The “King Follett Discourse” was given by Joseph Smith at the Spring General Conference of the Church which also served as the funeral of an elder in the Church, King Follett. It was given April 7, 1844 to 20,000 people in Nauvoo and is Joseph Smith’s doctrinal climax or highpoint. See pages 343-363 in the standard edition of TPJS and pages 386-407 in the Scriptural Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith.
The Truth About God: Man is as God Once Was
READ TPJS 387:3-388:1
In the first place, I wish to go back to the beginning—to the morn of creation. There is the starting point for us to look to, in order to understand and be fully acquainted with the mind, purposes and decrees of the Great Elohim, who sits in yonder heavens as he did at the creation of this world. It is necessary for us to have an understanding of God himself in the beginning. If we start right, it is easy to go right all the time; but if we start wrong, we may go wrong, and it be a hard matter to get right. There are but a very few beings in the world who understand rightly the character of God. The great majority of mankind do not comprehend anything, either that which is past, or that which is to come, as it respects their relationship to God. They do not know, neither do they understand the nature of that relationship; and consequently, they know but little above the brute beast, or more than to eat, drink and sleep. This is all man knows about God or his existence, unless it is given by the inspiration of the Almighty. If a man learns nothing more than to eat, drink and sleep, and does not comprehend any of the designs of God, the beast comprehends the same things. It eats, drinks, sleeps, and knows nothing more about God; yet it knows as much as we, unless we are able to comprehend by the inspiration of Almighty God. If men do not comprehend the character of God, they do not comprehend themselves. I want to go back to the beginning, and so lift your minds into a more lofty sphere and a more exalted understanding than what the human mind generally aspires to.
What are the implications of starting wrong and why is it hard to get the matter right once you are on your way?
In most cases, you start wrong not realizing it; so, starting wrong, even if the rest of your directions are correct, will impact the likelihood of you making it to your destination at all, or at least in a timely manner because you do not realize you are wrong and will not readjust your pathway.
In this case, starting wrong means that if you do not comprehend the character and nature of God, you cannot comprehend yourself or the opportunities afforded you or the things you are capable of.
You do not know more than the “brute beast” because God reveals Himself to you or stands forever unknown by you.
And as God’s ways and thoughts are so much higher than ours, we will not be able to guess the truth on our own and will, as a result, never rise up to become what we might have become, had we known.
With regards to your salvation, how can you start right?
You must find God yourself.
Or you must find one who has found God and can tell you about Him and how to find Him yourself; but this is only a preliminary step – you must still walk the newly revealed path and find God yourself.
READ TPJS 388:2
I want to ask this congregation, every man, woman and child, to answer the question in their own heart, what kind of a being God is? Ask yourselves; turn your thoughts into your hearts, and say if any of you have seen, heard, or communed with him. This is a question that may occupy your attention for a long time. I again repeat the question—What kind of a being is God? Does any man or woman know? Have any of you seen him, heard him, or communed with him? Here is the question that will, peradventure, from this time henceforth occupy your attention. The Scriptures inform us that “This is life eternal that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.”
How can you know what kind of being God is?
Only from your own experiences with Him.
The testimonies and teachings of others must be tested; they are educational or informative at best and wrong at worst.
Why is Joseph asking us to turn our thoughts to our hearts instead of to our memories?
Because we may have had encounters with God without realizing it; if we just rely on our memory, we might think we have never communed with Him when we have – it’s just that we didn’t recognize Him.
But because each of us has a part of God within us, in the form of His Spirit (the “light of Christ”), that Spirit can tell us if God has attempted to communicate with us or if His hand has been in our life, directing things without our awareness. This is one way in which the kingdom of God is within us.
Why is it important to know God?
It is eternal life to know Him.
It is damnation to not know Him.
In other words, knowing God is the most important thing we can do/know.
READ TPJS 389:3
I will prove that the world is wrong, by showing what God is. I am going to enquire after God; for I want you all to know him, and to be familiar with him; and if I am bringing you to a knowledge of him, all persecutions against me ought to cease. You will then know that I am his servant; for I speak as one having authority.
What is Joseph’s objective in showing us what God is?
So that we can all attain to the level of knowledge of God that Joseph Smith had.
That we will all know Him and be familiar with Him ourselves.
What does it mean that Joseph Smith speaks as one having authority (…and not as the scribes)?
He knows God and the things of God from his own experience encountering God during the course of his mortal life through visitations, visions, revelations via His voice, angelic messengers, miracles and priesthood power, being changed by the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost, and having his calling and election made sure and being sealed up to eternal life (see D&C 132:49).
Knowing God gives one “authority” to speak of Him because one has legitimate, firsthand knowledge of Him.
He is not a scholar, analyzing the experiences and doctrines taught by another against a set of criteria or other analytic toolset.
And his authority doesn’t come from “priesthood keys” as the Church currently uses the phrase – but from the actual power and knowledge/messages he gained by rending the veil and knowing God – and by trying to fulfill God’s will on this earth.
READ TPJS 390:1-4
I will go back to the beginning before the world was, to show what kind of being God is. What sort of a being was God in the beginning? Open your ears and hear, all ye ends of the earth, for I am going to prove it to you by the Bible, and to tell you the designs of God in relation to the human race, and why He interferes with the affairs of man. God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens! That is the great secret. If the veil were rent today, and the great God who holds this world in its orbit, and who upholds all worlds and all things by his power, was to make himself visible,—I say, if you were to see him today, you would see him like a man in form—like yourselves in all the person, image, and very form as a man; for Adam was created in the very fashion, image and likeness of God, and received instruction from, and walked, talked and conversed with him, as one man talks and communes with another.
In order to understand the subject of the dead, for consolation of those who mourn for the loss of their friends, it is necessary we should understand the character and being of God and how he came to be so; for I am going to tell you how God came to be God. We have imagined and supposed that God was God from all eternity. I will refute that idea, and take away the veil, so that you may see. These are incomprehensible ideas to some, but they are simple. It is the first principle of the Gospel to know for a certainty the Character of God, and to know that we may converse with him as one man converses with another, and that he was once a man like us; yea, that God himself, the Father of us all, dwelt on an earth, the same as Jesus Christ himself did; and I will show it from the Bible.
What sort of being was God the Father (i.e. Ahman) in the beginning?
God was once as we are now – notice, he did not say “God was once as Christ is now” but that He was “once a man like us”; Joseph is saying that at one-time God was not a god but was a man like we are – having a fallen, mortal probationary experience from which He needed the work of a redeemer to save Him from eternal damnation.
Note: Joseph is using the word “beginning” here to mean in an epoch or eon or eternity far, far before the one in which we presently find ourselves; this is not the way we find the word used most of the time in the scriptures; usually the word refers to the “beginning of time” after Adam was placed on this earth or even “before the foundation of this world” when we were all in heaven with God and before the plan of salvation was announced but still during this eternity – the eternity that Jehovah served as the redeemer of all things.
Why is it vitally important for us to know that God was once a man?
We will never comprehend ourselves if we do not comprehend the truth about who God was and is.
If God the Father was once like us, it tells us who we really are, or at least, can be.
What sort of being is God the Father now?
He is a being or personage of spirit, glory and power (see LoF 5:2).
He has the power to uphold all worlds by His power.
He is an exalted man, after whom our bodies are modeled.
But one who wants to teach, converse with, and walk with each of us.
Why does Joseph tell us twice within two paragraphs that we may converse with God as one person talks with another?
Although He so powerful a being now that He dwells in everlasting burnings and those who come unto His presence unprepared wish they could become extinct, He still hopes to share the sociality with us that we share with each other.
We are taught that Christ was amazingly meek; the Father must share this trait as He genuinely wants to spend time with us – as a parent and ultimately, as a peer – we who are so far below Him in every respect that it is incomparable; and yet from the seed which is humanity, has grown our God.
Joseph does not want us to fear God, which would be the natural inclination if any one of us were to enter His presence now.
