The LDS Daily WOOL© Archive - John A. Widtsoe

"Great teacher that he was, Alma focused his teachings upon the duties and opportunities of daily life. Our conduct, he declared, depends on our understanding of the purpose of life. Therefore, frequent references to the meaning of life are found in the Book of Alma." — John A. Widtsoe, "Alma Speaks to the Twentieth Century," "A Book of Mormon Treasury: Selections from the Pages of the Improvement Era," [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1959], p. 91

"What is the message of the Old Testament? From the first to the last, in the Pentateuch, in the historical books, in the poetical books, and in the prophets, it teaches the existence of a personal God, the Maker of the heavens and the earth, the Father of the human race. It teaches that the earth and all things upon it are provided for man's benefit but that man must obey law, divine law, to secure the blessings he desires. It teaches that obedience to the moral law, given by God for human conduct, involving faith in God, not to be compared with man-made, ethical, selfish codes of action, is the most important concern of man. It is the message of messages for humankind." -- John A. Widtsoe, "Evidences and Reconciliations," [Salt Lake City: Improvement Era], p. 135

"Tithing has been instituted in the Church in every dispensation when the United Order has not been established. Abraham paid tithes to Melchizedek. In Malachi, one who neglects this law is said to rob God. The Savior sanctions it. In our present dispensation, tithing, the lesser law, exists in place of the United Order. (See Genesis 14:18-20; 28:16-22; Malachi 3:8-12; Doctrine and Covenants, Section 119.)" - John A. Widtsoe, "Priesthood and Church Government in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints," [Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Company, 1954], p. 60

"Officers in the Church of Jesus Christ are called for two distinct purposes: First and foremost, to serve the people; and, secondly, to gain the development and enlarged understanding which always follow earnest service in a responsible position. It is an honorable privilege and a personal benefit to be allowed to serve in an official position in the Church; and an office, whatever it may be, should be accepted in a spirit of grateful appreciation." - John A. Widtsoe, "Priesthood and Church Government," p.199

"The key to the conquest of fear has been given through the Prophet Joseph Smith. 'If ye are prepared ye shall not fear.' (D. & C. 38:30) That divine message needs repeating today in every stake and ward. Are we prepared in surrender to God's commandments? In victory over our appetites? In obedience to righteous law? If we can honestly answer yes, we can bid fear depart. And the degree of fear in our hearts may well be measured by our preparation by righteous living, such as should characterize Latter-day Saints. To the handful of believers at the opening of this dispensation, the Lord gave this glorious promise:

"'Fear not, little flock; do good; let earth and hell combine against you, for if ye are built upon my rock, they cannot prevail.' (D. & C. 6:34)" - John A. Widtsoe, "Conference Report," April 1942, Afternoon Meeting, p.33

"Truth is defined in a revelation to Joseph Smith: 'Truth is knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come.' (D. & C. 93:24.) Truth in this sense is a product or function of knowledge. Whoever, then, has full knowledge has complete truth, and all who have some correct knowledge have some truth.

"Such a basic doctrine has stimulated the gathering of knowledge among the Latter-day Saints. Indeed, the obtaining of knowledge is equivalent to a religious requirement upon the people. Note the following extracts from the revelations to Joseph Smith: 'Study and learn, and become acquainted with all good books, and with languages, tongues and people.' (D. & C. 90:15.) 'Obtain a knowledge of history, and of countries, and of kingdoms, of laws of God and man.' (D. & C. 93:53.) 'Seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith.' (D. & C. 88:118.) Joseph Smith declared that 'Knowledge is the pathway up to the Gods.'" - John A. Widtsoe, "Program of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints," p.43

"Brethren and sisters, assembled in this great conference, I believe the Lord requires of us that we all set our houses in order in this respect, that each man and woman, every family, set about to secure, just as completely as may be possible, a record of their dead, so that thereby the genealogies of the human family may be gathered and increased in number, and we may have ample material with which to labor in the temples of the Lord. Such work is not difficult to do. It may be done by any man or woman. The intricacies of arranging names in systematic genealogies may be done by those who are experts in such work, but every man and every woman in Zion may gather names, later to be fully arranged, and should give some little time to such work. With respect to gospel principles, perhaps none is more important in developing spiritual power and strength than that which pertains to the salvation for the dead. Whether we are near a temple or far away from it, we may be able to give some little time to the important work of gathering the names of our dead and arranging them for use in the temples." - John A. Widtsoe, "Conference Report," April 1927, Afternoon Meeting, p.32

