Latter Day Saints' Messenger and Advocate/Volume 1/Number 10/Letter to Oliver Cowdery from W. W. Phelps (Jul. 1835)
LETTER NO. 9.
Dear Brother in the Lord:—I have perused your sixth letter, addressed to me in the April number of the Messenger and Advocate, and, besides your own matter, it contains many valuable quotations for the edification and instruction of the saints of God, and the world of mankind. For me, however, to go into all the particulars of your letter, would be a matter of supererogation; I therefore shall only touch such items as the spirit of the Lord shall direct, and pray him to guide my pen to good things and great conclusions.—And first—your quotation from the sublime song of Moses: "Rejoice, O ye nations, with his people!"—is so full of meaning, and breathes such an inviting command, that I feel impressed to observe its important import.
On reading the song of Moses one is led to marvel; to wonder; to hope; to glory; to rejoice, and bless,—for what was, and is, and is to come. Why did Moses command the nations to rejoice with the Lord's people? Because the children of Israel, his chosen, his elect, were to be gathered from all the countries whither they had been scattered and driven for their transgressions, that they might come home to Zion, in the last days, with songs of everlasting joy, and live with Christ on earth, a thousand years, in perfect peace and holiness. And as we read that some out of every nation, kindred, tongue and people will be gathered, well might Moses command the nations to rejoice with the Lord's people!
Though thousands may wonder, and even doubt how Moses came to know what should take place in the last days, let us, being enlightened by the revelations of God from the beginning till now, rejoice!—firstly for that glorious messenger of truth which sprung up out of the earth, the book of Mormon, to light up a smile in this world, in the aspect of woe; and secondly that our lives were hid with Christ in God to come forth in this august era, to labor in the vineyard for the last time, before the earth rests from wickedness. We need not wonder that Moses knew what would come to pass in the last days:—he held the keys of the mysteries of the kingdom of God, and could unlock the door that led to heavenly places in Christ Jesus, and gaze upon what was, and is, and is to come, as well as see the Lord face to face and talk with him, as man with man. Again, the Urim and Thummim was in the church of Moses, and he could read great things as they were rolled down from heaven upon the holy parchment, and written for the benefit of coming generations. Time must be filled and the earth purified. The Lord is light. When Peter, and James, and John went up into the mount with the Savior, Moses and Elias were there; and the keys of the mysteries of the kingdom were conferred upon them, Peter being at the head.—It is written in the first chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, that after he (Jesus) ascended into heaven, he gave commandments, thro' the Holy Ghost, unto the apostles whom he had chosen, that is, to Peter, James and John, they forming the first presidency of the church of Christ, after the meridian of time: hence we have a sample of the way and manner which God uses to give the scriptures to man:—The Urim and Thummim and the Holy Ghost.—The word of the Lord could come to our forefathers of the church, through the Urim and Thummim, as well as by vision, but then the word of the Lord was read upon the parchment let down from heaven. When the word came by open vision, it was through the Holy Ghost, which is the mind of God, and never dwells in unholy temples.
Having said so much by way of elucidation, let me turn to the subject again. The song of Moses is replete with heavenly and earthly knowledge. When Moses commenced the song, he exclaimed:— Give ear O ye heavens, and I will speak, and hear, O earth, the words of my mouth. Now why did Moses call upon the HEAVENS TO GIVE EAR, when he was about to drop his doctrine as the rain, and distil[l] his speech as the dew? Was it because he held certain keys, and spoke the mind of the Lord? because he had open visions, and knew the first and last of Israel? He had viewed the kingdoms of God spread through the regions of space; he had looked upon Israel driven and scatter-ed over the face of the whole earth, and he had gazed upon the gathering and glory that should follow after much tribulation, and by commandment from the Great I AM—it is no wonder that he could exclaim, Rejoice, O ye nations, with his people!
While on the subject of church history let me remark, that our venerable fathers in the church of Christ of former day saints, being chosen and ordained to offices, took no ordinary pains to preserve and hand down to their posterity, the blessings which they conferred upon their children: and who is not desirous of receiving a father's or an evangelist's blessing? Who can read the ancient patriarchal blessings, recorded in the bible, for the benefit of the church, without a heart filled with joy, and the eyes flowing with tears of gratitude, to God for his merciful kindness towards his children?
