Wilford Woodruff teaches that Joseph and other leaders of the Church were humble and imperfect men who were called of God and received heavenly visitation and instructions.

Speech / Court Transcript
Wilford Woodruff

Wilford Woodruff, "Divinity of the Manifesto," November 1, 1891, in Collected Discourses, ed. Brian Stuy, 5 vols. (Sandy: B. H. S. Publishing, 1988), 2:284-89

Arthur Winter, B. H. S. Publishing
Brigham Young, Wilford Woodruff, Moses Thatcher, Joseph Smith, Jr., Joseph F. Smith
Reading Public

I would like to talk a little to the Latter-day Saints who have assembled here this afternoon, if I can get the faith of the Saints and the Spirit of the Lord to assist me.

This morning, before coming to meeting, I studied with a good deal of interest some paintings at Brother Moses Thatcher's—"Christ before Pilate," and "Christ on Calvary." I thought to myself, in looking at them, that the Savior, as Brother Joseph F. Smith had said, certainly descended below all things. He came down here to earth, was born of woman, in a dispensation appointed of the Father, and tabernacled in the flesh. See him travel from the manger to the cross, onward through blood to the throne of grace appointed unto Him, in poverty and in affliction, never handling any money that we have any account of. Think for a few moments the short time that He labored in the flesh after His appointment by the Father—three years and a half. Look at the suffering that He went through, the labor He performed—the organization of the Church of God, the appointing of Twelve Apostles, of seventy Apostles, and a few disciples, who followed Him during that period. Then reflect that not only He himself was condemned and crucified, shedding His blood for the redemption of the world, but every one of His Apostles was put to death for the word of God and testimony of Jesus Christ, excepting John the Revelator. They could not kill him, the Lord having appointed him to live; otherwise, he would have been slain with the rest. While looking at the Savior nailed to the cross—a Jew, through the loins of Abraham and David, condemned by the Jews as well as the Gentiles, I thought of our own condition in these mountains. We have passed through sixty years as a people, and why have you got the Presidency with you today? Why have you Apostles living in your midst, walking your streets in freedom, after sixty years? Why do you have upwards of two hundred thousand Latter-day Saints gathered together in these valleys of the mountains, in the midst of a generation of sixty millions of people? These are questions which should be answered in the minds of the Latter-day Saints. There is a meaning, brethren and sisters, to all these things. We live in a different dispensation, and under a different order of things, in one sense, to what the Savior and the Apostles did. That was a day of sacrifice. Those holy men who bore the Apostleship in that day were ready to lay down their lives with the Savior, and their lives were short compared with the history of the Church of God in our day. They were all slain, with one exception, and God took them to Himself. He also took the Priesthood from the earth, and it remained in the hands of God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ until 1829. Long centuries passed away. Millions of human beings were born, dwelt on the earth, died, and went into the spirit world, and not one soul of them, so far as we have any knowledge, had power to go forth among mankind and administer in the ordinances of the Gospel of life and salvation. There were, doubtless, millions of good men, who acted up to the best light that they had. There were such men as John Wesley, Martin Luther, Wickliff, Zwingli, Melancthon, and thousand of others, who came forth in their day and preached the Gospel according to the light which they possessed. But they did not have the power to administer in one ordinance which had any force after death. They did not hold the holy Priesthood.

Now, in our day and generation, we have arrived at a point in the history of the world when this Priesthood is restored. The Lord raised up Joseph Smith. He came forth in the proper time. He organized a Church. Who was Joseph Smith? Was he a lawyer? Was he a doctor of divinity? Was he what is called a great man, a learned man? No, he was but a youth; the world would say an illiterate, ignorant youth. He was an unlearned youth in the things of the world. But he was a pure man. He came forth through the lineage of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He was prophesied of by the ancient patriarchs and prophets. The Book of Mormon gives his name. Joseph Smith was moved upon by the Holy Ghost, and he was administered unto, in answer to his prayers, by the Father and the Son; and the Father said to him, "This is my beloved Son, hear ye Him." He listened strictly to the words of Jesus Christ, and continued to do so until he, like the Savior, was put to death, though he was not crucified, because it was not the custom of the day. I may say that it seemed strange to me at that time why the Prophet and his brother Hyrum were permitted to be taken out of our midst. But Joseph Smith, by commandment of God and by the power and revelations of heaven, was ordained and laid the foundation of this great dispensation and fulness of times. He was brought into the world and ordained to organize this Church of Christ for the last time upon this earth, to prepare it for the coming of the Son of Man. After his death, on reflection, I became convinced that he had been ordained to die—to shed his blood as a testimony to this dispensation. But that does not take away the judgment from those who put him to death. "It must needs be that offenses come; but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh." As I have said, Joseph Smith was an illiterate man; but afterwards his teachers and instructors were angels—Apostles who had dwelt in the flesh in the days of Jesus. He was in a condition where he received testimonies and teachings from men that the world did not receive; and he had power to organize the Church in a manner that all the Christian world combined could not do. Why? Because a man, no matter how wealthy or how learned, cannot give a thing that he does not possess. They had not power to organize this Church, because they did not possess the Priesthood. But Joseph Smith held that Priesthood and had power to organize the Church?

