1. Spiritual Gifts Characteristic of the Church.—It has been already affirmed, that all men who would officiate with propriety in the ordinances of the Gospel must be commissioned for their exalted duties by the power and authority of heaven. When so divinely invested, these servants of the Lord will not be lacking in proofs of the Master’s favor; for it has ever been characteristic of the dealings of God with His people, to manifest His power by the bestowal of a variety of ennobling graces, which are properly called gifts of the Spirit. These are oft-times exhibited in a manner so different from the usual order of things as to be called miraculous and supernatural. In this way did the Lord make Himself known in the early times of scriptural history; and from the days of Adam until the present, prophets of God have generally been endowed with such power. Whenever the priesthood has operated through an organized Church on the earth, the members of the flock have been strengthened in their faith, and otherwise blessed in numerous related ways, by the possession of these graces within the Church. We may safely regard the existence of these spiritual powers as one of the essential characteristics of the true Church; where they are not, the priesthood of God does not operate.
2. Mormon solemnly declares that the days of miracles will not pass from the Church, as long as there shall be a man upon the earth to be saved; “For,” says he, “it is by faith that miracles are wrought; and it is by faith that angels appear and minister unto men; wherefore if these things have ceased, wo be unto the children of men, for it is because of unbelief, and all is vain.” And Moroni, standing on the threshold of the grave, bears an independent testimony that the gifts and graces of the Spirit will never be done away as long as the world shall stand, except it be through the unbelief of mankind.
3. Hear the words of this prophet addressed to those “who deny the revelations of God and say that they are done away, that there are no revelations nor prophecies, nor gifts, nor healing, nor speaking with tongues, and the interpretation of tongues. Behold I say unto you, he that denieth these things knoweth not the Gospel of Christ; yea he has not read the scriptures; if so, he does not understand them. For do we not read that God is the same yesterday, to-day, and forever, and in him there is no variableness neither shadow of changing? And now, if ye have imagined up unto yourselves a god who doth vary, and in him there is shadow of changing, then have ye imagined up unto yourselves a god who is not a God of miracles. But behold, I will show unto you a God of miracles, even the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; and it is that same God who created the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are.”
4. Nature of Spiritual Gifts.—The gifts here spoken of are essentially endowments of power and authority, through which the purposes of God are accomplished, sometimes with accompanying conditions that appear to be supernatural. By such the sick may be healed, malignant influences overcome, spirits of darkness subdued, the Saints, humble and weak, may proclaim their testimonies and otherwise utter praises unto God in new and strange tongues, and others may interpret these words; the feeble human intellect may be invigorated by the heavenly touch of spiritual vision and blessed dreams, to see and comprehend things ordinarily withheld from mortal senses; direct communication with the fountain of all wisdom may be established, and the revelations of the Divine will may be obtained.
5. These gifts have been promised of the Lord unto those who believe in His name; they are to follow obedience to the requirements of the Gospel. Among believers, they are to serve for encouragement, and as incentives to higher communion with the Spirit. They are not given as signs to gratify carnal curiosity; nor to satisfy a morbid craving for the wonderful. Men have been led to the light through manifestations of the miraculous; but events in the lives of these show that they are either such as would have found a knowledge of the truth in some other way, or they are but superficially affected, and as soon as the novelty of the new sensation has exhausted itself they wander again into the darkness from which they had for the time escaped. Miracles are not primarily intended, surely they are not needed, to prove the power of God; the simpler occurrences, the more ordinary works of creation do that. But unto the heart already softened and purified by the testimony of the truth, to the mind enlightened through the Spirit’s power and conscious of obedient service in the requirements of the gospel, the voice of miracles comes with cheering tidings of a loving Parent’s continued favor, with fresh and more abundant evidences of the magnanimity of an all-merciful God.
