Monday, June 21, 2021

Doctrine and Covenants 67-70

 Section 67 begins:

Behold and hearken, O ye elders of my church, who have assembled yourselves together, whose prayers I have heard, and whose hearts I know, and whose desires have come up before me.

Behold and lo, mine eyes are upon you, and the heavens and the earth are in mine hands, and the riches of eternity are mine to give.

Ye endeavored to believe that ye should receive the blessing which was offered unto you; but behold, verily I say unto you there were fears in your hearts, and verily this is the reason that ye did not receive.

Here are some questions for us to think deeply upon: 

What fears are in our hearts? 

And what blessings are we not receiving because of those fears?

Now that I am 57 years old I have seen a lot of life. Due to the number of children and the variety of mothering opportunities I have been blessed to experience--this is a very long story--sometimes it feels as if I have experienced 114 years of life packed into those 57 years! Looking back, I can see that many of my greatest fears actually happened. Sometimes I thought these fears would overcome me and I would never be okay again. But with each of these challenges, came great blessings (over time) as the Lord was ready to help. With each of these blessings, came greater faith in the Lord. With greater faith in the Lord comes less fear.

What great fears have happened to you?

What blessings did you receive by facing those fears and turning to the Lord?

Here is the great blessing the Lord promised to the Saints at this conference:

10 And again, verily I say unto you that it is your privilege, and a promise I give unto you that have been ordained unto this ministry, that inasmuch as you strip yourselves from jealousies and fears, and humble yourselves before me, for ye are not sufficiently humble, the veil shall be rent and you shall see me and know that I am—not with the carnal neither natural mind, but with the spiritual.

Let us note that jealousy is just a type of fear, right? It's the fear that we are not good enough or that we do not have enough.

If we strip ourselves of fear, we will get mighty blessings from the Lord--even knowing Him and being united with Him. The Kirtland Saints actually saw the Lord as the veil was parted between heaven and earth at the dedication of their temple a few years later. It was an amazing event, which we will read about later. For us, the veil may be rent in other ways, and we may "see" the Lord in other ways.

In Section 68, four departing missionaries (Orson Hyde, Luke and Lyman Johnson, and William McLellin) are told by the Lord:

Wherefore, be of good acheer, and do not bfear, for I the Lord am with you, and will stand by you; and ye shall bear record of me, even Jesus Christ, that I am the Son of the living God, that I cwas, that I am, and that I am to come.

This is the word of the Lord unto you, my servant Orson Hyde, and also unto my servant Luke Johnson, and unto my servant Lyman Johnson, and unto my servant aWilliam E. McLellin, and unto all the faithful elders of my church—

aGo ye into all the world, bpreach the gospel to every ccreature, acting in the dauthority which I have given you, ebaptizing in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.

Each of these brethren responded to this call and faced the fears they encountered in a different way. Each of them was so overcome by fear at some time in their life that they left the Church. Two of them came back.  I'm sure we cannot comprehend their times, their culture, their challenges. They were all young men; they were all new converts. They lived and worked near the Prophet Joseph Smith and saw his ordinariness along with his extraordinariness. But learning from them (with compassion) may be instructive for us, as we face our fears in staying true to the faith, and as we maintain relationships with beloved family members and friends who choose to leave the faith.

Two points are important to remember here: 

1) Although D&C 68:25 tells us that if we don't teach our children properly concerning the gospel of Jesus Christ, "the sin be upon the heads of the parents," that word "sin" is singular. It is not the sins the children commit that will be upon the parents' heads--it is the sin of not teaching the children that will be upon their heads. It is a grave error to assume that we can control what our children choose to do by the way that we teach. This would be in direct opposition to the plan of our Heavenly Father.

2) "This life" is the time to prepare to meet God, but "this life" includes the spirit world after our mortal life; there is no Judgment until after that time. The spirit world is one great mission field. No one is completely finished with living and learning when they die. That includes the early Saints who were all beginners at Sainthood, and had no family history of Church membership, and that includes us and our children who are living in a different but also wicked world. It is very possible that all four of these early Saints are now great missionaries and leaders in the post-existence.

William McLellin

William McLellin was discussed in the previous blog post. Being a schoolteacher made William McLellin very educated and respected in his day--perhaps equivalent to holding a doctorate degree today. 

Orson Hyde

Orson Hyde was a genius, pure and simple. He had a photographic memory and "when anyone quoted one verse [of the Bible], [he] could quote the English, German, [or] Hebrew" (Susan Easton Black, Who's Who in the Doctrine and Covenants, Bookcraft, 142). He traveled east in the United States with Samuel Smith on his first mission. He served in Zion's Camp. He was one of the first Apostles to serve a mission to England where a great harvest of souls was reaped. 

For about six months in 1838-1839, he was one of the apostates. He signed a slanderous document against the Prophet, which caused great distress and damage. He confessed and apologized sincerely in the spring and was restored to his previous position and remained faithful for the rest of his life. 

In the 1840s he served an arduous mission to Israel to dedicate Jerusalem for the returning of the Jews and for the building of a temple. When he returned from this mission, he was called to St. Petersburg, Russia, but that call was changed to Washington, D.C. to plead the cause of the Saints in their persecutions to the government (Black, 143).

Luke and Lyman Johnson

Luke and Lyman were the sons of Elsa Johnson, whose miraculous healing inspired the baptism of Ezra Booth. They became brothers-in-law to Orson Hyde when he married their sister Marinda Nancy Johnson in 1834 (Joseph Smith Papers; Brian and Laura Hales, Joseph Smith's Polygamy). 

