Section 103: Zion’s Camp
On February 24, 1834, the newly formed high council of the Church met at the house of the Prophet for the purpose of receiving Lyman Wight and Parley P. Pratt, who had arrived in Kirtland on February 22 as delegates from the brethren in Missouri. They came to Kirtland to report on conditions among the exiles driven from Jackson County.
Of these events Parley P. Pratt recorded:
After making our escape into the county of Clay—being reduced to the lowest poverty—I made a living by day labor, jobbing, building, or wood cutting, till some time in the winter of 1834, when a general conference was held at my house, in which it was decided that two of the elders should be sent to Ohio, in order to counsel with President Smith and the Church at Kirtland, and take some measures for the relief or restoration of the people thus plundered and driven from their homes. The question was put to the conference: “Who would volunteer to perform so great a journey?”
The poverty of all, and the inclement season of the year made all hesitate. At length Lyman Wight and myself offered our services, which were readily accepted. I was at this time entirely destitute of proper clothing for the journey; and I had neither horse, saddle, bridle, money for provisions to take with me; or to leave with my wife, who lay sick and helpless most of the time.
Under these circumstances I knew not what to do. Nearly all had been robbed and plundered, and all were poor. As we had to start without delay, I almost trembled at the undertaking; it seemed to be all but an impossibility; but “to him that believeth all things are possible.” We were soon ready, and on the first of February we mounted our horses, and started in good cheer to ride one thousand miles through a wilderness country. We had not one cent of money in our pockets on starting.
We traveled every day, whether through storm or sunshine, mud, rain or snow; except when our public duties called us to tarry. We arrived in Kirtland early in the spring, all safe and sound; we had lacked for nothing on the road, and now had plenty of funds in hand. President Joseph Smith and the Church in Kirtland received us with a hospitality and joy unknown except among the saints; and much interest was felt there, as well as elsewhere, on the subject of persecution.
The President inquired of the Lord concerning the matter, and a further mission was appointed us [section 103] (Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, 107-9).
When the council was called to order, and prayer had been offered by the Prophet, these two brethren delivered their message concerning the condition of the brethren in Clay County, Missouri. They stated that the brethren in Missouri were anxious to know how and by what means Zion was to be redeemed. In Clay County they had been able to obtain food and clothing from the citizens in exchange for their labor. Thus, their immediate needs were met, but the idea of being driven from their homes still pained them, and they desired to know what the Lord would direct in the matter of reinstating them to their lands. None of them had broken their covenant by selling their lands except William E. McLellin, who had sold thirty acres to the enemy, and he would have sold seven more acres if a brother had not come to the rescue and purchased them (Church History and Modern Revelation, 1:481-82).
Much of the following material regarding those trying days of our Church’s history is taken from Milton V. Backman, Jr.’s, book The Heaven’s Resound (174-91). Some of this material has been edited to fit our purposes.
As the council reviewed the reports of brothers Wight and Pratt, they recognized that in three months of using available legal channels in Missouri, no progress had been made toward securing protection for the saints if they were to return to their lands. They had been informed that the Missouri governor Daniel Dunklin had promised to provide an armed force to guard the Mormons while they returned to their homes in Jackson County, but Dunklin was unwilling or unable to retain that force in the county after the Mormons had returned. They realized that unless an appropriate additional armed force, perhaps one made up of members of the Church from Kirtland and the eastern branches, remained in the county after their return, the saints would certainly be driven from their homes again. They also realized that a fair court of inquiry could not be held in Jackson County. They thus concluded that unless an army of the saints was sent to Missouri to provide the needed help, then they would be in effect abandoning the Missouri saints. Thus, the leaders in Kirtland realized that they had to come to the direct assistance of their afflicted brethren. In section 101:43-62, the Lord gave a parable that described how a nobleman’s vineyard, which had not been sufficiently protected, was invaded by an enemy, and the nobleman’s servants subsequently fled. The nobleman, after rebuking his servants for failing to comply with all his instructions, commanded one of his men to gather the remainder of the servants, to take “all the strength” of his house, which consisted of his warriors, and to then redeem his vineyard.
