48: He “Has Sealed His Mission and His Works with His Own Blood” (Doctrine and Covenants 135–136)
Few things could have been more discouraging for the early Saints than the martyrdom of the Prophet Joseph Smith. But although it was a somber time in Church history, the Saints showed remarkable perseverance and faith in the Lord. This week we dig into Doctrine and Covenants 135–136 to put the martyrdom in context as well as look at thoughts from early Saints that will help us see how we too can persevere through our darkest moments.
Link to the bagpipe version of “Praise to the Man” (Time stamp 22:10-22:25): History of Hymns “Praise to the Man”
The song set to the tune of “Star in the East”: “Listen to a Version of “Praise to the Man” That You’ve Probably Never Heard Before”
The original poem titled “Joseph Smith” written by W.W. Phelps: Times and Season Vol 5
Section Title for 135: “Martyrdom: Joseph and Hyrum”
More about the Freemason sign of distress:
Among the brotherhood of Freemasons, there is the Grand Hailing Sign of Distress: "Oh Lord, my God, is there no help for the widow's son?" According to Masonic code, any Mason who hears another Mason utter the Grand Hailing Sign must come to his aid. (See Michael A. Halleran, The Better Angels of Our Nature: Freemasonry in the American Civil War (University Alabama Press, 2010).
Church History Topics: Masonry
Elder Elder Vaiangina Sikahema’s talk: “A House of Sequential Order,” October 2021, general conference.
“First of all that I would crave as the richest of heaven’s blessings would be wisdom from my Heavenly Father bestowed daily, so that whatever I might do or say, I could not look back at the close of the day with regret, nor neglect the performance of any act that would bring a blessing. I desire the Spirit of God to know and understand myself, that I desire a fruitful, active mind, that I may be able to comprehend the design of God, when revealed through his servants without doubting. I desire the spirit of discernment, which is one of the promised blessings of the Holy Ghost. I particularly desire wisdom to bring up all the children that are, or may be committed to my charge, in such a manner that they will be useful ornaments in the Kingdom of God, and in a coming day arise up and call me blessed. I desire prudence that I may not through ambition abuse my body and cause it to become old and care-worn, but that I may wear a cheerful countenance, live to perform all the work that [I] covenanted to perform in the spirit-world and be a blessing to all who may in any wise need aught at my hands. I desire with all my heart to honor and respect my husband as my head, ever to live in his confidence and by acting in unison with him retain the place which God has given me by his side, and I ask my Heavenly Father, that through humility, I may be enabled to overcome the curse which was pronounced on the daughters of Eve. I desire to see that I may rejoice with them in the blessings which God has in store for all who are willing to be obedient to his requirements. Finally, I desire that whatever may be my lot through life I may be enabled to acknowledge the hand of God in all things.” (BYU Studies Vol. 14 (1973-1974) in a presentation by Buddy Youngreen, p 216. According to his source he got it from: Bailey, Emma Hale, pp. 112-113).
Female perspectives of the martyrdom:
- “Sarah M. Kimball, who had played a key role in the founding of the Relief Society, was also among those who saw the bodies returned to the city. ‘The scene of the reception of those corpses in nauvoo can be better imagined than described,’ she wrote to a friend, ‘for pen was never made competent to do it justice’ . . . Sarah Kimball remembered holding Lucy Mack Smith’s trembling hand and hearing her question between sobs, ‘How could they kill my poor boys, O how could they kill them when they were so precious?’”( Sarah M. Kimball letter to Sarepta Heywood, circa 1844, Joseph L. Heywood Letters, Church History Library, see also “Revelations in Context: Remembering the Martyrdom”).
- “Almira Mack Covey, a cousin to the Smith brothers, wrote to her family about watching the bodies of Joseph and Hyrum return to Nauvoo. ‘You can judge what were our feelings better than I can tell them,’ she wrote, ‘but this much I can say that a dry eye I did not behold that day among that large assembly of people. It was enough to rend the heart of a stone to behold two Prophets of the Lord laid prost[r]ate’”(Almira M. Covey letter to Harriet Mack Whittemore, July 18, 1844, Harriet Mack Whittemore Correspondence, Church History Library, see also “Revelations in Context: Remembering the Martyrdom”
- “Zina Huntington Jacobs, who had been sealed to Joseph Smith as a plural wife, recorded her shock upon seeing ‘the lifeless speechless Bod[i]es of the [two] Marters,’ noting that ‘little did my heart ever think that mine eyes should witness this awful seen.’ In her journal, Jacobs counted the cost of the martyrdom for the men’s families, the community, and humanity as well as for the Church, describing Joseph and Hyrum not only as ‘the Prophet and Patrarch of the Church of the Later day Saints,’ but also as ‘kind husbands,’ ‘affectionate Father[s],’ ‘venerable statesman,’ and ‘Friends of man kinde’” (Zina D. H. Young diaries, June 28, 1844, Church History Library, see also “Revelations in Context: Remembering the Martyrdom”).
- Phebe Woodruff wrote her parents and described the attack at Carthage. “These things will not stop the work any more than Christ’s death did, but will roll it on with a greater rapidity,” Phebe testified. “I believe Joseph and Hyrum are where they can do the church much more good now than when with us.” “I am stronger in the faith than ever,” she affirmed. “I would not give up the faith of true Mormonism if it cost me my life within one hour from the time I am writing this, for I know of a surety that it is the work of God.” (Phebe Carter Woodruff to “Dear Parents,” July 30, 1844, Church History Library; see also “Revelations in Context: Remembering the Martyrdom”
- “‘Be of good cheer,’ Brigham told the Saints in the area. ‘When God sends a man to do a work, all the devils in hell cannot kill him until he gets through.’ He testified that Joseph had given the Twelve all the keys of the priesthood before his death, leaving the Saints everything they needed to carry on” (Woodruff, Journal, July 18, 1844, see also Saints, Volume 1 Chapter 45: An Almighty Foundation).
- Meeting with saints, Sidney Rigdon spoke for about 2 hours. He proposed that his own place and calling was as Joseph’s spokesman. He did not wish the congregation to vote on the matter, but he wanted the Saints to know his views (Sidney Rigdon, Discourse, Aug. 8, 1844, Historian’s Office, General Church Minutes, Church History Library; Jensen and Carruth, “Sidney Rigdon’s Plea to the Saints,” 133–37; Joseph Smith History, 1838–56, volume F-1, 296).
- “Sidney’s words did not impress Wilford. “It was a kind of second-class vision,” he noted in his journal” (Saints, Volume 1 Chapter 45: An Almighty Foundation).
- “To resolve the matter, Brigham asked the Saints to return later that afternoon to sustain a new leader of the church. They would vote by quorum and as a church body. ‘We can do the business in five minutes,’ he said. ‘We are not going to act against each other, and every man and woman will say amen.’” (Saints, Volume 1 Chapter 45: An Almighty Foundation).
For more information on Winter Quarters see: We'll Find the Place: The Mormon Exodus, 1846-1848 by Richard C. Bennett
Quote: “Brigham came to understand that rather than simply blazing a trail that others would follow, the 1847 vanguard company was establishing a covenant path. Thus, all those who were to make the journey were to travel “with a covenant and promise to keep all the commandments and statutes of the Lord” (D&C 136:2). The revelation further declares, “This shall be our covenant—that we will walk in all the ordinances of the Lord” (D&C 136:4)” (Chad M. Orton, Revelations in Context: “This Shall Be Our Covenant”).
Hymn 195: “How Great the Wisdom and the Love”
His precious blood he freely spilt;
His life he freely gave,
A sinless sacrifice for guilt,
A dying world to save.
I'm going to play a portion of a familiar hymn and I want to see if you can guess what it is because it's played on the bagpipes.
[Praise to the Man played on bagpipes]
Okay, this hymn was actually a poem written by WW Phelps, which he titled "Joseph Smith". It was then printed in Times and Seasons just 35 days after the martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum. So W.W. Phelps originally wanted this song to the tune called "Star in the East". However, in our hymnbook, the song we sing is to an old Scottish folk hymn, but if you want to hear what it's supposed to sound like, I'm going to include a link in our show notes.
