“Elders” (including JS), Letter, , Geauga Co., OH, to “brethren in Christ, and companions in tribulation,” ca. Feb. 1834. Featured version published in “The Elders of the Church in Kirtland, to Their Brethren Abroad,” The Evening and the Morning Star, Feb. 1834, 135–136. For more complete source information on The Evening and the Morning Star, see the source note for Letter, 30 Oct. 1833.
Bearing a title similar to that of a column in the December 1833 issue of The Evening and the Morning Star, this letter, published in the February 1834 issue of the Star, was the first installment of a series directed to those who had been ordained to the in the . The articles, written as epistles from JS and other leaders in , Ohio, focus on major doctrinal themes and contain almost no allusions to contemporary concerns such as the recent expulsion of Church of Christ members from , Missouri, and ongoing efforts to obtain redress and protection. The series continued in the March and April 1834 issues of the church’s periodical. Since these installments may have been prepared at different times, each installment of the serial is reproduced as an individual document.
The installment featured here focuses on Jesus Christ’s atonement and on law and governance—particularly the superiority of the laws of heaven over the laws of the land. JS and other priesthood leaders in emphasized that human law guarantees a level of temporal protection, while God’s law does not promise exemption from afflictions: human law “promises safety in temporal life; but the law of God promises that life which is eternal.” The epistle also discussed the eternal nature of and need for strict adherence to the laws of God. “God has given certain laws to the human family,” this epistle declared, “which, if observed, are sufficient to prepare them to inherit this rest.” Missionaries were to take this message to the people they encountered “for the good of man” that all might become “joint heirs” with God’s son in celestial, eternal rest. The letter featured here thus provided a conceptual foundation for the work of the ministry of the Church of Christ and the invitation for all of God’s children to partake in .
Before this letter was published, priesthood bearers had primarily received instruction from handwritten revelations or oral instructions. This and other letters published in church newspapers during this period seem to mark a transition to a different method of delivering religious instruction.
be cast out at the marriage feast, and have no part nor portion with his government; and what rational mind could for a moment accuse the king with injustice for punishing such rebellious subjects? In the first place his laws were just, easy and perfect: nothing was required in them of a tyranical nature; but their very construction was equity and beauty; and when obeyed would produce the happiest situation possible to all who adheard to them, beside the last great benefit of sitting down with a royal robe in the presence of the king at the great grand marriage supper of his son, and be made equal with him in all the affairs of the kingdom.
When these royal laws were issued, and promulgated throughout the vast dominion, every subject, when interrogated whether he believed them to be from his sovereign answered, Yes, I know they are, I am acquainted with the signature, for it is as usual, THUS SAITH THE KING! This admitted, the subject is bound by every consideration of honor to his country, his king, and his own personal character, to observe in the strictest sense every requisition in the royal edict. Should any escape the search of the embassadors of the king, and never hear these last laws, giving his subjects such exalted privileges, an excuse might be urged in their behalf, and they escape the censure of the king. But for those who had heard, who had admitted, and who had promised obedience to these just laws no excuse could be urged, and when brought into the presence of the king, certainly, justice would require that they should suffer a penalty! Could that king be just in admitting these rebellious individuals into the full enjoyment and privileges with his son, and those who had been obedient to his commandments? Certainly not. Because they disregarded the voice of their lawful king; they had no regard for his virtuous laws, for his dignity, nor for the honor of his name; neither for their own country’s sake, nor their private virtue! They neither regarded his authority enough to obey him, neither did they regard the immediate advantages and blessings arising from these laws if kept, to observe them, so destitute were they of virtue and goodness; and above all, they regarded so little the joy and satisfaction of a legal seat in the presence of the king’s only son, and to be made equal with him in all the blessings, honors, comforts, and felicities of his kingdom, that they turned away from an anticipation of them, and considered that they were beneath their present notice, though they had no doubt as to the real authenticity of the royal edict.
We ask, again, would the king be just in admitting these rebels to all the privileges of his kingdom, with those who had served him with the strictest integrity? We again answer, No! such individuals would be dangerous characters in any government, good & wholesome laws they dispised; just and perfect principles they trampled under their feet as something beneath their notice, and disregarded those commands of their sovereign entirely which they had once acknowledged to be equitable! How could a government be conducted with harmony if its administrators were possessed with such different dispositions and different principles? Could it prosper? Could it flourish? Would harmony prevail? Would order be established, and could justice be executed in righteousness in all branches of its department? No! In it were two classes of men as discimilar as light is from darkness, virtue from vice, justice from injustice, truth from falsehood, and holiness from sin! One class were perfectly harmless and virtuous: they knew what virtue was for they had lived in the fullest enjoyment of it, and their fidelity to truth fairly tested by a series of years of faithful obedience to all its heavenly precepts. They knew what good order was, for they had been orderly and obedient to the laws imposed on them by their wise sovereign, and had experienced the benefits arising from a life spent in his government till he had now seen proper to make them equal with his son.— Such individuals would indeed adorn any court where perfection was one of its main springs of action, and shine far more brilliant than the richest gem in the diadem of the prince.
