03110_000_010Questions of general gospel interest answered for guidance, not as official statements of Church policy.
Is there evidence that others besides Enoch’s people were translated? And what are their missions?
, high councilor, Provo Utah Sharon East Stake, and professor of business education at Brigham Young UniversityMoses 7 records that Enoch (after Zion was taken up into heaven) beheld all the nations of the earth before him, and he “beheld angels descending out of heaven, bearing testimony of the Father and Son; and the Holy Ghost fell on many, and they were caught up by the powers of heaven.” (Moses 7:27; italics added.)
Prior to and just after the Lord’s mission on earth, there were accounts of holy men also experiencing the change called translation. Of Elijah we read, “There appeared a chariot of fire, … and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.” (2 Kgs. 2:11.)
The possible translation of two other prophets is referred to in the Book of Alma:
“And when Alma had done this he departed out of the land of Zarahemla, as if to go into the land of Melek. And it came to pass that he was never heard of more; as to his death or burial we know not of.
“Behold, this we know, that he was a righteous man; and the saying went abroad in the church that he was taken up by the Spirit, or buried by the hand of the Lord, even as Moses. But behold, the scriptures saith the Lord took Moses unto himself; and we suppose that he has also received Alma in the spirit, unto himself.” (Alma 45:18–19; italics added.)
Under similar circumstances Nephi, the son of Helaman, departed out of the land of Zarahemla, “and whither he went, no man knoweth” (3 Ne. 1:3) and he “did not return to the land of Zarahemla. (3 Ne. 2:9.)
Four of Christ’s disciples—John in Jerusalem and three in America—desired to remain on earth and continue their ministries until the Lord comes in his glory. They also experienced this change. Mormon records the Lord’s instructions to the three Nephites about their mission and labors:
“Ye shall never taste of death; but ye shall live to behold all the doings of the Father unto the children of men, even until all things shall be fulfilled according to the will of the Father, when I shall come in my glory with the powers of heaven.
“And ye shall never endure the pains of death; but when I shall come in my glory ye shall be changed in the twinkling of an eye from mortality to immortality.” (3 Ne. 28:7–8.)
“And behold they will be among the Gentiles, and the Gentiles shall know them not.
“They will also be among the Jews, and the Jews shall know them not.” (3 Ne. 28:27–28.)
“And men having this faith, coming up into this order of God, were translated and taken up into heaven. …
“And [Melchizedek’s] people wrought righteousness, and obtained heaven, and sought for the city of Enoch which God had before taken, separating it from the earth, having reserved it unto the latter days, or the end of the world.” (JST, Gen. 14:27, 32–34; italics added.)
While the disciples were assigned to work specifically with inhabitants and former inhabitants of this planet, it is apparent from Joseph Smith’s teachings that Enoch and his brethren, as well as others taken from the earth, have received a different calling:
The Lord “appointed unto [Enoch] a ministry unto terrestrial bodies, of whom there has been but little revealed. … He is a ministering angel, to minister to those who shall be heirs of salvation. …
“Now the doctrine of translation is a power which belongs to this Priesthood. … Many have supposed that the doctrine of translation was a doctrine whereby men were taken immediately into the presence of God, and into an eternal fullness, but this is a mistaken idea. Their place of habitation is that of the terrestrial order, and a place prepared for such characters He held in reserve to be ministering angels unto many planets.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 170; italics added.)
Without hurting the relationships and possibly giving a negative impression of the Church, how can we tell our children’s nonmember friends that our children can’t, “come out to play today” because it’s Sunday?
Ever since our children were quite small, we have participated , mother of three, Primary Blazer leader, Monrovia Ward, Arcadia California Stakewith them in quiet, spiritually-oriented Sunday activities such as reading, drawing, and music. The emphasis has been on a “oneness” together as a family in the environment of love and spiritual refreshment that comes with the Sabbath.
Of course, this means that we parents, too, have to plan to set aside our regular routine. Obviously, there is the Lord’s work to be done on Sunday, but activities such as preparing meals are simplified for this special day.
As our children grow, they begin choosing for themselves what they will do on the Sabbath, but always within the value framework that has already been established in our home.
Like other parents, we have found these values challenged in a very subtle way when neighborhood children, watching for our return from Church meetings, have rushed over with shouts of “Can you play?” We had erroneously thought that we wouldn’t have to face the challenge of peer pressure until our children felt the independence and individuality that come with teenage years.
However, faced with the problem, we find that a simple no in this instance really doesn’t satisfy the children for very long, nor does it help us give a glimpse of the gospel to others.
For us, the solution is in showing the same respect and consideration to the neighborhood children as we do to our own. All children need to know the “why” of decisions that affect them, in order to understand the values they are expected to share. Each time our young friends come to the door on Sunday, we gather them together with our children to explain that Sundays are very special to us as a family and emphasize that we do different things on this special day. Positive terms are most effective: we go to church, and we do things together in our home that we don’t get to do on other days of the week when we’re shopping, working, or playing with friends. We make the point that we’re glad for their friendship, and then we invite them to come back the next day. This invitation is important in helping our children feel that they are not rejecting others, and to help the neighbors feel they are not being rejected.
After two or three such experiences, our young friends start supporting our children instead of being a temptation to them.
Our children then begin to learn that we can live in the world and still maintain gospel standards, and perhaps their friends begin to understand that there is more to Sunday than “coming out to play.”
Was Martin Harris ever excommunicated from the Church?
