Section 67 begins:
Saturday, June 12, 2021
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:
Tuesday, June 8, 2021
SHORTCUTS TO TESTIMONY
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.
See also verses 8-12 for condemnation of people who seek for signs.
SHORTCUTS TO ZION
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.
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.
ZION IS FOUND IN A STATE OF PATIENCE, ORDER, AND LOVE
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.