6. Yet even to the unbeliever, the testimony of miracles should appeal, at least to the extent of argument favoring an investigation of the power through which these acts are wrought; in such cases miracles are as “a loud voice addressed to those who are hard of hearing.” The purpose of spiritual gifts in the Church is explicitly set forth in a revelation from the Lord through Joseph Smith:—”Wherefore, beware lest ye be deceived; and that ye may not be deceived, seek ye earnestly the best gifts, always remembering for what they are given; For verily I say unto you, they are given for the benefit of those who love me and keep all my commandments, and him that seeketh so to do, that all may be benefited that seeketh or that asketh of me, that asketh and not for a sign that he may consume it upon his lusts.”
7. Miracles are commonly regarded as supernatural occurrences, taking place in opposition to the laws of nature. Such a conception is plainly erroneous, for the laws of nature are inviolable. However, as human understanding of these laws is at best but imperfect, events strictly in accordance with natural law may appear contrary thereto. The entire constitution of nature is founded on system and order; the laws of nature, however, are graded as are the laws of man. The application of a higher law in any particular case does not destroy the efficacy or validity of an inferior one; the lower law is as fully applicable as before to the case for which it is framed. For example, society has enacted a law forbidding, on peril of heavy penalties, any man appropriating the property of another; yet oftentimes officers of the law forcibly seize the possessions of their fellow-men, against whom judgments may have been rendered; and such acts are done to satisfy, not to violate justice. Jehovah commanded “Thou shalt not kill,” and mankind has re-enacted the law, prescribing penalties for violation thereof. Yet sacred history testifies, that, in certain cases, the Lawgiver Himself has directly commanded His servants to vindicate justice by taking human life. The judge who passes the extreme sentence upon a convicted murderer, and the executioner who carries into effect that dread mandate, act not in opposition to “Thou shalt not kill,” but actually in support of this decree.
8. With some of the principles upon which the powers of nature operate, we are in a degree acquainted; and in contemplating them we are no longer surprised, though deeper reflection may show that even the commonest occurrence is wonderful and strange. But any event beyond the ordinary is pronounced miraculous, supernatural, if not indeed unnatural, and we are more or less awe-stricken by the same. When the prophet Elisha caused the axe to float in the river, he brought to his service, through the exercise of the authority of the priesthood, a power superior to that of gravity. Without doubt, the iron was heavier than the water; yet by the operation of this higher force it was supported, suspended, or otherwise sustained at the surface, as if it were held there by a human hand, or rendered sufficiently buoyant by attached floaters.
9. Wine ordinarily consists of about four-fifths water, the rest being a variety of chemical compounds the elements of which are abundantly present in the air and soil. The ordinary method—what we term the natural method—of bringing these elements into proper combination is by planting the grape, then cultivating the vine till the fruit is ready to yield its juice in the press. But by the exercise of a power not within purely human reach, the Savior, at the marriage in Cana, called those elements together, and brought about a chemical transformation within the water-pots of stone, resulting in the production of pure wine. So, too, when the multitudes were fed, under His priestly touch and authoritative blessing the bread and fishes increased in substance, as if the seasons of years had been consumed in their growth according to what we consider the natural order. In healing the leprous, the palsied, and the infirm, the disordered bodily parts were brought again into their normal and healthful state; the impurities operating as poisons in the tissues were removed by means more rapid and effectual than those which depend upon the action of drugs and medicine.
10. No earnest observer, no reasoning mind, can doubt the existence of intelligences and organisms which the senses of man do not reveal. This world seems but the temporal embodiment of things spiritual. The Creator has told us that He formed all things spiritual before they were made temporal. The flowers that flourish and die on earth are perhaps represented above by imperishable blossoms of transcendent beauty and entertaining fragrance. Man is shaped after the image of Deity; his mind, though darkened by custom and weakened by injurious habit, is still a fallen type of immortal thought and Divine reason; and though the space separating the human and the Divine in thought, desire, and action, be as wide as that between sea and sky, for as the stars are above the earth so are the ways of God above those of man, yet we may affirm a strict analogy between the spiritual and the temporal. When the eyes of Elisha’s servant were opened, the man saw the hosts of heavenly warriors covering the mountains about Dothan,—footmen, horsemen, and chariots, armed for fight against the Syrians. When Israel encompassed Jericho, may we not believe that the Captain of the Lord’s host and his heavenly train were there, and that before their angelic powers, sustained by the faith and obedience of the mortal army, the walls were leveled?
