This is one of my favorite videos. It portrays the origin and coming forth of the Book of Mormon and how 19-century Parley P. Pratt and 20th-century Vincenzo di Francesca developed testimonies of the book.
Vincenzo Di Francesca (23 September 1888 – 18 November 1966) was a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from 1951 until his death. However, he is most known for his long struggle to become a member of the LDS Church which is documented in the short LDS Church film How Rare a Possession.
Di Francesca was raised in Italy, where he studied religion. He went to New York City in 1909, where he became a Methodist and graduated from Knox College in New York in November 1905. He then became a pastor.
In February 1910, Di Francesca went to visit a sick pastor in New York City. On his way toward the sick pastor’s home, as he was walking down Broadstreet, a strong wind moved the pages of an open book lying on a barrel. This grabbed his attention. Okay, I will not ruin the video with more information. I hope you enjoy these videos as much as I do. I’ve seen them numerous times and still need tissues.
This is an article published byMay 1, 2017.
Wars. Rumors of wars. Injustice. Hate. Poverty. Turmoil in our families. Shifting morals in society. An ever-present sense of darkness.
There’s a lot to be afraid of in this world that seems to get darker and more complicated each day. And while we shouldn’t minimize the problems and complexities of our day, we also shouldn’t let them paralyze us with fear. Some things we can control. Some things we cannot. But there is an antidote to fear, and it requires us choosing to stand with God every day.
President Gordon B. Hinckley was known for his optimism. Some of his most memorable teachings during his ministry were around his belief that we need to “stop seeking out the storms and enjoy more fully the sunlight.”
This is a man who lived through the Great Depression, two World Wars, Vietnam, political upheaval, the September 11 attacks, and much more, and we can learn a thing or two from his optimism and the source from which it came.
“I have seen a good deal of this earth. I have been in areas where war rages and hate smolders in the hearts of people. I have seen the appalling poverty that hovers over many lands. … I have watched with alarm the crumbling morals of our society.
“And yet I am optimistic. I have a simple and solemn faith that right will triumph and that truth will prevail.”
Our optimism can be more than just a positive attitude. It can be like President Hinckley’s—powerful, emanating from our very beings, and rooted in a firm faith and trust in God.
“It isn’t as bad as you sometimes think it is. It all works out. Don’t worry. I say that to myself every morning,” President Hinckley taught. “If you do your best, it will all work out. Put your trust in God, and move forward with faith and confidence in the future. The Lord will not forsake us.”
Act First in Faith
We can’t see the future. That’s what makes the unknown so scary. Sometimes sticking with what we know, what we’re comfortable with, what we can see, feels like the safest bet in life. But that’s not how God intends for us to grow. Sometimes life requires us to take a leap of faith, especially when it comes to overcoming our fears.
“The natural man and the natural woman says there is no way I’m taking this step. There is no way I’m moving into the darkness until the light moves and I can see where I’m going,” taught Elder David A. Bednar in the video “Being an Agent to Act.”
But the requirement for faith is that we act first.
“Most of the time we think, ‘Well, give me the power and then I’ll act,’” said Elder Bednar. “But the Savior’s gospel teaches that first we act and then the power comes. We don’t know where to go. We don’t know what to do, but my trust in Him enables me to act.”
As we act, Jesus Christ blesses us with His power. Our faith in Him grows, our confidence increases, and we can then navigate the most difficult circumstances in life knowing that we will never be alone and we will always have His help.
Overcoming fear requires a divine power, and we gain that power as we choose to act first in faith.
See the Long View
Fears are a part of this mortal experience. We’re never going to get rid of them. But having the right perspective can help us to overcome fears as we live with the right “end game” in mind.
War, terror, debilitating illness, death. The fear of those things can paralyze us if we do not have an eternal perspective and knowledge that this mortal life is just a moment in our existence. But we know through the gospel of Jesus Christ that death is not the end. Family relationships can continue for eternity. You can become all that God intends for you to be in this life and the next.
When you see life with the long view, with an eternal lens, none of the fears that we deal with in mortality should ever feel unconquerable. The Atonement of Jesus Christ gives us hope. It gives us power to know we can overcome Satan, fight past the darkness of mortality, burst the bands of death, and ultimately become like our Heavenly Father in the heavens above.
There is more to this life than what we can see in front of us. Choosing to live with the long view in mind helps us to keep these mortal fears from taking over our lives and allows us to more fully live by faith.
Serve Someone Else
When we’re paralyzed by fear, disappointments, and just the wrongs that happen as a result of mortality, it’s easy to feel justified in focusing on ourselves.
But spiritual power to overcome fear doesn’t come in wallowing, self-pity, and inaction. It comes through action and often looking outside of yourself.
Elder Gary E. Stevenson shared a story of how his wife taught this principle while they were presiding over the Japan Nagoya Mission.
When missionaries would come to them filled with fear and doubts, Sister Stevenson would apply her “cookie therapy.” She would give the missionaries ingredients to make cookies and the instruction to bake a batch every morning. Then, she told them to deliver the cookies each day to someone who needed them. As simple as the “cookie therapy” was, it worked wonders.
Elder Stevenson said very often, the act of thinking about someone else cured the missionary of his or her fears.
“The warm, golden glow that accompanies service and selflessness has the power to melt away doubts and fears.”
Going back to the optimistic counsel from President Hinckley:
It isn’t as bad as you sometimes think it is.
It all works out. Don’t worry. …
The Lord will not forsake us.
He will not forsake us.
If we will put our trust in Him,
if we will pray to Him,
if we will live worthy of His blessings,
He will hear our prayers.
God doesn’t want us to fail. Because of Jesus Christ, no failure is final. No fear in this mortal life need paralyze us. Faith can overcome fear. And if we trust that it does, we can move forward knowing that in the end, “it will all work out.”
From Nauvoo, Illinois to the Salt Lake Valley was a 1,297-mile trek.
“We each can learn much from the early pioneers, whose struggles and heartaches were met with resolute courage and an abiding faith in a living God. I think that there is not a member of this Church today who has not been touched by the accounts of the early pioneers. Those who did so much for the good of all surely had as their objective to inspire faith.” __Thomas S Monson
As a new member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day saints, Don and Ann Wagstaff, a senior couple from Salt Lake City were serving a mission in Hagerstown, Maryland where I lived. I said Heavenly Father sent them there just for me as they were a real source of strength and example. They spent time at my place where she would bring loaves of her delicious home made bread. Ann brought her wheat grinder and dough mixer with them so she could continue making her wheat bread.
I had just gone through a divorce after twenty-one years of marriage and four kids, which was a very traumatic experience. One day I received a letter from Elder Wagstaff calling me a Pioneer. I wish I still had that beautiful letter.
I used to wish I could have had a rich heritage in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day saints. I enjoy reading about the challenging lives and experiences of those early members and the unthinkable hardships, and persecutions they endured.
“War clouds began again to lower with dark, and threatening aspect. Those who had combined against the laws in the adjoining counties had long watched our increasing power and prosperity with jealousy, and with greedy and avaricious eyes. It was a common boast that, as soon as we had completed our extensive improvements, and made a plentiful crop, they would drive us from the State, and once more enrich themselves with the spoils.” (Parley P Pratt) For these and other reasons, violence erupted that eventually resulted in the expulsion of the entire Church from the state of Missouri.
On October 27, 1838, Governor Lilburn Boggs issued his infamous extermination order. To his military leaders, it decreed, “The Mormons must be treated as enemies and must be exterminated or driven from the state, if necessary for the public good.”
Latter-day Saints long remembered the persecutions they experienced and the unwillingness of government authorities either to protect them or to prosecute their attackers. They often lamented that they experienced religious persecution in a land that promised religious freedom.
During November 1838, Latter-day Saint settlements in Caldwell and Daviess counties endured a military occupation (Their weapons were confiscated). “We were not permitted to leave Far West,” Anson Call said, “only to get our firewood. We had not the privilege of hunting our cattle and horses.” Newel Knight noted that because the Saints were unarmed, they became prey for small parties of armed men “insulting our women, driving off our stock, and plundering.” To him “it seemed as though all hell was aroused to do us injury.” Newel’s cousin Reed Peck said that “some horses, wagons and much other property were stolen from the Mormons by some of the militia who were villains enough to plunder.” By late November, most crops around Far West were unharvested, and potatoes still in the ground were “frose solid.” Soldiers “rifled” through homes, Albert Rockwood said, and “our sheep & hogs, & horses [are] drove off before our eyes by the Missourians who come in small companies well armed.”
Far West was ill-equipped to become a refugee center for Saints displaced by Missouri militia. Food was scarce, and housing inadequate. Those coming from outside Far West suffered because as John Greene wrote, “we have been robbed of our corn, wheat, horses, cattle, cows, hogs, wearing apparel, houses, and homes, and indeed, of all that renders life tolerable.” On November 9 the Missouri Republican Daily reported that the Saints’ situation was “a case of great difficulty” because “they are generally poor” and facing starvation. “And where shall they be sent?” the newspaper asked. “Their numbers exceed 5,000 people—without any means and literally beggars—to be thrust upon the charities of Illinois, Iowa, or Wisconsin.” Joseph Holbrook, thirty-two, said his wife Nancy “had very poor health” that fall and winter because of being exposed to “inclement weather by having to remove from place to place as our house had been burned and we were yet left to seek a home whenever our friends could accommodate us and for my safety.” Saints “in flourishing condition but a few months before,” he said, “were now destitute. I could have commanded some two thousand dollars but now I had only 1 yoke of old oxen and 2 cows left.”
Newel Knight had a wagon but no team. So, he said, “Sold my cook stove and the only cow the mob had not killed.” With that money, he hired a man with a team to drive him, Lydia, and their three children east. They pulled out of Far West on February 18, leaving behind a house and farm. At times, deep snows rubbed their wagon hubs during the journey. In intense cold, Lydia recalled, they sometimes scraped away snow beside the wagon so they could put down their beds at night. At Huntsville, the driver said his horses could not go on, so the Knights unhitched the wagon and camped. Newel prayed for help, for “I knew not how to extricate myself but as I had never been forsaken by my Heavenly Father I committed myself and family into his care.” For a week they were stranded, but finally, a man asked his son to drive the Knights the rest of the way.
*Newel Knight and Lydia Goldthwaite were my husband’s 3rd Great Grandparents.
Anson Call’s father, Cyril Call was the first in their family to join the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Cyril Call’s father Joseph was a Baptist preacher. I wanted to share with you a little about Cyril Call’s good life. He is also a relative of my husband.
