Saturday, June 12, 2021

Doctrine and Covenants 64-66

Recap: The Saints had begun gathering to Ohio in early 1831. In late spring a large group of New York Saints joined them. The Lord then instructed the Saints that this was only a stopping point along the way, but despite that, they should "act upon this land for years" (D&C 51:17) and it would turn unto their good. By mid-summer, the final location was announced as Jackson County, Missouri. The Saints were to move there slowly, over years, so as not to overwhelm and alarm the frontier town. 

Section 64 reads:

21 I will not that my servant Frederick G. Williams should sell his farm, for I, the Lord, will to retain a strong hold in the land of Kirtland, for the space of five years, in the which I will not overthrow the wicked, that thereby I may save some.

22 And after that day, I, the Lord, will not hold any aguilty that shall go with an open heart up to the land of Zion; for I, the Lord, require the bhearts of the children of men.

If after 5 years the Lord would not hold any guilty for moving to Jackson County, we can presume that he would hold people guilty for going earlier if not commanded. As discussed in the previous lesson, many did not wait 5 years to go up to Zion, and perhaps partly because of that, there was no Zion in Jackson County when the 5 years came. The Saints were driven out of Jackson in 2 years. (See Chronology of Church History.) By November of 1833, they were fleeing for their lives to Clay County.

Would we be willing to stop at someplace we knew was only halfway to Utopia? It wouldn't have been easy. Yet those who did "act upon [the] land as for years" were still in Kirtland for the marvelous dedication of the Kirtland Temple in 1836!

Section 64 promises that the Saints will get to Zion if they can forgive each other and if they can share what they have with each other.  These are two very, very difficult commandments to follow which most of us struggle with throughout our lives.

Section 65 tells us that we should pray for the Lord's Kingdom to come on the earth, for that day when Christ shall be king. An interesting note is made by Steven Harper:

"In 1838, Judge Austin King charged Joseph Smith with treason and confined him in jail at Liberty, Missouri, for teaching the doctrines given in section 65. Parley P. Pratt wrote that Judge King 'inquired diligently into our belief of the seventh chapter of Daniel concerning the kingdom of God, which should subdue all other kingdoms and stand forever.' The Saints testified that they believed the prophecy, and Judge King instructed his clerk, 'Write that down; it is a strong point for treason.' The Saints' attorney objected. Is the Bible treason? The next time he was charged with treason, Joseph did not escape. A month after 'setting up the kingdom of Daniel by the word of the Lord' and declaring his intent to 'revolutionize the whole world,' Joseph Smith's life was ended abruptly by a lunch mob in Carthage, Illinois, on June 27, 1844" (Steven C. Harper, Making Sense of the Doctrine and Covenants: A Guided Tour through Modern Revelation, electronic version, Deseret Book, 400).

Section 66 is a personal revelation to Brother William E. McLellin, which he wrote as the Prophet dictated it. Brother McLellin's mother was a Cherokee, making him half Lamanite, if you believe the Cherokee tribes descend from the Book of Mormon peoples as I do and as the early Saints did (Joseph Smith Papers). Brother McLellin, a brand-new convert, wanted to try the Lord and His prophet Joseph Smith by asking for the answers to 5 questions that were very important to him, but without telling the Prophet that he had these questions. That evening, he wrote the revelation in his journal and added that it "gave great joy to my heart because some important questions were answered which had dwelt upon my mind with anxiety and yet with uncertainty." He never revealed what the questions were, but he had asked in faith and received a testimony because of them (Harper, 403).

Harper reports that Brother McLellin used his journal after this point as an "accountability report" on his obedience to this revelation. In his honesty of writing, many lapses are recorded.

1) He set out on the mission he was called to, preaching the gospel and blessing the sick. He tried to "be patient in affliction," but the winter wore him down and he left his companion and returned to Kirtland around Christmastime of 1831. He was rebuked by the Lord in D&C 75:6-7 and called to service again.

2) He set out on the second mission, but his health and his faith waned, and he again left his companion. 

3) He took a job to earn money and he married, all while he was supposed to be on a mission, unencumbered by family obligations (D&C 66:10).

4) He and his bride dashed off to Jackson County, despite being commanded "go not up unto the land of Zion" (D&C 66:6).

5) He did not consecrate his money to the bishop there, but bought two lots on Main Street in Independence, after being commanded to "think not of [his own] property" (D&C 66:6).

Despite disobeying revelations given specifically to himself in answer to his questions, he still believed Joseph Smith to be a prophet and wrote as much in August 1832. Joseph Smith publicly called him out for his disobedience. 

