritual world, the real joy of life appears. Otherwise, something is missing from our daily desire. We live incompletely.
What, then, can a person do to qualify himself to receive and to understand things of the spirit, to become an instrument through which spiritual messages may be made intelligible? An answer is given in a glorious latter-day revelation:
But great and marvelous are the works of the Lord, ... Neither is man capable to make them known, for they are only to be seen and understood by the power of the Holy Spirit, which God bestows on those who love him, and purify themselves before him. (D. & C. 76:114, 116)
Speaking to the same subject the ancient American Prophet Moroni gave this well-known guide:
... I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost. (Book of Mormon, Moroni 10:4)
The formula seems simple: Faith, obedience, and prayer. But, as with all good things, it requires personal effort. The seeker after spiritual truth must first have faith in God, that is, in His existence and His relationship to mankind. This is the beginning of all wisdom. Frequently, the difficulty with those who struggle to believe this or that gospel principle, is that they have not yet found full faith in God. Next, love of God must characterize him who would know the things of the spirit. That means surrender of self to the requirements of the Lord. In other words, obedience to law is required, which is the only way to freedom. Knowledge of itself is never sufficient; it must be made alive by obedience, the fruit of love. By obedience to the law of the Lord, we purify ourselves, and become fitted to approach Him and to win His favor. All the while there must be prayer for help to the beloved Being whom we call God, and whom we are ready to obey to secure the knowledge desired. Such prayer must be sincere, of "real intent," otherwise it becomes a useless gesture. "Pray always, and I will pour out my Spirit upon you" (D. & C. 19:38) is the promise of the Lord. In short, "living the gospel" fits a man to receive spiritual truth. Only then can he receive and understand things of the spirit. Upon that condition alone does the light of truth enter his life.
Is it difficult to obey this formula, to qualify oneself spiritually? Nothing is easier or more enjoyable. When there is harmony between the instrument and the pounding message, there is joy in the heart. The world's confusion roots in discord, lack of harmony. To be out of focus or to live in the midst of static is to be in semi-darkness and chaos. To have control of self, to bid the baser appetites depart, is to walk through life in full light and with full power. They who think the path difficult, have not tried it. "Living the gospel" is the true way to the full and free expression of human powers, to the help that the Spirit of God can give.
It may be added that all who yield such obedience to God's law undergo a real transformation, by the Holy Ghost, which enables them more and more, to receive and understand spiritual messages. Unless that transformation is accomplished, a person is opaque to spiritual truth, and the "things of God" are beyond his understanding.
Great is the effect of such spiritual communication. Human experience as well as the divinely inspired word makes clear the overflowing blessings that follow possession of the "things of God." It transforms life. It makes the weak strong, the strong mightier. Every field of activity is illuminated by spiritual truth. The individual becomes filled with light as the incandescent lamp when the electric current passes through it. Moroni left for all truth seekers this world-sweeping message: "And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things" (Book of Mormon, Moroni 10:5). Scientist and philosopher; farmer and tradesman; rich and poor; all will be aided in their life pursuits if they have contact with the inexhaustible intelligence of the spiritual realm. The wealth of eternity will be theirs. They who do not seek to make themselves receivers of spiritual messages, but thrash about for such truth as their unaided powers may reveal, do not learn the meaning and destiny of life, and fail to win the vision of the glory of the universe in which we live.
12. WHY DID JOSEPH SMITH, THE PROPHET, NEED THE HELP OF THE URIM AND THUMMIM?
The Urim and Thummim are mentioned in the Bible in connection with priestly functions. They were to be used in making the will of the Lord clear and comprehensible to the priest. Aaron was instructed to wear the Urim and Thummim "upon his heart," when he went to secure "judgment" from the Lord, and his successors were instructed to use the Urim and Thummim when they asked "counsel" from the Lord. Clearly, the Urim and Thummim were used in official communication with the Lord. Beyond that, little is known of them. (See Exodus 28:30; Leviticus 8:8; Numbers 27:21; Deuteronomy 33:8; I Samuel 28:6; Ezra 2:63; Nehemiah 7:65.)
In modern times the Urim and Thummim reappear. The Prophet Joseph Smith records that the angel Moroni said that "there was a book deposited, written on gold plates... also, that there were two stones in silver bows... and these stones fastened to a breastplate, constituted what is called the Urim and Thummim... deposited with the plates; and the possession and use of these stones were what constituted 'Seers' in ancient or former times, and that God had prepared them for the purpose of translating the book" (Joseph Smith, History of the Church, 1:12).
When the actual work of translation began, the Urim and Thummim were found to be indispensable. In various places the statement is made that the translation was made "by means of the Urim and Thummim" (D. & C. 10:1). On one occasion, when the Prophet, through the defection of Martin Harris, lost a part of the manuscript translation, the Urim and Thummim were taken from him, and the power of translation ceased. Upon the return of the sacred instruments, the work was resumed (Joseph Smith, History of the Church, 1:23). While the Prophet was undoubtedly required to place himself in the proper spirit and mental attitude before he could use the Urim and Thummim successfully, yet it must also be concluded that the stones were essential to the work of translation.
Most of the early revelations to Joseph Smith were obtained by the use of the Urim and Thummim. Speaking of those early days the Prophet usually says, "I enquired of the Lord through the Urim and Thummim, and obtained the following" (Joseph Smith, History of the Church, 1:33, 36, 45, 49, 53). The "stones in silver bows" seemed, therefore, to have possessed the general power of making spiritual manifestations understandable to Joseph Smith.
The Prophet did not always receive revelations by the aid of the Urim and Thummim. As he grew in spiritual power, he learned to bring his spirit into such harmony with divinity that it became, as it were, a Urim and Thummim to him, and God's will was revealed without the intervention of external aids. This method is clearly, though briefly, expressed in one of the early revelations.
Behold, you have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me.
But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right.
But if it be not right you shall have no such feelings, but you shall have a stupor of thought that shall cause you to forget the thing which is wrong; therefore, you cannot write that which is sacred save it be given from me. (D. & C. 9:7-9)
Similarly, the Book of Mormon sets forth the conditions which enable a person to receive divine communications without special outside means.
And when you shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.
And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things. (Book of Mormon, Moroni 10:4, 5)
That is, truth may become known when one places himself in harmony or in tune with the requirements of the subject in hand.
The possession of the Urim and Thummim, with their purpose and use, really becomes a strong evidence of the truth of Joseph Smith's message. It is a commonplace of science that the senses of man are so poor as to make them inadequate to discover more than a small fraction of universal truth. Indeed, with unaided senses, man stands helpless before the many phenomena of nature. It is an equally elementary fact that aids of the senses of man, when found, open up large and new vistas of knowledge. Every aid to human sense becomes, in fact, a door to a new field of scientific exploration.
The history of science is largely the story of the accumulation of aids to man's senses. By the use of a glass prism, ordinary sunlight is broken into the many prismatic colors; a sensitive thermometer reveals heat rays above the red end of the spectrum; a photographic plate reveals the existence of different rays at the violet end of the spectrum; uranium glass changes the invisible rays at the violet end of the spectrum into light rays; a magnetic needle makes known the presence of a low tension electric current in a wire; the magnetic currents over the earth are indicated by the compass; by X-rays the bones of the body are made visible; a great telescope is now being built which will enable the human eye to see light, of the intensity of a small candle, forty thousand miles away. Such examples might be greatly multiplied.
Joseph Smith was but a humble, inexperienced lad. He was assigned a tremendous task. His need of help such as the Urim and Thummim, until by mighty prayer and effort his body and spirit became spiritually "tuned," seems both logical and scientific.
It should be noted also that the Prophet does not enter into any argument to prove the necessity of the use of the Urim and Thummim. His simple mention of them argues strongly for his veracity. An impostor would probably have attempted an explanation of the "seer stones."
The Urim and Thummim were aids to Joseph's spiritual senses. How they operated is not known. For that matter, the methods of operation of most of the aids to man's physical senses are not understood. Joseph's claim to the need of such aids becomes an evidence for the truth of his life's labor.
13. TO WHAT EXTENT MAY PROPHECY BE INTERPRETED?
Prophecy, in the sense of the above question, is the foretelling, through divine inspiration, of coming events. Such prophecies have characterized the work of the Lord in all ages. They have been means of comforting, guiding, and warning the children of men. The Church holds fast to faith in the spirit of prophecy as a gift of the Lord.
There appear to be several types of prophecies:
First, there are prophecies which in reality are statements of cause and effect. If certain things are done, certain results will flow therefrom. For example, "he that repents not, from him shall be taken even the light which he has received" (D. & C. 1:33); "where two or three are gathered together in my name, as touching one thing, behold there will I be in the midst of them" (D. & C. 6:32). Holy Writ is filled with such prophecies. They need no interpretation. Their fulfillment is part of the general experience of the Church.
Second, there are occasions when the prophet, looking into the future, is able to localize coming events definitely as to time, place, or person. Such particular prophecies are fairly plentiful in sacred history. The most famous, in modern days, concerns the American Civil War. "Verily, thus saith the Lord concerning the wars that will shortly come to pass, beginning at the rebellion of South Carolina,... For behold, the Southern States shall be divided against the Northern States, and the Southern States will call on other nations, even the nation of Great Britain,... to defend themselves" (D. & C. 87:1, 3). Here the coming event is linked definitely with place and country. This kind of prophecy has no need of interpretation; we wait only for its fulfillment, which is the evidence of its divine source. (See also, I Kings 13:2, 21-22, 24-30; 14:5-17; 16:34; 20:13-30; 20:35, 36. II Kings 2:3-11; 7:2, 19, 20; 9:10, 33-37; 13:16-25; 14:25-28; 19:6, 7, 20-37; 20:17, 18; and many others.)
Third, a prophet, looking down the stream of time, sees with spiritual eyes the panorama of future history. Such prophecies are general, in that they do not specifiy times, localize places, though they occasionally name individuals. This is the most common entrance of prophecy into the future. It began with Adam who "stood up in the midst of the congregation; and, notwithstanding he was bowed down with age, being full of the Holy Ghost, predicted whatsoever should befall his posterity unto the latest generation" (D. & C. 107:56). The prophecy of Enoch, the Patriarch, is an excellent illustration of this type of prophecy. In answer to his request, Enoch was shown the future of mankind, generation upon generation, down to the coming of Christ, and beyond to the last days. No time or place limits are set. We may only recognize the periods by the events as they occur (Pearl of Great Price, Moses 7:20-67). Likewise, the Prophet Joseph Smith was given visions of the last days and the events that will characterize them, but fixed time or places were seldom given (D. & C. 5:19; 29:14, 16, 18, 19, 20; 34:9; 43:22, 26, 33; 45:31, 40-42; 49:25; 63:34; 84:118; 88:87, 89, 90, 91, 97; 112:25).
The full recognition of the fulfilment of such prophecies comes as time proceeds and the predicted events appear, unless the interpretation is given earlier by divine revelation. Sometimes foretold events actually occur without being recognized by mankind. As an illustration, when Moroni first appeared to the Prophet Joseph Smith, he "quoted part of the third chapter of Malachi; and he quoted also the fourth or last chapter of the same prophecy" (Pearl of Great Price, Joseph Smith, 2:36), and announced that the events there set forth were about to be consummated.
Human curiosity is intrigued by whatever seems mysterious. Therefore, much effort has been expended to reduce such general prophecies to exact dates, times, and persons, This has been a waste of time and energy, as prophecy uttered under divine inspiration usually contains all that the divine will desires to reveal. It behooves those to whom the prophecy is made to prepare for coming events, to watch for them, and to recognize them when they do appear. If more is needed, the power that gave the prophecy will no doubt furnish the interpretation.
For example, modern revelation declares that these are the last days. This period of the earth's history may be recognized by several signs: The fulness of the gospel will be restored and preached to all the world (D. & C. 39:11; 1:23); work will be done for the spirits of the dead (D. & C. 76:73; 124:29-36; also Sections 127 and 128); mighty, natural events will take place, from the darkened sun to tremendous earthquakes, and the whole earth will be in commotion and many will be destroyed because of wars, pestilence, and fear. (D. & C., Sections 29, 45, 49, 84, 87, 88) These are also signs of the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. (D. & C. 45:39) All who fear the Lord will anxiously look for these signs as they appear. (D. & C. 45:39) Yet, despite these signs, none shall know the exact time of His coming:
And they have done unto the Son of Man even as they listed; and he has taken his power on the right hand of his glory, and now reigneth in the heavens, and will reign till he descends on the earth to put all enemies under his feet, which time is nigh at hand—
I, the Lord God, have spoken it; but the hour and the day no man knoweth, neither the angels in heaven, nor shall they know until he comes. (D. & C. 49:6, 7)
The Prophet Joseph Smith at one time prayed very earnestly to know the time of the coming of Christ. He was told that if he lived until he was eighty-five years old he should see the face of Jesus, but he was unable to determine from this whether or not it referred to the final coming of the Son of Man, or whether he should see the Savior in the flesh. (D. & C. 130:14-17)
In view of such information, attempts to fix the exact date of the coming of Christ are futile, useless, and contrary to the ways of truth. Those who try it are impelled by a spirit not of God.
The futility of reducing general prophecy to exact times or places is well illustrated by the famous visions of Daniel. It is conceded that the stone that broke the image to pieces is the Kingdom of God; but there has been and is interminable debate as to the historical kingdoms and meaning represented by the gold, silver, iron, and clay portions of the image; the horns of the beasts; the thousand, three hundred and five and thirty days; and the several other statements of Daniel. (See the Book of Daniel). Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of books have been published and tens of thousands of sermons have been preached in the attempt to interpret Daniel's prophecies. It has been a fruitless effort, at best a doubtful conjecture. There remains only the general meaning of these glorious visions: that righteousness will triumph in its battle with evil.
The present disturbed condition of the world has impelled many to look for prophecies relating to the last days. Several such compilations have been published. Quotations are made from leaders of the present, as of past dispensations. Carefully read, these statements add nothing to the prophecies recorded in our sacred books. The attempts to make them specific, such as to predict any country's downfall, or to identify certain present-day leaders with prophetic personages, are unjustified and misleading.
Even more dangerous is the attempt to connect some isolated Bible passage with an historical event or structure. The statement by Jeremiah (Jeremiah 32:20) that the Lord "has set signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, even unto this day," has been made to refer to the great pyramid of Gizeh, near Cairo, Egypt. As a result, the pyramid has been measured innumerable times, inside and out; the steps in the passages have been counted; angles calculated and every item thus secured has been correlated with some year or event in the world's history. Thousands of volumes on the subject have been written, with as many varying conclusions. A different starting point in measurement, or an inch more or less in the measure, sets up an entirely new series of conclusions. The great pyramid is an interesting structure. It may have been built with some symbolism in mind. But, there is no good reason as yet to tie it into divine prophecy. Such time-wasting pursuits, leading nowhere, should be avoided.
In conclusion: Prophecy may be interpreted only to the extent that it implies within its own statements that it shall be interpreted. If a prophecy is indefinite with respect to certain things, it is probably so intended. It is always wise to read and practice that which is clear and understandable, and to leave the dim and mysterious until further prophetic revelation is received. Occultism, and all manner of darkness, which too often lead to self-deception, are unacceptable to Latter-day Saints. We concern ourselves only with that which is clear and understandable. We know that with the progress of time, increasing light will come, as we may have need.
Moreover, we know that we should not waste our valuable time and energies on remote and doubtful matters, but rather direct our efforts towards the study and practice of the clearly stated principles of conduct embodied in the gospel of Jesus Christ. That is the direct method of obtaining light and truth, the goal of every Latter-day Saint.
14. WHAT SHALL BE DONE WITH PERSONAL SPIRITUAL MANIFESTATIONS?
The doctrine that the Lord may and does reveal His will to men on earth is a cornerstone of the faith of the Latter-day Saints. The restoration of the gospel in these latter days was initiated by the direct appearance of the Father and the Son to Joseph Smith. Since that time every forward step of the Church has been the result of a revelation of the Lord's will by direct appearance of Himself or of other heavenly messengers or by equally direct inspiration from the Spirit of the Lord. The Church has ever been and is now led by revelation—authoritative guidance from divine sources.
It is a cornerstone of equal importance, that every member of the Church may and should obtain a personal testimony of the truth of the latter-day work. He must not rest his final convictions upon the testimony of others. The humblest member of the Church, if he seeks properly, may know with full assurance that the gospel is true. None need know it better than he. However, to secure such firm knowledge he must receive assurance of it from the Author of truth; that is, he must be guided by the spirit of revelation. The conclusion is clear: Every member of the Church of Christ may be guided by inspiration from the Lord in the affairs of his own life.
This doctrine is beautifully set forth in several of the foundation revelations given to the Prophet Joseph Smith.
And the Spirit giveth light to every man that cometh into the world; and the Spirit enlighteneth every man through the world, that hearkeneth to the voice of the Spirit. (D. & C. 84:46)
On another occasion the Lord said to the Church:
But ye are commanded in all things to ask of God, who giveth liberally; and that which the Spirit testifies unto you even so I would that ye should do in all holiness of heart. ... seek ye earnestly the best gifts, ... and always retain in your minds what those gifts are, that are given unto the church. ... To some is given one, and to some is given another, that all may be profited thereby. ... He that asketh in the Spirit asketh according to the will of God; wherefore it is done, even as he asketh. (D. & C. 46:7, 8, 10, 12, 30)
Apparently every person has a gift, according to his needs or the service he may render.
Revelations are given for a two-fold purpose: to furnish guidance for the Church, and to give comfort to the individual.
Revelations for the guidance of the Church are given to officers of the Church, but only within the limits of their official jurisdiction. Thus, lay members of the Church cannot and do not receive revelations for the guidance of any Church organizations, but only for themselves. The bishop has a claim upon divine inspiration for the direction of ward affairs, but no further. The spirit of revelation directs the stake president in his official stake duties, but no further. The President of the Church alone, who may officiate in all of the offices of the Church, receives revelations for the Church as a whole, to which stake presidents, ward bishops, and all other officers of the Church are amenable. This preserves a full and logical order within all Church activities.
True revelations come from the Lord. The evil one, ever vigilant in his work of destruction, tries to simulate with an evil purpose every gift of God. Therefore, he presents false doctrines of man-made commandments through the suggestions of evil spirits or evil-minded men. To protect the Saints, and to maintain truth within the Church, the power of discerning between truth and error is given to the officers of the Church. The bishop for his ward, the stake president for his stake, and the President of the Church for the whole Church have this gift of discernment given them. Note the clear, beautiful words of the Lord upon this subject:
And unto the bishop of the church, and unto such as God shall appoint and ordain to watch over the church and to be elders unto the church, are to have it given unto them to discern all those gifts lest there shall be any among you professing and yet be not of God....
That unto some it may be given to have all those gifts, that there may be a head, in order that every member may be profited thereby. (D. & C. 46:27, 29)
By this power and in this order, evil inspirations within the Church are recognized and rejected.
Divine manifestations for individual comfort may be received by every worthy member of the Church. In that respect all faithful members of the Church are equal. Such manifestations most commonly guide the recipients to the solution of personal problems; though, frequently, they also open the mind to a clearer comprehension of the Lord's vast plan of salvation. They are cherished possessions, and should be so valued by those who receive them. In their very nature, they are sacred and should be so treated. If a person who has received such a manifestation by dream, vision, or otherwise, feels impressed to relate it beyond his immediate family circle, he should present it to his bishop, but not beyond. The bishop, then, may decide upon its further use, if any, or may submit it to those of higher authority for action. The gift was a personal one, not for the Church as a whole; and the recipient is under obligation, in harmony with the established order, not to broadcast it over the Church.
It is unwisdom, therefore, for those who have received such manifestations to send copies to others, to relate them by word of mouth in diverse places, and otherwise to scatter abroad a personal, sacred experience. There are times and places where testimony may be borne of our knowledge that the restored gospel is of the Lord, and of the goodness of the Lord to us, and when we may present evidence of our faith. It would be well to remember that the Lord Jesus Christ, while on earth, usually instructed those whom He had healed or otherwise blessed, that they should not tell others of the occurrence. Some things are done for the public good, others for private welfare.
It should also be kept in mind that a message is carried by every spiritual experience. Revelation always has a purpose related to man's eternal progress. The message should always be of more importance to the recipient than the substance or vehicle of the manifestation. Our spiritual experiences, if sound, point the way to our own salvation. Life's efforts should be directed towards the treading of that way to the satisfaction of the Giver of all gifts, from whom the spirit of revelation issues.
15. DOES THE CHURCH RECEIVE REVELATIONS TODAY AS IN THE DAYS OF JOSEPH SMITH?
The answer to this question is a simple, Yes. The Church of Jesus Christ is guided by continuous revelation. The Lord speaks to His Church now as in the time of the Prophet Joseph Smith, or in ages past, whenever the Church has been upon the earth.
The question merits, however, a fuller answer.
There are at least three classes of revelations:
First, there are revelations dealing with the organization and basic doctrine of the Church. Such revelations form the foundation of the Church, upon which is built the superstructure of teaching and practice throughout the years. These revelations are necessary at the beginning of a dispensation, so that the Church may be properly organized and sent upon its way to bless mankind. In this age, these indispensable revelations were given to Joseph Smith who was commissioned to effect the organization of the restored Church. As given to the Prophet, they suffice for the salvation of man in this dispensation. Other such fundamental revelations dealing with organization and doctrine may, at the pleasure of the Lord, be given, for there is a universe of truth not yet known to us, but it will in no way change or abrogate the principles set forth in existing revelations.
Second, there are revelations dealing with the problems of the day. Though the essential doctrine, forming the foundation, framework, and structure of the gospel, has been revealed, the Church, directed by mortal men, needs divine guidance in the solution of current questions. Many of the revelations received by the Prophet Joseph Smith were of this character. There were missions to organize, cities to be built, men to be called into office, temples, meetinghouses, and homes to be constructed. The Prophet presented his problems to the Lord, and with the revealed answer was able to accomplish properly the work before him. It is comforting to know that our Heavenly Father helps in the minor as in the major affairs of life. The revelations directing the building of certain houses in the early days of the Church, are, for example, among the cherished words of God, for they throw a flood of light upon the precious, intimate relationships that may be established between God and man.
Such revelations, directing the Church in the affairs of the day, have been received continuously by the Church, through the President of the Church. One needs only review the history of the Saints to assure himself that such revelations have constantly been vouchsafed the Church. Perhaps more of this type of revelation has been received since, than during the time of the Prophet. Because they are not printed in books as revelations does not diminish their verity.
Third, every faithful member of the Church may be granted revelation for his daily guidance. In fact, the members of the Church can testify that they in truth have and do receive such daily guidance. The testimony of the truth of the gospel, the precious possession of hundreds of thousands, has come through the spirit of revelation. By desire, study, practice, and prayer, one must approach the testimony of the truth, but it is obtained finally only under the spirit of revelation. It is by this power that the eyes of men are opened to understand the principles and the truth of the gospel. Without that spirit, truth cannot be comprehended.
We may go further. Every person born into the earth has claim upon the assistance of the Spirit of God. That is a species of revelation. Consequently, all good achievements of man, in science, literature, or art, are the product of revelation. The knowledge and wisdom of earth have so come.
It must be remembered that revelations usually come as needed, no faster. The Prophet Joseph Smith made this clear: "We cannot expect to know all, or more than we now know, unless we comply with or keep those we already have received." (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 256) The question then should not be, "Do we receive revelations now as in the days of the Prophet Joseph Smith?" but rather, "Do we keep so fully the revelations already given us that we have the right to expect more?"
Another important principle of revelation in the organized Church of Christ is the limitation placed upon those who secure revelations. Every member of the Church may seek and receive revelation, but only for himself and those for whom he is responsible. Every officer of the Church is entitled to revelation to help him in the field into which he has been called, but not beyond. The bishop can claim no revelation except for his ward duties, the stake president for his stake duties only; the President of the Church is the only person who can receive revelations for the guidance of the Church as a whole. These limitations, coming from the Lord, protect the orderliness of the Kingdom of God on earth.
16. WHAT IS THE MEANING OF PATRIARCHAL BLESSINGS?
In the history of the Prophet Joseph Smith the following occurs:
An evangelist is a patriarch, even the oldest man of the blood of Joseph or of the seed of Abraham. Wherever the Church of Christ is established on the earth, there should be a patriarch for the benefit of the posterity of the Saints, as it was with Jacob in giving his patriarchal blessing unto his sons, etc. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 151)
Every father, having children born to him under the covenant, is to them as a patriarch, and he has the right to bless his posterity in the authority of the Priesthood which he holds. The patriarchs of old commonly blessed their children, as, for example, Isaac (Genesis, chapter 27), Jacob (Genesis, chapter 49), Lehi (Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi, chapters 2, 3, 4), and John Taylor (Times and Seasons, Vol. 6: 921, 922).
There are many members of the Church whose fathers or nearest male relatives are not in the Church, or unfitted or unwilling to bless their children. For them special provision must be made. Moreover, the Church is a family, composed of many families. The ordained patriarchs speak also for the larger Church family. They act therefore both in behalf of the fathers of families and of the patriarchal head of the Church.
So important are these official patriarchal blessings that they should always be reduced to writing and preserved. Every blessing is entered upon the record of the patriarch, and ultimately deposited with the Church historian. The person blessed receives a copy of the blessing for his use and comfort.
Patriarchs are specially called and ordained to the work. Their authority is derived from the president of the Church, in whom the ultimate power of giving such blessings on earth is vested. Their jurisdiction is limited. With the exception of the patriarch to the Church, each is appointed to serve in a limited geographical area, usually a stake of Zion.
All Church members may claim the patriarchal blessings flowing from their membership in the assemblage of families within the Church, which can be pronounced only by men who represent the group as a whole. Therefore, patriarchs, ordained to the office, are made available in all the stakes of Zion, so that all faithful members may receive the blessings to which they are entitled.
In giving a blessing the patriarch may declare our lineage—that is, that we are of Israel, therefore of the family of Abraham, and of a specific tribe of Jacob. In the great majority of cases, Latter-day Saints are of the tribe of Ephraim, the tribe to which has been committed the leadership of the Latter-day work. Whether this lineage is of blood or adoption does not matter. (Pearl of Great Price, Abraham 2:10) This is very important, for it is through the lineage of Abraham alone that the mighty blessings of the Lord for His children on earth are to be consummated. (Genesis 12:2, 3; Pearl of Great Price, Abraham 2:11)
Then, the patriarch, looking into the future, enumerates the blessings and promises, some special, others general, to which the person of the proper lineage, who receives the blessings, is entitled; and through his authority seals them upon him, so that they may be his forever through faithfulness. The obligations resting upon those who receive such promises are often stated. These blessings are parts of the larger promise made by the Lord to Abraham and his seed. They vary somewhat from person to person, for each has his specific assignment or calling in the gospel plan; but in essence they deal with the gifts, responsibilities, powers, and ultimate destiny of those who have received and obeyed the gospel, and thereby have become members of the great family represented by the Church.
Usually, blessings are added as the spirit may indicate, to meet our special requirements in life, for our comfort, success, and strength. Our special needs may be pointed out; special gifts may be promised us; we may be blessed to overcome our weaknesses, to resist temptation, or to develop our powers, so that we may the more surely achieve the promised blessings. Since all men differ, their blessings may differ; but a patriarchal blessing always confers promises upon us, becomes a warning against failure in life, and a means of guidance in attaining the blessings of the Lord. It may be made of daily help in all the affairs of life.
These blessings are possibilities predicated upon faithful devotion to the cause of truth. They must be earned. Otherwise they are but empty words. Indeed, they rise to their highest value when used as ideals, specific possibilities, toward which we may strive throughout life. To look upon a patriarch as a fortune-teller is an offense to the Priesthood; the patriarch only indicates the gifts the Lord would give us, if we labor for them. He helps us by pointing out the divine goal which we may enjoy if we pay the price.
Such a blessing, given in the spirit of a father's love, and sealed upon us in the authority of the Priesthood, becomes a power in our lives; a comfort to our days. It is a message which if read and honored aright, will become an anchor in stormy days, our encouragement in cloudy days. It states our certain destination here and hereafter, if we live by the law; and as life goes on, it strengthens our faith and leads us into truth. (Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine, p. 226)
It should always be kept in mind that the realization of the promises made may come in this or the future life. Men have stumbled at times because promised blessings have not occurred in this life. They have failed to remember that, in the gospel, life with all its activities continues forever and that the labors of earth may be continued in heaven. Besides, the Giver of the blessings, the Lord, reserves the right to have them become active in our lives, as suits His divine purpose. We and our blessings are in the hands of the Lord. But, there is the general testimony that when the gospel law has been obeyed, the promised blessings have been realized.
Those who seek patriarchal blessings should ask for them with faith in the reality of the power of the Priesthood. They should seek them with an earnest, prayerful desire to become, through the blessings, more completely happy in their lives, and more perfectly serviceable in the work of the Lord. And they should, of course, be qualified to receive their blessings by conformity in their lives to the requirements of the gospel. The unclean or disobedient person should cleanse himself, and learn obedience before going to the patriarch. Only under such conditions can a person expect to learn of the will of the Lord.
The patriarchal blessing should be read and reread. It should be made useful in life. This should be done with faith in spiritual blessings.
It is a gift of the Lord. The purpose of asking for the blessing must be remembered. It must be read with intelligent consideration of its meaning. Attention should be fixed upon the one great meaning of the blessing rather than upon particular statements. There must be no quibbling about the time or place when the promises should be fulfilled or about the man who gave it. As the blessing was given through the inspiration of the Lord, so its meaning will be made clear by the same power; and its fulfilment will be in His hands. Above all, it must ever be remembered that every blessing is conditioned upon our faithfulness. Let us examine our lives from time to time to learn whether we are so living as to be worthy of the blessings promised. It is certain that our patriarchal blessing, if we give it proper respect, may be a source of divine help in life's journey.
It may be added that the sacred patriarchal blessings are personal in their nature. They should not be talked about or shown about; they should be read frequently and pondered upon for our personal good. It is for that reason that each person receives a copy of his blessing.
Necessarily, since patriarchs are but men, they are subject to human frailties. Their manner of speech and thinking is reflected in their blessings. Different men express the same idea in different words. The Lord does not dictate blessings to them word for word. Likewise, portions of the blessing may be emphasized by the nature or desire of the patriarch. Nevertheless, if the patriarch lives worthily, he is sustained by the power and authority of his calling, and will pronounce blessings intended for us. And we, if we live worthily, will comprehend the blessings and find deep comfort in them.
A patriarchal blessing is also a constant reminder of the patriarchal form of organization and government, emphasizing the importance of the family, which prevailed in the early days of the world. The father, holding the holy Priesthood, was then the legislator, judge, and governor of his family, each father presiding over his own family; and the oldest, over the group of families of common descent. Thus, every family as it increased became a tribe, kingdom, or nation, under the presidency of the living father of them all. It is the ideal form of government, wherever the Priesthood prevails, and it appears to be the form of organization in the world to come.
In summary: a patriarchal blessing (1) is for those who are of the chosen people, the family of obedient children, through whom the Lord is working out His earthly purposes; (2) it promises the members of the family certain blessings which are in store for them, on earth and in heaven, which are sealed upon them on conditions of obedience to the law of the Lord; (3) it confers power upon us, if we will use it, to win the fulfilment of these promises, as we journey through life; and (4) special blessings are made available to us to meet our daily needs.
All Latter-day Saints should seek their blessings under the hands of the patriarch; and should use them in their lives.
17. HOW DO YOU ACCOUNT FOR GOSPEL RESEMBLANCES IN NON-CHRISTIAN RELIGIONS?
The great world religions have much in common. Hinduism, Taoism, Zoroastrianism, Buddhism, Confucianism, and Mohammedanism hold to some tenets fundamental in Christianity. They all believe in an overruling power, God; in man's immortality in some form; and in a divine plan for the guidance of man to happiness. All of them recognize that growth and progress come through self-effort, by self-control and self-discipline. The brotherhood of man, cooperation, and the golden rule are generally accepted as obligatory upon all men. These doctrines are impressively similar to those of Christianity. (H. M. Woodward, Humanity's Greatest Need)
There is a like similarity, though not so marked, in the practices or ordinances of the religions of earth. For example, baptism, the initiatory Christian ordinance, is not peculiar to the Christian Church. In some form it is practiced by many non-Christian communities; in fact, the doctrine of entering through water into a new life is very old. Among the Hebrews a practice equivalent to baptism was observed long before the days of Christ. In ancient Egypt, a corresponding rite was in operation from days immemorial. Other gospel practices likewise appear in non-Christian religions.
Even the substance of the Ten Commandments dates back into far non-Christian antiquity, and among others than the Hebrew people. The Ten Commandments were given by God to Moses among the thunderings and lightnings on Mount Sinai. Yet, in other forms their teachings were known by peoples who lived before the days of Moses. The code of Hammurabi, a contemporary of Abraham, contains injunctions for correct living resembling the Ten Commandments. (R. F. Harper, The Code of Hammurabi)
Such similarities might be multiplied. How may they be explained? It is a fair question.
In the abundant literature attempting to answer this question, two opposing answers or explanations appear.
The first, for the moment the fashionable one, sets up the theory of the independent development of such similarities in different lands and among different peoples. That is, religious beliefs and practices have arisen spontaneously and independently in various countries. The founders of the various great world religions developed from the foundation, and independently of other religions, their respective bodies of laws and regulations. The striking similarities that exist, despite independent origin, are explained by a "psychic unity that leads men independently ... to arrive at the same destination." Some supporters of this theory speak of a "convergence" of human ideas towards the same conclusions. In short, the blind or chance operation of some mystic force explains the similarities appearing in the religious systems of the world.
This explanation is not confined to religious beliefs and practices, but is extended to the general cultural history of mankind. In economic and social fields, in literature, art, mechanics, and crafts, remarkable similarities exist among various peoples the world over. All these, this theory declares, had an independent origin in different lands.
Similar myths, legends, and folklore exist among all primitive peoples. The theory of "independent development" holds to the belief that from out the shadows of the forest, the presence of death, and other experiences that stir the feelings of man, primitive magic was formed alike in different lands. From this magic came religion, which in time, as people progressed, became science. (James G. Frazer, The Golden Bough; Folk Lore of the Old Testament)
The second theory to explain the similarities in the religions and other cultures of different peoples holds that there has been a diffusion of religious, cultural ideas from a common source or center. This theory does not deny the possibility of "independent development," but insists that such development can not be proved. It claims that observed facts are much more easily explained on the theory of diffusion.
In support of this theory are historical evidences of the diffusion of ideas, handicrafts, and arts pretty much over the whole earth. From early times the human race has traveled widely, often by sea. Intercommunication among widely separated countries has long been going on. The wisdom and the skill of man have been passed on from land to land, from individual to individual. The accumulation of facts in favor of the diffusion view is large and most interesting. Its modern founder, Sir Edward Burnett Tylor, and his followers, have produced a large and convincing literature dealing with the diffusion theory.
This theory agrees with the former that there is a gradual development of culture from primitive to more advanced peoples. It also admits that there are occasional difficulties in this as with every other theory. For example, the trilithons of Stonehenge in England, and those of Tongatabu in Oceania, though very similar, seem so far removed in distance as to have no relationship. Yet, the general intercourse of mankind, since early days, does not make it seem impossible that the idea behind these ancient monuments had a common source.
In the field of religion, it has been well established that there has been a wide diffusion of ideas. Mohammedanism is a good example. From Arabia it has spread over Asia, parts of Europe and Africa, and into many islands of the sea. What has been done in this case, within easy historical times, may have and probably has been done with earlier religious ideas. (Sir G. Elliott Smith, The Diffusion of Culture)
As a sidelight on this theory, it is interesting to note that the diffusionists are inclined to believe that the center from which our present culture has diffused was Egypt; and that the diffusion began about 4000 years before Christ. (Sir G. Elliott Smith, In the Beginning)
These two contending and opposite theories—the independent development and the diffusion theories—have followers of equal scholastic standing. As said, the independent development theory has been the fashionable one for some time. But the history of scientific theories is that they rise and fall in popularity from time to time. The diffusion theory may soon be the one in best standing.
Latter-day Saints agree with both of these theories in part, and differ with them in part.
Revelation, the communication of man with God, is fundamental in the gospel structure. Every man born into the earth may receive knowledge and guidance through the omnipresent Holy Spirit. Should it be the will of the Lord, there could be no reason why two men, widely separated, and inaccessible one to the other, should not receive through revelation the same truths. To that extent, the doctrine of "independent development" can be accepted by Latter-day Saints.
Adam taught the gospel to his children and his children's children. Upon those who were worthy he conferred the Holy Priesthood. The gospel with its principles and practices, its Priesthood and powers, was generally known among the people of Adam's long day.
Satan succeeded in those early days to turn many from righteous lives. These people lived sinfully. Yet, as they departed from association with the people of the Lord, they carried with them the knowledge of the gospel. Such parts of it as seemed to fit their desires they retained, often warped beyond recognition. But, from the days of Adam, gospel truth was diffused among the peoples of the earth.
