Letter to the Elders of the Church, 16 November 1835

  • Source Note
  • Historical Introduction

Document Transcript

To the of the .
At the close of my letter in the September No. of the “Messenger and Advocate,” I promised to continue the subject there commenced: I do so with a hope that it may be a benefit and a means of assistance to the elders in their labors, while they are combatting the prejudices of a crooked and perverse generation, by having in their possession, the facts of my religious principles, which are misrepresented by almost all those whose crafts are in danger by the same; and also to aid those who are anxiously inquiring, and have been excited to do so from rumor, in accertaining correctly, what my principles are.
I have been drawn into this course of proceeding, by persecution, that is brought upon us from false rumor, and misrepresentations concerning my sentiments.
But to proceed, in the letter alluded to. The principles of repentance and for the remission of sins, are not only set forth, but many passages of scripture, were quoted, clearly illucidating the subject; let me add, that I do positively rely upon the truth and veracity of those principles inculcated in the new testament; and then pass from the above named items, on to the item or subject of the , and show my views upon this point: which is an item which I esteem to be of the greatest importance to those who are looking for salvation in this generation, or in these what may be called “the latter times,” as all the prophets that have written, from the days of righteous Abel down to the last man, that has left any testimony on record, for our consideration, in speaking of the salvation of Israel in the last days, goes directly to show, that it consists in the work of the gathering.
Firstly, I shall begin by quoting from the prophecy of Enoch, speaking of the last days: “Righteousness will I send down out of heaven, and truth will I send forth out of the earth, to bear testimony of mine Only Begotten, his resurrection from the dead, -[this resurrection I understand to be the corporeal body]- yea, and also the resurrection of all men, righteousness and truth will I cause to sweep the earth as with a flood, to gather out mine own elect from the four quarters of the earth, unto a place which I shall prepare; a holy city, that my people may gird up their loins, and be looking forth for the time of my coming: for there shall be my tabernacle; and it shall be called , a .”
Now I understand by this quotation, that God clearly manifested to Enoch, the redemption which he prepared, by offering the Messiah as a Lamb slain from before the foundation of the world: by virtue of the same, the glorious resurrection of the Savior, and the resurrection of all the human family,—even a resurrection of their corporeal bodies: and also righteousness and truth to sweep the earth as with a flood. Now I ask how righteousness and truth are agoing to sweep the earth as with a flood? I will answer:—Men and angels are to be co-workers in bringing to pass this great work: and a Zion is to be prepared; even a New Jerusalem, for the elect that are to be gathered from the four quarters of the earth, and to be established an holy city: for the tabernacle of the Lord shall be with them.
Now Enoch was in good company in his views upon this subject. See Revelations, 23:3.—“And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.” I discover by this quotation, that John upon the isle of Patmos, saw the same things concerning the last days, which Enoch saw. But before the tabernacle can be with men, the elect must be gathered from the four quarters of the earth.
And to show further upon this subject of the gathering: Moses, after having pronounced the blessing and the cursing upon the children of Israel, for their obedience or disobedience, says thus:—“And it shall come to pass, when all these things are come upon thee, the blessing and the curse which I have set before thee; and thou shalt [p. [209]] call them to mind, among all the nations whither the Lord thy God hath driven thee, and shalt return unto the Lord thy God, and shalt obey his voice, according to all that I thee, this day, thou and thy children, with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that then the Lord thy God, will turn thy captivity, and have compassion upon thee, and will return and thee from all the nations whither the Lord thy God hath scattered thee; and if any of thine be driven out unto the utmost parts of heaven; from thence will the Lord thy God gather thee; and from thence will he fetch thee.”
It has been said by many of the learned, and wise men, or historians, that the Indians, or aboriginees of this continent, are of the scattered tribes of Israel. It has been conjectured by many others, that the aboriginees of this continent, are not of the tribes of Israel; but the ten tribes have been led away into some unknown regions of the north. Let this be as it may, the prophesy I have just quoted, “will fetch them” in the last days, and place them, in the land which their fathers possessed: and you will find in the 7th verse of the 30th chapt. quoted:—“And the Lord thy God will put all these curses upon thine enemies and on them that hate thee, which persecuted thee.”
Many may say that this scripture is fulfilled, but let them mark carefully what the prophet says: “If any are driven out unto the utmost parts of heaven;” (which must mean the breadths of the earth.) Now this promise is good to any, if there should be such, that are driven out, even in the last days: therefore, the children of the fathers have claim unto this day: and if these curses are to be laid over on the heads of their enemies, wo be unto the Gentiles: See book of Mormon, page 487, Wo unto the unbelieving of the , saith the Father. Again see book of Mormon, page 497, which says: “Behold this people will I establish in this land, unto the fulfilling of the covenant which I made with your father Jacob: and it shall be a .” Now we learn from the book of Mormon, the very identical continent and spot of land upon which the New Jerusalem is to stand, and it must be caught up according to the vision of John upon the isle of Patmos. Now many will be disposed to say, that this New Jerusalem spoken of, is the Jerusalem that was built by the Jews on the eastern continent: but you will see from Revelations, 21:2, there was a New Jerusalem coming down from God out of heaven, adorned as a bride for her husband. That after this the Revelator was caught away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and saw the great and holy city descending out of heaven from God. Now there are two cities spoken of here, and as every thing cannot be had in so narrow a compass as a letter, I shall say with brevity, that there is a New Jerusalem to be established on this continent.— And also the Jerusalem shall be rebuilt on the eastern continent. See book of Mormon, page 566. Behold, Ether saw the days of Christ, and he spake also concerning the house of Israel, and the Jerusalem from whence Lehi should come: after it should be destroyed it should be built up again, a holy city unto the Lord: wherefore, it could not be a New Jerusalem, for it had been in a time of old. This may suffice upon the subject of gathering until my next.
