Section 93: The Origin and Destiny of Man
On the 4th of May 1833, a meeting of high priests was held in Kirtland for the purpose of considering ways and means for building of a house in which to hold the School of the Prophets. The saints were far from wealthy, and an undertaking of that kind must have seemed overwhelming to them. The church leaders were men of God, however, and their faith was of the practical kind by which mountains are moved. The commitment was made to begin to raise funds, and two revelations were received two days later on May 6, 1833. These two revelations were sections 93 and 94.
Section 93 is one of the great doctrinal revelations received in this dispensation. Part of this revelation consists of a vision that John the Apostle had seen. Joseph Smith had revealed to him this vision of John, and this made it possible for him to include an account of that vision here (it should be noted that Elder Bruce R. McConkie and others felt strongly that the John referred to in this section was John the Baptist, not John the Beloved Apostle—see Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, volume 1, 7071).
The revelation deals with the great plan of salvation—the origin and destiny of man. Section 93 has come to be known as the revelation filled with aphorisms since it contains many verses that are pithy, crisp, and concise statements of profound doctrine.
Before beginning a verse by verse tour of section 93, the reader will find it helpful to read two chapters in volume 1 of Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine: The Creation, chapter 3 and The Concept of Light, chapter 15.
In the Church, we assign specific meanings to words or phrases that differ from the meaning a person outside the Church might apply to those same words or phrases. In other words the scriptural meaning of some words or phrases is far richer than the secular meanings of those same words and phrases. For example, eternal life means more than simply existing eternally. It means exaltation in the celestial kingdom. We understand the soul to mean specifically the combination of body and spirit of man (D&C 88:15-16). Salvation means being resurrected to a kingdom of glory, but not the same as exaltation, and so on. Section 93 introduces several new terms, the meanings of which are not intuitively obvious to a person reading the section for the first time, unless he has learned their specific meaning. These will be discussed in the verse commentary that follows. A couple of these new terms are so fundamental that we should define them before beginning with section 93.
Intelligence. Whenever we encounter the term “intelligence,” we ought to think of two possible meanings:
- “Intelligence” or “intelligences” are those eternal and uncreated entities utilized by the Father and the Son in the process of creation. The “intelligence” of a man is his essence—who he really is. Intelligences are capable of exercising their agency and acting for themselves. They have always existed and cannot be destroyed. Each individual, including the Father and the Son, is, at his very center, a single intelligence. In addition, a myriad of lesser accomplished intelligences were embodied with the bodies of plants, animals, or even the inert materials of the earth. The purpose of the existence of each intelligence is to progress toward Godhood which is accomplished through obedience to the laws of God given to them. And there are divine laws or commandments given to each and every category (kingdom) of intelligences (see D&C 88:36-38).
- “Intelligence” also may refer to that amount of light, spiritual progress, or spiritual growth, an individual (an intelligence) has acquired as a result of his obedience to God’s law. Since the light which emanates from each intelligence contains the complete truth about that intelligence, we may say that his light is his intelligence and vice versa. In speaking of an individual intelligence, we may say that he radiates more or less light or intelligence than another because of his pattern of obedience to the laws of God.
Light and truth. “Light and truth” is another term for the light that is broadcast by each intelligence and therefore “light and truth” is synonymous with intelligence (verse 36). In other words each intelligence is constantly broadcasting knowledge of itself. “Light” refers to its ability to radiate its status, and “truth” refers to the knowledge about itself. The Lord has defined truth as “knowledge of things as they are, as they were, and as they are to come” (D&C 93:24). Each intelligence, then, constantly broadcasts what it truly is, what it has been, and what it will be. The absence of the ability to perceive light from other intelligences including the light which emanates from Christ himself, is referred to as a state of “darkness.” When an intelligence diligently and consistently struggles to obey God’s commandments, he “receiveth truth and light until he is glorified in truth and knoweth all things” (D&C 93:28).
To “receive” truth and light may have two meanings. First, it means that the obedient individual will come to be able to perceive the light radiated by other intelligences, including the Savior himself. Second, it means that the same individual will take on increments of the Savior’s light so that it becomes his own light. Eventually he will come to possess and radiate the same light the Savior possesses and radiates. In this way, the obedient comes to “know” spiritual truth. To know a truth is to possess that particular gift of the Spirit. An individual may eventually come to possesses a “fulness of truth” (see D&C 93:26,28; 88:107)—that is, he radiates the same light as the Savior, and he has the ability to perceive the light of others.
We have also defined “light and truth” as being synonymous with individual uncreated intelligences. In other words, an intelligence may be referred to as the light which he or she radiates. Also, the phrase “light and truth” teaches us important truths about how intelligences communicate with one another.
Glory. There is a close correlation between the amount of spiritual light an individual possesses and radiates (that individual’s “light and truth”) and his “glory.” We must be cautious, however, about regarding too many terms as perfect synonyms. While an individual’s glory certainly correlates with his “light and truth,” each individual’s light is distinct and unique.
Spirit of truth. The term “Spirit of truth” is most commonly used to refer to the Holy Ghost. It may also be used to refer to the Savoir, particularly prior to his mortal ministry. The term “spirit of truth” (small “r”) refers to a spirit’s capacity, inherited from its eternal parents, to receive light and truth radiated from other intelligences, particularly from the Father and the Son. In other words, “spirit of truth” refers to a person’s proclivity to learn spiritual truth.
Armed with these few basic facts, and hopefully armed with the Spirit of God, which we have prayerfully petitioned, let us now read section 93.
D&C 93 The Origin and Destiny of Man
D&C 93:1 Every soul who forsaketh his sins and cometh unto me, and calleth on my name . . . and keepeth my commandments, shall see my face and know that I am.
D&C 93:2 I am the true light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world.
D&C 93:12-13 He received not of the fulness at first, but continued from grace to grace, until he received a fulness.
D&C 93:24 Truth is knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come.
D&C 93:27-28 He that keepeth his commandments receiveth truth and light, until he is glorified in truth and knoweth all things.
D&C 93:29 Man was also in the beginning with God. Intelligence, or the light of truth, was not created or made, neither indeed can be.
D&C 93:30 All truth is independent in that sphere in which God has placed it, to act for itself.
D&C 93:33-34 Spirit and element, inseparably connected, receive a fulness of joy.
D&C 93:36 The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth.
D&C 93:37 Light and truth forsake that evil one.
1 Verily, thus saith the Lord: It shall come to pass that every soul who forsaketh his sins and cometh unto me, and calleth on my name, and obeyeth my voice, and keepeth my commandments, shall see my face and know that I am;
verse 1 “it shall come to pass” While the promise given in this verse is sure, its timing is according to the Lord and not according to man (see D&C 88:68).
“Every soul who forsaketh his sins and cometh unto me, and calleth on my name, and obeyeth my voice, and keepeth my commandments, shall see my face”
To whom does the promise in this verse apply? The Lord is speaking directly to his high priests—the leaders of his earthly Church. Certainly it applies to them. But in this verse the Lord makes it clear that this promise also applies to every righteous individual.
Just when will each righteous soul see the face of the Lord? Before we address that question, let us note that there are two times when every soul—both righteous and unrighteous—shall see the face of the Lord. First, this will occur on that great and last day when the Lord Jesus Christ returns to this earth in glory. The sight of him on that occasion will lift up the righteous and incinerate the wicked (see D&C 5:19; 45:44-60). Additionally, we have the promise that at death every man comes face to face with the gatekeeper who certainly must be the Lord Jesus Christ (see Alma 40:11-14 and the commentary for those verses).
