The Prophet Again in Nauvoo—Celebration of His Release from Oppression—”Vade Mecum”—Reinstatement of Orson Pratt—Discourses of the Prophet, “The Kingdom of God;” “The Mission and Greatness of John the Baptist;” “Interpretation of Scriptures.”
The Start for Nauvoo.
Saturday, January 7, 1843.—At half-past eight in the morning, we left Judge Adams’ to return to Nauvoo, and arrived at Captain Dutch’s at four in the evening. Traveling very bad, with snow and mud, and yet so cold as to whiten the horses with frost. While riding this day, General Law and Dr. Richards composed a Jubilee Song, which they wrote and sang in the evening, and “dedicated to all lovers of Illinois’ liberties,” as printed on the first page of 37th Number of The Wasp.
Recent accounts from Alexandria, in Egypt, state the mortality (murrain) among the cattle still continues; and it was estimated that upwards of 200,000 oxen had already died.
Sunday, 8.—At eight in the morning we left Captain Dutch’s, and, passing through Geneva and Beardstown, and crossing the Illinois river on the ice, arrived at Rushville at four in the evening. After supper, I went to Mr. Uriah Brown’s, with several of the brethren and spent the evening very agreeably, partly in examining drafts of improvements he had made in some operative and defensive machinery.
An Accident by the Way.
Monday, 9.—At half-past eight in the morning, started for Plymouth: roads very hard, smooth and icy. When about two miles west of Brooklyn, at half-past twelve p.m., the horses of the large carriage slipped and became unmanageable; and horses and carriage, with Lorin Walker and Dr. Richards in it, went off the embankment some six or eight feet perpendicular, doing no damage except breaking the fore-axletree and top of the carriage. It was a remarkable interposition of Providence that neither of the brethren were injured in the least. The company agreed that Lilburn G. Boggs should pay the damage; cut down a small tree, spliced the axle, drove on, and arrived at Brother Samuel Smith’s in Plymouth, about four p.m. After supper, I visited my sister, Catherine Salisbury, accompanied by Dr. Richards and Sister Durphy. This was the first time I had visited my sister in the state of Illinois, and the circumstance brought vividly to my mind many things pertaining to my father’s house, 1 of which I spake freely, and particularly of my brother Alvin. He was a very handsome man, surpassed by none but Adam and Seth, and of great strength. When two Irishmen were fighting, and one was about to gouge the other’s eyes, Alvin took him by his collar and breeches, and threw him over the ring, which was composed of men standing around to witness the fight.
We returned to Brother Samuel’s just before the close of the meeting at the schoolhouse, where Elder John Taylor preached. After passing the usual salutations with several who had called to see me, singing the Jubilee Song, etc., retired to rest.
Arrival in Nauvoo.
Tuesday, 10.—At half-past eight in the morning, we started for Nauvoo, and, stopping only to water at the public well at Carthage, arrived at my house at half-past two p.m.; found my family well, who, with many friends assembled to greet us on our safe return and my freedom. My aged mother came in and got hold of my arm before I saw her, which produced a very agreeable surprise, and she was overjoyed to behold her son free once more.
Wednesday, 11.—I rode out with Emma this morning, designing to go to Brother Daniel Russel’s, and apologize for breaking his carriage on our return from Springfield: but broke a sleigh-shoe, and returned home, where I received a visit from a company of gentlemen and ladies from Farmington, on the Des Moines river, who left at half-past two p.m.
A Dinner Party at the Prophet’s Home.
I directed letters of invitation to be written from myself and lady for a dinner party at my house on Wednesday next, at ten a.m., to be directed to Brothers Wilson Law, William Law, Hyrum Smith, Samuel Bennett, John Taylor, William Marks, Peter Haws, Orson Hyde, Henry G. Sherwood, William Clayton, Jabez Durphy, H. Tate, Edward Hunter, Theodore Turley, Shadrach Roundy, Willard Richards, Arthur Millikin, Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, Wilford Woodruff, George A. Smith, Alpheus Cutler, Reynolds Cahoon, and ladies; also Mr. Levi Moffat, and Carlos Granger, and ladies; my mother, Lucy Smith, and Sisters Eliza R. Snow and Hannah Ells.
