Hebrews 11

Hebrews 11:1 faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen

Definitions help us understand. However, Paul's definition of faith can be confusing rather than clarifying. 'Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.' The words are graceful and the phrase flows beautifully, but what does it mean? Fortunately, Alma gives us a simpler definition, declaring that faith is to 'hope for things which are not seen, which are true' (Alma 32:21, see also Ether 12:6). The Joseph Smith Translation further clarifies Paul by using the word assurance instead of substance. Hence, "faith is the assurance which men have of the existence of things which they have not seen" (Lectures on Faith 1:10). This assurance becomes a witness or evidence-not to the world, but to the individual-that the hope or belief is true.
 
Howard W. Hunter
"...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. In like manner, those who earnestly seek for God do not see him, but they know of his reality by faith. It is more than hope. Faith makes it a conviction-an evidence of things not seen." ("To Know God," Ensign, Nov. 1974, 97)
 
Neal A. Maxwell
"Faith brings with it the expanding 'evidence of things not seen.' (Heb. 11:1.) Some mortals dismiss this real, spiritual evidence because 'the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him ... because they are spiritually discerned.' (1 Cor. 2:14.) But this provincialism on the part of others should not deprive the rest of us of energizing evidence." ("Lest Ye Be Wearied and Faint in Your Minds," Ensign, May 1991, 89)
 
Boyd K. Packer
"You exercise faith by causing, or by making, your mind accept or believe as truth that which you cannot, by reason alone, prove for certainty. The first exercising of your faith should be your acceptance of Christ and His atonement." ("Personal Revelation: The Gift, the Test, and the Promise," Ensign, Nov. 1994, 60)
 
Gordon B. Hinckley
"If there is any one thing you and I need in this world it is faith, that dynamic, powerful, marvelous element by which, as Paul declared, the very worlds were framed (Hebrews 11:3) . . . Faith-the kind of faith that moves one to get on his knees and plead with the Lord and then get on his feet and go to work-is an asset beyond compare, even in the acquisition of secular knowledge. I do not minimize the need for study and labor. I would add to these faith and prayer, with the sacred promise that 'God shall give unto you knowledge by his Holy Spirit, yea, by the unspeakable gift of the Holy Ghost.'" (Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1997], 186.)
 

Hebrews 11:3 Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed

Joseph Smith
"...faith is not only the principle of action, but of power also, in all intelligent beings, whether in heaven or on earth. Thus says the author of the epistle to the Hebrews (11:3): 'Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.'
 
"By this we understand that the principle of power which existed in the bosom of God, by which the worlds were framed, was faith; and that it is by reason of this principle of power existing in the Deity, that all created things exist; so that all things in heaven, on earth, or under the earth, exist by reason of faith as it existed in HIM.
 
"Had it not been for the principle of faith the worlds would never have been framed, neither would man have been formed of the dust. It is the principle by which Jehovah works, and through which he exercises power over all temporal as well as eternal things. Take this principle or attribute-for it is an attribute-from the Deity, and he would cease to exist.
 
"Who cannot see, that if God framed the worlds by faith, that it is by faith that he exercises power over them, and that faith is the principle of power? And if the principle of power, it must be so in man as well as in the Deity? This is the testimony of all the sacred writers, and the lesson which they have been endeavouring to teach to man." (Lectures on Faith [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1985], 1:13-17.)
 
Joseph Smith
"Faith, then, is the first great governing principle which has power, dominion, and authority over all things; by it they exist, by it they are upheld, by it they are changed, or by it they remain, agreeable to the will of God. Without it there is no power, and without power there could be no creation nor existence!" (Lectures on Faith [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1985], 1:24)
 

Hebrews 11:3 things which are seen were not made of things which do appear

To paraphrase Paul, "the things which we see in the world were not made by a visible force but by the invisible powers of faith and priesthood."
 

