“What I Say unto One, I Say unto All”
While the revelations discussed in this lesson, were given to specific individuals, their messages are of universal importance to all Saints—indeed, the Lord has said: “What I say unto one I say unto all” (D&C 61:18, 36; 82:5; 92:1; 93:49). This reinforces the universality of the messages and give us permission to “insert ourselves” into the scriptures. Nephi counseled that we should “liken all scriptures unto us, that it might be for our profit and learning (1 Nephi 19:23; emphasis added). In keeping with that counsel we will consider the messages in this lesson as the Lord’s counsel to all of us.
We will discuss three important topics in this way: the role of women in the kingdom, the curse of pride, and being of good cheer in the midst of sorrow.
Also during this time, the Book of Moses was received by revelation, and the New Translation of the Bible began. We will end this lesson with a brief review of these two vital developments.
The Role of Women in the Kingdom
Instructions to Emma Hale Smith
(D&C 25 — July 1830)
When this revelation was given, it had been just over three years since the Prophet Joseph Smith and Emma Hale were married. Joseph was 25 years of age and Emma 26. In July of 1830, possibly near her birthday, the Lord gave Emma this revelation through her husband. It is the only revelation in the Doctrine and Covenants that is directed by name to a woman. It is a tender moment in which the blessings of the Almighty were pronounced upon “an elect lady.” It also places a sacred commission upon her to teach and lead her sisters in the Church, and in so doing it establishes a pattern for all righteous women to follow.
This revelation is applicable to “unto all ” ( D&C 25:16), not just to Emma Smith. Therefore the qualities of an elect lady are of value to all women, and this revelation can be thought of as the Lord’s explanation of the role of women throughout the Church.
The Need for Personal Righteousness
She was to guard her virtue (D&C 25:2). The Lord expects his daughters (and his sons) to be “faithful and walk in the paths of virtue before me” (v. 2). The Lord “delight[s] in the chastity of women” (Jacob 2:28) because they are the vessels of life and the guardians of virtue. That society where the daughters of God have become haughty and un-virtuous is not far from becoming “ripened in iniquity.” Emma was counseled to maintain her personal righteousness, with the promise that, if she would, the Lord would “preserve thy life, and thou shalt receive an inheritance in Zion ” (v. 2).
She was counseled not to murmur (D&C 25:4). Apparently, Emma felt bad about the fact that she had never been permitted to see the plates. Other men and women (Mary Whitmer) had been given this privilege, but not her. Joseph Fielding Smith said: “Emma Smith was human, possessing many of the characteristics which are found in most of us. Being the wife of the man whom the Almighty had blessed, she felt, as most women would have felt under like circumstances, that she was entitled to some special favors. It was difficult for her to understand why she could not view the plates, the Urim and Thummim, and other sacred things, which view had been given to special witnesses. At times this human thought caused her to murmur and ask the question of the Prophet why she was: denied this privilege.” ( Church History and Modern Revelation , 4 vols. [Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1946–1949], 1:125). The Lord counsels her in this verse to, “murmur not because of the things which thou hast not seen, for they are withheld from thee and from the world, which is wisdom in me in a time to come.”
She was to lay aside the things of this world (D&C 25:10). The Lord asked her to “lay aside the things of this world, and seek for the things of a better.” This counsel had special meaning to her. Throughout her life she never enjoyed a home of her own until they reached Nauvoo. They were forever dependent upon the goodness of friends and of the Saints to see that they had shelter, food, and privacy. No doubt, this lack of a “nest” of her own was a great trial to her. But through all that she suffered while Joseph was alive, she continued faithful and hearkened to the counsel given here.
She was to beware of pride (D&C 25:14). We do not know for sure, but it would seem likely that there were times when Emma was also bothered by the secondary role she was continually asked to take. She made all the same sacrifices as Joseph, faced all the same trials, and often shared in the labor necessary to organize and bring forward the Church and kingdom. But her contributions were not always appreciated, and that problem remains today, though many are finally recognizing and celebrating her extraordinary life. “Continue in the spirit of meekness, and beware of pride,” the Lord counsels, and “Let thy soul delight in thy husband, and the glory which shall come upon him.”
