Section 38: Reasons for Removal of the Church to Ohio
“The winter of 1830-31 was one of the most severe recorded in the eastern United States. The December snows were soft and deep; what little melting occurred was soon covered over by storms that maintained a four-foot level through February. Freezing rains in January enabled the wolves to run on the crust while heavier game sank through helplessly. Deer and elk could not find browse of twigs and shrubs. That winter the elk disappeared from the plains of Illinois and Missouri—never to return. A storm covered the breadth of the United States, blizzards whirled snow until familiar landmarks disappeared, and streams could be recognized only by breaks in the forests. Newspapers suspended publication when the mails could not go out. Human life maintained a precarious balance” (Mormon Enigma: Emma Hale Smith, Newell and Avery, 37).
On January 2, 1831, a quarterly conference of the Church was held in Fayette. Joseph briefly described the conference: “The year 1831 opened with a prospect great and glorious for the welfare of the kingdom; for on the 2nd of January, 1831, a conference was held in the town of Fayette, New York, at which the ordinary business of the Church was transacted; and in addition, the following revelation was received”— section 38 (HC, 1:140). Section 38 included reasons for the removal of the Church to the west.
The Lord’s command to move to the Ohio was upsetting to the saints, and when they assembled for the conference on January 2, they quizzed the Prophet about the revelation (section 37). There were hard feelings felt by some of them because of the sacrifices this move would require. Joseph had Sidney act as scribe, and he dictated section 38 to the conference as they sat watching and listening.
No official minutes of this conference were recorded, but fortunately some journal accounts exist describing the proceedings and the reception of Doctrine and Covenants 38. One is by John Whitmer:
The time had now come for the general conference to be held. Which was the first of January 1831 and according to this appointment the saints assembled themselves together. After transacting the necessary business, Joseph the Seer addressed the congregation and exhorted them to stand fast, looking forward considering the end [i.e., the object or goal] of their salvation. The solemnities of eternity rested on the congregation, and having previously received a revelation to go to the Ohio [section 37], they desired to know somewhat more concerning the matter. Therefore, the Seer inquired of the Lord in the presence of the whole congregation, and thus came the word of the Lord saying: [D&C 38].
After the Lord had manifested the above words, through Joseph the Seer, there were some divisions among the congregations, some would not receive the above as the word of the Lord: but that Joseph had invented it himself to deceive the people that in the end he might get gain. Now this was because, their hearts were not right in the sight of the Lord, for they wanted to serve God and man; but our Savior has declared that it was impossible to do so.
The conference was now closed, and the Lord had manifested his will to his people. Therefore they made preparations to journey to the Ohio, with their wives, and children and all that they possessed, to obey the commandment of the Lord (Whitmer, Early Latter-Day Saint History, 32-34; see also Woodford, “Historical Development,” 1:491).
It would seem that, as is usually the case, the majority of the members gladly accepted this revelation which had been so dramatically delivered to Joseph in the presence of them all, while a small minority were shocked at the prospect of leaving their homes and their livelihoods and accepted the commandment to do so only grudgingly or not at all.
It is helpful to keep in mind as you study section 38 that Joseph Smith had spent much of the previous month, December 1830, revising by inspiration the book of Genesis—specifically he had received by revelation the book of Enoch (Moses 6:26 through Moses 7). The story of Enoch recorded there describes the establishment of Zion by Enoch in the period before the great Flood. In the previous section, section 37, the Lord had commanded the member of the Church to leave their homes and farms in New York and gather to Ohio to prepare to establish a Zion like Enoch’s in their own day.
Joseph’s mind was therefore saturated with the thoughts and expressions contained in the book of Enoch. Many of these expressions are found in this section. For example, the word “eternity” is found for the first time in the Doctrine and Covenants and it is mentioned nine times in section 38. Other examples include “Zion of Enoch” in verse 4 (Moses 7), “chains of darkness” in verse 5 (Moses 7:57), “wo, wo, wo” in verse 6 (Moses 7:25), and “veil of darkness” in verse 8 (Moses 7:61). Also the beginnings of the concept of the law of consecration emerge, as was practiced in the City of Enoch.
D&C 38 Reasons for the removal of the Church to Ohio
D&C 38:27 I say unto you, be one; and if ye are not one ye are not mine.
