The Prophet Joseph Smith received this revelation at Kirtland, Ohio, on 16 December 1833. At the time the revelation was given, the Saints in Missouri had been driven from Jackson County to Clay County. Their homes destroyed and their property taken from them by the mobs in Jackson County, the Saints were suffering greatly (see History of the Church, 1:426–38, 458–64).
The Lord, prior to this revelation, had warned the Saints that they must keep His commandments and do His will, or they would suffer affliction, pestilence, plague, sword, vengeance, and devouring fire (see D&C 97:26). Now, in Doctrine and Covenants 101, the Lord explained why the Saints had been driven from Zion.
Anciently the Lord blessed Joseph, the son of Jacob, with the blessings of Abraham, which included a land of promise for his posterity. His descendants were to receive an inheritance in the land of America (see Genesis 49:1–2, 22–26; Deuteronomy 33:13–17; 3 Nephi 15:12–13; 20:10, 14; Richards, Marvelous Work and a Wonder, pp. 63–66.)
Commenting on the rights of heirs, President Joseph Fielding Smith taught: “Every person who embraces the gospel becomes of the house of Israel. In other words, they become members of the chosen lineage, or Abraham’s children through Isaac and Jacob unto whom the promises were made. The great majority of those who become members of the Church are literal descendants of Abraham through Ephraim, son of Joseph. Those who are not literal descendants of Abraham and Israel must become such, and when they are baptized and confirmed they are grafted into the tree and are entitled to all the rights and privileges as heirs.” (Doctrines of Salvation, 3:246.)
The Church, with its large numbers of descendants of Joseph, inherits the blessings promised to Joseph’s posterity (see Abraham 2:9–10; D&C 86:8–9). That is why the Lord has promised the latter-day Church an inheritance in the land promised to Joseph’s posterity, with its “center place” in Missouri (D&C 57:3; see D&C 38:17–20; 52:1–5, 42; 57:1–5).
See Notes and Commentary on Doctrine and Covenants 60:4.
The Prophet Joseph Smith recorded:
“I cannot learn from any communication by the Spirit to me, that Zion has forfeited her claim to a celestial crown, notwithstanding the Lord has caused her to be thus afflicted, except it may be some individuals, who have walked in disobedience, and forsaken the new covenant; all such will be made manifest by their works in due time. I have always expected that Zion would suffer some affliction, from what I could learn from the commandments which have been given. But I would remind you of a certain clause in one which says, that after much tribulation cometh the blessing. By this, and also others, and also one received of late, I know that Zion, in the due time of the Lord, will be redeemed; but how many will be the days of her purification, tribulation, and affliction, the Lord has kept hid from my eyes and when I inquire concerning this subject, the voice of the Lord is: Be still, and know that I am God; all those who suffer for my name shall reign with me, and he that layeth down his life for my sake shall find it again.
“Now, there are two things of which I am ignorant; and the Lord will not show them unto me, perhaps for a wise purpose in Himself—I mean in some respects—and they are these: Why God has suffered so great a calamity to come upon Zion, and what the great moving cause of this great affliction is; and again, by what means He will return her back to her inheritance, with songs of everlasting joy upon her head. These two things, brethren, are in part kept back that they are not plainly shown unto me; but there are some things that are plainly manifest which have incurred the displeasure of the Almighty.” (Teachings, p. 34; see D&C 105:2–4, 6.)
Tested even as Abraham
All who desire exaltation must be tested and tried to be proven in all things. President Harold B. Lee said:
“Some of us have been tried and have been tested until our very heart strings would seem to break. I have heard of persons dying with a broken heart, and I thought that was just a sort of a poetic expression, but I learned that it could be a very real experience. I came near to that thing; but when I began to think of my own troubles, I thought of what the apostle Paul said of the Master, ‘Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him.’ (Hebrews 5:8, 9.)
“Don’t be afraid of the testing and trials of life. Sometimes when you are going through the most severe tests, you will be nearer to God than you have any idea, for like the experience of the Master himself in the temptation on the mount, in the Garden of Gethsemane, and on the cross at Calvary, the scriptures record, ‘And, behold, angels came and ministered unto him.’ (Matthew 4:11.) Sometimes that may happen to you in the midst of your trials.” (In Conference Report, Munich Germany Area Conference 1973, p. 114.)
The scriptures teach the following about chastening:
1. Chastening is a cleansing process (see D&C 90:36).
2. Chastening may lead to forgiveness of sins (see D&C 95:1).
3. Chastening teaches us obedience (see D&C 105:6).
4. Chastening refines us as pure gold (see Job 23:10).
One of the great problems recorded in scripture is mankind’s indifference to God in times of prosperity. Too often they forget their Creator, who is the giver of all good things. In times of trouble, however, they remember God and turn to Him for mercy and help in their afflictions, but He is slow to help them. These verses show that the Saints were guilty of this offense. Therefore, the Lord did not support them in their day of affliction. He will not support any who claim His promises but do not keep their covenants. (See D&C 84:54–59; Mosiah 11:24; 21:15; Helaman 4:11–13; 12:1–6; Judges 10:13–14; Isaiah 26:16.)
The sword, an instrument of war, connotes power and retribution. President Joseph Fielding Smith explained: “While there was punishment in the suffering the saints had to endure and that because they were slow to hear the Lord, nevertheless the actions of their enemies were not justifiable; and therefore the Lord promised that he would let fall the sword of his indignation in behalf of his people. [D&C 101:11–12.] The sword of indignation commenced to fall upon the enemies of the saints shortly after the saints were driven from Missouri, and from time to time it has fallen, both in this land and in foreign lands.” (Church History and Modern Revelation, 1:460.)
The phrase “without measure” (D&C 101:11) means that the Lord’s wrath will not be restrained but will come with great fury.
The Lord has decreed that Israel will be gathered and the New Jerusalem built in preparation for His Second Coming (see Moses 7:60–62). The tribe of Ephraim has been given this responsibility, and none can stop them.
The Lord has promised the Latter-day Saints that He will help them in the work of preparation and will defend them against their enemies. Though they may experience great difficulty and distress, they must remember that He has all power and will deliver them. He will not allow His people to be overthrown. His counsel is “be still [calm, undisturbed] and know that I am God” (D&C 101:16). Nothing can frustrate His work or defeat His purposes (see 1 Nephi 22:15–17; 2 Nephi 30:10; D&C 35:14).
In ancient Israel walls were built around cities, and towers were erected in key places along the walls. Watchmen, or lookouts, kept watch in these towers day and night to warn the people if an enemy came. A watchman’s responsibility was great, because if he was negligent, his sloth could cost the lives of others. The Greek word most frequently used in the New Testament to convey the idea of watching “means to keep awake, to watch, and so to take heed lest through remissness and indolence some destructive calamity suddenly overtake one” (Unger, Bible Dictionary, s.v. “watch”).
The Church today stands in a position to see the enemy and how he works, because they have living prophets who speak for God. They are therefore called by the Savior both to warn the wicked and to protect Zion. Thus the Lord refers to His authorized servants today as watchmen upon the towers (see Isaiah 62:6; Ezekiel 33:2–9).
The phrase “all mine Israel” (D&C 101:12) refers to those who have entered into the gospel covenant and have become heirs to the promises of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (see Abraham 2:9–11; Romans 9:6–8).
The watchmen upon the towers are the leaders of the Church.
Speaking of the expulsion from Jackson County, Elder James E. Talmage said: “The saints were not permitted to enter into immediate possession of the land, which was promised them as an everlasting inheritance. Even as years elapsed between the time of the Lord’s promise to Israel of old that Canaan should be their inheritance, and the time of their entering into possession thereof—years devoted to the people’s toilsome and sorrowful preparation for the fulfilment—so in these latter days the divine purpose is held in abeyance, while the people are being sanctified for the great gift and for the responsibilities associated with it. In the meantime the honest in heart are gathering to the valleys of the Rocky Mountains [and now to stakes all around the world]; and here, . . . Temples have been erected, and all nations are flowing unto this region. But Zion shall yet be established on the chosen site; she ‘shall not be moved out of her place,’ and the pure in heart shall return ‘with songs of everlasting joy, to build up the waste places of Zion.’” (Articles of Faith, p. 353; see also Notes and Commentary on D&C 29:8.)
Waste means “wild and uninhabited” (Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary, s.v. “waste”). Elder Orson Hyde taught: “The scripture says, that in the last days His people will go forth and build up the waste places of Zion. But they must first be made desolate, before they can be called ‘the waste places of Zion.’ Then the hands of the Saints will be required to build them up.” (In Journal of Discourses, 10:376.)
Elder Orson Pratt taught that the Saints would go back to Missouri and possess the properties they had once inhabited in the early days of the Church, after God’s judgments have made the cities desolate: “Now that order of things will continue and will spread forth from that nucleus in Jackson county and the western counties of Missouri and the eastern counties of Kansas, where this people will be located, and it will spread abroad for hundreds and hundreds of miles on the right hand and the left, east, west, north, and south from the great central city, and all the people will be required to execute the law in all their stewardships, and then there will be a oneness and union which will continue and it will spread wider and wider, and become greater and greater, until the desolate cities of the Gentiles will be inhabited by the Saints. Then will be fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah, in which he says, ‘Thy seed shall inherit the Gentiles, and make the desolate cities to be inhabited’ [Isaiah 54:3], for God will visit them in judgment, and there will be no owners left to occupy the country. Then the land will be filled up with Saints, those who will keep the celestial law; and they will receive their stewardships according to the appointment of heaven.” (Deseret Evening News, 2 Oct. 1875, p. 265.)
Elder Harold B. Lee wrote:
“In these days of our generation, many are asking: Where is safety?
“The word of the Lord is not silent. He has admonished us: [D&C 45:32].
“The Lord has told us where these ‘holy places’ are: [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: [D&C 101:21].
“Thus, the Lord has clearly placed the responsibility of directing the work of gathering in the hands of His divinely appointed leaders. I fervently pray that all Saints and truth seekers everywhere will attune their listening ears to these prophet-leaders instead of to some demagogue who seeks to make capital of social discontent and gain political influence.
“There are several meanings of the word Zion. . . .
“. . . There is . . . [a] 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: . . . [Malachi 3:10; D&C 59:9; Isaiah 58:7, 9; D&C 89:18, 21].
“As one studies the commandments of God, it seems crystal clear that the all-important thing is not where we live, but whether or not our hearts are pure.” (Stand Ye in Holy Places, pp. 21–24.)
Three special signs are associated with the Lord’s return to earth:
1. “All flesh shall see [Him] together” (D&C 101:23). Elder Orson Pratt said that “the second advent of the Son of God is to be something . . . accompanied with great power and glory, something that will not be done in a small portion of the earth like Palestine, and seen only by a few; but it will be an event that will be seen by all—all flesh shall see the glory of the Lord; when he reveals himself the second time, every eye, not only those living at that time in the flesh, in mortality on the earth, but also the very dead themselves” (in Journal of Discourses, 18:170).
2. “Every corruptible thing . . . shall be consumed” (D&C 101:24). Elder Bruce R. McConkie explained: “Incident to the commencement of the millennial era, the earth (the Lord’s vineyard) will be burned. Every corruptible thing will be consumed. (D. & C. 101:24); all the proud and they that do wickedly shall be burned as stubble (Mal. 4:1; D. & C. 29:9; 64:23–25; 133:63–64); the sinners will be destroyed (Isa. 13:9–14); and there will be an entire separation of the righteous and the wicked. (D. & C. 63:54.) Those only shall be able to abide that day who are worthy to live on a paradisiacal or terrestrial sphere.” (Mormon Doctrine, p. 494.)
3. “All things shall become new” (D&C 101:25; see also D&C 29:23–24). Of this newness Elder Parley P. Pratt wrote: “A new heaven and a new earth are promised by the sacred writers. Or, in other words, the planetary systems are to be changed, purified, refined, exalted and glorified, in the similitude of the resurrection, by which means all physical evil or imperfections will be done away.” (Key to the Science of Theology, p. 61.)
This newness of things is not the same as the “new heaven and a new earth” (Revelation 21:1) that will be part of the earth’s celestialization at the end of the Millennium.
The glory of a celestial being, of which the sun is typical (see D&C 76:70), is so radiant that to bring that glory to the earth will cause great burning. The cleansing of the earth by fire will be caused by the coming of the Savior to earth (see D&C 5:19; McConkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3:368–69; Notes and Commentary for D&C 133:40–49). Those who are not changed to withstand the presence of the Savior will perish by fire.
Five features of the Millennium, the thousand-year personal reign of Christ on earth, are as follows:
1. “The enmity of all flesh, shall cease” (D&C 101:26). Elder Orson Pratt said that “the enmity of the beasts of the field as well as that of all flesh will cease; no more one beast of prey devouring and feasting upon another that is more harmless in its nature; no more will this enmity be found in the fish of the sea, or in the birds of the air. This change will be wrought upon all flesh when Jesus comes; not a change to immortality, but a change sufficient to alter the ferocious nature of beasts, birds and fishes. . . . gentleness, will characterize all the wild and ferocious animals, as well as the venomous serpents, so much so that the little child might lead them and play with them, and nothing shall hurt or destroy in all the holy mountain of the Lord, all things becoming, in some measure, as when they were first created.” (Orson Pratt, in Journal of Discourses, 20:18.)
2. “Whatsoever any man shall ask, it shall be given unto him” (D&C 101:27). People sometimes pray for things they should not have. The Millennium will change that. People will ask only for righteous things, and all requests will be honored by Heavenly Father.
3. “Satan shall not have power to tempt any man” (v. 28). See Notes and Commentary on Doctrine and Covenants 43:31 for an explanation of how Satan’s power to tempt will be limited.
4. “Death will vanish from the earth” (D&C 101:29–31). During the Millennium, death will cease among the righteous inhabitants of the earth. They will live to be very old, and when the time for the change known as death arrives, they will “be changed in the twinkling of an eye” from mortality to immortality and their “rest shall be glorious” (v. 31). Among those that have “kept the faith” (D&C 63:50), there will not be a separation of the spirit and body where the spirit passes into the spirit world and the body is laid in the ground to await the Resurrection. Instead, at the appropriate time, there will be an instantaneous change from a mortal to a resurrected, immortal condition.
Elder Joseph Fielding Smith said: “When Christ comes the saints who are on the earth will be quickened and caught up to meet him. 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. A change, nevertheless, will come over all who remain on the earth; they will be quickened so that they will not be subject unto death until they are old. Men shall die when they are one hundred years of age, and the change shall be made suddenly to the immortal state. Graves will not be made during this thousand years. . . . death shall come as a peaceful transition from the mortal to the immortal state.” (Way to Perfection, pp. 298–99, 311.)
The scriptures and the writings of the prophets indicate that during the Millennium people living a terrestrial level of righteousness will be on the earth, but eventually all will have the opportunity to receive the gospel (see Isaiah 11:9; Habakkuk 2:14; Jeremiah 31:34). Those who do not receive the gospel will be swept off the earth (see Isaiah 65:20).
Isaiah taught that during the Millennium “the sinner being an hundred years old shall be accursed” (Isaiah 65:20). Zechariah taught that at that time the heathen nations who will not come to worship in Jerusalem will be visited with the Lord’s judgments and eventually destroyed from the earth (see Zechariah 14:16–19; see also Smith, Teachings, pp. 268–69).
The contrast between these statements and those of the Lord in Doctrine and Covenants 101:30–31 and 63:50–51 indicates a difference between the condition of the righteous and the condition of the unrighteous during the early period of the Millennium. Elder Erastus Snow said that during the Millennium “the children that shall grow up unto the Lord shall not taste of death; that is, they shall not sleep in the earth, but they shall be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, and they shall be caught up, and their rest shall be glorious” (in Journal of Discourses, 7:355–56; italics added).
5. “In that day . . . the Lord . . . shall reveal all things” (D&C 101:32). The Millennium is the time when the Savior will personally work with the faithful, obedient members of His Church who have lived on the earth since the days of Adam. One can only imagine the blessings that are in store for those who have been faithful. For example, the first ten chapters (about fifteen pages) in the book of Genesis cover approximately two thousand years of history. The amount of knowledge that has been lost concerning just this period is astounding. In the Millennium all that knowledge, and more, will be restored. It is of little wonder, then, that Saints have longed for the day when Christ would be in their midst, a day in which He will make all things known.
The Lord urged the Saints in these verses to place more attention on eternal life than on the pursuits of mortal life. He indicates that those who had lost their lives in Jackson County (there were some), and those who would do so in future persecutions (six thousand lost their lives while crossing the plains to Utah) need not fear. Those who are faithful have the hope of a glorious resurrection and the blessings of eternal life with God.
President Heber C. Kimball said: “Have I not told you often that the separation of body and spirit makes no difference in the moral and intellectual condition of the spirit? When a person, who has always been good and faithful to his God, lays down his body in the dust, his spirit will remain the same in the spirit world. It is not the body that has control over the spirit, as to its disposition, but it is the spirit that controls the body. When the spirit leaves the body the body becomes lifeless. The spirit has not changed one single particle of itself by leaving the body.” (In Journal of Discourses, 3:108.)
“Ye are the salt of the earth,” Jesus told His followers in Palestine, “but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted?” (Matthew 5:13). Men cannot teach and testify to others of the truths of God, if they themselves do not believe and follow them.
Salt is important to the life of humankind. It has been used through the ages as a preservative, as a condiment, and as a religious offering (see Leviticus 2:13). Salt that lost its savor, or its saltiness, would no longer be useful. The same is true of those who embrace the gospel and then lose their faith through sin or slothfulness.
