Wednesday, November 28, 2018

The Importance of Understanding Personal Revelation-Part II

Continued from the previous post regarding the receiving of personal revelation and personal answers to prayer, inquiries and concerns during the era of the dedication of the Kirtland Temple, as numerous people reported in journals, talks, and articles. Therefore, it should be no surprise or even a questionable event that Frederick G. Williams, a member of the First Presidency at the time, would have received such a personal revelation as he stated.
In describing Frederick G. Williams character, responsibilities, and ties to the prophet, besides being a counselor in the First Presidency, it should be noted tht for many years he was Joseph Smith’s closest friend of whom the prophet said: “He was respected by the entire community, his name was a tower of strength, and his counsel was sought for, respected and esteemed” (Joseph Smith and Heman C. Smith, History of the Church, Vol.1, Reorganized Church, Lamoni, Iowa, 1908, p142; Times and Seasons, vol.4, pp172, 177-178).
    Joseph also wrote of him, “Bro. Frederick G. Williams is one of those men in whom I place the greatest confidence and trust, for I have found him ever full of love and brotherly kindness. He is not a man of many words, but is ever winning, because of his constant mind. He shall ever have place in my heart, and is ever entitled to my confidence. He is perfectly honest and upright, and seeks with all his heart to magnify his presidency in the church of Christ, but fails in many instances, in consequence of a want of confidence in himself. God grant that he may overcome all evil” (Journal of History, vol.4, 1911, p3). In fact, the 1832 narrative of Joseph Smith History Account contains the earliest known account of Joseph’s First Vision and the only account in his own handwriting; half of this historical event was in the handwriting of his trusted secretary, Frederick G. Williams.
During this time Kirtland was located 20 miles northeast of Cleveland, the latter at the time was a single house; Missionaries taught in Kirtland, Mentor, Orange, Thompson and Amherst townships; Saints from Coalsville Branch settled in Thompson; Joseph and Emma moved into the Johnson home in Hiram; General Conference was held in Orange 
    Elder Williams, who took an active interest in the building of the Kirtland Temple, and at one time in June 1835, subscribed five hundred dollars to this fund, said he received a personal revelation from the angel sitting beside him. In addition to his experience in having the angel sit down beside him during the prayer of the temple, Elder Williams wrote down on a piece of paper from his pocket what was told him. He did not broadcast that, tell anyone else in a speech or make a big issue over it. He kept that note stashed away in his personal papers and it was not found until long after his death. He did tell his immediate family, who reiterated it after his death. His son, Ezra G. Williams stated on April 11, 1864, regarding the note Frederick G. Williams made of this event, “This paper is in the hand writing of my father, Fredrick G. Williams. The characters thereon I believe to be a representation of those shown to him at the dedication of the Kirtland Temple.”
    A thoughtful person, especially one who has himself or herself received such answers, can readily understand how this came about. Elder Williams was a member of the First Presidency and counselor to the prophet Joseph Smith, and one would assume, in good standing with the Lord. He had been a navigator and a pilot in ships on Lake Erie for some time earlier than this event, and at the age of 26, because his expertise on the lake was well known, was hired by 28-year-old Captain Oliver Hazard Perry during the War of 1812 to navigate and pilot his command ship on the lake during engagements with the British.
Frederick G. Williams was an accomplished ship’s pilot and navigator and piloted Captain Oliver Hazard Perry’s ship on Lake Erie during the War of 1812

