Section 108: Strengthen the Brethren
Lyman R. Sherman is perhaps one of the lesser-known stalwarts of the Church during the Ohio and Missouri periods. Baptized in January 1832, he was, according to his brother-in-law Benjamin Johnson, the person “first known to have spoken in the gift of tongues by the power of God in this dispensation” (Black, Who’s Who in the Doctrine and Covenants, 261). A faithful participant in Zion’s Camp, Sherman was selected and set apart as one of the seven presidents of the Quorum of the Seventy on February 28, 1835. Since he had previously been ordained a high priest, however, he was eventually released from the First Quorum of the Seventy in April 1837. In 1837 and 1838, Brother Sherman was called to serve on the high councils of Kirtland, Ohio, and Far West, Missouri, respectively. On January 16, 1839, Joseph Smith wrote to Sherman from Liberty Jail, calling him to become a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Brother Sherman died, however, at the age of thirty-four at Far West on January 27, 1839 before receiving Joseph’s letter. He died not knowing he had been called to be an apostle.
On the day after Christmas 1835 he felt inspired to go to Joseph and ask for a revelation, that he might better know his duty in the kingdom. Section 108 was thus received. Joseph recorded the circumstances of Brother Sherman’s visit to him in Kirtland and the reception of section 108 as follows: “Commenced again studying the Hebrew language, in company with Brothers Parrish and Williams. In the meantime, Brother Lyman Sherman came in, and requested to have the word of the Lord through me; ‘for,’ said he, ‘I have been wrought upon to make known to you my feelings and desires, and was promised that I should have a revelation which should make known my duty” (HC, 2:345).
D&C 108:7 Strengthen your brethren in all your conversation, in all your prayers, in all your exhortations, and in all your doings.
1 Verily thus saith the Lord unto you, my servant Lyman: Your sins are forgiven you, because you have obeyed my voice in coming up hither this morning to receive counsel of him whom I have appointed.
verse 1 “Your sins are forgiven you, because you have obeyed my voice in coming up hither this morning” It would appear that Brother Sherman had been wrestling with the impression that he ought to seek out the Prophet and receive instructions from the Lord, and part of him resisted doing so (verse 2). Fortunately, he made the right decision and obeyed his spiritual prompting the same morning he received it. The decision to inquire of the Lord likely presupposes Brother Sherman’s intention of doing whatever the Lord might instruct him to do through the Prophet Joseph. In response to Brother Sherman’s spiritual sensitivity, his obedience to the Spirit, and his willingness to receive further instructions from the Lord, his sins are forgiven him on this occasion, and he is assured of his good standing.
2 Therefore, let your soul be at rest concerning your spiritual standing, and resist no more my voice.
verse 2 “resist no more my voice” How do we perceive the voice of the Lord? It would seem that it may come both through inward personal promptings and through a call from the Lord’s servants.
3 And arise up and be more careful henceforth in observing your vows, which you have made and do make, and you shall be blessed with exceeding great blessings.
verse 3 “be more careful henceforth in observing your vows” At this point in time, what vows or covenants had Brother Sherman entered into? He had entered into the covenant of baptism and had also accepted and received the oath and covenant of the Melchizedek Priesthood (D&C 84:33-42). He had also accepted a divine calling as one of the presidents of the First Quorum of Seventy. The exhortation to observe the vows which he had made and would yet make included those vows Brother Sherman was shortly to make in the Kirtland Temple (verse 4).
4 Wait patiently until the solemn assembly shall be called of my servants, then you shall be remembered with the first of mine elders, and receive right by ordination with the rest of mine elders whom I have chosen.
verse 4 “Wait patiently until the solemn assembly” Lyman Sherman is told to wait patiently until a meeting is held called a “solemn assembly.” A solemn assembly is a special gathering of the Church, or a representative body thereof, for extraordinary sacred worship, blessing, or instruction (Ludlow, Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 3:138081). Between January and May of 1836, there were several solemn assemblies of the brethren held in connection with the completion and dedication of the Kirtland Temple (see the commentary for section 109). A little less than one month following the reception of section 108, on January 22, 1836, Brother Sherman attended a special meeting in the temple with the leading councils and general authorities of the Church to receive initiatory ordinances of washing and anointing. It is likely, however, that the solemn assembly referred to here—if only one is intended—was the twenty-four hour meeting held on Wednesday, March 30, 1836, three days after the dedication of the Kirtland Temple. On that occasion, most of the priesthood holders in Kirtland received initiatory ordinances in the temple. Lyman Sherman had by then been presented and sustained by the Church as one of the presidents of the Seventy and on March 29 had, with other general authorities, also received the ordinance of washing of the feet in the temple.
For many years, the chapter heading for this verse incorrectly taught that this verse implied a promise to ordain him an elder. We now know that he was already a seventy and a high priest at the time of this revelation. This error has been corrected in our current 1981 edition.
5 Behold, this is the promise of the Father unto you if you continue faithful.
6 And it shall be fulfilled upon you in that day that you shall have right to preach my gospel wheresoever I shall send you, from henceforth from that time.
verse 6 “in that day that you shall have right to preach my gospel” After the dedication of the Kirtland Temple and its associated assemblies, Brother Sherman had been called, ordained, sustained, and given the initial elements of the endowment. He was equipped as a president of the Seventy to preach the gospel and build up the kingdom wherever the Lord directed him to go in the world.
7 Therefore, strengthen your brethren in all your conversation, in all your prayers, in all your exhortations, and in all your doings.
verse 7 “strengthen your brethren” Joseph Smith repeatedly taught that the first step to apostasy was speaking evil of the Lord’s anointed—the church leaders. “No man or woman can have the Spirit and at the same time do and speak evil against their brethren” (Life of Heber C. Kimball, 1967, 465).
“in all your conversation” In the nineteenth century, conversation meant—as it does also in the King James Bible—all of one’s behavior or deportment. The word was not limited to a person’s vocal expressions.
8 And behold, and lo, I am with you to bless you and deliver you forever. Amen.
- Michael J. Preece