REVIVAL OR RESTORATION OF THE SCIENCE OF THEOLOGY IN THE PRESENT AGE.
A modern Prophet! Yes, a mighty Seer!
From Israel’s royal line, must next appear;
Clad in the spirit of Elijah’s power,
To prune the vineyard in th’ eleventh hour;
To light the dawn of that effulgent day,
When King Messiah shall his sceptre sway.
The nineteenth century opened upon the world with far more favourable auspices than any other age since the destruction of the people of the Saints, and the reign of universal mystery. That spirit of freedom, and independence of thought, of speech, and of action, which a few centuries before had germinated in Europe, and which, after a stunted growth amid the thorns and thistles of kingcraft, the tares of priestcraft, and the weeds of superstition, in the old world, transplanted itself, and obtained a more vigorous growth in the new world, had now grown to a degree of maturity, and become consolidated, opening resources for all nations, under the inestimable guarantee of constitutional liberty.
To this standard the most enterprising, intelligent, and thinking of every nation in Europe, had commenced to gather like a flowing stream. Here, far separated from the practical influence, the false glare, the empty show, or even the senseless name and titles of a self-styled or imaginary nobility, their minds enlarged, their energies had full scope, and their intellectual faculties, unfettered and free, and surrounded with inexhaustible stores of unoccupied elementary riches, soon opened and developed new channels of thought, of action, of enterprise and improvement, the results of which have revolutionized the world in regard to geographical knowledge, commerce, intercommunication, transportation, travel, transmission of news, and mutual acquaintance and interchange of thought.
The triumphs of steam over earth and sea, the extension of railroads, and, above all, the lightning powers of the telegraph, are already, gradually but rapidly, developing, concentrating and consolidating the energies and interests of all nations, preparatory to the universal development of knowledge, neighbourly kindness, and mutual brotherhood.
Physically speaking, there seems to need but the consummation of two great enterprises more, in order to complete the preparations necessary for the fulfilment of Isaiah and other Prophets, in regard to the restoration of Israel to Palestine, from the four quarters of the earth, and the annual re-union of all nations to the new standards, holy shrines and temples of Zion and Jerusalem, under the auspices of that great, universal and permanent theocracy which is to succeed the long reign of mystery.
One of these is the Great Eastern Railway from Europe to India and China, with its branches, and accompanying telegraphic wires, centering at Jerusalem.
The other is the Great Western Railway, with its branches and accompanying telegraphic lines, from the Atlantic to the Pacific.
Politically speaking, some barriers yet remain to be removed, and some conquests to be achieved, such as the subjugation of Japan, and the triumph of constitutional liberty among certain nations where mind, and thought, and religion are still prescribed by law.
These things achieved, even the most incredulous in regard to the truth of Scripture Prophecy will be constrained to acknowledge, that, physically and politically speaking, there is nothing impossible, or even improbable, in the belief, that the twelve tribes of Israel will be concentrated from all nations in their own land, that Jerusalem will become the capitol of political government, the seat of knowledge, and the shrine of worship, for the yearly resort of all the nations and countries included in the world known to the Prophets of old; while the Western Hemisphere, separated as it is, by two great oceans, from the Old World, will naturally form its own central capitol, its Zion, or New Jerusalem, to which all its tribes and nations may perform their annual visits for instruction, devotion, and mutual interchange of thought, of fellowship and affection.
Can the student of prophecy contemplate all these preparations, clearly predicted thousands of years ago, and now bursting upon the world with seemingly preconcerted connexion and exactness, revolutionizing all things in a single age, and not be struck with the reflection, that the hand of God must be in all this, and that moral energy and spiritual light must be forthcoming from the heavens commensurate with the physical and political preparations for a new Era?
The same Prophets who have contemplated and described the development of national freedom, universal intercourse, mutual peace, knowledge, union of worship, reunion of the tribes of Israel; that have described highways, trains of cars flying as it were with a cloud, ocean steamers, ships, litters and swift beasts, as the instruments of restoration, have also predicted that, in connexion with all these preparations, a new dispensation should be manifested, a new covenant established, “A Standard” for the nation, “An Ensign” for the people. In short, “Swift Messengers,” “Teachers,” Prophets would be commissioned, revelations be manifested, and a new organization be developed, fitted to the times, and with principles and laws adapted to the reorganization, order, and government of a renovated world.
Where and when should we look for the “grain of mustard seed,” the germ, the nucleus of such organization? Of course in a land of free institutions, where such organization could be legally developed, and claim constitutional protection, until sufficiently matured to defend itself against the convulsions, the death struggles, the agonizing throes, which precede the dissolution of the long reign of mystic tyranny; and at a time when modern freedom had been consolidated, nationalized, and its standard recognized among the nations.
