From the Life of John Taylor
During 1836 in Toronto, Canada, John Taylor and a number of other individuals met several times a week to study the Bible and seek to understand the truth. They believed strongly in the gathering of Israel, the gifts of the Spirit, the Savior’s millennial reign, the need for apostles and prophets, and the importance of performing ordinances by proper authority from God. However, at that time they did not know of any church that taught these things. Concerning their search for the truth, John Taylor said, “We prayed to the Lord and fasted and prayed that God would teach us true principles, that He would restore the pure, ancient Gospel, and that if there was a true church upon the earth he would send unto us a messenger.”
Their prayers were soon answered with the arrival of Elder Parley P. Pratt. Before Elder Pratt departed on his mission, Elder Heber C. Kimball had prophesied to him, “It is the will of the Lord that you should go to Canada, there is a people there who are diligently seeking after the truth, and many of them will believe your words, and receive the Gospel.”
Elder Pratt began preaching in Toronto, and after a time was introduced to John Taylor and those who were studying with him. President Taylor later wrote: “We felt overjoyed at his preaching; but when he delivered his testimony concerning Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon we knew not what to say. I wrote down eight of the first sermons that he preached and compared them with the scriptures. I also investigated the evidence concerning the Book of Mormon and read the Doctrine and Covenants. I made a regular business of it for three weeks and followed [Brother] Parley from place to place.”2
John Taylor was soon convinced that the everlasting gospel had been restored. He was baptized 9 May 1836. As a missionary, as an Apostle, and eventually as the President of the Church, he rejoiced in teaching the eternal, unchanging truths of the gospel.
Teachings of John Taylor
The gospel helps us understand the attributes of God and prepares us to receive exaltation.
We, as Latter-day Saints, believe, first, in the gospel, and that is a great deal to say, for the gospel embraces principles that dive deeper, spread wider, and extend further than anything else that we can conceive. The gospel teaches us in regard to the being and attributes of God. It also teaches us our relationship to that God and the various responsibilities we are under to him as his offspring. It teaches us the various duties and responsibilities that we are under to our families and friends, to the community, to the living and the dead. It unfolds to us principles pertaining to futurity. In fact, according to the saying of one of the old disciples, it “brings life and immortality to light,” [see 2 Timothy 1:10] brings us into relationship with God, and prepares us for an exaltation in the eternal world.3
This Gospel places man in communication with God, his Heavenly Father; this Gospel brings life and immortality to light; this Gospel is proclaimed in the interest of all men in all parts of the earth. … It is a message of salvation to the nations of the earth. … God feels interested in the welfare of the whole human family, and for this purpose He has established principles upon the earth which exist in the heavens—a Gospel that has prevailed among the Gods in the eternal worlds, containing principles which are calculated to elevate, ennoble and exalt the human family.4
The gospel is eternal and unchangeable.
The great principles of truth are so varied and comprehensive. … They reach back into the past, exist in the present, and stretch forward into the future. In the gospel of Jesus Christ is embodied all truth, so far as the salvation of the human family is concerned, and hence it is spoken of in the scriptures as being the everlasting gospel. …
… God, like his Son Jesus Christ, is “the same yesterday, to-day, and forever.” [1 Nephi 10:18.] The same in intelligence, the same in purity, the same in his projects, plans and designs; he is in short, unchangeable. And I apprehend if the Saints who had communication with him in ancient days were to appear on this earth at the present time, they would find the same medium of communication, the same way of imparting intelligence, and the same unchangeable being that existed 1,800, 4,000, or 6,000 years ago.
It is true mankind have not at all times been susceptible of receiving and appreciating the same degree of light, truth, and intelligence that they have at other times. God has in certain instances withdrawn the light of his countenance—his Holy Spirit—the light and intelligence that proceeds from him—in a certain degree from the human family; but his laws are immutable and he is the same eternal, unchangeable being.
The truth does not change. What was true 1,800, 4,000, or 6,000 years ago is true today, and what was false in any age of the world is false today. Truth, like the great Eloheim, is eternal and unchangeable, and it is for us to learn its principles, to know how to appreciate it, and govern ourselves accordingly.
As the gospel is a principle that emanates from God, like its author it is “the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever,”—eternal and unchangeable. God ordained it before the morning stars sung together for joy, or ere this world rolled into existence, for the salvation of the human race. It has been in the mind of God, and as often as developed it has been manifested as an eternal, unchangeable, undeviating plan by which to save, bless, exalt and dignify man.5
This same Gospel was preached to Seth, and to all the antediluvian [or before the Flood] Patriarchs, and they ministered under its authority. By its power, as we have already shown, Enoch and his people were translated. Of Noah it is written: “And the Lord ordained Noah after his own order, and commanded him that he should go forth and declare his gospel unto the children of men, even as it was given unto Enoch.” [Moses 8:19.] And further, to quote from the testimony of Noah before the flood: “And it came to pass that Noah continued his preaching unto the people, saying, Hearken, and give heed unto my words; believe and repent of your sins, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, even as our fathers did, and ye shall receive the Holy Ghost, that ye may have all things made manifest; and if ye do not this, the floods will come in upon you.” [See Moses 8:23–24.]
From this we learn that the principles of the Gospel in the first ages of the world were identical with those taught in our day.
The Gospel and the Holy Priesthood continued from Noah to Abraham. “Abraham received the priesthood from Melchizedek, who received it through the lineage of his fathers, even till Noah.” [D&C 84:14.] … The knowledge and practice of the Gospel were perpetuated through Isaac, Jacob, Joseph and other Patriarchs, until the age of Moses. …
It was this same Gospel that the crucified Redeemer commanded His disciples to preach, when “he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them: they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.” [Mark 16:15–18.] …
Hence we find on the day of Pentecost, Peter, the senior of the Apostles, in answer to the cry of the believing multitude, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” replying in the words already quoted: “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins; and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you and your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.” [See Acts 2:37–39.]
