August 31, 2007

Funny Friday - Going West

George A. Smith June 24, 1855 At the 24th of July celebration George A. addressed a large body of saints, speaking of their experiences in Missouri and Illinois where they were driven from the country. He candidly explains:

We were quite willing to go, for the best of all reasons, we could not stay.
He then relates another "Quaker" story as he often did, as follows:
I suppose some of them felt as the pious old quaker did when he was on board a vessel which was attacked by pirates-he was too pious to fight, it was against his conscience, but when one of the pirates started to climb a rope and get upon a vessel, the old quaker pick up a hatchet and said, "Friend, if thee wants that piece of rope, thee can have it and welcome," and immediately cut the rope and let him drop into the sea, where he was drowned. So our enemies thought they would let us go into the heart of the Great American Desert and starve, as they compelled us to leave every thing that would make life desirable (Journal of Discourses 2:323).

August 30, 2007

Opposition and Mormon Tyranny

George A. Smith August 5, 1855 The relationship between the Church and the U.S. government was tense in the 1800s, and seemed to continue that way until plural marriage was discontinued and Utah achieved statehood. Reports were circulated in the papers "back east" that the Mormons were out to create a mighty theocracy in the mountains, and that the tyrant Brigham Young set himself up as some sort of God-King. It was in light of these circumstances that George A. spoke of opposition to the Church and their position on sovereignty over the U.S. Constitution. He began by pointing out that among opponents of the Church, nearly any one's testimony would be accepted, whether or not the opposed parties had similar views on religion to begin with- they would unite to mock the Mormons:

…the very moment that a 'Mormon' comes and preaches the first principles of the Gospel, you will see the utmost confusion among them, their preachers all put their heads together to form plans by which to overthrow 'Mormonism,' and even if there is an infidel that they consider or think is a little smarter than they are, they will sustain him if they can persuade him to unite with them to put down 'Mormonism,' and if arguments are likely to fail, they start a fresh or more sure method by raising a mob, and exciting the public feeling, and driving out the 'Mormons,' believing that to allow the 'Mormons' to obtain any influence would be hurtful; they are fearful that it would really injure their cause.
I can't help but think of the boy Prophet, who emerged from the grove of trees, likely excited to know for himself that all the wrangling sects may soon be joined together in the knowledge of what was revealed to him that Spring morning in 1820. In addition to his own worries about the state of his own soul before God, the fighting religionists led the boy to pray in the first place- and now they might become united and stop the arguments. If Joseph believed telling others about his vision could bring the opposing religionists together, he was right- but not in the way he might have expected. They did, in fact, unite, but not under a banner of brotherhood or a true understanding or agreement about the nature of God. Just as described by George A., they united against, not with, the boy:
I soon found, however, that my telling the story had excited a great deal of prejudice against me among professors of religion, and was the cause of great persecution, which continued to increase; and though I was an obscure boy, only between fourteen and fifteen years of age, and my circumstances in life such as to make a boy of no consequence in the world, yet men of high standing would take notice sufficient to excite the public mind against me, and create a bitter persecution; and this was common among all the sects—all united to persecute me (Joseph Smith- History 1:22).
George A.'s account agrees with what the Prophet described in his History:
There was, from the beginning, fixed hatred in the minds of the world at large against this people. It is not here as it is in the Christian world generally, for there the Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, and Universalists, although bitterly opposed to each other, can all unite to persecute the poor 'Mormons,' they are all in error together, but they can unite whenever the truth comes along, and use all their combined influences to put it down. They differ on a kind of complimentary principles, but when they speak of the Saints of God, there is in the hearts of the whole of them, a deep seated, deadly hatred, and they will do all in their power to put them down.
As mentioned above, the opposition continued, even after the Church moved west. George A. believed the Saints had good intentions and the people seeking to "annihilate" the "Mormon" empire should know better: the Saints were loyal to the Country that refused to aid them in their hour of need. So much for "tyranny." In all this George A. saw the hand of God, and believed the people must continue in righteousness if they wanted to survive:

Every honest man that comes into our Territory, after a short existence in the midst of the Saints, reasonably concludes we have greater respect for the Constitution of the United States, than any other people, notwithstanding all that may have been said by howling priests about the tyranny in the midst of these mountains.