D&C 38:30 If ye are prepared ye shall not fear.
1 Thus saith the Lord your God, even Jesus Christ, the Great I Am, Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the same which looked upon the wide expanse of eternity, and all the seraphic hosts of heaven, before the world was made;
verse 1 Given the setting in which section 38 was received (see the introductory commentary for this section), it was obviously expedient that the Lord reassure the gathered congregation that it was he, not Joseph, who was giving the revelation. He will continue this reassurance through verse 7.
“the Great I Am” One of the names Jehovah gave to himself is “I Am” (Exodus 3:14). Joseph Smith taught that the meaning of the name “I Am” is expressed in the saying that God is “omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient; without beginning of days or end of life; and that in him every good gift and every good principle dwell” (Lectures on Faith, number 2). The Lord also reminds the saints, by this title, that the God who is speaking to them and who desired to lead them by Joseph’s hand out of New York is the same God who led the children of Israel out of Egypt to a promised land by the hands of Moses and Aaron. Jesus Christ, the God of the Doctrine and Covenants, is Jehovah, God of the Old Testament and the Book of Mormon, who has led his people “out of Egypt” to establish “Zion” many times in the past. The saints who traveled to the Ohio viewed their journey as an exodus from New York and a gathering in the Ohio territory.
“Alpha and Omega” These are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. The name suggests that in him all things are encompassed. Elder Bruce R. McConkie taught that this name was used figuratively to “teach the timelessness and eternal nature of our Lord’s existence, that is, ‘from eternity to eternity he is the same, and his years never fail’ (D&C 76:4)” (Mormon Doctrine, 31). Another idea expressed in the title “Alpha and Omega” is beginning and end—creation to final judgment.
“the wide expanse of eternity” Aside from this verse, the word expanse is found in scripture only in Abraham 4 and Facsimiles 1 and 2. In every case it is associated with the firmament, or atmosphere.
Presumably, God the Creator, before the creation took place, looked upon the vast expanse of space where creation was to be.
“all the seraphic hosts of heaven” Apparently there are animal-like creatures that reside in God’s presence called seraphs or seraphim (Isaiah 6:6). The singular form is seraph. Seraphim are apparently a high order of animals that serve the Lord in his heavenly court. Their name comes from the Hebrew root sarap, which means “to burn.” The name seraphim is plural and therefore means “the burning ones” or “bright, shiny ones” which likely refers to their glory.
Many animals and plants live in God’s presence, and it is likely that we have never heard of or seen many of them. John the Revelator saw and heard such animals in God’s presence (Revelation 5:8-14), and Joseph Smith recorded how these animals praised and glorified God (TPJS, 291-92).
In D&C 109:79, Joseph Smith describes Seraphs in God’s presence. Joseph refers to them as “bright, shining seraphs.” Joseph also taught that God dwells in “everlasting burnings” and that righteous beings (human and animal) dwell with him in a state of continual burning or glory (TPJS, 372-73, 347, 361).
Another type of winged heavenly creature that deserves mention is the cherub (singular) or cherubim (plural). Ezekiel teaches that cherubim also have hands and faces (Ezekiel 10:7, 14). Mesopotamian tradition and art represent them as winged bulls with human faces, but this may be metaphor and need not necessarily correspond with the literal truth.
An alternate explanation of seraphim and cherubim is that they are angels in the celestial presence of God who belong to the human family. Based on the evidence contained in this verse, Elder Bruce R. McConkie wrote: “Seraphs are angels who reside in the presence of God. . . . It is clear that seraphs include the unembodied spirits of pre-existence, for our Lord ‘looked upon the wide expanse of eternity, and all the seraphic hosts of heaven, before the world was made.’ Whether the name seraphs also applies to perfected and resurrected angels is not clear” (Mormon Doctrine, 70203).
2 The same which knoweth all things, for all things are present before mine eyes;
verse 2 “The same which knoweth all things” Certainly God has mental access to all facts—past, present, and future—“all things are present before mine eyes.” But the scriptural phrase to know is far richer than a mental accomplishment. To know is to have acquired a divine attribute. To know all things is to have acquired all divine attributes. For a discussion of this concept, see the section “What Does It Mean to ‘know’ a Spiritual Fact?” in Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, volume 1, chapter 7, Spiritual Growth—Gifts of the Spirit.