In 1831, at age 46, Cyril was visited by Mormon missionaries. He believed their message and was baptized in October of that year by Elder John Murdock. Cyril’s grandson, Benjamin C. Call wrote the following about his grandfather: “To become a convert to an unpopular religion, whose leaders were severely persecuted and members as well, requires great stamina and bravery. Cyril Call met the challenge and duties of life with rare courage and fidelity. There was not the slightest trace of hypocrisy or cowardice in his whole make-up. He stood for principle and had great faith in the religion he had espoused. It was while they lived near Kirtland that Cyril and his family became acquainted with the Prophet Joseph Smith. He loved the prophet in scriptural measure, heaped up, pressed down and running over, and Joseph Smith loved him.
On account of the persecutions of the Mormons in Ohio, he and two of his sons went to Missouri in the spring of 1838 and were with the saints and Zion’s Camp. He purchased land near Far West and returned to Ohio to get his family. The Missourians in the meantime had started their persecutions of the Saints so he remained on the Illinois side of the river locating near Warsaw. It was here, in the fall of 1845, that his home was visited by a mob.
Cyril’s son Omer often told the story of the burning of their home near Warsaw, Illinois, to his children. His daughter Esther composed this poem about it when she was a young girl:
And now you want a story
One that Grandpa always tells
About the Mormon people
That’s the one he knows so well.
I was once a little chatterer
With blue eyes and golden hair
I had all a small boy wanted
I was free from every care.
We lived wealthy in the city
Many friends and neighbors near,
Yes, our home was nicely furnished
And we thought our way was clear.
But we heard of the young boy prophet,
And the plates that he had found
Father went to hear his preaching,
And he loved the very sound.
He at once believed the story,
Told us all he knew ’twas true.
And from that very moment,
Many friends we loved withdrew.
Now we could not understand it.
We were scoffed at in the street
And we felt so very lonely,
For a friend we’d never meet.
And one day we got a notice,
Father wasn’t wanted more
In the office where he’d labored
Many days and years before.
Now our home and all was taken,
And we knew not where to stay
So we got our team and wagon
And the city left that day.
We found land that was not taken
But ’twas covered o’er with sage
And each one worked late and early
And our hands were all engaged.
Soon we had a little cabin
That we now could call our own.
And a place was plowed and furrowed
Where the small seeds could be sown.
So we worked and toiled all summer
No one ever thought to cheat
For he knew the fall was coming
And the food we’d need to eat.
Now the hardest time was over
And my brother Anson said
He would go from home to labor
And in that way earn his bread.
One night we sat round the fireplace,
Something like you children do
Only not so snug and cozy
For the country then was new.
We were startled, someone’s knocking
Whispered mother very low,
And my father stepping forward
Opened wide the rough made door.
And a large, well-dressed man entered
Mr. Call, now have no fear
You’re a man we all think lots of
You’re a man we all need here.
All you need to do is sign this
Or else, now say that you know
Joe Smith is not a prophet
And you do not need to go.
For the mob will be upon you
It is furious with rage
It takes all that lies before it
Everything within its gaze.
Do you see the burning dwellings?
In the distance out that way
This will be exactly like it,
In an hour, now come do say.
Father stamped his foot in anger,
Let them come. I still will say
He’s a prophet true and faithful
And I know it every day.
Then my friend you’d better travel
For before five hours have gone
This house and all your ownings
Will be burnt down to the ground.
Then we gathered things around us,
For we knew he told us right
To the corn field we now journeyed
For a long and dreaded night.
Dear mother was weak and weary
And her bed we knelt around.
Breathlessly we shook and trembled
For well we heard a sound.
It was footsteps coming nearer
In the cornfield now it came
Father, Father, was the calling
But he answered not the same.
Mother woke and heard the calling
She knew well it was her son Anson
And she spoke in tones of anguish,
“Answer him so he can come.”
He was frightened and he murmured
In a tone so soft and slow,
“Are all here and out of danger?”
“Yes,” my mother answered low.
“Oh, the mob with rage is furious
List, their curses can be heard.
See, our home in flames is rising
Like a full-fledged winged bird.”
And we prayed and watched and waited
Breathlessly around the bed.
Till the flames died down in quiet
And my mother raised her head.
And then we stayed in the cornfield
Until after dark next night
When we drove into Nauvoo
Ready for the Westward flight.
We found our friends already
To leave their homes for the west
Where, we looked for, prayed for and found it
Shelter, freedom and rest.
I’d like to read some excerpts from a Eulogy of Cyril given by Benjamin C. Call, his grandson: “Cyril met the vicissitudes of life with rare courage and fidelity. He was honest and knowingly did wrong to no man. He had great faith in a religion to which he became converted while in middle life. He had no ambition for high office but acted his part upon an obscure stage at a time when men holding high positions in the Church turned traitor to their leader. No trumpet or fame or words of great praise cheered him in his onerous and hazardous tasks…. We owe our ancestors a debt of gratitude which we can never repay except by being model, upright and God-fearing citizens. The self-sacrificing devotion and courageous deed of Cyril and Sally Tiffany Call, their sons, and daughters have seldom been surpassed in the History of the Mormon Church. When the Calls meet in distant ages to do honor to their ancestors, they will be able to say: “There were great giants in the earth in those days and the Calls will be known among them.” “Tell your children of it, and let their children tell their children and their children another generation.” (Joel 1:3) “It has been said, ‘They who do not remember and revere their ancestors who have done worthy deeds, are not likely to leave a posterity that will be worthy of being remembered.”
I know this is quite a lengthy post but this is one of my favorite subjects, history of the early years of those precious people whose testimonies were unwavering in the face of unbelievable circumstances. I am enjoying the fruits of their labors living in the shadows of these awesome Rocky Mountains.
So, in doing my family history I have discovered that I do indeed have ancestors who were members of the Restored Church of Christ. Namely, John Judd and Rhoda Shepherd who were my 4th Great Grand Uncle and Aunt. John and Rhoda moved from Wilkes County, North Carolina to Ohio sometime in 1827 or 1828 where they became members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
I do not have pictures of John and Rhoda but I do have pictures of three of their daughters, Elizabeth, Mary, and Margaret.
Alvin Thomas Winegar born 13 May 1816 German, Chenango, New York. Died 12 Jun 1874 Salt Lake City, Utah. Mary Judd born 26 Jul 1817 Reddies River, Wilkes, North Carolina. Died 26 Apr 1886 Salt Lake City, Utah. I was so excited to find you 🙂
L-R: Elizabeth Judd born 1805 Reddies River, Wilkes, North Carolina. Died 1886 Atchison, Kansas. Elizabeth Judd married William McQueen Welch 1823 in North Carolina. Margaret Judd born 1822 Reddies River, Wilkes, North Carolina and died 1893 Harrison, Iowa. Margaret Judd married Eller Stoker 1839 in Van Buren, Iowa.
Mother, when she was 22 years old. The little family was living in Tiffin, Seneca County, Ohio.
It is quiet this morning as I sit at my computer, listening to the birds and watching the leaves fall from the trees. It is that time of year again when the temperature is beginning to drop. It is a cool 41 degrees, here in the shadow of these awesome Rocky Mountains.
Mother and her twin brother were born in October. Her little twin brother lived only sixteen days. I am feeling a little nostalgic as I remember her birthday. She would be 100 years old had she lived. I remember the fun and happy times, the hard times, the difficult.
Fall was mother’s favorite season. I never thought to ask her why. I suppose it was the beauty of the changing of nature. Before mother passed away, when I would be raking leaves or out for a stroll I would see a huge beautiful fall leaf, perfect in color and shape and send it to her. I remember going for a walk in California one morning and seeing some wild flowers growing along the sidewalk. I stopped for a moment just appreciating these tiny beauties. Again my thoughts turned to my aged mother who lived over 2 thousand miles from me, so I picked two, a yellow and a purple. I went home and wrote mother a letter and taped them to the back of the envelope which I sent to her. After mother’s funeral, I saw that envelope (the letter was gone) but the flowers looked the same as when I taped them many years ago.
I miss shopping for that special birthday, Mother’s Day or Christmas card, the phone call, hearing her sweet voice as she would say, “Hello.” I miss her so, but time has a way of catching up with us and so I look forward to being with that dear mother of mine again for all eternity.
I remember the times when I was ill and the tender loving care I received, a cool cloth on my forehead and Mother sitting up most of the night with me.
As I reminisce those years around mothers side, I remember all the beautiful dresses she made for me and my big sis. We received many compliments on those dresses. She also crocheted lots of doilies. She would give most of them to family and friends. She also made afghans and quilts.
I enjoyed walking through Mother’s garden. She grew beautiful tomatoes, onions, beans, peas, corn and beets to mention a few. During canning season it was my job to clean the jars. My least favorite vegetable was spinach. I thought it was a horrible vegetable. Mother would say, “You must eat all of it.” 🙂
She was an excellent cook who enjoyed trying new recipes. I suppose my favorite dessert mother made was her rice pudding. I’ve tried many recipes over the years but cannot find one that comes close to Mother’s.
Around Christmas time we would go downtown where we enjoyed looking at the window decorations. Malls were never heard of back then. It was such a fun and safe experience with lots of people milling about, hearing sounds of laughter, children’s excitement, as they enjoyed that moment.
I never heard Mother raise her voice in anger. There was never any screaming or yelling in our home.
Before going to bed at night she would read something from the Bible or a thrilling story from a book. Sometimes she would invite family and friends to listen to a special radio program, this was just before we invested in television 🙂
I remember that when I was a little girl, Mother wanted to make a table cloth and kitchen curtains. She went outdoors and picked a beautiful Tulip leaf, which she used as a pattern for an applique to make a table cloth and kitchen curtains. She sewed the appliques in the center and corners of the table cloth. On the kitchen curtains, she sewed the appliques along the bottom and top borders. She used red and white checkered appliques on a white background. In my mind’s eye, I can still see those lovely additions to our kitchen.
Some symbols of beautiful Kentucky 🙂
After my marriage, my husband’s calling took us to states far from where my mother lived. I enjoyed making cassette tapes for her, just talking or reading a fun story. Sometimes I would tape happy music. She would call and tell about calling her baby son to come and enjoy the music I sent her.
Mother had a real sweet tooth, something I inherited from her. One day I was shopping at Sam’s Club and saw the Girl Scouts selling their Cookies at the exit. I thought of my little mother and bought two boxes which I mailed to her. She called and told how much she enjoyed them, especially the Mint cookies.
Mother, when she was about 39 years old. She was being baptized into the Baptist faith.
I sent this to Mother not long before she passed away.
I remember seeing Grandma wearing her bonnet with hoe in hand, working tirelessly in her garden. It was like watching a magnificent work of art. She enjoyed planting, hoeing, weeding, and harvesting. She had a garden until she was in her early 90’s. She also had several fields of alfalfa and feed corn for the animals. I always wanted to be involved in working along with the adults instead of playing with my cousins and siblings. Grandma was never concerned that I would chop down corn instead of weeds. Grandma was great at pacing herself (something I should learn). After working for several hours or so she would say, “Let’s go and rest a little spell.” We would go to a nice shade tree where we would rest for a little spell. 🙂 Once, all of a sudden the dogs started barking down in some brush. My Uncle Amos, who was about fifteen years old went to investigate what was causing the dogs to carry on so. He returned with a rattlesnake he had killed with his hoe.
