I Have a Question

Questions of general gospel interest answered for guidance, not as official statements of Church policy.

We pray to the Father and have our prayers answered through the Holy Ghost. How, then, can we grow closer to the Savior?

Roy W. Doxey, director, Church Correlation Review It is true that we have been commanded—by the Savior—to pray to the Eternal Father, the father of our spirits, in the name of Jesus Christ, even though the Savior permitted the Nephites to pray to him, apparently because he was with them (see 3 Ne. 19:17–30).

It is also true that the Savior has commanded us to draw near to him, to seek him diligently, to find him (see D&C 88:63–64). He is our Atoner and a member of the Godhead. As such, he has a very special relationship to each of us. All revelation since the expulsion of our first parents from the Garden of Eden has come through Jesus Christ. Notice, for example, that many revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants begin with such admonitions as “Hearken and listen to the voice of him who is from all eternity to all eternity, the Great I AM, even Jesus Christ” (D&C 39:1). The name “I AM,” by which Jesus Christ was known to ancient Israel (Ex. 3:14), significantly points out that the Savior was also the God of the Old Testament. Again, he is identified in modern scriptures as Jehovah (D&C 110:3), a name by which he was also known in ancient times.

Without his atoning sacrifice our spirits must have become subject to the devil, to be like him and to be shut out from God’s presence and to live in misery forever (see 2 Ne. 9:8, 9). Since all things are done through Christ, how may we draw near unto him?

1. By emulating his life. He has commanded us to be perfect as he and the Father are perfect (see 3 Ne. 12:48). Since perfection is the goal of all Latter-day Saints, daily efforts to improve ourselves by observing the commandments bring us closer to him. The Lord is kind to his children by revealing that if they will strive to keep the commandments, he will bless them (see D&C 46:9).

2. By praying to the Eternal Father in the name of Jesus Christ. Without sincere prayer the chance of attaining the goals of gospel living would be impossible. Knowing this, Satan persuades people not to pray (see 2 Ne. 32:8). Without prayer, the chance of entering into temptation is sure, with the resulting loss of reward (see D&C 61:39). We are promised that if we will pray always, we “may come off the conqueror” (D&C 10:5). Although we pray to the Father, might we not have a feeling of being in the presence of both the Father and the Son, since we are commanded to pray in Jesus’ name? (see 3 Ne. 18:19; 3 Ne. 20:31). Would not this “closeness” be apparent, since they are both members of the Godhead?

3. By studying the scriptures. If we are to draw near to the Savior, we must know what he requires of us. Our understanding of right and wrong without the benefit of the scriptures could lead us away from the pathway to salvation. For example, should the person wronged be the first to seek a reconciliation? Human nature often suggests that the person wronged should wait for the one who wronged him to make the first overture. Not so, according to the Lord. (See Matt. 5:23–24 and David O. McKay, in Conference Report, Oct. 1938, p. 133.)

Experience has taught that generally the one who is most knowledgeable about the scriptures is the most faithful.

4. By seeking the influence of the Holy Ghost. Every Latter-day Saint has the right to receive the companionship of the Spirit and should seek that blessing. The Holy Ghost bears witness of the Father and the Son and gives enlightenment regarding them. Have you felt the uplifting influence of that Spirit when you prayed and received the feeling that the prayer was being heard and an answer would be forthcoming? The closeness one has with the Savior is manifest ofttimes by the Holy Spirit.

5. By following the Brethren. God’s authorized servants receive interpretation of scripture, solutions to present-day problems, and a reaffirmation of gospel teachings that lead to perfection. If we follow the inspired teachings of the General Authorities of the Church, we will be led toward a closer relationship with the author of our salvation, and hence to our ultimate goal of exaltation with him. When one is a disciple of Jesus Christ, there comes a relationship to him that brings nearness. However, if we reject, or even if we do not know what the counsel of the Brethren is, there is a lessening of the Spirit of the Lord in our lives. In fact, rejection brings apostasy and the loss of the Holy Spirit, but endeavoring to abide by counsel brings confirmation of the Spirit with the resultant peace and joy. Such feelings bring us closer to the Savior—they are the blessings he has promised to those who keep his commandments. And the scriptures warn that we cannot be blessed unless we hearken to his words given through his servants. (See D&C 124:45–56.)

