Last Dispensation

Every dispensation of the Gospel is the last dispensation. The Lord has been willing to return and reclaim the world, and every dispensation is an offer to do just that. “How oft would I have gathered you as a hen gathereth her chicks under her wings, and ye would not!” NC Matthew 10:36; NC Luke 9:3; NC 3 Nephi 4:9; T&C 29:8.

In that last quoted 1831 revelation the Lord explained, “O you nations of the earth, how often would I have gathered you as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings, but you would not? How oft have I called upon you by the mouth of my servants, and by the ministering of angels, and by my own voice, and by the voice of thunderings, and by the voice of lightnings, and by the voice of tempests, and by the voice of earthquakes and great hailstorms, and by the voice of famines and pestilences of every kind, and by the great sound of a trump, and by the voice of judgments, and by the voice of mercy all the day long, and by the voice of glory and honor and the riches of eternal life, and would have saved you with an everlasting salvation, but you would not?” Id.

When one dispensation fails, then the next dispensation is the “last”–and this will continue until mankind finally awakens and arises to what the Lord offers.

As scripture explains: “Commencing with Adam, who was the first man, who is spoken of in Daniel as being the Ancient of Days, or in other words, the first and oldest of all, the great grand progenitor, of whom it is said in another place, He is Michael, because he was the first and father of all, not only by progeny, but he was the first to hold the spiritual blessings, to whom was made known the plan of ordinances for the salvation of his posterity unto the end, and to whom Christ was first revealed, and through whom Christ has been revealed from Heaven and will continue to be revealed from henceforth. Adam holds the keys of the dispensation of the fullness of times; i.e., the dispensation of all the times have been and will be revealed through him, from the beginning to Christ, and from Christ to the end of all the dispensations that are to be revealed.” T&C 140:3

This same Adam, who stands as the first to hold spiritual blessings, appeared early in the time of Joseph Smith to protect the young prophet. Joseph mentioned this in passing in an 1842 letter, “The voice of Michael on the banks of the Susquehanna, detecting the Devil when he appeared as an angel of light.” T&C 151:15 This was early, likely about 1829 when the Book of Mormon translation was underway. But this was not the only time Adam was directly involved in Joseph’s dispensation. In 1836, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery witnessed the following, “the Heavens were again opened to their view, and they saw and beheld, and were endowed with knowledge from the beginning of this creation to the ends thereof. And they were shown unspeakable things from the sealed record of Heaven, which man is not capable of making known, but must be revealed by the Powers of Heaven. They beheld Michael, the archangel, Gabriel, and Raphael, and divers angels, from Michael or Adam down to the end of time, showing in turns their dispensations, their rights, their keys, their honors, their majesty and glory, and the Powers of their Priesthood; giving line upon line, precept upon precept; endowing them with knowledge, even here a little and there a little; holding forth hope for the work God was yet to perform, even the revelation of all things which are to come upon the earth until the return of the Lord in glory with His holy angels — to pour out judgment upon the world, and to reward the righteous. And they were unable to take it in; therefore, they were commanded to pray and ask to comprehend by the power of the spirit, to bring all things to their remembrance, even the Record of Heaven which would abide in them.” T&C 157:30-32

As this revelation shows, it is one thing to receive a revelation and another thing to comprehend it. How much or what Oliver took in from the experience is never clarified by him. Joseph’s efforts to take it in resulted in him recounting in 1842 the following about his experience: “And the voice of Michael the archangel, the voice of Gabriel, and of Raphael, and of diverse angels from Michael, or Adam, down to the present time, all declaring each one: Their dispensation, their rights, their keys, their honors, their majesty and glory, and the power of their Priesthood. Going line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little, giving us consolation by holding forth that which is to come and confirming our hope.” T&C 151:15-17

The people did not appreciate the effort heaven took to prepare Joseph for the Lord’s work. Joseph tried to explain on August 13, 1843 in a talk following Elias Higbee’s death. He declared: “Had I inspiration, revelation and lungs to communicate what my soul has contemplated in times past there is not a soul in this congregation but would go to their homes and shut their mouths in everlasting silence on religion till they had learned something. Why be so certain that you comprehend the things of God when all things with you are so uncertain?” JSP Documents, Vol. 13, p. 34 (punctuation and spellings corrected)