Elder Carlos E. Asay explained the imagery of salt and its savor:
“When the Lord used the expression ‘savor of men,’ he was speaking of those who represent him. He was referring to those who have repented, who have been washed clean in the waters of baptism, and who have covenanted to take upon them his name and his cause. Moreover, he was speaking of those who would share by covenant his priesthood power. He was speaking of you and me.
“A world-renowned chemist told me that salt will not lose its savor with age. Savor is lost through mixture and contamination. Similarly, priesthood power does not dissipate with age; it, too, is lost through mixture and contamination.
“When a young man or older man mixes his thoughts with pornographic literature, he suffers a loss of savor.
“When a priesthood bearer mixes his speech with lies or profanity, he suffers a loss of savor.
“When one of us follows the crowd and becomes involved in immoral acts and the use of drugs, tobacco, alcohol, and other injurious substances, he loses savor.
“Flavor and quality flee a man when he contaminates his mind with unclean thoughts, desecrates his mouth by speaking less than the truth, and misapplies his strength in performing evil acts. King Benjamin cautioned, ‘Watch yourselves, and your thoughts, and your words, and your deeds, and observe the commandments of God’ (Mosiah 4:30).
“I would offer these simple guidelines, especially to the young men, as the means to preserve one’s savor: If it is not clean, do not think it; if it is not true, do not speak it; if it is not good, do not do it (see Marcus Aurelius, ‘The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius,’ in The Harvard Classics, Charles W. Eliot, ed., New York: P. F. Collier and Son, 1909, p. 211).” (In Conference Report, Apr. 1980, pp. 60–61; or Ensign, May 1980, pp. 42–43.)
“It would seem that the parable is to be interpreted in this way: the nobleman is the Lord, whose choice land in His vineyard is Zion in Missouri. The places where the Saints live in Zion are the olive trees. The servants are the Latter-day Saint settlers, and the watchmen are their officers in the Church. While yet building in Zion, they become at variance with each other and do not build the tower or Temple whose site had been dedicated as early as August 3, 1831. Had they built it as directed, it would have been a spiritual refuge for them, for from it the Lord’s watchmen could have seen by revelation the movements of the enemy from afar. This foreknowledge would have saved them and their hard work when the enemy made his assault.
“But the Saints in Missouri were slothful, lax, and asleep. The enemy came, and the Missouri persecutions were the result. The Lord’s people were scattered and much of their labors wasted. The Almighty rebuked His people, as we have already seen, but He commanded one of His servants (vs. 55), Joseph Smith (103:21), to gather the ‘strength of Mine house’ and rescue His lands and possessions gathered against them.
“Subsequently, the Prophet and his brethren in the famous Zion’s Camp did go to Missouri in 1834 in an attempt to carry out the terms of the parable. Before they went, additional revelation was received (see 103:21–28) concerning the redemption of Zion. The brethren were instructed to try to buy land in Missouri, not to use force; and if the enemy came against them, they were to bring a curse upon them. Zion was not redeemed at that time but we may look for it in the not-too-distant future. . . . It will be redeemed when the Lord wills it.” (Sperry, Compendium, pp. 521–22.)
Though Joseph Smith followed the Lord’s instructions to gather together the “strength of my house” (D&C 103:22) by organizing Zion’s Camp to redeem Zion, the Lord’s purpose in sending them and His will concerning the redemption of Zion were not fully understood by His people. The redemption of Zion did not take place at that time. When the servant in the parable asked when the land would be possessed, the Lord responded, “When I will” (D&C 101:60).
The parable further states that all things will be fulfilled “after many days” (v. 62), which indicates that a long period of time would pass before Zion would be redeemed. The redemption of Zion still had not taken place even after the Saints had been expelled from Missouri and from Nauvoo. The Lord then told Brigham Young that “Zion shall be redeemed in mine own due time” (D&C 136:18). The redemption of Zion (meaning, the city of New Jerusalem in Missouri) is still future, although it is much closer now than it was when the Saints first sought to regain their inheritance there.
The time of Zion’s redemption is referred to in Doctrine and Covenants 58:44; 105:15, 37. Compare the parable in Doctrine and Covenants 101 with those given in Isaiah 5:1–7 and Matthew 21:33–46.
The Lord spoke of two important items having to do with the establishment of Zion: the gathering of the Saints to places appointed, and the purchase of land in the region of Zion. The Lord cautioned in verses 68 and 72 that the work was not to proceed with haste. Part of the difficulty experienced in the original attempt to establish Zion was caused by many Saints’ coming to Zion ill-prepared. They apparently felt that the Lord would care for their needs rather than have them do it themselves. This idea was contrary to the Lord’s counsel from the very beginning of Zion’s founding, for He said, “And let the work of the gathering be not in haste, nor by flight” (D&C 58:56). He warned again: “And now, behold, this is the will of the Lord your God concerning his saints, that they should assemble themselves together unto the land of Zion, not in haste, lest there should be confusion, which bringeth pestilence” (D&C 63:24).
Enrichment B in the Appendix discusses Zion.
See Notes and Commentary on Doctrine and Covenants 105:28–32.
In the revelation in section 101, given in December 1833, the Lord told His people that if those who called themselves Saints would only follow His counsels, they would have sufficient resources to redeem the land and to establish Zion, “no more to be thrown down” (D&C 101:75). In June 1834 the Lord indicated that Zion might already have been redeemed except for the transgressions of His people (see D&C 105:1–10). It is not the Lord who causes delays in bringing forth Zion. The rate at which His promises are fulfilled is determined by the willingness of His people to respond to His counsel.
President Spencer W. Kimball noted:
“It is estimated that it took 117 years, from 1830 to 1947, to attain one million members. Then it took sixteen years, from 1947 to 1963, to reach the second million members, and then nine years, 1963 to 1972, to attain the third million. It will probably take about four or five years to move up to the four million mark, and then we can guess what the future holds.
“What does this mean to us? It means that if the members of the Church do real proselyting in their home wards that the number of converts could grow to astronomical figures and even hasten the time when the Lord will be returning to the earth in His second advent.” (In Conference Report, Oct. 1976, p. 4; or Ensign, Nov. 1976, p. 4.)
“By the hands of wise men whom I raised up” (D&C 101:80)
One purpose of government is to protect individuals “in their inherent and inalienable rights” (D&C 134:5), including “the free exercise of conscience, the right and control of property, and the protection of life” (v. 2). The Saints in Zion were denied all these rights. The Constitution of the United States guarantees individuals the right to apply for redress when denied their rights. The Lord urged the Saints in Zion “to importune for redress, and redemption” at the hands of the constituted authorities (D&C 101:76).
President Charles W. Penrose explained how the Constitution benefits all people: “In section 101 the Lord speaks about the constitution of this land. He says it was framed by wise men whom he raised up for that very purpose. What for? To maintain the rights and privileges ‘of all flesh.’ Not alone the people of this land. The principles of that great instrument are to go forth to the nations, and the time will come when they will prevail, just as sure as the sun shines even when it appears to be in darkness and the clouds are over it.” (In Conference Report, Apr. 1917, p. 20.)
“To me . . . that statement of the Lord, ‘I have established the Constitution of this land,’ puts the Constitution of the United States in the position in which it would be if it were written in the book of Doctrine and Covenants itself. This makes the Constitution the word of the Lord to us. That it was given, not by oral utterance, but by the operation of his mind and spirit upon the minds of men, inspiring them to the working out of this great document of human government, does not alter its authority.” (J. Reuben Clark Jr., in Conference Report, Apr. 1935, p. 93.)
President Brigham Young spoke of some of these “wise men” raised up by God:
“We believe that the Lord has been preparing that when he should bring forth his work, that, when the set time should fully come, there might be a place upon his footstool where sufficient liberty of conscience should exist, that his Saints might dwell in peace under the broad panoply of constitutional law and equal rights. In this view we consider that the men in the Revolution were inspired by the Almighty, to throw off the shackles of the mother government, with her established religion. For this cause were Adams, Jefferson, Franklin, Washington, and a host of others inspired to deeds of resistance to the acts of the King of Great Britain, who might also have been led to those aggressive acts, for aught we know, to bring to pass the purposes of God, in thus establishing a new government upon a principle of greater freedom, a basis of self-government allowing the free exercise of religious worship.
“It was the voice of the Lord inspiring all those worthy men who bore influence in those trying times, not only to go forth in battle but to exercise wisdom in council, fortitude, courage, and endurance in the tented field, as well as subsequently to form and adopt those wise and efficient measures which secured to themselves and succeeding generations, the blessings of a free and independent government.” (Discourses of Brigham Young, pp. 359–60.)
The Lord repeated the parable in Luke 18:1–8 of the woman who so wearied a judge with her importuning that he finally granted her petition. He then likened the parable to the situation of the Saints. They were to seek redress from the judge through the governor to the president of the United States himself. If the appeals went unheeded, the Lord said that he would rise in anger and mete out justice to those who had dispossessed the Saints, for all men would “be left without excuse” (D&C 101:93). President Joseph Fielding Smith explained:
“The saints were also to carry their grievances to the proper tribunals and seek for redress of their wrongs. This was a very necessary step, and when the Saints did this and were denied their civil and religious rights, those officials were left without excuse, and the judgments of the Almighty which later came upon them during the Civil War, were justified. . . .
“Since there is a just law of retribution, as fixed and eternal as are other laws of the Almighty [D&C 6:33; 2 Corinthians 9:6], the day must come when there shall be adjustments made before a Just Magistrate who will not be cowed by the threats of mobs.” (Church History and Modern Revelation, 1:462, 469.)
The Saints were commanded to “hold claim” upon their Missouri lands even “though they should not be permitted to dwell thereon” (D&C 101:99). In writing to the Saints in Jackson County, the Prophet Joseph Smith said: “I would inform you that it is not the will of the Lord for you to sell your lands in Zion, if means can possibly be procured for your sustenance without. Every exertion should be made to maintain the cause you have espoused.” (Teachings, p. 31.)
He then went on to say: “Let your sufferings be what they may, it is better in the eyes of God that you should die, than that you should give up the land of Zion, the inheritances which you have purchased with your moneys; for every man that giveth not up his inheritance, though he should die, yet, when the Lord shall come, he shall stand upon it, and with Job, in his flesh he shall see God. Therefore, this is my counsel, that you retain your lands, even unto the uttermost, and employ every lawful means to seek redress of your enemies; and pray to God, day and night, to return you in peace and in safety to the lands of your inheritance: and when the judge fail you, appeal unto the executive; and when the executive fail you, appeal unto the president; and when the president fail you, and all laws fail you, and the humanity of the people fail you, and all things else fail you but God alone, and you continue to weary Him with your importunings, as the poor woman did the unjust judge, He will not fail to execute judgment upon your enemies, and to avenge His own elect that cry unto Him day and night.” (Teachings, pp. 35–36.)
The consecrated lands of the Saints’ inheritances were polluted by the wicked mobs as they burned and pillaged. But for the Saints to consent to this pollution by selling their lands was, in the eyes of the Lord, “a very sore and grievous sin” (D&C 101:98).
On 17 February 1834 Joseph Smith organized the first high council of the Church in this dispensation. On the next day, 18 February, the Prophet reviewed and corrected the organizational minutes. Then on 19 February the council reassembled, transacted business, and the minutes were presented to the council (see History of the Church, 2:31).
The Prophet Joseph Smith spoke to the council on the necessity of prayer, “that the Spirit might be given, that the things of the Spirit might be judged thereby, because the carnal mind cannot discern the things of God. The minutes were read three times, and unanimously adopted and received for a form and constitution of the High Council of the Church of Christ hereafter; with this provision, that if the President should hereafter discover anything lacking in the same, he should be privileged to supply it.” (History of the Church, 2:31.)
The minutes of this council meeting were included in the Doctrine and Covenants as section 102 because the order of the council, which was patterned after ancient councils, had been shown to Joseph Smith in vision (see Notes and Commentary on D&C 102:4).
A special item of instruction written for Melchizedek Priesthood holders noted:
“The first high council in the Church in this dispensation was organized in Kirtland, Ohio, February 17, 1834. This high council was in some particulars different from the high councils in stakes of Zion as they are constituted today. While all that is written in that revelation (D&C 102) in relation to [Church disciplinary councils] still applies today, it should be remembered that the First Presidency of the Church constituted the presidency of that high council. . . . [See D&C 102:2] This council had wide jurisdiction and was not confined to the borders of a stake. It was not until high councils were organized in stakes as we find them today that stake presidencies presided in their deliberations. . . . Attention is called especially to verses 9 and 10, of section 102. . . .
“We see from this that the first high council had general jurisdiction throughout the Church. Later another high council was organized in Missouri to take care of the problems arising in that distant part of the vineyard. Later when stakes were organized as we have them today a stake presidency was appointed and a complete high council for the stake appointed.” (“Melchizedek Priesthood: Further Instructions on Duties of High Councilors and Special Items,” Improvement Era, Feb. 1955, p. 113.)
According to the minutes of the meeting at which the first high council was organized:
“Bro. Joseph . . . said he would show the order of councils in ancient days as shown to him by vision. The law by which to govern the council in the Church of Christ. Jerusalem was the seat of the Church Council in ancient days. The apostle, Peter, was the president of the Council and held the keys of the Kingdom of God on the earth [and] was appointed to this office by the voice of the Savior and acknowledged in it by the voice of the Church. . . . It was not the order of heaven in ancient councils to plead for and against the guilty as in our judicial Courts (so called) but that every counsellor when he arose to speak, should speak precisely according to evidence and according to the teaching of the Spirit of the Lord; that no counsellor should attempt to screen the guilty when his guilt was manifest. That the person accused before the high council had a right to one half the members of the council to plead his cause in order that his case might be fairly presented before the President that a decision might be rendered according to truth and righteousness. . . . Bro. Joseph said that this organization was an ensample to the high priests in their Councils abroad. . . . It was then voted by all present that they desired to come under the present order of things which they all considered to be the will of God. (“Kirtland High Council Minute Book,” Historical Department, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, pp. 29–32.)
On 19 February, when the corrected minutes were presented, Joseph wrote, “We all raised our hands to heaven in token of the everlasting covenant, and the Lord blessed us with His Spirit. I then declared the council organized according to the ancient order, and also according to the mind of the Lord.” (History of the Church, 2:32–33.)
A high council is organized in each stake.
To ensure that enough councilors are available to conduct council business, current Church policy allows stake presidents to appoint alternate high councilors. A stake disciplinary council consists of the stake presidency and twelve high councilors. Alternate high councilors may serve in the absence of one of the regular councilors.
The Church Handbook of Instructions includes procedures for stake disciplinary councils based on the principles revealed in section 102.
The Prophet Joseph Smith in 1840 gave instruction for high councils concerning the rights of those involved. He wrote: “The Council should try no case without both parties being present, or having had an opportunity to be present; neither should they hear one person’s complaint before his case is brought up for trial; neither should they suffer the character of any one to be exposed before the High Council without the person being present and ready to defend him or herself; that the minds of the councilors be not prejudiced for or against any one whose case they may possibly have to act upon” (History of the Church, 4:154).
If the parties fail to appear, the council may proceed on the basis of the available evidence.
The Prophet Joseph instructed the brethren on the obligation placed on councils:
“No man is capable of judging a matter, in council, unless his own heart is pure; and . . . we are frequently so filled with prejudice, or have a beam in our own eye, that we are not capable of passing right decisions.
“But to return to the subject of order; in ancient days councils were conducted with such strict propriety, that no one was allowed to whisper, be weary, leave the room, or get uneasy in the least, until the voice of the Lord, by revelation, or the voice of the council by the Spirit, was obtained, which has not been observed in this Church to the present time. It was understood in ancient days, that if one man could stay in council, another could; and if the president could spend his time, the members could also; but in our councils, generally, one will be uneasy, another asleep; one praying, another not; one’s mind on the business of the council, and another thinking on something else.
“Our acts are recorded, and at a future day they will be laid before us, and if we should fail to judge right and injure our fellow-beings, they may there, perhaps, condemn us; there they are of great consequence, and to me the consequence appears to be of force, beyond anything which I am able to express. Ask yourselves, brethren, how much you have exercised yourselves in prayer since you heard of this council; and if you are now prepared to sit in council upon the soul of your brother.” (History of the Church, 2:25–26; see also Enrichment I in the Appendix.)
The stake president assigns a clerk to summarize stake disciplinary council proceedings. Following approval by the stake president, the report is forwarded to the First Presidency.
Any person disfellowshipped or excommunicated in a Church disciplinary council has the right to appeal the decision to higher councils. The decision of a bishop’s disciplinary council may be appealed to the stake disciplinary council, and the decision of a stake disciplinary council may be appealed to the First Presidency.
The Prophet Joseph Smith taught: “No standing High Council has authority to go into the churches abroad, and regulate the matters thereof, for this belongs to the Twelve. No standing High Council will ever be established only in Zion, or one of her stakes.” (History of the Church, 2:220.)
Later he added: “The High Council had nothing to do with the Twelve, or the decisions of the Twelve. But if the Twelve erred they were accountable only to the General Council of the authorities of the whole Church, according to the revelations.” (History of the Church, 2:285.)
The role of the high council is to assist the presidency in a stake, and the high council fulfills assignments as directed by the stake presidency. In an article on the Melchizedek Priesthood, the function of high councilors was discussed more fully:
“High councilors play a vital role in the administration of the stake. Figuratively speaking, they constitute the right arm of the stake presidency. The degree to which they are faithful, efficient, and willing to work determines their value to the stake presidency and goes far in determining the progress made by the stake and ward organizations in which they have been called to serve.
“The duties and assignments of high councilors are very extensive and varied. Such assignments absorb much time in stakes where the stake presidencies fully utilize their high councilors in carrying forward the Church program. Experience has shown that it is wisdom for stake presidencies to make very extensive use of their high councilors, because the progress of the work of the Lord within a stake and the efficiency with which it is carried forward will be determined to a large extent by the use made of high councilors by the stake presidency.” (“Melchizedek Priesthood: Responsibilities of High Councilors,” Improvement Era, Feb. 1954, p. 112.)
