August 17, 2007

Joseph and the Devil

Jedediah M. Grant March 11, 1855 President Grant was relating the difference between Joseph Smith's experiences as a prophet and sectarian religion, namely, the Methodist's. He emphasized the difference as divine revelation, including visions. An interesting tidbit was couched in the explanation:

When Joseph Smith bore testimony, he told the people that an angel from high heaven had spoken to him, that he had been ordained by authority from Jesus Christ, and sent forth to preach the Gospel. Did you ever hear the Methodists bear such a testimony? If not, how can you expect them to have such faith as the man who believes the testimony of Joseph Smith? The Methodists have no such testimony, only as they have it from the Latter-day Saints. Joseph also said that he had seen the dark regions of Hades; did you ever hear a Methodist bear that testimony? No (Journal of Discourses 2:279).
This brought one verse to mind from an epistle Joseph wrote to the Church at Nauvoo in 1842, wherein is couched a similar interesting detail:
And again, what do we hear? Glad tidings from Cumorah! Moroni, an angel from heaven, declaring the fulfilment of the prophets—the book to be revealed. A voice of the Lord in the wilderness of Fayette, Seneca county, declaring the three witnesses to bear record of the book! The voice of Michael on the banks of the Susquehanna, detecting the devil when he appeared as an angel of light! (D&C 128:20).
It seems the Prophet Joseph had an encounter of some kind with the adversary. This hearkens to similar situations such as one encountered by Moses, where an exchange between the prophet and Satan occurs. Jesus was tempted by the adversary in person after his 40 day fast. There are other revealed, as well as apocryphal accounts of Satan wrestling with prophets of God. Jedediah M. Grant, previous to the comments above, discoursed on the real power of God and the real power of Satan:
I am aware that even some of the Latter-day Saints are slow to believe in relation to the power of Lucifer, the son of the morning, who was thrust from the heavens to the earth; and they have been slow to believe in relation to the spirits that are associated with him; but from the first revelations of the Almighty to brother Joseph Smith, not only revelations in relation to the deep things of the kingdom of God, and the high things of heaven, and the depths of hell, but revelations showing him the power of Lucifer, the opposite to good, that he might be aware of the strength of his opponent, and the opponent of the Almighty-I say, from perusing these revelations, I have always been specially impressed with the doctrine relating to the power of Satan, as well as with the doctrines relating to the power of God (Journal of Discourses 2:10).
He also mentioned the experiences of Heber C. Kimball and some of the other twelve who, upon introducing the gospel to England, were confronted by legions of the adversary:
…you who have come from the old country, and some of the first Elders that went over there-Presidents Young, Kimball, Hyde, and others, recollect manifestations of the spirits of the devil in that land. They attacked those brethren by hundreds and by thousands, and the spirits were actually visible. If you could call up brother Willard Snow, and converse with him, I have no doubt that he would tell you he was attacked by them, and they overcame his body (Journal of Discourses 2:10).
Heber C. Kimball testified of his experiences with adversarial spirits while opening the first mission to England. Upon returning from that mission he described in vivid detail his own experience:
Perhaps there are some who do not believe much in spirits, but I know that they exist and visit the earth, and I will tell you how and why I know it. When I was in England, brother Geo. D. Watt[2] was the first man baptized, and his mother was baptized directly after he was. The night previous to my going forward to baptize brother Watt and eight others, I had a vision, as old father Baker used to say, "of the infernal world." I saw legions of wicked spirits that night, as plain as I now see you, and they came as near to me as you now are, and company after company of them rushed towards me; and brother Hyde and brother Richards also saw them. It was near the break of day, and I looked upon them as I now look upon you. They came when I was laying hands upon brother Russell, the wicked spirits got him to the door of the room, I did not see them till after that took place, and soon afterwards I lay prostrate upon the floor. That was in England, pious England, in the little town of Preston, at the corner of Wilford Street, and they struggled and exerted all their power and influence. That was the first introduction of the Gospel into England, and I was shown those spirits as plainly as ever I saw anything. I was thinking of that circumstance while brother Brigham was speaking this morning, and I was thinking that those spirits were just as much on hand to perplex this people as they were on hand there. I saw their hands, their eyes, and every feature of their faces, the hair on their heads, and their ears, in short they had full-formed bodies. If evil spirits could come to me, cannot ministering spirits and angels also come from God? Of course they can, and there are thousands of them, and I wish you to understand this, and that they can rush as an army going to battle, for the evil spirits came upon me and brother Hyde in that way. There is one circumstance in the visit of those evil spirits, that I would not tell if brother Hyde had not often told it himself; they spoke and said to brother Hyde, "We have nothing against you," no, but I was the lad that they were after. I mention this to show that the devil is an enemy to me, he is also an enemy to brother Brigham, to brother Jedediah, to the Twelve, and to every righteous man. When brother Benson goes to the old country he will find hosts of evil spirits, and he will know more about the devil than he ever did before. The spirits of the wicked, who have died for thousand of years past, are at war with the Saints of God upon the earth. Do I ever pray that I may see them again? No, I do not. We had prayed all day, and almost all night, that we might have power to establish the Gospel in England. Previous to this, Mr. Fielding, a clergyman, came and forbid my baptizing those persons who had come forward. Said I, sir, they are of age, and I shall baptize them, if they wish for it, and I baptized nine. The next morning I was so weak that I could scarcely stand, so great was the effect that those spirits had upon me. I wrote a few words to my wife about the matter, and brother Joseph called upon her for the letter and said, "It was a choice jewel, and a testimony that the Gospel was planted in a strange land."
Joseph and Heber later discussed dealing with the Devil:
When I returned home I called upon brother Joseph, and we walked down the bank of the river. He there told me what contests he had had with the devil; he told me that he had contests with the devil, face to face. He also told me how he was handled and afflicted by the devil, and said, he had known circumstances where Elder Rigdon was pulled out of bed three times in one night. After all this some persons will say to me, that there are no evil spirits. I tell you they are thicker than the "Mormons" are in this country, but the Lord has said that there are more for us than there can be against us. "Who are they," says one? Righteous men who have been upon the earth (JD 3:229-230).
Additional references: From Leon R. Hartshorn, Joseph Smith: Prophet of the Restoration: "He had seen the Father and the Son. He had seen the angel, not once, but many times. He had seen the glory of God and a vision of Satan on the hill." (p. 11) From B. H. Roberts, New Witnesses for God, 1: 283 - 284. "On the occasion of this interview with Moroni, before referred to, that the young prophet might not be deceived by the powers of darkness, he was given a vision of Satan and his hosts and their methods of deception." Oliver Cowdery's account of Joseph encountering the adversary when he went to retrieve the plates is probably the most explicit. I will include selections in an upcoming post, and revise this one. Footnotes [1] The image is Gustave Doré's depiction of Satan from John Milton's Paradise Lost [2] George D. Watt was the stenographer who recorded many of the discourses in the Journal of Discourses.