3 I am the same which spake, and the world was made, and all things came by me.
verse 3 Jesus Christ, under the direction of the Father, is the Creator of this earth and other worlds without number. He accomplished this by speaking to, or commanding, his intelligences, and then he waited to see if he was obeyed (Abraham 4:18).
4 I am the same which have taken the Zion of Enoch into mine own bosom; and verily, I say, even as many as have believed in my name, for I am Christ, and in mine own name, by the virtue of the blood which I have spilt, have I pleaded before the Father for them.
verse 4 “I . . . have taken the Zion of Enoch into mine own bosom” To be “in the bosom” of someone is a Hebrew idiom derived from the fact that anciently a man’s clothing consisted of large flowing robes wrapped around his person and fastened with a sash, forming a spacious repository above the waist in which things, including children, were often carried. Something so carried was kept close to the chest or bosom, so the phrase “to be in the bosom of another” implied a very close and favored relationship. The Lord promises that all who have believed in his name shall also be taken into Christ’s bosom—a glorious promise indeed!
“the Zion of Enoch” The term Zion refers to a society of saints who have successfully gathered together to live the laws of the celestial kingdom among themselves here on the earth, who have actually succeeded in making God’s will “be done in earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). God expects all of his earthly saints who are gathered to him to live in a Zion society; he would have his Church on earth be a Zion society.
The prophet Enoch (the seventh generation from Adam) built a city called Zion, so named by the Lord because they were united, righteous, and prosperous. They were of “one heart and one mind,” they must dwell “in righteousness,” and there must be “no poor among them” (Moses 7:18). This city of Enoch flourished for three hundred and sixty-five years and then the Lord, by some process not known to us, took it with all its inhabitants, “to his bosom,” thus saving them from destruction in the Flood that was to come. “And from thence went forth the saying, Zion is fled” (Moses 7:18, 19, 68, 69). Other examples of the successful establishment of a Zion society here on earth are the people of Melchizedek (JST, Genesis 14:32-26), the Book of Mormon people following the Savior’s visit to them, and, as stated, the Lord expects his latter-day Church to be a Zion society. This Zion society will be called the New Jerusalem (see Articles of Faith 1:10; Ether 13:1-12). When this New Jerusalem is well established, the Lord will bring the Zion of Enoch physically back to the earth to be joined together with the “New Jerusalem” Zion of the Latter-day Saints (see D&C 133:24; Moses 7:62-64).
These references to Enoch and Zion, in section 38, clearly anticipate what the saints themselves did not really know yet—that they were going to be invited to establish Zion, the New Jerusalem, in Missouri in their own lifetime.
“by virtue of the blood which I have spilt, have I pleaded before the Father for them” What gives Christ the right to plead our case before the Father or before the demands of justice? It is the virtue or power of the blood he voluntarily spilt for us in Gethsemane and on the cross (D&C 45:3-5). Without his atoning sacrifice, even a perfect being like Christ could not protect us from the demands of justice.
5 But behold, the residue of the wicked have I kept in chains of darkness until the judgment of the great day, which shall come at the end of the earth;
verse 5 “the residue of the wicked have I kept in chains of darkness” Please review the commentary for D&C 29:42. In the period between Enoch and the Flood those who repented and accepted the gospel gathered to the Zion of Enoch. Later, when Zion had been taken up to heaven, converts were still taken physically from the earth and translated to Zion. This meant that the humanity they left behind was constantly becoming more wicked, stubborn, and rebellious as the more righteous individuals were slowly being taken away (see Moses 7:27). Those wicked and rebellious souls who were left behind were like the “residue” left in a pan as the liquid is boiled off. When these wicked and rebellious dregs, who had had every chance to accept the gospel, perished in the Flood, their spirits were consigned to hell to suffer there until the resurrection. At that time they will have to answer for themselves before God—having rejected the advocate Jesus Christ who would have pleaded their case for them. Still, even these hard cases may be redeemed through Christ and receive some degree of glory if they will repent.
