|Parley P. Pratt|
(from An Appeal to the Inhabitants of the State of New York, Letter to Queen Victoria, (Reprinted from the Tenth European Edition,) The Fountain of Knowledge; Immortality of the Body, and Intelligence and Affection [Nauvoo: John Taylor, Printer, 1840])
"[p.121]These, like material things, have their origin in eternal, uncreated elements; and like them, must endure forever. They are the foundations of enjoyment, the main-springs of glory and exaltation, and the fountains from which emanate a thousand streams of life, and joy, and gladness; diffused through all worlds, and extending to all extent.
They are the principle roots from which shoot forth innumerable branches, which bud in time, and blossom and ripen in eternity; producing a perfume more delicious than the balmy sweets of Arabia, and fruits more precious than the apples of Eden.
The human mind in infancy, like the body, is small and weak indeed. It neither possesses intelligence nor affection to any great degree; for the latter is the production of the former;—grows with its growth, and strengthens with its strength; and cannot exist independent and separate therefrom.
This infant mind commences to expand, and continues to enlarge itself just in proportion to the truths that are presented for its food, and the time and opportunity it has to digest and comprehend them. If unassociated with other intelligences, it expands but very little,–all its powers remain in a great measure inactive and dormant.
For instance, let an infant be cut off from all communication with other intelligences, let it grow to manhood entirely alone, and it still knows little more than in infancy.
One child may be raised to manhood possessing only the limited knowledge of a Hotentot, while another is made to comprehend the sublime truths of a Newton.
The human mind then, is capable of a constant and gradual expansion to an unlimited extent. In fact, its receptive powers are infinite.
Once set free from the chains of incorrect tradition; and unfettered from the limited creeds and superstition of men, and associated with beings of unlimited intelligence, it may go freely on from truth to truth; enlarge itself like the rays of the morning; circumscribe the earth, and [p.122]soar to the heavens; comprehend the mysteries of the past, and remove the veil from the future; till the wide expanse of eternity, with all its treasures of wisdom, is brought within the range of its com
It is true, that, in this life the progress of the mind in intelligence, is not only gradual, but obstructed in various ways. It has to contend, not only with its own prejudices and the errors of an opposing world, but with innumerable weaknesses, temptations, cares, and troubles, with which it is continually beset.
And finally, its organs are weakened by disease, or worn with age, till it sinks into a backward tendency–loses a portion of that which it has been able to comprehend, and partakes of a kind of secondary childhood.
From this fact, some are ready to conclude, that the mind, like the body, has its limits; its point of maturity, beyond which it can never expand; and that arriving at this climax of maturity, like a full grown plant, it is incapable of a further advance. But this is a mistake. It is not the mind itself that is thus limited and confined within a circle so narrow, but it is the circumstances in which it is placed. That is its bodily organs, once strong and vigorous, are now weakened by disease, or worn with age. Hence, the mind, while connected with them, and dependent on them, is compelled to partake of their weaknesses. And like a strong travellor with a weak companion, or a strong workman with a slender tool, it can only operate as they are able to bear.
What then is the means by which this formidable obstacle can be overcome, and the mind be enabled with renewed vigor, to continue its onward progress in the reception of intelligence?
We will best answer this question by a parable.
A certain child had continued the use of food until its teeth were worn, loosened, and decayed to that degree that they were no longer able to perform their accustomed office. On this account, its food was swallowed in such a manner as not to digest properly.
This soon caused a general weakness and disorder of the system. Some unthinking persons seeing this, came to the conclusion that the child had come to maturity—that it no longer needed its accustomed nourishment, but must gradually sink and die. But in process of time; nature provided its own remedy. The old teeth were shed, and a new set more strong and durable took their place. The system being thus restored in every part to a full, vigorous and healthy action, was enabled to make rapid progress towards perfection, and to receive and digest food far more strong and hard of digestion than before.
So with the organs of the mind. This temporary body, frail and mortal, is to the mind what the children’s teeth are to the system. Like them it answers a momentary purpose, and like them its organs become [p.123]decayed and weakened by age and use; so that many truths which present themselves to the mind, cannot be properly digested while dependent on such weak organs.