Additionally, all who live on the earth during the millennium will see the Lord’s face during his millennial reign on the earth (see, for example, 1 John 3:2).
In this verse, it seems most likely the Lord is referring to his remarkable promise extended to many faithful saints of seeing the face of Christ and of receiving him in this life as the second Comforter (see D&C 88:3-4, 68:12 and the commentary for these verses). The individual on the earth who is diligently and persistently righteous who waits patiently may well see the face of the Savior and “know that he is” (the third person way of saying “know that I am”—a state that surpasses faith. The individual will experience a personal visit from the Lord and then know with his earthly senses that the Lord lives. Practically speaking, those of us who strive to follow the Lord and obey his commandments should not expect to literally see his face here on earth. While that is possible, perhaps this promise is more figurative for the majority of us.
“cometh unto me” To come unto Christ is to enter into the covenants of the gospel and thereby become one with Christ as his son or daughter in his kingdom (see D&C 25:1 and its commentary; John 17:21-23). Through coming to Christ and becoming one with him in this way, we cease to belong to this fallen world and become “fellowcitizens with the saints” (Ephesians 2:19-20).
“calleth on my name” To call upon the name of Christ is to seek his power and authority in our lives in our prayers and in our ordinances by doing all that we do “in the name of Jesus Christ.” In this way we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Master and our Mediator with Father.
“see my face and know that I am” To know the Savior is to have the Savior revealed to you by personal revelation and therefore possess a deeply personal relationship with him. There is in this verse the same wordplay found in John 8:58 and John 18:6. The great “I Am” is the name of God as revealed to Moses in Exodus 3:14. Again, we acknowledge the possibility of seeing the Lord’s face here on earth may include a figurative element.
President Spencer W. Kimball said: “I have learned that where there is a prayerful heart, a hungering after righteousness, a forsaking of sins, and obedience to the commandments of God, the Lord pours out more and more light until there is finally power to pierce the heavenly veil and to know more than man knows. A person of such righteousness has the priceless promise that one day he shall see the Lord’s face and know that he is” (Ensign, March 1980, 4).
2 And that I am the true light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world;
verse 2 God, as the ultimate intelligence of our universe, radiates constantly a knowledge of himself—his being, his desires. This has been identified in the scripture as the light which “proceedeth forth from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space” (D&C 88:12). The Savior is the medium through which this light is disseminated to our part of the universe, so God’s light is sometimes called the “light of Christ” (D&C 88:7). This light or unspoken communication among intelligences is universal. Unfortunately for us humans here in mortality, our receptivity to this ubiquitous light is blunted and varies from individual to individual, from situation to situation, and from time to time.
“the true light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world” In what sense does the light of Christ enlighten every man born into this mortal world? In addition to the obvious fact that the light of Christ gives life to everyone and to every thing upon the earth, there seems to be a certain entitlement or modicum of the light of Christ provided for everyone born into mortality. This ray of the Lord’s light provides an inkling of eternal truth to each and every individual and is sometimes referred to as the “light of Christ” or the “spirit of Christ.”
3 And that I am in the Father, and the Father in me, and the Father and I are one—
verse 3 See also 3 Nephi 11:36 and its commentary. Latter-day Saints accept both the “oneness” or unity of God and also the “threeness” or separateness of God (Father, Son, and Holy Ghost) as these are taught in the scriptures. However, we reject the attempt to explain this simultaneous oneness and threeness of God by the traditional doctrine of the trinity as developed in post-biblical times. We do not believe that God consists of one being in three co-equal and co-eternal persons. Neither this formula nor even the word trinity can be found in the Bible itself, and the experience of the prophet Joseph Smith in the grove and the teaching of latter-day revelation on this topic make this an impossible concept for the saints.
Sometimes in our desire to emphasize that the Godhead consists of three separate and distinct individuals (the “threeness” of God as Father, Son, and Holy Ghost), we fail to give proper attention to the unity and oneness of God as expressed in this and other passages of scripture. Our disagreement with the non-biblical doctrine of the Trinity should not lead us into denying the scriptural teaching that God, or the Godhead, is somehow perfectly one. Latter-day Saints do believe—must believe—that the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are one God (see, for example, D&C 20:28 and commentary; Testimony of Three Witnesses; 2 Nephi 31:21; Mosiah 15:1-4; Alma 11:44; Mormon 7:7; John 10:30). These three divine persons, though separate beings, are perfectly one in purpose, one in mind, one in intent, and one in ways we perhaps don’t even fully understand. Therefore, to know the mind, heart, and personality of one member of the Godhead is to know the mind, heart, and personality of all three (see John 14:7-9), for they are alike.
In the beginning, the Father shared his power and will—his personality—so perfectly with the Son, and the Son voluntarily accepted it, conformed to it, and obeyed it so perfectly that the Son can now be said in one sense to be both of them (see Ether 3:14; Mosiah 15:2-4, 7; Alma 11:39-40; Mormon 9:12; Isaiah 9:6; JST Luke 10:23). The Father’s personality and mind are in the Son, and vice versa. Nevertheless, they remain separate and distinct physical beings.
Just as the three separate persons of the Godhead are one in this manner without compromising their individual existence, so also may faithful disciples truly become one with the Father and with the Son in the same manner without losing their separate or individual existence. As John teaches, the oneness that exists between the members of the Godhead is the same quality or type of oneness that should exist between faithful disciples, or between God and his disciples (see John 17:20-22). This is not a physical oneness, but a oneness of mind and purpose. As we voluntarily conform to the character and obey the will of God as the Son has done before us, God is able to share with us also his divine energy, light, truth, intelligence, and spirit, so that we become more than we once were and more like he is. This is also one reason why Zion cannot be established until the Saints are “are of one heart and one mind” (Moses 7:18), that is, at one with the heart, mind, and character of God.
Normally, human minds prefer straight lines and clear distinctions and delineations. We prefer blacks and whites to shades of gray. We identify things by their borders, and so we tend to focus on the distinctions between the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost in order to understand them as individuals. But the message of verse 3 is that such a neat division between their respective roles is sometimes difficult to make—for their complete unity of thought, personality, and purpose usually makes them better understood by their oneness, by the “alikeness,” than by their differences. This unity of the Godhead is so perfect that it sometimes confuses us, as when Christ speaks as the Father, or when the Holy Ghost speaks as the Son (see Moses 1:6; 5:9; D&C 29:1, 42). As we teach the truth concerning the separate physical natures of the Father and the Son, we must be careful not to separate them in any other sense, for the Father and the Son are “in” each other (John 14:10) and are one in a way difficult for mortals to fully appreciate, though in a way that does not compromise their separate and individual being.
4 The Father because he gave me of his fulness, and the Son because I was in the world and made flesh my tabernacle, and dwelt among the sons of men.
verse 4 We know that Jesus Christ did apply the titles “Son” and “Father” to himself. He specifically said to the brother of Jared: “Behold, I am Jesus Christ. I am the Father and the Son” (Ether 3:14).
