The Church and the Gospel



Ogden Kraut


Pioneer Publishing
1067 E Cumorah DR
Genola, UT  84655

July 1993


[5]                                PREFACE

There are volumes and volumes on LDS Church history, but not much has been written on the actual history of its doctrines. Little doubt exists among the Mormon people as to the origin and beginning events of the Church, but there are many diverse opinions on its doctrines.

Mormonism has more than its share of confusion, contradiction, and controversy among its members. For example, about 20 years after the death of the Prophet Joseph Smith, the Reorganized LDS Church was born because of disagreements over correct doctrine and authority. Approximately 200 break-offs from the Mormon Church have been created mostly over differences in those two areas.

From dispensation to dispensation, history records that the course of many civilizations and churches is “one eternal round”: (1) pure at its inception from God; (2) gradually changed (“polluted”) by mankind in their efforts to “improve” it; and (3) eventually restored back to its righteous state.  The Church of Jesus Christ in these latter days is no exception, as this book will show by tracing the history and evolution of some of its ordinances and doctrines during the 160+ years since its organization in 1830.

This publication can, of course, contain only a very small representation of quotations and references that could be included on the ten doctrines selected to be discussed:

  1. Gifts of the spirit
  2. Without purse or scrip
  3. The Seventies
  4. The gathering of Israel


  1. Re-baptism
  2. United Order
  3. The only true God
  4. Plural marriage
  5. Blacks and the Priesthood
  6. The Kingdom of God

The author has written entire books on most of these subjects, should more detailed information be desired.

Hopefully, the information contained on these pages will encourage the reader to learn more about all of the eternal doctrines and commandments of God–and more than that, have the desire to obey and live them.

-The Author


[7]                               Chapter 1



Latter-day Saint doctrines, principles, and ordinances have a unique and important history. Without studying and understanding them, it is impossible to know God’s will for man, for He said, “It is impossible for a man to be saved in ignorance.” (D & C 131:6) And the Prophet Joseph Smith explained:

. . . the things of God are of deep import; and time, and experience, and careful and ponderous and solemn thoughts can only find them out. Thy mind, O man! if thou wilt lead a soul unto salvation, must stretch as high as the utmost heavens, and search into and contemplate the darkest abyss, and the broad expanse of eternity- (TPJS, p. 137)

I advise all to go on to perfection, and search deeper and deeper into the mysteries of Godliness. A man can do nothing for himself unless God direct him in the right way; and the Priesthood is for that purpose. (TPJS, p. 364)

But this search to understand the mysteries is long and challenging. There have always been confusion, discord and contradictions among those trying to interpret the Gospel. Even Christ occasionally said things that seemed to be contradictory and mysterious-all the more reason for our extensive [8] study of the background, history and meaning of these Gospel doctrines and principles.

The Prophet Joseph described the best method to use in learning these saving and exalting principles:

When you climb up a ladder, you must begin at the bottom, and ascend step by step, until you arrive at the top; and so it is with the principles of the Gospel-you must begin with the first, and go on until you learn all the principles of exaltation. But it will be a great while after you have passed through the veil before you will have learned them. It is not all to be comprehended in this world; it will be a great work to learn our salvation and exaltation even beyond the grave. (TPJS, p. 348)

It is much more vital for us to advance from the milk to the meat of the Gospel than it is to advance from elementary school to high school and college. As the Inspired Translation of the Bible says, “Therefore, NOT leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection. . . .” (Heb. 6:1, I.T.) The meat of the Gospel adds to the milk; it is not a substitute for the basic principles. However, most Saints are not desirous or even capable of receiving greater light and knowledge, and are content to stay with the milk. Even the Book of Mormon had to be written with the lesser portion of the word in order to be understood by the average reader:

And now. there cannot be written in this book even a hundredth part of the things which Jesus did truly teach unto the people;

But behold the plates of Nephi do contain the most part of the things which he taught the people.

And these things have I written, which are a lesser part of the things which he taught the people; and I have written them to the intent that they may be brought again unto this people, from the Gentiles, according to the words which Jesus hath spoken.

[9]           And when they shall have received this, which is expedient that they should have first, to try their faith, and if it shall so be that they shall believe these things then shall the greater things be made manifest unto them.

And if it so be that they will not believe these things, then shall the greater things be withheld from them, unto their condemnation.

Behold, I was about to write them, all which were engraven upon the plates of Nephi, but the Lord forbade it, saying: I will try the faith of my people. (3 Nephi 26:6-11)

Joseph Smith could not tell even his close associates all that God had revealed to him:

I heard him <Joseph Smith> say at one time when he was preaching (turning to those that sat behind him), “If I should reveal to these, my Brethren, who now seem to be my bosom friends, what God has revealed to me, they would be the first to seek my life.” And it was so. (Nancy Tracy Autobiography, BYU transcript, p. 25)

Only when people make the extra effort to learn the greater principles of the Gospel, do they begin to realize the tremendous value of them. Eventually they can gain a testimony of these truths which is of more value than life itself. John the Revelator wrote about Saints who considered the Gospel worth dying for:

And they overcame him <Satan> by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death. (Rev. 12:11)

Many thousands have endured torture, pain and death at the hands of those who opposed the Gospel. The Savior also explains how valuable the Gospel should be to us:

[10]         . . . the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it. (Matt. 13:45-46)

If men have paid such a great price for the Gospel in the past, shouldn’t we be willing to do the same? If we expect a similar reward, we should pay the same price. The Prophet Joseph comments:

Reflect for a moment, brethren, and enquire, whether you would consider yourselves worthy a seat at the marriage feast with Paul and others like him, if you had been unfaithful? (TPJS, p. 64)

The Saints generally have failed to understand the importance of the Gospel restoration-either for themselves or for the great work that will result from it. As George Q. Cannon explained in 1882-

The Lord, through the Prophet Joseph Smith, in early revelations, told to the church: You are laying the foundation of a great work; how great you know not. And the same words are just as applicable to us today, notwithstanding the growth of the work up to the present time. We with the light we now possess even, cannot conceive of its greatness. It has not entered into our hearts, neither are we capable of conceiving of it. (JD 23:277-278)

Brigham Young warned the Saints in 1859 against placing too much importance on wealth and riches, rather than on the principles of the Gospel:

It also appears to me that very many of the Latter-day Saints are as far from good wholesome ideas and principles, touching their heavenly privileges, as the east is from the west. They covet the riches of this world, craving to serve themselves-to satisfy the [11] sordid disposition within them. Had they the sense of an angel, and were they in possession of mountains of gold, heaped up higher and deeper, broader and longer, than these mountains on the east and west of us, they would say, “That vast amount of gold is as nothing when compared with the privilege of even living in this day and age of the world, when the Gospel is preached.” (JD 7:173)

Each of us should ask ourselves-are we more concerned about gold or the Gospel? temporal wealth or eternal exaltation? Hopefully the decision has been or will be made to more fully appreciate and learn Gospel doctrines and principles -to value the privilege of living at a time when the fullness of the Gospel is on the earth and available to the Saints of God.

Since some readers may feel hesitant in “delving into the mysteries”, let’s begin with a brief study of our responsibility in this area.


[12]                              Chapter 2


Learning the Gospel is not a simple task because it is coupled with serious contemplation and study, followed with the responsibility to live what we learn. We may learn a great deal from books and some from hearing inspired teachers, but we should not overlook another important source: personal inspiration. The more we study and delve into the Gospel, the deeper we enter into what are termed the mysteries. But according to Joseph Smith, this is our calling:

We are called to hold the keys of the mysteries of those things that have been kept hid from the foundations of the world until now. Some have tasted a little of these things, many of which are to be poured down from heaven upon the heads of babes; yea, upon the weak, obscure and despised ones of the earth. (TPJS, p. 137)

It was in the early days of the Church that Joseph Smith gave such restrictions to the missionaries:

Oh, ye elders of Israel, hearken to my voice; and when you are sent into the world to preach, tell those things you are sent to tell; preach and cry aloud, “Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand; repent and believe the Gospel.” Declare the first principles, and let mysteries alone, lest ye be overthrown. Never meddle with the visions of beasts and subjects you do not understand. (TPJS, p. 292)

[13]         Certainly it is not wise to declare the mysteries of the Gospel to non-members of the Church.

Christ taught thousands of people the beautiful beatitudes, but when He taught them some of the mysteries of the kingdom, they sought to take His life. Joseph Smith reflected that Jesus “had to restrain His feelings many times for the safety of Himself and His followers, and had to conceal the righteous purposes of His heart in relation to many things pertaining to His Father’s Kingdom.” (TPJS, p. 392) It was the discussion of these hidden secrets or mysteries (not the first principles of the Gospel) that caused the wrath of the Jewish empire.

To His closest disciples, Christ taught the greater mysteries of the Gospel, but regarding the rest of the world, He said:

Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine. . . . (Matt. 7:6)

Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables: That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand. (Mark 4:11-12)

These same instructions were repeated in 1831 during the Gospel restoration when the Lord said, ” . . . for unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom, but unto the world it is not given to know them.” (D & C 42:65)

The Apostle Paul told his brethren:

I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. (I Cor. 3:2)

[14]         And again he said:

For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For everyone that useth milk is unskillful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. (Hebrews 5:12-14)

Missionaries who were teaching the Gospel and converting members to the Church were instructed to teach first principles; however, after people became members of the Church, they should continue to learn, study and seek for further light and knowledge. The Lord has made very clear how important it is to “know the mysteries”:

If thou shalt ask, thou shalt receive revelation upon revelation, knowledge upon knowledge, that thou mayest know the mysteries and peaceable things-that which bringeth joy, that which bringeth life eternal. (D & C 42:61)

And all saints who remember to keep and do these sayings, walking in obedience to the commandments, shall receive health in their navel and marrow to their bones; and shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures; . . . (D & C 89:18-19)

And from time to time, as shall be manifested by the Comforter, receive revelations to unfold the mysteries of the kingdom; . . . (D & C 90:14)

But in spite of such instructions, the Saints still were slow to increase in their knowledge of the Gospel. Joseph Smith was very discouraged about this and said:

[15]         But there has been a great difficulty in getting anything into the heads of this generation. It has been like splitting hemlock knots with a corn-dodger for a wedge, and a pumpkin for a beetle. Even the Saints are slow to understand. I have tried for a number of years to get the minds of the Saints prepared to receive the things of God; but we frequently see some of them after suffering all they have for the work of God, will fly to pieces like glass as soon as anything comes that is contrary to their traditions; they cannot stand the fire at all. (TPJS, p. 331)

There are a great many wise men and women, too, in our midst who are too wise to be taught; therefore they must die in their ignorance, and in the resurrection they will find their mistake. (TPJS, p. 309)

These “mysteries” are nothing more or less than the revelations and higher principles of the Gospel. When we do not understand something, it is a mystery, but once we understand, there is no mystery about it. The Lord instructed that we should continue in learning and studying:

And I give unto you a commandment that you shall teach one another the doctrine of the kingdom.

Teach ye diligently and my grace shall attend you, that you may be instructed more perfectly in theory, in principle, in doctrine, in the law of the gospel, in all things that pertain unto the kingdom of God, that are expedient for you to understand;

Of things both in heaven and in the earth, and under the earth; things which have been, things which are, things which must shortly come to pass; things which are at home, things which are abroad; the wars and the perplexities of the nations, and the judgments which are on the land; and a knowledge also of countries and of kingdoms-

That ye may be prepared in all things when I shall send you again to magnify the calling whereunto I have [16] called you, and the mission with which I have commissioned you. (D & C 88:77-80)

And again He said:

For thus saith the Lord-I, the Lord, am merciful and gracious unto those who fear me, and delight to honor those who serve me in righteousness and in truth unto the end. Great shall be their reward and eternal shall be their glory. And to them will I reveal all mysteries, yea, all the hidden mysteries of my kingdom from days of old, and for ages to come, will I make known unto them the good pleasure of my will concerning all things pertaining to my kingdom. Yea, even the wonders of eternity shall they know, and things to come will I show them, even the things of many generations. (D & C 76:5-8)

Some people like to use the excuse to “stay away from the mysteries” because they do not want to continue to study and think and learn. They prefer to follow the old adage, “Ignorance is bliss;” but in reality it is growing in knowledge, understanding, and intelligence that brings joy to the soul. There is great danger in a stagnant intellect.

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. (TPJS, p. 217)

Alma clearly described the danger for one who hardens his heart:

And now Alma began to expound these things unto him saying: It is given unto many to know the mysteries of God; nevertheless they are laid under a strict command that they shall not impart only according to the portion of his word which he doth [17] grant unto the children of men, according to the heed and diligence which they give unto him.

And therefore, he that will harden his heart, the same receiveth the lesser portion of the word; and he that will not harden his heart, to him is given the greater portion of the word, until it is given unto him to know the mysteries of God until he know them in full. And they that will harden their hearts, to them is given the lesser portion of the word until they know nothing concerning his mysteries; and then they are taken captive by the devil, and led by his will down to destruction. Now this is what is meant by the chains of hell. (Alma 12:9-11)

As mentioned, the Prophet Joseph had great difficulty teaching the fullness of the Gospel to the Saints because of their worldly traditions and many false teachings from other religions. The Prophet once said:

Had I inspiration, revelation, and lungs to communicate what my soul has contemplated in times past, there is not a soul in this congregation but would go to their homes and shut their mouths in everlasting silence on religion till they had learned something. (TPJS, p. 320)

John Taylor explained Joseph Smith’s situation:

No wonder that Joseph Smith should say that he felt himself shut up in a nutshell-there was no power of expansion; it was difficult for him to reveal and communicate the things of God, because there was no place to receive them. What he had to communicate was so much more comprehensive, enlightened and dignified than that which the people generally knew and comprehended, it was difficult for him to speak; he felt fettered and bound, so to speak, in every move he made. (JD 10:148)

And from Brigham Young:

[18]         I recollect, in Far West, Joseph, talking upon these matters, said-“The people cannot bear the revelations that the Lord has for them. There were a great many revelations if the people could bear them.” (JD 18:242)

And Joseph himself said:

If the Church knew all the commandments, one-half they would condemn through prejudice and ignorance. (TPJS, p. 112)

What commandments and revelations were so difficult for the Saints to accept? Has the Church yet revealed all those commandments and revelations? Are these “mysteries of the Kingdom” easier to believe now than they were in the days of Joseph Smith? These are interesting questions to consider.

There is little danger or controversy in teaching the first principles of the Gospel, but there is in teaching the second principles-and all the others that follow! The Prophet Joseph exclaimed:

Many men will say, “I will never forsake you, but will stand by you at all times.” But the moment you teach them some of the mysteries of the kingdom of God that are retained in the heavens and are to be revealed to the children of men when they are prepared for them, they will be the first to stone you and put you to death. It was this same principle that crucified the Lord Jesus Christ, and will cause the people to kill the prophets in this generation. (TPJS, p. 309)

But we cannot keep all the commandments without first knowing them, and we cannot expect to know all, or more than we now know unless we comply with or keep those we have already received. (TPJS, p. 256)


Eternal Progression

We have the blessing of learning and progressing in knowledge not only in this life but also in the next-and for all eternity. Said Brigham Young:

Those persons who strive to gain eternal life, gain that which will produce the increase their hearts will be satisfied with. Nothing less than the privilege of increasing eternally, in every sense of the word, can satisfy the immortal spirits. (JD 1:350)

And again:

. . . if we are striving with all the powers and faculties God has given us to improve upon our talents, to prepare ourselves to dwell in eternal life, and the grave receives our bodies while we are thus engaged, with what disposition will our spirits enter their next state? They will be still striving to do the things of God, only in a much greater degree-learning, increasing, growing in grace and in the knowledge of the truth. (JD 7:333)

Furthermore, President Young taught that if we do not increase in knowledge, we are bound to retrogress:

. . . there is no such thing as principle, power, wisdom, knowledge, life, position, or anything that can be imagined, that remains stationary-they must increase or decrease. To me, life is increase; death is the opposite. (JD 1:350; also Contributor 5:22)

A few scholars have promoted the concept that it was possible for souls to reach a point where they knew everything and there would be an end to gaining knowledge. A dispute arose over this doctrine between Brigham Young and Orson Pratt in 1852. Orson Pratt wrote:

[20]         It has been most generally believed that the Saints will progress in knowledge to all eternity: But when they become one with the Father and Son, and receive a fulness of their glory, that will be the end of all progression in knowledge, because there will be nothing more to be learned. The Father and the Son do not progress in knowledge and wisdom, because they already know all things past, present, and to come. All that become like the Father and Son will know as much as they do, and consequently will learn no more. The Father and Son, and all who are like them and one with them, already know as much as any Beings in existence know, or ever can know. (The Seer, p. 117)

However, Brigham Young censured Pratt for such teaching:

Some men seem as if they could learn so much and no more. They appear to be bounded in their capacity for acquiring knowledge, as Brother Orson Pratt has in theory bounded the capacity of God. According to his theory, God can progress no further in knowledge and power; but the God that I serve is progressing eternally, and so are his children; they will increase to all eternity if they are faithful. (JD 11:286)

Brigham Young, in trying to prevent this heresy from getting established in the Church, wrote a letter to Orson Pratt in 1853, telling him that certain points of doctrine in The Seer “are not sound doctrine, and will not be so received by the Saints.” When Pratt returned to Salt Lake City in 1854, President Young confronted him concerning this. As a result, there was a conflict on doctrinal issues for many years between the two. (See Dialogue, 8:2.) In 1854 Young told Pratt that his interpretation of the omniscience of God-

. . . was a false doctrine and not true. That there never will be a time to all eternity when all the Gods of Eternity will cease advancing in power, knowledge, [21] experience and glory, for if this was the case, eternity would cease to be and the glory of God would come to an end, but all of celestial beings will continue to advance in knowledge and power worlds without end. (Wilford Woodruff Journal, Sept. 17, 1854)

Unfortunately, Pratt’s writings and sermons on this subject planted the seeds of thought and belief for both contemporary and present-day Mormons. For example, Orson Pratt was a close friend and companion apostle to Joseph F. Smith. Both labored together many times, and on one occasion were companions on a special mission to the Eastern States. (CHC 5:532) It was probably during these periods that Orson taught Joseph F. his theory of a God’s fullness of knowledge, because he, too, began to believe and teach it. Yet in spite of all the disagreement and clash between Orson Pratt and Brigham Young over this doctrine, it did not change the opinion of Pratt or Joseph F. Smith. A year after the death of Brigham Young, Joseph F. was still saying that ” . . . our joy cannot be full unless we obtain a fullness of knowledge.” (JD 19:262)

And as late as 1880 Orson Pratt was still hinting that-

Our Father who dwells in yonder heavens, and his Son Jesus Christ, inhabit the highest degree of glory in eternity. They are possessed of all the fullness of glory. They have a fullness of happiness, a fullness of power, a fullness of intelligence, light and truth, . . .

In the celestial glory they are made equal in oneness, in power, in knowledge, and in all perfections; . . . (JD 21:257, 262)

So, it seems evident that the writings or teachings of Orson Pratt influenced the beliefs of Joseph F. Smith, who in turn taught it to his son, Joseph Fielding Smith, who also taught it and published it in his books on Doctrines of [22] Salvation. Under the subtitle “Exalted Beings Eventually Will Know All Things,” Joseph Fielding Smith said:

I realize that it must eventually come to pass in the case of those who gain their exaltation and become sons of God, that they must, in the eternities, reach the time when they will know all things. (Doc. of Sal. 1:291)

Then in the second volume, he continues:

Our Father in heaven is infinite; he is perfect; he possesses all knowledge and wisdom. (Doc. of Sal. 2:35)

Joseph Fielding Smith’s son-in-law, Bruce R. McConkie, was also influenced to believe and teach this same idea. In his lecture at a BYU 14-Stake Fireside in the Marriott Center on June 1, 1980, he listed “Seven Deadly Heresies,” the first one being-

Heresy No. 1-There are those who say that God is progressing in knowledge and is learning new truths. This is false utterly, totally, and completely! There is not one sliver of truth in it. It grows out of a wholly twisted and incorrect view of the King Follett sermon and of what is meant by eternal progression.

But nowhere in the King Follett discourse does Joseph Smith say that God is no longer increasing in knowledge. He does say:

God himself, finding he was in the midst of spirits and glory, because he was more intelligent, saw proper to institute laws whereby the rest could have a privilege to advance like himself. The relationship we have with God places us in a situation to advance in knowledge. (TPJS, p. 354)

[23]         Elder McConkie also expresses his opinion in his book Mormon Doctrine:

Exalted persons gain the fulness of the Father; they have all power, all knowledge, and all wisdom; they gain a fullness of truth, becoming one with the Father.

Those who gain exaltation, having thus enjoyed the fulness of eternal progression, become like God. It should be realized that God is not progressing in knowledge, truth, virtue, wisdom, or any of the attributes of godliness. He has already gained those things in their fulness. (Mor. Doc.,2nd ed, 1979, p. 239)

But according to Brigham Young, the only ones who no longer progress in knowledge are the sons of perdition:

We might ask, when shall we cease to learn? I will give you my opinion about it; never, never. . . . is there a time when a person will cease to learn? Yes, when he has sinned against God the Father, Jesus Christ the Son, and the Holy Ghost-God’s minister; when he has denied the Lord, defied Him and committed the sin that in the Bible is termed the unpardonable sin-the sin against the Holy Ghost. That is the time when a person will cease to learn, . . . These are the only characters who will ever cease to learn, both in time and eternity. ***

We shall never cease to learn, unless we apostatize from the religion of Jesus Christ. (JD 3:203)

But in spite of this strong position taken by Brigham Young and other early Church leaders, the conclusion promoted by Bruce McConkie is the prevailing one accepted by the LDS Church today, since his Mormon Doctrine book has become a standard for historians, scriptorians, students and teachers.


To Summarize:

  1. The instruction to stay away from the mysteries was given mainly to missionaries who were sent out to preach to non-members. Church members,                on the other hand, were told to “know the mysteries” and the meat of the             Gospel.
  2. Eternal life, happiness, and exaltation are all inter-connected with the mysteries, or deeper principles of the Gospel. Furthermore, God has                 directed us to learn them or He will take away that which we have already           received.
  3. Learning, teaching, or living higher principles of the Gospel are contrary to the more generally accepted worldly standards; thus, people      who study the deeper principles of the Gospel run the risk of being          ridiculed, rejected, and considered dangerous by unbelievers.
  4. The things of God require deep, solemn and ponderous thoughts in their study. Those who accept all the principles of the Gospel do so because         “there are none that doeth good except those who are ready to receive the            fulness of my gospel. . . .” (D & C 35:12)
  5. We should continually study, learn and progress in knowledge of the deeper things of God forever and ever.
  6. When we cease to learn and develop our faculties, at that point we retrogress and lose knowledge.
  7. It was taught by the early leaders, i.e., Brigham Young especially, that God progresses in knowledge, power and glory. This is called eternal        progression, and man will continue to follow the same system of             progression.


  1. Originating with Orson Pratt-Joseph F. Smith, Joseph Fielding Smith, and Bruce R. McConkie took an opposing view, and believed and taught that God           was not increasing in knowledge. This stand is generally accepted by the               LDS Church today.
  2. Brigham Young said that the sons of perdition are the only ones who do not increase in knowledge.


[26]                              Chapter 3


“Not of the World”

Shortly after Jesus was born, wicked men began to seek His life. And among His first sermons Jesus told His followers that they, too, would be persecuted. In His first recorded sermon Jesus said:

Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you. (Matt. 5:10-12)

Within three years they had persecuted His disciples and crucified Christ Himself. All of the Apostles were soon killed and many of the disciples were put in prison or slain. These persecutions by the people of the world were expected and even prophesied. It appears that whenever the Lord is teaching His people, the devil is nearby to cause trouble. James wrote:

. . . know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God. (James 4:4)

And Brigham Young stated:

[27]         Persecution and hatred by those who love not the truth are a legacy bequeathed by the Saviour to all His followers; for He said they should be hated of all men for His name’s sake. (JD 7:42)

At the time of the restoration of the Gospel, the Prophet Joseph Smith said:

It seems as though the adversary was aware, at a very early period of my life, that I was destined to prove a disturber and an annoyer of his kingdom; else why should the power of darkness combine against me? Why the opposition and persecution that arose against me, almost in my infancy?

Some few days after I had this vision, I happened to be in company with one of the Methodist preachers, who was very active in the before mentioned religious excitement; and, conversing with him on the subject of religion, I took occasion to give him an account of the vision which I had had. I was greatly surprised at his behavior; he treated my communication not only lightly, but with great contempt, saying it was all of the devil, that there were no such things as visions or revelations in these days; that all such things had ceased with the apostles, and that there would never be any more of them.

I soon found, however, that my telling the story had excited a great deal of prejudice against me among professors of religions, and was the cause of great persecution, which continued to increase; and though I was an obscure boy, only between fourteen and fifteen years of age, and my circumstances in life such as to make a boy of no consequence in the world, yet men of high standing would take notice sufficient to excite the public mind against me, and create a bitter persecution; and this was common among all the sects@all united to persecute me. (P. of G. P., Joseph Smith 2:20-22)

True Gospel principles have always brought trouble to prophets, patriarchs and apostles. People didn’t have room for [28] new truth. They were content with a few pebbles of information, rather than accept new outcroppings and boulders of greater knowledge.

But even more than just opposing new knowledge, many people are led by an evil influence to actually fight against new knowledge from God. Brigham Young noted this battle between good and evil:

Wicked men, Satan, and all the powers of hell and hate are at war with every holy principle that God wishes to place in the possession of his children. (JD 8:13)

It is clear that the devil is opposed to the principles and doctrines of the Gospel more than the Church itself. The Prophet Joseph exclaimed:

This generation is as corrupt as the generation of the Jews that crucified Christ; and if He were here today, and should preach the same doctrine He did then, they would put Him to death. (TPJS, p. 328)

And on another occasion he said:

“It is thought by some that our enemies would be satisfied with my destruction; but I tell you that as soon as they have shed my blood, they will thirst for the blood of every man in whose heart dwells a single spark of the spirit of the fullness of the Gospel. The opposition of these men is moved by the spirit of the adversary of all righteousness. It is not only to destroy men, but every man and woman who dares believe the doctrines that God hath inspired me to teach in this generation.” Such were the words of the Prophet Joseph Smith to the Nauvoo Legion on the 18th of June 1844. (“Rise and Fall of Nauvoo,” B. H. Roberts, Contributor VIII:12, Oct. 1887, p. 441)

[29]         A true Christian, or a true Mormon, will often arouse some enmity because his strong beliefs in doctrine and principles are not in conformity with the rest of society. Jesus knew this and made the following promise:

If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; . . . (John 15:18-20)

King Solomon seemed to understand the nature of the opposition by saying, “The wicked watcheth the righteous and seeketh to slay him.” (Ps 37:32)

Since the devil is opposed to truth, he causes trouble, false rumors, suspicion and eventually persecution to come upon the true followers of Christ. The Prophet Joseph observed this:

The enemies of this people will never get weary of their persecution against the Church, until they are overcome. I expect they will array everything against me that is in their power to control, and that we shall have a long and tremendous warfare. He that will war the true Christian warfare against the corruptions of these last days will have wicked men and angels of devils, and all the infernal powers of darkness continually arrayed against him. When wicked and corrupt men oppose, it is a criterion to judge if a man is warring the Christian warfare. (DHC 5:140)

Brigham Young noted:

As the kingdom of God increased upon the earth, so would the power of the enemy increase in like manner, to keep pace with it. (JD 2:249)

[30]         It may be observed today that most of those who are rejected by society, cast out of their honorable positions, and considered evil, probably have some truth with them. Either they are very evil or they are defending true principles.

Consider the following comparison: If Billy Graham were really teaching the Gospel as Jesus taught it, he would be mobbed and driven-just as the disciples of Jesus were. If Joseph Smith taught the Gospel of Jesus Christ, as the scriptures declare, then he would be persecuted and mobbed-and he was. They both claimed to be followers of Christ, yet only one received much persecution. This opposition from the world is not for belief and reading the Bible, but because of the difference in the doctrines they taught. It is important, then, to be well informed on the doctrines of the Church, more so than the history of the Church.

The Necessity and Value of Persecution

Brigham Young explained how much value comes from opposition:

Joseph could not have been perfected, though he had lived a thousand years, if he had received no persecution. If he had lived a thousand years, and led this people, and preached the Gospel without persecution, he would not have been perfected as well as he was at the age of thirty-nine years. You may calculate when this people are called to go through scenes of affliction and suffering, are driven from their homes, and cast down, and scattered, and smitten, and peeled, the Almighty is rolling on His work with greater rapidity. (JD 2:7-8, 1853)

[31]         Persecution seemed to follow the early members of the Church wherever they went. The Saints were driven out of Ohio, then out of Missouri, and finally out of Illinois. Persecution had forced them out of the United States and into the desert wilderness. Within ten years (1857) the U.S. Government sent out an army to put down the Mormons. Some of the missionaries were called home for their own safety:

Influenced by falsehoods, circulated by Judge W. W. Drummond and others, the Federal Government sent an army to Utah, when the citizens organized for self-defense. The Elders were called home from foreign missions, and the Saints who had settled in Carson Valley, on Salmon River, on Green River and in Southern California were advised to abandon their locations and return to places nearer the head-quarters of the Church. (Church Chronology, 2nd ed., revised & enlarged, Andrew Jensen, 1857, p. 57)

But such persecutions did not destroy the Mormon religion, but rather they seemed to unite the Saints instead of scatter them. Such adversity resulted in more positive than negative results, for Brigham Young said:

Can you destroy a true religion by persecuting it? No. What destroyed the Priesthood of the Son of God from the earth in ancient days? Was it persecution? No. The Emperor Constantine embraced it and sent out a decree for all his people to embrace it. Let this people be prospered and all persecutions cease, and then every description of characters would hasten to join this Church. (JD 7:145)

Do you suppose I am sorry because of persecution? No; I never was in my life; but I have thanked God a thousand times that the Devil is not yet bound; for if he had been, the Saints would have gone to sleep; . . . (JD 6:269, 1859)

[32]         Brigham reiterated the necessity of persecution:

When there are no goats to annoy the sheep, the latter will mingle with each other and go hand and hand in full fellowship. But when goats are among the sheep, they will besmear them with their stink, and they frisk about, and behave so as to actually turn the sheep almost into goats. They will grow short in the hair, look like goats, and stink like them. The master of the flock must therefore do something to preserve the blood of the sheep pure, lest they completely degenerate and altogether become goats. They must be chastened by persecution, to drive out the stinking goats from their midst. (JD 6:320)

Should Persecution Cease

All of the ancient prophets suffered persecution at various times in their lives. This was realized by the apostles of Jesus who said to the Jews, “Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted?” (Acts 7:52) This brings us to the reasons why persecution will cease against a true Church. Ellen G. White, writing for the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, clearly describes the reasons why she believes it gradually stopped in the Christian Church:

There is another and more important question that should engage the attention of the churches of today. The apostle Paul declares that “all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” Why is it, then, that persecution seems in a great degree to slumber? The only reason is, that the church has conformed to the world’s standard, and there-fore awakens no opposition. The religion which is current in our day is not of the pure and holy character that marked the Christian faith in the days of Christ and His apostles. It is only because of the spirit of compromise with sin, because the great truths of the word of God are so indifferently regarded, because [33] there is so little vital godliness in the church, that Christianity is apparently so popular with the world. Let there be a revival of the faith and power <and doctrines> of the early church, and the spirit of persecution will be revived, and the fires of persecution will be rekindled. (The Great Controversy, White, p. 53)

President Brigham Young warned of the dangers when persecution should cease against the Saints. It would be more disastrous for the Church than if they were subjected to severe persecution.

And when the spirit of persecution, the spirit of hatred, or wrath, and malice ceases in the world against this people, it will be the time that this people have apostatized and joined hands with the wicked, and never until then; which I pray may never come. (JD 4:327)

There is nothing that would so soon weaken my hope and discourage me as to see this people in full fellowship with the world, and receive no more persecution from them because they are one with them. In such an event, we might bid farewell to the Holy Priesthood with all its blessings, . . . (JD 10:32)

When Mormonism finds favor with the wicked in this land it will have gone into the shade; but until the power of the Priesthood is gone, Mormonism will never become popular with the wicked. (JD 4:38)

There was a definite change in the attitude of the world toward the Mormons during the administration of Wilford Woodruff. This dramatic change was commonly noted and was included in the record of the Encyclopedia Britannica:

President Wilford Woodruff, who was then at the head of the Church, issued a Manifesto, announcing his [34] intention to submit to the laws of the land in relation to plural marriage, and advising all other Latter-Day Saints to do the same. * * * A change of feeling ensued. Mormons and non-Mormons, in Utah and elsewhere, became more friendly with each other. (Enc. Brit., 14th ed., vol. 15, p. 810)

Elder John J. Carmack spoke about the “pivotal times” the Church had undergone and said:

We had a period of isolation in the West, then we had a period of tremendous persecution. And we turned another corner about the turn of the century. . . .

During his tenure, President Heber J. Grant moved us into the modern era. We were no longer in isolation. We became a part of the world, the business community, the intellectual community. That was a major corner that we turned. (Church News, Jan. 13, 1990)

This new friendship with the world was especially important to President Grant:

I am thankful that wherever I have traveled during the past six months I have found a feeling of respect, a feeling of love in the hearts of many for the Latter-day Saints, in the hearts of those not of our faith. I heard many very splendid compliments while in Washington by members of the president@s cabinet, by senators and representatives, and by officials of the government in the Federal Reserve banking departments, and in others, wherever I went, and with all the people that I met, bankers in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, and other cities, I heard good things said of the Latter-day Saints; we are coming into our own, so to speak. (Conf. Rept., Apr. 4, 1920, p. 12)

My greatest happiness, I find in the good will and friendship that has developed among all classes of people at home and abroad toward the Latter-day Saints Church, during my lifetime; in place of everyday [35] persecutions and bitterness we now enjoy the high regard and happy association with all denominations. (S.L. Tribune, Nov. 22, 1938)

And even today it is considered to be an important accomplishment:

Never has the Church had the opportunity it has today. The Church is the most attractive religious body in the world. Its image has never been as good as it is today! (Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p. 171)

Apparently the LDS Church no longer has any major distinctive doctrines with which the rest of the world need be concerned.

To summarize:

  1. Christ and His disciples generally suffered persecution, prison and death. He indicated that it would be so with His faithful followers.
  2. Persecution began with Joseph Smith immediately after his first vision. It continued constantly against both him and the Church, and the Prophet was eventually martyred for his testimony.
  3. The Prophet Joseph said that Satan is “at war with every holy principle,” which indicated that it would always be so.
  4. He also prophesied that the adversary would always be opposed to those people who have “a single spark of the spirit of the fulness of the                 Gospel.”
  5. Prophecies and teachings indicate that as the Kingdom of God would grow, so would persecution increase against it.


  1. The promise has been made that persecution would never destroy a true religion, and God has promised the righteous that He will always “fight           your battles.”
  2. Persecution drives the weak and wayward out of the Church, while the absence of persecution has a tendency to draw the wicked into the Church.
  3. When persecution ceases, it indicates a compromise of principles and a loss of Priesthood powers.
  4. A noted change of attitude toward the Church occurred during and after the administration of Wilford Woodruff.
  5. As persecution stopped, society began to speak well of the Mormons. Heber J. Grant noticed that “friendship developed among all classes of people”.
  6. Today the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is known as a “World Church” and has stakes in many nations of the world@with very                 little if any persecution.