The same thing happened after the flood. Noah, a righteous man, ordained to the Priesthood, and knowing the gospel, taught the plan of salvation and the doctrine of the gospel, taught to his day and generation. Some listened and obeyed, more heard the message with unwilling hearts. Self-conquest precedes full acceptance of the gospel. Nevertheless, even precedes full acceptance of the gospel. Nevertheless, even those who refused full obedience, took of the gospel such truths as they desired, and without authority built their religions in imitation of the full truth.
This explains to Latter-day Saints the many striking similarities among the non-Christian and Christian religions. The early knowledge of the gospel has spread over the earth, as men have so spread, and as inter-communication among nations has continued. The founders of the great world religions, and of less important ones, for that matter, have used to their liking, often in their desire to serve their own people, parts of the truths of the gospel.
It may be that these founders were led by inspiration to assemble the truths of the gospel for the use of their fellowmen. Even a minor gospel truth is a blessing, and better than none. However, any such system can only be an approach to the covenant people which is the objective of the gospel.
Sacred history leaves the conviction that in the increasing purpose of the Lord with respect to the human family, such peoples as have not been prepared for the gospel have been given parts of it, as much as they could comprehend. Remember that the Higher Priesthood was taken from Israel in the wilderness because of their unfitness for the higher privilege. This view seems well confirmed by the following passage from the Book of Mormon:
For behold, the Lord does grant unto all nations, of their own nation and tongue, to teach his word, yea, in wisdom, all that he seeth fit that they should have. (Book of Mormon, Alma 29:8)
The person who rails at Old Testament accuracy because the substance of the Ten Commandments is found in the code of Hammurabi makes little impression upon Latter-day Saints who understand the spread of the knowledge of truth from Adam and Noah. The truths embodied in the Ten Commandments are part of the gospel as taught to Adam. They were diffused among mankind. They were summarized and restated by the Lord to Moses and preserved in that form for the benefit of Israel and all the world. Much foolish Bible fault-finding disappears in the light of modern revelation.
Such then is the answer to the query at the head of this chapter.
18. WAS THE "MANIFESTO" BASED ON REVELATION?
The October, 1890, General Conference of the Church was history-making. On Monday, October 6, 1890, Wilford Woodruff, President of the Church, presented for the action of the people an "Official Declaration" discontinuing the practice of plural marriage. Upon the motion of Lorenzo Snow, then the president of the Twelve Apostles, and by vote of the conference, the official declaration "concerning plural marriage" became "authoritative and binding" and therefore the law and order of the Church. This official declaration has since been known, in common speech, as the "Manifesto."
The practice of plural marriage had subjected the Church, from the days of the Prophet Joseph Smith, to continuous opposition and severe persecution. Nevertheless, the Saints—only about two percent of whom had practiced plural marriage, as reported by the Utah Commission—continued to teach and defend the principle which had come to them through revelation. At length, acts of the Congress of the United States (1862, 1882, and 1887) made plural marriage an unlawful and punishable offense. The Church, believing these laws to be unconstitutional because they abrogated the right of religious freedom, sought protection from the courts of the land. During this period furious persecution followed those who had entered into this order of marriage. Under a rigorous enforcement of the laws in question, many were fined and given penitentiary sentences, the property of the Church was confiscated, and the cessation of many of the activities of the Church was threatened. At length, in May, 1890, the Supreme Court of the land, with three members dissenting, ruled that the acts prohibiting plural marriage and confiscating Church property were constitutional.
Now the Lord had expressly declared that His people should be obedient to any constitutional government under which they might live. (D. & C. 98:5, 6) Further, the revelations of the Lord declare that if such a government should prevent the practice of any command given to the Church, the people and the Church would be held guiltless.
Verily, verily, I say unto you, that when I give a commandment to any of the sons of men to do a work unto my name, and those sons of men go with all their might and with all they have to perform that work, and cease not their diligence, and their enemies come upon them and hinder them from performing that work, behold, it behooveth me to require that work no more at the hands of those sons of men, but to accept of their offerings. (D. & C. 124:49)
After the Supreme Court had spoken, there was no further opportunity for appeal. All lawful means had been used. The action proposed by President Woodruff was therefore wholly in keeping with authoritative Church procedure.
Nevertheless, it must be kept in mind that this Church, founded by revelation, is ever guided by revelation. It may be held with certainty that when the President of the Church presents a momentous matter, such as the "Manifesto," to the people it is by the spirit of revelation from God. It is not the product of man's thinking or desire. It must also be remembered that the power which has the right to command, also has the right and power to revoke. The principle of plural marriage was revealed through Joseph Smith, the Prophet, and the "Manifesto" came through Wilford Woodruff, who held the same keys of authority as were possessed by Joseph Smith.
With this in view, Yes, is the unhesitating answer to the question as to whether the "Manifesto" was based upon revelation.
Fortunately, however, there is direct evidence that the "Manifesto" was the product of revelation.
President Woodruff himself declared at the said conference that "to have taken a stand in anything which is not pleasing in the sight of God, or before the heavens, I would rather have gone out and been shot."
The Church had courageously supported what they believed to be a command of God. Any change would have to come from a revelation from God. President Woodruff had prayed about the matter, and had besought God repeatedly what to do. On September 24, 1890, "the spirit came upon him" and the "Manifesto" was the result. This was publicly stated at the time of the conference of October, 1890.
In his journal of September 25, 1890, President Woodruff writes: "...after praying to the Lord and feeling inspired I have issued the following declaration [the 'Manifesto'] which is sustained by my counselors and the Twelve Apostles."
On December 19, 1891, in a Church petition for general amnesty, signed by the Presidency and the whole Council of the Twelve, occurs the following statement:
According to our faith the head of the Church receives from time to time, revelations for the religious guidance of his people.
In September, 1890, the present head of the Church, in anguish and prayer, cried to God for help for his flock, and received the permission to advise the members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that the law commanding polygamy was henceforth suspended.
Even with these statements, the nature of the "Manifesto" became a subject of discussion among the people. The question that captions this chapter was asked by many. When these controversies reached the ears of President Woodruff, he proceeded to answer them in public. This was done in unmistakable words, notably on one occasion, on Sunday, November 1, 1891, in Logan, reported in the Deseret Weekly News, of November 7, 1891 (Vol. 43, pp. 659, 660).
The report of this sermon, by Elder Arthur Winter, was published in President Woodruff's lifetime, and therefore subject to his correction, if inaccurate.
In Logan, he said among other things:
...This Church has never been led a day except by revelation. And He will never leave it. It matters not who lives or who dies, or who is called to lead this Church, they have got to lead it by the inspiration of Almighty God. If they do not do it that way, they cannot do it at all....
I do not want the Latter-day Saints to understand that the Lord is not with us, and that He is not giving revelation to us; for He is giving us revelation, and will give us revelation until this scene is wound up.
I have had some revelations of late, and very important ones to me, and I will tell you what the Lord has said to me. Let me bring your minds to what is termed the Manifesto. The Lord has told me by revelation that there are many members of the Church throughout Zion who are sorely tried in their hearts because of that Manifesto....
The Lord showed me by vision and revelation exactly what would take place if we did not stop this practice. If we had not stopped it you would have had no use for ... any of the men in this temple at Logan; for all ordinances would be stopped throughout the land of Zion. Confusion would reign throughout Israel, and many men would be made prisoners. This trouble would have come upon the whole Church, and we should have been compelled to stop the practice. Now, the question is, whether it should be stopped in this manner, or in the way the Lord has manifested to us, and leave our Prophets and Apostles and fathers free men, and the temples in the hands of the people, so that the dead may be redeemed....
...The Lord...has told me exactly what to do, and what the result would be if we did not do it.... But I want to say this: I should have let all the temples go out of our hands; I should have gone to prison myself, and let every other man go there, had not the God of Heaven commanded me to do what I did do; and when the hour came that I was commanded to do that, it was all clear to me. I went before the Lord, and I wrote what the Lord told me to write....
At the same meeting in Logan, President George Q. Cannon said:
We have striven to the utmost extent of our ability to convince this nation that this is a true principle of religion. I myself have testified before Presidents of the United States, before Cabinet officers, before judges of the Supreme Court, before members of the United States Senate and House of Representatives, and before committees of Congress, that I knew that doctrine was from God. I told them I felt that if I had not obeyed it I would have been damned, because the Lord gave to me a direct command to obey that principle....
Over a thousand have gone to prison to show our sincerity. A prominent official of this Territory said to a gentleman the other day: "They say to me that these people are not sincere." "Why," says he, "I know they are sincere. I went myself to the penitentiary and I labored with all the power I had to convince Lorenzo Snow that he should express his willingness to obey the law; but notwithstanding all my persuasions, and notwithstanding he had a year and a half sentence upon him, I could not move him. I believe he would have gone out and been shot rather than to have said he would get out of prison on such terms....
God gave the command and it required the command of God to cause us to change our attitude. President Woodruff holds the same authority that the man did through whom the revelation came to the Church. It required that same authority to say to us, "It is enough. God has accepted your sacrifice. He has looked down upon you and seen what you have passed through, and how determined you have been to keep His commandments, and now He says. It is enough." It is the same authority that gave us the principle. It is not the word of man. (Deseret Weekly News, November 21, 1891, Vol. 43, p. 689)
Certainly, the "Manifesto" was based on revelation. It has the full effect of a commandment of God. Those who ignore it are breakers of the law of the Church. And, it must be kept in mind that, under divine procedure, whenever the Church of God is established on earth, no legitimate Priesthood power operates outside of the Church.
19. WHAT IS AN ANGEL?
Divine guidance may be communicated to man in several ways. God, the Father, may appear, Himself, as He has done at the opening of dispensations of the gospel. More frequently His Son, Jesus Christ, has appeared. On many occasions, messengers have been sent out from the spiritual domain to help men on earth. Often, mortal men have been delegated to help their fellows. Usually, however, the divine message is conveyed by the Holy Spirit, the influence radiating from God and touching every part and personality in the universe. Any or all of these means of communication have been employed in the wisdom of the Lord.
Numerous references to angels are found in the sacred scriptures, ancient and modern. In the Bible, angels ministered to Abraham, Jacob, Gideon, Elijah, Zachariah, and many others. In the Book of Mormon, angels ministered to Nephi, to the sons of Helaman, to the twelve disciples, and to multitudes of others. In modern days, angels appeared to Joseph and others; and in the revelations to the Prophet, angels and their functions are repeatedly discussed. There can be no question about the important functions of angels in the course of human salvation.
There is, however, much confusion in the use of the term angel. Yet an examination of sacred history makes clear that under the most general definition, angels are personages out of the spirit world, sent to earth as messengers of the Lord. This is in full accord with gospel doctrine. The spiritual, invisible world, out of which man comes and into which he returns, is filled with uncounted hosts of such personages. There can be no reason why the Lord may not use them for His purposes in accomplishing the plan of salvation for His earth-children. Indeed, angels residing in the presence of God (D. & C. 130:7) are waiting to be sent forth in connection with this great work (D. & C. 86:5). Angels were sent to commit the gospel in this as in former dispensations (D. & C. 27:16; 20:10). God calls by the ministering of angels (D. & C. 43:25). They may minister also to personages in heaven (Psalm 103:20). With respect to the earth an angel is a messenger of God, to assist in consummating holy purposes. He is a "ministering spirit" (D. & C. 136:37).
The term angel is applied to different classes of beings. Some appear to be spirits who have not yet attained to the earth estate, and do not possess celestialized earthly bodies. Others are personages who have lived on earth, but have not yet been resurrected. A third class are those who have gone through the earth experience and have been resurrected, as Moroni who visited the Prophet Joseph Smith. In all likelihood, personages, known as angels, are used according to their fitness to serve.
A passage in the Doctrine and Covenants gives a more restricted or technical definition of an angel. "Angels, ... are resurrected personages, having bodies of flesh and bones" (D. & C. 129:1). This is confirmed by the doctrine that persons who have won the right to enter the celestial glory, but have not been sealed in marriage cannot receive the highest exaltation. They "are angels of God forever and ever" (D. & C. 132:17). This may be the most accurate definition of an angel.
The duties of these messengers of God are many and varied, as set forth in Holy Writ. They may announce the truths of the gospel, or convey special messages to individuals or nations. They may act as guardians to protect the righteous, or agents to inflict divine penalties upon the wicked. They may come, as at the beginning of a dispensation, with authority to bestow the Priesthood or to help in the development of the organized Church. In short, they go and do as they are bidden.
The angels of God, or their influence, always come in light. It may be light to the eyes if it be a personal appearance, or the light that leads to righteous works if it be a spiritual message. It is an interesting observation of the Prophet Joseph Smith that "angels who minister to this earth ... belong or have belonged to it. ... The angels ... reside in the presence of God, on a globe like a sea of glass and fire, where all things for their glory are manifest, past, present, and future, and are continually before the Lord" (D. & C. 130:5-7).
Satan also has his messengers. The hosts who fell from heaven in the preexistent council are busily engaged in opposition to God's purposes for man's salvation. They are sent out to lead men into sin. They are angels of untruth, therefore of evil. They feed on lies.
These evil "angels" use deception as their main tool of destruction. They simulate all that is good. They urge the satisfaction of sensual appetites. In the words of Brigham Young, they tell a hundred truths so that the one lie may be accepted. Sometimes they may come as angels of light, in borrowed or stolen raiment. Always they fail to reveal themselves as they are.
Satan and his evil angels are bodiless. That is their heavy punishment. Their power, now and hereafter, is greatly limited by this lack. Therefore, they often seek entrance into human bodies, even bodies of lower animals. Whenever this occurs, the individual thus made to share his body is caused much agonized suffering.
However, one does not really need to fear the angels of evil. They are essentially cowardly. They fear light and truth. Darkness and untruth are their native habitat. Their successes always come when the mind of man is darkened by unbelief or unholy practices. A resolute determination to have nothing to do with them drains their strength. They are mortally afraid of the power of the Priesthood. The command, "Get thou behind me," coupled with righteous living, is sufficient to drive them away. Yet, one must always be on guard against new forms of temptation in which these messengers from evil and with evil may appear to offer transient satisfactions.
Three keys for recognizing messengers out of the unseen world were given by the Prophet Joseph Smith:
There are two kinds of angels in heaven, namely: Angels, who are resurrected personages, having bodies of flesh and bones—
For instances, Jesus said: Handle me and see, for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.
Secondly: The spirits of just men made perfect, they who are not resurrected, but inherit the same glory.
When a messenger comes saying he has a message from God, offer him your hand and request him to shake hands with you.
If he be an angel he will do so, and you will feel his hand.
If he be the spirit of a just man made perfect he will come in his glory; for that is the only way he can appear—
Ask him to shake hands with you, but he will not move, because it is contrary to the order of heaven for a just man to deceive; but he will still deliver his message.
If it be the devil as an angel of light, when you ask him to shake hands he will offer you his hand, and you will not feel anything; you may therefore detect him.
These are three grand keys whereby you may know whether any administration is from God (D. & C. 129:1-9).
Deceit is the mark of evil. Even if the evil messenger does not appear in person, the test is the same. Compare the offering with the principles of truth. The sure sign of Satan will then appear.
20. IS THE BIBLE TRANSLATED CORRECTLY?
The eighth Article of Faith declares that "We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly." This implies that there are mistranslations in the Bible. Moreover, the Prophet Joseph Smith, from the beginning of his ministry, gave some time to revising passages in the Bible which had been translated incorrectly or so rendered as to make the meaning obscure. (Joseph Smith, History of the Church, notably Volume 1)
Errors in the translation of the Bible are due primarily to the fact that the original documents are lost. The manuscripts from which our Bible translations have been made are copies, perhaps copies of copies of the originals. Even in our day, with our many modern helps, it is practically impossible to secure a letter-perfect copy of a book, if done by hand. It is not a matter of dishonesty, but of human limitations. The wrong word may be written, or a word so written as to convey a false meaning; for example the accidental absence of a dot converts the Aramaic sign for rope into camel. Therefore we have long wrestled with the meaning of the Biblical statement, "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle," which really should read, "It is easier for a rope to go through the eye of a needle" (Matthew 19:24). Likewise, the statement, "Let the dead bury the dead" has been perplexing. The Aramaic word for dead is metta and for town, matta. It becomes likely, therefore, that the true saying was, "Let the town bury the dead," a very common practice in the days of Christ. (Lamsa, Gospel Light)
More serious are the evident attempts by ancient copyists to clarify or correct the text of the manuscripts by inserting personal comments, which, in course of time, have become parts of the sacred record. As an illustration, I John 5:7, 8 reads, "For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost, and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness in earth, the spirit, and the water, and the blood; and these three agree in one." It is said that two hundred and fifty Greek manuscripts exist, containing this section of John's epistle, but do not contain the words in verses 7 and 8. Only four known manuscripts made after 1400 A. D. contain these words, and they are not found in any known manuscript before the seventh century after Christ. The words were evidently added by a scribe and have given rise to much religious misunderstanding. (Sims, The Bible from the Beginning; McGavin, An Apology for the Book of Mormon)
Earnest efforts, employing every available device, have been made by lovers of the Bible to discover such errors, and thus to purify the text of the Bible. The various existing manuscripts have been compared with minute care to detect differences. Quotations from the Bible by ancient writers, when perhaps earlier copies were extant, have been assembled and compared. The human toil given to such labor is a noble example of the esteem in which the sacred scriptures are held. It is another evidence of his greatness that Joseph Smith was one of the early workers in the so-called textual criticism of the Bible.
Another group of workers has undertaken to discover the origin, authorship, and history of the many parts of the Bible. Their avowed objective is not to discredit the Bible, but to discover truth. To accomplish their purpose, methods of literary and historical criticism have been employed. From dissimilarities in style and contemporary historical sources, and by other means it has been inferred, for example, that certain books of the Bible are composites of several original manuscripts, or have been written by several authors. This is the so-called Higher Criticism. However honest and Godfearing these workers may be, many of their conclusions and explanations remain in the field of inference, not of fact. Whether the Pentateuch and Joshua are made up from four original documents, or the Gospel of John and the Book of Revelation were written by two different writers, or Paul did not write the Epistle to the Hebrews, may ever remain in the region of hypothesis, so far as the findings of Biblical scholars are concerned. The purpose of Higher Criticism may be acceptable; but its limitations must ever be kept in mind. Theories have the same value in Biblical study as in chemistry, but no more; and theories are forever changing. This is well brought out in the "modern trend" in Biblical criticism (Willett, The Bible Through the Centuries; White, A History of the Warfare of Science and Theology in Christendom; Journal of Bible and Religion, Vol. 6, part 2).
How the sacred scriptures were translated from ancient tongues into English and made available to the common man is a most thrilling chapter in human history. Love of God and man was the driving impulse of the translators; disgrace and death were their frequent reward. The names of Wycliffe, Tyndale, Coverdale, and many others, including the makers of the so-called authorized or King James' translation, should be held in reverence by all English-speaking people. Like honor should be shown those who made the Bible available in other tongues: German, French, Scandinavian, etc. The Bible has rendered manifold service to every nation which it has entered. As it formed and fixed the English language, and unified the German tongue from Luther's version, so it has influenced deeply all peoples who have received it. (J. Patterson Smythe, How We Got Our Bible; Goodspeed, The Making of the English New Testament; Colwell, The Study of the Bible)
It should be remarked that the translation of the Bible into several modern languages has helped us to understand the meaning of many passages otherwise obscure. To convert the ideas recorded in Hebrew or Greek into another language is not an easy task. The translator at best is only an interpreter of the text. It is well therefore to compare, say a standard translation in German or French with one in English. The peculiar genius of one lanugage often permits a clearer expression of the original meaning.
In recent years many new translations of the Bible into English have been made, chiefly to render the text in modern, colloquial language, though others have sought primarily to make the rendering correspond more exactly with the text. These modern translators have had at their command for comparison many more manuscripts than were possessed by the translators in 1611. Each such translation has contributed something towards our fuller understanding of the Bible; for example, King James' version says, "Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?" (I Corinthians 15:29) The Smith and Goodspeed translation makes the thought clearer, "Otherwise what do people mean by having themselves baptized on behalf of the dead? If the dead do not rise at all, why do they have themselves baptized on their behalf?"
However, none of these translations surpasses the King James' version of the English Bible in beauty of language and spiritual connotation, and probably in faithful adherence to the text available to translators. It is this version which is used by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in all of its official work both at home and abroad. The literature of the Church refers invariably to the King James' translation. Other translations are used by the Church only to help explain obscure passages in the authorized version. This translation is recommended to obtain an acquaintanceship with the Hebrew scriptures.
The hundreds of revisions made by the Prophet Joseph Smith, some of them extensive and exhaustive, are very enlightening. Note the following as lesser examples: Genesis 3:8, King James' version, says, "They heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden"; the Inspired version reads, "They heard the voice of the Lord God, as they were walking in the garden" (Genesis 3:13); 2 Samuel 24:16, King James' version, says, "The Lord repented him of the evil, and said to the angel that destroyed the people, It is enough: stay now thine hand"; the Inspired version reads, "For the people repented, and the Lord stayed the hand of the angel"; Exodus 10:27, King James' version, says, "But the Lord hardened Pharaoh's heart"; the Inspired version reads, "But Pharaoh hardened his heart"; Luke 9:24, King James' version, says, "For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it"; the Inspired version reads, "For whosoever will save his life, must be willing to lose it for my sake; and whosoever will be willing to lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it."
Latter-day Saints believe that the protecting hand of the Lord has been over the Bible, whether in the ancient manuscripts or in copies of the earliest documents. Modern scholarship and modern revelation have clarified erroneous and difficult passages. How the Bible came to be is unimportant compared with what it says. The real message of the Bible has been preserved, unimpaired, and is confirmed by every new translation. That message continues to be the greatest ever given to man.
21. ARE THE EARLY BOOKS OF THE BIBLE (THE PENTATEUCH AND JOSHUA) HISTORICALLY CORRECT?
Events and personages are of frequent mention in the Bible. The opinion has often been voiced that they are but creations of the imagination—mythical figures and episodes, parts of Hebrew folklore. However, it has always been conceded that if they are found mentioned in contemporaneous documents, outside of the Bible, their historicity may well be accepted.
Just that has been found to be the case. Recent archaeological study has uncovered ancient documents which certify to the correctness of the Bible accounts. Since World War I, such finds have been especially numerous. Every spadeful of earth removed from the buried past, every broken potsherd uncovered, every inscription deciphered seems to have added to the historical authenticity of the Bible, by direct or indirect proof. Indeed, these finds have made Bible times of four thousand years ago better known than English history of one thousand years ago. And, future discoveries may add much to present knowledge.
This does not mean that every Bible historical statement has been confirmed, or that there are no errors in the Bible story. Latter-day Saints have long been taught to believe the Bible "as far as it is translated correctly"; and also that the Lord operates through imperfect human instruments. It does mean, however, that if the major historical statements are found to be correct, the verity of the whole story is enhanced. It has too often been the case that, because historical events in Holy Writ are but vehicles for moral truths, historians have studied the Bible under a cloud of prejudice. That is not the way of true scholarship.
It is not to be expected that all the events recorded in the Bible, often of minor and local historical importance, should be recorded on the monuments of the past in other countries. Kings sought to make imperishable records of their own valor. At no time was Hebrew history of major concern to neighboring countries. It is therefore surprising that so many of the events of Israelitish history stand forth boldly in the recorded history of neighboring lands.
Until a few years ago it was held that the compilation of the early books of the Bible was based upon oral tradition, corrupted throughout the centuries, since the art of writing was not invented in the days of Abraham. Now it is known beyond cavil that writing antedates Abraham by hundreds, if not thousands, of years. It may well be believed, therefore, that the early Bible books are based upon ancient documents written by Moses himself, and others.
The Bible accounts of the creation of the earth and man, the early patriarchal days, the Garden of Eden, the flood, and the Tower of Babel occur in early Chaldean records. It is evident that the stories of these events were carried down from earliest antiquity. Actual deposits implying a great flood have been found in Babylonia. Towers of Babel, ziggurats, formerly crowned by temples, have been excavated in Babylonia. One of these may well be the Biblical Tower of Babel (Smith, The Chaldean Account of Genesis; Woolley, The Sumerians, and Ur of the Chaldees).
Ur of the Chaldees has been found and uncovered. A high degree of culture characterized Ur in the days of Abraham. It is clear now that Abraham might have been a learned man, amply able to write his own memoirs. The people of Ur were polytheistic. Abraham, a monotheist, left Ur in protest against the worship of false gods. The birth and presence of Abraham in Ur and his departure therefrom, as stated by the Bible, may unhesitatingly be accepted. The name Abram was in use in the days of the "Father of the Faithful."
It is now well known that in antiquity there was regular, large intercourse among Babylon, Palestine, and Egypt. The journey of Abraham to the Promised Land does not now seem so difficult an undertaking. Many of the cities of Canaan mentioned in Genesis have been found and identified. "Uru-Salem" (Jerusalem) was a city of importance in Abraham's day. One uncovered story seems to tell of Abraham's coming to Canaan, which was looked upon as an invasion by some of the inhabitants of the land. The narrative of the battle of four kings has been shown to be authentic.
Modern scholarship has revealed that in the days of Abraham, shepherd kings, the Hyksos, Semites of the blood of Abraham, had invaded Egypt and become its rulers. That may account for the friendly reception of Abraham by the then ruling Pharaoh, a shepherd king. The discovered records inform us that neighboring nations came in times of drought to buy foodstuffs from the fertile valley of the Nile, just as the Bible declares was done by Jacob and his sons. A man is mentioned who represented the Pharaoh in hoarding grain in years of plenty and doling it out in lean years as was done by Joseph.
The shepherd kings, Semites akin to the Hebrews, ruled Egypt until the time of Moses. The Egyptian oppression of Israel began about the time the Egyptian rulers, not of Semitic blood, regained control of the country. The Pharaoh of the oppression of Israel was undoubtedly Thothmes III, whose mummified body has been found. The Pharaoh who ruled at the actual time of the exodus from Egypt was Amenhotep II, whose mummy has also been found. There is even some fairly acceptable record of the tenth plague, the slaying of the first born. The princess who found Moses has been identified with great certainty, under the name of Hatshepsut. Dates and persons from the ancient records confirm the Bible story. That Egyptian and Biblical chronologies harmonize is of particular note in establishing the historicity of the Bible.
The Midian to which Moses repaired after his exploit in Egypt was a country of high culture. The worship of Jehovah and Elohim was current there, justifying Joseph Smith's statement that Jethro, Moses' father-in-law, held the true Priesthood. In the Sinaitic peninsula the inscription on a rock has been found giving a date corresponding to the Exodus and a name corresponding to Moses.
Research has revealed contemporary records mentioning the invasion of Palestine by the Hebrews after the long sojourn in Egypt. Even the name Israel, strictly a Hebrew name, has been found carved in a rock. The Canaanitish idolatrous civilization and religion have been shown to correspond thoroughly with the Bible record.
Of especial note is the conclusion, after careful study, that the Hebrew laws, such as the Ten Commandments are more primitive "than the corresponding laws of the Babylonians or Hittites." This confirms the Latter-day Saint belief that the gospel was given to Adam, and in many lands has come down in a corrupted form, but maintained in its purity among Israel (Barton, The Haverford Symposium on Archaeology and the Bible).
The forty years' sojourn in the wilderness has been explained by the likelihood that the people settled temporarily in Midian, a friendly country, well known to Moses. This is more credible than a long wandering in the Sinaitic peninsula, covered with roads, mines, and quarries under the Egyptian government.
The long discussions about the actual date of the fall of Jericho and therefore of the occupation of Palestine by Israel have been settled in favor of the Bible date. It has been shown that the walls of Jericho fell under a sudden catastrophe. Parallel walls surrounded the fortress of Jericho; wooden beams were laid from wall to wall upon which houses were built, as Rahab's house, "built upon a wall." The corroboration of the Bible account is then complete.
A group of letters, the Tell el Amarna tablets, written about the days of Joshua, discusses repeatedly the invasion of Palestine of the "Habiru," the Hebrews. Cities and events conforming to the Bible story are there mentioned repeatedly.
These, with many other examples that might be cited, go to show that modern Biblical archaeology supports better than could really be expected the historical claims of the Pentateuch and the Book of Joshua—as well as the other books of the Bible. It must always be kept in mind that in its early history, the Israelitish nation was insignificant compared with the many important neighboring nations. At best, it was only another troublesome group of people to Egypt and other lands. It must be remembered, also, that monuments were built to celebrate the great deeds of king and country. The minor affairs, as then conceived, of the Hebrews, would hardly be expected to be memorialized in costly structures of stone, or in special writings on papyrus or clay.
It may well be asked how the archaeological information of the day has been obtained. In Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, and other countries of antiquity, great stone monuments in the form of men, beasts, or shafts (steles) were built to commemorate the noble deeds of the rulers, notably the kings. On these were cut inscriptions relating historic events. Sometimes the proud monarch would cut the story into the face of a prominent cliff. The Egyptians wrote much on papyrus, which has been preserved under the dry climate of the Nile valley. In Babylonia and Assyria, with a higher rainfall, symbols were pressed into tablets of clay, then dried or baked. Inscriptions on pottery have furnished many a clue. Through romantic and magnificent studies and efforts of scholarship, Egyptian hieroglyphics, cuneiform, and other writing may now be read.
Several recent finds have contributed much to the knowledge of early Biblical days. In 1887, a country woman of Tell el Amarna, a village on the Upper Nile, found in a rubbish heap a collection of inscribed clay tablets, an ancient file of correspondence written chiefly from Egyptian overlords in Palestine to the Pharaoh of Egypt. These letters and dispatches were dated at the time of Joshua, when the Hebrews were settling in Palestine. Invaluable knowledge was gained from these tablets.
In 1929, another collection of historical tablets was found in Ras Shamra in Asia Minor, opposite Cyprus. These are contemporary with the Tell el Amarna tablets, and throw further light on the conquest of Canaan by Israel. They emphasize the Semite culture and religion of that day.
Equally important appear to be the glazed potsherds covered with writing discovered in Lachish, twenty-five miles southwest of Jerusalem, in 1933. These have not all been deciphered, but they date from about 600 B. C., long after the days of Joshua, and reveal conditions of that time. From them may come also new knowledge concerning the early history of the Bible.
The sources of Biblical archaeology are many. The finest and most praiseworthy scholarship has been applied to them. Much has been learned; more will be learned.
The question at the head of this chapter may then be answered: As far as human learning has progressed, nothing has been found to discredit the historicity of the early books of the Bible; so much has been found in support of the historical claims of these books, that we are justified in looking upon them as correct historical documents, more accurate than other like documents dealing with the same period of human history. The Bible is an historical record accurate in its statements far beyond the expectations of scholars a generation ago.
22. DID THE FLOOD COVER THE HIGHEST MOUNTAINS OF EARTH?
This question, really of insignificant importance, is a good example of man-made objections to the sacred character of the Bible, and therefore to faith.
The coming of the flood and its extent and duration, are described in the seventh chapter of the Book of Genesis. The account states that "the waters prevailed exceedingly upon the earth; and all the high hills, that were under the whole heaven, were covered. Fifteen cubits upward did the waters prevail; and the mountains were covered." (Genesis 7:19-20)
A cubit, an ancient and well-known measure of length, is the distance from a man's elbow to the end of his middle finger. The Egyptians fixed the length of a cubit as 20.61 of our inches; the Greeks, 18:25 inches; the Romans, 17.4 inches; the Hebrews, 17.58 inches; and the English, 18 inches. The variation is small, from eighteen to less than twenty-one inches.
If we employ the largest of these values, 20.61 inches, fifteen cubits would be something less than twenty-six-feet. This, then, was the depth of the flood, according to Genesis.
The suggestion has been made that the flood filled every hollow and valley until the earth was a great sphere of water, covering the highest mountain peaks twenty-six feet deep, Mount Ararat, seventeen thousand feet high, "upon the mountains" of which the ark rested, would according to this view have been completely under water. It is doubtful whether the water in the sky and all the oceans would suffice to cover the earth so completely.
Another suggestion is that the earth at that time was so flat that a depth of water of twenty-six feet would cover the highest hill. There is no existing evidence of this supposition; and Mount Ararat did exist then according to the record.
It has also been suggested that a blanket of water twenty-six feet thick lay up and down the sides of every hill, mountain, and valley. This would seem to be in defiance of the law of gravity, though under a long-continued, furious rainfall such a layer, not too thick, might roll down every slope.
The fact remains that the exact nature of the flood is not known. We set up assumptions, based upon our best knowledge, but can go no further. We should remember that when inspired writers deal with historical incidents they relate that which they have seen or that which may have been told them, unless indeed the past is opened to them by revelation.
The details in the story of the flood are undoubtedly drawn from the experiences of the writer. Under a downpour of rain, likened to the opening of the heavens, a destructive torrent twenty-six feet deep or deeper would easily be formed. The writer of Genesis made a faithful report of the facts known to him concerning the flood. In other localities the depth of the water might have been more or less. In fact, the details of the flood are not known to us.
Latter-day Saints know, through modern revelation, that the Garden of Eden was on the North American continent and that Adam and Eve began their conquest of the earth in the upper part of what is now the state of Missouri. It seems very probable that the children of our first earthly parents moved down along the fertile, pleasant lands of the Mississippi valley. The great floods that have often occurred there make the description in Genesis seem very reasonable indeed. And if the historian saw the flood there, it is not unlikely that the waters covered the highest points or peaks, for there the mountains are but hills.
Great floods have visited the earth. That has been amply proved. For example, Professor C. Leonard Woolley, studying through excavations the ancient history of Mesopotamia, has found indisputable evidences of a flood in the neighborhood of Abraham's ancestral city of Ur. Whether that flood is the great flood of Genesis is not certain, for we do not know whether at that time the children of Adam had spread from their original home in what is now America into the lands now denominated Asia. (Woolley, The Sumerians)
Latter-day Saints look upon the earth as a living organism, one which is gloriously filling "the measure of its creation." They look upon the flood as a baptism of the earth, symbolizing a cleansing of the impurities of the past, and the beginning of a new life. This has been repeatedly taught by the leaders of the Church. The deluge was an immersion of the earth in water (D. & C. 88:25; Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, 1:274; Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 603; Orson Pratt, Journal of Discourses, 1:331).
Though the whole of the earth was covered with water, the depth was immaterial. When a person is baptized, it does not matter how far under the water he is brought, nor whether every part of him is at the same depth. The essential part of the symbolism is that he should be completely immersed.
So with the story of the flood. All parts of the earth were under water at the same time. In some places the layer of water might have been twenty-six feet deep or more; in others, as on sloping hillsides, it might have been only a fraction of an inch in depth. That the whole earth, however, was under water at the same time was easily possible under a terrific, long-continued downpour, such as is described in Genesis. The depth of the layer of water is of no consequence.
Many Bible accounts that trouble the inexperienced reader become clear and acceptable if the essential meaning of the story is sought out. To read the Bible fairly, it must be read as President Brigham Young suggested: "Do you read the scriptures, my brethren and sisters, as though you were writing them a thousand, two thousand, or five thousand years ago? Do you read them as though you stood in the place of the men who wrote them?" (Discourses of Brigham Young, pp. 197, 198). This is our guide. The scriptures must be read intelligently.
23. DID THE SUN STAND STILL UPON GIBEON?
In the Book of Joshua, 10:12-14, the following occurs:
Then spake Joshua to the Lord in the day when the Lord delivered up the Amorites before the children of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel, Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon; and thou, Moon, in the valley of Ajalon.
And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the people had avenged themselves upon their enemies. Is not this written in the book of Jasher? So the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and hasted not to go down about a whole day. And there was no day like that before it or after it, that the Lord hearkened unto the voice of a man: for the Lord fought for Israel.
There is no good reason to doubt the historicity of this event, that during a battle between Israel and the Amorites, daylight was extended far beyond the usual limits of day. The sun and moon seemed to be at rest. It is not the only account in history of similar phenomena.
The explanation of the occurrence made by the writer or some later copyist, implies that the earth ceased its daily rotation and annual course around the sun, to bring about the needed additional daylight for Israel's victory in battle. This may well be questioned. Even limited human knowledge suggests several simpler methods—refraction and reflection of light, for instance, by which the extension of daylight might be accomplished. Divine power may stop the rotation of the earth, let that be clearly accepted, but it certainly may have at its command other means for extending the hours of light in a day.
A miraculous event, properly authenticated, must be accepted as any other occurrence. An explanation of a miracle must however be held in doubt until fully confirmed by acceptable knowledge.
A miracle is an occurrence which, first, cannot be repeated at will by man, or, second, is not understood in its cause and effect relationship. History is filled with such miracles. What is more, the whole story of man's progress is the conversion of "miracles" into controlled and understood events. The airplane and radio would have been miracles, yesterday. All well-informed persons now admit that there may be countless forces in the universe not yet recognized by man. These forces in their operation may produce results baffling to man.
We no longer speak of supernatural events, for the invasion of the unseen world by man has shown that all human experiences are but manifestations of the one world—are natural though perhaps not understood.
In the Old Testament are recorded fewer than one hundred, in the New Testament about half a hundred events that can be called miraculous. That is not a large number for the thousands of years covered by Israel's history before Jesus. Many more uncommon events, that have seemed miraculous, have been recorded in every recent century of easy communication among men.