Such an organization should also be looked for, in its first development, as cotemporary with the first dawn or development of the physical and political means provided for the same result.
The beginning of the present century gave birth to those chosen instruments who were destined to hold the keys of restoration for the renovation of the world.
The United States of America was the favoured nation raised up, with institutions adapted to the protection and free development of the necessary truths, and their practical results. And that Great Prophet, Apostle, and Martyr—
was the Elias, the Restorer, the presiding Messenger, holding the keys of the “Dispensation of the fulness of times.”
Yes, that extraordinary man, whose innocent blood is now dripping fresh, as it were, from the hands of assassins and their accessories, in the United States, was the chosen vessel honoured of God, and ordained by angels, to ordain other Apostles and Elders, to restore the Church and kingdom of God, the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and to be a messenger in the spirit and power of Elijah, to prepare the way of the Lord. “For, behold, he will suddenly come to his temple!”
Like John, who filled a similar mission preparatory to the first advent of the Son of God, he baptized with water unto repentance, for the remission of sins; like him, he was imprisoned; and like him, his life was taken from the earth; and finally, like all other true messengers, his message is being demonstrated by its progressive fulfilment—the powers, gifts, and signs following the administration of his message in all the world, and every minute particular of his predictions fulfilling in the order of events, as the wheels of time bring them due.
But in one important point his message differs from all former messages. The science of Theology revived by him will never decline, nor its keys be taken from the earth. They are committed to man for the last time. Their consummation will restore the tribes of Israel and Judah; overthrow all corrupt institutions; usher in the reign of universal peace and knowledge; introduce to the earth her lawful and eternal King, the crucified Nazarene, the resurrected Messiah; banish darkness and death, sorrow, mourning and tears, from the face of our globe; and crown our race with the laurels of victory and eternal life.
Ages yet unborn will rise up and call him blessed. A thousand generations of countless myriads will laud his praise and recount his deeds, while unnumbered nations bask in the light and enjoy the benefits of the institution founded by his instrumentality.
His kindred, the nation that gave him birth, and exulted at his death, nay, his very murderers and their posterity, will yet come bending unto him, and seek his forgiveness, and the benefits of his labours.
But, Oh! the pain! the dark despair! the torments of a guilty conscience! the blackness of darkness, in the lower hell, which the guilty wretches will experience before that happy day of deliverance!
Oh! the countless myriads of the offspring of innocent and honourable men who will walk the earth, tread on the ashes, or plow and reap over the bones and dust of those miserable murderers and their accomplices who have consented to the shedding of innocent blood! ere the final trump shall sound, which calls up their sleeping dust from its long slumbers in the tomb, and their spirits from the prison of the damned.
And even when this, to them almost interminable, period has rolled away, and they rise from the dead, instead of a welcome exaltation to the presence and society of the sons of God, an eternal banishment awaits them. They never can come where God and Christ dwell, but will be servants in the dominions of the Saints, their former victims.
This extraordinary personage was born in Sharon, Windsor County,
Vermont, United States, December 23rd, 1805.
He removed with his father, during childhood, and settled near Palmyra, in Wayne County, New York. Amid these forest wilds he was reared a farmer, and inured to all the hardships, toils, and privations of a newly settled country. His education was therefore very limited. When about seventeen years of age, he had several open visions, in which a holy angel ministered to him, admonished him for his sins, taught him repentance, and faith in the crucified and risen Messiah, opened to him the Scriptures of the Prophets, unfolding the field of prophecy pertaining to the latter-day glory, and the doctrines of Christ and his ancient Apostles.
On the 22nd Sept., 1827, the angel directed him to a hill a few miles distant, called anciently Cumorah. Around this hill, in the fifth century of the Christian era, had rallied the last remnant of a once powerful and highly polished nation called the Nephites.
Here, two hundred and thirty thousand men, women and children, marshalled themselves for a last defence, in legions of ten thousand each, under their respective commanders, at whose head was the renowned Mormon, the General of a hundred battles. And here they received the enemy in untold numbers, and melted away before them, till none remained except a few that fled to the southward, and a few that fell wounded, and were left by the enemy among the unburied dead.
Among these latter were General Mormon, and his son, and second in command—General Moroni.
These were the last Prophets of a nation, now no more. They held the sacred records, compiled and transmitted from their fathers, from the remotest antiquity. They held the Urim and Thummim, and the compass of Lehi, which had been prepared by Providence, to guide a colony from Jerusalem to America.