Boyd K. Packer observed that: “The whole universe is organized in order that man and woman might fulfill the full measure of their creation. It is a perfect system where delicate balances and counterbalances govern the physical, the emotional, and the spiritual in mankind. . . . The separate natures of man and woman were designed by the Father of us all to fulfill the purposes of the gospel plan. Never can two of the same gender fulfill the commandment to multiply and replenish the earth. Only a woman can bestow upon man that supernal title of father. She in turn becomes a mother. Can anyone dispute that her part is different from and more demanding than his? Men and women have complementary, not competing, responsibilities. There is difference but not inequality. Intelligence and talent favor both of them. But in the woman’s part, she is not just equal to man; she is superior! She can do that which he can never do; not in all eternity can he do it. There are complementary rewards which are hers and hers alone. . .” (“A Tribute to Women,” Ensign , July 1989, 73–74).
She was to keep the commandments (D&C 25:15). Like every other child of God, she was required to “keep my commandments continually.” Only by that means can we obtain a “crown of righteousness.” We cannot choose to sin and then expect the Lord to overlook it. We must do all in our power to keep the commandments, “And except thou do this, where I am you cannot come.”
Emma’s Responsibilities to Her Husband and Family
She was to be a comfort to her husband (D&C 25:5). This duty was to be considered an “office of thy calling” as a woman. She was to comfort him “in his afflictions, with consoling words, in the spirit of meekness.” This is the duty of every man and woman to his or her spouse.
The Prophet Joseph Smith said, [Wives should treat their husbands] “with mildness and affection. When a man is borne down with trouble, when he is perplexed with care and difficulty, if he can meet a smile instead of an argument or a murmur—if he can meet with mildness, it will calm down his soul and soothe his feelings.” ( Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith , sel. Joseph Fielding Smith [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1976], 228). He also taught that, “It is the duty of a husband to love, cherish, and nourish his wife, and cleave unto her and none else; he ought to honor her as himself, and he ought to regard her feelings with tenderness.” ( Elders’ Journal of the Church of Latter Day Saints, vol. 1 (October 1837–August 1838) , Volume 1, Number 4, Far West, Missouri, August, 1838, Whole No. 4, 61.)
She was to travel with him as his companion (D&C 25:6). Even today, when our prophets and apostles travel, we often see them take their wives with them. The consolation that comes from the companionship of our spouses cannot be replaced by any other comfort. So, whenever it was possible, Emma was commanded to “go with him when he went.”
She was to assist him in his work (D&C 25:6). She was to be his temporary scribe whenever “there is no one to be a scribe for him.” Emma was a literate lady, with skills equal to those of any of the most educated of Joseph’s associates—Oliver Cowdery, John Whitmer, and others. The Lord expected her to use those talents in support of Joseph’s work so that he could send Oliver Cowdery “whithersoever I will” from time to time.
She was to delight in her husband (D&C 25:14). Her focus was to be on her husband. She should “delight” in his accomplishments—the “glory which shall come upon him”—and not allow herself to become resentful or prideful.
Emma’s Responsibilities in the Church
She was set apart to lead the sisters (D&C 25:7). She was to be “ordained”, that is, set apart, by Joseph to (1) expound scripture, and (2) exhort the Church as inspired by the Spirit. This applied particularly to her duties in the Relief Society, but also to her role in the community and among all her fellow members.
She was to devote herself to writing and learning (D&C 25:8). This not only permitted her to further develop her intellectual and writing skills, but it blessed the lives of her family and the Church. Sometimes she was the only person available to serve as scribe to the Prophet. And her letters, hymns, and other writings remain among the most cherished we have in the Church today. This assignment was also part of her Church calling, because the Lord instructed that Joseph was to “lay his hands upon thee, and thou shalt receive the Holy Ghost” in support of this work.
She was to assemble a book of hymns (D&C 25:11–12). The Lord recognized her talent and spiritual sensitivity when he gave her the privilege of making “a selection of sacred hymns, as it shall be given thee, which is pleasing unto me, to be had in my church” (v. 11). This assignment could have been given to a number of other men or women who were equally talented in music. But the Lord wanted Emma to do it.
Emma was well-suited for this calling to assemble hymns since she had a very fine singing voice. Emma worked on the hymn book prior to its publication in Kirtland in 1835. It was not published until then due to the destruction of the printing press in 1832. It contained a preface written by W. W. Phelps and 90 hymns. At least 42 of the hymns had appeared earlier in Church periodicals. Only the words were printed; no music was included. She selected some popular hymns of the day and new hymns by Latter-day Saints. Of the total, 34 were authored by Mormons: 26 by W. W. Phelps, 3 by Parley Pratt, 1 by Thomas B. Marsh and Parley Pratt, and 1 each by Eliza R. Snow, Edward Partridge, Philo Dibble, and William C. Gregg.
