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THE CLAIMS, DOCTRINES, AND ORGANIZATION
OF LATTER-DAY SAINTS.
Next in importance to what The Church teaches about God is what she teaches in regard to man. Next to God man certainly is the most important thing in the universe; for whether we view him from the standpoint of his relationship to other animals, the beauty and majesty of his physical organism, the superiority of his intellectual endowments or the sublimity of his spiritual aspirations, something will be found in each that argues for him a special place in the universe, and will also furnish good grounds for the belief that a special relationship exists between him and Deity.
The distinction given to man above all other known creatures might well lead the Psalmist, when addressing himself to God, to say:
"What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? for thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honor. Thou madest him to have
dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his
The question of the Psalmist, "what is man?” is answered by The Church—"The son of God;" and this explains why it is that God is mindful of him. The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that the spirits of men before they tabernacled in the flesh had an existence with God in another world; that God is the father of their spirits, Jesus Christ being the first born.t That existence was a tangible one; it involved the realities of life in the heavenly kingdom. Each spirit there was as much an entity as each man is in this present life. Each spirit there had its agency as each man has it here; and was at liberty to take that course he elected to pursue. I “At the first organization in heaven," says the prophet, “we were all present, and saw the Savior chosen and appointed, and the plan of salvation made, and we sanctioned it."
Some spirits went so far in the exercise of their agency as to rebel against God. Lucifer, the Son of the Morning, did so, and drew away with him one-third of the hosts of heaven; and they became the devil and his angels. $ This is not only the teaching of Joseph Smith, but also of the Bible. ||
One thing, however, Joseph Smith taught which, as far as I know, the Bible does not teach, viz, that the spirits of men in their pre-existent estate attained unto a variety of degrees of intelligence and nobility of character. In the Book of Abraham it is written:
"Now the Lord has shone unto me, Abrabam, the intelligences that were organized before the world was: and among all these there were many of the noble and great ones; and God saw these souls that they were good, and he stood in the midst of them, and he said, These I will make my rulers, for he stood among those that were spirits, and he said unto me, Abraham thou art one of them, thou wast chosen before thou wast born."**
This doctrine throws a wonderful light upon the being and nature of man. Notwithstanding the great influence of
Doc. & Cov. Sec. XXIX: 36-38, also Pearl of Great Price p. 14 (1888 Edition).
See Rev. XII: 7-12. Il Peter II: 4. Jude VI. **Pearl of Great Price p. 62.
parentage and environment upon character, in the light of this doctrine, we may understand how it is that in spite of indifferent parentage and vicious environment some characters arise that are truly virtuous and great; and that purely by the strength of that intelligence and nobility to which their spirits had attained in the heavenly kingdom before they took bodies upon earth. Their grandeur of soul could not all be suppressed by environment in this life, however inauspicious for their development. As the sun struggles through clouds and mists that at times obscure his brightness, so these spirits, stirred by their innate nobility, breaking through all disadvantages attendant upon ignoble birth and iron fortune, rise to their native heights of true greatness.
If a wider survey be taken of mankind, and those advantages and disadvantages under which whole generations, nations and races of men have lived be taken into account; if the fact of their pre-existence be considered in connection with that other fact that the spirits of men before coming to this earth were of unequal intelligence and of every degree of nobility; if it be remembered that in that pre-existent state all spirits had a free agency, and that they there manifested all degrees of fidelity to truth and righteousness, from those who were valiant for the right to those who were utterly untrue to it, and rebelled against God; if it be further remembered that doubtless in this earth-life these spirits are rewarded for their faithfulness and diligence in that preexistent state—if all this, I say, be considered, much that has perplexed many noble minds in their effort to reconcile the varied circumstances under which men have lived with the justice and mercy of God, will disappear.
The doctrine of the pre-existence of spirits, as also their relation of sonship to Deity, is beyond all doubt a scriptural doctrine; but it seems to have been reserved for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints through her teaching to give clearness and force to it. The fatherhood of God, and its necessary corollary, the brotherhood of man, are trite phrases much in fashion in these modern days; but it is questionable if they have conveyed to the minds of men any definite ideas of the actual relationship of father and son
existing between man and Deity. In the mouths of sectarians the phrases under discussion have always been employed to express some mystic or indefinite relationship not clearly explained or explainable. It was reserved, I repeat, for the great modern prophet to give these phrases reality. He declared the relationship to be as real as that existing between any father and son on earth; that man's spirit was actually the offspring of Deity—“A spark struck from his own eternal blaze." With him the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man were not mere abstractions more or less beautiful, but a reality. The words taught by the Savior of men to his disciples as the proper mode of address to Deity"Our Father, who art in heaven"-are not meaningless verbiage, but express the true relationship of man and God.
This teaching of the church receives support from the language of Paul in his discourse to the Greeks in Mars hill, where he approvingly quoted the words of the Greek poet Aratus—"As certain also of your own poets have said, for we are also his offspring."* "Forasmuch then," he continues, "as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man's device.”+
As to the future of man The Church teaches the literal resurrection from the dead; that is, the reunion after death of the spirit and the body. And from thence-forward she teaches everlasting perpetuation of life in that degree of glory suited to the development attained by each individualevery man being judged according to his works. I That future
*Following, in part, is the poem:
"With Zeus begin we-let no mortal voice
By need of daily bread; etc.
İThe Church, however, makes no pronouncement concerning the fate of those who once enlightened, and having tasted the heavenly gift, and been made partakers of the Holy Ghost, the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come-turn altogether away from the truth, and thus crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, aud put him to an open shame (Heb. 6: 4-6). Concerning such characters—wbo, by their great sin of high trea
existence is to be accompanied by every possible means of advancement along the lines of intellectual, moral, and spiritual progression, ascending step by step through various degrees of development, of honor, of glory, of power toward God, until at the last overcoming all evil and embodying all good, they sit down with Jesus in his throne, as he overcame and sat down with his father in his throne. *
With these views in respect to man past and future, The Church regards the present existence as merely a probation where man acquires that experience and gains that knowledge which shall prepare him for the future state of development and glory which awaits him, if in this life he fulfills the object of his mission to earth.
The atonement of Jesus Christ affects man in two ways: generally and individually.
By affecting him generally I mean that the atonement of Jesus Christ redeems all men from the consequences of Adam's transgression, independent of any action on their part; for it is evident that in the transgression of Adam the individual agency of man was not a factor; add therefore justice has no claim in visiting penalties upon the individual for sins committed by Adam; and though death, which was the penalty visited upon 'Adam and his race in consequence of his transgression, falls upon all men, still free redemption is provided in the atonement of Jesus Christ; and the advantages that accrue to man in this present existence abundantly compensate him for his temporary subjection to the power of death. son against God, become Sons of Perdition, the teaching of the Church is that God 'saves all the works of his hands, except those Sons of Perdition, who deny the Son after the Father has revealed him; wherefore he saves all except them: they shall go away into everlasting punishnent, where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched, which is their torment and the end thereof, neither the place thereof, nor their torment, no man knows, neither was it revealed, neither is, neitber will be revealed unto man, except to them who are made partakers thereof. Nevertheless I, the Lord, show it by vision unto many, but straightway shut it up again, wherefore the end, the width, the height, the depth, and misery thereof, they understand not, neither any man except them who are ordained to this condemnation" (Doc. & Cov. Sec. 76: 43-48).