The Gethsemane Event in Church History

March 29, 2007    By: Matt W. @ 8:00 am   Category: Atonement & Soteriology,Theology

Ok, I am studying what the church has taught about Gethsemane, and it is pretty interesting to me, so I thought I would post it here and also ask for a little help.

You see, I can’t find any reference to Joseph Smith or Brigham Young ever mentioning Gethsemane in any sermon. (I am not including any statement in the current scriptures in this study.) Sure, they talk about the atonement in the abstract, but when it comes to the event in gethsemane, they seem to be silent.

Further, the only quote from John Taylor (He doesn’t even mention it in Mediation and Atonement! updated:I stand corrected, thanks Justin. )is the following:

It was necessary that he should have a body like ours, and be made subject to all the weaknesses of the flesh,-that the Devil should be let loose upon him, and that he should be tried like other men. Then, again, in Gethsemane, he was left alone; and so great was the struggle, that we are told he sweat, as it were, great drops of blood. In the great day when he was about to sacrifice his life, he said, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” He has passed through all this, and when he sees you passing through these trials and afflictions, he knows how to feel towards you-how to sympathise with you. It was necessary that he should pass this fiery ordeal; for such is the position of things, and such the decrees of the Allwise Creator.

-John Taylor, Journal of Discourses 7:194 [1]

I can’t find a single reference from Wilford Woodford on Gethsemane, but from Lorenzo Snow, I have the following three:

It was difficult for Jesus to accomplish the Atonement. Jesus, the Son of God, was sent into the world to make it possible for you and me to receive these extraordinary blessings. He had to make a great sacrifice. It required all the power that He had and all the faith that He could summon for Him to accomplish that which the Father required of Him. Had He fallen in the moment of temptation, what do you suppose would have become of us? Doubtless at some future period the plan would have been carried out by another person. But He did not fail, though the trial was so severe that He sweat great drops of blood. When He knelt there in the Garden of Gethsemane, what agony He must have experienced in contemplating His sufferings on the cross! His feelings must have been inexpressible. He tells us Himself, as you will find recorded in section 19 of the book of Doctrine and Covenants, that His suffering was so great that it caused even Him “to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit—and would that [He] might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink.” But He had in His heart continually to say, “Father, not my will, but Thine be done.” It was a dark hour for Him; and every man and woman who serves the Lord, no matter how faithful they may be, have their dark hours; but if they have lived faithfully, light will burst upon them and relief will be furnished. (18 May 1899, MS, 61:531.)

Do not compromise to avoid suffering. Some of our brethren have queried whether hereafter they could feel themselves worthy of full fellowship with prophets and Saints of old, who endured trials and persecutions; and with Saints of our own times who suffered in Kirtland, in Missouri, and Illinois. The brethren referred to have expressed regrets that they had not been associated in those scenes of suffering. If any of these are present, I will say, for the consolation of such, you have to wait but a short time and you will have similar opportunities, to your heart’s content. You and I cannot be made perfect except through suffering; Jesus could not. In His prayer and agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, He foreshadowed the purifying process necessary in the lives of those whose ambition prompts them to secure the glory of a celestial kingdom. None should try to escape by resorting to any compromising measures. “All who journey soon or late, Must come within the garden gate, And kneel alone in darkness there, And battle hard, yet not despair.” (10 January 1886, JD, 26:367.)

The Lord will help us overcome trials. From the time of our receiving the gospel to the present, the Lord has from time to time given us trials and afflictions if we may so call them; and sometimes these trials have been of that nature that we have found it very difficult to receive them without murmur and complaint. Yet at such times the Lord blessed us and gave us sufficient of His Spirit to enable us to overcome the temptations and endure the trials. In going through these trials and troubles we are doing no more than did the captain of our salvation. We are told by the Apostle Paul that He was made perfect through sufferings. And even He, the Son of God, at times found it very difficult. For example, in the Garden of Gethsemane, when the time approached that He was to pass through the severest affliction that any mortal ever did pass through, He undoubtedly had seen persons nailed to the cross, because that method of execution was common at that time, and He understood the torture that such persons experienced for hours. He went by Himself in the garden and prayed to His Father, if it were possible, that that cup might pass from Him; and His feelings were such that He sweat great drops of blood, and in His agony there was an angel sent to give Him comfort and strength. Even the Son of God required miraculous help under those extraordinary circumstances. So we have needed it at times, and so we may in the future. (4 November 1893, DW, 47:609.)