From that day until the present this Church has continued to grow, in the midst of persecution, in the midst of drivings and afflictions, in the midst of death and destruction. Millions of fallen spirits, with millions of the human family, have been arrayed against this Church, but they have not had power to destroy it. Why? Because God Almighty has ordained it to stand. The Lord has ordained Zion to be built up. He has proclaimed this through the mouths of inspired men, who spake as they were moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and today you who are here in this Tabernacle in Logan are testimonies of this before heaven and earth. This is the reason why the Presidency can visit you today. It is the reason why Brother Thatcher and Brother Merrill can dwell in your midst, and why the other Apostles can visit you, without being destroyed. Were it not in the dispensation of the Almighty to carry out this principle, you would not have an Apostle to visit you; they would be put to death, the same as those in other dispensations have been. But the Lord has granted this privilege to you Latter-day Saints. I feel to thank God that we live in such a day, when we have power to build up Zion and fulfil the words of the Prophets. The inhabitants of the earth have to be warned. This is the reason why we are here; why Brigham Young, John Taylor, and the Twelve Apostles that have filled their missions have been able to lie down in their beds, surrounded by their wives and children, and give up the ghost, leaving their bodies in the hands of their friends to carry to the tomb. These Apostles and Elders, thousands and thousands of them who are in the flesh in this day, would just as readily lay down their lives as did Peter and the Apostles in the days of Christ, if called upon to do so, for the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. But God has ordained otherwise.

The Lord has chosen the weak things of the world to lead this people. Joseph Smith was but a young man when he died—not forty years of age. He lived nearly fourteen years after the organization of this Church. President Brigham Young followed him. Who was Brigham Young? He was a painter and glazier. He was a humble man. But the Lord called him to lead this people. You know Brigham Young. You know what he has done, and the spirit that was with him. The Lord was with him, and he continued to lead this people by the power of God and by the revelations of Jesus Christ. He laid the foundation of a great work in these mountains of Israel. Many strangers who have recently visited us have marveled and wondered at Salt Lake City being laid out in the manner it was. I have told them that I helped Brigham Young lay out this city in the midst of sagebrush, in 1847. There was not a white man's house then within a thousand miles of us. What was John Taylor? He was a wood turner, and he led the Church for quite a time. Wilford Woodruff was a miller and a farmer; that was about the highest ambition he ever arrived at, as far as this world was concerned. That is about the way the Lord has chosen these men. Why did he not choose these learned and great men? As I have often said, He could not handle them. God has always chosen the weak things of the earth. He showed Abraham, in his day, the spirits that dwelt in His presence, "and among all these were many of the noble and great ones;" and God said unto Abraham, "These I will make my rulers; * * * and he said unto me, Abraham, thou art one of them, thou wast chosen before thou wast born." Abraham stood at the head of Israel in the beginning. He is our great progenitor. God raised up the Savior through the loins of Abraham.

The Latter-day Saints should not get the idea that the Lord has forsaken His people, or that He does not reveal His mind and will; because such an idea is not true. The Lord is with us, and has been with us from the beginning. This Church has never been led a day except by revelation. And He will never leave it. It matters not who lives or who dies, or who is called to lead this Church, they have got to lead it by the inspiration of Almighty God. If they do not do it that way, they cannot do it at all. The Lord will not fail in these last days, and He will fulfill all that He has promised through His Prophets and Apostles, until Zion arises in its glory, and the Bride, the Lamb's wife, is prepared for the coming of the great Bridegroom.

I made some remarks last Sunday at Brigham City upon this same principle—revelation. Read the life of Brigham Young and you can hardly find a revelation that he had wherein he said, "Thus saith the Lord;" but the Holy Ghost was with him; He taught by inspiration and by revelation; but with one exception he did not give those revelations in the form that Joseph did; for they were not written and given as revelations and commandments to the Church in the words and name of the Savior. Joseph said "Thus saith the Lord" almost every day of his life in laying the foundation of this work. But those who followed him have not deemed it always necessary to say "Thus saith the Lord;" yet they have led the people by the power of the Holy Ghost; and if you want to know what that is read the first six verses of the 68th section of the Book of Doctrine and Covenants, where the Lord told Orson Hyde, Luke Johnson, Lyman Johnson and William E. McLellin to go out and preach the Gospel to the people as they were moved upon by the Holy Ghost:

And whatsoever they shall speak when moved upon by the Holy Ghost shall be Scripture, shall be the will of the Lord, shall be the mind of the Lord, shall be the word of the Lord, shall be the voice of the Lord, and the power of God unto salvation.

It is by that power that we have led Israel. By that power President Young presided over and led the Church. By the same power President John Taylor presided over and led the Church. And that is the way I have acted, according to the best of my ability, in that capacity. I do not want the Latter-day Saints to understand that the Lord is not with us, and that He is not giving revelation to us; for He is giving us revelation, and will give us revelation until this scene is wound up.