In the hill Cumorah, they deposited all these things. Here they lay concealed for fourteen hundred years. And here did the angel Moroni direct the young Joseph to behold these sacred things, in their sacred deposit, and to receive, from these long-silent and gloomy archives, an abridged record of the whole, and with it the Urim and Thummim.
The abridged record, thus obtained, was engraved in Egyptian characters, on gold plates, by the hands of the two Prophets and Generals—Mormon and Moroni. By the instructions of the angel, and the use of the Urim and Thummim, the youthful Joseph, now a Prophet and Seer, was enabled to translate the abridgment, or rather the unsealed portion which was destined for the present age.
This done, the angel of the Lord appeared to three other persons, called Martin Harris, Oliver Cowdery, and David Whitmer; showed them the golden plates, and the engravings thereon; bore testimony of their correct translation by the Prophet Joseph, and commanded them to bear a faithful testimony of the same. Two of these were respectable farmers, and the other was a school-master.
Early in 1830, this translation with the accompanying testimony, was published in English, in the United States, under the title of the Book Of Mormon.
It is now, 1853, translated and published in nearly all European languages.
This book more deeply interests the world, and every intelligent, accountable being therein, than any other book, save the Jewish Scriptures, which is now extant. Its history penetrates the otherwise dark oblivion of the past, as it regards America, through the remote ages of antiquity; follows up the stream of the generations of man, till arriving at the great fountain, the distributor of nations, tribes and tongues—the Tower of Babel, it ceases, or is lost in, and sweetly blended with, that one great undivided Adamic river, whose source is in Paradise, the cradle of man; whose springs issue from beneath the throne of the Eternal; and whose secret fountains comprise the infinite expanse, the boundless ocean of intellect, fact, and historic truth, as recorded in the archives of eternity. Its prophetic vision opens the events of unborn time. The fate of nations; the restoration of Judah and Israel; the downfall of corrupt churches and institutions; the end of superstition and misrule; the universal prevalence of peace, truth, light and knowledge; the awful wars which precede those happy times; the glorious coming of Jesus Christ as King; the resurrection of the Saints, to reign upon the earth; the great, grand rest of a thousand years; the jubilee of universal nature upon our planet, are all predicted in that book. The time and means of their fulfilment are pointed out with clearness, showing the present age more pregnant with events than all the ages of Adam’s race which have gone before it. Its doctrines are developed in such plainness and simplicity, and with such clearness and precision, that no man can mistake them. They are there as they flowed from the mouth of a risen Redeemer, in the liquid eloquence of love, mingled with immortal tears of joy and compassion, and were written by men whose tears of overwhelming affection and gratitude bathed his immortal feet.
It was ascertained by revelation, by means of the Urim and Thummim, that the youthful Prophet Joseph was of the house of Israel, of the tribe of Joseph.
He continued to receive visions, revelations, and the ministry of angels, by whom he was at length ordained to the Apostleship, or High Priesthood after the order of Melchizedec, to hold the keys of the kingdom of God, the dispensation of the fulness of times.
Thus qualified, he proceeded, on the 6th of April, A.D. 1830, to organize the Church of the Saints, which then consisted of six members. The gifts of healing, of prophecy, of visions and miracles, began to be manifested among the believers, thus confirming his testimony with signs following.
In this same year, the principles restored by him were proclaimed, and
Branches of the Church were organized in various parts of his own
State, in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and elsewhere; and the number of his
disciples increased from six members, to upwards of one thousand.
During the three following years, hundreds of ministers, ordained by him, were sent out in all directions through the country, and Branches of the Church were organized in most of the States of the American Union.
In eighteen hundred and thirty five, he ordained by commandment of the Lord, a quorum of Twelve Apostles, and several quorums of seventy, as a traveling ministry.
In ‘thirty-six, a temple was completed and dedicated, in Kirtland, Ohio; in which these quorums, and the Priesthood in general were assembled in a school of the Prophets, and were instructed, and anointed to their holy calling. In this same year, some of the Apostles visited Upper Canada, and spread the fulness of the Gospel in Toronto and all the region round, gathering several Branches of the Church.
In ‘thirty-seven, a mission was sent to England, which was attended with the same powers, and with remarkable success.
In ‘thirty-eight, the State of Missouri undertook the extermination of the Church from its borders, murdered many men, women and children, and finally succeeded in the forcible expulsion of about ten thousand people, and the seizure of their lands and property.
In eighteen hundred and forty, the quorum of the Twelve Apostles visited England, gathered great numbers into the Church, and published the Book of Mormon, and several other works, among which was a periodical called the Millennial Star, which now, in 1853, has a circulation of nearly eighteen thousand copies weekly.
