Section 101 Zion: Why Persecuted, When Redeemed
When the agreement was signed on July 23, 1833, between the church leaders and the Missouri mob, it was agreed that the saints be allowed to remain in their homes until January 1, 1834, at which time they consented to be out of Jackson County. However, the spirit of persecution among those Missourians knew no such patience (see also the commentary for section 97). After Oliver Cowdery arrived in Kirtland (probably August 9, 1833) and informed the Prophet of the mobbers’ atrocities on July 20, Joseph dispatched Orson Hyde and John Gould to Jackson County with advice for the saints there. Among other things, he advised the saints to exhaust every legal appeal for redress against the mob. On October 30, 1833, the saints in Independence retained the firm of Wood, Reese, Doniphan, and Atchison to pursue their case in the local courts. Within hours the mob was aware of this action and interpreted it as a repudiation by the saints of their illegally coerced promise to leave Jackson County by January 1. The mob also saw this action as the saints’ decision to remain and pursue their civil rights instead of leaving Jackson County. The very next day—fittingly enough, Halloween, October 31, 1833—the infuriated mobbers descended again upon the Missouri Saints:
Thursday night, the 31st day of October , gave the saints in Zion abundant proof that no pledge on the part of their enemies, written or verbal, was longer to be regarded; for on that night, between forty and fifty persons in number, many of whom were armed with guns, proceeded against a branch of the Church, west of the Big Blue [River, west of Independence], and unroofed and partly demolished ten dwelling houses; and amid the shrieks and screams of the women and children, whipped and beat in a savage and brutal manner, several of the men: while their horrid threats frightened women and children into the wilderness. . . . On Friday, the first of November, women and children sallied forth from their gloomy retreats, to contemplate with heartrending anguish the ravages of a ruthless mob, in the lacerated and bruised bodies of their husbands, and in the destruction of their houses, and their furniture. Houseless and unprotected by the arm of the civil law in Jackson County, the dreary month of November staring them in the face and loudly proclaiming an inclement season at hand; the continual threats of the mob that they would drive every “Mormon” from the county; and the inability of many to move, because of their poverty, caused an anguish of heart indescribable.
On Friday night, the 1st of November, a party of the mob proceeded to attack a branch of the Church settled on the prairie, about twelve or fourteen miles from the town of Independence . . .
The same night, (Friday), another party in Independence commenced stoning houses, breaking down doors and windows and destroying furniture.
Thursday, November 7th, the shores of the Missouri River began to be lined on both sides of the ferry, with men, women, and children; goods, wagons, boxes, chests, and provisions; while the ferrymen were busily employed in crossing them over. When night again closed upon the saints, the wilderness had much the appearance of a camp meeting. Hundreds of people were seen in every direction; some in tents, and some in the open air, around their fires, while the rain descended in torrents. Husbands were inquiring for their wives, and women for their husbands; parents for children, and children for parents. Some had the good fortune to escape with their families, household goods, and some provisions; while others knew not the fate of their friends, and had lost all of their effects. The scene was indescribable, and would have melted the hearts of any people upon earth . . .
The saints who fled from Jackson County, took refuge in the neighboring counties, chiefly in Clay County, the inhabitants of which received them with some degree of kindness. Those who fled to the county of Van Buren were again driven, and compelled to flee, and those who fled to Lafayette County were soon expelled, or the most of them, and had to move wherever they could find protection (HC, 1:426-27, 43738).
For the next two weeks, mobs attacked the saints’ homes and farms between Independence and the Indian Territory and especially along the Big Blue River, west of Independence, virtually unhindered by any civil authority. On November 5, Lieutenant Governor Lilburn Boggs did call out a militia with the stated purpose of disarming both sides in the fighting, but since Colonel Thomas Pitcher and most of this militia favored the mob, the guns of only the Mormons were actually collected. This left the saints defenseless and with no recourse but to flee for their lives from an armed enemy unopposed by any state or local authority. By mid-November twelve hundred saints were scattered on the prairies or across the Missouri River in Clay, Van Buren, and other counties. More than two hundred homes were burned and an estimated $175,000 in damages inflicted upon the Missouri saints. There were dead and wounded on both sides during the first days of the fighting, but more saints died during the hard winter that followed when they huddled dispossessed in northern Missouri.
The news of the actual expulsion of the saints from Jackson County in early November arrived in Kirtland in bits and pieces. Orson Hyde and John Gould arrived back in Kirtland on November 25. On December 5, Joseph received a letter from W. W. Phelps supplying additional details of the Jackson tragedy. Finally on December 10, the full story reached Joseph from Bishop Partridge and the brethren in Clay County, Missouri. Joseph grieved, “Oh my brethren! my brethren. . . . [W]ould that I had been with you, to have shared your fate. Oh my God, what shall I do in such a trial as this!” (Smith, History of Joseph Smith, 225). During this period, many Kirtland saints agonized over the unknown fate of friends and loved ones. Oliver Cowdery, for example, did not know whether his wife, Elizabeth, whom he had left behind in Jackson County, was dead or alive or to where she might have fled. In addition, those saints who had fled Jackson County south to Van Buren County in November were driven out by the residents of that county again in December.
While the news of the atrocities in Jackson County, were obviously upsetting to Joseph, they likely did not come as a total surprise. On January 11, 1833, ten months before the expulsion, Joseph wrote to W. W. Phelps: “If Zion will not purify herself, so as to be approved of in all things, in his sight, he will seek another people . . . and they who will not hear his voice, must expect to feel his wrath. Let me say to you, seek to purify yourselves, and also all the inhabitants of Zion, lest the Lord’s anger be kindled to fierceness. Repent, repent, is the voice of God to Zion . . . hear the warning voice of God, lest Zion fall, and the Lord sware in his wrath the inhabitants of Zion shall not enter into his rest. . . . This from your brother who trembles for Zion and for the wrath of heaven, which awaits her if she repent not” (HC, 1:316, 317; compare Jesee, Personal Writings, 292-93). In addition, many individuals in Zion, including church leaders, had to be reproved for their hard feelings and disobedience in the years before the expulsion (see, for example, HC, 1:316-321). Finally, in August 1833, the Lord had warned Zion directly and specifically one more time: “But if she observe not to do whatsoever I have commanded her, I will visit her according to all her works, with sore affliction, with pestilence, with plague, with sword, with vengeance, and with devouring fire” (D&C 97:26).
Joseph wrote to Edward Partridge, the bishop in Missouri, instructing him to use the law to obtain redress and not to sell any of the Mormon land. Five days later he again wrote to the elders in Missouri, reiterating his instructions to Bishop Partridge to hold on to their property and to appeal to the courts, the governor of the state, and the president of the United States for redress.
The Mormon leaders in Missouri lost no time in apprising the Missouri state governor, Daniel Dunklin, of their plight. They petitioned the governor for (1) assistance so that they might “be restored” to their homes in Jackson County, and (2) continuing military protection until peace could be restored. The governor responded within two weeks through the state attorney general Robert W. Wells, and gave the saints the impression that if they wished to return to their property in Jackson County, he would provide an adequate military force and sufficient arms to accomplish that. Within a few days, however, it became apparent that the governor was waffling on his commitment to the Mormons. He used the technique of bureaucratic evasion and continued to maintain that he would guarantee the saints safe return to Jackson County but explained that he felt it was useless for him to do so, since he was unable to supply any continuing protection for the saints. Without that protection, he felt, they would surely be expelled again. He did suggest that the saints might try to raise a force among themselves sufficient to make themselves secure should they return to Jackson County.
By early January 1834, the church leaders in Clay County realized that they had reached an impasse and dispatched Lyman Wight and Parley P. Pratt to make the journey to Kirtland to inform the prophet.
From the time Joseph had learned of the desperate plight of the 2,500 saints in Zion, Joseph had pondered the grave situation. Particularly had he wondered why the Lord had allowed this trial to come upon the saints, and if Zion was to be redeemed, when would it be redeemed? Joseph inquired of the Lord, and on December 16, 1833, the Lord gave this revelation in answer to his petition. Thus, the two main questions answered by the Lord in section 101 are: (1) Why is the Lord allowing this persecution? and, (2) When will Zion be redeemed?
