Posts Tagged ‘Joseph Smith’
About a thousand other people and I enjoyed an evening with Richard Bushman last night. He spoke about Joseph and Emma for about 40 minutes and then entertained questions from the audience for another 40 minutes. While his insights on Joseph and Emma were interesting, I found the questions more fascinating, because they reflected a lot of the issues I blog about.
For those who don’t know, Richard Bushman is the author of Rough Stone Rolling, the 2005 biography of Joseph Smith that has become the definitive account of the prophet’s life as told from the viewpoint of a faithful historian. I took advantage of the opportunity to have him autograph my copy and was not the only one in the audience who waited in line to do so.
Open and honest discussion
It was wonderful to see so many people interested in learning more about this great man and the beginnings of the Mormon Church. Every time he finished answering a question a dozen more hands shot up. We could have been there for several more hours. I think that goes to show you how much we as a people appreciate someone who has studied the prophet’s life in such detail.
There were many questions that focused on the process of translating, the Urim and Thummim, the seer stone in the hat, polygamy, the three witnesses and the eight witnesses, Oliver Cowdery, the martyrdom, succession, Book of Abraham translation, Mountain Meadows massacre and folk magic. He welcomed every question and encouraged us to ask even the most difficult ones.
A well-qualified historian
One of the most refreshing comments I heard was his expression of appreciation to the church, specifically to the church historian’s office, Marlin K. Jensen and Richard E. Turley for the recent publication of Massacre at Mountain Meadows. He then said that he hoped that the church would do the same with the issue of polygamy, treating it openly and with historical accuracy.
Burt what impressed me most about the evening was the obvious fact that Richard Bushman is a highly respected historian who probably understands the beginnings of Mormonism as well as or better than anyone else. Besides being the co-general editor of the Joseph Smith Papers, he chairs the board of directors of the Mormon Scholars Foundation. He knows early church history.
Serving faithfully in the church
And yet, Richard Bushman has served as a bishop, a stake president, a patriarch and is currently a sealer in the Los Angeles temple. I would say that he is a faithful, believing Latter-day Saint, in spite of everything he knows about early church history. I bring this up specifically to make a point about a common response to my essays and how I can still believe when I know this stuff.
I recently had someone ask me how I was able to do what I do – serve faithfully in the church – in spite of all that I know about, as he called it, “the more disturbing facts of the origins of Mormonism.” I think maybe he might want to redirect that question to someone like Richard Bushman who knows so much more than I do and yet has been a faithful believer all his life.
Believing in spite of knowing
This individual asked, “How do you reconcile your belief and what the church teaches, with the history of things like the origins of the temple ceremony, polygamy, first vision contradictions, development of the story of the restoration of the priesthood, and other issues?” I answered him privately in an email but have been pondering this whole idea of believing in spite of knowing.
Frankly, it perplexes me. I think I have expressed this same sentiment several times in previous essays every time it comes up. What is so hard about studying and understanding our very early church history, warts and all, and then continuing to believe that Joseph Smith was an instrument in the hands of God to bring about the restoration of the gospel and his church in the latter days?
Shocked by our history
Are we supposed to be shocked, dismayed and overwhelmed with doubt every time we discover some new fact about the early days of the church? For example, last night we were reminded that beer and wine were used by the early saints, and sometimes even whiskey. Today, we would be shocked if we learned that the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles drank a glass of wine.
Yet in volume IV, page 120 of the History of the Church on the date of April 17 1840 we read, “This day the Twelve blessed and drank a bottle of wine at Penworthan, made by Mother Moon forty years before.” Things were different back then, weren’t they? The Word of Wisdom had been received in 1833 but was not binding upon the saints as a commandment like it is today.
History not being hidden
When Fanny Alger was brought up by Brother Bushman last night as an example of an early failed attempt by Joseph to obey the law of plural marriage, I’ll bet there were a few people in the audience who did not know that Joseph had married this sixteen year old girl in 1833. The revelation on celestial marriage had been received in 1831 but Joseph was hesitant to obey.
For some reason, the idea that Joseph participated in plural marriage is supposed to be shocking to us. This continues to be one of the most common tactics of our critics – to try to shock us with facts that are supposedly being hidden from us by our modern church leaders. Nothing could be further from the truth. We are always being encouraged to study our history and learn the facts.
Selling the Book of Mormon Copyright
Another example that our critics like to throw at us is the failed attempt to sell the copyright to the Book of Mormon in Canada. Until recently, the only source for this event was the memory of David Whitmer who was not present when Joseph sent the brethren on their mission. Joseph never said that it must have been a false revelation as Whitmer claimed he said upon their return.
We’re then supposed to conclude that if we can’t trust a revelation from Joseph then how are we supposed to know what is revelation from God. I’m not an apologist but I’m grateful that there are people who dig into these things to get the facts and present them for our review. Of course, the same facts can be presented in favorable or unfavorable light, depending on where you go.
Consider carefully the source
For example, you can read the story of the copyright mission to Canada on MormonThink as supposed evidence that even Joseph Smith didn’t know when revelations were from God and when they were from the devil. Yet you can read the same account in greater clarity and detail from a more trustworthy and reliable source like FAIR and come away strengthened in faith.
We could go on and on with hundreds of things that are supposed to be shocking to us modern believers of the faith because they seem so out of character with what we’ve been taught about Joseph or other leaders of the early LDS church. If we are bothered by something, then we need to do our homework and get all the facts as part of the process of confirming truth for ourselves.
Get the facts straight
If I were concerned upon reading that Joseph Smith was supposed to have said that even he didn’t know when a prophecy came from the Lord or that he is supposed to have said that a revelation he received must have come from the devil, as David Whitmer said he did, then I would want to read more about this and would be very careful about the source that I study.
Because if I believed that Joseph really said this, then that might lead me to conclude that if even prophets have a hard time understanding revelation, how can I really be expected to understand or know the truth of revelations that come to me, especially revelation that I think is telling me that the church itself is true? Do you see how important it is to get the facts of certain matters?
The Joseph Smith Papers
Of course Joseph never said that he must have received a false revelation. In fact, according to more recent information discovered, the brethren who went on the mission to Canada in an attempt to sell the copyright to the Book of Mormon felt that they were successful on their mission and that the Lord was pleased with their efforts. The promised sale was conditional.
I’m grateful for brethren like Richard Bushman, who are helping to bring us the Joseph Smith papers. In volume 1 of the Manuscript Revelation Books, we have the full copy of the mission to Canada revelation. It can be read there. The criticism that Joseph later claimed that the revelation had not come from God is in all likelihood the product of a false memory by David Whitmer.