After this, I have no reference to Gethsemane from Joseph F. Smith, Heber J. Grant, or George Albert Smith. David O. McKay has numerous references, as do most Presidents post “Jesus the Christ”

So what’s the oldest reference to Gethsemane in post-1830 Church History that you know of? Am I just laccking the right sources or the right searches? Ought we assume that Gethsemane was not commonly understood as the place of atonement before Talmage brought it to light in his book?
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[1]This is one of only three references to Gethsemane in the whole Journal of Discourses, the other two being one of the Lorenzo Snow Quotes above and this from Elder Moses Thatcher:
“Public opinion followed Jesus Christ into the garden of Gethsemane when, alone and unwatched by His Apostles, He prayed to the Father for strength to endure suffering which caused drops of blood to ooze from every pore of his agonized body” JD 23:196

15 Comments »

  1. Perhaps you’re focusing too much on the word “Gethsemane” during your searches. Chapters 16 and 21 of Mediation and Atonement talk about what took place in Gethsemane without using the name. Taylor also mentions the subject in JD 20:255, 21:207, and 24:22.

    I checked the Gethsemane scriptural passages (e.g., Luke 22) using scripturesbeta.byu.edu and found other mentions by early LDS leaders.

    Comment by Justin — March 29, 2007 @ 9:07 am

  2. You’re forgetting that not all of the sermons given by the these prophets were recorded since it was not common practice at the time. So there may have very well have been sermons on gethsemane that were not recorded.

    Comment by Tina Harding — March 29, 2007 @ 9:28 am

  3. I think sometimes certain phrases come into fashion. You will find reference to Jesus suffering and bleeding all over the place, even though the actual location of Gethsemane isn’t mentioned.

    Comment by J. Stapley — March 29, 2007 @ 9:31 am

  4. Justin: Whoever you really are, you are amazing. I am always extremely impressed. I had not thought of the byu site and you are absolutely correct that I was focusing rather narrowly on Gethsemane. I will expand my view and look at Mediation and Atonement with more than a search engine.

    Tina: True, but that goes beyond the scope of what can be studied. I’m not trying to make some sort of anti-gethsemane claim. I am just interested in looking at what was considered important enough to get into most sermons in the time.

    J. What got me on this bent of study is the fact that John Widtsoe mentions the “bleed from every pore scripture” in D & C 19 directly in relation to the happenings on the cross. I was somewhat surprised at this, and thus am taking the opporunity to explore the place of Gethsemane in early thought. I will follow Justin’s guiding hand to more informaiton, but if Snow above is an indicator, it is interesting that he seems to feel that the pain in Gethsemane is only preparatory to the cross. But maybe that is only my reading.

    Comment by Matt W. — March 29, 2007 @ 9:43 am

  5. I also came across Orson Hyde’s description of his visit to Gethsemane:

    A Sketch

    (T&S 3:850)

    Comment by Justin — March 29, 2007 @ 11:14 am

  6. Fascinating topic! My observation has been that most other Christians have always focused on the cross as the place of the greatest suffering. Since we seem to have been largely shy of the cross our whole history I’m not going to be very surprised to find out that the whole issue was avoided until Talmage “gave us” Gethsemane, though I absolutely could be wrong.

