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Angels, False Imprisonment, and the Story Behind "The Spirit of God"


The author, W. W. Phelps, was twice thrown into prison "to keep [him] from joining the Mormons."

Born in New Jersey in 1792, W. W. Phelps was a man of good education and standing. In fact, in his early life he aspired to be the Lieutenant Governor of New York. On April 9, 1830—just three days after the Church was officially organized—Phelps purchased a copy of the Book of Mormon from Parley P. Pratt (Mormon Channel, "W. W. Phelps - Episode 22"). 

Shortly after, he sat and talked with Sidney Rigdon for 10 hours about the book and its sacred message and origins. During this time of questioning and conversion, Phelps saw considerable opposition. In fact, he was incarcerated twice "reportedly for other incidental causes, but in part, as he expressed it, 'to keep me from joining the Mormons'” (Mormon Channel, "W. W. Phelps - Episode 22").

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Image of W. W. Phelps from Mormon Channel.

But this didn't quench the faith of Brother Phelps, who joined the Saints in Kirtland in 1831. Upon arrival, he put himself at the disposal of the prophet, who then revealed what is now section 55 of the Doctrine and Covenants. In this revelation, he was called to assist Oliver Cowdery in the printing office and to travel to Missouri with the prophet and many apostles. He was promptly baptized and left to preach the gospel two days after receiving this call.

"The Spirit of God" has been played at the dedication of all the temples of the Church.

After the sacred experiences following the dedication of the Kirtland Temple, the Saints kept the tradition of singing "The Spirit of God" at every temple dedication. W. W. Phelps himself loved temples and sacrificed much to see these holy houses built, donating $1,500 to the building of temples in Kirtland and later in Far West, Missouri, where persecution kept a temple from ever being built (Stories of Our Mormon Hymns, J. Spencer Cornwall).

From the Kirtland Temple, which cost $75,000 and years of sacrifice and labor, to our modern temples today, which are built because of the sacrifice and tithes of  Saints around the world, the consecration of every new temple has been celebrated with the inspiring words: "The Spirit of God like a fire is burning! The latter-day glory begins to come forth." 

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