Between the years ‘forty, and ‘forty-four, our youthful Prophet gathered about him many thousands of his disciples; erected the great city of Nauvoo, on the banks of the Mississippi; commenced the erection of one of the most splendid temples in the world; and organized a legion of citizen soldiers for its defence. This legion comprised nearly six thousand men, and was commanded by the young Prophet Joseph, who held a government commission, as Lieutenant-General.
From this centre of science and heavenly light, there emanated rays, by the aid of a foreign ministry, penetrating afar, and lighting up the dawn of that effulgent day which is destined to break over all the earth, and shine for ever.
Apostles, High Priests, Elders, Counsellors and Ministers of every degree, here thronged our youthful Prophet and hero, and were taught in this great school of Theology and spiritual philosophy; while a hundred thousand disciples in the nation and beyond the seas, looked to this centre for light and instruction.
Such was the progress of the science of Theology, revived in the present age; such the result of fourteen years of the ministry of an unlettered youth, crying in the wilderness the proclamation of repentance, baptizing for the remission of sins, and holding the keys of this divine, eternal power.
His unparalleled success, and still increasing influence, now alarmed his former persecutors, and raised their jealousy and envy to the highest pitch of frenzy and madness.
Several counties of Illinois combined with the former enemies, who had robbed and destroyed the Saints in Missouri, and, calling public meetings, passed resolutions to destroy the city of Nauvoo, and to force the Saints, once more, to abandon their homes and farms to the possession of the land pirates. They also entered into covenant, to take the life of the young Joseph.
To resist this overwhelming storm, our hero and Prophet marshalled his legion of six thousand men, in his beloved city of Nauvoo, prepared for the most vigorous defence, and awaited the onset. The cowardly enemy soon discovered the impropriety of an open attack, and resolved on stratagem. They caused a magistrate of their own number to issue a writ; and sent a constable to bring the person of Joseph into the midst of those who had sworn to kill him. To yield to this mockery would be to lose his life. To resist it would be construed into treason and would bring on him the whole forces of the State. This stratagem succeeded—Nauvoo, its legion and its general, were declared in rebellion. His Excellency, Thomas Ford, Governor of the State of Illinois, mustered an army, marched to the scene of conflict, took sides with the enemy, and in fact incorporated their entire forces with his own troops.
With this formidable force he marched to Carthage, a small town eighteen miles from Nauvoo. He then sent a captain, named Singleton, to take command of the Nauvoo legion, and demanded its Lieutenant-General to repair to Carthage, and place himself in the hands of those who had publicly combined to take his life. Sooner than have submitted to these insults and humiliating demands, the legion would have joyfully marched to Carthage, and cut to pieces this cowardly band of rebels against American institutions and all the rights of man.
But the Saints were located between two powerful States, who were now combined against the laws, constitutions and liberties of their country. To destroy one army, or even resist its most extravagant demands, would be to draw upon themselves and families, the overwhelming forces of the ferocious, ignorant, and worse than savage beings, who had long thirsted for their plunder and their blood.
The young Prophet had no confidence in the Governor’s pledge to protect his person. He felt the hour had come, when his own blood alone could appease the enemy, and preserve the lives of his flock. He restrained the ardour of the legion; called upon them, by the love they had ever borne to him as a Prophet and Apostle; and conjured them, by the respect and confidence they had shown him as their General, to submit to the extravagant demands of his Excellency, and leave the event with God. He now took an affectionate leave of his beloved legion, who were dissolved in tears; tore himself from the embraces of his aged and widowed mother, and frantic wife and children, and repaired to Carthage. He was accompanied by his brother Hyrum, and the two of the Twelve, that were not abroad on foreign missions, who would not forsake him. On the way he was cheerful but solemn. He spoke little, but observed to those about him, “I am going like a lamb to the slaughter; but I am calm as a summer’s morning; I have a conscience void of offence towards God, and towards all men. I shall die innocent: and it shall yet be said of me—He was murdered in cold blood.”
Arriving at Carthage, he delivered himself to his enemies; answered to the charge in the original writ, to enforce which all the Governor’s forces had been mustered, and was then committed to prison to answer the charge of treason.
In this dungeon he was still accompanied by the two Apostles and his brother Hyrum, who were determined to die with him.
