Bruce R. McConkie
Type: Audio Book
Author: Bruce R. McConkie
Bruce R. McConkie was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when this devotional address was given at Brigham Young University on 2 December 1975.
Type: Talk or speech
Author: Bruce R. McConkie
Bruce R. McConkie was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when this devotional address was given at Brigham Young University on 10 January 1984.
Type: Talk or speech
Author: Bruce R. McConkie
Bruce R. McConkie was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when this devotional address was given at Brigham Young University on 17 February 1981.
I know, as do we all, that the things of God can be understood only by the power of the Holy Spirit. And I pray that we may receive a mighty outpouring of that Spirit as we consider the three pillars of eternity–the three great eternal verities upon which salvation rests.
My purpose is to take the three greatest events that have ever occurred in all eternity and show how they are interwoven to form one grand plan of salvation.
If we can gain an understanding of them, then the whole eternal scheme of things will fall into place, and we will be in a position to work out our salvation. If we do not build our house of salvation on a true foundation, we will never make the spiritual progress that will prepare us to enter the Eternal Presence.
Three Great Events
The three pillars of eternity, the three events, preeminent and transcendent above all others, are the creation, the fall, and the atonement. These three are the foundations upon which all things rest. Without any one of them all things would lose their purpose and meaning, and the plans and designs of Deity would come to naught.
If there had been no creation, we would not be, neither the earth, nor any form of life upon its face. All things, all the primal elements, would be without form and void. God would have no spirit children; there would be no mortal probation; and none of us would be on the way to immortality and eternal life.
If there had been no fall of man, there would not be a mortal probation. Mortal man would not be, nor would there be animals or fowls or fishes or life of any sort upon the earth. And, we repeat, none of us would be on the way to immortality and eternal life.
If there had been no atonement of Christ, all things would be lost. The purposes of creation would vanish away. Lucifer would triumph over men and become the captain of their souls. And, we say it again, none of us would be on the way to immortality and eternal life.
And so I now say: Come and let us reason together; let us reason as did righteous men of old that we may come to understanding.
Come and hear us declare sound doctrine; let us declare it plainly and in power as do the angels of God in heaven.
Come and let us testify of those things which God has made known to us; let us testify as do those whose souls are afire with the Spirit and who know by revelation of the truth and verity of their spoken word.
Let us gaze first at a scene of sorrow and suffering in a garden called Gethsemane, the garden of the oil press. There, outside Jerusalem’s walls, on the now sacred side of Olivet, we see eight of the Twelve huddled at the garden gate. Inside the garden are Peter, James, and John. It is night, and the eyes of all are heavy with sleep.
About a stone’s cast removed from the three we see the Son of God in sorrow and agony beyond compare. He has fallen on his face. We hear his pleading words: “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt” (Matthew 26:39).
We see great gouts of blood drop from every pore. An angel–surely it is mighty Michael himself–comes down from heaven and strengthens him. He trembles because of pain and suffers in both body and spirit. He comes off triumphant; and in a way incomprehensible to us, he bears the sins of all men on conditions of repentance.
Now let our gaze turn to Golgotha. There, at the place of a skull, we see him again, crucified between two thieves. It is noon, and his mangled and scourged body has already hung on that accursed tree for some three hours.
Again it is the hour of atonement. The sun is darkened; for three long hours there is “darkness over all the earth” (Luke 23:44), as all the agonies and sufferings of Gethsemane return. Then the victory is won; the ransom is paid; the atonement is accomplished.
Some thirty-eight or forty hours later–after three days as the Jews counted time–we see him by a garden tomb. He has risen in glorious immortality. Clothed with immortality and eternal life, he gently restrains one of the beloved Marys from embracing him with the same intimacy that had once prevailed.
Soon angelic choirs will fill the heavens as the redeemed sing, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing” (Revelation 5:12).
And thus it is that salvation is in Christ, that his atoning sacrifice is the heart and core and center of revealed religion, and that he–in Gethsemane of sorrowful memory and on the cross of Calvary–put into full operation all the terms and conditions of his Father’s plan.
He is the resurrection and the life. He is the Redeemer of the world and the Savior of men. He “hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Timothy 1:10). It was his work and his glory to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. And his is the only name given under heaven whereby man may be saved.
If there had been no atonement of Christ, there would be no resurrection, no breaking of the bands of death, no coming forth from the grave.
If there had been no atonement, there would be no remission of sins; no return to the presence of God; no salvation of any sort, kind, or nature; no eternal life; no exaltation; no continuation of the family unit in eternity.
If there were no atonement of Christ, all men would be subject to “that awful monster the devil, and death, and hell, and that lake of fire and brimstone, which is endless torment” (2 Nephi 9:19).
If there were no atonement of Christ, “our spirits” would have become “like unto” Lucifer’s, “and we become devils, angels to a devil, to be shut out from the presence of our God, and to remain with the father of lies, in misery, like unto himself” (2 Nephi 9:9).
If there were no atonement of Christ, all men would be damned everlastingly, all would be sons of perdition, and the whole purpose of God and his eternal plan of salvation would utterly fail.
All things center in, revolve around, are anchored to, and are built upon the atoning sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ. There is no language given to men or angels to proclaim these truths with the power and verity and dignity that should attend them. Let it be blazoned in burning fire through all the sidereal heavens that salvation is in Christ and comes because of his atoning sacrifice.
Now this atoning sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ–grand and infinite, glorious and eternal as it is–does not stand alone. It is not simply a sudden blaze of light in a universe of darkness and despair. It is not by itself alone a great sun rising in celestial splendor to dispel the gloom of endless night. It is not merely a manifestation of the grace of an infinite God toward his fallen children.
However much the atonement may be and is all these things–and more!–yet it does not stand alone. It is not a child born without parents. It has roots; it has a reason for being; it came because other events called it forth.
The atonement is part of the eternal plan of the Father. It came at the appointed time, according to the will of the Father, to do for man that which could not have been done in any other way. The atonement is the child of the fall, and the fall is the father of the atonement. Neither of them, without the other, could have brought to pass the eternal purposes of the Father.
The fall of Adam and the atonement of Christ are linked together–inseparably, everlastingly, never to be parted. They are as much a part of the same body as are the head and the heart, and each plays its part in the eternal scheme of things.
The fall of Adam brought temporal and spiritual death into the world, and the atonement of Christ ransomed men from these two deaths by bringing to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. This makes the fall as essential a part of the plan of salvation as the very atonement itself.
There are, in fact, five things that came into being and continue to exist because of the fall. None of these things would have existed if there had been no fall, and all of them are essential parts of the divine plan of salvation. They are:
1. Temporal death. This is the natural death; it occurs when body and spirit separate; it results in corruption and decay. Because of the atonement of Christ all men will be raised from corruption to incorruption, from mortality to immortality, thence to live everlastingly in a resurrected state.
2. Spiritual death. This is death as pertaining to the things of the Spirit. It is death
as pertaining to things of righteousness. It is to be cast out of the presence of the Lord. It is a way of life which is in opposition to that of the Father of us all. Because of the atonement, because the Lord Jesus bore our sins on conditions of repentance, we have power to gain eternal life, which is spiritual life, which is a life of righteousness, which is life in the presence of our God.
3. Mortality. Mortal life comes because of the fall. If there had been no fall, there would be no mortal life of any sort on earth. Mortal life is life where there is death. Death must enter the world to bring mortality into being.
4. Procreation. Before the fall there was no procreation. I repeat, for thus saith the Holy Word, before the fall there was no procreation. Adam and Eve, in their Edenic state, could not have children, nor, as we shall see, could any form of life when first placed on the newly created paradisiacal earth.
5. A probationary estate. We are here to be tried and tested, to see if we will believe the truths of salvation and keep the commandments while we walk by faith. After the fall men became carnal, sensual, and devilish by nature, and the plan of salvation calls upon them to put off these worldly snares and to put on Christ.
Now, lest there be any sliver of misunderstanding about any of this, let us reason together on all these things as did they of old. Indeed, let us use the very words they used as they are found in the holy scriptures.
“Now is Christ risen from the dead,” Paul said as he testified of the atonement. “For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.” Adam brought death, and if he had not fallen there would be no death; and Christ brought the resurrection, and, if there had been no atonement, there would be no resurrection. “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:20–22).
Moroni linked the fall and the atonement together in this way. God, he said, “created Adam, and by Adam came the fall of man. And because of the fall of man came Jesus Christ.” It is just that simple; the fall is the source and cause and reason for the atonement. “And because of Jesus Christ came the redemption of man” (Mormon 9:12). Salvation is in Christ!
“And because of the redemption of man, which came by Jesus Christ,” men “are brought back into the presence of the Lord; yea, this is wherein all men are redeemed, because the death of Christ bringeth to pass the resurrection, which bringeth to pass a redemption from an endless sleep” (Mormon 9:13).
What did the angel say to King Benjamin? He said, Christ’s “blood atoneth for the sins of those who have fallen by the transgression of Adam” (Mosiah 3:11). We are descendants of Adam; we all have a common father.
He said, “As in Adam, or by nature, they fall, even so the blood of Christ atoneth for their sins” (Mosiah 3:16). The blessings of the fall have passed upon all men; all can be redeemed because Adam fell and Christ came.
He said, “Salvation was, and is, and is to come, in and through the atoning blood of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent” (Mosiah 3:18). There is no other source of salvation from the fall than that which comes through Christ.
He said, “The natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord” (Mosiah 3:19).
Thus the natural man, which is Adam, is conquered by the perfect man, which is Christ; and thus “all mankind may be saved by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel” (Third Article of Faith). And now, what saith our great and good friend Lehi about all these things?
He saith that the Redeemer “cometh to bring salvation unto men. . . . And the way is prepared [for him] from the fall of man, and salvation is free” (2 Nephi 2:3–4). The fall is the foundation upon which the atonement rests.
He saith that “after Adam and Eve had partaken of the forbidden fruit they were driven out of the garden of Eden, to till the earth” (2 Nephi 2:19). Their mortal probation and the trials and tests of mortality began after the fall.
And they have brought forth children; yea, even the family of all the earth. [2 Nephi 2:20]
Every living soul on earth is a descendant of Adam and Eve. God hath made of one blood all the nations of men.
If Adam had not transgressed he would not have fallen, but he would have remained in the garden of Eden. [2 Nephi 2:22]
If Adam had not fallen, he would be there today, six thousand years later, in all the glory and beauty of his immortal nature. Such is the word of holy writ.
And next–marvel of marvels and wonder of wonders–Lehi saith, “And all things which were created”–all things means all things; it includes animals and fishes and fowls and creeping things and plants; it includes dinosaurs and whales and ants; it means all things–
All things which were created must have remained in the same state in which they were after they were created; and they must have remained forever, and had no end. [2 Nephi 2:22]
There was, we repeat, no death in the world until after Adam fell. And there was, we repeat, no procreation until after the fall. And there was, we repeat, no mortality until after the fall.
And so Lehi continues, “And they”–Adam and Eve–“would have had no children” (2 Nephi 2:23).
And then, on the foundation so laid, while filled with light and guided by the Spirit, Lehi acclaimed:
Adam fell that men might be; and men are that they might have joy.
And the Messiah cometh in the fulness of time, that he may redeem the children of men from the fall. [2 Nephi 2:25–26]
Truly, as Enoch said:
Because that Adam fell, we are; and by his fall came death; and we are made partakers of misery and woe. . . .
And men have become carnal, sensual, and devilish, and are shut out from the presence of God. [Moses 6:48, 49]
Truly, as Mother Eve said:
Were it not for our transgression we never should have had seed and never should have known good and evil, and the joy of our redemption, and the eternal life which God giveth to all the obedient. [Moses 5:11]
Truly, salvation comes because of the fall, and it is just as important to believe in the fall as it is to believe in the atonement, and, indeed, it is not possible to believe in the atonement without believing in the fall.
Now, even as the atonement grows out of the fall, so the fall grows out of the creation. If all things had not been created in the very way in which they were created, there could have been no fall. If created things were to fall, they must be created in a higher state than the state they would be in after the fall. To fall is to go downward or forward, not upward.
And so it is that the revealed accounts of the creation of this earth and all things on the face thereof are accounts of the paradisiacal creation. They speak of the immortal state in which all things were first made; they are telling of created things in the day before death entered the world.
