October 19, 2007

Pratt Says You Don't Know Nothing

(figuratively speaking) Orson Pratt October 22, 1854 Orson Pratt was largely a self-educated man. His interest in science, philosophy, and gaining knowledge in general were the flags he flew highest throughout his life. While fellow members of the vanguard of pioneers traveling to Utah were playing games, making jokes, or simply resting on the trail Orson had other things in mind. He was busy was scurrying up hillsides with his scientific instruments, taking measurements on the horizon, locating current latitude and longitude, reading his barometer, comparing terrain with maps of former adventurers, detailing insect population and plant life, and reading books. While the gospel emphasizes moderation in all things, it is likely we can all take a page from Orson's zeal. He wanted to know anything he could know. His church publications in Europe show a vast knowledge of contemporary and classic philosophers; he wasn't an intellectual lightweight. He was particularly interested in astronomy and mathematics; becoming a professor at the University of Deseret on those subjects in addition to offering private tutoring. This freedom of thought sometimes placed him in opposition with the status quo leading to disagreements and censures from President Brigham Young over doctrinal matters. Despite some differences in what they believed about the mechanics of "intelligences," or the exact physical nature of the Holy Ghost, Brigham believed Orson could be trusted to lead the European missions, and did so for many years. When some concerned saints questioned Brigham about some of Pratt's unorthodox theories, Brigham is reported to have said "If you were to chop up Elder Pratt into inch-square pieces, each piece would cry out, 'Mormonism is true!'"[1] Given this background, his comments in the following sermon are enlightening, as well as instructive. On this occasion Heber C. Kimball had invited Elder Pratt to speak on the subject of his choosing, and so his sermon was titled:




Obviously this topic outreaches the first principles and ordinances, and demonstrate Pratt loved to speculate about what he called "the Philosophy of Mormonism." He cautioned his listeners, however, by beginning his address with a disclaimer:
It is delightful to me, to speak of the things that belong to the salvation of the human family-to speak of God and of His works, plans, and purposes, so far as they are revealed for the salvation and benefit of man. But, at the same time, I realize that there is but a small degree-a very small degree, indeed, of the purposes of God unfolded to the mind of man.

The amount of knowledge, which we in our present state are in possession of, is extremely limited, so that when compared with that vast amount of knowledge that fills eternity, we might say that man, in his highest attainments here in this life, is, as it were, nothing.

However far he may expand his intellectual powers, and faculties by studying, by meditation, by seeking unto the Lord diligently for the inspiration of the Spirit, yet all that he can possibly receive and attain to here is, comparatively speaking, nothing.

