Letter to Silas Smith, 26 September 1833

  • Source Note
  • Historical Introduction

Document Transcript

, Ohio, Sept 20 26th, 1833
Respected :— It is with feelings of deep interest for the welfare of mankind which fill my mind on the reflection that all were formed by the hand of Him who will call the same to give and an impartial account of all their works in that great day to which you and myself in common with them are bound, that I take up my pen and seat myself in an attitude to address a few though imperfect lines to you for your perusal.
I have no doubt but you will agree with me that men will be held accountable for the things they have, and not for the things they have not, or, that all the light and intelligence communicated to them from their Beneficent Creator, whether it is much or little, by the same they in justice will be judged; and that they are required to yield obedience to, and improve upon that, and that only, which is given; for man is not to live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord.
Seeing that the Lord has never [p. 2] given them to understand by anything heretofore revealed that He had ceased to speak, forever, to his creatures, when sought unto in a proper manner, why should it be thought a thing incredible that He should be pleased to speak again, in these last days for their salvation?
given them to understand by anything heretofore revealed that He had ceased to speak, forever, to his creatures, when sought unto in a proper manner, why should it be thought a thing incredible that He should be pleased to speak again, in these last days for their salvation?
Perhaps you may be surprised at this assertion. That I should say for the salvation of his creatures in these last days, since we have already in our possession a vast volume of his word, which he has previously given
But you will admit that the word spoken to Noah was not sufficient for Abraham, or it was not required of <him> to leave the land of his nativity, and seek an inheritance in a strange country upon the word spoken to Noah, but, for himself he obtained promises from the hand of the Lord, and walked in that perfection that he was called the friend of God.
Isaac, the promised seed, was not required to rest his hope alone upon the promises made to his father Abraham, but was privileged with the assurance of his approbation in the sight of Heaven, by the direct voice of the Lord to him.
If one man can live upon the revelations to another, might I not with propriety ask, why the necessity then, of the Lord’s speaking to Isaac as he did, as is recorded in the twenty sixth chapter of Genesis? For the Lord there repeats, or rather, promises again to perform the oath which he had previously sworn to Abraham, and why this repetition to Isaac? Why was not the first promise as sure for Isaac as it was for Abraham? Was not Isaac Abraham’s son, and could he not place implicit confidence in the veracity of his father as <being> a man of God?
Perhaps you may say that he was a very peculiar man, and different from men in these last days, consequently the Lord favored him with blessings, peculiar and different, as he was different from men in this age.
I admit that he was a peculiar man, and was not only peculiarly blessed, but greatly blessed.
But all the peculiarity that I can discover in the man, or all the difference between him and men in this age, is, that he was more holy and more perfect before God, and came to Him with a purer heart, and more faith than men in this day.
The same might be said on the subject of Jacob’s history. Why was it that the Lord spake to him concerning the same promise, after He had made it once to Abraham, and renewed it to Isaac? Why could not Jacob rest contented upon the word spoken to his fathers? When the time of the promise drew nigh for the deliverance of the children of Israel from the land of [p. 3] Egypt, why was it necessary that the Lord should begin to speak to them?
Egypt, why was it necessary that the Lord should begin to speak to them?
The promise or word to Abraham, was, that his seed should serve in bondage, and be afflicted, four hundred years, and after that they should come out with great substance. Why did they not rely upon this promise, and when they had remained in Egypt, in bondage, four hundred years, come out, without waiting for further revelations, but act entirely upon the promise given to Abraham that they should come out?
Paul said to his Hebrew brethren, that God might more abundantly show unto the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, He confirmed it by an oath. He also exhorts them, who, through faith and patience inherit the promises.
Notwithstanding, we (said Paul) have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us, which hope we have as an anchor to the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the vail, yet he was careful to press upon them the necessity of continuing on until they, as well as those who then inherited the promises, might have the assurance of their salvation confirmed to them, by an oath from the mouth of Him who could not lie; for that seemed to be the example anciently, and Paul holds it out to his Hebrew brethren as an object attainable in his day.