Our Tenth Article of Faith says: “We believe . . . that the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory.” When the Lord comes and the millennial era commences, there will be new heavens and a new earth; the earth will be renewed; it will become new again; and it will return to its paradisiacal state; it will become as it was in the Edenic day. And once again death as we know it will cease.
The accounts of the creation in Genesis 1 and Moses 2 are accounts of the paradisiacal or Edenic creation. They are descriptive of a creation that antedated death and mortality and the fall. They speak of a creation in which–again these are Lehi’s words–
All things which were created must have remained in the same state in which they were after they were created; and they must have remained forever, and had no end. [2 Nephi 2:22]
That is, they would have so remained if there had been no fall.
Now, we are speaking of the three pillars of heaven, of the three greatest events ever to occur in all eternity, of the three doctrines that are woven inseparably together to form the plan of salvation. We are speaking of the creation, the fall, and the atonement. And these things are one. And, be it noted, all things were created; all things fell; and all things are subject to the redeeming power of the Son of God.
I am not conscious of expressing a single thought or concept that has not already been said by the Brethren who have gone before. Almost every sentence I have uttered is a quotation or a paraphrase of something said by Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, John Taylor, Joseph F. Smith, Joseph Fielding Smith, Orson Pratt, or some other of the great theologians of our dispensation.
Many among us have no difficulty envisioning that the atonement is infinite and eternal and applies to all forms of life. They know that the revelations say in so many words that all forms of life both lived as spirit entities and will be resurrected–animals, fowls, fishes–all things are eternal in nature.
But some among us have not yet had it dawn upon them that all things fell and became mortal so they could be resurrected.
The early Brethren of our dispensation wrote these words:
The word atonement signifies deliverance, through the offering of a ransom, from the penalty of a broken law. . . . As effected by Jesus Christ, it signifies the deliverance, through his death and resurrection, of the earth and everything pertaining to it, from the power which death has obtained over them through the transgression of Adam. . . . Redemption from death, through the sufferings of Christ, is for all men, both the righteous and the wicked; for this earth, and for all things created upon it. [Compendium, pp. 8–9, cited in Mormon Doctrine, B. R. McConkie (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966), pp. 64–65.]
Three Glorious Beings
When we speak of the creation, the fall, and the atonement, we are speaking of the works of Elohim, Jehovah, and Michael. We are talking of the doctrines which are stated or are implicit in our first three Articles of Faith. We need to come to a unity of faith as to the labors of each of these glorious beings.
Who is Elohim? He is God the Eternal Father. He is a glorified and exalted personage. He has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s. In the language of Adam, Man of Holiness is his name. He is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. He knows all things and has all power–not simply as pertaining to us or in some prescribed sphere or realm–but in the absolute, eternal, and unlimited sense. In the ultimate sense, he is the Creator. And anything you may have heard to the contrary, whether in the creeds of Christendom or the mouthings of intellectuals who, in their own eyes, know more than the Lord, is false.
Who is Michael? He is a spirit son of the great Elohim. Under Christ he led the armies of righteousness when there was war in heaven. Our revelations say that he “was the son of God” (Moses 6:22), that he was “the first flesh [the first mortal flesh] upon earth, the first man also” (Moses 3:7), and that he was “the first man of all men” (Moses 1:34). He is Adam our father; he is the presiding high priest over all the earth. Under Christ, who is “the Holy One,” he holds “the keys of salvation” (D&C 78:16). He is the only one by whom the fall came. And anything you may have heard to the contrary, from whatever source, is false.
Who is Jehovah? He is the Lord Jesus Christ, the Firstborn of the Father, the Savior and Redeemer. He is the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. He is the Only Begotten in the flesh, the only person ever born with a mortal mother and an immortal Father. He worked out the infinite and eternal atonement, ransomed men and all forms of life from the fall, and made the purposes of creation operative. Salvation is in him and comes to those who believe and obey. And anything you may have heard to the contrary is false.
The truths relative to Elohim, Jehovah, and Michael are the greatest of all eternal verities. They wrap the creation, the fall, and the atonement into one grand plan of salvation. They are the gospel of God who is the Father. And of their truth the Holy Ghost bears witness.
God grant that we may all believe and know and understand the great eternal verities by which salvation comes and that, believing and knowing and understanding, we may so live as to gain eternal life. In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
[[Category: Talk or speech]]
[[Category: Bruce R. McConkie]]
[[Category: Original Author]]
Type: Audio Book
Author: Bruce R. McConkie
Bruce R. McConkie was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when this devotional address was given at Brigham Young University on 28 January 1975.
Thank you, President Oaks. I am honored and delighted to have this opportunity to meet and worship with the student body and faculty of Brigham Young University on this occasion. I have pondered and prayed much to learn what the Lord wants me to say to the youth of Zion, to the young and rising generation of the Church. My prayer has been and is, “O God, manifest unto thy servant what thou wouldst have said to those who are a choice and a peculiar treasure unto thee above all the peoples of the earth.” In response, there has come into my heart the desire to consider our unique and peculiar status as members of the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth. If I may now be guided by the Spirit, I shall take up the doctrine that we are a peculiar people; show wherein that peculiarity lies; tell how it may be obtained and perfected; and draw some conclusions as to what is expected of us because of our unique status.
We Are a Peculiar People
There is an old saying, “All the world is queer save me and thee, and sometimes I think even thee is a little queer.” This is used jocularly of those who set themselves apart from mankind and who profess to be or seemingly are different from other people. We do not place ourselves in this category. We are not freaks, but normal, wholesome people who enjoy life. We work and play, engage in sports, mingle with other people, go to parties, and enjoy festive occasions. But we are, nonetheless, peculiar in the eyes of worldly people. We are a breed set apart. We are different from the world because we do not ape the practices and follow the fashions of worldly and carnal people. We glory in the things which set us apart by ourselves, and we hope and pray that we may maintain and increase the differences. Of the true saints, with whom we are numbered, Peter said: “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people.” Having so announced, he told what is expected of them: “That ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light” (1 Peter 2:9).
Query: “How shall we show forth the praises of him who called us out of darkness into his marvelous light?” This is equivalent to asking “How do we worship the Lord?”
Answer: It is more than in song or sermon; perfect worship is emulation. Perfect praise is to do the things he would have us do. It is to keep the commandments of God.
To true saints, and we are they, Paul wrote:
For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men,
Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;
Looking for that blessed hope [the hope of eternal life], and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ;
Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. [Titus 2:1114; emphasis added]
Query: “How does the Lord purify unto himself a peculiar people?”
Answer: He does it when that people forsake ungodliness and worldly lusts, when they live “soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world.” He does it when that people take counsel from him and keep his commandments.
To his chosen Israel, of whom we are a part, the Lord said: “If ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation” (Exodus 19:56). Note the terms of the Lord’s offer: “Obey my voice; keep my covenant.” This covenant is the fulness of his everlasting gospel. It is the new and everlasting covenant in which we promise to forsake the world and in which he promises us an inheritance with him in his Father’s kingdom. All those who keep the covenant, who live by gospel standards, receive this promise: “For thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God, and the Lord hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth” (Deuteronomy 14:2). And I say to you, “You are that people–‘an holy people,’ a chosen and favored people, a people set apart, ‘a peculiar people.'”
The Family of the Lord
Now, with those principles before us, may I speak of the special family relationship enjoyed by those who so live that they become a peculiar people. Of them it is written: “Ye are the sons of the living God” (Hosea 1:10). That is, those who gain the high status of a peculiar people are adopted into the family of the Lord Jehovah. They become his sons and his daughters and have him as their father. Our best recitation of the doctrine here involved is found in these words of King Benjamin:
And now, because of the covenant which ye have made [in the waters of baptism], ye shall be called the children of Christ, his sons and his daughters; for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you; for ye say that your hearts are changed through faith on his name; therefore, ye are born of him and have become his sons and his daughters. [Mosiah 5:7]
This is a special family relationship reserved for the faithful. It is over, above, and in addition to the fact that all men are the spirit children of the Eternal Father.
King Benjamin continues:
And under this head ye are made free, and there is no other head whereby ye can be made free. There is no other name given whereby salvation cometh; therefore, I would that ye should take upon you the name of Christ, all you that have entered into the covenant with God that ye should be obedient unto the end of your lives.
And it shall come to pass that whosever doeth this shall be found at the right hand of God, for he shall know the name by which he is called; for he shall be called by the name of Christ. [Mosiah 5:89]
This is a glorious and wondrous doctrine. We are the sons and daughters of the living God, the children of the great Jehovah, the adopted offspring of the Lord Jesus Christ. We bear the name of Christ. We are members of his family. He is our father. Now, how do we gain such a personal relationship with him who has bought us with his blood? He says:
But to as many as received me gave I power to become my sons; and even so will I give unto as many as will receive me, power to become my sons.
And verily, verily, I say unto you, he that receiveth my gospel receiveth me; and he that receiveth not my gospel receiveth not me.
And this is my gospel–repentance and baptism by water, and then cometh the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost, even the Comforter, which showeth all things, and teacheth the peaceable things of the kingdom. [D&C 39:46]
When we partake of the sacrament, we renew the covenants made in the waters of baptism. We agree again to take upon ourselves the name of the Son and to keep his commandments so we shall always have his Spirit to be with us.
Baptism and the sacrament are the ordinances which open the door so that as a people, peculiar and set apart from the world, we have power to become sons and daughters of God. Obeying and conforming, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, living soberly and righteously and godly in this present world–such a way of life is the course whereby the power is exercised and the desired eventuality obtained.
In my father’s family we had a saying, “Remember who you are and act accordingly.” I adopted this same motto for my family. My wife tells me that her father did precisely the same thing. Our family motto meant to us, “First, you are a McConkie; you have been taught the truth; you know what is expected of you at all times; you are to live by the standards of the family and avoid anything that would stain the family name. Second, you are a Christian; Jehovah is your shepherd; the Lord Jesus is your father; you are to live by gospel standards and not do anything which would bring disrepute upon him whose name you bear; you are to keep his commandments.”
Now, in the light of the principle that we are a peculiar people who have become the sons and daughters of him who is our Lord, may I suggest some specific things that will help us overcome the world and make the doctrines here involved live in us. I shall do this by presenting what we may term the ten commandments of a peculiar people. First the commandments and then a brief commentary about them.
The first commandment: Thou shalt be morally clean and conform to every standard of virtue and chastity.
The commentary: People who live after the manner of the world are immoral and unclean–so much so that we sometimes wonder whether there are any moral standards left among men. People speak of a new morality, which is, in fact, immorality under a new name. We are confronted on every hand–on radio, on television, in the movies, and in the so-called literature that is available–with a recitation of standards that are contrary to gospel principles. They are inherent in the course that the world pursues.
But the true Saints still adhere to the divine decree, “Thou shalt not commit adultery” (Exodus 20:14). We still believe “that whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart” (Matthew 5:28). Our proclamation still is “thou shalt love thy wife with all thy heart, and shalt cleave unto her and none else. And he that looketh upon a woman to lust after her shall deny the faith, and shall not have the spirit” (D&C 42:2223). Immorality is the crying evil of our day. It ranks next to murder in the category of personal sins. We must shun it, avoid it, flee from it. It destroys men spiritually in this life and sends them to an endless hell in the life to come. The word of the Lord given to the world through us still is “For I, the Lord God, delight in the chastity of women. And whoredoms are an abomination before me; thus saith the Lord of Hosts” (Jacob 2:28).
Bridle Your Passions
The second commandment: Thou shalt bridle thy passions and abstain from all manner of lasciviousness.
The commentary: We are here in mortality to be tried and tested; we are on probation. The great test is whether we overcome the lusts of the flesh, flee from that which is lewd, and live by gospel standards. We are to overcome the world. If we get involved in necking and petting, if we go to pornographic movies, if we read trashy and vulgar books or magazines, if we tell or enjoy vulgar stories, if we profane and are unclean in thought or word, we are living after the manner of the world. Then there is nothing peculiar about us. We are as the generality of mankind. We are outside the family circle. We lose our status as the sons and daughters of our Lord. Oh that it might be said of us, as it was of them of old:
There was no contention in the land, because of the love of God which did dwell in the hearts of the people.
