John 1:4 — (part 7) — the mortal world — a reflection of the Savior’s light — LeGrand Baker

In him was life; and the life was the light of men (John 1:4).

I mentioned in part 5 of this series that the earth is going through a long creation process that began with the decisions of the Council in Heaven and will not conclude until it becomes a celestial orb. Our journey through linear time is parallel to that creation process, each step presenting us with ever new and previously unimagined possibilities.

When our intelligences received spirit bodies made from the Savior’s light, we were clothed with power that was greater than our own, like a candle in a lighthouse. Now, in mortal bodies that are also made from the Savior’s light, our own truth/light/love is magnified even more. Few of us can actually see another’s light, but we can feel it. The following is a classic description of that feeling and how the cleansing power of the Holy Ghost effects our relationships with other people. Parley P. Pratt wrote,

In the presence of such persons, the light of their countenances, as the genial rays of a sunbeam. Their very atmosphere diffuses a thrill, a warm glow of pure gladness and sympathy, to the heart and nerves of others who have kindred feelings, or sympathy of spirit. No matter if the parties are strangers, entirely unknown to each other in person or character; no matter if they have never spoken to each other, each will be apt to remark in his own mind, and perhaps exclaim, when referring to the interview—”O what an atmosphere encircles that stranger! How my heart thrilled with pure and holy feelings in his presence! What confidence and sympathy he inspired! his countenance and spirit gave me more assurance, than a thousand written recommendations, or introductory letters.” Such is the gift of the Holy Spirit, and such are its operations, when received through the lawful channel—the divine, eternal Priesthood. {1}

President McKay described the same phenomena when he wrote,

Every man and every person who lives in this world wields an influence, whether for good or for evil. It is not what he says alone; it is not alone what he does. It is what he is. Every man, every person radiates what he or she really is. Every person is a recipient of radiation. The Saviour was conscious of that. Whenever He came into the presence of an individual, He sensed that radiation — whether it was the woman of Samaria with her past life: whether it was the woman who was to be stoned, or the men who were to stone her; whether it was the statesman, Nicodemus, or one of the lepers. He was conscious of the radiation from the individual. And to a degree so are you. and so am I. It is what we are and what we radiate that affects the people around us. {2}

When Heber C. Kimball spoke at the funeral of Jedediah M. Grant, he described the source of that radiation — both the good and the bad. He said,

During brother Grant’s brief sickness…. He said to me, brother Heber, I have been into the spirit world two nights in succession, and of all the dreads that ever came across me, the worst was to have to again return to my body, though I had to do it. But O, says he, the order and government that were there! [talks about happiness of the righteousness, about family organizations, about what Joseph and others are doing to help the saints, about the beauty of the place, especially the flower gardens]….

He said that after he came back he could look upon his family and see the darkness that was in them [That is the best commentary I know on Moroni’s statement at the close of the Book of Mormon: “Holy and without spot”]; and that he conversed with them about the Gospel, and what they should do, and they replied, “Well, brother Grant, perhaps it is so, and perhaps it is not,” and said that was the state of his people, to a great extent, for many are full of darkness and will not believe me. {3}

The radiation President McKay described is our own truth/light/love refined by the cleansing power of the Holy Ghost. Heber C. Kimball explained its importance in a sermon he delivered in the Tabernacle on February 8, 1857.

I am perfectly satisfied that my God is a cheerful, pleasant, lively, and good-natured Being. Why? Because I am cheerful, pleasant, lively, and good-natured when I have His Spirit. That is one reason why I know; and another is the Lord said, through Joseph Smith, “I delight in a glad heart and a cheerful countenance.” That arises from the perfection of His attributes; He is a jovial, lively person, and a beautiful man. {4}

If we begin with the premise that “God is a cheerful, pleasant, lively, and good-natured Being” then everything else falls into place. Lehi’s famous couplet, “Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy(2 Nephi 2:25),” is a necessary conclusion to that premise, just as is the Lord’s statement to Moses, “For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man (Moses 1:39).” I read that to say that God’s work to his glory is to make men truly alive — and joy is the essence of that aliveness.

