Sunday, June 2, 2013
Doctrine and Covenants Lesson #24 "Be Not Deceived, But Continue in Steadfastness"
Our lesson today is on PERSONAL APOSTASY. Of course, by studying this, we are also going to learn the opposite, which is even more useful: HOW TO ENDURE FAITHFULLY TO THE END.
In June of 1831, a church conference was held in Kirtland, Ohio. Just prior to that conference, Section 50 of the D&C was given. The reason this revelation was given is stated right in the beginning. First, verse one tells us that the brethren had asked for guidance from the Lord in discerning spiritual manifestations.
“Behold, verily I say unto you, that there are many spirits which are false spirits, which have gone forth in the earth, deceiving the world. And also Satan hath sought to deceive you, that he might overthrow you.” (D&C 50:2-3)
Why is Satan so interested in deceiving us?
“And because he had fallen from heaven, and had become miserable forever, he sought also the misery of all mankind…” (2 Nephi 2:18)
“Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life through the great mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself.” (2 Nephi 2:27)
The revelation of May 1831 told the brethren how to choose:
“And that which doth not edify is not of God, and is darkness. That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day.”
This counsel is very important in preventing apostasy, today as well as in the 1830s. It was prophecied that Satan would deceive the very elect if possible, and he did. Within two years after the marvelous spiritual manifestations occurred in relation to the dedication of the Kirtland Temple, all of the Three Witnesses, three of the Eight Witnesses, and one-third of the General Authorities, including three Apostles, left the Church. Interestingly, apostasy was more prevalent among the leadership than among the “average” members. As near as can be determined, 87 percent of the Kirtland Saints continued in the faith, including most of those who lost a lot of money due to stock held in the Church bank, the Kirtland Safety Society. (Milton V. Backman, Jr., Ensign, April 1989, p. 30)
We can hopefully learn from the errors of the early church apostates, and avoid some of these problems ourselves. (Double-click on the chart to enlarge it.)
Our inner attitudes are very important when it comes to following the guidance of the Spirit, our leaders and the doctrine that we know. Wrong attitudes can keep us from truth and freedom, and can deceive us as surely as if we were blindfolded. All of these wrong attitudes are based upon pride. A study of how some of the early Saints were deceived can help us see how we can avoid those same pitfalls. (Just choose some of them.) (Information is from Susan Easton Black, Who’s Who in the Doctrine and Covenants, unless otherwise noted.)
Thomas B. Marsh. The cream incident with his wife… A mountain out of a molehill. He declared that he would “sustain the character of his wife if he had to go to hell to do it.” President Gordon B. Hinckley said of this incident: “What a very small and trivial thing—a little cream over which two women quarreled. But it led to, or at least was a factor in, Governor Bogg’s cruel exterminating order…”
Joseph Wakefield. In obedience to the revelation, went on a mission with Parley P. Pratt, wherein they “visited the several branches of the Church, rebuking the wrong spirits which had crept in among them, setting in order things that were wanting…” (PPP, quoted in WW p. 324) Joseph baptized George A. Smith, who later became an apostle. George A. Smith was very distressed when his missionary joined with Mormon apostates in criticizing and tormenting Joseph Smith. The reason? Joseph Smith played with the children immediately after translating. “This convinced him that the Prophet was not a man of God, and that the work was false, which, to me and hundreds of others, he had testified that he knew came from God.” (George A. Smith Autobiography, quoted in WW, p. 324)
Frazier Eaton. (Not mentioned in D&C) He had given $700 to the building of the Kirtland Temple, but he arrived late to the dedication and couldn’t get in because every seat was taken. He dedication was being repeated the following day for those who couldn’t get in the first day, but Brother Eaton thought that he should get in on Day One, and so he apostatized. (George A Smith, Journal of Discourses.)
Oliver Cowdery. Oliver Cowdrey was with Joseph from the very first. He received the Priesthood with him, was baptized with him, saw great and glorious visions with him, and received the keys of the Priesthood with him from Elijah, Elias, and Moses. Pride in his education, however, led to his downfall. He commanded Joseph Smith in the name of God to change the words of D&C 20:37. He also said that he told the Church leaders about his land in Jackson County, “…while I lived and was sane, I would not be dictated, influenced, or controlled, by any man or any set of men by no tribunal of ecclesiastical practices whatever.” At the encouragement of Brigham Young, 11 years after leaving the Church, he finally returned.