Circumstances have proven beyond all successful contradiction that the Elders and authorities of this Church do respect the great principles of the Constitution, and the Latter-day Saints in and of every nation do respect the constitution and laws of their country; the principles of their faith make this obligatory upon them.

We have been driven from our comfortable homes in the United States, into these mountains, and it is only under the kind hand and protecting care of the Almighty that we are kept here; He gave us the privilege of sheltering and of staying here for the time being.We are the children of the Most High, and we have been called upon by Him to make sacrifices for the building up of His kingdom, and it behoves [behooves] us to be awake to our duties as sons and daughters of God. And I tell you it is for us to depend upon Him, the giver of all good, and if we do not so live as to be partakers of the blessings of the fulness of the Gospel, and of His watchful care, we may anticipate that more destruction will come upon our heads, for the Lord will purify us.

After all the Saints had been through, George A. admonished them to acknowledge the hand of God, live righteously, and they would be protected. Unity was crucial to the Church; discord in Nauvoo had torn them apart. Apostates had fanned- if not started- the very flames leading to the killing of their Prophet and Patriarch, and their expulsion from the state and country. Unity was imperative, and can account for some of the more extreme rhetoric employed by leaders of the Church at the time:
The blood of our Prophet and Patriarch, and hundreds of innocent men, women, and children, and the destruction of millions and millions of dollars' worth of property, the long list of abuses to which we have been subjected, and the patience, forbearance, and fortitude with which these abuses have been borne, only prove in the first place the intense hatred with which the world hate us, and in the second the sterling integrity of the people called Latter-day Saints, and their determination to abide the laws of their country. Then I say, let us be united, and let our voices ascend to Him as the voice of one man, and let every foolish notion depart from our midst, that we may have power with Him, for I tell you we depend alone upon the Almighty for protection, and if we depend upon His arm and upon His power, we can work in faith, believing that He will help us. I do know that if this people were united, and would exercise faith, and listen to the counsel of the Presidency as they ought, and be united as one man, all the powers of earth and hell could not prevail against them; and if no power could prevail, of course there would be but little danger. But if feuds, discord, selfishness, and contentions are permitted to break up our unity, we shall then become like others, weak in consequence of our division.
George A. believed not being able to rely on the government for protection or aid gave the saints a perfect opportunity to rely wholly upon God:
I realize the sensation of endearment of native country that flows in the breast of man who has been driven from his rights and privileges, a feeling of a peculiar nature, for when a man is abused by those around him, it is rather humiliating to have to quietly submit to be deprived of his rights; but we have to seek those rights we cannot get at the hands of our fellow men, at the hands of the Almighty; for wicked men will not extend them to us, and therefore we must depend upon Him who is the source of all good, and from whom protection must be derived, for as the Lord lives, peace is taken from the earth, and every man' hands is against that of his neighbor, and death and destruction and all the powers of earth and hell seem to be manifest to bring about the consumption determined for the last days.
In closing, George A. explained how the Saints should handle their relationship with the local Indians. I add it as an end note because I believe it reveals the true spirit of the Church at the time; pacifism, though they have been accused of the opposite:
Let us open good schools for the Indians, and use the influence that we have got, for their redemption, and let us endeavor to bring them back to the light, bring them back from their long lost and degraded condition, bringing them back to the Gospel enjoyed by their fathers, for they prophesied that their children should wander in darkness for many generations, and then the Lord would commence His work amongst them again; and let us do it, and do it with faithfulness and tenderness, with kindness and generosity, and act as fathers would act towards their children; and let us spend our means and labor, let us toil, and even spend our all for their redemption and preservation. And let us not take hold of it as a light matter, as a matter that we will never let come near our hearts, but with willingness, long-suffering, and continued endeavors to do them good, and when we are foiled in our endeavors to benefit those people, let us recollect that we are not to be discouraged, but let us remember that we are to keep trying, and pray God to give you wisdom to act aright. Put away from your hearts all desires to shed their blood, and put far from you the disposition that causes you to think they are troublesome, and we should like to get rid of them. Let us consider that they have rights here, that they are the original settlers. They have natural rights, and all our kindness and generosity and all our faith exercised to benefit them will be acknowledged (Journal of Discourses 73-end).
I believe the Saints- collectively, but perhaps not individually- endeavored to obey the counsel they received from the Lord years earlier while persecution drove them from their Missouri homes in 1833:
Therefore, renounce war and proclaim peace, and seek diligently to turn the hearts of the children to their fathers, and the hearts of the fathers to the children... (D&C 98:16).

