On 15 March 1832 the Prophet Joseph Smith received a revelation calling Frederick G. Williams to be a Counselor in the First Presidency of the Church. Originally, however, this revelation was directed to Jesse Gause.
“Our earliest reference to Jesse Gause is as a member of the Shaker communities in Hancock near Pittsfield, and possibly in North Union, Ohio as well. His conversion and baptism are not found in any of the records of the Church, but one writer has suggested that he was converted by Reynolds Cahoon in late 1830. It was not until 8 March 1832, when Jesse Gause was called to be a counselor to Joseph Smith in the presidency of the high priesthood, that his name is even mentioned in surviving Church records. The notation in the Kirtland Revelation Book is as follows:
“‘March 8, 1832. Chose this day and ordained Brother Jesse Gause and Brother Sidney to be my counselors of the ministry of the presidency of the high priesthood . . .’ [spelling standardized].
“One week later, a revelation concerning Jesse Gause was received by Joseph Smith, confirming Jesse in his work and giving further direction in his office and calling. There are two manuscript copies of this revelation extant. . . . In both of these Jesse Gause’s name has been crossed out and Frederick G. Williams’ name written above it. Since that time, all published copies of this revelation (Section 81 of the Doctrine and Covenants) list Frederick G. Williams as the one to whom it is directed. Since this revelation contains instructions, duties, and promised blessings to the one called as counselor to the Prophet, the revelation was just as appropriate for Frederick G. Williams as it was to Jesse Gause.
“After Jesse Gause was ordained, he appeared in a leading role in the Church for only a short time. In April 1832, he accompanied Joseph Smith, Newel K. Whitney, and Peter Whitmer, Jr. on a trip to Missouri. They arrived 24 April and began holding conferences with the Saints in Zion on the 26th. In the minutes of a meeting of the Literary Firm held on Monday, 30 April, Jesse Gause was listed as a counselor to Joseph Smith. . . .
“Upon his return to Kirtland, Jesse was called to serve a mission with Zebedee Coltrin. They began their journey on 1 August 1832, and traveled until the 19th, at which time Coltrin decided to return to Kirtland because of severe pains in his head. After praying with and for each other, they parted. Jesse Gause continued east and walked right out of the history of the Church, never again to return. There appears to be no other record of the man either in or out of the Church.
“Some months after the departure of Jesse Gause, the presidency of the high priesthood was reorganized with Frederick G. Williams replacing him as counselor. This reorganization was commanded in Section 90 of the Doctrine and Covenants, and actually took place on 18 March 1833.” (Robert J. Woodford, “Jesse Gause, Counselor to the Prophet,” BYU Studies, Spring 1975, pp. 362–64.)
In November 1831 the Lord revealed the principles pertaining to the organization of the First Presidency. These principles were not formally presented until 28 March 1835, when the newly formed Quorum of the Twelve requested written instructions concerning their duties. This reply, now section 107 of the Doctrine and Covenants, includes the items given earlier concerning the First Presidency (see D&C 107:56–69, 71–72, 74–75, 78–87, 89, 91–92, 99–100; see also “Kirtland Revelation Book,” Archives of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, pp. 84–87.)
The Prophet Joseph Smith was ordained as president of the high priesthood on 25 January 1832 (see History of the Church, 1:267), but he did not select his counselors until 8 March 1832 (see “Kirtland Revelation Book,” p. 10). This revelation was directed to one of those counselors, Jesse Gause, but it was applied to Frederick G. Williams when he was called to the Presidency to replace Gause on 8 March 1833 (see D&C 90; History of the Church, 1:329–30). March 18, 1833, is the date when the organizing and ordaining of the first First Presidency in this dispensation was completed (see History of the Church, 1:334).
These events illustrate how the Church grew and developed as the need arose. President Anthon H. Lund explained: “When the Church was organized on the 6th day of April, 1830, . . . it was impossible to establish this perfect organization of the Priesthood. Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery were called and ordained Apostles; but there could not be Twelve Apostles, there could not be Seventy, for at that time the Church was too small. It took time for the work to grow; but the Lord had given revelation upon the subject, and when the proper time came the Presidency of the Church was organized, with the Prophet Joseph as President and Sidney Rigdon and Frederick G. Williams as his counselors. Afterwards the Twelve Apostles were chosen, and then the Seventies. But in the beginning, when there were not enough to form these different quorums, the Elders presided, because they held the Melchisedek Priesthood. The Lord, however, had a perfect organization for His Church, and He gave it unto them when they were ready to receive it.” (In Conference Report, Oct. 1901, p. 75.)
The First Presidency of the Church (1833): Sidney Rigdon, Joseph Smith, and Frederick G. Williams
President Joseph F. Smith explained: “The Priesthood in general is the authority given to man to act for God. Every man that has been ordained to any degree of the Priesthood, has this authority dedicated to him.
“But it is necessary that every act performed under this authority, shall be done at the proper time and place, in the proper way, and after the proper order. The power of directing these labors constitute the keys of the Priesthood. In their fullness, these keys are held by only one person at a time, the prophet and president of The Church. He may delegate any portion of this power to another, in which case that person holds the keys of that particular labor. Thus, the president of a temple, the president of a stake, the bishop of a ward, the president of a mission, the president of a quorum, each holds the keys of the labors performed in that particular body or locality. His Priesthood is not increased by this special appointment, for a seventy who presides over a mission has no more Priesthood than a seventy who labors under his direction; and the president of an elders’ quorum, for example, has no more Priesthood than any member of that quorum. But he holds the power of directing the official labors performed in the mission or the quorum, or in other words, the keys of that division of that work. So it is throughout all the ramifications of the Priesthood—a distinction must be carefully made between the general authority, and the directing of the labors performed by that authority.” (“Distinction between Keys of the Priesthood and Priesthood,” Improvement Era, Jan. 1901, p. 230.)
President Joseph Fielding Smith added:
“These keys are the right of presidency; they are the power and authority to govern and direct all of the Lord’s affairs on earth. Those who hold them have power to govern and control the manner in which all others may serve in the priesthood. All of us may hold the priesthood, but we can only use it as authorized and directed so to do by those who hold the keys.
“This priesthood and these keys were conferred upon Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery by Peter, James, and John, and by Moses and Elijah and others of the ancient prophets. They have been given to each man who has been set apart as a member of the Council of the Twelve. But since they are the right of presidency, they can only be exercised in full by the senior apostle of God on earth, who is the president of the Church.
“May I now say—very plainly and very emphatically—that we have the holy priesthood and that the keys of the kingdom of God are here. They are found only in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“By revelation to Joseph Smith, the Lord said that these keys ‘belong always unto the Presidency of the High Priesthood’ (D&C 81:2). . . .
“Now, brethren, I think there is one thing which we should have exceedingly clear in our minds. Neither the President of the Church, nor the First Presidency, nor the united voice of the First Presidency and the Twelve will ever lead the Saints astray or send forth counsel to the world that is contrary to the mind and will of the Lord.
“An individual may fall by the wayside, or have views, or give counsel which falls short of what the Lord intends. But the voice of the First Presidency and the united voice of those others who hold with them the keys of the kingdom shall always guide the Saints and the world in those paths where the Lord wants them to be. . . .
“I testify that if we shall look to the First Presidency and follow their counsel and direction, no power on earth can stay or change our course as a church, and as individuals we shall gain peace in this life and be inheritors of eternal glory in the world to come.” (In Conference Report, Apr. 1972, pp. 98–99; or Ensign, July 1972, pp. 87–88.)
This revelation to Frederick G. Williams is similar in some respects to a patriarchal blessing, for it told him of special promises and blessings reserved for him on the condition of his faithfulness and gave him specific charges that would help him achieve these blessings. During the apostasy in Kirtland in 1837, Frederick G. Williams became estranged from the Church. A conference of elders in Far West refused to sustain him as a member of the First Presidency, and at a conference in March 1839 he was excommunicated from the Church. Happily, about a year later he appeared during a general conference of the Church and “humbly asked forgiveness for his conduct [while in Missouri], and expressed his determination to do the will of God in the future” (History of the Church, 4:110). His petition was accepted, and he was rebaptized soon afterwards. He died in Nauvoo in 1842.
“In the Revelation recorded in Section 78, our Savior commanded His servants of the High Priesthood to effect an organization for the temporal benefit of the people, and directed the Prophet Joseph, Newel K. Whitney, and Sidney Rigdon to go from Hiram, Ohio, to Missouri, and ‘sit in council with the Saints which are in Zion,’ on that matter. The Prophet commenced the journey on April 1st, 1832, accompanied by Newel K. Whitney, Peter Whitmer, and Jesse Gause, and they were joined by Sidney Rigdon at Warren, the same day. The excitement of the mob in Kirtland, owing to the falsehoods circulated by apostates, was so intense that the Prophet and his companions avoided passing through the city. Some of the mobbers followed them all the way to Cleveland, but the protecting hand of the Lord was over His servants. The captain who took them to Louisville protected them in his boat, and gave them their meals, free of charge. They arrived at Independence, Missouri, on the 24th of April, and were greeted with joy by the Saints.
“On the 26th a general council of the Church was called. The Prophet was acknowledged as the President of the High Priesthood, to which exalted position he had been ordained at the Conference at Amherst, Ohio, Jan. 25th, 1832. Bishop Partridge gave him the right hand of fellowship in behalf of the Church.
“On this occasion a misunderstanding between Sidney Rigdon and Edward Partridge was cleared up, and unity and peace prevailed. The Lord then gave this Revelation [D&C 82].” (Smith and Sjodahl, Commentary, pp. 488–89.)
This verse “refers to Sidney Rigdon and Edward Partridge. Even those who stand highest among the Church leaders have their human weaknesses. Paul may have to rebuke Peter (Gal. 2:11–13). But when they forgive each other, God forgives them. ‘It is a true sentiment that great men may err; a higher finish with such is, that their greatness is enhanced by acknowledging their errors’ (Orson Spencer).” (Smith and Sjodahl, Commentary, p. 489.)
“Sidney Rigdon and Edward Partridge were not the only ones who had erred; all had sinned, some exceedingly. The Revelation does not give the particulars. But Church historians note that although the settlements in Zion increased rapidly, and were exceedingly prosperous, many of the Saints failed to obey the counsel of the authorities. Some refused to submit to the law of consecration, preferring to obtain property for themselves, and jealousy, covetousness, and general neglect of duty [resulted]. Some of the High Priests and Elders ignored the Seven Presidents appointed to have charge of the Branches in Zion, viz., Oliver Cowdery, W. W. Phelps, John Whitmer, Sidney Gilbert, Edward Partridge, Isaac Morley, and John Corrill, and took the leadership into their own hands. Hence the warning, ‘Refrain from sin, lest sore judgments fall upon you.’” (Smith and Sjodahl, Commentary, p. 489.)
“‘Darkness’ here, as in John 1:5, means the condition of the world outside divine revelation. It refers to both spiritual and moral error. Revelation from God gives light, but when divine revelation is rejected, the adversary spreads his dominion among the children of men.” (Smith and Sjodahl, Commentary, p. 490.)
President Brigham Young said: “It is present salvation and the present influence of the Holy Ghost that we need every day to keep us on saving ground. When an individual refuses to comply with the further requirements of Heaven, then the sins he had formerly committed return upon his head; his former righteousness departs from him, and is not accounted to him for righteousness: but if he had continued in righteousness and obedience to the requirements of heaven, he is saved all the time, through baptism, the laying on of hands, and obeying the commandments of the Lord and all that is required of him by the heavens—the living oracles. He is saved now, next week, next year, and continually, and is prepared for the celestial kingdom of God whenever the time comes for him to inherit it.” (In Journal of Discourses, 8:124.)
This verse shows a part of God’s basic nature: the way He deals with His children and the reason they can trust Him. Elder James E. Talmage said: “‘Mormonism’ has taught me that God holds himself accountable to law even as he expects us to do. He has set us the example in obedience to law. I know that to say this would have been heresy a few decades ago. But we have the divine word for it: ‘I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise.’ (Doc. and Cov. 82:10.) He operates by law and not by arbitrariness or caprice.” (In Conference Report, Apr. 1930, p. 96.)
The men named were of the order of Enoch or the united order. As leaders in the Church, they were to be examples to all others, showing how the law of consecration was to be lived (see also D&C 78:9–14; 82:20–21). The “bond and covenant” (D&C 78:11) to which they were binding themselves was that of the law of consecration. They were to make a solemn covenant with the Lord to keep the laws and rules of that order. The penalty for breaking that oath and covenant was severe (see D&C 82:21; 104:8–9).
President Harold B. Lee explained:
“Zion, as used here, undoubtedly had reference to the Church. At that time there was but a small body of Church members just beginning to emerge as an organization, after having experienced harsh treatment from enemies outside the Church. . . .
“To be worthy of such a sacred designation as Zion, the Church must think of itself as a bride adorned for her husband, as John the Revelator recorded when he saw in vision the Holy City where the righteous dwelled, adorned as a bride for the Lamb of God as her husband. Here is portrayed the relationship the Lord desires in his people in order to be acceptable to our Lord and Master even as a wife would adorn herself in beautiful garments for her husband.
“The rule by which the people of God must live in order to be worthy of acceptance in the sight of God is indicated [in this verse]. This people must increase in beauty before the world; have an inward loveliness which may be observed by mankind as a reflection in holiness and in those inherent qualities of sanctity. The borders of Zion, where the righteous and pure in heart may dwell, must now begin to be enlarged. The stakes of Zion must be strengthened. All this so that Zion may arise and shine by becoming increasingly diligent in carrying out the plan of salvation throughout the world.” (In Conference Report, Apr. 1973, pp. 4–5; or Ensign, July 1973, p. 3.)
Notes and Commentary on Doctrine and Covenants 51:3 contains some insights into these verses.
President Joseph Fielding Smith wrote:
“It is verily true that before we can enter into the celestial kingdom we will have to learn how to live in unity with the love of our fellows at heart, desiring their good as well as our own, and not preferring ourselves before them. Here the Lord gave to the Church the plan and the opportunity to prepare themselves by obedience to celestial law. They failed, and the privilege to practice this law of consecration had to be postponed because we were not able to esteem our neighbor as ourselves.” (Church History and Modern Revelation, 1:322.)
Notes and Commentary on Doctrine and Covenants 78:12 explains the phrase “buffetings of Satan.”
“The commandment of the Lord that the saints should make themselves ‘friends with the mammon of unrighteousness,’ seems to be a hard saying when not properly understood. It is not intended that in making friends of the ‘mammon of unrighteousness’ that the brethren were to partake with them in their sins; to receive them to their bosoms, intermarry with them and . . . come down to their level. They were to so live that peace with their enemies might be assured. They were to treat them kindly, be friendly with them as far as correct and virtuous principles would permit, but never to swear with them or drink and carouse with them. If they could allay prejudice and show a willingness to trade with and show a kindly spirit, it might help to turn them away from their bitterness. Judgment was to be left with the Lord.” (Smith, Church History and Modern Revelation, 1:323.)
The phrase “mammon of unrighteousness” is taken from the parable of the unjust steward (see Luke 16:11). An explanation of this parable and its significance for modern Saints is contained in Notes and Commentary on Doctrine and Covenants 72:3–4.
The Prophet Joseph Smith gave the following background:
“On the 27th, we transacted considerable business for the salvation of the Saints, who were settling among a ferocious set of mobbers, like lambs among wolves. It was my endeavor to so organize the Church, that the brethren might eventually be independent of every incumbrance beneath the celestial kingdom, by bonds and covenants of mutual friendship, and mutual love.
“On the 28th and 29th, I visited the brethren above Big Blue river, in Kaw township, a few miles west of Independence, and received a welcome only known by brethren and sisters united as one in the same faith, and by the same baptism, and supported by the same Lord. The Colesville branch, in particular, rejoiced as the ancient Saints did with Paul. It is good to rejoice with the people of God. On the 30th, I returned to Independence, and again sat in council with the brethren, and received the following: [D&C 83].” (History of the Church, 1:269.)
Since widows and orphans have special challenges, the Lord spelled out the Church’s special obligation to care for them. The declaration that a widow could remain upon her inheritance and that children who came of age could lay claim upon the Lord’s storehouse referred to the law of consecration (see Enrichment L in the Appendix for a discussion of how inheritances were given).
While indicating the responsibility of the Church for certain Saints in unfortunate circumstances, the Lord also outlined the basic responsibility of family members to care for their own (see D&C 83:2, 4). President Spencer W. Kimball said:
“The Church and its members are commanded by the Lord to be self-reliant and independent. (See D&C 78:13–14.)
“The responsibility for each person’s social, emotional, spiritual, physical, or economic well-being rests first upon himself, second upon his family, and third upon the Church if he is a faithful member thereof.
“No true Latter-day Saint, while physically or emotionally able will voluntarily shift the burden of his own or his family’s well-being to someone else. So long as he can, under the inspiration of the Lord and with his own labors, he will supply himself and his family with the spiritual and temporal necessities of life. (See 1 Timothy 5:8.)” (In Conference Report, Oct. 1977, p. 124; or Ensign, Nov. 1977, pp. 77–78.)
A parent’s stewardship is both temporal and spiritual.
The Prophet Joseph Smith, who was in Kirtland at the time, recorded the following:
“As soon as I could arrange my affairs, I recommenced the translation of the Scriptures, and thus I spent most of the summer. In July, we received the first number of The Evening and Morning Star, which was a joyous treat to the Saints. Delightful, indeed, was it to contemplate that the little band of brethren had become so large, and grown so strong, in so short a time as to be able to issue a paper of their own, which contained not only some of the revelations, but other information also,—which would gratify and enlighten the humble inquirer after truth. . . .
“The Elders during the month of September began to return from their missions to the Eastern States, and present the histories of their several stewardships in the Lord’s vineyard; and while together in these seasons of joy, I inquired of the Lord, and received on the 22nd and 23rd of September , the following revelation on Priesthood: [D&C 84].” (History of the Church, 1:273, 286–87.)
President Joseph Fielding Smith wrote:
“When Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon, he learned that America is the land of Zion which was given to Joseph and his children and that on this land the City Zion, or New Jerusalem, is to be built. He also learned that Jerusalem in Palestine is to be rebuilt and become a holy city. These two cities, one in the land of Zion and one in Palestine, are to become capitals for the kingdom of God during the millennium.
