Teachings of Presidents: Joseph Smith

I reviewed again the contents of the book “Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith” this morning. This is the text for our course of study this year and next in our Priesthood quorums and in Relief Society meetings. It is a wonderful thing that the church has prepared and made this book available to the members of the church for our personal study. In my opinion, it is better organized than “Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith” compiled by Joseph Fielding Smith and first published by Deseret Book in 1938.

Several people have pointed out that the book contains nothing on the doctrine and practice of plural marriage. It is mentioned in passing on page 22: “…in 1843 the Prophet dictated the revelation that describes the eternal nature of the marriage covenant. The doctrines in this revelation had been known by the prophet since 1831. As commanded by God, he also taught the doctrine of plural marriage.” That’s it – the only reference to plural marriage in the book.

It was obviously intentional to leave this out since it is not a doctrine that is currently taught by the leadership or practiced by the membership of the church. Of course the doctrine was clearly taught and the law practiced by leaders and some members of the church up until 1890. The best source for understanding the discontinuance of this practice can be found in Declaration 1 in the Doctrine and Covenants. Even 118 years after it was abolished, Polygamy continues to be the single most common search term and word association with the church.

I am currently studying signs of the Second Coming in my personal gospel study so I read with interest chapter 21 in the book, “The Second Coming and the Millenium.” I noted in particular one of my favorite quotes from the prophet on this subject as recorded by Willard Richards in the History of the Church, 5:337. It was taken from a discourse delivered by Joseph Smith on 6 April 1843 in Nauvoo Illinois. It can be found on page 252-253 in the current course of study:

“There will be wars and rumors of wars, signs in the heavens above and on the earth beneath, the sun turned into darkness and the moon to blood, earthquakes in divers places, the seas heaving themselves beyond their bounds; then will appear one grand sign of the Son of Man in heaven. But what will the world do? They will say it is a planet, a comet, etc. But the Son of Man will come as the sign of the coming of the Son of Man, which will be as the light of the morning cometh out of the east [see Joseph Smith - Matthew 1:26].”

I have taken a particular interest in Joseph’s description of the one grand sign, the one that everyone in the world will see. He said that the world will say that it is a planet or a comet. Why will the people of the world describe it as a planet or a comet unless that is what it will look like? I think we can surmise from Joseph’s comment that the great sign of the Second Coming of the Lord is indeed a planet that comes very close to the earth in the last days. In fact, I wonder if it will come between us and the sun, thus shall the sun be turned into darkness. Who knows?

I just think it is interesting and something to think about. What do you think is the sign of the coming of the Lord? Will it be a planet or a comet?