In the remarks I am about to offer, I do not design to cast the least
reflection upon the honesty, integrity, truthfulness, and faithfulness
of this people; but I really feel to praise them. And I repeat what I
have frequently said, that, in my opinion, Enoch and his people,
during the first twenty-nine-and-a-half years of their history, did
not make greater progress in the knowledge of the Father and Son than
this people have. This thought gives me great comfort, encouragement,
Our traditions and education, from our birth until we embraced this
Gospel, were in many instances contrary to the plan of salvation,
antagonistic to the word of God, and opposed to his character—not
designedly; but we and our fathers groveled in the deepest shades of
mental darkness and ignorance touching God, his character, and the
Gospel plan. Our teachers were no better than ourselves, for thick
darkness covered all. The blind were leading the blind. They are still
doing so, and both will fall into the ditch.
Under these considerations, I think that we, as a people, are doing as
well as we know how. We are advancing from year to year in the
knowledge of God. Before we came into this Church, we knew,
comparatively, but little in regard to the true religion of Christ. Is
there now a man in all the world, outside of this Church, that can
tell the first thing about it? Although they have the Old and New
Testament, and day by day scrutinize every letter, word, and sentence
of those books, yet they cannot rightly tell one thing in regard to
the kingdom of God.
Brother Taylor said that, before he heard this Gospel, he did not even
know that it was necessary to be baptized for the remission of sins.
He had read the Bible many times and really did not believe it, though
he supposed that he believed every word in it. Had a person said to
him, "Mr. Taylor, here is the New Testament, which gives a
true history of the Savior of the world and of the religion he
produced for the salvation of the children of men, but you do not
believe it," Mr. Taylor would have considered himself persecuted for
righteousness' sake, and perhaps would have put the person out of his
There is not one of us who professed to be Christians before we
embraced this Gospel could have borne to be told that we did not
believe all that is written in the Old and New Testaments. We should
have deemed such a statement very unwarranted and past enduring; yet
such was the fact.
We had read, over and over again, that baptism was for the remission
of sins; yet none of us knew that it was true and requisite. We had
often read the commission of the Savior to the disciples, that the
believer in their words should be baptized to be saved; yet who of us
fully believed that he spoke the truth? We read the Bible with the
idea that it gave a history of something that was, but is not now, and
never will be.
In this state of ignorance and blindness the Gospel found us; yet we
have learned many great and glorious truths during the short
experience we have had in this Church. We now see the consistency of
the vital truths that the ancient Apostles left recorded for the world
to read. We might say that the Bible is a guide-board to the world, as
it points out the path for them to walk in: it draws a line to guide
We have learned much from the Bible. We have also learned much from
the Book of Mormon and the Book of Doctrine and Covenants; but all the
salvation you can obtain by means of those books alone is
comparatively of little value. They contain a history of what other
men have done, show the path they walked in, and the way in which
they obtained the words of eternal life for themselves; but all the
Scriptures from the days of Adam until now cannot, alone, save one
individual. Were they all committed to memory so perfectly that they
could be recited with the greatest ease, that alone would not save one
of the smallest of God's creatures, nor bring any person nearer the
gate of the celestial kingdom. In visiting a foreign nation, an
understanding of their language, geography, manners, customs, and laws
is very agreeable and beneficial. So the reading of the Bible gives
comfort and happiness to the traveler to eternity, and points out to
him in part the character and attributes of the Being whom to know is
life eternal. We have not yet attained to that knowledge, and the mere
reading of the Scriptures can never put us in possession of it.
When the vision of your mind is opened by the Eternal Spirit, you
measurably see Zion in its beauty and perfection, and are filled with
ecstasies of joy; but when the vision closes, you still find
yourselves in this dark and benighted world. In a vision of Zion in
its glory, you do not see your own and your brethren's foibles, while
you are struggling from day to day to prepare yourselves to
participate in the glory you gaze upon while you are in the spirit.
We are still warring against the darkness and imperfections,
temptations and vicissitudes inherent to the flesh in this dark and
benighted world; and it is by a steady, unwavering course of daily
progression that we can be prepared to enjoy the glories of the
celestial kingdom with God our Father.
