Chapter 1: Why a need for Zion?
Be not Deceived
Rod of Iron-“the way to Judge”
For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. (Matthew 24:24)
Revelation and its source
“Wherefore take heed, my beloved brethren, that ye do not judge that which is evil to be of God, or that which is good and of God to be of the devil.” (Moroni 7:14)
The Lord warned: “For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.” (Matt. 24:24) How then can we avoid the deception that comes from the adversary?
We must learn that revelation comes form more than one source, and be able to discern between those sources. Joseph taught that there are three sources of revelation, the Lord, Satan, and ourselves. (CHC Vol. 1 p. 163) For instance we are told that we “...should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of [our] own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness; For the power is in [us] wherein [we] are agents unto [ourselves] And inasmuch as men do good they shall in nowise lose their reward.” (D&C 58:27,28) So we have the capability of thinking of good to bring to pass much righteousness.
We also receive revelation from Satan, which we label temptation and deception. As Moses was pondering the visitation of the Lord and the wonderful vision he had seen, Satan appeared; “And it came to pass that when Moses had said these words, behold, Satan came tempting him, saying: Moses, son of man, worship me.” (Moses 1:12.)
Satan tempted even Jesus when He fasted and went into the wilderness to be with God. The first challenge to the Savior was to turn stones into bread, to satisfy His physical hunger, yet the Lord resisted. Lucifer next confronted Jesus to misuse His power by jumping from the pinnacle of the temple. Then Satan appealed to the Lords pride by offering the kingdoms of the earth, with all the wealth, power, authority, and honors of men, to which the Lord rebuked him. (IV Matt. 4:1-10). If he tempted our Lord he will surely also tempt us, making it of utmost importance to be aware and recognize those influences of the adversary.
The adversary flatters, he wants us to set our hearts “upon the things of the world, and aspire to the honors of men.” He wants us to “cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness...” and when we do; “...the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved...” (D&C 121:34,37) The adversary would teach us not to pray, (2 Nephi 32:8) he would persuade “men to do evil, and believe not in Christ, and deny him, and serve not God.” (Moroni 7:17) Lucifer would have us to “fight and quarrel one with another” and serve him. (Mosiah 4:14)
Joseph recorded that when Moroni appeared, he cautioned,
“that Satan would try to tempt me (in consequence of the indigent circumstances of my father's family), to get the plates for the purpose of getting rich. This he forbade me, stating that I must have no other object in view in getting the plates but to glorify God, and must not be influenced by any other motive than that of building his kingdom; otherwise I could not get them.” (J.S. History 1:46)
This account was recorded of Joseph’s arrival the following day:
“Naturally Joseph stretched forth his hands to take out the treasure, when to his surprise he experienced a shock which seemed to paralyze his strength. A second and third attempt resulted in the same way, save that the repeated shocks, whatever their nature might be, increased in severity, and rendered him hopelessly weak and unable to lay hold of the record. ‘Why can I not obtain this book,’ he exclaimed. ‘Because you have not kept the commandments of the Lord,’ said a voice near by, and looking up the youth beheld standing by him the messenger of the previous night and of that morning. On the instant the mind of the young Prophet went back to the conversation of the night before, in which he had been told that he must ‘have no other object in view in getting the plates but to glorify God, and must not be influenced by any other motive than that of building up his kingdom’-otherwise he could not get this record.
“This instruction the Prophet had not followed. In that walk from his father's home to the hill Cumorah, he had indulged in all sorts of reveries as to the possible results of obtaining this record. A record on gold plates! Wealth beyond all his boyish dreams, sufficient for himself and his family! And with wealth, release from want, both of himself and his friends, and in its place ease and comfort, and importance of station in the world! These had been his reflections while on the way to Cumorah, until on his arrival there he was obsessed by them so far that all thought of the glory of God, the restoration of a knowledge of the gospel to the world, the gathering of scattered Israel, of which the coming forth of this ancient record was to be the prelude and sign, the founding of the kingdom of God for the salvation of man-all this had been forgotten by the young and inexperienced Prophet, and the desire for a share in the kingdoms of this world-wealth, ease, influence, station, had for the moment possessed him-and there the possibility of it all lay within his reach in that rude stone box, and yet he had not the power to clutch it!” (CHC vol.1 pp. 77,78)
Joseph learned quickly that,
“…God had often sealed up the heavens because of covetousness…” (Teachings p. 9)
Many times we may have thoughts go through our mind, and even as Joseph, we may consider them to be innocent, though we do not perceive they are inspired by the adversary, for he can tempt us in many ways, and various things which Satan inspires feel good.
What is the philosophy of the world? If it feels good do it! And where does that impression come from? There is no scripture that tells us that the Spirit of the Lord makes us feel good, only that “you shall feel that it is right.”(D&C 9:8)
How can we know the Spirit of the Lord? The Spirit will teach to do good: “And now, verily, verily, I say unto thee, put your trust in that Spirit which leadeth to do good-yea, to do justly, to walk humbly, to judge righteously; and this is my Spirit.” (D&C 11:12) The Lord instructs: “...everything which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God;” (Moroni 7:16) while Satan would deceive by making us “feel good” and encourage us to gratify our desires.
As Nephi bore testimony of his words, he gave this formula for knowing the words of Christ: “And now, my beloved brethren, and also Jew, and all ye ends of the earth, hearken unto these words and believe in Christ; and if ye believe not in these words believe in Christ. And if ye shall believe in Christ ye will believe in these words, for they are the words of Christ, and He hath given them unto me; and they teach all men that they should do good.” (2 Nephi 33: 10,11)
What are the influences of the Spirit of the Lord? The Holy Spirit “...showeth unto the children of men the straitness of the path, and the narrowness of the gate, by which they should enter...” (2 Ne. 31:9) We must be humble to receive the spirit of the Lord: “For My Spirit is sent forth into the world to enlighten the humble and contrite, and to the condemnation of the ungodly.” (D&C 136:33) The Spirit of the Lord instructs us to pray, (2 Ne. 32:8) and to serve God. The Spirit of the Lord can “guide you in wisdom’s paths” (Mosiah 2:36).
. The Spirit of the Lord can comfort, it can bring joy, love, and peace, all of which feelings can come from knowing that our sins are forgiven (Mosiah 4:3). The Spirit of the Lord inspires to “do good,” and sometimes when we receive tutoring from the Lord, we may feel godly sorrow because the spirit of the Lord is given for correction, the Spirit of the Lord will tell us to do good, or to do that which is right, whether it feels good or not. “Is not my word like as a fire? saith the LORD; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces?” (Jeremiah 23:29) Observe the feelings of Moses as he came from the presence of the Lord; “...Now, for this cause I know that man is nothing, which thing I never had supposed.” (Moses 1:10) The spirit of the Lord humbled him.
It appears that the closer we are to the Lord the greater we are aware of our weakness, as Isaiah recorded his feelings when he saw the Lord: “Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.” (Isaiah 6:5.) Or Nephi's comments; “Nevertheless, notwithstanding the great goodness of the Lord, in showing me his great and marvelous works, my heart exclaimeth: O wretched man that I am! Yea, my heart sorroweth because of my flesh; my soul grieveth because of mine iniquities.” (2 Ne. 4:17)
Moroni wrote at length on this subject:
“ Wherefore, all things which are good cometh of God; and that which is evil cometh of the devil; for the devil is an enemy unto God, and fighteth against him continually, and inviteth and enticeth to sin, and to do that which is evil continually. But behold, that which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do good continually; wherefore, every thing which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him, is inspired of God. Wherefore, take heed, my beloved brethren, that ye do not judge that which is evil to be of God, or that which is good and of God to be of the devil. For behold, my brethren, it is given unto you to judge, that ye may know good from evil; and the way to judge is as plain, that ye may know with a perfect knowledge, as the daylight is from the dark night. For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God.