    As I recall (and this is even more tenuous) there was a brief stint by McConkie to trying to reclaim the suffering on the cross while maintaining the Gethsemane view, some crazy idea that Jesus suffered once in the Garden with an angel to comfort him and once on the cross with absolutely zero help, like the one was a preparation for the other. (sorry no source, I’m useless today)

    Comment by lxxluthor — March 29, 2007 @ 1:29 pm

  7. Lxx, that view wasn’t McConkie’s but Talmage’s view. It’s in Jesus the Christ.

    “It seems, that in addition to the fearful suffering incident to crucifixion, the agony of Gethsemane had recurred, intensified beyond human power to endure. In that bitterest hour the dying Christ was alone, alone in most terrible reality. That the supreme sacrifice of the Son might be consummated in all its fullness, the Father seems to have withdrawn the support of His immediate Presence, leaving to the Savior of men the glory of complete victory over the forces of sin and death.” (Talmage, Jesus the Christ, p. 661.)

    This is the closest a quick search gave me to the equivilant from McConkie:

    “Where and under what circumstances was the atoning sacrifice of the Son of God made? Was it on the Cross of Calvary or in the Garden of Gethsemane? It is to the Cross of Christ that most Christians look when centering their attention upon the infinite and eternal atonement. And certainly the sacrifice of our Lord was completed when he was lifted up by men; also, that part of his life and suffering is more dramatic and, perhaps, more soul stirring. But in reality the pain and suffering, the triumph and grandeur, of the atonement took place primarily in Gethsemane.

    “It was there Jesus took upon himself the sins of the world on conditions of repentance. It was there he suffered beyond human power to endure. It was there he sweat great drops of blood from every pore. It was there his anguish was so great he fain would have let the bitter cup pass. It was there he made the final choice to follow the will of the Father. It was there that an angel from heaven came to strengthen him in his greatest trial. Many have been crucified and the torment and pain is extreme. But only one, and he the Man who had God as his Father, has bowed beneath the burden of grief and sorrow that lay upon him in that awful night, that night in which he descended below all things as he prepared himself to rise above them all.” (McConkie, DNTC, 1:774–75.)

    I am still exploring, and hope to be able to dig into more of the source material(Justin has provided me). It seems that for Orson Hyde, at least, something was going on in our conceptions of Gethsemane as early as 1842(This according to the link Justin provided). Orson said:

    Is that small enclosure in the valley of Kedron, where the boughs of those lonely olives are waving their green foliage so gracefully in the soft and gentle breeze, really the garden of Gethsemane, where powers infernal poured the flood of hell’s dark gloom around the princely head of the immortal Redeemer? Oh, yes! The fact that I entered the garden and plucked a branch from an olive, and now have that branch to look upon, demonstrates that all was real. There, there is the place where the Son of the Virgin bore our sins and carried ours sorrows–there the angels gazed and shuddered at the sight, waiting for the order to fly to his rescue; but no such order was given. The decree had passed in heaven, and could not be revoked, that he must suffer, that he must bleed, and that he must die. What bosom so cold, what feelings so languid, or what heart so unmoved that can withold [withhold] the humble tribute of a tear over this forlorn condition of the Man of sorrows?

    -TIMES AND SEASONS Vol. III. No. 18.] CITY OF NAUVOO, ILL. JULY 15, 1842. [Whole No. 54 A SKETCH Of the travels and ministry of Elder Orson Hyde. Trieste, January 1, 1842.

    I still can find no reference from Brigham Young or Joseph Smith back to a Gethsemane event, but I am looking. At any rate, it now appears the Taylor was perhaps the “conduit” and not Talmage. More on that forthcoming…

    Comment by Matt W. — March 29, 2007 @ 1:42 pm

  8. Brigham Young did reference the blood coming from every pore at least once, it seems:

    For this express purpose the Father withdrew His spirit from His Son, at the time he was to be crucified. Jesus had been with his Father, talked with Him, dwelt in His bosom, and knew all about heaven, about making the earth, about the transgression of man, and what would redeem the people, and that he was the character who was to redeem the sons of earth, and the earth itself from all sin that had come upon it. The light, knowledge, power, and glory with which he was clothed were far above, or exceeded that of all others who had been upon the earth after the fall, consequently at the very moment, at the hour when the crisis came for him to offer up his life, the Father withdrew Himself, withdrew His Spirit, and cast a veil over him. That is what made him sweat blood. If he had had the power of God upon him, he would not have sweat blood; but all was withdrawn from him, and a veil was cast over him, and he then plead with the Father not to forsake him.”No,” says the Father, “you must have your trials, as well as others.”