One year when apples were ready to harvest Mother went to help Grandma with the apples. As we sat on her front porch I asked if I could help. She never would tell me no. So, I sat there peeling and coring apples, after a bit I said, “That whore was sure hard to cut out.” I remember seeing mother and grandma smile at one another. Years later I had a flash back of that fun little scene when I innocently called the core of an apple a whore. I had no idea what that word was. 😉
After harvest time grandma would have several quilts going with neighborhood ladies who would come and enjoy small talk while quilting. I would ask grandma if I could help. She would get a needle and allow me to quilt along with them. I was probably seven or eight years old. The pictures below are similar to what I remember.
My baby brother had two children. The oldest was a daughter. After graduating from college she married her high school sweetheart and had three daughters. The last one she named after me (middle name). I had never tried my hand at quilting since I was a little girl at Grandma’s house. So, I made a small quilt for my name sake. It wasn’t quite finished, when I took a trip from California to Kentucky for a visit. I made sure I remembered to take the quilt. I gave it to my niece and said, “Now, you can finish it.” I wish I had taken a picture of that quilt as I thought it turned out quite pretty. 🙂
As newlyweds Grandma and Grandpa built their own house. It consisted of six rooms, two side porches and a front porch which was the length of the house. They had a huge barn with a loft. As kids we enjoyed jumping out of the loft down into a pile of hay. Grandma had a hen house that was fun to investigate. I enjoyed gathering eggs for Grandma, watching the hens sitting on their eggs, watching peeps break open their shells.
There was a barbed wire fence between Grandma’s house and the hen house. Little brother and I were racing each other one day when he got the inside of the bend of his knee caught in the fence. I cried as I ran for Grandma to hurry and rescue my baby brother.
Grandma took us blackberry picking with her. We had our own little pails where we put those big plump black berries. We ate as many as went into our pails. I loved my grandma’s blackberry cobbler. My grandma didn’t own a cook book, she didn’t need one. I have fond memories of watching Grandma make biscuits. In my minds eye I can still see those hands folding in the ingredients and squeezing the dough out between her thumb and index finger and placing the biscuits in her cast iron skillet.
In warm weather grandma would take her butter churn out on the porch by the kitchen, where she would sit and churn. As she churned she would sing, “Precious Memories.”
Grandma had ten children. Six of them came as three sets of twins. Below is a picture of grandma with her second set of twins. The little girl on the left died from diphtheria when she was about two years old. My precious mother was one of the first set of twins.
I remember Grandma slaughtering a hog and watching her make soap from lye and fat, not any of that sweet smelling stuff. 🙂 As I look back on grandma’s life I think, “Wow! What a hard life she had.” But she didn’t think so. She loved life. Grandma enjoyed, what I call a “hard life.”
Sometimes I would spend the night at Grandma’s. I enjoyed sleeping under those nice down comforters. Grandma raised geese for the purpose of using the down feathers for pillows and comforters. As a little girl I did not like those geese, they would most always chase me.
Grandma would not allow anyone to use foul language in her house. She always told grand kids if they used bad words she would wash their mouth out with soap. 🙂
Grandma said her hair had never been cut. She had natural wavy hair and when she was younger her hair was dark brown. I only remember Grandma when her hair was gray. She would comb her hair straight back and make one long braid which she curled into a bun and secured the hair with hair pins.
When I was about six years old I developed a boil on the outside of the calf of my leg. We lived in the country and only saw a doctor if it was a real emergency. My mother was too squeamish to take care of the boil on my leg. I really wanted my grandma to do it anyway. So, off I went to Grandma’s where we sat on the porch steps. She proceeded to get nice clean white rags, alcohol and one of her quilting needles that had been disinfected. She pierced the boil and began pressing around it when a huge blood clot dislodged. I trusted my grandmother and didn’t shed one tear.
Grandpa passed away when he was forty years old, so Grandma lived another fifty-four years without him.
Ah, memories of Grandma’s beautiful wood cook stove that I loved, her old Ice box, the covered well where we enjoyed drinks of cold water after playing, the old dinner bell, her beautiful pump organ that Grandpa bought.
I miss my grandmother and look forward to seeing her again.
Those we love don’t go away, they walk beside us every day…unseen, unheard, but always near, still loved, still missed and very dear.
I just heard a preacher in Nevada who preaches his anti-Mormon rhetoric to people on the street outside the LDS Temple grounds. One of the things he disputed was personal revelation. He believes that EVERYTHING is proven with the Bible.
Some years ago I spent two years in China. One night we were out walking around the university campus and came face to face with an English speaking young Caucasian man who was from the states. It is always exciting to meet someone from America when in a foreign country. We stopped and introduced ourselves. The young man wanted to know what church we were affiliated with. When we told him we were members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day saints, he suddenly changed. He said, “I must warn my students about you!” He believed that when a man dies he will continue to exist but he didn’t believe man existed before he was born. So, pray tell how do you explain Jeremiah 1:5 “Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.”
Hartford Institute estimates there are roughly 350,000 religious congregations in the United States. Can you imagine. I saw the name of one church in Africa called, “The Sidewalk Church.” Mass confusion. I was a member of the Baptist Church for many years and can speak as one knowing what she speaks, to be true. As a Baptist, I was taught and believed that I was in the only true church. Then I became a student of the Bible, reading and understanding for myself and not being told what some preacher was telling me.
A beautiful article by Tad R Callister called, “What Is the Blueprint of Christ’s Church?” He tells that he and his wife needed a bigger home for their growing family. They spent some time working on a blueprint that would best accommodate the needs of their family. He describes in detail designing the rooms to meet their specific needs. “These and other design elements were incorporated into a blueprint. The home was then built pursuant to these plans.”
“In a similar way Christ built a home to best accommodate the spiritual needs of His children. It was called His Church. The spiritual blueprint for this Church can be found in the New Testament. Occasionally the Savior made a “change order” to the blueprint. Such a change order came in the form of a revelation. For example, the Savior initially commanded His Apostles to preach the gospel to the house of Israel but not to the Gentiles (see Matthew 10:5–6). After the Savior’s Ascension, however, He gave Peter a spiritual change order—a revelation by way of a vision—that the gospel should now be taught also to the Gentiles (see Acts 10). This experience of Peter taught at least two important governance principles in Christ’s Church: one, the blueprint could be changed, but only by revelation from Christ, and second, such revelation would come to the prophet who was God’s spokesman on earth. In other words, God’s Church would be governed by divine revelation and by order.
If one desired to discover Christ’s Church today, he would want to match the spiritual blueprint found in the New Testament against every Christian church in the world until he discovered a church that matched the blueprint—organization for organization, teaching for teaching, ordinance for ordinance, fruit for fruit, and revelation for revelation. In doing so, he might find some churches that had some similarities—a teaching or two that overlapped, an ordinance that is the same, some offices that bear common names—but he will only find one church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, that matches the blueprint in every material respect. Now I would like to put that assertion to the test.
Let us turn to the first page of the blueprint and discover what was the “Organization” of Christ’s Church as revealed therein.
First, Christ’s Church was founded on apostles and prophets. When Paul was writing to some new members of the Church, he said that they were now “built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone” (Ephesians 2:20; italics added).
The Apostles understood the imperative need to keep the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles intact. When one Apostle, such as Judas, died and a portion of the foundation was “chipped away,” the other 11 Apostles gathered together and chose a successor so that the foundation would be whole again (see Acts 1:22–25).
This pattern evidenced the importance of maintaining a quorum of twelve Apostles. So important were these Apostles to the well-being of the Church that Paul declared how long we needed them: “Till we all come in the unity of the faith” (Ephesians 4:13). And then he explained why: So we would not be “carried about with every wind of doctrine” (Ephesians 4:14). Accordingly, the Apostles were critical to keeping the doctrine pure.
Suppose for a moment I were to tell a story to someone on one end of the row in front of me, and then he were to share it with the person next to him, and so on until it were to work its way down the rows to the end of the section. What would happen to that story? It would change. It always changes; that is human nature. So it was with the doctrine taught by the Apostles as they went out to the various towns and villages. As the doctrine went from one person to another, it started to change. As long as the Apostles were available, they could correct the doctrine by way of epistles or personal sermons. But when the Apostles were gone, there was no longer any check-and-balance system, no longer any correcting hand, and soon the doctrines became distorted or lost.
For this and other reasons, the blueprint reveals that the apostles and prophets constituted the foundation of Christ’s Church. Do you know of any change order in the New Testament, any revelation that revised the blueprint and states that apostles are no longer needed? I don’t. If that is the case, then Christ’s true Church today should have apostles and prophets as its foundation.
In order to assist the Savior and His Apostles in preaching the gospel to the world, the Savior chose other men, called Seventy, to prepare the way. We read of these Seventy in Luke, chapter 10. Do you know of a church today that matches this blueprint—that has the office of Seventy?
The blueprint of the New Testament reveals other officers that constituted part of the organization of Christ’s Church: bishops (see 1 Timothy 3; Titus 1:7); elders (see Acts 14:23; Titus 1:5); deacons (see Philippians 1:1); evangelists (see Ephesians 4:11), meaning patriarchs1; and pastors (see Ephesians 4:11), meaning such men as bishops and stake presidents who preside over a flock.2
The sixth article of faith of the Church makes reference to this blueprint: “We believe in the same organization that existed in the Primitive Church, namely, apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists, and so forth” (Articles of Faith 1:6; italics added). In other words, we believe the current Church of Jesus Christ should have the same organization as existed in Christ’s original Church, subject only to revelatory changes. Therefore, each of these offices is present in our Church today.
How were Christ’s Apostles and other officers chosen? Did the Savior go to the finest theological schools of the time and select the highest-ranking students? He did not. Instead, the blueprint tells us that He chose Peter, a fisherman, and Matthew, a tax collector, and later Paul, a tentmaker. Each was chosen from the rank and file—in essence, it was a lay ministry. Today the Church has a quorum of twelve Apostles who are likewise chosen from the rank and file of the Church. One may be a teacher, another an engineer, another an attorney, and so on.
Did Christ’s Apostles and other officers make application for the ministry? They did not. The blueprint tells us how Christ selected His officers: “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you” (John 15:16; italics added). When Christ ordained His Apostles, what did He give them? Matthew and Luke record the answer: “He gave them power” (Matthew 10:1; see also Luke 9:1)—the priesthood power to act in His name and to do His work. That is why the blueprint tells us “the Son of man … gave authority to his servants” (Mark 13:34). Why? So they could act in His name with His endorsement. Every man who holds the priesthood of God in this Church today can trace his priesthood authority back to Jesus Christ, the source of all authority and power, so that he, likewise, is entitled to Christ’s endorsement—His stamp of approval—as is required by the blueprint.
