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Teachings and Testimony of the First Vision:
Orson F. Whitney’s Dream-Vision of the Savior
Part Twelve of a Series Compiled by Dennis B. Horne

Introduction ⎜ Part 1 ⎜ Part 2 ⎜ Part 3 ⎜ Part 4 ⎜ Part 5 ⎜ Part 6 ⎜ Part 7 ⎜ Part 8 ⎜ Part 9 ⎜ Part 10 ⎜ Part 11 ⎜ Part 12 ⎜ Part 13 ⎜ Part 14 ⎜ Part 15 ⎜ Part 16 ⎜ Part 17 ⎜ Part 18 ⎜ Part 19 ⎜ Part 20 ⎜ Addendum

March of 2020 will see the BYU Church History Symposium held at both Brigham Young University and at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City, the main theme being the first vision received by the Prophet Joseph Smith. In the original “call for papers” the symposium committee listed “Latter-day Saint visionaries” other than Joseph Smith as a topic they desired to consider. I sent them a proposal for a paper on Orson F. Whitney’s dream-vision of Jesus, knowing it had a few aspects in common with the Prophet’s first vision. My proposal was not accepted for reasons unknown, but I have chosen to put the below information together nonetheless, as it may yet be of interest to some.

One criticism leveled at Joseph Smith relates to the fact that he wrote or dictated several accounts of his first vision with additional details in each. Antagonistic unbelievers have erroneously interpreted the extra information to mean that Joseph made up new particulars as he went along, becoming more grandiose with each telling. This approach is not well considered and is a flimsy effort to reject the Prophet’s testimony and thereby relieve themselves of the burden of belief—with all the accountability and obligation that comes with it. Said President Gordon B. Hinckley: “I have read the words of critics, who from 1820 until now have tried to destroy the validity of that account. They have made much of the fact that there were several versions and that the [canonized] account as we now have it was not written until 1838. So what? I find security for my faith in the simplicity of his narrative, in its lack of argument, in its straightforward reasonableness, and in the fact that he sealed his testimony with his life’s blood.” I vastly prefer this astute prophet’s explanation to that of the skeptics; the fact is, he knew it was true by the power of the Spirit of God.

President Hinckley could have said much the same things about Whitney’s vision. As it happens, one similarity Brother Orson has with Brother Joseph is that he also left multiple accounts, written at different points over his (much longer) life. Five written records exist (that I could locate), along with notes mentioning other unrecorded tellings. Another similarity is that slightly more detail emerges with each account, though the whole remains consistent, as does the lesson the vision taught to Whitney.

As with the Prophet Joseph Smith, Orson did not set down a written record of his vision the day he received it; so we have no exact date, only that it probably occurred in March or April of 1877. Orson’s first journal record recounting the experience came some six years later. As with the Prophet Joseph, those looking for reasons not to accept his testimony will necessarily find in such time elements an excuse to brush it off. Of course, while there is obligation upon Latter-day Saints to believe and gain a testimony of Joseph Smith’s first vision, no such requirement exists for Whitney’s. Although palpably precious to him, it is not the foundational event of the restoration. Yet it can still be faith-affirming and edifying for others as well.

It is also true that Orson waxed somewhat more descriptive while narrating his dream-vision by the time he wrote up the last and most detailed account in his (now scarce) autobiography, published in 1930 shortly before his death. Being an accomplished literary man with superb gifts of expression, perhaps excelled by no one in the Church during his day, one must work hard to blame him.