Before we turn to these questions, let us review the concept of Zion. Please review the several possible meanings of the term “Zion” in “Meanings of ‘Zion’” in volume 3 of Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, chapter 27, Zion.
For our discussion here, we will consider Zion to be that glorious “city” which will be established in the latter days some time prior to the Lord’s second coming. It will serve as a place of gathering and refuge to those who accept the gospel of Jesus Christ. The church members who establish and live in Zion will be sanctified. They will live and be governed by the principles of the celestial law. Zion will be the abode of Jesus as he administers the government of the earth during the Millennium. It will not be a secret place. Rather, all will know of it, even those who do not dwell there. Zion is described in scripture as “Fair as the sun, clear as the moon, and . . . terrible unto all nations; [such] that the kingdoms of this world [will be] constrained to acknowledge that the kingdom of Zion is in very deed the kingdom of our God and his Christ” (D&C 105:31-32).
In the latter days two places will be called Zion. The first is the city of Jerusalem itself which will be restored to its holy position of grandeur and beauty. It will serve as a gathering place for the tribe of Judah. The second is the New Jerusalem to be built upon the western hemisphere with its center in Jackson County, Missouri. To Zion on the western hemisphere will gather the rest of Israel and those Gentiles without the house of Israel who accept the gospel and are “adopted” into the house of Israel.
The location of Zion is not limited just to the city of Jerusalem and Jackson County, Missouri. In the latter days, wherever there are saints of God who have embraced the restored gospel, there is Zion.
Zion may also be something other than a place. Zion may also be an attitude of acceptance of the gospel, a spirit of obedience, a purity of heart. Just as the title Babylon may refer in a specific way to an ancient city or in a general way to the evil that exists in the world, so may the word Zion represent either a city or label used to describe all that is truly righteous, wholesome, and in tune with the Spirit of the Lord and his eternal plan. This grand fruition of Zion was not, of course, realized during Joseph’s lifetime. Joseph was willing, and the Lord was willing, but the saints were unprepared.
Let us now turn to the first question answered by the Lord in this section: Why did the Lord allow the persecution and scattering of the saints from Zion? The answer is given in verse 2. The Lord allowed them to be afflicted because of their transgressions. Note verse 6: “There were jarrings, and contentions, and envyings, and strifes and lustful and covetous desires among them.” The consequences of the saints’ unpreparedness and sin included not only the persecution of the saints and their expulsion from Zion, but also a long delay in the establishment of Zion. Speaking of the saints’ persecutors, the Lord said, “They were found transgressors, therefore they must needs be chastened” (verse 41). However, while the Lord made it clear that the persecutors were not guiltless, the major fault lay with the saints themselves.
Now, wait a moment! Do we really believe the Lord allowed the crude and cruel Missourians to punish his saints? Apparently so. The Babylonians and Assyrians and Romans were all used to punish ancient Israel. Thus we learn that the Lord may use the instruments of wickedness to chastise his Church and people and bring tribulations and afflictions upon them.
Even though the saints stood rightly condemned, we should note that the Lord did not cast them off: “They have been afflicted, in consequence of their transgressions; yet I will own them, and they shall be mine in the day when I shall come to make up my jewels” (verses 2-3).
Brother Richard D. Draper in his essay entitled “Maturing toward the Millennium” asks an interesting question:
How is it that the early saints could have committed transgressions and yet still be favored by the Lord? In D&C 29:47 the Lord spoke of a time when children begin to become accountable before him. The word “begin” used in that verse may suggest that children do not become accountable all at once but rather grow in accountability. This idea seems to apply to the Church as well. The Lord is more tolerant with the mistakes of youth than the rebellion of the mature. Though the Church has to suffer the consequences of transgression, still it was not cut off from the influence of the Lord. Time was given for maturation and experience before perfection was demanded. The early Church, even with its mistakes, was still the infant from which the spiritual giant would eventually grow. . . . If the Church in its immaturity lost the land of Zion, it did not lose the more important keys of preparing the hearts of a people so that they could establish Zion in the future (Studies in Scripture, Volume One, The Doctrine and Covenants, 391-93).
It would appear that initially the chastisement from the Lord was not to include the giving up of the saints’ lands and homes in Missouri. When the saints in Kirtland first heard of the outrages which had been committed against the saints in Zion, they “concluded with one accord to die with you or redeem you” (Ibid., Monte S. Nyman, 234). This was not an empty promise. The Kirtland saints held meetings to determine how they might proceed to get back the exiles’ lands. In verses 55 and 56 the Lord explained what the saints were to do about the situation: “Go and gather together . . . my servants . . . my warriors . . . and go ye straightway unto the land of my vineyard and redeem my vineyard.” These commands from the Lord resulted in a dramatic rescue attempt—Zion’s Camp. See the commentary and Historical Setting for section 103.
Now let us turn to the question of when Zion will be redeemed. Obviously it was not redeemed in Joseph Smith’s day or in the lifetime of Brigham Young or Heber C. Kimball, even though these early brethren believed and preached that the Church would return to Jackson County in their day. Zion has not yet been redeemed, even today. Verses 22 and 23 imply that Zion will not be redeemed until shortly prior to the Lord’s second coming. The Church in the early 19th century was a small, weak, vulnerable, and immature body. Presently we are living in a Church of transition. It is no longer weak and vulnerable, yet it is not the glorious Zion Church of the future. The task of the present Church is to bring to pass the reality of that future Church. The essential element to our becoming a Zion people is the true conversion of the individual members of the Church. Only when enough hearts have given themselves to the Savior can Zion become a reality. Until then, we will remain a Church in transition.
D&C 101 Zion: Why Persecuted When Redeemed
D&C 101:16 (also Psalm 46:10) Therefore, let your hearts be comforted concerning Zion; for all flesh is in mine hands; be still and know that I am God.
D&C 101:22 Behold, it is my will, that all they who call on my name, and worship me according to mine everlasting gospel, should gather together, and stand in holy places.
D&C 101:43-62 The parable of the nobleman’s vineyard which, inadequately protected due to the failure of the watchmen to build a tower, is invaded by the enemy causing the nobleman’s servants to flee (a parable of the saints in Independence who failed to build a temple as they had been commanded).
D&C 101:80 For this purpose have I established the Constitution of this land, by the hands of wise men whom I raised up unto this very purpose.
1 Verily I say unto you, concerning your brethren who have been afflicted, and persecuted, and cast out from the land of their inheritance—
verse 1 The Lord speaks to the Prophet Joseph about the saints to have been cruelly persecuted and forced out of Jackson, County, Missouri.
2 I, the Lord, have suffered the affliction to come upon them, wherewith they have been afflicted, in consequence of their transgressions;
verse 2 The Lord allows the wicked of the world to afflict his people when his people sin (see Isaiah 7:17-20; 8:6-8). The Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Greeks, the Romans, the Lamanites, the Missourians—though usually wicked themselves and ripening for their own destruction—have all been permitted at times by God to scourge and afflict his people and purify them of their disobedience. However, this does not render the wicked any less guilty or accountable for their sins against disobedient Israel, for which, in time, they will pay the uttermost farthing.
3 Yet I will own them, and they shall be mine in that day when I shall come to make up my jewels.
verse 3 “I will own them” I will claim them as my own.
“my jewels” When the Lord comes in glory, he will claim his “jewels”—those who have been obedient to his commandments. The metaphorical imagery here suggests God as the emperor of the universe taking the finest treasures from all his vast domains to make up his “crown jewels.” When this earth has fulfilled its present purpose, God will take the most precious and valuable things upon it, his obedient sons and daughters—his “jewels”—and place them in their proper settings among his treasures (compare Isaiah 62:3; Zechariah 9:16).
