Section 112: Thomas B. Marsh and the Quorum of Twelve
This revelation was given July 23, 1837, through the prophet Joseph to Elder Thomas B. Marsh, then President of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles. To assist in understanding section 112, some additional material on Brother Marsh is important. Also, at this point, it is vital to understand the difficult circumstances that had developed in Kirtland. As a resource for this latter material we will borrow from Milton V. Backman, Jr.’s, book The Heaven’s Resound (310-66). Some materials will be quoted and some paraphrased.
The life of Thomas B. Marsh was, in a way, a tragedy. Had he not erred, he might well have become the President of the Church. Review the material on Brother Marsh in the introductory commentary for section 31. Recall also that section 31 was a personal revelation to him.
In the late spring of 1837, Brother Marsh, who was then President of the Twelve, received reports about an increasing opposition to the Prophet that was developing among some of the apostles. He thus decided it was necessary for the Quorum of the Twelve to meet together in Kirtland, and July 24 was set as the date for that meeting.
Prior to this meeting, Joseph had been inspired of the Lord to take positive action because of the ominous problems besetting the Church. He later wrote: “In this state of things, and but a few weeks before the Twelve were expecting to meet in full quorum, God revealed to me that something new must be done for the salvation of his Church. And on or about the first of June, 1837, Heber C. Kimball, one of the Twelve, was set apart by the spirit of prophecy and revelation, prayer and laying on of hands, of the First Presidency, to preside over a mission to England, to be the first foreign mission of the Church of Christ in the last days” (HC, 2:489). Joseph also sent apostle Orson Hyde to England with Elder Kimball, along with Willard Richards, an elder, Joseph Fielding, a priest, and others. These brethren departed from Kirtland on June 13, 1837.
When President Thomas Marsh arrived in Kirtland in July, he was distraught to learn that two of his quorum had already been sent to Europe by the First Presidency without his approval. Apparently, Marsh believed that only he, as quorum president, had authority to call the Twelve on foreign missions. Two months previously, in May of 1837, Brother Marsh had learned that Parley P. Pratt was planning, on his own, to go to England to preach the gospel. Elder Marsh felt that he should be the one deciding who should go to England and when they should go. He was thus upset with Parley, and on May 10, 1837, he wrote to Parley (unpublished letter) and ordered him not to go to England but rather to report to the meeting in Kirtland on July 24. The Quorum of the Twelve were charged with the responsibility of preaching the gospel abroad, and Thomas B. Marsh was president of that quorum. He thus felt that he should have been consulted before any missionaries were sent to England. He let Joseph know that he considered Joseph’s meddling in the affairs of the Quorum unwarranted. He obviously didn’t understand the role of a prophet. The prophet can and must do whatever the Lord directs him to do.
It was in this setting that section 112 was received. A bit of irony occurred when section 112 was received on the very day that the missionaries in England preached the first sermon on British soil, July 23, 1837. It was also, of course, received one day before Brother Marsh was to meet with the Twelve. Section 112 gave Brother Marsh some direction in dealing with the rest of the Quorum, provided him with information concerning the future of his quorum, and instructed him on the relationship between his quorum and the First Presidency, especially with respect to foreign missions. Elder Marsh himself acted as scribe when this section was received.
At the time section 112 was received, some other problems were brewing in the life of Brother Marsh, but he was still in the Lord’s favor. His major problems would come later. Let us jump to a year or so later and consider an incident in the life of Thomas Marsh that will define an important watershed in his apostasy. In 1838 in Far West, Missouri, the Marshes lived near the George Harrises. Sister Harris and Sister Marsh shared a cow. They milked the cow and shared the milk. During this time, it became apparent to Sister Harris that Sister Marsh was sharing the milk but keeping an inordinate share of the cream for herself. Sister Marsh was accused and was angry and offended. Elder Marsh also became angry and defensive. Instead of quickly righting the wrong, Elder Marsh refused to admit any wrong doing on the part of his wife. The Marshes were warned to repent by the bishop. When they did not, a court was held and they were excommunicated in March of 1839.
After the death of his wife, Brother Marsh traveled to Florence, Nebraska, and was rebaptized in 1857. He came to Utah the same year. He settled in Spanish Fork and later moved to Ogden. He was a poor, shattered, and broken down old man. On several occasions, both in public and in private, he was heard to say, “If any of you want to see the effects of apostasy, look upon me” (Succession in Priesthood, Taylor, 11-13).
At the time section 112 was received, there were considerable problems within the Church in Kirtland, and members of the Quorum of the Twelve were involved. Joseph summarized this period of time by saying, “It seemed as though all the powers of earth and hell were combining their influence in an especial manner to overthrow the Church . . . many became disaffected toward me as though I were the sole cause of those very evils . . . which were actually brought upon us by the brethren not giving heed to my counsel” (HC, 2:487-89).
Let us look at this troubled time to help us understand the breadth of the problems that beset the Church.
The year following the dedication of the Kirtland Temple saw a spirit of pride, selfishness, disaffection, and apostasy sweep through the quorums of the Church. In the summer of 1837, members of the Quorum of the Twelve, witnesses to the Book of Mormon, and other priesthood leaders met in the upper room of the Kirtland Temple. Throughout the preceding year many of these same individuals had witnessed, in that building, some of the most remarkable spiritual manifestations ever experienced in the history of the restoration movement. Now they were meeting to oppose the leadership of Joseph Smith. At this assembly, some persons who had once been faithful supporters of the Prophet recommended that he be replaced as president of the Church by David Whitmer. Others vehemently opposed this motion, including Brigham Young, and the brethren in attendance barely avoided coming to blows. According to Brigham Young, at this time “the knees of many of the strongest men in the Church faltered (Watson, Manuscript History of Brigham Young, 17).
The historical roots of apostasy among Kirtland saints reached back to a policy of community improvement and expansion, followed by a period of improved economic conditions, followed in turn by a year of economic disasters. After the temple was dedicated, many of the saints concentrated on enlarging their homes, erecting new dwellings and shops, and beautifying their community. A master plan for the improvement of Kirtland was drafted by Joseph in 1836. According to this plan, Kirtland was to be divided into rectangular plots and square blocks, with streets bisecting each other at right angles. In the fall and early winter of 1836, the saints were involved in various construction projects, seemed to be happy, and were participating in a vibrant program of community growth.
During this era of rapid growth, church leaders and other members were acquiring additional property in Kirtland. The land was needed to put into effect Joseph’s plan. After the temple was completed, many members who now had more time to devote to farming pursuits wanted enlarged farms to raise their standard of living and to adequately support their families. Property held by the members in 1836 was not considered sufficient to meet current needs and future plans. Additional land was needed, not only for those who had settled in Kirtland, but also for others who would be immigrating there. Joseph and other leaders of the Church undoubtedly viewed the future optimistically.