11. Some of the latest and highest achievements of man in the utilization of natural forces approach the conditions of spiritual operations. To count the ticking of a watch a hundred miles away; to speak in but an ordinary tone and be heard across the country; to signal from one hemisphere and be understood on the other though oceans roll and roar between; to bring the lightning into our homes and make it serve as fire and torch;—are not these miracles? The possibility of such would not have been received with credence before their actual accomplishment. The President of the Republic, sitting in his chair of state at the nation’s capital, talks with all parts, even with the ends of this great country; and if the apparatus be in order, if operators and officials be true, he is rightly informed of every movement of importance anywhere in the land. The orbs of the universe are as truly connected by a system of inter-communication, surprisingly perfect in its action and adaptation. These and the other innumerable miracles of creation are accomplished in strict accordance with the laws of nature, which are the laws of God. But we must return to a further consideration of the specific manifestations of spiritual gifts within the Church.
12. An Enumeration of the Gifts of the Spirit cannot be made complete by man, so numerous, so extensive are the blessings of the Father for His children. Yet the more common of these spiritual manifestations have been specified by inspired scriptural writers, and by the sure word of revelation. Paul writing to the Corinthian Saints, Moroni inditing his last appeal to the Lamanites, and the voice of the Lord directed to the people of His Church in this dispensation, each names many of the great gifts of the Spirit. From these scriptures, we learn that every man has received some gift from God; and in the great diversity of gifts all do not receive the same. “To some it is given by the Holy Ghost to know the differences of administration…. And again it is given by the Holy Ghost to some to know the diversities of operations whether it be of God, that the manifestations of the Spirit may be given to every man to profit withal. And again, verily I say unto you, to some it is given by the Spirit of God, the word of wisdom; to another it is given the word of knowledge, that all may be taught to be wise, and to have knowledge. And again to some it is given to have faith to be healed; and to others it is given to have faith to heal. And again to some it is given the working of miracles, and to others it is given to prophesy, and to others the discerning of spirits. And again, it is given to some to speak with tongues; and to another it is given the interpretation of tongues; and all these gifts cometh from God for the benefit of the children of God.”
13. The Gift of Tongues and Interpretation.—The gift of tongues constituted one of the first miraculous manifestations of the Holy Ghost unto the apostles of old. It was included by the Savior among the special signs appointed to follow the believer; “In my name,” said He, “they shall speak with new tongues.” The early fulfillment of this promise in the case of the apostles themselves was realized on the succeeding Pentecost, when they, having assembled in one place, were filled with the Holy Ghost and began to speak in strange tongues. When the door of the Gospel was first opened to the Gentiles, the converts rejoiced in the Holy Ghost which had fallen upon them and which gave them utterance in tongues. This gift with others manifested itself among certain disciples at Ephesus, on the occasion of their receiving the Holy Ghost. In the present dispensation, this gift, again promised to the Saints, finds frequent exercise. Its chief employment is in the function of praise rather than that of instruction and preaching; and this is agreeable to Paul’s teaching, “For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh not unto men but unto God.” An unusual manifestation of the gift was witnessed on the occasion of the Pentecostal conversion of the Jews, already referred to, when the apostles addressing the multitude, were understood by all the diversified company, each listener hearing their teachings in his own tongue. This special gift was here associated with higher endowments of power; the occasion was one of instruction, admonition, and prophecy. The gift of interpretation may be possessed by the one speaking in tongues, though more commonly the separate powers are exercised by different persons.
