I believe that there are still many more insights that can be gained from the correspondence received and given to the Prophet Joseph Smith while in Liberty Jail. Another one of my favorite teachings is found in Section 121, starting at verse 34, wherein the Lord describes those who are “called and chosen.”
At the time the Prophet Joseph Smith wrote the letter from Liberty Jail to the Saints who had fled to
, there were many people, in and out of the church, which were of questionable character. Some of the most seemingly loyal followers of the Prophet were exposed as bitter enemies to the Church. It was a time when the Saints had to exercise much caution when deciding who to follow in the absence of their beloved leaders. I believe that those in jail were trying to discover who might still be on their side or who might have fled with the opposition. Quincy, Illinois
Joseph writes: We feel to inquire after Elder Rigdon; if he has not forgotten us, it has not been signified to us by his writing. Brother George W. Robinson also; and Elder Cahoon, we remember him, but would like to jog his memory a little on the fable of the bear and the two friends who mutually agreed to stand by each other. And perhaps it would not be amiss to mention uncle John Smith, and various others. A word of consolation and a blessing would not come amiss from anybody, while we are being so closely whispered by the bear.
It is apparent that loyalties were being questioned from all angles. It is also a time when decisions were required in
to facilitate the gathering of the Saints into one body. This lack of trust among the leaders and the Saints, and the necessity to press forward nonetheless, was the basis for the instruction given on distinguishing who was “called and chosen.” Quincy
Again Joseph writes: We have a fervent desire that in your general conferences everything should be discussed with a great deal of care and propriety, lest you grieve the Holy Spirit, which shall be poured out at all times upon your heads, when you are exercised with those principles of righteousness that are agreeable to the mind of God, and are properly affected one toward another, and are careful by all means to remember, those who are in bondage, and in heaviness, and in deep affliction for your sakes. And if there are any among you who aspire after their own aggrandizement, and seek their own opulence, while their brethren are groaning in poverty, and are under sore trials and temptations, they cannot be benefitted by the intercession of the Holy Spirit, which maketh intercession for us day and night with groanings that cannot be uttered. We ought at all times to be very careful that such high-mindedness shall never have a place in our hearts; but condescend to men of low estate, and with all long-suffering bear the infirmities of the weak.
This information was a precursor for the instruction starting in Section 121, verse 34, explaining how to recognize one who is actually chosen to lead.
Section 121:34 Behold, there are many called, but few are chosen. And why are they not chosen?
35 Because their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world, and aspire to the honors of men, that they do not learn this one lesson—
36 That the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness.
37 That they may be conferred upon us, it is true; but when we undertake to cover our sin, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man.
38 Behold, ere he is aware, he is left unto himself, to kick against the pricks, to persecute the saints, and to fight against God.
39 We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.
First, it might be important to understand exactly who was “called” to be holders of priesthood authority, and when and where they were called. We sometimes refer to this calling to priesthood with the term “foreordained.”
The prophet Alma in the Book of Mormon explains this doctrine beautifully in Alma Chapter 13. Look for who, when, and why they are called.
Look for how they choose, or choose not to accept.
1 And again, my brethren, I would cite your minds forward to the time when the Lord God gave these commandments unto his children; and I would that ye should remember that the Lord God ordained priests, after his holy order, which was after the order of his Son, to teach these things unto the people.
2 And those priests were ordained after the order of his Son, in a manner that thereby the people might know in what manner to look forward to his Son for redemption.
3 And this is the manner after which they were ordained—being called and prepared from the foundation of the world according to the foreknowledge of God, on account of their exceeding faith and good works; in the first place being left to choose good or evil; therefore they having chosen good, and exercising exceedingly great faith, are called with a holy calling, yea, with that holy calling which was prepared with, and according to, a preparatory redemption for such.
4 And thus they have been called to this holy calling on account of their faith, while others would reject the Spirit of God on account of the hardness of their hearts and blindness of their minds, while, if it had not been for this they might have had as great privilege as their brethren.
5 Or in fine, in the first place they were on the same standing with their brethren; thus this holy calling being prepared from the foundation of the world for such as would not harden their hearts, being in and through the atonement of the Only Begotten Son, who was prepared—
6 And thus being called by this holy calling, and ordained unto the high priesthood of the holy order of God, to teach his commandments unto the children of men, that they also might enter into his rest—
7 This high priesthood being after the order of his Son, which order was from the foundation of the world; or in other words, being without beginning of days or end of years, being prepared from eternity to all eternity, according to his foreknowledge of all things—
8 Now they were ordained after this manner—being called with a holy calling, and ordained with a holy ordinance, and taking upon them the high priesthood of the holy order, which calling, and ordinance, and high priesthood, is without beginning or end—
9 Thus they become high priests forever, after the order of the Son, the Only Begotten of the Father, who is without beginning of days or end of years, who is full of grace, equity, and truth. And thus it is. Amen.
It appears to me that each individual who was given the opportunity to come to earth and gain a body chose “good” in their first estate. Having chosen “good” they were called and “ordained” into the holy order of the priesthood, this presupposes their earthly experiences and is referred to as “foreordination” to earth life. This ordination occurred because of their faith in the Atonement of Jesus Christ, and because they did not harden their hearts, or in other words, were humble and teachable. These same individuals now have a chance to “choose” again in this life whether they will accept the “call” that they have previously been given. The same requirements of faith and humility are required. Unfortunately because of the “hardness of their hearts and the blindness of their minds” many reject this great privilege that they have been called to, thus, “many are called but few are chosen.” Ultimately the choice belongs to each individual.
We can recognize those who have made the choice to “receive” the priesthood ordination with which they have been foreordained to receive, by their actions and intentions.
The Lord gives us a standard by which to judge in Section 121:
41 No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned;
42 By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile—
43 Reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy;
45 Let thy bowels also be full of charity towards all men, and to the household of faith, and let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distil upon thy soul as the dews from heaven.
46 The Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion, and thy scepter an unchanging scepter of righteousness and truth; and thy dominion shall be an everlasting dominion, and without compulsory means it shall flow unto thee forever and ever.
I believe that our choice to be righteous priesthood holders in this life, allows us to be “Kings” and “
Queens” in training, receiving our call or “foreordination” for that great event to come, which will be given to us by our own “free will and choice.”
Many are called, but few will be chosen. What will we choose?