What was the name of the church organized by Christ? If we are baptized in the name of Christ, if we pray in the name of Christ, if we are saved in the name of Christ, and if He is the founder and chief cornerstone of His Church, what would you expect the name of His Church to be? The Church of Jesus Christ. The Savior, when speaking to the people in Book of Mormon times, taught the underlying rationale as to why the Church needed to bear His name: “And how be it my church save it be called in my name? For if a church be called in Moses’ name then it be Moses’ church; or if it be called in the name of a man then it be the church of a man; but if it be called in my name then it is my church, if it so be that they are built upon my gospel” (3 Nephi 27:8; italics added).
It is for this reason that Paul reprimanded some of the early members of the Church—because they called themselves after certain disciples rather than after the name of Christ. Accordingly, Paul wrote:
“Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ.
“Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?” (1 Corinthians 1:12–13).
In other words, we do not take upon us any other name than Jesus Christ.
Accordingly, the blueprint teaches us that Christ’s Church should bear His name. It has always seemed miraculous to me that the Reformation had been in existence for over 300 years before the time of Joseph Smith and no one thought to name his church after Jesus Christ. Of course, since the time of Joseph Smith, others have followed suit, but in some marvelous way the Lord preserved the use of His name until the time of Joseph Smith and the Restoration of Christ’s Church.
Now, let us turn to the second page of the blueprint. What were the “Teachings” of Christ’s Church? Let us examine a few:
Is God solely a spirit, or does He also have a body of flesh and bones? What does the blueprint teach?
After Christ’s Resurrection, He appeared to His disciples, who mistakenly thought He was a spirit (see Luke 24:37). To correct their misimpression, He said, “Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have” (Luke 24:39; italics added).
To eliminate any doubt about the corporeal nature of His resurrected body, He inquired of His disciples, “Have ye here any meat?” (Luke 24:41). Then the scriptures record:
“And they gave him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb.
“And he took it, and did eat before them” (Luke 24:42–43).
With that glorified, resurrected body of flesh and bones, Christ ascended into heaven (see Acts 1:9),3 where He sits on the right hand of God the Father and is, as the scriptures declare, in “the express image of his person” (Hebrews 1:3). This is the exact truth taught by Joseph Smith as part of the Restoration of Christ’s Church: “The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s; the Son also” (D&C 130:22).
Are God and Jesus the same Being, as taught by much of the Christian world, or two separate Beings? What does the blueprint say?
The number of references in the Bible to the separate identity and separate roles of the Father and Son is staggering. In the Garden of Gethsemane, recognizing the excruciating pain that was yet to be His, the Savior declared, “Not my will, but thine, be done” (Luke 22:42). This is the grandest act of submission the world has ever known. But what submission would there have been if there was no other Being to whom He could submit—if He and the Father were one and the same Being? Why does the Savior pray to the Father or cry out, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34). How could He be forsaken if there was no separate Being to forsake Him? How did Stephen see Jesus standing on the right hand of God if They are not two persons (see Acts 7:55–56)?
When Joseph Smith emerged from the grove of trees, he had learned for himself the truth. He had seen God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, standing side by side; he had heard the Father refer to the other as His “Beloved Son” (Joseph Smith—History 1:17). On that glorious day the heavens shattered the man-made myths of the past about the nature of God and revealed and confirmed the simple truth as originally taught in the blueprint: that God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, have a oneness of goals and will but a separateness of identity.
What does the blueprint say about those who never had a fair chance to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ while on the earth? Are they damned? Are we without revealed knowledge as to their spiritual condition?
This is a monumental question affecting billions of lives. Certainly God has spoken on this point. And in truth, He has. The blueprint contains the answer.
Peter wrote, “For for this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit” (1 Peter 4:6). This doctrine was lost in the Apostasy following the death of Christ’s Apostles, but it was restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith.
Are there three heavens or one heaven? For years the Christian world has taught there is one heaven and one hell, but what does the original blueprint teach?
Paul taught, “There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars” (1 Corinthians 15:41). Paul subsequently confirmed the truth of this three-tiered heaven when he recounted the vision of a man “caught up to the third heaven” (2 Corinthians 12:2). Could there be a third heaven if there was no second or first heaven? Again, this doctrine restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith is in exact accord with the original blueprint.
Does marriage continue for eternity or end at death? What does the blueprint say?
In accordance with the power given to the Apostles that whatsoever they should bind on earth should be bound in heaven (see Matthew 18:18), Paul declared, “Neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 11:11), meaning that the ideal is for the man and woman to be bound together forever in God’s presence. Peter confirmed this truth. Referring to husbands and wives, he stated that they should be “heirs together of the grace of life” (1 Peter 3:7)—not individually, but jointly walking the path as inheritors of eternal life. That is the doctrine taught in the blueprint, and that is the doctrine taught in Christ’s Church today.
The third page of the blueprint reads, “Ordinances in Christ’s Church.” The blueprint is very specific in this regard. For example, do we bless or baptize infants and little children? What does the blueprint teach?
The Savior gave the clear example for us. Speaking of little children, the scriptures read, “And he [Jesus] took them up in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them” (Mark 10:16; italics added). Matthew confirmed, as to little children, the Savior “laid his hands on them” (Matthew 19:15). The blueprint teaches that infants and little children are blessed, not baptized. In fact, there is not one account of an infant baptism occurring anywhere in the entire New Testament. Why? Because it was not an ordinance in Christ’s Church. Someone looking for Christ’s Church today would look for a church that blesses infants, not baptizes them.
Is baptism essential for salvation? What does the blueprint teach?
After Christ set the example by being baptized, He declared in unequivocal terms, “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5; italics added). Peter taught similarly, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Acts 2:38; italics added). What is taught in the blueprint is exactly what is taught in Christ’s Church today.
Is baptism to be done by sprinkling, pouring, or immersion? The blueprint gives at least four evidences that baptism is to be done by immersion:
First, the Savior, our great Exemplar, came up “straightway out of the water” (Matthew 3:16), indicating He must have first gone down into the water.
Second, John the Baptist “was baptizing in Aenon near to Salim, because there was much water there” (John 3:23; italics added). Why would he travel to a place of “much water” if sprinkling or pouring were accepted modes of baptism?
Third, Paul tells us that baptism is symbolic of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ (see Romans 6:3–5). As the new convert stands in the waters of baptism, he represents the old man about to die. As he is immersed in the water, his sins are “buried” and forgiven by the symbolic cleansing power of the water. Then, as he rises from the water, he stands as a representative of the new or resurrected man in Jesus Christ. All of that symbolism underlying baptism is consistent with baptism by immersion, but it is lost—totally lost—with sprinkling and pouring.
And fourth, the Greek word from which baptism is translated means to dip or plunge in the water.
Will Durrant, a noted world historian, knew what the blueprint revealed and thus observed, “By the ninth century the early Christian method of baptism by total immersion had been gradually replaced by … sprinkling—as less dangerous to health in northern climes.”4
It should be no surprise that Joseph Smith received a revelation on the manner in which baptism is to be performed that is perfectly consistent with Christ’s blueprint (see D&C 20:73–74).
Was baptism for the dead an ordinance in Christ’s original Church? It was.
The members of the Church in Corinth were participating in an ordinance known as baptism for the dead. These people, however, doubted the reality of the Resurrection. Sensing the inconsistency of what they were doing as compared to what they believed, Paul used their participation in the correct ordinance of baptism for the dead to prove the correct doctrine of the Resurrection: “Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?” (1 Corinthians 15:29).
Once someone crosses the doctrinal bridge and acknowledges that baptism is essential for salvation (which it is), then logically he is led to believe in baptism for the dead—there is no escaping it. Otherwise, how does one answer the difficult question “What about those who died without the opportunity to be baptized?” Those confronted with this question have four possible options from which to choose:
First, men and women who have not been baptized will be damned and go to hell. Such an answer, however, is inconsistent with the scriptural truths that “God is no respecter of persons” (Acts 10:34) and that God desires “all men to be saved” (1 Timothy 2:4).
Second, perhaps God did not really mean what He said—perhaps baptism is not really essential for salvation. But this is unrealistic because God always means what He says: “What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself” (D&C 1:38; see also Mosiah 2:24).
Third, some believe that a new condition called “baptism by desire” may be substituted for baptism by water. In other words, if someone desires to follow Jesus but did not have the opportunity to be baptized in mortality, then his worthy desire becomes an acceptable substitute in lieu of water baptism. The problem with this option is that it has no scriptural support. The scripture does not say, “Except a man be born of desire,” but rather, “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5; italics added).
The fourth option is that God really meant what He said when He commanded all men to be baptized, and because of this He mercifully provided a way for all men to be baptized even if no opportunity arose in mortal life. That is baptism for the dead. That is the option consistent with the blueprint.
What does the blueprint say about the manner in which the gift—not the temporary presence, but the permanent gift—of the Holy Ghost is given after someone is baptized? Does it automatically descend upon someone following his baptism? Does it come like the rushing of the wind, or is there some divine ordinance, some divine procedure that must be followed to receive this gift? The blueprint gives the answer.
After Philip baptized some new converts in Samaria, Peter and John arrived. The scriptures then reveal the manner in which that ordinance is to be performed: “Then [Peter and John] laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost” (Acts 8:17; italics added).
This same procedure was followed after Paul baptized new converts in Ephesus:
“When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.
“And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them” (Acts 19:5–6; italics added).
Once again the blueprint and Christ’s restored Church are in perfect harmony.
The next page of the blueprint might read: “Fruits of Christ’s Church.” The Savior gave this test for truth: “By their fruits ye shall know them” (Matthew 7:20). What were the fruits of Christ’s Church as evidenced in the blueprint?
One, those early Saints strove to be a healthy people. Paul taught that our physical bodies are “temples” that house our spirits and, therefore, are to be treated as holy: “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16; see also 1 Corinthians 6:19). Because of this, the members of Christ’s Church had certain health laws they obeyed, such as certain restrictions on drinking wine, found in Ephesians 5 and 1 Timothy 3. In accordance with this divine law of treating our bodies like temples, Joseph Smith received a health law from the Lord for the members of Christ’s restored Church, known as the Word of Wisdom. As a result of living this health law, repeated studies have confirmed that members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are among the healthiest people in the world. This is one of the fruits of living Christ’s health law.