Through the medium of our physical body we can just taste a little of that joy while we are in this world (Alma 19:6, 26:36) so that when this body is a fully matured celestial being, it will be the power by which our intelligence obtains and retains a fulness of joy. The Lord explained,

33 For man is spirit. The elements are eternal, and spirit and element, inseparably connected, receive a fulness of joy;
34 And when separated, man cannot receive a fulness of joy (D&C 93:33-34).

In this world the quality of our truth/light/love/joy defines the quality of our soul (“the spirit and the body are the soul of man” (D&C 88:15). The quality of our soul determines the quality of our resurrected bodies (D&C 88:17-33). Celestial bodies are pure light. Therefore, to have a celestial body our truth/light/love/joy must also be pure.

Now, the overriding question is: How do we achieve those prerequisites to eternal life while we are still in this world? The Savior’s prayer gives us the key.

11 And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are. ….
13 And now come I to thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves (John 11, 13).

“That they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves.” That is the answer. In the contexts of these scriptures, “joy” is a quality of power. In a formal sense, joy is a product of charity which in turn is equated with keeping priesthood covenants. Peter gave the Saints a simple (well, simple enough to say but not so simple to do) eight-step process whereby we can make our calling and election sure.{5} He wrote,

5 And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith [# 4102, pistis = the Greek word means contract or covenant] virtue [# 703, “manliness”]; and to virtue knowledge [# 1108, knowledge, understanding. I prefer the definition of truth in D&C 93:24 is knowledge of reality in sacred time];
6 And to knowledge temperance [# 1455, self control]; and to temperance patience [# 5281, steadfastness, constancy, endurance. That describes our relationship with God, with oneself, as also with other people]; and to patience godliness [# 2150, reverence. One can never hurt or be unkind to something or someone whom one revers];
7 And to godliness brotherly kindness [# 5360, philadelphia = “fraternal love” {6}]
8 For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
9 But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.
10 Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall (2 Peter 1:5-10).{7}

Of those eight steps, the first four are about our relationship with God and with our Self. The second four are about our relationships with other people. Before the Savior left this world, he explained the power of those relationships to the Twelve.

9 As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love.
10 If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.
11 These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.
12 This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. (John 15:7-12).

Priesthood ordinances and covenants (baptism, gift of the Holy Ghost, and the coronation ceremonies as practiced in the ancient Israelite temples) {8} give power which enables freedom, which freedom enables joy. A shining example is a prophecy of vicarious temple work for the dead in Isaiah 61. {9} Verse 3 is the coronation ceremony. There the anointing is called “the oil of joy.”

3 To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes [ashes were removed by a ceremonial washing], the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified (Isaiah 61:3).

“Double” is code for the birthright blessings. The Law of Moses required that the birthright son received a double portion. In the ancient temple service the double was the birthright blessings of Abraham which brings “everlasting joy.”

7 For your shame ye shall have double; and for confusion they shall rejoice in their portion: therefore in their land they shall possess the double: everlasting joy shall be unto them (Isaiah 61:7).

Verse 10 is spoken by the dead and represents their marriage ceremony. It is introduced with “my soul shall be joyful in my God.”

10 I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels (Isaiah 61:3).

The relationships described there for the dead are not different from the relationships we have while we are living. Priesthood is primarily a function of those relationships. The Savior’s Beatitudes are all about priesthood ordinances, covenants, and the responsibilities we have for each other. One of those is expressly about how one can become a sacral king or queen and a worthy priest or priestess. It reads,

7 And blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy (3 Nephi 12:7).

Many of the Beatitudes are quotes or paraphrases from other scriptures, so to understand them we must place them in their original context as the Savior’s audience would have done. This Beatitude echoes the promise given in Psalm 18 which reads:

25 With the merciful thou wilt shew thyself merciful; with an upright man thou wilt shew thyself upright (Psalms 18:25).

That verse twice uses a variation of hesed. Hesed is a Hebrew word that means unfailing love based on a prior covenant. The psalm reads: “With the merciful [hesed as an adjective] thou wilt shew thyself merciful [hesed as a verb].” Just as the Beatitude reads, “blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.”