During the first week of November 1833, the Saints in Jackson County, Missouri, were driven from their homes and forced across the Missouri River into Clay County, where they were received with some degree of kindness. Elder Parley P. Pratt gave the following account of subsequent events:
“After making our escape into the county of Clay—being reduced to the lowest poverty—I made a living by day labor, jobbing, building, or wood cutting, till some time in the winter of 1834, when a general Conference was held at my house, in which it was decided that two of the Elders should be sent to Ohio, in order to counsel with President Smith and the Church at Kirtland, and take some measures for the relief or restoration of the people thus plundered and driven from their homes. The question was put to the Conference: ‘Who would volunteer to perform so great a journey?’
“The poverty of all, and the inclement season of the year made all hesitate. At length Lyman Wight and myself offered our services, which were readily accepted. I was at this time entirely destitute of proper clothing for the journey; and I had neither horse, saddle, bridle, money nor provisions to take with me; or to leave with my wife, who lay sick and helpless most of the time.
“Under these circumstances I knew not what to do. Nearly all had been robbed and plundered, and all were poor. As we had to start without delay, I almost trembled at the undertaking; it seemed to be all but an impossibility; but ‘to him that believeth all things are possible.’
“. . . We were soon ready, and on the first of February we mounted our horses, and started in good cheer to ride one thousand or fifteen hundred miles through a wilderness country. We had not one cent of money in our pockets on starting.
“We travelled every day, whether through storm or sunshine, mud, rain or snow; except when our public duties called us to tarry. We arrived in Kirtland early in the spring, all safe and sound; we had lacked for nothing on the road, and now had plenty of funds in hand. President Joseph Smith and the Church in Kirtland received us with a hospitality and joy unknown except among the Saints; and much interest was felt there, as well as elsewhere, on the subject of our persecution.” (Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, pp. 107–9.)
On 24 February 1834 the high council met in Joseph Smith’s home, where the two brethren who had come from Missouri reported on the condition of the members of the Church in that state.
“In a previous Revelation (Section 101:55–60), it was made known to the Prophet that he would be required, at some future time, to lead ‘the strength of mine house’ to the land of Zion, in order to ‘redeem’ it. The Revelation in this Section was received four months and twelve days afterwards, directing him to begin to gather up the strength of the Church for a relief expedition. . . . The messengers from Zion told the Council that the scattered Saints had obtained food and clothing in exchange for labor, and that they were quite comfortable for the time being; but they were grief-stricken because they had been driven from their homes in Zion, and they earnestly desired to know, if possible, how and by what means Zion was to be redeemed. This Revelation [D&C 103], given before the meeting of the Council was held, is an answer to that very question. When the messengers had stated the case, the Prophet had the answer ready. He had prepared to announce that he was going to Zion and that he would call for volunteers to accompany him. The Council endorsed this, and between thirty and forty men volunteered to go, whereupon the Prophet Joseph was elected Commander-in-Chief of the expedition.” (Smith and Sjodahl, Commentary, pp. 659–60.)
The Lord gave two reasons why He allowed the Saints in Jackson County to be persecuted: (1) that the cup of iniquity of His enemies might be filled and, therefore, a just judgment brought against them (compare Alma 14:11; 60:13); and (2) that the Saints “might be chastened for a little season” (D&C 103:4) because of their failure to heed the Lord’s commandments. When mob violence had first come to a head in August 1833, the Lord warned that the people of Zion would receive His protection only if they were obedient. If they were not, His judgments would come upon them as well as upon the wicked (see D&C 97:19–27). Even though the mob exhibited greater wickedness, the Saints were chastened by the Lord because “they did not hearken altogether unto the precepts and commandments” which the Lord had given to them (D&C 103:4). They had already been taught that “of him unto whom much is given much is required” (D&C 82:3).
Doctrine and Covenants 103:5–10 contains a promise that the Saints would prevail against their enemies from that “very hour” (v. 5) and “never cease to prevail” (v. 7) if they were faithful, but warns that they would be subdued by their enemies if they did not keep their covenants.
President George Q. Cannon said: “There cannot be a doubt in any faithful man’s mind concerning the truth of this promise—the promise of victory and deliverance on the one hand, the promise of punishment, disaster and trouble on the other. The Latter-day Saints have in their experience proved fully the truth of these words. They have seen them fulfilled to the very letter. When they have been faithful in keeping the commandments of God they have prospered and they have had deliverance. When they have been unfaithful they met with trouble and serious difficulty. It is necessary that the wicked should have the opportunity to exercise their agency in relation to the work of God; for they have an agency as well as we. It is their privilege to assist in building up the word of God, or they can exercise their agency in fighting the work of God. They have the privilege to do everything in their power to destroy it, and they will be permitted to do this until the cup of their iniquity is full.” (In Conference Report, Oct. 1899, p. 48.)
See Notes and Commentary on Doctrine and Covenants 101:39–42.
The Big Blue River in Jackson County, Missouri
Verses 11–14 state that the Lord intended to restore His people to their lands, and that they would “no more be thrown down” (D&C 103:13). It is also clear, however, that this restoration would not happen until after “much tribulation” (v. 12; see also D&C 58:2–4; Notes and Commentary on D&C 58:2–4). The Lord warned the Saints in Doctrine and Covenants 103 that, even though He had promised they could return to the land of Zion, if they “pollute[d] their inheritances” through sin, they would lose the Lord’s support and be “thrown down” (v. 14). Since this revelation was given, many leaders of the Church have discussed the future return to Jackson County, Missouri. Elder Orson F. Whitney said: “Will our mission end here [in Utah]? Is the State of Utah the proper monument of the ‘Mormon’ People? No. . . . The monument to ‘Mormonism’ will stand in Jackson County, [Missouri]. There the great City will be built: There Zion will arise and shine, ‘the joy of the whole Earth,’ and there the Lord will come to His temple in His own time, when His people shall have made the required preparation.” (In Smith and Sjodahl, Commentary, p. 147.)
President Joseph Fielding Smith taught that “the center place where the City New Jerusalem is to be built, is in Jackson County, Missouri. It was never the intention to substitute Utah or any other place for Jackson County.” (Doctrines of Salvation, 3:72.)
President Brigham Young said: “Are we going back to Jackson County? Yes. When? As soon as the way opens up. Are we all going? O no! of course not. The country is not large enough to hold our present numbers.” (In Journal of Discourses, 18:355.) He also said that “a portion of the Priesthood will go and redeem and build up the centre Stake of Zion” (in Journal of Discourses, 11:16).
For other scriptural statements concerning the redemption of Zion, see Doctrine and Covenants 103:15–20; see also Doctrine and Covenants 100:13; 101:17–18, 43–62; 105:1–6, 9–15; 136:18; 3 Nephi 20:22; 21:22–25. Enrichment B in the Appendix discusses the concept of Zion as taught in the Doctrine and Covenants.
Doctrine and Covenants 103:15–20 clearly teaches that Zion will not be redeemed by human strength alone. The Lord said that the redemption of modern Zion will resemble the deliverance of ancient Israel from Egypt (see vv. 18–20). The biblical account describes how the Lord attended Israel in a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. In 1873 Elder Orson Pratt taught that the return to Jackson County may be accompanied by similar manifestations:
“I expect that when the Lord leads forth his people to build up the city of Zion, his presence will be visible. When we speak of the presence of the Lord we speak of an exhibition of power. . . .
“We shall go back to Jackson County. Not that all this people will leave these mountains, or all be gathered together in a camp, but when we go back there will be a very large organization consisting of thousands, and tens of thousands, and they will march forward, the glory of God overshadowing their camp by day in the form of a cloud, and a pillar of flaming fire by night, the Lord’s voice being uttered forth before his army. Such a period will come in the history of this people. . . . And his people will go forth and build up Zion according to celestial law.
“Will not this produce terror upon all the nations of the earth? Will not armies of this description, though they may not be as numerous as the armies of the world, cause a terror to fall upon the nations? The Lord says the banners of Zion shall be terrible. . . . When the Lord’s presence is there, when his voice is heard, and his angels go before the camp, it will be telegraphed to the uttermost parts of the earth and fear will seize upon all people, especially the wicked, and the knees of the ungodly will tremble in that day, and the high ones that are on high, and the great men of the earth.” (In Journal of Discourses, 15:364.)
This great army of the Lord will not be like the armies of the world. They will not take possession of the land of Zion by force but will go forth under the protection and guidance of the Almighty God to take possession of that which will be rightfully theirs by purchase. (See Topical Guide, “purchase,” 402; Notes and Commentary on D&C 105:28–32.) The Prophet Joseph Smith recorded that his scribe “saw, in a vision, the armies of heaven protecting the Saints in their return to Zion” (History of the Church, 2:381).
The Lord knows in advance what is in store for the Saints. President Brigham Young noted: “Before we were driven out of Missouri I had a vision, . . . and saw that the people would go to the east, to the north and to the west; but we should go back to Jackson County from the west. When this people return to the Centre Stake of Zion, they will go from the west.” Some members of the Church in early Utah were so anxious to return to Jackson County they were reluctant to make improvements to homes and lands they assumed they would abandon. President Young said: “Remarks have been made as to our staying here. I will tell you how long we shall stay here. If we live our religion, we shall stay here in these mountains forever and forever, worlds without end, and a portion of the Priesthood will go and redeem and build up the centre Stake of Zion.” (In Journal of Discourses, 6:16–17.) While it is important to look forward to building up Zion in Jackson County, Missouri, we must at the same time labor to build up Zion wherever we are.
Elder John A. Widtsoe wrote:“There have been many conjectures concerning [the leader referred to in verse 16]. There have even been misguided men who have declared themselves to be this man ‘like as Moses.’
“Yet, the meaning as set forth in the scriptures, is very simple. In modern revelation the President of the Church is frequently compared to Moses. Soon after the organization of the Church, the Lord said, ‘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) In one of the great revelations upon Priesthood, this is more specifically expressed: ‘the duty of the President of the office of the High Priesthood is to preside over the whole church, and to be like unto Moses’ (D&C 107:91). . . .
“The man like unto Moses in the Church is the President of the Church.” (Evidences and Reconciliations, 1:197.)
The Lord sought to make ancient Israel “a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation” (Exodus 19:6). He told Moses to prepare the people so that He could “come down in the sight of all the people upon Mount Sinai” (Exodus 19:11). The people saw the power of God manifested on the mount, and they were fearful. They asked that the Lord not speak directly with them but rather that Moses speak with God and bring His message to them (see Exodus 10:18–21; Deuteronomy 5:22–31). Despite Moses’ efforts to sanctify the people, they would not prepare themselves to see God by living the higher laws that would enable them to become a holy nation. Therefore, they were given the “law of carnal commandments” (D&C 84:27) and were led, no longer by the Lord’s immediate presence, but by his angels (see D&C 84:23–26; Exodus 23:20; JST, Exodus 34:1–2).
In the final dispensation these circumstances will not exist. Latter-day Saints have been given the higher priesthood and the laws and ordinances that enable them to be brought back into the presence of God (see D&C 84:19–22; 107:18–19). There will be a pure people prepared to receive the Lord when He comes (see Moses 7:62–64; D&C 35:20–21; 100:16). Those who return to redeem Zion will live the laws of the celestial kingdom (see D&C 105:5) and thus will be prepared to be led by the presence of the Lord.
Elder Orson Pratt spoke of the need to become a sanctified people. “When we go back to Jackson County, we are to go back with power. Do you suppose that God will reveal his power among an unsanctified people, who have no regard nor respect for his laws and institutions, but who are filled with covetousness? No. When God shows forth his power among the Latter-day Saints, it will be because there is a union of feeling in regard to doctrine, and in regard to everything that God has placed in their hands; and not only a union, but a sanctification on their part, that there shall not be a spot or wrinkle as it were, but everything shall be as fair as the sun that shines in the heavens.” (In Journal of Discourses, 15:361.)
President Joseph Fielding Smith explained the implications of the phrase in time: “It appears from this declaration that the redemption of Zion was not to come immediately, but was to be postponed to some future day. Moreover, that day would not come until the members of the Church were willing to keep their covenants and walk unitedly, for until the members of the Church learn to walk in full accord and in obedience with all of the commandments, this day cannot come. It may be necessary in order to bring this to pass for the Lord to use drastic measures and cleanse the Church from everything that offends. This he has promised to do when he is ready to redeem Zion. (See Matt. 13:41.)” (Church History and Modern Revelation, 1:484.)
The movements of the Saints during the Missouri difficulties (map adapted from Carter Eldredge Grant, I Saw Another Angel Fly [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1959], p. 159)
The Lord issued a call to the young and middle-aged men of the Church to go to the land of Zion and “avenge me of mine enemies” (D&C 103:25). This passage sounds like a call to arms, for the Lord added, “Let no man be afraid to lay down his life for my sake” (v. 27). This expedition was later known as Zion’s Camp.
Several men were called to go on a journey to recruit men and obtain money for Zion’s Camp. They were commanded to try to enlist 500 men but to recruit no fewer than 100 men. Zion’s Camp was eventually made up of 207 men, 11 women, and 11 children.
President Joseph Fielding Smith wrote: “Parley P. Pratt and Lyman Wight, the messengers from the land of Zion, were commanded not to return until they had obtained companies to go up unto the land of their brethren. The companies were to be by tens, or by twenties, or by fifties, or by hundreds, until they had obtained the number of five hundred men. If they could not obtain five hundred, they were to seek diligently to get three hundred, and if they could not obtain three hundred, then they were to obtain one hundred. They were not, however, to go up to the land of Zion until they had obtained at least one hundred. The Prophet Joseph was to go up with them and preside in their midst, for, ‘all victory and glory is brought to pass unto you through your diligence, faithfulness and prayer of faith.’ Parley P. Pratt was to go with Joseph Smith the Prophet; Lyman Wight with Sidney Rigdon; Hyrum Smith with Frederick G. Williams; Orson Hyde with Orson Pratt, on this mission to raise funds and volunteers to undertake this journey to assist their exiled brethren in the land of Zion.” (Church History and Modern Revelation, 1:485.)
At first this situation might seem puzzling. First the Lord said that Zion must be redeemed by His power. Then He called on the Saints to use their own power, even to armed conflict and loss of life if necessary, to redeem Zion. This is characteristic of how God works with His children. Only His power is sufficient to save. And yet He withholds that power until we make the effort He requires.
For a discussion of sacrifice see Notes and Commentary on Doctrine and Covenants 58:2–4.
D&C 103:31. Who Is to Blame When One Does Not Get What He Desires from the Lord?
When people do not receive what they want from the Lord, they have themselves to blame. The Lord says, “Ask and ye shall receive; but men do not always do my will” (D&C 103:31).
We must determine what the will of the Lord is. He expects us to be purified and cleansed from sin before asking (see D&C 50:28–29). We must be sure that what we ask for is right before we ask (see 3 Nephi 18:20). We must resist evil and obey the Lord before we can expect His blessings (see James 4:7).
In April 1834 Zion’s Camp prepared to travel from Kirtland to Independence to redeem Zion and reestablish the Saints on their lands there. At that time the Church was in great financial distress. Brethren had been sent out by the Prophet to collect funds to relieve the burden on Kirtland and Zion. (A strong appeal to Orson Hyde, who was in New York, is given under the date of 7 April 1834 in History of the Church, 2:48.)
In accordance with a revelation given in March 1832, all the Latter-day Saint communities in Ohio and Missouri were trying to implement the united order under one administrative head (see D&C 78:3; Barrett, Joseph Smith, p. 198). The economic problems in Kirtland, however, made it advisable to dissolve the united order there. Accordingly, on 10 April a council of the united order was held “in which it was agreed that the Order [in Kirtland] should be dissolved, and each one have his stewardship set off to him” (History of the Church, 2:49).
On 23 April 1834 the Prophet Joseph Smith received Doctrine and Covenants 104, which has as its central theme the Lord’s instructions concerning the temporal welfare of Zion and the order of the Church for the benefit of the poor: “Assembled in Council with Elders Sidney Rigdon, Frederick G. Williams, Newel K. Whitney, John Johnson, and Oliver Cowdery; and united in asking the Lord to give Elder Zebedee Coltrin influence over Brother Jacob Myres, to obtain the money which he has gone to borrow for us, or cause him to come to this place and bring it himself. I also received the following: [D&C 104].” (History of the Church, 2:54.)
The Lord explained that the united order was established for the benefit of the Church and the “salvation of men” until the Second Coming of Christ (D&C 104:1). All who entered into the order did so with a “promise immutable and unchangeable” (v. 2). To enter the united order required that an individual enter into a solemn covenant to accept the law of consecration, the principles of which are discussed in Enrichment L in the Appendix. The law of consecration is the law of the celestial kingdom, and those who entered into the order were bound by a covenant, obedience to which would bring eternal exaltation and neglect of which would bring severe judgments. The Lord described the serious consequences of breaking this law in Doctrine and Covenants 78:11–12; 82:21; 101:3–10.
Elder Bruce R. McConkie wrote that “to be turned over to the buffetings of Satan is to be given into his hands; it is to be turned over to him with all the protective power of the priesthood, of righteousness, and of godliness removed, so that Lucifer is free to torment, persecute, and afflict such a person without let or hindrance. When the bars are down, the cuffs and curses of Satan, both in this world and in the world to come, bring indescribable anguish typified by burning fire and brimstone. The damned in hell so suffer.