“The Father because” On June 30, 1916 the First Presidency published “The Father and the Son: A Doctrinal Exposition by the First Presidency and the Twelve” (see Talmage, Articles of Faith, 465-73). In this exposition they acknowledge that Christ is not our literal parent, but that in scripture he is referred to as our “Father” for three of reasons. These include:
- He is our Father since he is the Creator. “That Jesus Christ, whom we also know as Jehovah, was the executive of the Father, Elohim, in the work of creation is set forth in the book Jesus the Christ [James E. Talmage], chapter 4. Jesus Christ, being the Creator, is consistently called the Father of heaven and earth in the sense explained above; and since His creations are of eternal quality He is very properly called the Eternal Father of heaven and earth” (Ibid.).
- Jesus is the “Father” of those who abide in his gospel and thereby become heirs of eternal life. In a revelation given through Joseph the Prophet to Emma Smith the Lord Jesus addressed the Emma as “my daughter,” and said: “for verily I say unto you, all those who receive my gospel are sons and daughters in my kingdom” (D&C 25:1). In many instances the Lord has addressed men as his sons (D&C 9:1; 34:3; 121:7).
- Jesus is the “Father” by divine investiture of authority. In all His dealings with the human family Jesus represents the Father and possesses the Father’s full power and authority. To the Jews he said: “I and my Father are one” (John 10:30; see also 17:11, 22). Also he said, “I am come in my Father’s name” (John 5:43; see also 10:25). The same truth was declared by Christ himself to the Nephites (see 3 Nephi 20:35 and 28:10), and has been reaffirmed by revelation in our present dispensation (D&C 50:43).
We may add yet a fourth reason for referring to Jesus Christ as the Father. In his role of Jehovah, God of the Old Testament, he became known as the God or Father of Heaven.
“the Son because” Christ is the Son because:
- He was born a spirit child of God in the premortal existence.
- His mortal body was fathered by God the Father.
- Jesus Christ is completely submissive to the Father and progressed or grew under his tutelage (see verse 5). He did not receive a fulness of light and truth at first, but progressed from grace to grace (see verse 14).
5 I was in the world and received of my Father, and the works of him were plainly manifest.
6 And John saw and bore record of the fulness of my glory, and the fulness of John’s record is hereafter to be revealed.
verse 6 “John saw and bore record” Just who is the John Spoken of here? Is it John the beloved apostle of Jesus? Or is it John the Baptist? Verses 7-10 suggest strongly that it is the apostle John. However, some Latter-day Saint writers on section 93, including President John Taylor, Elder Orson Pratt, and Brother Sidney B. Sperry, have concluded that the “John” mentioned here is John the Baptist, and we have already mentioned that Elder Bruce R. McConkie concurs with that idea (see Taylor, Mediation and Atonement, 55; Pratt, JD, 16:58; Sperry, Doctrine and Covenants Compendium, 472-73). However, verses 7-10 are unmistakably similar to John 1:1-3, the latter having been written by John the Revelator. How then, if the John of verses 710 is John the Baptist, do we explain the similarity of verses 7-10 with John 1:1-3? According to Elder Bruce R. McConkie: “From latter-day revelation we learn that the material in the forepart of the gospel of John (the Apostle, Revelator, and Beloved Disciple) was written originally by John the Baptist. By revelation the Lord restored to Joseph Smith part of what John the Baptist had written and promised to reveal the balance when men became sufficiently faithful to warrant receiving it. Verse 15 of this passage is the key to the identity of the particular John spoken of. This verse should be compared with Matthew’s description of Christ’s baptism in Matthew 3:16-17 to learn the identity of the writer” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 1:70-71).
Those who hold to the idea that these verses speak of John the Baptist would have us believe that John the Beloved Apostle has incorporated into his account of the Savior’s ministry an account of events surrounding the baptism of Jesus which was somehow transmitted to him from John the Baptist. But why could John the Apostle have described Christ’s baptism as did Matthew in Matthew 3:16-17? Perhaps the identity of the John in this verse should be left as an open question.
“the fulness of my glory” Glory is yet another term for light, and therefore “the fulness of my glory” refers to the light emanating from Jesus Christ.
verses 7-17 These verses constitute an alternate version of John 1:1-16. As discussed in the commentary for verse 6, we don’t know for sure whether the “he” in this verse is John the Beloved Apostle or John the Baptist. Whoever this John is, verses 6 and 7 seem to indicate that verses 7-17 of section 93 are quoted from his record (see verse 18).
7 And he bore record, saying: I saw his glory, that he was in the beginning, before the world was;
verse 7 “And he bore record, saying” It is interesting to note that scholars have long recognized that of the four New Testament gospels, John’s bears the most evidence of editing by a later hand (see, for example, John 21:24, where the pronoun “we” identifies John’s editors). While verses 7-17 in this section of the D&C are similar to John 1:1-16, the Doctrine and Covenants version of these verses contains important clarifications not found in the New Testament text. Also D&C 93:6, 18 and 1 Nephi 14:25-27 indicate that “the record of John” is yet to be revealed to the Church in its original condition with its original clarity.
8 Therefore, in the beginning the Word was, for he was the Word, even the messenger of salvation—
verse 8 “in the beginning” The concept of “the beginning” is a moving target. When was the beginning? Here in this verse it would seem that the premortal world was “the beginning.” Perhaps there is no absolute beginning, as we will be taught that each of us has always existed as an individual intelligence (see verse 29).
“the Word, even the messenger” The Word is the Savior. Would it not have been easier to have said, “the Savior, even the messenger”? What was John trying to tell us by identifying the Savior as the “Word”? “Word” is a translation of the rich Greek word Logos. Logos is a word with great depth and many nuances. It is not merely an assemblage of sounds—a “word” in the usual sense. Logos is the outward active expression of a deep inner meaning. That inner meaning may be much more than a single thought or group of thoughts. It may be a book, a group of books, a library, a group of libraries, or much more. In this particular case, the inner meaning is the essence and the will of the Father. Jesus Christ is and ever will be the outward and dynamic expression of both his Father’s essence and his Father’s will.
Are we not thus able to better understand the meaning of such scriptural verses as: “Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father?” (John 14:9). And, “Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works. Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works’ sake” (John 14:10-11). And, “And that I am in the Father, and the Father in me, and the Father and I are one” (D&C 93:3). If we wish to learn more about the Father, we merely need to learn more about his Son.
Given this background on the rich concept of the logos, are we now better able to understand the richness of the statement that Christ is “the Word, even the messenger of salvation.”
9 The light and the Redeemer of the world; the Spirit of truth, who came into the world, because the world was made by him, and in him was the life of men and the light of men.
verse 9 This verse contains some titles of the Lord Jesus Christ—each title containing its own individual nuance of specific meaning. This verse is best understood after studying The Concept of Light in Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, volume 1, chapter 15. Christ is “the light.” He was the first spirit child of God; and it is perhaps in that context that we may refer to him as the “Spirit of truth” or the “Great Spirit” (Alma 18:2629). The several designations of the members of the Godhead certainly overlap and can be confusing. For example, the title “Spirit of truth” can refer to the Savior, as it does here, or it may refer to the Holy Ghost (D&C 50:17-19). Perhaps this confusion is another illustration of the oneness of the Godhead (compare, for example, 1 Nephi 11:11 with 1 Nephi 11:27).
10 The worlds were made by him; men were made by him; all things were made by him, and through him, and of him.
verse 10 See the parallels to this verse in John 1:3, 10 (also D&C 76:24; 88:41).
“men were made by him” In what sense were men “made by him [Christ]”? Christ did not create the intelligences, as they have always existed. And the spirit birth of man took place by a process of divine procreation involving the Father and his female counterpart, our mother in heaven. The Son’s role in creation was central. He created and now sustains the mortal particles which comprise the mortal body, and perhaps he did participate in some way in the preparation of the spirit bodies into which man’s intelligence was placed.
