Volume 1 Chapter 23 | BYU Studies

Volume 1 Chapter 23

Chapter 23

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The Enjoyment of Spiritual Blessings in the Church—The Word of Wisdom.

The Enjoyment of Spiritual Gifts.

This winter [1832-33] was spent in translating the Scriptures; in the School of the Prophets; and sitting in conferences. I had many glorious seasons of refreshing. The gifts which follow them that believe and obey the Gospel, as tokens that the Lord is ever the same in His dealings with the humble lovers and followers of truth, began to be poured out among us, as in ancient days;—for as we, viz.: Joseph Smith, Jun., Sidney Rigdon, Frederick G. Williams, Newel K. Whitney, Hyrum Smith, Zebedee Coltrin, 1 Joseph Smith, Sen., Samuel H. Smith, John Murdock, Lyman E. Johnson, 2 Orson Hyde, Ezra Thayer, High Priests; and Levi Hancock, 3 and William Smith, 4 Elders, were assembled in conference, on the 22nd day of January, I spoke to the conference in another tongue, and was followed in the same gift by Brother Zebedee Coltrin, and he by Brother William Smith, after which the Lord poured out His Spirit in a miraculous manner, until all the Elders spake in tongues, and several members, both male and female, exercised the same gift. Great and glorious were the divine manifestations of the Holy Spirit. Praises were sung to God and the Lamb; speaking and praying, all in tongues, occupied the conference until a late hour at night, so rejoiced were we at the return of these long absent blessings.

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Ordinance of the Washing of Feet.

On the 23rd of January, we again assembled in conference; when, after much speaking, singing, praying, and praising God, all in tongues, we proceeded to the washing of feet (according to the practice recorded in the 13th chapter of John's Gospel), as commanded of the Lord. Each Elder washed his own feet first, after which I girded myself with a towel and washed the feet of all of them, wiping them with the towel with which I was girded. Among the number, my father presented himself, but before I washed his feet, I asked of him a father's blessing, which he granted by laying his hands upon my head, in the name of Jesus Christ, and declaring that I should continue in the Priest's office until Christ comes. At the close of the scene, Brother Frederick G. Williams, being moved upon by the Holy Ghost, washed my feet in token of his fixed determination to be with me in suffering, or in journeying, in life or in death, and to be continually on my right hand; in which I accepted him in the name of the Lord.

The Elders Pronounced Clean.

I then said to the Elders, As I have done so do ye; wash ye, therefore, one another's feet; and by the power of the Holy Ghost I pronounced them all clean from the blood of this generation; but if any of them should sin wilfully after they were thus cleansed, and sealed up unto eternal life, they should be given over unto the buffetings of Satan until the day of redemption. Having continued all day in fasting, and prayer, and ordinances, we closed by partaking of the Lord's supper. I blessed the bread and wine in the name of the Lord, when we all ate and drank, and were filled; then we sang a hymn, and the meeting adjourned.

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Revision of the New Testament Completed.

I completed the translation and review of the New Testament, on the 2nd of February, 1833 and sealed it up no more to be opened till it arrived in Zion. 5

An Epistle

Of the First Presidency, to the Church of Christ in Thompson, Geauga County, Ohio.

Kirtland, February 6th, 1833.

Dear Brethren, We salute you, by this our epistle, in the bonds of love, rejoicing in your steadfastness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus our Lord: and we desire your prosperity in the ways of truth and righteousness, praying for you continually, that your faith fail not, and that you may overcome all the evils with which you are surrounded, and become pure and holy before God, even our Father, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

It has seemed good unto the Holy Spirit and unto us, to send this our epistle to you by the hand of our beloved Brother Salmon Gee, your messenger, who has been ordained by us, in obedience to the commandments of God, to the office of Elder to preside over the Church in Thompson, taking the oversight thereof, to lead you and to teach the things which are according to godliness; in whom we have great confidence, as we presume also you have, we therefore say to you, yea, not us only, but the Lord also, receive him as such, knowing that the Lord has appointed him to this office for your good, holding him up by your prayers, praying for him continually that he may be endowed with wisdom and understanding in the knowledge of the Lord, that through him you may be kept from evil spirits, and all strifes and dissensions, and grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

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Brethren beloved, continue in brotherly love, walk in meekness, watching unto prayer, that you be not overcome. Follow after peace, as said our beloved brother Paul, that you may be the children of our Heavenly Father, and not give occasion for stumbling, to Saint or sinner. Finally, brethren, pray for us, that we may be enabled to do the work whereunto we are called, that you may enjoy the mysteries of God, even a fulness; and may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.

