The Whole World Groaneth

Joseph-Fielding-Smith-mormonThe Whole World Groaneth

By Elder Joseph Fielding Smith
then, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
General Conference – April, 1917




It is, my brothers and sisters, trusting in the Lord and hoping for the direction of the Holy Spirit that I stand before you this morning for the purpose of bearing my testimony in regard to the gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and to give expression to such thoughts as may come to me while I am here in this position, for I fully believe in the gospel which has been revealed in these latter days for the salvation of all mankind who will repent and believe. I have a firm testimony of the mission of our Redeemer, and it is my duty, so far as I have the power, to raise my voice and to declare unto the people, not only of the Latter-day Saints, but in all the world, that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. I desire to read a few verses from section 84 of the D&C which, I think, are very timely. This revelation was given in the presence of s:x elders of the Church after their return from a mission where they had been preaching the principles of the gospel in the western lands, as it was understood at that time. They had returned to Kirtland, in Ohio, rejoicing in the testimony of the truth, in the manifestations of the Spirit unto them and the goodness of the Lord in their ministry, and the Prophet Joseph Smith received a revelation in their presence in which the following occurs:

“And now I give unto you a commandment to beware concerning yourselves, to give diligent heed to the words of eternal life;

“For you shall live by every word that proceedeth forth from the mouth of God.

“For the word of the Lord is truth, and whatsoever is truth is light, and whatsoever is light is Spirit, even the Spirit of Jesus Christ;

“And the Spirit giveth light to every man that cometh into the world; and the Spirit enlighteneth every man through the world, that hearkeneth to the voice of the Spirit;

“And every one that hearkeneth to the voice of the Spirit, cometh unto God, even the Father;

“And the Father teacheth him of the covenant which he has renewed and confirmed upon you, which is confirmed upon you for your sakes, and not for your sakes only, but for the sake of the whole world;

“And the whole world lieth in sin, and groaneth under darkness and under the bondage of sin;

“And by this you may know they are under the bondage of sin, because they come not unto me.

“For whoso cometh not unto me is under the bondage of sin;

“And whoso receiveth not my voice is not acquainted with my voice, and is not of me;

“And by this you may know the righteous from the wicked, and that the whole world groaneth under sin and darkness even now.”

That was true when this revelation was given, in the year 1832. It is true today, and perhaps these words can be expressed with greater force regarding the conditions that prevail in the world in this day than could be the case, speaking of the people in the day when the revelation was given. I am not one of those who believe that the world is growing better; I do not consider myself a pessimist either, but I do not believe that the world is becoming more righteous, that the inhabitants are drawing nearer unto God, that there is in the hearts of the people a greater desire today to serve him than in the year 1832; but, on the other hand, since that day the peoples of the nations of the earth have been drifting, and drifting farther and farther from the truth. When I make this statement I am fully aware that there has been progression in certain directions. I am aware that in these latter days there has been a movement among the nations and in our own land to overcome the evils of strong drink, and all these things will bring their results for good, but so far as their observance of the doctrines of the gospel is concerned, so far as their righteousness is concerned, I do not believe that they are any better, nay, I do not believe that the people are as good now, as they were when this revelation was given. The world today is full of vain philosophy, full of doctrine that is not of the Lord, full of false conclusions, ideas and theories that were not a part of the gospel in the days of the Son of God, and hence are not a part of it now, but on the contrary are in absolute contradiction of the truth. There are fewer, in my judgment, among the Christian peoples, who believe in the Son of God as the Redeemer of the world. The tendency has been, during all these years, to get farther away from the principles of the gospel as they are contained in the holy scriptures. The worship of reason, of false philosophy, is greater now than it was then. Men are depending upon their own research to find out God, and that which they cannot discover and which they can not demonstrate to their satisfaction through their own research and their natural senses, they reject. They are not seeking for the Spirit of the Lord, they are not striving to know God in the manner in which he has marked out by which he may be known, but they are walking in their own way, believing in their own man-made philosophies, and teaching the doctrines of devils and not the doctrines of the Son of God.

