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Lazarus sent to bear witness to the relatives of the tortured nobleman that they might escape his sad fate; but Abraham's answer was, "They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them!" "Nay, father Abraham," answered Dives, "but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent." But Abraham said: "If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rose from the dead."*
Referring again to the Savior: unbelievers marvel that Jesus confined his visitations after his resurrection to a few of his faithful followers only to those who already believed on him. Why did he not appear in all the majesty of his immortal life, after his resurrection, before the high priests and the Sanhedrin of the Jews? Before the court of Pilate? Before the rabble who had impeously clamored in the streets for his blood to be upon them and upon their children. Why? The only answer to this question exists in the fact apparent from the whole course of God's dealings with the world in relation to sacred things; viz., God has chosen certain witnesses for himself in relation to sacred matters, and demands that his children shall walk in faith on the words which his chosen servants declare unto them. Thus Peter, on the matter of Christ showing himself to the world, says:
Him God raised up the third day, and showed him openly; not to all the people, but unto witnessess chosen before of God, even to us who did eat and drink with him after he rose from the dead. And he commanded us to preach, and to testify that it is he which was ordained of God to be the judge of the quick and dead.†
Judas (one of the twelve, not Iscariot, but the brother of James) on one occasion asked the same question that infidels have been asking for many generations, "How is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world?" Jesus answered and said unto him, "If a man love me, he will keep my words; and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father's which sent me. These things have I spoken unto you,
*Luke xvi: 13, 31.
* * *
being yet present with you. But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.' Such is the Christ's answer to the question of his disciple, and in it one sees that God has ordained that in addition to the special witnesses, the prophets, whom he ordains to testify of his truth, that the Holy Spirit shall be his supreme and universal witness for things divine. "If a man love me he will keep my words: These things have I spoken unto you being yet with you. But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things.† When the Comforter is come whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of Truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me, and ye also shall bear witness because ye have been with me from the beginning."+ "I give you to understand that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed; and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost."§ God, in his wisdom, and for the accomplishment of his own wise purposes with reference to us, has ordained that his children in this world's probation shall walk by faith, not by sight. To produce that faith, he sends forth special chosen servants, prophets, apostles, his own Son, and through them makes known the divine will. Then when drawn to God by this faith, when made loveinspired towards God, he gives the witness of the Holy Spirit, by and through which man may know the truth, for he becomes possessed of the very spirit of divine intelligence and of truth, by which power he is made to know all that is true.
These principles obtain in this last dispensation of the gospel, at the head of which stands Joseph Smith as prophet and president. He comes as did Noah, Enoch, Moses, the prophets, Christ and the apostles he comes with a message from God,-with a new volume of scripture, whose express purpose is to enlarge the
* John xiv: 22-26.
† John xiv: 26.
John xv: 26, 27.
§ I Cor. xii: 3.
foundations of faith. He and his associates bear witness of its truth, and those who will give heed to that testimony, and will seek to God for further knowledge, are expressly promised in the Book of Mormon itself, that they shall receive a manifestation of its truth by the power of the Holy Ghost; "And by the power of the Holy Ghost," says this Nephite record, "ye may know the truth of all things."* Throughout, it will be seen that in this matter of the Book of Mormon the divine Power is acting in harmony with those great principles which have been operating in the spiritual economy of this world from the beginning; which fact, in reality, is at least an incidental testimony of the truth of the work.
In the light of all these reflections, then, together with the fact that part of the Book of Mormon was sealed, the time not then having arrived for its translation, there is nothing remarkable in the circumstance of the Nephite plates being returned to the care of the angel guardian of them. Certainly there is nothing unreasonable in such a procedure, and surely nothing in the circumstance that warrants the ridicule with which that statement has sometimes been received. Moreover, human guardianship of such things is by no means as secure as some may conceive it to be. Take for example the fate which befell the Egyptian papyrus from which the Prophet translated the Book of Abraham. It is an item of Church history that in 1835 the Saints in Kirtland purchased, of one Michael H. Chandler, some Egyptian mummies, in the sarcophagus of which was found certain rolls of papyrus, beautifully engraved with Egyptian characters.
* Behold I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam, even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts. And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost; and by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things (Moroni x: 3-5).
Upon examination, Joseph Smith found the papyrus to be the writings of Abraham and of Joseph, the son of Jacob, who was sold into Egypt. Portions of these records the Prophet translated into the English language, and the translation was published in the Times and Seasons, volume III, and subsequently made part of the "Pearl of Great Price." After the death of the Prophet, the mummies together with the records on papyrus were left in charge of his mother, Lucy Smith. She afterwards parted with them, under what circumstances is not positively known. Finally, the records and mummies found their way into Wood's Museum, in Chicago, where, according to the statement of the editors of the Plano edition of "Biographical Sketches of Joseph Smith and his Progenitors," by Lucy Smith, they were destroyed in the Chicago fire of 1871.* Thus the writings of Abraham, after being preserved for many generations in the linen wrappings of Egyptian mummies, were consumed by fire in a modern city, a circumstance which illustrates the uncertainty of human means to preserve important documents, and justifies angel guardianship of a record as sacred as are the plates from which the Book of Mormon was translated.
Another incident connected with the probability of Joseph Smith's story concerning the Book of Mormon, and which, like the circumstance of the Prophet returning the plates to the angel, meets with ridicule, is the loss of the 116 pages of manuscript, through the unfaithfulness of Martin Harris. This subject is spoken of at length in chapter five, of M. I. A. Manual for 1903-4, a brief summary of its main points, however, is given here:
After acting for some time as amanuensis to the Prophet Joseph, in the work of translation, Harris repeatedly importuned him for permission to show as much of the work as they had translated to a number of his relatives and friends. The Prophet believing this request beyond his right to grant, under the strict instructions he had received from the angel, presented the request of Harris to the Lord, with the result that it was denied. Harris. still importuned, and again the Prophet asked permission to grant
* See Plano edition of the above named work, 1880, note on page 91.
this request, notwithstanding the will of the Lord was known; and the second time the request was denied. Finally, however, after further importuning, under strict instructions and limitations, permission was granted for Harris to take possession of the manuscript, and read it to those whom he had named-Preserved Harris, his own wife, his father and mother, and a Mrs. Cobb, his wife's sister. Harris repaired to Palmyra, where he read the manuscript to members of his own family, and others not included among those to whom he was permitted under his agreement with the Prophet to read it.* The manuscript was finally stolen from him, and for a time and even now-what fate overtook it, is uncertain.
This incident, as we have already stated at length,† lost to Joseph Smith, for a time, the gift of translation, and also possession of the plates and Urim and Thummim; but through sincere repentance, he was received again into the favor of the Lord.
On being permitted to resume the work of translation, however, the Prophet was informed through divine communication that those who had stolen the manuscript from Harris, designed to hold it until he should translate again that part which had fallen into their hands. If the Prophet's second translation should be like the first, then it was the intention of the conspirators to change the manuscript in their possession, and claim that the translation was not obtained by divine aid, else the second would be like the first; but since it would by this trick be proved to be different, the claim of divine inspiration in the translation of the book must fall to the ground, and Joseph Smith's pretension to being a Seer and Prophet of God would fall with it; and thus the work God designed to accomplish through him would be destroyed. The Lord revealed this plot to Joseph Smith, and warned him not to translate again Moroni's abridgment of the Book of Lehi which comprised so much of the manuscript as had been entrusted to Harris. On the contrary, he was commanded to
* History of the Church, vol. I, p. 21.
See Manual 1903-4, chapter v.
See preface to first edition of the Book of Mormon.