Having noted many references to Apostle Whitney’s vision of Jesus in church literature, online, and in other locations, I would point out that missionary Whitney received this supernal experience, not Apostle Whitney. While the dream served to prepare and qualify him to be called as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve and a special witness of Jesus the Christ decades later, he was but a younger regular humble missionary, serving his first of several missions, when this dream took place. Too often accounts of his experience leave the impression that Elder Orson F. Whitney of the Council of the Twelve saw a vision of Christ, when it actually happened long before then.[1] As talented and gifted and able as Orson eventually became, he had some challenges to overcome and repent of before the Lord called him to be one of His special witnesses.[2]

Another perspective to keep in mind while reading the below accounts, is a word of caution about using them as exact portrayals of what took place in New Testament narrations of the atonement (in the garden of Gethsemane) and the later ascension when Jesus concluded his earthly ministry. While the first scene of his dream seems to fairly accurately depict Jesus’s experience suffering for the sins of all mankind in Gethsemane, the second ascension scene does not match the scriptural account and was not meant to. It was instead given to teach Orson a lesson that he (at first) quickly grasped, but years later struggled mightily to relearn and remember over 25 years. Readers should exercise due caution when comparing and contrasting his accounts with those in the gospels; he was being taught a life lesson, not writing a new gospel or book of scripture.

I have also heard some use Elder Whitney’s wording (“for he was taller than I”) to argue that Jesus was very tall; even being taller than the tall Whitney.[3] I personally doubt such a conclusion is warranted, although it is possible.

On September 30, 1883, Orson recorded in his diary the first account of his “dream-vision” of the Savior. He prefaces all his accounts with an important explanation noting that he had become caught up in a literary exercise outside the parameters of standard missionary work. This distraction sets the stage for the lesson taught by this overwhelmingly powerful personal revelation:

Right here I will record a dream which I had in 1877 while in Pennsylvania on my first mission. It was the last of winter or the beginning of Spring. I was rooming with Brother A. H. Musser in Columbia, and I had not been paying much attention to religion, not being thoroughly aroused and converted, but thought more of writing for the press and reading secular works. One morning I had gone to sleep in my second nap before getting up when I had the following dream. I was in the Garden of Gethsemane and standing behind a tree, from which position I could see without being seen. The picture before me was most vivid. At my right a group of four persons appeared, whom I recognized as the Savior and his apostles—Peter, James, and John. He left the three disciples at the right in a group to pray and He himself crossed over to the left and knelt down also. I could see his face distinctly with the tears coursing down his face as he implored the Father to “Let this cup pass.” My feelings were so wrought upon by witnessing his agony that I wept also. Just then he arose and walked over to his apostles, who had fallen asleep, and reproved them for so doing. The circumstances then seemed to change, though the scene remained the same. The four were at my right and seemed to be about to take their departure. It was no longer before the crucifixion but afterwards. I thought they were going up to heaven and I ran out and fell at the Savior’s feet, clasped him around the knees and begged him to take me with Him. He reached down tenderly, raised me up and embraced me very affectionately and with a most tender and sweet expression, mingled with sadness, shook his head and exclaimed: “No; my son, Your work is not finished yet. These have done theirs and they can go with me, but you must stay and finish yours.” “Well, promise me,” I said, “that when I have done it, that I will come to you.” Again he shook his head sadly and sweetly and with the most angelic voice said: “That will depend entirely on yourself.” I woke up with a sob and it was morning with the sunlight streaming in at the window. Over six years have elapsed since then, but the dream and everything connected with it is as fresh in my memory as if it was but yesterday I dreamed it. It had a deep effect upon my mind and stirred me up to reformation and diligence in my missionary labor. It was the first [illegible] evidence I had and the initial of a long series of spiritual manifestations. It seemed after I awoke that I could still feel the warmth of the Savior’s bosom against mine, while his words of wise warning “That will depend entirely upon yourself” I shall never forget.

A (chronologically second) narrative written by Whitney that he titled: “Autobiography of Orson Ferguson Whitney, written in 1885-6”:

I now wrote my first newspaper letter, descriptive of sights and scenes in and about Washington, and sent it to the Salt Lake Herald, over the nom de plume of “Iago,” my old soubriquet in the Wasatch Literary Association. I previously dispatched a note to Byron Groo, editor of that paper, asking if he would publish my correspondence, so little confidence had I that it was worth printing. I was proud to receive an affirmative reply, thanking me for the proposition, which to me was not only complimentary but encouraging. My first “Iago” letter was written March 14, 1877, and I kept up my Herald correspondence at intervals until I returned home. The letters were popular, and my success surprised no one more than myself. I began to cherish dreams of literary life. In fact I was becoming more interested in this than in my missionary labors. One night, or rather early in the morning I dreamed as follows.