Thus, it would be most likely, as the thought occurred to Elder Williams about Lehi’s landing, where that might have been. As a former navigator, he was likely curious as to where and how that was achieved. He would not have been particularly knowledgeable as few Americans were at this time, of South America, its coastline, or any likely landing sites since such information was simply unknown in the U.S. at the time—especially to a backwoods country doctor.
    The fact that the Lord had compassion on Elder Williams and provided him with an answer to his question seems self-evident based on the man’s own testimony of it which he shared with his family. That a later descendant, Frederick G. Williams III, working with John W. Welch and John L. Sorenson in the FARMS group, claims his ancestor’s note was not a revelation and was not even representative of his thinking at the time, should carry little weight.
    What this descendant might have actually known and not just assumed because of his belief in Mesoamerica, is not stated, but Mesoamericanists have repeatedly made reference to this rebuttal and dismissed Elder Williams as having known anything about the matter beyond his own opinion. However, no other member of the Williams family to-date has made such a comment or even a reference. And the fact that Elder Williams was one of the most influential members of the community, and of the early Church, should also be understood, as the fact he was not only in the original fully organized First Presidency with Joseph Smith, but was also a close, personal friend and private doctor of the prophet. In fact, Joseph and Emma named one of their sons Frederick Granger Williams Smith, after their close friend. Elder Williams as well as being Joseph Smith’s recorder, personal secretary and confidant, was also the private physician of almost all of the early Church leaders, and the principal doctor for the Saints in Ohio, Missouri, and Illinois until his death in 1842. It might also be of interest to know that Elder Williams was one of the twelve chosen to assist the Colesville Branch to lay the first log, for a house as the foundation for Zion in Kaw Township, twelve miles west of Independence—the log was carried and placed by the twelve men in honor of the twelve tribes of Israel.
    In addition, as we have stated elsewhere in this blog, Elder Williams was called by direct revelation from the Lord to be a missionary on the original mission to the Lamanites, was later appointed clerk and scribe to the prophet in 1832, and was Assistant President and counselor in First Presidency again as the direct result of a revelation. He consecrated and gave by deed to Joseph Smith 142 prime acres in Kirtland upon which the temple was later built, and participated in the Camp of Israel (later called Zion’s Camp) expedition to Missouri, during which time he served as General, camp doctor, and paymaster until the men were discharged.
He was the editor of the early newspaper printed by the Church, called the Northern Times, and member of the publications committee that printed the Doctrine and Covenants, as well as Emma Smith’s A Collection of Sacred Hymns, for the Church. In addition, Elder Williams helped organize and was a trustee of the School of the Prophets, was elected Justice of the Peace in Kirtland, and appointed an officer in the Kirtland Safety Society before moving to Far West, Missouri in late 1837.
    From all of this, one might surely state that Elder Williams was not only a member in good standing, but a valuable and spiritual member of the Church, certainly worthy of receiving personal revelation—something that, by definition, is “personal” and not provided for anyone else. Though there has been a lot written and debated over the note Elder Williams wrote on the sheet of paper, specifically that it was not a revelation, seems of little consequence. What is important is that the location given, at a time when nothing could have been known about that coastal area of South America in the 1830s where Williams and the Church were located, has turned out to be extremely consistent with Nephi’s many descriptions of it as found in 1 Nephi 18:23-25).
    In fact, Elder Williams’ stated location of that landing site was not only right on, and matched every description left us in the scriptural record, but had to have been received as he stated, or the luckiest guess known to history. It would have been like someone, before man was sent to the moon, for someone to predict the back face of the moon that had never at the time been seen by man. Some insist it was not a revelation to the Church, and Elder Williams never claimed it was, but the information certainly had to have been inspiration since nobody could have known the accuracy of such an obscure location in the 1830s.
    It is interesting that this event has elicited so much rebuke from Land of Promise theorists who have felt threatened by Elder Williams' note, which, once it surfaced sometime after his death, was originally thought by some as being a revelation received from Joseph Smith which Williams, as the prophet's scribe and recorder, wrote down. However, it was never claimed by Williams to be such, only a personal revelation to himself, which is exactly how he treated it. 
    The thing that should be kept in mind is that while all the negative comments about this note stems from it being about Joseph Smith and a revelation of the events of Lehi's course and landing, and to which all the discrediting remarks are directed, none seem to recognize the importance of the information it contained. The fact, as we have written about many times in this blog, is that the location is unerringly consistent with the scriptural record of Nephi and to their landing site, and is remarkably consistent with topography, terrain, landing capability, as well as what existed and was found there--describing a place that no one in the 1830s in the location of the early Church could have possibly known or even heard about. No such information was available to Americans in general, or even to specific people since the area was relatively unknown to all in North America during Williams lifetime. Rather than fight against the information disclosed by Elder Williams' note, one might want to look into the information to see how perfectly the location fits Nephi's description as recorded in 1 Nephi 18:23-25.
    In light of this, it would appear not only Elder Williams' worthiness to receive such personal knowledge, but that his actions and testimony are accurately portrayed under the circumstances and quite believable.

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