But no sooner had this message begin to spread than opposition to it began to grow. Mobs began to gather and an arrest warrant was swore out for Joseph Smith on the charge of being "a disorderly person" for preaching the Book of Mormon, but when he was found not guilty the mobs turned their attention to those who had joined this new religion.
At first it was just intimidation, harassment, and bullying but when this didn't deter the Saints, the mobs began to make plans to destroy this newly created church. However, on January 2, 1831, less than a year from when Joseph had organized the LDS Church, he received a revelation from God warning him "that the enemy in the secret chambers seeketh your lives." He next counseled Joseph "to treasure up wisdom" because if he didn't the wickedness of men would speak in a voice that would shake the earth. However, God comforted him saying, "but if ye are prepared ye shall not fear" (D&C 38:29,30).
To avoid this danger the Lord explained, "Wherefore, for this cause I gave unto you the commandment that ye should go to the Ohio and there I will give you my law and there I shall endow you with power from on high" (verse 32).
When members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints hear the phrase "endowed with power from on high" we usually associate that with the covenants we make in the temple where God promises to those who remain true and faithful to their covenants that He will endow them with all the power and glory which He Himself possesses.
When the Saints left the state of New York and moved to the town of Kirtland, Ohio, they did build a temple there but none of the exalting ordinances of salvation were performed in that temple. Then what did the Lord mean when He said that if the Saints moved to Ohio He would endow them with power from on high?
In Kirkland the Church continued to grow but, again, so did the opposition and by January, 1838 the Saints had to flee Kirtland and then later had to flee from Far West, Missouri, where they eventually moved to a piece of land on the banks of the Mississippi river in the state of Illinois. There they built at city that they named Nauvoo.
On January 10, 1840 the Lord commanded Joseph to again build a temple and the cornerstone of that edifice was laid on April 6 of that year. But, as before, it wasn't long before persecution reared its ugly head and the Saints found themselves being threatened, shot at, and their property destroyed. In June of 1844 Joseph Smith was arrested on trumped up charges and imprisoned, but before he could be brought to trial, a mob of men stormed the prison and murdered him, along with his brother Hyrum, in a volley of gunfire.
The Church now faced a leadership crisis and the Saints weren't sure what they should do but when it was finally decided that Brigham Young and the members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles would assume leadership of the church, Brigham commanded that the work on the Nauvoo temple should continue. The temple was finally completed a year and a half later and in December 1845 the first ordinances of exaltation were performed there.
However, after the death of Joseph Smith, the violence against the Saints didn't stop. In fact, it only seemed to get worse. Two months before the Nauvoo temple was finished, the Church held a conference in October where the issue of persecution was discussed and it was decided that the Saints would have to do what they had done before, which was to take what possessions they could carry and move to another location. This time, however, Brigham Young proposed that they move 1300 miles away and settle in the Salt Lake valley in the Rocky Mountains.
If that was to be their course of action, then why did they continue working on the temple? Why waste both the time and energy to finish a building they would no longer be able to use? Wouldn't it have been better for them to spend their time and energy getting themselves ready to leave?
After the temple had been finished and dedicated, the first ordinances of a modern-day temple were conducted on December 10, 1845 and by the end of December, 1,000 endowments had been performed. However, by now the persecutions had become so intense that on February 4, 1846, not even two months after the Nauvoo temple had begun its sacred work, the first of the Saints began leaving the city for the last time and by March no more ordinances were being performed in the temple.
The Saints has labored hard for five and a half years under very difficult circumstances to build the temple at Nauvoo and it was only used for approximately three months! Then what was the purpose of building it and why were so many Saints so anxious to receive their endowments? It might be said that they wanted to have their endowments in case they died before they got to the Salt Lake valley and could build another temple, but very few Saints died on the journey out west (comparatively speaking), and many of those that did die were children who don't need to be endowed. Furthermore, those who didn't die could have done the ordinance work for those Saints who did die on the journey once they had built a temple in their new location.
The weather in February 1846 was bitter cold and it has been said that it was the coldest winter on record. The Saints fled Nauvoo in such haste that they were able to take very little of their possession with them and as they traveled westward they had to endure bitter cold in the winter, heavy rains in the Spring, and scorching heat in the Summer. In addition to this, they had to suffer through thirst, hunger, exhaustion, sickness, physical injuries, and other difficulties. And then there were the emotional heartaches they had to endure such as when a loved one became gravely ill or died.
And yet, as they traveled, they would sing and when things got particularly rough, they would sing, "And should we die before our journey's through, HAPPY DAYS! All is well. We then are free from toil and sorrow too, with the just we shall dwell. But if our lives are spared again to see the saints their rest obtain, oh how we'll make this chorus swell, all is well! All is well!"
How could these Saints sing such a song after all the persecution they had face, after all they had already suffered, and all the difficulties they were currently going through? The answer is: they had been to the temple and had been endowed with power from on high. But to understand how they received that power and why it was of such a great benefit to them, we first need to understand what it means to be endowed with power from on high.