August 16, 2007

When Left To Ourselves

Jedediah M. Grant
March 11, 1855

Lorenzo Snow expected his strong spiritual experiences he had before baptism to continue and strengthen immediately after his baptism, but he said afterwards he felt "stillborn" into the Church. He repeatedly prayed for more spiritual witnesses, but felt, instead that the heavens were "as brass" over his head. He remained determined and went to a place he had often prayed in seclusion.

Lorenzo described the Spirit descending upon him, hearing the sound like the "rustling of silken robes." He said the feeling of the Spirit upon him and every part of his body was more tangible than feeling the actual water of his baptism.

After the dearth came the flood. After the famine came the feast. After the night came the dawn. He received a powerful witness after the trial of his faith, (see Ether 12:6; Biography and Family Records of Lorenzo Snow, comp. Eliza R. Snow, Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 1884, pp. 7–8).

Jedediah M. Grant[1] talked about the influence of the Spirit, and why we may sometimes feel left to ourselves as Lorenzo Snow did:

We have received many testimonies of the goodness of God, our heavenly Father, in sickness and in health; He has heard our prayers, and supplied our wants; in distress He has administered unto us consolation; and when the light of His Spirit is upon us we comprehend clearly the dealings of the Lord, but when that Spirit is absent from us we do not so clearly comprehend His mercies and blessings bestowed upon us individually, and as a people.

