The Essential Joseph Smith
Foreword by Marvin S. Hill
“Observations Respecting the Priesthood,” A Sermon Delivered on 28 April 1842
(from the Minutes of the Nauvoo [Illinois] Relief Society, original in archives,
Historical Department, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah)
[p.160]President [Joseph] Smith arose and said that the purport of his being present on the occasion was, to make observations respecting the priesthood, and give instructions for the benefit of the Society that as his instructions were intended only for the Society; he requested that a vote should be taken on those present who were not members, to ascertain whether they should be admitted.—He exhorted the meeting to act honestly and uprightly in all their proceedings inasmuch as they would be call’d to give an account to Jehovah. All hearts must repent—be pure and God will regard them and bless them in a manner that could not be bless’d in any other way—
… Prest. J[oseph]. Smith arose and call’d the attention of the meeting to the 12th chap of 1st Co[rinthians]. “Now concerning spiritual gifts” &C.– said that the passage which reads “No man can say that Jesus is the Lord but by the holy ghost,” should be translated, No man can know &C.
He continued to read the Chap[ter] and give instructions respecting the different offices, and the necessity of every individual acting in the sphere allotted him or her; and filling the several offices to which they were appointed—Spoke of the disposition of man, to consider the lower offices in the church dishonorable and to look with jealous eyes upon the standing of others– that it was the nonsense of the human heart, for a person to be aspiring to other stations than appointed of God—that it was better for individuals to magnify their respective callings, and wait patiently till God shall say to them come up higher.
He said the reason of these remarks being made was, that some little things was circulating in the Society, that some persons were not going right in laying hands on the sick, &C. Said if he had common [p.161]sympathies, would rejoice that the sick could be heal’d, that the time had not been before, that these things could be in their proper order—that the Church is not now organiz’d in its proper order, and cannot be until the Temple is completed. Prest. Smith continued the subject by adverting to the commission given to the ancient apostles “Go ye into all the world” &C. No matter who believeth; these signs such as healing the sick, casting out devils &C. Should follow all that believe whether male or female. He ask’d the Society if they could not see by this sweeping stroke that w[h]erein they are ordained, it is the privilege of those set apart to administer in that authority which is conferr’d on them—and if the sisters should have faith to heal the sick, let all hold their tongues, and let every thing roll on.
He said if God has appointed him, and chosen him as an instrument to lead the church, why not let him lead it through? why stand in the way when he is appointed to do a thing? Who knows the mind of God? Does he not reveal things differently from what we expect? He remarked that he was continually rising—altho’ he had every thing bearing him down, standing in his way and opposing—after all he always comes out right in the end.
Respecting the females laying on hands, he further remark’d, there could be no devil in it if God gave his sanction by healing that there could be no more sin in any female laying hands on the sick than in wetting the face with water. It is no sin for any body to do it that has faith, or if the sick has faith to be heal’d by the administration.
He reproved those that were dispos’d to find fault with the management of concern saying that if he undertook to lead the church he would lead it right—that he calculat[e]s to organize the church in proper order &C.
President Smith continued by speaking of the difficulties he had to surmount ever since the commencement of the work in consequence of aspiring men, “great big Elders” as he called them who had caused him much trouble, whom he had taught in the private counsel; and they would go forth into the world and proclaim the things he had taught them as their own revelation—said the same aspiring disposition will be in this Society, and must be guarded against—that every person should stand and act in the place appointed, and thus sanctify the Society and get it pure—
He said he had been trampled under foot by aspiring Elders, for all were infected with that spirit, for instance P[arley]. Pratt O[rson]. [p.162]Pratt, O[rson]. Hyde and J[ohn]. Page had been aspiring—They could not be exhalted but must run away as though the care and authority of the church were vested with them—He said we had a subtle devil to deal with and could only curb him by being humble.
He said as he had this opportunity, he was going to instruct the Society and point out the way for them to conduct, that they might act according to the will of God—that he did not know as he should have many opportunities of teaching them—that they were going to be left to themselve—they would not long have him to instruct them—that the church would not have his instruction long, and the world would not be troubled with him a great while, and would not have his teachings—He spoke of delivering the keys to this society and to the Church—that according to his prayers God had appointed him elsewhere.
He exhorted the sisters always to concentrate their faith and prayers for, and place confidence in those whom God has appointed to honor, whom God has plac’d at the head to lead—that we should arm them with our prayers—that the keys of the kingdom are about to be given to them, that they may be able to detect every thing false—as well as to the Elders.