The Lord loves music. He sang hymns with His disciples, including on the night when He went into Gethsemane to suffer beyond measure (Matthew 26:30; Mark 14:26). He also loves to hear us sing and wants us to do so in just about every Church meeting we convene. “For my soul delighteth in the song of the heart” He affirms in this revelation to Emma, “yea, the song of the righteous is a prayer unto me, and it shall be answered with a blessing upon their heads” (v. 12). Playing and singing sacred music invites the Holy Spirit like nothing else can ever do.
Some say, “Oh, but I can’t sing. It’s embarrassing when you can’t carry a tune.” I believe that it doesn’t matter. Don’t we all smile and feel good when our little ones get up on special days and sing to us in our Sacrament meetings? Many of them can’t sing, either. But we find it adorable, and our hearts are touched. It’s not about the musicality. It’s about the sweet spirit of children singing praises to their God, their Lord, and their families. That, my brothers and sisters, is how the Lord views us when we sing. We are his precious children, and He wants to hear us sing. And when we do, He promises to listen and answer the words of the hymns with blessings upon our heads, just as if they had been a personal prayer.
Dallin H. Oaks said:
“I stopped at a . . . ward meetinghouse and slipped unnoticed into the overflow area just as the congregation was beginning to sing. . . .As we sang, . . . I glanced around at members of the congregation and was stunned to observe that about a third of them were not singing. How could this be? . . . What are we saying, what are we thinking, when we fail to join in singing in our worship services? I believe some of us . . . are getting neglectful in our worship, including the singing of hymns.” ( Ensign , November 1994, 11).
The First Presidency has said: “Inspirational music is an essential part of our church meetings. The hymns invite the Spirit of the Lord, create a feeling of reverence, unify us as members, and provide a way for us to offer praises to the Lord. Some of the greatest sermons are preached by the singing of hymns. Hymns move us to repentance and good works, build testimony and faith, comfort the weary, console the mourning, and inspire us to endure to the end.” (First Presidency Preface, Hymns , 1985, ix).
Emma Smith was an “Elect Lady “
She was an “elect lady” with a purpose and calling in the kingdom (D&C 25:3). Emma was no ordinary woman. She was raised up by the Lord to be the earthly and eternal companion of His restoration prophet. At this moment of blessing, the Lord forgave Emma of her sins and called her “an elect lady, whom I have called” (v. 3). Every woman in the Church has gifts that can bless the lives of those around them. If they use these gifts in their callings, and if they make and keep the necessary sacred covenants, they too can become “elect” and worthy of “an inheritance in Zion ” (v. 2). Bruce R. McConkie said:
“An elect lady is a female member of the Church who has already received, or who through obedience is qualified to receive, the fulness of gospel blessings. This includes temple endowments, celestial marriage, and the fulness of the sealing power. She is one who has been elected or chosen by faithfulness as a daughter of God in this life, an heir of God, a member of his household. Her position is comparable to that of the elders who magnify their callings in the priesthood and thereby receive all that the Father hath. (D&C 84:38 . . . “ ( Mormon Doctrine , 2nd ed. [ Salt Lake City : Bookcraft, 1966], 217).
“Oh,” some will say, “but she did not remain faithful to the end!” Well, I believe that she did. Yes, she struggled with polygamy. So did my own great-great-grandmother, but I do not love her less when I consider all the sacrifices she made for this work. While others like Oliver Cowdery, Martin Harris, David Whitmer, and many more apostatized when the trials became too much for them, Emma Smith fulfilled all her duties toward her husband and the Church with humility and distinction throughout her married life. She accepted her role with faith, asking nothing special of anyone and constantly administering to the needs of others both inside and outside of her home.
These characteristics continued even after the death of Joseph. After she married Lewis Bidamon, he eventually became unfaithful to her. He fathered a child with a young woman in the city and then abandoned both Emma and the new mother and child. When Emma became aware of the circumstance, she adopted the young child and raised it to maturity. She also hired the mother as her servant so that she could live under the same roof as her baby. Such was the charity of Emma Smith, even when she herself was in pain.
Lucy Mack Smith said: “I have never seen a woman in my life, who could endure every species of fatigue and hardship, from month to month, and from year to year, with that unflinching courage, zeal, and patience, which she has ever done; for I know that which she has had to endure. . . . She has breasted the storms of persecution, and buffeted the rage of men and devils, which would have borne down almost any other woman.” (Lucy Mack Smith, History of Joseph Smith , ed. Preston Nibley , 190–191).