Theosis: God is as Man May Become
READ TPJS 391:1-2
I wish I was in a suitable place to tell it, and that I had the trump of an archangel, so that I could tell the story in such a manner that persecution would cease forever. What did Jesus say? (Mark it, Elder Rigdon!) The Scriptures inform us that Jesus said, As the Father hath power in Himself, even so hath the Son power—to do what? Why, what the Father did. The answer is obvious—in a manner to lay down His body and take it up again. Jesus, what are you going to do? To lay down my life as my Father did, and take it up again. Do we believe it? If you do not believe it, you do not believe the Bible. The Scriptures say it, and I defy all the learning and wisdom and all the combined powers of earth and hell together to refute it.
Here, then, is eternal life—to know the only wise and true God; and you have got to learn how to be Gods yourselves, and to be kings and priests to God, the same as all Gods have done before you, namely, by going from one small degree to another, and from a small capacity to a great one; from grace to grace, from exaltation to exaltation, until you attain to the resurrection of the dead, and are able to dwell in everlasting burnings, and to sit in glory, as do those who sit enthroned in everlasting power. And I want you to know that God, in the last days, while certain individuals are proclaiming his name, is not trifling with you or me.
In addition to being a “man like unto ourselves”, what else did the Father do on an earth like ours?
He served as the Messiah or Son of God on a world that He was not the “Father God” for; He laid down His life in sacrifice and took it up again.
He attained to the resurrection of the dead, as Christ did; He laid His body down in a sacrificial death and took it up again; Christ must have seen this in vision during His mortal ministry.
How could the Father be a “man like unto ourselves” and also the Savior of a world?
Either Joseph is pushing the definition of “man like unto ourselves” to include a Son of God with a portion of the Holy Spirit “without measure” whose genetic father is a god; the fact that Jesus (our example) did condescend to come to earth to be born of Mary and thus endure the effects of the fall as a “mortal” is true, but His inherent capabilities were so much greater than ours that “man like unto ourselves” seems a bit of a stretch; having said that, He was tested and tried in all things that we are, except that the degree of temptation and opposition for Him was so much greater than Lucifer is allowed to afflict upon us.
Or, Joseph is subtly referring to a multiple mortal probation scenario here, where the Father grew from a small capability to a great one over many eternities, laying aside the glory He had gained in one eternity to take up another tabernacle of clay in the next one, and so progressed to the point that He was called a Son of God (because He had not been called one before) and volunteered to act as a Savior, as Christ did in this eternity on our earth. In other words, we all have the inherent capability within us to go from what we are now to what Christ was at the beginning of this eternity, if we will have faith and pursue the path which takes many “exaltations” to achieve.
What is implied by the fact that the Father needed to play the role of Savior before Christ was ever called to be a Son of God?
The mortals who inhabited the world to which He came needed His intervention – His atoning sacrifice and resurrection.
Implied is that they were not covered by Christ’s atonement and resurrection, despite the fact that we talk about it as redeeming all who were ever born before Him or would be born after Him; this must be because Christ’s atonement is bounded by the eternity that we are currently living within.
The Father needed to attain to the resurrection of the dead Himself to be able to dwell in everlasting burnings; implied is that He did not live in that state previously and could not live in it unless He attained to the resurrection of the dead Himself; in other words, the gift of a resurrected body from another Son of God to save Him from a prior mortal probation would not allow Him (Ahman) to live and sit in this level of glory.
What does it mean to have power in oneself to lay down one’s body and take it up again?
It means to have the power to submit to death and to overcome it by coming back to life, not due to the intervention of anyone else but because you cannot remain dead – you are inherently alive or have the power of life within you to such a degree that death can have no power over you to restrain you because of the amount of light and glory within you and the fact that you lived a perfect life and death are the wages of sin (see TPJS 349:4; 396:2).
It could also mean to have the power or the choice to lay down one’s glorious body in heaven and submit or condescend to being born (again) into a “tabernacle of clay” in a mortal life on a fallen earth; this could be for the purpose of serving as a Son of God or Messiah, but it could also be preparatory to that calling, in order to gain more light and knowledge by choosing righteousness (to keep eternal law) in an environment of opposition in any number of roles or challenges (see Alma 13:3-5).
What is eternal life?
To know the only wise and true God.
To know Him you must a) have spent significant amounts of time with Him in all sorts of situations, and b) you must be able to comprehend Him.
So, to know God is to have parted the veil and lived your life such that God has “taken up His abode with you”.
Ultimately, it is to become precisely like Him and nothing else, so that you are filled with the fullness of the same spirit and are truly and completely one with Him, such that you can comprehend Him and all His creations as He manifests them unto you; you must be a being with a fullness of light.
How do we learn to be God’s ourselves – what must we do to become like God?
We must gain the capability to be perfect.
And then we must BE perfect.
This is done as we choose righteousness (or to align our choices and behavior with eternal law, which are God’s commandments) in the face of opposition and enticement and gain light, intelligence, or knowledge by so doing (see D&C 18-21; Alma 13:3-5).
Gaining this light enables us to have life or power in ourselves, so that we may lay down our body and then attain to the resurrection by taking it up again.
So that we can dwell in everlasting burnings or glory.
What is implied by the fact that “all Gods that have gone before us” have ascended the same path to godhood?
There were Gods before the Father and the Son (see TPJS 421:2-3).
Each one has gone from a small capacity to a great one – none were “born” inherently great – yet all of them had the seeds of “greatness” within them.
Each one had to attain to the resurrection of the dead for themselves (and all that were depending upon them).
What does it mean to go from “one small degree to another” and how does one do this?
We grow in light, intelligence, truth or knowledge from experience.
Like the way a physical muscle is grown, our spiritual capacity is grown from one small degree to another by being exposed to opposition and being enabled to choose; if we choose light, the “muscle” of our spiritual capability (how much light we have within our being) becomes stronger as we exercise it under stress.
But like in weight lifting or fitness, the growth occurs slowly and requires consistent exercise to grow and tone the muscle.
For gaining light (instead of muscle), this is done by keeping commandments or adhering to eternal law, in the face of opposition, using one’s agency.
Probationary states help us to learn the difference between good and evil; and the fact that they are conducted (seemingly) outside of God’s direct presence means that agency can be more easily or more truly exercised.
What does it mean that this growth is to happen “from exaltation to exaltation”?
In cannot all happen within one mortal probation, it is impossible; even Christ (and before Him, the Father), did not rise up in one mortal lifetime from a “small degree” to attain to the resurrection themselves; John saw that Christ did not receive of the fullness at first but had to go from grace to grace until He received it (see D&C 93:12-14, 16-17); and yet we know from the record of his life that He didn’t move from a small degree to a great one within the constraints of His mortal life – that would imply that He sinned or was somehow imperfect or “small” but then overcame that to become “great”. That didn’t happen during His mortal life on this earth or the wages of sin would have been earned and He would not have been able to overcome death.
“From exaltation to exaltation” implies multiple exaltations, gained within multiple “eternities”.
Joseph Smith did not believe in reincarnation or the idea that a human progresses from a plant to an animal, and then a human; he also does not seem to be teaching here that a person can have multiple mortal probations within the same eternity on the same earth (although this isn’t entirely clear); however, it seems clear that to be able to progress from a small capacity to a great one requires the exercise of agency outside the presence of God, which implies multiple mortal probations – when coupled with the doctrine that both God the Father and Jehovah suffered an atonement, died and won the victory over death (the same as all Gods that have gone before them have also done), it points to the idea that for every cosmos in every eternity, someone who has been prepared must rise up to be called the Son of God and condescend to live through another mortal probation in that fallen world with the purpose of redeeming the entire creation and saving all mankind with a preparatory redemption.
What does the phrase “until you attain to the resurrection of the dead” mean?
To attain is to earn or accomplish.
Since we cannot earn (and obviously Christ accomplishes) the resurrection that we will receive after this life, the phrase does not refer to this resurrection, courtesy of the grace of Christ; it is free to all and does not need to be attained by you – it is a gift to you.