In view of recent progress, many of these "miracles" do not now seem so strange. The cure of leprosy, making a barren woman fertile, the coming of quails, the plagues of Egypt, and many others, are quite within the limits of present human understanding. The floating of Elisha's ax ceases to be a wonder in a day of magnetism. Others, on the other hand, are yet beyond our comprehension, notably, perhaps, the two greatest miracles of all, the creation of the earth and the coming of man.
It must also be kept in mind that some of the Bible miracles, especially in the Old Testament, may be poorly described by the historians, or incorrectly translated, and therefore confusing to us of a later day. Latter-day Saints will do well to remember that the Lord does His work through mortal men, subject to the weaknesses of the earth. Jonah in the belly of the fish may be such a one, which if fully understood would leave no question behind.
The real quibble in the field of miracles arises over the intervention of divine power in the affairs of men. As to this, Latter-day Saints can take but one side, for they believe in the existence of God, whose intelligence permeates the universe. They believe that divine power and intelligence may and do help weak humanity, true sons and daughters of God. Latter-day Saints do not attempt to limit the extent of the Lord's intelligent power, to muzzle Him, as it were. As the possessor of infinite knowledge and power, the Maker of the heavens and the earth may at will set forces into operation to succor His children or to give witness of His power.
24. WHAT IS THE MESSAGE OF THE OLD TESTAMENT?
The contents of the Old Testament center upon the history of the people chosen of God to accomplish a mighty purpose; a people who because of their own actions passed through periods of progress and degeneracy. In telling the story, the writers have sought to show that obedience to divine laws of conduct leads to joy, while disobedience brings sorrow and defeat. In that respect the teachings of the Old Testament are universal—fitted for any people, at any time.
To drive home the lesson, every literary device is used. History appears, especially of contemporaneous events. There is constant resort to formal preaching and teaching. Poetry, allegory, figures of speech, parables are employed with powerful effect. Everywhere, the knowledge of the day, sometimes limited, is reflected in the telling of the story.
Intelligent readers always separate the message of a book from its form of presentation. That must be done in reading the Bible, if its true meaning is to be caught.
The principles of truth, the gospel, have been taught by the Lord to man from the beginning of the human race. At times, men have been divinely inspired to commit to writing the eternal truths pertaining to human existence. Thus have come the Holy Scriptures.
Nevertheless, though the doctrine contained in the Old Testament has been given by the Lord, the actual writing has been done by mortal men, in their own language. This is always so. The Lord, speaking to the Prophet Joseph Smith, said, "These commandments are of me, and were given unto my servants in their weakness, after the manner of their language, that they might come to understanding." (D. & C. 1:24) That is, the Lord does His work in our behalf through earthly instruments. Naturally, therefore, in outward form there may be errors, or we may misunderstand the writer; but in inner substance the eternal truth is preserved for those who read understandingly. This doctrine has been stated in unusual beauty by Moroni, "Thou hast also made our words powerful and great, even that we cannot write them; wherefore, when we write we behold our weakness and stumble because of the placing of our words; and I fear lest the Gentiles shall mock at our words" (Book of Mormon, Ether 12:25).
Further, it is well known that the original manuscripts of the Old Testament have passed through numerous hands before they reached the form available to us. They were copied by hand. Inaccurate as well as accurate, dishonest as well as honest, unbelieving as well as believing scribes have had access to them. Material may have been added or taken away; mutilations may have occurred; through misunderstandings, or by deliberate act, errors and changes may have crept into the text. In the words of Joseph Smith, the Prophet, "I believe the Bible as it read when it came from the pen of the original writers. Ignorant translators, careless transcribers, or designing and corrupt priests have committed many errors."
The human element in the formation of the Old Testament explains many things otherwise obscure. There are many episodes in the Old Testament that suggest a lack of respect for human life. Undoubtedly, the Giver of life may at His will take it. There may be times when life should be forfeited because of sins committed. Yet, it is probable that in some reported cases the Lord has been credited with commands that came from the lips of the human leaders of the day. It is to be observed also that ancient Israel altogether too often adopted practices of the primitive peoples of the day, rather than those revealed by the Lord. Similarly, there are episodes which suggest low standards of sexual morality, such as characterized the tribal neighbors of ancient Israel. Such immoral episodes and other deviations from the law of the Lord seem to be recorded as warnings. Men were no better then than they are now. But it must always be kept in mind that the God of Israel thundered to the people in the wilderness, "Thou shalt not kill," and, "Thou shalt not commit adultery." Never has there been an abrogation of these commands.
Though allowances must be made for human imperfections, yet the Holy Scriptures have never been wholly at the mercy of man. The essential message of the Lord to His children on earth has ever been preserved. The books of the Old Testament bring to us the unchanging doctrine of God's nature, eternal destiny of righteous, obedient mankind. They contain the most precious truths of humanity. They give the most complete exposition of God's law for human conduct. As they relate the story of God's dealings with His people, the nature of our Father in heaven becomes better understood. Without the books of the Old Testament, the earth would be poor indeed.
The Hebrew scriptures rise above the folklore of the nations as a sun-bathed mountain peak rises out of the mists. For example, the Babylonian Epic of the Creation centers around the battles of two gods who are both sea monsters. The one monster overcomes the other and from his body the earth is created. This account is translated as follows:
Then took their stand Tiamat and the leader of the gods, Marduk;
For the fight they approached, for the battle they drew near.
The lord spread out his net and enclosed her.
The evil wind from behind he thrust into her face.
As Tiamat opened her mouth to its full extent,
The evil wind he drove in, so that her lips could not close.
With the mighty winds he filled her belly.
Her courage was taken away, and she opened her mouth.
He let fall the spear, he burst open her belly,
He cut through her inward parts, he pierced her heart,
He bound her and her life destroyed;
Her body he cast down and stood upon it.
Then the lord rested, he gazed upon her body,
The flesh of the monster he divided; he formed a cunning plan.
He split her open like a flat fish into two halves;
One half of her he established and made a covering of the heavens.
He drew a bolt, he established a guard,
And not to let her waters come out, he commanded.
(George A. Barton, Archaeology and the Bible, pp.272, 273)
Compare this near nonsense with the stately, clear, and understandable account given in Genesis, first chapter:
In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth.
And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.
And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.
And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.
And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament; and it was so.
And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.
And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so.
And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good.
And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth; and it was so.
And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good.
And the evening and the morning were the third day.
And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years:
And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so.
And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also.
And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth.
And to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness: and God saw that it was good.
And the evening and the morning were the fourth day.
And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven.
And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good.
And God blessed them saying, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth.
And the evening and the morning were the fifth day.
And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so.
And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good.
And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. (Genesis 1:1-27)
The Bible account compared with the Babylonian, in the words of D. Bernhard Stade, is "as a clear mountain spring to the slough of a village cesspool" (Fosdick, Guide to the Understanding of the Bible).
What is the message of the Old Testament? From the first to the last, in the Pentateuch, in the historical books, in the poetical books, and in the prophets, it teaches the existence of a personal God, the Maker of the heavens and the earth, the Father of the human race. It teaches that the earth and all things upon it are provided for man's benefit, but that man must obey law, divine law, to secure the blessings he desires. It teaches that obedience to the moral law, given by God for human conduct, involving faith in God, not to be compared with man-made, ethical, selfish codes of action, is the most important concern of man. It is the message of messages for humankind.
That message remains unchanged in essence from the first to the last page of the Old Testament; but the people to whom it was given often fell from that truth, and then by slow degrees found their way back.
In the words of Brigham Young, "In the Bible are the words of life and salvation."
25. WHAT IS THE ATTITUDE OF THE CHURCH TOWARD SCIENCE?
This question, frequently asked, is readily answered.
The Church, the custodian of the gospel on earth, looks with full favor upon the attempts of men to search out the facts and laws of nature. It believes that men of science, seekers after truth, are often assisted by the Spirit of the Lord in such researches. It holds further that every scientific discovery may be incorporated into the gospel, and that, therefore, there can be no conflict between true religion and correct science. The Church teaches that the laws of nature are but the immutable laws of the Creator of the universe.
This view has been held consistently by the Latter-day Saints from the organization of the Church. A revelation given to the Prophet Joseph Smith in 1832, when science was yet in its swaddling clothes, declares:
And I give unto you a commandment that you shall teach one another the doctrine of the kingdom.
Teach ye diligently and my grace shall attend you, that you may be instructed more perfectly in theory, in principle, in doctrine, in the law of the gospel, in all things that pertain unto the kingdom of God, that are expedient for you to understand.
Of things both in heaven and in the earth, and under the earth; things which have been, things which are, things which must shortly come to pass; things which are at home, things which are abroad; the wars and the perplexities of the nations, and the judgments which are on the land; and a knowledge also of countries and of kingdoms—...
And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith. (D. & C. 88:77, 78, 79, 118)
President Brigham Young frequently expressed support of the labors of men of science. For example, in one of his sermons he said:
I am not astonished that infidelity prevails to a great extent among the inhabitants of the earth, for the religious teachers of the people advance many ideas and notions for truth which are in opposition to and contradict facts demonstrated by science, and which are generally understood.... In these respects we differ from the Christian world, for our religion will not clash with or contradict the facts of science in any particular. (Discourses of Brigham Young, pp.397, 398)
President Joseph F. Smith made similar statements:
We believe in all truth, no matter to what subject it may refer. No sect or religious denomination in the world possesses a single principle of truth that we do not accept or that we will reject. We are willing to receive all truth, from whatever source it may come; for truth will stand, truth will endure.... True science is that system of reasoning which brings to the fore the simple, plain truth. (Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine, pp. 1, 6)
The gospel and science have the same objective—the discovery and possession of truth—all truth. Hence follows the attitude of the Church toward science expressed at the head of this chapter. However, science has been content, until recently, to study the material universe, and to leave its findings without reference to their possible effect upon human conduct. The gospel on the other hand is primarily concerned with the manner in which truth is used in the spiritual field, that is, with human conduct. For example, science has discovered explosives of great power, and has shown how by their use rocks may be shattered or projectiles shot through the air, and has left this knowledge without comment as to its proper use. The gospel teaches that this new power be not used in warfare, for wars are evil, but that it be used in the peaceful arts of man. The gospel deals with right and wrong; science as yet has scarcely touched this field. The gospel accepts God as the author of all knowledge; science gathers facts and tries to interpret them, without reference to a Supreme Being. In short, the gospel is the more inclusive; present-day science, less inclusive. In the end, the two must become as one, for their common objective is truth.
The Church holds that the methods used by science to discover truth are legitimate. Indeed, all instruments and means developed for the exploration of nature are welcomed. The Church claims the right to employ, in addition, such processes as are peculiarly fitted to its search for truth in the spiritual domain, which in turn may become tools in the advancement of a future science freed from its present material bondage. In this wholehearted acceptance of science, the Church makes, as must every sane thinker, two reservations:
First, the facts which are the building blocks of science must be honestly and accurately observed. In science, as in every human activity, dishonesty, carelessness, or aberrations of senses or mind may be encountered. The Church expects science to present accurately observed and fully corroborated facts. Loose methods of study are not acceptable. Indeed, the vast body of scientific facts has been so carefully garnered that it may in the main be accepted without question.
Second, the interpretations of observed facts must be distinctly labeled as inferences, and not confused with facts. The human mind properly attempts to explain or interpret the phenomena of nature, the facts of observation. A pencil looks bent in a glass of water. Why? asks the eager thinking mind. The sun rises in the east and sets in the west. Why? Does the sun move around the earth, or does the earth revolve upon its axis, to give the effect of day and night? The answers to such questions are explanations or interpretations, really inferences, often called hypotheses or theories. These do not have the certain value of facts, for they usually change as new facts are brought forward. For example, with the knowledge at his command, Newton advanced the theory that light consists of particles; later, Young explained the phenomena of light as forms of wave motion; today with increasing knowledge both of these theories are questioned, and another one is in the making. Meanwhile, the phenomena of light remain unchanged; they are the same today as in the time of Newton. Occasionally, but seldom, an inference such as the cause of night and day becomes so well supported by discovered facts that it assumes the dignity of a fact. Most inferences, however, are in a condition of constant change, due to the continuing accumulation of new knowledge.
Dr. Albert Einstein, author of the relativity theory, speaks of scientists as men who seek solutions of the mysteries in the book of nature (Einstein and Infeld, The Evolution of Physics, pp. 1, 5). He insists that nature's mystery story is not only still unsolved but may not have a final solution. All that man can do is to collect facts, arrange them in an orderly fashion, and then to make them understandable by "creative thought"—that is, by the formulation of inferences, explanations, interpretations, hypotheses or theories, whatever the name may be.
In this particular do Latter-day Saints, in common with all thinkers, sound a warning to science. There must be a distinct segregation of facts and inferences in the utterances of scientific men. Readers of science should always keep this difference in mind. Even well-established inferences should not lose their inferential label. The facts discovered by an eminent investigator may be safely accepted; his explanations may be of doubtful value.
It is within recent time that Millikan and Compton, both Nobel prize winners, held widely differing explanations of the nature of "cosmic rays." And, recently, also, the discovery of the skull of a prehistoric ape with a set of human-like teeth has overthrown the inference that teeth are always true indications of the place of a fossil in the evolutionary scale. With respect to this latter matter, there was pathos in the remark of the famous anthropologist, Sir Arthur Keith, that "This discovery has destroyed the finer points we anthropologists depend on for drawing the line between anthropoid and man."
In summary: The Church supports and welcomes the growth of science. It asks only that the facts of science be as accurately determined as human powers permit, and that confusion between facts of science and inferences of science be earnestly avoided.
The religion of the Latter-day Saints is not hostile to any truth, nor to scientific search for truth.
26. HOW TRUSTWORTHY IS SCIENCE?
Science is man-made. It consists of facts and the explanations of facts. Facts are gathered by man through his senses. Explanations are the products of the mind. Therefore, the trustworthiness of science may be measured by the accuracy of human senses and the clearness of human thought.
The senses of man are greatly limited. A beloved friend a few hundred feet away is but one of hundreds of indistinct, passing figures. The eye cannot see far, clearly. The common speech of man becomes but a confused murmur a short distance away. The ear cannot hear distant sounds, clearly. Far enough away the eye does not at all distinguish figures, or the ear, sounds. So with the other senses.
Further, no two pairs of eyes see exactly alike. No matter how careful and honest the observers are, the moon is not of the same size to them, nor the length of a measured stick. Knowing this, men of science make repeated observations of the same phenomenon, and then seek other observers to check the findings. Even then, the final result is only an average of observations made, approaching the full truth. Every competent scientist is aware, often painfully, of these limitations placed upon the senses of man.
Moreover, the eye is sensitive only to a small part of the wave spectrum. Above and below the visible spectrum are greater invisible fields. The ear can detect only a small span of sound waves. A more sensitive hearing organ would hear a universe of sound now closed to man. The unaided senses of man at the best can know only a very small part of the universe in which man dwells.
To increase the power of the senses, aids to the senses, instruments, have been devised.
However, all aids to man's senses, instruments made by human hands, lie under definite and often serious limitations. The accuracy of the telescope is decreased by distortions due to the nature of the glass of the lenses; there are disturbing reflections, refractions, and colored fringes that hinder clear vision. The most fundamental constants of science are not absolutely correct. The velocity of light, atomic weights, the force of gravity, and the many other constants from which the pattern of science is woven, are but approximations, often very close, to the true values. There is always a margin of error. The true scientist admits this, and works on with the powers at his command towards a higher degree of accuracy.
Scientific explanations, products of thoughtful reflection and reasoning upon observed facts, are often nothing more than shrewd guesses or good probabilities. That the sun rises in the east and sets in the west is an unchanging fact of human experience. In earlier days, and for centuries, it was held that this observation was due to the daily journey of the sun around the earth. Now, with new facts at our command, we explain night and day by the complete rotation of the earth upon its axis, every twenty-four hours. A straight stick placed in a glass of water looks bent. That is an age-old observation, the explanation of which has been changed several times. The nebular hypothesis long explained the origin of the solar system; now another inference holds sway. In the subatomic world of electrons new discoveries are made almost daily, and the explanations are in constant flux. Chromosomes now hold the center of the stage in the field of heredity, but the explanations of their relationship to the properties of life are the present guesses of the best scholars, which may be overturned tomorrow. Newton was only recently pushed out of his old place by Einstein. No scientific worker worthy of his task attempts to give a scientific explanation a higher standing than that of an intelligent guess, supported by existing facts. New discoveries may modify or upset the explanation (Einstein and Infeld, The Evolution of Physics).
The rising and setting of the sun, the bent stick in the pool are safe facts of experience. The exact length of the day or the degree of bending of the stick may not be determined with absolute accuracy by our poor senses. But such facts are immeasureably more trustworthy than the general explanations of such current, well-established facts. Facts of observation are generally more trustworthy than inferences by the mind.
Cocksureness in science is a mark of the immature, often self-deceived, worker with nature. Those who have moved man's knowledge and control of nature forward, and greatly, have always stood humbly before the inexhaustible ocean of the unknown which they are trying to explore.
Science is trustworthy as far as human senses and reason are trustworthy—no more. When the credentials of science are examined, the claims of religion seem more credible than ever. (Cook, The Credentials of Science, the Warrant of Faith).
Flower in the crannied wall,
I pluck you out of the crannies,
I hold you here, root and all, in my hand,
Little flower—but if I could understand
What you are, root and all, and all in all
I should know what God and man is.
27. HOW OLD IS THE EARTH?
This is an ancient question which has occasioned much controversy. There are at least three prevailing answers among faithful Bible-believing Latter-day Saints. The fact appears to be that no man knows the age of the earth.
The first group believe that the earth was created in six days of twenty-four hours each. That is, the earth was six days old at the coming of Adam. This view is based upon the literal acceptance of the story of creation as given in King James' translation of Genesis. (Genesis, chapter 1; Exodus 20:11) According to this belief there was a succession of sudden or catastrophic creative events during this short period of time which led to the formation of the earth. The catastrophists contend that the Lord is able through His divine power, if He so desires, to form an earth or many earths in short moments of time. They also quote the words of Moses as revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith, which follow closely the wording of King James' translation (Pearl of Great Price, Moses 2:1-31).
The second group hold that each day of creation was really one thousand years, and that the earth therefore was six thousand years old at the coming of Adam. Those who uphold this view quote as their support the statement of the Apostle Peter, "one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day" (2 Peter 3:8). In defense of this view the statement made by Abraham is also quoted:
The Lord said unto me, by the Urim and Thummim, that Kolob was after the manner of the Lord, according to its times and seasons in the revolutions thereof; that one revolution was a day unto the Lord, after his manner of reckoning, it being one thousand years according to the time appointed unto that whereon thou standest. This is the reckoning of the Lord's time according to the reckoning of Kolob (Pearl of Great Price, Abraham 3:4).
The third group believe that the creation of the earth extended over immensely long periods of time, not yet correctly known by revelation or by man's scientific advance, and that the earth therefore is very old. In support of this view they marshal several arguments:
First. It is admitted that the Lord has power to accomplish. His work in His own way and time. "But nature and scripture both teach us that it has pleased the Lord to work gradually. His purpose was to fill the earth with inhabitants, and yet only a single pair was created. ... It is His will that the whole earth shall be filled with the knowledge of Himself; but the diffusion of the knowledge has been left to gradual preaching and human instrumentality. So in nature, trees, animals, and men have small beginnings, and require time to attain to perfection" (A. McCall, "The Mosaic Record of Creation," p. 213 in Aids to Faith).
Second. The word translated "day" in Genesis really means, in the original, an age or undefined period of time, and is so rendered in several translations of the Bible. Further, the first three "days" could not have been days such as we have, for the sun and the moon had not yet been placed in the firmament. (Genesis 1:5-19) Moreover, the word "day" is used frequently throughout the Bible in a general sense as "the day of the Lord," "the day of vengeance," "the night is far spent, the day is at hand."
Third. Scripture revealed in modern days to the Prophet Joseph Smith indicates that the word "day" should be understood to mean periods of time, for in the Abrahamic record of creation, each creative act is followed by the statement "this was the first, or the beginning, of that which they called night and day," "and this was the second time that they called night and day," and so on until "and they numbered the sixth time." (Pearl of Great Price, Abraham, chapter 4) Then, "And the Gods concluded upon the seventh time." (Abraham 5:3)
Fourth. Genesis opens with the phrase "in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." It is quite agreed by students that the word "beginning" is indefinite in its significance and may mean previous time or previous eternity, according to subject—as in the gospel according to John "before the world was." (John 17:5) This is placed by the side of Alma's words "all is as one day with God, and time only is measured unto men." (Alma 40:8) as indicating that our measurement of time, with its short days and hours came only with man.
Fifth. The slow processes of nature, as known to man, must long have been in operation to lift the mountains from lake and sea bottoms, and to carve out the valleys. All human experience points to the need of periods of time far beyond six thousand years, to fashion the earth as it appears today, or as it seems to have been throughout recorded history.
Sixth. Recent discoveries in the field of radio-activity have furnished a "time-clock" which compels the belief that the earth is very old, far beyond the former, accepted limits.
Those who upon the above and other views hold that the earth is very old, have attempted to estimate the age of the earth in years. The method is always based on a common principle. The rate at which some process is going on at the present day is measured as accurately as possible, and the average change produced in say one year, is compared with the total effect produced by that process during the interval that has elapsed since its commencement. (Arthur Holmes, The Age of the Earth, p. 29)
The earliest method of estimating geological time was to discover the maximum thickness of the stratified formations in the earth's crust and to determine the amount of sediment carried annually into the ocean. Geological study indicates that the thickness of the earth's stratified formations is at least 360,000 feet (Holmes, p. 79), and that the annual discharge of sediments into the ocean is such as to require millions of years for the deposition of the strata in question. It is admitted that this method can indicate only long periods of time, and not definite measurements in years.
A somewhat more satisfactory method deals with the salt in ocean water. It is assumed that the first ocean water was fresh. The sodium chloride or salt that it now contains has been dissolved from the soil through which the water has passed or from the sediments brought down into the ocean by the rivers. The water has been evaporated and condensed into rain over and over again, but the salt which is not volatile has remained to increase the saltiness of the ocean. Estimates have been made of the annual discharge by the rivers of earth, their load of materials, and the probable amount of salt in the water and the sediments. Similar estimates have been made of the amount of salt in the ocean. Then by simply dividing the annual addition of salt into the total amount of salt in the oceans, the number of years of the accumulation is obtained. By this method, acknowledged to be subject to many corrections, salt has been added to the oceans for a period of about 330 million years. According to this calculation, the earth must be at least that old.
The discovery of radioactivity and the element radium, furnished an unexpectedly accurate geological hourglass that has been used in estimating the age of the earth.
The element uranium is radioactive. That is, it emits spontaneously, continuously, and uniformly various radiations. As it does so it is degraded, passing from one form to another, including radium, until the final residue is lead. That is, there is a life-limit to uranium, radium, and several other elements. Methods have been developed by which the rate of this degradation may be measured accurately. The amount of lead, or radium in association with uranium will then point to the length of time since the uranium was formed.
It has been found that the age of uranium, determined as above suggested, is lowest in the more recent rocks and highest in the oldest rocks. This is a confirmation of much previous geological work on the relative ages of rock deposits. The age of the oldest rock approaches, by this method, 2,000 million years. The earth must then, by this form of study, be at least that old.
It is a curious fact that studies by modern methods of the age of the solar system have yielded similar results, that is, about 2,000 million years. It is a most interesting chapter in modern exploration (Holmes, The Age of the Earth, 1937; also F. J. Pack, Science and Belief in God). Those who hold to the long-time age of the earth point out that present scientific data indicate "an epoch of creation," 2,000 million years ago.
Every person must decide for himself, on the basis of the evidence produced, which of these three opinions as to the age of the earth, before, Adam, seems most reasonable to him, whether (1) six days, or (2) six thousand years, or (3) many millions of years. Clearly it does not matter to one's daily welfare or ultimate salvation which view he adopts, except that every Latter-day Saint must seek and cherish truth above all else.
28. HOW DID THE EARTH COME INTO BEING?
The earth came into being by the will and power of God. Upon that proposition the accepted scriptures of the Church and their authoritative interpretations agree. Chance is ruled out. Latter-day Saints believe that the earth and the heavens and the manifold operations within the universe are products of intelligent action, of the mind of God. There is nothing haphazard about the universe in which we live. (Genesis 1:1; Pearl of Great Price, Moses 2:1; Abraham 4:1; D. & C. 93:9)
Further, Latter-day Saints believe that the Lord formed or organized the earth from existing universal materials. That it is impossible to create something from nothing is a spiritual as well as a scientific axiom. It is an established doctrine of the Church that the ultimate elements which constitute the universe are eternal, indestructible, everlasting. Whether these ultimate realities be, in the language of present-day science, molecules, atoms, electrons, or pure energy is of little concern. Whatever is the ultimate reality is eternal. Matter as we know it, and which forms the earth, is made from eternal elements. In that sense the formation of the earth was an organization rather than a creation. (D. & C. 93:33; Pearl of Great Price, Moses 1:38)
Just what forces were brought into operation, or what process was used, to organize the "elements" into an earth is not known. Latter-day Saints are inclined to hold that forces about us, known in part through common human experience, especially in the field of physical science, were employed in the formation of the earth. The progress of science may yet shed much light on the origin of the earth.
During human history numerous mystical and mythical ideas have been advanced concerning the origin of the earth. These may be ignored. During the course of science, three main theories have been set up to explain how the earth came into being.
First came the nebular hypothesis, elaborated upon the suggestions of others by the famous French mathematician and physicist, Laplace, nearly one hundred and fifty years ago. This assumes that the sun was formed from the condensation of nebula, a gaseous body. As the gaseous, rotating sun contracted, gaseous rings would be thrown off from the sun, much as drops of water fly off a grindstone. Each such ring would become a planet revolving around the sun. One such ring of gas after gradual cooling and contraction became the earth. This hypothesis was universally acclaimed; those who would not accept it were long looked upon as "unscientific." Yet, the relentless growth of knowledge seemed to show the nebular hypothesis erroneous, and now it has long been discarded. (D. H. Menzel, Stars and Planets)
The planetesimal theory followed. This was proposed by the eminent geologists, Chamberlain and Moulton of the University of Chicago. A star might have come so near the sun as to cause tremendous gravitational pulls upon each other, causing tidal waves, as it were, and erupting material into space. This material, as meteors or cosmic dust, was built up into planets such as the earth. (T. C. Chamberlain, The Origin of the Earth)
This theory was modified, as its weaknesses were discovered, notably by Sir James Jeans, of Cambridge University, England. He retains the thought of the tidal effect of the sun and a star in immediate proximity but believes that large masses, the size of the planets, were torn out of the sun. The earth, then, is an original part of the sun, thrown out through the gravitational pull of a star that wandered too near the sun. This theory seems, for the present, to have the right of way (James Jeans, The Universe Around Us).
Scrutiny of the tidal theory has led many investigators to reject it and to set up substitutions. R. A. Lyttleton, for example, has suggested that if the sun were a double star at the time the wandering star came too near, many of the difficulties of the tidal theory might be avoided. There is also the theory, proposed by Rev. Georges Lemaitre, that some billions of years ago all universal matter was in the form of a gigantic radioactive atom. For some unexplained reason this atom burst, scattering suns, stars, planets, satellites, and nebulae throughout the universe.
By slow, often painful progress, usually by the method of trial and error, science reaches its haven of truth. As to the origin of the earth, man knows only that it was organized by divine intelligence and power from existing eternal materials. Speculations about the method or process, however honestly offered, or by what eminent authority, must not be taken too seriously.
29. WHAT IS THE ORIGIN OF LIFE ON EARTH?
This question has occupied the best minds since the beginning of human history. The answer has not yet been found in the halls of science.
From the earliest time, many men of sound thought have believed in the spontaneous generation of life. Aristotle (384-322 B. C.) for example taught that decaying matter, under the influence of moisture and the sun's heat will produce living things. He even went so far as to teach that the higher forms of life were spontaneously generated. St. Augustine (354-430 A.D.), made the doctrine one of the church. His reasoning was simple: As the Lord could make wine from water, so life could be made from the soil and water and air of earth. In his opinion, spontaneous generation was but a manifestation of the will of God. Even such minds as that of Newton (1643-1727) could see no inconsistency in the doctrine. Up to the middle of the last century, the doctrine was very generally accepted.
However, as the more exact methods of science were developed, doubt was cast upon the theory. For example, van Helmont, great scientist as he was, had explained that dirty linen, mixed with grain, would, in twenty-one days, produce mice. Subjected to scientific scrutiny, the folly of this formula was revealed.
Finally came Louis Pasteur, who, in the middle of the last century by a series of brilliant experiments, laid low the doctrine of spontaneous generation. It was, however, only after a terrific battle with his contemporaries that he set up the law that only life can beget life. For a number of decades now, the world has rested secure in the correctness of his conclusion.
Recently, however, it has been suggested that, while, under the conditions now prevailing on earth, spontaneous generation of life is impossible, there may have been times, under different conditions, when living organisms might have been produced from lifeless matter. The reasoning is somewhat as follows: As the molten earth cooled, conditions were such as to form large quantities of the substance cyanogen, composed of carbon and nitrogen, essential constituents of living tissue. As the new-born atmosphere gradually changed to its present conditions, complex chemical compounds were formed from the cyanogen, which, as the earth cooled, increased in complexity, approached the nature of living tissue, and at last acquired the properties that characterize life. From these simple units of life, the theory holds, have developed the forms of life now known to man. It is added that life cannot be so formed today, for conditions are so different. It requires an abnormal faith in science to accept this theory (Oparin, The Origin of Life, 1938).
The question has been raised with respect to the viruses, which are so small as to pass through filters: Do they perpetuate life? Existing evidence favors the belief that they also obey the law that life begets life.
If life was not spontaneously generated on earth, if life is necessary to beget life, the first life on earth must have come from some point outside of the earth. So reasoned many men of unimpeachable standing in the world of sound thinking. That raised two questions at once: Does life exist beyond the earth? And if life exists beyond the earth, how can it reach the earth?
Men of the highest standing have believed that the earth is not the only home of living beings—such men as von Liebig, von Helmholtz, and Lord Kelvin.
The existence of life in space is exceedingly difficult to prove by the methods of science for us who live on earth. An attempt was made by the famous bacteriologist, Charles B. Lippman, to discover whether meteorites, which fall from the sky, contain living organisms. Every precaution against error was taken. The best-known technique was followed. Lippman came to the conclusion after this careful work that live bacteria and spores of living things were found in the interior of the rocky meteorites studied by him. Many objections were offered against these findings. The bacteria he found were identical with some known on the earth; the heat generated by the falling body would kill the germs—and so on. The controversy still goes on.
Other workers, assuming that life does exist beyond the earth, undertook to study the possible means by which living germs could be carried through space to the earth. The scientist, Richter, called attention to the fact that it has been shown that germs of life may remain dormant for long periods of time, may exist without food or water, yet may be revivified, as soon as the conditions necessary for active life are available. The eminent physicist, von Helmholtz, followed this up with the proposition that meteorites in their descent through the air are heated only on the surface. Carbon, easily combustible, is found unchanged inside of meteorites—hence life germs could survive any heat that might be generated.
In the progress of science it has been found that light, passing through space, exerts a pressure on the objects it encounters. This principle was seized upon to explain how life might have been brought from other heavenly bodies to the earth. The world-famous physicist, Arrhenius, suggested that miscroscopic germs of life might be carried by atmospheric currents and electrical disturbances into space and, under the pressure of light, be carried within reach of other bodies in space. Arrhenius even subjected the hypothesis to mathematical treatment, and showed that such particles, leaving the earth, would pass beyond the limits of our planetary system in fourteen months, and in nine thousand years would reach the nearest star, Alpha Centauri. He also showed that the heat attendant upon such a journey would not exceed 100, and that only for a short time (Arrhenius, Worlds in the Making, 1908). A barrage of objections was pointed upon this hypothesis. The chief weakness, it was claimed, was that the ultra-violet light and cosmic rays of space, not softened by the atmosphere, would destroy quickly any life germs floating in space. There the matter stands today.
Now, from the very beginning of thinking on the subject of the origin of life on earth, a group of powerful thinkers have insisted that life is one of the eternal realities of the universe, uncreated, eternal, as eternal as any other of the ultimate elements of the universe. One school of Greek thought held that the universe, the solar system, and the earth itself were living organisms.
The doctrine of the eternity of life implies that "things" become alive when the life force enters them. Thus came the doctrine of vitalism, or vital force, which has met such fierce opposition from the school of materialism. Under this doctrine all living things are dual in their composition; they are of matter and of life. Those who so believe declare that either life is spontaneously generated, or it is of eternal existence. The majority of them also are believers in God, and inclined to hold that things are made alive by His power, through means not understood by man, or perhaps beyond his understanding.
The corollary of the doctrine that life is eternal is the doctrine of pre-existence. The essential part of any living being is its life. If life is eternal then the living thing is eternal also. Driven by such logic, schools of thought, from the Greeks to our own day, have harbored more or less completely the doctrine of pre-existence.
As far as the data of science or the speculations of philosophers go, no light is shed upon the origin of life on earth.
The teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith leave the conviction that life is eternal, or at least that it had a pre-existent life, not of spontaneous origin on earth. For example:
...these are the generations of the heaven and of the earth, when they were created, in the day that I, the Lord God, made the heaven and the earth;
And every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew. For I, the Lord God, created all things, of which I have spoken, spiritually, before they were naturally upon the face of the earth....And I, the Lord God, had created all the children of men; and not yet a man to till the ground; for in heaven created I them; and there was not yet flesh upon the earth, neither in the water, neither in the air;
...all things were before created; but spiritually were they created and made according to my word. (Pearl of Great Price, Moses 3:4, 5, 7; see also Abraham 5:2-5)
One may read into these sayings that individuality itself is eternal. With respect to man, that is a well-settled doctrine. "Man was also in the beginning with God. Intelligence, or the light of truth, was not created or made, neither indeed can be" (D. & C. 93:29). This doctrine is confirmed in the Book of Abraham:
Now the Lord had shown unto me, Abraham, the intelligences that were organized before the world was; and among all these there were many of the noble and great ones;
And God saw these souls that they were good, and he stood in the midst of them, and he said: These will I make my rulers; for he stood among those that were spirits, and he saw that they were good; and he said unto me: Abraham, thou art one of them; thou wast chosen before thou wast born.
And there stood one among them that was like unto God, and he said unto those who were with him: We will go down, for there is space there, and we will take of these materials, and we will make an earth whereon these may dwell;
And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them;
And they who keep their first estate shall be added upon; and they who keep not their first estate shall not have glory in the same kingdom with those who keep their first estate; and they who keep their second estate shall have glory added upon their heads for ever and ever (Pearl of Great Price, Abraham 3:22-26).
From the organization of the Church to the present day, the pre-existence of man has been taught as a necessary element in the plan of salvation.
Whether the references in sacred writ concerning the pre-existence of all life, plant and animal, justify the belief that individuality is preserved even in the lower orders of creation, must remain, until further light is obtained, a matter of personal opinion. The wording of the above quotations from the Pearl of Great Price seems to imply the pre-existence of individual life everywhere. Certainly, the earth on which we live is an imperishable, living organism:
And again, verily I say unto you, the earth abideth the law of a celestial kingdom, for it filleth the measure of its creation, and transgresseth not the law—
Wherefore, it shall be sanctified; yea, notwithstanding it shall die, it shall be quickened again, and shall abide the power by which it is quickened, and the righteous shall inherit it. (D. & C. 88:25, 26)
That man, as perhaps all creation, is a dual being, is an equally certain doctrine. Man is composed of the eternal spirit residing in a mortal body. The gospel centers upon the conversion of a perishable into an imperishable body to be possessed by the everlasting spirit. "The spirit and the body are the soul of man" (D. & C. 88:15).
Science stands at present helpless before the mystery of the origin of life on earth. It offers guesses which have no precedence over theological inferences. Through revelation we know that life existed before the earth was, and that "man was in the beginning with God." Life was placed upon earth by God, through His power. That doctrine satisfies the inmost need of man. In time, that doctrine will be confirmed by the accumulation of human knowledge. The method by which life was brought upon earth is not known by anyone.
30. TO WHAT EXTENT SHOULD THE DOCTRINE OF EVOLUTION BE ACCEPTED?
The answer to the above question depends on the meaning assigned to the word evolution. Among people generally, as well as by a group of scientists who should know better, the word is used with unpardonable looseness. Especially should the difference between the law of evolution and the theory or theories of evolution be stressed whenever the word is used.
In its widest meaning evolution refers to the unceasing changes within our universe. Nothing is static; all things change. Stars explode in space; mountains rise and are worn down; men are not the same today as yesterday. Even the regularities of nature, such as the succession of the seasons or of night and day, cause continuous changes upon earth. Everywhere, a process of upbuilding or degradation is in evidence. The face of nature has been achieved by continuous small and slow degrees. This has been observed by man from the beginning, and must be accepted by all thinking people. Darwin knew it no better than the peoples of antiquity. The law of change, an undeniable fact of human experience, is the essence of the law of evolution (H. F. Osborn, From the Greeks to Darwin).
