I have lately held certain conversations which have caused a train of
reflection in my mind this morning, and a few passages of Scripture to
float across my mind, which, unless I should be led in another train
of thought, I will give to my brethren and sisters: but I desire not
my own will, but the will of my Father who is in heaven. That which is
meet to me might not be to a mixed multitude of people. God knoweth
best that which is suitable unto our circumstances.
If we would do the most good, we must feel the most passive in the
hands of our heavenly Father. We must be like a musical instrument in
the hands of a skillful performer. Shall the instrument say to him that
performs upon it, Why do you play thus? Or shall the law say to him
that speaketh it, Why dost thou use me thus?
True, every individual intelligence is possessed of a will,
which is a propelling power within himself. Good and evil are placed
before us, and we have to choose between them. Light and darkness
exist; and if we are not influenced by the one power, we shall be by
the other. When we entered into the fulness of the Gospel—into a
sacred and holy covenant with God, we virtually agreed to surrender
our will to him; we agreed to place ourselves under his direction,
guidance, dictation, and counsel, that our will should be merged in
his. Hence we are in duty bound, and it is for our best interest to
strive to attain to that state of mind and feeling that we shall have
no will of our own, independent of the will of our Father in heaven,
and say in all things, "Father, not mine, but thy will be done." Let
me speak, therefore, not according to any selfishness that is in
me—not to speak simply my own feelings, but that the mind of Christ
may be in me, that I may speak as he would, were he in my place this
morning, and act as he would if he were in my circumstances. Nor have
we the promise of our Father that he will dictate in us, unless we
arrive at this state of feeling.
If our spirits are inclined to be stiff and refractory, and we desire
continually the gratification of our own will to the extent that this
feeling prevails in us, the Spirit of the Lord is held at a distance
from us; or, in other words, the Father withholds his Spirit from us
in proportion as we desire the gratification of our own will. We
interpose a barrier between us and our Father, that he cannot,
consistently with himself, move upon us so as to control our actions.
He may set bounds around us and hedge us in round about, that beyond a
certain point our will cannot be gratified. When he cannot influence
our wills in any other way, by bringing a combination of circumstances
to bear upon us to circumscribe us, he may eventually bring our wills
into subjection, like we would corral a wild horse, or one that has
grown cunning and is unwilling to be caught and bridled, and keeps out
of the way of his pursuers. They are under the necessity of taking him
by guile, by alluring him into some large field or corral, to
gradually hem him in, until he is brought into a small compass, where,
before he is aware of it, he finds himself taken. Our Father operates
in a similar way.
I might say also that our Adversary profits by a similar example,
understanding the same policy to a degree. When he would involve us in
his snares, he is careful to do it in a way we shall not know it until
our feet are in. This arises from our limited capacity—from our
weakness, and the weaker power becomes a prey to the greater.
Our Father in heaven is laboring for our exaltation; his work
forever and ever is doing good: good is the part he has chosen; evil he
escheweth. He seeks to unite and concentrate the faith and feelings of
intelligent beings to improve them, to teach them the benefits of
doing good, and the consequences resulting from doing evil, that the
one principle tendeth to dissolution and to eternal death and
disorganization, while the other principle tendeth to life, to
perpetuate the organization which has already been effected, and bring
it to the highest state of perfection; or, in other words, to secure
to intelligent beings the boon they most earnestly desire—namely, the
continuation of lives.
What desire has been planted in the human breast that is equal to the
desire of life? What will a man not give in exchange for his life? To
us, the words of the Savior—"For what is a man profited, if he should
gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?" What man under the sentence of
death for a breach of law that would not give all he possessed of
earthly substance to atone, if his life could only be spared? How few
there are that would not be willing to give the whole world, if they
possessed it, for their lives.
Why is this universal desire planted in the human breast to live? It
is a law ordained in nature for good. We may call it instinct, or by
what name we please—it is a universal law in all intelligent beings
to seek to retain the organization they possess. Hence when sickness
assails us, an enemy appears in deadly array with a show to lay us low
in death; every faculty of the soul is aroused to repel it, and we use
all the means in our power to stay the progress of disease.