Joseph Smith, Jun.,

Sidney Rigdon,

Frederick G. Williams.

John Murdock's Message to the Thompson Branch.

The following letter was written by John Murdock, a High Priest, (who had previously been with the Church in Thompson), to Salmon Gee, Elder of the Church in Thompson:

Kirtland, February 11, 1833.

Beloved brethren and sisters in the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, I beseech you in the bowels of mercy to remember the exhortation which I gave you while I was yet present with you, to beware of delusive spirits. I rejoice that our Heavenly Father hath blessed you greatly, as He also has me, in enabling me to speak the praises of God and the mysteries of the kingdom in other tongues according to promise: and this without throwing me down or wallowing me on the ground, or any thing unbecoming or immoral; also, without any external operation of the system, but it is the internal operation and power of the Spirit of God, so that I know that those odd actions and strange noises are not caused by the Spirit of the Lord as is represented by Brother King. Therefore in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, by the Spirit of the living God, according to the authority of the Holy Priesthood committed to me, I command Brother Thomas King, (as though I were present), to cease from your diabolical acts of enthusiasm, and also from acting as an Elder in this Church of Christ, until you come and give full testimony to the High Priests in Kirtland, that you are worthy of that holy calling; because those are the things of God, and are to be used in the fear of God: and I now not only command you, but exhort you in behalf of your soul's salvation, to submit, and let Brother Gee be upheld by the prayer of faith of every brother and sister, and if there be this union of spirit, and prayer of faith, every false spirit shall be bound, and cast out from among you.

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My beloved children in the bonds of the Gospel, and the bowels of mercy, which is the everlasting love of God I do beseech you to live faithful and in obedience to the commandments of God; and in the name of the Lord Jesus, I say, the blessings of God shall attend you.

John Murdock.

Concerning the Prophet's Communication to Seaton.

February 12.—Having received Seaton's paper, from Rochester, New York, containing a part of my communication, written on the 4th of January, I wrote as follows:

To N. E. Seaton, Rochester.

Dear Sir:—I was somewhat disappointed on receiving my paper with only a part of my letter inserted in it. The letter which I wrote you for publication, I wrote by the commandment of God, and I am quite anxious to have it all laid before the public, for it is of importance to them: but I have no claim upon you, neither do I wish to urge you, beyond that which is reasonable, to do it. I have only to appeal to your extended generosity to all religious societies that claim that Christ has come in the flesh; and also to tell you what will be the consequence of a neglect to publish it.

Some parts of the letter were very severe upon the wickedness of sectarianism, I acknowledge; and the truth, remember, is hard and severe against all iniquity and wickedness, but this is no reason why it should not be published, but the very reason why it should be. I lay the ax at the root of the tree, and I long to see many of the sturdy oaks, which have long cumbered the ground, fall prostrate. I now say unto you, that if you wish to clear your garments from the blood of your readers, I exhort you to publish that letter entire; but if not, the sin be upon your head. Accept, sir the good wishes and tender regard of your unworthy servant,

Joseph Smith, Jun.

Case of Burr Riggs. February 13.—A council of High Priests assembled to investigate the proceedings of Brother Burr Riggs, who was accused of failing to magnify his calling as High Priest, and had been guilty of neglect of duty, of abusing the Elders, and of treating their admonitions with contempt. After the council had considered the case, Brother Riggs agreed to make satisfaction, but did not show much humility.

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February 15.—In a council I ordained Harpin Riggs, and Isaac McWethy, Elders.

February 17.—In conference I ordained John Johnson to the office of Elder.

Consideration of Missouri Correspondence of the 11th and 12th of January.

February 26.—A special council of High Priests assembled in Zion, to take into consideration my letter to Brother Phelps, of the 11th of January, and the revelation called the Olive Leaf, referred to in my letter, and the epistle of Orson Hyde and Hyrum Smith of the 14th of January, in behalf of the conference of High Priests: and Oliver Cowdery, William W. Phelps, and John Corrill were appointed a committee to write an epistle from the conference to the brethren in Kirtland; which was written and sanctioned by the conference.

Excommunication of Burr Riggs.

The same day a conference of High Priests was again called in Kirtland, concerning Brother Burr Riggs, who was accused of neglecting to make satisfaction to the Church as he had agreed, and disgracing the High Priesthood by neglect of duty, and saying he did not care how soon he was cut off from the Church. He was cut off by a unanimous vote of the council.