We can believe the prophet
As I wrote in a previous essay, I believe it is our lifelong pursuit to understand revelation and to come to know how the Lord communicates with each of us. We can rely on the promises of the Lord to lead us, guide us and walk beside us because we have the gift of the Holy Ghost. I hope we cherish this gift and live worthy of the constant companionship of this promised revelator.
Joseph Smith knew when the Lord was inspiring him and so did most of the brethren who were with him at the time when he received revelation. We can trust that the Lord will help us to have the assurances we need to believe in the mission of the prophet Joseph Smith. Someday, we will meet Brother Joseph and if we still have questions about his life we can ask them to him directly.
I was looking for a quote today that goes something like this: “The only beings to visit our planet are those who were once inhabitants here” (Update: Jeremy at the Seerstone provided the scripture as D&C 130:5). My search landed me on an article in the New Era from 1971 by Kent Nielsen. Like Truman Madsen who just passed away, Dr. Nielsen is an emeritus professor of philosophy from BYU. The article is entitled, “People on other worlds,” and is still fascinating although it was written almost forty years ago.
After a brief review of the basic cosmological configuration of our planetary neighbors, we are introduced to the simple math calculations used to deduce that we are not alone in our universe. There are uncountable billions and billions of stars and galaxies throughout space. If only one star in a million should have inhabitable planets, that would give us over 100,000 systems in our galaxy alone. Galaxies like ours exist in the billions. We are not the only life in this universe.
People on other worlds
Even with the advances of science in discovering planets around other suns that conceivably could harbor conditions favorable to human life, we simply have no way of knowing that there are any people out there besides us. Or do we? Latter-day Saints have known for over 170 years about the existence of people on other worlds. In fact, we also know that people from other worlds visit the earth and have been doing so for many years to deliver important messages.
Can you imagine the impact it would have upon civilization if our scientists announced that they have detected an approaching spacecraft from outer space? How would we be prepared for the visit of extra-terrestrial beings? I suspect that Latter-day Saints would take it all in stride. After all, we claim to have been the recipients of such visits for a long time. No, the visitors did not require the use of a spacecraft to reach our planet. Their method of travel is currently beyond us.
Prophets taught of other worlds
Brigham Young said, “…there never was a time when there were not Gods and worlds, and men were not passing through the same ordeals that we are now passing through. That course has been from all eternity, and it is and will be to all eternity.” The Apostle Paul knew that God had created other worlds. He wrote, “God…hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son…by whom also he made the worlds.” Moses and Enoch revealed more in the Pearl of Great Price:
The Lord said to Moses, “The heavens, they are many, and they cannot be numbered unto man; but they are numbered unto me, for they are mine. And as one earth shall pass away, and the heavens thereof even so shall another come; and there is no end to my works.” Enoch said, “And were it possible that man could number the particles of the earth, yea, millions of earths like this, it would not be a beginning to the number of thy creations…” Joseph Smith’s witness is similar.
God created countless worlds
“And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives! For we saw him, even on the right hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father— That by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God.” What an amazing testimony! But wait, there’s more.
The Prophet Joseph Smith taught: “God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man. … he was once a man like us … God himself, the Father of us all, dwelt on an earth. …If Jesus Christ was the Son of God, and … God the Father of Jesus Christ had a Father, you may suppose that He had a Father also. … And where was there ever a father without first being a son? … If Jesus had a Father, can we not believe that He had a Father also?” Now that is deep doctrine!
Purpose of all these worlds
We don’t seem to talk much about this doctrine any more – that God was once a man as we are now. We tend to focus more on the idea that man can become like God. We are not alone in this teaching as it gives hope and motivation to many people besides Latter-day Saints who believe it. But the idea that God was once like us and passed through a period of mortality and testing is a bit much for some people to accept. President Hinckley even downplayed it in a news interview.
Nevertheless, as far as I know, it remains a basic fundamental doctrine of our church that helps to explain the purpose of life and all the potential inhabitable worlds that have been created. The worlds were created specifically to provide a home on which the posterity of the Gods could be tested and proven. Yes, we believe in multiple Gods, but limit our worship to our own Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ his son. We just do not teach about other Gods in our curriculum today.
Believed but not taught
I have often wondered about this unique way we have of doing things in our church. There are many things which we believe and are written about in historical sermons of former priesthood leaders. And yet, we do not include them in what we teach to investigators, new members, or even long-time members for that matter. However, just like the idea of a mother in heaven we do occasionally sing about our distinctive beliefs. A favorite hymn contains these words:
“If you could hie to Kolob
In the twinkling of an eye,
And then continue onward
With that same speed to fly,
D’ye think that you could ever,
Through all eternity,
Find out the generation
Where Gods began to be?”
We are Gods in embryo
We are of the race of Gods. We are of his species. God looks likes us. We look like him. He has two arms, two legs and a head with two eyes, two ears, a nose and a mouth. As Jesus said, “If ye have seen me, ye have seen the Father.” We are his sons and daughters and he loves us. The people who populate the other worlds out there are also his sons and daughters and look just like you and me. There are no green, bug-eyed monsters. They are also of the race of Gods.
The people who are out there are in different stages of their existence. Like us, some are passing through a temporal period. Others are living in worlds that have been celestialized and yet others inhabit a lower kingdom of glory. This process of living and dying and being resurrected has been going on forever. I can’t fathom that with my limited mortal brain but I know it is true. You and I are a part of that process of seeking to be like God and to inherit a glorious exaltation.
Space travel to the earth
Could a person from outer space ever come to visit the earth? Any Latter-day Saint knows the answer. Of course, visitors from outer space can come to earth! They’ve been doing it for many thousands of years. God and angels visited Adam. They visited prophets in the Old Testament and Apostles in the New Testament. The Book of Mormon has numerous accounts of angelic visitations and of the visit of Jesus Christ to the ancient American people. It is quite common!
In the spring of 1820, God the Father and his Son Jesus Christ visited the boy prophet Joseph Smith in upstate New York. Angels came to deliver keys of the priesthoodto Joseph and Oliver in the Kirtland temple in 1836. In our temporal existence we may not be able to travel to worlds beyond out own solar system but other beings in advanced phases of existence are not so limited. When Moroni appeared to Joseph, he saw “a conduit open right up into heaven.” Awesome!
