The purpose of this post is to aggregate quotations from early LDS history with respect to the text of the Book of Abraham and the Egyptian papyri, as reported in the Journal of Discourses. Some of the content will be more historical in nature and other quotations use the Book of Abraham for doctrinal purposes; all references are included in this list. The intent here is to provide a comprehensive listing of relevant quotations, however, I make no such guarantees that the objective has been achieved. There are other references to Abraham in the Journal of Discourses that are not included below; these references are believed to have derived from Genesis, rather than from the Book of Abraham.
Orson Pratt (August 29, 1852), JD 1:57-58
We now come to the second division of our subject, or the entrance of these spirits upon their second estate, or their birth and existence in mortal tabernacles. We are told that among this great family of spirits, some were more noble and great than others, having more intelligence.
Where do you read that? says one. Out of the Book of Abraham, translated from the Egyptian papyrus by the Prophet Joseph Smith. Among the great and numerous family of spirits—“the begotten sons and daughters of God”—there are some more intelligent than others; and the Lord showed unto Abraham “the intelligences that were organized before the world was; and among all these there were many of the noble and great ones.” And God said to Abraham, “thou art one of them, thou wast chosen before thou wast born.” Abraham was chosen before he was born. Here then, is knowledge, if we had time to notice it, upon the doctrine of election. However, I may just remark, it does not mean unconditional election to eternal life of a certain class, and the rest doomed to eternal damnation. Suffice it to say, that Abraham and many others of the great and noble ones in the family of spirits, were chosen before they were born, for certain purposes, to bring about certain works, to have the privilege of coming upon the stage of action, among the host of men, in favorable circumstances. Some came through good and holy parentages, to fulfill certain things the Lord decreed should come to pass, from before the foundations of the world.
The Lord has ordained that these spirits should come here and take tabernacles by a certain law, through a certain channel; and that law is the law of marriage. There are a great many things that I will pass by; I perceive that if I were to touch upon all these principles, the time allotted for this discourse would be too short, therefore I am under the necessity of passing by many things in relation to these spirits in their first estate, and the laws that governed them there and come to their second estate.
[Elder Pratt also discusses Abraham in the context of D&C 132 and Genesis 12 & 17]
Parley P. Pratt (April 10, 1853), JD 1:257-258
It may be inquired where this election first originated, and upon what principle a just and impartial God exercises the elective franchise. We will go back to the earliest knowledge we have of the existence of intelligences. We learn from the writings of Abraham and others, and from modern revelation, that the intelligences that now inhabit these tabernacles of earth were living, active intelligences in yonder world, while the particles of matter which now compose our outward bodies were yet mingled with their native element; that then our embodied spirits lived, moved, conversed, and exercised an agency. All intelligences which exist possess a degree of independence in their own sphere. For instance, the bee can go at will in search of honey, or remain in the hive. It can visit one flower or another, as independent in its own sphere as God is in His. We find a degree of independence in everything which possesses any degree of intelligence; that thinks, moves, or acts: because the very principle of voluntary action implies an independent will to direct such action.
Among the intelligences which existed in the beginning, some were more intelligent than others, or, in other words, more noble; and God said to Abraham, “These I will make my rulers!” God said unto Abraham, “Thou art one of them; thou wast chosen before thou wast born.”
Noble! Does He use the word noble? Yes; the word noble, or that which signified it, was used in conversation between God and Abraham, and applied to superior intelligences on earth, and which had pre-existed in the heavens.
I am aware that the term is greatly abused, in Europe and elsewhere, being applied to those titled, and to those who inherit certain titles and estates, whether they are wise men or fools, virtuous or vicious. A man may ven be an idiot, a drunkard, an adulterer, or a murderer, and still be called a nobleman by the world. And all this because his ancestor, for some worthy action, or perhaps for being skilled in murder and robbery, under the false glare of “military glory,” obtained a title, and the possession of a large estate, from which he had helped to drive the rightful occupant.
