An Oration by Elder Parley P. Pratt, Delivered on the Northeast Corner Stone of the Temple at Great Salt Lake City, after the Twelve Apostles, the First Presidency of the Seventies, and the Presidency of the Elders’ Quorum had laid the Stone, April 6, 1853.
“And when they shall say unto you: Seek unto them that have familiar spirits, and unto wizards that peep and mutter—should not a people seek unto their God for the living to hear from the dead?”
The foregoing text was copied by Nephi, from the Book of Isaiah, about six hundred years before Christ, and is now contained in the second Book of Nephi, chap. ix.
For the last few years the world has been disturbed very much by alleged communications from the world of spirits. “Mesmerism,” “Clairvoyance,” “Spiritual Knockings,” “Writing Mediums,” &c., are said to be channels of communication between the living and the dead. How often one meets with an invitation to seek to some “medium”—to someone “familiar with spirits,” in order to hear from a deceased father, mother, husband, wife, or other relative or friend.
On the other hand, these alleged communications from the spirit world are zealously opposed, on the ground that there is no such philosophy in nature; that there can be no medium of communication between the living and those who have passed the veil of death; and that, therefore, all alleged communications from that source must necessarily be false.
It becomes the Saints to be able on this, as on all other subjects, to judge correctly and understandingly, by their knowledge of the principles of true philosophy, and of the laws of God and nature.
If on the one hand we admit the principle of communication between the spirit world and our own, and yield ourselves to the unreserved or indiscriminate guidance of every spiritual manifestation, we are liable to be led about by every wind of doctrine, and by every kind of spirit which constitute the varieties of being and of thought in the spirit world. Demons, foul or unclean spirits, adulterous or murderous spirits, those who love or make a lie, can communicate with beings in the flesh, as well as those who are more true and virtuous.
Again—The spirits who are ignorant, uncultivated, and who remain in error, can communicate through the same medium as those better informed.
To illustrate this subject, we will consider the telegraphic wire as a medium of communication between New York and Boston.
Through this medium a holy Prophet or Apostle could communicate the holy and sacred words of truth; while through the same, could be communicated words of truth in relation to news, business transactions, the sciences, &c.; and also every species of lie, error, imposition, fraud, &c. Hence, if the people of New York should submit to the guidance of beings in Boston, who communicate with them by telegraph or other mediums, they would be guided by a mixture of intelligence, truth, error, falsehood, &c., in every conceivable variety. So with communications from the spirit world, if we once credit the philosophy or fact of an existing medium of communication.
If, on the other hand, we deny the philosophy or the fact of spiritual communication between the living and those who have died, we deny the very fountain from which emanated the great truths or principles which were the foundation of both the ancient and modern Church.
Who communicated with Jesus and his disciples on the holy mount? Moses and Elias, from the invisible world. Who bestowed upon the Apostles the commission to preach the Gospel to every creature in all the world? He that had passed the veil of death, and had dwelt in the spirit world, yea, he that had ascended far on high above the realms of death, and far beyond all the principalities and powers of the spirit world, and had entered, and been crowned, in the mansions of immortal flesh.
Who communicated with the beloved disciple on the Isle of Patmos, and revealed those sublime truths contained in his prophetic book? He that liveth and was dead, through his angel, who declared to John—Behold, I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren the prophets, that have the testimony of Jesus.
Who communicated with our great modern Prophet, and revealed through him as a medium, the ancient history of a hemisphere, and the records of the ancient dead? Moroni, who had lived upon the earth fourteen hundred years before. Who ordained Joseph the Prophet, and his fellowservant, to the preparatory Priesthood, to baptize for remission of sins? John the Baptist, who had been beheaded! Who ordained our first founders to the Apostleship, to hold the keys of the kingdom of God, in these the times of restoration? Peter, James, and John, from the eternal world. Who instructed him in the mysteries of the Kingdom, and in all things pertaining to Priesthood, law, philosophy, sacred architecture, ordinances, sealings, anointings, baptisms for the dead, and in the mysteries of the first, second, and third heavens, many of which are unlawful to utter? Angels and spirits from the eternal worlds.
