Concerning Priesthood and Authority
by Dan Clute
AN EXTRACT OF A LETTER WRITTEN TO BISHOP PARTRIDGE, AND THE SAINTS IN GENERAL: BY J. SMITH, JR.
TIMES AND SEASONS
"TRUTH WILL PREVAIL"
Vol. 1. Whole No. 9.] NAUVOO, ILLINOIS, JULY, 1840
There are many called but few are chosen, and why are they not chosen? Because their hearts are set upon the things of the world and are aspiring to the honors of men; they do not learn the lesson that the right, of the priesthood, are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven; and that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled, only upon the (page 131) principles of righteousness, that they may be confered [conferred] upon us, it is true, but when we undertake to cover our sins, to gratify our pride, vain ambition, or to exercise dominion or compulsion over the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness; behold the heavens withdraw themselves, the Spirit of the Lord is grieved, then amen to the priesthood, or to the authority of that man; behold ere he is aware, he is left to kick against the prick; to persecute the saints, and to fight against God. We have learned by sad experience, that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, to begin to exercise unrightous [unrighteous], hence many are called but few are chosen. No power or influence can, or aught [ought] to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long suffering, by gentleness, by meekness and by love unfeigned; without hypocracy [hypocrisy] and without guile: reproving with sharpness when moved upon by the holy Ghost, and afterwards showing forth an increase of love towards him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy, so that he may know, that thy faithfulnees [faithfulness] is stronger than the cords of death. (page 132)
Joseph Smith III also wrote. “When, therefore, leading men, ordained men, either knowingly and willfully, ignorantly and blunderingly, or themselves innocently deceived and deceiving, introduced that which subverted the design and turned aside the purpose, their right to act ceased; the ‘amen’ was spoken to their priesthood,’ and they unchurched themselves; they had spoken that which the Lord had not declared, and had spoken presumptuously, they were not to be feared. Joseph Smith III, Church History, Vol 5. p 354
“Try the Spirits”
The Prophet’s Editorial in the Times and Seasons
Try the Spirits was written by Joseph Smith, Jr in 1842 and published at Nauvoo, Illinois, in the Church’s periodical Times and Seasons 3:743-748 Various extracts from the article.
Recent occurrences that have transpired amongst us render it an imperative duty devolving upon me to say something in relation to the spirits by which men are actuated. It is evident from the Apostles’ writings, that many false spirits existed in their day, and had “gone forth into the world,” and that it needed intelligence which God alone could impart to detect false spirits, and to prove what spirits were of God. The world in general have been grossly ignorant in regard to this one thing, and why should they be otherwise—for “the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.”
Discerning of Spirits by Power of Priesthood
Every one of these professes to be competent to try his neighbor's spirit, but no one can try his own, and what is the reason? Because they have not a key to unlock, no rule wherewith to measure, and no criterion whereby they can test it. Could anyone tell the length, breadth or height of a building without a rule? Test the quality of metals without a criterion, or point out the movements of the planetary systems, without a knowledge of astronomy? Certainly not; and if such ignorance as this is manifested about a spirit of this kind, who can describe an angel of light? If Satan should appear as one in glory, who can tell his color, his signs, his appearance, his glory, or what is the manner of his
manifestation? Who can detect the spirit of the French prophets with their revelations and their visions, and power of manifestations? Or who can point out the spirit of the Irvingites, with their apostles and prophets, and visions and tongues, and interpretations, etc. Or who can drag into
daylight and develop the hidden mysteries of the false spirits that so frequently are made manifest among the Latter-day Saints? We answer that no man can do this without the Priesthood, and having a knowledge of the laws by which spirits are governed; for as no man knows the things of God, but by the Spirit of God, so no man knows the spirit of the devil, and his power and influence, but by possessing intelligence which is more than human, and having unfolded through the medium of the Priesthood the mysteries operations of his devices; without knowing the angelic form, the sanctified look and gesture, and the zeal that is frequently manifested by him for the glory of God, together with the prophetic spirit, the gracious influence, the godly appearance, and the holy garb, which are so characteristic of his proceedings and his mysterious windings. A man must have the discerning of spirits before he can drag into daylight this hellish influence and unfold it unto the world in all its soul-destroying, diabolical, and horrid colors;for nothing is a greater injury to the children of men than to be under the influence of a false spirit when they think they have the Spirit of God. Thousands have felt the influence of its terrible power and baneful effects. Long pilgrimages have been undertaken, penances endured, and pain, misery and ruin have followed in their train; nations have been convulsed, kingdoms overthrown, provinces laid waste, and blood, carnage and desolation are habiliments in which it has been clothed The Turks, the Hindoos, the Jews, the Christians, the Indian; in fact all nations have been deceived, imposed upon and injured through the mischievous effects of false spirits.
False Spirits in the Church
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has also had its false spirits; and as it is made up of all those different sects professing every variety of opinion, and having been under the influence of so many kinds of spirits, it is not to be wondered at if there should be found among us false spirits.
Soon after the Gospel was established in Kirtland, and during the absence of the authorities of the Church, many false spirits were introduced, many strange visions were seen, and wild, enthusiastic notions were entertained; men ran out of doors under the influence of this spirit, and some of them got upon the stumps of trees and shouted, and all kinds of extravagances were entered into by them; one man pursued a ball that he said he saw flying in the air, until he came to a precipice, when he jumped into the top of a tree, which saved his life; and many ridiculous things were entered into, calculated to bring disgrace upon the Church of God, to cause the Spirit of God to be withdrawn, and to uproot and destroy those glorious principles which had been developed for the salvation of the human family. But when the authorities returned, the spirit was made manifest, those members that were exercised with it were tried for their fellowship, and those that would not repent and forsake it were cut off.
There have also been ministering angels in the Church which were of Satan appearing as an angel of light. A sister in the state of New York had a vision, who said it was told her that if she would go to a certain place in the woods, and angel would appear to her. She went at the appointed time, and saw a glorious personage descending, arrayed in white, with sandy colored hair; he commenced and told her to fear God,and said that her husband was called to do great things, but that he must not go more than one hundred miles from home, or he would not return; whereas God had called him to go to the ends of the earth, and he has since been more than one thousand miles from home, and is yet alive. Many true things were spoken by this personage, and many things that were false. How, it may be asked, was this known to be a bad angel? By the color of his hair; that is one of the signs that he can be known by, and by his contradicting a former revelation.