Actually Joseph had received section 103 on February 24, 1834, before the meeting of the high council. In essence, it is an answer to the question of Elders Pratt and Wight: How is Zion to be redeemed? When these brethren asked their question, Joseph had his answer ready. It was with Joseph’s inspired prompting that the council reached the decision that an army must be gathered to go up to Zion to redeem the exiles. At one point in the meeting, Joseph arose and announced that he was going to Zion to assist in its redemption. He then requested the council to approve his decision, and the priesthood bearers sanctioned the resolution without a dissenting vote. When he called for recruits to travel with him, about thirty or forty men immediately volunteered. They also unanimously agreed that Joseph Smith should serve as the “commander-in-chief of the armies of Israel,” an army that was to be called “Zion’s Camp.”
Section 103 specified that eight men were to become missionaries, not to preach the gospel, but rather to promote the cause of Zion’s camp (verses 37-40). One of these missionaries, Joseph Smith, was compared in the revelation to the servant who had been instructed by the “lord of the vineyard” in the parable in section 101 to gather the strength of his house for the recovery of his lands. Another missionary, Sidney Rigdon, was specifically commanded to inform members in the east of the plight of the exiled Missouri saints and to ask for their support relative to the restoration and redemption of Zion (verse 29). Two other missionaries, Parley P. Pratt and Lyman Wight, were told not to return to Missouri until an acceptable army had been organized (verse 30).
By revelation, members of the Church also learned what the Lord considered a satisfactory force. The army ideally was to consist of five hundred volunteers. If five hundred men could not be recruited, an army of three hundred was to be organized. And if three hundred could not be found, then an army of at least one hundred was to be formed. If an army of one hundred could not be found, the Lord in essence told them to forget it (verses 30-34). The revelation further instructed the saints to organize into companies of tens, twenties, fifties, and one hundreds (verse 30).
While the saints were receiving specific instructions by revelation concerning the organization of Zion’s camp, they were also warned that the “redemption of Zion” would be delayed if the saints continued to “pollute their inheritance.” Though members in the east were to be granted an opportunity to assist the exiles in the west, the successful completion of this mission was predicated largely upon the Missouri saints’ living in harmony with the commandments of the Lord. The revelation further specified that Zion would not be redeemed until after much tribulation at which time the Lord would manifest his power (verse 11-15).
The Lord included in this section another sobering test of discipleship (see verses 27-28).
For two and one-half months, leaders of the Church recruited men in the east to march in Zion’s Camp and concurrently gathered contributions of money and goods to help destitute members in Missouri. In the latter part of February, the eight missionaries called by revelation left Kirtland and headed east. Traveling two by two, they followed different routes, “visiting the churches and instructing the people.” During their mission, Elder Pratt met Wilford Woodruff for the first time and told the young convert it was his duty to prepare to travel to Zion. Wilford Woodruff settled his business affairs, said farewell to relatives in Richland, New York, and traveled by wagon to Kirtland, arriving there on April 25.
Although the request for volunteers was fairly successful, Joseph Smith was not pleased with the response to the plea for help in redeeming Zion. Most of the Kirtland saints who participated in the march to Zion enlisted on the day the Prophet announced his decision to travel to Missouri. Only a few others volunteered during the two and a half months of ardent recruiting.
On April 21, Hyrum Smith and Lyman Wight left Kirtland and followed a northern route westward, with instruction to seek for recruits in Michigan, Indiana, and Illinois. By prior arrangement, they were to lead those who joined them to a designated place in eastern Missouri where they would meet up with the main force of Zion’s camp. About sixteen men in the Pontiac (Michigan) Branch volunteered to join the march to Zion, and three of them took their wives with them. As they continued west, a few other recruits, including Charles C. Rich, joined them. After crossing the Mississippi at Quincy, Illinois, this company of Zion’s Camp, known as “Hyrum’s division,” traveled to the Salt River, where they joined the much larger company directed by Joseph Smith.
Only a few elders, including Oliver Cowdery and Sidney Rigdon, were left behind. These men were to supervise the construction of the temple and direct the affairs of the Church in Kirtland.
The call to join Zion’s Camp was issued six days after Brigham Young married Mary Ann Angell, yet he was one of the first to enlist. Before answering the Prophet’s call, the new couple had been busy securing a house, planting a garden and establishing a home for Brigham’s two daughters, who, following the death of Brigham’s first wife, had been cared for by Vilate Kimball, wife of Heber C. Kimball. Now, Mary Ann assumed these responsibilities and began preparing for the absence of her husband.
Since many of the men had to leave their families with little or no money, and there would be no income while they were away, members planted gardens so the women and children could harvest corn and other crops during the army’s absence.
