January 31, 1893

This day in an interview with Presidents Woodruff and Smith of the First Presidency, I was appointed to now proceed with a work before given and subsequently withdrawn, I am requested to prepare a work on Theology, suitable as a text-book for our church schools and other organizations. In making the appointment Pres. Woodruff gave me his blessing. Told the brethren that I would accept the appointment as a mission; with no expectation of any pecuniary reward should the work ever be published, hoping that the book would be sold more cheaply if I waived all claim to royalty in the sale. Without the blessing of the Almighty, and the support of the brethren I should shrink from even attempting such a work. […]

Received from the Presidency of the Church a piece of stone, said to have been brought from the hill of Adam-ondi-Ahman, and supposed to have formed part of the Altar erected by Adam after his expulsion from the Garden of Eden. I am asked to examine the specimen.

While talking with the brethren concerning stones of interest the matter of Seer-Stones was discussed; and I expressed a desire to examine some of such stones. As a result of the conversation, President Angus M. Cannon and I set out to the house of a Mrs. Russel, who claims a standing in the church, and also asserts her ability and right to discern great things through seer stones in her possession.

She permitted me to examine the stones very closely; I found them to be crystals of Silica, – Rock Crystal. One is a large well formed crystal, about 5 inches long, with a perfect pyramidal termination at one end; and a rough broken surface at the other. This is the stone with which she associates the greater power. The other stone is a small poor crystal of the same mineralogical class about the length and thickness of the upper two joints in a man’s middle finger. Having examined the stones I questioned the lady very closely concerning the extent of her powers, and as to her method of using the stones. She holds the stone as she would a book, and claims then to see a panoramic view within.  The stone, she says, possesses axes of direction a north, a south, an east, and a west pole, and by look through these in order she determines the direction of any place revealed. The woman claims to have found lost animals, and stolen goods by the agency of the stone, and she confesses not to be above the taking of money for her divining.

While talking to her, the thought occurred to me that in all probability she was the person to whom, as I was informed, Brother Stark, the son-in-law of Sister Clarissa Webb, had gone to seek information concerning the mystery of the terrible accident which cost Zella Webb her life. The woman could not at first remember; but by consulting the stone she proceeded to describe Bro. Stark most accurately; then she began to narrate the circumstances of the accident to Zella, and I thought it wisdom to break off the story, for, as I told her, I did not come to her for information. Though I have prayed most diligently for light, if it be the Lord’s will to give such, concerning that terrible occurrence, I did not wish it from the service of priestcraft.

I told Mrs. Russel that I thought her divining powers came from an evil source; for the Priesthood, is a I understand it the sole channel of communication in such matters. She protested her humility, and declared that her greatest powers come through fasting and prayer; and farthermore she claims to honor the Priesthood implicitly. Pres. Cannon reminded her that she was acting in defiance of the Priesthood, for the High Counsel before whom she had been tried, had forbidden her using the stone for such hidden purposes, except as she was directed by the Priesthood.

Then Pres. Angus M. Cannon and I visited Brother Edwin Rushton’s residence; Bro. Rushton was not at home, but his wife acceded to our request and brought out a stone to which great importance has been attached by some members of the church: To my surprise Sister Rushton suggested that we take the stone with us, and have it tested; Pres. Cannon advised me to take it.  While examining it in the house of Bro. Rushton, a tiny flake, scarcely larger than a grain of wheat, fell off from an end; this I took care of, intending to use it for a simple chemical test. We called at Bro. Rushton’s office not wishing to do anything which that gentleman would not approve of; but we failed to find him. During the afternoon I made a careful examination of the stone. It is transparent, of a greenish tint; low fusibility and hardness, specific gravity of 2.5; contains silica and the alkalies in fact appears to the eye and under test to be a piece of glass, plain and simple. It weighs 66 grammes, (nearly 2¼ oz Avordupois’s). The chemical tests were confined to the flake which broke off in our hands, as I did not wish to mutilate the stone in any way. This determination of the simple lithological nature of these stones in no way to my mind removes the possibility of them possessing unusual virtues.  I believe the Lord could endow a piece of brick with the properties of a seer stone, and endow his chosen servants with power to use such; yet I would like to ascertain the nature of stones about which so much has been said. I must confess however, I see nothing in the way of proof as to the supernatural value of either of these stones.

