Modern Spiritual Manifestations
Editor of the Mormon.
As there is much agitation in nearly all parts of the United States on the subject of “Spirit Manifestations,” I offer a few remarks on the same for the consideration of your readers.
The early visions of Joseph Smith, commencing in the year 1820, which resulted in the revelation of the Book of Mormon, and the restoration of the fullness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, are the first modern, well-authenticated visions which have come under my notice.
The visions of Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, and Martin Harris, wherein an angel from heaven, and the voice of God revealed to them the truth of the Book of Mormon, and commanded them to bear witness of the same to all nations, which took place about 1829, were the next in order, being confirmatory of the visions of Joseph Smith.
The visions of Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, in 1829, wherein John the Baptist appeared as a ministering angel, and, laying his hands on their heads, ordained them, in the name of the Messiah, to the Priesthood of Aaron, was a very clear and important vision.
And the vision which they experienced soon afterwards was no less important, viz., wherein Peter, James, and John, the Presidents of the former Apostles, came to them as ministering angels, and ordained them to the Apostleship of the Son of God. These two last visions were the more important, because the Priesthood and Apostleship had been lost to the world for so many ages.
From these visions and from the ministrations thus restored by these, has sprung that powerful organization called the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, in which the manifestations of the Spirit have been enjoyed by thousands and tens of thousands, in many nations and languages.
These are notable facts, which none can successfully gainsay or resist.
It is also a public fact that Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum, were murdered in Illinois, in open day, and in a public manner, in 1844; and that scores of men, women, and children of the Saints have, from time to time, been killed on account of their religion. And that scores of thousands of the people of the Saints, including their Apostles and leaders, have been driven from their homes in the United States, robbed and plundered of millions, and forced to seek shelter in the fastnesses of the Rocky Mountains.
It is also a public fact, that there has been no redress for these outrages on the part of any department of State or General Government.
That innocent blood is still crying from the ground, unavenged, and that the prayers and tears of the widows and fatherless are had in remembrance before God and this nation.
It is also a manifest fact, that a large majority of the citizens, including editors, priests, and rulers, are accessories to these wholesale deeds of murder and plunder, by openly approving of the same, or winking at, and conniving with the actors in the same.
After this mighty people had gone forth beyond the Rocky Mountains, the Prophets had been slain or banished from the country, then, lo! and behold! the “Rochester Knockings” and other spiritual manifestations commenced, and soon attracted general attention and spread over the nation.
Thousands of converts were made, not only among the common people, but from the ranks of the learned and philosophic, ministers, editors, statesmen, and judges—all classes were wrought upon and converted over to this new and wonderful development of “Spiritualism,” as it was called.
Many of these became its witnesses. Its expounders and propagators. A.J. Davis and Judge Edmonds are among its most noted authors, and Partridge and Brittain, or Broadway, New York, conduct the “Spiritual Telegraph,” one of its ablest periodicals. These, and a host of others, have written and published volumes on the subject.
The United States can, probably, now boast of millions of Spiritualists, while the country is flooded with periodicals, pamphlets, and even large volumes, devoted to the subject, or containing spiritual revelations.
Now, it is evident, on the very face of the subject, that the Spiritual Manifestations commenced with “Mormonism,” and those which have since been introduced, independent of that system, are in direct opposition, one to the other; and that, therefore, both cannot be true, and from the same source. The one being introduced and developed in the very nation, where the other had been publicly taught, rejected and expelled.
Moses and the Magicians of Egypt, Daniel and the soothsayers of Babylon—or the Apostles and Simon, the sorcerer of Judea, were not in more direct opposition one to the other, than are these two great modern systems of spiritual power.
We will now point out a few of these many striking differences.
1st, The visions of Joseph Smith and his witnesses were plain, open visions, in which many witnesses saw and heard, while the illustrious spirits of the departed ministered in their glory, and talked with them face to face, as one man talks with another, reasoning from the Scriptures, and revealing important truths in accordance therewith.
