Chapter 3: Living the Gospel

Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, (1997), 21–27


As a great colonizer, civic and Church leader, and provider for his family, President Brigham Young exemplified the living, practical gospel. He emphasized in his teachings and in his life that the gospel of Jesus Christ is the way to salvation for mankind and also “is a matter-of-fact religion, and taketh hold of the every-day duties and realities of this life” (DBY, 12).

Teachings of Brigham Young

Our personal growth in the gospel comes little by little and line upon line as we live the principles we learn.

We … take all the laws, rules, ordinances and regulations contained in the Scriptures and practice them as far as possible, and then keep learning and improving until we can live by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God (DBY, 3).

We have the Gospel of life and salvation, to make bad men good and good men better (DBY, 6).

In conversation not long since with a visitor who was returning to the Eastern States, said he, “You, as a people consider that you are perfect?” “Oh no;” said I, “not by any means. … The doctrine that we have embraced is perfect; but when we come to the people, we have just as many imperfections as you can ask for. We are not perfect; but the Gospel that we preach is calculated to perfect the people so that they can obtain a glorious resurrection and enter into the presence of the Father and the Son” (DBY, 7).

The people [cannot receive the laws] in their perfect fulness; but they can receive a little here and a little there, a little today and a little tomorrow, a little more next week, and a little more in advance of that next year, if they make a wise improvement upon every little they receive; if they do not, they are left in the shade, and the light which the Lord reveals will appear darkness to them, and the kingdom of heaven will travel on and leave them groping. Hence, if we wish to act upon the fulness of the knowledge that the Lord designs to reveal, little by little, to the inhabitants of the earth, we must improve upon every little as it is revealed (DBY, 4).

I … feel to urge upon the Latter-day Saints the necessity of a close application of the principles of the Gospel in our lives, conduct and words and all that we do; and it requires the whole man, the whole life to be devoted to improvement in order to come to knowledge of the truth as it is in Jesus Christ. Herein is the fulness of perfection. It was couched in the character of our Savior; although but a scanty portion of it was made manifest to the people, in consequence of their not being able to receive it. All they were prepared to receive he gave them. All we are prepared to receive the Lord gives us; all that the nations of the earth are prepared to receive he imparts unto them (DBY, 11–12).

It is written of the Savior in the Bible that he descended below all things that he might ascend above all. Is it not so with every man? Certainly it is. It is fit, then, that we should descend below all things and come up gradually, and learn a little now and again, receive “line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little” [see Isaiah 28:9–10; D&C 98:12] (DBY, 60) until we can reach into eternity and embrace a fulness of his glory, excellency and power (DBY, 3).

The spiritual and temporal aspects of the gospel are one.

With God, and also with those who understand the principles of life and salvation, the Priesthood, the oracles of truth and the gifts and callings of God to the children of men, there is no difference in spiritual and temporal labors—all are one. If I am in the line of my duty, I am doing the will of God, whether I am preaching; praying, laboring with my hands for an honorable support; whether I am in the field, mechanic’s shop, or following mercantile business, or wherever duty calls, I am serving God as much in one place as another; and so it is with all, each in his place, turn and time (DBY, 8).

In the mind of God there is no such a thing as dividing spiritual from temporal, or temporal from spiritual; for they are one in the Lord [see D&C 29:34–35] (DBY, 13).

Anything that pertains to the building up of the Lord’s kingdom on earth, whether it be in preaching the Gospel or building temples to his name, we have been taught to consider a spiritual work, though it evidently requires the strength of the natural body to perform it (DBY, 13).

We cannot even enter the temple when it is built, and perform those ordinances which lead to spiritual blessings, without performing a temporal labor. Temporal ordinances must be performed to secure the spiritual blessings the Great Supreme has in store for his faithful children. Every act is first a temporal act. The Apostle says, faith comes by hearing [see Romans 10:17]. What should be heard to produce faith? The preaching of the Word. For that we must have a preacher; and he is not an invisible spirit, but a temporal, ordinary man like ourselves, and subject to the same regulations and rules of life. To preach the Gospel is a temporal labor, and to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ is the result of a temporal labor. To be baptized is a temporal labor, both to the person administered to and the administrator. I am a living witness to the truth of this statement, for I have made my feet sore many a time, and tired myself out traveling and preaching, that by hearing the Gospel the people might have faith. The blessings we so earnestly desire will come to us by performing the manual labor required, and thus preparing all things necessary to receive the invisible blessings Jehovah has for his children (DBY, 13–14).

The gospel is a guide for daily life—a practical religion.