“by him, and through him, and of him” These phrases illustrate the intimate role of Christ in the creation of all things. He not only created them, but by his power and light he enlivens and sustains them.
11 And I, John, bear record that I beheld his glory, as the glory of the Only Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth, even the Spirit of truth, which came and dwelt in the flesh, and dwelt among us.
verse 11 See the parallels to this verse in John 1:14. The author of the gospel of John had seen in vision the glory of the premortal Christ and testifies here (in John 1:14) of his divine premortal existence. Here in verse 11, however, John testifies of the glory of the mortal Christ.
Is it possible to be precise in defining the Son’s “glory”? Certainly it has to do with the light which radiates from him, which light contains his character: his greatness, his majesty, his magnificence, his flawless reputation among all the intelligences. He is adored and honored and worshipped. He thus possesses the ultimate glory. We have also learned that the relationship between the Lord’s glory and his power is an intimate one. In fact it is glory or honor that secures for him his power. See The Power of God in Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, volume 1, chapter 14.
“Spirit of truth” Again, as in verse 9, this phrase refers here to Jesus Christ and not to the Holy Ghost. Regarding Christ’s spirit birth in the premortal world, he was the “Firstborn.” In reference to his birth into mortality, he is the “Only begotten of the Father.” Again, his premortal spirit body—“the Spirit of truth”—came and dwelt in the flesh.
verses 12-14 These three verses constitute part of what was taken from the fulness of John’s original record. They are restored here to clarify the nature of the relationship between the Father and the Son and to clarify the process through which the mortal Jesus eventually received the fulness of his Father—a process which the saints may emulate. Thus, these verses are the first detailed indication in the restoration scriptures of what has come to be called the principle of eternal progression or of becoming like God. Just as Jesus went through a progression from the beginning until he received the fulness of the Father at his resurrection, so his saints may experience a similar progression “from grace to grace” until we, through Christ, also receive the fulness of the Father (see verse 19).
12 And I, John, saw that he received not of the fulness at the first, but received grace for grace.
verse 12 “he received not of the fulness at the first” The phrase “at the first” refers not to the beginning of time in the premortal state but rather to the beginning of Jesus’s mortal life. President Lorenzo Snow taught of the mortal Christ’s progression here on earth: “When Jesus lay in the manger, a helpless infant, he knew not that he was the Son of God and that formerly he had created the earth. When the edict of Herod was issued, he knew nothing of it; he had not power to save himself; and his [guardian and step-father Joseph] and mother had to take him and [flee] into Egypt to preserve him from the effects of that edict. . . . He grew up to manhood, and during his progress it was revealed unto him who he was, and for what purpose he was in the world. The glory and power he possessed before he came into the world was made known unto him” (CR, April, 1901, 3).
A complete knowledge of his own identity, however, was not the only “fulness” he lacked when he was born into this world. He also needed the spiritual growth that would be afforded him by his mortal life and particularly by his atoning sacrifice and death.
“received grace for grace” This interesting expression needs just a bit of explanation. Keep in mind that grace is a term which refers to the love of God— particularly that aspect of his love that inclines him to give to an individual blessings the individual does not fully merit. When the Lord blesses a man under these circumstances, we may say that he gives to that individual “a grace.” These are given by the Lord and received by the individual in the form of blessings or gifts of the Spirit (see Spiritual Growth—Gifts of the Spirit in Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, volume 1, chapter 7).
A mortal also has the ability to give “graces” to other mortals. One of the highest forms of obedience to the Lord’s commandments is manifest in the man who is willing to extend, to another mortal, selfless charity when the receiving individual doesn’t really deserve it. In this way one mortal may give a grace to another mortal. In order to give a grace, the giver must sacrifice any concern which he has for himself and give willingly and freely to another. This is particularly challenging in the oft-encountered circumstances where the receiver does not merit, by his actions or speech, being treated charitably (Matthew 5:38-44).
When a man or woman on the earth gives a grace to another, he or she is particularly apt to receive graces from the Lord. The man can thus be said to spiritually progress “from grace to grace.” One way to interpret this expression is to regard the first grace as the one given by the man and the second, the grace given by the Lord. Yet another way to interpret it is that we grow spiritually by a series (hundreds and thousands) of the Lord’s graces. The spiritual growth the Lord Jesus Christ made during his mortal sojourn occurred by this same progress.
The ultimate grace the Lord gave to humankind was his atoning sacrifice in Gethsemane and on the cross. The blessings or graces which the Lord then received in turn from the Father were commensurate with this great sacrifice.
13 And he received not of the fulness at first, but continued from grace to grace, until he received a fulness;
verse 13 “continued from grace to grace” The key to this phrase is the word to, indicating that there are levels of grace, or degrees of progress which a man may reach in his spiritual progress. We are invited, of course, to participate in the same process and progress through the same levels.
14 And thus he was called the Son of God, because he received not of the fulness at the first.
verse 14 Jesus Christ is called the Son of God because he is, in literal fact, the spirit offspring of God the Father. Also he is the Son of God because he is the Only Begotten of the Father in the flesh. It is perfectly characteristic of all of the sons of God to begin at a spiritual level far lower than the Father and progress upward toward godhood. Only the Father possessed “the fulness” of spiritual gifts at the beginning of this round of creation.
15 And I, John, bear record, and lo, the heavens were opened, and the Holy Ghost descended upon him in the form of a dove, and sat upon him, and there came a voice out of heaven saying: This is my beloved Son.
16 And I, John, bear record that he received a fulness of the glory of the Father;
17 And he received all power, both in heaven and on earth, and the glory of the Father was with him, for he dwelt in him.
verses 15-17 See the parallels to these verses in John 1:32-34. Verse 17 marks the end, in section 93, of the “fulness of the record of John.”
verse 17 “for he dwelt in him” The Father dwelt in the Son. Again we see evidence of the intimate relationship—the oneness—of the Father and the Son (see verse 3 and its commentary).
18 And it shall come to pass, that if you are faithful you shall receive the fulness of the record of John.
verse 18 It would seem that the “fulness of the record of John” may have two distinct meanings. At one level, the Lord may be promising us here that he will one day favor us by giving us additional scripture—a complete and unaltered record of the beloved apostle John. On another level, a man may achieve the great fulness of which John speaks, a fulness of light and truth. Man may grow in glory—grace for grace, truth for truth—and receive eventually of the fulness of the Father’s glory. Recall that in the Lord’s prayer, the Savior prayed that we may become one with him even as he and the Father are one—that is, one in glory or power. When a man receives a fulness of truth or light and truth, he knows all things and is himself a god.
19 I give unto you these sayings that you may understand and know how to worship, and know what you worship, that you may come unto the Father in my name, and in due time receive of his fulness.
verse 19 “that you may understand and know how to worship” What does it mean to worship? Just how does the Lord expect us to worship him? What is the best way to worship God? The actual formula for worship is found in verse 20: “For if you keep my commandments you shall receive of his fulness, and be glorified in me as I am in the Father.” We worship God by emulating the Son. As Jesus kept the Father’s will and was glorified, so we can imitate Jesus’s course of action, keep his will, and be glorified in him. Just as imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so also it is the truest form of worship. True worship is to imitate the Son of God and conform to his example in seeking God and in moving from grace to grace. Ultimately, the highest and truest form of worship is to become like the One we worship.
