Section 65: Joseph Smith’s Prayer
Little is known of the particular circumstances surrounding the reception of section 65 some time in October 1831. Joseph and Emma Smith had been living with John and Elsa Johnson in Hiram, Ohio, for about a month when this revelation was received. Joseph recorded in the forepart of October, “I received the following prayer through revelation” (HC, 1:218). Although Joseph recalled this revelation’s being received in early October, the Kirtland Revelation Book (see Smith, Kirtland Revelation Book, 87), The Evening and the Morning Star (Phelps, “Revelation on Prayer,” Sept. 1832, 2), and William McLellin’s journals (see Shipps and Welch, Journals of William E. McLellin, 243) all list the date as October 30, 1831. McLellin’s journals also adds that this revelation was received in connection with Joseph’s study of Matthew 6:10, “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven” (Ibid.).
In essence, Section 65 is a modern version of the Lord’s Prayer as revealed to Joseph in October 1831 in Hiram, Ohio. It is one of two sections in the Doctrine and Covenants which are prayers—the other being section 109, the dedicatory prayer of the Kirtland Temple.
For a better understanding of the important concept of the kingdom of God, we must go back to the ancient Prophet Daniel’s interpretation of the remarkable dream of King Nebuchadnezzar in the sixth century BC (Daniel 2). From the days of the prophet Joseph Smith to the present this dream has been understood to be a prophecy that foretells the establishment, growth, and destiny of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Let us consider the dream itself: Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, saw in a dream a large statue in the shape of a man constructed of various substances. The head was of fine gold, the breast and arms of silver, his belly and thighs of brass, the legs of iron, and his feet were part iron and part clay (Daniel 2:32-33). As the dream developed, a stone that was “cut out without hands” smote the image on its feet and broke the image into tiny pieces, and the wind carried them away. Meanwhile, the stone that smote the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth (Daniel 2:34-35).
Daniel’s interpretation of the dream was that the “statue” represented a succession of world monarchies. The “stone” was seen as representing the kingdom of God. In our dispensation some have speculated as to the more specific interpretation of the various parts of the statue. These speculations are as follows: The statue represents a historical time line and explains a succession of kingdoms beginning in Daniel’s time. The head of gold represents Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom, the Babylonian Empire (610 BC to 539 BC). The breast and arms of silver represent the Persian Empire under Cyrus (539 BC to 330 BC). The belly and thighs of brass represent the Mesopotamian Empire established by Alexander the Great of Greece (330 BC to 63 BC). At the death of Alexander the Great at age 32, his kingdom was divided among his generals. It was ruled by their descendants and others until they in turn were overthrown by the Roman Empire which is represented by the legs of iron (63 BC to AD 636). After the fall of the Roman Empire came a world of many nations. This is represented in the dream as a kingdom “part of iron, and part of clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong and partly broken” (Daniel 2:42).
In this world setting then would a new kingdom be established, different from all the others. Whereas the other kingdoms described would each grow out of the ruins of previous kingdoms, this new kingdom would be “cut out without hands,” meaning that it would be of divine construction rather than human or manmade. This kingdom would begin on a small scale (a small stone) but would eventually fill the entire earth. Daniel concluded that this new kingdom “shall never be destroyed” and shall “break into pieces and consume” all other kingdoms, “and it shall stand forever” (Daniel 2:44).
Next, a couple of definitions: the term “kingdom of God” means specifically the Church of Christ upon the earth. The term “kingdom of heaven” refers to that system of government and administration which is operative in heaven and which we pray may some day prevail upon the earth during the Millennium (see Joseph Fielding Smith, CR, April 1917, 65-66).
The terms “kingdom of God” and “kingdom of heaven” are sometimes used erroneously as synonyms, even in our imperfect modern translations of the Bible— especially in the Book of Matthew. Actually the kingdom of God is the same Church as the millennial kingdom of God. Both are the Church of Jesus Christ. The terms refer to the same Church in each of two time periods or settings.
When the kingdom of heaven is established on the earth at Christ’s second coming, the Savior will reign personally as political leader as well as ecclesiastical head. This kingdom is sometimes referred to as the “political kingdom of God.”
A minor controversy seems to exist within the Church today as to whether the “stone that was cut out without hands” refers to the kingdom of God (the Church) or the political kingdom of God (the millennial kingdom of heaven). Certainly Daniel’s prophecy foresees a movement which begins as the kingdom of God is established on the earth and grows and prepares the way for the culminating establishment of the long-awaited kingdom of heaven, or political kingdom of God.
