The first discourse we’ll use in this blog post was given by Joseph Smith at the funeral of Judge Higbee and took place on August 13, 1843. See pages 319-321 in the standard edition of TPJS and pages 359-361 in the Scriptural Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith (STPJS), which is the version I use.
The second is a Sunday sermon Joseph Smith presented on August 27, 1843 at the “Grove” in Nauvoo about the priesthood and mission of Elijah. It is on pages 321-323 in the standard version and pages 361 to 364 in STPJS.
The third discourse was given in front of Foster’s Hotel on the Main Street of Nauvoo on January 20th, 1844. It starts on 329 in the standard TPJS and runs through page 331; it is on pages 371-374 in STPJS.
The fourth is a Sunday sermon preached from “The Stand” in the Grove at Nauvoo on March 10, 1844. See pages 337-341 in the standard TPJS or 380-384 in STPJS.
Three Grand Orders of the Priesthood
Note: there is some confusion regarding the names of the Three Grand Orders of the priesthood or which names correspond with which powers or levels. Joseph Smith seems to refer to the highest Order of the priesthood as “Melchizedek”, the next “Patriarchal” and the third, “Aaronic.” Others reverse the first two, suggesting that Joseph was not ordering them in TPJS in order of highest to lowest level. The thought with this line of reasoning is that the highest level is called “Patriarchal” because it is an association directly with God the Father (or patriarch) and the ancient patriarchs held this priesthood, while the second level is called “Melchizedek” because D&C 107:1 says there are two priesthoods in the Church and names them as Melchizedek and Aaronic - and since the highest priesthood cannot be administered by the Church to its members, as it comes directly from God to man, the name of that priesthood must be patriarchal and wouldn’t be included in a list of priesthoods “in the Church”. Bottom line is that there are three Orders of One Priesthood.
READ TPJS 361:6-363:2
Respecting the Melchizedek Priesthood, the sectarians never professed to have it; consequently, they never could save anyone, and would all be damned together. There was an Episcopal priest who said he had the priesthood of Aaron but had not the priesthood of Melchizedek: and I bear testimony that I never have found the man who claimed the Priesthood of Melchizedek. The power of the Melchizedek Priesthood is to have the power of “endless lives”; for the everlasting covenant cannot be broken. The law was given under Aaron for the purpose of pouring out judgments and destructions.
There are three grand orders of priesthood referred to here. First, the King of Shiloam (Salem) had power and authority over that of Abraham, holding the key and the power of endless life. Angels desire to look into it, but they have set up too many stakes. God cursed the children of Israel because they would not receive the last law from Moses. The sacrifice required of Abraham in the offering up of Isaac, shows that if a man would attain to the keys of the kingdom of an endless life; he must sacrifice all things. When God offers a blessing or knowledge to a man, and he refuses to receive it, he will be damned. The Israelites prayed that God would speak to Moses and not to them; in consequence of which he cursed them with a carnal law. What was the power of Melchizedek? ’Twas not the Priesthood of Aaron, which administers in outward ordinances and the offering of sacrifices. Those holding the fulness of the Melchizedek Priesthood are kings and priests of the Most High God, holding the keys of power and blessings. In fact, that Priesthood is a perfect law of theocracy, and stands as God to give laws to the people, administering endless lives to the sons and daughters of Adam. Abraham says to Melchizedek, ‘I believe all that thou hast taught me concerning the priesthood and the coming of the Son of Man;’ so Melchizedek ordained Abraham2 and sent him away. Abraham rejoiced, saying, ‘Now I have a priesthood.’
Who are the “sectarians” and what priesthood do they have?
Sectarian = pertaining to a sect; one of a party in religion which has separated itself from the established church or which holds tenets different from those of the prevailing denomination; the churches of the Protestant Reformation were sectarians.
Sectarians are all churches that lack a direct connection to God and so are blown about by any “wind of doctrine” or change in public opinion or the research of scholars or political maneuvering and priestcraft within the church (see Ephesians 4:14).
To the degree they have not altered the ordinances and covenants, sectarians can have the Aaronic priesthood, as it is much more “durable” than higher orders of priesthood; but they cannot save anyone with Aaronic Priesthood alone.
Under what circumstances does God give a people the Aaronic priesthood?