    Brigham Young, JD 3:206a

    It appears that the JD does have 5 or so references to sweating blood.

    Comment by Matt W. — March 29, 2007 @ 1:57 pm

  9. I hope I don’t annoy everyone else with my anal retentive habits on this post, I am sort of using it as a moving scrapbook of thoughts and ideas on the gethsemane event. Anyway, here is another JD entry from BY on Sweating Blood

    Jesus was appointed, from the beginning, to die for our redemption, and he suffered an excruciating death on the cross. A person possessing the power of the Gods has that power to sustain him in all his trials and sufferings. He has power and faith to endure unto sweating blood, to bearing thorns, and to being nailed upon a cross, as patiently as did our Saviour. Is this speaking disparagingly of his character? Not in the least. many of our people have suffered unto death. Could a God do more? He could not. Could he suffer more? Only in proportion to his intelligence, faith, and power, which also proportionally sustain him in his sufferings.

    JD 5:115

    Comment by Matt W. — March 29, 2007 @ 2:07 pm

  10. Is it safe to say that the doctrine of the atonement in Gethsemane was first explicitly taught by Talmage?

    Comment by Aaron — April 1, 2007 @ 9:38 pm

  11. Aaron – No. First, the Bible itself shows that the main suffering aspects of the atonement began in Gethsemane. But in the church some focus on Jesus’s agony in Gethsemane dates back to Joseph Smith (see D&C 19). Here is a quote from John Taylor in the 1880′s on it (Justin noted this in comment #1).

    I referred this morning to the feelings that prompted the acts of the Savior while upon the earth. He came not to do His own will, but the will of His Father who sent Him. It was a hard thing for Him to do. Did you ever think of it? When He found the accumulated weight of the sins of the world rolling upon His head, his feelings were so intense that He sweat great drops of blood. Could I tell it, or could you? No. Suffice it to say that He bore the sins of the world, and, when laboring under the pressure of those intense agonies, He exclaimed, “Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass.”

    Comment by Geoff J — April 1, 2007 @ 11:01 pm

  12. Aaron, I’d recommend checking out my comments. I was in error to make the Talmage assumption. I’ll post some prior quotes explicating the “gethsemane event” by Tyalor and Young later.

    What is interesting about the Gethsemane event is that god clearly taught it to Joseph in the D&C and in the Book of Mormon, but then gethsemane did get limited attention in his recorded sermons outside of the those scriptures. It’s actually awesome to see an example of God giving Joseph information that Joseph didn’t perhaps have hard and fast rules regarding. To me it’s proof that God is in charge and not Joseph.

    Anyway, I’ll post more when I get home for you on what Taylor said.

    Comment by Matt W. — April 2, 2007 @ 8:26 am

  13. AS advertised, here is John Taylor on the Gethsemane event:

    He fulfilled the law, met the demands of justice, and obeyed the requirements of His Heavenly Father, although laboring under the weight of the sins of the world, and the terrible expiation which He had to make, when, sweating great drops of blood, He cried: “Father, if it be possible let this cup pass from me; nevertheless not my will but thine be done,” and when expiring in agony upon the cross He cried, “It is finished,” and gave up the ghost.
    (John Taylor, Mediation and Atonement [Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 1882], 126 – 127.)

    We are told that “without shedding of blood is no remission” of sins. This is beyond our comprehension. Jesus had to take away sin by the sacrifice of Himself, the just for the unjust, but, previous to this grand sacrifice, these animals had to have their blood shed as types, until the great antitype should offer up Himself once for all. And as He in His own person bore the sins of all, and atoned for them by the sacrifice of Himself, so there came upon Him the weight and agony of ages and generations the indescribable agony consequent upon this great sacrificial atonement wherein He bore the sins of the world, and suffered in His own person the consequences of an eternal law of God broken by man. Hence His profound grief, His indescribable anguish, His overpowering torture, all experienced in the submission to the eternal fiat of Jehovah and the requirements of an inexorable law.

