Heber C. Kimball’s Potter and Clay

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.

About Sharon Lindbloom

Sharon surrendered her life to the Lord Jesus Christ in 1979. Deeply passionate about Truth, Sharon loves serving as a full-time volunteer research associate with Mormonism Research Ministry. Sharon and her husband live in Minnesota.
This entry was posted in Salvation, Worthiness and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

73 Responses to Heber C. Kimball’s Potter and Clay

  1. Jeff B says:


    Sorry, made the mistake with the hebrew/greek thing.. posted too quickly.

    On another note,

    The word perfection was used with specific traits in mind. Not the traits YOU think what makes a person "perfect" (sinless).

    My mother could say to me "Be fantastic like your father!" Well what does that mean? It means whatever she intended it to mean, not what I read into it. Fantastic to her would include a set of qualities or traits.

    Here's a definition from a greek lexicon, the greek word teleios is what translates to perfect: teleios tel'-i-os: complete (in various applications of labor, growth, mental and moral character, etc.); neuter completeness — of full age, man, perfect.

    Nowhere does it say sinless. All you have to do is a simple search into the lexicon to see you are wrong.

    I'm not fighting with you Melo, just look it up. I am not Mormon, far from it.

  2. falcon says:

    Thanks for the encouragement. It's an interesting dynamic that some, having been exposed to the Word of God have that head smack, AHA Eureka moment were they get it. Some on-the-other-hand are led out of Mormonism, not by the Spirit of God but by their own disgust at the lies, cover-ups, misrepresentations and just plain grind of the Mormon system. The former have that born again experience while the latter become religion neutral or atheists. Funny how that works.

  3. aowyn says:

    To add to Sharon's recommended link on the New Perspective, there's also this brand new book. It's been called one of the best resources on the NPP.

    Gospel Clarity: Challenging the New Perspective on Paul (Paperback)

  4. wyomingwilly says:

    Martin, well said. It is my feeling also that Mormonism [ Mormon prophets and apostles ] is indeed a
    roadblock in the way of sincere LDS who are striving to serve God. These men have proven to be not
    reliable to teach consistant truth. Their " counsel" on vital issues has been wishy washy to many times.
    That should scare the dickens out of truth respecting LDS. Being reluctant to dismiss these men as
    having the spiritual control over them as teachers, sincere LDS thus place themselves behind a
    roadblock to a more fuller and ultimate relationship with God. ww

  5. mantis_mutu says:

    wyomingwilly: What about the claim of Mormonism that their prophets and apostles are the
    authority to clarify and interpret the written Word ? These claims of reliability in teaching correct
    doctrine are numerous : These leaders provide a source for " unpolluted guidance " ; " the Pres. of
    the Church will never teach us false doctrine " [ references available] .

    Mormons, like Christians & other religious people everywhere, would like to conveniently package God's word into a system that leaves no doubt or ambiguity. Catholics (traditionally) claim the Pope, Protestants the Bible, & Mormons the Prophet & their new scripture. IMO, all claims are in danger of limiting something that simply cannot be limited: God's word.

    While I believe in & accept the authority of the LDS Church as the sole caretakers of the sacraments of Christ's church, I do not simply accept counsel from the First Presidency as if it were straight from God. I don't even feel comfortable calling the president of the Church "the Prophet," because of the convenient handcuffing of God that is often implied by such designation. Sustain him as "prophet," yes; assume him as prophet, no. The belief that God can speak through anyone at any time was an important dynamic within the early Mormon Church that has been for the most part silenced. And that indeed concerns me. While the ever-cantankerous Falcon sees my & other Mormons' presence on this board simply as an escape for those of us torn in our faith and trying to reinvent ourselves (that's not his words, but that's more or less how I interpreted his accusations from the other day), for me, I find a place here where to some degree I can talk about the Gospel in a way that escapes the fluff typical of Mormon in-house presentation. I'd like to think Paul had similar reasons for expanding the Gospel to the gentiles. After all, Jesus, like Paul and Joseph Smith, taught that truth was to be found in all things, and that once found, was not to be hid.