“In the meantime, while the work of preparation is going on and Israel is being gathered, many people are coming to the land of Zion saying: ‘Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob.’ The Latter-day Saints are fulfilling this prediction, since they are being gathered from all parts of the earth and are coming to the house of the Lord in these valleys of the mountains. Here they are being taught in the ways of the Lord through the restoration of the gospel and by receiving blessings in the temples now erected. Moreover, before many years have passed away, the Lord will command the building of the City Zion, and Jerusalem in Palestine will in due time be cleansed and become a holy city and the habitation of the Jews after they are cleansed and are willing to accept Jesus Christ as their Redeemer.” (Doctrines of Salvation, 3:71.)
Ancient prophets saw the New Jerusalem.
In his vision of the future events of the world, Enoch saw the day just before the Millennium when great tribulations would be seen on the earth, but along with that troubling prophecy came this comforting promise: “My people will I preserve” (Moses 7:61). That preservation will be brought about by righteousness that will come down from heaven (the restoration of the gospel and the Church through angelic messengers and other revelations) and truth (the Book of Mormon) that will come out of the earth. Combined, these events will cause righteousness and truth to cover the earth (see Moses 7:62). The result of that flood of light and truth will be “to gather out mine elect from the four quarters of the earth, unto a place which I shall prepare . . . and it shall be called Zion, a New Jerusalem” (Moses 7:62).
In a later revelation the Lord indicated that “the gathering together upon the land of Zion, and upon her stakes,” was “for a defense, and for a refuge from the storm, and from wrath when it shall be poured out without mixture upon the whole earth” (D&C 115:6). In another place, Zion is described as “a land of peace, a city of refuge, a place of safety for the saints of the Most High God” (D&C 45:66).
The scriptures teach that the gathering of the Saints to Zion and her stakes will be the means by which God preserves His people during the judgments of the last days. The Prophet Joseph taught the same concept: “We ought to have the building up of Zion as our greatest object. When wars come, we shall have to flee to Zion. The cry is to make haste. The last revelation says, Ye shall not have time to have gone over the earth, until these things come. It will come as did the cholera, war, fires, and earthquakes; one pestilence after another, until the Ancient of Days comes, then judgment will be given to the Saints. . . . The time is soon coming, when no man will have any peace but in Zion and her stakes.” (Teachings, pp. 160–61.)
On another occasion the Prophet Joseph Smith said: “Without Zion, and a place of deliverance, we must fall; because the time is near when the sun will be darkened, and the moon turn to blood, and the stars fall from heaven, and the earth reel to and fro. Then, if this is the case, and if we are not sanctified and gathered to the places God has appointed, with all our former professions and our great love for the Bible, we must fall; we cannot stand; we cannot be saved; for God will gather out his Saints from the Gentiles, and then comes desolation and destruction, and none can escape except the pure in heart who are gathered.” (Teachings, p. 71.)
Zion is the opposite of the world, or spiritual Babylon. In preparation for the Millennium, therefore, Babylon must be destroyed. The cry to all people is, “Go ye out from among the nations, even from Babylon, from the midst of wickedness, which is spiritual Babylon. . . . and he that goeth, let him not look back lest sudden destruction shall come upon him.” (D&C 133:14–15.) When one flees Babylon, one gathers to Zion and her stakes.
Elder Bruce R. McConkie said, “The gathering of Israel consists of receiving the truth, gaining again a true knowledge of the Redeemer, and coming back into the true fold of the Good Shepherd” (in Conference Report, Lima Peru Area Conference 1977, p. 33; or Ensign, May 1977, p. 117).
President Joseph Fielding Smith wrote: “There have been various interpretations of the meaning of a generation. It is held by some that a generation is one hundred years; by others that it is one hundred and twenty years; by others that a generation as expressed in this and other scriptures has reference to a period of time which is indefinite. The Savior said: ‘An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign.’ This did not have reference to a period of years, but to a period of wickedness. A generation may mean the time of this present dispensation.” (Church History and Modern Revelation, 1:337.)
The Lord was speaking of the temple in Zion, that is, Jackson County, Missouri. The Lord later excused the Saints from building that temple because the mobs prevented it (see D&C 124:49–51) and because the Saints at that time had not kept the commandments as they should (see D&C 105:1–9).
The day will come, however, when the holy city of God will be established in Jackson County, Missouri, and the temple will be filled with the glory of God as foreseen by the prophets (see 3 Nephi 20:22; 21:23–25; Ether 13:3–4, 6–8).
“The Lord manifested Himself in ancient Israel in a cloud, shaped as a pillar, which became luminous at night. It guided the people on the journey to Canaan. It stood at the entrance to the Sanctuary, and in it God spoke to Moses. It rested on the Sanctuary and filled it, when that sacred tent was set up. It was the visible sign of God’s guiding and protecting care over His people.” (Smith and Sjodahl, Commentary, p. 497.)
Smith and Sjodahl noted that in verse six is “the beginning of a sentence which is continued in . . . [verse] 31. All that intervenes is parenthetic, containing a statement regarding the lineage through which the Priesthood came to Moses and Aaron, and how it was restored in our day.” (Commentary, p. 498.) Without the parenthetical insertion, the sentence would read, “And the sons of Moses, according to the Holy Priesthood . . . shall offer an acceptable offering and sacrifice” (D&C 84:6, 31).
Moses ordained Aaron.
Carefully consider the following questions:
1. The priesthood lineage of the sons of Moses and Aaron, “according to the Holy Priesthood” (v. 6), is given in verses 6 through 16. The lineage begins with Adam and ends with Moses, as shown.
Who would come below Moses? (see vv. 32, 34).
2. Both the sons of Moses and the sons of Aaron are mentioned in this promise. What keys do each of these have? (see vv. 19–20, 26–27).
3. Why didn’t ancient Israel enjoy the privilege of seeing God and entering into His rest? (see vv. 21–24).
4. Is modern Israel in danger of losing blessings because they do not take their covenants seriously? (see vv. 47–48, 54–59).
5. John the Baptist was given power to prepare the Lord’s people for Jesus’ coming (see v. 28). How is the time of John’s mortal ministry like our time? What does this imply about the role of the priesthood today?
“The descent of this authority, or divine power, from Adam to Moses is here given in the Lord’s own words to Joseph Smith. Moses received it from Jethro, a priest of the house of Midian. The Midianites were descendants of Abraham, through the children of Keturah, wife of Abraham, therefore the Midianites, who were neighbors to the Israelites in Palestine, were related to the Israelites, and were Hebrews. As descendants of Abraham they were entitled through their faithfulness to his blessings (see Abraham 2:9–11), and in the days of Moses and preceding them, in Midian the Priesthood was found.” (Smith, Church History and Modern Revelation, 1:338.)
President Joseph Fielding Smith observed: “It is impossible for men to obtain the knowledge or the mysteries of the kingdom or the knowledge of God, without the authority of the Priesthood. Secular learning, the study of the sciences, arts and history, will not reveal these vital truths to man. It is the Holy Priesthood that unlocks the door to heaven and reveals to man the mysteries of the Kingdom of God. It is this Divine Authority which makes known the knowledge of God! Is there any wonder that the world today is groping in gross darkness concerning God and the things of his kingdom? We should also remember that these great truths are not made known even to members of the Church unless they place their lives in harmony with the law on which these blessings are predicated. (D. & C. 130:20–21.)” (Church History and Modern Revelation, 1:338.)
Elder Bruce R. McConkie explained: “When Israel, as a people and as a whole, failed to live in harmony with the law of Christ as contained in the fulness of his everlasting gospel, the Lord ‘in his wrath’ withdrew the fulness of his law from them. Because ‘they hardened their hearts’ and would not ‘enter into his rest while in the wilderness, which rest is the fulness of his glory, . . . he took Moses out of their midst, and the Holy Priesthood also’ (D&C 84:19–28.) That is, he took the Melchizedek Priesthood, which administers the gospel, out of their midst in the sense that it did not continue and pass from one priesthood holder to another in the normal and usual sense of the word. The keys of the priesthood were taken away with Moses so that any future priesthood ordinations required special divine authorization. But in place of the higher priesthood the Lord gave a lesser order, and in place of the fulness of the gospel he gave a preparatory gospel—the law of carnal commandments, the law of Moses—to serve as a schoolmaster to bring them, after a long day of trial and testing, back to the law of Christ in its fulness. There is the fulness of the gospel, and there is the preparatory gospel. There is the full law of Christ, and there is a partial law of Christ. The Mosaic system was the partial law, a portion of the mind and will of Jehovah, a strict and severe testing arrangement that would qualify those who obeyed its terms and conditions to receive the eternal fulness when the Messiah came to deliver and to restore it.” (Mortal Messiah, pp. 59–60.)
Elder Bruce R. McConkie explained:
“What concerns us above all else as to the coming of John, however, is that he came with power and authority. He first received his errand from the Lord. His was no ordinary message, and he was no unauthorized witness. He was called of God and sent by him, and he represented Deity in the words that he spoke and the baptisms he performed. He was a legal administrator whose words and acts were binding on earth and in heaven, and his hearers were bound, at the peril of their salvation, to believe his words and heed his counsels.
“Luke says: ‘The word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness.’ Later John is to say: ‘He that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me,’ such and such things. (John 1:33.) Who sent him we do not know. We do know that ‘he was baptized while he was yet in his childhood [meaning, when he was eight years of age], and was ordained by the angel of God at the time he was eight days old unto this power [note it well, not to the Aaronic Priesthood, but] to overthrow the kingdom of the Jews, and to make straight the way of the Lord before the face of his people, to prepare them for the coming of the Lord, in whose hand is given all power.’ (D&C 84:24.) We do not know when he received the Aaronic Priesthood, but obviously it came to him after his baptism, at whatever age was proper, and before he was sent by one whom he does not name to preach and baptize with water.” (Mortal Messiah, pp. 384–85.)
President Joseph Fielding Smith taught:
“As all of us know, a covenant is a contract and an agreement between at least two parties. In the case of gospel covenants, the parties are the Lord in heaven and men on earth. Men agree to keep the commandments and the Lord promises to reward them accordingly. The gospel itself is the new and everlasting covenant and embraces all of the agreements, promises, and rewards which the Lord offers to his people.
“And so when we receive the Melchizedek Priesthood we do so by covenant. We solemnly promise to receive the priesthood, to magnify our callings in it, and to live by every word that proceedeth forth from the mouth of God. The Lord on his part promises us that if we keep the covenant, we shall receive all that the Father hath, which is life eternal. Can any of us conceive of a greater or more glorious agreement than this? . . .
“To swear with an oath is the most solemn and binding form of speech known to the human tongue; and it was this type of language which the Father chose to have used in the great Messianic prophecy about Christ and the priesthood. Of him it says: ‘The Lord hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.’ (Ps. 110:4.)
“In explaining this Messianic prophecy, Paul says that Jesus had ‘an unchangeable priesthood,’ and that through it came ‘the power of an endless life.’ (See Heb. 7:24, 16.) Joseph Smith said that ‘all those who are ordained unto this priesthood are made like unto the Son of God, abiding a priest continually,’ that is, if they are faithful and true.
“And so Christ is the great prototype where priesthood is concerned, as he is with reference to baptism and all other things. And so, even as the Father swears with an oath that his Son shall inherit all things through the priesthood, so he swears with an oath that all of us who magnify our callings in that same priesthood shall receive all that the Father hath.” (In Conference Report, Oct. 1970, pp. 91–92.)
“What does it mean to magnify one’s calling? According to Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, ‘to magnify’ is ‘to increase the importance of: cause to be held in greater esteem or respect . . . to make greater.’ One magnifies a calling—
“In the words ‘magnifying their calling,’ far more seems to be implied than the mere attending of priesthood meetings, administering to the sacrament and the sick, and serving in Church work. Faithfulness to warrant the reception of the priesthood is a condition that perhaps all men do not meet. And the magnifying of their calling seems to imply a totalness which few, if any, men reach in mortality. Perfection of body and spirit seems to be included here.” (Miracle of Forgiveness, p. 123.)
“Who are the sons of Aaron and Levi today? They are, by virtue of the blessings of the Almighty, those who are ordained by those who hold the authority to officiate in the offices of the priesthood. It is written that those so ordained become the sons of Moses and Aaron.” (Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 3:93.)
“‘Sons of Moses,’ and ‘sons of Aaron’ do not refer to their literal descendants only, for all who are faithful and obtain these Priesthoods, and magnify their calling, are sanctified by the Spirit and become the ‘sons’ of Moses and of Aaron, and the seed of Abraham, as well as the Church and Kingdom, and the elect of God (v. 34). Paul expresses this thought as follows, ‘Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham’ (Gal. 3:7).” (Smith and Sjodahl, Commentary, p. 504.)
The verb received in verses 40–41 may imply much more than just being ordained to the Melchizedek Priesthood. President Marion G. Romney said of this verse: “Now, I do not think this means that all who fail to magnify their callings in the priesthood will have committed the unpardonable sin, but I do think that priesthood bearers who have entered into the covenants that we enter into—in the waters of baptism, in connection with the law of tithing, the Word of Wisdom, and the many other covenants we make—and then refuse to live up to these covenants will stand in jeopardy of losing the promise of eternal life.” (In Conference Report, Apr. 1972, p. 112; or Ensign, July 1972, p. 99.)
Smith and Sjodahl said about this promise: “How important, then, that those who bear the Holy Priesthood should live so, that they are fit companions for angels!” (Commentary, p. 508; see also D&C 84:88; 109:22; Matthew 18:10; Psalm 91:11, which also refer to angels’ watching over men).
“Satan has power in the earth, and in the exercise of his agency he tempts the children of men. . . . At the same time we have the sweet influence of the Spirit of God pleading with us to do that which is right, pleading with every human being that does not drive it from him; for every human being has a portion of the Spirit of God given unto him. We sometimes call it conscience; we call it by one name and we call it by another; but it is the Spirit of God that every man and woman possesses that is born on the earth. God has given unto all his children this Spirit. Of course it is not the gift of the Holy Ghost in its fullness; for that is only received by obedience to the commandments of God.” (George Q. Cannon, in Journal of Discourses, 26:191.)
The compilation and preservation of the Book of Mormon have been carefully guarded and watched over by the Savior and His prophets down through the ages. Its message is of greatest importance to the inhabitants of the earth, and to treat lightly that sacred record is a serious thing, as President Ezra Taft Benson explained:
“Some of the early missionaries, on returning home, were reproved by the Lord in section 84 of the Doctrine and Covenants because they had treated lightly the Book of Mormon. As a result, their minds had been darkened. The Lord said that this kind of treatment of the Book of Mormon brought the whole Church under condemnation, even all of the children of Zion. And then the Lord said, ‘And they shall remain under this condemnation until they repent and remember the new covenant, even the Book of Mormon.’ (See D&C 84:54–57.) Are we still under that condemnation? . . .
“. . . Grave consequences hang on our response to the Book of Mormon. ‘Those who receive it,’ said the Lord, ‘in faith, and work righteousness, shall receive a crown of eternal life;
“‘But those who harden their hearts in unbelief, and reject it, it shall turn to their own condemnation—
“‘For the Lord God has spoken it.’ (D&C 20:14–16.)
“Is the Book of Mormon true? Yes.
“Who is it for? Us.
“What is its purpose? To bring men to Christ.
“How does it do this? By testifying of Christ and revealing his enemies.
“How are we to use it? We are to get a testimony of it, we are to teach from it, we are to hold it up as a standard and ‘hiss it forth.’
“Have we been doing this? Not as we should, nor as we must.
“Do eternal consequences rest upon our response to this book? Yes, either to our blessing or our condemnation.
“Every Latter-day Saint should make the study of this book a lifetime pursuit. Otherwise he is placing his soul in jeopardy and neglecting that which could give spiritual and intellectual unity to his whole life.” (In Conference Report, Apr. 1975, pp. 96–97; or Ensign, May 1975, p. 65.)
The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles was not organized until 1835, yet the Lord refers to these brethren as Apostles. Elder Joseph Fielding Smith explained:
“An apostle, the dictionary states, is ‘one of the twelve chosen by Christ to proclaim His gospel; also a Christian missionary who first evangelizes a certain nation; any zealous advocate of a doctrine or cause.’ . . .
“The term apostle is recognized in the Church in the sense in which it is defined in the dictionary. Men have been called apostles who have been sent forth with the gospel message even when they have not been ordained to that particular office. . . .
“This revelation was given two years and four months before the first men were ordained to the special calling as apostles in the Church, but as they were commissioned to go forth proclaiming the gospel as witnesses for Christ, he designated them as his apostles.” (“The Twelve Apostles,” Improvement Era, Apr. 1935, p. 208.)
In Mark 16:17–18 the Savior made similar promises to the missionaries in New Testament times.
“Thousands of missionaries have put this promise to the test and the Lord has kept his promise to all those who have been faithful in their calling. Surely if the Father notices when a sparrow falls, he will not forsake any who in faithful obedience to his will seek his aid. That there have been those who have gone forth and have been weary in body and mind, and who have gone hungry, there is no doubt, for there are missionaries who have not given all their heart to the Lord and they have idled away valuable time when it was needful for them to proclaim the truth.” (Smith, Church History and Modern Revelation, 1:344.)
“‘Reprove,’ as stated (v. 76) is to ‘convict.’ God’s messengers, as it were, are lawyers before the bar of God. It is their duty to ‘convict’ the world of sin, and to warn all men of the ‘judgment which is to come.’ They are not sent out to entertain the world with philosophical lectures, or ethical discourses, or flowery oratory, or amusing anecdotes. Their one duty is to secure conviction and, if possible, repentance and salvation.” (Smith and Sjodahl, Commentary, p. 518.)
“The new song which they shall sing at this great day will be concerning the redemption of Zion and the restoration of Israel. Even now there are those who have set to music these beautiful words (vs. 99–102.), but we may believe that no music has yet been produced that will compare with the music for this song when Zion is redeemed.” (Smith, Church History and Modern Revelation, 1:345.)
This phrase is also used in the book of Revelation (see Revelation 10:6). Elder Bruce R. McConkie explained that the phrase means “that there should be no more delay—not that time as such should end and eternity begin, for the Millennial Era is still ahead—but, as shown in D&C 88:110, that ‘Satan shall be bound,’ thus ending the ‘time’ (it ‘shall be no longer’!) when persecution prevails” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3:506).