“Those who broke their covenants in connection with the United Order in the early days of this dispensation were to ‘be delivered over to the buffetings of Satan until the day of redemption.’ (D. & C. 78:12; 82:20–21; 104:9–10.) A similar fate (plus destruction in the flesh) is decreed against those who have been sealed up unto eternal life so that their callings and elections have been made sure and who thereafter turn to grievous sin. (D. & C. 131:5, 132:19–26.)” (Mormon Doctrine, p. 108.)
As creator of all things, the Lord has given us stewardship over the earth. Though we may buy and rent from each other, ultimately all things belong to the Lord. Elder Spencer W. Kimball gave the following account of a discussion with a friend about property:
“He drove to a grassy knoll. The sun was retiring behind the distant hills. He surveyed his vast domain. Pointing to the north, he asked, ‘Do you see that clump of trees yonder?’ I could plainly discern them in the fading day.
“He pointed to the east. ‘Do you see the lake shimmering in the sunset?’ It too was visible.
“‘Now, the bluff that’s on the south.’ We turned about to scan the distance. He identified barns, silos, the ranch house to the west. With a wide sweeping gesture, he boasted, ‘From the clump of trees, to the lake, to the bluff, and to the ranch buildings and all between—all this is mine.’ . . .
“And then I asked from whom he obtained it. The chain of title of his abstract went back to land grants from governments. His attorney had assured him he had an unencumbered title.
“‘From whom did the government get it?’ I asked. ‘What was paid for it?’
“There came into my mind the bold statement of Paul: ‘For the earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof.’ [1 Cor. 10:26.] . . .
“And then I asked, ‘Did title come from God, Creator of the earth and the owner thereof? Did he get paid? Was it sold or leased or given to you? If gift, from whom? If sale, with what exchange or currency? If lease, do you make proper accounting?’
“And then I asked, ‘What was the price? With what treasures did you buy this farm?’
“‘Where did you get the money?’
“‘My toil, my sweat, my labor, and my strength.’
“And then I asked, ‘Where did you get your strength to toil, your power to labor, your glands to sweat?’
“He spoke of food.
“‘Where did the food originate?’
“‘From sun and atmosphere and soil and water.’
“‘And who brought those elements here?’
“I quoted the psalmist: ‘Thou, O God, didst send a plentiful rain, whereby thou didst confirm thine inheritance, when it was weary.’ (Ps. 68:9.)
“‘If the land is not yours, then what accounting do you make to your landlord for his bounties?’ . . .
“I said again: ‘I seem to find no place in holy writ where God has said, “I give you title to this land unconditionally. It is now yours to give, to have, to hold, to sell, despoil, exploit as you see fit.”
“‘I cannot find such scripture, but I do find this from Psalms: “. . . those that wait upon the Lord, . . . shall inherit the earth.”’ (Ps. 37:9.)
“‘And I remember that our Creator covenanted in the council in heaven with us all: “We will go down, for there is space there, and we will take of these materials, and we will make an earth whereon these may dwell.” (Abr. 3:24.)
“‘It seems more of a lease on which a rental is exacted than of a fee simple title.’” (In Conference Report, Apr. 1968, pp. 73–74.)
President J. Reuben Clark Jr. stated: “The basic principle of all the revelations on the United Order is that everything we have belongs to the Lord; therefore, the Lord may call upon us for any and all of the property which we have, because it belongs to him. This, I repeat, is the basic principle. (D. & C. 104:14–17, 54–57.)” (Church News, 1 Sept. 1945, p. 4.)
President Spencer W. Kimball explained:
“In the Church a stewardship is a sacred spiritual or temporal trust for which there is accountability. Because all things belong to the Lord, we are stewards over our bodies, minds, families, and properties. (See D&C 104:11–15.) A faithful steward is one who exercises righteous dominion, cares for his own, and looks to the poor and needy. (See D&C 104:15–18.)
“These principles govern welfare services activities. May we all learn, obey, and teach these principles. Leaders, teach them to your members; fathers, teach them to your families. Only as we apply these truths can we approach the ideal of Zion.” (In Conference Report, Oct. 1977, pp. 124–25; or Ensign, Nov. 1977, p. 78).
President Marion G. Romney taught: “The Lord claims the earth as his, that it is not yours and mine to own and manage independently of him. No matter how many stocks and bonds or how much land and other properties we possess, they are not wholly ours. They are the Lord’s. He further says that he owns and gives to us all the blessings we have and that he makes us stewards over them, responsible to him. He makes it clear that it is his purpose to provide for his Saints, but he requires that it be done in his way, which way, he explains, is for those who have to contribute to those who have not. Having made us stewards, he gives us our agency, however, and then lays down the condition that if we accept these blessings and refuse to contribute our share for the care of the poor, we shall go to—well, he tells us where we shall go.” (In Conference Report, Apr. 1979, p. 136; or Ensign, May 1979, pp. 95–96.)
President Harold B. Lee explained how “the poor shall be exalted” and “the rich . . . made low” (D&C 104:16): “When I tell you that the poor shall be exalted, the definition we followed is, ‘to be lifted up to pride and joy to success.’ That is the definition we followed, and the rich being made low isn’t communistic, it isn’t socialistic. It means that those who have leadership, who have skills, who have means, that are willing to contribute, we put that strong man to work with the one who is in need, and we go to work on their problems.” (Church News, 8 July 1961, p. 15.)
President Ezra Taft Benson explained:
“The precepts of men would have you believe that by limiting the population of the world, we can have peace and plenty. That is the doctrine of the devil. Small numbers do not insure peace; only righteousness does. After all, there were only a handful of men on the earth when Cain interrupted the peace of Adam’s household by slaying Abel. On the other hand, the whole city of Enoch was peaceful; and it was taken into heaven because it was made up of righteous people.
“And so far as limiting the population in order to provide plenty is concerned, the Lord answered that falsehood in the Doctrine and Covenants when he said:
“‘For the earth is full, and there is enough and to spare; yea, I prepared all things, and have given unto the children of men to be agents unto themselves.’ (D&C 104:17.)
“A major reason why there is famine in some parts of the world is because evil men have used the vehicle of government to abridge the freedom that men need to produce abundantly.
“True to form, many of the people who desire to frustrate God’s purposes of giving mortal tabernacles to his spirit children through worldwide birth control are the very same people who support the kinds of government that perpetuate famine. They advocate an evil to cure the results of the wickedness they support. (In Conference Report, Apr. 1969, p. 12.)
Smith and Sjodahl wrote: “Specific directions are here given for stewardships. Sidney Rigdon is given charge of the tannery (v. 20). He had, at one time, been engaged in the very useful business of a tanner and was competent in this stewardship. Martin Harris, who was a successful farmer, is given charge of a piece of land (v. 24). He was also to manage a publication business, under the direction of the Prophet (v. 26). Oliver Cowdery and Frederick G. Williams are given charge of the printing office (v. 30). John Johnson is to be a real estate agent (v. 36). Newel K. Whitney is assigned to the mercantile establishment (v. 39). Joseph Smith is given charge of the Temple lot (v. 43). He is also to take care of his father (v. 45), for the Lord recognizes the duty of children to provide for their parents, as well as the duty of parents to care for their children.” (Commentary, p. 673.)
President Joseph Fielding Smith explained that the “distance was too great between [Kirtland and Jackson County] for unity of purpose in all things. Each order was to be organized in the names of the brethren residing in each place, and to do business in their own names. This separation and dissolving of the former order came about also because of transgression and covetousness on the part of some. They were to understand that all the properties were the Lord’s, otherwise their faith was vain, and therefore they were stewards before the Lord. All of this was to be done for the purpose of building up the Church and Kingdom of God on the earth, and to prepare the people for the time when the Lord should come to dwell upon the earth.” (Church History and Modern Revelation, 1:489–90.)
The four standard works are witnesses for Christ.
The Lord commanded the members of the united order to publish His revelations and then specified why. The revelations are given “for the purpose of building up my church and kingdom on the earth, and to prepare my people for the time when I shall dwell with them” (D&C 104:59). President Joseph F. Smith, after speaking of the Bible and the Book of Mormon and how they bear witness of Jesus as the Christ, added: “But is this all? No. We have here another book, the ‘Doctrine and Covenants,’ which contains revelations from God through the Prophet Joseph Smith, who lived contemporary with ourselves. They are Christ’s words, declaring that he was the same that came to the Jews, that was lifted up on the cross, was laid in the tomb, burst the bands of death and came forth out of the grave. . . . Here, then is another testimony of this divine truth; hence we have three witnesses.” (In Journal of Discourses, 19:262.)
President J. Reuben Clark Jr. said:
“The Lord created two other institutions besides the storehouse: one was known as the Sacred Treasury, into which was put ‘the avails of the sacred things in the treasury, for sacred and holy purposes. While it is not clear, it would seem that into this treasury were to be put the surpluses which were derived from the publication of the revelations, the Book of Mormon, . . . and other similar things, the stewardship of which had been given to Joseph and others. (D. & C. 104:60–66)
“The Lord also provided for the creation of ‘Another Treasury,’ and into that other treasury went the general revenues which came to the Church, such as gifts of money and those revenues derived from the improvement of stewardships as distinguished from the residues of the original consecrations and the surpluses which came from the operation of their stewardships. (D. & C. 72:11ff)
“We have in place of the two treasuries, the ‘Sacred Treasury’ and ‘Another Treasury,’ the general funds of the Church.
“Thus you will see, brethren, that in many of its great essentials, we have, as the Welfare Plan has now developed, the broad essentials of the United Order.” (In Conference Report, Oct. 1942, pp. 56–58.)
Money from the treasury was to be spent only with the common consent of the members of the order. There was to be no unrighteous dominion in the work of the Lord. If the Lord’s properties were managed properly, it was probable that the treasury would eventually have a large amount of money in it. Such funds, used for righteous purposes, could truly bless all members of the order.
“[This fund would be] equal to the most extreme emergencies,” explained President Lorenzo Snow. “Then when any misfortune befalls man, such as the burning of his property, or failure or trouble in his department of business, he could go to the treasurer and say, ‘I have need of a certain amount to assist me in my stewardship. Have I not managed the affairs of my stewardship in a wise manner? Can you not have confidence in me? Have I ever misused the means put into my hands? Has it not been wisely controlled? If so, give me means to help me in my stewardship, or to build up this industry that is needed for the general interests of the whole.’ Well, it is to be given to him. There is confidence reposed in him because of his past conduct, and the course which he has pursued. He has due right in exercising his talents according to the light of the spirit that is within him. He understands fully the circumstances in which he is placed, and governs himself according to the obligations that rest upon him. He is found to be a wise, economical manager; and he is assisted in his stewardship to the extent of the means that he should have.” (In Journal of Discourses, 20:370–71.)
Very often when individuals face a great challenge in life, they attempt to work it out through their own efforts. Such self-reliance is commendable, but there is another principle that may apply, and that is reliance on the Lord. Alma the Elder is a case in point. The angel said to Alma the Younger, when he appeared to him and the four sons of Mosiah, that he had been sent because “the Lord hath heard the prayers of his people, and also the prayers of his servant, Alma, who is thy father” (Mosiah 27:14).
Alma the Elder, realizing that he had a serious problem with his rebellious son, exercised great faith and prayed with great diligence. He called on the power of God for help. The added power from God made the difference.
In Doctrine and Covenants 104:78–80, the Lord teaches the same principle. Though the debts must have seemed almost insurmountable to them, the leaders were commanded to “obtain this blessing by your diligence and humility and the prayer of faith” (v. 79). If they would do that, the Lord would keep His promise to “soften the hearts” of those to whom they were in debt (v. 80).
President N. Eldon Tanner said: “For most of us there are two kinds of financial debt—consumer debt and investment or business debt. Consumer debt refers to buying on credit those things we use or consume in daily living. Examples would include installment buying of clothes, appliances, furniture, etc. Consumer debt is secured by mortgaging our future earnings. This can be very dangerous. If we are laid off work, disabled, or encounter serious emergencies, we have difficulties meeting our obligations. Installment buying is the most expensive way to purchase. To the cost of the goods we buy must be added heavy interest and handling charges.
“I realize that young families find it necessary at times to purchase on credit. But we caution you not to buy more than is truly necessary and to pay off your debts as quickly as possible. When money is tight, avoid the extra burden of additional interest charges.
“Investment debt should be fully secured so as not to encumber a family’s security. Don’t invest in speculative ventures. The spirit of speculation can become intoxicating. Many fortunes have been wiped out by the uncontrolled appetite to accumulate more and more. Let us learn from the sorrows of the past and avoid enslaving our time, energy, and general health to a gluttonous appetite to acquire increased material goods.
“President Kimball has given this thought-provoking counsel:
“‘The Lord has blessed us as a people with a prosperity unequaled in times past. The resources that have been placed in our power are good, and necessary to our work here on the earth. But I am afraid that many of us have been surfeited with flocks and herds and acres and barns and wealth and have begun to worship them as false gods, and they have power over us. Do we have more of these good things than our faith can stand? Many people spend most of their time working in the service of a self-image that includes sufficient money, stocks, bonds, investment portfolios, property, credit cards, furnishings, automobiles, and the like to guarantee carnal security throughout, it is hoped, a long and happy life. Forgotten is the fact that our assignment is to use these many resources in our families and quorums to build up the kingdom of God’ (Ensign, June 1976, p. 4).
“By way of testimony, may I add this to President Kimball’s statement. I know of no situation where happiness and peace of mind have increased with the amassing of property beyond the reasonable wants and needs of the family.” (In Conference Report, Oct. 1979, p. 120; or Ensign, Nov. 1979, pp. 81–82.)
Elder Franklin D. Richards taught:
“In getting out of debt and staying out of debt, there are certain basic principles that we, as individuals and families, can apply, such as:
“1. Live within your income.
“2. Prepare and use short- and long-term budgets.
“3. Regularly save a part of your income.
“4. Use your credit wisely, if it is necessary to use it at all. For example, a reasonable debt may be justified for the acquisition of a home or education.
“5. Preserve and utilize your assets through appropriate tax and estate planning.
“I know that by following these simple, basic principles it is possible to get out of debt and stay out of debt.
“What will this mean to us as individuals and families?
“President Heber J. Grant said, ‘If there is any one thing that will bring peace and contentment into the human heart, and into the family, it is to live within our means, and if there is any one thing that is grinding, and discouraging and disheartening it is to have debts and obligations that one cannot meet’ (Relief Society Magazine, May 1932, p. 302).” (In Conference Report, Apr. 1979, p. 56; or Ensign, May 1979, p. 39.)
Consumer credit is attractive, but Latter-day Saints should avoid debt as they would a plague.
In October and November 1833, the Saints in Jackson County, Missouri, were driven from their homes by mobs. “A revelation was given to Joseph Smith December 16, 1833, giving the reason for the expulsion of the members of the Church from Jackson County (see D&C 101:1–9)” (Smith, Essentials in Church History, p. 142).
As part of that revelation the Saints were instructed, through a parable, to “gather together the strength of the Lord’s house, ‘My young men and they that are middle aged also among all my servants, who are the strength of mine house, save those only whom I have appointed to tarry,’ said the Lord, ‘and go straightway unto the land of my vineyard, and redeem my vineyard, for it is mine, I have bought it with money.’” (Smith, Essentials in Church History, p. 143.) The parable was explained to Joseph Smith in a revelation on 24 February 1834 (see D&C 103:21–34).
“Joseph Smith met with the High Council in Kirtland on February 24, 1834. The subject uppermost in the minds of everyone present was how could they relieve and rescue the Saints from the mobbers in Zion. At the meeting attended by about forty others, the group listened attentively to Parley P. Pratt and Lyman Wight, newly arrived from Zion, pleading that the Saints there be succored.
“All were quiet when the Prophet arose and stated that in response to a revelation, he intended to go to Zion to assist in redeeming it. He asked for council sanction. There was unanimous assent. He called for volunteers. Forty hands were raised. . . .
“The revelation to which the Prophet referred instructed him to do his best to recruit five hundred men. They were to be young and middle-aged. If, perchance because of poor response, he should have to accept less, he was not to start until he had a minimum of one hundred. Led by Joseph Smith and Parley P. Pratt, four pairs of elders were to seek volunteers to go to the redemption of Zion. Within two days Joseph and Parley were on their way east seeking volunteers and friends. For a month they labored diligently to obtain the required help. By that time there were 125 who had volunteered to go.” (Young, “Here Is Brigham . . . ,” p. 89.)
When ready to start from Kirtland, the group consisted of about 150 men. This number increased to about 200 by the time the camp arrived in Missouri (see Roberts, Comprehensive History of the Church, 1:358).
Zion’s Camp arrived at Fishing River, Missouri, on 19 June 1834. Two days later, “on Saturday, the 21st of June, Colonel Scounce and two other leading men of Ray County visited Joseph, and begged to know his intentions, stating: ‘We see that there is an Almighty Power that protects this people.’ Colonel Scounce confessed that he had been leading a company of armed men to fall upon the Prophet, but had been driven back by the storm. The Prophet with all the mildness and dignity which ever sat so becomingly upon him, and which always impressed his hearers, answered that he had come to administer to the wants of his afflicted friends and did not wish to molest or injure anybody. He then made a full and fair statement of the difficulties as he understood them; and when he had closed the three ambassadors, melted into compassion, offered their hands and declared that they would use every endeavor to allay the excitement.” (Cannon, Life of Joseph Smith, p. 180.)
“On the arrival of the camp in the vicinity of Jackson county, negotiations were opened with Governor Dunklin asking him to fulfill his promise to call out the militia in sufficient numbers to reinstate the exiled saints in their possessions. The governor admitted the justice of the demand, but expressed the fear that should he so proceed his action would excite civil war, and he dared not carry out what he admitted to be the plain duties of his office. He suggested that the delegation that waited upon him urge their brethren to sell their lands in Jackson county. This the saints could not do without repudiating the revelations that designated Jackson county as the land of their inheritance, the place for the gathering together of God’s people, and the location of the city of Zion; also it meant an abandonment of their right as citizens of the United States to settle wherever they thought proper to make their homes within the confines of the Union.