I thought I was in the garden of Gethsemane. I saw the Savior and his Apostles, Peter, James and John, enter from the direction to my right, and, leaving them there in a group, praying, He passed to the other side and also knelt down. He seemed to be in great mental distress and his face, which was turned towards me, was streaming with tears. He prayed to the Father: “Let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, Thy will, and not mine, be done.” Finishing He arose and crossing to where his Apostles were, shook them—for they had fallen asleep—and rousing them up, reproved them for neglecting to watch and pray. He then returned to his former place and kneeling down prayed again. Unseen of them I watched their movements from behind a tree. My heart was so full of sympathy for Jesus and his sorrow that I wept in unison with him and my whole soul as if melted, went out to him. Pretty soon He arose and beckoning his companions to him, seemed about to take his departure. The whole circumstance of the dream then changed, though the scene remained the same. The only difference was in time; instead of before the crucifixion, it was after, and the Son of God, having made the sacrifice required, was about to go to the Father, taking the three disciples with Him. I could stand it no longer, and rushing out from my concealment fell down at his feet, clasped him about the knees, and begged Him to take me with him also. He gazed upon me with inexpressible tenderness, then stooped and lifted me up into his arms and embraced me with all the affection of a father or an elder brother. I could feel the beating of his heart and the warmth of his bosom against mine. With a voice full of sweetness and compassion and slowly swaying his head in denial, he said: “No, my son; your work is not finished yet. These have done their work and they can go with me, but you must stay and finish your.” These words uttered in all kindness only made me more anxious to go, though I did not repeat my request, but clinging to him besought him further: “Well, promise me that I will come to you hereafter.” Again he shook his head and sadly and sweetly said: “That will depend entirely on yourself.” I awoke with a sob, and it was morning.

I was profoundly impressed and related the dream to Brother Musser. He told me it was from the Lord. Of this I had no doubt, for the lesson it taught was full of wisdom and warning, and it was stamped upon my mind eternally. I could not forget it, and hope I shall always profit by its instruction.

From Elder Whitney’s diary, October 5, 1889:

My discourse, reported by the [Salt Lake] Herald was as follows:

I do bear my testimony that God has shown to me as well as to my brethren who have spoken, that this is the work of God and that testimony I hope to live by and, if needed, to die by.

I did not always feel as I do now in relation to this great work. Quite a number of the years of my life were passed without my having this testimony. It was not until the fall of 1876, thirteen years ago, that I was placed in a position to know for myself that this is indeed the work of God. True, I had been taught from my mother‘s knee that Mormonism was the gospel of Christ. I had been taught to revere the name and the memory of Joseph Smith as a prophet of the Most High; and in my mind he stood next, in my reverence for the holy priesthood, to the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. But it was not until I attained my majority that I knew this for myself.

At the October conference of the year 1876 I was called upon to perform a mission to the United States. I had hardly enough faith to go upon that mission. I was will to go, but I did not feel that responsibility of the soul which I would feel today, if I were called to go to the nations of the earth upon a similar errand, but it was not long before I became imbued with the testimony of which I speak. I was laboring in the state of Pennsylvania, and with my limited knowledge, my ignorance and the weakness of my faith, I did not feel that I was accomplishing very much. I remember that I became interested in writing for the press, in writing home to the papers here an account of the sights and scenes that I witnessed, and this, to a measure engrossed my mind so that I did not engage in my spiritual labors with that zest that I should have manifested. But right here God gave me the testimony which I have since held; and which to me now is beyond all price.