These cities were the subject of another prophet’s testimony. Elder Wilford Woodruff addressed a conference in Logan, Utah, on 22 August 1863. Speaking directly to the youth in attendance, he declared: “‘Now, my young friends, I wish you to remember these scenes you are witnessing during the visit of President Young and his brethren. Yea, my young friends, treasure up the teachings and sayings of these prophets and apostles as precious treasure while they are living men, and do not wait until they are dead. A few days and President Young and his brethren, the prophets and apostles and Brothers Benson and Maughan, will be in the spirit world. You should never forget this visitation. You are to become men and women, fathers and mothers; yea, the day will come, after your fathers, and these prophets and apostles are dead, you will have the privilege of going into the towers of a glorious Temple built unto the name of the Most High (pointing in the direction of the bench), east of us upon the Logan bench; and while you stand in the towers of the Temple and your eyes survey this glorious valley filled with cities and villages, occupied by tens of thousands of Latter-day Saints, you will then call to mind this visitation of President Young and his company. You will say: That was in the days when Presidents Benson and Maughan presided over us; that was before New York was destroyed by an earthquake; it was before Boston was swept into the sea, by the sea heaving itself beyond its bounds; it was before Albany was destroyed by fire; yea, at that time you will remember the scenes of this day. Treasure them up and forget them not.’ President Young followed and said: ‘What Brother Woodruff has said is revelation and will be fulfilled.’” (In Lundwall, Temples of the Most High, pp. 97–98.)
Wilford Woodruff spoke of the future destruction of New York, Albany, and Boston.
What is now known as section 85 was written as a letter by Joseph Smith to William W. Phelps on 27 November 1832. The first part of the letter read:
“I say brother, because I feel so from the heart, and although it is not long since I wrote a letter unto you, yet I feel as though you would excuse me for writing this, as I have many things which I wish to communicate. Some things which I will mention in this letter, which are lying with great weight on my mind. I am well, and my family also; God grant that you may enjoy the same, and yours, and all the brethren and sisters who remember to inquire after the commandments of the Lord, and the welfare of Zion and such a being as myself; and while I dictate this letter, I fancy to myself that you are saying or thinking something similar to these words:—‘My God, great and mighty art Thou, therefore show unto Thy servant what shall become of those who are essaying to come up unto Zion, in order to keep the commandments of God, and yet receive not their inheritance by consecrations, by order of deed from the Bishop, the man that God has appointed in a legal way, agreeably to the law given to organize and regulate the Church, and all the affairs of the same.’
“Brother William, in the love of God, having the most implicit confidence in you as a man of God, having obtained this confidence by a vision of heaven, therefore I will proceed to unfold to you some of the feelings of my heart, and to answer the question.” (History of the Church, 1:297–98.)
President Joseph Fielding Smith wrote: “We are informed that we are to be judged out of the books that are to be kept, therefore they should be accurate in every detail. . . .
“. . . To keep a record of the manner of life of these consecrated members was important because of the nature of the covenant which they were required to make when they entered into this order, or covenant. . . . The names of all faithful members were to be recorded, with an account of their stewardship, their faith and their works. What a happy people they would have been if they had hearkened with singleness of heart to these commandments, for the Lord had promised to protect them in these inheritances if they would be faithful to him. The Lord knew that there would be some among them who would falter; some who would come to Zion not willing to enroll themselves and their property to the welfare of Zion, and therefore could not be given stewardships in the covenant which the Lord had made with the saints. He, therefore, commanded that all those who came to Zion and who were not willing to receive an inheritance, and consecration agreeable to his law should not be numbered among the faithful.” (Church History and Modern Revelation, 1:348–49.)
President Joseph Fielding Smith wrote:
“The closing verses of this revelation state that all those who are not found written in the book of remembrance, shall have no inheritance in that day. Their portion shall be with the unbelievers, where there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. ‘And they who are of the High Priesthood, whose names are not found written in the book of the law, or that are found to have apostatized, or to have been cut off from the church, as well as the lesser priesthood, or the members, in that day shall not find an inheritance among the saints of the Most High.’ It is stated that with them it will be done as it was to the people in the days of Ezra after the return from Babylonian captivity. At that time the Lord said through his prophet:
“‘These sought their register among those that were reckoned by genealogy, but they were not found: therefore were they, as polluted, put from the priesthood.’ (Ezra 2:62.)
“The members of the Church today should take warning from this which is written and keep themselves prepared by their faithful adherence to the principles of the Gospel, and be true to their covenants, so that when that day shall come, if they are here to share in it, they will not be found like these Jews in the days of Ezra, but will have their names written in the book of remembrance.” (Church History and Modern Revelation, 1:352.)
The reference to the “one mighty and strong” (D&C 85:7) who is to set in order the house of God and also the reference to one who “putteth forth his hand to steady the ark” (v. 8) have been used by many apostates from the Church to justify their own falling away. They claim that various Presidents of the Church have lost favor with God and are rejected, and that they, the apostates, are the “one mighty and strong” called by God to set things right. Such audacious claims contradict the meaning of the scriptures. In an official statement issued in 1905, the First Presidency (Joseph F. Smith, John R. Winder, and Anthon H. Lund) discussed the circumstances that brought this revelation forth and those to whom these two phrases referred:
“It is to be observed first of all that the subject of this whole letter, as also the part of it subsequently accepted as a revelation, relates to the affairs of the Church in Missouri, the gathering of the Saints to that land and obtaining their inheritances under the law of consecration and stewardship; and the Prophet deals especially with the matter of what is to become of those who fail to receive their inheritances by order or deed from the bishop. . . .
“It was while these conditions of rebellion, jealousy, pride, unbelief and hardness of heart prevailed among the brethren in Zion—Jackson county, Missouri—in all of which Bishop Partridge participated, that the words of the revelation taken from the letter to William W. Phelps, of the 27th of November, 1832, were written. The ‘man who was called and appointed of God’ to ‘divide unto the Saints their inheritance’—Edward Partridge—was at that time out of order, neglecting his own duty, and putting ‘forth his hand to steady the ark’; hence, he was warned of the judgment of God impending, and the prediction was made that another, ‘one mighty and strong,’ would be sent of God to take his place, to have his bishopric—one having the spirit and power of that high office resting upon him, by which he would have power to ‘set in order the house of God, and arrange by lot the inheritance of the Saints’; in other words, one who would do the work that Bishop Edward Partridge had been appointed to do, but had failed to accomplish. . . .
“And inasmuch as through his repentance and sacrifices and suffering, Bishop Edward Partridge undoubtedly obtained a mitigation of the threatened judgment against him of falling ‘by the shaft of death, like as a tree that is smitten by the vivid shaft of lightning,’ so the occasion for sending another to fill his station—‘one mighty and strong to set in order the house of God, and to arrange by lot the inheritances of the Saints’—may also be considered as having passed away and the whole incident of the prophecy closed.” (In Clark, Messages of the First Presidency, 4:112, 115, 117.)
“This much, then, we have learned, viz., that Edward Partridge, the Bishop of the Church, was the one ‘called and appointed, to divide by lot unto the Saints their inheritances.’ But was Edward Partridge the one in 1832 who was ‘putting forth his hand to steady the ark,’ and threatened with falling ‘by the shaft of death like as a tree that is smitten by the vivid shaft of lightning’? Undoubtedly. The brethren in those days were limited in their experience. The Church had been organized but as yesterday. The order of the Priesthood was not understood then, as it is understood today. The brethren composing it had been but recently brought together. Some of them were often in rebellion against the Prophet and the order of the Church because of these conditions; and it required instruction and time and experience to enable men to understand their duties and preserve their right relationship to each other as officers of the Church.
“Bishop Partridge was one of the brethren, who—though a most worthy man, one whom the Lord loved, and whom the Prophet described as ‘a pattern of piety,’ and ‘one of the Lord’s great men’—at times arrayed himself in opposition to the Prophet in those early days, and sought to correct him in his administrations of the affairs of the Church; in other words, ‘put forth his hand to steady the ark.’” (In Clark, Messages of the First Presidency, 4:113.)
“Some modern people have created cults of their own, and among them are those who attempt to take refuge in section 85 of the Doctrine and Covenants.
“They endeavor to say that the Church has gone astray, that the leaders are no longer inspired, and that ‘one mighty and strong’ is needed to take over the affairs of the Lord. And without any evidence of modesty whatsoever on their parts, they themselves volunteer for the position.” (Mark E. Petersen, in Conference Report, Apr. 1973, p. 159; or Ensign, July 1973, p. 110.)
Such people become guilty of the very thing this scripture warns against: they take it upon themselves to “steady the ark” (see Notes and Commentary for D&C 85:8).
Elder Bruce R. McConkie explained:
“Every person properly appointed and sustained to act in an official capacity in the Church is entitled to the spirit of revelation to guide the particular organization or group over which he presides. The ‘Presidency are over the Church,’ the Prophet said, ‘and revelations of the mind and will of God to the Church, are to come through the Presidency. This is the order of heaven, and the power and privilege of this priesthood. It is also the privilege of any officer in this Church to obtain revelations, so far as relates to his particular calling and duty in the Church.’ (Teachings, p. 111.)
“This system of promulgating revelations through the established head of the Lord’s earthly work is so unbending and inflexible that it stands as a test to establish the truth or falsity of purported revelations. ‘There is none other appointed unto you to receive commandments and revelations until he be taken,’ the Lord said of the Prophet. ‘And this shall be a law unto you, that ye receive not the teachings of any that shall come before you as revelations or commandments; And this I give unto you that you may not be deceived, that you may know they are not of me.’ (D. & C. 43:2–7; Doctrines of Salvation, vol. 1, pp. 283–89.)” (Mormon Doctrine, pp. 646–47.)
This phrase refers to an incident during the reign of King David in ancient Israel. The Philistines had captured the ark of the covenant in battle but returned it when they were struck by plagues (see 1 Samuel 4–6). David and the people later brought the ark to Jerusalem in an ox cart, driven by Uzzah and Ahio. “And when they came to Nachon’s threshingfloor, Uzzah put forth his hand to the ark of God, and took hold of it; for the oxen shook it. And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Uzzah; and God smote him there for his error, and there he died by the ark of God” (2 Samuel 6:6–7; see vv. 1–11). The ark was the symbol of God’s presence, His glory and majesty. When first given to Israel, the ark was placed in the Holy of Holies in the tabernacle, and not even the priest was allowed to approach it. Only the high priest, a type of Christ, could approach it, and then only after going through an elaborate ritual of personal cleansing and propitiation for his sins. The scriptures teach that no unclean thing can dwell in God’s presence (see Moses 6:57). His presence is like a consuming fire (see Hebrews 12:29). Those who bear the vessels of the Lord must be clean (see D&C 133:5).
However well-meaning Uzzah’s intentions, he approached casually what could only be approached under the strictest conditions. He had no faith in God’s power. He assumed that the ark was in danger, forgetting that it was the physical symbol of the God who has all power. We cannot presume to save God and His kingdom through our own efforts.
“Uzzah’s offence consisted in the fact that he had touched the ark with profane feelings, although with good intentions, namely to prevent its rolling over and falling from the cart. Touching the ark, the throne of the divine glory and visible pledge of the invisible presence of the Lord, was a violation of the majesty of the holy God. ‘Uzzah was therefore a type of all who with good intentions, humanly speaking, yet with unsanctified minds, interfere in the affairs of the kingdom of God, from the notion that they are in danger, and with the hope of saving them’ (O.V. Gerlach).” (Keil and Delitzsch, Commentary, bk. 2: Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 and 2 Samuel, “Second Book of Samuel,” p. 333.)
In modern revelation the Lord referred to this incident to teach the principle that the Lord does not need the help of men to defend his kingdom (see D&C 85:8). Yet even today there are those who fear the ark is tottering and presume to steady its course. There are those who are sure that women are not being treated fairly in the Church, those who would extend some unauthorized blessing, or those who would change the established doctrines of the Church. These are ark-steadiers. The best intentions do not justify such interference with the Lord’s plan. President David O. McKay said:
“It is a little dangerous for us to go out of our own sphere and try unauthoritatively to direct the efforts of a brother. You remember the case of Uzzah who stretched forth his hand to steady the ark. (See I Chron. 13:7–10.) He seemed justified, when the oxen stumbled, in putting forth his hand to steady that symbol of the covenant. We today think his punishment was very severe. Be that as it may, the incident conveys a lesson of life. Let us look around us and see how quickly men who attempt unauthoritatively to steady the ark die spiritually. Their souls become embittered, their minds distorted, their judgments faulty, and their spirits depressed. Such is the pitiable condition of men who, neglecting their own responsibilities, spend their time in finding fault with others.” (McKay, Gospel Ideals, p. 258.)
President John Taylor observed:
“We have more or less of the principles of insubordination among us. But there is a principle associated with the kingdom of God that recognizes God in all things, and that recognizes the priesthood in all things, and those who do not do it had better repent or they will come to a stand very quickly; I tell you that in the name of the Lord. Do not think you are wise and that you can manage and manipulate the priesthood, for you cannot do it. God must manage, regulate, dictate, and stand at the head, and every man in his place. The ark of God does not need steadying, especially by incompetent men without revelation and without knowledge of the kingdom of God and its laws. It is a great work that we are engaged in, and it is for us to prepare ourselves for the labor before us, and to acknowledge God, his authority, his law and his priesthood in all things.” (Taylor, Gospel Kingdom, p. 166.)
David O. McKay warned that unauthorized individuals who attempt to “steady the ark” die spiritually.
The Savior often used parables to teach the people during His mortal ministry. On one occasion when He was on the shore of Galilee, the people pressed so close that He stepped into a boat and from there preached to the crowd. One of the messages He taught was the parable of the wheat and the tares. Later, when Jesus was alone with His Apostles, He explained the parable to them (see Matthew 13:24–30).
On 6 December 1832, while Joseph Smith was working on the revision of the New Testament, he received an explanation of the parable of the wheat and the tares, “a more complete interpretation than [Jesus] gave to his apostles as recorded by Matthew. The reason for this may be accounted for in the fact that it is to be in these last days that the harvest is gathered and the tares are to be burned.” (Smith, Church History and Modern Revelation, 1:353.)
“Parables are short stories which point up and illustrate spiritual truths. Those spoken by Jesus deal with real events, or, if fictitious, are so consistent and probable that they may be viewed as the commonplace experiences of many people.
“When opposition to his message became bitter and intense, the master Teacher chose to present many of the truths of salvation in parables in order to hide his doctrine from those not prepared to receive it. It was not his purpose to cast pearls before swine.” (McConkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 1:283.)
If the listener is spiritually sensitive to gospel truths, parables teach beautiful and powerful principles. But if one is not spiritually aware, then, as Elder McConkie pointed out, “parables seldom clarify a truth; rather, they obscure and hide the doctrine involved so that none but those already enlightened and informed, on the very point presented, are able to grasp the full meaning. Nowhere is this better illustrated than in the parable of the wheat and the tares. When Jesus first gave this parable, even the disciples did not understand it. They asked for the interpretation, and he gave it, partially at least. And then with both the parable and the interpretation before the world, the Lord still had to give a special revelation in latter-days so that the full meaning of this marvelous parable might sink into the hearts of men. (D. & C. 86.)” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 1:283–84.)
He will separate the wheat from the tares.
When Jesus first gave the parable of the wheat and the tares (see Matthew 13:24–30, 36–43), He interpreted most the details in the parable.
1. The man sowing seed is the Son of Man (Jesus).
2. The field is the world.
3. The good seed are the children of the kingdom (followers of Jesus).
4. The tares are children of the wicked one (those who follow the enticements of Satan).
5. The enemy is the devil.
6. The harvest is the end of the world.
7. The reapers are the angels sent to reap the field.
8. The tares bound and burned are the evil ones separated out and cast into fire (punishment) at the Judgment.
9. The wheat gathered into the barn represents the righteous who are separated out and made to “shine forth” in the kingdom of the Father.
The Lord did not interpret the following details in Matthew 13:
1. The wheat springing forth and starting to bear fruit.
2. The men sleeping.
3. The wheat and tares being allowed to grow together until the harvest.
4. The wheat being uprooted in an attempt to weed out the tares.
In Doctrine and Covenants 86, the Lord explains these additional details and gives more information on the first details:
1. The field is the world (see v. 2).
2. The Apostles are the sowers of the seed (see v. 2). President Joseph Fielding Smith explained: “In Matthew’s account the Lord declares that he is the sower of the good seed, and in the Doctrine and Covenants it is stated that the apostles were the sowers of the seed. There is no contradiction here. Christ is the author of our salvation and he it was who instructed the apostles, and under him they were sent to preach the Gospel unto all the world, or to sow the seed, and as the seed is his and it is sown under his command, he states but the fact in this revelation and also in the parable.” (Church History and Modern Revelation, 1:353.)
3. Falling asleep implies the death of the original Apostles (see D&C 86:3).
4. The enemy is Babylon (see v. 3), the great whore, which is elsewhere called the great and abominable church (see 1 Nephi 13:4–8). Babylon is a symbol of worldliness and evil, and therefore may be said to represent the devil’s power in this world. Those who remain in Babylon are those who follow the practices of the world and who do not accept the word of the Lord. Sometimes Satan’s persecution of the Church takes the form of aggressive persecution, such as killing the prophets or physically abusing the Saints. More often the persecution consists of social pressure against the humble followers of Christ. Those in the “great and spacious building” in Lehi’s dream mocked those who were pressing forward to partake of the fruit of the tree of life, and many became ashamed and fell away (see 1 Nephi 8:27–33).
5. The tares (see D&C 86:4) represent evil doctrines and those who spread them. “Traditionally, tares have been identified with the darnel weed, a species of bearded rye-grass which closely resembles wheat in the early growth period and which is found in modern Palestine. This weed has a bitter taste; if eaten in any appreciable amount, either separately or when mixed with bread, it causes dizziness and often acts as a violent emetic.” (McConkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 1:296.)
President Joseph Fielding Smith pointed out that “even in the Church the tares are to be found. It is the tares which are to be gathered up and burned from all over the world, but those in the Church will also be gathered out and find their place in the fire. [See D&C 112:23–26.] The Savior also bore witness of [this. When] speaking to the Nephites he said: ‘For it shall come to pass, saith the Father, that at that day whosoever will not repent and come unto my Beloved Son, them will I cut off from my people, O house of Israel.’ (3 Nephi 21:20.)” (Church History and Modern Revelation, 1:354.)