And why not? I admit that by reading the Scriptures of truth the Saints, in the days of Paul, could learn, beyond the power of contradiction, that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, had the promise of eternal life confirmed to them by an oath of the Lord, but that promise or oath was <no> assurance to them of their salvation; but they could by walking in the footsteps and continuing in the faith of their fathers, obtain, for themselves an oath for confirmation that they were meet to be partakers of the inheritance, with the Saints in light.
If the Saints in the days of the Apostles were priviledged to take the Ancients for examples, and lay hold of the same promises, and attain to the same exalted privilege of knowing that their names were written in the Lamb’s Book of Life and that they were sealed there as a perpetual memorial before the face of the Most High, will not the same faithfulness, the same purity of heart and the same Faith, bring the same assurance of eternal life, and that in the same manner, to the children of men now in this age of the world? I have no doubt but that the holy Prophets and Apostles and [p. 4] Saints in ancient days, were saved in the Kingdom of God; neither do I doubt but that they held converse and communion with Him while they were in the flesh, as Paul said to his Corinthian brethren that the Lord Jesus showed Himself to above five hundred Saints at one time after His resurrection. Job said that he knew that his Redeemer lived and that he should see Him in the flesh in the latter days. I may believe that Enoch walked with God and by faith was translated. I may believe that Noah was a perfect man in his generation and also walked with God. I may believe that Abraham communed with God and conversed with angels. I may believe that Isaac obtained a renewal of the covenant made to Abraham by the direct voice of the Lord. I may believe that Jacob conversed with holy angels, and heard the voice of his Maker, that he wrestled with the angel until he prevailed and obtained the blessing. I may believe that Elijah was taken to Heaven in a chariot of fire with fiery horses. I may believe that the saints saw the Lord and conversed with Him face to face after His resurrection. I may believe that the Hebrew Church came to Mount Zion, and unto the city of the Living God the Heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels. I may believe that they looked into eternity, and saw the Judge of all, and Jesus the Mediator of the New Covenant. But will all this purchase an assurance for me, and waft me to the regions of eternal day and seat me down in the presence of the King of Kings with my garments spotless pure and white?
Saints in ancient days, were saved in the Kingdom of God; neither do I doubt but that they held converse and communion with Him while they were in the flesh, as Paul said to his Corinthian brethren that the Lord Jesus showed Himself to above five hundred Saints at one time after His resurrection. Job said that he knew that his Redeemer lived and that he should see Him in the flesh in the latter days. I may believe that Enoch walked with God and by faith was translated. I may believe that Noah was a perfect man in his generation and also walked with God. I may believe that Abraham communed with God and conversed with angels. I may believe that Isaac obtained a renewal of the covenant made to Abraham by the direct voice of the Lord. I may believe that Jacob conversed with holy angels, and heard the voice of his Maker, that he wrestled with the angel until he prevailed and obtained the blessing. I may believe that Elijah was taken to Heaven in a chariot of fire with fiery horses. I may believe that the saints saw the Lord and conversed with Him face to face after His resurrection. I may believe that the Hebrew Church came to Mount Zion, and unto the city of the Living God the Heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels. I may believe that they looked into eternity, and saw the Judge of all, and Jesus the Mediator of the New Covenant. But will all this purchase an assurance for me, and waft me to the regions of eternal day and seat me down in the presence of the King of Kings with my garments spotless pure and white?
Or must I not rather obtain for myself by my own faith and diligence in keeping the commandments of the Lord, an assurance of salvation for myself? And have I not an equal privilege with the ancient Saints? And will not the Lord hear my prayers and listen to my cries as soon as he ever did to theirs, if I come to him in the manner they did? Or, is he a respecter of persons?
So I must close this subject for want of time, and I may with propriety say at the beginning
We would be glad to see you in , we would be glad to see you embrace the New Covenant and be one with us, we sometimes think you are now one with us in heart.
I remain yours affectionately
Joseph Smith Jun
To [p. 5]