Now the Lord did not predicate His principle of election or nobility upon such an unequal, unjust, and useless order of things. When He speaks of nobility, He simply means an election made, and an office or a title conferred, on the principle of superiority of intellect, or nobleness of action, or of capacity to act. And when this election, with its titles, dignities, and estates, includes the unborn posterity of a chosen man, as in the case of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, it is with a view of the noble spirits of the eternal world coming through their lineage, and being taught in the commandments of God. Hence the Prophets, Kings, Priests, Patriarchs, Apostles, and even Jesus Christ, were included in the election of Abraham, and of his seed, as manifested to him in an eternal covenant.
[The sermon continues regarding the covenantal blessings of Abraham and his posterity]
George Albert Smith (August 12, 1855), JD 3:27
I remember when Joseph first got the Abrahamic records (and let me here say that I hope those brethren and sisters who are not already subscribers to the Deseret News, will go to the office and commence to take it while that important record is being published, for it will be of great service in years to come), there was in the State of New York a very pious Presbyterian deacon, who was very intimate with my father and mother, when they were members of the same church; and, as he was passing through Kirtland, called to see them. It was almost a violation of the pious old man's faith to shake hands with my father when he met him, but he ventured, and finally got courage enough to call, and not only shake hands, but have a little conversation.
My father told him that Joseph had got this Book of Abraham, and that he could translate it, and that it revealed some very important principles. “It is curious,” replied the old man, “I really would like to see the record.”
“Well, deacon,” said my father, “come, I will go over with you to the Prophet's, and show you the papyrus.”
“Well, Mr. Smith, but I don't know about going over now.”
“O come along,” said my father, “there is plenty of time before dinner, it is but a few steps—let us walk over while dinner is being prepared.”
“Mr. Smith, Mr. Smith, there is great danger of being de—cei—ved! Mr. Smith—I'd rather not go!”
Orson Pratt (July 10, 1859), JD 7:176
I presume that all who belonged to the Church at that time might occupy a small room about the size of fifteen feet by twenty. I then became intimately acquainted with the Prophet Joseph Smith, and continued intimately acquainted with him until the day of his death. I had the great privilege, when I was in from my missions, of boarding the most of the time at his house, so that I not only knew him as a public teacher, but as a private citizen, as a husband and father. I witnessed his earnest and humble devotions both morning and evening in his family. I heard the words of eternal life flowing from his mouth, nourishing, soothing, and comforting his family, neighbors, and friends. I saw his countenance lighted up as the inspiration of the Holy Ghost rested upon him, dictating the great and most precious revelations now printed for our guide. I saw him translating, by inspiration, the Old and New Testaments, and the inspired book of Abraham from Egyptian papyrus.
Orson Pratt (September 11, 1859), JD 7:253
These extracts which I have read concerning Adam, Enoch, and Noah [from the Book of Moses] you will find in a little work called “The Pearl of Great Price,” published by F. D. Richards, in England, a few years ago. We might go on and read further extracts from the Book of Abraham—a book also revealed by inspiration to the Prophet Joseph Smith, showing that the Gospel was revealed to him, and how he received the promise that all the children of men that would obey that same Gospel preached by him should be justified and become his children—called his seed, and heirs according to the promise. But I have read sufficient for the information of the Latter-day Saints upon this subject.
