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.

Image from Church of Jesus Christ Media


“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).

I hold the copyright to this photo. 
Please do not download or share.

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.


Doctrine and Covenants 51-57

Kirtland Timeline Game
Make large cards with the years of the Kirtland Era (below) on them, and print up separately the major events that took place in Kirtland.  Distribute all to class members.  Have those with the year cards come up front.  Have those with events read the events (in any order) and have the class try to match up the right events to each year.  Put them all on the board after they are correctly matched. 

Gospel first preached in Kirtland

(Note: The missionaries were Olivery Cowdery, Peter Whitmer, Jr., Parley P. Pratt & Ziba Peterson.  Among the first converts were Sidney Rigdon, Edward Partridge & Frederick G. Williams.)

Joseph Smith moves to Kirtland
The first bishop is called (Edward Partridge)
The Law of the Church revealed (D&C 41)

Vision of the 3 Degrees of Glory (D&C 76)
Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood (D&C 84)

School of the Prophets begun
Word of Wisdom revealed (D&C 89)
First Presidency Organized

Zion’s Camp leaves Kirtland to aid Missouri Saints

Quorum of Twelve organized
Quorum of Seventy organized

Kirtland Temple Dedicated (D&C 109) and priesthood keys restored

Heber C. Kimball called to lead the new British Mission

Parley P. Pratt

“Parley’s Creative Preaching” Skit
Characters:  Parley P. Pratt, a missionary; Ziba Petersen, his companion; Officer Peabody, and a Judge

(Parley and Brother Petersen stand as if preaching to the audience, Parley holding a Book of Mormon.)

Parley:  (to class) While doing missionary work 50 miles from Kirtland, my companions and I stopped for the night at the house of Simeon Carter.  While we were reading and explaining the Book of Mormon to him, there came a knock at the door.

Officer Peabody: (Knocks at the door loudly, then enters the classroom)  Mr. Pratt!  Here is a warrant for your arrest.  You must come with me.

Parley: (to class) I dropped the Book of Mormon at Carter’s house, and went with him some two miles, in a dark, muddy road until we arrived at the place of trial late at night.  Brother Petersen accompanied me.

(All three mime walking.)

(Enter Judge.)

Judge:  Mr. Pratt!  I intend to throw you in jail.  I want to see if you really have the powers of apostleship as you claim!  I have witnesses here who will help me to prove you guilty of a crime and there’s nothing you can do about it.

Parley:  (to class) Well, I wasn’t an apostle, just an elder, but because the judge was boasting thus, and the witnesses were liars, I stayed quiet and made no defense.

Judge:  Mr. Pratt!  Do you hear these charges?  Why do you not make a defense?  Well, I am ordering you to prison, or to pay a large fine.

Parley: (to class) I wouldn’t reply.  This greatly exhausted their patience.  Finally, about midnight, I asked Brother Petersen to sing a hymn.

Ziba:  (singing, or doing something similar to singing)
O, how happy are they
Who the Savior obey
And have laid up their treasure above!
Tongue can never express
The sweet comfort and peace
Of a soul in its earliest love.

O, the rapturous height
Of that holy delight
Which I felt in the life-giving blood!
By my Savior possessed.
I was perfect, bless’d
As if filled with the fullness of God.*

Parley: (to class) This exasperated them still more, and they pressed us greatly to settle the business by paying the money.  I then observed as follows (speaking to judge), May it please the court, I have one proposal to make for a final settlement of the things that seem to trouble you.  It is this: if the witnesses who have given testimony in the case will repent of their false swearing, and the blackguardism and abuse, and all kneel down together, we will pray for you, that God might forgive you in these matters.

Judge:  My big bull dog [would better] pray for me [than you]!

(Exit judge)

Parley: (to class) The court adjourned and I was taken to a nearby pub and locked in till morning as the prison was some miles distant.  In the morning, the officer appeared and took me to breakfast.  Then we waited for my journey to prison.  I whispered to Brother Petersen to join the other elders and continue on their way, and I would join them later.

(Exit Ziba)

Parley: (to class) After waiting a while, I requested of the officer that I might step outside.  I walked out into the public square accompanied by him.  Said I (speaking to Officer Peabody), Mr. Peabody, are you good at a race?

Officer Peabody: No, but my big bull dog is! (Pats imaginary dog) And he has been trained to assist me in my office these several years. He will take any man down at my bidding.