William Carter. Also called on a mission in D&C 52 although he was blind. He refused to go and his priesthood was taken from him. His uncle tried to bring him back to the faith and immediately afterwards wrote the conversation: “He said he was convinced that it was the work of the Lord but he did not as yet feel prepared to obey the work…I…felt with my own soul as though his situation was very dangerous for he had some time grieved the Spirit by his disobedience and I having a sense felt to cry mightily to my Heavenly Father for him. I, at length, felt the power of prophecy to him and expressed to him that this was the very day he would obey the commends if ever…Soon after this, he knelt down with me and entreated the Lord to have mercy on him.” He did help to build the Kirtland Temple, but there is not any information about him after that to show whether he stayed faithful. Since there isn’t any information, I think it’s unlikely; Mormons keep much better records than apostates.
John Whitmer. For many years, John Whitmer was a stalwart in the Church. He was a scribe, a historian, and a member of the First Presidency, as well as one of the Eight Witnesses to the Book of Mormon. At one time in Jackson County, he offered himself as a ransom to the mob to prevent further violence. He purchased land in Far West for the saints, but there were some allegations about how he handled the finances. He was angered when asked to account for his use of Church funds, and declined to disclose the records. He was excommunicated. To quote Susan Black, “John remained in Missouri during the atrocities arising from the Extermination Order of 1838, free from persecution because [he was no longer a Mormon]. When the Saints fled from their homes and property in Far West, he returned and took advantage of cheap prices for land…” He lived there the rest of his life.
Jared Carter. The uncle of William Carter. D&C 79:2 says, “I will send upon him the Comforter, which shall teach him the truth and the way wither he shall go.” Although Jared Carter was a great missionary for a time, later he wavered back and forth in church activity, joining the Danites, conspiring against the Prophet, and not following counsel. He repented and promised faithfulness, but did not keep the promise. When the saints went west, he stayed behind.
Selah Griffin. He lost a lot of property to the mobs in both Jackson County and in Caldwell County. To quote Susan Black, “Angered by the governmental affront and by the persecution he had suffered for his religious conviction, Selah weighed the cost and concluded that the price of faithfulness was too great.” He gave up Church Activity for an easier life.
Outer Deceptions vs. True Outer Guide. Hiram Page was one of the 8 witnesses to the Book of Mormon. He joined the church in 1830, and shortly thereafter found a stone five by three inches, and one-half inch thick with two holes in it. He thought he received some revelations by looking through the stone. These included the location of the “New Jerusalem” and the proper governing process of the Church. Newel Knight said, “He had quite a roll of papers full of these revelations, and many in the Church were led astray by them…although they were in contradiction to the New Testament and the revelations of these last days. [The Prophet] Joseph Smith was perplexed and scarcely knew how to meet this new exigency. That night I occupied the same room that he did, and the greater part of the night was spent in prayer and supplication.” As a result, D&C 28 was received, which states that only the prophet has the keys to revelation for the entire church. In that revelation, Oliver Cowdery (one of those who had been deceived) was told to advise Hiram that the source of his revelations was false. Hiram Page and those who had followed him took that counsel and renounced the stone and its revelations. Elder Knight commented on the situation that “…it was wonderful to witness the wisdom that Joseph displayed on this occasion, for truly God gave unto him great wisdom and power, and it seems to me that none who saw him administer righteousness under such trying circumstances could doubt that the Lord was with him. He acted not with the wisdom of man, but with the wisdom of God.” How could it be that these people all believed Joseph’s revelations over Hiram’s revelations with no more than Joseph’s word about it?