A second fruit of Christ’s Church was its miracles and gifts of the Spirit. They are recorded on page after page in the New Testament. They were an evidence that the power of God existed in Christ’s Church (see Hebrews 2:4). But unfortunately, with the advent of the Apostasy, the miracles waned—historians readily acknowledged it, and reformers admitted it. Paul Johnson, a noted historian, observed, “It had been acknowledged at least since imperial times [meaning the time of Constantine] that ‘the age of miracles’ was over, in the sense that Christian leaders could no longer spread the gospel, like the apostles, with the aid of supernatural power.”5
Why did the time come when there were no more miracles and gifts of the Spirit? Because the tree that bore the fruit, namely Christ’s Church, was no longer on the earth and the faith of the people diminished. John Wesley noted this absence of the gifts of the Spirit from the church in his day: “It does not appear that these extraordinary gifts of the Holy Ghost were common in the Church for more than two or three centuries.”6
Suffice it to say, I can testify, like many of you, that this is a day of miracles and gifts of the Spirit in Christ’s restored Church, just as it was in His original Church.
There is a third fruit—the blueprint of Christ’s Church records many accounts of angels and visions. Some people look with skepticism today at a church that claims angels and visions, but in so doing forget that angels and visions were a critical part of Christ’s original Church: the angel announcing the birth of Christ to Mary; the angels coming to Peter, James, and John on the Mount of Transfiguration; the angel releasing Peter and John from prison; the angel speaking to Cornelius; the angel warning Paul of the impending shipwreck; the angel coming to John the Revelator; Stephen’s vision of the Father and the Son; John’s vision of the last days; and many more. The question should not be “How can The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints be the true Church with its alleged angels and visions?” Rather, the question should be “How can any church today claim to be Christ’s true Church unless it has angels and visions—just as was the case in Christ’s original Church, just as it is revealed in His blueprint?”
There are many other fruits consistent with Christ’s original Church:
It was a missionary church—the Apostles being commanded to “go ye therefore, and teach all nations” (Matthew 28:19). Today we have over 80,000 missionaries fulfilling that command and bearing the fruit of doing so.
It was a moral church—the blueprint teaches us that the early Saints in Christ’s Church were commanded to dress modestly and to refrain from premarital relations. How many churches not only teach those moral standards but also live them?
Christ’s original Church was a family-centered church. Husbands were commanded to love and be true to their wives (see Ephesians 5:23–25), children were commanded to obey their parents (see Ephesians 6:1), and bishops were commanded to rule well their own houses (see 1 Timothy 3:4–5). Today our Church, like Christ’s original Church, is recognized as a family-centered church. The fruits of Christ’s Church are carefully recorded in the Bible and match with Christ’s restored Church today.
Christ established His Church on earth, but the final page of the blueprint reveals it had a link to heaven—namely, “Divine Revelation.” Without this link the Church would be no more than a man-driven organization governed by the powers of reason. The prophet Amos declared, “Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets” (Amos 3:7). Paul confirmed that revelation was an integral part of the Church and was meant to be ongoing, for he declared, “I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord” (2 Corinthians 12:1; see also Acts 1:2).
Consistent with that fundamental doctrine, Christ’s Church today is linked to heaven by ongoing revelation. The Church’s declaration of belief in this regard, known as the ninth article of faith, reads as follows: “We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.”
If one were to match the blueprint of Christ’s original Church against every church in the world today, he would find that point for point, organization for organization, teaching for teaching, ordinance for ordinance, fruit for fruit, and revelation for revelation, it will only match one—The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
If one rejects this Church after studying the blueprint, then it will likely ruin him for any other church because he knows too much. He will be like Peter, who was asked by the Savior, “Will ye also go away?” (John 6:67). Peter responded with an answer that should be engraved in every heart and enshrined in every home: “To whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life” (John 6:68).
If someone turns from the Church, where will he go to learn about the restored truths concerning the nature of God as revealed in the Sacred Grove, the preaching of the gospel to the dead, the three degrees of glory, and eternal families? Where will he go to get the ordinances that can save and exalt him? Where will he go to have his wife and children sealed to him for eternity? Where will he go when he wants a priesthood blessing of comfort or healing for a family member? Where will he go to find a prophet of God? He will look in vain for those doctrines and those ordinances and those powers and those prophets, as they are unique to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
One cannot have the doctrines and ordinances as restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith without accepting Joseph Smith and the underlying history that is the basis for such. They are inseparable. They go hand in hand. You cannot call the fruit good and then call the tree bad. The Savior taught that truth long ago: “A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit” (Matthew 7:18). Accordingly, if the doctrinal fruit we have discussed tonight is good, then the tree from which it sprang—Joseph Smith and the accompanying underlying history of those revealed truths—is likewise good. You cannot have one without the other.
In general conference addresses some years ago, Elder B. H. Roberts would speak of the accomplishments of Joseph Smith, and then, as if speaking to Joseph’s critics, he would say: “Match it! Match it, I say, or with hand on lips remain silent when his name is spoken.”7
The historical or social concerns that some may have, the alleged scientific conflicts—these are the sideshow; the center stage is the doctrines, ordinances, priesthood power, and other fruits of our Church, many of which have been discussed tonight. But some may respond, “I believe all this, but how do I respond to the critics and their specific questions?”
An attorney knows that after a prosecutor presents his key witness, the case against the defendant has been cast in its worst possible light. Someone quick to render judgment at that point might determine the defendant guilty, but then an interesting phenomenon in the courtroom happens. The defense commences cross-examination of this same witness, and the following frequently occurs: The definitive answers of the witness start to wilt under the pressure of cross-examination. The witness who appeared so unimpeachable now has some inconsistencies, perhaps even glaring holes in his recollection of events. The seemingly rock-solid story of the witness begins to crack and crumble with each new question put to him. The witness was able to handle the softball questions of his prosecutor, but when the hardball questions of the opposition came, he could not withstand their intensity or probing nature. When the cross-examination is completed, the witness has been largely discredited. The observer who was previously ready to “hang” the defendant now sees with a different set of eyes the man’s complete innocence.
Likewise, some critics throw one-sided questions at the Church that are intended to put the Church in its worst possible light. But questions go both ways.8 The prosecutor’s key witnesses are not immune to cross-examination, and neither are the Church’s toughest critics. I have never found any detractors who could give me satisfactory answers on “cross-examination” to the following questions:
First, how did Joseph Smith know to restore the doctrines and ordinances from the Bible, such as the doctrine of the premortal existence, the true nature of God, the gospel being preached to the dead, baptism for the dead, and many others discussed tonight, when such doctrines and ordinances were not being taught by other contemporary churches of his time? Why was Joseph Smith the only one to discover them and restore them? Even if he is considered a theological genius, were there no other such geniuses in the 1,800 years following the Savior’s ministry who could do likewise?
Second, if this Church is not Christ’s Church, then why does this Church have the same fruits as Christ’s original Church, namely, miracles and gifts of the Spirit, current revelation from apostles and prophets, angels and visions, a healthy people, a moral people, a missionary-minded people, and a people who are intensely family centered? Did not the Savior give the test for truth?—“By their fruits ye shall know them” (Matthew 7:20).
Certainly, many more questions on cross-examination could be asked. There are certain questions, however, that trump and transcend all others—in essence, they form the crux of an issue. Suffice it to say, some questions are simply more important than others in discovering the truth. If you come to know that Joseph Smith restored the biblical teachings and ordinances discussed tonight, if you come to know that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has the same fruits as Christ’s original Church, or if you come to know that the Book of Mormon is of divine origin, then you know that Joseph Smith is a prophet. And if Joseph Smith is a prophet, then this is the only true and living Church upon the face of the whole earth. At that point, all other questions pale in comparison. It is like the Supreme Court ruling on an issue. All decisions of lower courts to the contrary become immaterial. Likewise, all questions of the critics, however probing or puzzling or entertaining they may be, become immaterial in the equation of truth. Why? Because you have already answered the key questions—the critical questions, the transcending questions—that are the foundational pillars for knowing the truth.
Suffice it to say, I can live with some human imperfections, even among prophets of God—that is to be expected in mortal beings. I can live with some alleged scientific findings contrary to the Book of Mormon; time will correct those. And I can live with some seeming historical anomalies; they are minor in the total landscape of truth. But I cannot live without the doctrinal truths and ordinances restored by Joseph Smith, I cannot live without the priesthood of God to bless my family, and I cannot live without knowing my wife and children are sealed to me for eternity. That is the choice we face—a few unanswered questions on one hand versus a host of doctrinal certainties and the power of God on the other. And for me, and I hope for you, the choice is an easy one and a rational one.
I bear witness that the Church over which you will one day preside bears Christ’s name because it does have His approved organization, His teachings, His ordinances, His powers, His fruits, and His constant revelation, all of which are referred to in His divine blueprint. May we have the spiritual eyes to see the corollary between that blueprint and Christ’s restored Church today, for it is one of God’s compelling witnesses to us. Of this I so witness and pray in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
My sister had six boys, so I wanted to have all girls. My first two were girls, sweet angelic little girls.
With news that there would be a third addition I just knew I would have another girl. Surprise! A beautiful baby boy.
A lady stopped me on the street one day and asked if she could see my baby. She said, “He should be in a magazine, he is beautiful.” When he was in his late teens I told him this story to which he replied, “What happened to me, Mother?” He always thought he was ugly. When he was around fifteen years old he experienced his first love. The young lady told him she wouldn’t date him because he was ugly, so I think that was when he started believing he was ugly.
He enjoyed being the baby of the family and was a little jealous if we showed a lot of attention to other little people.
One night when he was five years old I went in to kiss him good night, as I entered his bedroom door he said, “Mommie, I’m a big boy now, you don’t have to kiss me good night.” I said, “Oh, okay.” As I turned off the light and was closing the door he said, “Mommie, I changed my mind, you can kiss me good night.” I think little boys are more affectionate and thoughtful. That’s just me.
When Timothy was four years old I got the tape recorder and sat down on the floor with him and we started singing. As a family we loved to sing. In the car traveling we would begin singing. He knew lots of songs by heart. I usually didn’t save recordings. A big thanks to their father for saving and labeling this tape. Years later after the children were all grown up I found this tape of our singing together those many years ago. Timothy started singing one song too high and when I corrected him he wasn’t too pleased. Mommie singing with little son. I was going to share the recording with you here but I cannot make it happen.
The song, Heaven Came Down was recorded on an album his father had recorded.
Timmy started singing in church when he was not yet school age. Sometimes he would be too shy and we would bribe him with, “We’ll stop on the way home and get ice cream.” He reluctantly would agree to sing.
Timothy had a photographic memory. Where ever I would be when he came home from school he would find me and tell everything he learned in school that day. He taught me the words to This Land is your Land
When he turned twelve years old he said, “I want a brother.” So we adopted a beautiful little red headed baby boy, what a joy he was to our family.
Timmy would take his allowance money and buy me flowers, no special occasion.
I will share a couple of cards that came with the flowers he got for me. They were usually a single carnation with beautiful ribbons.
Timothy had a brilliant mind and was writing poetry when he was in the first grade.
HE SEARCHED for SPIRITUAL FULFILLMENT
Brigham once said: “Priests had urged me to pray before I was eight years old. On this subject I had but one prevailing feeling in my mind: Lord, preserve me until I am old enough to have sound judgment, and a discreet mind ripened upon a good solid foundation of common sense.”