Because they have lost their rights to a higher priesthood.
Because they need a “school master” to prepare them for a higher order of priesthood – like the Law of Moses preparing Israel to receive the fullness of the Gospel, which Christ restored.
Because they can only (barely) tolerate the presence of angels and cannot stand the Lord’s presence, not to mention the Father’s presence.
What keys do the Aaronic priesthood give the bearer?
Keys to pour out judgements and destructions or curses.
Keys to the administration of outward ordinances and the offering of sacrifices.
The key to the ministry of angels, so that those who hold this priesthood have a chance to repent, connect directly with heaven via angels and receive more light and knowledge, if they will act on what they are given (see D&C 84:26-27).
How does one lose higher orders of priesthood?
By refusing to receive them when offered by God (see D&C 84:24-25).
By hardening their hearts (see Alma 12:10-11).
By setting up too many stakes or constraints.
By failing to live up to the expectations and opportunities given by God (see TPJS 372:3-374:1; D&C 84:49-59; D&C 124:27-50).
What keys or powers does the Melchizedek Priesthood give the bearer?
The power of endless lives (see D&C 132:24).
The power to become a king and priest to the Most High God, holding the keys of power and blessings, yourself.
To give the power of endless lives to others; but to do this, one must be a God themselves, so this priesthood is also the association with God that you need to become precisely like Him and nothing else.
How does one gain higher orders of priesthood?
Through sacrifice; specifically by offering that which God has asked you to sacrifice.
Through the sacrifice of all earthly things, which gives one faith to part the veil and receive an association or priesthood with Christ and the Father (see LoF 6).
By being ordained to receive this priesthood by one who holds it (note the future tense – the ordination is an authorized invitation; it is like hold a wedding invitation as the ten virgins did; it is preparatory to actually entering into the House to attend the wedding itself).
But then going forward and doing what is required to actually receive this association and power (see Helaman 10:3-7); as the High Priesthood is only actually received at God’s hand (see TPJS 205:2).
READ TPJS 363:5-364:5
The anointing and sealing is to be called, elected and made sure. “Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like unto the Son of God, abideth a priest continually.” The Melchizedek Priesthood holds the right from the eternal God, and not by descent from father and mother; and that priesthood is as eternal as God Himself, having neither beginning of days nor end of life. The 2nd Priesthood is Patriarchal authority. Go to and finish the temple, and God will fill it with power, and you will then receive more knowledge concerning this priesthood. The 3rd is what is called the Levitical Priesthood, consisting of priests to administer in outward ordinances, made without an oath; but the Priesthood of Melchizedek is by an oath and covenant. The Holy Ghost is God’s messenger to administer in all those priesthoods. Jesus Christ is the heir of this Kingdom—the Only Begotten of the Father according to the flesh, and holds the keys over all this world. Men have to suffer that they may come upon Mount Zion and be exalted above the heavens. I know a man that has been caught up to the third heavens, and can say, with Paul, that we have seen and heard things that are not lawful to utter.
What are the Three Grand Orders of Priesthood?
The Melchizedek Priesthood – which is without father or mother but is as eternal as God, meaning that it is not created by man or handed down from person to person but comes directly from God to a mortal.
The Patriarchal Priesthood – which has to do with temple knowledge like marriage sealing and parting the veil and entering the presence of God to be sealed up to eternal life.
The Levitical or Aaronic Priesthood - which administers outward ordinances; it is an association with angels. It is made without God giving you an oath.
All three orders of priesthood are administered in or enabled by or manifested through, the Holy Ghost.
Note: One argument that the Melchizedek is above the Patriarchal is that Joseph lists the Levitical priesthood as “third” (and we know it is the lowest of the three) and calls out the Patriarchal as the “second priesthood.”
Note: One argument that the Patriarchal priesthood is “above” the Melchizedek is that the latter had been discussed by Joseph Smith but the former was waiting for the completion and dedication of the Nauvoo temple to truly reveal all that is involved; also, it doesn’t say that this priesthood is not also (like the Melchizedek) only given to man directly from God.
What does it mean that men will have to suffer that they may be exalted above the heavens?