February 27.—I received the following revelation:

The Word of Wisdom. 6

1. A Word of Wisdom, for the benefit of the council of high priests, assembled in Kirtland, and the church, and also the saints in Zion—

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2. To be sent greeting; not by commandment or constraint, but by revelation and the word of wisdom, showing forth the order and will of God in the temporal salvation of all saints in the last days—

3. Given for a principle with promise, adapted to the capacity of the weak and the weakest of all saints, who are or can be called saints.

4. Behold, verily, thus saith the Lord unto you: In consequence of evils and designs which do and will exist in the hearts of conspiring men in the last days, I have warned you, and forewarn you, by giving unto you this word of wisdom by revelation—

5. That inasmuch as any man drinketh wine or strong drink among you, behold it is not good, neither meet in the sight of your Father, only in assembling yourselves together to offer up your sacraments before him.

6. And, behold, this should be wine, yea, pure wine of the grape of the vine, of your own make.

7. And, again, strong drinks are not for the belly, but for the washing of your bodies.

8. And again, tobacco is not for the body, neither for the belly, and is not good for man, but is an herb for bruises and all sick cattle, to be used with judgment and skill.

9. And again, hot drinks are not for the body or belly.

10. And again, verily I say unto you, all wholesome herbs God hath ordained for the constitution, nature, and use of man—

11. Every herb in the season thereof, and every fruit in the season thereof; all these to be used with prudence and thanksgiving.

12. Yea, flesh also of beasts and of the fowls of the air, I, the Lord, have ordained for the use of man with thanksgiving; nevertheless they are to be used sparingly;

13. And it is pleasing unto me that they should not be used, only in times of winter, or of cold, or famine.

14. All grain is ordained for the use of man and of beasts, to be the staff of life, not only for man but for the beasts of the field, and the fowls of heaven, and all wild animals that run or creep on the earth;

15. And these hath God made for the use of man only in times of famine and excess of hunger.

16. All grain is good for the food of man; as also the fruit of the vine; that which yieldeth fruit, whether in the ground or above the ground—

17. Nevertheless, wheat for man, and corn for the ox, and oats for the horse, and rye for the fowls and for swine, and for all beasts of the field, and barley for all useful animals, and for mild drinks, as also other grain.

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18. And all saints who remember to keep and do these sayings, walking in obedience to the commandments, shall receive health in their naval and marrow to their bones;

19. And shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures;

20. And shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint.

21. 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. Amen.

A Word of Comfort to the Prophet

March 8.—I received the following revelation:

Revelation. 7

1. Thus saith the Lord, verily, verily I say unto you my son, thy sins are forgiven thee, according to thy petition, for thy prayers and the prayers of thy brethren have come up into my ears.

2. Therefore, thou art blessed from henceforth that bear the keys of the kingdom given unto you; which kingdom is coming forth for the last time.

3. Verily I say unto you, the keys of this kingdom shall never be taken from you, while thou art in the world, neither in the world to come;

4. Nevertheless, through you shall the oracles be given to another, yea, even unto the church.

5. And all they who receive the oracles of God, let them beware how they bold them lest they are accounted as a light thing, and are brought under condemnation thereby, and stumble and fall when the storms descend, and the winds blow, and the rains descend, and beat upon their house.

6. And again, verily I say unto thy brethren, Sidney Rigdon and Frederick G. Williams, their sins are forgiven them also, and they are accounted as equal with thee in holding the keys of this last kingdom;

7. As also through your administration the keys of the school of the prophets, which I have commanded to be organized;

8. That thereby they may be perfected in their ministry for the salvation of Zion, and of the nations of Israel, and of the Gentiles, as many as will believe;

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9. That through your administration they may receive the word, and through their administration the word may go forth unto the ends of the earth, unto the Gentiles first, and then, behold, and lo, they shall turn unto the Jews.

10. And then cometh the day when the arm of the Lord shall be revealed in power in convincing the nations, the heathen nations, the house of Joseph, of the gospel of their salvation.

11. For it shall come to pass in that day, that every man shall hear the fulness of the gospel in his own tongue, and in his own language, through those who are ordained unto this power, by the administration of the Comforter, shed forth upon them for the revelation of Jesus Christ.

12. And now, verily I say unto you, I give unto you a commandment that you continue in the ministry and presidency.

13. And when you have finished the translation of the prophets, you shall from thenceforth preside over the affairs of the church and the school;

14. And from time to time, as shall be manifested by the Comforter, receive revelations to unfold the mysteries of the kingdom;

15. And set in order the churches, and study and learn, and become acquainted with all good books, and with languages, tongues, and people.

16. And this shall be your business and mission in all your lives, to preside in council, and set in order all the affairs of this church and kingdom.

