At the date of this revelation, 1 December 1831, the Saints did not yet have means of publicly defending the Church when it was under attack from critics and apostates. Those who were willing to listen needed to hear viewpoints other than those of the unbelievers.
Ezra Booth, a former Methodist minister who joined the Church when he witnessed a healing, turned apostate and wrote nine letters against the Church. The letters, published in the Ohio Star at Ravenna, Ohio, were highly critical, and the Prophet Joseph Smith wrote that they, “by their coloring, falsity, and vain calculations to overthrow the work of the Lord, exposed [Booth’s] weakness, wickedness and folly, and left him a monument of his own shame, for the world to wonder at” (History of the Church, 1:217). Booth was not the first to apostatize, but he was the first Church member to write anti-Mormon literature and publish it.
A Church conference was held 1 November 1831, during which it was decided to print and publish revelations given through Joseph Smith to strengthen the Saints against the attacks of critics and apostates. Once the arrangements were made for publishing the revelations, Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon resumed work on the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible. Meanwhile, the agitation caused by Ezra Booth had grown so serious that on the first day of December the Lord called Joseph and Sidney from their work of translation to proclaim the gospel to the world. They left in haste for Kirtland, Ohio. As Smith and Sjodahl observed, “Sometimes it is wise to ignore the attacks of the wicked; at other times it is necessary to meet them, fearlessly and with ability” (Commentary, p. 423; see also History of the Church, 1:238–39).
“The Prophet, by this time, had learned many great and glorious truths, partly by the direct Revelations he had received, and partly by close study of the Scriptures. To the world, many of these truths were ‘mysteries.’ The time had come to reveal them, and when they were revealed, or unveiled, they would be mysteries no longer. When the gospel of Christ was first preached by Peter, Paul, and the other Apostles of their day, the doctrine of the Incarnation was a mystery ([1 Cor.] 2:7; [1 Tim.] 3:16); the doctrine of the resurrection ([1 Cor.] 15:51), and the gathering of the Gentiles into the Church (Col. 1:26, 27) were mysteries. In our dispensation, the doctrines of the gathering and of the building of temples and the City of Zion are as great mysteries, until they are explained by the Holy Spirit of Promise. The Prophet Joseph and Sidney Rigdon were now to go forth and proclaim these and other truths to the Church and the world, for a season (vv. 2, 3).” (Smith and Sjodahl, Commentary, pp. 422–23.)
“A mystery is a truth that cannot be known except through divine revelation—a sacred secret. . . . In our day such great truths as those pertaining to the restoration of the priesthood, the work for the dead, and the re-establishment of the Church are ‘mysteries,’ because they could not have been discovered except by revelation.” (Smith and Sjodahl, Commentary, p. 141.)
Bruce R. McConkie warned against debate.
Elder Bruce R. McConkie explained the usual role of debates in the work of the Church as follows: “Except under very unusual circumstances, debates play no part in the approved system of presenting the message of salvation to the world or of persuading members of the Church to accept a particular doctrine or view. Almost always a debate entrenches each contestant and his sympathizers more firmly in the views already held.” (Mormon Doctrine, p. 186.)
In the commotion that followed the publication of Ezra Booth’s anti-Mormon letters, the Lord commanded the elders of the Church not to debate, but to directly refute the falsehoods and lies that had been published.
President Joseph Fielding Smith explained: “Quite generally the Lord counsels his servants not to engage in debates and arguments, but to preach in power the fundamental principles of the Gospel. This was a condition that required some action of this kind, and the Spirit of the Lord directed these brethren to go forth and confound their enemies which they proceeded immediately to do, as their enemies were unable to substantiate their falsehoods and were surprised by this sudden challenge so boldly given. Much of the prejudice was allayed and some friends made through this action.” (Church History and Modern Revelation, 1:269.)
President Harold B. Lee explained that what the Lord “is trying to have us understand is that he will take care of our enemies if we continue to keep the commandments. So, you Saints of the Most High God, when these things come, and they will come—this has been prophesied—you just say,
“‘No weapon formed against the work of the Lord will ever prosper, but all glory and majesty of this work that the Lord gave will long be remembered after those who have tried to befoul the name of the Church and those of its leaders will be forgotten, and their works will follow after them.’
“We feel sorry for them when we see these things happen.” (In Conference Report, Oct. 1973, p. 167; or Ensign, Jan. 1974, p. 126.)
Edward Partridge was called to be the first bishop of the Church in this dispensation on 4 February 1831 at Kirtland, Ohio (see D&C 41). In November 1831 the Lord revealed, “There remain hereafter, in the due time of the Lord, other bishops to be set apart unto the church, to minister even according to the first” (D&C 68:14). The Prophet Joseph Smith recorded that on 4 December 1831 “several of the Elders and members assembled together to learn their duty, and for edification, and after some time had been spent in conversing about our temporal and spiritual welfare, I received the following: [D&C 72]” (History of the Church, 1:239).
The Prophet received the first eight verses of section 72, and immediately Newel K. Whitney was ordained. Then the Prophet received the rest of section 72.
“At a very early day after the organization of the Church the Lord revealed the need of a bishop to look after the temporalities and stewardships in the Church. Bishop Edward Partridge was called and sent to Zion to engage in the duties of his calling. On the 4th day of December, 1831, while the Prophet and Sidney Rigdon were engaged in their ministry refuting their enemies, a meeting of the elders was called and the Lord gave them a very important revelation. The Lord declared that it was expedient that a bishop should be called to serve in the Kirtland district. One important duty of this bishop was to look after the stewardships pertaining to the inhabitants of Kirtland and other parts of Ohio, and he was ‘to render an account of his stewardship, both in time and in eternity.’” (Smith, Church History and Modern Revelation, 1:269–70.)
The scriptures teach that the station and rewards we inherit in the life after this are determined by how firmly we commit ourself to the gospel, seek the power of the Atonement to overcome our sins, and take responsibility for our stewardship over temporal blessings.
In what has for some people been a troubling parable, the Savior commented on the prudence of a steward who prepared for his future by cheating his master (see Luke 16:1–8). The Savior said, “The children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light. . . . If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches?” (Luke 16:8, 11). Elder James E. Talmage explained:
“Our Lord’s purpose was to show the contrast between the care, thoughtfulness, and devotion of men engaged in the money-making affairs of earth, and the half hearted ways of many who are professedly striving after spiritual riches. Worldly-minded men do not neglect provision for their future years, and often are sinfully eager to amass plenty; while the ‘children of light,’ or those who believe spiritual wealth to be above all earthly possessions, are less energetic, prudent, or wise. By ‘mammon of unrighteousness’ we may understand material wealth or worldly things. While far inferior to the treasures of heaven, money or that which it represents may be the means of accomplishing good, and of furthering the purposes of God. Our Lord’s admonition was to utilize ‘mammon’ in good works, while it lasted, for some day it shall fail, and only the results achieved through its use shall endure. If the wicked steward, when cast out from his master’s house because of unworthiness, might hope to be received into the homes of those whom he had favored, how much more confidently may they who are genuinely devoted to the right hope to be received into the everlasting mansions of God! Such seems to be part of the lesson.
“It was not the steward’s dishonesty that was extolled; his prudence and foresight were commended. . . . The lesson may be summed up in this wise: Make such use of your wealth as shall insure you friends hereafter. Be diligent; for the day in which you can use your earthly riches will soon pass. Take a lesson from even the dishonest and the evil; if they are so prudent as to provide for the only future they think of, how much more should you, who believe in an eternal future, provide therefor! If you have not learned wisdom and prudence in the use of ‘unrighteous mammon,’ how can you be trusted with the more enduring riches? If you have not learned how to use properly the wealth of another, which has been committed to you as steward, how can you expect to be successful in the handling of great wealth should such be given you as your own? Emulate the unjust steward and the lovers of mammon, not in their dishonesty, cupidity, and miserly hoarding of the wealth that is at best but transitory, but in their zeal, forethought, and provision for the future.” (Jesus the Christ, pp. 463–64.)
In this section the responsibilities of a bishop are primarily related to the law of consecration. Other duties of a bishop include presiding over the ward and presiding over the Aaronic Priesthood in the ward.
Bishop Partridge was called as the first bishop of the Church. Later, when others were called, he became the equivalent of what today is called the Presiding Bishop. Newell K. Whitney thus was actually under the jurisdiction of Bishop Partridge. “The bishop in Kirtland was to ‘hand over’ to the bishop in Zion, the record of the stewardships, where the permanent records should be kept. For this responsibility Newel K. Whitney was called to act as bishop. He was to keep the Lord’s storehouse in Kirtland, and to receive funds in that part of the vineyard, and to take an account of the elders as he was commanded; to administer to their wants, all those who should pay for that which they received, inasmuch as they have wherewith to pay. These funds received were to be consecrated to the good of the Church, ‘to the poor and needy.’ If there were any who were unable to pay, an account was to be made ‘and handed over to the bishop in Zion, who shall pay the debt out of that which the Lord shall put into his hands.’” (Smith, Church History and Modern Revelation, 1:270.)
When Edward Partridge died in Nauvoo in May 1840, Newel K. Whitney became the Presiding Bishop.
Newel K. Whitney was called as a bishop.
President Joseph Fielding Smith noted that “a certificate from the judge or bishop in Kirtland was to be made and it would ‘render every man acceptable and answereth all things, for an inheritance, and to be received as a wise steward, and as a faithful laborer; otherwise he shall not be accepted of the bishop in Zion.’
“From the very beginning of time the Lord has taken pains to see that proper records have been kept. This was one of the first commandments to the Church in 1830. The jealous care pertaining to the word of the Lord and other publications and documents, is shown forth in a number of revelations. . . .
“All who were to go up to Zion from other parts of the Church, were required to carry with them certificates, showing that they were in full fellowship and worthy to obtain the blessings which, in Zion, awaited the obedient.” (Church History and Modern Revelation, 1:271.)
Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon were working on a revision of the Bible when, on 1 December 1831, the Lord called them to go on a mission for a season. The Prophet Joseph Smith recorded: “From this time until the 8th or 10th of January, 1832, myself and Elder Rigdon continued to preach in Shalersville, Ravenna, and other places, setting forth the truth, vindicating the cause of our Redeemer; showing that the day of vengeance was coming upon this generation like a thief in the night; that prejudice, blindness and darkness filled the minds of many, and caused them to persecute the true Church, and reject the true light; by which means we did much towards allaying the excited feelings which were growing out of the scandalous letters then being published in the Ohio Star, at Ravenna, by the before-mentioned apostate, Ezra Booth. On the 10th of January, I received the following revelation [D&C 73] making known the will of the Lord concerning the Elders of the Church until the convening of the next conference.” (History of the Church, 1:241.)
President Ezra Taft Benson said: “The Church’s mission is to declare the gospel of the kingdom to all the world, to redeem our kindred dead, and to perfect the Saints of the Church—a positive approach. Never in the history of the Church has there been such an expenditure of time, planning, and resources to accomplish this mission. In the final analysis, this effort is the only solution to the problems of the world.” (In Conference Report, Apr. 1978, p. 48; or Ensign, May 1978, p. 33.)
When the angel Moroni appeared to Joseph Smith on 21 September 1823, he quoted passages from the Bible, but he quoted them with significant differences from the King James Version (see JS—H 1:36–41.) Later, while translating the Book of Mormon, Joseph learned that many “plain and precious things” had been lost from the Bible (1 Nephi 13:25–29). After he and Oliver Cowdery were baptized, Joseph found his mind enlightened, and the “true meaning and intention” of the scriptures was revealed to him (JS—H 1:74). So when the Prophet had finished translating the Book of Mormon, he turned his attention to the Bible.
Although the word translation brings to mind the use of original texts and ancient languages, Joseph’s work was to restore the correctness of the scripture by the power of the Spirit, not by scholarly interpretation. In June 1830 he wrote that “line upon line of knowledge” was revealed as he received the book of Moses (History of the Church, p. 98), which gave an account of what Moses had received from the Lord that had not survived the ages intact. As he and Sidney Rigdon were working on the New Testament, the Prophet Joseph Smith recorded: “For while we were doing the work of translation, which the Lord had appointed unto us, we came to the twenty-ninth verse of the fifth chapter of John, which was given unto us. . . . Now this caused us to marvel, for it was given unto us of the Spirit.” (D&C 76:15, 18.) Joseph’s work of translating the Bible was a spiritual task. Later he studied Hebrew and German, but it was not his knowledge of languages that provided a basis to correct the scriptures.
Joseph Smith went through all of the Bible, dictating to a scribe changes, deletions, or additions, but he did not complete a revision of the entire Bible. He never considered what he had accomplished as ready for publication, and he probably would have made many more corrections had he lived longer.
“One of the grandest books in sacred literature” (Smith and Sjodahl, Commentary, p. 478)
This revelation was given as a result of Joseph Smith’s revisions in the Bible. As early as 7 March 1831 the Prophet was told to begin translating the New Testament (see D&C 45:60–61). He wrote of this period: “I recommenced the translation of the Scriptures, and labored diligently until just before the conference, which was to convene on the 25th of January. During this period, I also received the following [D&C 74], as an explanation of the First Epistle to the Corinthians, 7th chapter, 14th verse.” (History of the Church, 1:242.)
Unbelieving, as used here, refers to those Jews who had not joined the Church of Jesus Christ. They were still living by the rituals of the Mosaic law, which included circumcision of their male children. Paul taught that little children were sanctified through the Atonement of Christ and that circumcision was no longer necessary as taught by the adherents of the Mosaic law.
Little children are holy.
Circumcision was given to Abraham and his posterity as a token of their covenant with God (see JST, Genesis 17:3–7, 11). Other scriptures make it clear that it was not circumcision itself but rather what it stood for that gave it its greatest significance (see Deuteronomy 10:16; 30:6; Jeremiah 4:4; Ezekiel 44:7; Romans 2:25–29).
“When the unbelieving husband had his way, which in that day would be usual, it would too often have the effect of causing the children to give heed to the Jewish tradition which their father followed (vs. 4), the result being that they, too, would not believe the Gospel of Christ. Hence the children became ‘unholy’—that is to say, they became unholy according to the false Jewish tradition which prevailed at the time, for the tradition of the Jews was that little children were unholy (vs. 6). It was for this cause, the Lord continues (vs. 5), that Paul wrote to the Corinthians giving them his own opinion, not the Lord’s, that a member of the Church (‘believer’) should not be united in marriage to an unbeliever, unless the Law of Moses was renounced or done away by them. Then the children of a given couple would not have to be circumcised as the Law of Moses required, and the false tradition of the Jews that little children are unholy could be gradually eliminated.” (Sperry, Compendium, p. 328.)
“On the 25th day of January 1832, a very important conference was held by the elders at Amherst, Lorain County, Ohio. The history of the Church is very brief in the report of this conference. Much business was transacted, but the most important thing was the fact that Joseph Smith was sustained and ordained, by the will of the Lord, as President of the High Priesthood.” (Smith, Church History and Modern Revelation, 1:274.)
The Prophet Joseph Smith recorded: “A few days before the conference was to commence in Amherst, Lorain county, I started with the Elders that lived in my own vicinity, and arrived in good time. At this conference much harmony prevailed, and considerable business was done to advance the kingdom, and promulgate the Gospel to the inhabitants of the surrounding country. The Elders seemed anxious for me to inquire of the Lord that they might know His will, or learn what would be most pleasing to Him for them to do, in order to bring men to a sense of their condition; for, as it was written, all men have gone out of the way, so that none doeth good, no, not one. I inquired and received the following: [D&C 75].” (History of the Church, 1:242–43.)
For the significance of this title see Notes and Commentary on Doctrine and Covenants 38:1.
See Enrichment A in the Appendix for a discussion of missionary work.
Anciently, grain was cut by hand and tied into large bundles or sheaves which were then carried to the place of threshing. To see a person or an animal “laden with many sheaves” (D&C 75:5) was proof that the person had reaped an abundant harvest and would now enjoy the fruits of his labors.
“Elders who go out to preach the gospel sometimes return and report that they know not whether they have been the means of converting anybody or not. But if they have been faithful, the harvest is sure. The seed they have sown may sprout and come to maturity years after they have been released.” (Smith and Sjodahl, Commentary, p. 434.)
The Lord had already instructed missionaries: “For behold the field is white already to harvest; and lo, he that thrusteth in his sickle with his might, the same layeth up in store that he perisheth not, but bringeth salvation to his soul” (D&C 4:4).
Elder Bruce R. McConkie commented on the symbolism of being crowned: “Those who gain exaltation in the highest heaven of the celestial world shall wear crowns. Perhaps literal crowns may be worn on occasion—emblematic of their victory over the world and signifying that they rule and reign as kings and queens in the eternal house of Israel. But at all times they will be ‘crowned with honor, and glory, and immortality, and eternal life.’ (D. & C. 75:5.)” (Mormon Doctrine, p. 173.)
See Doctrine and Covenants 58:32–33; 124:49–51.
Smith and Sjodahl explained the importance for gospel teachers of prayer:
“They were commanded (v. 4) to preach the truth ‘according to the revelations and commandments’ given. They were to keep strictly to the revealed word, but even this they could not do without the aid of the Comforter, the Holy Spirit of God. Studying alone does not qualify an Elder for preaching the truth. It is the Spirit that qualifies. . . .
“Some Elders put all their faith in preaching. The Latter-day Saints generally will endorse the following, though uttered by one not a member of the Church:
“‘What is preaching without praying! Sermons are but pulpit performances, learned essays, rhetorical orations, popular lectures, or it may be political harangues, until God gives, in answer to earnest prayer, the preparation of the heart, and the answer of the tongue. It is only he who prays that can truly preach. Many a sermon that has shown no intellectual genius and has violated all homiletic rules and standards has had dynamic spiritual force. Somehow it has moved men, melted them, moulded them. The man whose lips are touched by God’s living coal from off the altar may even stammer, but his hearers soon find out that he is on fire with one consuming passion to save souls’ (Arthur T. Pierson, The Fundamentals, Vol. IX., p. 67).” (Commentary, p. 435.)
See Notes and Commentary for Doctrine and Covenants 60:15–17.
A preacher of righteousness must know God’s will.
Elder James E. Talmage noted that “man will be accounted blameless or guilty, according to his deeds as interpreted in the light of the law under which he is required to live. It is inconsistent with our conception of a just God, to believe Him capable of inflicting condemnation upon any one for noncompliance with a requirement of which the person had no knowledge. Nevertheless, the laws of the Church will not be suspended even in the case of those who have sinned in darkness and ignorance; but it is reasonable to believe that the plan of redemption will afford such benighted ones an opportunity of learning the laws of God; and surely, as fast as they so learn, will obedience be required on pain of the penalty.” (Articles of Faith, p. 519.)
President Joseph Fielding Smith said that “the brethren who were called to take these missionary journeys were quite generally poor men in temporal things. It was difficult for them to go out on the Lord’s work and leave their families without support. Yet the call was essential, for the souls of men were at stake and there were those waiting to hear the message who would be a strength to the Church after they received the Gospel. The Lord took into account the needs of the families of these brethren, and he said, ‘It is the duty of the Church to assist in supporting the families of those who are called and must needs be sent unto the world. . . .’ The commandment therefore was given that suitable places should be provided in which these families could be housed and cared for, and the members of the Church were admonished to ‘open their hearts,’ and assist in this undertaking. If there were brethren, however, who could support themselves and their families, this was required of them.” (Church History and Modern Revelation, 1:276–77.)
