The January 2011 issue of Ensign magazine reprinted a portion of a discourse first delivered by Heber C. Kimball in 1854. Mr. Kimball was the First Counselor in the First Presidency when he spoke to the Latter-Day Saints about “The Potter and the Clay.”
As you might guess, Mr. Kimball’s remarks focused on obedience: obedience to God through obedience to “His servants,” which would in turn result in happiness. The discourse has been heavily edited (shortened) to fit the space allotted for “Gospel Classics” in the magazine. Curious about what had not been included (indicated in the Ensign by ellipses), I went to the Journal of Discourses (volume 2, pages 150-154) to read it all in context.
Many of Mr. Kimball’s interesting thoughts didn’t make it into the Ensign. A few examples:
- Kings and princes and other “great men” according to the ways of the world will not have as much power once they enter the spirit world. Mr. Kimball explained, “We can hear of their spirits trying to peep, and mutter, and mock, and rap, and cause tables to dance, and chairs to move from one place to another, but that is all the power they have.”
- Parents who are not sufficiently submissive to the Priesthood will suffer “as God makes their children a scourge to them.” Mr. Kimball warned, “Parents, if you do not listen to counsel, and walk in the path the Priesthood marks out, the Lord will prepare a scourge for you…”
- The Priesthood is worthy of the greatest love and reverence. Mr. Kimball said his prayer was, in part, “that I may always honor the Priesthood, magnify it, reverence it, and love it more than I do my wives and children. If I do that, I know the Priesthood will honor me, and exalt me, and bring me back into the presence of God.”
It’s understandable that these things were not included in the Ensign article since they don’t really address the main point the LDS Church meant to highlight. But one section that was left out seems quite relevant to the topic of obedience. Mr. Kimball told the Saints,
“What you have agreed to do, God will require you to perform, if it should be ten thousand years after this time. And when the servants of God speak to you, and require you to do a thing, the Lord God will fulfil (sic) His words he gave to you through His servants. Inasmuch as you have come into this Church, and made a covenant to forsake the world, and cleave unto the Lord, and keep His commandments, the Lord will compel you to do it, if it should be in ten thousand years from this time. These are my views, and I know it will be so.”
Mr. Kimball’s teaching is a far cry from the comforting idea being promoted by many lay-Mormons these days that God (according to Mormonism) does not require perfect obedience, He only asks for sincerity and good effort. Some Mormons like to say, “If I try my best, Christ will do the rest.” Well, according to LDS Apostle Heber C. Kimball, God is not going to do “the rest.” If you, Mormon, have covenanted in baptism to keep the commandments; if you have covenanted in the temple to obey the law of God; if it takes ten thousand years, you are required by God to do it yourself.
No wonder Mr. Kimball added a caveat when he told the Saints that the person who submits to the providences of God “will feel cheerful and happy in all circumstances”; that is, Mr. Kimball warned, “if he continues to keep the commandments of God.” For in Mr. Kimball’s Mormonism, a failure to do so presents the sincere Latter-day Saint with the decidedly unhappy circumstance described by Mr. Kimball’s grandson, Spencer W. Kimball, as “a long road spiked with thorns and briars and pitfalls and problems” (Miracle of Forgiveness, 149). That is, perhaps ten thousand years of keeping the commandments in an effort to gain forgiveness and eternal life.
The Mormon system will fail every time, given ten thousand years or ten thousand million years. To learn about the Bible’s promise of hope–the Good News that salvation is based on the merits of Christ alone–read Charles Spurgeon’s One Door to Salvation.