"Mere knowledge of spiritual truth, information that may be drawn from the encyclopedia, for instance, that there is a God, that prayers may be heard, or that it is wrong to steal, is never really understood unless the person is spiritually prepared. The absence of such preparation explains why many who can glibly recite the Ten Commandments or the Beatitudes may violate them with equal ease; or why, though reared in a religious atmosphere, they are irreligious. Such persons believe that spiritual knowledge may be poured into them with no consideration of their fitness and with no effort on their part. That cannot be done in the lower fields of knowledge and less so in the highest, the spiritual field. It would be in opposition to natural law. Such people are out of spiritual focus, and their impressions are blurred, much as a telescope out of focus gives only indistinct and confused images. Or, to use another figure of speech, there is static in their lives which mars the beauty of life's melody. On the contrary, when a person does fit and qualify himself, spiritual messages, waiting to be revealed, come to him. Then, and only then, is spiritual knowledge quickened into living comprehension leading to activity. When there is such correspondence between an individual and the spiritual world, the real joy of life appears. Otherwise, something is missing from our daily desire. We live incompletely." - John A. Widtsoe, Evidences and Reconciliations, p.86

"This Church is not merely for me and for you who are in the Church. I must begin with myself, undoubtedly. My own salvation comes first; but unless I give of my strength to the winning of other souls for God, my own salvation will be incomplete. That applies to all of us. It cannot be otherwise if we follow the message given us this morning by our prophet and leader. We have a calling, not merely to build the Church of Christ, and to save ourselves therein, but also a commission to save the whole world. We are, as it were, set apart, consecrated for that great purpose. All of Israel must remember, every man or woman who enters the waters of baptism must keep in mind, and every child that comes into the Church must be taught that by the ordinance of baptism we accept the great and divine commission to serve the Lord in building his Church. It will then be easy to keep the commandments of God, to lay aside or meet courageously the temptations that face us. To stand alone, saying selfishly, 'I have received the gospel; it is good to be a Latter-day Saint' will not be doing our duty; but, when we say, 'Now, I have received this great blessing. I shall pass it on to others'; there comes the flowering in the hearts of men of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ." - John A. Widtsoe, "Conference Report," October 1946, First DayMorning Meeting, p.14

"Incarnate evil, despite its assiduous endeavors, has always lost ground. Finally victory has been on the side of right.

"Thereby has come man's marvelous conquest over surrounding forces, and the steady improvement in the last few hundred years of the conditions of the human race. Always, if on the side of righteousness, man has managed to banish the gilded tyranny of evil.

"Yet, despite the lessons of the past, fear, unnecessary fear, lurks in many human breasts. What of tomorrow? is shouted by the forces of evil. In the consequent din is forgotten the glorious promise that 'Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.' (Matt. 6:34) Forgotten also is the ancient truth that fear is the devil's first and chief weapon. Make a man or a nation afraid, and his strength like that of Samson shorn of his locks, is gone. He is no longer useful in the work of the world. He becomes a tool of the unholy forces which seek to destroy mankind." - John A. Widtsoe, "Conference Report," October 1950, General Priesthood Meeting, p.184

"As the Lord gave His life to prove His love for His brethren and sisters, the human race, we may show the spirit of love more vigorously than we have done if we will make the small sacrifices necessary to seek out our genealogies, to spend time and money for the work, to take time to go to the temple ourselves for the dead. All such service may entail sacrifice, but sacrifice lifts us toward the likeness of God, the likeness of our Elder Brother Jesus Christ. If we Latter-day Saints have any great ideal, it is that of our Elder Brother. All that we strive for, and all that we have fought for, and all that we pray for, is to become more and more like Him as our days and years increase. As He gave His life, unselfishly for us, so each of us, extending the open door of salvation to the dead, most of whom are but names to us, may then by our unselfishness claim in very deed to be followers of Christ." - John A. Widtsoe, "Conference Report," April 1943, Afternoon Meeting, p.38

"In the laboratory the chemist may take an element and, by heat and pressure, change it completely in its physical properties. It is possible to take black amorphous charcoal and, under the influence of heat and pressure, to change it into transparent, crystalline diamonds. If lifeless, inert matter may be changed, a greater transformation may be expected in the souls of men, when, under God's influence, by the power that comes from the use of the truths that God has revealed to his children, men obey the gospel. Such a chance, coming into human lives, is greater than that from the black charcoal to the luminous white diamond. The lives of Latter-day Saints, by the tens of thousands, attest that such a transformation is possible; that there lies in the gospel of Jesus Christ the power for man to achieve perfection, even in this life, physically, mentally, spiritually and in every way, if only he will give himself to the ideal of perfection." - John A. Widtsoe, "Conference Report," October 1925, Afternoon Session, p.139

