by Delisa Hargrove
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, often inadvertently called the Mormon Church, recently packed its Church History website, www.history.lds.org, with even more features and information.
Matthew McBride, the Church History Department’s web content manager, told LDS Church News
In the age of the Internet, e from a variety of sources, some of which are very trustworthy and some of which are not. We’d like to be very proactive about being a consistent, faithful voice in the conversation about Church history on the web.
Latter-day Saint, (or “Mormon”) history is fascinating! Mormonism’s history is the story of the Lord restoring His Church again upon the earth and is intertwined with amazing stories of ordinary individuals who experienced angelic visitations, miracles, revelations, and persecutions.
Eager to explore the new content, I visited history.lds.org for the very first time.
Explore: Women of Conviction
Immediately drawn to Women of Conviction, I read the story of Inez Knight who was the first female missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Day Saints. She was called to Great Britain in 1898. She labored in Bristol in 1899, where, laboring against strong anti-Mormon sentiment, Inez found herself mobbed, spat upon, and stoned, even under police protection. I served a mission in Scotland, and while I did have a woman spit in my face, I endured nothing like what Inez encountered.
Her story captivated me, and her faith and courage inspired me! Following is a small portion of Inez Knight’s missionary experience found on www.history.lds.org. Inez wrote of the persecution she encountered in Bristol but assured her friends in Utah that:
Many have been led to investigate the truth, through the opposition we received. … We meet all kinds of answers, but each day’s round finds sunshine and shower, and without one we might not appreciate the other.
The Lord is abundantly blessing us in our labors, and although we do not always have clear sailing and have even been forced to seek protection from mob violence in a police station, receiving the slurs of the mob and even spat upon by the enemy, together with rocks and sticks from their hands, yet we rejoice in the work. We do not find it hard to say, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do,” for truly it is the ignorant who persecute us most. The Lord has said we must love Him with all our might, mind, and strength and to do this, means to be willing to sacrifice all things, and work faithfully for the upbuilding of His kingdom (from a letter to the Young Woman’s Journal printed in April 1899).
Explore: Revelations in Context -Historical Background for Sections of the Doctrine and Covenants
Revelations in Context drew my attention next. I clicked on the link referencing the section containing, what is to me, two of the most joyful, jubilant, beautiful, motivating verses in scripture, Doctrine and Covenants 128:22–23:
[S]hall we not go on in so great a cause? Go forward and not backward. Courage, brethren; and on, on to the victory! Let your hearts rejoice, and be exceedingly glad. Let the earth break forth into singing. Let the dead speak forth anthems of eternal praise to the King Immanuel, who hath ordained, before the world was, that which would enable us to redeem them out of their prison; for the prisoners shall go free.
Let the mountains shout for joy, and all ye valleys cry aloud; and all ye seas and dry lands tell the wonders of your Eternal King! And ye rivers, and brooks, and rills, flow down with gladness. Let the woods and all the trees of the field praise the Lord; and ye solid rocks weep for joy! And let the sun, moon, and the morning stars sing together, and let all the sons of God shout for joy! And let the eternal creations declare his name forever and ever! And again I say, how glorious is the voice we hear from heaven, proclaiming in our ears, glory, and salvation, and honor, and immortality, and eternal life; kingdoms, principalities, and powers!
The Doctrine and Covenants is a collection of revelations to the Prophet Joseph Smith and other leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ. Mormons consider it to be scripture. Revelations in the book are called Sections. As I read the words of the Doctrine and Covenants, I hear the word of the Lord to me in my particular circumstances. I know it is the word of God.
Section 128 of the Doctrine and Covenants discusses the importance and orderly manner of performing baptisms for the dead. (See 1 Corinthians 15:29.) Mormons believe that to enter the kingdom of God all people must be baptized. However, many people who lived on the earth never even heard of Jesus Christ, let alone were able to be baptized by property authority in His name! God’s merciful plan of salvation enables people to be baptized on behalf of their ancestors who have died. Those ancestors, whose spirits live in the Spirit World, have the opportunity to choose to accept that baptism or not. God’s gift of moral agency to each of His children enable them to choose to accept the Gospel, whether in this life or the next.
From this section of the website, I learned that after Joseph Smith received the glorious revelation on God’s kingdoms of glory in 1836, (Doctrine and Covenants 76), many Latter-day Saints realized that they did not have all of the answers on how God’s plan applied to those who died without hearing the Gospel. This blurb from the historical background on this section described the understanding leading up to this revelation.
Joseph’s vision affirmed God’s mercy, but it was not entirely clear whether the scriptural requirement of baptism would be waived for Alvin [Joseph’s brother, who died before saving ordinances were restored] and others like him, or whether it would be fulfilled in some other way. Some Latter-day Saints recognized this gap in their knowledge. Joseph Fielding, for example, “thought much on the subject of the redemption of those who died under the broken covenant” and speculated that “perhaps those who receive the priesthood in these last days would baptize them at the coming of the Savior.”
But at the funeral of Seymour Brunson on August 15, 1840, Joseph Smith taught the principle that men and women on earth could act for their deceased kin and fulfill the requirement of baptism on their behalf. The Saints joyfully embraced this opportunity and began almost immediately to be baptized for departed loved ones in rivers and streams near Nauvoo.
Doctrine and Covenants 127 and 128 helped to clarify how ordinances of the dead should be performed.
Aside from knowing the historical background, the message for me as I read this was that each of us gains knowledge about the truths of God line upon line and precept upon precept, “[b]y kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile” (Doctrine and Covenants 121:42). Our Father in Heaven is so merciful to each of us and wants for us to learn of Him and ultimately KNOW Him!! “And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come” (Doctrine and Covenants 130:19).
I invite all who are interested in the Latter-day Saints’ history, whether Mormon or a friend of another faith, to peruse www.history.lds.org if even for a few moments! “Shall we not go on in so great a cause? … On, on to the victory!”
Doris White is a native of Oregon and graduated from Brigham Young University with a degree in English and a minor in Editing. She loves to talk with others about the gospel of Jesus Christ.