Hebrews 11:4 By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain

Joseph Smith
"By faith in this Atonement, or plan of redemption, Abel offered to God a sacrifice that was accepted, which was the firstlings of the flock. Cain offered of the fruit of the ground and was not accepted, because he could not do it in faith. He could have no faith, or could not exercise faith, contrary to the plan of heaven. It must be the shedding of the blood of the Only Begotten to atone for man, for this was the plan of redemption, and without the shedding of blood was no remission. And as the sacrifice was instituted for a type by which man was to discern the great sacrifice which God had prepared, to offer a sacrifice contrary to that, no faith could be exercised, because redemption was not purchased in that way, nor the power of atonement instituted after that order. Consequently, Cain could have no faith, and 'whatsoever is not of faith is sin' (Rom. 14:23). But Abel offered an acceptable sacrifice by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God himself testifying of his gifts. Certainly, the shedding of the blood of a beast could be beneficial to no man, except it was done in imitation, or as a type or explanation, of what was to be offered through the gift of God himself, and this performance done with an eye looking forward in faith on the power of that great sacrifice for a remission of sins." (Kent P. Jackson, comp. and ed., Joseph Smith's Commentary on the Bible [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1994], 16 - 17.)
 

Hebrews 11:4 Abel...being dead yet speaketh

Joseph Smith
"How doth he yet speak? Why he magnified the priesthood which was conferred upon him, and died a righteous man, and therefore has become an angel of God by receiving his body from the dead, holding still the keys of his dispensation; and was sent down from heaven unto Paul to minister consoling words, and to commit unto him a knowledge of the mysteries of godliness.
 
"And if this was not the case, I would ask, how did Paul know so much about Abel, and why should he talk about his speaking after he was dead? Hence, that he spoke after he was dead must be by being sent down out of heaven to administer." (Discourses of the Prophet Joseph Smith, compiled by Alma P. Burton [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1977], 54.)
 

Hebrews 11:5 By faith Enoch...pleased God

Neal A. Maxwell
"...some of us fail to overcome our passions and thereby fail to please God. We are too busy pleasing ourselves.
 
"In contrast, meek Enoch reached a point in his discipleship, wrote Paul, when he received a testimony that he pleased God (see Heb. 11:5). Ponder that. One can come to that point where one knows that he or she pleases God." ("Becoming a Disciple," Ensign, June 1996, 13)
 
LeGrand Richards
"I love the statement in the Bible where Enoch of old, that prophet who was translated into heaven with his people, obtained the assurance while yet here in mortality that he had pleased the Lord. (See Heb. 11:5.) I think by the keeping of His commandments-doing all things, as the Lord said, that the Lord God had commanded (see Deut. 12:32; Matt. 28:20)-that we can get an assurance that comes through the Holy Spirit that our labors are acceptable to the Lord and that we have pleased him." ("What the Gospel Teaches," Ensign, May 1982, 30)
 

Hebrews 11:6 without faith it is impossible to please him

Joseph Smith
"Why is it impossible to please God without faith? The answer would be-Because without faith it is impossible for men to be saved; and as God desires the salvation of men, he must, of course, desire that they should have faith; and he could not be pleased unless they had, or else he could be pleased with their destruction." (Lectures on Faith, 7:7)
 
Neal A. Maxwell
"We are told straightforwardly that we cannot please God 'without faith' (see Hebrews 11:6). This is not an arbitrary requirement. Since 'without faith' we cannot go home to Him, how could a loving Father be pleased with faithless children? He wants us to come home!" (Lord, Increase Our Faith [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1994], 4.)
 

Hebrews 11:6 he that cometh to God must believe that he is

Patricia P. Pinegar
"In the scriptures it says, 'But without faith it is impossible to please him'; and to please him we must 'believe that he is' (Heb. 11:6).
 
"Choosing to believe is an important step in increasing our faith in the Savior. It has to be our choice. No one can make that choice for you. If I stand in front of a mirror and look myself in the eye and say, 'I choose to believe in the Savior,' that helps me; then whenever I look in a mirror it reminds me of my choice." ("Increase in Faith," Ensign, May 1994, 95)
 

Hebrews 11:6 believe that he is...a rewarder of them that diligently seek him

LeGrand Richards
"As I have studied the gospel, and not only through my study but in my observation in the years of experience I have had in this Church, I haven't found any commandment from the Lord without a promised blessing far greater in value than the thing that the Lord asks of us. He puts us to the test to see if we believe him." (Conference Report, October 1964, Afternoon Meeting 66.)
 