14. The Gift of Healing was exercised extensively in the dispensation of the Savior and His apostles; indeed, healing constituted by far the greater part of the miracles wrought at that time. By authoritative ministrations, the eyes of the blind were opened; the dumb were made to speak; the deaf to hear; the lame leaped for joy; afflicted mortals, bowed with infirmity, were lifted erect and enjoyed the vigor of youth; the palsied were made well; lepers were cleansed; impotence was banished; and fevers were assuaged. In this, the dispensation of the fulness of times, this power is possessed by the Church, and its manifestation is of frequent occurrence among the Saints. Thousands of blessed recipients can testify to the fulfillment of the Lord’s promise, that if His servants lay hands on the sick, they shall recover.
15. The usual method of administering to the sick is by the imposition of hands of those who possess the requisite authority of the priesthood;—this being agreeable to the Savior’s instructions in former days, and according to Divine revelation in the present day. This part of the ordinance is usually preceded by an anointing with oil previously consecrated. The Latter-day Saints profess to abide by the counsels of James of old, “Is any sick among you? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.”
16. Though the authority to administer to the sick belongs to the elders of the Church in general, some possess this power in an unusual degree, having received it as a special endowment of the Spirit. Another gift, allied to this, is the power of exercising faith to be healed; which is manifested in varying degrees. Not always are the administrations of the elders followed by immediate healings; the afflicted may be permitted to suffer in body, perhaps for the accomplishment of Divine purposes, and in the time appointed of the Lord, His children pass through bodily death. But let the counsels of God be observed in administering to the afflicted; then if they recover, they live unto the Lord; and the assuring promise is added that those who die under such conditions die unto the Lord.
17. Visions and Dreams have constituted a means of communication between God and His children in every dispensation of the priesthood. In general, visions are manifested to the waking senses, whilst dreams are given during sleep. In the vision, however, the senses may be so affected as to render the person practically unconscious, at least oblivious to ordinary occurrences, while he is able to discern the heavenly manifestation. In the earlier dispensations, the Lord very frequently communicated through dreams and visions, often-times revealing to His prophets the events of the future even to the latest generations. From the multitude of instances recorded, let us select a few. Consider the case of Enoch, unto whom the Lord spake face to face, showing him the course of the human family until and beyond the second coming of the Savior. The brother of Jared because of his righteousness was so blessed of God as to be shown all the inhabitants of the earth, both those who had previously existed and those who were to follow. Unto Moses the will of God was made known with the visual manifestation of fire. Lehi received his instructions to leave Jerusalem through dreams; and on many subsequent occasions the Lord communicated with this patriarch of the western world by visions and by dreams. The Old Testament prophets were generally so favored; e. g., Jacob the father of all Israel, Job the patient sufferer, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Habakkuk, Zechariah.
18. The dispensation of Christ and His apostles was marked by similar manifestations. The birth of John the Baptist was fore-told to his father while he was officiating in priestly functions. Joseph, betrothed to the Virgin, received through an angel’s visit tidings of the Christ yet to be born; and on subsequent occasions he received warnings and instructions in dreams concerning the welfare of the Holy Child. The Magi, returning from their pilgrimage of worship, were warned in dreams of Herod’s treacherous designs. Saul of Tarsus was shown in a vision the messenger whom God was about to send to him to minister in the ordinances of the priesthood; and other visions followed. Peter was prepared for the ministry to the Gentiles through a vision; and John was so favored of God in this respect that the book of Revelation is occupied by the record.
19. Most of the visions and dreams recorded in scripture have been given to the chosen people through the ministering priesthood; but there are exceptional instances of such manifestations unto some, who, at the time, had not entered the fold. Such, for example, was the case with Saul and Cornelius; but in these instances the Divine manifestations were immediately preliminary to conversion. Dreams with special import were given to Pharaoh, Nebuchadnezzar, and others; but it required a higher power than their own to interpret them; and Joseph and Daniel were called to officiate. The dream given to the Midianite soldier, and its interpretation by his fellow, betokening the victory of Gideon, were true manifestations; as also the dream of Pilate’s wife, in which she learned of the innocence of the accused Christ.