This could be a reference to a future eternity where each man who expects to become precisely as Christ is, must do precisely what He did (like His Father did before Him): in a future eternity they must also suffer for sin and perform an atonement themselves and be responsible for their own sins or salvation – working it out before God with fear and trembling as Christ did in Gethsemane (see TPJS 257:4; Mormon 9:27; TSJ John 21:15-19).
Elijah and the Covenants of the Fathers
READ TPJS 371:8-372:2
What shall I talk about to-day? I know what Brother Cahoon wants me to speak about. He wants me to speak about the coming of Elijah in the last days. I can see it in his eye. I will speak upon that subject then. The Bible says, “I will send you Elijah the Prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord; and he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to the fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.” Now, the word turn here should be translated bind, or seal. But what is the object of this important mission? or how is it to be fulfilled? The keys are to be delivered, the spirit of Elijah is to come, the Gospel to be established, the Saints of God gathered, Zion built up, and the Saints to come up as saviors on Mount Zion.
Why will the Lord send Elijah back to the earth before the Second Coming?
To turn the hearts of the fathers to the children.
To turn the hearts of the children to the fathers.
What does “turn” mean?
To bind or seal.
So, it really means to “seal the heart of the fathers to the children and to seal the heart of the children to the fathers”.
What is the object of this mission of sealing or binding hearts together?
To establish the gospel – really to enable the Fullness of the Gospel; it does not say to establish a Church – that is different and has been done (see 3 Nephi 16:10-11).
To gather the Saints of God – we think this has been done since the beginning of the restoration until maybe the early part of the 20th century, but if this happens after the establishment of the gospel, and that was yet to occur in 1843, then it is still future.
To build up Zion – this is clearly a future event, particularly as the “remnant of Jacob” (the descendants of the Lehites) will build Zion, assisted by those Gentiles who actually repent (see 3 Nephi 21:21-29).
To enable the Saints to come up as saviors on Mount Zion – we will talk more about this shortly, but if the role of Elijah is to enable the Saints in Zion to be “saviors on Mount Zion” and none of the rest has happened yet, then the temple work the Church is doing today is NOT what Joseph Smith is referring to here.
READ TPJS 380:2-381:4
Now for Elijah. The spirit, power, and calling of Elijah is, that ye have power to hold the key of the revelations, ordinances, oracles, powers and endowments of the fulness of the Melchizedek Priesthood and of the kingdom of God on the earth; and to receive, obtain, and perform all the ordinances belonging to the kingdom of God, even unto the turning of the hearts of the fathers unto the children, and the hearts of the children unto the fathers, even those who are in heaven. Malachi says, “I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord: and he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.” Now, what I am after is the knowledge of God, and I take my own course to obtain it. What are we to understand by this in the last days? In the days of Noah, God destroyed the world by a flood, and He has promised to destroy it by fire in the last days: but before it should take place, Elijah should first come and turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, &c. Now comes the point. What is this office and work of Elijah? It is one of the greatest and most important subjects that God has revealed. He should send Elijah to seal the children to the fathers, and the fathers to the children.
Now was this merely confined to the living, to settle difficulties with families on earth? By no means. It was a far greater work. Elijah! what would you do if you were here? Would you confine your work to the living alone? No: I would refer you to the Scriptures, where the subject is manifest: that is, without us, they could not be made perfect, nor we without them; the fathers without the children, nor the children without the fathers. I wish you to understand this subject, for it is important; and if you receive it, this is the spirit of Elijah, that we redeem our dead, and connect ourselves with our fathers which are in heaven, and seal up our dead to come forth in the first resurrection; and here we want the power of Elijah to seal those who dwell on earth to those who dwell in heaven. This is the power of Elijah and the keys of the kingdom of Jehovah.
Let us suppose a case. Suppose the great God who dwells in heaven should reveal himself to Father Cutler here, by the opening heavens, and tell him, I offer up a decree that whatsoever you seal on earth with your decree, I will seal it in heaven; you have the power then; can it be taken off? No. Then what you seal on earth, by the keys of Elijah, is sealed in heaven; and this is the power of Elijah, and this is the difference between the spirit and power of Elias and Elijah; for while the spirit of Elias is a forerunner, the power of Elijah is sufficient to make our calling and election sure; and the same doctrine, where we are exhorted to go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of laying on of hands, resurrection of the dead, &c. We cannot be perfect without the fathers, &c. We must have revelation from them, and we can see that the doctrine of revelation far transcends the doctrine of no revelation; for one truth revealed from heaven is worth all the sectarian notions in existence.