False doctrines or individuals who present themselves as faithful members of the Church but are in reality servants of Satan are a source of temptation to the faithful and tend to choke or corrupt the word of God, or the good seed that is sown.
6. The Church being driven into the wilderness (see D&C 86:3) represents the time of the Apostasy. When the tares (the evil in the Church) grew to maturity, the result was apostasy. The wilderness represents the period of time when the Church and the priesthood were taken from the earth (see Revelation 12:12–17).
7. The tenderness of the wheat is explained in Doctrine and Covenants 86:6 as weakness, or newness, in the faith. When this revelation was given in December 1832, the Church was not yet three years old and was, therefore, still very “tender.” At that time many of the tares were not yet identifiable, and attempts to systematically root out those who would eventually prove themselves to be tares would have been very destructive.
8. As in Matthew, the reapers are identified as the angels of God (see D&C 86:5). But the Lord also indicates that at the time this revelation was given, the angels were anxiously awaiting permission to carry out their mission. (Notes and Commentary on D&C 86:5 discusses the time when that permission was given.)
9. The harvest and the burning of the tares (see v. 7) was explained by the Prophet Joseph Smith: “The harvest and the end of the world have an allusion directly to the human family in the last days. . . . As, therefore, the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so shall it be in the end of the world; that is, as the servants of God go forth warning the nations, both priests and people, and as they harden their hearts and reject the light of truth—these first being delivered over to the buffetings of Satan, and the law and the testimony being closed up, as it was in the case of the Jews—they are left in darkness, and delivered over unto the day of burning; thus, being bound up by their creeds, and their bands being made strong by their priests, [they] are prepared for the fulfillment of the saying of the Savior—‘The Son of Man shall send forth His angels, and gather out of His Kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; and shall cast them into a furnace of fire, there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.’ We understand that the work of gathering together of the wheat into barns, or garners, is to take place while the tares are being bound over, [in preparation] for the day of burning, that after the day of burnings, the righteous shall shine forth like the sun, in the Kingdom of their Father.” (Teachings, p. 101.)
In 1894 President Woodruff stated: “God has held the angels of destruction for many years, lest they should reap down the wheat with the tares. But I want to tell you now, that 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. Calamities and troubles are increasing in the earth, and there is a meaning to these things. Remember this, and reflect upon these matters. If you do your duty, and I do my duty, we’ll have protection, and shall pass through the afflictions in peace and in safety.” (Young Women’s Journal, Aug. 1894, pp. 512–13.)
President Joseph Fielding Smith, who was present when President Woodruff talked about these angels at the dedication of the Salt Lake Temple (see Signs of the Times, pp. 112–13), recorded the following:
“One day while I was sitting in the presence of my father [President Joseph F. Smith] back about 1908 or 9, somewhere in there, I called attention to these statements of President Woodruff, and I said I would like to go over the records from the time of the dedication of the Temple up until now and see what we can find in regard to calamities, destructions, plagues; and he encouraged me to do it, and so I did. So I went over the newspapers and over the magazines and jotted down year by year the destructions, the commotions among men, everything in the nature of a calamity, and to my great astonishment each year they increased, and they have been increasing ever since I quit making that record. I was greatly astonished by it; and when I called the attention of one of my neighbors to it, he almost got angry at me and he said, ‘Oh, well, we have got better facilities now for discovering these things. I don’t believe it.’ And he is a member of the Church, too, but seemed to lack faith in these predictions. . . .
“This will be astonishing to you, I am sure, and I copied this from the [Literary] Digest of January 20, 1934.
“‘Two scientists charting the European record find that the indexed number of Wars rose from 2.678 in the twelfth to 13,735.98 in the twentieth century.
“‘Does war tend to decline as nations become more civilized? Many philosophers have said so; but now two sociologists of Harvard University have turned the cold and dispassionate eye of science upon the question, and have decided that future wars, fiercer than any ever fought before, apparently can be avoided only by a miracle. Far from declining, wars increase in number and intensity as nations progress, and the worst flareup since the dawn of history has occurred in our own century.’
“‘Now, of course, he had reference to the war from 1914 to 1918.
“‘These scientists are Professor Pitirim A. Sorokin, chairman of the Department of Sociology at Harvard, and Nicholas N. Golovin, formerly Lieutenant-General in the Imperial Russian army. They have reached their conclusions through a study of all the wars known to have taken place in Europe since Greece and the Western Roman Empire over a period of more than 2,400 years—from 500 B.C. to 1925 A.D. During this period in Greece, Rome, Central Europe, Germany, Italy, France, Great Britain, Spain, and the Netherlands and Russia, there occurred 902 wars (not battles).
“‘Each was studied from five points of view, the duration of the war, the size of the fighting force, the number of casualties, including killed and wounded, the number of countries involved, and the proportion of the combatants to the total population of the belligerent nations.
“‘From these five “variables” a total indexed number was computed for each war, in order that they might be reasonably expressed in terms of a common denominator.’
“Now, that’s the quotation. Then [in 1936] I made these remarks.
“Out of this study these scientists declare that they have discovered that war has tended to increase over all Europe in the late centuries. They say they have learned that in these countries war grew from 2.678 in the twelfth century to 13,735.98 in the first twenty-five years of the twentieth century. Their tables show the growth by centuries. Up to the seventeenth century the wars were comparatively insignificant. Beginning with that century war increased during the eighteenth, with a lull in the nineteenth, yet in that century they were more than 100 times greater than in medieval times.
“‘These men conclude that “all commendable hopes that war will disappear in the near future are based on nothing more substantial than hope of a belief in miracles.”’
“And then I made this prediction:
“‘If prophecy is to be fulfilled, there awaits the world a conflict more dreadful than any the world has yet seen.’ (Progress of Man, pp. 402–404.)
“Now I want to make some comments in regard to the statement by President Woodruff and this parable.
“The Lord said that the sending forth of these angels was to be at the end of the harvest, and the harvest is the end of the world. Now, that ought to cause us some very serious reflections. And the angels have been pleading, as I have read it to you, before the Lord to be sent on their mission. Until 1893 the Lord said to them no, and then He set them loose. According to the revelation of President Woodruff, the Lord sent them out on that mission.
“What do we gather out of that? That we are at the time of the end. This is the time of the harvest. This is the time spoken of which is called the end of the world.” (Signs of the Times, pp. 116–21.)
This phrase means that one’s right to the priesthood is held by virtue of being of the house of Israel. Elder Theodore M. Burton explained:
“One thing we often fail to realize is that our priesthood comes to us through the lineage of our fathers and mothers. The Lord explained it in these words: ‘Therefore, thus saith the Lord unto you, with whom the priesthood hath continued through the lineage of your fathers. . . .’ (D&C 86:8.)
“‘Oh,’ I can hear some of you say, ‘there must be something wrong with that statement, for I am the only member of my family who has joined the Church. How could I have received the priesthood from my parents?’
“In this scripture the Lord was not talking about your priesthood line of authority. He was talking about your inherited right to receive and use priesthood power. This readiness to listen and believe is an inherited gift which enabled you to recognize and accept the truth. Jesus explained this thought as he said: ‘My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.’ (John 10:27.)
“That spirit of acceptance is a manifestation of your inherited right to priesthood blessings. Such willingness to believe does not represent predestination, but it does represent foreordination. The Lord continues the revelation: ‘For ye are lawful heirs, according to the flesh, and have been hid from the world with Christ in God.’ (D&C 86:9.)
“This means we receive a right to priesthood blessings from our blood ancestry. I hope you can understand that priesthood with its accompanying blessings is dependent to a great degree on family relationship.” (In Conference Report, Apr. 1975, p. 103; or Ensign, May 1975, p. 71.)
Elder Theodore M. Burton gave important insight into this scripture: “In this final verse the Lord reminds us of two things. First, he reminds us of our responsibility to do missionary work here on the earth. Second, he informs us that we are not only to be messengers of salvation to the living, but saviors for our ancestors who went before us and who, though now dead, have paved the way whereby we might receive our present blessings. It is through them we received our priesthood. The promise was made that even if they were born at a time and place where they could not hear the gospel preached in life, God would provide saviors for them from among their descendants. We are those saviors God promised through whom they can have every priesthood blessing.” (In Conference Report, Apr. 1975, p. 105; or Ensign, May 1975, p. 71.)
The Prophet Joseph Smith wrote that the “appearances of troubles among the nations became more visible this season than they had previously been since the Church began her journey out of the wilderness. The ravages of the cholera were frightful in almost all the large cities on the globe. The plague broke out in India, while the United States, amid all her pomp and greatness, was threatened with immediate dissolution. The people of South Carolina, in convention assembled (in November), passed ordinances, declaring their state a free and independent nation; and appointed Thursday, the 31st day of January, 1833, as a day of humiliation and prayer, to implore Almighty God to vouchsafe His blessings, and restore liberty and happiness within their borders.” It was the intent of South Carolina, following the day of prayer and humiliation, to sever ties with the United States on the first day of February; however, “President Jackson issued his proclamation against this rebellion, called out a force sufficient to quell it, and implored the blessings of God to assist the nation to extricate itself from the horrors of the approaching and solemn crisis.
“On Christmas day ,” the Prophet Joseph recorded, “I received the following revelation and prophecy on war [D&C 87].” (History of the Church, 1:301.)
Conflict did seem possible in the political turbulence of the early 1830s, as President Joseph Fielding Smith noted: “Scoffers have said it was nothing remarkable for Joseph Smith in 1832, to predict the outbreak of the Civil War and that others who did not claim to be inspired with prophetic vision had done the same. It has been said that Daniel Webster and William Lloyd Garrison in 1831 had predicted the dissolution of the Union. It is well known that senators and congressmen from the South had maintained that their section of the country had a right to withdraw from the Union, for it was a confederacy, and in 1832, war clouds were to be seen on the horizon. It was because of this fact that the Lord made known to Joseph Smith this revelation stating that wars would shortly come to pass, beginning with the rebellion of South Carolina, which would eventually terminate in war being poured out upon all nations and in the death and misery of many souls. It may have been an easy thing in 1832, or even 1831, for someone to predict that there would come a division of the Northern States and the Southern States, for even then there were rumblings, and South Carolina had shown the spirit of rebellion. It was not, however, within the power of man to predict in the detail which the Lord revealed to Joseph Smith, what was shortly to come to pass as an outgrowth of the Civil War and the pouring out of war upon all nations.” (Church History and Modern Revelation, 1:358–59.)
In April 1843, when the threat of secession was not so immediate, the Prophet again stated: “I prophesy, in the name of the Lord God, that the commencement of the difficulties which will cause much bloodshed previous to the coming of the Son of Man will be in South Carolina. It may probably arise through the slave question. This a voice declared to me while I was praying earnestly on the subject, December 25th, 1832.” (History of the Church, 5:324.)
Fort Sumter, South Carolina, where the U.S. Civil War began
“At that time  there was considerable commotion in the United States. The tariff question was one of great issue. The State of New York, before its acceptance of the Federal Constitution, surrounded itself with protective tariffs, and this policy was gradually approved by other Northern States. The Southern States, on the other hand, regarded free trade as best serving their interests, as their products were limited to a few articles of raw material, which they exported, while they imported practically all the manufactured commodities they needed. In 1824, Congress enacted a protective-tariff bill. A few years later, a stricter measure was adopted against Great Britain, in retaliation for efforts to exclude American trade from the British West Indies. This met with vigorous opposition in the South, especially in South Carolina. In this State, in 1832, a convention of the citizens declared that the tariff acts of 1828 and 1832 were not binding within their territory, and fixed February 1st, 1833, as the date after which they would be considered abrogated, unless Congress should, before then, remove the difficulty. Many Northerners were in favor of carrying the laws of the Union into effect by means of arms, at that time, and a bill empowering the President to use force was introduced in Congress. It was during this political agitation that the Prophet Joseph made the condition of his Country the subject of prayer and received this Revelation (See Sec. 130:12, 13).
“While all of these differences existing between the North and the South had a tendency to drive the people apart, yet it was the question of slavery, and the contention over the expansion of new territory and the creation of new states and whether or not slavery should be permitted in such new territory, that became the crux which brought upon the people the great Civil War. . . .
“South Carolina took the initiative. From a mere human point of view this appeared improbable. The probability was that the Northern States, conscious of their numerical and financial strength, would throw down the gauntlet. A bill was before Congress authorizing President Andrew Jackson to use force in defense of the Union. But, notwithstanding this, the North did not begin the war. South Carolina took the first step, by recalling her representatives in the United States Senate, November 10, 1860. This was followed by an ordinance of secession, passed by the State Legislature on the 17th of November, the same year. And on the 12th of April, 1861, the first shot of the war was fired by General Beauregard against Fort Sumter, and thus the conflict was begun by South Carolina, as foretold by the Prophet, and not by any of the Northern States.” (Commentary, pp. 533–35.)
The war that started with the rebellion of South Carolina marked the beginning of the era of war that will last until the Savior returns to establish peace. In the American Civil War, “the personal valour and the enormous casualties—both in absolute numbers and in percentage of numbers engaged—have not yet ceased to astound scholars and military historians everywhere. Based on the three-year standard of enlistment, some 1,556,000 soldiers served in the Federal armies, which suffered a total of 634,703 casualties (359,528 dead and 275,175 wounded). There were probably some 800,000 men serving in the Confederate forces, which sustained approximately 483,000 casualties (about 258,000 deaths and perhaps 225,000 wounded).
“The cost in treasure was, of course, staggering for the embattled sections. Both governments, after strenuous attempts to finance the prosecution of the war by increasing taxes and floating loans, were obliged to resort to the printing press to make fiat money. While separate Confederate figures are lacking, the war finally cost the United States over $15,000,000,000. In sum, although the Union was preserved and restored, the cost in physical and moral suffering was incalculable, and some spiritual wounds caused by [this] holocaust still have not yet been healed.” (Warren W. Hassler Jr., in New Encyclopaedia Britannica , s.v. “Civil War, U.S.”)
In 1958 Elder Joseph L. Wirthlin noted:
“The Prophet Joseph gave us this marvelous revelation in 1832. The Civil War came in 1861; the war between Denmark and Prussia in 1864; Italy and Austria in 1865 and 1866; Austria and Prussia in 1866; Russia and Turkey in 1877; China and Japan in 1894 and 1895; Spanish-American in 1898; Japan and Russia in 1904 and 1905; World War I in 1914–1918; then the next war was a comparatively small one, Ethiopia and Italy, when the people in that land of Ethiopia were taken over and controlled by Italy. I am grateful to the Lord that they now have their freedom. Then, the World War just passed [World War II] and, of course, the Korean War. [Since 1958 there have been, among numerous other wars, the Vietnam War in Southeast Asia, the war in Angola, the Six-Day and Yom Kippur wars in the Holy Land, and the Persian Gulf War.]
“These nations of Russia, China, Korea, Syria, Israel, Egypt, Arabia, Lebanon—all of these nations are now in an attitude of war of some kind. Just what the results are going to be, I do not know. Of course, from the revelations we can and do know that some day there will be one great war in a certain area, that area possibly may be in and around some of these countries I have mentioned, probably around Israel.” (In Conference Report, Oct. 1958, p. 33.)
Elder Joseph Fielding Smith, in a lecture given in 1942, explained: “We hear a great deal and we see a great deal in the prints today about this great second world war. I think in a previous talk I said I did not call it the second world war. This is the first world war. It is only a part, a continuation of the war of 1914 to 1918, and even that was not the beginning. I have been asked a great many times if I thought this present war was the great last war before the coming of Christ, and I have said yes; but I do not mean when I say this that we will not have another spell, another armistice, when they may lay down their arms for a season only to get ready to take them up again, although I hope that will not be the case. I think the great world war commenced in April, 1861. At any rate, that was the beginning of the end. . . .
“Based upon what the Lord says in this Section 87 of the Doctrine & Covenants—the Section on war which I read—I place the time of the beginning of the end at the rebellion of South Carolina. I say I place it there. I beg your pardon. The Lord places it there because it says beginning at this place these things would take place.” (Signs of the Times, pp. 138, 149.)
Elder James E. Talmage said: “While no open alliance between the Southern States and the English government was effected, British influence gave indirect assistance and substantial encouragement to the South, and this in such a way as to produce serious international complications. Vessels were built and equipped at British ports in the interests of the Confederacy; and the results of this violation of the laws of neutrality cost Great Britain fifteen and a half millions of dollars, which sum was awarded the United States at the Geneva arbitration in settlement of the Alabama claims. The Confederacy appointed commissioners to Great Britain and France; these appointees were forcibly taken by United States officers from the British steamer on which they had embarked. This act, which the United States government had to admit as overt, threatened for a time to precipitate a war between this nation and Great Britain.” (Articles of Faith, pp. 25–26.)
“Still another prediction is made in this verse, although probably some readers miss it because the language is somewhat involved. We have already seen that ‘the Southern States will call on other nations, even [“including” as I interpret it] the nation of Great Britain, as it is called.’ Immediately following these words we read: ‘and they shall also call upon other nations, in order to defend themselves against other nations.’ What is the antecedent of they? It cannot be the Southern States, because the Confederacy was fighting the Northern States only and was not defending itself against ‘other nations.’ Furthermore, the verse has already made the point that the Southern States would call (for help) on other nations. To me the antecedent of they is Great Britain and the other nations upon which the Confederacy would call for help, namely, France, Holland, and Belgium. The plain meaning of the words to me last quoted (‘and they shall also,’ etc.) is that even as the Southern States would call for help on other nations, so in turn would Great Britain, France, Holland, and Belgium eventually call for help in other conflicts to follow, in order to defend themselves. Many of us have lived to see the letter and spirit of this prophecy fulfilled in the two World Wars we have passed through. ‘And then,’ continues the Lord, ‘war shall be poured out upon all nations.’ That is to say, when Great Britain and the other nations mentioned call for help, world war would result. This has already taken place.” (Sperry, Compendium, pp. 419–20.)
President Joseph Fielding Smith noted that “following the Civil War the nations, in their great alarm because of the new methods of warfare which were being developed and their fear of other nations, entered into alliances and secret agreements in order to protect themselves from other nations. At the outbreak of the World War, these alliances had reached proportions never before known, and during the war other alliances were made until nearly every nation on the earth had taken sides with the Triple Alliance or the Triple Entente. It was during the period of the World War, 1914–1918, Great Britain made her appeal to the nations to come to the defense of the standard of Democracy. Her pleadings were heard round the world.” (Church History and Modern Revelation, 1:361.)