4 Therefore, they must needs be chastened and tried, even as Abraham, who was commanded to offer up his only son.
verse 4 “chastened and tried, even as Abraham” Abraham was not a wicked man. Neither were the saints in Missouri, by the standards of the world, a wicked people. However, they were not sufficiently strong collectively to establish the holy Zion of God. Over and over again, the Lord has stated his intent of testing and trying his people (see D&C 58:4; 95:1; 98:12; 136:31), so it should not come as a surprise to the saints when those tests and trials arrive. When such trials are so difficult as to make God himself seem unjust, or even to have broken his promises and betrayed his covenant with the saints, then the seriousness of the test approaches that of Abraham who was commanded—as a test of his faithfulness—to slay his son Isaac (see Genesis 22:1-19).
The Prophet Joseph further explained the principle of an “Abrahamic test’ in these words:
For a man to lay down his all—his character and reputation, his honor and applause, his good name among men, his houses, his lands, his brothers and sisters, his wife and children, and even his own life also, counting all things but filth and dross for the excellency of the knowledge of Jesus Christ [compare Philippians 3:8-9]— requires more than mere belief or supposition that he doing the will of God. . . .
Let us here observe that a religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation. For from the first existence of men, the faith necessary unto the enjoyment of life and salvation never could be obtained without the sacrifice of all earthly things. It is through this sacrifice, and this only, that God has ordained that men should enjoy eternal life.
It is vain for persons to fancy to themselves that they are heirs with those, or can be heirs with them, who have offered their all in sacrifice, and by this means obtained faith in God and favor with him so as to obtain eternal life, unless they in like manner offer unto him the same sacrifice and through that offering obtain the knowledge that they are accepted of him (cited in Dahl and Tate, eds., Lectures on Faith in Historical Perspective, 92-93).
5 For all those who will not endure chastening, but deny me, cannot be sanctified.
verse 5 “endure chastening” To continue trusting in God even when he seems to have abandoned you is to “endure chastening” and pass the test of Abraham. The effect on individuals who do this is the same as it was on Abraham. It sanctifies them, causes spiritual growth in them, and strengthens them. The effect on the saints collectively who do this is to weed out those who cannot be counted on in all times, and in all places, and in all circumstances. After the trials are over, the remaining saints may be fewer in number, but they will also have been strengthened collectively by their endurance of the Lord’s chastening. The less faithful will have departed. Thus, when the Lord chastens his saints, and at some point he always will, the afflicted then self-select for or against his kingdom either by humbly enduring his chastening or by becoming offended and leaving.
6 Behold, I say unto you, there were jarrings, and contentions, and envyings, and strifes, and lustful and covetous desires among them; therefore by these things they polluted their inheritances.
verse 6 “jarrings, and contentions, and envyings” Jarrings are interpersonal experiences that are upsetting to those involved. The list of failings here reveals once again that the Missouri saints were not a wicked people by the standards of the world. There were no murderers, no robbers, and none guilty of assault. In a modern LDS ward, such things as “jarrings, and contentions, and envyings” might be written off as everyday personal differences between otherwise faithful members, or as simple personality conflicts. “Lustful and covetous desires” might seem to be minor difficulties in controlling one’s personal thoughts, especially where such thoughts are kept internally and are never acted upon. However, while such personal and internal flaws might be tolerable in a worldly society, the establishing of the physical Zion of God requires that we be of one heart and one mind—no backbiting, no bickering (see D&C 38:24-27). Those of us with “difficult personalities” must repent and smooth down our rough edges, and those with private mental sins must disown them and purge them from within us if ever we are to establish Zion. But, beyond this, we must eliminate these same internal sins even to establish a spiritual Zion in ourselves or in our homes and wards, “for this is Zion—the pure in heart” (D&C 97:21).
7 They were slow to hearken unto the voice of the Lord their God; therefore, the Lord their God is slow to hearken unto their prayers, to answer them in the day of their trouble.
verse 7 “They were slow to hearken” By November 1833, the saints in Missouri had had more than two years since the dedication of the temple site in Independence to make progress toward the establishment of Zion. In that time, they had been relatively free from persecution and had grown to a viable community of over twelve hundred persons who very likely had as many or more combined resources than the Kirtland saints. And yet, the specific covenant made at the dedication of the land was not kept, the commandments to purify their internal thoughts and desires were not obeyed, the principles of consecration and stewardship were not universally observed, and as of November 1833 not a single step had been taken toward construction of the temple or even toward preparation of the proposed temple site. Specifically and directly commanded in August 1833 to begin construction of the Independence Temple, the Missouri saints neglected to do so for fear of antagonizing the Jackson County mobs. Having collectively been “slow to hearken unto the voice of the Lord” for more than two years, the saints find the Lord in no hurry to answer their prayers when they desperately needed his help. They had taken their personal relationships with God for granted.
8 In the day of their peace they esteemed lightly my counsel; but, in the day of their trouble, of necessity they feel after me.
verse 8 “In the day of their peace they esteemed lightly my counsel; but, in the day of their trouble, of necessity they feel after me.” Isn’t this a problem and a frailty in which most all of us share? When things are going smoothly, we’re not too concerned with the Lord and his counsel. Our prayers become routine and mechanical. We often credit ourselves for our blessings in good times and blame God for our afflictions in bad times. Only when we have trials and troubles, do we come to him with intensity and sincerity. For another example of this principle see verses 43 through 62 wherein the Lord gives a parable about Zion referred to as The Parable of the Nobleman and the Choice Piece of Land. The fact is that we have no more rightful claim upon God for help in our times of trouble than he has received obedience and faithfulness from us in our times of peace, although he is often more merciful in this regard than we have any right to expect (see verse 9).
9 Verily I say unto you, notwithstanding their sins, my bowels are filled with compassion towards them. I will not utterly cast them off; and in the day of wrath I will remember mercy.
verse 9 “my bowels are filled with compassion” Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary, aside from being “entrails . . . of man,” also defines bowels as “the heart,” “the interior part of anything,” or “the seat of pity or kindness; hence, tenderness, compassion” when used in a scriptural sense.
“I will not utterly cast them off” Though Zion has been chastened and the immediate plans of the saints have been frustrated, the saints have not been rejected as God’s people, and God has not canceled his long-term plans for the physical Zion (see Ether 13:2-6). In his own time, all his intentions and commandments for Zion will be fulfilled at some time in this dispensation by faithful Latter-day Saints.
“in the day of wrath I will remember mercy” In the short term, this statement could refer to the plight of the Missouri saints, who were suffering a day of wrath, but whom the Lord will bless in times to come. More likely, however, this is a reference to the Lord’s day of wrath before his second coming (see D&C 87:5-8; 97:22-25), when the saints as a body will be shown mercy and be spared the fate of the nations through their establishment of Zion.
10 I have sworn, and the decree hath gone forth by a former commandment which I have given unto you, that I would let fall the sword of mine indignation in behalf of my people; and even as I have said, it shall come to pass.
verse 10 “the decree hath gone forth by a former commandment” The “former commandment” referred to is apparently D&C 35:14: “I will let fall the sword in their behalf, and by the fire of mine indignation will I preserve them.”
11 Mine indignation is soon to be poured out without measure upon all nations; and this will I do when the cup of their iniquity is full.
verse 11 “Mine indignation is soon to be poured out without measure upon all nations” Compare with D&C 87:2-3, 6. The term measure implies an appropriately gauged portion or a quantity with distinct limits and thus only a partial judgment of the world. But “without measure” tells us that the punishment to come won’t be partial or parceled out a little here and a little there. Rather, it will come like Noah’s Flood with unlimited and overwhelming power to make a full and complete end of all nations.
“when the cup of their iniquity is full” Many contemporary saints like to decry how wicked the world is becoming, and surely it is becoming more wicked all the time. However, by the standards of those societies whom the Lord has destroyed “when the cup of their iniquity is full,” many areas with large numbers of saints are not quite there yet. Good examples of what a society whose cup of iniquity is full can be found in 3 Nephi in the generation before the Savior’s visit to the New World, or in ancient Jerusalem just before Lehi left, or again in Jerusalem in the generation after the death of the Savior (see also Helaman 13:14, 24).