20 For if you keep my commandments you shall receive of his fulness, and be glorified in me as I am in the Father; therefore, I say unto you, you shall receive grace for grace.
verse 20 See the commentary for verse 19.
21 And now, verily I say unto you, I was in the beginning with the Father, and am the Firstborn;
verse 21 “I . . . am the Firstborn” Jesus Christ was the very first of our Heavenly Father’s spirit children in the premortal life (Colossians 1:15: “the firstborn of every creature”)—the birthright Son. Christ was chosen from the very beginning for his role as the Creator, as the Word, and as the Savior of humanity. The doctrine of the Savior’s status as firstborn was reemphasized by an official pronouncement of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve in 1916: “Among the spirit children of Elohim the firstborn was and is Jehovah or Jesus Christ to whom all others are juniors” (“The Father and the Son: A Doctrinal Exposition,” in Messages of the First Presidency, 5:33). Not only is the term Firstborn a declaration of Jesus’s birth status but it is also a significant name-title, one so important that the Savior’s most faithful followers in mortality will share it throughout the eternities. Elder Bruce R. McConkie stated that just as The Church of Jesus Christ is the name of the Savior’s earthly Church, “so The Church of the Firstborn is his heavenly church, albeit its members are limited to exalted beings, for whom the family unit continues and who gain an inheritance in the highest heaven of the celestial world (Hebrews 12:22-23; D&C 93:22)” (Promised Messiah, 47).
22 And all those who are begotten through me are partakers of the glory of the same, and are the church of the Firstborn.
verse 22 “Those who are begotten through me” are those who obey Christ’s word and thus become members of the “church of the Firstborn”—they eventually inherit celestial glory.
23 Ye were also in the beginning with the Father; that which is Spirit, even the Spirit of truth;
verse 23 Like Christ, in the premortal existence, we were also “Spirit[s] of truth” or spirit children of our Father in heaven. This is the first real indication in the Doctrine and Covenants of the doctrine of the premortal existence of souls. The great truth implicit in the teaching of this verse is that we are the same species of being as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. We have not yet reached their full glory, but through the grace of God and obedience to his principles, we may in time do so.
24 And truth is knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come;
verse 24 Here is the formal definition of truth. In philosophical terms, this passage is a declaration that there is an objective reality in the universe. Things are not merely whatever they are perceived to be, or believed to be, or interpreted to be. They are as they really are. Reality is objective rather than subjective.
When we learn a spiritual and eternal truth, we do not merely come to a mental realization of this or that truth. Rather, through our obedience to the Lord’s commands, a truth is revealed to us. It becomes part of us and transforms and changes us into a being more like God.
There is no such thing as independent categories of truth. To God, truth is one great whole. We cannot say, for example, that “there is scientific truth and spiritual truth, and the two conflict.” All truth is before God constantly, and one day scientific truth and spiritual truth will be understood by us as one great consistent whole.
Truth is communicated non-verbally between intelligences. Each constantly communicates his state—present, past, and future. For one who can receive this communication perfectly, all truth is before him continually.
25 And whatsoever is more or less than this is the spirit of that wicked one who was a liar from the beginning.
verse 25 There is no such thing as relative truth. With God, all true things are certain. They are as they are, and there is no other way. While the Spirit of God seeks to teach us the objective reality of things in the universe as they really are (see Jacob 4:13), the spirit of Satan, seeks to teach us that truth is subjective or relative—that it is different things to different people. Satan was “a liar from the beginning” because he taught what was not true. He was able to convince many of our Heavenly Father’s children that his lies were true. Obedience to or conformity to the facts of existence, to the objective realities of the universe, was never part of his makeup.
26 The Spirit of truth is of God. I am the Spirit of truth, and John bore record of me, saying: He received a fulness of truth, yea, even of all truth;
verse 26 “I am the Spirit of truth” Here the Savior confirms that one of his titles is the “Spirit of truth.” We have discussed this point previously and decided that while this title applies to him today and forever, it may also at times allude more to his own premortal existence.
27 And no man receiveth a fulness unless he keepeth his commandments.
verse 27 There is no other way to receive, by personal revelation the eternal truths of the universe and the gifts of the Spirit except through obedience to the laws of God.
“unless he keepeth his commandments” We must remember that in this life we cannot expect to achieve perfection, or perfect obedience. In mortality the requirement is that we desire to keep his commandments (see D&C 6:8-9; 11:21); be “willing to . . . keep his commandments” (D&C 20:77); and “list to obey” his commandments (D&C 29:45; see also Alma 3:27). After the resurrection, there will be time to perfect our performance, receive the desires of our hearts, and eventually to keep all the commandments, therefore ultimately receiving the fulness of the Father.
28 He that keepeth his commandments receiveth truth and light, until he is glorified in truth and knoweth all things.
verse 28 When we eventually receive, as Christ received, a fulness of light and truth from the Father, it will only be by obedience to gospel principles. Then we shall know all things and be completely “glorified.”
Again, the man who “knoweth all things” is the man who has received all gifts of the Spirit. As discussed previously, to know a spiritual truth is more than having a mental understanding of the facts about that truth. It is to have the truth revealed to your soul only after you have been obedient to the laws on which that truth or blessing is predicated (D&C 130:20-21). The process of receiving spiritual knowledge is the process of spiritual growth—the process of receiving incremental gifts of the Spirit.
29 Man was also in the beginning with God. Intelligence, or the light of truth, was not created or made, neither indeed can be.
verse 29 “Man was also in the beginning with God” “Intelligence” or “the light of truth” here refers to the eternal, uncreated element of man. The Prophet Joseph taught that each of us has from all eternity had some native intelligence or light that was and is uncreated by God (TPJS, 354). However, we know virtually nothing about conditions before our spirit birth except that each intelligence plus a spirit body make a spirit (see Joseph Fielding Smith, Answers to Gospel Questions, 4:127). Joseph Smith also taught that “the intelligence of spirits had no beginning, neither will it have an end. That is good logic. That which has a beginning may have an end. There never was a time when there were not spirits [sic]; for they are co-equal [that is, co-eternal] with our Father in heaven” (HC, 6:311). It should be noted that the Prophet uses here the terms “intelligence,” “spirit,” “mind,” and “mind of man” interchangeably to refer to that native intelligence which existed in us before our spirit birth (TPJS, 353-354).
Did we exist prior to this moment of spirit birth as individuals capable of receiving light and truth? What is the nature of “intelligences”? Are they individuals capable of thinking and acting for themselves, or is “intelligence” simply that elementary matter without individual identity from which spirits are organized at their birth as previously maintained in this document? There are actually two schools of thought on this subject in the Church:
- Intelligences are those eternal and uncreated entities which have co-existed with God forever. We know nothing of their origins and little of their nature. Each intelligence is autonomous and has its own individual identity. Each thinks and acts independently (D&C 93:30). Each has its agency and is not compelled to obey when the Father speaks though each knows, loves, and respects him and is inclined to obey him. During the process of spiritual creation, some of the intelligences were combined with spirit in the process of divine procreation and became the literal spirit children of Heavenly parents. Your author strongly favors this view.
- Man did not exist as a separate individual, possessing agency and independence, prior to spirit birth. The spirit was “organized” as uncreated, inanimate eternal element known as “intelligence” was combined with a body of inanimate spirit matter during the process of spirit birth. This view has been advocated by the likes of Brigham Young, Parley P. Pratt, Charles W. Penrose, and Bruce R. McConkie.