Communication from space
Scientists have been listening for communication from space for years but they have yet to hear anything to indicate intelligent life. On the other hand, Latter-day Saints are very familiar with the process of receiving messages from outer space, transmitted by means that transcend beyond the normal method of communication. This is more than a future possibility. It is a present fact! Beings from outer space have been making great efforts to communicate with us every day.
They have been sending messages that are filled with wisdom and great intelligence. These are messages that come from superior beings, who have evolved way beyond our limited mortal capacities to think and to understand. They live in dimensions that we cannot begin to fathom. But they are willing to share with us knowledge that will transform our lives if we will just listen and apply what they say. Their intelligence is far beyond ours and yet is beneficent and kind.
They are coming to visit us
What’s even more astounding to realize is that these same intelligent beings will be visiting us very soon. The millennium is simply a period of time when earthly civilization will be brought under the government of superior beings from another world who will visit earth frequently to direct our affairs. “Christ and the resurrected Saints will reign over the earth during the thousand year period. They will not probably dwell upon the earth but will visit it when they please…”
But these beings who come from outer space, or another world, will not be aliens. They will be our brethren, who have lived upon this earth in mortality. What’s more, we expect a return of portions of this earth that have been broken off in times past when cataclysmic events sheared off that portion of the earth on which they resided. First the Ten Tribes, then the City of Enoch and last the portion that contains the Garden of Eden. Don’t believe it? Look it up in our history!
Summary and conclusion
The earth has received many visitors from outer space over the years. They do not come in spaceships and they do not wear spacesuits. They come from a plane of existence that we can only dream about and not yet comprehend. These are intelligent and magnificent beings that are glorified and exalted in their appearance and in their character. They love us. We are their children and their brethren. They have come to bring us messages of great joy if we but listen.
Visions of angels and Gods from other worlds are not something that I have experienced but I know such things have occurred. The influence of these beneficent beings fills the immensity of space and dwells here among us. These Gods have given us gifts that help us communicate with them. One of these gifts is the gift of the Holy Ghost. It is real and is the means by which God reveals truth to the mind and heart of man. Of this I and millions of others are unique witnesses.
I have been listening again to John Dehlin’s interviews with Richard Bushman on my iPod on the days that I travel to the office. Thanks again John, for bringing the archives back. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: those podcasts are now an invaluable part of history. I’ve enjoyed each one and have listened to some of them multiple times, including the Bushman interviews.
I have also been re-reading Rough Stone Rolling, especially the early chapters dealing with the First Vision, the visit of the angel Moroni and the coming forth of the Book of Mormon. I have thought deeply about this fascinating part of our early LDS history but John’s probing questions to Richard Bushman have got me thinking again about several of these rather complex issues.
The difficult questions of history
If you’re a student of our history then you know what the questions are and have most likely formulated your own answers long ago. I know I have. Through my blogging activities of the past couple of years I have been able to present my own answers to many of those more difficult questions. I have also been called on to defend my answers by those who don’t agree with them.
Here are just a few of those issues I have blogged about: multiple versions of the First Vision, God is an exalted man, God has a body of flesh and bone, the seer stone in the hat, objections to the Book of Abraham, the burning of the bosom, Joseph Smith was a Mason, plural wives of Joseph Smith, the new Mormon history, the only true and living church and Mountain Meadows.
Not taught in the classroom
As I’ve written in several of my blog posts of the past, I feel very blessed and grateful that I had an advantage that many who have studied our history did not have. I was exposed to almost all of the troublesome issues early in life and had come to understand even in High School that what is taught in the LDS classroom does not always tell the whole story of what really happened.
From the time I was fifteen I realized that there are some issues that are not taught in depth in our Sunday Schools, Seminaries and Institutes and certainly are not brought up from the pulpit. This was not a problem for me. I learned about the rest of the story by reading books that my mother provided for us in the family library. Although a convert, mother loved our unique LDS history.
Information from other sources
I hope John doesn’t mind, but I think his story is illustrative of what has happened to many of our young people in the church who have discovered at a later point in their lives things they didn’t know about our history. After the shock wore off, a feeling of betrayal replaced it. As John said, this feeling came because they loved and trusted the church too much, not too little.
In John’s case, he discovered many of these troublesome issues when he was called on to teach seminary. He studied the material in great depth in order to be prepared as he taught. He also supplemented his study of the official CES material with what he discovered on the Internet. And there is the big difference between my experience with this difficult material and John’s.
Learning Mormon history
You can learn more about the issues that trouble some of our members and investigators through a simple Google search than I could through many years of reading selected books provided by my mother. However, what you usually find on the Internet is someone’s interpretation of what they read and very little original research. That can taint the way you learn Mormon history
From mother’s library, I read books like No Man Knows my History by Fawn Brodie, Family Kingdom and the Kingdom or Nothing by Samuel Taylor, Great Basin Kingdom by Leonard Arrington and Joseph Smith, the First Mormon by Donna Hill. We also had the History of the Church and the Journal of Discourses in our home library in which I looked things up.
Learn details of history in personal study
My point is that I had the luxury of slowly reading one of these historical books, discussing what I had learned with my mother and then pondering why I had not learned these kind of details in my seminary classes. I came to the conclusion that there just wasn’t enough time to bring up in that 50 minute early morning Seminary class some of the more interesting stuff that I had read.
Having taught Seminary later in life, I have been impressed with the clear direction from CES that we are not to teach some of the more complex and difficult parts of our history. I think I can understand why and in fact, agree with this direction to teach our history in a manner that is both uplifting and faith-promoting. But leaving major parts of it out can cause problems for some.
It is human nature to discuss
One of the methods of those who are opposed to the work of the LDS Church is to present us with shocking statements about our faith, our beliefs or our history and then to accuse us of not wanting to accept the truth. It doesn’t matter how we respond – shock, indignation, dismay, anger, or even kindness, their desire is not to help us understand the truth but to destroy our faith.
That’s the problem with researching the church on the Internet. It’s common to want to discuss our new discoveries with others. That’s how we solidify our understanding – by sharing things with others and evaluating their response. Our young people turn to online discussion groups or forums because many of the older members of the church have never learned about these things.
True believing Mormons who know
Unfortunately, it is rare to find someone online who knows our history well and has no problem with the more difficult parts of that history. In fact, it is rare to find someone in your own circle of contacts who really knows our history. We are a church of lay leadership. There is simply no requirement that you know the history, only that you believe, are worthy and want to help others.