READ TPJS 383:5
Again: The doctrine or sealing power of Elijah is as follows:—If you have power to seal on earth and in heaven, then we should be wise. The first thing you do, go and seal on earth your sons and daughters unto yourself, and yourself unto your fathers in eternal glory, and go ahead, and not go back, but use a little wisdom, and seal all you can, and when you get to heaven tell your Father that what you seal on earth should be sealed in heaven, according to his promise. I will walk through the gate of heaven and claim what I seal, and those that follow me and my counsel.
READ TPJS 384:3-4
The spirit of Elias is first, Elijah second, and Messiah last. Elias is a forerunner to prepare the way, and the spirit and power of Elijah is to come after, holding the keys of power, building the Temple to the capstone, placing the seals of the Melchizedek Priesthood upon the house of Israel, and making all things ready; then Messiah comes to His Temple, which is last of all. Messiah is above the spirit and power of Elijah, for He made the world, and was that spiritual rock unto Moses in the wilderness. Elijah was to come and prepare the way and build up the kingdom before the coming of the great day of the Lord, although the spirit of Elias might begin it.
Who are the fathers whose hearts must be turned (“sealed”) to the children?
They are our kindred dead.
Those who either did not have the fullness of the gospel or didn’t pay attention to the whispering of the Spirit if they did have access to it – they are all those who did not make their calling and election sure in mortality – they have no specific promise from God to them of their salvation.
They are trapped in the Spirit World without a way to escape.
Who are the fathers we (the “children”) are to be turned or sealed to?
They are the “fathers who are in heaven”.
They are the fathers to whom have been given promises of exaltation.
They are the patriarchs who now sit on thrones as Gods in heaven (see D&C 132:7).
They are those who form an unbroken “welded chain” from father to son, from Adam to Shem and again from Abraham to Joseph; you must be adopted in to that line (the Law of Adoption), the Family or House of God, by sealing.
What is the spirit, power and calling of Elijah?
To hold the key of the revelations, ordinances, powers and endowments of the fullness of the priesthood, which is an association with God.
To have the sealing power or the High Priesthood After the Order of the Son of God.
To become a Son or Daughter of God and enter into the Rest of the Lord in the flesh.
To have your calling and election made sure.
To be sealed up as one of the 144,000 high priests.
So that you can be prepared for the Messiah, as He will come to His Temple (you, see 1 Corinthians 3:16-17), before He comes in His glory to destroy all those who cannot withstand His presence because while they have proclaimed His name, they have never known Him and He has never known them because they never came unto Him in the flesh, as they were invited so many times to do.
READ TPJS 360:5-361:1
The world is reserved unto burning in the last days. He shall send Elijah the prophet, and he shall reveal the covenants of the fathers in relation to the children, and the covenants of the children in relation to the fathers. Four destroying angels holding power over the four quarters of the earth until the servants of God are sealed in their foreheads, which signifies sealing the blessing upon their heads, meaning the everlasting covenant, thereby making their calling and election sure. When a seal is put upon the father and mother, it secures their posterity, so that they cannot be lost, but will be saved by virtue of the covenant of their father and mother. To the mourners I would say—Do as the husband and the father would instruct you, and you shall be reunited.
The speaker continued to teach the doctrine of election and the sealing powers and principles, and spoke of the doctrine of election with the seed of Abraham, and the sealing of blessings upon his posterity, and the sealing of the fathers and children, according to the declarations of the prophets. He then spoke of Judge Higbee in the world of spirits, and the blessings which he would obtain, and of the kind spirit and disposition of Judge Higbee while living; none of which was reported.
READ TPJS 363:4
How shall God come to the rescue of this generation? He will send Elijah the prophet. The law revealed to Moses in Horeb never was revealed to the children of Israel as a nation. Elijah shall reveal the covenants to seal the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the children to the fathers.
What will the “covenants of the fathers” do in the last days?
The covenant is a sealing or blessing which will protect the individual from the coming apocalypse; it will enable a remnant to be saved from the destruction that will be released in the last days, culminating in the Second Coming of Christ, in glory.
It will also protect the couple’s children from being lost.