August 29, 2007

Funeral Address

Orson Pratt June 30, 1855 According to the introduction of this discourse, Orson Pratt delivered this funeral sermon at the:

Council House, Great Salt Lake City, over the Mortal Remains of the Honorable Leonidas Shaver, Associate Justice of the Supreme, and Judge of the First Judicial District Courts of the United States, in and for the Territory of Utah.
There have been several funeral sermons recorded in the Journal thus far, I believe all of them given by Elder Pratt. The doctrinal nature of the discourse is interesting when compared with a talk we might hear at a funeral today. This doctrinal approach calls to mind the so-called "King Follett discourse," one of the Prophet Joseph Smith's most powerful sermons, which was given at the funeral of Follett. Elder Pratt begins:
Friends and Brethren, we have assembled ourselves together on this solemn occasion to commemorate one of our departed friends, who has suddenly been taken from our midst. It is customary among most of the nations of the earth, on an occasion of this kind, to deliver what is termed a funeral sermon. I have been called upon quite unexpectedly this forenoon to perform this office. I do not expect to be lengthy in my remarks, but shall endeavor to say something in relation to the present condition of man, and his future state.
He first discusses the doctrine of death: that as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive (see 1 Cor. 15:22), and that resurrection from the dead is a free gift of Christ; nothing must be done on our part to receive resurrection (see Romans 5:18). In Pratt's typical approach, he describes the doctrine in his own fluid way:
The redemption of our bodies from the grave is brought about through the atonement of Jesus Christ; hence we have had no agency in bringing death into our world, and we have no agency in the redemption of our world. One man brought death into the world, and one man brought redemption from death.
In speaking of the resurrection, he refers to Paul and Joseph Smith's explanation that resurrected bodies differ in glory as one star differs from another (See 1 Cor. 15:41; D&C 76). He mentions a small but interesting observation:
Here, then, are three distinct classes of beings in the eternal world, all of whom partake of happiness, each to be rewarded according to their works: one is represented by the sun, another by the moon, and a third by the glory of the stars, that is, by the apparent glory of the stars, or as they appear to us, and not as they would appear to individuals who are in their immediate vicinity.
Pratt discusses the heaven/hell dichotomy common to "mainstream" Christendom, that the good go to heaven, the bad to hell, and calls this view "uncharitable." Rather than dying and going straight to a heaven or hell, the Spirit world is our next destination; and Pratt describes it as best he can, suggesting we may even meet the Savior there. I am not aware of a scripture specifically promising a meeting with the Savior face to face in the Spirit world[1] , but here is Pratt's description:

for the spirit world is, in some respects, like the world we live in.

Beings that enter the spirit world find there classes and distinctions, and every variety of sentiment and feeling; there is just as much variety in the spirit world as in this; consequently, they have to grapple with those powers and influences that surround them.

Spirits have their agency between death and the resurrection, just as much as we have here. They are just as liable to be deceived in the spirit world as we are here. Those who are deceived may assist in deceiving others, for they have their classes, their theories, and their opinions. Almost everything that we see here is the same in the spirit world. They are mixed up with every variety, and are as liable to be deluded there as here.

Although the righteous enter into a state of rest and peace, and enjoy happiness in a great degree, yet their happiness is not complete, they are not perfected in glory. It is only, their spirits that are there, and they will have to mingle more or less with inferior minds, and different dispositions; but still they will enjoy a great degree of happiness, for their own consciousness of having done right imparts pleasure, consequently it is a state of rest, of peace, free from the imperfections of mortality; but to say that they will be free from all association with beings that are sinful and inferior to themselves, we do not believe.

