DISCERNMENT (Teachings of Joseph Smith)


Key to Determine Whether an Angel Has a Body and Is from God — Wilford Woodruff (June 27, 1839)

In order to detect the devel when he transforms himself nigh unto an angel of light. When an angel of God appears unto man face to face in personage & reaches out his hand unto the man & he takes hold of the angels hand & feels a substance the same as one man would in Shaking hands with another he may then know that it is an angel of God. & he should place all Confidence in him Such personages or angels are Saints with there resurrected Bodies, but if a personaged appears unto man & offers him his hand & the man takes hold of it & he feels nothing or does not sens any substance he may know it is the devel, for when a Saint whose body is not resurrected appears unto man in the flesh he will not offer him his hand for this is against the law given him & in keeping in mind these things we may detec the devil that he decieved us not.

Discourse, 27 June 1839, as Reported by Wilford Woodruff–B, p. 85, The Joseph Smith Papers.

Key to Determine Whether or Not an Angel Is from God — Willard Richards (June 27, 1839)

A Key to detect Satan

As there are many Keys to the Kingdom of God the following one will detect Satan when he transforms himself nigh unto an Angel of Light. When Satan appears in the form of a personage unto man &—reaches out his hand unto him & the man takes hold of his hand & feels no substance he may know it is satan. for an angel of God (which is an angel of light) is a saint with his resurrected body & when he appears unto man and offers him his hand & the man feels a substance when he takes hold of it as he would in shaking hands with his neighbor he may know it is an Angel of God, & should a Saint appear unto man whose body is not resurrected he will never offer him his hand for it would be against the law by which they are governed & by observing this Key we may detect Satan that he deceive us not

Discourse, 27 June 1839, as Reported by Willard Richards, pp. 910, The Joseph Smith Papers; Willard Richards Pocket companion, circa 1840, p. 13, Church History Library, https://catalog.churchofjesuschrist.org/assets/526ad919-662c-4039-b59d-1cbf2edc7b57/0/12.

Keys to Determine If a Vision Is from God — Willard Richards (Between circa June 26 and circa August 4, 1839)

God has so ordained that when he has communicated, by vision no vision is to be taken but what you see by the seeing of the eye or what you hear by the hearing of the ear— When you see a vision &c pray for the interpretation if you get not this, shut it up.  — There must be certainty <in this matter> An open vision will manifest that which is more important. Lying Spirits are going forth in the Earth.

There will be great manifestation of Spirit both false & true. &c.

Discourse, between circa 26 June and circa 4 August 1839–A, as Reported by Willard Richards, pp. 71-72, The Joseph Smith Papers.

Devil Can Speak in Tongues — Willard Richards (Between circa June 26 and circa August 4, 1839)

Speak not in the Gift of tongues without understanding it, or without interpretation, The Devil can speak in Tongues. The Adversary will come with his work, he can tempt all classes, Can speak in English or Dutch. — Let no one speak in tongues unless he interpret except by the consent of the one who is placed to preside, then he may discern or interpret or another may.

Discourse, between circa 26 June and circa 4 August 1839–A, as Reported by Willard Richards, p. 73, The Joseph Smith Papers.

Gift of Discerning Spirits Given to Presiding Elder — Willard Richards (Between circa June 26 and circa August 4, 1839)

The gift of discerning Spirits will be given to the presiding Elder. pray for him &c. that he may have this gift

Discourse, between circa 26 June and circa 4 August 1839–A, as Reported by Willard Richards, p. 73, The Joseph Smith Papers.

Differences between Manifestations of Angels, Spirits, and the Devil — Willard Richards (Between circa June 26 and circa August 4, 1839)

An angel of God never has wings. Some will Say that they have seen a Spirit. that he offered them his hand. but they did not touch it. This is a lie. First it is contrary to the plan of God A Spirit cannot come but in glory.  An angel has flesh and bones. we see not their glory. The devil may appear as an angel of light. Ask God to reveal it. if it be of the Devil, he it be will of flee from you. if of God he will manifest himself or make it manifest. we may come to Jesus & ask him he will know all about it.— If he comes to a little child, he will adapt himself to the Language & capacity of a little child. —

Discourse, between circa 26 June and circa 4 August 1839–A, as Reported by Willard Richards, pp. 72-73, The Joseph Smith Papers.

Devil Mimics the Lord’s Power — Willard Richards (Between circa June 26 and circa August 4, 1839)

every Spirit or vision or singing is not of God. The Devil is an orator, &c he is powerful: he took our Savior onto a pinnacle of the temple, & kept him in the Wilderness for forty days.

Discourse, between circa 26 June and circa 4 August 1839–A, as Reported by Willard Richards, p. 73, The Joseph Smith Papers.

Key to Determine Whether an Angel Has a Body and Is from God — William Clayton (December 1840)

If an Angel or spirit appears offer him your hand; if he is a spirit from God he will stand still and not offer you his hand. If from the Devil he will either shrink back from you or offer his hand, which if he does you will feel nothing, but be deceived.

A good Spirit will not decieve.

Angels are beings who have bodies and appear to men in the form of man.

Discourse, December 1840, as Reported by William Clayton, p. 3, The Joseph Smith Papers.

Any Spirit or Body Attended by a Dove Is a Pure Spirit — Martha Jane Knowlton Coray (March 21, 1841)

Then the three signs which were given were conclusive The dove which sat upon his shoulder was a sure testimony that he was of God Brethren be not deceived an nor doubtful of this fact a spirit of a good man or an angel from heaven who has not a body will never undertake to shake hands with you for he knows you cannot perceive his touch and never will extend his hand but any spirit or body that is attended by a dove you may know to be a pure spirit thus you may is [in] some measure detect them the spirits who may come unto you

Discourse, circa 21 March 1841, as Reported by Martha Jane Knowlton Coray, p. 25, The Joseph Smith Papers.

False Prophets, Almost the Very Chosen Ones Deceived, and the Devil’s Kingdom — Thomas Bullock (May 12, 1844)

“. . . false prophets always arise to oppose the true prophets, and will deceive almost the very chosen ones . . . in relation to the Kingdom of God— the devil always sets up his Kingdom at the very same time”

Discourse, 12 May 1844, as Reported by Thomas Bullock, p. 1, The Joseph Smith Papers.

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