1 Hearken, and lo, a voice as of one sent down from on high, who is mighty and powerful, whose going forth is unto the ends of the earth, yea, whose voice is unto men—Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.
verse 1 “a voice” Perhaps this was an audible voice to Joseph, or perhaps the voice of the Lord came into his mind.
“as of one sent down from on high, who is mighty and powerful” This can only be Jesus Christ. Joseph heard the voice of Jesus Christ.
“make his paths straight” In their Doctrine and Covenants Commentary, Smith and Sjodahl explained this phrase:
Eastern potentates, when traveling from one part of the kingdom to another, would proclaim their coming and order their subjects to prepare the way for them, by building roads where there were none; if necessary by leveling hills and filling up depressions, and straightening out the winding paths. . . . To prepare the way of the Lord and make his paths straight is to acknowledge his sovereignty and to make all necessary preparations for his reception. He will not come to reign until all necessary preparations for his coming have been made. Joseph Smith said, “Hear this, O earth! The Lord will not come to reign over the righteous in this world . . . until everything for the Bridegroom is ready” (HC, 5:291) (174).
2 The keys of the kingdom of God are committed unto man on the earth, and from thence shall the gospel roll forth unto the ends of the earth, as the stone which is cut out of the mountain without hands shall roll forth, until it has filled the whole earth.
verse 2 “The keys of the kingdom of God” Keys imply authority, the right to preside. The use of the word keys for this right or authority is a figurative but apt usage. Keys imply the ability to unlock and open doors or to lock and shut them. In other words, they are the ability to seal, or close, and to loose, or open. In ancient courts the chamberlain, who held the keys of the palace and controlled access to the ruler and to his family and possessions, was frequently the most trusted and powerful official in the kingdom. For this reason, Saint Peter, who held the keys of the kingdom of God (see Matthew 16:19), is often depicted in Christian tradition as a chamberlain—one who stands at the door or gate of heaven controlling access to the king and kingdom inside. This great authority to seal or to separate, to open or shut the doors of God’s kingdom, to permit or forbid entry into the presence of the King, has been given to apostles and prophets of God upon this fallen, telestial earth.
There is a difference between holding the priesthood and holding the keys of the priesthood. Any priest or elder has the authority to baptize, for example, but only those who hold the keys of baptism in any church unit—a bishop or mission president—may give permission for the ordinance to take place. Priesthood holders have the authority to act for God, but may only do so when directed by those who hold the keys, or the administrative responsibility, for that particular work. Priesthood is authority. Keys are the right to direct, preside, control, authorize, or forbid the use of that authority.
The President of the Church holds all of the keys of the kingdom of God (see the commentary for D&C 81:2). There is a close relationship between these keys (the right to administer) and the sealing power (the right to make binding in heaven that which is done on earth). The mortal Christ said to his chief apostle Peter: “And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 16:19).
“the kingdom of God” The prophet Joseph taught us further about the kingdom of God:
Some say that the kingdom of God was not set up upon the earth until the day of Pentecost, and that John did not preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins, but I say to you in the name of the Lord that the kingdom of God was set up upon the earth in the days of Adam to the present time. Whenever there has been a righteous man on the earth, unto whom God revealed his word and gave power and authority to administer in his name, and where there is a priest of God . . . to administer in the ordinances of the gospel, and officiate in the priesthood of God, there is the kingdom of God. . . . where there is a prophet, a priest, or a righteous man unto whom God give his oracles [revelations], there is the kingdom of God; and where the oracles of God are not, there the kingdom of God is not (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 271-72).
Joseph also explained his own role, as he saw it, in the establishment of the kingdom of God on the earth:
The ancient prophets declared that in the last days the God of heaven should set up a kingdom which should never be destroyed, nor left to other people . . .
I calculate to be one of the instruments of setting up the kingdom of Daniel by the word of the Lord, and I intend to lay a foundation that will revolutionize the whole world. . . . It will not be by sword or gun that this kingdom will roll on: the power of truth is such that all nations will be under the necessity of obeying the gospel (HC, 6:364-65).
3 Yea, a voice crying—Prepare ye the way of the Lord, prepare ye the supper of the Lamb, make ready for the Bridegroom.
verse 3 “supper of the Lamb” This phrase is another term for the Messianic feast when the righteous sit down to eat and drink with Christ in his kingdom (see D&C 58:11; Revelation 19:7-9).
