Kings and Priests
Spencer W. Kimball
(February 15, 1966, BYU Speeches of the Year, 1966 3-18)
My beloved brothers and sisters. The title of my address today couldbe "Kings and Priests"; or it could be "A Tale of Three Contemporaries." This is a story of kings and queens, of priests and priestesses, of real and eternal royalty.
In June, 1894, three babies were born. Twins landed in Arizona, and the third, a man-child also, was delivered in England, where his birth was heralded on front pages of every newspaper of the realm, for he came to a royal home where town criers announced hourly the progress of the delivery. In pompous ceremony in the great cathedral, this little fellow was given the name of Edward VIII. His father was George V, the crown prince; his grandfather, Edward VII, King of England and Wales and Emperor of India.
Young Edward was born heir to an earthly kingdom of many centuries duration, and his destiny would bring him to the throne with crown and scepter, under the Divine Right of Kings. Divinely called by the Lord, supposedly, he would not be responsible to his subjects for his governing nor to any human court of appeal. Some thought that such a representative of God "could do no wrong."
As a child, Edward knew that, barring unforeseen circumstances, he would someday sit on the throne, wear a crown and hold a scepter, where now his grandfather, Edward VII, ruled and where later his father, George V, would reign. He learned that, in addition to being King and Emperor, he would also be the head of the Church of England-born to it, not called to it.
Across the sea in sunny Arizona, the twin boys were born the same day and month and year. The first to come into the world would be called John, and he who came fifteen minutes later would be called Peter. These names, John and Peter, were given them in the sacrament meeting by a proud father. There were no bulletins, no town criers, no hospitals, not even a doctor to deliver them. A midwife, experienced and kindly, assisted in the birth. Few luxuries did this family have. The father was a good, common country farmer and his wife, just a sweet, personable country girl; but both had character, ambition, and intelligence.
Humble their birth, lowly their circumstances, and goodly their parents, these twins were born "under the covenant" and were at once princes to heavenly kingdoms under the rule of the divine opportunity for kingship. Heirs they were to the same kind of kingdoms as their father and forefathers Jacob, Isaac, Abraham, Noah, Adam, and numerous others.
These permanent eternal kingdoms must be earned, not only be born to; but if attained, would never end and the glory would be most spectacular.
Early in their lives, they were likewise told of their destiny in Primary, Sunday School, seminary, sacrament meetings, stake conferences, and in their home by faithful parents.
They learned that they would not become kings merely by the death of an ancestor, but by living all of the commandments and having performed all the proper sacred ordinances.
They read the scriptures which said:
Peter and John came to know that such totally faithful people
It must have been vague and complex to the little boys, but gradually they became aware that they could dwell in the presence of God and His Christ forever and ever and that they could be just men made perfect through Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant.
They eventually came to know they could become celestial, having a glory like that of the sun, even the glory of God, the highest of all.
The two little Arizona princes grew up on the farm; the English prince in Britain. He wore velvets and satins, attended school with guards at his side and the best tutors to train him. The twins wore overalls and sweaters and went to school in the "little red schoolhouse." No insignia was on their coats, nor were they pampered nor protected from the little fights and bloody noses of childhood.
The eventual royal role for them to play must have been far away and misty to the twins, whose kingship was farther removed; but Edward lived in a royal environment and saw kings and queens and princes from many lands and was immersed in the royal pageantry extravaganzas which would keep him conscious of his future.
The little farm boys were interested in kites and marbles and frogs, likes and ball games and spinning tops. It may have been to such as they the Lord addressed His scripture:
Years passed, as years are wont to do. The boys came to their midteens The twins were handsome, tall fellows, favorites on the athletic field, popular in school activities, alert in seminary and Church organizations where they were learning of their far-away destiny. They would soon belong to the royal priesthood and become eligible to incomparable and eternal kingdoms. They were now reading scriptures which were being unfolded, bringing into focus kings and priests and kingdoms, and principalities and powers and dominions.
As a matter of course, Edward was attending the Church of England in great splendor-the church of which he would someday be the head. Edward might come to his earthly throne regardless of his morals, or worthiness; the twins to theirs onlythrough righteousness. Though Edward might rule for 35 or 40 years over millions of people, the twins properly qualifying could reign eternities over a posterity as numerous as the stars in the heavens. These promises were coming to have new glorious meaning to Peter, but less to John, who was now dating steady and becoming careless as to his duties.
At 17 the twins were finishing high school in a whirlwind of athletic, social and academic programs, while across the ocean there were important happenings: King Edward VII, Edward's grandfather, died, and the father, George V, came to the throne. Young Edward was now declared to be the Prince of Wales, the Earl of Chester, and the Duke of Cornwall, (July 13, 1911). (Encyclopedia Americana, 1946, Vol. IX, 706.)