The Scriptures inform us that the greatest gift of God is eternal
life. Is this a gift of God in deed and in truth? Yes; I understand it
to be, to all intents and purposes, the gift of God. Yet eternal life
is not attained without compliance on our part with those principles
that lead to the attainment of it. I will illustrate this by what we
see daily in our natural life. We understand, by what we learn daily,
that there are certain things that tend to destroy this tabernacle;
and there are other things which, if we deserve, have a tendency to
prolong the organization of this tabernacle and our temporal
For example, we have learned, by numerous observations and examples,
that if an individual cast himself into the sea, without having any
means of floating, he will sink in the water and under it, and he
cannot live. A certain thing is necessary to his existence, which is
the pure, wholesome air inhaled into the lungs. Anything that cuts us
off from this supply terminates our earthly existence: the machinery
of this tabernacle cannot be kept in motion without it. We have also
learned that excessive heat or excessive cold will stop this machinery
of life. There are various other causes which stop the machinery of
life in our mortal tabernacles. If we would prolong our organization
for any certain number of years, we must carefully guard against those
evils that endanger our tabernacles. Excesses of every kind have a
tendency to weaken, and ultimately to destroy the tabernacle of man.
An excessive appetite, if encouraged with rich viands, and this
persisted in, will make the possessor a glutton, and shorten his
If a person having a strong desire for stimulants, such as spirituous
liquors, tea, coffee, tobacco, opium, &c., that stimulate the nervous
system to excess, and continues to gratify this appetite, will soon
destroy the elasticity of his nervous system, and become like a bow
that is often bent almost to breaking. If a bow be kept strung up to
its utmost tension, it loses its power and strength, until it is of
little or no use.
So in nature: the more any powerful stimulant is made use of in the
human system, the sooner the human machinery will be worn out. It
follows, then, if we will secure life and preserve the organization of
this tabernacle, we must observe the laws of life—we must abstain from
intemperance of every description. We must neither indulge in
excessive eating, excessive drinking, nor in excessive working,
whereby to overtax our physical energies or our nervous system.
Perhaps no kind of labor will so rapidly weaken the power of life
within us, or strength of these tabernacles, like excessive mental
labor, because it has a more direct influence upon the nervous
system. The nervous system seems to be a sort of connecting link
between our spirit and our tabernacles. Yet a proper amount of labor,
physical and mental, be comes necessary to the proper
development of the faculties of both body and soul.
The child that has never faith to attempt to walk, as a matter of
course, will never learn to walk. When he first begins to exercise his
feet and legs to walk, they are weak, and scarcely capable of
supporting his little frame; but the more he exercises them, the more
he receives strength. And so with every other portion of the
tabernacle. The same may be said of all mental gifts and endowments.
The mind that is naturally stupid, dull, and inactive, and no outward
circumstances are brought to bear upon it, to impel it to
exercise—that mind remains comparatively undeveloped; that spirit
does not improve, nor increase in strength and capacity.
The more the mental faculties are brought into exercise, if it is not
immoderate exercise, the more these faculties receive strength, and
the greater powers of research are developed in that spirit; and where
shall the end thereof be?
There is no end to its increase of knowledge and truth, unless we turn
round and go the other way; in other words, unless we persistently
pursue the path of death and violate every law, both physical and
mental, until we become dissolved.
If we cease temperate habits, and give ourselves up to the
gratification of our lusts and appetites, and pursue this course from
year to year, we shall find ourselves steadily going down to the
chambers of death, and no power can hinder it: it is a fixed law of
our physical existence. Can the Lord change it? I will not stop to
inquire whether he can or not. I will say, however, I never heard of
his doing it on any other condition than that individual repenting of
his evil course. When he does this, and observes the laws of life and
health, God will add his blessing to his efforts, and he will begin to
ascend the hill again, and he may regain in some measure that which he
has lost. But as long as he continues that course of evil, no power
can redeem him.
What I say, therefore, in regard to the mortal body is equally
applicable to the eternal life of the soul.
There is no such principle as saving a man in his sins, neither
physically nor spiritually. Our Savior has never offered himself as
an atonement for mankind to redeem and save them in their sins. I
regard this as an utter impossibility.
Some of my friends who may have been reared up in the old straightjacket
school of modern theology may be startled with the idea of anything
being impossible with God. But I conceive it to be a fixed axiom that
two and two make four, whether the addition is made by man or God.
It is just as impossible for God to add two and two together and make
ten of it as it is for me or you. Mathematical truths are as true with
God and angels as they are with man. I understand that what has
exalted to life and salvation our Father in heaven and all the Gods of
eternity will also exalt us, their children. And what causes Lucifer
and his followers to descend to the regions of death and perdition
will also lead us in the same direction; and no atonement of our Lord
and Savior Jesus Christ can alter that eternal law, any more than he
can make two and two to mean sixteen.
One may ask wherein the atonement of Jesus Christ has affected us.