“the Bridegroom” As a symbol of complete intimacy and oneness, marriage is frequently used in scripture to figuratively represent becoming one with Christ. The faithful Church (the saints) is the bride, and Christ is the Bridegroom (see D&C 88:92; 133:10, 19). They are joined together in the covenant of the gospel, for which the covenant of marriage is symbolic.
4 Pray unto the Lord, call upon his holy name, make known his wonderful works among the people.
verse 4 “wonderful works” It is natural to think of the many miracles and healings of the Savior during his mortal ministry as “his wonderful works,” but by far the most wonderful works of the mortal Messiah were his infinite atonement, his sacrificial death, and his victory over the grave in the resurrection.
5 Call upon the Lord, that his kingdom may go forth upon the earth, that the inhabitants thereof may receive it, and be prepared for the days to come, in the which the Son of Man shall come down in heaven, clothed in the brightness of his glory, to meet the kingdom of God which is set up on the earth.
verse 5 “clothed in the brightness of his glory” What dramatic power and energy will ignite the world on that last day and burn away anything that cannot abide at least a terrestrial glory! It will be the glory of the Son of Man himself as he descends openly and in full view upon the world.
6 Wherefore, may the kingdom of God go forth, that the kingdom of heaven may come, that thou, O God, mayest be glorified in heaven so on earth, that thine enemies may be subdued; for thine is the honor, power and glory, forever and ever. Amen.
verse 6 “kingdom of God” “kingdom of heaven” The reader should carefully distinguish between these two phrases. See the introductory commentary for this section.
“that the kingdom of heaven may come” When the Savior comes again to the earth, he will bring with him an entire heavenly kingdom together with its inhabitants—a heavenly New Jerusalem to be joined together with the earthly New Jerusalem built by the saints. This heavenly kingdom will include, but may not be limited to, the city of Enoch that was taken up anciently (see Moses 7:62-63; Ether 3:3, 10).
Section 65 is the scriptural confirmation of the role of the Church as the kingdom of God, established in the last days of world history, to prepare the way for the coming of the rightful king of the earth, the Lord Jesus Christ and his heavenly kingdom of heaven. The church President holds “the keys of the kingdom” today on the earth (D&C 65:2).
Brief Historical Setting
During the first twelve days of November 1831, four short conferences of the elders of the Church were held at the home of John Johnson in Hiram, Ohio. It was resolved during these conferences that a collection of Joseph’s revelations should be printed and distributed to the membership of the Church. Joseph selected those revelations to be included. On the first day of the conference the Lord gave his endorsement to the planned publication and named the collection the Book of Commandments [D&C 1 -The Lord’s Preface—The Voice of Warning]. When asked to sign a written testimony that would be attached to this book, a few of the brethren attending the conference evidenced their imperfect testimonies of the divine origin of the revelations. They wondered if perhaps Joseph hadn’t written them, as they saw too much of his vocabulary and language in the revelations. After a prayer, in which he pleaded for wisdom, Joseph received a revelation wherein the Lord challenged anyone present to write a revelation equal to “even the least” of the revelations Joseph had received [D&C 67 -The Challenge]. If anyone succeeded, they would be entitled to their reluctance to bear testimony of the divine authenticity of the revelations. If they failed, however, they would then be under heavenly condemnation if they refused to bear witness of them. Only one elder accepted the challenge. He was William E. McLellin, a well-educated former school teacher who had just recently received his own revelation and blessing from the Lord [D&C 66 -William E. McLellin]. He accepted the challenge and retired to another room to make the attempt. He failed utterly, and all present, including McLellin, were blessed, as the Spirit bore witness to each of them that the revelations, even though written in Joseph’s imperfect language, were indeed from God.
Four more revelations would yet be received during the first twelve days of November 1831. One contained information on the following subjects: the office of bishop, teaching our children the gospel, and a new definition of scripture [D&C 68 Bishops. Teach. Scripture]. Another gave instructions on transporting the manuscripts of the revelations to Independence, Missouri, where they would be printed on William W. Phelps’s printing press. Yet another created the so-called “Literary Firm” which was a mini-United Order composed of a group of brethren assigned to take care of the scriptures of the Church as their stewardship [D&C 69 and 70 -Book of Commandments]. The final section given during this conference was to serve as the appendix to the Book of Commandments [D&C 133 -The Appendix].
- Michael J. Preece