He was moral, hardworking, and honest. He said that from his mother he learned to love and reverence the Bible: “Of my mother—she that bore me—I can say, no better woman ever lived in the world than she was. … My mother, while she lived, taught her children all the time to honor the name of the Father and Son, and to reverence the Holy Book. She said, ‘Read it, observe its precepts and apply them to your lives as far as you can. Do everything that is good; do nothing that is evil; and if you see any persons in distress, administer to their wants; never suffer anger to arise in your bosoms, for if you do, you may be overcome by evil’”
“Before I embraced the gospel, I understood pretty well what the different sects preached, but I was called an infidel because I could not embrace their dogmas. … There were some things they preached I could believe, and some I could not. … As far as their teachings were in accordance with the Bible, I could believe them, and no further”
Brigham Investigated the Claims of “Mormonism” with Caution.
While on a mission early in 1830, Samuel Smith sold a copy of the Book of Mormon to Phineas Young, Brigham Young’s brother. Phineas later gave it to their father and their sister Fanny. Eventually, Brigham was given the book. He reviewed it with some caution, which was his nature. An honest, practical man, Brigham would not be railroaded into anything. He studied the book for two years and then received it with all his heart. Brigham and his wife, Miriam, joined the Church. He wanted to learn more, so he sought to become as informed about the Saints and the Prophet Joseph Smith as soon as he could.
Brigham Young was an honest man seeking for truth. His criteria for judging the Church were straightforward and sound. He said, “I watched to see whether good common sense was manifest, and if they had that, I wanted them to present it in accordance with the Scriptures” (“Remarks,” Deseret News Weekly, May 16, 1860, 82). He said that when he received the Book of Mormon his feelings were:
“Wait a little while; what is the doctrine of the book, and of the revelations the Lord has given? Let me apply my heart to them, and after I had done this, I considered it to be my right to know for myself, as much as any man on earth.
“I examined the matter studiously for two years, before I made up my mind to receive that book. I knew it was true, as well as I knew that I could see with my eyes, or feel by the touch of my fingers, or be sensible of the demonstration of any sense. Had not this been the case, I never would have embraced it to this day; it would have all been without form or comeliness to me. I wished time sufficient to prove all things for myself.”
This was not procrastination, but the caution of a man who, after finding truth, would dedicate his life to it. He said, “I could not more honestly and earnestly have prepared myself to go into eternity, than I did to come into this church; and when I had ripened every thing in my mind I drank it in, and not till then.”
His Conversion Came by the Divine Witness of the Holy Ghost
In 1852, President Brigham Young shared the following about his conversion: “If all the talent, tact, wisdom, and refinement of the world had been combined in one individual, and that person had been sent to me with the Book of Mormon, and had declared in the most exalted of earthly eloquence, the truth of it, undertaking to prove it by his learning and worldly wisdom, it would have been to me like the smoke which arises only to vanish. But when I saw a man without eloquence, or talents for public speaking, who could only just say, ‘I know by the power of the Holy Ghost that the Book of Mormon is true, that Joseph Smith is a prophet of the Lord.’ The Holy Ghost proceeding from that individual illuminates my understanding, and light, glory, and immortality is before me; I am encircled by it, filled with it, and know for myself that the testimony of the man is true.”
He wrote that after his baptism “we returned home, about two miles, the weather being cold and snowy; and before my clothes were dry on my back [Brother Eleazer Miller] laid his hands on me and ordained me an Elder, at which I marvelled. According to the words of the Savior, I felt a humble, child-like spirit, witnessing unto me that my sins were forgiven.”
Brigham Young later said, “I feel like shouting Hallelujah, all the time, when I think that I ever knew Joseph Smith, the Prophet whom the Lord raised up and ordained, and to whom he gave keys and power to build up the Kingdom of God on earth and sustain it.”
Times and circumstances rarely thrust a man into the position that Brigham Young found himself after the martyrdom of the Prophet Joseph Smith on June 27, 1844, as the Lord revealed His will concerning the succession of leadership in the developing Church and moved the Saints westward.
The Spirit of the Lord Helped Him Preach and Teach
One of President Young’s greatest challenges was public speaking, but so powerful was the effect of the Spirit upon him that he could not be still. Brigham Young made the following statements about his feelings:
“When I began to speak in public I was about as destitute of language as a man could well be. … How I have had the headache, when I had ideas to lay before the people and not words to express them; but I was so gritty that I always tried my best.”
“When I first commenced preaching, I made up my mind to declare the things that I understood, fearless of friends and threats, and regardless of caresses. They were nothing to me, for if it was my duty to rise before a congregation of strangers and say that the Lord lives, that he has revealed himself in this our day, that he has given to us a prophet and brought forth the new and everlasting covenant for the restoration of Israel, and if that was all I could say, I must be just as satisfied as though I could get up and talk for hours. … Had it not been for this feeling, nothing could have induced me to have become a public speaker.”
“One week [after baptism] I had the pleasure of meeting with and preaching to a large congregation. I think there were present on that occasion four experienced elders, formerly of the Methodist and Baptist persuasions, who had received the gospel and had been numbered with us. I expected to hear them address the people on the principles that we had just received through the servants of the Lord. They said that the Spirit of the Lord was not upon them to speak to the people, yet they had been preachers for years. I was but a child, so far as public speaking and a knowledge of the world was concerned; but the spirit of the Lord was upon me, and I felt as though my bones would consume within me unless I spoke to the people and told them what I had seen, heard and learned—what I had experienced and rejoiced in; and the first discourse I ever delivered I occupied over an hour. I opened my mouth and the Lord filled it.”
Brigham Knew the Rigors of Life and Hard Work
Brigham Young knew work, hardship, and privation. He gave the following insights into his childhood:
“At an early age I labored with my father, assisting him to clear off new land and cultivate his farm, passing through many hardships and privations incident to settling a new country” (Manuscript History of Brigham Young, 1).
“Br. Heber and I never went to school until we got into ‘Mormonism;’ that was the first of our schooling. We never had the opportunity of letters in our youth, but we had the privilege of picking up brush, chopping down trees, rolling logs and working amongst the roots, and of getting our shins, feet and toes bruised. The uncle of br. Merrell who now sits in the congregation made me the first hat that my father ever bought for me, and I was then about eleven years of age. I did not go bare-headed previous to that time, neither did I call on my father to buy me a five dollar hat every few months, as some of my boys do. My sisters would make me what was called a Jo. Johnson cap for winter, and in summer I wore a straw hat which I frequently braided for myself. I learned to make bread, wash the dishes, milk the cows and make butter, and can make butter, and can beat the most of the women in this community at house-keeping. Those are about all the advantages I gained in my youth. I know how to economise, for my father had to do it”
“Instead of crying over our sufferings, as some seem inclined to do, I would rather tell a good story, and leave the crying to others. I do not know that I have ever suffered; I do not realize it. Have I not gone without eating and not half clad? Yes, but that was not suffering. I was used to that in my youth. I used to work in the woods logging and driving team, summer and winter, not half clad, and with insufficient food until my stomach would ache, so that I am used to all this, and have had no suffering. As I said to the brethren the other night, the only suffering I ever realized in this Church was to preserve my temper towards my enemies. But I have even got pretty much over this”
He Excelled as a Craftsman
At the age of 14, Brigham Young began work as an apprentice to a furniture maker and house painter. He excelled at the craft. During his apprenticeship, “he established himself as the skilled artisan who is famous in this city [Auburn, New York] for the beauty of his stairwell decorations, fanlight doorways, door frames, stair rails, louvered attic windows and, above all—fireplace mantels”
He Was a Devoted Husband and Father
“Brigham met eighteen-year-old Miriam Angeline Works, whose family lived near the pail factory [where Brigham worked] and were said to be friends of Charles Parks [Brigham’s employer]. The second child of Asa and Abigail Works, born at Aurelius on June 6 (or June 7), 1806, Miriam (sometimes referred to as Angeline) was ‘a beautiful blonde with blue eyes and wavy hair; gentle and lovable.’
Her father, like Brigham’s, was a Revolutionary War veteran. He had moved to western New York from Worcester, Massachusetts, not far from Hopkinton where John Young had lived. Brigham and Miriam became acquainted, he walked her home, they sang together and discussed life. At the age of twenty-three Brigham borrowed a horse and carriage from William Hayden’s father, rented a house up the road, and married Miriam.
Brigham Young was a devoted husband and father. In 1829 he moved his family to Mendon, New York, which was 15 miles from Joseph Smith’s home. There his second daughter was born and his wife contracted tuberculosis, which gradually weakened her. Loving, thoughtful, and tender—each day before work, Brigham saw to his wife’s comfort and his children’s care.
“Brigham Young once remarked that after marriage he worked for half a crown a day when he could not get more; got breakfast for his wife, himself, and the little girls, dressed the children, cleaned up the house, carried his wife to the rocking-chair by the fireplace and left her there until he could return in the evening. When he came home he cooked his own and the family’s supper, put his wife back to bed and finished up the day’s domestic labours.”
On September 8, 1832, his wife, Miriam, died. She was buried in Mendon.
He Was a Faithful Missionary
Brigham Young served 10 missions between the time of his conversion and the death of the Prophet Joseph Smith. In September 1839, Brigham Young, so sick he could not walk far without help, left his family to serve a two-year mission in England. While traveling on a steamboat on Lake Erie from Fairport, Ohio, to Buffalo, New York, a storm arose and hindered the progress of the ship. He recorded: “The wind rose about one o’clock in the morning. I went upon deck and felt impressed in spirit to pray to the Father, in the name of Jesus, for a forgiveness of my sins, and then I felt to command the winds to cease, and let us go safe on our journey. The winds abated, and I felt to give the glory and honor and praise to that God who rules all things.”
Always for him, his greatest joy was being at home with his family. In July 1841 he was reunited at last with his wife, Mary Ann, and children at Nauvoo after his long mission to England. On January 18, 1842, Brigham Young tenderly confided in his journal: “This evening I am with my wife alone by my fireside for the first time for years. We enjoy it and feel to praise the Lord.”
During the dark days of Kirtland, when apostasy ran rampant even among the Church leadership, it was Brigham Young’s unyielding firmness that became a strength to the loyal Saints. His powerful leadership led the Church during the Missouri persecutions while the Prophet Joseph and Hyrum Smith were languishing in the Liberty Jail. He led the Twelve Apostles about 200 miles into hostile Missouri so that they could leave for their mission to England from the place where the Lord’s servant said they should.
