I would that ye should remember that God has said that the inward vessel shall be cleansed first.1
The prophets of the Lord in our day have spoken about the cutting off of the tares, and how the Lord will use this as a cleansing process that will purify the Church. They have warned us that the days are not far distant when those we have known and loved as fellow Church members will fall away and leave the Church.
President John Taylor predicted that it will be the trials, persecution and difficulties experienced by members of the Church that will flush out the wicked tares from among the wheat:
“If I read my Bible aright, judgments are first to begin at the house of God. And if judgments are to commence at the house of God, where are the wicked and ungodly to appear?”2
“The judgments will begin at the house of God. We have to pass through some of these things, but it will only be a very little compared with the terrible destruction, the misery and suffering that will overtake the world who are doomed to suffer the wrath of God. It behooves us, as the Saints of God, to stand firm and faithful in the observance of His laws, that we may be worthy of His preserving care and blessing.”3
President Brigham Young also warned:
“We read that war, pestilence, plagues, famine, etc., will be visited upon the inhabitants of the earth; but if distress through the judgments of God comes upon this people, it will be because the majority have turned away from the Lord.”4
The Lord Needs a Purified and Sanctified People
The Saints have already learned by hard experience that the Lord needs His people to be righteous, and that wickedness will not be tolerated for long. In 1831 the members of the Church were thrilled to learn through a revelation to the Prophet Joseph that the city of New Jerusalem was to be built in Jackson County, Missouri. They then began to move to this frontier location in large numbers. But it was just two short years later that they were expelled from that sacred land because of “jarrings, and contentions, and envyings, and strifes, and lustful and covetous desires among them.”5
President Brigham Young understood clearly why the Saints had been removed from the lands of Missouri before they were able to build the city of New Jerusalem. He told the members of the Church in his day:
“Some may ask why we did not tarry at the Center Stake of Zion, when the Lord planted our feet there. We had eyes, but we did not see; we had ears, but we did not hear; we had hearts that were devoid of what the Lord required of His people; consequently we could not abide what the Lord revealed to us. We had to go from there to gain an experience. . . .
“If we could have received the words of life and lived according to them when we were first gathered to the Center Stake of Zion, we never would have been removed from that place. But we did not abide the law the Lord gave to us.”6
Before the Saints can return to redeem and inherit the land of Zion, the people must be pure and worthy of that sacred blessing. As President Spencer W. Kimball declared:
“Zion can be built up only among those who are the pure in heart, not a people torn by covetousness or greed, but a pure and selfless people. Not a people who are pure in appearance, rather a people who are pure in heart.”7
President Ezra Taft Benson, in one of his hallmark addresses about the dangers of pride, also added his wise admonition to the Saints:
“Pride is the great stumbling block to Zion. I repeat: pride is the great stumbling block to Zion. We must cleanse the inner vessel by conquering pride.”8
The Continual Cleansing of the Church
Throughout its history, the Church has gone through various periods of persecution and trials. But this has served an important purpose, as George Q. Cannon explained:
“It is true that the Lord has said that the tares shall grow with the wheat until harvest, but it is not said that tares will not be plucked up from time to time, for if it were not so they would overpower and choke out the wheat.
“The sifting or weeding process has been going on from the commencement of this Church until the present time; hence it is that the leaders of this Church are stirred up in their feelings from time to time to call upon the people to repent. They understand clearly that unless there is a godly life and conversation corresponding with our profession, this people would soon fall into darkness and error, and stray from the path of righteousness.”9
This cleansing process even includes refining the beliefs of the members of Church. In the early history of the Church, new converts often brought false doctrines to the Church from their former religions. Some of these teachings took hold within the Church, and they had to be carefully expunged through the tireless admonitions of the prophets Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, and many others.10
The Lord described this cleansing process of the Church in the parable of the tame and wild olive trees, which was given to the prophet Zenos. Near the end of the parable, as it describes the events of the last days, the Lord commands His servants:
“Wherefore, ye shall clear away the bad according as the good shall grow, that the root and the top may be equal in strength, until the good shall overcome the bad, and the bad be hewn down and cast into the fire, that they cumber not the ground of my vineyard; and thus will I sweep away the bad out of my vineyard. . . . And the bad shall be cast away, yea, even out of all the land of my vineyard.”11
As the righteous members of the Church are able to handle the removal of the tares, the Lord will sweep more and more of the bad from the Church. This will strengthen the Church and its members, as President Brigham Young explained:
“I wish you to understand that when the sheep are separated from the goats, they [the sheep] will never again bear the like afflictions they bore while they mingled with the goats, as long as the world stands; no, neither in this world or any other.
“Let the sheep and goats be once separated, and the Master of that flock of sheep will never afflict them. When there are no goats to annoy the sheep, the latter will mingle with each other and go hand in hand in full fellowship.
“But when goats are among the sheep, they will besmear them with their stink, and they frisk about, and behave so as to actually turn the sheep almost into goats.”12
A Wheat or a Tare?