The word "endow" means "to bestow, bequeath, pass onto, give, grant, impart, confer, or award." Therefore, an "endowment" is a gift that is bestowed, or given, awarded, or conferred upon us. However, it is not a totally free gift but rather is one that we have to qualify for. For example, someone who graduates from college has a degree conferred upon them or, in other words, they have been endowed with a degree. However, they do not receive this degree just because someone gave it to them out of the kindness of their heart. They worked hard for that degree and, as such, they not only earned it but are worthy or entitled to receive it.
The word "power" means "the ability to do, act, or accomplish something." For example, a saw gives someone the ability or power to cut wood. This is why knowledge is power because it allows us to accomplish things we couldn't do without that knowledge. For example, those who know how to play the piano have the power to make beautiful music.
The term "on high" refers to God who lives "on high." Thus, to be "endowed with power from on high" simply means that God endows or gives or bestows upon us a gift that gives us a power to do something that we couldn't do without it. But in order for us to receive such a divine gift, we first have to be worthy of having it.
There are many such gifts that God bestows upon us or endows us with. The first such gift we receive from Him is the gift of baptism. Without baptism our sins cannot be washed away and as long as we are unclean we cannot enter into heaven. Therefore, baptism endows us with the power to live with God forever. But in order for us to receive this gift, we must first accept Jesus Christ as our Savior and Redeemer, repent of our sins, and be willing to keep His commandments. Those who do not accept these conditions are not entitled to the gift of baptism.
The next gift we receive from God is the gift of the Holy Ghost. This gift enables us to receive enlightenment from God, guidance from above, and divine comfort in times of distress. Yet, here again, in order to receive this gift we first have to be spiritually cleansed of our sins and in order to retain this gift we have to remain spiritually worthy of its presence.
The next gift we receive from God is the priesthood which is "conferred" upon us. In other words, those who receive the priesthood are endowed with God's power which then enables them to heal the sick, give divine blessings, pronounce prophecies, and preside in the kingdom of God. Yet the priesthood isn't given to just any male member of the Church. A person must first be living their life in such a way that they qualify to be endowed with this power.
In the temple a man and a woman are sealed to each other as husband and wife for not only this time here on earth but throughout all of eternity. However, this gift is bestowed only on those who have lived worthily enough to enter the temple. Without this divine gift, at death a husband and wife no longer have the power to remain married to each other.
And the same is true of the temple endowment. This ordinance involves the making of specific covenants with the Lord which, if we remain true and faithful to them, the Lord promises to endow us wilh all that He has, including all of His power and all of His glory. But there are other gifts that God bestows upon us that are not as evident or as easily recognized. As an example, when we obey the law of tithing, we are endowed with certain powers from God that those who do not obey that law are entitled to receive, and the same is true of those who keep the Word of Wisdom. In the same way, those who go to the temple and take upon themselves certain sacred covenants are endowed with more than just divine power in the eternities but they also receive divine powers in this life.
The Lord has explained that "there is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundation of the world, upon which all blessings are predicated - and when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated" (D&C 20,21). The reason why it was so vitally important for the Saints living in Nauvoo to partake of the ordinances of the temple before they headed west was because they needed God's blessings upon them to endure the hardships they would encounter along the way. In order for them to make it to the Rocky mountains they were going to need an increase of faith, patience, and strength, both physical, spiritual, and emotional, but the Lord couldn't bestowed those gifts upon them unless they first obeyed the law upon which those blessing are predicated.
The Saints had sacrificed much of their time, energy, and material possessions for five and a half years to build the best temple they could construct and then when they entered the temple they willingly and anxiously took upon themselves covenants that consecrated themselves to the Lord. It was because of their great sacrifice and their willingness to make those covenants that God was able to endow them with the power they needed to make that long and arduous journey.
This is the same reason why young men and women need to take out their endowments before they go on their mission. It's because of their willingness to consecrate themselves to the Lord that He is able to endow them with the divine power they need to preach the gospel. Without making those covenants they are not entitled to these kinds of blessings.
But God doesn't bless us only after we have proven our faithfulness to Him but He is also ready to bless us based just on our willingness to be faithful.
When we first accept Christ as our Savior, God is willing to wash away all of our sins just because we are willing to make a promise to keep His commandments. In other words, He endows us with the power to become completely clean of sin before we've even demonstrated that we will keep His commandments.
The same is true of receiving the divine gift of the Holy Ghost, and in order for someone to receive the priesthood - which is the power by which God governs the entire universe - He only requires that we show a willingness to be faithful to Him. And the same is true of entering His holy house, the temple. Even though God is a perfect being, He doesn't require that we be perfect first in order to come before Him. All He requires is that we show we are willing to strive to become perfect. And then, once we have shown a willingness to consecrate ourselves to Him through covenants, He is willing to endow us with even greater powers simply based on our word that we promise to serve Him.
The Lord asks so little of us in return for Him giving unto us such great and tremendous blessing, and the more faithful we are to Him the greater His blessings are to us.
As King Benjamin taught his people, "Behold, all that he (God) requires of you is to keep his commandments; and he has promised you that if you would keep his commandments ye should prosper" (Mosiah 2:22). And the way God prospers us in all things is by endowing us with power from on high.