“Oh, but. . .” one continues to argue, “didn’t Joseph say he would have to go into hell to rescue Emma?” He most decidedly did not say any such thing. Benjamin Johnson recorded in his journal what the prophet actually said, as quoted here by Truman G. Madsen:
“On a Sunday, a beautiful day . . . they were sitting in the dining room and in came two of his [Joseph and Emma’s] children ‘as just from their mother, all so nice, bright and sweet.’ Joseph said, ‘Benjamin, look at these children. How could I help loving their mother; if necessary, I would go to hell for such a woman.’ There is the truth about the legend that has grown up [about Joseph going to hell to get Emma out]. Joseph Smith, so far as the evidence leads, never said (a) ‘Emma is going to hell,’ or (b) ‘I’m going to go to dig her out.’ He said, ‘I would go to hell for such a woman,’ meaning, ‘I feel strongly and deeply toward my wife.’ The distinction is clear.” ( Joseph Smith: The Prophet , 64–65, citing from The Benjamin F. Johnson Letter to George S. Gibbs, [pamphlet, copied from typescript of original 1903 letter], Dugway, Utah: Pioneer Press, 1968, 4).
The Lord told Joseph on more than one occasion that whatever he prayed for he would receive, and the examples of this promise being literally fulfilled are too numerous to repeat here. But of particular interest while we are on the subject of Emma and the Prophet’s children is the following request the Prophet made during the Kirtland Temple Dedicatory Prayer: “Have mercy, O Lord, upon [my] wife and children, that they may be exalted in thy presence, and preserved by thy fostering hand.” (D&C 109:69).
The Prophet Joseph Smith himself made it clear how he felt about her when they were reunited in Illinois after his escape for Liberty Jail: “My beloved Emma . . . even the wife of my youth, and the choice of my heart. Many were the reverberations of my mind when I contemplated for a moment the many scenes we had been called to pass through, the fatigues and the toils, the sorrows and sufferings, and the joys and consolations, from time to time, which had strewed our paths and crowned our board. Oh what a commingling of thought filled my mind for the moment, again she is here, even in the seventh trouble— undaunted, firm, and unwavering— unchangeable, affectionate Emma!” ( History of the Church , 5:107).
Can there be any doubt when reading this that the Prophet Joseph Smith loved Emma? And I wonder, when we criticize Emma, if we do not offend the Prophet deeply. I do not believe we can love the Prophet and hate his sweetheart. The early members in Utah were stung by her decision to stay in Nauvoo, near the grave of her husband and in the only home she had ever possessed. I know full well that other women paid a similar price and went west. Some of them were my own grandmothers. But I will not judge Emma. I love and respect her, and look forward someday to perhaps meeting her. She was, and is in my eyes, an elect lady.
The Curse of Pride
One of the warnings that the Lord gave to Emma Smith was to “beware of pride (D&C 25:14). Anybody who has read the Book of Mormon knows how deadly pride can be. The Nephites and the Jaredites engaged in continuous cycles of pride, which always lead to their sorrow and destruction. And in our day an age, it is no different. On the occasion when he was announced as the new president of the Church, when asked what he thought was the greatest problem in the world, Ezra Taft Benson answered simply, “Pride.” He later expanded on this theme with an entire conference address in April 1986 on the topic of pride. Following are some of those teachings, as they explain various revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants on the subject of pride.
What is pride? Ezra Taft Benson said, “Most of us think of pride as self-centeredness, conceit, boastfulness, arrogance, or haughtiness. All of these are elements of the sin, but the heart, or core, is still missing. The central feature of pride is enmity—enmity toward God and enmity toward our fellowmen. Enmity means ‘hatred toward, hostility to, or a state of opposition.” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1989, 3; Ensign , May 1989, 4).
President Benson also said: “In the scriptures there is no such thing as righteous pride. It is always considered as a sin. We are not speaking of a wholesome view of self-worth, which is best established by a close relationship with God. But we are speaking of pride as the universal sin, as someone has described it. Mormon writes that “the pride of this nation, or the people of the Nephites, hath proven their destruction” ( Moroni 8:27). The Lord says in the Doctrine and Covenants, “Beware of pride, lest ye become as the Nephites of old” (D&C 38:39). Essentially, pride is a “my will” rather than “thy will” approach to life. The opposite of pride is humbleness, meekness, submissiveness, or teachableness (see Alma 13:28). (in Conference Report, April 1986; Ensign , May 1986, 6.)
