Section 11: Hyrum Smith’s Call to Labor
While Joseph and Oliver were translating the Book of Mormon in May of 1829 in Harmony, Pennsylvania, only a month or so after they had begun the translation, Joseph’s younger brother Samuel Harrison Smith came again to Harmony to visit and observe. Within a short period of time, Joseph and Oliver convinced Samuel to pray concerning the truth of their work, and in answer to his prayers Samuel received a witness that the work was indeed divine. He was baptized by Oliver on May 25, 1829, and returned to his home in Manchester full of enthusiasm for the restoration. Shortly thereafter Joseph’s elder brother Hyrum traveled the 130 miles from Manchester to Harmony. Hyrum came to Harmony in response to the news brought to the Smith family in Manchester by Samuel that the authority to baptize had been returned to the earth. Thus, this section was received after section 13. Since Hyrum’s visit followed the return of his younger brother Samuel to Manchester, section 11 must have been received at least several days after Samuel’s baptism in Harmony on the 25th of May. This estimate allows time for Samuel’s return to New York and Hyrum’s subsequent journey to Harmony. This revelation should therefore be dated to the last few days in May 1829 and should follow section 13.
On arriving in Harmony, Hyrum became deeply interested in the work Joseph and Oliver were doing. Almost immediately he wanted to make copies of what had been translated so far and to begin preaching and teaching from it in the surrounding areas.
Hyrum eventually asked Joseph what the Lord would have him do. Using the Urim and Thummim, Joseph inquired of the Lord concerning what part Hyrum should play in the restoration, and section 11 is the Lord’s answer. Hyrum became converted, was baptized in June 1829, was allowed to become one of the eight witnesses of the Book of Mormon, and became one of the six charter members of the Church on April 6, 1830. He remained a stalwart church member and leader until his martyrdom with the Prophet in June 1844 in Carthage jail.
Section 11 directs Hyrum to prepare himself for the Lord’s service, but to wait until the translation is finished to begin his work rather than to start out only partially prepared.
D&C 11 Hyrum Smith’s Call to Labor
D&C 11:12 Put your trust in that Spirit which leadeth to do good—yea, to do justly, to walk humbly, to judge righteously.
D&C 11:21 Seek not to declare my word, but first seek to obtain my word.
verses 1-9 These verses are identical to the corresponding nine verses in section 6. Verses 1-6 are identical to the first six verses in sections 6, 12, and 14. The message in each of these sections is the same to each of the individuals involved, and it is a universal message to all saints: repent, get converted, get committed, and then go out and share what you have with others.
For commentary for verses 1-9 of this section, see the commentary for D&C 6:19 and D&C 4:1-4.
1 A great and marvelous work is about to come forth among the children of men.
2 Behold, I am God; give heed to my word, which is quick and powerful, sharper than a two-edged sword, to the dividing asunder of both joints and marrow; therefore give heed unto my word.
3 Behold, the field is white already to harvest; therefore, whoso desireth to reap let him thrust in his sickle with his might, and reap while the day lasts, that he may treasure up for his soul everlasting salvation in the kingdom of God.
4 Yea, whosoever will thrust in his sickle and reap, the same is called of God.
5 Therefore, if you will ask of me you shall receive; if you will knock it shall be opened unto you.
6 Now, as you have asked, behold, I say unto you, keep my commandments, and seek to bring forth and establish the cause of Zion.
7 Seek not for riches but for wisdom; and, behold, the mysteries of God shall be unfolded unto you, and then shall you be made rich. Behold, he that hath eternal life is rich.
8 Verily, verily, I say unto you, even as you desire of me so it shall be done unto you; and, if you desire, you shall be the means of doing much good in this generation.
9 Say nothing but repentance unto this generation. Keep my commandments, and assist to bring forth my work, according to my commandments, and you shall be blessed.
verse 9 “Say nothing but repentance unto this generation.” If one comes to understand fully the principle of repentance, one may realize that it is all that ever needs to be taught. Repentance means not only to stop doing those things which are wrong but also to start doing those things which are right. The principle of repentance is virtually the same as obedience and is at the very foundation of each step of spiritual progress we make here on earth. For a discussion of the processes by which we grow spiritually and become sanctified, see Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, volume 1, chapter 7, Spiritual Growth—Gifts of the Spirit, chapter 8, The Blessings of Spiritual Gifts, and chapter 17, Justification and Sanctification.
verses 10-25 These verses, as pointed out by Dan Ludlow, outline the important steps to preparing to serve the Lord on a mission or in any other church calling:
- Desire to serve the Lord (verses 10, 17).
- Keep the commandments of the Lord to remain worthy to receive the Spirit of the Lord (verses 13, 18, and 20).
- Be willing to serve in any capacity in which you might be called (verse 19).
- Seek to obtain the word of the Lord through studying the scriptures (verses 21-22)
(A Companion to Your Study of the Book of Mormon, 1:108-09).