12 And in that day all who are found upon the watch-tower, or in other words, all mine Israel, shall be saved.
verse 12 “And in that day” That is, in the day when the Lord comes to take vengeance upon the nations of the world.
“all who are found upon the watch-tower . . . all mine Israel” In an ancient city, the tower was the strongest and most impregnable fortress in times of attack. It also gave the inhabitants of a city a commanding view of the surrounding territory and of the approach and tactics of their enemies. When the saints are righteous, the Lord himself is their high tower, that is, their defense and their early warning system of approaching enemies (see D&C 97:20). In section 101, the tower also seems to be connected with the temple of the Lord, and the Lord’s true Israel are those who have obeyed him in building a temple and are protected by having received its ordinances. Had the temple in Zion been built in a timely manner, the Missouri Saints would have seen in advance the designs of their enemies and could have taken preventive measures to avoid the loss of the land (see verse 54).
13 And they that have been scattered shall be gathered.
verse 13 In the immediate circumstances, this might refer to those saints who have been scattered onto the plains and into other counties in Missouri, and surely modern Israel would be, and will be, gathered together again. But in the long term, this verse also refers to the great latter-day work of gathering together from among every nation, kindred, tongue, and people all the dispersed of Israel, all the children of Abraham, which we will be best equipped to do after the establishment of the physical Zion when the rest of the world is in chaos and turmoil.
14 And all they who have mourned shall be comforted.
verse 14 “they who have mourned” A repetition of the promise made in the Sermon on the Mount (see Matthew 5:4). Accepting the gospel offers the individual no protection against grief and mourning, for these are the common lot of mortality. The promise is that the inevitable comfort of the Lord will more than compensate the faithful for all the sufferings and mourning imposed upon them in mortality.
15 And all they who have given their lives for my name shall be crowned.
verse 15 The promise here appears to allude to Revelation 2:10: “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.”
16 Therefore, let your hearts be comforted concerning Zion; for all flesh is in mine hands; be still and know that I am God.
verse 16 “let your hearts be comforted concerning Zion” Unlike Joseph and the saints, God was not surprised by the loss of Jackson County. Neither did the immediate loss of Zion cause God to change his plans. Though he continually gives his saints opportunities to succeed or fail, according to their faithfulness, his own plans and designs are never disappointed, for he knows the end from the beginning, and he is never surprised or caught unprepared. The loss of Zion was not a failure on God’s part, but the failure of his people to keep their covenants. The disappointed saints must now take refuge in the knowledge that God is still in charge, that he has prepared all things from the beginning, and that his plans have not been thwarted—though the saints have lost their opportunity for a season.
“be still and know that I am God” This is an allusion to Psalm 46:10 which begins, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” In the context of the loss of Zion, the entire psalm should be read, for it is a reassurance that God has power over all of nature and over all the enemies of Israel, and the whole psalm provides exactly the divine reassurance needed by the saints who had been driven out of Zion by their enemies. The exact sense of “be still” in Psalm 46 could be translated as “let it go” or even “stand back” and leave things to God.
17 Zion shall not be moved out of her place, notwithstanding her children are scattered.
verse 17 “Zion shall not be moved out of her place” Will the Lord change the location of the center place or center stake of Zion to another place now that the saints are scattered? Salt Lake City, for example? No. The center of Zion will always remain in Jackson County. Though her stakes may spread abroad and even fill the entire American continent, or the world, there is no other center place (see verse 20).
18 They that remain, and are pure in heart, shall return, and come to their inheritances, they and their children, with songs of everlasting joy, to build up the waste places of Zion—
verse 18 “They that remain, and are pure in heart, shall return” One way in which the Lord allows the saints to exercise their faith in him is by not revealing his timetable for the fulfillment of his prophecies. In the Lord’s own time, saints of this dispensation who are pure in heart—for Zion is the pure in heart (D&C 97:21)—will return to Jackson County and establish a physical Zion. However, it is possible that the phrase “they and their children” should cause us to think in terms of generations rather than in terms of months or years before this event takes place.
“to build up the waste places of Zion” While it is true that the generation in Missouri that persecuted the saints suffered some of the worst devastations of the Civil War, the wasting of Zion referred to here is likely that of the last days, when the scourge of the Lord will descend upon the Gentiles and make a full end of all nations (see verses 9-13 and their commentary). Only then will the saints return to reclaim the lands they once possessed and which were taken from them, and there will be no one left in those waste places to oppose them or to interfere. Referring to this very passage, Elder Orson Hyde commented: “The scripture says, that in the last days his people will go forth and build up the waste places of Zion. But they must first be made desolate, before they can be called ‘the waste places of Zion.’ Then the hands of the saints will be required to build them up” (JD, 10:376).
19 And all these things that the prophets might be fulfilled.
verse 19 The ancient prophets have written of the redemption of Zion, particularly the prophet Isaiah (51:3; 52:9). Zion will ultimately be redeemed and rebuilt by the righteous who will live there in fulfillment of the Old Testament writings, especially the writings of Isaiah.
20 And, behold, there is none other place appointed than that which I have appointed; neither shall there be any other place appointed than that which I have appointed, for the work of the gathering of my saints—
verse 20 “there is none other place appointed” One of the immediate problems faced by the Prophet in December 1833 was a rumor spreading among some of the saints that Zion extended as far east as Ohio, and that Zion could therefore be established just as well by settling in Ohio as by trying to carve a living out of the frontier (HC, 1:419). Although Joseph had already acted to correct this notion, here the Lord himself makes it absolutely clear. When, in the due time of the Lord, the physical and political latter-day Zion is finally established, the center place will be Independence, Missouri. Zion’s stakes may spread abroad from there, but there will never be another center place.
21 Until the day cometh when there is found no more room for them; and then I have other places which I will appoint unto them, and they shall be called stakes, for the curtains or the strength of Zion.
verse 21 “when there is found no more room for them” While the “center pole” of the Lord’s canopy over the earth will remain Jackson County, the canopy will be secured and strengthened by the stakes of Zion throughout the world. This is the origin of the meaning of the word stake as we use it today (see Isaiah 54:2).
The commonly held notion that at some future time all faithful Latter-day Saints will be called to go to Jackson County, Missouri, is surely incorrect. Surely the time has already passed when all the faithful saints could fit in such a small space. From the beginning of this dispensation, the Lord has allowed for stakes of Zion to be built in addition to the center place in Independence, Missouri. These are extensions of Zion inhabited by the pure in heart and connected to the center place just as a tent stake is connected to the center post of a tent and is, therefore, part of the tent. Just as a tent would become unstable if all its stakes were uprooted and placed around the center pole, so Zion would not thrive if all her stakes were moved into one confined, central place. When the center place of Zion is finally established and built up, it will be strengthened by strong cords attached to many stakes in many places that will already have been established and will contribute to her greatness and her glory.
“for the curtains” Besides holding the center pole steady, tent stakes also keep the tent walls, or “curtains,” firm against the wind or other agitations.
22 Behold, it is my will, that all they who call on my name, and worship me according to mine everlasting gospel, should gather together, and stand in holy places;
verse 22 “should gather together, and stand in holy places” The gathering of the saints of God has been a theme of the gospel since the days of Adam and the Zion of Enoch (see Moses 7:18-21). The ultimate gathering of the saints will take place at the second coming of the Savior when he will gather to himself from off of the earth both the righteous dead and the righteous living. While the righteous are gathered to the Savior at his coming, the earth will be cleansed by fire of all wickedness and receive its paradisiacal or terrestrial glory (see D&C 45:45-50; 88:96-99; Articles of Faith 1:10; 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17). Until that ultimate gathering, however, the saints are commanded to gather themselves together and stand in holy places (see D&C 87:8 and its commentary). This gathering need not be in Jackson County, Missouri, or in Salt Lake City, Utah. It can be in one of the many wards and stakes of Zion that have been or will be established before his coming. The great key to understanding this verse is remembering that Zion is the pure in heart (see D&C 97:21). Therefore, wherever the pure in heart have gathered together to call on the name of the Lord is Zion and is a holy place. It is the pure in heart who make a place Zion and holy, and not the other way around. Otherwise—if the place could sanctify the people—the saints would never have lost Zion in 1833.
