Saturday, May 11, 2024

"A Doctrine of Devils": Morrisite Teachings after Joseph Morris

After the death of Joseph Morris in 1862, his followers were broken up. Several individuals then arose claiming prophetic authority for a time. Among these, several can be noted.

James and George Dove

Anderson Writes: 

“In 1887 the Doves published Articles of Faith, which outlined the basic principles and doctrines of the Church of the Firstborn … Among these were the rejection of the principle of a literal resurrection after one life on earth in favor of a belief in reincarnation. It was believed that persons could not become perfected in one lifetime upon the earth, but that several sojourns would be required in different bodies and places before the eternal spirit would be prepared to dwell with the angels of heaven. Variations of this belief were found among nearly all Morrisite factions, although it was emphasized much more by some than others.

“The Doves taught that reincarnation was not only available to the righteous but was open to all …. Sinners were given a second chance. `After we have cast off this mortal, the deeds done in the body come to memory, and if our deeds have been evil, we at once feel convicted, and fully realizing our condition, we are anxious to come in mortality to try again.” Anderson, Joseph Morris and the Saga of the Morrisites, 194

George Williams “Prophet Cainan" (1814-1882) 

Williams claimed that angelic being ordained him.  Anderson states:

“He reported that they laid their hands upon his head and declared him to be `the first-born son of the third God in the last quorum of heaven, even Cainan, then Melchisedec, now George Williams, and then conferred upon … [him] … all the keys of the holy priesthood that were ever given to mortal man.”

“The reference here to Caninan and Melchisedec is a continuation of the principle of reincarnation or transmigration of spirits introduced by Joseph Morris. George Williams reported that this was his third incarnation. In his first incarnation he had been Cainan, one of the seven angels, and in his second one he was none other than Melchisedec, the great king of Salem. These previous incarnations, plus the authority granted to him during the two celestial interviews, entitled him to rule upon the earth as God’s supreme representative `to put in motion and carry on the great gospel plan of saving, redeeming and exalting Adam’s race, together with the planet on which they dwell.’” Anderson, Joseph Morris and the Saga of the Morrisites175-176. 

Wiliams also Claimed to have had a vision in which an individual appeared to him and said, “Hail servant of the Most High. I am Mohamet, and before I was Mohamet I was Ishmael the son of Abraham and Hagar, and I am also a servant of the Most High … [and] I am permitted to leave my mansion in Paradise to visit the servant of the Most High now in mortality.” Anderson, Joseph Morris and the Saga of the Morrisites, 183.

William W. Davies (1833-1906)

Concerning Davies Anderson writes:

“He took the principle of reincarnation and made it the keystone of his belief system, applying it not only to himself but also to other members of his family. He claimed a distinguished personal identity, insisting that he was Michael the Archangel reincarnate. That is, the spirit of the Archangel inhabited Davies body and had striven throughout his lifetime to prepare him for his calling. Michael had inhabited several illustrious bodies in ages past, having appeared as Adam, Abraham, and King David. These incarnations were a necessary prelude to the work assigned to Davies” Anderson, Joseph Morris and the Saga of the Morrisites, 200-201

Davies named one of his sons “Messiah Son of David” who was sometimes referred to as “Walla Walla Jesus.” He named another one of his sons “Our Father” meaning God the Father who adopted the name David. Both of these children died in 1880 during a diphtheria epidemic. After the death of his first wife Davies remarried. “In due course, she bore Davies a daughter, which he affirmed was his reincarnated previous wife returned to earth for the purpose of completing her interrupted calling.” He afterwards appears to have lost the following that he had. Anderson, Joseph Morris and the Saga of the Morrisites, 201-203.

"A Doctrine of Devils": The Teachings of Joseph Morris

Joseph Morris is another individual once associated with the Church who taught the false doctrine of multiple probations and founded the group known as the Morrisites. A good book on Joseph Morris and his religious movement can be found in C. LeRoy Anderson work, Joseph Morris and the Saga of the Morrisites (Logan, UT: Utah State University Press, 1988).

Morris claimed that he had passed through two previous mortal probations and that he had previously been Seth the son of Adam and later Moses and that he was going through his third incarnation as Joseph Morris and that he was the seventh angel mentioned in the book of Revelation. 

Anderson explains “Morris combined the principal of spirit transmigration with his evolutionary cosmology. Its basic tenet was that the spirit must enter a variety of states or manlike bodies at different points in evolutionary development in order that all eternal laws might be obeyed and the spirit might gain sufficient knowledge to become perfected `in order that they might continue to pass on from one stage of progression to another, and, ultimately, become Gods like unto the Eternal Father.’” Anderson, Joseph Morris and the Saga of the Morrisites, 40.

After Morris's death, many of his revelations and teachings were published by his followers. These provide information on his religious views. In one example, Morris taught the following:

"The seven angels are subject to each other and succeed each other in presiding. Two of them, Enos and Seth, the sixth and seventh angels, are obligated by law to fill three missions on the earth. Enos filled his second mission to this earth in the person of Elijah, and his third in the person of Joseph Smith. Seth filled his second mission in the person of Moses and is filling his third in the person of Joseph Morris."

Joseph Morris, “An Article on the Order of Sevens,” in The “Spirit Prevails” Containing the Revelations, Articles and Letters Written By Joseph Morris (San Francisco, CA: J. A. Dove & Company, 1886), 644-645.

 In another example, Morris further expounded this teaching.

“What Spirit was that which inhabited the body of Abel? The same spirit that inhabited the body of Aaron, who holds the keys of the lesser priesthood … What spirit was that which dwelt in the body of Enos? It was the same spirit that dwelt in the body of Elijah the prophet.—the same spirit that dwelt in the body of Joseph Smith … What spirit was it that dwelt in the body of Moses? The same that dwelt in the body of Seth. What spirit is it that now dwells in the body of your humble servant? The same spirit that dwelt in the bodies of Moses and Seth. Why was it sent forth upon the earth now? To cast the devil out of the Church and leads it triumphant over all its enemies.”

“How many progressive estates did the eternal Father pass through before he become a God? Ten. What were they? His first was a spiritual estate, his Second, a probation in the flesh; his Third, a resurrected or celestial estate. In his Fourth estate he went forth upon a mortal earth, received a body, died upon a cross, and was raised again from the dead. In his Fifth estate he sat at the right hand of his Father, and was a Mediator, and contended against and conquered death, hell, and the grave. In his Sixth estate he took mortal bodies upon many mortal earths, and officiated in the office of a high priest, a prophet and a president. His mission to each of the last five of these earths, was to preside over a dispensation of a thousand years on each earth; on the first of the five he presided over the first thousand years, on the second of the five, overt the second thousand years, and so on, unto and including the fifth. In the Seventh estate he was a prophet, Redeemer, lawgiver and president of [the] seventh dispensation holding the keys of the holy priesthood. In his Ninth estate he went forth upon his own earth to commence mortality, and having completed his mission he died. He afterwards returned to his own earth and commenced the resurrection of his own posterity, and after in the last great change he ascended his throne, and this was his tenth estate.”

John R. Eardley, Gems of Inspiration: A Collection of Sublime Thoughts by Modern Prophets (San Francisco, CA: Joseph A. Dove, 1899), 34.

By February 1861 Morris had persuaded a small group to follow him including a man then serving as a bishop in South Weber. Hearing about this Wilford Woodruff and John Taylor visited the ward there and put things in order. The following is from Wilford Woodruff’s account in his journal for February 11, 1861 (Spelling in the original):

Bishop Wests took us into his sleigh and drove us to South Webber whare we had an appointment to regulate that Branch of the Church. The Bishop was in apostacy & was leading away others. They had got a New Prophet to slide out of the Church upon. We had a large assembly of saints from other Places. Bishop Cook Came in & opened the way by singing & Prayer.

I then called upon Bishop Richard Cook to speak and requested him to tell us his feelings if he believed in Joseph Morris as a Prophet to tell us so, & to tell us what his feelings were in relation to the Presidency of the Church. He arose & spoke some time without touching the subjet. I again requested him to Come to the point. He then said yes I do Believe in Joseph Morris as a Prophet whom God has raised up to lead this Church & kingdom agreeable to the Revelation in the Doctrins & Covenants which says I will raise up unto you a Prophet like unto Moses &c. I do not Believe that Brigham Young is a prophet or has ever had any revelation or inspiration more than any sectarian Priest, & I believe this Church will ownly be known in name in 10 years unless God does raise up a Prophet." When he Closed some of his party got up & Bore the same testimony.

We then sent for there fals Prophet & Called upon him to speak. He spoke about half an hour. He said Brigham Young was not a prophet & Joseph Smith did not hold the Keys of the Priesthood & was ordained of man while He Joseph Morris was ordained of the Father, & Held six times more keys of the Priesthood than Joseph did. He Said he was the seventh Angel, & much other nonsens he Presented before the Assembly.