Elder Franklin D. Richards taught: “President McKay has said, ‘Let us realize that the privilege to work is a gift, that the power to work is a blessing, that love of work is success.’
“How true this is! Yet today as in earlier times many misguided individuals embrace the philosophy of idleness, feeling that the world owes them a living. Many have a desire to destroy the establishment that has been built upon productive effort.
“In this dispensation the Lord has many times confirmed the eternal principle of work. We have been told that there is no place in the Church for the idler ‘except he repent and mend his ways,’ and ‘he that is idle shall not eat the bread nor wear the garments of the laborer.’ (D&C 75:29; 42:42.)” (In Conference Report, Oct. 1969, p. 121.)
Additional discussion of the evils of idleness and the value of work is found in Notes and Commentary for Doctrine and Covenants 68:31.
It had been over a year since the Prophet Joseph Smith began a revision of the Bible, and the months of January and February 1832 found him again involved in this assignment.
Through his study of the scriptures, many questions and problems relative to the Biblical account were resolved through revelation. One such question had to do with the term heaven. The Prophet wrote: “Upon my return from Amherst [Ohio] conference, I resumed the translation of the Scriptures. From sundry revelations which had been received, it was apparent that many important points touching the salvation of man, had been taken from the Bible, or lost before it was compiled. It appeared self-evident from what truths were left, that if God rewarded every one according to the deeds done in the body the term ‘Heaven,’ as intended for the Saints’ eternal home must include more kingdoms than one. Accordingly, on the 16th of February, 1832, while translating St. John’s Gospel, myself and Elder Rigdon saw the following vision: [D&C 76].” (History of the Church, 1:245.)
Philo Dibble was an eyewitness to the reception of this revelation. He wrote that “the vision which is recorded in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants was given at the house of ‘Father Johnson,’ in Hiram, Ohio, and during the time that Joseph and Sidney were in the spirit and saw the heavens open, there were other men in the room, perhaps twelve, among whom I was one during a part of the time—probably two-thirds of the time,—I saw the glory and felt the power, but did not see the vision.
“The events and conversation, while they were seeing what is written (and many things were seen and related that are not written,) I will relate as minutely as is necessary.
“Joseph would, at intervals, say: ‘What do I see?’ as one might say while looking out the window and beholding what all in the room could not see. Then he would relate what he had seen or what he was looking at. Then Sidney replied, ‘I see the same.’ Presently Sidney would say ‘what do I see?’ and would repeat what he had seen or was seeing, and Joseph would reply, ‘I see the same.’
“This manner of conversation was reported at short intervals to the end of the vision, and during the whole time not a word was spoken by any other person. Not a sound nor motion made by anyone but Joseph and Sidney, and it seemed to me that they never moved a joint or limb during the time I was there, which I think was over an hour, and to the end of the vision.
“Joseph sat firmly and calmly all the time in the midst of a magnificent glory, but Sidney sat limp and pale, apparently as limber as a rag, observing which, Joseph remarked, smilingly, ‘Sidney is not used to it as I am.’” (Juvenile Instructor, May 1892, pp. 303–4.)
The Prophet Joseph Smith wrote: “Nothing could be more pleasing to the Saints upon the order of the kingdom of the Lord, than the light which burst upon the world through the foregoing vision. Every law, every commandment, every promise, every truth, and every point touching the destiny of man, from Genesis to Revelation, where the purity of the scriptures remains unsullied by the folly of men, go to show the perfection of the theory [of different degrees of glory in the future life] and witnesses the fact that that document is a transcript from the records of the eternal world. The sublimity of the ideas; the purity of the language; the scope for action; the continued duration for completion, in order that the heirs of salvation may confess the Lord and bow the knee; the rewards for faithfulness, and the punishments for sins, are so much beyond the narrow-mindedness of men, that every honest man is constrained to exclaim: ‘It came from God.’” (History of the Church, 1:252–53.)
President Wilford Woodruff said of the vision that it “gives more light, more truth, and more principle than any revelation contained in any other book we ever read. It makes plain to our understanding our present condition, where we came from, why we are here, and where we are going to. Any man may know through that revelation what his part and condition will be. For all men know what laws they keep, and the laws which men keep here will determine their position hereafter; they will be preserved by those laws and receive the blessings which belong to them.” (In Journal of Discourses, 22:146–47.)
While it is often called “the vision,” Doctrine and Covenants 76 is a series of visions combined into one grand revelation: a vision of the glory of the Son (vv. 20–24); a vision of the fall of Satan and the sufferings of those who follow him, who are sons of perdition (vv. 25–49); a vision of those who inherit the celestial glory and come forth in the resurrection of the just (vv. 50–70); a vision of those who inherit the terrestrial glory (vv. 71–80); and a vision of those who inherit the telestial glory (vv. 81–89). A comparison of the three degrees of glory is also given.
The John Johnson home in Hiram, Ohio, where Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon received section 76
As do many sections of the Doctrine and Covenants, this vision begins with an affirmation of the power, glory, and majesty of Jesus Christ. It is fitting that the Lord would begin this revelation of the various eternal rewards with the reminder that only in Him is there power to save, that none can “stay his hand” (D&C 76:3), that none can stop Him from accomplishing His work, which is “to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39).
In these verses the Lord indicates that if a person fears Him (that is, respects, reverences, and obeys Him) and serves Him to the end, He will be delighted to honor that person. The honors include:
1. A great reward (see D&C 76:6).
2. Eternal glory (see v. 6).
3. Revelation of all mysteries of God’s kingdom, both past and present (see v. 7; see also Notes and Commentary on D&C 6:7, 11 for the definition of mystery).
4. Knowledge of His will concerning all things in the kingdom (see v. 7).
5. Knowledge of the wonders of eternity (see v. 8).
6. Knowledge of many generations (see v. 8).
7. Great wisdom (see v. 9).
8. Understanding that reaches to heaven and which the world cannot equal (see v. 9).
9. Enlightenment by the Spirit and power of God (see v. 10).
The mention of these promises at the beginning of this revelation is significant, for Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon indicated that they were not allowed to write all that they were shown (see vv. 113–15). Not only is it unlawful for man to reveal these things, but it is impossible for him to do so because they are so glorious that man is incapable of making them known (see vv. 115–16). The Savior states, however, that those who will “purify themselves before him” through the power of the Holy Spirit shall have the “privilege of seeing and knowing [these things] for themselves” (vv. 116–17).
The Prophet and Sidney Rigdon were meditating when this revelation came.
President Marion G. Romney said:
“As I have read the scriptures, I have been challenged by the word ponder, so frequently used in the Book of Mormon. The dictionary says that ponder means ‘to weigh mentally, think deeply about, deliberate, meditate.’ . . .
“Pondering is, in my feeling, a form of prayer. It has, at least, been an approach to the Spirit of the Lord on many occasions.” (In Conference Report, Apr. 1973, p. 117; or Ensign, July 1973, p. 90.)
At least two other great visions came as a direct result of pondering. Nephi says that he was “pondering in mine heart” the things of his father’s dream when he was “caught away in the Spirit of the Lord, yea into an exceeding high mountain” (1 Nephi 11:1). And President Joseph F. Smith said that he received his vision of the spirit world as he sat in his room “pondering over the scriptures; and reflecting” (D&C 138:1–2).
President David O. McKay taught the value of meditation: “I think we pay too little attention to the value of meditation, a principle of devotion. . . .
“Meditation is one of the most secret, most sacred doors through which we pass into the presence of the Lord. Jesus set the example for us. As soon as he was baptized and received the Father’s approval—‘This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased’ (Matt. 3:17)—Jesus repaired to what is now known as the Mount of Temptation where, during forty days of fasting, he communed with himself and his Father and contemplated the responsibility of his own great mission. One result of this spiritual communion was such strength as enabled him to say to the tempter: ‘Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.’ (Matt. 4:10.)” (In Conference Report, Apr. 1967, p. 85.)
Spencer W. Kimball in a moment of meditation
This testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon is a modern witness of the reality of the existence of the Father and the Son. Joseph and Sidney not only saw but heard, and their testimonies stand as a witness to all people. The phrase “last of all” is explained by Smith and Sjodahl as follows: “This is the last testimony to the fact that He lives, a resurrected and glorified Being; not the final testimony but the last up to the time of this vision” (Commentary, p. 448).
Elder Bruce R. McConkie, commenting on Jesus as the Creator, said that “our Lord’s jurisdiction and power extend far beyond the limits of this one small earth on which we dwell. He is, under the Father, the Creator of worlds without number. (Moses 1:33.) . . .
“Those who have ears to hear, find this doctrine taught in the following scripture: [D&C 76:20–24].
“In addition to the plain meaning of this passage, we have an explanation of it given by the Prophet Joseph Smith. He paraphrased, in poetical rhyme, the entire record of the Vision, and his words covering this portion were:
‘. . . And I heard a great voice bearing record from heav’n,
He’s the Saviour and Only Begotten of God;
By him, of him, and through him, the worlds were all made,
Even all that careen in the heavens so broad.’”
(McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, pp. 65–66.)
President George Q. Cannon, commenting on Satan’s title as a son of the morning, said: “Some have called him the son of the morning, but here it is a son of the morning—one among many, doubtless. This angel was a mighty personage, without doubt. The record that is given to us concerning him clearly shows that he occupied a very high position; that he was thought a great deal of, and that he was mighty in his sphere, so much so that when the matter was debated concerning the earth and the plan of salvation, he was of sufficient importance to have a plan, which he proposed as the plan by which this earth should be peopled and the inhabitants thereof redeemed. His plan, however, was not accepted; but it was so plausible and so attractive that out of the whole hosts of heaven one-third accepted his plan and were willing to cast their lot with him. [Moses 4:1–4; D&C 29:36–37.] Now, the difference between Jesus and Lucifer was this: Jesus was willing to submit to the Father.” (In Millennial Star, 5 Sept. 1895, pp. 563–64.)