But let this feeble and decayed body share the fate of the child’s first set of teeth—let it be plucked by death, and the mind set free. Nay, rather let it be renewed in all the freshness and vigor of eternal life; with organs fresh and strong and durable as the powers of eternal intellect.
And the mind, thus provided with organs, fully adapted to its most ardent powers of action, will find itself no longer constrained to linger on the confines of its former limits, where impatient of restraint, it had struggled in vain for freedom. But like a prisoner, suddenly freed from the iron shackles and gloomy dungeons of a terrible tyrant, it will move nimbly onward with a joyous consciousness of its own liberty. It will renew with redoubled vigor its intellectual feast, and enlarge its field of operations amid the boundless sources of intelligence, till earth, with all its treasures of wisdom and knowledge, becomes too small, and the neighboring worlds too narrow to satisfy a capacity so enlarged. It will then, on wings of faith, and by the power of the spirit waft itself far beyond our visible heavens, and “far above earth’s span of sky” and explore other suns, and other systems; and hold communion with other intelligences more remote than our weak minds can possibly conceive.
In these researches and discoveries, the mind will be able by degrees to circumscribe the heavens, and to comprehend the heights and depths, and lengths and breadths of the mysteries of eternal truth, and like its maker, comprehend all things; even the deep things of God.
While the mind is thus expanding and increasing in intelligence, the affections will expand and increase in proportion, both in this life and in the life to come.
God is light, God is truth, God is love.
The reason why he loves, is because he is light and truth. Or in other words, he loves because he knows; and in proportion to the extent of his knowledge, or intelligence, so is the extent of his love; and so it is with the human mind.
In infancy, our love is as narrow as our intellectual capacity. But as our intelligence increases, so our affection grows, till from knowing and loving our mother, we begin to know and love the circle of our immediate kindred and family. We soon begin to know and love our fathers, our brothers, our sisters, and finally our uncles, aunts and cousins, and our neighbors; and so on, continuing to enlarge our knowledge and consequently our love, till it circumscribes our nation, and finally all mankind. But still, it is far from being perfect. As we advance in the knowledge of all our social connections, duties, dependences, relation-[p.124]ships, and obligations, our affections still increase; and as we raise our thoughts to worlds on high, and begin to know something of our Heavenly Father, of our Redeemer, and of angels and spirits who inhabit other and better worlds, and of our relationships to them, we begin to love them. And the more we know of them the more we love them. Thus, love or affection is dependent on knowledge, or intelligence, and can only be increased by an increase of knowledge.
These two principles are the foundations, the fountains of all real happiness.
Some persons have supposed that our natural affections were the results of a fallen and corrupt nature, and that they are “carnal, sensual, and devilish,” and therefore ought to be resisted, subdued, or overcome as so many evils which prevent our perfection, or progress in the spiritual life. In short, that they should be greatly subdued in this world, and in the world to come entirely done away. And even our intelligence also.
Such persons frequently inquire whither they shall recognise their kindred or friends in the life to come? They also caution themselves and others, lest they should love their child, their companion, their brother, sister, or mother too well; for, say they, if you love them too well, it will offend your God and he will take them from you.
Such persons have mistaken the source and fountain of happiness altogether. They have not one correct idea of the nature of the enjoyments, or happiness of heaven, or earth; of this life or any other. If intelligence and affection are to decrease to such a low ebb that we shall neither recognise or love our kindred and friends, then a stone, a block of wood, or a picture on the wall is as capable of the enjoyments of heaven as we are.
So far from this being the case, our natural affections are planted in us by the Spirit of God, for a wise purpose; and they are the very main-springs of life and happiness—they are the cement of all virtuous and heavenly society—they are the essence of charity, or love; and therefore never fail, but endure forever.
There is not a more pure and holy principle in existence than the affection which glows in the bosom of a virtuous man for his companion; for his parents, brothers, sisters, and children.
If there be one scene in heaven or on earth, capable of calling forth the most refined sensibilities of our nature, it is the expressions of love which kindle into rapture, and which flow out in the soul of a woman towards her infant.