When He got through Elder Taylor spoke to the Assembly & showed Brother Cook the Position He was in. He bore testimony that Brigham Young was a prophet of God & he said that He himself was more of a Prophet than Morris was. Brigham Young in saying that He did not profess to be a prophet seer & Revelator as Joseph Smith was, was speaking of men being born Natural Prophets & seers. Many have the gift of seeing through seer stones without the Priesthood at all. He had not this gift naturally yet He was an Apostle & the Presidet of the Church & kingdom of God on the Earth and all the Keys of the Holy Priesthood & of Revelation was sealed upon him & the spirit & power of Revelation was upon him daily.

When He Closed I spoke to the people & bore testimony to the truth of what Elder Taylor had said. Morris had been Cut off from the Church twice for Adultery in the Territory, And He had spent about one year with a woman whose husband was Crazy. I told Morris that He was not a Prophet of God Neither was He the Seventh Angels that when the 7th Angel Came to Earth He would not spend the first year of his Mission with a woman whose Husband was Crazy & Commit Adultery with Her. I showed the folly of Richard Cook & others following such a Man.

When I Closed my remarks Morris Denyed of Being with that woman. Bishop West arose & bore testimony that what I had said was true. We then took all the Names of the persons who professed to believe in Joseph Morris as the prophet of God raised up to lead the Church. There was 16 Names Given as follows: Richard Cook William Kendall Nels Morrison Mrs Hannah Cook John Cook Robert Farley Nathan Brooks Mrs Margaret Cook John Firth John Parsons John Trolsom Mrs Hellen Cook Mrs Sarah Cook Mrs Mary Cook Mrs Joanna Kendall.

John Taylor then moved that those sixteen named persons be Cut off from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I seconded the motion & they were Cut off from the Church without a disscenting voice. We then Nominated Philo Allen to Preside over the remainder of that Branch of the Church which was Carried unanimously. We also voted to unite that Branch to Ogden under the Charge of the Presidet & Bishop of that Place.

Wilford Woodruff Journal, February 11, 1861.

Morris cultivated a group of several hundred followers who provoked a violent confrontation during which he was killed. Afterwards the Morrisites scattered and split into several factions that continued to promote variations on Morris's teachings for a time.

Monday, May 6, 2024

"A Doctrine of Devils": Charles B. Thompson

The aftermath of the martyrdom of Joseph Smith was a tumultuous time for the Saints in which a number of individuals who rejected the leadership of Brigham Young and the Twelve and claimed authority to leader the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. George A. Smith, the Prophet Joseph Smith's cousin and an Apostle of the Church stated in 1858, "Charles B. Thompson, Francis Gladden Bishop, G. J,. Adams, and others arose until" he jokingly quipped, "prophets for a while were at a discount." (George A Smith, Divine Origin of Mormonism," January 10, 1858, in Journal of Discourses 7:117). Some of these individuals taught a doctrine of transmigration of souls, sometimes also called baby resurrection or multiple mortal probations. One of these was Charles  B. Thompson, who for a time gathered a group of followers who sometimes characterized as "Beneemyites." 

James Strang, another rival to the leadership of the Twelve claimed that Thompson may have been influenced by the teachings of William McCary who claimed to be Jesus Christ "and who was restoring the apostolic church by naming men after various members of it. It was said that in this process either Peter or Paul had been restored to earth in the person of this same Charles, who thereby either got the keys of the kingdom or became an apostle to the Gentiles.” James J. Strang, “Charles B. Thompson,” Gospel Herald, Voree, Wisconsin, October 5, 1848, 140.

Later Thompson claimed to have received several revelations which had made known his previous mortal identities. In a revelation he received in April 1850, it stated, “And now behold, I send unto you my servant Charles B. Thompson, in whom is regenerated my dear son Ephraim, my first-born, with the voice of Beneemy, in the spirit and name of Elias, to write in your hearts my law, and to restore unto you all things, according to the covenants of your fathers, and to bless the earth to you, that it may no more be smitten with a curse.” Revelation, April 1850, in The Laws and Covenants of Israel; Written to Ephraim, from Jehovah, the Mighty God of Jacob. Also, Ephraim and Beneemy’s Proclamations (Preparation, Iowa: Book and Periodical Office of Zion’s Presbytery, 1857), 128.

Another revelation dated April 15 1852 stated , “Because in thee is regenerated Ephraim, my firstborn, of the seed of Joseph, in which the birth-right of Israel was given by my servant Jacob.” Revelation, April 15, 1852, in The Laws and Covenants of Israel; Written to Ephraim, from Jehovah, the Mighty God of Jacob. Also, Ephraim and Beneemy’s Proclamations, 155.

After a few years, Thompson's followers rejected his leadership and scattered.

Missionaries who would be associated with the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (now the Community of Christ), recorded an encounter with a former follower of Thompson by the name of Rowland Cobb. One missionary wrote wrote:

“Preparation, Monona County, Iowa, Monday, February 13. I came to this noted little village just before sunset. It was the headquarters of Charles B. Thompson. I am hospitably received by Elder Rowland Cobb, keeper of a hotel and general intelligence office of the place. I had met with him some years since at Elder Blair’s at Amboy, Illinois. He was then on a mission in the interest of Baneemyism, a firm believer in the first principles of the gospel, but had sidetracked with Charles B. Thompson, who had claimed special, divine call and introduced into his wild scheme an old doctrine of the ancient idolators of Indian; and a sect among the Romans of the transmigration of the soul; and common stock business as an agent for Beneemy ….

Wednesday, February 15, 1860. At half past ten o'clock in the forenoon …. Charles B. Thompson claimed no previous ordination to the presidency, according to the law. You are fully apprised of his untenable grounds and his absurd doctrine of the transmigration of souls; an old theory of idolaters of India, revived on these beautiful prairies of western Iowa.”

 Edmund C. Briggs, Early History of the Reogranization (Independence, MO: Price Publishing Company, 1998), 236-237.

One February 20-21, 1860, another missionary recorded, “Brother Rowland Cobb, who had been silenced for preaching that the soul of man passes into many mortal bodies by transmigration ere it attains celestial glory and perfection, was patiently heard for near two hours in defense and advocacy of that theory, after which scriptural and doctoral facts were presented in opposition to it, proving that man has but one earthly probation. He promised to no longer preach or teach that theory.” Frederick B. Blair, The Memoirs of President W. W. Blair (Lamoni, Iowa: Herald Publishing House, 1908), 99.

"A Doctrine of Devils": William McCary

William McCary was a black man who joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sometime around 1846 and appears to have been baptized by Orson Hyde. Shortly afterward he went on a mission to Cincinnati, Ohio. While there, he appears to have developed a following and engaged in strange behavior. It appears that one of McCary’s erroneous teachings was the transmigration of spirits. 

An article published in the Cincinnati Commercial on October 27, 1846 claimed that McCary “proclaimed himself Jesus Christ” and showed to his followers “the scars of wounds in his hands and limbs received on the cross” and performed “miracles with a golden rod.” Another article from the same newspaper published several weeks later on November 27, 1846 reported that this man “had visited our city with his wife, and proclaimed himself the `Lord Jesus Christ'!, established apostleship, and proceeded to organize a church of followers, numbering in male and female, some sixty persons.”

Isaac Sheen, a man who did not follow the leadership of the Twelve Apostles following the martyrdom of Joseph Smith, reported that McCary "said he was Adam, Ancient of days, Jesus, and the Lamanite prophet. Under his tuition then, Charles B. Thompson was instructed in the doctrine of transmigration, which he afterwards connected with his Beneemy doctrines. By magic arts, Mr. Williams, the impostor, deceived many for a few days or weeks. He found one who, like Thomas doubted. To convince him that he was the same Thomas, and sent again to be an apostle, he, by his ventriloquism made him believe that God spoke unto him, and called him Thomas. For teaching polygamous doctrines, the impostor was compelled to leave the city. We heard of his continued operations and tricks not far from Kanesville, shortly after.” [Isaac Sheen] “A Protest of Orson Hyde,” The True Latter-day Saints’ Herald, Cincinnati, Ohio 2, no. 1 (March 1861): 5

By March 1847 McCary was at Winter Quarters where he met with Brigham Young and several other Church leaders. During this meeting “[William] McCary made a rambling statement, claiming to be Adam, the ancient of days, and exhibiting himself in Indian costume; he also claimed to have an odd rib which he had discovered in his wife. He played on his thirty-six cent flute, being a natural musician and gave several illustrations of his ability as a mimic.” Manuscript History of the Church, March 26, 1847, in Manuscript History of Brigham Young 1846-1847, ed. Elden J. Watson (Salt Lake City, UT: Elden J. Watson, 1971), 542.

According to Stephen L. Shields, McCary, while at Winter Quarters in 1847 "continued to make uncomfortable claims, such as being the Apostle Thomas reincarnate. He was called before the high council on charges of apostasy. He left Winter Quarters and his followers set up an independent colony not far away." Steven L Shields, Divergent Paths of the Restoration: An Encyclopedia of the Smith–Rigdon Movement (Salt Lake City, UT: Signature Books. 2022), 68-69, Kindle Edition.