Lucifer’s name means “light bearer” or “shining one.” The word perdition means “loss or destruction” (see Young, Concordance, s.v. “Lucifer,” “Perdition”). Lucifer fell from his position as a glorious being to a position of utter loss and destruction (see Revelation 12:1–11; Moses 4:1–4). Knowing that one of Satan’s names is Perdition helps us understand the title “son of perdition.”
This verse warns that Satan will seek to make war with the Saints (cf. Revelation 12:17). Although Satan has great power, it is limited. The Prophet Joseph Smith stated: “There are three independent principles; the Spirit of God, the spirit of man, and the spirit of the devil. All men have power to resist the devil. They who have tabernacles, have power over those who have not.” (Teachings, pp. 189–90.)
President George Q. Cannon testified that every man has power enough to resist Satan. “The Lord our God has sent us here to get experience in these things so that we may know the good from the evil and be able to close our hearts against the evil. . . . It is true that some have greater power of resistance than others, but everyone has the power to close his heart against doubt, against darkness, against unbelief, against depression, against anger, against hatred, against jealousy, against malice, against envy. God has given this power unto all of us, and we can gain still greater power by calling upon Him for that which we lack. If it were not so, how could we be condemned for giving way to wrong influences?
“There could be no condemnation for our doing what we could not help; but we can help yielding to wrong influences and being quarrelsome and selfish. We can help giving way to the spirit of theft, and we can resist the spirit of lust. God has given us power to resist these things, that our hearts may be kept free from them and also from doubt; and when Satan comes and assails us, it is our privilege to say, ‘Get thee behind me, Satan, for I have no lot nor portion in you, and you have no part in me. I am in the service of God, and I am going to serve Him, and you can do what you please. It is no use you presenting yourself with your blandishments to me. You come and try to insinuate into my heart evil thoughts about the servants of God or about the work of God, and I will not listen to you; I will close my heart against you. . . .’
“Whenever darkness fills our minds, we may know that we are not possessed of the Spirit of God, and we must get rid of it. When we are filled with the Spirit of God, we are filled with joy, with peace and with happiness no matter what our circumstances may be; for it is a spirit of cheerfulness and of happiness.” (Gospel Truth, 1:19–20.)
To become a son of perdition one must sin against the Holy Ghost, but before that is possible, one must receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. Elder Melvin J. Ballard explained that “unto the Holy Ghost has been given the right and the privilege of manifesting the truth unto men as no other power will. So that when he makes a man see and know a thing he knows it better than he shall ever know anything else; and to sin against that knowledge is to sin against the greatest light there is, and consequently commit the greatest sin there is.” (Millennial Star, 11 Aug. 1932, pp. 499–500.)
Elder Joseph Fielding Smith further explained why sin against the Holy Ghost is so serious: “The Spirit of God speaking to the spirit of man has power to impart truth with greater effect and understanding than the truth can be imparted by personal contact even with heavenly beings. Through the Holy Ghost the truth is woven into the very fibre and sinews of the body so that it cannot be forgotten.” (“The Sin against the Holy Ghost,” Instructor, Oct. 1935, p. 431.)
The Prophet Joseph Smith asked, concerning those who become sons of perdition, “What must a man do to commit the unpardonable sin? He must receive the Holy Ghost, have the heavens opened unto him, and know God, and then sin against Him. After a man has sinned against the Holy Ghost, there is no repentance for him. He has got to say that the sun does not shine while he sees it; he has got to deny Jesus Christ when the heavens have been opened unto him, and to deny the plan of salvation with his eyes open to the truth of it; and from that time he begins to be an enemy. This is the case with many apostates of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” (Teachings, p. 358.)
Elder Spencer W. Kimball wrote: “The sin against the Holy Ghost requires such knowledge that it is manifestly impossible for the rank and file to commit such a sin” (Miracle of Forgiveness, p. 123).
Of apostates who had committed the unpardonable sin, the Prophet Joseph Smith said: “When a man begins to be an enemy to this work, he hunts me, he seeks to kill me, and never ceases to thirst for my blood. He gets the spirit of the devil—the same spirit that they had who crucified the Lord of Life—the same spirit that sins against the Holy Ghost.” (Teachings, p. 358.)
People do not come to such a state in a moment. Elder Joseph Fielding Smith described the path that some follow, which would cause them to hate God and his servants: “The change of heart does not come all at once, but is due to transgression in some form, which continues to lurk in the soul without repentance, until the Holy Ghost withdraws, and then that man is left to spiritual darkness. Sin begets sin, the darkness grows until the love of truth turns to hatred and the love of God is overcome by the wicked desire to destroy all that is just and true. In this way Christ is put to open shame, and blasphemy exalted.” (Instructor, Oct. 1935, p. 432.)
Such people have placed themselves outside the redemptive powers of Christ (see Hebrews 6:4–9; 10:26–29; Matthew 12:31–32). They cannot partake of His mercy because they cannot incline themselves to repent, having totally lost the Spirit of God. Their sin “is an offense so heinous that the sinner is unable to repent; and this is what makes his case hopeless. If he could repent, he could be forgiven; but being incapable of repentance, he cannot be reached by the pardoning power.” (Orson F. Whitney, Improvement Era, Mar. 1920, p. 413.)
“In the realms of perdition or the kingdom of darkness, where there is no light, Satan and the unembodied spirits of the pre-existence shall dwell together with those of mortality who retrogress to the level of perdition. These have lost the power of regeneration. They have sunk so low as to have lost the inclinations and ability to repent.” (Kimball, Miracle of Forgiveness, p. 125.)
Elder Bruce R. McConkie stated that “commission of the unpardonable sin consists in crucifying unto oneself the Son of God afresh and putting him to open shame. (Heb. 6:4–8; D. & C. 76:34–35.) To commit this unpardonable crime a man must receive the gospel, gain from the Holy Ghost by revelation the absolute knowledge of the divinity of Christ, and then deny ‘the new and everlasting covenant by which he was sanctified, calling it an unholy thing, and doing despite to the Spirit of grace.’ (Teachings, p. 128.) He thereby commits murder by assenting unto the Lord’s death, that is, having a perfect knowledge of the truth he comes out in open rebellion and places himself in a position wherein he would have crucified Christ knowing perfectly the while that he was the Son of God. Christ is thus crucified afresh and put to open shame. (D. & C. 132:27.)” (Mormon Doctrine, pp. 816–17.)
Concerning the degree to which such people become filled with the spirit of Satan, Elder Charles W. Penrose said: “Those who have followed [Satan] so that they become imbued with his spirit, which is the spirit of destruction, in opposition to the spirit which brings life, are his. The spirit of murder enters their hearts; they are ready to put to death even the Son of God, if His existence in life comes in their way.” (In Conference Report, Oct. 1911, p. 51.)
The scriptures sometimes use the phrase “shedding innocent blood” in reference to the actions of those in this condition. President Joseph Fielding Smith explained that the shedding of innocent blood is not confined to taking lives of the innocent, but is also included in seeking to destroy the word of God and putting Christ to open shame. Those who have known the truth and then fight against the authorized servants of Jesus Christ also fight against Him, and thus are guilty of His blood. “Shedding innocent blood is spoken of in the scriptures as consenting to the death of Jesus Christ and putting him to open shame.” (Smith, Answers to Gospel Questions, 1:68.)
The term second death as used here refers to the spiritual death that will come upon those sons of perdition who have been resurrected. Elder Bruce R. McConkie wrote: “Spiritual death is to be cast out of the presence of the Lord, to die as to the things of righteousness, to die as to the things of the Spirit. Spirit beings as such never die in the sense of annihilation or in the sense that their spirit bodies are disorganized; rather, they continue to live to all eternity either as spirits or as resurrected personages. . . .
“Eventually, all are redeemed from spiritual death except those who have ‘sinned unto death’ (D. & C. 64:7), that is, those who are destined to be sons of perdition. John teaches this by saying that after death and hell have delivered up the dead which are in them, then death and hell shall be ‘cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.’ (Rev. 20:12–15.) And thus the Lord said in our day that the sons of perdition are ‘the only ones on whom the second death shall have any power’ (D. & C. 76:37), meaning any power after the resurrection.” (Mormon Doctrine, pp. 757–58; see also Notes and Commentary on D&C 63:17; 64:7.)
President George Q. Cannon explained: “A careful reading of these verses, . . . and especially of the preceding paragraphs, will show that the Lord does not, in this language, exclude even the sons of perdition from the resurrection. It is plain that the intention is to refer to them explicitly as the only ones on whom the second death shall have any power: ‘for all the rest shall be brought forth by the resurrection of the dead, through the triumph and the glory of the Lamb.’ This excluded class are the only ones on whom the second death shall have any power, and ‘the only ones who shall not be redeemed in the due time of the Lord, after the suffering of his wrath.’
“This is by no means to say that they are to have no resurrection. Jesus our Lord and Savior died for all, and all will be resurrected—good and bad, white and black, people of every race, whether sinners or not; and no matter how great their sins may be, the resurrection of their bodies is sure. Jesus has died for them, and they all will be redeemed from the grave through the atonement which he has made.” (Juvenile Instructor, Feb. 1900, p. 123.)
The word gospel (Anglo-Saxon for “good story”) is translated from the Greek evangelion, which means “good tidings” or “glad tidings” (Thayer, Greek-English Lexicon, p. 257). In the New Testament the verb meaning “to preach or bear witness of the gospel” is evangelidzo, literally, “to bring good news, to announce glad tidings” (Thayer, Greek-English Lexicon, p. 256). Doctrine and Covenants 76 gives a summary of what the gospel, or glad tidings, consists of, namely, that all who will may be saved by the atoning power of Jesus Christ.