That’s why John’s interview with Dr. Bushman is so helpful to those who are struggling with understanding and accepting all the warts and imperfections of our history. Rough Stone Rolling is a great resource that tells our story without trying to whitewash it or cover anything up. Dr. Bushman is careful to provide the complete story with contemporary sources from that time.
A safe place to discuss our history
I don’t know if John has found the answer to what I feel was his best question. He asked, “Where can we go to find a safe forum in which to discuss our history?” In my experience, Sunstone is not the place. I think they tried forums but they didn’t take off. And the Mormon History Association has wonderful conferences and publications, but no online forums.
There are a plethora of online forums to which we can turn to discuss the church. I have listed them in a previous essay. You just have to choose what level of moderation you are going to accept. Some strive to keep the disaffected Mormons out, but what if you are simply going through a temporary crisis of faith? Who can you trust to guide you through your explorations?
Summary and conclusion
The Internet has done amazing things for the church. It has helped us share the message of the restoration in a way that allows us to reach millions, even billions with the story of Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon. It allows us to present our faith, our doctrine and our history in a manner that is faith-promoting and uplifting. That has been my objective in the essays I write.
John prepared and shared a wonderful presentation on how to stay in the church in spite of the loss of faith. I highly recommend it to all, no matter what your current level of belief. An updated version is available at the staylds forums, which I missed when I compiled my list of LDS-related forums. Thanks to John Dehlin for his work in helping those with a crisis of faith.
I’ve thought long and hard about the propriety of this essay. It is a sensitive subject and one that is so easy to misunderstand. It is also a sacred subject that I have seen dragged through the dregs of the ex-Mormon sites, and yet presented well on some Internet resources. Although some may claim otherwise, it is not a secret subject. It is just not taught in your basic church curriculum.
In today’s Internet age, this information is readily available. It was readily available when I was growing up but you just had to know where to look. The best official source for this information is on the Church’s Family Search site. Just enter Joseph Smith and his birth date of 1805 in the state of Vermont, click on search and then click on his ancestral file entry. There are his wives.
The list is not complete and includes a few wives who were sealed to him after his death. A more complete list can be found at the website appropriately titled, wivesofjosephsmith.org. The summaries presented of the wives are well done and quick, easy reading. If you want a more detailed treatise, read the book, In Sacred Loneliness, published by Signature Books in 1997.
The doctrine of celestial marriage
There is no way you can understand this unique aspect of the beginnings of the LDS Church without considering this a doctrine of the restoration. That’s an important concept to us and puts everything into perspective. Without this understanding, it is easy to think of Joseph Smith as a libertine and an adulterer. In fact, that is how the anti and ex-Mormons want you to view him.
It has always been the claim of the LDS Church that we are a restored religion. We believe that our doctrines and practices are a restoration of things known, taught, believed and performed by the patriarchs of the Old Testament. One of those beliefs and practices is what we call celestial marriage. It is also referred to as plural marriage by some but as polygamy by most people.
Although the revelation on celestial marriage, also called the new and everlasting covenant was recorded in 1843 as section 132, it is evident from the historical records that the doctrines and principles involved in this revelation had been known by the Prophet since 1831. We believe in the restoration of all things, and the practice of celestial marriage is just one of those things.
It is not viewed as adultery
A close reading of section 132 of the Doctrine and Covenants, which is still very much a part of the canon of the LDS Church reveals that the Lord appointed Joseph to restore all things (v 40) and was commanded to go and do the works of Abraham (v 32). The Lord affirmed that Joseph had the sealing power (v 46 & 48) and that the Lord had already given him plural wives (v 52).
Verses 61 and 64 point out that the first wife holds the keys of this power and therefore, she is the one who administers or allows her husband to enter into additional marriages. It is she that gives them to him. However, verse 65 makes it clear that if she doesn’t believe and accept the doctrine when taught, that he is justified to receive any additional wives the Lord gives him.
And that is exactly the situation Joseph was in. Emma didn’t like plural marriage although she did try to make it work on a couple of occasions. She accepted Eliza and Emily Partridge for a short season as well as Maria and Sarah Lawrence. Joseph and Emma were sealed during one of her periods of acceptance. However, it was short-lived and she then threw his other wives out.
Not practiced openly, denied publicly
Joseph taught this doctrine to his counselors in the First Presidency and to the Twelve Apostles. It was difficult for most to accept at first, but just as he did with the additional wives to whom he proposed, he invited his trusted associates to obtain a revelation and witness for themselves that the doctrine was true, ennobling and exalting. Most did and many of them followed his example.
However, the doctrine was not taught openly, and was, in fact, denied when it came up as it did quite often during the later Nauvoo period. Now that is a difficult thing for many of our critics to accept. It is bad enough that Joseph and a few other leaders participated in the practice of plural marriage clandestinely, but to then deny it and to publicly preach against it is just hypocritical.
The problem was that there were some who took license with this practice and then turned it into something that it was not meant to be. They called it “spiritual wifery,” and enticed women into adulterous relationships claiming that Joseph approved and sanctioned it. Joseph was forced to preach against it publicly because John C. Bennett was teaching and practicing it unlawfully.
Our critics are shocked
When people investigate the church and the subject of plural marriage comes up, most are familiar with Brigham Young as being the primary example of the practice among the early Latter-day Saint church. However, many are surprised when they learn that the Prophet Joseph Smith was the originator of the doctrine and the practice. Joseph had at least thirty wives.
I suppose that is shocking to learn because Joseph figures so prominently in the story of the restoration. The missionaries teach of the sacred experiences of Joseph in the First Vision, the visits of the angel Moroni, the appearances of old testament prophets in the Kirtland temple and of Joseph’s vision of the three degrees of glory, including his glorious testimony of the Savior.
Our critics have capitalized on this and delight to point it out with fervent zeal and language that makes it obvious that there is no acceptance or desire to understand that this could possibly be something that really was revealed by the Lord as a part of the restoration of all things in the last days. They do not want you to see celestial marriage as anything other than base carnal desire.
Not practiced today
I have written in a previous essay that I hold strongly to the idea of plural marriage still being an eternal doctrine. Latter-day Saints no longer practice it, and have not for over a hundred years. Of course there are those who claim to be Fundamentalist Mormons who live in polygamy, and are mostly in Utah, but they are not members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
This topic will continue to be of interest to those who learn about the LDS Church, and will be for a long time to come. It is a curiosity because it is not the social norm in the United States or in most of the Christian world. It has been in the news a lot lately with the FLDS raids in Texas and with the show Big Love on HBO portraying polygamy as a big part of Utah life. It’s not.