This is speaking to the principle that to be precisely like Christ and nothing else (who, in turn, was precisely like His Father), we must also follow Christ’s example and attain (earn and accomplish) a resurrection from the dead ourselves; implied is that in some far future eternity, we must live a perfect life and then offer our life in an atoning sacrifice so that we might save all those who are depending upon us, and break the bands of death (which is the wage of sin) by attaining to the resurrection ourselves – and thus have life in ourselves, as Christ now has.
What is implied about the kind of body you must have to live in everlasting burnings and sit in glory?
It must be a resurrected body that you attained to yourself, as Christ did.
It is a physical but perfected body of flesh and bone that is filled with (made of) a fullness of light or glory.
To sit in everlasting burnings, you must be made of everlasting burnings; the glory or light must be in you and emanate from you; as light cleaves to light, you must be quickened or vibrating on the same frequency as God; you must be precisely like Him and nothing else.
What does it mean that God is not trifling with us in the last days?
He is not teasing us with this doctrine.
The fact that you have been born into a time and place whereby you are reading these words right now means that you have received an invitation from God to come unto Him today (see 3 Nephi 10:6).
READ TPJS 392:1
These are the first principles of consolation. How consoling to the mourners when they are called to part with a husband, wife, father, mother, child, or dear relative, to know that, although the earthly tabernacle is laid down and dissolved, they shall rise again to dwell in everlasting burnings in immortal glory, not to sorrow, suffer, or die any more; but they shall be heirs of God and joint heirs with Jesus Christ. What is it? To inherit the same power, the same glory and the same exaltation, until you arrive at the station of a God, and ascend the throne of eternal power, the same as those who have gone before. What did Jesus do? Why; I do the things I saw my Father do when worlds come rolling into existence. My Father worked out his kingdom with fear and trembling, and I must do the same; and when I get my kingdom, I shall present it to my Father, so that he may obtain kingdom upon kingdom, and it will exalt him in glory. He will then take a higher exaltation, and I will take his place, and thereby become exalted myself. So that Jesus treads in the tracks of his Father, and inherits what God did before; and God is thus glorified and exalted in the salvation and exaltation of all his children. It is plain beyond disputation, and you thus learn some of the first principles of the Gospel, about which so much hath been said.
What is the relationship between “inheriting” and “arriving” at the station of a God?
Your inheritance can be pronounced upon you or made “official” – as in it WILL happen – long before the actual day when it DOES happen.
“Arriving” sounds more like the day on which you actually collect on the inheritance – the day that it is yours.
It is possible to receive a promise of your inheritance or exaltation many eternities before you actually arrive at the station of a God yourself.
In the context of the rest of Joseph’s message, what does it mean to “work out your kingdom with fear and trembling”?
It means to follow in the steps of your Master and Exemplar, Jesus Christ – as He did in following the steps of His Father, and as all gods have done before – and condescend to come down from heaven to an earth, as a Son of God, to serve the role of redeemer by working out an atonement with fear and trembling (see D&C 19:11-20) before your Father, to submit to an unjust death, and then to attain to the resurrection of the dead yourself.
And then deliver that kingdom, including all who are depending upon you and would come unto you to be saved, to your Father, that His kingdom might be further exalted, and you will then take His place.
Why did Christ have to do the same things that He had seen His Father do?
To be saved, Christ had to be precisely like His Father and nothing else (see LoF 7:9).
To become precisely like His Father, Christ had to do the exact things His Father had done before Him (see John 5:19).
You cannot become precisely like someone (and nothing else) unless you have precisely the same experiences they have had.
When did Christ see His Father do these things?
Most likely, Christ saw the Father’s mortal ministry as a Redeemer in a prior eternity in vision in preparation for His (Christ’s) own ministry on this earth.
However, it is also possible that Christ was an associate of the Father’s when He (the Father) was living His mortal ministry as a Redeemer; in that case Christ may have seen the Father’s deeds firsthand; if this was the case, the Father would have brought to Christ’s recollection the memories He had but had forgotten as a consequence of being born of Mary into this mortality and having had a veil of forgetfulness drawn across his mind (i.e. the mortal body) upon His birth.
Either scenario is adequate to suit the Father’s purpose, which was to show the Son precisely what He must do and how He must be to live a perfect life and redeem all those who were depending upon Him.
What constitutes “Christ’s kingdom” and how is it different from the Father’s kingdom?
Christ’s kingdom consists of the whole of creation (including all of the planets) that He organized, the free resurrection which He has provided to all who live in His creation, and the few who actually choose to come unto Him to be saved.
The Father’s kingdom consists of the same elements from His own mortal redeeming ministry plus the subsequent kingdoms of all of His Sons and Daughters who have worked together to redeem more worlds and children.
So, it is possible that an individual could have been part of the Father’s original kingdom, having come unto Him while He was serving as a Redeemer, and then subsequently be part of Christ’s kingdom (and perhaps others, in the meantime or beforehand) on this earth if they also came unto Christ in the flesh during their mortal probation here; note Christ’s reference to the Father that He (Christ) has saved all those that the Father had given Him from this world, suggesting that they were the Father’s to give Christ (see John 17:6-12) – but this group were a subset of all the spirit children that were born on this earth, so this is a different possessive relationship than the one we refer to when we say that that all people on this earth are our Heavenly Father’s children.
Why will Christ present or give His Kingdom to the Father?
Everything that Christ has is through the grace of His Father; just as the Father was not always a God, neither was Christ; and to become a God, one must rely wholly upon the merits and mercy of one who has already progressed to that station; so while Christ won the victory, it was all enabled by the Father’s love and grace; so in gratitude and love for His Father (as everything He did was in submission to His Father’s will and for the love of His Father), Christ never thought about this kingdom as “his Kingdom” as much as He was carrying out a responsibility on behalf of His Father.
Perhaps it is because we are all the Father’s children – organized by Him and Heavenly Mother.
Perhaps it is because Christ’s Kingdom was the Father’s Kingdom first (as per the last bullet in the previous question) and Christ’s atonement saved those of the Father’s kingdom who condescended to come again to a mortal probation, to be saved.
How can the Father take a higher exaltation, as He has already attained to the resurrection Himself?
Exaltation is about attaining a fullness of glory or light – it is eternal lives and the capability of living in everlasting burnings.
The Father has already attained to this state; so for Him, He receives a “higher exaltation” as He becomes a God of Gods – the more Gods in His House or Family, the more glory He receives.
What does it mean that Christ will take the Father’s place?
Christ will become a Heavenly Father in the next eternity; if this principle of multiple mortal probations over multiple eternities is true, then Christ will become OUR Heavenly Father in the next eternity.
That does not mean that Heavenly Father (Ahman) will cease to be our Father and God, but that Jesus/Jehovah will assume the primary role of Father in the next eternity.
Depending upon how long we have been progressing (or not progressing…), this leads one to ask how many “Heavenly Fathers” we may actually have.
Why is Joseph using the first person tense when he is talking about Christ’s ascension to Godhood?
Christ must have told him these things. He is quoting Christ; from a conversation they likely had.
How are these some of the “first principles of the Gospel” and what is implied by this?
If ascending to become a God via attaining to the resurrection of the dead yourself are some of the “first principles”, the “Gospel” or “good news” is much, much grander in scope than we think it is when we limit it to faith, repentance and baptism.
This comment by Joseph, when combined with the idea that Gods continue to grow in glory and “exaltation” hints that we really have no idea at all regarding the true magnitude of the plan of salvation or eternal progression and what we might be able to become. It makes you wonder what the “second principles of the gospel” might be, much less the tenth or hundredth principles.
READ TPJS 392:2-393:1
When you climb up a ladder, you must begin at the bottom, and ascend step by step, until you arrive at the top; and so it is with the principles of the Gospel—you must begin with the first, and go on until you learn all the principles of exaltation. But it will be a great while after you have passed through the veil before you will have learned them. It is not all to be comprehended in this world; it will be a great work to learn our salvation and exaltation even beyond the grave. I suppose I am not allowed to go into an investigation of anything that is not contained in the Bible. If I do, I think there are so many over-wise men here, that they would cry “treason” and put me to death. So, I will go to the old Bible and turn commentator today.
What ladder is Joseph referring to here?
It is the “Gospel Ladder” or the “rungs” or “stations” we must pass through to be exalted.