17. Be not ashamed, neither confounded; but be admonished in all your high-mindedness and pride, for it bringeth a snare upon your souls.

18. Set in order your houses; keep slothfullness and uncleanness far from you.

19. Now, verily I say unto you, let there be a place provided, as soon as it is possible, for the family of thy counselor and scribe, even Frederick G. Williams.

20. And let mine aged servant, Joseph Smith, Sen., continue with his family upon the place where he now lives; and let it not be sold until the mouth of the Lord shall name.

21. And let my counselor, even Sidney Rigdon, remain where he now resides until the mouth of the Lord shall name.

22. And let the bishop search diligently to obtain an agent, and let him be a man who has got riches in store—a man of God, and of strong faith—

23. That thereby he may be enabled to discharge every debt; that the storehouse of the Lord may not be brought into disrepute before the eyes of the people.

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24. Search diligently, pray always, and be believing, and all things shall work together for your good, if ye walk uprightly and remember the covenant wherewith ye have covenanted one with another.

25. Let your families be small, especially mine aged servant Joseph Smith's, Sen., as pertaining to those who do not belong to your families;

26. That those things that are provided for you, to bring to pass my work, be not taken from you and given to those that are not worthy—

27. And thereby you be hindered in accomplishing those things which I have commanded you.

28. And again, verily I say unto you, it is my will that my handmaid Vienna Jaques should receive money to bear her expenses, and go up unto the land of Zion;

29. And the residue of the money may be consecrated unto me, and she be rewarded in mine own due time.

30. Verily I say unto you, that it is meet in mine eyes that she should go up unto the land of Zion, and receive an inheritance from the hand of the bishop;

31. That she may settle down in peace inasmuch as she is faithful, and not be idle in her days from thenceforth.

32. And behold, verily I say unto you, that ye shall write this commandment, and say unto your brethren in Zion, in love greeting, that I have called you also to preside over Zion in mine own due time.

33. Therefore, let them cease wearying me concerning this matter.

34. Behold, I say unto you that your brethren in Zion begin to repent, and the angels rejoice over them.

35. Nevertheless, I am not well pleased with many things; and I am not well pleased with my servant William E. M'Lellin, neither with my servant Sidney Gilbert, and the bishop also, and others have many things to repent of.

36. But verily I say unto you, that I, the Lord, will contend with Zion, and plead with her strong ones, and chasten her until she overcomes and is clean before me.

37. For she shall not be removed out of her place. I, the Lord have spoken it. Amen.

The Apocrypha.

March 9.—Having come to that portion of the ancient writings called the Apocrypha, I received the following:

Revelation. 8

1. Verily, thus saith the Lord unto you concerning the Apocrypha—There are many things contained therein that are true, and it is mostly translated correctly;

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2. There are many things contained therein that are not true, which are interpolations by the hands of men.

3. Verily, I say unto you, that it is not needful that the Apocrypha should be translated.

4. Therefore, whoso readeth it, let him understand, for the Spirit manifesteth truth;

5. And whoso is enlightened by the Spirit shall obtain benefit therefrom,

6. And whoso receiveth not by the Spirit, cannot be benefited. Therefore it is not needful that it should be translated. Amen.

A Mission to the East Appointed.

March 12.—A council of High Priests assembled in the school room and decided that Horace Cowin and Zerubbabel Snow, Amasa M. Lyman 9 and William F. Cahoon, Jenkins Salisbury and Truman Wait, journey east on a mission, two by two, paired as their names are written. Brothers Cowin and Salisbury were ordained at the same time.

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Case of Brother Lake.

March 15.—A council was called to consider the case of Brother Lake, from Wooster, Wayne county, Ohio, who came professing to have received revelations. On investigation, it was unanimously agreed, that said Brother Lake was under the influence of an evil spirit, and that his license as Priest be taken from him.

The same day I received the following:

Revelation to Enoch (Joseph Smith, Jun.,) given to the Saints in Kirtland. 10

1. Verily, thus saith the Lord, I give unto the united order, organized agreeable to the commandment previously given, a revelation and commandment concerning my servant Shederlaomach [Frederick G. Williams], that ye shall receive him into the order. What I say unto one I say unto all.

2. And again, I say unto you my servant Shederlaomach [Frederick G. Williams], you shall be a lively member in this order; and inasmuch as you are faithful in keeping all former commandments you shall be blessed forever. Amen.

Chapter 23 - Notes

1. Zebedee Coltrin was born at Ovid, Seneca county, New York, September 7, 1804. He was the son of John and Sarah Coltrin and was baptized into the Church soon after its organization.