Therefore, why is it that ye cannot understand and know, that he that receiveth the word by the Spirit of truth receiveth it as it is preached by the Spirit if truth? Wherefore, he that preacheth and he that receiveth, understand one another, and both are edified and rejoice together. (D&C 50:21-22)
The reason they believed it was because they had more than Joseph’s word, they had the manifestation of the Holy Ghost to go with it. With the revelation, Brother Knight said, “The Holy Ghost came upon us and filled our hearts with unspeakable joy.” (Andrus, They Knew the Prophey, quoted in LDH, p. 65)
What outer guides do you see in our world today that might deceive us if we are not careful? (Class ideas.) Do you agree that the outer guides to truth are the same for us today as they were in 1831?
The Holy Ghost is truly the most powerful of the guides available to us, and testifies of the truth of the others. It’s like the final word and it can be trusted. It is vital that we learn to hear and understand the Holy Ghost.
At the conference in 1831, the following month, a pattern was given for discerning whether a man was speaking the word of God or not, in D&C 52:14-18. In that same revelation with this advice, 34 men were called as missionaries. Do you ever wonder who all these people are who are mentioned in the D&C, and whether they followed the counsel given them? Of those 34 in Section 52, how many do you think followed the counsel on how to avoid deception? I wondered, and so I researched them (very sketchily) and discovered that although most of them went on the missions they were called to in this revelation, just 13 remained faithful to the Church their entire lives, no matter what the cost. Three more left fellowship for a period of time but later returned (Orson Pratt for just a few months, Thomas B. Marsh for 19 years, and Martin Harris for 32 years.) (Brief sketches on each of these faithful men are included at the end of this post. You may want to print them up as handouts for class members to read later on their own.)
One of these men who avoided deception and continued faithful to the end was Parley P. Pratt. He spent his 50th year on a mission, away from his large family. He wrote to them, “The whole country is being overwhelmed with the most abominable lying, mockery, and hatred of the Saints, and with all manner of corruption. The legions of spirits are let loose and are working wonders.” A little later in the letter, he says, “I hope you will not be cast down or borrow any trouble about me because I admit an if as to my safe return. I have no doubt but that I shall return in safety and live to a good old age. But still I must acknowledge that I do anticipate with a great deal of pleasure the change of worlds. And, every day that I work on my history, I naturally think that the word finis will soon be added to the end.”
Elder Pratt was shortly thereafter accused of some false charges by three men who had sworn to kill him. He was honorably released from the court with the charges dismissed. The three men followed him twelve miles, until he was utterly alone and defenseless, and then shot him. He had 11 living wives, and 21-22 living children, ranging in age from 20 years to 10 months. Among his children are found many Book of Mormon names: Moroni, Heleman, Alma, Nephi, Abinadi, Lehi, Teancum, Mosiah, Omner, Ether, and Moroni. John Taylor wrote of him, “…his name is revered by thousands and tens of thousands, and will be honored by millions yet unborn; while that of his cowardly assassins…will be loathsome, and a stink in the nostrils of God and good men.” (The Mormon, published in New York, May 30)
I am fifty years old! I have lived to see
Seven times seven and a Jubilee.
That period fames in the days of yore
As a grand release for the humble poor;
When the pledg’d estate was again restor’d
And the bondman free’d from his tyrant lord.
When man his fellow was bound to forgive, and begin anew to think and to live. . . .
All these are facts; but of little worth,
Compared with a Prophet restored to earth.
I have seen his day and have heard his voice,
Which enraged a world, while the meek rejoice.
I have read the fate of all earthly things:
The end of thrones, and the end of kings.
I have learned that truth alone shall stand,
And the Kingdom of God fill every land.
I have seen that Kingdom rolling along,
And taking its seat ‘mid the mountains strong;
While the nations wondered but could not tell
To what these wondrous things would swell.
I have wandered far, over land and sea,
To proclaim to the world its destiny—
To cry to the nations, repent and live,
And be ready the bridegroom to receive. . . .
I have toiled with the great in freedom’s cause,
And assisted to give to a State its laws.
I have lain in a dungeon, bound in chains,
And been honored in Courts where Justice reigns.
In a thousand joys, and a thousand fears
I have struggled on through my fifty years.
And now, by the law of God, I am free;
I will seek to enjoy my Jubilee.
I will hie me home to my mountain dell,
And will say to the “Christian” world—farewell!
I have served ye long--; ‘twas a thankless task,
To retire in peace is all I ask.
