5 January 1841 (Tuesday). Old Homestead.

Extracts from William Clayton's Private Book[1]

By Joseph, Jany. 5th 1841, at
the organization of a school
of instruction.

Description of Paul—He is about 5 foot high; very dark hair; dark complection; dark skin; large Roman nose; sharp face; small black eyes, penetrating as eternity; round shoulders; a whining voice, except when elevated and then it almost resembles the roaring of a Lion. He was a good orator, but Doctor Benentt [2] is a superior orator, and like Paul is active and deligent, always employing himself in doing good to his fellow men.

By Joseph, January 5th, 1841
Answer to the question, was the
Priesthood of Melchizedeck taken
away when Moses died. [3]

All priesthood is Melchizedeck; but there are different portions or degrees of it. That portion which brought Moses to speak with God face to face was taken away; but that which brought the ministry of angels remained. [4] All the Prophets had the Melchizedeck Priesthood and was ordained by God himself.

The world and earth are not synonymous terms. [5] The world is the human family. This earth was organized or formed out of other planets which were broke up and remodelled and made into the one on which we live. [6] The elements are eternal. That which has a begining will surely have an end. Take a ring, it is without beginning or end; cut it for a beginning place, and at the same time you will have an ending place.

A key, every principle proceeding from God is eternal, and any principle which is not eternal is of the Devil. The sun has no beginning or end, the rays which proceed from himself have no bounds, consequently are eternal. So it is with God. If the soul of man had a beginning it will surely have an end. [7] In the translation, "without form and void" it should read "empty and desolate." The word "created" should be formed or organized. [8]

Observations on the Sectarian God.

That which is without body or parts is nothing. There is no other God in heaven but that God who has flesh and bones. John 5-26, "As the father hath life in himself, even so hath he given the son to have life in himself". God the father took life unto himself precisely as Jesus did. [9] The first step in the salvation of men is the laws of eternal and self-existent principles. Spirits are eternal. At the first organization in heaven we were all present and saw the Savior chosen and appointed, and the plan of salvation made and we sanctioned it. [10] We came to this earth that we might have a body and present it pure before God in the Celestial Kingdom. The great principle of happiness consists in having a body. The Devil has no body, and herein is his punishment. He is pleased when he can obtain the tabernacle of man and when cast out by the Savior he asked to go into the herd of swine showing that he would prefer a swines body to having none. [11] All beings who have bodies have power over those who have not. The devil has no power over us only as we permit him; the moment we revolt at anything which comes from God the Devil takes power.

This earth will be rolled back [12] into the presence of God and crowned with Celestial Glory. [13]

McIntire Minute Book [14]

Subject first—Discused By D. C. Smith; [15] also this preciple practized By many the Blessings & Results of the same he said the priciple would Bind the Harts of Man together & give them confidence in each other & as John says thy word is truth; so he says if we keep his word shall all be actuated By the same principles be as one man; & as angels are obedient to the same word we shall have Concorse to them & also to all the Heavnly throng; Joseph said to D. C. Smith that to be free from the Coruptions of the Earth that meant the speaker should all ways speak in his Natureal tone of voice; & Not to keep in one loud strain; But to act without affectaton [16] Next Subject was—Did the Lord God make the Earth out of Nothing; By D. Ells. [17] say he God did not make the earth out of Nothing; for it is contrary to a Rashanall [rational] mind & Reason. that a something could be Brought from a Nothing; also it is contry to the principle & Means by witch God does work; for instance; when God formed man, he made him of something; the Dust of the Earth, & and he allways took a somthing to afect a something Else; oft he takes man to scorge his fellow man, or watter to Destroy man—or fire to Distroy Man or angels for istance the angel that went forth & Distroyed a hundred thousand one knigt Joseph Smith said to D Ells, & to the Congregation that he for a lenth of time, thought on phreknoleagee [phrenology] [18]; & that he had a Revalation. the Lord Rebuking him sharply in Crediting such a thing; & further said there was No Reality in such a science But was the works of the Devil; he also said the Lord had told him that Bro. Law [19] would Do well, he would Go & preach the Gospel he also said as for his own knowledge the Earth was made out of sumthing for it was impossible for a sumthing to be made out of Nothing fire, air, & watter are Eternal Existant principles which are the Composition of which the Earth - has been Composed; also this Earth has been organized out of portions of other Globes that has ben Disorganized; in tistimoney that this Earth was Not the first of Gods work; he quoted a passage from the testament where Jesus said all things that he had saw the father Do he had done & that he done Nothing But what he saw the father do John the 5th [verse 19] [20] he also said in testimony of the situation the saints in the presence of God. that they had flesh & bones & that was the agreement in Eternity to come here & take on them tabernacles & the Differance Between us & Satin in that Respect is that he fell & had Not opertunity to Come in the flesh—& that he allways is striving to get others as miserable as himself— [21]

—5 January 1841


[1] See Teachings, pp. 180-81. The original source for the report of this discourse in Teachings is William Clayton's Private Book as found in this text. This discourse is the only entry in Teachings for which Joseph Fielding Smith did not provide a source. The following lecture, separately recorded by William Clayton and William P. McIntire, was delivered at the Nauvoo Lyceum. The lyceum met every Tuesday, at different locations in Nauvoo, for several months beginning 5 January 1841. William P. McIntire's account is here published for the first time.