It appears that in the early days of the Restoration some attempted to teach the destiny of the sons of perdition. The Prophet Joseph Smith responded by writing: “Say to the brothers Hulet and to all others, that the Lord never authorized them to say that the devil, his angels, or the sons of perdition, should ever be restored; for their state of destiny was not revealed to man, is not revealed, nor ever shall be revealed, save to those who are made partakers thereof: consequently those who teach this doctrine have not received it of the Spirit of the Lord. Truly Brother Oliver declared it to be the doctrine of devils. We, therefore, command that this doctrine be taught no more in Zion. We sanction the decision of the Bishop and his council, in relation to this doctrine being a bar to communion.” (Teachings, p. 24.)
Smith and Sjodahl explained: “The Lord is the sovereign ruler. He reigns. Sin is said to reign, when men submit to its behests. Grace is also said to reign (Rom. 5:21). The Saints will reign with Christ. But here the sons of Perdition are said to ‘reign’ with the Devil and his angels in eternity, in the place where the worm dieth not and the fire is not quenched. The conflict between Lucifer and the Son has been, from the beginning, for sovereignty. Men have ranged themselves on one side or the other. The Saints are, and will be, citizens and officials in the Kingdom of God and there they will ‘reign’, as citizens in a free country. The sons of Perdition are, and will remain, citizens and officials in the kingdom of Lucifer. But that kingdom will, finally, be confined to Gehenna. There they will ‘reign’, under such laws and rules as obtain in the kingdom of the Devil, and of which we have had numerous illustrations in human history, during the dark ages of ignorance, superstition, tyranny, and iniquity. Think of a place where the evil passions of human beings and evil spirits rage, unrestrained by the influence of the gospel! Such is the kingdom of the Devil, where the sons of Perdition will reign.” (Commentary, pp. 454–55.)
“Not foreordained, in the sense of pre-elected by God, to condemnation. God has ordained that rebellion against Him shall result, if persisted in to the end, in misery, but He has not foreordained anyone to that fate. A legislature may ordain that thieves must be imprisoned and murderers killed, but that does not mean that it has foreordained any individual, or any number of individuals, to do that which ends in imprisonment, or death. The sons of Perdition pursue their course according to their own choice, and not as victims of inexorable destiny.” (Smith and Sjodahl, Commentary, p. 455.)
Joseph Fielding Smith spoke about the resurrection of the just.
There are two major resurrections: the resurrection of the just and the resurrection of the unjust. President Joseph Fielding Smith wrote about the resurrection of the just:
“In modern revelation given to the Church, the Lord has made known more in relation to this glorious event. There shall be at least two classes which shall have the privilege of the resurrection at this time: ‘First, those who shall dwell in the presence of God and his Christ forever and ever’; and second, honorable men, those who belong to the terrestrial kingdom as well as those of the celestial kingdom.
“At the time of the coming of Christ, ‘They who have slept in their graves shall come forth, for their graves shall be opened; and they also shall be caught up to meet him in the midst of the pillar of heaven. They are Christ’s, the first fruits, they who shall descend with him first, and they who are first caught up to meet him; and all this by the voice of the sounding of the trump of the angel of God.’ These are the just, ‘whose names are written in heaven, where God and Christ are the judge of all. These are they who are just men made perfect through Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, who wrought out this perfect atonement through the shedding of his own blood.’
“Following this great event, and after the Lord and the righteous who are caught up to meet him have descended upon the earth, there will come to pass another resurrection. This may be considered as a part of the first, although it comes later. In this resurrection will come forth those of terrestrial order, who were not worthy to be caught up to meet him, but who are worthy to come forth to enjoy the millennial reign.” (Doctrines of Salvation, 2:296.)
This first resurrection will extend into the Millennium and include all those worthy of the celestial kingdom who live and die during the thousand years.
Elder Bruce R. McConkie defined the Holy Spirit of Promise as “the Holy Spirit promised the saints, or in other words the Holy Ghost. This name-title is used in connection with the sealing and ratifying power of the Holy Ghost, that is, the power given him to ratify and approve the righteous acts of men so that those acts will be binding on earth and in heaven. ‘All covenants, contracts, bonds, obligations, oaths, vows, performances, connections, associations, or expectations,’ must be sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise, if they are to have ‘efficacy, virtue, or force in and after the resurrection from the dead; for all contracts that are not made unto this end have an end when men are dead.’ (D&C 132:7.)
“To seal is to ratify, to justify, or to approve. Thus an act which is sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise is one which is ratified by the Holy Ghost; it is one which is approved by the Lord; and the person who has taken the obligation upon himself is justified by the Spirit in the thing he has done. The ratifying seal of approval is put upon an act only if those entering the contract are worthy as a result of personal righteousness to receive the divine approbation. They ‘are sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, which the Father sheds forth upon all those who are just and true.’ (D. & C. 76:53.) If they are not just and true and worthy the ratifying seal is withheld.” (Mormon Doctrine, pp. 361–62; see also Notes and Commentary on D&C 132:7.)
“Those who gain exaltation in the celestial kingdom are those who are members of the Church of the Firstborn; in other words, those who keep all the commandments of the Lord. . . .
“The Lord has made it possible for us to become members of the Church of the Firstborn, by receiving the blessings of the house of the Lord and overcoming all things. Thus we become heirs, ‘priests, and kings, who have received of his fulness, and of his glory,’ who shall ‘dwell in the presence of God and his Christ forever and ever,’ with full exaltation.” (Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 2:41–42.)
Certain apostates have taken this sacred name upon themselves, blasphemously claiming to have met all of these requirements, when they are in fact in a state of wickedness and rebellion.
Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon’s vision of the three degrees of glory
Those who hear the gospel in mortality and do not accept it but lead otherwise honorable lives will inherit the terrestrial kingdom. Those who do not have the opportunity to hear the gospel in mortality but accept it in the spirit world can inherit the celestial kingdom.
Joseph Smith learned through another revelation that “all who have died without a knowledge of this gospel, who would have received it if they had been permitted to tarry, shall be heirs of the celestial kingdom of God” (D&C 137:7). Those “who received not the testimony of Jesus in the flesh” (D&C 76:74) are those who heard the gospel in mortality and rejected it. If they “afterwards received it” (v. 74), that is, in the spirit world, they will go to the terrestrial kingdom.
Elder Bruce R. McConkie taught the foolishness of believing that a person can reject the gospel in this life, accept it in the next, and still inherit celestial glory. “This life is the time and day of our probation. After this day of life, which is given us to prepare for eternity, then cometh the night of darkness wherein there can be no labor performed.
“For those who do not have an opportunity to believe and obey the holy word in this life, the first chance to gain salvation will come in the spirit world. If those who hear the word for the first time in the realms ahead are the kind of people who would have accepted the gospel here, had the opportunity been afforded them, they will accept it there. . . .
“. . . Those who reject the gospel in this life and then receive it in the spirit world go not to the celestial, but to the terrestrial kingdom.” (“The Seven Deadly Heresies,” in Speeches of the Year, 1980 [Provo: Brigham Young University Press, 1981], pp. 77–78.)
Elder Theodore M. Burton said: “There are many in this world who lived and died without ever having an opportunity to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ. We know that there are many men and women who die unbaptized, because some teacher, missionary, or leader who should have taught them was so poorly trained, so lacking in faith, and so unprepared to bear personal witness of Jesus Christ that the hearer never understood the message as he should have done. Should such people be damned forever for lack of proper instruction, because of an accident of birth, or because of the inadequacies of others? I say: ‘No!’ God is a God of justice and love and mercy. Every man is entitled to a just chance to know and accept Jesus Christ or to reject him if he feels the price of acceptance is too high” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1964, 72).
Elder Bruce R. McConkie asked:
“What does it mean to be valiant in the testimony of Jesus?
“It is to be courageous and bold; to use all our strength, energy, and ability in the warfare with the world; to fight the good fight of faith. . . . The great cornerstone of valiance in the cause of righteousness is obedience to the whole law of the whole gospel.
“To be valiant in the testimony of Jesus is to ‘come unto Christ, and be perfected in him’; it is to deny ourselves ‘of all ungodliness,’ and ‘love God’ with all our ‘might, mind and strength.’ (Moro. 10:32.)
“To be valiant in the testimony of Jesus is to believe in Christ and his gospel with unshakable conviction. It is to know of the verity and divinity of the Lord’s work on earth.
“But this is not all. It is more than believing and knowing. We must be doers of the word and not hearers only. It is more than lip service; it is not simply confessing with the mouth the divine Sonship of the Savior. It is obedience and conformity and personal righteousness. ‘Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.’ (Matt. 7:21.)
“To be valiant in the testimony of Jesus is to ‘press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men.’ It is to ‘endure to the end.’ (2 Ne. 31:20.) It is to live our religion, to practice what we preach, to keep the commandments. It is the manifestation of ‘pure religion’ in the lives of men; it is visiting ‘the fatherless and widows in their affliction’ and keeping ourselves ‘unspotted from the world.’ (James 1:27.)
“To be valiant in the testimony of Jesus is to bridle our passions, control our appetites, and rise above carnal and evil things. It is to overcome the world as did he who is our prototype and who himself was the most valiant of all our Father’s children. It is to be morally clean, to pay our tithes and offerings, to honor the Sabbath day, to pray with full purpose of heart, to lay our all upon the altar if called upon to do so.
“To be valiant in the testimony of Jesus is to take the Lord’s side on every issue. It is to vote as he would vote. It is to think what he thinks, to believe what he believes, to say what he would say and do what he would do in the same situation. It is to have the mind of Christ and be one with him as he is one with his Father.” (In Conference Report, Oct. 1974, pp. 45–46; or Ensign, Nov. 1974, pp. 33–35.)
