LDS Church Leaders’ Use of Hebrews 8-13

by Chris Brockman

The purpose of this paper is to show how LDS church leaders have used passages found within the eighth through thirteenth chapters of Hebrews in their teachings. This purpose will be accomplished by first, stating which passage from each chapter was cited most frequently; second, reading that passage; third, stating which Church leader cited that passage most often. Fourth and finally, sharing a quote from that Church leader to illustrate how they incorporated the passage into their teachings.

Let us begin with Hebrews chapter 8. The passage in this chapter that has been cited most frequently is verse 12, which reads, “For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.” The church leader that cited this passage most frequently was Boyd K. Packer. A quote that will summarize his usage of this passage is taken from his talk entitled “The Brilliant Morning of Forgiveness,” wherein he said,

I have seen some who have spent a long winter of guilt and spiritual starvation emerge into the morning of forgiveness. When morning came, they learned this [truth]: “For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.” (Heb. 8:12) Letters come from those who have made tragic mistakes. They ask, “Can I ever be forgiven?” The answer is yes! The gospel teaches us that relief from torment and guilt can be earned through repentance…there is no habit, no addiction, no rebellion, no transgression, no offense exempted from the promise of complete forgiveness.[1]

In Hebrews chapter 9, the passages that were quoted most frequent were verses 16 and 17: “For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth.” These passages were quoted 27 times with Wilford Woodruff citing them 13 of those times. In 1881 Wilford Woodruff said,

God has called a class of men and women who, with the exception of a few, have been permitted to live out their days and die a natural death. It is true that Joseph Smith, who laid the foundation of this work, and others, have had to seal their testimony with their blood; and if I were to tell what I think about it, I would say it was ordained of God that our Prophet and head should be sacrificed in the manner that he was, as much as it was ordained of God that Jesus Christ should be sacrificed in the way that he was; and…for [what] purpose…—in order that his testimony might remain in force upon all the world from the hour of his death.”[2]

The passage in Hebrews chapter 10 that has been cited most frequently is verse 17, which reads “And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.” Boyd K. Packer once again is the leader that cites this passage most often. In his remarks entitled “To Young Women and Men” he said,

The discouraging idea that a mistake (or even a series of [mistakes]) makes it everlastingly too late does not come from the Lord. He has said that if we will repent, not only will He forgive us our transgressions, but He will forget them and remember our sins no more. (Heb. 10:17) Repentance is like soap; it can wash sin away.[3]

Now on to Hebrews chapter 11, which is the most cited chapter in all of Hebrews, coming in with 386 citations. Since this chapter has been cited with such frequency the three most often cited passages will be shared. The most frequently cited passage was verse 40, which reads, “God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.” This passage was cited 62 times with John Taylor citing it 20 of those times. In his sermon titled “The Rights of Mormonism” John Taylor said,

We have friends gone behind the veil. [They] are Joseph, Hyrum, Willard, [and] Jedediah…and they have been moving and acting there for years; and if any of us are called to go, it is all right… Do not you know the old Apostle said, “They without us cannot be made perfect?” (Heb. 11:40). Could they attend to these ordinances that are being attended to here on earth while they are there? No, they cannot.[4]

Joseph Smith Jr. also like to refer to this passage, citing it 10 times. In his speech “Character and Being of God,” Joseph said,

The greatest responsibility in this world that God has laid upon us is to seek after our dead. The Apostle says, “They without us cannot be made perfect;” (Heb. 11:40) for it is necessary that the sealing power should be in our hands to seal our children and our dead.[5]

            The second most frequently cited passage in Hebrews chapter 11 is verse 1, which reads, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” This passage has been referred to 31 times with Howard W. Hunter being the leader who cited it most frequently. In his talk entitled “To Know God” he stated,

 Whether seeking for knowledge of scientific truths or to discover God, one must have faith. This becomes the starting point. Faith has been defined in many ways, but the most classic definition was given by the author of the letter to the Hebrews in these meaningful words: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”  (Heb. 11:1) In other words, faith makes us confident of what we hope for and convinced of what we do not see. The scientist does not see molecules, atoms, or electrons, yet he knows they exist. He does not see electricity, radiation, or magnetism, but he knows these are unseen realities.”[6]

