On 16 May 1843 the Prophet Joseph Smith, in company with William Clayton and four others, left Nauvoo for Ramus, Illinois, twenty-two miles to the southeast. The same evening found Joseph Smith and William Clayton in the home of Benjamin F. Johnson, where before retiring the Prophet gave some instructions on the priesthood to Brother and Sister Johnson. During that evening he turned to William Clayton, placed his hand on his knee, and said, “Your life is hid with Christ in God, and so are many others. Nothing but the unpardonable sin can prevent you from inheriting eternal life for you are sealed up by the power of the Priesthood unto eternal life, having taken the step necessary for that purpose.” (History of the Church, 5:391.)
After making other personal observations, the Prophet gave Brother Clayton the message found in Doctrine and Covenants 131:1–4.
The next morning, 17 May 1843, the Prophet spoke on 2 Peter 1, showing that the more knowledge a person has, the more power he has. Verses 5–6 were given in that morning meeting (see History of the Church, 5:392). Four days later, in the Nauvoo Temple, the Prophet again spoke on the power of knowledge and the doctrine of making one’s calling and election sure.
On the evening of 17 May the Prophet went to hear a Methodist preacher lecture. The Prophet afterwards offered some corrections to what had been said. Some of the corrections have been included in section 131, verses 7–8. (See History of the Church, 5:392–93.)
The three items of instruction given by the Prophet on 16–17 May 1843 were combined into one section and added to the Doctrine and Covenants in 1876.
The Lord has not revealed to the Church who will live in two of the three degrees in the celestial kingdom. Any discussion on this topic is speculation. More has been revealed about the highest degree of the celestial kingdom, or exaltation. That is where the Father would have all of His children live if they keep His commandments. In Doctrine and Covenants 76:50–70 the Lord outlines the requirements to obtain the highest degree in the celestial kingdom.
Elder George Q. Cannon taught: “We believe that when a man and woman are united as husband and wife, and they love each other, their hearts and feelings are one, that that love is as enduring as eternity itself, and that when death overtakes them it will neither extinguish nor cool that love, but that it will brighten and kindle it to a purer flame, and that it will endure through eternity; and that if we have offspring they will be with us and our mutual associations will be one of the chief joys of the heaven to which we are hastening. . . . God has restored the everlasting priesthood, by which ties can be formed, consecrated and consummated, which shall be as enduring as we ourselves are enduring, that is, as our spiritual nature; and husbands and wives will be united together, and they and their children will dwell and associate together eternally, and this, as I have said, will constitute one of the chief joys of heaven; and we look forward to it with delightful anticipations.” (In Journal of Discourses, 14:320–21; see also Notes and Commentary for D&C 22:1; 132:13–18.)
The explanatory phrase in brackets in verse 2 was inserted by Elder Orson Pratt, under the direction of President Brigham Young, when the section was added to the Doctrine and Covenants.
Couples can be sealed for eternity in the Lord’s temples.
Those who comply with the new and everlasting covenant of marriage and endure to the end gain the right to become eternal parents. The Prophet Joseph Smith, as he spoke verses 1–4 to William Clayton, stated: “Except a man and his wife enter into an everlasting covenant and be married for eternity, while in this probation, by the power and authority of the Holy Priesthood, they will cease to increase when they die; that is, they will not have any children after the resurrection. But those who are married by the power and authority of the priesthood in this life, and continue without committing the sin against the Holy Ghost, will continue to increase and have children in the celestial glory.” (History of the Church, 5:391; see also Smith, Teachings, pp. 300–301.)
On 30 June 1916, the First Presidency of the Church (Joseph F. Smith, Anthon H. Lund, and Charles W. Penrose) declared: “So far as the stages of eternal progression and attainment have been made known through divine revelation, we are to understand that only resurrected and glorified beings can become parents of spirit offspring. Only such exalted souls have reached maturity in the appointed course of eternal life; and the spirits born to them in the eternal worlds will pass in due sequence through the several stages or estates by which the glorified parents have attained exaltation.” (In Clark, Messages of the First Presidency, 5:34.)
President Spencer W. Kimball taught that the right to eternal increase will depend directly on how individuals keep the marriage covenant in this life:
“One young man said that he expected to reach exaltation in the celestial kingdom as one of the Lord’s messengers, without having to marry. He does not understand. No one who rejects the covenant of celestial marriage can reach exaltation in the eternal kingdom of God.
“‘In the celestial glory there are three heavens or degrees;
“‘And in order to obtain the highest, a man must enter into this order of the priesthood [meaning the new and everlasting covenant of marriage];
“‘And if he does not, he cannot obtain it.
“‘He may enter into the other, but that is the end of his kingdom; he cannot have an increase.’ (D&C 131:1–4.)
“He cannot have an increase! He cannot have exaltation!
“The Lord says further in the 132nd section of the Doctrine and Covenants:
“‘No one can reject this covenant and be permitted to enter into my glory’ (D&C 132:4).
“No one! It matters not how righteous they may have been, how intelligent or how well trained they are. No one will enter this highest glory unless he enters into the covenant, and this means the new and everlasting covenant of marriage.” (“The Importance of Celestial Marriage,” Ensign, Oct. 1979, pp. 5–6.)
Elder Bruce R. McConkie said:
“Those members of the Church who devote themselves wholly to righteousness, living by every word that proceedeth forth from the mouth of God, make their calling and election sure. That is, they receive the more sure word of prophecy, which means that the Lord seals their exaltation upon them while they are yet in this life. Peter summarized the course of righteousness which the saints must pursue to make their calling and election sure and then (referring to his experience on the Mount of Transfiguration with James and John) said that those three had received this more sure word of prophecy. (2 Pet. 1.) . . .
“Those so favored of the Lord are sealed up against all manner of sin and blasphemy except the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost and the shedding of innocent blood. That is, their exaltation is assured; their calling and election is made sure, because they have obeyed the fulness of God’s laws and have overcome the world.” (Mormon Doctrine, pp. 109–10; see also D&C 132:17, 26; Notes and Commentary for D&C 76:53.)
The Prophet Joseph Smith stated: “A man is saved no faster than he gets knowledge, for if he does not get knowledge, he will be brought into captivity by some evil power in the other world, as evil spirits will have more knowledge, and consequently more power than many men who are on the earth. Hence it needs revelation to assist us, and give us knowledge of the things of God.” (History of the Church, 4:588.)
It is clear that the Prophet Joseph Smith received section 132 before it was recorded but delayed making it known. The Prophet knew the Lord’s will on plural marriage within the new and everlasting covenant probably as early as 1831 (see History of the Church, 5:xxix). In March 1843 he spoke to William Clayton of eternal marriage. In July of that year, he was discussing the doctrine with his brother Hyrum in William Clayton’s presence when Hyrum said, “If you will write the revelation on celestial marriage, I will take it and read it to Emma, and I believe I can convince her of its truth, and you will hereafter have peace” (History of the Church, 5:xxxii).
The Prophet consented and told William Clayton to get some paper to write; but to his brother’s “urgent request” that the Prophet use the Urim and Thummim to recall the exact revelation, Joseph replied that he did not need it, “for he knew the revelation from beginning to end” (History of the Church, 5:xxxii). When he had finished dictating, William Clayton read it back slowly, and Joseph said that it was exact.
Bishop Newel K. Whitney heard the revelation read and asked permission of the Prophet Joseph Smith to have it copied. With the Prophet’s approval, Bishop Whitney sent Joseph C. Kingsbury the next day to copy it. Brothers Kingsbury and Clayton compared the copy line by line to the original and found it correct.
The revelation was not made public until Elder Orson Pratt, under the direction of President Brigham Young, announced it at a Church conference on 29 August 1852. The revelation was placed in the Doctrine and Covenants in 1876.
Smith and Sjodahl pointed out that the revelation has two major sections: “The first, comprising vv. 3–33, deals mainly with the principle of celestial marriage, or marriage for time and all eternity; the second, comprising the remaining verses, deals with plural marriage. The doctrine of celestial marriage remains in force; the practice of plural marriage was abandoned by the acceptance by the Church, in Conference assembled October 6th, 1890, of the Manifesto of President Woodruff.” (Commentary, p. 821; also see Historical Background on Official Declaration 1.)
“From this introductory statement it is evident that the Prophet had made the question of marriage a subject of earnest prayer, as he did with matters concerning which he was perplexed and desired to know the truth. He did not understand how the Patriarchs, and David and Solomon could find favor with the Lord, while living in a manner contrary to . . . modern moral standards, and he asked the Lord for light. Elder B. H. Roberts (Hist. of the Church, Vol. V., Intr., p. 29) suggests that it was in the year 1831, when the Prophet was studying the lives of the Patriarchs in the Old Testament, in the course of his Bible revision, that he was led to offer the prayer referred to in the first verse, and received the answer contained in this Section, though it was not then committed to writing.” (Smith and Sjodahl, Commentary, p. 821.)
Concubine, a word commonly used in the Old Testament, was defined by Elder Bruce R. McConkie as follows: “Anciently they were considered to be secondary wives, that is, wives who did not have the same standing in the caste system then prevailing as did those wives who were not called concubines. There were no concubines connected with the practice of plural marriage in this dispensation, because the caste system which caused some wives to be so designated did not exist.” (Mormon Doctrine, pp. 154–55.)
The “new and everlasting covenant” (D&C 132:4) is the covenant of celestial marriage, as President Spencer W. Kimball stated: “Though relatively few people in this world understand it, the new and everlasting covenant is the marriage ordinance in the holy temple by the properly constituted leaders who hold the genuine, authoritative keys. This glorious blessing is available to men and women on this earth.” (“Temples and Eternal Marriage,” Ensign, Aug. 1974, p. 5.)
One can sense the importance of accepting the covenant from the number of times the Lord repeats this warning:
“All who have this law revealed unto them must obey the same” (D&C 132:3).
“If ye abide not that covenant, then are ye damned” (v. 4).
“No one can reject this covenant and . . . enter into my glory” (v. 4).
“All who will have a blessing at my hands shall abide the law” (v. 5).
“He that receiveth a fulness [of my glory] must and shall abide the law” (v. 6).
President Kimball stressed how the Saints should view this commandment (see Notes and Commentary for D&C 131:4). Those who reject this covenant cannot progress eternally because they do not inherit the blessings of eternal increase.
President Spencer W. Kimball said:
“I am aware of some young men and women who seemingly have not been successful in total fulfillment. Some have been on missions; some have completed their education. And yet they have passed the period of their greatest opportunity for marriage. The time has passed, and while still attractive and desirable and efficient, they find themselves alone.
“To you we say this: You are making a great contribution to the world as you serve your families and the Church and the world. You must remember that the Lord loves you and the Church loves you. To you women, we can only say we have no control over the heartbeats or the affections of men, but pray that you may find fulfillment. And in the meantime, we promise you that insofar as eternity is concerned, no soul will be deprived of rich and high and eternal blessings for anything which that person could not help, that the Lord never fails in his promises, and that every righteous person will receive eventually all to which the person is entitled and which he or she has not forfeited through any fault of his or her own. We encourage both men and women to keep themselves well-groomed, well-dressed, abreast of the times, attractive mentally, spiritually, physically, and especially morally, and then they can lean heavily upon the Lord’s promises for these heavenly blessings.” (“The Importance of Celestial Marriage,” Ensign, Oct. 1979, p. 5.)
Elder Bruce R. McConkie commented on this verse as follows:
“The Holy Ghost is the Holy Spirit; he is the Holy Spirit promised the saints at baptism, or in other words the Holy Spirit of Promise, this exalted name-title signifying that the promised receipt of the Holy Spirit, as on the day of Pentecost, is the greatest gift man can receive in mortality.
“The gift of the Holy Ghost is the right to the constant companionship of that member of the Godhead based on faithfulness; it is bestowed with a promise that we shall receive revelation and be sanctified if we are true and faithful and so live as to qualify for the companionship of that Holy Spirit who will not dwell in an unclean temple. (1 Cor. 3:16–17; 6:19; Mosiah 2:37; Hela. 4:24.) The receipt of the promise is conditional! If after we receive the promise, we then keep the commandment, we gain the companionship of this member of the Godhead, and not otherwise.
“One of the functions assigned and delegated to the Holy Spirit is to seal, and the following expressions are identical in thought content:
“To be sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise;
“To be justified by the Spirit;
“To be approved by the Lord; and
“To be ratified by the Holy Ghost.
“Accordingly, any act which is sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise is one which is justified by the Spirit, one which is approved by the Lord, one which is ratified by the Holy Ghost. . . .
“As revealed to Joseph Smith, the Lord’s law in this respect is: [D&C 132:7].
“By way of illustration this means that baptism, partaking of the sacrament, administering to the sick, marriage, and every covenant that man ever makes with the Lord—plus all other ‘contracts, bonds, obligations, oaths, vows, performances, associations, or expectations’—must be performed in righteousness by and for people who are worthy to receive whatever blessing is involved, otherwise whatever is done has no binding and sealing effect in eternity.
“Since ‘the Comforter knoweth all things’ (D. & C. 42:17), it follows that it is not possible ‘to lie to the Holy Ghost’ and thereby gain an unearned or undeserved blessing, as Ananias and Sapphira found out to their sorrow. (Acts 5:1–11.) And so this provision that all things must be sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise, if they are to have ‘efficacy, virtue, or force in and after the resurrection from the dead’ (D. & C. 132:7), is the Lord’s system for dealing with absolute impartiality with all men, and for giving all men exactly what they merit, neither adding to nor diminishing from.” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3:333–35; see also Notes and Commentary for D&C 76:53; 131:5.)
Latter-day Saints observe the new and everlasting covenant of marriage.
Elder William Critchlow Jr., speaking in general conference, stated: “Only one mortal man at a time is privileged to hold all the priesthood keys pertaining to the kingdom of God. The President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is that man.” (In Conference Report, Apr. 1963, p. 32; see also Notes and Commentary on D&C 21:4–5.) The prophet may delegate these sealing powers to others, such as other General Authorities or temple workers, but the keys always reside in him, and no one can claim these keys who has not received them from him.
“The important truth is here taught that all institutions in this world, not founded on divine law but erected by human ingenuity, [will] cease to exist. . . . Man-made governments are obliterated, as are the sand castles children build on the tide-swept beach. Man-made religions and churches are swallowed up in death. Not a trace of them will be seen on the shores of eternity. Social customs and habits not sanctioned by God, will not continue. On the other hand, all institutions founded on the Word of God will remain throughout all eternity. The Church will remain. The family will remain. All the organizations of which God is the author are eternal.” (Smith and Sjodahl, Commentary, p. 824.)
After quoting Doctrine and Covenants 132:13, President Spencer W. Kimball said:
“How final! How frightening! Since we know well that mortal death does not terminate our existence, since we know that we live on and on, how devastating to realize that marriage and family life, so sweet and happy in so many homes, will end with death because we fail to follow God’s instructions or because we reject his word when we understand it.
“It is clear in the Lord’s announcement that righteous men and women will receive the due rewards of their deeds. They will not be damned in the commonly accepted terminology but will suffer many limitations and deprivations and fail to reach the highest kingdom, if they do not comply. They become ministering servants to those who complied with all laws and lived all commandments.
“[The Lord] then continues concerning these excellent people who lived worthily but failed to make their contracts binding:
“‘For these angels did not abide my law; therefore, they cannot be enlarged, but remain separately and singly, without exaltation, in their saved condition, to all eternity; and from henceforth are not gods, but are angels of God forever and ever.’ (D&C 132:17.)
“How conclusive! How bounded! How limiting! And we come to realize again as it bears heavily upon us that this time, this life, this mortality is the time to prepare to meet God. How lonely and barren will be the so-called single blessedness throughout eternity! How sad to be separate and single and apart through countless ages when one could, by meeting requirements, have happy marriage for eternity in the temple by proper authority and continue on in ever-increasing joy and happiness, growth and development toward godhood. . . .
“Are you willing to jeopardize your eternities, your great continuing happiness, your privilege to see God and dwell in his presence? For the want of investigation and study and contemplation; because of prejudice, misunderstanding, or lack of knowledge, are you willing to forego these great blessings and privileges? Are you willing to make yourself a widow for eternity or a widower for endless ages—a single, separate individual to live alone and serve others? Are you willing to give up your children when they die or when you expire, and make them orphans? Are you willing to go through eternity alone and solitary when all of the greatest joys you have ever experienced in life could be ‘added upon’ and accentuated, multiplied, and eternalized? Are you willing, with the Sadducees, to ignore and reject these great truths? I sincerely pray you stop today and weigh and measure and then prayerfully proceed to make your happy marriage an eternal one. Our friends, please do not ignore this call. I beg of you, open your eyes and see; unstop your ears and hear.” (“Temples and Eternal Marriage,” Ensign, Aug. 1974, p. 6.)
Elder James E. Talmage wrote that “in the resurrection there will be no marrying nor giving in marriage; for all questions of marital status must be settled before that time, under the authority of the Holy Priesthood, which holds the power to seal in marriage for both time and eternity” (Jesus the Christ, p. 548; see also Matthew 22:30; Mark 12:25).
The revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants include all of the laws necessary for exaltation. If we keep the law revealed in section 132 and all the other laws, such as faith, repentance, baptism, and receiving the Holy Ghost, we can be exalted.
Celestial marriage is a covenant, a contract between the two marriage partners and the Lord. Covenants have “if-then” clauses: if we keep certain commandments, then the Lord promises us certain blessings. Verses 19–22 form such a clause.