So pure, so chaste, so tender and benevolent, so simple, so ardent and sincere, and so disinterested is this principle, that it could only have been kindled by the inspiration of a spirit direct from the fountain of eternal, everlasting love.
[p.125]These pure affections are inspired in our bosoms, and interwoven with our nature by an all wise and benevolent being, who rejoices in the happiness and welfare of his creatures. All his revelations to man, touching this subject, are calculated to approve, encourage, and strengthen these emotions, and to increase and perfect them; that man, enlightened and taught of God, may be more free, more social, cheerful, happy, kind, familiar, and lovely than he was before; that he may fill all the relationships of life, and act in every sphere of usefulness with a greater energy, and with a readier mind, and a more willing heart.
All the monkish austerity, all the sadness and reserve, all the unsocial feelings and doings of priests, and monks, and nuns; all the long-facedness, unsocial sadness, groanings, sighs, and mortifications of sectaries, whether of ancient convents, where men and women retire from all the busy scenes and pleasures of life, to live a life of celibacy, self-denial and devotion; or whether in the more modern and fashionable circles of the camp meetings, or the “mourners bench.”
All these, I say, are expressly and entirely opposed to the spirit, and objects of true religion; they are so many relics of superstition, ignorance, and hypocrisy, and are expressly forbidden, and condemned by our Lord and Saviour.
In all these things, man has mistaken the source of happiness; has been dissatisfied with the elements and attributes of his nature, and has tried, and sought, and prayed, in vain to make himself into a different being from what the Lord has wisely designed he should be.
The fact is, God made man, male and female; he planted in their bosoms those affections which are calculated to promote their happiness and union.
That by that union they might fulfil the first and great commandment; viz: “To multiply and replenish the earth, and subdue it.”
From this union of affection, springs all the other relationships, social joys and affections, diffused through every branch of human existence.
And were it not for this, earth would be a desert wild, an uncultivated wilderness.
Man was designed for a social being; he was made to cultivate, beautify, possess, enjoy and govern the earth; and to fill it with myriads of happy, free and social intelligences.
Woman was made for him as a help and a comfort. All the faculties of his nature, are precisely adapted to his several duties and enjoyments. He owes a duty to his wife, to his parents, to his children, to his brothers and sisters, and kindred, and finally to his neighbors, his nation, and to all mankind. He also owes a duty to the earth, and to his God. These several spheres of action are termed in modern times; political, civil, [p.126]moral, social, domestic, foreign, religious, etc., etc. But they may all be summed up in one term, viz: religious.
Pure religion, includes all these duties, they are all religious duties; and the man who fulfils his religious duties and obligation; acts well his part in every department of life; he is a good citizen, a good ruler, a good general, a good neighbor, a good father, a good husband, a good child, and a good member of society; according as his lot may be cast, or according to the trust committed to him. And he receives and imparts a portion of happiness on every sphere in which he moves.
The man who, through a mistaken zeal, or through the influence of ignorant teachings or incorrect traditions, so far mistakes the object and purpose of his being, as to withdraw from all these; to shut himself from the world, and to seek to overcome and subdue the natural affections with which God has endowed him, is not a religious man at all. On the contrary, he is opposing the will and commandments of God, and neglecting the duties of religion.
How often do we hear of persons, and even whole societies who hold that a religious man or community should have nothing to do with politics, government, and office. Such persons judge of the depth of a man’s religion by his indifference to, or retirement from the arduous duties of family, church, or state.
How different is this notion from the facts of the case, if we may judge either from common sense, or from precepts and examples set before us by God’s people.
Witness, Adam, Noah, Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Samuel, David, Solomon, Elijah, Daniel, Mordica, Esther, and thousands of others of God’s prophets and wise men, all medling with civil religious, and political government, and with temporal duties, and financial interests! and who so well qualified as they for to forecast devices, and manage affairs for the good and salvation of man? Think of Jesus himself who came into the world for the very purpose of being a king, and who is yet waiting for the glorious time when he will descend to earth again, and reign over all the kingdoms of the world. Think of Paul, who declares that the saints shall judge the world, and judge angels, how much more than the smaller matters?