[37]                              Chapter 4



Definition of Terms

Before beginning this section, it is important to know the meaning of the two words church and gospel. According to Webster, they are defined as follows:


  1. a building set apart for public worship
  2. ecclesiastical government of a religious group
  3. a religious service
  4. a congregation


  1. good news
  2. teachings of Jesus and His apostles
  3. absolute truth
  4. doctrines, rules, commandments

From these definitions, it is easy to see how the church can undergo changes in (1) location and facilities, (2) type of government instigated (3) policies and procedures accepted, and (4) numbers and types of members. Whereas the gospel is not so flexible. If the good news, teachings, truth, doctrines, rules and commandments are from God, they are eternal and [38] unchangeable. The church can vote to accept or reject any or all of the gospel, but that doesn’t change the fact that the eternal gospel itself cannot change. A church can be composed of men holding Priesthood authority, but they are ineffective unless they are in obedience to the gospel’s rules and standards.

The following diagram shows that the Church is a body of offices and officers:


The Gospel, on the other hand, is a set of laws, standards, doctrines, ethics, ordinances, and commandments that God had provided as guidelines to be studied and obeyed.

[39]         The Church is intended to be the vehicle through which the Gospel can function and be taken to the nations of the earth.

The Church is both a spiritual order and a physical organization-each being an appendage of the Holy Priesthood. Sometimes, unfortunately, it is the physical structure-the organization-that becomes more significant to its members rather than the Gospel itself which it is supposed to protect and teach. Members often bear testimony to the Church instead of the Gospel, i.e., “I know the Church is true.”

In 1986 Eugene England, BYU professor of English Literature, wrote a book entitled Why the Church is as True as the Gospel. His definition of terms is certainly more broad than those quoted at the beginning of this chapter. But even using his more liberal concepts, it is still difficult to understand how the church can be as true as the gospel when in every dispensation they have eventually come to a separation-the church going one way and the gospel being left behind. The Church leaders and members have a tendency to feel they can “improve” upon the Gospel that God has given, and man believes he can devise a better system of principles and a better structural organization for the Church. The Church has always been in a state of evolving and changing, even in our dispensation, so at what point is it the truest? The Gospel, on the other hand, is always true; therefore, it must be truer than the Church.

In his book, Eugene England states:

I believe the Church is the best medium, apart from marriage (which it much resembles in this respect), for helping us gain salvation by grappling constructively with the oppositions of existence, despite our limited and various understandings of “the gospel”. [40] I believe that the better any church or organization is at such help, the “truer” it is. (Why the Church is as True as the Gospel, p. 4)

England goes on to define the “work” of the Church as serving the sick, encouraging the downtrodden, and helping the poor. As important as this work may be, it alone does not exalt a man and provide the necessary doctrines and ordinances that are part of the Gospel and performed by the Priesthood. Any church in the world can perform acts of charity, and the more they do them the better they are; but it does not make these churches “truer” than the Gospel.

After the crucifixion of Christ, His church grew in worldly power and learning-but the Gospel was lost somewhere along the way. Priesthood became priestcraft; regulations took the place of revelations; doctrines were turned into dogmas; and the wisdom of men superseded the will of God. Even the Church lost its organizational structure-the Apostles, Seventy, and Elders were replaced with Popes, Nuns, Monks, Cardinals, and Prelates. Even the name of the Church was changed. The Church no longer was as true as the Gospel.

Eugene England even “improved” upon his original theme when he more recently made the statement: “The church I believe is even truer than the gospel.” (Dialogue 26:1, p. 150, 1993) But how can the “created” (the church) be greater and truer than the “createe” (the gospel and priesthood)? Merely belonging or going to a “schoolhouse” is not more important than learning the subjects that are taught there. Membership or attending the lodges of the Moose, Elks, Rotary Club or Red Cross is not more important than receiving the instruction and doing the duties of those organizations.

All such churches or organizations are simply structures or vehicles to carry out the operation of thought, beliefs, and [41] teachings. If all the world belonged to the Church of Jesus Christ, they would not be one whit better if they did not believe in and practice the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

There were times in the Book of Mormon when people had the Gospel but there was no organization of the Church. So, it is possible for people to have heaven’s blessings without the structure or corporation of the Church. Conversely, there are organizations and churches that carry the name of Jesus Christ, but do not have the Gospel of Christ@neither do they have His approval.

In continuing our definitions and distinctions between the terms “church” and “gospel”, our discussion would not be complete without quoting from the October 1984 general conference address by Ronald E. Poelman, of the First Quorum of the Seventy. In his talk, entitled “The Gospel and the Church”, he stresses the importance of distinguishing between these two entities, saying that-

Both the gospel of Jesus Christ and the Church of Jesus Christ are true and divine. However, there is a distinction between them which is significant and it is very important that this distinction be understood. Of equal importance is understanding the essential relationship between the gospel and the Church. Failure to distinguish between the two and to comprehend their proper relationship may lead to confusion and misplaced priorities with unrealistic and therefore failed expectations. (Sunstone 14:5, Oct. 1990, p. 50)

However, the editors of the Ensign magazine, no doubt with instructions from “higher up”, apparently did not want the Saints to feel that there is a distinction between the Church and the Gospel, so before Poelman’s talk was printed, they edited, partially rewrote, and even re-videotaped it. (See Elbert Peck’s introductory comments before the printed [42] comparison of Poelman’s actual speech and the printed version.)

Compare the above paragraph with the same one below as it was printed in the November 1984 Ensign:

Both the gospel of Jesus Christ and the Church of Jesus Christ are true and divine, and there is an essential relationship between them that is significant and very important. Understanding the proper relationship between the gospel and the Church will prevent confusion, misplaced priorities, and failed expectations and will lead to the realization of gospel goals through happy, fulfilling participation in the Church. Such understanding will avoid possible disaffection and will result in great personal blessings. (Sunstone, Oct. 1990, p. 50)

It is not necessary to review here all the changes or editing of that speech, but it is recommended reading. Just a few excerpts will be presented here to show Poelman’s original intent in distinguishing between the Church and the Gospel:

The gospel of Jesus Christ is a divine and perfect plan. It is composed of eternal, unchanging principles and laws which are universally applicable to every individual regardless of time, place, or circumstance. The principles and laws of the gospel never change.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a divine institution administered by the priesthood of God. The Church has authority to teach correctly the principles and doctrines of the gospel and to administer its essential ordinances.

The gospel is the substance of the divine plan for personal, individual salvation and exaltation. The Church is the delivery system that provides the means and resources to implement this plan in each individual@s life. (Ibid., p. 50)

[43]         When Elder Poelman said the Church was “the delivery system” for the Gospel, he was absolutely correct, but that part was edited out in the printed Ensign version:-

The gospel is the divine plan for personal, individual salvation and exaltation. The Church is divinely commissioned to provide the means and resources that implement this plan in each individual’s life. (Ibid., p. 51)

Another important deleted statement was that as “we increase our knowledge, acceptance, and application of gospel principles, we become less dependent on Church programs. Our lives become gospel centered.” (Ibid., p. 50) This is an essential concept to understand and emphasizes even more the distinction between the Church and the Gospel.

Before going on to the next topic, let’s consider one more important aspect that was totally deleted from Ronald Poelman’s address:

Sometimes traditions, customs, social practices and personal preferences of individual Church members may, through repeated or common usage be misconstrued as Church procedures or policies. Occasionally, such traditions, customs and practices may even be regarded by some as eternal gospel principles. Under such circumstances those who do not conform to these cultural standards may mistakenly be regarded as unorthodox or even unworthy. (Ibid., p. 50)

History has shown that Church members often mistake their programs, functions and business operations as an essential part of the Gospel; and on the other hand, they discard eternal principles, laws and ordinances as though they were mere policies or directives of the Church.


The Vote of the Church

The members of the LDS Church have been granted the right to give a sustaining vote on church issues, persons, and offices. (See D & C 20:63, 65; 102:19; 107:27.) Major revelations or commandments given to the Church are voted on by the members. They can vote to accept or reject any eternal principle, ordinance, or law, but it does not mean that such are no longer true. They can sustain any honest or crooked, virtuous or corrupt person that they so choose. If the members do not know who the Lord wants to be President, they may choose someone they prefer, or merely put in the next senior member. The Church may be guided by the revelations of the Lord, or they may choose to obey, honor and sustain the laws of the land-which are often in conflict.

The Church may be guided by the spirit of the Lord or by the spirit of society. God will not force people to do His will; He never has and He never will. He allows His people to choose good or evil, right or wrong-and throughout every dispensation, as history records, collectively they have eventually chosen to do wrong.

There has been a powerful, spiritual beginning of the Church in each dispensation and then a gradual falling away into apostasy-and this dispensation seems to be no different. The Lord has allowed the people and their leaders to choose the path they want to follow-traditions of societies, allurements of sin, and the laws of man have usually superseded the laws of God.

Eternal Gospel Principles

The Gospel of Jesus Christ contains a set of eternal principles, ordinances, and laws that are given to man for his [45] salvation and exaltation. They are not to be altered, enlarged upon, or deleted from. The true God is constant in His teachings and in the plan of salvation. James says:

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. (James 1:17)

And Paul also says, “Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.” (Heb. 13:8)

It is only reasonable that if our rewards are to be the same, we must be obedient to the same laws. One man cannot be exalted for living certain principles and laws at one time and then another condemned for living the same ones at another time. The Prophet Joseph frequently made this very clear:

We all admit that the Gospel has ordinances, and if so, had it not always ordinances, and were not its ordinances always the same? (TPJS, p. 59)

Now taking it for granted that the scriptures say what they mean, and mean what they say, we have sufficient grounds to go on and prove from the Bible that the gospel has always been the same; the ordinances to fulfill its requirements, the same, and the officers to officiate, the same; and the signs and fruits resulting from the promises, the same. (TPJS, p. 264)

He set the ordinances to be the same forever and ever, and set Adam to watch over them, to reveal them from heaven to man, or to send angels to reveal them. (TPJS, p. 168)

. . . if we are the children of the Most High, and are called with the same calling with which they were called, and embrace the same covenant that they embraced, and are faithful to the testimony of our [46] Lord as they were, we can approach the Father in the name of Christ as they approached Him, and for ourselves obtain the same promises. (TPJS, p. 66)

Ordinances instituted in the heavens before the foundation of the world, in the priesthood, for the salvation of men, are not to be altered or changed. All must be saved on the same principles. (TPJS, p. 308)

The order of the house of God has been, and ever will be, the same, even after Christ comes; and after the termination of the thousand years it will be the same; and we shall finally enter into the celestial kingdom of God, and enjoy it forever. (TPJS, p. 91)

It signifies, then, that the ordinances must be kept in the very way God has appointed; otherwise their Priesthood will prove a cursing instead of a blessing. (TPJS, p. 169)

Wilford Woodruff, in 1860, also agreed:

If you were to meet with Father Adam, with Seth, Moses, Aaron, Christ, or the Apostles, they would all teach the same principles that we have been taught; they would not vary one particle. This Gospel is everlasting in its nature and unchangeable in its character. (JD 8:265)

A church should act as a vehicle to carry and distribute these eternal principles of the Gospel to the nations of the world. There are many churches, just as there are many different kinds of vehicles. All churches carry varying types and degrees of principles-some true and some false. As the Prophet Joseph Smith said:

I cannot believe in any of the creeds of the different denominations, because they all have some things in them I cannot subscribe to, though all of them have some truth. (TPJS, p. 327)

[47]         Brigham Young also stated:

It has often been told you that all people, sects, and denominations have more or less truth. None of the religious sects have a perfect system of salvation, though all of them have a portion of true doctrine, and suppose they have a perfect plan. (JD 8:259)

It is interesting to recall that after the resurrection of Christ, He appeared to His disciples and instructed them on the work of the ministry. Then He appeared on the American continent and set up another Church with offices and officers just as He did in Jerusalem. Both churches existed at the same time. He organized 12 apostles with the same ministry, the same ordinances and laws as His other church. Then He mentioned going on to another people, probably giving them the same Gospel:

And verily, verily, I say unto you that I have other sheep which are not of this land, neither of the land of Jerusalem, neither in any parts of that land round about whither I have been to minister. For they of whom I speak are they who have not as yet heard my voice; neither have I at any time manifested myself unto them. But I have received a commandment of the Father that I shall go unto them, and that they shall hear my voice, and shall be numbered among my sheep, that there may be one fold and one shepherd; therefore I go to show myself unto them. (3 Nephi 16:1-3)

Churches Can Fall Away

Although Christ Himself established a church among the Jews and the Israelites, and another among the Nephites, both fell into error and apostasy. The leaders were allowed to lead the members astray because neither was worthy of any better.

[48]         This church that Christ established in the meridian of time became an apostate church, not suddenly, but by the gradual departure from true principles and then the substitution of false principles. Elder B. H. Roberts noted:

We have seen by what has already been said, that even in the time of the Apostles there was a tendency on the part of the Christians to depart from the religion of Jesus Christ; that after the days of the Apostles there was a steady increase in the number and influence of false teachers; an insidious introduction of heresies; a multiplication of rites and ceremonies well known in the pagan celebration of religious mysteries, but entirely foreign to the Gospel; and an amalgamation of pagan doctrines with Christian principles. It remains to be shown that there was a marked loss of spirituality; a rapid growth of pride and worldliness on the part of Christian bishops and other church leaders: and at last, an utter departure from the true and living God and Jesus Christ whom He had sent, and the establishment of a system in its place, as debasing to men as it was dishonorable to God. (DHC 1, Intro., p. lxviii)

Thus, it is important to learn that both men and churches may change their organizations and beliefs, but true principles never change. John Taylor and Orson Pratt also maintained this same position:

There are many changes and shifting scenes that may influence the position of mankind, under different circumstances, in this state of mortality; but they cannot influence or change the Gospel of the Son of God, or the eternal truths of heaven; they remain unchangeable; as it is said very properly by the Church of England, in one of their homilies, “as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, worlds without end.” If nothing else they say is true, that is, and I can say amen to it, with all my heart. All true principles are right, and if properly understood and [49] appreciated by the human family, to them they are a fountain of eternal good. (John Taylor, JD 1:222)

But the Latter-day Saints have their Church founded on true principles, law, and order-principles revealed from heaven, that all on the earth, and in the eternal worlds may be saved on pure principles, and pure principles only. (Orson Pratt, JD 7:88)

Brigham Young explained how Gospel principles are true and eternal, but the people who teach them are imperfect and fallible-not just in Christ’s time, but in ours as well:

The principles of the gospel are perfect, but are the Apostles who teach it perfect? No, they are not. Now, bringing the two together, what they taught is not for me to say, but it is enough to say this, that through the weaknesses in the lives of the Apostles many were caused to err. Our historians and ministers tell us that the church went into the wilderness, but they were in the wilderness all the time. They had the way marked out to get out of the wilderness and go straightforward into the Kingdom of God, but they took various paths, and the two substantial churches that remain-a remnant from the apostles, that divided-are now called the Holy Catholic Church and the Greek Church. You recollect reading in the Revelations of John what the angel said to John, when he was on the Isle of Patmos, about the Seven Churches. What was the matter with those churches? They were not living according to the light that had been exhibited. Do the Latter-day Saints live according to the light that has been exhibited to them? No, they do not. (JD 12:66-67)

By now, it should be very clear that the true Gospel of Jesus Christ does not change. Paul the Apostle noted that men within the Church who wanted to change the Gospel were a greater danger to the Church than opposition by enemies from outside the Church:

[50]         I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. (Gal. 1:6-8)

This condition proved to be the reason for the final overthrow of the Church of Jesus Christ. Persecution and opposition to the Church did not destroy it, but rather those within the rank and file that changed it, causing the Church to lose its priesthood, its spiritual gifts, and its power with God.

Reasons given in the past for changes in the Church have been varied, i.e.:

  1. To conform with the laws of the land
  2. To comply with customs, fashions, and traditions of the world
  3. To comply with new and strange philosophies
  4. To gain social and/or political positions
  5. To gain economic favors
  6. To popularize and increase prestige of the Church
  7. To gain acceptance and favors of the worldly

Ironically, the pressure for these changes usually comes from Church members themselves. The Prophet Joseph Smith warned the Saints what would happen if Zion and the Church members did not remain pure:

. . . the Lord will have a place whence His word will go forth, in these last days, in purity; for if Zion will not purify herself, so as to be approved of in all things in His sight, He will seek another people, for His work will go on until Israel is gathered, and they who will not hear His voice, must expect to feel His wrath. (DHC 1:316)


The Importance of the Priesthood

How does the Priesthood fit into this discussion of the Church and the Gospel? The LDS Church was organized by the power and authority of the Priesthood, as was the Church of Christ in the meridian of time and any other time the true Church has been established on earth. The Church and all of its offices are appendages of the Priesthood, as the Lord has revealed:

All other authorities or offices in the church are appendages to this priesthood. * * * The Melchizedek Priesthood holds the right of presidency, and has power and authority over all the offices in the church in all ages of the world, to administer in spiritual things. The Presidency of the High Priesthood, after the order of Melchizedek, have a right to officiate in all the offices in the church. (D & C 107:5, 8-9)

So the true Church is organized and should be operated by Priesthood power. However, the Church can operate without it, as was done in the past when it abandoned the laws of the Priesthood. It still continues-usually without knowing that it is functioning without Priesthood anymore. For example, Catholicism began as the true Church, and after 2000 years of apostasy, they still think they have the Priesthood.

When someone is baptized and confirmed into the Church of Jesus Christ, it is an ordinance contracting him into both the temporal and spiritual Church of Christ. It is not a written contract with a corporation or a tax-exempt foundation; it is a spiritual covenant.


Our Responsibility

The importance for us today is to know clearly the difference between the Church and the Gospel, as the course [52] we take in following one or the other will probably determine our salvation-or exaltation. Mankind can be saved according to the light and knowledge they have and according to the correct principles they have lived. Exaltation can be achieved only by obedience to the fullness of the Gospel.

All the principles necessary for a person to achieve exaltation were given to the Prophet Joseph Smith. Whatever anyone may claim or believe is true, it should agree with the Gospel as revealed to him, for he said:

When did I ever teach anything wrong from this stand? When was I ever confounded? I want to triumph in Israel before I depart hence and am no more seen. I never told you I was perfect; but there is no error in the revelations which I have taught. (TPJS, p. 368)

Salvation is merely being saved in any one of God’s kingdoms; but exaltation is for the few who embrace the fullness of the Gospel-no matter what the majority of the Church membership choose to do.

To summarize:

  1. The Church and the Gospel are two different entities: one is an organization, a congregation; the other is a set of principles,              doctrines, and ordinances.
  2. The Church is a vehicle-a schoolhouse-through which the Gospel can be taught and administered, but oftentimes it fails to operate with a      fullness of Gospel principles.
  3. True principles, ordinances, and doctrines are eternal and unchangeable in their nature.


  1. Even the majority vote of Church members cannot change the truthfulness and eternal nature of Gospel principles and doctrines.
  2. All churches carry some truth and correct principles, but seldom do any of them have a fullness of the Gospel.
  3. As a church deviates from true principles, it falls into apostasy and loses power with God. Churches in all dispensations have been guilty of       this weakness.
  4. Although the Savior Himself established two churches in the meridian of time, both the people and their leaders, because of their free agency,            were allowed to go astray.
  5. The true church is organized and should be operated by the power of the Priesthood, and all its offices are appendages to the Priesthood.
  6. Our salvation or exaltation is dependent upon the principles of the Gospel that we embrace and live.


[54]                              Chapter 5


The Importance of Spiritual Gifts

The Latter-day Saints profess to believe in spiritual gifts. Indeed we say that the true Church of Jesus Christ must have those gifts to be the true church.

We believe in the gift of tongues, prophecy, revelation, visions, healing, interpretation of tongues, etc. (7th Article of Faith)

Many spiritual gifts were given to the ancient prophets, apostles and righteous saints. Miracles were performed which were called blessings, gifts, and signs. These gifts and blessings were evidences that God acknowledged them as His people. Even the great high priests of the Sanhedrin acknowledged that Jesus had power to do miracles. They admitted it by saying to Him, “We know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.” (John 3:2) This was an indication that these miracles were from God, and it was a testimony to the divinity of his Priesthood.

Christ performed miracles as foretold by Isaiah (35:5, 6; 42:7), but not to astonish people nor to satisfy their demands [55] and curiosity. Even when asked for such a sign, he refused (See Luke 11:18.), and He never did any miracle for His own benefit. Neither did He perform miracles for publicity. He often told them to keep such a thing secret. (Mark 1:43,44; 5:43; 9:9) In his own extreme hunger he would not change the stones to bread; yet he multiplied the bread and fish for others who were hungry. Neither would he ask for the power of Divine intervention while suffering on the cross, yet he brought others back to life.

We should not seek after signs in order to become believers; yet, if we are believers, these signs should follow. Moroni emphasized the importance of these gifts:

I would exhort you that ye deny not the power of God; for he worketh by power, according to the faith of the children of men, the same today and tomorrow, and forever.

And again, I exhort you, my brethren, that ye deny not the gifts of God, for they are many; and they come from the same God. And there are different ways that these gifts are administered; but it is the same God who worketh all in all; and they are given by the manifestations of the Spirit of God unto men, to profit them. (Moroni 10:7-8)

In the study of the life of Christ, it is interesting to note that He did not heal everyone that was sick-often by-passing some to heal only one individual. (See John 5:3, 5.) Although He had such great powers to perform miracles, yet when he “came into his own country” and among His own people, “he did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief.” (Matt. 13:58)

Diminishing of Spiritual Gifts

These wonderful gifts, powers and blessings gradually diminished in the Christian era when the Church went into [56] apostasy. At the present time, many of the Christian churches rationalize and say that those blessings were given only to help the Church get started: However, Jesus said:

“These signs shall follow them that believe.” If they were to be of no particular use or benefit to the believer, it is not reasonable to suppose that Jesus would have promised them. Modern Christendom asserts that these signs were given, not so much for the benefit of believers, as for the convincing of unbelievers. The servants of God, it is said, wrought signs and wonders to establish the divine authenticity of their calling and message. Signs followed, they assert, that all people might know believers from unbelievers-the true Church from every other church. (Orson Pratt’s Works, p. 82)

These spiritual gifts always exist with a true church and among the true Saints of God:

Whenever the power of Priesthood has operated through an organized church on the earth, the members have been strengthened in their faith and otherwise blessed in numerous related ways, by the possession of these gifts. We may safely regard the existence of these spiritual powers as one of the essential characteristics of the Church; where they are not, the Priesthood of God does not operate. (Articles of Faith, Talmage, p. 217)

The world suffered from a loss of spiritual gifts soon after the inspired Apostles of Christ died. Only a form of the Church was left-mostly its offices and government. However, this was not because the Lord had forsaken them; rather because they had forsaken the Lord. The Priesthood can operate only on certain laws and ordinances, and when they are changed or deleted, then spiritual gifts are lost.

[57]         The Book of Mormon explains why these gifts would never be discontinued:

And I would exhort you, my beloved brethren, that ye remember . . . that all these gifts of which I have spoken, which are spiritual, never will be done away, even as long as the world shall stand, ONLY according to the unbelief of the children of men. (Moroni 10:19)

Many other gifts came with the restoration of the Priesthood, such as the gift of translation, seership, and written revelations. God freely gave them but gradually they have been disappearing. The Prophet gives the same reason why-lack of faith and unbelief:

Because faith is wanting, the fruits are. No man since the world was had faith without having something along with it. The ancients quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, women received their dead, etc. By faith the worlds were made. A man who has none of the gifts has no faith; and he deceives himself, if he supposes he has. Faith has been wanting, not only among the heathen, but in professed Christendom also, so that tongues, healings, prophecy, and prophets and apostles, and all the gifts and blessings have been wanting. (TPJS, p. 270)

The Melchizedek Priesthood is the principle power and authority through which the gifts of the Gospel are manifest. When those gifts are lost, then Priesthood power is lost.

Do the Latter-day Saints today enjoy all of these gifts which were so prevalent at the beginning of the restoration? If not, then something is wrong. Heber C. Kimball summed it up by saying:

[58]         Are you faithful to your vows? If you are, you will have dreams, and visions, and revelations from the world of light, and you will be comforted by night and by day. But if you do not fulfill your covenants, you cannot enjoy these blessings. (JD 3:112)

Identifying Spiritual Gifts

Paul the Apostle listed nine of these gifts. (See I Cor. 12:8-10.) Moroni recognized the same nine with only a slight variation. (See Moroni 10:9-16.) The main difference in the gifts mentioned by these two great men was that Paul said “discerning of spirits,” and Moroni used the words “beholding of angels and ministering spirits”.

The Lord revealed a similar list of gifts to the Prophet Joseph Smith with the addition of a few more, including the discerning of the source of these gifts and powers. (See D & C 46:13-27.)

All these wonderful gifts and powers are manifest whenever and wherever the Spirit of God is found. Matthew Cowley explained the conditions that need to exist in order for the gifts of the spirit to be manifest:

. . . the gifts of the Spirit are enjoyed by the Saints, not merely in isolated cases, but wherever the Saints are united; live in harmony with the spirit and precepts of the gospel. * * * It may be said truly that wherever pure faith, unity, and zealous devotion exist, there is no dearth of the gifts of the Gospel. (Imp. Era 2:448-449)

Apostle Orson Pratt gives the main reasons why gifts of the Spirit are manifest:

. . . these gifts were given for the perfecting of the Saints, and if you are Saints, where are your gifts? [59] For does it not follow that if you have no gifts, you are either perfect Saints or not Saints at all? For if you are not perfect Saints, these gifts must be among you. Do you know any way to perfect Saints independent of these gifts? I do not. (JD. 14:180)

In the midst of all these conflicting opinions, the humble servant of God comes forth and boldly declares that no church can be the true church, unless they obey the words of Christ and enjoy the signs of believers. He testifies with authority that all the promises of Jesus will be fulfilled while there is one believer upon the face of the earth to be perfected and saved. He testifies that all who deny that signs will follow them that believe, are unbelievers, who, according to the words of Christ, must be damned. (Orson Pratt’s Works, pp. 82-83)

Where are Spiritual Gifts Today?

The President of the LDS Church is called as a “Prophet, Seer, and Revelator”. Joseph Smith said that all the Apostles were also to be sustained as such:

I then called upon the quorums and congregation of Saints to acknowledge the Twelve Apostles, who were present, as Prophets, Seers, Revelators, and special witnesses to all the nations of the earth, holding the keys of the kingdom. . . . (TPJS, p. 109)

With this calling, these men should possess and use such instruments as seer stones. In fact, Brigham Young quoted the Prophet Joseph as saying that all men are entitled to a seer stone:

Dec. 27, 1841: I met with the Twelve at Brother Joseph’s. He conversed with us in a familiar manner on a variety of subjects, and explained to us the Urim and Thummim which he found with the plates, called in the Book of Mormon the Interpreters. He said that every [60] man who lived on the earth was entitled to a seer stone, and should have one, but they are kept from them in consequence of their wickedness, and most of those who do find one make an evil use of it; he showed us his seer stone. (Mill. Star 26:118)

Where is the church or church leader today that even claims to have a Urim and Thummim or is using a seer stone? Yet this is one of the spiritual gifts that God@s prophets are entitled to in directing them in the work of God. Even in 1878 Orson Pratt noticed the absence of this gift:

This failure to realize all the blessings and powers of the Priesthood does not apply to the elders and lesser Priesthood only; but it applies to the higher quorums, and comes home to ourselves, who are Apostles of Jesus Christ. We are presented before the Church, and sustained as prophets, seers and revelators, and we have received oftentimes the gift of prophecy and revelation, and have received many great and glorious gifts. But have we received the fullness of the blessings to which we are entitled? No, we have not. Who among the Apostles have become seers, and enjoy all the gifts and powers pertaining to that calling? (JD 25:145)

Joseph F. Smith also spoke of the responsibility upon Church leaders:

If the time or condition should ever come to pass that a man, possessing human weaknesses, shall lead the Church, woe be to the Church; for it will then become like the churches of the world, man-made and man-led, and have no power of God or of life eternal and salvation connected with it; only the wisdom, the judgment and intelligence of man. (Gospel Doctrine, 7th ed., pp. 138-39)

Much more could be said about the dwindling existence of spiritual gifts today, but the reader should ask himself when [61] was the last time he heard, for example, the gift of speaking in tongues, or interpreting tongues? And these are the least of the spiritual gifts of God.

To Summarize:

  1. Many Saints in former dispensations, churches during the time of Christ, and early years of the restoration were blessed with powerful spiritual        gifts.
  2. These gifts were granted to people who obeyed Gospel principles, but as they failed to keep those laws and commandments, the gifts were lost.
  3. The Church of Jesus Christ on both continents gradually lost those gifts through their apostasy.
  4. Mormonism teaches that these gifts should always remain with the true church and should never be lost or done away.
  5. The New Testament, Book of Mormon, and Doctrine and Covenants all contain similar lists of the many spiritual gifts God has provided for the   faithful Saints.
  6. Many men have been called to be prophets, seers, and revelators, but few really attain to that status and enjoy those spiritual gifts.
  7. Since Melchizedek Priesthood is the power through which spiritual gifts are manifested, when those gifts are lost, Priesthood power is also lost.
  8. There has been a conspicuous loss of these gifts, powers and blessings among Latter-day Saints in this century.


[62]                              Chapter 6


The Lord’s Missionary System

The Lord had a special program for missionary work-it was for His servants to devote full time to the spiritual call of preaching the Gospel. The manner He prescribed was to go without purse or scrip, meaning they were not to take a wallet or money (or credit cards) with them. It was a very unusual system by worldly standards, but one that certainly promoted faith and humility.

  1. H. Roberts reviewed this method of preaching the Gospel:

The organization of the Seventy by the Savior is alluded to in the tenth chapter of Luke as follows: “After these things the Lord appointed other seventy also, <From this it appears that quorums of seventy had been appointed previous to this.> and sent them two and two before His face into every city and place, whither He Himself would come. Therefore said He unto them, The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that He would send forth laborers into His harvest. Go your way: behold, I send you forth as lambs among wolves. Carry neither purse nor scrip, nor shoes: and salute no man by the way. And into whatsoever house ye enter, first say, Peace be to this house. And if the Son of peace be there, your peace shall rest upon it: if not, it [63] shall turn to you again. And in the same house remain, eating and drinking such things as they give: for the laborer is worthy of his hire. Go not from house to house.” That is, while these men were sent forth without purse and scrip it was evidently not the intention of the Lord that they should beg from door to door. Continuing His instructions, the Master said: “And into whatsoever city ye enter, and they receive you, eat such things as are set before you: and heal the sick that are therein, and say unto them, The kingdom of God is come nigh unto you. But into whatsoever city ye enter, and they receive you not, go your ways out into the streets of the same, and say, Even the very dust of your city, which cleaveth on us, we do wipe off against you, notwithstanding be ye sure of this, that the kingdom of God is come nigh unto you. But I say unto you, that it shall be more tolerable in that day for Sodom, than for that city. * * * He that heareth you heareth me; and he that despiseth you despiseth me, and he that despiseth me despiseth Him that sent me.” The seventy, it appears went forth under these instructions and were successful, for Luke continues: “And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through Thy name.” After this very plain allusion to this order of the Priesthood called the Seventy, these instructions and the definitions given of their duties and callings, there can be no doubt as to their constituting an important factor in the Christian Church Organization. (DHC 2:201-202, footnote)

Matthew and Mark recorded similar instructions by the Savior:

Provide neither gold, nor silver, nor brass in your purses, nor scrip for your journey, neither two coats, neither shoes, nor yet staves: for the workman is worthy of his meat. (Matt. 10:9-10)

And he called unto him the twelve, and began to send them forth by two and two; and gave them power [64] over unclean spirits; and commanded them that they should take nothing for their journey, save a staff only; no scrip, no bread, no money in their purse: but be shod with sandals; and not put on two coats. (Mark 6:7-9)

It is interesting to note that there is a difference in these two passages as to whether or not it is permissible to take a staff or shoes; but they both agree that no purse or scrip are to be taken.

In every age of the world, traveling “without purse or scrip” has been the Lord’s method of doing missionary work. Every true prophet and apostle has had the experience of placing his faith and trust in God while engaged in the labors of His ministry.

We read how Elijah the prophet was three times fed by divine intervention; and when the widow woman took him in and fed him, she was blessed so that her “barrel of meal wasted not, neither did the cruse of oil fail, according to the word of the Lord, which he spake by Elijah.” (I Kings 17:16)

When the ancient prophet Alma came into a wicked city, God had already prepared the way for him:

And as he entered the city he was an hungered, and he said to a man: Will ye give to an humble servant of God something to eat? And the man said unto him: I am a Nephite, and I know that thou art a holy prophet of God, for thou art the man whom an angel said in a vision: Thou shalt receive. Therefore, go with me into my house and I will impart unto thee of my food; and I know that thou wilt be a blessing unto me and my house. (Alma 8:19-20)

In July of 1830, only four months after the organization of the Church, the Lord gave a revelation to His missionaries [65] to take “no purse or scrip, neither two coats.” (D & C 24:18) Two years later the Lord re-affirmed this principle to the Saints:


And again I say unto you, my friends, for from henceforth I shall call you friends, it is expedient that I give unto you this commandment, that ye become even as my friends in days when I was with them, traveling to preach the gospel in my power; For I suffered them not to have purse or scrip, neither two coats. Behold I send you out to prove the world, and the laborer is worthy of his hire.

And any man that shall go and preach this gospel of the kingdom, and fail not to continue faithful in all things, shall not be weary in mind, neither darkened, neither in body, limb, nor joint; and a hair of his head shall not fall to the ground unnoticed. And they shall not go hungry, neither athirst.

