Revelations In Context

In the spirit of the Church’s series, “Revelations In Context“, we thought our dear readers would benefit from an in-depth contextual look at a revelation given to the prophet John Taylor on the 13th of October 1882.

For the uninitiated, the revelation from the Lord to John Taylor on 13 October 1882 is included below:

(John Taylor Papers, LDS Archives; see also Messages of the First Presidency, Bookcraft, James R. Clark, 1965, 2:348)

Thus saith the Lord to the Twelve, and to the Priesthood and people of my Church.
Let my servants George Teasdale and Heber J. Grant be appointed to fill the vacancies in the Twelve, that you may be fully organized and prepared for the labors devolving upon you, for you have a great work to perform, and then proceed to fill up the presiding quorum of Seventies, and assist in organizing that body of my priesthood who are your co-laborers in the ministry. You may appoint Seymour B. Young to fill up the vacancy in the presiding quorum of Seventies, if he will conform to my law; for it is not meet that men who will not abide my law shall preside over my priesthood; and then proceed forthwith and call to your aid any assistance that you may require from among the Seventies to assist you in your labors in introducing and maintaining the gospel among the Lamanites throughout the land. And then let High Priests be selected, under the direction of the First Presidency, to preside over the various organizations that shall exist among this people; that those who receive the Gospel may be taught in the doctrines of my church and in the ordinances and laws thereof, and also in the things pertaining to my Zion and my Kingdom, saith the Lord, that they may be one with you in my Church and my Kingdom.

Let the Presidency of my Church be one in all things; and let the Twelve also be one in all things; and let them all be one with me as I am one with the Father. And let the High Priests organize themselves, and purify themselves, and prepare themselves for this labor, and for all other labors that they may be called upon to fulfill.

And let the Presidents of the Stakes also purify themselves, and the priesthood and people of the Stakes over which they preside, and organize the priesthood in their various stakes according to my law, in all the various departments thereof, in the High Councils, in the Elders’ quorums, and in the Bishops and their councils, and in the quorums of Priests, Teachers, and Deacons, that every quorum may be fully organized according to the order of My Church; and, then let them inquire into the standing and fellowship of all that hold my Holy Priesthood in their several stakes; and if they find those that are unworthy let them remove them, except they repent; for My Priesthood, whom I have called and whom I have sustained and honored, shall honor Me and obey My laws, and the laws of My Holy Priesthood, or they shall not be considered worthy to hold My Priesthood, saith the Lord.

And let My Priesthood humble themselves before me, and seek not their own will but my will; for if my priesthood, whom I have chosen and called, and endowed with the spirit and gifts of their several callings, and with the powers thereof, do not acknowledge me I will not acknowledge them, saith the Lord; for I will be honored and obeyed by my priesthood.

And, then, I call upon My Priesthood and upon all of my people, to repent of all their sins and shortcomings, of their covetousness and pride and self-will, and of all their iniquities wherein they sin against me; and to seek with all humility to fulfill my law, as my priesthood, my Saints and my people; and I call upon the heads of families to put their houses in order according to the Law of God, and attend to the various duties and responsibilities associated therewith, and to purify themselves before me, and to purge out iniquity from their households.

And I will bless and be with you, saith the Lord, and ye shall gather together in your holy places wherein ye assemble to call upon me, and ye shall ask for such things as are right, and I will hear your prayers and my spirit and power shall be with you and my blessings shall rest upon you, upon your families, your dwellings and your households, upon your flocks and herds and fields, your orchards and vineyards, and upon all that pertains to you; and you shall be my people and I will be your God; and your enemies shall not have dominion over you, for I will preserve you and confound them, saith the Lord, and they shall not have power nor dominion over you; for my words shall go forth, and my work shall be accomplished, and my Zion shall be established, and my rule and my power and my dominion shall prevail among my people, and all nations shall yet acknowledge Me. Even so, Amen.

Wilford Woodruff wrote in his journal regarding John Taylor receiving this revelation

“October 13, 1882. We met in council at President Taylor’s office. We heard the revelation read in which George Teasdale and Heber J. Grant were called to fill the vacancies in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and Seymour B. Young to fill the vacancy in the First Presidency of Seventies.”