While there is no indication of which I am aware that Robert Matthews (Matthias) and McCary ever met or knew each other, both men appear to have believed or taught some version of reincarnation or the transmigration of souls from one mortal body to another. Matthias claimed to possess the spirt of the apostle Matthias, while McCary sometimes claimed to be the apostle Thomas. It is also interesting that in connection with the transmigration teaching each also identified themselves as Christ.

It appears that in spite of the clear teachings of the scriptures and the Prophet Joseph Smith concerning the nature of the resurrection, there were apparently some members of the Church at Winter Quarters, perhaps influenced by McCary who entertained this erroneous view of the resurrection. Several Latter-day Saint leaders addressed the Saints in order to correct erroneous doctrines which some had entertained. As noted in an earlier post, Orson Pratt spoke to the Saints on July 16, 1847, warning

"Some had been teaching the doctrine that the resurrection was by birth or through the womb but Br Pratt showed the folly of such a doctrine, & Proved by many revelations that the dead were raised by the power of God & the blowing of the Trump of Michael the Ark Angel who was Father Adam & that the graves of the Saints would be opened & their Bodies would come forth out of their graves according to the visions of Ezekiel & many of the prophets. He showed that However miraculous it might appear unto us it was just as easy for God to perform this work as it was to turn water into wine or make Bread without flour to feed a multitude. W. Woodruff followed Br Pratt & bore testimony to what had been said  & spoke in the spirit of the Lord.” (Wilford Woodruff Journal, November 21, 1847).

On  December 27, 1847 during a conference at Winter Quarters before about a thousand Latter-day Saints Brigham Young discussed the resurrection of the dead. Wilford Woodruff recorded the following

"Much important and interesting instruction was given upon these and other subjects among which was the resurrection spoken upon by Brigham Young. He said there was nothing more to be learned by the people upon the subject than what was written. The subject was made plain in the Bible and other revelations & it was not a subject that we wanted to use & at the present time as we had not come to the resurrection. But there was no person except a resurrected body who held the Keys of the resurrection. Michael the Ark Angel or Ancient of Days who was Father Adam held the keys of the resurrection." Wilford Woodruff Journal, December 27, 1847).

Friday, October 13, 2023

Nephi and the Spirit of the Lord

Nephi's remarkable vision of the ministry of Christ, his future posterity and the apostasy and Restoration of the Gospel in the Latter-days is one of the most significant visions recorded in Scripture (1 Nephi 11-14). Nephi is introduced to this experience by an individual who he describes as the Spirit of the Lord. This has led some readers to wonder whether this heavenly personage was the pre-existent Jesus or the personage of the Holy Ghost. Several factors lead me to conclude that the individual who conducted Nephi's Vision Recommend was the personage of the Holy Ghost.

It is certainly true that a “spirit” even a good spirit need not be the Holy Ghost and may be just a messenger. My question is this: How does Nephi use the term “Spirit of the Lord”?

 Nephi introduces his vision by saying that because of his faith in the Son of God, his father Lehi spake “by the power of the Holy Ghost” and says that he, Nephi, “was desirous also that I might see, and hear and know of these things, by the power of the Holy Ghost, which is the gift of God unto all those who diligently seek him.” He also explains, “For he that diligently seeketh shall find; and the mysteries of God shall be unfolded unto them, by the power of the Holy Ghost.” Then he says, “And the Holy Ghost giveth authority that I shall speak these things, and deny them not” (1 Nephi 10:17-22). It is interesting that Nephi introduces his vision by mentioning the Holy Ghost not once, but four times and the last time in verse 22 is noteworthy in that he cites “the Holy Ghost” as his authority for what is is about to reveal and not just “the power of Holy Ghost.”

Now in the earliest text of the Book of Mormon there is no chapter separation between 1 Nephi 10:22 and 1 Nephi 11:1, so the beginning of chapter 11 follows immediately upon Nephi’s citation of the Holy Ghost as his source of authority for what he is about to reveal. So the word “For” in 1 Nephi 11:1 is a continuation of his previous words where he has just mentioned the Holy Ghost 4 times.

“For it came to pass after I had desired to know the things that my father had seen, and believing that the Lord was able to make them known unto me, as I sat pondering in mine heart I was caught away in the Spirit of the Lord, yea, into an exceedingly high mountain” (1 Nephi 11:1).

 So the “Spirit of the Lord” of which Nephi speaks is the Spirit by which Nephi is “caught away.” And then the Spirit converses with him after Nephi affirms his righteous desire for knowledge and his faith (remember 10:17 on what the Holy Ghost does).

“And when I had spoken these words, the Spirit cried with a loud voice, saying: Hosanna to the Lord, the most high God; for he is God over all the earth, yea, even above all. And blessed art thou, Nephi, because thou believest in the Son of the most high God; wherefore, though shalt behold the things which thou hast desired” (11:6). Nephi passes the interview because of his faith in the words of his father and his righteous desires. So the Spirit, the same “Spirit of the Lord” by whom Nephi was “caught away” conducts Nephi’s vision recommend interview. On the face of it, his language of praise suggests that the “Spirit of the Lord” is not the "most high God" or the "Son of the most high God" (he doesn't say Blessed art thou because thou believest in me") and he is definitely not the angel who appears when the Spirit leaves in verse 14. So who is the “Spirit of the Lord”?

In verse 7 the Spirit of the Lord tells Nephi that he is going to see something in the vision. “Thou shalt behold a man descending out of heaven, and him shall ye witness; and after ye have witnessed him ye shall bear record that he is the Son of God” (11:7). So the Spirit of the Lord tells Nephi that he is going to see a man descending out heaven (future tense), which is fulfilled in 12:6, and that he will be required to bear testimony to that. This again suggests that the Spirit of the Lord is not that individual who he will shortly see and of whom he will then bear testimony. So, if the Spirit of the Lord is not the Son of God, who is he?

The conversation continues and in verse 11. Nephi reports, “for I beheld that he was in the form of a man; yet nevertheless, I knew that it was the Spirit of the Lord; and he spake unto me as a man speaketh with another” (11:11). Remember, this “Spirit of the Lord” is the same individual by whom Nephi was “caught away in 11:1 which immediately follows upon Nephi’s attribution of authority for his knowledge of the mysteries he learns. Then the Spirit of the Lord goes from Nephi’s presence (footnote to D&C 130:22-23) and an angel takes over the divine presentation (11:14). Also consider that Nephi’s father Lehi “spake by the power of the Holy Ghost” (11:17). Following his vision, Nephi speaks of “the Spirit of the Lord which was in our father” (15:12).

All of the above strongly suggests to me that the “Spirit of the Lord” by whom Nephi is “caught away” and who interrogates Nephi before he is shown the vision, reveals mysteries to the one who desired to see and know through faith, and who praises the most high God the Father and the Son of God is the individual known as the Holy Ghost and Nephi’s source of authority.


Saturday, April 15, 2023

Resurrection Teachings Part 5: The Testimony of Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Latter-day Saint Church Leaders

On February 19, 1854, Brigham Young spoke to a congregation of Latter-day Saints in which he addressed this subject.

“Not more than a week since, I was told the baby resurrection doctrine was spreading among the people. It is something I do not understand. The spirit of Joseph Smith is in the bodies of their children; and some have the spirit of Hyrum; and I do not know but some would go so far as to say that the spirit of old Mother Smith had actually come into the bodies of some child before she was dead. The returning again of the spirits of the dead into the bodies of our babies is the theory of the baby resurrection.”

Brigham Young, 19 February 1854, Ms d 1234, Box 48, Folder 11, Church History Library.

The false doctrine of “Baby Resurrection” as described by Brigham Young, does not refer to the true and comforting doctrine that little children who die before the age of accountability will, through the mercy and Redemption of Jesus Christ will one day be resurrected with a perfected immortal body and be blessed with eternal life (Mosiah 3:16, 18; 15:25; Moroni 8:22; Doctrine and Covenants 29:46-48; 137:10). Rather, it has reference to the false idea more commonly known today as multiple mortal probations.

We remember that that 1835 the Prophet Joseph Smith had characterized the resurrection teachings of Robert Matthias as false. Matthias had taught that the spirits of prophets, saints, or apostles, including Adam, Abraham, John the Baptist, Jesus, and the Apostle Matthias, had risen and were “resurrected” as new babies were born into mortality and the spirits of the dead inhabited the bodies of these children (See Part 5 of this series).

 In spite of Joseph Smith’s condemnation of this teaching, and the clear testimony of the Scriptures in the Bible, the Book of Mormon, and the Doctrine and Covenants that we retain out personal identity after death and in the resurrection, the false teaching of multiple probations was perpetuated after death of the Prophet Joseph Smith by some who were or had been members of the Church.

On November 21, 1847, Wilford Woodruff recorded that Elder Orson Pratt refuted this doctrine in a sermon given on that day.