And there were no envyings, nor strifes, nor tumults, nor whoredoms, nor lyings, nor murders, nor any manner of lasciviousness; and surely there could not be a happier people among all the people who had been created by the hand of God. [4 Nephi 15:16]
What an accolade that is! Surely there could not be a “happier people among all the people who had been crated by the hand of God.” True happiness is found only in righteous conduct. No one can live after the manner of the world and be truly happy. “Wickedness never was happiness” (Alma 41:10).
The third commandment: Thou shalt be modest in dress and appearance.
Commentary: It may come as a surprise to some people to learn that modesty in dress and grooming is related to salvation. I left the Missionary Executive Committee meeting this morning to come here, and the last item approved was a document to go to mission presidents, stake presidents, and bishops instructing each to counsel all returned missionaries to conform to the dress and grooming standards that had prevailed in their missions.
The Bible has a great deal to say about covering our nakedness, about costly and ornate apparel, about excessive use of jewelry, about garish and worldly costumes, and yes, about hair styles. Women are told to avoid “plaiting” the hair and not to wear “broided hair.” I suggest you figure out what those things mean in the context where they were used by Peter and Paul. The Holy Book approves long hair for women and short hair for men: “Doth not even nature itself teach you,” Paul says, “that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him?” (1 Corinthians 11:14). I noted in the church section of the Deseret News that within the month President Spencer W. Kimball, speaking before a similar group, quoted that sentence from Paul with the same application that we’re making here.
Conformity to dress and grooming standards is one of the tests the Lord imposes upon us to see if we will take counsel and to see if we can stand up against the pressures of the world. There is, of course, an underlying reason for all the counsels and commands relayed from the Lord by the Brethren to the Saints. Immodesty, for instance, leads toward immorality. Long hair and grubby grooming open the door to rebellion against the established order and to associations which lead away from the Church. Surely those who are so adorned are not living soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world. But even if we are not sufficiently in tune to recognize the valid reasons behind the dress and grooming standards, we are still expected to abide by them. We might well hark back to the counsel given Adam to offer sacrifices. He, not knowing the underlying reasons, did so in order to conform to the counsel that the Lord gave. And in due course the angel from heaven explained what was involved.
The fourth commandment: Thou shalt be honest and manifest integrity in all thy doings.
The commentary: The devil whispers to men, “Lie a little; there is no harm in a little dishonesty; a little stealing won’t matter; everybody cheats on an exam and you have to in order to get by; don’t search out the true owner of lost property; learn to get along in the world by living the way worldly people live.” We are living in a day when evil is on the increase. Shoplifting, crime, and dishonest practices prevail in increasing measure throughout the world. In my judgment this will continue until the day of the coming of the Son of Man when the wicked will be destroyed, the earth will be regenerated, and we will have a new way of life. I think also that in the midst of these worldly circumstances the Church itself, at least the faithful portion of it, is being perfected. We are living by higher standards, and we are preparing ourselves to be that people who will be ready for the Lord when he comes again. As to these matters, the Lord our God has never rescinded that which is written: “Thou shalt not steal” (Exodus 20:15). No amendment has ever been appended to the decree “Wo unto the liar, for he shall be thrust down to hell” (2 Nephi 9:34). The honor code is still in force. Neither a dishonest man nor a man lacking in integrity can be saved in the kingdom of God.
Pay Your Offerings
The fifth commandment: Thou shalt pay thy tithes and offerings unto the Lord.
The commentary: Tithes and offerings divide the faithful from the unfaithful. All men will give an accounting before the judgment bar for the manner in which they used the moneys and properties that came into their hands while in mortality. “The love of money is the root of all evil” (1 Timothy 6:10). And that includes the inordinate attachment to money that is legally and properly your own. The Lord said to Martin Harris, “And again, I command thee that thou shalt not covet thine own property, but impart it freely to the printing of the Book of Mormon” (D&C 19:26). Speaking of making our money and property available for building up the kingdom, Paul says, “He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:67). Well might we remember the revelation which says, “For he that is tithed shall not be burned at his coming” (D&C 64:23). Some people say tithing is pretty good fire insurance.
Keep the Sabbath
The sixth commandment: Thou shalt go to sacrament meeting and keep the Sabbath day holy.
The commentary: We live in an age when almost the whole world is rushing about madly in search of pleasure. Nearly everyone sets the weekend apart for recreational purposes, and this means for Sabbath violation. The generality of mankind fish, play golf, go to movies, or otherwise (as they suppose) seek surcease from the toil of the week. There are churches which conduct their worship services on Friday evening or Saturday morning to free their adherents for recreational pursuits on the Lord’s day. The law of the Lord, given anew in our day, counsels us:
That thou mayest more fully keep thyself unspotted from the world, thou shalt go to the house of prayer and offer up thy sacraments upon my holy day;
For verily this is a day appointed unto you to rest from your labors, and to pay thy devotions unto the Most High. [D&C 59:910]
Keep the Word of Wisdom
The seventh commandment: Thou shalt keep the Word of Wisdom.
The commentary: We have received from the Lord a law of health which, if kept, will assure us not only of physical well-being, but also of great outpourings of spiritual enlightenment. This law is divided into affirmative counsel, telling us what we may properly eat, and negative counsel, which forbids the use of certain things which are injurious to the body. While the great hosts of men–of people in the world–reel and stagger through life in an alcoholic stupor; while they immerse themselves in the stinking fumes of tobacco; while they drown themselves in gallons of semipoisonous tea and coffee; while they inhale the smoke of marijuana or otherwise afflict themselves with mind-destroying drugs; the Saints of the Most High, in all their peculiarity, avoid these things for the plague that they are.
Theirs is this promise:
And all saints who remember to keep and do these sayings, walking in obedience to the commandments, shall receive health in their navel and marrow to their bones;
And shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures;
And shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint.
And I, the Lord, give unto them a promise, that the destroying angel shall pass by them, as the children of Israel, and not slay them. [D&C 89:1821]
Now note what was involved: First, “walking in obedience to the commandments,” for the World of Wisdom is more than a law of health; and second, those keeping it “shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures.” These hidden treasures include such things as a testimony of the truth and divinity of the work, personal revelation to guide us in all our affairs and to provide us with the constant companionship of the Holy Spirit. And the eternal decree is that the Spirit will not dwell in an unclean tabernacle.
Believe True Doctrines
The eighth commandment: Thou shalt believe true doctrines and reject the false educational theories of the world.
The commentary: We are saved or damned by what we believe. If we believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and the saving truths of his everlasting gospel, we have a hope of eternal life. If our beliefs embrace the philosophies of men and the vagaries of the world, they may lead to destruction. Nearly the whole educational world goes blithely along, espousing the false theories of organic evolution, which rule out the fall of man and the atonement of Christ. Men worship at the shrine of intellectuality without ever realizing that religion is a thing of the Spirit and that “the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God” (1 Corinthians 1:11). Our schools teach some principles of socialism, of communism, of so-called women’s liberation, of curtailing population growth and the like–much of which runs counter to revealed gospel truths.
How grateful we should be for the revealed knowledge we have of the eternal saving truths of the gospel. We know the verities that must be comprehended, understood, and applied to our lives to give us joy and peace in this life and eternal life in the world to come. These things pertain to the nature and kind of being that God is and to the great plan of salvation which he ordained to enable his spirit children to advance and progress and become like him. The fact that Adam fell, bringing temporal and spiritual death into the world, and the fact that God sent his Only Begotten Son into the world to ransom men from the effects of the temporal and spiritual death brought upon all mankind through the fall of Adam–these are eternal verities. Other eternal verities are these–that God has spoken in our day; that the fulness of his everlasting gospel has been restored; that the church and kingdom of God has been set up on earth anew; that it administers the gospel by the power of the holy priesthood; and that there are had among us the gifts, signs, miracles, and all the wonders, blessings, and graces that were ever had in any day when the Lord had a people on earth.
Serve Your Fellowmen
The ninth commandment: Thou shalt serve thy fellowmen and sacrifice for the building up of the kingdom.
The commentary: Service and sacrifice are essential to salvation. Jesus said, “I am among you as he that serveth” (Luke 22:27). King Benjamin said, “When ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God” (Mosiah 2:17). Joseph Smith taught that “a religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary to lead unto life and salvation.”
The tenth commandment: Thou shalt pour out thy soul to the Lord in mighty prayer.
The commentary: We are a praying people –not giving lip service only, not reciting mere words, not repeating memorized phrases–but praying with all the energy and power we possess, praying until the heavens open and the Lord rains down righteousness upon us. No one can pray with perfect faith unless he keeps the commandments. An immoral man can never generate the faith to raise the dead. A person who does not keep the Word of Wisdom will be hindered in healing the sick, and so on right down to the dress and grooming standards.
God’s Kingdom on Earth
Such, I suggest, are the ten commandments of a peculiar people. If we live by the principles set forth in them we shall have peace in this life and be inheriters of eternal life in the world to come. If any of us now fall short in any degree, the door is open for repentance. The Lord’s arm is not shortened that he will not hear, but he invites all men to come to him and partake of his goodness and grace.
There is an organization in his kingdom whereby we can receive the counsel and direction that we need. All of us have power to set our lives in order to the full so that we do “live soberly, godly, and righteously” in this present world and thereby gain the promised peace and the promised hope of an eternal reward in what we’re talking about.
“What are these which are arrayed in white robes? And whence came they?” The inspired answer is “These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Revelation 7:1314). No one ever said or claimed that life was intended to be easy. The Lord deliberately has left us in a situation where the world is all around us and where we have to make the choices. If we choose to follow him and take the counsel that is given, we reap the blessings. And if we choose otherwise, we follow the course that the world follows and the destruction promised to them will be heaped upon us also. “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my father in his throne” (Revelation 3:21). “He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his god, and he shall be my son” (Revelation 21:7).
What a glorious and wondrous thing it is to be a member of the church and kingdom of God on earth, to have the revelations of heaven, and to know what is meant by the prophetic utterances and the counsels written by prophets and apostles. We are so blessed. This Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is God’s kingdom on earth. It is led by the spirit of inspiration. If we follow the counsel and direction that we receive, then these principles about which we have talked will live in our lives. They will live because they are true and because the Lord wants to operate by these standards. Out of that kind of a course we shall get the joy and the peace “that passeth all understanding” while we are here in mortality, and we’ll have a guaranteed inheritance of glory, honor, immortality, and exaltation in the realms ahead. Of this I testify and for these things I pray for all of us, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
Type: Talk or speech
Author: Bruce R. McConkie
Bruce R. McConkie was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when this fireside address was given at Brigham Young University on 1 June 1980.
By the power of the Holy Ghost so that my words will be true and wise and proper. When any of us speak by the power of the Spirit, we say what the Lord wants said, or, better, what he would say if he were here in person.
I shall depart from my normal and usual pattern and read portions of my presentation because I want to state temperately and accurately the doctrinal principles involved and to say them in a way that will not leave room for doubt or question. I shall speak on some matters that some may consider to be controversial, though they ought not to be. They are things on which we ought to be united, and to the extent we are all guided and enlightened from on high we will be. If we are so united–and there will be no disagreement among those who believe and understand the revealed word–we will progress and advance and grow in the things of the Spirit; we will prepare ourselves for a life of peace and happiness and joy here and now, and for an eventual eternal reward in the kingdom of our Father.
There is a song or a saying or a proverb or a legend or a tradition or something that speaks of seven deadly sins. I know nothing whatever about these and hope you do not. My subject is one about which some few of you, unfortunately, do know a little. It is “The Seven Deadly Heresies”–not the great heresies of a lost and fallen Christendom, but some that have crept in among us.
Now I take a text. These words were written by Paul to certain ancient Saints. In principle they apply to us:
I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it.
For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you. [1 Corinthians 11:1819]
Now let me list some axioms (I guess in academic circles we call these caveats):
–There is no salvation in believing a false doctrine.
–Truth, diamond truth, truth unmixed with error, truth alone leads to salvation.
–What we believe determines what we do.
–No man can be saved in ignorance of God and his laws.
–Man is saved no faster than he gains knowledge of Jesus Christ and the saving truths of his everlasting gospel.