30 All truth is independent in that sphere in which God has placed it, to act for itself, as all intelligence also; otherwise there is no existence.
verse 30 “All truth is independent in that sphere in which God has placed it” As intelligences and as spirit children of our heavenly parents we also had agency. Agency is a principle that is sacrosanct in all the universe. The grand doctrine of agency cannot and will not be violated.
It is easy for us to understand how an intelligence which has been given its agency is “independent in that sphere in which God has placed it, to act for itself.” But how is “truth” similarly independent? Apparently this statement suggests simply that just as intelligences were not created by God and are coeternal with him, in like manner so is truth co-eternal with him and thus self-existent and independent of him. This may explain a phrase once used by Joseph Smith: “laws of eternal and self-existent principles” (TPJS, 181).
31 Behold, here is the agency of man, and here is the condemnation of man; because that which was from the beginning is plainly manifest unto them, and they receive not the light.
verse 31 While agency is vital for the spiritual progress of man, there is also a downside—a risk—to agency. A man’s agency, if exercise wrongly will work to that man’s condemnation.
It is a profound principle indeed that the Gods accomplish their purposes only by a voluntary system of obedience or agency. They apparently learned long ago that any degree of compulsion or violation of agency introduces into the system the seeds of rebellion and revolution.
32 And every man whose spirit receiveth not the light is under condemnation.
verse 32 When the spirit of man obeys the word of God—the gospel law—that spirit is enlightened and is enabled to receive even more light and truth. When the spirit of man disobeys God, he not only loses the light he might have received had he obeyed, but may also lose the light already accumulated from prior obedience.
33 For man is spirit. The elements are eternal, and spirit and element, inseparably connected, receive a fulness of joy;
verse 33 “man is spirit” Here we must point out that the parallels to the Gospel of John in section 93 extend well beyond the first few verses of John chapter one. Here we have a parallel to John 4:24 which states that “God is a Spirit.” Let us digress a bit and address this particular verse in the gospel of John. Some critics of our view have argued that belief in an anthropomorphic God represents a departure from the biblical teachings, since John 4:24 teaches very clearly that “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” But the Latter-day Saints do not dispute this passage at all, unless it is interpreted as limiting God to being merely a spirit. Two of the most fundamental teachings of the New Testament are that Christ is genuinely God and that he at the same time genuinely has a body. He is a physically resurrected being.
Actually John 4:24 should be translated “God is Spirit” rather than “God is a Spirit,” for there is no indefinite article (a, an) in the Greek language, and it is always a matter of subjective judgment as to when the translator should add one. The consensus among biblical scholars is that there should not be an indefinite article at John 4:24. John 4:24 is not an essential definition of God, but a description of one of God’s characteristics; it means that God is Spirit for mankind because he brings the Spirit, he communicates with them in the Spirit. There are two other such descriptions in the John’s writings: “God is light” (1 John 1:5), and “God is love” (1 John 4: 8). Paul wrote that “God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:29). Just as God is not limited to being light and nothing else by 1 John 1:5, or to being love and nothing else by 1 John 4:8, or a consuming fire and nothing else by Hebrews 12:29, so he is not limited to being spirit and nothing else by John 4:24. That God is spirit does not limit him to being a spirit anymore than his being worshipped in spirit (John 4:24) requires worshippers to first jettison their physical bodies. In the LDS view God is spirit, but he is not merely spirit. The phrase “they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth” indicates that the people of Samaria, here being addressed, were not worshipping the Father in truth. Christ had told the Samaritan woman just prior: “Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship.” The Samaritans were Pagans who worshipped graven or carved images. The real God is not a dead image, he has a spirit.
There is yet another sense in which the Father is a personage of spirit—he has a spiritual body. The scriptures provide us with the revealed definition of a spiritual body. A spiritual body is a resurrected body of flesh and bones. 1 Corinthians 15:44 speaks of the resurrection and explains: “It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body [the mortal body], and there is a spiritual body [the resurrected body].” Also D&C 88:27 speaks of the righteous who will inherit the celestial kingdom. It says: “For notwithstanding they die, they also shall rise again, a spiritual body [a resurrected body].”
Now, let us return to the phrase at hand in verse 33—“man is spirit.” This phrase teaches that part of man’s eternal nature, like that of God, is spirit. We are the same type of being as God.
“the elements are eternal” Joseph Smith declared through revelation that the elements, the building blocks of all physical matter, are themselves eternal. The elements may be organized or disorganized; they may even change their form; and can apparently be transformed from element to energy or back again, but they can neither be created nor destroyed. The elements are co-eternal with God. This doctrine, of course, contradicts the tradition of the historical Christian churches, which has adopted the theological view that God created all things out of nothing (Latin, ex nihilo). Most Christian theologians would claim that God made everything out of nothing and that he also created the space to put it in. However, according to modern revelation, space, matter, intelligences, light, and truth are all eternal. God is the organizer, or the builder, of the universe, but the raw materials out of which he creates his worlds and universe, unorganized matter and elements, are as eternal as he is.
“spirit and element, inseparably connected, receive a fulness of joy” A common view in traditional Christianity, following Hellenistic Greek ideas, has been that God and all things eternal are spiritual in nature and that nothing physical or material in nature could ever be eternal. Thus, while material elements exist, they are transitory and detract from the spiritual bliss to be enjoyed by non-physical entities in the eternities to come. In one Greek view, the material world was created by mistake by a lesser god known as the demiurge, who, while playing in the mud, so to speak, created physical matter and accidentally trapped spirits within it. For many Greek thinkers, the physical universe was a prison-house in which pure spirits had sadly become entrapped. Many Greeks, therefore, believed that the goal of eternity was to free ourselves from all things physical and to become, like God, totally non-physical in our being (see the discussion in Dodds, Greeks and the Irrational, 149). While Jews and early Christians believed in the literal resurrection of the dead, many in the Greek world preferred to believe only in the immortality of the soul (spirit). In time, denial of the importance or the eternality of the physical body led Christianity to the denigration of family relations and familial love, or the “continuation of the lives” or “continuation of the seeds” (D&C 132:22, 19; see also verse 30). The restoration of the gospel through Joseph Smith taught once again that both matter and spirit are eternal and that true and lasting eternal felicity can occur only when these two eternal entities are permanently joined together by the power of God.
34 And when separated, man cannot receive a fulness of joy.
verse 34 Since both spirit and matter are eternal, it follows that a fulness of eternal joy can only be had by those who can control and comprehend both of these materials. Were our natures limited to either spirit or element, we could not experience the full spectrum of reality. To truly comprehend and control the eternal worlds, we must be able to deal with what exists in all its forms. Spirits without physical bodies cannot experience physical reality. To become like our Father in heaven, we must know and control all things, whether of the spirit or of the physical elements. Otherwise, we cannot create as he creates in both spirit and element.
Even with the memory of the pains of mortality, those spirits now inhabiting the postmortal spirit world view the absence of their spirits from their physical bodies as bondage (see D&C 138:50). Without both aspects of eternity, both the spiritual and the physical, they cannot experience a fulness of joy.