But the whole purpose of sharing this with you is, I just have to tell you, that after studying for today's discussion of Doctrine and Covenants, sections 135-136, this poem, or the lyrics of this song have never meant more to me than they do now. And I hope you'll feel the same by the time we're done today. Welcome to the Sunday On Monday Study Group, a Deseret Bookshelf Plus Original brought to you by LDS Living, where we take the Come Follow Me lesson for the week and we really dig into the scriptures together. I'm your host, Tammy Uzelac Hall.
Now, if you're new to our study group, I just want to make sure you know how to use this podcast, so follow the link that's in our description. It's going to explain how you can best use this podcast to enhance your Come Follow Me study, just like my friend Nikki Jensen, who is a big-time listener and friend. So hi, Nikki. Okay, now here's my favorite thing about this study group, is each week we're joined by two of my friends, and I cannot be more excited for these two. I've been trying to get them on for over a year. And they're here and I am so happy. I have Doug and Sara Christensen. Hi, you two.
Sara Christensen 1:35
Doug Christensen 1:36
Okay, here's how we know each other. Doug and I first met when I became a seminary teacher. We taught, we've always taught at the same school, right, and taught together for eight years. It was so fun. Okay, and here's what I love the most about these two: their kids. They are such a great family. I got to spend time with their kids, babysat their kids. Like they're just one of my favorite families of all time. And so I was so excited when they agreed to come on. You guys have any fun stories, any memories of us together?
Sara Christensen 2:04
I remember when one time we went out of town. And you, Tamara, took my kids up into the mountains on cross country skis. And they were just little and they were falling down. And you were so cute with them. I think you took them for hot cocoa, too.
They just really loved it. You were such a good babysitter.
My kids can't hear this because I have never done that with them. They'll be like, How come you've never done that? And then I just have to say, That's because I'm old. Oh my gosh, we did cross country ski; that was so fun.
Sara Christensen 2:38
They loved it.
Doug Christensen 2:41
They talk about you with great affection. My memory would be just teaching alongside Tamara and/or Tammy, as some call her. And I just remember that you were a total kid magnet. And there was no use, you know, trying to compete for attention from the youth with Tammy cuz she had it going.
Okay, well, Doug was like my big brother. And we taught at all the same schools, which was so much fun. That's how we got to know each other so well. And I just have to say like, I've always admired the way you teach. And so I just, I'm really looking forward to today's episode. In fact, Doug is the person that I mentioned a few episodes ago when we talked about the Socratic method. And I said that there is a master teacher who uses that method and this is him. It's Doug Christensen. So to say that I'm nervous would be an understatement. I'm just gonna put that right out there,
Doug Christensen 3:31
That's ridiculous, that's exaggerated praise.
Knock it off, it is not. Alright. So for those of you want to know more about my guests, you can read their bios and see their pictures in our show notes which are found at LDS living.com/sundayonmonday. Okay, so before I tell you to grab your scriptures, and let's dig in, I need to just tell you that today's episode will be a little bit different. So due to some scheduling conflicts, Sara cannot be with us for the entire episode. So she's gonna leave for a bit and then join us in the end.
So you get Doug and me for two whole segments, which is kind of perfect for me, because Doug's gonna help me with all of the church history which we are covering today. And there's a lot. So friends, grab your scriptures and let's dig in, because we have a lot to talk about today. All right, here's how we're going to start the episode, with a heavy question. We usually don't do this till the end, but we're just going to go right for the jugular. And I have a question for Sara and Doug. And here's what it is. How can your knowledge of Joseph and Hyrum's testimonies and their willingness to die for truth influence your own testimony? Has it played any type of role or impact on your testimony of the church?
Sara Christensen 4:38
For me, I would say absolutely. That he was, well, that he and Hyrum were both willing to die for this message, makes it, it's so sacred to me that their deaths sealed their testimonies, and that if it's something that they would be willing to die for then it's something I want to be willing to live for. It's something I want to incorporate in my life, because they gave the ultimate sacrifice for it.
And I want to just tell one other story. I don't know if it's a good time to do it. But when I was in the MTC in 1988, I was learning the First Vision in Portuguese. And I was, couldn't do it very well, because I was just a brand new missionary. And my companion in the MTC was from El Paso, Texas so she really picked up Portuguese easily because it's the same as, it's very similar to Spanish. Not the same but similar. And I, in my very halting Portuguese was telling sister Diaz the First Vision. And as I was talking about a light, it came, rested upon me, a light came from heaven and rested upon me, in Portuguese. I had the most amazing spiritual feeling, overwhelmed at the beauty of his interaction with God and Jesus Christ, Joseph Smith's interaction.
And I looked up at SR Diaz and I said, "It's true. He saw God and Jesus Christ." And she said, "Yeah, I know, that's why we're here on a mission. That's why we're going out." And I was like, But no, it's true, it happened. And I could feel it down to my very bones. And that testimony has helped me and strengthened me over the years, you know, finding out things about Joseph Smith that I didn't know before. It hasn't shaken my testimony of him, because I know that he saw God and Jesus Christ in the grove. And so for him to die for that message and to never, and to never be able to say, 'Okay, I was just kidding. It didn't happen, you know, I don't want to die.' He never did that. He never denied that it happened. And I think it's just beautiful that he sealed it with his blood.
Thank you, Sara. I love that story you shared. Where did you serve your mission?
Sara Christensen 7:12
Wow, what a cool moment that must have been, and that it still has stayed with you.
Sara Christensen 7:19
It's as real today as it was 34 years ago.
Well, and for you to say that there, when you started to learn things about Joseph Smith that you didn't know. And I think a lot of people can relate to that. And I love that your testimony was what grounded you through all of it. And I'm curious to know, when you have those moments where you're like, Wait, I didn't know that. Was there the temptation to flee ever?
Sara Christensen 7:44
Well, I've always been like, Wait, what? He had how many wives? I, you know, I didn't learn that growing up. And I must admit, when I went into the MTC, when I decided to serve a mission, I already was pretty sure the church was true, as much as I knew. It was just kind of like this confirmation that for me, Joseph Smith saw what he said he saw, for me. And so as I found out things like different wives, or you know, the history of the church is coming more out into the open, I had this testimony that when he was 14 years old he saw God and Jesus Christ. And so, he was an imperfect man. And God chose him to visit. And so for me, I haven't ever felt tempted to disregard that testimony experience.
That's fantastic Thank you. I appreciate you sharing that. What about you, Doug?
Doug Christensen 8:46
Well, I've always admired Sara's testimony and the way that she has been able to kind of anchor herself to that peak experience that she had as a young girl, and I am, you know, a great admirer of Hyrum and Joseph. And I mean, I think your original question was about their willingness to go all the way in with this message and, and the lives that were kind of allotted to them through revelations and the development of the restoration.
And I would just say that I, I love those quotations that we hear about Joseph early on in his ministry, where he's, you know, sort of sees himself as a 'Rough Stone Rolling', where he sees himself as someone who needs lots of help. And you know, he's just always had this modest view of himself. And it seems like he always tried to bring the picture that people had of him down to earth. You know, they just had their expectations interfered with when when they really met him, you know, chopping wood or chasing kids around the yard or whatever.
I think that his whole adult life, you know, tells the story of someone who's had as his first priority, to listen to God's voice and to listen to revelation and inspiration. And even though it might not look like a perfectly neat trail that he followed, it was kind of, you know, wandered hither and thither. And yet, he was able to keep listening to that voice and keep asking himself and his family and, and the other leaders of the church, introspective questions. And ultimately, you know, he knew what he was up against long before it happened.
Well I have a question for you, because you just shared your experience and what it has meant to you. And I want to know, I'm curious, is that the way you've lived your life, where you said that Joseph lived his life, first seeking inspiration and guidance? Or has that evolved for you over the years as you've grown?
Doug Christensen 11:12
I would probably say that it waxes and wanes, you know. I'm maybe like a lot of people, maybe more consistent in my plea to God when, when things get rough or, you know, when I'm out of gas, or, or I need answers to questions. Joseph, of course, saw the world through a lens that was always, always had God first. And that would be maybe an aspiration for me, but I don't think it's always successful.