The great champion and amplifier of the doctrine of evolution, the philosopher Herbert Spencer, defined the law of evolution by saying, in substance, that whatever moves from the indefinite to the definite, is evolving; while that which moves from the definite to the indefinite, is dissolution or the opposite of evolution. Nebulae passing into stars are evolving; stars broken into cosmic dust are dissolving (Herbert Spencer, First Principles). When simple units are used to build up more complex structures we have evolution. When any structure is broken down into constituent elements, we have its opposite, dissolution. Evolution in this sense is the same as progression or growth.
From this point of view the law of evolution, representing eternal change upward, becomes a basic, universal law, by which nature in her many moods may in part be explained. Indeed, it has been one of the most useful means of interpreting the phenomena of the universe. The first and most notable deduction from the law of evolution is that, in the words of Spencer, "We can no longer contemplate the visible creation as having a definite beginning or end, or as being isolated" (Herbert Spencer, First Principles). That is, existence is eternal.
The noisy babble about evolution, often disgraceful to both sides, since Darwin wrote Origin of Species, has been confined almost wholly to speculations or guesses concerning the cause, methods and consequences of the law of evolution. The law itself has not been challenged. It is so with every well-established, natural phenomenon. Inferences are set up to explain observed facts. Such hypotheses or theories, which are often helpful, become dangerous when confused with the facts themselves. There are now many theories of evolution, all subject to the normal scrutiny to which all theories should be subjected; and until their probability is demonstrated, it is well to remain wary of them.
The foremost and best-known theory of evolution is that all living things on earth, whether fish, insect, bird, beast, or man, are of the same pedigree. All creation, it declares, has come from a common stock, from a cell formed in the distant past. Man and beast have the same ancestry. In support of this theory numerous well-established observations are presented. These may be grouped into five classes:
First, the fossil remains of prehistoric life on earth show that in the oldest rocks are remains of the simplest forms of life; and as the rocks become younger, more complex or more advanced life forms seem to appear. The scale of life appears to ascend from amoeba to man, as the age of the particular part of the earth's crust diminishes.
Second, each group of living things has much the same bodily organization. In the case of mammals, all, including man, have similar skeletons, muscular arrangements, nervous systems, sense organizations, etc. In some species the organs are merely rudimentary—but they are there.
Third, the embryos of man and higher animals, in the earlier stages, are identical, as far as the microscope can reveal. This is held to mean that embyronic development summarizes or recapitulates the stages of man's development through the ages of the past.
Fourth, all organic creatures may be so grouped, according to structure and chemical nature, as to show gradually increasing relationships from the lowest to the highest forms of life. Similarities in blood composition are held to indicate nearness of kinship. The blood of the great apes is very similar to the blood of man.
Fifth, it has been possible, within historic times, to domesticate many animals, often with real changes in bodily form, as the various breeds of cattle, sheep, or dogs. Besides, isolated animals, as on the islands of the sea, have become unique forms, differing from those on connected continents.
These facts, so claim the proponents of the theory of evolution, all point to the common origin, and an advancing existence, of all animal forms on earth. To many minds these observations, upon which in the main the theory of evolution rests, are sufficient proof of the correctness of the theory of evolution. It is indeed an easy way of explaining the endless variety of life. All life has grown out of a common root. The ease of explaining the origins and differences among life forms has won much support for the theory of evolution (Sir Arthur Keith, Concerning Man's Origin, and Darwinism and What It Implies; H. H. Newman, Evolution Yesterday and Today).
Yet, at the best, the doctrine of the common origin of all life is only an inference of science. After these many years of searching, its truth has not been demonstrated. To many competent minds it is but a working hypothesis of temporary value.
Many weaknesses in the theory of evolution are recognized by its adherents. Two are especially notable.
First, many reported similarities are far-fetched and not well enough established to be acceptable as the foundation of a world-sweeping theory. It is surprising how many such cases have been found. (Douglas Dewar, Man a Special Creation; Sir Ambrose Fleming, Evolution or Creation; E. C. Wren, Evolution, Fact or Fiction) Moreover, many actual similarities may be interpreted in more than one way. The theory of a common origin is only one of several possible explanations of the mass of biological facts.
Second, the theory fails utterly to explain the emotional, reasoning, and religious nature of man, which distinguishes him so completely from the lower animals. One defender of the theory declares that the brains of man and monkey are identical anatomically, but that the larger size of the human brain accounts for the higher intelligence of man. This suggestion falls to the ground in face of well-known facts such as that the ant shows greater intelligence than the cow. Many notable advocates of the theory, such as Darwin and Huxley, have stood helpless before the mental, emotional, and moral supremacy of man over the ape, the animal most like man in body. Conscience is peculiar to man. Evil, sin, goodness, truth, love, sacrifice, hope, and religion separate man from the highest animal by a gulf not yet bridged by any scientific theory.
The doctrine of the common origin of life on earth is but a scientific theory, and should be viewed as such. Clear thinkers will distinguish between the general law of change or evolution accepted by all, and the special theories of evolution which, like all scientific theories, are subject to variation with the increase of knowledge. Honest thinkers will not attempt to confuse law and theory in the minds of laymen. The man, learned or unlearned, who declares the doctrine of the common origin of life on earth to be demonstrated beyond doubt, has yet to master the philosophy of science. The failure to differentiate between facts and inferences is the most grievous and the most common sin of scientists.
This is the trend of thought in the best scientific circles. In the words of Professor Punnett of Cambridge University, scientists "still hold by the theory of evolution, regarding the world of living things as dynamic, and not a static concern." But the interpretation of Darwinism has changed greatly. The theory of evolution "is released today from the necessity of finding a use for everything merely because it exists." More interesting, the glib talk about changing species is subdued. "Species are once more sharply marked off things with hard outlines, and we are faced once more with the problem of their origin as such. The idea of yesterday has become the illusion of today; today's idea may become the illusion of tomorrow" (Punnett, "Forty Years of Evolution Theory," in Background to Modern Science). That is the spirit of science. By slow degrees, among many changes, accepting, rejecting, striving, it may in the distant future reach the correct understanding of final causes.
The majority of the advocates of the theory that all life came from one stock believe that the primeval cell originated by the chance assembling under favorable conditions of the constituent elements of cellular substance. That means that life is only an accidental intruder into the universe. The immediate logical weakness of this view is that if life on earth began by the fortuitous assembling of inorganic materials in a slimy, primitive pool, other equally favorable pools for the generation of life may have existed, thus providing more than one origin of life.
Those who insist that all life on earth has come from one source are almost obliged to rule God out of the picture; for, if a Supreme Being is allowed to create a living cell in the beginning, He may at will create other life at different periods of time. Even believers in God who accept the theory of evolution as a final explanation of the origin of life forms, are inclined to insist that the theory represents God's only method of creation. Nearly always, those who so believe refuse to admit that any other process may also be in operation. They would limit God to one method of operation. Fettering God, or unbelief in Him, or making Him merely a universal super-force, have been usual companions of the theory of evolution (W. W. Keen, I Believe in God and Evolution).
Latter-day Saints accept every scientific fact, but rate theories based upon the facts as human explanations of the facts, likely to change as new facts appear. They do not deny that an evolutionary process, a reflection of the gospel law of progression, may be one of the methods of the Lord's labor in the universe. That does not mean, however, that the Almighty cannot perform other acts of will for the promotion of His plan, as, for example, the special creation of man. God is a purposeful Being; whatever is on earth or in heaven has been designed for the accomplishment of the divine purpose—the welfare of man. The spirit of man, itself intelligent, purposeful, is an eternal pre-existent being. He reaches beyond the confines of earth. He was with God before the earth was made. The theory of evolution does not explain the external man.
Any theory that leaves out God as a personal, purposeful Being, and accepts chance as a first cause, cannot be accepted by Latter-day Saints. The evidence for God is yet greater than for the chance creation of the earth and its inhabitants. Mind and thought shape a work of art from the marble block. More marvelous than any human work of art is man. However he may have risen to his present high estate, it has been by the operation of mind and thought. That man and the whole of creation came by chance is unthinkable. It is equally unthinkable that if man came into being by the will and power of God, the divine creative power is limited to one process dimly sensed by mortal man. The great law of evolution may have many forms of expression, far beyond man's present comprehension.
In fact, the whole squabble about evolution centers upon two questions. Did life on earth come by chance or by divine will? If by divine will, is God limited to one process? These questions are as old as history. The ancients asked them; and those who come after us will ask them.
Here, then, is the answer to the question at the head of this chapter: The law of evolution or change may be accepted fully. It is an established fact so far as human power can determine. It is nothing more or less than the gospel law of progression or its opposite. Joseph Smith taught that men could rise towards Godhood only "by going from one small degree to another, and from a small capacity to a great one; from grace to grace; from exaltation to exaltation." Modern revelation also says, "For I, the Lord God, created all things of which I have spoken, spiritually, before they were naturally upon the face of the earth" (Pearl of Great Price, Moses 3:5), and further that each creation "remaineth in the sphere in which I, God created it" (Pearl of Great Price, Moses 3:9). This last statement suggests limitations placed upon development under the general law of progressive change. The theory of evolution which may contain partial truth, should be looked upon as one of the changing hypotheses of science, man's explanation of a multitude of observed facts. It would be folly to make it the foundation of a life's philosophy. Latter-day Saints build upon something more secure—the operation of God's will, free and untrammelled, among the realities of the Universe.
31. THE CELL THEORY IN QUESTION
Attention has repeatedly been called to the danger of confusing factual and theoretical knowledge—that is, facts of observation with explanations of the facts. Facts remain constant under given conditions; theories usually change with the increase in knowledge. The history of science is replete with evidences of the truth of this statement.
This year is the hundredth anniversary of the formulation of the great and useful theory "that all living matter should be cellular, and that such a cellular structure is a necessary condition for the existence of life." In the midst of the celebration, Professor Basile J. Luyet of St. Louis University (Science, March 15, 1940) calls attention to the fact, by the presentation of laboratory observations, that the accumulated knowledge of the last century indicates that the cell theory is not wholly true, but must be fundamentally modified. Note the following quotations from his paper:
"Theories have often been dangerous because they were held as doctrine; . . . the elaboration of theories, at least in an implicit form, is a necessary and unavoidable procedure in any thinking. To reconcile ourselves with the situation we need only to recognize the necessity of theories but to remember also that they are dangerous tools which should be put in the hands of those only who know enough never to believe in them. The science of thinking consists in knowing how to use these tools, that is, in never admitting any theory except as a possibility. . . .
"A theory is often considered acceptable if it is useful and if it allows one to foresee unknown facts. It is clear, however, that, in the last analysis, we require more than that from a theory; we want it to represent the truth. We are not satisfied in knowing what a thing might be, as proposed by any theory; we want to know what it actually is, and this is proposed by only one theory. When it becomes evident that a theory does not represent the truth, even if it has been useful and is still useful in the discovery of new facts, we abandon it and try a new theory which might have more chance of being the true one. In general, a theory is useful in proportion to its nearness to the truth, but there are examples of theories which have been useful for centuries and finally had to be abandoned as inadequate to explain newly discovered facts; such is the case of the old classical theory of the corpuscular nature of light. In the last analysis, then, the decision as to the acceptance or maintenance of a theory depends only on the answer to the question: Has this theory a chance of being true or not? . . .
"That most plants and animals are made of cells is a well-established fact based on innumerable observations, the first of which is generally attributed to Robert Hooke in 1665. As to the cell theory, it is only one hundred seventy-three years later, in 1838 and 1839, that it was clearly formulated by Schleiden and Schwann.
"How does the theory differ from the fact? Essentially in this: the fact is that most living beings are cellular, and the theory is that all living matter should be cellular; in other words, the fact is that a cellular structure has been observed, and the theory is that such a cellular structure is a necessary condition for the existence of life. . . .
"The essential point . . . is the contention that the more we learn about life, the more the cell theory loses its chances of being true. The discovery, or the more complete observation of a number of facts during the hundred years which have elapsed since the formulation of the cell theory, as well as a more synthetic comprehension of these facts, make it now highly probable that the cell is not the necessary structural unit of any living matter. Like for many old theories, as those on the nature of light, on the nature of electricity, on the structure of matter, etc., the time seems to have come also for the cell theory to pass into the realm of the past. To abandon a theory which no longer agrees with newly studied facts is the only way by which matter-of-fact modern biologists can honor the pioneers who formulated it."
This clear but somewhat technical statement touches the very bottom of the philosophy of science. By the use of his senses man observes and reports the phenomena of the universe in which he lives. Then, driven by his inborn desire to know the truth, he attempts to explain his observations. Why does the sun rise in the east and set in the west? Why is there constant change in nature? With his best available knowledge man attempts to answer these and innumerable other questions. Scientific explanations, products of thoughtful reflection and reasoning upon observed facts, are often nothing more than shrewd guesses or good probabilities. As new facts are obtained, as with the cell theory, the explanations usually change. It should always be remembered that facts of observation are much more trustworthy than the explanations, inferences or theories, of the facts. Many unnecessary difficulties have been set up and much real damage has been done by the careless confusion of facts and inferences. Cocksureness in science is a mark of the immature.
If the cell theory, so unquestioningly accepted for a century, is crumbling, then every theory may well be on trial, and properly so. The true scientist always stands humbly before the inexhaustible ocean of the unknown. That which his senses reveal to him, he may accept; but his explanations of nature he must ever hold in abeyance.
When the credentials of science are examined, the claims of religion seem more credible than ever. In fact, there is good reason to claim for religion a validity far above that of certain corners of science.
32. WHAT IS THE MEANING OF SALVATION?
Before the Church was organized, the Lord said to the Prophet Smith, "there is no gift greater than the gift of salvation." (D. & C. 6:13) This was repeated in several later revelations. On another occasion, also while the young prophet was receiving his preparatory training, the Lord further declared that "eternal life ... is the greatest of all the gifts of God" (D. & C. 14:7). It would appear, therefore, that salvation is eternal life; or that to obtain salvation, one must win eternal life. In the Bible and Book of Mormon, also, eternal life, or everlasting life, is promised those who accept the Lord and His Son Jesus Christ. Life and salvation are forever intertwined. Indeed, our own Church leaders have spoken and speak of the "gospel of life and salvation."
The conception of the meaning of salvation requires a definition of life. Man had a pre-existent state, and will live on throughout eternity. He is immortal. It becomes necessary therefore to distinguish clearly between life as mere existence, and life as something greater that may issue from existence.
Brigham Young has furnished a definition in thrilling words: "Salvation is the full existence of man, of the angels, and the Gods; it is eternal life, the life which was, which is, and that which is to come." Life, then, is more than mere existence; it is "full existence." Life is active, existence is static. Life is warm; existence, cold. Life uses its powers to secure progress; it moves upward. Existence is today where it was yesterday, or lower. Life is the increasing realization of man's highest ideals. The Lord Himself has made clear the distinction, for He said to Moses, "This is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man." (Pearl of Great Price, Moses 1:39) And Jesus, the Christ, made the same distinction when He said, "I am the resurrection, and the life." (John 11:25) Life in contradistinction to existence has always been the objective of Latter-day Saints. Life, implying a future of endless development, is the ultimate goal of the Church.
The Prophet Joseph Smith in his discourses gave added meaning to this definition of salvation. "Salvation," he said, "means a man's being placed beyond the power of all his enemies" (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p 301), and "Salvation is nothing more or less than to triumph over all our enemies and put them under our feet. And, where we have power to put all enemies under our feet in this world, and a knowledge to triumph over all spirits in the world to come, then we are saved, as in the case of Jesus, who was to reign until he had put all enemies under His feet, and the last enemy was death" (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 297). There is no thought of inertia, mere existence, in such words. Instead, these statements imply action, a battle for triumph over enemies without and within.
The conditions which enable man to win eternal life are included in the plan of salvation. In fact, the plan is but a series of invariable, unalterable laws, obedience to each of which increases man's power to triumph over evil. That means that there is knowledge to be acquired (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 297); principles of action to be accepted; ordinances to be received (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pp. 12, 331); duties to be performed through life; and the complete acceptance of Jesus, the Christ (John 17:3); that is, full health of body, mind, and spirit to be won. All this that man "might be raised in immortality unto eternal life" (D. & C. 29:43)
The man who uses his powers in obedience to law to fight all enemies of progress, whether ignorance, temptation, appetites, or personalities, rises above existence; he lives; he is on the way to salvation. For him who does not so use his powers, though he exist, life does not function fully; the light of truth is blotted out; the enemy may defeat him; he is retreating from salvation. Salvation then is conditioned under the divine plan and with divine help, upon the proper exercise of the will of man. Complete salvation, which is full and eternal life, results from man's full endeavor to conform to the laws of life, the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. That is why we often say that men save themselves with the aid of the Lord (D. & C. 29:44, 45).
Since men differ in their obedience to law there must be stages of salvation. Mankind may win any degree of salvation, from mere inert existence, beyond a kingdom of glory, to the celestial kingdom or highest glory. "In my Father's house are many mansions [kingdoms]." (John 14:2) They who use only a part of their pomers, or use them improperly, do not live life fully. Only those who render obedience to all the duties required of them, who are in process of full living, can expect complete salvation. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 332) They become the sons of God. They will be where God and Christ dwell.
If salvation is eternal life as here defined, it may begin on earth, or may have begun in the pre-existent state of man. To the degree that a person uses his powers for progress on earth, and lives fully under the law, he is daily achieving salvation and in a state of salvation. But, the summation of our efforts will be made on the great day of judgment, and will determine the degree of our salvation, our final place in the hereafter.
This meaning of salvation is simple, easily understood. If the body is to be kept healthy, and fit for the work of life, certain definite laws must be obeyed. If the mind is to render full service, it must be properly fed and exercised. If the spirit is to lift man into joy, spiritual tasks must be performed. Only under such conditions of fully functioning powers can full life be lived. If salvation is to be gained, all the powers of life must be used, under the laws of truth, so far as in man's power lies. There must be a coordination of these powers for steady progress. As we seek salvation, an active eternal life, we must prepare ourselves for it by proper activity on earth.
This conception of salvation explains why the activities of the Church on earth enter into every phase of man's life, and why activity must characterize the life to come.
33. WHAT IS THE MEANING OF THE ATONEMENT?
The universe is dual: spiritual and material, composed of "spirit-element" and "matter-element." These two realms are closely interwoven, perhaps of the same ultimate source; yet they are distinct in their nature. Mastery of the universe means acquaintanceship with and control of both of these elemental divisions of the universe in which we live.
All men had a spirit birth, and, before the earth was created, lived in a pre-existent life, often called the first estate. In that existence, the spirit children of God, later to become the men and women of earth, possessed the faculties we enjoy here. They could learn, choose, grow or retrograde even as on earth. God, their Father, provided means for their development, but did not rob them of their free agency. (D. & C. 29:35)
These pre-existent beings possessed only bodies of "spirit-element." Therefore, they were limited to an intimate acquaintanceship with the spirit world. The material world could not be satisfactorily explored, nor known and controlled by beings having only spirit bodies as their means of communication and labor. Nevertheless, their divine destiny was to know the whole universe to which they belonged—to become like their Father. To do this they needed to acquire bodies of "matter-element"—later to become refined and celestialized. Such material bodies would be tools by which the world of matter might be known, and controlled for man's progress.
When God, the Father of the spirits of men, saw that His children were ready for the experiences of the material world, He called them together to discuss their further education. In the great council which followed (Pearl of Great Price, Moses, 4:1-3; Abraham, 3:22-28; D. & C., 29:36; 76:25-29), the Father presented a plan for this further education known as the Plan of Salvation, or the gospel of Jesus Christ. This plan was accepted by two-thirds of the council, and rejected by one-third. There was no chance for neutrality. The plan had to be accepted or not accepted. The sorrow of the opponents to the plan is that they cannot acquire matter-bodies which would give them knowledge and power that they must now be without.
The plan provided that "matter-element" should be collected and made into an earth, as a schoolhouse, upon which the spirits of men might dwell with bodies of earth-element, in pursuit of their preparation for the more complete mastery of the universe. The eldest spirit-son of God, known to us as Jesus, the Christ, was chosen to lead in the execution of the plan; and Adam, another among the chief sons of God, and Eve were chosen to be the first to go down on earth to take upon themselves earth-bodies, and to become the earthly parents and heads of the race of men to be born on earth.
The education of the spirit children of God was to be exacting. For a great gift one must give much. They would go to the earth in forgetfulness of the past, depending upon their own free agency, to be clothed in bodies of "earth-element," provided by their earthly parents; subject to the conditions of earth, instead of the perfected state of their spirit home.
More terrifying was another requirement. Sometime in their earth career their earth-bodies would be separated from their spirit-bodies, in a process called death, and they would for a time be so separated until divine forces acting under a higher law, would reunite the earth-body, purified and celestialized for an eternal existence, with the spirit-body, which, because it is a child of God, is also eternal. All this was planned for the education of man, and to insure his eternal progress amidst the elements and forces of the universe.
Clearly, the processes involved in the operation of the plan are beyond the full comprehension of man. Yet enough has been revealed to make the essentials of man's entrance upon earth, and progress in the hereafter, understandable to the human mind.
To subject an eternal being to the dominion of "earth-element"—that is, to forgetfulness, the many vicissitudes of earth, and eventual death—appeared to be a descent in power and station. The first man, to bring himself under such dominion and domination would have to break, or set aside, an established law; but unless this were done, the plan could not be inaugurated. Man, made to walk upright, must bend his back through the tunnel through the mountain which leads to a beautiful valley. Adam and Eve accepted the call to initiate the plan, and subjected themselves to earth conditions. That was the so-called fall of Adam, an act necessary for the winning of bodies of earth-element by man, and for the fulfilment of divine law. (Pearl of Great Price, Moses, 4:7-13; 5:10, 11) Just how this "fall" was accomplished is not known, and probably cannot be understood by the mortal mind. One thing must be kept in mind: The fall was not a sin in the usually accepted sense of that word. It was a necessary act in a series of acts by which ultimately all men will win an eternal possession of their earth-bodies. In the gospel sense, the fall of Adam brought life, not death, into man's eternal existence.
Here then, would be the condition of man after he had acquired an "earthly body" and then was separated from it by the process called death: He was rich in earth experience but without the earth-body to be used by him as an eternal tool to help him win his place among the realities of the universe. The "fall of Adam" had made possible the earth experience, but another act was necessary to restore to the eternal spirit the body of the earth, purified and fitted for eternal life. Someone had to secure this reunion of body and spirit and fit the body for eternal existence. Someone must cancel out the effect of the fall.
It was one of the tasks of Jesus Christ to accomplish this return of body to spirit. He was born of a mortal woman, but begotten by God, an Eternal Being. Hence, He was both man and God, of earth and of heaven. By His death and subsequent resurrection, the bodies of all men, laid in the grave by Adam's act, were or will be raised into eternal life. In this matter he atoned for the "fall."
The death of Jesus, who had immortality within His reach, was not as the death of mortal men. Just how His death brought about the resurrection is not known, and, as with the "fall," is probably beyond human understanding.
Yet, vicarious acts, faintly comparable to the vicarious acts of Jesus and Adam, appear in daily life. One man may for certain purposes cut the wires that supply a city with light, leaving multitudes to find their way in darkness. Another man may reunite the wires, and again flood the city with light. The cutting of the wires, and especially the reuniting of them, is often done with peril to life.
Jesus died that men, all men, may recover their earthly bodies from the grave. Despite our frailties, follies, or sins, our bodies will be raised from the grave and given to the waiting spirits. Every person born into the world will be so resurrected. The effect of Adam's act is cancelled out by Jesus, by His willingness to pass through death and the resurrection.
Men must do many things to win salvation in the kingdom of God. Jesus, the Christ, as head of the plan of salvation, under His Father, has many duties besides the resurrection of the bodies of humanity to perform for the blessing of man; and consequently has many titles. He is known as our Elder Brother, our Redeemer, our Advocate with the Father each title referring to a special service for man and meriting special discussion. His compensation for Adam's necessary act, by which He brought about the resurrection, is the most direct meaning of His title, Redeemer.
The "fall" of Adam and the atonement of Jesus Christ are necessary key concepts of the gospel. Christianity stands or falls with them. Neither of these concepts can be understood except as they are placed in their proper places in the whole plan of Salvation. Yet we know that they were equally necessary, as are the beginning and end of a journey.
Adam and Eve, who began the earth work in sacrifice and courage, are the greatest and noblest of the human race. Jesus, the Christ, our Master and Brother, who gave His very life for man, is the great divine Leader of the plan formulated by God for man's good. In His name, through the appointment of the Father, are done all things pertaining to the earth and the race of men.
(Read President John Taylor's The Mediation and Atonement of Our Lord, Jesus Christ.)
34. WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE HOLY SPIRIT AND THE HOLY GHOST?
The Holy Spirit is the agent, means, or influence by which the will, power, and intelligence of God, and the Godhead, personal Beings, may be transmitted throughout space. The Holy Spirit, variously called the Spirit of God, the Light of Christ, the Spirit of Truth, proceeds from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space. It is a spirit of intelligence that permeates the universe and gives understanding to the spirits of men. The phenomena of existence are but expressions of this divine medium.
By the Holy Spirit, the Lord is in communication with all His children and can touch their hearts everywhere. It "giveth light to every man that cometh into the world; and the Spirit enlighteneth every man through the world, that hearkeneth to the voice of the Spirit. And every one that hearkeneth to the voice of the Spirit cometh unto God, even the Father." (D. & C. 84:46, 47) Enlightenment, direction, warning, reproof, and approval come to man from the loving Father of humankind, through the agency of the Holy Spirit.
The phenomena of nature, whether on earth or in stellar fields, are manifestations of the Holy Spirit. The light from the sun, heat, electricity, thunder, lightning, the placidly flowing brook and the raging torrent are expressions of the divine will, through the operations of this holy, universe-filling influence.
And the light which shineth, which giveth you light, is through him who enlighteneth your eyes, which is the same light that quickeneth your understandings;
Which light proceedeth forth from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space—
The light which is in all things, which giveth life to all things, which is the law by which all things are governed, even the power of God who sitteth upon his throne, who is in the bosom of eternity, who is in the midst of all things. (D. & C. 88:11-13)
The Holy Ghost, sometimes called the Comforter, is the third member of the Godhead, and is a personage, distinct from the Holy Spirit. As a personage, the Holy Ghost cannot any more than the Father and Son be everywhere present in person. Little has been revealed as yet concerning the Holy Ghost; but it is evident that His mission is to bear witness to men of the existence of God and the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and also to fill men with knowledge and power and to inspire them to works leading to happiness. "The Comforter beareth record of the Father and of the Son." The labors assigned to this member of the Godhead are high and holy, and necessary for man's eternal progress. It seems not improbable that He uses the Holy Spirit to perform His labors.
The presence and power of the Holy Ghost are promised all who have faith in God, repent of their sins, are baptized for the remission of their sins, and have hands laid upon them by constituted authority in the Priesthood. The act of confirmation of the newly baptized person always includes the words, "Receive the Holy Ghost." It is the baptism of fire, the great gift, the reward for obedience to the preparatory ordinances of the gospel.
The gift of the Holy Ghost confers upon a person the right to receive, as he may desire and need, the presence, light, and intelligence of the Holy Ghost. It gives, as it were, an official claim upon the mighty assistance and comforting assurance of the Holy Ghost. When the servants of the Lord display a spiritual power beyond the command of man; when the grief-laden heart beats with joy; when failure is converted into victory, it is by the visitation of the Holy Ghost. It is the Spirit of God under the direction of the Holy Ghost that quickeneth all things.
The gift of the Holy Ghost remains inoperative unless a person leads a worthy life. Worthiness determines whether a person shall enjoy the privileges promised when the "gift" is conferred. It is useless to expect this high official assistance unless there is daily conformity to the laws of the gospel. In addition, faith and prayer, out of the heart and unceasing, are required to fit a person for the presence of the Holy Ghost. To such a life He will respond in power. Only those who "hearken" will be enlightened by the spirit.
Latter-day Saints have received, under the hands of those divinely empowered, this inexpressibly glorious "gift," which will lead them if they are fitted, into the companionship of the Holy Ghost, and win for them intelligence and power to win joy in life and exaltation in the world to come. Those who have been so blessed have not always understood the greatness of that which has been given them, or have not earnestly sought its help. So powerful a gift, with such boundless promise, justifies every attempt to cleanse body and soul. Certain it is, that only with the aid of the Holy Ghost shall we be able to rise to the heights of salvation of which we dream and for which we pray.
35. CAN THE PRIESTHOOD FUNCTION INDEPENDENTLY OF THE CHURCH?
Priesthood means, in its largest sense, the power of God. It is therefore "an everlasting principle, and existed with God from eternity, and will to eternity, without beginning of days or end of years." (Teachings of Joseph Smith, the Prophet, p. 157.)
The Church of Jesus Christ, "the only true and living Church" (Doctrine and Covenants, 1:30) is the organization of men and women, divinely commissioned to carry forward on earth the eternal plan of salvation for the human family. The Church derives its authority and power from the Priesthood which has been conferred upon it; Priesthood is its foundation. "It shall not be given to anyone to go forth to preach my Gospel, or to build up my church, except he be ordained by someone who has authority." (Doctrine and Covenants, 42:11.) The Priesthood authority committed to the Church is sufficient to perform all and every labor in connection with the work of the Lord on earth. Priesthood "is the authority by which the Church is established or organized, built up and governed, and by which the Gospel is preached, and all the ordinances thereof designed for the salvation of mankind are administered or solemnized." (President Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine, p. 237.)
At times, when the Church, through the wickedness of men, has not existed on earth, the Lord has nevertheless conferred the Priesthood on righteous men, prophets of old. Under such circumstances, the Priesthood has been obliged to function in a limited manner independently of the Church. However, since the Church represents the Lord on earth, whenever the Church exists, any and every person who holds the Priesthood must exercise his power under the laws and authority of the Church. Then, no Priesthood power is recognized on earth outside of the Church. No matter how much Priesthood a man has received, it is null and void, powerless and unacceptable to the Lord, unless the man has full fellowship in the Church of God.
This doctrine is well supported by events connected with the restoration of the Church of Christ in these days. On April 6, 1830, when the Church was organized, the Prophet Joseph Smith and his associate, Oliver Cowdery, who had previously received the Melchizedek Priesthood, were ordained Elders in the newly formed Church. Only then could the power delegated to them be made to function acceptably to the Lord. It should be remembered that offices in the Priesthood, such as Elder, Seventy, or High Priest, appear only in connection with the organized Church.
President Joseph F. Smith made the principle clear in one of his discourses:
And I know this, that God has organized His Church in the earth, and I know that when He designs or purposes to make any change in the matter of governing or controlling or presiding over the affairs of His Church, that He will make the change, and He will make it in such a way that the whole people of the Church, who are doing right, will understand and accept it. I know that the Lord will not raise up "Tom, Dick, or Harry," here, there, and everywhere, claiming to be Christ, or "one mighty and strong," claiming to be inspired and called to do some wonderful thing. The Lord will not deal with men in that way; that while the organization of the Church exists, while quorums and councils of the Priesthood are intact in the Church, the Lord will reveal His purposes through them, and not through "Tom, Dick, or Harry." Put that in your little note books now, and remember it; it is true." (Gospel Doctrine, p. 45.)
36. WHAT IS THE DISTINCTION BETWEEN THE PRIESTHOOD AND THE KEYS OF THE PRIESTHOOD?
A key unlocks the door to our house, or the cover of our jewelbox, or the ignition of our automobile. Without the key, we cannot have access to the house, possess the jewels, or drive the car. Our property is inactive, awaiting the coming of the key. A man, likewise, holds the Priesthood by which all the work in the Church is accomplished, but he can use it in certain Church activities only when the necessary keys are conferred upon him.
Further, a man who owns a car may not be allowed, because of police orders, to drive down certain streets. Similarly, a man may receive the Priesthood, but can exercise its power, within the Church, only by the authority of the proper officials.
On his own property and on open streets the man may drive his car without question. Similarly, in behalf of himself and his family, and for the general good, a man may exercise his Priesthood without reference to the official body of the Church.
They who have the right to say when, where, and how the Priesthood shall be used for the Church have keys of authority. They may give similar authority or keys to others.
Every priest has the authority to administer the sacrament; every elder has the authority to baptize; but neither can so officiate in the activities of a ward unless called to do so by the bishop who holds the keys of authority for the ward.
Every high priest has the authority to preside, but cannot preside over any stake organization without being called to do so by the stake president, who holds the keys of authority for the stake.
All members of a Priesthood quorum hold equal Priesthood authority, but in the president of the quorum is vested the authority to use the Priesthood for quorum purposes, for he holds the keys of authority for the quorum.
A seventy by virtue of his Priesthood has authority to preach the gospel, but he cannot fill a mission unless he is called by the proper officers of the Church, and set apart for that purpose—that is, unless the keys of that ministry are conferred upon him, within his specific field, by those who hold the general keys of spreading the gospel abroad, and can confer them on others.
Therefore, it is customary and proper in ordaining or setting apart men to presiding offices to confer upon them the associated keys of authority. If in ordaining a man to the office of elder, seventy, or high priest, the keys of authority are conferred, it means that henceforth he has full right to the use of the power committed to him to meet his own needs, and in guarding and blessing his own family, and all who have need of help. But, when men are called to specific offices of responsibility, the corresponding keys of authority are conferred, even though the man already holds the Priesthood.
President Joseph F. Smith has drawn the clear distinction between the Priesthood and the keys of the Priesthood:
The Priesthood in general is the authority given to man to act for God. Every man ordained to any degree of the Priesthood has this authority delegated to him.
But it is necessary that every act performed under this authority shall be done at the proper time and place, in the proper way, and after the proper order. The power of directing these labors constitutes the keys of the Priesthood. In their fulness, the keys are held by only one person at a time, the prophet and president of the Church. He may delegate any portion of this power to another, in which case that person holds the keys of that particular labor. Thus, the president of a temple, the president of a stake, the bishop of a ward, the president of a mission, the president of a quorum, each holds the keys of the labors performed in that particular body or locality. His Priesthood is not increased by this special appointment, for a seventy who presides over a mission has no more Priesthood than a seventy who labors under his direction; and the president of an elders' quorum, for example, has no more Priesthood than any member of that quorum. But he holds the power of directing the official labors performed in the mission or the quorum, or in other words, the keys of that division of that work. So it is throughout all the ramifications of the Priesthood—a distinction must be carefully made between the general authority, and the directing the labors performed by that authority (Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine, pp. 168-9).
37. WHEN DOES A PROPHET SPEAK AS A PROPHET?
This is an old question. It was asked of the Prophet Joseph Smith and answered by him. He writes in his journal, "This morning ... I visited with a brother and sister from Michigan, who thought that 'a prophet is always a prophet'; but I told them that a prophet is a prophet only when he was acting as such" (Joseph Smith, History of the Church, 5:265).
That statement makes a clear distinction between official and unofficial actions and utterances of officers of the Church. In this recorded statement the Prophet Joseph Smith recognizes his special right and duty, as the President and Prophet of the Church, under the inspiration of the Lord, to speak authoritatively and officially for the enlightenment and guidance of the Church. But he claims also the right, as other men, to labor and rest, to work and play, to visit and discuss, to present his opinions and hear the opinion of others, to counsel and bless as a member of the Church.
Whenever moved upon by the Spirit of the Lord, the man called to the Prophet's office assumes the prophetic mantle and speaks as a mouthpiece of the Lord. He may then interpret the word of God, apply it to the conditions of the day, governmental, social, or economic, warn against impending evil, point out the better way, bring to light new truth, or bless the righteous in their endeavors. Such inspired deliverances are binding upon all who believe that the latter-day work came and is directed by revelation. There is no appeal from them; no need for debate concerning their validity. They must either be accepted or be subjected to the dangers of private interpretation. This has been made plain in modern revelation: "Wherefore, meaning the church, thou shalt give heed unto all his (Joseph's) words and commandments which he shall give unto you as he receiveth them, walking in all holiness before me;
"For his word ye shall receive, as if from mine own mouth, in all patience and faith" (D. & C. 21:4, 5). In this commandment there is no limitation upon the prophet, as to subject, time, or place.
Such official prophetic utterances to the Church are usually made in the great general conferences of the Church, or in signed statements circulated among the people. The phrase "Thus sayeth the Lord" may at times be used; but is not necessary. When the prophet speaks to the people in an official gathering or over his signature, he speaks as the Lord directs him. If a new doctrine or practice be involved in the revelation, it is presented to the people for acceptance, in recognition of the free agency of the Church itself, but once accepted, it is thereafter binding upon every member.