    As for my faith, I believe that Jesus restored his Gospel to Joseph Smith in a way that spoke strongly to Protestant America. It spoke to their Christian hopes, & to their Christian beliefs. The LDS Church, on the other hand, has in large measure neglected the Word of God & replaced it with alternate teachings — to the point that we know neither the language of our fellow Christians, nor the language of our own scriptures. Some of this negligence is pointed out on this board on occasion, & while I have rather severe issues with Evangelical theology, & Protestant theology, generally, I have learned a lot about Mormon Christianity from dialoguing with my fellow Christians over the years. Very often, for instance, the Book of Mormon clearly addresses a specific Protestant doctrine that Mormons have so removed themselves from that they miss a vital meaning of the scripture. I actually had an important Book of Mormon scripture pointed out to me for the first time quite a few years back by an Evangelical preacher at a Mormon pageant, & in the process not only became his friend (of many years), but have never quit dialoguing with my Protestant neighbors. It was the beginning of a long commitment to a form of learning that I wish other Mormons would find the value in.

    Though fmelo & others here would like to write the Book of Mormon off as a hodgepodge of Protestantism & King James Bible, I know it is something much more complex than that. Its importance is certainly not eclipsed by any prophecy or motion that might come from the First Presidency. Sometimes Mormon rhetoric might have outsiders think otherwise, but every Mormon worthy his or her salt knows the great miracle that the Book of Mormon is. It's not just counsel from a designated mouthpiece over the Church; it's the word of God in the purest sense.

    That is my belief.

    Sincerely, mutu.

  6. f_melo,

    What a fantastic summary list of quotes! Thanks for pulling them together.

    It's my turn to copy your post into my "quote book".

  7. f_melo says:

    He also was trying to imply that he looked into the meaning of the greek word translated grace, as if he had somehow discovered that the way it has been translated and understood until now is wrong… even within the context the Bible gives.

  8. f_melo says:

    "IMO, all claims are in danger of limiting something that simply cannot be limited: God's word"

    There you go again – so, are you or are you not supposed to trust modern-day prophets to deliver you the faithful word of God? If not, then why do you need them? Just hire managers…
    Also, while God is not limited, He can´t contradict Himself – that was one of the things WW was referring to.

    "It spoke to their Christian hopes, & to their Christian beliefs"

    Yes, that there´s no assurance of Salvation, but you still have to work real hard to get that temple recommend to stay in the race.

    " The LDS Church, on the other hand, has in large measure neglected the Word of God & replaced it with alternate teachings — to the point that we know neither the language of our fellow Christians, nor the language of our own scriptures"

    You want to change that? Drop the "becoming a god" thing and put Jesus back where He belongs, as the Alpha and Omega. Take Joseph down from his pedestal and put him where he belongs too, and stop singing hymns to him and his "greatness".

    Mutu, can you do those things, confronting the current prophet without risking being excommunicated? Is that truly a Church of God guided by men with real inspiration? I don´t think so.

    "the Book of Mormon clearly addresses a specific Protestant doctrine that Mormons have so removed themselves from that they miss a vital meaning of the scripture"

    Isn´t that another proof that the BoM isn´t ancient scripture?

    "It was the beginning of a long commitment to a form of learning that I wish other Mormons would find the value in" – I agree with you, and i wish the Mormon Church i grew up in instead of hiding out its true history and teaching falsely about historic Christian doctrines, that they would actually have encouraged that dialogue. They could have behaved like a Protestant denomination, you know, let people free to come and go, and go back, etc…. It would have avoided much of the misery the people who decide to leave experience.

    "I don't even feel comfortable calling the president of the Church "the Prophet," because of the convenient handcuffing of God that is often implied by such designation"

    Why do you sustain him as such, and if you´re of such opinion how do you answer your temple recommend questions? The handcuffing of God is not in the designation of a prophet – it´s in the Church corporate-like structure that BY REVELATION has determined those things will work that way – and that means that supposedly God handcuffed Himself… that´s one of the many reasons the Mormon Church is false and can´t EVEN BEGIN to compare to the way things worked in the Old Testament where God Himself called the prophets, even to chastise men He Himself put in power such as King David and others…

  9. falcon says:

    Let me try and make my point again because I think it's important. There are many different "types" of Mormons as those of you who have been Mormons can testify to. There is a type that enjoys engaging Christians in discussions regarding various aspects of religious doctrine. They find it stimulating and if not rancorous, quite rewarding. And so we talk about these various topics be it grace or keeping the commandments or baptism and so forth. Now this type of Mormon doesn't want to talk about Joseph Smith running about the countryside at night with his magic rock looking for buried treasure and the fact that he was hauled into court because of this activity. They don't want to talk about the fact that Smith shoved his face in his hat having first put his magic rock into it, in order to receive messages from god, or Moroni or any other spirit being that appeared to him. This stuff is just not stimulating enough and it's provocative and they get sick of having to defend this reprobate that they have convinced themselves was a great prophet.
    They want to move on! But at the end of the day it all comes down to/back to, the man with the magic rock and the tall tales. So do we do these type of Mormons a service by engaging them in discussions that could be called higher order thinking avoiding the truly embarrassing and bizarre topics that really make up the heart of Mormonism (like the dead signers of the Declaration of Independence appearing to one of their prophets demanding that the work for the dead be done for them).
    It seems these intellectually oriented Mormons want to be accepted and taken seriously. But quite honestly to me it's just avoiding the inevitable. They have accepted Mormonism emotionally and now they must try to find some evidence to support what they enjoy feeling.

  10. f_melo says:

    Hey, don´t be afraid to point out that i´m wrong, even if you were a mormon – i´ll only fight if i think the person is being intentionally disingenuous… but your post was just fine and it makes sense. I´ll check that out. Thank you.

    Everybody here knows that i´m a big newbie! Yet i had been so committed to the Mormon Church until a few months ago that i really get irritated when mormons try to pull a fast one that is intentionally designed to deceive people who don´t know better – even in the face of Gordon B. HInckley saying that their Jesus is a different Jesus, that they repudiate Protestant doctrines(that just happened again last General Conference, about the Priesthood of all believers), that you could throw entire historic Christianity in the garbage can because it´s all corrupted, etc.

    I didn´t jump on Terceiro until his third of fourth post last Article, when he was committed to convincing everyone that Mormons don´t earn their Exaltation(grace and works instead of grace alone), just to then, at the end of the discussion, admit it.

  11. f_melo says:

    It´s funny and terribly sad at the same time. I´m beginning to be convinced that has to do with people in general being so naive when it comes to religion. All one has to do is to do just a quick study of history to see that people´s faith has been used and abused since mankind began, and that has never changed. Jesus and the Apostles warned of that so many times.

    Rev 2:2 "I know your works, and your labor, and your endurance, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you tested those who say that they are apostles and they are not, and you found them to be liars;

  12. f_melo says:

    Martin, while i´m tempted to feel flattered, i have to confess i wasn´t the one who pulled them together. I took a short break from work and did a google search to see if i could find anything to give me some ground to start from.

    I just copied some of those from this site: http://www.justforcatholics.org/a84.htm

    sorry if i disappointed you 😛

  13. mantis_mutu says:

    fmelo, you need to let go of the hate, man.


  14. f_melo says:

    What hate? You were the one worked out when i exposed the Law of Communism you tried to point out in Acts…

    but i do hate deceit, if that´s what you´re referring to, and if it depended on me not a single person would be baptized into the Mormon Church without hearing the full story from both sides.

  15. wyomingwilly says:

    Mutu, thanks for the reply. I also want to thank you for sharing your story, and where you stand as a
    Mormon. I kinda sensed, by what you said a couple months ago, that you are not as submissive to
    the heirarchy of your church as some of the other Mormons who post here from time to time. You
    mentioned that you felt that if someone was trying to give up smoking or tobacco that they should'nt
    barred from the Temple ( I believe if my memory serves me correct ). Thank you for being open
    about this. Your position seems to me to be somewhat precarious. As I read the authoritive claims
    and promises of your prophet and apostles it seems to me they might not appreciate your views. { con't }

  16. wyomingwilly says:

    [ con't ] Here is an example of one such claim. : " The time will never come when we will not be able
    to put confidence and exercise faith in the teachings and in the instruction of those who lead us. I am
    satisfied of this for I know the promises of the Lord are sure. I know that these things are true, the Lord
    has not forsaken His people and will be with them even to the end. Therefore it behooves us, as
    Latter-day Saints, to put our trust in the presiding authorities of the Church, in the Priesthood of God, and
    except their teachings. No man ever went astray by following the counsel of the authorities of the Church. "
    [ Conf. report Oct. 1912 Elder Joseph F Smith Jr

    " It should be remembered that Lucifer has a very cunning way of convincing unsuspecting souls that the
    General Authorities of the Church are as likely to be wrong as they are to be right. This sort of game is
    Satan's favorite pastime…. He specializes in suggesting that our leaders are in error while he plays the blinding rays of apostasy in the eyes of those whom he thus beguiles. What cunning!. And to think that some of our members are deceived by this trickery. " [ Deseret News, church section 5-26-1945 ] [ con't ]