On hearing of my invitation for dinner, the Twelve Apostles issued the following
To the Saints in Nauvoo.
Feeling a deep sense of gratitude to our Heavenly Father for the great blessings which He has conferred on us in the deliverance of our beloved President, Joseph Smith, from the oppression with which he has so long been bound, the Traveling High Council invite the brethren in Nauvoo to unite with them in dedicating Tuesday, the 17th day of January instant, as a day of humiliation, fasting, praise, prayer, and thanksgiving before the great Eloheim, that He will continue the outpouring of His Holy Spirit upon this people, that they may ever walk humbly before Him, seek out and follow the counsels given through His servant, and ever be united, heart and hand, in building up this stake of Zion and the Temple, where God will reveal Himself to this people; that no strife or confusion may ever be found in our midst, but peace and righteousness may be our companions; and as the Lord has hitherto sustained His Prophet in all the difficulties he has had to encounter, so He will continue to do, until the Prophet has finished the great work committed to his charge; and that all those who have been called to his assistance in the holy ministry, may be diligent and faithful in all things, that his hands may be stayed on high, like unto Moses; that our enemies, if such we have, may repent and, turning away from their enmity, get forgiveness and salvation; and that they may have no dominion over the servants of God or His Saints, but that Zion may flourish upon the mountains and be exalted on the hills, and that all nations shall flow unto it and be saved—we will humble ourselves with fasting and supplication and sing praises unto our God with the voice of melody and thanksgiving, for the deliverance He has wrought out for His servant Joseph, through the legally constituted authorities of our government.
The bishops of the several wards are requested to see that meetings are appointed sufficient for the accommodation of the brethren, and make a report unto us immediately of the same; and it may be expected that some one of the brethren who visited Springfield will be present at the different meetings, and give a history of the proceedings.
In our fastings, humiliations and thanksgivings, let us not forget the poor and destitute, to minister to their necessities; and respectfully would we suggest to the consideration of the brethren the situation of our President, who has long had all his business deranged, and has been recently obliged to expend large sums of money in procuring his release from unjust persecution, leaving him destitute of necessaries for his family and of means for prosecuting the History of the Church and the translations which he is anxious should be in the hands of the brethren as speedily as possible. We therefore recommend that collections be taken at the different meetings for his benefit; and such as have not cash will recollect that provisions will be an excellent substitute, whenever it is convenient to bring them in: and we hope our brethren who are farmers in La Harpe, Ramus, Zarahemla, etc., and the region around, will have the opportunity of reading these few hints. A word to the wise is sufficient. The Lord loveth a cheerful and a bountiful giver, and will restore an hundredfold; for the laborer is worthy of his hire.
Brigham Young, President.
W. Richards, Clerk.
Nauvoo, January 11, 1843.
Thursday, 12.—At home all day.
Friday, 13.—At home till near sunset; then went to Brother William Marks with Dr. Richards, to see Sophia Marks, who was sick: heard her relate her vision or dream of a visit from her two brothers who were dead, touching the associations and relations of another world.
Saturday, 14.—Rode out with Emma in the morning. At ten attended city council, and in the evening called the quorum of the Twelve together in my chamber, to pray for Sophia Marks, who was very sick.
Sunday, 15.—I spent at home with my family.
Monday, 16.—I was about home, and directed a letter to be written as follows:—
Letter of the Prophet to Josiah Butterfield—On Bennett’s Movements.
Nauvoo, January 16, 1843.
Josiah Butterfield, Esq.
Dear Sir:—I now sit down to inform you of our safe arrival home on Tuesday last, after a cold and troublesome journey of four days. We found our families well and cheerful. The news of our arrival was soon generally known; and when it was understood that justice had once more triumphed over oppression, and the innocent had been rescued from the power of mobocracy, gladness filled the hearts of the citizens of Nauvoo, and gratitude to those who had so nobly and manfully defended the cause of justice and innocence was universally manifest; and of course I rejoiced with them, and felt like a free man at home.