20. The Gift of Prophecy distinguishes its possessor as a prophet,—literally, one who speaks for another; specifically, one who speaks for God, It is distinguished by Paul as one of the most desirable of spiritual endowments, and its pre-eminence over the gift of tongues he discusses at length. To prophesy is to receive and declare the word of God, and the statement of His will to the people. The function of prediction, often regarded as the sole essential of prophecy, is but one among many characteristics of this divinely given power. The prophet may have as much concern with the past as with the present or the future; he may exercise his gift in teaching through the light of, and by the experience of preceding events, as in fore-telling occurrences. The prophets of God have ever been in special favor with Him, being privileged to learn of His will and designs; indeed, the promise is made that the Lord will do nothing except He reveal His secret purposes unto His servants, the prophets. These chosen oracles stand as mediators between God and mortals, pleading for or against the people.
21. No special ordination in the priesthood is essential to man’s receiving the gift of prophecy; bearers of the Melchizedek order, Adam, Noah, Moses, and a multitude of others were truly prophets, but not more truly so than were many who exercised the Aaronic functions only—as for example most of the Old Testament priests subsequent to the time of Moses, and John the Baptistm The ministrations of the prophetesses Miriam and Deborah show that this gift may be possessed by women also. In the time of Samuel, the prophets were organized into a special order, to aid their purposes of study and improvement.
22. In the present dispensation, this great gift is enjoyed in a fulness equal to that of any preceding time. The Lord’s will concerning present duties is made known to His people through the mouths of prophets; and events of great import are fore-told. The very fact of the present existence and growing condition of the Church is an undeniable testimony of the power and reliability of modern prophecy. The Latter-day Saints constitute a body of witnesses, numbering hundreds of thousands, to the effect of this, one of the great gifts of God.
23. Revelation is the means through which the will of God is declared directly and in fulness to man. Under circumstances best suiting the Divine purposes, through the dreams of sleep or in waking visions of the mind, by voices without visional appearance, or by actual manifestations of the Holy Presence before the eye, God makes known His designs, and charges His chosen vessels to bear the sacred messages so imparted. Under the influence of inspiration, or its more potent manifestation—revelation, man’s mind is enlightened, and his energies quickened to the accomplishment of wonders in the work of human progress; touched with a spark from the heavenly altar, the inspired instrument cherishes the holy fire within his soul, and imparts it to others as he may be led to do; he is the channel through which the will of God is conveyed. The words of him who speaks by revelation in its highest form, are not his own; they are the words of God Himself; the mortal mouth-piece is but the trusted conveyer of these heavenly messages. With the authoritative, “Thus saith the Lord,” the revelator delivers the burden intrusted to his care.
24. The Lord strictly observes the principles of order and propriety in giving revelation to His servants. Though it is the privilege of any person to live so as to merit this gift in the affairs of his special calling, only those appointed and ordained to the offices of presidency are to be revelators to the people at large. Concerning the President of the Church, who at the time of the revelation here referred to was the Prophet Joseph Smith, the Lord has said to the elders of the Church:—”And this ye shall know assuredly, that there is none other appointed unto you to receive commandments and revelations until he be taken, if he abide in me…. And this shall be a law unto you, that ye receive not the teachings of any that shall come before you, as revelations or commandments. And this I give unto you that you may not be deceived, that you may know they are not of me.”