Therefore, take ye no thought for the morrow, for what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, or wherewithal ye shall be clothed. (D & C 84:77-81)

Brigham Young commented:

. . . where would be our glory and reward, to go from here to Europe, and travel East to China and home again, having been preaching several years, with our pockets full of gold? Where, then, is your great ability? In your pockets-in the gold so much adored. But take the men that can travel the earth over, preach the Gospel without purse or scrip, and then go to and lay their plans to gather the Saints. That looks like the work of angels. Does it not look like the work of beings superior to the common people? (JD 8:353, 1861)

Because of the importance of this system of missionary work, only the best men were to be selected and ordained as missionaries. Joseph Smith warned:

[66]         On the subject of ordination, a few words are necessary. In many instances there has been too much haste in this thing, and the admonition of Paul has been too slightingly passed over, which said, “Lay hands suddenly upon no man.” Some have been ordained to the ministry, and have never acted in that capacity, or magnified their calling at all. Such may expect to lose their appointment, except they awake and magnify their office. Let the Elders abroad be exceedingly careful upon this subject, and when they ordain a man to the holy ministry, let him be a faithful man, who is able to teach others also; that the cause of Christ suffer not. It is not the multitude of preachers that is to bring about the glorious millennium! but it is those who are “called, and chosen, and faithful.” * * *

Be careful about sending boys to preach the Gospel to the world; . . . (TPJS, p. 42, 43)

For missionaries to go without purse or scrip because it was a commandment from the Lord, was a terrible affront to ministers who used the ministry for gaining wealth. When Christ again revealed this missionary system in our dispensation, it caused much persecution-mainly from the ministers of religion! Most of them, even today, have made a business out of the work of the Lord. This negative response was recalled in 1871 by George A. Smith:

Our organization as a church differs widely from almost every other. For instance, almost every denomination has, in its organization, a plan for the support of a minister-a salaried gentleman. When we commenced to preach the Gospel to the world without purse or scrip, without money or price, these ministers were generally the first to raise the hue and cry, to tar and feather, and throw rotten eggs at us; to drive us from our homes and tear down our habitations; and in every mob, from the commencement to the close of the persecutions, were to be found men professing to be ministers of the Gospel; and although the denominations to which they belonged might not be [67] disposed to persecute, yet they disgraced them by taking part in such proceedings. (JD 14:214-215)

Only true servants of God would venture into the ministry without purse or scrip. Such a system required exceptional faith in God and would discourage frauds from making an enterprise out of it. It was a wise and precise method of sifting the dross from the genuine. The faithless, the conniving, and the unappointed, would shrink from such a call.

Very few men would even consider going into the ministry without purse or scrip unless they had a sincere testimony of its being the Lord’s way.

Why Preach Without Purse or Scrip?

There are many reasons why the Lord has given this commandment to preach the Gospel without purse or scrip:

  1. To increase the faith of the missionary
  2. To gain a testimony
  3. To bless those who assist the missionaries
  4. To increase the spirit of revelation
  5. To weed out frauds and priestcraft
  6. To discern true disciples
  7. To be a modern miracle
  8. To be an example of a true principle
  9. To show that God will sustain that system
  10. To allow even the poor to be missionaries
  11. To prove who has charity
  12. To be an effective means of judgment
  13. To bring men closer to God.

The following brief passages are just a sample of those that support each of these reasons:


  1. To increase the faith of the missionary

As a missionary preaching without purse or scrip, one develops more and more faith in God.

Every young man who goes out-as in the case of our young men who are constantly going-goes without purse or scrip. What is the result? They have to feel after God. If they want a pair of pantaloons, they have to ask God to obtain them. If they want a meal of victuals, they have to exercise faith on this account. In sending out my sons to preach the Gospel, or having them go, I would not give them one dollar to go with; and while I am on this subject I will say, the father who gives his sons money to go and preach the Gospel, does them the greatest injury he can do. I would not do it if I had millions at my disposal. I would not give them a dollar. Let them go out and feel after God, and obtain a knowledge of God, through faith and through mighty prayer. When a man is hungry; when a man is without friends; when a man has no place to sleep, he will, if he believes in God, and His gifts, be certain to go to Him and ask Him to furnish that which he needs, and when his prayers are answered, he has greater faith next time. (George Q. Cannon, JD 24:345-356)

  1. To gain a testimony

One of the first fruits realized by the Elder is that this is the Lord’s way of doing missionary work. His testimony grows because of witnessing that hidden Hand providing for his needs.

When we parted with our companion <wife>, we left with her what money we had, as we felt that we were then starting out on the Lord’s errand, and that it was our bounden duty to go just as Jesus had commanded, without purse or script, having no fears but that the Lord would provide, by putting it in the hearts of the people to entertain us with necessary food [69] and lodging, which, we are happy to say, was done. (Ebenezer Robinson, The Return, July 1889, p. 105)

  1. To bless those who assist the missionaries

The Lord has made several promises to those who assist the missionaries; great blessings would come to people if they even gave them a glass of water!

He that receiveth you receiveth me, and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me.

He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet@s reward: and he that receiveth a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward.

And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward. (Matt. 10:40-42)

This is the Lord’s way. <helping those who preach without purse or scrip> Blessings beyond all earthly reckoning await those who thus give and those who receive. Herein is prescribed a test whereby we may know who are, indeed, the Lord’s disciples. (James E. Talmage, Mill. Star, 88:249)

  1. To increase the spirit of revelation

When a missionary is in dire need of food or lodging, the Lord will reveal to him where to go or who to see. As the Elder experiences that spirit of revelation, it will increase in power and be an everlasting guide in his life.

We talk sometimes about going without purse and scrip. I have travelled hundreds and thousands of miles that way, and if I were going on a mission, I would rather go trusting in God than in the President of the United States, the Queen of England, the [70] Emperor of France, Austria, or Russia, or any king or potentate on earth. If they were to say to me, “You may go and preach your gospel in our dominions, and we will see you provided for,” I would rather trust in God than in any of them. These are my feelings and that is my experience. Why? Because I might be in situations where their munificence could not reach me, but I could not be in a place where the Lord God could not see me, for His eyes are over all the earth, and His angels will guard and His Spirit will comfort and sustain His servants. (John Taylor, JD 12:22-23)

  1. To weed out frauds and priestcraft

Ministers who use the Gospel as a business and for merchandising are readily discouraged from this missionary system.

How many ministers act as if they considered the house of the Lord a market place! With them the only question is to get the most remunerative position possible. This is the objectionable feature of a stipulated salary for preachers. Were there no money in preaching, only those who were called by God and felt it a duty to obey would engage in it. Then the power of the Gospel would go with its proclamation and Christianity would be saved from being a farce. (Mill. Star, 55:299, as quoted from the Des. News)

  1. To discern true disciples

Seeing a man teaching the Gospel without purse or scrip would indicate that he was acting according to the instructions given by the Lord. Others would immediately know he was not preaching the Gospel as a form of priestcraft.

We then entered the town and called at a hotel. We told the landlord that we had come in the name of Jesus Christ to preach the gospel to the people, being [71] sent by Him without purse or scrip. “Well,” said he, “you are welcome to my house and such fare as we have; and we will meet together and hear your religion, and if it proves to be better than ours, we will embrace it; for we confess that our religion is to fiddle and dance, and eat and drink, and be merry, and gamble and swear a little; and we believe this is better than priestcraft.” (Autobiography of Parley P.Pratt, pp. 66-67)

And he that doeth not these things <helps not the missionaries> is not my disciple; by this you may know my disciples. (D & C 84:91)

  1. To be a modern miracle

Doing missionary work nowdays in the manner the Lord prescribed is revolutionary. Modern ministers have never tried it. It is so bizarre as to be unbelievable.

This generation have been calling a long time for miracles; but one of the greatest miracles in the last days, in my estimation, is the fact that scores and hundreds of missionaries of the Latter-day Saints are traveling the globe, going from nation to nation, upon the principles that the ancient Apostles traveled-namely, without purse or scrip. Is not that a miracle? Has there any such thing happened before for many generations as people traveling over the whole earth, starting from their homes without purse or scrip? * * *

Says one, that looks rather hard. It does not look hard at all; for that same God that gave the commandment is able to bear you up; he is able to sustain you. * * * The Lord will always provide some way to get along; and the faithful servant of God has nothing to fear only his own weakness and his own imperfections and follies; these things he has to fear the most. (Orson Pratt, JD 6:270-271)

  1. To be an example of a true principle

The Lord has designated this missionary system as a part of the Gospel. It was not to be enacted differently in each dispensation. Since the Gospel is unchangeable and eternal, and since human nature is still the same, so missionary work should remain the same.

Now if you will preach the same Gospel, you will preach the same principles precisely that were taught not only by Paul, Peter, James, and John, but by all the rest of their fellow servants. And when men received the Holy Ghost, they spake with other tongues, and prophesied. In order to tell whether people have embraced the true Gospel or not, we need only to look at their fruits, for by their fruits shall ye know them, says the Savior. (Jedediah M. Grant, JD 2:231)


Therefore, let no man among you, for this commandment is unto all the faithful who are called of God in the church unto the ministry, from this hour take purse or scrip, that goeth forth to proclaim this gospel of the kingdom. (D & C 84:86)

  1. To show that God will sustain that system

If God has proposed this plan, He is bound to make it work. If it is not His work or His plan, then it would certainly fail. He has always sustained His missionaries and has promised that He always will.

We <Council of Twelve> are aware that it is something contrary to the feelings of most men, to undertake such a journey without purse or scrip, entirely dependant on the arm of Jehovah. However, it has been done, and those that have gone forth trusting in the name of the Lord, have found His promise true, and have not been suffered to lack any good thing. Let not the faithful laborers be discouraged, but let them [73] gird up their loins, and ever be prepared to move in the direction their Heavenly Father would have them go, and labor with all their mights, for a great work remains to be accomplished, and the laborers are but few. If the Lord’s people be a willing people in the day of his power, then every obstacle can be overcome, every difficulty can be surmounted, and the work will roll forth with power and great glory. (Times and Seasons 2:487)

Capt. Wm. G. Young’s train arrived in G.S.L. City with the last of this season’s immigration. Among the returning Elders in this train was A. Milton Musser, who returned home from a five years’ mission to India and England, during which he had circumnavigated the globe, traveling as a missionary “without purse and scrip”. (Church Chronology, Andrew Jensen, Sept. 26, 1857)

  1. To allow even the poor to be missionaries

The Lord seeks for spiritual people to do His work, and it seems that seldom do the rich qualify for the task. When men rely on money, they lose trust in God. Yet if the ministry was to be paid for by the missionary, it would prohibit many spiritual, but poor people from being missionaries.

It is with no ordinary feelings that I reflect back to the 8th day of August, 1839, at which time I took the parting hand with my wife, family, and friends in general at Montrose, and with a trembling step bore my feeble body (which was suffering under the power of the chills and fever) to the banks of the Mississippi, where I was conveyed over in a canoe in company with Elder John Taylor for the purpose of taking a mission to England, and that too without purse or scrip, not even so much as one penny at my command or control. Yes, Brethren, it was under such circumstances that I started on my mission by the commandment of God to go a journey of more than five thousand miles, for the [74] purpose of assisting in warning one of the greatest nations upon the face of the earth, to repent of their sins, obey the gospel, and prepare for the judgments which are to come. But notwithstanding my situation was such that I was under the necessity of walking by faith and not by sight, yet, I can say of a truth, with a thankful heart before the Lord, that I have lacked nothing as touching food, raiment, means, or friends in all my journey either by land or sea; for which blessings I feel to render up the gratitude of my heart unto my Heavenly Father. (Wilford Woodruff, Times and Seasons 2:311)

  1. To prove who has charity

No other method is as effective in proving those who believe in the commandments to love God and their fellowmen. God provides this simple method to test people’s heart and soul and to see if they really believe the scriptures.

How often I have talked about the missionary system of Christendom! It is true that we do not believe in it exactly as they do, for we believe in sending out men without purse or scrip, that they may prove the people and see who will or will not feed a servant of God; and in this manner our Elders have traversed almost every nation on the face of the globe. (Brigham Young, JD 14:222)

  1. To be an effective means of judgment

To judge the integrity of someone, there must be actions to judge. No principle has been so clearly established for this purpose as traveling without purse or scrip.

This was the instruction of the Savior in His day; and if we enter a house and the people receive us not, then we should go away and return not again to that house, and wash our feet with pure water, as a [75] testimony against them in the day of judgment, and thus bear witness unto the Lord that we have offered them salvation, that we have sought to preach them the Gospel of peace and desired to administer unto them a blessing. The same is applicable to a town, village, or city that rejects you. In this way you do your duty and leave them in the hands of the Lord. (Franklin D. Richards, JD 26:1-2)

It is evident to our mind that some of the reasons that the Almighty had in view in commanding the Elders to go forth two by two without purse and scrip were, that they might the more speedily and thoroughly accomplish the work and prove the nations, that they might be left without excuse, and that He might be justified in pouring down the judgments upon them predicted by the prophets. (Elder E. Davis, Mill. Star 48:515)

  1. To bring men closer to God

When men are brought into trying circumstances, they usually seek for God’s help. Certainly traveling without purse or scrip draws a man closer to God.

It would be a very hard thing for many people in this day to do as the Apostles did in former days, that is to go without purse or scrip, trusting in God for their sustenance, to preach the principles of life to mankind. It has never been considered a hard thing by the Elders of this Church to pursue that course. Inspired by the Spirit of God they feel as God feels towards the human family-a desire to bless, comfort, and instruct and to lead them in the paths of life. God places this principle in the hearts of his servants-it emanates from him and is part of his nature; and inasmuch as the Elders are dictated by this spirit in their acts insomuch do they resemble their Heavenly Father, who is full of benevolence and “causes his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and makes the rain to descend on the just and on the unjust;” and hence whenever we become [76] acquainted with the principles of life ourselves, we feel a desire to communicate the same unto others, and I see those all around me, here in this assembly, who, as well as myself, have traveled thousands of miles-I have traveled hundreds of thousands-on the same principle as the ancient disciples did, trusting in God for sustenance while proclaiming the principles of life to the people. (John Taylor, JD 15:285)

The Evolution

Many a Mormon Elder did not have sufficient faith to travel in the ministry without purse or scrip. Eventually some of the missionaries had to ask parents or relatives to help them financially, and gradually it became a common practice in the Church. Before the turn of the century, the tendency to rely more on money than on God became prevalent, as the following quotations will show:


Some are of the opinion that an Elder now in going abroad must have ten or fifteen dollars a month from home to sustain him; and he desires to get some information on the subject. * * * The design of the Lord, as set forth in this revelation, was to enable the Elders to find His disciples, or those who were willing to receive the message He sent. . . . A man who goes without purse or scrip to preach the Gospel is compelled to be active in searching out the honest-in-heart. (Mill. Star 53:348-349)


“In the old days missionaries went out without purse or scrip, and depended on the Lord,” he (John W. Taylor) said. “That’s how my father went. That’s how I went on my mission to the Southern States. And let me tell you, Nettie, after you’ve missed a few meals, you really get the spirit.” He grinned. “No community is too hostile, no door too tightly closed, if you’re hungry enough. Today,” he shrugged, “Elders in the field get [77] money from home. They come to depend on the money and not on the Lord.” (Family Kingdom, Samuel W. Taylor, p. 79)


The Elders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who are sent out into the world as missionaries receive no pecuniary reward for their labors. They either travel on the ancient apostolic plan which Jesus gave to His Apostles, as recorded in Matthew 10:9-14, or pay their own expenses, sometimes aided by their relatives and friends at home * * *

Men called to go on missions have acquired means to pay their own way or have been supplied with them by their relatives. This has been more comfortable for them than traveling strictly without purse or scrip, but it is questionable whether these seeming advantages are really so, either to the Elders or the people to whom they are sent. (Charles Penrose, Mill. Star 69:88, 89)


While it is not our province, much less our purpose, to call in question the custom which seems to have become common to provide the elders in the countries of Europe as well as in some of the islands with the necessary funds for their support, it will not be out of place to mention that according to statements made, that in the main it costs from fifty cents to one dollar per day for each elder, while in some instances it reaches the sum of one dollar and fifty cents each day. (Liahona, The Elders Journal, Joseph A. McRae, ed., Aug. 15, 1911, p. 120)


Now I do not say that this <referring to preaching without purse or scrip> should be done now. I believe that as circumstances change, the Lord changes His commandments to correspond therewith. . . . So in these times conditions have changed very much from those times. (C. W. Penrose, Conf. Rept., Oct. 1921)



Beginning January 1, 1991, the amount required to cover the service-related expenses of a single missionary called from the United States or Canada will be U.S. $350 or Canadian $400 regardless of where the missionary serves. These figures may be adjusted in the future as circumstances change. (First Presidency letter, dated Nov. 20, 1990, sent to local and regional Church leaders to be read in Sacrament meetings; printed in Ensign, Feb. 1991, p. 78)

Exceptions to the Rule

There are certain occasions when it has not been wise to send out missionaries without some money. When the lives of the missionaries are in danger, they must resort to other measures. For example, in the days of Jesus, at one time he counseled some of those in the ministry not to go without purse or scrip:

Then said he unto them, But now, he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise his scrip: and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one. (Luke 22:36)

At one time they were not to carry a sword, and at another they should have one, as there was danger from hostility and they needed a sword for protection. Under such conditions, it was no use trying to go without purse or scrip as it would be a means of identification to police or mobs who were hostile against the true Saints of God traveling without purse or scrip. In some lands or cities there are even restrictions or laws against such a system:

There may be peculiar circumstances surrounding the servants of God in some lands. For instance, on the continent of Europe there are places where, if men travel without money on their person, they are liable to [79] be arrested and thrown into prison, as some of our Elders have been. But even under those circumstances a faithful Elder, who has constantly in view the words of the Lord respecting the manner in which he shall travel, will be able to fulfil the requirements which the Lord has made, and at the same time be able to avoid the penalties which are inflicted upon vagrants. (Mill. Star, editorial, 53:350)

In some parts of the world, it is true, an Elder traveling without visible means of support might be arrested as a tramp. * * * In places, where there is danger of being deprived of liberty because of being taken for paupers, sufficient money can be carried to demonstrate that they are not persons of that class. (Mill. Star 69:89)

So missionary instructions to go without purse or scrip were occasionally modified or even temporarily averted until conditions opened up for them to continue as before.

There has been a tendency in recent years to send young and unqualified young men into the missionfield. Some are even sent with the hope of “straightening them out” or to “convert” them to the Gospel. They are provided with money, cars, apartments, televisions, and allowed many other luxuries. How different from Joseph Smith’s instructions to be careful who is called to the ministry “that the cause of Christ suffer not.” (TPJS, p. 42)

A Reason to Rejoice

From one article in the Millennial Star the editor quoted D & C 84:77-78, “not to have purse or scrip”, and then explained:

There is no qualification about these words of the Lord; and though the revelation in which they are [80] contained was given in 1832, we know of no command that has changed their force since they were given. (Mill. Star 53:348)

And even to this day, there has never been a revelation changing that system. In fact, some missions have suggested that all the missionaries try it for a few weeks. In the Southern California Mission in 1948 the mission president, Oscar W. McConkie, received inspiration to send the missionaries into the field in that manner. They did so for two years and obtained the second highest number of baptisms of any mission in the Church. (The first was the German Mission, as many German people after the war were seeking church welfare.)

Today it is easier to follow traditional trends and make compromises “according to the rules of society”. As one author wrote:

Things are becoming institutionalized. The elders are getting used to money from home. The saints are getting used to sending it to them. The leaders are getting used to allowing it. What are they all getting used to? They are all getting used to faithlessness in an unrescinded commandment!

The whole matter hinges on whether the Lord actually revoked the commandment through His prophet, or not. If he revoked it, the church reacted in a mighty strange manner, not even informing those affected, the missionaries. If he didn’t, the church is . . . disobedient to the commandment. (The Saints vs. The Saints, Dean L. Rasmussen, p. 77)

It is disheartening to see some of the former principles and rules gradually fade away, as they brought experiences which cannot be obtained in any other way.

[81]         What greater triumph can man attain in this life than to know that he has been an obedient and faithful minister of Jesus Christ? Men can leave no better example to mankind or before God than to live an uncompromising life-faithful and obedient to the commandments of God. And that faithful and obedient servant who has performed his mission without purse or scrip will have an exceedingly great reason to rejoice. As the first Seventies of Christ “returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name,” there was even a greater reason to rejoice, for the Lord said, “Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven.” (Luke 10:20)!

To Summarize

  1. The Old Testament disciples who did missionary work traveled without purse or scrip as did the disciples of Christ. They were dependant upon         the Lord to sustain them in their labors, thus learning faith and                humility.
  2. As soon as the LDS Church was organized and a missionary system was established, the Lord revealed this commandment for the missionary work.       (1832)
  3. There are over a dozen reasons for individuals and the Church to use this method of preaching the Gospel.
  4. There has never been a revelation to change the commandment to go without purse or scrip.
  5. There have been a few exceptional times when it was temporarily not wise or safe to go without purse or scrip.
  6. Gradually there was a tendency to give money to the missionaries until they became dependant on it, and [82] eventually it became Church policy                for them to have money provided.
  7. When missionary work is done according to that commandment, there is a great reason to rejoice!


[83]                              Chapter 7


Scriptural and Early History

The calling and mission of the Seventy is unique. They have been associated with the mission of nearly all the chosen servants of God. Scripturally they are first mentioned among the ancient Israelites at the time of Moses:

And the Lord said unto Moses, Gather unto me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom thou knowest to be the elders of the people, and officers over them; and bring them unto the tabernacle of the congregation, that they may stand there with thee. And I will come down and talk with thee there: and I will take of the spirit which is upon thee, and will put it upon them; and they shall bear the burden of the people with thee, that thou bear it not thyself alone. (Num. 11:16-17)

And Moses went out, and told the people the words of the Lord, and gathered seventy men of the elders of the people, and set them round about the tabernacle. And the Lord came down in a cloud, and spake unto him, and took of the spirit that was upon him, and gave it unto the seventy elders: and it came to pass, that, when the spirit rested upon them, they prophesied, and did not cease. (Num. 11:24-25)


Referring to these passages in Numbers, B. H. Roberts, president of the Seventies, explained:

[84]         . . . it is fairly safe to conclude that the Seventy Elders of the two passages in question were really a quorum of the Seventy as we know it. (Seventies Course in Theology, First Year, p. 5)

Rulon S. Wells also spoke about these early Seventies:

The order of the Seventy is doubtless of ancient origin, as we may naturally conclude from the writings of Moses. (Ex. 24:1, 9, 11, and Num. 11:16, 17, 24, 25) These references to the Seventy, however, although very significant, are nevertheless so meager that we find difficulty in determining the nature of their duties or in connecting them with the subsequent organizations of that body, either in the meridian of time or in this latter-day dispensation. This much, however, is certain, that their calling was of high spiritual importance in the work of God. . . . (Imp. Era, Apr. 1930, p. 403)

Jesus established His Church with a council of Seventy and gave them power in the ministry. When they returned from their missionary activities, they reported astounding success:

And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name. * * * Behold I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you. (Luke 10:17, 19)

In our own dispensation the Lord again designated a quorum of men to be Seventies. It was established in 1835, just two weeks after 12 men were called to be Apostles. B. H. Roberts records Joseph Smith’s description of that occasion:

On the 28th of February, the Church in council assembled, commenced selecting certain individuals to be Seventies, from the number of those who went up to Zion with me in the camp; . . . (DHC 2:201)

[85]         B. H. Roberts’ explanation of how Joseph Smith set up the Seventies in Church government could be graphically represented as follows:





HIGH PRIESTS                             12 APOSTLES

ELDERS                                THE SEVENTY

Stakes                              Foreign Missions

Wards                                   Branches

The calling and office of the Seventy was not only an important part of Church organization, but an organizational part of the Melchizedek Priesthood. According to Bruce R. McConkie: “One of the ordained offices in the Melchizedek Priesthood is that of a Seventy.” (Mormon Doc., p. 707)

Called by Revelation

The selecting of the Twelve and the Seventy was done by revelation. It was the fulfilling of a “vision” which the Prophet Joseph Smith had, and undoubtedly is the one mentioned in Section 107 of the Doctrine and Covenants, which states:

And it is according to the vision showing the order of the Seventy, that they should have seven presidents to preside over them, chosen out of the number of the seventy; . . . (D & C 107:93)

[86]         These groups of men had not only been seen in vision, but God had specifically called for the organization to be established, and gave all of the particulars on how it should function:

President Smith then stated that the meeting had been called, because God had commanded it; and it was made known to him by vision and by the Holy Spirit. (DHC 2:182)

The Prophet Joseph said to those men assembled:

He <God> could not organize His kingdom with twelve men to open the Gospel door to the nations of the earth, and with seventy men under their direction to follow in their tracks, unless He took them from a body of men who had offered their lives, and who had made as great a sacrifice as did Abraham. Now the Lord has got His Twelve and His Seventy, and there will be other quorums of Seventies called, who will make the sacrifice, and those who have not made their sacrifices and their offerings now, will make them hereafter. (DHC 2:182, footnote)

So these offices and callings were given by way of revelation, and were appointed by the Lord as an important and lasting part of the Church organization. Joseph Smith said:

. . . to begin the organization of the first quorum of Seventies, according to the visions and revelations which I here received. The Seventies are to constitute traveling quorums, to go into all the earth, whithersoever the Twelve Apostles shall call them. (DHC 2:202)

Ministers of the Gospel

Regarding the office and responsibility of the Seventy, men called to hold that Church and Priesthood position are [87]ordained to that office-not set apart to it. Hence, every man who is ordained a Seventy has the calling to act as a missionary; for the Lord clearly outlined the duty of the Seventy as being ministers of the gospel to the nations:

. . . the quorum of Seventies; which quorum is instituted for traveling elders to bear record of my name in all the world, wherever the traveling high council, mine apostles, shall send them to prepare a way before my face. (D & C 124:138-39)

Joseph F. Smith made this exhortation to the Saints in 1905:

Gather in the strong, the vigorous, the young, the able-bodied, who have the spirit of the Gospel in their hearts, to fill up the ranks of the Seventies, that we may have ministers to preach the gospel to the world. (Oct. Conf. Rept., 1905, p. 96)

For over 50 years the Seventies carried the burden of the call as missionaries abroad. Of the total number of missionaries, the percentage of Seventies responding to missionary work continued to rise until the turn of the century. However, after 1900, the percentage of Seventies on missions dropped considerably. From then on, the Seventies were never again to reach even one-third of the missionary force.

The following figures show the decline of the Seventies in foreign missions after 1900:

1900                                       92%

1905                                       27%

1910                                       19%

1915                                       17%

1920                                       12%

1925                                       9%

[88]                         1930                                       8%

1935                                       11%

1940                                       27%

1945                                       9%

1950                                       7%

1970       less than                1%

(Taken from Unpublished Mss. “The Role and Function of the Seventies in        LDS History,” by James N. Baumgarten)

The Lord has clarified, however, that it was not the responsibility of those in other Priesthood offices to take the Gospel to other nations:

It is the duty of the traveling high council to call upon the Seventy, when they need assistance, to fill the several calls for preaching and administering the gospel, instead of any others. (D & C 107:38)

Whereas other officers of the Church, who belong not unto the Twelve, neither to the Seventy, are not under the responsibility to travel among all nations. (D & C 107:96)

Seventies As Apostles

The office and calling of the Seventy are very similar to those of the Twelve Apostles. In fact, they were once called Apostles. The Prophet Joseph referred to them in that terminology in December of 1835:

This day the Council of the Seventy met to tender an account of their travels and ministry, since they were ordained to that Apostleship. (DHC 2:346)

Later when the Kirtland Temple was dedicated, the Prophet arose and said:

[89]         I next called upon the quorums and congregation of Saints to acknowledge the presidents of Seventies, who act as their representatives, as Apostles and special witnesses to the nations, to assist the Twelve in opening the Gospel kingdom among all the people, and to uphold them by their prayers, which they did by rising. (DHC 2:418)

Because of the similarity in the calling and mission of the Twelve Apostles and the Seventy Apostles, the distinction between the two councils should be almost indiscernible-they are both called as ministers of the Gospel and as witnesses of Jesus Christ. In fact, the Seventies are conferred with the same powers, authority and keys:

In referring to this memorable period <1835> the Prophet Joseph gave him (referring to Joseph Young) the first intimation of his call to this sacred office by saying: “The Lord has made you President of the Seventies” and further refers to his ordination in his writing. Prior to his ordination the Prophet instructed his counselor, Sidney Rigdon, to confer upon him all the Priesthood, powers, blessings, keys and authority that they themselves possessed, which was strictly observed. This was on the 28th day of February 1835, which position of President of all the Seventies he held until the day of his death. (Taken from Seventies Minute Book #1, p. 281; minutes by Robert Campbell, Church Historian’s Office)

On January 25, 1846, Parley P. Pratt conversed with some brethren in the celestial room of the Nauvoo Temple on the subject of authority and Priesthood. He gave the following counsel:

. . . in case the quorum of the Twelve should by any means become disorganized, that the Seventies held the jurisdiction and authority of Presidency of the Church in all the world wherever it might be found. (Nauvoo Record Book B, p. 276)

[90]         B. H. Roberts clearly explained the equality of authority held by the three highest Priesthood quorums in the Church:

The quorum of the twelve apostles are equal in power and authority to the first presidency. The first quorum of the seventy is equal in authority to the quorum of the twelve; and, of course, indirectly equal in authority to the first presidency, since things equal to a common thing must be equal to each other. (CHC 2:369)

Roberts goes on to explain that this authority would not be used by the last two quorums mentioned unless the first quorum was for some reason disorganized-“But these powers of the presidency without diminution would be exercised by the quorum of the twelve or the seventy, should occasion arise for it; . . .” (Ibid., 2:370)

The Seventy and High Priest Controversy

Even in the days of Joseph Smith problems arose over the difference in authority between the Seventy and the High Priest. Brigham Young tried to clarify-

. . . that the Seventies are ordained Apostles and when they go forth into the ministry they are sent with power to build up the Kingdom in all the world and consequently have power to ordain High Priests and also to ordain and organize a High Council.

Some of the High Priests have been ready to quarrel on the subject supposing that they had power and authority above the Seventies, and some in their zeal for power have abused and trampled on the feelings of some of the Seventies. (History of Brigham Young Manuscript, Dec. 14, 1845)

Years later President Brigham Young continued to support these views:

[91]         What ordination should a man receive to possess all the keys and powers of the Holy Priesthood that were delivered to the sons of Adam? He should be ordained an Apostle of Jesus Christ. . . . You read in the revelation alluded to that when the Twelve were called and ordained, they possessed the same power and authority as the three First Presidents; and in reading further you find that there must needs be appendages and helps growing out of this Priesthood. The Seventies possess the same power and authority; they hold the keys of establishing, building up, regulating, ordaining, and setting in order the kingdom of God in all its perfections upon the earth. (JD 9:87-88)

However, these conflicts in the calling and authority of the Seventies continued. By 1926 High Priests were more and more frequently being called to do the work of the Seventies. Heber J. Grant and some of the Twelve Apostles decided to change the jurisdiction of the High Priests over all the Seventies. They held the opinion that the Seventies did not hold enough authority to ordain High Priests, Patriarchs, and set apart Bishops, Stake Presidents or to organize wards.

  1. H. Roberts jumped into the defense of the Seventies and wrote a long letter to President Grant and the Twelve concerning this issue. He quoted many scriptural references and also related how those same problems had been resolved by the Prophet Joseph and Brigham Young. His objections held off any administrative action for several years.

Then in 1941 John A. Widtsoe announced-

The expanding church has made it difficult, if not impossible, for the Council of the Twelve to perform, to their full satisfaction, the many duties placed upon [92] them. Therefore, at the late General Conference five men, High Priests, were called to act as assistants to the Twelve. This action shows the adaptability of the Church to changing, increasing conditions, without violating in the least the divinely established order and organization of the Church. (Imp. Era, May 1941, p. 288)

By October of that year all of the assistants to the Twelve were High Priests.

Twenty years later another change was to get newspaper attention-the Seven Presidents of Seventies were to become High Priests. This change gave the inference that a Seventy who is ordained a High Priest is being “advanced.”

The members of the First Council of the Seventy are now given the authority of high priests to set in order all things pertaining to the stakes and the wards, under the direction of the Twelve Apostles. (Conf. Rept, Sept.-Oct., 1961, p. 90)

But keep in mind what the Lord had said previously:

And it is according to the vision showing the order of the Seventy, that they should have seven presidents to preside over them, chosen out of the number of the seventy; . . . (D & C 107:93)

And the Prophet Joseph had said:

The Seventies are to be taken from the quorum of Elders, and are not to be High Priests. (TPJS, p. 112)

Under Stake Control

After 1936, the entire program was changed and the Seventies were organized into separate quorums with stake control.

[93]         The supervision of the Seventies, under direction of a stake committee, relates exclusively to local activities in stakes and wards, and comes rightly under their supervision, whatever plan may be adopted to make their work more effective; and does not in any way conflict with the present system of supervision of the seventies by the First Council in collaboration with the presidents of stakes. . . . (Imp. Era, XLI, Jan. 1938, p. 38)

It seems rather amusing how such changes are made in the structure of Church organization with the immediate justification that it “does not in any way conflict with the present supervision of the Seventies. . . .”

The Seventies were, of course, gradually relieved of their responsibility to the nations, and confined to the stakes. This was finally confirmed by Apostle Widtsoe:

The activities of Seventies resident in the stakes, both as to quorum and individuals, are under the supervision of stake presidents and ward bishops. (Priesthood and Church Government, p. 275)

Thus, the Seventies Quorums were no longer a part of the ministry, but another stake quorum, acting as almost a “Junior Elders Quorum.”

Then in April 1974 the Church announced that Stake Presidents would now have authority to ordain and set apart Seventies. Spencer Kimball stated that-

. . . this should cause the Seventies to look to the stake presidents for leadership, and cause stake presidents to give more effective direction to the work of the seventies. (Ensign, May 1974, p. 125)


Ultimate Dissolution

When the Seventies were sent back into the stakes and put under stake control, there was very little for them to do. This resulted in the idea that they were not needed. So, on October 4, 1986, the Church announced their decision to disband the Seventies in the Church. The next day the coup de grace was announced publicly in the media:

(copy of article from Salt Lake Tribune)

[95]         When the Seven Presidents of the Seventies were all made High Priests and future ordinations of Seventies were discontinued, one wonders why they are still called the First and Second Quorum of Seventies. Maybe they should be called the “First and Second Quorum of High Priests,” since the title of Seventy is, in reality, a memory of the past.

The Lord Himself had designated that the labors of the Seventies should be “whithersoever he himself would come.” Thus they were called to one of the highest appointments ever committed to mortal men. Only a few men still have that ordination.

To Summarize

  1. Anciently and at the time of Christ, the work of the ministry was designated to the Seventy.
  2. The Prophet Joseph Smith restored the calling and ministry of the Seventy by revelation.
  3. The Seventy was recognized as an office in both the Church AND the Melchizedek Priesthood.
  4. The Seventy were acknowledged as a quorum of Apostles, and given the same authority, calling and keys as the Twelve.
  5. By the turn of the century, the Church began to send Elders and High Priests as missionaries instead of the Seventies.
  6. Later the Church called on High Priests as assistants to the Twelve, and the two quorums of Seven Presidents of Seventies were made High Priests.


  1. The Seventies were put under stake control, with little to do in the ministry.
  2. Finally the office Seventy in the Church was totally disbanded.


[97]                              Chapter 8


Gathering Through the Centuries

From the pre-existence, throughout mortality, and into the eternities to come, spirits and mortals have been attracted and gathered by truth or by error. Habitations and principles are being acquired by selection. In making a multitude of choices throughout the years, we become products of our own expressive desires and gather together..

The success or failure of the Gospel in any age has been dependent upon the unity of God’s people. It is for this reason they have always been commanded to gather. It has been a strict commandment that the children of God should gather to Zion-that they might be worthy of eventually gathering in the Zion of heaven.

The person who becomes accustomed to a lifetime in saloons, gambling dens, and houses of ill repute, would feel disturbed and uneasy in a church. Likewise a faithful and devoted individual would feel the same uneasiness and distress in a saloon or gambling den. That gradual selection and attraction of people is inherent and eternal in its nature. Their eternal destiny is dependent upon who and what they are gathered to.