Wow. Thank you, I think an aspiration for all of us, that was excellent. So, well, I appreciate so much that you shared your thoughts and perspectives on the martyrdom. That's what we're talking about today. And so in the next segment, we are going to talk about some other thoughts and perspectives that other people have shared, and what they had to say about the martyrdom and we'll do that in the next segment.
Segment 2 12:06
Okay, let's turn to Doctrine and Covenants section 135. And I want you to look at the section heading. It says, it just starts out with announcement of the "Martyrdom of Joseph Smith the Prophet and his brother, Hyrum Smith the Patriarch, at Carthage, Illinois, June 27, 1844." This section is entirely about the martyrdom. So Doug, will you please read section 135 verse 1. This is from Willard Richards, and his account is verse 1, and I, love that he was able to give us this information.
Doug Christensen 12:37
1 "To seal the testimony of this book and the Book of Mormon, we announce the martyrdom of Joseph Smith the Prophet, and Hyrum Smith the Patriarch. They were shot in Carthage jail on the 27th of June, 1844, about five o'clock p.m., by an armed mob--painted black--of from 150 to 200 persons. Hyrum was shot first and fell calmly, exclaiming, "I am a dead man." Joseph leaped from the window, and was shot dead in the attempt, exclaiming, "O Lord my God!" They were both shot after they were dead, in a brutal manner, and both received four balls."
Thank you. Highlight the italicized words in verse one: "I am a dead man", and Joseph, exclaiming, "O Lord, my God!" These are firsthand accounts, direct quotes from what happened in Carthage jail, and they were given to us by Willard Richards. And what fascinates me the most is when I learned, when Joseph Smith said, "O, Lord, my God!", many people attribute that to being a Masonic cry. It's a Masonic mercy, cry. And I can remember learning it at first and people and friends of mine were like, Joseph was a Mason? I mean, this is really new knowledge about Joseph Smith. And I want to talk a little bit about this. And I'm so glad that I have Doug here to talk about this because Doug answer that question. Joseph Smith was a Mason?
Doug Christensen 13:54
Well, I don't know enough, I don't know as much about it as I should. But yeah, I think Masonry plays a big role in the restoration. And Hyrum and Joseph were both Free Masons and I think maybe everyone in their family. The Masonic tradition, as I understand it, is based in the idea that the practices of Solomon's temple were originated among the the bricklayers, or the people who built Solomon's temple.
And I don't know if they were originated - and I don't know if that's the right way to say it - but these were kind of the covenant keepers or the secret keepers through the years and they would hand down the the Masonic tradition of oaths and covenants and, and promises. And these, you know, these were oaths that they swore to keep on their lives and and to protect.
And you can only imagine Joseph Smith who writes the revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants, almost always as the result of questions that he was asked by others or that he had himself. And you can only imagine Joseph immersing himself in the the practices of Masonry and and sort of wondering, Where do these fit in God's language? And where do they fit in His plan? And what do these ideas have to teach us as religious people? And, you know, can we receive revelation on maybe a palatable way to incorporate this into our own religious practice? Or, or in other words, some of this must be from God.
Yeah, how can we, can we restore, is some of this restorable?
Doug Christensen 15:40
Right. How can we implement this into our own religious practices? So I think in Section 124, you have, you know, some of the language of the temple, where it says, if you don't mind me, sharing, like verse 39.
39 "Therefore, verily I say unto you, that your anointings, and your washings, and your baptisms for the dead, and your solemn assemblies, and your memorials for your sacrifices by the sons of Levi, and for your oracles in your most holy places wherein you receive conversations, and your statutes and judgments, for the beginning of the revelations and the foundation of Zion, and for the glory, and honor, (honor, glory, honor) and endowment of all her municipals, are ordained by the ordinance of my holy house, which my people are always commanded to build unto my (holy) name."
I love that verse in terms of just establishing everything that we learn in the temple. And I love the emphasis at the end, about order, because the Masonic tradition is an order. And I think that's how they talked about it. And our priesthood is so grounded in order. And if I can just throw this in real quick, I loved Elder Vai Sikahema's talk, at this latest conference where he talks about order and kind of getting things in the right order.
Thank you, Doug. I appreciate that. I love that talk, too. You know, for me, in my mind, the way it works is, is it fits into this whole idea of apostasy. And one of the fun ways we taught it in seminary is you take cups, and on the cups, you build this tower, and each cup has a part of the gospel of Jesus Christ. And because of the apostasy, all the cups fall, and then people just pick up pieces here and there, and kind of build their own religious beliefs off of a cup. And I feel like elements of Masonry were part of those cups. And so it's part of the apostasy and it's being brought back. And Joseph did a great job of that.
And so in this, in this part of this verse in verse 1, among the Brotherhood of the Freemasons, there is what's called the Grand Healing Sign of Distress that goes like this: "Oh, Lord, my God, is there no help for the widow's son?" And that's what you would say; it was a Masonic code for anyone who needed help. And there was this belief that the men shooting at him were part of that brotherhood, and they would have recognized do that signal of distress, and would have not shot him, but they did. Is that right? Right, do you understand that correctly?
Doug Christensen 18:08
Yeah, that sounds consistent. I think just to add to what you were saying, you know, there's tons of Masonic ideas and language throughout the New Testament in the letters to Paul from, from Paul to the Corinthians and the Philippians. So if you're, if you really know what you're looking for, this isn't just part of the Latter-day Saint tradition. This is everywhere in the scriptures.
Perfectly said, I love that Doug, great discussion on that. I'm so thankful for all of the history that you knew about that, Doug. So thank you for teaching us about that. I thought that was great. It well, and here's my follow-up question. One of the things I love that I read was by a historian, his name's Jeffrey Mahas, and he helped with the <Joseph Smith Papers>. And he also wrote it for revelations and context. And he said that Doctrine of Covenants section 135, "echoes themes of martyrdom, innocence and divine judgment."
I thought that was interesting, because I hadn't picked up on those. Like, obviously, the theme of martyrdom, but innocence and divine judgment was interesting to me. And so my question for you is, in Doctrine and Covenants section 135, were there themes that jumped out to you? Were there specific verses or parts of section 135 that you marked that stood out to you?
Doug Christensen 19:16
Well, I think the first four verses are especially familiar to readers. We hear the testimony of John Taylor often and and maybe whenever we're talking about the martyrdom we concentrate all of our energy on those verses. I love the idea that Joseph, you know, was reading from the Book of Mormon, and that that's recorded the day that he perishes and, you know, the verse that he reads from Ether is, I think, probably very consoling in some ways to the church, focusing on charity and focusing on the message of God's grace and love for His peoples.
I think that must have come as a comfort to people that he, you know, was reading from the scriptures, you know, maybe a good point for people to think about their own relationship to the scriptures as well and their own scripture study that the Prophet dies with that practice in force. And maybe he was, you know, turning to it as a source of comfort in this, with with these alarming conditions.
That's a great thing you just pointed out. I'd never considered that before, that in our complete time of distress or turmoil, do we turn to scripture to read? I like that a lot. I'd never considered that. Thank you, Doug. What about you, Sara?
Sara Christensen 20:45
Oh, like Doug said, it is very familiar. This, this section is often quoted. And I felt like I have heard it so many times over the years. I really loved at the end. And I'm, I'm a little bit naive to who wrote this.
That's okay, everyone is; you're in good company. They originally believed it was John Taylor, but actually, nowhere is it written that John Taylor wrote it. And so they believe that it was kind of a combined effort, because John Taylor at the time, he was the head of the printing office. And so they believe he, he did help write it, as well as Willard Richards, WW Phelps, and other contributors who worked in the printing office at the time. So great question.
Doug Christensen 21:31
And it would make sense that John Taylor had a hand in it, just having been an eyewitness to the martyrdom.
And we know from his firsthand account that we just talked about right there in verse 1 So absolutely. I love that you asked that.
Sara Christensen 21:44
It's interesting to know who wrote it, because you're, all of the Doctrine and Covenants was written through the hand of Joseph Smith through inspiration, from Jesus Christ. And, and then this comes along. And you're, and it's, you know, it's interesting to think, Who would write this about Joseph Smith? But I love that they wrote this, this tribute to Joseph and Hyrum. And I love how it says in verse 7,
7 "They were innocent of any crime, as they had often been prooved before, and were only confined in jail by the conspiracy of traitors and wicked men;"
And that Joseph Smith, like Doug said, he read from the Book of Mormon in his last hours. I think that's pretty beautiful.