Wilford Woodruff (October 22, 1865), JD 11:244
Look at the days of Abraham, whose faith was so great that he was called the father of the faithful. He was an heir to the royal priesthood, another noble spirit, the friend of God. He came upon this earth, not in a way of light, but through idolatrous parents. His father was an idolater. I do not know who his grandfather was; but his father had false gods that he worshipped and sacrificed to. God inspired Abraham, and his eyes were opened so that he saw and understood something of the dealings of the Lord with the children of men. He understood that there was a God in heaven, a living and true God, and that no man should worship any other God but Him. These were the feelings of Abraham, and he taught his father's house, and all around him, as far as he had the privilege. The consequence was, his father and the idolatrous priests of that day sought to take his life. In the book of Abraham, translated in our day and generation, we are informed that Abraham was bound, and those priests sought to take his life, but the Lord delivered him from them. One reason why they did so was, that he had gone into those places which his father considered sacred, and among the wooden gods which were there, and, being filled with anger that his father should bow down and worship gods of wood and stone, he broke them. When his father saw that his son Abraham had broken his gods he was very angry with him. But Abraham, trying to reason with his father, said that probably the gods had got to fighting among themselves and had killed one another. He tried to bring him to reason, but his father did not believe they had life enough to kill one another. If he had possessed the spirit which his son had, he would have said there is no power with these gods; but he did not, and Abraham had to flee from his father's house, confiding in the Lord, who gave many promises to him and concerning his posterity.
We have no account of the Lord having organized a kingdom upon the earth in that day; but he gave the priesthood to Abraham, who taught his children the principles of righteousness. Isaac taught Jacob; and Jacob's sons, the twelve Patriarchs, were taught by the priesthood, and God gave unto them many great and glorious blessings. From that time until the days of Moses we can trace in sacred history that the Lord had witnesses on the earth, from time to time, who were raised up and bore record of the truth to the people. Moses was raised up and led Israel forty years, he was a high priest after the order of Melchizedek, and received his priesthood from Jethro, his father-in-law, who received it through Abraham. Moses undertook to preach the Gospel to the Israelites; but they were very dark, very prone to evil, as well as the Gentiles around them; and they had not that faith and the fulness of inspiration which the Lord desired, to build up his kingdom; consequently, they had a law of carnal commandments given to them to bring them to Christ. The Lord labored with them, and Moses labored with them; he could not leave them for a short time but they were ready to turn to idolatry and make a golden calf to worship, or something contrary to the kingdom of God.
Orson Pratt (December 29, 1872), JD 15:263-264
In this new translation we have also a much greater history of the creation of the world than is given in the uninspired translation made by the forty-seven men employed by King James. In that book we have a very short history of that great event; but the inspired translation shows that the periods of time called days, in which the several portions of the work of creation were performed, were not by any means of such limited duration as the days we speak of, but from what is revealed in the Book of Abraham, they were probably periods of one thousand years each. God might have been for the space of a thousand years in organizing a certain portion of this creation, and that was called the evening and the morning of the first day, according to the Lord's reckoning, one day being with him as a thousand years and a thousand years as one day. By and by another day's work was performed, which I do not suppose was a day of twenty-four hours, but an indefinite period of time, called the second day—the evening and the morning of the second day. By and by the third day's work was done, and then there was the evening and the morning of the third day. Three thousand years probably, passed away in the performance of these three days' work. In the fourth day the Lord permitted the sun and moon to shine to give light to the earth. What regulated the evening and the morning the first three days we do not know, for neither sun nor moon were permitted to shine until the fourth day. I have no doubt, the Lord has a variety of methods of producing light. The new translation gives us some information on this subject, for there we read that, “I the Lord created darkness on the face of the “great deep.” In King James' translation it says darkness was on the face of the great deep, and I, the Lord, said, “Let there be light, and there was light.” Now how did the Lord create this darkness? He has a power, the same as he had in causing darkness three days and nights over this American land. But before that darkness was created what produced light? It must have been light here on this earth, and probably was so thousands of years before the Lord created darkness; and then he had the means of producing darkness, and afterwards of clearing it away, and then called it morning. But how long that morning had existed we do not know, unless we appeal to the Book of Abraham, translated by Joseph Smith from Egyptian papyrus. That tells us in plainness that the way the Lord and the celestial host reckoned time, was by the revolutions of a certain great central body called Kolob, which had one revolution on its axis in a thousand of our years, and that was one day with the Lord, and when the Lord said to Adam, “In the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die,” the Book of Abraham says it was not yet given unto man the true reckoning of time, and that it was reckoned after the Lord's time that is one thousand years with us was a day with him, and that Adam, if he partook of the forbidden fruit, was to die before that day of a thousand years should expire. Hence when we go back to the history of the creation, we find that the Lord was not in such a great hurry as many suppose, but that he took indefinite periods of long duration to construct this world, and to gather together the elements by the laws of gravitation to lay the foundation and form the nucleus thereof, and when he saw that all things were ready and properly prepared, he then placed the man in the Garden of Eden to rule over all animals, fish and fowls, and to have dominion over the whole face of the earth.