–Gospel doctrines belong to the Lord, not to men. They are his. He ordained them, he reveals them, and he expects us to believe them.
–The doctrines of salvation are not discovered in a laboratory or on a geological field trip or by accompanying Darwin around the world. They come by revelation and in no other way.
–Our sole concern in seeking truth should be to learn and believe what the Lord knows and believes. Providentially he has set forth some of his views in the holy scriptures.
–Our goal as mortals is to gain the mind of Christ, to believe what he believes, to think what he thinks, to say what he says, to do what he does, and to be as he is.
–We are called upon to reject all heresies and cleave unto all truth. Only then can we progress according to the divine plan. As the Lord has said,
Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection.
And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come. [D&C 130:1819]
Please note that knowledge is gained by obedience. It comes by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel. In the ultimate and full sense it comes only by revelation from the Holy Ghost. There are some things a sinful man does not and cannot know. The Lord’s people are promised: “By the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things” (Moroni 10:5). But if they do not seek the Spirit, if they do not accept the revelations God has given, if they cannot distinguish between the revealed word and the theories of men, they have no promise of gaining a fullness of truth by the power of the Holy Ghost.
Now may I suggest the list of heresies.
Heresy one: There are those who say that God is progressing in knowledge and is learning new truths.
This is false–utterly, totally, and completely. There is not one sliver of truth in it. It grows out of a wholly twisted and incorrect view of the King Follett Sermon and of what is meant by eternal progression.
God progresses in the sense that his kingdoms increase and his dominions multiply–not in the sense that he learns new truths and discovers new laws. God is not a student. He is not a laboratory technician. He is not postulating new theories on the basis of past experiences. He has indeed graduated to that state of exaltation that consists of knowing all things and having all power.
The life that God lives is named eternal life. His name, one of them, is “Eternal,” using that word as a noun and not as an adjective, and he uses that name to identify the type of life that he lives. God’s life is eternal life, and eternal life is God’s life. They are one and the same. Eternal life is the reward we shall obtain if we believe and obey and walk uprightly before him. And eternal life consists of two things. It consists of life in the family unit, and, also, of inheriting, receiving, and possessing the fullness of the glory of the Father. Anyone who has each of these things is an inheritor and possessor of the greatest of all gifts of God, which is eternal life.
Eternal progression consists of living the kind of life God lives and of increasing in kingdoms and dominions everlastingly. Why anyone should suppose that an infinite and eternal being who has presided in our universe for almost 2,555,000,000 years, who made the sidereal heavens, whose creations are more numerous than the particles of the earth, and who is aware of the fall of every sparrow–why anyone would suppose that such a being has more to learn and new truths to discover in the laboratories of eternity is totally beyond my comprehension.
Will he one day learn something that will destroy the plan of salvation and turn man and the universe into an uncreated nothingness? Will he discover a better plan of salvation than the one he has already given to men in worlds without number?
The saving truth, as revealed to and taught, formally and officially, by the Prophet Joseph Smith in the Lectures on Faith is that God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. He knows all things, he has all power, and he is everywhere present by the power of his Spirit. And unless we know and believe this doctrine we cannot gain faith unto life and salvation.
Joseph Smith also taught in the Lectures on Faith “that three things are necessary in order that any rational and intelligent being may exercise faith in God unto life and salvation.” These he named as–
1. The idea that he actually exists;
2. A correct idea of his character, perfections, and attributes; and
3. An actual knowledge that the course of life which he is pursuing is according to the divine will.
The attributes of God are given as knowledge, faith or power, justice, judgment, mercy, and truth. The perfections of God are named as “the perfections which belong to all of the attributes of his nature,” which is to say that God possesses and has all knowledge, all faith or power, all justice, all judgment, all mercy, and all truth. He is indeed the very embodiment and personification and source of all these attributes. Does anyone suppose that God can be more honest than he already is? Neither need any suppose there are truths he does not know or knowledge he does not possess.
Thus Joseph Smith taught, and these are his words:
Without the knowledge of all things, God would not be able to save any portion of his creatures; for it is by reason of the knowledge which he has of all things, from the beginning to the end, that enables him to give that understanding to his creatures by which they are made partakers of eternal life; and if it were not for the idea existing in the minds of men that God had all knowledge it would be impossible for them to exercise faith in him. [As quoted by Bruce R. McConkie in Mormon Doctrine (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966), p.264]
If God is just dabbling with a few truths he has already chanced to learn or experimenting with a few facts he has already discovered, we have no idea as to the real end and purpose of creation.
Heresy two concerns itself with the relationship between organic evolution and revealed religion and asks the question whether they can be harmonized.
There are those who believe that the theory of organic evolution runs counter to the plain and explicit principles set forth in the holy scriptures as these have been interpreted and taught by Joseph Smith and his associates. There are others who think that evolution is the system used by the Lord to form plant and animal life and to place man on earth.
May I say that all truth is in agreement, that true religion and true science bear the same witness, and that in the true and full sense, true science is part of true religion. But may I also raise some questions of a serious nature. Is there any way to harmonize the false religions of the Dark Ages with the truths of science as they have now been discovered? Is there any way to harmonize the revealed religion that has come to us with the theoretical postulates of Darwinism and the diverse speculations descending therefrom?
Should we accept the famous document of the First Presidency issued in the days of President Joseph F. Smith and entitled “The Origin of Man” as meaning exactly what it says? Is it the doctrine of the gospel that Adam stood next to Christ in power and might and intelligence before the foundations of the world were laid; that Adam was placed on this earth as an immortal being; that there was no death in the world for him or for any form of life until after the Fall; that the fall of Adam brought temporal and spiritual death into the world; that this temporal death passed upon all forms of life, upon man and animal and fish and fowl and plant life; that Christ came to ransom man and all forms of life from the effects of the temporal death brought into the world through the Fall, and in the case of man from a spiritual death also; and that this ransom includes a resurrection for man and for all forms of life? Can you harmonize these things with the evolutionary postulate that death has always existed and that the various forms of life have evolved from preceding forms over astronomically long periods of time?
Can you harmonize the theories of men with the inspired words that say:
And now, behold, if Adam had not transgressed he would not have fallen, but he would have remained in the Garden of Eden. And all things which were created must have remained in the same state in which they were after they were created; and they must have remained forever, and had no end.
And they [meaning Adam and Eve] would have had no children; wherefore they would have remained in a state of innocence, having no joy, for they knew no misery; doing no good, for they knew no sin.
But behold, all things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things.
Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.
And the Messiah cometh in the fulness of time, that he may redeem the children of men from the fall. [2 Nephi 2:2226]
These are questions to which all of us should find answers. Every person must choose for himself what he will believe. I recommend that all of you study and ponder and pray and seek light and knowledge in these and in all fields.
I believe that the atonement of Christ is the great and eternal foundation upon which revealed religion rests. I believe that no man can be saved unless he believes that our Lord’s atoning sacrifice brings immortality to all and eternal life to those who believe and obey, and no man can believe in the atonement unless he accepts both the divine sonship of Christ and the fall of Adam.
My reasoning causes me to conclude that if death has always prevailed in the world, then there was no fall of Adam that brought death to all forms of life; that if Adam did not fall, there is no need for an atonement; that if there was no atonement, there is no salvation, no resurrection, and no eternal life; and that if there was no atonement, there is nothing in all of the glorious promises that the Lord has given us. I believe that the Fall affects man, all forms of life, and the earth itself, and that the Atonement affects man, all forms of life, and the earth itself.
Heresy three: There are those who say that temple marriage assures us of an eventual exaltation. Some have supposed that couples married in the temple who commit all manner of sin, and who then pay the penalty, will gain their exaltation eventually.
This notion is contrary to the whole system and plan that the Lord has ordained, a system under which we are privileged to work out our salvation with fear and trembling before him. If we believe and obey, if we enter the waters of baptism and make solemn covenants with the Lord to keep his commandments, we thereby get on a strait and narrow path that leads from the gate of repentance and baptism to a reward that is called eternal life. And if we traverse the length of the path going upward and forward and onward, keeping the commandments, loving the Lord, and doing all that we ought to do, eventually we will be inheritors of that reward.
And in exactly and precisely the same sense, celestial marriage is a gate that puts us on a path leading to exaltation in the highest heaven of the celestial world. It is in that highest realm of glory and dignity and honor hereafter that the family unit continues. Those who inherit a place in the highest heaven receive the reward that is named eternal life. Baptism is a gate; celestial marriage is a gate. When we get on the paths of which I speak, we are then obligated to keep the commandments. My suggestion in this field is that you go to the temple and listen to a ceremony of celestial marriage, paying particular and especial attention to the words, and learn what the promises are that are given. And you will learn that all of the promises given are conditioned upon subsequent compliance with all of the terms and conditions of that order of matrimony.
Heresy four: There are those who believe that the doctrine of salvation for the dead offers men a second chance for salvation.
I knew a man, now deceased, not a member of the Church, who was a degenerate old reprobate who found pleasure, as he supposed, in living after the manner of the world. A cigarette dangled from his lips, alcohol stenched his breath, and profane and bawdy stories defiled his lips. His moral status left much to be desired.
His wife was a member of the Church, as faithful as she could be under the circumstances. One day she said to him, “You know the Church is true; why won’t you be baptized?” He replied, “Of course I know the Church is true, but I have no intention of changing my habits in order to join it. I prefer to live the way I do. But that doesn’t worry me in the slightest. I know that as soon as I die, you will have someone go to the temple and do the work for me and everything will come out all right in the end anyway.”
He died and she had the work done in the temple. We do not sit in judgment and deny vicarious ordinances to people. But what will it profit him?
There is no such thing as a second chance to gain salvation. This life is the time and the day of our probation. After this day of life, which is given us to prepare for eternity, then cometh the night of darkness wherein there can be no labor performed.
For those who do not have an opportunity to believe and obey the holy word in this life, the first chance to gain salvation will come in the spirit world. If those who hear the word for the first time in the realms ahead are the kind of people who would have accepted the gospel here, had the opportunity been afforded them, they will accept it there. Salvation for the dead is for those whose first chance to gain salvation is in the spirit world.
In the revelation recently added to our canon of holy writ, these words are found:
Thus came the voice of the Lord unto me, saying: All who have died without a knowledge of this gospel, who would have received it if they had been permitted to tarry, shall be heirs of the celestial kingdom of God;
Also all that shall die henceforth without a knowledge of it, who would have received it with all their hearts, shall be heirs of that kingdom;
For I, the Lord, will judge all men according to their works, according to the desire of their hearts. [D&C 137:79]
There is no other promise of salvation than the one recited in that revelation. Those who reject the gospel in this life and then receive it in the spirit world go not to the celestial, but to the terrestrial kingdom.
Heresy five: There are those who say that there is progression from one kingdom to another in the eternal worlds or that lower kingdoms eventually progress to where higher kingdoms once were.
This belief lulls men into a state of carnal security. It causes them to say, “God is so merciful; surely he will save us all eventually; if we do not gain the celestial kingdom now, eventually we will; so why worry?” It lets people live a life of sin here and now with the hope that they will be saved eventually.
The true doctrine is that all men will be resurrected, but they will come forth in the resurrection with different kinds of bodies–some celestial, others terrestrial, others telestial, and some with bodies incapable of standing any degree of glory. The body we receive in the resurrection determines the glory we receive in the kingdoms that are prepared.
Of those in the telestial world it is written: “And they shall be servants of the Most High; but where God and Christ dwell they cannot come, worlds without end” (D&C 76:112).
Of those who had the opportunity to enter into the new and everlasting covenant of marriage in this life and who did not do it, the revelation says:
Therefore, when they are out of the world they neither marry nor are given in marriage; but are appointed angels in heaven; which angels are ministering servants, to minister for those who are worthy of a far more, and an exceeding, and an eternal weight of glory.
For these angels did not abide my law; therefore, they cannot be enlarged, but remain separately and singly, without exaltation, in their saved condition, to all eternity; and from henceforth are not gods, but are angels of God forever and ever. [D&C 132:1617]
They neither progress from one kingdom to another, nor does a lower kingdom ever get where a higher kingdom once was. Whatever eternal progression there is, it is within a sphere.
Heresy six: There are those who believe or say they believe that Adam is our father and our god, that he is the father of our spirits and our bodies, and that he is the one we worship.
