September 21, 2007

Cut Their Throats: Brigham, Freedom, and the Kingdom of God

Brigham Young
July 8, 1855
A favorite quote of critics of the LDS Church such as Shawn McCraney, Will Bagely, the Tanners, Ed Decker and others comes from a sermon given by Brigham Young on the subject of the Kingdom of God. Recently the quote has received more play because of the release of the polemic film September Dawn, which claims to portray the Mountain Meadows Massacre. In the trailer for an upcoming movie called "A Mormon President," McCraney said "[Mormons] would love to take over the world, I think they believe that they will someday do it." (He's the bleach-blond guy with the first couple buttons on his shirt undone.) Mormons? Taking over the world? Is that what we're talking about in all those 3-hour Sunday meetings?
When torn from context, the quote seems quite damning:
To diverge a little, in regard to those who have persecuted this people and driven them to the mountains, I intend to meet them on their own grounds. It was asked this morning how we could obtain redress for our wrongs; I will tell you how it could be done, we could take the same law they have taken, viz., mobocracy, and if any miserable scoundrels come here, cut their throats. (All the people said, Amen.)
Pulling this quote from the discourse, removing the context is called "quote-mining,"[1] a favorite behavior of the anti-Mormon. Let's go through the entire discourse and see what we find.
To begin, Brigham said Elder J. M. Grant and one of the Pratt brothers had spoken on the Kingdom of God earlier in the day. He said the subject loomed so large it was nearly impossible for a speaker to cover everything it involved. Thus, he would speak to give clarification. He dove right in, describing the Kingdom of God. At times Brigham became too brash, and spoke too harshly, but especially in the rest of this sermon, contrary to a restrictive and despotic "taking over the world" notion, President Young's comments are exhilarating and liberating:
If you and I could live in the flesh until that Kingdom is fully established, and actually spread abroad to rule in a temporal point of view, we should find that it will sustain and uphold every individual in what they deem their individual rights, so far as they do not infringe upon the rights of their fellow creatures. For instance, if the Kingdom of God was now established upon the continent of North and South America, and actually held rule and dominion over what we call the United States, the Methodist would be protected just as much as the Latter-day Saints; the Friend Quakers, the Shaking Quakers, and the members of every religious denomination would be sustained in what they considered to be their rights, so far as their notions were not incompatible with the laws of the Kingdom. ...When the Kingdom of God is fully set up and established on the face of the earth, and takes the pre-eminence over all other nations and kingdoms, it will protect the people in the enjoyment of all their rights, no matter what they believe, what they profess, or what they worship. If they wish to worship a god of their own workmanship, instead of the true and living God, all right, if they will mind their own business and let other people alone. … When the Kingdom of Heaven spreads over the whole earth, do, you expect that all the people composing the different nations will become Latter-day Saints? If you do; you will be much mistaken. …the order of society will be as it is when Christ comes to reign a thousand years; there will be every sort of sect and party, and every individual following what he supposes to be the best in religion, and in everything else, similar to what it is now.
First, it's clear that Brigham believed the Kingdom of God would allow men of all ideologies to live in freedom. Second, it's clear he believed the Kingdom would not bear rule until Christ Himself returns in the Millennium. What about wickedness, isn't that to be done away? Christ shall reign one thousand years, the Devil being bound? (See Revelation 20:2) Wickedness, not diversity of opinion, will be done away:

Will there be WICKEDNESS then as now? No.

How will you make this appear? When Jesus comes to rule and reign King of Nations as he now does King of Saints, the veil of the covering will be taken from all nations, that all flesh may see his glory together, but that will not make them all Saints. Seeing the Lord does not make a man a Saint, seeing an Angel does not make a man a Saint by any means. A man may see the finger of the Lord, and not thereby become a Saint; the vail of the covering may be taken from before the nations, and all flesh see His glory together, and at the same time declare they will not serve Him.

They will ask, 'If I bow the knee and confess that he is that Saviour, the Christ, to the glory of the Father, will you let me go home and be a Presbyterian?'


'And not persecute me?'


'Won't you let me go home and belong to the Greek Church?' 'Yes.'

'Will you allow me to be a Friend Quaker, or a Shaking Quaker?'

'O yes, anything you wish to be, but remember that you must not persecute your neighbors, but must mind your own business, and let your neighbors alone, and let them worship the sun, moon, a white dog, or anything else they please, being mindful that every knee has got to bow and every tongue confess. When you have paid this tribute to the Most High, who created you and preserves you, you may then go and worship what you please, or do what you please, if you do not infringe upon your neighbors.'

Brigham continues to explain all ideologies, so long as they are peaceful and do not molest their neighbors, will be allowed to worship whatever they please, or even worship nothing at all. Then he said something of great interest to those who believe the LDS Church is planning on taking over the world:
As was observed by brother Pratt, that Kingdom is actually organized, and the inhabitants of the earth do not know it. If this people know anything about it, all right; it is organized preparatory to taking effect in the due time of the Lord, and in the manner that shall please Him. As observed by one of the speakers this morning, that Kingdom grows out of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but it is not the Church, for a man may be a legislator in that body which will issue laws to sustain the inhabitants of the earth in their individual rights, and still belong to the Church of Jesus Christ at all. And further, though a man may not even believe in any religion, it would be perfectly right, when necessary, to give him the privilege of holding a seat among that body which will make laws to govern all the nations of the earth and control those who make no profession of religion at all; for that body would be governed, controlled, and dictated to acknowledge others in those rights which they wish to enjoy themselves. Then the Latter-day Saints would be protected, if a Kingdom of this kind was on the earth, the same as all other people... The Church of Jesus Christ will produce this government, and cause it to grow and spread, and it will be a shield round about the Church. And under the influence and power of the Kingdom of God, the Church of God will rest secure and dwell in safety, without taking the trouble of governing and controlling the whole earth. The Kingdom of God will do this, it will control the kingdoms of the world.
That's really what they were after: protection. The power they sought, and the power the Church still waits for is the power of protection, the power of all men to worship God as they please and not fear corruption in high places. After all the mobocracy they had faced, they just wanted peace and the right to worship God in their own way. Did the Mormons then hate the Constitution? Hardly. They were disgusted by the treasonous actions pursued against them in Missouri and Illinois. True, Brigham spoke in great generalities here, and should have been a little more temperate. I can't blame him for his fire, after seeing what he'd seen it would be difficult to remain completely level-headed. Brigham still did well:

It was observed this morning that the government of the United States was the best or most wholesome one on the earth, and the best adapted to our condition. That is very true. And if the constitution of the United States, and the laws of the United States, and of the several States, were honored by the officers, by those who sit in judgment and dispense the laws to the people, yes, had even the letter of the law been honored, to say nothing of the spirit of it, of the spirit of right, it would have hung Governors, Judges, Generals, Magistrates, &c., for they violated the laws their own States.

Such has been the case with our enemies in every instance that this people have been persecuted. If a person belonging to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was guilty of stealing while living in the States, or if any of that Church were found guilty of murder, or any other transgression of the civil law, they ought to have been tried by the law, and have received the punishment affixed to the crime. Did any of the Latter-day Saints object to that? No, not one. Joseph the Prophet never objected to it, but on the contrary he urged it, prayed for it, and wished the Church to be delivered from all transgressors.