Man, know thy self,—study thine own nature,—learn thy powers of body,–thy capacity of mind. Learn thine origin, thy purpose and thy destiny. Study the true source of thine own mind. Learn thine origin, thy purpose and thy destiny. Study the true source of thine own happiness, and the happiness of all beings with which thou art associated. Learn to act in unison with thy true character, nature and attributes; and thus improve and cultivate the resources within and around thee. This will render you truly happy, and be an acceptable service to your God. And being [p.127]faithful over a few things, you may hope to be made ruler over many things
What then is sinful? I answer, our unnatural passions and affections, or in other words the abuse, the perversion, the unlawful indulgence of that which is otherwise good. Sodom was not destroyed for their natural affection; but for the want of it. They had perverted all their affections, and had given place to that which was unnatural, and contrary to nature. Thus they had lost those holy and pure principles of virtue and love which were calculated to preserve and exalt mankind; and were overwhelmed in all manner of corruption; and also hatred towards those who were good.
So it was with the nations of Canaan who were doomed to destruction by the Israelites. And so it was with the Greeks, Romans, and other Gentiles in the days of Paul. Hence his testimony against their wicked works, and his warnings to the churches to beware of these carnal sinful, corrupt and impure works of the flesh; all of which were more or less interwoven with their natures by reason of long and frequent indulgences therein. Now it was not because men’s natural affections were sinful that all these sins existed; but it was because, wicked customs, contrary to nature, had become so prevalent as to become a kind of second nature.
So it is in the present age; men who do not govern their affections so as to keep them within their proper and lawful channel; but who indulge in every vice, and in unlawful use of that which was originally good, so far pervert it that it becomes to them a minister of evil; and therefore they are led into the other extreme; and begin to accuse their nature, or him that formed them, of evil; and they seek to change their nature; and call upon God to make them into a different being from what he made them at first. In short they seek to divest themselves of a portion of the very attributes of their nature instead of seeking to govern, to improve, and to cultivate and direct their powers of mind and their affections, so as to cause them to contribute to their happiness. All these are the results of incorrect traditions, teachings and practices.
Know then Oh man, that aided and directed by the light of heaven the sources of thy happiness are within and around thee. Instead of seeking unto God for a mysterious change to be wrought, or for your affections and attributes to be taken away and subdued, seek unto him for aid, and wisdom to govern, direct and cultivate them in a manner which will tend to your happiness and exaltation, both in this world and in that which is to come. Yea, pray to him that every affection, attribute, power and energy of your body and mind may be cultivated, increased, enlarged, perfected and exercised for his glory and for the glory and happiness of yourself, and of all those whose good fortune it may be to be associated with you.
[p.128]As we said in the beginning of this subject, we say again; that our intellect and our affection, only buds in time, and ripens in eternity.
There we shall know and love our kindred and our friends: and there we shall be capable of exercising all those pure emotions of friendship and love, which fill our hearts with such inexpressible delight in this world. And not only so, but our love will be far more strong and perfect in many respects. First, because we shall know and realize more. Secondly, because our organs of thought will be more strong and durable. Thirdly, because we shall be free from those mean, selfish, groveling, envious and disagreeable influences which disturb, and hinder the free exercise of our affections in this world. And lastly, because we shall be associated with a more extensive and numerous society, of those who are filled with the same freedom of spirit and affection that we are; and therefore are objects truly worthy of our love. While those of a contrary nature will be banished to their own place, and not suffered to mingle in the society, or mar the peace of those who have gotten the victory.
Having discovered and set forth in plainness the origin, purpose, and destiny of man’s physical organization and the powers, attributes, energies, affections and capabilities of his intellect, till we find him standing erect in God-like majesty, with organs of strength beyond the reach of death: and powers of thought, capable of spaning the heavens, and comprehending all things: We must now inquire into the nature of his employment in that eternal world of joy and bliss.
On this subject as on most others, where investigation has been considered a sin, men have greatly erred.
They have supposed that this short life was the only active one; and that the world to come was a life of repose, or of inactive and eternal rest; where all our powers of body and mind would remain dormant, or only be engaged in shouts, songs and acclamations. To prove this we offer here quotations like the following:
“There is no work, nor device, nor knowledge in the grave whither thou goest.” “As the tree falleth so it lieth.” “As death leaves us, so judgment will find us.”
