Section 100: Brief Mission to Canada
When Joseph learned the details concerning the mob activities in Missouri from Oliver Cowdery (probably about August 9), he immediately dispatched Brothers Orson Hyde and John Gould to Independence with advice and words of support for the saints in Zion. They carried with them sections 94, 97, and 98.
About six weeks later, on October 5, 1833, Joseph, Sidney, and a convert to the Church named Freeman Nickerson left Kirtland for a short term mission in upstate New York and Canada. Brother Nickerson provided the team and wagon for their conveyance. The Church has in its possession a handwritten journal recorded by Joseph while on this mission.
After traveling as far as Perrysburg, New York, which was the home of Brother Nickerson’s father, they stopped for a time. Joseph recorded in his journal that all was well with them, and the Lord was with them. However, he expressed anxiety about his family and the saints in Zion. Thus, on October 12 he inquired of the Lord and received this revelation.
In this section, the Lord reassures Joseph and Sidney that their families are well (verse 1), and that they should keep their minds on their present mission (verses 2-4). They are counseled regarding this present mission (verses 5-8). Sidney Rigdon is called to be Joseph’s spokesman to bear “mighty” testimony and to expound the scriptures. Some have suggested that Nephi may have prophesied of this calling of Sidney’s—see 2 Nephi 3:18. The Lord reassures them that after a “little season” of chastisement, Zion will be redeemed (verse 13). It is interesting to note that this “little season” has not yet been completed even today. The Lord then advises them that Orson Hyde and John Gould, who were dispatched to Zion to deliver to the exiled saints section 98 and other messages of comfort, made it safely to Missouri.
Why would the Lord pick this time to call Joseph away from Kirtland on a mission? To us today, this mission may seem so untimely. Why would Joseph leave Kirtland at a time when so many stressful things were happening? The saints in Zion were in near desperate circumstances exiled in Clay County. The temple in Kirtland was under construction, but no one knew where the funds were going to come from to complete the project. How could Joseph possibly leave at such a time? It is interesting to speculate.
Perhaps he simply needed a break—an opportunity to get away and gather his thoughts. In this dispensation, several of the prophets have had their “get-aways.” George Albert Smith went to a home in Ocean Park, California. Heber J. Grant went to Santa Monica, California. David O. McKay spent time in Laguna Beach, California or Huntsville, Utah. A more likely explanation is that Freeman Nickerson persuaded the Prophet to go. Brother Nickerson wanted Joseph to preach the gospel to his parents.
One wonders if they might have been wealthy and potentially able to provide a much needed infusion of money to the troubled Church. Perhaps also we should regard this as a teaching point from the Lord. Even though the enemy is assailing the Church and waves of the storm are breaking over it from stem to stern, the Lord wants us to always press forward with the work full speed ahead.
The missionaries arrived back in Kirtland on November 4, 1833.
1 Verily, thus saith the Lord unto you, my friends Sidney and Joseph, your families are well; they are in mine hands, and I will do with them as seemeth me good; for in me there is all power.
verse 1 “my friends Sidney and Joseph” It should not be supposed that Brother Nickerson, who accompanied Joseph and Sidney on much of this mission, is being excluded here. However, since he has just arrived home in Perrysburg at this time, he already knows his family is well. Most of the remaining revelation concerns matters of church leadership and is therefore properly directed to Joseph and Sidney.
“your families are well; they are in mine hands” In fulfillment of this assurance, the Prophet recorded in his private journal on his return to Kirtland: “Friday November 1 . Left Buffalo, N. Y. at 8 o’clock A.M. and arrived at home Monday, the 4th [November 1833] at 10 A.M. found my family all well according to the promise of the Lord, for which blessing I feel to thank his holy name; Amen” (Jessee, Personal Writings, 24).