Elder Bruce R. McConkie explained:
“That part of the spirit world inhabited by wicked spirits who are awaiting the eventual day of their resurrection is called hell. Between their death and resurrection, these souls of the wicked are cast out into outer darkness, into the gloomy depression of sheol, into the hades of waiting wicked spirits, into hell. There they suffer the torments of the damned; there they welter in the vengeance of eternal fire; there is found weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth; there the fiery indignation of the wrath of God is poured out upon the wicked. (Alma 40:11–14; D. & C. 76:103–106.)
“Hell will have an end. Viewing future events, John saw that ‘death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.’ (Rev. 20:13.) Jacob taught that this escape from death and hell meant the bringing of the body out of the grave and the spirit out of hell. ‘And this death of which I have spoken, which is the spiritual death,’ he said, ‘shall deliver up its dead; which spiritual death is hell; wherefore, death and hell must deliver up their dead, and hell must deliver up its captive spirits, and the grave must deliver up its captive bodies, and the bodies and the spirits of men will be restored one to the other.’ (2 Ne. 9:10–12.) It was in keeping with this principle for David to receive the promise: ‘Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell.’ (Psalms 16:10; Acts 2:27.)
“After their resurrection, the great majority of those who have suffered in hell will pass into the telestial kingdom; the balance, cursed as sons of perdition, will be consigned to partake of endless wo with the devil and his angels. . . .
“Who will go to hell? This query is abundantly answered in the scriptures. Since those going to a telestial kingdom travel to their destination through the depths of hell and as a result of obedience to telestial law, it follows that all those who live a telestial law will go to hell.” (Mormon Doctrine, pp. 349–50.)
All who receive the telestial kingdom will have paid a price for this glory. The fact that after they pay this price they inherit a telestial glory is evidence of the Father’s love and mercy. Elder John A. Widtsoe wrote:
“The [Doctrine and Covenants] explains clearly that the lowest glory to which man is assigned is so glorious as to be beyond the understanding of man. It is a doctrine fundamental in Mormonism that the meanest sinner, in the final judgment, will receive a glory which is beyond human understanding, which is so great that we are unable to describe it adequately. Those who do well will receive an even more glorious place. Those who dwell in the lower may look wistfully to the higher as we do here. The hell on the other side will be felt in some such way.
“The Gospel is a gospel of tremendous love. Love is at the bottom of it. The meanest child is loved so dearly that his reward will be beyond the understanding of mortal man.” (Message of the Doctrine and Covenants, p. 167.)
Only the sons of perdition, who deny the truth and openly defy God (see D&C 76:31), will be denied a kingdom of glory (see Notes and Commentary on D&C 76:31–49).
Notes and Commentary for Doctrine and Covenants 133:50 explains the meaning of treading the wine press.
“We are not preaching the gospel with the idea of trying to save people in the terrestrial world. Ours is the salvation of exaltation. What we are trying to do with the gospel of Jesus Christ is to bring people back again, through the power of the priesthood and the ordinances of the Church, as sons and daughters of God, receiving a fulness of the Father’s kingdom. That is our endeavor.” (Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 2:190–91.)
The Prophet Joseph Smith wrote: “Could we read and comprehend all that has been written from the days of Adam, on the relation of man to God and angels in a future state, we should know very little about it. Reading the experience of others, or the revelation given to them, can never give us a comprehensive view of our condition and true relation to God. Knowledge of these things can only be obtained by experience through the ordinances of God set forth for that purpose. Could you gaze into heaven five minutes, you would know more than you would by reading all that ever was written on the subject.” (History of the Church, 6:50.)
The fulness of temple blessings is reserved for those who overcome all things.
“After the return of the Prophet from Amherst, [Ohio,] he resumed his translation of the Scriptures. About the first of March, while engaged in this work, questions arose in regard to the meaning of some of the figurative and symbolical writings of John in the Book of Revelation. There are many things therein which the brethren did not understand, therefore the Prophet inquired of the Lord and received answer to his questions.” (Smith, Church History and Modern Revelation, 1:291.)
“The Book of Revelation is one of the grandest books in sacred literature, and the Lord clearly designs that the Saints should become familiar with it. Else, why this Revelation in the Doctrine and Covenants?
“But [section 77] is not a complete interpretation of the book. It is a key. A key is a very small part of the house. It unlocks the door through which an entrance may be gained, but after the key has been turned, the searcher for treasure must find it for himself. . . .
“The Lord has, in this Section, given His people a key to the book. . . . As Champollion, by the key furnished in the brief test on the Rosetta stone, was able to open the secrets of Egyptian hieroglyphics, so the Bible student should be able to read the Apocalypse with a better understanding of it, by the aid of this key.” (Smith and Sjodahl, Commentary, p. 478.)
The following incident from the history of the Prophet Joseph Smith amplifies this verse: “While at dinner, I remarked to my family and friends present, that when the earth was sanctified and became like a sea of glass, it would be one great urim and thummim, and the Saints could look in it and see as they are seen” (History of the Church, 5:279).
President Brigham Young gave the following insight: “This Earth will become a celestial body—be like a sea of glass, or like a Urim and Thummim; and when you wish to know anything, you can look in this Earth and see all the eternities of God” (in Journal of Discourses, 8:200; see also D&C 88:17–20, 25–26; 130:6–9).
John saw four individual beasts in the presence of God giving “glory and honor and thanks” to him (Revelation 4:9). Though they were actual beasts that were saved in their sphere, they figuratively represent classes of beings (man, beasts, creeping things, fowls) that would have happiness in eternity—“enjoyment of eternal felicity” (D&C 77:3).
In a discourse during a Church conference in Nauvoo on Saturday, 8 April 1843, Joseph Smith explained John’s description of the beasts he saw in heaven and compared John’s references to beasts with those made by the ancient prophets. The explanation resulted from Elder Pelatiah Brown’s erroneously interpreting Revelation 5:8 as saying that the four beasts represented different phases of the kingdom of God on earth. The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that the Lord would not use “the figure of a creature of the brute creation to represent that which is much more noble, glorious and important—the glories and majesty of His kingdom.” God would not take “a lesser figure to represent a greater.” (Teachings, pp. 288–89.)
Part of the confusion is that two different uses of the word beast are found in Revelation, and Joseph commented on both in this sermon. In places where John refers to actual creatures that are in heaven, the Greek word is zoon (pronounced zoh-ohn), which is translated “a living creature” (see Revelation 4:6–9; 5:6–14; 6:1–7; 7:11; 14:3; 15:7; 19:4). Where John uses beast as a symbol of the degenerate kingdoms of the world or the kingdom of Satan, the Greek word therion, translated as “a wild beast,” is used (see Revelation 6:8; 11:7; 13:1–18; 14:9, 11; 15:2; 16:2, 10, 13; 17:1–18; 19:19–20; 20:4, 10). Thus, zoon refers to actual creatures seen in heaven; therion is used as a symbolic concept. The Prophet Joseph explained the significance of both:
“When God made use of the figure of a beast in visions to the prophets He did it to represent those kingdoms which had degenerated and become corrupt, savage and beast-like in their dispositions, even the degenerate kingdoms of the wicked world; but He never made use of the figure of a beast nor any of the brute kind to represent His kingdom. . . .
“There is a grand difference and distinction between the visions and figures spoken of by the ancient prophets, and those spoken of in the revelations of John. . . .
“. . . There is a grand distinction between the actual meaning of the prophets and the present translation. The prophets do not declare that they saw a beast or beasts, but that they saw the image or figure of a beast. Daniel did not see an actual bear or a lion but the images or figures of those beasts. The translation should have been rendered ‘image’ instead of ‘beast,’ in every instance where beasts are mentioned by the prophets. But John saw the actual beast in heaven, showing to John that beasts did actually exist there, and not to represent figures of things on the earth. . . .
“John saw curious looking beasts in heaven; he saw every creature that was in heaven,—all the beasts, fowls and fish in heaven,—actually there, giving glory to God. How do you prove it? (See Rev. 5:13.) . . .
“I suppose John saw beings there of a thousand forms, that had been saved from ten thousand times ten thousand earths like this,—strange beasts of which we have no conception: all might be seen in heaven. The grand secret was to show John what there was in heaven. John learned that God glorified Himself by saving all that His hands had made, whether beasts, fowls, fishes or men; and He will glorify Himself with them.” (Teachings, pp. 289–91.)
The Prophet Joseph Smith said: “I make this broad declaration, that whenever God gives a vision of an image, or beast, or figure of any kind, He always holds Himself responsible to give a revelation or interpretation of the meaning thereof, otherwise we are not responsible or accountable for our belief in it. Don’t be afraid of being damned for not knowing the meaning of a vision or figure, if God has not given a revelation or interpretation of the subject.” (Teachings, p. 291.)
John’s day was one of great persecution and martyrdom for the Saints (see Revelation 6:9–11). The Church leaders to whom John was writing were experiencing immense difficulties. In their dire circumstances they received the assurance that by faithfully enduring the trials placed upon them they would yet be exalted in the presence of God, “clothed in white raiment” with “crowns” on their heads (Revelation 4:4). How comforting it would be to them, and what a great source of strength for them, to receive this message from John.
“‘The book which John saw’ represented the real history of the world—what the eye of God has seen, what the recording angel has written; and the seven thousand years, corresponding to the seven seals of the Apocalyptic volume, are as seven great days during which Mother Earth will fulfill her mortal mission, laboring six days and resting upon the seventh, her period of sanctification. These seven days do not include the period of our planet’s creation and preparation as a dwelling place for man. They are limited to Earth’s ‘temporal existence,’ that is, to Time, considered as distinct from Eternity.” (Whitney, Saturday Night Thoughts, p. 11.)
A seal, as the term was used by John (see Revelation 5:1–2), was a bit of wax that secured a folded letter or document and bore the impression of a signet. Once sealed, the document could not be opened without the seal’s being broken. In the case of the earth’s history and destiny, there is only one who is worthy to open the seal and reveal the contents: Jesus Christ (see Revelation 5:2–9). Only through the Atonement of Christ is the temporal existence of the earth of any value. He alone holds the key to the fulfilling of the purpose for which the earth was created. Because of Him the plan of salvation will succeed; without Him all would fail and come to naught, or remain sealed.