On May 1, 1834, the first volunteers for the redemption of Zion marched from Kirtland. This strange group of approximately twenty soldiers, clad in a variety of homespun clothes, were armed with muskets, pistols, swords, bayonets, and dirks (daggers), and they were accompanied by four baggage wagons. Although May 1 had been designated as the day the army of Israel was to begin the one-thousand mile journey to Missouri, most of the men in Kirtland were not ready to begin the march by that date. Consequently, the Prophet instructed the advance party to proceed south to New Portage, Ohio, where they were to wait for others to join them.
On Monday, May 5, the Prophet assumed his new role as “commander-in-chief of the armies of Israel” and led about eighty-five men (which, coupled with the twenty who had departed on May 1, was the minimum number set by revelation) from Kirtland. About half of this segment of the army consisted of Kirtland saints, while the others had been gathered from the eastern branches of the Church. Most of these men and the others who later joined them, were young. George A. Smith and Benjamin Winchester were but sixteen. The average age of the men of the army was about twenty-eight, the same age as their leader, Joseph Smith. A few of the men were much older. Samuel Baker from Norton, Ohio, was nearly eighty. Martin Harris and Freeman Nickerson were in their fifties, and Frederick G. Williams was forty-six.
While some of the men feared that they might never again embrace their wives and children, others marched briskly in anticipation of an exciting and rewarding adventure. Although the men marched from Kirtland with mixed emotions, they were united in the belief that not only would they aid the stricken saints in Missouri with money and supplies, but also they would help them regain their land in Jackson County. The hope was that after Zion’s Camp had joined the exiled saints, members of the Church in Missouri would inform the governor that they were prepared to return to their lands. The governor, they hoped, would then be bound to call out the militia to protect them as they returned to their homes in Jackson County. Other members of the Church would subsequently move to Zion so that the saints there would be sufficiently strong in numbers to protect themselves. Elders Cowdery and Rigdon instructed the members in Kirtland to begin preparing immediately, as circumstances permitted, to move to the West.
On May 8, the army of Israel resumed their long march west. Volunteers had continued to arrive at the encampments south of Kirtland, enlarging the number of troops to over 130, with twenty baggage wagons. As they proceeded through a long range of beech woods, their wagons became mired in mud, but, aided by heavy ropes, the men managed to pull the wagons along the muddy trails. As they marched across the open plains of Indiana, they suffered from the blazing heat of the sun and the relentless pain of blistered, bleeding feet. Though they were aware of threats that Missourians would not permit a Mormon army to enter their state, the men of Zion’s Camp spent two days ferrying across the Mississippi River, and then they continued west across the rolling fields of Missouri.
As Joseph’s division of Zion’s Camp continued its relentless march, it was gradually strengthened with additional volunteers, arms, stores, and money. Recruiting officers continued to seek help from saints living in the states where the army was traveling. One of these recruiting officers was Parley P. Pratt. Instead of marching with other members of the army, he rode from one farmhouse to another, locating Latter-day Saints and asking them to help their oppressed brethren in the west. Sometimes he would ride all day and night to remain near the army, and on occasions he would ride into camp, enjoy breakfast with the other troops, secure a fresh horse, and then resume his recruiting activities. As a consequence of the efforts of various recruiters, about fifty additional men joined this division of Zion’s Camp.
On June 3, an incident occurred which has probably aroused more interest in the church than is warranted. Members of Zion’s Camp dug up a skeleton near the Illinois River. It is well-documented that Joseph made statements about this deceased person and his historical setting. Joseph said that his name had been Zelph, and he was a “white Lamanite” who had died in battle while fighting under a leader named Onandagus. It is not clear when this Zelph might have lived and died. It is also not clear what Joseph might have meant by the designation “Lamanite.” He may have intended to say that Zelph was a cultural Lamanite who lived in Book of Mormon times, or he might have meant that Zelph was a descendant of earlier Lamanites of the Book of Mormon period. In 1834, the term Lamanite might also have been the equivalent of “Indian.” In a letter written to Emma at that time, Joseph referred to the members of Zion’s Camp as “wandering over the plains of the Nephites” (Kenneth W. Godfrey, “The Zelph Story ,” BYU Studies 29:2). Apparently in 1834 Joseph believed that parts of the Book of Mormon story took place in that part of North America. By 1842 he likely had changed his ideas and felt that most of the Nephite history took place in Central America (Ibid.).
