THE CHURCH'S ALLEGED
LOSS OF REVELATION
Another assertion promoted by Fundamentalists today involves
the alleged loss of revelation within the Church. This claim should come
as no surprise since it would make little sense for Fundamentalists to
separate themselves from a religious organization which they believed was
led by revelation. Therefore, they naturally conclude that the Church is
no longer guided by continuous revelation. At the same time, they assume
that they have ready access to God's mind and will directly or through
their own religious leaders.
LIVING PROPHETS VERSES DEAD PROPHETS
When comparing Mormon Fundamentalists with Church members,
possibly the biggest difference today involves the teachings of Living
Oracles. Fundamentalists today believe that certain past revelations could
not have been subsequently changed by the Lord through his living prophet.
In defense of this position they quote:
Ordinances instituted in the heavens
before the foundation of the world, in the priesthood, for the salvation
of men, are not to be altered or changed. All must be saved on the same
principles... ...therefore He set the ordinances to be the same forever
and ever, and set Adam to watch over them, to reveal them from heaven to
man, or to send angels to reveal them. (TPJS pp. 308, 168.)
Fundamentalists suggest that these statements extend beyond
the ordinances of salvation interpreting them to mean that no principle
or practice of the church may be changed if exaltation is desired. Joseph
We hold strictly to the written
word of God, and that wherein any man teaches anything contrary to and
in conflict therewith; such teachings are erroneous and must be rejected
by the Saints. (Truth 4:6.)
A more recent work discussing the thesis of superiority
of the written word of early prophets and apostles versus that of present
prophets and apostles aptly expresses Fundamentalist restriction on change:
How can a false prophet be judged
from a true one?
1. If he contradicts a former revelation of God.
2. If he does not live according to the principles of former prophets.
3. If his teachings and doctrine disagree with other dead or living ones...
10. If he fails to teach according to the scriptures.
11. If he opposes those who live and teach the fulness of the Gospel.
(Ogden Kraut, Principles or Personalities,
Pioneer Press, 1973, pp. 50-51.)
If we are not careful, these ideas can easily negate the doctrine of continuous revelation - the rock on which the true Church is always founded (Matt. 16:17-18; Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith p. 274).
Embracing dead prophets while spurning living ones is
common among Israel. Hugh Nibley has written:
Here we have something in the nature
of a general principle. The rejection of living prophets and the veneration
of dead ones is not a folly limited to one nation or to one generation.
It meets us throughout the long history of Israel as a sort of standard
procedure. (The World and the Prophets, F.A.R.M.S., 1987, p. 7.)
Some Latter-day Saints have always been prone to fall
into a dead-letter rut. Wilford Woodruff reports an instance in early Church
history of a brother steeped in such sectarianism. The brother taught that
the Saints should confine themselves to the written word. Specifically
this unidentified Church member expressed his opinion saying:
You have got the word of God before
you here in the Bible, Book of Mormon, a Doctrine and Covenants; you have
the written word of God, and you who give revelations should give revelations
according to these books, as what is written in these books is the word
of God. We should confine ourselves to them. (Conference Reports,
Oct. 1897, pp. 18-19.)
Wilford Woodruff shared Joseph's response:
Upon hearing this Joseph Smith turned to Brigham Young and said: "Brother Brigham, I want you to take the stand and tell us your views with regard to the living oracles and the written word of God."
Brother Brigham took the stand and he took the Bible, and laid it down, and he took the Book of Doctrine and Covenants, and laid it down before him, and he said: "There is the written word of God to us, concerning the work of God from the beginning of the word, almost to our day. And now," said he, "when compared with the living oracles, those books are nothing to me; those books do not convey the word of God direct to us now, as do the words of a prophet or a man bearing the holy priesthood to our day and generation. I would rather have the living oracles than all the writings in the books."
That was the course he pursued.
When he was through, Brother Joseph said to the congregation: "Brother
Brigham has told the word of the Lord and he has told you the truth." (Ibid.)