The Prince was a likeable and friendly sort. All three of these boys served their countries in World War I and may have fought on the same battlefields, They all received medals for courageous service. Edward served with distinction for 18 months in France and Flanders and in the Mediterranean. Lord Kitchener protested the hazards in which fearless Edward found himself, and said: "Get killed if you must, but what happens if you are taken prisoner?" (Ibid.)
When the war was ended, the three were mission age. Peter had been an efficient proselyting missionary. John had not accepted a mission call. Now the three were in college: The Prince-Duke-Earl attended the finest of his country; the twins, their state university. Peter was active in institute activities. John was disinterested.
Encyclopedia Americana said of Prince Edward:
He was called England's "super-salesman" and was a good-will ambassador for his country. Highly educated, with a delightful personality, the Prince Charming was now a world idol. Yet, he never married.
In college, John was a sport and playboy. Smart, handsome, personable and popular, he found the nonmembers of the Church less inhibited and made his friends and dated among them. His dating was not a real courtship. It degenerated gradually into a late-hour affair with all that goes with dark nights, lonely roads, abandoned canyons, and ended with an abrupt Las Vegas marriage. He had ignored his covenants.
Peter progressed in Church activities. His temple marriage was a solemn one. His twin, John, was not present, for he had no temple recommend.
Many years have passed. The three, now 42 years old, are successful with degrees and positions of importance and renown. Peter has a large family of bright, alert children from teen-age down. John has three sons, the eldest said to have been conceived out of wedlock.
Prosperous John was concerned with his earthly kingdom and he seemed to be a Midas, every venture turning into wealth. His family, including the three growing boys, concerned themselves with acquisition and social life and the things of this world. His sons, now in their teens, were growing up out of the Church, without auxiliary programs, seminary, or priesthood. This family golfed and skied, swam, hunted and fished on the Sabbath. Cocktails were on every social program. John was unrepentant andwasmoving farther and farther from his throne-it was so vague and misty, so dim and unreal to him now. It was as though he were moving into a fog and could see only those things immediately in front of him.
Like the children of Israel, he had hardened his heart and rejected the exalting program. He knew that without the ordinances of the gospel 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." (D&C 84:21D&C 84:22D&C 84:21-22.)
In hot pursuit of pleasure, wealth, distinction, and the applause of men, these eternal things meant little to him now. Building his temporary, short-lived earthly kingdom, he had overlooked this important fact, that:
But his worthy brother, Peter, and his large family were close to the Church. Family prayers, home evenings, attendance at meetings, tithing, Word of Wisdom, and all the standards of the Church were followed religiously; and here was the ideal home and family.
Of men like Peter the scriptures have said:
Peter was on his way to kingship and godhood. The Psalmist had sung:
And Peter was well on his way toward this glorious goal to become one of those who inherits positions, titles, powers beyond human understanding.
The latter-day Prophet Joseph Smith spoke of men like Peter:
In this eventful forty-second year, Edward's father, King George V, died (January 20, 1936) and Edward ascended to the throne of England and became "Edward, Duke of Windsor (formerly Edward VIII, King of Great Britain and Ireland and of the British dominions beyond the seas, Emperor of India." (Ency. Amer., op. cit, 706.)
With the government in the hands of competent men, the new King had time, freedom, and wealth to pursue his own desires. One early diversion was a yacht trip on the Adriatic Sea. Among the guests was a beautiful woman, Mrs. Wallis Warfield Simpson, the wife of a London ship broker, Ernest Simpson. She was an American, born in Pennsylvania. The cultured and attractive young socialite had her debut at 18 in Baltimore, and at 20 she married Earl W. Spencer, Jr., of the U. S. Navy, from whom she was divorced about 11 years later; and the following year she married Mr. Simpson, and then moved to London.
She had known King Edward earlier. Now five years later, this married woman was a guest of the King on the luxury yacht in the warm waters of the Adriatic Sea. This cruise was background for the revolutionary changes which were destined to rock the British Empire and shock the world. In this yacht developed a friendship which in a short time ripened into a romance that had repercussions throughout the Empire from one end to the other. (See Ibid. )
Newspapers in England and America were showing the King and the lady holding hands as they strolled along the decks.
That the couple were madly in love with each other was the implication in the newspaper stories. (Ibid., 707.)
Then, suddenly, like a bolt of lightning, came Mrs. Simpson's application for divorce from Simpson; and the gossip became thicker and traveled faster than anything had ever traveled throughout the kingdom for a long period.