Thomas S. Monson
"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 Paul 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.' (Heb. 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. William Cowper declared, 'Satan trembles when he sees the weakest Saint upon his knees.' Those who feel that prayer might denote a physical weakness, remember that a man never stands taller than when he is upon his knees." (Conference Report, April 1964, Afternoon Meeting 130.)
 
Neal A. Maxwell
"In the King James Version of the Bible, Paul's words say that we cannot please God without faith and 'that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him' (Hebrews 11:6). Surely God does reward the faithful, but Joseph Smith changed the rendering of the key word to read that the living God 'is a revealer to them that diligently seek him.' (History of the Church, 4:209) The use of the word revealer fits with the context, as illustrated by Paul's statement that Enoch, 'before his translation . . . had this testimony, that he pleased God' (Hebrews 11:5). God revealed His mind to Enoch. How else could Enoch have known for certain that he pleased God?
 
"The different rendering is of theological and salvational importance. It confirms the pattern of an omniscient and living God who is a revealer to the faithful (see Amos 3:7).
 
"Some have sincere faith in the existence of a God but not necessarily in a revealing and omniscient God." (If Thou Endure It Well [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1996], 46.)
 

Hebrews 11:7 By faith Noah...prepared an ark

Spencer W. Kimball
"In faith we plant the seed, and soon we see the miracle of the blossoming. Men have often misunderstood and have reversed the process. They would have the harvest before the planting, the reward before the service, the miracle before the faith...Paul, speaking to the Hebrews, said:
 
'By faith Noah being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house. . . ' (Hebrews 11:7.)
 
"As yet there was no evidence of rain and flood. His people mocked and called him a fool. His preaching fell on deaf ears. His warnings were considered irrational. There was no precedent; never had it been known that a deluge could cover the earth. How foolish to build an ark on dry ground with the sun shining and life moving forward as usual! But time ran out. The ark was finished. The floods came. The disobedient and rebellious were drowned. The miracle of the ark followed the faith manifested in its building." (Faith Precedes the Miracle [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1972], 5.)
 

Hebrews 11:10 Abraham looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God

Hugh Nibley
"Only by 'doing the works of Abraham' can we hope to establish a better order of things on the earth, that order of Zion lost since the days of Noah...For Abraham, everything is a prelude to what lies beyond. Determined to disengage from the absurd and vicious world around him, he is ever moving on, 'looking for a city made without hands, whose builder and maker is God.' (Heb. 11:10.) He tells us quite frankly that what he wants is peace and happiness for himself and to be a blessing to all mankind. (Abr. 1:2.) To achieve that required more than philosophical abstractions or convenient arrangements; he would have to go about it God's way...Abraham spent his whole life trying to escape from [his world]; he was determined to find something better. He exerted every faculty of body and mind to carry him toward that state of existence which is man's proper calling and eternal destiny." (Abraham in Egypt [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1981], 250.)
 
Joseph Smith
"This is why Adam blessed his posterity; he wanted to bring them into the presence of God. They looked for a city, etc., ['whose builder and maker is God.'-Heb. 11:10]. Moses sought to bring the children of Israel into the presence of God, through the power of the Priesthood, but he could not. In the first ages of the world they tried to establish the same thing; and there were Eliases raised up who tried to restore these very glories, but did not obtain them; but they prophesied of a day when this glory would be revealed. Paul spoke of the dispensation of the fullness of times, when God would gather together all things in one, etc.; and those men to whom these keys have been given, will have to be there; and they without us cannot be made perfect." (History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 vols., introduction and notes by B. H. Roberts [Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1932-1951], 3: 388.)
 
Hebrews 11:16 they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God...hath prepared for them a city
 
Neal A. Maxwell
"If we are faithful and obedient while in this good and beautiful world, we will later inherit 'a far better land of promise' (Alma 37:45), 'a city ... whose builder and maker is God' (Heb. 11:10), a city within which are 'many mansions' (John 14:2-3).
 
