Joseph Smith’s “David Doctrine” and King Follett I.
June 22, 2010 8 Comments
As a preacher, Joseph Smith could be adventurous in his interpretations of scripture. In many cases, these interpretations have been impressed on the spiritual engrams of Mormonism.
But in his “first” King Follett funeral sermon Joseph does a very curious thing: he exchanges homiletic objects.
The language reported by Wilford Woodruff:
A murderer; for instance one that sheds innocent Blood Cannot have forgiveness, David sought repentance at the hand of God Carefully with tears, but he could ownly get it through Hell, he got a promise that his soul should not be left in Hell, Although David was a King he never did obtain the spirit & power of Elijah & the fulness of the Priesthood, & the priesthood that he received & the throne & kingdom of David is to be taken from him & given to another by the name of David in the last days, raised up out of his linage
“David sought repentance carefully with tears” comes from Heb. 12:17, but that passage does not actually refer to David. It is a homily on Esau’s predicament. “but he could ownly get it through Hell, he got a promise that his soul should not be left in Hell” – this passage from Acts (an interpretation of a Psalms pericope) applies not to David, but to Christ (at least in the NT).
In pointing out this thing, we should note that this David doctrine was not a fly-by-night idea for Joseph. At least some parts of it.
Perhaps the epitome of Joseph’s teaching on David is found in his May 16, 1841 sermon:
Even David, must wait for those times of refreshing, before he can come forth and his sins be blotted out; for Peter speaking of him says, “David hath not yet ascended into Heaven, for his sepulchre is with us to this day:” his remains were then in the tomb. Now we read that many bodies of the saints arose, at Christ’s resurrection, probably all the saints, but it seems that David did not. Why? because he had been a murderer.
If the ministers of religion had a proper understanding of the doctrine of eternal judgment, they would not be found attending the man who had forfeited his life to the injured laws of his country by shedding innocent blood; for such characters cannot be forgiven, until they have paid the last farthing. The prayers of all the ministers in the world could never close the gates of hell against a Murderer.
A constellation of ideas, linking a large number of Joseph’s sermons, are related to these passages. The March 10 sermon (KFD1) draws a number of those ideas together, though the reports are rather brief in doing so.
The condition of murderers was a prominent boundary point in Mormon doctrine for Joseph. It defined an extreme in salvation, and he thought it important enough to hammer it home quite a number of times. Try typing “murder” or “eternal judgment” into the Parallel Joseph search function to see some of these.
An important question is, Why? Why the exchange of persons, why the emphasis on murder? [We should note that Joseph is referring to innocent victims. Not *perfectly* innocent obviously. Uh oh.]
 The idea of a new (or resuscitated) David is suggested by a number OT passages and appears in both Jewish and Christian literature as well as Mormon literature on the end times. The idea that David was *permanently* consigned to hell was not an unusual Protestant position either. JS’s idea is different on that point.
 Compare D&C 132:38-39; also 19. The notion that the sealing power was not impervious to sinful acts seems part of the point.