While we were in Illinois, if every trangressor [transgressor] of the law of that State, in our community, had been taken up and tried and punished, every Saint could have said, 'Amen, we are better without than with them.' So we say here, we are far better off without wicked men than with them. I would rather be in the midst of these mountains with one thousand, or even five hundred, men who are Latter-day Saints, than with five hundred thousand wicked men, in case all the forces of the earth were to come against us to battle, for God would fight the battles of the Saints, but He has not agreed to fight the battles of wicked men.I say again that the constitution, and laws of the United States, and the laws of the different States, as a general thing, are just as good as we want, provided they were honored. But we find Judges who do not honor the laws, yes, officers of the law dishonor the law. Legislators and law makers are frequently the first violators of the laws they make. 'When the wicked rule the people mourn,' and when the corruption of a people bears down the scale in favor of wickedness, that people is nigh unto destruction.We have the proof on hand, that instead of the laws being honored, they have been violated in every instance of persecution against this people; instead of the laws being made honorable, they have been trampled under the feet of lawyers, judges, sheriffs, governors, legislators, and nearly all the officers of the government; such persons are the most guilty of breaking the laws.

A brief historical note would be of interest here. When the Saints arrived in the Salt Lake Valley they set up a temporary Territorial constitution. they submitted such to the Federal government petitioning for statehood. The statehood was denied, but a territorial government created, naming Brigham Young governor. Soon federally appointed territorial judges were appointed, many of whom were aspiring politicians uninterested in the affairs of the Church. Others were scoundrels who greatly offended the saints, deserted their posts, went back to the east and published all manner of falsehoods against the Mormons. This the saints could not stand, and viewed it as taxation without representation: they felt they had the right to elect all their own officials. Eventually the troubles led to the Utah War in 1857. (For more, see Comprehensive History of the Church vol. 4, by B.H. Roberts.) Combine these tensions with the former persecutions of Missouri and Illinois when considering the next comments. This is the key stretch regarding the slitting of throats:

To diverge a little, in regard to those who have persecuted this people and driven them to the mountains, I intend to meet them on their own grounds. It was asked this morning how we could obtain redress for our wrongs; I will tell you how it could be done, we could take the same law they have taken, viz., mobocracy, and if any miserable scoundrels come here, cut their throats. (All the people said, Amen.)

This would be meting out that treatment to wicked men, which they had measured to innocent persons. We could meet them on their own ground, when they will not honor the law, but will kill the Prophets and destroy the innocent. They could drive the innocent from their homes, take their houses and farms, cattle and goods, and destroy men, women, and children, walking over the laws of the United States, trampling them under their feet, and not honoring a single law.

Suppose I should follow the example they have shown us, and say, "Latter-day Saints, do ye likewise, and bid defiance to the whole clan of such men?" Some who are timid might say, "O! our property will be destroyed, and we shall be killed." If any man here is a coward, there are fine mountain retreats for those who feel their hearts beating, at every little hue and cry of the wicked, as though they would break their ribs.

...You know that almost every time that Gentiles address us in public, they are very mindful to caution the Latter-day Saints "not to fight, now don't fight." Have we ever wanted to fight them? No, but we have wanted to preach to them the Gospel of peace.

Again, they say, 'We are afraid that you, Latter-day Saints, are becoming aliens to the United States, we are afraid your hearts are weaned from the brotherhood down yonder.'

Don't talk about weaning now, for we were weaned long ago, that is, we are or should be weaned from all wickedness and wicked men. I am so perfectly weaned that when I embrace "Mormonism," I could have left father, mother, wife, children, and every relation I had, and I am weaned from everybody that will turn a deaf ear to the voice of revelation. We are already weaned, but remember, we are not weaned from the constitution of the United States, but only from wickedness, or at least we should be. Let every man and woman rise up in the strength of their God, and in their hearts ask no favors of the wicked; that is the way to live and then let the wicked persecute, if they choose.

Are we going to fight? No, unless they come upon us and compel us either to fight or be slain. [2]

Brigham recounted the behavior of some Federal representatives who had been sent to Utah the year previous:

Last fall we were visited by some of the brotherhood from the east, and I said, 'Come in, my brother, come into my house; this is Mrs. Young, this is my daughter, and this is sister so and so. Wilford, Joseph and William; open your houses and let these eastern brethren stay with us in comfortable quarters this winter.'

Wilford turns his family out of a fine house into a log cabin, to let the brotherhood in. Not a person, with but one exception, opened his house for their accommodation, without first asking my counsel.

I said, 'Yes, open your houses, turn out your wives and children, and let the brotherhood come in, and prove to the old stock, that we are their friends if they will do anything like what is decent;' and we furnished them comfortable winter quarters.

Directly the brotherhood began to pass around, and, as brother Grant said to-day, with a glove half way on their fingers, apparently so virtuous in the day light that they durst not touch a female's hand with theirs, unless gloved, but under the shadows of night they would go whisking around, here and there, saying, 'Won't you take a sleigh ride with me this evening? Step into my carriage, and take a ride.'

These proceedings were directly in the face and eyes of this people. What did they do when I introduced them to a wife, a daughter, or a sister with all the grace, politeness, and kindness that could be expected from any man? As quick as my back was turned, it would be, 'Miss, or Madam, I want to get into bed with you. Look here, you come to my office, wont you? I have a good bed there.'

I will cut the matter short, and ask, once for all, did they return the compliment, and without exception reciprocate the kindness and courtesy with which they were invariably met? No, they did not, at least not all of them, for several returned evil for good, and introduced wickedness and corruption into our midst, and the Lord knows that we already had enough of that to contend with.

Past experience has taught the brethren that in future it will probably be the best policy to let soldiery quarter by themselves, and I am perfectly willing.

These offenses were very upsetting to the Saints. It only got worse when emigrants passing through on the way to California gold would try convincing women to join them, etc. Despite these scandals, Brigham wanted to be unflinching:

If persons come here and behave like gentlemen, they shall enjoy their rights, and we will enjoy ours or fight to the death. Let the laws of the United States be honored, and the laws of the individual States, and we will do as the Kingdom of God will do-protect every body in their rights.

The experience of the last winter has taught us a good lesson, and we hope it has taught the people generally a lesson. I am troubled all the time with, 'Brother Brigham,' and 'President Young, I do love you, President Young,' when at the same time some, who use such expressions, will have one arm round my neck, loving me dearly, and the other around the neck of a scoundrel, trying to get Christ and Belial together; this I cannot endure.

...I will say to such official gentlemen as tell and boast 'what the General Government is going to do,' or 'what they themselves will do,' or 'what they want to do,' thinking to terrify the Latter-day Saints, that you may as well undertake to terrify the Almighty on His throne, as to terrify a Latter-day Saint of the true stripe-one who has the true blood in him.True, there are many timid persons; timidity or fear is a weakness of the flesh; but to that person who has so far obtained the victory over the flesh as to know how God is dealing with the people, there is no terror, for he is just as ready to die as to live, just as the Lord pleases; his object is to do right, and he fears not.

Brigham returned to the theme; that the Kingdom of God was at hand, and the foundational rights of man would be given to all. The rights to progress and become like our Father. While government is currently imperfect, it won't always be so:

The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Jesus taught his disciples to pray that the kingdom of heaven might come upon the earth, and when it does come, you will find that it will be very different from what many people are imagining or expecting it will be. Its spirit will be to preserve their individual rights sacred to the inhabitants of the earth.

What is the foundation of the rights of man? The Lord Almighty has organized man for the express purpose of becoming an independent being like unto Himself, and has given him his individual agency. Man is made in the likeness of his Creator, the great archetype of the human species, who bestowed upon him the principles of eternity, planting immortality within him, and leaving him at liberty to act in the way that seemeth good unto him, to choose or refuse for himself; to be a Latter-day Saint or a Wesleyan Methodist, to belong to the Church of England, the oldest daughter of the Mother Church, to the old Mother herself, to her sister the Greek Church, or to be an infidel and belong to no church.