Hesed is best understood as reciprocated charity or fraternal love. {10} Charity is always the answer. However, just as true repentance is a gift of God that cannot be accomplished without the covenants and ordinances that enable our reception of the blessings of the Atonement, so charity is also a gift that cannot be achieved without living to those ordinances and covenants. The Prophet Joseph admonished his friends,

45 Let thy bowels also be full of charity towards all men, and to the household of faith, and let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distil upon thy soul as the dews from heaven.
46 The Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion, and thy scepter an unchanging scepter of righteousness and truth; and thy dominion shall be an everlasting dominion, and without compulsory means it shall flow unto thee forever and ever (D&C 121:45-46).

As the prophet wrote, we must strive to have the Holy Ghost as a constant companion. Several years ago I put together a group of accounts about the Prophet Joseph — after his death — returning to his friends to teach them that they must learn to listen to the instructions of the Holy Ghost or they could not succeed in this life or the next. I was just going to refer you to them and let it go at that, but I think they are so important they need to be quoted here. {11}

Oliver B. Huntington was a good friend of the Prophet Joseph. He came to Utah and was a patriarch in Springville before his death. The following is a copy of a letter he received from SGR. But I don’t know who SGR was.

Springville, Aug. 27, 1885

Shortly after the settlement at Winter Quarters, I do not remember the date, living next to the Historians Office, I had the privilege of seeing a copy of a vision, President Young had at that time and being permitted to take items from it, I copied what I felt would be a comfort and benefit to me on my long journeying, about to take place, for I was about to visit England my native land, with my husband who was going upon a mission, and I felt I needed something to say to the people. I give it here as near as possible having copied it from the original manuscript.

Joseph stepped towards me and looking very earnestly, yet pleasantly said, “Tell the people to be humble and faithful, and be sure to keep the spirit of the Lord, and it will lead them right; be careful and not turn away of the still small voice: it will teach you haw to do and where to go; it will yield the fruits of the kingdom: Tell the brethren to keep their hearts open to conviction so that when the Holy Ghost comes to them, their hearts will be ready to receive it. They can tell the Spirit of the Lord from other spirits; it will whisper peace, and joy in their souls; it will take malice, hatred, strife and all evil from their hearts; and their whole desire will be to do good, bring forth righteousness and build up the kingdom of God. Tell the brethren if they will follow the Spirit of the Lord they will go right.

Be sure to tell the people to keep the Spirit of the Lord; and if they will find themselves just as they were organized by our Father in Heaven, before they came into the world. Our Father in Heaven organized the human family, but they are all disorganized and in great confusion.” Joseph then showed me the pattern, how they were in the beginning. This I cannot describe, but I saw it, and saw when the Priesthood had been taken from the earth, and how it must be joined together so as to make a perfect chain from Father Adam to his latest posterity. Tell the people to be sure to keep the Spirit of the Lord, and follow it, and it will lead them just right.”

It seemed that Brother Young was shown into a place where he saw Joseph sitting a little higher than the floor where he stood, with some persons around him, but being so overjoyed to see Joseph he went straight to salute him, when he found a barrier of some kind which prevented him approaching nearer. Joseph said, you cannot come now, but must wait awhile till your work is done; and then conversed a good while with him concerning events past and to come, when about to leave, he, Brigham, asked Joseph what he should say to the people from him, upon which the piece I have now copied from the manuscript was the answer.
S. G. R. {12}

President Wilford Woodruff taught that principle during his sermon in General Conference, Sunday Afternoon, October 10th, 1880.