6. By partaking of the sacrament. This is one of the treasured ways in which we may come to a relationship with the Savior. A particularly opportune time to remember the Savior, to meditate on the meaning of taking his name upon us, and to seek for the Spirit, is the sacrament period. Regularly, we may move closer to that one Being who is memorialized in the sacrament.

7. By spiritual practices. Payment of tithing, fast offerings, and other donations, and giving service of many kinds—home and visiting teaching, priesthood and auxiliary teaching, leadership callings, and many other callings—are opportunities for spiritual growth. They keep alive in us the desire to draw closer to the Savior in the other ways mentioned here.

Our goal for our relationship with Jesus Christ may be summed up in the Lord’s counsel to Enoch, “Walk with me” (Moses 6:34). In walking with the Savior one follows the course of life taught in the scriptures and in the Church. Like the name “Saints,” it means to be set apart to a special service in the Lord’s cause, set apart from the world.

Who were the six who organized the Church on 6 April 1830?

Richard Lloyd Anderson, professor of religion and history, Brigham Young University We can be fairly certain about the organizers, though no clear record remains. The minutes of Church organization are evidently lost. Thus, we must reconstruct the meeting through personal recollections. Analysis of those reports suggests that the six were Joseph Smith, Jr., Oliver Cowdery, Hyrum Smith, David Whitmer, Peter Whitmer, Jr., and Samuel H. Smith. Since there is some question on some of the names listed in these personal recollections, they must be evaluated for their probable worth.

The most important source is the “History of Joseph Smith,” composed under his direction and now printed in the first volume of the History of the Church. At first glance that record seems incomplete: though the Prophet mentions that those organizing the Church were “six in number,” he gives only two names—his own and Oliver Cowdery’s. He also notes the presence of “several persons” besides the central six, naming specifically his parents, Martin Harris, and “O. Rockwell” (see History of the Church, ms., 1:76–79).

Six other significant listings exist of the six organizers of the Church. All mention Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, and Hyrum Smith; and all but one name David Whitmer. Some confusion on the remaining two individuals is only to be expected in these personal recollections. All named on any list were certainly present at the organization of the Church, so it would have been easy to substitute another prominent leader for one of the six as memory faded.

Though Brigham Young was baptized two years after the organization of the Church, he recorded in his journal “the names of those present at the organization of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1830 on the 6 day of April” (see end journal entry before 3 May 1843, p. 43). Brigham Young obviously had to rely on some eyewitness for his information, perhaps Lucy Mack Smith or Orrin Porter Rockwell. Brigham Young’s record is the only one that names Joseph Smith, Sr., and Orrin Rockwell. While both were present 6 April 1830, Orrin Rockwell is most unlikely for the inner group—he was only sixteen and did not hold the priesthood. His father was also named Orrin, but he too is not significant enough a figure to be one of the six leaders. Brigham Young also names Samuel H. Smith.

The most familiar list comes from Joseph Knight, Jr. His statement was given in 1862 and has been recorded in the History of the Church (1:76). Knight replaces Orrin Rockwell and Joseph Smith, Sr., with Peter Whitmer and David Whitmer. A few days after making the above statement, Joseph Knight compiled a short autobiography wherein he again named the six—only this time he added a “Jr.” to Peter Whitmer’s name. (Early references to Peter Whitmer, Jr., leave the “Jr.” off frequently.) But neither of Joseph Knight’s documents speak from firsthand knowledge. He expressly names Oliver Cowdery as his source (History of the Church, 1:76), and Oliver Cowdery had been dead for twelve years.