It is true, they will go back to where Jesus is; they will have communion with him, and behold his face, but they will not always remain in one particular place or position; they will have their works to perform, as we in this life."

It wasn't until I experienced the death of someone close to me that I realized in a more concrete way how real the spirit is; how death really is like walking into another room; you remain who you are. You retain hopes, fears, habits, beliefs, and you can still pray and feel the Holy Ghost there. As Amulek explained in the Book of Mormon:
...for that same spirit which doth possess your bodies at the time that ye go out of this life, that same spirit will have power to possess your body in that eternal world (Alma 34:34).
While it is a "place or rest," we probably shouldn't picture it as a nice, relaxing beach where we sit about and lounge all day; it seems there is work to be done. Elder Pratt:
We perceive that the Priesthood does not die with their bodies, the kingly authority does not cease with the mortal bodies: it is an office that continues for ever, that continues in the spirit world, as well as after the resurrection. Those that receive their authority from heaven, will have to magnify it, and set a good example; and every person receiving an office in this Priesthood, and afterwards dying, will have to perform all the duties and exercise the functions thereof, in order that they may be useful to those spirits in an inferior state. If they hold the Priesthood before the resurrection, do we suppose that they will sit down and have nothing to do? No: there will be other individuals that will not hold the Priesthood, and that have not had the Gospel, and they will be sent to them, to enlighten their minds, and enable them, who will, to rise in the great scale of moral and intellectual excellence."
As other prophets had described before him[2], Joseph F. Smith described this work from a vision he had in October of 1918:
I beheld that the faithful elders of this dispensation, when they depart from mortal life, continue their labors in the preaching of the gospel of repentance and redemption, through the sacrifice of the Only Begotten Son of God, among those who are in darkness and under the bondage of sin in the great world of the spirits of the dead (D&C 138:57).
Pratt reasoned [which seems to be one of his favorite things to do] that the work of preaching the gospel to the dead is done as we follow the example of the Savior, who "opened the mission" in the Spirit world, so to speak:
Jesus himself set the example and pattern for others. While his body lay in the silent tomb, his noble spirit was not idle; hence, Peter says, that Jesus, being put to death in the flesh; was quickened by the spirit, by which also he went and preached to the spirits in prison that were sometime disobedient in the days of Noah, &c. Jesus entered the prison house of those persons who were destroyed in the mighty flood, and preached to them. Those antedeluvian spirits had suffered in the prison some two thousand years, and upwards; they needed some information, and Jesus went to enlighten them (see John 5:25; 1 Peter 3:19).
Pratt described the message Christ brought to the spirits in prison:
Jesus went and preached to the antediluvian spirits. What did he preach? Did he preach, ‘You must remain here to endless ages without hope of redemption?’ If this were the proclamation, what was the use of going to proclaim it? What would be the use of telling those beings that they were to remain in misery, and that there was no chance of escape? No use of proclaiming such news in the ears of any one. Peter tells us why he preached to them: he said, '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, and live according to God in the spirit' [see 1 Peter 4:6].
The gospel is preached to the dead; Pratt delineates it as faith in Jesus Christ, repentance, baptism, and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost. We help in this work of preaching the gospel to the dead by performing the necessary ordinances in their behalf; they being free to accept or reject this offer. Pratt beautifully calls this work a "mission of mercy":
And we believe that the spirits of the just will be sent on missions of mercy to those in prison, who had not in this life the opportunity of obeying those principles that I have referred to.
It appears Pratt ran short on time, and thus mentioned the three degrees of glory only in passing, and concluded his funeral sermon as follows:
We are called upon on this solemn occasion as a Territory to mourn the loss of one who has occupied a distinguished position among us, one whose course has been an exemplary one to all mankind, that is, so far as we are acquainted with him. He has now left us, but we expect to meet with him again and see his face. And it it is not long before all now present will again meet with this distinguished individual. May God bless us and enable us to be prepared to meet with each other in the eternal worlds, and to receive according to the justice and mercy of God. Amen.
Footnotes [1] Scriptures dealing with the exact time we may meet the Savior after this life are ambiguous, and it must be assumed that, as time differs in this life (the boy Prophet was 14 when he met the Son, whereas Lehi appears to have had his first meeting later in life after establishing a family) it may very well differ in the next. We do know all will be brought into His and the Father's presence at least for the judgment, (see Alma 11:41, among other verses). Two scriptures hint at our future meeting with Christ: 1) Alma 40:11 "Now, concerning the state of the soul between death and the resurrection—Behold, it has been made known unto me by an angel, that the spirits of all men, as soon as they are departed from this mortal body, yea, the spirits of all men, whether they be good or evil, are taken home to that God who gave them life." Brigham Young postulated it is possible to be in God's presence, or home with God, without actually beholding Him: "Where do the spirits of this people go to, when they lay down their tabernacles? They go into the presence of God, and are at the pleasure of the Almighty. Do they go to the Father and the Son, and there be glorified? No; they do not. If a spirit goes to God who gave it, it does not stay there. We are all the time in the presence of the Lord, but our being in the presence of the Lord, does not make it follow that He is in our presence; the spirits of men are understood to go into the presence of the Lord, when they go into the spiritual world," (Journal of Discourses 3:80). The discourse of Pres. Young as quoted above contains more information about the Spirit world, and was given in 1852-- 3 years prior to this funeral sermon. I am not sure why it appears in a later volume of the Journal; the discourses are not serially organized. 2) 2 Nephi 9:41 "O then, my beloved brethren, come unto the Lord, the Holy One. Remember that his paths are righteous. Behold, the way for man is narrow, but it lieth in a straight course before him, and the keeper of the gate is the Holy One of Israel; and he employeth no servant there; and there is none other way save it be by the gate; for he cannot be deceived, for the Lord God is his name." This is one of my favorite scripture verses. It describes a sacred, personal meeting with the Savior, perhaps similar to the one described in 3 Nephi 11 and in the Temple. [2] Wilford Woodruff described meeting the Prophet Joseph after the martyrdom. It seems there was a great and important work keeping him and other elders busy there: "Joseph Smith continued visiting myself and others up to a certain time, and then it stopped. The last time I saw him was in heaven. In the night vision I saw him at the door of the temple in heaven. He came and spoke to me. He said he could not stop to talk with me because he was in a hurry. The next man I met was Father Smith; he could not talk with me because he was in a hurry. I met half a dozen brethren who had held high positions on earth, and none of them could stop to talk with me because they were in a hurry. I was much astonished. By and by I saw the Prophet again, and I got the privilege to ask him a question. 'Now,' said I, 'I want to know why you are in a hurry. I have been in a hurry all through my life; but I expected my hurry would be over when I got into the kingdom of heaven, if I ever did.' Joseph said: 'I will tell you, Brother Woodruff. Every dispensation that has had the Priesthood on the earth and has gone into the celestial kingdom, has had a certain amount of work to do to prepare to go to the earth with the Savior when He goes to reign on the earth. Each dispensation has had ample time to do this work. We have not. We are the last dispensation, and so much work has to be done, and we need to be in a hurry in order to accomplish it.' Of course, that was satisfactory to me, but it was new doctrine to me." (From a discourse delivered at the Weber Stake Conference in Ogden, Utah on Monday, October 19, 1896. See Temples of the Most High, pg. 317–18; 321–22. Lundwall, N.B., ed. 1960.)