"We need a present, everyday religion. My religion must be with me from one Monday morning to the next, the year around or it will not answer me. I am decidedly in favor of a practical religion, of everyday useful life, and if I today attend to what devolves upon me to do, 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. We must all learn to do this. There is no life more precious than the present life which we enjoy. There is no life that is worth any more to us than this life is. It may be said that an eternal life is worth more. We are in eternity, and all that we have to do is to take the road that leads into the eternal lives." - John A. Widtsoe, "Conference Report," April 1947, Second Day—Morning Meeting, p.75

"Any theory that leaves out God as a personal, purposeful Being, and accepts chance as a first cause cannot be accepted by Latter-day Saints. The evidence for God is yet greater than for the chance creation of the earth and its inhabitants. Mind and thought shape a work of art from the marble block. More marvelous than any human work of art is man. However he may have risen to his present high estate, it has been by the operation of mind and thought. That man and the whole of creation came by chance is unthinkable. It is equally unthinkable that if man came into being by the will and power of God, the divine creative power is limited to one process dimly sensed by mortal man. The great law of evolution may have many forms of expression, far beyond man's present comprehension." - John A. Widtsoe, Evidences and Reconciliations, p.163

“The battle of life is essentially a battle between obedience or disobedience to eternal law; between good and evil; between right and wrong. The Lord desires His children to win salvation; Satan, an apostate son of God, seeks to enslave them in his own dark kingdom.” - John A. Widtsoe, “Evidences and Reconciliations,” p. 217

“This testimony I found in my early youth. It has remained with me as a certain knowledge all these years. I have discovered, as you have, I am quite, sure, the method by which such a testimony may be kept alive, blossoming, useful in human life. The formula is simple: Live the gospel every day, practice it, and study it regularly; do not let the affairs of the day that deal with the making of our temporal living crowd aside matters that pertain to the gospel. If we use this formula, our testimony will become increasingly certain, will grow, will expand in meaning and comprehension.” - John A. Widtsoe, “Conference Report,” October 1943, Afternoon Meeting, p. 112

“In the  revelations  to the Prophet Joseph Smith, this matter is made very clear. Man is engaged in an eternal journey. Life on earth is but an episode in everlasting life. Therefore, all things that touch this eternal traveler belong to the plan under which he is moving forward. The distinction between things spiritual and temporal vanishes; they become merged, as the palm and back of the hand, as the warp and woof of the cloth. Man’s physical concerns acquire a spiritual value; and his spiritual activities have temporal counterparts. ‘Wherefore, verily I say unto you that all things unto me are spiritual, and not at any time have I given unto you a law which was temporal ... for my commandments are spiritual; they are not natural nor temporal, neither carnal nor sensual’ (D. & C. 29:34, 35). This makes the Word of Wisdom, tithing, prayer, or temple work, principles alike of spiritual essence. In that sense, the Church never departs from spiritual teachings.” - John A. Widtsoe, “Evidences and Reconciliations,” p. 279

“We live in a world of symbols. No man or woman can come out of the temple endowed as he should be, unless he has seen, beyond the symbol, the mighty realities for which the symbols stand.

“To the man or woman who goes through the temple, with open eyes, heeding the symbols and the covenants, and making a steady, continuous effort to understand the full meaning, God speaks his word, and revelations come. The endowment is so richly symbolic that only a fool would attempt to describe it; it is so packed full of revelations to those who exercise their strength to seek and see, that no human words can explain or make clear the possibilities that reside in the temple service. The endowment which was given by revelation can best be understood by revelation; and to those who seek most vigorously, with pure hearts, will the revelation be greatest.” - John A. Widtsoe, "Temple Worship," Utah Genealogical and Historical Magazine, April 1921, pp. 62-63

“Peace comes from within; peace is myself, if I am a truly peaceful man. The very essence of me must be the spirit of peace. Individuals make up the community, and the nation–an old enough doctrine, which we often overlook–and the only way to build a peaceful community is to build men and women who are lovers and makers of peace. Each individual, by that doctrine of Christ and His Church, holds in his own hands the peace of the world.” - John A. Widtsoe, “Conference Report,” October 1943, Afternoon Meeting, p. 113

“The possession of the Priesthood and its consequent family leadership should make men very considerate of women. The man who arrogantly feels that he is better than his wife because he holds the Priesthood, has failed utterly to comprehend the meaning and purpose of Priesthood. He needs to remember that the Lord loves His daughters quite as well as His sons. It is but a small and puny-souled man who could wish to humiliate women as a class and keep them as an inferior sex; for men can never rise superior to the women who bear and nurture them. (Read DC 121:41-46.)” - John A. Widtsoe, “Priesthood and Church Government,” p. 89