Here as the four friends sat in the upper room, singing hymns, on the afternoon of the 27th day of June, 1844, the prison was suddenly surrounded with demons in the flesh, armed with muskets and bayonets, and their faces as black as Cain—the original murderer. These commenced firing through the doors and windows of the prison, while a portion assaulted and broke open the door. Hyrum suddenly fell, and died without a groan, being pierced with four balls. Taylor fled, wounded and bleeding, to the window, and was about to throw himself out, when a ball aimed at his heart, hit his watch in his vest pocket, and threw him back into the room. The other Apostle, Willard Richards, stood and parried the guns with his hand staff, receiving slight injury.
In the midst of all this scene, the Prophet’s presence of mind did not forsake him. He saw his brother Hyrum fall, stiffen and die. He then exclaimed, in the anguish of his soul—”O my brother!” and sprang for the window, amid showers of ball as thick as hail. He instantly threw himself from the upper story into the midst of the bristling bayonets of the enemy, and, on alighting, was pierced with a shower of balls, and instantly died without a struggle or a groan.
His presence of mind, and prompt action, in thus throwing himself among the enemy, drew them from the prison in time to save the lives of the two Apostles, which was, no doubt, the object of this, the last glorious act of his life.
Thus ended the mortal career of a youth who had revealed the ancient history of a continent; restored to man the keys and powers of the divine science of Theology; organized the Church and kingdom of God, and revealed, and re-established those principles, which will eventually prevail, and govern the sons of earth, in countless ages yet unborn. “The good shepherd,” said Jesus, “layeth down his life for the sheep.”
When the news of this horrid tragedy spread abroad, the fear of vengeance from the Nauvoo legion seized the Governor, his troops, and the whole gang of pirates; all fled, and even the inhabitants of the guilty villages in the vicinity, vacated their habitations, and fled in terror and dismay.
As the news reached Nauvoo, a thrill of horror and of anguish unutterable ran, as with electricity, through every pulse. The legion sprang to arms, and would have desolated the whole rebel counties, now left unprotected, had not their judgments balanced the burning attribute of justice which swelled their bosoms.
As it was, they smothered their resentment, and prepared for the burial of the illustrious dead. The bodies of the two martyrs were borne to the city; being met by the entire populace, bowed with sorrow, bathed in tears, and their bosoms upheaved with a sense of sorrow and outraged humanity, such as, perhaps, an entire populace at once never felt, since man was doomed to mourn.
The Twelve, who were abroad, soon returned, soothed and comforted the sheep, and exhorted them to union and perseverance. The work on the temple was resumed, and finally completed, at an expense of many hundred thousand dollars. In this holy edifice, after its dedication to the Lord, a portion of the Priesthood received those holy washings, anointings, keys, ordinances, oracles and instructions, which were yet wanting to perfect them in the fulness of the Priesthood.
In the autumn of 1845, the enemy again rallied, and commenced to desolate the borders of the Nauvoo settlements by fire and sword.
Wearied with long continued vexation and persecution, the council of the Apostles now determined to seek peace for the Saints, amid the far-off and almost unexplored deserts and mountains of the interior. In February, 1846, this emigration was commenced, headed by the Apostles and their families.
On the 24th of July, 1847, the first pioneers of this vast emigration, headed by the President of the whole Church, Brigham Young, entered the Valley of Great Salt Lake.
In the meantime, the beautiful Nauvoo, and its surrounding farms and villas fell a prey to the enemy, after a vigorous defence. Its temple, the pride and glory of America, was laid in ashes. Its last remnant plundered, robbed of their all, sick, destitute, wounded, bleeding, dying, at length disappeared beyond the horizon of the illimitable plains of the west, and, for a moment, the curtain of oblivion closed over this strange drama, and the kingdom of God seemed lost to mortal view.
Again it rises, and what do we behold!
The banner of freedom unfurled a thousand miles from the frontiers of the persecuting foe; its waving folds, amid the snow-clad peaks of the Rocky mountains, inviting to liberty and light, the oppressed of every clime; and a free and sovereign State rising, in majesty and smiling splendour, amid the fastnesses of nature’s eternal ramparts; while the exhaustless treasures of the golden mountains of California, revealed by the providence-guiding keys of modern Theology, are poured like a flowing stream into the treasury of the Lord, to aid in the gathering and subsistence of the Saints.
Can the student of Theology contemplate all these grand events and their results, all verging to one focus, all combining to prepare the way for the consummation of the entire volume of unfulfilled prophecy, and still be so much at a loss as to query, like one of old, “Art thou he that should come; or, look we for another?” If so, we can only recommend, to one so slow of heart, to search the Scriptures, and all good books extant on the subject. And, while he searches, let him turn from his sins, and live in newness of life, and call upon God, the Father of all, in the name of Messiah, that his understanding may be enlightened, and his stubborn heart subdued, and constrained to yield to the force of Truth.