“O Pratt addressed the congregation upon the subject of the resurrection which was interesting to us all. Some had been teaching the doctrine that the resurrection was by birth or through the womb but Br Pratt showed the folly of such a doctrine, & Proved by many revelations that the dead were raised by the power of God & the blowing of the Trump of Michael the Ark Angel who was Father Adam & that the graves of the Saints would be opened & their Bodies would come forth out of their graves according to the visions of Ezekiel & many of the prophets. He showed that However miraculous it might appear unto us it was just as easy for God to perform this work as it was to turn water into wine or make Bread without flour to feed a multitude. W. Woodruff followed Br Pratt & bore testimony to what had been said & spoke in the spirit of the Lord.”

Wilford Woodruff Journal, 21 November, 1847, emphasis added. 

President Brigham Young in his teachings repeatedly emphasized the correct doctrine of resurrection that we, like our Savior Jesus Christ, will retain our personal identity as the following statements show.

February 19, 1854

"It appears inconsistent to me, to believe that Jesus Christ is a perfect example of the resurrection, and then straightway declare that no person can be resurrected as he was. I understand that every person that receives a resurrection will receive it as the Savior did, though their bodies should sleep in the dust for thousands of years, or only for a few days. A time will come when the people will be resurrected as quick as lightening. These times and seasons, and the method by which this will be brought about by the Almighty is known to himself. We have nothing to do with that. It will be enough for us to obtain our resurrection; and we shall get the resurrection we live for. If we prepared our bodies for an inheritance in a celestial kingdom, they will be quickened by a celestial glory, and of it receive a fulness."

Brigham Young, 19 February 1854, Ms d 1234, Box 48, Folder 11, Church History Library, emphasis added.

In his  report of President Young’s sermon Wilford Woodruff wrote: “He said that we should have the same bonefide identical body that our spirit occupied while in this life. Our graves would literally be opened and our bodies come forth.”

Brigham Young, in Wilford Woodruff Journal, 19 February, 1854, emphasis added. 

February 18, 1857

“To Bro Hyde he said, I wish you to quit your preaching of sundry erroneous doctrines viz. Baby resurrection with all its fooleries also. Resurrection of other materials than those composing the elements of this body which will be raised also, Fatalism, that if a man is a drunkard or a thief, or a liar, &c he will remain so.”

 Brigham Young, President’s Office Journal, 18 February, 1857, Church History Library.

 February 24, 1857

“In conversation with Bro Hyde Prest Young asked bro Hyde whether in the morning of the resurrection he would ask for the body of Boggs, of a dog or the restitution of his own body, a course of reasoning in which Prest Young showed him the danger of holding these ideas even if he do not teach them. Would like them to preach these doctrines before the conference of Elders, and let him [Young] reply and correct them. Then showed in much plainness the doctrine of the resurrection of the elements of this body to unite with the spirit, that has honored and exalted it, as every element pertaining to the earth, however diffused in gas, smoke, vapor etc. belongs to this earth & not to the moon, sun, etc. and will remain associated with this planet. So with the elements of a human body are associated with the spirit, and ever will belong to one another.” 

Brigham Young President’s Office Journal, February 24, 1857, Church History Library.

March 25, 1860

“The very particles that compose our bodies will be brought forth in the morning of the resurrection, and our spirits will then have tabernacles to be clothed with, as they have now, only they will be immortal tabernacles—spiritual tabernacles …. After the spirit leaves the body, it remains without a tabernacle in the spirit world until the Lord, by his law that he has ordained, brings to pass the resurrection of the dead. When the angel who holds the keys of the resurrection shall sound his trumpet, then the peculiar fundamental particles that organized our bodies here, if we do honor to them, though they be deposited in the depths of the sea, and though one particle is in the north, another in the south, another in the east, and another in the west, will be brought together again in the twinkling of an eye, and our spirits will take possession of them. We shall then be prepared to dwell with the Father and the Son, and we never can be prepared to dwell with them until then.” 

Brigham Young, 25 March, 1860, JD 828.

February 23, 1862

“In the afternoon Brother George Teasdale spoke well. Was followed by Brother Kimball who spoke of the body & spirit of man but did not explain the subject to the satisfaction of President Young. He then followed Brother Kimball and explained the matter to the people and said the body or tabernacle was all & everything to us. Without the tabernacle we could not get exaltation. We should have in the morning of the resurrection the same body we have now. The baby resurrection as taught by OH was a false doctrine & and no truth in it.”

Wilford Woodruff Journal, 23 February, 1862.

“But there is constant warfare between them [our mortal bodies and our spirits], still they must remain together, be saved and exalted together, or neither of them will be saved and exalted with the salvation and the exaltation which the Gospel offers. Our bodies are all important to us, though they may be old and withered, emaciated with toil, pain, and sickness, and our limbs bent with rheumatism, all uniting to hasten dissolution, for death is sown in our mortal bodies. The food and drink we partake of are contaminated with the seeds of death, yet we partake of them to extend our lives until our allotted work is finished, when our tabernacles, in a state of ripeness, are sown in the earth to produce immortal fruit.”

Brigham Young, 23 February, 1862, JD 9:288, emphasis added.

June 23, 1867

“We have another one in the Quorum of the Twelve who believes that infants actually have the spirits of some who have formerly lived on the earth, and that this is their resurrection, which is a doctrine so absurd and foolish that I cannot find language to express my sentiments in relation to it.”

Brigham Young, 23 June, 1867, JD 12:66.

September 4, 1867

“The Twelve held a Council in the Evening in relation to false doctrines. O Hyde had formerly preached an incorrect doctrine on the resurrection called the Baby resurrection. Elder Hyde renounced the doctrine and made it all right with the Quorum.”

Wilford Woodruff Journal, 4 September, 1867, Kenney, 6:361-362. I have standardized the punctuation and spelling. 

September 10, 1867

“The Twelve held a meeting in the evening at 6 oclock. O. Hyde spoke his feelings and said President Young told me in 1850 that my views on the baby resurrection was not true, that I might believe what I pleased if I would not preach false doctrine. But I am ready to follow in the beaten track. Brother Young said no man could know much about the resurrection until he passed through the resurrection and had the keys of it. For that reason I have been silent upon the subject and I have not heard any of the Twelve preach upon it that I recollect. O have not contemplated for years the resurrection in any other light than you do. The subject died within me years ago.”

Wilford Woodruff Journal, 10 September, 1867, in Kenney, 6:363-364. I have standardized the punctuation and spelling. 

October 7, 1867 

Elder Orson Hyde preached about the resurrection in part to correct his earlier erroneous teachings. 

“You fathers and mothers who have lost your little ones be comforted with the thought that the time is drawing near any how when your children will be restored to you; and when they come forth it will be to a life that will never end, for their bodies will be animated by spirit instead of blood, the same bodies that are sown in corruption will be raised in incorruption. They are sown natural bodies but will be raised spiritual bodies. Jesus himself is the promulgator of this truth. After he rose from the dead, when in conversation with Thomas said he “Thomas, you have been rather unbelieving with regard to my being the same individual character, now reach hither thy finger and thrust them into the wound I received in my side and look at my hands through which the nails were driven and be not faithless but believing. Again we are told that when the Savior shall come or about that time, the sea shall give up its dead, and that in the resurrection the dead shall come forth, bone shall come to its bone and they shall be covered with flesh and the Lord Almighty shall breathe upon them and they shall live. These sayings contained in the Scriptures are confirmation of the doctrine taught be Jesus, which I have advanced—that our resurrected bodies will be identical with those we now possess.

“Some may say ”were these always your views brother Hyde?” I cannot say that they always were, yet there was but a short period of my life when my views were different. Lilabout twenty years ago I did indulge somewhat in the speculative notions of a vain philosophy that no more accorded with the truth of Heaven than this tabernacle resembles a Methodist meeting house. Well brethren and sisters I do not suppose you are all acquainted with the peculiarities of my teachings twenty years ago, and I shall not tell them now. If any of you have heard me say anything in former days contrary to the principles of truth as revealed by the Lord through his servants forgive me.”

Orson Hyde, 7 October, 1867, Historian’s Office Reports of Speeches 1845-1885, Church History Library. 

October 6, 1867

“I just as much expect my body these eyes this head cheeks mouth and every part of my system the body and lower limbs to receive in the resurrection which is as much as I expect to enjoy another minute without any doubt without any hesitation in my faith or a quiver in my feelings pertaining to this matter that is my faith I shall possess this body precisely as I now possess  but it will be raised immortal incorruptible eternal a spiritual body … My belief is precisely as Brother Hyde has said. Jesus is the Firstborn from the dead he is the first fruits from the earth and as he was raised immortal incorruptible not subject to pain and death any more so will be the body of every [person?] that has ever lived <on earth> ever will live on it he is our patron in all things now this is my belief with regard to the resurrection I have the sayings of the ancient prophets of Jesus I have the sayings of the Apostles and the Prophet Joseph Smith Junior I have the revelations of the Spirit of God and the Holy Ghost testifies to me that this is true.”

Brigham Young, October 6, 1867, Papers of George D. Watt MS 4534 box 4, folder 12, Church History Library.