Through his atonement is granted unto us repentance and remission of
sins. He came from the Father to sojourn in the flesh among men, to
take upon him the infirmities of the flesh and the weaknesses of human
nature, subjecting himself to the contradiction of sinners, exposing
himself to all the physical ills that prey upon the human
system, and to all the powers of darkness that prey upon the
intellectual faculties of man, exposing himself to the temptations of
the hosts of hell. He had to combat all these contending powers, to
resist Satan and all his armies, and to resist every other evil flesh
is heir to, and set forth an example of purity and perfection to the
human family. In the language of sacred writ—"For what the law could
not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son
in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh."
Thus he demonstrated to human beings that it is possible for them to
live without sin, that our God might be just in condemning sin in
every form, and in every place, and in every being; so that in truth
he might say, as he says in the preface of the Book of Doctrine and
Covenants, that he cannot look upon sin with the least degree of
allowance. We can understand also why he is of a merciful and
forgiving spirit, exercising a fatherly tenderness over us, to pardon
our follies and weaknesses; yet he cannot justify them in the least
Should we seek to become like him, to be actuated by the same
principle, striving to ascend to the same glory? We should: we should
imitate his example. And while we exercise the same unbounded mercy
and compassion over the weakness of our fellows, yet in no case
whatever should we look upon sin with the least degree of allowance,
or in any manner justify it. However much may be said in palliation of
the faults of mankind, nothing can be said in justification of them.
The Scriptures say that our Savior was tempted in all things like we
are, yet without sin. And in order that he might be tempted in all
things like we are, he was born of a woman as we were, possessing like
passions with ourselves, and was exposed to the same kind of
temptations to which we are exposed in life. Yet he withstood them
The Scriptures say he tasted death for every man. Did he taste death
for every man with a view that every man should be saved from death?
No. If so, it would destroy the principle I have been speaking of, and
would save the children of men in their sins. But while death had
passed upon all mankind because of sin, there was no power that could
avert it; yet, by offering himself an offering for sin, he opened a
way for mankind to be raised again from the dead, and forever
afterwards be set free from its power.
His death has also opened up a door of repentance unto us, giving unto
us a hope of redemption through his blood. Has it given us a hope of
salvation in our sins? Not to me. I hope not to be able to eat fire
with impunity, and still prolong my days. I have no such promise that
I can have melted lead running down my throat instead of wholesome
diet, and expect it is going to be converted into lifegiving food in
my system. I have no better grounds to hope that I shall, by the death
of Christ, be saved from the consequences of persisting in a wicked
course of life.
The consequences of our transgressions must fall upon us. Yet Christ
has placed before us the principles of faith, hope, and charity. If we
will exercise faith in him, we may have hope of redemption through his
blood, on condition that we repent of our sins and turn about and
pursue the path of life. We and our fathers before us have so far
partaken of the elements of death that we cannot save our mortal
tabernacles from that change that awaits them.
This promise we have—that when the time comes that is written of in
the Scripture, that Satan shall be bound, and shall cease to exercise
his power and dominion over the hearts of the children of God
for the space of a thousand years, the children that shall grow up
unto the Lord shall not taste of death; that is, they shall not sleep
in the earth, but they shall be changed in a moment, in the twinkling
of an eye, and they shall be caught up, and their rest shall be
I thus distinguish between them and us, because at that time they
shall grow up with a more complete and perfect understanding of the
laws of life and health, and they will observe them. And the
temptations and evils that surround us on every hand shall be removed
from them. The elements that are now under the control of the prince
and power of the air, and charged with death, which we are constantly
brought in contact with, will then be removed; the elements will be
sanctified, the curse will be removed from the earth and its
surrounding atmosphere, and the powers of darkness that rule in the
atmosphere will be confined to their own region, and the tabernacles
of the children of men shall grow up without sin unto salvation.
Hence their tabernacles shall not be subject to pain and sickness like
unto ours. There will be no pain and sickness, because there will be
no breach of the laws of life and health. There will be no
intemperance of any kind, because there will be no evil spirit at the
elbow continually ready to allure and draw into sin. But the Spirit of
the Lord will be with every person to guide him constantly, and the
law of the Lord will be written in his heart, so that one will not
need to say to another, "This is the way, walk ye in it." There will
be no Devil to tempt on the right hand and on the left, saying, "This
is the way, walk in it." Thus having this good influence continually
around them to keep them in the straight path, they will grow up
without sickness, pain, or death.