[2] John Cook Bennett (1804-67) was elected mayor of Nauvoo one month from the time of this discourse. He was five feet five inches tall and weighed one hundred forty-two pounds. He also fit the Prophet's description of Paul in his patriarchal blessing. It states, "[Thou] shalt be like unto Paul," and he was also told "Turn not aside from the truth for the popularity of the world; but be like Paul." Finally he was promised, "When thou shalt reason … it shall be like Paul reasoning with Felix, and they shall tremble when they hear thy words" (History of the Saints; or, an Expos … of Joe Smith and the Mormons, [Boston: Leland & Whiting, 1842], p. 43). Unfortunately, Bennett did not live up to these expectations. He was excommunicated from the Church in 1842 for teaching that illicit intercourse was condoned by Church leaders.

[3] John Taylor, a member of the Council of the Twelve, apparently was the person who asked the Prophet this question. However, when the answer was given, Elder Taylor, with others of the Twelve, was in England, and he was never apprised of the Prophet's explanation. Nevertheless, Joseph Smith assured Elder Taylor that he had received the Holy Spirit and challenged him pointedly: "Now listen to the dictates of that spirit and cultivate it, and it will become a spirit of revelation" (L. John Nuttall Diary, 3 August 1881, Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah; hereafter referred to as BYU Special Collections). As a test of this promise to John Taylor specifically, and of Mormon theology generally, Elder Taylor's later independent speculations on this "unanswered" question are fascinating.

Mormonism has no Summa Theologica. Notwithstanding this, the following example of independent yet consistent doctrinal affinity can be multiplied. In a meeting of the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve held in Salt Lake City 22 April 1849, John Taylor asked President Brigham Young, "If Elijah, David, Solomon and the Prophets had the High Priesthood, how it was, [because] the Lord took it away with Moses." The question was discussed at length and finally "Prest Young said he did not know, but wished he did." John Taylor then offered his feelings on the question. The minutes record, "Brother Taylor thought perhaps the Lord conferred it himself upon some at times whom he had considered worthy, but not with permission for them to continue it down upon others" ("Record of the Acts of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles," 1849 Record Book, p. 39, Church Archives). Based on a combination of theological considerations—Mormonism's conception of translated and angelic beings before Christ's resurrection, the necessity of the laying on of hands for priesthood ordination, and a hint of the possibility of God's direct intervention contained in D&C 84:12 and (remotely) in JST Genesis 14:28-29—it is conceivable that both Joseph Smith and John Taylor could independently come to the same conclusion. However, if after 1849 John Taylor ever read the answer to his question (it was first published in 1882, in F. D. Richards' Compendium), he no doubt would have considered it an evidence that the Prophet's promise had been fulfilled.

[4] D&C 13; 84:18-28; 107:18-20.

[5] See discourse dated "Before 8 August 1839 (2)," note 9.

[6] The William P. McIntire account of this discourse indicates that the subject of ex nihilo creation was one of the major topics of discussion during this inaugural lyceum meeting. Joseph Smith had previously discussed this subject (see discourse dated "Before 8 August 1839 (1)," note 4).

[7] See discourse dated "Before 8 August 1839 (1)," note 4.

[8] Genesis 1:1-2*. There were remarkable changes in these two passages in the manuscripts of Joseph Smith's translation of the Bible, but the alterations here mentioned were not made in 1830. They were included, however, in the creation account published with the book of Abraham (4:1-2).

[9] This is the first mention by the Prophet Joseph Smith of the extremely important concept in Mormon theology that God the Father once had a mortal probation and was resurrected with a body of flesh and bones. It might be assumed by some today that this concept should have been obvious to most saints given the revelations received before this time. Yet this first explicit reference to the idea is most important for at least one reason. The following syllogistic argument used today for Mormonism's concept that God the Father once lived on an earth was not used or understood by the early Saints. The basic reasoning used today is as follows: All men are raised with their physical bodies in the resurrection (Alma 40:23, printed in 1830). Jesus, the Son of God and the great prototype (John 14:6-9), was the express image of his Father (Hebrews 1:3) and was resurrected with (Luke 24:30-39) and retained (3 Nephi 11:14-17, printed in 1830; Acts 1:11) his corporeal body. In the celestial resurrection men can become gods (D&C 76:58 [51-58], 1832 revelation). Therefore, God the Father must have a body of resurrected flesh and bones that he obtained following his own earth life.