25. The Testimony of Miracles.—The Savior’s promise in a former day as in the present dispensation is definite, to the effect that specified gifts of the Spirit are to follow the believer as signs of Divine favor. The possession and exercise of such gifts may be taken therefore as essential features of the Church of Christ. Nevertheless we are notjustified in regarding the evidence of miracles as infallible testimony of authority from heaven; on the other hand, the scriptures furnish abundant proof that spiritual powers of the baser sort have wrought miracles, and will continue so to do, to the deceiving of many who lack discernment. If miracles be accepted as infallible evidence of godly power, the magicians of Egypt, through the wonders which they accomplished in opposition to the ordained plan for Israel’s deliverance, have as good a claim to our respect as has Moses. John the Revelator saw in vision a wicked power working miracles, and thereby deceiving many; doing great wonders, even bringing fire from heaven. Again, he saw three unclean spirits, whom he knew to be “the spirits of devils working miracles.”
26. Consider, in connection with this, the prediction made by the Savior:—”There shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders, insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.” The invalidity of miracles as a proof of righteousness is declared in an utterance of Christ Jesus regarding the events of the great judgment:—”Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you; depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” The Jews, to whom these teachings were addressed, knew that wonders could be wrought by evil powers; for they charged Christ with working miracles by the authority of “Beelzebub the prince of devils.”
27. If the working of miracles were a distinctive characteristic of the holy priesthood, we would look for the testimony of wondrous manifestations in connection with the work of every prophet and authorized minister of the Lord; yet we fail to find a record of miracles in the case of Zechariah, Malachi, and other prophets of old; while of John the Baptist, whom Christ declared to be more than a prophet, it was plainly said that he did no miracle; nevertheless, in rejecting John’s doctrine, the unbelievers were ignoring the counsel of God against their own souls. To be valid as a testimony of truth, miracles must be wrought in the name of Christ, and to His honor, in furtherance of the plan of salvation. As stated, they are not given to satisfy the curious and the lustful, nor as a means of gaining notoriety for him through whom they are accomplished. These gifts of the true Spirit are manifested in support of the message from heaven, and in corroboration of the words spoken by authority.
28. Imitations of Spiritual Gifts.—The proofs already cited of miraculous achievements by powers other than of God, and the scriptural predictions concerning such deceptive manifestations in the last days, ought to be our warning against spurious imitations of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Satan has shown himself to be an accomplished strategist and a skilful imitator; the most deplorable of his victories are due to his simulation of good, whereby the undiscerning have been led captive. Let us not be deluded with the thought that any act, the immediate result of which appears to be benign, is necessarily productive of permanent good. It may serve the dark purposes of man’s arch-enemy to play upon the human sense of goodness, even to the extent of healing the body, and apparently of thwarting death.
29. The restoration of the priesthood to earth in this age of the world was followed by a phenomenal growth of the vagaries of spiritualism, whereby many have been led to put their trust in Satan’s counterfeit of God’s eternal power. The development of the healing gift in the Church today is imitated in a degree comparable to that with which the magicians simulated the miracles of Moses, by the varied faith cures and their numerous modifications. For those to whom miraculous signs are all-sufficient, the imitation will answer as well as would the real; but the soul who regards the miracle in its true nature as but one element of the system of Christ, possessing value as a positive criterion only as it is associated with the numerous other characteristics of the Church, will not be deceived.
30. Spiritual Gifts in the Church Today.—The Latter-day Saints claim to possess within the Church all the sign-gifts promised as the heritage of the believer. They point to the unimpeached testimonies of thousands who have been blessed with direct and personal manifestations of heavenly power; to the once blind, and dumb, halt, and weak in body, who have been freed from their infirmities through their faith and by the ministrations of the priesthood; to a multitude who have voiced their testimony in tongues with which they were naturally unfamiliar; or who have demonstrated their possession of the gift by a phenomenal mastery of foreign languages, when such was necessary to the discharge of their duties as preachers of the word of God; to many who have enjoyed communion with heavenly beings; to others who have prophesied in words that have found their speedy vindication in literal fulfillment; and to the Church itself, whose growth has been guided by the voice of its Divine Leader, made known through the gift of revelation.