February 22, 1893

Being at the President’s office early this morning I had a conversation with President Woodruff concerning the Seer Stones spoken of yesterday, and particularly of the stone owned by Bro. Rushton, which latter I showed to the President. He attributes no importance at all to the stone; and he sustains me in my opinion concerning Mrs. Russel and her divinations. Later in the day Bro. Rushton called upon me and gave me a history of the stone. He found it in Nauvoo, associated with a valuable record, and with a store of gold; but neither the record nor the gold could he obtain. He claims that the location of the stone was revealed to him in a day vision thrice repeated; and at first it was under a seal, the nature of which he declined to explain. He says the stone possesses a celestial and a terrestrial side, and is capable of revealing matters connected with this world and the spirit land. One surface of the stone is devoted to the Ten Tribes, and in that the Seer can perceive the place and circumstances of that people beyond the ice. Bro. Rushton says the stone served him to locate the burial places of several of Joseph Smith’s kindred, the prophet having placed several of the brethren under covenant to bury his dead together. Since that work was accomplished, Rushton has lost his gift, but lives in hope that it will be restored to him. The stone he believes will be of service in the vicarious work of the Temples by revealing the condition and desires of those behind the vail. Bro. Rushton and I met Pres. Woodruff, but Rushton declined to explain to the President the nature of the seal under which the stone was laid. Pres. Woodruff: says he has but little encouragement to offer for the use of Seer Stones.

At night I attended the monthly meeting of the Home Missionary Quorum. A matter was there discussed, which I have already spoken upon in public a few times of late, and which I have asked counsel upon from the authorities:—the unseemly anxiety approaching curiosity on the part of some people for miraculous manifestations at the approaching dedication of the Salt Lake Temple. I believe that we should exercise faith in God for His blessings: leaving Him to decide what particular manifestations would be for our good. For my part, the Lord does not favor me with visual or oviricular manifestations, yet I have an abiding faith in His supporting care.

This day I received from the First Presidency a letter of appointment for the work mentioned under the date of January 31, last: The letter reads:—

Office of the First Presidency, Salt Lake City, Utah February 20th/93

Dear Brother:

From conversations we have had with you in the past, we know that you in common with many others who are connected with the educational interests of our Church have seen the great need of properly arranged text and reference books in theological and religious subjects, for use in our Church Schools, Sunday Schools, etc.

It is our desire that a book suitable for the purposes named should be placed in the hands of our people as soon as possible. Knowing your experience in this direction we should be pleased to have you prepare such a work. We understand it is your intention not to make any charge for the preparation of this work so that it may be placed on the market at so low a price that it will be within the reach of all; with this suggestion we hastily concur.

Wishing you the fulfillment of every righteous desire in your calling as a teacher of the youth of Israel, we are

Your Brethren:

W. Woodruff

Jos. F. Smith

April 5, 1893—Wesneday

It is planned by the General Authorities that the first dedicatory service will be held tomorrow morning, the second tomorrow afternoon, and repetition services will continue morning and afternoon of each day until all the Wards of Zion have had an opportunity to be admitted.  Many people have been bold in expressing hopes of great and marvelous manifestations of divine power on the occasion, but the counsel of the leaders in the conference just closed, and on several other occasions, has been to seek only for the peace of God and individual acceptance before the Lord.

April 6, 1893—Thursday

The day of the Temple dedication. The first service to which the General Church Authorities, their families, Stake Presidencies, Ward Bishoprics, High Councils and a few others were admitted, commenced at 10 AM.

I was present assisting in the deacon’s office; to do which in the Temple of the Lord, I consider a great honor.  Previous to the beginning of the formal services, the people were conducted through the principal rooms of the great edifice.  The Temple is a noble structure, grandly arranged and appointed. Cost has not been an obstacle in fitting up this house of God.  No superfluous or showy decoration has been allowed, but everything is rich, beautiful and above all, appropriate.

