Some of the original wording--the Rough Stone--sheds light on what Elder Russell M. Nelson calls "prophetic priorities" ("Sustaining the Prophets," Conference Report, October 2014). To get at the root of such priorities requires some digging, some study, comparison, reflection, and prayer--the kind of effort we all bring to our daily study of Scripture. Because the doctrine of the eternal nature of the family, that is, the New and Everlasting Covenant of Marriage between a literal son and a literal daughter of Heavenly Parents, is a prophetic priority in the Dispensation of the Fullness of Times, we gratefully receive any words of Joseph Smith and his apostolic associates that may encourage covenantal commitment to Father's plan for families. After all: "Our sustaining of prophets is a personal commitment that we will do our utmost to uphold their prophetic priorities. Our sustaining is an oath-like indication that we recognize their calling as a prophet to be legitimate and binding upon us" (Elder Russell M. Nelson).
The Lord's legitimate covenant Prophet today is President Thomas S. Monson.
Consider Joseph Smith's Epistle to the Twelve in England (15 December 1840). The Times and Seasons published extracts from the Epistle for its readership, nearly the entire letter in fact, and the extracts show considerable polishing. The following words about love are among the Prophet's best known:
"Love is one of the chief characteristics of Deity, and ought to be manifested by those who aspire to be the sons of God. A man filled with the love of God, is not content with blessing his family alone, but ranges through the whole world, anxious to bless the whole human race," Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, 426; 434 n. 2; History of the Church 4:227; Times and Seasons 1 January 1841, 258.
Now consider the same paragraph as originally dictated and as likely received by the Twelve. The famous words on love now center on home and family--indeed they considerably expand both the notion of family and our covenantal obligations thereto:
"Love is one of the leading characteristics of Deity, and ou[gh]t to be manifested by those who aspire to be the Sons of God. A man filled with the love of God, is not content with blessing his family alone, but ranges through the world, anxious to bless the whole of the human family. This has been your feeling and caused you to forego the pleasure of home, that you might be a blessing to others, who are candidates for immortality and who were but strangers to the principals [sic] of truth and for so doing I pray that Heavens choicest blessings may rest upon you."
"The whole human race," though once considered the polished edit, seems less reflective of Brother Joseph's prophetic priorities than does "the whole of the human family," or with a touch of editing, "the whole human family." The editors found the repetition of family awkward and dull; elegant variation was the norm. Yet the second occurrence of the word brings the idea to fruition in a fine periodic sentence. So far as I am concerned, one word, family for race, may make all the difference both in time and eternity.
A man filled with the love of God is not content with blessing his family alone but ranges through the world anxious to bless the whole human family.
Think of the mind that could dictate such a sentence as that. It's clean, balanced, memorable. Think of the heart of the man.
Brother Joseph shows missionary work to be family work. And, significantly, he chose this same occasion to introduce the Twelve to the doctrine of baptism for the dead, that is, for our kindred dead. Temple work is family work and "the field is the world" (Matthew 13:38). Apostles of Jesus Christ today emphasize that missionary work and temple work are One Work. Why is this so? Because the Father's Eternal Family is One Family. The Book of Mormon addresses "the whole human family of Adam" (Mormon 3:20). "One Lord, one faith, one baptism"--and one family.
"The salvation of the whole human family is interdependent and connected--like the roots and branches of a great tree" (Elder Quentin L. Cook, cited in R. Scott Lloyd, "Roots Tech Conference: 'Our Father's Plan is about Families,'" LDS Church News, 20 February 2015, italic added). It is as though Joseph Smith "being dead, yet speaketh": "Once we have received them for ourselves and for our families, we are obligated to provide the ordinances vicariously for our kindred dead, indeed for the whole human family" (Hebrews 11:4; Elder Boyd K. Packer, "Covenants," Conference Report, April 1987). The telling phrase, the whole of the human family, or the whole human family, signals both the doctrine and also the work of the Eternal Family and appears in the teachings of Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, John Taylor, Joseph F. Smith, John A. Widtsoe, and the living prophets and apostles.
Anchored at home, "we move into the future with quiet confidence" (President Boyd K. Packer, "The Reason for Our Hope," Conference Report, October 2014). At times, brim with love, we "[forgo] the pleasure of home" to bring "home to God" the whole human family (see Alma 40:11). And in so doing our journey may not take us physically farther than the FamilySearch pages on our laptop or a nearby House of the Lord. Even so, in divine discontent, in Amulek-like anxiety (Alma 13:27), we consecrate our time and energy and entertainments and, at large with love, range through time and space to bless God's Eternal Family.
And so we fulfill the works of Father Abraham, the same are the works of love, the law of grace. A famous Midrash (Genesis Rabbah 39:2) sums up the matter:
"Why did Abraham have to go forth to the world?
At home he was like a flask of myrrh with a tight-fitting lid. Only when it is open can the fragrance be scattered to the winds" (see Hugh Nibley, An Approach to the Book of Abraham, 442-443).
For the Epistle to the Twelve:
Joseph Smith Papers Project Web site
Dean Jessee, Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, "To the Twelve," 15 December 1840.
Richard Bushman, Dean Jessee, "Smith, Joseph: The Prophet," Encyclopedia of Mormonism: The famous quotation restored to read "of the whole human family."
Restored to read: "the human family": History: "Joseph Smith and America's Future," The Joseph Smith and Emma Hale Smith Historical Society Web site, updated 12 February 2015.
A Prophetic Priority
"The salvation of the human family": Joseph Smith (ed.) or John Taylor, "The Temple," Times and Seasons editorial (2 May 1842), History of the Church 4:608-610.
"The Great Parent of the universe looks upon the whole of the human family with a fatherly care and paternal regard; He views them as His offspring"; Joseph Smith (ed.) or John Taylor, "Baptism for the Dead," Times and Seasons editorial, 15 April 1842, 759; History of the Church 4: 595-596.
"The Gospel will save the whole human family"--"if": Brigham Young, Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, 39.
"Reach the whole human family": Brigham Young, Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, 291 (Discourses of Brigham Young, 389).
"God feels interested in the welfare of the whole human family": John Taylor, 9 October 1881, Journal of Discourses 22:291.
"The whole human family, from eternity to eternity": President Joseph F. Smith, Deseret News, 7 May 1883, 98, cited in Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, Chapter 47.
"To be not only saviors for ourselves but measurably, saviors for the whole human family": Elder John A. Widtsoe, The Utah Genealogical and Historical Magazine (October 1934), 189.
As these familiar citations make clear, the phrase, the whole of the human family, expresses consistent, foundational doctrine in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.