Parley: (cheerfully) Well, Mr. Peabody, you compelled me to go a mile; I have gone with you two miles.  You have given me an opportunity to preach, sing, and have also entertained me with lodging and breakfast.  I must now go on my journey.  If you are good at a race you can accompany me.  I thank you for all your kindness.  Good day, sir.  (Runs across the classroom, while Officer Peabody stares with mouth wide open.)

Parley: (stopping and turning to Officer Peabody) Wouldn’t you like to race with me, officer?

(Peabody still stares, frozen, while Parley mimes running.)

Parley: (to class) He did not awake from his astonishment sufficiently to start in pursuit till I had gained, perhaps, two hundred yards.  I had already leaped a fence, and was making my way through a field to the forest on the right of the road.

Officer Peabody: (Suddenly coming to senses.  Pointing and ordering imaginary dog) Ho!  Stu-Boy, seize him!  Take him down! (Running after Parley and pointing) Stu-Boy, lay hold of him, I say!  Down with him!

Parley: (to audience) The dog was fast overtaking me, and in the act of leaping upon me, when, quick as lightning, the thought struck me to assist the officer in sending the dog.  I pointed my finger in the direction of the forest, clapped my hands and shouted, Stu-Boy!  Take him down!  Get him, Boy!  The dog hastened past me with redoubled speed towards the forest, being urged by the officer and myself, and both of us running in the same direction.  I soon lost sight of the officer and the dog and have not seen them since.

(Exit Officer)

Parley:  The officer kept the Book of Mormon I had dropped at the house of Simeon Carter and read it with attention.  It wrought deeply upon his mind, and he went 50 miles to the church in Kirtland, and was there baptized and ordained an elder.  He then returned to his home and commenced to preach and baptize.  A branch of about sixty members was soon organized in the place where I had played such a trick on a dog.

*O, How Happy Are They, by Charles Wesley, first and last verses
(This script adapted from Parley P. Pratt’s autobiography, with most of the words direct quotes.)

Missionary Methods
Principles and methods used in early missionary work, besides Elder Pratt's entertaining dog-evasion, included:
1) Teaching strictly the words of the Prophet Joseph Smith's revelations and the principles of the Gospel contained in the Bible and the Book of Mormon.  From these foundations, however, the elders were free to teach "as they shall be directed by the Spirit." (History of the Church 1:148-54)  We have just returned to this method with our new Preach My Gospel method.
2) Preaching to large groups.  This was a popular form of entertainment among the people of the time.  "With no trouble raising an audience, an interesting or inspiring preacher could smartly influence public opinion and sell his spiritual wares with considerable skill."  Usually a preacher spoke for at least an hour, often two. Ask any prospective missionary if he'd like to try this one out!
3) Publishing periodicals.  "Virtually nonexistent in 1800...religious periodicals had, by 1830, become the grand engine of a burgeoning religious culture, the primary means of promotion for, and bonds within, competing religious groups"..."Joseph Smith's revelations appeared in Mormon periodicals before publication in book form."  The newspapers at this time were The Evening and the Morning Star (Independence), The Messenger and Advocate (Kirtland), and The Elder's Journal (Far West).  Adding to our printed periodicals today, we have the worldwide reach of the internet, television and radio.
4) Debates with other clergy.  Almost every missionary journal of the day recorded confrontations with other ministers. Thankfully, we no longer do this, since it is ineffective and stifles the Spirit.  Now we focus on our similarities in belief and then offer to add to it, as President Hinckley frequently advised.
5) Focusing on the basic principles and ordinances of the gospel and challenging investigators to commit to try them. Elders boldly preached the first principles or "'five points' as some called them: faith in Christ, repentance, baptism by immersion, receiving the Holy Ghost through the laying on of hands, and then living a life of devout obedience to divine commandments, reinforced by challenging their listeners to 'prove all things'" through personal revelation and acting in faith.
 (This information from Journal of Mormon History, Vol. 24, No. 2, pp. 9, 12, 17-18, 24, 26 respectively)

Revelations Received in Kirtland
How many of the sections of the Doctrine and Covenants were received in the Kirtland area?  (The answer is 37, or approximately 25% of the sections.)  In addition, most of the Joseph Smith Translation was done during this era.

If you like, have class members look refer to the chronology table in the front of the Doctrine and Covenants to see which sections were revealed here, then look at the section headings to itemize doctrines of importance that were revealed here.  These will include the Law of Tithing, the Law of Consecration, The Kingdoms of Glory, the Word of Wisdom, Revelations on the Second Coming, Priesthood, and many more.

(Click on the image below to enlarge a map of the LDS settlements in the Kirtland area.  Then right-click to save it and print it, if you are interested in doing so.)