Here was an unusual situation: an American divorcee, now a married woman, and the King of a vast empire in an illicit love affair!-a woman with a living husband and a King who was head of the great populous Church of England courting! How shocking!
The toppling Simpson marriage was doomed to end in short order. A King had stepped from the shadows.
The summer ended. The yacht cruise was over. The two principals returned to England and France. Short months were passing rapidly, and legally trained men were clearing the way for the divorce which was to rid her of a second husband and make way for a third, and it would be final in April, 1937, after six months.
The American papers were playing up the story. The British papers were keeping silence as near as possible.
Then the London Times of November 30, 1936, published an editorial which really was to shake the world:
Then the storm broke.
The Bishop of Bradford spoke out in condemnation. All newspapers reported the Bishop's address, from which I quote:
I consulted Webster, who informed me that a morganatic marriage is . . . a marriage where one of royal family marries one of inferior rank and wherein the wife, if inferior, does not acquire the husband's rank, and the children do not succeed to the titles, fiefs, or entailed property of the parent of higher rank.
Mrs. Simpson left England, went to France, and issued a statement that:
The King had "let the cat out of the bag" when he first informed Baldwin of his intention to marry Mrs. Simpson whenever she should be free.
An Instrument of Abdication sent to Parliament by the King, December 10, 1936, read as follows, was accepted almost immediately:
Albert, Henry, and George, his brothers, Duke of York, Duke of Gloucester,and the Duke of Kent, were the signed witnesses.
Baldwin said to the House of Commons he had talked to Edward, October20 and November 16, who had said, "I am going to marry Mrs. Simpson and I am prepared to go." (Ibid.)
It is claimed that this was the first voluntary abdication ever signed by a king of England. The phrase "By the Grace of God" was omitted from the instrument.
Had His Majesty followed custom, his instrument of abdication would have begun: "I, Edward VIII, by the Grace of God" of Great Britain, Ireland and the British Dominions Beyond the Seas, King, Defender of the Faith, Emperor of India . . . (Ibid.)
The House of Commons gave "effect" to the instrument of abdication, and it was passed by both houses of Parliament, December 11, 1936-one day later.
For 11 months Edward VIII had been King over a quarter of the earth's surface and population.
Speaking of his brother who would succeed him, he said:
He said, "I now quit, altogether, public affairs and I lay down my burden." (Ibid.)
That night, December 12, 1936, he left his country for Austria via France.
The new King immediately made the former King, Duke of Windsor. The new Duke of Windsor, Edward VIII, and Mrs. Bessie Simpson were married June 3, 1937.
More than three-score years and ten have sped by and much water has turned many wheels and run over many dams since that eventful day in June, 1894, when three male children had come into this world with such fantastic destinies. Let us review the status of these three contemporaries.
The Duke of Windsor, His Royal Highness, the ex-King, was in 1965 the feature actor in the play, A King's Story, filmed in England and France: "His vehicle a bitter-sweet recounting of his days from Victoria's time to the astonishing abdication that ended in his own short reign and shook the empire."
In the premiere film we shall see the picture of a king who abdicated his throne and let his infatuation for an attractive woman deprive him of his royal throne and scepter. Today, he is wrinkled; his hair is gray. Once a prince, a king, an emperor, head of the populous Church of England, he is now a private citizen, heir to no throne, earthly or heavenly. He may never return to the throne of England. He abdicated. Of course, he can still claim a heavenly crown if he is willing to pay the price. Unless there are early changes in attitude and interest, he may die an earthly duke but not a heavenly king, for precious time is passing. If he fails to qualify, he will be a single person in eternity-never the head of a family as he said he had craved; possibly no children, posterity or increase as he said he was deprived of. He will be a servant to a king, but never priest nor king.
The woman for whom he abdicated and gave up so much will also be single, neither wife nor mother, unless she meets the requirements. All three of her husbands will be strangers to her. And, she and the ex-King may both be servants forever-not rulers. Imagine, if you can, the ex-King and his charming wife as everlasting servants to others, yet that is their destiny unless something about it is done soon-servants, not rulers. The Lord has pronounced it. (See D&C 132:1D&C 132.)
Perhaps a little differently from John, his contemporary, Edward, now only the Duke of Windsor, was exiled not only from England, but from exalted kingdoms. Not only did he relinquish the crown after 11 months and 21 days, depriving himself of his earthly kingdom, but he also deprived any children he might have the same throne, crown, scepter, and privileges. Did he have a right to deprive his possible children of life, opportunity, sonship, leadership, kingship? He gave up all this for the woman he said he loved, and in the act relinquished for eternity the very woman he thought he loved. In these later years the man Edward and his wife could investigate, accept, and magnify the gospel and have the same blessings as Peter. It is not likely he will avail himself of these matchless privileges, for one must be humble and courageous and spiritual and prayerful to merit these blessings.