The devil keeps this heresy alive as a means of obtaining converts to cultism. It is contrary to the whole plan of salvation set forth in the scriptures, and anyone who has read the Book of Moses, and anyone who has received the temple endowment, has no excuse whatever for being led astray by it. Those who are so ensnared reject the living prophet and close their ears to the apostles of their day. “We will follow those who went before,” they say. And having so determined, they soon are ready to enter polygamous relationships that destroy their souls.
We worship the Father, in the name of the Son, by the power of the Holy Ghost; and Adam is their foremost servant, by whom the peopling of our planet was commenced.
Heresy seven: There are those who believe we must be perfect to gain salvation.
This is not really a great heresy, only a doctrinal misunderstanding that I mention here in order to help round out our discussion and to turn our attention from negative to positive things. If we keep two principles in mind we will thereby know that good and faithful members of the Church will be saved, even though they are far from perfect in this life.
These two principles are (1) that this life is the appointed time for men to prepare to meet God–this life is the day of our probation; and (2) that the same spirit which possesses our bodies at the time we go out of this mortal life shall have power to possess our bodies in that eternal world.
What we are doing as members of the Church is charting a course leading to eternal life. There was only one perfect being, the Lord Jesus. If men had to be perfect and live all of the law strictly, wholly, and completely, there would be only one saved person in eternity. The prophet taught that there are many things to be done, even beyond the grave, in working out our salvation.
And so what we do in this life is chart a course leading to eternal life. That course begins here and now and continues in the realms ahead. We must determine in our hearts and in our souls, with all the power and ability we have, that from this time forward we will press on in righteousness; by so doing we can go where God and Christ are. If we make that firm determination, and are in the course of our duty when this life is over, we will continue in that course in eternity. That same spirit that possesses our bodies at the time we depart from this mortal life will have power to possess our bodies in the eternal world. If we go out of this life loving the Lord, desiring righteousness, and seeking to acquire the attributes of godliness, we will have that same spirit in the eternal world, and we will then continue to advance and progress until an ultimate, destined day when we will possess, receive, and inherit all things.
Now I do not say these are the only great heresies that prevail among us. There are others that might be mentioned. My suggestion, relative to all doctrines and all principles, is that we become students of holy writ, and that we conform our thinking and our beliefs to what is found in the standard works. We need to be less concerned about the views and opinions that others have expressed and drink directly from the fountain the Lord has given us. Then we shall come to a true understanding of the points of his doctrine. And if we pursue such a course, we will soon find that it proceeds in a different direction than the one that the world pursues. We will not be troubled with the intellectual views and expressions of uninspired people. We will soon obtain for ourselves the witness of the Spirit that we are pursuing a course that is pleasing to the Lord, and this knowledge will have a cleansing and sanctifying and edifying influence upon us.
Now, in order to have things in perspective, let me identify the three greatest heresies in all Christendom. They do not prevail among us, fortunately, but they are part of the gross and universal darkness that covers the earth and blots out from the minds of men those truths upon which salvation rests.
The greatest truth known to man is that there is a God in heaven who is infinite and eternal; that he is the creator, upholder, and preserver of all things; that he created us and the sidereal heavens and ordained and established a plan of salvation whereby we might advance and progress and become like him. The truth pertaining to him is that he is our Father in heaven, that he has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s, that he is a literal person, and that if we believe and obey his laws we can gain the exaltation that he possesses. Now that is the greatest truth and the most glorious concept known to the human mind, and the reverse of it is the greatest heresy in all Christendom.
The Christian heresy, where God is concerned, is that Deity is a spirit essence that fills the immensity of space; that he is three beings in one; that he is uncreated, incorporeal, and incomprehensible; that he is without body, parts, or passions; that he is a spirit nothingness that is everywhere and nowhere in particular present. These are concepts written in the creeds had in the churches of the world.
The second greatest truth in all eternity pertains to the divine sonship of the Lord, Jesus Christ. It includes the eternal verity that he was foreordained in the councils of eternity to come to earth and be the redeemer of men, to come and ransom men from the temporal and spiritual death brought upon them by the fall of Adam. This second greatest truth is that Christ worked out the infinite and eternal atoning sacrifice because of which all men are raised in immortality and those who believe and obey are raised also unto eternal life.
Now the second greatest heresy in all Christendom is designed to destroy the glories and wonders of the infinite and eternal atonement. It is that men are saved by some kind of lip service, by the grace of God, without work and without effort on their part.
The third greatest truth known to mankind is that the Holy Spirit of God is a revelator and a sanctifier, that he is a personage of spirit, that his assigned ministry and work in the eternal Godhead is to bear record of the Father and of the Son, to reveal them and their truths to men. His work is to cleanse and perfect human souls, to burn dross and evil out of human souls as though by fire. We call that the baptism of fire.
Now the opposite of that is the third greatest heresy in all Christendom. It is that revelation has ceased, that God’s mouth is closed, that the Holy Ghost no longer inspires men, that the gifts of the Spirit were done away with after the death of the ancient apostles, and that we no longer need to follow the course they charted.
I simply name these things; I think you will want to weigh and evaluate what is involved. I think you will want to ponder and wonder and search the scriptures. After Jesus had been teaching the Nephites as a resurrected person, giving them as much truth as in his wisdom he felt they could absorb at one time, he counseled them to go to their homes, and to ponder in their hearts the things he had said, and to pray to the Father in his name to find out if they were true, and then to come again on the morrow and he would teach them more.
Now that gives us the pattern by which we should operate in the Church. We come together in congregations, seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit, studying the revelations, reading the scriptures, and hearing expressions of doctrine and counsel given by those who are appointed. These teachings ought to be delivered by the power of the Holy Spirit. They ought to be received by the same power. And if they are, then the speaker and the hearer will be mutually edified, and we will have true and proper worship.
Then when the meeting is over, the “amen” should not end it. We should go to our homes and to our families and to our circles, and we should search out the revelations and find out what the Lord has said on the subjects involved. We should seek to get in tune with the Holy Spirit and to gain a witness, not solely of the truth and divinity of the work in which we are engaged but also of the doctrines that are taught by those who preach to us. We come into these congregations, and sometimes a speaker brings a jug of living water that has in it many gallons. And when he pours it out on the congregation, all the members have brought is a single cup and so that’s all they take away. Or maybe they have their hands over the cups, and they don’t get anything to speak of.
On other occasions we have meetings where the speaker comes and all he brings is a little cup of eternal truth, and the members of the congregation come with a large jug, and all they get in their jugs is the little dribble that came from a man who should have known better and who should have prepared himself and talked from the revelations and spoken by the power of the Holy Spirit. We are obligated in the Church to speak by the power of the Spirit. We are commanded to treasure up the words of light and truth and then give forth the portion that is appropriate and needful on every occasion.
I do not think that the heresies I have named are common in the Church. I think that the great majority of the members of the Church believe and understand true doctrines and seek to apply true principles in their lives. Unfortunately, there are a few people who agitate and stir these matters up, who have some personal ax to grind, and who desire to spread philosophies of their own, philosophies that, as near as the judges in Israel can discern, are not in harmony with the mind and will and purpose of the Lord. It is incumbent upon us to believe the truth. We have the obligation to find out what is truth, and then we have the obligation to walk in the light and to apply the truths that we have learned to ourselves and to influence others to do likewise.
Now the glorious and wondrous thing about this whole system of revealed religion that the Lord, our God, has given us is the fact that it is true. There isn’t a grander, a more glorious, a more wondrous concept than the simple one that the work in which we are engaged is true. And because it is true it will triumph and prevail, and the knowledge of God and his truths will roll forth until it covers the whole earth as the waters cover the sea. We do not expect to have a perfect society among us until the millennial day dawns. But that is not far distant. And when that day comes, we will all, as the scriptures say, see eye to eye and speak with one voice, and the Lord himself will dwell among us. He could not dwell among us now because we are divided and we are not living in that perfect harmony and unity and with that devotion that prevailed among the Saints in the city of Enoch.
God grant that we may be wise in what we do, that we may seek truth, that we may live in harmony with the truth, that we may bear testimony of the truth, and that we may, as a consequence, have joy and peace and happiness here and now and be inheritors, in due course, of eternal reward in our Father’s kingdom. This is my prayer for myself and for all of you, and for all of the members of the Church, and for honest truthseekers everywhere, and I offer it in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
Type: Talk or speech
Author: Bruce R. McConkie
Bruce R. McConkie was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when this fireside address was given at Brigham Young University on 6 January 1985.
I rejoice in the privilege of presenting to the young and rising generation some basic concepts about the deepest and most profound doctrine of the gospel.
It is the first principle of revealed religion, the great cornerstone upon which all else rests, the foundation for all of the doctrines of salvation.
I shall speak of what the revealed word calls the mystery of godliness.
If our vision is blurred where this doctrine and these concepts are concerned, or, if knowingly or unknowingly we have fallen prey to any of the false sectarian notions that abound with reference to them, our progress toward eternal life will be slow indeed.
Comprehending the Mystery of Godliness
A mystery, so the dictionary says, is “something beyond human comprehension.” Defining the word from a theological standpoint, it says a mystery is “an article of faith beyond human comprehension, as the doctrine of the Trinity.”
How apt this illustration is! If there was ever something beyond human comprehension, it is the sectarian doctrine of the Trinity.
This doctrine defines God and the Godhead as a three-in-one spirit essence that fills the immensity of space; it teaches that it and they are without body, parts, or passions; it acclaims that it and they are unknown, unknowable, and uncreated, and specifies, in the creeds, that unless we believe all these things we cannot be saved.
It is true that finite man cannot comprehend his Infinite Maker in the full sense of the word. We cannot tell how gods began to be or from whence existent matter came.
But we are duty-bound to learn all that God has revealed about himself and his everlasting gospel. If we are to gain eternal life we must come to know the Great God and his Only Begotten, whom he sent into the world. And this probationary estate is the appointed time to begin to know God, and to learn his laws, and thereby to start the process of becoming like him. If we do not so begin we shall never receive the promised reward.
Because God stands revealed or remains forever unknown, and because the things of God are known only by the power of the Spirit, perhaps we should redefine a mystery. In the gospel sense, a mystery is something beyond carnal comprehension.
The saints are in a position to comprehend all mysteries, to understand all doctrine, and eventually to know all things. These high levels of intelligence are reached only through faith and obedience and righteousness. A person who relies on the intellect alone and who does not keep the commandments can never, worlds without end, comprehend the mystery of godliness.
There is probably more ignorance and confusion as to the mystery of godliness than there is about any other doctrine. As set forth in the three creeds of Christendom–the Nicene, the Apostles’, and the Athanasian, which God himself said were an abomination in his sight–and as defined in the articles of religion of the various denominations, this doctrine is a mass of confusion and a mountain of falsity.
Even in the Church, thanks to a lack of knowledge and to intellectuality and the worldly enticement to conform to the general beliefs of an apostate Christendom, there are those who have fallen prey to many false delusions about deity. By way of illustration let us note some of the problems.
Who and What Is God?
Is there a God? If so, who or what is he? Is he the laws and forces of nature? Or an image of mud or gold? Or is he Baal, the resurrected son of El to whom the Canaanites offered human sacrifices? Is he Allah or Buddha or the confusing and contradictory nothingness described in the creeds of Christendom?
Is there such a thing as the Trinity in which the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are three gods, and, yet one god, a god who neither hears, nor speaks, nor appears, as did the one worshipped by the ancients?
Is God omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent, or are these descriptive designations part of the legends of sectarianism?
Are there three gods or one? Why does Jesus say his Father is greater than he, and Paul say Jesus is equal with the Father? Why the great scriptural emphasis on proclaiming that three gods are one, and that the Lord our God is one Lord?
What of the mystery of our Lord’s birth? Indeed, why should God even have a son? Is Jesus the Son of Man, or the Son of God, or is there a difference? Was it necessary to have a Savior and Redeemer, or is the Koran correct in teaching that God had no need for a son because Allah has but to speak and a thing is done?
By what power could Jesus atone for the sins of the world, or rise from death’s dark tomb, or ascend physically into heaven? Is the atonement truly infinite and eternal, applying to all worlds and all created things?