If a couple—
Then they will—
1. Are married in accordance with the Lord’s law
1. “Inherit thrones, kingdoms, principalities, and powers, dominions, all heights and depths” (v. 19)
2. Are married by one who has the keys of the priesthood
2. “Pass by the angels” to their exaltation (v. 19)
3. Have their marriage sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise
3. Be gods for all eternity (see v. 20)
4. Abide in the covenant
4. Have a “continuation of the lives” (v. 22)
Some members of the Church mistakenly believe that marriage in the temple fulfills the requirements of the covenant. But marriage in the temple fulfills only the first two parts of the covenant. Having one’s marriage sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise requires a lifelong commitment to righteousness (see Notes and Commentary on D&C 132:7). Elder Bruce R. McConkie taught that “baptism is the gate to the celestial kingdom; celestial marriage is the gate to an exaltation in the highest heaven within the celestial world. (D. & C. 131:1–4.) To gain salvation after baptism it is necessary to keep the commandments of God and endure to the end (2 Ne. 31:17–21); to gain exaltation after celestial marriage it is necessary to continue the same devotion and righteousness. Those who have been married in the temples for eternity know that the ceremony itself expressly conditions the receipt of all promised blessings upon the subsequent faithfulness of the husband and wife.
“Making one’s calling and election sure is an addition to celestial marriage and results from undeviating and perfect devotion to the cause of righteousness. Those married in the temple can never under any circumstances gain exaltation unless they keep the commandments of God and abide in the covenant of marriage which they have taken upon themselves.” (Mormon Doctrine, p. 118.)
Elder Bruce R. McConkie explained that “in a literal sense, the book of life, or Lamb’s book of Life, is the record kept in heaven which contains the names of the faithful and an account of their righteous covenants and deeds. (D. & C. 128:6–7; Ps. 69:28; Rev. 3:5; 21:27.) The book of life is the book containing the names of those who shall inherit eternal life; it is the book of eternal life. (Dan. 12:1–4; Heb. 12:23; D. & C. 76:68; 132:19.) It is ‘the book of the names of the sanctified, even them of the celestial world.’ (D. & C. 88:2.) Names of faithful saints are recorded in the book of life while they are yet in mortality. (Luke 10:20; Philip. 4:3; Teachings, p. 9.) But those names are blotted out in the event of wickedness. (Rev. 13:8; 17:8; 22:19.)” (Mormon Doctrine, p. 97; the phrase “innocent blood” is explained in Notes and Commentary on D&C 132:27.)
Elder Bruce R. McConkie taught: “Those who gain eternal life (exaltation) also gain eternal lives, meaning that in the resurrection they have eternal ‘increase,’ ‘a continuation of the seeds,’ a ‘continuation of the lives.’ Their spirit progeny will ‘continue as innumerable as the stars; or, if ye were to count the sand upon the seashore ye could not number them.’ (D. & C. 131:1–4; 132:19–25, 30, 55.)” (Mormon Doctrine, p. 238; see also Notes and Commentary on D&C 131:4.)
President Joseph Fielding Smith further explained that “the term ‘deaths’ mentioned here has reference to the cutting off of all those who reject this eternal covenant of marriage and therefore they are denied the power of exaltation and the continuation of posterity. To be denied posterity and the family organization, leads to the ‘deaths,’ or end of increase in the life to come.” (Church History and Modern Revelation, 2:360; see also McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p. 283.)
To gain eternal life, individuals must keep the covenants they make in the temple.
President Harold B. Lee taught: “Some folks have the mistaken notion that if somehow, by hook or crook, they can get into the House of the Lord and be married they are assured of exaltation regardless of what they do, and they’ll quote the 132 Section, the 26th verse. But that isn’t what the Lord means. The Lord does assure an exaltation to those who make mistakes, if they repent.” (Cram for Life’s Final Examination, Brigham Young University Speeches of the Year [Provo, 5 Jan. 1954], p. 7.)
President Joseph Fielding Smith commented:
“Verse 26, in Section 132, is the most abused passage in any scripture. The Lord has never promised any soul that he may be taken into exaltation without the spirit of repentance. While repentance is not stated in this passage, yet it is, and must be, implied. It is strange to me that everyone knows about verse 26, but it seems that they have never read or heard of Matthew 12:31–32, where the Lord tells us the same thing in substance as we find in verse 26, section 132. . . .
“So we must conclude that those spoken of in verse 26 are those who, having sinned, have fully repented and are willing to pay the price of their sinning, else the blessings of exaltation will not follow. Repentance is absolutely necessary for the forgiveness, and the person having sinned must be cleansed.” (Doctrines of Salvation, 2:95–96.)
The key phrase is “and they are sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise” (D&C 132:26.) This sealing is related to having one’s calling and election made sure. (See Notes and Commentary for D&C 76:53; 131:5; 132:7.)
Speaking of the promise in Doctrine and Covenants 132:26, Elder Bruce R. McConkie said:
“Making one’s calling and election sure comes after and grows out of celestial marriage. Eternal life does not and cannot exist for a man or a woman alone, because in its very nature it consists of the continuation of the family unit in eternity. Thus the revelation on marriage speaks both of celestial marriage (in which the conditional promises of eternal life are given) and of making one’s calling and election sure (in which the unconditional promises of eternal life are given) in one and the same sentence—which sentence also says that those who commit sins (except ‘murder whereby to shed innocent blood’) after being sealed up unto eternal life shall still gain exaltation. This is the language: ‘Then’—that is, after their calling and election has been made sure—[D&C 132:19–20 cited].
“Then the revelation [D&C 132:26] speaks of that obedience out of which eternal life grows, and still speaking both of celestial marriage and of making one’s calling and election sure says: ‘Verily, verily, I say unto you, if a man marry a wife according to my word, and they are sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, according to mine appointment’—that is, if they are both married and have their calling and election made sure . . . ‘they shall come forth in the first resurrection and enter into their exaltation.’” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3:343–44.)
“What if those whose calling and election has been made sure thereafter commit grievous sins? Suppose they backslide and walk in the ways of wickedness? Or fight the truth and rebel against God—what then?
“That all men commit sin, before and after baptism, and for that matter, before and after their calling and election is made sure, is self-evident. There has been only one Sinless One—the Lord Jesus who was God’s own Son.
“Thus in the revelation announcing the setting up of the restored church in this day, the Lord says: ‘There is a possibility that man may fall from grace and depart from the living God; Therefore let the church take heed and pray always, lest they fall into temptation; Yea, and even let those who are sanctified take heed also.’ (D. & C. 20:32–34.)
“The prophets and apostles from Adam and Enoch down, and all men, whether cleansed and sanctified from sin or not, are yet subject to and do in fact commit sin. This is the case even after men have seen the visions of eternity and been sealed by that Holy Spirit of Promise which makes their calling and election sure. Since these chosen ones have the sure promise of eternal life, and since ‘no unclean thing can enter into’ the Father’s ‘kingdom’ (3 Ne. 27:19), ‘or dwell in his presence’ (Moses 6:57), what of sins committed after being sealed up into eternal life?
“Obviously the laws of repentance still apply, and the more enlightened a person is, the more he seeks the gift of repentance, and the harder he strives to free himself from sin as often as he falls short of the divine will and becomes subject in any degree to the Master of Sin who is Lucifer. It follows that the sins of the godfearing and the righteous are continually remitted because they repent and seek the Lord anew every day and every hour.
“And as a matter of fact, the added blessing of having one’s calling and election made sure is itself an encouragement to avoid sin and a hedge against its further commission. By that long course of obedience and trial which enabled them to gain so great a blessing the sanctified saints have charted a course and developed a pattern of living which avoids sin and encourages righteousness. Thus the Lord said: ‘I give unto you Hyrum Smith to be a patriarch unto you, to hold the sealing blessings of my church, even the Holy Spirit of promise, whereby ye are sealed up unto the day of redemption, that ye may not fall notwithstanding the hour of temptation that may come upon you. (D. & C. 124:124.)
“But suppose such persons become disaffected and the spirit of repentance leaves them—which is a seldom and an almost unheard of eventuality—still, what then? The answer is—and the revelations and teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith so recite!—they must then pay the penalty of their own sins, for the blood of Christ will not cleanse them. Or if they commit murder or adultery, they lose their promised inheritance because these sins are exempt from the sealing promises. Or if they commit the unpardonable sin, they become sons of perdition.” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3:342–43.)
See Notes and Commentary on Doctrine and Covenants 78:12.
See Notes and Commentary on Doctrine and Covenants 76:31, 35, 37–39.
Innocent blood has a more specific meaning in this verse than it does in normal usage. Ultimately, as Elder Bruce R. McConkie pointed out, the only truly innocent blood is that of the Savior: “The innocent blood is that of Christ; and those who commit blasphemy against the Holy Ghost, which is the unpardonable sin (Matt. 12:31–32), thereby ‘crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.’ (Heb. 6:6.) They are, in other words, people who would have crucified Christ, having the while a perfect knowledge that he was the Son of God.” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3:345.)
Other scriptures teach that those who martyr the Lord’s servants are also shedding innocent blood (see Mosiah 17:10; D&C 135:4; see also President Joseph Fielding Smith’s statement in Notes and Commentary on D&C 76:35). In other words, those who fight against the prophets are in reality fighting against Him whom the prophets serve. Thus, while murder of any kind is an extremely serious sin, not all who murder are guilty of shedding “innocent blood,” thereby becoming sons of perdition.
Those who desire eternal life must follow the Lord in all things as did Abraham.
In these verses the Lord answers the Prophet’s original question about whether Abraham and the other early patriarchs were justified in having plural wives (see D&C 132:1). The Lord began by saying that Abraham has now entered his exaltation because he faithfully received the promises and commandments of the Lord. The same promises are offered to modern Saints, and the Lord commands that they too should “do the works of Abraham.” This is not a commandment to engage in plural marriage (that commandment is given in verses 34–37) but rather a commandment for the Saints to receive the covenants and commandments of God in the same faith and righteousness as Abraham did. Since Abraham has achieved exaltation, we can look to him as a model for our own progression, as President Spencer W. Kimball said:
“Abraham was true with God in all respects. Oft cited is the instance when Abraham gave to God ‘tithes of all.’ Do you think it was any easier for Abraham to be righteous than it is for you? Do you inwardly suspect that Abraham was given a little extra help by the Lord so that he could become a great and righteous man, or do you feel that we can all become as Abraham if we will learn to put God first in our lives? I testify to you that we can become as Abraham, who now, as a result of his valiance, ‘hath entered into his exaltation and sitteth upon his throne.’ (D&C 132:29.) Is such exaltation a blessing reserved only for General Authorities, or stake presidents, or quorum presidents, or bishops? It is not. It is a blessing reserved for all who will prepare themselves by forsaking their sins, by truly receiving the Holy Ghost into their lives, and by following the example Abraham has set.
“If members of the Church could only have such integrity, such obedience, such revelation, such faith, such service as Abraham had! If parents would seek the blessings Abraham sought, they could also receive such revelation, covenants, promises, and eternal rewards as Abraham received.” (“The Example of Abraham,” Ensign, June 1975, pp. 6–7.)
These verses are best understood after reading Genesis 16:1–3, which implies that Sarah was following a custom of the time. Because she could not bear children, she gave her handmaid to her husband that she might “obtain children by her” (v. 2). This revelation from the Lord makes it clear, however, that God commanded Abraham to accept Sarah’s recommendation that he take Hagar to wife.
Elder Bruce R. McConkie added a significant insight to this verse: “What we say for Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob we say also for Sarah, Rebekah, and Rachel, the wives who stood at their sides and who with them were true and faithful in all things. Men are not saved alone, and women do not gain an eternal fullness except in and through the continuation of the family unit in eternity. Salvation is a family affair.” (“Mothers in Israel and Daughters of Zion,” New Era, May 1978, p. 37.)
In the case of David this passage refers at least in part to Bathsheba, wife of Uriah. David committed adultery with Bathsheba and then arranged for Uriah to be killed in battle. Afterwards David married Bathsheba. (See 2 Samuel 11.)
David’s story is one of tragedy and a lesson to all of God’s children, because he went from the height of favor with God to the depth of wickedness. He had all that this life could offer, but through sin he lost exaltation and the right to be eternally with his Father in Heaven. Elder Bruce R. McConkie explained:
“As to the fact that the sealing power cannot seal a man up unto eternal life if he thereafter commits murder and thereby sheds innocent blood (not in this case the blood of Christ, but the blood of any person slain unlawfully and with malice) the Prophet says: ‘A murderer, for instance, one that sheds innocent blood, cannot have forgiveness. David sought repentance at the hand of God carefully with tears, for the murder of Uriah; but he could only get it through hell; he got a promise that his soul should not be left in hell.
“‘Although David was a king, he never did obtain the spirit and power of Elijah and the fullness of the priesthood; and the priesthood that he received, and the throne and kingdom of David is to be taken from him and given to another by the name of David in the last days, raised up out of his lineage.’ (Teachings, p. 339.) Thus, even though a man’s calling and election has been made sure, if he then commits murder, all of the promises are of no effect, and he goes to a telestial kingdom (Rev. 21:8; D. & C. 76:103), because when he was sealed up unto eternal life, it was with a reservation. The sealing was not to apply in the case of murder.” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3:347.)
Smith and Sjodahl wrote: “The Prophet, in his prayer on this subject, had asked the Lord for information concerning the ground on which the Patriarchs were justified in their domestic relations, and the answer was the definition of adultery here given. Plural marriage, the Revelation says, in substance, is not adultery, but to violate the marriage covenant is to commit that sin, the penalty being destruction (vv. 41, 52); but God Himself will execute that judgment (v. 54).” (Commentary, p. 833.)
The power to seal is also the power to unseal. This power is held by the President of the Church. Elder Bruce R. McConkie wrote: “Properly speaking there is no such thing as a temple divorce; divorces in this day are civil matters handled by the courts of the land. But following a civil divorce of persons who have been married for eternity in the temples, if the circumstances are sufficiently serious to warrant it, the President of the Church has power to cancel the sealings involved. He holds the keys and power both to bind and loose on earth and in heaven. (Matt. 16:19; D. & C. 132:46; Doctrines of Salvation, vol. 2, p. 84.)” (Mormon Doctrine, pp. 110–11.)
Ultimately only God can forgive sins, but under inspiration, a servant of the Lord may announce that God has forgiven sins. A bishop and certain other priesthood leaders can extend forgiveness on behalf of the Church for serious sins, but the Lord’s forgiveness can only come from God through revelation. Elder Bruce R. McConkie explained:
“Revelation from the Lord is always required to retain or remit sins. Since God is the one who must cleanse and purify a human soul, the use of his priestly powers to do so must be authorized and approved by him, and this approval comes by revelation from his Holy Spirit. In many cases in this dispensation the Lord by revelation announced that the sins of certain persons were forgiven. (D. & C. 60:7; 61:2; 62:3; 64:3.) Accordingly, if by revelation he should tell his apostles to act for him, using his power which is priesthood, and to thus retain or remit sins, they would do so, and their acts would in effect be his. See Matt. 16:13–20; 17:1–9; 18:18.
“This same apostolic power is always found in the true Church, and hence we find the Lord saying to Joseph Smith: ‘I have conferred upon you the keys and power of the priesthood, . . . and whosesoever sins you remit on earth shall be remitted eternally in the heavens; and whosesoever sins you retain on earth shall be retained in heaven.’ (D. & C. 132:45–46.)” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 1:857–58.)
President Spencer W. Kimball explained: “The offender should seek the forgiveness of the Church through his bishop. No priest or elder is authorized to thus act for the Church. The Lord has a consistent, orderly plan. Every soul in stakes is given a bishop who, by the very order of his calling and his ordination, is a ‘judge in Israel.’ The bishop is our best earthly friend. He will hear the problems, judge the seriousness, then determine the degree of repentance and decide if it warrants an eventual forgiveness. He does this as the earthly representative of God—the master physician, the master psychologist, the master psychiatrist. If repentance is sufficient he may waive penalties, which is tantamount to forgiveness. The bishop claims no authority to absolve sins, but he does share the burden, waive penalties, relieve tension and strain; and he may assure a continuance of activity. He will keep the whole matter most confidential.” (“President Kimball Speaks Out on Morality,” Ensign, Nov. 1980, p. 98; or New Era, Nov. 1980, p. 44.)
The Prophet Joseph Smith received the promise of eternal life—he had his calling and election made sure. God will extend the same promise to all of his children if they will obey him. Verse 49 explains why the Prophet Joseph received this promise. He was willing to lay all he had on the altar. He was hunted and persecuted, sued in courts of law, torn from family and loved ones, and all because he had testified that the heavens were not closed and that God speaks to His children. The Prophet Joseph is an example in this dispensation of how children of God should act. (See Notes and Commentary on D&C 131:5.)
No indication is given here or elsewhere of what the Lord had commanded the Prophet Joseph to offer to his wife, but the context seems to suggest that it was a special test of faith similar to the test of Abraham’s faith when the Lord commanded him to sacrifice Isaac. Beyond that, it is useless to speculate. However, Emma was given additional counsel from the Lord, including commandments to “receive all those that have been given to her husband” (D&C 132:52) to obey the voice of the Lord (see v. 53), to “abide and cleave unto” the Prophet (v. 54), and to forgive him of his trespasses (see v. 56). The Lord also gave her warnings against rejecting these commandments and promises for keeping them.
President Wilford Woodruff, who was closely associated with the Prophet Joseph Smith, said: “Emma Smith, the widow of the Prophet, is said to have maintained to her dying moments that her husband had nothing to do with the patriarchal order of marriage, but that it was Brigham Young that got that up. I bear record before God, angels and men that Joseph Smith received that revelation, and I bear record that Emma Smith gave her husband in marriage to several women while he was living, some of whom are to-day living in this city, and some may be present in this congregation, and who, if called upon, would confirm my words. But lo and behold, we hear of publication after publication now-a-days, declaring that Joseph Smith had nothing to do with these things. Joseph Smith himself organized every endowment in our Church and revealed the same to the Church, and he lived to receive every key of the Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthoods from the hands of the men who held them while in the flesh, and who hold them in eternity.” (In Journal of Discourses, 23:131.)