“But whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do evil, and believe not in Christ, and deny him, and serve not God, then ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of the devil; for after this manner doth the devil work, for he persuadeth no man to do good, no, not one; neither do his angels; neither do they who subject themselves unto him. And now, my brethren, seeing that ye know the light by which ye may judge, which light is the light of Christ, see that ye do not judge wrongfully; for with that same judgment which ye judge ye shall also be judged. Wherefore, I beseech of you, brethren, that ye should search diligently in the light of Christ that ye may know good from evil; and if ye will lay hold upon every good thing, and condemn it not, ye certainly will be a child of Christ.” (Moroni 7:12-19.)
We must learn to judge our thoughts and feelings, hold to those that lead to do good, we must study, to educate our desires and school our feelings, to watch carefully that we are not deceived by feelings of pride, animosity, lust, or revenge.
Rod of Iron
What is the Iron rod? And how do we hold onto it? “And it came to pass that I beheld that the rod of iron, which my father had seen, was the word of God...” I have observed that letting go of the word of God has deceived many, we might ask how? When we receive answers to prayer, or personal revelation, or someone teaches us a doctrine or principle, we might fail to compare it with the scriptures and the words of the prophets, for then we can know if it is from the Lord or not, and through that means we can press “...forward through the mist of darkness, clinging to the rod of iron...”and hold “...fast to the rod of iron...and whoso would hearken unto the word of God, and would hold fast unto it, they would never perish; neither could the temptations and the fiery darts of the adversary overpower them unto blindness, to lead them away to destruction.” (1 Ne. 8:24,30, 15:24)
Paul warned the Saints of those in or out of the Church who would try to deceive and draw away disciples after themselves. (Acts 20:28-30) This has been a problem of all ages, including the deception of the very elect, (Mat. 24:24) which Paul was amazed was happening in the Church of his day, and so offered this advise: “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. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.” (Galatians 1:6-9.)
President Ezra T. Benson gave this advice to protect the saints from similar problems in our day:
“As members of the Church we have some close quarters to pass through if we are going to get home safely. We will be given a chance to choose between conflicting counsel given by some. That is why we must learn--and the sooner we learn, the better--to keep our eye on the prophet, the President of the Church.” (An Enemy Hath Done This, Ezra T. Benson P.326)
President Joseph F. Smith taught:
“When visions, dreams, tongues, prophecy, impressions or any extraordinary gift or inspiration conveys something out of harmony with the accepted revelations of the Church or contrary to the decisions of its constituted authorities, Latter-day Saints may know that it is not of God, no matter how plausible it may appear. Also they should understand that directions for the guidance of the Church will come, by revelation, through the head. All faithful members are entitled to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit for themselves, their families, and for those over whom they are appointed and ordained to preside. But anything at discord with that which comes from God through the head of the Church is not to be received as authoritative or reliable.
“The gifts of the Spirit and the powers of the holy Priesthood are of God, they are given for the blessing of the people, for their encouragement, and for the strengthening of their faith. This Satan knows full well, therefore he seeks by imitation-miracles to blind and deceive the children of God. Remember what the magicians of Egypt accomplished in their efforts to deceive Pharaoh as to the divinity of the mission of Moses and Aaron...
“That the power to work wonders may come from an evil source is declared by Christ in his prophecy regarding the great judgment: ‘Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you; depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” (Matt. 7:22,23 Teachings of the Prophets of the Church, Joseph F. Smith p.117)
When the Lord reveals things to us as individuals we can be tempted to boast of them to others that they may think we are something special or to bring attention to ourselves. That is not the reason that we receive revelation, it is for our own guidance and encouragement. When we receive from the Lord some special instruction, we should keep it to ourselves. We are under “strict command” not to reveal them to others: “ 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 grant unto the children of men, according to the heed and diligence which they give unto him.” (Alma 12:9.) We are to only impart that which the Lord has revealed to the whole church through the scriptures and the prophets.
Joseph Fielding Smith related this incident:
“It has only been a few weeks since I was approached at a stake conference by a good brother who said there was a gentleman there who had a very important message that he wished to present to me, and would I please give him an interview. So the interview was arranged. This man stated that he had been visited by one of the three Nephite disciples, and he told me a very fantastic story. After listening to it patiently until he had finished, I said to him, ‘If you have had a vision or manifestation, it is your duty to keep it to yourself; it is not for the Church, and I advise you not to repeat it.’ I hardly think that was the counsel he was seeking.
“In the past few months I have received a number of communications from various parts of the Church, from good, honest-thinking people who have made inquiry regarding some purported visions and dreams which are being circulated in all parts of the Church. These inquirers wish to know what my judgment is concerning these purported visions. We have also had certain individuals traveling among our people, prevailing on some of the bishops to let them hold meetings where they could relate to the people their remarkable experiences which they claim to have had. They have on their own responsibility held cottage meetings and invited the people, and some have been foolish enough to go and listen to these stories as they have been told.
“Now, I think it is wrong for any bishop or anyone else to invite these people who profess to have had a dream or a vision, or some kind of manifestation, into a meetinghouse, or even into the homes and gather the people in to listen to these presentations. In my judgment it is contrary to the teachings of the Church. When John said, ‘Believe not every spirit, but try the spirits,’ he did not mean that we should spend our time accepting or encouraging every wind of doctrine, but that we should prove every doctrine by the revelations of the Lord; by those principles of eternal truth which have been revealed for our guidance. We have certain standards which have been accepted and by which we are to be governed.”(Joseph Fielding Smith, Conference Report, October 1943, Third Day-Morning Meeting 96, 97.)
The Prophet Joseph Smith said:
“The reason we do not have the secrets of the Lord revealed unto us, is because we do not keep them but reveal them.” (Teachings, p.195)
It takes effort to receive answers form the Lord, for the Lord is “a rewarder of those who diligently seek him.” (Heb. 11:6) We must “study it out in [our] mind,” we must ponder, and put forth effort, that is the only way that growth can take place, and when we come to a determination of what to do and if it is right, then the Lord will tell us and we will know if our conclusion is right or wrong. (D&C 9:8,9)
Sometimes our answers are no, President Kimball taught:
“Prayers are not always answered as we wish them to be. Even the Redeemer's prayer in Gethsemane was answered in the negative. He prayed that the bitter cup of sorrow, pain, and mortal life termination could pass, but the answer was a 'no' answer.” (Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p.124)
We must compare our answers that we receive, to the word of God, for the scriptures “...are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works." (2 Tim. 3:15,16)
The importance of studying the scriptures and the teachings of the prophets is then recognized, for we then become more aware of what the Lord would have us do, the more we study and follow His teachings the more we cling to or hold fast to the rod of Iron. (1 Ne. 8:24,30) “ And I said unto them that it was the word of God; and whoso would hearken unto the word of God, and would hold fast unto it, they would never perish; neither could the temptations and the fiery darts of the adversary overpower them unto blindness, to lead them away to destruction.” (1 Nephi 15:24.)