It is “Jacob’s Ladder” or the connection or conduit between heaven and earth; and perhaps between the various kingdoms in heaven, or between the multiple eternities, or between the dimensions of time and outside of time.
How is this Gospel Ladder or Jacob’s Ladder climbed, and what is implied?
The Gospel Ladder is climbed through experience; which is had by living in a probationary state; it is climbed through learning and living the principles of the gospel.
Jacob’s Ladder is climbed in the same way – to enter the presence of God (at the top of the ladder), you must be able to pass the angels that stand as sentinels; you must know certain principles by receiving them in a probationary world; you must become precisely like Christ – which happens as you conform to eternal law; it is not just about possessing certain signs or tokens (intellectual knowledge) as much as it is about being quickened or filled with a certain amount of light (see D&C 130:18-21).
What does Joseph imply by saying that it will be a great while after you have passed through the veil before you will have learned all of the principles of exaltation?
As Joseph said, the person who gazes into heaven for five minutes knows more than all of the scholars, philosophers and priests that have ever written on the subject, as they have never experienced the heavenly realm, so they do not know.
You must pass through the veil to learn all that must be learned; you must part the veil and receive heavenly messengers to tutor you, and you must ascend to heaven through the fiery portal to receive the promise of your exaltation from the Father.
You will also have to pass through the veil of death (and birth), perhaps multiple times, to learn all that must be learned to become like God – it is not all to be learned, much less comprehended, in this world – the mortal probation on this Earth that we are experiencing now.
Why are these principles not all to be comprehended in this world but will require us going beyond the grave to understand them all?
Because your mortal body and mind places constraints upon that which you can learn – but you must learn more than you would be able to learn and still remain on the earth (i.e. you would be too filled with intelligence, knowledge, light and glory and could not remain here, see Moses 1:5).
You cannot become precisely like Christ and nothing else unless you do, precisely, the works of Christ; and you cannot do the works of Christ in this mortal life – you must go beyond the grave to have an opportunity to do them.
You take the light you’ve gained here with you into the afterlife but it will likely take you MANY such mortal experiences to have accumulated enough light to even consider being able to accomplish the works of Christ; and the great majority will likely never come close (they will damn themselves or stop the journey).
What constitutes the “great work” that will enable us to learn our salvation and exaltation even beyond the grave?
Christ referred to His atonement as a “greater work”.
If we are to become precisely like Christ and nothing else, we must do the work that Christ did, and nothing else – as Christ followed precisely in His Father’s footsteps, we must follow in Christ’s.
And it will require us to lay down our lives to learn what must be learned by experience – to attain to our resurrection “even beyond the grave” – i.e. as Christ laid aside the godhood level of glory He had accumulated before this eternity to condescend to come back to a mortal earth to work out the atonement for us.
Why does a deeper discussion of these doctrines (beyond what is contained in the scriptures, for instance) elicit such a violent response from people who profess to believe in Jesus Christ?
Most believers are not child-like (curiously seeking after knowledge, willing to believe anything they are told that is true, and humbly admitting that they don’t know much and that much of what they know could be wrong).
As a result, they set up “stakes” or constraints regarding what they “know” is right; anything that goes contrary to what they already know cannot then be correct, by definition.
In addition, they are fearful; they have built their lives around certain “knowledge” and have placed faith in it (have acted on it, as if it were true); however, there is a deep-seeded doubt among them because they do not truly know through firsthand experience through the veil; as a result of this, they are terrified of being deceived by someone else, because they don’t know the truth for themselves and have no way of really discerning the truth from God in a reliable way, seeing as they have no faith in receiving an answer (see 1 Nephi 15:9). So they set up stakes regarding what they will or won’t do or even believe, out of fear.
Religious people build their self-image and self-esteem around their beliefs; they conform their lives to them and judge themselves and all others against the standards and beliefs they “know to be true”; if those beliefs are seriously and legitimately attacked, they have a visceral reaction to what they perceive as a jugular attack on who they are; and ironically, many choose to react violently, as a result (contrary to the values they espouse); in a sad but insightful way, their violent behavior when confronted with new truths reveals their own lack of sure knowledge in what they believe to be true.
The Organization of This World
READ TPJS 394:4
In the beginning, the head of the Gods called a council of the Gods; and they came together and concocted a plan to create the world and people it. When we begin to learn this way, we begin to learn the only true God, and what kind of a being we have got to worship. Having a knowledge of God, we begin to know how to approach him, and how to ask so as to receive an answer. When we understand the character of God, and how to come to him, he begins to unfold the heavens to us, and to tell us all about it. When we are ready to come to him, he is ready to come to us.
What “beginning” is being referred to here?
The beginning of this eternity, before the foundation of this world (before it was even planned to create this world).
But this does not refer to any actual beginning – as in the “beginning of all things”, if there even is such a thing in a universe where element exists infinitely.
We know this is the case because we’ve just learned that God the Father was once as we are now but here He is described as the “head of the Gods”.
Two interesting implications from this statement are: 1) for Father Ahman to be the “head of the Gods” but for Him to have also been like us at one point (so He had a God who enabled His godhood), there must be some divisions between “heavens” – either dimensional differences or frequency differences or space/location boundaries, so that within His Heaven, the Father is the Head of the Gods but is also a God who has a Father perhaps in another place; 2) there are other Gods who live with the Father – He is not the only God within His Cosmos; it says “they” came together so this is not just referring to the Son, as there are plural “gods” over whom the Father is the “head”.
What is implied by the fact that this council included Gods (plural) and yet Joseph uses the term “only true God”, which is singular?
To be a God is to be one with God – in fact, it is to be one with all Gods, or with the Council of Gods; to act as one because you share the same mind (Holy Spirit) and through your experiences (atoning for a people and attaining to the resurrection yourself), have become precisely the same as each other, and nothing else (see LoF 7:9).
The head of the Gods is the “only true God” in that He is the one to whom all other Gods (that we know of – or within this dimension or frequency) have allegiance and that everything they each do is perfectly aligned with His will; this sounds like a dictatorship until you realize that the “only true God” and, in fact, every god, must abide perfectly and precisely by eternal law or they will cease to be Gods; so in reality, the will of the One truly is the will of the group.
How can understanding these things about the Gods help us to approach Him and receive answers to our prayers?
In the heavens, there are Gods and angels; but they all have various responsibilities in the overall objective of bringing to pass the immortality and eternal life of mankind.
Similar to the way that sacrifices were routed in the ancient Israelite temple, prayer is “routed” in heaven; understanding the process helps you to successfully approach God and receive answers to your prayers; angels and gods in heaven serve the “Only True God” and work together to bring to pass His work and glory – they have different roles in carrying out His work in heaven or on Earth or between the two.
Like the rising smoke of the temple sacrifices, the Holy Spirit takes your prayers to heaven; there, heavenly beings (like the Israelite priests also did) add independent, more holy offerings to your prayers (see Revelation 9:2-4); from there they are routed to the Lord and from Him to the Father; at each point along the way, heavenly beings can advocate for us – but they can also be the witnesses against us.
What is stopping us from going to God in the flesh?
We do not have a correct understanding of His character and attributes (see LoF 3:2-5) and as a result, we lack the faith to make the necessary sacrifice (see LoF 6:1-7).
Our pride and refusal to offer our whole souls in sacrifice (Omni 1:26; Alma 42:27; 3 Nephi 4-7).
Our fear (see Exodus 20:18-21).
Our lack of love for Him (see John 14:15-21).
READ TPJS 395:2-3
Now, I ask all who hear me, why the learned men who are preaching salvation, say that God created the heavens and the earth out of nothing? The reason is, that they are unlearned in the things of God, and have not the gift of the Holy Ghost; they account it blasphemy in any one to contradict their idea. If you tell them that God made the world out of something, they will call you a fool. But I am learned, and know more than all the world put together. The Holy Ghost does, anyhow, and He is within me, and comprehends more than all the world: and I will associate myself with Him.