On June 7, Joseph’s division encamped in some woods by a spring near the settlement where the Salt River Branch of the Church was located. The next day, a Sunday, as the men were resting and attending to their religious duties, they were joined by Hyrum Smith and Lyman Wight, who were leading the other company of about twenty men. Zion’s camp had reached its maximum numerical strength—the army of Israel now numbered about 207 men, eleven women, and eleven children. They now had twenty-five baggage wagons. After the two divisions combined, the Prophet continued as commander-in-chief, with Lyman Wight serving as second officer.
As Zion’s Camp continued its long march west, many factors combined to create internal disorder. Many of the men were fearful of the many possible dangers ahead. Some grumbled because of changes in their accustomed life-style, and a few questioned the decisions of the leaders. There were also personality clashes. For forty-five days the men lived and marched together, covering twenty-five to forty miles most days, and suffering from thirst, hunger, and fatigue. Many complained of “sore toes, blistered feet, long drives, scanty provisions, poor quality bread, bad corn dodger, ‘frowzy’ butter, strong honey, [and] maggoty bacon and cheese.” The grumblers often complained to Joseph and blamed him for their discomfort. George A. Smith observed that “even a dog could not bark at some men without their murmuring at Joseph.”
Once they reached Missouri, the members of Zion’s camp felt that all they had to do was to notify Governor Dunklin that they were ready to restore the saints to Jackson County, and the governor would provide the necessary armed force to protect them. While camped at Salt River, however, they learned that the governor had changed his mind about helping the saints in the repossession of their Jackson County property. The camp members were taken by surprise and many believed they had been betrayed. Parley P. Pratt asserted that the governor had refused to carry out the duties of his office because he feared such action would lead to civil war. As he left the governor’s office, Elder Pratt mumbled, “The poor coward ought, in duty to resign; he owes us this, morally at least, in justice to the oath of his office” (Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, 115). Governor Dunklin not only dealt a serious blow to the hopes of the saints by refusing to call out the militia, but he also put another impediment in their path by announcing on June 6 that Mormons had “no right to march to Jackson County in arms.” In fairness, it seems probable that Dunklin had originally made his promise of military assistance to guard the Mormons back to their homes in good faith. But in the intervening six months, as the situation in Jackson County deteriorated, he perceived that an armed conflict would inevitably ensue if the Mormons returned to the county, and he pragmatically withdrew his promise in order to avert a civil war. His initial promise of assistance had undoubtedly been a contributing factor in the creation of Zion’s Camp, and his withdrawal of that promise removed any opportunity for the camp to play a lawful role in recovering the saints’ lands. Zion’s Camp had not been organized as a vigilante movement. Rather, it had been Joseph’s clear intention to work within the law and in cooperation with the state of Missouri in returning the Jackson County saints to their homes under guard and in protecting them once they were there.
The saints recognized that an armed enemy was waiting to destroy all Mormons who dared enter Jackson County. Angered and frustrated by the governor’s pronouncements, the men of Zion’s Camp resumed their march. As they traveled, they learned that their enemies were not only prepared to repulse any saints who crossed the Missouri River, but were also planning a surprise attack on Zion’s Camp. On June 19, shortly after entering Clay County, the army encamped near a hill overlooking Fishing River. While they were setting up camp, five men approached on horseback and swore the Mormons would “see hell before morning.” They warned that sixty men from Richmond and seventy from Clay County were coming to join with an army from Jackson County, and this force would utterly destroy the Mormons. According to one observer, when this warning was delivered to the Zion’s Camp army, there was not a cloud in the sky; but as the sun set, clouds quickly gathered, and a violent thunderstorm struck the region. Some of the members of Zion’s Camp sought shelter in a log Baptist meetinghouse near their encampment. The fury of the storm broke branches from trees, destroyed crops, and disrupted the plans of the mob to crush the saints. Rain soaked the gunpowder of the enemy, and the swollen and turbulent Fishing River prevented the mob from crossing to the saints’ encampment. The saints were not harmed, though they did get wet and some of their tents were blown down. However, members of the mob did not fare so well. Some of them “had holes made in their hats” by lightning, some suffered damage to their rifle stocks, and many of their horses fled in fright and pain. Charles C. Rich recorded that the storm exceeded in severity any storm he had ever witnessed, while Heber C. Kimball concluded, “It was evident the Almighty fought in our defense.” Elder Woodruff added that following the storm, Joseph informed Zion’s Camp that “God is in this storm.”