A blessing, in its general acceptation is favor from God—happiness from heaven—joy from Jesus—prosperity from Providence—peace from the Prince of glory—or a boon from above. From the earliest age a rule was known to obtain blessings: Please the Lord by works of righteousness; offer an acceptable offering, or do all you do with an eye single to the glory of God.—Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the Lord; and Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock, and of the fat thereof: and the Lord had respect unto Abel, and to his offering:—It was done in righteousness, and the Lord smiled upon him: But he had no respect unto Cain nor his offering because it came from an impure heart, and from the ground which had been cursed.
But to come nearer to the point, let me refer to the blessings of God—and man—for man being created in his likeness and image, had a claim for blessings—and a right to bless, so long as he was in the right way. After Adam and Eve were created—the holy language is,—and God blessed them, and he said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth. Surely man and woman came from the hand of God, in his own image, for lords and ladies of creation,— blessed—for posterity—for virtue—for industry—for peace and glory: and notwithstanding they fell, the decree of God continued, that, where there was righteousness, there should be blessings: and this is brought to pass through the plan of salvation which requires belief, repentance, faith, prayer, good works, and endurance to the end, to be in favor with God in this world, and enjoy his presence in the world to come.
After the earth had been baptized by a flood, for a remission of her sins, and Noah had besought the Lord for her while she remained, that seed time and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night, might continue without cessation, he blessed Noah and his sons, with a command like that given to father Adam, saying, the fear of you, and the dread of you, shall be upon every beast, &c. adding—flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat. And surely your blood of your lives will I require: at the hand of every man's brother will I require the life of man. Whoso sheds man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man. From this scripture it is made clear, that the Lord blesses upon conditions, fulfils his promises, requires the conditions, and punishes every transgression. The Judge of all the earth does right.
But I must not pursue this subject too far; the great object I had in view, in quoting the blessing bestowed upon Adam and Noah, was to show that God, the Father and Author of all good, established an order of blessing in his church upon earth, in all ages: which order had been lost for centuries, even from the flight of blessings and glory in the apostolic days, till the book of Mormon spoke from the dust to cheer the heart of the humble with the fulness of the everlasting gospel—with all its requisitions—with all its promises—with all its glories—with all its plainness, and with all its blessings! No wonder that God blessed Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; no wonder that Melchizedec met Abraham returning from the slaughter and blessed him; no wonder that Jacob called his sons around him, in his old age and blessed them; no wonder he blessed the children of Joseph; no; all these blessings are no wonder—for i[t] was a fulfilling a joyful, solemn ordinance of the everlasting gospel! It was acting in one of the sacred functions of the high priesthood for the good of man: It was acting according to the order of God—the order of heaven, in the beauty of holiness, for the benefit, the comfort, the joy and the salvation of man.
Moses, who was a man of God, a prophet, a revelator, and a seer, blessed the tribes of Israel, and who can turn over the sacred pages and read the blessing which he bestowed upon the heads of that chosen, though rebellious nation, without rejoicing? With holy aspirations he commands: Let Reuben live; hear, Lord the voice of Judah; let the Urim and Thummim be with Levi; Benjamin, the beloved of the Lord shall dwell in safety with thee; Joseph, blessed of the Lord be his land for the precious things of heaven; (how I rejoice for the book of Mormon when I read this) rejoice Zebulun, in thy going out; blessed be him that enlargeth Gad; O Napthali satisfied with favor! Dan shall leap from Bashan; and let Asher dip his foot in oil. Who can read the blessing from which these items are taken, and not rejoice with his people? and not long to suck of the abundance of the seas, and of the treasures hid in the sand? Yea, who would not rejoice to be among the favored of the Lord to receive the chief things of the ancient mountains; and to know of the precious things of the lasting hills? Shall I say there is not an honest person in the world but will give all he has, and even suffer much tribulation for such a multitude of blessings? Yes.
I shall not be able in this letter, to set forth the ancient order and manner of blessing as full as I could wish, notwithstanding, I think I have opened the subject, as connected with the history of the church from the beginning, so plainly that the saints, if not many who as yet are without the kingdom, will see and know that, God has always had, in his church, among his people, men endowed with power and authority to bless the fatherless and the widow, besides the power which was given to the fathers to bless their children, that might be brought up in the way of holiness before the Lord.
The bible and the book of Mormon are plain on this subject. The word of the Lord is plain: the more I read it the more I learn: This is the way, walk ye in it, and the Lord will bless you—which I pray may be the happy lot of the faithful, in time and eternity.
W. W. PHELPS.
TO OLIVER COWDERY. Esq.