As I have just stated, the Lord Almighty has organized every human creature for the express purpose of becoming independent, and has designed that they should be capable of receiving the principles of eternity to a fulness; and when they have received them unto a fulness, they are made perfect, like unto the Son of Man, and become Gods, even the Sons of God.

I am so far from believing that any government upon this earth has constitutions and laws that are perfect, that I do not even believe that there is a single revelation, among the many God has given to the Church, that is perfect in its fulness.
For more on the revelations of the Church being imperfect, I refer you to this post, and continue on the theme of the Kingdom of God. Brigham said the Saints had greater responsibility because they had the gospel. Their job now wasn't to take over the world, Christ would take care of that in the best of ways; the saint's duty was self-improvement:

When we first received the spirit of the Gospel, what was the world to us, with its grandeur, its riches, its elegance, its finery, its gaudy show, its glittering array of paltry honors, its empty titles, and every thing pertaining to it? Nothing but a shadow, when the Lord opened our minds and by the visions of His Spirit revealed to us a few of the things He had in reserve for the faithful, which were only, as it were, a drop in the bucket, compared to the ocean yet to be revealed. Yet that little made our hearts leap for joy, and we felt that we could forsake everything for the knowledge of Jesus Christ and the perfections that we saw in his character.

Are you Saints still? If you are not, repent of your sins and do your first works. Has the Lord taught you how to consecrate yourselves to His service, build up His kingdom, and send forth the Gospel to the uttermost parts of the earth, that others may rejoice in the same Spirit that you have received, and enjoy the same things you enjoy? Yes, He has; and what more? A great deal more. He has taught you how to purify yourselves, and become holy, and be prepared to enter into His kingdom, how you can advance from one degree to another, and grow in grace and in the knowledge of the truth, until you are prepared to enter the celestial kingdom; how to pass every sentinel, watchman, and gate keeper.
This has been the policy of the Church since its inception: not a global takeover by force, etc., not a "nation of perfect liberty," per se, but the unfurling of a realm of righteousness.
Brigham closed stating the Kingdom of God would roll forth despite all earthly kingdoms, God will bear rule, and the righteous people of all faiths, Latter-day saint or not, will enjoy freedom and peace:

When the day comes in which the Kingdom of God will bear rule, the flag of the United States will proudly flutter unsullied on the flag staff of liberty and equal rights, without a spot to sully its fair surface; the glorious flag our fathers have bequeathed to us will then be unfurled to the breeze by those who have power to hoist it aloft and defend its sanctity.

Up to this time we have carried the world on our backs. Joseph did it in his day, besides carrying this whole people, and now all this is upon my back, with my family to provide for at the same time, and we will carry it all, and bear off the Kingdom of God. And you may pile on state after state, and kingdom after kingdom, and all hell on top, and we will roll on the Kingdom of our God, gather out the seed of Abraham, build the cities and temples of Zion, and establish the Kingdom of God to bear rule over all the earth, and let the oppressed of all nations go free.

I have never yet talked as rough in these mountains as I did in the United States when they killed Joseph. I there said boldly and aloud, 'If ever a man should lay his hands on me and say, on account of my religion, "Thou art my prisoner," the Lord Almighty helping me, I would send that man to hell across lots.' I feel so now. Let mobbers keep their hands off from me, or I will send them where they belong; I am always prepared for such an emergency.I have occupied time enough; may God bless you. Amen (Journal of Discourses 2:309-318).

I have never seen a more liberal and exhilarating view of the coming Millennium than the one as taught by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. True, "we believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law," but additionally we believe true government will be rolled into one when "Christ will reign personally upon the earth; and, that the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory." (See Articles of Faith 10, 12.) Meantime, Brigham said the persecution could rage on, and the Church would still fulfill its divine destiny.[2]
With the entire discourse coupled with the doctrine of the Latter-day Saints in view it becomes clear what Brigham intended with the comment about cutting throats. The saints were tired of mobocracy and said "suppose we adopt the attitude of the mobs we face," so to speak. He was not advocating violence, he was speaking hyperbolically.
As B.H. Roberts noted in the Comprehensive History of the Church, the law regarding murder and the shedding of blood had been given to the Saints early in the restoration:
"The law of God has not lodged the right of capital punishment with the church. Even where there is a church trial had, and proof given of the worthiness of death, at that point it becomes the duty of the church to turn over those guilty of offenses worthy of death to the law of the land, to be dealt with according to that law, and through its ministers. What the law of God does not auhorize the church to do, it has not authorized individuals to do." (Comprehensive History of the Church 4:176, footnote 26.)
Roberts cited Doctrine and Covenants 42:18-19, 78-79:
"And now, behold, I speak unto the church. Thou shalt not kill; and he that kills shall not have forgiveness in this world, nor in the world to come. And again, I say, thou shalt not kill; but he that killeth shall die...And again, every person who belongeth to this church of Christ, shall observe to keep all the commandments and covenants of the church. And it shall come to pass, that if any persons among you shall kill they shall be delivered up and dealt with according to the laws of the land; for remember that he hath no forgiveness; and it shall be proved according to the laws of the land."
(cf. D&C 63:31, wherein the saints are forbidden to shed blood.)
On several occasions Pres. Young encouraged the Saints by telling them the work of God would continue, despite all opposition:

"Let the wicked rage and the people mock on, for now is their day, and it will soon be over...

Let them do all they can, and if they have power to destroy any more of this people, Amen to it; what will it do? It will only augment the cause of Zion, spread the Gospel of Salvation, and increase the Kingdom of God on the earth. Their persecutions will never destroy this people, or the everlasting Gospel. Every time they have killed any of this people and opposed the Gospel, both have increased ten fold, and the work has spread still the more; yes, more than it would have done had they let it alone, and not have come against the Saints to drive them from their possessions.

…for we are determined, in the name of Israel's God, not to rest until we have revolutionized the world with truth; and if you persecute us, we will do it the quicker." (Journal of Discourses 2:318)

While revolutionizing the world with the gospel rather than the sword, treasuring up good wherever it comes from was important to Brigham, as well:
As I said when I commenced preaching twenty-three years ago, and saw the same spirit of persecution exhibited then as subsequently, 'Let us alone, persecutors, we do not wish to fight you, for we have not come to destroy men's lives, or to take peace from the earth, but we have come to preach the Gospel, and to make known to you the things of the Kingdom of God. If your doctrine is better than ours, let us know it, for we are searching after the true riches, we wish the light of heaven to accompany us, we are searching after salvation, and if you have anything better than this, let us have it, and if we have anything better than you, you are welcome to it. But just let us alone, for we are determined, in the name of Israel's God, not to rest until we have revolutionized the world with truth; and if you persecute us, we will do it the quicker.'

I say the same now. Let us alone and we will send Elders to the uttermost parts of the earth, and gather out Israel, wherever they are; and if you persecute us, we will do it the quicker, because we are naturally dull when let alone, and are disposed to take a little sleep, a little slumber, and a little rest. If you let us alone, we will do it a little more leisurely; but if you persecute us, we will sit up nights to preach the gospel." (ibid.)