While members of the Church were increasing their property holdings in Kirtland, land prices rose sharply, and it seemed that inflationary conditions would continue. According to an editorial appearing in the June 1837 issue of the Messenger and Advocate, the price of land in Kirtland during the preceding year had increased some eight hundred percent.
To secure the money needed for economic expansion, many of the saints were forced to borrow. Lenders were willing to extend credit to the saints seeking financial assistance, since the land they pledged for security could be reclaimed if need be. Since Kirtland was expected to continue growing, with land values increasing at a normal inflationary rate, creditors assumed that the Mormons could manage all the debts they had accumulated.
Another factor contributed to the looming financial problems of the saints. During construction of the Kirtland temple, members of the Church in the East and other areas of North America had sent contributions to Kirtland which temporarily bolstered the town’s economy. These donations decreased after the temple was dedicated, and this decrease in cash inflow occurred at a time when the debts of the Kirtland saints were at a maximum. Because of the consequent cash flow deficiency, church leaders sought a means to transform into cash some of the assets they and other members possessed in land. One means to which they now gave consideration was the establishment of a bank in Kirtland.
Banks provided loans, a medium of exchange, and a safe depository for money. To meet public demand of a readily acceptable medium of exchange, banks would provide notes or currency in exchange for promissory notes of individuals and businesses. This currency was backed by, and could be redeemed for, specie or precious metal coin. The currency was also secured by real estate. This bank currency could be used quite readily to secure goods and services. Local bank currency was generally accepted only within a small geographical area served by that bank, and it was heavily discounted by banks outside that particular area.
On November 2, 1836, leaders of the Church in Kirtland, probably with the help of a non-Mormon attorney, drafted an article of agreement providing for the organization of a banking institution to be called the Kirtland Safety Society Bank. Orson Hyde then traveled to Columbus with a petition directed to the Ohio legislature, requesting approval for the incorporation of a banking institution. Church leaders, assuming that the legislature would grant the request, also sent Oliver Cowdery to Philadelphia to secure plates for the printing of currency. On January 1, 1837, Oliver Cowdery returned with the plates—but Orson Hyde returned with discouraging news. The legislature had refused to consider the Mormons’ petition.
The saints, disappointed by the rejection of their request to incorporate a bank in Kirtland, decided to reorganize and to create a private joint-stock company. Since they could not call it a bank, they named it the Kirtland Safety Society Anti-Banking Company. They probably assumed that individuals had a legal right to organize a private company that engaged in banking activities, since other unchartered or unauthorized banks were organized in Ohio before and after the Kirtland Safety Society was constituted. There were, however, laws against the formation of such unauthorized banks.
Many persons in the Kirtland area initially supported the formation of the Kirtland Safety Society. Church leaders served as officers—Joseph Smith as treasurer and Sidney Rigdon as secretary. Both members and non-members bought stock in the company, most of the stock being purchased during the last three months of 1836, before the company was constituted. Two hundred investors purchased (primarily with gold and silver) shares in the company, with subscriptions totaling about twenty thousand dollars.
On January 2, 1837, the Kirtland Safety Society opened its doors for business. Using the plates that Oliver had secured, the company issued its first notes during the first week of January, stamping on some of the currency words that changed “Bank” to “anti-Bank-ing Co.” This first issue consisted of $1, $2, and $3 denominations and amounted to about ten thousand dollars. Additional notes of denominations ranging from $1 to $100 were issued in February and March, bringing the total to perhaps one hundred thousand dollars. This amount far exceeded the amount of gold and silver coin placed on deposit in the bank. Thus, it was impossible to redeem all of the currency or bank notes for specie. This one hundred thousand dollars in currency was felt to be adequately backed by real estate, however.
Shortly after the Kirtland Safety Society began to function, serious problems interfered with its successful operation. Opponents of the Church, realizing the institution could not survive a run on the bank, tried, with some considerable success, to shake the confidence of those holding the currency. A run on the institution resulted. On January 23, Sidney Rigdon announced that the Society could no longer redeem its notes with specie. Thereafter, its notes were subject to heavy discounts.
In February, Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon, and other leaders of this company were charged with violating an 1816 Ohio statute that prohibited the issue and circulation of unauthorized bank notes or currency and fixed a penalty of one thousand dollars for officers of institutions that violated this law. In June Joseph resigned as an officer in the company and withdrew his support of the institution. In August Warren Parrish was caught defrauding the bank of funds by counterfeiting or indiscriminately printing currency that had no backing. In October a jury found Joseph and Sidney guilty of violating the law, and a judgment amounting to one thousand dollars was assessed them. Finally, in November the company closed its doors.
As the Prophet had struggled to prevent the Kirtland Safety Society from collapsing, he produced serious financial difficulties for himself. He had invested more than any other single investor except John Greene. In February and March, when the company was experiencing financial difficulties, he increased his subscriptions. To obtain money to invest, he made three loans and sold some property. He accumulated debts amounting to approximately one hundred thousand dollars. Although he had assets in land and goods that were of greater value in some respects, he was unable to immediately transform these assets into a form that could be used to pay his creditors.
Many forces combined to destroy the Kirtland Safety Society. The success of any banking institution depended upon public support, and anti-Mormon newspapers branded its currency as “worthless rags.” Banks did not possess sufficient specie to satisfy large demands for redemption of their currency. Since the capital backing the Kirtland Safety Society was primarily in the form of land, in order for the society to continue as a successful business enterprise, supporters had to prevent individuals from securing large amounts of the Safety Society notes. Enemies of the church, however, managed to obtain sufficient quantities of the notes to initiate a run on the institution, forcing it to suspend payment in specie a few weeks after the first notes were issued. Another reason for the failure of the company was the fact that the operations of the Kirtland Safety Society were in violation of the laws of Ohio. When church leaders decided in January 1837 to charter a bank in Kirtland, they and their legal advisers had not understood that forming a company with banking powers would be considered illegal.
The demise of the Kirtland Safety Society intensified the economic problems of the Kirtland saints. The two hundred individuals who invested in the bank lost nearly everything they subscribed. As the months passed, many still held bills that had no redeemable value. When the company failed, many persons lost their savings, and a few were ruined financially. It has been estimated that the financial losses approached $40,000, almost the total cost of building the Kirtland Temple. This loss was sustained by persons whose income averaged about four hundred dollars annually. In the spring of 1837, the Church also found itself heavily in debt, and many creditors were unable to extend credit or postpone dates when debts were due. Joseph and other church leaders were in an awkward and embarrassing position. While the Prophet’s creditors pressured him to pay for supplies he had purchased, he was unable to apply this same pressure on members of the Church who had purchased goods from him on credit.