“Every component part of the creature comes forth in the resurrection. The parts that form the organization of man endure for ever unless he forfeits his right to them; and he shall possess them when he is resurrected.”

Brigham Young, Deseret News Weekly 6 October 1867.

September 5, 1875 

At the funeral of Elder George A Smith, President Young testified of the truth of the resurrection.

"But suffice it for me to say at this time, that the very body that lies there in that coffin is the body that will be raised at the first resurrection, and will come forth; yes, brother George A. Smith; and we will see him in the flesh just as we have seen him while associating with him here; only he will be made pure, holy and immortal. And if we are made pure we shall associate together. The very flesh and the very bones, and the component parts that comprise the body of brother George A. Smith, now lying before us, will come forth in the resurrection, which this book (the Bible) teaches, this book (the Book of Mormon) teaches, and this book (the Book of Doctrine and Covenants) teaches, from beginning to end, wherever they speak on the subject of the resurrection."

Brigham Young, Deseret News Weekly, 5 September, 1875.

October 8, 1875

President Young again emphasized that in the resurrection the very body associated with the individual while in mortality would be resurrected with the same body, all that been associated with that individual, but perfected in immortal form. He stated:

“I declare to the Latter-day Saints, and to all living upon the earth who have intelligence to understand, that the particles which comprise the component parts of our bodies will never enter into other bodies to form the elements of their bodies; but these very identical particles that now compose our bodies will be resurrected and come together by the power of the trump of God and will be re-united to form the body–excepting the blood, which will not be necessary to our existence in an immortal state–and then be prepared to receive the spirit, preparatory to their exaltation. Query: Would not the particles that compose the body of our Savior, according to their intelligence, oppose the idea of becoming a part of any other body but His? Again: Would not the Saints, who are faithful in magnifying the Priesthood of the Son of God, object to the particles which now compose their bodies, and which they have sanctified through obedience to that Priesthood, entering into and forming parts of other bodies than their own–bodies which their spirits had not possessed and of which they knew nothing in this life?

“Although some may think that the substances of which our bodies are composed are borrowed for our use during this mortal existence, it is not so, neither will they be thrown off at death, never to be restored; and though in the resurrection the bodies of the righteous will be raised immortal and free from all corruption, they will be none the less tangible or perceptible to the touch of those who are permitted to handle them. The question may be asked: Will the bodies of those who do not observe the laws of God, and which are not sanctified by obedience to them, come forth in the resurrection? Undoubtedly they will; but not at the same time nor to the same glory that they do who observe the laws of God . . . .

“And by the exercise of his power the original elements which have formed the bodies of men will be brought forth in the resurrection–bone to bone, sinew to sinew, flesh to flesh, not one hair shall be lost–and all this in obedience to law, that the substances which have formed the tabernacles of men, or of beasts, or of fowls, or of fish, shall not be intermingled or lost; but shall be all restored to their own places, though they may have been swallowed up in the depths of the sea, or have been scattered to the four winds of heaven.”

The Resurrection: A Discourse By Brigham Young, President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Delivered in the New Tabernacle, Salt Lake City, at the General Conference, October 8th, 1875.Salt Lake City: Deseret News Steam Printing Establishment, 1875, 4-5.

Following the death of Brigham Young in 1877, other Church leaders have continued to warn against the false teaching of multiple probations and teach to true doctrine of the Gospel that we retain our personal identity after death and following resurrection.

“It is true, all of us are clothed with mortality, but our spirits existed long before they took upon them this tabernacle that we now inhabit. When this body dies, the spirit does not die. The spirit is an immortal being, and when separated from the body takes its flight to the place prepared for it, and there awaits the resurrection of the body, when the spirit will return again and re-occupy this tabernacle which it occupied in this world ….

“The testimony of the Latter-day Saints is in addition to and consonant with that of the disciples of Jesus Christ who lived at Jerusalem, those who lived on this continent, the Prophet Joseph, Oliver, Sidney, and others, of our crucified and risen Redeemer, because they received it not of them, but by the same Spirit by which they received it. No man ever received this testimony unless the Spirit of God revealed it unto him.

“We will see Brother Urie again. Sister Urie will meet him on the other side of the grave. The spirit and the body will be reunited. We shall see each other in the flesh, in the same tabernacles that we have here while in mortality. Our tabernacles will be brought forth as they are laid down, although there will be a restoration effected; every organ, every limb that has been maimed, every deformity caused by accident or in any other way, will be restored and put right. Every limb and joint shall be restored to its proper frame. We will know each other and enjoy each other's society throughout the endless ages of eternity, if we keep the law of God. It is for us to remain true and faithful and keep our covenants, and to train our children up in the paths of holiness, virtue and truth, in the principles of the gospel, that we may with them be prepared to enjoy the perfect and eternal day.”

Joseph F. Smith, Sermon delivered at the funeral services of James Urie, Sixteenth ward, Salt Lake City, February 3, 1883. JD, Vol. 24, pp. 75-82.

“There is another thing I wish to refer to here. I have heard that in Zion there are some men who entertain the idea that they inherit the body and spirit of Moses, or Abraham, or David, or Noah, or somebody other than themselves. I hope none of you here indulge in anything of this kind, because it is the most foolish, nonsensical and false doctrine. You gaze upon a man who professes to have inherited the body or spirit of Moses, or any of those I have named, and I think you will conclude that his appearance does not indicate that such is the case; at any rate, it certainly has no improved him. Brother Woodruff, Brother Cannon, Brother Smith, Brother Lorenzo Snow, or any of the brethren, will never inherit anyone’s body or spirit but their own, in time or in eternity, unless the devil gets into them. It is Satan who inspires men to believe such absurd things. He delights in having any of the brethren entertain false ideas, no matter what they are. I tell you that whoever sees me in time or eternity will see Wilford Woodruff, not Noah, nor Abraham, nor Enoch. Every man has his own identity, and he will never lose that identity. Therefore, when you hear such doctrine as that advanced, do not believe it. There are a good many things Satan would like us to believe, but we must guard against these.”

Wilford Woodruff, Address given in Manti, Utah, May 19, 1889, Collected Discourses 1:262-263.

“Now I do not think there are any misgivings in the hearts of Latter-day Saints this morning in regard to what President Woodruff has said to use concerning the doctrine which he has taken to puncture; that is, that the spirit of any man now in this probation had been on the earth in a former age, in another body. That doctrine ought to have laid still a score of years ago. But when a false doctrine is put forth, some unwary person takes hold of it, and then some aspiring individual, later on in life, adopts it as his view. It may be that is savors a little of the mysterious, and some people delight in getting hold of something of that kind, that they may talk of it in private, if not in public, and arouse the curiosity of others. Thus it spreads. Each one says to himself, “I wonder if this is not something that will turn out to be sound doctrine. It may be put forth a little early; but after a while I think it will be found to be sound doctrine.” This is how they delude themselves. There is so much truth that is plain and simple and easy to be understood by the children and by the Saints, however weak and feeble they may be, that it is a foolish thing for men to indulge in speculative theories. Brethren and sisters, life is too short for this. There is enough of truth to occupy the attention and intelligence of the brightest and the most competent among the Latter-day Saints.

“We should become thoroughly acquainted with the doctrines of daily life, of honesty, of integrity, of virtue; labor with all earnestness and faithfulness to build up the Kingdom of God and vie with each other in seeking to accomplish the purposes of the Lord; not to waste our time in speculation, in unsound and questionable doctrine, or in any foolish and unprofitable contention or argument. Let us entertain correct doctrine—doctrine that will recommend itself to the hearts of the Latter-day Saints, and which we have proved to be right and acceptable to the Lord.”

Francis M. Lyman, Manti, Utah, May 19, 1889, Collected Discourses 1:266.

“I, myself, sat for over two hours once in a meeting-house in St. Louis, listening to a prominent Elder of this Church, who called the people together to preach unto them the doctrine that was called “baby resurrection’ he preached to two or three thousand people, and there was not a word of truth in the doctrine. I thought he ought to know better. In the afternoon I was called on to speak. After meeting there were a great many people gathered round me and asked what I thought of the man’s sermon. I replied, it is all nonsense. Well, that is just how I felt. It is no benefit in this world for men to preach such false doctrine. And now, every little while, I hear of some one of the Elders, who wishes to be considered smart, trying to teach something he knows nothing about.

“The Elders have a world of truth to preach about. There is enough revealed to fill the whole earth as long as you live. Preach the truth as you understand it. Do not speculate on things you know nothing about, for it will benefit no one. If you listen to false doctrine you will be led away by false spirits. Remember and observe this, and you will be all right. Keep in the paths of truth, and all will be well with you.”

Wilford Woodruff, Address given in Salt Lake City, Utah, 6 April, 1890, in Collected Discourses, 2:60-61.