September 20, 2007

Godly Sorrow Worketh Repentence

Jedediah M. Grant December 17, 1854 Jedediah M. Grant discoursed on the basic principles of the gospel, and as I thought about his relatively straight-forward remarks on repentance many scattered thoughts crossed my mind. Repentance is an extremely substantive subject! It was too difficult for me to quickly create true cohesiveness in this post, so instead I thought I might as well toss some thoughts together like vegetables in some sort of repentance salad. So here it goes: Elder Grant:

Not long ago, our President was saying that he would like it, if the Elders would preach the Gospel. Considering myself an Elder, and years ago having had some experience in preaching the first principles of the Gospel to the world, I thought this morning I would endeavor, by the aid of your prayers, and by the aid of the Spirit of the Lord, to preach what I consider the Gospel.
Regarding repentance, he used Paul as his text:
For godly sorry worketh repentence to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorry of the world worketh death (2 Corinthians 7:9-11).
Elder Grant:
The sorrow of the world is of this nature; for instance, we find men who curse and swear, lie and steal, get drunk, etc., when they are reproved, or even when they reflect in their reflective moments, they are sorry for their conduct, but does that prove they repent? Certainly not, a man may be sorry for sin and not repent thereof. You may see the drunkard at his home intoxicated, abusing his wife and children, but when he is sober he is sorry for the act, and perhaps the next day is found drunk again, he still continues to pour down the intoxicating firewater, and is sorry again, does he repent? No; but he is sorry with the sorrow of the world, which worketh death, which is to sin, and be sorry for it, and go and sin again; but godly sorrow worketh repentance that needeth not to be repented of. What kind of sorrow do we understand Peter to mean when he said to the Jews, 'Repent.' We understand him to mean, they were to forsake their sins; to cease to do evil; let him that stole, steal no more; let him that got drunk, cease the sinful practice; let him who has been in the habit of doing wrong in any way, cease to do wrong, and learn to do right (Jedediah M. Grant, Journal of Discourses 2:225).
Repentance is such a basic principle- one of the first four of the gospel. You’ve probably seen the check-list methods, “First, feel bad. Second, make restitution,” etc. If repentance is nothing more than following a little checklist, it ought to be easy. Just do what you feel, then repent later. Joseph Smith discredited that notion:
Repentance is a thing that cannot be trifled with every day. Daily transgression and daily repentance is not that which is pleasing in the sight of God (TPJS, 148).
True repentance isn’t something we can easily toss behind our backs. It requires an actual change of heart, a continuing change of life. First I’ll talk about what repentance is, then distinguish between worldly and godly sorrow in the process. President Joseph F. Smith said:
True repentance is not only sorrow for sins, and humble penitence and contrition before God, but it involves the necessity of turning away from them, a discontinuance of all evil practices and deeds, a thorough reformation of life, a vital change from evil to good, from vice to virtue, from darkness to light (Gospel Doctrine, p. 100.)
This overall change encompasses the original meaning of the word “repent” as found in the Old and New Testaments. [1] The word often translated in the Old Testament is “shube,” which means to turn back, or to return. Consider that meaning in these verses from Ezekiel:
Nevertheless, if thou warn the wicked of his way to turn from [shube] it; if he do not turn from [shube] his way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul. … Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from [shube] his way and live (Ezek. 33:8–11).
Of this scripture, Elder Theodore M. Burton said:
I know of no kinder, sweeter passage in the Old Testament than those beautiful lines. In reading them, can you think of a kind, wise, gentle, loving Father in Heaven pleading with you to shube, or turn back to him—to leave unhappiness, sorrow, regret, and despair behind and turn back to your Father’s family, where you can find happiness, joy, and acceptance among his other children? That is the message of the Old Testament. Prophet after prophet writes of shube—that turning back to the Lord, where we can be received with joy and rejoicing (ibid.).
A similar concept is found in the New Testament word “metanoia,” which indicates a turning back, a change of mind, (See Strongs Concordance). Elder Burton explained when the Bible was translated into Latin, “matanoia” was translated as “poenitere,” of which Elder Burton lamented:
The Latin root poen in that word is the same root found in our English words punish, penance, penitent, and repentance. The beautiful meaning of the Hebrew and Greek words was thus changed in Latin to a meaning that involved hurting, punishing, whipping, cutting, mutilating, disfiguring, starving, or even torturing! It is no small wonder, then, that people have come to fear and dread the word repentance, which they understand to mean repeated or unending punishment. The meaning of repentance is not that people be punished, but rather that they change their lives so that God can help them escape eternal punishment and enter into his rest with joy and rejoicing. If we have this understanding, our anxiety and fears will be relieved (ibid.)
I submit this view of repentance is essential for us to understand in order to have goldly, rather than worldly sorrow. I believe fully owning up to the sin is imperative in the process. “If only my Bishop wasn’t so strict,” or “If only my parents were more strict,” and other such comments are not fruits of Godly sorrow. Godly sorrow takes responsibility, worldly sorrow seeks to spread the blame. Sometimes too much blame can be placed upon ourselves, however. Taking responsibility for our actions doesn’t mean we need to abase ourselves in destructive self-condemnation. President Howard W. Hunter explained:
It has always struck me as being sad that those among us who would not think of reprimanding our neighbor, much less a total stranger, for mistakes that have been made or weaknesses that might be evident, will nevertheless be cruel and unforgiving to themselves. When the scriptures say to judge righteously, that means with fairness and compassion and charity. That’s how we must judge ourselves. We need to be patient and forgiving of ourselves, just as we must be patient and forgiving of others (Teachings of Howard W. Hunter, p. 34).
I believe members of the Church too often withhold self-forgiveness. Beating ourselves up can lead us to be preoccupied with our shortcomings, which, according to President Boyd K. Packer, can lead us to commit the sin again and again, in a cycle of shame:
Preoccupation with unworthy behavior can lead to unworthy behavior ( Boyd K. Packer, “Little Children,” Ensign, Nov. 1986, 17).
Truly, we are to let our sins “trouble us.” How so? Alma told his wayward son, Corianton “…only let your sins trouble you, with that trouble which shall bring you down unto repentance,” (Alma 42:29). This "troubling" should lead to repentance rather than self-condemnation and discouragement. Because true repentance involves turning back to God; our sins should trouble us to seek His mercy; then we obtain relief from the trouble; the burden is lifted from our shoulders; we feel clean again. We don’t need to be “harrowed up” by our sins anymore. Even after repenting, however, we can’t always truly forget. Elder D. Chad Richardson, a former Area Seventy over the North America Southwest area, said repentance requires a “special kind" of forgetting:
“We don’t forget the sin and its effects; rather, the memory ceases to be part of how we see ourselves. For example, when Alma had been forgiven of his sins, he said, “I was harrowed up by the memory of my sins no more” (Alma 36:19). The fact that he could describe his repentance to his son Helaman showed that a memory was still there. But through Christ’s Atonement and forgiveness, that memory lost its edge of guilt and self-recrimination.
He differentiated godly and worldly sorrow thusly:
A main difference between these two forms of sorrow is their source. Worldly sorrow is promoted by Satan. It is the sorrow of being caught, of not being able to continue sinning, or of turning against oneself with self-loathing or disdain. Godly sorrow, on the other hand, is sorrow given as a gift from God to those who are willing to receive it. Godly sorrow leads us to a full recognition of the magnitude of our sins but with the knowledge that we can become free of them. It leads us to fully recognize the wrongs we have committed without giving in to the temptation to see ourselves as worthless or beyond God’s love. There is no room in godly sorrow for self-contempt. Those who refuse to forgive themselves thus bear a double burden of sin, for not only do they carry the sin itself, but they also add to it the sin of self-condemnation and refusing to forgive. Indeed, refusal to forgive is cited in the scriptures as “the greater sin” (D&C 64:9) (see "Forgiving Oneself," By Elder D. Chad Richardson).
Elder Henry B. Eyring described the process of repentance, and the true meaning of turning to God for forgiveness rather than punishment, in one of my favorite conference addresses I’ve ever heard:

Some parents are listening with this question:

"But how can I soften the heart of my child now grown older and convinced he or she doesn’t need God? How can I soften a heart enough to allow God to write His will upon it?"