The other class were a set of individuals who disregarded every principle of justice and equity, whatever: and this is demonstrated from the fact, that when just laws were issued by the king, which were perfectly equitable, they were so lost to a sense of righteousness that they disregarded those laws, notwithstanding an obedience to them would have produced the happiest result possible, at the time, as regarded their own personal comfort and advantage. They were entirely destitute of harmony and virtue, so much so that virtuous laws they dispised. They had proven themselves unworthy a place in the joys of the prince, because they had for a series of years lived in open violation of his government. Certainly, then, those two clases of men could not hold the reins of the same government at the same time in peace; for internal jars, broils, and discords would rack it to the center, were such a form of government to attempt to exist under such a system. The virtuous could not enjoy peace in the constant and unceasing schemes and evil plans of the wicked; neither could the wicked have enjoyment in the constant perseverance of the righteous to do justly. And that there must be an agreement in this government, or it could not stand, must be admitted by all. Should the king convey the reins into the hands of the rebellious the government must soon fall; for every government, from the creation to the present; when it ceased to be virtuous, and failed to execute justice, sooner or later has been overthrown. And without virtuous principles to actuate a government all care for justice is soon lost, and the only motive which prompts it to act is, ambition and selfishness. Should the king admit these rebels into his house to make them equal with the others, would be condescending beneath his character; because he once issued virtuous laws which were received by a part of his subjects, and the reward annexed was a seat at the marriage feast, and an adoption into his own family as lawful heirs. So should he now offer any thing differently he would blast forever his own reputation, and destroy forever that government which he once so diligently labored to establish and preserve, and which he once had wisdom to organize. Such individuals as the last named, would be a bane to a virtuous government, and would prove its overthrow if suffered to hold a part in conducting its h[e]lm!
We take the sacred writings into our hands. and admit that they were given by direct inspiration for the good of man. We believe that God condescended to speak from the heavens and declare his will concerning the human family: give to them just and holy laws to regulate their conduct, and guide them in a direct way, that in due time he might take them to himself, and make them joint heirs with his Son. But when this fact is admitted, that the immediate will of heaven is here contained, are we not bound as rational creatures to live in accordance to all its precepts? Will the mere admision, that this is the will of heaven ever benefit us if we do not comply with all its teachings? Do we not offer violence to the Supreme Intelligence of heaven, when we admit the truth of its teachings, and do not obey them? Do we not condescend beneath our own character, and the better wisdom which heaven has endowed us with, by such a course of conduct? For these reasons, if we have direct revelations given us from heaven, surely, those revelations were never given to be trifled with, without the triflers incuring displeasure, and assuring vengeance upon their own heads, if there is any justice in heaven; and that there is, must be admitted by every individual who admits the truth and force of its teachings; its blessings and cursings, as contained in the sacred volume.
Here, then, we have this part of our subject immediately before us for consideration: God has in reserve a time, or period appointed in his own bosom, when he will bring all his subjects, who have obeyed his voice and kept his commandments, into his rest. This rest is of such perfection and glory, that man has need of a preparation before he can, according to the laws of that kingdom enter it and enjoy its blessings.— This being the fact, God has given certain laws to the human family, which, if observed, are sufficient to prepare them to inherit this rest. This, then, we conclude, was the purpose of God in giving his laws to us: if not, why, or for what were they given? If the whole family of man were as well off without them as they might be with them, for what purpose or intent were they ever given? Was it that God wanted to merely show that he could talk? This would be nonsense, to suppose that he would condescend to talk in vain; for it would be in vain, and to no purpose whatever: because, all the commandments contained in the law of the Lord, have the sure promise annexed of a reward to all who obey; predicated upon the fact, that they are really the promises of a Being who cannot lie, and who is abundantly able to fulfil every tittle of his word: and if men were as well prepared, or could be as well prepared, to meet God without their ever having been given in the first instance, why were they ever given? for certainly, in that case they can now do him no good.
As we previously remarked, all well established and properly organized governments have certain fixed and prominent laws for the regulation and management of the same.— If man has grown to wisdom and is capable of discerning the propriety of laws to govern nations, what less can we expect from the Ruler and Upholder of the universe? Can we suppose that he has a kingdom without laws? Or do we believe that it is composed of an innumerable company of beings who are entirely beyond all law? Consequently have need of nothing to govern or regulate them? Would not such ideas be reproachful to our Great Parent, and an attempt to cast a stigma upon his glorious character! Would it not be asserting, that we had found out a secret beyond Deity? that we had learned that it was good to have laws, and yet He, after existing from eternity, and having power to create man, had not found out the fact, that it was proper to have laws for his government! We admit that God is the great source and fountain from whence proceeds all good; that he is perfect intelligence, and that his wisdom is alone sufficient to govern and regulate the mighty creations and worlds which shine and blaze with such magnificence and splendor over our heads, as though touched with his finger and moved by his Almighty word. And if so, it is done and regulated by law; for without law all must certainly fall into chaos. If, then, we admit that God is the source of all wisdom and understanding, we must admit that by his direct inspiration he has taught man that law was necessary in order to govern and regulate his own immediate interest and welfare: For this reason, it is beneficial to promote peace and happiness among men: And as before remarked, God is the source from whence proceeds all good; and if man is benefitted by law, then certainly, law is good; and if law is good, it, or the principle of it emanated from God: for God is the source of all good; consequently, then, he was the first Author of law, or the principle of it, to mankind.