Yesterday, a letter was received by Sidney Rigdon, Esq., from John C. Bennett, which was handed to me this morning. From that letter it appears that Bennett was at Springfield a few days after we left there, and that he is determined, if possible, to keep up the persecution against me. I herewith transmit a copy of his letter, and shall rely upon your counsel, in the event of any further attempt to oppress me and deprive me of liberty; but I am in hopes that Governor Ford will not gratify the spirit of oppression and mobocracy so glaringly manifest in the conduct of John C. Bennett.
The following is a copy of his letter:—
Letter of John C. Bennett to Sidney Rigdon and Orson Pratt.
Springfield, Illinois, January 10, 1843.
Mr. Sidney Rigdon and Orson Pratt.
Dear Friends:—It is a long time since I have written to you, and I should now much desire to see you; but I leave to-night for Missouri, to meet the messenger charged with the arrest of Joseph Smith, Hyrum Smith, Lyman Wight, and others, for murder, burglary, treason, &c., &c., who will be demanded, in a few days, on new indictments found by the grand jury of a called court on the original evidence, and in relation to which a nolle prosequi was entered by the District Attorney.
New proceedings have been gotten up on the old charges, and no habeas corpus can then save them. We shall try Smith on the Boggs case, when we get him into Missouri. The war goes bravely on; and, although Smith thinks he is now safe, the enemy is near, even at the door. He has awoke the wrong passenger. The governor will relinquish Joe up at once on the new requisition. There is but one opinion on the case, and that is, nothing can save Joe on a new requisition and demand predicated on the old charges on the institution of new writs. He must go to Missouri; but he shall not be harmed, if he is not guilty: but he is a murderer, and must suffer the penalty of the law. Enough on this subject.
I hope that both of your kind and amiable families are well, and you will please to give them all my best respects. I hope to see you all soon. When the officer arrives, I shall be near at hand. I shall see you all again. Please to write me at Independence immediately.
John C. Bennett.
P.S. Will Mr. Rigdon please to hand this letter to Mr. Pratt, after reading?
J. C. B.
This is his letter verbatim et literatim.
In the foregoing the designs of Bennett are very plainly manifest; and, to see his rascality, you have only to read some articles from his pen, published in the Times and Seasons about two years ago, on the subject of the Missouri affair. I shall be happy to hear from you on this subject as soon as convenient; also if you have received any communication from Washington. We are ready to execute the mortgage at any time.
Yours very respectfully,
By William Clayton, Agent.
P.S. I would just remark, that I am not at all indebted to Sidney Rigdon for this letter, but to Orson Pratt, who, after he had read it, immediately brought it to me.
The ship Swanton sailed from Liverpool with a company of Saints for New Orleans, led by Elder Lorenzo Snow.
A Day of Fasting and Prayer.
Tuesday, 17.—This being the time appointed by the Twelve as a day of humiliation, fasting, praise, prayer, and thanksgiving before the great Eloheim, I attended a public meeting in my own house, filled to overflowing. Many other meetings were held in various parts of the city, which were well attended, and there was great joy among the people, that I had once more been delivered from the grasp of my enemies. In the evening I attended a referee case, with six others, on a land case of Dr. Robert D. Foster’s.
Wednesday, 18.—At ten o’clock in the morning, the party invited began to assemble at my house, and before twelve they were all present, except Levi Moffatt and wife, and Brother Hyrum’s wife, who was sick. I distributed cards among them, printed for the occasion, containing the Jubilee Song of Brothers Law and Richards; also one by Sister Eliza R. Snow, as printed on the 96th page, 4th volume of Times and Seasons, which were sung by the company with the warmest feelings.
I then read John C. Bennett’s letter to Messrs. Sidney Rigdon and Orson Pratt, of the 10th instant, and told them that Mr. Pratt showed me the letter. Mr. Rigdon did not want to have it known that he had any hand in showing the letter, but wanted to keep it a secret, as though he were holding a private correspondence with Bennett; but as soon as Mr. Pratt got the letter, he brought it to me, which proves that Mr. Pratt had no correspondence with Bennett, and had no fellowship for his works of darkness. I told them I had sent word to Governor Ford, by Mr. Backenstos, that, before I would be troubled any more by Missouri, I would fight.