“The acceptance of two principles, faith and repentance, and of two ordinances, baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost, form the first requirements for membership in the Church. They are really fundamental steps of progress. ‘By faithfully attending to the first principles of the Gospel, laid down in the New Testament, you are introduced into the knowledge of the works of God in the dispensation of the fullness of time.’ (Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 235.) A candidate for membership in the Church must believe sincerely in God, and His Son Jesus Christ, and in the divine plan of salvation; must repent by turning away from former errors and by doing that which is just; and must be baptized as an evidence of his faith, repentance and willingness henceforth to obey God's law. Then the gift of the Holy Ghost, of the higher intelligence, is conferred upon him. He is then a member of the Church, ready to partake of its labors, privileges and blessings.” - John A. Widtsoe, “Program of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” p. 108

“The possession of the gospel, the knowledge of it, does change a man tremendously, but the full joy of the gospel, that joy which we have all seen in many a humble person who has received the gospel, comes only when we use the gospel for others. He who receives must give, that is one of the first and most fundamental of all gospel laws.” - John A. Widtsoe, “Conference Report,” April 1945, Afternoon Meeting, p. 93

“Certainly, the experience of others who have consistently obeyed gospel requirements is of value to the seeker after a testimony. Children are wise in accepting the experiences of their parents. Beginners do well to trust those who are seasoned in gospel living. But, there comes a time when every person must find out for himself, in his own daily life, the value of the gospel. A sufficient testimony comes only to him who ‘stands upon his own feet.’” - John A. Widtsoe, “Evidences and Reconciliations,” p. 17

“Fathers, mothers, and children who earnestly strive to make a happy home are really doing Church work — the most important, because it is the most basic work in the Church.” - John A. Widtsoe, “Evidences and Reconciliations,” p. 318

"The reading habit is most valuable in life. I mean by that the practice of using a little time, say half an hour a day, in the systematic reading of worthwhile literature. The mind is opened to precious fields of thought; the achievements of the ages become ours; even the future takes form. As the mind and spirit are fed by well chosen reading, comfort, peace and understanding come to the soul. Those who have not tried it, have missed a keen and easily accessible joy."
- John A. Widtsoe, "Conference Report," April 1939, First Day—Morning Meeting, p. 21

The whole world would prosper exceedingly if every man in his life had a will for truth. It is the flabby adherence to truth, or righteousness, the expression of truth, that lies at the bottom of all human disasters. - John A. Widtsoe, "Evidences and Reconciliations," p.384

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints possesses the full truth relative to the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, the one divine plan of salvation, and also the authority to officiate in God's name in the upbuilding of the Church of Christ. There is but one gospel; there can be but one Priesthood; there is but one Church which encompasses the whole truth of the gospel, and into which all truth may find its place. In that sense the Church claims to possess the full fundamental truth, call it monopoly if you choose, necessary for full salvation in the celestial kingdom of God. This the Church does humbly and gratefully, keenly sensible of its high commission and vast responsibility, to lead all mankind into a fulness of the knowledge leading to eternal progression in the presence of the Lord. - John A. Widtsoe, "Evidences and Reconciliations," p. 24

The first great message of this latter-day work has been with respect to God, and my testimony to you is, my brethren and sisters, that the great need of the world today is a correct understanding of God. This world is in turmoil and strife. The old paths seem insufficient. Men are seeking new ways to solve new problems. They are looking for safe principles or guides which they can apply to these new problems and test proposed new solutions. The only path to peace and happiness is through the proper knowledge of God, including his plan of salvation; and therein, and therein only, will the nations of the world find what they are seeking today. - John A. Widtsoe, "Conference Report," October 1921, Afternoon Session, p.49

So with peace. It is not a thing by itself to be picked up casually; but it is the fruit of something precedent. Like the tree, something must be planted and nourished and cared for, if we are to obtain peace. - John A. Widtsoe, "Conference Report," October 1946, First Day-Morning Meeting, p.13

We, the members of the Church, now far-flung over the earth, must make and keep ourselves fit by obedience for the mission assigned us—the regeneration of the world. It is a call to every member of the Church. As we obey the commandments, so will the strength of the Church be. As we fearlessly live the law, the influence of the Church will cover the earth and prepare it for peace. Delay and vexation, sorrow and bloodshed, will overtake us if we surrender our convictions, and enter into compromise with the world. It is better to observe the law, even in its lesser details. Then we shall have the greater claim for personal satisfaction in the days of our years. - John A. Widtsoe, "Conference Report," April 1941, Afternoon Meeting, p.118

Spirituality is first an attitude of faith toward eternal realities. Faith in God and the unseen world; faith in man's family relationship to God; and faith in the great plan under which earth and man have their existence and destiny. A peaceable life, however virtuous, is not necessarily spiritual, for in every spiritual life faith is the first and chief desideratum. As faith increases, based upon rational considerations, it becomes a basis for greater spirituality. - John A. Widtsoe, "Program of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints," p.63

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