Aaron was called by revelation, and all who receive the priesthood must likewise be called of God (see Exodus 28:1; Hebrews 5:4; D&C 27:8; Articles of Faith 1:5). Elder Bruce R. McConkie wrote: “Aaron’s call to the Levitical ministry stands as the perfect example of the choosing of legal administrators to do the Lord’s work; ever since that day, the legality of priestly administration has been determined by whether the professing minister was ‘called of God, as was Aaron’ (Heb. 5:4; D. & C. 27:8; 132:59), that is, by revelation and ordination, and with the full approval of the body of the Lord’s true worshipers” (Mormon Doctrine, p. 9).
“The truth is here reiterated, that whatever is done in the name of God, according to His law and by His direction, cannot be sin. What human law regards as a crime may, or may not, from the Divine point of view, be a sin. Sometimes the Innocent dies on Calvary, because criminals have acted as judge and jury.” (Smith and Sjodahl, Commentary, p. 835.)
On 1 November 1831, a year and a half after the Church was organized, a special conference of the Church was held at Hiram, Ohio. Many revelations had been received from the Lord prior to that time, and the compiling of these revelations for publication was one of the principal subjects passed on at the conference (see Historical Background to D&C 1). The compilation was to be entitled the Book of Commandments; however, all but a few copies of the Book of Commandments were destroyed by the mobs in Jackson County (see Historical Background for D&C 98). Since additional revelations were subsequently received, a new collection was published in Ohio and called the Doctrine and Covenants.
The Prophet Joseph Smith recorded: “It had been decided by the conference that Elder Oliver Cowdery should carry the commandments and revelations to Independence, Missouri, for printing, and that I should arrange and get them in readiness by the time that he left, which was to be by—or, if possible, before—the 15th of the month [November]. At this time there were many things which the Elders desired to know relative to preaching the Gospel to the inhabitants of the earth, and concerning the gathering; and in order to walk by the true light, and be instructed from on high, on the 3rd of November, 1831, I inquired of the Lord and received the following important revelation, which has since been added to the book of Doctrine and Covenants, and called the Appendix: [D&C 133].” (History of the Church, 1:229.)
Elder John A. Widtsoe explained that “the ‘Appendix’ [D&C 133], supplements the introduction [D&C 1]. The two sections together encompass the contents of the book in a condensed form. An appendix is something which the writer thinks should be added to amplify that which is in the book, to emphasize it, to make it stronger or to explain the contents a little more completely.” (Message of the Doctrine and Covenants, p. 17.)
Some of the major themes presented by the Lord in this revelation are summarized in the tenth article of faith.
The scriptures form a great latticework of gospel concepts. Rather than collect gospel concepts by topic, the Lord chose to scatter them throughout the sacred writings, here a little and there a little. Only by diligent searching and studying can we come to a fulness of understanding. The more we immerse ourself in the scriptures, the more familiar we become with language and concepts that trigger a host of associations.
Section 133 contains an unusual number of such concepts that presuppose a knowledge of other scriptures. If one is not familiar with such principles as the Lord coming to His temple (see D&C 133:2), Babylon (see vv. 4–7, 14), the parable of the ten virgins (see v. 10), the story of Lot’s wife (see v. 15), the Lamb standing on Mount Zion (see v. 18), or the time when Jesus will stand on the Mount of Olives (see v. 20), one will miss significant insights into what the Lord says in this section. The commentary on this section will focus on the background of these key scriptures.
The revelation is directed to members of the Church (see D&C 133:1) and to the inhabitants of the earth (see v. 16). Compare these verses with the preface given at the same conference (see D&C 1:1–4).
The verb tense used in verse 2 indicates that the Lord’s appearance was still in the future as of November 1831.
Elder Orson Pratt said: “We read in the scriptures of divine truth that the Lord our God is to come to his temple in the last days. . . . It is recorded in the 3rd chapter of Malachi that ‘the Lord whom ye seek shall suddenly come to his temple.’ This had no reference to the first coming of the Messiah, to the day when he appeared in the flesh; but it has reference to that glorious period termed the last days, when the Lord will again have a house, or a temple reared up on the earth to his holy name.” (In Journal of Discourses, 14:274.)
Smith and Sjodahl pointed out: “This prediction has in part been fulfilled, for the Lord appeared to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery in the Kirtland Temple and there ministered to them in 1836; but this prophecy has a broader meaning, and the Lord shall come, without a doubt, to His Temple, where He will sit as ‘a refiner and purifier of silver,’ purging the house of Israel and ministering to His people. This appearing will be separate and distinct from the great coming in the clouds of heaven, when He will appear with power and great glory (Matt. 24:30) with a curse to judgment (v. 2) upon all the nations that forget God. This coming will be for the blessing and benefit of the most faithful of His saints, and when He comes to take final vengeance on the world, He will be preceded by a sign (Matt. 24:30; Sec. 88:93), that all peoples shall see and judgment shall be poured out upon the wicked.” (Commentary, p. 840.)
The arm is a symbol of strength and power. For the Lord to make bare His arm is to reveal His strength and power before the eyes of the world. (See Exodus 15:1–18 where an example of this is given; see also Notes and Commentary on D&C 15:2; 35:8–10.)
“By ‘see the salvation of their God’ is meant that all peoples shall see the victory or deliverance which the Almighty shall bring about in favor of His people [see Isaiah 12:2; 52:10]” (Sperry, Compendium, p. 300).
The scriptures and the living prophets teach that the Saints must strive for three important things as they ready themselves for the Second Coming:
1. Preparation. Elder Harold B. Lee said of preparing for the Second Coming:
“This preparation demands first that a people, to receive the coming of the Lord, must be taught the personality and the nature of God and his Son, Jesus Christ.
“. . . How can one meet a person whose identity is unknown? How can one be prepared to meet a person about whom he has no knowledge? How can one be prepared to meet a being whose personality he cannot comprehend? . . .
“To my thinking, another requisite of that preparation to receive the Lord at the beginning of his millennial reign demands that the people be taught to accept the divinity of the mission of Jesus as the Savior of the world [see Alma 11:37, 40]. . . .
“. . . We must accept the divine mission of the Prophet Joseph Smith as the instrumentality through which the restoration of the gospel and the organization of the Church of Jesus Christ was accomplished. Each member of the Church, to be prepared for the millennial reign, must receive a testimony, each for himself, of the divinity of the work established by Joseph Smith. . . . [As Heber C. Kimball said,] ‘The time will come when no man nor woman will be able to endure on borrowed light. Each will have to be guided by the light within himself.’” (In Conference Report, Oct. 1956, pp. 61–62.)
2. Sanctification. Elder Bruce R. McConkie explained:
“To be sanctified is to become clean, pure, and spotless; to be free from the blood and sins of the world; to become a new creature of the Holy Ghost, one whose body has been renewed by the rebirth of the Spirit. Sanctification is a state of saintliness, a state attained only by conformity to the laws and ordinances of the gospel. The plan of salvation is the system and means provided whereby men may sanctify their souls and thereby become worthy of a celestial inheritance.
“Sanctification is a basic doctrine of the gospel (D. & C. 20:31–34); indeed, the very reason men are commanded to believe, repent, and be baptized is so they ‘may be sanctified by the reception of the Holy Ghost,’ and thereby be enabled to stand spotless before the judgment bar of Christ. (2 Ne. 27:19–21.)” (Mormon Doctrine, p. 675.)
Since the scriptures teach that no unclean thing can dwell in His presence (see Moses 6:57), it is clear that the Saints who are caught up to meet Him must be sanctified.
3. Gathering. Elder Bruce R. McConkie said:
“Two things are accomplished by the gathering of Israel: First, those who have thus chosen Christ as their Shepherd; those who have taken upon themselves his name in the waters of baptism; those who are seeking to enjoy his Spirit here and now and to be inheritors of eternal life hereafter—such people need to be gathered together to strengthen each other and to help one another perfect their lives.
“And second, those who are seeking the highest rewards in eternity need to be where they can receive the blessings of the house of the Lord, both for themselves and for their ancestors in Israel who died without a knowledge of the gospel, but who would have received it with all their heart had opportunity afforded.
“Manifestly in the early days of this dispensation, this meant gathering to the mountain of the Lord’s house in the tops of the mountains of North America. There alone were congregations strong enough for the Saints to strengthen each other. There alone were the temples of the Most High where the fulness of the ordinances of exaltation are performed.
“However, in the providences of Him who knoweth all things, in the providences of Him who scattered Israel and who is now gathering that favored people again, the day has now come when the fold of Christ is reaching out to the ends of the earth. We are not established in all nations, but we surely shall be before the second coming of the Son of Man.
“As the Book of Mormon says, in the last days, ‘the saints of God’ shall be found ‘upon all the face of the earth.’ Also: ‘The saints of the church of the Lamb and . . . the covenant people of the Lord’—scattered as they are ‘upon all the face of the earth’—shall be ‘armed with righteousness and with the power of God in great glory.’ (1 Ne. 14:12, 14.)
“We are living in a new day. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is fast becoming a worldwide church. Congregations of Saints are now, or soon will be, strong enough to support and sustain their members no matter where they reside. Temples are being built wherever the need justifies.” (“Come: Let Israel Build Zion,” Ensign, May 1977, p. 117.)
In Old Testament days, Babylon was a city and empire of great wickedness and worldly glory that enslaved Israel. Because of that historical fact, Babylon became a symbol of physical and spiritual enslavement, a representation of sin, wickedness, ungodliness, evil, and worldliness. The followers of Christ are commanded to come out of Babylon and flee spiritually to Zion, which is the pure in heart. (See Notes and Commentary on D&C 35:11; 86:1–7; Enrichment B in the Appendix.)
Vessels used in the temple by the ancient Israelites were handled only by authorized priesthood holders who were worthy. The phrase “be ye clean that bear the vessels of the Lord” (D&C 133:5) has since been used to mean that priesthood bearers should be worthy and righteous.
“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations” (Matthew 28:19).
See Notes and Commentary on Doctrine and Covenants 95:7.
President Spencer W. Kimball said:
“I ask you, what did he mean when the Lord took his Twelve Apostles to the top of the Mount of Olives and said:
“. . . And ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.’ (Acts 1:8.)
“These were his last words on earth before he went to his heavenly home.
“What is the significance of the phrase ‘uttermost part of the earth’? He had already covered the area known to the apostles. Was it the people in Judea? Or those in Samaria? Or the few millions in the Near East? Where were the ‘uttermost parts of the earth’? Did he mean the millions in what is now America? Did he include the hundreds of thousands, or even millions, in Greece, Italy, around the Mediterranean, the inhabitants of central Europe? What did he mean? Or did he mean all the living people of all the world and those spirits assigned to this world to come in centuries ahead? Have we underestimated his language or its meaning? How can we be satisfied with 100,000 converts out of nearly four billion people in the world who need the gospel? . . .
“It seems to me that the Lord chose his words when he said ‘every nation,’ ‘every land,’ ‘uttermost bounds of the earth,’ ‘every tongue,’ ‘every people,’ every soul,’ ‘all the world,’ ‘many lands.’
“Surely there is significance in these words!
“Certainly his sheep were not limited to the thousands about him and with whom he rubbed shoulders each day. A universal family! A universal command!
“My brethren, I wonder if we are doing all we can. Are we complacent in our approach to teaching all the world? We have been proselyting now 144 years. Are we prepared to lengthen our stride? To enlarge our vision?
“Remember, our ally is our God. He is our commander. He made the plans. He gave the commandment. . . .
“Somehow, brethren, I feel that when we have done all in our power that the Lord will find a way to open doors. That is my faith. . . .
“I believe the Lord can do anything he sets his mind to do.
“But I can see no good reason why the Lord would open doors that we are not prepared to enter. Why should he break down the Iron Curtain or the Bamboo Curtain or any other curtain if we are still unprepared to enter?” (“When the World Will Be Converted,” Ensign, Oct. 1974, pp. 4–5, 7.)
From the twelve tribes of Israel, it was the privilege of Judah to be the host tribe when the Son of God was born into mortality. One of the saddest accounts recorded in scripture is the rejection by the majority of the Jews (who are the of tribe of Judah) of their King. Because the Jews as a nation would not accept the King of Israel, the gospel was taken from them and given to the Gentiles. Because of the love the Savior has for all of Israel, the gospel will again be taken to the tribe of Judah before the Second Coming of the Savior (see 1 Nephi 13:42; Ether 13:12). They who first received the Master shall receive Him again, but this time they will be the last to do so.
Personal righteousness adds oil to one’s lamp.
Doctrine and Covenants 133:10 refers to the parable of the ten virgins (see Matthew 25:1–13), of which Elder James E. Talmage said: “The story itself is based on oriental marriage customs, with which the Lord’s attentive listeners were familiar. It was and yet is common in those lands, particularly in connection with marriage festivities among the wealthy classes, for the bridegroom to go to the home of the bride, accompanied by his friends in processional array, and later to conduct the bride to her new home with a larger body of attendants composed of groomsmen, bridesmaids, relatives and friends. As the bridal party progressed, to the accompaniment of gladsome music, it was increased by little groups who had gathered in waiting at convenient places along the route, and particularly near the end of the course where organized companies came forth to meet the advancing procession. Wedding ceremonies were appointed for the evening and night hours; and the necessary use of torches and lamps gave brilliancy and added beauty to the scene.” (Jesus the Christ, p. 577.)
Often at such wedding processions, the appearance of the groom came after a long wait. Bridesmaids carried a small lamp and a supply of oil to help light the way when the wedding party appeared.
President Kimball taught that the oil that the wise virgins had and the foolish did not have represents individual righteousness (see Notes and Commentary for D&C 45:56–57).
The following scriptures relate the parable to the Second Coming: Doctrine and Covenants 45:56–59; 63:53–54.
Elder Bruce R. McConkie wrote:
“Question: Does or will anyone know when the Lord will come? Answer: As to the day and hour, No; as to the generation, Yes.
“Question: Who shall know the generation? Answer: The saints, the children of light, those who can read the signs of the times, those who treasure up the Lord’s word so they will not be deceived.
“Paul told the Thessalonians that ‘the coming of the Lord’ would be ‘as travail upon a woman with child’; that where people of the world are concerned Jesus would come ‘as a thief in the night,’ that is unexpectedly and without warning; but that where ‘the children of light’ are concerned, the Lord would not come as ‘a thief in the night,’ for they are aware of the ‘times and seasons’ connected with his return. (1 Thess. 4:13–18; 5:1–7.) Thus, though the saints do not know the day, they are aware of the season. As a woman in travail feels the pains of the approaching birth, so the saints read the signs of the times; neither knows the exact moment of the anticipated happening, but both know the approximate time.” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 1:665–66; see also Matthew 24:36, 42; D&C 45:39; 49:7; 77:6, 12; 130:14–17.)
“The Gentiles who obeyed the Gospel were commanded (v. 12) to gather in Zion, and those of the house of Judah were to flee to Jerusalem (v. 13). This is in harmony with the prediction of Isaiah and Micah, that out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. For from both these centers the Lord shall judge. Jerusalem shall be re-built and become a holy city, the capital for Judah, and Zion shall be the capital and city of our God, for Ephraim and his fellows. Both shall be seats of government in unison with each other, and the Lord shall dwell in both.” (Smith and Sjodahl, Commentary, p. 841.)
With reference to a similar statement in Micah 4:1, President Harold B. Lee explained: “The expression ‘the mountain of the Lord’s house,’ as here indicated, was undoubtedly to be referred to as a place as well as a definition of a righteous people” (“The Way to Eternal Life,” Ensign, Nov. 1971, p. 15).
Elder Erastus Snow said: “‘The mountain of the Lord’s house’—this is a peculiar phrase, and was probably used by the Prophet because it was a common mode of expression in Israel in the days of David and many of the Prophets several hundred years after him, for, in speaking of Mount Moriah, on which the Temple of Solomon was built, they spoke of it as the mountain of the Lord’s house. Moriah is a hill in the city of Jerusalem, on which David located the site of the Temple, and on which his son Solomon built it, and it was called the mountain of the house of the Lord.” (In Journal of Discourses, 16:202.)
Elder Bruce R. McConkie explained that the phrase has more than one meaning:
“The mountain of the Lord’s house is the mountain where the temple of God is built. [Isaiah 2:2–3 quoted; see also Micah 4:1–2; 2 Nephi 12:2–3.]
“This great prophecy, as is often the case, is subject to the law of multiple fulfilment. 1. In Salt Lake City and other mountain locations temples, in the full and true sense of the word, have been erected, and representatives of all nations are flowing unto them to learn of God and his ways. . . . 2. But the day is yet future when the Lord’s house is to be built on that ‘Mount Zion’ which is ‘the city of New Jerusalem’ in Jackson County, Missouri. (D. & C. 84:2–4.) Mount Zion, itself, will be the mountain of the Lord’s house in the day when that glorious temple is erected. 3. When the Jews flee unto Jerusalem, it will be ‘unto the mountains of the Lord’s house’ (D. & C. 133:13), for a holy temple is to be built there also as part of the work of the great era of restoration. (Ezek. 37:24–28.)
“The law cannot go forth from Zion and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem, in the full millennial sense that Isaiah foresaw and specified, until these two great future temples are constructed in the old and new Jerusalems.” (Mormon Doctrine, pp. 517–18.)
President Gordon B. Hinckley gave an additional application of the phrase mountain of the Lord’s house. Speaking at the dedication of the newly-completed Conference Center on 8 October 2000, President Hinckley said: “I believe [Isaiah 2:2–3] applies to the historic and wonderful Salt Lake Temple. But I believe also that it is related to this magnificent hall. For it is from this pulpit that the law of God shall go forth, together with the word and testimony of the Lord.” (In Conference Report, Oct. 2000, 89; or Ensign, Nov. 2000, 69.)