Obtaining the words of Christ
How do we obtain the words of Christ? “And God also declared unto prophets, by his own mouth, that Christ should come. And behold, there were divers ways that he did manifest things unto the children of men, which were good; and all things which are good cometh of Christ; otherwise men were fallen, and there could no good thing come unto them. Wherefore, by the ministering of angels, and by every word which proceeded forth out of the mouth of God, men began to exercise faith in Christ; and thus by faith, they did lay hold upon every good thing; and thus it was until the coming of Christ. And after that he came men also were saved by faith in his name and by faith, they become the sons of God. And as surely as Christ liveth he spake these words unto our fathers, saying: Whatsoever thing ye shall ask the Father in my name, which is good, in faith believing that ye shall receive, behold, it shall be done unto you.” (Moroni 7:23-26) We obtain the words of Christ from the prophets of old that have recorded their dealings with the Lord, from the Lord Himself as recorded in the Gospels, and from the current Prophet and Apostles as they teach us the principles we need to learn.
What is the duty of angels? “And the office of their ministry is to call men unto repentance, and to fulfill and to do the work of the covenants of the Father, which he hath made unto the children of men, to prepareth the way among the children of men, by declaring the word of Christ unto the chosen vessels of the Lord, (our Apostles and Prophets) that they may bear testimony of Him. And by so doing, the Lord God prepareth the way that the residue of men may have faith in Christ, that the Holy Ghost may have place in their hearts, according to the power thereof; and after this manner bringeth to pass the Father, the covenants which he hath made unto the children of men.” (Moroni 7:31,32)
We must search the scriptures and the words of the prophets that we may know the principles that we must live by. I believe that knowing the Gospel, or gaining knowledge of the principles of the Gospel, is of equal importance to knowing that God lives. And what is the Gospel? It is the ordinances, and principles by which we must live and conduct our lives, the principles the Lord has taught us through the scriptures and teachings of the prophets. (see Articles of Faith 3,4)
How to use faith to gain knowledge
One important application of faith is to use faith to gain knowledge. The Lord commands; “...seek learning, even by study and also by faith.” (D&C 88:118; 109:7,14) First we must obtain the principles of the Gospel through diligent study, then gain knowledge of those principles through faith. The question then is how do we use faith to gain knowledge? Alma explains the steps in the thirty-second chapter: “Now, as I said concerning faith-that it was not a perfect knowledge-even so it is with my words. Ye cannot know of their surety at first, unto perfection, any more than faith is a perfect knowledge. But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words.”
Alma compares the words of Christ, or the principles of the Gospel, to a seed that we, in faith, or trust, plant in our hearts and nourish, by putting into practice those principles. Then just as a seed, the words of Christ “sprouteth and beginneth to grow; then you must needs say that the seed is good; for behold it swelleth, and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow. And now, behold, will not this strengthen your faith? Yea it will strengthen your faith: for ye will say I know that this is a good seed; for behold it sprouteth and beginneth to grow. And now, behold, are ye sure that this is a good seed? [or principle] I say unto you, Yea; for every seed bringeth forth unto its own likeness...And now, behold, because ye have tried the experiment, and planted the seed, and it swelleth and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow, ye must needs know that the seed is good. And now, behold, is your knowledge perfect? Yea, your knowledge is perfect in that thing, [or in that principle] and your faith is dormant; and this because you know, for ye know that the word hath swelled your souls, and ye also know that it hath sprouted up, that your understanding doth begin to be enlightened, and your mind doth begin to expand.” (Alma 32:26-34)
Giving diligence to this experiment of principles you can “…add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins. Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall:” (2 Peter 1:5-10.)
We must gain knowledge of the principles one at a time, and if we do, is “given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.” (v. 4.)
A diligent study of the scriptures is an important part of gaining knowledge. We must seek out and discover the principles that make up the character of God. Indeed we must feast on and observe the life of the Savior, Jesus said: “If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him. Philip saith unto him, Lord, shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us.” Philip wanted to see the Father with his natural eyes, but the Lord knew it was far more important to see our Father in Heaven with the eyes of our understanding, perceiving the attributes that make up his being, that make him God. “Jesus saith unto him, have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father?” (John 14:7-9)
Every day we see with our natural eyes people that we do not know. After seeing them, how well do we know and understand them? If we were to see the Lord with our natural eyes only, how much better would we understand him? When Jesus was on earth in mortality there were many thousands that beheld Jesus with their eyes, even listened to his sermons, but never really knew him
It is by far, much more important to see the Lord with our heart and understand with an eye of faith, then to see with our natural eyes-only. Before those of old beheld the Lord with their natural eye they had to see with an eye of faith: “And there were many whose faith was so exceedingly strong even before Christ came, who could not be kept from within the veil, but truly saw with their eyes the things which they had beheld with an eye of faith, and they were glad.” (Ether 12:19) So how do we see the Lord with an eye of faith? By studying His life, and putting into practice the principles that Jesus lived by, thus knowing for certain that they are true. If we only have a testimony that Christ lives, and do not have knowledge of, and live by the principles of the gospel, how are we any different than Satan and his angels? For they know that Jesus is the Christ, and tremble. (James 2:19)
There are those who desire a sign or miracle in order to gain knowledge, but are really only looking for a shortcut to a testimony, they don’t want to put forth the effort to study and live the principles to know they are true; thereby they would avoid using faith to gain knowledge.
The Lord is not asking for blind obedience to principle, but rather living to gain knowledge and confidence, until we can testify of their truth, and are firm rooted in the principles of the Gospel.
Nephi taught “...Wherefore, I said unto you, feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do...and I am left to mourn because of the unbelief, and the wickedness, and the ignorance, and the stiffneckedness of men; for they will not search knowledge, nor understand great knowledge, when it is given unto them in plainness, even as plain as word can be.” (2 Ne. 32:3,7)
Jesus came to do the will of His Father, but in order to do the will of the Father it required knowing the will of the Father. In order to know the will of the Father it required a time of study, pondering, and prayer. And so Jesus grew in knowledge “And He received not of the fullness at first, but continued from grace to grace, until He received a fullness; and thus He was called the Son of God, because He received not of the fullness at the first.” (D&C 93:13,14)
When did the Lord do his study and prayer? “And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, He went out and departed into a solitary place and there prayed.” (Mk. 1:35) Jesus must have made a habit of arising early for we read that when He taught in the temple: “And early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people came unto Him; and He sat down, and taught them.” (John 8:2) How would the people know to come early to listen to Jesus, if He did not regularly come early to teach? Jesus must have made a routine of this throughout His life for even in the resurrection Jesus continued this habit: “The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulcher, and seeth the stone taken away from that sepulcher.” (Jn. 20:1) Even so are we instructed: “...arise early, that your bodies and your minds may be invigorated.” (D&C 88:124)
Mormon bore testimony of the importance of scripture study: “Yea, we see that whosoever will may lay hold upon the word of God, which is quick and powerful, which shall divide asunder all the cunning and the snares and the wiles of the devil, and lead the man of Christ in a strait and narrow course across that everlasting gulf of misery which is prepared to engulf the wicked-And land their souls, yea, their immortal souls, at the right hand of God in the kingdom of heaven, to sit sown with Abraham, and Isaac, and with Jacob, and with all our holy fathers, to go no more out.” (Helaman 3:29,30)
And thus we gain “knowledge and intelligence” through “diligence and obedience.” (D&C 130:19) Even as the Lord has said: “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.” (John 7:17) We must first trust in the Lord to put His principles to the test, and then we will gain a knowledge that they are true, “...for ye receive no witness [or knowledge] until after the trial [or exercise] of your faith.” (Ether 12:6)
If we as members of Christ’s Church feel that all we have to do is have a testimony that Jesus lives and that the Gospel is true, and do not strive to learn and live the principles that Jesus taught and exemplified, how are we any different than the Christian world who say that all we have to do is confess His name to be saved?
Knowledge and righteousness
The Lord taught: “And if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world. He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.” (John 12:47,48) What will we be judged by at the last day? The Lord answers; “the word that I have spoken.”