23 And prepare for the revelation which is to come, when the veil of the covering of my temple, in my tabernacle, which hideth the earth, shall be taken off, and all flesh shall see me together.
verse 23 “prepare for the revelation which is to come” The coming revelation is the second coming of Christ when his presence will be revealed to all who live upon the earth at the beginning his millennial reign. The brightness and glory of his countenance will glorify the righteous who have prepared for his coming by establishing and gathering to Zion, and it will incinerate the wicked who are caught unprepared in their sins. Preparations for the Savior’s coming have already begun. According to President Ezra Taft Benson, “There is a real sifting going on in the Church, and it is going to become more pronounced with the passing of time. It will sift the wheat from the tares, because we face some difficult days, the like of which we have never experienced in our lives. And those days are going to require faith and testimony and family unity, the like of which we have never had” (Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, 107).
“the veil of the covering of my temple, in my tabernacle” The language here is difficult but seems to refer to the veil that shields the earth from the full glory of the resurrected body of Christ (his temple) within the universe he has created (his tabernacle). Christ’s tabernacle or universe contains all things both human and divine— thus creating the need for a separating veil between them. As things now stand, there is a veil that separates and protects the realm of the human from the realm of the divine and presently shields the earth from the full glory of the resurrected Son of God. At his second coming that shield, or veil, shall be removed and all humanity, prepared or not, will be exposed to the full brightness of his glory (see D&C 88:95; Revelation 6:14; Acts 1:9-11). While God and his angels have often passed through the veil in their great redeeming work, on rare occasions and with great faith this protecting veil has also been approached and even pierced by faithful seers from the human side (see, for example, Ether 3:6, 19-20).
24 And every corruptible thing, both of man, or of the beasts of the field, or of the fowls of the heavens, or of the fish of the sea, that dwells upon all the face of the earth, shall be consumed;
verse 24 “And every corruptible thing” Corruptible refers to anything that is eventually going to oxidize, spoil, rot, or decay. At the second coming of the Savior, when the earth is raised from a telestial to a terrestrial state (see Articles of Faith 1:10), all living things will fall into two categories, those that are capable of abiding at least a terrestrial glory, and hence will be preserved incorruptible in that paradisiacal state, and those that cannot receive such glory and will be consumed by it as corruptible material. For human beings, the criterion for judgment will be personal righteousness. It has not been revealed what the criteria will be for other living creatures or even whether they will be judged individually or perhaps as classes or species, but all living things will be judged and will be brought into a new ecological balance and a new ecological order.
25 And also that of element shall melt with fervent heat; and all things shall become new, that my knowledge and glory may dwell upon all the earth.
verse 25 “all things shall become new” Not only will there be a new biology for this earth during the Millennium (see verse 24), but there will also be a new chemistry and a new physics. Indeed, the earth will become again as it was in the time of Eden, without the intervening changes caused by the fall or the Flood. The energy involved in raising this present telestial world back to a terrestrial sphere will cause the very elements to melt and to reform in ways that will sustain the terrestrial physical laws of Christ’s millennial kingdom. As the earth was once baptized in water, it will then be baptized by fire and be “born again.” This should not be confused with the further change that will take place at the end of the Millennium when the earth undergoes a process analogous to death and resurrection to become a celestial sphere (see Revelation 21:1; D&C 77:1; 88:18-20, 25-26).
26 And in that day the enmity of man, and the enmity of beasts, yea, the enmity of all flesh, shall cease from before my face.
verse 26 “the enmity of all flesh, shall cease” At the second coming of the Lord, not only will there be a new biology, chemistry, and physics, but there will be a drastically new world ecology as well. Cats will no longer kill mice just because they are mice. Dogs will no longer chase cats just because they are cats. Nothing that remains upon the paradisiacal earth will harm anything else—ever. The limited details we have regarding these changes are found in Isaiah, where we are told that the wolf will lie down with the lamb, and the lion will eat straw like the ox (see Isaiah 11:6-9; 2 Nephi 21:6-9). But, the physical laws of biology and ecology in a terrestrial world are clearly different than they are in this present telestial world. For human beings, verse 26 means that anyone who continues to hold a grudge or to hate another person for any reason—that is, whose enmity will not cease—is not worthy of the new terrestrial, millennial kingdom. The wicked will have been incinerated already, and there ought not to be “jarrings, and contentions” (verse 6) between the righteous saints of God. And even among the terrestrial mortals who remain, who are the honorable men and women of the earth (see D&C 76:75), there ought not to be malice or evil intent in any degree.
27 And in that day whatsoever any man shall ask, it shall be given unto him.
verse 27 Because all those who inhabit the millennial kingdom will be the terrestrial and celestial righteous, their desires will also be righteous and can be granted without fear of any hidden malicious or evil intent.
28 And in that day Satan shall not have power to tempt any man.
verse 28 Compare D&C 88:110-115 and 84:100 and their commentaries; also Revelation 20:2-3; 1 Nephi 22:26. Satan will be bound and divested of power in two ways: (1) The righteous who remain upon the earth after the second coming of the Savior will pay no heed to him. Satan only has power when men give in to their “natural” inclinations. (2) Satan will actually be restricted in some unspecified way by the priesthood power of the Savior himself so that he cannot function in his accustomed ways.
29 And there shall be no sorrow because there is no death.
verse 29 “there is no death” There will continue to be mortals upon the earth throughout the Millennium. These mortals shall continue to have mortal children, grandchildren, and so forth. But no mortal child born during the Millennium will die prematurely or tragically. No parents will outlive their children. And during the Millennium when the covenant faithful reach their full age and pass on, there will be no funerals in the present sense, for in the twinkling, or blink, of an eye, they will change from mortality to their resurrected glory and be caught up to rest in the Lord.
There will also be those upon the earth who are “honorable men” (D&C 76:75) but who will not accept the testimony of Jesus while in the flesh or who were not sufficiently valiant in that testimony to merit celestial glory (see D&C 76:74-79). These terrestrial beings are still worthy of the resurrection of the just (see D&C 45:54) when their one hundred years are up. But their curse (see Isaiah 65:20) lies in the fact that they will be changed from mortality to terrestrial resurrection rather than receiving the celestial resurrection that might have been theirs had they accepted the gospel and its covenant obligations. So those who live into the Millennium will pass from mortality to resurrection without experiencing death as we know it, burial, or separation of their spirits from their bodies (see Hinckley, Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley, 576; Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 2:300). In fact, from the time of the second coming onward, the spirit prison will be emptied of those who are worthy of the resurrection of the just (a terrestrial or a celestial resurrection), and during the Christ’s millennial reign that great prison will be inhabited only by the spirits of the wicked who are destined to come forth at the last resurrection, the resurrection of the unjust at the end of the Millennium, to inherit telestial glory or to become sons of perdition (see D&C 43:18; 76:84-85; 88:101; Revelation 20:5).
30 In that day an infant shall not die until he is old; and his life shall be as the age of a tree;
verse 30 “his life shall be as the age of a tree” According to the prophet Isaiah in a similar prophecy concerning millennial conditions (see Isaiah 65:20, 22), the age of a tree is to be understood as one hundred years.
31 And when he dies he shall not sleep, that is to say in the earth, but shall be changed in the twinkling of an eye, and shall be caught up, and his rest shall be glorious.
verse 31 “changed in the twinkling of an eye” The “twinkling of an eye” is a blink. When mortals die during the Millennium, they will simply pass from mortality to a resurrected state in the twinkling of an eye.