Again, it was this same everlasting, unalterable, unchangeable Gospel whose restoration to the earth John, the Apostle, spoke of as follows:
“And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters.” [Revelation 14:6–7.]
From the Bible, we turn to the Book of Mormon, and in its pages discover that the same Gospel which Jesus directed His disciples to go into all the world and preach, was preached on this continent, from the earliest ages. The Jaredites became acquainted with it through the revelations given to the brother of Jared; in one of which Jesus said unto him:
“Behold, I am he who was prepared from the foundation of the world to redeem my people. Behold, I am Jesus Christ. I am the Father and the Son. In me shall all mankind have life, and that eternally, even they who shall believe on my name; and they shall become my sons and my daughters.” [Ether 3:14.] …
When Jesus Himself appeared to the Nephites, He preached the same identical principles that He had previously taught to the Jews, adding occasionally further truths, because of the greater faith of the first named people; “And he did expound all things, even from the beginning even until the time he should come in his glory.” [See 3 Nephi 26:3.] Amongst other things He said: “Whosoever will hearken unto my words and repenteth and is baptized, the same shall be saved. Search the prophets, for many there be that testify of these things.” [3 Nephi 23:5.]
And it is this same Gospel, attended by the same power and spirit, blessed by the same inspiration, and led by the same Priesthood, that is now being preached to all the world for a witness.6
The gospel leads us on a course of happiness, growth, and freedom.
The principles of the gospel, to the unbeliever, have neither worth nor efficacy. But with us, who believe them, they comprehend everything pertaining to the well-being of man in time and eternity. With us the gospel is the alpha and omega, the beginning and the end. It is interwoven with all our interests, happiness, and enjoyment, whether in this life or that which is to come.
We consider that, when we enter into this church and embrace the new and everlasting covenant, it is a lifelong service and affects us in all the relationships of time and eternity. And as we progress, these ideas which, at first, were a little dim and obscure, become more vivid, real, life-like, tangible and clear to our comprehensions, and we realize that we stand upon the earth as the sons and daughters of God, the representatives of heaven. We feel that God has revealed to us an everlasting gospel, and that associated with that are everlasting covenants and relationships.
The gospel, in the incipient stages of its operations, begins, as the prophet said it should, to “turn the hearts of the fathers to the children and the hearts of the children to the fathers.” [See Malachi 4:6.] We no longer have to ask, as in former times, “Who am I?” “Where did I come from?” “What am I doing here?” or “What is the object of my existence?” for we have a certainty in relation to these things. It is made plain to us by the fruits of the gospel. … It is the knowledge of these things and of many more of a similar nature that leads us to pursue the course that we do. It is this which prevents us from bowing to the notions, caprices, ideas and follies of men.
Having been enlightened by the spirit of eternal truth, having partaken of the Holy Ghost, and our hope having entered within the veil, whither Christ, our forerunner, has gone, and knowing that we are the children of God and that we are acting in all things with reference to eternity, we pursue the even tenor of our way independent of the smiles and careless of the frowns of men.7
God has committed to us the gospel and the high priesthood, which is not intended, as some suppose, to bring men into bondage or to tyrannize over the consciences of men, but to make all men free as God is free; that they may drink of the streams “whereof shall make glad the city of God;” [Psalm 46:4] that they may be elevated and not debased; that they may be purified and not corrupted; that they may learn the laws of life and walk in them, and not walk in the ways of corruption and go down to death.8
By means of the gospel of Jesus Christ we are brought into a relationship with God. As one of the ancient apostles says: “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be; but we know that when he shall appear we will be like him; for we shall see him as he is.” [See 1 John 3:2.] God is our Father, and a medium of communication has been opened between God and us; and inasmuch as we live our religion we shall be prepared at all times to receive blessings at his hands, and learn to understand correct principles in regard to our salvation as individuals, and the salvation of the human family.9
We have received the everlasting gospel, the same that existed in the days of Jesus; and it is this that has enlightened our minds, enlarged our capacities, and given us a knowledge of the past and of the future, and it has thus revealed to us the purposes of God, and through the order, and organization of this priesthood we are blessed, saved, protected, and upheld as we are at this day.10
Suggestions for Study and Discussion
How did President Taylor describe the gospel? In what ways would your life be different if you had no knowledge of the gospel? What experiences have you had that show how gospel principles “elevate, ennoble and exalt the human family”?
How does the gospel help us understand the attributes of God and our relationship to Him? Why is this knowledge necessary for our salvation? (See also John 17:3.)
How can it help you to know that the gospel is eternal and unchangeable? How does this knowledge influence your beliefs and the decisions you make?
President Taylor taught that the gospel is intended to “make all men free.” From what does the gospel free us? What does it free us to do? How can we help others understand that the gospel brings freedom rather than restrictions?
What have you done to receive a testimony of the gospel? What experiences have strengthened your testimony? What can we do to help ensure that the principles of the gospel continue to “abide in us”?
How does the gospel bring us “into a relationship with God”?
The Gospel Kingdom, sel. G. Homer Durham (1943), 84.
“History of John Taylor: By Himself,” Histories of the Twelve, The Family and Church History Department Archives of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 9–10.
The Gospel Kingdom, 93–94.
Deseret News: Semi-Weekly, 20 Dec. 1881, 1.
Deseret News (Weekly), 8 Feb. 1860, 385.
The Mediation and Atonement (1882), 183, 185–86, 188.
The Gospel Kingdom, 85–86; paragraphing altered.
The Gospel Kingdom, 123.
Deseret News (Weekly), 8 Feb. 1860, 386.
Deseret News (Weekly), 8 Feb. 1860, 386.