Brother McLellin's time in the Church was brief but highly eventful. His faithfulness was rather like a yo-yo, with extreme highs and lows. He had requested the revelation now known as Section 66 shortly after joining the Church in 1831. Due to his disobedience, he was excommunicated in 1832, but soon after was reinstated. In 1833 and 1834 he served two short missions. He was called as an Apostle in 1835. He formally left the Church in 1836, but apparently changed his mind soon and rejoined. He was called again as an Apostle in 1837. He was excommunicated again in 1838, admitting that he had gone "his own way and indulged himself in his lustful desires." He was again excommunicated, this time never to return, and "he spent the rest of his long life struggling to resolve the dissonance between his unshaken testimony and his unwillingness to repent" (Joseph Smith Papers; Harper, 407). 

It is impossible for us to know what personal struggles Brother McLellin had in this life that made obedience so difficult for him. But he never forsook his testimony of this revelation. In 1848, ten years after he and the Church parted ways, he wrote in his journal, "I now testify in the fear of God, that every question which I had thus lodged in the ears of the Lord of Sabbaoth, were answered to my full and entire satisfaction. I desired it for a testimony of Joseph's inspiration. And I to this day consider it to me an evidence which I cannot refute" (Journal entry, quoted in Harper, 404). He tried several break-off groups through the years, but finally left all organized religion. William McLellin died in 1883 in Independence, Missouri at the age of 78.

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Doctrine and Covenants 63


When the Brethren came back from their trip to Missouri in summer of 1831, Joseph Smith was able to announce, "Now we know where Zion and the New Jerusalem will be: Jackson County, Missouri!" Jackson County did not look anything like a promised land or a celestial society, however. To see it as such required an eye of faith.

The Saints themselves were no more near a Zion society than we are, as was easily shown by the quarrels and controversies among prospective Church leaders on the trip back along the Missouri River! Such quarreling and complaining led to the near capsizing of the Prophet's canoe. In fact, the operation of a canoe is an excellent metaphor for a Zion society. If you have ever traveled in a canoe, you know that it requires absolute cooperation between the two who are in it, otherwise it goes in circles or nowhere. It's a craft that operates on principles of equal strength, shared goals, and syncronized movement.

A new convert (let's be real--by today's standards, all the members of the Church in 1831 were new converts, but this man was one of the newest), Ezra Booth, was traveling with the party. Before he had any faith in the truths of the gospel, and very little knowledge of its principles, he had been present for a miracle, the healing of Sister Johnson's shoulder, and this caused him to "rush the process" and join the Church without careful study. He didn't need faith because he had seen the gift of healing with his natural eyes. But this is the opposite of how faith becomes deeply rooted, and once the quarreling traveling party reached home in Kirtland, he now had knowledge that the Saints were imperfect. In addition, he had seen the very rough and sinful frontier city of Independence, Missouri--where you could only tell it was Sunday because there was more drinking and fighting and carousing on that day--and he wanted nothing to do with living there.

So on his return to Ohio, he quickly became a vicious opponent of the Church. He holds the dubious honor of being the first writer and promoter of "anti-Mormon" material in history. He began writing letters, first to a Methodist minister and then to Edward Partridge, describing the faults of the Church, the so-called promised land, and the individuals leading the movement. Then  he sent these sensational letters to be published in the Ohio Star newspaper. One contemporary who read his letters wrote to his brother that the Mormon Church worshipped the devil himself.

These letters apparently became quite influential. They were not only read by interested local individuals, but they were included as a major source for the first anti-Mormon book published, Mormonism Unvailed (sic). Over 100 years later, they were source material for one of the most-read books criticizing the Church and Joseph Smith, No Man Knows My History, by Fawn Brody. Although Ezra Booth was only a member of the Church for a matter of weeks, his letters were (and sometimes still are) considered insider knowledge and his criticism considered accurate. 

Why did Ezra Booth go to such lengths to spread his negative opinions (some would certainly be called lies) about the Church he had left? We know exactly why he did because he said so himself to the editor of the newspaper: 1) it was his duty before God and man, 2) he needed to rescue those who had been entrapped in the Church, 3) he wanted to prevent others from ruining their lives by joining the Church, 4) he wanted to satisfy other people who had asked him to expose the Church and its faults (Source: Dialogue). It felt really good to be an "expert witness." These reasons are the exact reasons that influential people (or people who desire to be influential) use today in their efforts to point out faults in the Church, its leadership, its mission, its use of its financial resources, its history, its doctrine.