“his rest shall be glorious” Ultimately, to enter into the rest of the Lord refers to reaching the end of our probationary state when the test of mortality is over and the struggles of mortality are done. For some, this will occur at death. For others, the probationary state continues through both phases of our probation—both our mortal life and our time in the spirit world prior to our resurrection (HC, 1:252). These will enter into the rest of the Lord at their resurrection. See also the commentary for 2 Nephi 21:10.
32 Yea, verily I say unto you, in that day when the Lord shall come, he shall reveal all things—
verse 32 “he shall reveal all things” What a marvelous promise this is! Your author has often (with tongue in cheek) speculated about and yearned for those “postmortal firesides” at which all things will be revealed. Just imagine that when he comes he will answer all questions! How old is the earth? How and when was it created? When were Adam and Eve placed on the earth? Who gave birth to their bodies? Was the entire earth in a paradisiacal state or only the Garden of Eden? During the Savior’s millennial reign, knowledge of all kinds and of all things will flood the earth, and every question about the whole of this creation will be answered. Oh, hasten the day!
33 Things which have passed, and hidden things which no man knew, things of the earth, by which it was made, and the purpose and the end thereof—
34 Things most precious, things that are above, and things that are beneath, things that are in the earth, and upon the earth, and in heaven.
35 And all they who suffer persecution for my name, and endure in faith, though they are called to lay down their lives for my sake yet shall they partake of all this glory.
verse 35 “they are called to lay down their lives for my sake” The Lord extends special reassurance to those who die as martyrs to the cause of Christ and his earthly kingdom.
36 Wherefore, fear not even unto death; for in this world your joy is not full, but in me your joy is full.
verse 36 “fear not even unto death” What a splendid and reassuring verse! Here the Lord commiserates with the righteous on earth. This life is not always fair, and there is much unavoidable misery in this life. Many good people experience as much or even more pain in this life than they do happiness. No one in this life is truly happy all of the time, and true bliss is a rare and fleeting commodity. The joy we experience here is never entirely full. The fulness of joy yet awaits our being in his actual presence.
37 Therefore, care not for the body, neither the life of the body; but care for the soul, and for the life of the soul.
verse 37 This verse and others like it are usually understood to mean we ought to care for the life and future of the spirit rather than the life of the flesh. The word soul here may refer to either the spirit or to the spirit plus its resurrected (not its mortal) body. The body here is our mortal self.
The Lord is not counseling us to ignore the health of our mortal body. Rather, he is teaching us to be less concerned about the worldly concerns of this life and more concerned with things of the eternities.
38 And seek the face of the Lord always, that in patience ye may possess your souls, and ye shall have eternal life.
verse 38 “seek the face of the Lord always” See D&C 93:1.
“in patience ye may possess your souls” This statement likely alludes to Luke 21:19 where the word patience in Greek is hupomone, which can mean “patience” and is so translated in the King James Version, but probably would better be rendered “endurance” or “steadfastness.” The familiar phrase “the patience of Job” (James 5:11) is another place in the King James Version where the Greek hupomone was clearly meant to refer to Job’s power of endurance rather than to his patiently waiting for anything.
It is obvious that to “possess your souls” means to have exercised righteous control over your spirit and to be consequently resurrected with a celestial body.
39 When men are called unto mine everlasting gospel, and covenant with an everlasting covenant, they are accounted as the salt of the earth and the savor of men;
verse 39 “they are accounted as the salt of the earth and the savor of men” Savor is flavor or seasoning. What did the Lord mean in Matthew 5:13 when he said: “Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men”? Entering the gospel covenant lays upon each member the obligation of making a positive change in the lives of those around them just as salt improves the flavor of most foods in cooking. A little bit of salt can greatly improve the quality and flavor of a lot of food, and just as a little salt goes a long way in seasoning and preserving food, so the influence of individual saints for good is greater than they know if they will only keep their covenants, live the gospel, and serve as a light to the world. Another way of being the “savor of men” is serving as a witness for God at all times and in all things and in all places.
In ancient times, the principal purposes of salt were for seasoning and preserving food. If salt should somehow lose its ability to do those things, if food should lose its salt-ness, it would become worthless and be thrown out in the street with everything else discarded as worthless or unclean. Village streets and alleys were the collective dumps and sewers where all such refuse was trodden into the mud by pedestrian and other traffic.
40 They are called to be the savor of men; therefore, if that salt of the earth lose its savor, behold, it is thenceforth good for nothing only to be cast out and trodden under the feet of men. 41 Behold, here is wisdom concerning the children of Zion, even many, but not all; they were found transgressors, therefore they must needs be chastened—
verse 41 “the children of Zion . . . were found transgressors” The language here, following hard on verses 39-40, would seem to indicate that the Missouri saints who had recently been driven out of Jackson County had collectively been judged as salt that had lost its savor. This apparently applied to a large number of the Missouri saints, perhaps even to a majority of them, though certainly not to all.
42 He that exalteth himself shall be abased, and he that abaseth himself shall be exalted.
verse 42 Exalting oneself means arrogantly placing oneself above others in value and importance. Abasing oneself is to be humble in considering others to be of equal value and importance as oneself.
43 And now, I will show unto you a parable, that you may know my will concerning the redemption of Zion.
verses 43-62 “a parable . . . concerning the redemption of Zion” In these verses the Lord gives a parable that stresses the need for a temple. We may refer to this parable as The Parable of the Nobleman and the Choice Piece of Land.”
Beyond laying out stones and logs to mark the foundation site, the saints in Zion made no effort to build the temple that would have protected them in times of trial. Instead, they attempted to establish Zion without building a temple, and they put their resources into other enterprises instead. This led first to arguing, then to laziness, and then to breaking the commandments (see verse 50). At that point, the Lord allowed the mobs to descend upon them, first in July and then again in November 1833, and the Missouri saints, whose watchmen were seemingly asleep on duty (see verse 53), found themselves defenseless and unprepared.
The following specific correlations of the parable’s imagery are helpful:
“choice piece of land” Jackson County
“olive trees” settlements of the saints
“watchmen” officers or leaders of the Church in Missouri
“watchman” the one keeping watch from upon the temple
“tower” the temple the church leaders were commanded to build
“servant” Joseph Smith, Jr.
“hedge” a protective structure planted or built to block the intrusion of outsiders
“warriors” the participants in the Zion’s Camp March
44 A certain nobleman had a spot of land, very choice; and he said unto his servants: Go ye unto my vineyard, even upon this very choice piece of land, and plant twelve olive-trees;
verse 44 “twelve olive-trees” The twelve olive trees represent the settlements of the saints in Zion, twelve being the number figuratively associated with Israel and with the Church.
45 And set watchmen round about them, and build a tower, that one may overlook the land round about, to be a watchman upon the tower, that mine olive-trees may not be broken down when the enemy shall come to spoil and take upon themselves the fruit of my vineyard.
46 Now, the servants of the nobleman went and did as their lord commanded them, and planted the olive-trees, and built a hedge round about, and set watchmen, and began to build a tower.
verse 46 “began to build a tower” At least the land was surveyed and dedicated.
47 And while they were yet laying the foundation thereof, they began to say among themselves: And what need hath my lord of this tower?
48 And consulted for a long time, saying among themselves: What need hath my lord of this tower, seeing this is a time of peace?
49 Might not this money be given to the exchangers? For there is no need of these things.
50 And while they were at variance one with another they became very slothful, and they hearkened not unto the commandments of their lord.
51 And the enemy came by night, and broke down the hedge; and the servants of the nobleman arose and were affrighted, and fled; and the enemy destroyed their works, and broke down the olive-trees.
52 Now, behold, the nobleman, the lord of the vineyard, called upon his servants, and said unto them, Why! what is the cause of this great evil?
53 Ought ye not to have done even as I commanded you, and—after ye had planted the vineyard, and built the hedge round about, and set watchmen upon the walls thereof—built the tower also, and set a watchman upon the tower, and watched for my vineyard, and not have fallen asleep, lest the enemy should come upon you?