August 28, 2007

Showing You Things To Come

Heber C. Kimball September 19, 1852 A few years after Lorenzo Snow had been baptized and served a few missions, he found himself in a meeting at Nauvoo when an impression came to his mind. Truman Madsen explains:

At that moment something happened to him which in later life he called an impression; sometimes he spoke of it as a vision, sometimes as an overwhelming revelation. He came to glimpse the meaning of what had been said to him. And he formed it in a couplet which we hesitate, all of us, and I think wisely, to cite in discussion or conversation but which is a sacred, glorious insight. It's a couplet; he put it in faultless rhythm: 'As man now is God once was. As God now is man may become.' He says he saw a conduit, as it were, down through which, in fact, by our very nature, by our being begotten of our eternal parents, we descend and up through which we may ascend. It struck him with power that if a prince born to a king will one day inherit his throne, so a son of an eternal father will one day inherit the fullness of his father's kingdom (Truman G. Madsen, The Highest In Us, fireside address given 3 March, 1974).
He remembered the verses in the New Testament where Christ commands the disciples to be perfect, and where John says when Christ returns we shall "be like Him" (see Matthew 5:40 and 1 John 3:1-2). He kept the revelation to himself other than discussing it with his sister, Eliza, and Brigham Young. Joseph Smith stood before a congregation in April 1844 and taught the principle Lorenzo learned years before. And that must have been sweet to him. Heber C. Kimball described this phenomenon of learning by the Spirit even before we hear a doctrine fully explained:
…diligently seek after the Spirit of truth-seek after the Holy Ghost, which is the Spirit of revelation, and it will reveal past things to you and show you things to come. Many times you reflect upon things, but are not certain whether they are correct or not, and by and by they will be revealed from this stand, the very things you had in your mind for years, and that the Spirit of God had shown to you, but you did not know how to organize and classify them, and judge of their truth (Journal of Discourses 2:354).
These revelatory moments seem most likely to come when we take time to ponder the things of God. If we wish to receive greater things it is important to take time to just think about things. In those quiet moments we can be taught of the Holy Ghost; even things we had never before considered. The Lord would have us take the time to:
Be still, and Know that I am God (D&C 101:16).
While we are entitled to personal revelation, we should be sure to consider it in light of the scriptures and teachings of the prophets. This phenomenon has other precedents, as well. For example, Nephi was instructed not to write certain things (1 Nephi 14:25), Joseph wasn't to translate the portion of the plates Moroni had been commanded to seal which were written by the brother of Jared (Ether 4:4-7), Paul hints at doctrines he has not fully divulged (2 Corinthians 12:2). Brigham Young spoke of some difficulties Joseph Smith faced when people would try to reveal their own doctrines to the Church; that they knew more about the Church than he did:
Here let me give you one lesson that may be profitable to many. If the Lord Almighty should reveal to a High Priest, or to any other than the head, things that are, or that have been and will be, and show to him the destiny of this people twenty-five years from now, or a new doctrine that will in five, ten, or twenty years hence become the doctrine of this Church and kingdom, but which has not yet been revealed to this people, and reveal it to him by the same Spirit, the same messenger, the same voice, and the same power that gave revelations to Joseph when he was living, it would be a blessing to that High Priest, or individual; but he must rarely divulge it to a second person on the face of the earth, until God reveals it through the proper source to become the property of the people at large. Therefore when you hear Elders, High Priests, Seventies, or the Twelve, (though you cannot catch any of the Twelve there, but you may the High Priests, Seventies, and Elders) say that God does not reveal through the President of the Church that which they know, and tell wonderful things, you may generally set it down as a God's truth that the revelation they have had, is from the devil, and not from God. If they had received from the proper source, the same power that revealed to them would have shown them that they must keep the things revealed in their own bosoms, and they seldom would have a desire to disclose them to the second person. That is a general rule, but will it apply in every case, and to the people called the kingdom of God at all times? No, not in the strictest sense, but the Spirit which reveals will impart the proper discretion. All the people have not learned this lesson, they should have learned it long ago (Journal of Discourses 3:313).
Hidden treasures of knowledge are promised to faithful Saints, (see D&C 89:19), but revelations for the Church will come through the presiding High Priest, the Prophet, the President of the Church. (See D&C 43:1-7; also D&C 28:4-11)

August 27, 2007

Testimony In a Leaky Vessel

Ezra T. Benson February 16, 1853 Elder Ezra T. Benson, great-grandfather of later president of the Church Ezra Taft[1] , gave a discourse on the necessity of opposition at a seventies conference in 1853. He began by expressing gratitude for the Holy Ghost; a means by which God reveals His will to us:

And what a glorious idea it is to know that we are in the Church and Kingdom of God, where there is a fountain of knowledge, of light, and of faith, where there is an inexhaustible fountain of matter and experience to work upon, so that a man is not trammelled in performing any one good thing... Who is trammeled in the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Is there one person? No, not one. Are you debarred from getting revelation? No, not at all. Light and intelligence are placed as free as the air that blows.
Things seem clear when we have the influence of the Holy Ghost, but as was discussed in an earlier post, the "mists of darkness" still often cloud our view. Additionally, light and truth can be taken by the evil one if we are disobedient to the things already revealed to us:
The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth. Light and truth forsake that evil one... And that wicked one cometh and taketh away light and truth, through disobedience, from the children of men... (D&C 93:36-39).
Living according to the light we have received is critical if we wish to receive more from God. Alma, while contending with Zeezrom in the Book of Mormon contains a warning, as well as a promise:
And now Alma began to expound these things unto him, saying: It is given unto many to know the mysteries of God; nevertheless they are laid under a strict command that they shall not impart only according to the portion of his word which he doth grant unto the children of men, according to the heed and diligence which they give unto him. And therefore, he that will harden his heart, the same receiveth the lesser portion of the word; and he that will not harden his heart, to him is given the greater portion of the word, until it is given unto him to know the mysteries of God until he know them in full (Alma 12:9-10).
Elder Benson explained the loss of knowledge to Satan by disobedience in these words:
If you suffer the Spirit of the Lord to leave your hearts, and the devil comes along and finds an empty house, he then enters in, and inasmuch as we are under transgression, be lays his hand upon us, saying, "You shall be my tool for me to work with, you have transgressed the laws of God, and my spirit shall lead you about…
In 1839, a letter to the Saints written by Joseph Smith in Liberty Jail also detailed the process of losing knowledge of gospel truthfulness, saying our actions can cause the "heavens to withdraw themselves," the Spirit of the Lord is "grieved," and we are chillingly told we can be left unto ourselves to "kick against the pricks" (see D&C 121:37-38). This process seems more likely to occur gradually than suddenly. Elder Benson warned the Saints against allowing their faith to leak:
If ever we are clipped of our Priesthood, our glory, and our crown, it will be when we cease to faithfully preach the Gospel, cease to keep the commandments of God enjoined upon us, cease doing good to this people. Then, at once, the principles of "Mormonism" will be contracted in us; we shall become leaky vessels in the principles of the Gospel, while we ought to retain every good thing we receive.
When our faith wanes, or the Spirit of the Lord seems distant, Elder Benson mentions one effective way to open the heart to communicate with God again; serving others:
When I feel like blessing my brethren, like lifting them up, and exalting then in my feelings, I feel first-rate myself; but when I feel like dragging then down, I feel contracted in my feelings, my mind does not expand in the principles of 'Mormonism'; but when I feel to bless everybody and do right by night and day, I feel like blessing everybody, and strong like a young lion sallying from his thicket (Journal of Discourses 2:347-354).
My mission president made a theme of "filling our buckets;" that is, learning the gospel in such a way that the Holy Ghost could bring what we had learned to our memory if needed. This principle applies well to preventing our buckets, or as Elder Benson said, our "vessels" from leaking to a state of emptiness. To remain firm in our testimony, then, requires not only obedience to what we have already learned, but a striving in which we add to our knowledge by study. Joseph Smith received this nugget in a revelation at Kirtland in 1832:
Neither take ye thought beforehand what ye shall say; but treasure up in your minds continually the words of life, and it shall be given you in the very hour that portion that shall be meted unto every man D&C 84:85).
By treasuring up the truths of the gospel continually, following what has already been revealed, and seeking the Holy Ghost through service to others, our vessels will continually be refilled, and we shall not want for gospel knowledge; only to increase in it. Footnotes [1] Ezra Taft Benson, born Feb. 22, 1811 in Mendon, Massachusetts, was baptised July 19, 1840 in Quincy, Illinois. He was ordained an apostle on July 16, 1846, replacing John E. Page. His great-grandson Ezra Taft Benson became President of the Church in 1985.