How different this from the mysterious knockings, table tippings, trances, swoons,
cramps, convulsions, contortions, fits, and many other unseemly, disgusting, and even horrible, or trifling manifestations of the other system.
2nd, All the manifestations or administrations of spiritual power, connected with the Priesthood restored by Joseph Smith, are, in the name of Jesus Christ, under his authority, giving him the glory, and recognizing his name as the only name given under heaven, whereby men may lawfully use spiritual power and gifts.
How different this from the other Spiritual Manifestations! Their mediums do not act by and in the name of Jesus and his Priesthood in any of their spiritual gifts or acts, nor do they, in general, acknowledge that He is the Son of God, or that His blood atoned for the sins of the world. It is not in their power to display their gifts in that Holy name. They cannot do it.
3rd, The Priesthood of the Saints requires faith to the Lord Jesus Christ, and penitence towards God as an indispensable qualification of the candidates for spiritual power.
While the mediums of the other power may be unbelievers in Christ, and immoral persons, in the daily practice of immorality and crime.
4th, The Gospel ordinances, such as baptism and the laying on of hands in the name of Jesus Christ, are the means through which the gift of the Holy Spirit is administered to a penitent believer; and after such believer is initiated, and is made partaker of spiritual power, a strict morality and a holy and prayerful life enjoined as indispensable to the continued enjoyment of the gift of the Spirit. While the other spiritual mediums require no such condition.
5th, The gifts of the Holy Spirit are not controlled by the will of man, and exhibited in order to gratify the vainly curious, or at the challenge of a gainsayer, or an unbeliever, but were given to confirm and comfort the believer, and for benevolent and useful purposes.
While, on the other hand, the mediums of the opposite spiritual powers come and exhibit their gifts, to gratify the curious and vain, and at the challenge of an unbeliever.
6th, Every exercise of the true spiritual gifts is for edification, and for the profit and instruction of individuals, or of the Church. The gift of the Holy Spirit, enlightens, comforts, elevates, and purifies the affections, and develops the intellectual faculties of man. It leads into all truth, and therefore its ultimatum is the eternal union of all its adherents—for truth is one.
While the mediums and recipients of the other power are frequently distressed, choaked, paralyzed, cramped, distorted, thrown down, bound; or compelled to give utterance to things unseemly false, or worse than useless, and sometimes to blasphemy, railing, and indecent expressions.
7th, The gifts of the Holy Spirit cannot be used for money, or to get gain, or in other words, they cannot be bought and sold.
The other powers and gifts are frequently exhibited for a certain fee, or for so much per head for admission in their exhibition.
8th, The Priesthood of the Saints administers one Lord, one faith, and one baptism. It … sects, creeds, and parties, breaks … every division wall among its adherents, and by the laying on of hand sin the name of Jesus Christ, administers the self-same Spirit to every member, whereby they are united in one.
Hence, there can be no lasting schism in the body. Thus united, the entire people who obey the Gospel grow in the unity of the Spirit, till they are perfected, and compared to a holy temple in the Lord. In short, in the ultimate, they become one, as Christ and the Father are one.
While the familiar-spirit-mediums and their adherents are divided, and sub-divided, without any cementing principle, or bond of union. Hence, they have no more strength or governmental principle than a rope of sand.
What shall we say, then, in conclusion?
Simply this—that god has sent this nation “Strong delusion, that they may believe a lie and be damned, because they believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.”
They two great master spiritual powers which were at enmity in days of old, are now restored, or re-developed upon the earth. All men will be under the influence of one or the other ere long.
I rejoice that man is an agent, a candidate between the two, and that he can enlist on which side he chooses.
If Jesus Christ has all power in heaven and on earth, serve him and yield to the Spirit.
If, on the other hand, the other God, serve him.
“As to me and my house, we will serve the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Trenton, N.J., Jan. 10, 1857
[Millennial Star, 10:157]
[Journal History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Jan. 10, 1857, 1-2]
[transcribed by David Grow, Aug. 2006]