Footnotes

  1. 1 Silas Smith was the seventh child and fifth son of Asael and Mary Duty Smith, JS’s grandparents on his father’s side.  
  2. 2 Earlier in the year, JS wrote to a newspaper editor in Rochester, New York, that he felt a similar “deep intrist [interest] in the cause of Zion and in the happiness of my brethren of mankind.” (Letter to Noah C. Saxton, 4 Jan. 1833.)  
  3. 3 In other letters, JS also commented on his writing abilities. For instance, in a letter to his wife Emma, he apologized for his “inability in convaying my ideas in writing.” In a letter to Noah C. Saxton, JS similarly wrote that he believed his message to be of such great importance that he would “overlook [his] own inability and expose [his] weakness to a learned world.” (Letter to Emma Smith, 6 June 1832; Letter to Noah C. Saxton, 4 Jan. 1833.)  
  4. 4 The word “to” is missing at this location in the copy in Lucy Mack Smith’s history. (Lucy Mack Smith, History, 1845, 228.)  
  5. 5 See Book of Mormon, 1830 ed., 81 [2 Nephi 9:25]; Luke 12:48; and Revelation, 26 Apr. 1832 [D&C 82:3].  
  6. 6 See Matthew 4:4; and Deuteronomy 8:3. Instead of “the Lord,” the copy in Lucy Mack Smith’s history has “God.” (Lucy Mack Smith, History, 1845, 229.)  
  7. 7 Instead of “them,” the copy in Lucy Mack Smith’s history has “the world.” (Lucy Mack Smith, History, 1845, 229.)  
  8. 8 Several months later, JS and his associates in the presidency of the high priesthood reiterated this point in an epistle to the elders of the church. (See Letter to the Church, ca. Mar. 1834.)  
  9. 9 Instead of “him,” the copy in Lucy Mack Smith’s history has “Abraham.” (Lucy Mack Smith, History, 1845, 229.)  
  10. 10 See Genesis 17:1–22.  
  11. 11 See James 2:23; and Isaiah 41:8.  
  12. 12 The word “alone” is missing at this location in the copy in Lucy Mack Smith’s history. (Lucy Mack Smith, History, 1845, 229.)  
  13. 13 See Genesis 26:2–5.  
  14. 14 The copy in Lucy Mack Smith’s history includes the word “given” here. (Lucy Mack Smith, History, 1845, 229.)  
  15. 15 Here, JS encapsulated the Church of Christ’s rationale for belief in continuing revelation. More than a year earlier, Presbyterian minister Benton Pixley reported that Sidney Rigdon “tells us that we are to look for and expect about these day[s] a new revelation—that the precepts inculcated and given by the Apostles to other people and in other ages are by no means to be applied to us Those promises are not to be received by us as a matter of comfort nor those threatnings as a matter of alarm—for neither one nor the other belong to us—Promises given to a people very different from us—and under very different circumstances eighteen hundred years ago away off on the Contenent of Asia can with no consistency be applied to the people of these United States—We are without a Revalation and must wait upon God and pray for one suited to our times and circumstances.” Church leader John Taylor later expressed, “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, Joseph, and so must we, or we shall make a shipwreck.” (Benton Pixley, Independence, MO, to Absalom Peters, New York City, NY, 1 June 1832, in American Home Missionary Society Papers; John Taylor, “On Priesthood,” LDS Millennial Star, 1 Nov. 1847, 9:323; see also “The Elders in the Land of Zion to the Church of Christ Scattered Abroad,” The Evening and the Morning Star, July 1832, [5].)  
  16. 16 See Genesis 17:1–22; 22:16–18; 26:3–5.  
  17. 17 See Genesis 35:10–12.  
  18. 18 See Genesis 15:13–14.  
  19. 19 Instead of the plural word “revelations,” the copy in Lucy Mack Smith’s history has the singular “revelation.” (Lucy Mack Smith, History, 1845, 230.)  
  20. 20 Instead of “might more abundantly show,” the copy in Lucy Mack Smith’s history has “being more abundantly willing to show.” (Lucy Mack Smith, History, 1845, 230.)  
  21. 21 Hebrews 6:17.  
  22. 22 Hebrews 6:18–19.  
  23. 23 The word “then” is missing at this location in the copy in Lucy Mack Smith’s history. (Lucy Mack Smith, History, 1845, 230.)  
  24. 24 Instead of “Ancients,” the copy in Lucy Mack Smith’s history has “saints.” (Lucy Mack Smith, History, 1845, 231.)  
  25. 25 See James 5:10.  
  26. 26 See Revelation 21:27.  
  27. 27 Instead of “Him,” the copy in Lucy Mack Smith’s history has “them.” (Lucy Mack Smith, History, 1845, 231.)  
  28. 28 1 Corinthians 15:6.  
  29. 29 Job 19:25.  
  30. 30 See Genesis 5:24.  
  31. 31 See Genesis 6:9. In the copy in Lucy Mack Smith’s history, this sentence was missing. Robert Campbell, a clerk in the Church’s Historian’s Office in the 1850s and 1860s, later inserted the following sentence into the history: “I may [believe] that Noah was a perfect man in his generation & also walked with God.” In his role as clerk, Campbell may have become aware that Jesse Smith owned the original sent copy of this JS letter and added this sentence based on what appears in that version. (Lucy Mack Smith, History, 1845, 231.)  
  32. 32 See Genesis 17:1; 22:11, 15.  
  33. 33 See Genesis 26:2–5.  
  34. 34 Instead of “voice,” the copy in Lucy Mack Smith’s history has “word.” (Lucy Mack Smith, History, 1845, 231.)  
  35. 35 See Genesis 32:24–32.  
  36. 36 See 2 Kings 2:11.  
  37. 37 See Luke 24:13–51; John 20:19–31; and Acts 1:3–9.  
  38. 38 See Hebrews 12:22–24.  
  39. 39 Instead of “and,” the copy in Lucy Mack Smith’s history has “or.” (Lucy Mack Smith, History, 1845, 232.)  
  40. 40 The copy in Lucy Mack Smith’s history omits the passage “and seat me down in the presence of the King of Kings.” (Lucy Mack Smith, History, 1845, 232.)  
  41. 41 See Acts 10:34.  
  42. 42 Instead of “glad,” the copy in Lucy Mack Smith’s history has “pleased.” (Lucy Mack Smith, History, 1845, 232.)  
  43. 43 Instead of “we would be glad to see you embrace,” the copy in Lucy Mack Smith’s history reads “and more pleased to have you embrace.” (Lucy Mack Smith, History, 1845, 232.)  
  44. 44 The copy in Lucy Mack Smith’s history omits the passage “and be one with us, we sometimes think you are now one with us in heart.” (Lucy Mack Smith, History, 1845, 232.)  
  45. 45 The copy in Lucy Mack Smith’s history omits this address marker. (Lucy Mack Smith, History, 1845, 232.)