    The suffering of the Son of God was not simply the suffering of personal death; for in assuming the position that He did in making an atonement for the sins of the world He bore the weight, the responsibility, and the burden of the sins of all men, which, to us, is incomprehensible. As stated, “the Lord, your Redeemer, suffered death in the flesh; wherefore he suffereth the pains of all men;” and Isaiah says: “Surely he hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows,” also, “The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all,” and again, “He hath poured out his soul unto death, and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sins of many;” or, as it is written in the Second Book of Nephi: “For behold, he suffereth the pains of all men; yea, the pains of every living creature, both men, women and children, who belong to the family of Adam;” whilst in Mosiah it is declared: “He shall suffer temptations, and pain of body, hunger, thirst and fatigue, even more than man can suffer, except it be unto death; for behold, blood cometh from every pore, so great shall be his anguish for the wickedness and abominations of his people.”

    Groaning beneath this concentrated load, this intense, incomprehensible pressure, this terrible exaction of Divine justice, from which feeble humanity shrank, and through the agony thus experienced sweating great drops of blood, He was led to exclaim, “Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me.” He had wrestled with the superincumbent load in the wilderness, He had struggled against the powers of darkness that had been let loose upon him there; placed below all things, His mind surcharged with agony and pain, lonely and apparently helpless and forsaken, in his agony the blood oozed from His pores. Thus rejected by His own, attacked by the powers of darkness, and seemingly forsaken by His God, on the cross He bowed beneath the accumulated load, and cried out in anguish, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me!” When death approached to relieve Him from His horrible position, a ray of hope appeared through the abyss of darkness with which He had been surrounded, and in a spasm of relief, seeing the bright future beyond, He said, “It is finished! Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.” As a God, He descended below all things, and made Himself subject to man in man’s fallen condition; as a man, He grappled with all the circumstances incident to His sufferings in the world. Anointed, indeed, with the oil of gladness above His fellows, He struggled with and overcame the powers of men and devils, of earth and hell combined; and aided by this superior power of the Godhead, He vanquished death, hell and the grave, and arose triumphant as the Son of God, the very eternal Father, the Messiah, the Prince of peace, the Redeemer, the Savior of the world; having finished and completed the work pertaining to the atonement, which His Father had given Him to do as the Son of God and the Son of man. As the Son of Man, He endured all that it was possible for flesh and blood to endure; as the Son of God He triumphed over all, and forever ascended to the right hand of God, to further carry out the designs of Jehovah pertaining to the world and to the human family.

    And again, not only did His agony affect the mind and body of Jesus, causing Him to sweat great drops of blood, but by reason of some principle, to us unfathomable, His suffering affected universal nature.

    (John Taylor, Mediation and Atonement [Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 1882], 151.)

    I will consider the character of Jesus for a short time. I will take him for an example, and ask why he was persecuted and afflicted? Why was he put to death? We are told by the Apostle that it was necessary for him, of whom are all things, to make the captain of our salvation perfect through suffering. It was absolutely necessary that he should pass through this state, and be subject to all the weaknesses of the flesh—that he should also be subjected to the buffetings of Satan the same as we are, and pass through all the trials incident to humanity, and thereby comprehend the weakness and the true character of human nature, with all its faults and foibles, that we might have a faithful High Priest that would know how to deliver those that are tempted; and hence one of the Apostles, in speaking of him, says, “For we have not a High Priest which cannot be touched with the feelings of our infirmities, but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” (Heb. iv. 15.) Here, then, we find the reason why he was tempted and afflicted. He stood at the head of that dispensation, and came to atone for the transgressions of men-to stand at the head as the Saviour of men. It was necessary that he should have a body like ours, and be made subject to all the weaknesses of the flesh,-that the Devil should be let loose upon him, and that he should be tried like other men. Then, again, in Gethsemane, he was left alone; and so great was the struggle, that we are told he sweat, as it were, great drops of blood. In the great day when he was about to sacrifice his life, he said, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” He has passed through all this, and when he sees you passing through these trials and afflictions, he knows how to feel towards you-how to sympathise with you. It was necessary that he should pass this fiery ordeal; for such is the position of things, and such the decrees of the Allwise Creator.
    -John Taylor, Journal of Discourses 7:199