Sometimes tragedy will soften a heart. But for some, even tragedy is not enough. But there is one need even the hardened and proud person cannot believe they can meet for themselves. They cannot lift the weight of sin from their own shoulders. And even the most hardened may at times feel the prick of conscience and thus the need for forgiveness from God. A loving father, Alma, taught that need to his son Corianton this way:

"And now, the plan of mercy could not be brought about except an atonement should be made; therefore God himself atoneth for the sins of the world, to bring about the plan of mercy, to appease the demands of justice, that God might be a perfect, just God, and a merciful God also" (Alma 42:15).

And then, after bearing testimony of the Savior and His Atonement, the father made this plea for a softened heart:

"O my son, I desire that ye should deny the justice of God no more. Do not endeavor to excuse yourself in the least point because of your sins, by denying the justice of God; but do you let the justice of God, and his mercy, and his long-suffering have full sway in your heart; and let it bring you down to the dust in humility" (Alma 42:30; Henry B. Eyring, "Write Upon My Heart," Ensign, November, 2000).

Godly sorrow leads us to look to Christ in humility, allowing Him to help us forsake the evil, allowing Christ to change our nature:
Behold, he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more. By this ye may know if a man repenteth of his sins—behold, he will confess them and forsake them (D&C 58:42–43).
Finally, President Packer reminds us to always have hope:
Save for the exception of the very few who defect to perdition, there is no habit, no addiction, no rebellion, no transgression, no apostasy, no crime exempted from the promise of complete forgiveness. That is the promise of the Atonement of Christ...Do not give up if at first you fail. … Do not give up. That brilliant morning will come (Boyd K. Packer, “The Brilliant Morning of Forgiveness,” Ensign, Nov. 1995, 20).
The mighty change of heart can take a lifetime, (see Alma 5) but if we allow the justice and mercy of God have full sway in our hearts we will be forgiven freely. Footnotes: [1] The Hebrew and Greek words are described in the Ensign article "Meaning of Repentance," by Elder Theodore M. Burton Of the First Quorum of Seventy.

September 19, 2007

Angels and Oliver Cowdery's Testimony

Brigham Young April 6, 1855 Alma the Younger went about preaching against the Church, much to the sorrow of his father, Alma, who was, in effect, the President of the Church at the time. Through the prayers of his father, an angel appeared to Alma Jr. who passed out, beheld his true state before God, repented, and became one of the greatest missionaries and theologians of the Book of Mormon. If only angels would appear to every loud critic of the Church! Not so. God usually doesn't send angels to rebuke the wicked, many of them wouldn't repent even if He did. President Heber J. Grant:

Many men say: ‘If I could only see an angel, if I could only hear an angel proclaim something, that would cause me to be faithful all the days of my life!’ It had no effect upon these men that were not serving the Lord, and it would have no effect today (Conference Reports, Apr. 1924, p. 159).
Hugh Nibley held the same opinion:
Brigham Young said, ‘Pray that you never see an angel.’ He was talking historically. Almost everybody who saw an angel left the Church. They came back, but they had these terrible problems. It gave them inflated egos, etc. They thought they were somebody special. They were, but they couldn't take it. It would be very dangerous if we were exposed to the other world to any degree. Only people that are very humble can do that. Not us, we can't do that. We are not that humble (The Teachings of the Book of Mormon, Lecture 41, p.193).[1]
People who saw angels and subsequently left the Church- some temporarily, some permanently- include:
  • Lyman E. Johnson[2]
  • Sidney Rigdon
  • Martin Harris
  • David Whitmer
This list is by no means comprehensive, but it includes a member of the original Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, a member of the First Presidency of the Church, and two of the three witnesses of Moroni and the gold plates. What about the third witness? He too fell away. As found in a previous post, Brigham Young sometimes talked about apostasy. Perhaps some people believe if they were to see an angel, or some great miracle, they would remain faithful to the end. Seeing an angel wasn't enough for Laman and Lemuel, they appear to have never repented during their lives (see 1 Nephi 3:29-31). Brigham Young taught that, even in the Millennium when Christ returns, seeing the events unfurl will not convert everyone:
When Jesus comes to rule and reign King of Nations as he now does King of Saints, the veil of the covering will be taken from all nations, that all flesh may see his glory together, but that will not make them all Saints. Seeing the Lord does not make a man a Saint, seeing an Angel does not make a man a Saint by any means. A man may see the finger of the Lord, and not thereby become a Saint; the vail of the covering may be taken from before the nations, and all flesh see His glory together, and at the same time declare they will not serve Him. They may, perhaps, feel something as a women in Missouri did, who had been driven four times, and when she was about to be driven again she said, "I will be damned if I will stand it any longer; if God wants me to go through such a routine of things, He may take me where He pleases, and do with me as He pleases; I won't stand it any longer" (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 2:309)

Oliver Cowdery's disaffection with the Church was a little different. While he cut ties with the Church, he never cut ties with his testimony that Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon, and that he saw Moroni and the plates in person. Brigham said Joseph Smith "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." Brigham felt this steadfastness made Joseph somewhat unique, and related the following about the witnesses of the Book of Mormon, all of whom left the Church, only two to return[3] :

Do you not know others who had manifestations almost equal to those Joseph had, but who have gone by the board? Martin Harris declared, before God and angels, that he had seen angels. Did he apostatize? Yes, though he says that the Book of Mormon is true. Oliver Cowdery also left the Church, though he never denied the Book of Mormon, not even in the wickedest days he ever saw, and came back into the Church before he died. A gentleman in Michigan[4] said to him, when he was pleading law, 'Mr. Cowdery, I see your name attached to this book; if you believe it to be true, why are you in Michigan?'

The gentleman read over the names of the witnesses, and said, 'Mr. Cowdery, do you believe this book?'

'No sir,' replied Oliver Cowdery.

'That is very well, but your name is attached to it, and you say here that you saw an angel, and the plates from which this book is said to be translated, and now you say that you do not believe it. Which time was you right?'

Mr. Cowdery replied, 'There is my name attached to that book, and what I have there said that I saw, I know that I saw, and belief has nothing to do with it, for knowledge has swallowed up the belief that I had in the work, since I know it is true.'

He gave this testimony when he was pleading law in Michigan. After he had left the Church he still believed 'Mormonism;' and so it is with hundreds and thousands of others, and yet they do not live it… (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 2:248-259).

At great expense to his reputation, Oliver Cowdery never denied his testimony of the Book of Mormon. After his excommunication[5] in 1838 he studied and practiced law at Tiffin, Ohio, where the above mentioned declaration of testimony took place.

He became the editor of a local Democratic newspaper until it was discovered he was one of the three witness, and on account of his being associated with the 'Mormons,' he was demoted to assistant editor.

In 1846 he was nominated as his district's Democratic party candidate for the state senate, but was defeated when he wouldn't recant his Mormon roots. He was defeated in a similar manner when he ran for state assemblyman in Wisconsin in 1848, losing by only 50 out of 500 votes, despite an avid smear campaign against him.

After his defeat he traveled to Winter Quarters, Nebraska, met with the First Presidency:

Brethren, for a number of years, I have been separated from you. I now desire to come back. I wish to come humble and be one in your midst. I seek no station. I only wish to be identified with you. I am out of the Church, but I wish to become a member. I wish to come in at the door; I know the door, I have not come here to seek precedence. I come humbly and throw myself upon the decision of the body, knowing as I do, that its decisions are right.[6]

He was rebaptised on November 12, 1848. He then travelled to Richmond, Missouri where David Whitmer was staying. Oliver was married to Whitmer's sister, and on acount of his poor health he decided to winter with that family before going west with the Saints in the spring. His lungs continued to bother him to the point he was bed-ridden, and did not make it out west. After unsuccessfully trying to get Whitmer to join the Church again, Oliver's chronic illness took control and he died in the faith on March 3, 1850, relating his testimony just before passing away.