Another fifty years will fully prove
Our message true, and all our motives love.
Then shall an humble world in reverence bow,
And hail the Prophets so rejected now.
Kings shall revere, and nations incense bring
To Zion’s temple and to Zion’s King.
I shall be there and celebrate the day
‘Till twice ten fifties shall have passed away.
(Excerpts from Parlet’s poem My Fiftieth Year, p. 410-412 of Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt.)
At Parley’s death, his brother Orson wrote, “O how pleasant is the death of a righteous person! He lays down his body with a sure and certain hope of coming forth from the tomb in the morning of the first resurrection, to reign as a mighty King and Priest of the Most High God, to sit enthroned in eternal glory, ruling with power and dominion for ever and ever.” (PPP, p. 419)
In the first edition of the British church magazine, the Millennial Star, a hymn written by Parley P. Pratt was published: “The Morning Breaks.” It is not Hymn #1 in our hymnbook. As the first two verses elaborate on Darkness vs. Light, you may want to sing it as the conclusion to the lesson.
President Harold B. Lee: “I want to bear you my testimony that the experience I have had has taught me that those who criticize the leaders of this Church are showing signs of a spiritual sickness which, unless curbed, will bring about eventually spiritual death. I want to bear my testimony as well that those who in public seek by their criticism to belittle our leaders or bring them into disrepute, will bring upon themselves more hurt than upon those whom they seek thus to malign. I have watched over the years, and I have read of the history of many of those who fell away from this Church, and I want to bear testimony that no apostate who ever left this Church ever prospered as an influence in his community thereafter.” (Conference Report, Oct 1947, p. 67)
Elder Dallin H. Oaks: “The counsel against speaking evil of Church leaders is not so much for the benefit of the leaders as it is for the spiritual well-being of members who are prone to murmur and find fault. The Church leaders that I know are durable people. They made their way successfully in a world of unrestrained criticism before they received their current callings. They have no personal need for protection; they seek no personal immunities from criticism – constructive or destructive. They only seek to declare what they understand to be the word of the Lord to his people.” (Ensign, Feb 1987, p. 70)
Elder Melvin J. Ballard: “No man goes away from this church and becomes an apostate in a week, nor in a month. It is a slow process. The one thing that makes for the safety of every man and woman would be to appear at the sacrament table every Sabbath day. We would not get very far in a week – not so away that, by the process of self-investigation, we could not rectify the wrongs we may have done. If we should refrain from partaking of the condemned by ourselves as unworthy to receive these emblems, we could not endure that long, and we would soon, I am sure, have the spirit of repentance. The road to the sacrament table is the path of safety for Latter-day Saints.” (quoted in Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, 4:121)
President Spencer W. Kimball: “In my experience, few people have ever lost their peace, their spirituality, their testimony when they kept close to the Lord in their prayers, to the Church in their activities, to the people of the Church in their fellowship. Seldom does one become seriously doubtful or faithless who continues to read the Holy Scriptures and keep his life clean. ‘Put on the whole armor of God,’ as Paul admonished. With this divine influence and protection, we may be able to discern the adversary’s deceptions in whatever appealing words and rationalizations and we may be ‘able to withstand the evil day, and having done all, to stand.’” (Faith Precedes the Miracle, pg. 218)
“BLESSED ARE THEY WHO ARE FAITHFUL AND ENDURE”
Of the 34 brethren called to service in D&C 52, only 14 remained faithful their entire lives, and 3 more left Church fellowship but returned repentant at a later date. The other 17 all left the Church, never to return in this life. Here is a little bit about each of those men who remained faithful or returned to faithfulness.
Reynolds Cahoon—He served in a bishopric and a stake presidency and on the temple building committees in both Kirtland and Nauvoo. Of the latter call, he said, “I think I was never placed in so critical a position since I was born.” His seventh child was blessed and named by the Prophet Joseph, Mahonri Moriancumer, the name of the Brother of Jared. His obituary in the Deseret News read, “…a true friend to the prophet of God while he was living, full of integrity and love for the truth and always acted cheerfully the part assigned him in the great work of the last Days.” He died at age 73.
