When people speak of the early leaders of the church in a derogatory tone, saying that now we have everything right but that the early church leaders did not, I have to laugh. Such people obviously haven’t spent any time reading the words of the early brethren. The talks we hear today are a little snack by comparison of the feasts they regularly offered.
And there are certainly things that the early leaders plainly taught that have simply been lost to us. We still have the quotes, but we don’t understand or believe them.
For example, we have replaced the way they used the phrase “keys of the priesthood” with a different notion that means “the right to lead the church”. That wouldn’t matter if we didn’t have revelations from God and instructions from Joseph Smith that used the word “keys”. But since we do, then we can no longer understand their instruction to us, since we have changed the meaning of the word key. Here is an example where you can plainly see that, with our modern understanding of the word keys we can no longer understand what Joseph Smith taught.
“He spoke of delivering the keys of the Priesthood to the Church, and said that the faithful members of the Relief Society should receive them with their husbands, that the Saints whose integrity has been tried and proved faithful, might know how to ask the Lord and receive an answer…” (TPJS page 226)
This is specifically talking about “the keys of the priesthood”. It is also clear that imparting those keys was supposed to grant them the knowledge of how to “ask the Lord and receive an answer”. This is certainly true doctrine Joseph taught, but it is also completely unfamiliar to us.
Another example is this statement by Joseph Smith.
“If a man gets a fullness of the priesthood of God he has to get it in the same way that Jesus Christ obtained it, and that was by keeping all the commandments and obeying all the ordinances of the house of the Lord.” (TPJS 308).
Now I have heard multiple talks in my lifetime that state that when we are ordained to the priesthood then we have god all there is to get. But here we see that Christ received the ordinances of the house of the Lord, and that no man can receive the fullness of the priesthood without keeping all the commandments and obeying all the ordinances of the house of the Lord.
That is no surprise. There are constantly scriptures that we have simply completely forgotten or lost the doctrine from. There are some we have actively rejected, such as the Father’s declaration to Eve (and Paul’s teaching of the same doctrine in Ephesians 5). You can’t quote that without making local leaders angry with you, and instigating feelings among them that they need to reach out and save you from your fallen apostate ways. Even though God the Father himself said it, it is still, apparently, heresy.
So I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised to find that many of the early leaders believed and openly taught things that have disappeared from our teachings. The fact that these have disappeared by no means renders them wrong, for they were given in a day of greater righteousness than currently exists among the saints.
Here is a collection of quotations that I found interesting. Many of them seem to have a very different notion of the resurrection than is common now.
They vary somewhat in exactly what they portray. That is fine. Christ himself spoke during his mortality of heaven and hell, not of three degrees of glory. There is no reason to assume in our vanity that we have the whole picture yet even with three degrees of glory, or with three orders or degrees in the celestial kingdom. We have enough to make our decisions by, just as those people that the Savior spoke of about heaven and hell knew enough to make their decisions by.
So if something runs against our traditions, lets not be unwise and start accusing those who probably knew a lot more than we did. They sacrificed far more than we, and learned privately from Joseph Smith for years, so it is wise to give pause to their wisdom and insight.
“If death is not destroyed, and him that hath the power of it, and every man and woman who are not prepared to enjoy a kingdom where angels administer, then much of the Bible is exceedingly erroneous. Every kingdom will be blotted out of existence, except the one whose ruling spirit is the Holy Ghost; and whose king is the Lord. The Lord said to Jeremiah the Prophet, “Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will cause thee to hear my words. Then I went down to the potter’s house, and, behold, he wrought a work on the wheels. And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hands of the potter: so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it.” The clay that marred in the potter’s hands was thrown back into the unprepared portion, to be prepared over again. So it will be with every wicked man and woman, and every wicked nation, kingdom, and government upon earth, sooner or later; they will be thrown back to the native element from which they originated, to be worked over again, and be prepared to enjoy some sort of a kingdom.” – Brigham Young JD 2:124
Heber C. Kimball | 11/22/1857
Joseph always told us that we would have to pass by sentinels that are placed between us and our Father and God. Then, of course, we are conducted along from this probation to other probations, or from one dispensation to another, by those who conducted those dispensations. …
Will any man ever be redeemed upon any other principle than what we are redeemed upon? No. Men must abide the same law, or God Almighty will never redeem them. If they violate that law, they bring damnation upon themselves, and must suffer the consequences of it. Still, I believe the greater part of the inhabitants of the earth will be redeemed; yea, all will be finally redeemed, except those who have sinned against the Holy Ghost or shed innocent blood; and they never can be redeemed until that debt is paid. And I do not know any way for them to pay it, unless they are brought back again to a mortal existence, and pay the debt where they contracted it. God will make every man pay off the debt he contracts; for a restoration must take place, which has been spoken of by the mouth of all the holy Prophets since the world began. | JD 6:63, 67 |
Brigham Young | 07/10/1853
To live as I am, without progress, is not life, in fact we may say that it is impossible. There is no such principle in existence, neither can there be. All organized existence is in progress, either to an endless advancement in eternal perfections, or back to dissolution. You may explore all the eternities that have been, were it possible, then come to that which we now understand according to the principles of natural philosophy, and where is there an element, an individual living thing, an organized body, of whatever nature that continues as it is? It cannot be found. All things that have come within the bounds of man’s limited knowledge – the things he naturally understands, teach him that there is no period in all the eternities, wherein organized existence will become stationary, that it cannot advance in knowledge, wisdom, power, and glory.