It has been my faith and belief from the time that I was made acquainted with the Gospel that no greater prophet than Joseph Smith ever lived on the face of the earth save Jesus Christ. He was raised up to stand at the head of this great dispensation–the greatest of all dispensations God has ever given to man. He remarked on several occasions when conversing with his brethren: “brethren you do not know me, you do not know who I am.” As I remarked at our priesthood meeting on Friday evening, I have heard him in my early days while conversing with the brethren, say, (at the same time smiting himself upon the breast) “I would to God that I could unbosom my feelings in the house of my friend.” Joseph Smith was ordained before he came here, the same as Jeremiah was. Said the Lord unto him, “Before you were begotten I knew you.” etc.

So do I believe with regard to this people, so do I believe with regard to the apostles, the high priests, seventies and the elders of Israel bearing the holly priesthood, I believe they were ordained before they came here; and I believe the God of Israel has raised them up, and has watched over them from their youth, and has carried them through all the scenes of life both seen and unseen, and has prepared them as instruments in his hands to take this kingdom and bear it off. If this be so, what manner of men ought we to be? If anything under the heavens should humble men before the Lord and before one another, it should be the fact that we have been called of God.

I believe the eyes of the heavenly hosts are over this people; I believe they are watching the elders of Israel, the prophets and apostles and men who are called to bear off this kingdom. I believe they watch over us all with great interest.

I will here make a remark concerning my own feelings. After the death of Joseph Smith I saw and conversed with him many times in my dreams in the night season. On one occasion he and his brother Hyrum met me when on the sea going on a mission to England. I had Dan Jones with me. He received his mission from Joseph Smith before his death; and the prophet talked freely to me about the mission I was then going to perform. And he also talked to me with regard to the mission of the Twelve Apostles in the flesh, and he laid before me the work they had to perform; and he also spoke of the reward they would receive after death. And there were many other things he laid before me in this interview on that occasion. And when I awoke many of the things he had told me were taken from me, I could not comprehend them. I have had many interviews with Brother Joseph until the last 15 or 20 years of my life; I have not seen him for that length of time. But during my travels in the southern country last winter I had many interviews with President Young, and with Heber C. Kimball, and Geo. A. Smith, and Jedediah M. Grant, and many others who are dead. They attended our conference, they attended our meetings. And on one occasion, I saw Brother Brigham and Brother Heber ride in carriage ahead of the carriage in which I rode when I was on my way to attend conference; and they were dressed in the most priestly robes. When we arrived at our destination I asked Prest. Young if he would preach to us. He said, “No, I have finished my testimony in the flesh I shall not talk to this people any more. But (said he) I have come to see you; I have come to watch over you, and to see what the people are doing. Then (said he) I want you to teach the people–and I want you to follow this counsel yourself–that they must labor and so live as to obtain the Holy Spirit, for without this you cannot build up the kingdom; without the spirit of God you are in danger of walking in the dark, and in danger of failing to accomplish your calling as apostles and as elders in the church and kingdom of God. And, said he, Brother Joseph taught me this principle.” And I will here say, I have heard him refer to that while he was living. But what I was going to say is this: the thought came to me that Brother Joseph had left the work of watching over this church and kingdom to others, and that he had gone ahead, and that he had left this work to men who have lived and labored with us since he left us. This idea manifested itself to me, that such men advance in the spirit world. And I believe myself that these men who have died and gone into the spirit world had this mission left with them, that is, a certain portion of them, to watch over the Latter-day Saints. {13}

In another sermon, published in the Deseret Weekly (the precursor to the Deseret News), President Willford Woodruff reemphasized those same principles.

One morning, while we were at Winter Quarters, Brother Brigham Young said to me and the brethren that he had had a visitation the night previous from Joseph Smith. I asked him what he said to him. He replied that Joseph had told him to tell the people to labor to obtain the Spirit of God; that they needed that to sustain them and to give them power to go through their work in the earth.