[98]         Examples of the gathering of God’s people are found in every dispensation of the Gospel. Wherever there is a record of the people of God, there is a record of their gathering together, and all of the prophets have foretold of a last great gathering of Israel.

The doctrine of the gathering of the people of God, including Israel, is one so clearly predicted by the inspired writers, that it seems almost superfluous to refer to the numerous passages relating to it. (Orson Pratt’s Works, p. 9)

Every true prophet has advocated this principle; and usually the only people who were saved from various calamities were those who gathered out from the rest of the world. It is an evidence of inspired leaders, i.e.:

*              Enoch gathered a few faithful to his city so they could be righteous enough to be saved and translated.

*              Noah could only gather a few faithful from his own family, but they were saved from the flood.

*              Abraham gathered a few righteous souls out of Sodom and Gomorrah.

*              Lehi had to gather his family away from the wicked to save them from destruction in Jerusalem.

*              Moses sought to gather Israel to save them; when they were scattered, they were cursed.

*              Jesus sought to gather Israel again, but they disobeyed His command.

*              The Prophet Joseph Smith gathered Saints to Ohio, Missouri, and Illinois.


*              Brigham Young gathered the Saints to the Salt Lake Valley.

The Prophet Joseph explained how gathering is for the salvation of Israel in all ages.

All that the prophets that have written, from the days of righteous Abel, down to the last man that has left any testimony on record for our consideration, in speaking of the salvation of Israel in the last days, goes directly to show that it consists in the work of the gathering. (TPJS, p. 83)

God has called His people to gather out of the wickedness and corruptions of Babylon, just as He would call a righteous soul from out of a den of thieves, a saloon, or a diseased area. God seeks to have His people gather to one place and form a community and society of their own. It was a doctrine taught by Jesus and His disciples at Jerusalem. He declared:

He that is not with me, is against me; and he that gathereth not with me, scattereth abroad. (Luke 2:24)

The spirit and power of gathering filled the souls of all the prophets of God. It seems that those prophets who were the most spiritual felt that power the most.

The Importance of Gathering in This Dispensation

One of the basic tenets of the restored Gospel was to be gathered together. It was even specifically mentioned in the Articles of Faith:

We believe in the literal gathering of Israel and in the restoration of the Ten Tribes; that Zion will be built upon this the America continent. . . . (Article 10)

[100] But to have a gathering, there must first have been a scattering-which condition does not come from God:

You have heard brother Brigham preach it here time and time again, and other men, that a scattering spirit was not the spirit of God; and I know it is not. (Heber C. Kimball, JD 4:362)

The spirit of scattering is a result of disobedience:

Along with promises of deliverance and salvation, came predictions of evil to follow disobedience. And Israel was disobedient. Finally, when the Savior had come as predicted to redeem the world, and the iniquity of Israel was full, the Chosen People was broken; the nation to whom the Savior had come became scattered, and was sifted like dust among the peoples of the earth. It was the punishment foretold. To consummate the plan of salvation, must come a gathering of the dispersed tribes of Israel.

Accordingly, the vision that followed upon that of the Savior on the memorable 3rd of April, 1836, revealed to Joseph and Oliver, Moses, the Prophet of the deliverance of old. “After this vision was closed,” we read, “the heavens were again opened unto us, and Moses appeared before us, and committed unto us the keys of the gathering of Israel from the four parts of the earth, and the leading of the ten tribes from the land of the north.” (The Restoration, Osborn Widtsoe, pp. 133-34)

Some of the most astounding events in the history of the world occurred on this 1836 occasion in the Kirtland Temple, and one of the many visions concerned the gathering:

The heavens were again opened unto us, and Moses appeared before us, and committed unto us the keys of the gathering of Israel from the four parts of the earth, and the leading of the ten tribes from the land of the north. (D & C 110:11)

[101] The following three quotations show how strongly Joseph Smith felt about the principle of gathering:

One of the most important points in the faith of the Church of the Latter-day Saints, through the fullness of the everlasting Gospel, is the gathering of Israel . . . . (TPJS, p. 92)

It is also the concurrent testimony of all the prophets, that this gathering together of all the Saints, must take place before the Lord comes to “take vengeance upon the ungodly, . . .” (TPJS, p. 183)

Then, if this is the case, and if we are not sanctified and gathered to the places God has appointed, with all our former professions and our great love for the Bible, we must fall; we cannot stand; we cannot be saved; for God will gather out His Saints from the Gentiles, and then comes desolation and destruction, and none can escape except the pure in heart who are gathered. (DHC 2:52)

The Apostle Orson Pratt also described the importance of gathering as a doctrine for this dispensation:

Now if this angel who brought this gospel from the heavens, and commanded this church to be organized, had left out this gathering together in one, we would have had reason to suppose him to be an imposter. Why? Because the great essential feature of the latter day dispensation was a gathering together in one of all things in Christ. (JD 18:45)

And again he said:

The gathering of the Saints is a very important item of our faith. It is founded upon divine revelation, both ancient and modern. * * * None of the Saints can be dilatory upon this subject, and still retain the Spirit of God. To neglect or be indifferent [102] about gathering is just as displeasing in the sight of God as to neglect or be indifferent about baptism for the remission of sins. (Mill. Star 10:241)

And from Heber C. Kimball:

Yes, I feel many times to weep and am sorrowful, and I can hardly sleep at night; and if I had Gabriel’s trump, I would speak to the Saints of all nations, and I would say, Gather! gather! and do not wait even for a handcart to be made. I feel this in my soul. Do the world believe it? Do the Latter-day Saints believe it? No. (JD 7:168)

An editorial in the Millennial Star recorded:

If we throw overboard the principle of the gathering, we cast away one of the most important principles connected with the work of God and salvation of humanity. (Mill. Star 33:326)

Apostle George Q. Cannon, with prophetic insight into this beautiful principle, warned the Saints that their success or failure with the Gospel could be determined by their attitude toward the doctrine of gathering:

It is not the numbers of the Latter-day Saints that gives them weight in the world so much as it is their union and their distinctive virtues, which in the struggle for existence and supremacy always give victory and triumph to their possessors. If the Latter-day Saints desert the principles of the Gospel, and abandon themselves to the vices and corruptions that prevail in the world, and to which they would have been subjected had they remained in a scattered condition, they would have no more power than any other people of like number. (Mill. Star 60:350)

  1. L. Whitehead, author of The House of Israel, clearly pointed out the prophecies and fulfillment of this principle:

[103] The gathering of Israel from out of the world where they have dwelt during the past centuries is to be one of the most important achievements of this dispensation of the everlasting Gospel on earth, for it represents the culmination of all hopes and desires of the ancient race, and the fulfillment of the prophecies of the shepherds of Israel. (House of Israel, Whitehead, p. 498)

The primary reasons for this principle stem from the Lord Himself, who, all through the Doctrine and Covenants, encouraged the Saints to obey the doctrine of gathering:

So will I gather mine elect from the four quarters of the earth (33:6). Gather ye out from the eastern lands (45:64). A commandment I give unto all the churches, that they shall continue to gather together (101:22). The righteous shall be gathered out from among all nations, and shall come to Zion (45:71). And the remnant shall be gathered unto this place (45:43). Let the work of the gathering be not in haste, nor by flight (58:56). I will that my saints should be assembled upon the land of Zion (63:36). The city New Jerusalem shall be built by the gathering of the saints (84:4). That the work of the gathering together of my saints may continue (101:64). Gather yourselves together unto the land of Zion (103:22). Gather together for the redemption of my people (105:16). Go ye forth unto the land of Zion-that her stakes may be strengthened (133:9). I must gather together my people according to the parable of the wheat and the tares (101:65). That ye may be gathered in one, that ye may be my people and I will be your God (42:9). …that the gathering together upon the land of Zion, and upon her stakes may be for a defense and for a refuge from the storm, and from wrath when it shall be poured out without mixture upon the whole earth (115:6).

The small selection of quotations included in the above paragraph should leave little doubt as to the importance of [104] gathering in this dispensation. Righteous Saints have felt the desire to gather to Zion to receive strength and support from other Saints, for the “spirit beareth record.” And this spiritual feeling is a testimony to the will of the Lord and to the doctrine of the gathering of Israel.

Realizing this, however, presents some pertinent questions: Who should gather? Where should they gather? Why should they gather? These three areas will be discussed briefly in the following sections.

Who Should Gather?

In an illuminating passage in the Doctrine and Covenants the Lord answers this question:

And ye are called to bring to pass the gathering of mine elect; for mine elect hear my voice and harden not their hearts; wherefore the decree hath gone forth from the Father that they shall be gathered in unto ONE PLACE upon the face of this land, to prepare their hearts and be prepared in all things against the day when tribulation and desolation are sent forth upon the wicked. (D & C 29:7-8)

From this passage of scripture we learn what the Lord’s intentions are behind the doctrine of gathering:

  1. The elect are to gather.
  2. They are to be gathered to one place.
  3. The gathering place is in this nation.
  4. Their labor is to be prepared in all things for the tribulations and desolations which are coming upon all nations.

[105] Since the foundation of the Church, the Lord has never revealed anything contrary to the gathering of His elect to “one place” upon the face of “this land.”

Where Should They Gather?

The Prophet Joseph said that “the time is soon coming, when no man will have any peace but in Zion and her stakes.” (TPJS, p. 161) He also said:

Peace will be taken from the earth and there will be no peace only in the Rocky Mountains. This will cause many thousands of the honest in heart to gather there; not because they would be saints but for safety and because they would not take up the sword against their neighbor.

You will be so numerous that you will be in danger of famine, but not for the want of seed time and harvest, but because of so many to be fed. Many will come with bundles under their arms to escape the calamities, and there will be no escape except by fleeing to Zion. (“White Horse Prophecy”, Visions of the Latter Days, Pioneer Press, p. 9)

And from Brigham Young:

When our Elders go out to preach the Gospel, they tell the people to gather to Zion. Where is it? It is at the City of the Great Salt Lake, in the Valleys of the Mountains, in the settlements of Utah Territory-there is Zion now. (JD 2:253)

Orson Pratt, in 1875, also mentioned the Rocky Mountains as a gathering place:

For twenty-seven years the Lord has been fulfilling this directly before the eyes of all this nation. Little did they think when they came upon us in Nauvoo, and drove us out from our homes and firesides and [106] told us to flee away beyond this great chain of Rocky Mountains, that they were fulfilling this great prophecy uttered before this people had an existence. “I will bring the fulness of my Gospel from among them;” and mark the next sentence-“and then I will remember my covenant.” When? When he gets the people out from the midst of this nation. “Then I will remember my covenant which I made unto my people, O house of Israel, and I will bring my Gospel unto them.” (JD 18:27-28)

Why Should They Gather?

There are many logical and important reasons why the Lord would require His people (the elect) to gather together, such as:

  1. To avoid worldly temptations
  2. To avoid wicked environments and evil associations
  3. To avoid worldly calamities, destructions and judgments
  4. To avoid worldly schooling for youth
  5. To avoid sustaining unrighteous leaders and building up worldly kingdoms
  6. To avoid temporal marriages
  7. To avoid honoring pagan customs
  8. To protect righteous family associations
  9. To receive strength and support from other righteous Saints
  10. To obey one of God’s commandments

The Lord describes the third item above in the following passage:

And that the gathering together upon the land of Zion, and upon her stakes, may be for a defense, and for a refuge from the storm, and from wrath when it shall be poured out without mixture upon the whole earth. (D & C 115:6)

[107] Brigham Young also gives the same warning:

It is written, “Come out of her, O my people,” that is, come out of Babylon. What is Babylon? Why, it is the confused world: come out of her, then, and cease to partake of her sins, for if you do not, you will be partakers of her plagues. (JD 12:282)

Until the time comes for the righteous Saints to gather to the New Jerusalem in Missouri, the valleys of the Rocky Mountains seem to be the place where the Lord has instructed His people to gather at the present time.

From Gathering to Scattering

It is regrettable that the majority of the Saints have never been fully converted to the practice of gathering. Many of them have even tried to discourage or prevent others from gathering, and this spirit eventually has had a universal effect upon the LDS Church.

Heber C. Kimball referred to these people when he said:

The lingerers are right in the gate, like a dog in a manger; they will neither eat themselves nor let anybody else eat; and they are an offence in the eyes of the world, and they block up the work from rolling on. I wish they were gathered into a brush heap and burned, that is those who ought to be burned, and the rest gathered with us; for the Lord, in the very first start of this Church, let them gather themselves together into one place. Still, do you not see how desirous people are to scatter here and there, and not go as they are told; but they are for getting off by themselves, to partake of the spirit of the world, and the spirit of selfishness; and they want to own everything there is, . . .

We are commanded to gather into one place, and purify ourselves, and sanctify ourselves, that we may be prepared for His coming; (JD 2:159)

[108] Not heeding this advice, however, LDS members and leaders have gradually found excuses to abandon the doctrine of gathering. For example, near the turn of the century a depression occurred in this nation, so some Church leaders recommended that the Saints stay in their native lands because the economy was so poor in Utah.

Both the Journal History of the Church (Jan. 19, 1899) and the Conference Report (April of 1899) indicated the beginning of a policy to advise the Saints to remain in their own countries. On December 14, 1907, the First Presidency wrote to the Saints in the Netherlands Mission:

The policy of the Church is not to entice or encourage people to leave their native lands; but to remain faithful and true in their allegiance to their governments, and to be good citizens. (Messages of the First Presidency, Clark, 4:165)

This trend continued to effectively change the Church’s support of the doctrine of gathering. Voices supporting the idea of scattering grew stronger than those preaching the doctrine of gathering. The following quotes are taken from various Church leaders from 1936 to 1972:

Joseph Fielding Smith

. . . our building of foreign temples is to encourage the saints to stay in their own countries. (Oct. 17, 1936, Des. News Church Section)


Matthew Cowley

We encourage you to stay where you are because you are needed there where the light is going out, . . . (Apr. 1952, Conf. Rept., p. 102)

John A. Widtsoe

The time of gathering is past. We now live in the time of scattering. We want to scatter our people over [109] the face of the earth that we might leaven the whole lump. (Truth Magazine, Sept. 1952, p. 103)

Spencer W. Kimball

. . . as we have told the Saints in Europe in hundreds of meetings in many different locations, if the Saints in Europe will remain in their lands and will build the Church and the kingdom in Europe and train and hold their children and bring them into the holy temples in Europe for marriage, the kingdom can grow and prosper, and God will bless them, and that I know. (Dec. 1955, Imp. Era)

David O. McKay

I recall asking him <David O. McKay> if missionaries should persist in encouraging members to leave their homes and move to Zion. No, he answered, it is important that the branches be built up, and members should remain and work toward that end. (Nov. 1963, Instructor, p. 385)

Bruce R. McConkie

We are now in a new era of church growth and development. * * * We are becoming a world church. *** every nation is the gathering place for its own people. (Sept. 2, 1972, Church News)

However, the doctrine of gathering has never been officially terminated by a revelation from the Lord. But there have been only a few random voices advocating some particular reason why gathering seemed to be a valid course of action. Outward reasons for its demise have been war, poor economy, lack of missionaries in some areas, and building up their native countries.

The following chart showing numbers of emigrating Saints from England to the United States, illustrates the gradual failure in the gathering of Israel:


Years                                                      Numbers

1850 – 1859                                          12,355

1860 – 1869                                          9,924

1870 – 1879                                          6,913

1880 – 1889                                          8,219

1890 – 1899                                          4,849

1900 – 1909                                          3,196

1910 – 1919                                             892

1920 – 1929                                             786

1930 – 1936                                             360

(Taken from The House of Israel, Whitehead, pp. 510-513)

Not only did the Saints begin to fail in gathering together, but the Church started establishing stakes outside of the Rocky Mountains. In June 1901 a stake was organized in Oregon. Others soon followed:

1923                                       Los Angeles Stake

1927                                       Hollywood

1927                                       San Francisco

1934                                       3 more in California

1934                                       New York

And so it continued, with stakes being created all over the world.

In the past several years this reversal of the gathering has taken tremendous strides. Consider the following:

1950                       90% of all Saints lived in the USA

1960                       88%                                        ”

1970                       71%                                        ”


1950                       42% of Church members lived in Utah

1960                       38%                        ”

1970                       27%                                        ”

Finally in 1972 Bruce R. McConkie made a rather confusing announcement:

The place of gathering for the Mexican saints is in Mexico; the place of gathering for the Guatemalan saints is in Guatemala; the place of gathering for the Brazilian saints is in Brazil; and so it goes throughout the length and breadth of the whole earth. (Church News, Sept. 2, 1972)

Elder McConkie tried to make it look as if he was preaching the gathering-but in effect, he was telling people to remain scattered all over the world. And that position remains in the Church to this day.

A Future Gathering

There are many prophetic and scriptural references that indicate there will be another large-scale gathering in the future. It will be much greater and far more difficult to accomplish than those of the past. The prophets Isaiah and Micah both indicate that the Lord’s house will be in the tops of the mountains and huge masses of people will exodus from all nations to it. Heber C. Kimball warned us to prepare for this massive gathering:

Our grain will increase, and we will lay a foundation for the world and the ungodly, and we will buy them for our servants. They will be glad to come and work for us for bread, and each one of us will be like Joseph in Egypt was to his father’s house. They will [112] come to us and buy grain and the good things of the world; for I know that we are the people who have got to do that thing. (JD 4:338)

This is part of our religion-to lay up stores and provide for ourselves and for the surrounding country; for the day is near when they will come by thousands and by millions, with their fineries, to get a little bread. (JD 5:163)

Two companies have come through safe and sound. Is this the end of it? No; there will be millions on millions that will come much in the same way, only they will not have hand carts, for they will take their bundles under their arms, and their children on their backs, and under their arms, and flee; and Zion@s people will have to send out relief to them, for they will come when the judgments come on the nations. (JD 4:106)

Orson Pratt also predicted:

. . . only the foundation, as it were, is now laid, and instead of being gathered in a little company of 150,000, by and by we shall be gathered in hundreds of thousands and even millions. Now, do you believe it? I not only believe it but know it will come to pass just as much as a great many other things which have already been fulfilled since the promises were uttered and published in this book. I knew they would come to pass, for God has revealed these things to me. (JD 21:135)

Not to be overlooked is the gathering to the New Jerusalem and the return of the ten tribes.

And it shall be called the New Jerusalem, a land of peace, a city of refuge, a place of safety for the saints of the Most High God; And the glory of the Lord shall be there, . . . And there shall be gathered unto it out of every nation under heaven; and it shall be [113] the only people that shall not be at war one with another. (D & C 45:66, 67, 69)

We believe in the literal gathering of Israel and in the restoration of the Ten Tribes; that Zion will be built upon this the American continent. . . (Article 10)


To Summarize

  1. During each dispensation the righteous people have obeyed God’s commandment to gather together.
  2. Jesus tried to gather more of His people together but they would not.
  3. The keys of gathering were restored in this last dispensation when Moses brought them in 1836.
  4. It was established as a doctrine, a commandment, and was for the temporal and spiritual welfare of the Saints.
  5. Joseph Smith considered it as one of the most important points of doctrine in the Church.
  6. Who should gather? mine elect

Where should they gather? “one place upon the face of this land” of      America

Why should they gather? Ten justifiable reasons are listed for why the   Saints should gather.

  1. About the turn of the century, the policy was started to advise the Saints to stay in their own lands.
  2. From then up to the present time, the policy has grown stronger to discourage the Saints from gathering to the “tops of the mountains.”


  1. It has been predicted, however, that a much larger gathering is still in the future-in Utah first and then to the New Jerusalem.


[115]                             Chapter 9


There remains a practice throughout the pages of history, which has ascribed but little attention from most historians. This practice was the doctrine and ordinance of rebaptism. Those who have heard or read about this ordinance have assumed it was done to complete mission records or to re-admit some member back into the Church after excommunication. However, this practice was performed both anciently and in modern times for a wide variety of reasons.

For nearly 60 years, in our own dispensation, almost every member of the Church had experienced rebaptism at least once. From the days of the Prophet Joseph Smith to the turn of the century, rebaptism became an integral part of the teachings and faith of the Latter-day Saints.

Scriptural References

The Book of Mormon contains specific references to rebaptism. Nephi, it is written, baptized many believers and “ordained men unto this ministry,” and “there were many in the commencement of this year that were baptized unto repentance.” (A.D. 32: see 3 Nephi 7:26) However, a few years later, after the destruction of his nation, it is written that Nephi again “went down into the water and was baptized.” (3 Nephi 19:11) Thus Nephi complied with the principle of rebaptism; and being a leader among his people, he established [116] the precedent for that practice and they followed his example. Nephi proceeded to baptize the others and “it came to pass when they were ALL baptized and had come up out of the water, the Holy Ghost did fall upon them.” (3 Nephi 19:13)

Alma also participated in the principle of rebaptism. After he received the authority and had been converted, then he preached the principles of faith, repentance, and baptism, and baptized a “goodly number” of the believers. Then on a later occasion, while baptizing a man by the name of Helam, Alma became so influenced with the beauty and blessings of baptism, that he also was “buried” in the waters of baptism. Alma, therefore, certainly experienced a rebaptism, and he “came forth out of the water rejoicing, being filled with the Spirit.” (Mos. 18:13-14)

At the final eclipse of the great Nephite empire, the nation had grown cold in the principles of righteousness. The last plea for a return to the Gospel was made by Moroni, who wrote:

And now I speak concerning baptism. Behold, elders, priests, and teachers were baptized; and they were not baptized save they brought forth fruit meet that they were worthy of it. (Moroni 6:1)

The “elders, priests, and teachers” were, of course, members and officers of the Church of Jesus Christ, and yet they were baptized. To become members of the Church and hold the offices of elders and priests, they must first have been baptized; therefore, these members were rebaptized after they had repented by bringing forth the “fruit” of repentance.

Thus, the doctrine of rebaptism, like the doctrine of baptism for the dead, has a few substantiating scriptural references. Even one is enough to establish it as a doctrine and practice of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.


The Last Dispensation

The first baptisms into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were in reality rebaptisms, since Joseph Smith and others had been baptized before the organization of the Church and they were baptized again when they became members of the newly formed Church.

When John the Baptist appeared to the Prophet Joseph Smith, he conferred upon Joseph the Priesthood of Aaron and commanded the Prophet and Oliver Cowdery to go and be baptized. The Prophet Joseph wrote:

. . . he commanded us to go and be baptized, and gave us directions that I should baptize Oliver Cowdery, and that afterwards he should baptize me. Accordingly we went and were baptized. (P of GP, J.S. 2:70)

This was in May of 1829. Then, nearly a year later, it was written that-

. . . Joseph Smith and those who had been baptized prior to April 6, 1830, were again baptized on the day of the organization of the Church. (Des. News, March 30, 1935, p. 6)

  1. H. Roberts felt that the number of those “that had been baptized up to the 6th of April, 1830, must have been but nine.” (DHC 1:77) These were all being baptized a second time for entrance into the Church.

It is interesting to note that the principle of rebaptism was in the heart of Brigham Young even before it was taught to him. When he found out he could be rebaptized, he also learned that principle by revelation:

[118] I know that in my traveling and preaching, many a time I have stopped by beautiful streams of clear, pure water, and have said to myself, “How delightful it would be to me to go into this, to be baptized for the remission of my sins.” When I got home, Joseph told me it was my privilege. At this time, came a revelation, that the Saints could be baptized and rebaptized when they chose, and then that we could be baptized for our dear friends, . . . (JD 18:241)

Two years before Brigham Young died, he was again rebaptized. It is said that this was the seventh time he had been baptized. (See Church Chronology, p. 94.)

Renewing Covenants

In renewing baptismal covenants, the Latter-day Saints did not consider the first covenants invalid; rather rebaptism was a means and evidence of a double effort to reaffirm their intentions and responsibilities toward God and the Church. Such an ordinance was an outward token of an inward faith and desire to keep God’s laws and commandments.

. . . The proposition <rebaptism> was joyfully and very generally accepted by the saints. This procedure, however, must not be regarded as casting any doubt upon the validity of their original baptisms, or repudiation of it as a sacrament. It was only to make more solemn the renewal of covenants with God. (CHC, B. H. Roberts, 2:286-287)

When the Saints reached the Great Salt Lake Valley, a new life seemed to open up for the Mormons. The land and its seclusion presented grand hopes and rich prospects for the future. Here they were, at least temporarily, free from the reach of mobs, injustices, and tyrants. They acquired new farms, new communities and new freedoms. These conditions offered them another chance to live their religion unmolested. However, in [119] taming the desert, building settlements, and defending themselves from the Indians, they would of necessity depend on each other more than ever before. Failures, weaknesses, or apostasy could spell out disaster to their very existence. Under such circumstances, they wanted to start afresh once more.

On this day the Twelve were rebaptized. Why? Because the Church, having broken old ties in the East was, in a way, experiencing a new birth. Because, owing to conditions of life on the plains, regular Church routine could not always be observed. For this reason for non-observance of certain regulations were made by the people and accepted by their leaders. But now those who stood at the head of the Church wanted a gesture of support to themselves and a sign that willing obedience would be given to the rules of the Church. This was affected by rebaptism. (Wilford Woodruff Journal, Aug. 6, 1847)

The purpose of rebaptism, as before mentioned, was not just for the individuals who had lost their records. Although many records were lost, the purpose of rebaptism at this time was for a renewal of covenants and remission of sins.

Rebaptism began with the First President of the Church and the Quorum of Twelve Apostles. From them, it proceeded throughout the rest of the Church.

President Young must have taken quite seriously such irregularities of the camp of the pioneers as we have already noted in a former chapter, for he now proposed to them a solemn renewal of their covenants to righteousness, a new avowal of their acceptance of the gospel of Jesus Christ by baptism, President Young himself to set the example. This was first proposed to the Twelve and their immediate associates, then to the camp. . . . (CHC 2:287)

[120] Bancroft’s History of Utah gives the number of Saints in the valleys at this time at 400. On the 8th of August he records the rebaptisms to be almost that number. (See Bancroft’s History of Utah, 1840-86, p. 265.)

The practice of rebaptism, upon entering the Great Salt Lake Valley, was taught and encouraged for many years. Eighteen years after the first rebaptisms in the valley, it was still being taught, for in 1865 Apostle Orson Pratt said:

That seems to be a kind of standing ordinance for all Latter-day Saints who emigrate here, from the First Presidency down: all are rebaptized and set out anew by renewing their covenants. (JD 18:160)

As Part of the “Reformation”

During the years of 1856 and 1857, a spiritual movement began in the Church and was to become known as the “reformation”. It had been nearly ten years since the Saints entered these valleys, and many of them had become lax and inactive. While they were so busily engaged in building homes and irrigation canals and in cultivating the land, the Saints were neglecting, to a great extent, the duties of their religion.

President Brigham Young sensed a need to reform and re-activate Israel to the work of the Lord. So he called upon his counselor, Jedediah Grant, to establish the theme of “Live Your Religion”. On September 13, 1856, Jedediah proceeded to a four-day conference in Kaysville and began his assignment, with emphasis on “reforming” the Saints.

At this Kaysville conference, President Grant delivered a soul-stirring oration which was to sweep over the entire church. Every ward, branch, and mission felt the effect of the messages of this conference. President Grant said he “felt like [121] re-baptizing the Saints over again.” On the third day of this conference-

Upon calling for a vote as to whether they were willing to renew their covenants, it was given unanimously. . . and nearly 500 Saints were immersed under the direction of President Grant, aided by Bishop Taylor, Elders Clements, Allred, Curtis, Weinel, Wm. Booth, Jr., Payne, and Dinsdale. Pres. Grant baptized upwards of 80 with his own hands. The Spirit of God was poured out to a great degree, and peace and happiness characterized the whole assembly. (Des. News, Sept. 1856, p. 228)

From Kaysville, President Grant and his assistants went to Farmington, Centerville, Jordan Hill, etc.-proposing the ordinance of rebaptism in each area.

Thus, the wave of reform had begun, and this so-called “Reformation” was beginning to spread throughout the Church. These rebaptisms were not without divine approval, as spiritual gifts and powers attested to this fact.

Brigham Young’s advice to the Saints was in the form of a stern rebuke for their sins, and counsel to be rebaptized until they were forgiven:

I have heard some of you cursing and swearing, even some of the Elders of Israel. I would be baptized seven times, were I in your place; I would not stop teasing some good Elder to baptize me again and again, until I could think my sins forgiven. I would not live over another night until I was baptized enough to satisfy me that my sins were forgiven. Then go and be confirmed, as you were when you first embraced the religion of Jesus. That is my counsel. (JD 2:8, 9)


Before Entering the United Order

In the year 1874 the United Order was again restored as a practice of the Church. It was necessary to re-establish that pertinent part of the Gospel, and to begin afresh by living those higher laws. Re-baptism became the means and evidence for the dedication, renewing of covenants, and the consecrating of a pure heart to the Lord. The United Order was a temporal and a spiritual law, and the Saints were re-baptized before entering into that sacred principle.

The following instructions were directed from the First Presidency of the Church to all who would enter into the United Order:

On January 2, he (John Bushman) was baptized into the United Order by Wm. H. Winn and confirmed by Israel Evans, same day. This was the instruction from the Church Authorities, that all renew their covenants and work in the United Order. (John Bushman Diary, p. 31)

December 30, 1875-This afternoon Mary, Fanney and myself were baptized for the remission of sin and renewal of our covenants and for the observance of the rules of the United Order, under the direction of L. John Nuttall, who administered the ordinance of Baptism. (Diary of J. H. Standifird)

Before Temple Ordinances and Marriage

It was a common practice for couples who were to be married, to be rebaptized before participating in the wedding ceremony. This was done in both monogamous and plural marriages. Since the marriage ceremony should be a most solemn and sacred ordinance, it should be entered into with a clean soul. Men and women entered into eternal covenants and [123] began a new and more responsible way of life. Rebaptism was a principle advocated for the purpose of helping couples begin this sacred step with the best possible assurance that it would be successful. How blessed were couples about to be married to be rebaptized for the remission of sins! They could then, with a clear conscience, and in cleanness and purity, enter this sacred ordinance of God together.

September 17th 1886-As it was customary to get baptized to prepare for my temple ordinances, before going to the temple so as to be free from all evil and wrong . . . I arranged with Brother Leatham, who has charge of baptisms on the Temple Block, to be baptized. . . .

I had already made arrangements to get Ida’s recommend to be baptized and at 2 p.m. . . . I took Ida to the Old Endowment House and after a word of prayer and a few remarks by Brother Leatham, he baptized us and confirmed us for the renewal of our covenants. (Diary of John M. Whitaker, Book 3, p. 16)

* * *

They <George Richards and his wife> were married March 9, 1882, in the endowment house in Salt Lake City with the groom’s father performing the ceremony. He gave the bride a five-dollar gold piece and said he hoped Alice would make George a good wife.

It was customary in those days to be rebaptized before being married. This young couple adhered to that practice, though one foot of ice in big creek had to be broken in order to do so. (Life of George F. Richards, p. 8)

Healing the Sick

One of the requests for rebaptism was for healing of the sick. Strange as this may appear, history has proved this practice to be very beneficial in many of the cases where it has [124] been performed. One of the first accounts of baptism for the sick is recorded by the Prophet Joseph. He baptized his wife Emma for her illness:

Tues. <Oct.> 4, 1842, Emma is very sick again. I attended with her all the day, being somewhat poorly myself.

Wed. 5. My dear Emma was worse. Many fears were entertained that she would not recover. She was baptized twice in the river, which evidently did her much good. She grew worse again at night, and continued very sick indeed. I was unwell, and much troubled on account of Emma’s sickness (DHC 5:167-168)

Emma had been baptized in Coalville in 1830. This rebaptism was 12 years later. Even previous to this account, the baptisms for healing were quite common. They were performed in the Nauvoo Temple, along with other baptisms:

Baptisms for the dead, and for the healing of the body must be in the font, and those coming into the Church and those rebaptized may be baptized in the river. (DHC 4:586)

Others were baptized in streams and rivers. Another similar example comes from the life of Lorenzo Snow:

Upon arriving at Pisgah, Lorenzo and members of his family remained for a season. “At this place,” Lorenzo said, “I was taken seriously and dangerously ill with a burning fever, which so affected my brain that I was delirious many days, lying at the point of death. While in this condition, Elder Phineas Richards, the father of Apostle F. D. Richards, assisted by other kind brethren, took me from my bed, wrapped in a sheet placed me in a carriage, drove to a stream of water, and baptized me in the name of the Lord, for my recovery. The fever immediately abated, and through the kind unwearied nursing and attention by my [125] faithful, loving wives, and my dear sister, E.R.S. Smith, aided and sanctified through the power and blessing of God, I was delivered from suffering and restored to health. The sickness was the result of extreme hardships and exposures consequent on the journey.” (Life of Lorenzo Snow, Romney, 1846, pp. 80-81)

This would indicate that rebaptisms, for health purposes, were practiced for at least 42 years.

Rebaptisms Discontinued

Up to 1897 rebaptism was a popular principle, but that year a decision was made that it should be discontinued. It had become a controversial subject, and at that October Conference, Apostle George Q. Cannon announced:

We hear a good deal of talk about rebaptism, and the First Presidency and Twelve have felt that so much rebaptism ought to be stopped. (Conf. Rept., Oct. 1897, p. 68)

The following year, there was further evidence that the practice of rebaptism had come to an end:

Mr. Van Cott: “Just what was your point with Apostle Cowley about that ordinance of rebaptism?”

Mr. Lundstrom: “It was in regard to the discontinuance of rebaptizing, which previously had been customary when cases came up and rebaptizing was requested by parties; and at that time we received instructions not to rebaptize any more.” (Reed Smoot Case, 2:159)

It is strange that in a period of about 70 years, rebaptism became too popular and too excessively used; and then for the next 70 years it was done away entirely. It is now said that taking the Sacrament is sufficient to renew one’s covenants.


To Summarize

  1. Rebaptisms were performed in ancient times and in the early days of the Restoration.
  2. Rebaptism was established as a Gospel doctrine by revelation from the Lord.
  3. It was practiced for many reasons:
  4. Entrance or re-entrance into the Church
  5. Establishing dates for lost records
  6. Renewing of covenants
  7. Entering the United Order
  8. Entering marriage
  9. Accepting of Church positions, i.e., bishops, stake presidents, and                           apostles
  10. Healing of the sick
  11. Remission of sins
  12. And others, such as preparatory to missions, etc.
  13. It was not discontinued in the late 1890’s because the Lord revoked it, but because it was “felt” the practice was too frequently used.


[127]                             Chapter 10


Come Out of Babylon

One of the most noticeable differences between Mormonism and other religions is the close relationship between the spiritual and the temporal. Mormonism is not just another ethereal, mystic, or philosophical religious system-but rather a practical down-to-earth religion that can deal with dollars and cents, butter and beans, parcels of real estate or heavenly kingdoms-because a religion that cannot help people temporally has little power to help them spiritually. Mormonism embraces both practicality and spirituality.

In a doctrinal dissertation by Dean D. McBrien, it was noted that in 112 revelations to Joseph Smith, 88 dealt in part or wholly with economic matters. This is not out of harmony with the Gospel of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, for one verse in every six deals with the money question. Out of the 29 parables of Christ, 16 of them mention the Christian and his money.