Notice that knowledge and righteousness go hand in hand, as Abraham wrote: “And, finding there was greater happiness and peace and rest for me, I sought for the blessings of the fathers, and the right whereunto I should be ordained to administer the same; having been myself a follower of righteousness, desiring also to be one who possessed great knowledge, and to be a greater follower of righteousness, and to possess a greater knowledge...” (Abraham 1:2) Where did Abraham search for this knowledge that he might be a follower of righteousness? Abraham records: “...the records have come into my hands, which I hold unto this present time.” (Abraham 1:28)
We can appreciate the insistence of our leaders to participate in a regular study of the scriptures, for the better aquatinted we become with the scriptures and the teachings of the prophets, the less likely we will be deceived by the adversary. Joseph taught:
“Search the scriptures-search the revelations which we publish, and ask your Heavenly Father, in the name of His Son, Jesus Christ, to manifest the truth unto you, and if you do it with an eye single to His glory nothing doubting, He will answer you by the power of His Holy Spirit. You will then know for yourselves and not for another. You will not then be dependent on man for the knowledge of God; nor will there be any room for speculation. No; for when men receive their instruction from Him that made them, they know how He will save them. Then again we say: Search the Scriptures, search the Prophets and learn what portion of them belongs to you and the people of the nineteenth century.” (Teachings pp. 11,12)
Jesus testified of the scriptures: “These words are not of men nor of man, but of me; wherefore, you shall testify they are of me and not of man; For it is my voice which speaketh them unto you; for they are given by my Spirit unto you, and by my power you can read them one to another; and save it were by my power you could not have them; Wherefore, you can testify that you have heard my voice, and know my words.” (D&C 18:34-36) We can daily hear the voice of the Lord simply by reading the scriptures!
We have the scriptures before us, and the Lord, along with many prophets over the ages, have through great labor and sacrifice, made it possible for us to have them in our possession. The Lord will not hold us blameless if we ignore the great gift that has been placed before us. The Lord warns: “And your minds in times past have been darkened because of unbelief, and because you have treated lightly the things you have received- Which vanity and unbelief have brought the whole church under condemnation. And this condemnation resteth upon the children of Zion, even all. And they shall remain under this condemnation until they repent and remember the new covenant, even the Book of Mormon and the former commandments which I have given them, not only to say, but to do according to that which I have written- That they may bring forth fruit meet for their Father's kingdom...”
The Lord then gives warning to the saints, of the consequences if we do not take serious to study and “...do according to that which I have written...otherwise there remaineth a scourge and judgment to be poured out upon the children of Zion.” (D&C 84:54-58)
The conviction by which we learn and are obedient to the principles of faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, brotherly kindness, godliness, charity, humility, diligence, hope, and an eye single to glory of God; determines whether we win or Lucifer wins. These are the principles that “qualify (us) for the work.” (D&C 4:5,6)
Paul spoke of the necessity of living Apostles and Prophets in his day, and the dangers from outside as well as within the Church: “For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.” (Acts 20:29,30) Without living prophets on the earth the Saints would be vulnerable to “grievous wolves” as Paul informed, that in his absence would take advantage of the Saints. Those seeking a name for themselves, wish to obtain a following to “draw away disciples after them.”
There are many assurances that the Lord will not allow his prophets to lead us astray, and that we can trust implicitly in their council and guidance.
President Wilford Woodruff made this statement:
“The Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as President of this Church to lead you astray. It is not in the programme. It is not in the mind of God. If I were to attempt that, the Lord would remove me out of my place, and so He will any other man who attempts to lead the children of men astray from the oracles of God and from their duty. It matters not who lives or who dies, or who is called to lead this Church, they have got to lead it by the inspiration of Almighty God. If they do not do it that way, they cannot do it at all.” (D&C Official Declaration-1 p.292, CR Oct. 6,1890)
The Lord’s prophets have always been accountable directly to the Lord, and history has born out this fact. When the brother of Jared led his people out “...from the great tower, at the time Lord confounded the language of the people...” (Ether 1:33) they traveled until they arrived at the sea and there they dwelt in their tents for the space of four years. During that time the brother of Jared must have become complacent with his prayers, and seeking guidance for his people, for the “...Lord came again unto the brother of Jared, and stood in a cloud and talked with him. And for the space of three hours did the Lord talk with the brother of Jared, and chastened him because he remembered not to call upon the name of the Lord. And the brother of Jared repented of the evil which he had done, and did call upon the name of the Lord for his brethren who were with him.” (Ether 2:13-15)
Another example of the Lord not allowing his prophets to do that which is contrary to his will, is the account of King David wanting to build a temple: “Now it came to pass, as David sat in his house, that David said to Nathan the prophet, Lo, I dwell in an house of cedars, but the ark of the covenant of the Lord remaineth under curtains. Then Nathan said unto David, Do all that is in thine heart; for God is with thee. And it came to pass the same night, that the word of God came to Nathan, saying, Go and tell David my servant, Thus saith the Lord, Thou shalt not build me an house to dwell in:” (1 Chron. 17:1-4)
We can be assured that the Lord will not come out in contradiction to the work that has already begun, Joseph Smith taught:
“…no true angel from God will ever come to ordain any man, because thy have once been sent to establish the priesthood by ordaining me thereunto; and the priesthood being once established on earth, with [the] power to ordain others, no heavenly messenger will ever come to interfere with that power by ordaining any more… You may therefore know, from this time forward, that if any man comes to you professing to be ordained by an angel, he is either a liar or has been imposed upon in consequence of transgression by an angel of the devil, for this priesthood shall never be taken from this church.” (President James E. Faust, Conf. Report April 6, 1996)
Satan doth stir up the Hearts
It is essential that whenever the gospel has been on the earth that we have a living prophet for “...Satan doth stir up the hearts of the people to contention concerning the points of my doctrine; and in these things they do err, for they do wrest [twist] the scriptures and do not understand them.” (D&C 10:63)
A few months after the organization of the Church, it was manifest the importance of a living prophet, for Joseph received a letter from Oliver Cowdery:
“He wrote to inform me that he had discovered an error in one of the commandments-Book of Doctrine and Covenants: ‘And truly manifest by their works that they have received the Spirit of Christ unto a remission of their sins’ (D&C 20:37)
“The above quotation, he said, was erroneous, and added: ‘I command you in the name of God to erase those words, that no priestcraft be amongst us!’
“I immediately wrote to him in reply, in which I asked him by what authority he took upon him to command me to alter or erase, to add to or diminish from, a revelation or commandment from Almighty God.
“A few days afterwards I visited him and Mr. Whitmer’s family, when I found the family in general of his opinion concerning the words above quoted, and it was not without both labor and perseverance that I could prevail with any of them to reason calmly on the subject. However, Christian Whitmer at length became convinced that the sentence was reasonable, and according to Scripture; and finally, with his assistance, I succeeded in bringing, not only the Whitmer family, but also Oliver Cowdery to acknowledge that they had been in error, and that the sentence in dispute was in accordance with the rest of the commandment. And thus was this error rooted out, which having its rise in presumption and rash judgment, was the more particularly calculated (when once fairly understood) to teach each and all of us the necessity of humility and meekness before the Lord, that He might teach us of His ways, that we might walk in His paths, and live by every word that proceedeth for from His mouth.” (DHC Vol. 1, ps.104, 105)
Notice how easily Oliver Cowdery influenced the Whitmer family and turned them from the truth. It required the efforts of the Prophet in order to root out the error and restore the Whitmer family.