There will be a change wrought in their tabernacles, which is
equivalent to death and the resurrection; but they will not sleep in
the dust of the earth. Their tabernacles shall not molder back into
corruption; but they shall be like Jesus Christ's most glorious
tabernacle, who never knew sin; and he is the only being we read of
whose tabernacle did not see corruption, except a few who obtained
beforehand the privilege of translation.
We read—"Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him."
Apostle Paul says he was translated. The revelation given through
Joseph Smith teaches that a great many others in Enoch's day obtained
the same blessing.
We read in the Book of Mormon of three Nephites, upon whom the Lord
wrought a change, that their bodies should not see corruption; but
that change was in itself equivalent to death and the resurrection.
Whether the complete change took place in that day, or whether a still
greater change remains to take place with them, we are not informed
positively. But Mormon, writing about it, gives it as his opinion, and
says it was so signified to him by the Spirit, that there remained for
them a greater change in the great day when all should be changed.
Suffice it to say that because of the fall of Adam, the elements of
the earth of which we partake have sown the seeds of mortality in the
earthly tabernacle, so that it becomes necessary they should all
undergo the same change, whether by returning to the dust, and being
raised again, or by that change which takes place in a moment, in the
twinkling of an eye.
The principle to me is inevitable, that the penalty of our
transgressions must fall on us, and that salvation and full
redemption from our sins is only to be obtained by ceasing to do evil,
and learning to do well—by turning from the path that leads to death,
and taking the road that leads to life. In this way we secure to
ourselves the blessings of the atonement, which opens the door of
salvation to all such, and points out the way of life which he himself
Let us follow him. As it is written, "I am the true shepherd. The true
shepherd entereth in at the door, but a thief climbeth up some other
way." He is also denominated "The captain of our salvation,"
Great Apostle and High Priest of our profession, to show our feet the
There is one precious privilege which the Gospel of Jesus Christ has
extended to those that believe and obey it—their sins go to judgment
beforehand. It is written, "Some men's sins go to judgment beforehand,
while others follow after." Who is it that has the privilege of being
judged beforehand? And who is it whose sins follow after? All who
repent of their sins and turn to the living God, their sins go to
judgment beforehand. "What, immediately at the time they repent?" Yes.
When they repent and pursue the course that is marked out to them by
which to obtain pardon, their sins go to judgment beforehand; that is,
they obtain pardon to the extent they are capable of receiving it.
Do I obtain pardon for my transgressions, so that I shall escape the
penalty of death? No, I do not. I may so far obtain forgiveness by
faith in Christ that the sentence of death may be commuted, and life
prolonged, like it was with Hezekiah of old, whose life was lengthened
out fifteen years.
There are hundreds and thousands before me here and in this Territory
who have had their lives lengthened out through obedience to the
Gospel of peace, who were languishing upon beds of death, under the
sentence of death, and they were on the verge of the grave; but,
through repentance, and the Elders of Israel administering to them,
the power of death was stayed, and their lives were prolonged: yet the
sentence of death was not revoked, but it must pass upon all mankind.
Through the exercise of faith we may gain a reprieve for a few days
longer, or at the farthest for a few years, to live and do good. And
some might possibly attain to that glorious privilege Enoch and others
obtained, that they should not sleep in the earth, but be changed in a
moment, in the twinkling of an eye, and pass from mortal to
immortality, by which means the penalty is executed and the law
But it pleased God our Father that the Savior should be subjected to
all the temptations and pangs to which flesh is heir. I will say that
his grief and sorrow was not that which is unto death, but it sprang
from his sympathies for his blood relatives; I mean his Father's
family that is here on the earth, for whom he came to suffer. He bore
our sorrows and carried our griefs. He took upon him the sicknesses of
us all and felt our infirmities. No blind man or leper cried to him
for help in vain; but he felt their infirmities, and stretched forth
his hands and helped them, and exerted himself to ameliorate their
sufferings. Did he suffer hunger and fatigue? Yes. And when his hour
was coming, and he felt his end was nigh at hand, all the infirmities
of the flesh, as it were, crowded upon him, and he felt even to shrink
from drinking that bitter cup; and said three times, "O my Father, if
it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless, not as I
will, but as thou wilt."
It pleased our Father that he should be clothed in mortality, that he
might be subjected to all these sensations and feelings of our
infirmities, that he might fully comprehend them all to the extent
that henceforth, in his mediatorial services for mankind, he might of
a truth be touched with the feelings of all our infirmities,
understanding them most perfectly, in order that he might be filled
with compassion, not to justify our sins, but to have mercy and
compassion upon our infirmities. Thus, by his atonement, he has opened
a door, that, after we have paid the penalty, which is death, we may
be raised again from the dead.
