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Should Latter-day Saints search, ponder and pray to understand the “mysteries”?  In our day, there is a cry to not “delve into the mysteries.”  President Harold B. Lee, however, taught that “a mystery may be defined as a truth which cannot be known except by revelation.”1 It makes sense that so many members decry searching the mysteries in a day when we have “imagined up unto [ourselves] a god who is not a God of miracles.” (Mormon 9:10)

The Lord and His inspired prophets, ancient and modern, have provided insight for men and women to comprehend the “mysteries of the kingdom” today.  This compilation of statements clarifies confusion and settles the debate over whether the Lord desires us to search deeper into the doctrines of the Gospel.*

“Search deeper & deeper into the mysteries”

Search deeper & deeper into the mysteries - the Prophet Joseph SmithProphet Joseph Smith

I advise all to go on to perfection and search deeper and deeper into the mysteries of Godliness. A man can do nothing for himself unless God directs him in the right way; and the Priesthood is for that purpose. . . . it has always been my province to dig up hidden mysteries, new things, for my hearers 2

“as fast as . . . you are worthy to receive the mysteries”

President Brigham Young

There is one principle that I wish the people would understand and lay to heart. Just as fast as you will prove before your God that you are worthy to receive the mysteries, if you please to call them so, of the kingdom of heaven—that you are full of confidence in God—that you will never betray a thing that God tells you—that you will never reveal to your neighbor that which ought not to be revealed, as quick as you prepare to be entrusted with the things of God, there is an eternity of them to bestow upon you. 3

“If thou shalt ask . . . know the mysteries”

Son of God – Doctrine and Covenants

If thou shalt ask, thou shalt receive revelation upon revelation, knowledge upon knowledge, that thou mayest know the mysteries and peaceable things—that which bringeth joy, that which bringeth life eternal. (D&C 42:61)

“privilege of receiving the mysteries”

Jesus ChristSon of God – Doctrine and Covenants

The power and authority of the higher, or Melchizedek Priesthood, is to hold the keys of all the spiritual blessings of the church – To have the privilege of receiving the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, to have the heavens opened unto them, to commune with the general assembly and church of the Firstborn, and to enjoy the communion and presence of God the Father, and Jesus the mediator of the new covenant. (D&C 107:18-19)

Mystery = truth known only by revelation

President Harold B. Lee

The Lord said He had given to Joseph “the keys of the mysteries, and the revelations which are sealed” (Doctrine and Covenants 28:7). As a reward to the faithful, the Lord promised: “And to them will I reveal all mysteries, yea, all the hidden mysteries of my kingdom from days of old” (Doctrine and Covenants 76:7). In this sense, then, a mystery may be defined as a truth which cannot be known except by revelation. 4

“The saints [can] comprehend all mysteries”

Elder Bruce R. McConkie

Because God stands revealed or remains forever unknown, and because the things of God are known only by the power of the Spirit, perhaps we should redefine a mystery. In the gospel sense, a mystery is something beyond carnal comprehension. The saints are in a position to comprehend all mysteries, to understand all doctrine, and eventually to know all things. These high levels of intelligence are reached only through faith and obedience and righteousness. A person who relies on the intellect alone and who does not keep the commandments can never, worlds without end, comprehend the mystery of godliness. 5

Mysteries gained through “other Comforter”

Prophet Joseph Smith

The other Comforter spoken of is a subject of great interest, and perhaps understood by few of this generation. After a person has faith in Christ, repents of his sins, and is baptized for the remission of his sins and receives the Holy Ghost, (by the laying on of hands), which is the first Comforter, then let him continue to humble himself before God, hungering and thirsting after righteousness, and living by every word of God, and the Lord will soon say unto him, Son, thou shalt be exalted. When the Lord has thoroughly proved him, and finds that the man is determined to serve Him at all hazards, then the man will find his calling and election made sure, then it will be his privilege to receive the other Comforter, which the Lord hath promised the Saints, as is recorded in the testimony of St. John, in the 14th chapter, from the 12th to the 27th verses. Note the 16, 17, 18, 21, 23 verses: . . . 