This prophecy begins with reference to the U.S. Civil War, which was fought over the issue of slavery. Many have therefore assumed that Doctrine and Covenants 87:4 refers to slaves who fled the South and fought in the Union armies against their former masters. Elder Joseph L. Wirthlin suggested a further fulfillment: “I believe, brethren and sisters, that it was intended that this referred to slaves all over the world.” Elder Wirthlin mentioned specifically the inhabitants of the former Soviet Union and its satellites and other parts of the world “where the rights and the privilege to worship God and to come to a knowledge that Jesus Christ is his Son is denied them” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1958, p. 32).
The word remnant is often used in the scriptures to refer to a segment of the house of Israel (see Topical Guide, “remnant,” 419). Because the Savior made specific promises about the remnants of the Nephites and Lamanites (see 3 Nephi 20:10, 16; 21:2, 4), many have assumed that this verse refers to the Lamanite peoples who would at some point arise and “vex the Gentiles” (D&C 87:5).
President Joseph Fielding Smith wrote: “The history of this American continent . . . gives evidence that the Lamanites have risen up in their anger and vexed the Gentiles. This warfare may not be over. It has been the fault of people in the United States to think that this prophetic saying has reference to the Indians in the United States, but we must remember that there are millions of the ‘remnant’ in Mexico, Central and South America. It was during our Civil War that the Indians in Mexico rose up and gained their freedom from the tyranny which Napoleon endeavored to inflict upon them contrary to the prediction of Jacob in the Book of Mormon, that there should be no kings among the Gentiles on this land. The independence of Mexico and other nations to the south has been accomplished by the uprising of the ‘remnant’ upon the land. However, let us not think that this prophecy has completely been fulfilled.” (Church History and Modern Revelation, 1:363.)
In other places the word remnant is used generally of all Israel (see 1 Nephi 13:33), in some places it refers to the Jews (see Isaiah 37:31–32), and in some cases it refers specifically to the Latter-day Saints (see D&C 52:2.) So it is possible that the remnants mentioned in Doctrine and Covenants 87:5 could include people of the house of Israel other than the Lamanites.
Elder James E. Talmage taught: “Now, I do not believe in trying to explain away the words of God that predict calamity, but are nevertheless full of assurance unto the righteous, be it a righteous man or a righteous nation. We should awaken to their dread import. The Lord is dealing with the nations of the earth, and his Spirit has departed in large measure from nations that have defied him and his commandments, and as a result, they, being left largely to themselves, war with one another, and seek all means by which they can destroy one another most expeditiously. Now, the Lord is not the author of these evil things; the nations are bringing these inflictions upon themselves, and there shall be a consummation brought about as the Lord hath decreed, which shall mean an end of all nations as such, if they will not observe the law and the commandments of the Lord their God.” (In Conference Report, Oct. 1923, p. 54.)
In the judgments that precede the Millennium, all earthly kingdoms will come to an end and the kingdom of God will triumph and become the one political power during the thousand years of peace and righteousness (see Revelation 11:15).
Prior to the Civil War many members of the Church lost their lives at the hand of ruthless mobs. Elder George Q. Cannon wrote: “There is no sin that a nation can commit, which the Lord avenges so speedily and fearfully, as he does the shedding of innocent blood, or, in other words, the killing of his anointed and authorized servants. No nation which has been guilty of this dreadful crime has ever escaped his vengeance. The thunderbolts of his wrath have been always launched forth for the destruction of the perpetrators of such wickedness. It is a rank offence against the majesty of Heaven and the authority of the Creator, which he never suffers to pass unrebuked; for such men act in his stead, and are his representatives on the earth.” (Millennial Star, 4 June 1864, pp. 361–62; see also Notes and Commentary on D&C 101:81–95 and on D&C 136:34–36.)
“‘Sabaoth’ is a Hebrew word meaning ‘hosts.’ It sometimes refers to the armies of Israel and other nations; sometimes to the priests officiating in the Sanctuary; sometimes to the people of God generally, and sometimes to the stars and planets in the sky. ‘Lord of Hosts’ is equivalent to the ‘all-sovereign,’ or ‘omnipotent’ Lord. When we pray, we should remember that He, to whom we speak, has all power in heaven and on Earth—the Lord of Hosts. The Lord has given His interpretation to this word to be: ‘The Creator of the first day, the beginning and the end.’” (Smith and Sjodahl, Commentary, p. 540.)
This verse uses language similar to Doctrine and Covenants 45:31–32:
“For a desolating sickness shall cover the land.
“But my disciples shall stand in holy places, and shall not be moved.”
President Harold B. Lee promised that “the true servants of God, those who are doing their duty, will be protected and preserved if they will do as the Lord has counseled: ‘stand ye in holy places’” (Stand Ye in Holy Places, p. 87).
President Lee also wrote:
“The Lord has told us where these ‘holy places’ are:
“‘And it shall come to pass among the wicked, that every man that will not take his sword against his neighbor must needs flee unto Zion for safety.’ (D&C 45:68.)
“Where is Zion?
“During the various periods of time or dispensations, and for specific reasons, the Lord’s prophets, His ‘mouthpieces,’ as it were, have designated gathering places where the Saints were to gather. After designating certain such places in our dispensation, the Lord then declared:
“‘Until the day cometh when there is found no more room for them; and then I have other places which I will appoint unto them, and they shall be called stakes, for the curtains or the strength of Zion.’ (D&C 101:21.) . . .
“There are several meanings of the word Zion.
“It may have reference to the hill named Mount Zion, or, by extension, the land of Jerusalem. . . .
“Zion was so called by Enoch in referring to the ‘City of Holiness’ (Moses 7:19) or the ‘City of Enoch’. The land of Zion has been used to refer, in some connotations, to the Western Hemisphere.
“But there is another most significant use of the term by which the Church of God is called Zion: It comprises, according to the Lord’s own definition, ‘the pure in heart.’ (D&C 97:21.)
“As one studies the Lord’s commandments and the attending promises for compliance therewith, one gets some definite ideas as to how we might ‘stand in holy places,’ as the Lord commands—how we will be preserved with protection in accordance with His holy purposes, in order that we might be numbered among the ‘pure in heart’ who constitute Zion.” (Stand Ye in Holy Places, pp. 22–23.)
In light of these teachings, “holy places” may have more to do with how one lives than where one lives. If we live worthy of the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost, then we stand in a holy place.
The home is the most important institution for teaching the children of God the principles of Zion. President Lee counseled: “Teach your families in your family home evening; teach them to keep the commandments of God, for therein is our only safety in these days. If they will do that, the powers of the Almighty will descend upon them as the dews from heaven, and the Holy Ghost will be theirs. That can be our guide, and that Spirit shall guide us and direct us to His holy home.” (Lee, Stand Ye in Holy Places, p. 190; see also Joseph L. Wirthlin, in Conference Report, Oct. 1958, pp. 33–34.)
A holy place is any place where a person enjoys the Spirit of God. The Lord commands that each member stand firmly in holy places and not be moved (falter or fall away into forbidden paths) until the Lord comes to claim His own. We should each obey this command so that we can “abide the day” (D&C 45:57).
The home is the most important institution for teaching children the principles of Zion.
On 27 December 1832 a conference of ten high priests, including the Prophet, met in Kirtland to find out the Lord’s will concerning the building of Zion and the duty of the elders of the Church. Their questions seem to have stemmed from a great desire to know what the Church should do “in view of the critical times that had been predicted” (Smith and Sjodahl, Commentary, p. 540).
The conference lasted two days, during which Joseph instructed the nine other brethren on how to receive the blessings of heaven and the mind of the Lord. That the Lord was pleased with their desires is evident from the introduction to the revelation (see D&C 88:2). In consequence His spirit was poured out upon them, and most of section 88 (vv. 1–126) was given in segments over the two days of the conference. The final part was received by Joseph Smith on 3 January 1833 and was then added to the first 126 verses for publication in the 1835 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants. (See “Kirtland Revelation Book,” Historical Department, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, pp. 47–48.)
In a letter written to William W. Phelps, the Prophet Joseph Smith called this revelation “the ‘Olive Leaf’ which we have plucked from the Tree of Paradise, the Lord’s message of peace to us” (History of the Church, 1:316). The name is appropriate, because the olive tree is a well-known symbol of peace, and the revelation contains numerous keys for achieving spiritual peace.
The olive tree, a symbol of peace
This title is explained in Notes and Commentary on Doctrine and Covenants 87:7.
The promises in these four verses were given to the ten men who had assembled in conference: Joseph Smith Sr., Sidney Rigdon, Orson Hyde, Joseph Smith Jr., Hyrum Smith, Samuel H. Smith, Newel K. Whitney, Frederick G. Williams, Ezra Thayer, and John Murdock. These ten men were promised “another Comforter” (v. 3).
The Prophet Joseph Smith explained that “there are two Comforters spoken of. One is the Holy Ghost, the same as given on the day of Pentecost, and that all Saints receive after faith, repentance, and baptism. This first Comforter or Holy Ghost has no other effect than pure intelligence, . . . expanding the mind, enlightening the understanding, and storing the intellect with present knowledge. . . .
“The other Comforter spoken of is a subject of great interest, and perhaps understood by few of this generation. After a person has faith in Christ, repents of his sins, and is baptized for the remission of his sins and receives the Holy Ghost, (by the laying on of hands), which is the first Comforter, then let him continue to humble himself before God, hungering and thirsting after righteousness, and living by every word of God, and the Lord will soon say unto him, Son, thou shalt be exalted. When the Lord has thoroughly proved him, and finds that the man is determined to serve Him at all hazards, then the man will find his calling and his election made sure, then it will be his privilege to receive the other Comforter, which the Lord hath promised the Saints, as is recorded in the testimony of St. John, in the 14th chapter, from the 12th to the 27th verses. . . .
“Now what is this other Comforter? It is no more nor less than the Lord Jesus Christ Himself; and this is the sum and substance of the whole matter; that when any man obtains this last Comforter, he will have the personage of Jesus Christ to attend him, or appear unto him from time to time, and even He will manifest the Father unto him, and they will take up their abode with him, and the visions of the heavens will be opened unto him, and the Lord will teach him face to face, and he may have a perfect knowledge of the mysteries of the Kingdom of God; and this is the state and place the ancient Saints arrived at when they had such glorious visions—Isaiah, Ezekiel, John upon the Isle of Patmos, St. Paul in the three heavens, and all the Saints who held communion with the general assembly and Church of the Firstborn.” (Teachings, pp. 149–51.)
Some have thought that the phrase “another Comforter” in Doctrine and Covenants 88:3 refers to the Second Comforter, or a personal visit from the Savior. However, the Lord in this verse promised that this Comforter would “abide in your hearts.” The scriptures tell us elsewhere that “the appearing of the Father and the Son [referred to in John 14:23] is a personal appearance; and the idea that the Father and the Son dwell in a man’s heart is an old sectarian notion, and is false” (D&C 130:3). The Comforter promised in Doctrine and Covenants 88 is “the Holy Spirit of promise” (v. 3), “the promise which I give unto you of eternal life” (v. 4).
Elder Bruce R. McConkie said of this passage: “In a revelation to certain selected saints in this dispensation, the Lord said that the alms of their prayers were ‘recorded in the book of the names of the sanctified, even them of the celestial world’ (D. & C. 88:2), which is to say that they were among those who had ‘overcome by faith,’ and were ‘sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, which the Father sheds forth upon all those who are just and true.’ (D. & C. 76:53.) . . .
“These saints, like their Ephesian Brethren before them, had been called and chosen ‘before the foundation of the world’ that they ‘should be holy and without blame’ before the Lord, through baptism and obedience (Eph. 1:4–7), which is the sole course by which men can sanctify their souls (3 Ne. 27:19–20), thereby qualifying to have their names recorded ‘in the book of the names of the sanctified.’ (D. & C. 88:2.) They had then earned the right by faith and devotion to have the seal of divine acceptance placed on the conditional promises which they had theretofore made. They now had the sure ‘promise . . . of eternal life’ (D. & C. 88:4), which eternal life is the name of the kind of life which God our Heavenly and Eternal Father lives, and they were prepared to receive the Second Comforter.” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3:338–39.)
The deep peace such a promise could bring alone justifies the title Olive Leaf.
See Notes and Commentary for Doctrine and Covenants 76:54.
President Joseph Fielding Smith explained that the “Light of Christ is not a personage. It has no body. I do not know what it is as far as substance is concerned; but it fills the immensity of space and emanates from God. It is the light by which the worlds are controlled, by which they are made. It is the light of the sun and all other bodies. It is the light which gives life to vegetation. It quickens the understanding of men, and has these various functions as set forth in these verses.
“It is: ‘The light which is in all things, which giveth life to all things, which is the law by which all things are governed, even the power of God who sitteth upon his throne, who is in the bosom of eternity, who is in the midst of all things.’
“This is our explanation in regard to the Spirit of Christ, or Light of Truth, which every man receives and is guided by. Unless a man had the blessings that come from this Spirit, his mind would not be quickened; there would be no vegetation grown; the worlds would not stay in their orbits; because it is through this Spirit of Truth, this Light of Truth, according to this revelation, that all these things are done.
“The Lord has given to ‘every man that cometh into the world,’ the guidance of the Light of Truth, or Spirit of Jesus Christ, and if a man will hearken to this Spirit he will be led to the truth and will recognize it and will accept it when he hears it. We have seen this demonstrated thousands of times, where men were led to investigate and have had the desire to investigate in spite of the prejudices and traditions which they were taught in the world.
“If they refuse to come unto him, then he calls them wicked and they are under the bondage of sin. It seems to me that when a person declares that he is satisfied with his religion and therefore does not care to investigate, it is evidence that he has not hearkened to the Light of Truth which was given him; else he would not have been satisfied with the false religion which he has and would be seeking the truth.” (Doctrines of Salvation, 1:52–53.)
Most people in the world think of the soul as being synonymous with the spirit of man, but, as Elder James E. Talmage wrote, “it is peculiar to the theology of the Latter-day Saints that we regard the body as an essential part of the soul. Read your dictionaries, the lexicons, and encyclopedias, and you will find that nowhere, outside of the Church of Jesus Christ, is the solemn and eternal truth taught that the soul of man is the body and the spirit combined. It is quite the rule to regard the soul as that incorporeal part of men, that immortal part which existed before the body was framed and which shall continue to exist after that body has gone to decay; nevertheless, that is not the soul; that is only a part of the soul; that is the spirit-man, the form in which every individual of us, and every individual human being, existed before called to take tabernacle in the flesh. It has been declared in the solemn word of revelation, that the spirit and the body constitute the soul of man; and, therefore, we should look upon this body as something that shall endure in the resurrected state, beyond the grave, something to be kept pure and holy.” (In Conference Report, Oct. 1913, p. 117.)
“The entrance to celestial glory is through death and resurrection (v. 14). And the Earth itself must pass through the same process, in order to become the dwelling-place of celestial beings (vv. 18–20),” wrote Smith and Sjodahl.
“The opinion that this globe is to be annihilated finds no support in the Word of God. Here, the important truth is revealed that our globe will be sanctified from all unrighteousness, and prepared for celestial glory, so that it will be fit for the presence of God, the Father. . . . It will not remain a dead planet, whirling about aimlessly in space; nor will it be distributed in the form of cosmic dust, throughout the universe. It will be glorified, by celestial glory, and become an abode for resurrected beings (v. 20).” (Commentary, p. 543.)
Elder James E. Talmage explained the relationship between obedience and blessings: “The Lord has said that according to the laws we obey here shall we receive from Him. We speak of rewards just as we speak of punishments. But rewards and punishments will come through the operation of law. The Lord has spoken illustrating that great truth by reference to what He had already revealed respecting the kingdoms or orders of glory, to this effect—If a man cannot or will not obey celestial laws, that is, live in accordance with the celestial requirements, he must not think that he is discriminated against when he is excluded from the celestial kingdom, because he could not abide it, he could not live there. If a man cannot or will not obey the terrestrial law he cannot rationally hope for a place in the terrestrial kingdom. If he cannot live the yet lower law—the telestial law—he cannot abide the glory of a telestial kingdom, and he will have to be assigned therefore to a kingdom without glory. I rejoice in the consistency and order of the Lord’s plan and in His revelations to us.” (In Conference Report, Oct. 1929, p. 69.)
“There are combustible elements in abundance and heat enough to consume many worlds like ours, whenever the torch is applied. Here we are told, that the Earth will abide ‘the power by which it is quickened’; it will abide the fire and come out of the flames, quickened and purified, like gold out of the refiner’s fire, or a beautiful vessel of potter’s clay out of the fiery furnace (v. 26). In this sanctified state it will be the residence of celestial beings, resurrected and inhabiting ‘the same’ bodies that they had here, quickened by celestial glory (v. 28). For each individual will receive the glory by which he is quickened (vv. 29–31).
“[The earth] fills the measure of its creation, and the inference is that whatever, or whoever is true to the purpose of its, or his, or her existence lives in accordance with celestial law. To do that for which we are not created; to use our bodies or any of its organs, or faculties, for purposes for which they were not created is to break that law.” (Smith and Sjodahl, Commentary, p. 545.)
Elder Joseph Fielding Smith explained that many in the world “have a very false understanding of what is meant by a spiritual body. They have based their conclusion on the statement that Paul makes that the body is raised a spiritual body, and that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God. They cannot conceive in their minds a body raised from the dead, being composed of flesh and bones, quickened by spirit and not by blood. When Paul spoke of the spiritual body he had no reference at all to the spirit body and there they have made their mistake. They have confused the spiritual body, or, in other words, the body quickened by the spirit, with the body of the spirit alone. . . .
“After the resurrection from the dead our bodies will be spiritual bodies, but they will be bodies that are tangible, bodies that have been purified, but they will nevertheless be bodies of flesh and bones, but they will not be blood bodies, they will no longer be quickened by blood but quickened by the spirit which is eternal and they shall become immortal and shall never die.” (In Conference Report, Apr. 1917, pp. 62–63.)