Orson next took a moment to discuss the dichotomy Moses discovered after his grand visions of God's many works as we read in the Pearl of Great Price:
And it came to pass that it was for the space of many hours before Moses did again receive his natural strength like unto man; and he said unto himself: Now, for this cause I know that man is nothing, which thing I never had supposed.(Moses 1:10)
All of Pratt's nights gazing at the stars through his telescope while the other pioneers slept led him to the same conclusion:
If there were a being then upon the face of the earth, that had a reason to suppose that man was something, it was Moses; but yet in the midst of the visions of the Almighty, and the vast field of knowledge that was opened to his mind-while he was yet gazing upon the workmanship of the hands of God, and looking into the intricacies of the construction of this world-in the midst of all this, he considered himself nothing. That is just the way I feel; and I presume it is the way that almost every one feels who contemplates the greatness of God, and the immensity of knowledge that there is far beyond our reach in this present state of existence.
This initial humility is soon replaced, and even deepened, by what Moses learned from God after concluding that man is nothing; that man is in the image of God, his very work and glory:
At the same time, when we compare our knowledge and our intellectual powers with the glimmerings of light that we see manifested in the brute creation, we may exclaim that man is something-that he is advanced far beyond the apparent manifestations of knowledge that exist among the lower orders of beings...[2] [W]hen we contemplate the reasoning powers and faculties of man-the rational faculty-the abstract ideas that are capable of dwelling in his mind, and then look at the brute creation, we see a vast difference between the two... All these, then, in one sense of the word, are something, instead of being nothing; for all of the works of God are intended to show forth His wisdom, power, and goodness, whether it is in the formation of man, in the formation of the brute creation, or in the formation of the highest or lowest order of intelligence. God is there; His intelligence and power are there; His wisdom and goodness are there; and all His works are marked by His great and glorious attributes.
Moses quoted God saying the same thing, only more briefly:
For behold, this is my work and my glory— to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man (Moses 1:39).
This underscores the plan of salvation and gives clarity to the doctrine that "the glory of God is intelligence," (D&C 93:36) and that "a man is saved no faster than he gets knowledge" (TPJS, 213). As Elder Neal A. Maxwell pointed out, there is a difference between this intelligence (as understood in a gospel sense) and intellectual ability:
Intelligence [is] the ability to perceive truth and act upon it, not simply to accumulate it in the abstract for the thrills of intellectual possession (Deposition of a Disciple, pg. 45).
Elder Pratt wanted all saints to be scholars:
There is something calculated to give great joy and happiness to the mind of man in the idea of improvement, so long as there is anything to be learned-in the idea of progressing and expanding those principles of light and intelligence that already exist within these tabernacles. There is a joy-a satisfaction, existing in the mind of the righteous man, in the discovery of every additional truth; it matters not whether he himself attains this truth by experience, by reason, by reflection, by immediate revelation from higher powers, or by a revelation from his fellow man. It matters not how or in what way or manner he obtains this new truth, it is calculated to inspire his heart with joy and happiness. We see this illustrated in some small degree in the scientific discoveries of modern ages, as well as in those of ancient times.
Elder Pratt found great joy in the discovery of scientific truth, and exulted that joy is so much greater in the discovery of truth regarding eternal life:
There is a perceptive faculty, existing in the bosom of man, that is capable of perceiving light and truth, when it is clearly manifested; such truths are as certain and as sure to him as any other truths; when he obtains the knowledge which he has long hunted after, and spent years, perhaps, in close meditation, reasoning, and study in order to obtain, it gives him such a joy, satisfaction, and ecstasy, that he is hardly capable of retaining himself in the body. The mind of that great man Sir Isaac Newton, one of the great discoverers in modern times, was exercised in a wonderful manner. About the time he unfolded the great law that governs the bodies in the universe, which he termed the law of universal gravitation; his mind was so affected, so full of joy, and so overcome, when he was about laying bare the great truths this law unfolded, that he had to obtain the assistance of some one present in carrying out the calculations. If these scientific truths will have such an effect upon the mind of man, how much greater ought the joy to be, in the hearts of the children of men, in relation to those still greater truths that pertain to eternal life and the exaltation of man in the eternal world!

Elder Pratt looked forward to the time when greater knowledge would be revealed, and above all, did not want to stop learning here and now to prepare for there and then; believing that
...if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come (D&C 130:19).
This continual process of learning should be encouragement enough to keep our minds open and keep learning; it is part of enduring to the end.
That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day (D&C 50:24).
Elder Orson Pratt didn't sit back and wait for that perfect day to arrive, he studied to be prepared for it, and looked forward to it with joy:
There is something glorious in the contemplation of that period of time, when we shall come in possession of greater truths, even before we do obtain them; for we have the promise given to us by the Almighty, that more truths will be revealed and unfolded; and just the bare anticipation of these truths, before they are revealed, are calculated to give great joy and happiness to the mind of man (JD 3:97-105).
Footnotes: [1] This is an extremely brief introduction to the accomplishments of Elder Pratt, he deserves more. For more, see Breck England, The Life and Thought of Orson Pratt. The quote regarding Pratt is in "Journal of President B. Young's Office," 1 October 1860, Brigham Young Papers, Church Archives. I initially discovered the quote in Eugene England, Brother Brigham, pg. 87. For more on the conflict between Orson Pratt and Brigham Young on doctrinal matters see Gary James Bergera, Conflict in the Quorum. [2] When mentioning the fact that man is not only nothing, but that man is indeed something, notice he can't help but digress into a small point on the nature of animals and their part in God's plan, including his beliefs on so-called animal instinct:
He is, indeed, something compared with the small glimmerings of light that exist in the brute creation, in the beasts of the field, in the fowls of the air, and in the fishes of the sea; all these have some degree of knowledge and understanding; and some of them have some degree of information and knowledge that man is not in possession of. Man designates such intelligence by the name of instinct; they seem to be guided by a principle that man, naturally speaking, is not in possession of..