Conversation continued on various topics until two o’clock, when twenty-one sat down to the dinner-table, and Emma and myself waited on them, with other assistants. My room was small, so that but few could be accommodated at a time. Twenty sat down to the second table, which was served as the first, and eighteen at the third, among whom were myself and Emma; and fifteen at the fourth table, including children and my household.
Many interesting anecdotes were related by the company, who were very cheerful, and the day passed off very pleasantly. President Brigham Young was present, although very feeble. This was the first time that he had been out of his house since he was taken sick. His fever had been so severe, that he had lain in a log-house, rather open, without fire most of the time, when it was so cold that his attendants, with great coat and mittens on, would freeze their toes and fingers while fanning him. One thing more, which tended to give a zest to the occasion, was, that it was fifteen years this day since I was married to Emma Hale.
The brethren dispersed about six o’clock, with many thanks and expressions of gratitude; and in the evening I attended the Lodge.
Thursday, 19.—I was at home, excepting a short out in the city in the forenoon.
Friday, 20.—Visited at Brother William Marks’ this morning; returned at ten a.m., and gave Dr. Richards and W. W. Phelps some instructions about the History, when I received the following communication:—
From W. W. Phelps to Joseph Smith, the Prophet.
Go with me, will you go to the Saints that have died,
To the next better world, where the righteous reside,
Where the angels and spirits in harmony be,
In the joys of a vast paradise? Go with me.
Go with me, where the truth and the virtues prevail,
Where the union is one, and the years never fail:
Not a heart can conceive—not a natural eye see
What the Lord had prepared for the just. Go with me.
Go with me, where there is no destruction nor war,
Neither tyrants nor mobbers, nor nations ajar,—
Where the system is perfect, and happiness free,
And the life is eternal, with God. Go with me.
Go with me, will you go to the mansions above,
Where the bliss and the knowledge, the light and the love,
And the glory of God do eternally be?
Death, the wages of sin, is not there. Go with me. 2
Council Meeting of the Twelve.
In the afternoon I attended a council of the Twelve, at President Young’s. There were present, Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, Orson Hyde, Orson Pratt, John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff, George A. Smith, Willard Richards, and Brother Hyrum Smith. We had conversation on a great variety of subjects. I related my dream:—”I dreamed this morning that I was in the lobby of the Representatives’ Hall, at Springfield, when some of the members, who did not like my being there, began to mar, and cut, and pound my shins with pieces of iron. I bore it as long as I could, then jumped over the rail into the hall, caught a rod of iron, and went at them, cursing and swearing at them in the most awful manner, and drove them all out of the House. I went to the door, and told them to send me a clerk, and I would make some laws that would do good. There was quite a collection around the State House, trying to raise an army to take me, and there were many horses tied round the square. I thought they would not have the privilege of getting me; so I took a rod of iron, and mowed my way through their ranks, looking after their best race-horse, thinking they might catch me where they could find me. Then I awoke.” To dream of flying signifies prosperity and deliverance from enemies. To dream of swimming in deep water signifies success among many people, and that the word will be accompanied with power.
I told Elder Hyde that when he spoke in the name of the Lord, it should prove true; but he must not curse the people—rather bless them.
I prophesy, in the name of the Lord God, as soon as we get the Temple built, so that we shall not be obliged to exhaust our means thereon, we will have means to gather the Saints by thousands and tens of thousands.
The Case of Orson Pratt Before the Council.
This council was called to consider the case of Orson Pratt who had previously been cut off from the Church for disobedience, and Amasa Lyman had been ordained an Apostle in his place. I told the quorum: you may receive Orson back into the quorum of the Twelve and I can take Amasa into the First Presidency. President Young said there were but three present when Amasa was ordained, the rest of the Twelve being either on a mission or sick. I told them that was legal when no more could be had. I told the council that from the sixth day of April next, I go in for preparing with all present for a mission through the United States, and when we arrive at Maine we will take ship for England and so on to all countries where we shall have a mind to go. We must send for John E. Page to come home, and have all the quorum to start from this place.
Let the Twelve be called on, on the 6th of April, and a notice be given for a special conference on the platform of the House of the Lord. If I live, I will yet take these brethren through the United States and through the world, and will make just as big a wake as God Almighty will let me. We must send kings and governors to Nauvoo, and we will do it.