The difficulties of the saints in Missouri became even more apparent when they failed to work out a satisfactory compromise with representatives from Jackson County at a meeting in Liberty, Missouri, on June 16. Indeed the cause of the exiled saints in Missouri was beginning to look hopeless. Even the army of Israel, Zion’s Camp, appeared helpless to lend any meaningful aid to their homeless brethren and sisters.
D&C 103 Zion’s Camp
1 Verily I say unto you, my friends, behold, I will give unto you a revelation and commandment, that you may know how to act in the discharge of your duties concerning the salvation and redemption of your brethren, who have been scattered on the land of Zion;
verse 1 Section 103 contains specific instructions for instituting what had been commanded of the saints in parable form—see D&C 101:43-62
2 Being driven and smitten by the hands of mine enemies, on whom I will pour out my wrath without measure in mine own time.
verse 2 “on whom I will pour out my wrath without measure in mine own time” This prophecy by the Lord has both a specific and a general fulfillment. Specifically, it refers to the coming Civil War and other calamities when the very individuals who drove out the saints would personally feel the wrath of God in that same generation. More generally, it also refers to the tribulations at the second coming of Christ when all the wicked will feel his wrath “without measure” (see D&C 87:6).
3 For I have suffered them thus far, that they might fill up the measure of their iniquities, that their cup might be full;
verse 3 The Lord suffered the wicked mobbers in Missouri to win an initial triumph over the saints so that their actions would provide ample evidence for the coming judgment. Thus, all those who have persecuted the saints contrary to the laws of man and God may will without excuse when his judgments are poured out upon them in this life and/or the next.
4 And that those who call themselves after my name might be chastened for a little season with a sore and grievous chastisement, because they did not hearken altogether unto the precepts and commandments which I gave unto them.
verse 4 “they did not hearken” See D&C 101:7-8 and the commentary for these verses.
5 But verily I say unto you, that I have decreed a decree which my people shall realize, inasmuch as they hearken from this very hour unto the counsel which I, the Lord their God, shall give unto them.
6 Behold they shall, for I have decreed it, begin to prevail against mine enemies from this very hour.
7 And by hearkening to observe all the words which I, the Lord their God, shall speak unto them, they shall never cease to prevail until the kingdoms of the world are subdued under my feet, and the earth is given unto the saints, to possess it forever and ever.
verses 5-7 Remarkably, the Lord makes it clear that the exiled saints in Missouri could still prevail over their enemies beginning from that very hour if they began to hearken diligently to the Lord’s counsel.
8 But inasmuch as they keep not my commandments, and hearken not to observe all my words, the kingdoms of the world shall prevail against them.
verse 8 Unfortunately, the saints at that time collectively chose to meet the second of these two conditions and received the terrible consequences decreed to accompany that choice.
9 For they were set to be a light unto the world, and to be the saviors of men;
verse 9 Jesus Christ is the Savior of all mankind. However, he often allows his saints the opportunity and joy—and therefore the responsibility and obligation—of sharing in his redemptive work and becoming with him “saviours . . . upon mount Zion” (Obadiah 1:21). Although this phrase includes our obligation to perform temple work, nothing in scripture limits it to this application alone. Missionaries who preach the gospel to the living; parents who lovingly raise and teach their children; saints who serve in the Church; and members who light the path and ease the burdens of their neighbors—all these in some degree serve their Lord and are, therefore, his agents as saviors on mount Zion.
10 And inasmuch as they are not the saviors of men, they are as salt that has lost its savor, and is thenceforth good for nothing but to be cast out and trodden under foot of men.
verse 10 “salt that has lost its savor” See the commentary on D&C 101:3940.
verses 11-14 Once again the Lord, as he does in verse 5-8 gives the conditional promise that if the saints can purify themselves, whey will establish Zion; albeit after much tribulation (verse 12). And, If they become polluted, they will be thrown down once again (verse 14).
11 But verily I say unto you, I have decreed that your brethren which have been scattered shall return to the lands of their inheritances, and shall build up the waste places of Zion.
verse 11 “shall build up the waste places of Zion” See the commentary for D&C 101:18.