I presume that in the order of the providences of God He has considered it necessary, at times, to leave His children to themselves, without the aid of any special influence of the Holy Spirit, that they may learn to comprehend and appreciate it when bestowed upon them.
When Joseph Smith was in Liberty Jail he was troubled, not only by the degrading circumstances, but by the terrible situation the Saints in Missouri were facing. About 8,000 of them were being forced from their homes due to the extermination order of Governor Boggs. Joseph must have been in dire straights and it seems, at least for a moment, he wondered where God had gone:

O God, where art thou? And where is the pavilion that covereth thy hiding place? How long shall thy hand be stayed, and thine eye, yea thy pure eye, behold from the eternal heavens the wrongs of thy people and of thy servants, and thine ear be penetrated with their cries?

Yea, O Lord, how long shall they suffer these wrongs and unlawful oppressions, before thine heart shall be softened toward them, and thy bowels be moved with compassion toward them? (D&C 121:1-3).
Joseph Smith didn't pray about whether God was there, or not, he already knew from experience he existed. Joseph wanted to know where he had gone, as it seemed he had been left alone for a time. As B.H Roberts said, Joseph

...made Liberty jail, for a time, a center of instruction. The eyes of the saints were turned to it as the place whence would come encouragement, counsel—the word of the Lord. It was more temple than prison, so long as the Prophet was there. It was a place of meditation and prayer.

… Joseph Smith sought God in this rude prison, and found him (B. H. Roberts, A Comprehensive History of the Church, 1:526).

In Lehi's dream in which he saw the iron rod notice that mists of darkness were inevitable. Everyone, it seems, at some point in the dream passed through the mists of darkness.

Sometimes, our wise Father may leave us to ourselves, without the full blessings of the Spirit to guide us, to prove us, stretch us, and help us grow, as Jedediah explained:

...the blessings you enjoy every day for a week, a month, or a year, you do not prize so highly as you do the blessings you receive more seldom. Deprive a man of any common article of food, even the bread you now enjoy, keep it from him for a week, for a month, or for a year, and when he again obtains it he will appreciate it very much.

It is measurably so with the Spirit of the Lord; we do not enjoy it at all times, we do not receive it under all the circumstances of life, the same as we do under some special condition that we may be placed in, where we particularly need the Spirit of the Lord to assist us.
Jedediah tied in the concept of prayer, saying in a humorous way, sometimes the Lord might seem distant if our prayers are not expressed as a humble way of discovering God's will, rather than dictating to the Lord what we want to happen:

We pray for many things; and I have heard some people pray in a manner that they would be very sorry, in their sober moments, if the lord should actually answer their prayers.

If the prayers of the people were written down, so that they could read and reflect upon them, I have no doubt but what they would wish to have a new edition. I have heard people pray for the Lord to do this and that; indeed, I have heard them pray for Him to do a thousand things that they themselves would not attempt to do (Journal of Discourses 3:272-279).
Jedediah died suddenly and unexpectedly in 1856 at the age of 40, leaving his wife to raise an infant named Heber J. Interestingly, Heber experienced exactly what his father had spoken of; Heber called it "a dark night of the soul." The young man felt inadequate when called to serve in the Quorum of the Twelve and experienced great doubts, even becoming apprised of some mumbling about his lack of experience for such a high and holy calling among some members. He felt left to himself, as Lorenzo Snow had.

A while after he was set apart as he was journeying through Arizona he separated from his group to ponder the new calling. As he did so, he described a type of vision with Joseph Smith and his father Jedediah discussing the vacancies in the Quorum and appointing Heber to the fill one. His mind became settled and he never questioned his call again.[2]

Regardless of why the Lord may seem distant, be it personal transgression, pride, a trial of faith, or anything else, it is vital we continue to pray and cling as close to the Lord as we can. The mists of darkness will come; it is imperative-especially in those times- to grasp the rod and never let go.


