Conference quotes: “keep the Spirit of the Lord”

In February 1847, the Latter-day Saints were quartering in the Omaha Nation. Young had gathered those that were sealed to him and others who intended to be into a family company, for migration and the establishment of the Kingdom of God. From the beginning of the month this group prepared for a two day meeting and feast. For the bulk of his discourse at the first day of this gathering, Brigham Young chose adoption—the sealing of non-biological relations—as his subject. People were confused and some had tried to abuse the system. Young in his characteristic manner, did not pull his punches.[1]

Young lectured much of the day, feasted and then spoke again. The following morning, Young felt unwell and “fainted away, apparently dead for several moments.” [2] Later that day, while several apostles preached to his family company on adoption in his stead,[3] Young rested, and while he slept, he had a vision of Joseph Smith. Young related his vision and many people recorded it. Several years later, in Utah, the apostle-historians edited at least one of these accounts into the “Manuscript History.” In General Conference today, Elder Bednar quoted a transcript of this document by Elden Jay Watson. The exhortation to seek out the Holy Ghost is timeless and is often repeated; however, the context for it is generally not well known (nor is the broader vision/dream appreciated for its greater impact on Young’s religious work (see n1)). What follows is first the “Manuscript History” version, followed by two contemporary accounts for your edification.

Manuscript History
[After seeing Joseph Smith, exchanging pleasantries, and pleading to regain his sociality, Brigham Young spoke:] The brethren have a great anxiety to understand the law of adoption or sealing principles; and if you have a word of counsel for me I should be glad to receive it.

Joseph stepped toward me, and looking very earnestly yet pleasantly said said “Tell the people to humble and faithful, and be sure to keep the spirit of the Lord and it will lead them right. Be careful and not turn away the small still voice; it will teach you ^them^ what to do and where to go; it will yield the fruits of the kingdom. Tell the brethren to keep their hearts open to conviction, so that when the Holy Ghost comes to them, their hearts will be ready to receive it. They can tell the spirit of the Lord from all other spirits; it will whisper peace and joy to their souls; it will take malice hatred, strife and all evil from their hearts’ and their whole desire will be to do good, bring forth righteousness and build of the kingdom of God. Tell the brethren if they will follow the spirit of the Lord they will go right. Be sure to tell the people to keep the Spirit of the Lord; and if they will, they will find themselves just as they were organized by our Gather in Heaven before they came into the world. Our Father in Heaven organized the human family, but they are all disorganized and in great confusion.”

Joseph then showed me the pattern, how they were in the beginning. This I cannot describe, but I saw it, and saw where the Priesthood had been taken from the earth and how it must be joined together, so that there would be a perfect chain from Father Adam to his latest posterity. Joseph again said, “Tell the people to be sure to keep the Spirit of the Lord and follow it, and it will lead them just right.”[4]

Willard Richards, Diary
I sd bro Joseph you know the LDS & their feelings & there is great inquirey abt the sealg & keys. He sd do you be sure to tell the pople this one thing – the whole of the [unintelligible] it is all important that they keep the Sp of the Ld – teach them to humble themselves & kee the quite Sp & get His Sp & s[ai]d how it wod descend & reflect upon man – men wod query – he showed me they can know the diff betw the Sp of the Ld & the enemy – the mind of man shod always be open to rece all the Sp & rece the Sp of the Ld – if the mind is contracted – the wod not kno when to rece the Sp of the Ld & it wod bring peace jo happins, take away strife malice hatred &c when the still small voice comes it will teach instruct reveal if they do that they will see that hey r just where they were organized bef. they took tabernacles. he showed how they were organized & he shewed they were organd perfectly from Adam to the latest genn – but darkness has covd the ppl & they dont know what to do – every persons heart will be perfectly prepd to rece the station organd for him. [5]

Hosea Stout, Diary
I told him that the Latter Day Saints was very anxious to know about the law of adoption, and the sealings powers &c and desired word of council from him.

Joseph said; do you be sure and tell the people one thing.

Do you be sure and tell the brethren that it is all important for them to keep the spirit of the Lord, To keep the quiet spirit of Jesus, and he explained how the spirit of the Lord reflected on the spirit of man and set him to pondering on any subject, an also explained how to know the spirit of the Lord from the spirit of the enemy.

He said the mind of man must be open to receive all spirits, in order to be prepared, to receive the spirit of the Lord; otherwise it might be barred so as not to receive the spirit of the Lord, which always brings peace and makes one happy and takes away every other spirit. When the small still voice speaks always receive it, and if the people will do these things, when they come up to the father, all will be as in the beginning, and every person stand as the first.

I saw how we were organized before we took tabernacles and every man will be restored to that which he had then, and all will be satisfied.[6]


  1. There is not space available to contextualize this practice completely here, so once again, I’ll refer you to the two papers coming out next summer on the topic.
  2. Kelly, The Journal of John D. Lee, 90. He later recalled that he felt that he had died. Brooks, On the Mormon Frontier, 1:238. Willard Richards wrote that Brigham Young said, “when we get tho’ the vail we can talk how I felt – I felt like death grappled with me. I [undecipherable] I had been where Joseph & Hyrum were – it is hard coming to life again.” Willard Richards, Diary, February 28, 1847
  3. Kelly, The Journal of John D. Lee, 91-94.
  4. “Manuscript History of the Church,” February 27, 1847.
  5. Willard Richards, Diary, February 28, 1847; handwriting of Thomas Bullock; superscript letters normalized.
  6. Brooks, On the Mormon Frontier, 238. Cf., Kelley, The Journal of John D. Lee, 105.


  1. Now I am even more confused:)

  2. I get it. You just want to make our collective mouths water. Make us suffer with anticipation for next summer. In other words, this is great stuff.

  3. J. Stapley,
    Thanks. Good work.

  4. These are such beautiful and enigmatic (at least to me) ideas. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Kevin Christensen says:

    When Jeddy Grant had his own near death vision, on being revived, the first thing he said to Heber C. Kimball was, “Why it was just as Brigham told many times!”

    I’ve loved the Brigham account of his visit with Joseph since reading it in the Improvement Era many years ago. Thanks the for the additional background. Very interesting.

    Kevin Christensen
    Pittsburgh, PA

  6. Thanks all. It is just the way things work out, WVS (grin).

    Kevin, do you have a citation for the Grant exclamation?

  7. Darn, my time machine is broken at the moment.

  8. Kevin Christensen says:

    For the Heber C. quoting Grant about Brigham on the Spirit world:

    Journal of Discourses, volume 4

    Heber C. Kimball, December 4, 1856
    By President Heber C. Kimball, made in the Tabernacle,
    Great Salt Lake City, December 4, 1856,

    He said to me, brother Heber, I have been into the spirit world two nights in succession, and, of all the dreads that ever came across me, the worst was to have to again return to my body, through I had to do it. But O, says he, the order and government that were there! When in the spirit world, I saw the order of righteous men and women; beheld them organized in their several grades, and there appeared to be no obstruction to my vision; I could see every man and woman in their grade and order. I looked to see whether there was any disorder there, but there was none; neither could I see any death nor any darkness, disorder or confusion. He said that the people he there saw were organized in family capacities; and when he looked at them he saw grade after grade, and all were organized and in perfect harmony. He would mention one item after another and say, “Why, it is just as brother Brigham says it is; it is just as he has told us many a time.”

    Kevin Christensen
    Bethel Park, PA

  9. I’m pretty sure there’s an account of the dream in BY’s hand. Fascinating dream.

  10. Thanks Kevin. smb, I’m not aware of one. Maybe Turner knows.