Some things don't change much, even over 200 years.

Hearken, O ye people, and open your hearts and give ear from afar; and listen, you that call yourselves the apeople of the Lord, and hear the word of the Lord and his will concerning you.
Yea, verily, I say, hear the word of him whose anger is akindled against the wicked and brebellious;
Who willeth to take even them whom he will atake, and bpreserveth in life them whom he will preserve;
Who buildeth up at his own will and apleasure; and destroyeth when he pleases, and is able to bcast the soul down to hell.
Behold, I, the Lord, utter my voice, and it shall be aobeyed.
Wherefore, verily I say, let the wicked take heed, and let the arebellious bfear and tremble; and let the unbelieving hold their lips, for the cday of wrath shall come upon them as a dwhirlwind, and all flesh shall eknow that I am God.
And he that seeketh asigns shall see bsigns, but not unto salvation.
Verily, I say unto you, there are those among you who seek signs, and there have been such even from the beginning;
But, behold, faith cometh not by signs, but asigns follow those that believe.
10 Yea, asigns come by bfaith, not by the will of men, nor as they please, but by the will of God.

See also verses 8-12 for condemnation of people who seek for signs.


After the exciting announcement that Zion would be built in Jackson County, Missouri, the Lord counseled the Saints to be patient and orderly in gathering there. 

24 And now, behold, this is the will of the Lord your God concerning his saints, that they should aassemble themselves together unto the land of Zion, not in haste, lest there should be confusion, which bringeth pestilence.
25 Behold, the land of aZion—I, the Lord, hold it in mine own hands;
26 Nevertheless, I, the Lord, render unto aCæsar the things which are Cæsar’s.
27 Wherefore, I the Lord will that you should apurchase the lands, that you may have advantage of the world, that you may have claim on the world, that they may not be bstirred up unto anger.
28 For aSatan bputteth it into their hearts to anger against you, and to the shedding of blood.
29 Wherefore, the land of Zion shall not be obtained but by apurchase or by blood, otherwise there is none inheritance for you.
30 And if by purchase, behold you are blessed;
31 And if by ablood, as you are forbidden to shed blood, lo, your enemies are upon you, and ye shall be scourged from city to city, and from synagogue to synagogue, and but bfew shall stand to receive an inheritance.

Although God was ultimately in charge of Zion, holding it in His own hands, He counseled the Church to purchase the land and avoid angering the citizens already living there. He knew they were a wild, rowdy, and greedy bunch, ready for a fight at any moment. If the Saints rushed to Jackson County, there would be opposition and it would be bloody. He asked for any extra money to be sent to the agents left in Jackson to purchase land and he asked the people to hold back and wait for the Prophet to tell them when it was their turn to go. As an example He asked Newel K. Whitney to stay back and keep running his store, but if he received any money that he could spare, he should send it to Zion. (See verses 41-45.) 

Emily Coburn was among those early members who were sent to Jackson. She reflected on the happy time spent initially setting up the community: "Cabins were built and prepared for families as fast as time, money, and labor could accomplish the work; and our homes in this new country presented a prosperous appearance--almost equal to paradise itself--and our peace and happiness as we flattered ourselves, were not in a great degree deficient to that of our first parents in the garden of Eden, as no labor or painstaking was spared in the cultivation of flowers and shrubbery, of a choice selection..." (quoted in Brian and Petrea Kelley, Latter-day History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Covenant Communications, p. 111).

However, the building of homes and the purchasing of land could not keep up with the demand from Saints who did not want to wait until they were called to move to Missouri. "Any member who wanted to come to Missouri was supposed to receive a recommend from his bishop or branch president and be accepted by the bishop in Zion before moving. However, some ignored this procedure and just showed up, expecting to receive a plot of land. This put a great strain on the resources of the Church. Seven high priests...had been called to administer affairs in Zion, but some members set up their own branches and refused to follow these brethren's counsel" (Kelley, 115).

Some Saints, including some in authority, quarreled over land and some purchased it in their own names using Church monies, rather than deeding them directly to the Church.

Members in Jackson would also critique revelations and directives that Joseph Smith sent from Kirtland. Elder Newel Knight, as a branch president, read one new revelation to his congregation from the Prophet and his own aunt stood up and contradicted it fiercely. He finally stopped her, but she continued to talk about it among the members and try to get people on her side. She was sure the Prophet was wrong. It took a severe illness to finally humble her enough to admit her prideful error and apologize (Kelley, 115-116).