2 Therefore, follow me, and listen to the counsel which I shall give unto you.
3 Behold, and lo, I have much people in this place, in the regions round about; and an effectual door shall be opened in the regions round about in this eastern land.
verse 3 Even though Joseph and Sidney spent only one month on this particular mission, they preached to many large and receptive congregations, they were impressed that the Holy Spirit was planting seeds in many honest hearts, and they baptized at least eighteen individuals (HC, 1:421-423). However, the real fruits of their labors would come two years later when Parley P. Pratt would return to the same area in Canada through the “effectual door” that had been opened by Joseph and Sidney. What they had sowed, Brother Pratt harvested, preaching to thousands and baptizing hundreds. Among those converts were John Taylor, a future president of the Church and Mary Fielding who would marry Hyrum Smith and become the mother of President Joseph F. Smith and grandmother of President Joseph Fielding Smith. The month-long mission of Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon to New York and Canada indeed opened an “effectual door” through which passed hundreds of saints and three future church presidents.
4 Therefore, I, the Lord, have suffered you to come unto this place; for thus it was expedient in me for the salvation of souls.
verse 4 “I, the Lord, have suffered you” I have allowed you.
“it was expedient in me” This might be rephrased in more contemporary English: “It was useful to me,” or “It was advantageous for my purposes.”
5 Therefore, verily I say unto you, lift up your voices unto this people; speak the thoughts that I shall put into your hearts, and you shall not be confounded before men;
verse 5 “you shall not be confounded before men” The Lord comforts his missionaries by assuring them that if they preach by the Spirit, the truth of their teachings will carry the day. They will not be embarrassed or shamed by being shouted down or losing in verbal debate.
6 For it shall be given you in the very hour, yea, in the very moment, what ye shall say.
verse 6 The Lord repeats to Joseph and Sidney the same promise he made when he sent out his New Testament disciples: “Take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak” (Matthew 10:19; compare D&C 84:85).
7 But a commandment I give unto you, that ye shall declare whatsoever thing ye declare in my name, in solemnity of heart, in the spirit of meekness, in all things.
verse 7 “But a commandment I give unto you” The Lord warns his servants to keep in mind that they are on his errand, and must speak in his name. They must also remember that the marvelous gifts promised in verses 5 and 6 are blessings from the Lord and should not become a source of pride.
8 And I give unto you this promise, that inasmuch as ye do this the Holy Ghost shall be shed forth in bearing record unto all things whatsoever ye shall say.
9 And it is expedient in me that you, my servant Sidney, should be a spokesman unto this people; yea, verily, I will ordain you unto this calling, even to be a spokesman unto my servant Joseph.
verse 9 “Sidney, should be a spokesman” Sidney Rigdon was a well-educated man with magnificent talents as a thinker and a writer but particularly as an orator. He had been a Reformed Baptist minister with several congregations in the Kirtland area before joining the Church in 1831. George Q. Cannon said of Sidney: “Those who knew Sidney Rigdon, know how wonderfully God inspired him, and with what wonderful eloquence he declared the word of God to the people. He was a mighty man in the hands of God, as a spokesmen, as long as the Prophet lived, or up to a short time before his death” (JD, 25:126). The Lord had earlier promised Sidney that he would “preach my gospel and call on the holy prophets [that is, the scriptures] to prove [Joseph’s] words” (D&C 35:23).
The appointment of Sidney Rigdon as the spokesman for the prophet Joseph fulfilled an ancient prophecy uttered by that particular Joseph who was sold into Egypt: “And the Lord hath said: I will raise up a Moses. . . and I will make a spokesman for him” (2 Nephi 3:17). Thus, the relationship between Joseph and Sidney would be that of a modern Moses and Aaron with Joseph as Moses the prophet, and Sidney as Aaron his spokesman (see Exodus 4:16). Sidney Rigdon served in this capacity until sometime after his imprisonment in Liberty Jail. During the Nauvoo period, this role was gradually assumed by Hyrum Smith.