President Joseph Fielding Smith explained that “these angels seem to fit the description of the angels spoken of in the parable of the wheat and the tares, (Matt. 13:24–43 and D. & C. 86:17), who plead with the Lord that they might go forth to reap down the field. They were told to let the wheat and the tares grow together to the time of the end of the harvest, which is the end of the world (Matt. 13:38–39). . . .
“These angels have been given power over the four parts [quarters] of the earth and they have the power of committing the everlasting Gospel to the peoples of the earth. The fulness of the Gospel was not restored by any one messenger sent from the presence of the Lord. All the ancient prophets who held keys and came and restored them, had a hand in this great work of restoration. There are, we learn from this revelation, four angels unto whom the power has been given, to shut up the heavens, to open them and with power unto life and also unto death and destruction. These are now at work in the earth on their sacred mission.” (Church History and Modern Revelation, 1:300–301.)
Susa Young Gates reported an address by President Wilford Woodruff in which he declared: “Those angels have left the portals of heaven, and they stand over this people and this nation now, and are hovering over the earth waiting to pour out the judgments. And from this very day they shall be poured out.” (Young Women’s Journal, Aug. 1894, p. 512; see also Notes and Commentary for D&C 86:5.)
Temple site at Jackson County, Missouri
The four angels who are given power over the earth are kept from sending forth desolations upon the earth until God’s servants are sealed in their foreheads. The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that this sealing “signifies sealing the blessing upon their heads, meaning the everlasting covenant, thereby making their calling and election sure” (Teachings, p. 321).
Elder Orson Pratt gave this additional explanation:
“When the Temple is built [in the New Jerusalem] the sons of the two Priesthoods [Melchizedek and Aaronic] . . . will enter into that Temple . . . and all of them who are pure in heart will behold the face of the Lord and that too before he comes in his glory in the clouds of heaven, for he will suddenly come to his Temple, and he will purify the sons of Moses and of Aaron, until they shall be prepared to offer in that Temple an offering that shall be acceptable in the sight of the Lord. In doing this, he will purify not only the minds of the Priesthood in that Temple, but he will purify their bodies until they shall be quickened, and renewed and strengthened, and they will be partially changed, not to immortality, but changed in part that they can be filled with the power of God, and they can stand in the presence of Jesus, and behold his face in the midst of that Temple.
“This will prepare them for further ministrations among the nations of the earth, it will prepare them to go forth in the days of tribulation and vengeance upon the nations of the wicked, when God will smite them with pestilence, plague and earthquake, such as former generations never knew. Then the servants of God will need to be armed with the power of God, they will need to have that sealing blessing pronounced upon their foreheads that they can stand forth in the midst of these desolations and plagues and not be overcome by them. When John the Revelator describes this scene he says he saw four angels sent forth, ready to hold the four winds that should blow from the four quarters of heaven. Another angel ascended from the east and cried to the four angels, and said, ‘Smite not the earth now, but wait a little while.’ ‘How long?’ ‘Until the servants of our God are sealed in their foreheads.’ What for? To prepare them to stand forth in the midst of these desolations and plagues, and not be overcome. When they are prepared, when they have received a renewal of their bodies in the Lord’s temple, and have been filled with the Holy Ghost and purified as gold and silver in a furnace of fire, then they will be prepared to stand before the nations of the earth and preach glad tidings of salvation in the midst of judgments that are to come like a whirlwind upon the wicked.” (In Journal of Discourses, 15:365–66.)
“Before the Lord shall come . . . there is to be a great work among the nations. . . . The ten tribes will have to come forth and come to this land, to be crowned with glory in the midst of Zion by the hands of the servants of God, even the Children of Ephraim; and twelve thousand High Priests will be elected from each of these ten tribes, as well as from the scattered tribes, and sealed in their foreheads, and will be ordained and receive power to gather out of all nations, kindreds, tongues and people as many as will come unto the general assemblage of the Church of the first-born.” (Orson Pratt, in Journal of Discourses, 16:325.)
See Doctrine and Covenants 76:31–38, 43–44.
Trumpets were used anciently to herald or announce something or to draw attention to something. The seven angels who sound trumpets in Revelation 8–10 will signal events that will take place in the beginning of the seventh thousand years (after the seventh seal is opened; see Revelation 8:1), before the Lord comes in His glory.
Elder Bruce R. McConkie said that “John’s act of eating a book containing the word of God to him was in keeping with the custom and tradition of ancient Israel. The act signified that he was eating the bread of life, that he was partaking of the good word of God, that he was feasting upon the word of Christ—which was in his mouth sweet as honey. But it made his belly bitter; that is, the judgments and plagues promised those to whom the Lord’s word was sent caused him to despair and have sorrow of soul. ‘How sweet are thy words unto my taste! yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth!’ (Psalm 119:103.) Such is the exulting cry of the Psalmist. And conversely, how bitter is the penalty for rebellion and disobedience. Ezekiel had a similar experience. He was commanded to eat a roll (a book), which was in his mouth as honey for sweetness, but in the writing itself there was ‘lamentations, and mourning, and woe.’ (Ezek. 2:6–10; 3:1–3.)” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3:507.)
Verse 9 indicates that the angel from the east is Elias; in verse 14 it is seen that John the Revelator is Elias; and in other scriptural passages Elias is referred to in connection with the restoration of all things. In the following passages several individuals are identified by the name Elias: Joseph Smith Translation, Matthew 17:11–14; Joseph Smith Translation, John 1:21–28; Doctrine and Covenants 77:9, 14 (see also D&C 27:6–7; Luke 1:5–25; Smith, Teachings, p. 157).
Elder Bruce R. McConkie explained that several individuals have been called Elias: “By finding answer to the question, by whom had the restoration been effected, we shall find who Elias is and find there is no problem in harmonizing these apparently contradictory revelations. Who has restored all things? Was it one man? Certainly not. Many angelic ministrants have been sent from the courts of glory to confer keys and powers, to commit their dispensations and glories again to men of earth. At least the following have come: Moroni, John the Baptist, Peter, James and John, Moses, Elijah, Elias, Gabriel, Raphael, and Michael. (D. & C. 13; 110; 128:19–21.) Since it is apparent that no one messenger has carried the whole burden of the restoration, but rather that each has come with a specific endowment from on high, it becomes clear that Elias is a composite personage. The expression must be understood to be a name and a title for those whose mission it was to commit keys and powers to men in this final dispensation.” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3:492.)
In his mission to help gather the tribes of Israel, John the Revelator functioned under the title “Elias.” He came with Peter and James as one of the angels of the Restoration, so he must be included as part of the composite personage symbolized by the “angel ascending from the east” (D&C 77:9).
Elder Parley P. Pratt wrote: “John, in the eleventh chapter of Revelation, gives us many more particulars concerning [the great war in Israel after the Jews are gathered there]. He informs us that after the city and temple are rebuilt by the Jews, the Gentiles will tread it under foot forty and two months, during which time there will be two prophets continually prophesying and working mighty miracles. And it seems that the Gentile army shall be hindered from utterly destroying and overthrowing the city, while these two prophets continue. But, after a struggle of three years and a half, they will at length succeed in destroying these two prophets and then overrunning much of the city; they will send gifts to each other because of the death of the two prophets, and in the meantime will not allow their dead bodies to be put in graves, but suffer them to lie in the streets of Jerusalem three days and a half, during which time the armies of the Gentiles, consisting of many kindreds, tongues and nations, passing through the city, plundering the Jews, will see their dead bodies lying in the street. But after three days and a half, on a sudden, the spirit of life from God will enter them; they will arise and stand upon their feet, and great fear will fall upon them that see them. And then they shall hear a voice from heaven saying, ‘Come up hither,’ and they will ascend up to heaven in a cloud, with enemies beholding them.” (Voice of Warning, p. 33.)
Elder Bruce R. McConkie identified the two prophets as “followers of that humble man Joseph Smith, through whom the Lord of Heaven restored the fulness of his everlasting gospel in this final dispensation of grace. No doubt they will be members of the Council of the Twelve or of the First Presidency of the Church.” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3:509.)
The two witnesses are raised up “to the Jewish nation” and are not necessarily from the Jewish nation (see D&C 77:15–16; italics added.)
“During the early part of the year 1832, the Prophet and Sidney Rigdon continued the work of the revision of the scriptures. At the time the Prophet was still residing in the house of Father John Johnson, at Hiram. It was during this time that this important revelation was given to the members of the Priesthood who were assembled imparting instructions in relation to the plan of the ‘united order’ or ‘order of Enoch,’ on which the promised Zion should be built. The Lord had revealed that it was only through obedience to his divine will, the celestial law, that Zion could be built. The members of the Church rejoiced when the Lord revealed to them the site on which the New Jerusalem, or City of Zion, should be built. Their enthusiasm, however, was not sufficient to carry them through to a conclusion in strict obedience to the divine will. In this revelation (Sec. 78) the Lord reveals his will in words of wisdom to all those holding the High Priesthood.” (Smith, Church History and Modern Revelation, 1:304–5.)
Joseph Smith wrote of this time: “Besides the work of translating, previous to the 20th of March, I received the four following revelations: [D&C 78–81]” (History of the Church, 1:255).
Elder Orson Pratt answered this question in this way: “The law of Enoch is so named in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants, but in other words, it is the law given by Joseph Smith, Jr. The word Enoch did not exist in the original copy; neither did some other names. The names that were incorporated when it was printed, did not exist there when the manuscript revelations were given, for I saw them myself. Some of them I copied. And when the Lord was about to have the Book of Covenants given to the world it was thought wisdom, in consequence of the persecutions of our enemies in Kirtland and some of the regions around, that some of the names should be changed, and Joseph was called Baurak Ale, which was a Hebrew word; meaning God bless you. He was also called Gazelam, being a person to whom the Lord had given the Urim and Thummim. He was also called Enoch. Sidney Rigdon was called Baneemy. And the revelation where it read so many dollars into the treasury was changed to talents. And the City of New York was changed to Cainhannoch.” (In Journal of Discourses, 16:156.)