Shortly thereafter Joseph had another problem to deal with, he wrote:
“To our great grief, however, we soon found that Satan had been lying in wait to deceive, and seeking whom he might devour. Brother Hiram Page had in his possession a certain stone, by which he had obtained certain ‘revelations’ concerning the upbuilding of Zion, the order of the Church, etc., all of which were entirely at variance with the order of God’s house, as laid down in the New Testament, as well as in our late revelations. As a conference meeting had been appointed for the 26th day of September, I thought it wisdom not to do much more than to converse with the brethren on the subject, until the conference should meet. Finding however, that many, especially the Whitmer family and Oliver Cowdery, were believing much in the things set forth by this stone, we thought best to inquire of the Lord concerning so important a matter; and before conference convened, we received the following:” (DHC Vol. 1 p109, 110)
Section 28 of the Doctrine and Covenants was then quoted, of which here are some excerpts: “But, behold, verily, verily, I say unto thee, no one shall be appointed to receive commandments and revelations in this church excepting my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., for he receiveth them even as Moses. And thou shalt be obedient unto the things which I shall give unto him, even as Aaron, to declare faithfully the commandments and the revelations, with power and authority unto the church...For I have given him the keys of the mysteries, and the revelations which are sealed, until I shall appoint unto them another in his stead...And again, thou shalt take thy brother, Hiram Page, between him and thee alone, and tell him that those things which he hath written from that stone are not of me and that Satan deceiveth him; For, behold these things have not been appointed unto him, neither shall anything be appointed unto any of this church contrary to the church covenants.” (D&C 28:2,3,7,11,12)
“At length our conference assembled. The subject of the stone previously mentioned was discussed, and after considerable investigation, Brother Page, as well as the whole Church who were present, renounced the said stone, and all things connected therewith, much to our mutual satisfaction and happiness. We now partook of the Sacrament, confirmed and ordained many, and attended to a great variety of Church business on the first and the two following days of the conference, during which time we had much of the power of God manifested amongst us; the Holy Ghost came upon us, and filled us with joy unspeakable; and peace, and faith, and hope, and charity abounded in our midst.” (Ibid. p115)
In February of 1831 the Church faced yet another challenge, a woman called Hubble came professing to be receiving revelation. Joseph Smith recorded the following:
“Soon after…a woman came making great pretensions of revealing commandments, laws and other curious matters; and as almost every person has advocates for both theory and practice, in the various notions and projects of the age, it became necessary to inquire of the Lord, when I received the following:” (Ibid. p154)
“For behold, verily, verily, I say unto you, that ye have received a commandment for a law unto my church, through him whom I have appointed unto you to receive commandments and revelations from my hand. And this ye shall know assuredly-that there is none other appointed unto you to receive commandments and revelations until he be taken, if he abide in me. But verily, verily, I say unto you, that none else shall be appointed unto this gift except it be through him; for if it be taken from him he shall not have power except to appoint another in his stead.” (D&C 43:2-4)
About the same time Brigham Young told of this experience in Kirtland:
“A man named Hawley, while plowing in his field in the state of New York, had an impression rest down on his mind with great weight, that he must go to Kirtland and tell Joseph Smith that the Lord had rejected him as a Prophet . . . He went through the streets of Kirtland, one morning after midnight, and cried, ‘Woe! Woe! unto the inhabitants of this place.’ I put my clothes on, took my cowhide [and a cowhide was an old braided whip used to pop the oxen with] went out, and laying hold of him, jerked him around and assured him that if he did not stop his noise and let the people enjoy their sleep without interruption, I would cowhide him on the spot, for we had the Lord's prophet here and we did not want the Devil's prophet yelling around the streets.” (M. S. 25:487 Elder Preston Nibley, October 26, 1960, BYU Speeches of the Year, 1960 4.)
In May of that same year, 1831, Parley P. Pratt had a strange experience as he traveled and taught the Saints:
“As I went forth among the different branches, some very strange spiritual operations were manifested, which were disgusting, rather than edifying. Some persons would seem to swoon away, and make unseemly gestures, and be drawn or disfigured in their countenances. Others would fall into ecstasies, and be drawn into contortions, cramp, fits, etc. Others would seem to have visions and revelations, which were not edifying, and which were not congenial to the doctrine and spirit of the gospel. In short, a false and lying spirit seemed to be creeping into the Church. All these things were new and strange to me, and had originated in the Church during our absence, and previous to the arrival of President Joseph Smith from New York. Feeling our weakness and inexperience, and lest we should err in judgment concerning these spiritual phenomena, myself, John Murdock, and several other Elders, went to Joseph Smith, and asked him to inquire of the Lord concerning these spirits or manifestations.” (Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, p 48.)
Joseph then received Section 50 of the Doctrine and Covenants:
“And that which doth not edify is not of God, and is darkness. That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day. And again, verily I say unto you, and I say it that you may know the truth, that you may chase darkness from among you;”(D&C 50:23-25.)
Later that same year, in November, some of the Elders challenged the language of the revelations, supposing that they could write a revelation. Joseph received section 67 of the Doctrine of Covenants, where the Lord challenged; “Now, seek ye out of the Book of Commandments, even the least that is among them, and appoint him that is the most wise among you; Or, if there be any among you that shall make one like unto it, then ye are justified in saying that ye do not know that they are true; But if ye cannot make one like unto it, ye are under condemnation if ye do not bear record that they are true. For ye know that there is no unrighteousness in them, and that which is righteous cometh down from above, from the Father of lights.” (D&C 67:6-9.)
“After the foregoing was received, William E. M'Lellin, as the wisest man, in his own estimation, having more learning than sense, endeavored to write a commandment like unto one of the least of the Lord's, but failed; it was an awful responsibility to write in the name of the Lord. The Elders and all present that witnessed this vain attempt of a man to imitate the language of Jesus Christ, renewed their faith in the fullness of the Gospel, and in the truth of the commandments and revelations which the Lord had given to the Church through my instrumentality; and the Elders signified a willingness to bear testimony of their truth to all the world. Accordingly I received the following:
“The testimony of the witnesses to the book of the Lord's commandments, which He gave to His Church through Joseph Smith, Jun., who was appointed by the voice of the Church for this purpose; we therefore feel willing to bear testimony to all the world of mankind, to every creature upon the face of all the earth and upon the islands of the sea, that the Lord has borne record to our souls, through the Holy Ghost, shed forth upon us, that these commandments were given by inspiration of God, and are profitable for all men, and are verily true. We give this testimony unto the world, the Lord being our helper; and it is through the grace of God, the Father, and His Son, Jesus Christ, that we are permitted to have this privilege of bearing this testimony unto the world, that the children of men may be profited thereby.” (DHC 1: 226.)