I now proceed, at the close of my letter, to make a few remarks on the duty of with regard to their teaching parents and children, husbands and wives, masters and slaves, or servants, &c. as I said I would in my former letter. And firstly, it becomes an elder when he is travelling through the world, warning the inhabitants of the earth to together, that they may be built up an holy city unto the Lord, instead of commencing with children, or those who look up to parents or guardians, to influence their minds, thereby drawing them from their duties, which they rightfully owe to such, they should commence their labors with parents, or guardians, and their teachings should be such as are calculated to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to the fathers. And no influence should be used, with children contrary to the consent of their parents or guardians.— But all such as can be persuaded in a lawful and righteous manner, and with common consent, we should feel it our duty to influence them to gather with the people of God. But otherwise let the responsibility rest upon the heads of parents or guardians, and all condemnation or consequences, be upon [p. 210] their heads, according to the which he hath committed unto us: for God has so ordained, that his work shall be cut short in righteousness, in the last days: therefore, first teach the parents, and then, with their consent, let him persuade the children to embrace the gospel also. And if children embrace the gospel, and their parents or guardians are unbelievers, teach them to stay at home and be obedient to their parents or guardians, if they require it; but if they consent to let them gather with the people of God let them do so and there shall be no wrong and let all things be done carefully, and righteously, and God will extend his guardian care to all such.
And secondly, it should be the duty of , when they enter into any house, to let their labors and warning voice, be unto the master of that house: and if he receive the gospel, then he may extend his influence to his wife also, with consent, that peradventure she may receive the gospel; but if a man receive not the gospel, but gives his consent that his wife may receive it, and she believes, then let her receive it. But if the man forbid his wife, or his children before they are of age, to receive the gospel, then it should be the duty of the elder to go his way and use no influence against him: and let the responsibility be upon his head—shake off the dust of thy feet as a testimony against him, and thy skirts shall then be clear of their souls. Their sins are not to be answered upon such as God hath sent to warn them to flee the wrath to come, and save themselves from this untoward generation. The servants of God will not have gone over the nations of the , with a warning voice, until the destroying angel will commence to waste the inhabitants of the earth; and as the prophet hath said, “It shall be a vexation to hear the report.” I speak because I feel for my fellow-men: I do it in the name of the Lord, being moved upon by the Holy Spirit. O that I could snatch them from the vortex of misery, into which I behold them plunging themselves, by their sins, that I may be enabled, by the warning voice, to be an instrument of bringing them to unfeigned repentance, that they may have faith to stand in the evil day.
Thirdly, it should be the duty of an elder, when he enters into a house to salute the master of that house, and if he gain his consent, then he may preach to all that are in that house, but if he gain not his consent, let him go not unto his slaves or servants, but let the responsibility be upon the head of the master of that house, and the consequences thereof; and the guilt of that house is no longer upon thy skirts: Thou art free; therefore, shake off the dust of thy feet, and go thy way. But if the master of that house give consent, that thou mayest preach to his family, his wife, his children, and his servants, his man-servants, or his maid-servants, or his slaves, then it should be the duty of the elder to stand up boldly for the cause of Christ, and warn that people with one accord, to repent and be for the remission of sins, and for the Holy Ghost, always commanding them in the name of the Lord, in the spirit of meekness to be kindly affected one towards another; that the fathers should be kind to their children, husbands to their wives; masters to their slaves or servants; children obedient to their parents, wives to their husbands, and slaves or servants to their masters:
“Wives submit youselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the Savior of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. Husbands, love your wives even as Christ also loved the church and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: for we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.— For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.”—Ephesians, Chapt. V. from the 22d to the end of the 21st [31st] verse.
“Wives submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them. Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord. Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged. Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh: not with eye service as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God.”—Colocians, Chapt. III. from the 18th to the end of the 22d verse. [p. 211]
But I must close this letter and resume the subject in another number.
In the bonds of the
JOSEPH SMITH, jr.
To , Esq. [p. 212]