Today, throughout the world, the people of the various Christian denominations are assembling in their churches because it is Easter Sunday. They have not assembled there because they have faith in the literal resurrection of the Lord; they have not assembled there because they believe in the literal resurrection of all mankind through the atonement of our Lord, and they have not assembled because they accept him as the Son of God. I want to make honorable exceptions, because there are some who have done so, but I speak generally. They have assembled there for a very different purpose–because it is the custom, because in many cases among the sisters they want to show their millinery and the styles of their clothing, their dress. They are there more in the nature of a social function and fashion show than to worship the Lord, and I say this notwithstanding the expression that appears in one of our morning papers to the effect that anybody who expresses this kind of an idea is cynical and expresses a perverted opinion.

The people of the various nations, who call themselves Christian, today do not worship the Lord Jesus Christ as the Redeemer of the world to the extent that they did even in the day of the organization of the Church. The doctrines today that prevail are in opposition to that truth, and ministers stand before their people denying the atonement of Christ, and hence showing their lack of faith in and understanding of the resurrection of the Son of God, and denying the universal resurrection which the scriptures promise shall come to all mankind. I have an expression here that I desire to read. This is taken from a book published in the year 1914, the title of which is, A Century’s Change in Religion, and the author, Mr. George Harris, speaking of these changes has the following to say in regard to the Son of God:

“The virgin birth is not regarded as an essential doctrine of Christianity. The belief that Jesus transcended humanity, that he was sinless, rests on his life, teachings, and work, not on the manner of his birth. There are only two accounts of the miraculous conception and these are stories, written thirty years later, of visions that Mary and Joseph were said to have had. There is no reference to the virgin birth elsewhere in the New Testament or by Jesus himself.

“The resurrection of Christ signifies the everlasting Lord. Whatever the appearances of Jesus to the disciples may have been, whether actual manifestations we cannot understand, or subjective visions in which his person seemed real it is certain the disciples were convinced that Jesus lived. * * *

“The physical world and the bodies of men are but temporary conditions in which the spirit is localized, while it responds to the spiritual forces which know nothing of distance, but flash from life to life instantly, as the lowly plant responds to the light and heat and magnetism which pervade the universe.” This is found on pages 99 to 101. Again he says:

“My influence, shaping the life of others, has in view the values that constitute the man immortal. And the thought of immortality cannot be banished, but persists in one form or another, even if it be in so attenuated a form as influence on others. Corporate immortality, as the only immortality, is not much debated now, though we believe in it and delight in it, have pride in the family,–backwards to ancestry, forward to descendants; even as the scriptures saith, the promise is to the children’s children, to a thousand generations. A rather bold writer, thinking of past generations of faithful, noble men, links them to the present, which surpasses them in knowledge of the truth, saying that not only do they help us, but also that we help them; that ‘apart from us they should not be made perfect.’

“The Jews at the time of Christ believed in the resurrection of the body, except the sect of Sadducees, who said there is no resurrection. For several centuries of the Christian era it was the common belief. The earlier creeds affirmed it in so many words: ‘I believe in the resurrection of the Body and the life everlasting.’

The Apostle Paul disclaimed it, and called that man a fool a foolish one, who supposed that this very body of flesh and blood will be raised up. It is not a physical body, that will be raised, he says, but a spiritual body. There are celestial bodies and bodies terrestrial; but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. And as we have borne the image of the earthly, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly. I suppose nobody now believes in the literal resurrection of the body. When we repeat the phrase in the Apostles’ Creed we think of that for which it stands and which immediately follows–the life everlasting.” This is taken from pages 177 and 178.

Another writer commenting in an Easter sermon, or editorial, in one of our leading magazines, a year or two ago, had this to say, speaking of the doctrine of the literal resurrection of the body:

“All this is a beautiful and facile faith. It takes the world quite too easily. It rests everything on the power of God. It is harder for us, in these days of science, to believe quite so readily what seems unreasonable, and on authority of a creed which the apostles never heard.”–That in reference to this Apostles’ Creed already mentioned.–“We prefer to talk of the spiritual body which is not the body of this flesh. It is the spiritual body which will arise, that is, will survive; and the spiritual body is the soul immortal. We do not understand any other body. So we interpret Paul. And in the assurance of the eternal life with Christ we rest on his promise, this day shalt thou be with me in Paradise.'”