As a result of failure of the Kirtland Safety Society, critics have accused Joseph Smith using poor judgment and of being a false prophet. They used the demise of the bank as an argument against the divinity of Mormonism. In a thoughtful article (The Failure of the Kirtland Safety Society,” BYU Studies 12:4 ), Scott H. Partridge has pointed out that opening a bank in the United States in the 1830s was risky business because of the difficult economic climate, and half of them eventually failed. He wrote:
Even a casual student of Mormon history must admit that the early leaders of the Church undertook tasks that “good judgment” would have cautioned them not to undertake. The sending of missionaries to England during the darkest hour of persecution; the building of the Kirtland Temple; the establishment of Nauvoo and the construction of its temple; the long trek west to the Rocky Mountains; the establishment of a viable independent economy in the isolation of Utah Territory—all were actions that more timid souls would not have undertaken. [The] . . . willingness to take great risks in the hopes of great gains was a characteristic pragmatic philosophy. . . [It] . . . tried new things and . . . turned to other programs when failures occurred. The historian can logically judge that the establishment of the Kirtland Safety Society was the result of poor judgment, but at the same time should acknowledge that given more favorable economic conditions it might well have succeeded—as did other even more difficult undertakings attempted by the early Mormon leaders. The establishment of the Kirtland Safety Society was one of many activities undertaken with the goal of establishing Mormonism on a solid footing in Western America. That it should fail given the circumstances is not particularly surprising. What is important is that after its failure, those responsible recognized their failure and tried again in other ways.
In the summer of 1837, in the midst of financial reversals, Joseph was involved in what he called “malicious and vexatious lawsuits.” Enemies of the Church continually harassed him, indicting him on one charge after another. Most of the legal proceedings against Joseph were cases involving debts. During 1837, seventeen lawsuits were filed against Joseph for debts involving claims of more than thirty thousand dollars.
On July 27, 1837, Joseph set out on a trip to visit the saints in Canada, accompanied by Sidney Rigdon, Brigham Young and others. They got only as far as Painesville, Ohio, where the Prophet was arrested. After a preliminary hearing, he was released by the court for lack of evidence. Within a short time he was again arrested by the sheriff, and again he was released. In fact, on that day he was arrested six times, charged with various offenses, and each time the case was dismissed for lack of evidence. After spending all day in Painesville, Joseph and his companions returned to Kirtland. They commenced their mission again the next day.
As he returned from Canada, Joseph was again detained in Painesville. According to an account by Mary Fielding, based on information she learned from the Prophet, he and Brigham Young were seized by a mob when they were about four miles from home. Taken to a tavern in Painesville, they escaped through the kitchen door, aided by a house keeper who was a member of the Church. The mob, upon learning of their disappearance, took up the chase. Joseph and Brigham fled through dense woods and along muddy roads, hiding in swamps and behind trees and logs. At times their pursuers, carrying blazing torches, were so close that the two men feared their own heavy breathing might be heard. At dawn they finally reached Kirtland.
During this period of economic distress and increasing opposition against the Church, many converts apostatized. Eliza R. Snow observed that even many of the saints who had received marvelous spiritual blessings during the period of the temple dedication left the Church. Sister Snow attempted to explain the sequence of events that led to this tragic apostasy. She commented that following the temple dedication, the saints found that “prosperity was dawning upon them.” As economic conditions improved, some became “haughty in their spirits” and were lifted up in pride. As individuals “drank in the love and spirit of the world,” she added, “the Spirit of the Lord withdrew,” and “they were filled with pride and hatred toward those who maintained their integrity” (Biography and Family Record of Lorenzo Snow, Snow, 20).
At the same time pride was manifest among the saints, a spirit of selfishness emerged. As the saints were anticipating the commencement of an era of prosperity, some developed an inordinate desire to become suddenly and vastly wealthy.
In an article in the Messenger and Advocate in May 1837, editor Warren Cowdery suggested that the unbridled desire to accumulate worldly wealth led some of the saints into mercenary and deceptive business practices in Kirtland. He wrote of unscrupulous brethren who were taking advantage of others and, after obtaining their money, deserting them. Cowdery especially warned church members who were planning to immigrate to Kirtland to beware of individuals who approached them shortly after their arrival and inquired concerning their financial status. Some persons were reportedly taking advantage of newcomers by describing unusual investment opportunities that would lead to financial gain and abundant blessings from the Lord, but actually would eventually deprive the investors of their savings.
In addition to pride and selfishness, a third major force leading to an apostasy in Kirtland was criticism of the prophet Joseph. He was criticized for his business transactions, for excessive borrowing, for speculation in land, and for supporting a banking institution that was experiencing serious problems. Some critics blamed the Prophet for the economic reversals of 1837, failing to recognize that Joseph was a mortal, subject to the weaknesses of the flesh, and was not directed in all of his personal affairs by the Lord. He became a scapegoat upon which many tried to unload their problems. A rumor was circulated that the Kirtland Safety Society had come about through revelation and Joseph Smith had predicted the company would never fail, so some persons claimed the demise of that institution was evidence he was a fallen prophet. Recognizing that he had been misrepresented, Joseph testified before the Kirtland high council that he had never uttered nor authorized a statement concerning the infallibility of the banking company. He declared, in September 1837, that he had always maintained that “unless an institution was conducted on righteous principles, it would not stand” (HC, 2:510).
In mid-1837 many members living in Kirtland, including some who had been called to serve in the highest positions of responsibility, rejected the leadership of Joseph Smith, declaring that he was no longer a true prophet. While Joseph was lying in bed with a debilitating illness during the month of June, apostates circulated a rumor that he was suffering because of his transgressions in leading the Church into a desperate financial situation. When Heber C. Kimball began his mission that same month to England, he said that John F. Boynton, one of the Twelve, called him a fool for leaving home at the call of a “fallen prophet.”
Parley P. Pratt was among those who censured the Prophet and Sidney for their “business transactions.” He admitted that “under feelings of excitement, and during the most peculiar trials,” he wrote a letter condemning the actions of the men. After the letter was published by a non-Mormon in what Elder Pratt called a garbled form, he recognized his mistake and sought forgiveness from the Church and those whom he had offended (Elders’ Journal 1 [August 1838], 50).
Another factor that precipitated an apostasy of members in Kirtland was immorality. Referring to the priesthood leaders who left the Church in the fall of 1837, George A. Smith observed that after the “spirit of adultery or covetousness” had seized control “of their hearts . . . the Spirit of the Lord left them” (George A. Smith, JD, 7:115). A few members in Kirtland entered into the practice of plural marriage without the authorization of church leaders, justifying their actions by asserting that Joseph Smith had taken a plural wife. Indeed, the Prophet had received revelation relative to eternal and plural marriage in the early 1830s and may have been practicing plural marriage before 1835. It was also asserted that Joseph Smith’s practicing of plural marriage provided members with an excuse to justify their transgressions, and caused others to leave the Church because they did not understand the eternal principles involved in this marital law and found the idea of polygamy abhorrent.