Though the prophet may step out of his official role in dealing with the daily affairs of life, he can never divest himself of the spirit and influence which belong to the sacred office which the Lord has placed upon him. The faith and readiness to do the work of the Lord which fitted him for his high office, shape his life in harmony with the eternal principles and purposes of the gospel. Though often humble by the world's measure, in gifts and ability, he lives under inspired guidance, which makes him great among men, and therefore, his unofficial expressions carry greater weight than the opinions of other men of equal or greater gifts and experience but without the power of the prophetic office. It would be wisdom on all occasions and with respect to all subjects in any field of human activity, to hearken to the prophet's voice. There is safety and ultimate happiness in following the counsel that may be received from the prophet.
Men are called to the prophetic office because of their humility and their willingness to be in the hands of the Lord as clay in the hands of the potter. Yet a man called to the prophetic office is almost without exception of high native endowment, often with large experience in life, and possessed of wisdom and sound judgment. That is, the prophet, though but a man, is an able man, rising in ability above the multitude. An examination of sacred history from Adam to the present will show that able men, in the words of Jethro, men "such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness" (Exodus 18:21), have been called to the prophetic office. The unofficial views and expressions of such a man with respect to any vital subject, should command respectful attention. Wise men seek the counsel of those wiser or abler than themselves.
Every member of the Church, and all men for that matter, would do well to give heed, and indeed should do so, to any public utterance or to the unofficial counsel of the man who has been called to the office of prophet. One cannot limit him by saying that on some subjects pertaining to human welfare he may not speak. The spiritual and the temporal have ever been blended in the Church of Christ. Obedience to the counsels of the prophet brings individual and collective power and joy. Of all men, the prophet of the Lord should, at all times, have most influence with the Latter-day Saints. No other cause can be greater than that of the Church of Christ.
How may the rank and file of the Church recognize the prophetic voice, whether official or unofficial, when it speaks? The answer is simple enough. A person who is in harmony in his life, in thought and practice, with the gospel and its requirements, who loves truth so well that he is willing to surrender to it, will recognize a message from the Lord. My sheep know my voice, said the Savior in the Meridian of Time. In this day, the Lord has given the key for our guidance.
Verily I say unto you, he that is ordained of me and sent forth to preach the word of truth by the Comforter, in the Spirit of truth, doth he preach it by the Spirit of truth or some other way?
And if it be by some other way it is not of God.
And again, he that receiveth the word of truth, doth he receive it by the Spirit of truth or some other way?
If it be some other way it is not of God.
Therefore, why is it that you cannot understand and know, that he that receiveth the word by the Spirit of truth receiveth it as it is preached by the Spirit of truth?
Wherefore, he that preacheth and he that receiveth, understand one another, and both are edified and rejoice together. And that which doth not edify is not of God, and is darkness. (D. & C. 50:17-23)
Thus the burden of proof is upon the hearer, not alone upon the speaker. Whoever quibbles about the validity of a message of the prophet would do well to engage in a serious self-examination. Is the trouble with him? Perhaps he is not "in tune" with truth. Perhaps he does not live the law of the gospel in such manner as to respond to the message of truth. President Joseph F. Smith declared that those who honor their own Priesthood first, will honor it in those who preside over them (President Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine, p. 207). That doctrine may be applied when the prophet speaks to the Church or to the world.
Acceptance of the teachings of the prophet does not violate the right of free agency; but rather enhances it. The Lord expects every man to solve, as far as possible, his own problems with the knowledge and power given him. Yet, divine help is often offered to mortal man who labors under the severe limitations of earth life. Every revelation from the Lord is for the increasing welfare of mankind. Always, however, men retain the right to accept or reject the offered gift. Membership in the Church itself is voluntary; is never forced upon a person. Nevertheless, such membership includes the acceptance of a series of principles and ordinances, among them the presence of a prophet to stand as the Lord's spokesman to the Church. When therefore, a Latter-day Saint yields adherence to the Prophet's advice, he merely uses the free agency which led him to membership in the Church. He does not thereby renounce his free agency; instead he reinforces his claim upon it. He follows the prophet because he chooses to do so in view of the doctrine and constitution of the Church in which he voluntarily claims membership. When he fails to give his consent to the prophet's teachings, he limits, reduces, and removes the free agency which brought him into the Church.
In the daily lives of Latter-day Saints it is best to listen carefully to the counsel of the prophet concerning any subject upon which he speaks, whether technically official or unofficial. Note the words of Brigham Young:
The Lord Almighty leads this Church, and He will not suffer you to be led astray if you are found doing your duty. You may go home and sleep as sweetly as a babe in its mother's arms, as to any danger of your leaders leading you astray, for if they should try to do so the Lord would quickly sweep them from the earth. Your leaders are trying to live their religion as far as they are capable of doing so. (Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 212)
That is as true today as in the days of President Young.
38. DID THE NEPHITES HAVE THE HIGHER PRIESTHOOD BEFORE THE COMING OF CHRIST?
There is no direct answer to this question in the Book of Mormon. Yet, the events recorded in the Nephite scriptures indicate that the Higher Priesthood was among the Nephites prior to the coming of Christ.
The Nephites were descendants of Manasseh, the son of Joseph of Egypt. (Book of Mormon, 1 Nephi 5:14-16; Alma 10:3) The Nephite Priesthood therefore differed from the Levitical Priesthood which was assigned to the sons of Levi, the brother of Joseph.
Lehi, father of the Nephites, held the Priesthood, for, while yet in the wilderness, he and his family offered sacrifice and burnt offerings, priestly ordinances of the Church before the coming of Christ. (1 Nephi 5:9) Nephi, the son of Lehi, also held the Priesthood, probably conferred by his father. Nephi in turn ordained two of his brothers, Jacob and Joseph, to the Priesthood. "They should be priests and teachers over the land of my people." (2 Nephi 5:26) The elder and younger Alma (Alma 5:3), several of the latter's sons, and Nephi, the son of Helaman, together with many others, some of whom are not mentioned by name, held the Priesthood even to the coming of Christ. (2 Nephi 18:2; 25:4; Alma 30:20, 23; 46:38) At no time, it would seem, were the Nephites without the Priesthood.
It would appear that not every man held the Priesthood, yet it must have been rather widely distributed. Mosiah records that there was "one priest to every fifty of their number." (Mosiah 18:18) Every Church unit was presided over by the Priesthood. (Mosiah 25:21)
The nature of the Nephite Priesthood is gathered from various statements made by Book of Mormon characters. Jacob, the brother of Nephi, declared that he had been "called of God, and ordained after the manner of his holy order." (2 Nephi 6:2) Alma, the younger, says, "I am called ... according to the holy order of God, which is in Christ Jesus" (Alma 5:44), and he later states that he confined himself wholly to the High Priesthood of "the holy order of God." (Alma 49:30) This holy order was "after the order of his Son." (Alma 13:2; Helaman 8:18) The "holy order of God," especially when coupled with the order of the Son of God, has always been held to refer to the Melchizedek or High Priesthood. (D. & C. 77:11; 84:19)
Alma was a high priest. (Alma 8:23) His sons were ordained high priests, and also many others. (Alma 46:6; Helaman 3:25) Since there were many Nephite high priests, this office in the Priesthood could not refer to the one high priest, of the order of Aaron, required to stand at the head of the Lesser Priesthood. It is clear that Alma cited in his famous sermon (Alma 13) the story of earlier high priests of the Melchizedek order, to explain and to emphasize his own calling. The existence of numerous high priests is thus another evidence that the Higher Priesthood was among the Nephites.
Under the authority of the Priesthood, the Nephites performed baptisms from the days of the first Nephi. (Mosiah 18:13-16; Alma 5:3; 15:13; 48:19) Now, baptism is by itself an incomplete ordinance. Its full value comes when it is followed by the reception of the gift of the Holy Ghost. Numerous references in the Book of Mormon indicate that the Holy Ghost was received by those who had been baptized. For example: "The gate by which ye should enter is repentance and baptism by water; and then cometh a remission of your sins by fire and by the Holy Ghost." (2 Nephi 31:17) "He that is baptized ... him will the Father give the Holy Ghost ... baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost." (2 Nephi 31:12, 14) Alma likewise says that he had labored "without ceasing" to bring souls unto repentance "that they might also be born of God, and be filled with the Holy Ghost." (Alma 36:24)
The ordinance of baptism could be administered by holders of the Lesser Priesthood (priests), but the conferring of the Holy Ghost requires the authority of the Higher Priesthood. Again the conclusion seems warranted that the Nephites had the Higher Priesthood.
President Brigham H. Roberts came to the same conclusion in his comprehensive study of the Book of Mormon. He says:
Lehi held the Priesthood...the higher priesthood, which was after the order of Melchizedek, and was a prophet and minister of righteousness. This, Lehi conferred upon his son, Nephi; and Nephi, shortly after his separation from his elder brothers on the land of promise, consecrated his two younger brothers, Jacob and Joseph, to be priests and teachers unto his people. (Roberts,New Witnesses for God,vol. 2, p. 219)
Undoubtedly, various offices in the Priesthood were recognized by the Nephites. Teachers, priests, and high priests are specifically mentioned in the Book of Mormon. The terms teachers and priests probably refer to offices in the Lesser Priesthood; and the term high priest to an office in the Higher Priesthood. The Priesthood organization of the Nephites may not have been just as it is today, but it was such as to meet the needs of the people of that day. The Priesthood itself was, of course, the same.
39. WHO IS ELIAS AND WHAT IS HIS MISSION?
At the dedication of the Kirtland Temple in April, 1836, several ancient prophets appeared and delivered their keys of authority to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery. Among these worthies was Elias, who "committed the dispensation of the gospel of Abraham, saying that in us and our seed all generations after us should be blessed."(D. & C. 110:12; see also, Matthew 17:1-13) From this reference to "the dispensation of the gospel of Abraham,"it has been concluded that Elias was a prophet who lived near the time of the patriarch, Abraham. Really, nothing more definite is known about the person Elias and his activity on earth. It is very evident that he was a personage of importance, for he held the "keys" of authority in a mission of vital importance in carrying out on earth the plan of salvation.
More is known about the nature of the mission of Elias. In a revelation to the Prophet, in August, 1830, it is stated that the Lord has committed to Elias "the keys of bringing to pass the restoration of all things spoken by the mouth of all the holy prophets since the world began, concerning the last days."(D. & C.27:6) In the same revelation it is stated that the angel who visited Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist, promised "that he should be filled with the spirit of Elias." (D. & C. 26:7; see also, Luke 1:17) Now, it has been made clear from a later revelation that the mission of John was "to prepare them [the Jews and others] for the coming of the Lord." (D. & C.84:28; see also, Luke 1:5-17; John 1:19-28) It is concluded from this and other passages (D. & C.77:9, 14) that the mission and spirit of the prophet Elias are to do the necessary preparatory work whenever the gospel dispensation or period is about to be opened. This is in full accord with the teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith that "The spirit of Elias is to prepare the way for a greater revelation of God, which is the Priesthood of Elias, or the Priesthood that Aaron was ordained unto. And when God sends a man into the world to prepare for a greater work, holding the keys of the power of Elias, it was called the doctrine of Elias...." (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pp. 335, 336)
This understanding of the mission and spirit of Elias has led many writers, ancient and modern, to speak of any person charged with preparatory work, one who goes before, as an Elias. Thus, John the Baptist was an Elias in his work as a forerunner of the Christ. Similarly, each personage, from Moroni to those appearing in the Kirtland Temple, who introduced the present, last dispensation of the gospel, may be spoken of as an Elias. Elias, then, is often used as a title, as the titles of bishop, prophet, or president are used, betokening a special position, mission, service, power, or authority. With this in mind, many otherwise obscure scriptural passages may be understood. (D. & C. 77:9, 14; Revelation 7:2, 3; 10:1-11)
The names Elijah and Elias are but variations of one original name. Therefore, in many languages these names are translated alike, as Elias. This has tended to confuse many gospel students who do not use English Bibles as to the personality of Elias. Indeed, Elias and Elijah have been made to appear as one person. Yet it should not be so, for many different men in various historical periods may have borne the same name. For example, the Baptist and the Revelator were both named John.
We do know that Elias was a mighty man of God charged in his day with a most important mission. We know also that any man who may be called to prepare the way for the consummation of the Lord's purposes is engaged in the mission of Elias, and therefore may be called an Elias.
It should be said that some students believe that Elias who appeared in the Kirtland Temple was Noah, the patriarch. Modern revelation informs us that Elias visited Zacharias to inform him that he should have a son known later as John the Baptist. (D. & C. 27:7) The Bible says that it was the angel Gabriel who visited Zacharias. (Luke 1:19) Joseph Smith said that Gabriel is Noah. These students conclude, therefore, that Elias is another name or title for Noah. This inference may or may not be correct. The name Gabriel may be borne by more than one personage or it may be a title as in the case of Elias. When Elias, the man, lived, and what he did in his life, must for the present remain in the field of conjecture.
40. WHO ARE THE SONS OF LEVI, AND WHAT IS THEIR FUTURE OFFERING IN RIGHTEOUSNESS?
The sons of Levi are the male members of the tribe of Levi, descendants of Levi, the third son of the patriarch, Jacob.
While ancient Israel journeyed in the Sinaitic wilderness, they showed themselves unworthy to hold the higher or Melchizedek Priesthood. Consequently the Lord took this Priesthood from them, but allowed the lesser Priesthood to remain. (D. & C. 84:23-37)
This lesser Priesthood that remained was confined to the male members of the tribe of Levi; therefore, it is often spoken of as the Levitical Priesthood. Aaron, of the tribe of Levi, and his sons, were called to the office of priest, that is to the presidency of this Priesthood; therefore, it is also called the Aaronic Priesthood. The organization of the lesser Priesthood under the Mosaic dispensation must have been much like that of this day. Aaron and his sons served in offices similar to the priests and were so specifically designated. The other male members of the tribe of Levi served in offices similar to the teachers and deacons of this dispensation of the gospel. This seems to be borne out by the words of the Lord to Moses when the Levitical organization was perfected:
... from twenty and five years old and upward they shall go in and wait upon the service of the tabernacle of the congregation:
And from the age of fifty years they shall cease waiting upon the service thereof, and shall serve no more:
But shall minister with their brethren in the tabernacle of the congregation, to keep the charge, and shall do no service. (Numbers 8:24-26)
The presiding priest, called the high priest, probably served as does the presiding bishop of our times. This is the view taken by President John Taylor. (Items on Priesthood)
The activities of the lesser Priesthood among ancient Israel were designated to meet the needs and conditions then existing. The law of bloody sacrifice or burnt offerings, in witness of the coming Savior, was in operation from this time until the coming of Jesus, the Christ. The Levites performed the labors and ordinances pertaining to this law. Explicit directions for the duties of the Levites are found in the Books of Moses. In course of time, the ordinances under the Levitical law became largely corrupted and unacceptable to the Lord. Only a few of the Levites held the true authority of the Priesthood. At the coming of the Savior, John the Baptist held the keys of the Aaronic Priesthood, that is, he was the presiding officer of that Priesthood.
On May 15, 1829, this John the Baptist appeared to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, and conferred upon them the "Priesthood of Aaron," that is, the keys of the lesser Priesthood. In so doing he declared that this Priesthood "shall never be taken again from the earth, until the sons of Levi do offer again an offering unto the Lord in righteousness." (D. & C. 13)
It does not seem probable that this offering will be a burnt offering. The coming of Christ ended the Mosaic law. The earlier sacrifices were in similitude of the coming sacrifice of Jesus, the Christ. After His crucifixion, death, and resurrection, the sacrament was instituted to keep His sacrifice in constant living memory.
It seems more probable that the "offering in righteousness," which will terminate the functions of the sons of Levi under the Levitical Priesthood, will be the full acceptance of the gospel, when their Priesthood will come under the direction of the higher or Melchizedek Priesthood.
This view seems borne out by Latter-day revelation. In the Doctrine and Covenants, section 84, verse 27, it is stated that this Priesthood the Lord caused "to continue with the house of Aaron among the children of Israel until John." This suggests a termination with the coming of Christ. In section 124, verse 39, where the work of the modern temples is summarized, "memorials for your sacrifices by the sons of Levi" are mentioned as part of the temple service. No provision has been made in the temples for the ancient type of burnt offerings, and the word memorials would seem to exclude such an interpretation. A more explicit suggestion is found in section 128:
For he is like a refiner's fire, and like fuller's soap; and he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness. Let us, therefore, as a church and a people, and as Latter-day Saints, offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness; and let us present in his holy temple, when it is finished, a book containing the records of our dead, which shall be worthy of all acceptation. (D. & C. 128:24)
The "offering in righteousness" is here identified with temple work for the salvation of the dead, which encompasses all the principles of the plan of salvation.
When, therefore, the sons of Levi accept Christ and His gospel, subject themselves to the ordinances of the Church, and become active in gospel requirements, they will offer the offering in righteousness of which has been spoken.
Though the type of sacrifice connected with the Levitical Priesthood is no more, yet the law of sacrifice remains. The Prophet Joseph Smith made it clear that sacrifice is ever a part of the gospel. In the restored Church, this law is in full operation. None can retain the spirit of the gospel unless he gives to the cause of the Lord of himself, of his substance, time and strength. (Joseph Smith, History of the Church, 4:207-212)
41. WHO IS THE MAN LIKE UNTO MOSES?
In the early days of the Church, persecution raged against the Saints in Jackson County, Missouri. For the comfort of the people, the Lord gave several revelations. In one He promised, "I will raise up unto my people a man, who shall lead them like as Moses led the children of Israel." (D. & C. 103:16) There have been many conjectures concerning this statement. There have even been misguided men who have declared themselves to be this man "like as Moses."
Yet, the meaning as set forth in the scriptures, is very simple. In modern revelation the President of the Church is frequently compared to Moses. Soon after the organization of the Church, the Lord said, "no one shall be appointed to receive commandments and revelations in this church excepting my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., for he receiveth them even as Moses." (D. & C. 28:2) In one of the great revelations upon Priesthood, this is more specifically expressed: "the duty of the President of the office of the High Priesthood is to preside over the whole church, and to be like unto Moses." (D. & C. 107:91)
The discussion of this question among the Saints, led to the following statement in the Times and Seasons (6:922) by John Taylor, then the editor: "The President [of the Church] stands in the Church as Moses did to the children of Israel, according to the revelations."
The man like unto Moses in the Church is the President of the Church.
42. IN THE EVENT OF THE DEATH OF THE PRESIDENT OF THE CHURCH, WHY DOES THE COUNCIL OF THE TWELVE APOSTLES TAKE OVER THE PRESIDENCY OF THE CHURCH?
The Twelve Apostles "form a quorum, equal in authority and power" to the First Presidency. (D. & C. 107:23, 24)
This doctrine was amplified in a revelation concerning the Twelve Apostles:
For unto you, the Twelve, and those, the First Presidency, who are appointed with you to be your counselors and your leaders, is the power of this priesthood given, for the last days and for the last time, in the which is the dispensation of the fulness of times.
Which power you hold, in connection with all those who have received a dispensation at any time from the beginning of the creation; For verily I say unto you, the keys of the dispensation, which ye have received, have come down from the fathers, and last of all, being sent down from heaven unto you. (D. & C. 112:30-32)
This authority of the quorum of the Twelve Apostles was frequently referred to by the Prophet Joseph Smith. He said: [I] "next proceeded to explain the duty of the Twelve, and their authority which is next to the present Presidency." (Joseph Smith, History of the Church 2:373) Later he said: "The time has come when the Twelve should be called upon to stand in their place next to the First Presidency." (Times and Seasons 2:521) He also said to the Twelve Apostles: "Now, if they kill me, you have all the keys, and all the ordinances, and you can confer them upon others, and the hosts of Satan will not be able to tear down the Kingdom as fast as you will be able to build it up; and upon your shoulders will the responsibility of leading this people rest." (Times and Seasons 5:651)
The counselors in the presidency lose their presiding authority when the President of the Church dies. In the words of the Prophet: "The Twelve are not subject to any other than the First Presidency, ... and where I am not, there is no First Presidency over the Twelve." (Joseph Smith History of the Church 2:374)
43. WHAT IS THE MEANING OF THE TITLE, "PROPHET, SEER, AND REVELATOR"?
The President of the Church is sustained by the people as "Prophet, Seer, and Revelator, and President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints." This is in compliance with the revealed word of God. The first revelation received by Joseph Smith after the organization of the Church on April 6, 1830, specifically declares that "there shall be a record kept among you; and in it thou shalt be called a seer, a translator, a prophet, an apostle of Jesus Christ, an elder of the church through the will of God the Father, and the grace of your Lord Jesus Christ." (D. & C. 21:1)
This was reiterated by revelation in 1835: "the President of the office of the High Priesthood is to preside over the whole church, ... yea, to be a seer, a revelator, a translator, and a prophet, having all the gifts of God which he bestows upon the head of the church." (D. & C. 107:91, 92) and was further restated in 1841: "I give upon you my servant Joseph to be a presiding elder over all my church, to be a translator, a revelator, a seer, and a prophet." (D. & C. 124: 125)
In current practice, the word "translator" is omitted, since should records appear needing translation, the President of the Church may at any time be called, through revelation, to the special labor of translation.
The counselors to the President and the Council of the Twelve Apostles and, usually, the Patriarch to the Church, are also sustained as "prophets, seers, and revelators." This conforms to the Priesthood conferred upon them, and to their official calling in the Church. That others than the president may hold these exalted titles also conforms to the revealed word of God. For example, speaking of Hyrum Smith: "I appoint unto him that he may be a prophet, and a seer, and a revelator unto my church." (D. & C. 124:94)
On March 27, 1836, at the dedication of the Kirtland Temple the authorities of the Church were sustained:
I [Joseph Smith] made a short address, and called upon the several quorums, and all the congregation of Saints, to acknowledge the Presidency as Prophets and Seers and uphold them by their prayers. ... I then called upon the quorums and congregation of Saints to acknowledge the Twelve, who were present, as Prophets, Seers, Revelators, and special witnesses to all the nations of the earth holding the keys of the kingdom, to unlock it, or cause it to be done, among them, and uphold them by their prayers. (Joseph Smith, History of the Church, 2:417)
When others besides the President of the Church hold the title "prophet, seer, and revelator," it follows that the "power and authority" thus represented are called into action only by appointment from the President of the Church, otherwise there might be a conflict of authority. This is well illustrated in the practice of the Church. For example, a man may be ordained a High Priest, an office in which the right of presidency is inherent, but he presides only when called to do so. It is even so with the exercise of authority under these sacred titles.
The three separate titles in the general title have much the same meaning in popular usage, yet there are differences sufficiently important to justify their use.
A prophet is a teacher. That is the essential meaning of the word. He teaches the body of truth, the gospel, revealed by the Lord to man; and under inspiration explains it to the understanding of the people. He is an expounder of truth. Moreover, he shows that the way to human happiness is through obedience to God's law. He calls to repentance those who wander away from the truth. He becomes a warrior for the consummation of the Lord's purposes with respect to the human family. The purpose of his life is to uphold the Lord's plan of salvation. All this he does by close communion with the Lord, until he is "full of power by the spirit of the Lord." (Micah 3:8; see also D. & C. 20:26; 34:10; 43:16)
The teacher must learn before he can teach. Therefore, in ancient and modern times there have been schools of the prophets, in which the mysteries of the kingdom have been taught to men who would go out to teach the gospel and to fight the battles of the Lord. These "prophets" need not be called to an office; they go out as teachers of truth, always and everywhere.
In the course of time the word "prophet" has come to mean, perhaps chiefly, a man who receives revelations, and directions from the Lord. The principal business of a prophet has mistakenly been thought to foretell coming events, to utter prophecies, which is only one of the several prophetic functions.
In the sense that a prophet is a man who receives revelations from the Lord, the titles "seer and revelator" merely amplify the larger and inclusive meaning of the title "prophet." Clearly, however, there is much wisdom in the specific statement of the functions of the prophet as seer and revelator, as is done in the conferences of the Church.
A prophet also receives revelations from the Lord. These may be explanations of truths already received, or new truths not formerly possessed by man. Such revelations are always confined to the official position held. The lower will not receive revelations for the higher office.
A seer is one who sees with spiritual eyes. He perceives the meaning of that which seems obscure to others; therefore he is an interpreter and clarifier of eternal truth. He foresees the future from the past and the present. This he does by the power of the Lord operating through him directly, or indirectly with the aid of divine instruments such as the Urim and Thummim. In short, he is one who sees, who walks in the Lord's light with open eyes. (Book of Mormon, Mosiah 8:15-17)
A revelator makes known, with the Lord's help, something before unknown. It may be new or forgotten truth, or a new or forgotten application of known truth to man's need. Always, the revelator deals with truth, certain truth (D. & C. 100:11) and always it comes with the divine stamp of approval. Revelation may be received in various ways, but it always presupposes that the revelator has so lived and conducted himself as to be in tune or harmony with the divine spirit of revelation, the spirit of truth, and therefore capable of receiving divine messages.
In summary: A prophet is a teacher of known truth; a seer is a perceiver of hidden truth, a revelator is a bearer of new truth. In the widest sense, the one most commonly used, the title, prophet, includes the other titles and makes of the prophet, a teacher, perceiver, and bearer of truth.
One who bears the title of prophet, and they who sustain him as such, are first of all believers in God, and in a divine plan of salvation for the human family; and, secondly, they commit themselves to the task of bringing to pass the purposes of the Almighty. They believe that the children of men are capable of receiving and obeying truth. Were it not so, the title "prophet, seer, and revelator" would be empty, hollow words. As it is, they are clarion calls of the Church of Christ to a world walking in the dim shadows of misunderstanding.
44. WHY DOES NOT THE CHURCH CONFINE ITSELF TO SPIRITUAL MATTERS?
The Church exists for the welfare of its members. It holds to the doctrine that "men are that they might have joy." Therefore, whatever affects human welfare, temporally or spiritually, on earth or in heaven, is accepted as the concern of the Church.
This doctrine leads the Church into problems of man's physical, mental, moral, economic, social, and political well-being, into his every need. It strives to bring about conditions that will promote general, rounded, complete welfare. It cannot look with favor upon one-sidedness in life—one part of man's nature satisfied, another unsatisfied. It does not hesitate, because of individual prejudices or the danger of making enemies, to speak frankly and fully about any and every phase of human life. To cower in some one corner of human need is held in contempt by the Church; and certainly such a church should be held in contempt.
The history of Mormonism can best be understood in the light of this doctrine. The attempts at the United Order in Kirtland and Missouri, the founding of wilderness universities in Nauvoo and Salt Lake City, the formulation of city planning recognizable everywhere in Mormon settlements, the trek across the desert to the Great Salt Lake Valley, the cooperative enterprises in the building of the intermountain West, the present L. D. S. Welfare program, and innumerable other events and enterprises are but evidences of the conception that the Church must care for the whole man, not merely for a part of him.
In the revelations to the Prophet Joseph Smith, this matter is made very clear. Man is engaged in an eternal journey. Life on earth is but an episode in everlasting life. Therefore, all things that touch this eternal traveler belong to the plan under which he is moving forward. The distinction between things spiritual and temporal vanishes; they become merged, as the palm and back of the hand, as the warp and woof of the cloth. Man's physical concerns acquire a spiritual value; and his spiritual activities have temporal counterparts. "Wherefore, verily I say unto you that all things unto me are spiritual, and not at any time have I given unto you a law which was temporal ... for my commandments are spiritual; they are not natural nor temporal, neither carnal nor sensual" (D. & C. 29:34, 35). This makes the Word of Wisdom, tithing, prayer, or temple work, princpiles alike of spiritual essence. In that sense, the Church never departs from spiritual teachings.
By this doctrine, Church leaders feel themselves free and under obligation to discourse on any and every need of the day and of man, no matter under what man-given name it appears. They would be poor leaders if silence was enjoined upon them within any field of human interest. Indeed, the very life of the Church is involved in this free discussion of man's welfare.
However, let no misconceptions arise. The Church holds itself aloof from propagandists or parties. In politics, for example, it is neither Republican, Democratic nor "mugwump." It tests and measures every man-made policy by the eternal, unchanging principles of the gospel. If a proposed policy is in harmony with these principles, it is approved by the Church, if in opposition to gospel principles it is disapproved. The ax hews at untruth no matter where the chips may fall. Whether Democrats wail or Republicans weep is of no consequence. The Church is not in politics, but up to the shoulders in the fight for truth, which is the battle for humanity's welfare.
If the teachings of the Church be examined, whether of today or yesterday, and they are published far and wide, it will be found that they rest upon the principles of the gospel. That makes it safe to give and to accept them. The laws of the gospel root in truth. Just as, under the law of gravity, one who jumps from the house-roof will fall to his destruction, so the breaking of the laws of the gospel will bring inevitable punishment.
Though all this be so, the principle of free agency remains. The Church may teach, but each member has the right to accept or reject, in his life, the truth propounded. There is no more basic law of conduct in the gospel. The Lord has formulated the plan of salvation; he offers His help, but each individual must act for himself in winning the salvation offered. Measurably, with the aid of the Lord, each one of us "works out his own salvation"; and we must each face the consequences of our disobedience to law.
The Church cannot refrain from teaching eternal truth, both in doctrine and in the practice of the doctrine; but it has no right nor does it attempt, to secure obedience by exercising compulsion upon its members. The severest punishment meted out to violators of the order of the Church is excommunication. But every such person, through the judicial provisions of the Church, has a full and free hearing. Moreover, any officer of the Church, from the highest to the least, found in default, may be brought before the tribunals of the Church. Fair justice, and the untrammeled will of man are dear to the heart of every Latter-day Saint.
In no sense can the Church be called autocratic. No one, from the President down, can dictate to the Church. All must be done in harmony with gospel principles, and by common consent. Even new revelations from the Lord are presented to the people for acceptance as part of the doctrine of the Church. It is a Church of full freedom. However, the Church is the watchman on the tower for the people. It is its duty to preserve the gospel in its purity, to teach it with full courage, to secure gospel activity among Church members, to strengthen the weak, to care for the common welfare, and necessarily to cast out such iniquity as may have crept in among the membership.
Without the use of autocratic methods, but with the fearless, and unhesitating voice of truth, it will continue, as in the past, to labor for the whole welfare of men, "that they might have joy."
45. WHY IS IT UNDESIRABLE TO JOIN SECRET SOCIETIES?
The Church ever operates in full light. There is no secrecy about its doctrine, aim, or work. It is open to all men who will conform to its requirements. Access to the temples, where the most sacred ordinances are performed, may be had by every member of the Church who lives the honorable life expected of faithful Latter-day Saints. No promise is exacted of any Church member except to live as nearly as may be in conformity with the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. The activities of the Church, in all departments, are sacred, not secret.
This point of view makes it difficult for Latter-day Saints to look with favor upon secret, oath-bound societies. The words of the Prophet Joseph Smith are sufficient answer to the question: (Note especially the last sentence.)
And again, I would further suggest the impropriety of the organization of bands or companies, by covenant or oaths, by penalties or secrecies; but let the time past of our experience and sufferings by the wickedness of Doctor Avard suffice and let our covenant be that of the Everlasting Covenant, as is contained in the Holy Writ and the things that God hath revealed unto us. Pure friendship always becomes weakened that very moment you undertake to make it stronger by penal oaths and secrecy. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 146)
Many secret organizations may be actuated by high ideals. None, however, can transcend the ideals of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Therefore, from the point of view of encouraging people to walk uprightly they would seem unnecessary. Besides, they are likely to take time that should be given to Church activities. Sometimes they cause loss of interest in Church duties, for no one can serve two masters with equal interest.
Let it be remembered also that the authorized organizations of the Church for social and fraternal purposes, coupled with our professional and business organizations, will not only serve our needs, but will consume all the time that we can spare in these busy days. Divided allegiance is always unsatisfactory and often dangerous.
46. SHOULD LATTER-DAY SAINTS PLAY CARDS?
This question refers to games using the so-called playing cards, of fifty-two cards in a deck, divided into four suits: hearts, diamonds, clubs, and spades.
These cards and most of the games played with them are of ancient origin. It has been observed through centuries of experience that the habit of card-playing becomes fixed upon a person, and increases until he feels that a day without a game of cards is incomplete. Even a casual glance at the bridge-playing women and men in any community will reveal the tenacious nature of this habit. Uncontrollable habits are always dangerous. Thoughtful men have at all times warned against the habit. Within the last few years, Mr. and Mrs. Ely Culbertson, the accepted leaders in the method and rules of the game known as bridge, were impelled to publish a warning to the public against spending too much time at card tables.
The card-playing habit leads to a waste of time. That is a serious matter, especially in our day. Unenlightened ages of empty lives are of the past. Our generation possesses gifts of discovery, invention, and achievement, of use and beauty, beyond the power of any one mind to encompass. The greatest possible thrill of our lives, unknown to the past when too often men lived but to eat, drink, and die, is to know, feel, and be a part of the ever-increasing progress of this blessed period of human history. After an afternoon or evening at card-playing, nothing has been changed, no new knowledge, thoughts, or visions have come, no new hopes or aspirations have been generated, except for another opportunity to waste precious hours. It leads nowhere; it is a dead-end road. A yawn and to bed! Dull and deadly is a life which does not seek to immerse itself in the rapidly moving stream of new and increasing knowledge and power. Time is required to "keep up with the times." We dare not waste time on pastimes that starve the soul.
The hostess turns to cards to entertain her friends. It is the easy way. Is she really so helpless, or her guests so stupid, that she dare not offer them anything better than a tedious succession of chance-assembled cards? What a compliment she would pay the intelligence of her friends if she provided instead some little vision of the new heaven and the new earth which art, science, and the Gospel have opened to us!
By a meagre effort there may be brought into the humblest home the study of the latest conquests of nature, the most stirring thoughts of the day, the best of literature, the greatest music, reproductions of the most famous art, or the glorious principles of the Gospel.
Printing presses, phonographs, and other marvels of the day are willing and ready helpers. Hostesses need not surrender to card-playing to make their parties entertaining. It may also be asked if an hour of intelligent conversation is a thing of the past? or have we so over-emphasized the trivialities of life that conversation must be reduced to gossip about others? Whatever these answers may be, the first objection to card-playing is that it leads to waste of time. It "kills" time, one of man's most precious possessions.
An ugly concomitant makes card-playing objectionable. From time immemorial, playing cards have been used for gambling purposes. Even in social games small stakes are set to intensify the interest. Playing cards and their use for gambling are as one thought. So long and intimate has been this association that the gambling evil, under the best intentions, is seldom long absent from the card table.
Gambling relies on chance for success. Chance is the opposite of law. Disregard of law is the essence of sin. Chance is the devil's own tool for destruction. They who gamble, who walk with chance, suffer degeneration of character; they become spiritually flabby; they end as enemies of a wholesome society. A gambling den, however beautifully housed, is the ugliest place on earth. The tense participants live in a silence broken only, over the tables, by the swish of the wings of darkness. There is an ever-present brooding spirit of horror of an unknown evil. It is the devil's own home. All this, to a greater or lesser degree, accompanies the use of playing-cards. The temptation to gamble with them is ever present. The evil use to which they have been put throughout the centuries seems to cling to them.
It is a well-known fact also that card-playing usually leaves a person unhappy, with a bitter taste. Pastimes should refresh the players. Losing a game gnaws for hours afterward. Even if the game is won, satisfaction is often absent. The little misplays of oneself and partner nettle the memory. The behavior of the opponents is recalled with distaste. Such after-effects, of themselves, should condemn card-playing. "That which does not edify is not of God," was the divine message to Joseph Smith, the Prophet.
For Latter-day Saints, the strongest objection to card-playing is, however, that successive presidents of the Church have advised against it.
President Joseph F. Smith, says:
A correspondent has sent a request that we say something of the position we take on card-playing. Heretofore, I have written upon it, both in this magazine and others, and spoken of it many times before the congregations of the Saints. Personally, and always I am positively and insistently opposed to the Latter-day Saints playing cards, either at home, in private circles, in public, at socials, or at any other gathering of the people. (Improvement Era, 16:510.)
Moreover, President Smith in numerous sermons explained why card-playing was objectionable. (See Smith, Gospel Doctrine, pp. 410-418.)
President Heber J. Grant is equally emphatic:
From the time I was a child and read the Juvenile Instructor, published for the benefit of the people, I have read nothing except condemnation of card-playing and the wasting of your time in doing something that brings no good, bodily, intellectually, or in any way, and sometimes leads your children to become gamblers, because they become expert card-players. The Church as a Church requests its members not to play cards. I hope you understand me, and I want you to know that I am speaking for the Church when I ask the people to let cards alone. (96th Annual Conference Report, p. 10.)
This applies especially to officers of the Church, who should be examples to the people. In the words of President Joseph F. Smith:
The announcement that a president of a stake, bishop of a ward, or other leading official of the Church was fond of card-playing would come as a shock to every sense of propriety . . . such a practice would be looked upon as incompatible with the duties and responsibilities of a religious life. . . . No man who is addicted to card-playing should be called to act as a ward teacher. (See Smith, Gospel Doctrine, pp. 412, 414.)
These men have been sustained by the Church as prophets of God. We shall do well to follow their counsel. There is no greater safety in life than conformity to the practices set up for us by him who is called to lead in the Church. A person may feel himself uninjured by an "innocent game of cards," if there be such a game, but he who desires the successful life is always injured to the extent that he disobeys the counsel of the Prophet and Leader of the Church.