    “For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.” Sometimes it was trying and perplexing, sometimes it was hard to endure; but he did endure and suffer it, and he accomplished the work he was sent to do. But sometimes when struggling with the powers of darkness, and environed with the corrupt and ungodly, he gazed upon and comprehended the gravity of the situation and things before him, it so operated upon him, that in mortal agony he sweat great drops of blood. “For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the Captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.” “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but one who was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” He endured everything possible for mortal to endure on the earth. Finally, when the last struggle came, said he, “Father,” if thou art willing, “if it be possible, remove this cup from me: nevertheless, not my will, but thine, be done.”

    JD 20:256

    Jesus himself sweat great drops of blood, and in the agony of his suffering cried out, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” And why is it thus? We are told by one of old, “For it became him, for whom all things, and by whom all things, in bringing many things unto glory, to make the Captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.” For we have not an High Priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” Oh, what a happy thing it would be if we could follow in his footsteps in that particular! But we have our weaknesses and infirmities in common with all men

    JD 20:259

    Jesus came to do the will of his Father, and though in doing it he sweat great drops of blood, and begged of his Father to let the cup pass if possible, yet “not my will,” he said, “but thine be done;” and when groaning in mortal agony he cried, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me.” And though he could have commanded twelve legions of angels, who would have obeyed him, yet in obedience to the mandate of his Father, he quietly said “It is finished,” and gave up the ghost.

    JD 20:316

    when he was about to leave his disciples he knew what the powers of darkness were for he battled with them; and, indeed he was able to do so, having been anointed with the oil of gladness above his fellows. But notwithstanding this and the fact of his being the Only Begotten of the Father, yet, when he came to wrestle with the difficulties he had to cope with, he sweat great drops of blood, and said “Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; I shrink to encounter the things I have to cope with, but nevertheless, not my will but thine be done.”

    JD 21:207

    He came not to do His own will, but the will of His Father who sent Him. It was a hard thing for Him to do. Did you ever think of it? When He found the accumulated weight of the sins of the world rolling upon His head, his feelings were so intense that He sweat great drops of blood. Could I tell it, or could you? No. Suffice it to say that He bore the sins of the world, and, when laboring under the pressure of those intense agonies, He exclaimed, “Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass.” But it was not possible. It was the decree of God; the fiat of the great Jehovah, and he had it to do.

    JD 24:34

    Comment by Matt W. — April 2, 2007 @ 4:08 pm

  14. I came across this blog preparing for the Gospel Doctrine Lesson 26 I’m teaching tomorrow. Like Justin, I was surprised to find the paucity of scriptures and statement from early church prophets about Gethsemane. From what is written about Christ’s suffering in the Gospels, I wonder if the apostles and writers of the Gospels fully understood the significance of what was happening in the garden, or if it was so sacred that they didn’t know if they should talk about it. (John, who of the gospel authors was closest eye witness to Gethesemany, skips the whole prayer and suffering in the garden and goes right to the betrayal.) The only other indirect references to Gethsemane in the standard works I could find were in Mosiah 3:7 and D&C 19:16-19, which both talk about Christ’s suffering for our sins causing him to sweat drops of blood, which we know happened in the garden and not on the Cross. Although the Atonement is the most important event in the history of the universe, it appears that our understanding about the significance of Christ’s suffering in Gethsemane has been inherited very quietly and subtly through the years, rather than by a loud, revelatory headline from Joseph Smith.

    I got some great quotes and information here. Thanks for your help!

    KC

    Comment by kc — July 7, 2007 @ 6:25 am

  15. Out of curiosity, where did you read Widtsoe’s comments on D&C 19 being connected to the cross?

    Comment by WalkerW — July 17, 2011 @ 7:47 am

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