I dreamed one night while in that state, that I was in the garden of Gethsemane. I saw the Savior and three of his apostles through a little gate at my right into the garden. I stood, as it were, in the background, or the foreground of the picture, which I beheld as plainly as I now see your faces and the interior of the tabernacle. They did not see me, but I saw them. The Savior stationed those three apostles in a little group and asked them to pray without ceasing while he went to the left and bowed Himself down to pray also. Presently He arose, and walking to where Peter, James and John were kneeling, fast asleep, He shook them to wake them up, and again asked them to pray. He retired to His place and prayed again. He returned again and found them sleeping. Awaking them once more, He exhorted them to pray, to keep their eyes open, and not to sleep upon their watch. He returned to His place again until this had passed three times, and as He kneeled there praying to God to give Him strength to perform His mission to pass through the ordeal that was before Him—to drink of the bitter cup prepared for Him by His Father; and as He called upon God, the agony of His soul, and asked Him if it were possible to [text missing]. The tears streamed down his face; and gazing upon his mental agony I was constrained to weep in unison with him, Presently he arose and beckoned His apostles to Him and the circumstances seemed to change.

The scene remained as it was, but instead of being in time before the crucifixion, it now seemed to be after that event. I thought He was about leaving the earth and He was taking these apostles with Him. My heart was so drawn out to Him with love, with sympathy for His great suffering that I ran out from behind the tree where I had stood gazing and fell down at His feet, clasped his knees and asked Him to take me with Him. I shall never forget the look of indescribable tenderness, affection, and compassion with which He gazed down upon me as I knelt before Him. He lifted me up and embraced me. I could feel the very warmth of His bosom against which I rested; and as He took me in His arms with all the tenderness of a father or an elder brother, He shook His head and said, “No, my son. Your work is not finished. You must remain and perform your mission. These (pointing to His apostles) have finished their work, and they can go with me, but you must remain.” I was so anxious to go, I felt such a love for Him and a desire to be with Him that I clung to Him and plead with Him that He would let me go; but He continued to shake His head. “Then,” said I “promise me that when I have finished my work I will come to you at last.” Again He gazed at me with tenderness and compassion, and He uttered these words in tones which pierced my very soul, “That will depend entirely upon yourself.” I awoke and it was morning, but I knew that I had been gazing upon a vision, that God had indeed spoken to me and that He had told me the truth in plainness and simplicity. I saw that I, too, must be awake, that I must not sleep, that I must not consider any of the things of this world of paramount import to the mission which I was sent to perform as a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ; and I have often reflected upon the wisdom of the answer which He gave me when He told me that it would depend entirely upon myself.

From an account found in the Improvement Era, in 1926:

Fifty years ago, or something less, I was a young missionary in the State of Pennsylvania. I had been praying for a testimony of the truth, but beyond that had not displayed much zeal in missionary labor. My companion, a veteran in the cause, chided me for my lack of diligence in this direction. "You ought to be studying the books of the Church," said he; "you were sent out to preach the Gospel, not to write for the newspapers"—for that was what I was doing at the time.

I knew he was right, but I still kept on, fascinated by the discovery that I could wield a pen, and preferring that to any other occupation except the drama, my early ambition, which I had laid upon the altar when, as a youth of twenty-one, I accepted a call to the mission field.

One night I dreamed—if dream it may be called—that I was in the Garden of Gethsemane, a witness of the Savior’s agony. I saw Him as plainly as I see this congregation. I stood behind a tree in the foreground, where I could see without being seen. Jesus, with Peter, James and John, came through a little wicket gate at my right. Leaving the three Apostles there, after telling them to kneel and pray, he passed over to the other side, where he also knelt and prayed. It was the same prayer with which we are all familiar: "O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt" (Matt. 26:36-44<; Mark 14:32-41; Luke 22:42).

As he prayed the tears streamed down his face, which was toward me. I was so moved at the sight that I wept also, out of pure sympathy with his great sorrow. My whole heart went out to him, I loved him with all my soul, and longed to be with him as I longed for nothing else.

Presently he arose and walked to where the Apostles were kneeling—fast asleep! He shook them gently, awoke them, and in a tone of tender reproach, untinctured by the least suggestion of anger or scolding asked them if they could not watch with him one hour. There he was, with the weight of the world’s sin upon his shoulders, with the pangs of every man, woman and child shooting through his sensitive soul—and they could not watch with him one poor hour!