"Paul wrote, 'Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man [meaning we cannot even imagine] the things which God hath prepared for them that love him' (1 Cor. 2:9)." ("For I Will Lead You Along," Ensign, May 1988, 9)
 

Hebrews 11:17 By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac

Spencer W. Kimball
"Exceeding faith was shown by Abraham when the superhuman test was applied to him. His young 'child of promise' must now be offered upon the sacrificial altar. It was God's command, but it seemed so contradictory! How could his son, Isaac, be the father of an uncountable posterity if in his youth his mortal life was to be terminated? Why should he, Abraham, be called upon to do this revolting deed? It was irreconcilable, impossible! And yet he believed God. His undaunted faith carried him with breaking heart toward Mount Moriah with this young son who little suspected the agonies through which his father must have been passing. Saddled asses took the party and supplies. The father and the son, carrying the fire and the wood, mounted to the plate of sacrifice...
 
'He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform.' (Romans 4:18-21.)
 
"Father Abraham and Mother Sarah knew-knew the promise would be fulfilled. How? They did not know and did not demand to know. Isaac positively would live to be the father of a numerous posterity. They knew he would, even though he might need to die. They knew he could still be raised from the dead to fulfill the promise, and faith here preceded the miracle." (Faith Precedes the Miracle [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1972], 12.)
 

Hebrews 11:17 By faith Abraham...offered up his only begotten son

"The experience with Isaac undoubtedly helped Abraham to see the Crucifixion from the Father's perspective. (Perhaps that is why Heb. 11:17 refers to Isaac as Abraham's "only begotten son" even though Abraham had already fathered Ishmael.)" (Andrew Skinner, "The Book of Abraham: A Most Remarkable Book," Ensign, Mar. 1997, 20)
 

Hebrews 11:25 to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season

Bruce C. Hafen
"We know a nine-year-old-boy who told his seven-year-old brother, 'It's okay to steal things until you're eight years old. So, I say, live it up!' Sometimes young people preparing to attend a Church college, go on a mission, or be married in the temple will consciously 'live it up,' as if they can sin all they wish, so long as they 'just repent' before the deadline. Paul described these foolish ones as wanting 'to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season.' (Hebrews 11:25; emphasis added.) Some even feel it is their right to romp in the mud of transgression right up to the moment they take their spiritual shower of repentance.
 
"Sadly, those who frivolously engage in what they believe is a penalty-free romping time may discover too late that they cannot wash every stain from their clothes and hands." (Bruce C. Hafen and Marie K. Hafen, The Belonging: The Atonement and Relationships with God and Family Heart [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1994], 283.)
 

Hebrews 11:26-27 Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt...he forsook Egypt

Bruce R. McConkie
"Reared and taught amid all the wealth, splendor, and influence of Pharaoh's court; having at his command the prestige and power of the royal household; knowing he was assured of a life of ease and affluence-yet Moses, because of faith in Christ, chose to suffer with slaves and bondsmen of his own race rather than to accept the honors, wealth, and power of the greatest nation then on earth." (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965-1973], 3: 213.)
 
David E. Sorensen
"The gospel of Jesus Christ may bring changes to our old habits and relationships (see Matt. 10:34; Matt. 12:46-50). Indeed, believing in Christ and joining His Church has always required a substantial change of life, a sacrifice, a commitment. This was true not just in our dispensation but in earlier times as well. One of the most impressive descriptions of giving up worldly access and power for the gospel's sake is found in the book of Hebrews: (quotes Heb. 11:24-27).
 
"Happily, joining the Church in our day generally does not mean abandoning one's home and moving to a desert colony, nor does it require giving up a pharaoh's treasure. But for every member of the Church, there will be sacrifices to be made and trials to be endured before we come to know Christ. Just as with my great-grandfather, climbing the gospel ladder toward exaltation will require more than a casual commitment to the gospel, more than a few visits to Church on Sunday, more than a passing familiarity with the scriptures as we endure faithfully to the end." ("Why Baptism Is Not Enough," Ensign, Apr. 1999, 19)
 

Hebrews 11:27 seeing him who is invisible

LeGrand Richards
"Further study of Paul's teachings indicates that he had the same understanding as John; that while God is invisible to men generally, he is not invisible to the prophets, for he indicated that Moses saw the invisible God: 'By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible.' (Hebrews 11:27.)" (A Marvelous Work and a Wonder [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1950], 21.)
 

