Latter Day Saints' Messenger and Advocate/Volume 2/Number 6/Letter from Warren Parrish (March, 1836)
Kirtland, Ohio, March, 1836.
Although I have written you several times upon the subject of religion, since I bid you adieu, to go at the command of God and proclaim the gospel; and perhaps, have wearied your patience, yet you will excuse me when I declare to you, that it is from a sense of duty I owe to my Heavenly Father, and to you my earthly parents, that I manifest such deep interest upon this subject. In my former communications to you I have not failed to speak of the gospel, and invite you to lay aside your prejudice and investigate it. And knowing that it is of the first importance, that the fundamental principles of the doctrine of Christ, should be well understood, and that your opportunities for obtaining this knowledge are limited, I shall confine my remarks more particularly to that subject: you no doubt will marvel that such an expression should drop from my pen; knowing that you have been professors of religion, (at least) from my childhood. Although I stand in that relation to you, in which the Savior says a teacher is without honor, being of your own household. Yet do not consider me assuming, for my desire is your salvation and the glory of God; and the things which I shall declare and those which I know and most assuredly believe. But I pray you in the name of Christ to dismiss your surprise, and divest your mind of prejudice, and prepossession, and every other consideration which is unconnected with the subject of the gospel of Christ, and this once hear me patiently.
I would observe then in the commencement of my remarks upon the subject that the gospel is a belief of things which was devised in eternity. 'For the Lamb (Christ) was slain from the foundation of the world." to effect the redemption of the same. Rev. 13:8;-And the salvation of the human family has been conducted by the undeviating hand of God upon the same principle precisely, in all ages of the world; and ever will be, so long as He remains an unchangeable Being and manage the salvation of his creatures himself. The apostle Paul in his 2nd Epistle to Timothy 1:10, informs us that "Life and immortality was brought to light through the gospel." If Enoch, who walked with his Maker 300 years and was not found, because God had translated him, is enjoying immortality, it was in consequence of his extensive knowledge of the gospel. If Noah, who was instructed of God to prepare an ark to the saving of himself and house; and by his testimony alone, condemned the whole self-righteous antedeluvian world; and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith, and is now in the enjoyment of life and immortality; he most assuredly understood the gospel. If Elijah, who smote the rolling floods of Jordan, and caused its waters to stand upright on either hand, while he passed over on dry ground; was wafted to the fair climes of immortality, and eternal life, by the fiery chariots of Israel and the horsemen thereof; it was because of the atonement of Christ, and his knowledge of, and obedience to the Gospel. And again, "The scriptures foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham." Gal. 3:8. But enough has already been said to establish the antiquity of the gospel, and do away the contracted idea which many entertain, that the first and only dispensation of the gospel that ever was, or ever will be committed to man, was introduced in the days of the Savior.
You can but see, that this idea is at issue with the testimony of the Apostle, who declares. "That life and immortality were brought to light through the gospel." Consequently if these saints whose names are written above, with a multitude of others, who through faith on the Son of God, and in obedience to the gospel, have subdued kingdoms wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens, are now enjoying "life and immortality," it is on account of the atonement of Christ, and the power of his redemption. And this same Apostle, who was not converted to the christian religion, until years after the death of the Savior, says, that a dispensation of the gospel was committed unto him. 1st Corinthians 9:17.
The fact is, the gospel is the same in all ages of the world, and when God calls a man, either by his voice from the heavens, by the revelation of angels, or by the spirit of prophecy; to warn the inhabitants of the earth of approaching danger, and cry repentance unto them; a dispensation of the gospel is committed to his charge, independent of any commission or dispensation committed to others. He alone can act under that commission; his successors cannot take it up, and legally act under it. If they attain to this high calling, it must be in the same way, and from the same authority, and the same benefits will result to those who obey their teachings: because if God sends a messenger, it will be by the power of the Holy Ghost, and that spirit will testify to the same plan of salvation, whether it dwell in the heart of Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaiah, St. Paul, Joseph; or even in the heart of your unworthy son who is now indi[c]ting these lines to you, with his heart raised in prayer to God, that it may be done according to his will, and find access to the hearts of his dear parents, and be a means of bringing them to a knowledge of the truth. But whether I shall succeed in this or not, God only knows; be this as it may, a dispensation of the gospel has been committed unto me; not by the will of man, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ: and I am determined by the grace of God, to rid my garments of the blood of all men, whether parents, brethren, sisters, Kings, rulers, priests or people, and leave the event in the land of Him, who holds the destinies of all mankind. And I pray my Heavenly Father, that it may be recorded in the archives of heaven for an everlasting memorial, that I have endeavored in this letter to discharge my duty to my parents in preaching the gospel to them; and if I never am permitted to meet them until we meet at the judgment seat of Christ, where the secrets of all hearts will be made manifest; then, if not before, you will know, that pure charity dictated in my heart, what I am now communicating to you. But to return.