You know what I, I totally agree with you, Sara. It is beautiful. You know what, thank you for pointing that out. And even using the word 'beautiful', we just have to point out that as tragic as this experience was for the saints, their testimonies about it is beautiful. And we're going to talk about that in the next segment.
Segment 3 22:50
So here's some perspectives that I thought were really cool. They are female perspectives. Of course, I have to do this, because I have Sarah here with me. And I just want everyone to know: Sara has always been for me, and I'm not trying to blow, you know, like fluff up your skirt, however you want to say it. You have always been in the - it makes me emotional - an incredible example of motherhood and being a woman.
Like, I can remember one time I came to visit you. And your little Lily was like, I think she was nine, eight or nine. And she was sitting around the table while you and I were talking. And while normal moms would have been like, go play, go to your room, you could not stop touching your Lily, and you kept hugging her. You kept kissing her. And I was so shocked by that. Because it often seems like that kind of touch is reserved for special occasions, maybe? But you were loving on that Lily nonstop. And I was just, I'll never forget that moment. And you love your children fiercely.
Sara Christensen 23:55
I do. I love them fiercely. And they're so, Lily is a special soul, though, as you know. And she loves to be touched and hugged and kissed. And so she and I are just in love with each other. She's 24 now.
I can't even believe that, oh that sweet Lily. She's so sweet. She is so special. And I couldn't think of a better person to have me help tell these stories of female perspectives about the martyrdom. Doug, will you give us a background and give us the context for Doctrine and Covenants section 135. Like, what has happened up to this point? Because, you know, we've left off, we studied 134 last week about governments and we're just kind of out of sorts with our timeline. So can you just give us a little bit of background leading up to the martyrdom?
Doug Christensen 24:42
Well, I'll start with a disclaimer that I am not a church historian.
K. Great disclaimer.
Doug Christensen 24:50
But you'll still know more than the rest of us.
Doug Christensen 24:52
No, I won't, but I do, I do think as we try to figure out what kinds of things led to the hostility that people felt toward the Prophet and toward the Latter-day Saints at the time. It's not just plural marriage; I think plural marriage is a really big piece of it. And, you know, in addition to plural marriage, though, has to do with the climate of this group of people that moves into an area and kind of floods the area with their strange version of Christianity. And part of the complexity of that seems to have something to do with the way that Joseph talked about kingdom-building.
Plenty of talk around the idea that Latter-day Saints aren't mainstream Christians. So so, you know, Latter-day Saints are not mainstream Christians, they are clannish. And, you know, I think it probably feels to outsiders, cultish; to add the wrinkle of plural marriage to that is, you can just sort of understand the defensiveness and the way that people might be unsettled about the church. And Joseph kind of thought about himself not as a king, and not as the emperor of the church or of the land. But he, you know, he was doing God's work in the largest sense. So he's, he's coming to do God's work and it's going to take the world by storm, right? And, and so I think it poses a challenge to to Americana, and to everyone's sense of what Christianity really was.
And here we are in Nauvoo and there are stirrings that are happening with Joseph's friends and the men that he's working, serving with. And you've got William Law now who goes rogue, and he starts having secret meetings in his in his home. And he's inviting several members of the church who are deciding 'Joseph is a fallen Prophet, we need to do something about this.' And they start to print a maga, or they start to print a newspaper, <The Nauvoo Expositor>, where they're just going to expose everything that Joseph is doing. And it becomes very defaming to the church. And Joseph was like, 'We got to do something about this, we can't have this, this newspaper printing these things about us.'
Doug Christensen 27:27
Right. I could be wrong, but I don't think they, they were only able to print one newspaper before they before the the Latter-day Saints came in and destroyed the press. You know, William Marks pled with Joseph to get rid of section 132 and to not go ahead with the practice of plural marriage. He he finds out about it late and he's in the First Presidency; I'm sure he was, you know, had heard rumors and, and so when he and, and his wife are confronted with it right up front, it's certainly disconcerting and, and throws him into a spiral. And he kind of joins the ranks of other disaffected Latter-day Saints, and they, you know, take up their their pitchforks.
So I do think the, you know, when Joseph makes the decision to try to put an end to this, you know, what he's obviously seeing as fake news, it adds another element of disruption to the idea of America. The idea of America is, you know, so closely linked with the idea of a free press. And Joseph has benefited from that tremendously throughout his tenure as president of the church and Prophet. But now it's, now they're, they have all of these forces sort of militating against the success of the church and his own safety, and
Yes, and I like that you brought up his own safety, because he starts, he realizes, 'I'm not doing the saints any good by being here. I've got to get out of Nauvoo. I think the saints will be safer if I'm gone.' And so he and several of his friends, Orin Porter Rockwell being one of them. They get in a boat, and they cross the Mississippi, thinking that that's where they'll be safer. And through, - what's the word? - through different things that happen, scenarios, he gets a letter from Emma that says just come back, and Hyrum. He says, 'Hyrum, what should I do?' And Hyrum's like, 'Turn yourself in. Let's just go back, we'll turn ourselves in together. I think that's what will make the situation better.' That's where we get that famous quote. In fact, we wrote it down, hold on
Doug Christensen 28:50
"If my life is of no value to my friends, it is of no value to myself."
Perfect. That's what he says that he's like, let's go back to Nauvoo. We'll turn ourselves in and we'll make things right.
Doug Christensen 29:39
Yeah. I think the plans to, you know, Joseph had long talked about the West and knew that the West might be the place for them, especially because there were parts of the West like Utah that were no, that were not part of the United States. And they had been betrayed by the United States. And so you know, when, when we do migrate to Utah, it is with the idea that we are no longer part of the United States and don't have to be subjected to its rules and laws or vulnerable to the attacks that we've experienced for the last 20 years. So he also, I think, had conversation with Emma about taking the family and fleeing.
And ultimately, it was just he and Hyrum who decide to leave with some bodyguards, and then realizes that his life is is the only thing that will, that the sort of anti-Mormons are going to, are going to allow for.
Yeah, absolutely. Thank you so much, Doug, for teaching us that history. Because it's so important to know, I appreciate that. And so then we get the martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum, and I highly recommend to everyone who wants to really read this in context, is to read it from <Saints>. It's awesome. The chapter about this explains the back and forth and how it all happened. And so then we have the experience where they're in Carthage Jail.
And now here's what I love about this story. As Joseph is being taken to Carthage, Emma asks Joseph for a blessing, can you please at least give me a blessing before you leave? And I love what Joseph says to her, he says, 'Write it down, and it will be so and I will sign it.' I mean, that is crazy to me, like you write your own blessing, I'm going to sign it. And that's what's going to happen. So I sent the blessing to Sara, and Sara, will you just share with us some of your thoughts or anything that stood out to you about the blessing that Emma wrote?
Sara Christensen 31:32
Absolutely, I loved all of it. But at the very end, when she says, "Finally, I desire that whatever may be my lot through life, I may be enabled to acknowledge the hand of God in all things." So I love the whole blessing. But at the end, that's the crux for me, that's the most important thing that 'Whatever happens, that I will be able to acknowledge God's hand in all things.' And I just, I love that. For me that's that my favorite part of that blessing.
What did you think when you read, can you imagine Doug saying, "Okay, just write any blessing out and I'll sign it and it will happen"? Like, did your mind just swirl with the thoughts of what you'd write?
Sara Christensen 32:17
I would frankly feel like, Well, that's kind of a copout. No, you give me a blessing what God wants you to say to me. So that was my first reaction was, Joseph Smith was maybe kind of busy. And he just said, Emma, write your own blessing and I'll sign it. And that's good. You're good to go. But I think it's beautiful that he trusted her enough to say, 'You know what God wants for you and you write it down', and gave her the power to write or pen her own blessing.
What do you think it says about the power of Emma, or maybe where her heart would have to be to be able to write that?
Sara Christensen 33:01
I think it shows her great humility. Because like I said, if Doug had said to me, 'Just write your own blessing', I would have been like, No, thank you. I want you to give me a blessing. But I just I love her humility and saying, This is what I believe God wants for me, and felt like she was inspired to write all that she wrote.