During the entire service a fierce wind raged, approaching at times the fury of a hurricane. The dedicatory service was simple and impressive.  Excellent music, most of the pieces being specifically composed for the occasion, was rendered.

President Wilford Woodruff, in addressing the saints, referred to recent divisions in opinion among the Apostles and the other leading Quorums of the Priesthood, mainly on political matters, and stated that the brethren had sought forgiveness by fasting and prayer and had been assured of the Lord’s continued acceptance. The President prophesied that from this time to the time of the second coming of Christ, there shall not be a hour of serious and detrimental division amongst the First Presidency and Twelve, and that the Lord would sooner remove any of the brethren than to permit such.

There were no strange or bewildering manifestations of Supernatural agencies during the service; but the power of God was there and the entire assembly felt it. It was a holy place and occasion.

In the afternoon a second service was held. I remained in the Temple during the entire day. In the afternoon session, President Cannon offered the dedicatory prayer. The Presidency stated that the Lord had manifested to them His acceptance of this Temple at the hands of the people. The evening press contains accounts of the proceedings, including the full text of the dedicatory prayer.

October 20, 1893

Today it was decided by the Presidency of the Church, with several of the Apostles sitting with them in council to establish in connection with the Church University a Theological Class, to meet for the present on Sundays at 12:15 p.m. I am appointed to take charge of it; indeed I must take the blame for the subject having been brought up for consideration, as I myself suggested it having been impressed for a long time with the opinion that some theological work should be done in the Church Univ. from the beginning of its career of actual work […]

October 25, 1893

Attended regular monthly meeting of the Home Missionary Quorum. One of the most important items discussed at the meeting was the duties of the Saints regarding Fast Day observance; another topic which seemed to be of interest was that of the Theological Class about to be established in connection with the Church University.

October 26, 1893

Today, Elder Wm. J. Smith, one of the Patriarchs of the Stake, called at my office on business, and while there told me that he had for me a blessing. Placing his hands upon my head he blessed me as follows; his words being taken in writing, as he spoke, and afterwards written out:—

Salt Lake City, Utah, October 26, 1893. Blessing, given under the hand of Patriarch William J. Smith, upon the head of James Edward Talmage, son of James J. Talmage and Susannah Praeter; born at Hungerford, Berkshire, England, September 21, 1862.

Brother James Edward Talmage, greatly beloved of the Lord: I place my hands upon thy head, even the crown of thy head, in the name of Jesus Christ, the son of the Living God, to bestow upon thee a Patriarchal and a father’s blessing as it may be given by the spirit of truth unto me, and by virtue of the Eternal Priesthood, I seal and confirm upon thy head all of thy former blessings, baptisms and confirmations, ordinations, and every blessing that has been bestowed upon thee by the spirit of revelation, that all may be fulfilled in the due time of the Lord unto thee; and not a word fail thee, or promise that the Lord has made unto thee. I bless you in your high and holy calling that the spirit of God may be your constant companion, that you may be wise and skillful in all your undertakings, and profession that you may not be excelled [?] by man’s, because thou art taught of God; and He will be with thee wherever thou goest, and bless all that thou puttest thy hand to do; and thy heart shall be perfectly satisfied. Seek unto Him for wisdom and knowledge, skill and ability to perform thy duty and it shall be given thee. And the Lord shall be with thee in dreams and visions in different languages and the interpretation of the same. Thou shalt have the spirit of revelation, and prophecy and discernment; your eye shall be like the eye of the eagle to see near by and afar off, with power to discern every false spirit under the whole heavens, that thou may’st not be deceived thereby: that thou may’st have power over devils and demons and that cruel and wicked monster that fell before the throne of God, that thou may’st escape his grasp. Thy tongue shall be loosed, and thou shalt proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ in power to the convincing of the honest in heart; and they shall know that the Lord is with thee and that the spirit of revelation is upon thee to a great extent; and thy faith shall be like unto Moses, and the brother of Jared; and thou shalt have power to perform any miracle that was ever wrought by man upon the earth, for the salvation and deliverance of Israel. I bless you to be faithful in all time to come, that your feet may never stray from the path of Christ. Thou shalt live to see Israel gathered from the four quarters of the earth, to assist in the redemption of Zion, and be gathered to the center Stake, and be a minister in that Holy Temple or Temples of thy Father’s house, for thy ancestors and also the house of Israel. Thou shalt have the ministering of angels to stand by thee, and protect thee from all evil: not a hair of thy head shall fall by the hand of an enemy, and thy joy shall be full in the Lord, and in the power of his might. I bless you that you may thrive and prosper in the Land, amongst the people of the Lord, that thousands may rise up and call thee blessed of the Lord. I bless you with the blessings of Abraham, Israel and Jacob, with all that appertains to the new and everlasting covenant; that your posterity may be numerous as Jacob’s of old; and that no good thing shall be withheld from thee until thy heart is perfectly satisfied. Thou art of the chosen seed of Israel, of the house of Joseph through the lineage of Ephraim, lawful heir to the blessings of the Gospel; and the Eternal Priesthood shall be bestowed upon thee till thou has received a fullness’ and blessing that were sealed upon thy tribal lineage shall be upon thee, and upon they posterity after thee while time shall last. I seal thee upon Eternal Life to come forth in the morning of the First Resurrection with all thy Father’s house with their inheritance in the New Heavens and upon the New Earth, when it is sanctified and made the eternal abode of the righteous. According to the Holy Odder and sealing power that bonds on earth and looses, and binds in heaven and looses, I seal these blessings upon thy head in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Amen.