Returning to his place, he prayed again, and then went back and found them again sleeping. Again he awoke them, admonished them, and returned and prayed as before. Three times this happened, until I was perfectly familiar with his appearance—face, form and movements. He was of noble stature and of majestic mien—not at all the weak, effeminate being that some painters have portrayed—a very God among men, yet as meek and lowly as a little child.

All at once the circumstance seemed to change, the scene remaining just the same. Instead of before, it was after the crucifixion, and the Savior, with those three Apostles, now stood together in a group at my left. They were about to depart and ascend into Heaven. I could endure it no longer. I ran out from behind the tree, fell at his feet, clasped him around the knees, and begged him to take me with him.

I shall never forget the kind and gentle manner in which He stooped and raised me up and embraced me. It was so vivid, so real, that I felt the very warmth of his bosom against which I rested. Then He said: "No, my son; these have finished their work, and they may go with me, but you must stay and finish yours." Still I clung to him. Gazing up into his face—for he was taller than I—I besought him most earnestly: "Well, promise me that I will come to you at the last." He smiled sweetly and tenderly and replied: "That will depend entirely upon yourself." I awoke with a sob in my throat, and it was morning.

"That’s from God," said my companion (Elder A. M. Musser), when I had related it to him. "I don’t need to be told that," was my reply. I saw the moral clearly. I had never thought that I would be an Apostle, or hold any other office in the Church; and it did not occur to me even then. Yet I knew that those sleeping apostles meant me. I was asleep at my post—as any man is, or any woman, who, having been divinely appointed to do one thing, does another.

But from that hour all was changed—I was a different man. I did not give up writing, for President Brigham Young, having noticed some of my contributions in the home papers, wrote advising me to cultivate what he called my "gift for writing" so that I might use it in future years "for the establishment of truth and righteousness upon the earth." This was his last word of counsel to me. He died the same year, while I was still in the mission field, though laboring then in the State of Ohio. I continued to write, but it was for the Church and Kingdom of God. I held that first and foremost; all else was secondary.

Then came the divine illumination, which is greater than all dreams, visions, and other manifestations combined. By the light of God’s candle—the gift of the Holy Ghost—I saw what till then I had never seen, I learned what till then I had never known, I loved the Lord as I had never loved Him before. My soul was satisfied, my joy was full, for I had a testimony of the truth, and it has remained with me to this day.

I know that my Redeemer liveth. Not even Job knew it better. I have evidence that I can not doubt. . . .[4]

From Elder Whitney’s autobiography Through Memory’s Halls, pages 81-83:

My communications to the Herald, the first one dated March 14, 1877, leaped at once into popular favor. This gratified me, of course, but I became so absorbed in the correspondence that it encroached upon hours that should have been given to religious study. Elder Musser chided me for it. “You ought to be studying the books of the Church,” said he. “You were sent out to preach the Gospel, not to write for the newspapers.” I knew he was right, but still kept on, fascinated by the discovery that I could wield a pen, and preferring that to any other pursuit except the drama, my ambition for which had been laid aside.

Then came a marvelous manifestation, an admonition from a Higher Source, one impossible to ignore. It was a dream, or a vision in a dream, as I lay upon my bed in the little town of Columbia, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. I seemed to be in the Garden of Gethsemane, a witness of the Savior’s agony. I saw Him as plainly as ever I have seen anyone. Standing behind a tree in the foreground, I beheld Jesus, with Peter, James and John, as they came through a little wicket gate at my right. Leaving the three Apostles there, after telling them to kneel and pray, the Son of God passed over to the other side, where He also knelt and prayed. It was the same prayer with which all Bible readers are familiar: “Oh my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.” As He prayed the tears streamed down his face, which was toward me. I was so moved at the sight that I also wept, out of pure sympathy. My whole heart went out to him; I loved him with all my soul, and longed to be with him as I longed for nothing else.

Presently He arose and walked to where those Apostles were kneeling—fast asleep! He shook them gently, awoke them, and in a tone of tender reproach, untinctured by the least show of anger or impatience, asked them plaintively if they could not watch with him one hour. There He was, with the awful weight of the world’s sin upon his shoulders, with the pangs of every man, woman and child shooting through his sensitive soul—and they could not watch with him one poor hour!