This is the salvation that is wrought out for us; this is the hope
which was begotten in the disciples of Jesus Christ by his
resurrection from the dead, which Peter alludes to in his Epistle, 1st
chapter, wherein he says, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord
Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us
again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the
dead, To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth
not away, reserved in heaven for you."
Here is a promise that the faithful should receive immortal
tabernacles—an enduring inheritance in the world to come. But they
were never authorized to hope that the penalties of their
transgressions should never be inflicted upon them: but after they had
suffered the penalty of the law, then they might find redemption, that
the eternal death should not pass upon them.
"Blessed and holy are those that have part in the first resurrection,"
saith the Scriptures; for "on such the second death hath no power."
"The second death," what is that? In this we are more directly
interested, for this mortal tabernacle must die; and we have a sure
and certain hope it shall be raised again from the dead. I can endure
this: I can pass through the momentary afflictions I am called to
suffer in this life; and I will try not to complain, if I see there is
a prospect of not being again subjected to that second death. What is
it? There are some sayings in the Revelation of St. John in reference
to the lake of fire and brimstone, which is the second death, where
their worm dieth not and the fire is not quenched, where there is no
end to their torment. There are a great many sayings in the Scripture
of the same import, which is denominated, "the second death."
There is a revelation in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants, which, to
my mind, is more explicit than any I find in the Old and New Testament
on this subject. It is in that revelation in which our Father speaks
unto us concerning the transgression of Adam, and death that passed
upon him because of his transgression. He partook of a spiritual
death. That which was spiritual was first, and afterwards that which
was temporal. Again, says the revelation, "The last shall be first,
and the first shall be last."
The spiritual death is that which shall be passed upon the wicked when
he shall say unto them, "Depart, ye cursed, into everlasting fire,
prepared for the devil and his angels." You can read this revelation
in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants when you go home.
I understand that the second death is a spiritual death. Is it meant
that the spirit shall die? Each of you can draw your own conclusions
as well as I. Your traditions may be such that your thoughts do not
run in the same channel with mine in this respect. But I can conceive
of no other spiritual death than dissolution. I understand, when
applied to the mortal tabernacle, it alludes to the dissolution of
that tabernacle: it ceases to act in its functions, being
dissolved, to return to its native element.
I conceive that the same term is applicable to the spirit in like
manner. Whether it be a dissolution, or whether it be an eternal
preservation of that spirit in a state of torment and misery, which I
do not admit, one thing is certain—that the hope of redemption and
eternal life is past forever from those who are the subjects of the
I understand this to be a curse upon those who give themselves up
altogether to work wickedness and abominations, who have sinned so far
that they have no longer any part in life: they have sinned that sin
which is unto death, for which there is no redemption or forgiveness
in this world, nor in the world to come.
Some people entertain the idea from the sayings in the Revelation of
St. John, that those wicked ones are to be preserved in a literal
liquid lake of fire and brimstone, to suffer the torments of fire
forever and ever, without the possibility of being consumed or changed. I
do not so understand the meaning and intention of the sacred writers.
The Savior says—"Fear not him that is able to destroy the body only,
but rather fear him that is able to destroy both soul and body in
hell." "Hell" may be an analogous term, and applicable in different
places to different things; but in this passage it is evident he
implies the destruction of the soul as well as the body.
These reflections of mine I do not teach as doctrine, binding your
consciences, but as views which I have of the sacred Scriptures,
referring to the second death.
One thing is taught clearly in all the revelations, ancient and
modern, that there is a class on whom the second death shall pass; and
the thought of their returning to their native element is the thought
which all intelligent beings shrink from. The instinct within us is to
cleave to life—to cleave to our organization; and the greatest joy we
feel is in the certain hope of a resurrection from the dead. The idea
of the second death, or dissolution of the spirit, is that which is
the most terrifying to the soul. But our Father has so ordained that
our spiritual organizations, as well as our tabernacles, can only be
maintained and perfected through obedience to the laws of eternal
Blessed is the child that is corrected, for he shall learn wisdom.
Blessed is the man who is called to an account for his sins from day
to day. Blessed is the congregation of the Lord and all Saints who are
permitted to have the Holy Ghost manifested on them, and through the
servants of the Lord, to call them to account for their sins,
reproving them for their transgressions, that they may be corrected.
This is far better for us all, that our sins be brought to judgment in
this life, than to have them put off to a future day.
May the Lord help us to repent day by day, and to receive the
chastisements of the Almighty, that we may attain to everlasting