“With the governor unwilling to fulfill his engagements to the exiles by calling out the militia to reinstate them in their lands; with the inhabitants of western Missouri deeply prejudiced against them, and greatly excited by the arrival of Zion’s Camp; and the brethren of the camp, and the exiled brethren, painfully conscious that the saints in the eastern branches of the church had not responded with either sufficient money or men for them to act independently of the governor, take possession of their lands, purchase other lands, and hold them despite the violence of mobs—the necessity of disbanding Zion’s camp, and awaiting some future opportunity for the redemption of Zion, was apparent to the minds of its leaders. Accordingly it was disbanded from its encampment on Rush Creek, in Clay county, on the 24th of June, and word to that effect was officially sent to some of the leading citizens of Clay county.” (Roberts, Comprehensive History of the Church, 1:359.)
Although the avowed purpose of the camp (to reinstate the Saints to their lands in Zion) was not realized, it was not an exercise in futility, but rather served as the forge in which the Lord tempered the steel of many of his early leaders, including the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
Elder Delbert L. Stapley said: “Zion’s Camp was disbanded on June 24, 1834. It had furnished the know-how and experience which made possible the subsequent exodus of more than 20,000 men, women, and children from Nauvoo to the Rocky Mountains, and prepared leaders for the great exodus. It also provided a proving ground—some 1,000 miles of it—for the future Church leaders. This is evidenced by the fact that when the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles was ‘searched out’ by the three witnesses to the Book of Mormon, [most of those] chosen had been members of Zion’s Camp. These men had demonstrated their willingness to sacrifice everything, even life itself, when commanded by the Lord. The First Quorum of the Seventy was likewise made up of the men who followed the Prophet to Missouri in Zion’s Camp.” (The Importance of Church History, Brigham Young University Speeches of the Year [Provo, 15 Apr. 1970], p. 3.)
A campsite of Zion’s Camp
President Lorenzo Snow taught that “the Saints in Jackson County and other localities, refused to comply with the order of consecration, consequently they were allowed to be driven from their inheritances; and should not return until they were better prepared to keep the law of God, by being more perfectly taught in reference to their duties, and learn through experience the necessity of obedience. And I think we are not justified in anticipating the privilege of returning to build up the center stake of Zion, until we shall have shown obedience to the law of consecration. One thing, however, is certain, we shall not be permitted to enter the land from whence we were expelled, till our hearts are prepared to honor this law, and we become sanctified through the practice of the truth.” (In Journal of Discourses, 16:276; see also Notes and Commentary on D&C 101:1–8; 96:1.)
The Saints in Missouri were not successful in living a celestial law and so were not qualified to establish Zion. Failure to control their hearts cut them off from God’s full power and kept them from prevailing over their enemies. This is the concept the Lord tried to teach them when He said, “This is Zion—THE PURE IN HEART” (D&C 97:21).
Only when our hearts are pure can we understand and live celestial law. Celestial law, according to Elder Bruce R. McConkie, “is the law of the gospel, the law of Christ, and it qualifies men for admission to the celestial kingdom because in and through it men are ‘sanctified by the reception of the Holy Ghost,’ thus becoming clean, pure, and spotless” (Mormon Doctrine, p. 117). Elder McConkie also said: “If a man obeys celestial law in this life, he obtains a celestial body and spirit” (p. 115). This enables the individual to live in unity with God and others.
Elder Joseph F. Smith explained: “Those who profess to be Latter-day Saints must become acquainted with the laws of the celestial kingdom, must abide by them, must comply with the requirements of heaven and hearken to the word of the Lord, in order that Zion may be built up acceptably, and that we may partake of the benefits and blessings of this labor. For it is a labor which devolves upon those who have been called out from the midst of the world in this dispensation. We have been called, and so far as we will be faithful we are chosen to do this work. But notwithstanding we have been called, if we do not prove faithful we will be rejected. I do not speak this in reference to the whole Church, but in reference to individual members of the Church.” (In Conference Report, Apr. 1880, p. 34; see also Smith, Church History and Modern Revelation, 2:3–4.)
The Lord works through His children and honors their agency, so their wickedness or righteousness can impede or accelerate His work. In section 105 the Lord spoke of the importance of preparation to the establishment of Zion:
1. He wanted His leaders to be prepared (see vv. 9–10).
2. He wanted the Saints to be taught more perfectly what He requires of them (see v. 10).
3. He wanted the Saints to gain experience (see v. 10). No one can know the things of God without doing them (see John 7:17).
4. He wanted the Saints to know their duty more perfectly (see D&C 105:10).
5. He wanted the Saints to be endowed with power from on high (see v. 11).
6. He wanted the Saints to be faithful, enduring in humility to the end (see v. 12).
President J. Reuben Clark Jr. taught that the principles of the welfare system “are not too far away” from the united order, and that the Saints need to add to them “brotherly love” and “provide the things which those who are in need, must have” (Church News, 8 Aug. 1951, p. 15).
Notes and Commentary on Doctrine and Covenants 95:8–9 discusses the meaning of the word endowment. President Brigham Young explained: “Your endowment is, to receive all those ordinances in the house of the Lord, which are necessary for you, after you have departed this life, to enable you to walk back to the presence of the Father, passing the angels who stand as sentinels, being enabled to give them the key words, the signs and tokens, pertaining to the holy Priesthood, and gain your eternal exaltation in spite of earth and hell” (Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 416).
Why would the brethren who were to establish Zion be required to receive an endowment in preparation for their stewardships? Because, as the Prophet Joseph Smith taught, “the endowment was to prepare the disciples for their missions unto the world” (Teachings, p. 274).
Elder Joseph Fielding Smith further taught:
“If we go into the temple we raise our hands and covenant that we will serve the Lord and observe his commandments and keep ourselves unspotted from the world. If we realize what we are doing then the endowment will be a protection to us all our lives—a protection which a man who does not go to the temple does not have.
“I have heard my father [President Joseph F. Smith] say that in the hour of trial, in the hour of temptation, he would think of the promises, the covenants that he made in the House of the Lord, and they were a protection to him. . . . This protection is what these ceremonies are for, in part. They save us now and they exalt us hereafter, if we will honor them. I know that this protection is given for I, too, have realized it, as have thousands of others who have remembered their obligations.” (“The Pearl of Great Price,” Utah Genealogical and Historical Magazine, July 1930, p. 103.)
The full ordinance of the endowment was not administered in the Kirtland Temple, as the Lord had not yet revealed it. Even baptism for the dead was not practiced in the Kirtland Temple. The Lord had earlier explained that He intended to use this temple “to endow those whom I have chosen with power from on high” and commanded the Saints “to tarry, even as mine apostles at Jerusalem” (D&C 95:8–9). This refers to the Lord’s instruction to His ancient Apostles, soon after His Resurrection, to wait in Jerusalem “until ye be endued with power from on high” (Luke 24:49). This earlier endowment came in the form of a great spiritual outpouring on the day of Pentecost, as described in Acts 2. The Kirtland Saints experienced just such an outpouring at the dedication of the Kirtland Temple on 27 March 1836 (see Church History in the Fulness of Times, pp. 164–67), which helped give them the spiritual strength they needed to build the Lord’s kingdom.
The endowment referred to in section 105 includes also the ordinances of washing and anointing. President Joseph Fielding Smith wrote: “In January, 1836, over two months before the dedication, the first ceremonies of endowment were given in the temple. They were not as complete as are the ceremonies today, but nevertheless, it was the beginning of the revealing and bestowing of the heavenly blessings in this dispensation. Washings and anointings were given, and the Prophet saw wonderful visions of the celestial kingdom” (Doctrines of Salvation, 2:241).
The promise of endowment in these verses was also realized in the restoration of keys. President Joseph Fielding Smith noted that the Kirtland Temple “was built primarily for the restoration of keys of authority. In the receiving of these keys the fulness of gospel ordinances is revealed” (Doctrines of Salvation, 2:242). These keys included those for performing additional priesthood ordinances that became available in the Nauvoo Temple.
Most people would probably not refer to a period of more than 170 years as a “little season” (D&C 105:13), but from the Lord’s perspective it is a short time. The Church has used the intervening years to prepare. President Spencer W. Kimball taught:
“Now, my brothers and sisters, it seems clear to me, indeed, this impression weighs upon me—that the Church is at a point in its growth and maturity when we are at last ready to move forward in a major way. Some decisions have been made and others pending, which will clear the way, organizationally. But the basic decisions needed for us to move forward, as a people, must be made by the individual members of the Church. The major strides which must be made by the Church will follow upon the major strides to be made by us as individuals.
“We have paused on some plateaus long enough. Let us resume our journey forward and upward. Let us quietly put an end to our reluctance to reach out to others—whether in our own families, wards, or neighborhoods. We have been diverted, at times, from fundamentals on which we must now focus in order to move forward as a person or as a people.
“Seemingly small efforts in the life of each member could do so much to move the Church forward as never before. . . .
“Are we ready, brothers and sisters, to do these seemingly small things out of which great blessings will proceed? I think we are. I believe the Lord’s church is on the verge of an upsurge in spirituality. Our individual spiritual growth is the key to major numerical growth in the kingdom. The Church is ready to accomplish these things now which it could not have done just a few years ago. So also we are ready as members. If you will accept my counsel, you will come to feel that there is a readiness in our people which must be put to work.” (In Conference Report, Apr. 1979, p. 114; or Ensign, May 1979, p. 82.)
When a Samaritan village refused Jesus hospitality, James and John requested, “Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them?” (Luke 9:54). Such impulses are natural in the face of persecution or trial. But just as Jesus counseled James and John, He also directed the Saints in Missouri to refrain from such “mighty works” of judgment (D&C 105:24). All must remember that the Father “hath committed all judgment unto the Son” (John 5:22). “Avenge not yourselves, . . . for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord” (Romans 12:19).
President Joseph Fielding Smith explained:
“The saints were . . . commanded to continue to purchase lands in Jackson County and the surrounding country, for it was the will of the Lord that these lands should be purchased and consecrated unto him. If they continued to buy lands and then their enemies should come upon them the armies of Israel would be justified in taking possession of their lands and break down the towers of the enemy. Before this could be done, however, the army of the Lord should become very great that her ‘banners may be terrible unto all nations.’
“The whole tenor of this commandment seems to point to the fact that the saints should have deeds to the property in Jackson County and surrounding lands, but that the time for the redemption was to wait for a long time, until the Church should become very great, and then when the time was ripe the Lord would come forth to fight their battles. Apparently it was to be when the kingdoms of this world may be constrained to acknowledge that ‘the kingdom of Zion is in very deed the kingdom of our God and his Christ; therefore, let us become subject to her laws’ [D&C 105:32]. From other scripture it appears that the time when the nations will acknowledge Zion as the kingdom of God is not to come until our Redeemer comes to take his place as King of kings.” (Church History and Modern Revelation, 2:5.)
Rush Creek, Missouri, site of a cholera outbreak in Zion’s Camp
The law of Zion mentioned in verse 34 is the law of consecration. President J. Reuben Clark Jr. explained:
“It was under these circumstances, with the Saints scattered and sometimes hunted like wild animals, with their property gone, their organization largely broken up, wounded in mind and spirit, with the condemnation of the Lord pronounced upon their heads because of their unfaithfulness, not to say wickedness, with ‘Zion’ to all intents and purposes destroyed, that the Lord commanded them, in the great revelation given at Fishing River,—
“‘And let those commandments which I have given concerning Zion and her law be executed and fulfilled, after her redemption.’ (105:34)
“It is interesting to note that after this pronouncement, the Lord practically never referred to the United Order in his revelations to the Prophet. The people had had their opportunity and failed. He then gave them the law of tithing in a revelation given in Missouri itself, in Zion, (July 18, 1838, Sec. 119), which is still in full force and effect. . . .
“Thus the Lord directed that the law he had given regarding the setting up of the United Order in Zion was to be ‘executed and fulfilled’ after the redemption of Zion, that is, in the meaning in which the Lord was then using the word Zion, the ‘redemption,’ the reestablishment of the people in Missouri. This has not yet been accomplished.” (“The United Order and Law of Consecration As Set Out in the Revelations of the Lord,” Church News, 15 Sept. 1945, p. 9.)
On his journey among the churches in early 1834, the Prophet Joseph Smith stopped in the village of Freedom, New York. Here he was entertained by Warren A. Cowdery, a brother of Oliver. (There were eight children in the Cowdery family, of which Warren was the oldest and Oliver the youngest.) The Prophet wrote that he stayed at Warren’s house, where “we were blessed with a full enjoyment of temporal and spiritual blessings, even all we needed, or were worthy to receive” (History of the Church, 2:42).
The visit of the Prophet, as well as the influence of Oliver, who had been corresponding with his brother, resulted in the eventual conversion of Warren Cowdery to the Church. Through the efforts of the Prophet and other members of the Church, a branch was eventually established in Freedom, over which Warren Cowdery was called to preside.
That fall found the Prophet very busy, especially in November. “It now being the last of the month,” he wrote, “and the Elders beginning to come in, it was necessary to make preparations for the school for the Elders, wherein they might be more perfectly instructed in the great things of God, during the coming winter” (History of the Church, 2:169). On 25 November the Prophet received the revelation contained in Doctrine and Covenants 106.
Warren A. Cowdery’s responsibilities were not confined to the town of Freedom, but extended to “the regions round about” (D&C 106:1) and to the “adjoining counties” (v. 2). Freedom was in Cattaraugus County, New York, and there were Saints in Perrysburg and Palmersville, also in the same county. In Chataurua County, immediately west, there were Saints in Westfield and Villanova. In Livingston County, which was located northeast of Freedom, there were Saints in Genese, Avon, and Livonia. Livonia is about fifteen miles from Manchester, New York, where the latter-day work began, and so there were probably Saints living in small towns all over the western part of New York.
Because of the size of the area that Warren Cowdery was responsible for and the time involved, the Lord promised him all necessities, “for the laborer is worthy of his hire” (v. 3).
The people of the world are the ones who will be surprised at the sudden coming of the Lord. The Saints, on the other hand, should be prepared, expectant, and joyful. Paul wrote to the Saints that, in looking forward to the Second Coming, “ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day.” (1 Thessalonians 5:4–5; see also 1 Peter 3:10.)
To “gird up one’s loins” (D&C 106:5) means to prepare oneself, as explained in Notes and Commentary on Doctrine and Covenants 36:8. To those who are prepared (the children of light), the coming of the Master will not be a shock or catch them unprepared.
Unfortunately, Warren A. Cowdery did not remain a faithful witness. He eventually went to Kirtland, Ohio, and was given a job in the printing office, later becoming the editor of the Messenger and Advocate. In the apostasy of 1837 he became associated with such dissidents as Warren Parrish, John F. Boynton, Leonard Rich, Luke Johnson, and Stephen Burnett. Like many, he grew rebellious against the Prophet and fell away from the Church.
On 14 February 1835 the Three Witnesses to the Book of Mormon, under the direction of Joseph Smith, chose the first Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in this dispensation. On 12 March 1835, during a meeting of the Twelve, Elders Orson Hyde and William E. M’Lellin, acting as clerks, recorded the following:
“This evening the Twelve assembled, and the Council was opened by President Joseph Smith, Jun., and he proposed we take our first mission through the Eastern States, to the Atlantic Ocean, and hold conferences in the vicinity of the several branches of the Church for the purpose of regulating all things necessary for their welfare.
“It was proposed that the Twelve leave Kirtland on the 4th day of May, which was unanimously agreed to.” (History of the Church, 2:209.)
On 28 March 1835 Elders Hyde and M’Lellin wrote:
“This afternoon the Twelve met in council, and had a time of general confession. On reviewing our past course we are satisfied, and feel to confess also, that we have not realized the importance of our calling to that degree that we ought; we have been light-minded and vain, and in many things have done wrong. For all these things we have asked the forgiveness of our heavenly Father; and wherein we have grieved or wounded the feelings of the Presidency, we ask their forgiveness. The time when we are about to separate is near; and when we shall meet again, God only knows; we therefore feel to ask of him whom we have acknowledged to be our Prophet and Seer, that he inquire of God for us, and obtain a revelation, (if consistent) that we may look upon it when we are separated, that our hearts may be comforted. Our worthiness has not inspired us to make this request, but our unworthiness. We have unitedly asked God our heavenly Father to grant unto us through His Seer, a revelation of His mind and will concerning our duty [during] the coming season, even a great revelation, that will enlarge our hearts, comfort us in adversity, and brighten our hopes amidst the powers of darkness.” (History of the Church, 2:209–10.)
The Prophet Joseph did inquire of the Lord and on 28 March 1835 received verses 1–52, 56–58 of this section. The other verses were revealed at different times. (See History of the Church, 2:210; Smith, Teachings, pp. 38–39.)
The Prophet Joseph Smith clarified the relationship between the Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthoods: “Answer to the question, Was the Priesthood of Melchizedek taken away when Moses died? All Priesthood is Melchizedek, but there are different portions or degrees of it. That portion which brought Moses to speak with God face to face was taken away; but that which brought the ministry of angels remained. All the prophets had the Melchizedek Priesthood and were ordained by God himself.” (Teachings, pp. 180–81.)
The Prophet Joseph Smith also taught, “Although there are two Priesthoods, yet the Melchisedek Priesthood comprehends the Aaronic or Levitical Priesthood, and is the grand head, and holds the highest authority which pertains to the Priesthood, and the keys of the Kingdom of God in all ages of the world to the latest posterity on the earth, and is the channel through which all knowledge, doctrine, the plan of salvation, and every important matter is revealed from heaven” (History of the Church, 4:207; see also D&C 107:14).