54 And behold, the watchman upon the tower would have seen the enemy while he was yet afar off; and then ye could have made ready and kept the enemy from breaking down the hedge thereof, and saved my vineyard from the hands of the destroyer. 55 And the lord of the vineyard said unto one of his servants: Go and gather together the residue of my servants, and take all the strength of mine house, which are my warriors, my young men, and they that are of middle age also among all my servants, who are the strength of mine house, save those only whom I have appointed to tarry; 56 And go ye straightway unto the land of my vineyard, and redeem my vineyard; for it is mine; I have bought it with money.
verses 55-62 “take all the strength of mine house . . . and redeem my vineyard” This part of the parable refers to Zion’s Camp, which the Lord will explain to the prophet Joseph more fully in sections 103 and 105. Zion’s Camp was an attempt by Joseph Smith and about two hundred brethren from the eastern branches of the Church to redeem Zion by force of arms. For several reasons, which will be discussed in the commentary for section 105, that attempt did not achieve its stated goal of regaining possession of the Jackson County properties.
It is crucial to note that even at this early date when the servant in this parable (Joseph Smith) asks the Lord, “When shall these things be?”—that is, “When will Zion be redeemed?”—the Lord’s answer is vague: “When I will” (verse 60). We are then told that “after many days all things were fulfilled” (verse 62). Thus, it appears that the parable already anticipates a long interval between Zion’s Camp and the eventual redemption of Zion.
57 Therefore, get ye straightway unto my land; break down the walls of mine enemies; throw down their tower, and scatter their watchmen.
58 And inasmuch as they gather together against you, avenge me of mine enemies, that by and by I may come with the residue of mine house and possess the land.
59 And the servant said unto his lord: When shall these things be?
60 And he said unto his servant: When I will; go ye straightway, and do all things whatsoever I have commanded you;
61 And this shall be my seal and blessing upon you—a faithful and wise steward in the midst of mine house, a ruler in my kingdom.
62 And his servant went straightway, and did all things whatsoever his lord commanded him; and after many days all things were fulfilled.
63 Again, verily I say unto you, I will show unto you wisdom in me concerning all the churches, inasmuch as they are willing to be guided in a right and proper way for their salvation—
verse 63 “wisdom in me concerning all the churches” In the next four verses the Lord will relate his will to the prophet Joseph concerning the continuing latter-day gathering of the saints as alluded to in the parable of the wheat and the tares (see Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43; D&C 86 and its commentary).
64 That the work of the gathering together of my saints may continue, that I may build them up unto my name upon holy places; for the time of harvest is come, and my word must needs be fulfilled.
65 Therefore, I must gather together my people, according to the parable of the wheat and the tares, that the wheat may be secured in the garners to possess eternal life, and be crowned with celestial glory, when I shall come in the kingdom of my Father to reward every man according as his work shall be;
verse 65 “Garners” are granaries, or places where grain is kept. In the parable of the wheat and tares, of course, “garners” is used as a metaphor. And what is this word’s literal meaning? Elder David A. Bednar taught: “The garners are the holy temples” (“Honorably Hold a Name and Standing,” Ensign, May 2009, 97).
66 While the tares shall be bound in bundles, and their bands made strong, that they may be burned with unquenchable fire.
verses 65-66 Recall that gathering the wheat that it “may be secured in the garners [graneries]” is analogous to the current gathering of Israel by the missionaries of the Church. And the “tares” being “bound in bundles” and “burned” is symbolic of the destruction of the wicked at the time of the second coming of the Lord.
67 Therefore, a commandment I give unto all the churches, that they shall continue to gather together unto the places which I have appointed.
verse 67 “Churches” here means branches of the Church.
“continue to gather together unto the places which I have appointed” While Jackson County in Missouri has always been the center stake of Zion, there were at this time, as there continue to be now, other designated gathering places for the saints such as Kirtland in the East and Clay County, Missouri, in the West.
68 Nevertheless, as I have said unto you in a former commandment, let not your gathering be in haste, nor by flight; but let all things be prepared before you.
verse 68 “let not your gathering be in haste . . . but let all things be prepared” One reason for the loss of Zion in Jackson County was the disobedience of the saints regarding this very commandment. The numbers of the saints in Jackson County rose so rapidly that the original settlers were greatly alarmed, and social and economic relations were strained beyond their limits.
69 And in order that all things be prepared before you, observe the commandment which I have given concerning these things—
70 Which saith, or teacheth, to purchase all the lands with money, which can be purchased for money, in the region round about the land which I have appointed to be the land of Zion, for the beginning of the gathering of my saints;
verses 69-70 “purchase all the lands with money” Once again, the Lord clearly commands that Zion must be purchased with money. Despite the foolish, loose talk of some, there would not at this time be any conquest in Missouri like that of Joshua taking the promised land from the Canaanites by force (D&C 105:28-32). If there is bloodshed over Zion at this time, the saints will lose the battle, will be driven from place to place, and few of them will stand to receive an inheritance in Zion (see D&C 63:2731).
71 All the land which can be purchased in Jackson county, and the counties round about, and leave the residue in mine hand.
verse 71 The Lord wants the saints to continue buying land in Missouri as close to the center stake of Zion as possible. As for the properties controlled by the mobs, the Church is to let that issue be resolved by the Lord for the present. If this is done in a slow and controlled manner, the Church, particularly the members still in the eastern counties, can purchase lands near Zion that will lead toward the eventual redemption and establishment of Zion itself (see D&C 105:28-32).
72 Now, verily I say unto you, let all the churches gather together all their moneys; let these things be done in their time, but not in haste; and observe to have all things prepared before you.
73 And let honorable men be appointed, even wise men, and send them to purchase these lands.
74 And the churches in the eastern countries, when they are built up, if they will hearken unto this counsel they may buy lands and gather together upon them; and in this way they may establish Zion.
75 There is even now already in store sufficient, yea, even an abundance, to redeem Zion, and establish her waste places, no more to be thrown down, were the churches, who call themselves after my name, willing to hearken to my voice.
verse 75 The Church has perhaps never lacked the physical resources to establish Zion. It has only lacked the collective commitment and righteousness to establish Zion. In 1833, as now, if all the saints in all the wards and branches of the Church were personally obedient to the will of the Lord and collectively dedicated to establishing Zion, there would be more than sufficient resources available to accomplish the task.
76 And again I say unto you, those who have been scattered by their enemies, it is my will that they should continue to importune for redress, and redemption, by the hands of those who are placed as rulers and are in authority over you—
verse 76 “importune for redress . . . According to the law and constitution of the people” The dispossessed Jackson County saints are instructed to exhaust every legal avenue, successful or not, in seeking to regain their lost properties, retain their rights, and be fairly compensated for their losses. The saints obeyed these instructions and pursued their rights unsuccessfully under the laws of Missouri and of the United States for years to come.
77 According to the laws and constitution of the people, which I have suffered to be established, and should be maintained for the rights and protection of all flesh, according to just and holy principles;
verse 77 See D&C 98:5 and its commentary.
78 That every man may act in doctrine and principle pertaining to futurity, according to the moral agency which I have given unto him, that every man may be accountable for his own sins in the day of judgment.
verse 78 “That every man may act . . . [and] be accountable” The enjoyment of political freedom as guaranteed by the Constitution allows men the political freedom to express their moral agency to the fullest degree of any political system on earth and therefore to be accountable for their choices to the fullest degree, since their actions are freely chosen and not coerced by government. The greater the political freedom, the greater the moral accountability. In this case, the laws of Missouri and the Constitution of the United States to which the saints applied, and which were ignored by their enemies, as God knew they would be, increased the guilt and accountability of those enemies before the coming judgments of God.
79 Therefore, it is not right that any man should be in bondage one to another.
verse 79 “bondage” The bondage described here may be of at least two types—either governmental tyranny over population groups or personal tyranny over individual slaves.
80 And for this purpose have I established the Constitution of this land, by the hands of wise men whom I raised up unto this very purpose, and redeemed the land by the shedding of blood.
verse 80 The Lord confirms that his hand was involved in the establishment of the Constitution of the United States of America.