Now what is this other Comforter? It is no more nor less than the Lord Jesus Christ Himself; and this is the sum and substance of the whole matter; that when any man obtains this last Comforter, he will have the personage of Jesus Christ to attend him, or appear unto him from time to time, and even He will manifest the Father unto him, and they will take up their abode with him, and the visions of the heavens will be opened unto him, and the Lord will teach him face to face, and he may have a perfect knowledge of the mysteries of the Kingdom of God; and this is the state and place the ancient Saints arrived at when they had such glorious visions—Isaiah, Ezekiel, John upon the Isle of Patmos, St. Paul in the three heavens, and all the Saints who held communion with the general assembly and Church of the First Born.”6

Statesmen and Symbols DVD

“mysteries of God shall be unfolded”


Nephi at the forge. . . I, Nephi, was desirous also that I might see, and hear, and know of these things, by the power of the Holy Ghost, which is the gift of God unto all those who diligently seek him, as well in times of old as in the time that he should manifest himself unto the children of men.

For he is the same yesterday, today, and forever; and the way is prepared for all men from the foundation of the world, if it so be that they repent and come unto him.

For he that diligently seeketh shall find; and the mysteries of God shall be unfolded unto them, by the power of the Holy Ghost, as well in these times as in times of old, and as well in times of old as in times to come; wherefore, the course of the Lord is one eternal round. (1 Nephi 10:17-19)

“Given unto many to know the mysteries”


And now Alma began to expound these things unto him, saying: It is given unto many to know the mysteries of God; nevertheless they are laid under a strict command that they shall not impart only according to the portion of his word which he doth grant unto the children of men, according to the heed and diligence which they give unto him.

And therefore, he that will harden his heart, the same receiveth the lesser portion of the word; and he that will not harden his heart, to him is given the greater portion of the word, until it is given unto him to know the mysteries of God until he know them in full. (Alma 12:9-10)

Repentance, faith, good works and prayer


Yea, he that repenteth and exerciseth faith, and bringeth forth good works, and prayeth continually without ceasing—unto such it is given to know the mysteries of God; yea, unto such it shall be given to reveal things which never have been revealed; yea, and it shall be given unto such to bring thousands of souls to repentance, even as it has been given unto us to bring these our brethren to repentance. (Alma 26:22)

Keep commandments = give mysteries

Son of God – Doctrine and Covenants

But unto him that keepeth my commandments I will give the mysteries of my kingdom, and the same shall be in him a well of living water, springing up unto everlasting life. (D&C 63:23)

“All the hidden mysteries of my kingdom”

Son of God – Doctrine and Covenants

Jesus Christ, the Son of GodFor thus saith the Lord—I, the Lord, am merciful and gracious unto those who fear me, and delight to honor those who serve me in righteousness and in truth unto the end.

Great shall be their reward and eternal shall be their glory.

And to them will I reveal all mysteries, yea, all the hidden mysteries of my kingdom from days of old, and for ages to come, will I make known unto them the good pleasure of my will concerning all things pertaining to my kingdom.

Yea, even the wonders of eternity shall they know, and things to come will I show them, even the things of many generations.

And their wisdom shall be great, and their understanding reach to heaven; and before them the wisdom of the wise shall perish, and the understanding of the prudent shall come to naught.

For by my Spirit will I enlighten them, and by my power will I make known unto them the secrets of my will—yea, even those things which eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor yet entered into the heart of man. . . .

But great and marvelous are the works of the Lord, and the mysteries of his kingdom which he showed unto us, which surpass all understanding in glory, and in might, and in dominion;

Which he commanded us we should not write while we were yet in the Spirit, and are not lawful for man to utter;

Neither is man capable to make them known, for they are only to be seen and understood by the power of the Holy Spirit, which God bestows on those who love him, and purify themselves before him;

To whom he grants this privilege of seeing and knowing for themselves;

That through the power and manifestation of the Spirit, while in the flesh, they may be able to bear his presence in the world of glory. (D&C 76:5-10, 114-118)

Ancient Israel lost “key of the mysteries”

Son of God – Doctrine and Covenants

And this greater priesthood administereth the gospel and holdeth the key of the mysteries of the kingdom, even the key of the knowledge of God.