October 29, 1893

This is the appointed day for the organization of the Theological Class in connection with the Church University. At 12:15 p.m. the time set: the large lecture room in the University building was filled to overflowing: every seat being occupied. Chairs were brought from the College adjoining and every, corner taken possession of while the aisles were filled, and the stand crowded, many sitting on the edge of the platform. I had not even dreamed of such a class. As it was first suggested to my mind I saw a small body of University and College students with perhaps a few outsiders; but the Presidency of the Church directed that the scope of the class be enlarged. Had not the counsel which had made so large a class possible originated with the authorities of the priesthood, I should mistrust the outlook. Things great, substantial, and lasting have usually small beginnings. Our class has a very large inception. The Presidency of the Stake, High council, etc., were represented; prominent elders, patriarchs and others of the Stake authorities together with Elder George Reynolds of the Council of Seventies were present. I thank the Lord for so encouraging an outlook. So many applicants had to be denied admission that it was decided on the recommendation of Prest. Angus M. Cannon to adjourn the class at its close to meet next Sunday in the Stake Assembly Hall.

The work outlined for the class is the consideration of the “Articles of Faith” of our Church: the Presidency having directed that I present to the class in the form of lectures the matter which I am preparing with a view to eventual publication as a text book for the theological organizations of our church schools, and such classes. May divine blessings rest upon the effort.— […]

November 5, 1893

Second session of the University Theology Class held today in the Stake Assembly Hall. Between 500 and 600 persons attended, and the interest manifested was of the most encouraging order. To assist in the work of the class printed outlines of the study are prepared: today a double sheet was distributed, giving the lessons of last Sabbath and today. We appreciate the generosity of the Stake officers in their placing the Assembly Hall at our disposal, though the house is hardly adapted for a class. I confidentially expect the numbers to fall off as soon as the gloss of novelty has worn away; then we may return to our own building.

November 6, 1893

Today the Presidency of the Church gave instructions that the lectures delivered before the University Theology Class be published in full in serial form, and that the arrangements for republication in book form be left for subsequent consideration. The ‘Juvenile Instructor’ was selected as the organ of publication. […]

November 16, 1893

Inasmuch as the Theology Class lectures are to be serially published (See November 6, p. 102), I requested of the First Presidency, the appointment of a Committee on Criticism to whom I could refer the matter before publication. I am very desirous that proper criticism should be made, to avoid serious error. The following Committee was appointed in stated order:—(1) Apostle Francis M. Lyman (Chairman) (2) Apostle A. H. Cannon: (3) Pres. Geo. Reynolds (4) Elder John Nicholson: (5) Dr. Karl G. Maeser. The Committee (last two absent) held a session today in the Temple […]