The church goes to great lengths to point out that Mormons do not practice polygamy. There are numerous entries on the subject in the Newsroom and even a one page website that gives a great summary of the message that we want to get out to the world. You can find it on my sidebar. The doctrine may still be in our scriptures, but we do not practice it. Those who do are cut off.
Summary and conclusion
As I noted at the beginning, I have been hesitant to write this essay but have had it on my list to do for a long time. I want to have it available on my blog to refer readers to it as it comes up in dialog. I do not like the language our critics use to describe Joseph’s difficulties because he was the first to begin this practice in the last dispensation. Brigham Young had it much easier.
Yes, Joseph Smith had many plural wives. He entered into the law of celestial marriage by way of commandment from God. No, it was not easy for him to obey this commandment. His wife, Emma, who loved him dearly and believed in him as a prophet, nevertheless had a very difficult time accepting this revelation and did not want to share Joseph with the other women in his life.
You can read a lot more about this on various Internet sites listed below, and even the Wikipedia articles about each of his wives are presented fairly accurately. The church is not trying to hide this information and has not for many years. It is a part of our heritage and history. It is a sacred part of our religion that was restored through the prophet Joseph Smith in these, the latter days.
For additional information:
01. Remembering the Wives of Joseph Smith website
02. Origin of Latter-day Saint Polygamy – Wikipedia
03. In Sacred Loneliness by Todd Compton – Signature Books
04. Review of In Sacred Loneliness from FARMS
05. SHIELDS review of In Sacred Loneliness
06. FAIR – Joseph’s marriages to young women
07. FAIR – Joseph Smith and polyandry
08. FAIR – How Emma felt about plural marriage
09. FAIR – Charges against Joseph of lustful motives
10. FAIR – Resources – Joseph Smith and polygamy
“The Mormons base their religion on the visions of Joseph Smith.” This passing remark I read the other day from a writer who was not familiar with our church struck me as a profoundly simple summary of our religion. Take away the visions of Joseph Smith and what have we got? Nothing – much of our religion is found in the Book of Mormon and yet much of it is not.
Some have compared the LDS Church with the Jehovah’s Witnesses because they are both religions that started in America in the 19th Century. But you can search in vain for claims to visions or revelation in the history of Charles Taze Russell, founder of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. His organization was formed as a Bible study group with no special claims of divine authority.
Another American religious group that formed in the 19th century, the Seventh-day Adventists, followed the same path of establishment by the Bible studies of William Miller. Joseph Smith, on the other hand, made no secret to his claims that he had been visited first by God and Jesus and then by angels – lots of them. Now, that’s something that you don’t hear about every day.
Visits from celestial beings
I would say that our claim to visits from celestial beings is very remarkable. In fact, perhaps this claim is one of the most unique things about our church. Sure, other churches teach that you can receive the Holy Spirit and be influenced by angels, but not many teach that angels have come to visit their founder multiple times, providing direction and instructions on how to set up a church.
Since visits by angels are not common occurrences in most people’s lives, it stands to reason that this is both a curiosity and a point of some ridicule or scorn. When it comes right down to it, if a friend were to ask you about angelic visitations and how they work, what would you say? I have never been visited by an angel, at least not that I am aware of, so I can’t say just how this works.
And yet I believe that Joseph Smith told the truth when he said he was visited by God, Jesus, and a multitude of angels. We also believe that Joseph Smith was very much a visionary man who received literally hundreds of visions and other revelations, all inspired or given of God. How many visions have you received? How many people do you know who profess divine visions?
Claims of mental illness
In an attempt to explain away Joseph’s claims to visions, some have suggested that he suffered from seizures of some kind, perhaps epileptic. Others have said that he had a vivid imagination or was just a really good liar. If someone were to present themselves to the world today with claims of receiving visits from angels and visions from God, most of us would say he is crazy.
I know I would be very skeptical if a friend, neighbor or work associate were to share with me that he had seen visions. People just don’t do that today for fear of being placed in the local mental hospital for observation. We would say someone like this is delusional, suffering from some form of mental illness such as psychosis or schizophrenia, causing fantastic hallucinations.
Most people who hear voices in their head don’t like this experience and seek help to deal with it. Yet Joseph Smith claimed that God spoke to him over and over again for years and years as He told him how to set up the church that he formed. I don’t hear voices in my head on a regular basis, but I can say that there are times I think I have felt inspired with ideas, words and phrases.
Joseph Smith spoke for God
So I guess a big part of accepting the claims of Joseph Smith is deciding for yourself if he was crazy, delusional or just an incredibly talented manipulator of the people around him. Most people in the world who are religious believe in some sort of supernatural communications from Deity to man. Most religious people look for ways to understand divine messages in their life.
How much do you agree with the following statement? “Yes, I believe the leaders of my church receive regular communication from God.” How about these? “I know that God has revealed Himself to the founder of my church. I am certain that He continues to guide the leaders who have followed him. I believe that most, if not all of them have been visited by God as well.”
A prophet is someone who lived way back in ancient history, in Old Testament times, right? I can’t imagine someone today claiming to be a prophet. If they did, we would think they were crazy. And yet, so many people are searching for divine guidance that they listen to all kinds of crazy people who claim to be prophets. Wait, the Mormons claim to have prophets, don’t they?
Joseph Smith was a prophet
If someone is going to claim to be a prophet – one who speaks for God – then they had better provide a way for me to know for myself that his claim is true. I’m not going to believe anyone who comes to me and says he has a message for me from God unless I have some evidence that God really did send him to me. What evidence or proof did Joseph Smith provide for his claims?
We teach that the Book of Mormon is the work of a prophet. It is something that we can read and judge for ourselves as a witness of the claim of Joseph Smith that he was called of God to restore the Church of Jesus Christ in our day. Joseph claimed to have translated the Book of Mormon from gold plates, and that it contains the words of God to ancient American prophets.
Now that is a fantastic claim. If this man was delusional, then he had some of the most elaborate delusions known to man. Visions of God, visits from angels, gold plates and revelations that proclaim what God is going to do in the last days – these are all things that are simply unheard of. Yet that is what we are proclaiming to the world – so all can learn and judge for themselves.
Summary and conclusion
Visions into the spirit world, receiving visits by divine celestial beings and producing new scripture are all things that a prophet would do. In fact, we read in the Old Testament that God speaks to prophets face to face. That’s an astonishing claim for any man to make in our day and age and yet, that is exactly what Joseph Smith claimed as he organized a new church in 1830.