Therefore, in the ordinances thereof, the power of godliness is manifest.

And without the ordinances thereof, and the authority of the priesthood, the power of godliness is not manifest unto men in the flesh;

For without this no man can see the face of God, even the Father, and live.

Now this Moses plainly taught to the children of Israel in the wilderness, and sought diligently to sanctify his people that they might behold the face of God;

But they hardened their hearts and could not endure his presence; therefore, the Lord in his wrath, for his anger was kindled against them, swore that they should not enter into his rest while in the wilderness, which rest is the fulness of his glory.

Therefore, he took Moses out of their midst, and the Holy Priesthood also; (D&C 84:19-25)

“a very scanty portion . . . were ever revealed”

President Brigham Young

President Brigham YoungJesus said to his disciples, to them it was given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them that were without, it was not given. If we were to examine the subject closely, we should learn that a very scanty portion of the things of the kingdom were ever revealed, even to the disciples. If we were prepared to gaze upon the mysteries of the kingdom, as they are with God, we should then know that only a very small portion of them has been handed out here and there. 7

“called to hold the keys of the mysteries”

Prophet Joseph Smith

How vain and trifling have been our spirits, our conferences, our councils, our meetings, our private as well as public conversations—too low, too mean, too vulgar, too condescending for the dignified characters of the called and chosen of God, according to the purposes of His will, from before the foundation of the world! We are called to hold the keys of the mysteries of those things that have been kept hid from the foundation of the world until now. Some have tasted a little of these things, many of which are to be poured down from heaven upon the heads of babes; yea, upon the weak, obscure and despised ones of the earth.

Therefore we beseech of you, brethren, that you bear with those who do not feel themselves more worthy than yourselves, while we exhort one another to a reformation with one and all, both old and young, teachers and taught, both high and low, rich and poor, bond and free, male and female; let honesty, and sobriety, and candor, and solemnity, and virtue, and pureness, and meekness, and simplicity crown our heads in every place; and in fine, become as little children, without malice, guile or hypocrisy. 8

*Addendum: Statements from Presidents of the Church advising Latter-day Saints to avoid speculation and anxiety concerning the “mysteries” are not in conflict with the revelations and inspired prophetic teachings included above. In context, these statements are clearly referring to something else.

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  1. Lee, Harold B. The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, edited by Clyde J. Williams [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1996], 575.
  2. Sermon delivered at Nauvoo temple grounds on Friday May 12, 1844, Thomas Bullock report
  3. Young, Brigham. Journal of Discourses, 4:371-72
  4. Lee, Harold B. The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, edited by Clyde J. Williams [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1996], 575.
  5. McConkie, Bruce R. The Mystery of Godliness, Brigham Young University Fireside, 6 January 1985
  6. Smith, Joseph. History of the Church, 3:379-381
  7. Young, Brigham. Journal of Discourses,JOD 1:264
  8. Smith, Joseph. Letter of Joseph Smith in Liberty Jail, March 20, 1839
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  1. I have recently been pondering what limited knowledge of the doctrines of the Church most of us members have. This article is an “eye opener” as to why. I really liked Elder McConkie’s quote in the article. “In the gospel sense, a mystery is something beyond carnal comprehension. The saints are in a position to comprehend all mysteries, to understand all doctrine, and eventually to know all things. These high levels of intelligence are reached only through faith and obedience and righteousness. A person who relies on the intellect alone and who does not keep the commandments can never, worlds without end, comprehend the mystery of godliness.” It seems to me that in today’s world we tend to rely “on the intellect alone” and we are unable to comprehend the doctrines of the Church because of this, and also because we don’t have enough faith, obedience, and righteousness. Oftentimes we hear from individuals that we need to only study the first principles of the gospel–faith, repentance, baptism, and the gift of the Holy ghost. I have recently been studying Joseph Smith’s Lectures on Faith. As I have read these lectures, I’ve thought, “What deep doctrine the principle of faith is!” It will take me a lifetime to truly comprehend the “mystery” of faith–the first principle of the gospel. The third lecture states: “Let us here observe, that three things are necessary, in order that any rational and intelligent being may exercise faith in God unto life and salvation.