“We hear occasionally of some of the members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who are of the opinion that mankind have more probations than one on the earth, and that some men who have lived in this dispensation have figured prominently in other dispensations, and borne names in those dispensations which are well known to us now. The idea entertained by such people is that a man who, for instance, lived in the days of Abraham, or of Moses, or of the prophets who succeeded him, might figure at those times, live and be an active and notable man, and then die, his body be consigned to the tomb, and his spirit be born as a baby at some subsequent time in another body. This is the reincarnation believed in by the Hindoos and the Theosophists : only among the Hindoos it is believed that human spirits take the form of animals and re-appear from time to time upon the earth. Hence the Hindoos are very particular in their treatment of animals; for perchance, according to their view, an animal form might contain the spirit of a very dear relative or friend.

“That a belief in reincarnation should prevail among the Latter-day Saints seems strange; for there is nothing in the gospel, as taught in the Bible, in the Book of Mormon, in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants, or in the teachings of inspired men, that furnishes the least foundation for such a conception. It is true that pre-existence is taught; but the pre-existence in which we believe is confined to our first estate. We are taught that our present life is our second estate, and this is a probation given unto us in which to gain experience and to be tried and purified, to prepare us for our next estate. The teachings of men who have had a deep understanding concerning the purpose of our Great Creator in placing us here in this condition of existence, show that this is the grand opportunity which is given to man—an opportunity which he must not fail to avail himself of, as it is the only opportunity that he will have on the earth, his earthly existence is confined to one appearance in the flesh.

“When a child comes forth it possesses a tabernacle. That tabernacle is the house of its spirit, intimately associated with the spirit; separated, it is true, for a time by death, but designed to be re-united in the great hereafter. The Savior says that His disciples looked upon the long absence of their spirits from their bodies to be a bondage. (See Section 45, Doctrine and Covenants). We are taught that all holy beings look forward with joyful anticipation to the time when their bodies and spirits will be re-united in the resurrection. They do not look forward to reincarnation, or to another birth as a baby, but to the union of their spirits and their bodies— the bodies that they possessed and in which they had passed through all the trials and temptations and vicissitudes incident to a mortal career.

“This is the doctrine taught in the gospel; and the doctrine of reincarnation is utterly foreign to every principle which God has revealed in the last days to His Church. . . .

“The Latter-day Saints should be warned on these points, and not be carried about by `every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive,’ but cling to the simple and plain truth, as God has revealed it and as He teaches it unto those who will receive it; not seeking to dive into mysteries and to adopt strange and startling ideas, but confining themselves to that which God has written cultivating within themselves continually His Holy Spirit, that through it they may be led into all truth.”

[George Q. Cannon] “The Doctrine of Reincarnation,” Juvenile Instructor 28/21 (November 1, 1893): 675-676; reprinted in Cannon, Gospel Truth, 23-24.

“Every once in a while we hear of men and women in the Territory who claim to be the spirits of some ancient worthies, or to be indeed the Savior come again to earth. They teach their false doctrines, and, surprising to state, there are even some members of the Church who accept their teachings. The result is that no small number of the people are being led away by these deceptions, and are losing the Spirit of the Lord, which is capable of discerning spirits and detecting the evil influences which are abroad in the earth.”

[George Q. Cannon, “Beware of Delusions,” The Contributor 15/6 (April 1894): 391.

“Satan uses every possible device by which to deceive the people, and will sometimes mix one falsehood or error with a great amount of truth in order to mislead . . . . Satan has power to tell some truths, but he never tells them with a view to benefiting those with whom he communicates. His object is to bring about their destruction, as this is his mission upon the earth. Even though he may announce some truths in his messages, there is also deception close at hand tending to bring about the ruin of the party who partakes of the spirit.”

[George Q. Cannon], “Beware of Delusions,” The Contributor 15/6 (April 1894): 391.

“What a glorious thing it is to know and be true to that which has been revealed in these latter times through the instrumentality of the Prophet Joseph Smith. It was revealed anciently by the Savior himself, and he exemplified that glorious principle of which I wish to say a few words, and which has been renewed and emphasized more especially in these latter days through Joseph Smith--I refer to our identity, our indestructible, immortal identity. As in Christ we have the example, he was born of woman, he lived, he died, and he lived again in his own person and being, bearing even the marks of the wounds in his flesh, after his resurrection from the dead so also a testimony has been given to you, in later days, through the Prophet Joseph Smith, and others who have been blessed with knowledge, that the same individual Being still lives and will always live. Jesus is possessed of immortality, and eternal life; and in evidence of his existence and his immortality, and in evidence of the great and glorious truths of the gospel which he taught, the death which he died, and the resurrection that he wrought from the dead, he has revealed himself and borne his own record and testimony to those who have lived and still live in this day and age. What a glorious thought it is, to me at least, and it must be to all who have conceived of the truth or received it in their hearts, that those from whom we have to part here, we will meet again and see as they are. We will meet the same identical being that we associated with here in the flesh not some other soul, some other being, or the same being in some other form, but the same identity and the same form and likeness, the same person we knew and were associated with in our mortal existence, even to the wounds in the flesh. Not that a person will always be marred by scars, wounds, deformities, defects or infirmities, for these will be removed in their course, in their proper time, according to the merciful providence of God. Deformity will be removed; defects will be eliminated, and men and women shall attain to the perfection of their spirits, to the perfection that God designed in the beginning. It is his purpose that men and women, his children, born to become heirs of God, and joint heirs with Jesus Christ, shall be made perfect, physically as well as spiritually, through obedience to the law by which he has provided the means that perfection shall come to all his children. Therefore, I look for the time when our dear Brother William C. Staines, whom we all knew so well, and with whom we were familiar for years I was familiar with him, all my life, just as I was familiar with Aunt Rachel here all my life, and do not remember the time when I did not know her I look for the time, I say, when Brother Staines will be restored. He will not remain the crippled and deformed William C. Staines that we knew, but he will be restored to his perfect frame every limb, every joint, every part of his physical being will be restored to its perfect frame. This is the law and the word of God to us, as it is contained in the revelations that have come to us, through the Prophet Joseph Smith. The point in my mind which I desire to speak of particularly is this: When we shall have the privilege to meet our mother, our aunt, our sister, this noble woman whose mortal remains lie here now, but whose immortal spirit has ascended to God from whence it came, when that spirit shall return to take up this tabernacle again, she will be Aunt Rachel in her perfection. She will not always remain just as she will appear when she is restored again to life, but she will go on to perfection. Under that law of restoration that God has provided, she will regain her perfection, the perfection of her youth, the perfection of her glory and of her being, until her resurrected body shall assume the exact stature of the spirit that possessed it here in its perfection, and thus we shall see the glorified, redeemed, exalted, perfected Aunt Rachel, mother, sister, saint and daughter of the living God, her identity being unchanged, as a child may grow to manhood or womanhood and still be the same being.

“I want to say to my friends, my brethren and sisters, and to the kindred, that the Lord Almighty has revealed these truths to us in these days. We not only have it in the written word, we have it in the testimony of the spirit of God in the heart of every soul who has drunk from the fountain of truth and light, and that witness bears record of these words to us. What else would satisfy us? What else would satisfy the desire of the immortal soul? Would we be satisfied to be imperfect? Would we be satisfied to be decrepit? Would we be satisfied to remain forever and ever in the form of infirmity incident to age? No! Would we be satisfied to see the children we bury in their infancy remain as children only, throughout the countless ages of eternity? No! Neither would the spirits that did possess the tabernacles of our children be satisfied to remain in that condition. But we know our children will not be compelled to remain as a child in stature always, for it was revealed from God, the fountain of truth, through Joseph Smith the prophet, in this dispensation, that in the resurrection of the dead the child that was buried in its infancy will come up in the form of the child that it was when it was laid clown; then it will begin to develop. From the day of the resurrection, the body will develop until it reaches the full measure of the stature of its spirit, whether it be male or female. If the spirit possessed the intelligence of God and the aspirations of mortal souls, it could not be satisfied with anything less than this, You will remember we are told that the spirit of Jesus Christ visited one of the ancient prophets and revealed himself to him, and lie declared his identity, that he was the same Son of God that was to come in the meridian of time. He said he would appear in the flesh just as he appeared to that prophet. He was not an infant; he was a grown, developed spirit; possessing the form of man and the form of God, the same form as when he came and took upon him a tabernacle and developed it to the full stature of his spirit. These are truths that have been revealed to us. What for? To give us intelligent hope; to give us intelligent aspiration; to lead us to think, to hope, to labor and accomplish what God has aimed and does aim and design that we should accomplish, not only in this life, but in the life to come.

“I rejoice exceedingly that I know and have known nearly all my life such a noble woman. I do not remember the first time that I saw Aunt Rachel, I can't recall it; it seems to me I always knew her, just as I knew my mother in my childhood and all the way through life; and I rejoice exceedingly in this testimony of the Spirit of the Lord that has come to us through revelation in the latter days. Through this testimony I am confident that I shall see Aunt Rachel, by and by; and when I go -and I expect to go, perhaps, long before she shall recover this tabernacle I expect to meet her there. I expect to meet the same individual that I knew here. I expect to be able to recognize her, just as I could recognize her tomorrow, if she were living. I believe I will know just exactly who she is and what she is, and I will remember all I knew about her; and enjoy her association in the spirit as I did in the flesh; because her identity is fixed and indestructible, just as fixed and indestructible as the identity of God the Father and Jesus Christ the Son. They cannot be any other than themselves. They cannot be changed; they are from everlasting to everlasting, eternally the same; so it will be with us. We will progress and develop and grow in wisdom and understanding, but our identity can never change ….