Eventually President Smith felt it necessary to send a letter to the Missouri Saints: "Our hearts are greatly grieved at the spirit which is breathed...the very spirit which is wasting the strength of Zion like a pestilence; and if it is not detected and driven from you, it will ripen Zion for the threatened judgments of God...They who will not hear [God's] voice, must expect to feel His wrath" (Smith, History of the Church, 1:316-317).

The "confusion" of an unprepared rush to Zion (physically, socially, and spiritually) had brought a "pestilence" of dissension and contention among the people, as was prophesied in verse 24.


We must remember the same truth: God is patience, love, and order. He never forces anyone or rushes anything. He encourages societies to change. He gives people second, third, and tenth chances. He leads us along little by little on our spiritual journeys. If we are to be united with Him in purpose, in vision, and in love, we must also be patient. We must not rush the answers to our prayers. We must not force the behavior of others or expect them to develop spiritually faster than they can. We must not rush ourselves to run faster than we have strength. I was so moved by an answer to prayer that a friend shared with me this week. He is a great-grandfather who has been a faithful member all his life, but many of his children and grandchildren are outside the Church, several are struggling with mental illnesses, some have never overcome addictions fully. He was praying fervently for them, as he always did, when he suddenly received a clear and powerful message. It was this: 

"Don't you trust me?" 

If we are asking the Lord, "What can I do to help?" daily, and if we follow through and heed the answers we receive, we don't have to be frantic and afraid. And when we are not frantic and afraid, it's easier to accept and love others, and set an example of joyfulness, and that's the whole point of the gospel. It's easier for them to approach us for answers to their questions, knowing we are a "judgment-free zone." It is only love that will make any difference, and love is never in a hurry. We can trust that the Lord holds our own family Zion in His hands and He will redeem it in His own time. We just need to build the cabin and plant the flowers and stay with the Prophet.

(For a more in-depth treatment of this Section, I recommend Teaching With Power on YouTube.

Sunday, May 30, 2021

Doctrine and Covenants 60-62

 Stepping Out of The Cage

This spring [2015] our sweet gray tabby died of old age. My youngest daughter wailed that we would never have a cat again, and her two older sisters said, "Oh, don't worry; Mom will always have a cat." They are right. Life is just not right without a cat. Besides the mousing value, the therapy value of that incredibly soft fur is inestimable. Except for a few years in rental housing, in my 52 years, I've always had a cat.

So I headed to the Humane Society to find a new friend. I love Siamese cats, so I planned to get one of those, but when I picked up this beautiful little lady, with her one blue eye and one gold eye, I was smitten. She was sweet, she was inquisitive, she melted in my arms.

The Humane Society workers, however, were very wary. They said they needed me to understand that this cat had "extreme anxiety," that she had originally been adopted by another family from another shelter, and had been surrendered to this shelter because she was crazy and wouldn't stop attacking the family. What? She was so sweet! They said, "Yes, that's the way she was at the shelter for the other family as well, but as soon as they got her home, she freaked out. They had her a month and she only got worse. She attacked people and actually caused injury, so they sadly brought her in." After they assured me that I could bring her back and pay a surrender fee if she didn't work out, I decided to take a chance. I was just so taken with that silky fur, and those bright eyes. I named her "Jewel."

Jewel was as sweet as could be. For about 1 hour. And then the devil cat appeared. Anytime someone tried to get near her, she attacked. The claws were out, the teeth were sharp. She ran, she fought, she gave me battle wounds. She'd settle down for a little while, and then suddenly go crazy again. Clearly she was terrified. Throwing a small blanket on her would cover the vicious claws and help me pick her up safely, but I started to wonder if she was beyond hope.

It was curious that she had been so sweet at the shelter. I sat and thought about this. What was the difference between the shelter and our home? The shelter had lots of noise, lots of other animals (we have a small, calm, quiet cocker spaniel who is uninterested in cats), lots of people, lots of smells. And then it hit me: at the shelter she lived in a cage! She felt safe in a cage!

I pulled an old cat carrier from storage and pushed her, yowling and clawing, inside it. She angrily protested for a few minutes, but within an hour she was completely calm and happy. Bingo! She was terrified of too much space! Cats are naturally territorial and if she had been a feral kitten, she may have had some bad experiences treading on another wild cat's space.

My girls and I set out to help her expand her territory and realize that our entire house was safe. We started with her in the cage in the living room. After a while, we let her out, but shut the French doors. She could see us, but she was still in her own room. She explored a little bit, and then started freaking out again, so back into the cage she went to calm down before having another go at it. When she became comfortable with this room, we added another room: the girls' bedroom. She would move around for an hour or two, and then the claws would be back out, and we would return her to her safe cage for a while.