In the fall of 1837, while Joseph was visiting the saints in Missouri, criticism of him was rampant and reached an ugly schismatic dimension. The selfishness, murmuring, lust, and contention that had been manifest among the saints in Kirtland led to a “great apostasy.” Repudiating the Prophet’s leadership, about thirty priesthood bearers renounced the Church and organized a new church in Kirtland under the leadership of Warren Parrish. They adopted the name “Church of Christ” and tried to seize control of the temple.
Between November 1837 and June 1838, possibly two or three hundred Kirtland saints withdrew from the Church, representing from ten to fifteen percent of the membership there. Many of the apostates had served in major positions of responsibility. During a nine-month period, almost one-third of the General Authorities were excommunicated, disfellowshipped, or removed from their Church callings. Among those who left the Church during this stormy period were the three witnesses to the Book of Mormon (Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, and Martin Harris), four Apostles (John F. Boynton, Lyman E. Johnson, Luke S. Johnson, and William E. McLellin), three of the original presidents of the First Quorum of Seventy, and two of the presidents of Seventy who were serving in 1837. One member of the First Presidency, Frederick G. Williams, was released from his calling. Although some of these leaders were not excommunicated until after they had moved to Missouri, the roots of their apostasy stem back to transgressions that occurred in Kirtland. Almost half of those who were excommunicated, disfellowshipped, or dropped from their position of responsibility in 1837 or 1838 later repented and returned to the Church.
Some of the apostates became bitter enemies of the saints and organized to expel them from Kirtland. Dissidents tried to seize the property of the saints and threatened to kill members of the Church. Enemies outside the Church were also involved in oppressive actions. Extreme security measures became necessary. While some members guarded the temple twenty-four hours a day, others slept near the Prophet, to preserve his life from his enemies.
When Brigham Young described conditions existing in Kirtland on December 22, 1837, the day of his departure from that community, he claimed that he fled for his life because of the fury of the mob. After making hasty preparations for a journey of more than eight hundred miles, he left his wife and his three-year-old son and one-year-old twins, mounted his horse, and galloped southward. His flight was the beginning of a mass exodus from Kirtland. Between the end of December 1837 and the middle of July 1838, probably more than sixteen hundred members of the Kirtland branch migrated west, abandoning their homes and beginning a new colonizing adventure in the wilderness of western America.
Three weeks after the first saints left Kirtland, Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon also fled. “Persecution became so violent,” Lucy Mack Smith observed, that “Joseph regarded it as unsafe to remain any longer in Kirtland” (History of Joseph Smith, Lucy Mack Smith, 247). He and Sidney rode from Kirtland on the night of January 12, 1838, fleeing from disgruntled creditors, angry apostates, and civil authorities. They rode southward under cover of darkness and arrived the next morning in New Portage, about sixty miles from Kirtland. Three days later, after the Prophet’s wife, Emma, and their children arrived in Norton, the group continued their journey in covered wagons. Though the weather was bitterly cold, the Prophet wrote that a mob, armed with pistols and guns, followed him for about two hundred miles. During the pursuit, his enemies once stayed in a home where the saints were sleeping, with only a partition separating the Smith family from their pursuers. That night, the Smiths listened to “their oaths and imprecations, and threats” concerning actions they would take if they seized the Mormon leader. On other occasions, members of the mob passed Joseph and his family but failed to recognize them.
Joseph and his family and traveling companions traveled through Indiana and Illinois, crossed the Mississippi River, and headed across the state of Missouri toward Far West. When they were within 120 miles of their destination, they were met by some saints from Far West who had brought wagons, money, and provisions for them. When they were eight miles from the city, they were met by another escort group, and on March 14, as they reached the outskirts of Far West, a large number gathered to welcome them.
Although most of the saints went west in small groups of less than fifty, one company of more than five hundred persons traveled in a body that was called “Kirtland Camp,” and sometimes the “Kirtland Poor Camp” as they were, for the most part, the poorest of Kirtland’s inhabitants. On July 5, participants in the Kirtland Camp party gathered in a clover field about one hundred rods south of the temple. That day many pitched their tents, and at night they slept near their wagons and teams. The next day, about noon, a stream of about fifty-nine wagons began rolling from Kirtland. Included in this first company and those who followed shortly thereafter were about 515 pioneers with twenty-seven tents, ninety-seven horses, twenty-two oxen, sixty-nine cows, and one bull. After the company left, only a few Latter-day Saints remained in Kirtland.
Throughout the journey to Missouri, the presidents of the First Council of Seventy served as the governing council of Kirtland Camp. This journey, as documented in the journals of participants, was an arduous yet colorful one. Roughly half of the Kirtland Camp actually made the entire journey to Far West. The other half dropped out along the say, mostly due to illness. Most who dropped out remained at Springfield, Illinois, and later gathered at Nauvoo after the main body of saints had been driven from Missouri.
On October 2, the wagons of Kirtland Camp rolled into Far West, having traveled eight hundred seventy miles from Kirtland. As they neared the end of their journey, they were met by Joseph Smith, his brother Hyrum, Sidney Rigdon, and a few other church leaders who escorted them during the last five miles. At the request of the Prophet, members of Kirtland Camp resumed their travels on October 3, and the next day they settled twenty-two miles north of Far West at the place that Joseph Smith had identified, through revelation, as the location where Adam blessed his children and predicted what would befall his posterity. The Lord named this place, “Adam-ondi-Ahman.” It is ironic that Kirtland Camp had arrived in Far West less than a month before Missouri governor Lilburn Boggs’ Extermination Order drove them out of the state.
Doctor Davis Bitton has chronicled the decline of the church in Kirtland after the great body of saints had left by the summer of 1838 (“The Waning of Mormon Kirtland,” BYU Studies 12:4 ). He notes: “It is surprising how long it took for Mormonism in Kirtland to fade away.” In November 1839 Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball stopped in the village of Kirtland on their return from their mission in England. They found “a good many friends and brethren who were glad to see [them].” The Kirtland Temple was still being used, and Brigham Young preached a sermon there. Brigham Young noted that many of those church members who remained in Kirtland lacked the “energy” or “disposition” to move to Missouri. In October 1840, Almon W. Babbitt was named to preside over the Kirtland saints which were said at that time to be between 300 and 400 strong. Under his leadership this number grew to about 500 by October 1841, but in the October 1841 conference in Nauvoo, Brother Babbitt was disfellowshipped for teaching false doctrine. Still Mormonism did not disappear quickly. Justin Brooks succeeded Brother Babbitt and in the conference of October 1842 there were still “500 to 700” in attendance. By April 1843 the Kirtland saints were strongly encouraged to move to Nauvoo. Apparently many did move, and from the spring of 1845 it becomes difficult to document the activities of any saints left in Kirtland. At the end of 1845, it was reported that a group of “rioters” seized control of the Kirtland Temple. The temple was later used as a Kirtland community hall. From that time on it would seem that very few committed saints, several partly committed members, many apostates, and a few splinter groups remained.