And we've included in our show notes the entire blessing. So I highly recommend everyone go read it. For me, what I loved about it was no part of it came from a place of anger, or disdain, or 'why me?' It's just the most beautifully worded blessing. And all the things that she desires, and they're all righteous; didn't you feel the same way?
Sara Christensen 33:48
Yes. And like I already said, in the end, she says that whatever my lot in life is, I want to acknowledge God's hand in that. And it's a show of pure humility.
Is there a time in your life when those words really played a role? Or you could look back and it really resounded with you?
Sara Christensen 34:12
Absolutely. When we found out that Lily had autism, it was really devastating for us. For me. I don't know if Doug felt devastated, but I was so sad. So sad for her and so sad for her future and what it would mean, as far as having a family and being able to have her own children and get married and, you know, have a life like that. And those things just aren't possible to her. But I love that Emma said, Help me to acknowledge that whatever comes my way, to acknowledge God's hand in that. And I love, because having Lily in our lives, has been such a huge blessing and has helped us see God's hand in our lives. She's just so kind and so good, so funny.
What are your thoughts, Doug?
Doug Christensen 35:11
I love the line where Emma asks that she not come to the end of any of her days and feel regret. And I think that's a pretty humble thing for Emma to ask in her blessing, given her feelings for some of the, you know, turbulence that will contribute to Joseph's demise, ultimately. And you have to wonder if she didn't have some, you know, second guessing about her choice to marry Joseph, even though she knew that, from the very beginning that he was receiving spiritual witnesses that were a little bit different than the average person.
Definitely. I like that you brought that up. Thank you, both of you for sharing those thoughts about her blessing. And so Emma writes it, Joseph goes to Carthage, and then in Section 135, we have the martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum. And then I wanted to share, this is what women had written in letters and journal entries about the martyrdom. And so I sent these quotes to Doug and Sara and I just want to know, were there any specific ones that stood out to you or that left you feeling something after you read what they had to say?
Sara Christensen 36:25
Doug, you go first?
Doug Christensen 36:27
You know, I guess I, I appreciated the way that each of the sisters tunes in to the general feeling of despair that everyone in Nauvoo felt at the time and everyone that was not in Nauvoo and receiving the news from a distance. You know, John Taylor compares the loss of Joseph Smith to, you know, the the sort of devastation that people felt at the death of the Savior. Phoebe Woodruff writes her parents and says "These things will not stop the work any more than Christ's death did, but we'll roll it on with great rapidity. I believe Joseph and Hyrum are where they can do the church much more good now than when they were with us." So that's a faithful response to a pretty grim situation.
Yeah, that's the one I marked, Phoebe's; I love Phoebe Woodruff's words about the martyrdom.
What about you, Sara?
Sara Christensen 37:39
I was also going to talk about Phoebe Woodruff's quote. But since Doug already did, I really thought it was interesting that the other women wrote how devastating it was to see the bodies come to Nauvoo. And how that must have felt like the end of an era for them, you know, just devastation and similarly to how Mary felt when she saw Jesus on the cross. Both his mother and Mary Magdalene to see that and not really know what it meant as far as that He would resurrect again, that it was the end of an era and how devastating and scary that would be.
I like that you brought that up with the women at the cross, because that's what it made me think of is, we have those female perspectives of the Savior dying, and then we have these female perspectives of the martyrdom of these men. And going back to Phoebe Woodruff,I love how she said, "I'm stronger in the faith than ever. I would not give up on the faith of true Mormonism if it cost me my life within one hour from the time I am writing this, for I know of a surety that it is the work of God."
I mean, just her faith and determination. I think that's incredible, because there was really no knowledge of what would happen next. Can you imagine just feeling completely like, where do we go now? I mean, that was, must have been such a defeating feeling for everybody. Crazy Crazy Crazy. So on his way to Carthage, I guess we're kind of going back and forth with our story. So thank you, everyone who's able to go back and forth with us in Section 135.
There's just so much context we have to talk about, but on the way to Carthage as Joseph is riding out of Nauvoo with those accompanying him, he paused at the temple site and according to <History of the Church, Volume Six> it says, "He looked on the sacred edifice, then on the city and remarked, 'This is the loveliest place and the best people under the heavens. Little do they know the trials that await them.'" We're going to talk about those trials and what he may have been referring to in the next three segments.
Segment 4 39:41
So Sara had to step out for a bit so Doug and I are going to carry on until Sara can rejoin us. Okay, so here we are. We have a succession in crisis. Joseph Smith is gone and there has been nothing in place. Nothing has been set up for what will happen, because no one thought it would. This is a crazy time. And so Doug, I want you to kind of talk to us about what this looked like and what they did for this new succ - who will be the new prophet?
Doug Christensen 40:12
That's a great question. Yeah, I don't think Joseph Smith actually thought it through in detail. Maybe being an eternal optimist, you know, and sort of imagining that the time, there will be plenty of time to plan more specifically for this moment. I actually like to think about this in a larger context, because if we go back to our early days with Come Follow Me and reading the early chapters, sections of the Doctrine and Covenants, we notice, you know, starting with Oliver, and and kind of from like Section 6. And it may have happened earlier, but I, but I think starting with Section 6 proper, we notice that there is this kind of wrangling over who's in charge, right?
Joseph is a young boy, essentially, like he's, you know, just home from what we might imagine as a modern-day mission. He's, he's really naive. He doesn't have, he's never organized a church before. And so there's this kind of wrestling over his role. And he doesn't just start right out of the gate as the President of the church, as the Prophet. I mean, I do think about, you know, people thought about him as the Prophet pretty early on, but the Hiram Page incident in Section 28, where you just have people kind of trying to figure out what does the leadership of the church look like? By the time you get to Section 20, there's maybe a little bit more careful information about how the, the church should be organized.
But I just, I think Joseph, in some ways maybe resisted being in charge of everything. and, you know, went through a real grilling process himself, to try to figure out what his role was or what his roles were. Because we know he wore many hats and had lots of responsibilities for such a young person. So as we approach this transition, and the death of the Prophet and the death of Hyrum, which is significant, because he would have been one of the people Joseph would have talked about taking over for Joseph.
My understanding is that there were six or seven people that Joseph kind of imagined taking the helm, the roles of the helm of the church. William Marks, who was the Stake President in Nauvoo would have been on that list; Hyrum, Samuel, his brother; yeah.
But he died.
Doug Christensen 42:39
I mean, there would have been a family succession that they would have imagined and that Emma actually held onto with the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. And then obviously Brigham and Sidney and other people who were in place to become the leaders of the church. So not being clear about that left them in a pickle, and you also had the brethren, many of the apostles out on missions when they got the news of Joseph's death.
That's what surprised me the most was to read that the Quorum of the 12, they were serving missions. And Brigham Young didn't even receive official word until July 16th. That's 19 days after the martyrdom when they did get word. I loved reading that Brigham and Orson, they traveled to Boston and they meet all the other apostles in the Eastern states. They decide to return home immediately. And this is around August, the beginning of August, August 3rd, August 4th. They won't cross the banks into Nauvoo until August 6th.
And one, a quote that I found that I loved was when they were looking to Brigham, they're like, What is going to happen? And he says, "Be of good cheer. When God sends a man to do a work, all the devils in hell cannot kill him until he gets through." And he just testified at that point that Joseph had given the 12 the keys of the priesthood before his death, leaving the saints everything that they needed to carry on. Like he's connecting, like, Wait a minute, right before we left, we were all given the keys. There might be something to that. Probably still uncertain how it's gonna play out though, right?
Doug Christensen 44:09
Well, I don't think Brigham actually identifies himself as the caretaker of the church until later. And he does recognize himself as the President of the Quorum of the 12 and is willing to function as the head of that quorum. But he does see the quorum as the body that holds the keys that Joseph held as the President of the church, Prophet. Sidney Rigdon had been estranged a little - he was in the First Presidency - but he had been estranged from Joseph through some, you know, disagreements in the weeks, maybe months leading up to Joseph's death. And so he was away, but he had his own revelation that he was supposed to come back to Nauvoo and assume the role of caretaker for the church.