“at the end of the earth” The end of the earth will occur at the end of the Millennium when all the remaining dead will be resurrected and brought to judgment. This expression should be kept distinct from the expression end of the world which will occur at the Lord’s second coming when the wicked will be cleansed from the earth. On both occasions there will be “a new heaven and a new earth.”
6 And even so will I cause the wicked to be kept, that will not hear my voice but harden their hearts, and wo, wo, wo, is their doom.
verse 6 “even so will I cause the wicked to be kept” At the final judgment, those hard hearted individuals who steadfastly refuse to repent will be “kept,” or inextricably ensnared in the “chains of hell” (Alma 12:9-11) and will unavoidably spend eternity in outer darkness.
7 But behold, verily, verily, I say unto you that mine eyes are upon you. I am in your midst and ye cannot see me;
verse 7 “mine eyes are upon you” Here is a reminder that the Lord knows each of us individually and intimately.
8 But the day soon cometh that ye shall see me, and know that I am; for the veil of darkness shall soon be rent, and he that is not purified shall not abide the day.
verse 8 This verse has reference to the second coming of the Savior—the great and dreadful day of the Lord. Only the celestial-and terrestrial-bound soles will abide that day.
9 Wherefore, gird up your loins and be prepared. Behold, the kingdom is yours, and the enemy shall not overcome.
verse 9 “the kingdom is yours” Note the practical meaning of this phrase emphasized by the present tense. In effect the Lord says, “The Kingdom of God on the earth and his heavenly kingdom are yours for the taking” (see also verse 15).
“the enemy shall not overcome” This is a comforting promise. The gospel has been restored to the earth. It will never again be removed or destroyed.
10 Verily I say unto you, ye are clean, but not all; and there is none else with whom I am well pleased;
verse 10 “ye are clean, but not all” The Lord says, in effect, “Generally, as a group, you are righteous and your motives are pure, but there are exceptions among you.” No doubt the reference here includes those members who questioned the integrity of the prophet Joseph, rejected his revelations, and accused him of trying to profit at their expense (see verse 14).
11 For all flesh is corrupted before me; and the powers of darkness prevail upon the earth, among the children of men, in the presence of all the hosts of heaven—
verse 11 “all flesh is corrupted before me” All are subject to their carnal or “natural-self” nature. We have always possessed this natural characteristic even as spirits in the premortal world and before, and this characteristic has always rendered it difficult to obey. But the fall of Adam with the resulting mortal bodies and this mortal setting has intensified this carnal or natural aspect of each of us.
12 Which causeth silence to reign, and all eternity is pained, and the angels are waiting the great command to reap down the earth, to gather the tares that they may be burned; and, behold, the enemy is combined.
verse 12 “Which causeth silence to reign” One of the signs of the times is a period of silence in heaven, a calm before the storm, just prior to the destroying angels’ being dispatched to earth to reap down the wicked. See the subtitle “Period of silence” in “Signs of the Seventh Seal—Prior to the Lord’s Second Coming” in Signs of the Lord’s Second Coming—Those that Punish and Cleanse in Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, volume 3, chapter 26.
“eternity is pained, and the angels are waiting” The wickedness of the world has reached the point where there are angels actually feeling pained over the situation, and they are awaiting the command to commence the final destruction of the earth. The world is fast becoming ripe in iniquity. The implication is that the destroying angels are anxious to get started (see Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43—the parable of the wheat and the tares)!
“the enemy is combined” As in a secret combination (see 3 Nephi 7:6-9; Moses 5:51). In other words, the enemies of the Church have combined together secretly to plan and effect the destruction of the saints.
13 And now I show unto you a mystery, a thing which is had in secret chambers, to bring to pass even your destruction in process of time, and ye knew it not;
verse 13 The Lord clearly warns the saints that they are in danger. The enemies of the Church have combined together to wreak havoc on the Church.
Regarding this verse and verse 28 in this section, Joseph Fielding Smith taught, “The Lord revealed that the wicked were plotting in ‘secret chambers’ the destruction of Joseph Smith and the Church” (Essentials in Church History, 1950, 121).