It is important for us to know whether we are considered by the Lord to be a weedy tare or a stock of wheat in the Church---to know where we stand in the vineyard of the Lord. President Brigham Young gave us a key so that we can discern this for ourselves:
“Let us ask ourselves the question, am I a wheat or a tare? The proof as to whether we are tares or wheat may be seen in our lives, as it is written, ‘For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother’ [Matthew 12:50]. Again, ‘not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven’ [Matthew 7:21].
“This is the proof---keep the commandments, observe the ordinances, and preserve the institutions of Christ’s church inviolate, doing all things that are required of us, as unto the Lord, sanctifying ourselves before Him, and, ‘By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another’ [John 13:35].”13
Joseph F. Smith added his testimony concerning this, and warned us that we need to be certain we are following the Lord so that we do not fall under the judgments of God in the latter days:
“I further testify, that unless the Latter-day Saints will live their religion, keep their covenants with God and their brethren, honor the priesthood which they bear, and try faithfully to bring themselves into subjection to the laws of God, they will be the first to fall beneath the judgments of the Almighty, for His judgments will begin at His own house.
“Therefore, those who have made a covenant with the Lord by baptism, and have broken that covenant, who profess to be Saints and are not, but are sinners, and covenant-breakers, and partakers of the sins of Babylon, most assuredly will ‘receive of her plagues,’ for it is written that the righteous will barely escape.”14
The Angels Are Ready to Reap Down the Wicked
The Lord has told us that the time is soon approaching when the tares will be removed from the Church. Now is the time to prepare for the events that are coming. It is only through a personal and firm testimony of the Savior and the Restoration of the Church that we will be able to stand firm when the tares are removed.
In a modern revelation we learn that "the angels are waiting the great command to reap down the earth, to gather the tares that they may be burned.”15 The Lord further explained:
“The angels are crying unto the Lord day and night, who are ready and waiting to be sent forth to reap down the fields; but the Lord saith unto them, pluck not up the tares while the blade is yet tender (for verily your faith is weak), lest you destroy the wheat also.
“Therefore, let the wheat and the tares grow together until the harvest is fully ripe; then ye shall first gather out the wheat from among the tares, and after the gathering of the wheat, behold and lo, the tares are bound in bundles, and the field remaineth to be burned.”16
The Church Will Be Purified and Prepared for the Second Coming
As the tares are flushed out of the Church, this process will strengthen and sanctify it. The persecution and trials that will come upon the Church will help to remove the dross, and prepare the Church to be the worthy bride who will meet the returning Bridegroom in glory and splendor.17 The Saints will increase in righteousness as the Church is purified, and this will enable them to accomplish many important tasks in the latter days, to prepare the way for the Savior’s Second Coming in glory and power.
This process of removing the tares, purifying the Church and refining the Saints has been designed for our own good by the Lord, as President Brigham Young explained:
“The Almighty has His objects and plans all laid, and we are to pass through all these afflictions and to endure all that He calls us to endure, to give us knowledge, wisdom, and experience; for we cannot receive them upon any other principle.”18
The Lord has told us that “the day soon cometh that ye shall see me, and know that I am; for the veil of darkness shall soon be rent, and he that is not purified shall not abide the day.”19 Purity is the only answer. Through deep and sincere repentance---while exercising our faith in our Savior, Jesus Christ---we will find this purity and strength. We will then relish the thought of standing in the Savior’s presence, without any fear or trepidation,20 when we will be overcome with a feeling of gratitude, joy and love for all that He has made possible for the righteous---worlds without end and eternal glories incomprehensible to the human mind.
During these times of trial---when the Church passes through a period of increased persecution---the righteous will be blessed by the Lord. He has even promised to give us aid and comfort from the other side of the veil. The Saints will someday be richly blessed by the return of the Prophet Joseph Smith, who has many things that he must still accomplish here in mortality prior to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.
1 . Alma 60:23.
2 . John Taylor, August 4, 1878, Journal of Discourses 20:46.
3 . John Taylor, April 13, 1879, Journal of Discourses 21:100.
4 . Brigham Young, June 26, 1864, Journal of Discourses 10:335; emphasis added.
5 . D&C 101:6.
6 . Brigham Young, May 15, 1864, Journal of Discourses 10:290.
7 . Spencer W. Kimball, “Becoming the Pure in Heart,” Ensign, May 1978, p. 81.
8 . Ezra Taft Benson, “Beware of Pride,” Ensign, May 1989, p. 7.
9 . George Q. Cannon, October 6, 1875, Journal of Discourses 18:84.
10 . Brother Joseph, pp. 261-264, 599-601, 747, 814.
11 . Jacob 5:66, 69; emphasis added.
12 . Brigham Young, April 7, 1852, Journal of Discourses 6:320.
13 . Brigham Young, March 29, 1868, Journal of Discourses 12:168-169.
14 . Joseph F. Smith, Conference Report, April 1880, p. 96.
15 . D&C 38:12.
16 . D&C 86:3-7.
17 . D&C 109:73-74.
18 . Brigham Young, March 25, 1860, Journal of Discourses 8:31.
19 . D&C 38:8; emphasis added.
20 . D&C 121:45.