Chapter 15: Light and Knowledge Pours Down from Heaven

If it shall so be that they shall believe these things, then shall the greater things be made manifest unto them.1

Several years before the Prophet Joseph Smith died, he told the Saints on many different occasions that he was unable to teach them all that had been revealed to him.2 When his life was cut short at Carthage we lost many deep and profound doctrines that he was never able to teach the Saints. But when the Prophet Joseph is resurrected, he will be able to impart those things that he had to previously withhold. He will also be able to teach us the principles and doctrines that were not recorded by scribes and clerks when he taught them to the early Saints. It is estimated that we have a written record of less than ten percent of the speeches given by the Prophet Joseph.3

He will give us additional light and knowledge that will enrich our lives, and fill our minds with the teachings and revelations of God. It is astonishing to consider the amount of gospel knowledge that has been promised to us that we have not yet received. These new doctrines will strengthen us, and they will allow us to understand the secret source of strength that helped the early Saints to persevere during their severe trials.

Joseph Was Unable to Reveal All He Knew Because the Church Members Failed to Support Him

In the early days of the Church, the Lord asked the members to support the Prophet Joseph both physically and financially in his calling as a prophet of God. The Lord wanted him to focus on spiritual matters and to not spend his time worrying about making a living, so He asked the Saints to provide for the needs of Joseph and his family. They were also asked to support the families of the missionaries in the same manner, since it was often the breadwinner of the family who would need to temporarily leave in order to teach the gospel.4

When Joseph was addressing a conference of the brethren on October 25-26, 1831, he told them that the Saints had already missed several important revelations because they had not lived up to this commandment of the Lord. It was noted that Joseph said:

“The greatest blessings which God had to bestow should be given to those who contributed to the support of his family while he was translating the fullness of the scriptures. . . . further, that God had often sealed up the heavens because of covetousness in the Church.”5

It is remarkable that it was only eighteen months after the Restoration of the Church that Joseph made this statement. In that brief time the Saints had already lost the opportunity to learn more from the heavens through the Prophet Joseph. This is not the only recorded instance in Church history when Joseph was not supported by the Saints as he should have been.6

It is unfortunate that the Church did not receive all of the heavenly knowledge that could have been revealed through the Prophet Joseph. There are many missing scriptures that he could have restored if he had only received greater support from the Church, and if he had been given further time to work on the things of God instead of being preoccupied with temporal matters. As it was, he was only able to complete part of the Book of Abraham,7 and he never had sufficient time to even begin to translate the Book of Joseph of Egypt, even though he had those records in his possession.8

The Prophet Joseph Could Not Reveal All that He Knew

When Joseph was approaching the end of his life, it was revealed to him that his death was soon approaching,9 and he told the Saints on several occasions that he was unable to teach them all of the things that had been revealed to him. In many cases he said it was because the Saints were not prepared to receive a fullness of the doctrine that he had received.

On Sunday, April 16, 1843, Joseph spoke to the Saints about the recent death of Lorenzo Barnes, who had passed away while serving a mission in England. During his remarks, he told the Saints about a vision that he had seen of the resurrection of the Saints, and described how sweet and magnificent that future day will be:

“So plain was the vision, that I actually saw men, before they had ascended from the tomb, as though they were getting up slowly. They took each other by the hand and said to each other, ‘My father! My son! My mother! My daughter! My brother! My sister!’

“And when the voice calls for the dead to arise, suppose I am laid by the side of my father, what would be the first joy of my heart? To meet my father, my mother, my brother, my sister; and when they are by my side, I embrace them and they me. . . .

“The expectation of seeing my friends in the morning of the resurrection cheers my soul and makes me bear up against the evils of life. It is like they are taking a long journey, and on their return, we meet them with increased joy.”10

It is unfortunate that we do not have further details about the Prophet’s vision of the resurrection. Continuing his discourse, Joseph told the Saints that he had received many other sacred visions such as this, including new doctrines and teachings that he wanted to share with them, but unfortunately, he could not do it:

“It is my meditation all the day, and more than my meat and drink, to know how I shall make the Saints of God comprehend the visions that roll like an overflowing surge before my mind. Oh! How I would delight to bring before you things which you never thought of! But poverty and the cares of the world prevent.

“But I am glad I have the privilege of communicating to you some things which, if grasped closely, will be a help to you when earthquakes bellow, the clouds gather, the lightnings flash, and the storms are ready to burst upon you like peals of thunder. Lay hold of these things and let not your knees or joints tremble, nor your hearts faint; and then what can earthquakes, wars and tornadoes do? Nothing.”11

Some of the revelations and visions that were given to Joseph were not even fully recorded in the scriptures.12 Philo Dibble, who was present when the vision of the three degrees of glory was received, reported that “many things were seen and related that are not written.”13 On Sunday, May 21, 1843, Joseph told the Saints as they were gathered for a meeting within the unfinished walls of the Nauvoo Temple:

“I could explain a hundred fold more than I ever have of the glories of the kingdoms manifested to me in the vision [of the three degrees of glory], were I permitted, and were the people prepared to receive them.”14

On Sunday, June 11, 1843, almost one year prior to his death, Joseph addressed the Saints during their Sabbath services, and he told them that some of the weaker members of the Church would seek to destroy him because of the deep doctrines that he had revealed, including the restoration of the temple endowment. In a foreshadowing of what would occur within a year, he prophesied:

“Many men will say, ‘I will never forsake you, but will stand by you at all times.’ But the moment you teach them some of the mysteries of the kingdom of God that are retained in the heavens and are to be revealed to the children of men when they are prepared for them, they will be the first to stone you and put you to death. It was this same principle that crucified the Lord Jesus Christ, and will cause the people to kill the prophets in this generation. . . .