Elder Joseph F. Smith wrote:
The hatred of the wicked always has and always will follow the priesthood and the saints. The devil will not lose sight of the power of God vested in man—the Holy Priesthood. He fears it, he hates it, and will never cease to stir up the hearts of the debased and corrupt in anger and malice towards those who hold this power, and to persecute the saints, until he is bound (JD, 19:24).
It appears from the historical record that the center of this activity was the area around Colesville, New York. Sidney Rigdon had preached a strong sermon there just prior to the date of this revelation, and it had greatly increased the intensity of both pro-and anti-Mormon feelings. The existence and intent of the secret combinations, however, were still unknown to the saints.
14 But now I tell it unto you, and ye are blessed, not because of your iniquity, neither your hearts of unbelief; for verily some of you are guilty before me, but I will be merciful unto your weakness.
verse 14 The Lord is warning the saints in spite of the fact that some do not merit his merciful warning.
15 Therefore, be ye strong from henceforth; fear not, for the kingdom is yours.
verses 16-17 (also verses 24-27, 34-36) In these following verses the Lord gives two commandments that are essential to the establishment of Zion: (1) be united, and (2) take care of the poor and the needy. These two commandments were later required at their hand when the Lord revealed in section 106:9 that the reason Zion was not redeemed was because the saints had failed to obey them. These commandments must be lived by the saints as a people, or Zion will not be established. More than 150 years have elapsed since this revelation. Are we, as yet, a Zion people?
16 And for your salvation I give unto you a commandment, for I have heard your prayers, and the poor have complained before me, and the rich have I made, and all flesh is mine, and I am no respecter of persons.
verse 16 “I give unto you a commandment” This commandment will be defined in verse 32—it is the Lord’s command that the saints move to the Ohio. Generally the commandment is given for the temporal and spiritual salvation of the saints. The specific reasons for this commandment are to save the saints from those who plot their deaths, to answer the prayers of the poor and provide for their temporal needs, to give the saints God’s law, and to endow them with power from on high—the blessing of power given to those who keep their highest commitments, those received in during the temple ordinances.
verses 17-20 In order to understand the Lord’s promises in these next four verses it is necessary to have an understanding of the successive stages of the earth’s existence both past and future. These include:
- Spirit earth. The first creation of the earth involved the embodiment of all of the earth’s intelligences with bodies made of spirit matter. This creation includes those intelligences honored to receive a body after the image of their heavenly parents and also those intelligences making up the animals and plants and the physical or “inanimate” substances of the earth. The earth’s first stage of existence was thus as a “spirit earth.”
- Preparatory creation. The spirit earth was created physically as the intelligences assigned to this earth were embodied with physical mortal bodies. Prior to the habitation of the earth by the family of man, the earth was infused with a sequence of increasingly complex microbial, plant, and animal life forms as it was prepared to receive the family of man. The earth likely existed in this form for millions of years.
- Edenic earth. When the earth reach the state of being fully prepared to receive the human family, the earth was pronounced good and it was blessed with a terrestrial or paradisiacal state. The first man and woman were placed upon the earth. There was no death or any opportunity for procreation.
- Telestial earth. After the fall of Adam the earth took on its present telestial state, intended to be the abode of all mankind for the duration of their mortal probationary state. The procreation of man began.
- Terrestrial earth. At the onset of the Millennium, the earth will be burned or baptized by fire and “be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory” (Articles of Faith 1:10). It will then be a new heaven and a new earth for the duration of the Millennium.
- Celestial earth. Following the Millennium and an additional “little season” (D&C 29:22-25), the earth will die and be resurrected with a celestial eternal body. It will become like a sea of glass (D&C 130:7) and attain its sanctified and immortal state. It will be the celestial abode of exalted man forever and ever.
17 And I have made the earth rich, and behold it is my footstool, wherefore, again I will stand upon it.
verse 17 The Lord has provided the mortal earth with “enough and to spare” (D&C 104:17). Though the Lord will be absent from the mortal earth for a time, the day will come when he will again come to earth to govern—during the Millennium.
18 And I hold forth and deign to give unto you greater riches, even a land of promise, a land flowing with milk and honey, upon which there shall be no curse when the Lord cometh;
19 And I will give it unto you for the land of your inheritance, if you seek it with all your hearts.
verses 18-19 These verses likely have a double meaning. The Lord may be applying them to the Ohio Territory where he promises physical abundance based on the righteousness of the saints. Just as the promised land of the children of Abraham was Canaan, or the promised land for Lehi was the New World, so shall the Ohio be a promised land for the saints. These temporal promised lands, however, are symbolic of a future event. In this case it may have application to the millennial, terrestrial earth.