The covenant is to have one’s calling and election made sure.
Note: what is not entirely clear to me is what children are being referred to here – does it mean any biological child (regardless of how evil or good they were individually) born into the family will be saved because of the righteous covenant received by the parents or does this refer to the “children” in a long “welding link” which may include gaps of many generations of actual posterity – which gaps were “filled in” via the Law of Adoption or Election by the next righteous, covenant seeking (and finding) generation? An example of the latter might be the connection between Melchizedek himself and Abraham who came seeking for the covenants of the fathers (but would exclude Abraham’s idolatrous biological father and instead substitute him for Melchizedek, as Abraham’s new adopted “father”). Joseph Smith seems to be speaking to the first meaning, though.
What is Elijah’s role with regards to these covenants?
He will reveal the covenants of the fathers to the righteous children who are alive on the earth in the last days.
It does not say that Elijah will administer that covenant to each person who will receive it, however.
What is implied by the fact that Joseph says He “shall” or “will” send Elijah?
As of 1843, the Lord had not yet sent Elijah with these covenants (see TPJS 363:4; 371:8; 372:2).
So, whatever happened with regards to Elijah in the Kirtland Temple (and some contemporary accounts do not even mention that he ever appeared there), it was not to fulfill this prophesy, as that was 1836 and these two talks were given seven years later, and Joseph was still waiting for the coming of Elijah at some future time.
And since Joseph Smith died and the Saints failed to build the Nauvoo temple in time to have the High Priesthood restored to them (see D&C 124:27-50), we can be fairly confident that Elijah’s visit is still future (as of 2021, at least), as a temple has not yet been built wherein the Lord can come to restore to the Church that which was lost by 1841 and never recovered.
Who does the actual sealing of the servants of God or in other words, who delivers their calling and election?
Angels may gather and designate them for their calling and election (see Revelation 7:2-4; D&C 77:9).
But Christ Himself, in His role as the Holy Spirit of Promise, administers the actual sealing.
Why are they called the “covenants of the fathers” if it is Christ who administers them?
Because the “fathers” or “patriarchs” are the ones who received these same covenants in their day and possess them now in heaven.
They are the covenants given to the fathers (who are now in heaven).
READ TPJS 372:3
But how are they to become saviors on Mount Zion? By building their temples, erecting their baptismal fonts, and going forth and receiving all the ordinances, baptisms, confirmations, washings, anointings, ordinations and sealing powers upon their heads, in behalf of all their progenitors who are dead, and redeem them that they may come forth in the first resurrection and be exalted to thrones of glory with them; and herein is the chain that binds the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the children to the fathers, which fulfills the mission of Elijah. And I would to God that this temple was now done, that we might go into it, and go to work and improve our time, and make use of the seals while they are on earth.
What is a Savior on Mount Zion?
We can be the connecting link between the unredeemed dead and the Fathers which are in heaven IF we can be sealed to the Fathers in Heaven and receive the same promises from God that they have received by making our calling and election sure, and then can seal ourselves to our kindred dead or anyone, for that matter (or as Joseph showed by sealing all kinds of unbiologically related living people to himself), and the whole group can be saved. We are the lynch pin between the three worlds (mortal sphere, spirit realm, and heaven) – the “Saviors on Mount Zion”.
Sadly, after Joseph and Hyrum Smith’s deaths and the lack of understanding that Brigham Young and the Brethren had of the Law of Adoption, the emphasis of temple work was changed to the modern practice of providing ordinances to the dead regardless of whether or not YOU have been given sealing power via calling and election.
How can you become a Savior on Mount Zion?
First, make your calling and election sure so you can be that living, connecting link between the Fathers in heaven and your dead ancestors.
Then find a temple that the Lord has personally accepted as His – we know that the temple in the New Jerusalem, in the “tops of the mountains” will be such a temple; the last temple that we know of that was personally accepted by Christ was in Kirtland, Ohio in 1836.
And finally, do the temple ordinance work for those who are dead so that a “chain that binds the hearts” can be created.
Difficulty Receiving the Things of God
READ TPJS 359:4-7
The great thing for us to know is to comprehend what God did institute before the foundation of the world. Who knows it? It is the constitutional disposition of mankind to set up stakes and set bounds to the works and ways of the Almighty.