2. Lyman E. Johnson was born in Pomfret, Windsor county, Vermont, October 24, 1811. He was baptized into the Church in February, 1831, by Sidney Rigdon and was ordained an Elder under the hands of the Prophet Joseph Smith.

3. Levi Ward Hancock was born April 7, 1803, in old Springfield, Hampden county, Massachusetts. He was the youngest son of Thomas Hancock and Amy Ward Hancock. When Levi was about two years old his family removed to Massachusetts to Ohio, settling in Chagrin, Cayahoga county, not far from Kirtland. Here Levi grew to manhood, occupied chiefly in farming with his father. In 1827, however he purchased a farm in Ashtabula county, which is in the extreme northeast part of Ohio. He was directly in the pathway of Elders Cowdery, Pratt, Whitmer and Peterson, when journeying westward on their mission to the Lamanites; and shortly after they passed through his neighborhood he followed them to Kirtland, where he was baptized on the 16th of November, 1830, by Elder Parley P. Pratt, and was soon afterwards ordained an Elder under the hands of Oliver Cowdery.

4. William Smith was the fifth son of Joseph Smith, Sen., and Lucy Smith. He was born in Royalton, Windsor county, Vermont, March 13, 1811; and was baptized soon after the Church was organized.

5. It was the intention of the Prophet to have this revised version of the Scriptures, which he had made with such laborious care, published in Zion, at the printing establishment of the Church in that place, (New Testament and Book of Mormon to be published together; see p. 341), but before the work could even be commenced, the persecution arose which made the undertaking impracticable. And such was the unsettled state of the Church throughout the remaining years of the Prophet's life that he found no opportunity to publish the revised Scriptures, and to this day there is no authoritative publication of his translation of the Old and New Testaments given to the world, except in such excerpts as appear in the Pearl of Great Price. On this subject the late President George Q. Cannon, in his Life of Joseph Smith, remarks in a foot note (p. 142)—"We have heard President Brigham Young state that the Prophet, before his death, had spoken to him about going through the translation of the Scriptures again and perfecting it upon points of doctrine which the Lord had restrained him from giving in plainness and fulness at the time of which we write [2nd Feb., 1833]."

6. D&C 89.

7. D&C 90.

8. D&C 91.

9. Amasa Mason Lyman was born in the township of Lyman, Grafton county, New Hampshire, on the 30th of March, 1813. He was the third son of Boswell Lyman and Martha Mason. His father dying when Amasa was about eight years of age, and some time later his mother marrying again, he was reared in the home of his grandfather, on the maternal side, Perez Mason, until he was eleven years of age. Perez Mason then retired from his farm to live with his eldest son, Perley Mason; with whom also, according to the wishes of his mother, Amasa lived during the next seven years. When young Lyman was in his eighteenth year he became thoughtful on the subject of religion and earnestly sought the favor of the Lord by righteous deportment, though without connecting himself with any of the religious sects. About one year later Elders Orson Pratt and Lyman E. Johnson passed through the section of New Hampshire where young Lyman lived, on a preaching tour. He believed the message proclaimed by these new evangels and was baptized on the 27th of April, 1832, by Elder Lyman E. Johnson, and confirmed on the following day by Elder Orson Pratt. In consequence of the ill feelings which arose in his uncle's family, owing to his joining the Church, Amasa departed from the home of his kindred, and set out on foot for the gathering place of the Saints in Ohio. After a journey of some seven hundred miles, in which he endured many hardships—for much of the journey was made on foot and with but scant means of subsistence—he arrived at Hiram in Portage county, and engaged to work for Father Johnson at ten dollars a month. It was at this time that the Prophet was making his home at Father Johnson's, though on the arrival of young Lyman at Hiram he was absent in Missouri. About the first of July, however, Joseph returned from his western journey, and Amasa had the joy of meeting the Prophet of the new dispensation. Of that meeting and the impressions it produced, he says: "Of the impressions produced I will here say, although there was nothing strange or different from other men in his personal appearance, yet when he grasped my hand in that cordial way (known to those who have met him in the honest simplicity of truth), I felt as one of old in the presence of the Lord; my strength seemed to be gone, so that it required an effort on my part to stand on my feet; but in all this there was no fear, but the serenity and peace of heaven pervaded my soul, and the still small voice of the Spirit whispered its living testimony in the depths of my soul, where it has ever remained, that he was the man of God." Autobiographical Sketch of Amasa M. Lyman, Millennial Star, vol. 27, p. 473.

10. D&C 92.