Joseph Smith was laboring to establish the conditions that would allow Adam’s work (under Christ’s direction) to proceed far enough for the people to be gathered, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings. When Joseph’s efforts are carefully considered, several things are clear:

To make it possible for gathering to occur a great deal of effort is required on both sides of the veil. From beyond the veil Adam and dispensation holders down to the present are involved in establishing the framework for gathering. It is not simply a matter of understanding religious concepts, but requires actual familiarity with dispensations, rights, keys, honors and Priesthood including establishing again on the earth the Holy Order, which was at the beginning.

Joseph was instrumental in getting the process commenced. But it failed to result in the Lord gathering His people and returning in glory to judge the world. Joseph was, and is, rejected. While Joseph was confined in a prison in Liberty, Missouri, the Lord explained, “The ends of the earth shall inquire after your name, and fools shall have you in derision, and hell shall rage against you, while the pure in heart, and the wise, and the noble, and the virtuous shall seek counsel, and authority, and blessings constantly from under your hand. And your people shall never be turned against you by the testimony of traitors[.]” T&C 139:7 This explains the failure: the derisive and insulting way in which Joseph was (and still is) regarded by fools. The anger and opposition from hell itself. And the testimony of traitors who insinuate they know more than they do and who regard an innocent man as guilty and corrupt. The wicked projected their sins, ambitions and pride upon the Lord’s servant Joseph–and they do still today. Consequently they were not gathered because they rejected the Lord, rejected the invitation, and abused His servant Joseph.

The Lord’s pattern has been established, followed, and will not change from dispensation to dispensation. The Lord directs, Adam establishes and guides the process, and the possibility of gathering is offered by the Lord. Again and again the Lord’s offers return. How often it has been done by the Lord is never stated directly, but is mentioned only in lamentation: “How often would I have gathered you… but you would not.” It was not Joseph’s failure to make it the last dispensation. It was those who would not be gathered.

It is puzzling and discouraging to consider the last dispensation. Why are people not content to be gathered? Why do they want to break the boundaries and push forward when the Lord asks for patience?

We have this parable in our scriptures: “The Lord brought people whom he had chosen to the mouth of the pass, and there he told them to wait for him, and he went away. The people did not wait for Him, but began to move forward into the narrow pass. The beast killed some and injured others, and none were able to pass through. After great losses, many deaths, and terrible suffering, the people chosen by the Lord withdrew and departed from the mountain. After four and five generations, the Lord again brought some few back to the pass and again told them to stay at the mouth of the pass and wait on Him. But again there were those who tired of waiting, for they could see in the distance the glory of the Fathers and they desired to be there. These, being overtaken by their zeal, did not wait, but moved into the pass where again the beast killed or hurt them. Among those who waited, however, was a man who knelt and prayed, and waited patiently for his Lord. After a great time, the Lord came to this man and took him by the hand and led him into the pass where the great beast guarded the way. As the Lord led, however, the beast was ever occupied with attacking others, and therefore its back was turned to the Lord and the man. And so they passed by unnoticed, safely to the top. The Lord sent the man to the Fathers who, when they saw the man, inquired of him, How came you to be here and yet mortal; the last who came here were brothers who had been slain, and you are yet alive? And the man answered, I waited on the Lord and he brought me here safely.” T&C 163:2-4

The parable appears to be about our day and ends without answering the question of whether any others will be led safely through the pass. If the pattern followed from the days of Adam holds true, then the one who safely connected with the Fathers will be used to return and bring others back with him through the journey. Joseph never got that chance. At some point there will finally be a last dispensation which will welcome the returning Lord. We may not live to see it, but we can help by doing what we are asked by the Lord. “Therefore, care not for the body, neither for the life of the body, but care for the soul and for the life of the soul. And seek the face of the Lord always, that in patience you may possess your souls, and you shall have eternal life.” T&C 101:6