Lot, the nephew of Abraham, lived in Sodom and Gomorrah, another place of such gross wickedness that it has become a symbol of the world and its evil. Lot was told to take his family and flee. As they did so, Lot’s wife looked back (she probably returned to Sodom and Gomorrah; see Luke 17:31–32) and was destroyed. (See Genesis 19:15–26.) In context this reference is clear. Once we forsake the world, we cannot turn back, or we too may get caught in the destruction that awaits Babylon.
The language of this verse is similar to the language of Revelation 14:6–7. Elder Bruce R. McConkie wrote:
“Now, as to the actual work of restoration—what angel performed this mighty deed, this work which involves the salvation of all men on earth in these latter-days? Who restored the everlasting gospel? Was it one angel or many?
“It is traditional (and true!) to reply: ‘Moroni, son of Mormon, the now resurrected Nephite prophet, who holds the keys of “the stick of Ephraim” (D. & C. 27:5), the one through whose ministry the Book of Mormon was again brought to light.’ The reasoning is that the Book of Mormon contains ‘the fulness of the everlasting gospel’ (D. & C. 135:3); that therein is God’s message of salvation for all of earth’s inhabitants; and that this gospel message is now being taken by the Lord’s witnesses to one nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people after another. . . .
“But other angels were yet to come—Moses, Elias, Elijah, Gabriel, Raphael, and ‘divers angels, . . . all declaring their dispensation, their rights, their keys, their honors, their majesty and glory, and the power of their priesthood; giving line upon line, precept upon precept; here a little, and there a little.’ (D. & C. 128:21.)
“Thus the angel Moroni brought the message, that is, the word; but other angels brought the keys and priesthood, the power. And in the final analysis the fulness of the everlasting gospel consists of all of the truths and powers needed to enable men to gain a fulness of salvation in the celestial heaven.” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3:528–30.)
See Notes and Commentary on Doctrine and Covenants 77:11.
Elder Charles W. Penrose explained that Christ will make several appearances, namely, to the Saints gathered to Zion, to the Jews gathered back to their homeland, and to the rest of the world:
“Among the first-mentioned of these three classes of men [that is, among the Saints in Zion] the Lord will make his appearance first; and that appearance will be unknown to the rest of mankind. He will come to the Temple prepared for him, and his faithful people will behold his face, hear his voice, and gaze upon his glory. From his own lips they will receive further instructions for the development and beautifying of Zion and for the extension and sure stability of his kingdom.
“His next appearance will be among the distressed and nearly vanquished sons of Judah. At the crisis of their fate, when the hostile troops of several nations are ravaging the city and all the horrors of war are overwhelming the people of Jerusalem, he will set his feet upon the Mount of Olives, which will cleave and part asunder at his touch. Attended by a host from heaven, he will overthrow and destroy the combined armies of the Gentiles, and appear to the worshipping Jews as the mighty Deliverer and Conqueror so long expected by their race; and while love, gratitude, awe, and admiration swell their bosoms, the Deliverer will show them the tokens of his crucifixion and disclose himself as Jesus of Nazareth, whom they had reviled and whom their fathers put to death. Then will unbelief part from their souls, and ‘the blindness in part which has happened unto Israel’ be removed. ‘A fountain for sin and uncleanness shall be opened to the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem,’ and ‘a nation will be born’ unto God ‘in a day.’ They will be baptized for the remission of their sins, and will receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, and the government of God as established in Zion will be set up among them, no more to be thrown down for ever.
“The great and crowning advent of the Lord will be subsequent to these two appearances; but who can describe it in the language of mortals? The tongue of man falters, and the pen drops from the hand of the writer, as the mind is rapt in contemplation of the sublime and awful majesty of his coming to take vengeance on the ungodly and to reign as King of the whole earth.” (“The Second Advent,” Millennial Star, 10 Sept. 1859, pp. 582–83.)
Other scriptures show that besides Christ’s appearance in Zion, He will appear at the council held at Adam-ondi-Ahman (see Notes and Commentary for D&C 116:1).
Genesis indicates that in the early history of the world the land masses were united. Moses recorded that one of the great-great-grandsons of Shem was named Peleg (a Hebrew word meaning division) because “in his days was the earth divided” (Genesis 10:25). Many scholars have passed this reference off as meaning some sort of cultural or political division, but modern prophets have taught that this statement should be taken literally.
An article published early in the history of the Church under the direction of the Prophet Joseph Smith stated: “The Eternal God hath declared that the great deep shall roll back into the north countries and that the land of Zion and the land of Jerusalem shall be joined together, as they were before they were divided in the days of Peleg. No wonder the mind starts at the sound of the last days!” (“The Last Days,” Evening and Morning Star, Feb. 1833, p. 1.)
President Joseph Fielding Smith wrote: “If . . . the earth is to be restored as it was in the beginning, then all the land surface will again be in one place as it was before the days of Peleg, when this great division was accomplished. Europe, Africa, and the islands of the sea including Australia, New Zealand, and other places in the Pacific must be brought back and joined together as they were in the beginning.” (Answers to Gospel Questions, 5:74.)
In an introduction to a book on continental drift, a scientist writes:
“Formerly, most scientists regarded the earth as rigid and the continents as fixed, but now the surface of the earth is seen as slowly deformable and the continents as ‘rafts’ floating on a ‘sea’ of denser rock. The continents have repeatedly collided and joined, repeatedly broken and separated in different patterns, and, very likely, they have grown larger in the process.
“This scientific revolution, as others before it, was long in the making, but it was not until the late 1960s that it began to succeed. At a meeting of the world’s geophysicists in August of 1971, it was made clear that the notion of continental drift, which had been heresy only a few years before, had become the orthodoxy of the great majority.” (Continents Adrift, preface.)
Though the time of this division of the land is placed much earlier by scientists than by the biblical chronology, the idea of one land mass is widely accepted. This revelation in Doctrine and Covenants 133 declares that sometime in the future that geographical unity will be restored.
Elder Bruce R. McConkie wrote:
“When Shalmanezer overran the Kingdom of Israel (about 721 B.C.), he carried the Ten Tribes comprising that kingdom captive into Assyria. From thence they were led into the lands of the north and have been called the Lost Tribes because they are lost to the knowledge of other people. (1 Ne. 22:4.) ‘We have no knowledge of the location or condition of that part of the Ten Tribes who went into the north country.’ (Compendium. p. 88.)
“Esdras, an apocryphal writer, records this version of their escape from Assyria: ‘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 came they 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 their statutes, which they never kept in their own land. And they entered into Euphrates by the narrow passage of the river. For the most High then shewed 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 dwelt they there until the latter times; and now when they shall begin to come, The Highest shall stay the stream again, that they may go through.’ (Apocrypha, 2 Esdras 13:40–47.)
“Commenting on this, Elder George Reynolds has written: . . .
“‘Is it altogether improbable that in that long journey of one and a half years, as Esdras states it, from Media the land of their captivity to the frozen north, some of the backsliding Israel rebelled, turned aside from the main body, forgot their God, by and by mingled with the Gentiles and became the leaven to leaven with the promised seed all the nations of the earth? The account given in the Book of Mormon of a single family of this same house, its waywardness, its stiffneckedness before God, its internal quarrels and family feuds are, we fear, an example on a small scale of what most probably happened in the vast bodies of Israelites who for so many months wended their tedious way northward. . . .’ (Are We of Israel, pp. 10–11.)
“The Lost Tribes are not lost unto the Lord. In their northward journeyings they were led by prophets and inspired leaders. They had their Moses and their Lehi, were guided by the spirit of revelation, kept the law of Moses, and carried with them the statutes and judgments which the Lord had given them in ages past. They were still a distinct people many hundreds of years later, for the resurrected Lord visited and ministered among them following his ministry on this continent among the Nephites. (3 Ne. 16:1–4; 17:4.) Obviously he taught them in the same way and gave them the same truths which he gave his followers in Jerusalem and on the American continent; and obviously they recorded his teachings, thus creating volumes of scripture comparable to the Bible and Book of Mormon. (2 Ne. 29:12–14.)
“In due course the Lost Tribes of Israel will return and come to the children of Ephraim to receive their blessings. This great gathering will take place under the direction of the President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, for he holds the keys. . . . Keys are the right of presidency, the power to direct; and by this power the Lost Tribes will return, with ‘their prophets’ and their scriptures to ‘be crowned with glory, even in Zion, by the hands of the servants of the Lord, even the children of Ephraim.’ (D. & C. 133:26–35.)
“At the October, 1916, general conference of the Church, Elder James E. Talmage made this prediction: ‘The tribes shall come; they are not lost unto the Lord; they shall be brought forth as hath been predicted; and I say unto you there are those now living—aye, some here present—who shall live to read the records of the Lost Tribes of Israel, which shall be made one with the record of the Jews, or the Holy Bible, and the record of the Nephites, or the Book of Mormon, even as the Lord hath predicted; and those records, which the tribes lost to man but yet to be found again shall bring, shall tell of the visit of the resurrected Christ to them, after he had manifested himself to the Nephites upon this continent.’ (Articles of Faith, p. 513.)” (Mormon Doctrine, pp. 455–58.)
For a discussion of the role of John the Beloved with the ten lost tribes, see Notes and Commentary for Doctrine and Covenants 7:3–6.
The “great deep” means the ocean or a body of water (see Genesis 7:11; Isaiah 51:10).
The scriptures do not explain how a highway will be cast up in the midst of the deep for the ten lost tribes to come to Zion. But the language of this prophecy is related to the account of how Moses parted the Red Sea. With Pharaoh and his army at their backs and the Red Sea in front of them, Israel had come to an impasse. Then a miracle took place: a highway was cast up in the midst of the deep, and Israel crossed over on dry ground. (See Exodus 14; Isaiah 11:15–16.)
See Notes and Commentary for Doctrine and Covenants 45:48–53.
“In ancient times in some parts of the world, people used to squeeze the juice out of the grapes by placing the grapes in a wine vat and then stomping on them. Naturally, the clothes of those persons who ‘treadeth in the wine-vat’ were soon stained with the grape juice and became the same color. When the Savior appears in the last days, his garments will be red ‘like him that treadeth in the wine-vat’ (D&C 133:48), and ‘his voice shall be heard: I have trodden in the wine-press alone’ (D&C 133:50).” (Ludlow, Companion, 1:678.)
Wine in Doctrine and Covenants 133:48–51, as in the sacrament, suggests blood, both Christ’s blood when He worked out the Atonement alone, and the blood of vengeance on the wicked at the Second Coming (see Isaiah 64:1–6). President Joseph Fielding Smith said that “Isaiah has pictured this great day when the Lord shall come with his garments, or apparel, red and glorious, to take vengeance on the ungodly. (Isa. 64:1–6.) This will be a day of mourning to the wicked, but a day of gladness to all who have kept his commandments. Do not let anyone think that this is merely figurative language, it is literal, and as surely as we live that day of wrath will come when the cup of iniquity is full. We have received a great many warnings. The great day of the Millennium will come in; the wicked will be consumed and peace and righteousness will dwell upon all the face of the earth for one thousand years.” (Church History and Modern Revelation, 1:191–92.)
Coming in the clouds of glory
When the Lord comes the second time, He will come in the fulness of His glory. The scriptures explain the effect of the fulness of God’s glory on the earth and its inhabitants when the Lord returns:
1. Mountains will flow down at His presence (see D&C 133:40, 44; Micah 1:4).
2. The waters on the earth will boil (see D&C 133:41).
3. All nations will tremble at His presence (see D&C 133:42).
4. The sun will hide, the moon will withhold its light, and the stars will be hurled from their places (see D&C 133:49).
5. The wicked will be burned by the brightness or fire of the glory of the Lord (see Malachi 4:1–3; 2 Thessalonians 2:8).
“Not only did Christ rise from the dead at that time, but others were seen who had risen from their graves—righteous men and women who died before Christ, and who had the privilege of rising with him. I do not believe that the resurrection then was a general one; I believe it extended to those only who, while upon earth, had proved themselves willing to do all for the kingdom of God, and to whom neither property, honor, nor life itself had been too dear to keep them from carrying out the purposes of God.” (Anthon H. Lund, in Conference Report, Apr. 1904, p. 6.)
Elder James E. Talmage commented: “It is expressly asserted that many graves shall yield up their dead at the time of Christ’s advent in glory, and the just who have slept, together with many who have not died, will be caught up to meet the Lord [see 1 Thessalonians 4:14–16].” (Articles of Faith, p. 388.)
See Notes and Commentary on Doctrine and Covenants 1:17–20, 23.
“This expression [thrash or thresh the nations] is found in Habakkuk 3:12. Threshing, in olden times, was done by treading out the grain on a threshing-floor. The going forth of the messengers of the gospel among the nations is like trampling the wheat sheaves on the hard floor. The valuable kernels are carefully gathered up; the straw is left.” (Smith and Sjodahl, Commentary, p. 186.)
The day will come when the wicked will see their folly and the judgments of God will come upon them. Moroni said, “Fools mock, but they shall mourn” (Ether 12:26). The Lord will not suffer the unrighteous to join in the inheritance of the righteous. (See D&C 1:14; 63:54, 1 Nephi 14:7; 22:15–21; Acts 3:22–23; JS—H 1:40.)
“This expression simply means that wicked and indifferent persons who reject the gospel of Jesus Christ will have no family inheritance or patriarchal lineage—neither root (ancestors or progenitors) nor branch (children or posterity). Such persons cannot be received into the celestial kingdom of glory of resurrected beings, but must be content with a lesser blessing.” (Theodore M. Burton, in Conference Report, Oct. 1967, p. 81.)
Passages similar in content to Doctrine and Covenants 133:65–74 are found in Isaiah 8:16; 50:2–3; 2 Nephi 28:32; Doctrine and Covenants 1:8–9; 19:5; and Matthew 8:12.
President Spencer W. Kimball commented:
“Various excuses have been used over the centuries to dismiss these divine messengers. There has been denial because the prophet came from an obscure place. ‘Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?’ (John 1:46.) Jesus was also met with the question, ‘Is not this the carpenter’s son?’ (Matt. 13:55.) By one means or another, the swiftest method of rejection of the holy prophets has been to find a pretext, however false or absurd, to dismiss the man so that his message could also be dismissed. Prophets who were not glib, but slow of speech, were esteemed as naught. . . .
“We wonder how often hearers first rejected the prophets because they despised them, and finally despised the prophets even more because they had rejected them. Even so, why else is the record of rejection so complete? The cares of the world are so many and so entangling, even very good people are diverted from following the truth because they care too much for the things of the world. . . .
“Sometimes people let their hearts get so set upon things and the honors of this world that they cannot learn the lessons they most need to learn. Simple truths are often rejected in favor of the much less-demanding philosophies of men, and this is another cause for the rejection of the prophets.
“But while there are various excuses for rejection, there’s a certain cause for this sad record. It must not be passed over: the cares of the world, the honors of the world, and looking beyond the mark are all determined by a persuasive few who presume to speak for all. . . .
“The holy prophets have not only refused to follow erroneous human trends, but have pointed out these errors. No wonder the response to the prophets has not always been one of indifference. So often the prophets have been rejected because they first rejected the wrong ways of their own society.
“These excuses for rejection of the prophets are poor excuses. The trouble with using obscurity as a test of validity is that God has so often chosen to bring forth his work out of obscurity. He has even said it would be so. (See D&C 1:30.) Christianity did not go from Rome to Galilee; it was the other way around. In our day the routing is from Palmyra to Paris, not the reverse. Just because something is in our midst does not mean that we have been in the midst of it. We can daily drive by a museum or an art gallery but know nothing of what is inside.
“The trouble with rejection because of personal familiarity with the prophets is that the prophets are always somebody’s son or somebody’s neighbor. They are chosen from among the people, not transported from another planet, dramatic as that would be! . . .
“Of course, rejection of the holy prophets comes because the hearts of people are hardened, as people are shaped by their society. Yet even when the hardening is swift, it can also be subtle. Who, for instance, a scant twenty years ago would have foreseen the massive use of abortion in society today, like all the diseased doctrines of the devil. The practice is pleasing unto the carnal mind.
“Prophets have a way of jarring the carnal mind. Too often the holy prophets are wrongly perceived as harsh and as anxious to make a record in order to say, ‘I told you so.’ Those prophets I have known are the most loving of men. It is because of their love and integrity that they cannot modify the Lord’s message merely to make people feel comfortable. They are too kind to be so cruel. I am so grateful that prophets do not crave popularity.” (In Conference Report, Apr. 1978, pp. 115–16; or Ensign, May 1978, pp. 76–77.)
Elder Bruce R. McConkie described outer darkness as hell: “So complete is the darkness prevailing in the minds of these spirits, so wholly has gospel light been shut out of their consciences, that they know little or nothing of the plan of salvation, and have little hope within themselves of advancement and progression through the saving grace of Christ. Hell is literally a place of outer darkness, darkness that hates light, buries truth, and revels in iniquity.” (Mormon Doctrine, pp. 551–52.)
A general assembly of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was held at Kirtland, Ohio, on 17 August 1835 to formally accept the collection of revelations to be published as the first edition of the Doctrine and Covenants. After the priesthood quorums and then the congregation unanimously accepted the revelations, “Elder William W. Phelps arose and read an article prepared by Oliver Cowdery, on marriage. This was on vote ordered to be published also in the volume with the revelations. Then President Oliver Cowdery arose and read an article, ‘Of Governments and Laws in General,’ and this likewise was ordered by vote to be published with the book of revelations. Neither of these articles was a revelation to the Church.” (Smith, Church History and Modern Revelation, 2:30.)