And so there's obviously going to be a crisis of who the right person should be. And, and it is interesting that Sidney puts himself, you know, that he really sees himself - he's had a revelation. He, and in fact he says that it's a revelation that is a continuation of the revelation he received with Joseph in Section 76. And Wilford Woodruff says, "It was a second-class revelation." (laughter)
Doug Christensen 45:31
But I do think Sidney's an interesting part of the story because, you know, not only does he kind of create tension in terms of the way that it'll be handed over, the authority and the keys, and sort of how we're going to sort of understand that going forward. But, you know, Sidney goes and starts his own church in Nauvoo with James Strang, who later parts ways with Sidney and takes the majority of the people that had followed them, with him. And the Strangites become a pretty pronounced group in the schism that occurred. And I think it does show us that there's this, you know, there's this, Joseph's death is disruptive to the church. And it's disruptive to the unity and cooperation of the saints They all have to kind of figure out where they stand.
Yeah. And so Sidney comes into town several days before Brigham Young does, like maybe four or five days, and he calls a meeting. And he, he, did he explains what you just said, that he had this revelation. And at this meeting with the saints, he spoke to them for about two hours and explained to them that this is what how it's supposed to play out. And I love what Brigham Young then says, he says, to resolve the matter, Brigham asked the saints to return later in the afternoon to sustain a new leader of the church. And he says that they're going to vote on the quorum as a church body - and I love how he says - We can do the business in five minutes. We're not going to act against each other, and every man and woman will say Amen.
And I think that's great, because Sidney spoke for two hours, and Brigham Young's like We can get this done in five minutes; the Lord will let us know exactly what needs to happen.
And then there is this really incredible church history story that I wanted us to talk about, because when Sidney got up to speak, the wind was blowing against him, and no one could really hear what was being said. And that's a long two hours. And then Brigham Young gets up to speak and several people wrote about the experience they had. And I'd love for us to talk a little bit about this, because as Brigham Young was teaching - they have shared their experiences in their journals - that they heard Joseph Smith, and they could have sworn they saw Joseph Smith speaking, it wasn't Brigham. And that's when the saints knew that Brigham Young would be the next prophet. So tell me a little bit about that story.
Doug Christensen 47:47
I do think, you know, our tendency is to romanticize and lionize. And those words just mean that we kind of exaggerate the importance and the impact of a certain event or of people's place in the history, right? So we maybe cover over things a little bit. And I, you know, I love those accounts and find them very inspiring, you know. People have a, like a really impactful witness that Brigham Young is the right person for this particular moment. And of course, we looking back can see how his personality and his particular skill set fits so nicely into this moment for church history and the amazing leader that he is, you know, that God allows him to survive a pretty bad case of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever later, and you know, navigate the traverse of the continent.
As fun as this story is to tell, and especially when you read it in the manual, and, and you read these accounts from people, I go back to the 2 Kings chapter 8 story about Elijah and Elisha, and this term that we use, which is a 'mantle'. And we we recognize that the experience they had was this mantle of a prophet. And we use that word today. And I think that's what's important about this whole experience, is learning that the people recognized. And, and maybe you can expound a little bit on this is that people recognize that even though, that Brigham Young was the prophet because he now held the mantle of a prophet, even before he was set apart.
Doug Christensen 49:20
Yeah, this is going to be such an important issue for the church going forward. And I think this moment of succession crisis is such a growing experience for the church. You know, it's it's really not going to happen until I think Lorenzo Snow, that they begin reorganizing the First Presidency immediately after the death of the President of the church. And so it takes some time for them to kind of work out what it means for John Taylor to die, for Wilford Woodruff to die. And it it isn't, it isn't a slam dunk and they, it's not perfectly articulated in the Doctrine and Covenants. So I don't know, you know.
I mean, nothing could be more important than for the saints to feel like God is still leading the work, and that the Savior is still walking hand-in-hand with the leaders. And I think Brigham goes on to demonstrate that this is the case, but he's not, he's not a revelator. Section 136 is really his only revelation that we have canonized. He's a great teacher and speaker, but he, his role is different than Joseph's. Joseph was, I mean, if we look back on it, it looks a lot like Joseph's primary role in organizing and restoring God's Church on earth was to be a collector of texts and a translator of texts.
I love that you just recognized that they each had separate roles. That is so cool, how Joseph did have the role to receive revelation and organize the church and get it to a place where, in comes this you know, lion in my mind, this lion-roaring Brigham Young, who's now going to get the saints to the West. And so I'm so grateful you brought that up, because that's what we're gonna talk about in the next segment, we are going to jump into section 136 and read the only canonized Revelation we have from Brigham Young.
Segment 5 51:16
Have you or Sara ever been on Trek?
Doug Christensen 51:30
So I've been with my employer. I've been to, you know, like, I think we went as - I don't know if you were, I don't think you were with us when we did the whole Suburban - you know, Larry H Miller-sponsored trek through, basically from what - it was mostly in Wyoming - Independence Rock and Martins Cove. So I've, I've been on trek to Martin's Cove several times with our stake. And then I did a seminary teacher trek through that area with, you know, some of our resident experts teaching us along the way.
Oh, so cool. Yeah. Because
Doug Christensen 52:10
But I haven't gone all the, yeah, I haven't done the whole trek. And I feel a little bashful about that fact, because I've been teaching for 31 years.
I feel the exact same way. I've always wanted to do it. I'm like, I do want to dress in the Pioneer outfit. Yeah, I've wanted to forever.
Doug Christensen 52:25
I did make it to Sharon, Vermont two years ago, but that's as much of the east, eastern part of the trek that I've done as I've been
Same with me! That's so interesting. And then I was telling my husband the other day, I'm like, you know, I feel like a fraud because I'm learning Hebrew. I love the Old Testament, and I've never been to Jerusalem. But he pointed out, he's like, Joseph never went. Oh, yeah, good point. I'll give myself a break.
Doug Christensen 52:48
Yeah, Joseph, among others.
We're fine. We're fine. Well, I don't know about you, but honestly, for me, this is the part of our church history that just gets me. I mean, we've been studying Doctrine and Covenants all year and the stories are so profound and deeply emotional. But when I get to this part of it, being a pioneer and having to cross the plains, I'm out. Like, shoot me, leave me for dead on the prairie, nobody wants me in their wagon train.
It just sounds so difficult. And I don't even, I mean, I know we talk about it a lot, and it was so difficult and so hard, but we have to talk about section 136, because, like you said, Doug, this is Brigham Young's, this is his revelation that he receives. And like you said, he's not really a revelator. And I just have to say that I love the wording of this revelation. You know, for me, it felt like it was a perfect blend of kind of Joseph's words and Brigham's. It felt like Brigham was trying to find his own voice with this revelation. And I really appreciated that. And so tell us about Winter Quarters and leading up to Section 136.
Doug Christensen 53:50
Well, once again, sorry for the disclaimers. But you know, I'm no expert on on this. And I know there's a lot more to learn about it. In fact, I don't know if you want to include in your show notes a really great book on 1846-1848. But it's called <We'll Find the Place - the Mormon Exodus, 1846 to 1848> by Richard E. Bennett. He goes into detail that I'm not going to be able to provide for you because I'm just reading that book but I don't know enough yet to really get down into the weeds with it. But if you can just imagine, you know, that this is going to be - the reason I disagree with you Tammy - that you wouldn't make it is because you're trying to look at it from today's comfortable, convenient perspective.
You bet I am, 100%.
Doug Christensen 54:47
And, and the reason that you would make it is because your expectations back then, would have already, you know been, you would have been hardened and steeled by getting booted from Jackson County and or run out of Kirtland or, or whatever it was, you know, as you had sort of abandoned your home more than once,
You're right. It probably would have fueled my hate fire, and I just would have made it out of spite.
Doug Christensen 55:13
Your grit would have kicked in. Yeah, I think the saints, you know, obviously, we know the stories about the role that the weather played, the way that they were assigned to pack up as little as they could survive on and, you know, probably wishing that they had left certain keepsakes home and brought more dried fruit and other things, dried meat, that could have sustained them when they got hungry. But yeah, I think the trek across Iowa was painful and a struggle and kind of a writing on the wall for what lay ahead from Winter Quarters all the way to the valley. Weather would have made all the difference.