At three o’clock, council adjourned to my house; and at four I baptized Orson Pratt and his wife, Sarah Marinda, and Lydia Granger in the Mississippi river, and confirmed them in the Church, ordaining Orson Pratt to his former office in the quorum of the Twelve.
Saturday, 21.—At home, except going out in the city with Elder Orson Hyde to look at some lots.
Sunday, 22.—I preached at the Temple on the setting up of the kingdom of God. The subject arose from two questions proposed at a lyceum meeting.
1st. Did John baptize for the remission of sins?
2nd. Whether the kingdom of God was set up before the day of Pentecost, or not till then? 3[The following is a synopsis of this sermon, as reported by Elder Wilford Woodruff]:
The Kingdom of God.
Some say the kingdom of God was not set up on the earth until the day of Pentecost, and that John did not preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins; but I say, in the name of the Lord, that the kingdom of God was set up on the earth from the days of Adam to the present time. Whenever there has been a righteous man on earth unto whom God revealed His word and gave power and authority to administer in His name, and where there is a priest of God—a minister who has power and authority from God to administer in the ordinances of the gospel and officiate in the priesthood of God, there is the kingdom of God; and, in consequence of rejecting the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the Prophets whom God hath sent, the judgments of God have rested upon people, cities, and nations, in various ages of the world, which was the case with the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, that were destroyed for rejecting the Prophets.
Now I will give my testimony. I care not for man. I speak boldly and faithfully and with authority. How is it with the kingdom of God? Where did the kingdom of God begin? Where there is no kingdom of God there is no salvation. What constitutes the kingdom of God? Where there is a prophet, a priest, a righteous man unto whom God gives His oracles, there is the kingdom of God; and where the oracles of God are not, there the kingdom of God is not.
In these remarks, I have no allusion to the kingdoms of the earth. We will keep the laws of the land; we do not speak against them; we never have, and we can hardly make mention of the state of Missouri, of our persecutions there, &c., but what the cry goes forth that we are guilty of larceny, burglary, arson, treason, murder, &c., &c., which is false. We speak of the kingdom of God on the earth, not the kingdoms of men.
The plea of many in this day is, that we have no right to receive revelations; but if we do not get revelations, we do not have the oracles of God; and if they have not the oracles of God, they are not the people of God. But say you, what will become of the world, or the various professors of religion who do not believe in revelation and the oracles of God as continued to His Church in all ages of the world, when He has a people on earth? I tell you, in the name of Jesus Christ, they will be damned; and when you get into the eternal world, you will find it will be so, they cannot escape the damnation of hell.
As touching the Gospel and baptism that John preached, I would say that John came preaching the Gospel for the remission of sins; he had his authority from God, and the oracles of God were with him, and the kingdom of God for a season seemed to rest with John alone. The Lord promised Zacharias that he should have a son who was a descendant of Aaron, the Lord having promised that the priesthood should continue with Aaron and his seed throughout their generations. Let no man take this honor upon himself, except he be called of God, as was Aaron; and Aaron received his call by revelation. An angel of God also appeared unto Zacharias while in the Temple, and told him that he should have a son, whose name should be John, and he should be filled with the Holy Ghost. Zacharias was a priest of God, and officiating in the Temple, and John was a priest after his father, and held the keys of the Aaronic Priesthood, and was called of God to preach the Gospel of the kingdom of God. The Jews, as a nation, having departed from the law of God and the Gospel of the Lord, prepared the way for transferring it to the Gentiles.
But, says one, the kingdom of God could not be set up in the days of John, for John said the kingdom was at hand. But I would ask if it could be any nearer to them than to be in the hands of John. The people need not wait for the days of Pentecost to find the kingdom of God, for John had it with him, and he came forth from the wilderness crying out, “Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is nigh at hand,” as much as to say, “Out here I have got the kingdom of God and I am coming after you; I have got the kingdom of God, and you can get it, and I am coming after you; and if you don’t receive it, you will be damned;” and the scriptures represent that all Jerusalem went out unto John’s baptism. There was a legal administrator, and those that were baptized were subjects for a king; and also the laws and oracles of God were there; therefore the kingdom of God was there; for no man could have better authority to administer than John; and our Savior submitted to that authority Himself, by being baptized by John; therefore the kingdom of God was set up on the earth, even in the days of John.