In the 1981 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants, the substitute names were eliminated, since the need for them no longer existed.
“The principle is here taught that the Latter-day Saints must be equal in things pertaining to this Earth. In celestial glory there is perfect equality (Sec. 76:95). But if they have not practiced equality here, they are not prepared to live under that law there.” (Smith and Sjodahl, Commentary, p. 480.) It should be noted, however, that the Lord has a special definition of equality in the united order (see D&C 51:3; Notes and Commentary on D&C 51:3).
“I construe the new and everlasting covenant as I could construe, in large measure, a legal contract. I believe that our Father intended that he would obligate himself as well as obligate the beneficiaries of that contract to the performance of it. I believe that no one is entitled to the full measure of its blessings unless he subjects himself to all the conditions upon which those blessings are predicated, and I construe that covenant to be broad enough to embrace every principle of the gospel.” (Stephen L Richards, in Conference Report, Oct. 1922, p. 67.)
“To be turned over to the buffetings of Satan is to be given into his hands; it is to be turned over to him with all the protective power of the priesthood, of righteousness, and of godliness removed, so that Lucifer is free to torment, persecute, and afflict such a person without let or hindrance. When the bars are down, the cuffs and curses of Satan, both in this world and in the world to come, bring indescribable anguish typified by burning fire and brimstone. The damned in hell so suffer.” (McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p. 108.)
“Satan’s plan is to destroy. Ever since his rebellion in the former estate he has determined to carry out his plan by exercising force and compulsion against mankind. All those who accepted the Lord’s plan did so with an organized bond and covenant that was to be everlasting and not to be broken. The Lord’s covenants are always intended to be everlasting or to have a bearing on everlasting life. The brethren were duly warned that if they broke this covenant evil consequences would follow. ‘Satan seeketh,’ said the Lord, ‘to turn their hearts away from the truth, that they become blinded and understand not the things which are prepared for them.’ If they failed in this everlasting covenant then they were to be turned over to the buffetings of Satan until the day of redemption. We might think that the day of redemption means that they then, after their suffering, would be reinstated and receive the blessings which were first offered them. We are not justified in this conclusion. The day of redemption is the day of the resurrection. (D. & C. 88:16.) We should remember that the Lord has said at other times that such may not come into his presence.” (Smith, Church History and Modern Revelation, 1:308.)
Both temporal and spiritual needs receive emphasis in the Church.
The law of consecration was withdrawn by the Lord because the Saints showed that they would not abide by its laws (see D&C 105:2–6, 34). In 1936, under direction of the First Presidency, the welfare program was instituted, based on the same principles that governed the Saints in the united order, such as love, service, self-reliance, and consecration. The promise that the Church would stand independent above all other creatures (organizations, people, and so forth) will be partially fulfilled through the implementation of the welfare plan.
President Marion G. Romney said:
“I do not want to be a calamity howler. I don’t know in detail what’s going to happen in the future. I know what the prophets have predicted. But I tell you that the welfare program, organized to enable us to take care of our own needs, has not yet performed the function that it was set up to perform. We will see the day when we will live on what we produce.
“We’re living in the latter days. We’re living in the days the prophets have told about from the time of Enoch to the present day. We are living in the era just preceding the second advent of the Lord Jesus Christ. We are told to so prepare and live that we can be . . . independent of every other creature beneath the celestial kingdom. That is what we are to do.
“This welfare program was set up under inspiration in the days of President Grant. It was thoroughly analyzed and taught by his great counselor, J. Reuben Clark, Jr. It is in basic principle the same as the United Order. When we get so we can live it, we will be ready for the United Order. You brethren know that we will have to have a people ready for that order in order to receive the Savior when he comes.
“I know from my own experience and the witnesses by the thousands that I have received of the Spirit that this is the Lord’s work. It is to prepare us. If you’ll think of the most sacred place you ever have been, you’ll remember that the final thing that we are to do is to be able and willing to consecrate all that we have to the building up of the kingdom of God, to care for our fellow men. When we do this we’ll be ready for the coming of the Messiah.” (In Conference Report, Apr. 1975, pp. 165–66.)
Additional material on the law of consecration is found in Enrichment L in the Appendix.
Adam-ondi-Ahman is discussed in Notes and Commentary on Doctrine and Covenants 116; 107:53–57.
“Adam was among the intelligences spoken of by the Lord to Abraham who were appointed to be rulers on this earth. He was Michael, a prince, and son of God chosen to come to this earth and stand at the head of his posterity, holding the ‘keys of salvation under the counsel and direction of the Holy One, who is without beginning of days or end of life.’ This Holy One is Jesus Christ. On the earth Michael was known as Adam. In the pre-existent state he was a spirit like the others of our Father’s children.” (Smith, Answers to Gospel Questions, 1:5–6.)
Elder Orson Pratt pointed out that “there is one revelation that this people are not generally acquainted with. I think it has never been published, but probably it will be in the Church History. It is given in questions and answers. The first question is, ‘What is the name of God in the pure language?’ The answer says, ‘Ahman.’ ‘What is the name of the Son of God?’ Answer, ‘Son Ahman—the greatest of all the parts of God excepting Ahman.’” (In Journal of Discourses, 2:342.)
President Joseph Fielding Smith added: “We also learn from the closing verses of this revelation that Jesus Christ is also called Son Ahman. (See D&C 95:17.) Therefore his name is connected with the name of the place where Adam dwelt. For that reason Elder Orson Pratt gives it the interpretation of ‘The Valley of God.’” (Church History and Modern Revelation, 1:310.)
“Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who so devote themselves to righteousness that they receive the higher ordinances of exaltation become members of the Church of the Firstborn. Baptism is the gate to the Church itself, but celestial marriage is the gate to membership in the Church of the Firstborn, the inner circle of faithful saints who are heirs of exaltation and the fulness of the Father’s kingdom. (D&C 76:54, 67, 71, 94, 102; 77:11; 78:21; 88:1–5; Heb. 12:23.)” (McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p. 139.)
Notes and Commentary on Doctrine and Covenants 76:54 contains a further discussion of the Church of the Firstborn.
This revelation was received in March 1832 at Hiram, Ohio. Joseph Smith gave no explanation or introduction about why he received it. But Jared Carter explained that he had inquired of Joseph Smith regarding the will of the Lord for him. In response to the mission call in this revelation, Jared and his brother Simeon Carter started for the east. Jared recorded in his journal that he labored six months and two days in the mission field, during which time he converted seventy-nine souls. (See Journal of Jared Carter, Historical Department, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, pp. 53–54, 110–12, 123–24.)
President John Taylor taught that “it is for us to magnify our calling and honor our God in any and every position that we may be called upon to fill. . . . I would say that this Priesthood is not for the honor of man, not for his exaltation alone; but it is imparted to man in order that he may be made the medium of salvation to others. . . . Talking of the Elder, why he is a herald of salvation; he is a legate of the skies; he is commissioned of the great Jehovah to bear a message to the nations of the earth, and God has promised to sustain him. He has always sustained His faithful Elders, and He always will. And what of the Elder? He is commanded to call upon men to believe in Jesus Christ, to repent of their sins, and to be baptized for the remission of sins, promising them the gift of the Holy Ghost; and all who obey the requirements receive this divine gift. Is that true? Do you Elders not know that to be true? Does not this congregation know that it is true? And when you obeyed the Gospel, when you had hands laid upon your heads for the reception of the Holy Ghost, did you not receive it? If you were honest, you did; if you were true and sincere you did, and you are my witnesses as to the truth of these things of which I speak. What does it prove? It proves that God is with the Elders of Israel; it proves that God lives. Is not that a great witness to the Latter-day Saints, and is it not a witness to the world? Who dare come before the world with such a statement? Nobody but those that have the authority, as the Lord sanctions and acknowledges none excepting those that are authorized of Him.” (In Journal of Discourses, 24:35–36.)
Priesthood gives a man the power to bless others through worthy service.
“God has in reserve a time, or period appointed in His own bosom, when He will bring all His subjects, who have obeyed His voice and kept His commandments, into His celestial rest. This rest is of such perfection and glory, that man has need of a preparation before he can, according to the laws of that kingdom, enter it and enjoy its blessings.” (History of the Church, 2:12.)
Notes and Commentary on Doctrine and Covenants 75:5 explains the imagery of the sheaves.
During March 1832 Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon were working on the translation of the Bible. The Prophet Joseph Smith recorded simply: “Besides the work of translating, previous to the 20th of March, I received the four following revelations [D&C 78–81]” (History of the Church, 1:255).
Section 80 was given to Stephen Burnett and Eden Smith regarding their missionary activities. At the Church conference held at Amherst, Ohio, 25 January 1832, these two brethren had been called by the Lord to serve as missionaries (see D&C 75:35–36). Now they were assigned as missionary companions and sent forth to teach the gospel.
Elder Orson Pratt observed: “I have been abroad with several companies of missionaries from this place, and I have seen them lament and mourn, and have heard them tell their feelings one to another, saying—‘O that I had occupied my time that I have spent as it were in folly, in treasuring up the principles of eternal life,—that I had studied the scriptures—that I had made myself acquainted more extensively with the doctrines of the Church—that I had made myself acquainted with those principles revealed from heaven for our guidance! I should then have been prepared to stand before the inhabitants of the earth and edify them with regard to our principles.’” (In Journal of Discourses, 7:76.)
“Therefore, declare the things which ye have heard” (D&C 80:4).