Elder Bruce R. McConkie wrote:
“When the Lord first gave the law of carnal commandments, the preparatory gospel, to school Israel for a future time when again they could enjoy the gospel fulness, of necessity a lesser order of priesthood was conferred to administer the lesser law. (Heb. 7:12; Inspired Version, Ex. 34:1–2.) This lesser priesthood (D. & C. 85:11) was conferred upon Aaron and his sons after him (Ex. 28; 29; 30; Lev. 1:11; 3:2; 13:2; Num. 18), as ‘an everlasting priesthood throughout their generations.’ (Ex. 40:15; Num. 25:10–13.) It was also conferred upon substantially the whole house of Levi who were between 30 and 50 years of age. (Num. 3; 4.) Hence it is called the Aaronic or Levitical Priesthood; the two names are synonymous. (D. & C. 107:1, 6, 10.)
“Aaron and his sons after him held the key of the Aaronic Priesthood and acted in the full majesty and power of this Levitical order; many of their functions were comparable to those of bishops and priests in this dispensation. Though the rest of the ordained Levites held the fulness of the Aaronic Priesthood (Heb. 7:5) and participated in the offering of sacrifices, they did not hold the keys of the Aaronic ministry; many of their functions were comparable to those of teachers and deacons in this dispensation. (Num. 3; 4; 2 Chron. 29; Mal. 3:3; D. & C. 13; Doctrines of Salvation, vol. 3, pp. 111–114.)” (Mormon Doctrine, pp. 9–10.)
The priesthood is conferred upon worthy males.
Elder Bruce R. McConkie wrote:
“The priesthood is greater than any of its offices. No office adds any power, dignity, or authority to the priesthood. All offices derive their rights, prerogatives, graces, and powers from the priesthood. This principle may be diagramed by dividing a circle into segments. The priesthood is the circle; the segments of the circle are the callings or offices in the priesthood. Anyone who serves in a segment of the circle must possess the power of the whole circle. No one can hold an office in the priesthood without first holding the priesthood.
“Thus it is that priesthood is conferred upon worthy individuals, and they are then ordained to offices in the priesthood; and thus it is that all offices in the priesthood and in the Church are specifically designated as appendages to the priesthood; that is, they grow out of the priesthood, they are supplemental to it, they are less than the priesthood in importance. (D. & C. 84:29–30; 107:5.) It follows that it is greater and more important to hold the Melchizedek Priesthood, for instance, than it is to hold any office in that priesthood. . . .
“Further, there is no advancement from one office to another within the Melchizedek Priesthood. Every elder holds as much priesthood as an apostle or as the President of the Church, though these latter officers hold greater administrative assignments in the kingdom. It follows, also, that any holder of the Melchizedek Priesthood could perform any priestly function he was appointed to do by the one holding the keys of the kingdom.” (Mormon Doctrine, pp. 595–96.)
The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that the Lord reveals His will through the presidency of the Melchizedek Priesthood, meaning the First Presidency: “The Melchizedek High Priesthood was no other than the Priesthood of the Son of God; . . . there are certain ordinances which belong to the Priesthood, from which flow certain results; and the Presidents or Presidency are over the Church; 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.” (History of the Church, 2:477.)
Notes and Commentary on Doctrine and Covenants 68:15–21 gives an explanation of this doctrine.
President Spencer W. Kimball said of the Melchizedek Priesthood: “It is the means whereby the Lord acts through men to save souls. Without this priesthood power, men are lost. Only through this power does man ‘hold the keys of all the spiritual blessings of the church,’ enabling him to receive ‘the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, to have the heavens opened’ unto him (see D&C 107:18–19), enabling him to enter the new and everlasting covenant of marriage and to have his wife and children bound to him in an everlasting tie, enabling him to become a patriarch to his posterity forever, and enabling him to receive a fullness of the blessings of the Lord.” (“The Example of Abraham,” Ensign, June 1975, p. 3.)
“The higher Priesthood after the order of the Son of God, we are told, in a modern revelation [D&C 107:18–19], . . . holds not only the power of the ministration of holy angels to be seen personally, but also the power of beholding the face of God the Father, that through the power and manifestations of the spirit of God and of his angels we may be prepared to enter into the presence of God the Father in the world to come, and enjoy continual communion with him, and be crowned with the glory of the celestial kingdom, to stand in our place and calling to all eternity, in connection with all those who hold the Priesthood in the eternal worlds.” (Orson Pratt, in Journal of Discourses, 18:363; see also D&C 76:50–70; 84:19–22; Hebrews 12:22–24.)
President Harold B. Lee told the assembly at a general conference: “All members of the First Presidency and the Twelve are regularly sustained as ‘prophets, seers, and revelators,’ as you have done today. This means that any one of the apostles, so chosen and ordained, could preside over the Church if he were ‘chosen by the body [which has been interpreted to mean, the entire Quorum of the Twelve], appointed and ordained to that office, and upheld by the confidence, faith, and prayer of the church,’ to quote from a revelation on this subject, on one condition, and that being that he was the senior member, or the president, of that body. (See D&C 107:22.)” (In Conference Report, Apr. 1970, p. 123.)
See Notes and Commentary on Doctrine and Covenants 13.
Smith and Sjodahl explained that “there can never be two or three quorums of equal authority at the same time; therefore in the revelation where it reads that the Twelve Apostles form a quorum equal in authority with the First Presidency, and that the Seventies form a quorum equal in authority with the Twelve, it should be understood that this condition of equality could prevail only when the ranking quorum is no longer in existence, through death or otherwise. When the First Presidency becomes disorganized on the death of the President, then the Apostles become the presiding quorum, or council, of the Church with all the power to organize again the First Presidency, when they fall back again as the second ranking quorum of the Church. So with the Seventies, they would become equal only on the condition that the first two quorums ceased to exist. In regard to the Seventies, this provision, of course, concerns the first quorum of the Seventies.” (Commentary, p. 700.)
President Joseph Fielding Smith said of the Twelve Apostles:
“These twelve men are endowed with the power and responsibility to serve as the special witnesses for Christ. They are entitled to have the inspiration and necessary guidance of the Holy Ghost to fit and qualify them for this important mission.
“All men may, by virtue of the priesthood and the gift of the Holy Ghost, become witnesses for Christ. In fact that is just what every elder in the Church should be, but there is a special calling which is given to the Twelve special witnesses that separates them from other elders of the Church in the nature of their calling as witnesses. These twelve men [as a quorum] hold the fulness of authority, keys, and priesthood, to open up the way for the preaching of the gospel to every nation, kindred, and tongue. Others who go forth go under their direction and are subject unto them. This work of proselyting is in their hands, and under the counsel of the First Presidency they are called upon to conduct all the affairs of the Church and the preaching of the gospel to every creature.” (Doctrines of Salvation, 3:146.)
President Lorenzo Snow described the unity in the leading councils of the Church: “Here are my counselors. We are one. We are united. . . . And here we have twelve men sitting in front with us—Twelve Apostles. There are many of these that you know. . . . We are united together. We do not quarrel with each other. We do not slander one another, but we go where counsel requires and we are heart and soul together. What for? Not to make ourselves rich, not to make ourselves wealthy, but to see what we can accomplish in the interests of the people, and we are laboring continually to see what we can do. We come together every week and we talk about what we can do for the people.” (In Conference Report, Oct. 1900, p. 5.)
If a decision of one of the leading quorums of the Church is thought to have been made in unrighteousness, the matter may be brought before “a general assembly of the several quorums” (D&C 107:32), which is the combined assembly of the First Presidency, the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and the First Quorum of the Seventy. These bodies are the “spiritual authorities of the church” (v. 32), and the only appeal from a decision of one of these quorums is to this combined assembly.
Although both the Quorum of the Twelve and the First Quorum of the Seventy are to carry the gospel to the world, their specific duties are different, as Elder Howard W. Hunter outlined:
“With the rapid growth of the Church and the heavy demands on the Twelve to provide leadership and administration and teach all nations, it becomes clear why the Lord has directed the building up of the First Quorum of the Seventy. The recent decision to do so by the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve reminds us of an interesting historical parallel of an episode recorded by Luke in the Acts of the Apostles. The foreign or Hellenistic Jews in Jerusalem were complaining that their widows were being neglected and not taken care of like the widows of the native Jews. When the apostles heard of this murmuring, a significant thing happened: [Acts 6:2–4].
“In other words, the Twelve told the meeting that it was not reasonable for them to leave their important office of teaching the gospel to provide for the daily welfare of the widows and serve their tables. There were other good men who could look after these duties so the Twelve could continue to devote themselves to the charge of teaching the gospel to all persons. The result of the decision to call others to assist with the details was this: [Acts 6:7]. . . .
“In December 1978, the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve made a similar determination that it was no longer advisable for the Twelve to occupy their time in the details of administration of the many Church departments. They delegated seven men, designated as the presidents of the First Quorum of the Seventy, to give supervision to these details so that the Twelve could devote their full energies to the overall direction of the work, and, as directed by the Doctrine and Covenants, ‘To build up the church, and regulate all the affairs of the same in all nations’ [D&C 107:33].
“I fully believe that in the near future we will see some of the greatest advancements in spreading the gospel to all nations that have ever taken place in this dispensation or any previous dispensation. I am sure that we will be able to look back in retrospect—as a result of the decision recently made—and record as Luke did, ‘And the word of God increased’ [Acts 6:7].” (“All Are Alike unto God,” in Speeches of the Year, 1979 [Provo: Brigham Young University Press, 1980], pp. 34–35.)
“At the time this Revelation was given, there were two standing High Councils in the Church: One in Kirtland, organized February 17th, 1834, and one in Clay County, Mo., organized July 3rd, the same year” (Smith and Sjodahl, Commentary, p. 702).
President John Taylor explained: “In Kirtland, Ohio, a great many things were revealed through the Prophet. . . . The High Council in Kirtland was presided over by Joseph Smith and his Counselors; and hence there were some things associated with this that were quite peculiar in themselves. It is stated that when they were at a loss to find out anything pertaining to any principles that might come before them in their councils, that the presidency were to inquire of the Lord and get revelation on those subjects that were difficult for them to comprehend.” (In Journal of Discourses, 19:241.)
After the Missouri high council was organized, the Prophet said that “if I should now be taken away, I had accomplished the great work the Lord had laid before me, and that which I had desired of the Lord; and that I had done my duty in organizing the High Council, through which council the will of the Lord might be known on all important occasions, in the building up of Zion, and establishing truth in the earth” (History of the Church, 2:124).
“This indicates the importance attached to the organization of the High Council in Zion,” wrote Smith and Sjodahl. “The standing High Councils in the various Stakes are presided over by the Stake presidency, and their jurisdiction is confined to the Stakes in which they are located.” (Commentary, p. 703; see also Notes and Commentary on D&C 102:30–32 for an explanation of the relationship between stake high councils and the standing high council of the Church.)
“The Lord indicates that the High Council in Zion (Missouri) was to form a quorum equal in authority, in the affairs of the Church, to the councils of Twelve (High Councils) at the Stakes of Zion (vs. 37). And so today a High Council in any Stake of Zion is as important as that in any other Stake. The authority and power of any Stake High Council is local and confined to the boundaries of the Stake concerned.” (Sperry, Compendium, p. 565.)
The Prophet Joseph Smith said: “An Evangelist is a Patriarch, even the oldest man of the blood of Joseph or of the seed of Abraham. Wherever the Church of Christ is established in the earth, there should be a Patriarch for the benefit of the posterity of the Saints, as it was with Jacob in giving his patriarchal blessing unto his sons. [Genesis 48; 49:1–27.]” (History of the Church, 3:381.)
Patriarchs are ordained in each stake to give patriarchal blessings to the Saints living within the boundaries of that stake or to members who do not have a stake patriarch of their own.
The patriarchal priesthood is passed by ordination from father to son. President Joseph Fielding Smith explained:
“In this revelation [D&C 107] certain knowledge was revealed concerning the Patriarchal Priesthood and its descent from the beginning of time. Regarding this priesthood the Lord said: [D&C 107:39–43]. . . .
“. . . From Abraham the birthright went to Isaac and from him to Jacob, who was named Israel. From Israel it went to Joseph, the firstborn son of Rachel. . . . Therefore the birthright and the Patriarchal Priesthood continued through the seed of Joseph. Just why it was continued through Ephraim rather than through Manasseh, his older brother, we have not been informed, but we may be sure that the Lord had sufficient reason. From that time until now, this birthright has been vested in the descendants of Ephraim. [1 Chronicles 5:1–2; Jeremiah 31:9; D&C 133:30–34.]
“In the Dispensation of the Fulness of Times in which we live, the Lord revealed that this birthright of the first-born in Israel belonged to Joseph Smith, the father of the Prophet, and he was the first patriarch ordained in this dispensation. After his death the office and priesthood was conferred upon Hyrum Smith, the Prophet’s oldest living brother.” (“The Patriarchal Priesthood,” Improvement Era, Nov. 1956, pp. 789, 852.)
Today the patriarchal order does not determine the organization of the Church as it did in earlier times, but in the celestial kingdom “the patriarchal order will be the order of government and rule” (McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p. 559).
John Smith, an early patriarch
One of the greatest meetings ever held was the meeting Adam called of his righteous posterity (see D&C 107:53–57). Sometime prior to the Second Coming of the Savior, a similar meeting will again be held in the valley of Adam-ondi-Ahman (see D&C 78; 116).
Verses 53 through 55 of section 107 came from a blessing given by Joseph Smith Jr. to his father on 18 December 1833 (see Smith, Teachings, pp. 38–39).
“The revealed word of God,” said Elder James E. Talmage, “has provided for the establishment of presiding officers ‘growing out of, or appointed of or from among those who are ordained to the several offices in these two priesthoods.’ [D&C 107:21.] In accordance with the prevailing principles of order characteristic of all His work, the Lord has directed that the bearers of the Priesthood shall be organized into quorums, the better to aid them in learning and discharging the duties of their respective callings.” (Articles of Faith, p. 209.)
“The President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is president of the priesthood of God on earth. . . . All others within the kingdom of God are subject to his direction. Only he has the right to receive revelation for the entire body of the Church.” (When Thou Art Converted, Strengthen Thy Brethren [Melchizedek Priesthood study guide, 1974], p. 110.)
Elder John Taylor said: “The president of the church presides over all patriarchs, presidents, and councils of the church; and this presidency does not depend so much upon genealogy as upon calling, order, and seniority” (Times and Seasons, 1 June 1845, p. 922; see also D&C 107:91–92).
President Marion G. Romney said:
“As originally given, the assignments pertaining to the office [of bishop] may be summarized in four major parts.
“First, the bishop was to receive the consecrations of the Saints and appoint unto them their inheritances (see D&C 42:31–34, 71–73; 51:13; 58:35; 72:2–6; 78; 82; 85:1).
“Second, the bishop was to be a judge unto the people, judging both their standing in the Church as well as their temporal needs if they had claim on the Church (see D&C 42:80–82; 58:17–18; 72:17; 107:72).
“Third, the bishop was to succor the poor, in both body and spirit, according to their needs (see D&C 38:35; 42:33–35, 39, 71; 70:7–8).
“Fourth, the bishop was to act as an agent for the Church doing whatever temporal business he was appointed to by the Lord through the First Presidency (see D&C 51:13–14; 84:112–13; 107:68, 71–72).
“As the Church grew and the Saints gained experience, the Lord distinguished between the responsibilities of the Presiding Bishop and local, or ward, bishops as they have come to be known. Today, in the various handbooks of the priesthood, you will find four major categories of duties appointed unto the ward bishop. Except for those duties which are unique to the Presiding Bishopric of the Church and those which were made inoperative at the time the formal law of consecration was suspended, the role of the bishop today is essentially the same as was defined in these early revelations. Bishops have been given added responsibilities for the youth and as presiding high priest of the ward. However, of all of the bishop’s assignments, as important as each one is, none is more important than care for the poor.” (In Conference Report, Oct. 1979, p. 137; or Ensign, Nov. 1979, p. 94.)
President Spencer W. Kimball said of the bishop’s role:
“By virtue of his call and ordination and setting apart, he also becomes a judge in Israel and has the responsibility of making many decisions for his people which affect their progress and development and their life. He has control over their spiritual activities so that he can give them opportunities for growth and judge their accomplishments. He decides as to their worthiness and eligibility for certain blessings and privileges. He holds the key to all temples in the world and it is he who must turn that key to open the doors thereof to his members and through eternal marriage to life eternal. . . .
“It is said: ‘God’s ways are not man’s ways.’ This man, the bishop, need not be schooled in all the fields of education, for he has access to the fountain of all knowledge. There is revelation, not only for the prophet, but for every worthy and righteous man. He is entitled to divine guidance in his own jurisdiction. . . .
“. . . the bishop may draw on this limitless reservoir of knowledge and wisdom if he is in tune with his Maker.” (New Era, Sept. 1978, pp. 16–17.)
“The bishop is a common judge in Israel, and members are amenable to his jurisdiction. In case of an accusation made against one of the First Presidency, the case would be tried before the presiding bishop and a council of high priests.” (Smith, Church History and Modern Revelation, 2:21.)
Elder John A. Widtsoe said this disciplinary council would consist “of the Presiding Bishop with his two counselors, and twelve High Priests especially chosen for the purpose. It is a tribunal extraordinary, from which there is no appeal, to be convened if it should be necessary to try a member of the First Presidency for crime or neglect of duty.” (Priesthood and Church Government, p. 212.)