12 For after much tribulation, as I have said unto you in a former commandment, cometh the blessing.
verse 12 “in a former commandment” The reference is to D&C 58:4 which says, “For after much tribulation come the blessings. Wherefore the day cometh that ye shall be crowned with much glory; the hour is not yet, but is nigh at hand.” Keep in mind that the word commandment often means “revelation.”
13 Behold, this is the blessing which I have promised after your tribulations, and the tribulations of your brethren—your redemption, and the redemption of your brethren, even their restoration to the land of Zion, to be established, no more to be thrown down.
verse 13 “no more to be thrown down” This restoration of Zion will take place after the Lord’s second coming.
14 Nevertheless, if they pollute their inheritances they shall be thrown down; for I will not spare them if they pollute their inheritances.
verse 14 “if they pollute their inheritances” The land of Zion is, for the Saints, a land of promise—a land of their inheritance. If they dwell there in righteousness and obedience, they will be blessed as promised. If they turn to disobedience and unrighteousness, they pollute the land of their inheritance, and they will be scoured off the land (Leviticus 18:24-28; Deuteronomy 29:24-29; 2 Nephi 1:7; Ether 2:9). The Lord will not tolerate disobedience in Zion, the saints’ land of inheritance.
15 Behold, I say unto you, the redemption of Zion must needs come by power;
verse 15 “the redemption of Zion must needs come by power” This prophecy could have an immediate or a long-term fulfillment. The immediate fulfillment would be the reinstatement of the Missouri saints upon their lands in Jackson County through the efforts of the armed forces of Zion’s Camp in conjunction with the state of Missouri, providing the saints of that generation hearken to the voice and commandments of the Lord (see verses 6, 13). The long-term fulfillment would be the final establishment of Zion when the Lord himself, at his coming, assigns the inheritances of the faithful saints.
We will learn that the “redemption of Zion . . . by power” does not mean the redemption of Zion by force. Rather, the eventual redemption of Zion by power refers to the spiritual power of the saints, particularly after they have entered into the highest covenants of mortality in the temple and they lived up to those covenants. This power is the “endowment” with which the Lord blesses those who keep their temple covenants. See Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, volume 2, chapter 18, The Temple.
16 Therefore, I will raise up unto my people a man, who shall lead them like as Moses led the children of Israel.
verse 16 “like as Moses” Joseph Smith is the latter-day prophet like Moses (see 2 Nephi 3:15, 18-21).
17 For ye are the children of Israel, and of the seed of Abraham, and ye must needs be led out of bondage by power, and with a stretched-out arm.
verse 17 “the children of Israel, and of the seed of Abraham” Note that here and in the verses following, the emphasis is on the Church’s descent from Abraham and Jacob (Israel) rather than from Israel after its fall at Sinai (see verses 19-20; see also D&C 84:23-27 and the commentary for those verses). The restored gospel is not a restoration of Old Testament Israel with its lesser law after its sin at Sinai. Rather, it is a restoration of the Abrahamic covenant as it was handed down to Moses anciently before Israel rejected the higher law and also of its continuation in the New Testament Christianity in the meridian of time. Between Moses and Jesus was a period of generalized apostasy.
18 And as your fathers were led at the first, even so shall the redemption of Zion be.
verse 18 “your fathers” This phrase apparently refers to Patriarchs and also to the generation led out of Egypt by the power of God.
19 Therefore, let not your hearts faint, for I say not unto you as I said unto your fathers: Mine angel shall go up before you, but not my presence.
verse 19 “Mine angel shall go up before you, but not my presence” Despite popular belief and Hollywood’s representations, the presence of the Lord did not travel with the children of Israel in the wilderness under the banner of the lesser law after their great sin at Sinai (see Exodus 23:20; 33:3). The apostle Paul, relying upon the Greek Septuagint text of Deuteronomy 33:2, plainly states that the law of Moses was delivered to Israel after their sin, not by God but by angels (see Galatians 3:19).
20 But I say unto you: Mine angels shall go up before you, and also my presence, and in time ye shall possess the goodly land.
verse 20 “and also my presence” Unlike the twelve tribes during their forty years in the wilderness, the Lord promises that his very presence will accompany the saints of Zion’s Camp who go up to redeem Zion if they hearken unto his counsel.
21 Verily, verily I say unto you, that my servant Joseph Smith, Jun. is the man to whom I likened the servant to whom the Lord of the vineyard spake in the parable which I have given unto you.
verse 21 The Lord identifies Joseph Smith as the servant in the parable of the nobleman and the vineyard in D&C 101:43-62 (see especially verse 55).