The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that in the Resurrection each person will receive back the very body he inhabited in mortality, that “there is no fundamental principle belonging to a human system that ever goes into another in this world or in the world to come; I care not what the theories of men are. We have the testimony that God will raise us up, and he has the power to do it. If anyone supposes that any part of our bodies, that is, the fundamental parts thereof, ever goes into another body, he is mistaken.” (History of the Church, 5:339; see also 1 Corinthians 15:35–54; Alma 11:43–44; 40:23–25.) The body will be resurrected to a glory equal to the level of law by which one lived. The person who keeps the commandments receives “truth and light, until he is glorified” (D&C 93:28).
Elder Bruce R. McConkie defined the relationship between a celestial body and a celestial spirit: “Those who by full obedience to gospel requirements develop celestial bodies, gain at the same time celestial spirits. Then in the resurrection, when ‘the same body which was a natural body,’ (that is, the renewed body, the body sanctified by the Spirit, the celestial body) is received back again, ‘they who are of a celestial spirit’ are quickened by a celestial glory and go on to an inheritance in a celestial kingdom. (D&C 88:28.)” (Mormon Doctrine, p. 118.)
Elder L. Tom Perry indicated that such a condition would be observable in this life: “Surely there would be an obvious difference between one who is attempting to conduct his life as though he were a citizen of the kingdom of God, and one who is conducting his life by the standards made by man. When a person determines to live a higher law, there should be a visible difference, a marked change in his appearance, his actions, the way he treats others, and the way he serves his fellowmen and his God. The scriptures are full of dramatic changes which occurred in the lives of individuals when they were converted to living the law of the Lord.” (In Conference Report, Apr. 1979, p. 16; or Ensign, May 1979, p. 12.)
L. Tom Perry declared that conversion is observable in a changed life.
These verses refer to those unworthy to receive a degree of glory, or the sons of perdition (see Notes and Commentary on D&C 76:26–31).
“We are told here that every part of space is occupied by some ‘kingdom’; that each kingdom is governed by law, and that the laws are adapted to the conditions that prevail. Some laws are universal. Such is the law of gravitation, for instance; or the great fundamental moral law, ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself.’ Other laws are limited; they vary as the conditions vary. By kingdoms we understand the planets and orbs that circle in space. God is capable of governing them all, because He ‘comprehendeth all things, and all things are before Him’ (v. 41). God visits all these kingdoms in due time.” (Smith and Sjodahl, Commentary, pp. 548–49.)
“We do right for various reasons,” said Elder Robert L. Simpson. “Some people do right simply because they don’t want to be punished for doing wrong. When we do right for fear of retribution, I think our foundation is very shaky. Another might say, ‘I want to do right because I have always been taught that this is the thing to do.’ Well, such reasoning is based on hearsay, on the testimony of others, and I think we need to mature beyond that point. I think we need to have our own testimonies instead of the advice of others on a perpetual basis. Others have been heard to say, ‘I want to do right just to please my parents,’ and although we all should have a desire to please our parents, that reason alone is not sufficient to sustain us throughout eternity. Perhaps you have heard people who have indicated that they are doing the right thing simply because they want to be obedient to God’s commands; this, too, is a very high and noble purpose—provided, of course, that obedience is not blind obedience, without personal conviction. But to me the best reason of all is illustrated by the person who feels the desire to do right because he wants to add glory to his Father in heaven. Whatever stage of motivation we find ourselves in, I think we must eventually reinforce this with our own personal testimony that has been built on a foundation of gospel scholarship and understanding—a testimony which leads us to the life of unselfishness and service, one which finds its highest sanctification in the supreme thought that we are living gospel principles because we desire to glorify his great name.” (“Cast Your Burden upon the Lord,” New Era, Jan. 1977, p. 4.)
Charles W. Penrose, First Counselor in the First Presidency under President Joseph F. Smith, said: “It is a great puzzle to some people how it can possibly be that a person, an individual, of form and stature, occupying but one place at a time, can hear the prayers of His people or can comprehend them as David said He does: Said he: ‘There is not a thought of my heart but lo! O Lord, thou knowest it altogether. If I ascend up into heaven behold thou art there. If I descend down into hell behold thou art there; and if I take the wings of the morning, and flee to the uttermost parts of the earth there will Thy hand lead me and thy right hand guide me’ [see Psalm 139:4, 8–10]. Of course these expressions are somewhat figurative, but there is the great fact that God can be omnipresent by the power of His universally diffused Spirit which proceeds from His presence throughout the immensity of space, and He can see and discern all things by that power, as He told Enoch, and Moses also, as you can read in The Pearl of Great Price. Moses and Enoch were each lifted up so that they could see, measurably, as Deity sees and they beheld the multiplicity of the creations of God; and when Enoch declared that if a man could count the particles of the earth or of a million earths like this, that would not be a beginning to the number of God’s creations, then God told him, ‘Yea, and mine eye can pierce them all’ [see Moses 7:29–36]. By the power of that Spirit he sees and comprehends and understands all things, and His watchful care and His mercies are over all His works.” (In Conference Report, Oct. 1915, pp. 37–38.)
Scriptures in the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants suggest that time as man knows it is not the same with God (see Alma 40:8; D&C 38:1; 130:4–7).
Moses saw in vision that the Savior had created many worlds like this earth that were also inhabited (see Moses 1:27–29). The inhabitants of these worlds are sons and daughters of God and are precious in His sight. The Savior is responsible for these creations and visits them in their times and seasons. Elder Orson Pratt explained: “The Lord wanted to represent these kingdoms so that we could understand what he desired to impart, and he gave it as a parable, in order to assist our weak comprehensions. . . . Says the interrogator—‘I do not comprehend this idea of the Lord’s withdrawing from one and going to another.’ In order to comprehend this let us come back to our own globe. Do we not expect that the Lord will, by and by, come and visit us and stay a little while, about a thousand years. Yes, and then we shall be made glad with the joy of the countenance of our Lord. He will be among us, and will be our King, and he will reign as a King of kings and Lord of lords. He will have a throne in Zion, and another in the Temple at Jerusalem, and he will have with him the twelve disciples who were with him during his ministry at Jerusalem; and they will eat and drink with him at his table; and all the people of this globe who are counted worthy to be called Zion, the pure in heart, will be made glad by the countenance of their Lord for a thousand years, during which the earth will rest. Then what? He withdraws. What for? To fulfill other purposes; for he has other worlds or creations and other sons and daughters, perhaps just as good as those dwelling on this planet, and they, as well as we, will be visited, and they will be made glad with the countenance of their Lord. Thus he will go, in the time and in the season thereof, from kingdom to kingdom or from world to world, causing the pure in heart, the Zion that is taken from these creations, to rejoice in his presence.
“But there is another thing I want you to understand. This will not be kept up to all eternity, it is merely a preparation for something still greater. And what is that? By and by, when each of these creations has fulfilled the measure and bounds set and the times given for its continuance in a temporal state, it and its inhabitants who are worthy will be made celestial and glorified together. Then, from that time henceforth and for ever, there will be no intervening veil between God and his people who are sanctified and glorified, and he will not be under the necessity of withdrawing from one to go and visit another, because they will all be in his presence.” (In Journal of Discourses, 17:331–32.)
This revelation is a message of peace from the Savior. In these verses He gives the positive principles of the gospel that we must observe in order to be acceptable to Him and in order to escape the judgments of the latter days (see D&C 88:84–116). The Lord restates these positive instructions, with some additions, in verses 117–26.
Smith and Sjodahl wrote:
“There are too many who call upon the Lord only in their expediency when they, in desperation need His help. To these he may not be near, but may be slow to hearken to their pleadings. (Doc. and Cov. 101:7–8.) . . .
“Prayer is the most wonderful institution in the kingdom of God, and none was more familiar with it than the Prophet Joseph. But there are many who have no higher conception of it than to regard it as only a means whereby to obtain gifts from God, most often of a material character. Is the gift bestowed? Then the prayer is answered. Is it withheld? Then God did not hear. ‘Such theory,’ as one has said, ‘is obviously too simple and superficial to be true. Prayer is more subtle than this doctrine implies. It may be described as the soul speaking to God and hearing God speak to it. It is, therefore, the deepest and the most wonderful act of which a man is capable, for in it the whole universe is, as it were, concentrated.’ . . .
“‘Whatsoever ye ask the Father in my name.’ That is the prayer that is acceptable to God. To pray in the name of the Lord is to ask as one belonging to Him—one accepted by Him. It is to pray according to the dictation of His Spirit. Such prayers God will hear and grant, if ‘expedient for you.’ There is quite a difference between the mechanical petition of a street beggar and the request of one who is a friend of the son in the house. The latter is treated as the son. What is good for him he will receive. Bishop Hall well says:
“‘What God requires and looks at, is neither the arithmetic of our prayers—how many they are; not the rhetoric of our prayers—how eloquent they be; nor the geometry of our prayers—how long they be; nor the music of our prayers—how sweet our voice may be; nor the logic, nor the, method, nor even the orthodoxy of our prayers.’
“God looks to our welfare, even when He does not give us that for which we ask. If we were to pray for, and receive what is not good for us, it would be for our condemnation.” (Commentary, pp. 551–52.)
It is the right of all members of the house of Israel to see their King and enjoy His presence. This is a specific promise to those who will sanctify themselves. In several places in the Doctrine and Covenants the promise is given that one can see God (see D&C 50:45–46; 67:10; 93:1). However, since no unclean thing can dwell in God’s presence, we must be sanctified to see Him and come into His presence.
“The meaning of ‘sanctification’ is explained in the words that follow, ‘That your minds become single to God.’ Our Lord had regard only to the glory of the Father, when he undertook the salvation of man. To follow in His footsteps and to be able to say at all times, truthfully, ‘Thine be the honor,’ is to be sanctified; that is to be a Saint.” (Smith and Sjodahl, Commentary, p. 552.)
See Notes and Commentary on Doctrine and Covenants 88:121.
“[Prayer and fasting] are indispensable in the preparation for the ministry. Our Lord teaches us that there are evil spirits that cannot be overcome except by those whose spiritual life and faith are made strong by self-denial and communion with God. It is, therefore, of the utmost importance that the servants of the Lord should fast and pray. Through the fasting and prayer of the servants of the Lord, the mouth of Alma was opened, and his limbs strengthened [Mosiah 27:22–3]. Through fasting and prayer the Nephites ‘did wax stronger and stronger in their humility, and firmer and firmer in the faith of Christ’ (Hel. 3:35).
“Fasting has in all ages been an outward sign of sorrow and mourning. When the heart is full of grief, the body does not crave for food as usual. When calamities sweep over a country, or when sinners are awakened to a realization of their condition abstinence from all pleasures, including those of the table, is natural to all who take things seriously. The Elders, however, are not required to fast as a sign of mourning alone, but as one of rejoicing. This is just as natural. For when the heart is filled with joy, the craving for food is forgotten for long periods, as they know who have attended meetings, lasting for many hours, where the Holy Spirit has been poured out upon the assembly. Our Lord warns His people against making a display of their fasting: ‘When thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face’ (Matt. 6:16–18).” (Smith and Sjodahl, Commentary, pp. 554–55.)
Elder John A. Widtsoe pointed out that “theology is not the only subject in which the Elders should be interested. They should study:
“Things both in heaven—Astronomy.
“And in the earth—Everything pertaining to the cultivation of the soil.
“And under the earth—Mineralogy, geology, etc.
“Things which have been—History, in all its branches.
“Things which must shortly come to pass—Prophecies.
“Things which are at home and abroad—Domestic and foreign politics.
“Wars—perplexities—judgment—The signs of the times, by which the observer may know that the day of the Lord is at hand.
“A knowledge of countries and kingdoms—physical and political geography, languages, etc.
“These studies, the Lord considers necessary. [D&C 88:80 quoted.] God does not require all His servants to become doctors, or professors, or even profound students of these subjects, but He expects them to know enough of these things to be able to magnify their callings as His ambassadors to the world.” (Priesthood and Church Government, pp. 55–56.)
Doctrine and Covenants 88:77–80 explains that as the Saints diligently teach one another the doctrines of the kingdom, they can be instructed more perfectly in all these other subjects.
About a year after this revelation was given, the Saints were driven from their homes in Jackson County, Missouri. The Lord told His prophet at that time that the affliction came upon them “in consequence of their transgressions” (D&C 101:2).
President Joseph Fielding Smith explained why so many severe judgments are being poured out upon the world in the last days:
“It is not the will of the Lord that there should come upon the people disaster, trouble, calamity, and depression, . . . but because man himself will violate the commandments of God and will not walk in righteousness, the Lord permits all of these evils to come upon him. . . .
“The Lord has made the declaration in our own day that it was his good pleasure to give to men the fulness of the earth, and the Lord is pleased to have them use it, and he would pour out upon them his blessings in abundance if they would only hearken and be obedient to the laws which he has given them for their guidance. But, men are rebellious; they are not willing to live in that law and profit thereby; they are not willing to receive the good things of the earth as the Lord would give to them in abundance; but in their narrow-mindedness, shortsightedness, and in their greed and selfishness, they think they know better than the Lord does. And so, they pursue another course, and the result is that the blessings of the Lord are withdrawn, and in the place thereof come calamity, destruction, plagues, and violence. Men have themselves to blame. . . .
“. . . the Lord decreed that he would withhold his spirit from the inhabitants of the earth. . . . This spirit he was withdrawing from them because of their wickedness, and the withdrawal of his spirit would bring upon them these calamities.” (Doctrines of Salvation, 3:27–29.)
In a previous revelation the Lord said, “If ye are prepared ye shall not fear” (D&C 38:30). The people of the world will not be prepared when the Lord pours out His judgments. Sin will abound as in the days of Noah, and people will be left without excuse because they did not heed the warning to repent. Knowing that the judgments are just and that they have no excuse and no escape, the people of the world will greatly fear. The Nephites experienced the same warnings and judgments, as recorded in Mormon 1–6.
“The sounding of the trump of the angel of God” (D&C 88:98)
See Notes and Commentary on Doctrine and Covenants 77:12.
“Immediately after the testimony of these messengers [mentioned in D&C 88:92] a great sign will appear in heaven, which, like the sun, will be seen all round the world. Our Lord calls it the ‘Sign of the Son of Man’ (Matt. 24:30). . . .
“. . . when the sign appears, God will make its meaning known to the Prophet, Seer and Revelator who at that time may be at the head of the Church, and through him to His people and the world in general.” (Smith and Sjodahl, Commentary, p. 560.)
The Prophet Joseph Smith said: “There will be wars and rumors of wars, signs in the heavens above and on the earth beneath, the sun turned into darkness and the moon to blood, earthquakes in divers places, the seas heaving beyond their bounds; then will appear one grand sign of the Son of Man in heaven. But what will the world do? They will say it is a planet, a comet, etc. But the Son of Man will come as the sign of the coming of the Son of Man, which will be as the light of the morning cometh out of the east.” (Teachings, pp. 286–87.)
The first of seven angels to sound trumps after the warning to prepare for the coming of the Bridegroom will announce the binding of “that great church, the mother of abominations.” This “church” is the “church of the devil,” often called “the great and abominable church”—terms used to designate groups that lead people away from Christ and His gospel and kingdom. The fall of this “church,” which is the “tares of the earth,” is discussed in Notes and Commentary on Doctrine and Covenants 86:1–7.
After the angel sounds a trump “loud and long” (D&C 88:94), there will be “silence in heaven for the space of half an hour” (v. 95). “Whether the half hour here spoken of,” said Elder Orson Pratt, “is according to our reckoning—thirty minutes, or whether it be according to the reckoning of the Lord we do not know. We know that the word hour is used in some portions of the Scriptures to represent quite a lengthy period of time. For instance, we, the Latter-day Saints, are living in the eleventh hour, that is in the eleventh period of time; and for aught we know the half hour during which silence is to prevail in heavens may be quite an extensive period of time.” If this measurement refers strictly to the Lord’s time—one thousand of man’s years to one day for the Lord—the ‘half hour’ would be approximately twenty-one years. Elder Pratt continued: “During the period of silence all things are perfectly still; no angels flying during that half hour; no trumpets sounding; no noise in the heavens above; but immediately after this great silence the curtain of heaven shall be unfolded as a scroll is unfolded. School children, who are in the habit of seeing maps hung up on the wall, know that they have rollers upon which they are rolled up, and that to expose the face of the maps they are let down. So will the curtain of heaven be unrolled so that the people may gaze upon those celestial beings who will make their appearance in the clouds. The face of the Lord will be unveiled, and those who are alive will be quickened, and they will be caught up; and the Saints who are in their graves, will come forth and be caught up, together with those who are quickened, and they will be taken into the heavens into the midst of those celestial beings who will make their appearance at that time. These are the ones who are the first fruits, that is, the first fruits at the time of his coming.” (In Journal of Discourses, 16:328.)
At this time the resurrection of those who are celestial will take place (see Notes and Commentary on D&C 88:28). Mortals at the time of the Lord’s coming who are living celestial law will be quickened and caught up to meet Him and those who are already resurrected. President Joseph Fielding Smith taught, “This does not mean that those who are living in mortality at that time will be changed and pass through the resurrection, for mortals must remain on the earth until after the thousand years are ended” (Way to Perfection, 298). Rather their bodies will be prepared to dwell on earth during the Lord’s millennial reign, when “the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory” (Articles of Faith 1:10). After this event they will return to the earth and continue to live as mortals.
This passage is a reference to the resurrection of terrestrial beings. After the celestial resurrection, “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 the 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. . . .
“This other class, which will also have right to the first resurrection, are those who are not members of the Church of the Firstborn, but who have led honorable lives, although they refused to accept the fulness of the gospel.
“Also in this class will be numbered those who died without law and hence are not under condemnation for a violation of the commandments of the Lord.” (Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 2:296–97.)
“All liars, and sorcerers, and adulterers and all who love and make a lie,” President Joseph Fielding Smith wrote, “shall not receive the resurrection at this time, but for a thousand years shall be thrust down into hell where they shall suffer the wrath of God until they pay the price of their sinning, if it is possible, by the things which they shall suffer” (Doctrines of Salvation, 2:297).
After they have satisfied the demands of justice by paying for their own sins in hell, they will then be brought forth and resurrected (see D&C 76:103–6). “These do not live during the millennial reign, but during that time are spending their time in torment, or anguish of soul, because of their transgressions. . . .
“This suffering will be a means of cleansing, or purifying, and through it the wicked shall be brought to a condition whereby they may, through the redemption of Jesus Christ, obtain immortality. Their spirits and bodies shall be again united, and they shall dwell in the telestial kingdom. But this resurrection will not come until the end of the world.” (Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 2:298.)