Over a week or two, she increased her territory to include the whole house, but it was almost six weeks before she had any interest in going outside, or even looking out the window! Finally, she couldn't resist the pull of the outdoors, but she stayed right on the back patio for the first day. The next day, she went a couple of feet beyond the patio. It was another week before she ventured beyond the back yard to the canal bank beyond. Occasionally she got scared and had to spend a little time back in the cage.

Now...she is totally comfortable. She loves exploring (but not too far beyond the back yard). She's a very intelligent and very sweet cat. She hops up on the bathroom counter and meows for us to turn the tap on so she can get a drink straight from the source. She has a beautiful voice and communicates well her needs. When you pick her up, she gives you a "neck hug" and a butterfly kiss. She even purs! If you pet her so much that it starts to bug her, she never takes out her claws, but with all four soft paws, she firmly pushes your hand away. She's a wonderful pet.

It seems so silly now to think that she preferred such a constricted space as a cage, when there were so many joys to be found in the freedom of roaming the house, in the companionship of the people around her, in the fun of the back yard, in the cool, clear tap water, and in sleeping on a soft blanket on a bed.

But are we not all a little bit like Jewel? Do we not prefer to stay in our comfort zone? Do we not like being with people like ourselves, in familiar situations, doing things we are already good at? Do we not freak out sometimes when the Lord opens the cage and coaxes us into a new church calling, a new visiting teaching district, a mission call, the terror of marriage, the adventure of becoming parents, an unpleasant trial, an opportunity to love someone very unlike ourselves, a new career? Wouldn't we rather be left in our cage?

Now whenever God opens the door and forces me to experience something new, something scary, something uncomfortable, I'm going to remember those first weeks with Jewel, and remind myself that a comfort zone is nothing but a cage that will deny me many amazing adventures and delightful associations, and keep me from experiences and joys I can only now imagine. I'm going to picture Jewel, sitting in the tall grass on the canal bank, spying the ducks, her tail twitching excitedly. I'm going to picture Jewel, chasing after birds and butterflies and bugs, enjoying the thrill of the hunt. I'm going to picture Jewel, purring ferociously on the shoulder of a former scary giant human. And I'm going to dare to embrace the greater freedom outside the cage. (My essay originally published August 9, 2015 at



Gilbert and Whitney Store in Kirtland

In June of 1831, following a conference held in Kirtland, the Prophet Joseph Smith traveled with a small group of brethren westward on the Missouri River to the last outpost on the western edge of the United States, Independence, Missouri.

One member of the group traveling with the Prophet was Algernon Sidney Gilbert. He had been instructed earlier by revelation (D&C 52) to be an agent to the Church. Sidney was a business partner with Newel K. Whitney; they operated a store in Kirtland, Ohio. Both were baptized in 1830.

Several missionaries had already arrived in Independence in January, having traveled by foot 1,500 miles, and the Prophet was headed to meet with them. Parley P. Pratt was among them and later wrote that they “preached the gospel to tens of thousands of Gentiles and two nations of [natives]; baptizing, confirming and organizing many hundreds of people into churches of Latter-day Saints. This was the first mission performed by Elders of the Church in any of the States west of New York, and we were the first members of the same which were ever on this frontier” (Pratt, 40). (I cannot find confirmation of the huge success of this mission, however. I wonder if Parley is remembering wrongly, or if he is talking about members they baptized along the way. Certainly very few Missiourians joined the Church.)

Far, Far Out of Their Comfort Zones in Independence

Arriving in Independence, the Prophet observed:

“The meeting of our brethren, who had long awaited our arrival, was a glorious one, and moistened with many tears. It seemed good and pleasant for brethren to meet together in unity. But our reflections were many, coming as we had from a highly cultivated state of society in the east, and standing now upon the confines or western limits of the United States, and looking at the vast wilderness of those that sat in darkness; how natural it was to observe the degradation, leanness of intellect, ferocity, and jealousy of a people that were nearly a century behind the times, and to feel for those who roam about without the benefit of civilization, refinement, or religion..” (Smith, History of the Church, 1:188-89).

The first Sunday there, W.W. Phelps preached to a congregation containing a huge variety of people including a handful of Native Americans and a “respectable number” of Black Americans.

The contingent spent the summer surveying the area and purchasing land for a gathering of Saints to a new Zion. In August, they turned toward home. (See Brian and Petrea Kelly, Latter-day History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Covenant Communications, p.79-93.)