He further wrote the following day,

“October 14, 1882, we held a meeting with the Presidency, Twelve Apostles and the Presidents of Stakes. Remarks were made by President Taylor. Then the revelation was read. George Q. Cannon spoke to us and said, ‘How can we teach the people any law or principle that we do not keep ourselves?’

John Taylor explained what Joseph Smith said to him upon the subject, and said,

“If we do not embrace that principle soon the keys will be turned against us, for if we do not keep the same law our Heavenly Father has we cannot go with Him. The word of the Lord to us was that if we did not obey that law we could not go where our Heavenly Father dwelt. A man obeying a lower law is not qualified to preside over those who keep a higher law.” (Wilford Woodruff: History of His Life and Labors, Mathias F. Cowley, Deseret News Press, 1909, page 542)

W. Woodruff said he was glad the Quorum of the Twelve and Seventies were now to be filled, and said that,

“The reason why the Church and Kingdom of God could not progress if we did not receive the Patriarchal Law of Marriage is that it belonged to this dispensation as well as the Baptism for the dead, and any law or ordinance that belongs to this dispensation must be received by the members of the Church, or it cannot progress. The leading men of Israel who are presiding over Stakes will have to obey the law of Abraham, or they will have to resign.”  (ibid.) 

Woodruff went on to record,

E. Snow said that Joseph Smith said that the parable that Jesus spoke of that the man who had one talent and hid it in the earth was the man who had but one wife and would not take another, would have her taken from him and given to one who had more.” (Wilford Woodruff Journal, October 14, 1882)

The minutes of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles record the events as well,

“At a Meeting of the First Presidcy Apostle[s] & Pres[iden]t[s] of Stak[e]s held at Pre[sident] [John] Taylors office S[alt] L[ake] City Oct[ober] 14. 1882 at 10 am.

The Revelation given throug[h] Pre[siden]t Joh[n] Taylor [illegible] and Apostles—was read to the meeting.
President Taylor referri[n]g to the Revelation upon Celestial Marrige said—When this principle has first made Known to us by Joseph Smith, it was in Nauvoo [Illinois], and many of you will remember the place very well, We were assembled in the little office over the brick store. There being present Bro[ther]s B[righam] Yo[u]ng Heber C. Kimball. Orson Hyde & myself. Bro[ther] Willard Richards may have been present too, but I am not positive. Upon that occasion, Joseph Smith laid before us the whole principle pertain[in]g to that doctrine, and we believed it. Having one this Joseph felt, as he said, that he had got a big burden rolled off his shoulders. He felt the responsibility of that matter resting heavily upon him. Notwithstanding, however, that we receiv[e]d the principle & believed it, yet we were in no great hurry to enter into it. Sometime after this, I was riding out of Nauvoo when I met Joseph coming in. We meet in the old graveyard—if any of you remember the place—and I moved to Bro[ther] Joseph and he moved to me, I think we were both on horseback, but of that I am not sure, Said he ‘Bro[ther] Taylor stop’ and I stopped. He looked me right in the eye, and spoke with all the solemnity that I ever heard him speak, said he: “Brother Taylor, that principle has got to be complied with forthwith; and if not, the Key will be turned.” He had told us before that if this principle was not entered into. The Kingdom could not go one step further. Will now that was a singular Kind of a statem[en]t to make, Why? We had not made covenants that could reach into eternity. We were married to our wives only until death did us part. And if we could not enter into covenants that the Gods had entered into in the eternal worlds of what use was our religion? We had got, it is true, the first principles of the Gospel—doctrines that were very good to live by. But would not do to die by, or be resurrected by. And in regard to the attitude of people against us now, why we have nothing of that Kind to give up or sacrifice. No, they may chop us into a thousand pieces, any one among us, we could not do it, and we could not do it. Well I thought I would refer to this at the present time. Afterwards, I had the principle made manifest to me definitely and positively, so that I now, and I have never had a particle of doubt since.

