Just weeks before his death, Joseph Smith taught a sweeping sermon that has widely been considered his most important ever. One Jewish scholar has even described it as “one of the truly remarkable sermons ever preached in America.”1
The discourse, delivered shortly after the funeral service of Church member King Follett, is widely considered the pinnacle of the Prophet’s teachings. Elder B. H. Roberts said, “The Prophet lived his life in crescendo. From small beginnings, it rose in breadth and power as he neared its close. As a teacher he reached the climax of his career in this discourse. After it there was but one thing more he could do—seal his testimony with his blood.”2
In a new post on the Church History blog, Jeffrey Tucker explains the unusual history of the sermon, as well as some of its most unique ideas. He mentions some of the teachings3 that have shaped the doctrines of the Church to this day:
- God was once a man who has progressed to exaltation:
“God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens!”
- Matter and elements are eternal:
- “The pure principles of element are principles which can never be destroyed; they may be organized and re-organized, but not destroyed.”
- Religious freedom should be available to all:
“Meddle not with any man for his religion: all governments ought to permit every man to enjoy his religion unmolested.”
- The living have a responsibility to seek and seal the dead:
“The greatest responsibility in this world that God has laid upon us is to seek after our dead. … It is necessary that the sealing power should be in our hands to seal our children and our dead for the fulness of the dispensation of times.”
For those wanting to dive deeper into the sermon and its teachings, Tucker’s post lists several resources for suggested study, including original manuscripts from the Church History Library and the Joseph Smith Papers, photographs, and scholarly works.
1. Harold Bloom, in Richard Bushman, Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling (2005), 533.
2. See Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith (1976), 355–56.
3. Quotations from Ensign, April and May 1971.
Lead image: Courtesy of ChurchofJesusChrist.org.