The trials of the Kirtland saints did not end when they reached the Missouri frontier. On October 27, 1838, less than one month after the Kirtland Camp arrived there, Governor Lilburn W. Boggs issued one of the most intolerant decrees uttered by an executive in the history of the United States. After telling General John B. Clark of the Missouri militia that the “Mormons must be treated as enemies,” the governor ordered him to exterminate or drive members of the faith from that state (HC, 3:175). Some of the participants in the Kirtland Camp had settled in a community called Haun’s Mill, and on October 30, Missouri militiamen suddenly attacked the saints living there. The threats of death they had heard while crossing Missouri became a reality. Seventeen saints were killed, and thirteen others were wounded.
Throughout the long winter of 1838-39, hundreds of Latter-day Saints fled again from persecutors. Many had been forced to abandon Kirtland in 1838, and now they were being driven from the state of Missouri. Fortified by their faith, many of the former Kirtland saints settled in Iowa and Illinois and helped build a new city, Nauvoo, on the banks of the Mississippi River. Within a few years, they would once again have to abandon their homes, cross a vast wilderness, and begin a new life in the great basin of western America.
D&C 112 Thomas B. Marsh and the Quorum of Twelve
D&C 112:10 Be thou humble; and the Lord thy God shall lead thee by the hand, and give thee answer to thy prayers.
verses 1-11 Counsel on missionary work. Remember that the Twelve have responsibility for missionary work. Even Thomas B. Marsh had strayed somewhat, but he had repented, and the Lord had forgiven him.
1 Verily thus saith the Lord unto you my servant Thomas: I have heard thy prayers; and thine alms have come up as a memorial before me, in behalf of those, thy brethren, who were chosen to bear testimony of my name and to send it abroad among all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people, and ordained through the instrumentality of my servants,
verse 1 “I have heard thy prayers; and thine alms have come up as a memorial before me” Alms are gifts of charity or sacrifices for the needy. Alms and prayers are elsewhere linked in scripture (see D&C 88:2; Acts 10:4). This scriptural passage contains two phrases which form a parallelism—that is, both phrases have the same meaning (1) ”I have heard thy prayers” and (2) ”Thine alms have come up as a memorial before me”. Thus, we learn that the Lord regards Thomas Marsh’s prayers on behalf of his brethren in the Quorum of Twelve as alms or deeds of charity or sacrifice given on behalf of his brethren. In the beautiful image created here, we learn that the time and effort required to pray is equated by the Lord with acts of charity and sacrifice. At this time, it had been almost two and one half years since the Twelve had been called (February 14, 1835) and almost two years since they had returned from their joint mission to the eastern states. Time and distance had rendered the quorum less than united. William McLellin had lost confidence in Joseph and moved from Kirtland in August 1836 (Shipps and Welch, Journals of William E. McLellin, 231-32). Lyman Johnson, Luke Johnson, and John Boynton had become disaffected from the Church over the Kirtland Safety Society Bank (HC, 2:509) and were disfellowshipped on September 3, 1837, less than a month and a half after this revelation was received. Even Parley P. Pratt and Orson Pratt had briefly criticized the Prophet (see Woodford, “Historical Development,” 2:1475-830). Orson Hyde had briefly wavered. Understandably, the quorum president, Thomas B. Marsh, had prayed for his brethren and desired at this time to know the Lord’s will for them.
2 Verily I say unto you, there have been some few things in thine heart and with thee with which I, the Lord, was not well pleased.
verse 2 When Elder Marsh and his fellow apostle David W. Patten arrived in Kirtland from Missouri, they were at first upset to learn that the First Presidency had interfered with their plans for a full quorum meeting by sending Elders Kimball and Hyde to England. Elder Marsh believed that the opening of foreign missions was his prerogative, and he resented what he considered an intrusion of the First Presidency in beginning this work. There is also some evidence that Elder Marsh had wanted personally to open the mission to England. These feelings may have been among those that displeased the Lord.
3 Nevertheless, inasmuch as thou hast abased thyself thou shalt be exalted; therefore, all thy sins are forgiven thee.
verse 3 By July 23, the date of this revelation and one day before the scheduled meeting of the Twelve, President Marsh had humbled himself and approached the Prophet in a spirit of reconciliation. As a result, in this and the following verses, the Lord assures Elder Marsh of his good standing and his continued calling as president of the Twelve.
verses 4-9 In these verses, the Lord promises Thomas Marsh that he will preach the gospel to all the world—to the Gentiles and to the Jews. Obviously, here as always, the Lord’s blessings and promises are conditional and contingent upon the continued faithfulness of the one who is blessed. Unfortunately, very little of this blessing was ever realized, for Elder Marsh left the Church the following year.
Of interest, perhaps, is that the Quorum of the Twelve did undertake a mission to the British Isles between 1839 and 1841. By that time, however, Marsh himself had become disaffected from the Church, and Brigham Young presided over the mission.
4 Let thy heart be of good cheer before my face; and thou shalt bear record of my name, not only unto the Gentiles, but also unto the Jews; and thou shalt send forth my word unto the ends of the earth.
5 Contend thou, therefore, morning by morning; and day after day let thy warning voice go forth; and when the night cometh let not the inhabitants of the earth slumber, because of thy speech.
verse 5 “Contend thou, therefore, morning by morning” In 1828 “contend” had more than one meaning. In D&C 18:20, for example, it means “to quarrel,” and the saints are commanded not to contend in this particular sense. In this passage, however, it means “to strive,” “to dispute earnestly,” or “to defend and preserve,” and it is part of Elder Marsh’s apostolic calling (Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary, s.v. “contend”).
6 Let thy habitation be known in Zion, and remove not thy house; for I, the Lord, have a great work for thee to do, in publishing my name among the children of men.
verse 6 “Let thy habitation be known in Zion, and remove not thy house” Since 1832 Thomas Marsh had moved his residence at least four times, not counting extended visits to Kirtland. As president of the Quorum of the Twelve, it was important for him to maintain a more or less permanent address from which he could always be reached. It was natural that Elder Marsh might be tempted at this time to move yet again, from Missouri to Kirtland, to give greater support to the Prophet and be closer to quorum members. Yet, the Church was soon going to move to Missouri, and Elder Marsh’s home in Far West would be at its center. In 1841, when Brigham Young returned from his mission to Great Britain, the Lord informed him he also was to remain at home and to “send my word abroad” (D&C 126:3), more or less as Elder Marsh is here instructed.