I have had some revelations of late, and very important ones to me, and I will tell you what the Lord has said to me. Let me bring your minds to what is termed the manifesto. The Lord has told me by revelation that there are many members of the Church throughout Zion who are sorely tried in their hearts because of that manifesto, and also because of the testimony of the Presidency of this Church and the Apostles before the Master in Chancery. Since I received that revelation I have heard of many who are tried in these things, though I had not heard of any before that, particularly. Now, the Lord has commanded me to do one thing, and I fulfilled that commandment at the conference at Brigham City last Sunday, and I will do the same here today. The Lord has told me to ask the Latter-day Saints a question, and He also told me that if they would listen to what I [p.288] said to them and answer the question put to them, by the spirit and power of God, they would all answer alike, and they would all believe alike with regard to this matter. The question is this: Which is the wisest course for the Latter-day Saints to pursue—to continue to attempt to practice plural marriage, with the laws of the nation against it and the opposition of sixty millions of people, and at the cost of the confiscation and loss of all the Temples, and the stopping of all the ordinances therein, both for the living and the dead, and the imprisonment of the First Presidency and Twelve and the heads of families in the Church, and the confiscation of personal property of the people (all of which of themselves would stop the practice), or after doing and suffering what we have through our adherence to this principle to cease the practice and submit to the law, and through doing so leave the Prophets, Apostles and fathers at home, so that they can instruct the people and attend to the duties of the Church, and also leave the Temples in the hands of the Saints, so that they can attend to the ordinances of the Gospel, both for the living and the dead?

The Lord showed me by vision and revelation exactly what would take place if we did not stop this practice. If we had not stopped it, you would have had no use for Brother Merrill, for Brother Edlefsen, for Brother Roskelley, for Brother Leishman, or for any of the men in this temple at Logan; for all ordinances would be stopped throughout the land of Zion. Confusion would reign throughout Israel, and many men would be made prisoners. This trouble would have come upon the whole Church, and we should have been compelled to stop the practice. Now, the question is, whether it should be stopped in this manner, or in the way the Lord has manifested to us, and leave our Prophets and Apostles and fathers free men, and the temples in the hands of the people, so that the dead may be redeemed. A large number has already been delivered from the prison house in the spirit world by this people, and shall the work go on or stop? This is the question I lay before the Latter-day Saints. You have to judge for yourselves. I want you to answer it for yourselves. I shall not answer it; but I say to you that that is exactly the condition we as a people would have been in had we not taken the course we have.

I know there are a good many men, and probably some leading men, in this Church who have been tried and felt as though President Woodruff had lost the Spirit of God and was about to apostatize. Now, I want you to understand that he has not lost the Spirit, nor is he about to apostatize. The Lord is with him, and with this people. He has told me exactly what to do, and what the result would be if we did not do it. I have been called upon by friends outside of the Church and urged to take some steps with regard to this matter. They knew the course which the Government were determined to take. This feeling has also been manifested more or less by members of the Church. I saw exactly what would come to pass if there was not something done. I have had this spirit upon me for a long time. But I want to say this: I should have let all the temples go out of our hands; I should have gone to prison myself, and let every other man go there, had not the God of heaven commanded me to do what I did do; and when the hour came that I was commanded to do that, it was all clear to me. I went before the [p.289] Lord, and I wrote what the Lord told me to write. I laid it before my brethren—such strong men as Brother Geo. Q. Cannon, Brother Jos. F. Smith, and the Twelve Apostles. I might as well undertake to turn an army with banners out of its course as to turn them out of a course that they considered to be right. These men agreed with me, and ten thousand Latter-day Saints also agreed with me. Why? Because they were moved upon by the Spirit of God and by the revelations of Jesus Christ to do it.

I leave this with you, for you to contemplate and consider. The Lord is at work with us. He is doing things here that you do not comprehend. Make these matters a subject of prayer. Do not worry; do not feel bad about them.

I rejoice that God has revealed to us the gospel. I rejoice I live in a day and generation when we have the Church of God on the earth. We have had prophets and apostles among us. They have worked here in the flesh and saved many souls. They have died and gone to the spirit world. Joseph Smith holds the keys of this dispensation. He will hold them to the endless ages of eternity, no matter who may lead the Church after him. The Lord has given us power to come here and build temples. We have three temples erected in these mountains, and many of the dead have been redeemed in them, and they will have a part in the first resurrection. Therefore, we ought to be thankful to the Lord. We want to continue in these temples. We want them to be occupied by the Latter-day Saints. We want our brethren and sisters to continue to go there and redeem the dead and bless the living. The Lord will take care of you and your families. He will take care of Zion, and of this generation, and He will fulfil all that He has said.

I say, God bless you. And He will bless you if you will hearken to His counsels.

I want the Latter-day Saints to stop murmuring and complaining at the providence of God. Trust in God. Do your duty. Remember your prayers. Get faith in the Lord, and take hold and build up Zion. All will be right. The Lord is going to visit His people, and He is going to cut His work short in righteousness, lest no flesh should be saved. I say to you, watch the signs of the times, and prepare yourselves for that which is to come. God bless you. Amen.

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