Footnotes

  1. 1

    Letter to the Elders of the Church, 2 Oct. 1835.  

  2. 2

    In his 2 October 1835 letter to the church, JS wrote, “We shall here show our faith, and thereby, as we humbly trust, put an end to these faults, and wicked misrepresentations.” Church leaders published the Doctrine and Covenants earlier in 1835 in part to help clarify the beliefs of church members and thereby combat misrepresentations about the church. Over the previous year, the Messenger and Advocate published several letters from missionaries, some of which depicted the prejudices they encountered from the “enemies to the cause of truth.” (Letter to the Elders of the Church, 2 Oct. 1835; Preface to Doctrine and Covenants, 17 Feb. 1835; “A Summary,” LDS Messenger and Advocate, Dec. 1834, 43; see also Oliver Cowdery, “The Closing Year,” LDS Messenger and Advocate, Dec. 1834, 47; “A Summary,” LDS Messenger and Advocate, Feb. 1835, 75; and Lectures, LDS Messenger and Advocate, May 1835, 122.)  

    Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate. Kirtland, OH. Oct. 1834–Sept. 1837.

  3. 3

    See, for example, Luke 24:45–47; Acts 2:38–39; Revelation 22:17; Matthew 11:28–30; and Hebrews 5:12–14, 6:1–6.  

  4. 4

    This editorial insertion in the Messenger and Advocate is not found in other contemporary copies of JS’s inspired revision of the Bible, from which the quotation is taken. (See Old Testament Revision 1, p. 19 [Moses 7:62]; “Extract from the Prophecy of Enoch,” The Evening and the Morning Star, Aug. 1832, 18; and “Extract from the Prophecy of Enoch,” Evening and Morning Star, Aug. 1832 [Mar. 1835], 47.)  

    The Evening and the Morning Star. Independence, MO, June 1832–July 1833; Kirtland, OH, Dec. 1833–Sept. 1834.

    Evening and Morning Star. Edited reprint of The Evening and the Morning Star. Kirtland, OH. Jan. 1835–Oct. 1836.

  5. 5

    See Old Testament Revision 1, p. 19 [Moses 7:62].  

  6. 6

    See Matthew 24:31; and Mark 13:27.  

  7. 7

    Deuteronomy 30:1–4.  

  8. 8

    Deuteronomy 30:7.  

  9. 9

    Book of Mormon, 1830 ed., 487 [3 Nephi 16, especially verses 4–12].  

  10. 10

    Book of Mormon, 1830 ed., 497 [3 Nephi 20:22].  

  11. 11

    The Book of Mormon identifies the American continent as the place where the New Jerusalem would stand, but the “spot of land” was revealed to be in Jackson County, Missouri, in a July 1831 JS revelation. (Revelation, 20 July 1831 [D&C 57:1–2]; Book of Mormon, 1830 ed., 566 [Ether 13:4–6]; see also Letter to the Elders of the Church, 30 Nov.–1 Dec. 1835.)  

  12. 12

    Book of Mormon, 1830 ed., 566 [Ether 13:4–6]; see also Letter to the Elders of the Church, 30 Nov.–1 Dec. 1835.  

  13. 13

    See Letter to the Elders of the Church, 2 Oct. 1835.  

  14. 14

    See Isaiah 45:13.  

  15. 15

    See Malachi 4:6.  

  16. 16

    See Matthew 10:14; Mark 6:11; Luke 9:5; Revelation, July 1830–A [D&C 24:15]; and Revelation, 25 Jan. 1832–A [D&C 75:20].  

  17. 17

    Isaiah 28:19.  

  18. 18

    For earlier statements on proselytizing to families, see Statement on Marriage, ca. Aug. 1835.  

  19. 19

    See Letter to the Elders of the Church, 30 Nov.–1 Dec. 1835.