7 Therefore, gird up thy loins for the work. Let thy feet be shod also, for thou art chosen, and thy path lieth among the mountains, and among many nations.
verse 7 “gird up thy loins . . . Let thy feet be shod” The ancient Hebrews wore loose-fitting robes that were cumbersome if they had to work, run, or walk long distances. Hence, to prepare for any of these activities they would gather their loose clothing, bring it between their legs and tuck it in their sash. In this way they were left unencumbered. Hence, in biblical language, to “gird up your loins” is to prepare for a journey or for work. An equivalent modern expression might be “Roll up your sleeves.”
The phrase “let thy feet be shod” has a parallel meaning. The Lord is saying, “be ready to travel.” In 1837, Brother Marsh accompanied the prophet Joseph and Sidney Rigdon to Canada (see also Ephesians 6:15).
8 And by thy word many high ones shall be brought low, and by thy word many low ones shall be exalted.
9 Thy voice shall be a rebuke unto the transgressor; and at thy rebuke let the tongue of the slanderer cease its perverseness.
10 Be thou humble; and the Lord thy God shall lead thee by the hand, and give thee answer to thy prayers.
verse 10 “Be thou humble” While this exhortation and promise has universal application, there is some indication that Thomas B. Marsh had a particular problem with personal pride. Certainly it was pride that will lead to his initial disaffection with the Church in 1838. At that time, knowing his wife to be in the wrong, he apparently expected preferential treatment because of his high church office. When he did not receive this, he is quoted as saying “that he would sustain the character of his wife, even if he had to go to hell for it. . . . and what next? He went before a magistrate and swore that the Mormons were hostile towards the State of Missouri” (George A. Smith, JD, 3:283-84). He thus contributed to the expulsion of the saints from that state and the misery of many of his former friends. President Heber C. Kimball said of Marsh’s apostasy: “About the time [Marsh] was preparing to leave this Church, he received a revelation in the Printing Office. He retired to himself, and prayed and was humble, and God gave him a revelation and he wrote it. There were from three to five pages of it; and when he came out, he read it to brother Brigham and to me. In it God told him what to do, and that he was to sustain Brother Joseph and to believe that what Brother Joseph had said was true. But no; he took a course to sustain his wife and oppose the Prophet of God, and she led him away. . . . She led him some eighteen years; and as soon as she died he came to Winter Quarters—now Florence, and has written to us, pleading for mercy. We have extended it to him, and he will probably be here this season or the next” (JD, 5:28-29). Marsh was rebaptized on July 16, 1857, and died in Ogden, Utah, in January 1866.
11 I know thy heart, and have heard thy prayers concerning thy brethren. Be not partial towards them in love above many others, but let thy love be for them as for thyself; and let thy love abound unto all men, and unto all who love my name.
verse 11 “Be not partial towards them in love above many others” In other words, don’t care for the Twelve more than you care for other members. Rather, love the Twelve, each of them equally, as much as you love yourself, and let that same level of love spill over to all men.
12 And pray for thy brethren of the Twelve. Admonish them sharply for my name’s sake, and let them be admonished for all their sins, and be ye faithful before me unto my name.
verse 12 “Admonish them sharply . . . for all their sins” Section 112 is essentially a warning to Thomas Marsh and a call to bring his brethren of the Twelve back into line. As outlined above (see the commentary for verses 1 and 2), the state of the Quorum of the Twelve was a sorry one and some of them needed to be “admonish[ed] sharply.”
13 And after their temptations, and much tribulation, behold, I, the Lord, will feel after them, and if they harden not their hearts, and stiffen not their necks against me, they shall be converted, and I will heal them.
verse 13 “after their temptations, and much tribulation” Elder Harold B. Lee taught:
As I have labored among the brethren here and have studied the history of past dispensations, I have become aware that the Lord has given tests all down through time as to this matter of loyalty to the leadership of the Church. I go back into the scriptures and follow along in such stories as David’s loyalty when the king [Saul] was trying to take his life. He wouldn’t defile the anointed of the Lord even when he could have taken his life. I have listened to the classic stories in this dispensation about how Brigham Young was tested, how Heber C. Kimball was tested, John Taylor and Willard Richards in Carthage Jail, Zion’s Camp that received a great test, and from that number were chosen the first general authorities in this dispensation. There were others who did not pass the test of loyalty, and they fell from their places.
I have been in a position since I came into the Council of the Twelve to observe some things among my brethren, and I want to say to you: Every man my junior in the Council of the Twelve, I have seen submitted as though by Providence, to these same tests of loyalty, and I wondered sometimes whether they were going to pass the tests. The reason they are here today is because they did, and our Father has honored them. . . . and it is my conviction that every man who will be called to a high place in this Church will have to pass these tests not devised by human hands, by which our Father numbers them as a united group of leaders willing to follow the prophets of the Living God, and be loyal and true as witnesses and exemplars of the truths they teach (CR, April 1950, 101).
“and I will heal them” Most of the time when the concept of conversion is mentioned in the four standard works, it is mentioned in association with “healing”— certainly a healing of the spirit.
14 Now, I say unto you, and what I say unto you, I say unto all the Twelve: Arise and gird up your loins, take up your cross, follow me, and feed my sheep.
verse 14 See the commentary for verse 7 All of these exhortations were delivered by the Savior to his original Twelve during their mortal ministries (see, for example, Mark 2:14; Matthew 16:24; Luke 9:23; 12:35, 37; John 21:16). Members of the modern Quorum of the Twelve have the same obligation as did their ancient counterparts.
15 Exalt not yourselves; rebel not against my servant Joseph; for verily I say unto you, I am with him, and my hand shall be over him; and the keys which I have given unto him, and also to youward, shall not be taken from him till I come.
verse 15 “rebel not against my servant Joseph” This commandment was of particular importance at the time. The Kirtland apostasy eventually included a member of the First Presidency (Frederick G. Williams), all three Witnesses of the Book of Mormon (Oliver Cowdery, Martin Harris, and David Whitmer), and four of the Quorum of the Twelve (William McLellin, Luke S. Johnson, Lyman Johnson, and John Boynton), although three of these men—Oliver Cowdery, Martin Harris, and Luke S. Johnson— subsequently returned to the Church.