“Who is she? This is her casket. This is her mortal tenement; this is but the clay that enveloped the immortal, living Aunt Rachel, the living spirit. The spirit has fled. Her spirit, the immortal part, has departed from this tabernacle; hence, this tabernacle lies here lifeless and ready to return to mother earth from whence it came, but to be restored again, every element to be recalled and re-formed in its perfect frame, when Aunt Rachel will come and take possession of it and inherit it forever, just as Christ came and took up his body that was not suffered to see corruption, and inherited it in its immortal state, never to be separated again; so it will be with her.”

Joseph F. Smith, Speech at the funeral services of Rachel Grant, mother of President Heber J. Grant Improvement Era, 12 (June, 1909): 591, emphasis added.

“God is the God of the living, and not of the dead. He is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and of the ancient prophets. They live! They live not only in the words they spoke, the predictions they made, and in the promises handed down from generation to generation to the children of men; they live not only in the record they made, in the doctrines that they taught, and in the hope that they held out for redemption, atonement and salvation, but they live in spirit, in entity, as they lived here. They are prophets, as they were prophets here, the chosen of God; patriarchs, as they were here; possessing the same identity, the same entity; and by and by, if not already, they will possess the same bodies they possessed while journeying in mortality. Those bodies will become purified, cleansed, and made perfect; and the spirit and the body will be reunited, never more to be separated, never again to taste of death. This is the law and the promise of God, and the words spoken to his ancient prophets, come down to us through the generations that have followed.” 

Joseph F. Smith, Improvement Era, 21 (February 1918): 357, emphasis added.

“Resurrection is requisite for eternal perfection. Thanks to the atonement of Jesus Christ, our bodies, corruptible in mortality, will become incorruptible. Our physical frames, now subject to disease, death, and decay, will acquire immortal glory. Presently sustained by the blood of life and ever aging, our bodies will be sustained by spirit and become changeless and beyond the bounds of death.”

Russell M. Nelson, “Perfection Pending” Ensign (November 1995): 86-88.

“Many living witnesses can testify to the literal fulfillment of these scriptural assurances of the resurrection. Many, including some in my own extended family, have seen a departed loved one in vision or personal appearance and have witnessed their restoration in “proper and perfect frame” in the prime of life. Whether these were manifestations of persons already resurrected or of righteous spirits awaiting an assured resurrection, the reality and nature of the resurrection of mortals is evident. What a comfort to know that all who have been disadvantaged in life from birth defects, from mortal injuries, from disease, or from the natural deterioration of old age will be resurrected in “proper and perfect frame.”

Dallin H. Oaks, “The Resurrection,” Ensign (May 2000): 14-16.


Tuesday, September 27, 2022

"A Doctrine of Devils": The False Teachings of Robert Matthews ("Matthias")

In November 1835 Latter-day Saints in Kirtland Ohio were visited by a man who represented himself to be a Jewish teacher by the name “Joshua.” While in Kirtland, the Prophet patiently listened to the man, and then after several days, dismissed his teachings as erroneous, and told him to leave.

The man’s real name, as it turned out, was not Joshua, but Robert Matthews (also known as Matthias), and he is the subject of an interesting biography now in a second edition. See Paul E. Johnson and Sean Wilentz, The Kingdom of Matthias: A Story of Sex and Salvation in 19th Century America, updated edition (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012). That book provides useful historical context on Matthias’ background and ideas. Readers who want to know more about Matthias may want to consult that biography as well as Joseph Smith’s journal account of his visit given below. The extract from Joseph Smith’s account of his encounter with Matthias as recorded in his 1835 journal is given below at the end of this post (original punctuation and spelling is included). 

We can draw several conclusions about this man's teachings and understand several reasons that the Joseph Smith found them erroneous and inconsistent with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. 

First, while there may have been additional things with which he may have taken issue (Joseph remarked that Matthias’ mind was “evidently filled with darkness”), Smith’s account makes clear that the man’s teachings about the resurrection were those of the most interest to him. Hence his patient effort to get to man to state explicitly those things about which he may at first have been vague.

Second, as Isabella Van Waggonen, one of the visitor’s former followers explained, “Matthias and his disciples at this time did not believe in a resurrection of the body, but that the spirits of the former saints would enter the bodies of the present generation, and thus begin heaven upon earth.” [Olive Gilbert], Narrative of Sojourner Truth: A Northern Slave (New York: For the Author, 1853), 94-95, emphasis added. This would have directly contradicted Joseph Smith’s own testimony of the resurrection.

Third, Matthias professed to be Deity himself, a claim that many, including Joseph Smith, would have considered blasphemous. This did not mean that Matthias aspired to be like God. Rather, he claimed to be God himself. Johnson and Wilentz note, “At quieter times and before smaller audiences, Matthias provided details about his own past and the world’s future. Matthias was the Spirit of Truth—the male governing spirit, or God. He could enter any body or take on any shape and had been doing so for thousands of years. His spirit had given life to all the plants and animals, and it remained in them. He had created Adam and had endowed him with the male governing spirit; during his early lifetime Adam was God.” (The Kingdom of Matthias, 94). Van Waggonen remembered when she first met Matthias “on opening the door, she for the first time, beheld Matthias, and her early impression of seeing Jesus in the flesh rushed into her mind” (Narrative of Sojourner Truth: A Northern Slave, 90). After Joseph Smith shared an account of his early visions, Matthias felt comfortable opening up to the Prophet observing that Joseph “could bear stronger meat than many others.” In this setting Smith recorded that Matthias “professed to be the spirit of truth itself, also, that he possesses the soul of Christ.”

Fourth, Matthias held that instead of a literal resurrection of the body in which the dead would rise from their graves, “resurrection” consisted of the “spirit of the fathers” or some of the spirits of dead individuals, ancestors, former prophets or saints, inhabited subsequent mortal bodies of their descendants. This, he professed, had happened many times. In addition to Adam “The Spirit of Truth had entered Abraham …. The Spirit then entered each of the prophets and apostles in their turn and was strengthened each time by the knowledge and faith acquired in a righteous man’s life. The Spirit had been Jesus Christ. After the Crucifixion he entered Mathias, the Apostle chosen by God to replace Judas.” (The Kingdom of Matthias, 94-95). Elijah Pierson was another firm supporter of Matthias. The two men, Pierson and Matthias, “mutually discovered that they held the same sentiments, both admitting the direct influence of the Spirit, and the transmission of spirits from one body to another.” Pierson possessed the body of Elijah the Tishbite “Matthias, however, claiming to be the Father, or to possess the spirit of the Father—he was God upon earth, because the spirit of God dwelt in him; while Pierson then understood his mission was like that of John the Baptist, which the name Elias meant” (Narrative of Sojourner Truth: A Northern Slave, 92-93).

Hence “resurrection” as taught by Matthias, consisted of certain spirits, or a collective group of departed spirits, migrating from mortal body to mortal body from generation to generation. “In the proper order of things, the governing spirit passed from father to son in a fixed system of spirit genealogy. When a righteous man died, his spirit joined his father’s spirit in the body of a newborn child. The child then carried those spirits through life, adding acquired knowledge along the way. And at his death the child’s spirit rejoined the spirit of the father who was his teacher in the body of yet another child” (The Kingdom of Matthias, 95). When pressed by Joseph Smith to clarify his views of the resurrection Matthias claimed “that he poss[ess]es the spirit of his fathers, that he is a litteral decendant of Mathias the Apostle that was chosen in the place of Judas that fell and that his spirit is resurrected in him, and that this is the way or scheme of eternal life, this transmigration of soul or spirit from Father to Son.”

 After showing hospitality, patiently listening, and asking clarifying questions, the Prophet pronounced the man’s teachings false and inspired by a demonic or wicked source. It was time for him to go. “I told him that his doctrine was of the Devil that he was in reality in possession of wicked and depraved spirit, although he professed to be the spirit of truth, it self, also that he possesses the soul of Christ; he tarried until Wednesday, after breckfast I told him, that my God told me that his God is the Devil, and I could not keep him any longer, and he must depart, and so I for once cast out the Devil in bodily shape, & I believe a murderer.”