Doctrine and Covenants 60-62

Doctrine and Covenants 60 was received in response to their questions about how to safely travel home. The group of men, plus Sidney’s wife, had traveled part of the way to Independence on the water because it was so much quicker than land, but they found that the Missouri River was treacherous, abounding in sawyers (fallen trees that were submerged but still rooted to the river bottom), and full of rapids. On the trip home, they secured canoes, and one of these sawyers nearly capsized the Prophet’s canoe. It was a terrifying experience for all. (See The revelation also encouraged them to preach on their way home, “without wrath or doubting, lifting up holy hands upon them. For I am able to make you holy, and your sins are forgiven you” (verse 7). This the travelers did.

Section 61 was then received a few days later with instruction to leave the river and travel overland.

“And now, verily I say unto you, and what I say unto one I saw unto all, be of good cheer, little children; for I am in your midst, and I have not forsaken you…” (D&C 61:36).

Section 62 was received further along the way home, commending their preaching efforts.

“…Your mission is not yet full. Nevertheless, ye are blessed, for the testimony which ye have borne is recorded in heaven for the angels to look upon; and they rejoice over you, and your sins are forgiven you.

“And now continue your journey. Assemble yourselves upon the land of Zion; and hold a meeting and rejoice together, and offer a sacrament unto the Most High” (verses 2-4).

Gilbert and Whitney Store in Independence

A revelation received the following year instructed Sidney to establish a store in Independence for the blessing of “the affairs of the poor” (D&C 82:12). This he did. But things fell apart quickly as the Saints tried to settle among a frontier people, and only a year later on November 4, 1833 Sidney Gilbert fled Independence, Missouri for the safety of Clay County. His home had been partially demolished by an angry mob. The goods of his Gilbert and Whitney mercantile had been thrown into the street. He had been arrested and imprisoned seven days on a false charge of assault, but then released. He escaped Independence with only his Bible and 19 revelations he personally copied by hand that are now sections of the Doctrine and Covenants, including Section 61. (Susan Easton Black, Who’s Who in the Doctrine and Covenants, Bookcraft, 1997, p. 102-103).

Gilbert and Whitney Store in Liberty

After fleeing to Clay County, Sidney set up a new store in Liberty, Missouri, without the benefit of selling the one in Independence. All the Saints who had taken refuge there had lost everything. They worked what jobs they could find, but at length it was determined that someone needed to travel back to Kirtland to tell the Prophet of their plight. By now it was winter and the Saints were starving. No one had the health, the money, or the supplies for such a trip, but finally Parley P. Pratt and Lyman Wight volunteered. Parley went without money to Sidney’s store.

Brother Gilbert remarked, “Brother Parley, you certainly look too shabby to start a journey; you must have a new suit.” He gave him a cloak and what fabric he had left. Several sisters in the shop, overhearing, volunteered to sew the fabric into clothing. Parley and Lyman rode on horseback the 800 miles north.

“We arrived in Kirtland early in the spring, all safe and sound; we had lacked for nothing on the road, and now had plenty of funds in hand. President Joseph Smith and the Church in Kirtland received us with a hospitality and joy unknown except among the Saints…” (Parley P. Pratt, Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1985, p. 88).

I love that phrase: “Joy unknown except among the Saints.”

Joy Outside of Comfort

Life as a Latter-day Saint is predominantly joyful, even when we are so far out of our comfort zone “cages” that we might call our experiences trials and adversity, if we rely upon the Lord. It is a joy that overrides our circumstances because it is brought by unity with God who is Love, through the Holy Ghost which brings joy, as we love and serve and associate with our brothers and sisters here on this earth and beyond. The hard experiences we have may not get easier, but we become stronger and more peaceful through this pure love of Christ that comes into our hearts and through us to others. Our experiences, especially the hard ones, expand our territory of comfort and enlarge the circle of our influence of love, which increases our joy. Even though it’s a silly comparison, the thoughts of my cat, Jewel, and her growth from comfort and safety inside a cage to greater happiness, companionship, and joyful exploration throughout our home and property frequently reminds me to give up my terror and look outside my safety net for joy in the service of the Lord and my neighbor and in the enjoyment and exploration of His beautiful earth and the people in it.

(Make sure you read the Church's Revelations in Context for these sections which is on the Church's website. You can just click the link I've provided, but if you want to look up this manual anytime on your own, you get to it by choosing "Gospel Library," then "Restoration and Church History," then "Doctrine and Covenants Study.")