Problems of false teachings and apostate doctrines continued to plague the Church; in March of 1833 Joseph recorded the following:
“March 15.-A council was called to consider the case of Brother Lake, from Wooster, Wayne county, Ohio, who came professing to have received revelations. On investigation, it was unanimously agreed, that said Brother Lake was under the influence of an evil spirit, and that his license as Priest be taken from him.” (DHC 1:333)
The very next month Joseph was handed a letter from the brother of Jared Carter, who had claimed revelation. Joseph immediately answered the letter with the following letter:
“Dear Brother Carter:-Your letter to Brother Jared is just put into my hand, and I have carefully perused its contents, and embrace this opportunity to answer it. We proceed to answer your questions: first concerning your labor in the region where you live; we acquiesce in your feelings on this subject until the mouth of the Lord shall name. Respecting the vision you speak of we do not consider ourselves bound to receive any revelation from any one man or woman without his being legally constituted and ordained to that authority, and giving sufficient proof of it. I will inform you that it is contrary to the economy of God for any member of the Church, or any one, to receive instructions for those in authority, higher than themselves; therefore you will see the impropriety of giving heed to them; but if any person have a vision or a visitation from a heavenly messenger, it must be for his own benefit and instruction; for the fundamental principles, government, and doctrine of the Church are vested in the keys of the kingdom. Respecting an apostate, or one who has been cut off from the Church, and who wishes to come in again, the law of our Church expressly says that such shall repent, and be baptized, and be admitted as at the first… And again we never inquire at the hand of God for special revelation only in case of there being no previous revelation to suit the case; and that in a council of High Priests.” (DHC 1:338, 339)
In November of 1835 a self proclaimed prophet visited Joseph:
“While sitting in my house, between ten and eleven this morning, a man came in and introduced himself to me by the name of ‘Joshua, the Jewish Minister…” After listening to him for a while, Joseph recorded: “I told Joshua I did not understand his remarks on the resurrection, and wished him to explain. He replied that he did not feel impressed by the Spirit to unfold it further at present, but perhaps he might at some future time…
“Suspicions were entertained that the said Joshua was the noted Matthias of New York, spoken so much of in the public prints, on account of the trials he endured in that place, before a court of justice, for murder, man-slaughter, contempt of court, whipping his daughter, etc.; for the last two crimes he was imprisoned, and came out about four months since. After some equivocating, he confessed that he really was Matthias…
“Tuesday, November 10.-I resumed conversation with Matthias, and desired him to enlighten my mind more on his views respecting the resurrection.
“He said that he possessed the spirit of his fathers, that he was a literal descendant of Matthias, the Apostle, who was chosen in the place of Judas that fell; that his spirit was resurrected in him; and that this was the way or scheme of eternal life-this transmigration of soul or spirit from father to son.
“I told him that his doctrine was of the devil, that he was in reality in possession of a wicked and depraved spirit, although he professed to be the Spirit of truth itself; and he said also that he possessed the soul of Christ.
“He tarried until Wednesday, 11th, when, after breakfast, I told him, that my God told me, that his god was the devil, and I could not keep him any longer, and he must depart. And so I, for once, cast out the devil in bodily shape, and I believe a murderer.” (DHC 2:304-307)
Joseph talked of the importance of discerning spirits and the inability of the world to identify false spirits:
“As we have noticed before, the great difficulty lies in the ignorance of the nature of spirits, of the laws by which they are governed, and the signs by which they may be known; if it requires the Spirit of God to know the things of God; and the spirit of the devil can only be unmasked through that medium, then it follows as a natural consequence that unless some person or persons have a communication, or revelation from God, unfolding to them the operation of the spirit, they must eternally remain ignorant of these principles; for I contend that if one man cannot understand these things but by the Spirit of God, ten thousand men cannot; it is alike out of the reach of the wisdom of the learned, the tongue of the eloquent, the power of the mighty. And we shall at last have to come to this conclusion, whatever we may think of revelation, that without it we can neither know nor understand anything of God, or the devil; and however unwilling the world may be to acknowledge this principle, it is evident from the multifarious creeds and notions concerning this matter that they understand nothing of this principle, and it is equally as plain that without a divine communication they must remain in ignorance. The world always mistook false prophets for true ones, and those that were sent of God, they considered to be false prophets, and hence they killed, stoned, punished and imprisoned the true prophets, and these had to hide themselves ‘in deserts and dens, and caves of the earth,’ and though the most honorable men of the earth, they banished them from their society as vagabonds, whilst they cherished, honored and supported knaves, vagabonds, hypocrites, impostors, and the basest of men.” (DHC 4:573, 574)
History has emphasized the fact that Satan will put forth great effort to destroy the Lord’s work even deceiving the “very elect,” (Matt. 24:24) he has always sown “tares among the wheat.” (Matt. 13:25-40)
As a result of many attempts from the adversary, Joseph experienced great difficulties from some of the leading brethren of the Church during the year of 1837. These problems seemed to have arisen from the bank organized in Kirtland. The people borrowed and spent like there were no tomorrow. “Why be deprived of luxury and fashion today’, seemed to be the spirit of the hour.”
When the bank collapsed, many-blamed Joseph, including many prominent leaders. Benjamin F. Johnson observed:
“Disappointment engendered feelings which reacted upon fellowship, and men in high places began to complain of and reproach each other, and brotherly love was found smothered by the love of the world. The bank having issued its currency in the same confidence now began to comprehend that its specie vaults were empty, with no possibility to realize upon collateral to replenish them. The spirit of charity was not invoked, and brethren who had borne the highest priesthood and who had for years labored, traveled, ministered and suffered together, and even placed their lives upon the same altar, now were governed by a feeling of hate and a spirit to accuse each other, and all for the love of Accursed Mammon. All their former companionship in the holy anointing in the Temple of the Lord, where filled with the Holy Ghost, the heavens were opened, and in view of the glories before them they had together shouted ‘Hosanna to God and the Lamb,’ all was now forgotten by many, who were like Judas, ready to sell or destroy the Prophet Joseph and his followers. And it almost seemed to me that the brightest stars in our firmament had fallen. Many to whom I had in the past most loved to listen, their voices seemed now the most discordant and hateful to me. From the Quorum of the Twelve fell four of the brightest: William E. McLellin, Luke and Lyman Johnson and John Boyington of the First Presidency, F. G. Williams; the three Witnesses to the Book of Mormon, Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer and Martin Harris. Of other very prominent elders were Sylvester Smith, Warren Cowdery, Warren Parrish, Joseph Coe and many others who apostatized or became enemies to the Prophet. I was then nineteen years of age, and as I now look back through more than fifty years of subsequent experience, to that first great Apostasy, I regard it as the greatest sorrow, disappointment and test through which I have ever passed; the first real experience among false brethren, the greatest sorrow and test for the faithful. But with all my faults I did not forget the Lord nor His chosen servants. And in this day of great affliction and separation by apostasy, I felt to call mightily upon His name, that He would never leave me to follow these examples, but that He would keep me humble, even though in poverty and affliction, so only that I fail not. This prayer of my youth I have never forgotten, neither do I feel that it is forgotten by Him to whom it was made.” (Benjamin F. Johnson, My Life’s Review pp. 22,23)
“At this time a certain young woman, who was living at David Whitmer's, uttered a prophecy, which she said was given her by looking through a black stone that she had found. This prophecy gave some altogether a new idea of things. She said the reason why one-third of the Church would turn away from Joseph was because that he was in transgression himself; that he would fall from his office on account of the same; that David Whitmer or Martin Harris would fill Joseph's place; and that the one who did not succeed him would be the counselor to the one that did.” (Lucy Mack Smith, History of Joseph Smith by His Mother pp. 241 - 242.)
B.H. Roberts also wrote of this time:
“Among other things these ‘reformers’ insisted that the regular authorities in Kirtland had departed from the true order of things by calling the church ‘The Church of the Latter-day Saints.’ They proceeded therefore to repudiate this title and adopt what they considered the proper one, ‘The Church of Christ,’ and held themselves forth as the ‘old standard;’ they rejected the Prophet, and denounced those who adhered to him as heretics. They met frequently in the temple, and claimed ownership of it, sometimes resorting to violence in their assertion of the right to control it. Many of the faithful saints during the year of 1837 had removed from Kirtland to upper Missouri, to which place also many of the saints from the branches in the eastern states and Canada were migrating. The hope of redeeming Zion had not been abandoned; nor had the previous misfortunes which befell the saints in Missouri destroyed their faith in the revealed purposes of God with reference to that land. But the migration of faithful saints from Kirtland stake of Zion during the time named left dissenters and apostates at the last in the majority in that place, and hence the sad results here chronicled. (CHC 1: 405 - 406.)