Sunday, May 9, 2021

Doctrine and Covenants 49-50


In June of 1831, a church conference was held in Kirtland, Ohio. Just prior to that conference, Section 50 of the D&C was given. The reason this revelation was given is stated right in the beginning. First, verse one tells us that the brethren had asked for guidance from the Lord in discerning spiritual manifestations.

“Behold, verily I say unto you, that there are many spirits which are false spirits, which have gone forth in the earth, deceiving the world. And also Satan hath sought to deceive you, that he might overthrow you” (D&C 50:2-3).

Why is Satan so interested in deceiving us?

“And because he had fallen from heaven, and had become miserable forever, he sought also the misery of all mankind…” (2 Nephi 2:18).

“Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life through the great mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself” (2 Nephi 2:27).

The revelation of May 1831 told the brethren how to choose:

“And that which doth not edify is not of God, and is darkness. That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day.”

This counsel is very important in preventing apostasy, today as well as in the 1830s. It was prophecied that Satan would deceive the very elect if possible, and he did. Within two years after the marvelous spiritual manifestations occurred in relation to the dedication of the Kirtland Temple, all of the Three Witnesses, three of the Eight Witnesses, and one-third of the General Authorities, including three Apostles, left the Church. Interestingly, apostasy was more prevalent among the leadership than among the “average” members. As near as can be determined, 87 percent of the Kirtland Saints continued in the faith, including most of those who lost a lot of money due to stock held in the Church bank, the Kirtland Safety Society (Milton V. Backman, Jr., Ensign, April 1989, p. 30).

We can hopefully learn from the errors of the early church apostates, and avoid some of these problems ourselves.  (Double-click on the chart to enlarge it.)

Our inner attitudes are very important when it comes to following the guidance of the Spirit, our leaders and the doctrine that we know. Wrong attitudes can keep us from truth and freedom, and can deceive us as surely as if we were blindfolded. All of these wrong attitudes are based upon pride. A study of how some of the early Saints were deceived can help us see how we can avoid those same pitfalls. (Information is from Susan Easton Black, Who’s Who in the Doctrine and Covenants, unless otherwise noted.)

Thomas B. Marsh. The cream incident with his wife created a mountain out of a molehillHere are more details about Brother Marsh and his struggles. He declared that he would “sustain the character of his wife if he had to go to hell to do it.” President Gordon B. Hinckley said of this incident: “What a very small and trivial thing—a little cream over which two women quarreled. But it led to, or at least was a factor in, Governor Bogg’s cruel exterminating order…”

Joseph Wakefield. In obedience to the revelation, he went on a mission with Parley P. Pratt, wherein they “visited the several branches of the Church, rebuking the wrong spirits which had crept in among them, setting in order things that were wanting…” (Parley P. Pratt, quoted in Black, p. 324). Joseph baptized George A. Smith, who later became an apostle. George A. Smith was very distressed when his missionary joined with Mormon apostates in criticizing and tormenting Joseph Smith. The reason? Joseph Smith played with the children immediately after translating. “This convinced him that the Prophet was not a man of God, and that the work was false, which, to me and hundreds of others, he had testified that he knew came from God” (George A. Smith Autobiography, quoted in Black, p. 324).

Frazier Eaton. (Not mentioned in D&C.) He had given $700 to the building of the Kirtland Temple, but he arrived late to the dedication and couldn’t get in. The dedication was being repeated the following day for those who couldn’t get in the first day, but Brother Eaton thought that he should get in on day one, and so he apostatized (George A Smith, Journal of Discourses).

Oliver Cowdery. Oliver Cowdrey was with Joseph from the very first. He received the Priesthood with him, was baptized with him, saw great and glorious visions with him, and received the keys of the Priesthood with him from Elijah, Elias, and Moses. Pride in his education, however, led to his downfall. He commanded Joseph Smith in the name of God to change the words of D&C 20:37. He also said that he told the Church leaders about his land in Jackson County, “…while I lived and was sane, I would not be dictated, influenced, or controlled, by any man or any set of men by no tribunal of ecclesiastical practices whatever.” At the encouragement of Brigham Young, 11 years after leaving the Church, he finally returned.

William Carter. Called on a mission in D&C 52 although he was blind. He refused to go and his priesthood was taken from him. His uncle tried to bring him back to the faith and immediately afterwards wrote the conversation: “He said he was convinced that it was the work of the Lord but he did not as yet feel prepared to obey the work…I…felt with my own soul as though his situation was very dangerous for he had some time grieved the Spirit by his disobedience and I having a sense felt to cry mightily to my Heavenly Father for him. I, at length, felt the power of prophecy to him and expressed to him that this was the very day he would obey the commends if ever…Soon after this, he knelt down with me and entreated the Lord to have mercy on him.” He did help to build the Kirtland Temple, but there is not any information about him after that to show whether he stayed faithful. 