Now I will give you a little of my experience in this line. Joseph Smith visited me a great deal after his death, and taught me many important principles. The last time he visited me was while I was in a storm at sea. I was going on my last mission to preside in England. My companions were Brother Leonard W. Hardy, Brother Milton Holmes, Brother Dan Jones, and another brother, and my wife and two other women. We had been traveling three days and nights in a heavy gale, and were being driven backwards. Finally I asked my companions to come into the cabin with me, and I told them to pray that the Lord would change the wind. I had no fears of being lost; but I did not like the idea of being driven back to New York, as I wanted to go on my journey. We all offered the same prayer, both men and women; and when we got through we stepped on to the deck and in less than a minute it was as though a man had taken a sword and cut that gale through, and you might have thrown a muslin handkerchief out and it would not have moved it. The night following this Joseph and Hyrum visited me, and the Prophet laid before me a great many things. Among other things, he told me to get the Spirit of God; that all of us needed it. He also told me what the Twelve Apostles would be called to go through on the earth before the coming of the Son of Man, and what the reward of their labors would be; but all that was taken from me, for some reason. Nevertheless I know it was most glorious, although much would be required at our hands.

Joseph Smith continued visiting myself and others up to a certain time, and then it stopped. The last time I saw him was in heaven. In the night vision I saw him at the door of the temple in heaven. He came and spoke to me. He said he could not stop to talk with me because he was in a hurry. The next man I met was Father Smith; he could not talk with me because he was in a hurry. I met half a dozen brethren who had held high positions on earth, and none of them could stop to talk with me because they were in a hurry. I was much astonished. By and by I saw the Prophet again, and I got the privilege to ask him a question. “Now,” said I, “I want to know why you are in a hurry. I have been in a hurry all through my life; but I expected my hurry would be over when I got into the kingdom of heaven, if I ever did.” Joseph said: “I will tell you, Brother Woodruff. Every dispensation that has had the Priesthood on the earth and has gone into the celestial kingdom, has had a certain amount of work to do to prepare to go to the earth with the Savior when He goes to reign on the earth. Each dispensation has had ample time to do this work. We have not. We are the last dispensation, and so much work has to be done and we need to be in a hurry in order to accomplish it.” Of course, that was satisfactory to me, but it was new doctrine to me.

Brigham Young also visited me after his death. On one occasion he and Brother Heber C. Kimball came in a splendid chariot, with fine white horses, and accompanied me to a conference that I was going to attend. When I got there I asked Brother Brigham if he would take charge of the conference. “No,” said he, “I have done my work here. I have come to see what you are doing and what you are teaching the people.” And he told me what Joseph Smith had taught him in Winter Quarters, to teach the people to get the Spirit of God. He said, “I want you to teach the people to get the Spirit of God. You cannot build up the Kingdom of God without that.”

That is what I want to say to the brethren and sisters here today. Every man and woman in this Church should labor to get the Spirit. We are surrounded by these evil spirits that are at war against God and against everything looking to the building up of the kingdom of God; and we need this Holy Spirit to enable us to overcome these influences. I have had the Holy Ghost in my travels. Every man has that has gone out into the vineyard and labored faithfully for the cause of God. I have referred to the administration of angels to myself. What did these angels do? One of them taught me some things relating to the sighs that should precede the coming of the Son of Man. Others came and saved my life. What then? They turned and left me. But how is it with the Holy Ghost? The Holy Ghost does not leave me if I do my duty. It does not leave any man who does his duty. We have known this all the way through. Joseph Smith told Brother John Taylor on one occasion to labor to get the Spirit of God, and to follow its dictation, and it would become a principle of revelation within him. God has blessed me with that, and everything I have done since I have been in this Church has been done upon that principle. The Spirit of God has told me what to do, and I have had to follow that. [The rest of the page is full of personal stories about how President Woodruff received and obeyed instructions from the Spirit.] {14}

Once again, in the last sermon he delivered in General Conference, that theme was the most important message he could give to the members of the Church.