    First, The idea that he actually exists.

    Secondly, A correct idea of his character, perfections and attributes.

    Thirdly, An actual knowledge that the course of life which he is pursuing, is according to his will.—For without an acquaintance with these three important facts, the faith of every rational being must be imperfect and unproductive; but with this understanding, it can become perfect and fruitful, abounding in righteousness unto the praise and glory of God the Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
    It seems to me that Faith, the first principle of the gospel, is one of the “mysteries of the kingdom.”

  2. I have loved Cleon Skousen’s personal experience when he was taught about learning milk and the meat (mysteries) while on his mission from Whidtso.

    One of the most gratifying things about going on a mission is the opportunity to really learn about the gospel. And we learn it on two levels.

    The first level is what Paul calls the MILK level of the gospel-learning WHAT the actual requirements of the gospel are to lead us back to the presence of the Father, for example, faith, repentance, baptism, the gift of the Holy Ghost, obeying the commandments and enduring to the end. Of course, we don’t minimize the sacred importance of the MILK level because it tells you in the most simple terms WHAT you must do to reach the Celestial Kingdom.

    The second level is what Paul called the MEAT level which explains WHY each principle of the gospel is essential and HOW it works. So the milk is the WHAT of the gospel. The meat is the WHY and HOW. The difference between milk and meat is made very clear in the scriptures. Here is how Paul distinguished between these two different levels of gospel study. He said:

    “I have fed you with milk and not with meat, for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able.” (1 Corinthians 3’2)

    “Ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God: and are becoming such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskillful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of (habitual) use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. Therefore (“NOT” according to Joseph Smith) leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, LET US GO ON UNTO PERFECTION; not (repeatedly) laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God.” (Hebrews 5:12-14 plus 6:1)

    Isaiah says the meat belongs to those “who understand doctrine and are weaned from the milk…For precept must be upon precept, line upon line.” (Isaiah 28:9-10)

    Of course the great challenge to Joseph Smith as the prophetic head of this new dispensation was the fact that he did not receive new knowledge merely line upon line and precept upon precept but LAYER upon LAYER. Sometimes these layers were so enriched with heavy doctrines of gospel meat that Joseph’s associates choked on them and denounced both Joseph and the most recent layer of revelation as false and unacceptable. But Joseph’s time was short. He could not wait for those who lagged behind. Consequently, ten members of the original Quorum of the Twelve faltered. The two apostles who stood valiantly with the prophet were Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball.

    While on a mission we concentrate on teaching the milk because these are the plain and simple things that are essential to get us back to the Father’s Celestial Kingdom. They tell us WHAT to do. The key to success on the milk level is OBEDIENCE, a willingness to follow the essential requirements of the Gospel. Notice that Paul became upset with the saints in his day because he couldn’t get them to go beyond the milk and learn the gospel meat AND THEREBY GO ON UNTO PERFECTION. Notice Isaiah’s warning that the meat of the gospel cannot be digested by swallowing it in gulps. It must be prayerfully pondered, precept upon precept and line upon line.

    I love this article that was written, and I personally love learning the meat of the gospel. It has answered so many questions and with a firmer foundation.

  3. I have always stayed away from the “mysteries” because I just figured they were just deep things I didn’t need to know while on Earth, but thinking of the milk and meat analogy, it makes sense to learn them. It really does strengthen your testimony!:)

  4. I am so happy to have found a place to go to which offers a serious study of the gospel with reliable answers to questions I have pondered.

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