The 3 & 4 verses of the Revelati[on] on the Entering of the Mariage Covena[n]t Sec[tion] 132 D[octrine] & C[ovenants]. having been read Pre[sident] Taylor said Now the question would arise are men—The President of the Church The Twelve & others—men holding the holy Priesthood who do not enter into this order, fit to preside over the Priesthood.

And why. If a man is not going to obtain an exaltation in the celestial Kingdom of God is he fit to preside over a priesthood that are expected to go there? These are questions for us to ask. The 5 & 6 verses were read. Pres[ident] Taylor said these are very important things and they bring these matters home to us It is proper that we should comprehend these things, We are not at liberty to receive such principles as God imparts as pleases ourselves &c regard the others & then claim blessings from the hand of God.”  -Apostle Franklin D. Richards recorded in his journal,

At 10—The Presidency—W[ilford]. W[oodruff]., L[orenzo]. S[now]., E[rastus] S[now], F[ranklin]. D. R[ichards]. B[righam]. Y[oung]. [Jr.], M[oses]. T[hatcher]., F[rancis]. M. L[yman]., & J[ohn]. H[enry]. S[mith]., of the Twelve—& near 30 of Presidents & Counsellors of Stakes listened to Geo[rge]. Reynolds read a Revelation rec[eived]d by Pres[iden]t. [John] Taylor yesterday morning in which George Teasdel, & Heber J. Grant, were named to fill vacancies in the 12—and Seymour B. Young to fill the vacancy in first Council of Seventies—if he will be obedient to the law of Celestial marriage & families then the 12 in like manner & Presidencies of Stakes High Councils, Bishoprics & all the Quorums which if we do God will deliver us from our enemies & bring us off triumphant with his Kingdom Franklin [S. Richards], & one of Pres[iden]t Taylors sons was present.” (Minutes of the Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1835-1893 Privately Published, Salt Lake City, Utah 2013, pg. 341-342)

With the context of the official minutes of the meeting where the revelation was discussed, along with the recorded understandings of two of the Apostles present, what was meant by the revelation will hopefully open up to our view in spite of the almost century and a half since the revelation was given and the changing of the meaning of terms and words which can lead to misunderstandings.

4 thoughts on “Revelations In Context”

  1. However, imho the saints did not live up to the principles outlined, and the key was turned against them. The keys do not allow them currently to take but one wife at a time. And if there is a sin in it, it lies upon the shoulders of those that had the key turned against the church not the current members. The current members however should be aware that it is still their responsibility to seek and knock and obtain every true principle and live so far as the keys allow. And where the law if withdrawn there is no condemnation also means there is no blessing. At least not the blessings associated with obeying that law. Only when we have humbled ourselves to honestly try to live all the commandments the best we can and desire to learn to live them perfectly, can we be humble enough that the Lord may allow the key holder to begin again to turn the keys in our favor and continue the restoration in its full splendor. Until then we remain under condemnation.

  2. It’s important to distinguish between ‘celestial marriage’ and ‘polygamous marriage.’ They are too often confused. The principle that the apostles were being told to live–in order to be able to teach the people and for the church to progress– is ‘celestial marriage.’ At times when the Lord commands, polygamous marriage can fall under the heading of celestial marriage. But the former should not be confused with the latter. One can live the Lord’s law of Patriarchal [patria- family, archy- rule] marriage– eternal marriage– celestial marriage– with only one wife. That’s the law we have been given, and we can fully live it now. To reach the celestial kingdom, we must be sealed to a spouse for eternity. As you quoted above, but with emphasis added:
    “if THIS PRINCIPLE was not entered into. The Kingdom could not go one step further. Well now that was a singular Kind of a statem[en]t to make, Why? We had not made COVENANTS THAT COULD REACH INTO ETERNITY. WE WERE MARRIED TO OUR WIVES ONLY UNTIL DEATH DID US PART. And if we could not enter into covenants that the Gods had entered into in the eternal worlds of what use was our religion?”

    The law was followed; the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve follow it today and fully exercise the keys given.

    1. Plural marriage is against the law of the Church and as such any found out to be living such, are excommunicated. That isn’t in dispute, nor even disagreed with. However, it isn’t clear why your added commentary sheds further light on the context of the revelation and the statement of church leaders at the time.

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