Latter Day Saints' Messenger and Advocate/Volume 2/Number 2/Letter to Oliver Cowdery from W. W. Phelps
Letter No. 12.
DEAR BROTHER IN THE LORD:—Yours of October last is before me, and, according as the Spirit of the Lord directs, so will I endeavor to answer.—I ask for wisdom, because I need it, and I hope you will pardon whatever I write amiss. Your last letter is very interesting, because you have begun to unfold a history which is not only highly important to the saints, but to the world. Before I begin to show my views upon the "precious things," of which you write, and which the Lord has sent forth for the salvation of man—for the gathering of Israel—and to prepare the earth for the glorious rest of a thousand years, I want to drop an idea or two about Cumorah. Yes, Cumorah which must become as famous among the latter day saints, as Sinai was among the former day saints.—The law of the Lord, by the hand of Moses, was received upon Sinai, for the benefit of Israel, before they entered the goodly land of Canaan, and before they were scattered and driven among all nations; and the fulness of the everlasting gospel, the history of the first settlers of America; even the book of Mormon, preparatory to gathering Israel from their long dispersion, came from Cumorah: Glorious spot!—sacred depository! out of thee came the glad tidings which will rejoice thousands! Israel must be restored to mercy; a holy people raised up unto God to possess the promised land, to bring the present unto the Lord of hosts, even to Mount Zion, as Isaiah foretold more than three thousand years ago.
Cumorah, the artificial hill of north America, is well calculated to stand in this generation, as a monument of marvelous works and wonders. Around that mount died millions of the Jaredites; yea, there ended one of the greatest nations of this earth. In that day, her inhabitants spread from sea to sea, and enjoyed national greatness and glory, nearly fifteen hundred years.—That people forsook the Lord and died in wickedness. There, too, fell the Nephites, after they had forgotten the Lord that bought them. There slept the records of age after age, for hundreds of years, even until the time of the Lord:—
"An angel came down from the regions of glory,
"And told that a record was hid in Cumorah,
"Containing the fulness of Jesus's gospel,
"And also the cov'nant to gather his people."
There began the church of Christ in 1830; yea, there the stone cut out of the mountain without hands as foretold by Daniel, commenced rolling to fill the earth, and may it continue, in a moral sense, in dreadful splendor, till it fills the whole, and wickedness is ended. So much for the Hill Cumorah.
Now to the second part of my subject. I said your letter was very interesting, and I conclude the saints will say so, too, when they read it. The instruction to Joseph, (one of the great men of God, inspired to move the cause of Zion with mighty power, and who is only persecuted by men who are not as good as he is, nor never can be unless they repent,) I mean the words of the angel to him, is great, when he exclaimed, "Why can I not obtain this book?" and the angel answered, "Because you have not kept the commandment of the Lord."—I think a specimen of heavenly reason was given, that will answer for the case of all men that fail to please God on earth, or that may lack the one thing needful to enter into the kingdom of heaven. The contrast between the powers of darkness, and the glories of light, is so plain that any person may see his own image! The allurements of the world—the enticements of wealth, and the hope of honor and fame, for our short age, without the Spirit of God to enlighten the mind, seems to overbalance the great prospect of eternal life, but when reason takes her place, wisdom directs, and the Lord commands,—all is right, all is fair, all is glorious, all is heaven, and all is for them that love and serve him faithfully to the end.
The message of the angel of our worthy brother in the Lord, Joseph Smith, jr. is of the greatest importance to mankind, not only in opening to their view an intercourse with the upper worlds, but in enabling them to understand the difference between the power of good, and the power of evil, in all cases, and in all places:
"And again, I will give unto you a pattern in all things, that ye may not be deceived, for satan is abroad in the land, and he goeth forth deceiving the nations: wherefore he that prayeth whose spirit is contrite, the same is accepted of me, if he obey mine ordinances: he that speaketh, whose spirit is contrite, whose language is meek, and edifieth, the same is of God, if he obey mine ordinances. And again, he that trembleth under my power, shall be made strong, and shall bring forth fruits of praise, and wisdom, according to the revelations, and truths which I have given you. And again, he that is overcome and bringeth not forth fruits, even according to this pattern, is not of me: wherefore by this pattern ye shall know the spirits in all cases, under the whole heavens."
This pattern, given since the book of Mormon was translated, is in accordance with the doctrine, or advice, of the angel as set forth in your letter. I think much of this pattern; it gives the meek a chance to work out their own salvation with fear and trembling: It gives the servants of the Lord a clue to the mind of men; yea, it is a scale that measures professions, and gives a rule to find out the solid contents of the heart. I hope the saints will practice and improve by it.
All the mighty acts of the Lord, from the beginning till the last days, seem to rush into one's mind upon reading what the angel said at Cumorah: The blessing of father Jacob, when he said, "Gather yourselves together" my sons, and I will tell what "shall befall you in the last days"—I need not relate the whole of it, because it is presumed every one knows it, if he had read his bible half as much as many do their almanacks [almanacs]: but in the prophetic language of Balaam, "Who can count the dust of Jacob, and the number of the fourth part of Israel? Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his!"