November 26, 1893

No diminution in size of the Theology Class. Pres. Geo. Q. Cannon was present today, though as he sat amongst the audience his presence was not known to many until after the close of the session. He expressed himself as very highly pleased with the class. The question of abandoning all review work in the class owing to the difficulty of getting the students to speak sufficiently loud in so large a house has been with me a serious one; but Pres. Cannon recommends the continuation of the exercise even though there be difficulties in the way. The President of the Stake, one of the Presiding Bishopric, one of the First Presidents of Seventies, two of the General Sunday School authorities were present today. […]

Wife and I went to the Temple with the intention of attending to ordinance work for the dead. Immediately after the opening exercises, however, I was called out to attend a consultation between the Committee appointed to assist me in the Theological Class work, and the First Presidency of the Church. Wife carried through her part of the Temple labor; but my work was put off. The consultation referred to lasted between two and three hours. There were present all of the First Presidency and three of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles. I brought before the Presidency, asking for rulings, the following subjects:—

1. The changing of Article 4 of the Articles of Faith from the old form:

4. We believe that these ordinances are: First, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of Hands for the Gift of the Holy Ghost.

so as to designate faith and repentance in some other way than as ordinances which they are not. The following form was adopted

4. We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: (1) Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; (2) Repentance; (3) Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; (4) Laying on of hands for the Gift of the Holy Ghost.

2. The proper form and ceremony of baptism, whether in case of rebaptism or in any other occasion; additions to the revealed formula, such as, “for the remission of your sins” or “for the renewal of your covenants.” The decision was that any additions to the revealed form, or any other departure therefrom, is unauthorized and to be deprecated. The authorized form is that given in the Doctrine and Covenants.

3. The authority for rebaptisms:—The authorities were unanimous in declaring that rebaptism is not recognized as a regularly constituted principle of the Church; and that the current practice of requiring rebaptism as a prerequisite for admission to the temples, etc. is unauthorized. Nothing should be put in the way of anyone receiving his covenants by rebaptism if he feels the necessity of so doing: and of course, in cases of disfellowship, or excommunication, a repetition of the baptism is required, but the making of rebaptism a uniform procedure is not proper. It was declared to be at variance with the order of true government in the Church to require baptism of those who come from foreign branches to Zion, bringing with them certificates of membership and of full standing. Pres. Geo. Q. Cannon expressed the opinion that the practice of repeating baptism came from the example and teaching of Pres. Brigham Young in the days of first migration to these parts: when the journey meant a long separation from organized branches and wards of the Church: and consequently an interruption in the observance of regular Church duties. The conditions are changed now: and the counsel given for special circumstances should not be made applicable to general procedure under all circumstances. Danger was seen in the practice of repeated baptisms:—such may be made like the confessional of the Catholics: a premium on sinning [?].

Several minor points were ruled upon, comprising—unpardonable sin: murder and shedding of innocent blood.

In the afternoon a meeting of the Presidency and the Twelve was held at the Temple, at which all the points named above were ratified as set forth. I was told by one of the Apostles on our Committee that I was authorized to proclaim this as doctrine in the Theological Class. […]

December 3, 1893—Sunday

Usual meetings. The Theological Class was attended by about 1,100 persons […]

December 10, 1893—Sunday

Usual meetings. Very large attendance at the Theological Class. In the evening Elder John Harrison and I officiated as Home Missionaries in the 17th Ward […]

December 17, 1893—Sunday

Large attendance (between a thousand and eleven hundred students) at the Church University Theological Class today […]

December 24, 1893—Sunday

Usual meetings. Large attendance at the Church Theological class […]

December 31, 1893—Sunday 

Meetings as usual. About 1100 present at the Theological Class. In the evening by call I addressed the saints in our own Ward meeting. And so the year ends. It has been a year of great things in general and in my life particularly. It has witnessed the dedication of the House of the Lord; and the accomplishments of much labor therein. The world boasted and rejoiced over the great Fair [Chicago]: and great events have rolled like a tide over the shores of history. I am thankful […]