You ask the learned doctors why they say the world was made out of nothing; and they will answer, “Doesn’t the Bible say He created the world?” And they infer, from the word create, that it must have been made out of nothing. Now, the word create came from the word baurau which does not mean to create out of nothing; it means to organize; the same as a man would organize materials and build a ship. Hence, they may be organized and re-organized, but not destroyed. They had no beginning, and can have no end.
Why is it not possible to create something out of nothing?
Because the elements are eternal; things that are eternal have no end but they also have no beginning, by definition.
Because there is no such thing as “nothing” or empty space; although we can’t see it, the space between a neuron and an electron is a dense sea of powerful energy wavicles.
The nature of elements can be changed but things cannot be created out of nothing – there has to be some existing element or energy to construct or organize into the new creation.
What implication does this principle of organization (versus “creation” out of nothing) have for us and everything that we may “create” in the future?
We and everything that exists has always existed in some form or another; both element and spirit are matter and both are eternal.
So, whatever we “create” in the future will be from matter that has always existed and either served some different purpose in the past (element) or was organized in some other way (spirit).
If we become like God, we will have the same opportunity to provide knowledge and grace to other spirits who have not yet progressed to the station of a God; i.e. we will have the opportunity to have “spirit children” of our own (this could either refer to intelligences that we enabled to become spirits or spirit peers to whom we might someday play the role of Father and Mother, or Savior or father of their spiritual rebirth (see Alma 13:3-5).
The Immortal Nature of Mankind
READ TPJS 395:4-398:1
I have another subject to dwell upon, which is calculated to exalt man; but it is impossible for me to say much on this subject. I shall therefore just touch upon it, for time will not permit me to say all. It is associated with the subject of the resurrection of the dead,—namely, the soul—the mind of man—the immortal spirit. Where did it come from? All learned men and doctors of divinity say that God created it in the beginning; but it is not so: the very idea lessens man in my estimation. I do not believe the doctrine; I know better. Hear it, all ye ends of the world; for God has told me so; and if you don’t believe me, it will not make the truth without effect. I will make a man appear a fool before I get through; if he does not believe it. I am going to tell of things more noble.
We say that God himself is a self-existent being. Who told you so? It is correct enough; but how did it get into your heads? Who told you that man did not exist in like manner upon the same principles? Man does exist upon the same principles. God made a tabernacle and put a spirit into it, and it became a living soul. (Refers to the old Bible.) How does it read in the Hebrew? It does not say in the Hebrew that God created the spirit of man. It says “God made man out of the earth and put into him Adam’s spirit, and so became a living body.” The mind or the intelligence which man possesses is co-equal with God himself. I know that my testimony is true; hence, when I talk to these mourners, what have they lost? Their relatives and friends are only separated from their bodies for a short season: their spirits which existed with God have left the tabernacle of clay only for a little moment, as it were; and they now exist in a place where they converse together the same as we do on the earth.
I am dwelling on the immortality of the spirit of man. Is it logical to say that the intelligence of spirits is immortal, and yet that it had a beginning? The intelligence of spirits had no beginning, neither will it have an end. That is good logic. That which has a beginning may have an end. There never was a time when there were not spirits; for they are co-equal [co-eternal] with our Father in heaven. I want to reason more on the spirit of man; for I am dwelling on the body and spirit of man—on the subject of the dead. I take my ring from my finger and liken it unto the mind of man—the immortal part, because it has no beginning. Suppose you cut it in two; then it has a beginning and an end; but join it again, and it continues one eternal round. So with the spirit of man. As the Lord liveth, if it had a beginning, it will have an end. All the fools and learned and wise men from the beginning of creation, who say that the spirit of man had a beginning, prove that it must have an end; and if that doctrine is true, then the doctrine of annihilation would be true. But if I am right, I might with boldness proclaim from the house-tops that God never had the power to create the spirit of man at all. God himself could not create himself. Intelligence is eternal and exists upon a self-existent principle. It is a spirit from age to age, and there is no creation about it. All the minds and spirits that God ever sent into the world are susceptible of enlargement.
The first principles of man are self-existent with God. God himself, finding he was in the midst of spirits and glory, because he was more intelligent, saw proper to institute laws whereby the rest could have a privilege to advance like himself. The relationship we have with God places us in a situation to advance in knowledge. He has power to institute laws to instruct the weaker intelligences, that they may be exalted with himself, so that they might have one glory upon another, and all that knowledge, power, glory, and intelligence, which is requisite in order to save them in the world of spirits.
What is a “self-existent being”?
A being that exists independently of other beings or causes – it “is” (see Exodus 3:14-15; John 8:56-59; D&C 29:1).
Intelligence is eternal – it has always existed and always will, albeit it can change forms or be changed by those of higher intelligence or in other words, it can be added upon (Abraham 3:26).
If mankind is also “self-existent”, then what did God do for mankind and why?
He and Heavenly Mother “organized” us so that we could progress from “intelligences” to “spirits” and begin to use our agency in more advanced situations so that we could gain more light and knowledge through our choices.
He instituted or introduced us to laws that He was taught which, when lived, allowed Him to grow in intelligence, light or glory until He received a fullness and became a god; He taught us “saving knowledge”.
He increases in glory Himself as those who come up to His station (godhood) do so because of His love, teaching and sacrifices; the love they then have for Him (because He first loved them) ensures that they will remain faithful to Him but even more important, the glory and light they receive make them precisely like each other and one with each other in all things.
How is the mind of man “co-equal with God Himself” if God is more intelligent” or filled with a fullness of light and glory, and we are not?
It is “co-equal” in that it (the mind of man) is also eternal.
It is “co-equal” in that mankind are also beings of light.
It is not “equal” with God in the amount of intelligence, light or glory that it possesses, as it has not progressed to the point that God has; but it does have the ability to do so in time and with the grace of a God or Gods to aid it.
If God can do all things, then why does He not have the power to create the spirit of man and what is implied?
He cannot create Himself. Mankind is intimately connected with God in a way that Joseph would say, “He (God) could not create Himself” – in other words, we are a part of God and He is a part of us.
Mankind are Gods; or at least they are the same kind of beings because they have an intimate or familial relationship (they are not just the same species but the same family), just very much less advanced at this stage.
He cannot do “all” things; eternal law puts constraints even upon God, and He abides by eternal law or He will cease to be a god.
READ TPJS 398:2
This is good doctrine. It tastes good. I can taste the principles of eternal life, and so can you. They are given to me by the revelations of Jesus Christ; and I know that when I tell you these words of eternal life as they are given to me, you taste them, and I know that you believe them. You say honey is sweet, and so do I. I can also taste the spirit of eternal life. I know it is good; and when I tell you of these things which were given me by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, you are bound to receive them as sweet, and rejoice more and more.
What does it mean that truth “tastes good”?
This comment reminds me of Christ’s reply to His apostles when at Jacob’s Well in Samaria (see John 4:27-38) when He says “I have meat to eat that ye know not of”; the TSJ translation adds “my strength comes by obeying the will of God…doing that sustains me by His Holy Spirit”.
It is not the physical body that “tastes” the good doctrine but Joseph is hinting that your spirit is nourished by (it consumes it to sustain life) truth or “eats” truth (or light, intelligence, glory) and it tastes delicious to it (see 1 Nephi 8:10-12; 1 Nephi 11:8); and if your spirit is dominant over your body, that “sweet taste” can actually be discerned by your body – you yearn for or desire the good doctrine because it “tastes good”.
As a side note, it seems that in heaven, the “food” that tastes good is actually good for you!
READ TPJS 398:3-399:1
I want to talk more of the relation of man to God. I will open your eyes in relation to your dead. All things whatsoever God in his infinite wisdom has seen fit and proper to reveal to us, while we are dwelling in mortality, in regard to our mortal bodies, are revealed to us in the abstract, and independent of affinity of this mortal tabernacle, but are revealed to our spirits precisely as though we had no bodies at all; and those revelations which will save our spirits will save our bodies. God reveals them to us in view of no eternal dissolution of the body, or tabernacle. Hence the responsibility, the awful responsibility, that rests upon us in relation to our dead; for all the spirits who have not obeyed the Gospel in the flesh must either obey it in the spirit or be damned. Solemn thought! Dreadful thought! Is there nothing to be done?—no preparation—no salvation for our fathers and friends who have died without having had the opportunity to obey the decrees of the Son of Man? Would to God that I had forty days and nights in which to tell you all! I would let you know that I am not a “fallen prophet.”