The moment the book of Mormon came forth, I mean the plates of which the angel was speaking at Cumorah: the world began to be in commotion: and the lords upon whose arms the kings leaned for support, began to cry out "if the Lord would make windows in heaven." the thing might be so but we believe it is an imposition—blasphemy!—But the Lord has already made the wicked hosts of the world to "bear a noise of chariots, and a noise of horses, even the noise of a great host: and they said one to another, Lo, the king of Israel hath hired against us the kings of the Hittites and the kings of the Egyptians, to come upon us."—2 Kings VII.6.
The finding of the plates, puts one in mind of the book of the law that Hilkiah found in the temple, while repairing it in the days of the king Josiah—and would to God that the rulers of our nation; yea, the ruler of all nations would do as that righteous man did, and go and inquire of the Lord, concerning the words of the book,—for great as the wrath of the Lord against them, and all people that repent not.
In those days the word of the Lord came through Shallum's wife, Huldah, the prophetess, who dwelt in the college at Jerusalem. Josiah sent five men: yea, principae men, of whom Hilkia, the priest was one, and they informed her what had happened, and communed with her on the subject, and she said unto them, "Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, tell the man that sent you unto me."
"Thus said the Lord, Behold, I will bring evil upon this place, and upon the inhabitants thereof, even all the words of the book which the king of Judah hath read: Because they have forsaken me, and have burnt incense unto other gods, that they might provoke me to anger with all the works of their lands; therefore my wrath shall be kindled against this place, and shall not be quenched.
"But to the king of Judah, which sent you to enquire of the Lord, thus shall ye say to him, Thus said the Lord God of Israel, As touching the words which thou has heard; Because thine heart was tender, and thou hast humbled thyself before the Lord, when thou heardest what I spake against this place, and against the inhabitants thereof, that they should become a desolation, and a curse, and hast rent thy clothes, and wept before me; I also have heard thee, saith the Lord. Behold therefore, I will gather thee unto thy fathers, and thou shall be gathered into thy grave in peace; and thine eyes shall not see all the evil which I will bring upon this place."
As soon as Josiah received the word of the Lord through Huldah, he sent and gathered the elders of Judah and Jerusalem; and the people of both place—and priests, and prophets, and read to them the words of the book: He did not do like the chief men of the last days—cry a bible, a bible! false prophet!—no; no such language came from the wise man's mouth; he honored the book, and respected the prophecy of the woman, for the truth's sake: He feared the Lord and loved him, and immediately destroyed every appearance of evil. He brake down the houses of the Sodomites; he put down the idolatrous priests, and the priests that burnt incense to Baal, or, in other words, to the sun, and moon, and planets: Then he made a feast to the Lord, such as has not been made on so great an occasion since.
O that there was a ruler like him to honor God in these last days! To brake the altars of Baal! To purge the world of its adulterous priests, and false religion, that all men might come to the knowledge of the truth, as it came to Adam; as it came to Noah; as it came to Abraham; as it came to Jacob; as it came to Joseph; as it came to Moses; as it came to all the prophets before the Savior came in the flesh; as it came to his apostles on the eastern and western continents; as it came to Joseph Smith, jr. and it will come to inspired men while the world stands: for no one will ever get too much knowledge, too much grace, too much faith, or too much charity to save his soul in the celestial kingdom. No one can be too good to be saved, but many may be too bad. It is almost laughable to see how afraid some are of goodness. That book of Mormon seems to be so good, beware of it,—but when a lying novel, that is calculated to lead the mind of lightness and lechery, comes out—O never mind it, it cannot hurt any one. Wo unto that nation where no preference is made to virtue more than vice!
Our days seem as old times; After the servants of the Lord, hear his word, they can pray like Habakkuk: "Lord revive thy work in the midst of the years:" they can exclaim; in the midst of the years of this generation, make known: but O Lord, "in wrath remember mercy."
To look back to September, 1827, it may be likened unto the time when Elijah prayed for rain, and at the seventh time "Behold there arose a cloud out of the sea, like a man's hand," and there followed much rain: so likewise since then, the church of Latter Day Saints, in comparison no bigger than "a man's hand," has spread over a large country, and by the power of the Lord, is beginning to sprinkle in token of a plentiful rain of grace for the salvation of all that are thirsty.
Any one that reflects upon the scene, described in your letter, may imagine how Elijah felt when he stood on the mount before the Lord, and the Lord passed by—and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and broke to pieces the rocks; but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire, a still small voice, and when Elijah heard it he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went and stood in the door of the cave, for the Lord had spoken: so can the candid reason, that in the wind of doctrines that have prevailed for some time; behold the Lord is not there; that in the earthquakes of eloquence that have made the pulpits ring for years back, the Lord is not there; that in the fiery zeal of one sect against another, the Lord is not there, but when the angel spake at Cumorah Behold the Lord was nigh, even the Lord with a recompense: and he will soon come with burning coals at his feet, and scatter the everlasting mountains; and walk through the heap of great waters, to the joy and deliverance of all his saints. But I must close for the present.
W. W. PHELPS.
To OLIVER COWDERY.