The article on government was included in that edition of the Doctrine and Covenants as a statement of belief and as a rebuttal to accusations against the Saints. “The reason for the article on ‘Government and Laws in General,’ is explained in the fact that the Latter-day Saints had been accused by their bitter enemies, both in Missouri and in other places, as being opposed to law and order. They had been portrayed as setting up laws in conflict with the laws of the country.” (Smith, Church History and Modern Revelation, 2:30–31.)
This declaration of belief has been included in editions of the Doctrine and Covenants since its proposal in 1835. When it was read and voted on, “the Prophet Joseph Smith and his second counselor, Frederick G. Williams, were in Canada on a missionary journey, and the Prophet did not return to Kirtland until Sunday, August 23rd, one week after the Assembly had been held. Since the Assembly had voted to have [the articles on government and marriage] published in the Doctrine and Covenants, the Prophet accepted the decision and permitted this to be done.
“It should be noted that in the minutes, and also in the introduction to this article on government, the brethren were careful to state that this declaration was accepted as the belief, or ‘opinion’ of the officers of the Church, and not as a revelation, and therefore does not hold the same place in the doctrines of the Church as do the revelations.” (Smith and Sjodahl, Commentary, p. 852.)
The principle of government was given of the Lord, but He did not institute all forms of government. Smith and Sjodahl noted that “the Lord in the very beginning revealed to Adam a perfect form of government, and this was ‘instituted of God for the benefit of man;’ but we do not hold that all governments, or any man-made government, was instituted of God although the Lord holds a controlling hand over them. It was not long after the Lord established His government with Adam, and had commanded him to teach correct principles to his children, that men began to rebel and turn away. [See Moses 5:12–13.]
“From that time forth the authority to rule was usurped by men and, with few exceptions ever since, the governments in the earth have been and are the governments of men, and the guiding hand of the Lord by revelation and authority vested in his servants has been ignored. The day is to come, and is near at hand, when the Lord will come in his power and make an end of all man-made governments and take His rightful place as King of kings, and Lord of lords.” (Commentary, pp. 852–53.)
Elder Erastus Snow explained: “Anarchy—shall I say, is the worst of all governments? No: Anarchy is the absence of all government; it is the antipodes [opposite] of order; it is the acme of confusion; it is the result of unbridled license, the antipodes of true liberty. The Apostle Paul says truly: ‘For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.’ At first this is a startling statement. Even the monopoly of the one-man-power as in Russia [the Czar], or the monopoly of the aristocracy as in other parts of Europe, or the imbecility and sometimes stupidity of a republic like our own, is far better than no government at all. And for this reason, says the Apostle Paul, ‘The powers are ordained of God,’ not that they are always the best forms of government for the people, or that they afford liberty and freedom to mankind but that any and all forms of government are better than none at all, having a tendency as they do to restrain the passions of human nature and to curb them, and to establish and maintain order to a greater or less degree. One monopoly is better than many; and the oppression of a king is tolerable, but the oppression of a mob, where every man is a law to himself and his own right arm, is his power to enforce his own will, is the worst form of government.” (In Journal of Discourses, 22:151.)
The Prophet Joseph Smith said: “We need not doubt the wisdom and intelligence of the Great Jehovah; He will award judgment or mercy to all nations according to their several deserts, their means of obtaining intelligence, the laws by which they are governed, the facilities afforded them of obtaining correct information, and His inscrutable designs in relation to the human family” (History of the Church, 4:596). President John Taylor added: “If for every word and secret act all men shall be brought to judgment, how much more will the public acts of public men be brought into account before God and before the holy priesthood” (in Journal of Discourses, 20:42–43).
Elder John A. Widtsoe explained: “We believe that governments are instituted of God (134:1; 58:21); that individual freedom is necessary (134:2). No law should be passed that takes away from a man the right of choice. Free agency is fundamental as a law of human conduct. Men have the right to obey or disobey the law as they please, and take the consequences. That is fundamental and lies at the bottom of all Latter-day Saint thinking.” (Message of the Doctrine and Covenants, p. 154.)
Elder David O. McKay said: “That government is best which has as its aim the administration of justice, social well-being and the promotion of prosperity among its members” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1930, p. 80).
He also said that “we must recognize that property rights are essential to human liberty.” He cited George Sutherland, who became a United States Supreme Court Justice: “‘The individual . . . has three great rights, equally sacred from arbitrary interference: the right to his life, the right to his liberty, and the right to his property. The three rights are so bound together as to be essentially one right. To give a man his life, but deny him his liberty, is to take from him all that makes life worth living. To give him liberty, but take from him the property which is the fruit and badge of his liberty, is to still leave him a slave.’ (From George Sutherland’s speech before the New York State Bar Association, January 21, 1921.)” (In Conference Report, Oct. 1962, p. 6.)
Presidents Anthony W. Ivins, Heber J. Grant, and Charles W. Nibley urged the Saints to choose just and wise civic leaders.
Many leaders of the Church have spoken on the importance of Church members choosing righteous leaders. In January 1928 the First Presidency (Heber J. Grant, Anthony W. Ivins, and Charles W. Nibley) issued a statement that read in part:
“Laws which are enacted for the protection of society have no value except when they are administered in righteousness and justice, and they cannot be so administered in righteousness and justice, if dishonest men occupy administrative offices.
“The Lord says ‘When the wicked rule, the people mourn.’ Wise men, good men, patriotic men are to be found in all communities, in all political parties, among all creeds. None but such men should be chosen. . . .
“Without beneficent laws, righteously administered, the foundations of civilization crumble, anarchy reigns, decay and dissolution follow.
“We call upon all members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints throughout the world to honor the laws of God, and obey and uphold the law of the land; and we appeal to good men and women everywhere, regardless of creed, party affiliation, race or condition to join with us in an effort to put into operation the words of Lincoln, the great emancipator, that our country may continue to be a light to the world, a loyal, law-abiding, God-fearing nation.” (In Conference Report, Oct. 1928, p. 16.)
President Ezra Taft Benson wrote: “Not only should we seek humble, worthy, courageous leadership, but we should measure all proposals having to do with our national or local welfare by four standards:
“First, is the proposal, the policy or the idea being promoted, right as measured by the Gospel of Jesus Christ? . . .
“Second, is it right as measured by the Lord’s standard of constitutional government? . . . The Lord’s standard is a safe guide.
“Third, . . . is it right as measured by the counsel of the living oracles of God? . . .
“Fourth, what will be the effect upon the morale and the character of the people if this or that policy is adopted?” (In Our Prophets and Principles, pp. 69–70.)
President Heber J. Grant said:
“One of the fundamental articles of faith promulgated by the Prophet Joseph Smith was: ‘We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience; and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.’ [See Articles of Faith 1:11.]
“But we claim absolutely no right, no prerogative whatever, to interfere with any other people.” (In Conference Report, Apr. 1921, p. 203.)
According to Elder John A. Widtsoe, the Prophet Joseph Smith advocated that “a good government must secure for every citizen the free exercise of conscience. Matters of belief or religious practice should not be interfered with, unless they oppose laws formulated for the common good. There should be no mingling of religious influence with civil governments.” (Joseph Smith, p. 215.)
The twelfth article of faith states, “We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.”
“The three significant words used in the 12th Article of Faith,” commented President David O. McKay, “express the proper attitude of the membership of the Church toward law. These words are—obey, honor, and sustain. The Article does not say we believe in submission to the law. Obedience implies a higher attitude than mere submission, for obedience has its root in good intent; submission may spring from selfishness or meanness of spirit. Though obedience and submission both imply restraint on one’s own will, we are obedient only from a sense of right; submissive from a sense of necessity.
“Honor expresses an act or attitude of an inferior towards a superior. When applied to things it is taken in the sense of holding in honor. Thus, in honoring the law, we look upon it as something which is above selfish desires or indulgences.
“To sustain signifies to hold up; to keep from falling. To sustain the law, therefore, is to refrain from saying or doing anything which will weaken it or make it ineffective.
“We obey law from a sense of right.
“We honor law because of its necessity and strength to society.
“We sustain law by keeping it in good repute.” (In Conference Report, Apr. 1937, p. 28.)
Elder James E. Talmage said: “A question has many times been asked of the Church and of its individual members, to this effect: In the case of a conflict between the requirements made by the revealed word of God, and those imposed by the secular law, which of these authorities would the members of the Church be bound to obey? In answer, the words of Christ may be applied—it is the duty of the people to render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s [see D&C 63:26; Matthew 22:21]. At the present time the kingdom of heaven as an earthly power, with a reigning King exercising direct and personal authority in temporal matters, has not been established upon the earth. The branches of the Church as such, and the members composing the same, are subjects of the several governments within whose separate realms the Church organizations exist. In this day of comparative enlightenment and freedom there is still cause for expecting any direct interference with the rights of private worship and individual devotion; in all civilized nations the people are accorded the right to pray, and this right is assured by what may be properly called a common law of humankind. No earnest soul is cut off from communion with his God; and with such an open channel of communication, relief from burdensome laws and redress from grievances may be sought from the power that holds control of nations.” (Articles of Faith, pp. 422–23.)
President N. Eldon Tanner taught:
“There are many who question the constitutionality of certain acts passed by their respective governments, even though such laws have been established by the highest courts in the land as being constitutional, and they feel to defy and disobey the law.
“Abraham Lincoln once observed: ‘Bad laws, if they exist, should be repealed as soon as possible; still, while they continue in force, they should be religiously observed.’
“This is the attitude of the Church in regard to law observance. . . .
“There is no reason or justification for men to disregard or break the law or try to take it into their own hands.
“It is the duty of citizens of any country to remember that they have individual responsibilities, and that they must operate within the law of the country in which they have chosen to live.” (In Conference Report, Oct. 1975, p. 126; or Ensign, Nov. 1975, p. 83.)
President Joseph Fielding Smith likewise said: “No member of the Church can be accepted as in good standing whose way of life is one of rebellion against the established order of decency and obedience to law. We cannot be in rebellion against the law and be in harmony with the Lord, for he has commanded us to ‘be subject to the powers that be, until he reigns whose right it is to reign. . . .’ (D&C 58:22.) And one of these days he is going to come.” (In Conference Report, Apr. 1971, p. 48; or Ensign, June 1971, p. 50.)
The exception to this principle would be when the Lord directs His people through His prophets to take an opposing stand to government. Otherwise they recognize the established authority of government.
President Brigham Young taught: “Remember that the Lord holds all of us responsible for our conduct here. He held our father Adam responsible for his conduct, but no more than He does us, in proportion to the station we hold. The kings of the earth will have to give an account to God, for their conduct in a kingly capacity. Kings are heads of nations, governors are heads of provinces; so are fathers or husbands governors of their own houses, and should act accordingly.” (History of the Church, 4:309.)
President Wilford Woodruff added: “I will say that this nation and all nations, together with presidents, kings, emperors, judges, and all men, righteous and wicked, have got to go into the spirit world and stand before the bar of God. They have got to give an account of the deeds done in the body.” (In Millennial Star, 24 Nov. 1890, p. 741.)
President Wilford Woodruff said further: “God will bless no king, no emperor and no president who will not give unto his subjects the rights and privileges in their relationship to God which the Father Himself has given unto them. Whenever these subjects are deprived of their rights, those who preside over them are held responsible.” (Deseret Weekly News, 19 Apr. 1890, p. 561.)
Said Elder James E. Talmage: “Now, the Lord has provided that those in his Church shall live according to the law, and he makes a distinction between the law pertaining to the Church and what we call the secular law, or the law of the land, but he requires obedience to each. My love for my brother in this Church does not mean that I am to . . . stand between him and righteous judgment. This Church is no organization like that of the secret combinations of old, which the Lord hath said he hates, the members of which were pledged, and bound by oath that they would cover up one another’s crimes, that they would justify one another in theft and murder and in all things that were unclean. It is no such organization at all. It would not be of God if it were.” (In Conference Report, Oct. 1920, p. 63.)
The Church upholds the principle laid down by the Constitution of the United States that religion and government should be kept separate. The First Presidency (Joseph F. Smith, John R. Winder, and Anthon H. Lund) stated the following in 1907:
“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints holds to the doctrine of the separation of church and state; the non-interference of church authority in political matters; and the absolute freedom and independence of the individual in the performance of his political duties. . . .
“We declare that from principle and policy, we favor:
“The absolute separation of church and state;
“No domination of the state by the church;
“No church interference with the functions of the state;
“No state interference with the functions of the church, or with the free exercise of religion;
“The absolute freedom of the individual from the domination of ecclesiastical authority in political affairs;
“The equality of all churches before the law.” (In Clark, Messages of the First Presidency, 4:153.)
Elder John A. Widtsoe wrote that “no officer in the Church has authority beyond matters pertaining to the Church” (Priesthood and Church Government, p. 62), and that “the Church can try offenders only for their membership in the Church. Any further punishment is in the hands of the civil courts. Members of the Church may either be disfellowshiped or excommunicated.” (Priesthood and Church Government, p. 209.)
See Notes and Commentary on Doctrine and Covenants 98:16–48.
Although the Church teaches that slavery is wrong and counter to the fundamental rights of an individual, the Prophet Joseph Smith taught that when slavery is tolerated by a government, it is not the Church’s position to try to overthrow that established order: “It should be the duty of an Elder, when he enters into a house, to salute the master of that house, and if he gain his consent, then he may preach to all that are in that house; but if he gain not his consent, let him not go unto his slaves, or servants, but let the responsibility be upon the head of the master of that house, and the consequences thereof, and the guilt of that house is no longer upon his skirts. . . . But if the master of that house give consent, the Elder may preach to his family, his wife, his children and his servants, his man-servants, or his maid-servants, or his slaves.” (History of the Church, 2:263.)
In 1834, when this statement was written, the Saints in Missouri were often accused by their enemies of seeking to overthrow slavery. Since Missouri entered the Union as a slave state, this question inflamed the Missourians and doubtless contributed to the spirit of persecution and violence against the Saints. Doctrine and Covenants 134:12 was a reply to these accusations.
On Tuesday, 25 June 1844, Joseph and Hyrum Smith presented themselves to the authorities in Illinois to be arrested on a charge of treason. Governor Thomas Ford that morning assembled the state militia and told them that Joseph and Hyrum Smith were “dangerous men in the community, and guilty of all that they might have alleged against them, still they were in the hands of the law” (History of the Church, 6:563). John Taylor and Willard Richards, members of the Quorum of the Twelve, were allowed to stay with Joseph and Hyrum in Carthage Jail.
On Wednesday, 26 June, Governor Ford met with Joseph Smith and said that the armed mob had not been called up by him and that he would see that the prisoners were protected (see History of the Church, 6:577–78).
On Thursday, 27 June, Governor Ford went to Nauvoo, where he berated the Saints in a public speech and had his troops brandish their swords. The Governor and the troops left Nauvoo about 6:30 P.M.
At about 5:00 P.M., while the Governor and his troops were making their threatening show in Nauvoo, a mob rushed Carthage Jail. The mob was made up mainly of Carthage Greys, members of the local militia that was in charge of guarding the Prophet. (Many towns in the American West at that time had militias that could be called up by the civil authorities in times of emergency, like national guard or reserve units of the military today.) Hyrum Smith was struck by a bullet in the face, and by several other bullets, and fell to the floor, saying “I am a dead man!” John Taylor was shot in several places in his body and rolled under the bed. Joseph Smith was shot in the back from inside the jail and in the chest from outside. He fell dead out the window. (See History of the Church, 6:602–18.)
John Taylor and Willard Richards were eyewitnesses to the Martyrdom, and each wrote an account of the events. The account contained in Doctrine and Covenants 135 “was written by Elder John Taylor who offered his life with his beloved brethren in this tragedy in Carthage, Illinois. President Taylor was severely wounded and carried the balls with which he was wounded to his grave. His devotion and willingness and that of his companion, Willard Richards, bear a strong testimony of their conviction and integrity to the truth of the mission of the Prophet Joseph Smith.” (Smith and Sjodahl, Commentary, p. 855; see also History of the Church, 6:629–631; “Praise to the Man,” Hymns, no. 27.)
President Joseph Fielding Smith, grandson of Hyrum Smith, explained:
“The Prophet Joseph Smith conferred upon Hyrum Smith all the keys, authority and gifts of the priesthood which he, the Prophet, held, and which were formerly held by Oliver Cowdery. The Lord also revealed to Hyrum Smith all that was necessary to make him completely and to the full degree, a witness with his brother Joseph, as a prophet, seer, revelator and president of the Church, and to stand through all time and eternity at the head of this dispensation with his brother Joseph, a witness for Jesus Christ.
“Thus, we see, Hyrum Smith became a president of the Church with Joseph Smith, which place Oliver Cowdery might have held had he not wavered and fallen from his exalted station. I am firmly of the opinion that had Oliver Cowdery remained true to his covenants and obligations as a witness with Joseph Smith, and retained his authority and place, he, and not Hyrum Smith, would have gone with Joseph Smith as a prisoner and to martyrdom at Carthage.
“The sealing of the testimony through the shedding of blood would not have been complete in the death of the Prophet Joseph Smith alone; it required the death of Hyrum Smith who jointly held the keys of this dispensation. It was needful that these martyrs seal their testimony with their blood, that they ‘might be honored and the wicked might be condemned.’” (Doctrines of Salvation, 1:218–19; see also D&C 136:39; Hebrews 9:16–17).
The death masks of Joseph Smith (left) and his brother Hyrum (right)
“Dr. Richards’ escape was miraculous; he being a very large man, and in the midst of a shower of balls, yet he stood unscathed, with the exception of a ball which grazed the tip end of the lower part of his left ear. His escape fulfilled literally a prophecy which Joseph made over a year previously, that the time would come that the balls would fly around him like hail, and he should see his friends fall on the right and on the left, but that there should not be a hole in his garment.” (History of the Church, 6:619.)