“There are a great many wise men and women in our midst who are too wise to be taught; therefore they must die in their ignorance, and in the resurrection they will find their mistake. Many seal up the door of heaven by saying, ‘So far God may reveal and I will believe.’”15

Six months later on Sunday, January 21, 1844, Joseph told the Saints how difficult it had been to bring forth new doctrine to the people in this dispensation. He likened it to the impossible task of trying to split a hardwood log using a pumpkin as a mallet and a corn biscuit as an iron wedge:

“There has been a great difficulty in getting anything into the heads of this generation. It has been like splitting hemlock knots with a corn-dodger for a wedge, and a pumpkin for a beetle. Even the Saints are slow to understand.

“I have tried for a number of years to get the minds of the Saints prepared to receive the things of God; but we frequently see some of them, after suffering all they have for the work of God, will fly to pieces like glass as soon as anything comes that is contrary to their traditions; they cannot stand the fire at all.”16

Joseph’s Brethren Also Noted that He Was Unable to Teach All that He Knew

Several of Joseph’s brethren mentioned how difficult it was for him to impart new doctrine to the early Saints, and how much he was unable to teach the people because of their unbelief. Heber C. Kimball later said:

“There were many things he desired to reveal that we have not learned yet, but he could not do it. He said sometimes that he felt pressed upon and as though he were pent up in an acorn shell, and all because the people did not and would not prepare themselves to receive the rich treasures of wisdom and knowledge that he had to impart.

“He could have revealed a great many things to us if we had been ready, but he said there were many things that we could not receive because we lacked that diligence and faithfulness that were necessary to entitle us to those choice things of the kingdom.”17

“He used to say in Nauvoo that when he came before the people he felt as though he were enclosed in an iron case, . . . there was no room in the hearts of the people to receive the glorious truths of the gospel that God revealed to him.”18

John Taylor worked closely with the Prophet Joseph Smith during his lifetime, serving as one of the Twelve Apostles and editing the Church newspaper in Nauvoo. He later told the Saints in Utah:

“No wonder that Joseph Smith should say that he felt himself shut up in a nutshell---there was no power of expansion. It was difficult for him to reveal and communicate the things of God because there was no place to receive them. What he had to communicate was so much more comprehensive, enlightened and dignified than that which the people generally knew and comprehended, it was difficult for him to speak; he felt fettered and bound, so to speak, in every move he made.”19

Wilford Woodruff, who was also a close personal friend of the Prophet Joseph, testified:

“Brother Joseph used a great many methods of testing the integrity of men; and he taught a great many things which, in consequence of tradition, required prayer, faith, and a testimony from the Lord before they could be believed by many of the Saints. His mind was opened by the visions of the Almighty, and the Lord taught him many things by vision and revelation that were never taught publicly in his days; for the people could not bear the flood of intelligence which God poured into his mind.”20

The Saints Will Be Blessed with the Teachings and Principles of Eternity

When Joseph is able to stand before the Saints again, he will be able to teach and impart many of the doctrines that he had to withhold during his lifetime. This knowledge will greatly enrich the Saints---spiritually, mentally and emotionally. It will also require the Saints to open their hearts and minds to receive this new doctrine and knowledge, or the heavens will remain shut.

The Lord has called this final dispensation in which we are living “the dispensation of the fullness of times.”21 There is great significance to this phrase, “the fullness of times,” and what it truly implies, as the Prophet Joseph Smith explained:

“The dispensation of the fullness of times will bring to light the things that have been revealed in all former dispensations; also other things that have not been before revealed.”22

This prophecy has not yet been fulfilled. There are many things about the former dispensations of mankind that have not yet been revealed, and surely God has more to reveal to us.

When Joseph was imprisoned in the dungeon of Liberty Jail, he wrote a beautiful and inspiring letter to the Saints in Illinois, which was later included as scripture in the Doctrine and Covenants. In this letter he described the depth of the gospel knowledge that is yet to be revealed in the latter days:

“A time to come in the which nothing shall be withheld, whether there be one God or many gods, they shall be manifest. All thrones and dominions, principalities and powers, shall be revealed and set forth upon all who have endured valiantly for the gospel of Jesus Christ.

“And also, if there be bounds set to the heavens or to the seas, or to the dry land, or to the sun, moon, or stars---”all the times of their revolutions; all the appointed days, months, and years, and all the days of their days, months, and years, and all their glories, laws, and set times, shall be revealed in the days of the dispensation of the fullness of times.”23

Our knowledge of the celestial realms of the gods is very limited, and a complete understanding of the function and mystery of the universe still eludes us. Science has attempted to find explanations for many of our questions about the universe, but the true answers are to be found from the Creator Himself.