It is evident then, that all those who do not believe in direct communication from heaven, by the voice of God, by the revelation of angels, nor by the spirit of prophecy; and at the same time claim to be the servants of Christ; have run before they were sent, are acting without authority, are going in the ways of Cain, and running greedily after the errors of Balaam for reward; and if they repent not, will perish in the gainsaying of Babylon.
Therefore, having spoken in general terms of the power, and glorious effects of the gospel, I will now endeavor to show what it was in the days of the Savior, which will settle the question; what it ever has been, and ever will be. And I have an inexhaustible fountain, from which to abduce testimony upon this subject, viz. the Bible, book of Mormon, and the book of Covenants, containing the revelations of Jesus Christ, given to us in this generation; which all harmonize most perfectly: but being well aware of your unbelief in the two latter: I shall only call in question the former for testimony on which you say to predicate your faith; and if you do in reality believe in its doctrines, there will be no difficulty in your believing in the record of the Nephites, and all the revelations that God is disposed to confer upon us in the latter days, and their will be no difference in our faith: but you also, will be what the world calls a mormon.
Now to the law and the testimony; if any man speak not according to these, it is because there is no light to him. In John 3:5, we find these words, "Jesus answered, Verily, Verily I say unto thee, except a man be born of water, and of the spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." It appears that a learned Pharisee, a ruler of the Jews; who had come to Jesus by night, (probably because his doctrine was held in disrepute,) and expressed to him his conviction, that he was a teacher come from God. The blessed Jesus proceeded immediately to instruct him what was indispensably necessary for him to do, to inherit that kingdom; which was to be born of water, and the spirit. Mark the expression; "Except a man be born of water and the spirit," not of the spirit first and then of the water, if you please. See how broad the declaration, a man, that is, any man among all the ranks of men, that would inherit the kingdom God, must submit to this order of things.
It is evident that Nicodemus believed, from the frank confession he made on the occasion, which was the first step, and Jesus informed him that water baptism was the second, and the Holy Spirit the third. You may say that repentance is left out of the question; not so, repentance is nothing more nor less than a reformation, which is to break off from our sins.-How break off from our sins? by turning unto God. How turn unto God? by obeying his commandments, and manifest our faith and repentance by obedience. "For why call ye me Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?" Luke 6:46. As far as it was exhibited on that occasion, this plan of salvation corresponds precisely with the proclamation which the Savior commanded the Apostles to declare in all the world to every creature; viz: "He that believeth, and is baptized, shall be saved; but he that believeth not, shall be damned. And these signs shall follow them that beli[e]ve: &c. Mark 16:16, 17, 18. This expression of the Savior is just as broad as the other, that is, that any creature under the whole heaven that is capable of understanding this simple declaration, (which is adopted to the weakest capacity,) who will obey it, shall be saved "and he that believeth not shall be damned.
Perhaps you are ready to infer from this expression that baptism is not a saving ordinance; because the Savior did not repeat it, but only said, "He that believeth not shall be damned." If this be the case he might better have left it out of the commission to his Apostles, it was making use of words without meaning: and indeed, if it be a fact, that the baptism of water is not necessary the Savior invalidates his own testimony and that of his servants, for he declared to Nicodemus, that he could not enter the kingdom of Heaven without it. But we shall contend, that no such inference can be drawn from this expression, for he declared that not only belief was necessary for salvation but baptism also: and it follows of course, that, if belief and baptism are required of those that would be saved a neglect to attend to these duties would damn them. And hence, a repetition of the word baptism, would have been altogether superfluous: for instance, if an individual was requested to go to a certain place; if he could not be induced to take the first step; he would not take the second. So a man who does not believe, will not be baptized, and if the word of the Lord be true he will be damned.
Let us now see whether the Apostles followed the instruction given them in the commission, we will call on Peter, for he held the keys of the kingdom. "And when the day of Pentecost was fully come; he opened the door for the reception of candidates; the glorious occurrences of that day are recorded in the 2nd chapter of Acts. And when his powerful reasoning caused many to cry out, and enquire what they should do. What did he reply to them? Did he instruct them to weep and lament before God until they obtained religion, and tell them that baptism was unessential, (as our orthodox divines do at the present day.) Did he cite them to the anxous seats, to the secret chambers, or wilderness, and say, lo, there is Christ? Did he tell them that they could obtain salvation by crying, Lord, Lord, without doing the things which the Savior had sent him to declare to them? No, none of these things; for Peter was in possession of that spirit, that brings all things to our remembrance; and he had not forgotten the Savior's instructions, but unhesitatingly cried out, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, not because your sins are remitted; but for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the holy Ghost.-For the promise is unto you, and your children, and to all that are afar off; even as many as the Lord our God shall call."