The third most cited passage in Hebrews chapter 11 is verse six, which reads, “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” This passage has been cited a total of 29 times with Thomas Spencer Monson citing it most often. In his 2007 talk “A Royal Priesthood” President Monson said,

As we offer unto the Lord our family and our personal prayers, let us do so with faith and trust in Him. Let us remember the injunction of the Apostle … to the Hebrews: “For he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6) If any of us has been slow to hearken to the counsel to pray always, there is no finer hour to begin than now.”[7]

Leaving Hebrews chapter 11 and moving to Hebrews chapter 12, we find that this is the second-most-cited chapter in the book of Hebrews, totaling 322 citations. The passage with the most citations is verse nine, which reads, “Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?” This passage had 72 citations with Brigham Young citing it most often. In his talk “Necessity for Reformation,” Brigham said,

There is no spirit among the human family that was begotten in hell; none that were begotten by angels, or by any inferior being. They were not produced by any being less than our Father in heaven. He is the Father of our spirits; (Heb. 12:9) and if we could know, understand, and do His will, every soul would be prepared to return back into His presence. And when they get [to heaven], they would see that they had formerly lived there for ages, that they had previously been acquainted with every nook and corner, with the palaces, walks, and gardens; and they would embrace their Father, and He would embrace them and say, “My [child], I have you again;” and the child would say, “O my Father, my Father, I am here again.[8]

Another of the most cited passages from chapter 12 is verse 24 which reads “And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel.” John Taylor cited this passage 26 out of the 33 times it was cited.  In his talk “The Work of God Only Partially Understood,” John Taylor said,

In the commencement of the work, the Father and the Son appeared to Joseph Smith. And when they appeared to him, the Father, pointing to the Son, said, “This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!” [As if the Father was saying], “I have not come to teach and instruct you; but I refer you to my Only Begotten, who is the Mediator of the New Covenant, (Heb. 12:24) the Lamb slain from before the foundation of the world; I refer you to Him as your Redeemer, your High Priest and Teacher. Hear Him.[9]

This leads us to the last chapter and verse of our study, which is Hebrews chapter 13 verse eight, and it reads “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.” This passage was referenced 72 times with George Q.  Cannon citing it 21 of those times. In his talk “The Saints Will Triumph through Faithfulness” he said,

He lives… He is the same today that He was 1,800 years ago, [he is the same] that He was in the days of the Prophets and Patriarchs (Heb. 13:8) [he is] the same kind, [benevolent], merciful, all-powerful Being. [10]

            In conclusion, I hope that the reader was able to see from the research presented that LDS Church leaders delight to cite the words of Hebrews in teaching their fellow Latter-day Saints. My appreciation for and love of the words of Hebrews and LDS Church leaders’ use of them has grown tenfold during the research and writing of this paper. It is also my hope that the reader’s understanding of and love for the words of Hebrews has also increased in the time they have invested in the reading of this paper. Thank you!

[1] Boyd K. Packer, “The Brilliant Morning of Forgiveness,” Ensign 25 (November 1995): 18.

[2] “Remarks by President Wilford Woodruff, delivered at Bountiful, June 26, 1881,” Journal of Discourses 22:232.

[3] Boyd K. Packer, “To Young Women and Men,” Ensign (May 1989): 53.

[4] John Taylor, “The Rights of Mormonism,” Journal of Discourses 5:182.

[5] Joseph Smith Jr., “Character and Being of God, Etc.,” Journal of Discourses 6:1.

[6] Howard W. Hunter, “To Know God,” Ensign (November 1974): 96.

[7] Thomas S. Monson, “A Royal Priesthood,” Ensign (November 2007): 59.

[8] Brigham Young, “Necessity for Reformation a Disgrace, Etc.,” Journal of Discourses 4:264.

[9] John Taylor, “The Work of God Only Partially Understood, Etc.,” Journal of Discourses 6:105.

[10] George Q. Cannon, “The Saints Will Triumph Through Faithfulness, Etc.,” Journal of Discourses 25:238.