Here, then, are four objections to card-playing: The waste of time; the ever-present temptation to gamble; the unpleasant inner after-effect upon the players; and the advice against card-playing given by the presidents of the Church—prophets of God.
It must be added that relaxation from the regular duties of the day is desirable and necessary for human well-being. Wholesome games of recreation are advocated by all right-minded people. Moreover, the above objections are not directed against the many and various card games on the market. Most of these furnish innocent and wholesome recreation, and many are really instructive. It is true that they may be played to excess, but in fact it seldom happens. This is true even when such cards are used in games imitating those with playing cards. It is also true that they may be used for gambling purposes, but in fact it is almost never done. The pall of evil seems to rest upon the playing-cards handed down to us from antiquity. Therefore they should not be used.
The question of proper recreation is probably more important now than in any earlier age in the world's history. The coming of machines, with man's new control of natural forces, has given man a degree of leisure never attained before. How to use that leisure is one of the foremost problems of the day.
Use leisure properly and youth may rise to valiant, productive maturity; use it improperly, and a race of weak, unproductive men is likely to arise to destroy the gains of our hard-won civilization. From that point of view the question of games of recreation rises high. Card-playing must then be considered as a factor in the maintenance of civilized life. No person, even with a smattering of human history, will suspect card-playing to be a product of civilization, or a contributor to its maintenance. Latter-day Saints would do well to find other means of leisure-time recreation.
47. SHOULD WE GO TO MOVIES ON SUNDAY?
This is an important question. By divine decree, supported by human experience, one day in seven, the Sabbath, is set apart for a special purpose. If the use does not conform to the true purpose of the Sabbath, harm will result.
That the Sabbath is an important institution is clear from the emphasis placed upon it by the Lord, as well as by all who have labored for human welfare. Speaking to Moses concerning the creation of the earth, the Lord said, "And on the seventh day I, God, ended my work, and all things which I had made; and I rested on the seventh day from all my work . . . and I, God, blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it." Later on, when Israel was camped near Sinai, the solemn commandment came to them from the Lord, "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy." The same message was given by the Lord to His Latter-day people. In harmony with this command, most peoples on earth, differing widely in religious beliefs, have found it beneficial to use one day for purposes different from those of the other days of the week.
There are two marks of the Sabbath, as set forth in the divine command. It should be a day of rest; and it should be kept holy. These two requirements, coming with such emphasis, must have special significance in the life of man.
What is the meaning of rest? Certainly, it does not mean idleness. To sit quietly throughout a day with folded hands may be anything but restful. Rather, it may be said that a true rest is a change from the occupations which fill our lives. The life processes are always going on; therefore there is no period of complete quiescence. However, one or another of these processes may be emphasized or shifted from time to time, thus producing a restful sensation. On the Sabbath, therefore, one should refrain from doing the work to which the other days of the week are usually given, and devote himself to other activities, which, necessarily, must conform to the requirement that the day shall be kept holy.
When is the Sabbath kept holy? When we exchange the work and traffic and recreation of week days for the direct worship of the Lord. The mind is then turned to catch and understand the principles and practices of the Gospel. We specialize on that day in thinking of spiritual realities, and in doing things of a spiritual nature. It becomes a day of interpretation of the meaning of the labors of our week days. When the Sabbath is thus kept holy, it becomes not only a rest, refreshing us for the coming week, but it becomes also a day of great interest. It is a shallow mind that does not welcome the opportunity to think and talk, at peace, about the many sparkling facets of life.
The sacred purpose of the Sabbath and the methods of accomplishing it, have been set forth clearly in latter-day revelation, "And that thou mayest keep thyself unspotted from the world, thou shalt go to the house of prayer and offer up thy sacraments upon my holy day; for verily this is a day appointed unto you to rest from your labors, and to pay thy devotions unto the Most High; . . . But remember that on this, the Lord's day, thou shalt offer thy oblations and thy sacraments unto the Most High, confessing thy sins unto thy brethren, and before the Lord. And on this day thou shalt do none other thing, only let thy food be prepared with singleness of heart that thy fasting may be perfect, or in other words, that thy joy may be full. Verily, this is fasting and prayer, or in other words, rejoicing and prayer."
That is, on the Sabbath day every person shall (1) attend meetings, (2) fast, if desired, and always if it is a regular fast day, (3) partake of the sacrament, (4) bear testimony of the Lord's truth and goodness, (5) make right any misunderstandings with his fellow men, and (6) do all things with a "singleness of heart," toward the divine purpose of the Sabbath day. If these things be done in the proper spirit, the Sabbath becomes a day of "rejoicing and prayer." And it should be noted that the commandment is for all members of the Church.
Certainly, under this divine commandment, it would be greatly out of order to plan any activity at a time that would compete with Sabbath meetings regularly established by the Church. The periods set aside for Church meetings (Priesthood, Sunday School, and Sacrament meetings) should be jealously kept for these purposes and none other. Persons who for personal reasons, such as the duties devolving upon the mother with babies, remain away from one of these regular meetings of the Church, should, nevertheless be in full harmony with the worshipful spirit of the Lord's holy day. Likewise, whatever is done between meetings, whether reading, conversing, walking amidst the beauties of nature, or engaged in other interesting activities easily set up, should be in harmony with the spirit of the Sabbath. When this is done, a lifegiving satisfaction comes from Sabbaths well kept. Those who have not the habit of Sabbath-keeping are missing much of genuine worth.
Now, perhaps, the question that captions this writing may be answered.
Latter-day Saints receive with joy every new gift of science and art. For example, the radio is used to make speaking more effective in meeting houses and to broadcast Gospel sermons to the world. The gift of the radio is cherished.
Likewise, the motion picture is hailed as a possible beneficent power among men. It is today furnishing recreation at a cost within the reach of the masses of humankind. In many parts of the world the inexpensive motion picture has been a notable factor in bettering men's lives, and their outlook upon the lives of others. The motion picture is, also, a cherished possession.
Nevertheless, every gift to man may be used for good or evil ends. Untruth may be broadcast over the radio, and ugliness exhibited by the motion picture. The use to which a gift is put, may be more important than the gift itself.
Therefore, the answer to the question concerning the Sunday use of motion pictures becomes another question: Does the picture to be seen on Sunday create within the observer the spirit of worship? Does it conform to the spirit of the Sabbath?
Certainly it may be said without hesitation that a picture based upon the triangle of two men in love with the same married woman or two women in love with the same married man does not inspire the proper Sabbath feeling. Neither can a picture be said to carry the Sunday spirit which revels in divorces, murders, and other criminal acts, wild adventures, or the stories of people of uncertain moral lives. When all these situations are cancelled out, very few pictures remain to be considered for Sabbath use.
Motion pictures complying with Sunday requirements, should they be found, might possibly be used as supplements to normal Sunday activities. Nevertheless, it is to be said that all worship is marked by personal address and reception. It is the speaking out of a human heart to another human heart, that most stirs the spiritual nature of man, and gives the edifying feeling which is the mark of light and truth, the spirit of God. No picture, however good, can take the place of the living man, however humble, who bears his testimony of the truth.
The question at the head of this writing should more properly be: Are motion pictures available which comply with the divine message concerning the Sabbath day? This question is readily answered: There are very few such pictures, and they are seldom available on the Sabbath day.
Latter-day Saints who go to see motion pictures on the Sabbath establish a dangerous habit, for they pit man-made temptation against the Lord's command. Besides, all who fail to observe the Sabbath as directed by the Lord miss a real and increasing joy which can be won in no other way, and which is a powerful help in winning true success in life. Moreover, we are always stronger and happier when we conform to God's law.
As movies are presented today, we should not go to see them on Sunday. And, in Latter-day Saint communities, to offer motion pictures on Sunday, especially at the time of Sunday meetings, is an injury to youth and an offense against the people.
48. DOES THE PAYMENT OF TITHING CAUSE ECONOMIC DISTRESS?
"No," would be the unanimous and emphatic answer of those who have obeyed the law of tithing. Indeed, the question is usually asked by non-tithe payers who seek to find excuses for not obeying the law.
When mortal man places one-tenth of his income in the treasury of the Lord, he acknowledges by that act that all his earthly income is a gift from the Lord, the real Owner and Master of Earth. The giving of tithing becomes then an evidence of the man's faith in God and of the man's conquest of his selfish self. This is the essence of the law of tithing.
The law of tithing is on a par, in every respect, with every other commandment of the Lord. Obedience to His commandments is required by the Lord. "For this cause have I sent you—that you might be obedient." (D. & C. 58:6) In fact, disobedience is an offense to the Lord. "In nothing doth man offend God, or against none is his wrath kindled, save those who confess not his hand in all things, and obey not his commandments." (D. & C. 59:21)
The great purpose of life is to develop such conquest over self that obedience may be willingly, easily, and gladly yielded to every commandment issuing from the mouth of the Lord. Commandments then become means by which a man's spiritual condition may be determined. Every person may be, in a sense, the judge of his own spiritual progress, for he knows how readily he yields obedience to the laws of the Lord. The commandments of first value are those which demand most unselfish action; that lead, if obeyed, to the greatest self-conquest.
Tithing is a law of special value for this purpose. Man naturally is slow to part with his worldly goods. Too often spiritual wealth is overshadowed by material possessions. If he can so master himself as to part with a tenth of his earthly income, he has won victory over one of the most stubborn phases of his nature.
While self-conquest may be the chief result of man's obedience to law, other blessings follow. Man gives little; the Lord gives much in return even here on earth. Those who are obedient to law will gain knowledge and intelligence. They may escape the scourges and afflictions of the world (D. & C. 97:25-28); health, endurance, wisdom, and hidden treasures of knowledge shall be theirs. (D. & C. 89:18-21) The joys and blessings of heaven shall be tasted by them on earth. (D. & C. 105:18)
Obedience to the law of tithing is certain to bring blessings in return, even of a temporal character. Yet, it must ever be remembered that the blessings of life come according to the Lord's will. Material property may not be the blessing we most need. If we can trust the Lord enough to pay Him a tenth of our increase, we must trust Him to bless us according to our needs. Material, earthly property does not have the same value before God as before man. Love of property is often nothing more than covetousness, which is a deadly sin. "What is property unto me? saith the Lord." (D. & C. 117:4) Let man do his best to provide for himself and his family, gather property around him, pay his tithing, obey all other laws of God, and accept, with joy, such blessings as the Lord may vouchsafe him.
Now, after all this has been said, it is interesting to note that the very great majority of tithe payers, perhaps all, succeed in finding sufficient for their temporal welfare. The group of tithe payers within the Church are not only more spiritually active, but generally they are more prosperous than the non-tithe paying group. Tithing is not a factor that works against economic prosperity. In most cases material as well as spiritual blessings follow obedience to the law of tithing.
This view is confirmed by an investigation by a non-Mormon agency. A government bank, having loaned very large sums to Utah farmers, mostly Latter-day Saints, and noting an abnormally high percentage of delinquency, wondered if the practice of tithe paying were reducing the ability of the farmers to make proper repayments. The assistance of the Utah State Agricultural College was secured in carrying on the investigation. The Church gave full cooperation.
The first study was made in Utah County, Utah. Four hundred and eighty-five names were submitted by a bank and college. Of these, seventy-one could not be found on the records of the Church. Of the remaining four hundred and fourteen persons, seventy-eight had no indebtedness, two hundred and twenty-nine had loans, but were non-delinquent, and one hundred and seven were delinquent.
The percentage of tithe payers was about the same in the three groups, but the proportion of full tithe payers among the delinquent group was only a little more than half of the full tithe payers in the non-delinquent and no-debt classes. The total amount paid in tithing per person in the delinquent group was only about three-fourths of that paid by the non-delinquent and no-debt groups. Examined from every angle, the investigation showed that tithing had no depressing economic influence, but rather that the qualities in a man that led him to pay tithing, also enabled him to win more success in his economic life.
It should be added that two of the four hundred and eighty-five farmers listed kept three missionaries in the field, and these two men were in the non-delinquent group and paid a full tithing. Neither tithing nor missionary costs seemed to have a depressing effect upon the economic welfare of the farmers. The gift of amassing money beyond ordinary needs is much like any other special gift such as in music, art, education, or other human activities.
Another, smaller investigation was conducted by the same agencies in Cache County, Utah. In the section studied one hundred ninety farmers were owing money to the bank. Thirty-three of them were delinquent, and these had farms of equal size and productive power with the non-delinquent farmers. The Church records showed that of these thirty-three delinquents, eighteen paid no tithing, eight paid part tithing and seven paid a full tithing. The investigator calculated that in one of the prosperous villages in the Cache County study about 11 percent of the farmers are delinquent in their bank payments and these 11 percent pay 2 percent of the tithing in the village. It seemed clear therefore that in this as in the Utah County area, tithing is a very unimportant factor in the delinquency problem. Here also it seems evident that the man who pays tithing has power to do the things that bring reasonable economic prosperity.
As far as available experience can guide us, the answer to the question at the head of this writing is, "No." The payment of tithing does not cause economic distress. A host of testimonies might be secured of the joy in life that follows obedience to this important law of the Lord.
Marriage and the Family
49. WHY MARRY IN THE TEMPLE?
Marriage, the most important event between birth and death, is a determining condition of life's happiness. Therefore, it should be entered into with the greatest of care. A companion for life should be one who lives righteously, to whom abundant love may be given, and who can be respected in his or her daily walk and talk. Likewise, the marriage covenant should be of such a nature as to help create, build, and maintain daily happiness. As the successive days are, so all of life will be. Wealth, power, and fame are beggared in comparison with the joy that comes from a happy family life.
The Church offers the privilege of marriage in the temple as the foremost means of establishing and maintaining happiness in the households of its members. It is a privilege beyond compare, which every prospective bride and groom should seek and use. The conditions are such that every person may fit himself to receive this privilege, so earnestly coveted by true Latter-day Saints.
Here are nine brief answers to the question, "Why Marry in the Temple?"
1. It is the Lord's desire and will. The temple is by divine decree the place where marriages should if possible be performed. Marriage is of such crucial importance in life that it should begin with full obedience to God's law. Love is the foundation of marriage, but love itself is a product of law and lives by law. True love is law-abiding, for the highest satisfactions come to a law-abiding life.
Moreover, true love of man for woman always includes love of God from whom all good things issue. The proof of our love of God is obedience to His law. Besides, life is so full of problems that the married couple should from the first seek the constant favor of the Lord. A sense of security and comfort comes to all who are wedded within the temple. They have obeyed the law. They have pleased the Lord. As law-abiding citizens in the kingdom of God, they have a special claim upon divine aid, blessings, and protection. Conformity to the practices of the Church always builds happiness in life. Marriage should begin right—by obedience to law.
2. It is in harmony with the sacred nature of the marriage covenant. Temple marriages are also more in harmony with the nature and importance of the occasion. They are performed in an attractive sealing room, especially dedicated for the purpose. The ceremony itself is simple, beautiful, and profound. Relatively few witnesses are present. Quiet and order prevail. There are no external trappings to confuse the mind. Full attention may be given to the sacred covenants to be made, and the blessings to follow, covering the vast period of eternal existence. The attention is focused upon the meaning of the marriage ceremony, and not upon distracting outside features which characterize a wedding in an elaborate social setting. Such concentration of the soul upon the covenants entered into and the blessings promised, becomes a joyful, happy memory incomparably sweeter than that of the usual rush and show of a wedding outside temple walls. Lovely in its simple beauty and deep import is a temple wedding.
There is ample opportunity after the ceremony in the temple for a reception, simple or elaborate, at which friends may gather to congratulate the couple and to wish them happiness.
3. It tends to insure marital happiness. Experience has shown that temple marriages are generally the happiest. There are relatively fewer divorces among couples who have been sealed over the altars of the temple. This is shown by dependable statistics. Today's views of marriage are notably loose; yet no person with a decent outlook on life will enter the marriage state as an experiment. Life's happiness is made or marred by marriage. Divorce does not return the individuals to their former condition. Scars remain. Hasty weddings and the easy divorces that follow menace individual and public welfare. When the integrity of the family, the unit of society, vanishes, and family relationships are held in disrespect, society is headed for disaster. The deliberation that precedes a temple marriage, the solemnity that accompanies it, and the power that seals and blesses it, form a bulwark against many evils of the day. The temple marriage hedges about, and keeps inviolate, the happiness that of right belongs to the married state.
4. It permits the association of husband and wife for time and for all eternity. The essential difference between temple and all other marriages is of the greatest consequence. In the temple, and only there, the bridal couple are wedded for time and eternity. The contract is endless. Here and hereafter, on earth and beyond, they may travel together in loving companionship. This precious gift conforms to the Latter-day Saint belief that existence in the life after this may be active, useful, progressive. Love, content to end with death, is perishable, poor, and helpless. Marriage that lasts only during earth life is a sad one, for the love established between man and woman, as they live together and rear their family, should not die, but live and grow richer with the eternal years. True love hopes and prays for an endless continuation of association with the loved one. To those who are sealed to each other for all existence, love is ever warm, more hopeful, believing, courageous, and fearless. Such people live the richer, more joyful life. To them happiness and the making of it have no end. Dismal, dreary, full of fear, is the outlook upon love that ends with death. The youth of the Church dare not forego the gift of everlasting marriage.
5. It provides the eternal possession of children and family relationship. There is yet an added blessing. Children born under the temple covenant belong to their parents for all time and eternity. That is, the family relationships on earth are continued, forever, here and hereafter. The family, continued from earth into the next world, becomes a unit in everlasting life. In the long eternities we shall not be lonely wanderers, but side by side, with our loved ones who have gone before and those who shall follow, we shall travel the endless journey. What mother does not value this promise! What father does not feel his heart warm towards the eternal possession of his family! What heartbreakings might have been avoided if humanity had been true to the truth, and had surrendered to the sealing power of the Priesthood of God. Temple marriage becomes a promise of unending joy.
6. It acts as a restraint against evil. The powers of darkness are ever active to push mankind into evil paths. Often, we are tempted to do foolish things. In the family little things may lead to discord. To create unhappiness is the aim of the adversary of righteousness. Here appears one of the foremost blessings of the temple marriage. Those who have been sealed in the temple have their eyes fixed upon eternity. They dare not forfeit the promised blessings. The family is to them an everlasting possession. They remember the covenants which make possible this eternal association. The temple marriage, with all that it means, becomes a restraining force in the presence of temptation. All family acts are more likely to be shaped in anticipation of an undying relationship. Under the influence of the memory of the temple ceremony, family differences are swallowed up in peace; hate is transmuted into love; fear, into courage; and evil is rebuked and cast out. Peace is the world's great need. From the temples of the Lord, and from everything done within them, issues the spirit of truth which is the foundation of peace.
7. It furnishes the opportunity for endless progression. Modern revelation sets forth the high destiny of those who are sealed for everlasting companionship. They will be given opportunity for a greater use of their powers. That means progress. They will attain more readily to their place in the presence of the Lord; they will increase more rapidly in every divine power; they will approach more nearly to the likeness of God; they will more completely realize their divine destiny. And this progress is not delayed until life after death. It begins here, today, for those who yield obedience to the law. Life is tasteless without progress. Eternal marriage, with all that it means, provides for unending advancement. "Eternal increase" is the gift to all who enter into the eternal marriage covenant, as made in the temples of the Lord.
8. It places the family under the protection of the power of the Priesthood. They who have won a temple marriage have been sealed for time and eternity by the power of the Holy Priesthood. This is the supreme power committed to man's keeping. That power issues from the unseen world. It gives life and light to the world. Human life with its cares and worries is transfigured into a radiant experience and adventure when it clings to this divine power and is blessed by it. To walk under divine authority, to possess it, to be a part of it, is to walk with heads erect, with grateful hearts, before our fellow men and our Father in heaven. The men and women who have come with this power out of the Lord's holy house will be hedged about by divine protection and walk more safely among the perplexities of earth. They will be indeed the ultimate conquerors of earth, for they come with the infinite power of God to solve the problems of earth. Spiritual power accompanies all who marry in the temple, if they thenceforth keep their sacred covenants.
9. It provides a God-like destiny for human beings. "If a man marry a wife by my word, which is my law, and by the new and everlasting covenant, and it is sealed unto them by the Holy Spirit of promise, by him who is anointed, unto whom I have appointed this power and the keys of this priesthood; and it shall be said unto them—Ye shall come forth in the first resurrection; and if it be after the first resurrection, in the next resurrection; and shall inherit thrones, kingdoms, principalities, and powers, dominions, all heights and depths ...
"Then shall they be gods, because they have no end; therefore they shall be from everlasting to everlasting, because they continue; then shall they be above all, because all things are subject unto them. Then shall they be gods, because they have all power, and the angels are subject unto them." (D. & C. 132:19, 20; see also The Improvement Era, 17:1064; 30:1098; 34:704; 39:214; 41:136, 220, 268, 330; 43:586)
50. WHY NOT MARRY OUTSIDE OF THE CHURCH?
There are good people in every church, and among those who claim no church affiliation. But, good people, kind, honest, charitable people, may be in error concerning the meaning of life. That has always been the view and position of Latter-day Saints. The groom of one faith and the bride of another may be equally virtuous. It is their differing beliefs or convictions relative to the truths of existence that make the success of their marriage questionable or more difficult to attain.
Love is the foundation of every truly happy marriage. The more genuine the love, the greater the joy of association between husband and wife. A loveless marriage, or one in which love diminishes with the years, always ends in grief.
The beginning of love is usually physical attraction. There are gifts of body, of face and form, of eyes and voice, that awaken desire for acquaintanceship and possession. That is nature's way, respected by all sensible people.
Above physical charm, love is begotten by qualities, often subtle, of mind and spirit. The beautiful face may hide an empty mind; the sweet voice may utter coarse words; the lovely form may be ill-mannered; the woman of radiant beauty and the man of kingly form may be intolerable bores on nearer acquaintanceship; or, the person who looks attractive may really have no faults, may excel us in knowledge and courtesy, yet he is not of our kind, his ways are not ours. Under either condition, love wilts in its first stage. "Falling in love" is always from within, rather than from without. That is, physical attractiveness must be reinforced with mental and spiritual harmony if true love is to be born and have long life—from the Latter-day Saint point of view, to last throughout the eternities. The man and his wife, to make love secure, must have much the same outlook on the major issues of life; they must grow in the same direction. If one is an infidel and the other a believer in God, the resulting disagreement of spirit will tend to drive the two apart despite physical attractions. The association of husband and wife is so close and intimate that every difference becomes evident and important.
This is especially true in matters pertaining to religious faith. Religion, under its wide definition, is the philosophy of life, by which we regulate our conduct. As we believe, so we act. The past, the present, and the future, all that we are and shall be, are involved in our religion. We cannot by any means be in full sympathy with any person who, in this most profound of man's concerns, is not in sincere harmony with us. Under circumstances of differing faiths, love rises only to its partial height. The fullness of love fails us. Drabness enters where only sunlight should be found.
A common result of such a marriage is an attempt at compromise. Then, neither one lives religion properly. Both become lukewarm in their duties, unless, indeed, one through superior power of will or dominance, compels the other to follow his way. In either case, an inner disintegration follows; the sensitive plant called love withers and often dies. The surpassing joy of love comes only to those who are in harmony of belief and mutual understanding.
Husband and wife of different faiths, however fine they may be in character, and earnest in their attempts to rise above their differences, become acutely aware of their situation when children come into the household. In what faith shall they be reared? Sunday after Sunday, and oftener, that question arises. When illness enters the home, the Latter-day Saint wife longs to call in the elders to administer to the sick, but hesitates because there is no unity of faith in the household; and the Latter-day Saint husband hesitates to exercise his Priesthood for the same reason. The children, themselves, grow up cognizant of a family strain, crowding their happiness, often compelling them to take sides for one parent as against another. The differences persist through more than one generation, often affecting great-grandchildren. Time and again, spoken or unspoken, under the many vicissitudes of life, the lack of common spiritual understanding becomes a torment to husband and wife and also to the children. Inward happiness of individual and family, so necessary to full joy, is stifled.
Another mighty objection to "mixed" marriages rises before Latter-day Saints. Only members of the Church may be married in the temple of the Lord, and be sealed to each other for time and eternity. Marriage outside of the temple removes one of the sweetest promises of true love—its eternal continuation. No promised gift feeds love so fully or helps so much to face the storms of life. To forfeit that privilege may mean eternal regret. True, the unbelieving wife or husband does at times join the Church and may then receive all the blessings of the Church. But, such cases are relatively rare. It is a remote chance.
Human experience and safe counsel are clearly against "mixed" marriages. The countless cases on record are full evidence that more joy is realized, more usefulness attained, when persons of the same faith marry. Members of the Church, to conserve their own happiness, should marry within the Church. Usually, more deliberation, the avoidance of haste, will prevent many a contemplated marriage with someone outside of the Church. Such delay, with patience, will be well repaid in life's happiness. Certainly, any Latter-day Saint considering marriage outside of the Church should seriously count the cost, one that continues through life.
We are regretfully mindful of the marriages within the Church which are unhappy. That probably, under the limitations of human weaknesses, cannot be avoided. Whether in or out of the Church, we are free agents, and to a certain extent, moulders and makers of our own lives. The fact remains, however, that the proportion of happy marriages is higher among those of the same faith, and highest among those married in the temple.
Let there be no misunderstanding. The excellent people of differing faiths who have married, and who earnestly, sincerely are seeking to make their unions happy, are entitled to our highest respect. For them our hope is that they may come to a unity of faith—faith in the restored gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Yet, such couples are probably the first to admit, perhaps only inwardly, that the contentions made in answer to the question at the head of this chapter, are sound and worthy of serious consideration by all who look forward to matrimony.
Youth of Israel! Marry within the Church!
51. WHAT IS THE PLACE OF WOMAN IN THE CHURCH?
The place of woman in the Church is to walk beside the man, not in front of him nor behind him.
In the Church there is full equality between man and woman. The gospel, which is the only concern of the Church, was devised by the Lord for men and women alike. Every person on earth, man or woman, earned the right in the pre-existent life to come here; and must earn the right, by righteous actions, to live hereafter where "God and Christ dwell." The privileges and requirements of the gospel are fundamentally alike for men and women. The Lord loves His daughters as well as He loves His sons.
This doctrine of equality is confirmed in the ordinances of the Church, which are alike for man and woman. Faith, repentance, baptism are the same for all. The rewards, such as the gift of the Holy Ghost, and the temple ordinances, are alike. The highest attainable glory cannot be won by man or woman alone. Only those who are united, as husband and wife, by the sealing power, can attain exaltation in the celestial glory in the hereafter. "Neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord." (1 Corinthians 11:11) And provision will be made for the righteous who live unmarried to receive the sealing blessing in the hereafter, through vicarious work performed in our temples.
This makes individuals of men and women—individuals with the right of free agency, with the power of individual decision, with individual opportunity for everlasting joy, whose own actions throughout the eternities, with the loving aid of the Father, will determine individual achievement. There can be no question in the Church of man's rights versus woman's rights. They have the same and equal rights.
This equality has been respected in the history of the Church. Equal suffrage within the Church has always been recognized. Church members, men and women, have always been asked to sustain by vote, the uplifted hand, the persons nominated to fill the various offices of the church (D. & C. 20:65; 26:2; 107:22; Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 75; Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine, pp. 196, 197). Equal suffrage in civic life has likewise been defended by the Church. "Now, sisters, I want you to vote also, because women are the characters that rule the ballot box." (Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 563) The right to vote for national, state, and local officials was granted women in the early days of the territory of Utah, when Church members were in control of territorial activities. In fact, it was in Utah, in 1870, that women first exercised full political franchise in the United States. Brigham Young saw no objection to a woman's holding public office if compatible with her other duties.
The right of woman to develop her native gifts through education has been held before the Church from its organization. Women have, indeed, been urged to train for the various life pursuits of society. The fine arts, music, painting, literature, teaching, business, science, mining, medicine, civil government, and law were mentioned by Brigham Young as suitable studies for women. (Discourses of Brigham Young, chapter 22) President Joseph F. Smith spoke similarly: "It is very important to the welfare, usefulness, happiness, and comfort of our daughters (in view of certain circumstances) that they learn some branch of industry that could be turned to practical account in the way of making a living, should circumstances require it." (Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine, p. 440) President Smith also declared his belief that "spiritually, morally, religiously, and in faith" woman is as strong as man. (Ibid.)
However, the Church has never ignored, as many political and social theorists have done, the natural differences between men and women. These differences in function determine in a rational society the major duties of man and woman. The design of nature is that man and woman together shall form the unit of society, known as the family; shall beget and rear children to carry on the race; and shall find in family life not only their greatest joy, but also their chief incentive to useful activity. It is recognized that whenever this purpose is ignored, the frustrated functions lead to defeat in life.
Therefore, the Church has taught and urged that man and woman accept their respective responsibilities as man and woman, husband and wife, father and mother. This really is another evidence of equality, since, in conforming to natural law, greater freedom and power are won by both. For the woman, it means that she, at least during a large part of her life, devotes herself chiefly to the duties of home; for the man, that he devote himself chiefly to the providing of the means of support of the home. Naturally, this does not prohibit outside interest for leisure or free time. The importance of such functional division of labor is set forth powerfully by President Heber J. Grant: "The mother in the family far more than the father is the one who instils in the hearts of the children a testimony, and love of the gospel—and wherever you find a woman who is devoted to this work, almost without exception you will find that her children are devoted to it. She shapes their lives more than the father, because he is away much more." (Heber J. Grant, Gospel Standards, pp. 150, 151)
In harmony with this view, the Church has always favored a system of education to fit man and woman for their respective spheres of activity—that is, a practical education. Home-making, today a well-established applied science and art, is looked upon as the wise education for woman. Speaking on this subject, President Brigham Young said: "It is more necessary that they [women] should know themselves and the duties that will be required of them when they are wives and mothers." (Journal of Discourses, 10: 370). This does not imply a narrowed education, for in the words of President Joseph F. Smith, the Church says to woman, "Seek to be educated in the highest meaning of the term; get the most possible service out of your time, your body and brains, and let all your efforts be directed into honorable channels, that no effort be wasted, and no labor result in loss or evil." (Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine, p. 439) In brief, the major education for life's duties may be supplemented by training for the development of special activities or endowment.
This recognition of natural function appears in the organization of the Church. By divine fiat, the Priesthood is conferred on the men. This means that organization must prevail in the family, the ultimate unit of the Church. The husband, the Priesthood bearer, presides over the family; the Priesthood conferred upon him is intended for the blessing of the whole family. Every member shares in the gift bestowed, but under a proper organization. No man who understands the gospel believes that he is greater than his wife, or more beloved of the Lord, because he holds the Priesthood, but rather that he is under the responsibility of speaking and acting for the family in official matters. It is a protection to the woman who, because of her motherhood, is under a large physical and spiritual obligation. Motherhood is an eternal part of Priesthood. It is a wise provision that the man, who is the freer to move about both at home and abroad, should be called to the family presidency and be under the responsibility of holding the Priesthood. This does not limit equality among men and women. Citizens in a free land are not unequal because some hold office and others do not.
Meanwhile, within the Church are organizations for the benefit of women. These are presided over by women. These have the same general objective as the Priesthood organizations—the fitting of the individual more fully for gospel living. The Prophet Joseph Smith said when he formed the Relief Society, "I will organize the sisters under the Priesthood and after the pattern of the Priesthood." President Grant has declared, "Without the wonderful work of the women I realize that the Church would have been a failure. ... It is our sisters who carry the burden of the work. ... They are leaders in all things that make for spiritual uplift." (Heber J. Grant, Gospel Standards, pp. 150, 151)
The program of the National Women's Relief Society, which is really international, illustrates the comprehensiveness of woman's place in the Church. "The Ladies' Relief Society is not only to relieve the poor, but to save souls," was the Porphet's message to the sisters. (Joseph Smith, History of the Church, 5:25) To save souls opens the whole field of human activity and development: Relief of poverty, relief of illness; relief of doubt, relief of ignorance—relief of all that hinders the joy and progress of woman. What a magnificent commission! The activities of the Society correspond to this charge. For example, in the program for the weekly meetings provision is made for the study of theology, homemaking, social science, and practical work. The men in their Priesthood organizations have no wider program. The Young Women's Mutual Improvement Associations have a similar, widely-conceived program. No limitations, except those inherent in the gospel plan, restrict the labors of these organizations for women.
"What is the place of woman in the Church?" To walk by the side of the man, not before him nor behind him.
52. SHOULD BIRTH CONTROL BE PRACTICED?
This is an insistent subject. It raises at least three vital questions: Why should married people want to practice birth control? What is the effect on those who practice it? Are large families desirable?
Ill health may make birth control necessary. A weakened body or actual disease may justify protection of the mother and the unborn child against any further physiological burden. However, for those of sound health, who conform to the laws of nature, child bearing promotes physical wellbeing. As a rule, women who have large families are healthy throughout life.
A more frequent cause of birth control is real or fancied economic pressure. Under modern conditions requiring the services of an obstetric physician and hospital care, the husband and wife of moderate means hesitate to incur this added draft upon their resources. And, often they delay the coming of children because they prefer first to pay for and enjoy the house or piano or automobile or refrigerator or radio-phonograph, or other desirable but not indispensable things. Married students sometimes feel that if they have children they must forego or greatly delay the completion of their educations. In one form or another the economic excuse is a common one.
Others practice birth control because they feel that the care of having children consumes their time and strength, and therefore interferes with social or professional ambitions. They want to be free to "live life as they choose." To this class belong those who absurdly declare that they look for quality instead of quantity and therefore limit the size of their families.
The having of children and the rearing of a family entail expense, especially while the children are young. That goes without saying. Yet, the economic excuse for birth control is seldom convincing. A way is usually found to meet family costs, if the desire for children is stronger than for the new piano, let us say. Sacrifices for a time on the part of the parents and on the part of the older children if there be any, will usually provide the necessary means. The economic excuse roots, in the majority of cases, in selfishness. Yet, it should be said that society, which benefits from its citizens, should make provisions by which the expense incident to motherhood would be within the reach of the poorest.
Those who practice birth control to further their personal ambitions are of course motivated wholly by selfishness. They might well be asked why they married.
Birth control when necessary should be accomplished in nature's way, which does not injure the man or the woman. A careful recognition of the fertile and sterile periods of woman would prove effective in the great majority of cases. Recent knowledge of woman's physiology reveals "the natural method for controlling birth." This method "violates no principle of nature."
Birth control as generally understood implies the use of physical or chemical means to prevent conception. A large number of these devices, known as contraceptives, are on the market. None of them is certain to accomplish the purpose desired. Besides, any contraceptive is unnatural and interferes in one way or another with the physiological processes of life. All of them are in varying degrees injurious to those who use them, especially to women. That may be safely contended. The ill effects may not be felt at once, but in time will overtake the parents to their detriment.
Moreover, since birth control roots in a species of selfishness, the spiritual life of the user of contraceptives is also weakened. Women seem to become more masculine in thought and action; men more callous and reserved; both husband and wife become more careless of each other, and increasingly indifferent to the higher duties and joys of living.
The quality versus quantity contention is a fallacy. The only child in a family is to be pitied. He does not learn the art of living harmoniously with other people. Within the home he is either in opposition to his parents or dominated by them. Outside of the home he sulks if he can not selfishly run the show, or he stands apart from the crowd in uneasy self-consciousness. The shaping and polishing of character which go on in a loving household of many children he receives less effectively from less friendly strangers. He misses many of the joys and pleasures of childhood which are possible only in a family of several children. He often becomes inordinately selfish if all gifts and consideration of father and mother are centered in him. The effect of a lone childhood is felt throughout life. The unspoken, unrealized longings for family intimacies are frequently reflected in foiled attempts to make up for the lost experience of childhood and youth. As the years creep on, he misses more and more the intimate understanding and affectionate sympathy which accompany blood relationships. The only child is likely to remain lonely throughout the journey of life. The same might be said measurably of two children several years apart.
Large families are the most genuinely happy. That is the verdict of human experience. In such a family circle there is steady development and joyful living for parents and children. The Psalmist spoke wisely when he said: "Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them." (Psalm 127:5)
A home with several children of varying ages approximates the social situations to be met in later life. There the possibilities of life may be experienced in miniature form. Under the loving protection of father and mother, in games and contests, in the exchange of wits, in sacrifices for one another, in mutual rejoicings and sorrows, in discussions of family affairs and daily happenings, the business of living in a world of many men is taught. The home with a family of children becomes a laboratory for learning the importance of truth, virtue, and honesty, industry, and the ethical and religious bases of conduct. And, since love for one another tempers and directs all that is done, the children will enter the world's citizenship better fitted to help build an increasingly improving world. In the training of good citizens or happy human beings, there is no substitute for the home with a large family.