DIVINE GUIDANCE SUITED
TO EVER-CHANGING CIRCUMSTANCES
Scripture is merely the history of other men's revelations
given during their times and under their circumstances. Orson Pratt expressed
this concept in one of his discourses:
All of these inspired writings are considered valuable, because they contain, not a different gospel or law, but different items of revelation which were once adapted to the different circumstances of individuals and churches to whom they were given. These ever-varying items of revelation are valuable, not as a law or rule for the Church in these days, but as matters of history...
The history of God's revelations,
ever varying to suit circumstances, is an encouragement for the Saints
in the nineteenth century to seek after new revelations, like the ancients,
which shall be adapted to the every-varying and innumerable circumstances
with which they may be surrounded. (Orson Pratt's Works, pp. 66-68.)
Thus, requirements that were valid and binding in earlier
days may not apply in our day because of different circumstances. Orson
Hyde explained this succinctly at October Conference, 1854:
The words contained in this Bible are merely a history of what is gone by; it was never given to guide the servant of God in the course he should pursue, any more than the words and commandments of God, given to a generation under one set of circumstances, would serve for another generation under another set of circumstances. There must be something to suggest or to draw forth the command to answer the circumstance under which we are placed at the time.
It is so with the servants of God.
There is a Spirit that is ever ready, and points out, under varied and
conflicting circumstances, the very course which the servants of God should
pursue... Hence, it is the letter that killeth, and the Spirit giveth life.
Brigham Young reiterated this same concept pointing out:
With regard to the Bible we frequently
say we believe the Bible, but circumstances alter cases, for what is
now required of the people may not be required of a people that may live
a hundred years hence. (Brigham Young Papers, July-Oct. 1854, CHD.)
Orson Pratt reinforced this thought with the following
God dealt with his servant Joseph
much the same as a wise earthly parent does with his children, adapting
his instructions according to their growth and capacity... God adapts his
course with his children according to their condition and requirements.
And what is essential under one set of circumstances, may not be suitable
under other circumstances, hence we find that God reveals his mind and
will to his children, according to their needs and his own good pleasure.
And because something is done in one age of the world, that is no reason
why it should be repeated in another. (Deseret News Weekly, Oct.
Thus we see that God recognizes that His children will
be placed in different circumstances and through continuous revelation
He will adapt His principles to those circumstances. The Prophet Joseph
Smith clarified this concept in a letter to a friend:
That which is wrong under one circumstance, may be, and often is, right under another.
God said, "Thou shalt not kill;"
at another time He said, "Thou shalt utterly destroy." This is the principle
on which the government of heaven is conducted -- by revelation adapted
to the circumstances in which the children of the kingdom are placed.
Whatever God requires is right, no matter what it is, although we may not
see the reason thereof till long after the events transpire. If we seek
first the kingdom of God, all good things will be added. (TPJS p. 256.)
John Taylor pointed out the necessity of continued revelation
adapted by the Lord to the particular circumstances of each time:
REVELATION NEEDED FOR TIME AND CIRCUMSTANCE.
-- We require a living tree -- a living fountain -- living intelligence,
proceeding from the living priesthood in heaven, through the living priesthood
on earth. . . . And from the time that Adam first received a communication
from God, to the time that John, on the Isle of Patmos, received his communication,
or Joseph Smith had the heavens opened to him, it always required new revelations,
adapted to the peculiar circumstances in which the churches or individuals
were placed. Adam's revelation did not instruct Noah to build his ark;
nor did Noah's revelation tell Lot to forsake Sodom; nor did either of
these speak of the departure of the children of Israel from Egypt. These
all had revelations for themselves, and so had Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel,
Jesus, Peter, Paul, John, and Joseph, And so must we, or we shall make
a shipwreck. (The Gospel Kingdom p. 34.)