Simeon Carter—He brought 60 converts into the church with him when he was baptized. That was the beginning of his missionary labors, which were much celebrated as he baptized large numbers of people wherever he served. He marched in Zion’s Camp and was wounded at the Battle of Crooked River. After trekking west to Utah, he was called to settle Brigham City, and died there at the age of 74, still true to the faith, although his brother Jared had left the Church years previously.
Zebedee Coltrin—He saw several glorious visions of God, Christ, and the angels of Heaven, including on the evening he had resolved to be baptized. He was a President of the Seventy in Kirtland. Later, in Utah, he was a Patriarch for 14 years, giving over one thousand patriarchal blessings, including blessings to Melvin J. Ballard and George Albert Smith. He offered the benediction at the dedication of the Logan Temple. He was a popular speaker about pioneers and was scheduled to speak at the July 24th celebration in 1887, but died a few days previous; his funeral was held that day instead. His tombstone in Spanish Fork reads: “A friend of Joseph Smith lies here\A patriarch and pioneer\His life was marked by faith and zeal\His mission was to bless and heal.” He was 82.
Levi Hancock—Of the Prophet Joseph, he said, “I did all I could to hold up that good man. My heart would ache for him. He had to stand against thousands of his pretended friends seeking to overthrow him. It was terrible the abuse he suffered.” Levi made the banner for the march of Zion’s Camp, white, with an eagle and the word Peace. He was a President of the Seventy for 47 years, a fife major in the Nauvoo Legion, and a police officer in Nauvoo. As a general Authority, he was a leader and father figure in the Mormon Battalion. Later, in Utah, he was ordained a Patriarch. He died in Washington County at age 79.
Soloman Hancock—The brother of Levi Hancock, he protected 120 women and children for 10 days from the mobs of Jackson County, and later, with his brothers, guarded and fed 600 men, women, and children who had been driven from their homes and were camped in the woods. He was a member of the High Council and had a beautiful singing voice. In remembrance of his baptism, he wrote this cute little verse: “Once I was a Methodist, Glory Hallelujah\Then I thought it was best, Glory Hallelujah\But when I read my Bible right, Glory Hallelujah\I found myself a Mormonite, Glory Hallelujah.” Although his “greatest desire” was to go west with the Saints, he died in 1847 at Council Bluffs at the age of 54.
Martin Harris—One of the three witnesses to the Book of Mormon, Martin gave much of his material goods to the Church. He marched with Zion’s Camp and served several highly successful missions. In Kirtland, however, he spoke out against the Prophet, and estranged himself from the church for 32 years. During that time, however, he cared for the deserted Kirtland Temple. When Brigham Young heard that he would like to return to fellowships and join the Saints in Utah but lacked the funds, he said, “Send for him! Yes, even if it were to take the last dollar of my own.” And so, at age 88, Martin moved to the west, having been given new clothes by the saints in Iowa on the way. He traveled throughout Utah, bearing testimony every chance he got, and died in Clarkston, Utah at age 92.
Soloman Humphrey—After his baptism, he returned to his hometown of Stockholm, New York to share the truth with family and friends. His mission was very discouraging, as the ministers and citizens constantly “hissed” at him. He migrated to Kirtland to be with the Saints, and was called in D&C 52:35-36 to return again to Stockholm on another mission. He obediently did so and was able to help convert several family members, including John Smith, a future Patriarch, and George A. Smith, a future Apostle. As one of the older members of Zion’s Camp, he fell asleep exhausted on the prairie and awoke with a rattlesnake curled up between his head and his hat, which was in his hand. He, however, forbade the elders from killing it, saying, “I’ll protect him; you shan’t hurt him, for he and I had a good nap together.” He died before completing his final mission in Clay County, Missouri, at the age of 59.
Newel Knight—The Prophet Joseph Smith cast the devil out of him before he was baptized. The following month, during the first conference of the Church, he saw the heavens opened and beheld Jesus Christ seated at the right hand of his Father. He did not serve the mission he was called to in D&C 52 because he was branch president and difficulties arose there that required his attention. He also did not make it to Utah, but died in Iowa Territory in 1847 from lung inflammation. He was only 46. After his death, he appeared to his young wife Lydia, headed west alone with 7 little children, and said, “…dry up your tears. Be patient, and I will go before you and protect you in your journeyings. And you and your little ones shall never perish for lack of food.”
