Essential Brigham Young
Foreword by Eugene E. Campbell
“Election and Reprobation” (with Willard Richards)
(from Latter-day Saints’ Millennial Star 1 [January 1841]: 217-25)
[p.1]“Do you believe in Election and Reprobation?” To prevent the necessity of repeating a thousand times what may be said at once, we purpose to answer this oft asked question in writing; so that the Saints may learn doctrine, and all who will, may understand that such election and reprobation as is taught in the Old and New Testaments, and other revelations from God, we fully believe, in connexion with every other principle of righteousness; and we ask this favour of all, into whose hands our answer may come, that they will not condemn till they have read it through, in the spirit of meekness and prayer.
The Lord (Jehovah) hath spoken through Isa. (42, 1) saying, behold my servant, whom I uphold, mine elect in whom my soul delighteth; evidently referring to the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God chosen or elected by the Father, (1 Peter i. 20, who verily was fore-ordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you, who by him do believe in God,) to serve him in the redemption of the world, to be a covenant of the people, (Isa. xlii, 6) for a light of the Gentiles, and the glory of his people Israel; having ordained him to be the judge of quick and dead, (Acts x, 42) that through him forgiveness of sins might be preached (Acts xiii, 38) unto all who would be obedient unto his gospel (Mark xvi, 16, 17).
Every high priest must be ordained (Heb. v, 1,) and if Christ had not received ordination, he would not have had power to ordain others, as he did when he ordained the twelve (Mark iii, 14) to take a part in the ministry which he had received of his father: also, (John xv, 16) ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, (Heb. v, 4) for no man taketh this honour unto himself but he that is called of God as was Aaron (v. 5.) So also Christ glorified not himself to be made an high priest, but he that said unto him thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee.
No being can give that which he does not possess; consequently no man can confer the priesthood on another, if he has not himself first received it; and the priesthood is of such a nature that it is impossible to investigate the principles of election, reprobation, &c., without touching [p.2]upon the priesthood also; and, although some may say that Christ as God needed no ordination, having possessed it eternally, yet Christ says (Matt. xxviii, 18) all power is given unto me in heaven and on earth; which could not have been if he was in eternal possession; and in the previously quoted verse we discover that he that said unto him, (i.e.) his father glorified him to be made an high priest, or ordained him to the work of creating the world and all things upon it; (Col. i, 16) for by him were all things created that are in heaven and that are in the earth, &c., and of redeeming the same from the fall; and to the judging of the quick and dead; for the right of judging rests in the priesthood; and it is through this medium that the father hath committed all judgment unto the Son (John v, 22) referring to his administration on earth.
If it was necessary that Christ should receive the priesthood to qualify him to minister before his father unto the children of men so as to redeem and save them, does it seem reasonable that any man should take it upon him to do a part of the same work, or to assist in the same priesthood, who has not been called by the spirit of prophecy or revelation as was Aaron, and ordained accordingly? And can it be expected that a man will be called by revelation who does not believe in revelation? Or will any man submit to ordination, for the fulfilment of a revelation or call in which he has no faith? We think not.
That we may learn still further that God calls or elects particular men to perform particular works, or on whom to confer special blessings, we read (Isa. xlv, 4) for Jacob my servant’s sake, and Israel mine elect, I have called thee (Cyrus) by thy name; to be a deliverer to my people Israel, and to help to plant them on my holy mountain, (Isa. lxv, 9, see connexion) for mine elect shall inherit it, and my servants shall dwell there; even on the mountains of Palestine, the Land of Canaan, which God had before promised to Abraham and his seed; (Gen. xvii, 8) and the particular reason why Abraham was chosen or elected to be the father of this blessed nation, is clearly told by the Lord, (Gen. xviii, 19) for I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him; and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment; that the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him; and this includes the general principle of election (i.e.) that God chose, elected, or ordained, Jesus Christ, his son, to be the Creator, governor, Saviour, and judge of the world; and Abraham to be the father of the faithful, on account of his foreknowledge of their obedience to his will and commandments; which agrees with the saying in the 2d Timothy ii, 21, if a man purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified and meet for the masters use, and prepared unto every good work.
Thus it appears that God has chosen or elected certain individuals, [p.3]to certain blessings, or to the performance of certain works; and that we may more fully understand the movements of the Supreme Governor of the universe in the order of election, we proceed to quote the sacred writers.