35 The elements are the tabernacle of God; yea, man is the tabernacle of God, even temples; and whatsoever temple is defiled, God shall destroy that temple.
verse 35 “The elements are the tabernacle of God” The 88th section of the Doctrine and Covenants teaches that the light which emanates from God, the light of Christ, fills the immensity of space (verses 11-12). It teaches further that this light is “in all things” and “giveth life to all things” (verse 13). Christ is intimately associated with the light that emanates from him. Thus, we may say that Christ is “in all things”—in every atom and molecule (see every Colossians 1:17). Hence, the elements are the tabernacle (dwelling place) of God.
“man is the tabernacle of God” For the same reasons that the elements are the tabernacle of God, man is also the tabernacle of God. That is, the light of Christ permeates every part of matter that makes up man’s physical being, and man has the ability to take upon himself the light of Christ as he obeys the laws of God and grows spiritually. God is thus intimately involved with both aspects of man. Man is the tabernacle of God.
“whatsoever temple is defiled, God shall destroy that temple” The body is sacred, even a temple, because the light of Christ permeates our body. Abuse of this body, then, constitutes the sin of defiling a sacred place. The abuser will not be actually destroyed in terms of ceasing to exist. Rather, he will be cast out of the presence of God.
36 The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth.
verse 36 Interestingly, this verse seems to be rather more definitional than profoundly declaratory. The light which emanates from the Lord and fills the immensity of space may be spoken of as the “glory of God.” Man may receive this light, or “light and truth, as he obeys the Lord’s commands. The stage of “light and truth” an individual has achieved through obedience to eternal principles is his “intelligence.” Thus, the level of “light and truth” or the level of God’s glory a man has received is his intelligence. As has been discussed, this intelligence is not the same as the worldly I. Q. of the individual, nor does it relate to the level of secular education which a man has received. This intelligence, this glory of God, is available to scholars and laborers alike.
37 Light and truth forsake that evil one.
verse 37 Satan, for all of his knowledge and abilities, is excluded from receiving the light of Christ. Thus, he can never progress spiritually. Nor can he read and interpret the light emanating from another individual. God can interpret a man’s light and know the truth about him without a word’s being spoken. Satan cannot.
Another possible meaning of this verse is that the individual who has acquired light and truth through his obedience has an increased ability to resist (to “forsake”) the evil one.
38 Every spirit of man was innocent in the beginning; and God having redeemed man from the fall, men became again, in their infant state, innocent before God.
verse 38 “Every spirit of man was innocent in the beginning” When is the “beginning” to which this verse refers? And what exactly is innocence? Our quest to become like God began very long ago in the premortal world, even prior to our spirit birth. It began as soon as we were exposed to the laws of God. As intelligences, we had no beginning and we have always had our agency. In the period even prior to our spirit birth—after we were selected to part of this round of our Father’s creation—when we existed as individual intelligences, we began to progress to become more like God. When we obeyed, we qualified to receive increments of his divine attributes or gifts of the Spirit. When we disobeyed, we did not progress. This same progress continued following our spirit birth. In the premortal world were we always considered to be “innocent”? Certainly not; we find much evidence of accountability for sin in the premortal world. One third of the Father’s children rebelled and were cast down to earth, never to receive mortal bodies. Were they accountable for their sins? Indeed they were. Were they considered innocent? Certainly not.
In what way and when, on his long road toward becoming like God, is the spirit of man considered to be innocent? And when is he not considered to be innocent? We might answer these questions by saying that a man is considered to be innocent beginning from the moment of his mortal birth and extending to his reaching the age of accountability, which age is eight years. After reaching that age, if he commits sin, then he is no longer innocent, but rather considered guilty of sin. While all spirits are not considered to be innocent during their premortal phase, every spirit who is born into mortality will be born innocent. Hence, we may include the premortal period as a time when all who were bound for earth might be considered innocent, since they would be forgiven of their sins at the moment of mortal birth. Certainly all of these had committed sin during their premortal experience and were variable in their valor in the cause of Jehovah. Elder Orson Pratt, writing about the nature of sin in our premortal existence, said: “Among the two-thirds [of God’s spirit children] who remained, it is highly probable, that, there were many who were not valiant . . . but whose sins were of such a nature that they could be forgiven through faith in the future sufferings of the Only Begotten of the Father, and through their sincere repentance and reformation. We see no impropriety in Jesus offering himself as an acceptable offering and sacrifice before the Father to atone for the sins of his brethren, committed, not only in the second, but also in the first estate” (The Seer, no. 4, 1:54).
So we may conclude that the word beginning in this verse includes the premortal phase of all mortality-bound spirits and the first eight years of the mortal experience. For the sins committed in this period, they are considered innocent. But are we certain that we understand the meaning of the term innocent? Let us continue.
Fundamental to our further discussion is the definition of sin. Sin is simply disobedience to or transgression of a law of God—“sin is the transgression of the law” (1 John 3:4).
Next, we must consider in more detail the concept of accountability. An individual may obey or disobey the law both prior to the age of accountability or after he reaches the age of accountability. In both stages, obedience to the law or transgression of the law (sin) has consequences. Obedience inevitably results in spiritual growth—the incremental acquisition by personal revelation of gifts of the Spirit or increments of the attributes of God. We have learned that these gifts are actually received via the medium of the light of Christ. The obedient individual takes on more of the light of Christ and therefore grows in glory and “intelligence”—he grows to become more like God. Disobedience, on the other hand, always results in a failure to grow—the light of Christ is withheld—and habitual disobedience may also result in the loss of spiritual gifts previously received. These consequences of obedience and disobedience are independent of whether or not the individual has reached the age of accountability. One may therefore ask, “Can an unaccountable individual commit sin?” The answer is yes, and he will suffer the consequences of sin just described, but he will not be held accountable for that sin.
What does it mean then to be held accountable for sin? The law of justice is very clear. It stipulates that when an accountable individual commits sin, or violates a law of God, a penalty is assessed. An individual with a penalty is no longer worthy to enter the presence of God. In fact, he is not worthy to enter any kingdom of glory. If the individual is to one day return to the presence of God or enter any other degree of glory, then the penalty must be removed—he must be “forgiven” of his sin. This forgiveness is conditional and dependent on his willingness to commit himself to Jesus Christ and his gospel and strive continually to obey the Lord commands. If he does so commit, then the Savior will appeal to the law of justice on his behalf, and the penalty demanded by the law of justice will be removed—we say that he is forgiven of his sin. He will then be “again, in [his] infant state, innocent before God.” The Savior has earned this vital privilege—that of being able to dictate the removal of the penalties of sin—by virtue of his atoning sacrifice in Gethsemane and on the cross. And what happens when an unaccountable individual commits sin? He will not be kept out of the kingdom of heaven, or any other kingdom of glory, because of his sin. This occurs either because the law of justice does not penalize the unaccountable individual or the unaccountable individual is automatically and without condition forgiven his sin by virtue of the Savior’s atonement. It is common for a church member to believe that an unaccountable individual is not able to commit sin. Technically, this is incorrect. The unaccountable individual can commit sin and will experience the consequences of that sin relative to his spiritual growth. He will not, however, be kept out of a kingdom of glory because of his sin.