It is not riches alone, but the lust for riches that overcomes the human will. “The love of money is the root of all evil.” (I Tim. 6:10) So when men idolize riches, they often condescend to evil means to obtain them.

[128] A major mission for the Latter-day Saints is not only to teach, but to live an example of correct spiritual and temporal principles. Nearly every law of God has become foreign to our society, and if men do not rise up to protect themselves from the evil schemes and financial messes of the world, they must suffer the fate of Babylon when she falls.

If we live according to the traditions, customs and regulations of a gentile society, how can we expect to gain a different reward?

President John Taylor described our corrupt society by saying:

The fact of the matter is, we are all of us on the highway to financial or temporal ruin. The world is going to the devil just as fast as it can go. Corruption, fraud, chicanery, deception, evil and iniquity of every kind prevail, so that you cannot trust a man in any place, you cannot rely upon his word, you cannot rely upon any instrument of writing that he gets up, and there is nothing you can rely upon.

We, as a people, have come out from Babylon, but we have brought a great amount of these infernal principles with us, and we have been grabbing, grasping, pinching, squeezing, hauling, horning and hooking on every side, and it seems as though every man was for himself and the devil for us all. That is about the position we are in today. We want a change in these things. (JD 17:49)

Scriptural Examples

How do Saints get out of this frantic, wicked and idiotic system of seeking for wealth? It is necessary to refer to the scriptures for the answer to our temporal as well as spiritual problems.

[129] In the first book of the Bible there is an excellent example of a people who had temporal and spiritual success:

Thus Enoch (the seventh from Adam) instituted an order of things among his people, in their business and financial relations, which so revolutionized their temporalities that they had no poor among them, and all rejoiced together in equal hope of the life and exaltation offered to them in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten of the Father. (Compendium, Richards and Little, p. 264)

This was a doctrine of Christ and was also established in the New Testament:

And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common.

Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, and laid them down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need. (Acts 4:32, 34, 35)

This is a clear description of the Gospel of Christ functioning in the temporal affairs of the Christians. From this graphic illustration, it is evident by comparison that the thousand contending “Christian” churches of today do not practice the Gospel of Christ.

For an extended period of time, Christ taught the Nephites personally and gave them His commandments. After receiving these teachings directly from the Lord-

. . . they taught, and did minister one to another; and they had all things common among them, every man dealing justly, one with another. (3 Nephi 26:19)

[130] The work of their missionaries extended to every portion of the land and to every class of people. It was a magnificent missionary effort and the results were astounding.

. . . the people were all converted unto the Lord, upon all the face of the land, both Nephites and Lamanites, and there were no contentions and disputations among them, and every man did deal justly one with another. And they had all things common among them; therefore there were not rich and poor, bond and free, but they were all made free, and partakers of the heavenly gift. (4 Nephi: 2-3)

The United Order in Operation

Before going into the history of the United Order in this dispensation, let’s try to get a better understanding of this process whereby men consecrated themselves and their goods. We can take a “walk-through” as though we were doing it ourselves.

A man gives to the Bishop (or designated authority) all that he has, as a consecration or “sacrifice” to the Lord. The Bishop then considers the talents, gifts and abilities of the man and designates a stewardship for him to manage. He may receive more or less than he consecrated. His stewardship will most likely be coordinated with his profession-a mason, carpenter, farmer, etc.

The Lord says that the Bishop should give to “people their portions, every man equal according to his family, according to his circumstances and his wants and needs.” (D & C 51:3) Let’s consider how this applies to different people, every man receiving-

  1. equal according to his family. A single man would naturally require only one-tenth the amount of food, [131] clothes, etc., than a man would with ten in his family, yet it would be an “equal” portion.
  2. equal according to his circumstances. If the Order is blessed with great wealth, then they all share equally the same good fortune of their circumstances. If they are in an Order that is poor, then they all share equally those circumstances or conditions.
  3. equal according to his wants. A man who is a farmer would want a tractor, plow, harrow, truck, and other farm equipment. A carpenter would want saws, planers, lathes, etc. Though each man would want different things, they would be equal in their wants or needs for their stewardships.
  4. equal according to his needs. Some may need a wheelchair or glasses, more blankets or books for education, etc. Each would be getting different items, but equal according to their needs.

Neither the Bishop nor anyone else had complete say as to how everything should be done. The Lord had said that all these things were to “be done by common consent”. (D & C 26:2) This was the Lord’s method of preventing priestcraft. Nothing was spent, given, or taken except by the common consent of the order-either by the individuals themselves or through their elected officers.

And there shall not any part of it be used, or taken out of the treasury, only by the voice and common consent of the order. (D & C 104:71)

The moment some people receive community funds without the consent of the people, it either becomes a priestcraft or a dictatorship.

[132] The Lord calls this distribution of wealth “the law of my gospel”. (D & C 104:18) This was considered to be another spiritual law, just as any other laws of the gospel.

This system was not only a law and a protection, with spiritual blessings accompanying it, but it was a very practical program. Ten farms united would need only a couple of tractors instead of ten. The same would apply to tools, trucks, and everything else right down to the breakfast table. Said Brigham Young:

. . . instead of each one of a hundred women getting up in the morning to cook breakfast for father and the large boys, that they may go to their labor, while the little children are crying and needing attention, breakfast for the whole can be prepared by five or ten women, with a man or two to help. (JD 17:44)

United Order in Our Dispensation

Bible scholars and preachers have all recognized that extreme wealth and extreme poverty are a social injustice and also a moral sin. By the year 1830 there were many communes or social organizations trying to establish some sort of “common” property arrangement. Most of these creations had already failed or were about to. Now the Mormons would have a chance. But a cooperative society in which things are shared in common requires many to surrender the control of their purse strings. This is a tender spot for man. Some men will put their eternal destiny into the arm of flesh with a recklessness that would astound dictators; but when their pocketbooks are to be assessed, they speedily retreat.

In 1830 the Lord proposed to give this commandment of all things in common to the Mormons. Within a few months the Lord revealed:

[133] But it is not given that one man should possess that which is above another, wherefore the world lieth in sin. (D & C 49:20)

For if ye are not equal in earthly things, ye cannot be equal in obtaining heavenly things. (D & C 78:6)

The Lord gave revelations and the Prophet Joseph conveyed to the Saints these instructions on living the United Order; so it began in the early stages of the Church in Kirtland, Ohio. However, many of the Saints in Kirtland were not able to keep those covenants and stewardships because of their lust for personal wealth. George A. Smith explained:

I moved into Kirtland with five families. The question immediately arose-“Where shall we settle?” Why, right here in Kirtland; the Lord designs to make this a stronghold for a few years, and here we are to settle, which was the counsel of the Prophet. The very first thing that occurred after this advice was that two out of the five came to the conclusion that they had better go to the neighbouring town, because they thought they could gain some temporary advantage. To Chagrin they went, in opposition to the advice of the Prophet, and in a few weeks they were in darkness, and not long after, they were numbered with the enemies of Zion, and were soon using all their power for the destruction of the Saints. He that gathereth not with us scattereth abroad. Joseph, the Prophet, told us to go to work and build up the cities of Zion, and not to build up strange cities. (JD 12:150)

This personal lust for wealth could affect both Church members and leaders alike. Brigham Young recalled:

When the Twelve Apostles were chosen in this dispensation, they were told not to labor with their hands, but to preach the gospel to the nations of the earth. Some of them, before a year had elapsed, were [134] engaged in trade; they became merchants, and they apostatized. (Mill. Star 30:626)

Thus, on April 10, 1834, the United Order at Kirtland was dissolved. Yet, only 13 days later the Lord gave a revelation to Joseph Smith concerning the Order of Enoch. (See D & C Sec. 104.) The whole revelation was devoted to this United Order effort. The Lord seemed determined to have this principle lived, even if most of the people didn’t. It began by saying:

Verily I say unto you, my friends, I give unto you counsel, and a commandment, concerning all the properties which belong to the order which I commanded to be organized and established, to be a united order, and an EVERLASTING order for the benefit of my church, and for the salvation of men until I come. . . . (D & C 104:1)

Speculation took hold of the people in America-and the Saints were not exempt. By 1837 the country and the Saints experienced financial chaos.

Elder B. H. Roberts summarized the reason for the great apostasy and failure of the Saints in Kirtland:

They had entered into that spirit of reckless speculation which for several years had been rife throughout the United States, and which expressed itself chiefly in land speculation and in excessive banking, culminating in the disastrous financial panic of 1837. (CHC 1:398)

The result of the financial panic was that millions of dollars throughout the area were lost and “the sheriff was a frequent visitor at Kirtland and mortgage foreclosures followed each other in surprising frequency.” (CHC 1:407) Kirtland [135] became uprooted and apostasy reached its highest point during these times.

If the Saints had adhered to the laws of consecration, as the Lord had commanded in 1831, the catastrophe of 1837 could have been avoided.

While the Saints in Kirtland were attempting to live a United Order, the Lord gave a revelation concerning a “land of promise” which would have “no curse when the Lord cometh”. The place had not been revealed, but if they would gather to Ohio, they would be informed of this “Zion”. Later, it was revealed that the “New Jerusalem” or “Holy City”, the capital of the government of God, would be located in Jackson County, Missouri.

The Lord also revealed that this Zion could not be established except by obedience to the “law” of consecration. (See D & C 58:35-36.) Another United Order was attempted in Missouri, and the Prophet dedicated the site for the temple of the New Jerusalem at Independence. (See D & C 84:2-4.)

With land so cheap, and with so many Mormons moving onto the land, making it more valuable, many of the Saints took advantage of the old gentile philosophy to “buy cheap and sell high”. They were motivated by the temporal profit rather than gaining an eternal inheritance. The Lord saw this and warned them that “the rebellious shall be cut off out of the land of Zion, and shall be sent away, and shall not inherit the land” (D & C 64:35), because He decreed that “my law shall be kept on this land”. (D & C 58:19) The Prophet Joseph Smith wrote a letter to the Saints in Missouri and warned them also that-

. . . if Zion will not purify herself, so as to be approved of in all things, in his sight, he will seek [136] another people; for his work will go on until Israel is gathered, and they who will not hear his voice, must expect to feel his wrath. (DHC 1:316)

All of this was given as warning to the Saints at a time when everything was peaceful in Jackson County, Missouri. The Saints were greedy after the temporal things, and within two and a half years of their settling in the land of Zion, the words of these prophecies were fulfilled.

Since the Saints failed to keep the law of United Order, they suffered the consequences, and the Lord chastised them:

Behold, they have not learned to be obedient to the things which I required at their hands, but are full of all manner of evil, and do not impart of their substance, as becometh Saints, to the poor and afflicted among them; and are not united according to the union required by the law of the celestial kingdom. (D & C 105:3-4)

The Saints were their own worst enemy. Because of their own weaknesses and faults, the Lord allowed them to suffer the persecution and plundering that resulted in Missouri. Elder George A. Smith reported:

The settlements in Jackson County were commenced on the principle of the law of consecration. * * * There were, however, at that period, professed Latter-day Saints, who did not see proper to abide by this law of consecration; they thought it was their privilege to look after “number one”, and some of them, believing that Zion was to become a very great city, and that being the centre stake of it, they purchased tracts of land in the vicinity with the intention of keeping them until Zion became the beauty and joy of the whole earth, when they thought they could sell their lands and make themselves very rich. It was probably owing to this, in part, that the Lord suffered the enemies of Zion to rise against her. (JD 17:59)

[137] The Missourians rose up against the Mormons and burned out 203 Mormon homes, and burned or destroyed many grain fields and granaries. They ripped out fences, tore down their printing office and other businesses, whipped, beat and raped the Mormons. Over $318,000 had been paid for land in Missouri, but all of it was lost to the mobs.

The Prophet Joseph Smith gave a speech at Far West which was not only a warning to the Saints then, but a prophetic warning to the Saints in our day:

Brethren, we are gathered to this beautiful land to build up Zion. . . . But since I have been here I have perceived the spirit of selfishness. Covetousness exists in the hearts of the Saints. . . . Here are those beginning to spread out, buying up all the land they are able to . . . thinking to lay a foundation for themselves, only looking to their individual families. . . . Now I want to tell you that Zion cannot be built up in such a way. I see signs put out, beer signs, speculative schemes are being introduced. This is the way of the world, Babylon indeed, and I tell you in the name of the God of Israel, if there is not repentance . . . you will be broken and scattered from this land. (Edward Stevenson Autobiography, p. 40)

The Lord Himself warned the Saints:

Zion cannot be built up unless it is by the principles of the law of the celestial kingdom; otherwise I cannot receive her unto myself. And my people must needs be chastened until they learn obedience, if it needs be, by the things which they suffer. (D & C 105: 5-6)

Persecutions continued in Far West and the Mormons were driven out again, leaving nearly a half million dollars in property and goods. In January of 1839, the Saints left for Illinois to make another settlement. However, for the next [138] several years the Saints were unable to re-establish the United Order.

Because the Saints failed to keep the commandments of the Lord, they were forced more than once to leave their homes, their lands and their temples. Soon they even had to leave the boundaries of the United States to wander in the desert wilderness to try again to live the Gospel the way the Lord had revealed it.

The barren wilderness of Utah was a means of purification. Those who wanted to live in a better climate, more prosperous conditions, with an easier means of livelihood, were quick to leave this desert oasis. Some headed for the gold fields of California; others sold their possessions and joined the numerous caravans heading for the West Coast.

After 20 years in the desert, a successful effort in getting the people into the Order came with the establishment of a mercantile cooperative. In 1868 the first steps were taken towards a “Zion’s Cooperative Mercantile Institution,” and branches of the cooperative were established in many of the settlements as stock companies. Everyone was given the opportunity to buy stock with cash, produce, or labor.

Business was booming for the new Z.C.M.I., but it was a death blow to many of the other merchants-including some of the Mormon stores. But Brigham said the cooperative and the United Order would serve a better purpose:

Henceforth it must be to let this trade alone, and save our means for other purposes than to enrich outsiders. We must use it to spread the Gospel, to gather the poor, build temples, sustain our poor, build houses for ourselves, and convert this means to a better use than to give it to those who will use it against us. (JD 12:301)

[139] Bitter conflict grew between the Mormons and non-Mormons during the 1860’s and 1870’s. The Government now took the position that mobs had formerly taken. Not only did they send a whole army out west to “put down” the Mormons, but they began to hatch up numerous and unconstitutional laws to persecute, religiously uproot, and economically destroy the Mormon people.

These were the forces and conditions that drove the Mormon people into an economic independence and the birth of the United Order again among its people. Another event that helped the germination of the Order was the great national panic and depression of 1873. In 1872 Brigham Young delivered a sermon in which he may have been referring to this imminent depression:

If Babylon should happen to tip over, so that we could not reach out and gather the necessaries of life, we should be in a bad condition. I want to put you in mind of these things, and it is my duty to say to the Latter-day Saints that they should take measures to sustain themselves-they should lay a foundation for feeding and clothing themselves. (JD 15:158)

Within a year after this sermon, Babylon did “tip over”. This national depression hit the United States and reached its bottom by 1875, and didn’t turn around until 1879. It was during these six years that people all over the country were trying to find ways of financial relief.

On January 11, 1874, Brigham Young began to take active measures for establishing the United Order among the Mormons. At a meeting in the home of Erastus Snow in St. George, Robert Gardner gathered a list of about a dozen names of people who were willing to enter the Order. Brigham said it was enough for a start. On February 9, Gardner was set apart [140] as president of the New Order; and on February 15, in a general meeting, Young told them it was time for all the Saints to enter into that law. This was the beginning of a major change in the church, resulting in at least 220 different United Orders. (See Building the City of God, Arrington, Fox, and May, pp. 414-419.)

Brigham Young said he had been instructed by the Lord to establish the United Order among the Saints:

Thus saith the Lord unto my servant Brigham, Call ye, call ye, upon the inhabitants of Zion, to organize themselves in the Order of Enoch, in the New and Everlasting Covenant, according to the Order of Heaven, for the furtherance of my kingdom upon the earth, for the perfecting of the Saints, for the salvation of the living and the dead.

You can accommodate yourselves by calling this a new revelation, if you choose; it is no new revelation, but it is the express word and will of God to this people. (JD 17:154, 1874)

The central theme of their preaching was both spiritual and temporal. The Saints were told to be self-sustaining and not import or buy anything that they could make themselves. They were not to have any poor among them-everyone could labor in some way.

The Order of Enoch spread in Utah, Wyoming, and Idaho-to include the towns of Bear Lake, Montpelier, Paris, Liberty, Ovid, Bloomington, St. Charles, Fish Haven, Laketown, Woodruff, Randolf, Almy, Malad, Clarkston, Mantua and many others.

But every Order had its time of trouble and sorrow. The strain of management, or else weaknesses in the members themselves, were too severe for most of the Orders. All of them [141] were operating with different degrees of success or failure. Some members had gone into it with a complete consecration; others still had private interests and businesses. Some consecrated all their time to the Order, while others were only half into it. Part of the members wanted money for their wages. Some drew all of their credits out as soon as they earned them, while a few took only the very essentials to exist.

Of the 220+ different United Orders that were started, only a small number were successful for more than a few years. It has been estimated that during the first year of the organization of these Orders, nearly half of them were unsuccessful.

There was nothing wrong with the system-the problem was with the people. Some were happy and successful in it, but others were disgruntled and dissatisfied. Brigham explained how this economic system of United Order could become a profitable one if it were operated correctly:

I know how to start such a society, right in this city, and how to make its members rich. * * * Would you like to know how to do this? I can tell you in a very few words-never want a thing you cannot get, live within your means, manufacture that which you wear, and raise that which you eat. Raise every calf and lamb; raise the chickens, and have your eggs, make your butter and cheese, and always have a little to spare. The first year we raise a crop, and we have more than we want. We buy nothing, we sell a little. The next year we raise more; we buy nothing, and we sell more. In this way we could pile up the gold and silver and in twenty years a hundred families working like this could buy out their neighbors. (JD 16:11)

Continuing, he gave an insight into the importance of this system and what would happen if it were not perpetuated:

[142] Zion is the pure in heart. Zion cannot be built up except on the principles of union required by the celestial law. It is high time for us to enter into these things. It is more pleasant and agreeable for the Latter-day Saints to enter into this work and build up Zion, than to build up ourselves and have this great competition which is destroying us. Now let things go on in our midst in our Gentile fashion, and you would see an aristocracy growing amongst us . . . . You would have classes established here, some very poor and some very rich. Now, the Lord is not going to have anything of that kind. (JD 19:349)

A correspondent from the Salt Lake Herald visited the Brigham City United Order and wrote a brief synopsis which leaves a nostalgic glimpse of the past-and of what might have been:

If the example of the inhabitants of this town was more generally followed, Utah would be far more prosperous and her people much better off. Our present suicidal policy of exporting raw materials and importing manufactured articles would be stopped, we would be far more independent of our sister states and territories; the financial panics of the east or west would not affect us; our people would all have good homes and enjoy more of the comforts of life than they can hope for under present regulations; and our children would stand a much better chance of receiving good educations and becoming useful members of society. (Salt Lake Herald, Oct. 25, 1876)

The most successful Order was the one in Orderville. That community never felt the economic fluctuations on the money markets, nor the effects of the depression, for they were almost totally self-sustaining. They had their own meat, eggs, cheese, soap, coal, lumber, milk, silk, wool, cotton and leather products. In addition, they were able to furnish material and labor in the building of the St. George and Manti Temples, and they also sent out missionaries.

[143] Eventually, there came a time when those living in Orderville were better dressed and better fed than any of their neighbors.

During the depression of the late 1870’s and early 1880’s, many people sought to join the Orderville community. There were those who joined but would not work, and some who soon withdrew from the Order-both of whom caused trouble.

From Order to Disorder

The last members of the Orderville Board of Directors, remained until July 14, 1900. The Order was still financially independent when it was disorganized, and negotiations were even under way at this time for the purchase of several cotton mills.

However, it was not the weakness of members, difficulty of internal practices or stringent rules that caused the Order its greatest trouble. It was the Federal Government. The Edmunds Act in 1885 induced fines and imprisonment for polygamists for “unlawful cohabitation”, causing many to leave for the underground. Some of the men were apprehended and sent to prison, including the president of Orderville, Thomas Chamberlain.

And along with the Government, it was also some of the LDS Church leaders that finally disbanded the Order:

Many of the families in Orderville were plural, and to escape from U.S. Marshals who were enforcing the Edmunds Act, many men went into hiding; some were caught and sentenced to prison. Apostle Lyman advised the citizens to discontinue the Order. . . . (“Orderly Orderville,” Nick Carling, The Trolley Times, p. 2)

[144] Because of the Edmunds-Tucker Law, the Government was legally stealing Mormon Church land. Some of the leaders were more willing to capitulate with their enemies than to stand up for their rights. It was during this confusion of what was right and what was wrong that-

The Church authorities sent John R. Young, Brigham’s first son, to dissolve the Order. He couldn’t convince them to dissolve, so they had to send another man to do it. (Des. News, Sept. 4, 1974, B-3)

The apostles Brigham Young, Jr., and Heber J. Grant also came to recommend that the Order disband so that they could make peace with the Government. Gradually each piece of property, equipment and livestock was transferred, sold or deeded. It was not until 1900 that the last item-the incorporated Order-was phased out of existence.

The cooperative spirit was soon replaced by the competitive spirit. Money schemes, financiering, and all that goes with modern merchandising, became incorporated with the Mormon economic system. United Order among the Mormons would become a relic of the past with little more value than their handcarts, muskets, and prairie schooners. The United Order was once the “law of the Lord” to a people making attempts to practice it. Now it merely gathers dust in books upon the shelves of pioneer history.

A Necessary Order to Redeem Zion

Inequality is a sin, not only to the Latter-day Saints, but also to the world, and Brigham Young said, “The Latter-day Saints will never accomplish their mission until this inequality shall cease on the earth.” (JD 19:47) It is a sad commentary to realize that the Saints have not been able to divert the gentiles from the inequality of their money, but rather the gentiles have been able to divert the Mormons from the equality of theirs.

[145] In one of the last revelations to the Church concerning this Order of Enoch, the Lord said:

Behold, I say unto you, were it not for the transgressions of my people, speaking concerning the Church and not individuals, they might have been redeemed even now; but, behold, they have not learned to be obedient to the things which I required at their hands, but are full of all manner of evil, and do not impart of their substance, as becometh saints, to the poor and afflicted among them and are not united according to the union required by the law of the celestial kingdom; and Zion cannot be built up unless it is by the principles of the law of the celestial kingdom, otherwise I cannot receive her unto myself. (D & C 105:2-5)

That problem among the Saints has not been resolved even to the present day.

To Summarize

  1. Having “all things in common” was a doctrine attempted, or practiced, by all true Saints since the beginning of recorded history.
  2. The United Order was practiced for awhile in Kirtland and Independence. However, its failure resulted in the expulsion of the Saints. It was not          re-established in Illinois nor for about 20 years after the Saints                arrived in Utah.
  3. A few orders begun under the leadership of Brigham Young had some success, (i.e., Brigham City and Orderville) but they were gradually               discontinued-because of pressure from the U. S Government, the LDS   Church, or because of disunity among the people themselves.


  1. God commanded the Saints to be organized “by a bond or everlasting covenant that cannot be broken” (D & C 78:11), but they were unsuccessful                in their efforts. The United Order is an “everlasting order”. (D & C            104:1)
  2. For the last century no attempt by the LDS Church has been made to re-establish the United Order.
  3. Today the Saints are taught and are practicing the principles of Babylon by “pinching, grasping, hooking, cheating” and every other deception to    get rich.
  4. Zion cannot be established except through the law of consecration. (See D & C 58:35-36.)


[147]                             Chapter 11


This Is Life Eternal . . .

The Prophet Joseph Smith once said:

There are but a very few beings in the world who understand rightly the character of God (TPJS, p. 343)

And again-

The things of God are of deep import; and time and experience and careful and ponderous and solemn thoughts can only find them out. (TPJS, p. 137)

We never can comprehend the things of God and of heaven, but by revelation. We may spiritualize and express opinions to all eternity; but that is no authority. (TPJS, p. 292)

I want to ask this congregation, every man, woman and child, to answer the question in their own hearts, what kind of a being God is? Ask yourselves; turn your thoughts into your hearts, and say if any of you have seen, heard, or communed with Him? This is a question that may occupy your attention for a long time. I again repeat the question-What kind of a being is God? Does any man or woman know? Have any of you seen Him, heard Him, or communed with Him? Here is the question that will, peradventure, from this time henceforth occupy your attention. The [148] scriptures inform us that “This is life eternal that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.” (DHC 6:303)

In this last reference the Prophet makes four important points:

  1. Few people rightly understand the character of God.
  2. It takes deep, solemn thought and revelation to comprehend Him.
  3. Does any man or woman know Him? Has anyone seen Him?
  4. It is life eternal to know the only true God.

With this groundwork laid out by the Prophet, we are challenged to put forth some very serious thought on this subject. It will take much study and effort to learn the identity, character and disposition of God-even God’s creation of this world is still a mystery to nearly everyone.

The restoration of the Gospel has provided the answers to a multitude of questions-but still many remain unanswered. Even Joseph Smith admitted that he could not provide all the answers, and he could not tell the Saints 1/100th part of what he knew.

The story of man’s creation and mortal beginning has been a complicated mass of theories and conjectures. Even the Bible presents some bizarre and figurative stories for which there is no definitive interpretation.

Religionists and scientists both admit they have not determined the very beginning of man’s history, yet there are plenty of speculations. The Bible contains only a few verses about man@s creation and says that he was scooped up like a mudpie man, and woman was made out of his rib. Many of our [149] school children are taught by scientific educators that man evolved from some bug or worm. However, neither account provides the truth about the origin of man on earth. We are in reality children of God:

Man has descended from God: In fact, he is of the same race as the Gods. His descent has not been from a lower form of life; in other words, man is, in the most literal sense a child of God. This is not only true of the spirit of man, but of his body also. (“The Creation of Man”, Priesthood Course of Study, 1910.)

The Prophet Joseph Smith was asked many questions on this subject, especially, “How did the first person get on this earth?” This, and many other questions, will be answered in this chapter in the words of the early Church leaders themselves. For the Lord has said that this dispensation is the time when many of these hidden truths will be made known:

For I deign to reveal unto my church things which have been kept hid from before the foundation of the world, things that pertain to the dispensation of the fulness of times. (D & C 124:41)

There are many things which belong to the powers of the Priesthood and the keys thereof, that have been kept hid from before the foundation of the world; they are hid from the wise and prudent to be revealed in the last times. (DHC 4:209-210)

With this is mind, let’s begin with the first of nine pertinent questions:

  1. Is the mud-man story of Adam and Eve a literal or true story? If not, how did they get their body?

Listen, ye Latter-day Saints! Supposing that Adam was formed actually out of clay, out of the same [150] kind of material from which bricks are formed; that with this matter God made the pattern of a man, and breathed into it the breath of life, and left it there, in that state of supposed perfection, he would have been an adobe to this day! (Brigham Young, JD 2:6)

God has set many signs on the earth, as well as in the heavens; for instance, the oak of the forest, the fruit of the tree, the herb of the field, all bear a sign that seed hath been planted there; for it is a decree of the Lord that every tree, plant, and herb bearing seed should bring forth of its kind, and cannot come forth after any other principle. (Joseph Smith, TPJS, p. 198)

God has made His children like Himself to stand erect, and has endowed them with intelligence and power and dominion over all his works and given them the same attributes which He Himself possesses. He created man, as we create our children; for there is no other process of creation in heaven, on the earth, in the earth, or under the earth, or in all the eternities, that is, that was, or ever will be. (Brigham Young, JD 11:122)

If Abraham reasoned thus-If Jesus Christ was the Son of God, and John discovered that God the Father of Jesus Christ had a Father, you may suppose that He had a Father also. Where was there ever a son without a father? And where was there ever a father without first being a son? Whenever did a tree or anything spring into existence without a progenitor? And everything comes in this way. (Joseph Smith, TPJS, p. 373)

Now about the rib. As for the Lord taking a rib out of Adam’s side to make a woman of, he took one out of my side just as much.

“But, Brother Brigham, would you make it appear that Moses did not tell the truth?”

No, not a particle more than I would that your mother did not tell the truth, when she told you that [151] little Billy came from a hollow toad stool. I would not accuse your mother of lying, any more than I would Moses; the people in the days of Moses wanted to know things that was <sic> not for them, the same as your children do, when they want to know where their little brother came from, and he answered them according to their folly, the same as you did your children.

Now some will be ready to say, “We always heard these Mormons did not believe the Bible.” I believe all the truth that is there and that is enough for me, and for you to believe.

“Then the Lord did not make Adam out of the dust of the earth?”

Yes he did, but I have not got to that part of my discourse yet. Adam was made of the dust of the earth.

“Was he made of the dust of this earth?”

No, but of the dust of the earth where he was born in the flesh; that is the way he was made; he was made of dust.

“Did the Lord put into him his spirit?”

Yes, as the Lord put into you your spirit, he was begotten of a father, and brought forth as you and I were; and so are all intelligent beings brought forth from eternity to eternity. Man was not mad<e> the same as you make an adobe to put in a wall. Moses said Adam was made of the dust of the ground, but he did not say of what ground. (Brigham Young, L. John Nuttall Journal, Feb. 7, 1877)

We are informed that the Lord God made every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb before it grew on our planet. As vegetation was created or made to grow upon some older earth, so likewise man and his helpmate were brought from some other world to our own, to people it with their children. And though it is said that the “Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground,”-it by no means follows that he was “formed” as one might form a brick, or from the dust of this earth. We are all “formed” of the dust of the ground, though instead of being molded as a brick we are brought forth by the natural laws of procreation; so also was Adam [152] and his wife in some other world. And as for the story of the rib, under it I believe the mystery of procreation is hidden. (B. H. Roberts, Contributor 10:265)

We have heard a great deal about Adam and Eve; how they were formed, etc. Some think that he was made like an adobe and the Lord breathed into him the breath of life; for we read: “From dust thou art and unto dust thou shalt return.” Well, he was made from the dust of the earth but not of this earth. He was made just the same way you and I are made, but on another earth. (Brigham Young, L. John Nuttall Journal, 1:18)

And here let me state to all philosophers of every class upon the earth; when you tell me that Father Adam was made as we make adobes from the earth, you tell me what I deem an idle tale. When you tell me that the beasts of the field were produced in that manner, you are speaking idle words devoid of meaning. There is no such thing in all the eternities where the Gods dwell. Mankind are here because they are the offspring of parents who were first brought here from another planet, and power was given them to propagate their species, and they were commanded to multiply and replenish the earth. (Brigham Young, JD 7:285)

  1. What was the nature of the fall? What happened to Adam and Eve when they partook of the forbidden fruit?

Adam and Eve, when they were placed on this earth, were immortal beings of flesh, bones and sinews; but upon partaking of the fruits of the earth, while in the garden, and cultivating the ground, their bodies became changed from immortal to mortal beings, with blood coursing through their veins as the action of life. Adam was not under transgression until after he partook of the forbidden fruit. This was necessary that [153] they might be together, that man might be. (Brigham Young, L. John Nuttall Journal, 1:20)

They came here, organized the raw material, and arranged in their order the herbs of the field, the trees, the apple, the peach, the plum, the pear, and every other fruit that is desirable and good for man; the seed was brought from another sphere, and planted in this earth. The thistle, the thorn, the brier, and the obnoxious weed did not appear until after the earth was cursed. When Adam and Eve had eaten of the forbidden fruit, their bodies became mortal from its effects, and therefore their offspring were mortal. (Brigham Young, JD 1:50)

The “forbidden tree,” says Brigham, contained in its fruit the elements of death, or the elements of mortality. By eating of it, blood was AGAIN infused into the tabernacles of beings who had become immortal. The basis of mortal generation is blood. Without blood no mortal can be born. Even could immortals have been conceived on earth, the trees of life had made but the paradise of a few; but mortal world was the object of creation then.

Eve partook of that supper of the Lord’s death first. She ate of that body and drank of that blood.

Be it to Adam’s eternal credit that he stood by and let our Mother-our ever blessed Mother Eve-partake of the sacrifice before himself. Adam followed the Mother’s example, for he was great and grand-a Father worthy indeed of a world. He was wise, too; for the blood of life is the stream of mortality. (Edward Tullidge, Women of Mormondom, pp. 198-99)

  1. Were Adam and Eve aware of the effect that the fall would have on them and their children?

In my fullest belief, it was the design of the Lord that Adam should partake of the forbidden fruit, and I believe that Adam knew all about it before he came to this earth. I believe there was no other way [154] leading to thrones and dominions only for him to transgress, or take that position which transgression alone could place man in, to descend below all things, that they might ascend to thrones, principalities, and powers; for they could not ascend to that eminence without first descending, nor upon any other principle. (Brigham Young, JD 2:302)

And I reckon that Adam came into the Garden of Eden, and did actually eat of the fruit that he himself planted; and I reckon there was a previous understanding, and the whole plan was previously calculated, before the Garden of Eden was made, that he would reduce his posterity to sin, misery, darkness, wickedness, wretchedness, and to the power of the Devil, that they might be prepared for an Exaltation, for without this they could not receive one. (Brigham Young, Teachings of Brigham Young, Collier, Oct. 8, 1854, p. 360)

After the earth was prepared, Father Adam came and stayed here, and there was a woman brought to him. Now I am telling you something that many of you know, it has been told to you, and the brethren and sisters should understand it. There was a certain woman brought to Father Adam whose name was Eve, because she was the first woman, and she was given to him to be his wife; I am not disposed to give any further knowledge concerning her at present. There is no doubt but he left many companions. The great and glorious doctrine that pertains to this I have not time to dwell upon; neither should I at present if I had time. He understood this whole machinery or system before he came to this earth; and I hope my brethren and sisters will profit by what I have told them. (Brigham Young, JD 16:167)

  1. What kind of body did Adam and Eve bring into the garden of Eden@physical or spiritual?  mortal or immortal?

[155] There was no blood in his (Adam’s) body, but he had a spiritual body until it was changed by the fall. A spiritual body is one which is not quickened by blood, but by spirit. Before the fall, Adam had a physical, tangible body of flesh and bones, but it was not quickened by blood. (Joseph Fielding Smith, Church History and Modern Revelation, 1948, 2nd in series of 4 Melchizedek Priesthood manuals, p. 5)

Question: As Adam was an immortal being when placed here on earth and commanded to multiply, would not his offspring have been immortal but for the fall? (M.P.F., Logan, Utah)

Answer: Yes. But they would have had spiritual bodies only and not bodies of flesh, blood and bone. When Adam and Eve were first placed in the Garden of Eden they had resurrected bodies, in which there was no blood. A spiritual fluid or substance circulated in their veins instead of blood. Consequently, they had not power to beget children with tabernacles of flesh, such as human beings possess. The fall caused a change in their bodies, which, while it rendered them mortal, at the same time gave them power to create mortal bodies of flesh, blood and bone for their offspring. This is a very brief explanation of a very important subject. (Liahona 6:33)

Things were first created spiritually, the Father actually begot the spirits, and they were brought forth and lived with Him. Then He commenced the work of creating earthly tabernacles, precisely as He had been created in the flesh Himself by partaking of the coarse material that was organized and composed this earth, until His system was charged with it, consequently the tabernacles of His children were organized from the coarse materials of this earth. (Brigham Young, JD 4:218)

And what was the fullest extent of the penalty of Adam’s transgression? I will tell you. It was death. The death of what? The death of the immortal taber-[156]nacle-of that tabernacle where the seeds of death had not been, that was wisely framed, and pronounced very good; the seeds of death were introduced into it. How, and in what manner? Some say there was something in the nature of the fruit that introduced mortality. (Masterful Discourses of Orson Pratt, Lundwall, ed., p. 336)

Adam and Eve were made of the dust of the earth from which they came-they brought their bodies with them. They had lived and died and been resurrected before they came here and they came with immortal bodies, and had to partake of the fruit of this earth in order to bring forth mortal bodies, or natural bodies, that their seed might be of the dust of this earth as they were from the dust of the earth from which they came. (Samuel W. Richards, Journal I, Book 2, pp. 63-64)

We have not the power in the flesh to create and bring forth or produce a spirit; but we have the power to produce a temporal body. The germ of this, God has placed within us. And when our spirits receive our bodies, and through our faithfulness we are worthy to be crowned, we will then receive authority to produce both spirit and body. (Brigham Young, JD 15:137)

When our father Adam came into the Garden of Eden, he came into it with a celestial body. (Brigham Young, JD 1:50)

Eve-immortal Eve-came down to earth to become the Mother of a race. How become the Mother of a world of mortals except by herself again becoming mortal? How become mortal only by transgressing the laws of immortality? How only by “eating of the forbidden fruit”-by partaking of the elements of a mortal earth, in which the seed of death was everywhere scattered?