That is the doctrine of a large part of the Christian world, and I want to say to you, my brethren and sisters, that it is false doctrine, that it is not the gospel taught by Jesus Christ, and there is no warrant in the scriptures for any such conclusions. Paul did not express anywhere in his writings that there should not be a resurrection of the body and a reuniting of the body with the spirit, and those who interpret the writings of Paul–and they have reference to his statement in the fifteenth chapter of first Corinthians–do not understand the scriptures. They have no idea of what Paul was speaking; they misinterpret, they put a false construction upon the teachings of the scriptures, not being led by the Spirit of the Lord. I believe, and you believe, all Latter-day Saints believe, in the literal resurrection of the body and its reuniting with the spirit, thus becoming, as the scriptures informs us, the soul of man. The resurrection of the Son of God was typical. We are informed that his body did not see corruption, although it was placed in the tomb and remained there for the three days, according to the predictions in the scriptures. Again, that body was taken up and spirit and body again united inseparably, and in that form he appeared unto his disciples who were unconvinced when he appeared to them and “were terrified and affrighted,” the scriptures say, thinking they had seen a spirit. He manifested to them that it was himself, and called upon them, in order to convince them that it was the body that was laid in the tomb, to come and handle him and see for themselves that it was his body that had been pierced and they thrust their hands into the wounds in his hands, his feet and his side.

As he arose from the dead, so shall all men rise; both the just and the unjust shall come forth from the grave. The sea shall give up its dead; the grave shall give up its dead; all shall come forth and stand before the judgment seat of God to be judged according to their works. They shall not all come forth at the same time. Those who are Christ’s shall come forth at his coming. Matthew informs us that following the resurrection of the Son of God “the graves were opened, and many bodies of the Saints which slept arose and came out of their graves and went into the holy city and appeared unto many.”

These modern blind teachers of the blind have a very false understanding Of what is meant by a spiritual body. They have based their conclusion on the statement that Paul makes that the body is raised a spiritual body, and that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God. They cannot conceive in their minds a body raised from the dead, being composed of flesh and bones, quickened by spirit and not by blood. When Paul spoke of the spiritual body he had no reference at all to the spirit body and there they have made their mistake. They have confused the spiritual body, or, in other words, the body quickened by the spirit, with the body of the spirit alone. They think that those who believe in the resurrection of the literal body believe that it shall be raised again, quickened by blood, which is not the case. I want to read another verse from the Doctrine and Covenants:

“Now, verily I say unto you, that through the redemption which is made for you is brought to pass the resurrection from the dead.

“And the spirit and the body is the soul of man.

“And the resurrection from the dead is the redemption of the soul;

“And the redemption of the soul is through him who quickeneth all things in whose bosom it is decreed that the poor and the meek of the earth shall inherit it.

“Therefore it [the earth] must needs be sanctified from all unrighteousness, that it may be prepared for the celestial glory:

“For after it hath filled the measure of its creation, it shall be crowned with glory, even with the presence of God the Father;

“That bodies who are of the celestial kingdom may possess it for ever and ever; for, for this intent was it made and created, and for this intent are they sanctified.”

“And again, verily I say unto you, the earth abideth the law of a celestial kingdom, for it filleth the measure of its creation and transgresseth not the law.

“Wherefore it shall be sanctified; yea, notwithstanding it shall die, it shall be quickened again, and shall abide the power by which it is quickened, and the righteous shall inherit it;

“For notwithstanding they die, they also shall rise again a spiritual body:

“They who are of a celestial spirit shall receive the same body which was a natural body; even ye shall receive your bodies, and your glory shall be that glory by which your bodies are quickened.

“Ye who are quickened by a portion of the celestial glory shall then receive of the same, even a fulness;

“And they who are quickened by a portion of the terrestrial glory shall then receive of the same, even a fulness ;” and so on.

After the resurrection from the dead our bodies will be spiritual bodies, but they will be bodies that are tangible, bodies that have been purified, but they will nevertheless be bodies of flesh and bones, but they will not be blood bodies, they will no longer be quickened by blood but quickened by the spirit which is eternal and they shall become immortal and shall never die.