Satan continued to attempt to destroy the Church:
“On the 30th of October, Brothers Norris, Brewster, and others, presented to the High Council a plan for the better organization of the Church in temporal affairs, stating that Moroni had appeared to Collins Brewster. The council decided that it was a trick of the devil…Reuben Hedlock preferred the following charge against Zenos H. Brewster, Jane Brewster, Collins Brewster, D. H. Dustin and wife, Moses R. Norris and wife, Eliza Norris, Samuel Barnet, Jemima Butler, Osman M. Duel,-Butler, and Roxanna Repsher, for giving heed to revelations said to be translated from the Book of Moroni by Collins Brewster, and for entering into a written covenant different from the articles and covenants of the Church of Latter-day Saints, and following a vain and delusive spirit…Others testified they had heard them speak against the heads of the Church and that Brother Joseph had many things to repent of, and one of them said he thought some put too much stress on the Priesthood, and that he was informed that Brother Norris laid his hands on Collins Brewster and ordained him a prophet, and that one of the accused said he was determined to pursue his own course whether it suited the High Council or not.” (DHC, 2:520-526.)
The seriousness of which the Lord looks upon those who would go contrary to His delegated authority is shown in the story of Uzzah. King David wanted to move the “arc of the God” to Jerusalem from Gibeah. As they traveled the arc was shaken by the oxen, and Uzzah, not holding the priesthood, and forbidden of the Lord to touch the ark, attempted to steady the arc. “And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Uzzah; and God smote him there for his error; and there he died by the ark of God.” (2 Samuel 6:6-7.)
Satan has lured many into this position, feeling that the Church is not on course, and that they are there to “steady the arc.” Bishop Edward Partridge was one such, who took it upon himself to criticize and correct the Prophet, for which the Lord warned Bishop Partridge: “While that man, who was called of God and appointed, that putteth forth his hand to steady the ark of God, shall fall by the shaft of death, like as a tree that is smitten by the vivid shaft of lightning.” (Doctrine and Covenants 85:8.)
In 1905 the First Presidency wrote:
“It is shown that Edward Partridge, though a worthy man, one whom God loved, at times arrayed himself in opposition to the Prophet, so strenuously that Ezra Booth made their differences an excuse for his apostasy...” (Doctrine and Covenants Commentary, p.529)
Giving evidence of the words that the Lord spoke: “He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad.” (Matthew 12:30.) In many instances those who criticize the Prophet might actually be the cause of leading others away.
“…Bishop Edward Partridge undoubtedly obtained a mitigation of the threatened judgment against him of falling 'by the shaft of death, like as a tree that is smitten by the vivid shaft of lightning,' so the occasion for sending another to fill his station—'one mighty and strong to set in order the house of God, and to arrange by lot the inheritance of the Saints'—may also be considered as having passed away and the whole incident of the prophecy closed.” (Doctrine and Covenants Commentary, p. 529.)
In April of 1844 a group of excommunicated members met at Wilson Law’s home to form a new church, of which Joseph wrote:
“…they had decided that I was a fallen prophet, &c.; and they appointed William Law in my place, who chose Austin Cowles and Wilson Law as his counselors. Robert D. Foster and Francis M. Higbee to be two of the Twelve Apostles, &c., &c., as report says.” (DHC 6: 346 - 347.)
To these charges Joseph later responded:
“The Savior has the words of eternal life. Nothing else can profit us. There is no salvation in believing an evil report against our neighbor. 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…
“My enemies say that I have been a true prophet. Why, I had rather be a fallen true prophet than a false prophet. When a man goes about prophesying, and commands men to obey his teachings, he must either be a true or false prophet. False prophets always arise to oppose the true prophets and they will prophesy so very near the truth that they will deceive almost the very chosen ones.” (DHC 6:363-365)
The Mantle is Passed
Joseph, a little over a month later, must have known that his mission on earth was fulfilled for on June 20, 1844 he said
“I wrote to those of the Twelve Apostles who are absent on missions to come home immediately…I advised my brother Hyrum to take his family on the next steamboat and go to Cincinnati. Hyrum replied, ‘Joseph, I can't leave you.’ Whereupon I said to the company present, ‘I wish I could get Hyrum out of the way, so that he may live to avenge my blood, and I will stay with you and see it out.” (DHC 6:519-520)
Yet Hyrum refused to leave Joseph.
Wilford Woodruff spoke of the last meeting they had with Joseph before leaving on their missions:
“All that President Young or myself, or any member of the quorum need have done in the matter was to have referred to the last instructions at the last meeting we had with the Prophet Joseph before starting on our mission [to the eastern states]. I have alluded to that meeting many times in my life.
“The Prophet Joseph, I am now satisfied, had a thorough presentiment that that was the last meeting we would hold together here in the flesh. We had had our endowments; we had had all the blessings sealed upon our heads that were ever given to the apostles or prophets on the face of the earth. On that occasion the Prophet Joseph rose up and said to us: ‘Brethren, I have desired to live to see this temple built. I shall never live to see it, but you will. I have sealed upon your heads all the keys of the kingdom of God. I have sealed upon you every key, power, principle that the God of heaven has revealed to me. Now, no matter where I may go or what I may do, the kingdom rests upon you.’
“Now, don't you wonder why we, as apostles, could not have understood that the prophet of God was going to be taken away from us? But we did not understand it. The apostles in the days of Jesus Christ could not understand what the Savior meant when he told them ‘I am going away; if I do not go away the Comforter will not come.’ Neither did we understand what Joseph meant. ‘But,’ he said, after having done this, ‘ye apostles of the Lamb of God, my brethren, upon your shoulders this kingdom rests; now you have got to round up your shoulders and bear off the kingdom.’ And he also made this very strange remark, ‘If you do not do it you will be damned.” (The Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, pg. 71.)
The Leadership of the Church passed to Brigham Young, of whom Joseph prophesied when they first met, would someday preside over the Church. (CHC 1:289)
Try the Spirits
Joseph summarized many of the experiences he had with the adversary attempting to mislead the church and it’s members in an editorial that he wrote for the Times and Seasons on “Try the Spirits:”
“As we have noticed before, the great difficulty lies in the ignorance of the nature of spirits, of the laws by which they are governed, and the signs by which they may be known; if it requires the Spirit of God to know the things of God; and the spirit of the devil can only be unmasked through that medium, then it follows as a natural consequence that unless some person or persons have a communication, or revelation from God, unfolding to them the operation of the spirit, they must eternally remain ignorant of these principles; for I contend that if one man cannot understand these things but by the Spirit of God, ten thousand men cannot; it is alike out of the reach of the wisdom of the learned, the tongue of the eloquent, the power of the mighty. And we shall at last have to come to this conclusion, whatever we may think of revelation, that without it we can neither know nor understand anything of God, or the devil; and however unwilling the world may be to acknowledge this principle, it is evident from the multifarious creeds and notions concerning this matter that they understand nothing of this principle, and it is equally as plain that without a divine communication they must remain in ignorance. The world always mistook false prophets for true ones, and those that were sent of God, they considered to be false prophets, and hence they killed, stoned, punished and imprisoned the true prophets, and these had to hide themselves ‘in deserts and dens, and caves of the earth,’ and though the most honorable men of the earth, they banished them from their society as vagabonds, whilst they cherished, honored and supported knaves, vagabonds, hypocrites, impostors, and the basest of men.