The ex-King is a little like Atahualpa, the Inca. When in 1532 Francisco Pizarro brought his small Spanish army to Tumbes in the Andean region, he found a land of limitless wealth and a gullible people. Atahuapa, on the eve of being proclaimed Inca, the supreme god of his world, felt he had nothing to fear from a few mailed, helmeted horse-borne warriors. But with the cannon unknown to the Incas, and fear and superstition as their weapons, the Spanish subdued the Indians and Atahualpa was imprisoned. He offered a roomful of gold for his freedom. He was willing to give up all his gold for his life. But he lost his gold, then also his life.
A strange anomaly! When the King gave up his kingdom to get the woman he thought he loved, he lost his earthly kingdom and placed his wife in jeopardy for eternity.
As for John who was also born to greatness and trained toward the incomparable eternal goal, he had also lost his way. Once he was a prince and heir to greater dominions than an earthly empire, but it was evidently too vague and far away and demanding for him. He lived for the present and lost his way to the distant, glorious future. Against all the efforts of many people, he abdicated his future throne and relinquished his right to eternal royalty and kingship. He traded his birthright, as did Esau, for a mess of pottage, a mere few decades of fun and pleasure, public applause, comforts.
Last year he died. The funeral was spectacular. Many of the community folks were there. Mountains of flowers decorated the church which he had not entered many times in a half century. His body was finally back in the chapel of the Church he had abandoned. His wife had finally yielded to the pleadings of his aging, faithful parents.
Viewers had passed by the casket in the mortuary and noted that his head was still covered with curly locks of hair, now gray. The white shirt, the black tie, and the black suit in which his body lay gave him immaculate grooming, as throughout his lifetime. He could have been dressed in fine linen of pure white like the clothing spoken of by John the Revelator, who said of the bride of the Lamb, that
John could have been clothed in "white raiment" promised to all who are faithful and true, "that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear" (Rev. 3:18Rev. 3:18.)
Many of his acquaintances returned to their offices, saddened with broken hearts, not for his death, but for the condition of his life and death. The family dutifully followed the remains to the grave. Great as were his wealth, his mansion on the hill, his Cadillacs, his stocks and bonds, his cattle, and his oil wells in Oklahoma, his casket, though elegant, like that of poor paupers, was only about seven feet long, two feet wide, and of shallow depth; and old Mother Earth who gave him his body-dear Mother Earth, which he had exploited for half a century; precious Mother Earth, which he might have had for an eternal inheritance-opened her mouth and loaned him her bosom for his body's resting place, perhaps willingly, perhaps grudgingly, the little space of about two cubic yards. Her bosom ached as her eyes watered at so promising a man having missed the mark so far. His extensive possessions and accumulations were soon in the courts with relatives quarreling over them. His spiritual destiny was not much to be coveted.
John had lost his way. He had abdicated his throne, his princehood, his kingship, his godhood, for who knows what? Let him now, today, as he looks down upon it all with sight no longer limited by poor physical eyes-let him now appraise his positions of prominence, his directorship, his managerships, his influence, his high honors. Let him now count his friends whom he may never see again. Let him now evaluate his influence. How many can he now employ? How much weight can he now throw around? To how many can he dictate? Let him now, today, clip his bond coupons, deposit his dividends, count his cattle, harvest his acres, balance his bank account. He failed to invest real capital. He spent it. It is not available to him now. The courts have it. In the vernacular of the street, he has had it. The good things of the earth he has lost. He has used them up. He has spent his capital. Spent or dissipated capital pays no dividends and no interest.
John's total family had missed the goal. They were deprived because of John. The wife was a worldly woman; and as for the sons and their families, they were strangers to the Church, with no missions, no temple marriages, no spiritual experiences and eternal accomplishments. The sons were banker, lawyer and physician and respected in their professions. John it was who led them off, who closed their doors, who will pay heavily for their deprivations. His total family knew the Church of the Lamb only historically. They were unacquainted with their God, their Christ, their Savior. They had little knowledge of His ways and requirements and blessings. And this limitation and deprivation was largely because of John, the dead man, John, their ancestor, who chose his and their ways of life.
This is the sad lot of many children of thoughtless, selfish parents, who choose the careless or evil way for their children. It reminds us of the sacred scriptures coming from Liberty Jail, from the great Prophet, who referred to such as the "servants of sin" and the "children of disobedience" themselves, who bring to themselves and their posterity bondageand death. (See D&C 121:16D&C 121:17D&C 121:18D&C 121:16-18.)