The benefits of a home with several children is not confined to the children. Parents are perhaps equally benefited. Parents who have children show their willingness to accept obligations of good citizenship. They have faith in the future. They dare to continue the race. They are not ashamed to perpetuate themselves. Thereby they win strength to perform other duties of life. Besides, in the rearing of children there is real development of father and mother, a development which can be won in no other way. There is also a supreme satisfaction in presenting men and women, sons and daughters, to the coming age, to carry on the work of the world. Every parent lives on in his descendants. Above all, is the joy of family life. Father, mother and children, perhaps grandchildren, at the table, or at play, in family councils, share in divine satisfactions. It has been so ordained that the family comes nearest to the heavenly pattern in organization and joys. And, these joys continue into old age. Loneliness is banished. The childless couple miss much in life; and as the years move on the sense of loss becomes keener. The finest, most important, and happiest institution on earth is the family, composed of father, mother and children.
The future of the state and of the race depends upon the willingness of its citizens to beget and rear children without artificial interference. During the last centuries mankind has learned much. The comforts and blessings in every modest home surpass those of the emperors of old. Who shall inherit these gifts and the others in process of making?—Our children, of course, if we have any, and if they are numerous enough to claim consideration. It is a cruel fact, to which we must give heed, that those most highly prepared to enjoy and advance our civilization have a decreasing birthrate; while those of less training, or perhaps inferior gifts, continue fruitful. Many a college class of picked men and women half a century after graduation have fewer children than the original number of the class. It takes more than two children to keep the population from decreasing. The worldwide view is the same. The birthrate of the more advanced nations is falling rapidly; while that of the more backward peoples is large and increasing.
In the last twenty-five years, the birthrate of the United States has fallen from twenty-five to seventeen per thousand of population. In 1941, in the United States the births did not quite equal the deaths; while in Japan the births exceeded the deaths by one-half. Time (Sept. 14, 1942) reports that Great Britain has a million and half fewer babies, and a million and a half more pet dogs than at the time of the Boer War. If there is no change, they whom we are inclined to call semi-civilized or barbarians will take over the earth. The survival of our civilization may yet depend on an increasing birthrate in the nations which have made that civilization possible.
Latter-day Saints take literally the command of the Lord to the first couple: "Multiply, and replenish the earth." (Genesis 1:28) That is the purpose of marriage and means more than one or two children. We understand that hosts of waiting spirits desire to come on earth through our lineage. We know that the family is the unit of heavenly society; and that the greatest gift of God is to give His children the opportunity of continuing family relationships throughout the eternities. Are they who will not obey the law on earth worthy of this great reward in the hereafter? Gospel doctrine should make every Latter-day Saint married couple eager for the privilege and obligations of parenthood. And they should have the faith and trust that the Lord will provide the means for obeying His law.
53. WHAT IS EVIL?
A library of books has been written on this subject. Philosophers have exhausted their ingenuity in explaining evil. Nevertheless, Latter-day Saints find the answer to be easily understood.
First, there is "an opposition in all things." If there be a south, there must be a north; if there be light, there must also be the possibility of darkness; if a right side, also a left side; if activity, also quiescence; if good, there must be its opposite, which is evil; and so on with respect to every condition and act of existence. This is much like the positive and negative recognized in all mathematical and scientific work. It is because of this eternal "opposition" that man is able to choose, thus doing good or evil.
This doctrine is laid down in much clearness in the Book of Mormon. The Prophet Lehi, explaining man's free agency to his son Jacob, says:
For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, ... righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad. ...
And if ye shall say there is no law, ye shall also say there is no sin. If ye shall say there is no sin, ye shall also say there is no righteousness. And if there be no righteousness there be no happiness. And if there be no righteousness nor happiness there be no punishment nor misery. And if these things are not there is no God. And if there is no God we are not, neither the earth; for there could have been no creation of things, neither to act nor to be acted upon; wherefore all things must have vanished away. ...
And to bring about his eternal purposes in the end of man, after he had created our first parents, and the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and in fine, all things which are created, it must needs be that there was an opposition; even the forbidden fruit in opposition to the tree of life; the one being sweet and the other bitter.
Wherefore, the Lord God gave unto man that he should act for himself. Wherefore, man could not act for himself save it should be that he was enticed by the one or the other (Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi 2:11, 13, 15-16).
Second, man is on earth under a plan provided by God, the Father of the spirits of men. This plan is for the good and welfare of man. The ultimate purpose of the plan is to enable every person to develop his every power, and thus to progress eternally. Imbedded in every part of the plan is the right of every man to act for himself, to choose one or the other of the opposites which present themselves before him. If he chooses to do that which is for his welfare, which enables him to progress, he chooses the good. If he chooses that which retards his progress, he chooses the evil. Whatever conforms to the plan of God for His earth children is good; whatever is in opposition to the plan is evil. That is a simple, plain definition of evil.
Third, our Father in heaven, who directs all things pertaining to His children on earth, often deals, and necessarily so, with matters beyond the clear understanding of mortal man. Commandments are sometimes given which at least at first must be accepted through our faith in God and His revelations. In any case, obedience to the will of God is good; refusal to obey the will of God is evil. In every instance evil is "inverted good or a correct principle made evil use of" (Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 106).
However, there can be, there is, no good or evil except by the intrusion of an intelligent being possessed of the power and right of free agency. Things and forces themselves are neither good nor bad. A current of electricity is neither good nor evil. Good results, however, when intelligent man uses the current to give light in darkness; and evil results when the current is directed through the human body to the hurt or death of man. Good and evil are not apparent, do not exist, apart from the actions of intelligent man.
Whether the actions of men are good or evil may be determined by their effects on human life, and their conformity to God's will. Warfare, for example, is not for man's good. It destroys life and the products of life. It seeks for good in an incorrect manner. It violates the firm command of God. It is therefore evil. War is not of God.
The Prophet Joseph Smith declared that all evil done by man was voluntary (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 187). Brigham Young taught the same doctrine (Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 85). President Joseph F. Smith (Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine, p. 69) and all other leaders of the Restored Church have taught that by the actions of men possessed of free agency, good or evil is referred to the will of man. He who desires good, and seeks to become master of his will, will do good; while he who desires evil, and uses his will for that purpose, does evil. Men who love darkness do so because their deeds are evil.
The great discourse of the Prophet Lehi already mentioned sets forth this doctrine in great plainness. Modern revelation is equally emphatic. "All truth is independent in that sphere in which God has placed it, to act for itself, as all intelligence also; otherwise there is no existence" (D & C. 93:30). Brigham Young declares:
Evil is with us; it is that influence which tempts to sin, and which has been permitted to come into the world for the express purpose of giving us an opportunity of proving ourselves before God, before Jesus Christ, our Elder Brother, before the holy angels, and before all good men, that we are determined to overcome the evil, and cleave to the good, for the Lord has given us the ability to do so (Discourses of Brigham Young, pp. 107, 108).
How man may desire to do good above all else, and so direct his will, is a subject for later treatment.
54. IS THERE A PERSONAL DEVIL?
The devil has not escaped modern attempts to explain away old beliefs. Mormonism, however, has found it easy to answer the baffling question about the existence and nature of the devil.
The beings in the "spirit world"—whence humanity comes—are alike in that they possess the right of free agency; they are unlike in that they do not choose, nor have they chosen, alike. Consequently, the inhabitants of the spirit world, as in our world, with the same beginnings and opportunities, differ in the degree or stage of their development. There is therefore in the spirit world as on earth a gradation among individuals in knowledge and power from the lowest to the highest, from the least advanced to the God who represents all knowledge, power, and good. Those who lag behind in the march towards progression are not necessarily evil. They are chiefly enemies to themselves as they loiter along the highway of eternity, though they do hinder the purposes of the Lord who seeks the ultimate salvation of all His children.
The inequality or gradation among those who dwell in the domain of spirits is clearly set forth in the Book of Abraham:
And the Lord said unto me: These two facts do exist, that there are two spirits, one being more intelligent than the other; there shall be another more intelligent than they; I am the Lord thy God, I am more intelligent than they all. ...
Now the Lord had shown unto me, Abraham, the intelligences that were organized before the world was; and among all these there were many of the noble and great ones;
And God saw these souls that they were good, and he stood in the midst of them, and he said: These I will make my rulers; for he stood among those that were spirits, and he saw that they were good; and he said unto me: Abraham, thou art one of them; thou wast chosen before thou wast born (Pearl of Great Price, Abraham 3:19, 22, 23; also, 3:16-23).
Another class of beings, using free agency improperly, are of more serious concern. A being may choose wisely and well, throughout ages of existence, until great progress has been achieved, and then he may turn against truth and actively reject that which made his rise possible and become opposed to those with whom he was formerly associated. This is not an uncommon experience among human beings; it occurs also in the spirit world. Such a change, or apostacy, results from sin—negligence of duty, ambition, greed, selfishness, jealousy, impurity, or any of the many acts that defeat progress. Such persons become enemies of truth, opponents to progress, ready to use evil to defeat good. They become personified evil.
The story of Lucifer is the most terrible example of such apostacy. Lucifer, son of the morning, through diligent search for truth and the use of it, had become one of the foremost in the assembly of those invited to undertake the experiences of earth. But, in that Great Council, his personal ambition and love of power overcame him. He pitted his own plan and will against the purposes of God. He strove to gain the birthright of his Elder Brother, Jesus the Christ. When his proposition was rejected, he forsook all that he had gained, would not repent of his sin, defied truth, and of necessity lost his place among the followers of God. He was no longer Lucifer, bearer of truth, who walked in light, but Satan, teacher of untruth, who slunk in darkness. He became the enemy of God and of all who try to walk according to the Lord's commandments. One-third of the spirits present in that vast assembly supported Satan and became enemies of the truth that they had formerly cherished. With him these rebellious spirits lost their fellowship with the valiant sons of God. What is more, they lost the privilege of obtaining bodies of flesh and blood, without which they cannot gain full power over the forces of the universe. In the face of that defeat, and that curse, they have sought from Adam to the present time to corrupt mankind and defeat the Lord's purposes.
Now, under God's plan, the core of the meaning of human activity is that man, while winning his body, shall progress by overcoming surrounding conditions. He must learn to be master of every improper impulse. His right of choice remains with him; and as he chooses truth he rises toward his ultimate divine destiny. To accomplish this, our Father in heaven makes use of the evil designs of the devil. God allows His fallen son to tempt the children of men, so that they may more deliberately choose between good and evil. The Lord could banish Satan and his angels from earth, and remove temptation from men, but in His wisdom He permits His wayward bodiless children to come upon earth. Thus, despite their intentions, the followers of Satan are so used as to help accomplish the divine purpose. Whether understood by the evil one or not, in his efforts among mankind, he is made an instrument to secure the very plan that he opposed in the Great Council.
And it must needs be that the devil should tempt the children of men, or they could not be agents unto themselves; for if they never should have bitter they could not know the sweet (D. & C. 29:39).
Man may of himself, with no outside temptation, choose between good and evil. The binding of Satan during the millennium means only that he is banished from earth and that no outside temptation is presented to man. Man's agency remains untrammelled. The devil, and his messengers, suggest evil, whisper to their victims, paint sin in glowing colors, make evil seem inviting, urge a momentary thrill against permanent joy—in short, try to deceive, to make a lie appear as desirable as truth. In the words of Joseph Smith, the Prophet, "The devil has great power to deceive; he will so transform things as to make one gape at those who are doing the will of God" (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 227). But, he cannot compel man to do evil. Too many try to place the blame for their evil doing on the devil, when the fault lies within themselves. Touching on this subject the Prophet Joseph Smith declared:
Satan was generally blamed for the evils which we did, but if he was the cause of all our wickedness, men could not be condemned. The devil could not compel mankind to do evil; all was voluntary. Those who resisted the spirit of God would be liable to be led into temptation. ... God would not exert any compulsory means, and the devil could not (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 187).
That leads to the principle that the devil is helpless, cannot lead men into error, unless his victims are willing. At the best, the devil is an intruder in the world: "The earth belongs to Him who framed and organized" (Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 105). If one pursues truth always, seeks for help from the spirit of God, he can bid the devil get behind him knowing that the command must be heeded. Untruth may be blatant, but is always a coward. "The power of the devil is limited, the power of God is unlimited" (Ibid., p. 105).
Recollect, brethren and sisters, every one of you, that when evil is suggested to you, when it arises in your hearts, it is through the temporal organization. When you are tempted, buffeted, and step out of the way inadvertently; when you are overtaken in a fault, or commit an overt act unthinkingly; when you are full of evil passion, and wish to yield to it, then stop and let the spirit, which God has put into your tabernacles, take the lead. If you do that, I will promise that you will overcome all evil, and obtain eternal lives. But many, very many, let the spirit yield to the body, and are overcome and destroyed (Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 107).
In summary: There are many gradations in knowledge, power, and integrity among the personal spirits in the spirit world. They who have learned truth, then oppose it, are evil. As far as this earth is concerned, Satan is the leader of the evil spirits who battle against the Lord's plan of salvation. They are as personal as the spirits who come on earth to assume mortal bodies, but they remain bodiless. If personality in the spirit world is accepted, the personal nature of the devil must be accepted. There is a personal devil.
55. WHO ARE THE SONS OF PERDITION?
The name Perdition was given to Lucifer, a son of the morning. He refused to accept the plan proposed by God the Father, for the salvation of His spirit children. For this defiant rebellion he was "thrust down from the presence of God and the Son," and became Satan or the devil who "maketh war with the saints of God." Those who do likewise, who follow Satan are called sons of perdition. (Pearl of Great Price, Moses 4:1-4). They are they who have known "my power, and have been made partakers thereof, and suffered themselves through the power of the devil to be overcome, and to deny the truth and defy my power." (D. & C. 76:31)
However, Lucifer was "an angel of God who was in authority in the presence of God." He had risen high in knowledge, understanding, and power. He was Lucifer, a son of the morning (of light). For his rebellion there was no excuse. He committed the unpardonable sin, in denying that of which he had full and complete knowledge. He became thereby the father of lies (See D. & C. 76:26, 32-48).
It is probable that only personages who have acquired similar full knowledge, who willfully and deliberately deny the truth, when they know it to be the truth, can commit the unpardonable sin and become sons of perdition. They are sons of perdition because, "Having denied the Holy Spirit after having received it, and having denied the Only Begotten Son of the Father, having crucified him unto themselves and put him to open shame" (D. & C. 76:35). They must have had a fullness of knowledge; a testimony which cannot be destroyed. One must be on a high eminence to fall so low; and few in world's history have attained such a height. It is doubtful if even Judas, who betrayed Jesus, was sufficiently enlightened to become a son of perdition (Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine, p. 545). Cain was called Perdition because of his sin, but it is added "for thou wast also before the world," implying a reason from out of the pre-existent world, for this heavy punishment (Pearl of Great Price, Moses 5:24).
Moreover, the expression, sons of perdition, is often used in the scriptures to describe disciples of Satan, all who defy God and teach untruth, and who delight in lies, without necessarily committing the unpardonable sin. The many brethren and sisters who have propounded questions about the sons of perdition may rest secure that with their present knowledge they cannot become sons of perdition.
According to Mormon doctrine, the bodies of all who have had a mortal existence upon earth will be resurrected from the grave. The atonement of Jesus Christ knows no exceptions (Book of Mormon, 3 Nephi 19:22). Yet, after the resurrection comes the judgment. The acts on earth may forfeit many of the possible gifts following earth existence (Ibid., 3 Nephi 26:4, 5). The spiritual redemption, which is part of the redemption from the grave, will apparently be denied the sons of perdition. That appears to be the meaning of the statements that "he [the Lord] saves all except them"; and that they are "the only ones on whom the second death shall have power" (D. & C. 76:38, 43, 44). They who will be judged to be sons of perdition will arise from the grave with their bodies, but their bodies will be of no use to them, as the "second death" is meted out to them in the final judgment.
The destiny of the sons of perdition is not known. They shall suffer the "second death"; they shall be subject to "everlasting punishment"; they shall "reign with the devil and his angels in eternity." What this means has not been revealed. The Lord has declared:
And the end thereof, neither the place thereof, nor their torment, no man knows;
Neither was it revealed, neither is, neither will be revealed unto man, except to them who are made partakers thereof;...
Wherefore, the end, the width, the height, the depth, and the misery thereof, they understand not, neither any man except those who are ordained unto this condemnation (D. & C. 76:45-46, 48).
It must be a terrible punishment beyond human comprehension, the greatest conceivable, yet a justified punishment. Since the greatest sin is the unpardonable sin, it would appear that they will forfeit all the gains of the ages of pre-existence and the years on earth. It is no wonder that the heavens wept over Lucifer's rebellion (D. & C. 76:26).
President Brigham Young has suggested that the ultimate punishment of the sons of perdition may be that they, having their spiritual bodies disorganized, must start over again, must begin anew the long journey of existence, repeating the steps that they took in the eternities before the Great Council was held. That would be punishment, indeed! "They will be decomposed, both soul and body, and return to their native element. I do not say that they will be annihilated; but they will be disorganized, and will be as if they had never been; while we live and retain our identity and contend against those principles which tend to death or dissolution" (Journal of Discourses, 7:57). "The clay that marred in the potter's hands was thrown back into the unprepared portion to be prepared over again" (Ibid., 2:124).
Little is known of the sons of perdition and their destiny, yet that little known stands as a warning to all men. To deal carelessly with truth, to deny it when once gained, to defy the laws of truth which are the laws of God, must be counted among the greatest sins. Those who deal lightly with truth in their lives, though they may not become sons of perdition, must expect a heavy punishment, which often begins in mortality.
56. WHY DOES THE LORD PERMIT WAR?
The battle of life is essentially a battle between obedience or disobedience to eternal law; between good and evil; between right and wrong. The Lord desires His children to win salvation; Satan, an apostate son of God, seeks to enslave them in his own dark kingdom.
This warfare in one form or another has been going on since the days of Adam. Sickness and poverty; slavery of man, physical or mental; selfishness, pride, and unkindness; the attempt of man to rule others—all are but phases of the struggle between light and darkness, the culmination of which is bloody warfare, when evil men seek to win their way at the sacrifice of human lives.
All contention follows a departure from truth, gospel truth. Only when men yield to evil can Satan have power over them. War is always of man's making. The Lord abhors war or contention, whether in the household, office, or on the field of battle. The responsibility for war rests upon man, the free agent, not upon the Lord. Those who are the occasion of war may rightly be classed as murderers. Brigham Young said: "Of one thing I am sure; God never institutes war; God is not the author of confusion or of war; they are the results of the acts of the children of men.... If the people generally would turn to the Lord, there would never be any war." (Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 562)
Since the law of free agency is ever uppermost in the plan of salvation. the Lord who gave the law must respect it, even though He weep at the errors of His children. It would be a violation of His own plan, should He step in, and, by His undoubted power, stop warfare among the children of men. He would then have to interfere in all contention, and ultimately reduce His children to the status of the unintelligent serfdom proposed by Lucifer in the great council in the heavens. Mankind, however sorrowful the condition, must fight its own battles, and win its own victories.
Nevertheless, though the Lord will not deprive men of the right of free agency, even in the last extremity, He may, in His great mercy, ameliorate the terrors of warfare and turn the tide of battle in behalf of the righteous. In this sense do we pray to the Lord for victory. In the long run, the Lord is always the victor. The history of mankind shows that whatever the momentary result of contention and warfare has been, righteousness has ultimately triumphed. This will be so to the end of the world's story.
There are wars and wars. If both contending parties are but seeking aggrandizement, in territory or power, they are both unworthy of divine help. It is a type of blasphemy under such conditions to offer prayers to heaven for relief. However, when human rights and freedom, the plan of salvation itself, are the issues, the raging battle becomes the battle of the Lord, and those who have truth, and fight for it, should then plead with the Lord for help, and in course of time will receive it, for it has been said: "The Lord shall fight for you" (Exodus 14:14).
There would be no wars unless men had forgotten to live righteously. Even the nation that fights for divine principles, the nation on the Lord's side, may have forgotten the Lord in its material prosperity, and thereby have lost wisdom and strength. Thus, it is within the realm of thought that a nation, through war, may bring upon itself deserved chastisement for its own follies.
At times men are justly engaged in war. The eternal battle has been between right and wrong. Whenever evil has girded itself for war, it may be necessary to use the same weapons to secure defeat of evil. Contrary as it may be to righteous feeling, in the fight for the right, cannon must often be used to meet cannon. Certainly, every means must be used to protect truth from the domination of untruth. The injunction of the Savior to turn "the other cheek," does not mean surrender to untruth, but patience, long suffering, before entering into controversy with one's fellow man. This doctrine is clearly taught in modern revelation:
And again, this is the law that I gave unto mine ancients, that they should not go out unto battle against any nation, tongue, or people, save I, the Lord, commanded them.
And if any nation, tongue, or people should proclaim war against them, they should first lift a standard of peace unto that people, nation, or tongue;
And if that people did not accept the offering of peace, neither the second nor the third time, they should bring these testimonies before the Lord;
Then I, the Lord, would give unto them a commandment, and justify them in going out to battle against that nation, tongue, or people.
And I, the Lord, would fight their battles, and their children's battles, and their children's children's, until they had avenged themselves on all their enemies, to the third and fourth generation.
Behold, this is an ensample unto all people, saith the Lord your God, for justification before me. (D. & C. 98:33-38)
There is no suggestion here that evil shall be allowed to range unhindered in the world, to the injury of humanity. There comes a time when patience is no longer required. But, the righteous will show forbearance as long as it is possible or proper to do so.
At best, this is a difficult question. It is imperative to remember that it is not given to man to read fully the divine mind. All that we can do is to use such truth as has been revealed for our guidance in our thought and action. Of one thing we may however be certain—whatever happens to those who live righteously is permitted by the Lord. Man's only safety is to walk in faith with the Lord.
57. SHOULD A SOLDIER LOVE HIS ENEMY?
The divinely revealed preface to the Doctrine and Covenants makes the statement that "I the Lord cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance" (D. & C. 1:31; Book of Mormon, Alma 45:16).
The nature of sin justifies this unrelenting, final judgment. Sin is untruth, and the misuse of truth. It decries freedom, and fosters tryranny. It deceives and lies. It destroys, but never builds up except for more destruction. It slinks away from light and lurks in darkness. It is in deliberate opposition to the Lord's plan for human progress. Sin is the mark of Satan.
The wide spectrum of sin, laid against a background of selfishness, is everywhere evil. It extends from wilful ignorance to the use of knowledge for unholy purposes; from dishonesty in speech, to deliberate murder; from family and neighborhood contentions, to warfare among nations. Every part of it corrodes, annihilates, is death-dealing. Every part of it, if uncovered, is hideous and found to beckon from slimy, poisonous depths.
Sin cannot be shown love or mercy, however meek and beguiling it may present itself. It cannot be condoned. Were that done the structure of truth would collapse. The battle of the Church is against sin, of every kind; it must be conquered, or the plan of salvation will be defeated; it must be fought to the bitter end. Tolerance of sin is itself a sin.
All human affairs must be measured by the standards of right. If evil is in man's acts, it becomes a sin to support them. The statue totters and falls if clay is mixed with the iron of the feet. The strength of a democracy, more than any other form of government, lies in its adherence to the principles of the plan of salvation.
A war can be called just, only when waged against sin and for the victory of truth; when it battles for the preservation of the principles which make up the plan of salvation, then warfare is righteous. If it is waged to defeat the attempt to enslave men under tyrannical rule, it becomes a war against sin. Such a war should be supported by all who love right above wrong; by all who adhere to the right of free agency, for which the heavenly battle was fought, long ago.
If it be desired to test the righteousness of a war, compare the issues with those of the divinely formulated plan for human happiness. No other test is needed. The standards are all there.
In such a spirit, with such understanding, the soldiers who go out from this Church must go into battle. They are fighting sin; they are fighting for truth; no quarter can be shown the opposing side. The soldiers of the enemy, whether willing or not, represent a sinful, destructive cause. They must be defeated at any cost, even that of their lives. Sin cannot be looked upon "with the least degree of allowance." (D. & C. 1:31) The opposing army must be viewed as a cause, not as a group of men.
The cause must be uppermost. The individual must recede in importance, until the cause for betterment has triumphed. Soldiers of a righteous cause, whether the warfare be great or small, must fix their attention upon that cause, and with determination fight for it. The fate of the enemy as individuals must be set aside in the battle for principle. If right wins, as it must and will, the enemy and all humanity will be blessed.
In sacred history war has often been permitted, to establish the cause of righteousness, or to prevent evil from triumphing among men. Even the Savior when the temple of God, "a house of prayer," had been made into "a den of thieves," overthrew the tables of the money-changers and the merchants, and drove out all who were violating the holy purposes of the temple. The cause of righteousness must be man's first and constant consideration.
Nevertheless, though sin can be given no quarter, nor those who seek to impose sin upon others, yet the soldier must recognize that the sinner, as an individual, remains a child of God, subject to repentance and the Lord's eternal mercy. Since he represents a sinful cause, it may be necessary to use against him the only weapons he recognizes, even though it means his destruction. The coin of Caesar is his; we must render it to him to win the Lord's cause. Yet we may hope and pray that on the endless, eternal journey, he may find his way to salvation.
Love is the first activating force of the gospel. For love of His children the Lord laid out the plan of salvation. It was love for humanity that gave the Savior courage to meet His death upon the cross. It is through love, one for the other, among the children of men, that the brotherhood of man, the aim of the gospel, will arise upon earth. Through love, right will triumph over evil, But, it should ever be borne in mind that love is defeated, unless righteousness is victorious.
Therefore, the love of truth, the gospel which blesses all mankind, must transcend the love of an individual or a group. Usually, the best way to love our enemies is to keep truth from being trodden into the ground by those who are led by evil, designing leaders. Make truth and right triumphant, and love will bear rule among men. There is no other way.
All need to learn that love, as all other virtues, must be exercised with wisdom and in a commonsense manner. Hysteria and emotional outbursts, often for criminals, are not expressions of love, but of diseased conceptions of the right manner of loving our fellow men.
The banner of love will ever be held aloft by the Church. The soldier can and should love his enemy, but not in the sense that he forgets the greater love of the cause by which in the end the enemy and all others will be blessed.
58. ARE ALL EXALTED WHO ENTER THE CELESTIAL GLORY?
Aperson's works, under the loving mercy of the Father, determine his final judgment, whether he shall inherit the celestial, terrestrial, or telestial glory. The conditions for entering the celestial glory, the only one with which the Church is concerned, are set forth in soul-lifting words in section 76 of the Doctrine and Covenants. (See verses 50-70) The conditions there enumerated are those which the Church has always taught men to accept and obey.
Within each glory, composed of innumerable beings, there appear to be several, perhaps many, degrees to fit gradations of attainment or capacity among various groups. It is somewhat like the practice of some universities. All who have fulfilled the requirements are graduated with the same degree and are made members of the alumni association. But, some receive upon their diploma added commendations according to the excellence of their work, 'with honors," "with high honors," or "with highest honors." Or perhaps a better comparison—some have qualified, in addition to the general requirements for professional service, in one of the many activities of society. So in the clestial glory, all faithful persons will receive some degree of exalation, but not all full exaltation. Only dimly do we understand conditions in the "other world."
Joseph Smith the Prophet declared that "in the celestial glory there are three heavens or degrees." Full exaltation means the attainment of the highest of these three degrees in the celestial glory. (D. & C. 131:1)
The Prophet further explained that to inherit this highest degree, to be fully exalted, a man or a woman must be married for time and eternity, sealed to someone by the "Holy Spirit of Promise." (D. & C. 131:2-4; also 132:7) Such people have fitted themselves to carry on the work of the Lord by providing the means of salvation for others, their own progeny. They have eternal "increase"; they shall "continue"; they shall have no "end." They are like the gods. They who are not so sealed remain "angels of God forever and ever." (D. & C. 132:17)
This does not mean that those who have not married on earth, through no fault of their own, may not attain exaltation. For them the sealing ordinance may be performed vicariously; and then, if the work is accepted by them, they may receive all promised blessings following obedience to law.
The experiences of earth make this situation somewhat understandable. There are members of the Church who have received the gospel, and who are in fellowship with the Saints but who do not use all of the opportunities of the gospel. For example, they may not use all their privilege to receive the temple endowment, or to be ordained to the Priesthood. Though they may be active members of the Church, they have missed something that others have received, and must be classed accordingly.
Similarly, all who enter the celestial glory do not necessarily receive full exaltation therein.
59. DO THOSE WHO DIE BEFORE ACCOUNTABILITY RECEIVE EXALTATION?
The Lord, speaking to Joseph Smith the Prophet, declared that "little children are redeemed from the foundation of the world through mine Only Begotten." (D. & C. 29:46) He has further instructed his people that the law of the gospel does not become operative until children "begin to become accountable before me." (D. & C. 29:47)
The age of accountability has been set for normal persons at eight years of age. (D. & C. 68:25) At that age baptism should be performed.
Those who die before the age of accountability have their bodies. If in their pre-existent state they have not made themselves unworthy, it is not thinkable that they will be deprived of any blessing held in reserve for the Saints of God. They will be in the hands of the Lord, who is full of love and justice. We may safely leave them there
60. WILL ALL MEN WHO LIVED ON EARTH BEFORE CHRIST BE RESURRECTED BEFORE THOSE WHO CAME AFTER CHRIST?
The Prophet Alma, in a discussion of the resurrection, long before the days of Christ, declared:
Now, whether the souls and the bodies of those of whom has been spoken shall all be reunited at once, the wicked as well as the righteous, I do not say; let it suffice, that I say that they all come forth; or in other words, their resurrection cometh to pass before the resurrection of those who die after the resurrection of Christ (Book of Mormon, Alma 40:19).
In this statement and its context, Alma bears witness to the basic Christian doctrine that all men shall be resurrected. The atonement of Jesus Christ was for all men, without exception. An express purpose of the plan of salvation was to provide means by which the spirit children of God could win eternal, imperishable bodies to serve them on their unending, progressive journey.
So important an event, none more so in man's endless existence, would certainly be consummated in an orderly manner. All men will not be resurrected at once; but they will arise, under the divine voice, in groups according to their faithfulness in life. There will be the resurrection of the righteous and of the wicked, of the just and the unjust; the first resurrection and the last. Apparently a succession of such group resurrections will occur until all the earth children of the Father have reclaimed their bodies (D. & C. 76:17; 88:95-102; John 5:28, 29).
Alma appears to apply this orderly process of the resurrection to the individuals within each group. After all, resurrection is an individual matter. Who, in a group equally deserving, who have shown equal fidelity in life's journey, shall conquer the grave first? With simple, clear logic Alma seems to indicate that in each group those who finished their earth life first will first be called to arise from their graves. Thus, both justice and order are preserved in the resurrection of the human family.
Meanwhile, little has been revealed concerning the means, methods, and times of the resurrection. With certainty we know only that all will be resurrected, and that the righteous will come forth from their graves first. That is the glorious testimony of Alma, the Book of Mormon prophet.
61. IS IT POSSIBLE TO PROGRESS FROM ONE GLORY TO ANOTHER?
In the final judgment, all the earth children of the Lord will be assigned places in one or the other of the three grand divisions or degrees of salvation, known to us from modern revelation as the three glories. Each assignment will depend upon the use the candidate has made of the opportunities placed before him on earth and elsewhere. "For they shall be judged according to their works" (D. & C. 76: 111). By his own acts each person has shown his fitness to participate in the activities of this or that glory. It would be useless to place him higher than his capabilities would permit, and unfair to place him lower. If placed too high, he would not be competent or happy there, nor could he be content if placed too low. The degree of salvation of necessity corresponds, under the merciful justice of the Lord, with the demonstrated worthiness, capacity, and capability of each individual. The final judgment is individual.
Within each glory, however, there may be advancement. The law of progress may be utilized by every intelligence in the universe. Those who inherit the telestial, terrestrial, or celestial glories may progress, and progress eternally. But, let it ever be remembered that the power to progress is greatest in the celestial glory, and is decreasingly smaller in the lower glories. There can be no talk, therefore, of those in the lower places overtaking those in the higher, any more than an automobile traveling at the rate of twenty-five miles an hour can overtake one moving at the rate of fifty miles an hour.
They who inherit the celestial glory will dwell in the presence of the Father and the Son. They are kings and priests. From that glory issues the power of God, known to us as the Priesthood of the Lord. In that glory certain conditions of joy belong which are absent in the other glories. They who have inherited the lesser glories will receive a salvation so glorious as to be beyond the understanding of man—that has been revealed to us—but, "where God and Christ dwell they can not come, worlds without end" (D. & C. 76: 112).
62. WHAT ARE THE FACTS CONCERNING THE SO-CALLED ADAM-GOD THEORY?
Those who peddle the well-worn Adam-God myth, usually charge the Latter-day Saints with believing that: (1) Our Father in heaven, the Supreme God, to whom we pray, is Adam, the first man; and (2) Adam was the father of Jesus Christ. A long series of absurd and false deductions are made from these propositions.
Those who spread this untruth about the Latter-day Saints go back for authority to a sermon delivered by President Brigham Young "in the tabernacle, Great Salt Lake City, April 9th, 1852."(Journal of Discourses, 1:50) Certain statements there made are confusing if read superficially, but very clear if read with their context. Enemies of President Brigham Young and of the Church have taken advantage of the opportunity and have used these statements repeatedly and widely to do injury to the reputation of President Young and the Mormon people. An honest reading of this sermon and of other reported discourses of President Brigham Young proves that the great second President of the Church held no such views as have been put into his mouth in the form of the Adam-God myth.
In the discourse, upon which hangs the Adam-God myth, President Brigham Young discussed the earthly origin of Jesus Christ. He denied that the Holy Ghost was the father of Jesus Christ; and affirmed that the Savior was begotten by God the Father. He explained that "Our Father in Heaven begat all the spirits that ever were or ever will be upon this earth; and they were born spirits in the eternal world. Then the Lord by His power and wisdom organized the mortal tabernacle of man." That is, every human being is in direct descent from God, the Father. In the course of his remarks President Young was led to discuss the high place of Adam among the generations of men, for Adam "helped to make and organize this world, and as first man, the father of us all, Adam stands at the head of the human race, and will ever be the representative of his children before our Father in heaven, the Father of our spirits. It was in connection with this thought that the oft-quoted statement was made about Adam, that "he is our Father and our God, and the only God with whom we have to do."
He spoke of Adam as the great patriarch of the human race, a personage who had been privileged and able to assist in the creation of the earth, who would continue his efforts in behalf of the human family, and through whom many of our needs would be met. All this was in contradiction to the common doctrine the world over that Adam was a great sinner, and not to be held in affectionate remembrance. Nowhere is it suggested that Adam is God, the Father, whose child Adam himself was. On the contrary, in the sermon of April 9th, 1852, itself, there is a clear distinction made between Adam and God the Father, in the following words: "The earth was organized by three distinct characters, namely Elohim, Jehovah, and Michael"—the last previously defined as Adam. There can be no confusion in this passage of the separate personalities of these three great beings. A discourse delivered August 8, 1852, within four months of the discourse in controversy (Journal of Discourses, 3:94) contains the following: "The Lord sent forth His gospel to the people: He said, I will give it to my son Adam, from whom Methusaleh received it; and Noah received it from Methusaleh; and Melchizedek administered to Abraham." Clearly, President Young here distinguishes between God, the Father, and Adam, the first man.
The sermon of April 9, 1852, also makes the statement that, "Jesus, our Elder Brother, was begotten in the flesh by the same character that was in the Garden of Eden, and who is our Father in Heaven." The dishonest inference has been drawn and advertised widely that President Young meant that Adam was the earthly father of Jesus Christ. This deduction cannot be made fairly, in view of the context or of his other published utterances on the subject. Adam and Eve were not the only persons in the Garden of Eden, for "they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day." (Genesis 3:8). President Young undoubtedly had this personage in mind, for he did not say Adam, but "our Father in heaven."
In many discourses, President Young refers to Jesus as the Only Begotten of the Father, which would not have been true, had Adam been the earthly father of Jesus. At one time he declared (Journal of Discourses, 1:238), "I believe the Father came down from heaven, as the Apostles said he did, and begat the Savior of the World; for He is the Only Begotten of the Father, which could not have been if the Father did not actually beget him in person." On another occasion (Journal of Discourses, 2:42) he said, "And what shall we say of our Heavenly Father? He is also a man in perfection, and the Father of the man Jesus Christ, and the Father of our spirits." It seems unnecessary to offer more evidence that Brigham Young held the accepted doctrine of the Church, that God, the Father, and not Adam, is the earthly Father of Jesus.
In all this, President Young merely followed the established doctrine of the Church. Joseph Smith the Prophet, in discussing the Priesthood, touched upon the position of Adam.
