Times and Seasons (, Hancock Co., IL), 1 Apr. 1842, vol. 3, no. 11, pp. 735–750; edited by JS. For more complete source information, see the source note for Letter to Isaac Galland, 22 Mar. 1839.
The 1 April 1842 issue of the ’s , Illinois, newspaper, Times and Seasons, was the fourth issue to name JS as editor. The issue included a report of the organization of the , a lengthy doctrinal article titled “Try the Spirits,” and two short editorials, all of which are featured below. Also included in the issue, but not featured here, were a letter dated 20 March 1842 from the to the Latter-day Saints in Europe, extracts from a letter by , an excerpt of a letter to from his mother, another installment of the serialized “History of Joseph Smith,” and a letter about Nauvoo from “an Observer” to the Columbus Advocate. In addition, the issue included a petition from residents of to church leaders in Nauvoo, with an editorial comment. The comment is one of the editorials featured here; the petition is not reproduced below, but it is featured as a stand-alone document in this volume.
Note that only the editorial content created specifically for this issue of the Times and Seasons is annotated here. Articles reprinted from other papers, letters, conference minutes, and notices, are reproduced here but not annotated. Items that are stand-alone JS documents are annotated elsewhere; links are provided to these stand-alone documents.
While JS likely authored many of the paper’s editorial passages, John Taylor reportedly assisted him in writing content. No matter who wrote individual editorial pieces, JS assumed editorial responsibility for all installments naming him as editor except the 15 February issue. (Woodruff, Journal, 19 Feb. 1842; Historical Introduction to Times and Seasons, 1 Mar. 1842.)
Woodruff, Wilford. Journals, 1833–1898. Wilford Woodruff, Journals and Papers, 1828–1898. CHL. MS 1352.
sides, it is all that he would ask, a[l]l that he would desire. Yet many of them do this and hence “many spirits are abroad in the world.” One great evil is that men are ignorant of the nature of spirits; their power, laws, government, intelligence &c., and imagine that when there is any thing like power, revelation, or vision manifested that it must be of God:—hence the Methodists, Presbyterians, and others frequently possess a spirit that will cause them to lay down, and during its operation animation is frequently entirely suspended; they consider it to be the power of God, and a glorious manifestation from God,—a manifestation of what?—is there any intelligence communicated? are the curtains of heaven withdrawn, or the purposes of God developed? have they seen and conversed with an angel; or have the glories of futurity burst upon their view? No! but their body has been inanimate, the operation of their spirit suspended, and all the intelligence that can be obtained from them when they arise, is a shout of glory, or hallelujah, or some incoherent expression; but they have had “the power.” The Shaker will whirl around on his heel impelled by a supernatural agency, or spirit, and think that he is governed by the spirit of God: and the Jumper will jump, and enter into all kinds of extravagancies, a Primitive Methodist will shout under the influence of that spirit, until he will rend the heavens with his cries; while the Quakers, (or Friends) moved as they think by the spirit of God, will sit still and say nothing. Is God the author of all this? If not of all of it, which does he recognize? surely such a heterogenious mass of confusion never can enter into the kingdom of Heaven. Every one of these professes to be competent to try his neighbour’s spirit, but no one can try his own, and what is the reason? because they have not a key to unlock, no rule wherewith to measure, and no criterion whereby they can test it; could any one tell the length, breadth, or height of a building without a rule? test the quality of metals without a criterion, or point out the movements of the planetary system without a knowledge of astronomy? certainly not: and if such ignorance as this is manifested about a spirit of this kind who can describe an angel of light, if Satan should appear as one in glory? Who can tell his color, his signs, his appearance, his glory? or what is the manner of his manifestation? Who can detect the spirit of the French Prophets, with their revelations, and visions, and power, and manifestations? or who can point out the spirit of the Irvingites with their apostles, and prophets, and visions, and tongues, and interpretations, &c. &c.; or who can drag into day-light and develope the hidden mysteries of the false spirits that so frequently are made manifest among the ? We answer that no man can do this without the , and having a knowledge of the laws by which spirits are governed; for as, “no man knows the things of God but by the spirit of God,” so no man knows the spirit of the devil and his power and influence but by possessing intelligence which is more than human, and having unfolded through the medium of the Priesthood the mysterious operations of his devices; without knowing the angelic form, the sanctified look, and gesture, and the zeal that is frequently manifested by him for the glory of God:—together with the prophetic spirit, the gracious influence, the godly appearance, and the holy garb which is so characteristic of his proceedings, and his mysterious windings. A man must have the discerning of spirits, before he can drag into daylight this hellish influence and unfold it unto the world in all its soul destroying, diabolical, and horrid colors: for nothing is a greater injury to the children of men than to be under the influence of a false spirit, when they think they have the spirit of God. Thousands have felt the influence of its terrible power, and baneful effects: long pilgrimages have been undertaken, penances endured, and pain, misery, and ruin have followed in their train; nations have been convulsed, kingdoms overthrown, provinces laid waste, and blood, carnage, and desolation are the habilaments in which it has been clothed. The Turks, the Hindoos, the Jews, the Christians, the Indians, in fact all nations have been deceived, imposed upon and injured through the mischievous effects of false spirits.