Specific Revelations on Pride
To Emma Smith on resentment (D&C 25:14). The Lord counseled, “continue in the spirit of meekness, and beware of pride. Let thy soul delight in thy husband, and the glory which shall come upon him.” This, at a time when Emma was feeling resentful that she had been passed over when others were allowed to see the plates. Ezra Taft Benson said, “Pride is the great stumbling block of Zion . Pride is ugly, it says if you succeed, I am a failure. Pride is basically competitive in nature. When competition ends, pride ends.” (“Beware of Pride,” in Conference Report, April 1989; Ensign . May 1989, 4–6). Emma’s focus needed to be outward—toward Joseph—and not inward toward herself.
To Oliver Cowdery on self-centeredness and jealousy (D&C 23:1). The Lord called Oliver “blessed, and . . . under no condemnation” at that time (April 1830). But he cautioned him, “Beware of pride, lest thou shouldst enter into temptation.” Who but God could know at this early time that pride would prove to be the downfall of this chosen “second elder” of the Church? Being second was not always sufficient, and he chaffed at having to recognize Joseph’s authority over him. It would become his own great stumbling block, because the Lord has declared that “no one can assist in the work except he shall be humble and full of love, having faith, hope, and charity, being temperate in all things, whatsoever shall be entrusted to his care” (D&C 12:8).
Ezra Taft Benson said, “One of Satan’s greatest tools is pride: to cause a man or a woman to center so much attention on self that he or she becomes insensitive to his Creator or fellow beings. It is a cause for discontent, divorce, teenage rebellion, family indebtedness, and most other problems we face. (in Conference Report, April 1979; Ensign , May 1979, 34.) “Pride does not look up to God and care about what is right. It looks sideways to man and argues who is right. Pride is manifest in the spirit of contention. . . . Pride is characterized by ‘What do I want out of life?’ rather than by ‘What would God have me do with my life?’ It is self-will as opposed to God’s will. It is the fear of man over the fear of God.” (in Conference Report, April 1986, Ensign , May 1986, 6–7.)
To the Saints on coveting their riches (D&C 38:39). At their final conference of the Church in Fayette , New York , in 1831, the Saints were anxious to learn more about the move to Ohio that had been commanded in the revelation now known as D&C 37. For many of them, this was a sore trial, having to sell or abandon their properties and gather to another state. The Lord admonished them, “if ye seek the riches which it is the will of the Father to give unto you, ye shall be the richest of all people, for ye shall have the riches of eternity.” But that was not the kind of riches that concerned them. How could they simply pull up stakes, and how would the fare in the new and more remote territory of Ohio ? “. . . the riches of the earth are mine to give,” the Lord reminded them, “but beware of pride, lest ye become as the Nephites of old.” There is a clear connection between riches and pride, and the early Saints struggled with them both.
Ezra Taft Benson said, “Selfishness is one of the more common faces of pride. ‘How everything affects me’ is the center of all that matters—self-conceit, self-pity, worldly self-fulfillment, self-gratification, and self-seeking . . . . Another face of pride is contention. Arguments, fights, unrighteous dominion, generation gaps, divorces, spouse abuse, riots, and disturbances all fall into this category of pride” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1989, 4–5; Ensign , May 1989, 4–6). There was far too much of this kind of covetousness and competition among the Saints, both in Missouri and at Kirtland—so much so that the Lord eventually drove them out of their inheritances in Zion .
To the First Presidency of the Church on high-mindedness (D&C 90:17). On the occasion of his selecting and ordaining his counselors in the First Presidency, Joseph Smith received a revelation concerning the expectations of the Saints and their leaders. “Be not ashamed, neither confounded” the Lord advised. They should maintain a healthy degree of self-confidence. “But be admonished in all your high-mindedness and pride, for it bringeth a snare upon your souls.” It could be a heady experience to be called into leadership of the kingdom in those days. It still is today. But they were to think of themselves as servants and not as rulers. Both of these once-good men—Sidney Rigdon and Frederick G. Williams—would eventually apostatize because of their pride.