Does this mean that all individuals whose mortal sojourn ends prior to their reaching the age of accountability—that all who suffer mortal death while still in a state of innocence—are automatically admitted to the celestial heaven? Not necessarily. The judgment that determines the degree of glory in which an individual will spend eternity is based on more than whether or not he has any outstanding penalties levied by the demands of justice. Actually all individuals who enter any kingdom of glory will ultimately confess Christ and the blessings of his atonement will be extended to them. They will all be forgiven of their sins. Which degree of glory they inherit is up to the Lord, and it would seem that only a relatively “few” (Matthew 7:13-14; 3 Nephi 27:33) will have progressed satisfactorily so that the Lord will find them worthy of celestial glory (see also the commentary for D&C 137:10). Apparently, many of those considered to be unaccountable at the moment of their mortal death would not be happy in a celestial eternal environment. They would not be able to “abide” the celestial heaven (D&C 84:22-24). The Lord is able to judge each an every individual perfectly based on the individuals heart (D&C 137:5-9)—he will judge based upon who and what they really are. If they are of celestial character, they will be exalted in that realm. If they fit better in a lesser degree of glory, then that will be their lot.
39 And that wicked one cometh and taketh away light and truth, through disobedience, from the children of men, and because of the tradition of their fathers.
verse 39 “And that wicked one cometh and taketh away light and truth” Can that wicked one, Satan, really take away light and truth? While he may not be able, by his own doing, remove spiritual gifts from any individual, he certainly uses his considerable abilities to create an environment when individuals may choose to habitually commit sin, which may result in a loss of spiritual gift previously received. The “tradition of their father” refers to secular philosophies which are untrue and may lead many away from the eternal truth. These traditions or philosophies are promoted by Satan.
40 But I have commanded you to bring up your children in light and truth.
verse 40 “I have commanded you” See, for example, D&C 20:70; 55:4; 68:25, 31-32. We will learn in succeeding verses that the Lord had also given private revelations on this subject to some of the church leaders gathered at the time of this revelation.
verses 41-50 In these verses each member of the First Presidency (Joseph Smith, Sydney Rigdon, and Frederick G. Williams) and the bishop of the Church in Kirtland (Newel K. Whitney) are rebuked by the Lord for problems with their families. The exact nature of these brethren’s family difficulties are left unspoken here, for they are private matters. It is a credit to the humility and integrity of the Prophet that these verses were not taken out of the revelation by were left in for all to read.
It is worthy of note that the Lord does not hesitate to rebuke pointedly and publicly when his leaders and members neglect the proper instruction of their children.
If children are taught the truth and then stray, the condemnation is upon their own heads. If parents fail to adequately instruct the children and then the children stray, the sins still fall upon the heads of the children, but the condemnation of disobeying this commandment falls upon the heads of the parents.
41 But verily I say unto you, my servant Frederick G. Williams, you have continued under this condemnation; 42 You have not taught your children light and truth, according to the commandments; and that wicked one hath power, as yet, over you, and this is the cause of your affliction.
verse 42 This verse contains a most sobering observation, especially for leaders of the Lord’s Church. Though they may be laboring diligently in the kingdom, there is no excuse for neglecting the spiritual education of their children. The Lord tells Frederick
G. Williams that some of his current sins are due to the neglect of his family.
43 And now a commandment I give unto you—if you will be delivered you shall set in order your own house, for there are many things that are not right in your house.
44 Verily, I say unto my servant Sidney Rigdon, that in some things he hath not kept the commandments concerning his children; therefore, first set in order thy house.
45 Verily, I say unto my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., or in other words, I will call you friends, for you are my friends, and ye shall have an inheritance with me—
verse 45 “I will call you friends” The Lord addresses the Prophet and his associates as “friends.” This indicates that the relationship of these brethren to the Lord goes beyond just Master and servant, and the Lord holds out to them the real hope of their eventual exaltation.
46 I called you servants for the world’s sake, and ye are their servants for my sake—
verse 46 Though the members of the First Presidency are regarded as “friends” of the Lord, they are also very much his servants also laboring for the salvation of the world.
47 And now, verily I say unto Joseph Smith, Jun.—You have not kept the commandments, and must needs stand rebuked before the Lord;
verse 47 One need not suppose from this verse that the Prophet was guilty of some great, hidden sins, or that he is being rejected here by the Lord. Rather, like all of us, Joseph was human and continued to struggle with the struggles of mortality.
48 Your family must needs repent and forsake some things, and give more earnest heed unto your sayings, or be removed out of their place.
verse 48 One may well suppose that this warning applied less to Joseph’s children, who were still very young, and more to Emma, Joseph’s parents, or to his brothers and sisters.
49 What I say unto one I say unto all; pray always lest that wicked one have power in you, and remove you out of your place.
50 My servant Newel K. Whitney also, a bishop of my church, hath need to be chastened, and set in order his family, and see that they are more diligent and concerned at home, and pray always, or they shall be removed out of their place.
51 Now, I say unto you, my friends, let my servant Sidney Rigdon go on his journey, and make haste, and also proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the gospel of salvation, as I shall give him utterance; and by your prayer of faith with one consent I will uphold him.
verse 51 “let my servant Sidney Rigdon go on his journey” Perhaps Sidney was called on a mission at this time. However, either he did not go or his mission was fairly short in duration, for he was back in Kirtland by June 21 and probably by June 3 (HC, 1:354, 352). The reader will recall that section 93 was received on May 6, 1833.
“proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord” The acceptable year or the acceptable day of the Lord is the moment, the point in time, when salvation is offered to the souls of men (see also Luke 4:19; D&C 138:31).
52 And let my servants Joseph Smith, Jun., and Frederick G. Williams make haste also, and it shall be given them even according to the prayer of faith; and inasmuch as you keep my sayings you shall not be confounded in this world, nor in the world to come.
verse 52 “let my servants Joseph Smith, Jun., and Frederick G. Williams make haste” The Lord refers to Joseph’s work on the JST. The New Testament of the JST had been completed on February 2, 1833. Work on portions of the Old Testament continued until July 2 of that year.
53 And, verily I say unto you, that it is my will that you should hasten to translate my scriptures, and to obtain a knowledge of history, and of countries, and of kingdoms, of laws of God and man, and all this for the salvation of Zion. Amen.
verse 53 In this verse the Lord points out the importance of secular education (“history, “countries,” kingdoms,” “laws of . . . man”) as well as the importance of divine revelation (“laws of God”) in the salvation of Zion.
Credit is given for some of the above material on section 93 to Dr. LaMar E. Garrard, a professor of Church history and doctrine at Brigham Young University and is taken from his valuable essay on section 93 (Studies in Scripture, Volume One, The Doctrine and Covenants, 365).
The Savior came to this earth with an assigned mission. He was successful in it and received a fulness of glory, of power, of truth, and of joy. We, also, are on this earth to perform the missions given to us for the furthering of mankind and for the good of God’s kingdom on earth. If we are successful, the rewards are the same—a fulness of glory, power, truth and joy.
Brief Historical Setting
In the late spring of 1833, the interest of the saints was turned by the Lord to building. The saints barely had sufficient funds to maintain themselves, yet they were commanded to begin an active building program. The Lord commanded them to build a church office building and a church printing office [D&C 94 -Church Building Program], and he also rebuked the saints for ignoring his commandment to build a temple in Kirtland. He told them to get to work on it immediately [D&C 95 -Building the Kirtland Temple]. The saints took the Lord’s chastisement seriously and set to work within a few days of receiving section 95.
The saints contended with almost overwhelming problems and deficiencies as they built the temple. They had no land, money, architectural plans, or construction plans. Yet they did not lack for faith and enthusiasm. They solicited contributions from members in and out of Kirtland, and with the Lord’s help they found a suitable plat of land for the temple site [D&C 96 -Peter French Farm].
- Michael J. Preece