What Did Joseph Smith Say about Your Divine Potential? 

Although Joseph Smith gave his King Follett discourse nearly 175 years ago, it can still teach us about our relationship with God.

"We must never give up." —Marianne Fisher

Photo by Sarah Cervantes

The Prophet Joseph Smith gave his King Follett discourse on April 7, 1844, in Nauvoo, Illinois. He was commemorating the passing of a faithful Church member named King Follett. The comprehensive doctrinal points Joseph discussed make this one of the Prophet’s most important sermons. Donald Q. Cannon shares the following three key points in his article in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism. (All quotes included below are by Joseph Smith.)

  1. The kinship between God and man. The Prophet revealed what he called the “great secret”: “if you were to see [God] today, you would see him like a man in form—like yourselves in all the person, image, and very form as a man.”
  2. Man’s potential. The intelligence of man is eternal, just as God is eternal. God became who he is by progressing through eternities. Jesus Christ followed the same path, doing what he had seen his Father do. Because we are children of a divine Father, we have the potential to become “heirs of God and joint-heirs with Jesus Christ.” By obeying gospel principles, individuals may go “from one small degree to another, and from a small capacity to a great one; from grace to grace, from exaltation to exaltation . . . until [they] arrive at the station of a God.”
  3. Opportunity for all souls to receive the gospel. Speaking of those who were not able to receive the gospel in this life, Joseph taught, “God hath made a provision that every spirit in the eternal world can be . . . saved unless he has committed [the] unpardonable sin.” Our divine potential is not limited by whether or not we had access to the gospel; God has prepared a way for everyone to reach their divine potential.

While our relationship to God and our divine potential are now familiar points of doctrine for Latter-day Saints, it is important to remember that these truths came from divine revelation given to Joseph Smith in this discourse. Because this knowledge was restored, we can better understand God’s plan for us and draw closer to him.

Read Donald Q. Cannon’s short summary of the King Follett discourse.

Source: Encyclopedia of Mormonism

—Heather Johnson, Mormon Insights

feature image by chris lawton

Find more insights

Four contemporary scribes recorded the King Follett Discourse as the Prophet Joseph Smith was speaking to the Saints in Nauvoo, Illinois. To learn more about and read these four versions, read Mackenzie Brown’s Mormon Insight‘s article “The King Follett Sermon: One Speech, Four Contemporary Accounts.”

Read Elder Richard G. Scott‘s article “Realize Your Full Potential” to learn how to use the Spirit to discern your divinely given capacities.

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