Six Hour Fast & Testimony Meetings

In the early days of the church in Kirtland, fasst & testimony meetings lasted six hours:

The first Thursday of each month was fast day. In meetings that often lasted six hours, the Saints sang, prayed, bore their testimonies describing divine manifestations in their lives, and exhorted each other to live the gospel. Eliza R. Snow fondly remembered these gatherings as “hallowed and interesting beyond the power of language to describe. Many, many were the pentecostal seasons of the outpouring of the spirit of God on those days, manifesting the gifts of the Gospel and the power of healing, prophesying, speaking in tongues, the interpretation of tongues, etc.” 28

28. Nicholas G. Morgan, comp., Eliza R. Snow, an Immortal: Selected Writings of Eliza R. Snow (Salt Lake City: Nicholas G. Morgan, Sr., Foundation, 1957), p. 63.

The Danger of Having a Rebellious Spirit

Potential enemies notwithstanding, quarreling and contention within the camp became its most vexing problem. Several men feared possible dangers, some complained about changes in their life-style, and a few questioned the decisions of their leaders. For forty-five days they marched together, and the inevitable personality clashes were exacerbated by the harsh conditions they encountered. Grumblers often blamed Joseph Smith for their discomfort.

Sylvester Smith (no relation to the Prophet), a sharp-tongued group captain, frequently led the dissension. He complained that the food was poor, preparations for the journey were inadequate, and Joseph’s watchdog kept him awake at night. On the evening of 17 May, Joseph was called upon to settle a dispute among some of the brethren. He said that he found a “rebellious spirit in Sylvester Smith, and to some extent in others. I told them they would meet with misfortunes, difficulties and hindrances, and said, ‘and you will know it before you leave this place,’ exhorting them to humble themselves before the Lord and become united, that they might not be scourged.” 21 The following day the prophecy was fulfilled: nearly every horse was sick or lame. The Prophet promised if they would humble themselves and overcome their discord, their animals would immediately be restored to health. By noon the horses were nimble once again, with the exception of Sylvester Smith’s mount, which soon died.

Contention soon arose again when Sylvester Smith threatened to kill Joseph’s dog. On 3 June a frustrated Joseph Smith stood on a wagon wheel and scolded the men for their lack of humility, their murmuring and faultfinding: “I said the Lord had revealed to me that a scourge would come upon the camp in consequence of the fractious and unruly spirits that appeared among them, and they should die like sheep with the rot; still, if they would repent and humble themselves before the Lord, the scourge, in a great measure, might be turned away; but, as the Lord lives, the members of this camp will suffer for giving way to their unruly temper.” 22 This sad prophecy would be fulfilled within a few weeks. 23

For a few of the Saints, the Lord’s command not to do battle was the final trial of their faith. Disappointed and angry, they apostatized. As a result of their insurrection the Prophet again warned the camp that the Lord would send a devastating scourge upon them as a consequence of their unrighteous complaints. The day before the revelation was given two men contracted cholera. Three days later several more were struck with the dreaded disease, which was carried in contaminated water. The epidemic spread, causing severe diarrhea, vomiting, and cramps. Before it ended, about sixty-eight people, including Joseph Smith, were stricken by the disease, and fourteen members of the camp died, one of whom was a woman named Betsy Parrish. 38 On 2 July, Joseph Smith told the camp that “if they would humble themselves before the Lord and covenant to keep His commandments and obey my counsel, the plague should be stayed from that hour, and there should not be another case of the cholera among them. The brethren covenanted to that effect with uplifted hands, and the plague was stayed.” 39

[Church History in the Fulness of Times p.145-149]

Revelation on the Priesthood

The Priesthood Extended to All Races

Perhaps few events have had a greater impact on the worldwide spread of the gospel than did the 1978 revelation received through President Spencer W. Kimball extending the priesthood to worthy males of all races. For some time, the General Authorities had discussed this topic at length in their regular temple meetings. In addition, President Kimball went frequently to the temple, especially on Saturdays and Sundays when he could be there alone, to plead for guidance. “I wanted to be sure,” he explained. 13

On 1 June 1978 President Kimball met with his counselors and the Twelve and again brought up the possibility of conferring the priesthood upon worthy brethren of all races. He expressed the hope that there might be a clear answer received one way or the other. Elder Bruce R. McConkie of the Quorum of the Twelve recalled, “At this point President Kimball asked the brethren if any of them desired to express their feelings and views as to the matter in hand. We all did so, freely and fluently and at considerable length, each person stating his views and manifesting the feelings of his heart. There was a marvelous outpouring of unity, oneness, and agreement in the council.” 14

After a two-hour discussion, President Kimball asked the group to unite in formal prayer and modestly suggested that he act as voice. He recalled:

“I told the Lord if it wasn’t right, if He didn’t want this change to come in the Church that I would be true to it all the rest of my life, and I’d fight the world against it if that’s what He wanted.

“. . . But this revelation and assurance came to me so clearly that there was no question about it.” 15

President Gordon B. Hinckley was at the historic meeting. He remembered: “There was a hallowed and sanctified atmosphere in the room. For me, it felt as if a conduit opened between the heavenly throne and the kneeling, pleading prophet of God who was joined by his Brethren. . . .

“Every man in that circle, by the power of the Holy Ghost, knew the same thing. . . .

“. . . Not one of us who was present on that occasion was ever quite the same after that. Nor has the Church been quite the same. . . .

“Tremendous, eternal consequences for millions over the earth are flowing from that manifestation. . . .

“. . . This has opened great areas of the world to the teaching of the everlasting gospel. This has made it possible that ‘every man might speak in the name of God the Lord, even the Savior of the world.’