And of course, having people with enough stores for for eating or, you know, the means to find - procure food would have been a big, really big issue. I guess what I want to concentrate on in kind of strictly a reading of section 136 is Brigham's wisdom on the kind of order that would be required of the saints in order to make it, right? They came armed with freshly-made covenants and endowments. And you know, this, this probably added a lot to their backbone and their grit, as they, as they sort of knew that God would be behind them and in front of them and and to the side. But at the same time, as I'm reading, like, verses 18-21, 18-23, we see the Lord instructing them to do everything they can to get along.
You can only imagine from, you know, we learned from Zions camp that a trek that doesn't have an immediate vision of what, you know what, what's waiting for them. They don't know exactly what to anticipate. It leads to bickering; it leads to bitterness; it leads to selfishness. It probably also led to amazing experience - I mean, I think we, I think we know this - that it led to amazing acts of generosity, parents laying down their own lives for their children's safety, and, and comfort.
You know, something you said just really struck me. You said that the saints were coming out of freshly-made covenants. I mean, that is powerful to me, because section 136, just verses 1-four, the revelation begins by pointing that out. He talks about how it is the word in the will of the Lord considering the camp of Israel, let all the people of the church who are journeying with them, keep the commandments in the statues of the Lord. But then I love verse 4.
4 "And this shall be our covenant-- that we will walk in all the ordinances of the Lord."
And I'm just thinking about those early saints and Winter Quarters and their commitment to covenants. Like, so much of this section is about covenants and what covenants look like in everyday life of a pioneer.
And I'm just sitting here thinking about the wording as it applies to me. And how fresh are my covenants? Sure, I went to the temple for the first time a long time ago. But I'm just thinking like, I think I can renew or refresh them often. Isn't that the point of taking the sacrament every Sunday is we renew and refresh those covenants? And every time I go to the temple, I'm renewing and refreshing. And I just I love that now I'm thinking about that freshly-made covenants. And how often do I do that? I think sometimes our covenants get stale. Wow. I don't know, like gave me a lot to think about Doug, I love that. Thank you for sharing that.
Doug Christensen 58:57
As I understand it, they, this is the, this is the moment in church history when wards became part of our organization. And so part of that organization that you read about in those first two verses, you know, we would have seen the organizing into these smaller clusters. The stakes of Zion has been an idea from the very beginning of, you know, talking about gathering, but now they're going to be broken up into these smaller groups. And those, those groups are going to become, you know, people that you're, this is kind of like our, our current version of a ward, right? People that you're stuck with, that you wouldn't necessarily always choose to be stuck with, but that you learn to get along with and you grow to love and you, you know, try to serve and
I love that connection that you made. And that's a major part of our covenants, beginning with baptismal covenants. And you know, then it just gives them even more, for me, it gives more depth to the words then and to the counsel. And especially I read verse 23 and 24:
23 "Cease to contend one with another; cease to speak evil one with another.
24 "Cease drunkenness; and let your words tend to edifying one another."
And I just wrote to the outside, "pack your patience". That has been kind of a buzzword for us lately in our time, like, you got to be willing to be patient and work with each other. But then how much more power does your insight, Doug, give us to verse 31,
31 "My people must be tried in all things, that they may be prepared to receive the glory that I have for them, even the glory of Zion; and (that) he that will not bear chastisement is not worthy of my kingdom."
And just this idea of building Zion, like you said, the stakes, the tent is getting bigger and bigger and bigger. And that's the whole point and purpose of this: the gathering and heading to the west.
Doug Christensen 1:00:39
Yeah, that's great. You know, I read the word 'humble' in several of these verses: "humble yourself", "you're going to be humbled". And that's a huge ask of modern Latter-day Saints and of the early Latter-day Saints, because there are so many reasons to second-guess others to, you know, second-guess people's motives, even the leaders of the church. It's really hard to be humble. And it's hard to accept your lot in life, and accept the conditions of your moments that, that feel impossible. And so I think the, you know, the, that could be a real key word for the temporal salvation of the saints -to be humble, and, and, you know, turn outward.
You know, what struck me is when you just said 'to accept the conditions of your life'. I think that is so hard to do. And it looks, like you said earlier, it looks different for everyone. And that makes me reflect on my own scenario and situation and have I been willing to accept those conditions. And I think when I'm not is when it's the hardest. And I just want to kick against it and not do it. But how fascinating that "my people must be tried in all things", in Winter Quarters and in 2021. And it looks different for everyone. But the goal is to humble us, so I loved your your content on that word, humble. Thank you for pointing that out, especially in verse 32. Right there it is again, 'humbling', it's everywhere. You're totally right. So
Doug Christensen 1:02:13
I love the word humble. When you start to think about if you compare the word humble to the word human, they have the same root. And the word human comes from the word humus, which is another meaning of Adam, right? That he was, it means 'earth man'. So he's from the dirt. And to humble yourself is to kind of level yourself, to kind of get back in touch with your humanness.
Another word that kind of fits onto this is the word hubris, which is kind of the opposite of humble. And hubris is when we sort of lift ourselves off of the ground and up above others. So, you know, to, to become humble is to bring yourself back to the ground. And, you know, this, the early Saints show us what it means to rely on Mother Earth for their survival, and, and also to kind of keep their feet on the ground through these trying experiences. So it's a quite a crucible that, that teaches them the real meaning of the word.
Oh, my gosh, Doug, I love that you just taught us that about humble and hubris. That, I mean it's a perfect way to transition into what we want to talk about next. Because the whole idea of section 136 is, Yeah, yeah, yeah. It might be good for the pioneers but what does it mean for us today? And so in the next segment, we're going to look at the so-what, of section 136. And what it means to us now.
Segment 6 1:03:44
Sara is back, yay Sara! Okay. So there is a great quote in Revelations in context that says, rather than simply blazing a trail that others would follow, the idea behind section 136 is to establish a covenant path for all of us, and to help us recognize that we might not be asked to go to Winter Quarters, but we're all asked to trudge a journey. Everybody has their own journey. Do either of you have a time in your life when you, you had to do something difficult, you had to take a journey, and you had, knew very little what the outcome would be, but it was worth the effort?
Sara Christensen 1:04:23
Well, this may sound naive or kind of Pollyanna-ish, but I feel like every single challenge that has come up in our lives has been worth going through. And that just like what Emma said that, "Whatever my lot in life is, I want to see God's hand in it and search for God's hand in it." And you know, over the years Doug and I've had some hard things happen. Nothing like a lot of people. But for us, they were some hard things and I just feel so grateful that through it all, I've been blessed with this feeling that I'm deeply loved by my Heavenly Father.
I just love that application of how you see the Lord's hand. And, you know, when you read section 136, about these people getting ready to go and and this, you know, walk to Utah, and how in verse 4 of section 136, it says,
4 "And this shall be our covenant--that we will walk in all the ordinances of the Lord."
And then I love the promise in verse 11.
11 "And if ye do this with a pure heart, in all faithfulness, ye shall be blessed;..."
And you're seeing evidence of that, Sara. That's a powerful truth that we're taught in Section 136. So thank you for sharing that. What about you, Doug, in answer to that question, has there been a journey or anything you've been asked to walk that was difficult and arduous, but in the end, or maybe hindsight, you saw the blessing?
Doug Christensen 1:05:56
Well, on one hand, we have had a pretty privileged life compared to people with gigantic struggles, we feel pretty lucky. But there have, obviously, you know, it's all relative when it comes down to your personal struggle and pain. I know that she doesn't really think about this as one of her hardest struggles. But, you know, in the last two years, she went through a full cancer routine and went through chemotherapy, and they discovered her cancer at a at a good stage that made her, everything reasonable to deal with.
But what inspires me about that experience, is just the way that Sara looked at it from the very beginning. She just has this real amazing courage. And, you know, she doesn't flinch at difficulties like that, especially when they're about her. And so, you know, I've just been the witness to something that has been really miraculous. All of her children and I are, you know, we're very lucky to be related to her and in her, in her shadow.