But I will give you a more painful thought. Suppose you have an idea of a resurrection, etc., and yet know nothing at all of the Gospel, nor comprehend one principle of the order of heaven,5 but find yourselves disappointed—yes, at last find yourselves disappointed in every hope6 or anticipation, when the decision goes forth from the lips of the Almighty. Would not this be a greater disappointment—a more painful thought7 than annihilation? Had I inspiration, revelation, and lungs to communicate what my soul has contemplated in times past, there is not a soul in this congregation but would go to their homes and shut their mouths in everlasting silence on religion till they had learned something. Why be so certain that you comprehend the things of God,8 when all things with you are so uncertain. You are welcome to all the knowledge and intelligence I can impart to you. I do not grudge the world all the religion they have got: they are welcome to all the knowledge they possess.
READ TPJS 361:3-4
I say to all those who are disposed to set up stakes for the Almighty, you will come short of the glory of God. To become a joint heir of the heirship of the Son, one must put away all his false traditions.
Why does mankind set up stakes and bounds with regards to their knowledge of God?
They do not really trust God; they do not trust that He really can control all things, that He really knows what is best, that He really cares about them above all things, and that He will help them overcome the “character building” experiences He allows to happen – it is a lack of faith in themselves, but really in Him.
They do not know Him and cannot comprehend Him, so instead they create Him in their own heads to be something that they can understand and relate to – someone like themselves or what they would like Him to be.
Their love of themselves trumps their love of God and their fellow-beings – they are fallen and not filled with the unconditional love of charity.
They have embraced false traditions (“unbelief”) and will not put them away – they prefer their own stories to the truth.
Note: even angels desire more light and knowledge of these things but have set up stakes and cannot receive what would otherwise be theirs (see TPJS 362:3).
Why are we so certain we understand the things of God without ever having seen Him or the heavens?
The degree to which we lack actual knowledge through personal experience, we must be uncertain.
We are delusional; the further someone’s understanding is from the truth regardless of how strongly they believe that the way they see the world is the way the world is (whether it is our world or the heavens), the more delusional they are, by definition.
We are filled with pride and arrogance in our own knowledge or ability to reason, or in our own perceived righteousness; we make huge assuming leaps of logic regarding our standing before God – usually based on our intentions as viewed against our understanding of others’ performance without any regard or understanding for the true standards of salvation (see LoF 7:9).
In some cases, that pride extends to the experiences of others; for instance, many in the Church are proud of the knowledge that Joseph Smith gave them – they do not think about the fact that just because Joseph Smith was saved, that they may not be unless they experience the same things that he did, themselves.
Why were things not uncertain for Joseph Smith?
He had actual knowledge through personal experiences.
He had come unto Mount Zion in heaven and knew the truth for himself; and this is 10 months before his death.
He had been taught by these “spirits of just men” the knowledge that one can only gain in heaven.
READ TPJS 372:4-374:1
The Saints have not too much time to save and redeem their dead, and gather together their living relatives, that they may be saved also, before the earth will be smitten, and the consumption decreed falls upon the world. I would advise all the Saints to go with their might and gather together all their living relatives to this place, that they may be sealed and saved, that they may be prepared against the day that the destroying angel goes forth; and if the whole Church should go to with all their might to save their dead, seal their posterity, and gather their living friends, and spend none of their time in behalf of the world, they would hardly get through before night would come, when no man can work; and my only trouble at the present time is concerning ourselves, that the Saints will be divided, broken up, and scattered, before we get our salvation secure; for there are so many fools in the world for the devil to operate upon, it gives him the advantage oftentimes.
The question is frequently asked, “Can we not be saved without going through with all those ordinances? I would answer, No, not the fulness of salvation. Jesus said, There are many mansions in my Father’s house, and I will go and prepare a place for you. House here named should have been translated kingdom; and any person who is exalted to the highest mansion has to abide a celestial law, and the whole law, too. But there has been a great difficulty in getting anything into the heads of this generation. It has been like splitting hemlock knots with a corn-dodger for a wedge, and a pumpkin for a beetle. Even the Saints are slow to understand.
