John Taylor firmly believed that the kingdom of God would be established on earth. He understood that this effort was not dependent on the Prophet Joseph Smith or any other man, but that it was ultimately directed by the Lord. And he was ready to defend this effort with his life.
In 1838, soon after his call to the Quorum of the Twelve, John Taylor traveled toward Far West, Missouri, to join the Saints. Along the way, he was scheduled to speak to a group near Columbus, Ohio. A little before the appointed time, some brethren brought news that a number of men had gathered at the meeting place and were plotting to tar and feather Elder Taylor. The brethren advised him to cancel the meeting because they were outnumbered and would not be able to protect him. However, Elder Taylor insisted he would go and preach as planned and would do so even if he had to go by himself.
When he reached the large crowd assembled to hear him, he proceeded to speak first about his having recently come from countries ruled by monarchs. He told them about the honor he felt of standing on free soil. In reference to how that freedom was achieved, he said: “Gentlemen, I now stand among men whose fathers fought for and obtained one of the greatest blessings ever conferred upon the human family—the right to think, to speak, to write; the right to say who shall govern them, and the right to worship God according to the dictates of their own consciences—all of them sacred, human rights, and now guaranteed by the American Constitution. I see around me the sons of those noble sires, who, rather than bow to the behests of a tyrant, pledged their lives, fortunes and sacred honors to burst those fetters, enjoy freedom themselves, bequeath it to their posterity, or die in the attempt.”
Elder Taylor then continued: “But, by the by, I have been informed that you purpose to tar and feather me, for my religious opinions. Is this the boon you have inherited from your fathers? Is this the blessing they purchased with their dearest hearts’ blood—this your liberty? If so, you now have a victim, and we will have an offering to the goddess of liberty.”
Having said that, he tore open his vest and exclaimed: “Gentlemen come on with your tar and feathers, your victim is ready; and ye shades of the venerable patriots, gaze upon the deeds of your degenerate sons! Come on, gentlemen! Come on, I say, I am ready!” Elder Taylor paused for a few minutes, but no one would move or speak. He then continued his remarks and preached to the crowd with boldness and power for three hours.2
As Elder Matthias F. Cowley of the Quorum of the Twelve said many years later after the death of President Taylor, “He lived, labored and died the perfect exemplification of his favored motto, ‘The Kingdom of God or nothing.’”3
Who made this earth? The Lord. Who sustains it? The Lord. Who feeds and clothes the millions of the human family that exist upon it, both Saint and sinner? The Lord. Who upholds everything in the universe? The Lord. … Who has given to man understanding? The Lord. Who has given to the gentile philosopher, machinist, etc., every particle of intelligence they have with regard to the electric telegraph, the power and application of steam to the wants of the human family and every kind of invention that has been brought to light during the last century? The Lord. … Who has a right to rule the nations, to control kingdoms and govern all the people of the earth?4
This earth is properly the dwelling place, and rightful inheritance of the Saints. Inasmuch as it belongs to Jesus Christ, it also belongs to his servants and followers, for we are told, “The earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof,” [Psalm 24:1] and that, when things are in their proper place, “the Saints of the Most High shall take the kingdom, and possess the kingdom, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the saints of the Most High.” [See Daniel 7:18, 27.] It is therefore their rightful inheritance.5
The Scriptures … represent Christ as being the rightful heir, and inheritor of this world; they represent him as having come once to atone for the sins of the world; but that he will afterwards come as its ruler, judge, and king.6
The kingdom of God means the government of God. That means, power, authority, rule, dominion, and a people to rule over. But that principle will not be fulfilled, cannot be entirely fulfilled, until, as we are told in the scriptures, the kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord and his Christ, and he will rule over them [see Revelation 11:15], and when unto him every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that he is Christ [see D&C 88:104], to the glory of God, the Father. That time has not yet come, but there are certain principles associated therewith that have come; namely, the introduction of that kingdom, and the introduction of that kingdom could only be made by that Being who is the King and Ruler, and the Head of that government, first communicating his ideas, his principles, his laws, his government to the people. Otherwise we should not know what his laws were.7
What is the first thing necessary for the establishment of his kingdom? It is to raise up a prophet and have him declare the will of God; the next thing is to have a people yield obedience to the hand of the Lord through that prophet. If you cannot have these, you never can establish the kingdom of God upon the earth.8
God was desirous of introducing his kingdom upon the earth, and he had, in the first place, to organize his church, to organize the people that he had scattered among the nations and to bring them together, that there might be one fold and one shepherd [see John 10:16], and one Lord, one faith, and one baptism, and one God, who should be in all and through all [see Ephesians 4:5–6], and by which all should be governed. To facilitate this object, he organized his holy priesthood as it existed in the heavens.9
We talk sometimes about the church of God, and why? We talk about the kingdom of God, and why? Because, before there could be a kingdom of God, there must be a church of God, and hence the first principles of the gospel were needed to be preached to all nations, as they were formerly when the Lord Jesus Christ and others made their appearance on the earth. And why so? Because of the impossibility of introducing the law of God among a people who would not be subject to and be guided by the spirit of revelation.10
God could not build up a kingdom on the earth unless he had a church and a people who had submitted to his law and were willing to submit to it; and with an organization of such a people, gathered from among the nations of the earth under the direction of a man inspired of God, the mouthpiece of Jehovah to his people; I say that, with such an organization, there is a chance for the Lord God to be revealed, there is an opportunity for the laws of life to be made manifest, there is a chance for God to introduce the principles of heaven upon the earth and for the will of God to be done upon earth as it is done in heaven.11