“the keys . . . shall not be taken from him” Joseph Smith alone, as president of the Church, exercised all the keys of the kingdom of God on the earth. Although some in Kirtland were talking of replacing Joseph as president of the Church, the Lord assures Elder Marsh—without qualification—that this would not happen. According to Brigham Young, “The keys of the Priesthood were committed to Joseph, to build up the Kingdom of God on the earth, and were not to be taken from him in time or in eternity” (ed. John A. Widtsoe, Discourses of Brigham Young, 138). Joseph Smith still holds the keys of this dispensation even today, and all subsequent church presidents have functioned by those keys as passed to them in succession from Joseph.
“and also to youward” The word “youward” is not found in any dictionary, old or new. Its meaning is likely “to you” or “toward you.” In its context, it seems to mean “to Thomas Marsh and to all of the apostles”—that is, the Lord has given the priesthood keys both to Joseph and to the Quorum of Twelve Apostles (see verse 16).
16 Verily I say unto you, my servant Thomas, thou art the man whom I have chosen to hold the keys of my kingdom, as pertaining to the Twelve, abroad among all nations—
verse 16 Thomas Marsh is reassured by the Lord that he is called to his office and that he is still in the good graces of the Lord. Though he presided over the Twelve, and the Twelve were given the keys of the kingdom, Marsh needed to learn that as long as Joseph was alive, the Twelve exert their keys only through the prophet Joseph and not independently of him. Neither he nor any member of the Quorum of Twelve can exercise those keys without the permission of the Prophet. Both Marsh and the rest of the Twelve were to understand themselves as extensions of the keys and authority of the prophet Joseph Smith, who alone bore the responsibility of all the Church in all the world.
17 That thou mayest be my servant to unlock the door of the kingdom in all places where my servant Joseph, and my servant Sidney, and my servant Hyrum, cannot come;
verses 17 “Joseph . . . Sidney, and . . . Hyrum” The Lord names those in the First Presidency. Hyrum? Is Hyrum Smith a member of the First Presidency? The historical record is somewhat obscure, but it is clear that between the spring and fall of 1837, Frederick G. Williams was replaced as second counselor in the First Presidency by Hyrum Smith. President Williams had become disaffected with Joseph Smith over the failure of the Kirtland Safety Society, and he had been charged with misconduct in May of 1837, although no formal action was taken against him at that time. Joseph still referred to Williams as “President” Williams on June 16, 1837 (HC, 2:445), and a conference of the Church in Kirtland unanimously sustained Williams as a member of the First Presidency on September 3, 1837. Nonetheless, D&C 112:17 and 20 make it clear that Hyrum Smith was already functioning in the First Presidency by July 23, 1837, and Joseph referred to Hyrum as “President” Smith as early as June 12, 1837 (HC, 2:492). The same conference in Kirtland that sustained Frederick G. Williams in the First Presidency also sustained Hyrum Smith as an “assistant councilor” in that presidency (Kirtland Council Minute Book, 234-35). A conference of the Church in Missouri held two months later, on November 7, 1837, rejected Brother Williams altogether and voted to sustain Hyrum Smith in his place (Cannon and Cook, Far West Record, 122).
Although the formal release of Frederick G. Williams as second counselor in the First Presidency and the formal sustaining of Hyrum Smith in his stead did not take place until November 7, 1837, it is clear that in the eyes of the Lord, Brother Williams was no longer functioning in that capacity by the time of this revelation (July 23, 1837) and that Hyrum Smith was already working in his place. Frederick G. Williams was eventually excommunicated, but he was rebaptized on August 5, 1838 and died a faithful member of the Church.
“where my servant[s] . . . cannot come” The Twelve, not the First Presidency, are called to preach abroad. The presence at home of the First Presidency was required at that time to preside over the whole Church (see verse 18).
18 For on them have I laid the burden of all the churches for a little season.
verse 18 The word “churches” refers to all of the branches of the Church at that time.
19 Wherefore, whithersoever they shall send you, go ye, and I will be with you; and in whatsoever place ye shall proclaim my name an effectual door shall be opened unto you, that they may receive my word.
verse 19 “whithersoever they shall send you, go ye” The antecedent of the pronoun they is the First Presidency. Receiving keys of the priesthood does not render a man a law unto himself. Neither can one who holds keys consider himself independent of the chain of authorities through whom he has received them. Elder Marsh needed to understand that his office as president of the Quorum of the Twelve did not make him or his quorum members exempt from the call and authority of the First Presidency. On the other hand, a quorum leader does not need to give permission, or even necessarily be aware of, every call made to any member of his quorum. Every man who receives keys of the priesthood becomes an extension of the authority that gave him those keys (verse 20). The president of the Church does not become, by virtue of holding the keys of the kingdom, independent of Christ. Neither is the president of the Twelve, by virtue of his keys, independent of the authority of the First Presidency, and so on down the line.
20 Whosoever receiveth my word receiveth me, and whosoever receiveth me, receiveth those, the First Presidency, whom I have sent, whom I have made counselors for my name’s sake unto you.
verse 20 “whom I have made counselors . . . unto you” Elder Joseph Fielding Smith wrote: “The First Presidency, the Lord said, were to be counselors to the twelve. By this is meant that the twelve should not go forth without the counsel and direction of the First Presidency” (Church History and Modern Revelation, 3:73).
21 And again, I say unto you, that whosoever ye shall send in my name, by the voice of your brethren, the Twelve, duly recommended and authorized by you, shall have power to open the door of my kingdom unto any nation whithersoever ye shall send them—
verse 21 “the Twelve . . . shall have power to open the door of my kingdom” As the Church has been restored in the latter days, it has been an apostolic privilege from the beginning to dedicate new lands for the preaching of the gospel and to direct the work in those lands. Under the direction of the First Presidency “the Twelve had the authority (keys) to regulate the affairs of the Church among all nations” (Smith and Sjodahl, Doctrine and Covenants Commentary, 735).
22 Inasmuch as they shall humble themselves before me, and abide in my word, and hearken to the voice of my Spirit.
23 Verily, verily, I say unto you, darkness covereth the earth, and gross darkness the minds of the people, and all flesh has become corrupt before my face.
verse 23 “darkness covereth the earth” Compare Isaiah 60:2; Genesis 6:1112; Moses 8:28-29. The comparison made here to the days of Noah implies that a destruction awaits the earth now on a scale like that of Noah’s Flood (compare Matthew 24:37; Luke 17:26).
24 Behold, vengeance cometh speedily upon the inhabitants of the earth, a day of wrath, a day of burning, a day of desolation, of weeping, of mourning, and of lamentation; and as a whirlwind it shall come upon all the face of the earth, saith the Lord.
verse 24 “vengeance cometh speedily” Compare D&C 97:22-26; Zephaniah 1:14-15. This is the great and dreadful day of the Lord before which Elijah would be sent (Malachi 4:5-6) and of which the saints are to warn the world (D&C 1:9-14).