“We have cause to rejoice and to praise the God of our salvation that we have seen this glorious day.” 16

Brother Anthony Obinna, a convert in Nigeria who had prayerfully waited for baptism for thirteen years, wrote to President Kimball after hearing about the revelation:

“We are happy for the many hours in the upper room of the temple you spent supplicating the Lord to bring us into the fold. We thank our Heavenly Father for hearing your prayers and ours and by revelation [confirming] the long promised day . . . to receive every blessing of the gospel.” 17

Only five months after the revelation came, two experienced couples were sent to open missionary work in the black African nations of Nigeria and Ghana. “In black Africa . . . the revelation on the priesthood was, in effect, the restoration of the gospel for them. . . . Within one year there were more than 1,700 members in 35 branches in West Africa.” 18

“After only nine and a half years of missionary work, Elder Neal A. Maxwell organized the Aba Nigeria Stake on May 15, 1988—the first stake in which all priesthood leaders were black—and he noted that this was ‘a historic day in the Church in this dispensation . . .’ (in ‘Nigerian Stake,’ Church News, 21 May 1988, p. 7).” 19

When one considers how many people were “affected by this revelation—which includes millions on the earth and billions on the other side of the veil—we can see why President Kimball said that it brought ‘one of the greatest changes and blessings that has ever been known’ [ Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p. 451].” 20

Church History in the Fulness of Times Student Manual

Second edition

© 1989, 1993, 2000, 2003 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc.

Gordon B. Hinckley:

After the monthly temple meeting of the General Authorities, President Kimball excused all present except his counselors and the Twelve and then raised a subject that had been discussed repeatedly during preceding months – that of conferring the priesthood on worthy males of all races.  After inviting a lengthy discussion of the issue, acknowledgin how he had worried over this matter and how vigourously he had pleaded with the Lord for direction, President Kimball led out in prayer.  Elder Hinckley recorded his impressions of the experience:  “There was a hallowed and sanctified atmosphere in the room.  For me, it was as if a conduit had opened between the heavenly throne and the kneeling pleading prophet of God who was joined by his brethren.  The Spirit of God was there.  And by the power of the Holy Ghost there came to that prophet an assurance that the thing for which he prayed was right, that the time had come, and that now the wondrous blessings of the priesthood should be extended to worthy men everywhere regardless of lineage.  Every man in that circle, by the power of the Holy Ghost, knew the same thing…No voice audible to our physical ears was hear.  But the voice of the Spirit whispered with certainty into our minds and our very souls…Not one of us who was present on that occasion was ever quite the same after that.”

Ensign, Oct 1998, p. 70

Though electrifying and intensely spiritual, the day’s events did not come as a great surprise to Elder Hinckley.  ‘Not only had President Kimbal agonized over this situation, but President Lee and President McKay had before him,”  he later explained.  It was, however, a wonderful development.  President Kimball was bold in petitioning the Lord for this revelation.  He wrestled over it.  He worked at it.  He went to the Lord again and again.  And when the reveleation came, there was among the Twelve a tremendous feeling of gratitude for this unspeakable blessing.”

[Interview with GBH, 9 Aug 1995, quoted in The Biography of Gordon B. Hinckley]

Joseph Identifies the Skeletal Remains of Zelph, a Lamanite Warrior

On 2 June 1834 the army crossed the Illinois River at Phillips Ferry. The Prophet and a few others walked along the bluffs and found a huge mound with human bones scattered about and what appeared to be the remains of three ancient altars. A hole was dug and a large human skeleton was discovered with a stone arrowhead between its ribs. As the brethren left the hill, the Prophet inquired of the Lord and learned in an open vision that the remains were those of a man named Zelph, a former Lamanite warrior chieftain who was killed “during the last great struggle of the Lamanites and Nephites.” 19

19. History of the Church, 2:80.

The published history of Zion’s Camp gives an account of the bones of a man which we dug out of a mound. His name was Zelph. The Lord showed the Prophet the history of the man in a vision. The arrow, by which he was killed, was found among his bones. One of his thigh bones was broken by a stone slung in battle. The bone was put into my wagon, and I carried it to Clay County, Missouri, and buried it in the earth.

Wilford Woodruf, Leaves From My Journal, p. 11

Joseph Instructs Against Killing of Animals

On a number of occasions, Joseph Smith taught those in the camp to conserve natural resources and to avoid killing. One afternoon while preparing to pitch his tent Joseph and others discovered three rattlesnakes. As the men prepared to kill them, the Prophet said, “Let them alone—don’t hurt them! How will the serpent ever lose his venom, while the servants of God possess the same disposition, and continue to make war upon it? Men must become harmless, before the brute creation.” The snakes were carefully carried across a creek on sticks and released. Joseph instructed the camp to refrain from killing any animal unless it was necessary to avoid starvation. 17

17. History of the Church, 2:71–72.

Early Missionary Opposition Taken in Good Humour

The clergy were particularly vehement and sometimes ingenious in their opposition to the missionaries. In 1835 a Baptist deacon passed a pop-gun and ammunition through a window to a friend listening to a missionary sermon by Elder George A. Smith. Elder Smith wrote that the man shot “wads of tow [short broken fiber from flax that is used for yarn] at me all the time I was preaching. He was an excellent shot with the pop-gun, [and] most of the wads hit me in the face. I caught several of them in my hands. Many of them [the audience] were tickled, but some of them paid good attention. I finished my discourse without noticing the insult.” 27

27. George A. Smith, “My Journal,” Instructor, Oct. 1946, p. 462.