Hebrews 11:29 By faith they passed through the Red sea as by dry land

Spencer W. Kimball
"And as Pharaoh's trained army approached with all the horses and chariots of Egypt, the escaping multitudes knew full well that they were hemmed in by the marshes, the deserts, and the sea. There was no earthly chance for them to escape the wrath of their pursuers. And in their terror they indicted Moses:
 
'Because there were no graves in Egypt, hast thou taken us away to die in the wilderness? . . . it had been better for us to serve the Egyptians, than that we should die in the wilderness.' (Exodus 14:11-12.)
 
"No hope on earth for their liberation! What could save them now? The gloating armed forces of Egypt knew that Israel was trapped. Israel knew it only too well. But Moses, their inspired leader with supreme faith, knew that God would not have called them on this exodus only to have them destroyed. He knew God would provide the escape. He may not at this moment have known just how, but he trusted.
 
"Moses commanded his people:
 
'Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will shew to you to day: for the Egyptians whom ye have seen today, ye shall see them again no more for ever.
The Lord shall fight for you. . . ' (Exodus 14:13-14.)
 
"The mighty warriors pressed on. Hope must have long since died in the breasts of the timid Israelites who knew not faith. Deserts and wilderness and the sea-the uncrossable sea! No boats, no rafts, no bridges, nor time to construct them! Hopelessness, fear, despair must have gripped their hearts.
 
"And then the miracle came. It was born of the faith of their indomitable leader. A cloud hid them from the view of their enemies. A strong east wind blew all the night; the waters were parted; the bed of the sea was dry; and Israel crossed to another world and saw the returning sea envelop and destroy their pursuers. Israel was safe. Faith had been rewarded, and Moses was vindicated. The impossible had happened. An almost super-human faith had given birth to an unaccountable and mysterious miracle that was to be the theme of the sermons and warnings of Israel and their prophets for centuries." (Faith Precedes the Miracle [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1972], 8.)
 
Hebrews 11:33 who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises
 
Faith is the power by which great men and women accomplished great things. It is the key which unlocks the power of God. The following scriptural examples are given:
 
Joshua
Subdued kingdoms
Josh. 10:40-42
Melchizedek, Abraham
Wrought righteousness
JST Gen. 14:26, Rom. 4:3
Abraham
Obtained promises
Rom. 4:3,13
Melchizedek, Daniel
Stopped the mouths of lions
JST Gen. 14:26, Daniel 6
Melchizedek, Shadrach, Meshach, Abed-nego
Quenched the violence of fire
JST Gen. 14:26, Daniel 3
David
Escaped the edge of the sword
1 Sam. 18:25-27
Enoch
Out of weakness were made strong
Moses 6:31-32
David
Waxed valiant in fight
1 Sam. 17
Moses, Gideon
Turned to flight the armies of aliens
Ex. 14:23-28; Judges 7
Elijah and the widow
Women received their dead raised to life
1 Kings 17:17-24
 
Spencer W. Kimball
"Remember that Abraham, Moses, Elijah, and others could not see clearly the end from the beginning. They also walked by faith and without sight...But know this, that just as undaunted faith has stopped the mouths of lions, made ineffective fiery flames, opened dry corridors through rivers and seas, protected against deluge and drought, and brought heavenly manifestations at the instance of prophets, so in each of our lives faith can heal the sick, bring comfort to those who mourn, strengthen resolve against temptation, relieve from the bondage of harmful habits, lend the strength to repent and change our lives, and lead to a sure knowledge of the divinity of Jesus Christ. Indomitable faith can help us live the commandments with a willing heart and thereby bring blessings unnumbered, with peace, perfection, and exaltation in the kingdom of God." (Faith Precedes the Miracle [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1972], 12.)
 