"Shipwreck" comes through transgression of the Lord's
current instruction while doggedly persisting in the outmoded requirements
of an earlier era after circumstances have changed. George Q. Cannon counseled
members of the Church to shun people who have thus lost the spirit and
seek refuge in the revelations of the past:
When men get into the dark, through
committing adultery or some other sin that grieves the Spirit of God and
causes it to be withdrawn from them, you will frequently find them falling
back upon the Book of Mormon and Book of Doctrine and Covenants and quoting
therefrom to show how the authorities of the Church are departing from
the word of God as revealed in these books. I have often noticed it, and
no doubt you all have. They appear to be oblivious to the fact that the
Lord gives revelations suited to the circumstances and conditions of the
people... Seek to become familiar with the conditions of the people at
the time and with the circumstances in which they are place, and then you
will see that many things that are said there were necessary in those days
but are not intended for us at the present time... A great many people
fall into error very frequently by quoting and seeking to apply to present
conditions revelations which were given to the Church in early days and
which were especially adapted to the circumstances then existing. (Gospel
Truth, 1:323-324 [253-254].)
PRINCIPLES OF REVOCATION
There are some who will not permit the Lord to adapt his
program to changing circumstances - giving new revelation and revoking
previous requirements. This restriction was leveled against Joseph Smith
by dissidents of his day. He responded:
Some people say I am a fallen Prophet,
because I do not forth more of the word of the Lord, Why do I not do it?
Are we able to receive it? No!... On the subject of revelation, he said,
a man would command his sons to dig potatoes and saddle his horse, but
before he had done either he would tell him to do something else. This
is all considered right; but as soon as the Lord gives a commandment and
revokes that decree and commands something else, then the Prophet is considered
fallen. (TPJS p. 194.)
Continuous revelation allows the Lord to reveal principles
adapted to circumstances and to command and revoke as He wills. If the
Lord revokes a command because of rebellion and lack of diligence then
the blessings predicated on observance of that law are forfeited. Note
the following example when a brother was called to the ministry and failed
Behold, I, the Lord, command; and he that will not obey shall be cut off in mine own due time, after I have commanded and the commandment is broken.
Wherefore I, the Lord, command and
revoke, as it seemeth me good; and all this to be answered upon the heads
of the rebellious, saith the Lord. (D&C 56:3-4.)
I command and men obey not; I revoke and they receive not the blessing.
Then they say in their hearts: This
is not the work of the Lord, for his promises are not fulfilled. But wo
unto such, for their reward lurketh beneath, and not from above. (D&C
But what of the case where the Lord commands and his servants
diligently attempt to comply, but are hindered by forces beyond their control?
The Lord's requirements are expressed in the following instance: In September,
1832, the Lord gave a command to the Saints of Missouri:
Verily this is the word of the Lord, that the city New Jerusalem shall be built by the gathering of the saints, beginning at this place, even the place of the temple, which temple shall be reared in this generation.
For verily this generation shall
not all pass away until an house shall be built unto the Lord, and a cloud
shall rest upon it, which cloud shall be even the glory of the Lord, which
shall fill the house. (D&C 84:4-5.)
A review of Church history will show that the Saints were
hindered from fulfilling this command and were ultimately driven from their
inheritance by mobs. After the Saints gathered to Nauvoo and were again
commanded to build a temple the Lord revealed the following principle:
Verily, verily, I say unto you, that when I give a commandment to any of the sons of men to do a work unto my name, and those sons of men go with all their might and with all they have to perform that work, and cease not their diligence, and their enemies come upon them and hinder them from performing that work, behold, it behooveth me to require that work no more at the hands of those sons of men, but to accept of their offerings.
Therefore, for this cause have I accepted the offerings of those whom I commanded to build up a city and a house unto my name, in Jackson county, Missouri, and were hindered by their enemies, saith the Lord your God.
And this I make an example unto
you, for your consolation concerning all those who have been commanded
to do a work and have been hindered by the hands of their enemies, and
by oppression, saith the Lord your God. (D&C 124:49, 51, 53.)
In other words, the Lord accepts the word for the deed
when the Saints are hindered by their enemies from fulfilling His command
and judgement then rests, not on the Saints, but on those who hindered
CONTINUOUS REVELATION CONTINUES
Generally Fundamentalists believe that following issuance
of the 1890 Manifesto, all revelation to the Church ceased and the Church
became shrouded in spiritual darkness. Arnold Boss, a prominent polygamist
Since the official action taken
which repudiated plural or celestial marriage (at the General Conference
of October, 1890) there has been no revelation given through the heads
of the Church. Since that time great changes have taken place among this
people. The Church has become popularized, the peculiarity which one distinguished
this people from apostate Christendom, has been lost. Persecution has ceased.