Luke served a mission to the eastern states and another to the southern states. He was a fun-loving guy who played a trick on one of his investigators who had been waiting upon a direct voice from an angel to tell him to join the Church by climbing a ladder to the man's bedroom window and whispering loudly, "Ezekial! Ezekial! Ezekial! Repent! Repent! Repent!" Apparently, it worked.

Luke left the Church after two successful missions because of the financial crises that hit the United States and crushed the Kirtland church bank in 1838. In the ensuing years, he studied medicine and became a doctor. Finally, eight years later, he was rebaptized by his brother-in-law Orson in 1846 in Nauvoo (Joseph Smith Papers) and was never again troubled by that fear that shook his faith in Kirtland. He journeyed with the 1847 company of pioneers to Salt Lake City and settled in Tooele County, Utah. He died suddenly at the age of 54 at Marinda and Orson's home while he was in Salt Lake City on business. 

Luke's brother Lyman served his mission to the eastern states with Orson Pratt. He served in Zion's Camp and was the first Apostle called in this dispensation at the young age of 23. But in 1837 he began his decline into apostacy over his personal financial loss. The following April he was excommunicated for "bringing distress to the innocent, assaulting Phineas Young, not attending Church meetings, failing to observe the Word of Wisdom, and unrighteous conduct" (Black, 158-9). Although he never served another mission, he sent Heber C. Kimball off on his mission to England with his own cloak, and that cloak served seven missions to the British Isles--three times on Brother Kimball's back and four times on Parley Pratt's.

Lyman is reported by Brigham Young to have said, "I would suffer my right hand to be cut off, if I could believe [in the Church] again. Then I was full of joy and gladness. My dreams were pleasant. When I awoke in the morning my spirit was cheerful. I was happy by day and by night, full of peace and joy and thanksgiving. But now it is darkness, pain, sorrow, misery in the extreme. I have never since seen a happy moment" (Black, 159). Lyman became an attorney in Iowa and died at age 45 in an sleighing accident on the frozen Mississippi River.

In Section 70, the Lord warned the Saints to share their temporal blessings, and that became quite a difficult challenge for many of the Saints, Luke and Lyman included.

14 Nevertheless, in your temporal things you shall be aequal, and this not grudgingly, otherwise the abundance of the manifestations of the Spirit shall be bwithheld.

In addition to the financial greed and ensuing jealousies that broke some Saints apart from their faith, these four men had the intellectual and educational superiority that sometimes makes it hard to be humble and honor a prophet who is younger, rougher, poorer, and less educated.

The Rest of the Story

After the Saints left Kirtland, the city never regained its glory. Nearby Cleveland and Akron became bustling centers of industry, but Kirtland remained a small town, with a population of as little as 900. But the Lord did not forget His promise that the Church in Kirtland would rise again.

In 1954 the editor of the Cleveland Press wrote, "If Joseph Smith, the dedicated and courageous founder of the Mormon Church, were living today, he would take special pride in the news that a new Mormon Chapel shortly will be built on Lake Avenue near Edgewater Park" (quoted in Karl Ricks Anderson, Joseph Smith's Kirtland, 374). About 1,000 members of the Church lived in the Cleveland/Kirtland area at the time. In 1956, the Church purchased its first historic property in its mission to restore Kirtland. That purchase was the John and Elsa Johnson home.

In 1976, President Spencer W. Kimball traveled to Ohio and conducted a missionary-oriented meeting at the Cleveland Colliseum, attended by 19,000 people. Nearly 1,000 baptisms resulted from that inspirational meeting.

From 1979 to 1986 President Ezra Taft Benson traveled to Kirtland five times, meeting with descendants of the early Saints who had left the Church and remained in Ohio. When the Kirtland Stake was reorganized in 1983, "a substantial portion of the members were descendants of the earlier Kirtland Saints." Efforts were then made to connect descendants whose ancestors had traveled west with the Saints with their cousins whose ancestors had stayed behind. This was the case with the siblings Luke, Lyman, and Marinda Johnson and their family was one of the first to reestablish ties between Utah and Ohio descendants when Grant Johnson and his wife from Utah were called on a mission to the Kirtland area and met with cousins they never knew (Anderson, 384).

(Personal note: In 2006, my husband and I took our youngest four children on a Church History cross-country tour, as we had done previously with our older children. When we visited Kirtland, we attended the indoor musical pageant, "This is Kirtland," performed by the Kirtland Stake. It was exceptionally good and was one of the highlights of our trip.)

What can we learn from this portion of the Doctrine and Covenants and this time in the history of the Church that we can apply in our lives?

1) Don't assume that righteousness will equal financial gain or you are likely to consider the loss of your money as cause for a loss of faith.

2) Don't allow your education and intelligence to put you in a position to criticique Church leaders and members past and present. The glory of God is intelligence, so get all the intelligence you can, but know where your learning stops and the intelligence of God takes over. Never reverse the two. Smarter people than you (such as Orson Hyde) have kept the faith to the end of their lives. 

3) Reach out to your extended family members whether or not they believe the same way you do. The gathering of Israel, the key commission of the dispensation of the fullness of times, is all about family connections.

4) Share the gospel wherever you go, and always be willing to serve. The gospel is the way to navigate this life in happiness and to find joy in the eternities.

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