Returning to his place, He offered up the same prayer as before; then went back and again found them sleeping. Again He awoke them, re-admonished them, and once more returned and prayed. Three times this occurred, until I was perfectly familiar with his appearance—face, form and movements. He was of noble stature and majestic mien—not at all the weak, effeminate being that some painters have portrayed; but the very God that he was and is, as meek and humble as a little child.

All at once the circumstances seemed to change, the scene remaining just the same. Instead of before, it was after the crucifixion, and the Savior, with the three Apostles, now stood together in a group at my left. They were about to depart and ascend into Heaven. I could endure it no longer. I ran from behind the tree, fell at his feet, clasped Him around the knees, and begged him to take me with him.

I shall never forget the kind and gentle manner in which He stooped, raised me up, and embraced me. It was so vivid, so real. I felt the very warmth of his body, as He held me in his arms and said in tenderest tones: “No, my son; these have finished their work; they can go with me; but you must stay and finish yours.” Still I clung to Him. Gazing up into his face—for he was taller than I—I besought him fervently: “Well, promise me that I will come to you at the last.” Smiling sweetly, He said: “That will depend entirely upon yourself.” I awoke with a sob in my throat, and it was morning.

“That’s from God,” said Elder Musser, when I related to him what I had seen and heard. “I do not need to be told that,” was my reply. I saw the moral clearly. I had never thought of being an Apostle, nor of holding any other office in the Church, and it did not occur to me even then. Yet I knew that those sleeping Apostles meant me. I was asleep at my post—as any man is who, having been divinely appointed to do one thing, does another.

But from that hour all was changed. I was never the same man again. I did not give up writing; for President Young, having noticed some of my contributions to the home papers, advised me to cultivate what he called my “gift for writing.” “So that you can use it,” said he, “for the establishment of truth and righteousness.” I therefore continued to write, but not to the neglect of the Lord’s Work. I held that first and foremost; all else was secondary.

The below two notations were made in Elder Whitney’s journal while he served as European Mission President:

At the morning meeting in Rotterdam, I related my dream (or vision) of the Savior, had while on my first mission in 1877. It created a profound impression. One of the brethren said: ‘Rather than to have missed that meeting, I would have given five years of my life.’ (September 10, 1921.)

In the evening spoke at the Chapel service, Durham House, and told my dream about the Savior. It was listened to with rapt attention. (December 25, 1921.)

We conclude with a selection of Elder Whitney’s comments regarding Joseph Smith’s first vision:

Joseph Smith . . . brought anew into the world the knowledge of the true and living God. Men had again forgotten the true God and how to worship him. Yes, in the midst of this full blaze, so-called, of Gospel light, men had actually forgotten what had been taught thousands of years before regarding the personality of the Creator. They were worshipping Him again as a being "without body, parts, or passions," who was in the sun, and the moon, and the stars, who was in the flowers and the trees, and in all the manifestations of nature. And so He is in one sense. By His Spirit He is in all these things—that Spirit which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. The light of the sun? Yes. The light of the moon? Yes. The light of the stars? Yes; the light of all things; for light, like truth, has but one source—God. But we must not confound the Spirit of God with the personality of God, our Father in heaven, He who created man in His own image, as Moses taught the children of Israel; He who was in the express likeness of His Son Jesus Christ, who was in the form of man, and who with others taught this truth to the world. This was the God that men were to worship. But they were not worshipping Him when Joseph Smith came forth to re-reveal and re-declare Him. His mind was confused over the many conflicting claims of the various Christian sects, one saying, "this is the right way," another saying "that is the right way;" "lo, here is Christ," "lo, there is Christ;" insomuch that he did not join any of them, but went to the Bible, which had come down through the ages containing the word of God. He read in the Epistle of James, "If any lack wisdom, let him ask of God, who giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not, and it shall be given him." He did not find there that he was to go to this man, or that man, to this church, or that church; for the Priesthood and the Church of God were not upon the earth; but to go to God, go directly to his Father in heaven, and ask Him for wisdom. In the simple faith of his heart he carried out this behest; and while praying in the woods near his father’s house, a glorious vision burst upon his view. First, however, he was attacked by an evil influence which tied his tongue and made every effort to destroy him, but he kept on praying in his heart until he saw a light above his head brighter than the noonday sun, and a pillar of glory descended until it rested upon the tops of the trees. In the midst of it he saw two persons in the form of men; and one of them, calling Joseph by name and pointing to the other, said, "This is my beloved Son: hear Him." Could Joseph Smith doubt from that moment, if he had ever doubted before, that his Father in heaven was in the form of a man, just as the Lord Jesus Christ was in the form of a man? No; it was as plain as daylight; for there was the vision glowing in glory before his eyes. He was told not to join any of the churches, for God was about to found His Church upon the earth, and he—this boy—had been chosen to do a great work for God in this last dispensation.