9–11 November 1835 • Monday–Wednesday

Monday morning 9th. after breckfast Sister <​Mary​> Whitcher came in and wished to see me, she I granted her request she gave a relation of her griveances which were, unfathonable at present, and if true sore indeed, and I pray my heavenly Father to bring the truth of her case to light, that the reward due to evil doers may be given them, and <​that​> the afflicted & oppressed may be delivered;— while setting in my house between the hours of nine <​ten​> & 10 11 this morning a man came in, and introduced himself to me, calling <​himself​> self <​by the name of​> Joshua the Jewish minister, his appearance was some what <​ thing​> singular, having a beard about 3 inches in length which is quite grey, also his hair is long and considerably silvered with age [p. 22] I should think he is about 50 or 55 years old, tall and strait slender built of thin visage blue eyes, and fair complexion, he wears a sea green frock coat, & pantaloons of the same, black fur hat with narrow brim, and while speaking frequently shuts his eyes, with a scowl on his countinance; I made some enquiry after his name but received no definite answer; we soon commenced talking upon the subject of religion and after I had made some remarks concerning the bible I commenced giving him a relation of the circumstances connected with the coming forth of the book of Mormon, as follows— being wrought up in my mind, respecting the subject of religion and looking upon <​at​> the different systems taught the children of men, I knew not who was right or who was wrong and concidering it of the first importance that I should be right, in matters that involved eternal consequences; being thus perplexed in mind I retired to the silent grove and bowd down before the Lord, under a realising sense that he had said (if the bible be true) ask and you shall receive knock and it shall be opened seek and you shall find and again, if any man lack wisdom let him ask of God who giveth to all men libarally and upbradeth not; information was what I most desired at this time, and with a fixed determination I to obtain it, I called upon the Lord for the first time, in the place above stated or in other words I made a fruitless attempt to pray, my toung seemed to be swolen in my mouth, so that I could not utter, I heard a noise behind me like some person walking towards me, <​I​> strove again to pray, but could not, the noise of walking seemed to draw nearer, I sprung up on my feet, and [p. 23] and looked around, but saw no person or thing that was calculated to produce the noise of walking, I kneeled again my mouth was opened and my toung liberated, and I called on the Lord in mighty prayer, a pillar of fire appeared above my head, it presently rested down upon my <​me​> head, and filled me with joy unspeakable, a personage appeard in the midst, of this pillar of flame which was spread all around, and yet nothing consumed, another personage soon appeard like unto the first, he said unto me thy sins are forgiven thee, he testifyed unto me that Jesus Christ is the son of God; <​and I saw many angels in this vision​> I was about 14. years old when I received this first communication; When I was about 17 years old I saw another vision of angels, in the night season after I had retired to bed I had not been a sleep, when but was meditating upon my past life and experiance, I was verry concious that I had not kept the commandments, and I repented hartily for all my sins and transgression, and humbled myself before Him; <​whose eyes are over all things​>, all at once the room was iluminated above the brightness of the sun an angel appeared before me, his hands and feet were naked pure and white, and he stood between the floors of the room, clothed <​with​> in purity inexpressible, he said unto me I am a messenger sent from God, be faithful and keep his commandments in all things, he told me of a sacred record which was written on plates of gold, I saw in the vision the place where they were deposited, he said the indians, were the literal descendants of Abraham he explained many things of the prophesies to  [p. 24] me, one I will mention which is this in Malachi 4 behold the day of the Lord cometh &c; also that the Urim and Thumim, was hid up with the record, and that God would give me power to translate it, with the assistance of this instrument he then gradually vanished out of my sight, or the vision closed, while meditating on what I had seen, the Angel appeard to me again and related the same things and much more, also the third time bearing the same tidings, and departed; during the time I was in this vision I did not realize any thing else around me except what was shown me in this communication: after the vision had all passed, I found that it was nearly day-light, the family soon arose, I got up also:— on that day while in the field at work with my Father he asked me if I was sick I replyed, I had but little strenght, he told me to go to the house, I started and went part way and was finally deprived deprived of my strength and fell, but how long I remained I do not know; the Angel came to me again and commanded me to go and tell my Father, what I had seen and heard, I did so, he wept and told me that it was a vision from God to attend to it I went and found the place, where the plates were, according to the direction of the Angel, also saw them, and the angel as before; the powers of darkness strove hard against me, I called on God, the Angel told me that the reason why I could not obtain the plates at this time was because I was under transgression, but to come again in one year from that time, I did so, but did not obtain them  [p. 25] also the third and the fourth year, at which time I obtained them, and translated them into the english language; by the gift and power of God and have been preaching it ever since.

While I was relating this brief history of the establishment of the Church of Christ in these last days, Joshua seemed to be highly entertained after I had got through I observed that, the hour of worship & time to dine had now arived and invited him to tarry, which he concented to,

After dinner the conversation was resumed and Joshua proceded to make some remarks on the prophesies, as follows:

He observed that he was aware that I could bear stronger meat than many others, therefore he should open his mind the more freely;— Daniel has told us that he is to stand in his proper lot, in the latter days according to his vision he had a right to shut it up and also to open it again after many days, or in the latter times; Daniels Image whose head was gold, and body, armes, legs and feet was composed of the different materials described in his vision represents different governments, the golden head was <​to represent​> Nebuchodnazer King of Babylon, the other parts other kings & forms of government, which I shall not now mention in detail, but confine my remarks, more particularly to the feet of the Image; The policy of the wicked spirit, is to separate what God has joined togather and unite what He has separated, which he has succeded in doing to admiration, in the present state of society, which is like unto Iron and clay, there is confusion in all things, both [p. 26] both Political and religious, and notwithstanding all the efforts that are made to bring about a union, society is remains disunited, and all attempts to <​unite her​> are as fruitless, as to attemp to unite Iron & Clay.

The feet of the Image, is the government of these united States, other Nations & kingdoms are looking up to her for an example, of union fredom and equal rights, and therefore worship her, like as Daniel saw in the vision, although they are begining to loose confidence in her, seeing the broils and discord that distract, her political & religious horizon this Image is characteristic of all governments and institutions or most of them; as they begin with a head of gold and terminate in the contempible feet of Iron & clay: making a splendid appearance at first, proposing to do much more than the[y] can perform, and finally end in degradation and sink, in infamy; we should not only start to come out of Babylon but leav it entirely lest we are overthrown in her ruins, we should keep improving and reforming, twenty-fours hours for improvement now is worth as much as a year a hundred years ago; the spirit of the Fathers that was cut down, or those that were under the altar, are now rising this is the first resurection the Elder that fall’s first will rise last; we should not form any opinion only for the present, and leave the result of futurity with God: I have risen up out of obscurity, but was lookd. up to when but a youth, in temporal things: It is not necessary that God should give us all things at first or in his first commission to us, but in his second. John saw the angel deliver the gospel in the last days, which would not be necessary if [p. 27] it was already in the world this expression would be inconsistent, the small lights that God has given, is sufficient to lead us out of babylon, when we get out we shall have the greater light. I told Johua that I did not understand him concerning the resurection and wishd him to be more explanitory on the subject; he replied that he did not feell impressed by the spirit to unfold it further at present, but perhaps he might at some other time.

I then withdrew to do some buisness with another gentleman that called to see me.

He [Robert Matthews] informed my Scribe that he was born in Washington County Town of Cambridge New York. he says that all the railroads canals and other improvements are performed by spirits of the resurection.

The silence spoken of by John the Revelator which is to be in heaven for the space of half an hour, is between 1830 & 1851, during which time the judgments of God will be poured out after that time there will be peace.

Curiosity to see a man that was reputed to be a jew caused many to call during the day and more particularly at evening suspicions were entertained that said Joshua was the noted Mathias of New York, spoken so much of in the public prints on account of the trials he underwent in that place before a court of justice, for murder manslaughter comtempt of court whiping his Daughter &c for the two last crimes he was imprisoned, and came out about 4, months [p. 28] since, after some, equivocating he confessed that he was realy Mathias: after supper I proposed that he should deliver a lecture to us, he did so sitting in his chair; he commenced by saying God said let there be light and there was light, which he dwelt upon through his discource, he made some verry exelent remarks but his mind was evidently filled with darkness, after he dismissed his meeting, and the congregation disperced, he conversed freely upon the circumstances that transpired in New York,

His name is Robert Mathias, he say[s] that Joshua, is his priestly name.

during all this time I did not contradict his sentiments, wishing to draw out all that I could concerning his faith; the next morning Tuesday 10th I resumed the conversation and desired him to enlighten my mind more on his views respecting the resurection, he says that he poss[ess]es the spirit of his fathers, that he is a litteral decendant of Mathias the Apostle that was chosen in the place of Judas that fell and that his spirit is resurrected in him, and that this is the way or scheme of eternal life, this transmigration of soul or spirit from Father to Son: I told him that his doctrine was of the Devil that he was in reality in possession of wicked and depraved spirit, although he professed to be the spirit of truth, it self, also that he possesses the soul of Christ; he tarried until Wednesday, after breckfast I told him, that my God told me that his God is the Devil, and I could not keep him any longer, and he must depart, and so I for once cast out the Devil in bodily shape, & I believe a murderer 

Joseph Smith Journal, 9-11 November, 1835, The Joseph Smith Papers: Journals, Volume 1: 1832-1839, ed. Dean C. Jesse, Mark Ashurst-McGee, Richard L. Jensen (Salt Lake City, UT: Church Historian’s Press, 2008), 92-95.