Without the keys of the priesthood and the sealing power, the earth would be “utterly wasted” (D&C 2:3) or smitten “with a curse” (Malachi 4:6) at the Lord’s second coming. But not Zion. For the saints in Zion the day of the Lord’s second coming will be “great” and not “dreadful.”
20 And this shall be my covenant with you, ye shall have it for the land of your inheritance, and for the inheritance of your children forever, while the earth shall stand, and ye shall possess it again in eternity, no more to pass away.
verse 20 Again, a verse with a dual meaning. The Lord offers a binding covenant: On one level, if the saints are completely faithful, the Zion City which they will found in the Ohio or in Jackson County, Missouri, will be a safe haven from which they will never be removed. On another level, the earthly Zion is symbolic of the celestial earth from which those who inherit celestial glory will never be removed.
21 But, verily I say unto you that in time ye shall have no king nor ruler, for I will be your king and watch over you.
22 Wherefore, hear my voice and follow me, and you shall be a free people, and ye shall have no laws but my laws when I come, for I am your lawgiver, and what can stay my hand?
verses 21-22 These verses refer to the Millennium when Christ will be the crowned political ruler of the world. All governments will be subject unto his government. He will make an end to all nations. He will rule over what has been termed the political kingdom of God which will embrace all people whether they are members of the Church or not.
verses 23-28 In order for the gathering in the Ohio to be a success, that is, in order for it to result in both the temporal and spiritual salvation of the saints, there are conditions to be met by the saints which are outlined in these six following verses.
23 But, verily I say unto you, teach one another according to the office wherewith I have appointed you;
verse 23 In order for a Zion society to function as the Lord intends, each individual must do the work he is assigned (see D&C 84:109-110; 107:99-100; Romans 12:4-5).
24 And let every man esteem his brother as himself, and practise virtue and holiness before me.
verse 24 “let every man esteem his brother as himself” The importance of this command is illustrated by the Lord’s repeating the command in the following verse.
25 And again I say unto you, let every man esteem his brother as himself.
verse 25 Temporal and spiritual salvation will come to the saints as they learn to love each other as themselves; as they share their goods with one another, thus living the celestial laws of sacrifice and consecration. For example, if I truly love you as I love myself, then I cannot be happy if you are in want, and your well-being becomes a condition of my well-being. There is something of pride and worldliness in most of us which includes an element of competition or the competitive seeking after things of the world. When we hear of an adverse happening in the life of our neighbor—a friend or associate—we may feel, on one level, distressed and empathetic, but on another level we may sense a subtle satisfaction because we have gained a notch on them in the prideful and worldly competitive race of life. This we must overcome.
These same celestial laws will later be taught to the saints in the Ohio (see D&C 42:30-40).
26 For what man among you having twelve sons, and is no respecter of them, and they serve him obediently, and he saith unto the one: Be thou clothed in robes and sit thou here; and to the other: Be thou clothed in rags and sit thou there— and looketh upon his sons and saith I am just?
verse 26 Obviously not all of the Lord’s parables are in the New Testament. Here is the “parable of the man with twelve sons” which is unique to the Doctrine and Covenants. In this parable the Lord postulates a man who has twelve sons all of whom are obedient to him, and he does not favor any one above the others. The Lord then poses a question: Would such a man consider himself just and yet favor one son by clothing him in robes and providing for him a favored place in his household, and, at the same time, clothe another in rags and set him an unfavorable location? The Lord’s message here is clear. A righteous man, including God himself, would not do such a thing, yet the Lord points out that the circumstances of mortality often result in just these circumstances. Some have abundant possessions in excess of what they need, while others suffer in poverty. The Lord’s implication here is that these widely diverse economic circumstances are not always due to variations in the motivation, work ethic, or abilities of those involved. Hence, those with ample possessions must seek out those who suffer in poverty and come to their aid. Also, those who live with a paucity of possessions must not begrudge or resent those who have more.