If a person is baptized for the remission of sins, and dies in a short
time thereafter, he is not prepared at once to enjoy a fulness of the
glory promised to the faithful in the Gospel; for he must be
schooled, while in the spirit, in the other departments of the
house of God, passing on from truth to truth, from intelligence to
intelligence, until he is prepared to again receive his body and to
enter into the presence of the Father and the Son. We cannot enter
into celestial glory in our present state of ignorance and mental
I know that we have been taught from our infancy, and it is now a
popular doctrine with all the denominations of the Christians of the
nineteenth century, that, when the mortal tenement is committed to the
grave, there is an end of all further progress in intelligence and
learning with regard to this probation. In support of this idea, they
advance the scripture, "If the tree fall toward the south, or toward
the north, in the place where the tree falleth, there it shall be."
Again, "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for
there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom in the grave,
whither thou goest."
The worms have work to do in the grave until the body is reduced to
mother earth. But the active, intelligent, divine organization that
inhabited the body does not descend with it into the grave to work
with the worms; but it goes to the spirit world, and is much more
busily engaged there than when it was a tenant in a mortal tabernacle.
Suppose, then, that a man is evil in his heart—wholly given up to
wickedness, and in that condition dies, his spirit will enter the
spirit world intent upon evil. On the other hand, if we are striving
with all the powers and faculties God has given us to improve upon our
talents, to prepare ourselves to dwell in eternal life, and the grave
receives our bodies while we are thus engaged, with what disposition
will our spirits enter their next state? They will be still striving
to do the things of God, only in a much greater degree—learning,
increasing, growing in grace and in the knowledge of the truth.
The people called Christians are shrouded in ignorance, and read the
Scriptures with darkened understandings.
Do you read the Scriptures, my brethren and sisters, as though you
were writing them a thousand, two thousand, or five thousand years
ago? Do you read them as though you stood in the place of the men who
wrote them? If you do not feel thus, it is your privilege to do so,
that you may be as familiar with the spirit and meaning of the written
word of God as you are with your daily walk and conversation, or as
you are with your workmen or with your households. You may understand
what the Prophets understood and thought—what they designed and
planned to bring forth to their brethren for their good.
When you can thus feel, then you may begin to think that you can find
out something about God, and begin to learn who he is. He is our
Father—the Father of our spirits, and was once a man in mortal flesh
as we are, and is now an exalted Being.
How many Gods there are, I do not know. But there never was a time
when there were not Gods and worlds, and when men were not passing
through the same ordeals that we are now passing through. That course
has been from all eternity, and it is and will be to all eternity. You
cannot comprehend this; but when you can, it will be to you a matter
of great consolation.
It appears ridiculous to the world, under their darkened and erroneous
traditions, that God has once been a finite being; and yet we are not
in such close communion with him as many have supposed. He has passed
on, and is exalted far beyond what we can now comprehend. Eye
hath not seen, ear hath not heard, neither hath it entered into the
heart of man to conceive all the things of God. We are not capacitated
to receive them all at once; but God, by his Spirit, reveals to our
spirits as we grow and become able and capacitated to comprehend,
through improving upon every means of grace placed within our power,
until we shall be counted worthy to receive all things.
"All is yours," says the Apostle. Do not become disheartened, give up
your labors, and conclude that you are not to be saved. All is yours,
if you will but live according to what you know, and increase in
knowledge and godliness; and if you increase in these, you will also
increase in all things pertaining to the earth; and by-and-by, you
will be satisfied that all is the Lord's, and that we are Christ's,
and that Christ is God's. All centers in the Father; wherefore let us
all be satisfied that he gives to us as we are capacitated to receive.
We need not be discouraged; but, as I have exhorted on another
occasion, Let the Elders of Israel manfully man the old ship Zion—let
every man faithfully stand to his post, and they will ultimately be
worthy to enter into celestial glory. This is all the business we have
on hand at present.
Doubtless you understood and bear in mind what brother Taylor said
with regard to voting for the authorities of the Church. I wish all
the brethren and sisters to vote by raising their right hands, the
meaning of which many of you understand. If there are any who do not
feel like voting in the affirmative, when the name of one of the
authorities in the Church is presented, and they suppose that they
have sufficient cause for withholding their support, they may have the
privilege of entering their complaints or objections before the
Conference. If you present good and sufficient reasons for not voting
for an individual, we will give the subject a candid investigation.
We will now present the authorities.