Rom. viii, 29, 30, For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his son, that he might be the first born among many brethren: moreover, whom he did predestinate, them he also called, and whom he called, them he also justified, and whom he justified, them he also glorified. And whom did he foreknow? Those that loved him, as we find in the 28th verse of the same chapter, for we know that all things shall work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. And who are the called according to his purpose? Those whom he foreknew, for he foreknew that those, who loved him, would do his will and work righteousness, and it is vain for men to say they love God, if they do not keep his commandments. Cain found it so when he presented an unrighteous offering, for God said unto him (Gen. iv, 7) if thou doest well shalt thou not be accepted; and yet he was not accepted; but whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected; and hereby we know that we are in him, (1 John ii, 5) or, that we are the called according to his purpose.
But did not God foreknow all things, and all men? Surely, known unto God are all his works, from the beginning of the world; (Acts xv, 18;) but does that prove that all men would love him and keep his commandments, so that he would predestinate them unto eternal life? Certainly not, for that would make God to foreknow things which were not to be, and to predestinate men to that, unto which they could never attain; (Mat. vii, 13) for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat.
The principles of God’s kingdom are perfect and harmonious, and the scriptures of truth must also agree in all their parts, so that one sentiment thereof shall not destroy another, and when we read that whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate; and that known unto God are all his works; so that it might appear from an abstract view thereof, that God foreknew all, and consequently predestinated all to be conformed to the image of his son; we ought also to read (Mark xvi, 16) he that believeth not shall be damned; and (John viii, 24) if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins; also, (Mat. xxv, 41) depart from me ye cursed, for I was an hungered and ye gave me no meat, &c.
Paul referring to the Saints, (Rom. i, 7) calls them beloved of God, called to be Saints; and says (Rom. viii, 1) there is no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the spirit; and goes on to shew in his Epistle to the Romans, that the law, [p.4](the law of carnal commandments given to the children of Israel, the covenant people,) could not make the comers thereunto perfect, (see also Heb. x, 1) but was given for a school master, to bring us unto Christ; (Gal. iii, 24,) so that when he had come, and offered himself without spot to God, (Heb. ix, 14) the sacrifice of the law should be done away in him that the honest in heart all might come unto the perfect law of liberty, (James i, 25) or the gospel of Christ, walking no longer after the flesh, but after the spirit, and be of that number who love God and keep his commandments, that they might be the called according to his purpose; (Rom. viii, 28) and these were the individuals referred to, whom God foreknew; such as Abel, Seth, Enoch, Noah, Melchizedec, Abraham, Lot, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Caleb, Joshua, the harlot Rahab who wrought righteousness by hiding the servants of God when their lives were sought by their enemies, Gideon, Barak, Sampson, Jeptha, David, Samuel, and the Prophets, (Heb. xi,) who, through faith, subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, and turned to flight the armies of the aliens; these all died in faith having kept the commandments of the Most High, having obtained the promise of a glorious inheritance, and are waiting the fulfilment of the promise which they obtained, (Heb. xi, 40) God having provided some better thing for us, that they, without us, should not be made perfect.
The prophet Alma bears a similar testimony to the other prophets concerning election in his 9th chapter (Book of Mormon) saying, this is the manner after which they were ordained: being called and prepared from the foundation of the world, according to the foreknowledge of God, on account of their exceeding faith and good works; in the first place being left to choose good or evil; therefore they having chosen good, and exercising exceeding great faith, are called with a holy calling, yea, with that holy calling which was prepared with, and according to, a preparatory redemption for such; and thus they have been called to this holy calling on account of their faith, while others would reject the spirit of God on account of the hardness of their hearts and blindness of their minds, while if it had not been for this, they might have had as great privilege as their brethren. Or in fine; in the first place they were on the same standing with their brethren; thus this holy calling being prepared from the foundation of the world for such as would not harden their hearts, being in and through the atonement of the only begotten son; who was prepared; and thus being called by this holy calling, and ordained unto the high priesthood of the holy order of God, to teach his commandments unto the children of men, that they might also enter into his rest, this high priesthood being after the order of his son, which order [p.5]was from the foundation of the world; or in other words being without beginning of days or end of years, being prepared from eternity to all eternity, according to his foreknowledge of all things.