Much has been done to change the gospel plan and ordinances. (Truth
In substantiation of this premise Joseph Musser offers
the following evidence:
Some years after signing the Manifesto
he (Wilford Woodruff) stated, "Joseph Smith continued visiting myself and
others up to a certain time, and then it stopped." (The Vision,
John B. Lundwall, p. 102). It is our view that these visits stopped at
the signing of the Manifesto, which signing had the effect of nullifying
laws that Joseph and others gave their lives to establish. (Truth
5:109-110; see also 3:78, 4:173 and The Four Hidden Revelations
This statement presumes that Joseph Smith stopped visiting
President Woodruff in 1890. Further research by Fundamentalists would show
that this position to be in error. The statement cited above was made in
1896, but Wilford Woodruff expressed this same sentiment in 1880, ten years
before issuing the 1890 Manifesto which officially terminated the practice
of plural marriage in the Church:
After the death of Joseph Smith
I saw and conversed with him many times in my dreams in the night season...
I have had many interviews with Brother Joseph until the last 15 or 20
years of my life; I have not seen him for that length of time. But during
my travels in the southern country last winter I had many interviews with
President Young, and with Heber C. Kimball, and Geo. A. Smith, and Jedediah
M. Grant, and many others who are dead... the thought came to me that Brother
Joseph had left the work of watching over this church and kingdom to others,
and that he had gone ahead, and that he had left this work to men who have
lived and labored with us since he left us. This idea manifested itself
to me, that such men advance in the spirit world. (JD 21:317-318, October
Thus it is evident that Joseph Smith ceased visiting Wilford
Woodruff sometime between 1865 and 1870, and consequently, this had nothing
to do with the termination of plural marriage in the Church. The contention
that all revelation to the Church ceased in 1890 is problematic. Wilford
Woodruff spoke on this subject in 1891, the year following the Manifesto:
I wish to make some remarks upon
the principle of revelation. Some have thought that revelation had ceased.
But this is not the case. The Lord is with us, and gives us revelation.
But I will say for myself that I wish to avoid saying, "Thus saith the
Lord," as far as I can, when I give the will of the Lord to the people.
In the days of Joseph Smith it was "Thus saith the Lord" almost daily,
until the revelations now embodied in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants
had been given. Since that day Presidents Brigham Young and John Taylor
and myself have seldom used the words "Thus saith the Lord" when giving
the word of the Lord to the people. In the 68th section of the Book of
Doctrine and Covenants we are informed that when men speak as they are
moved upon by the Holy Ghost it is the word of the Lord and revelation...
And the Latter-day Saints throughout Israel should understand that the
First Presidency of the Church and the Twelve Apostles are led and guided
by the inspiration of the Lord, and the Lord will not permit me, nor any
other man, to lead the people astray. (Collected Discourses 2:281-282.)
Brigham Young once intimated that formal revelations were
only given to those slow at following the counsel of the Prophet. In speaking
of the Seventies rearing a hall in Salt Lake City in 1852, Brigham Young
Joseph received the pattern of the
temple in Kirtland, and said to me, if this people would do as they are
told, it would be superfluous to have a revelation. And if you are covetous
and indolent, you may get a revelation in regard to this hall. (Millennial
President Young even went so far as to point out that
if people were always obedient to the counsel of living prophets, there
would be no need for scripture at all:
A great many people are rejoiced to have revelations, and are all the time anxious for the Lord to give his word and have it written down; but let me tell you if the people had never apostatized, there never would have been a written law from the days of Adam until now, that is as we have received them, or as we have considered them. There is no necessity for it, for the word of the Lord is with us, the Lord himself is with us, his angels are with us, he comes when he pleases and reveals himself when he pleases and how he pleases. He sends his angles and has his prophets and mouthpiece on the earth. A living oracle is here. What is the use of reading the law when we have the living oracle to tell us what to do from time to time?