President Grant, b. Feb. 21, 1816, was a fiery speaker who joined the Church at a young age, participated in Zion's Camp, and shortly thereafter was called as one of the first missionaries to Maryland, North Carolina, and what is presently Virgina. In 1844 he was among the men chosen to travel the country campaigning for Joseph Smith's presidential bid. He served as a President of the Seventy helping to organize westward migrations.
He became the first mayor of Salt Lake City, Utah, beginning in 1851. In 1854 he was ordained an apostle, but instead of being in the quorum of the 12 he served as second counselor in the First Presidency to Brigham Young. He toured the Church in 1856 on assignment during the so-called Mormon reformation, when the church was exhorted to remember their covenants, most of them being rebaptised. His fiery discourses earned him the nickname "Brigham's Sledgehammer."
After this tour he contracted pneumonia and died on Dec. 1, 1856, nine days after the birth of his son Heber J. Grant. He had seven wives and thirteen children. (source: Wikipedia)

See "Heber J. Grant," by Ronald W. Walker; Biographical Essays of Presidents of the Church, ed. Leonard Arrington, pg. 232-233. The concept of a "dark night" traces, as far as I have seen, to a 16th century mystic, St. John of the Cross, who described his trial of faith in a poem called "Dark Night of the Soul."

[eds. note: There is more information on different reasons we may be left to ourselves. See "Cling Close To The Lord," for example.
Also, I may add in the future Dallin H. Oaks on asking for too much; Henry B. Eyring on pride creating a noise, etc.]

August 15, 2007

Diet, Rest, and Labor

Brigham Young April 8, 1855 Here are some excepts from a rather colorful sermon given by President Young, who occasionally took time to offer some of his opinions on general health and living. While his terminology and phraseology brought a smile to my face, the underlying principle discussed is pretty good advice:

The people have laid the foundation of short life through their diet, their rest, their labor, and their doing this, that, and the other in a wrong manner, with improper motives, and at improper times. I would be glad to instruct the people on these points, if they would hearken to me. I would be glad to tell mothers how to lay forth the foundation of health in their children, that they may be delivered from the diseases with which I am afflicted, and have been from my youth up.

Suppose I happen to say 'Come, wife, let us have a good dinner today;' what does she get?

Pork and beef boiled, stewed, roasted, and fried, potatoes, onions, cabbage, and turnips, custard, eggs, pies of all kinds, cheese, and sweet-meats.

Now grant that I and my wife sit down and overload our stomachs, until we feel the deleterious effects of it from the crowns of our heads to the soles of our feet, the whole system is disturbed in its operations, and is ready to receive and impart disease.

A child begotten under such a condition of the systems of its parents, is liable to be born with a tabernacle subject to a life of pain and distress.Will all the women hearken to this plain statement? No, you might as well talk to the wild geese that fly over us.

Brigham cautioned mothers against giving their children harmful substances as well:
Some mothers when bearing children long for tea and coffee, or for brandy and other strong drinks, and if they give way to that influence the next time they will want more, and the next still more, and thus lay the foundation for drunkenness in their offspring. An appetite is engendered, bred, and born in the child, and it is a miracle if it does not grow up a confirmed drunkard."
Brigham concluded by discussing the attitude some might have, that if they die they really wouldn't care. Those who are very lax about taking care of their bodies might reason; "At least I'll die happy!" Brigham countered:
Still, in the present short period of life some say that 'this is a miserable world, I do not care how soon I get through.' Well go and destroy yourselves, if you choose, you have all the opportunity that you can desire, there is plenty of arsenic, calomel, and other means, within your reach. But I would not give a cent for such persons; I do not delight in such characters, and I do not believe that the Lord delights in people who wish to die before they have accomplished the work that He designed for them to do. For a person to be willing to die is but a small part of the duties pertaining to the Gospel of salvation and the Gift of eternal life. We ought to prepare ourselves to live in the flesh, and overcome every sin, to live to the glory of God, to build up His kingdom, and to bring forth righteousness, salvation, and deliverance to the house of Israel, until the devil and his associates are driven from the earth, and he and his clan are bound and thrust down to hell, and a seal put upon them. Latter-day Saints who live merely to get ready to die are not worth much; rather get ready to live, and be prepared to live to the glory of your Father in heaven, and to do the work He has given you to do. That is our duty, and then we shall be ready to receive our blessings (Journal of Discourses 2:266).
Eat right. Get plenty of rest. Exercise. We know all this stuff. If only we could get the motivation to do it! And do it consistently!