22 Therefore let my servant Joseph Smith, Jun. say unto the strength of my house, my young men and the middle aged—Gather yourselves together unto the land of Zion, upon the land which I have bought with money that has been consecrated unto me. 23 And let all the churches send up wise men with their moneys, and purchase lands even as I have commanded them.
verses 22-23 These two verses specifically command the eastern branches of the Church to send men and money to Missouri to purchase and hold on to more land in and around Zion.
verses 24-27 These verses doubtless encouraged the saints who volunteered for Zion’s Camp to fight for their legal and God-given rights against mob rule.
It should be noted that it was clearly the Lord’s intention to act within the law and to purchase any lands upon which the saints will dwell in Missouri. However, when those lands were stolen from them by lawless individuals, the saints were justified in arming themselves and fighting for their rights against mob rule.
24 And inasmuch as mine enemies come against you to drive you from my goodly land, which I have consecrated to be the land of Zion, even from your own lands after these testimonies, which ye have brought before me against them, ye shall curse them;
25 And whomsoever ye curse, I will curse, and ye shall avenge me of mine enemies.
verse 25 “ye shall avenge me of mine enemies” The mobs in Missouri had not merely fought against the saints, they had fought directly against the establishment of Zion and against properties and possessions consecrated to the Lord for the holiest of purposes. In addition, it should be noted that by this time the enemies of the saints in Missouri had come against them more than three times. Assuming that the approach of Zion’s Camp would constitute a warning to the mobs in Missouri, any further attack upon the saints in that state would, according to D&C 98:28, justify retaliation according to the principles given the saints by the Lord.
26 And my presence shall be with you even in avenging me of mine enemies, unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me. verse 26 “unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me” See the commentary for D&C 98:46.
27 Let no man be afraid to lay down his life for my sake; for whoso layeth down his life for my sake shall find it again.
28 And whoso is not willing to lay down his life for my sake is not my disciple.
verses 27-28 These two verses must have been most sobering to those early saints, and they are equally sobering to the saints today!
verses 29-34 Parley P. Pratt and Lyman Wight were assigned, with Sidney Rigdon and others to raise volunteers for Zion’s Camp. The goal was five hundred. The minimum, one hundred. Eventually just over two hundred participated in the Zion’s Camp march.
29 It is my will that my servant Sidney Rigdon shall lift up his voice in the congregations in the eastern countries, in preparing the churches to keep the commandments which I have given unto them concerning the restoration and redemption of Zion.
30 It is my will that my servant Parley P. Pratt and my servant Lyman Wight should not return to the land of their brethren, until they have obtained companies to go up unto the land of Zion, by tens, or by twenties, or by fifties, or by an hundred, until they have obtained to the number of five hundred of the strength of my house.
31 Behold this is my will; ask and ye shall receive; but men do not always do my will.
32 Therefore, if you cannot obtain five hundred, seek diligently that peradventure you may obtain three hundred.
verse 32 “Peradventure” means perhaps or possibly.
33 And if ye cannot obtain three hundred, seek diligently that peradventure ye may obtain one hundred. 34 But verily I say unto you, a commandment I give unto you, that ye shall not go up unto the land of Zion until you have obtained a hundred of the strength of my house, to go up with you unto the land of Zion.
35 Therefore, as I said unto you, ask and ye shall receive; pray earnestly that peradventure my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., may go with you, and preside in the midst of my people, and organize my kingdom upon the consecrated land, and establish the children of Zion upon the laws and commandments which have been and which shall be given unto you.
36 All victory and glory is brought to pass unto you through your diligence, faithfulness, and prayers of faith.
37 Let my servant Parley P. Pratt journey with my servant Joseph Smith, Jun.
38 Let my servant Lyman Wight journey with my servant Sidney Rigdon.
39 Let my servant Hyrum Smith journey with my servant Frederick G. Williams.
40 Let my servant Orson Hyde journey with my servant Orson Pratt, whithersoever my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., shall counsel them, in obtaining the fulfilment of these commandments which I have given unto you, and leave the residue in my hands. Even so. Amen.
verses 37-40 These pairings were for the purpose of recruiting volunteers and funds for Zion’s Camp. Sidney Rigdon, for example, participated in the recruitment (see verse 38) but did not make the journey to Missouri.
- Michael J. Preece