If you have these living oracles
with you they are better to you than all that has ever been written from
the days of Adam until now. (Discourse given March 30, 1856, CHD.)
President Woodruff continued to receive revelation for
the Church following the issuance of the Manifesto. At the dedication of
the Salt Lake Temple in 1893, it was reported:
As the great assembly finished singing
the Hallelujah Chorus, on the morning of April 7th 1893, President Wilford
Woodruff came before the vast multitude and said: "Last night I had a vision,
I saw Presidents Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, John Taylor, and all the
heavenly hosts who have died in this dispensation shouting praises to the
Lord, and as the shouting of the Hallelujah Hosannah went up from the temple,
the shout was re-echoed to Christ, the Apostles and Saints to the throne
of God: That they were more interested in the dedication of the temple
than we possibly could be, and that the Lord accepted this temple. (John
M Whitaker Journal, 1:278.)
Another account of President Woodruff's speech reads:
I feel at liberty to reveal to this
assembly this morning what has been revealed to me since we were here yesterday
morning. If the veil could be taken from our eyes and we could see into
the spirit world, we would see that Joseph Smith, Brigham Young and John
Taylor had gathered together every spirit that ever dwelt in the flesh
in this Church since its organization. We would also see the faithful apostles
and elders of the Nephites who dwelt in the flesh in the days of Jesus
Christ. In that assembly we would also see Isaiah and every prophet and
apostle that ever prophesied of the great work of God. In the midst of
these spirits we would see the Son of God, the Savior, who presides and
guides and controls the preparing of the Kingdom of God on the earth and
After the dedication of the Salt Lake Temple further revelation
concerning sealing under the law of adoption was presented to the priesthood
quorums and the general Church membership for an approving vote. President
Woodruff remarked at April Conference, 1894:
I want to say, as the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, that we should now go on and progress. We have not got through revelation. We have not got through the work of God. But at this period we want to go on and fulfill this commandment of God given through Malachi--that the Lord should send Elijah the prophet, "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"...
We have felt that there was more
to be revealed upon this subject than we had received. Revelations were
given to us in the St. George Temple, which President Young presented to
the Church of God. Changes were made there, and we still have more changes
to make, in order to satisfy our Heavenly Father, satisfy our dead and
ourselves. I will tell you what some of them are. I have prayed over this
matter, and my brethren have. We have felt, as President Taylor said, that
we have got to have more revelation concerning sealing under the law of
adoption. Well, what are these changes? One of them is the principle of
adoption. (Collected Discourses 4:71-72.)
President Woodruff then announced to the General Conference
that he had gone "before the Lord" to know who men should be adopted to
and it was revealed to him that they should be sealed to their natural
fathers. Prior to this time it had been the practice to be sealed to the
"Prophets and Apostles" in the Church. President Woodruff pronounced this
prior practice an outmoded procedure and called upon the membership of
the Church to accept as a revelation this announcement:
He told us that there must be a
welding link of all dispensations and of the work of God from one generation
to another. This was upon his mind more than most any other subject that
was given to him. In my prayers the Lord revealed to me, that it was my
duty to say to all Israel to carry this principle out, and in fulfillment
of that revelation I lay it before this people. I say to all men who are
laboring in these temples, carry out this principle, and then we will make
one step in advance of what we have had before. Myself and counselors conversed
upon this and were agreed upon it, and afterwards we laid it before all
the Apostles who were here (two were absent--Brothers Thatcher and Lund,
the latter being in England), and the Lord revealed to every one of these
men--and they would bear testimony to it if they were to speak--that that
was the word of the Lord to them. (Ibid. p. 73.)
As if to squelch future claims that all revelations to
the Church ceased following issuance of the Manifesto, President Woodruff
The Almighty is with this people.
We shall have all the revelations that we will need, if we will do our
duty and obey the commandments of God. When any of us get so that we cannot
receive these revelations the Lord will take us out of the way and put
someone in our places who can... Here is the Holy Priesthood in these mountains.