How is knowledge transferred to us while we are in mortality and what is the implication on someone’s IQ or the capability of their physical brain?
If the knowledge comes to us in mortality, as if we had no body at all, it bypasses our brains.
The brain still has a function – to bring that spiritual knowledge into the physical realm for use or application here, but Joseph is saying that God speaks directly to your spirit, which has a much great capacity to understand the things of God than does your body and its brain.
This means that one’s IQ (the cognitive ability of the physical brain) is not a constraining factor and may explain why God can teach His truths to the “weak” things of the earth, as easy (or easier) than the great men and women; the constraining factor is much more about hard vs open hearts and a willingness to submit one’s will to God, something that the great of the earth seem to struggle with much more than those in humble circumstances or with more normal capabilities.
It also means that someone like Joseph Smith can make a comment about knowing more than all the world put together (see TPJS 395:2) and he might very well be right, despite his third grade education.
The Salvation of Mankind
What does the fact that all people must obey the Gospel in this life or the next or be damned, tell us about the nature of this “probationary state”?
For most people, it lasts from birth through to the judgement – it includes the spirit world.
But they must learn what is expected of them, either here or there, or they will not be able to comply with it.
The fact that God is fair, though, speaks to His organization of a missionary force (including angels) to ensure that all His children understand the expectations and either choose to comply or not, with full knowledge of the consequences – hence the responsibility of those on the earth and in heaven to share the gospel.
What promises are made in relation to the subject of the salvation of the dead? And what kind of characters are those who can be saved, although their bodies are moldering and decaying in the grave? When his commandments teach us, it is in view of eternity; for we are looked upon by God as though we were in eternity. God dwells in eternity, and does not view things as we do. The greatest responsibility in this world that God has laid upon us is to seek after our dead. The Apostle says, “They without us cannot be made perfect;” (Hebrews 11:40) for it is necessary that the sealing power should be in our hands to seal our children and our dead for the fulness of the dispensation of times—a dispensation to meet the promises made by Jesus Christ before the foundation of the world for the salvation of man. Now, I will speak of them. I will meet Paul halfway. I say to you, Paul, you cannot be perfect without us. It is necessary that those who are going before and those who come after us should have salvation in common with us; and thus hath God made it obligatory upon man. Hence, God said, “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.” (Malachi 4:5-6.)
How does God view things?
In a non-linear, holistic way as all things are before His face (Moses 1:6).
From eternity, where time is measured in a fundamentally different way, if it is measured or exits at all.
But with regards to mortal life and salvation, God seems to view all the “time” we spend separated from Him or out of His presence as a single probationary state, regardless of whether we are mortal or spirit.
What kinds of characters are those who can be saved?
Those who are precisely like Christ and nothing else (see LoF 7:9).
Those who are working on becoming precisely like Christ and nothing else by acting as “Saviors on Mount Zion” for others who cannot save themselves.
Those who have secured a covenant from Christ that they will be saved – their calling and election has been made sure as a factor of their faith, which is generated by their sacrifice of all things – which is total submission to God and following in the precise footsteps of our Lord who is the prototype of the saved man.
Why is our greatest responsibility in this world to seek after our dead – is that ahead of our own salvation?
Our own salvation is dependent upon our looking to or coming unto Christ; He did the “heavy lifting” and we just need to “look”, which is a light thing or a light yoke in comparison.
If we are not saved, we cannot act as a lynch pin or link between our dead and the fathers who are in heaven – we cannot be part of the House or Family of God and connect or “weld” our dead to a “living vine”.
So, assuring our exaltation through making our calling and election sure is a prerequisite, but the responsibility we then hold is to do for others what they cannot do for themselves – we must help our kindred dead to be saved by performing the ordinances of salvation by proxy for them (we can “do for ourselves” in that we can choose to come unto Christ, as we are still in mortality and can still feel the prints in His physical hands and know He is the living God of the whole earth).
We cannot be made perfect without our dead ancestors (who are unsealed themselves) because we have a responsibility to be a “Savior on Mount Zion” for them – to save them by rescuing them via proxy ordinances (as God commanded that all must be baptized – they without us cannot be saved), otherwise they would be damned for something that they cannot impact; this violates God’s justice, so it is only fair that we share their fate if we do not help them out of their predicament, since we can; hence the fact that we cannot be saved unless we save them, too.
READ TPJS 400:1-402:3
I have a declaration to make as to the provisions which God hath made to suit the conditions of man—made from before the foundation of the world. What has Jesus said? All sin, and all blasphemies, and every transgression, except one, that man can be guilty of, may be forgiven; and there is a salvation for all men, either in this world or the world to come, who have not committed the unpardonable sin, there being a provision either in this world or the world of spirits. Hence God hath made a provision that every spirit in the eternal world can be ferreted out and saved unless he has committed that unpardonable sin which cannot be remitted to him either in this world or the world of spirits. God has wrought out a salvation for all men, unless they have committed a certain sin; and every man who has a friend in the eternal world can save him, unless he has committed the unpardonable sin. And so, you can see how far you can be a savior.
A man cannot commit the unpardonable sin after the dissolution of the body, and there is a way possible for escape. Knowledge saves a man; and in the world of spirits no man can be exalted but by knowledge. So long as a man will not give heed to the commandments, he must abide without salvation. If a man has knowledge, he can be saved; although, if he has been guilty of great sins, he will be punished for them. But when he consents to obey the Gospel, whether here or in the world of spirits, he is saved. A man is his own tormenter and his own condemner. Hence the saying, ‘They shall go into the lake that burns with fire and brimstone.’ The torment of disappointment in the mind of man is as exquisite as a lake burning with fire and brimstone. I say, so is the torment of man. I know the scriptures and understand them. I said, no man can commit the unpardonable sin after the dissolution of the body, nor in this life, until he receives the Holy Ghost; but they must do it in this world. Hence the salvation of Jesus Christ was wrought out for all men, in order to triumph over the devil; for if it did not catch him in one place, it would in another; for he stood up as a Savior. All will suffer until they obey Christ himself. The contention in heaven was—Jesus said there would be certain souls that would not be saved; and the devil said he could save them all, and laid his plans before the grand council, who gave their vote in favor of Jesus Christ. So the devil rose up in rebellion against God, and was cast down, with all who put up their heads for him. (Book of Moses 4:1-4; Book of Abraham 3:23-28.)
All sins shall be forgiven, except the sin against the Holy Ghost; for Jesus will save all except the sons of perdition. What must a man do to commit the unpardonable sin? He must receive the Holy Ghost, have the heavens opened unto him, and know God, and then sin against Him. After a man has sinned against the Holy Ghost, there is no repentance for him. He has got to say that the sun does not shine while he sees it; he has got to deny Jesus Christ when the heavens have been opened unto him, and to deny the plan of salvation with his eyes open to the truth of it; and from that time he begins to be an enemy. This is the case with many apostates of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. When a man begins to be an enemy to this work, he hunts me, he seeks to kill me, and never ceases to thirst for my blood. He gets the spirit of the devil—the same spirit that they had who crucified the Lord of Life—the same spirit that sins against the Holy Ghost. You cannot save such persons; you cannot bring them to repentance; they make open war, like the devil, and awful is the consequence. I advise all of you to be careful what you do, or you may by-and-by find out that you have been deceived. Stay yourselves; do not give way; don’t make any hasty moves, you may be saved. If a spirit of bitternes is in you, don’t be in haste. You may say, that man is a sinner. Well, if he repents, he shall be forgiven. Be cautious: await. When you find a spirit that wants bloodshed—murder, the same is not of God, but is of the devil. Out of the abundance of the heart of man the mouth speaketh.
What is the one sin that will prevent a person from being saved?