The sons of perdition, though they will be resurrected (see Alma 11:41; 2 Nephi 9:22; 1 Corinthians 15:22), will be the last to be brought forth. Like those who are telestial, they will suffer in hell before their resurrection. Unlike telestial individuals, they will be cast back into hell after their resurrection (see D&C 76:31–39, 43–49).
From before the Creation of the earth, Satan has made war with God and His children. Satan has sought to overthrow and destroy the plan of God in an effort to usurp God’s kingdom and glory (see Isaiah 14:12–13; D&C 29:36; 76:28–29; Moses 4:1–4). He will not succeed. All of God’s children, including those who choose to follow Satan, will eventually confess the supremacy of God and submit to Him. The kingdom of Satan will fall, and the kingdom of God and Christ will triumph.
Notes and Commentary on Doctrine and Covenants 133:46–51 explains the phrase “the Lamb of God hath . . . trodden the wine press alone” (D&C 88:106).
The sons and daughters of God possess the potential to become like their parents.
Elder Parley P. Pratt said: “Every man who is eventually made perfect—raised from the dead and filled, or quickened, with a fulness of celestial glory—will become like them in every respect, physically and in intellect, attributes, or powers.
“The very germs of these godlike attributes being engendered in man, the offspring of Deity, only need cultivating, improving, developing, and advancing by means of a series of progressive changes, in order to arrive at the fountain ‘Head,’ the standard, the climax of Divine Humanity.” (Key to the Science of Theology, p. 20.)
These verses teach that ultimately nothing can be hidden. God, who said, “all things are present with me, for I know them all” (Moses 1:6), has power to reveal all things. Those in any age of the world who have performed works of darkness, thinking their deeds could be covered, will have their hopes blasted. When the trumps of God are sounded, all things will be made known—even the thoughts and intents of our hearts. For some this will be dreadful. For others, who have labored and served in purity and have performed secretly acts of love, kindness, and sacrifice, this will be a time of great joy. All will know at that time that God is just. He and His servants will be vindicated, and all will acknowledge that the only desire of God and His people is for the welfare and happiness of all His children.
See Notes and Commentary on Doctrine and Covenants 43:31.
Elder Orson Pratt said that “there will be a great division of the people” at the end of the Millennium, when the battle against Gog and Magog commences. “The Saints then, will have become very numerous, probably more numerous than ever before; and they will be obliged to gather together in one place, as we now do from the four quarters of the earth. . . . Satan will gather his army. . . . He with his army will come against the Saints, and the beloved city, and encompass them round about. His army will be so great that it will be able to come upon the Saints on all sides: he is to encompass their camp. Because of the favorable position he is to hold, in that great last battle, and because of the vast number of his army, he doubtless believes that he will get the mastery and subdue the earth and possess it. I do not think he fully understands all about the designs of God.” (In Journal of Discourses, 18:346.)
Those who join Satan and his host will “not rebel in ignorance or dwindle in unbelief, as the Lamanites did; but they will sin wilfully against the law of heaven, and so great will the power of Satan be over them, that he will gather them together against the Saints and against the beloved city, and fire will come down out of heaven and consume them.” (Orson Pratt, in Journal of Discourses, 16:322.)
The School of the Prophets at Kirtland
The School of the Prophets founded by the Lord (see D&C 86:127) was organized in February 1833. The Prophet and the Apostles and other elders were to “teach one another words of wisdom . . . out of the best books . . . by study and also by faith” (v. 118). Those who attended “had many manifestations of the presence of the Spirit of the Lord,” including speaking in foreign tongues (Smith and Sjodahl, Commentary, p. 567).
President Brigham Young said that “the members of that school were but few at first, and the Prophet commenced to teach them in doctrine to prepare them to go out into the world to preach the gospel unto all people, and gather the select from the four quarters of the Earth, as the prophets anciently have spoken. While this instruction prepared the Elders to administer in word and doctrine, it did not supply the teachings necessary to govern their private, or temporal, lives; it did not say whether they should be merchants, farmers, mechanics, or money-changers. The Prophet began to instruct them how to live, that they might be better prepared to perform the great work they were called to accomplish.” (In Smith and Sjodahl, Commentary, p. 567.)
A “school in Zion” was organized in Independence, Missouri, in August 1833 with Parley P. Pratt as its instructor (see Notes and Commentary on D&C 97:3–5), and Brigham Young patterned a school of elders after these early schools when the Church moved to Utah.
In the later verses of Doctrine and Covenants 88, wrote Smith and Sjodahl, “rules are given for the conduct of the School of the Prophets. This school was to be established for the benefit of all who were called to the ministry of the Church (v. 127). Note the order and etiquette to be observed in everything pertaining to the school. It was to be a house of God and to be respected as such.” (Commentary, p. 567.) Though the rules of order and conduct in these verses were given specifically for the School of the Prophets, many have universal application.
“Joyful laughter meets with divine approval, and when properly engaged in, it is wholesome and edifying. Incident to the normal experiences of mortality, there is ‘A time to weep, and a time to laugh.’ (Eccles. 3:4.) . . .
“Our Lord’s ministers, however, are commanded: ‘Cast away your idle thoughts and your excess of laughter far from you.’ (D. & C. 88:69.) Their main concerns should be centered around ‘the solemnities of eternity’ (D. & C. 43:34), with laughter being reserved for occasional needed diversion. Laughter on the sabbath day is expressly curtailed (D. & C. 59:15), and while worshiping and studying in the school of the prophets, the elders were commanded to abstain ‘from all laughter’ (D. & C. 88:121.) This same abstinence should prevail in sacrament meetings and in all solemn assemblies.” (McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p. 432.)
Though laughter at the appropriate time is not sin, it must be governed. President Brigham Young said: “I like to be pleased myself; I like to be filled with joy, but if I cannot be filled with joy and gladness that is full of meat and marrow, or, in other words, full of meaning and sense, I would rather retain my gravity.
“There is but one step between life and death, between faithfulness and apostasy, between the sublime and the ridiculous. . . .
“Never give way to vain laughter.” (In Journal of Discourses, 9:290.)
President Joseph F. Smith taught: “The Lord has called upon us to be a sober-minded people, not given to much laughter, frivolity and light-mindedness, but to consider thoughtfully and thoroughly the things of his kingdom that we may be prepared in all things to understand the glorious truths of the gospel, and be prepared for blessings to come. . . .
“. . . I believe that it is necessary for the Saints to have amusement, but it must be of the proper kind. I do not believe the Lord intends and desires that we should pull a long face and look sanctimonious and hypocritical. I think he expects us to be happy and of a cheerful countenance, but he does not expect of us the indulgence in boisterous and unseemly conduct and the seeking after the vain and foolish things which amuse and entertain the world. He has commanded us to the contrary for our own good and eternal welfare.” (In Conference Report, Oct. 1916, p. 70.)
The Prophet Joseph Smith said: “The things of God are of deep import; and time, and experience, and careful and ponderous and solemn thoughts can only find them out. Thy mind, O man! if thou wilt lead a soul unto salvation, must stretch as high as the utmost heavens, and search unto and contemplate the darkest abyss, and the broad expanse of eternity—thou must commune with God. How much more dignified and noble are the thoughts of God, than the vain imaginations of the human heart! None but fools will trifle with the souls of men.
“How vain and trifling have been our spirits, our conferences, our councils, our meetings, our private as well as public conversations—too low, too mean, too vulgar, too condescending for the dignified characters of the called and chosen of God, according to the purposes of his will, from before the foundation of the world!” (Teachings, p. 137.)
The Prophet instructed the elders to “walk before the Lord in soberness and righteousness,” and “do away with lightmindedness” (Teachings, p. 326).
“All the instructions in this paragraph are notable. They might be included in the Word of Wisdom. Idleness is condemned: Cleanliness is inculcated. Fault-finding is classed as wrong. And this rule is laid down, ‘Cease to sleep longer than is needful’; retire early; arise early; ‘that your bodies and your minds may be invigorated.’ This splendid rule is too often violated. Electric lights and late theaters have transformed night into day and deprived the people of some of their natural sleep, and at the same time of a portion of their physical and mental vigor.
“Note the closing injunctions, Clothe yourselves with charity ‘as with a mantle;’ not as a scanty piece of clothing, but as a generous covering; for charity is ‘the bond of perfectness and peace.’ Charity—which means brotherly affection—makes for perfection and peace. Pray always. Prayer is necessary, if we shall remain faithful till the coming of the Lord.” (Smith and Sjodahl, Commentary, p. 565.)
President Brigham Young said: “I think I am as well acquainted with the circumstances which led to the giving of the Word of Wisdom as any man in the Church, although I was not present at the time to witness them. The first school of the prophets was held in a small room situated over the Prophet Joseph’s kitchen, in a house which belonged to Bishop Whitney. . . . The brethren came to that place for hundreds of miles to attend school in a little room probably no larger than eleven by fourteen. When they assembled together in this room after breakfast, the first they did was to light their pipes and, while smoking, talk about the great things of the kingdom and spit all over the room, and as soon as the pipe was out of their mouths a large chew of tobacco would then be taken. Often when the Prophet entered the room to give the school instructions he would find himself in a cloud of tobacco smoke. This, and the complaints of his wife at having to clean so filthy a floor, made the Prophet think upon the matter, and he inquired of the Lord relating to the conduct of the Elders in using tobacco, and the revelation known as the Word of Wisdom was the result of his inquiry. You know what it is and can read it at your leisure.” (In Journal of Discourses, 12:158.)
Although the Word of Wisdom was received on 27 February 1833, its acceptance by individual members of the Church was gradual. On 9 September 1851, some eighteen years after it was given, the Patriarch to the Church, John Smith, delivered a talk in general conference on the Word of Wisdom. During his address, President Brigham Young arose and proposed that all Saints formally covenant to abstain from tea, coffee, tobacco, whiskey, and “all things mentioned in the Word of Wisdom” (“Minutes of the General Conference,” Millennial Star, 1 Feb. 1852, p. 35). The motion was accepted unanimously and became binding as a commandment for all Church members thereafter.
Bishops and stake presidents are responsible for determining whether members are worthy to receive Church ordinances such as baptism or those available in the temple or to enter the temple to receive ordinances for others. Keeping the Word of Wisdom is a part of that worthiness.
“The reason undoubtedly why the Word of Wisdom was given—as not by ‘commandment or restraint’ was that at that time, at least, if it had been given as a commandment it would have brought every man, addicted to the use of these noxious things, under condemnation; so the Lord was merciful and gave them a chance to overcome, before He brought them under the law. Later on, it was announced from this stand, by President Brigham Young that the Word of Wisdom was a revelation and a command of the Lord. [See Young, Discourses of Brigham Young, pp. 183–84].” (Joseph F. Smith, in Conference Report, Oct. 1913, p. 14.)
President Heber J. Grant emphasized that the Word of Wisdom was a commandment and warned those who did not obey it that “the day is gone by when the Lord will trifle with the Latter-day Saints. He has said that His Spirit shall not always strive with man.” (Gospel Standards, pp. 55–56.) Although the Lord allowed a time of adjustment for those who were already members of the Church when the Word of Wisdom was given, today it is expected that all Saints adhere to the commandment.
In order to receive a fulness of joy, we must strive to be clean and pure, both in mind and in body. Some of the temporal benefits resulting from obedience to the Word of Wisdom are better health and vitality, strength, and endurance (see Brigham Young’s promise in Journal of Discourses, 12:156); greater strength to avoid such physical sins as unchastity (see Grant, Gospel Standards, p. 55); a savings in money not spent on harmful substances (see Grant, Gospel Standards, pp. 50–52); and greater resistance to many of the diseases that attack the body.
President Joseph Fielding Smith said: “The temporal salvation of the children of men is a most important thing, but sadly neglected by many religious teachers. The truth is that the spiritual salvation is dependent upon the temporal far more than most men realize. The line of demarcation between the temporal, or physical, and the spiritual, cannot be definitely seen. The Lord has said that he has not given a temporal commandment at any time. To men some of these commandments may be temporal, but they are spiritual to the Lord because they all have a bearing on the spiritual or eternal welfare of mankind.” (Church History and Modern Revelation, 1:383.) Obedience to the Word of Wisdom, keeping the “temple of God” undefiled (1 Corinthians 3:16), invites the Holy Ghost to help us resist the temptations of the world.
The Word of Wisdom is a commandment, and disobedience to any commandment results in the loss of the Spirit. The loss of spiritual health is far more serious than the loss of physical health. President Stephen L Richards noted: “Every commandment of God is spiritual in nature. There are no carnal commandments. We have learned this from modern revelation. While the commandments have effect upon the body and temporal things they are all in essence spiritual. The Word of Wisdom is spiritual. It is true that it enjoins the use of deleterious substances and makes provision for the health of the body. But the largest measure of good derived from its observance is in increased faith and the development of more spiritual power and wisdom. Likewise, the most regrettable and damaging effects of its infractions are spiritual, also. Injury to the body may be comparatively trivial to the damage to the soul in the destruction of faith and the retardation of spiritual growth. So I say, every commandment involves a spiritual growth. So I say, every commandment involves a spiritual principle.” (In Conference Report, Apr. 1949, p. 141.)
Christ invites all to come unto Him and denies none (see 2 Nephi 26:32). All who humble themselves and come to the Lord may become Saints, and in Doctrine and Covenants 89:3 the Lord assures us that all Saints can obey the Word of Wisdom. Youth who are tempted to smoke, drink, or take drugs should be aware, not only of the spiritual danger of disobedience to God’s commandments, but of how difficult it can be to stop taking harmful substances after one has become addicted to them. Individuals who struggle with addictions may not succeed in quitting all at once but can be helped by family, health professionals, medication, fasting, prayer, and priesthood blessings. As individuals overcome their addictions and keep the commandments, the Lord’s blessings of self control and spiritual strength make it that much easier for them to continue to obey the Word of Wisdom.
Lawsuits against American tobacco companies in the last part of the 20th century made it clear that owners and employees of these companies conspired to hide the dangers of their products.
President David O. McKay observed the gradual growth of these evils in his lifetime: “The purport of that [revelation] impressed me in the twenties and the thirties of this century. I just ask you . . . to recall the methods employed by certain tobacco interests to induce women to smoke cigarettes.
“You remember how insidiously they launched their plan. First, by saying that it would reduce weight. They had a slogan: ‘Take a cigarette instead of a sweet.’
“Later, some of us who like the theatre, noticed that they would have a young lady light the gentleman’s cigarette. Following this a woman’s hand would be shown on billboards lighting or taking a cigarette. A year or two passed and soon they were brazen enough to show the lady on the screen or on the billboard smoking the cigarette. . . .
“‘Parents meekly submit to this and later deplore the fact when their children are hopeless cigarette addicts.’” (In Conference Report, Oct. 1949, pp. 185–86.)
Many through the years have likewise conspired or contributed to making the use of alcohol, coffee, tea, other forms of tobacco, and drugs more socially acceptable.
“Over the earth . . . the demon drink is in control. Drunken with strong drink, men have lost their reason; their counsel has been destroyed; their judgment and vision are fled; they reel forward to destruction.
“Drink brings cruelty into the home; it walks arm in arm with poverty; its companions are disease and plague; it puts chastity to flight; and it knows neither honesty nor fair dealing; it is a total stranger to truth; it drowns conscience; it is the bodyguard of evil; it curses all who touch it.
“Drink has brought more woe and misery, broken more hearts, wrecked more homes, committed more crimes, filled more coffins than all the wars the world has suffered.” (J. Reuben Clark Jr., in Conference Report, Oct. 1942, p. 8; see also Kimball, Miracle of Forgiveness, pp. 55–57.)
The Lord’s instruction in verse 6 that for the sacrament the Saints use “pure wine of the grape of the vine, of your own make” reinforces His earlier instruction that “you shall not purchase [for the sacrament] wine neither strong drink of your enemies;
“Wherefore, you shall partake of none except it is made new among you” (D&C 27:3–4).
The “pure wine” in Doctrine and Covenants 89:6 “is understood to mean new or unfermented grape juice, since the Word of Wisdom declares unequivocally against the internal use of alcohol in any form.
“This interpretation is reinforced by the fact that . . . water was early in the history of the Church substituted for wine, for sacramental purposes. The revelation reads:
“‘For, behold, I say unto you, that it mattereth not what ye shall eat or what ye shall drink when ye partake of the sacrament, if it so be that ye do it with an eye single to my glory—remembering unto the Father my body which was laid down for you, and my blood which was shed for the remission of your sins.’ [D&C 27:2].” (Widtsoe, Word of Wisdom, pp. 60–61.)
Alcohol is a valuable cleansing agent for wounds and abrasions. When used to bathe an injured part of the body, alcohol performs a service for which it was intended.
One Latter-day Saint physician noted the effects of tobacco on the body:
“Time and time again the medical and psychological sciences have brought forth evidence which points toward the destructive nature of the cigarette. In addition to the evidences recently found which link cigarette smoking to lung cancer, [there are] a number of interesting and arresting discoveries respecting the cigarette. E. A. Murphy and J. F. Mustard discovered that chronic smokers were less able to withstand the effects of radiation than were nonsmokers, and that smoking interfered with action of the bone marrow, the part of the body that manufactures blood. A. J. Schaffer points out that there is a higher premature birthrate among children whose mothers smoke than among nonsmokers, and that the mortality rate of these premature births was higher among offspring of smokers than of nonsmokers. There is a good deal of evidence, according to A. R. Lindesmith and A. I. Strauss, that in general, nonsmokers are more prone to be ‘steady and dependable, hard workers, with stable marriages,’ and that they have statistically less difficulty with marriage than do smokers.
“And so the evidence piles up. Bit by bit, piece by piece, a great mass of evidence is accumulating to substantiate from a purely scientific viewpoint the words of the Lord that ‘tobacco is not for the body.’ Nicotine in large quantities can take over the nervous system, causing severe convulsions. Smoking causes a man to perform at an altitude as much as 5,000 feet higher than he really is, because of the oxygen space it preempts in his blood.” (W. Dean Belnap, “Tobacco and the Spirit of Man,” Instructor, Dec. 1966, p. 464.)
As serious as the physical dangers are for using tobacco, the spiritual dangers, especially for members of the Church who know the law, are even more serious. “In my judgment,” said Elder George Albert Smith, “the use of tobacco, a little thing as it seems to some men, has been the means of destroying their spiritual life, has been the means of driving from them the companionship of the Spirit of our Father, has alienated them from the society of good men and women, and has brought upon them the disregard and reproach of the children that have been born to them, and yet the devil will say to a man, Oh, it’s only a little thing!” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1918, p. 40).
