August 13, 2007

Reflections on Gathering and the Prophet Joseph: Part 2

George A. Smith March 18, 1855 Continuing with last Thursday's discourse, George A. continued describing the Kirtland Temple dedication and some of its results among the saints:

On the evening after the dedication of the Temple, hundreds of the brethren received the ministering of angels, saw the light and personages of angels, and bore testimony of it. They spake in new tongues, and had a greater manifestation of the power of God than that described by Luke on the day of Pentecost. Yet a great portion of the persons who saw these manifestations, in a few years, and some of them in a few weeks, apostatized. If the Lord had on that occasion revealed one single sentiment more, or went one step further to reveal more fully the law of redemption, I believe He would have upset the whole of us. The fact was, He dare not, on that very account, reveal to us a single principle further than He had done, for He had tried, over and over again, to do it. He tried at Jerusalem; He tried away back before the flood; He tried in the days of Moses; and He had tried, from time to time, to find a people to whom He could reveal the law of salvation, and He never could fully accomplish it; and He was determined this time to be so careful, and advance the idea so slowly, to communicate them to the children of men with such great caution that, at all hazards, a few of them might be able to understand and obey. For, says the Lord, my ways are not as your ways, nor my thoughts as your thoughts; for as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.
One specific principle George A. mentioned was the law of sealing. He said revealing the doctrine in Kirtland would have proved to be too much, in his estimation. Joseph must have felt the tension that exists between what God was revealing and what the saints would receive. One January day in Nauvoo, addressing the saints in front of a hotel, Joseph said:
Even the Saints are slow to understand I have tried for a number of years to get the minds of the Saints prepared to receive the things of God, but we frequently see some of them after suffering all they have for the work of God will fly to pieces like glass as soon as any thing comes that is contrary to their traditions, they cannot stand the fire at all, How many will be able to abide a Celestial law and go through and receive their exaltation I am unable to say but many are called & few are chosen (Sermon delivered at Nauvoo, Ill. in front of Robert D. Foster's hotel on January 21, 1844. Sources: Wilford Woodruff journal and Joseph Smith diary, Willard Richards)
George A. said Joseph understood the opposition he would face when he had revealed all the principles God had given him.
Finally, He revealed so much of it that William Law, one of the First Presidency, and one of the most sanctimonious men in Israel, got alarmed for fear that Joseph was going to kill him, and he called the whole of the Police before the City Council, and had them all sworn, and cross examined, to find out if Joseph had instructed any of them to kill him. I told some of the boys at that time, that he knew he had done something that he ought to die for, or he would not be so afraid of his best friends. Joseph said to the Council and Police, "I might live, as Caesar might have lived, were it not for a right hand Brutus;" and the illustration of that saying is most clearly shown by William Law's operations in bringing about the murder of the Prophet. The men who were in his bosom, shared his confidence, and professed to be his warmest and best friends, were the men to treacherously shed his blood.
Indeed, the prophet's comments were prophetic, as the Law brothers apostatized and helped in the creation of the Nauvoo Expositor, firing up the mobs, and eventually culminating in the death of Joseph Smith at Carthage, Illinois in 1844. The opposition continued until the Saints were driven from Nauvoo, after which a new strategy to rid the world of the Mormons was adopted:
We went to work in Nauvoo and finished the Temple, and had no sooner got it done but we had to leave it to be burned by our enemies; and they then thought that if we were only driven into the wilderness, our sufferings would be so great in the desert that we should all perish, and that would be the end of the matter. The devil wisely got up a new system of treatment; after they had robbed us of every thing we had, and driven us from all the comforts and necessaries of life into the desert; he commenced to adopt the 'let alone system' upon us, under the impression that we would die of our own accord. They commenced this under glorious auspices, when we had nothing to eat, nothing to wear, not a drop of rain to water the earth, and a desert all around us, of the apparent fertility of which you may judge, when the mountaineers said that they would give a thousand dollars for the first bushel of wheat or corn that was raised in the Valley. While letting us alone, a considerable change took place; but it was hard to let us alone long, they had to give us an occasional poke, that we might know they were still alive.
George A. concluded, stating the opposition had made the work grow all the more quickly. By 1855 missionaries had been sent, he said: the Sandwich Islands, Denmark, and has begun to pour out its blessings in Sweden, Norway, Italy, France, Germany, Switzerland, Africa, Australia, Malta, Gibraltar, the Crimea, and the East Indies, and is spreading all over the world ten times more rapidly than ever. All this came through 'letting us alone.' I do not know but they may conclude it to be the best to give us another blow up; if they do, it will be precisely as it was with the man who did not like the mustard stalk in his garden, which grew up, and became large and full of seed. The owner saw it had gone to seed in the garden, and became dreadfully irritated with the gardener, and got the hoe, and beat the stalks to pieces in his anger, and scattered the seed all over the garden. That is the way our enemies have operated the whole time, so they may as well take the 'let alone system' as any other. Joseph prophesied that if they would let us alone, we would spread the Gospel all over the world, and if they did not let us alone, we would spread it anyhow, only a little quicker," (Journal of Discourses 2:211-220).

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