As we have noticed before, the great difficulty lays in the ignorance of the nature of spirits, of the laws by which they are governed, and the signs by which they may be known; if it requires the spirit of God, to know the things of God, and the spirit of the devil can only be unmasked through that medium, then it follows as a natural consequence that unless some person, or persons, have a communication or revelation from God, unfolding to them the operation of spirit, they must eternally remain ignorant of these principles:—for I contend that if one man cannot understand these things but by the spirit of God, ten thousand men cannot; it is alike out of the reach of the wisdom of the learned, the tongue of the eloquent, and the power of the mighty. And we shall at last have to come to this conclusion, whatever we may think of revelation, that without it we can neither know, nor understand any thing of God, or the devil; and however unwilling the world may be to acknowledge this principle, it is evident from the multifarious creeds and notions concerning this matter, that they understand nothing of this principle, and it is equally as plain that without a divine communication they must remain in ignorance. The world always mistook false prophets for true ones, and those that we sent of God they considered to be false prophets; and hence they killed, stoned, punished and imprisoned the true prophets, and they had to hide themselves “in deserts, and dens, and caves of the earth;” and although the most honorable men of the earth, they banished them from their society as vagabonds; whilst they cherished, honored, and supported knaves, vagabonds, hypocrites, imposters and the basest of men.
A man must have the discerning of spirits as we before stated to understand these things, and how is he to obtain this gift if there are no gifts of the spirit? And how can these gifts be obtained without revelation?—“Christ ascended into heaven and gave gifts to men, . . . “and he gave some apostles and some prophets, and some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers.” And how were apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, and evangelists chosen? by “prophesy (revelation) and by :”—by a divine communication, and a divinely appointed —through the medium of the priesthood, organized according to [p. 744]
Primitive Methodism began as a nondenominational movement in the British Midlands. In 1807 Methodist preachers Hugh Bourne and William Clowes organized a number of open-air camp meetings and advocated the meetings as a return to John Wesley’s original ideas for Methodism. In 1811, after being disciplined by the Methodist church, Bourne, Clowes, and their followers—made up of Camp Meeting Methodists and Clowesites—founded Primitive Methodism. (Kendall, Origin and History of the Primitive Methodist Church, 1–3, 77, 84.)
Kendall, H. B. The Origin and History of the Primitive Methodist Church. Vol. 1. London: Edwin Dalton, .
The entry on Quakers in Charles Buck’s influential Theological Dictionary reproduced an “account of their doctrine” allegedly provided to Buck by “one of their most respectable members.” This summary of Quaker principles states, “We consider as obstructions to pure worship, all forms which divert the attention of the mind from the secret influence . . . from the Holy One.” The account continues, “We believe it to be our duty to lay aside the activity of the imagination, and to wait in silence to have a true sight of our condition bestowed upon us.” (“Quakers,” in Buck, Theological Dictionary, 437–438.)
Buck, Charles. A Theological Dictionary, Containing Definitions of All Religious Terms: A Comprehensive View of Every Article in the System of Divinity. . . . Philadelphia: W. W. Woodward, 1818.