Thomas Marsh—While a member of the Quorum of the 12 Apostles, he was involved in a dispute between his wife and a neighbor which escalated out of control. He declared that “he would sustain the character of his wife, even if he had to go to hell for it.” Apparently he suffered that fate for many tears, as a vile apostate, slandering and lying against the Church leaders. He was excommunicated in 1839. 18 years later, he greatly sorrowed for his errors: “I want to die in the Church. Oh, if I could see Joseph, and talk with him and acknowledge my faults to him, and get his forgiveness from him…then I would die happy.” He further stated that Jehovah “loved me too much to let me go without whipping…For if he had not cared anything about me, he would not have taken me by the arm and given me such a shaking…I have learned to understand what David said when he exclaimed, ‘I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of God than to dwell in the tents of wickedness.’” He was rebaptized in 1857, and died in Ogden 9 years later at the age of 66 as a pauper and an invalid.
Isaac Morley—He housed the Prophet and Emma at his large and prosperous farm. When commanded by the Lord, he sold the farm and gave the money to the Church. He was tried for treason and sentenced to be shot, but rather than faltering in his faith, offered himself as a ransom for the relief of the Saints. When the Saints fled to Illinois, one of their communities was named for Brother Morley, “Yelrome,” the backwards spelling of his name. He was a High Priest, Counselor to Bishop Partridge, Patriarch in Far West and later in Utah. He settled in Manti. He died at age 79 in Fairview.
John Murdock—His newborn twins were given to Joseph and Emma at the death of their mother, and his other three little children housed with other saints so that he could serve as a missionary. After his mission, he saw the Savior in a glorious vision. He served many more missions, including one to Australia. He was a bishop in Nauvoo and Salt Lake City; Stake President in Lima, Illinois; and Patriarch in Utah County. He died at age 79.
Edward Partridge—He was called as the presiding Bishop for the Church and wrote to his wife, “You know I stand in an important station, and as I am occasionally chastened I sometimes feel my station is above what I can perform to the acceptance of my Heavenly Father.” He took care of the poor so well, that he became destitute himself. He said in 1839, “I have not at this time two dollars in the world, one dollar and forty-four cents is all. I owe for my rent, and for making clothes for some of the poor, and some other things…What is best for me to do, I hardly know.” He died of exhaustion in Nauvoo at age 46, completely worn out by his tireless service.
Orson Pratt—He was baptized by his brother, Parley, on his nineteenth birthday. He was the first Elder’s Quorum President, and an Apostle. His high degree of education as a professor at the University of Nauvoo caused him to temporarily waver in the faith. He was excommunicated in 1842, but rebaptized within the year. He helped Brigham Young lay out the city of Salt Lake, was editor of the Millennial Star in England, did an incredible amount of temple work for his ancestors, and was historian of the Church. Wilford Woodruff said of him, “I never saw a man in my life that I know of that has spent as few moments idly as he has….He has improved his time.” In October of 1881, after telling Joseph F. Smith the inscription he wanted on his tombstone—“My body sleeps for a moment, but my testimony lives and shall endure forever”—he died at age 70.
Parley P. Pratt—“…I always loved a book. If I worked hard, a book was in my hand in the morning…a book at evening…a book at every leisure moment of my life.” Parley was a member of Zion’s Camp, ordained an Apostle. He served missions to England, the South Seas, and to South America, in addition to the United States and the American Indians. He edited the Millennial Star in England, and the first edition contained his hymn “The Morning Breaks, the Shadows Flee.” In 1857, shortly after serving his final mission to the States, he was murdered in Arkansas. He was 50.
Hyrum Smith—He was a Patriarch and member of the First Presidency. His counsel to the brethren in Nauvoo was, “Never trifle and take lightly your office and calling and hold strictly to the importance of your mission. At all times remember your position before the Lord and hold in high esteem and respect the priesthood that you bear.” He died at age 44 as a martyr at Carthage Jail, having been shot four times.