He said if one member become corrupt and you know it; you must immediately put it away. The sympathies of the heads of the church have induc’d them to bear with those that were corrupt in consequence of which all become contaminated—you must put down iniquity and by your good example provoke the Elders to good works—if you do right no danger of going too fast; he said he did not care how fast we run in the path of virtue. Resist evil and there is no danger. God, man, angels and devils can’t condemn those that resist every thing that is evil as well might the devil seek to dethrone Jehovah, as that soul that resists every thing that is evil.
The charitable Society—this is according to your natures–it is natural for females to have feelings of charity—you are now placed in a situation where you can act according to those sympathies which God has planted in your bosoms. If you live up to these principles how great and glorious—if you live up to your privilege the angels cannot be restrain’d from being your associates—
Females, if they are pure and innocent can come into the presence of God, for what is more pleasing to God than innocence; you must be innocent or you cannot come up before God. If we would come before [p.163]God let us be pure ourselves. The devil has great power—he will so transform things as to make one gape at those who are doing the will of God—You need not be teasing men for their deeds, but let the weight of innocence be felt which is more mighty than a millstone hung about the neck. Not war, not jangle, not contradiction, but meekness, love purity, these are the things that should magnify us. Action must be brough[t] to light— iniquity must be purged out—then the vail will be rent and the blessings of heaven will flow down—they will roll down like the Mississippi river. This Society shall have power to command Queens in their midst—I now deliver it as a prophecy that before ten years shall roll around, the queens of the earth shall come and pay their respects to this Society—they shall come with their millions and shall contribute of their abundance for the relief of the poor—If you will be pure, nothing can hinder.
After this instruction, you will be responsible for your own sins. It is an honor to save yourselves—all are responsible to save themselves.
Prest. Smith, after reading from the above mentioned chapter, Continued to give instruction respecting the order of God, as established in the church; saying every one should aspir[e] only to magnify his own office &C.
He then commenc’d reading the 13 chapter, “Though I speak, with the tongues of men” &C. and said don’t be limited in your views with regard to your neighbors’ virtues, but be limited towards your own virtues, and not think yourselves more righteous than others; you must enlarge your souls toward others if you [w]ould do like Jesus, and carry your fellow creatures to Abrams bosom. He said he had manifested long suffering and we must do so too—Prest. Smith then read, “Though I have the gift of prophecy” &C. He then said though one should become mighty—do great things—over turn mountains &C should then torn to eat and drink with the drunken; all former deeds would not save him—but he would go to destruction!
As you increase in innocence and virtue, as you increase in goodness, let your hearts expand—let them be enlarged towards others—you must be longsuffering and bear with the faults and errors of mankind. How precious are the souls of man! The female part of community are apt to be contracted, in their views. You must not be contracted but you must be liberal in your feelings.
Let this Society teach how to act towards husbands, to treat them with mildness and affection. When a man is borne down with [p.164]trouble—when he is perplexed, if he can meet a smile, an argument—if he can meet with mildness, it will calm down his soul and smoothe his feelings. When the mind is going to despair it needs a solace.
This Society is to get instruction through the order which God has established—thro’ the medium of those appointed to lead—and I now turn the key to you in the name of God and this Society shall rejoice and knowledge and intelligence shall flow down from this time—this is the beginning of better days to this Society.
When you go home never give a cross word, but let kindness, charity and love, crown your works henceforward. Don’t envy sinners— have mercy on them, God will destroy them—Let your labors be confined mostly to those around you to your own circle, as far as knowledge is concerned, it may extend to all the world, but your administrations, should be confin’d to the circle of your immediate acquaintances and more especially to the members of the society.
Those ordain’d to lead the Society, are authoriz’d to appoint to different offices as the circumstances shall require.
If any have a matter to reveal, let it be in your own tongue. Do not indulge too much in the gift of tongues, or the devil will take advantage of the innocent. You may speak in tongues for your own comfort but I lay this down for a rule that if any thing is taught by the gift of tongues, it is not to be received for doctrine.
Prest. S[mith]. then offered instruction respecting the propriety of females administering to the sick by the laying on of hands—said it was according to revelation—&C. Said he never was placed in similar circumstances, and never had given the same instruction.
He clos’d his instruction by expressing his satisfaction in improving the opportunity.