When Joseph returns, he will be able to reveal the answers to our questions. He will bring forth scriptures and revelation from past dispensations, as well as inspired knowledge and new revelations that will teach us many wonderful and glorious things. The Saints’ minds will be filled to overflowing with truth and knowledge.

Missing Scriptures Will Be Restored

Many prophetic and scriptural records have been lost during the history of mankind. The Lord has specifically promised that He will restore some of these lost scriptures for His Saints. These include the writings of John the Baptist,24 the writings of Enoch,25 the remainder of the Book of Abraham,26 the Book of Joseph of Egypt,27 the brass plates, which contain the lost books of Zenos and Zenock,28 and the full account of the Savior’s visit to the Nephites.29

In addition to these scriptures that have been promised to the Saints, there are countless books lost from the Bible, as well as other scriptures lost in the sands of time, all of which will greatly enlarge the Saints’ understanding when the Lord allows them to be restored.30

When the Saints have proven themselves worthy, they will receive the scriptures containing the vision given to the brother of Jared, in which he was shown the entire history of the world, from Adam and Eve to the end of the earth.31 It will be humbling to learn the many details of the history of mankind that the Lord knew thousands of years before they took place.

In addition to these missing scriptures, we are unable to understand some of the scriptural passages that we have already received. The Prophet Joseph will be able to enlighten our understanding of these passages. We have also been promised that when the Saints can ask the Father with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, we will be given a complete understanding of the Book of Revelation that was given to the Apostle John.32 This final book of the New Testament has been a source of much speculation among scholars throughout the ages, and all of our questions will finally be answered in that day.

Strengthening the Saints

This gospel knowledge will cause a significant change among the Saints. In the early days of the Church, many of the Saints found that they were given added strength to remain faithful in spite of the severe trials and persecution that came upon them. They reported that it was the depth of the doctrine they received from the Prophet Joseph that gave them strength to carry on.

As they contemplated the truth of the marvelous new doctrines that they were taught by the Prophet, it reinforced their testimonies and helped them to understand that the persecution they were suffering was merely Satan raging against the true work of God. The meat of the gospel gave them hope, strength and fortitude.

In the same manner, as these new doctrines are taught and restored by the Prophet Joseph, they will give strength to the Saints during the events of the latter days, bringing them hope and understanding. These doctrines will fortify their testimonies of the work of God in which they are engaged. This strength and vigor will be needed during the times of persecution and trial when the wicked turn against the Church and the righteous prior to the Second Coming.

Eventually the wicked will be destroyed. Once they have filled their cup of iniquity to overflowing, the Lord will unleash His wrath and fury upon them. The magnitude of their destruction will be a time of solemn retribution and a day of incomprehensible sadness.

Chapter Footnotes

1 . 3 Nephi 26:9.
2 . Brother Joseph, pp. 312, 830-831, 835, 836, 863-864.
3 . Dean C. Jessee, “Priceless Words and Fallible Memories: Joseph Smith as Seen in the Effort to Preserve His Discourses,” BYU Studies (Spring 1991) 31:2:23.
4 . D&C 24:3, 7, 9; 41:7; 43:12-14.
5 . Donald Q. Cannon and Lyndon W. Cook, editors, Far West Record, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1983), p. 13.
6 . Brother Joseph, pp. 629, 720.
7 . Times and Seasons (February 1, 1843) 4:6:95.
8 . History of the Church 2:236, 348.
9 . History of the Church 4:604.
10 . History of the Church 5:362.
11 . History of the Church 5:362.
12 . D&C 76:114-116.
13 . Philo Dibble, “Recollections of the Prophet Joseph Smith,” Juvenile Instructor (May 15, 1892) 27:303.
14 . History of the Church 5:402.
15 . History of the Church 5:424; emphasis added.
16 . History of the Church 6:184-185.
17 . Heber C. Kimball, April 6, 1863, Journal of Discourses 10:167.
18 . Heber C. Kimball, June 27, 1863, Journal of Discourses 10:233.
19 . John Taylor, April 6, 1863, Journal of Discourses 10:148.
20 . Wilford Woodruff, April 9, 1857, Journal of Discourses 5:85.
21 . D&C 112:30, 121:31, 124:41, 27:13.
22 . History of the Church 4:426; emphasis added.
23 . D&C 121:28-31.
24 . D&C 93:15-18. See also Sidney B. Sperry, Doctrine and Covenants Compendium, (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1960), pp. 472-473.
25 . D&C 107:57.
26 . Times and Seasons (February 1, 1843) 4:6:95.
27 . History of the Church 2:236, 348.
28 . 1 Nephi 5:18; 19:10.
29 . 3 Nephi 26:7-11.
30 . Numbers 21:14; Joshua 10:13; 1 Samuel 10:25; 1 Kings 11:41; 1 Chronicles 29:29; 2 Chronicles 9:29; 2 Chronicles 12:15; 2 Chronicles 20:34; Ephesians 3:3; Colossians 4:16.
31 . Ether 3:25-27.
32 . Ether 4:15-16.