Their responsibility is great and mighty. The eyes of God and all the holy
prophets are watching over us. This is the great dispensation that has
been spoken of ever since the world began. We are gathered together in
these mountains of Israel by the power and commandment of God. We are doing
the work of God. (Ibid. p. 74-75.)
REVELATION TO LORENZO SNOW
When Lorenzo Snow acceded to the presidency following
President Woodruff's death in 1898, he was called by a direct revelation
of the Savior. After hearing of President Woodruff's death Lorenzo Snow
went directly to his private room in the Salt Lake Temple and while kneeling
at an alter, prayed to the Lord. His son LeRoi Snow tells of the occasion:
... He reminded the Lord how he had prayed for President Woodruff's life and that his days might be lengthened beyond his own; that he might never be called upon to bear the heavy burdens and responsibilities of Church leadership. "Nevertheless," he said, "Thy will be done. I have not sought this responsibility but if it be Thy will, I now present myself before Thee for Thy guidance and instruction. I ask that Thou show me what Thou wouldst have me do."
After finishing his prayer he expected a reply, some special manifestation from the Lord. So he waited -- and waited -- and waited. There was no reply, no voice, no visitation, no manifestation. He left the altar and the room in great disappointment. He passed through the Celestial room and out into the large corridor leading to his own room where a most glorious manifestation was given President Snow. One of the most beautiful accounts of this experience is told by his granddaughter, Allie Young Pond.
"One evening when I was visiting Grandpa Snow in his room in the Salt Lake Temple, I remained until the doorkeepers had gone and the night-watchman had not yet come in, so grandpa said he would take me to the main front entrance and let me out that way. He got his bunch of keys from his dresser.
"After we left his room and while we were still in the large corridor, leading into the celestial room, I was walking several steps ahead of grandpa when he stopped me saying: 'Wait a moment, Allie, I want to tell you something. It was right here that the Lord Jesus Christ appeared to me at the time of the death of President Woodruff. He instructed me to go right ahead and reorganize the First Presidency of the Church at once and not wait as had been done after the death of the previous presidents, and that I was to succeed President Woodruff.'
Then grandpa came a step nearer and held out his left hand and said: 'He stood right here, about three feet above the floor. It looked as though He stood on a plate of solid gold.'
"Grandpa told me what a glorious personage the Savior is and described His hands, feet, countenance and beautiful White Robes, all of which were of such a glory of whiteness and brightness that he could hardly gave upon Him.
"Then Grandpa came another step
nearer me and put his right hand on my head and said: 'Now, granddaughter,
I want you to remember that this is the testimony of your grandfather,
that he told you with his own lips that he actually saw the Savior here
in the Temple and talked with Him face to face'." (N. B. Lundwall, Temples
of the Most High, pp. 140-141.)
This visitation of the Savior to Lorenzo Snow in 1898
runs counter to Fundamentalist claims that all revelation to the Church
ceased in 1890 and that some external Priesthood organization (of
which Lorenzo Snow was purportedly a very junior member) was actually leading
the Church at that time. Joseph Musser discredited the revelation in the
At the death of President Woodruff,
Lorenzo Snow, then President of the Twelve, is said to have hesitated taking
the initiative in the reorganization of the First Presidency until he was
met by a divine messenger in the temple and instructed to proceed. We do
not question the statement but this experience does not constitute a revelation
to the Church, neither was it, at the time given out as such. (Truth
Musser here demonstrates a inadequate knowledge of the historical incident at hand. The minutes of the meeting in the temple where the reorganization of the First Presidency was accomplished clearly state that this vision was "given out" to the Quorum of the Twelve and other selected priesthood leaders and unanimously accepted by them.(2)
It appears somewhat paradoxical that Fundamentalists will
accept an alleged revelation to John Taylor in 1886, which was never presented
to the Twelve (or even know to have existed until months after his death).
Yet, they also deny a revelation to Lorenzo Snow which was presented to
and accepted by the Twelve, simply because it does not fit into their preconceived
order of things?