  17. wyomingwilly says:

    [ con't ] Mutu, as we see here the claims of authority of revealing truths from God, and of being reliable
    in doing so is unmistakable. Based on the review of teachings of Mormon prophets and apostles,
    especially since Brigham Young's reign, reveals a pattern of inaccurate teachings. These men were
    no doubt sincere and perhaps lived moral lives, but a false prophet/teacher isn't always like a
    Brian David Mitchell, many false prophets can be sincere family oriented men, but they have failed to
    rightly divide the Word, and have actually failed to have heard from God in some of their important
    doctrines. This brings God's displeasure, and sincere LDS like yourself need to walk from these
    prophets, who are road blocks, as it were, to experiencing a fuller relationship with God, and walk to
    The Prophet who also happens to be The Lord of Lords and the King of Kings. This is easier said than
    done. May God grant LDS the strength to do so. Heb. 1:2 : 7:25. ww

  18. falcon says:

    Congratulations pal,
    You're living rent free in mutu's head! I can tell you exMormons are more than the followers of Joseph Smith can handle. You're a threat because you've rejected the false beliefs of Mormonism and have found who God really is.
    All of the intellectually sounding posts these guys write fall a part in the face of someone who got to the bottom of the myth and rejected it. It's funny what comes out when these guys are squeezed!

  19. clyde says:

    How would you know? It is a good hypothetical question. If I were able to follow you around I could probably find something that I thought you were doing was wrong. however I would be seeing it through my standards and not Gods.

  20. Martin_from_brisbane says:


    I'm not disappointed at all. It does not matter if you found the material, or someone else. I am actually heartened to find that, after 2000 years, or so, the Christian gospel has remained what is was in the time of Jesus and the apostles.

  21. Martin_From_brisbane says:

    Mutu wrote<block quote>…you need to let go of the hate, man</block quote>
    …said the specialist financier to the galillean construction worker, who had just disrupted his business in the temple court with a very poor example of non-violent protest.

    The financier was later quoted as saying,"all we were doing was facilitating worship in the temple of God, by allowing people to change their corrupted Worldly money for clean money, so they could buy sacrifices with unpolluted currency. What's wrong with that?"

  22. RalphNWatts says:

    fmelo said,

    ”First, Jesus disciples were among the poorest of people, they were the lowest class in the economic food chain. They had close to nothing and little if any education. So, if afterwards more wealthy people were joining the church that meant they were the only ones actually capable of contributing with wealth, because nobody else had anything.”

    How can you be sure of this? It does not say much at all about the wealth or lack thereof of Jesus’ disciples. But if we look at some things mentioned we find that Matthew was a tax collector – meaning that he was most likely well off and literate. Peter and His brother Andrew were fishermen and owned the boat they fished from while James and John were sons of a man who owned their family boat; so they were most likely comfortable as well. So these 5 already dismiss your supposition of lack of wealth and education.

    But then again, many critics of the LDS church claim that we target the poor and unlearned – I guess we are following our Saviour’s footsteps. 

    You also said –

    ”The Apostles didn´t sustain themselves because they worked full time as missionaries, with the exception of Paul, and maybe others i don´t know, but they didn´t have to, the church was supposed to sustain them in their efforts.”

    And you complain about our First Presidency and the Quorum of the 12 (the equivalent of the Apostles you talk about here) being sustained by the church?

  23. f_melo says:

    "How can you be sure of this? It does not say much at all about the wealth or lack thereof of Jesus’ disciples"

    Do a little be of study, will you. Besides, i wasn´t the one making the point that the real Church at that time was ripping off the rich in a communist fashion.

    "But then again, many critics of the LDS church claim that we target the poor and unlearned – I guess we are following our Saviour’s footsteps"

    Contrary to Jesus, your poor and unlearned converts rarely stay in the church(compare that with the true saints in the first century church that felt it was an honor to be tortured and murdered for Christ) – the church has abysmal retention rates…

    "And you complain about our First Presidency and the Quorum of the 12 (the equivalent of the Apostles you talk about here) being sustained by the church?"

    I complain that those liars and hypocrites have the courage to condemn Christian Pastors who do the same, boasting that they are the only ones who have lay ministry therefore they must be true. What a bunch of liars and hypocrites, they are hired ministers just as much as any Christian Pastor. They are the minister hired by Satan in that temple movie, that mingle scriptures with philosophies of man to become millionaires!

Leave a Reply