Hebrews 11:33-34 stopped the mouths of lions, Quenched the violence of fire

Bruce R. McConkie
"Paul, very obviously knowing much more about Melchizedek than he happened to record in his epistles, gave as an illustration of great faith some unnamed person who 'wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, Quenched the violence of fire.' (Heb. 11:33-34.) From the Prophet's inspired additions to the Old Testament we learn that Paul's reference was to Melchizedek. 'Now Melchizedek was a man of faith, who wrought righteousness; and when a child he feared God, and stopped the mouths of lions, and quenched the violence of fire.' (Inspired Version, Gen. 14:26.)" ("Melchizedek," Mormon Doctrine, 2d ed., [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966], 475.)
 
Bruce R. McConkie
"There seems, thus, to be little doubt that although the Jews did not have a full and perfect book of Genesis, they did have a better and more accurate one than modern Christendom possesses." (The Mortal Messiah: From Bethlehem to Calvary, 4 vols. [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1979-1981], 1: 270.)
 

Hebrews 11:35 not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection

Imagine yourself being tortured to the point of death. As a prisoner, your captors demand that you deny the Christ in order to gain freedom. What do you say? Can you hold out? Can you exercise the faith needed? Do you "accept deliverance" by denying the Christ? The ancients didn't. They suffered 'not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection.'
 
The term "better resurrection" is interesting. Since there is a resurrection of the just and a resurrection of the unjust (John 5:29), we know that some resurrections are better than others. This is what Paul was trying to explain in 1 Corinthians 15, describing the difference between resurrected bodies, 'There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars' (1 Cor. 15:41). A celestial resurrection is a better resurrection than a terrestrial one, and a terrestrial resurrection is better than a telestial one.
 
Sterling W. Sill
"The apostle Paul wrote to the Hebrews and explained to them how through their righteousness they might obtain a better resurrection. And what a great idea that is! In this life we may build for ourselves a stronger body, a more effective mind, a more sparkling personality. But our creative powers do not stop there. We may raise ourselves far above the telestial or the terrestrial and become celestial beings. This is a difficult idea almost totally impossible to comprehend. As the apostle Paul said to the Corinthians, 'Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.' (1 Cor. 2:9.) We can imagine beauty, comfort, and success worth billions of dollars, but we cannot even conceive of the most ordinary of God's blessings to us." (The Wealth of Wisdom [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1977], 161 - 162.)
 

Hebrews 11:37 They were stoned, they were sawn asunder...were slain with the sword

John Taylor
"Who can contemplate the position of the world, as it has existed, without being struck with this fact, Where has God ever had a people but they have been persecuted? The testimony of God has always been rejected, and his people trodden under foot. Paul tells us that they 'were tempted, tried, sawn asunder, that they wandered about in sheep skins, and goat skins, being destitute, afflicted, and tormented.' And to such an extent had this prevailed among the ancient Jews, that Stephen gravely asks the question, 'Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them, which shewed before, of the coming of the Just One, of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers.' Acts 7:52. What did they do with Jesus! and what with his followers! We may here ask, Is it right, is it proper, is it just, for this state of things to continue?" (The Government of God [Liverpool: S. W. Richards, 1852], 72 - 74.)
 

JST Hebrews 11:40 for without sufferings they could not be made perfect

The Joseph Smith Translation differs from the interpretation usually given for this verse. The Prophet himself often quoted Heb. 11:40 in reference to the work of redeeming the dead. Some have been bothered by the fact that this application of the scripture differs from the Joseph Smith Translation. How do we resolve the conflict?
 
First, we should realize that there is no conflict. Joseph Smith was a prophet. He has the right to change the scripture by the spirit of prophecy. He also has the right to use one scripture to teach two different concepts. Accordingly, he uses verse 40 to explain the relationship between suffering and the process of perfection and he uses verse 40 to explain the necessity of a vicarious work for the dead.
 
