In this episode the Mormon Chronicle interviews James and Hannah Stoddard of The Joseph Smith Foundation. The Joseph Smith Foundation released the documentary, “For Our Day: Covenant on the Land” in April, 2013. “For Our Day: Covenant on the Land” explores the prophetic parallels in the Book of Mormon, referencing statements from latter-day prophets of God and the Standard Works. For Our Day: Covenant on the Land discusses the covenant on the Promised Land for both ancient and modern inhabitants.
In this episode the Mormon Chronicle interviews the Founder of The Joseph Smith Foundation, James Stoddard, as well as the co-writer and director of For Our Day: Covenant on the Land, Hannah Stoddard. They talk about the history of the Joseph Smith Foundation, their projects past, present and future, controversy surrounding some of their efforts and so much more.
- Kirtland, Ohio
- February 9, 1800, Hyrum Smith born
Author: Jeffrey S. O’Driscoll
LDS Liberty interviews Rod Meldrum, scientific researcher and founder of:
–who makes his case that The Book of Mormon lands are actually in North America. LDS Liberty finds that this sheds further light on our responsibility as Latter-day Saints to serve the Lord in this land of promise because the blessings of liberty are reserved for those upon this land who take upon themselves the name of Christ. This should be interesting for all who like to learn about Book of Mormon geography.
- March 1, 1842, written
”March 1, 1842.”
At the request of Mr. John Wentworth, editor and proprietor of the Chicago Democrat, I have written the following sketch of the rise, progress, persecution, and faith of the Latter-day Saints, of which I have the honor, under God, of being the founder.
Author: Joseph Smith
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: 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: Joseph Fielding Smith
This speech was given by Joseph Fielding Smith at BYU on October 18, 1949