All orthodox theologians believe Adam and Eve to have been at first immortal, and all acknowledge the great command, “Be fruitful and multiply.”

[157] That they were not about to become the parents of a world of immortals is evident, for they were on a mortal earth. (Tullidge, Women of Mormondom, pp. 197-98)

Adam and Eve, as immortal beings, were placed on earth and commanded to multiply and fill the earth with posterity. (Bruce R. McConkie, “A Light unto the World,” p. 4)

  1. How did the animals, birds, and other living things get on this planet?

He <Adam> was the person who brought the animals and the seeds from other planets to this world, and brought a wife with him and stayed here. You may read and believe what you please as to what is found written in the Bible. (Brigham Young, JD 3:319)

After the earth was made, then there was a garden spot selected, and the Lord commanded some of his associates to go and plant it, and to cause all kinds of vegetation to grow, and fruits of every description. Some suppose the Lord commanded all these things to come out of the earth. Yes, he did, after the seeds were put in the earth; and he blessed the earth, and the vegetation that was in the earth. When all these things were done, the garden was beautified, and made pure and clean and holy and sanctified; and then the next thing was to bring forth the animal creation; but the animals were not brought there until the vegetation was planted and grown. We often sing, “This earth was once a garden place,” where God our Father dwelt, and took possession and a stand that mankind will take who attain to that honour.

The religion of Jesus Christ, of angels, of Brigham, and of all good men is to take care of and improve and adorn the earth as Adam did. When he planted the garden, he planted it with seeds he brought with him; and he also brought the animals from the earth he lived upon, where his Father dwelt. (Heber C. Kimball, JD 8:243)

[158] We have been taught that our Father and God, from whom we sprang, called and appointed his servants to go and organize an earth, and, among the rest, he said to Adam, “You go along also and help all you can; you are going to inhabit it when it is organized, therefore go and assist in the good work.” It reads in the Scriptures that the Lord did it, but the true rendering is, that the Almighty sent Jehovah and Michael to do the work. They were also instructed to plant every kind of vegetable, likewise the forest and the fruit trees, and they actually brought from heaven every variety of fruit, of the seeds of vegetables, the seeds of flowers, and planted them in this earth on which we dwell. And I will say more, the spot chosen for the garden of Eden was Jackson County, in the State of Missouri, where Independence now stands; it was occupied in the morn of creation by Adam and his associates who came with him for the express purpose of peopling this earth. (Heber C. Kimball, JD 10:235, 1863)

  1. What role did Adam (Michael or the Ancient of Days) play, according to Joseph Smith?

He (Adam) is the head, and was told to multiply. The keys were first given to him, and by him to others. He will have to give an account of his stewardship, and they to him. (TPJS, p. 158)

We cannot be made perfect without them <angels>, nor they without us; when these things are done, the Son of Man will descend, the Ancient of Days sit; . . . (TPJS, p. 159)

The “Horn” made war with the Saints and overcame them, until the Ancient of Days came; judgment was given to the Saints of the Most High from the Ancient of Days; . . . (TPJS, p. 159)

I saw Adam in the valley of Adam-ondi-Ahman. He called together his children and blessed them with a [159] patriarchal blessing. The Lord appeared in their midst, and he (Adam) blessed them all, and foretold what should befall them to the latest generation. (TPJS, p. 158)

The Priesthood was first given to Adam; he obtained the First Presidency, and held the keys of it from generation to generation. He obtained it in the Creation, before the world was formed, as in Genesis 1:26, 27, 28. He had dominion given him over every living creature. He is Michael the Archangel, spoken of in the Scriptures. (TPJS, p. 157)

The Priesthood is an everlasting principle, and existed with God from eternity, and will to eternity, without beginning of days or end of years. The keys have to be brought from heaven whenever the Gospel is sent. When they are revealed from heaven, it is by Adam’s authority. (TPJS, p. 157)

Adam was made to open the way of the world, and for dressing the garden, (TPJS, p. 12)

Daniel in his seventh chapter speaks of the Ancient of Days; he means the oldest man, our Father Adam, Michael, he will call his children together and hold a council with them to prepare them for the coming of the Son of Man. He (Adam) is the father of the human family, and presides over the spirits of all men, and all that have had the keys must stand before him in this grand council. This may take place before some of us leave this stage of action. The Son of Man stands before him, and there is given him glory and dominion. (TPJS, p. 157)

Adam delivers up his stewardship to Christ, that which was delivered to him as holding the keys of the universe, but retains his standing as head of the human family. (DHC 3:386)

Commencing with Adam, who was the first man, who is spoken of in Daniel as being the “Ancient of [160] Days,” or in other words, the first and oldest of all, the great, grand progenitor of whom it is said in another place he is Michael, because he was the first and father of all, not only by progeny, but the first to hold the spiritual blessings, to whom was made known the plan of ordinances for the salvation of his posterity unto the end, and to whom Christ was first revealed, and through whom Christ has been revealed from heaven, and will continue to be revealed from henceforth. Adam holds the keys of the dispensation of the fullness of times; i.e., the dispensation of him from the beginning to Christ, and from Christ to the end of the dispensations that are to be revealed. (TPJS, pp. 167-68)

He set the ordinances to be the same forever and ever, and set Adam to watch over them, to reveal them from heaven to man, or to send angels to reveal them. “Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?” (Hebrews 1:14)

These angels are under the direction of Michael or Adam. (TPJS, p. 168)

This, then, is the nature of the Priesthood; every man holding the Presidency of his dispensation, and one man holding the Presidency of them all, even Adam. (TPJS, p. 169)

  1. What do the Bible and Biblical scholars say about the personage of Michael?

I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of Days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool; his throne was like the fiery flame, and his wheels as burning fire. A fiery stream issued and came forth from before him; thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him; the judgment was set, and the books were opened.

I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of Man came with the clouds of heaven, and [161] came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that shall not be destroyed. (Dan 7:9, 10, 13, 14)

The Ancient of Days is now taking His seat in judgment and aspects of His wrath are beginning to manifest themselves on the earth. Soon His Son Jesus Christ will return in the clouds of heaven and in righteousness He will judge and make war against all evil. (Destiny Magazine, Dec. 1953, Vol. 24, No. 12)

The Judge is the Ancient of days himself, God the Father, the glory of whose presence is here described. He is called the Ancient of days, because he is God from everlasting to everlasting. Among men we reckon that with the ancient is wisdom, and days shall speak; shall not all flesh then be silent before him who is the Ancient of days? The glory of the Judge is here set forth by his garment, which was white as snow, denoting his splendour and purity in all the administrations of his justice; and the hair of his head clean and white, as the pure wool, that, as the white and hoary head, he may appear venerable. * * *

Thousand thousands minister to him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stand before him. It is his glory that he has such attendants, but much more his glory that he neither needs them nor can be benefited by them. See how numerous the heavenly hosts are (there are thousands of angels), and how obsequious they are-they stand before God, ready to go on his errands and to take the first intimation of his will and pleasure. (Matthew Henry’s Bible Commentary, 4: 1072)

  1. What other name did Adam have and what did that name imply?

[162] Brethren, your long and tedious journey is now ended; you are now on the public square of Adam-ondi-Ahman. This is the place where Adam blessed his posterity, when they rose up and called him Michael, the Prince, the Archangel, and he being full of the Holy Ghost predicted what should befall his posterity to the latest generation. (See D & C 107:54; DHC 3:148)

Since I came down I have been informed from a proper source that the angel Michael is no less than our father Adam and Gabriel is Noah. I just drop this because I supposed that you would be pleased to know. (Oliver Cowdery to John Whitmer, 1 Jan. 1834, Huntington Journal, p. 10)

Their belief reminds me that brother Joseph B. Nobles once told a Methodist priest, after hearing him describe his god, that the god they worshipped was the “Mormons'” devil-a being without a body, whereas our God has a body, parts, and passions. The Devil was cursed and sent down from heaven. He has no body of his own; therefore he is constantly endeavouring to obtain possession of the tabernacles belonging to others. Some have grumbled because I believe our God to be so near to us as Father Adam. There are many who know that doctrine to be true. Where was Michael in the creation of this earth? Did he have a mission to the earth? He did. Where was he? In the Grand Council, and performed the mission assigned him there. Now, if it should happen that we have to pay tribute to Father Adam, what a humiliating circumstance it would be! Just wait till you pass Joseph Smith; and after Joseph lets you pass him, you will find Peter; and after you pass the Apostles and many of the Prophets, you will find Abraham, and he will say, “I have the keys, and except you do thus and so, you cannot pass;” and after a while you come to Jesus; and when you at length meet Father Adam, how strange it will appear to your present notions. If we can pass Joseph and have him say, “Here; you have been faithful, good boys; I hold the keys of this dispensation; I will let you pass;” then we shall be very glad to see the [163] white locks of Father Adam. But those are ideas which do not concern us at present, although it is written in the Bible-“This is eternal life, to know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.” (Brigham Young, JD 5:331, 1857)

  1. Will righteous men and women ever become Adams and Eves to an earth?

Before me I see a house full of Eves. What a crowd of reflections the word Eve is calculated to bring up! Eve was the name or title conferred upon our first mother, because she was actually to be the mother of all the human beings who should live upon this earth. I am looking upon a congregation designed to be just such beings. (Brigham Young, Mill. Star, 31:267)

Many of the sisters grieve because they are not blessed with offspring. You will see the time when you will have millions of children around you. If you are faithful to your covenants, you will become mothers of nations. You will become Eves to earths like this; and when you have assisted in peopling one earth, there are millions of earths still in the course of creation. And when they have endured a thousand million times longer than this earth, it is only as it were the beginning of your creations. Be faithful, and if you are not blessed with children in this time, you will hereafter. But I would not dare tell you all I know about these matters. (Brigham Young, JD 8:208)

After men have got their exaltations, and their crowns, have become Gods, even the sons of Gods, are made King of Kings and Lord of Lords, they have the power then of propagating their species in spirit, and that is the first operation with regard to organizing a world. Power is then given to them to organize the elements, and then to commence the organization of tabernacles. How can they do it? Have they to go to that earth? Yes, an Adam will have to go there and he cannot go without Eve; he must have Eve to commence the work of generation, and [164] they will go into the garden and continue to eat and drink of the fruits of the corporal world, until this grosser matter is diffused sufficiently through their celestial bodies, to enable them, according to the established laws to produce mortal tabernacles for their spiritual children. This is a key for you. (Brigham Young, JD 6:275)

Presentation of the Doctrine

The Apostle Parley P. Pratt arose in one of the high councils of the Church on January 1, 1844, and read a statement that later was published under the title “Angel of the Prairies”. This was read in the presence of the Prophet Joseph Smith and apparently approved of by him:

On entering this room, a vast and extensive hall was opened before me, the walls of which were white, and ornamented with various figures which I did not understand. In the midst of this hall was a vast throne and white as ivory, and ascended by seventy steps, and on either side of the throne, and of the steps leading to it, there were seats rising one above another. On this throne was seated an aged, venerable looking man. His hair was white with age, and his countenance beamed with intelligence and affection indescribable as if he were the father of the kingdoms and the people over which he reigned. He was clad in robes of dazzling whiteness, while a glorious crown rested upon his brow; and a pillar of light above his head seemed to diffuse over the whole scene a brilliance of glory and grandeur indescribable. There was something in his countenance which seemed to indicate that he had passed long years of struggle and exertion in the achievement of some mighty revolution, and been a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. But, like the evening sun after a day of clouds and tempest, he seemed to smile with the dignity of repose. In connection with this venerable personage sat two others scarcely less venerable, and clad and crowned in the [165] same manner, on the next seat below were twelve personages, much of the same appearances and clad in the same manner, with crowns upon their heads; while the descending seats were filled with some thousands of noble and dignified personages, all enrobed in white and crowned with authority, power and majesty, as kings and presiding among the Sons of God.

“You now behold,” said the Angel of the Prairies, “the Grand Presiding Council organized in wisdom, and holding the keys of power to bear rule over all the earth in righteousness. And of the increase and glory of their kingdoms there shall be no end.” * * *

“The venerable council which you beheld enthroned in majesty and clad in robes of white, with crowns upon their heads, is the order of the Ancient of Days, before whose august presence thrones have been cast down, and tyrants have ceased to rule.” (“The Angel of the Prairies,” Parley P. Pratt, pp. 13-14, 24)

Brigham Young made the first public announcement of the Adam-God doctrine in 1852:

Now hear it, O inhabitants of the earth, Jew and Gentile, Saint and sinner! When our father Adam came into the garden of Eden, he came into it with a celestial body, and brought Eve, one of his wives, with him! He helped to make and organize this world. He is Michael, the Archangel, the Ancient of Days! about whom holy men have written and spoken-He is our Father and our God, and the only God with whom we have to do. Every man upon the earth, professing Christians or non-professing, must hear it, and will know it sooner or later. * * *

I could tell you much more about this; but were I to tell you the whole truth, blasphemy would be nothing to it, in the estimation of the superstitious and over-righteous of mankind. However, I have told you the truth as far as I have gone. * * *

I have given you a few leading items upon this subject, but a great deal more remains to be told. * * *

[166] Treasure up these things in your hearts. In the Bible you have read the things I have told you tonight; but you have not known what you did read. I have told you no more than you are conversant with; but what do the people in Christendom, with the Bible in their hands, know about this subject? Comparatively nothing. (JD 1:50, 51)

In 1856, Brigham Young explained the importance of understanding correctly the identity and character of God:

Tell me that you do not know anything about God! I will tell you one thing, it would better become you to lay your hands upon your mouths and them in the dust, and cry, “unclean, unclean.” Whether you receive these things or not, I tell you them in simplicity. I lay them before you like a child, because they are perfectly simple. If you see and understand these things, it will be by the Spirit of God; you will receive them by no other spirit. (by the same token no one can reject them with the spirit of the Lord.) No matter whether they are told to you like the thunderings of the Almighty or by simple conversation; if you enjoy the Spirit of the Lord, it will tell you whether they are right or not. I am acquainted with my Father. I am as confident that I understand in part, see in part, and know and am acquainted with Him in part, as I am that I was acquainted with my earthly father who died in Quincy, Illinois, after we were driven from Missouri. * * * I know my Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ whom He has sent, and this is eternal life. (JD 4:218)

Brigham Young continued preaching the doctrine that Adam (Michael) is our God right up until the time of his death, as shown in the following four quotations:

God has created of one blood all the nations and kingdoms of men that dwell upon all the face of the earth; black, white, copper-colored, or whatever their [167] color, customs, or religion, they have all sprung from the same origin; the blood of all is from the same element. Adam and Eve are the parents of all pertaining to the flesh, and I would not say that they are not also the parents of our spirits. (JD 7:290, 1859)

Man is the offspring of God. Who can fully realize this? Our Heavenly Father orders all things that pertain to this earth and to multitudes of worlds of which we are ignorant. We are as much the children of this great Being as we are the children of our mortal progenitors. We are flesh of his flesh, bone of his bone, and the same fluid that circulates in our bodies, called blood, once circulated in his veins as it does in ours. (JD 9:283, 1862)

When they (“the faithful”) receive their crowns, their dominions, they then will be prepared to frame earths like unto ours and to people them in the same manner as we have been brought forth by our parents, by our Father and our God. (JD 18:259, 1876)

Adam was an immortal being when he came to this earth. He had lived on an earth similar to ours. He had received the Priesthood and the keys thereof, and had been faithful in all things, and had gained resurrection, and his exaltation, and was crowned with glory, immortality and eternal lives, and was numbered with the Gods, for such he was through his faithfulness. And he had begotten all of the spirits that were to come to this earth. (L. John Nuttall Journal, 1:18, Feb. 7, 1877)

Eclipse of the Doctrine

Many of the Saints, however, apparently had trouble accepting this definition and explanation of God. Even in 1857 -five years after the first announcement of the doctrine-President Brigham Young commented:

[168] Some have grumbled because I believe our God to be so near to us as Father Adam. There are many who know that doctrine to be true. (JD 5:331)

And in 1873-21 years after the announcement-President Young again referred to the unbelief of the Mormon people:

How much unbelief exists in the minds of the Latter-day Saints in regard to one particular doctrine which I revealed to them, and which God revealed to me-namely that Adam is our Father and God. (Des. News, June 18, 1873)

Some of the leading brethren began to object to such teachings, and in 1895 the first public announcement was made by Wilford Woodruff to discourage the discussion of this issue:

Before I sit down I want to say a word to the Elders of Israel on another subject. I am called an old man; I guess I am. I was thinking just now, in speaking of the apostles and prophets that were with Joseph Smith when he made his last speech, I am the only man living that was with him at that time. The rest are today in the spirit world. How much longer I shall talk to this people I do not know; but I want to say this to all Israel: Cease troubling yourselves about who God is; who Adam is, who Christ is, who Jehovah is. For heaven’s sake, let these things alone. Why trouble yourselves about these things? God has revealed himself and when the 121st section of the Doctrine and Covenants is fulfilled, whether there be one God or many Gods, they will be revealed to the children of men, as well as all thrones and dominions, principalities, and powers. Then why trouble yourselves about these things? God is God. Christ is Christ. The Holy Ghost is the Holy Ghost. That should be enough for you and me to know. If we want to know anymore, wait till we get where God is in person. I say this because we are troubled every little while with inquiries from Elders [169] anxious to know who God is, who Christ is, and who Adam is. I say to the Elders of Israel, stop this. Humble yourselves before the Lord; seek for light, for truth, and for a knowledge of the common things of the Kingdom of God. The Lord is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He changes not. The Son of God is the same. He is the Savior of the world. He is our advocate with the Father. We have had letter after letter from Elders abroad wanting to know concerning these things. Adam is the first man. He was placed in the Garden of Eden, and is our great progenitor. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost, are the same yesterday, today, and forever. That should be sufficient for us to know. (Mill. Star 57:355-56)

Opposition to this doctrine became stronger through the years:


Concerning the doctrine in regard to Adam and the Savior, the Prophet Brigham Young taught some things concerning that; but the First Presidency and the Twelve do not think it wise to advocate these matters. It is sufficient to know we have a Father-God the Eternal Father, who reveals Himself by His Holy Spirit unto those who seek Him; and that Jesus Christ is His Son, our Redeemer, the Savior of the world. (First Sunday School Convention, 1898, p. 88)


There has been much discussion in Mutual Improvement Associations, and in theological classes of the Sunday Schools, over the exact status of “the first man Adam” in the doctrines of our church. Some remarks concerning him by President Brigham Young, in a discourse delivered in this city many years ago, have been commented upon, added to, and sometimes misinterpreted in a manner that has led to considerable confusion and misunderstanding. (Charles W. Penrose, Imp. Era 5:873)



Whether the mortal bodies of men evolved in natural processes to present perfection, through the direction and power of God; whether the first parents of our generation, Adam and Eve, were transplanted from another sphere, with immortal tabernacles, which became corrupted through sin and the partaking of natural foods, in the process of time; whether they were born here in mortality, as other mortals have been, are questions not fully answered in the revealed word of God. (Joseph F. Smith, Imp. Era, 13:570)


Speculations as to the career of Adam before he came to the earth are of no real value. We learn by revelation that he was Michael, the archangel, and that he stands at the head of his posterity on earth. Dogmatic assertions do not take the place of revelation, and we should be satisfied with that which is accepted as doctrine, and not discuss matters that, after all disputes, are merely matters of theory. (Joseph F. Smith, Anthon H. Lund, Charles W. Penrose, Imp. Era, 15:417)


Jesus of Nazareth, born of the virgin Mary, was literally and truly the Son of the Father, the Eternal God, not of Adam. (Charles W. Penrose, Conf. Rept., April 1916, p. 23)


If what is meant is that Adam had passed on to celestial glory through a resurrection before he came here, and that afterwards he was appointed to this earth to die again, the second time becoming mortal, then it is not scriptural and according to the truth. (Heber J. Grant, David O. McKay, Feb. 26, 1931)


. . . in all probability the sermon (by Brigham Young in JD 1:50) was erroneously transcribed. (Joseph Fldg. Smith, Doc. of Sal. 1:96, Apr. 15, 1939)



Those who peddle the well-worn Adam-God myth, usually charge the Latter-day Saints with believing that: (1) Our Father in Heaven, the Supreme God, to whom we pray, is Adam, the first man; and (2) Adam was the father of Jesus Christ. A long series of absurd and false deductions are made from these propositions. (John A. Widtsoe, Evidences and Reconciliation, p. 287)


Lashing out at persons who expound the belief that Adam is the God of this world, Elder Hunter stated that such doctrine is false and impossible and must be destroyed. “The idea that Adam is the God of this world or that he was transplanted here from another planet is false and misleading,” he declared. (Milton R. Hunter, Provo Daily Herald, Mar. 22, 1949, p. 9)


Cultists and other enemies of the restored truth, for their own nefarious purposes, sometimes try to make it appear that Latter-day Saints worship Adam as their Father in Heaven. In support of their false assumptions, they quote such statements as that of President Brigham Young to the effect that Adam is our father and our God and the only God with whom we have to do. There is no mystery about this doctrine except that which persons ignorant of the great principles of exaltation and unfriendly to the cause of righteousness have attempted to make. (Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, pp. 17-18)

Criticism of the Adam-God doctrine reached its grand finale under the thundering and dramatic pen of Bruce R. McConkie, who wrote:

There are those who believe, or say they believe, that Adam is our father and our God, that he is the [172] father of our spirits and our bodies, and that he is the one we worship. The devil keeps this heresy alive as a means of obtaining converts to cultism. It is contrary to the whole plan of salvation set forth in the scriptures. (“Seven Deadly Heresies,” Heresy No. 6, speech given at BYU 14-stake fireside, June 1, 1980)

Further condemnation of this doctrine came with a statement from Spencer W. Kimball in 1976:

We warn you against the dissemination of doctrines which are not according to the scriptures and which are alleged to have been taught by some of the General Authorities of past generations. Such, for instance, is the Adam-God theory. We denounce that theory and hope that everyone will be cautioned against this and other kinds of false doctrine. (Ensign, Nov. 1976, p. 77)

This public statement by a President of the Church-denouncing and refuting the teachings of another Church president-has left some in as much confusion as there ever was before.

To Summarize


  1. The Prophet Joseph Smith said that “very few” understand “rightly” the true character of God.
  2. Scientists and philosophers have fallen short in their ideas of explaining the creation of man on this planet.
  3. Mankind are the offspring of God. All things are reproduced through no other means than procreation and generation.
  4. All the plants and animals came to this earth from another world.


  1. Adam (Michael, the great Prince, the Archangel) came here with a resurrected celestial body, and brought Eve (one of his wives) with him.   By eating of the fruit in the Garden of Eden, their bodies were transformed, allowing them to have mortal children.
  2. This doctrine, as taught by Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, was gradually rejected by subsequent Church members and leaders, and today is           considered as merely a false theory.


[174]                             Chapter 12


An Ancient Doctrine

Polygamy, polygyny, or plural marriage certainly did not start with the Mormons. All the people of the Orient, who are descendants of Japheth, the son of Noah, have accepted it as an integral part of their marriage practices. All of the Arabic nations, who are descendants of Abraham, have continued to allow plural marriage because it is a principle of their religion that was practiced and honored by father Abraham.

All through the Bible the great and grand prophets, patriarchs and kings believed that God gave that principle as a divine revelation. Hence, it has been acceptable in most nations. This gave the Apostle Orson Pratt reason to say in 1852:

Plurality of wives is a doctrine very popular among most of mankind at the present day. It is practiced by the most powerful nations of Asia and Africa, and by numerous nations, inhabiting the Islands of the sea, and by the Aboriginal nations of the great Western Hemisphere. The one wife system is confined principally to a few small nations, inhabiting Europe and to those who are of European origin, inhabiting America. It is estimated by the most able historians of our day that about four-fifths of the population of the globe, believe and practice, according [175] to their respective laws, the doctrine of a Plurality of Wives. If the popularity of a doctrine is in proportion to the numbers who believe in it, then it follows that the Plurality system is four times more popular among the inhabitants of the earth, than the one wife system.

Those nations who practice the Plurality doctrine consider it as virtuous and as right for one man to have many wives, as to have one only. Therefore, they have enacted laws, not only giving this right to their citizens, but also protecting them in it, and punishing all those who infringe upon the chastity of the marriage covenant by committing adultery with any one of the wives of his neighbor. Those nations do not consider it possible for a man to commit adultery with any one of those women to whom he has been legally married according to their laws. The posterity raised up unto the husband through each of his wives, are all considered to be legitimate, and provisions are made in their laws for those children, the same as if they were the children of one wife. Adulteries, fornications, and all unvirtuous conduct between the sexes, are severely punished by them. Indeed, Plurality among them is considered, not only virtuous and right, but a great check or preventative against the adulteries and unlawful connections which are among the greatest evils with which nations are cursed, producing a vast amount of suffering and misery, devastation and death; undermining the very foundations of happiness, and destroying the frame-work of society, and the peace of the domestic circle.

Some of the nations of Europe who believe in the one wife system have actually forbidden a plurality of wives by their laws; and the consequences are that the whole country among them is overrun with the most abominable practices. Adulteries and unlawful connections prevail through all their villages, towns, cities, and country places to a most fearful extent. And among some of these nations these sinks of wickedness, wretchedness, and misery, are licensed by law; while their piety would be wonderfully shocked to authorize by law the Plurality system, as adopted by many neighboring nations. (The Seer, pp. 11-12)

[176] The whole house of Israel, descendants of the Patriarch Jacob, believed in and practiced that principle to build up their families and the nation of Israel. It has been estimated that most of the Israelites, after taking women hostages as wives, built up their nation with approximately eight wives each. It is interesting to note that in the New Testament Jesus forbid every possible sin connected with sex, even in our thoughts, but never condemned plural marriage. Paul the Apostle listed every possible sin he could think of in one of his writings, but never mentioned plural marriage as one of them.

The Reformers, during the 15th to 18th centuries, often mentioned it in their pamphlets and books as a God-approved part of marriage. For example, the chief reformer, Martin Luther, and seven of his greatest scholars issued a written statement in 1539 which said in part:

. . . prudent persons would approve of this moderate kind of life (plural marriage), preferable to adultery, and other brutal actions. There is no need of being much concerned for what men will say, provided all goes right with conscience. So far do we approve it, and in those circumstances only by us specified; for the Gospel hath neither recalled nor forbid what was permitted in the law of Moses with respect to marriage. Jesus Christ has not changed the external economy, but added justice only, and life everlasting for reward. He teaches the true way of obeying God, and endeavors to repair the corruption of nature. (Taken from History of the Variations of the Protestant Churches, Vol. 1, James Benign Bosuet, as quoted in Pratt’s The Seer, p. 179)

A Modern Doctrine

When the Lord established this nation and gave it freedom, He was then able to bring about the restoration of [177] the Gospel so that it could be protected by the Constitution, written by “wise men” whom he had raised up for that purpose. The restoration was bringing back all the principles, doctrines, and ordinances of the Gospel that had been lost or corrupted through the centuries of man-handling. Elder Mark E. Petersen once said:

Why was plural marriage practiced by the Latter-day Saints? The Lord refers to it as part of the restoration of all things. The Prophet Joseph did not wish to enter into polygamy. It was farthest from his mind. But he was the restorer, and through him “all things” must be restored. (Way of the Master, Petersen, p. 43)

Even before the Church was organized, during the translation of the Book of Mormon, it is said that Joseph received a revelation that introduced plural marriage as one of the doctrines of the Gospel. In a sermon by Brigham Young on this subject, he said-

. . . that while Joseph and Oliver were translating the Book of Mormon, they had a revelation that the order of Patriarchal Marriage and the sealing was right. Oliver said unto Joseph, “Br Joseph, why don’t we go into the Order of Polygamy, and practice it as the ancients did? We know it is true, then why delay?” Joseph’s reply was, “I know that we know it is true, and from God, but the time has not yet come.” This did not seem to suit Oliver, who expressed a determination to go into the order of Plural Marriage anyhow, altho he was ignorant of the order and pattern and the results. Joseph said, “Oliver, if you go into this thing it is not with my faith or consent.” Disregarding the counsel of Joseph, Oliver Cowdery took to wife Miss Annie Lyman, cousin to Geo. A. Smith. From that time he went into darkness and lost the spirit. Annie Lyman is still alive, a witness to these things. (Charles Walker Journal, July 26, 1872)

[178] Then only a couple of years later, in 1831, another revelation came to Joseph Smith in which he was told it was a true principle. W. W. Phelps recorded the circumstances and preserved a copy of that revelation, later relating this in a letter to Brigham Young. A portion of that record follows:

President B. Young, I have the pleasure of sending you the substance of a revelation by Joseph Smith Junr. given over the boundary, west of Jackson Co. Missouri, on Sunday morning July 17, 1831, when seven Elders, viz: Joseph Smith Jun., Oliver Cowdery, W.W. Phelps, Martin Harris, Joseph Coe, Ziba Peterson and Joshua Lewis united their hearts in prayer, in a private place, to inquire of the Lord who should preach the first sermon to the remnants of the Lamanites and Nephites, and the people of that section, that should assemble that day, in the Indian Country, to hear the gospel and the revelations according to the Book of Mormon.

<A part of that revelation says:>

Verily, I say unto you, you are laying the foundation of a great work for the salvation of as many as will believe and repent, and obey the ordinances of the Gospel, and continue faithful to the end: For, as I live, said the Lord, so shall they live.

Verily, I say unto you, that the wisdom of man, in his fallen state, knoweth not the purposes and the privileges of my holy priesthood, but ye shall know when ye receive a fulness by reason of the anointing: For it is my will, that in time, ye should take unto you wives of the Lamanites and Nephites, that their posterity may become white, delightsome and just, for even now their females are most virtuous than the gentiles.

<Then Phelps stated:>

About three years after this was given, I asked brother Joseph, privately, how “we,” that were mentioned in the revelation could take wives from the “natives” as we were all married men? He replied, instantly “In the same manner that Abraham took Hagar and Keturah; and Jacob took Rachel, Bilhah, and Zilpah; by revelation-the saints of the Lord are [179] always directed by revelation.”

Respectfully I have the faith to be, as ever

  1. W. Phelps

August 12, 1861

(Letter to Brigham Young, Church Historian’s Library, Manuscript Papers, Church Archives; also mentioned in Doctrines of the Kingdom, by Hyrum Andrus, p. 450; see also Orson Pratt, JD 13:193)

Although Oliver entered into plural marriage before he should have, Joseph postponed living it longer than he should have. Mary Rollins Lightner stated:

He <Joseph> preached polygamy and he not only preached it, but he practiced it. I am a living witness to it. It was given to him before he gave it to the Church. An angel came to him and the last time he came with a drawn sword in his hand and told Joseph if he did not go into that principle he would slay him. Joseph said he talked to him soberly about it, and told him it was an abomination and quoted scripture to him. (Life and Testimony of Mary Lightner, p. 58)

Elder Lyman Johnson told Orson Pratt that-

Joseph had made known to him as early as 1831, that plural marriage was a correct principle. Joseph declared to Lyman that God had revealed it to him, but that the time had not come to teach or practice it in the Church, but that the time would come. (Mill. Star, 40:788, 1878)

The Prophet Joseph reluctantly entered into plural marriage several years before he gave a revelation on that principle to his trusted friends. In 1843 the Prophet’s brother, Hyrum, asked Joseph to ask the Lord why He justified Abraham, Moses and others in living with several wives. The Prophet inquired and on July 12, 1843, a revelation was received, which became the fundamental revelation for plural [180] marriage (D & C 132). However, this revelation was not given to the Church as a body until nine years later-in 1852 after the Saints were settled in Utah.

Because the revelation was received in 1843, the command to live that principle also came with it. Many men such as Brigham Young, John Taylor, Orson Pratt, William Clayton, Heber C. Kimball, and many others were commanded to obey it. Some men, however, such as William Law (Joseph’s second counselor), Stake President William Marks, and High Councilmen Leonard Soby and Austin Cowles, rejected the revelation. This division began a split in the Church which has continued ever since. Men who opposed the revelation set up a printing establishment in Nauvoo with the intent to expose the plural marriage doctrine. The first and only edition was published as The Nauvoo Expositor on May 10, 1844, and it referred to the revelation on the “plurality of wives, for time and eternity.”

Before the Prophet Joseph was killed, he predicted that his death would not end the persecutions that would come from the Saints living plural marriage:

It is thought by some that our enemies would be satisfied with my destruction; but I tell you that as soon as they have shed my blood, they will thirst for the blood of every man in whose heart dwells a single spark of the spirit of the fulness of the gospel . . . . It is not only to destroy me but every man and woman who dares believe the doctrines that God hath inspired me to teach to this generation. (“Plural Marriages as Taught by Joseph Smith,” Helen Mar Whitney, p. 19; as Lundwall quoted in Fate of the Persecutors. . . , p. 144)

Because of his knowledge on the subject, Orson Pratt was selected to introduce the revelation and the doctrine of [181] plural marriage to the Church on August 29, 1852. Brigham Young then addressed the Saints on the same subject and called for a vote. It was accepted by the members of the Church as a revelation from the Lord. Two weeks after this announcement, Orson Pratt was sent to Washington, D.C., to publicly announce it to the United States as a tenet of the LDS faith. The American public was generally against it at the outset, and from then on opposition and persecution increased.