"In the King James Version it reads: 'God having provided some better thing for us, that they [referring to the dead who had had faith in the Savior] without us should not be made perfect.' Members of the Church frequently cite this verse in connection with salvation for the dead. However, the Joseph Smith Translation says: 'God having provided some better things for them through their sufferings, for without sufferings they could not be made perfect.' This rendition is in harmony with the overall message of the chapter, which is not talking about those who died without the gospel but rather about those who were valiant in the gospel, even suffering and dying in defense of it. The JST rendition of verse 40 is thus consistent with the context of the chapter; the KJV rendition is not.
 
"However, even though the Prophet Joseph Smith knew that Heb. 11:40Heb. 11:40 had reference to earthly suffering, he still occasionally used the KJV passage for teaching about salvation for the dead." (Selected Writings of Robert J. Matthews: Gospel Scholars Series [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1999], 310.)
 

Hebrews 11:40 they without us should not be made perfect

"'They without us should not be made perfect' (Heb. 11:40). Joseph Smith used no scripture more often in explaining work for the dead, for it indicates the unity of the family of God in all ages and suggests salvation through interdependence, just as the turning of the children to their fathers does at the end of Malachi. One with the truth is obligated to share the gospel with the living, and Joseph Smith insists on the same horizon for the dead, 'for their salvation is necessary and essential to our salvation' (D&C 128:15)." (Understanding Paul [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1983], 412 - 413.)
 
Joseph Smith
"[Malachi] had his eye fixed on the restoration of the priesthood, the glories to be revealed in the last days, and in an especial manner this most glorious of all subjects belonging to the everlasting gospel, namely, the baptism for the dead. . . . I might have rendered a plainer translation to this, but it is sufficiently plain to suit my purpose as it stands. It is sufficient to know, in this case, that the earth will be smitten with a curse unless there is a welding link of some kind or other between the fathers and the children, upon some subject or other-and behold what is that subject? It is the baptism for the dead. For we without them cannot be made perfect; neither can they without us be made perfect"#Heb. 11:40. Neither can they nor we be made perfect without those who have died in the gospel also." (Kent P. Jackson, comp. and ed., Joseph Smith's Commentary on the Bible [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1994], 69 - 70.)
 
Joseph Smith
"These are principles in relation to the dead and the living that cannot be lightly passed over, as pertaining to our salvation. For their salvation is necessary and essential to our salvation, as Paul says concerning the fathers-that they without us cannot be made perfect-neither can we without our dead be made perfect.
 
"The greatest responsibility that God has laid upon us [is] to seek after our dead. The apostle says, 'They without us cannot be made perfect.' Now I am speaking of them. I say to you, Paul, you cannot be perfect without us. Those that are gone before and those who come after must be made perfect, and God has made it obligatory to man.
 
"The greatest responsibility laid upon us in this life is in relation to our dead. Paul [said], 'They cannot be made perfect without us.' For it is necessary that the seals are in our hands to seal our children and our dead for the dispensation of the fulness of times, a dispensation to meet the promises made by Jesus Christ before the foundation of the world for the salvation of man." (Kent P. Jackson, comp. and ed., Joseph Smith's Commentary on the Bible [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1994], 195.)
 
Theodore M. Burton
"We have assumed that this work was to be done merely as a gesture of grace on the part of the living for those of our ancestors who are dead. This is a misconception which comes from not understanding the full meaning of the gospel. The plan of salvation is the plan of saving the children of God in a family relationship. Indeed, we may call this a universal salvation because it applies to all men and women who will qualify themselves through repentance and desire to become the children of God. We cannot be saved without our progenitors. In spite of the faith of all the prophets as cited by Paul in the eleventh chapter of Hebrews, he concludes by saying:
 
 'And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise:
God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.' (Heb. 11:39-40.)
 
"We must be linked to them, and they to their fathers and mothers back to Father Adam and Mother Eve, and they to Jesus Christ, and he to God as his Only Begotten Son in the flesh. Thus to save our own selves and to complete our own salvation, we must have our hearts turned to our fathers seek out their identities, and perform the work of salvation for them. We will be held accountable for their blood unless we do so." (Conference Report, April 1965, Third Day-Morning Meeting 113.)