“A man must have the discerning of spirits, as we before stated, to understand these things, and how is he to obtain this gift if there are no gifts of the Spirit? And how can these gifts be obtained without revelation? "Christ ascended into heaven, and gave gifts to men; and He gave some Apostles, and some Prophets, and some Evangelists, and some Pastors and Teachers. And how were Apostles, Prophets, Pastors, Teachers and Evangelists chosen? By prophecy (revelation) and by laying on of hands:—by a divine communication, and a divinely appointed ordinance—through the medium of the Priesthood, organized according to the order of God, by divine appointment. The Apostles in ancient times held the keys of this Priesthood—of the mysteries of the kingdom of God, and consequently were enabled to unlock and unravel all things pertaining to the government of the Church, the welfare of society, the future destiny of men, and the agency, power and influence of spirits; for they could control them at pleasure, bid them depart in the name of Jesus, and detect their mischievous and mysterious operations when trying to palm themselves upon the Church in a religious garb, and militate against the interest of the Church and spread of truth. We read that they "cast out devils in the name of Jesus," and when a woman possessing the spirit of divination, cried before Paul and Silas, "these are the servants of the Most High God that show unto us the way of salvation," they detected the spirit. And although she spake favorably of them, Paul commanded the spirit to come out of her, and saved themselves from the opprobrium that might have been heaped upon their heads, through an alliance with her, in the development of her wicked principles, which they certainly would have been charged with, if they had not rebuked the evil spirit…
“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has also had its false spirits; and as it is made up of all those different sects professing every variety of opinion, and having been under the influence of so many kinds of spirits, it is not to be wondered at if there should be found among us false spirits.
“Soon after the Gospel was established in Kirtland, and during the absence of the authorities of the Church, many false spirits were introduced, many strange visions were seen, and wild, enthusiastic notions were entertained; men ran out of doors under the influence of this spirit, and some of them got upon the stumps of trees and shouted, and all kinds of extravagances were entered into by them; one man pursued a ball that he said he saw flying in the air, until he came to a precipice, when he jumped into the top of a tree, which saved his life; and many ridiculous things were entered into, calculated to bring disgrace upon the Church of God, to cause the Spirit of God to be withdrawn, and to uproot and destroy those glorious principles which had been developed for the salvation of the human family. But when the authorities returned, the spirit was made manifest, those members that were exercised with it were tried for their fellowship, and those that would not repent and forsake it were cut off.
“At a subsequent period a Shaker spirit was on the point of being introduced, and at another time the Methodist and Presbyterian falling down power, but the spirit was rebuked and put down, and those who would not submit to rule and good order were disfellowshiped. We have also had brethren and sisters who have had the gift of tongues falsely; they would speak in a muttering, unnatural voice, and their bodies be distorted like the Irvingites before alluded to; whereas, there is nothing unnatural in the Spirit of God. A circumstance of this kind took place in Upper Canada, but was rebuked by the presiding Elder; another, a woman near the same place, professed to have the discerning of spirits, and began to accuse another sister of things that she was not guilty of, which she said she knew was so by the spirit, but was afterwards proven to be false; she placed herself in the capacity of the ‘accuser of the brethren,’ and no person through the discerning of spirits can bring a charge against another, they must be proven guilty by positive evidence, or they stand clear.
“There have also been ministering angels in the Church which were of Satan appearing as an angel of light. A sister in the state of New York had a vision, who said it was told her that if she would go to a certain place in the woods, and angel would appear to her. She went at the appointed time, and saw a glorious personage descending, arrayed in white, with sandy colored hair; he commenced and told her to fear God, and said that her husband was called to do great things, but that he must not go more than one hundred miles from home, or he would not return; whereas God had called him to go to the ends of the earth, and he has since been more than one thousand miles from home, and is yet alive. Many true things were spoken by this personage, and many things that were false. How, it may be asked, was this known to be a bad angel? By the color of his hair; that is one of the signs that he can be known by, and by his contradicting a former revelation.
“We have also had brethren and sisters who have written revelations, and who have started forward to lead this Church. Such was a young boy in Kirtland, Isaac Russell, of Missouri, and Gladden Bishop, and Oliver Olney of Nauvoo. The boy is now living with his parents who have submitted to the laws of the Church. Mr. Russell stayed in Far West, from whence he was to go to the Rocky Mountains, led by three Nephites; but the Nephites never came, and his friends forsook him, all but some of the blood relations, who have since been nearly destroyed by the mob. Mr. Bishop was tried by the High Council, his papers examined, condemned and burned, and he cut off the Church. He acknowledged the justice of the decision, and said ‘that he now saw his error, for if he had been governed by the revelations given before, he might have known that no man was to write revelations for the Church, but Joseph Smith,’ and begged to be prayed for, and forgiven by the brethren. Mr. Olney has also been tried by the High Council and disfellowshiped, because he would not have his writings tested by the word of God; evidently proving that he loves darkness rather than light, because his deeds are evil.”
Joseph himself as reported by Wilford Woodruff testified the need for living prophets:
“I will refer to a certain meeting I attended in the town of Kirtland in my early days. At that meeting some remarks were made that have been made here today, with regard to the living oracles and with regard to the written word of God. The same principle was presented, although not as it has been here, when a leading man in the Church got up and talked upon the subject, and said: ’you have got the word of God before you here in the Bible, Book of Mormon, and Doctrine and Covenants; you have the written word of God, and you who give revelations should give revelations according to those books, as what is written in those books is the word of God. We should confine ourselves to them.’
“When he concluded, Brother Joseph turned to Brother Brigham Young and said, ‘Brother Brigham I want you to take the stand and tell us your views with regard to the written oracles and the word of God.’ Brother Brigham took the stand, and he took the Bible, and laid it down, he took the Book of Mormon, and laid it down; and he took the Doctrine and Covenants, and laid it down; and said: There is the written word of God to us, concerning the work of God from the beginning of the world almost to our day.’ ‘And now,’ said he, ‘when compared with the living oracles those books are nothing to me; those books do not convey the word of God direct to us now as do the words of a Prophet or a man bearing Holy Priesthood on our day and generation. I would rather have the living oracles than all the writing in the books.’ That was the course he pursued. When he was through, Brother Joseph said to the congregation, ‘Brother Brigham has told you the word of the Lord, and he has told you the truth.’ (CR, Oct. 1897 p. 22, 23)
We have prophets on the earth with priesthood keys bestowed by the Savior for carrying out His work on earth. President Benson taught:
“Christ has provided us the gift of a prophet. Of all mortal men, we should keep our eyes most firmly fixed on the captain--the prophet, seer, and revelator, and President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This is the man who stands closest to the fountain of living waters (Jeremiah 2:13; 1 Ne. 11:25). There are some heavenly instructions for us that we can only receive through the prophet. A good way to measure your standing with the Lord is to see how you feel about, and act upon, the inspired words of His earthly representative, the prophet-president. The inspired words of the President are not to be trifled with. All men are entitled to inspiration, and various men are entitled to revelation for their particular assignment. But only one man stands as the President of the Church. The words of all other men should be weighed against his inspired words. Though His prophet is mortal, God will not let him lead His Church astray.” (Teachings of Ezra T. Benson, p.140)
In summery there are several steps to guard against deception and apostasy, first, be humble, we must consider ourselves “…fools before God, and come down in the depths of humility…”in order for God to open to us. (2 Nephi 9:42) Second, the personal revelation we receive is for our personal benefit, and we should keep it to ourselves, and beware of the motives of those who boast revelation, it is generally for the purpose of drawing attention to themselves. Third, become acquainted with the scriptures and the words of the prophets, and judge our feelings, inspiration, or revelations by the words of the prophets.
The Destiny of America