10 Behold, thou hast a gift, or thou shalt have a gift if thou wilt desire of me in faith, with an honest heart, believing in the power of Jesus Christ, or in my power which speaketh unto thee;
verse 10 “Behold, thou hast a gift” One possibility for the gift possessed by or promised to Hyrum is the gift of the Holy Ghost, which will “enlighten your mind” and “fill your soul with joy” (verse 13). Actually the gift is promised to Hyrum on certain conditions, which suggests a covenant arrangement. If Hyrum will seek the Lord in faith and an honest heart, he will be able to use his gift in the service of God.
President Joseph Fielding Smith suggested an alternate possibility for this gift:
The Lord declared that Hyrum Smith had a gift. The great gift which he possessed was that of a tender, sympathetic heart; a merciful spirit. The Lord on a later occasion said: “Blessed is my servant Hyrum Smith; for I, the Lord, love him because of the integrity of his heart, and because he loveth that which is right before me, saith the Lord” (D&C 124:15). This great gift was manifest in his jealous watch care over the Prophet lest some harm come to him (Church History and Modern Revelation, 1:57).
11 For, behold, it is I that speak; behold, I am the light which shineth in darkness, and by my power I give these words unto thee.
verse 11 “For, behold, it is I that speak” It is the Lord — not Joseph Smith — who is speaking here.
12 And now, verily, verily, I say unto thee, put your trust in that Spirit which leadeth to do good—yea, to do justly, to walk humbly, to judge righteously; and this is my Spirit.
13 Verily, verily, I say unto you, I will impart unto you of my Spirit, which shall enlighten your mind, which shall fill your soul with joy;
14 And then shall ye know, or by this shall you know, all things whatsoever you desire of me, which are pertaining unto things of righteousness, in faith believing in me that you shall receive.
verses 12-14 If you have wondered whether or not you are being guided by the Holy Ghost, you might study these verses. They contain criteria by which to judge. In Winter Quarters, Brigham Young had a dream wherein Joseph Smith appeared to him. From what Brigham learned during that visit, he was able, subsequently, to enlarge on these verses. He taught that a person can tell the Holy Ghost from all other spirits because it will remove all hatred, malice, and evil desires from his heart, and he will be consumed by a desire to do good and build up the kingdom of God.
15 Behold, I command you that you need not suppose that you are called to preach until you are called.
verse 15 “you need not suppose that you are called to preach” Hyrum was mistaken in thinking that one can become a minister of the restored gospel by self-appointment. His desire to preach is not so much evil as it is naive and premature, and he has much to learn about priesthood, callings, ordination, stewardship, lines of authority, and accountability. It was important for Hyrum and the early members of the Church to learn this lesson, for they lived in an environment where itinerant, self-appointed preachers were the norm.
A man must be called by proper authority and possess the proper authority in order to serve. President Joseph Fielding Smith taught: “No man is authorized to act in the name of the Lord, or to officiate in any ordinance, unless he has been properly called” (Church History and Modern Revelation, 1:57).
16 Wait a little longer, until you shall have my word, my rock, my church, and my gospel, that you may know of a surety my doctrine.
verse 16 “Wait a little longer” Hyrum is advised to wait yet a little while before embarking in the service of the Lord. He is advised to first learn the doctrine. In verses 18 and 22 the Lord will counsel him to “hold your peace” which is to say, “Don’t speak yet; wait until you are fully prepared.” This advice should also apply to modern missionaries in the months and years before they receive their call.
17 And then, behold, according to your desires, yea, even according to your faith shall it be done unto you.
18 Keep my commandments; hold your peace; appeal unto my Spirit;
verse 18 “hold your peace” See the commentary for verse 16.
19 Yea, cleave unto me with all your heart, that you may assist in bringing to light those things of which has been spoken—yea, the translation of my work; be patient until you shall accomplish it.
verse 19 “cleave unto me with all your heart” The verb cleave has two contradictory meanings: “to split or separate” and “to bond or stick to.” Obviously the latter meaning applies here.
“that you may assist in bringing to light those things of which has been spoken” Hyrum remained in Harmony to help Joseph and Oliver with their work. A few weeks later he was privileged, back in Manchester, to become one of the eight witnesses of the Book of Mormon plates.
20 Behold, this is your work, to keep my commandments, yea, with all your might, mind and strength.
verse 20 What is the major work of God? What is the major work of man? Moses 1:39 explains the major work of God: “For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” This verse succinctly explains or at least implies the major work of man. It is to obey the Lord’s commands.
“with all your might, mind and strength” It is unrealistic and humanly impossible to be absolutely obedient to all of the commandments. To “keep my commandments” is to desire, strive, and work to do so with all your might, mind, and strength. This effort is to be the focus of our lives. Yet the Lord knows we will fail in some degree, and so he has prepared repentance and the sacrament for us to renew our commitments on a regular basis and thus avoid losing our covenant relationship and its blessings through our human weakness.