Orson Pratt (November 22, 1873), JD 16:317-318
These six days in which the Lord performed this work, I do not believe, were each limited to twenty-four hours, as are the periods which we now call day; indeed, when we come to new revelation, we find some light on this subject. In the Book of Abraham, as well as in the inspired translation of the Scriptures, given through Joseph Smith, the Lord says, in speaking of the work of creating this earth, that he was governed by celestial time. According to this new revelation, there is a certain great world, called Kolob, placed near one of the celestial kingdoms, whose diurnal rotation takes place once in a thousand of our years; and that celestial time was measured by those celestial beings, by the rotations of Kolob, hence one day with the Lord was a thousand of our years. If this was the case, the six days of the creation of our earth, the six days during which it was being prepared as a habitation for man, must have been six thousand of our years. When the Lord spoke to Adam, after having placed him in the Garden of Eden, concerning the forbidden fruit, saying—“In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die!” we cannot suppose that the day there referred to meant a day of twenty-four hours. It could not have meant that, for history informs us that Adam lived almost one thousand years from the time of the Fall; but before the day of a thousand years had wholly passed away his death did take place.
The book of Abraham, translated by the Prophet Joseph Smith, also contains an account of the creation and the fall of man; but the word translated “day” in Genesis is translated in the Book of Abraham “time”—“in the time that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” In the next sentence the same book says, speaking of time—“The reckoning of time was not yet given to man,” that is, the Lord had reckoned previous to that period by the diurnal rotations of Kolob, and that, without doubt, was the day referred to in which our first parents should die, if they ate of the forbidden fruit.
We will now come to the seventh period of creation—the seventh thousand years; that is called in Scripture a day of rest, that is supposing that what were called days in the beginning were a thousand years. The Lord rested from his labors the seventh day. What particular period of time within that day Adam fell I do not know; but one thing is certain, that in the morning of the seventh day the Garden of Eden was planted and he was placed therein, and during that morning a great many things transpired pertaining to this temporal creation. In the preceding six days was completed the formation or creation of the earth, after the spiritual order that man was formed or born in the heavens. All men, male and female, that ever have lived, or that ever will live on this earth, had a pre-existence before the formation of the earth commenced; and during our pre-existence in the heavens, the earth was undergoing this formation.
Erastus Snow (March 3, 1878), JD 19:274
Now touching the doctrine of mortality and immortality. Says one, “What is mortal and what is immortal?” These are only comparative terms, again; the same as we use temporal and eternal. Time means temporal—short lived. Immortal means that which reaches forward into eternity? And what is eternity? Why it is another term which we use—a comparative term to measure time, and we say time and eternity. And then the scriptures use other terms, eternities, and from eternity to eternity; while these are only so many definitions, or divisions of duration. But the scriptures tell us that time only is measured to man, that is to say, time as a term is used in reference to the short period belonging to mortality, while eternity is used in the measure of the time of the Gods, from one period to another, and the vastness of eternity none can comprehend. It is illustrated by Abraham, by the figure of a ring. He marks a round ring to give an illustration of his views of eternity. You may start anywhere on that ring and undertake to find the end, and you cannot, for it has none. You may have a starting point any place on the ring, but you cannot have any stopping place, and so the Scriptures in another place, more expressly use the term, that the course of God is an eternal round, and therefore it is called eternity. But this course of God being “one eternal round,” is marvelous in our eyes, and who can comprehend it? But we see, yes, we see right before us today, his image, man—male and female.