To the first of these we would reply that the spirit never goes to the grave; and the body does not stay in it long. And beyond it, in the regions of eternal life there is abundance of work, knowledge and device. To the second, we would say, that the tree lieth as it falleth until it is removed, and used for some other purpose. And to the third, we reply, that it is a sectarian proverb, instead of a scripture; and by the by a false one too. For death leaves us in the grave, with body and spirit separated; and judgment finds us risen from the grave, and spirit and body united.
Thus organized a new, we are prepared to enter upon a life of business and usefulness, in a sphere vastly enlarged and extended. [p.129]Possessing a priesthood after the order of Melchesideck; or, after the order of the son of God; which is after the power of an endless life, without beginning of days or ending of years, a priesthood which includes a scepter and kingly office; we are more fully than ever qualified to teach, to judge, to rule and govern; and to go and come on foreign missions. The field of our labors may then extend for aught we know to the most distant worlds–to climes where mortal eye never penetrated. Or we may visit the dark and gloomy regions of the spirits in prison, and there, like a risen Jesus, preach the gospel to those who are dead; “that they may be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.”
Or we may be called upon, with the other sons of God to shout for joy, at the organization of new systems of worlds, and new orders of being; over which we may reign as kings, or to whom we may minister as priests.
These ideas may be considered by some as mere flights of fancy no where supported by positive evidence. But we contend that the very nature of our existence and of our priesthood is such as to warrant the conclusion to which we have arrived. But if proof were wanting, we have only to refer, as a precedent, to the active life and ministry of a risen Jesus; and to his administration as king of kings and lord of lords: as well as to the promises made by him to those whom he had sent. It appears that Jesus Christ after rising from the dead, immediately entered upon a most active ministry; in which he taught, expounded, opened the scriptures, commanded, commissioned, prophesied and blessed. By this means he laid the foundation for his kingdom to be established not only among the Jews and Gentiles; but also among the Nephites and the lost tribes of Israel. He also visited the spirits of the dead and preached the gospel unto them, as is recorded in one of the Epistles of Peter. Not only so, but he assended to realms of exalted glory, where seated on a throne, he still is active both as a king and priest. And, if we look into the future, we shall find that he has yet a great work to do upon the earth, not only as a judge, king and priest; but as an executor, warrior, and a military commander. For he will tread them in his anger and trample them in his fury, and stain his raiment with their blood; while all the armies in heaven follow him in martial splendor, mounted on white horses, and all arrayed in a uniform of spotless white. This same Jesus confered on his apostles an everlasting priesthood, after his own order: as it is written: “As the father hath sent me, even so I send you.” “And the works that I do shall you do also.”
He also promised to be with them always even unto the end of the world; and therefore is yet with them in their labors and ministry, whether as men or angels. Those who suppose a man’s office or priest-[p.130]hood to end with this life have been in the habit of applying that promise, as if it only ment them and their successors; but he said no such thing. But rather that he would be with them always unto the end of the world. If they had successors, it was then time enough for similar promises to be made to them, when they in turn should enter upon their holy and sacred office of the apostleship and priesthood.
These apostles not only hold the perpetual office of the apostleship and priesthood: but also partake of kingly power. Hence it is written “they shall sit on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” And this too, when the son of man shall come in his glory. Then will be fulfilled that which was recorded by John, saying: “thou hast made us unto our God kings and priests; and we shall reign on the earth.” In view of an eternal kingdom, and of an immortal reign and ministry, they might well rejoice when arraigned before the dreadful tribunals of earthly tyrants, knowing as they did that they should reign in turn, and that their persecutors would be in turn arraigned before a judgment bar.
From all these and a thousand other promises made to prophets and apostles, we feel safe in the conclusion, that a field wide as eternity and boundless as the ocean of God’s benevolence, extends before the servants of God. A field where, ambition knows no check, and zeal no limits; and where the most ardent aspirations may be more than realized. A field where crowns of glory, thrones of power and dominions of immortality are the rewards of dilligence. And where man—once a weak and helpless worm of dust may sit enthroned in majesty on high, and occupy an exalted station among the councils of the sons of God."