October 18, 2007

The Great Gospel Sermon

A footnote to the 3-part exposition on Brigham's "Great Gospel Sermon."
Brigham Young  
August 8, 1852

Brigham Young's epic sermon of August 8, 1852 encompassed an incredible variety of subjects dealing with the plan of salvation. I am very impressed by the fact that Brigham practically never preached from a prepared text, this sermon was delivered off the cuff with inspiration from God. I recommend reading it in entire.

When Christ was on the cross he uttered the words "it is finished" (John 19:30). These timeless words have led some to assume everything is accomplished, no more to be done. Conversely, we know "the works of God continue, and worlds and lives abound."[1] In a revelation Joseph called the "Olive Leaf," we are told of a future time when "it is finished" will again be stated, this time in loud acclamation by the seventh angel, who will make the declaration just before the saints are "crowned with glory" (see D&C 88:106-107).
Brigham Young added his thoughts to the concept of "one eternal round" as it pertains to preaching the gospel:

...my understanding with regard to preaching the Gospel of Salvation is this: there is but one discourse to be preached to all the children of Adam; and that discourse should be believed by them, and lived up to. To commence, continue, and finish this Gospel sermon, will require all the time that is allotted to man, to the earth, and all things upon it, in their mortal state; that is my idea with regard to preaching.
No man is able to set before a congregation all the items of the Gospel, in this life, and continue these items to their termination, for this mortal life is too short. It is inseparably connected one part with the other, in all the doctrines that have been revealed to man…

As Orson Pratt explained in this discourse, as posted before, no book in the world can contain the truths of eternity. They are simply too vast. The one eternal discourse of God our Heavenly Father is best described in a simple selection found in the Pearl of Great Price:
And as one earth shall pass away, and the heavens thereof even so shall another come; and there is no end to my works, neither to my words.
For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man" (Moses 1:38-39).
Even the work of our Savior, Jesus Christ continues:

[Christ] will finish his Gospel discourse when he overcomes his enemies, and puts his last enemy under his feet-when he destroys death, and him that hath the power of it-when he has raised up this kingdom, and finished his work which the Father gave him to do, and presents it to his Father, saying, 'I have done the work, I have finished it; I have not only created the world, but I have redeemed it; I have watched over it, and I have given to those intelligent beings, that you have created by me, their agency, and it has been held with perfection to every creature of intelligence, to every grade of mankind; I have preserved inviolate their agency; I have watched over them, and overruled all their actions, and held in my hand the destinies of men; and I have finished up my Gospel sermon,' as he presents the finished work to his Father (see 1 Corinthians 15:25-27).
Brigham said the righteous are all awaiting that great day- be there here or in the Spirit World:
[Their] happiness will not be complete-their glory will not attain to the final consummation of its fulness, until they have entered into the immediate presence of the Father and the Son, to be crowned, as Jesus will be, when the work is finished. When it is wound up, the text is preached, in all its divisions, pertaining to the redemption of the world, and the final consummation of all things; then the Savior will present the work to the Father, saying, "Father, I have finished the work thou gavest me to do;" and the Son will give it up to the Father, and then be subject to Him, and then he will be crowned, and that is the time you and I will be crowned also.