Sunday, May 23, 2021

Doctrine and Covenants 58-59


Section 58 of the Doctrine and Covenants was received August 1, 1831. It contains the great promise that God holds much greater things in store for us if we obey His commandments and endure to the end than we can possibly imagine for ourselves. (See verses 2-3.)

This is followed by specific instructions to specific members, many of which can be relevant to us, as the Spirit reveals. The most well-known counsel in this section is:

For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward. Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will and bring to pass much righteousness; for the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves. And inasmuch as men do good they shall in nowise lose their reward (D&C 58:26-28).

As “agents unto ourselves” we can be anxiously engaged in good causes of our own choice. This pleases the Lord. We all have our own interests, our own personalities, and if we seek to bring to pass righteousness, we can do that in the career we choose to pursue, in the neighborhood where we choose to live, with the person we choose to marry, and through the hobbies and interests we choose to love. We can also choose to serve missions, particularly those of us in our later years, and senior missionaries can even choose to a great degree where they would like to serve. The point of life is to use our agency (the only thing that is truly ours) to do good.

Doctrine and Covenants Section 59 begins with a great promise:

1 Behold, blessed, saith the Lord, are they who have come up unto this land with an eye single to my glory, according to my commandments.

2 For those that live shall inherit the earth, and those that die shall rest from all their labors, and their works shall follow them; and they shall receive a crown in the mansions of my Father, which I have prepared for them (D&C 59:1-2).

We receive marvelous blessings if we have “an eye single to [God’s] glory and if we do works of righteousness. This revelation gives guidance on how to make this easier.


First, the Lord reminds the Saints of His Law, which is eternal and was given to the ancient Israelites and repeated by Jesus Christ to the primitive Church.

Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy might, mind, and strength” (D&C 59:5-6). (See also Deut. 6:4,5 and Matt. 22:37-40.)

The Old Testament version begins with the great pronouncement, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord,” something that was a new and key understanding for these ancient people who lived in a land of polytheists (people who worshiped multiple gods).

The New Testament version of the Lord’s law adds another key that was important to the Jews to understand, a people who had for millenia considered themselves “chosen” and therefore better than others: “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” (Matt. 22:39). In describing who may be considered a neighbor, the Lord chose a story of a Samaritan—someone who worshipped differently than they did, someone of mixed race and culture—thus expanding the circle of the new Christian’s loving influence.

For the Latter-day Saints, an additional new key of understanding this eternal law is given, a key that may be difficult for us to understand and do: “…and in the name of Jesus Christ thou shalt serve him” (D&C 59:5).

As Section 58 invites us to be “agents unto ourselves” to bring about righteousness, Section 59 invites us to be agents unto Christ—to serve in His name. How do we serve in the name of Jesus Christ? All our prayers and our priesthood ordinances are done in the name of Jesus Christ, but I think this section refers to much more than ordinances. An agent is one who acts in the place of another person, and who does what that person would want done. To act as agents for Jesus Christ, we must know Him, we must know His will, and we must unite our will with His. The rest of this section gives us amazing tools for doing so.

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“Thou shalt thank the Lord thy God in all things” (verse 7).

Is this a law? Keeping a law brings a specific outcome. Being grateful brings happiness, pure and simple. Being grateful to God brings us closer to Him, more aware of His presence, more in tune with His purposes. It’s amazing how often we forget this very clear path to increased joy. Being grateful includes not only giving thanks, but also not complaining. The crazy extremes of weather in my home town often made me miserable throughout my life. One day several years ago, I realized how futile it was to complain about the weather and I stopped. I was shocked that winter to discover how much happier I was, just because I accepted the weather every day as a neutral or positive aspect of life.

Think of one thing that is giving you frustration right now in your life. Now—stop complaining about it. Just stop. Increasing your happiness is that simple.


“Thou shalt offer a sacrifice unto the Lord thy God in righteousness, even that of a broken heart and a contrite spirit. And that thou mayest more fully keep thyself unspotted from the world, thou shalt go to the house of prayer and offer up thy sacraments upon my holy day” (verses 8-9).

Keeping the Sabbath day helps us keep our heart broken (open to the Lord’s input) and our spirits contrite (teachable). It is a tithing of our time. Note that the Lord requires 1/10th  of our money to be fully given to Him, but even more of our time—1/7th! We use the Sabbath day to remember the Savior, repent, reprioritize, and realign our will with His. We use it to become better agents unto Christ.


…Let thy food be prepared with singleness of heart that thy fasting may be perfect, or, in other words, that thy joy may be full.