Who revealed to him the plan of redemption, and of exaltation for the dead who had died without the Gospel? And the keys and preparations necessary for holy and perpetual converse with Jesus Christ, and with the spirits of just men made perfect, and with the general assembly and Church of the Firstborn, in the holy of holies? Those from the dead!
Again—How do the Saints expect the necessary information by which to complete the ministrations for the salvation and exaltation of their friends who have died?
By one holding the keys of the oracles of God, as a medium through which the living can hear from the dead.
Shall we, then, deny the principle, the philosophy, the fact of communication between worlds? No! Verily no!
The spiritual philosophy of the present age was introduced to the modern world by Joseph Smith. The people of the United States abandoned him to martyrdom, and his followers to fire, and sword, and plunder, and imprisonment, and final banishment to these far-off mountains and deserts, simply because a medium of communication with the invisible world had been found, whereby the living could hear from the dead. No sooner had the people and nation, thus guilty of innocent blood, completed the banishment of the Saints from their midst, than they began to adopt some of the same principles of spiritual philosophy, although in a perverted sense of the word.
Editors, statesmen, philosophers, priests, and lawyers, as well as the common people, began to advocate the principle of converse with the dead, by visions, divination, clairvoyance, knocking, and writing mediums, &c., &c. This spiritual philosophy of converse with the dead, once established by the labors, toils, sufferings, and martyrdom of its modern founders, and now embraced by a large portion of the learned world, shows a triumph more rapid and complete—a victory more extensive, than has ever been achieved in the same length of time in our world.
A quarter of a century since, an obscure boy and his few associates, in the western wilds of New York, commenced to hold converse with the dead. Now, vision, new revelation, clairvoyance, mediums, oracles, &c., are talked of and advocated as far as the modern press extends its influence, or steam its powers of locomotion.
An important point is gained, a victory won, and a countless host of opposing powers vanquished, on one of the leading or fundamental truths of “Mormon” philosophy, viz.—“That the living may hear from the dead.”
But, notwithstanding these great victories of truth over error, ignorance, and superstition, in certain points of spiritual philosophy, yet much remains to be done, ere pure, uncontaminated truth will reign triumphant, and darkness and error surrender their last stronghold on the earth.
The fact of spiritual communications being established, by which the living hear from the dead—being no longer a question of controversy with the well informed, we drop that point, and call attention to the means of discriminating or judging between the lawful and the unlawful mediums or channels of communication—between the holy and impure, the truths and falsehoods, thus communicated.
The words of the holy Prophet in our text, while they admit the principle of the living hearing from the dead, openly rebuke, and sharply reprove, persons for seeking to those who have familiar spirits, and to wizards that peep and mutter, and remind us that a people should seek unto their God for the living to hear from the dead!
By what means, then, can a people seek unto their God, for such an important blessing as to hear from the dead?
And how shall we discriminate between those who seek to Him, and those who seek the same by unlawful means?
In the first place, no persons can successfully seek to God for this privilege, unless they believe in direct revelation in modern times.
Secondly, it is impossible for us to seek Him successfully, and remain in our sins. A thorough repentance and reformation of life are absolutely necessary, if we would seek to Him.
Thirdly, Jesus Christ is the only name given under heaven as a medium through which to approach to God. None, then, can be lawful mediums, who are unbelievers in Jesus Christ, or in modern revelation; or who remain in their sins; or who act in their own name, instead of the name appointed.
And moreover, the Lord has appointed a Holy Priesthood on the earth, and in the heavens, and also in the world of spirits; which Priesthood is after the order or similitude of His Son; and has committed to this Priesthood the keys of holy and divine revelation, and of correspondence, or communication between angels, spirits, and men, and between all the holy de– partments, principalities, and powers of His government in all worlds.