REVELATION TO JOSEPH F. SMITH
Fundamentalists also claim that Joseph F. Smith never
received any revelation for the Church. However, on October 3, 1918, just
six weeks before his death, President Smith received a marvelous vision
regarding the redemption of the dead. The following day he alluded to the
vision in his opening remarks at the Eighty-Ninth Semiannual Conference
of the Church:
I will not, I dare not, attempt
to enter upon may things that are resting upon my mind this morning, and
I shall postpone until some future time, the Lord being willing, my attempt
to tell you some of the things that are in my mind, and that dwell in my
heart. I have not lived along these five months. I have dwelt in the spirit
of prayer, of supplication, of faith and of determination; and I have had
my communication with the Spirit of the Lord continuously. (Conference
Reports, Oct. 4, 1918, p. 2; quoted in The Revelations of the Prophet
Joseph Smith, p. 305.)
The revelation itself begins:
On the third of October, in the year nineteen hundred and eighteen, I sat in my room pondering over the scriptures;
And reflecting upon the great atoning sacrifice that was made by the Son of God, for the redemption of the world;
And the great and wonderful love made manifest by the Father and the Son in the coming of the Redeemer into the world;
That through his atonement, and by obedience to the principles of the gospel, mankind might be saved.
While I was thus engaged, my mind reverted to the writings of the apostle Peter, to the primitive saints scattered abroad throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, and other parts of Asia, where the gospel had been preached after the crucifixion of the Lord....
As I pondered over these things which are written, the eyes of my understanding were opened, and the Spirit of the Lord rested upon me, and I saw the hosts of the dead, both small and great.
And there were gathered together
in one place an innumerable company of the spirits of the just, who had
been faithful in the testimony of Jesus while they lived in mortality...
(D&C 138:1-5, 11-12.)
This vision was submitted October 31, 1918, to the counselors
in the First Presidency, the Council of the Twelve and the Patriarch, and
by them unanimously accepted (Improvement Era, 22:166-170; Gospel
Doctrine, pp. 472-476). In the April, 1976 General Conference it was
adopted "as part of the standard works of The Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter-day Saints" (Ensign, May, 1976, p. 127).
REVELATION TO HEBER J. GRANT
Heber J. Grant has received the overwhelming preponderance
of Fundamentalist barbs against continued revelation to the Church. Fundamentalists
have been quick to claim President Grant never received a revelation in
his life and publicly admitted the fact. Joseph Musser wrote:
President Grant, on numerous occasions
and with commendable frankness, has acknowledged the absence of any revelation
to him. He has, according to his testimony, had no spiritual manifestations
that could be interpreted as a revelation from the Lord; he has not seen
an angel, nor the face of his Lord. (Truth 6:61.)
On another occasion Joseph Musser wrote:
The present leader (Heber J. Grant)
has recently stated to friends and associates, and even in his public addresses
he has reiterated it, that he has never seen the face of the Savior, nor
had any other special manifestation from the Lord; and further, said he,
"I don't know that I want any because of the great responsibility such
would entail." (Truth 4:175; see also 8:175.)
Let us investigate the record and see if Fundamentalist
claims in this particular are based on fact. In 1882, Heber J. Grant was
called to the Apostleship by a direct revelation to President John Taylor:
Thus saith the Lord to the Twelve,
and to the priesthood and people of my Church: Let my servants George Teasdale
and Heber J. Grant be appointed to fill the vacancies in the Twelve, that
you may be fully organized and prepared for the labors devolving upon you,
for you have a great labor to perform; and then proceed to fill up the
presiding quorum of the Seventies, and assist in organizing that body of
my priesthood who are your co-laborers in the ministry. You may appoint
Seymour B. Young to fill up the vacancy in the presiding quorum of Seventies...
(Quoted in My Kingdom Shall Roll Forth, p. 50.)
Heber J. Grant related the following events that transpired
relative to this revelation calling him to the Apostleship of the Twelve:
So I went to the president's office, and there sat brother Teasdale, and all of the ten Apostles, and the Presidency of the Church, and also Seymour B. Young and the members of the seven presidents of Seventies. And the revelation was read calling brother Teasdale and myself to the apostleship, and brother Seymour B. Young to be one of the seven presidents of Seventies. Brother Teasdale was blessed by President John Taylor, and George Q. Cannon blessed me...