In an insightful article, Lynn D. Wardle has outlined how the Lord’s hand began to move over the earth well before the Constitutional Convention of 1787 (“The Constitution as Covenant,” BYU Studies 27:3). Dr. Wardle points out that in the seventeenth century pilgrim immigrants brought with them to this country a strong tradition of “covenant theology.” Covenant theology is essentially the idea that in the eyes of God the only proper civil government for man on earth is that which guarantees the freedom of the individual, limited governmental control over the people, and popular sovereignty or the right of the people to govern themselves. Man enters into a covenant with God and with his fellow man to guarantee this form of government. These early settlers also brought with them a spirit of divine destiny—the sense that God was about to move upon the earth and do something momentous and far-reaching. They felt that the new world was a special land prepared and reserved by God for his special purposes, and that they had been brought to the new world by the hand of God to bring to pass his purposes in this chosen land.
The concepts of covenant theology were firmly established in the religious teachings of these early inhabitants of the thirteen colonies. When the constitution of the United States was drawn up, it was natural that these ideas be written into that document. The same theology contained the seeds that eventually manifest themselves in the Revolutionary War.
verses 81-85 In these verses, the Lord relates the Parable of the Importunate Woman and the Unjust Judge. This parable may also be found in Luke 18:1-8. The parable tells of a woman who seeks redress from an unjust judge who is initially disinclined to grant it. Finally, however, he does grant the redress only because of the woman’s persistent importuning.
81 Now, unto what shall I liken the children of Zion? I will liken them unto the parable of the woman and the unjust judge, for men ought always to pray and not to faint, which saith—
82 There was in a city a judge which feared not God, neither regarded man.
83 And there was a widow in that city, and she came unto him, saying: Avenge me of mine adversary.
84 And he would not for a while, but afterward he said within himself: Though I fear not God, nor regard man, yet because this widow troubleth me I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.
85 Thus will I liken the children of Zion.
verses 81-85 In this modern revelation, given through Joseph Smith to the infant Church at a time of great persecution, the parable’s widow is likened to the latter-day Church. Mobs had driven the saints from their homes. Threats of death against individuals of the Church were many. The people had lost household furniture, clothing, livestock, and other personal property, and many of their crops had been destroyed. The Lord’s application of this parable to our dispensation is that the saints ought to importune at the feet of all appropriate government officials in sequence. And, by this patient process, if they do not obtain redress for what they have lost, then the Lord will intercede and in his hot displeasure he will cut off all of these unjust stewards and judge them harshly and immediately.
86 Let them importune at the feet of the judge;
87 And if he heed them not, let them importune at the feet of the governor;
88 And if the governor heed them not, let them importune at the feet of the president;
verses 87-88 At this time, the governor of the state of Missouri was Daniel Dunklin. The president of the United States was Andrew Jackson. Jackson was succeeded by President Martin Van Buren in January 1837.
89 And if the president heed them not, then will the Lord arise and come forth out of his hiding place, and in his fury vex the nation;
verses 88-89 “in his fury vex the nation” If the saints cannot receive justice from those appointed to administer justice under the Constitution, then judgment will be poured out upon the nation by the Lord himself. Joseph took to President Martin Van Buren some 491 claims for damages done to the property of the saints in Missouri, totaling almost two million dollars. President Van Buren just laughed at the Prophet, telling him that his cause was just but he could do nothing for him lest he lose the vote of Missouri. It is presumed that the Lord’s fury was seen in the form of the Civil War which is further commented upon in D&C 105:15.
90 And in his hot displeasure, and in his fierce anger, in his time, will cut off those wicked, unfaithful, and unjust stewards, and appoint them their portion among hypocrites, and unbelievers; 91 Even in outer darkness, where there is weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth.
verse 91 “Even in outer darkness” Contemporary usage of the term “outer darkness” in the Church usually reserves it for the fate of those who become sons of perdition after the final judgment. However, it is probably used here also for that awful but temporary state shared by the wicked, the unfaithful, unjust stewards, hypocrites, and unbelievers enumerated in verse 90. In other words, it means that awful hell prepared for the wicked between death and resurrection where they will suffer the inevitable consequences of their sinful behavior before being brought forth in the last resurrection to receive a glory according to their works.
92 Pray ye, therefore, that their ears may be opened unto your cries, that I may be merciful unto them, that these things may not come upon them.
93 What I have said unto you must needs be, that all men may be left without excuse;
verse 93 “that all men may be left without excuse” If the Lord knows that the search of the saints for justice and all of their expensive legal quests and petition in seeking their constitutional rights will come to naught, then why does he command them to pursue them? The answer to this question lies in this one verse—that all those who have persecuted the saints contrary to the laws of man and God may stand without excuse when his judgments are poured out upon them in this life and/or the next.
94 That wise men and rulers may hear and know that which they have never considered;
verse 94 “know that which they have never considered” The reference appears to be an allusion to a messianic passage in Isaiah dealing with the gathering of Israel in the latter days (see Isaiah 52:15). Something no one wise or powerful had considered of any significance, the restored gospel, will prove to be the most significant work of all in the latter days.
95 That I may proceed to bring to pass my act, my strange act, and perform my work, my strange work, that men may discern between the righteous and the wicked, saith your God.
verse 95 “my strange act” See the commentary for D&C 95:4. To the world, who will eventually learn that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the one true and restored Church in this final dispensation, that fact will be too bizarre for words. It is part of the “strange” work of the Lord.
96 And again, I say unto you, it is contrary to my commandment and my will that my servant Sidney Gilbert should sell my storehouse, which I have appointed unto my people, into the hands of mine enemies.
verse 96 “it is contrary to my commandment . . . [to] sell my storehouse” At first it might seem to be to the saints’ advantage to sell the Jackson County properties, and especially the Gilbert and Whitney Store and its resources, for what cash they could get, especially if there was little hope of retrieving those assets anyway. However, these properties and resources were consecrated to the Lord and were sacred. To sell sacred, consecrated, and holy things to the Lord’s enemies would involve the saints in some degree of complicity in their desecration as a matter of principle and would therefore be a grievous sin. It would be better to hold onto a rightful claim that would never be recognized by wicked men than to give up such a claim for money.
97 Let not that which I have appointed be polluted by mine enemies, by the consent of those who call themselves after my name;
98 For this is a very sore and grievous sin against me, and against my people, in consequence of those things which I have decreed and which are soon to befall the nations.
99 Therefore, it is my will that my people should claim, and hold claim upon that which I have appointed unto them, though they should not be permitted to dwell thereon.
100 Nevertheless, I do not say they shall not dwell thereon; for inasmuch as they bring forth fruit and works meet for my kingdom they shall dwell thereon.
101 They shall build, and another shall not inherit it; they shall plant vineyards, and they shall eat the fruit thereof. Even so. Amen.
verses 100-101 “they shall dwell thereon” Even at this point, if the saints were to be dedicated and faithful, Zion could possibly still be redeemed in their lifetime (see verses 74-75). However, it is more likely that this promise is meant in a millennial context to be fulfilled in the due time of the Lord.
Disobedience was the major cause for the afflictions and expulsion of the saints from Missouri in 1833. Even though the saints were driven out of Jackson County, the Lord still holds forth the promise of an eventual redemption of Zion in that place. Obedience to the gospel principles is a requirement for all who would participate in the cause of Zion.
Brief Historical Setting
By February 1834, the workload placed upon the First Presidency was more than they could handle. They needed help in administering the affairs of the Church. At a meeting of church leaders in February 1834, Joseph formed a “Church Council,” later called the “High Council,” to assist in the administrative duties of the Church. It consisted of the First Presidency and twelve high priests, and its jurisdiction included the entire Church. The minutes of this meeting are preserved for us in the Doctrine and Covenants [D&C 102 -The High Council]. In July of 1834, the Prophet organized a second High Council in Missouri.
- Michael J. Preece