I have tried for a number of years to get the minds of the Saints prepared to receive the things of God; but we frequently see some of them, after suffering all they have for the work of God, will fly to pieces like glass as soon as anything comes that is contrary to their traditions: they cannot stand the fire at all. How many will be able to abide a celestial law, and go through and receive their exaltation, I am unable to say, as many are called, but few are chosen.
Why did Joseph say that the Saints had “not too much time to save and redeem their dead” in January of 1844?
Joseph wished that the Nauvoo temple was completed, dedicated and accepted by the Lord so that the Saints could go into it and “make use of the seals” while they were on the earth; he knew that they would not be on the earth long – particularly if he was killed, since he had possession of the sealing power, which is only given to man by God Himself, and cannot be passed from man to man via “keys”.
The Saints needed the Temple so that the Lord would restore to them the High Priesthood, which they had lost by 1841 (see D&C 124:28); this Priesthood is the same priesthood that Elijah will enable to be restored - which priesthood has both the sealing power and the ability to enter God’s presence; Elijah has certain keys (of knowledge) which will “unlock” the receipt of this blessing; remember that Abraham received a blessing or ordination to receive this priesthood from the man Melchizedek, but then received the actual priesthood, as all must do, directly from God Himself, some time later.
The Lord had given the Saints a deadline with “sufficient time” to build the Nauvoo Temple and prepare themselves to enter His presence there, but by 1844, they were far behind schedule and Joseph was very worried that they would fail in their task, which they eventually did (see D&C 124:27-50).
If the Saints failed to build the Temple in time, they would be divided, broken up and scattered or as D&C 124 says, they would be “moved out of their place” and bring “cursings, wrath, indignation and judgements” upon themselves and their posterity to the fourth generation of their descendants (see D&C 124:45, 48, 50); this is what happened after the death of Joseph Smith, from the trek west to the difficulties in Utah, and from an embracing of the wickedness and culture of the world, to the loss of miracles, priesthood power, revelation, and spiritual experiences in the Church today – among both the leadership and the general membership.
What doctrines or subjects did Joseph Smith have such difficulty getting into the heads of the Saints?
That to be exalted, you must live the whole “Celestial law” or abide by the fullness of eternal law – in other words, to be saved, you must be precisely like Christ and nothing else (see LoF 7:9).
Your exaltation is the lynch-pin to the salvation of your kindred dead.
Elijah will come to the Temple in Zion to enable the return of the Messiah; Elijah will begin the angels’ efforts to seal the 144,000 High Priests to their fathers in heaven (the patriarchs), enabling the Saints to then receive the High Priesthood from the Lord, before His Second Coming in glory.
But if the Saints don’t exercise faith and if they continue to place Joseph Smith (or worse, any other modern Prophet) between them and God as a “prophet, seer and revelator”, as the children of Israel did with Moses, they will be cursed and scattered and their kindred dead will also be lost (see TPJS 266:2; D&C 84:19-27).
Why did Joseph have such a hard time teaching the Saints these doctrines?
These doctrines went contrary to the doctrines that the Saints had been taught all their lives from their various Christian upbringings; and they had also been removed from the Bible – so Joseph was the only source for these new revelations and they didn’t seem to “square” with what they “knew” was “right”; in other words, the Saints were hard hearted despite all of the persecutions heaped upon them by the mobs.
The Saints would not come unto Christ in the flesh themselves; although Joseph (and the Lord through the Book of Mormon, which the Saints took lightly, see D&C 84:49-59) had been teaching the Saints that each of them needed to awake and arise – to experience the same things Joseph had with regards to God, to know Him for themselves - they wouldn’t make the leap and exercise sufficient faith, preferring Joseph to be the “Lord’s mouthpiece” instead of knowing them for themselves, which was His intention, as that is eternal life! Many are called by the Lord but few are chosen because they choose not to know Him (see Alma 42:27).
What does Joseph think will be the likely consequence of the Saints unwillingness to learn and do these things?
The Saints will not be able to abide the celestial or eternal law.
They will not go through and receive their exaltation.
They will be divided, broken up and scattered.
They will not seek great knowledge when it is offered to them in plainness – the knowledge of Christ and their own standing before Him that will save their lives, spiritually (see 2 Nephi 32:4-7).
They will reject the fullness of the gospel (which is to come unto Christ and make your calling and election sure) and they will be rejected as a people, as a result (see 3 Nephi 16:10-11).