Their basket shall not be full, their houses and their barns shall perish, and they themselves shall be despised by those that flattered them.
They shall not have right to the priesthood, nor their posterity after them from generation to generation (D&C 121:20D&C 121:21D&C 121:20-21.)
Bad enough it is to bring bondage to oneself; but criminal for one to set stakes or to make plans which might bring deprivation and death to their posterity.
John had lost not only himself but had led his posterity into the thicket of darkness from which they seemed unable to extricate themselves-many descendants left to wander aimlessly through life's maze.
Moses wrote of "visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me." (Ex. 20:5Ex. 20:5.) The prophet Ezra also spoke of it:
The stalwart and faithful Peter also died not long ago. His was a large funeral, also, and many people present had been blessed and helped on their way by him. Numerous were the stories of his goodness, his sacrifice, his devotion, his kindness to all whom he touched. His children were all prosperous people with excellent families, much honored. He left his small assets to the Church for missionary work since his wife had pre-deceased him.
In his casket, he was as radiant as a body can be after its spirit has gone. Or was it still around? He was immaculately dressed in his temple robes, white robes, made "white in the blood of the Lamb." (Rev. 7:14Rev. 7:14.) He was prepared physically and spiritually for the trumpet sound when the graves will be opened. This great prince, holding the Royal Priesthood after the Order of the Son of God, was ready. He had received that
He knew this well:
He had read from John the Revelator how the elders fell down before the Lamb with their harps:
He knew and his loved ones knew that:
Now, you 10,000 priests and priestesses, where do you stand?
You are heirs to great fortunes, for eternal life is the greatest gift.
What will you do with it? You are entitled to a kingdom or a queendom. You are princesses and princes. Do you prize your inheritance? Will you abdicate and relinquish your heavenly rights to all that is your due? Doyou but realize what the Lord has in store for you? Do you know what you could discard in a moment of carelessness and heedlessness? The Lord told his servants:
The king's highway—the royal road to eternal joys and exaltation—is a hard road, full of sacrifices and restrictions and hard work. The way is narrow but it is straight, well-marked, and strongly-beamed. But if you get off course, the dot and dash tapping gets dimmer and fainter till it fades out entirely.
The permanent kingdom is yours, not for the asking, but for the earning.
Will you abdicate it? That is much easier than to claim it. Will you, like John, voluntarily renounce the throne? And through carelessness and heedlessness voluntarily relinquish your right to this powerful and blessed privilege? Will you forfeit your crown? Will you turn over your scepter to another? It follows easily. To do so, you need only to forget the Lord, ignore His commandments, become critical or bitter or inactive. Other things follow in turn and your kingship and queenship are in jeopardy!
John wanted the world. He got a good share of it for a few decades, but he paid a terrific price. It is as though he paid a million dollars for a door mat. He gave up an eternal kingdom for his considerable slice of this world for those few years.
He died. He left all of his things. He abandoned his nonmember wife. He had no right to die and leave her desolate, single, for eternity. He passed away. How cowardly for him to die and leave his posterity as it were in a Sahara Desert of barren sand when he could have left them in a watered garden-to leave them starving and cold and numbed when he could have left them fed and faithful, warmed and provided for. He had no right to die and leave them where he had placed them through his failures.
Serious enough to deprive himself far worse to dispossess his posterity of parents, leadership, kingship, and royalty.
John gambled. He placed his every effort, ability, interest on the table; and when the wheel quit spinning, the stakes were lost. He lost his family. He lost his little world, and was now "wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked." (Rev. 3:17Rev. 3:17.)
What are you going to do, my young friends? Your answer measures your degree of maturity.
Children grab what they want now. Adults can wait for the tree to grow and the fruit to ripen. Children spend their principal now. Adults can wait for interest and dividends. The immature are impatient for the good things today. The mature person can wait and save and enjoy indefinitely. The immature will do the thing which satisfies his immediate wants, his desires, his passions. The mature one will restrain himself, and wisely choose and plan for the ultimate good.
Edward gave up all for the woman he thought he loved. John gave up eternity for the world. Peter gave up all worldly trifles to live with the woman he really loved through eternity.
O, my beloved youth, I pray you, date faithful members, marry only in the holy temples of God, plan your course, chart your way, live righteously always, listen to your leaders, read the scriptures, think sanely, pray much and often, earn your eternal throne, claim your crown, hold tightly the scepter, keep your inheritance inviolate.
May you precious young people never abdicate your possible thrones, but become priests and kings of the most high throughout eternity, I pray in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.