This bold statement has caused some critics of the Church to say that the Saints think more of Joseph Smith than they do of the Savior. Such critics ignore the fact that the Saints look to the Prophet with reverence because of what he did for their understanding of Jesus Christ and His mission.
When one thinks about such prophets and leaders as Adam, Moses, Isaiah, Abraham, and Nephi, is it justifiable to say that Joseph Smith did more than any of these for the salvation of humanity? Likely the Prophet Joseph Smith was not greater than they were in righteousness or commitment, but only Jesus has done more for the salvation of God’s children than did the Prophet, as is evident in the following list of some of the things he did under the direction of the Lord:
He taught correct concepts about the nature of the Father and Son.
He translated and published the Book of Mormon by the power of God.
He was the means by which the Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthoods were restored.
He organized the Church of Jesus Christ again on the earth under the direction of the Savior.
He revealed the true meaning of Zion, its location in the last days, and the laws by which it shall be governed.
He received over a hundred revelations and published them in the Doctrine and Covenants.
He worked on a translation of the Bible, restoring lost scripture and correcting erroneous translations.
He established settlements of the Saints, teaching them principles of social order, city planning, economics, and so on, in addition to teaching them spiritual principles.
He restored the keys and knowledge of temple ordinances for both the living and the dead.
He received keys of restoration from Moses, Elias, and Elijah.
He started a missionary program that has involved tens of thousands of missionaries and resulted in millions of converts in countries all over the world.
He translated by inspiration of God papyri from Egypt, containing some of the writings of Abraham.
The Lord revealed through the Prophet Joseph Smith many principles and concepts of the gospel which had been lost or corrupted over the centuries. The Prophet Joseph Smith then:
Explained man’s relationship to God.
Explained the differences between the Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthoods.
Explained the different offices of the priesthood, the duties of each, and the manner in which they are organized.
Set forth the proper organization, name, and purpose of the Church of Jesus Christ.
Taught that our life on earth is a probation, a time to work out our individual salvation.
Received a revelation of the three degrees of glory and what we must do to prepare to live once again with God.
Explained the nature and order of the Resurrection.
Showed how saving ordinances can be performed vicariously for those who did not receive them in mortality.
Set forth the principles on which Zion will be built, the nature of the Millennium, and the kingdom of God and how it will eventually be established on earth.
Added to our knowledge of the Apostasy and why it came.
Pointed out the fulfillment of various prophecies.
Announced the coming of Elijah, and explained his mission.
Taught that marriage is intended to be eternal and that the family unit continues beyond the grave.
Served as an example of the role of a living prophet.
Restored the principle of priesthood administration to the sick.
Built temples and revealed temple ordinances for the living and the dead.
Brought forth the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the writings in the Pearl of Great Price.
Set down the duties of Church members and the laws by which the Church is governed.
Taught the doctrine of common consent.
Explained the role of Satan in the gospel plan.
Gave the Saints the Lord’s principles by which we can avoid being deceived in this life.
Taught the true nature of the Atonement of Christ and its relationship to the principles of justice and mercy.
Explained the meaning of the sacrament.
Explained the nature of spiritual gifts and the role of the Holy Ghost.
Clarified the role of women in the kingdom of God.
Received the revelation of the oath and covenant of the priesthood.
Emphasized the necessity of missionary work in the Lord’s plan.
Received the Word of Wisdom.
Instituted the law of tithing, the law of consecration, and the law of sacrifice and obedience.
All of these accomplishments were done under the direction of Jesus Christ and ultimately the credit belongs to Him. But Joseph Smith was His chosen instrument in bringing all these things to pass. This is why we can rightly say that the Prophet did more for the salvation of humanity than anyone except the Savior Himself.
See Notes and Commentary for Doctrine and Covenants 20:9.
A testator is one who leaves a will or testament. The will is valid only after the testator’s death. While the testator lives, the will has no legal power. In the gospel context a testator is someone who provides to mankind a witness of God’s covenants. The Prophet Joseph Smith’s testament was that God had revealed through him the sealing power by which “all covenants, contracts, bonds, obligations, oaths, vows, performances, connections, associations,” shall be in force and recognized as valid in the eternal worlds (D&C 132:7). The death of the testator places a seal of truth on the testament.
The Lord revealed to President Brigham Young that it was necessary for the Prophet to seal his testimony with his blood (see D&C 136:39). Elder Joseph Fielding Smith taught: “The shedding of their blood also bound that testimony upon an unbelieving world and this testimony will stand at the judgment seat as a witness against all men who have rejected their words of eternal life” (“The Martyrs,” Improvement Era, June 1944, p. 365).
“In death they were not separated” (D&C 135:3).
With the death of the Prophet Joseph Smith, the leadership of the Church fell on the Quorum of the Twelve. Brigham Young, as the senior Apostle, was President of the Quorum. The opposition from enemies of the Church that led to the Martyrdom was not stilled with the death of the Prophet. Once again mobs began to persecute the Saints. President Young pressed forward with plans first initiated by the Prophet Joseph to take the Saints to the Rocky Mountains where they could find some measure of peace. In February 1846, under the direction of the Twelve, the Saints began to leave Nauvoo, Illinois, and cross the Mississippi River to Iowa. As they moved west across Iowa, they established camps for those who would follow. The winter of 1846–47 was spent at Winter Quarters (which today is Florence, Nebraska). While encamped at Winter Quarters, President Brigham Young received a revelation from the Lord.
Elder B. H. Roberts explained: “The serious business of preparing for the continuation of the march into the wilderness, the completion of the exodus from the United States, was not neglected. It was considered in many council meetings of the presiding authorities, it was the chief topic of conversation and of discussion wherever two or three were gathered together. Thought upon it finally so crystallized in the mind of Brigham Young that on the 14th of January, 1847, at Winter Quarters, he was prepared to announce ‘The Word and Will of the Lord’ upon the march of the Camps of Israel to the west.” (Comprehensive History of the Church, 3:154–55.)
The Saints migrated across the plains in companies.
Smith and Sjodahl wrote: “The Saints were driven from their homes in Nauvoo under the most trying circumstances and in poverty and destitution in large measure, for they had been robbed by their enemies. Therefore it was extremely needful for a revelation from the Lord for their guidance in their journeyings to the Rocky Mountains. The Lord did not fail them in this hour of distress and gave this revelation to President Brigham Young to guide them in their journeyings and admonishing them to keep His commandments. All the members of the Church were to be organized in companies and were required to keep the commandments faithfully that they might have the guidance of His Spirit with them in all their trying circumstances. These companies were to be on the order followed by Zion’s Camp in their remarkable march from Kirtland to Missouri, with captains, over hundreds, fifties and tens and all under the direction of the council of Apostles.” (Commentary, p. 857.)
“How essential it was then in the days of tribulation for the saints to walk by covenant as they journeyed towards a new home,” wrote Smith and Sjodahl. “Moreover it was necessary that they provide themselves the best they could with teams, clothing and provisions, for the journey was a difficult one. Some members of necessity would be left behind until such time as they could be prepared. The officers of the companies were to decide who might go and who would better remain behind until a more suitable day. These who were to remain were to put in crops and wait until the coming harvest. Each company was to bear an equal proportion of the means for the benefit of all. Those who had substance were to share with those who were destitute, in the true spirit of charity and faith. There were among them the widows and fatherless and the wives and families of those who had gone into the ‘Mormon Battalion.’ If they would do this the Lord would pour out upon them his blessings. They should have flocks and herds and their fields would not fail them.” (Commentary, pp. 858–59.)
Smith and Sjodahl wrote that “the members of the Church had been disappointed, if not discouraged, because Zion had not been redeemed. No doubt it was trying to the faith of some to be on the way to the unknown region of the Rocky Mountains. All that they had heard of this territory was discouraging and the redemption of Zion seemed farther away than ever from fulfillment. Now they were to take courage, for the Lord had not forgotten Zion, and it should be redeemed in the due time of the Lord. It was well, therefore, for the members to obey counsel and not seek to build themselves at the expense of others; should this be done they would lose the reward. The Lord would lead them as he led the children of Israel, and he was just as mindful of the Saints today as he was then. Every man should respect the rights and property of the rest, and all should be wise stewards.” (Commentary, p. 860; see also Notes and Commentary for D&C 103:15–20.)
President Anthony W. Ivins commented:
“Recognizing the hopelessness of reconciliation with their neighbors, determined to find a place where the Saints could worship the Lord without molestation, this modern Moses [Brigham Young] and his associates turned their faces westward, and after a journey unparalleled in the history of the world found asylum in these mountain valleys, where the body of the Church now resides.
“It is true that Moses led the Israelites out from the Egyptian captivity; the Puritans had left their homes in the old world and landed at Plymouth Rock.
“The impulse which prompted each of these great movements, which have meant so much to the world and its people, were similar, but the circumstances under which they were accomplished entirely different.
“The Israelites were going out from a grievous and humiliating bondage, and returning to their old home, in the land of their fathers. Modern Israel were leaving their homes, the lands of their fathers, and were going into a country unknown to them. . . .
“The Israelites were a people of one race, influenced in the accomplishment of their purpose by the traditions and religion of their fathers. The Latter-day Saints were composed of people gathered from various nations, bringing with them different traditions, different customs and different languages.
“Ancient Israel was separated from their destination by only about two hundred and fifty miles, in a direct line, and that over a country where great armies have marched from remote times. The ‘Mormon’ Pioneers traveled over a road where few had gone before, a distance of more than a thousand miles.
“Ancient Israel were led by great ocular demonstrations of the power of the Lord, and their daily bread was provided by manna sent down from heaven. The ‘Mormon’ Pioneers walked by divine faith, and provided for their daily necessities with the labor of their own hands.
“Reaching their destination Ancient Israel found cities already built, orchards and vineyards already planted, and flocks and herds which the Lord delivered into their hands. Modern Israel found a desert waste, which could only be redeemed, and made productive by infinite toil.
“So, I feel justified in saying that this accomplishment has no parallel in the history of the world.” (In Conference Report, Apr. 1922, pp. 36–37.)
Music revived the weary spirits of the pioneer Saints.
Wrote Smith and Sjodahl: “The Lord knew that the members of the Church would be weary and discouraged as they journeyed, and therefore he gave to them a remedy by which their despondency and discouragement could be overcome. They were to ‘praise the Lord with singing, and music, with dancing,’ with prayer and thanksgiving. This advice was followed, and after the camp was made for the night, frequently someone with a violin furnished music for dancing and for singing the favorite hymns and melodies familiar to the group, and thus their spirits were revived.” (Commentary, p. 860.)
See Notes and Commentary for Doctrine and Covenants 101:4–5; 122.
Elder B. H. Roberts quoted 3 Nephi 16:10, the Savior’s warning of what would happen if the Gentiles rejected His gospel, and said:
“That is what the people of the United States did when they rejected from habitation among them, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and expatriated the membership thereof, so that they were under the necessity of finding a refuge in a land, which, at the time our fathers entered it—The Salt Lake Valley—was no part of the United States of America—but was Mexican territory.
“Listen to this: it is a revelation that we do not often refer to, but it has some very choice gems in it. It is the ‘Word and Will of the Lord to President Brigham Young,’ given at Winter Quarters, and, among other things, this was said: [D&C 136:34–36].
“I think our country at that time did not repent of the wrongs they had done in this and other things, for this proclamation was immediately followed by the war with Mexico, in which at least those regiments that were selected from western Illinois—one of them at least, was well nigh wiped out of existence in the war with Mexico; and it was about the only disastrous engagement that we had in that war. Then followed the awful war, between 1861 and 1865, in which, as I believe, the hand of God severely punished the United States of America, in fulfilment of the wonderful prediction that was made by the Prophet Joseph Smith, in relation to the calamities that would befall the nation.” (In Conference Report, Oct. 1922, pp. 17–18.)
Since the Civil War, the United States has been involved in numerous major wars including the Spanish-American War, World Wars I and II, the Korean and Vietnam Wars, and the Gulf War. Nor has war been the only means of vexation. Depressions, natural disasters, and other calamities have plagued the nation. The prophetic promise is that if the people of this nation do not serve the God of the land, who is Jesus Christ, they will be swept off (see Ether 2:10). As yet there has been no nationwide repentance for past and present sins, and so the Lord continues to vex the people of the United States, seeking to bring them to repentance. In verse 42 of section 136, the Lord reminds the Saints that they are under the same obligation to keep the commandments.
Elder George Albert Smith noted: “Under the Lord’s direction, [Joseph Smith] organized the Church of Christ, with apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists, etc., as the Church should be organized, to continue thus until all should come to a unity of the faith. He ministered unto the people, he healed the sick; he loved the souls of the children of men. But, as had been the case with prophets whom the Lord had raised up before, it seemed necessary in this case that the testimony of His servant should be sealed with his life’s blood. No more pathetic page will be found in the history of the world than that upon which is inscribed the last sayings of our beloved Prophet Joseph Smith. He knew that his time was near at hand; he realized that his life’s mission had been fulfilled. He had given the keys for the gifts and blessings of God unto the people, and the Father had continued to bless him; finally he realized that his labor was about done.” (In Conference Report, Apr. 1904, p. 63.)
The Kirtland Temple was nearly complete in January 1836. For many weeks before its dedication on 27 March, the brethren held classes and meetings in it. The Prophet recorded that on Thursday, 21 January 1836, “at early candle-light I met with the Presidency at the west school room, in the Temple, to attend to the ordinance of anointing our heads with holy oil; also the Councils of Kirtland and Zion met in the two adjoining rooms, and waited in prayer while we attended to the ordinance. I took the oil in my left hand, Father Smith being seated before me, and the remainder of the Presidency encircled him round about. We then stretched our right hands towards heaven, and blessed the oil, and consecrated it in the name of Jesus Christ.
“We then laid our hands upon our aged Father Smith, and invoked the blessings of heaven. I then anointed his head with the consecrated oil, and sealed many blessings upon him. The Presidency then in turn laid their hands upon his head, beginning at the oldest, until they had all laid their hands upon him, and pronounced such blessings upon his head, as the Lord put into their hearts, all blessing him to be our Patriarch, to anoint our heads, and attend to all duties that pertain to that office. The Presidency then took the seat in their turn, according to their age, beginning at the oldest, and received their anointing and blessing under the hands of Father Smith. And in my turn, my father anointed my head, and sealed upon me the blessings of Moses, to lead Israel in the latter days, even as Moses led him in days of old; also the blessings of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. All of the Presidency laid their hands upon me, and pronounced upon my head many prophecies and blessings, many of which I shall not notice at this time. But as Paul said, so say I, let us come to visions and revelations.” (History of the Church, 2:379–80.)
This night the spirit of prophecy and revelation was poured out on the brethren. In addition to the vision of the celestial kingdom, the Prophet Joseph Smith saw in vision the Savior standing in the midst of the present Twelve Apostles who were laboring in foreign lands, and he saw the Twelve Apostles and the Presidency in the celestial kingdom. Many of the other brethren saw glorious visions and received the ministration of angels. Some even saw the face of the Savior. (See History of the Church, 2:381–82).
The vision of the celestial kingdom, which is now Doctrine and Covenants 137, was not part of the standard works until 1976. During the April general conference of that year, the Church voted to accept this vision and the vision of the redemption of the dead (D&C 138) as scripture. These revelations were originally placed in the Pearl of Great Price. However, the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve later decided to move them to the new edition of the Doctrine and Covenants as sections 137 and 138. (See Church News, 2 June 1979, p. 3.)
The Apostle Paul made a similar statement in describing a revelation he had (see 2 Corinthians 12:3). When the Lord gives revelations to His children He communicates through the power of the Holy Ghost to their spirit (see 1 Corinthians 2:9–14).
The Prophet Joseph Smith taught an important principle concerning revelation: “All things whatsoever God in his infinite wisdom has seen and proper to reveal to us, while we are dwelling in mortality, in regard to our mortal bodies, are revealed to us in the abstract, and independent of affinity of this mortal tabernacle, but are revealed to our spirits precisely as though we had no bodies at all; and those revelations which will save our spirits will save our bodies. God reveals them to us in view of no eternal dissolution of the body, or tabernacle.” (Teachings, p. 355.)
When the Prophet Joseph recorded his vision of the three degrees of glory, he said that “by the power of the Spirit our eyes were opened and our understandings were enlightened, so as to see and understand the things of God” (D&C 76:12). Moses, in his vision in Moses 1, said, “Mine own eyes have beheld God; but not my natural, but my spiritual eyes” (v. 11). He said of the things he saw that he “discerned them by the spirit of God” (v. 28). Enoch said that he saw “things which were not visible to the natural eye” (Moses 6:36).
In an account of the Prophet Joseph Smith’s first vision, Elder Orson Pratt recorded: “When [the light] first came upon him, it produced a peculiar sensation throughout his whole system; and, immediately, his mind was caught away from the natural objects with which he was surrounded; and he was enwrapped in a heavenly vision” (in James B. Allen, “Eight Contemporary Accounts of Joseph Smith’s First Vision: What Do We Learn from Them?” Improvement Era, Apr. 1970, p. 10). When the Lord gives such revelations to His children, they become enveloped in the Spirit and filled with His glory to such an extent that they become oblivious to the things of the natural world.
The Prophet Joseph Smith in his account of the First Vision wrote that God’s “brightness and glory defy all description” (JS—H 1:17). He also taught that “God Almighty Himself dwells in eternal fire; flesh and blood cannot go there, for all corruption is devoured by the fire. ‘Our God is a consuming fire.’ [Heb. 12:29]. . . .
“. . . Immortality dwells in everlasting burnings.” (Teachings, p. 367.) President Joseph Fielding Smith stated: “God is full of energy, and should we mortals stand in his presence, unless his spirit was upon us to protect us we would be consumed. That is how much energy there is in a celestial body.” (Seek Ye Earnestly, p. 275.)
Alvin Smith, oldest son of Joseph Smith Sr., supported his brother Joseph.
