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The following can be found in:

Journal of Discourses 6:1-11


History of the Church 6:302-317

Joseph Smith, April 6, 1844


A Discourse, by President Joseph Smith, delivered at the Conference held near the Temple, in Nauvoo, April 6, 1844. Reported by W. Richards, W. Woodruff, T. Bullock, and W. Clayton

Beloved Saints, - I will call the attention of this congregation while I address you on the subject of the dead. The decease of our beloved brother, Elder King Follett, who was crushed in a well by the falling of a tub of rock, has more immediately led me to that subject. I have been requested to speak by his friends and relatives; but inasmuch as there are a great many in this congregation who live in this city, as well as elsewhere, who have lost friends, I feel disposed to speak on the subject in general, and offer you my ideas so far as I have ability and so far as I shall be inspired by the Holy Spirit to dwell on this subject.

I want your prayers and faith that I may have the instruction of Almighty God and the gift of the Holy Ghost, so that I may set forth things that are true and which can be easily comprehended by you, and that the testimony many carry conviction to your hearts and minds of the truth of what I shall say. Pray that the Lord may strengthen my lungs, stay the winds, and let the prayers of the Saints to heaven appear, that they may enter into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth; [sic] for the effectual prayers of the righteous avail much. There is strength here; and I verily believe that your prayers will be heard.

Before I enter fully into the investigation of the subject which is lying before me, I wish to pave the way and bring up the subject from the beginning, that you may understand it. I will make a few preliminaries, in order that you may understand the subject when I come to it. I do not calculate or intend to please your ears with superfluity of words, or oratory, or with much learning; but I calculate to edify you with the simple truths from heaven.

In the first place, I wish to go back to the beginning - to the morn of creation. There is the starting-point for us to look to, in order to understand and be fully acquainted with the mind, purposes, and decrees of the great Eloheim, who sits in yonder heavens as he did at the creation of this world. It is necessary for us to have an understanding of God himself in the beginning. If we start right, it is easy to go right all the time; but if we start wrong, we may go wrong, and it will be a hard matter to get right.

There are but a very few beings in the world who understand rightly the character of God. The great majority of mankind do not comprehend anything, either that which is past or that which is to come, as respects their relationship to God. They do not know, neither do they understand the nature of that relationship; and, consequently, they know but little above the brute beast, or more than to eat, drink, and sleep. This is all man knows about God or his existence, unless it is given by the inspiration of the almighty.

If a man learns nothing more than to eat, drink, and sleep, and does not comprehend any of the designs of God, the beast comprehends the same thing. It eats, drinks, sleeps, and knows nothing more about God: yet it knows as much as we, unless we are able to comprehend by the inspiration of Almighty God. If men do not comprehend the character of God they do not comprehend themselves. I want to go back to the beginning, and so lift your minds into a more lofty sphere and a more exalted understanding than what the human mind generally aspires to.

I want to ask this congregation - every man, women, and child, to answer the question in their own heart, what kind of a being God is? Ask yourselves; turn your thoughts into your hearts, and say if any of you have seen, heard, or communed with him. This is a question that may occupy your attention for a long time. I again repeat the question - What kind of a being is God? Does any man or woman know? Have any of you seen him, heard him, or communed with him? Here is the question that will peradventure from this time henceforth occupy your attention. The Scriptures inform us that "This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent."

If any man does not know God, and inquires what kind of a being he is, - if he will search diligently his own heart - if the declarations of Jesus and the Apostles be true - he will realize that he has not eternal life; for there can be eternal life on no other principle.

My first object is to find out the character of the only wise and true God, and what kind of a being he is; and if I am so fortunate as to be the man to comprehend God, and explain or convey the principles to your hearts, so that the Spirit seals them upon you, then let every man and woman henceforth sit in silence, put their hands on their mouths, and never lift their hands or voices or say anything against the man of God or the servants of God again. But if I fail to do it, it becomes my duty to renounce all further pretensions to revelations, inspirations, or to be a Prophet; and I should be like the rest of the world - a false teacher, be hailed as a friend, and no man would seek my life. But if all religious teachers were honest enough to renounce their pretensions to godliness, when their ignorance of the knowledge of God is made manifest, they will all be as badly off as I am, at any rate; and you might just as well take the lives of other false teachers as that of mine, if I am false. If any man is authorized to take away my life because he thinks and says I am a false teacher, then, upon the same principle, we should be justified in taking away the life of every false teacher; and where would be the end of blood? and who would not be the sufferer?

But meddle not with any man for his religion; and all governments ought to permit every man to enjoy his religion unmolested. No man is authorized to take away life in consequence of difference of religion, which all laws and governments ought to tolerate and protect, right or wrong. Every man has a natural and, in our country, a constitutional right to be a false pro