For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God, according to election, might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth; it was said unto her, the elder shall serve the younger. As we have before shewn why God chose Abraham to be the father of the faithful, (viz.) because he knew he would command his children and his household after him, so now we see by this why the purposes of God according to election should stand, and that for his oath’s sake. Gen. xxii, 16, 17, 18. By myself have I sworn saith the Lord; for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son; that in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because thou hast obeyed my voice. Here the Lord Jesus, coming through the seed of Abraham, is again referred to, through whose sufferings and death, or in whom all the nations of the earth were to be blessed, or made alive as they had died in Adam, (1 Cor. xv, 22). In this election is made manifest, for God elected or chose the children of Israel to be his peculiar people, and to them belong the covenants and promises, and all the blessings received by the Gentiles come through the covenants to Abraham and his seed; for through the unbelief of the Jews (Rom. xi, 17) they were broken off, and the Gentiles were grafted in; but they stand by faith, (Rom. xi, 20) and not by the oath of election; therefore it becometh them to fear lest they cease quickly to bear fruit, and be broken off (verse 21) that the Jews may be grafted in again, for they shall be grafted in again (verse 23) if they abide not in unbelief.
The Gentiles became partakers of the blessings of election and promises through faith and obedience, as Peter says, writing to the strangers scattered abroad, (1 Peter 1st chap.) who were the Gentiles, the elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the spirit unto obedience: (1 Peter ii, 9) for ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him, who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light, (verse 10) which in time past were not a people but now are the people of God; which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.
Why were they a peculiar people? Because God had chosen that generation of Gentiles, and conferred on them the blessings, which descended through the priesthood, and the covenants unto the house of Israel, or grafted them into the good olive tree; (Rom. xi, 17) and thus [p.6]the house of Israel became ministers of salvation to the Gentiles; and this is what the house of Israel was elected unto, not only their own salvation, but through them salvation unto all others, (John iv, 22) for salvation is of the Jews; (Rom. xi, 11) and through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles. Among the promised seed, we find Jesus Christ neither last nor least, but the great high priest and head of all, who was chosen to lay down his life for the redemption of the world, for without the shedding of blood there could be no remission of sins, (Heb. ix, 22).
(Deut. vii, 6, 7, 8, 9.) Moses bears a similar testimony with Peter and Paul to the principles of election; for thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God; the Lord thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself,, above all people that are upon the face of the earth. The Lord did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people; but because the Lord loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your fathers, hath the Lord brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen, from the hand of Pharoah king of Egypt.—Know therefore that the Lord thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations, which proves the long continuance of the blessings of this highly favoured people.
And the Lord said unto her, (Rebecca, Gen. xxv, 23) the elder shall serve the younger. And why? Because that Isaac, the father of Esau and Jacob, the husband of Rebecca, and the son of promise to Abraham, was the heir; and as Esau was the elder son of his father Isaac, he had a legal claim to the heirship; but through unbelief, hardness of heart, and hunger, he sold his birthright to his younger brother, Jacob, (Gen. xxv, 33) and God knowing before hand that he would do this of his own free will and choice, or acting upon that agency which God has delegated to all men, said to his mother, the elder shall serve the younger; for as the elder son, Esau, has sold his birthright and by that means lost all claim to the blessings promised to Abraham, those blessings and promises must have failed, if they had not descended with the purchased birthright unto the younger son, Jacob, for their [sic] was no other heir in Israel’s family; and if those blessings had failed, the purposes of God according to election must have failed, in relation to the posterity of Israel, and the oath of Jehovah would have been broken, which could not be, though heaven and earth were to pass away.
Rom. ix, 13,—As it is written Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated. Where is it written? Malachi, i, 1, 2, verses. When was it written? About 397 years before Christ, and Esau and Jacob were born about 1773 years before Christ, (according to the common computation of time in [p.7]scripture margin,) so that Esau and Jacob lived about 1376 years before the Lord spoke by Malachi, saying, Jacob have I loved but Esau have I hated, as quoted by Paul. This text is often brought forward to prove that God loved Jacob and hated Esau, before they were born; or, before they had done good or evil; but if God did love one and hate the other, before they had done good or evil, he has not seen fit to tell us of it, either in the Old or New Testament, or any other revelation; but this only we learn that 1376 years after Esau and Jacob were born, God said, by Malachi, Jacob have I loved and Esau have I hated; and surely that was time sufficient to prove their works, and ascertain whether they were worthy to be loved or hated.