John Whitmer. For many years, John Whitmer was a stalwart in the Church. He was a scribe, a historian, and a member of the First Presidency, as well as one of the Eight Witnesses to the Book of Mormon. At one time in Jackson County, he offered himself as a ransom to the mob to prevent further violence. He purchased land in Far West for the saints, but there were some allegations about how he handled the finances. He was angered when asked to account for his use of Church funds, and declined to disclose the records. He was excommunicated. To quote Susan Black, “John remained in Missouri during the atrocities arising from the Extermination Order of 1838, free from persecution because [he was no longer a member of the Church]. When the Saints fled from their homes and property in Far West, he returned and took advantage of cheap prices for land…” He lived there the rest of his life.

Jared Carter. The uncle of William Carter. D&C 79:2 says, “I will send upon him the Comforter, which shall teach him the truth and the way wither he shall go.” Although Jared Carter was a great missionary for a time, later he wavered back and forth in church activity, joining the Danites, conspiring against the Prophet, and not following counsel. He repented and promised faithfulness, but did not keep the promise. When the saints went west, he stayed behind.

Selah Griffin. He lost a lot of property to the mobs in both Jackson County and in Caldwell County. To quote Susan Black, “Angered by the governmental affront and by the persecution he had suffered for his religious conviction, Selah weighed the cost and concluded that the price of faithfulness was too great.” He gave up Church Activity for an easier life.


Hiram Page was one of the 8 witnesses to the Book of Mormon. He joined the church in 1830, and shortly thereafter found a stone five by three inches, and one-half inch thick with two holes in it. He thought he received some revelations by looking through the stone. These included the location of the “New Jerusalem” and the proper governing process of the Church. Newel Knight said, “He had quite a roll of papers full of these revelations, and many in the Church were led astray by them…although they were in contradiction to the New Testament and the revelations of these last days. [The Prophet] Joseph Smith was perplexed and scarcely knew how to meet this new exigency. That night I occupied the same room that he did, and the greater part of the night was spent in prayer and supplication.” 

As a result, D&C 28 was received, which states that only the prophet has the keys to revelation for the entire church. In that revelation, Oliver Cowdery (one of those who had been deceived) was told to advise Hiram that the source of his revelations was false. Hiram Page and those who had followed him took that counsel and renounced the stone and its revelations. Elder Knight commented on the situation that “…it was wonderful to witness the wisdom that Joseph displayed on this occasion, for truly God gave unto him great wisdom and power, and it seems to me that none who saw him administer righteousness under such trying circumstances could doubt that the Lord was with him. He acted not with the wisdom of man, but with the wisdom of God.” 


How could it be that these people all believed Joseph’s revelations over Hiram’s revelations with no more than Joseph’s word about it?

Therefore, why is it that ye cannot understand and know, that he that receiveth the word by the Spirit of truth receiveth it as it is preached by the Spirit if truth? Wherefore, he that preacheth and he that receiveth, understand one another, and both are edified and rejoice together. (D&C 50:21-22)

The reason they believed it was because they had more than Joseph’s word: they had the manifestation of the Holy Ghost to go with it. With the revelation, Brother Knight said, “The Holy Ghost came upon us and filled our hearts with unspeakable joy” (Andrus, They Knew the Prophet, quoted in LDH, p. 65).

What outer guides do you see in our world today that might deceive us if we are not careful? Do you agree that the outer guides to truth are the same for us today as they were in 1831?

The Holy Ghost is truly the most powerful of the guides available to us, and testifies of the truth of the others. It’s like the final word and it can be trusted. It is vital that we learn to hear and understand the Holy Ghost.
At the conference in 1831, the following month, a pattern was given for discerning whether a man was speaking the word of God or not, in D&C 52:14-18. In that same revelation with this advice, 34 men were called as missionaries. Do you ever wonder who all these people are who are mentioned in the D&C, and whether they followed the counsel given them? Of those 34 in Section 52, how many do you think followed the counsel on how to avoid deception? I wondered, and so I researched them (very sketchily) and discovered that although most of them went on the missions they were called to in this revelation, just 13 remained faithful to the Church their entire lives, no matter what the cost. Three more left fellowship for a period of time but later returned (Orson Pratt for just a few months, Thomas B. Marsh for 19 years, and Martin Harris for 32 years). (Brief sketches on each of these faithful men are included at the end of this post.)