“Thy kingdom come.” [Matthew 6:10.] … This was taught by Jesus to his disciples when they came to him, saying, teach us to pray. … Thy kingdom come. What kingdom? What is the meaning of “thy kingdom come”? It means the rule of God. It means the law of God. It means the government of God. It means the people who have listened to and who are willing to listen to and observe the commands of Jehovah. And it means that there is a God who is willing to guide and direct and sustain his people. Thy kingdom come, that thy government may be established, and the principles of eternal truth as they exist in the heavens may be imparted to men; and that, when they are imparted to men, those men may be in subjection to those laws and to that government, and live in the fear of God, keeping his commandments and being under his direction. Thy kingdom come, that the confusion, the evil, and wickedness, the murder and bloodshed that now exist among mankind may be done away, and the principles of truth and right, the principles of kindness, charity, and love as they dwell in the bosom of the Gods, may dwell with us.12
I have demonstrated … that the kingdom of God would be literally established on the earth. It will not be an aerial phantom, according to some visionaries, but a substantial reality. It will be established, as before said, on a literal earth, and will be composed of literal men, women, and children; of living saints who keep the commandments of God, and of resurrected bodies who shall actually come out of their graves, and live on the earth. The Lord will be king over all the earth, and all mankind literally under his sovereignty, and every nation under the heavens will have to acknowledge his authority, and bow to his scepter. Those who serve him in righteousness will have communications with God, and with Jesus; will have the ministering of angels, and will know the past, the present, and the future; and other people, who may not yield full obedience to his laws, nor be fully instructed in his covenants, will, nevertheless, have to yield full obedience to his government. For it will be the reign of God upon the earth, and he will enforce his laws, and command that obedience from the nations of the world which is legitimately his right. Satan will not then be permitted to control its inhabitants, for the Lord God will be king over all the earth, and the kingdom and greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven will be given to the saints.13
What will be the effects of the establishment of Christ’s kingdom, or the reign of God on the earth? … It is the doing away with war, bloodshed, misery, disease, and sin, and the ushering in of a kingdom of peace, righteousness, justice, happiness, and prosperity. It is the restoration of the earth and man to their primeval glory and pristine excellence; in fact, the restitution of all things spoken of by all the prophets since the world began [see Acts 3:21].14
A gentleman in France commenced talking to me, and wished to know if we thought of accomplishing something great in the world? I told him we had come to preach the gospel to all the world; and that it had already reached the ends of the earth. It is not a work that will be done in a little corner, but it will reach throughout time into eternity. It will go back into eternity, and take hold of those who have died thousands of years ago, and bring them into the kingdom of God. It will pour blessings upon generations to come, and ultimately unite heaven and earth together, and this we will accomplish in the name of Israel’s God. The powers of heaven lend us their aid, and our fathers in the eternal world are uniting with us; for we have the promise of the life which now is, and also that which is to come.
We have only just commenced in our glorious enterprise. By and bye we will accomplish all that the fathers have spoken. … We will go forth brethren, and not study our own ease, but how to bring about the accomplishment of the glorious purposes of God. … The power of truth has to go forth, the chains of darkness have to be severed, and the kingdom of God has to be built up, and no power can stay it.15
We have been talking for years about the rule and government of the kingdom of God and its final establishment upon the earth, in peace and righteousness; and also about the time when every creature which is in the heavens and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them will be heard saying, “Blessing, and honor, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.” (Revelation 5:13.) We have been talking about these things, but there is much to be done in the intermediate space between the present and that impenetrable period in the great future. It is not all a matter of faith, but there is some action required; it is a thing that we have got to engage in ourselves, individually and collectively as a people, and it is a matter of no small concern.16
We have a great mission to perform—we have to try to govern ourselves according to the laws of the kingdom of God, and we find it one of the most difficult tasks we ever undertook, to learn to govern ourselves, our appetites, our dispositions, our habits, our feelings, our lives, our spirits, our judgment, and to bring all our desires into subjection to the law of the kingdom of God and to the spirit of truth. It is a very critical thing to be engaged in the upbuilding of the kingdom of God—a nucleus of which we have here.17
Fear God; work the works of righteousness; live your religion; keep the commandments and humble yourselves before him; be one, and be united with the holy priesthood and with each other, and I will tell you in the name of God that Zion will arise and shine and the power of God will rest upon her; and her glory will be made manifest, and we will rejoice in the fulness of the blessings of the gospel of peace; and the work of God will go on and increase until the kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdoms of our God and his Christ [see Revelation 11:15], and every creature in the heaven and on the earth and under the earth will be heard to say, Blessing, and glory, and honor and praise and power, might and majesty and dominion be ascribed to him that sits upon the throne and to the Lamb for ever and ever [see Revelation 5:13].18
Why is Jesus Christ the rightful heir and ruler of the earth? How should this knowledge influence your relationship with Him?
Why was the Restoration of the Church necessary to establish the Lord’s kingdom on earth? What have you learned as a member of the Church about preparing to live with the Lord? In what ways can our service in the Church contribute to establishing the Lord’s kingdom?
How have you observed the Church growing and developing to more fully establish God’s kingdom on earth? What can you do individually and with your family to help establish God’s kingdom on earth?
President Taylor spoke of the great blessings we will enjoy when the Savior returns to reign over His kingdom in the Millennium. What will life on earth be like during the Millennium? (See also D&C 29:11; 43:29–32; 101:22–35; Articles of Faith 1:10.)
President Taylor’s personal motto was “The kingdom of God or nothing!” What examples have you seen of people who have this same conviction? What does this motto mean to you? What do you think would be the results if we as Church members adopted this motto as our own?