Orson Pratt (August 25, 1878), JD 20:64-65
...and besides these [the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine & Covenants] you will find that many of the revelations were given by him which are found in what is called the new edition of the Pearl of Great Price, published by the Deseret News Office, which gives a knowledge of things that took place in the creation much more fully than what is described in the book of Genesis, giving an account of a great many occurrences and events that transpired before the flood, also giving us much information of the Gospel that was taught in those early ages, and giving us some very important prophecies, reaching down to the present period of the world, and also prophecies that reach down still further, from the present day to the end of the world. These are not the only revelations, given through this great modern Prophet. The Lord brought to light sacred records from the Catacombs of Egypt. After several hundred men had wrought and toiled for many months in digging down one of these vast structures, they entered into its interior; they found a great number of mummies—the bodies of persons that had been preserved since the catacomb was built, and some eleven of these mummies, well preserved, were taken out by these men, and they finally fell into the hands of a person named M. H. Chandler. They were sent from Egypt to Ireland, where it was supposed he resided, but learning that he resided in America, they were sent to him. After receiving the mummies he began to take off some of the ancient covering or wrapping, and to his astonishment he found upon the breast of one of these mummies a record written upon ancient papyrus in plain characters, written both in black and red inks, or stains, or colors. And the mummies and the records were exhibited by Mr. Chandler, in New York, Philadelphia, and many of the Eastern States of our Union; and thousands of people saw them, and among them many learned men; and these characters were presented to them, and not infrequently was Mr. Chandler referred to “Joe” Smith as they used to term him, who, they said, pretended to have translated some records that he found in the western part of New York, and that if Mr. Chandler would go and see him perhaps he would translate those ancient characters. Many of these references were made with the intention of ridiculing Mr. Smith; but it so happened that in traveling through the country he visited Kirtland, Ohio, where the Prophet Joseph Smith resided, bringing the mummies and the ancient papyrus writings with him. Mr. C. had also obtained from learned men the best translation he could of some few characters, which however, was not a translation, but more in the shape of their ideas with regard to it, their acquaintance with the language not being sufficient to enable them to translate it literally. After some conversation with the Prophet Joseph, Mr. Chandler presented to him the ancient characters, asking him if he could translate them. The prophet took them and repaired to his room and inquired of the Lord concerning them. The Lord told him they were sacred records, containing the inspired writings of Abraham when he was in Egypt, and also those of Joseph, while he was in Egypt; and they had been deposited, with these mummies, which had been exhumed. And he also enquired of the Lord concerning some few characters which Mr. Chandler, gave him by way of a test, to see if he could translate them. The Prophet Joseph translated these characters and returned them, with the translation to Mr. Chandler; and who, in comparing it with the translation of the same few characters by learned men, that he had before obtained, found the two to agree. The Prophet Joseph having learned the value of these ancient writings was very anxious to obtain them, and expressed himself wishful to purchase them. But Mr. Chandler told him hat he would not sell the writings, unless he could sell the mummies, for it would detract from the curiosity of his exhibition; Mr. Smith inquired of him the price which was a considerable sum, and finally purchased the mummies and the writing, all of which he retained in his possession for many years; and they were seen by all the Church that saw proper to visit the house of the Prophet Joseph and also by hundreds of strangers.
The Prophet translated the part of these writings which, as I have said is contained in the Pearl of Great Price, and known as the Book of Abraham. Thus you see one of the first gifts bestowed by the Lord for the benefit of His people, was that of revelation—the gift to translate, by the aid of the Urim and Thummim, the gift of bringing to light old and ancient records.