[The Priesthood] commencing with Adam, who was the first man, who is spoken of in Daniel as being the "Ancient of Days," or in other words, the first and oldest of all, the great, grand progenitor of whom it is said in another place he is Michael, because he was the first and father of all, not only by progeny, but the first to hold the spiritual blessings, to whom was made known the plan of ordinances for the salvation of his posterity unto the end, and to whom Christ was first revealed, and through whom Christ has been revealed from heaven, and will continue to be revealed from henceforth. Adam holds the keys of the dispensation of the fulness of times, i.e., the dispensation of all the times that have been and will be revealed through him from the beginning to Christ, and from Christ to the end of all the dispensations that are to be revealed....This, then, is the nature of the Priesthood, every man holding the Presidency of his dispensation, and one man holding the Presidency of them all, even Adam. (Joseph Smith, History of the Church, Vol. 4, pp. 207-209)
On another occasion the Prophet Joseph Smith stated further:
The Priesthood was first given to Adam; he obtained the First Presidency, and held the keys of it from generation to generation. He obtained it in the Creation, before the world was formed, as in Genesis 1:26, 27, 28. He had dominion given him over every living creature....Our Father Adam, Michael, will call his children together and prepare them for the coming of the Son of Man. He (Adam) is the father of the human family, and presides over the spirits of all men, and all that have had the keys must stand before him in this grand council....The Son of Man stands before him, and there is given him glory and dominion. Adam delivers up his stewardship to Christ. (Joseph Smith, History of the Church, Vol 3, pp. 385-387)
The perspective of years brings out the remarkable fact, that, though the enemies of the Latter-day Saints have had access, in printed form, to the hundreds of discourses of Brigham Young, only half a dozen statements have been useful to the calumniators of the founder of Utah. Of these, the sermon of April 9, 1852, which has been quoted most frequently, presents no errors of fact or doctrine, if read understandingly and honestly.
63. WHERE ARE THE LOST TRIBES OF ISRAEL?
In the field of theological-historical speculation, few themes have been more assiduously theorized about than the location of the lost tribes of Israel. The voluminous literature concerning the subject "proves" that the tribes may be in any land under the sun, according to the theory accepted. In the restored Church, several books on the subject, presenting different views, have been written by thoughtful, honest men. Fortunately, so far as human happiness here or hereafter is concerned, it matters not a whit where they are located. Unfortunately, some brethren have entangled the subject with the theology of the gospel to their own discomfiture.
Throughout its long history as one nation, the Hebrews had been in almost continuous warfare with neighboring peoples, and indeed the people of the valley of the Euphrates on the east, and of Egypt on the south and west, mighty nations, had paid their warlike respects to the children of Abraham. Wars and warfare form a large part of the history of united Israel. Only under David and Solomon was the kingdom made into an empire strong enough to dictate terms to weaker neighbors and engender wholesome respect among larger powers.
After the death of Solomon, the divided kingdoms, divided also in strength, were subject to similar warfare. Invasion followed invasion; the larger powers to the east, viewing Palestine as a strategically important corridor to Egypt, descended, with powerful armies, upon the now petty kingdoms. The southern kingdom of Judah and the northern kingdom of Israel became little more than vassals to Babylonian powers.
Following the practice of the times, the victors carried large numbers of the vanquished people into captivity, to serve as slaves, craftsmen, builders, or even statesmen, according to their gifts and talents. There were many such captivities from among the people of Israel.
The captivity connected with the lost tribes is mentioned in 2 Kings 17:6: "In the ninth year of Hoshea the king of Assyria took Samaria, and carried Israel away into Assyria, and settled them in Halah and in Habor, by the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes." A similar statement is made in I Chronicles 5:26. That is all we hear of them. From that time they are literally lost to history, except for a passage in the Apocrypha, II Esdras, 13:40-47:
Those are the ten tribes, which were carried away prisoners out of their own land, in the time of Osea the King, whom Salmanasar the King of Assyria led away captive, and he carried them over the waters, and so they came into another land. But they took this counsel among themselves, that they would leave the multitude of the heathen, and go forth into a further country, where never mankind dwelt, that they might there keep statutes, which they never kept in their own land. And they entered into Euphrates by the narrow passages of the river. For the Most High then showed signs for them, and held still the flood, till they were passed over. For through that country there was a great way to go, namely of a year and a half: and the same region is called Arsareth. Then they dwelt there until the latter time; and now when they shall begin to come, the Highest shall stay the springs of the stream again, that they may go through.
Many fantastic theories have been set up concerning the location of the lost tribes. One declares, for example, that in the northern countries are vast subterranean caverns in which the lost tribes live and prosper, awaiting the day of their return. Another, by diagram and argument, suggests that a secondary small planet is attached at the north pole, to the earth by a narrow neck, and that the lost tribes live there. (Dalton, The Key to This Earth) Others, even more unacceptable, are in circulation.
The view most commonly held by members of the Church is that a body of Israelites are actually living in some unknown place on earth, probably in the north. In support of this opinion are the common knowledge that the earth is not yet fully explored; and also numerous scriptural references to a gathering of Israel from the north countries. Jeremiah speaks of the house of Israel coming "out of the north country." (Jeremiah 3:18; 23:8; 31:8-11; Hosea 1:11) In the Book of Mormon, also, there are references to Israel coming out of the north in the latter days. Ether prophesies of those "who were scattered and gathered in from the four quarters of the earth, and from the north countries." In modern revelation the north countries are mentioned in connection with the restoration of the ten tribes. "They who are in the north countries shall come in remembrance before the Lord; and their prophets shall hear his voice, and shall no longer stay themselves; and they shall smite the rocks, and the ice shall flow down at their presence." (D. & C. 133:26) Moreover, in the Kirtland Temple, Moses appeared to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery and "committed unto us the keys of ... the leading of the ten tribes from the land of the north." (D. & C. 110:11)
Another view held by many is that the lost tribes are in the northern part of the earth, thus fulfilling that scriptural requirement, but not necessarily in one body. In support are quoted the many references in scripture to the gathering of Israel from the four corners of the earth and the isles of the sea. Further than that, while north countries are mentioned, nowhere is it specifically stated that the lost tribes are in one body apart from other peoples. It is contended that the wandering Israelitish tribes actually settled in northern Europe and Asia, and throughout the centuries mingled with the people there, until the blood of Israel runs strong among the northern peoples. Thus is explained the relatively ready acceptance of the gospel by the British, Scandinavian, and German peoples. Those who hold this view feel that prophecy has been literally fulfilled by the gathering of Latter-day Saints from Northern Europe to the Church in Western America. The notable British-Israel movement is built upon such a dispersion of the lost tribes. (Stephen Malan, The Ten Tribes)
A third view attempts to reconcile the two preceding ones. We are reminded that historically and prophetically it is well known that Israel has been scattered among the nations. By removal from the Holy Land through successive captivities, and voluntary migrations, often due to persecution, and by intermarriage with other races, the blood of Israel is now found in almost every land and among every people. The ancient writers spoke of "the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad." It is suggested that on the northward march of the lost tribes, many fell from the company, remained at various points of the journey, there became mixed with the people living there, until today, along the line of exodus, the blood of Israel may be found. It is further suggested that a part of the ten tribes may be somewhere in seclusion, but also that their blood may be among the nations through which they passed on their long migration, thousands of miles if they reached the arctic regions. (George Reynolds, Are We of Israel? Allen H. Godbey, The Lost Tribes, a Myth)
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believes in the restoration of the ten tribes; and that it is a part of the mission of the Church to gather scattered Israel into the fold of truth. It knows that throughout the ages, under the wise economy of the Lord, the blood of Israel, most susceptible to gospel truth, has been mingled with all nations. The scattering of Israel is a frequent theme of writers of the Bible. So firm is this belief that the Latter-day Saints, for over a hundred years, at great sacrifices of money, energy, and life itself, have gone out over the earth to preach the restored gospel, and bring all men into the house of Israel.
The question concerning the location of the lost tribes, of itself unimportant, is interesting in showing how such matters are allowed to occupy men's time and tempers, in a day that calls for helpful action among those who are within our reach. Time will reveal the whereabouts of the lost tribes. It is our concern to help fulfil the plan of God, by eager daily service.
64. WHAT KNOWLEDGE DID THE PIONEERS OF '47 HAVE OF THE WESTERN PART OF NORTH AMERICA?
On the 6th of August, 1842, in Montrose, Iowa, the Prophet Joseph Smith uttered the famous and well-authenticated prophecy that the Latter-day Saints would settle and become a mighty people "in the midst of the Rocky Mountains." (History of the Church, Vol. 5, p. 85; also Morris, Prophecies of Joseph Smith, pp. 124-190.)
This removal of the Church and her people to the far West was not, in the mind of the Prophet, a distant event. For, on February 20, 1844, he instructed the Twelve Apostles of the Church to send out an exploring expedition into the West "to hunt out" suitable locations for settlement. Under this instruction several meetings were held. Volunteers for the company were found and accepted; the necessary equipment considered, and details of the trip were discussed, (History of the Church, Vol. 6, pp. 222, 223, 224.)
A few months later, on June 22, 1844, the Prophet was warned that his enemies were conspiring to kill him. By inspiration he was told to flee to the Rocky Mountains, there to begin the work of settlement. This he proceeded to do. Under cover of night he crossed the Mississippi, to a place of safety where the plans for the long journey could be made without hindrance. It is well known how the Prophet, charged with cowardice and running away from his people, returned to Nauvoo, and that on June 27, 1844, while under the promised protection of the governor of the state, was murdered by a lawless mob.
It is certain that Joseph Smith expected the early fulfilment of his prophecy.
As the probable need for evacuating Nauvoo became apparent, there was naturally much talk about the new place of settlement—Texas, then a vast undeveloped empire, was held in high favor by several Church leaders. California and Oregon, then general names for the vast western territory, had their advocates. Even Vancouver Island, though a British possession, was under discussion. Wild dreams of other locations, involving gigantic enterprises, floated about.
That the new settlement was to be "in the midst of the Rocky Mountains" must have been clear to the Prophet. When he instructed the Twelve to seek out a location, he asked them to find a place where the people could "get up into the mountains." He wanted an exploration of "all that mountain country." In the minutes of the meetings of that day, the project was spoken of as the "Western Exploring Expedition," or the "Exploring Expedition to the Rocky Mountains." (History of the Church, Vol. 6, p. 224)
California and Oregon were mentioned, but only as locations "west of the mountains," that is, beyond the great plains. It would really appear that within a large area, the Prophet had localized the settlement, for he sent word to the brethren, when he fled from Nauvoo, to "be ready to start for the Great Basin in the Rocky Mountains."
Brigham Young, also acting under inspiration, followed, in outline at least, the plan laid out before the martyrdom of Joseph Smith. That explains perhaps why, on September 9, 1845, he and the other brethren were discussing the formation of a "company of fifteen hundred men to be selected to go to Great Salt Lake Valley" for investigation. (William Clayton's Journal, p. 439)
In 1842, the West was known in wide, general outlines. Trappers and fur-traders who had operated there for a quarter of a century had brought back more or less accurate descriptions of the country. Captain Bonneville, in 1832-34, had traversed much of the country, and made some reports. Captain John C. Fremont had begun his official explorations in 1842, and, in 1844, his first report had already been published by Congress. The report of the Fremont explorations of 1842-43-44 was published in 1845. At that time the far West was on the lips of the people throughout the country. Romance, adventure, and possible wealth seemed to lurk there.
It would be folly to hold that a people whose intelligence had been so well demonstrated would not make use, themselves, of all available information before engaging in such a stupendous and hazardous enterprise. In fact, the first report of John C. Fremont and a map of Oregon were available to Joseph Smith about April, 1844. (Journal History, April 26 and 30, 1844)
After the death of Joseph Smith, when the Twelve led the Church, there are numerous entries showing that the brethren were eagerly seeking information concerning the West. For example, the Nauvoo Temple minutes of Monday, December 29, 1845, read: "President Brigham Young read for nearly an hour from a book entitled The Narrative of the Exploring Expedition to the Rocky Mountain and to Oregon and North California in the years 1842, 1843 and 1844, by Brevet Captain J. C. Fremont. This volume carries a fairly good map of the West, including the Great Basin.
William Clayton in his famous journal repeatedly refers to such stories. For example, on December 31, 1845, Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball "examined maps with reference to selecting a location for the Saints, west of the Rocky Mountains, and reading various works written by travelers in those regions." (p. 558) On February 25, 1846, Captain Lansford W. Hastings discussed emigrant routes with the brethren. On February 27, 1847, the minutes of a meeting quotes Brigham Young as saying, "We have to search for land that can be irrigated." The Pioneers of 1847 went into the West with such knowledge, scanty enough, as was then available.
That the Pioneers decided to locate in the Great Salt Lake Valley from information furnished by Father De Smet, Jim Bridger, or Miles Goodyear is to give credit where it is not due. These men no doubt tried to be helpful, but could add little to what was already known. Here and there details of little value were possibly added, But, certainly, they did not advise settlement in the valley of the Great Salt Lake. One need only read Clayton's minute account of Bridger's talk to the Pioneers to understand how useless it really was to the vanguard of an emigrating host of people. Goodyear's was no better.
In that day the West was practically uncharted. Only in large outline were men acquainted with it. It was a vast region known fully to no man. The problem of the Pioneers was to locate in this wilderness a specific place for settlement. To do that something more than the scant knowledge of hurrying scouts or army officers was necessary. It was in the choosing of the future home of the Saints that revelation became evident. Jim Bridger was doubtful whether corn could mature in the valley; Brigham Young was not, for he was guided by the higher knowledge. Samuel Brannan was certain that the country around San Francisco Bay was safest for the Saints; Brigham Young, by the voice of the Spirit knew better. Where human knowledge failed, divine knowledge became a safe guide.
The question at the head of this writing may therefore be answered as follows: The Mormon Pioneers of 1847 were in possession of the knowledge of the day concerning the West. However, the initiation of their western venture, the choosing of the Great Basin for settlement, and the locating of their chief city in the Great Salt Lake Valley were products of the spirit of prophecy and revelation. It was by that spirit that Joseph Smith uttered his prophecy in 1842, and by that spirit Brigham Young declared in 1847, "This is the place." Indeed, in a sermon delivered on July 8, 1849, Brigham Young said, "I knew in the temple at Nauvoo that we could raise grain here." That knowledge did not come from human wisdom.
65. ARE COMMUNISM AND ITS RELATED "ISMS" PREPARATORY TO THE UNITED ORDER?
The United Order is the popular name of an economic system revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith. It is sometimes called the Order of Enoch, since it was practiced by that patriarch and his people. It is also spoken of, and more correctly, as the Law of Consecration because of its vitalizing, directing principle. (D. & C. 42:32) Its structure and operation, as far as given, are described in the Doctrine and Covenants notably in sections 42, 51, and 104.
The United Order rests upon the doctrine that spiritual and temporal activities are based upon the same or similar eternal laws. The laws that prevail in a spiritual sphere must measurably govern temporal existence. A Zion on earth can be built only by the application of the laws of the celestial kingdom. (D. & C. 105:5)
Therefore, since the gospel holds out to all men the promise of eternal life and the possibility of the same degree of exaltation, if certain laws are obeyed, it seems reasonable that there must also be laws which, if obeyed, will enable all men to attain the same degree of temporal salvation. Equality in the life to come is promised the faithful; equality in life on earth is also promised if the way of the Lord is followed. This must be so. "For if ye are not equal in earthly things ye can not be equal in obtaining heavenly things." (D. & C. 78:6; also 104: 15-17)
A full understanding of the United Order requires careful study of the revelations on the subject. In briefest outline it is formed and operated as follows: It is organized under Church authority by the voluntary action of a group of men holding the Holy Priesthood, for themselves and their families. All officers are drawn from the membership of the order. All members, upon entrance into the order, pool their resources, that is, place them, as a consecration, in the common treasury of the order (D. & C. 42:32, 33). Each man is then given, from the treasury, his "portion" or "inheritance," that is, the means or capital with which to make a living for himself and his family—a farm and implements for the farmer, a shop and tools for the mechanic, etc. (D. & C. 51:3) As the youth within the order grow into maturity they are likewise given their "inheritances" from the common treasury. His "inheritance" is deeded to each member; it is his very own; it is private property. This "inheritance" he is free to use as he chooses. His free agency is carefully guarded. (D. & C. 51:4; 104:73-75) He is under one obligation only: to be loyal to the order and to be wise and industrious in the use of the "portion" given him. Especially, the idler has no place in the order. (D. & C. 75:29)
Should the use of a man's "inheritance" yield a surplus above the needs of himself, his family, and his business, such surplus is placed in the common treasury, for the benefit of the order, to provide inheritances for the young, to care for the unfortunate, and for all ventures and institutions for the public benefit, as may be approved by the membership of the order.
Should a man, because of insufficient natural endowment, or caught by uncontrollable circumstances, fail to make his inheritance yield enough to meet his needs, he would receive assistance from the common treasury. The fortunate would thus assist the unfortunate. None would be allowed to suffer.
The principles operating in such a "United Order" are almost self-evident. The order rests upon the acceptance of the gospel, faith in God, Jesus Christ, and the prophet of the restoration, and the moral and spiritual life required by the gospel. It is formed for the benefit of each individual member. The members do not exist for the welfare of the order but the order for their benefit. The equal rights of men to seek prosperity are recognized. The right of free agency is strictly respected. Every man is given an equal chance in life as he is given his "inheritance." The unequal powers of man are acknowledged; but no man is allowed to suffer because of lack of capacity or natural inhibitions. Relative equality in possessing the material joys of life is preserved by returning the surplus to the common treasury.
Love of man for man is ever present. In structure the system is not involved, and in practice relatively simple. But it requires, on the part of every member, a recognition of the brotherhood of man, and a rigid will for the common good.
Clearly, the results of the United Order would be most beneficial and glorious. Not only would the poor and weak be assisted, but that earthly equality would be brought about which is a necessary preparation for the celestial world. (D. & C. 78:6, 7) All would have the opportunity of improving their talents; they would seek one another's interest and do all things with an eye single to the glory of God. (D. & C. 82:18, 19)
The United Order, under somewhat differing organizations, has actually been tested by the Church, during short periods, in Ohio, Missouri, and Utah. Its power to benefit humanity has been demonstrated. But it was also found that few men were prepared to render full service in such a venture. Men must cast off their selfishness to be worthy members; they must revise many traditions handed down through generations of time; and they must build in their hearts an unwavering love for their fellow men. All this requires self-discipline over many years. Then, too, persecution from the outside made it difficult to live under the United Order.
These and other conditions led to the suspension of the order, as a mode of life. While it is in abeyance, the law of tithing and wise and earnest cooperation in all affairs of life partially take its place. Yet the United Order remains the ideal under which Latter-Saints hope some time to live.
Today it has a practical value as an ideal by which any proposed economic system may be tested for the degree of its worthiness. The nearer any scheme for economic betterment conforms to the principles of the United Order, the more likely it will be to assist mankind in their efforts to attain material happiness.
It may be observed that the principles appearing in the United Order are those which are applied more or less completely in a democracy. They are certainly in opposition to any form of regimentation or dictatorship, since the order provides personal freedom of action and common consent in all affairs. (D. & C. 104: 21, 71) The student of history will further observe that the periods of greatest human prosperity have been those in which these principles have been most nearly approximated.
An emphatic "No!" is the answer to the question at the head of this chapter. Untruth is never a preparation for truth. Modern communism, facism, nazism, socialism, and other related systems, are all the same in essential theory. They oppose religion, except as they themselves claim to be revelations, and they reject Christian morality. They prohibit free speech and action; eliminate private ownership and initiative; hold without exception the state above the individual; regiment the people; allow the strong to dominate the weak; they take government out of the hands of the governed, and place it in the hands of a self-appointed, selfish, self-styled, super-group, and they culminate in dictatorships. The free agent has no place in their systems. Their claim that they believe in human equality, as shown by their tyrannical behavior, is false. Force and terrorism are their weapons. All that makes for human security and happiness is destroyed.
One need only read the published philosophies of these "isms," and observe them in action, to confirm the above statements. From Plato to Marx and Nietzsche, the same story is told, one of high-sounding objective, but in practice one of subjection of the common man to a self-appointed guardian, masquerading in the stolen robes of human equality—wolves in sheep's clothing.
In stern opposition to these political "isms" is the plan provided by the Lord. As one studies the United Order, the more evident becomes its power for human welfare, for developing human lives, and for providing the prosperity needed on the path of progress. It makes possible the things for which the human soul most hungers. It stands secure and firm above the imperfect inventions of men. It is a mighty and marvelous evidence of the divine inspiration of the Prophet Joseph Smith.
Not communism and its brood, but faithful living within the Church of Christ, reestablished in these latter days, is the preparation for the coming of the United Order. There is no other adequate and acceptable preparation. And let it be remembered that the coming will be authorized through the revelation of the Lord to the President of the Church and not from any other source.
66. WHY DID THE CHURCH PRACTICE PLURAL MARRIAGE IN EARLIER DAYS?
Plural marriage was practiced by between two and four percent of the Church membership from 1843 to 1890 (according to the Utah Commission appointed by Congress). In the latter year the Supreme Court of the United States affirmed the constitutionality of the congressional laws against the practice. Obedience to constitutional law is a fundamental tenet of the Church. (D. & C. 98:5, 6) Therefore, after Wilford Woodruff had sought guidance from the Lord, the Church suspended the practice. However, it had been declared, long before, that the Church would cease the practice if constitutional laws against it were enacted. For example, "Would it be right for the Latter-day Saints to marry a plurality of wives in any of the states or territories, or nations, where such practices are prohibited by the laws of man? We answer 'No, it would not be right'; for we are commanded to be subject to the powers that be ... unless their laws are unrighteous." (Orson Pratt, The Seer, p. 111, June, 1853) Today any Church member who enters into plural marriage or who teaches its propriety in these days is promptly excommunicated.
Plural marriage has been a subject of wide and frequent comment. Members of the Church unfamiliar with its history, and many non-members, have set up fallacious reasons for the origin of this system of marriage among the Latter-day Saints.
The most common of these conjectures is that the Church, through plural marriage, sought to provide husbands for its large surplus of female members. The implied assumption in this theory, that there have been more female than male members in the Church, is not supported by existing evidence. On the contrary, there seem always to have been more males than females in the Church. Families—father, mother, and children—have most commonly joined the Church. Of course, many single women have become converts, but also many single men.
The United States census records from 1850 to 1940, and all available Church records, uniformly show a preponderance of males in Utah, and in the Church. Indeed, the excess in Utah has usually been larger than for the whole United States, as would be expected in a pioneer state. The births within the Church obey the usual population law—a slight excess of males. Orson Pratt, writing in 1853 from direct knowledge of Utah conditions, when the excess of females was supposedly the highest, declares against the opinion that females outnumbered the males in Utah. (The Seer, p. 110) The theory that plural marriage was a consequence of a surplus of female Church members fails from lack of evidence.
Another theory holds that plural marriage resulted from licentiousness of the Church leaders. This is refuted by the evidence at hand. The founders and early leaders of the Church were reared under the strictly monogamic system of New England. Plural marriage seemed to them an unholy and repellent practice. Joseph Smith has told that he hesitated to enter the system until he was warned of his destruction if he did not obey. (Jenson, Historical Record 5:222) Brigham Young said that he felt, when the doctrine was revealed to him, that he would rather die than take plural wives. (Life Story of Brigham Young, Gates and Widtsoe, p. 242) Others of the early Church leaders to whom the principle was first taught have related their feeling of resistance to the practice. Undoubtedly the women felt much the same about the practice. However, numerous plural wives have testified to the high moral tone of their relationship with their husbands. Not only was every wife equal in property rights, but also treated with equal deference, and all children were educated and recognized equally. Mormon plural marriage bore no resemblance to the lewd life of the man to whom woman is but a subject for his lusts. Women were not forced into plural marriage. They entered it voluntarily, with open eyes. The men and women, with very few exceptions, who lived in plural marriage, were clean and high-minded. Their descendants, tens of thousands of whom are living, worthy citizens of the land, are proud of their heritage. The story of the Latter-day Saints, fully available, when read by honest men and women, decries the theory that plural marriage was a product of licentiousness or sensuality.
There is a friendlier, but equally untenable view relative to the origin of plural marriage. It is contended that on the frontier, where the Church spent its earlier years, men were often unlettered, rough in talk and walk, unattractive to refined women. Female converts to the Church, coming into the pioneer wilderness, dreaded the possible life-long association with such men and the rearing of their children under the example and influence of an uncouth father. They would much prefer to share a finer type of man with another woman. To permit this, it is suggested that plural marriage was instituted. The ready answer is that the great majority of men who joined the Church were superior, spiritually inclined seekers after truth and all the better things of life. Only such men would be led to investigate the restored gospel and to face the sacrifices that membership in the Church would require. Under such conditions, since, as has been stated, there was no surplus of women in Mormon pioneer communities, there was no need of mating with the rough element, which admittedly existed outside of the Church.
Another conjecture is that the people were few in number and that the Church, desiring greater numbers, permitted the practice so that a phenomenal increase in population could be attained. This is not defensible, since there was no surplus of women.
The simple truth, and the only acceptable explanation, is that the principle of plural marriage came as a revelation from the Lord to the Prophet Joseph Smith for the Church. It was one of many principles so communicated to the Prophet. It was not man-made. It was early submitted to several of his associates, and later, when safety permitted, to the Church as a whole.
The members of the Church had personal testimonies of the divine calling of the Prophet Joseph Smith. They had individually accepted the gospel as restored through the Prophet. When he announced a doctrine as revelation coming from above, the people, being already convinced of the reality of Joseph's prophetic calling and power, accepted the new doctrine and attempted to put it into practice. Members of the Church who were permitted to take plural wives, did so because they believed that they were obeying a commandment of God. That faith gave them strength to meet the many problems arising from plurality, and to resist the encroachments of enemies upon their sacred right of freedom of religious belief and practice.
We do not understand why the Lord commanded the practice of plural marriage. Some have suggested that it was a means of trying and refining the people through the persecution that followed. Certainly, one must have had faith in the divine origin of the Church to enter it. Another suggested explanation is based upon the doctrine of pre-existence. In the spirit world are countless numbers of spirits waiting for their descent into mortality, to secure earth bodies as a means of further progress. These unborn spirits desired the best possible parentage. Those assuming plural marriage almost invariably were the finest types in the community. Only men who were most worthy in their lives were permitted to take plural wives; and usually only women of great faith and pure lives were willing to become members of a plural household. (It should be remembered that permission to enter the system was granted only by the President of the Church, and after careful examination of the candidate.) However, this is but another attempted explanation by man of a divine action.
It may be mentioned that eugenic studies have shown the children of polygamous parents to be above the average, physically and mentally. And the percentage of happy plural households was higher than that of monogamous families.
The principle of plural marriage came by revelation from the Lord. That is the reason why the Church practiced it. It ceased when the Lord so directed through the then living Prophet. The Church lives, moves, and has its being in revelation.
67. WHY SHOULD FAMILY PRAYERS BE HELD?
Man's needs are many. He has little, if any, power of himself to supply them. Therefore, he turns to God for the necessary help. This he can properly do, for the Lord, who has placed man on earth with limited powers, has declared Himself ready to assist His children. He has given them the privilege to address Divinity, with the assurance of being heard. Indeed, He has requested them to approach Him in prayer for guidance in solving life's problems.
Prayer is really the beginning of wisdom. By prayer, communion between man and God is established and maintained. It brings man and his Maker into close association. Earnest, sincere prayer places man in tune with heaven and with the Beings who dwell therein. The knowledge and power thus gained from the unseen world are very real. Brigham Young said:
If we draw near to him, he will draw near to us; if we seek him early we shall find him; if we apply our minds faithfully and diligently day by day, to know and understand the mind and will of God, it is as easy as, yes, I will say easier than, it is to know the minds of each other, for to know and understand ourselves and our own being is to know and understand God and his being. (Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 65)
Prayer may be offered concerning all religious activities. The Lord is concerned with every phase of human welfare, material or spiritual. In the words of the Prophet Joseph Smith:
We would say to the brethren, seek to know God in your closets, call upon him in the fields. Follow the directions of the Book of Mormon, and pray over, and for your families, your cattle, your flocks, your herds, your corn, and all things that you possess; ask the blessing of God upon all your labors, and everything that you engage in. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 247)
Such prayers may be offered at any time, on bended knees in the closet or family circle, or when walking, driving, or working, in public or in private. One should do all that he does in the spirit of prayer.
The sacred importance of prayer demands, however, that certain periods of prayer be set aside regularly, daily, when all distracting elements are absent. When the set time comes, prayers should be offered. They are more important than the trivial duties that often take us away from the altar of prayer.
Prayer should be direct and simple as if spoken to our earthly father. Routine forms of prayer should be avoided. The words spoken are less important than the humble faith in which they are uttered. "Prayer is the soul's sincere desire, uttered or unexpressed." It is the spirit of prayer that gives life to our desires. The direct simplicity of the Lord's prayer should be kept in mind.
While we should feel free to open our hearts to the Lord, yet the things sought in prayer should be necessary to our welfare, as explained by President Joseph F. Smith:
My brethren and sisters, let us remember and call upon God and implore his blessings and his favor upon us. Let us do it, nevertheless, in wisdom and in righteousness, and when we pray we should call upon him in a consistent and reasonable way. We should not ask the Lord for that which is unnecessary or which would not be beneficial to us. We should ask for that which we need, and we should ask in faith, "nothing wavering, for he that wavereth," as the apostle said, "is like the wave of the sea, driven by the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive anything of the Lord." But when we ask of God for blessings let us ask in the faith of the gospel, in that faith that he has promised to give to those who believe in him and obey his commandments. (Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine, p. 273)
Every prayer is heard, and every sincere prayer is answered. They who pray should be content to await the answer at the time and in the manner comporting with God's wisdom. He knows what is for our good and bestows His blessings accordingly. The testimony of untold millions that their prayers have been heard is a convincing testimony that God hears and answers prayer.
A prayer is not complete unless gratitude for blessings received is expressed. It is by the power of the Lord that we "live and move and have our being." This should be frankly stated gratefully as we pray to our Father in heaven.
Private prayer has been enjoined upon us, but we are also commanded to pray as families and in public meetings. A united prayer, one in which many join, comes with greater strength and power before the Lord. "In union there is strength."
The family is the ultimate unit of the organized Church. It represents the patriarchal order, which is the order of heaven. All members of this unit should be conscious of the family needs, and should regularly and unitedly petition the Lord for His blessings. Unless this is done, family ties are weakened, and the blessings of the Lord may be withheld. A happier understanding prevails among families who pray together. Therefore, every effort should me made to engage the family regularly in prayer.
Family prayers also become a training school for the younger members of the family. They acquire the habit of prayer, which usually remains with them throughout life. They are taught how to pray as they listen to their elders. They are given practice in vocal prayer, before others, as they are asked to take their turn in prayer. Children who have been brought up under the influence of family prayer, remain stauncher in their faith, live more conscientious lives, and look back gratefully upon the family prayers of their childhoods. Parents who do not have family prayers make sad mistakes.
It is not wise for one member of the family to be voice in prayer constantly. It is better for all members of the family to take their turns in praying. The short prayer of the lisping child is transmuted by heavenly forces into a petition of power, dealing with all the needs of the family. It is selfish for any one member of the family to deprive others of the privilege of participating in family prayer.
Regularity is necessary to make family prayers effective. There should be at least one daily family prayer; two are better. When labor and other conditions permit, there should be a morning and an evening prayer. In many families, terms of employment are such that all the family cannot gather at a morning hour. In practically every home, however, all members of the family are present at the evening meal. That may then be the best time for prayer. All kneel around the table or elsewhere and supplicate the Lord for help and guidance before the meal begins.
68. WHY DO WE PARTAKE OF THE SACRAMENT? WHO SHOULD PARTAKE OF THE SACAMENT?
A sacrament means a solemn, sacred religious ordinance. There are many of them. The sacrament as understood by the Church, and discussed here, is the partaking of bread and water (or unfermented wine) as emblems of the body and blood of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The central figure of the plan of salvation is Jesus, the Christ. To Him is committed the supervision of the Plan—from the making of the earth to the final report of work accomplished. His atoning sacrifice makes possible the eternal possession by the spirits of men of their earth-won bodies. All things pertaining to the welfare of the earth and its inhabitants are done through Him. Every commandment for salvation is administered by Him. Therefore, all petitions to God, every prayer, should be offered in the name of the Son of God, Jesus Christ.
Every person who accepts the divine plan for human salvation must accept the leadership of Jesus, and covenant to keep the laws of the plan. As Christ is accepted with all the attendant obligations of the gospel, in spirit and in deed, so man may win salvation (Pearl of Great Price, Moses 5:8-9), and there is no other way.
All this was explained to Father Adam, the first man; and it has been explained whenever a new dispensation of the gospel has been opened on earth. Adam was further taught that to keep constantly alive the knowledge of Jesus and His gospel and man's covenant under the gospel law, he should offer sacrifices in "similitude of the [coming] sacrifice of the Only Begotten of the Father." (Pearl of Great Price, Moses 5:7)
From that time onward, until Jesus Himself came on earth, wherever the Priesthood was present, men offered sacrifices in memory of their acceptance of Jesus, the Son of God, and of their covenants with God. The Mosaic law and ritual were built around the offering of sacrifices, which were the most sacred parts of the system. (Leviticus, chapters 7-9; Exodus, chapters 29, 30)
After the coming of Jesus and His sacrificial death, it continued to be important to keep alive among men the meaning of the gospel of Jesus Christ and man's obligations to God. Yet, since the "sinless sacrifice" had been accomplished, and the old and partial law had been superseded by the more complete law, a new form of witnessing to Christ's supreme place and man's acceptance of Him and His law was instituted.
President Joseph F. Smith said:
It was instituted by the Savior in the place of the law of sacrifice which was given to Adam, and which continued with his children down to the days of Christ, but which was fulfilled in his death, he being the great sacrifice for sin, of which the sacrifices enjoined in the law given to Adam were a similitude. (Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine, p. 252)
Shortly before His crucifixion, in an upper room in Jerusalem, Jesus ate His last supper with His chosen Twelve. The first three evangelists tell the story. Matthew says,
And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat: this is my body. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it: For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom. (Matthew 26:26-29; also Mark 16:14; and Luke 22:14-20)
Thenceforth, under the "New Testament," this has been the type of memorial of Christ's sacrifice and man's acceptance of Christ and obedience to Christ's law. It is the Sacrament of man's communion with God—a most sacred ordinance
The restoration of the gospel through the instrumentality of Joseph Smith clarified the use and meaning of the Sacrament, which through the dark periods of apostasy had suffered many perversions. In the revelation on Church organization and government it is declared that "the church meet together often to partake of bread and wine in the remembrance of the Lord Jesus." Further, the meaning of the ordinance is made clear in the set prayers to be pronounced upon the bread and water which follow. For the bread it is:
O God, the Eternal Father, we ask thee in the name of thy son, Jesus Christ, to bless and sanctify this bread to the souls of all those who partake of it, that they may eat in remembrance of the body of thy Son, and witness unto thee, O God, the Eternal Father, that they are willing to take upon them the name of thy Son, and always remember him and keep his commandments which he has given them; that they may always have his Spirit to be with them. Amen. (D. & C. 20:77)
To remember the sacrifice of Jesus, to accept Jesus as the Leader; to keep His commandments—these are the covenants made; and the reward is the guiding companionship of the Holy Spirit. This makes of the partaking of the sacrament a renewal of the covenants we made at the time of baptism into the Church. Thus, by the sacrament we declare repeatedly, ordinarily weekly, our allegiance to the plan of salvation and its obligations. Thus we keep ourselves as one with Christ our Elder Brother in seeking to consummate the purposes of the Father with respect to the children of men.
The Sacrament should be taken with sincere acceptance of all that it means. The partaker should seek to cleanse himself from all evil. Otherwise the expected blessings may not be realized. In the words of Paul,
But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself. (I Corinthians 11:28, 29)
The statement that "the Church" meet together often to partake of the sacrament, implies that properly it should be administered in authorized Church gatherings. The meeting may be small in number, for "where two or three are met together in my name, ... there I will be." (D. & C. 6:32; Matt. 18:20)
The authority to administer the Sacrament is possessed by all holders of the Melchizedek Priesthood and also by priests of the lesser Priesthood. It is customary for two persons to officiate, one for the bread, the other for the water. However, one elder or priest may bless both emblems, if necessary. (D. & C. 20:76)
Early in the history of the restored Church, the question of the use of wine in the sacrament was discussed. By revelation it was learned that "it mattereth not what ye shall eat or what ye shall drink when ye partake of the sacrament, if it so be that ye do it with an eye single to my glory—" (D. & C. 27:2) Consequently, the Church uses water instead of wine. Should wine be used it should be "made new among you." (D. & C. 27:4)
While only those who have entered the Church can renew their covenants, yet to avoid singling out children who may be present, and to accustom them to the ordinance, they are taught to accept the emblems of the Sacrament.
The Sacrament is intended for the members of the Church. The covenants in the prayer of blessing are those made when entrance into the Church is consummated. Where there are many non-members present in a Sacrament meeting, the presiding officer usually announces that the Sacrament will be administered to members of the Church, without further comment. There should, however, be no attempt to withhold the bread and water from non-members. If such persons partake, it will be upon their own responsibility; and to some extent at least they then accept the meaning and covenants of the ordinance.
President Brigham Young, speaking upon the sacrament, said, "Its observance is as necessary to our salvation as any other of the ordinances and commandments that have been instituted in order that the people may be sanctified." (Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 266)
Members of the Church should delight in the privilege of partaking of the Lord's sacred supper, thereby affirming their faith in Jesus the Christ and their allegiance to the Church of Christ.