Verily, this is fasting and prayer, or in other words, rejoicing and prayer (verses 13-14).

Why is a proper fast joyous? Well, there are two parts to the Law of the Fast, and both contribute to the joy felt by the fasting saint.

Part One: Fasting and Prayer

Look at footnote a to verse 13 which tells us that we can make our physical fast symbolic of a spiritual hungering and thirsting after righteousness. Now where have we heard this phrase before, “hungering and thirsting after righteousness”? Of course, in the Beatitudes! Let’s turn to the Nephite version in 3 Nephi 12:6:

And blessed are all they who do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled with the Holy Ghost.

When you are filled with the Holy Ghost, what emotions do you experience? Peace and joy!

…I will impart unto you of my Spirit, which shall enlighten your mind, which shall fill your soul with joy. (D&C 11:13)

And D&C 6:23 as well as many other scriptures tell us that the Spirit brings peace.

So fasting in the correct manner, is going to result in peace and joy. It will also give us many other fruits of the Spirit.

(Quotes from Elder Wirthlin below come from April 2001 General Conference)

Now, if we are fasting because we are hungering and thirsting after righteousness, we will be praying as well. As Elder Wirthlin explains,

"…If we want our fasting to be more than just going without eating, we must lift our hearts, our minds, and our voices in communion with our Heavenly Father. Fasting, coupled with mighty prayer, is powerful. It can fill our minds with the revelations of the Spirit. It can strengthen us against times of temptation.

"Fasting and prayer can help develop within us courage and confidence. It can strengthen our character and build self-restraint and discipline…Each time we fast, we gain a little more control over our worldly appetites and passions."

Further, he says,

"I don’t mean just missing one meal, then eating twice as much the next meal." (I think he’s talking about me here.)

Another thing Elder Wirthlin says is that “Often when we fast, our righteous prayers and petitions have greater power.” Our spiritual hunger and thirst is going to be filled to a greater level. Our requests for blessings of other kinds will also have more power.

So what sorts of things might we pray for as we fast?

1-Personal righteousness (as Elder Wirthlin mentioned)

2-Special blessings to help with problems (surgery, job hunt, wayward child...)

3-Increased abilities for our church callings (as the Sons of Mosiah did, see Alma 17:2-3)

4-Gratitude (See Alma 45:1)

5-To align our will with God’s

Elder Wirthlin says that teaching our children to fast will give them increased power to resist temptations along their life’s path.

I love the way one Primary President in our ward taught fasting to the children. She told them that it was great to feel hunger pangs when you fast, because whenever you feel them, you are reminded that you are fasting, and that will remind you to say another little prayer in your heart.

If we are giving up 2 meals each month to fast, and if we normally eat 3 meals each day, in a 30-day month, we are only giving the Lord 1/45th of our monthly food intake. Even the poorest Saint can give this much.

Fast Offerings

Sometimes we may feel that the Lord is not answering our prayers despite our faith and request. One reason may be that our desire is not in harmony with his plan. But there may be another reason as well. We may not be keeping the second part of the Law of the Fast. To quote Brother Wirthlin again:

"…Amulek explained that often our prayers have no power because we have turned our backs on the needy (Mosiah 4:26). (See also Isaiah 58:6-11.) If you feel that Heavenly Father is not listening to your petitions, ask yourself if you are listening to the cries of the poor, the sick, the hungry, and the afflicted all around you.

"Some look at the overwhelming need in the world and think, What can I do that could possibly make a difference?

"I will tell you plainly one thing you can do. You can live the law of the fast and contribute a generous fast offering."

By fasting, we take command of our physical bodies, we worship God with more clarity, and we have an easy way to contribute to the wellbeing of our neighbors. We can help God “bring to pass…the eternal life of man” (His work) and we can therefore participate in His joy (His glory) (See Moses 1:39).

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At the end of Section 59, we receive another beautiful promise:

23 But learn that he who doeth the works of righteousness shall receive his reward, even peace in this world, and eternal life in the world to come.

24 I, the Lord, have spoken it, and the Spirit beareth record. Amen (D&C 59:23-24).

Every day is a great day to act as agents unto Christ and agents unto ourselves to serve His children and build up His kingdom. When we are agents unto Christ, we act in specific ways He commands, and when we are in situations where we may choose between multiple good actions and the Spirit doesn’t direct towards one or the other, we can be agents unto ourselves and do the one we want to do. Both uses of agency can bring about righteousness, and together they will earn an eternal reward.