Alvin Smith was the first son of Joseph Smith Sr. and Lucy Mack Smith. He was born on 11 February 1798, nearly seven years before Joseph Smith Jr. He died on 17 November 1823, three months before his twenty-fifth birthday. His mother recorded that “Alvin manifested, if such could be the case, greater zeal and anxiety in regard to the Record that had been shown to Joseph [the Book of Mormon plates], than any of the rest of the family” (Smith, History of Joseph Smith, p. 89).
The Prophet Joseph Smith had great love and respect for Alvin but was concerned for his eternal welfare because he had not had the opportunity to receive baptism and other priesthood ordinances necessary for exaltation. This revelation was a great source of joy and consolation to Joseph. The Lord has provided the means for Alvin Smith and others who would have received the gospel with all their hearts if they had been permitted to tarry to enjoy a fulness of His blessings in the eternal worlds (see D&C 137:7).
The Prophet Joseph Smith saw in vision both his father and mother in the celestial kingdom. This was a vision of a future event, since they had not died. In fact, the Prophet’s father was in the room with him at the time of the vision (see Historical Background for D&C 137).
The true desire of our heart determines our future. If we have had the opportunity to hear the gospel, our obedience to it demonstrates our true desire. If not, our desire will determine whether we accept it when we are given the opportunity, either in this life or the spirit world. All whose hearts are right will receive and live the gospel whenever they have the opportunity and will be “heirs of the celestial kingdom of God” (D&C 137:7). Vicarious ordinance work is performed in the temple for those like Alvin Smith who did not have the opportunity to receive the ordinances of the gospel in mortality. Heavenly Father provides the way for all His children to receive salvation (see Alma 41:3–15).
“Little children are alive in Christ” (Moroni 8:12).
Following are some frequently asked questions concerning the status of children who die before the age of accountability.
Are they automatically saved? Elder Bruce R. McConkie wrote: “To this question the answer is a thunderous yes, which echoes and re-echoes from one end of heaven to the other. Jesus taught it to his disciples. Mormon said it over and over again. Many of the prophets have spoken about it, and it is implicit in the whole plan of salvation. If it were not so the redemption would not be infinite in its application. And so, as we would expect, Joseph Smith’s Vision of the Celestial Kingdom contains this statement: ‘And I also beheld that all children who die before they arrive at the years of accountability are saved in the celestial kingdom of heaven.’ [D&C 137:10.]
“It is sometimes asked if this applies to children of all races, and of course the answer is that when the revelation says all children it means all children. There is no restriction as to race, kindred, or tongue. Little children are little children and they are all alive in Christ, and all are saved by him, through and because of the atonement. . . .
“They are saved through the atonement and because they are free from sin. They come from God in purity; no sin or taint attaches to them in this life; and they return in purity to their Maker. Accountable persons must become pure through repentance and baptism and obedience. Those who are not accountable for sins never fall spiritually and need not be redeemed from a spiritual fall which they never experienced. Hence the expression that little children are alive in Christ. . . .
“Truly it is one of the sweetest and most soul-satisfying doctrines of the gospel! It is also one of the great evidences of the divine mission of the Prophet Joseph Smith. In his day the fiery evangelists of Christendom were thundering from their pulpits that the road to hell is paved with the skulls of infants not a span long because careless parents had neglected to have their offspring baptized. Joseph Smith’s statements, as recorded in the Book of Mormon and latter-day revelation, came as a refreshing breeze of pure truth: little children shall be saved. Thanks be to God for the revelations of his mind where these innocent and pure souls are concerned!” (“The Salvation of Little Children,” Ensign, Apr. 1977, pp. 4, 7.)
Even though little children will be saved, does that mean they will have eternal life? Elder McConkie explained: “Eternal life is life in the highest heaven of the celestial world; it is exaltation; it is the name of the kind of life God lives. It consists of a continuation of the family unity in eternity. . . . children will be saved in the celestial kingdom. Salvation means eternal life; the two terms are synonymous; they mean exactly the same thing. Joseph Smith said, ‘Salvation consists in the glory, authority, majesty, power and dominion which Jehovah possesses and in nothing else.’ (Lectures on Faith, pp. 63–67.) We have come to speak of this salvation as exaltation—which it is—but all of the scriptures in all of the standard works call it salvation. I know of only three passages in all our scriptures which use salvation to mean something other and less than exaltation.” (“Salvation of Little Children,” p. 5.)
President Joseph Fielding Smith added:
“The Lord will grant unto these children the privilege of all the sealing blessings which pertain to the exaltation.
“We were all mature spirits before we were born, and the bodies of little children will grow after the resurrection to the full stature of the spirit, and all the blessings will be theirs through their obedience, the same as if they had lived to maturity and received them on the earth.
“The Lord is just and will not deprive any person of a blessing, simply because he dies before that blessing can be received. It would be manifestly unfair to deprive a little child of the privilege of receiving all the blessings of exaltation in the world to come simply because it died in infancy. . . .
“Children who die in childhood will not be deprived of any blessing. When they grow, after the resurrection, to the full maturity of the spirit, they will be entitled to all the blessings which they would have been entitled to had they been privileged to tarry here and receive them.” (Doctrines of Salvation, 2:54; see also Mosiah 15:25.)
Why do some children die and others live? Are those who die better off than those who remain in mortality? Elder McConkie wrote:
“We may rest assured that all things are controlled and governed by Him whose spirit children we are. He knows the end from the beginning, and he provides for each of us the testings and trials which he knows we need. President Joseph Fielding Smith once told me that we must assume that the Lord knows and arranges beforehand who shall be taken in infancy and who shall remain on earth to undergo whatever tests are needed in their cases. This accords with Joseph Smith’s statement: ‘The Lord takes many away, even in infancy, that they may escape the envy of man, and the sorrows and evils of this present world; they were too pure, too lovely, to live on earth.’ (Teachings, pp. 196–97.) It is implicit in the whole scheme of things that those of us who have arrived at the years of accountability need the tests and trials to which we are subject and that our problem is to overcome the world and attain that spotless and pure state which little children already possess.” (“Salvation of Little Children,” p. 6.)
Will children who die before the years of accountability ever be tested in the way that other mortals are tested? President Joseph Fielding Smith said: “Satan cannot tempt little children in this life, nor in the spirit world, nor after their resurrection. Little children who die before reaching the years of accountability will not be tempted.” (Doctrines of Salvation, 2:57; see also D&C 29:47; 45:58.)
What will happen to children in the Resurrection? President Joseph F. Smith wrote: “Joseph Smith taught the doctrine that the infant child that was laid away in death would come up in the resurrection as a child; and, pointing to the mother of a lifeless child, he said to her: ‘You will have the joy, the pleasure, and satisfaction of nurturing this child, after its resurrection, until it reaches the full stature of its spirit.’ There is restitution, there is growth, there is development, after the resurrection from death. I love this truth. It speaks volumes of happiness, of joy and gratitude to my soul. Thank the Lord he has revealed these principles to us.” (Gospel Doctrine, pp. 455–56.)
President Joseph F. Smith was ill during the last six months of his life and spent much of his time confined to his room. His son, Elder Joseph Fielding Smith, spent many days with him taking dictation, tending to chores for him, and taking him for rides (see Smith and Stewart, Life of Joseph Fielding Smith, p. 200). At the October conference of 1918, six weeks before his death, President Smith said:
“As most of you, I suppose, are aware, I have been undergoing a siege of very serious illness for the last five months. It would be impossible for me, on this occasion, to occupy sufficient time to express the desires of my heart and my feelings, as I would desire to express them to you, but I felt that it was my duty, if possible, to be present. . . .
“. . . Although somewhat weakened in body, my mind is clear with reference to my duty, and with reference to the duties and responsibilities that rest upon the Latter-day Saints; and I am ever anxious for the progress of the work of the Lord, for the prosperity of the people of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints throughout the world. . . .
“I will not, I dare not, attempt to enter upon many things that are resting upon my mind this morning, and I shall postpone until some future time, the Lord being willing, my attempt to tell you some of the things that are in my mind, and that dwell in my heart. I have not lived alone these five months. I have dwelt in the spirit of prayer, of supplication, of faith and of determination; and I have had my communication with the Spirit of the Lord continuously.” (In Conference Report, Oct. 1918, p. 2.)
Two weeks after the general conference Elder Joseph Fielding Smith wrote down the vision as his father dictated it to him (see Smith and Stewart, Life of Joseph Fielding Smith, p. 201). After it was endorsed by the counselors in the First Presidency and by the Quorum of the Twelve, it was published in the Improvement Era (Dec. 1918, pp. 166–70).
During April conference of 1976 it was accepted as scripture and approved for publication in the Pearl of Great Price. In June 1979 the First Presidency announced that it would become section 138 of the Doctrine and Covenants. (See Historical Background for D&C 137.)
President Joseph F. Smith received the vision of the redemption of the dead.
The prophet Nephi was pondering the inspired teachings of his father Lehi when he received the revelation recorded in 1 Nephi 11–14. Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon were pondering a passage from the Gospel of John when they received the vision recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 76 (see D&C 76:15–19). In his counsel to Book of Mormon readers, Moroni taught that each individual could obtain personal revelation of its truthfulness by reading it, remembering God’s mercy to His children, pondering these things in their hearts, and then asking the Lord for a personal witness (see Moroni 10:3–5).
Revelations come to those who are prepared spiritually and mentally. Elder Harold B. Lee said:
“A few weeks ago, President McKay related to the Twelve an interesting experience, and I asked him yesterday if I might repeat it to you this morning. He said it is a great thing to be responsive to the whisperings of the Spirit, and we know that when these whisperings come it is a gift and our privilege to have them. They come when we are relaxed and not under pressure of appointments. (I want you to mark that.) The President then took occasion to relate an experience in the life of Bishop John Wells, former member of the Presiding Bishopric. A son of Bishop Wells was killed in Emigration Canyon on a railroad track. Brother John Wells was a great detail man and prepared many of the reports we are following up now. His boy was run over by a freight train. Sister Wells was inconsolable. She mourned during the three days prior to the funeral, received no comfort at the funeral, and was in a rather serious state of mind. One day soon after the funeral services while she was lying on her bed relaxed, still mourning, she says that her son appeared to her and said, ‘Mother, do not mourn, do not cry. I am all right.’ He told her that she did not understand how the accident happened and explained that he had given the signal to the engineer to move on, and then made the usual effort to catch the railing on the freight train; but as he attempted to do so his foot caught on a root and he failed to catch the hand rail, and his body fell under the train. It was clearly an accident. Now listen! He said that as soon as he realized that he was in another environment he tried to see his father, but he couldn’t reach him. His father was so busy with the duties in his office he could not respond to his call. Therefore, he had come to his mother. He said to her, ‘You tell father that all is well with me, and I want you not to mourn any more.
“Then the President made the statement that the point he had in mind was that when we are relaxed in a private room we are more susceptible to those things; and that so far as he was concerned, his best thoughts come after he gets up in the morning and is relaxed and thinking about the duties of the day; that impressions come more clearly, as if it were to hear a voice. Those impressions are right. If we are worried about something and upset in our feelings, the inspiration does not come. If we so live that our minds are free from worry and our conscience is clear and our feelings are right toward one another, the operation of the spirit of the Lord upon our spirit is as real as when we pick up the telephone.” (Prayer [address to CES religious educators, 6 July 1956], pp. 14–16.)
Studying and pondering the scriptures prepares one’s mind and heart to receive the things of the Spirit. Under those conditions one can be taught from on high.
See the changes Joseph Smith made to 1 Peter 3:18–20 and 1 Peter 4:6 in the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible [JST, 1 Peter 3:20a; JST, 1 Peter 4:6].
See Notes and Commentary for Doctrine and Covenants 137:1.
In his vision President Smith saw “an innumerable company” (D&C 138:12) of spirits who “had departed the mortal life, firm in the hope of a glorious resurrection” (v. 14). These were celestial heirs who had lived on the earth from the time of Adam until Christ came. Great multitudes of people born after that time will qualify for the celestial glory through their faithfulness in this life or in the spirit world. In addition there will be the millions of children who died before they reached the age of accountability. (See Notes and Commentary for D&C 137:10.)
President Spencer W. Kimball said in a general priesthood meeting:
“Brethren, 225,000 of you are here tonight. I suppose 225,000 of you may become gods. There seems to be plenty of space out there in the universe. And the Lord has proved that he knows how to do it. I think he could make, or probably have us help make, worlds for all of us, for every one of us 225,000.
“Just think of the possibilities, the potential. Every little boy that has just been born becomes an heir to this glorious, glorious program. When he is grown, he meets a lovely woman; they are married in the holy temple. They live all the commandments of the Lord. They keep themselves clean. And then they become sons of God, and they go forward with their great program—they go beyond the angels, beyond the angels and the gods that are waiting there. They go to their exaltation.” (In Conference Report, Oct. 1975, p. 120; or Ensign, Nov. 1975, p. 80; see also Alma 13:10–12.)
Elder Bruce R. McConkie said:
“All the faithful Saints, all of those who have endured to the end, depart this life with the absolute guarantee of eternal life.
“There is no equivocation, no doubt, no uncertainty in our minds. Those who have been true and faithful in this life will not fall by the wayside in the life to come. If they keep their covenants here and now and depart this life firm and true in the testimony of our blessed Lord, they shall come forth with an inheritance of eternal life.
“We do not mean to say that those who die in the Lord, and who are true and faithful in this life, must be perfect in all things when they go into the next sphere of existence. There was only one perfect man—the Lord Jesus whose Father was God.
“There have been many righteous souls who have attained relative degrees of perfection, and there have been great hosts of faithful people who have kept the faith, and lived the law, and departed this life with the full assurance of an eventual inheritance of eternal life.
“There are so many things they will do and must do, even beyond the grave, to merit the fulness of the Father’s kingdom in that final glorious day when the great King shall say unto them ‘Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.’ (Matt. 25:34.)
“But what we are saying is that when the saints of God chart a course of righteousness, when they gain sure testimonies of the truth and divinity of the Lord’s work, when they keep the commandments, when they overcome the world, when they put first in their lives the things of God’s kingdom: when they do all these things, and then depart this life—though they have not yet become perfect—they shall nonetheless gain eternal life in our Father’s kingdom; and eventually they shall be perfect as God their Father and Christ His Son are perfect.” (In Conference Report, Oct. 1976, pp. 158–59; or Ensign, Nov. 1976, p. 107; see also Notes and Commentary on D&C 76:53; 131:5; 132:7.)
The Prophet Joseph Smith taught:
“We came to this earth that we might have a body and present it pure before God in the celestial kingdom. The great principle of happiness consists of having a body. The devil has no body, and herein is his punishment. He is pleased when he can obtain the tabernacle of man, and when cast out by the Savior he asked to go into the herd of swine, showing that he would prefer a swine’s body to having none.
“All beings who have bodies have power over those who have not.” (Teachings, p. 181.)
Since disembodied spirits cannot obtain a fulness of joy until they are resurrected (see D&C 93:33–34), they consider their sojourn in the world of spirits a bondage. Elder Bruce R. McConkie said that “obtaining exaltation consists in gaining a fulness of joy; it is to enter into the joy of the Lord. (D. & C. 51:19.) . . . A fulness of joy is found only among resurrected, exalted beings. (D. & C. 93:33.)” (Mormon Doctrine, p. 397.)
Those who obtain their exaltation will have the privilege of having spirit children in the eternities (see D&C 131:1–4; 132:19–20). To receive this blessing, they must have resurrected, glorified bodies. Elder Melvin J. Ballard taught:
“Those who are denied endless increase cannot be what God is because that, in connection with other things, makes Him God. . . .
“. . . through the righteousness and faithfulness of men and women who keep the commandments of God they will come forth with celestial bodies, fitted and prepared to enter into their great, high and eternal glory in the celestial kingdom of God; and unto them, through their preparation, there will come spirit children. . . .
“. . . When the power of endless increase shall come to us, and our offspring grow and multiply through ages that shall come, they will be in due time, as we have been, provided with an earth like this wherein they too may obtain earthly bodies and pass through all the experiences through which we have passed. . . . We shall stand in our relationship to them as God our Eternal Father does to us, and thereby this is the most glorious and wonderful privilege that ever will come to any of the sons and daughters of God.” (Melvin J. Ballard, pp. 211–12.)
President Wilford Woodruff said that “every Apostle, every Seventy, every Elder, etc., who has died in the faith, as soon as he passes to the other side of the veil, enters into the work of the ministry, and there is a thousand times more to preach to there than there is here. . . . They have work on the other side of the veil; and they want men, and they call them.” (In Journal of Discourses, 22:334.)
President Joseph F. Smith said that those “who have passed away in this dispensation . . . are preaching that same gospel that they lived and preached here, to those who are in darkness in the spirit world and who had not had the privilege before they went. The gospel must be preached to them. We are not perfect without them—they cannot be perfect without us.
“Now, among all these millions of spirits that have lived on the earth and have passed away, from generation to generation, since the beginning of the world, without knowledge of the gospel—among them you may count that at least one-half are women. Who is going to preach the gospel to the women? Who is going to carry the testimony of Jesus Christ to the hearts of the women who have passed away without a knowledge of the gospel? Well, to my mind it is a simple thing. These good sisters who have been set apart, ordained to the work, called to it, authorized by the authority of the Holy Priesthood to minister for their sex, in the House of God for the living and for the dead, will be fully authorized and empowered to preach the gospel and minister to the women while the Elders and Prophets are preaching it to the men. . . . Those who are authorized to preach the gospel here and are appointed here to do that work will not be idle after they have passed away, but will continue to exercise the rights that they obtain here under the Priesthood of the Son of God to minister for the salvation of those who have died without a knowledge of the truth.” (Gospel Doctrine, pp. 460–61.)