The remaining four lists come from David Whitmer, fortunately a firsthand source, but unfortunately one who gave his information forty-seven to fifty-six years after the Church was organized. One feature of David’s recollections is calling the organizers “elders.” Though that term is accurate for most of the organizers, early minutes show that David is not precise in this detail. In his four lists, David Whitmer is consistent in naming Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, Hyrum Smith, and himself. In An Address to All Believers in Christ (Richmond, Mo., 1887, pp. 32–33), his most direct statement, he includes Samuel Smith. John Whitmer is substituted for Samuel Smith in 1877, 1881, and 1887 reports (Edward Stevenson, Journal, 22 Dec. 1877, 2 Jan. 1887; Kansas City Daily Journal, 5 June 1881). David Whitmer’s Address also names Peter Whitmer (no doubt the younger), in the interviews of 1881 and 1887. Yet Edward Stevenson’s 1877 interview with David Whitmer has Christian Whitmer in Peter’s place. One can only conclude that all of these men were prominent at the organization of the Church.

The above information may be simplified on a chart which gives the three sources of lists:

Brigham Young (1 list, 1843?)

Joseph Smith, Jr.

Oliver Cowdery

Hyrum Smith

Samuel H. Smith

Joseph Smith, Sr.

Orrin Rockwell

Joseph Knight (2 lists, 1862)

Joseph Smith, Jr.

Oliver Cowdery

Hyrum Smith

Samuel H. Smith

Peter Whitmer—Peter Whitmer, Jr.

David Whitmer

David Whitmer (4 lists, 1877–1887)

Joseph Smith, Jr.

Oliver Cowdery

Hyrum Smith

Samuel H. Smith—John Whitmer

Peter Whitmer—Christian Whitmer

David Whitmer

As mentioned above, all sources name the Prophet, Oliver Cowdery, and Hyrum Smith. All but one name David Whitmer. Thus, these four appear to be the leading organizers of the Church. In addition, Peter Whitmer is named five times, whereas Joseph Smith, Sr., and Christian Whitmer are only named once. So Peter Whitmer, Jr., was probably one of the six; he was an elder in the June 9 conference, while the Prophet’s father was a priest and Christian Whitmer was a teacher.

Choosing between Samuel H. Smith and John Whitmer is more difficult. Both are mentioned in about half the lists, though David Whitmer’s identification of Samuel in his personal writing is impressive. A late tradition from the Prophet’s sister Katherine also supports Samuel. (See Herbert S. Salisbury, “Things the Prophet’s Sister Told Me,” typescript, 30 June 1945, p. 1, in LDS Historical Department. This is minor supporting evidence, at best: it was recorded forty-five years after Katherine’s death, which occurred seventy years after the organization of the Church.) The evidence, then, favors Samuel, though John Whitmer remains a possibility. John was equally prominent and was an elder at the June 9 conference when Samuel was ordained to that office.

Those honored as first founders were also the pioneers in making personal covenants through baptism. Joseph Smith’s History details the first two baptisms—his and Oliver Cowdery’s—right after the miraculous restoration of the lesser priesthood on 15 May 1829 (History of the Church, 1:39). Ten days later Samuel Smith accepted baptism (History of the Church, 1:44). The next month Joseph and Oliver baptized Hyrum Smith, David Whitmer, and Peter Whitmer, Jr. (History of the Church, 1:51). Thus, in his record the Prophet stressed six who accepted baptism in the year prior to Church organization. Perhaps those first baptized were honored by being the organizers of the Church. Those names match the conclusions discussed above.

The rolls of the Church organizers and Book of Mormon witnesses are similar. In both cases the special contributions of the Smith and Whitmer families to gospel restoration are recognized. What the Prophet said of David, John, and Peter Whitmer, Jr., is true of the organizers as a group: they were “our zealous friends and assistants in the work” (History of the Church, 1:49).