Who Are We?
by Truman G. Madsen

Stretched with the eyes of those who live behind the mortal curtain I ask, “Who are we?”

Nearly a century ago The First Presidency wrote:

From time to time, as the work of the Lord may have need of their services, men of exceptional talents and abilities will develop among the people of God, and without disorder, or eruption or excitement they will be called of the Lord through the appointed agencies of the priesthood and Church authority, to positions that will afford them opportunity for service. (Deseret News, 13 November, 1905)

As I view the stalwart sons and daughters of Zion, I find myself musing about “talents and abilities.” Daily it impresses me that though we are, as prophesied, “weak and simple” (D&C 1:23), yet the Lord has made us “equal to the task.” And then my reflections extend back not simply through centuries, but eons. And I recall the words of the Prophet:

Thy mind, O Man, if thou wilt lead a soul unto salvation must stretch as high as the utmost heaven, and search into and contemplate the darkest abyss. Thou must commune with God. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 137, hereinafter TPJS)

And so, stretched with the eyes of those who live behind the mortal curtain I ask, “Who are we?”

The family of the Eternal Father is so vast as to defy mortal understanding. “Worlds without number” are His, and “all” the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God.” (D&C 76:24) Jesus Christ, the Firstborn in the spirit, is both the Creator and Redeemer of these worlds. As the Prophet writes, all these inhabitants are to be saved “by the very same truths and very same power.” (See his poetic version of “The Vision” to William W. Phelps.)

Of this great host a certain number were present at the “first organization of heaven.” Writes the Prophet, “We were all present and saw the Savior chosen and appointed and the plan of salvation made, and we sanctioned it.” (TPJS 181)

Of these present, a certain number stood valiantly for Jesus Christ in the “contention in heaven” and from this crucial test in their first estate, emerged triumphant. We were among these.

Of this great host a certain number were reserved to receive their bodies on this earth, an earth whose destiny is celestial, for it “abideth the measure of its creation” (D&C 88:21) and will be crowned with a fulness of the glory of the Father. Here some of the most brilliant lights and satanic shadows were to come. Here Christ Himself was born, fulfilling the glorious life and death which were to transform the souls of all men. We were among those assigned to this earth.

Of those who stood with Christ, a certain number were foreappointed to missions among men on this earth, missions intimately tied to the redeeming light and power of the Christ.

Every man who has a calling to minister to the inhabitants of the world was ordained to that very purpose in the Grand Council of Heaven before this world was. (TPJS 365)

We were among those.

Of those so appointed, a certain number were called to the Israelite family: either by birth or through conversion and adoption, to become “lawful heirs according to the flesh.” This appointed lineage was through one of the “mighty and noble ones,” the “Father of the faithful,” Abraham and Sarah. Its most profound rights and duties were to descend upon covenant sons and daughters. It was, from before the foundations of the earth, decreed that the “keys, power and authority of Jesus Christ” should be magnified through that lineage. By the union of various ancestors this heritage was scattered, yet preserved to the blessing of all mankind.

“Your life and the priesthood have remained and must needs remain through you and your lineage.” (D&C 86)

To that lineage Jesus Christ before, during, and after His mortal ministry, came to teach, empower, and bless. (We have no record of His personal visitations to any others). Through that lineage He Himself was born into the world and His message is perpetuated in the earth. Into that lineage all worthy mortals, whatever their land or clime, were to be engrafted and regenerated.

Of those who were to be of the seed of Abraham and of the “Church and Kingdom” a certain number were “reserved in the spirit world for 6,000 years” to come forth in this era, the time of the fulness of times. These were “hid from the world with Christ in God” (D&C 86:9), prepared in training, and sent in the culminating time of which the ancients had dreamed.

Tried souls mid untried spirits found
That captained these might be.
(Orson F. Whitney, Elias)

We are among that number.

Of these a certain number were to come after the foundation had been laid, after the Spirit had been poured out to revolutionize the earth, and after the first blind opposition had been met, when the call to testify would reach responsive souls.

Of these a certain number were to be called into the Temple and Sanctuary of the Redeemer, receiving covenants “kept hid from before the foundation of the world” (D&C 124:41) confirming their origins, endowing with His power, and promising a high destiny of exemplary leadership.

We are among that number

How do you respond?

If you are like the prophet Joseph Smith, in these ways:

First, you are sobered and inspired. As he contemplated these truths in a damp, depressing dungeon at Liberty, and in the near-darkness, he penned these words:

How vain and trifling have been our spirits, our conferences, our councils, our meetings, our private as well as public conversations-too low, too mean, too vulgar, too condescending for the dignified characters of the called and chosen of God, according to the purposes of His will, from before the foundation of the world!” (TPJS 137)

Second, you are humbled and opposed. The sons of Abraham must be tried as was Abraham!

As he thought of his own weakness and the adversary, Joseph wrote:

I expect to wade through much tribulation to obtain the glory I have in view…

But every wave of adversity has only wafted me that much closer to Deity…

Deep water is what I am wont to swim in.

“I have a subtle devil to deal with, and can only curb him by being humble.”

And none of his afflictions destroyed his “native cheery temperament.”

Finally, you yearn to fulfill this calling. The weight of the very universe seemed upon Joseph. Inspired promises at times seemed remote. When his father, stricken after the Missouri expulsion, gave him a dying blessing he said, “‘Joseph, my son, you shall even live to finish your work,’ he cried out weeping, ‘O my Father, shall I?’

“‘Yes, my son, you shall.'”

Against fantastic odds, he did.

You were born to be an instrument in the marvelous purposes of the last dispensation. Upon you rests a heavy responsibility. You shall see great fruits in your labors. You will return home crowned with many sheaves.

You are not here to fall. I plead for all of us to penetrate and fulfill the promises given to us. Seek to see yourself as the Lord sees you. And then be loyal to the royal within you.


2005 Meridian Magazine.  All Rights Reserved.