And why did he love the one and hate the other? For the same reason that he accepted the offering of Abel, and rejected Cain’s offering; because Jacob’s works had been righteous, and Esau’s wicked; and where is there a righteous father who would not do the same thing? Who would not love an affectionate and obedient son, more than one who was disobedient, and sought to injure him and overthrow the order of his house? (objection) “But God seeth not as men seeth, and he is no respecter of persons,” (Acts, x. 34.) True, but what saith the next verse, “He that feareth God and worketh righteousness is accepted of him; but it does not say that he that worketh wickedness is accepted, and this is a proof that God has respect to the actions of persons; and if he did not, why should he commend obedience to his law? for if he had no respect to the actions of men, he would be just as well pleased with a wicked man for breaking his law, as a righteous man for keeping it; and if Cain had done well he would have been accepted as well as Abel, (Gen. iv. 7) and Esau as well as Jacob, which proves that God does not respect persons, only in relation to their acts, (see Mat. xxv. 34, to the end,) Come ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world, for I was an hungered and ye gave me meat, &c.; and because that God blessed Abel and Jacob, this would not have hindered his blessing Cain and Esau, if their works had been righteous like unto their brethren; so God’s choosing one nation to blessing, does not doom another to cursing, or make them reprobate, according to the reprobation of God, as some suppose; but by resisting the truth, they become reprobate concerning the faith, (2 Tim. iii. 8) and are abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate, (Titus, i. 16) consequently, are not fit subjects for the blessings of election.
Rom. ix. 15, for he saith to Moses I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion, (see Ex. xxxiii. 13, to the 19.) My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest, for thou hast found grace in my sight, and I know thee by name, and I will make all my goodness to pass before [p.8]thee, and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before thee: and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy, (Rom. ix. 16.) So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy; having his eye at the same time directed towards his covenant people in Egyptian bondage.
For the scripture saith unto Pharoah, (Ex. ix. 16, 17.) and in very deed for this cause have I raised thee up, for to shew in thee my power; and that my name may be declared throughout all the earth. As yet exaltest thou thyself against my people, that thou wilt not let them go? God had promised to bring the house of Israel up out of the land of Egypt, at his own appointed time; and with a mighty hand and an out-stretched arm, and great terribleness, (Deut. xxvi. 8.) he chose to do this thing, that his power might be known and his name declared throughout all the earth, so that all nations might have the God of heaven in remembrance, and reverence his holy name; and to accomplish this it was needful that he should meet with opposition to give him an opportunity to manifest his power; therefore he raised up a man, even Pharoah, who, he fore-knew, would harden his heart against God, of his own free-will and choice, and would withstand the Almighty in his attempt to deliver his chosen people, and that to the utmost of his ability; and he proved himself worthy of the choice, for he left no means unimproved, which his wicked heart could devise to vex the sons of Abraham, and defeat the purposes of the Most High, which gave the God of Abraham an opportunity to magnify his name in the ears of the nations, and in sight of this wicked king, by many mighty signs and wonders, sometimes even to the convincing the wicked king of his wickedness, and of the power of God, (Ex. viii. 28, &c.) and yet he would continue to rebel, and hold the Israelites in bondage; and this is what is meant by God’s hardening Pharaoh’s heart; he manifested himself in so many glorious and mighty ways, that Pharaoh could not resist the truth without becoming harder, so that at the last, in his madness to stay the people of God, he rushed into the Red sea, with all his host, and was covered with the floods.
Had not the power of God been exerted in a remarkable manner, it would seem as though the house of Israel must have become extinct, for Pharaoh commanded the midwifes to destroy the sons of the Israelitish women as soon as they were born, (Ex. i, 15, 16) and called them to account for saving the men children alive, (verse 18) and charged all his people saying every son that is born ye shall cast into the river, (verse 22) and yet God would have mercy on whom he would have mercy, (Rom. ix, 18) for he would have mercy on the goodly child, Moses, (when he was hid and laid in the flags (Ex. ii, 3) by his mother, to save him from Pharaoh’s cruel order) and caused that he should be preserved as a prophet and deliverer to lead his people up to their own country; and whom he [p.9]would be [sic] hardened, for he hardened Pharaoh by passing before him in mighty power, and withdrawing his spirit and leaving him to his own wicked inclination, for he had set taskmasters over the Israelites, to afflict them with their burdens; and caused them to build treasure-cities for Pharaoh, and made them to serve with rigour; and made their lives bitter with hard bondage, in mortar and brick and all manner of service in the field (Ex. 1st ch.); beside destroying the men children: thus proving to the God of heaven and all men that he had hardened his own hard heart, until he become a vessel of wrath fitted for destruction, (Rom. ix, 22) all this, long before God said unto Moses, I will harden his (Pharoah’s) heart (Ex. iv, 21).