The religion of Jesus Christ is a matter-of-fact religion, and taketh hold of the every-day duties and realities of this life (DBY, 12).

The principles of eternity and eternal exaltation are of no use to us, unless they are brought down to our capacities so that we practice them in our lives (DBY, 14).

I reduce the Gospel to the present time, circumstances and condition of the people (DBY, 8).

That system that brings present security and peace is the best to live by, and the best to die by; it is the best for doing business; it is the best for making farms, for building cities and temples, and that system is the law of God. But it requires strict obedience. The rule of right, and the line which God has drawn for the people to walk by insures peace, comfort, and happiness now and eternal glory and exaltation; but nothing short of strict obedience to God’s law will do this (DBY, 8).

At times when I think of addressing you, it occurs to me that strict sermonizing upon topics pertaining to the distant future, or reviewing the history of the past, will doubtless please and highly interest a portion of my hearers; but my judgment and the spirit of intelligence that is in me teach that, by taking such a course, the people could not be instructed pertaining to their every-day duties. For this reason, I do not feel impressed to instruct you on duties to be performed a hundred years hence, but rather to give those instructions pertaining to the present, to our daily walk and conversation, that we may know how to benefit ourselves under the passing time, and present privileges, and be able to lay a foundation for future happiness (DBY, 12).

My mission to the people is to teach them with regard to their every-day lives. I presume there are many here who have heard me say, years and years ago, that I cared very little about what will take place after the Millennium. Elders may preach long discourses concerning what took place in the days of Adam, what occurred before the creation, and what will take place thousands of years from now, talking of things which have occurred or that will occur yet, of which they are ignorant, feeding the people on wind; but that is not my method of teaching. My desire is to teach the people what they should do now, and let the Millennium take care of itself. To teach them to serve God and to build up his Kingdom is my mission. I have taught faith, repentance, baptism for the remission of sins, and the laying on of hands for the reception of the Holy Ghost. We are to be taught with regard to our every-day life in a temporal point of view (DBY, 8–9).

We do not allow ourselves to go into a field to plough without taking our religion with us; we do not go into an office, behind the counter to deal out goods, into a counting house with the books, or anywhere to attend to or transact any business without taking our religion with us. If we are railroading or on a pleasure trip our God and our religion must be with us (DBY, 8).

We want the Saints to increase in goodness, until our mechanics, for instance, are so honest and reliable that this Railroad Company will say, “Give us a ‘Mormon’ Elder for an engineer, then none need have the least fear to ride, for if he knows there is danger he will take every measure necessary to preserve the lives of those entrusted to his care.” I want to see our Elders so full of integrity that they will be preferred by this Company for their engine builders, watchmen, engineers, clerks, and business managers. If we live our religion and are worthy the name of Latter-day Saints, we are just the men that all such business can be entrusted to with perfect safety; if it can not it will prove that we do not live our religion (DBY, 232–33).

Our religion incorporates every act and word of man. No man should go to merchandising unless he does it in God; no man should go to farming or any other business unless he does it in the Lord. No man of council should sit to judge the people but what should judge in the Lord, that he may righteously and impartially discern between right and wrong, truth and error, light and darkness, justice and injustice (DBY, 9).

On reading carefully the Old and New Testaments we can discover that the majority of the revelations given to mankind anciently were in regard to their daily duties; we follow in the same path. The revelations contained in the Bible and the Book of Mormon are examples to us, and the book of Doctrine and Covenants contains direct revelation to this Church; they are a guide to us, and we do not wish to do them away; we do not want them to become obsolete and to set them aside. We wish to continue in the revelations of the Lord Jesus Christ day by day, and to have his Spirit with us continually. If we can do this, we shall no more walk in darkness but we shall walk in the light of life (DBY, 12).

If we wish to enjoy the Spirit of Zion, we must live for it. Our religion is not merely theory; it is a practical religion, to bring present enjoyment to every heart (DBY, 12).

The work of building up Zion is in every sense a practical work; it is not a mere theory. A theoretical religion amounts to very little real good or advantage to any person. To possess an inheritance in Zion or in Jerusalem only in theory—only in imagination—would be the same as having no inheritance at all. It is necessary to get a deed of it, to make an inheritance practical, substantial and profitable. Then let us not rest contented with a mere theoretical religion, but let it be practical, self-purifying and self-sustaining, keeping the love of God within us, walking by every precept, by every law, and by every word that is given to lead us (DBY, 12).

And if I today attend to what devolves upon me to do, and then do that which presents itself tomorrow, and so on, when eternity comes I will be prepared to enter on the things of eternity. But I would not be prepared for that sphere of action, unless I could manage the things that are now within my reach. You must all learn to do this (DBY, 11).