You can read more about the visions of Joseph Smith, not in the Book of Mormon, but in the Doctrine and Covenants, a record of selected revelations that Joseph Smith received during a period of about twenty years. As a church we are studying the Doctrine and Covenants this year in our Sunday school classes. So much of what we believe can be found in these scriptures.
I love reading the Doctrine and Covenants. I often read it aloud in my personal studies just to get the effect of hearing the voice of the Lord. It is powerful and brings a spirit of revelation as I do. Several of Joseph’s visions are recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants, but certainly not all. He was a visionary man and made no secret of the fact that God spoke to him through these visions.
In our Pearl of Great Price Summer Institute class this evening we studied Joseph Smith History verses one through twenty. You know the story. It’s the First Vision. We had a substitute teacher this evening, a judge from the local divorce court. He’s funny and shoots from the hip so he invited discussion. There were a lot of First Vision stories shared both from the first time hearing and the first time sharing, as a missionary.
There has been much discussion on the Bloggernacle about “The One True Church.” When we got to verse nineteen, I eagerly anticipated some discussion about The Lord’s response to Joseph when he asked which church he should join. I thought someone would bring up, as I have read in so many comments on various LDS blogs, why it is so offensive to claim that we are “The One True Church,” and that all others are wrong.
Nothing. Nobody said anything. So I raised my hand and volunteered that there was a lot of truth in other churches and a lot of good people in other churches. I wondered aloud if anybody had run across this argument before that we are considered arrogant and perhaps downright insulting to others when we make this claim. Nope. Nobody. These are all young adults, most born and raised in the church but a few converts, some recent.
Perhaps it’s just a Bloggernacle thing
I have written about this subject before. Several others have written about it lately and have been taken to task for making such a claim. I am a little puzzled. Is it or is it not an issue to others who consider what we have to offer? I think of the sister in Sacrament meeting sitting next to her husband, who is not a member of our faith, when the speaker bears testimony, “I know that we are the only true and living church on the earth today.”
We discussed the Lord’s response: “…all their creeds were an abomination in his sight.” Creeds of course are statements or professions of belief, in this case religious beliefs. The most well-known are the Nicene Creed, the Athanasian Creed and the Apostles Creed. Many religious groups have and use creeds. Labeling them as abominations is certainly harsh. It means exceptionally detestable, loathsome, hateful, wicked or vile.
The Lord also said that the professors of these creeds were all corrupt; that “they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof.” I wonder if the Lord meant the preachers or the believers when he referred to professors. Either way, it is quite a condemnation to be called corrupt by the Lord, isn’t it?
They were all wrong
But the part of the Lord’s response that seems to have sparked the most debate over the years, and it continues today on the LDS blogs and discussion forums, is the instruction to Joseph that he “must join none of them for they were all wrong…” I think it is the idea of rightness and wrongness that some people find offensive. I can only imagine that they must say to themselves that Joseph made this whole thing up, for how could the Lord say such a thing? All churches are good that teach of God, right?
Why is the concept of rightness and wrongness so important in a religion? This is the thing that bothered Joseph so much as he considered which church to join. He wrote that the people argued with each other about points of doctrine and each claimed to be right. He also pointed out that they lost all good feelings one for another because of their arguments. I see the same thing happening today right here in many of our LDS blogs.
Intelligent discussion on a group blog is one thing but it so often descends to personal attacks that you are right and they are wrong. Yet when I visit the blogs of some of these individuals I note that the contents of their blogs are mostly uplifting and contain essays that are right in line with the “orthodox” views of most members of the church. I really had to laugh the other day when one blogger wrote, “My opinions are orthodox. The rest of you are nuts.”
Religious discussions are healthy
I guess it all depends on what you seek in your religion and in your discussions on the subject. Some are looking for intellectual stimulation and want to explore viewpoints that are perhaps not basic to our revealed theology. Others want to engage in dialog on a subject that has bothered them and are looking for clarification or justification from others. There are probably as many reasons why people discuss religion as there are people who discuss religion. I personally am looking for understanding of the views of others.
I hate arguments. I don’t care to prove my points right or wrong. I believe that truth can stand on its own. There have been so many defenders of the faith before me who have done a masterful job of explaining what we believe. We have a wealth of history and religious discourse over the years. We can draw upon our heritage of published writings to keep us busy for a lifetime if we could find the time to digest and summarize it.
I love most of the blogs I read that are listed on my sidebar. I don’t have the time to comment on all of them but enjoy reading the comments of those who do. There are some incredibly smart and faithful people out there. Thank you all for your lively discussions and for making your points of view understood. Your dialog helps me in my personal efforts to study the gospel. I am drawn to the scriptures over and over again through your remarks.
Summary and conclusion
The claim that we are right has been a central part of our religion from even before the church was organized. It’s not going to go away. It’s also something for which we do not need to apologize. It is based on scripture. This church is “the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth.” Yes, the Lord’s statement that all the other churches are all wrong is a bold statement, but it is fundamental to Mormonism.
There is much good in other churches. There are so many good people who do so much good as part of their faith and belief. We do not force people to accept our claim to be the only true church. We simply present the evidence of the revealed word to the prophet Joseph and invite them to decide for themselves if it has credence or not. We can simply add our testimony and witness that we have found it to be true by our own study and prayer. Without arguing, we can discuss the doctrine and enjoy the spirit in our work.
I enjoy the confidence and surety that comes from this personal testimony that I belong to the only true church. I hope that it never becomes a stumbling block to anyone else. It is not something that we wave in the face or rub in the noses of others. I know that others do not enjoy this confidence. In fact, there are some who do not believe the doctrine and yet still associate with our church. They are welcome. I hope they feel that welcome.
In our Institute class this evening we are studying Joseph Smith – Matthew from the Pearl of Great Price. This is the chapter that foretells many of the events of the last days. Of course, this is Joseph Smith’s inspired version or re-translation of Matthew chapter 24. The prophet made more corrections to Matthew 24 than to any other chapter in the New Testament. I think that tells us something about the importance of the contents therein.
The last days are a topic of great interest to many people of many faiths. I know this because it is a common search term used by those who find and visit my blog. It is a topic about which I am extremely interested and always have been. As more and more signs of the times are fulfilled and some to a greater measure than ever before, we desire to know when the Lord will return. We wonder how long things can continue like this.
The end of the world
For this essay, I would like to focus on verses 22 to 37 of Joseph Smith – Matthew. These are the verses that deal with the prophecies about the end of the world. The earlier verses in the chapter are about the prophesied events of the destruction of Jerusalem in the days shortly after the death of the Savior. Note that verses 22 to 37 deal with the end of the world, not the end of the earth, which is not until after the millennium is over.