If a man could ever arrive at the point that would put an end to the accumulation of life – the point at which he could increase no more, and advance no further, we should naturally say he commenced to decrease at the same point. Again, when he has gained the zenith of knowledge, wisdom, and power, it is the point at which he begins to retrograde: his natural abilities will begin to contract, and so he will continue to decrease until all he knew is lost in the chaos of forgetfulness. As we understand naturally this is the conclusion we must come to, if a termination to the increase of life and the acquisition of knowledge is true.
Because of the weakness of human nature, it must crumble to the dust. But in all the revolutions and changes in the existence of men in the eternal world which they inhabit, and in the knowledge they have obtained as people on the earth, there is no such thing as principle, power, wisdom, knowledge, life, position, or anything that can be imagined, that remains stationary – they must increase or decrease …
Nothing less than the privilege of increasing eternally, in every sense of the word, can satisfy the immortal spirit. If the endless stream of knowledge from the eternal fountain could all be drunk in by organized intelligences, so sure immortality would come to an end, and all eternity be thrown upon the retrograde path.
Now understand, to choose life is to choose principles that will lead you to an eternal increase, and nothing short of them will produce life in the resurrection for the faithful. Those that choose death, make choice of the path which leads to the end of their organization. The one leads to endless increase and progression, the other to the destruction of the organized being, ending in its entire decomposition into the particles that compose the native elements. Is this so in all cases, you inquire? Yes, for aught I know. I shall not pretend to deny but what it is so in all cases ….
In consequence of some expressions of the ancient servants of God, has come the tradition of the Elders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. You hear some of them preach and teach that which I never taught: you hear them preach people into hell. Such a doctrine never entered into my heart: but you hear others preach, that people will go there to dwell throughout the endless ages of eternity. Such persons know no more about eternity, and are no more capable of instructing others upon the subject, than a little child. They tell about going to hell, “where the worms dieth not, and the fire is not quenched,” where you must dwell. How long? Why, I should say, just as long as you please. | JD 1:349‑53 |
Brigham Young | 08/03/1845
“We find that there is one eternal resurrection, one eternal change from one state to another, from one degree to another…”
| CDBY 1:91 (Ed. Richard S. Van Wagoner, Smith-Petit Foundation, Salt Lake City, 2009), Nauvoo, Illinois |
Orson Pratt | 10/06/1853
And thus, all the different portions of the earth have been and will be disposed of to the lawful heirs; while those who cannot prove their heirship to be legal, of who cannot prove that they have received any portion of the earth by promise, will be cast out into some other kingdom or world, where, if they ever get an inheritance, they will have to earn it by keeping the law of meekness during another probation. | JD 1:332-333 |
Heber C. Kimball | 10/05/1856
We have not as yet any durable location; we are merely probationers in this present state, and we shall always be so until we obtain a permanent exaltation, by following in the footsteps of our God. | JD 4:119 |
George Q. Cannon | 01/22/1898
There are different degrees of glory. Some attain to a more exalted glory. They must help those who are lower to rise up to their plane. Then there is another degree below them, and they must labor to lift those who are lower than they, progressing from one degree of glory to another, without end, because there is no end to eternity, no end to glory.” | Millennial Star No. 8 Vol. LXI page 117; published 02/23/1899 |
Hyrum Smith | 08/01/1843
Those of the Terrestrial Glory either advance to the Celestial or recede to the Telestial [or] else the moon could not be a type. it “waxes & wanes”. Also that br[other] George will be quickened by celestial glory having been ministered to by one of that Kingdom.
| “Words of the Prophet”, p. 24 (“Scriptural Items”; a small booklet of the statements made by Joseph and Hyrum Smith kept by Franklin D. Richards); CHO [Church Historian’s Office – put in abbreviations page] ?Ms/d/4409/Misc Minutes Collection as cited in Progression Between Kingdoms by Richard Ware |
Brigham Young | 08/05/1855
I attended a prayer circle in the evening. … In conversing upon various principles, President Young thought none would inherit this earth when it became celestial and translated into the presence of God but those who would be croowned as Gods and able to endure the fulness of the presence of God except they might be permitted to take with them some servants for whom they would be held responsible. All others would have to inherit another kingdom, even that kingdom agreeing with the law which they had kept. He thought they would eventually have the privilege of proving themselves worthy and advancing to a celestial kingdom but it would be a slow progress. ( WWJ )
Franklin D. Richards | 05/17/1884
Let me remind you of another interesting feature in this allegory, and that is this: The Savior tells us that the terrestrial glory or kingdom, is likened unto the glory of the moon, which is not of the brightness of the sun, neither of the smallness nor dimness of the stars. But those others who have no part in marrying or giving of marriage in the last resurrection, they become as stars, and even differ from each other in glory; but those in the terrestrial kingdom are those who will come forth at the time when Enoch comes back, when the Savior comes again to dwell upon the earth. When Father Abraham will be there with the Urim and Thummin to look after every son and daughter of his race; to make known all things that are needed to be known, and with them enter into their promised inheritance. Thus the people of God will go forward. They will go forward, like unto the new moon, increasing in knowledge and brightness and glory, until they come to a fullness of celestial glory. During the Millennium multitudes of people who have not heard the gospel will hear and receive it and go forward into this glory, while those who will not go forward to a fullness will go back to that lesser glory which is likened unto the stars of heaven. ( JD 25:235b-36a )