August 14, 2007

Faithfulness and Apostasy

Brigham Young April 6, 1855

I recollect many times when brother Joseph, reflecting upon how many would come into the Kingdom of God and go out again, would say, 'Brethren, I have not apostatized yet, and don't feel like doing so.' Many of you, no doubt, can call to mind his words. Joseph had to pray all the time, exercise faith, live his religion, and magnify his calling, to obtain the manifestations of the Lord, and to keep him steadfast in the faith.
On my mission we heard an address by Elder Holland. He asked the hypothetical question: if the Gospel is true, why isn't missionary success more rapid? Why isn't the only risk in missionary work that of pneumonia from being in a baptismal font all day? His answer was powerful, especially from a special witness of Christ:
Because salvation is not a cheap experience....If you wonder if there isn't an easier way, you should remember you are not the first one to ask that. Someone a lot greater and a lot grander asked a long time ago if there wasn't an easier way (Jeffrey R. Holland, “Missionary Work and the Atonement,” Ensign, March 2001, 15; emphasis in original).
Certainly, we must rely on the grace of Jesus Christ, and we shouldn't make life unduly difficult. When we are baptized and covenant with Christ we promise to be willing to keep His commandments; to do the best we can. We take upon us his yoke. He promises that his yoke is easy and His burden, light, (see Matt. 11:28-30). Notice that by being yoked with the Savior some pulling on our part is still required! Certainly there are a number of reasons a person might leave the Church of Jesus Christ, remove the yoke, and be "free" of the responsibility. Essentially, in all cases, they have given up, as Brigham said:
When I call to mind the multitudes with whom I have been acquainted in this kingdom, and reflect how few there are who have stood firm and how many have apostatized, I often at first think it is strange, but again, it is no marvel, realizing as I do that every person who lives in this Church must be faithful. They cannot run by sight, but must actually exercise faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, in order to enjoy the light of the Holy Ghost. When they neglect this, the spirit of the world takes possession of them, and they become cold and fruitless, and pine away into darkness and spiritual death, and finally leave us. Will this continue? Yes."
The key to maintaining the faith, then, is keeping the influence of the Spirit in our lives. Brigham continues:
If you wish to know the reason why they apostatize, it is because they neglect their duty, lose the Spirit of the Lord, and the spirit of the holy Gospel that they received when they first embraced it. Many receive the Gospel because they know it is true; they are convinced in their judgment that it is true; strong argument overpowers them, and they are rationally compelled to admit the Gospel to be true upon fair reasoning. They yield to it, and obey its first principles, but never seek to be enlightened by the power of the Holy Ghost; such ones frequently step out of the way.
I am reminded of the parables of the sower, where Jesus describes the different types of soil where the seed is planted. Some seeds fell among stony places, took root- but not deep enough; when the sun came up they were scorched. Shallow faith, shallow effort, will yield a shallow testimony, (see Matt. 13:3-30; see also Alma 32). Brigham talked about the "fish and loaves" converts, who were attracted to the miracles of Christ, but when they were expected to change their lives they "walked no more with him," (John 6:66):
It is not for me to say how many embrace the Gospel for the sake of the loaves and fishes; but I really think, from their conduct, that many have embraced the Gospel to see if they cannot make gain of it; to see if there is any temporal advantage in it.[1]
No matter where else our testimony is rooted, it will fail if it does not become rooted in Jesus Christ. In addition, mere belief isn't enough:
A great many say, 'I believe the Gospel,' but continue to act wickedly, to do that which they know to be wrong. I wish you to fully understand that merely believing the Gospel, that Jesus is the Christ, in the Old and New Testaments, that Joseph Smith was a Prophet sent of God, and that the Book of Mormon is true, does not prepare you to become angels of light, sons and daughters of God, and joint heirs with Jesus Christ to a divine inheritance. Nor does mere belief entitle you to the possession of the crowns and thrones that you are anticipating. No, such preparation can be made, and such objects attained only by doing the work required of us by our Father in heaven, by obeying Him in all things, letting our will, dispositions, and feelings fall to our feet, to rise no more, from this time henceforth, and actually operating upon the principle that we will do the will of our Father in heaven, no matter what comes upon us. Then, if you are going to be killed by your enemies, or destroyed by the adversary, you can say, 'Kill away, destroy away.'"
Certainly we will be tested along the path of our discipleship, but Brigham provides a key to resist temptation, in one of my all-time favorite Brigham Young quotes:
Recollect, brethren and sisters, every one of you, that when evil is suggested to you, when it arises in your hearts, it is through the temporal organization. When you are tempted, buffeted, and step out of the way inadvertently: when your are overtaken in a fault, or commit an overt act unthinkingly; when you are full of evil passion, and wish to yield to it, then stop and let the spirit, which God has put into your tabernacles, take the lead. If you do that, I will promise that you will overcome all evil, and obtain eternal lives (Journal of Discourses 2:248-259).
I don't believe Brigham is talking about the Holy Ghost, here, although He plays a vital role. Brigham is talking about our own eternal spirit knowing, deep down what we ought to do. Listen to yourself, the Spirit of God will bring your spirit to the surface. Brigham concluded by telling the Saints none of them were safe from apostatizing from the Church, using Oliver Cowdery as an example. In a subsequest discourse he spoke of light either increasing or decreasing:

…let a man or women who has received much of the power of God, visions and revelations, turn away from the holy commandments of the Lord, and it seems that their senses are taken from them, their understanding and judgment in righteousness are taken away, they go into darkness, and become like a blind person who gropes by the wall. Many of you witness this almost daily. Such will continue to go on the retrograde path until they are decomposed; while those who are faithful will continue to increase, and this is the great blessing the Lord has given to, or placed within the reach of, the children of man, even to be capable of receiving eternal lives."

According to Brigham, this was the design of God, and allows us to freely choose between the good and evil:
He has so ordained it, that by the natural mind we cannot see and understand the things of God, therefore we must then seek unto the Lord, and get His Spirit and the light thereof, to understand His will. And when He is calling us to pass through that which we call afflictions, trials, temptations, and difficulties, did we possess the light of the Spirit, we would consider this the greatest blessing that could be bestowed upon us.
He closed with a key to avoiding apostasy: don't "cling" to the world:
If you cling to the world, and say it is hard for you to do this or that, recollect that the love of the Father is not in you. Let me love the world as He loves it, to make it beautiful, and glorify the name of my Father in heaven. It does not matter whether I or anybody else owns it, if we only work to beautify it and make it glorious, it is all right. Let me do what I am called to do, and be contented with my lot, a and not worry about this, that, or the other. I have spoken long enough. May God bless you. Amen (Journal of Discourses 2:298-309).
Footnotes: [1] "Fish and Loaves" converts were mentioned again in 1856 by Jedediah M. Grant. In discussing why Saints gathered to Utah, he insisted it wasn't for better financial circumstances, but conceded there appeared to be some who may have gathered for that reason: Some may ask, why the Latter-day Saints rejoice? I answer, we rejoice not alone in that we have a claim superior to the claims of others; not alone in that we have houses and lands, and power and authority, and the comforts of this city, but in the privileges given us by the Almighty, through faith and obedience, for being more happy than other people. We have not the facilities that the people of many other cities and parts of the earth possess; indeed, we are deprived of many of the comforts and luxuries which many enjoy in other climes. But suppose we are, did we come here for them? Were they the grand object of our leaving our native soil? Was this the view we had when we left Europe, the United States, or any other part of the earth, or the islands of the sea? Did we come here to obtain a better farm, to obtain the luxuries of life? If this was the object of our pursuit, we have certainly been mistaken. It is possible that some may have been tempted, as they were in the days of Jesus, by the loaves and fishes; but those who understood the truth, and comprehended and loved virtue, had no such idea. They understood that the Gospel of the Son of God, proclaimed and taught by the proper officers, had been brought unto them, and that the scepter of life had been held out to them. And may we not, as Saints of God, rejoice that we have found and received the truth, that we have tasted of its sweetness, and that it has made us happy (JD 4:15-16).

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).