The end of the world is the end of wickedness. That is prophesied to come about with the return of the Savior which will usher in the millennium. Until the Savior returns the rule of wickedness in the world will only increase and get worse. Today, the persecution of those who believe in the Savior and follow his teachings is fairly mild. However, it will increase until the disciples of Christ cry unto the Lord for relief from the wickedness.
Wickedness abounds in the last days
There are many signs of the last days which I will not consider here. For example, the house of Israel must be gathered from the four corners of the earth. The gospel of the kingdom must be preached in all the world. There shall be famines and pestilences and earthquakes in diverse places. There shall be wars and rumors of wars among all nations. There shall be false Christs and false prophets that even the very elect shall be deceived.
I have written previously about the sun being darkened and the moon not giving her light. I have also written about the stars falling from heaven and the powers of heaven being shaken as well as the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. The verse I want to concentrate on is this: “And again, because iniquity shall abound, the love of men shall wax cold; but he that shall not be overcome, the same shall be saved.” Iniquity is wickedness or sin.
The saints must endure iniquity
“I saw men hunting the lives of their own sons, and brother murdering brother, women killing their own daughters, and daughters seeking the lives of their mothers. I saw armies arrayed against armies. I saw blood, desolation, fires. The Son of Man has said that the mother shall be against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother. These things are at our doors. They will follow the Saints of God from city to city. Satan will rage, and the spirit of the devil is now enraged” (Joseph Smith, History of the Church, 3:391).
“I prophesy, in the name of the Lord God of Israel, anguish and wrath and tribulation and the withdrawing of the Spirit of God from the earth await this generation, until they are visited with utter desolation. This generation is as corrupt as the generation of the Jews that crucified Christ; and if He were here to-day, and should preach the same doctrine He did then, they would put Him to death” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 328).
That day is at the doors
Although some might say that the Civil War fulfilled some of the words of these prophecies, I believe that we have not yet arrived at the day when the terrible scenes portrayed in these words of the Prophet Joseph Smith will be satisfied. He says the persecution will follow the Saints of God from city to city. Was that fulfilled as the early saints were driven from Missouri and Nauvoo? I suspect that it refers to a yet future day.
We know that the gospel must be preached in all the world. Obviously, it has not yet reached China and the Middle East counties to the extent that it has in the Americas, Europe and the “Islands of the sea.” The Lord will escalate the work of spreading the gospel to those nations in these last days through miraculous means. Part of that miracle is the Internet. I am convinced that many will be converted by what they find on the web.
Summary and conclusion
There are many who are filled with doom and gloom. They predict the end of civilization as we know it any day now. The headlines scream of the impending collapse of our economic infrastructure as well as the demise of our ecological environment. Could these be the false prophets that the Lord warned us against in Joseph Smith – Matthew? I am more concerned about the love of men waxing cold and iniquity abounding than I am with the economic ruin and environmental disaster that is the hue and cry of the day.
There is not much you and I can do about the events of the world around us. What we can do something about is our own preparation for the return of the Savior and the end of the world or the destruction of the wicked. Let us treasure up the word of the Lord in our hearts and seek to live in humility and obedience to the commandments given that we may live in peace and harmony in our homes and be prepared for events of the last days.
I address this subject as a courtesy to Barbara, a visitor to my blog who asked me to do so. Thank you Barbara, for the suggestion. I had forgotten that this is a problem for some people. Critics claim that Joseph Smith borrowed heavily from Freemasonry for the ceremony of the temple endowment. I’m not convinced that he didn’t, but it’s not a big deal.
A fraternal organization
Freemasonry is a fraternal organization, not a religious movement.
A fraternity is a men’s club, whose members emphasize their brotherhood. Similar organizations are Elks, Oddfellows, Lions, Kiwanis, and Rotary. It arose from obscure origins in the late 16th to early 17th century. Masonry includes a constitutional declaration of belief in a Supreme Being. In other words, you can’t be an atheist and be a Mason.
Joseph Smith’s father was a Mason long before Joseph was and so was his brother Hyrum. It was common for men to join this organization as a means to improve their social standing in the community and to obtain business contacts. There are five million Masons today, and about two million in the United States. There have been and still are a lot of famous men who are Masons.
For example, many presidents of the United States were Masons including George Washington, Andrew Jackson, James Monroe, James Polk, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman and Gerald Ford. Many kings of England were Masons. So were Benjamin Franklin, Henry Ford, Mark Twain, John Wayne, Roy Rogers, Douglas Fairbanks and Jesse Jackson.
Joseph Smith and John C. Bennett
In 1840, at the start of the Nauvoo period, Joseph was encouraged to start a Masonic lodge by John C. Bennett, a recent convert and prominent physician. Bennett quickly rose to a position of power and influence in the church, becoming a Counselor in the First Presidency, mayor of the city of Nauvoo, General of the Nauvoo Legion, and the chancellor of the University of Nauvoo.
Bennett was a scoundrel, who was excommunicated from the church after it was revealed that he was teaching and practicing adultery, which he called “spiritual wifery,” claiming that it was authorized by Joseph Smith. Any seminary student who paid attention in class soon realized that he was one of the blackest characters in the early Nauvoo period of LDS Church history.
But for the two year period of time of 1840 to 1842, he was influential in introducing the young prophet to Masonry and instructing him in the rituals and symbolism of the fraternity. Joseph Smith became grand chaplain at the installation of the Nauvoo Lodge of Free Masons. Many of the LDS leaders and brethren of the church were also active Masons during this time.
The temple and Freemasonry
On May 4, 1842, the prophet instructed the priesthood “in the principles of and order of the Priesthood, attending to washings, anointings, endowments, and the communication of keys pertaining to the Aaronic Priesthood, and so onto to the highest order of the Melchizedek Priesthood….” (History of the Church, 5:1). This was the beginning of the temple endowment.
There are some obvious similarities between Mormon temple ritual and symbolism and the stories and symbols of Freemasonry. Mormon temple worship has similar symbols, signs, and clothing with the fraternal order. Is it a coincidence that these symbolisms were introduced and incorporated into the temple ceremony so soon after Joseph was instructed in Freemasonry?
The goals of Masonry and the LDS endowment are not the same. In the view of the LDS Church, both teach important truths, but the truths they teach are different. Masonry is not a religion. The temple endowment, on the other hand, teaches of man’s relationship to God in LDS Church belief, and Latter-day Saints consider it to be essential for exaltation in the world to come.