27 Behold, this I have given unto you as a parable, and it is even as I am. I say unto you, be one; and if ye are not one ye are not mine.
verse 27 “if ye are not one ye are not mine” Elder Harold B. Lee spoke in conference about this vitally important concept:
If we are not united, we are not his. Here unity is the test of divine ownership . . . If we would be united in love and fellowship and harmony, this Church would convert the world, who would see in us the shining example of these qualities which evidence that divine ownership. . . .
If we, in our wards and our branches, are divided, and there are factions not in harmony, it is but an evidence that there is something wrong. If two persons are at variance, arguing on different points of doctrine, no reasonable, thinking persons would say that both were speaking their different opinions by the Spirit of the Lord. . . .
If it is so important, then, that this people be a united people, we might well expect that upon this principle the powers of Satan would descend for their greatest attack. We might well expect, also, that if there be those of apostate mind among us, they would be inclined to ridicule and to scorn this principle of oneness and unity as being narrow-minded or as being unprogressive (CR, April 1950, 97-98).
28 And again, I say unto you that the enemy in the secret chambers seeketh your lives.
verse 28 See verse 13 and its commentary.
29 Ye hear of wars in far countries, and you say that there will soon be great wars in far countries, but ye know not the hearts of men in your own land.
verse 29 “Ye hear of wars in far countries” The Lord mildly chastises his people or at least points out and chides them for one of their wholly human characteristics. The saints can read newspapers and discern what is going on in Europe or in other places around the world, but they do not know that the people across town, or around the corner, or down their own street are conspiring together to put them to death.
“ye know not the hearts of men in your own land” At the time of this revelation a major civil disturbance was not even considered a possibility in the United States. Keep in mind that we are still pre-Civil War. But even then there were evil men hatching evil plans for the country generally and for the saints in particular. The Civil War was one result of this hidden evil for the nation as a whole, while the expulsions from Missouri and Illinois were results for the saints in particular.
30 I tell you these things because of your prayers; wherefore, treasure up wisdom in your bosoms, lest the wickedness of men reveal these things unto you by their wickedness, in a manner which shall speak in your ears with a voice louder than that which shall shake the earth; but if ye are prepared ye shall not fear.
verse 30 “if ye are prepared ye shall not fear” This well-known phrase has wide application, but was likely intended here to encourage the saints to prepare for the calamities to occur before the Lord’s second coming. President Ezra Taft Benson provided us with the key to remaining prepared. He said, “Look to the prophets for the words of God, that will show us how to prepare for the calamities which are to come” (CR, October 1973, 89). If we do this, we need not fear our adversaries, even the schemes and plans of Satan himself.
31 And that ye might escape the power of the enemy, and be gathered unto me a righteous people, without spot and blameless—
32 Wherefore, for this cause I gave unto you the commandment that ye should go to the Ohio; and there I will give unto you my law; and there you shall be endowed with power from on high;
verse 32 The saints are promised that once they arrive in Kirtland, the Lord will give them: (1) “my law”—The law of the Lord to the Church (section 42 of the Doctrine and Covenants) which will be given to Joseph on February 9, 1831, only a few days after his arrival in Kirtland; and (2) an “endowment of power”—the blessings incident to temple work which will be received more than five years later on April 3, 1836, in the Kirtland Temple (see D&C 110). See The Temple in Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, volume 2, chapter 18. The word endow is originally from the Greek verb enduo, meaning “to be clothed.” This word has evolved in contemporary English to describe the bestowal of a gift of great proportions. In addition to the blessings incident to temple work, the saints will be blessed around the time of the dedication of the Kirtland Temple to receive a staggering outpouring of the Pentecostal gifts of the Spirit (see Acts 2:121).
33 And from thence, whosoever I will shall go forth among all nations, and it shall be told them what they shall do; for I have a great work laid up in store, for Israel shall be saved, and I will lead them whithersoever I will, and no power shall stay my hand.
verse 33 The Lord foreshadows the tremendous missionary effort, both domestic and international, that will take place in the Church.
34 And now, I give unto the church in these parts a commandment, that certain men among them shall be appointed, and they shall be appointed by the voice of the church;
verse 34 “certain men among them shall be appointed” The Lord foretells of certain men to be called to watch over the temporal affairs of the Church. This may well refer to the office of bishop under the law of consecration (see section 41).