Sara Christensen 1:07:11
Well, I'm just thinking of verse 29, in Section 136, through this experience for both of you. Sara, will you read verse 29 out loud.
Sara Christensen 1:07:21
Yes. Let me just get there.
Because he's teaching the saints how to act. He's giving them the rules and regulations while they're traveling. And he's saying they can be praised. They can be merry, and they can sing, and they can dance, and have thanksgiving, all of this fun stuff. Well I love verse 29.
Sara Christensen 1:07:37
29 "If thou art sorrowful, call on the Lord thy God with supplication, that your souls may be joyful."
And did you have that experience going through life and everything you've done?
Sara Christensen 1:07:51
I have had that experience. I, and, you know, like when you said, what was something hard that you've done, like, Winter Quarter? And cancer didn't even, it's not even in my top 10 hard things that I've done, because when it affects your children, or people that you love, and they're in pain, that is a feeling of being out of control, and that you have to hand that over to God. I feel so grateful that throughout each of these trials, that we have felt God's love. And His love is pervasive. And it's ever-present.
And I have to say, I could not feel it like I do now, before I got treatment for my depression. I had postpartum depression and I don't know how Doug stayed with me. I didn't even recognize myself. But after I got help, and I got treatment, I feel like ever since then, my life has been, I'm able to see the goodness in even the hardest, hardest things. So, you know, if I were at Winter Quarters, and I didn't have my anti-depressants? I can't even imagine; I would have just laid down and died.
But it would have been hard to let, I think it would have been hard to call on the Lord with supplication. I think many of us reach a point where we just can't even pray for help to feel any joy. So, I'm glad you shared that. Thank you, Sara, for being so personal with that.
Sara Christensen 1:09:24
Doug, any thoughts?
Doug likes to deflect doesn't he? Yeah, he doesn't like any attention.
He is the master deflector of all time. I can't break him. I'm trying so hard.
Sara Christensen 1:09:37
And I like to just divulge whatever I have.
Well I know that about you; that's my favorite quality about you know,
Doug Christensen 1:09:43
What are you asking for?
Were you sorrowful? Did you call upon the Lord with supplication, with petitions?
Doug Christensen 1:09:48
Well, I mean, I think, you know, gosh, I felt, you know, Sarah and I did go through a period of time where we had some financial turbulence reversals, and made some bad choices on investments for like our home and like investing in our home, and it kind of, it was kind of at the height of our expenses with our kids and at the, you know, bottom of our income. And so it's just a kind of collision course. And I just, I think that's probably one of the low points in our lives where our marriage was tested.
And, and I think I remember being taken to the brink. And, and just praying for a little light, you know, just a pinhole of light, and a way forward. And I think, looking back, it's easy to say, and you know, as we read church history, it's also easier to read it from this perspective than it must have been going through some of those incredible experiences. But as I look back, it's just amazing to see the fulfillment of Malachi chapter 4? - the windows of heaven. You know, God, God surprises us.
If we'll put our trust in God, then He will surprise us with His blessings. And I think that's what He's kind of always telling the children of Israel and Abraham, and, you know, the the early church, Joseph, Emma. If we'll trust Him, He'll surprise us with His blessings. And, and so, looking back, Sara and I have just been so blessed and haven't had to keep worrying about that part of our lives as much as we did at that time. And, and that's, it's just kind of gone on a steady climb of, of comfort and peace of mind, where we're not throwing money around, but we, we have much more comfort and peace of mind. And it really does feel like He kind of led us out of the box we were in.
You know what I love so much about you, two? I just love your different perspectives. I love your stories. So thank you, thanks for sharing those. Those were perfect. So that's it. So I just want to know, at any point today, when we were talking, is there anything that stuck out to you, or that you were like, Oh, I'd never considered that, just one takeaway?
Sara Christensen 1:12:41
The whole time we're talking, I'm just looking at Doug and think he's the most handsome man I've ever seen. I just love him. And also, I love the Prophet Joseph Smith. I am forever indebted to him. And I, I don't love him like I love Jesus Christ, but I love him for what he gave so that we could have this gospel. And I'll never leave the church because first of all, I, I believe it's true for me. But I, after what has been sacrificed so I could have this knowledge and I could have this truth in my life, that'd be such a betrayal. I love the Prophet Joseph.
Beautiful takeaway. I like that. Thank you, Sara. I appreciate that.
Doug Christensen 1:13:40
Well, let's see. You know, I love the idea, I'm kind of, I've kind of got some of the Masonic stuff running through my mind and the saints making these covenants in the temple. And there's a lot of attention to blood in the covenants that they make in the temple. And so the, the Masons, you know, they, they had these oaths that were sometimes referred to as blood oaths. And it was kind of like, you're gonna swear on your life. And they've just, you know, the blood of the Prophet has just been spilt. And they've just made these covenants in the temple; and the Quorum of the 12, and the leadership of the church will make oaths to avenge the blood of the Prophet.
And Joseph asks God, to avenge His people when he's in Lib, you know, when he's in Liberty, and he cries out for vengeance. And I just think that it's, you know, this sets up a framework for the Latter-day Saint disposition. The way that they go forward is they're connected by blood and they're connected by covenant and they are, you know, they're going to be defensive as they move into the valley. And as they establish themselves, they're going to be worried about getting run out again. And they're going to be, you know, a little bit on edge when John, you know, later on when Johnson's army comes and when they go, you know, when they're dealing with Indian relations.
So I guess maybe one way to end my thoughts would be to tie us back to the blood of the Savior and that His, you know, I love that line in the hynm that "his blood he freely spilt". How, how can we mingle our blood with His, you know, how can we mingle our, our DNA with His, and our spiritual DNA with His, and become blood brothers and, and accept His sacrifice? And I think the saints really had the Savior at the center of their, their plight and their mission. And, and that was, I'm sure, very sustaining for them as it is for me.
Doug, that was such a great takeaway, because I finally had a connection. Now wonder in Section 136, there are so many times when Brigham Young says that the Lord is saying, 'I will take care of your enemies'. Oh, my gosh, I'd never thought that because if they were trying to avenge the blood, and they were trying to avenge and take care of their enemies, the Lord's like, No, I'll take care of them. I wondered why He said that so many times in Section 136. Thank you for teaching me that. That is so cool.
That was a great takeaway. I love it. Okay, my takeaway for sure, then has to be going back to when Doug, when you said 'freshly-made covenants'. Like that just really set my mind reeling. And it applied to me and thinking about how fresh are my covenants? And I'm going to really be thinking about that this Sunday when I take the sacrament, and renewing those covenants. Because it's, it's, I really feel like it's what got the saints across the plains. And I joke about how they would have left me for dead out on the prairie, I've always said that I would have made a terrible pioneer. But boy, I'm in my own pioneer phase right now. And I hope I'm doing my best. And I think it's going to be freshly-made covenants that's gonna get us through this, or get me through this. And so I just love that. I love how it struck me. And I'm going to be thinking about it for a long time. So thank you for sharing that.
Okay, well, that's it. That's the end of our episode, section 135 and 136. Thank you. Thank you so much. And thank you, Sara, I love you both.
Doug Christensen 1:17:24
Thanks for asking me.
So we would love to hear what your big takeaway was from this episode. And if you haven't already joined our discussion group on Facebook or Instagram, go do it. It's so fun. I love reading what everyone has to say. And then on Sunday, we do a big call for your takeaway. So comment on the post relates to this lesson and just let us know what you've learned. I read every single one of them. I just love hearing what everyone's learning.
You can get to both our Facebook and Instagram by going to the show notes for this episode on LDSLiving.com/SundayonMonday. And it's not a bad idea to go there anyway, because that's where we have the links to all the references and the transcript of this entire discussion. So go check that out.
The Sunday on Monday Study Group is a Deseret Bookshelf Plus Original and it's brought to you by LDS Living. It's written and hosted by me, Tammy Uzelac Hall, and today our awesome study group participants were Doug and Sara Christensen, and you can find more information about these friends at LDSliving.com/sundayonmonday. Our podcast is produced by Katie Lambert; it is recorded and mixed by Mix at Six Studios, and our Executive Producer is Erin Hallstrom. Thanks for being here. We'll see you next week. And please remember, you really are God's favorite.
Transcribed by JU Transcribe