This is the glorious and great gospel sermon.
You cannot find a compass on the earth, that points, so directly, as the Gospel plan of salvation. It has a place for every thing, and puts everything in its place. It divides, and sub-divides, and gives to every portion of the human family, as circumstances require.(Brigham Young, JD 3:80-97).


"If You Could Hie To Kolob," Hymns, 292.

October 16, 2007

See You In Prison

Part 3 of "The Great Gospel Sermon"  
Brigham Young  
August 8, 1852

Today is the conclusion of the three-part post on this excellent Brigham Young discourse. Brigham said the purpose of life is to become gods:

The Lord created you and me for the purpose of becoming Gods like Himself; when we have been proved in our present capacity, and been faithful with all things He puts into our possession. We are created, we are born for the express purpose of growing up from the low estate of manhood, to become Gods like unto our Father in heaven. That is the truth about it, just as it is. The Lord has organized mankind for the express purpose of increasing in that intelligence and truth, which is with God, until he is capable of creating worlds on worlds, and becoming Gods, even the sons of God.
This is the purpose of life; to return to our Father and become like Him in a relationship of love and unity, not individual power and will. In the great intercessory prayer, Christ prayed that we all may be one, as He is one with the Father. He said:
And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent (John 17:3).
There has been a great deal of speculation in the Church as to what it means to become gods. As Paul said:
Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him (1 Corinthians 2:9).
Even though we have an inkling, many of the details seem beyond comprehension right now. Brigham wanted the Saints to know they weren't the only people in the world God would exalt; many would have the opportunity to become saints with them before the final winding up scene:
How many will become thus privileged?
Those who honor the Father and the Son; those who receive the Holy Ghost, and magnify their calling, and are found pure and holy; they shall be crowned in the presence of the Father and the Son. Who else?
Not anybody. What becomes of all the rest? Are you going to cast them down, and sink them to the bottom of the bottomless pit, to be angels to the devil? Who are his angels?
No man nor woman, unless they receive the Gospel of salvation, and then deny it, and altogether turn away from it, sacrificing to themselves the Son of God afresh. They are the only ones who will suffer the wrath of God to all eternity. The very heathen we were talking about; if they have a law, no matter who made it, and do the best they know how, they will have a glory which is beyond your imagination, by any description I might give; you cannot conceive of the least portion of the glory of God prepared for His beings, the workmanship of His hands; for these people who are seated before me, who are the sons and daughters, legitimately so, of our Father in heaven, they all sprung from Him; it hath not entered into the heart of man to conceive what He has prepared for them.
Couple these thoughts with yesterday's post about people and their opportunities to accept Christ and His gospel. But there is a space between death and the final judgment. When we die, our spirits separate from our bodies and arrive in the Spirit World.