Sinning against the Holy Ghost, which is denying the Christ after you have received a sure knowledge of who He is and your standing before Him as one who has made his/her calling and election sure; it is to lose faith in His promise to you, having received it from His lips; it is rejecting His claim that He can save you.
This sin can only be committed in this life because the individual has to have received physical proof in this world (and “of this world” or the kind of evidence that is indisputable, in this world = tactile proof) – they must have handled the wounds of the risen Christ; this is what it means to say the sun doesn’t shine while he sees and feels the warmth on his face as he looks up to see it on a midsummer’s day at noon; in reality, it is when he/she feels the warmth of Christ’s body during the sacred embrace during which he/she feels the wound in Christ’s side (see 3 Nephi 11:14-17) or the breath of His face when he/she feel the prints in His hands and wrists – and then to deny that Christ lives after the proofs of that experience.
Note, in case you think this precludes anyone born before Christ’s mortal ministry from qualifying as Sons of Perdition, Mahonri was ministered to by Christ in this way 2000+ BEFORE His birth (see Ether 3:17-19) – something to think about, regarding the logistics of how that occurred!
It is called sinning against the Holy Ghost because you are sinning against the gift Christ has given you as a result of His atonement; He enabled your spirit to become holy and filled with light and knowledge by sharing His mind or the Holy Spirit with you; but then, you have spurned His gift and desecrated the temple of your body (which was meant to house a Holy Ghost or your spirit which has been sanctified) despite having experienced His gift and KNOWING better.
The question I have from Joseph’s statement above, implying that many of the apostate LDS leaders sinned against the Holy Ghost, is whether this is really true, given the way we’ve defined a son of perdition above. While many people had spiritual experiences beyond the veil in Kirtland and in New York, one can really debate if any of them experienced a calling and election. While it is possible, I doubt it (remember how many received an ordination to the High Priesthood at Morley Farm in 1831 and how few took up the Lord’s offer to go forth and receive that priesthood). So either the definition of sinning against the Holy Ghost we’ve defined above is wrong (the criteria is too advanced) or Joseph was using a bit of hyperbole when describing the spiritual condition and fate of the LDS apostates.
What does it mean that there is a provision that anyone who has not sinned against the Holy Ghost can be “ferreted out” and saved?
Joseph may be using the word “saved” or “salvation” differently than he used it in the Lectures on Faith, where it was used to mean exaltation (living with God because you have become like God), where here he seems to be using the word to mean being saved in a kingdom of glory (telestial, terrestrial or celestial).
However, it is possible that his use of the word “salvation” could still be interchangeable with the usage of the word in Lectures on Faith (to also mean exaltation); in the Lectures on Faith, to be saved is to be exalted and to be anything less than exalted is not to be saved at all; if all who do not commit the unpardonable sin are able to either continue their progression by leveraging the light they gained in one life to their advantage in the next (see D&C 130:18-21) or if they are allowed to take advantage of future mortal probation opportunities to “rise up” from the “deaths” of an unending series of telestial mortalities by finally offering their whole souls that they may experience the baptism of fire and then follow the path to receive the Second Comforter and be redeemed and promised eternal lives (see D&C 132:21-25), then they are still “in the game” and could be saved at some point in the future; they could be “ferreted out” of their dark telestial place and awake to the light and eventually be saved over the course multiple mortal probations, given they came unto Christ in each one and were “born again” to that which they knew before.
How does knowledge save a person?
Knowledge of how to come unto Christ and be saved.
Knowledge of how to avoid being trapped by the adversary (see TPJS 246:1).
Knowledge that the course of life you are pursuing is according to God’s will = making your calling and election sure, giving you the faith you will need to withstand all of the future trials and afflictions you will be called to go through (see LoF 6).
Knowledge = intelligence, truth, light, glory, spirit; to have a fullness of God’s glory is to be saved, as only those who are precisely like Him and nothing else, having done the works He Himself has done, can receive a fullness.
Knowledge or light and glory can only be obtained by keeping God’s commandments, which are aligned with eternal law; to be saved or become as God is, one must learn line upon line and gain the capability (going from a small capacity for righteousness and light to a great one) to live in complete and perfect adherence to the fullness of eternal law.
Does God punish man for his sins?
Mankind punishes themselves for their own sins.
The realization of what we could have freely had but what we refused is what causes this great remorse (see Alma 42:27).
In addition, the blinding glory of God is “hazardous” to a person who is not prepared to be in proximity to it; their natural reaction is to run or wish they could cease to exist; but God is not punishing them, He is just “being”; but their reaction to Him is very negative – they cannot abide His presence in the least (see Mormon 9:3-5; Alma 36:14-15).
Why would certain souls not be saved?
They are not saved because they chose not to be; they rejected Christ and the Spirit which was enticing and whispering to them to come unto Him.
They lack the faith to come unto Christ and obtain the promise of salvation because they harden their hearts and they will not sacrifice all things, which includes a broken heart and contrite spirit.
How could Satan claim to save all of mankind?
Satan could not abolish agency without impacting our very existence; in that case he wouldn’t have lost any of us but he wouldn’t have saved us as sentient beings either; as matter is eternal, perhaps we would exist in some form but our agency is THE reason that we progressed from intelligence to be acted upon to a spirit which can act or employ agency.
Perhaps he could claim to save us only by seeking to overthrow God and setting up his own kingdom of darkness; as God is a god of light (He is God because He is precisely how He is and nothing else, i.e. He chooses to completely align His behavior with the eternal law of light and glory), Satan cannot overthrow God and take His place as a God of Light if he is not also precisely as God is (and the act of violently overthrowing another is contrary to eternal law…), so his only choice is to create a kingdom of darkness; however, this is basically the definition of hell, unless Satan figured out some way to “progress” in this kingdom so that his minions were not damned or stopped; that a kingdom of darkness could exist separate from the kingdom of God is purely speculative but the idea that opposites exist in all things make it possible, I suppose.
Why should we be careful not to judge hastily?
This is a probationary state and the Lord is working with all of us right up until the end, and for the vast majority, that end extends past death into the spirit world.
Whether we judge someone else or not has no bearing on their salvation, but it could seriously jeopardize our own, as we will be judged by the standard against which we judge others.
This same spirit of being very careful to judge others extends to those in Church leadership who hastily excommunicate individuals that they feel make threatening claims (“I have seen God”) or who doubt that the leaders are actually true prophets, seers and revelators (“You have not seen God”); if we are to take Joseph’s words seriously, we should minister with love to try to reclaim them, rather than fearfully excommunicate them.
READ TPJS 403:2-404:1
The best men bring forth the best works. The man who tells you words of life is the man who can save you. I warn you against all evil characters who sin against the Holy Ghost; for there is no redemption for them in this world nor in the world to come. I could go back and trace every subject of interest concerning the relationship of man to God, if I had time. I can enter into the mysteries; I can enter largely into the eternal worlds; for Jesus said, “In my Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2). Paul says, “There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for one star differeth from another star in glory. So also is the resurrection of the dead” (1 Cor. 15:41). What have we to console us in relation to the dead? We have reason to have the greatest hope and consolations for our dead of any people on the earth; for we have seen them walk worthily in our midst, and seen them sink asleep in the arms of Jesus; and those who have died in the faith are now in the celestial kingdom of God. And hence is the glory of the sun. You mourners have occasion to rejoice, speaking of the death of Elder King Follett; for your husband and father is gone to wait until the resurrection of the dead—until the perfection of the remainder; for at the resurrection your friend will rise in perfect felicity and go to celestial glory, while many must wait myriads of years before they can receive the like blessings; and your expectations and hopes are far above what man can conceive; for why has God revealed it to us?
How can you tell if a person claiming to be a messenger from God is true?
He or she bring forth the “best” works.
They can share with you the words of life – or words that if you will follow them, will lead directly to your obtaining eternal life.
You know they are the words of life to the degree that you follow their counsel and make your calling and election sure by so doing – that is the proof! That you now have eternal life because you followed their words because they were true – i.e. they actually led you back to God’s presence in this life.
What does Joseph mean by saying he can “enter largely into the eternal worlds”?