I was a very unhappy man from October to February. For the next four months whenever I would bear my testimony of the divinity of the Savior, there seemed to be a voice that would say: "You lie, because you have never seen him." One of the brethren had made the remark that unless a man had seen the Lamb of God --- that was his expression --- he was not fit to be an Apostle. This feeling that I have mentioned would follow me. I would wake up in the night with the impression: "You do not know that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, because you have never seen him," and the same feeling would come to me when I would preach and bear testimony. It worried me from October to the following February.
I was in Arizona, traveling with Brigham Young, Jr., and a number of other brethren, visiting the Navajo Indians and the Moki Indians... I had this feeling that I ought not to testify any more about the Savior and that really, I was not fit to be an Apostle. It seemed overwhelming to me that I should be one. There was a spirit that said: "If you have not seen the Savior, why don't you resign your position?"
As I rode along alone, I seemed to see a Council in Heaven. The Savior was there; the Prophet Joseph was there; my father and others that I knew were there. In this Council it seemed that they decided that a mistake had been made in not filling the vacancies in the quorum of the Twelve, and conference had adjourned. The chances were the brethren would wait another six months, and the way to remedy the situation was to send a revelation naming the men who should fill the vacancies. In this council the Prophet said, "I want to be represented by one of my own on that council."
I had always understood and known that my mother was sealed to the Prophet, and that Brigham Young had told my father that he would not marry my mother to him for eternity, because he had instructions from the Prophet that if anything happened to him before he was married to Rachel Ivins she must be sealed to him for eternity, that she belonged to him.
That is the reason that father spoke up in this council to which I have referred, and said: "Why not choose the boy who bears my name who belongs to you, to be one of the Apostles?" That is the inspiration that was given to me.
I can truthfully say that from February,
1883, until today I have never had any of that trouble, and I can bear
testimony that I know that God lives and that Jesus is the Christ, the
Savior of the world, and that Joseph Smith is a Prophet of the living God...
(Improvement Era, Nov. 1942, pp. 756-757.)
And so we see that the restored Church has continued to
be guided by revelation despite Fundamentalist claims to the contrary.
Because succeeding Presidents of the Church have not written their revelations
in a formal manner with "Thus, saith the Lord" is no reason to doubt the
continuation of revelation to the Church.
MORE RECENT TESTIMONY
Without exception, Fundamentalists today believe that
the leaders of the Church depend on man's wisdom to lead because they have
lost the ability to converse with God and His Son. They assert that Christ
is to be found somewhere in the menagerie of Fundamentalist organizations
and his voice is not heard, nor his face seen by Church leaders. This is
not so. To be an Apostle, one must be a "special witness of Jesus Christ"(3)
which accurately describes members of the quorum of the Twelve today. However,
the Holy Spirit restrains open discussion of sacred things. Elder Boyd
K. Packer explains:
We do not talk of those sacred interviews that qualify the servants of the Lord to bear a special witness of Him, for we have been commanded not to do so.
But we are free, indeed, we ar obliged,
to bear that special witness." (Conference Report, April 1980, p.
86. See also Alma 12:9, HC 4:478-479 and JD 4:288.)
Nonetheless, hints of divine communication are plainly
evident to those who understand and are watchful. Elder Russell M. Nelson
recently testified in General Conference:
As a special witness of Jesus Christ,
I testify that He lives! I also testify that the veil of death is very
thin. I know by experiences too sacred to relate that those who have gone
before are not strangers to leaders of this Church. (Ensign, May,
1992, p. 74.)
One of the plainest declarations was made in General Conference
in 1971 by Elder Packer:
I have heard one of my brethren declare: "I know from experiences, too sacred to relate, that Jesus is the Christ."
I have heard another testify: "I
know that God lives; I know that the Lord lives. and more than that, I
know the Lord." (Ensign, June, 1971, p. 88.)
The Church of Jesus Christ is guided by continuous
revelation. God designed it that way. Continuous revelation
allows the Lord to adapt inspired principles to the circumstances of the
Saints. The ninth Article of Faith states:
We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.