Tobacco, like alcohol, possesses medicinal properties for use on sick animals. When applied with skill, a tobacco poultice can be useful in healing the cuts and bruises of cattle. Alcohol and tobacco have place when used as the Lord intended.
Some of the early Brethren explained what was meant by this phrase. Hyrum Smith, brother of the Prophet, wrote: “And again, ‘hot drinks are not for the body, or belly;’ there are many who wonder what this can mean; whether it refers to tea, or coffee, or not. I say it does refer to tea, and coffee.” (“The Word of Wisdom,” Times and Seasons, 1 June 1842, p. 800.)
The Prophet Joseph Smith said: “I understand that some of the people are excusing themselves in using tea and coffee, because the Lord only said ‘hot drinks’ in the revelation of the Word of Wisdom. . . .
“Tea and coffee . . . are what the Lord meant when He said ‘hot drinks.’” (In Joel H. Johnson, Voice from the Mountains [Salt Lake City: Juvenile Instructor Office, 1881], p. 12.)
What about cola drinks, kava, some health or sports drinks, or other drinks containing stimulants? An official statement by the Church’s leaders reads: “With reference to cola drinks, the Church has never officially taken a position on this matter, but the leaders of the Church have advised, and we do now specifically advise, against the use of any drink containing harmful habit-forming drugs under circumstances that would result in acquiring the habit. Any beverage that contains ingredients harmful to the body should be avoided.” (Priesthood Bulletin, Feb. 1972, p. 4.)
The Doctrine and Covenants does not specifically mention heroin, cocaine, marijuana, ecstasy, other illegal drugs, or the abuse of prescription drugs. President Joseph Fielding Smith said: “Such revelation is unnecessary. The Word of Wisdom is a basic law. It points the way and gives us ample instruction in regard to both food and drink, good for the body and also detrimental. If we sincerely follow what is written with the aid of the Spirit of the Lord, we need no further counsel. . . .
“Thus by keeping the commandments we are promised inspiration and the guidance of the Spirit of the Lord through which we will know what is good and what is bad for the body, without the Lord presenting us with a detailed list separating the good things from the bad that we may be protected. We will learn by this faithful observance that the promises of the Lord are fulfilled.” (Improvement Era, Feb. 1956, pp. 78–79.)
A principle with a promise
The word herb refers to vegetables and plants that are nourishing and healthful for man. Doctrine and Covenants 89:5–9 contains warnings against things not good for man, while verses 10–17 list the things that should be used to maintain good health. These “God hath ordained for the constitution, nature, and use of man” (v. 10).
“Some have stumbled over the meaning of this expression and have argued that grains and fruits should only be used in the season of their growth and when they have ripened. This is not the intent, but any grain or fruit is out of season no matter what part of the year it may be, if it is unfit for use. The apple under the tree bruised and decaying is out of season while the good fruit is waiting to be plucked from the tree.” (Smith, Church History and Modern Revelation, 1:385.)
Elder John A. Widtsoe explained: “The phrase ‘in the season thereof,’ referring to fruits and vegetables, has raised much speculation. It indicates simply the superior value of fresh foods as demonstrated by modern science, but does not necessarily prohibit the use of fruits or vegetables out of season if preserved by proper methods.” (Evidences and Reconciliations, 3:157.)
With modern preservation techniques, today it is possible to enjoy nearly every food “in the season thereof” all through the year.
It is not necessary to be commanded in all things. With the guidelines the Lord has given in this revelation, we should have little difficulty in determining both what and how much we can wisely eat.
“In another revelation (Sec. 59) we are told they are not to be used ‘to excess, neither by extortion.’ The difficulty with most of the human family, is eating too much, and failing to heed his counsel. There would be less disease and mankind would live longer if all would also heed the counsel of the Lord concerning the use of wholesome foods.” (Smith, Church History and Modern Revelation, 1:385.)
“The Word of Wisdom is not a system of vegetarianism. Clearly, meat is permitted [see D&C 42:18]. Naturally, that includes animal products, less subject than meat to putrefactive and other disturbances, such as eggs, milk, and cheese. These products cannot be excluded simply because they are not mentioned specifically. By that token most of our foodstuffs could not be eaten.” (Widtsoe, Evidences and Reconciliations, 3:156–57.)
This verse has caused some to ask if meat should be eaten in the summer. Meat has more calories than fruits and vegetables, which some individuals may need fewer of in summer than winter. Also, before fruits and vegetables could be preserved, people often did not have enough other food to eat in winter. Spoiled meat can be fatal if eaten, and in former times meat spoiled more readily in summer than winter. Modern methods of refrigeration now make it possible to preserve meat in any season. The key word with respect to the use of meat is sparingly (D&C 89:12).
Grains include wheat, rice, corn or maize, barley, millet, sorghum, oats, and rye. Grains are good as food for people and as feed for animals.
Doctrine and Covenants 89:3 states that this revelation was “given for a principle with promise.” To receive the promise, we must obey the principle.
The purpose of the Word of Wisdom is more spiritual than physical. The blessings of obedience are much greater than just physical health (see D&C 76:5–10). Obedience is the condition on which all blessings are predicated (see D&C 130:20–21).
Elder John A. Widtsoe wrote: “The reward for keeping the Word of Wisdom is four-fold. 1. Self-control is developed. That is implied in verse 3 of the revelation which states that the Word of Wisdom is ‘adapted to the capacity of the weak and the weakest of all Saints, who are or can be called Saints.’ 2. Strength of body, including resistance to contagion, is a result of wise living. 3. Clearness of mind is the gift of those whose bodies are in a healthy condition. 4. Spiritual power comes to all who conquer their appetites, live normally and look upward to God.” (Program of the Church, pp. 39–40.)
Elder Ezra T. Benson, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve under President Brigham Young, broadened the usual interpretation of the Word of Wisdom when he said: “When we first heard the revelation upon the Word of Wisdom many of us thought it consisted merely in our drinking tea and coffee, but it is not only using tea and coffee and our tobacco and whisky, but it is every other evil which is calculated to contaminate this people. The Word of Wisdom implies to cease from adultery, to cease from all manner of excesses, and from all kinds of wickedness and abomination that are common amongst this generation—it is, strictly speaking, keeping the commandments of God, and living by every word that proceedeth from His mouth.” (In Journal of Discourses, 2:358.)
Many scientific and technological advances are attributable to the new light and knowledge poured out on the world since the restoration of the gospel. But there is a far more important kind of knowledge with which Latter-day Saints are also concerned. Elder LeGrand Richards asked if there is “any treasure of knowledge in this world to be sought after, more desirable than to know that God lives, that Jesus is the Christ, to know that his kingdom has been established again in the earth, to know that God has promised a reward for every commandment that he has given, to know that he has created this earth that we might prove unto him that we would do all things, not just a few of them, all things whatsoever the Lord our God hath commanded?” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1961, p. 46).
President George Albert Smith pointed to a literal fulfillment of the promise of great treasures of knowledge: “I refer you to the February, 1944, number of The Improvement Era wherein was published a graph showing the relative position of the states of the Union as to the number of scientists born in those states in proportion to population. Strange as it may seem, if you began at the lower corner of that graph and followed up state by state, you would come to the state of Massachusetts next to the highest on the graph, yet you would not have reached the state of Utah. You have to go twenty percent points higher up the graph to find Utah, the state that has produced more scientists born within its borders per capita than any other state in the American Union. That wasn’t an accident; it was a fulfilment of the promise of God as a result of observance of the Lord’s commandments.” (In Conference Report, Oct. 1945, pp. 21–22.)
President J. Reuben Clark Jr. said of verse 21: “This does not say and this does not mean, that to keep the Word of Wisdom is to insure us against death, for death is, in the eternal plan, co-equal with birth. This is the eternal decree. [1 Corinthians 15:22; 2 Nephi 9:6.] But it does mean that the destroying angel, he who comes to punish the unrighteous for their sins, as he in olden time afflicted the corrupt Egyptians in their wickedness [Exodus 12:23, 29], shall pass by the Saints, ‘who are walking in obedience to the commandments,’ and who ‘remember to keep and do these sayings.’ These promises do mean that all those who qualify themselves to enjoy them will be permitted so to live out their lives that they may gain the full experiences and get the full knowledge which they need in order to progress to the highest exaltation in eternity, all these will live until their work is finished and God calls them back to their eternal home, as a reward.” (In Conference Report, Oct. 1940, pp. 17–18.)
If we live the Word of Wisdom, we keep ourselves pure before the Lord, who can then bestow all His blessings both in this world and in the world to come.
About a week after the Prophet Joseph Smith received the Word of Wisdom, the Lord revealed to him Doctrine and Covenants 90. No explanation is given about why this revelation was received. President Joseph Fielding Smith said it contains “information of the greatest importance and may have come through the prayers of the brethren. . . . It begins by saying that the sins of the Prophet are forgiven according to his petition, for ‘thy prayers and the prayers of thy brethren have come up unto my ears.’” (Church History and Modern Revelation, 1:387.)
During His earthly ministry, Jesus bestowed on Peter, James, and John “the keys of the kingdom” (D&C 90:2–3). Those keys, He said, carried power to bind and loose on earth and in heaven (see Matthew 16:19).
Latter-day Saints make covenants with God for time and all eternity. Priesthood is the authority to seal those covenants and have them last throughout eternity. Eternal marriage, baptism, bestowal of the Holy Ghost, temple covenants—these are all sealed by the divine authority known as priesthood (see also Notes and Commentary on D&C 81:2.)
An oracle can be a revelation or the person through whom the revelation is given. Only the President of the Church possesses the power to receive revelation for the entire Church. This principle was taught to Oliver Cowdery at an early date, when the Lord told him: “No one shall be appointed to receive commandments and revelations in this Church excepting my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., for he receiveth them even as Moses” (D&C 28:2). Those who have succeeded Joseph Smith in the prophetic office have received, each in his turn, the power to use the keys of the kingdom and lead the Church by revelation as occasion has required.
President Joseph Fielding Smith wrote: “The word of the Lord was fulfilled wherein he said that through Joseph Smith the oracles should be given to the Church, and by command of the Lord the Prophet, in Nauvoo a few months before his death, called the apostles together and said to them that the Lord had commanded him to confer upon them all the keys and authorities which he had had conferred upon him, so that the work could be ‘rolled off’ of his shoulders onto theirs. He thereupon conferred upon them this divine governing power, but this governing power could not be exercised by any one of the twelve while the Prophet was living. Upon his death the right to preside and set in order and to hold the keys of authority in the Priesthood and in the Church, rightfully belonged to President Brigham Young and by authority of the ordination he had received under the hands of Joseph Smith and by being sustained by his brethren and the Church, he was vested with the supreme power.” (Church History and Modern Revelation, 1:388–89.)
Joseph Smith holds the keys of this dispensation.
In these verses the Lord authorized Sidney Rigdon and Frederick G. Williams to hold the keys of the priesthood jointly with Joseph Smith. The two men were set apart a short time later. The Prophet reported: “Elder Rigdon expressed a desire that himself and Brother Frederick G. Williams should be ordained to the offices to which they had been called, viz., those of Presidents of the High Priesthood, and to be equal in holding the keys of the kingdom with Brother Joseph Smith, Jun., according to the revelation given on the 8th of March, 1833. Accordingly I laid my hands on Brothers Sidney and Frederick, and ordained them to take part with me in holding the keys of the last dispensation and to assist in the Presidency of the High Priesthood, as my Counselors.” (History of the Church, 1:334.)
Counselors can do everything their presiding officer directs them to do, as if the president were personally acting. In this sense they are equals. However, they have no power to act independent of the president. Both Sidney Rigdon and Frederick G. Williams received their ordination from the Prophet Joseph Smith, who held the keys. Since these two men received their authority from Joseph Smith, it follows that they were not equal to him in every sense. Elder John A. Widtsoe observed that “the pre-eminence of the President of the Church was maintained. . . . The Counselors do not possess the power of the President and cannot act in Church matters without direction and consent of the President.
“All this defined clearly the position and authority of the President of the Church.” (Joseph Smith, p. 303.)
“The Gospel was . . . taken first to the Jews in the Meridian Dispensation, and when the Jews rejected it, then it was taken to the Gentiles. [See Acts 11:18; 13:46.] The Lord promised that the first should be last and last first in the final dispensation. Therefore the Gospel was revealed and declared to the Gentiles in this dispensation and then it must go to the Jews.” (Smith, Church History and Modern Revelation, 1:390.)
All will hear the gospel in their own tongue.
President Joseph Fielding Smith wrote: “In order that the Gospel might be declared among the nations and kindreds and tongues, the Lord commanded that the elders should study languages and with all good books be prepared to carry the message so that people could hear it in their own tongue. This was one great opportunity presented in the school of the prophets. It is a remarkable fact that the elders of the Church going forth to foreign lands have had the gift of tongues by which they have learned to speak these foreign tongues within very brief periods of time. Not only is this the case, but there are many instances of record where the missionaries in conversation and when preaching have been understood by others in their native language. These cases have been similar with the gift of tongues as it was made manifest on the day of Pentecost, when Peter and the apostles stood up and spoke to the assembled people from all countries who had come to Jerusalem to the celebration of Pentecost. Elders who have labored in foreign fields who have relied upon the Spirit of the Lord and have been diligent in their labors can testify from all parts of the Church that through the help of the Spirit they were able to speak the languages of the people among whom they were appointed to labor, and this beyond their natural powers.” (Church History and Modern Revelation, 1:390.)
For generations, the vast majority of missionaries were sent out from North America to teach the peoples of the world, and, though they learned the language and taught the people in their own tongue, they usually lacked native fluency. Now, thousands of missionaries from scores of countries are being called to labor among their own people. Because these missionaries are native speakers and come from the same culture as the people they teach, they can be especially effective in fulfilling the prophecy that all will hear the gospel in their own tongue.
These verses charged the First Presidency with several important tasks:
1. Continue in the work of the ministry and presiding (see D&C 90:12).
2. Finish work on the Joseph Smith Translation (see v. 13).
3. Preside over the School of the Prophets (see v. 13).
4. Receive the revelations and “unfold” them (see v. 14).
5. Read, study, and learn languages (see v. 15).
6. Preside in council and set the affairs of the Church in order (see v. 16).
7. Repent of pride and sin (see v. 17).
8. Set their own homes in order (see v. 18).
Leaders of the Church must take care for their callings but must not neglect personal and family matters.
Although this counsel is valuable to all members of the Church, it was perhaps especially significant for Sidney Rigdon and Frederick G. Williams, who both later opposed the Prophet and left the Church, though Frederick G. Williams eventually returned.
“The Lord warns His servants, particularly the Prophet’s father, to let their families be small in order that the substance provided for them by the Church be not used up by the unworthy (vs. 25), who were prone to take advantage of a situation. When the Lord advises them to let their families be small, He does not mean their immediate children; the visitors and hangers-on who had a tendency to take advantage of the brethren’s open houses and open hearts are the ones meant. The brethren would not be hindered in accomplishing the Lord’s work if they watched this matter.” (Sperry, Compendium, p. 462.)
“Vienna Jaques, a woman who had been kind to the Prophet and had cared for his wants when in need and had helped the elders, was now by revelation to be helped with means so that she could gather with the Saints in Zion” (Smith, Church History and Modern Revelation, 1:391).
“A conference of high priests assembled April 30, 1833, in the schoolroom in Kirtland and took steps to raise means to pay the rent for the house where their meetings had been held during the past season. John P. Green was appointed to take charge of a branch of the Church in Parkman County. It was also decided that Sister Vienna Jaques should not proceed immediately on her way to Zion, but wait until William Hobart and others were ready, as it would be a matter of safety.” (Smith, Church History and Modern Revelation, 1:403–4.)
The word meet in verse 30 means fitting, proper, necessary, or desirable.
“[The First Presidency] were to advise the Saints in Zion that the jurisdiction of the First Presidency extended over Jackson County and the West as well as over Kirtland and the East (v. 32). Thus the First Presidency was to be a means of preservation of the unity of the Church.
“The primitive church, after the departure of the Apostles, disintegrated and was divided into many groups, each with a head of its own, and, finally, the great division into the Roman and Greek churches occurred, the bishop of Rome and the patriarch of Constantinople, each claiming supreme authority. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints might have been cleft in the same way, into a Western and an Eastern division, with several smaller groups between, but for the Revelation instituting the First Presidency, which is both the symbol of the unity of the Church and the connecting link by which this unity is effected.” (Smith and Sjodahl, Commentary, pp. 582–83.)
Smith and Sjodahl note that section 90 “closes with a warning and a promise regarding Zion. All the brethren in Zion were not keeping the commandments of God faithfully. Some of them were jealous of the position and influence of the Prophet Joseph, and denied his authority to direct the temporal affairs of the Church. Among them were the men mentioned in Verse 35. In a letter written on behalf of the Church, by Orson Hyde and Hyrum Smith, Jan. 14th, 1833, and addressed to the Bishopric and Saints in Zion, it is pointed out that Sidney Gilbert, in a communication received from him, used ‘low, dark, and blind insinuations,’ which were not received ‘as from the fountain of light.’ In the same letter Wm. W. Phelps is kindly rebuked for a ‘lightness of spirit that ill becomes a man placed in the important and responsible station that he is placed in.’ Furthermore, the Saints in Zion failed to keep the laws of God concerning consecration. Hence the warning: The Lord would contend with Zion, plead with her strong ones, and chasten her ‘until she overcomes and is clean before me.’ That is the warning. The promise is: ‘She shall not be removed out of her place.’” (Commentary, p. 583.)
Elder Melvin J. Ballard said of the Lord’s promise to see that Zion overcomes and is clean: “That kind of promise entails the necessity of chastisement, when we need to be chastened and corrected and brought to a condition of repentance. I recognize that the Lord cannot fulfil his work nor accomplish his purposes without our willing obedience. He will not use this people unless we are willing to be used; but he has means of correcting, he has means of chastisement, which he will apply from time to time, and the only thing that impedes our progress today is our own lack of willingness to follow the counsel of those whom God has appointed to lead this people, because of the imagination of our hearts that we are wiser than they are.” (In Conference Report, Oct. 1921, p. 100.)