Utah judge, W. W. Drummond, became convinced that the Mormons were in a state of rebellion because of their doctrines, and he sent a letter to President Buchanan. Brigham Young thought Buchanan would be soft on the issue because Brigham had received information that Buchanan had six mistresses. (Letter to John Taylor, Brigham Young Collection, March 25, 1857) The U.S. President was only one of the many political leaders entertaining in that manner, while at the same time they legislated against legalizing women as wives. Anti-Mormons clamored for the Government to intervene, and in 1857 a military army of over 2500 soldiers entered the Territory to put down the Mormons. It was a blunder that cost the United States over $15 million, and it did not suppress the polygamy system.

Not winning the war against the Mormons militarily, U.S. government leaders decided to conquer them with political plunder. Numerous proposals were presented to Congress, one of which was authorized and signed by President Abraham Lincoln in 1861. It was Congressman Justin Morrill’s bill to “punish and prevent the practice of polygamy in the Territories.” The Church declared the law unconstitutional because the First Amendment declared that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” But several bills were passed against it anyway.

[182] In January of 1870, 3000 Mormon women gathered in Salt Lake City to protest against the Cullom Bill, which tried to restrict some of the rights of the Mormons. In 1874 the Poland Law created further hazards for the polygamists.

The Mormons decided to test a case and presented George Reynolds, Brigham Young’s secretary, to the courts. He was found guilty and sentenced. Even Brigham Young spent a day in jail for his family views. President of the Quorum, Wilford Woodruff, wrote a public letter in 1879 saying:

Now Latter-day Saints, what are we going to do under the circumstances? God says, “We shall be damned if we do not obey the law.” Congress says, “We shall be damned if we do.” Now who shall we obey? God or man? My voice is that we obey God. (Mill Star 41:242)

Plural marriage was more than just a political issue to the Saints. They regarded it as an eternal principle, doctrine, ordinance, and commandment. Furthermore, they were told that it was necessary in order to obtain the highest degree of the Celestial Kingdom. According to Mormon scripture:

For behold, I reveal unto you a new and an everlasting covenant <plural marriage>; and if ye abide not that covenant, then are ye damned; for no one can reject this covenant and be permitted to enter into my glory. (D & C 132:4)

Many sermons were delivered during this time to show the importance of living this law, such as:

Now if any of you will deny the plurality of wives, and continue to do so, I promise that you will be damned; and I will go still further and say, take this revelation, or any other revelation that the Lord has [183] given, and deny it in your feelings, and I promise that you will be damned. (Brigham Young, JD 3:266)

But here arises another question-one of the greatest importance to the children of men of all generations, and that is, are there any marriages that God will recognize which he is not the author of? * * * When death comes along and separates these two persons, their marriage covenant has expired. (Orson Pratt, JD 21:292)

. . . if the woman is determined not to enter into a plural marriage, that woman when she comes forth will have the privilege of living in single blessedness through all eternity. (Brigham Young, JD 16:166)

From him (Joseph Smith) I learned that the doctrine of plural and celestial marriage is the most holy and important doctrine ever revealed to man on the earth, and that without obedience to that principle, no man can ever attain to the fulness of exaltation in celestial glory. (William Clayton, Historical Record 6:226)

. . . the great question is this-will we unite with the plurality Order of the Ancient Patriarchs, or will we consent voluntarily to be doomed to eternal celibacy? This is the true division of the question. One or the other we must choose. We cannot be married to our husbands for eternity, without subscribing to the law that admits a plurality of wives. (Samuel Richards, Mill. Star 15:226)

He showed that the revelation that had been the subject of attention (Section 132) was only one published on Celestial Marriage, and if the doctrine of plural marriage was repudiated, so must be the glorious principle of marriage for eternity, the two being indissolubly interwoven with each other. (C. W. Penrose, Mill. Star 45:454)

[184] The only men who become Gods, even the sons of God, are those who enter into polygamy. (Brigham Young, JD 11:268)

If we do not embrace that principle (of plural marriage) soon, the keys will be turned against us. If we do not keep the same law that our Heavenly Father has kept, we cannot go with Him. (Life of Wilford Woodruff, Cowley, p. 542)

Some people have supposed that the doctrine of plural marriage was a sort of superfluity, or non-essential to the salvation of exaltation of mankind. In other words, some of the Saints have said, and believe that a man with one wife, sealed to him by the authority of the Priesthood for time and eternity, will receive an exaltation as great and glorious, if he is faithful, as he possibly could with more than one. I want here to enter my solemn protest against this idea, for I know it is false. . . . The marriage of one woman to a man for time and eternity by the sealing power, according to the law of God is a fulfillment of the celestial law of marriage in part . . . . But this is only the beginning of the law, not the whole of it. Therefore, whoever has imagined that he could obtain the fullness of the blessings pertaining to this celestial law, by complying with only a portion of its conditions, has deceived himself. He cannot do it . . . . it is useless to tell me that there is no blessing attached to obedience to the law (polygamy) or that a man with only one wife can obtain as great reward, glory or kingdom as he can with more than one, being equally faithful. Patriarchal marriage involves conditions, responsibilities and obligations. . . . Man . . . cannot receive the fullness of the blessings unless he fulfills the law, any more than he can claim the gift of the Holy Ghost after he is baptized without the laying on of hands by the proper authority, or the remission of sins without baptism. I understand the law of Celestial Marriage to mean that every man in this Church, who has the ability to obey and practice it in righteousness, and will not, shall be damned. I say I understand it to [185] mean this and nothing less, and I testify in the name of Jesus that it does mean that. (Joseph F. Smith, JD 20:23-31)

An Eternal Doctrine

Before and during the time of the passage of many anti-polygamy laws, the Saints received sermons and revelations encouraging them to continue living this eternal principle. The following examples tell a powerful story:

Joseph Smith:  (quoted in the Deseret News)

The Prophet did not say that any law passed by Congress is the supreme law of the land. He knew better. He knew Congress would pass laws that would be invalid. What he said was this. . . @When a people or a church have received a Divine command and a law is enacted against it, do they not know whether the law is constitutional or not, seeing that Congress is prohibited by that sacred instrument from passing any law respecting an establishment of religion? And if the Supreme Court, yielding to popular clamor against an unorthodox body rules that the unconstitutional law is constitutional, does that alter the stubborn, patient, invincible fact that the law is in violation of the great guarantee of religious freedom? Any man who says that he really and firmly believes a certain law of God binding on him, and who will not obey it in preference to a conflicting law of man or a decision of a court, has either an unsound mind or a cowardly soul, or is a most contemptible hypocrite.

A law has been specially framed against an establishment of their religion. The issue is obedience to God or submission to man; choice between a divine decree about which they have no doubt, and a human enactment that they firmly believe to be unconstitutional and void. It is a matter of conscience. . . . (Des. News, July 6, 1886)


Joseph Smith (1843)

The same God that has thus far dictated me and directed me and strengthened me in this work, gave me this revelation and commandment on celestial and plural marriage and the same God commanded me to obey it. He said to me that unless I accepted it and introduced it, and practiced it, I, together with my people, would be damned and cut off from this time hence forth. And they say if I do so, they will kill me. O, what shall I do? If I do not practice it, I shall be damned with my people. If I do teach it, and practice it, and urge it, they say they will kill me, and I know they will. But we have got to observe it. It is an eternal principle and was given by way of commandment and not by way of instruction. (Contributor 5:259)

Heber C. Kimball (1856)

You might as well deny “Mormonism”, and turn away from it, as to oppose the plurality of wives. Let the Presidency of this Church, and the Twelve Apostles, and all the authorities unite and say with one voice that they will oppose that doctrine, and the whole of them would be damned. What are you opposing it for? It is a principle that God has revealed for the salvation of the human family. (JD 5:203-204)

Brigham Young (1865)

There is no half-way house. The childish babble about another revelation is only evidence of how half-informed men can talk. The “Mormons” have either to spurn their religion and their God, and sink self-damned in the eyes of all civilization at a moment when most blessed in the practice of their faith, or go calmly on to the same issue which they have always had. * * *

The doctrine of polygamy with the “Mormons” is not one of the kind that in the religious world is classed with “non-essentials.” It is not an item of doctrine that can be yielded, and faith in the system remain. . . . The whole question, therefore, narrows itself to this in the “Mormon” mind. Polygamy was revealed by God, or the entire fabric of their faith is false. To ask them [187] to give up such an item of belief is to ask them to relinquish the whole, to acknowledge their Priesthood a lie, their ordinances a deception, and all they have toiled for, lived for, bled for, prayed for, or hoped for, a miserable failure and a waste of life. (Mill. Star 27:673)

John Taylor (1880)

. . . when they enact tyrannical laws, forbidding us the free exercise of our religion, we cannot submit. God is greater than the United States. And when the Government conflicts with Heaven, we will be ranged under the banner of heaven and against the Government. The United States says we cannot marry more than one wife. God says different. . . . when adulterers and libertines pass a law forbidding polygamy, the Saints cannot obey it. Polygamy is a divine institution. It has been handed down direct from God. The United States cannot abolish it. No nation on earth can prevent it, nor all the nations of the earth combined. I defy the United States. I will obey God. These are my sentiments, and all of you who sympathize with me in this position raise your right hands. (All hands went up sustaining his position.) (S.L. Tribune, Jan. 6, 1880)

Wilford Woodruff (1880 Revelation)

And I say again, woe unto that nation or house or people who seek to hinder my people from obeying the Patriarchal law of Abraham, which leadeth to Celestial Glory, which has been revealed unto my Saints through the mouth of my servant Joseph, for whosoever doeth these things shall be damned, saith the Lord of Hosts, and shall be broken up and wasted away from under heaven by the judgments which I have sent forth, and which shall not return unto me void. (Journal of W. Woodruff, Jan. 25, 1880)

John Taylor (1882 Revelation)

You may appoint Seymour B. Young to fill up the vacancy in the presiding quorum of Seventies, if he will conform to my law (celestial/plural marriage), for it is not meet that men who will not abide my law shall [188] preside over my Priesthood. (Messages of F.P. 2:345) (Note: Wilford Woodruff said what was meant by “my law” was plural marriage.)

John Taylor (1882)

We have been told that, “It is not meet that men who will not abide my law shall preside over my priesthood,” and yet some people would like very much to do it. Well, they cannot do it. If God has introduced something for our glory and exaltation, we are not going to have that kicked over by improper influences, either inside or outside of the Church of the living God. I see sometimes a disposition to try to ignore some of the laws which God has introduced, and this is one of them. (JD 25:309)

Wilford Woodruff (1882)

The reason why the Church and Kingdom of God cannot advance without the Patriarchal Order of Marriage is that it belongs to this dispensation, just as baptism for the dead does, or any law or ordinance that belongs to a dispensation. Without it the Church cannot progress. The leading men of Israel who are presiding over stakes will have to obey the law of Abraham or they will have to resign. (Life of Wilford Woodruff, Cowley, p. 542)

John Taylor (1884)

God has given us a revelation in regard to celestial marriage. I did not make it, . . . they would like us to tone that principle down and change it and make it applicable to the views of the day. This we cannot do; nor can we interfere with any of the commands of God to meet the persuasions or behests of men. I cannot do it and will not do it.

I find some men try to twist round the principle in any way and every way they can. They want to sneak out of it in some way. Now God don’t (sic) want any kind of sycophancy like that. He expects that we will be true to Him, and to the principles He has developed, and to feel as Job did-“Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.” Though other folks would slay us, yet we will [189] trust in the living God and be true to our covenants and to our God. (JD 25:309)

Lorenzo Snow (1885)

The severest prosecutions have never been followed by revelations changing a Divine law, obedience to which brought imprisonment or martyrdom.

Though I go to prison, God will not change His law of celestial marriage, but the man, the people, the nation, that oppose and fight against this doctrine and the Church of God, will be overthrown. (Whitney’s History of the Church 3:471)

Heber J. Grant (1885)

No matter what restrictions we may be placed under by men, our only consistent course is to keep the commandments for God. We should in this regard, place ourselves in the same position as that of the three Hebrews who were cast into the fiery furnace. . . . we have but one choice, that is to abide in the law of God, no matter as to the consequence. (Des. News, Apr. 6, 1885)

First Presidency (1885)

While hiding from the Government officers, in order to avoid arrest for plural marriage, the First Presidency sent an epistle to the Saints on this issue:

“Well-meaning friends of ours have said that our refusal to renounce the principle of celestial marriage invites destruction. They warn us and implore us to yield. But they perceive not the hand of the Almighty God, Lord of heaven and earth, who has made promises to us and who has never failed to fulfill all His words.

We cannot withdraw or renounce it. God has revealed it, and He has promised to maintain it, and to bless those who obey it. . . . Whether it be life or death, we must trust in God.” (Mill. Star 47:707, Oct. 6, 1885)


John Taylor (1886 Revelation)

My son John: You have asked me concerning the New and Everlasting Covenant and how far it is binding upon my people.

Thus saith the Lord: All commandments that I give must be obeyed by those calling themselves by my name, unless they are revoked by me or by my authority, and how can I revoke an everlasting covenant;

For I the Lord am everlasting and my everlasting covenants cannot be abrogated, nor done away with, but they stand forever. Have I not given my word in great plainness on this subject?

Yet have not great numbers of my people been negligent in the observance of my laws and the keeping of my commandments, and yet have I borne with them these many years; and this because of their weakness, because of the perilous times, and furthermore, it is more pleasing to me that men should use their free agency in regards to these matters.

Nevertheless, I the Lord do not change and my word and my covenants and my law do not, and as I have heretofore said by my servant Joseph: All those who would enter into my glory must and shall obey my law.

And have I not commanded men that if they were Abraham’s seed and would enter into my glory, they must do the works of Abraham?

I have not revoked this law, nor will I, for it is everlasting, and those who will enter into my glory must obey the conditions thereof; Even so, Amen. (Revelations 1880-1890, Pioneer Press, pp. 30-31; referred to in Abraham Cannon’s Journal (p. 24) and Douglas M. Todd, Sr.,’s Journal (pp. 10-13); also in the trial of John W. Taylor)

Wilford Woodruff (1889)

Thursday, Dec. 19th: . . . During our meeting a revelation was read which Pres. Woodruff received Sunday evening, Nov. 24th. Propositions had been made for the Church to make some concessions to the courts in regard to its principles. Both of Pres. [191] Woodruff’s counselors refused to advise him as to the course he should pursue, and he therefore laid the matter before the Lord. The answer came quick and strong. The word of the Lord was for us not to yield one particle of that which He had revealed and established. He had done and would continue to care for His work and those of the Saints who were faithful and we need have no fear of our enemies when we were in the line of our duty. We are promised redemption and deliverance if we will trust in God and not in the arm of flesh. We were admonished to read and study the Word of God, and to pray often. The whole revelation was filled with words of the greatest encouragement and comfort, and my heart was filled with joy and peace during the entire reading. It sets all doubts at rest concerning the course to pursue. (Abraham Cannon Journal, Dec. 19, 1889)

Wilford Woodruff (1889 Revelation)

Let not my servants who are called to the Presidency of my Church, deny my word or my law. Place not yourselves in jeopardy to your enemies by promise.

Let my servants . . . make their pleadings . . . without any further pledges. Fear not the wicked and ungodly. Have faith in God and His promises and He will not forsake you.

I cannot deny my word, neither in blessings nor judgments. (Messages of F.P. 3:175-176)

Matthias Cowley (1901)

None of the revelations of the prophets either past or present have been repealed. . . . These revelations received by our prophets and seers are all of God, and we cannot repeal or disannul them without making God out a liar, and God cannot lie. . . . I wish to remind you of a certain revelation given through President Taylor. The command was given to set our quorums and houses in order, and the promise was that if we should obey the command, God would fight our battles for us; but we did not obey the command, so God did not fight our battles for us. If we [192] had obeyed that command and revelation given through President Taylor, there would have been no Manifesto. (Smoot Investigations 1:8, Jan. 28, 1901)

The 1890 Manifesto

Since we did not give God a chance to “fight our battles for us,” the Manifesto was written and accepted, and the question is often asked why Wilford Woodruff signed it. Consider the following reasons:

  1. Some have said that the Manifesto was issued because the Saints were told to obey the laws of the land against plural marriage. But the Prophet Joseph Smith and many others lived it in several states that had laws against it. Brigham Young lived it throughout his life against the laws of the land. John Taylor died in exile rather than submit to the laws of the land. Furthermore, many states today have laws which protect people in marriage relationships, stating anything “between consenting adults” is all right-which means that plural marriage is permissible and legal in those states.
  2. It is said that plural marriage was discontinued because of persecution, but the Church suffered persecution long before the doctrine of plural marriage was practiced. To give up principles because of opposition is not according to the instructions in the scriptures.
  3. Another reason is so the Utah Territory could become a state (and then make our own state laws). But Brigham Young didn’t think that becoming a state was so important:

Now then, it is said that this (polygamy) must be done away before we are permitted to receive our [193] place as a state in the Union. . . . Do you think that we shall ever be admitted as a State into the Union without denying the principle of polygamy? If we are not admitted until then, we shall never be admitted. (JD 11:269)

  1. It has been declared by many that the Manifesto was a revelation. This has been seriously questioned, however, because it was issued as an official declaration rather than a revelation. It begins with “To whom it may concern” rather than “Thus saith the Lord,” such as sections 83, 84, 88, etc., in the Doctrine and Covenants. Within the document are the words “my intention,” “my teachings,” and “my advice,” which are the words of Wilford Woodruff himself. Since it carried only Woodruff’s signature, and not those of either of his two counselors, it has been questioned as even being an official statement from the First Presidency of the Church. Furthermore, no revelation has ever been produced stopping the practice of plural marriage.

This question of whether or not the Manifesto was a revelation from God was discussed in the Millennial Star in June 1939:

Question: Was the Manifesto, which discontinued the practice of plural marriage, a revelation from God?

Answer: The Manifesto, issued in 1890 and adopted by the Church in conference assembled, was not a revelation but was a statement drawn up by the leaders of the Church, based upon a revelation from God given to President Wilford Woodruff. The Church has not repudiated the principle of plural marriage but, in obedience to a divine commandment, has suspended its operation. (Mill. Star 101:413)

[194] When the general Church vote was called for in support of the Manifesto, there were many people who refused to accept it. Woodruff recalled this in an address in Logan, November 1, 1891, at a Cache Stake Conference:

I know there are a good many men and probably some leading men, in this Church who have been tried and felt as though President Woodruff has lost the spirit of God and was about to apostatize. (Des News, Nov. 7, 1891; also Way of the Master, Petersen, p. 49)

The main reason that so many people could not vote for the Manifesto was because there had been so many warnings and statements made against just such a proposition.

In December of 1891, the Church leaders wrote a Petition of Amnesty for those people who had contracted a plural marriage before the Manifesto. This list of men included the name and signature of Wilford Woodruff. The petition said, in part:

The President of the United States:

We, the first presidency and apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, beg to respectfully represent Your Excellency the following facts:

We formerly taught to our people that polygamy or celestial marriage as commanded by God through Joseph Smith was right; that it was a necessity to man’s highest exaltation in the life to come.

To be at peace with the Government and in harmony with their fellow-citizens who are not of their faith, . . . our people have voluntarily put aside something which all their lives they have believed to be a sacred principle. (Smoot Case Proceedings, 1:18)

But the Manifesto did not stop plural marriage in the Church. Several presidents and apostles sanctioned it and [195] entered into it after 1890, and privately encouraged others to do so. Hundreds of Saints went to Mexico or Canada to add new wives to their families. Some even went off the coast of California beyond the continental United States to have their ceremonies performed, as Wilford Woodruff himself is reported to have done in 1897. (See “LDS Church Authority and New Plural Marriages, 1890-1904,” Michael Quinn, Dialogue 18:1, Spring 1985, p. 63.)

The practicing of plural marriage continued until the U.S. Government made a senatorial investigation into the Church, known as the Smoot Hearings, which lasted over three years. The Church then issued another Manifesto in 1904, although again no claim to revelation was given.

About this time many Saints began to wonder if their marriages were legal, illegal, or favored by the Lord. Confusion took the place of clearly defined principles, and the Church began to sweep the whole matter under the carpet and tried to forget about it. Several years passed after the turn of the century, however, before the Church took any serious steps against polygamists and excommunicated those who continued to live or advocate plural marriage. Misunderstanding, confusion, and denial became the position of the Church, i.e.:

But that plural marriage is a vital tenet of the Church is not true. * * * Plurality of wives was an incident, never an essential. (James E. Talmage, Story and Philosophy of Mormonism, p. 89)

There were two kinds of plural marriage approved of God in Biblical times. One was a type of “church welfare program” to care for widows, to keep them from becoming a public charge.

Then in cases of sterility, such as with Abraham and Sarah, again polygamy was permitted if agreed to by the Lord. (Mark E. Petersen, Way of the Master,  pp. 41-42)

[196] We do not understand why the Lord commanded the practice of plural marriage. (John A. Widtsoe, Imp. Era 46:191)

Issuing the Manifesto, however, did purchase statehood for Utah and won acceptance from the world. Thomas Alexander, historian and BYU professor, authored an excellent biography on Wilford Woodruff, wherein he –

. . . called President Woodruff a “prime mover” in the effort to shift the Church’s emphasis from a political, economic, social and religious organization to an organization that emphasized personal piety, church attendance and ritual.

He said President Woodruff chose to accommodate the customs of non-Mormons rather than see the Church destroyed. Such an accommodation, said Alexander, paved the way for sweeping political, economic and social change that would bring Utah statehood and its people into the 20th century. (Des. News, Jan. 13, 1990)

The Manifesto, then, not only heralded the beginning of the end of plural marriage in the LDS Church, but also started the trend for making other major compromises with the outside world: the disorganization of the United Order and the Kingdom of God followed shortly thereafter-along with many other “unchangeable” Gospel doctrines.

* * *

Plural marriage was never popularly received even among LDS Church members. It instigated nearly every form of slander, persecution, and prosecution. Men suffered intense loneliness for their families while hiding in the underground or serving time in prison. Many lost their jobs, reputation and Church membership for living that law. And a few stalwarts sacrificed their health and even their lives.

[197] Today it is merely a curiosity-often considered by society as a lifestyle for those with loose moral standards. The meaning and significance of plural marriage is nearly lost to all but those few uncompromising souls who still obey this eternal law of the Priesthood outside the mainstream church.

To summarize

  1. About 4/5 of the world’s population live in countries that accept plural marriage. It was lived by Old Testament prophets and not considered a sin by Christ or the early reformers.
  2. Plural marriage was considered to be one of the “most holy” principles of the restoration. It was accepted as an eternal law, a commandment, and an ordinance.
  3. It was lived by leading men of the Church both before the body of the Church accepted it and after the 1890 Manifesto was to discontinue it.
  4. It was taught as the only eternal marriage system and the required pathway to exaltation.
  5. Plural marriage is still considered by the Latter-day Saints as a true principle, and the revelation regarding it is published in the Doctrine                 and Covenants. (Section 132)
  6. The practice of the principle has gradually been discontinued in the Church, but it has been prophesied that it would never be completely done away.


[198]                             Chapter 13


The Pre-Existence

An individual’s right to bear the Priesthood in this life was determined by experiences that occurred in the Pre-Existence. According to Joseph Smith:

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. I suppose I was ordained to this very office in that Grand Council. (TPJS, p. 365)

God told Abraham that he was among those that were appointed to be rulers and that he was “chosen before thou wast born.” (Abraham 3:23) Other spirits were given certain appointments, gifts and callings, but not necessarily pertaining to the Priesthood, as they did not qualify there, neither do they qualify here. And even among those who were given that responsibility, only a relatively few prove faithful and truly magnify that Priesthood.

The expression is often heard that all people are “created equal”, but they are not born equal. There is no equality in our environment, intellect, attitudes, behaviors, looks, likes and dislikes, fingerprints, or voice; indeed, the very character of every person is unique. Belief in a pre-existent state is the only [199] justifiable explanation for mortals to be born under such unequal and unfair conditions.

Apostle Mark E. Petersen gave the following pertinent information concerning the doctrine of pre-existence:

Is there reason then why the type of birth we receive in this life is not a reflection of our worthiness or lack of it in the pre-existence life?

. . . can we account in any other way for the birth of some of the children of God in darkest Africa, or in flood-ridden China, or among the starving hordes of India, while some of the rest of us are born here in the United States? We cannot escape the conclusion that because of performance in our pre-existence some of us are born as Chinese, some as Japanese, some as Indians, some as Negroes, some as Americans, some as Latter-day Saints. These are rewards and punishments, fully in harmony with His established policy in dealing with sinners and saints, rewarding all according to their deeds. (“Race Problems-As They Effect the Church,” address to convention of religion teachers at BYU, Mark E. Petersen, Aug. 27, 1954)

The House of Israel

With the Gospel’s restoration to earth, there came a more clear understanding of the purpose of mortality-but more importantly, the reason why God wanted to segregate and gather His people Israel from other nations. The Gospel also revealed the purpose of natural barriers among people, such as language and race, and explains the reason why God bestowed the patriarchal rights of the Priesthood through the lineage of Israel.

As previously mentioned-

We believe in the literal gathering of Israel and [200] in the restoration of the Ten Tribes <of Israel>. . . . (10th Article of Faith)

The question might be asked, “Why not gather others besides the House of Israel?” God segregated Israel as His “choice” people and His “servants” to bear the burden of the Holy Priesthood.

For thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God: the Lord thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth. (Deut. 7:6)

Here Moses is talking to the Israelites whom he had led out of Egypt. The history of their trials, temptations, wanderings, triumphs, failures, and also their dispersion and final gathering is clearly portrayed in the words of the prophets.

The Seed of Cain

Enoch was a man endowed with the power of God, for we read that he could speak the word of the Lord and “the earth trembled” or he could turn rivers of water “out of their course,” or make the “mountains fall” before him. Yet when he preached the word of the Lord, he went forth among “all the people, save it were the people of Canaan. . . .” Enoch saw that the people were “a mixture of all the seed of Adam save it was the seed of Cain, for the seed of Cain were black, and had not place among them.”

Those who were less valiant in pre-existence and who thereby had certain spiritual restrictions imposed upon them during mortality are known to us as the Negroes. Such spirits are sent to earth through the lineage of Cain, the mark put upon him for his rebellion against God. . . . (Mormon Doctrine, Bruce R. McConkie, pp. 476-77)

[201] When He placed the mark upon Cain, He engaged in segregation. When He told Enoch not to preach the gospel to the descendants of Cain who were black, the Lord engaged in segregation. When He cursed the descendants of Cain as to the Priesthood, He engaged in segregation. When He forbade inter-marriage, as He does in Deuteronomy 7th chapter, He established segregation.

The Lord segregated the people both as to blood and place of residence. At least in the cases of the Lamanites and the Negroes we have the definite word of the Lord Himself that He placed a dark skin on them as a curse and punishment and as a sign to all others. He forbade inter-marriage with them under threat of extension of the curse. (2 Nephi 5:21) And He certainly segregated the descendants of Cain when He cursed the Negro as to the Priesthood, and drew an absolute line. You may even say He dropped an Iron Curtain there. The Negro was cursed as to the Priesthood, and therefore, was cursed as to the blessings of the Priesthood. Certainly God made a segregation there. (“Race Problems, . . .” Mark E. Petersen, BYU, 1954)

Abraham talks of a Pharaoh who was probably one of the most righteous descendants of Ham, the son of Noah. He established a very righteous government, but had certain restrictions placed upon him:

Now the first government of Egypt was established by Pharaoh, the eldest son of Egyptus, the daughter of Ham, and it was after the manner of the government of Ham, which was patriarchal.

Pharaoh, being a righteous man, established his kingdom and judged his people wisely and justly all his days, seeking earnestly to imitate that order established by the fathers in the first generations, in the days of the first patriarchal reign, even in the reign of Adam, and also of Noah, his father, who blessed him with the blessings of the earth, and with the blessings of wisdom, but cursed him as pertaining to the Priesthood.

[202] Now, Pharaoh being of that lineage by which he could not have the right of Priesthood, notwithstanding the Pharaohs would fain claim it from Noah, through Ham, therefore my father was led away by their idolatry; . . . (Abraham 1:25-27)

Noah blessed this Pharaoh with “blessings of the earth,” because he judged his people “wisely and justly,” he was a “righteous man,” and he imitated the order of his kingdom after the righteous “order of Adam.” In spite of all these virtuous qualities in the character of that Pharaoh, Noah still “cursed him as pertaining to the Priesthood.” The explanation was that Pharaoh was “of that lineage by which he could not have the right of Priesthood.”

Segregation in This Dispensation

God’s efforts to segregate and gather the House of Israel have continued in this dispensation of the Fullness of Times. Joseph Smith felt strongly about this and expressed his feelings to the Saints on several occasions.

For example, on January 2, 1843, Joseph went to a Mr. Sellars’ with Elders Hyde and Richards. Elder Hyde inquired about the situation of the Negro, and the Prophet answered him:

Had I anything to do with the Negro, I would confine them by strict law to their own species, and put them on a national equalization. (TPJS, p. 270)

And a year later, January 1844, the Prophet Joseph, as mayor of Nauvoo, fined two Negroes “for attempting to marry white women.” (DHC 6:210) The Prophet also explained:

. . . that the curse is not yet taken off the sons of Canaan, neither will be until it is affected by as great [203] power as caused it to come; and the people who interfere the least with the purposes of God in this matter, will come under the least condemnation before Him; . . . (Mess. & Adv. 2:290 & DHC 2:438)

Here is evidence that the curse is exemplified through “a black skin” and that when that “curse” is removed, then the dark skin will be removed by “as great power as caused it to come.” Also, a part of that “curse” was the restriction of the Priesthood.

Abraham O. Smoot inquired of the Prophet Joseph Smith-

What should be done with the Negroes in the South as I was preaching to them? (Joseph) said I could baptize them by the consent of their masters, but not to confer the Priesthood upon them. (L. John Nuttall Journal, May 31, 1879)

Details of this account are available from another source:

Brother A. O. Smoot said W. W. Patten, Warren Parrish and Thomas B. Marsh were laboring in the Southern States in 1835 and 1836. There were Negroes who made application for baptism. And the question arose with them whether Negroes were entitled to hold the Priesthood. And by those brethren it was decided they would not confer the Priesthood until they had consulted the Prophet Joseph, and subsequently they communicated with him. His decision, as I understood was, they were not entitled to the Priesthood, nor yet to be baptized without the consent of their masters.

In after years when I became acquainted with Joseph myself in the Far West, about the year 1838, I received from Brother Joseph substantially the same instructions. It was on my application to him, what should be done with the Negro in the South, as I was preaching to them. He said I could baptize them by consent of their masters, but not to confer the [204] Priesthood upon them. (“The Church and the Negroid People,” as quoted in Mormonism and the Negro, Stewart, p. 11)

It has been reported that a Black man by the name of Elijah Abel was ordained to the Priesthood by Zebedee Coltrin on March 3, 1836. John Taylor thought that perhaps Elijah had received the Priesthood before the word of the Lord was fully understood, and that it had been one of the mistakes of early Church history. (See Minutes of the Council of Twelve, June 4, 1879.)

The Council Minutes of August 26, 1908, state that “this ordination was declared null and void by the Prophet himself.”

In 1879 Zebedee Coltrin related to a small group of Priesthood leaders that Brother Joseph had told him in 1834 that “the Spirit of the Lord saith the Negro has no right nor cannot hold the Priesthood.” (Nuttall Journal 1:293)

The Salt Lake Tribune reported in an October 26, 1970, article, “The Prophet Joseph Smith was commanded by God to withdraw the Priesthood from Elijah Abel, and to revoke the ordinations.”

So even though Elijah had only a very small percentage of Negro blood, he was still not supposed to have the Priesthood. He did go on an LDS mission in 1883, but there is no record of his performing any Priesthood ordinance work.

Brigham Young made some very forceful statements concerning the status of the Black race and the Priesthood:

We know there is a portion of inhabitants of the earth who dwell in Asia that are Negroes, and said to be Jews. The blood of Judah has not only mingled [205] almost with all nations, but also with the blood of Cain, and they have mingled their seeds together. These Negro Jews may keep up all the outer ordinances of the Jewish religion; they may have their sacrifices, and they may perform all the religious ceremonies any people on earth could perform, but let me tell you, that the day they consented to mingle their seed with Canaan, the priesthood was taken away from Judah, and that portion of Judah’s seed will never get any rule, or blessings of the priesthood until Cain gets it. Let this Church which is called the kingdom of God on the earth; we will summons the first presidency, the twelve, the high counsel, the bishopric, and all the elders of Israel, suppose we summons them to appear here, and here declare that it is right to mingle our seed, with the Black race of Cain, that they shall come in with us and be partakers with us of all the blessings God has given to us. On that very day and hour we should do so, the priesthood is taken from this Church and kingdom and God leaves us to our fate. The moment we consent to mingle with the seed of Cain the Church must go to destruction-we should receive the curse which has been placed upon the seed of Cain, and never more be numbered with the children of Adam who are heirs to the priesthood until that curse be removed. * * *

What the Gentiles are doing we are consenting to do. What we are trying to do today is to make the Negro equal with us in all our privilege. My voice shall be against it all the day long. I shall not consent for one moment. I will call them a counsel. I say I will not consent for one moment for you to lay a plan to bring a curse upon this people. It shall not be while I am here. (Brigham Young Addresses, Ms d 1234, Box 48, folder 3, dated Feb. 5, 1852, located in the LDS Church Historical Dept., SLC, Utah; also Teachings of Brigham Young, Collier, ed., pp. 45, 46)

Brigham Young did state, however, that the time would come when the Blacks would have a chance to receive the Priesthood:

[206] When all the other children of Adam have had the privilege of receiving the Priesthood, and of coming into the kingdom of God, and of being redeemed from the four quarters of the earth, and have received their resurrection from the dead, then it will be time enough to remove the curse from Cain and his posterity. (JD 2:142-43)

They never can hold the Priesthood or share in it until all the other descendants of Adam have received the promises and enjoyed the blessings of the Priesthood and the keys thereof. (JD 7:290)

When the residue of the family of Adam come up and receive their blessings, then the curse will be removed from the seed of Cain. . . . (JD 7:291)

When all the rest of the children have received their blessings in the Holy Priesthood, then that curse will be removed from the seed of Cain. (JD 11:272)

Pressure from Without and Within

For nearly 150 years, the LDS Church maintained this same position on Blacks not being able to hold the Priesthood. But outside pressures upon the Church grew and so did arguments, both pro and con, over this issue. In 1924 Joseph F. Smith noted that-

The question arises from time to time in regard to the Negro race and the Priesthood. . . . It is true that the Negro race is barred from holding the Priesthood, and this has always been the case. The Prophet Joseph Smith taught this doctrine. . . . (Imp. Era 27:564)

Civil rights became a big issue, and on October 5, 1963, an item appeared in the Deseret News which stated that the NAACP would picket Temple Square on Saturday if the Church did not present an “acceptable” statement on civil rights [207] before that day. Mormon leaders apparently realized the bad publicity that would result from this kind of demonstration, so on October 6, 1963, Hugh B. Brown issued a very wise statement regarding civil rights and religious issues:

During recent months, both in Salt Lake City and across the nation, considerable interest has been expressed on the matter of civil rights. We would like it to be known that there is in this Church no doctrine, belief, or practice, that is intended to deny the enjoyment of full civil rights by any person regardless of race, color, or creed.