Endowment received by revelation
After Joseph had learned the details of the rituals and teachings of the fraternal order, he went to the Lord in prayer and received revelation in regards to the correct order and purpose of the endowment. What he presented to the Lord was what he had learned from John C. Bennett. What he received from the Lord was the restored endowment, evidence of his prophetic calling.
He then put together a makeshift temple in the upper room of his store so that it represented the interior of a temple as well as circumstances would permit. Joseph introduced the Nauvoo Endowment ceremony to nine men including his brother Hyrum, William Law, Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, Willard Richards, William Marks, Newel K. Whitney and two others.
Joseph wrote that the endowment was “to be received only by the spiritual minded: and there was nothing made known to these men but what will be made known to all the Saints of the last days, so soon as they are prepared to receive, and a proper place is prepared to communicate them, even to the weakest of Saints: therefore let the Saints be diligent in building the Temple.”
Summary and conclusion
So was the endowment borrowed from Freemasonry? You’ll have to decide that for yourself. I contend that it was received by revelation. I figured that out way back in Seminary. I felt it was right at the time I was first exposed to it and have found no reason to change my opinion over the years. This was only confirmed when I studied the subject again in Institute classes.
I am convinced that I have had a major advantage in growing up in the church in that I got to attend seminary and institute classes where church history was taught as part of our study of the Doctrine and Covenants. I love our church history. It is exciting and wonderful to review. My approach to studying our history is to look for the hand of the Lord in how it came about.
You can read the story of how we got the endowment in a sinister light if you want. You can read all kinds of things into it that simply are not there, including what some who oppose the work of the church have written about it. It is wonderful that we are given the ability to read and study these things out and then take it to the Lord in prayer for a confirming witness of the truth.
For additional information
1. Jeff Lindsay – Questions About the LDS Temple Ceremony and Masonry
2. FAIR – Similarities between Masonic and Mormon Temple Ritual
3. SHIELDS – The Relationship of “Mormonism” and Freemasonry by Pres. Anthony W. Ivins
I grew up in the days of Bruce R. McConkie. When it came time for Elder McConkie to speak in General Conference, I sat up a little taller and paid close attention. I was never disappointed. That man had a gift for speaking that was beyond this world. I don’t know how anybody could listen to him and not be convinced that what he taught was the mind and will of the Lord.
Elder McConkie seemed fearless to me. Although he had many critics both in and out of the church, what they had to say didn’t seem to bother him. His next public address was all the more powerful as he blasted their weak arguments. Those who didn’t know him criticized his profoundly authoritative manner, claiming that an apostle of the Lord should be more tolerant.
I think the brethren of the church appreciated him much more than the sisters. His leadership was undeniable. If I were in the military, Elder McConkie was the sort of man that I would have no problem in following. Every time I listened to one of his discourses, I came away with a greater determination to follow the Lord and to know what Elder McConkie knew.
The power of teaching doctrine
Our apostles today are no less powerful in their knowledge of the gospel and their ability to teach it with power and impact. I get the same feeling of wanting to stand a little taller and do a little better each time I hear from Elder Oaks or Elder Holland or President Uchtdorf or Elder Bednar. Fearlessly teaching doctrine with power has always impressed me.
One of Elder McConkie’s themes was that we need to know what Joseph knew. I was extremely motivated by his intellectual abilities demonstrated both in writing and in speaking. I don’t claim to have anywhere near the knowledge he had, but I continue to be motivated to read and study the doctrine because of his great example. With knowledge of doctrine comes personal power.
When I stand to speak or teach in church, my desire and goal is to present doctrine in such a manner that it can’t be misunderstood. I know that’s an ideal and probably impossible desire in this mortal world, but it continues to guide my thinking and my preparation. I want to be taught the gospel when I am in church and hope that those who speak or teach come prepared.
Leadership of Joseph Smith
Joseph Smith was just as bold and fearless in his ministry, especially towards the end of his life during the Nauvoo period. Because of his boldness in denouncing wickedness and proclaiming the truth, he made many enemies. He was comfortable with authority and led with power that comes from knowing you are doing the will of the Lord, or at least attempting to do so.
When he first visited Joseph Smith, the angel Moroni told him that his “name should be had for good and evil among all nations.” Years later the Lord encouraged Joseph: “Be patient in afflictions, for thou shalt have many; but endure them, for, lo, I am with thee, even unto the end of thy days.” Even though friends deserted him and became enemies, he continued faithful.
Few have confronted more antagonism and trials than did Joseph Smith. He was besieged with dozens of unjustified lawsuits and was often in jeopardy of his life. He was poisoned, beaten, tarred, unjustly imprisoned, and once sentenced to die by firing squad. And yet through all this he remained bold and courageous in declaring the truth to the end of his life.
The boldness of the Savior
When the Savior taught in public, there were always those who listened and watched closely in an attempt to catch him in his words. For some strange reason, they could not see that he was the Son of God, even though he declared it unto them openly and clearly. Although it went against the tradition and custom of his day, he was bold and fearless in teaching the truth.
He went about doing good, but there were those who wanted to destroy him. They were the elite and ruling class of their day. They controlled what was taught in their churches and mandated the practices of their society by their interpretation of the law. They were the intellectuals who knew, at least in their own minds, that they were right and he was wrong.
The Savior knew what the response to his doctrine would be. He knew that it would get to the point within a few short years where he would be betrayed and crucified. Yet he remained true and faithful to his purpose and mission to boldly declare the truth and teach the gospel. Because of his love, he did what he promised to do when he offered his life as a ransom for us.
Summary and conclusion
Bruce R. McConkie did not shy away from taking on the enemies of the church as he boldly taught the doctrines of salvation with power. Joseph Smith did not hesitate to declare the truths of the restoration even though trusted friends turned and became his enemies. The Savior knew in advance that what he taught and did would cost him his life after just a few years.
These men are my heroes. So are others who follow their example and do what they did. I want to be like them. I want to know what they knew and teach it in the same manner. By so doing, I should not expect that I will get treated any different than they did. It is doubtful that it will cost me my life, but I have no doubt that I will be criticized for teaching the truth.
Bruce R. McConkie, Joseph Smith and the Savior all had their critics and enemies. They still do. They gave their lives for what they believed. Should we do any less? The attacks of the critics will mean nothing when we meet these great men in the life to come. The Savior will embrace us and will plead our cause before God and we will hear, “well done, thou good and faithful servant.”