35 And they shall look to the poor and the needy, and administer to their relief that they shall not suffer; and send them forth to the place which I have commanded them;
36 And this shall be their work, to govern the affairs of the property of this church.
37 And they that have farms that cannot be sold, let them be left or rented as seemeth them good.
verse 37 The Lord instructs those who are unable to sell their farms in time to leave New York in a timely manner as the Lord instructs. Many of the saints simply abandoned their lands in New York and traveled to the Ohio. Some, however, retained claim upon their lands and rented or leased them, to sell at a later date. An example of the latter was Joseph Knight Sr., who did not sell his land when he moved to the Ohio, but did so later when he got a better price.
38 See that all things are preserved; and when men are endowed with power from on high and sent forth, all these things shall be gathered unto the bosom of the church.
verse 38 Unbeknownst to the saints they will soon be instructed in the law of consecration and become a united order. Here the Lord urges them to preserve their material possessions so that they might later be contributed to the bishop’s storehouse—“gathered unto the bosom of the church”—and be utilized for the good of the members of the united order.
39 And if ye seek the riches which it is the will of the Father to give unto you, ye shall be the richest of all people, for ye shall have the riches of eternity; and it must needs be that the riches of the earth are mine to give; but beware of pride, lest ye become as the Nephites of old.
verse 39 “beware of pride” The essence of pride is an inappropriate seeking for the things of the world, the riches of the world, rather than for the riches of eternity. See “Pride” in The “Natural Self” and “Spiritual Self in Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, volume 1, chapter 5.
While wealth in itself is not evil, it is the natural course of things for the rich, or perhaps for their children or grandchildren, to become first proud and then unfaithful. If the rich take no measures to keep this from happening, or if they just don’t give it much thought, it will happen, just as surely as an untended garden will become overgrown with weeds. Therefore, wealthy saints must be aware of the natural effect wealth has on people and must work actively and creatively to keep those weeds from their gardens. The natural progression, whether in one generation or the next, is to pride, then to unfaithfulness, and thence to wickedness and destruction. This sequence was repeatedly evidenced among the Book of Mormon people—“the Nephites of old.”
40 And again, I say unto you, I give unto you a commandment, that every man, both elder, priest, teacher, and also member, go to with his might, with the labor of his hands, to prepare and accomplish the things which I have commanded. 41 And let your preaching be the warning voice, every man to his neighbor, in mildness and in meekness.
verse 41 Every member is a missionary, and every member is to warn his neighbor. Why warn? Why not just inform about the exciting message of the restored gospel? In a way the gospel is a warning to the world of its fallen state and of its need of repentance and of a Savior in order to escape the judgments of God, both at the second coming when the wicked will be burned and at the resurrection when those who are “filthy still” will be cast out with Satan and his angels (see 2 Nephi 9:16; D&C 88:102). We sometimes forget this necessary element of warning as we preach and teach the gospel. We are not, however, to pound the pulpit and preach “hellfire and damnation” in the usual sense or to loudly condemn or put down nonmembers, but to sound a warning to our neighbors in clarity and mildness and meekness.
42 And go ye out from among the wicked. Save yourselves. Be ye clean that bear the vessels of the Lord. Even so. Amen.
verse 42 “Save yourselves” We readily avow that we are totally dependent upon the atonement of Jesus Christ for our salvation and exaltation, we also recognize clearly that a pro-active obedience to the commandments of God and an overcoming of one’s natural self is essential. This, we must do ourselves. “For we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do” (2 Nephi 25:23).
“Be ye clean that bear the vessels of the Lord” In ancient Israel, certain vessels (bowls, urns, vases, and other containers) and utensils were used in religious feasts and ceremonies. The vessels that were to be used in the temple had special significance and were handled only by those who were worthy and authorized and who had properly prepared themselves. In a somewhat similar manner, the Lord has indicated that his saints should come “out from among the wicked” and leave the worldliness of Babylon so that they will be worthy to “bear the vessels of the Lord” (Ludlow, Daniel H., A Companion to your Study of the Doctrine and Covenants, 2:317).
- Michael J. Preece