Now, if our good friends understood this, they would not fall into this error of thinking that Paul’s doctrine was in conflict with that of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, when Paul declared that the body that would be raised would be a spiritual body. You read in the Book of Genesis, where the Lord said to Noah after the flood, that the blood was the life of the body; the blood is the life thereof, he says. Therefore, whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed, because blood is the life of the mortal body, but with the body brought forth in the resurrection, which is the immortal body, that is not the case, in it blood does not exist, but the spirit is the life-giving power and hence they are no longer bodies quickened by blood but bodies quickened by spirit and hence they are spiritual bodies, but tangible bodies of flesh and bones, just as was the body of the Son of God. Now this is the doctrine of the Lord and Savior of the world.

I had a conversation with a man one time, a minister, and he took this view which prevails so largely in the world, and I forced him, by the reading of the scriptures, to admit that when the Savior appeared to his disciples and said unto them, “Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself; handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones as ye see me have,” that the Savior really spoke the truth, and I asked him, “that being true, then how in the world do you believe, how can you believe, that today he sits in the heavens without a body of flesh and bones?” His answer was, “After he ascended from the Mount of Olives he shed his body of flesh and bones.” I asked him for the chapter and verse and, of course, he was unable to give it.

The Lord has very clearly set forth the doctrine of the resurrection. He declared shortly before his crucifixion that the hour was coming and, he said, now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear shall live. Even his disciples wondered what he meant. They marveled at it, they could not fully comprehend it, notwithstanding the fact that they believed in the literal resurrection of the body in those days, and the Savior seeing their perplexity said unto them and unto the people who were there assembled: “Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming in the which all that are in their graves shall hear his voice and shall come forth, they that have done good unto the resurrection of life, and they that have done evil unto the resurrection of damnation.”

Now the world interprets that to mean those who are dead in trespasses and sin, those who are in bondage of iniquity should hear his voice, but the Lord meant literally just what he said when he declared that the dead should hear his voice and should come forth, they that had done good unto the resurrection of life, and they that had done evil unto the resurrection of damnation, for the resurrection shall come upon all mankind for they are not responsible for death. The Lord will not punish them for Adam’s transgression. Therefore, he took upon him the sins of all mankind and redeemed every creature from death and granted unto each one of us a resurrection, but not eternal life, not salvation, not an existence in the presence of his Father in the celestial kingdom. That comes through faithfulness, through diligence, through perseverance on our part and through our belief and acceptance and our keeping of the commandments of the Lord. Now I said in the beginning that the world is full of philosophy.

One prominent and intelligent writer has called these theories, “scientific fiction.” I think he is right. We have the theories of evolution, of higher criticism, the ideas that prevail in the schools throughout our land that are dangerous, that are striking at the fundamentals of the gospel of Jesus Christ, trying to destroy the faith in the minds of the students who attend the schools. We are troubled with it to some extent even in our own state and the colleges throughout the country are full of it, and the professors teach it, they believe in it, at least they profess to believe in it, and it seems to me that the sole purpose of it is to undermine and destroy the gospel of Jesus Christ.

I want to say to the Latter-day Saints that it is our duty to put our faith in the revealed word of God, to accept that which has come through inspiration, through revelation unto his servants, the prophets, both ancient and modern, and whenever you find any doctrine, any idea, any expression from any source whatsoever, that is in conflict with that which the Lord has revealed and which is found in the holy scriptures, you may be assured that it is false and you should put it aside and stand firmly grounded in the truth in prayer and in faith, relying upon the Spirit of the Lord, for knowledge, for wisdom, concerning these principles of truth. If you will walk in the light as I have read here, and will receive the doctrines of our Redeemer, he will grant unto you, through the inspiration that will come from the Spirit of the Lord, a testimony of the truth and you need not walk in darkness nor in doubt, but may have a clear and a distinct comprehension, and understanding of the truth which will make you free. It is our duty to seek the Lord, to obey his laws, to keep his commandments, to put away from us lightmindedness, foolishness, and the false theories, notions, and philosophies of the world, and to accept with fulness of heart and in humility these solemn, God-given principles which will bring unto us eternal life in the Celestial kingdom. That we may do this is my prayer in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.