There is a difference between the kingdom of God and the fruits and blessings that flow from the kingdom; because there were more miracles, gifts, visions, healings, tongues, &c., in the days of Jesus Christ and His apostles, and on the day of Pentecost, than under John’s administration, it does not prove by any means that John had not the kingdom of God, any more than it would that a woman had not a milkpan because she had not a pan of milk, for while the pan might be compared to the kingdom, the milk might be compared to the blessings of the kingdom.
John was a priest after the order of Aaron, and had the keys of that priesthood, and came forth preaching repentance and baptism for the remission of sins, but at the same time cries out, “There cometh one mightier than I after me, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to stoop down and unloose,” and Christ came according to the words of John, and He was greater than John, because He held the keys of the Melchisedek Priesthood and kingdom of God, and had before revealed the priesthood of Moses, yet Christ was baptized by John to fulfill all righteousness; and Jesus in His teachings says, “Upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” What rock? Revelation.
Again he says. “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God;” and, “heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away. “If a man is born of water and of the Spirit, he can get into the kingdom of God. It is evident the kingdom of God was on the earth, and John prepared subjects for the kingdom, by preaching the Gospel to them and baptizing them, and he prepared the way before the Savior, or came as a forerunner, and prepared subjects for the preaching of Christ; and Christ preached through Jerusalem on the same ground where John had preached; and when the apostles were raised up, they worked in Jerusalem, and Jesus commanded them to tarry there until they were endowed with power from on high. Had they not work to do in Jerusalem? They did work, and prepared a people for the Pentecost. The kingdom of God was with them before the day of Pentecost, as well as afterwards; and it was also with John, and he preached the same Gospel and baptism that Jesus and the apostles preached after him. The endowment was to prepare the disciples for their missions unto the world.
Whenever men can find out the will of God and find an administrator legally authorized from God, there is the kingdom of God; but where these are not, the kingdom of God is not. All the ordinances, systems, and administrations on the earth are of no use to the children of men, unless they are ordained and authorized of God; for nothing will save a man but a legal administrator; for none others will be acknowledged either by God or angels.
I know what I say; I understand my mission and business. God Almighty is my shield; and what can man do if God is my friend? I shall not be sacrificed until my time comes; then I shall be offered freely. All flesh is as grass, and a governor is no better than other men; when he dies he is but a bag of dust. I thank God for preserving me from my enemies; I have no enemies but for the truth’s sake. I have no desire but to do all men good. I feel to pray for all men. We don’t ask any people to throw away any good they have got; we only ask them to come and get more. What if all the world should embrace this Gospel? They would then see eye to eye, and the blessings of God would be poured out upon the people, which is the desire of my whole soul. Amen.
Monday, 23.—Was at home, and wrote the editor of the Wasp as follows:
The Prophet on Participation in Politics.
Dear Sir:—I have of late had repeated solicitations to have something to do in relation to the political farce about dividing the county; but as my feelings revolt at the idea of having anything to do with politics, I have declined, in every instance, having anything to do on the subject. I think it would be well for politicians to regulate their own affairs. I wish to be let alone, that I may attend strictly to the spiritual welfare of the Church.
Please insert the above, and oblige
Nauvoo, Jan. 23, 1843. Joseph Smith.
In the evening rode with Emma to see Dr. Richards, who was sick, at the old postoffice building, up the river.
Elder John Snyder returned from his mission to England.
Tuesday, 24.—Was at home till noon, when I rode out with Emma. Evening, attended the Masonic Lodge.
Wednesday, 25.—Was about home.
Thursday, 26.—In the afternoon rode to the Temple, and afterwards to William Clayton’s.
Friday, 27.—Rode on the prairie with William Clayton. Dined at Brother Cornelius P. Lott’s.
Saturday, 28.—Played ball with the brethren a short time. Rode round the city with Mr. Taylor, a land agent from New York.
Some snow fell, the ice began to give way in the river, and a steamer that had wintered at Montrose went over the rapids.