And again—The Lord has ordained that all the most holy things pertaining to the salvation of the dead, and all the most holy conversations and correspondence with God, angels, and spirits, shall be had only in the sanctuary of His holy Temple on the earth, when prepared for that purpose by His Saints; and shall be received and administered by those who are ordained and sealed unto this power, to hold the keys of the sacred oracles of God.
To this same principle the Prophets Isaiah and Micah bear testimony, saying, that in the last days all nations shall go up to the house (or Temple) of the Lord, in order to be taught in His ways, and to walk in His paths; for out of Zion shall go forth the law, &c. Now it is evident that the people of all nations in the last days would be utterly unable to learn the ways of the Lord to perfection, in any other place except in a holy Temple erected among the mountains. For if the oracles, and most holy ordinances, and the keys or the mysteries, could be had elsewhere, or in any and every place, the people would never take the pains to resort to one house amid the mountains in order to learn of His ways, and to walk in His paths.
It is, then, a matter of certainty, according to the things revealed to the ancient Prophets, and renewed unto us, that all the animal magnetic phenomena, all the trances and visions of clairvoyant states, all the phenomena of spiritual knockings, writing mediums, &c., are from impure, unlawful, and unholy sources; and that those holy and chosen vessels which hold the keys of Priesthood in this world, in the spirit world, or in the world of resurrected beings, stand as far aloof from all these improper channels, or unholy mediums, of spiritual communication, as the heavens are higher than the earth, or as the mys– teries of the third heaven, which are unlawful to utter, differ from the jargon of sectarian ignorance and folly, or the divinations of foul spirits, abandoned wizards, magic-mongers, jugglers, and fortunetellers.
Ye Latter-day Saints! Ye thousands of the hosts of Israel! Ye are assembled here today, and have laid these Corner Stones, for the express purpose that the living might hear from the dead, and that we may prepare a holy sanctuary, where “the people may seek unto their God, for the living to hear from the dead,” and that heaven and earth, and the world of spirits may commune together—that the kings, nobles, presidents, rulers, judges, priests, counselors, and senators, which compose the general assembly of the Church of the Firstborn in all these different spheres of temporal and spiritual existence, may sit in grand Council, and hold a Congress or court on the earth, to concert measures for the overthrow of the “mystery of iniquity,” the thrones of tyrants, the sanctuaries of priestcraft and superstition, and the reign of ignorance, sin, and death.
Saints! These victories will be achieved, and Jesus Christ and his Saints will subdue all opposing powers, and attain to universal empire in heaven and on earth, as sure as innocent blood was ever shed on Mount Calvary, or the official seal broken on the door of the tomb of the Son of God. This day’s work, in laying these Corner Stones for a Temple amid the mountains, is one advancing step in the progress of the necessary preparations for these mighty revolutions.
Let Zion complete this Temple, let it be dedicated to, and accepted by, the Almighty, let it be preserved in holiness according to the laws of the Holy Priesthood, and Zion shall not want for a man to stand before the Lord, and to receive the oracles, and administer in His holy sanctuary, and to administer the keys of His government upon the earth,
While sun, or moon, or stars shall shine, Or principalities endure.
If the Saints accomplish these things, and fail not to keep the commandments of Jesus Christ and the counsels of his servants, the kingdoms of the world shall never prevail against them from this time forth and forever.
But remember, O ye Saints of the Most High! Remember that the enemy is on the alert. That old serpent and his angels, who have ruled this lower world, with few exceptions, for so many ages, will not tamely, and without a struggle, submit to have the kingdom, and seat of government, and sanctuary of our God, again erected on our planet, no more to be thrown down or subdued, till every square yard of the vast dominion shall be re-conquered by its rightful owners. No! From the moment the ground was broken for this Temple, those inspired by him [Satan] have commenced to rage; and he will continue to stir up his servants to anger against that which is good; but, if we are faithful, the victory is ours, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.