News of his passing reached Salt Lake 4 months later and was published in the first edition of the Deseret News. Oliver spent his time away from the Church in law and politics, surrounded by men who emphasized his humility, honesty, and integrity. A court record in Missouri noted at his passing: "his profession has lost an accomplished member, and the community a reliable and worthy citizen."[7] Of his death, Whitmer said:

"Oliver died the happiest man I ever saw. After shaking hands with the family and kissing his wife and daughter, he said ‘Now I lay down for the last time; I am going to my Saviour’; and he died immediately with a smile on his face," (ibid., also Millenial Star, XII, p. 207).

Despite the business and political pressures he faced, Oliver never denied his testimony.

Footnotes: [1] During the dedication of the Kirtland Temple many reported to seeing or feeling the presence of angels. Shortly thereafter, Brigham said many of the Twelve "set up stakes" to pray and see an angel, determining to pray until they did. The prayer wasn't answered, though, according to Brigham: "we prayed ourselves into darkness." Realizing the implications of sign-seeking, Brigham wrote he "praid to God with all my heart that I might never again meet with that Quorum with the spirit they possessed and I never did." (See Brigham Young: American Moses, Leonard Arrington, pg. 53; also Wilford Woodruff Diary, 23 February, 1859.) [2] Lyman E. Johnson joined the Church and found himself in Zion's Camp, later becoming an original member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles along with his brother Luke. In 1837 he became disaffected with the Church over the Kirtland Bank debacle, but was reinstated to his apostleship some months later. This reconciliation didn't last; Johnson was associated with the apostates who took over the Kirtland Temple, formed their own church hierarchy and "excommunicated" Joseph Smith, who left Kirtland at that time. In 1838 he completely withdrew from the Church. In 1856 he drown in the Mississippi River in a boating accident. I don't know the exact circumstances of his seeing an angel, but Matthias Cowley related the following:

“Lyman Johnson…reportedly apostatized after having seen an angel…‘I remember hearing President Snow say on more than one occasion,’ recalled Mathias Cowley, ‘how determined Lyman E. Johnson was to see an angel from the Lord. He plead [sic] with and teased the Lord to send an angel to him until he saw an angel; but President Snow said the trouble with him was that he saw an angel one day and saw the devil the next day, and finally the devil got away with him.’” (FARMS, vol. 2, no. 2-Fall 1993, p. 171)

Oliver Cowdery was excommunicated on April 12,1838 for failing to appear at a Church court where he was to be tried on statements he made about Joseph Smith and plural marriage. In 1848 Cowdery travelled to Winter Quarters, Nebraska and requested rebaptism, which was administered on November 12 of that year. Martin Harris was one of the original members of the Church, joining on the day of organization, April 6, 1830. Just as Oliver Cowdery, he united with the dissenters during the Kirtland period and in 1838 was named a trustee for Warren Parrish's break-off sect The Church of Christ. Soon, Parrish and his church rejected the authenticity of the Book of Mormon, and because Harris continued to testify of its truth, they broke all ties with him. Harris joined several other factions, but in 1870, finding himself alone and destitute he made his way to Utah alone in 1870. He died June 10, 1875. He never denied his testimony as found in the Book of Mormon. David Whitmer was one of the original 6 members of the Church, joining on April 6, 1830. As with the other witnesses, Whitmer left the Church in 1837 in Kirtland over the banking issue. When Cowdery rejoined the Church before the saints moved west he traveled to Whitmer's house in Richmond to ask him to come back to the Church. While there, Cowdery died of "consumption." Whitmer never rejoined the Church, but started two of his own, neither of which experienced any lasting success. He died January 25, 1888 in Richmond.
[4] Brigham Young is incorrect in assigning the location to Michigan, as Cowdery was practicing law in Ohio at the time this court testimony took place. This discourse is the first publicly recorded instance of the court testimony. Brigham most likely learned of the testimony from Oliver himself, or from his own brother, Phineas Young, who was married to Cowdery's half-sister, and worked for several years to convince Cowdery to reunite with the Church. The story was related years later by George Q. Cannon, who was employed by his uncle John Taylor in Nauvoo. Cannon's testimony of the incident took place in 1881, placing the trial in Ohio, not Michigan (see Journal of Discourses 22:254). [5] Cowdery was estranged from the Church partly over some land deals and financial issues with the Saints in Kirtland and Missouri. When he submitted a letter of resignation he made a unique statement casting light on his feelings of the doctrine of the Church: "I beg you, sir, to take no view of the foregoing remarks, other than my belief on the outward government of the Church" (History of the Church vol. 3:18). He had come to see Joseph as a "fallen prophet." [6] Stanley R. Gunn, "Oliver Cowdery Second Elder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: A Thesis Presented to the Faculty of the Division of Religion, Brigham Young University," (1942), 166, as cited in The Improvement Era, 24, p.620.) [7] Circuit Court Record, Ray County, Missouri, Book C, p. 190 (entry Mar. 5, 1850). For more on Cowdery as a reliable witness I refer the reader to Investigating The Book of Mormon Witnesses by Richard Lloyd Anderson; a remarkable work on the witnesses of the Book of Mormon. An interesting side note to this discussion is the question of evidence both spiritual and physical. When asked which was more important, some are eager to cast off the physical, noting Laman and Lemuel seeing angels, and the children of Israel's disobedience in the wilderness. I believe more than a "spiritual witness or physical witness" dichotomy the issue can be viewed more broadly. What of a physical witness devoid of spiritual confirmation, or a personal spiritual revelation that flies in the face of current doctrine, or reason (overzealous folks worrying about second coming and talking themselves into a frenzy). And how do Mormons ultimately separate the spiritual witness from the physical, when the two are blended in our thought? A continuing witness is the key. Like the plant described in Alma 32, a witness must continue as water and sunlight keeps nourishing the plant. The question, then, is a false dichotomy in my opinion.

September 18, 2007

Setting Belief Apart From Faith

Brigham Young April 6, 1855 To me, belief in Christ signifies a mental deduction, an acceptance, that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, that He suffered and died in behalf of us, satisfying the demands of justice so that we can be forgiven and return to live with God again. I think belief gets confused for faith sometimes. In a conversation with an Evangelical Christian, I was informed that I'm not a Christian because I believe works are necessary in order for us to receive salvation. He informed me we are saved by grace through faith in Christ. Because I would also say I believe in salvation by grace through faith in Christ, I realized the real disagreement dealt with our definition of "faith." His definition of faith would correspond more with what I defined above as "belief," and according to him, is separate from works. You're either saved by faith or by works. For Latter-day Saints, faith includes works. For the Evangelicals, it seems faith includes works, but you can't call them works. On a trip to the country of the Gaderenes, Christ and His disciples encountered a man possessed of evil spirits calling themselves "Legion." The unclean spirits recognized Christ; they even believed in Him:

And when he went forth to land, there met him out of the city a certain man, which had devils long time, and ware no clothes, neither abode in any house, but in the tombs. When he saw Jesus, he cried out, and fell down before him, and with a loud voice said, What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God most high? I beseech thee, torment me not. (For he had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. For oftentimes it had caught him: and he was kept bound with chains and in fetters; and he brake the bands, and was driven of the devil into the wilderness) (Luke 8:27-29).
Christ cast the demons out, they took up the body of pigs, which quickly ran to their deaths. Their belief in the power of Christ- they specifically demonstrated belief in His power by requesting to be allowed to enter pigs,- was not faith, it was just belief, acknowledgment. Even sure knowledge isn't faith. Brigham explained:
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,' (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 2:248).
Belief and acknowledgment didn't help the unclean spirits any more than it would help us to believe without having faith. Faith leads to action; that is what faith is: belief unto action. James was explicit on the matter, even mentioning the belief of demons not being true faith:
Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble (James 2:17-20).
The Book of Mormon couples the word "unto"with faith; faith implicitly includes action. If I believe my seat belt will help in case of an accident I need to actually put it on, turning that belief into faith. It is my responsibility to place the seat belt on, while it is the seat belt that restrains and protects me. Christ's atonement doesn't eliminate our personal responsibility; it increases it. He satisfied justice in order to extend His hand in mercy, but we must clasp that hand:
And thus he shall bring salvation to all those who shall believe on his name; this being the intent of this last sacrifice, to bring about the bowels of mercy, which overpowereth justice, and bringeth about means unto men that they may have faith unto repentance. And thus mercy can satisfy the demands of justice, and encircles them in the arms of safety, while he that exercises no faith unto repentance is exposed to the whole law of the demands of justice; therefore only unto him that has faith unto repentance is brought about the great and eternal plan of redemption. Therefore may God grant unto you, my brethren, that ye may begin to exercise your faith unto repentance, that ye begin to call upon his holy name, that he would have mercy upon you... (Alma 34:15-17).
There are many more scriptures that could be cited here, but this will suffice for now; the main object of Brigham's comments was that belief doesn't equal faith. Even the demons tremble. But they never had faith unto repentance, and that makes all the difference.

September 17, 2007

The Increased Powers and Faculties of the Mind In a Future State

Orson Pratt October 15, 1854 Who, other than Orson Pratt, would have a discourse of this title? About ten paragraphs into his remarks, Elder Pratt gave a slight disclaimer[1] of his views which I offer at the beginning:

There are many things connected with the spirit of man, in the intermediate state, that we do not know anything about; and then there are other things that we do know, so far as they are revealed, and no further; and then there are other things connected with the spirit of man between death and the resurrection that we may believe, but not have a certain knowledge of, but believe that 'such and such' will be the case from analogy, from reason, from the nature of things. There has been but a little revealed to man on the subject of the intermediate state of the spirit, after it leaves this mortal tabernacle.
With that disclaimer out of the way, put on your goggles. Elder Pratt dug right in to the topic, mining some semi-deep (or perhaps less-discussed) theories of theology. This is, perhaps, one of the discourses which gives the Journal of Discourses a reputation for being a little "far out." To be fair, sermons like this are few and far between so far. Elder Pratt begins by expressing his belief that our actual spirit can feel pain:
If the spirit while in the body is capable of suffering, of being acted upon from without the body, and of experiencing diverse sensation, if it is capable of intense joy, or intense grief, may we not suppose that when it is freed from the body, when the animal tabernacle is fallen into the dust, and returns to its former earth, the same spirit, unclothed and unshielded, standing naked, as it were, before God, and before the elements that he has made, will be acted upon then, more or less, by these same elements; and that the same spirit that is capable of suffering here, will be capable of far more intense suffering hereafter; the same spirit that is capable of great joy here, will be capable of far more intense joy and pleasure hereafter; and the same things of an eternal nature that are capable of producing intense pain here, are, under certain circumstances, capable of producing a hundred fold more pain hereafter? If this be the case, how important it is that we should take that course that the spirit may, in its future state of existence, be placed under circumstances where we can obtain the pleasure, joy, and happiness, and escape the pains, evils, and bitterness of misery, to which some spirits will be exposed.
Alma the younger, who spent some years fighting God, was rebuked by an angel. He described his feelings, and perhaps this is where Elder Pratt began his hypothesis:
But I was racked with eternal torment, for my soul was harrowed up to the greatest degree and racked with all my sins... Yea, and I had murdered many of his children, or rather led them away unto destruction; yea, and in fine so great had been my iniquities, that the very thought of coming into the presence of my God did rack my soul with inexpressible horror... And now, for three days and for three nights was I racked, even with the pains of a damned soul (Alma 36:12,14,16).
Elder Pratt continues by referring to the Book of Mormon:
We might now inquire, what is the cause of this intense suffering and misery? Is it the action of the elements upon the spirit? Is it the materials of nature, operating from without upon it, that causes this distress, this weeping, wailing, mourning, and lamentation? It may be in some measure; it may help to produce the misery and the wretchedness; but there is something connected with the spirit itself that no doubt produces this weeping, wailing, and mourning. What is this something? It is memory, and remorse of conscience; a memory of what they have once done, a memory of their disobedience. Do you not suppose the spirits can have power to remember in that world as well as in this? Yes, they certainly can. Have you never read in the Book of Mormon, where it informs us, that every act of our lives will be fresh upon the memory, and we shall have a clear consciousness of all our doings in this life? Yes; we have read that in the Book of Mormon-'a clear consciousness.'
The Book of Mormon mentions this "clear consciousness" specifically about three times. Twice when dealing with Zeezrom, whose "soul began to be harrowed up under a consciousness of his own guilt; yea, he began to be encircled about by the pains of hell," (Alma 14:6, see also Alma 12:1), and once when Mormon asks if we'd be happy dwelling with a holy being with a consciousness of all our guilt (see Mormon 9:3-4). Next, the subject of memory is discussed. The Book of Mormon says at the day of judgement we shall have a "bright recollection of all our guilt" (Alma 11:43). Elder Pratt suggested the reason we cannot currently have such a recollection is because our physical body acts as a veil: is not the want of capacity in the spirit of man that causes him to forget the knowledge he may have learned yesterday; but it is because of the imperfection of the tabernacle in which the spirit dwells; because there is imperfection in the organization of the flesh and bones, and in things pertaining to the tabernacle; it is this that erases from our memory many things that would be useful; we cannot retain them in our minds, they are gone into oblivion. It is not so with the spirit when it is released from this tabernacle... my estimation not a single thought of the heart, that has ever passed through the mind, not a single act of an individual, from the earliest period of its memory till the time it comes into the presence of God, will escape the notice of the memory when it appears there, unclogged from this tabernacle.
A bright recollection, then, of not only our guilt, but our joy, I imagine. For now, the veil prevents us from sustaining such a powerful memory- we are limited. Of this limitation Elder Pratt said it was necessary for our proper development in mortality. It is a way for us to descend before we ascend:
Why is it that our knowledge is so limited? I say limited, compared with that which is to be known, and which will be known. The reason is, God has seen proper in his infinite wisdom to place us in circumstances where we can learn the very first elements of knowledge, and act upon them in the first place. Instead of having the whole of the rich treasures of knowledge and wisdom unfolded to us at once, He begins to feed us little by little, the same as you would feed a weakly, sickly infant with food prepared and adapted to its taste, and to the weakness of its system. The Lord brings us in this state under similar circumstances, endowed with certain senses by which we can gain, by little and little, knowledge and information; but it takes a long time to get a little into our minds. It seems that our spirits, that once stood in the presence of God, clothed with power, capacities, wisdom, and knowledge, forget what they once knew-forget that which was once fresh in their minds.
In our mortal state, then, it is difficult to understand the things of God, as He told Isaiah:
For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts (Isaiah 55:9).
As was discussed by Brigham Young in a former post, God condescends to the level of the individual, as the prophet Joseph taught:
We may come to Jesus and ask Him; He will know all about it; if He comes to a little child, he will adapt himself to the language and capacity of a little child (TPJS, 162).
God has that ability, but still adapts that revelation to our current capacity:
A blind man knows nothing about light, as we were told here the other day by our President [Young], the blind man knows nothing about light if he were born blind. You cannot, by talking with him for a thousand years, instill into his mind an idea what red, yellow, white, black, green, blue are like; they are ideas that have never entered into his mind. Why? Because the little inlet to this kind of knowledge is closed up, and there is no other part of the spirit exposed to the light. It is only a small place by which the spirit can converse with light and its colors. Just so in regard to many other ideas.
Elder Pratt continues, talking about the perception capacities of the spirit as compared to the body:
If we, by looking through these little eyes of ours, can see objects some thousands of millions of miles distant; if we can see objects that are existing at that immense distance through the medium of these little inlets; suppose that the whole spirit were uncovered and exposed to all the rays of light, can it be supposed that light would not affect the spirit if it were thus unshielded, uncovered, and unclothed? Do you suppose that it would not be susceptible of any impressions made by the elements of light? The spirit is inherently capable of experiencing the sensations of light; if it were not so, we could not see. You might form as fine an eye as ever was made, but if the spirit, in and of itself, were not capable of being acted upon by the rays of light, an eye would be of no benefit. Then unclothe the spirit, and instead of exposing a small portion of it about the size of a pea to the action of the rays of light, the whole of it would be exposed. I think we could then see in different directions at once, instead of looking in one particular direction; we could then look all around us at the same instant.[2]
This called to mind Joseph Smith's explanation of how one receives revelation; directly to our spirit:
All things whatsoever God in his infinite wisdom has seen fit and proper to reveal to us, while we are dwelling in mortality, in regard to our mortal bodies, are revealed to us in the abstract, and independent of affinity of this mortal tabernacle, but are revealed to our spirits precisely as though we had no bodies at all; and those revelations which will save our spirits will save our bodies (TPJS, 355).
According to Pratt, not all knowledge will be gained by direct study, and there is something more than the five senses involved in our learning; knowledge can be endowed:
In relation to this matter, touching the extension of our knowledge year after year, some people have thought that we should have to learn everything by study. I do not believe it; there are a great many ways of learning things without reasoning or studying them out; without obtaining them through the medium of the five senses. Man will be endowed, after he leaves this tabernacle, with powers and faculties which he, now, has no knowledge of, by which he may learn what is round about him.
Our finite minds will expand to their full capacity, giving us the ability to learn with greater rapidity (How Maxwellian!):
There is a faculty mentioned in the word of God, which we are not in possession of here, but we shall possess it hereafter; that is not only to see a vast number of things in the same moment, looking in all directions by the aid of the Spirit, but also to obtain a vast number of ideas at the same instant. Here, we have to confine ourselves in a little, narrow, contracted space, and we can hardly think of two things at a time; if we do, our minds are distracted, and we cannot think distinctly. Some, by habit, it is true, are able to think of two or three little things at once, or at least the interval between the successive thoughts is so small as to be inappreciable. Some people play on an instrument of music, and may go through a very difficult performance, while their minds are thinking of something else; and by habit, they hardly perceive the working of the musical instrument. I believe we shall be freed, in the next world, in a great measure, from these narrow, contracted methods of thinking. Instead of thinking in one channel, and following up one certain course of reasoning to find a certain truth, knowledge will rush in from all quarters; it will come in like the light which flows from the sun, penetrating every part, informing the spirit, and giving understanding concerning ten thousand things at the same time; and the mind will be capable of receiving and retaining all.
Orson Pratt ends with his belief that there are many more senses than the 5 to which we commonly refer, and in the next life, these senses will be restored and increased:
When I speak of the future state of man, and the situation of our spirits between death and the resurrection, I long for the experience and knowledge to be gained in that state, as well as this. We shall learn many more things there; we need not suppose our five senses connect us with all the things of heaven, and earth, and eternity, and space; we need not think that we are conversant with all the elements of nature, through the medium of the senses God has given us here. Suppose He should give us a sixth sense, a seventh, an eighth, a ninth, or a fiftieth. All these different senses would convey to us new ideas, as much so as the senses of tasting, smelling, or seeing communicate different ideas from that of hearing (Orson Pratt, Journal of Discourse 2:235-248).
Footnotes: [1] Orson Pratt's disclaimer was still more extensive, the rest of it quoted below. It dealt with whether or not we should have all knowledge, and Pratt said he was determined to defer to the opinion of the current prophet of the Church for official statements on doctrine. This disclaimer is important in light of many statements made by early Church leaders, especially in light of some disagreements Pratt later had with Brigham on doctrinal issues. While on a mission in Washington D.C. Pratt published "The Seer," a work often quoted by anti-Mormons. Of this work, the First Presidency released an official statement, as explained by B.H. Roberts in Defense of the Saints, vol. 2, pg. 294:
The Seer, by formal action of the First Presidency and Twelve Apostles of the Church was repudiated, and Elder Orson Pratt himself sanctioned the repudiation. There was a long article published in the Deseret News on the 23rd of August, 1865, over the signatures of the First Presidency and Twelve setting forth that this work--the Seer--together with some other writings of Elder Pratt, were inaccurate. In the course of that document, after praising, as well they might, the great bulk of the work of this noted apostle, they say: "But the Seer, the Great First Cause, the article in the Millennial Star, of Oct. 15, and Nov. 1, 1850 contains doctrine which we cannot sanction and which we have felt to disown, so that the Saints who now live, and who may live hereafter, may not be misled by our silence, or be left to misinterpret it. Where these objectionable works or harts of works are bound in volumes, or otherwise, they should be cut out and destroyed."
Pratt's disclaimer in this discourse, which is critical to understand before reading the Journal of Discourses and other early writings, continued as follows:

"Says one, 'Shall we have all knowledge?' I have nothing to say about that; that is a matter that you must look to our President for information upon; he is the one to hear upon that subject; and we should not teach anything, when we once ascertain his real mind, that will come in contact with his teachings. I do not know that I have this day presented any views that are different from his: if I have, when he corrects me, I will remain silent upon the subject, if I do not understand it as he does. So with regard to any other principle whatever which I may teach. God has placed him as the President of this Church, as our leader, guide, and teacher, and we are bound not to come in contact with him-not to teach differently to what he does; that is, when we once ascertain fully his mind and views. But, very frequently, mankind are so imperfect, and their minds so contracted, and their knowledge so little, comparatively speaking, that they may throw out many ideas that may not be true, that are incorrect: but the Lord has appointed these that hold the keys, to correct and give us instructions on all principles of doctrine; and as often as they see proper to turn the keys and unlock to their own minds these principles, they can do so.

It is not always wisdom to use the keys of knowledge and revelation upon trifling subjects. There may also be many subjects that it is not wisdom for us to understand and receive at present. There may be many items of knowledge in the bosom of God, in the eternal worlds, that he does not see proper to reveal to us, while in our mortal state; consequently, people may differ with regard to their views of those things not revealed, and which they do not understand.

In many of my remarks and teachings, I may have laid before you ideas, which, when you come to learn the President's mind upon them, may be declared erroneous and not sound doctrine. I may have done the same things in many of my writings; but in all points of doctrine, relating to the plan of salvation, and the redemption of man, so far as I understood it, I have endeavored to write that which I, at the time, verily believed to be true. Some of those things may be wrong; I do not say that I am capable, without direct revelation, of writing upon many intricate points, with the same degree of perfection and precision as one who writes only as he is inspired.

But I do feel thankful to that God who has placed us in these Valleys of the Mountains, that He has ordained keys by which knowledge and information may be poured down from the great fountain, until we gain all that is necessary for us to know in this state: and I do look forward with great rejoicing at the prospects of the future."

[2] *Unsourced quote alert* I heard or read somewhere of Joseph Smith talking about some visions where it was almost as though he could see out of the very tips of his fingers. A google search didn't yield a source; I believe it might have been recounted in a Truman Madsen talk. If you know of the quote, let me know.