Church disciplinary councils exist both to help individuals repent and to protect the innocent against false accusations. In some cases, especially where a prominent or noteworthy person is involved, a disciplinary council can help protect the Church’s good name and moral influence.
President Joseph Fielding Smith further explained: “There are several councils in the Church. The traveling high council has jurisdiction in all the world. The high councils in stakes have jurisdiction in a judicial way in the stakes. The First Presidency may sit as an appellate council, and their decision is final. The Church is so organized that no member or officer, from the President to the last member received, is ‘exempted from the justice and the laws of God.’ The special . . . council, presided over by the presiding bishopric has been called into existence several times. The Prophet Joseph Smith was tried before this council on charges made against him by Elder Sylvester Smith after the return of Zion’s Camp. Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, and Frederick G. Williams were each tried by this tribunal.” (Church History and Modern Revelation, 2:21; see also Notes and Commentary on D&C 102; Enrichment I in the Appendix.)
Elder David O. McKay said: “Presidents of quorums: The Lord has said to you, as you will read in the 107th section of the Doctrine and Covenants, that it is your duty to meet with your quorum. If you are the president of a deacon’s quorum, you are to meet with twelve deacons, and preside over them, to sit in counsel with them, and to teach them their duties. O, deacons, throughout the world! respond to that call. Do your duty, Bishops, you who hold the presidency of the Aaronic Priesthood; guide the young men in this activity. Are they slothful? Are they inactive? If they are, some of the results of inactivity mentioned before as befalling the idle individual will afflict the quorum in your ward. Mark it, it will not fulfill its place in the councils of the Church, unless it be active as a council, as a quorum. This is true of the Teachers, of the Priests, the Elders, the Seventies, the High Priests, and all.” (In Conference Report, Oct. 1909, p. 92.)
Notes and Commentary for Doctrine and Covenants 21:4–7 and Enrichment F discuss the importance of the living prophet.
The Prophet Joseph Smith wrote:
“On the 28th of February, the Church in council assembled, commenced selecting certain individuals to be Seventies, from the number of those who went up to Zion with me in the camp . . . to begin the organization of the first quorum of Seventies, according to the visions and revelations which I have received. The Seventies are to constitute traveling quorums, to go into all the earth, whithersoever the Twelve Apostles shall call them.” (History of the Church, 2:201–2.)
“If the first Seventy are all employed, and there is a call for more laborers, it will be the duty of the seven presidents of the first Seventy to call and ordain other Seventy and send them forth to labor in the vineyard, until, if needs be, they set apart seven times seventy, and even until there are one hundred and forty-four thousand thus set apart for the ministry” (History of the Church, 2:221).
Although the First Quorum of the Seventy was organized by Joseph Smith, it did not continue to function as a quorum after the exodus to Utah. After the colonization of the West, quorums of seventies were organized in each stake; but on a general authority level, there was just the First Council of Seventy, or the First Seven Presidents of the Seventy.
Not until the time of President Spencer W. Kimball was the First Quorum of the Seventy organized again as an active, functioning quorum. This action was begun in the October 1975 conference, in which President Kimball said: “The First Quorum of the Seventy will be gradually organized, eventually with seventy members, the presidency of which will be made up of the seven members” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1975, p. 3; or Ensign, Nov. 1975, p. 4).
One year later, in the October 1976 conference, President Kimball took further action:
“Today we shall present . . . additional members of the First Quorum of the Seventy to you for your votes. . . . These changes . . . bring to thirty-nine the total number in the First Quorum of the Seventy, thus providing a quorum to do business.
“With this move, the three governing quorums of the Church defined by the revelations,—the First Presidency, the Quorum of the Twelve, and the First Quorum of the Seventy,—have been set in their places as revealed by the Lord. This will make it possible to handle efficiently the present heavy workload and to prepare for the increasing expansion and acceleration of the work, anticipating the day when the Lord will return to take direct charge of His church and kingdom.” (In Conference Report, Oct. 1976, p. 10; or Ensign, Nov. 1976, p. 9.)
To meet the administrative needs of the Church as it grew, the Lord in this revelation provided for general Church leaders to be called in addition to the three presiding quorums of the Church. In the past these leaders have included the Assistants to the Quorum of the Twelve (1941–1976) and the Regional Representatives of the Twelve (1967–1995). Those called to these positions have been given administrative duties in the Lord’s kingdom under the direction of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. (See Harold B. Lee, in Conference Report, Oct. 1967, pp. 101, 104–5; Spencer W. Kimball, in Conference Report, Oct. 1976, p. 10.)
President Henry D. Moyle stressed the importance of living up to priesthood duties: “I am sure it would be more pleasing to our Father in heaven to have us resign our positions—and that is not a practice which we commend in the Church—but nonetheless it seems preferable to neglecting our duties in the least detail. It gives us an awesome feeling to realize that we are dedicated to the work of the Lord, and having thus committed ourselves, it is not our privilege or our prerogative to violate his commandments, even the slightest of them. The Lord expects, and we expect it of ourselves, each one of us, to live out our lives here upon this earth in as complete conformity to the laws of God as we are capable. No means of rationalizing, no means of conjuring up excuses as to why we should do this or should not do the other, contrary to the will of our Heavenly Father, has any place in our lives.” (In Conference Report, Oct. 1961, pp. 43–44.)
Those who neglect their priesthood responsibilities will not be counted among the righteous who are worthy to stand in God’s presence (see also Psalm 1:1–5; 24:3–4; Malachi 3:1–2; Luke 21:36; Alma 12:12–15; D&C 45:32).
When the First Quorum of the Seventy was organized on 28 February 1835, many of its members were drawn from the group of men known as Zion’s Camp, the body that in 1834 had gone to help the afflicted Saints in Missouri. Lyman Sherman, whose loyalty and faith had been proven in the Zion’s Camp expedition, was called to be one of the Seven Presidents of the First Quorum of the Seventy.
The day after Christmas 1835, the Prophet Joseph Smith recorded in his journal that “Brother Lyman Sherman came in, and requested to have the word of the Lord through me; ‘for,’ said he, ‘I have been wrought upon to make known to you my feelings and desires, and was promised that I should have a revelation which should make known my duty’” (History of the Church, 2:345).
Smith and Sjodahl explained: “From this verse and the two following paragraphs it is evident that Lyman Sherman had passed through one of those mental struggles in which faith is tried to the utmost. It had been a question with him whether to go forward, or to turn back. It is evident, also, that he had conquered doubt and had determined to continue in the faith. At this stage of the trial, it occurred to him that he had sinned by resisting the voice of the Lord, and that perhaps he had lost his standing among the brethren. Tortured by this thought, he heard the voice of the Spirit whispering in his soul and prompting him to visit the Prophet and ask for the Word of God through His servant. The very first assurance was, ‘Your sins are forgiven you.’ What comfort! The Prophet knew nothing of the mental struggle through which his visitor had passed, or the condition in which it had left him. And yet he uttered the very word needed to restore peace to the troubled heart. And this word was spoken by one who had the authority of the Priesthood. It was no empty phrase.” (Smith and Sjodahl, Commentary, p. 713.)
Sacred vows are made in the holy temples.
“All that the Lord requires of us is strict obedience to the laws of life,” taught President Brigham Young. “All the sacrifice that the Lord asks of his people is strict obedience to our own covenants that we have made with our God, and that is to serve him with an undivided heart.” (In Journal of Discourses, 18:246.)
See Notes and Commentary for Doctrine and Covenants 95:7.
The Kirtland Temple was near completion when section 108 was given. Beginning on 13 January 1836 and continuing until shortly after the dedication, meetings were held in the Kirtland Temple at which there was a great outpouring of the Spirit. Many of the Saints received revelations and saw heavenly personages. Each of these meetings could appropriately be called a solemn assembly.
The Prophet Joseph Smith recorded in his journal the proceedings of the meetings of 21–22 January:
“At early candle-light I met with the Presidency at the west school room, in the Temple, to attend to the ordinance of anointing our heads with holy oil; also the Councils of Kirtland and Zion met in the two adjoining rooms, and waited in prayer while we attended to the ordinance. . . .
“Many of my brethren who received the ordinance with me saw glorious visions. . . . Angels ministered unto them as well as to myself, and the power of the Highest rested upon us, the house was filled with the glory of God, and we shouted Hosanna to God and the Lamb. . . .
“Friday 22.—Attended at the school room at the usual hour, but instead of pursuing our studies, we spent the time in rehearsing to each other the glorious scenes that occurred on the preceding evening, while attending to the ordinance of holy anointing.
“In the evening we met at the same place, with the Council of the Twelve, and the Presidency of the Seventy, who were to receive this ordinance [of anointing and blessing]. The High Councils of Kirtland and Zion were present also.
“After calling to order and organizing, the Presidency proceeded to consecrate the oil. . . .
“The Twelve then proceeded to anoint and bless the Presidency of the Seventy, and seal upon their heads power and authority to anoint their brethren.” (History of the Church, 2:379, 381–83.)
This meeting, at which Lyman Sherman and his brethren of the Presidency of the Seventy received their anointings and blessings, was a great source of strength to them when they were sent to preach the gospel.
Each of us can help our brothers and sisters in the gospel resist temptation and bear up under opposition. The counsel given to Brother Sherman to seek to lift and edify his brethren in all the ways he could applies to all of the Lord’s servants (see D&C 81:5; Ecclesiastes 4:9–10).
Smith and Sjodahl write:
“The dedication of the Temple in Kirtland, on the 27th of March, 1836, was an ever memorable event in the history of the Church. That structure was reared in compliance with Revelations received (See Sec. 88:119; 95:8–9), at a time when the Saints were few and poor, and when to raise the money required (between sixty and seventy thousand dollars) meant a great deal of self-sacrifice on their part. ‘While the brethren labored in their departments,’ says Tullidge, ‘the sisters were actively engaged in boarding and clothing workmen not otherwise provided for—all living as abstemiously as possible, so that every cent might be appropriated to the grand object.’ And thus they toiled on from the 23rd of July, 1833, when the corner stones were laid, until it was completed for dedication.
“In the Revelation given on the 1st of June, 1833, the Lord indicated the special object for which this house was to be built: ‘I gave unto you a commandment, that you should build an house, in the which house I design to endow those whom I have chosen, with power from on high’ (Sec. 95:8). It was to be a place in which the Church would receive a Pentecostal baptism in the fire of the Holy Spirit [see Acts 2]. A special house, consecrated and dedicated, was needed for that purpose, hence the commandment of God to the Saints concerning this house.
“Now the day of dedication had come. The people assembled early, full of joy and gratitude, and they were not disappointed in their expectations. The manifestations of the divine presence were such as to leave no room in the minds of the true Saints for doubt concerning the nature of the work in which they were engaged. Heber C. Kimball relates that during the ceremonies of the dedication, an angel appeared and sat near Joseph Smith, Sr., and Frederick G. Williams, so that they had a fair view of his person. He was tall, and had black eyes and white hair; wore a garment extending to near his ankles, and had sandals on his feet. ‘He was sent,’ President Kimball says, ‘as a messenger to accept of the dedication.’ (Whitney’s Life of Heber C. Kimball, p. 103). A few days afterwards, a solemn assembly was held . . . and blessings were given. ‘While these things were being attended to,’ Heber C. Kimball says, ‘the beloved disciple John was seen in our midst by the Prophet Joseph, Oliver Cowdery, and others’ (Ibid., p. 104). On the 6th of April, a meeting was held which was prolonged into the night. On this occasion the spirit of prophecy was poured out upon the Saints, and many in the congregation saw tongues of fire upon some of those present, while to others angels appeared. ‘This,’ President Kimball says, ‘continued several days and was attended by a marvelous spirit of prophecy. Every man’s mouth was full of prophesying, and for a number of days and weeks our time was spent in visiting from house to house, administering bread and wine, and pronouncing blessings upon each other to that degree, that from the external appearances one would have supposed that the last days had truly come, in which the Spirit of the Lord was poured out upon all flesh’ (Ibid., p. 105; see also Hist. of the Church, Vol. II., p. 427). Nor were the Saints the only ones who were aware of supernatural manifestations at this time. Elder George A. Smith rose to prophesy, when a noise was heard like the sound of a rushing wind. All the congregation arose, and many began to speak in tongues and prophesy. And then people of the neighborhood came running together (hearing an unusual sound within and seeing a bright light like a pillar of fire resting upon the Temple), and were astonished at what was taking place. This continued until the meeting closed, at 11 p.m. (History of the Church, Vol. II., p. 428).” (Commentary, pp. 720–21.)
As the dedicatory services proceeded, Sidney Rigdon spoke to the congregation, commencing the services by reading Psalms 96 and 24. Several hymns were sung, and then President Rigdon spoke on Matthew 18:18–20 and the sealing power of the priesthood. The various quorums of the priesthood were presented to the membership of the Church for their sustaining vote, and then followed the dedicatory prayer by the Prophet. To the surprise of some, instead of praying spontaneously, Joseph Smith read the dedicatory prayer, which he had received earlier by revelation. This pattern for temple dedicatory prayers has been followed since that time (see History of the Church, 2:420).
President George Q. Cannon wrote that the Kirtland Temple had been built at the “utmost self-sacrifice. Nearly three years had been occupied in its construction; and during this time the Saints had given of their substance and had toiled without ceasing to make a habitation fit for the ministration of angelic visitants and of the Holy One, Himself. The consummation of this work had been very near to the Prophet’s heart, especially since the tribulations in Missouri had shown that no house of the Lord could be erected speedily in the center stake of Zion.” (Life of Joseph Smith, p. 204.)
The Lord did “accept of this house” (D&C 109:4), as is evident from the manifestations that accompanied its dedication and also the glorious vision recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 110, which took place there shortly afterwards.
In a revelation given to the School of the Prophets, the Lord commanded the elders to organize themselves and build a house for prayer, fasting, and learning (see D&C 88:117–20). Verses 6–9 quote the revelation given at that time.
Elder John A. Widtsoe stated: “It is thrilling to look back over our history to the time of the Kirtland Temple. The men left their farms, fields, and shops in the evenings and climbed to the top story, the attic story of the Kirtland Temple, there, in provided classrooms, to study various subjects, languages, mathematics, history, geography, and a variety of subjects. Really our people began there what we call today adult education. It was thought [by others] that an older man could not learn; only young people could learn. Since that time the world has come to quite a different conclusion. Today a man is never too old to learn. A woman is never too old to learn. The power to assimilate knowledge remains with us to the last day. Somehow these forebears of ours in the Church understood that.” (In Conference Report, Apr. 1949, p. 149.)
The Prophet Joseph Smith asked the Lord that the Saints receive the blessings promised to them in various revelations already given:
1. That God’s glory would rest upon His people and upon the Kirtland Temple (see D&C 109:12–13).
2. That those who worship in the temple would be taught properly (see v. 14).
3. That the people would “grow up” in the Lord, receiving a fulness of the Holy Ghost (v. 15).
4. That the house of God would be all it was meant to be with no unclean thing permitted therein (see vv. 16–20, which are paraphrased from D&C 88:119–20).
5. That when the Saints transgressed, they would return quickly to the Lord (see v. 21).
6. That His servants could go forth armed with power and protected by the angels to spread the gospel to the ends of the earth (see vv. 22–23).
7. That He would establish His people forever against all the enemies who fight against them (see vv. 24–33).
8. That their sins would be forgiven (see v. 34).
9. That the powers of Pentecost would come upon them (see vv. 35–37).
10. That the servants of God would have the power of the covenant and bear testimony of it throughout the world (see vv. 38–44).
11. That the servants of God would be delivered from the calamity of the wicked and the judgments that are promised (see vv. 45–49).
12. That the Lord would have mercy on the nations of the earth, softening their hearts to prepare them for the gospel message (see vv. 54–58).
13. That stakes of Zion would be appointed so the gathering might roll forth (see v. 59). (Adapted from Sperry, Compendium, pp. 593–96.)
Elder Bruce R. McConkie explained that “the most decorous conduct—unmarred by loud laughter, unnecessary conversation, untoward actions of any sort, or even by evil thoughts—is essential to reverencing the Lord’s sanctuary. And what is said of his temples is also true of his meetinghouses.” (Mormon Doctrine, p. 652.)
President Joseph F. Smith said: “Self-respect requires, among other things, that one shall behave like a true gentleman, in a house of worship. No self-respecting person will go to a house devoted to the service of God to whisper, gossip and visit; rather, it is one’s duty to put on self-restraint, to give one’s undivided attention to the speaker, and concentrate the mind upon his words that his thoughts may be grasped to one’s benefit and profit.” (Gospel Doctrine, p. 334.)
“The Lord is here with us,” said President Brigham Young, “not in person, but his angels are round us, and he takes cognizance of every act of the children of men, as individuals and as nations. He is here ready by his agents, the angels, and by the power of his Holy Spirit and Priesthood, which he has restored in these last days, to bring most perfect and absolute deliverance unto all who put their trust in Him, when they are ready to receive it; and, until they are ready, the work of preparation must be vigorously progressed in, while at the same time we in patience must possess our souls.” (In Journal of Discourses, 11:14.)
The Saints in the future will face opposition and persecution (see Notes and Commentary on D&C 98:38), and then this inspired dedicatory prayer will be a source of comfort, for, as the Prophet Joseph Smith taught, Satan will marshal all of his available forces to stop the kingdom, but he will not prevail: “No unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing; persecutions may rage, mobs may combine, armies may assemble, calumny may defame, but the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear, till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done” (History of the Church, 4:540).
See Doctrine and Covenants 29:16; Ezekiel 38:22; Revelation 16:21.
Joseph Smith dedicated the Kirtland Temple.
