The Essential Orson Pratt
Foreword by David J. Whittaker
“Funeral of Mrs. Caroline Smith”
(from Times and Seasons 6 [1 June 1845]: 918-20)
[p.24]We will read a few passages of scripture contained in the seventh chapter of the revelations of St. John, commencing at the ninth verse. [He read the remainder of the chapter.]
The words of our text, which will be a foundation upon which to predicate some remarks upon the present occasion, will be found in the forty-fourth verse of the fifteenth chapter of Paul’s Epistle to the Corinthians: “It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.”
Brethren, sisters and friends,—we have assembled ourselves together, this morning, upon this solemn and important occasion, to pay our last earthly respects to a beloved sister, whose remains now lay before us. It is a custom among the nations of the earth to witness their respect for deceased friends by following them to the place of interment, and it is also a custom with the Saints of the Most High God, to assemble themselves together to hear a word of consolation and instruction upon such occasions.
It may not be amiss to make a few remarks, this morning, upon the subject of the resurrection of the dead. In reflecting upon this subject, the mind is led to inquire: why is it that the human family are subject to death, to a separation of soul and body? Why is it that the plan of the resurrection was devised? These are questions of vast importance, and are gratifying to be understood.
Death is no part of the original plan of salvation; that is, the Almighty did not decree it from before the foundation of the world, independent of the agency of man. But it has been entailed upon us as a curse; not in consequence of our own transgressions, but in consequence of the transgression of our first parents in the garden of Eden.
In the morning of creation all things were pronounced good by the Creator, as they roled into organized existence unsullied and without a curse. Man, the last and noblest of God’s creation was placed in the garden of Eden, being governed by laws and restricted by commandments, not being subject to sickness, disease, or death. Adam was placed upon the earth an immortal being. He was placed in the garden to dress, beautify and adorn it, and to hold the supremacy of power over all the things of God’s creation.
Instead of our first parents eating animal food, they subsisted upon [p.25]herbs and the fruits of the earth, which were originally designed for the food of man, and had they not transgressed they would have both been living upon the earth at the present day, as fair, as healthy, as beautiful and as free from sickness and death, as they were previous to the transgression. What was that transgression? It was violating a single commandment of God, and disregarding the counsel of those immortal beings who stood above them in authority. The Creator placed in the garden a certain tree and warned Adam that in the day he eat the fruit thereof he should surely die. He commanded him not to eat the fruit. His was a simple commandment; but the violation of it subjected Adam to a fall from his exalted station in the favor of God. Consequently a curse was passed upon all created things, and in the posterity of Adam were sown the seeds of dissolution.
Some have imbibed the idea that the fruit of the tree which Adam was commanded not to eat, contained the properties of death, which, when eaten by Adam, diffused through his system the nature of mortality. This may be the case, and it may not; I do not pretend to say at present. It is sufficient, for the present occasion, for us to know that it was in consequence of transgression that misery and death entered this fair creation. And you who mourn the loss of friends, do not harbor the idea that it is in consequence of any sin of your own that you are deprived of the society of friends, and are subject, yourselves, to the sting of death. This is not the case.
I said in the first of my remarks, that death was not devised by the Almighty independent of the agency of man. This you will perceive to be a correct remark, when you understand that notwithstanding Adam was an immortal being, yet he acted upon his agency, having the power, like one of us, to obey or disobey the commandments of God. That transgression subjected him to a curse, and that was a fall from a state of immortality to that of mortality; consequently you see that it was through his agency that death entered the world. The scriptures inform us in one place, that by one man death entered the world. Again it says: “As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” We also read in another text that in consequence of the transgression of one man, judgment was passed upon all men unto condemnation. These passages will be sufficient to prove my statements.
Having examined briefly the origin and extent of the curse, let us now examine the extent of its duration, and see if any way has been devised by which it will ever be removed. For if there has not been a plan devised, then there is no resurrection of the dead; for the effect of the curse upon Adam and his posterity was a final and complete destruction of the body. When death ensued, the spirit took its departure from the body, never to be united with it again.—This was to be the [p.26]deplorable condition of the human family, and this would have been their fate, had not an atonement been made, and a plan of redemption been devised. But, thanks be to the great Ruler of heaven and earth, an atonement has been made and a plan has been devised, by which the human family will be redeemed from the curse and be brought up from their graves in a state of immortality and eternal life. Dry up your tears, brethren and sisters; let your hearts rejoice with the assurance that we soon shall meet with those for whom we mourn, never more to be separated by death—Were it not for this atonement, it would be far better for our spirits had they never taken tabernacles. Deplorable would have been our condition to all eternity.
The spirit of the Savior, from the eternal world, looked down upon the condition of the human family, and in order that they might be redeemed he offered to come into the world, take a tabernacle and lay down his life as an atonement for the transgression of Adam. His was a pure and holy spirit, having never been sullied by the commission of sin, therefore the grave could not regain him. He came and did the will of the Father, lived without the commission of sin, laid down his life for the sins of the world; therefore was the atonement complete and the redemption universal.