One of these men who avoided deception and continued faithful to the end was Parley P. Pratt. He spent his 50th year on a mission, away from his large family. He wrote to them, “The whole country is being overwhelmed with the most abominable lying, mockery, and hatred of the Saints, and with all manner of corruption. The legions of spirits are let loose and are working wonders.” A little later in the letter, he says, “I hope you will not be cast down or borrow any trouble about me because I admit an if as to my safe return. I have no doubt but that I shall return in safety and live to a good old age. But still I must acknowledge that I do anticipate with a great deal of pleasure the change of worlds. And, every day that I work on my history, I naturally think that the word finis will soon be added to the end.”

Elder Pratt was shortly thereafter accused of some false charges by three men who had sworn to kill him. He was honorably released from the court with the charges dismissed. The three men followed him twelve miles, until he was utterly alone and defenseless, and then shot him. He had 11 living wives, and 21-22 living children, ranging in age from 20 years to 10 months. Among his children are found many Book of Mormon names: Moroni, Helaman, Alma, Nephi, Abinadi, Lehi, Teancum, Mosiah, Omner, Ether, and Moroni. John Taylor wrote of him, “…his name is revered by thousands and tens of thousands, and will be honored by millions yet unborn; while that of his cowardly assassins…will be loathsome, and a stink in the nostrils of God and good men” (The Mormon, published in New York, May 30).

I am fifty years old! I have lived to see
Seven times seven and a Jubilee.
That period famed in the days of yore
As a grand release for the humble poor;
When the pledg’d estate was again restor’d
And the bondman free’d from his tyrant lord.
When man his fellow was bound to forgive, and begin anew to think and to live. . . .

All these are facts; but of little worth,
Compared with a Prophet restored to earth.
I have seen his day and have heard his voice,
Which enraged a world, while the meek rejoice.
I have read the fate of all earthly things:
The end of thrones, and the end of kings.
I have learned that truth alone shall stand,
And the Kingdom of God fill every land.
I have seen that Kingdom rolling along,
And taking its seat ‘mid the mountains strong;
While the nations wondered but could not tell
To what these wondrous things would swell.
I have wandered far, over land and sea,
To proclaim to the world its destiny—
To cry to the nations, repent and live,
And be ready the bridegroom to receive. . . .

I have toiled with the great in freedom’s cause,
And assisted to give to a State its laws.
I have lain in a dungeon, bound in chains,
And been honored in Courts where Justice reigns.
In a thousand joys, and a thousand fears
I have struggled on through my fifty years.
And now, by the law of God, I am free;
I will seek to enjoy my Jubilee.
I will hie me home to my mountain dell,
And will say to the “Christian” world—farewell!
I have served ye long--; ‘twas a thankless task,
To retire in peace is all I ask.

Another fifty years will fully prove
Our message true, and all our motives love.
Then shall an humble world in reverence bow,
And hail the Prophets so rejected now.
Kings shall revere, and nations incense bring
To Zion’s temple and to Zion’s King.
I shall be there and celebrate the day
‘Till twice ten fifties shall have passed away.

(Excerpts from Parlet’s poem My Fiftieth Year, p. 410-412 of Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt.)

At Parley’s death, his brother Orson wrote, “O how pleasant is the death of a righteous person! He lays down his body with a sure and certain hope of coming forth from the tomb in the morning of the first resurrection, to reign as a mighty King and Priest of the Most High God, to sit enthroned in eternal glory, ruling with power and dominion for ever and ever” (ibid., p. 419).

In the first edition of the British church magazine, the Millennial Star, a hymn written by Parley P. Pratt was published: “The Morning Breaks.” It is now Hymn #1 in our hymnbook. As the first two verses elaborate on Darkness vs. Light, you may want to sing it or read it as the conclusion to the lesson.

Elder Melvin J. Ballard: “No man goes away from this church and becomes an apostate in a week, nor in a month. It is a slow process. The one thing that makes for the safety of every man and woman would be to appear at the sacrament table every Sabbath day. We would not get very far in a week – not so far away that, by the process of self-investigation, we could not rectify the wrongs we may have done. If we should refrain from partaking of the sacrament, condemned by ourselves as unworthy to receive these emblems, we could not endure that long, and we would soon, I am sure, have the spirit of repentance. The road to the sacrament table is the path of safety for Latter-day Saints” (quoted in Millet, et. al., Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, 4:121).


In next week's post, we will read more about what it takes to remain faithful or to return to faithfulness, using examples from the early Saints.