The very object of our existence here is to handle the temporal elements of this world and subdue the earth, multiplying those organisms of plants and animals God has designed shall dwell upon it (DBY, 15).

Life is for us, and it is for us to receive it today, and not wait for the Millennium. Let us take a course to be saved today, and, when evening comes, review the acts of the day, repent of our sins, if we have any to repent of, and say our prayers; then we can lie down and sleep in peace until the morning, arise with gratitude to God, commence the labors of another day, and strive to live the whole day to God and nobody else (DBY, 16).

The responsibility to take care of ourselves and our families is an important practical application of the gospel.

I have tried continually to get this people to pursue a course that will make them self-sustaining, taking care of their poor, the lame, the halt and the blind, lifting the ignorant from where they have no opportunity of observing the ways of the world, and of understanding the common knowledge possessed among the children of men, bringing them together from the four quarters of the world, and making of them an intelligent, thrifty and self-sustaining people (DBY, 16).

My warfare is, and has been for years, to get the people to understand that if they do not take care of themselves they will not be taken care of; that if we do not lay the foundation to feed and clothe and shelter ourselves we shall perish with hunger and with cold; we might also suffer in the summer season from the direct rays of the sun upon our naked and unprotected bodies (DBY, 16–17).

Who are deserving of praise? The persons who take care of themselves or the ones who always trust in the great mercies of the Lord to take care of them? It is just as consistent to expect that the Lord will supply us with fruit when we do not plant the trees; or that when we do not plow and sow and are saved the labor of harvesting, we should cry to the Lord to save us from want, as to ask him to save us from the consequences of our own folly, disobedience and waste (DBY, 293).

Instead of searching after what the Lord is going to do for us, let us inquire what we can do for ourselves (DBY, 293).

While we have a rich soil in this valley, and seed to put in the ground, we need not ask God to feed us, nor follow us round with a loaf of bread begging of us to eat it. He will not do it, neither would I, were I the Lord. We can feed ourselves here; and if we are ever placed in circumstances where we cannot, it will then be time enough for the Lord to work a miracle to sustain us (DBY, 294).

If you cannot provide for your natural lives, how can you expect to have wisdom to obtain eternal lives? God has given you your existence—your body and spirit, and has blest you with ability, and thereby laid the foundation of all knowledge, wisdom, and understanding, and all glory and eternal lives. If you have not attained ability to provide for your natural wants, and for a wife and a few children, what have you to do with heavenly things? (DBY, 13).

Look to yourselves in your capacity as Relief Societies in this city and throughout the mountains. Look at your condition. Consider it for yourselves, and decide whether you will go to and learn the influence which you possess, and then wield that influence for doing good and to relieve the poor among the people (DNW, 17 Aug. 1869, 3).

Suggestions for Study

Our personal growth in the gospel comes little by little and line upon line as we live the principles we learn.

  • Why does the Lord teach us gospel truths “a little today and a little tomorrow”? (See also Isaiah 28:9–10; 2 Nephi 28:30; D&C 98:12.) What must we do to receive a greater portion of gospel truths? (See also Alma 12:9–11.) What might happen if we are given more truth than we are prepared to receive?

  • Why is living a principle of the gospel sometimes essential to learning that principle? (See also John 7:17; D&C 93:28.)

  • How do we limit what God can teach us?

The spiritual and temporal aspects of the gospel are one.

  • President Young said there is “no such a thing as dividing spiritual from temporal.” How should an understanding of that statement affect our approach to our daily tasks?

The gospel is a guide for daily life—a practical religion.

  • President Young taught the Saints to apply the principles of the gospel in a practical way in their daily lives. How should the gospel influence our decisions about our family, occupation, and other responsibilities?

  • What do you think President Young meant when he said that we should not go “anywhere to attend to or transact any business without taking our religion with us”? How can we take our religion with us everywhere we go and still be sensitive to the beliefs of others? How can we rely more on the Spirit to help us take our religion with us wherever we are?

  • In addition to missionary work and Church service, what is our responsibility in the community?

The responsibility to take care of ourselves and our families is an important practical application of the gospel.

  • What did President Young teach about our responsibility to take care of ourselves? How can we become self-reliant in spiritual, educational, physical, emotional, and economic ways? How can we help others do so?

  • Why is self-reliance an important part of the gospel?

  • President Young spoke of the virtue and necessity of providing for ourselves. What blessings come into our lives as we do this? Under what circumstances does President Young say the Lord will “work a miracle to sustain us”?