Erastus Snow (October 1879), JD 21:23
The course of God, we are told by the prophet Nephi, is one eternal round; that like eternity, it has neither beginning nor end, and is illustrated in the Book of Abraham by the hieroglyphic of the circle. You may start upon this ring at any given point, and in traversing it you will come to the same point—it is without beginning, without end.
Orson Pratt (November 12, 1879), JD 21:201
Abraham also obtained a knowledge of the spiritual creation, as well as the temporal. In giving a history of the creation, he speaks of the formation of man out of the ground, how he took man's spirit that was created in heaven and put it within the body of man, and man became a living soul—the first flesh upon the earth, as recorded in the second of Genesis. Now, we have been in the habit of thinking that the various kinds of animals that have lived, according to geologists, were the first flesh on the earth, and we go away back millions of ages to see that these lower formations of life existed before man. But the Lord gives us different information from this. He shows us that among all the animated creatures of flesh, man was the first that was ever placed upon the earth in this temporal condition, contradicting the theories of geologists—that is, so far as placing man on the earth in this present probation is concerned. What may have taken place millions of ages before the world was organized temporally for man to inhabit is not revealed; but, so far as this present change is concerned, that took place about six thousand years ago, man was the first being that came upon the earth and inhabited a body of flesh and bones. Afterwards, on the seventh day, out of the ground the Lord God created the beasts of the field. Go back to the first chapter of Genesis, and you will find that the beasts, etc., were formed on the sixth day or period, and that on the seventh there was no flesh on the earth, and having created man as the first flesh upon the earth, God then created, out of the ground, the beasts of the field.
Here is the second part of the beginning of his work: firstly, spiritual—the beasts created in heaven; then, secondly, temporal—their bodies formed out of the ground, their spirits being put within these bodies, and the beasts became living souls. As it was with the birds of the air, so with the fish of the sea, and so with all animated creatures pertaining to this world. This is the history of the generations of the heavens and the earth, on the day that the Lord God created them; and the Lord has seen proper to reveal this great information in the first of Genesis, and in the Book of Abraham.
John Taylor (December 7, 1879), JD 21:159-160
They were spoken of in former times as the “sons of God.” “Now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be; but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him: for we shall see him as he is.” It was this priesthood that would be the means of introducing him into the presence of God that Abraham found that he was a rightful inheritor of, according to his lineage and descent, and he applied for an ordination, which he received, according to the revelation given unto us, and with that ordination the powers, the blessings, the light, intelligence and revelation associated with the Gospel of the Son of God. And what then? The next that we read of is that he had the Urim and Thummim, and thus he sought unto God for himself, and while searching unto him, God revealed himself unto Abraham and said: “I will bless them that bless thee, and curse them that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.” There is something very remarkable about this when we reflect upon it, and when we examine the position that he occupied, and that his seed occupied, we can see the fulfillment of these things. Afterwards, the Lord revealed himself to him from time to time, communicated his will to him, and he was made acquainted with the designs of the Almighty. The Lord showed unto him the order of the creation of this earth on which we stand, and revealed unto him some of the greatest and most sublime truths that ever were made known to man. He got these through revelation from God and through the medium of the Gospel of the Son of God.
Erastus Snow (May 6, 1882), JD 23:185-186
Now if the Prophet Joseph Smith was that chosen vessel out of the loins of Joseph, it may be asked by some, what evidence have we of this lineage? I answer, the testimony of God, the best of all testimony, for no record kept by mortal man can be equal to it; and that, too, by reason of that quaint but sensible old maxim, “it takes a wise man to know who his father was, but a fool may find out who his mother was.” And even if we had the lineage of the fathers, it would not be as sure and certain to us as the word of the Lord. For he has had his eye upon the chosen spirits that have come upon the earth in the various ages from the beginning of the world up to this time; and as he said to Abraham, speaking of the multitudes of spirits that were shown unto him in heavenly vision, you see that some are more noble than others? Yes. Then you may know there were some others still more noble than they; and he speaks in the same manner of the multitude of the heavenly bodies; and said he to Abraham, thou art one of those noble ones whom I have chosen to be my rulers. The Lord has sent those noble spirits into the world to perform a special work, and appointed their times; and they have always fulfilled the mission given them, and their future glory and exaltation is secured unto them; and that is what I understand by the doctrine of election spoken of by the Apostle Paul and other sacred writers: “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.” Such were called and chosen and elected of God to perform a certain work at a certain time of the world's history and in due time he fitted them for that work. It will be remembered when Jeremiah was called of God in his youth that he, in order to excuse himself, complained of his youth and of his being slow of speech, that the Lord said unto him that he would be mouth for him and matter to his heart, for, he said, he knew him and called him from his mother's womb to be a prophet unto the nations.