Ezra Taft Benson said, “Humility responds to God’s will—to the fear of His judgments and to the needs of those around us. To the proud, the applause of the world rings in their ears; to the humble, the applause of heaven warms their hearts. Someone has said, ‘Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man.’ Of one brother, the Lord said, ‘I, the Lord, am not well pleased with him, for he seeketh to excel, and he is not sufficiently meek before me’ (D&C 58:41). (in Conference Report, April 1986; Ensign , May 1986, 7.)
To the Saints in Kirtland on their unwillingness to repent (D&C 98:19–20). T he Lord warns in this revelation, given in Kirtland on August 6, 1833, that He was “not well pleased with many who are in the church at Kirtland; For they do not forsake their sins, and their wicked ways, the pride of their hearts, and their covetousness. . . .” This would eventually lead to the great apostasy at Kirtland, where as many as 1/3 of the Saints left the Church after they lost their money when the bank failed. Joseph had been warning for months about the spirit of speculation in land sales, the covetousness among the Saints, and the dishonesty of those who operated the bank. But they would not hearken to “the words of wisdom and eternal life” which the Lord and their Prophet had given them, and they ended up with neither temporal nor spiritual riches.
Ezra Taft Benson said, “Pride is essentially competitive in nature. We pit our will against God’s .. . in the spirit of ‘my will and not thine be done.’. . . Our will in competition to God’s will allows desires, appetites, and passions to go unbridled (Alma 38:12; 3 Nephi 12:30). . . . Our enmity toward God takes on many labels, such as rebellion, hard-heartedness, stiff-neckedness, unrepentant, puffed up, easily offended, and sign seekers. The proud wish God would agree with them. They aren’t interested in changing their opinions to agree with God’s.” (in Conference Report, Apt 1989, 4; Ensign , May 1989, 4).
Solutions for Pride
Ezra Taft Benson said, “The antidote for pride is humility—meekness, submissiveness ( Alma 7:23). It is the broken heart and contrite spirit…. We can choose to humble ourselves by loving God, submitting our will to His, and putting Him first in our lives.: (in Conference Report, Apr. 1989, 6; Ensign , May 1989, 6–7). The following are some of the solutions for pride and the blessings that result from doing them.
Humility (D&C 1:28). Those who choose to be humble are “made strong, and blessed from on high, and receive knowledge from time to time.” Bruce R. McConkie said, “As spoken of in the revelations, pride is the opposite of humility. It is inordinate self-esteem arising because of one’s position, achievements, or possessions. It has the effect of centering a person’s heart on the things of the world rather than the things of the Spirit. (1 John 2:15–17.) As humility, which is an attribute of godliness possessed by true saints, leads to salvation, so pride, which is of the devil, leads to damnation (2 Nephi 28:15). ‘God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble’ (James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5).” ( Mormon Doctrine , 593).
Obedience (D&C 19:23). Those who “Learn of me, and listen to my words” and then do the things the are commanded “in the meekness of my Spirit” will have “peace in me.” Ezra Taft Benson said, “Pride is a damning sin in the true sense of that word. It limits or stops progression. ( Alma 12:10–11). The proud are not easily taught. (1 Ne. 15:3, 7–11). They won’t change their minds to accept truths, because to do so implies they have been wrong.” (“Beware of Pride,” Ensign , May 1989, 4).
Prayer (D&C 112:10). Those who pray in humility are promised that “the Lord thy God shall lead thee by the hand, and give thee answer to thy prayers.” Gordon B. Hinckley said, “Be prayerful. You can’t do it alone. You know that. You cannot make it alone and do your best. You need the help of the Lord . . . and the marvelous thing is that you have the opportunity to pray, with the expectation that your prayers will be heard and answered. . . .The marvelous thing about prayer is that it is personal, it’s individual, it’s something that no one else gets into, in terms of your speaking with your Father in Heaven in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Be prayerful. Ask the Lord to forgive your sins. Ask the Lord for help. Ask the Lord to bless you. Ask the Lord to help you realize your righteous ambitions. . . .Ask the Lord for all of the important things that mean so much to you in your lives. He stands ready to help. Don’t ever forget it.” (Colorado Springs Young Adult Meeting, April 14, 1996; Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1997], 468.)
The Holy Spirit (D&C 124:97). William Law was admonished to be “humble” and “without guile.” Those who do this will “receive of my Spirit, even the Comforter, which shall manifest unto him the truth of all things, and shall give him, in the very hour, what he shall say.”
