The Essential Joseph Smith
Foreword by Marvin S. Hill
“Satan Was Generally Blamed for the Evils Which We Did,” A Sermon Delivered on 16 May 1841
(from Times and Seasons [Nauvoo, Illinois] 2 [1 June 1841], 15:429-30)
[p.148]At 10 o’clock A.M. a large concourse of the saints assembled on the meeting ground and were addressed by Pres. Joseph Smith, who spoke at considerable length. He commenced his observations by remarking that the kindness of our Heavenly Father, called for our heartfelt gratitude. He then observed that satan was generally blamed for the evils which we did, but if he was the cause of all our wickedness, men could not be condemned. The devil cannot compel mankind to evil, all was voluntary.—Those who resist the spirit of God, are liable to be led into temptation, and then the association of heaven is withdrawn from those who refuse to be made partakers of such great glory—God would not exert any compulsory means and the Devil could not; and such ideas as were entertained by many were absurd. The creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but Christ subjected the same in hope—we are all subject to vanity while we travel through the crooked paths, and difficulties which surround us. Where is the man that is free from vanity? None ever were perfect but Jesus, and why was he perfect? because he was the son of God, and had the fulness of the Spirit, and greater power than any man.– But, notwithstanding our vanity we look forward with hope, (because “we are subjected, in hope,”) to the time of our deliverance.
He then made some observations on the first principles of the gospel, observing that many of the saints who had come from different States and Nations, had only a very superficial knowledge of these principles, not having heard them fully investigated. He then briefly stated the principles of faith, repentance, and baptism for the remission of sins which were believed by some of the religious societies of the day, but the doctrine of laying on of hands for the gift of the holy ghost, was discarded by them.
[p.149]The speaker then referred them to the 6th chap. of Heb. 1. and 2. verses, “not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works &c., but of the doctrines of baptism, laying on of hands, the resurrection and eternal judgment &c.” The doctrine of eternal judgment was perfectly understood by the apostle, is evident from several passages of scripture. Peter preached repentance and baptism for the remission of sins to the Jews, who had been led to acts of violence and blood, by their leaders, but to the Rulers he said, “I would that through ignorance ye did it, as did also those ye ruled.”—[“]Repent, therefore, and be converted that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing (redemption), shall come from the presence of the Lord, for he shall send Jesus Christ, who before was preached unto you &c.” The time of redemption here had reference to the time, when Christ should come: then and not till then would their sins be blotted out. Why? Because they were murderers, and no murderer hath eternal life. Even David, must wait for those times of refreshing, before he can come forth and his sins be blotted out; for Peter speaking of him says, “David hath not yet ascended into heaven, for his sepulchre is with us to this day:” his remains were then in the tomb. Now we read that many bodies of the saints arose, at Christ’s resurrection, probably all the saints, but it seems that David did not. Why? because he had been a murderer.
If the ministers of religion had a proper understanding of the doctrine of eternal judgment, they would not be found attending the man who had forfeited his life to the injured laws of his country by shedding innocent blood; for such characters cannot be forgiven, until they have paid the last farthing. The prayers of all the ministers in the world could never close the gates of hell against a murderer.
The speaker then spoke on the subject of election, and read the 9th chap[ter]. in Romans, from which it was evident that the election there spoken of was pertaining to the flesh, and had reference to the seed of Abraham, according to the promise God made to Abraham, saying, “In thee and in thy seed all, the families of the earth shall be blessed.” To them belonged the adoption, and the covenants &c. Paul said, when he saw their unbelief I wish myself accursed—according to the flesh—not according to the spirit.
Why did God say to Pharoah, “for this cause have I raised thee up?” Because Pharoah was a fit instrument—a wicked man, and had committed acts of cruelty of the most atrocious nature.
[p.150]The election of the promised seed still continues, and in the last days, they shall have the priesthood restored unto them, and they shall be the “Saviors on mount Zion” the “ministers of our God,” if it were not for the remnant which was left, then might we be as Sodom and as Gomorah.
The whole of the chapter had reference to the priesthood and the house of Israel; and unconditional election of individuals to eternal life was not taught by the apostles.
God did elect or predestinate, that all those who would be saved, should be saved in Christ Jesus, and through obedience to the gospel; but he passes over no man’s sins, but visits them with correction, and if his children will not repent of their sins, he will discard them.