Why does an angel say to John, “I am Alpha and Omega,” and when John falls at his feet to worship him, say: “See thou do it not: I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God” (Revelations 1:8, 19:10)?
Why does Jesus say: I am the Son of God, and I said such and such unto mine Only Begotten, when in fact the Only Begotten is the offspring, not of the Son, but of the Father?
Why does Christ say: I am the Father and the Son and I created man in mine own image–when in fact Christ is the Son and not the Father, and when man was created, not by the Son, but by the Father?
What relationship do we have with the Lord? Do we worship the Father and him only, or do we also worship the Son? Should we seek for some special relationship with Christ, or does the plan of salvation call for us to seek the Spirit and thereby gain a oneness with both the Father and the Son?
All these are but sample questions, questions that raise some of the issues relative to the mystery of godliness.
Understanding Through the Power of the Spirit
It is our friend Paul who tells us: “Without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory” (1 Timothy 3:16).
We agree. But all these things are beyond carnal comprehension. God dwelling in the flesh! How can anyone understand such a pronouncement unless quickened by the power of the Spirit?
The revealed word to Joseph Smith announces that endless torment does not last forever, and that eternal damnation is of limited duration. In spite of the plain meaning of words, the divine word is that eternal punishment and endless punishment do in fact have an end.
“For, behold, the mystery of godliness, how great is it,” the Lord says, as he gives to these words a special scriptural definition. As he says, this is done so that the concepts involved “might work upon the hearts of the children of men, altogether for my name’s glory” (D&C 19:612).
As it is with such a mystery as God dwelling in the flesh, or as eternal punishment having no reference to the duration, but rather to the kind of punishment, so it is with all else embraced within the designation the mystery of godliness.
The doctrine is what the doctrine is, and the concepts are what the concepts are. It is of no moment whatever that they spread confusion among uninspired worshippers at divers shrines, or among intellectuals whose interest in religion is purely academic and who rely on the power of the mind rather than the power of the Spirit for understanding.
Gospel truths are known and understood only by the power of the Spirit. Eternal life–which is to know God–is such an infinitely great reward that men must study, ponder, and pray, with all their hearts, to gain the needed knowledge.
The Lord gives his truths line upon line and precept upon precept to those who believe and obey. Saving truths come by revelation to prophets, not by reason to false priests or doctors of debate, dissension, and divisiveness.
Let us, then, consider the mystery of godliness from the Lord’s standpoint, setting forth correct principles, which will enable all who are spiritually enlightened to keep themselves on the proper path.
Let us do so with courage and without fear, but in reverence and with an open mind. If we are contrite and receptive, if we truly desire truth, and if we are guided by the Spirit in our search, we shall come off triumphant. We shall embrace every true principle and shunt every false doctrine back into the enveloping darkness from whence it came.
Search Deeper and Deeper
As we walk the razor’s edge–the razor that divides truth from near truths, which sometimes have a pleasing attraction–let us be mindful of these words of the Prophet Joseph Smith: “The Savior has the words of eternal life. Nothing else can profit us. . . . I advise all to go on to perfection, and search deeper and deeper into the mysteries of Godliness” (Teachings, p. 364).
Let us ponder these basic concepts:
1. God is the Supreme Being. He is the only supreme and independent being in whom all fulness and perfection dwells. He is the Creator, Preserver, and Upholder of the universe and all that in it is. He is without beginning of days or end of life, and by him all things are. He is the object of all proper worship and from him all good gifts flow. He presides over and governs all things and therefore has no equal. That there is and can be only one supreme being is axiomatic. There can be three equal beings who possess the same character, perfections, and attributes, but there is and can be only one who is supreme, who is the head, and to whom all others are subject.
2. He is a holy man and has a body of flesh and bones. It is written: “No unclean thing can dwell . . . in his presence; for, in the language of Adam, Man of Holiness is his name, and the name of his Only Begotten is the Son of Man, even Jesus Christ” (Moses 6:57). That is, he is Ahman, and the name of his Only Begotten is Son Ahman.
And as it was with Jesus, the Son, who came forth in the resurrection with a glorified, immortal, resurrected body of flesh and bones, so it was with his Father before him. Joseph Smith said: “God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens!” (Teachings, p. 345). Truly, truly, it is written: “The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s” (D&C 130:22).
3. He is the Eternal Father, the Father of Spirits. God lives in the family unit and is the Father of Spirits, of spirit men and spirit women, hosts of whom are now being born as mortal beings. He is, “Our Father which art in heaven” (Matthew 6:9). We are his children, and we are governed by his laws and are subject to his chastisement, all of which caused Paul to say: “We have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?” (Hebrews 12:9).
4. He is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. Let there be no mistake about this. God has all power; he is the Almighty. He knows all things, and there is nothing in all eternity, in universe upon universe, that he does not know. Joseph Smith so taught, and all our scriptures, ancient and modern, bear a concordant testimony. He is not a student god, and he is not progressing in knowledge or learning new truths. If he knows how to create and govern worlds without number, and all that on them is, what is there left for him to learn? Also, he is omnipresent, meaning that by the power of his spirit he is in all things, and through all things, and round about all things.
5. What is the nature of God’s life? The name of the kind of life that God lives is eternal life. One of his names, speaking in the noun sense, is Eternal, and he simply uses that name to describe the kind of life he lives. Eternal life consists of two things: (1) life in the family unit and (2) having the fulness of the Father, which is all power in heaven and on earth. It is because God has eternal life that he became the Father of Spirits as well as the creator and governor of all things.
6. Whence came the plan of salvation? It is simply the laws and ordinances by obedience to which men may gain eternal life and thus become as God is and be gods in their own right. Joseph Smith said: “God himself, finding he was in the midst of spirits and glory, because he was more intelligent, saw proper to institute laws whereby the rest could have a privilege to advance like himself. . . . He has power to institute laws to instruct the weaker intelligences, that they may be exalted with himself, so that they might have one glory upon another, and all that knowledge, power, glory, and intelligence, which is requisite in order to save them in the world of spirits” (Teachings, p. 354).
7. Who are Elohim and Jehovah? They are the Father and the Son. The Everlasting Elohim is the Great God by whom all things are; the Eternal Jehovah is his Firstborn in the spirit and his Only Begotten in the flesh. Jehovah is thus our Elder Brother, and as such was subject to the same plan of salvation, the plan given of Elohim for the salvation of all his children.
While yet in the premortal existence, Jehovah advanced and progressed until he became like unto God. Under the direction of the Father he became the Creator of worlds without number, and thus was himself the Lord Omnipotent.
8. Christ was chosen in the premortal existence as the Savior and Redeemer. After the Father had presented his plan of salvation to all his spirit children, after it had been taught so that all understood that what Elohim proposed would enable his spirit children to gain eternal life, after all the hosts of heaven had been taught what they must do in connection with their coming mortal probation–after all this the Father of us all called a Grand Council. We were all present to hear his voice and to accept or reject the proposal he then made.
In that council he said: “Whom shall I send to be my Son, to work out the infinite and eternal atonement, to put into full operation all of the terms and conditions of my plan to save my children.” There were two volunteers–a conforming and obedient Jehovah and a rebellious and disobedient Lucifer.
The choice was made and the decree sent forth. The Father named his Beloved and Chosen One; he chose the Lord Jehovah who was the Creator of all things, and who was then the Lord Omnipotent. He would be the one born as the Lord Jesus Christ. And this Chosen One was then foreordained and acclaimed as the Lamb slain from the foundation of the earth.
9. Man was created and commanded to serve the Father. It is written: “He created man, male and female, after his own image and in his own likeness, created he them; And gave unto them commandments that they should love and serve him, the only living and true God, and that he should be the only being whom they should worship” (D&C 20:1819).
Please let these words of scripture sink into your heart and do not be confused about them. In order to gain salvation, we worship the Father and him only. He created us, he provided the plan of salvation, he called Christ to be the Savior and Redeemer, and he is the one that we and Christ shall be like if we are true and faithful in all things. We shall refer hereafter to the sense in which we worship Christ.
10. Man fell, became mortal, and entered a probationary estate. Created in a paradisiacal state in which there was no disease nor sorrow nor death–a state of innocence in which he could have no joy for he knew no misery, in which he could do no good, for he knew no sin–man, in conformity with the divine purpose, fell.
Temporal and spiritual death entered the world. Man became mortal. For the first time he could procreate and provide bodies for the spirits yet in the premortal existence. Truly, “Adam fell that men might be” (2 Nephi 2:2225). We entered a probationary estate in which we are tried and tested to see if we will do all things whatsoever the Lord our God shall command us.
11. The Father provided a Savior and Redeemer. The eternal plan of salvation consists of the Creation, the Fall, and the Atonement. The Father having created man in his own image, and Adam having fallen that mortal man might enter his probationary estate, it but remained for the Father to provide a Savior and Redeemer. This he did in the person of his Only Begotten.
Thus Christ came into the world to ransom men from the temporal and spiritual death brought about by the fall of Adam. Thus all men are redeemed from the temporal death through the resurrection. All became immortal. “As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:22). And thus all men may be redeemed from spiritual death if they believe and obey, if they are true and faithful, if they keep the commandments.
12. Christ is the Mediator. Man in his fallen state is forever lost unless he rises from the Fall and regains the spiritual life that once was his. He must return to that God from whose presence he departed when he left the paradisiacal confines of Eden. Christ’s mission is to bring to pass this reunion. He mediates the cause of the children of men so they can once again be in harmony with their Maker.
“God our Saviour,” Paul tells us, “is willing to have all men to be saved.” In order to be saved, he says, they must “come unto the knowledge of the truth which is in Christ Jesus, who is the Only Begotten Son of God.” He is the one who is “ordained to be a Mediator between God and man.”
Then our ancient apostolic friend makes this great declaration: “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all” (JST, 1 Timothy 2:36).
Ponder this concept: There is one God, one Supreme Being, one above all who dwells in heaven. He appointed a man–Christ Jesus, Paul calls him–to be a mediator between the Father and his fallen children. And this mediator, though serving as a man when he atoned for the sins of the world, has now become as his Father and reigns with him in everlasting glory.
13. The gospel is the plan of reconciliation. Through the mediation of Jesus Christ it is within the power of fallen man to be reconciled with the Father. Christ’s ministry is one of reconciliation; as he is a mediator, so he is a reconciler. And we as his servants are appointed to labor in a like manner.
Paul tells us that God “hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation.” This doctrine is, he continues, “that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them,” on conditions of faith and repentance. And he “hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation,” making us, thus, “ambassadors for Christ,” and enabling us to say to all men: “We pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:1820).
14. Christ is our advocate. We have an advocate, eternal in the heavens, one who knows our infirmities, our sufferings, and our sorrows, because he too was subject to the flesh, and suffered beyond our comprehension while he dwelt as a man. Indeed, he was “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief,” and he bore “our griefs, and carried our sorrows” (Isaiah 53:34).
These are his words as he now pleads our cause in the courts above: “Father, behold the sufferings and death of him who did no sin, in whom thou wast well pleased; behold the blood of thy Son which was shed, the blood of him whom thou gavest that thyself might be glorified; Wherefore, Father, spare these my brethren that believe on my name, that they may come unto me and have everlasting life” (D&C 45:45).
15. Christ is the God of our Fathers. He is the God of Adam, and Enoch, and all of the saints who were before the flood. He is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, and of all the holy prophets. As Jacob the Nephite said,
We knew of Christ, and we had a hope of his glory many hundred years before his coming; and not only we ourselves had a hope of his glory, but also all the holy prophets which were before us.
Behold, they believed in Christ and worshiped the Father in his name, and also we worship the Father in his name. [Jacob 4:45]
Thus all of the ancient saints–all those from Adam to Noah, and from Noah to Abraham, and from Abraham to Moses, and from Moses to the coming of Jesus in the flesh–all of the truly faithful ones of old had the gospel. They were baptized and received the gift of the Holy Ghost; they were endowed with power from on high; they received the blessings of celestial marriage. The gospel is everlasting, and all men in all ages are saved by obedience to the same laws and the same ordinances.
16. Christ is the Promised Messiah. For 4,000 years–from Adam to John the son of Zacharias–all of the prophets foretold the coming of the Messiah, the Deliverer, the Holy One who would deliver his people, redeem the faithful, and ransom all men from death, hell, the devil, and endless torment. All of the ancient saints testified of a Christ who would come to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man, even as we testify of a Risen Lord who has taken captivity captive and opened the gates of heaven to all who believe and obey.