“Rejoice, and be of Good Cheer”
Because of “the covenants which thou hast made” (D&C 25:13). Emma Smith and most of the early Saints had reason to be discouraged at times. They made great sacrifices and sometimes did not obtain all of the blessings they longed for. Their patience and faith were severely tried. Yet, in the midst of such tribulation, the Lord advised her to “lift up they heart and rejoice.” How? He suggests one answer: “cleave unto the covenants which thou has made.”
When we think of the early pioneers of this dispensation, we think of a people who were undaunted by the severe hardships they faced. Nothing could stop them; they kept on moving through rain and mud and winter storms, burying their loved ones along the way. My own great-great-grandfather William Draper explained why in his journal. It was their temple covenants which they had received before leaving Nauvoo. They knew who they were. They knew what God had promised them, worlds without end. Whatever hardships might come their way, they were sure of the ultimate triumph of right and of their place in the eternal worlds. They labored hard to finish the temple so that they might make these covenants with their God before leaving to go westward.
By the time the Nauvoo temple was dedicated on May 1, 1846, more than 6,000 men and women had received those covenants. And over the months that followed, Brigham Young charged them, “Let the fire of the covenant which you made in the House of the Lord, burn in your hearts, like a flame unquenchable” ( Journal History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints , Sept. 28, 1846, 5). The promises we have secured for ourselves and our posterity through our covenants should give us great and unquenchable joy.
Because the Lord is with us (D&C 29:5). To the Prophet Joseph Smith and others the Lord said, “Lift up your hearts and be glad, for I am in your midst . . .” The Savior is in our midst more often than we imagine. And even when He is not physically present, He is aware of our personal circumstances and ministers to our needs, because He loves us.
Because of the atonement (D&C 29:5). To the Prophet Joseph Smith and others the Lord also said, “Lift up your hearts and be glad, for I … am your advocate with the Father. . .” Because of the atonement we will be saved and enjoy the fruits of exaltation, so long as we remain faithful to the end. What greater cause for joy can there be? Jeffrey R. Holland said:
“The central fact, the crucial foundation, the chief doctrine, and the greatest expression of divine love in the eternal plan of salvation—truly a “plan of happiness,” as Alma called it—is the Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ. Much goes before it and much comes after, but without that pivotal act, that moment of triumph whereby we are made free from the spiritual bondage of sin and the physical chains of the grave, both of which are undeniable deaths, there would be no meaning to the plan of life, and certainly no ultimate happiness in it or after it. . . . ” ( Christ and the New Covenant: The Messianic Message of the Book of Mormon , [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1997], 197).
Because we are in the Church of Jesus Christ and part of His kingdom (D&C 29:5). To the Prophet Joseph Smith and others the Lord said, “Lift up your hearts and be glad, for “it is his [God the Father’s] good will to give you the kingdom.” My dear brothers and sisters, I testify to you that this is the Church of the Living Christ, and that we are in it. Where else would we want to be in these troublous days? God has given us His kingdom and all of its attendant blessings and privileges. This should bring us great happiness and peace. Gordon B. Hinckley said:
“So undergirded beneath and fitly framed above, this Church stands as the creation of the Almighty. It is a shelter from the storms of life. It is a refuge of peace for those in distress. It is a house of succor for those in need. It is the conservator of eternal truth and the teacher of the divine will. It is the true and living Church of the Master.” ( Ensign, February 2004, 3). “May you look upon the Church as your great and good friend, your refuge when the world appears to be closing around you, your hope when things are dark, your pillar of fire by night and your cloud by day as you thread the pathways of your lives.” (Ensign, November 1997, 49).
Because the Lord has not forsaken us and never will (D&C 61:36). H e addresses us as “little children” as a term of endearment—He loves us like we love little children. But we are also “little children” in our understanding of things. “Be of good cheer, little children,” He says, “for I am in your midst, and I have not forsaken you.”
When we are tempted to think that we have been abandoned in our troubles, we might consider the metaphors the Lord Himself has used to assure us that this is not true. Through Isaiah the Lord asked, “Can a woman forget her sucking child?” Well, it is more likely that she would forget her nursing infant than that the Lord will forget us (Isaiah 49:15). Then He offers an even more profound reminder of why He cannot and will not forget us: “I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands [and] thy walls are continually before me” (Isaiah 49:16). With His atonement and crucifixion, the Lord did indeed carve our sorrows into the palms of His hands. And having experienced those sins, sufferings, sorrows, and disappointments for us even before we had to suffer them, our “walls” (circumstances) are truly always of concern to Him. He is a loving, caring, compassionate friend to all of us.