That this reasoning was not apparent to the early saints may be demonstrated through the example of Lorenzo Snow. Perhaps no one in the history of the Church, except Joseph Smith has popularized this concept more than Lorenzo Snow. As an expert missionary he undoubtedly knew all the scriptures to which reference was made. Moreover, while in England in 1839, he claimed to have received special revelation in which he learned that "As man now is, our God once was; As God now is, so man may be, and thus unfolds our destiny." Notwithstanding all this, in a letter written to a "Respected Sister," two years later (about the time of this discourse by Joseph Smith) he said that the Father and the Son were spirits (Lorenzo Snow Letters, Call number Ms/f/562/item 12, pp. 40-45, Church Archives). It is possible that Elder Snow did not wish to assert something that he would have to explain, especially since in 1839 Brigham Young told him not to teach the concept of a once-mortal God until he heard the Prophet Joseph teach it. Nevertheless, the letter belies a spontaneous willingness to express the nature of the Godhead as he then understood it. Here, very early in the Nauvoo period of Church History, we find the Prophet launching out in a new area of doctrine that would be crucial to and interrelated with many other doctrines that made Nauvoo a quantum increase of light. Clearly the Nauvoo era was distinct from its Kirtland underpinnings. For an excellent and well-researched discussion of this question, see Van Hale, "The Doctrinal Impact of the King Follett Discourse," Brigham Young University Studies 18 (Winter 1978): 209-25.

[10] A journal entry recorded by William Clayton in 1845 may be evidence that not only did Clayton copy this discourse into his Private Book, but that he also was the original reporter. Clayton had arrived in Nauvoo only six weeks before, on 24 November 1840, and no doubt this discourse would have impressed him. In 1845 he recorded in his journal an entry demonstrating his interest in this subject: "It has been a doctrine taught by this church that we were in the Grand Council amongst the Gods when the organization of this world was contemplated and that the laws of government were all made and sanctioned by all present and all the ordinances and ceremonies decreed upon" (Andrew F. Ehat, "'It Seems Like Heaven Began on Earth': Joseph Smith and the Constitution of the Kingdom of God,"Brigham Young University Studies 20 [Spring 1980]:269). See also 27 June 1839, note 6.

[11] Matthew 8:28-34.

[12] "President [Brigham Young] gave it as his opinion that the Earth did not dwell in the sphere in which it did when it was created, but that it was banished from its more glorious state or orbit of revolution for man's sake" ("Record of Acts of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles," 1849 Record Book, p. 41, Church Archives). This and other statements like it probably had their origin with teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith.

[13] D&C 77:1; 88:17-26; 130:9; Moses 7:48, 49, 54, 58, 61-65, 67 (48-67).

[14] William Patterson McIntire (1813-82) was a native of Pennsylvania. Baptized in 1836, he worked as a tailor in Nauvoo. McIntire's Minute Book is in the Church Archives.

[15] Don Carlos Smith (1816-41), Joseph Smith's brother, baptized in 1830. He edited thirty-one issues of the Times and Seasons.

[16] Joseph Smith was concerned with the rhetorical and oratorial practices of his day. He detested the affectation and hypocrisy of the many flamboyant speakers. He spoke of the Holy Ghost as "calm and serene," "natural," and "edifying." When in Liberty Jail, he said, "A fanciful and flowery and heated imagination beware of; because the things of God are of deep import; and time, and experience, and careful and ponderous and solemn thoughts can only find them out" (Teachings, p. 137). For another of the Prophet's statements on speaking skills, see the 9 March 1841 discourse.

[17] Dr. Josiah Ells came to Nauvoo in 1840. He was one of a company, under the command of Charles C. Rich, that attempted to rescue the Prophet Joseph Smith from his Dixon, Illinois, arrest in June 1843.

[18] Many Saints have had an attraction to phrenology—the alleged analysis of character and mental faculties by studying the form of the skull (see Davis Bitton and Gary L. Bunker, "Phrenology among the Mormons," Dialogue [Spring 1974]:43-61). Unfortunately, members of the Church have been unaware of the revelation to Joseph Smith on this pseudoscience, and have misinterpreted his indifference toward the practice.

[19] William Law (1809-92) was baptized in Upper Canada in 1836 and two weeks after this discourse was appointed by revelation (D&C 124:91) a counselor to Joseph Smith in the First Presidency. Rejecting certain of the Prophet's teachings (particularly plural marriage), Law left the Church in 1844. The revelation referred to also confirms the Prophet's announcement that William Law should go on a mission (D&C 124:88).

[20] Unlike the William Clayton account of this discourse, the McIntire account shows how Joseph Smith used John 5:19 to shift from a discussion of the creation of the earth to a discussion of the nature of God.

[21] 2 Nephi 2:18, 27.