Are men then to be saved by works? Nay, verily, by grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, (Eph. ii, 8.) Not of works, lest any man should boast. (v. 9.) Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, (Titus iii, 5) and yet faith without works is dead being alone, (James ii, 17.) Was not Abraham our father justified by works? (v. 21.) Shall we then be saved by faith? Nay, neither by faith nor works; but by works is faith made perfect, (v. 22) but by grace are ye saved, (Eph. ii, 8,) and if by grace, then it is no more of works, otherwise grace is no grace and if it be of works then it is no more work. (Rom. xi. 6.) Ye see then how that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only, (James ii, 24).
Rom. x, 3, 4. For they, (Israel) being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God; for Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth. Thus the righteousness of God is made manifest in the plan of salvation by his crucified son; for there is none other name under heaven, given among men whereby we must be saved, but the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth; (Acts iv, 10, 12) but of this the Jews were ignorant, although they themselves crucified him; and they have been going about wandering among all the nations of the earth ever since, for the space of eighteen hundred years, trying to establish their own righteousness, which is of the law of Moses; which law can never make the comers thereunto perfect, (Heb. x, 1;) yet notwithstanding their darkness and long dispersion, there is a remnant according to the election of grace, (Rom. xi, 5) whom God will gather from among all people whither they are scattered, and will be sanctified in them in the sight of the heathen; then shall they dwell in their land which God gave to his servant Jacob, and they shall dwell safely therein, and shall build houses and plant vineyards, yea they shall dwell with confidence, when I have executed judgments upon all those that despise them round about; and they shall know that I am the Lord their God; (Eze. xxviii, 25, 26. Isa. xi, 11 to 16,) and when this gathering shall be [p.10]completed, it shall no more be said the Lord liveth that brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt; but the Lord liveth that brought up the children of Israel from the land of the north, and from all the lands whither he had driven them; and I will bring them again unto this land which I gave unto their fathers, (Jer. xvi, 14, 15, &c. to the end).
Rom. xi, 7. What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for, but the election hath obtained it. And why have they not obtained it? Because they sought it not by faith, but it were by the works of the law, for they stumbled at that stumbling-stone; as it is written, behold I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offence, (Rom. ix, 32, 33) to both the houses of Israel; and for a gin and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and many of them shall stumble, (Isa. viii, 14, 15) but have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid; but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, (Rom. xi, 11) and Jerusalem shall be trodden down by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled, (Luke xxi, 24,) and when the house of Israel shall be restored to their possession in Canaan, it may truly be said the election hath obtained it; for the fulfilment of God’s oath of election to Abraham, as the father of the faithful, and the promises to his children, will obtain that for Israel, which he has sought for in vain by the law of Moses.
This is the election that we believe in, viz.:—such as we find in prophets and apostles, and the word of the Lord himself, and as we have not room to give all the quotations in full, relating to election in this epistle, we would invite the Saints, to examine the Scriptures in connection with these quoted: and whenever they find election or any other principle or blessing given or applied to the house of Israel, let those principles continue with the house of Israel; and not apply that to Esau, which belongs to Jacob; or to the churches of modern times, which belong to the ancient covenant people; and always ascertain how the Lord, the apostles, and prophets, have applied their words, and ever continue the same application, and wisdom and knowledge will be added unto you: and in the words of the beloved Peter and Paul, we would exhort you to work out your own salvation with fear and trembling: for it is God which worketh in you, both to will and to do, of his good pleasure; (Phil. ii. 12, 13,) giving all diligence to make your calling and election sure, (2 Peter, i. 10.) for this is that sealing power spoken of in Eph. i. 13, 14. In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth; the gospel of your salvation, in whom also, after that ye believed ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest [?] of our inheritance, until the redemption of the purchased possession, until the praise of his glory, (2 Peter, i. 11,) for so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.