Joseph has been taught how to find or see the portals which connect earth to heaven and has the knowledge (i.e. intelligence, light or glory within him) to pass the angels that stand as sentinels and enter into many of them or to enter them at most of his attempts.
It is through “gazing into heaven” or actually visiting heaven that Joseph has learned the details of man’s relationship to God and the mysteries of Godliness; Joseph has attained a priesthood or association with God such that God has taken up His habitation with Joseph, allowing Joseph to see Him and visit Him often.
What does it mean to “die in the faith” such that you immediately inherit the Celestial kingdom?
The faith, in this case, must mean faith in the promise of eternal life you received directly from Christ when He made your calling and election sure; without that promise, you will not be able to generate sufficient faith to be saved when faced with the full power of the adversary and the doubts he will bring to your mind during trials in this life or at the death of the body (see LoF 6:2-6).
Even then, when the Hebrew and Nephite apostles were asked what Christ would do for them, most of them asked to go immediately to Him upon their deaths; they clearly would have already had their calling and elections made sure, so the inference that they needed to ask for the right to go straight to the Celestial Kingdom, by-passing what we can surmise would have otherwise been a lengthy stay in the spirit world, means that most who have made their calling and election sure will not go “immediately” to inherit the Celestial kingdom.
The idea of being “safely dead” or dying while being fully active in the “faith” or Church, without having entered into the Way via the baptism of fire and enduring to the end which is the Second Comforter, is a false idea for the reasons we’ve laid out – i.e. they have not yet been promised that kingdom and their lingering doubts will prevent them from obtaining it, as will their lack of light and truth.
READ TPJS 404:5-405:3
I will leave this subject here, and make a few remarks on the subject of baptism. The baptism of water, without the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost attending it, is of no use; they are necessarily and inseparably connected. An individual must be born of water and the Spirit in order to get into the kingdom of God. In the German, the text bears me out the same as the revelations which I have given and taught for the last fourteen years on that subject. I have the testimony to put in their teeth. My testimony has been true all the time. You will find it in the declaration of John the Baptist. (Reads from the German.) John says, “I baptize you with water, but when Jesus comes, who has the power (or keys), he shall administer the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost.” Where is now all the sectarian world? And if this testimony is true, they are all damned as clearly as anathema can do it. I know the text is true. I call upon all you Germans who know that it is true to say, Aye. (Loud shouts of “Aye.”) Alexander Campbell, how are you going to save people with water alone? For John said his baptism was good for nothing without the baptism of Jesus Christ. “Therefore, not leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. And this will we do, if God permit.” (Heb. 6:1-3). There is one God, one Father, one Jesus, one hope of our calling, one baptism. Many talk of baptism not being essential to salvation; but this kind of teaching would lay the foundation of their damnation. I have the truth, and am at the defiance of the world to contradict me, if they can.
Why is a baptism of water worthless without the baptism of fire?
Baptism by water is the outward ordinance performed in this mortal world by which we “sign our name” to the gospel covenant, promising that we will keep the terms, which include offering our whole souls to Christ – a broken heart and contrite spirit, forsaking all of our sins, etc.
But that covenant must be accepted by God to be in effect; when we have truly offered the terms to God’s liking, He will accept our covenant and fulfill His part of the covenant by baptizing us with fire and the Holy Ghost, which is the actual baptism or cleansing and sanctification of our spirits.
Baptism by water is worthless without the baptism of fire because it proves that we have not fulfilled the terms of the covenant; we have made a promise we have not kept, so the whole thing is just for show – it won’t cleanse us, in fact, it will damn us for trifling with God (see TPJS 352:4).
READ TPJS 405:5-406:2
Hear it, all ye ends of the earth—all ye priests, all ye sinners, and all men. Repent! repent! Obey the Gospel. Turn to God; for your religion won’t save you, and you will be damned. I do not say how long. There have been remarks made concerning all men being redeemed from hell; but I say that those who sin against the Holy Ghost cannot be forgiven in this world or in the world to come; they shall die the second death. Those who commit the unpardonable sin are doomed to Gnolom—to dwell in hell, worlds without end. As they concoct scenes of bloodshed in this world, so they shall rise to that resurrection which is as the lake of fire and brimstone. Some shall rise to the everlasting burnings of God; for God dwells in everlasting burnings, and some shall rise to the damnation of their own filthiness, which is as exquisite a torment as the lake of fire and brimstone. I have intended my remarks for all, both rich and poor, bond and free, great and small. I have no enmity against any man. I love you all; but I hate some of your deeds. I am your best friend, and if persons miss their mark it is their own fault. If I reprove a man, and he hates me, he is a fool; for I love all men, especially these my brethren and sisters.
What is the message of all true prophets and why?
Repent and obey the gospel! Turn to God!
Joseph reproves you because he loves you and he wants you to be saved, which requires that you change or repent.
What does Joseph mean by saying that you will be damned but he doesn’t know for how long?
Damnation = a halt in your progression.
Damnation = condemnation to eternal punishment in hell.
Eternal punishment is “god’s punishment” (see D&C 19:11-12).
Hell is a place of spiritual death outside of God’s presence; it is separation from God.
Joseph is saying that unless you sin against the Holy Ghost (deny Christ after having received the Second Comforter), your damnation may not last forever – i.e. through multiple eternities; implied is that you may get another chance to choose the light by coming unto God to be saved.
It is interesting that Joseph says that their religion won’t save them; if their religion is true, it will lead them back into Christ’s presence to receive the Second Comforter and calling and election (the testimony of Jesus to them of their standing before Him, see D&C 88:75); but if it is false, it won’t do that; also, it can still be true but they can reject it and it might as well have been false; but in any case, the religion and their works won’t save them, only Christ can do that.
How can someone love you but hate your deeds?
The Lord and those who are filled with His pure love (charity) love everyone unconditionally – so it doesn’t matter what you have done – they still love you.
You are not your thoughts, feelings or actions, although you must accept the consequences of them, as you have your agency (see Alma 42:27).
So, God and those like Joseph can love you, who are a being of light, without loving the dark things you’ve done on this earth.
READ TPJS 406:3-407:1
I rejoice in hearing the testimony of my aged friends. You don’t know me; you never knew my heart. No man knows my history. I cannot tell it: I shall never undertake it. I don’t blame anyone for not believing my history. If I had not experienced what I have, I could not have believed it myself. I never did harm any man since I was born in the world. My voice is always for peace. I cannot lie down until all my work is finished. I never think any evil, nor do anything to the harm of my fellow-man. When I am called by the trump of the archangel and weighed in the balance, you will all know me then. I add no more. God bless you all. Amen.
Why will we never truly believe Joseph’s history unless we experience the same things ourselves?
Without being a visionary person yourself, when you hear Joseph’s history, doubts fill your head – “did all of that really happen to him?”
Doubt is the natural response to anyone who has not “gazed into heaven for five minutes” or experienced other significant spiritual experiences, whereby they know God lives with a surety – above mere belief; spiritual experiences like Joseph’s are just so far beyond them that they don’t believe they could happen to anyone (as they haven’t happened to them).
God is no respecter of persons, so those who have not had the same experiences as Joseph Smith are demonstrably proving, through their lack of such miracles and visions, that they lack the faith for God to manifest Himself to them.
And if you lack the faith to have the same experiences, that proves that you don’t really believe that Joseph Smith experienced them either, or you don’t believe that God is no respecter of persons, that wants to make Himself known unto you, and has the power to do so at any time, because your “personal righteousness” will never begin to be sufficient to earn such an honor – it is all done through God’s grace.
How do we overcome these doubts?
You must do what Nephi did when he was confronted with the experiences Lehi had – you must desire to believe and pray to the Lord for the truth (see 1 Nephi 2:16).
You must then follow the promptings you receive with faith, despite the opposition you will encounter, until the Lord confirms the truth to you and you have knowledge of that thing (see Alma 32:26-34).
You must believe that God is no respecter of persons and that Joseph was right when he said that even the least Saint could know and experience what he had, as soon as we can bear them – because God’s intention is for no person to have to say to their neighbor “know ye the Lord” because all will know Him (see TPJS 170:6).