It’s interesting that there’s been confusion on this matter, because the records are very clear: Martin Harris was indeed excommunicated from the Church, and he engaged for some time in apostate activities. However, he eventually returned to activity and full fellowship in the Church. , reference specialist, Church Historical Department Library
Martin Harris initially became a member of the Church in April 1830, shortly after the Church was formally organized. That baptism was just another indication of the righteous desires of Martin’s heart; he had earlier given much of his time and his means to the translation and publication of the Book of Mormon. And Martin Harris filled the role of the man with the book that Isaiah saw in vision some twenty-six hundred years earlier (see Isa. 29:11–12).
After his baptism, Martin Harris continued to be directly involved in the leading affairs of the Church. In November 1831 he was named by the Lord, along with Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, and other leaders, to be a steward “over the revelations and commandments which I have given” (D&C 70:3). In February 1835, Martin Harris, Oliver Cowdery, and David Whitmer, as the Three Witnesses to the Book of Mormon, were given the responsibility of selecting and ordaining the Twelve Apostles.
It is apparent that the Lord desired to bless and honor Martin and his fellow witnesses. But Martin was not without his weaknesses. As early as 1828 the Lord referred to Martin as “a wicked man,” for, said the Lord, “he has sought to take away the things wherewith you have been entrusted; and he has also sought to destroy your gift”—this referring, of course, to the incident where Martin—lost part of the Book of Mormon manuscript (D&C 10:7).
Martin’s weaknesses led to apostasy in 1837. The setting was Kirtland, Ohio, and Martin Harris, with several other leading members of the Church, became rebellious against Joseph Smith and some of the apostles. John Smith, assistant counselor to Joseph Smith, recorded the result of that rebellion in a letter he wrote to his son, George A. Smith, on 1 January 1838. “The spiritual condition at this time is gloomy,” he wrote. “I called the High Council together last week and laid before them the case of dissenters. 28 persons were, upon mature discussion, cut off from the Church; the leaders were Cyrus Smalling, Joseph Coe, Martin Harris, Luke S. Johnson, John F. Boynton, and W. W. Parrish.” (Journal History, 1 Jan. 1838, p. 2)
Nearly a year later Joseph Smith wrote sadly from Liberty Jail, “Such characters as McLellin, John Whitmer, David Whitmer, Oliver Cowdery, and Martin Harris are too mean to mention; and we had liked to have forgotten them” (History of the Church, 3:232). This entire group had been excommunicated, the first four in the spring of 1838, and Martin Harris in December 1837.
Some years later Martin Harris repented, and on 7 November 1842, five years after his excommunication, he was rebaptized in Kirtland (see Times and Seasons, 2 Jan. 1843, pp. 62–63). But his repentance was incomplete, and he was shortly led away from the Church again. Within two years he had become an avowed member of the Shakers. Subsequent to that he joined with James J. Strang and even served a mission for Strang’s church in England.
He later left Strang and on 23 January 1847, with William W. McLellin, an excommunicated former apostle, organized a new church, the Church of Christ. That particular church soon proved a failure.
Through all of his waverings, Martin Harris never denied his testimony of the Book of Mormon, the one thing of which he had a sure knowledge. He felt a special responsibility to testify of its truthfulness, and did so frequently.
Thus Martin remained until 1869, when Edward Stevenson, later a member of the First Council of the Seventy, saw him at the Kirtland Temple. Stevenson recorded that Martin “took from under his arm a copy of the Book of Mormon, the first edition, I believe, and bore a faithful testimony. … He said that it was his duty to continue to lift up his voice as he had been commanded to do in defence of the Book that he held in his hand, … and that he was daily bearing testimony to many who visited the Temple.”
After Edward Stevenson returned to Utah, in 1870, he felt impressed to write to Martin Harris “and soon received a reply, that the Spirit of God, for the first time prompted him to go to Utah.” When Brigham Young learned of Harris’s desire, he directed that an emigration fund be gathered for him. President Young contributed the first $25. Later that year Edward Stevenson escorted Martin Harris to Utah. Harris was then eighty-eight years old.
Brother Stevenson wrote:
“Brother Harris was taught the necessity of being rebaptized. He said that was new doctrine to him. … He claimed that he had not been cut off from the Church, but said if that was required of him it would be manifested to him by the Spirit. Soon after his arrival in Utah he applied by baptism, saying that the Spirit had made known to him that it was his duty to renew his covenant before the Lord. …
“In a short time the baptismal font was prepared, and by his request I baptized him, and President Geo. A. Smith, and Apostles John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff, Jos. F. Smith and Orson Pratt confirmed him by the laying on of hands, Orson Pratt being mouth.” (Millennial Star, 6 Feb. 1882, p. 87.)
Martin Harris’s statement that he “had not been cut off from the Church” was true in the sense that he had not been excommunicated since his rebaptism in Kirtland in 1842. But by his own choice he had left the Church by joining one break-off group after another. With a witness of the Spirit, however, he chose to do as he was directed and was rebaptized, as Edward Stevenson recorded, on 17 September 1870 (see Journal History, p. 1).
In the following months Martin Harris was invited from ward to ward in the Salt Lake area to bear his testimony. Then, after receiving his endowments in the House of the Lord, he went to live out the declining years of his life with his son, Martin Harris, Jr., in Smithfield, Cache County, Utah. The day before Martin’s death at age ninety-two, his son wrote in a letter, “He has continued to talk about and testify to the truth of the Book of Mormon, and was in his happiest mood when he could get somebody to listen to his testimony” (Andrew Jenson, Latter-day Saint Biographical Encyclopedia, Salt Lake City: Andrew Jenson History Company, 1901, p. 276).