This was the calling of Joseph Smith. He taught anew that God was in the form of man; that man was made in the image of God; and he taught the principles of justice, mercy, charity, and forgiveness. Therefore, I say, as one who believes in him as a Prophet of God, judge the tree by its fruits. Do men not inspired of God teach men to love each other; to believe in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of Moses, the God of Jesus Christ; to be charitable, to be honest, to be virtuous, to be upright, to be kind, loving and forgiving, and to return good for evil? No, they do not. You may know the tree by its fruits. Men do not gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles. And if men draw near to God in their lives, and teach and practice the teachings of His servants, they follow in the footsteps of their Savior—they do not follow after evil; and Joseph Smith did not. He taught the truths that the Prophets before him had taught; and he went beyond them. Yes, for this great movement nicknamed "Mormonism" is like a mighty tidal wave rolling up the beach of history, destined to make a higher ripple mark than any wave that has preceded it. Joseph Smith taught men to look up to heaven and conceive of a God in the form of man. He taught them that they could become like their Father and God, who was "an exalted Man." And what is more simple and reasonable? Don’t you parents expect your children to become like you? Or do you expect your children to be something else than men and women? No. You men will see your sons become men; you women will see your daughters become women. Then God our Father—yes, and our Mother—in heaven, looking down upon this world—this school house in which their children are being educated—expect, and Joseph Smith taught it as a truth, that their children will be exalted, if they pursue the proper course, until they shall become divine beings themselves, worthy to stand upon that plane where stand their Father and their Mother in heaven. Like begets like; and the principle of eternal progress will make of man a God.[5]


This article is cross-posted with the permission of the author, Dennis B. Horne, from the blog at truthwillprevail.xyz.

 

Endnotes

[1] For instance, my grandfather, Walter Horne, in his privately published autobiography, wrote: “On Tuesday, August 30, 1927, I was set apart [for missionary service] by Elder Orson F. Whitney of the Council of the Twelve, who lived in our Eighteenth Ward and who had once been bishop there. I was thrilled and inspired to have him bless me, for he was not only one of the greatest apostles, but had had the privilege of seeing the Savior.” All true, but the timing is not clear. I was pleased to see that Elder Holland got this timing correct in his own address.
[2] The young missionary Whitney took the lesson this dream-vision taught him to heart and immediately improved his missionary work ethic, enjoying much success; however, over the next three decades he became ensnared by some false doctrine (reincarnation) that took a sore toll on him as he endured the repentance process prior to his call to the Twelve. It was these years of correction that can be interpreted in light of what Jesus said to him in the vision. For further information, see Dennis B. Horne, The Life of Orson F. Whitney: Historian, Poet, Apostle.
[3] Those wishing to get a judgment of how tall Elder Whitney was might watch this video footage, where Elder Whitney walks among his Brethren alongside the Salt Lake Temple.
[4] “The Divinity of Jesus Christ,” Improvement Era, vol. 24, January 1926, no. 3. Also repeated here.
[5] “The Three Great Teachers,” May 8, 1898.

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