21 Seek not to declare my word, but first seek to obtain my word, and then shall your tongue be loosed; then, if you desire, you shall have my Spirit and my word, yea, the power of God unto the convincing of men.
verse 21 Hyrum was so eager to become involved in the work that the Lord had to caution him about moving ahead too fast. Herein lies an important fact. As we endeavor to teach the precepts of the gospel, we cannot do so effectively without the help of the Spirit of God. And the Spirit cannot give us help with and access to those principles in a timely fashion unless we have learned them. A simple reading or a rereading of the principle is not enough. We must learn them so that we fully understand them and have comfortable mental access to them; or, as the scripture says, we must “treasure up in your minds continually” the principles and precepts of the gospel. And then what does he promise us? “And it shall be given you in the very hour that portion that shall be meted unto every man” (D&C 84:85).
22 But now hold your peace; study my word which hath gone forth among the children of men, and also study my word which shall come forth among the children of men, or that which is now translating, yea, until you have obtained all which I shall grant unto the children of men in this generation, and then shall all things be added thereto.
verse 22 “hold your peace” See the commentary for verse 16.
“my word which hath gone forth” This phrase refers to the Bible.
“my word which shall come forth” This phrase refers to the Book of Mormon which was then in the process of being translated..
In this verse, which is related to verse 21, the Lord commands Hyrum to study the Gospel.
“all which I shall grant unto the children of men in this generation” This refers to all of the revelations that will yet be given to the Prophet Joseph: The Book of Mormon, the Pearl of Great Price, the Joseph Smith Translation, and the Doctrine and Covenants.
“and then shall all things be added thereto” Hyrum is promised that if he will be diligent in learning what the Lord has given and will yet give, he will then be given additional precious truths.
There is a grammatical error in this verse. As it reads, the Book of Mormon was translating itself. “Now translating” should be understood to mean “now being translated.”
23 Behold thou art Hyrum, my son; seek the kingdom of God, and all things shall be added according to that which is just.
verse 23 “Behold thou art Hyrum, my son” This rather provocative statement seems more than simply a formal address by the Lord. One cannot help but wonder if it does not imply that Hyrum was foreordained to a great work in the premortal world. Following his baptism, he will become a “son” of Jesus Christ. It is not possible to note the unwavering support Hyrum offered to his younger brother Joseph without being deeply moved. Hyrum was a pure, guileless, and loving soul whose steadfast and untiring support, doubtless, was key in the life and mission of his brother Joseph.
24 Build upon my rock, which is my gospel;
verse 24 “Build upon my rock” The term rock is used in scripture with a few different meanings. While it is true that “the rock” sometimes refers to the rock of revelation, Christ is also the Rock (1 Corinthians 10:4; Helaman 5:12). In one context, Peter (or Cephas), whose name both in Greek and in Aramaic means “rock,” is referred to by the Savior as the rock. Peter was the last one to hold all the keys anciently (see D&C 27:12; see also Matthew 16:18-19, where “rock” has more than one meaning).
In this particular verse, the gospel is the rock, as it is also in D&C 18:5 and 3 Nephi 11:32-39.
25 Deny not the spirit of revelation, nor the spirit of prophecy, for wo unto him that denieth these things;
verse 25 Be careful lest you fail to acknowledge that revelation and divine guidance is being meted out to the Church constantly. Any person with the spirit of discernment can readily see that the hand of the Lord has guided this people from the beginning.
The act of denying the Spirit of the Holy Ghost occurs in various degrees. In one extreme, denying the Spirit can result in banishment to outer darkness (Matthew 12:3132). In lesser degrees, denying the spirit of revelation cuts us off from the heavens and banishes the influence of God and interaction with his Spirit from our daily lives (D&C 59:21).
In the religious environment of Hyrum’s day, without the fulness of the gospel, it was common for preachers to deny even the possibility of additional revelation or prophecy, and Hyrum was warned against this common error.
26 Therefore, treasure up in your heart until the time which is in my wisdom that you shall go forth.
verse 26 “treasure up in your heart” The implication of this phrase is “Neither take ye thought beforehand what ye shall say; but treasure up in your minds continually the words of life [the scriptures], and it shall be given you in the very hour that portion that shall be meted unto every man” (D&C 84:85).
27 Behold, I speak unto all who have good desires, and have thrust in their sickle to reap.
verse 27 The information and advice given to Hyrum in this revelation is intended not for Hyrum alone, but for all who might subsequently have the same desires Hyrum has to serve God and to build his kingdom.
28 Behold, I am Jesus Christ, the Son of God. I am the life and the light of the world.
29 I am the same who came unto mine own and mine own received me not;
30 But verily, verily, I say unto you, that as many as receive me, to them will I give power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on my name. Amen.
verse 30 “[to] as many as receive me . . . will I give power to become the sons of God” Those who come to Christ become his children and are born again in the gospel covenant as sons and daughters of Christ. This status empowers us to follow the path of the Savior, to become what Jesus Christ—our spiritual Father—is, and to inherit what he inherits (see Mosiah 5:7; Romans 8:14-17: D&C 84:38), thus becoming exalted beings like him. This is the same power given to Jesus’s disciples anciently (see John 1:12) and is explained in D&C 25:1.
- Michael J. Preece