He Saw the Salt Lake Valley in a Vision
In 1869, President George A. Smith, who was a counselor to President Brigham Young, spoke of how the Saints came to settle in the Salt Lake Valley: “The question is frequently asked, ‘How did you ever find this place?’ I answer we were led to it by the inspiration of God. After the death of Joseph Smith, when it seemed as if every trouble and calamity had come upon the Saints, Brigham Young who was President of the Twelve, then the presiding Quorum of the Church, sought the Lord to know what they should do and where they should lead the people for safety, and while they were fasting and praying daily on this subject President Young had a vision of Joseph Smith, who shewed him the mountain that we now call Ensign Peak, immediately north of Salt Lake City, and there was an ensign fell upon that peak, and Joseph said ‘Build under the point where the colors fall and you will prosper and have peace.’ The Pioneers had no pilot or guide, none among them had ever been in the country or knew anything about it. However they traveled under the direction of President Young until they reached this valley.”
In January 1847, President Brigham Young had a dream in which he discussed with the Prophet Joseph Smith the best way to help the Saints cross the plains (see Bruce A. VanOrden, “Revelation Clarifies Role of Twelve,” Church News, Jan. 11, 1997, 7). Three days later he presented to the Church the “Word and Will of the Lord concerning the Camp of Israel in their journeyings to the West” (D&C 136:1). It was decided that a pioneer company consisting of 144 handpicked men would travel to the Great Salt Lake Basin. This group would include mechanics, teamsters, hunters, frontiersmen, carpenters, sailors, soldiers, accountants, bricklayers, blacksmiths, wagon makers, and so forth. The actual company consisted of 143 men, 3 women, and 2 children. This group was prepared to blaze a trail that the other Saints would follow to the West. Eight men of this company were Apostles and several had served in Zion’s Camp. Some of the company started from Winter Quarters on April 5, 1847, but a majority of the group started on April 16, 1847.
This pioneer company traversed 1,100 miles from Winter Quarters, near present day Omaha, Nebraska, to the Salt Lake Valley. Wherever possible, they followed existing roads and trails. Their route followed the broad and gentle Platte River Valley for 600 miles to Fort Laramie in Wyoming. From there they crossed to the south side of the Platte and followed the Oregon Trail for almost 400 miles to Fort Bridger; then they continued south on the Reid-Donner Trail into the Salt Lake Valley. During the final phase of the trek, which was the roughest section of the trip, President Young contracted mountain fever and the company split into three groups: the vanguard, the main company, and the rear guard, which included President Young.
“The advance company of pioneers entered the Salt Lake Valley on July 22, 1847, and immediately set up a crude irrigation system to flood the land and prepare for planting. On July 24, Brigham Young and the rear company arrived at the mouth of Emigration Canyon. Wilford Woodruff drove President Young in his carriage. They looked to the future as they gazed over the valley. Wilford Woodruff wrote, ‘Thoughts of pleasing meditations ran in rapid succession through our minds while we contemplated that not many years the house of GOD would stand upon the top of the mountains while the valleys would be converted into orchard, vineyard, gardens and fields by the inhabitants of Zion and the standard be unfurled for the nations to gather there to.’ Brigham Young said he was satisfied with the appearance of the valley as a ‘resting place for the Saints and was amply repaid for his journey.’
“On a later occasion, Wilford Woodruff explained that when they came out of the canyon he turned the carriage so that President Young could see the whole valley. ‘While gazing upon the scene before us, he was enwrapped in vision for several minutes. He had seen the valley before in vision, and upon this occasion he saw the future glory of Zion and of Israel, as they would be, planted in the valleys of these mountains. When the vision had passed, he said, “It is enough. This is the right place. Drive on”’ [in “Pioneers’ Day.”
“By July 28, Brigham Young’s decision about the location of a city was firm. Between two forks of City Creek, he designated the lot where the temple would stand. The city would be laid out evenly and perfectly square from that point.”
President Brigham Young’s practicality is most often stressed, but that practicality was grounded firmly in the spiritual roots of the Restoration, of the kingdom of God, of Zion, and of celestial glory. He said of his younger days: “I wanted to thunder, and roar out the gospel to the nations. It burned in my bones like fire pent up. …
“… Nothing would satisfy me but to cry abroad in the world what the Lord is doing in the latter days.”
As the prophet, seer, and revelator, his desire continued to burn with perhaps even more intensity. He was determined to do everything possible to bring to fruition all that the Lord wanted done in the last days. He said:
“The Joseph Smith has laid the foundation of the kingdom of God in the last days; others will rear the superstructure. …
“… I know that he was called of God, and this I know by the revelations of Jesus Christ to me, and by the testimony of the Holy Ghost. Had I not so learned this truth, I should never have been what is called a ‘Mormon,’ neither should I have been here to-day.”
As a Colonizer, He Has No Peer in American History
“While the Mormon outposts were being established, numerous towns were springing up on favorable sites on the canyon streams adjacent to Salt Lake Valley. Gradually one valley after another received its portion of colonists, the growth being mainly southward during the first period, as the climate in that direction was thought to be more favorable for agriculture than that northward. … During the first ten years in the Basin, 100 towns were established. The settlements clustered mainly east and south of the Great Salt Lake, of the Jordan River, and of Utah Lake, with a line of communities running in a southwest direction from Juab County [in the middle west of the state] to the southwest corner of Utah. Besides these main groups of colonies, a number of Mormons were living in Sanpete County [in the middle of the state] and in [other] outposts. …
“Thus within ten years after the Saints had arrived in the Great West, they had opened colonization activities in a frontier country extending 1,000 miles from north to south and 800 miles from east to west. Brigham Young’s plan of preempting the West was being realized. …
“During the thirty years of his residence in the Basin, the Mormon leader, Brigham Young, successfully founded and witnessed the development of communities in almost every valley of the present state of Utah, as well as many in southern Idaho, Arizona, and Nevada. Most of the towns built by the Mormons were within a rectangular district 500 miles long by 400 miles wide, omitting the Arizona settlements. However, some were as distant as 1,000 miles east of Salt Lake City in Iowa and Nebraska; San Bernardino[, California,] was about 750 miles southwest of the parent colony, while Fort Lemhi was located in northern Idaho. The total Mormon population at the time of Brigham’s death (1877) was approximately 140,000.”
The quality for which the Latter-day Saints most honored and revered President Young was the love that showed in his concern for each one of them, even from the early days of his leadership. On the plains, at a stopping place named Hickory Grove, he was out in the rain all day arranging wagons, helping to pitch tents, chopping wood, and in every way seeing that all were comfortable. Later, in Utah, he insisted in meeting every wagon train or handcart company he could, and he would not leave until every soul had a place to stay and a job assignment by which he or she could be secure.
President Brigham Young led the Church for 33 years. He knew the divinity and destiny of the work. He brought the Church west and helped establish a base from which the kingdom of God might continue to go forth and fill the earth.
Excerpts taken from Presidents of the Church.
* I like this story about the Saint George, Utah temple: Originally it had a short, squatty, poorly proportioned spire that Brigham Young complained about. Because the temple was already completed he begrudgingly let the spire remain that way. Several months later Brigham Young died, then the tower was struck by lightning and burned to the base of the spire. The saints decided that Brigham Young had got his way in the end and rebuilt the spire much taller.
One of the teachings that emerged from our last General Conference was the simple idea, “Stay in the Boat.” Elder M. Russell Ballard used this idea in his memorable talk. Here is an excerpt:
“Recently, a friend of mine took his son on a trip down the Colorado River through Cataract Canyon, located in southeastern Utah. The canyon is famous for its 14 miles (23 km) of white-water rapids that can be particularly hazardous…
At the beginning of the trip, one of the experienced river guides reviewed important safety instructions, emphasizing three rules that would ensure the group’s safe travel through the rapids. “Rule number one: stay in the boat!” (Link to entire talk here.)
It is such an easy image to visualize. It stuck with me immediately, as it might have for you as well. It also caused me to recall that it is not a new teaching. President Ballard even quoted Brigham Young teaching a similar idea.
“It is in calm weather, when the old ship of Zion is sailing with a gentle breeze, [and] when all is quiet on deck, that some of the brethren want to go out in the whaling boats to have … a swim, and some get drowned, others drifted away, and others again get back to the ship. Let us stick to the old ship and she will carry us [safely] into the harbor; you need not be concerned”
After hearing Elder Ballard speak, a memory kept trying to bubble up, until I finally sat down and did a search on lds.org to find it. Elder Russell M. Nelson had used the same idea in a Conference talk “Endure and Be Lifted Up,” all the way back in 1997. Here is a snippet:
“Early in our married life, when Sister Nelson and I lived in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in the United States, we decided to enjoy a free afternoon with our two-year-old daughter. We went to one of Minnesota’s many beautiful lakes and rented a small boat. After rowing far from shore, we stopped to relax and enjoy the tranquil scene. Suddenly our little toddler lifted one leg out of the boat and started to go overboard, exclaiming, ‘Time to get out, Daddy!’
“Quickly we caught her and explained, ‘No, dear, it isn’t time to get out; we must stay in the boat until it brings us safely back to land.’ We had a hard time convincing her that leaving the boat early would lead to disaster.
“As children of our Heavenly Father, we, too, may foolishly want to ‘get out of the boat’ before we arrive at destinations He would like us to reach. The Lord teaches over and over that we are to endure (remain faithful) to the end.” (Link to full talk here.)
…And in the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established. (D&C 6:28)
I think that the teaching of “staying in the boat” is effective because it is so visual. We can relate to it.
Personally, the idea of staying in the boat immediately linked up in my head with another teaching from a few years back. I will explain it with a brief story – but first some background.
I have always enjoyed boats. Sure the canoes and rowboats were fun back in my Scouting days, but the kind of boats I really appreciate are the kind that pull a waterskier. Waterskiing is awesome, but just the fact that I use the term “waterskiing” makes me old. Wakeboading or wake surfing is now the rage, and we slalom-skiing dinosaurs days are numbered.
A few years ago, my brother invited me to spend a morning with him at the lake to do some skiing. His boat was docked, so all we needed to do is show up with our snacks and hop in.
As we were preparing to cast off, my brother was behind the wheel, and I was untying the boat. I had one foot on the side of the boat, and the other on the dock.
Yeah, you’ve got it.
As soon as the boat was released, I inadvertently pushed the boat away from the dock, leaving me in the cartoon classic Chinese splits. Both legs were going in different directions, with one foot on the dock, and one foot in the boat.
I am not built for the splits. I am about as limber as a two-by-four.
It happened so quickly that I was not even able to make a conscious choice. Gravity made it for me: I went into the water between the boat and the dock. Mostly dressed, keys, wallet, etc.
I was irritated at my dumbness, but my brother enjoyed laughing at me.
Stay in the boat.
As my fall demonstrated, it is impossible to stay in the boat with one foot on the dock, and the other in the boat. One or the other. We have to commit.
So what does this have to do with the brethren’s teachings about staying in the boat?
It is impossible to stay in the boat with one foot in Zion, and the other in Babylon.