Now, I want to say to this congregation, to the young men of Israel, to the Elders of Israel, to all our missionaries, the day has come when the God of Heaven requires at my hands, as the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, to say unto you, it is the will of God for you to take this course. Get the Spirit of God before you go on your missions or anywhere else. Get the spirit of revelation with you. And when you get that you are safe, and you will do exactly what the Lord wants you to do. I have felt strongly impressed to say that to this Conference. What can you do without revelation? We cannot do the will of God and accomplish what is required of us without it. We will make no mistakes if we pursue that course. The spirit is with the Apostles, and with the Elders of Israel who are true and faithful. The rasing generation should labor to obtain the Spirit of God. Get it within you and it will be a continual monitor with you. {15}

In the context of those accounts, and with the understanding that nothing really changes, it is appropriate to recall how President Hugh B. Brown closed the April Conference of 1965. He said,

The men of the Tabernacle Choir will now sing, “The Lord Bless You and Keep You.” …. Brother Condie has suggested that the choir be permitted to sing, after singing this number, President McKay’s choice of all the hymns: “I need Thee Every Hour.” They wanted to do this in honor of our President.{16}


{1} Parley P. Pratt, Key to the Science of Theology/A Voice of Warning (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1965), 101 – 102.)

{2}President David O. McKay, “Radiation of the Individual,” The Instructor, October, 1964, p. 373-374.

{3} Funeral held “in the Tabernacle, Great Salt Lake City, December 4, 1856.” Journal of Discourses 4: 135-136. You can fine the entire funeral sermon in “Favorite Quotes.”

{4} Journal of Discourses, 4: 222.

{5}The dictionaries it the back of different editions of Strong’s Concordance have different definitions. My old first edition sticks closely to the ancient Greek. More modern editions tend to be more politically correct, so here I quote the old edition.

{6} Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord, fn 906, p 680. In this verse, the King James Version uses the phrase “brotherly kindness,” but elsewhere in the New Testament that same Greek word is always translated as “brotherly love” which has a somewhat stronger connotation (Strong: Greek 5360 [first edition, 1894] reads: “philadelphia; fraternal affection: brotherly love (kindness), love of the brethren.” [Emphasis is in original).
This is probably significant. Righteous masculine virtues include priesthood, extended brotherly love, and charity. In contrast, righteous women enjoy the focused yet overriding feminine virtue that has a more singular quality of charity than men have. In the eternities our Father’s objective has always been to bring each of us back to him in the eternal family unit where friendship, love, and charity are the sealing power—timeless in both directions—and where each participates in the creation of endless lives “after their own image”—“as innumerable as the stars” in the heavens (D&C 132:30-31).]; and to brotherly kindness charity.

{7} For a discussion of those verses see Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord, chapter “Calling and Election Made Sure in the Epistles of Peter,” first edition, 679-82, paperback edition 679-82.

{8} Explained in Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord, the entire book.

{9} What I write here will make little sense unless it is read in full context. You can find my discussion of Isaiah 61 under “scriptures” in this website.

{10} For further discussion see “3 Nephi 12:7 & Alma 38:1-15 — LeGrand Baker — duties of priesthood and kingship.” Also, Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord, chapter “Calling and Election Made Sure in the Epistles of Peter,” paperback edition 680.

{11} You can also find them in “Other Writings,” as “Get the Spirit of God in our life.”

{12} “Diary of Olive B. Huntington, 1847-1900, Part II, Copied by the Brigham Young University Library, 1942,” p. 279-280. (Typed copy in special collections.)

{13} Journal of Discourses, 21: 317-318.

{14} Deseret Weekly, Salt Lake City, November 7, 1896. vol. 53: 642-643.

{15} Conference Report, April 1898, p 31.

{16} Conference Report, April 1965, p. 96.


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