Because we are privileged to be the witnesses of Christ in these last days (D&C 68:6). To Orson Hyde, Luke S. Johnson, Lyman E. Johnson, and William E. McLellin the Lord said, “be of good cheer, and do not fear, for I the Lord am with you, and will stand by you; and ye shall bear record of me. . .” The witness He wishes us to bear is that “I [Jesus Christ] am the Son of the living God, that I was, that I am, and that I am to come.” Ezra Taft Benson said:
“Missionary work provides us the happiest years of our lives. I know whereof I speak. I have tasted the joy of missionary work. There is no work in all the world that can bring an individual greater joy and happiness.” (Come unto Christ, [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1983], 95.)
Because the Lord will lead us along through things we “cannot bear” (D&C 78:18). The Lord acknowledges that we are weak and that we “cannot bear all things now.” That is why a Savior was needed in the Lord’s plan—to save God’s imperfect children. Yet, despite our weaknesses, we can “be of good cheer, for I will lead you along.” Neal A. Maxwell said:
“God carefully scales ‘all these things,’ since we cannot bear all things now. He has told us: ‘Behold, ye are little children and ye cannot bear all things now; ye must grow in grace and in the knowledge of the truth.’ (D&C 50:40.). . . . The thermostat on the furnace of affliction [is not] set too high for us—though clearly we may think so at the time. Our God is a refining God who has been tempering soul-steel for a very long time. He knows when the right edge has been put upon our excellence and also when there is more in us than we have yet given. One day we will praise God for taking us near to our limits—as He did His Only Begotten in Gethsemane and Calvary.” ( All These Things Shall Give Thee Experience [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1979], 44, 16).
Because through prayer we can obtain peace and joy (D&C 136:29). A t Winter Quarters, the Saints languished under a severe winter. They had already suffered through the rain and mud and deaths of the pioneer trail through Iowa. Now, they hunkered down in tents and cabins while the snow drifts piled up around them. They had every reason to be depressed, and no doubt many of them had turned to the Lord for help. In answer, the Lord gave a revelation to Brigham Young that said, among other things, “If thou art sorrowful, call on the Lord thy God with supplication, that your souls may be joyful.” James E. Faust said:
“Of all that we might do to find solace, prayer is perhaps the most comforting. We are instructed to pray to the Father in the name of his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Ghost. The very act of praying to God is satisfying to the soul, even though God, in his wisdom, may not give what we ask for. President Harold B. Lee taught us that all of our prayers are answered, but sometimes the Lord says no. The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that the ‘best way to obtain truth and wisdom’ is ‘to go to God in prayer.’ Prayer is most helpful in the healing process.” ( Finding Light in a Dark World , [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1995], 30–31).
New Scriptures are Revealed to Bless the Saints
During a short period of time after the establishment of the Church, the Prophet Joseph Smith was an instrument in restoring one book of ancient scripture and in editing another. In the summer of 1830, he received the Book of Moses by revelation. And at the same time he began a lifelong assignment to correct the errors in the Bible through careful study and inspired revision. Seventy-seven of the revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants were received during the three-year period when the Prophet was translating the Bible. The experience provided a systematic approach to learning gospel truths, and led the Prophet to ask concerning many things that were subsequently explained through revelation.
A full explanation of these scriptures is not included here. The Book of Moses will be covered in lesson 12 and the New Translation of the Bible in lesson 13. But it is important to note that both of these new revelations began at this period of time.
On 8 October 1829 Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery purchased a large pulpit-style edition of the King James Bible (containing the Old and New Testaments and Apocrypha) from E. B. Grandin in Palmyra, New York for $3.75. It was this Bible which was used in the translation.
The first date recorded in the New Translation was June 1830. The Prophet Joseph Smith said, “Amid all the trials and tribulations we had to wade through, the Lord, who well knew our infantile and delicate situation, vouchsafed for us a supply of strength, and granted us ‘line upon line of knowledge—here a little and there a little,’ of which the following was a precious morsel.” (History of the Church, 1:98). Joseph then recorded “selections from the Book of Moses” (Moses 1), the “words of God, which he spake unto Moses at a time when Moses was caught up into an exceedingly high mountain” (v.1)
A commandment to study the scriptures (D&C 26:1). This message, given in July 1830, was essentially the beginning of the Prophet’s gospel study program. Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon continued their study of the book of Genesis for many months, and thereafter were commanded to revise selections in both the Old and New Testaments.