As part of the dedicatory prayer, the Prophet Joseph Smith pleaded with the Lord to remember the Saints in Missouri in their afflictions. He beseeched the Lord to have mercy on the mobs so that they might repent (see D&C 109:50). But the Prophet asked the Lord to show forth His power on behalf of His people, letting His anger and indignation fall upon those guilty of causing the sufferings, if they did not repent.
On at least two other occasions the Prophet predicted that Missouri would suffer great judgments because of the mob actions against the Saints. In 1843 in Nauvoo, the Prophet said: “They shall be oppressed as they have oppressed us, not by ‘Mormons,’ but by others in power. They shall drink a drink offering, the bitterest dregs, not from the ‘Mormons,’ but from a mightier source than themselves. God shall curse them.” (History of the Church, 6:95.)
And in a conversation with General Alexander Doniphan, a friend of the Saints in Missouri, the Prophet said: “God’s wrath hangs over Jackson county. God’s people have been ruthlessly driven from it, and you will live to see the day when it will be visited by fire and sword. The Lord of Hosts will sweep it with the besom [broom] of destruction. The fields and farms and houses will be destroyed, and only the chimneys will be left to mark the desolation.” (Roberts, Comprehensive History of the Church, 1:538.)
During the Civil War these prophecies were fulfilled, and Missouri was a scene of widespread, terrible destruction (see Roberts, Comprehensive History of the Church, 1:539–59, for a detailed discussion of Missouri’s sufferings).
Earlier the Lord had commanded the Prophet to seek redress, as high as the president of the United States if necessary, warning that if the government did not heed their just pleas, the Lord would “vex the nation” (D&C 101:89; see also D&C 101:85–88). The Saints did seek redress but received none. President John Taylor commented: “The Gospel reveals many things to us which others are unacquainted with. I knew of those terrible events which were coming upon this nation previous to the breaking out of our great fratricidal war [the Civil War], just as well as I now know that they transpired, and I have spoken of them to many. What of that? Do I not know that a nation like that in which we live, a nation which is blessed with the freest, the most enlightened and magnificent government in the world to-day, with privileges which would exalt people to heaven if lived up to—do I not know that if they do not live up to them, but violate them and trample them under their feet, and discard the sacred principles of liberty by which we ought to be governed—do I not know that their punishment will be commensurate with the enlightenment which they possess? I do. And I know—I cannot help but know—that there are a great many more afflictions yet awaiting this nation. But would I put forth my hand to help bring them on? God forbid! And you, you Latter-day Saints, would you exercise your influence to the accomplishment of an object of that kind? God forbid! But we cannot help but know these things. But our foreknowledge of these matters does not make us the agents in bringing them to pass.” (In Journal of Discourses, 22:141–42.)
President George Q. Cannon stated: “God has founded this land America and the government for the express purpose that Zion might be built upon this land, and that the people of all nations might come here singing His praises and thanking him that from the darkness and the threatening evils by which they are surrounded He has provided a way of escape, a safe place, that when calamities and judgments come upon the inhabitants of the earth, they can stand in holy places and be secure by keeping the commandments of God. What a glorious theme this is for the Elders to carry to the down-trodden of the nations of the earth who groan in darkness and who see no way of deliverance! Nor will it be the down-trodden alone who will listen to these tidings. Men in high places and of commanding positions will yet listen to them, and they will take note of this extraordinary people who have done such a remarkable work and who are now traversing the globe to bring from every land all who will listen to their message; to bring them with all their traditions to this place which we call Zion, where they can, by the fusing power of the Spirit of God, be consolidated into one united people.” (In Conference Report, Oct. 1900, p. 68.)
Elder Joseph Fielding Smith explained: “Let us also remember that we are of the Gentiles! By this I mean that the Latter-day Saints have come to their blessings through the Gentile nations. President Brigham Young . . . said that Joseph Smith was a pure Ephraimite. This is true; yet Joseph Smith came also of a Gentile lineage. So do most members of the Church. We may boast of our lineage, and rejoice in the fact that Patriarchs have declared us to be of Ephraim, but at the same time let us not despise the Gentiles, for we are also of them. If it were not so the scriptures would not be fulfilled. [1 Nephi 15:13–14; Ether 12:22.]” (Way to Perfection, p. 140.)
The Prophet Joseph Smith wrote that in reading the Book of Mormon “we learn that our western tribes of Indians are descendants from that Joseph which was sold into Egypt, and that the land of America is a promised land unto them, and unto it all the tribes of Israel will come, with as many of the Gentiles as shall comply with the requisitions of the new covenant. But the tribe of Judah will return to old Jerusalem [see Doctrine and Covenants 133:8, 13, 35]. The city of Zion spoken of by David, in the one hundred and second Psalm, will be built upon the land of America, ‘And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads’ (Isaiah 35:10); and then they will be delivered from the overflowing scourge that shall pass through the land. But Judah shall obtain deliverance at Jerusalem. See Joel 2:32; Isaiah 26:20 and 21; Jeremiah 31:12; Psalm 1:5; Ezekiel 34:11, 12 and 13. These are testimonies that the Good Shepherd will put forth His own sheep, and lead them out from all nations where they have been scattered in a cloudy and dark day, to Zion, and to Jerusalem; besides many more testimonies which might be brought.”(History of the Church, 1:315.)
Notes and Commentary on Doctrine and Covenants 87:5 discusses the remnant of Jacob.
See Doctrine and Covenants 65 and Daniel 2.
“In the resurrection which now approaches,” Elder Parley P. Pratt wrote, “and in connection with the glorious coming of Jesus Christ, the earth will undergo a change in its physical features, climate, soil, productions, and in its political, moral and spiritual government.
“Its mountains will be levelled, its valleys exalted, its swamps and sickly places will be drained and become healthy, while its burning deserts and its frigid polar regions will be redeemed and become temperate and fruitful.” (Key to the Science of Theology, p. 132; see D&C 133:19–25.)
See Notes and Commentary on Doctrine and Covenants 88:95–98.
See Notes and Commentary on Doctrine and Covenants 38:1.
“The rearing of a Temple of God in the world is the construction of a citadel by the followers of Prince Immanuel [the Lord] in the territory claimed by Diabolus [the devil]. Hence his rage when the people of God build Temples. But the Temple in Kirtland served its divine purpose, as did that in Nauvoo, though both were abandoned. In it the Saints received that power from on high which enabled the Church to withstand, successfully, the attacks of all enemies. Owing to that baptism by the Holy Spirit received in the Temples, the Church, notwithstanding persecution, exile, and apostasy, has grown in spiritual power and become able to make itself felt in the world as a regenerating force. But for the Temples and the communion with God established through the Temple service, the Church might have been overwhelmed in the persecutions of Missouri and Illinois, just as the Primitive Church might have perished in the early persecutions but for the power it received on the day of Pentecost.” (Smith and Sjodahl, Commentary, pp. 722–23.)
Excitement ran high as the Saints prepared to dedicate the Kirtland Temple on 27 March 1836. The Lord was pleased with the sacrifices made by the Saints to complete “a house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of faith, a house of learning, a house of glory, a house of order, a house of God” (D&C 88:119). As the house was being dedicated, the Lord’s acceptance was gloriously manifested in divine endowments of “power from on high” (D&C 105:11; see also History of the Church, 2:427–33; Notes and Commentary on D&C 105:11–12, 18, 33).
“After the dedication of the Kirtland Temple, council and spiritual meetings were held in the building almost daily. Sunday, April 3, 1836, was one of the most eventful days in the history of the Church” (Smith, Church History and Modern Revelation, 2:46).
The Prophet Joseph Smith wrote of his activities on 3 April 1836: “Attended meeting in the Lord’s House, and assisted the other Presidents of the Church [the First Presidency and quorum presidents] in seating the congregation, and then became an attentive listener to the preaching from the stand. Thomas B. Marsh and David W. Patten spoke in the forenoon to an attentive audience of about one thousand persons. In the afternoon, I assisted the other Presidents in distributing the Lord’s Supper to the Church, receiving it from the Twelve, whose privilege it was to officiate at the sacred desk this day. After having performed this service to my brethren, I retired to the pulpit, the veils being dropped, and bowed myself, with Oliver Cowdery, in solemn and silent prayer. After rising from prayer, the following vision was opened to both of us.” (History of the Church, 2:434–35.) Doctrine and Covenants 110 records the vision and visitations received on that day.
Oliver Cowdery and Joseph Smith saw the Lord standing upon the breastwork of the pulpit.
A complete description of the glorified Savior in human language is probably not possible. But by comparing the indescribable things of a spiritual realm to things within our comprehension, the Prophet could give us some sense of the glory and appearance of the Lord. The language of the Prophet’s description is similar to that of the descriptions written by Daniel (see Daniel 10:4–8) and by John the Revelator (see Revelation 1:13–17).
The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that “if a man would attain to the keys of the kingdom of an endless life; he must sacrifice all things” (Teachings, p. 322). Elder Franklin D. Richards related the sacrifices of the Saints in building the temple to the blessings that followed: “The Saints did all the work they could on the building, and then went out and obtained work here and there, and with the money they earned they purchased those things that were necessary for its completion. It was done by sacrificing all that they had; and when we had done all that we could do, Oh! how joyous it was to know the Lord accepted the work, when He stood upon the breastwork of the Temple, conversed with the Prophet Joseph and Oliver, and revealed to them their duties, and informed them that the Gospel should go from there and be preached throughout the nations of the earth.” (In Conference Report, Apr. 1898, p. 17.)
The workmanship on the Kirtland Temple was the best the Saints could produce. The sacrifice of the Saints in the construction of that temple has become legend. Many of the women sacrificed by giving their china to be crushed and mixed in the outside plaster to give color and brilliance to the house of God. But as for the “fame” of the temple (D&C 110:10), the appearance of heavenly guests who came with unspeakable glory and restored vital saving keys and powers eclipses anything of mortal origin.
Elder Joseph Fielding Smith wrote: “That which took place [in the Kirtland Temple] on the third day of April in the year 1836 has spread forth to all lands. Thousands and tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands have been blessed because of what took place upon that occasion. Not only the thousands in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but thousands upon thousands who are not members of the Church have partaken of the blessings which came at that time and which have spread forth throughout the earth. And while they may not know it, they have been influenced, and have many of them performed a wonderful work because of the things that took place, and because of the fulfillment of this prediction [D&C 110:7–10] made by the Son of God.” (In Conference Report, Apr. 1936, p. 73.)
The Prophet Joseph Smith spoke of the importance of the gathering: “All that the prophets . . . have written, from the days of righteous Abel, down to the last man that has left any testimony on record for our consideration, in speaking of the salvation of Israel in the last days, goes directly to show that it consists in the work of the gathering” (Smith, Teachings, p. 83).
Elder Bruce R. McConkie explained:
“Israel’s great lawgiver, the prophet whose life was in similitude of the Messiah himself, the one who delivered Israel from Egyptian bondage and led them to their land of promise, came to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery on 3 April 1836, in the Kirtland Temple. He gave them: (1) ‘the keys of the gathering of Israel from the four parts of the earth,’ and (2) the keys of ‘the leading of the ten tribes from the land of the north’ (D&C 110:11).
“Since then, with increasing power and in great glory, we have gathered, from their Egyptian bondage as it were, the dispersed of Ephraim and a few others, initially to the mountains of America, but now into the stakes of Zion in the various nations of the earth. The gathering of Israel is a reality. When the ten tribes return they will come at the direction of the President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, for he now holds and will then hold the keys of presidency and direction for this mighty work.” (“This Final Glorious Gospel Dispensation,” Ensign, Apr. 1980, p. 22.)
President Joseph Fielding Smith wrote: “Whether these tribes are in the north or not, I am not prepared to say. As I said before, they are ‘lost’ and until the Lord wishes it, they will not be found. All that I know about it is what the Lord has revealed, and He declares that they will come from the North. He has also made it very clear and definite that these lost people are separate and apart from the scattered Israelites now being gathered out.” (Signs of the Times, p. 186; see also Notes and Commentary on Doctrine and Covenants 133:26–34.)
Elias is the Greek form of the Hebrew name Elijah, but Elijah appears separately in this revelation and is referred to by his Hebrew name (see v. 13). Elias is also a title for a forerunner, and several individuals have been identified in this way, including Gabriel or Noah and John the Baptist. We do not know whether the Elias in verse 12 is one of these, or another forerunner, or whether he was an ancient prophet whose personal name was Elias.
Elder Bruce R. McConkie stated:
“The man Elias brings back ‘the gospel of Abraham,’ the great Abrahamic covenant whereby the faithful receive promises of eternal increase, promises that through celestial marriage their eternal posterity shall be as numerous as the sands upon the seashore or as the stars in heaven for multitude. Elias gives the promise—received of old by Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—that in modern men and in their seed all generations shall be blessed. And we are now offering the blessings of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to all who will receive them.” (In Conference Report, Apr. 1983, 28; or Ensign, May 1983, 22.)
President Joseph Fielding Smith noted:
“Edersheim in his work, The Temple, says: ‘To this day, in every Jewish home, at a certain part of the Paschal service [i.e. when they drink the “third cup”]—the door is opened to admit Elijah the prophet as forerunner of the Messiah, while appropriate passages are at the same time read which foretell the destruction of all heathen nations. It is a remarkable coincidence that, in instituting his own Supper, the Lord Jesus connected the symbol, not of judgment, but of his dying love, with his “third cup.”’
“It was, I am informed, on the third day of April, 1836, that the Jews, in their homes at the Paschal feast, opened their doors for Elijah to enter. On that very day Elijah did enter—not in the home of the Jews to partake of the Passover with them—but he appeared in the house of the Lord, erected to his name and received by the Lord in Kirtland, and there bestowed his keys to bring to pass the very things for which these Jews, assembled in their homes, were seeking.” (Doctrines of Salvation, 2:100–101.)
The Prophet Joseph Smith said: “The Bible says, ‘I will send you Elijah the Prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord; and he shall turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to the fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.’ [Malachi 4:5–6.]
“Now, the word turn here should be translated bind, or seal. But what is the object of this important mission? or how is it to be fulfilled? The keys are to be delivered, the spirit of Elijah is to come, the Gospel to be established, the Saints of God gathered, Zion built up, and the Saints to come up as saviors on Mount Zion.
“But how are they to become saviors on Mount Zion? By building their temples, erecting their baptismal fonts, and going forth and receiving all the ordinances, baptisms, confirmations, washings, anointings, ordinations and sealing powers upon their heads, in behalf of all their progenitors who are dead, and redeem them that they may come forth in the first resurrection and be exalted to thrones of glory with them; and herein is the chain that binds the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the children to the fathers, which fulfills the mission of Elijah. And I would to God that this temple was now done, that we might go into it, and go to work and improve our time, and make use of the seals while they are on earth.
“The Saints have not too much time to save and redeem their dead, and gather together their living relatives, that they may be saved also, before the earth will be smitten, and the consumption decreed falls upon the world.” (History of the Church, 6:183–84.)
The Lord has revealed through various messengers that His coming is not far distant. On Moroni’s first visit to Joseph Smith, he quoted several promises from the Bible, saying that these were “about to be fulfilled” (JS—H 1:40; see also JS—H 1:36–45). When Elijah appeared in the Kirtland Temple, he bore witness that his own coming not only fulfilled Malachi’s prophecy but was a sign that the great and dreadful day was “at the doors” (v. 16; see also JS—M 1:39).
President Joseph Fielding Smith taught:
“If the great and dreadful day of the Lord were near at hand when Elijah came 130 years ago, we are just one century nearer it today. But some will say: ‘But no! Elijah, you are wrong! Surely 130 years have passed, and are we not better off today than ever before? Look at our discoveries, our inventions, our knowledge, and our wisdom! Surely you made a mistake!’ So many seem to think and say, and judging by their actions they are sure, that the world is bound to go on in its present condition for millions of years before the end will come. Talk to them; hear what they have to say—these learned men of the world. ‘We have had worse times,’ they say. ‘You are wrong in thinking there are more calamities now than in earlier times. There are not more earthquakes, the earth has always been quaking, but now we have facilities for gathering the news which our fathers did not have. These are not signs of the times; things are not different from former times.’ And so the people refuse to heed the warnings the Lord so kindly gives to them, and thus they fulfill the scriptures. Peter said such sayings would be uttered, and he warned the people. . . .
“Shall we slumber on in utter oblivion or indifference to all that the Lord has given us as warning? I say unto you, ‘Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.’” (In Conference Report, Apr. 1966, p. 15.)
President Joseph Fielding Smith wrote:
“What was the nature of this restoration? It was the conferring upon men in this dispensation of the sealing power of the priesthood, by which all things are bound in heaven as well as on earth. It gave the authority to Joseph Smith to perform in the temple of God all the ordinances essential to salvation for both the living and the dead.
“Through the power of this priesthood which Elijah bestowed, husband and wife may be sealed, or married for eternity; children may be sealed to their parents for eternity; thus the family is made eternal, and death does not separate the members. This is the great principle that will save the world from utter destruction.
“Vicariously the dead may obtain the blessings of the gospel—baptism, confirmation, ordination, and the higher blessings, which are sealed upon them in the temples of the Lord, by virtue of the authority restored by Elijah. Through the restoration of these keys, the work of the Lord is fully inaugurated before the coming of Jesus Christ in glory.
“These keys of the binding, or sealing power, which were given to Peter, James, and John in their dispensation, are keys which make valid all the ordinances of the gospel. They pertain more especially to the work in the temples, both for the living and for the dead. They are the authorities which prepare men to enter the celestial kingdom and to be crowned as sons and heirs of God.
“These keys hold the power to seal husbands and wives for eternity as well as for time. They hold the power to seal children to parents, the key of adoption, by which the family organization is made intact forever. This is the power which will save the obedient from the curse in the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. Through these keys the hearts of the children have turned to their fathers.” (Doctrines of Salvation, 2:118–19.)