Read this great thought by Elder Carlos E. Asay, all the way back in 1992 Conference:
“There is a lie—a vicious lie—circulating among the Latter-day Saints and taking its toll among the young. And it is that a ‘balanced man’ is one who deliberately guards against becoming too righteous. This lie would have you believe that it is possible to live successfully and happily as a ‘double-minded man’ with one foot in Babylon and one foot in Zion.” (Link to full talk here.)
More recently, Elder Larry W. Gibbons reaffirmed that idea when he plainly said, “We cannot keep one foot in the Church and one foot in the world. One reason is the world and the Church are rapidly diverging. We will lose our balance.” (Link to full talk here.)
We can choose to be in “The Good Ship Zion,” or we can choose to watch it sail away without us, as we climb back onto the dock and try and figure out what happened.
We have to make the choice as to which place we want to be. For me, the idea of staying in the boat, and keeping one foot in Babylon will always be linked in my mind. Maybe they will be for you now, too.
Thank you MMM for this beautiful post.
Article previously found on LDS.org
Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints unequivocally affirm themselves to be Christians. They worship God the Eternal Father in the name of Jesus Christ. When asked what the Latter-day Saints believe, Joseph Smith put Christ at the center: “The fundamental principles of our religion is the testimony of the apostles and prophets concerning Jesus Christ, ‘that he died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended up into heaven;’ and all other things are only appendages to these, which pertain to our religion.”1 The modern-day Quorum of the Twelve Apostles reaffirmed that testimony when they proclaimed, “Jesus is the Living Christ, the immortal Son of God. … His way is the path that leads to happiness in this life and eternal life in the world to come.”2
In recent decades, however, some have claimed that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not a Christian church. The most oft-used reasons are the following:
Latter-day Saints do not accept the creeds, confessions, and formulations of post–New Testament Christianity.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does not descend through the historical line of traditional Christianity. That is, Latter-day Saints are not Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, or Protestant.
Latter-day Saints do not believe scripture consists of the Holy Bible alone but have an expanded canon of scripture that includes the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price.
Each of these is examined below.
Latter-day Saints Do Not Accept the Creeds of Post–New Testament Christianity
Scholars have long acknowledged that the view of God held by the earliest Christians changed dramatically over the course of centuries. Early Christian views of God were more personal, more anthropomorphic, and less abstract than those that emerged later from the creeds written over the next several hundred years. The key ideological shift that began in the second century A.D., after the loss of apostolic authority, resulted from a conceptual merger of Christian doctrine with Greek philosophy.3
Latter-day Saints believe the melding of early Christian theology with Greek philosophy was a grave error. Chief among the doctrines lost in this process was the nature of the Godhead. The true nature of God the Father, His Son, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost was restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith. As a consequence, Latter-day Saints hold that God the Father is an embodied being, a belief consistent with the attributes ascribed to God by many early Christians.4 This Latter-day Saint belief differs from the post-New Testament creeds.
Whatever the doctrinal differences that exist between the Latter-day Saints and members of other Christian religions, the roles Latter-day Saints ascribe to members of the Godhead largely correspond with the views of others in the Christian world. Latter-day Saints believe that God is omnipotent, omniscient, and all-loving, and they pray to Him in the name of Jesus Christ. They acknowledge the Father as the ultimate object of their worship, the Son as Lord and Redeemer, and the Holy Spirit as the messenger and revealer of the Father and the Son. In short, Latter-day Saints do not accept the post-New-Testament creeds yet rely deeply on each member of the Godhead in their daily religious devotion and worship, as did the early Christians.
Latter-day Saints Believe in a Restored Christianity
Another premise used in arguing that Latter-day Saints are not Christians is that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does not descend from the traditional line of today’s Christian churches: Latter-day Saints are not Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, or Protestant. Latter-day Saints believe that by the ministering of angels to Joseph Smith priesthood authority to act in God’s name was returned or brought back to earth. This is the “restored,” not a “reformed,” church of Jesus Christ. The Latter-day Saint belief in a restored Christianity helps explain why so many Latter-day Saints, from the 1830s to the present, have converted from other Christian denominations. These converts did not, and do not, perceive themselves as leaving the Christian fold; they are simply grateful to learn about and become part of the restored Church of Jesus Christ, which they believe offers the fulness of the Lord’s gospel, a more complete and rich Christian church—spiritually, organizationally, and doctrinally.
Members of creedal churches often mistakenly assume that all Christians have always agreed and must agree on a historically static, monolithic collection of beliefs. As many scholars have acknowledged, however, Christians have vigorously disagreed about virtually every issue of theology and practice through the centuries, leading to the creation of a multitude of Christian denominations.5 Although the doctrine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints differs from that of the many creedal Christian churches, it is consistent with early Christianity. One who sincerely loves, worships, and follows Christ should be free to claim his or her understanding of the doctrine according to the dictates of his or her conscience without being branded as non-Christian.
Latter-day Saints Believe in an Open Canon
A third justification argued to label Latter-day Saints as non-Christian has to do with their belief in an open scriptural canon. For those making this argument, to be a Christian means to assent to the principle of sola scriptura, or the self-sufficiency of the Bible. But to claim that the Bible is the sole and final word of God—more specifically, the final written word of God—is to claim more for the Bible than it claims for itself. Nowhere does the Bible proclaim that all revelations from God would be gathered into a single volume to be forever closed and that no further scriptural revelation could be received.6
Moreover, not all Christian churches are certain that Christianity must be defined by commitment to a closed canon.7 In truth, the argument for exclusion by closed canon appears to be used selectively to exclude the Latter-day Saints from being called Christian. No branch of Christianity limits itself entirely to the biblical text in making doctrinal decisions and in applying biblical principles. Roman Catholics, for example, turn to church tradition and the magisterium (meaning teachers, including popes and councils) for answers. Protestants, particularly evangelicals, turn to linguists and scripture scholars for their answers, as well as to post–New Testament church councils and creeds. For many Christians, these councils and creeds are every bit as canonical as the Bible itself. To establish doctrine and to understand the biblical text, Latter-day Saints turn to living prophets and to additional books of scripture—the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price.
Together with the Old and New Testaments, the Book of Mormon supports an unequivocal testimony of Jesus Christ. One passage says that the Book of Mormon “shall establish the truth” of the Bible “and shall make known to all kindreds, tongues, and people, that the Lamb of God is the Son of the Eternal Father, and the Savior of the world; and that all men must come unto him, or they cannot be saved.”8 In its more than six thousand verses, the Book of Mormon refers to Jesus Christ almost four thousand times and by over one hundred different names: “Jehovah,” “Immanuel,” “Holy Messiah,” “Lamb of God,” “Redeemer of Israel,” and so on.9 The Book of Mormon is indeed “Another Testament of Jesus Christ,” as its title page proclaims.
Converts across the world continue to join The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in part because of its doctrinal and spiritual distinctiveness. That distinctiveness flows from the knowledge restored to this earth, together with the power of the Holy Ghost present in the Church because of restored priesthood authority, keys, ordinances, and the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The fruits of the restored gospel are evident in the lives of its faithful members.
While members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have no desire to compromise the distinctiveness of the restored Church of Jesus Christ, they wish to work together with other Christians—and people of all faiths—to recognize and remedy many of the moral and family issues faced by society. The Christian conversation is richer for what the Latter-day Saints bring to the table. There is no good reason for Christian faiths to ostracize each other when there has never been more urgent need for unity in proclaiming the divinity and teachings of Jesus Christ.
This response attempted to answer the frequently asked query, “What are the fundamental principles of your religion?” Published in Elders’ Journal 1 (July 1838): 44, available at http://www.josephsmithpapers.org; republished with punctuation changes in Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith (2007), 49.
“The Living Christ: The Testimony of the Apostles,” Ensign, Apr. 2000, 3.
See, for example, Roger E. Olson, The Story of Christian Theology: Twenty Centuries of Tradition and Reform (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 1999); D. Jeffrey Bingham, ed., The Routledge Companion to Early Christian Thought (London: Routledge, 2010); Daniel W. Graham and James L. Siebach, “The Introduction of Philosophy into Early Christianity,” in Noel B. Reynolds, ed., Early Christians in Disarray: Contemporary LDS Perspectives on the Christian Apostasy (Provo, UT: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, Brigham Young University Press, 2005), 205–37.
For evidence of this belief among early Christians, see David L. Paulsen, “Early Christian Belief in Corporeal Deity: Origen and Augustine as Reluctant Witnesses,” Harvard Theological Review 83, no. 2 (1990): 105–16. For the increasing complexity of creedal formulations over time, see J. Stevenson, ed., Creeds, Councils and Controversies: Documents Illustrating the History of the Church, AD 337–461, rev. ed. (London: SPCK, 1989).
The scholarly literature on debates over Christian theology and practice is vast. For early Christianity, see, for example, Bart D. Ehrman, Lost Christianities: The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005). For Christian theological debates in the early United States, see E. Brooks Holifield, Theology in America: Christian Thought from the Age of the Puritans to the Civil War (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003).
Many Christians understand Revelation 22:18-19 to mean that nothing can be added to the Bible. The warning in this scripture against adding “unto these things,” however, refers to the book of Revelation and not to the Bible as a whole. See Howard W. Hunter, “No Man Shall Add to or Take Away,” Ensign, May 1981, 64–65.
See, for example, Lee M. McDonald, The Formation of the Christian Biblical Canon, rev. ed. (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1995), 254–56.
1 Nephi 13:40.
See Boyd K. Packer, “The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ—Plain and Precious Things,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2005, 6–9; Susan Ward Easton, “Names of Christ in the Book of Mormon,” Ensign, July 1978, 60–61.
The Church acknowledges the contribution of scholars to the historical content presented in this article; their work is used with permission.
A CATHOLIC UTTERANCE
Many years ago a learned man, a member of the Roman Catholic Church, came to Utah and spoke from the stand of the Salt Lake Tabernacle. I became well-acquainted with him, and we conversed freely and frankly. A great scholar, with perhaps a dozen languages at his tongue’s end, he seemed to know all about theology, law, literature, science and philosophy. One day he said to me: “You Mormons are all ignoramuses. You don’t even know the strength of your own position. It is so strong that there is only one other tenable in the whole Christian world, and that is the position of the Catholic Church. The issue is between Catholicism and Mormonism. If we are right, you are wrong; if you are right, we are wrong; and that’s all there is to it. The Protestants haven’t a leg to stand on. For, if we are wrong, they are wrong with us, since they were a part of us and went out from us; while if we are right, they are apostates whom we cut off long ago. If we have the apostolic succession from St. Peter, as we claim, there is no need of Joseph Smith and Mormonism, but if we have not that succession, then such a man as Joseph Smith was necessary, and Mormonism’s attitude is the only consistent one. It is either the perpetuation of the gospel from ancient times, or the restoration of the gospel in latter days.” ___Elder Orson F. Whitney