John Taylor (June 24, 1883), JD 24:262-265
In the discourse read by Brother Reynolds, this morning, it says, among other things: “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.” I also read with regard to Abraham: He was a man of God, and he tells us in his history that he was a follower after righteousness; that he desired to obtain more righteousness, and that upon examining into the history of his fathers, he found that he had a right to the Priesthood and sought ordination, and he received that ordination. He was ordained by Melchizedek, who was prince of Salem, and a servant of the Most High God, and held the Priesthood called after his name. It is the Priesthood which is after the order of the Son of God, a Priesthood which possesses the power of an endless life. Abraham received a knowledge of these things; and when he obtained the Priesthood what did he do? Did he, after the manner of some religionists, “sing himself away to everlasting bliss?” No, he did not. What then did he do? He kept seeking after more righteousness. Jesus recognized that principle in his sermon—“Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.” Abraham sought the Lord diligently, and finally he had given unto him a Urim and Thummim, in which he was enabled to obtain a knowledge of many things that others were ignorant of. I think the meaning of the name of this instrument is Light and Perfection, in other terms, communicating light perfectly, and intelligence perfectly, through a principle that God has ordained for that purpose. Did Abraham stop there? No; he did not rest until he could communicate with God Himself. Jesus says: “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.” The Lord appeared to Abraham, and told him many things. And in proportion to the blessings which He conferred upon him, the Lord exacted from Abraham strict obedience to His law, to His word, and to His will, and He tried him to the uttermost. He gave unto him a son. Sarah laughed at the idea when the Lord told her she would have a son. At her time of life—she was 90 years old—it did look a little odd. The Lord asked her what she laughed at. She denied that she had laughed, but He said, “Nay, but thou did'st laugh.” There were to be certain blessings associated with this son. The Lord also told Abraham that He would bless him exceedingly, and make him a great man upon the earth. Finally, this son was born. But there came, after a time, a time of trial of Abraham's faith. In substance the Lord said to him: “Now, Abraham, take thy son Isaac. You received him from me,” the same as we all do, if we could understand it, but we do not—he was a son of promise—a great many people are not sons of promise, but still are no less the children of God, for God is the God and father of the spirits of all flesh—“Take thy son and offer him up as a sacrifice.” “What!” said Abraham. No; I do not believe that He said that; but I will suppose what He might have said: “Why, Lord, did you not tell me that you would establish your covenant with Isaac, for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him, and that I should become a great and mighty nation, and that all the nations of the earth would be blessed in me?” “Yes.” “And now you tell me to offer my promised son as a sacrifice? What are you going to do about it?” “You have got to obey me, that is all.” Abraham did not begin to question the Lord if He could find a precedent for such a thing in the Scriptures, or whether such a thing had ever taken place anywhere else. No; he proceeded to carry out the commandment of the Lord. I fancy I can see Abraham undergoing this trial. I wonder what his feelings were. What would your feelings be if you were commanded to sacrifice your promised son? Well, Abraham took his son into the mountain. They built an altar. And finally Isaac said to his father: “Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” What would you have thought if you had been in Abraham's place? Yet Abraham was a righteous man and sought after righteousness, sought after God, and God had talked with him, and blessed him in a very remarkable manner, and given him a son where there was no prospect naturally of his wife Sarah having one. How would you have felt, you fathers here, if you had been placed in the same position? But Abraham nerved himself up and said: “My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering—thou thyself art that lamb!” He thereupon bound Isaac, and laid him on the altar. He lifted the knife, and was about to strike the fatal blow, when the angel of the Lord called unto him out of heaven and said, “Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou anything unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me. And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son.” And the Lord said, “Because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son: That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the seashore; And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.”