Sunday, 29.—I attended meeting at the Temple. After reading the parable of the prodigal son, and making some preliminary remarks, I stated that there were two questions which had been asked me concerning my subject of the last Sabbath, which I had promised to answer in public, and would improve this opportunity.
The Greatness and Mission of John the Baptist.
The question arose from the saying of Jesus—”Among those that are born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist; but he that is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.” How is it that John was considered one of the greatest of prophets? His miracles could not have constituted his greatness.
First. He was entrusted with a divine mission of preparing the way before the face of the Lord. Whoever had such a trust committed to him before or since? No man.
Secondly. He was entrusted with the important mission, and it was required at his hands, to baptize the Son of Man. Whoever had the honor of doing that? Whoever had so great a privilege and glory? Whoever led the Son of God into the waters of baptism, and had the privilege of beholding the Holy Ghost descend in the form of a dove, or rather in thesign of the dove, in witness of that administration? The sign of the dove was instituted before the creation of the world, a witness for the Holy Ghost, and the devil cannot come in the sign of a dove. The Holy Ghost is a personage, and is in the form of a personage. It does not confine itself to the form of the dove, but in sign of the dove. The Holy Ghost cannot be transformed into a dove; but the sign of a dove was given to John to signify the truth of the deed, as the dove is an emblem or token of truth and innocence.
Thirdly. John, at that time, was the only legal administrator in the affairs of the kingdom there was then on the earth, and holding the keys of power. The Jews had to obey his instructions or be damned, by their own law; and Christ Himself fulfilled all righteousness in becoming obedient to the law which he had given to Moses on the mount, and thereby magnified it and made it honorable, instead of destroying it. The son of Zacharias wrested the keys, the kingdom, the power, the glory from the Jews, by the holy anointing and decree of heaven, and these three reasons constitute him the greatest prophet born of a woman.
Second question:—How was the least in the kingdom of heaven greater than he:
In reply I asked—Whom did Jesus have reference to as being the last? Jesus was looked upon as having the least claim in God’s kingdom, and [seemingly] was least entitled to their credulity as a prophet; as though He had said—”He that is considered the least among you is greater than John—that is I myself.”
The Parables of Jesus and the Interpretation of the Scriptures.
In reference to the prodigal son, I said it was a subject I had never dwelt upon; that it was understood by many to be one of the intricate subjects of the scriptures; and even the Elders of this Church have preached largely upon it, without having any rule of interpretation. What is the rule of interpretation? Just no interpretation at all. Understand it precisely as it reads. I have a key by which I understand the scriptures. I enquire, what was the question which drew out the answer, or caused Jesus to utter the parable? It is not national; it does not refer to Abraham, Israel or the Gentiles, in a national capacity, as some suppose. To ascertain its meaning, we must dig up the root and ascertain what it was that drew the saying out of Jesus.
While Jesus was teaching the people, all the publicans and sinners drew near to hear Him; “and the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them.” This is the key word which unlocks the parable of the prodigal son. It was given to answer the murmurings and questions of the Sadducees and Pharisees, who were querying, finding fault, and saying, “How is it that this man as great as He pretends to be, eats with publicans and sinners?” Jesus was not put to it so, but He could have found something to illustrate His subject, if He had designed it for a nation or nations; but He did not. It was for men in an individual capacity; and all straining on this point is a bubble. “This man receiveth sinners and eateth with them.” And he spake this parable unto them—”What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety-and-nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbors, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost. I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety-and-nine just persons which need no repentance.” The hundred sheep represent one hundred Sadducees and Pharisees, as though Jesus had said, “If you Sadducees and Pharisees are in the sheepfold, I have no mission for you; I am sent to look up sheep that are lost; and when I have found them, I will back them up and make joy in heaven.” This represents hunting after a few individuals, or one poor publican, which the Pharisees and Sadducees despised.
He also gave them the parable of the woman and her ten pieces of silver, and how she lost one, and searching diligently, found it again, which gave more joy among the friends and neighbors than the nine which were not lost; like I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety-and-nine just persons that are so righteous; they will be damned anyhow; you cannot save them.