17. The mystery of the birth of our Lord. To those with spiritual insight and understanding there is no mystery. The Lord Jehovah, the Firstborn spirit, Son of the Father, was born as the Lord Jesus. God was his Father and Mary was his mother. He was the Only Begotten in the flesh. From his Father, who is a holy man, he inherited the power of immortality, which is the power to live everlastingly; from his mother, a choice and chosen vessel of the lineage of David, he inherited the power of mortality, which is the power to die.
Thus, being dual in nature, he was able to lay down his life and to take it again. Thus he gave up the ghost at Golgotha, and three days later took up his partially embalmed and anointed body as it lay lifeless in an Arimathean’s tomb.
18. Christ ministered among mortals. Though our Blessed Lord came into the world to die upon the cross for the sins of the world, though that was the chief intent and purpose of his mortal ministry, though his assigned ministry was to atone for the sins of the world–yet, while he was here, he restored the fulness of the gospel to the earth and taught its doctrines through all Judea and Galilee and beyond.
But, be it remembered, the gospel he taught originated with God his Father. “My doctrine is not mine,” he said, “but his that sent me. If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself” (John 7:1617).
19. Christ worked out his own salvation. This is something of which uninspired men have no comprehension. Truly, he was the Lord Omnipotent before the world was; truly, he was like unto the Father in the premortal life; truly, he was the Son of God here on earth–and yet, with it all, as with all the spirit children of the same Father, he too was subject to all of the terms and conditions of the Father’s plan.
He also was born on earth to undergo a mortal probation, to die, to rise again in immortal glory, to be judged according to his works, and to receive his place of infinite glory in the eternal kingdom of his Everlasting Father. How well Paul said:
Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered;
And being made perfect, he became the author [that is, the cause] of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him. [Hebrews 5: 89]
20. Christ worshipped the Father. This also is something that is seemingly unknown in the sectarian world. Of course our Blessed Lord, the Lord Jesus himself, the one who is our Savior and Redeemer, of course he worshipped the Father. How else could he (not having received the fulness at the first, as John tells us) go from grace to grace until he received the fulness of the glory of the Father?
Why else would he say to Mary Magdalene as she bowed before him on the resurrection morning: “Go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God” (John 20:17)? Note it and note it well–Elohim is the God of Jehovah as truly and as fully as he is our God. And as Christ worshipped the Father, so must it be with us if we are to go where Christ is and be like him, according to the promises.
21. Christ–the Atoning One and the Crucified One. That which happened in Gethsemane and at Golgotha constitutes a mystery we cannot comprehend. We do not know how a God could bear the sins of all men on conditions of repentance. We cannot fathom the agony involved when Jesus, suffering both body and spirit, sweat great drops of blood from every pore. We only know that it was part of the plan of the Father and that our Lord drank to the full the cup that was his.
In Gethsemane, perhaps for three hours or more, and then again during the final three hours on the cross of Calvary, in agony beyond comprehension or compare, Jesus worked out the infinite and eternal atonement. For our purposes it suffices to know that this ordeal, plus his rising in glorious immortality, has brought to pass the immortality of all men and made eternal life available to all the obedient.
22. Christ–the Resurrected One and the Ascended One. As the sun crowns the day and banishes the darkness of the night, so the resurrection crowns the Atonement and forever abolishes the death that otherwise would have been eternal. Out of the agonies of the one came the glory of the other.
Christ our Lord rose in glorious immortality, the firstfruits of them that sleep, and then, ascending to his Father, he received all power in heaven and on earth. And in a way incomprehensible to us, the effects of his resurrection shall pass upon us all, and we too shall have power, if true and faithful in all things, to ascend to heights beyond the stars.
Now, if time and circumstances permitted, we might continue our presentation and add another score or a hundred headings to those so far named–all shedding light upon that which is mysterious to the carnal mind.
Perhaps you should continue the inquiry, resolving such mysteries as the following:
How the Holy Ghost can be a personage of spirit and yet convey his gifts to millions of mortals at one and the same time.
What eternal covenant was made relative to man–by God the First, and God the Second, and God the Third–before the foundations of the earth.
How and in what manner we worship Christ when the revealed word decrees that we should worship and pray to the Father and to him only and to none other.
How and in what manner the Lord Jesus both worships the Father and is an equal to him.
What is meant by the numerous scriptures that say Christ is the Father as well as the Son.
Why angels sometimes speak in the first person as though they were Christ, and why Christ himself often speaks in the first person as though he were the Father.
Why our great goal in life should be to gain the Spirit of the Lord as our companion, and what results will flow from such an attained eventuality.
And so on and so on and so on.
The scriptures are in our hands. The door to investigation and research and learning is never closed. We are all expected to learn the same truths, live the same laws, and open the same door to the same mysteries.
For thus saith the Lord–I, the Lord, am merciful and gracious unto those who fear me, and delight to honor those who serve me in righteousness and in truth unto the end.
Great shall be their reward and eternal shall be their glory.
And to them will I reveal all mysteries, yea, all the hidden mysteries of my kingdom from days of old, and for ages to come, will I make known unto them the good pleasure of my will concerning all things pertaining to my kingdom.
Yea, even the wonders of eternity shall they know, and things to come will I show them, even the things of many generations.
And their wisdom shall be great, and their understanding reach to heaven; and before them the wisdom of the wise shall perish, and the understanding of the prudent shall come to naught.
For by my Spirit will I enlighten them, and by my power will I make known unto them the secrets of my will–yea, even those things which eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor yet entered into the heart of man. [D&C 76:510]
Now this work in which we are engaged is true. And the doctrines which we proclaim are God’s eternal truth. And as the Lord lives, they will endure in time and in eternity. He has placed us here in a mortal circumstance and commanded us to seek him and to strive to be like him. He has given us an abundant amount of revealed truth in the holy scriptures. They are before us; they are available to each of us on the same basis. The prophet said that God has not revealed anything to Joseph that he will not reveal to the Twelve and to the least and last Saint as soon as he is able to bear it.
My prayer is that we, the rising and young generation in whose hands the future and destiny of the Church lies for the decades and ages that are ahead before the second coming of the Son of Man, will take the challenge and search deeply and learn the mysteries of godliness and let them be the standard around which we rally and be the guide that directs our lives in all that we do. If this be our course, we will surely have peace and joy and happiness in this life, and be inheritors of eternal life in the world to come, which may God grant for all of us, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
Type: Talk or speech
Author: Bruce R. McConkie
This speech was given by Bruce R. McConkie at BYU on January 04, 1972
Type: Talk or speech
Author: Bruce R. McConkie
This speech was given by Bruce R. McConkie at BYU on May 05, 1953
Type: Talk or speech
Author: Bruce R. McConkie
Bruce R. McConkie was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when this devotional address was given at Brigham Young University on 8 January 1974.
I am pleased and honored to have this privi- lege of meeting and worshiping with you in your devotional services as you commence the new year. I devoutly and sincerely desire the guidance and enlightenment that comes from the Holy Spirit–first for me, so that I may say what ought to be said and what the Lord would have said on this occasion; and secondly for you, so that your hearts may be open and receptive and so that you may feel the truth and verity of the expressions that will be made.
President Dallin Oaks has indicated, appropriately, the passing of President Harold B. Lee, one of the great spiritual giants of our dispensation. I would like, if I may properly be guided, to talk to you about succession in the presidency and to let you have a feeling and an understanding of what is involved when the Lord calls a prophet to other spheres of activity.
Let us begin with the sure and certain conviction in our souls that this is the Lord’s work. This is the Lord’s church and he is running it. There isn’t any question at all about that. As President Oaks indicated, the Lord calls his prophets and the Lord releases his prophets. No prophet can be called by any other power, and no prophet can be released by any other power.
And so, for reasons that are not wholly and completely known to us, although we do have some vision and understanding of what is involved, on Wednesday, December 26, 1973, the Lord reached forth his hand and touched his servant, President Harold B. Lee. President Lee had been in good health; he had been vigorous and active up to that point in his life. But on that day the Lord said to him: “Come hither. I have other work for you to do in another sphere. I have greater labors and a greater work for you here than you’ve been doing in mortality.”
Callings to the Other Side of the Veil
Difficult as it is for us to envision fully why President Lee was taken, we have no difficulty in accepting it and in understanding that he is going forward in the Lord’s work in another sphere. I would like to read a statement by President Wilford Woodruff relative to the passing of the noble and good and faithful from this life into the labors that await them in the realms ahead. President Woodruff says:
The same Priesthood exists on the other side of the vail [sic]. Every man who is faithful in his quorum here will join his quorum there. When a man dies and his body is laid in the tomb, he does not lose his position. The Prophet Joseph Smith held the keys of this dispensation on this side of the vail, and he will hold them throughout the countless ages of eternity. He went into the spirit world to unlock the prison doors and to preach the Gospel to the millions of spirits who are in darkness, and every Apostle, every Seventy, every Elder, etc., who has died in the faith as soon as he passes to the other side of the vail, enters into the work of the ministry, and there is a thousand times more to preach there than there is here.
I think President Woodruff’s next comment has particular application to President Lee’s passing:
I have felt of late as if our brethren on the other side of the vail had held a council, and that they had said to this one, and that one, “Cease thy work on earth, come hence, we need help,” and they have called this man and that man. It has appeared so to me in seeing the many men who have been called from our midst lately. [Journal of Discourses, 22:333–34]
When President Lee passed he was attended by President Marion G. Romney, his second counselor, and President Spencer W. Kimball, the President of the Council of the Twelve. President N. Eldon Tanner was in Arizona at the time. Brother Romney, as the representative of and counselor to President Lee, was in complete and total charge at the hospital. He gave President Lee a blessing. He felt the spirit of peace and satisfaction, the calm assurance that whatever eventuated would be right. He did not promise President Lee that he would be healed. The President had become ill very rapidly, just in a matter of hours or moments. Shortly after this blessing, he passed away. At the moment he passed, Brother Romney, in harmony with the system and the established tradition and custom of the Church, stepped aside, and President Spencer W. Kimball was then in complete charge and had total direction. President Kimball was at that moment the senior apostle of God on earth. And as the last heartbeat of President Lee ceased, the mantle of leadership passed to President Kimball, whose next heartbeat was that of the living oracle and presiding authority of God on earth. From that moment the Church continued under the direction of President Kimball.
The Established Procedure for Succession
It was not required, nor was it requisite or needed, that the Lord give any revelation, that any special direction be given. The law was already ordained and established. God does not look down each morning and say, “The sun shall rise.” He has already established the law, he has set the sun in the firmament, and the sun operates in harmony with established law in its rising. And so it was with the transfer of leadership from President Lee to President Kimball.
When the President of the Church passes on, the First Presidency is disorganized, and the mantle of leadership–the reins of presidency–go to the senior man left and to the Council of the Twelve as a body; in effect the Council of the Twelve then becomes the First Presidency of the Church and so continues unless and until a formal reorganization takes place. These words I read to you from President Joseph F. Smith:
There is always a head in the Church, and if the presidency of the Church are removed by death or another cause, then the next head of the Church is the Twelve Apostles, until a presidency is again organized of three presiding high priests who have the right to hold the office of First Presidency over the Church; and, according to the doctrine laid down by President Wilford Woodruff, who saw the necessity for it, and that of President Lorenzo Snow, if the President should die, his counselors are then released from that presidency, and it is the duty of the Twelve Apostles to proceed at once, in the manner that has been pointed out, to see that the First Presidency is reorganized, so that there may be no deficiency in the working and order of the priesthood in the Church of God. [Conference Report, April 1913, pp. 4–5]
Harmonious with that policy, that counsel, and that instruction–which has been followed in previous instances–the Council of the Twelve met in the upper room of the Salt Lake Temple on Sunday, December 30, at 3:00 p.m. for the purpose of reorganizing the First Presidency of the Church. Normally in that upper room there are three chairs occupied by the First Presidency and twelve chairs in a semicircle in front of them occupied by the members of the Council of the Twelve. On this occasion, however, there were fourteen chairs in the semicircle, because there were fourteen Brethren present who had been sustained and ordained and set apart as members of the Council of the Twelve.