The question now is; what did this thing called repentance consist? the answer is at hand. "Then they that gladly received his word were baptized." This then is repentance or reformation, to gladly receive the word when it is declared by the servant of God, and straitway manifest our belief and reformation, for corresponding good works, which is obedience. And Peter says, as many as God has called that will do these things, shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. If we do not extend our limits beyond Peter's, afar off, I think we can with confidence declare the same things.-Our next object is to ascertain, how it was, that this gift, the Holy Ghost, was confer[r]ed [conferred] upon the saints, after having been baptized by water.
We learn from the 8th chapter of Acts, that Philip went down unto them: and the people with one accord gave heed to his teachings and were baptized, both men and women, (but no children, for they were whole; and consequently need no Physician, and Philip did not feel disposed to offer an indignity to the atonement of Christ by baptizing them.) The news of Philip's success soon reached Jerusalem, and the Apostles immediately dispatched Peter and John, who when they were come down prayed for them, and laid their hands on them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost.-"For as yet, he had fallen on none of them, only they had been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. When they had received this ordinance, the Holy Spirit fell upon them; and the presumption is, that they spoke with tongues and prophesied. For Simon, on seeing that the Holy Ghost was given through the laying on of hands, proposed to purchase it.
It appears that Philip did not have authority to administer this ordinance; and if those disciples could have received the gift of the Holy Ghost, without the ordinance of laying on of hands; the Lord sent Peter and John from Jerusalem to Samaria on a foolish errand. Again, Acts 19, we are informed that Paul found at Ephesus certain disciples who had been baptized, yet had not heard of the Holy Ghost; he prayed for them, and laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost, and spoke with tongues and prophesied. One more testimony from St. Paul, we find recorded in his epistle to the Hebrews 6:12, where he informed us that baptism, and laying on of hands are some of the first principles of the doctrine of christ.
We might adduce much corroborating testimony to establish the first principles of the gospel; but it is enough, if God ever inspired St. Paul and Peter to teach these things he never did nor never will inspire another man to contradict them; they followed the instructions given them by the Savior, and carried out his plan of salvation in all the ordinances of his kingdom: and he that will not believe their testimony, would not believe though one should rise from the dead. But I hasten.
The effects that the Holy Ghost produced upon those who received it, are laid down in the first epistle to the Corinthians, 12, 13 and 14th chapters. And the Apostles tells us that they are the body of Christ, in which there should be no schism; take away any of these, and there is a schism. Look at all the churches in christendom; (the church of the Latter Day Saints excepted,) and see the contention that exists among them. Ask yourself the reason; is not this the only answer? they all deny some of these gifts which constitute the body of Christ: Can we deny these, without denying Christ? Surely not; it is in vain for us to say they are not needed, neither Christ nor his servants ever declared any such things, it cannot be found. Scripture, reason, and common sense teach us, that the like cause will produce the like effect; the Holy Ghost is the same that it was before the world began.-To be sure St. Paul says that prophecy shall fail, tongues shall cease, and knowledge vanish away; for they are all enjoyed only in part: but when that day of perfection is ushered in, when we shall see as we are seen, and know as we are known; then there will be no need of an imperfect knowledge. He also declares, Eph. 4th, "When Christ ascended upon high, he gave gifts unto men; Prophets, Apostles, Pastors, Evangelists &c. for the perfecting of the saints, and work of the ministry until we all come in the unity of the faith." No rational person will pretend to say that, that day has arrived; and if these gifts of the holy Ghost were necessary to perfect the saints then; can they be perfected now without them? I answer, no.-Will any now deny them who is in possession of the Holy Ghost? I answer in the negative; no man speaking by the spirit of God, can call Jesus accursed; and without the Holy Ghost there is no salvation; this is the doctrine that Paul preached, who said, If any man or even an angel from Heaven preach any other gospel, let him be accursed: And so say I, and the heart of every servant of God will respond, Amen.
With peculiar feelings I conclude these remarks, realizing the great responsibility that I am under to God, for the manner in which I teach mankind those things which involve eternal consequences: And this responsibility seems to be augmented when I take into consideration, that I am addressing those of my own flesh and blood. But I feel that God approbates what I have written, and I entreat of you to peruse the foregoing lines as for eternity, and may the Lord sanctify them to your salvation, and ultimately bring us to an everlasting inheritance in his celestial Kingdom for Christ's sake, Amen.