What is to be understood by the term spiritual body? I am aware that this is a difficult question to answer. The sectarian would suppose that a spirit is something capable of being everywhere present; that it can fly away beyond the bounds of time and space, and be present there at the same time that it is present with us here. But as for the Saints of the Most High God, we do not believe in the existence of any place or thing “beyond the bounds of time and space,” neither do we believe in any immateriality, being connected with any of the creations of God. We believe that spirit is as much a substance as the earth on which we move, yet it is of a more refined substance and nature;—so refined that mortal eyes cannot behold; but when our sight becomes celestialized and strengthened, then can we behold spirit as distinctly as we now can behold one another. What did Paul mean when he said it should be raised a spiritual body? Did he mean that the flesh and bone that would be raised would be spirit? No: But he meant that after bone had come together to its bone, and flesh and sinews had come upon the bones and they had been covered with skin, according to Ezekiel, that the form would be quickened to life by the spirit of God, which would constitute it a spiritual body.
Some people suppose that when a person dies his spirit enters immediately into those high degrees of glory, designed for them from before the foundations of the world. This is a mistaken idea. If you will examine the Bible, the Book of Mormon and the Book of Doctrine and [p.27]Covenants, you will find that there is but very little recorded relative to the situation of the spirit after it leaves the body, before it again unites with the same. But it is revealed in the Book of Mormon that the spirit goes back to the Father of all spirits, and finds a place of rest, where it will remain until the resurrection, when it will again possess the body that it laid down in consequence of the curse, and thus be prepared to enter upon higher exaltations and glories in the eternal world. During the period of this separation the spirit will not be employed in ministering to beings of flesh and bone; but they will minister to their own kind; they will be ministers to the world of spirits, preaching the gospel to those who did not embrace it previous to their separation from their bodies. How do you think the spirit of the Savior spent the three days that intervened between his crucifixion and his resurrection? Did he sit down in his Father’s kingdom and do nothing but slap his hands and sing praises? His Father unfolded to him the world of spirits. He looked upon them and saw that they were his lawful, legitimate brothers and sisters in the spirit, that they all descended from the same Father, and he possessed the natural feeling of anxiety to redeem his kindred from their situation. The Father commissioned him to preach the gospel to them and show them the plan by which they could be brought up in the resurrection and prepare themselves for higher glories. This is the way that he spent the time, and this is the way that every person who holds the priesthood will spend the time that intervenes between his death and his resurrection. The spirits of men are not all that will be employed in this delightful task; but you too, my sisters, will take a part therein, for you will hold a portion of the priesthood with your husbands, and you will thus do a work, as well as they, that will augment that glory which you will enjoy after your resurrection.
The next thing we will speak of will be the reward that will be bestowed upon the resurrected Saints. This is something upon which all inspired men have spoken and written; and it is a theme that rejoices the hearts of the Saints while contemplating it.
The Saints will not receive their crowns of glory until after their resurrection. When the curse in part shall be removed from the world; when wickedness and abomination shall be known no more in the land, then will the Saints come forth clothed with immortality, and be crowned with power and glory as a reward for all their labors. No person will be crowned with power in the eternal world, (we are to be kings and priests to God to all eternity,) unless they have been ordained thereto in this life, previous to their death, or by some friend acting as proxy for them afterwards, and receiving it for them. What is it to be kings and priests? It is to have honor, authority and dominion, having kingdoms to pre-[p.28]side over, and subjects to govern, and possessing the ability ever to increase their authority and glory, and extend their dominion.
Paul perfectly understood that the Saints would not receive their crowns of reward until after the resurrection, when he remarked: “I have fought the good fight; I have kept the faith; and from henceforth is a crown of glory laid up for me, which the Lord the righteous Judge shall give me at that day, and not only me, but to all those who love his appearing.”
Our beloved sister, whose remains are now before us, has fallen asleep with the assurance of a glorious resurrection, and she will come up, being numbered with those who have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb, having passed through great tribulations. She has a right to this honor. She passed through the Missouri persecutions, with her companion, and was ever faithful and true to the cause of God. Her constitution was destroyed in consequence of the hardships she there endured. Soon after she came to Illinois, she was taken sick with the dropsy, which continued to prey upon her system, and something like two years ago, through the advice and counsel of her friends, she went with her husband to the east, for the purpose of recovering her health. Some two weeks ago she returned to this city. Every exertion was made to restore her to health; but her disease was of so long standing, and had become so settled upon her system, that it was impossible to restore her, and her spirit was called back to the world of spirits, to await that period when she shall be called forth from her grave by the power of the priesthood, to join again with her companion and friends in a state of immortality, to be crowned with celestial honors in the kingdom of our God.