The fulfillment of 2 Nephi 3:17-18 and the role of the modern Aaron cannot be confined to Sidney Rigdon alone. In D&C 8:6-7, the Lord had previously told Oliver Cowdery that he had the gift of Aaron, while D&C 28:2-3 explicitly stated that Oliver was to be as Aaron to Joseph, who was to be to him as Moses. When Oliver Cowdery subsequently left the Church, Hyrum Smith received all the blessings, honors, gifts, and positions that Oliver had formerly held (see D&C 124:95). This would include Oliver’s former position of an Aaron to Joseph. And just as Aaron really was Moses’s elder brother, so Hyrum really was Joseph’s elder brother and died with him at Carthage, a true Aaron and a true brother to the last, after Oliver and Sidney had lost that calling.
10 And I will give unto him power to be mighty in testimony.
verse 10 “I will give unto him” That is, I will give unto the prophet Joseph Smith.
11 And I will give unto thee power to be mighty in expounding all scriptures, that thou mayest be a spokesman unto him, and he shall be a revelator unto thee, that thou mayest know the certainty of all things pertaining to the things of my kingdom on the earth.
verse 11 “I will give unto thee” That is, I will give unto Sidney Rigdon.
“to be mighty in expounding all scriptures” Sidney’s calling is to use his knowledge of the scriptures and his gifts of explanation and oratory to preach the truths of the restored gospel as they are revealed through the prophet Joseph Smith. However, Joseph—not Sidney—is the one who receives those revelations. No one on the earth, no matter how intelligent, gifted, or highly placed, has the authority to declare new doctrine to the Church except the prophet.
12 Therefore, continue your journey and let your hearts rejoice; for behold, and lo, I am with you even unto the end.
13 And now I give unto you a word concerning Zion. Zion shall be redeemed, although she is chastened for a little season.
verse 13 Beginning just nineteen days after this revelation was received, the saints were driven out of Jackson county, Missouri, altogether (November 1, 1833). This was the chastening foreseen by the Lord. Some might think that two hundred years or so from the time the promise of redemption was given until its fulfillment might be more than “a little season.” It must be remembered, however, that John the Revelator used “a little season” in a context that seems to describe the dispensation of the fifth seal, which some interpret to last as long as a thousand years (see Revelation 6:10-11). The primary meaning of redeem is to recover by purchase what has been lost or sold. The promise of the Lord is that Zion will in time be redeemed, but only when he has prepared “a pure people, that will serve me in righteousness” (verse 16).
14 Thy brethren, my servants Orson Hyde and John Gould, are in my hands; and inasmuch as they keep my commandments they shall be saved.
verse 14 “Orson Hyde and John Gould” These two brethren had been sent at considerable risk to Jackson County with counsel for the saints from the Prophet, and Joseph is concerned that they will run afoul of mobs on their journey. Brothers Hyde and Gould did, in fact, return safely on November 25, and Orson Hyde brought the first accounts of the expulsion of the saints from Jackson County and of their miserable conditions, dispossessed of practically everything they owned and facing the coming winter in the unsettled country north of the Missouri River.
15 Therefore, let your hearts be comforted; for all things shall work together for good to them that walk uprightly, and to the sanctification of the church.
verse 15 “all things shall work together for good” The Lord reiterates the idea that sufferings, while in and of themselves are not good, they tend to produce spiritual growth in the righteous and diligent—in “them that walk uprightly”—(see the commentary for D&C 98:3).
“and to the sanctification of the church” Sanctification is spiritual growth— the incremental receiving of gifts of the Spirit or attributes of God that displace the natural man tendencies of mortals. When the saints suffer and must overcome obstacles, the result is real spiritual growth or sanctification of the Church as a whole.
16 For I will raise up unto myself a pure people, that will serve me in righteousness;
17 And all that call upon the name of the Lord, and keep his commandments, shall be saved. Even so. Amen.
verse 17 “all that call upon the name of the Lord . . . shall be saved” Note that the promise is not that they shall be safe, but that they shall be saved. Many worthy saints died in Missouri, in Illinois, on the plains, and elsewhere. Righteousness brings no guarantee of physical health and safety in this life, but it is a guarantee of salvation in the kingdom of God in the life to come.
- Michael J. Preece