We took our places in those chairs, and President Kimball presided in the meeting, which lasted for about 31/2 hours. In the course of this meeting President Kimball explained the business to be transacted, the things that might be done if the Brethren felt so guided and led. He explained that when the Prophet Joseph Smith was martyred, 3 1/2 years went by before President Young was formally chosen and installed as President of the Church. He noted that almost that period went by between President Young and President John Taylor and between President Taylor and President Wilford Woodruff but that in each succeeding instance the time had varied from four to eleven days, and we were meeting on the fourth day after the passing of President Lee.
He expressed himself as to what should be done, and he said that the proposition to be first considered was whether the First Presidency should then be reorganized or whether the Church should continue to function with the Council of the Twelve as its presiding officers. He then invited each member of the Twelve, commencing with Elder Ezra Taft Benson and continuing around the circle to me, to arise in turn and express himself frankly and fully and freely as to what ought to be done. I’ll tell you what in thought-content and substance was said by all of the Brethren on that occasion, but if may, let me preface my statement by reading an account of what happened in the meeting of the Council of the Twelve on the first occasion when they considered the problem of reorganizing the First Presidency of the Church. There have, of course, been eleven such meetings in this dispensation. These words I now read were spoken by Elder Orson Hyde of the Council of the Twelve as he told of the first meeting:
In the month of February, 1848, the Twelve Apostles met at Hyde Park, Pottawattamie County, Iowa, where a small Branch of the Church was established. . . . We were in prayer and council, communing together; and what took place on that occasion? The voice of God came from on high, and spake to the Council. Every latent feeling was aroused, and every heart melted. What did it say unto us? “Let my servant Brigham step forth and receive the full power of the presiding Priesthood in my Church and kingdom.” This was the voice of the Almighty unto us at Council Bluffs, before I removed to what was called Kanesville. It has been said by some that Brigham was appointed by the people, and not by the voice of God. I do not know that this testimony has often, if ever, been given to the masses of the people before; but I am one that was present, and there are others here that were also present on that occasion, and did hear and feel the voice from heaven, and we were filled with the power of God. This is my testimony; these are my declarations unto the Saints–unto the members of the kingdom of God in the last days, and to all people.
. . . Men, women, and children came running together where we were, and asked us what was the matter. They said that their houses shook, and the ground trembled, and they did not know but that there was an earthquake. We told them that there was nothing the matter–not to be alarmed; the Lord was only whispering to us a little, and that he was probably not very far off. We felt no shaking of the earth or of the house, but were filled with the exceeding power and goodness of God. We knew and realized that we had the testimony of God within us. On the 6th day of April following, at our Annual Conference [I might say that on the coming sixth day of April at our annual conference, we’ll do precisely what they did here], held in the Log Tabernacle at Kanesville, the propriety of choosing a man to preside over the Church was investigated. In a very few minutes it was agreed to, and Brigham Young was chosen to fill that place without a dissenting voice, the people not knowing that there had been any revelation touching the matter. They ignorantly seconded the voice of the Lord from on high in his appointment. (Voice from the stand: “That is, Vox Dei, vox populi.”) Yes, the voice of God was the voice of the people. Brigham went right ahead, silently, to do the work of the Lord, and to feed his sheep, and take care of them like a faithful shepherd, leaving all vain aspirants to quarrel and contend about lineal descent, right, power, and authority. [Journal of Discourses, 8:233–34]
That is what transpired the first time that the Council of the Twelve met to reorganize the First Presidency of the Church. And in essence, thought-content, and certainly in spirit, precisely the same thing occurred on the thirtieth day of December last. Each member of the Council in turn, specifically and pointedly, expressed himself to the effect that now was the time to reorganize the First Presidency of the Church, that there should not be further delay, that the effective and proper operation of this great organization that we have from the Lord needed this administrative arrangement. Each one in turn expressed himself that President Spencer W. Kimball was the man whom the Lord wanted to preside over the Church; there was no question whatever about that. There was total and complete unity and harmony. The prayer that was in the heart of every person present was “Lord, show unto thy servants whom thou hast chosen to be President of the Church.” We did not want to do anything other than what the Lord wanted done.
President Young is quoted as having said, following the death of the Prophet, “I don’t care who presides in the Church. All I want to know is what the Lord thinks about it.” The Lord made manifest his will in that day, and that’s all we wanted to know for our day. And when we met for this most recent reorganization, the Lord made manifest his will to us. It was as though the voice of God had said to each one of us individually and to all of us collectively: “Let my servant Spencer step forth and receive the full power of the presiding priesthood in my Church and kingdom.”
The Ordination of President Kimball
And so after there had been full expression and consideration, Elder Ezra Taft Benson, the next one in seniority to President Kimball, made the formal motion that the First Presidency of the Church be reorganized; that President Spencer W. Kimball be sustained, ordained, and set apart as the President of the Church; as the prophet, seer, and revelator to the Church; and as the Trustee-in-Trust. This motion was adopted unanimously.
At this point President Kimball made a speech of acceptance–a very sweet, humble, appropriate expression. In the course of our meeting he had explained, as he did at President Lee’s funeral, that no man had prayed more sincerely and devoutly, with more feeling and desire, for the life, vigor, health, and continued spiritual and physical prosperity of President Lee than he had done. But President Kimball was willing to accept the will of the Lord and the mantle of leadership that had fallen upon him.
At this point, he chose his first counselor, President N. Eldon Tanner, who responded appropriately and sweetly; he then chose President Marion G. Romney to be the second, who similarly responded. Following these appointments, Brother Benson was sustained as the President of the Council of the Twelve. And then all those present placed their hands upon the head of President Kimball, and he was ordained and set apart, with President Benson being mouth, to serve as President of the Church and as the prophet, seer, and revelator for this time and this season.
Now President Lee has passed away. He was a great spiritual giant, a prince in Israel, someone to whom we looked with unbounded admiration. Few men have lived in our day who have had more direct contact with the Lord, who have felt the spirit of inspiration and who have been able to convey the mind and will of the Lord to his people as well as President Lee has done. We had supposed, not knowing the providences of the Lord, that President Lee would be with us for a long time. But there are two things we should note in his call to go elsewhere. One is that the Lord has another work for him to do, and it is a greater and more extensive work than what he was presently assigned to do. The Lord, in his infinite wisdom and goodness, knows what ought to be done with his servants. The other thing to note is that when the Lord calls a new prophet he does it because he has a work and a labor and a mission for the new man to perform.
I can suppose that when the Prophet Joseph Smith was taken from this life the Saints felt themselves in the depths of despair. To think that a leader of such spiritual magnitude had been taken from them! Our revelation says, “Joseph Smith, the Prophet and Seer of the Lord, has done more, save Jesus only, for the salvation of men in this world, than any other man that ever lived in it” (D&C 135:3). We do not have language or capacity or ability to extol the greatness and the glory of the ministry and mission of the Prophet Joseph Smith. And yet when he was taken the Lord had Brigham Young. Brigham Young stepped forth and wore the mantle of leadership. With all respect and admiration and every accolade of praise resting upon the Prophet Joseph, still Brigham Young came forward and did things that then had to be done in a better way than the Prophet Joseph himself could have done them.
Now, no one can say too emphatically or too strongly or praise too highly the leadership of President Lee, but this is a forward-looking Church. We do not look backward. We do not do other than go forward and onward. Our destiny is to proclaim the everlasting gospel into every ear. This Church will roll on until the knowledge of God covers the earth as the waters cover the sea. And so we look to the future. We now look to a new prophet who will wear the mantle of leadership and who will, with dignity and honor and inspiration and with the guidance of heaven, do things that are appointed for his time and his season that no one else could have done. The Lord’s hand is in the work, and Spencer Kimball is the prophet of God, the mouthpiece of the Almighty for the time and the season that are appointed ahead. God grant that it may be extensive and long and that we may continue to get the inspiration and guidance that come through his newly appointed servant.
Keys of Presidency
Now, this is the pattern; this is the system. Succession in the presidency happens in an orderly and systematized way, because the Lord has conferred upon the members of the Council of the Twelve all of the keys and powers and authorities that have ever been held in any dispensation or any age of the past. Every key is given to each apostle who is set apart a member of the Council of the Twelve. But because keys are the right of presidency, they lie dormant, as it were, in each man unless and until he becomes the senior apostle and is thus in a position of presidency to direct the labors and the work of all others. Therefore succession occurs, as it were, automatically.
Let me turn again to Wilford Woodruff, who spoke so eloquently and accurately on this, and let you feel, as I read, the spirit of that great prophet and the message he gave:
We had had our endowments; we had had all the blessings sealed upon our heads that were ever given to the apostles or prophets on the face of the earth. On that occasion the Prophet Joseph rose up and said to us: “Brethren, I have desired to live to see this temple built. I shall never live to see it, but you will. I have sealed upon your heads all the keys of the kingdom of God. I have sealed upon you every key, power, principle that the God of heaven has revealed to me. Now, no matter where I may go or what I may do, the kingdom rests upon you.”
. . . “But,” he said, after having done this, “ye apostles of the Lamb of God, my brethren, upon your shoulders this kingdom rests; now you have got to round up your shoulders and bear off the kingdom.” And he also made this very strange remark, “If you do not do it you will be damned.”. . .
When the Lord gave the keys of the kingdom of God, the keys of the Melchizedek Priesthood, of the apostleship, and sealed them upon the head of Joseph Smith, he sealed them upon his head to stay here upon the earth until the coming of the Son of Man. Well might Brigham Young say, “The keys of the kingdom of God are here.” They were with him to the day of his death. They then rested upon the head of another man–President John Taylor. He held those keys to the hour of his death. They then fell by turn, or in the providence of God, upon Wilford Woodruff.
I say to the Latter-day Saints, the keys of the kingdom of God are here, and they are going to stay here, too, until the coming of the Son of Man. Let all Israel understand that. They may not rest upon my head but a short time, but they will then rest on the head of another apostle, and another after him, and so continue until the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ in the clouds of heaven to “reward every man according to the deeds done in the body.” . . .
. . . I say to all Israel at this day, I say to the whole world, that the God of Israel, who organized this Church and kingdom, never ordained any President or Presidency to lead it astray. Hear it, ye Israel, no man who has ever breathed the breath of life can hold these keys of the kingdom of God and lead the people astray. [Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, ed. G. Homer Durham (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1946), pp. 72–74]
The Destiny of the Church
And that conclusion of President Woodruff’s is implicit in the eternal decree that the gospel is to roll forth, that the Church is to remain, that this time there will never be apostasy, but that we are preparing a people for the second coming of the Son of Man. Let me read you the words that the Lord said to Joshua when Moses was taken:
There shall not any man be able to stand before thee all the days of thy life: as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.
Be strong and of a good courage. [Joshua 1:5–6]
Now, in effect, the Lord has said that to Spencer W. Kimball. And as the Lord was the President Harold B. Lee, so he will be with his newly called servant–that humble and sweet and gracious and wonderful man, President Spencer W. Kimball. The problem is not one of what happens where the Church is concerned. The destiny of the Church is guaranteed and assured. The only problem that ever can arise is with individuals–whether individuals will walk in the light and do the things that they must do to be in harmony with the Church and to reap and inherit its blessings.
I have attempted very simply and informally to recite to you what took place and to recount and set forth the principle that is involved. What I have said is true and accurate. It is proper and it is appropriate that these things should be known to us. Now I think every one of us needs to know in his heart of the truth and divinity of the work and have a testimony and assurance that what has gone forward is right and is the mind and will of the Lord. All of the Twelve have that. That is the beginning. It spreads forth from them to all Israel. I bear testimony because the Holy Spirit of God has revealed it to my soul that President Spencer W. Kimball is the Lord’s anointed for the time and season ahead. And because God is no respecter of persons, everyone in the Church who will get on his knees and ask the Lord for guidance and direction will receive identically that same knowledge, that same assurance, and that same understanding. And those who have this assurance will have a foundation for continued righteousness and devotion and for that course of conduct which brings peace in this life and eternal life in the world to come, which may God grant for all of us in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
Type: Talk or speech
Author: Bruce R. McConkie
This speech was given by Bruce R. McConkie at BYU on September 29, 1964