At this point in the discourse Brigham explains more about the Spirit World, as he has in former discourses.[1] The Book of Mormon explains at death "all men" are taken back "home to that God who gave them life" (See Alma 40:11-15). This doesn't necessarily mean that all men meet God right after death, as Brigham explained:
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.
Brigham said all will be in the same place, but not in the same condition, just like we are here.[2] Death is like a door through which we walk; while it is likely a culture shock, we remain much the same person. You will be you, as Amulek taught:
...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).
Brigham explained:
If we go back to our mother country, the States, we there find the righteous, and we there find the wicked; if we go to California, we there find the righteous and the wicked, all dwelling together; and when we go beyond this vail, and leave our bodies which were taken from mother earth, and which must return; our spirits will pass beyond the vail; we go where both Saints and sinners go; they all go to one place. Does the devil have power over the spirits of just men?
No. When he gets through with this earth, he is at the length of his chain. He only has permission to have power and dominion on this earth, pertaining to this mortal tabernacle; and when we step through the vail, all are in the presence of God… Where are the spirits of the ungodly?
They are in prison. Where are the spirits of the righteous, the Prophets, and the Apostles?
They are in prison, brethren; that is where they are.I know it is a startling idea to say that the prophet and the persecutor of the prophet, all go to prison together...
Now, ye Elders of Israel, when you say that John Wesley went to hell, say that Joseph Smith went there too. When you tell about Judas Iscariot going to hell, say that Jesus went there too.
So the righteous and the wicked arrive at the same location. What is the condition of the righteous?
What is the condition of the righteous?
They are in possession of the spirit of Jesus-the power of God, which is their heaven; Jesus will administer to them; angels will administer to them; and they have a privilege of seeing and understanding more than you or I have, in the flesh; but they have not got their bodies yet, consequently they are in prison. When will they be crowned, and brought into the presence of the Father and the Son?
Not until they have got their bodies; this is their glory. What did the holy martyrs die for?
Because of the promise of receiving bodies, glorified bodies, in the morning of the resurrection. For this they lived, and patiently suffered, and for this they died. In the presence of the Father, and the Son, they cannot dwell, and be crowned, until the work of the redemption of both body and spirit is completed.
What is the condition of the wicked?
What is the condition of the wicked?
They are in prison. Are they happy? No; They have stepped through the vail, to the place where the vail of the covering is taken from their understanding. They fully understand that they have persecuted the just and Holy One, and they feel the wrath of the Almighty resting upon them, having a terrible foreboding of the final consummation of their just sentence, to become angels to the devil; just as it is in this world, precisely.
Comfortingly, Brigham said Satan wouldn't have power as he does in this world to afflict the Spirits in the Spirit World:
Has the devil power to afflict, and cast the spirit into torment?
No! We have gained the ascendancy over him. It is in this world only he has power to cause affliction and sickness, pain and distress, sorrow, anguish, and disappointment; but when we go there, behold! the enemy of Jesus has come to the end of his chain; he has finished his work of torment; he cannot come any further; we are beyond his reach[3] and the righteous sleep in peace, while the spirit is anxiously looking forward to the day when the Lord will say, "Awake my Saints, you have slept long enough;" for the trump of God shall sound, and the sleeping dust shall arise, and the absent spirits return, to be united with their bodies; and they will become personages of tabernacle, like the Father, and His Son, Jesus Christ; yea Gods in eternity.
Thus the righteous will be crowned, and the great gospel sermon comes to an end, by continuing into eternity:
[The righteous] look forward with great anxiety to that day, and their happiness will not be complete-their glory will not attain to the final consummation of its fulness, until they have entered into the immediate presence of the Father and the Son, to be crowned, as Jesus will be, when the work is finished. When it is wound up, the text is preached, in all its divisions, pertaining to the redemption of the world, and the final consummation of all things; then the Savior will present the work to the Father, saying, "Father, I have finished the work thou gavest me to do;" and the Son will give it up to the Father, and then be subject to Him, and then he will be crowned, and that is the time you and I will be crowned also.
Brigham leaves no one out; all will have the opportunity to accept the gospel. He makes a parenthetical remark about Temple work for the dead:
The faithful Elders will come, and go forward in the ordinances of God, that our ancestors, and all who have died previous to the restoration of the Gospel in these last days, may be redeemed.
Brigham closed by saying the "great gospel sermon" that is preached from the creation until the full redemption is complete is a glorious sermon; it is the purpose of life, it is the answer to the "Terrible Questions," it provides for all of God's children:
The world cannot see the whole of the Gospel sermon at one glance; they can only pick up a little here, and a little there. They that do understand it from the beginning to the end, know that is as straight as a line can be drawn. You cannot find a compass on the earth, that points, so directly, as the Gospel plan of salvation. It has a place for every thing, and puts everything in its place. It divides, and sub-divides, and gives to every portion of the human family, as circumstances require (Brigham Young, JD 3:80-97).

For more of Brigham Young's thoughts on the spirit world see this post.  

The difference in condition rather than in location of the Spirit World was discussed in this post from an Orson Pratt discourse
[3] This sounds like the condition promised to the Three Nephites:
...ye shall not have pain while ye shall dwell in the flesh, neither sorrow save it be for the sins of the world; and all this will I do because of the thing which ye have desired of me...(3 Nephi 28:9).