I speak of these things to show how men are to be tried. I heard Joseph Smith say—and I presume Brother Snow heard him also—in preaching to the Twelve in Nauvoo, that the Lord would get hold of their heart strings and wrench them, and that they would have to be tried as Abraham was tried. Well, some of the Twelve could not stand it. They faltered and fell by the way. It was not everybody that could stand what Abraham stood. And Joseph said that if God had known any other way whereby he could have touched Abraham's feelings more acutely and more keenly he would have done so. It was not only his parental feelings that were touched. There was something else besides. He had the promise that in him and in his seed all the nations of the earth should be blessed; that his seed should be multiplied as the stars of the heaven and as the sand upon the seashore. He had looked forward through the vista of future ages and seen, by the spirit of revelation, myriads of his people rise up through whom God would convey intelligence, light and salvation to a world. But in being called upon to sacrifice his son it seemed as though all his prospects pertaining to posterity were to come to naught. But he had faith in God, and he fulfilled the thing that was required of him. Yet we cannot conceive of anything that could be more trying and more perplexing than the position in which he was placed.
Now, although I have said considerable in regard to Abraham, yet I will say a word or two more. God said that in his seed should all the nations of the earth be blessed. Who was Isaac, and who was Jacob? Heirs with him to the same promise. Who was Moses? A man that was raised up to lead the children of Israel out of Egypt. Who was he? A descendant of Abraham. Who were the Prophets from whom we receive the Bible? The seed of Abraham. Who were the prophets from whom we received this Book of Mormon? They were the seed of Abraham. Who was Jesus, the Mediator of the new covenant? Of the seed of Abraham. Who were the Apostles? Of the seed of Abraham. Who were the people that came to this continent? The seed of Abraham. Who were the Apostles that were raised up here? They were the seed of Abraham. Who was Joseph Smith, the Prophet of God, raised up in these last days? He was a descendant of Joseph, the son of Jacob, and his father's name was Joseph, as had been anciently prophesied should be the case, when the work he should perform was being referred to. Who are this people? A great many are of the seed of Abraham. And what is God doing with us? Has He raised us up to injure mankind? No. For what are the Twelve Apostles appointed? To preach the Gospel to all mankind.
Charles W. Penrose (November 16, 1884), JD 26:27
The individual, the organized person may have had a beginning, but that spirit of which and by which they organized never had a beginning. That Priesthood which is the power of government in the heavens, never had a beginning, and it will never come to an end. The works of that eternal spirit of intelligence, the great Eternal God, manifested to us in our Father and through Jesus Christ, never had a beginning. There never was a first world or man; there will never be a last. We cannot grasp that in its fullness, but we can understand a little of it by comparing it with other things. For instance, we will take space. This tabernacle contains so much space, bounded by the walls of the building; but go outside of these walls and space is there. Go to the farthest bounds of this Territory, space is there. Go to the ends of the earth, if you can find them, and there is space beyond. Mount upward to the stars; go to the sun, pass above the sun to the two worlds that govern it, that we read about in the Book of Abraham, in “The Pearl of Great Price;” go even unto Kolob, the nearest to the throne of God, and there is just as much space beyond as that which you have left. There is no outside to space—no beginning, no end.
Thus there is boundless space, and we cannot fully comprehend it, yet we must admit that it exists without limit. “There is no kingdom in the which there is no space, and no space in the which there is no kingdom, either a greater or a lesser kingdom.”
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