This phrase comes from Isaiah 61:2 and was used by Jesus when He introduced Himself as the Messiah in His hometown of Nazareth. Elder Bruce R. McConkie indicated that the phrase had reference to “the proper, designated, approved, appointed, or accepted time, in the divine order of things, for a particular work to be done,” and that Isaiah’s prophecy that Christ would do this work, “to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound” (Isaiah 61:1), referred “not to the freeing of mortal men from any imprisonment, but to the ministry of freedom and pardon which was prepared for the departed dead. Jesus’ mission was not alone to those then living; he was also to carry the gospel, the glad tidings of salvation, to the spirits in prison. Those who had been ‘gathered together, as prisoners are gathered in the pit,’ those who had been ‘shut up in the prison,’ were, ‘after many days,’ to be visited by him who held the key for their release. (Isa. 24:22.)” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 1:161.)
Notes and Commentary on Doctrine and Covenants 137:7–9 discusses the fate of those who die without a knowledge of the truth. Notes and Commentary on Doctrine and Covenants 76:72–74 discusses the fate of those who die having rejected the prophets.
The principles of faith and repentance are taught in the spirit world. Departed spirits are also taught “all other principles of the gospel” that they need “in order to qualify themselves” to be judged after the manner of men in the flesh (D&C 138:34; italics added). They will be judged based on how they respond to God’s word. If they did not have the opportunity to receive the gospel in mortality but they repent and conform to God’s laws when taught them in the spirit world, they will benefit from the vicarious ordinances performed by mortals in their behalf. Otherwise, vicarious ordinances will not help them.
President Joseph Fielding Smith said: “If a person is in every way worthy of the blessings and was denied them while living, then any time after death the ordinances may be performed. If the person had every opportunity to receive these blessings in person and refused, or through procrastination and lack of faith did not receive them, then he is not entitled to them, and it is doubtful if the work for him will be valid if done within one week or 1,000 years. The Lord has declared that it is he who endures to the end that shall be saved, and he who rejects or neglects these blessings until death, when he has had the opportunity, is not worthy of them.” (Doctrines of Salvation, 2:179; see also Notes and Commentary on D&C 76:72–74.)
The Nauvoo Temple was the first in this dispensation in which ordinances were performed for the dead.
President Joseph Fielding Smith identified the “promises made to the fathers” as “the promise of the Lord made through Enoch, Isaiah, and the prophets, to the nations of the earth, that the time should come when the dead should be redeemed. And the turning of the hearts of the children is fulfilled in the performing of the vicarious temple work and in the preparation of their genealogies.” (Doctrines of Salvation, 2:154.)
In the premortal life promises were made regarding the salvation of those who would not have the gospel in mortality. President Kimball said that in the premortal existence “you and I made a solemn commitment, made an oath that we would do all things whatsoever the Lord our God shall command us” (Church News, 18 Jan. 1975, p. 3). The Saints have been commanded to seek after their dead and perform ordinances for them (see Smith, Teachings, p. 356; D&C 128:15).
See Notes and Commentary for Doctrine and Covenants 128:14–18.
President Spencer W. Kimball commented:
“Brigham Young, the second president of this dispensation, said: ‘It is supposed by this people that we have all the ordinances in our possession for life and salvation, and exaltation, and that we are administering in those ordinances. This is not the case. We are in possession of all the ordinances that can be administered in the flesh; but there are other ordinances and administrations that must be administered beyond this world. I know you would like to ask what they are. I will mention one. We have not, neither can we receive here, the ordinance and keys of resurrection.’ (Journal of Discourses, 15:137.)
“Do we have the keys of resurrection? Could you return to the earth as ones who would never again die—[could] your own parents, your grandparents, your ancestors? I buried my mother when I was eleven, my father when I was in my early twenties. I have missed my parents much. If I had the power of resurrection as did the Savior of the world, I would have been tempted to try to have kept them longer. I have been called to speak in numerous funerals for people whom I have known, people whom I have loved, and people whom I have served and helped in a limited way. We do not know of anyone who can resurrect the dead as did Jesus Christ when he came back to mortality.
“‘[The keys] will be given to those who have passed off this stage of action and have received their bodies again. . . . They will be ordained, by those who hold the keys of the resurrection, to go forth and resurrect the Saints, just as we receive the ordinance of baptism then receive the keys of authority to baptize others for the remission of their sins. This is one of the ordinances we can not receive here [on the earth], and there are many more.’ (JD, 15:137.)” (In Conference Report, Apr. 1977, p. 69; or Ensign, May 1977, p. 49.)
President Brigham Young also taught that “some person holding the keys of the resurrection, having previously passed through that ordeal, will be delegated to resurrect our bodies” (Journal of Discourses, 9:139).
The Lord said, “This is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39). Those who are crowned with immortality and eternal life will continue their labor in the eternal worlds. Man’s goal is to become as God is, and the Lord has said “there is no end to my works” (Moses 1:38). To enter into the “rest” of the Lord means to enter into a fulness of God’s glory (see D&C 84:24) where one will rest from the cares and sorrows of mortality. It does not mean that one will cease to work.
The prophet Abraham was told that he was one of the noble and great spirits who was ordained in the premortal life to be a leader in God’s kingdom while in mortality (see Abraham 3:23). President Joseph F. Smith was shown that many choice servants of this dispensation were also among those noble spirits. The Lord held them in the spirit world where they were taught and prepared to come forth and lay the foundations of His latter-day work. The Prophet Joseph Smith once said that “every man who has a calling to minister to the inhabitants of the world was ordained to that very purpose in the Grand Council of heaven before this world was” (Teachings, p. 365).
The first legislation in the United States against the practice of plural marriage came ten years after the doctrine was officially announced on 29 August 1852 by Elder Orson Pratt (see Historical Background for D&C 132). Stephen Harding, the non-Mormon governor of the Territory of Utah, was able to get Justin R. Morrill of Vermont to introduce a bill into Congress. The bill was signed into law 8 July 1862 by President Abraham Lincoln. The Anti-Polygamy Act of 1862 “defined plural marriage as bigamy, and made the contracting of such a marriage punishable by a fine of five hundred dollars and imprisonment for a term of five years” (Smith, Essentials in Church History, p. 432). This bill was the first of a flood of anti-Mormon legislation introduced during the next twenty-five years, most of which never passed (see Roberts, Comprehensive History of the Church, 5:433–41, 610–11).
In 1874 the Church decided to sponsor a case to test the validity of the law of 1862. George C. Bates, the United States Attorney for Utah, and George Q. Cannon were largely responsible for this idea. The leaders of the Church believed that the Supreme Court would rule the law unconstitutional since it infringed on the freedom of religion provision of the Constitution. George Reynolds was asked by the First Presidency to serve as the test case, and he furnished the evidence necessary to convict himself. On 5 May 1879 the Supreme Court ruled against Reynolds. They concluded that although religious liberty was protected by the First Amendment, the amendment did not give one the right to commit “immoral” or “criminal” acts sanctioned by religious doctrine.
Once the constitutionality of the act of 1862 had been upheld by the highest court in the land, persecution of those who practiced plural marriage became more severe. In March 1882 Congress passed the Edmunds Bill. This law took away the right to vote from those who practiced plural marriage and made it illegal for them to hold any office or place of public trust (see Smith, Essentials in Church History, pp. 482–83). Five years later, in March 1887, Congress passed the Edmunds-Tucker Act. This law disincorporated the Church, dissolved the Perpetual Emigration Fund, gave the property of the Church to the government for the benefit of the common schools of Utah, and took away the right of Utah women to vote.
During these trying times President John Taylor died in hiding on 25 July 1887, at Kaysville, Utah, and the mantle of leadership for the Church fell upon Wilford Woodruff.
For at least a year prior to the Manifesto in 1890, President Wilford Woodruff had forbidden plural marriages to be performed in the Endowment House (see Clark, Messages of the First Presidency, 3:193). This ban, however, was not publicized. President George Q. Cannon explained: “President Woodruff and others of us have been appealed to hundreds of times I might say. I can say for myself, that I have been appealed to many scores of times to get out something and to announce something. Some of our leading brethren have said: ‘Inasmuch as we have ceased to give permission for plural marriages to be solemnized, why cannot we have the benefit of that? Why cannot we tell the world it so as to have the benefit of it? Our enemies are alleging constantly that we still practice this in secret, and that we are dishonest and guilty of evasion. Now, if we have really put a stop to granting permission to men to take more wives than one, why should not the world know it and we have the advantage of it?’ These remarks have been made to us repeatedly. But at no time has the Spirit seemed to indicate that this should be done. We have waited for the Lord to move in the matter.” (In Millennial Star, 24 Nov. 1890, p. 737.)
On 24 September 1890 President Wilford Woodruff met with the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and his two counselors. On the twenty-fifth President Woodruff recorded: “I have arrived at a point in the history of my life as the president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints where I am under the necessity of acting for the temporal salvation of the church. The United States government has taken a stand and passed laws to destroy the Latter-day Saints on the subject of polygamy, or patriarchal order of marriage; and after praying to the Lord and feeling inspired, I have issued the following proclamation which is sustained by my counselors and the twelve apostles. [The Manifesto follows.]” (In Clark, Messages of the First Presidency, 3:192.)
General conference convened on 4 October 1890, and on the third day, 6 October, Lorenzo Snow, President of the Quorum of the Twelve, presented the Manifesto to the body of the Church. It was unanimously accepted.
Some, however, claimed that President Woodruff gave in to pressure and that the Lord had not really revealed that plural marriage was to cease. The fact that this declaration did not specifically mention revelation as the reason for stopping the practice seemed to fuel the criticism. A year later at a quarterly conference held at Brigham City, Utah, President Woodruff made it clear why he had made the decision to stop the practice of plural marriage:
The Manifesto ended the practice of plural marriage.
“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, and also because of the testimony of the Presidency of this Church and the apostles before the master in chancery. Since I received that revelation I have heard of many who are tried in these things, though I had not heard of any before that particularly. Now, the Lord has commanded me to do one thing, and I fulfilled that commandment at the conference at Brigham City last Sunday, and I will do the same here today. The Lord has told me to ask the Latter-day Saints a question, and he also told me that if they would listen to what I said to them and answer the question put to them by the Spirit and power of God, they would all answer alike, and they would all believe alike with regard to this matter.
“The question is this: Which is the wisest course for the Latter-day Saints to pursue—to continue to attempt to practice plural marriage, with the laws of the nation against it and the opposition of sixty millions of people, and at the cost of the confiscation and loss of all the temples, and the stopping of all the ordinances therein, both for the living and the dead, and the imprisonment of the First Presidency and Twelve and the heads of families in the Church, and the confiscation of personal property of the people (all of which of themselves would stop the practice); or, after doing and suffering what we have through our adherence to this principle to cease the practice and submit to the law, and through doing so leave the prophets, apostles and fathers at home, so that they can instruct the people and attend to the duties of the Church, and also leave the temples in the hands of the Saints, so that they can attend to the ordinances of the gospel, both for the living and the dead?
“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 Brother Merrill, for Brother Edlefsen, for Brother Roskelley, for Brother Leishman, or 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? . . .
“I saw exactly what would come to pass if there was not something done. I have had this spirit upon me for a long time. 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. I laid it before my brethren—such strong men as Brother George Q. Cannon, Brother Joseph F. Smith, and the Twelve Apostles. I might as well undertake to turn an army with banners out of its course as to turn them out of a course that they considered to be right. These men agreed with me, and ten thousand Latter-day Saints also agreed with me. . . . Why? Because they were moved upon by the Spirit of God and by the revelations of Jesus Christ to do it.” (Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, pp. 214–16.)
Some in the Church continued to practice plural marriage outside the borders of the United States. Many moved to Mexico, for example, so they would not have to terminate their marriages. Some of these thought that new plural marriages could be performed outside of the United States. Finally, on 8 January 1900, President Lorenzo Snow, who had succeeded President Woodruff, stated: “The Church has positively abandoned the practice of polygamy, or the solemnization of plural marriages, in this and every other State, and . . . no member or officer thereof has any authority whatever to perform a plural marriage or enter into such a relation” (Deseret Evening News, 8 Jan. 1900, p. 4).
Others claimed that the Manifesto was issued only for good public relations and that Church leaders secretly supported the practice. In 1904 President Joseph F. Smith, successor to President Lorenzo Snow, made the following official declaration in general conference:
“Now I am going to present a matter to you that is unusual and I do it because of a conviction which I feel that it is a proper thing for me to do. I have taken the liberty of having written down what I wish to present, in order that I may say to you the exact words which I would like to have conveyed to your ears, that I may not be misunderstood or misquoted. I present this to the conference for your action:
“Inasmuch as there are numerous reports in circulation that plural marriages have been entered into contrary to the official declaration of President Woodruff, of September 26, 1890, commonly called the Manifesto, which was issued by President Woodruff and adopted by the Church at its general conference, October 6, 1890, which forbade any marriages violative of the law of the land; I, Joseph F. Smith, President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, hereby affirm and declare that no such marriages have been solemnized with the sanction, consent or knowledge of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and
“I hereby announce that all such marriages are prohibited, and if any officer or member of the Church shall assume to solemnize or enter into any such marriage he will be deemed in transgression against the Church and will be liable to be dealt with, according to the rules and regulations thereof, and excommunicated therefrom.” (In Conference Report, Apr. 1904, p. 75.)
In October 1905 the Church accepted the resignations of Elders Matthias Cowley and John W. Taylor, both of whom had performed plural marriages after the Manifesto, from the Quorum of the Twelve. Elder Cowley continued as a faithful member of the Church, while John W. Taylor was later excommunicated for taking another plural wife after his resignation.
Wilford Woodruff gave the Manifesto after receiving the will of the Lord by revelation.
In 1911 President Joseph F. Smith again emphasized the Church’s stand: “And another thing, as we have announced in previous conferences—as it was announced by President Woodruff, as it was announced by President Snow, and as it was reannounced by me and my brethren, and confirmed by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, plural marriages have ceased in the Church. There isn’t a man today in this Church, or anywhere else, outside of it who has authority to solemnize a plural marriage—not one! There is no man or woman in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who is authorized to contract a plural marriage. It is not permitted, and we have been endeavoring to the utmost of our ability to prevent men from being led by some designing person into an unfortunate condition that is forbidden by the conferences, and by the voice of the Church, a condition that has to some extent at least, brought reproach upon the people.” (In Conference Report, Apr. 1911, p. 8.)
Since then every President of the Church has reiterated this stand and declared the doctrine of the Church to be against the practice of plural marriage.
From the dispensation of Adam until the dispensation of the fulness of times, there has been a group of people who have not been allowed to hold the priesthood of God. The scriptural basis for this policy is Abraham 1:21–27. The full reason for the denial has been kept hidden by the Lord, and one is left to assume that He will make it known in His own due time.
On 1 June 1978 the Savior revealed to President Spencer W. Kimball that the ban on this lineage pertaining to the rights of the priesthood was lifted. Elder Bruce R. McConkie described the special supplication that brought the revelation:
“On the first day of June in this year, 1978, the First Presidency and the Twelve, after full discussion of the proposition and all the premises and principles that are involved, importuned the Lord for a revelation. President Kimball was mouth, and he prayed with great faith and great fervor; this was one of those occasions when an inspired prayer was offered. You know the Doctrine and Covenants statement, that if we pray by the power of the Spirit we will receive answers to our prayers and it will be given us what we shall ask (D&C 50:30). It was given President Kimball what he should ask. He prayed by the power of the Spirit, and there was perfect unity, total and complete harmony, between the Presidency and the Twelve on the issue involved.
“And when President Kimball finished his prayer, the Lord gave a revelation by the power of the Holy Ghost. . . .
“On this occasion, because of the importuning and the faith, and because the hour and the time had arrived, the Lord in his providences poured out the Holy Ghost upon the First Presidency and the Twelve in a miraculous and marvelous manner, beyond anything that any then present had ever experienced. The revelation came to the President of the Church; it also came to each individual present. There were ten members of the Council of the Twelve and three of the First Presidency there assembled. The result was that President Kimball knew, and each one of us knew, independent of any other person, by direct and personal revelation to us, that the time had now come to extend the gospel and all its blessings and all its obligations, including the priesthood and the blessings of the house of the Lord, to those of every nation, culture, and race, including the black race. There was no question whatsoever as to what happened or as to the word and message that came.
“The revelation came to the President of the Church and, in harmony with Church government, was announced by him; the announcement was made eight days later over the signature of the First Presidency. But in this instance, in addition to the revelation coming to the man who would announce it to the Church and to the world, and who was sustained as the mouthpiece of God on earth, the revelation came to every member of the body that I have named. They all knew it in the temple.
All worthy men may use the priesthood to bless others.
“In my judgment this was done by the Lord in this way because it was a revelation of such tremendous significance and import; one which would reverse the whole direction of the Church, procedurally and administratively; one which would affect the living and the dead; one which would affect the total relationship that we have with the world; one, I say, of such significance that the Lord wanted independent witnesses who could bear record that the thing had happened.” (“All Are Alike unto God,” (Symposium on the Book of Mormon, p. 2.)
President N. Eldon Tanner, under the direction of President Kimball, presented to the Church on 30 September 1978 the official declaration of the revelation. In that conference it was unanimously supported and upheld by the members of the Church (see Conference Report, Oct. 1978, p. 22).
Elder Bruce R. McConkie explained that this revelation “affects our missionary work and all of our preaching to the world. This affects our genealogical research and all of our temple ordinances. This affects what is going on in the spirit world, because the gospel is preached in the spirit world preparatory to men’s receiving vicarious ordinances which make them heirs to salvation and exaltation. This is a revelation of tremendous significance.” (“All Are Alike unto God,” p. 2.)
God’s love for His children is universal, for each is the workmanship of His hands, and He will bless and exalt all who honor the priesthood and obey His voice.