We say again, as we have said many times before, that we believe that all men are the children of the same God, and that it is a moral evil for any person or group of persons to deny any human being the right to gainful employment, to full educational opportunity, and to every privilege of citizenship, just as it is a moral evil to deny him the right to worship according to the dictates of his own conscience. (Des. News, Oct. 6, 1963)

This was an outstanding announcement which should have been defended and explained more fully. First, the Church did not believe or practice any form of denial of civil rights to any people. Second, the Church as well as anyone else should have the right to worship according to the dictates of their conscience. If the NAACP, the Government or anyone else attempted to tell the Mormon Church they had to bestow, restrict or prohibit the Priesthood, then they were denying the Church their right to worship. The Church was in no way under an obligation to listen to civil clamor on how to practice their religion.

In the area of sports, there seemed to be more activity outside the arena than inside. For example, in San Jose, California, a 24,000-student campus exhibited violence in the form of beatings, vandalism and trash fires, initiated by the [208] “United Black Students for Action” to insure cancellation of a football game with BYU because of their “racist philosophy”. (S.L. Tribune, Dec. 3, 1968)

In Tucson, Arizona, students asked the Western Athletic Conference to “break ties with Brigham Young University” because of their racial policies. (S.L. Tribune, Oct. 25, 1969)

Stanford University announced they would “schedule no new athletic or other competitions with BYU. . . .” (S.L. Tribune, Nov. 13, 1969)

In 1974 the Boy Scout organization pressed charges against the LDS Church because a 12-year-old Black boy could not become a senior patrol leader since one of the requirements was to be a Deacons Quorum President, a position he could not hold without having the Priesthood. The Church immediately changed the requirement just before their scheduled court appearance.

The national news media pressured the Church from without, and liberal Mormons pushed from within. Bruce McConkie tried to quell the liberals:

Am I valiant if I am deeply concerned about the Church’s stand on who can or who cannot receive the priesthood and think it is time for a new revelation on this doctrine . . . ?

Am I valiant if I engage in gambling, play cards, go to pornographic movies. . . ? (Ensign, Nov. 1974, p. 35)

On September 6, 1977, President Spencer W. Kimball spoke to the BYU faculty and studentbody, stating that “The Gospel is made up of absolute truths that do not change regardless of contrary opinions or beliefs of men.” (Des. [209] News, Sept. 10, 1977) Certainly the Gospel doctrine of restricting Blacks from the Priesthood during mortality should be considered as one of those “absolute truths”.

Bruce McConkie supported this position:

Negroes in this life are denied the priesthood; under no circumstances can they hold this delegation of authority from the Almighty. * * * It is the Lord’s doing, is based on his eternal laws of justice, and grows out of the lack of spiritual valiance of those concerned in their first estate. (Mormon Doctrine, pp. 527-28)

The 1978 Announcement

However, less than a year after President Kimball made this statement at BYU, a news release by the First Presidency made the following announcement:

All worthy male members of the Church may be ordained to the priesthood without regard for race or color. (Des. News, June 9, 1978, front page)

On June 8th a letter had been issued to Church general and local Priesthood members with this same information. However, neither announcement contained a copy of a revelation from God instructing that such a change should take place.

News of the change was welcomed and hailed around the world! It was apparent that enough pressure had been put on the Church hierarchy to get the desired results.

Many rumors and stories circulated about this announcement, but the most detailed account was attributed to Apostle LeGrand Richards. On August 16, 1978, he allegedly had a [210] taped interview with Chris Vlachos and Wesley Walters, in the Church Office Building. Excerpts from the published account follow:

Walters:  On this revelation, of the priesthood to the Negro, I’ve heard all kinds of stories: I’ve heard that Christ appeared to the apostles; I’ve heard that Joseph Smith appeared; and then I heard another story that Spencer Kimball had had a concern about this for some time, and simply shared it with the apostles, and they decided that this was the right time to move in that direction. Are any of those stories true, or are they all?

Richards:  Well, the last one is pretty true, and I might tell you what provoked it in a way. Down in Brazil, there is so much Negro blood in the population there that it’s hard to get leaders that don’t have Negro blood in them. We just built a temple down there. It’s going to be dedicated in October. All those people with Negro blood in them have been raising the money to build that temple. If we don’t change, then they can’t even use it. Well, Brother Kimball worried about it, and he prayed a lot about it. He asked each one of us of the Twelve if we would pray-and we did-that the Lord would give him the inspiration to know what the will of the Lord was. Then he invited each one of us in his office-individually, because you know when you are in a group, you can’t always express everything that’s in your heart. You’re part of the group, see-so he interviewed each one of us, personally, to see how we felt about it, and he asked us to pray about it. Then he asked each one of us to hand in all the references we had, for or against that proposal. See, he was thinking favorably toward giving the colored people the priesthood. Then we had a meeting where we meet every week in the temple, and we discussed it as a group together, and then we prayed about it in our prayer circle, and then we held another prayer circle after the close of that meeting, and he (President Kimball) led in the prayer, praying that the Lord would give us the inspiration that we needed to do the thing [211] that would be pleasing to Him and for the blessing of His children.

And then the next Thursday-we meet every Thursday-the Presidency came with this little document written out to make the announcement-to see how we’d feel about it-and present it in written form. Well, some of the members of the Twelve suggested a few changes in the announcement, and then in our meeting there we all voted in favor of it-the Twelve and the Presidency. One member of the Twelve, Mark Petersen, was down in South America, but Brother Benson, our President, had arranged to know where he could be reached by phone, and right while we were in that meeting in the temple, Brother Kimball talked with Brother Petersen, and read him this article, and he (Petersen) approved of it.

Walters:  What was the date? Would that have been the first of June, or something?

Richards:  That was the first Thursday, I think, in May. (June?) At least that’s about when it was. And then after we all voted in favor of it, we called another meeting for the next morning, Friday morning, at seven o’clock, of all the other General Authorities-that includes the Seventies’ Quorum and the Patriarch and the Presiding Bishopric, and it was presented to them, and they all had an opportunity to express themselves, and there were a few of the brethren that were out presiding then in the missions, and so the Twelve were appointed to interview each one of them. * * *

Walters:  Now when President Kimball read this little announcement or paper, was that the same thing that was released to the press?

Richards:  Yes. * * *

Richards:  Well, they have held out the thought that they would ultimately get the priesthood, but they never determined the time for it. And so when this situation that we face down there in Brazil-Brother Kimball worried a lot about it-how the people are so faithful and devoted. The president of the Relief Society of the stake is a colored woman down there in one of the stakes. If they do the work, why it seems like that the justice of the Lord would approve of giving them the [212] blessing. Now it’s all conditional upon the life that they live, isn’t it?

Walters:  Well, I thank you for clarifying that for me, because you know, out in the streets out there, there must be at least five, ten different stories about the way this happened.

Richards:  Well, I’ve told you exactly what happened.

Walters:  Right. Well, thank you so much. I appreciate it.

Richards:  If you quote me, you will be telling the truth.

Walters:  OK, well fine. You don’t mind if we quote you then?

Richards:  No.

Walters:  OK, that’s great!

(The complete interview was privately published in a separate pamphlet. See Segregation of Israel, Kraut, pp. 184-88.)

Because of this change in Church doctrine, some serious back-peddling had to take place. Bruce McConkie tired to justify the new position when he spoke to the seminary and institute teachers at BYU:

Forget everything that I have said, or what President Brigham Young or President George Q. Cannon or whomsoever has said in days past that is contrary to the present revelation. * * * They don’t matter any more.

It doesn’t make a particle of difference what anybody ever said about the Negro matter before the first day of June of this year (1978). It is a new day and a new arrangement, * * * As to any slivers of light or any particles of darkness of the past, we forget all about them.

The “powers that be” in the LDS Church, in order to be consistent with this new policy about the Blacks holding the Priesthood, even went so far as to change a passage of scripture. In the Book of Mormon Nephi predicts-

[213] And then shall they rejoice; for they shall know that it is a blessing unto them from the hand of God; and their scales of darkness shall begin to fall from their eyes; and many generations shall not pass away among them, save they shall be a white and delight-some people. (2 Nephi 30:6)

In the 1981 edition of the Book of Mormon, the word white in the last phrase was changed to pure.

A Chosen People

The restoration of the Gospel by Joseph Smith brought back a knowledge of the true doctrines of the Gospel, among which was the command to gather the Israelites back to their rightful place as “kings and priests unto God forever.” Only through these “chosen” Israelites can the New Jerusalem be built, the promised Zion be established, and the Kingdom of God be given its rightful place of ruling the nations of the earth.

God has a reason for making certain selections and separations during the pre-existence and mortality of mankind. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were leaders in raising a particular kind of people before they came to earth. In mortality those select people were born into Israel’s lineage. Eventually everyone that goes to heaven will discover that it, too, has been segregated into various degrees of glory-the highest having been promised to the Israelites.

To summarize

  1. The right to bear the Priesthood was determined in the Pre-Existence, based on worthiness of the individual spirit.


  1. The ancient prophets restricted Priesthood to those in the lineage of Abraham and the House of Israel.
  2. Christ sought out those of the House of Israel and told His disciples to do the same.
  3. The seed of Cain were restricted from the Priesthood.
  4. With the restoration of the Gospel through Joseph Smith, the same restrictions applied to the gathering of Israel, and he re-established            the doctrine of prohibiting Priesthood to the Black race.
  5. Brigham Young and other Church presidents continued that doctrine for nearly 150 years.
  6. Increased pressure from sports, civil rights and Government organizations, as well as from liberal Mormons, was put on the Church to              do something about this issue.
  7. In June 1978 the official announcement was made that “all worthy male members of the Church may be ordained to the priesthood without regard for race or color.”
  8. No written revelation changing this doctrine has ever been produced.
  9. Elder LeGrand Richards admitted that it was not a “Thus saith the Lord” revelation, but that the announcement was written up before any claim of         revelation; it was voted on and passed.
  10. Selections and segregations are instituted by God, and only the “chosen Israelites” can establish Zion and the Kingdom of God in the New    Jerusalem.


[215]                             Chapter 14


Definition and Distinction

The subject of the Kingdom of God is the grand central theme interwoven throughout the pages of scripture. There are more references in the New Testament to the Kingdom of God than there are to the Church of Christ. It was the main subject in John’s book of Revelations; it was the principle topic of John the Baptist; and the Gospel itself is called the Gospel of the Kingdom. For establishing that Kingdom, Christ was brought to trial and crucified, and it is to rule over that Kingdom that Christ will come again, to reign over all other kingdoms and nations.

If the Church were more important than the Kingdom, why didn’t Christ say, “Seek ye first the Church” rather than “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God”? The importance of this subject cannot be ignored nor overlooked. But if we are to seek first this kingdom, we need to know what it is. If we are ignorant of its meaning, it is impossible for us to seek it at all.

For thousands of years, thousands of churches have put their private interpretation on the Kingdom of God and Church of Christ. Some have said that kingdom has not yet been on the earth; or that it was here only during the ministry of Jesus. Others have said that the Church of Jesus Christ is the same as the Kingdom of God.

[216] The definition and distinction, however, was not made clear until the Gospel was restored in this dispensation. For example, John Taylor began his book on that subject with a simple yet comprehensive definition:

The kingdom of God is the government of God, on the earth or in the heavens. (The Government of God, p. 1)

And from Brigham Young:

What is the kingdom of God? * * * When we talk about kingdoms, we talk about governments, rule, authority, power; for wherever there is a kingdom, these principles exist to a greater or less extent. (JD 6:19)

The nature and size of government may extend from a man’s home to a state, a nation, or even the universe. So however extensive government may become, so also can the Kingdom of God.

The necessary components of a kingdom were correctly itemized by Herbert W. Armstrong:

Four things are necessary to constitute a kingdom:

  1. The territory, with its specific location and definite boundary                   lines.
  2. A king or supreme ruler or governing agent, ruling over:
  3. Subjects or citizens within that territorial jurisdiction, with:
  4. Laws and form of government

(The True Gospel, Armstrong, p. 8)

If any one of these four vital elements are not present, then there is not an operative government or kingdom. Let’s identify these four areas: (1) the territory, (2) the king, (3) the subjects and (4) the laws. Religiously and politically speaking-


  1. The territory is the universe.
  2. The king is God.
  3. The subjects are all His children.
  4. The laws are His Gospel.

What an all-encompassing concept! If this be true, how can anyone believe that the Kingdom of God and the Church of Jesus Christ are the same thing? Unfortunately, however, that is the general assumption, even among members of the LDS Church today.

But first, let’s review what some of the early Church leaders had to say:

John Taylor

God has established His Church, and we sometimes say His Kingdom. What do we mean by “the Kingdom of God?” * * * There is the Church of God and the Kingdom of God. The Church, of course, refers more particularly to spiritual things, and the Kingdom to temporal rule and government and management and to temporal affairs. (JD 20:166)

  1. H. Roberts (quoting Joseph Smith)

. . . the Church of Christ, precious as it is; beloved by its great Head; in the harmony of its truth, perfect; in the beauty of its holiness, passing all praise; in its power of salvation, absolute-yet the Church of Christ will doubtless stand under the protecting aegis of the Kingdom of God in common with other systems of religion, enjoying only such rights as will be common to all. And while the Church of Christ will enjoy to the full her privileges, promulgate her faith without let or hindrance, make known the truth she holds, and her saving grace and power, and manage her own affairs-yet she will not usurp the prerogative of the Kingdom of God, nor interfere with those outside the pale of her jurisdiction-outside of her membership. Such in substance, was the teaching of the Prophet on this subject. * * *

[218] It will be understood, then, that what I have quoted from the Prophet’s discourses on the subject of the Kingdom of God is spoken broadly; in a sense which recognizes the Kingdom of God simply as the government of God on earth or in heaven. (Rise and Fall of Nauvoo, Roberts, p. 181)

Orson Pratt

The kingdom of God . . . is the only legal government that can exist in any part of the universe. All other governments are illegal and unauthorized. God, having made all beings and worlds, has the supreme right to govern them by his own laws, and by officers of his own appointment. Any people attempting to govern themselves by laws of their own making, and by officers of their own appointment, are in direct rebellion against the kingdom of God. (Kingdom of God, p. 1, 1851)

  1. H. Roberts

But it is proper for the reader to know that Joseph Smith when speaking strictly recognized a distinction between “the Church of Jesus Christ” and the “Kingdom of God”. And not only a distinction but a separation of one from the other. The Kingdom of God according to his teaching is to be a political institution that shall hold sway over all the earth; to which all other governments will be subordinate and by which they will be dominated. Of this Kingdom Christ is the King; for He is to reign “King of Kings” as well as “Lord of Lords”. While all governments are to be in subjection to the Kingdom of God, it does not follow that all its members will be of one religious faith. The Kingdom of God is not necessarily made up exclusively of members of the Church of Christ. In fact, the Prophet taught that men not members of the Church could be not only members of that Kingdom, but also officers within it. It is to grant the widest religious toleration, though exacting homage and loyalty to its great Head, to its institutions, and obedience to its laws.

On the other hand, the Church of Christ is purely an ecclesiastical organization, comprising within its [219] membership only those who have embraced the Gospel of Jesus Christ; who inwardly have accepted its principles in their faith, and outwardly have received the rites and ceremonies it prescribes. Of this Church Jesus Christ is the Head, since He is to be “Lord of Lords” as well as “King of Kings”. (Rise and Fall of Nauvoo, Roberts, pp. 180-81)

Brigham Young

As was observed by brother Pratt, that Kingdom is actually organized, and the inhabitants of the earth do not know it. If this people know anything about it, all right; it is organized preparatory to taking effect in the due time of the Lord, and in the manner that shall please Him. As observed by one of the speakers this morning, that Kingdom grows out of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but it is not the Church, for a man may be a legislator in that body which will issue laws to sustain the inhabitants of the earth in their individual rights, and still not belong to the Church of Jesus Christ at all. (JD 2:310)

Brigham Young

For your satisfaction, I will present some of my views concerning the kingdom of God, and leave the subject for others to elaborate.

Erroneous traditions and the powers of darkness have such sway over mankind, that, when we speak of a theocracy on the earth, the people are frightened.* * *

But few, if any, understand what a theocratic government is. In every sense of the word, it is a republican government, and differs but little in form from our National, State, and Territorial Governments; but its subjects will recognize the will and dictation of the Almighty. The kingdom of God circumscribes and comprehends the municipal laws for the people in their outward government, to which pertain the Gospel covenants, by which the people can be saved; and those covenants pertain to fellowship and faithfulness.

[220] The Gospel covenants are for those who believe and obey; municipal laws are for both Saint and sinner.

The Constitution and laws of the United States resemble a theocracy more closely than any government now on the earth, or that ever has been, so far as we know, except the government of the children of Israel to the time when they elected a king. ll governments are more or less under the control of the Almighty, and, in their forms, have sprung from the laws that he has from time to time given to man. Those laws, in passing from generation to generation, have been more or less adulterated, and the result has been the various forms of government now in force among the nations; for, as the Prophet says of Israel, “They have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinances, and broken the everlasting covenant.”

Whoever lives to see the kingdom of God fully established upon the earth will see a government that will protect every person in his rights. If that government was now reigning upon this land of Joseph, you would see the Roman Catholic, the Greek Catholic, the Episcopalian, the Presbyterian, the Methodist, the Baptist, the Quaker, the Shaker, the Hindoo, the Mahometan, and every class of worshippers most strictly protected in all their municipal rights and in the privilege of worshipping who, what, and when they pleased, not infringing upon the rights of others. Does any candid person in his sound judgment desire any greater liberty?

The Lord has thus far protected and preserved the human family under their various forms and administrations of government, notwithstanding their wickedness, and is still preserving them; but if the kingdom of God, or a theocratic government, was established on the earth, many practices now prevalent would be abolished.

One community would not be permitted to array itself in opposition to another to coerce them to their standard; one denomination would not be suffered to persecute another because they differed in religious [221] belief and mode of worship. Every one would be fully protected in the enjoyment of all religious and social rights, and no state, no government, no community, no person would have the privilege of infringing on the rights of another; one Christian community would not rise up and persecute another. * * *

When the kingdom of God is established, we can believe in the principles of the eternal Priesthood or in something else, and be equally protected in our outward rights. My law, says Jehovah, is pure; it is the law by which the worlds are made, and by which all things are. Those laws tend to exaltation and power; but the world is observing rules that tend to death.* * *

It is recorded in the Bible that in the last days the God of heaven will set up a kingdom. Will that kingdom destroy the human family? No; it will save every person that will and can be saved. * * *

The municipal laws of that kingdom are designed for the protection of all classes of people in their legitimate rights; and were it now in its fulness upon the earth, and the New Jerusalem built upon this continent, which is the land of Zion, the Latter-day Saints would not alone enjoy its blessings, but all denominations and communities would be alike protected in their rights, whether they worshipped the Supreme Author of our existence, or the sun, or the moon, or, as do some of our aborigines, a white dog; and none will be permitted to infringe upon their neighbours, though every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is the Christ. The Hindoos would have the privilege of erecting their temples and of worshipping as they pleased; but they would not be permitted to compel other worshippers to conform to their mode of worship, nor to burn their companions upon the funeral pyre; for that would interfere with individual rights. * * *

The kingdom that the Almighty will set up in the latter days will have its officers, and those officers will be peace. Every man that officiates in a public capacity will be filled with the Spirit of God, with the light of God, with the power of God, and will understand right from wrong, truth from error, light from darkness, [222] that which tends to life and that which tends to death. * * *

When the government of God is in force upon the earth, there will be many officers and branches to that government, as there now are to that of the United States. There will be such helps, governments, etc., as the people require in their several capacities and circumstances; for the Lord will not administer everywhere in person. * * *

When the kingdom of God is established upon the earth, people will find it to be very different from what they now imagine. Will it be in the least degree tyrannical and oppressive towards any human being? No, it will not; for such is not the kingdom of God.

I believe in a true republican theocracy, and also in a true democratic theocracy, as the term democratic is now used; for they are to me, in their present use, convertible terms.

What do I understand by a theocratic government? One in which all laws are enacted and executed in righteousness, and whose officers possess that power which proceedeth from the Almighty. That is the kind of government I allude to when I speak of a theocratic government, or the kingdom of God upon the earth. It is, in short, the eternal powers of the Gods.

What do the world understand theocracy to be? A poor, rotten government of man, that would say, without the shadow of provocation or just cause, “Cut that man’s head off; put that one on the rack; arrest another, and retain him in unlawful and unjust duress while you plunder his property and pollute his wife and daughters; massacre here and there.” The Lord Almighty does nothing of that kind, neither does any man who is controlled by his Spirit. * * *

When his kingdom is established upon the earth, and Zion built up, the Lord will send his servants as saviours upon Mount Zion. The servants of God who have lived on the earth in ages past will reveal where different persons have lived who have died without the Gospel, give their names, and say, “Now go forth, ye servants of God, and exercise your rights and [223] privileges; go and perform the ordinances of the house of God for those who have passed their probation without the law, and for all who will receive any kind of salvation: bring them up to inherit the celestial, terrestrial, and telestial kingdoms,” and probably many other kingdoms not mentioned in the Scriptures; for every person will receive according to his capacity and according to the deeds done in the body, whether good or bad, much or little. (JD 6:342-347)

Ancient Prophecies

Many of the ancient prophets foretold that in the latter days God would establish His kingdom. After Daniel described the beast representing the latter-day kingdoms of the world, he said:

And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever.

Forasmuch as thou sawest that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it brake in pieces the iron, the brass, the clay, the silver, and the gold; the great God hath made known to the king what shall come to pass hereafter; and the dream is certain, and the interpretation thereof sure. (Daniel 2:44-45)

I saw in the night visions, and, behold one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not be destroyed. * * *

But the saints of the most High shall take the kingdom, and possess the kingdom for ever, even for ever and ever. (Daniel 7:13-14, 18)


And the Apostle John prophesied:

And the dragon prevailed not against Michael, neither the child, nor the woman which was the church of God, who had been delivered of her pains, and brought forth the kingdom of our God and his Christ. (Rev. 12:7, Insp. Vers.)

In this scripture he says the Church of Christ will bring forth the kingdom-just as a woman delivers a baby. If the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the true church referred to by John, then it should be the church to organize that kingdom and its officers. That is exactly what Joseph Smith did.

Latter-day Organization of the Kingdom of God

These early prophecies were fulfilled when Joseph Smith organized the Kingdom of God in 1844. Governing members were called the Council of Fifty simply because it consisted of that number of officers.

Brigham Young refers to its inception and describes its all-encompassing authority:

I will say to you with regard to the kingdom of God on the earth@Here is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints., organized with its rules, regulations and degrees, with the quorums of the holy Priesthood, from the First Presidency to the teachers and deacons; here we are, an organization. God called upon Joseph, he called upon Oliver Cowdery, then others were called through Joseph, the Church was organized, he with his two counselors comprised the First Presidency. In a few years the Quorum of the Twelve was organized, the High Council was organized, the High Priests’ quorum was organized, the Seventies’ quorums were organized, and the Priests’ [225] quorum, the Teachers’ quorum and the Deacons’. This is what we are in the habit of calling the kingdom of God. But there are further organizations. The Prophet gave a full and complete organization to this kingdom the Spring before he was killed. This kingdom is the kingdom that Daniel spoke of, which was to be set up in the last days; it is the kingdom that is not to be given to another people; it is the kingdom that is to be held by the servants of God, to rule the nations of the earth, to send forth those laws and ordinances that shall be suitable and that shall apply themselves to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; that will apply themselves to the mother Church. * * *

Now I want to give you these few words-the kingdom of God will protect every person, every sect and all people upon the face of the whole earth, in their legal rights. I shall not tell you the names of the members of this kingdom, neither shall I read to you its constitution, but the constitution was given by revelation. The day will come when it will be organized in strength and power. (JD 27:157-158)

Orson Pratt further explained the function of that kingdom and its members:

The Kingly authority is not separate and distinct from the Priesthood, but merely a branch or portion of the same. The Priestly authority is universal, having power over all things; the Kingly authority until perfected is limited to the kingdoms placed under its jurisdiction; the former appoints and ordains the latter; but the latter never appoints and ordains the former; the first controls the laws of nature, and exercises jurisdiction over the elements, as well as over men; the last controls men only, and administers just and righteous laws for their government. Where the two are combined and the individual perfect, he has almighty power both as King and as a Priest; both offices are then merged into one. The distinctions then, will be merely in the name and not in the authority; either as a King or a Priest he will then have power [226] and dominion over all things, and reign over all. Both titles, combined, will then not give him any more power than either one singly. It is evident that the distinctions of title are only expressive of the condition of things prior to the glorification and perfection of the persons who hold the Priesthood; for when they are perfected, they will have power to act in every branch of authority by virtue of the great, and almighty, and eternal Priesthood which they hold: they can then sway their sceptres as Kings; rule as Princes, minister as Apostles; officiate as Teacher; or, act in the humblest or most exalted capacity. there is no branch of the Priesthood so low that they cannot condescend to officiate therein; none so high, that they cannot reach forth the arm of power and control the same. (The Seer, p. 145, 1853)

The higher Priesthood is the power and authority which directs both the Church and the Kingdom. The following simple chart may help to clarify the distinction:



PATRIARCH                                 PRESIDENCY

PRESIDENCY                               HIGH PRIESTS (48)

APOSTLES                                HONORABLE MEN (2)


Definition Revised

Unfortunately, like so many other principles and doctrines of the Gospel, about the turn of the century, the definition and interpretation of the Kingdom of God changed. It began to be taught that the Kingdom of God was the same as the Church of Christ, as these few sample quotes will demonstrate:

Joseph F. Smith

What I mean by the kingdom of God is the organization of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, over which the Son of God presides, and not man. (Gospel Doctrine, p. 72)

James E. Talmage

The Kingdom of God is the Church established by divine authority upon the earth; this institution asserts no claim to temporal rule over nations; its sceptre of power is that of the Holy Priesthood, to be used in the preaching of the gospel and in administering its ordinances for the salvation of mankind living and dead. (Jesus the Christ, p. 788)

Bruce R. McConkie

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as it is now constituted is the Kingdom of God on earth. Nothing more needs to be done to establish the kingdom. . . . The Church and kingdom are one and the same. (Mormon Doctrine, pp. 415-16)

Spencer W. Kimball

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was restored in 1830 after numerous revelations from the divine source; and this is the kingdom, set up by the God of heaven, that would never be destroyed nor superseded, and the stone cut out of the mountain without hands that would become a great mountain and would fill the whole earth. (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p. 433)

[228] I know that this is the church and kingdom of God. It has been a part of me. (Faith Precedes the Miracle, Preface, p. xviii)

Unfortunately, the definition and scope of the Kingdom of God has been misunderstood. It was restored in this dispensation, but gradually both the definition and the organization were lost to the general membership of the Church.

To Summarize

  1. The Kingdom of God is a government consisting of a territory, a king, subjects, and laws.
  2. It is a separate organization from the Church: the Church pertains more to spiritual things, and the Kingdom to temporal rule and government.
  3. The Kingdom of God comes from and is organized by the Church.
  4. Church members and non-members may be officers in that Kingdom.
  5. Joseph Smith organized a Council of Fifty (as governing officers in the Kingdom of God) shortly before he died.
  6. The Melchizedek Priesthood presides over both the Church and the Kingdom.
  7. When the organization of the Kingdom began to dissolve, so did the correct understanding of it-until now the LDS Church supports the idea                 that the Church and the Kingdom are the same.


[229]                             Chapter 15



Throughout the world there are well over a thousand different Christian churches-most of them claiming to have the true gospel. Yet, there was originally only one Church of Jesus Christ and only one book which was claimed as holy scripture.

Such diversity and confusion are the results of private interpretations and personal weaknesses among church leaders and members. Brigham Young recognized this problem:

The principles of the gospel are perfect, but are the Apostles who teach it perfect? No, they are not. Now, bringing the two together, what they taught is not for me to say, but it is enough to say this, that through the weaknesses in the lives of the Apostles many were caused to err. Our historians and ministers tell us that the church went into the wilderness, but they were in the wilderness all the time. They had the way marked out to get out of the wilderness and go straight forward into the Kingdom of God, but they took various paths, and the two substantial churches that remain-a remnant from the apostles, that divided, are now called the Holy Catholic Church and the Greek Church. (JD 12:66)

Some of the early leaders of the Christian Church began to discard the revelations of the Lord, and some of their [230] scholars began to discard portions of the scriptures. This was described by Nephi in the Book of Mormon:

. . . for behold, they have taken away from the gospel of the Lamb many parts which are plain and most precious; and also many covenants of the Lord have they taken away. * * *

-because of the many plain and precious things which have been taken out of the book, which were plain unto the understanding of the children of men, according to the plainness which is in the Lamb of God-because of these things which are taken away out of the gospel of the Lamb, an exceeding great many do stumble, yea, insomuch that Satan hath great power over them. (1 Nephi 13:26, 29)

Mormonism has taken a similar path, in many respects, to that of the early Christian Church. People from nearly every nation, society and background have joined the LDS Church, bringing with them their own traditions and beliefs. They look upon Mormon doctrines and principles from many different perspectives, as can be observed in the classes conducted in the various wards, branches, and missions. Church leaders, in their efforts to be accepted by the U.S. Government and societies of the world, have made compromises and “adjustments” to help the Church “progress”.

These frailties have not just been exemplified in recent years, but were prevalent even when Joseph Smith was alive. At that time some of the most prominent leaders of the Church had veered from the path that had been established. Because of the faith of the members in their leaders, this can have disastrous results:

In the Fall and Winter of 1832, there was a terrible spirit of apostasy manifested at Kirtland; and on one occasion several of the Twelve, the witnesses of the Book of Mormon and other leading Elders in the [231] Church met in council, in one of the upper rooms of the Temple, and discussed the question of how the Prophet Joseph could be deposed and David Whitmer, one of the three special witnesses to the Book of Mormon, be chosen President of the Church. President Young was at that council, but remained steadfast in his loyalty to the absent prophet. * * *

This was a crisis when earth and hell seemed leagued to overthrow the prophet and Church of God. The knees of many of the strongest men in the Church faltered. (Contributor 10:1)

Naturally, this situation was of grave concern to the Prophet Joseph, and he gave the Saints some important advice:

O ye Twelve! and all Saints! profit by this important Key-that in all your trials, troubles, temptations, afflictions, bonds, imprisonments and death, see to it that you do not betray heaven; that you do not betray Jesus Christ; that you do not betray the brethren; that you do not betray the revelations of God, whether in Bible, Book of Mormon, or Doctrine and Covenants, or any other that ever was or ever will be given and revealed unto man in this world or that which is to come. Yea, in all your kicking and flounderings, see to it that you do not this thing, lest innocent blood be found upon your skirts, and you go down to hell. (TPJS, p. 156)

And he defended himself and his revelations before the Saints:

When did I ever teach anything wrong from this stand? When was I ever confounded? I want to triumph in Israel before I depart hence and am no more seen. I never told you I was perfect; but there is no error in the revelations which I have taught. (TPJS, p. 368)

[232] But in looking back through the past 150 years, it is obvious that the Saints have not heeded his warnings. Changes in doctrine and dissenters from the Gospel have continued up to the present time.

But our acceptance or rejection of a law does not change the law-nor the truthfulness of that law, as B. H. Roberts clearly explained:

Suppose a law is promulgated before the Latter-day Saints-a revealed principle of truth is submitted for their acceptance-and then, in the exercise of that liberty, which God has conferred upon His Church, they reject it. The question is then asked, “What remains?”

Why, the truth remains! The action of the Church has not affected that in the least. It is just as true as if the Church had accepted it. Our acceptance or rejection does not make or mar the truth; it simply determines our own relationship to that truth. If we reject the truth, the truth still remains. And moreover, it is my own faith that a people who would reject the truth revealed of God to them would make no progress until they repented and accepted the rejected truth. The truth remains-that is the answer to the senator’s question. Human conduct does not affect the truth. As one of our own poets said:

“Though the heavens depart, and the earth’s fountains burst,

Truth, the sum of existence, will weather the worse-eternal, unchanged, evermore!”

(Defense of the Faith and the Saints, B. H. Roberts, 1:517; from a 1905 discourse)

President J. Reuben Clark tried to encourage the Saints to maintain the truth and warned them against allowing doctrinal changes to creep into the Church:

Foes from without were not the church’s undoing; it was those who were within.

[233] I want to say to you brethren, and I am not professing any spirit of seership or prophecy, I am only going on the lessons which history has taught me, but I tell you we are beginning to follow along the course of the early Christian Church. So long as that Church was persecuted from without, it prospered, but when it began to be polluted from within, the church began to wither.

There is creeping into our midst, and I warn you brethren about it, and I urge you to meet it, a great host of sectarian doctrines that have no place amongst us. The gospel in its simplicity, is to be found in the revelations, the teachings of the prophet and the early leaders of the Church. We shall make no mistake if we follow them. We shall make mistakes, and we shall lead our youth, or some of them, to apostasy if we try to harmonize our simple beliefs with the philosophy and the speculations of sectarian doctrines.

We must not “liberalize” (and I put that term in quotes) our teachings; we must accept them as God gave them to us. . . . (Melchizedek Priesthood Lesson Manual, 1968-69, “Immortality and Eternal Life,” p. 156)

It is very interesting to compare this warning by Pres. Clark to avoid changing doctrines (as printed in a Melchizedek Priesthood lesson manual) with a Priesthood lesson given 25 years later (1993), wherein Clark was quoted as saying, in 1954, that it was all right to change doctrines:

. . . only the President of the Church . . .has the right to . . . give authoritative interpretations of scriptures that shall be binding on the Church, or change in any way the existing doctrines of the Church. . . . (“When Are Church Leader’s Words Entitled to Claim of Scripture?”, Church News, 31 July 1954, p. 10; as quoted in Melchizedek Priesthood Lesson Manual, 1993, “Strengthen Your Brethren,” pp. 18-19)

[234] This coincides with Ezra Taft Benson’s remarks in 1980 that, “The living prophet is more vital to us than the Standard Works,” and “the living prophet is more important to us than a dead prophet.” (“14 Fundamentals in Following the Prophets,” BYU Devotional Assembly, Feb. 26, 1980)

Because of the emphasis placed on following the living prophets, and also because of the many worldly problems and goals, most Latter-day Saints do not study and appreciate the Gospel and its doctrines as they should. John Taylor recalled:

What did we do when President Young was among us, urging these things upon us? Did we not enter into covenant by re-baptism to be subject to the Priesthood in temporal as well as spiritual things, when we took upon ourselves the obligations of the United Order? Let me ask you, what do we mean by doing this? Is it a mere form, a farce, or do we intend to carry out the covenants we made? I tell you in the name of Israel@s God they will be carried out, and no man can plow around these things, for God has decreed that they shall be accomplished; and any man who sets himself in opposition to these principles which God has established, he will root him out;. . . (JD 21:34)

If the Saints needed a revival and rebirth in the days of Brigham Young and John Taylor, how much more we need it today! We need to revive that old spirit and power of the Gospel that once characterized those early faithful Saints who helped usher in the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ.

We would do well to heed the admonition of Jude who said, “It was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.” (Jude 1:3) Faithful Saints have sacrificed, fought and died for Gospel principles. We should be willing to do the same!