25 And upon my house shall it begin, and from my house shall it go forth, saith the Lord;
verse 25 “And upon my house shall it begin” The great sifting, refining, and cleansing of the last days, of which the Kirtland trials were but a foretaste, will begin with the Lord’s own house and with his own people. When the saints have been refined and purified, then Zion can be established as a refuge from the scourges that will pass upon the world. Elder Melvin J. Ballard declared: “Therefore we stand in peril, many of us! For do you thing that the Lord who has given us greater light and greater knowledge than the world, will pass us by in our sins and our transgressions? I say to you that if we do not live better than the world, if our standard of morality is not in excess of theirs, if we do not observe the law and maintain it better than any other people, we ought to be ashamed of ourselves, and we shall stand under great condemnation before the Lord, because we know more than anybody else. The light and knowledge that the Lord has given to us places us in a very peculiar position, and if we are not careful the judgment of the Lord shall begin at the house of the Lord” (CR, October 1922, 59).
26 First among those among you, saith the Lord, who have professed to know my name and have not known me, and have blasphemed against me in the midst of my house, saith the Lord.
verse 26 Brigham Young reported attending a meeting in the Kirtland Temple in June 1837, a month before this revelation was received, in which some leading members of the Church proposed that David Whitmer replace Joseph Smith as president of the Church (Backman, Heavens Resound, 310-11). While verses 25-26 apply equally well to every member and every instance of disloyalty and blasphemy in the last days, they also had a specific application to the words and actions of disloyal members at the Kirtland Temple in the summer of 1837.
27 Therefore, see to it that ye trouble not yourselves concerning the affairs of my church in this place, saith the Lord.
verse 27 “trouble not yourselves concerning the affairs of my church in this place” The Twelve are specifically charged with taking the gospel to the world (verses 16, 19, 21) and are not to worry about the overall administration of the Church— at this time headquartered in Kirtland—which is the stewardship of the First Presidency.
28 But purify your hearts before me; and then go ye into all the world, and preach my gospel unto every creature who has not received it;
29 And he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, and he that believeth not, and is not baptized, shall be damned.
verse 29 “shall be damned” Compare Mark 16:16. The verb to damn comes from a Latin root meaning “to condemn,” or “to pronounce guilty.” It is unrelated to the similar verb to dam, meaning to stop or to block one’s progress. Despite common confusion of these two verbs, and though the effect of being damned might also be to be dammed (as several writers have pointed out), “to be damned” does not merely mean having one’s progress stopped. It means to be condemned, to be judged guilty or worthy of punishment. In a spiritual sense it means being declared guilty of sin, the exact opposite of being “justified” or declared innocent of sin. President Spencer W. Kimball stated that to be “damned means stopped in progress” (“Marriage and Divorce,” an address, 29), illustrating the close relationship between being damned and being dammed. Thus, those who, through the exercise of their agency, choose darkness over light are stopped in their progress of acquiring light and truth” (D&C 93:27). They literally descend toward hell and darkness (2 Nephi 26:10). Joseph Smith taught that “if we are not drawing towards God . . . we are going from him and drawing towards the devil. . . . As far as we degenerate from God, we descend to the devil and lose knowledge, and without knowledge we cannot be saved; thus, we are damned!” (HC, 4:588). In answer to the question, “Will everybody be damned, but Mormons?” the Prophet responded, “Yes, and a great portion of them, unless they repent, and work righteousness” (TPJS, 119).
30 For unto you, the Twelve, and those, the First Presidency, who are appointed with you to be your counselors and your leaders, is the power of this priesthood given, for the last days and for the last time, in the which is the dispensation of the fulness of times.
verse 30 “the First Presidency, who are appointed with you to be your counselors and your leaders” See the commentary on verse 20.
“is the power of this priesthood given” At the time this revelation was given, the specific priesthood power referred to here, which was held by the First Presidency and by the Twelve, was the keys of the kingdom of God. In 1837 the Twelve did not hold the same keys which the Twelve hold today. In that day, the president of the Twelve held keys with a limitation—“as pertaining to the Twelve, abroad among the nations” (verse 16). The rest of the Twelve also held these keys of the kingdom but only as “recommended and authorized by [the president of the Twelve]” and for opening the door of the gospel in foreign lands (verse 21). Keep in mind that there is never more than one individual at a time upon the earth who actively holds and exercises all the keys of the priesthood (D&C 132:7).
Eventually, however, the Twelve would become fully endowed and would individually receive all of the keys which could then be exercised by the Quorum as a whole after the prophet president was dead. That event, as recorded by Wilford Woodruff, occurred in Nauvoo, Illinois, in late February 1844. After completing the endowment of the twelve, Joseph Smith said, “Brethren, I have had great sorrow of heart for fear that I might be taken from the earth with the keys of the Kingdom of God upon me, without sealing them upon the heads of other men. God has sealed upon my head all the keys of the kingdom of God necessary for organizing and building up of the Church, Zion, and the kingdom of God upon the earth, and to prepare the saints for the coming of the Son of Man. Now, brethren I thank God I have lived to see the day that I have been enabled to give you your endowments, and I have now sealed upon your heads all the powers of the Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthoods and Apostleship, with all the keys and powers thereof, which God has sealed upon me; and I now roll off all the labor, burden and care of this Church and Kingdom of God upon your shoulders” (Clark, Messages of the First Presidency, 3:134). Nevertheless, even though the Quorum of the Twelve would from this time forward be individually “prophets, seers, and revelators,” there is never more than one head of the kingdom of God on the earth. Only one mortal has control of all the keys, and that is the president of the Church (D&C 132:7). When the president dies, then all of the keys reside in and can be exercised by the Twelve as a Quorum.
“for the last time” There will never be another falling away and subsequent restoration of the gospel before the coming of the Lord. No one will be allowed to overthrow the Church prior to his coming—the Lord solemnly avers that this is so.
“the dispensation of the fulness of times” A dispensation is an occasion on which the gospel has been given or “dispensed” to a new people or in a new time. Dispensations are not necessarily preceded by apostasy, since Enoch, Noah, Melchizedek, and Abraham are all generally considered to be heads of dispensations, and yet they were ordained by mortal predecessors (D&C 84:13-15). Each dispensation has operated under more or less the totality of priesthood keys, although not all the keys were given to every dispensation. When the world has reached the fulness of its times and dispensations, one last dispensation, the one during which we now live, will gather together in one at one time all the knowledge, keys, powers, and ordinances that have ever been held in all previous dispensations of the gospel collectively.
President John Taylor defined this final “dispensation of the fulness of times” as follows:
We have had, in the different ages, various dispensations; for instance what may be called the Adamic dispensation, the dispensation of Noah, the dispensation of Abraham, the dispensation of Moses . . . the dispensation of Jesus Christ, when he came to take away the sins of the world by the sacrifice of himself, and in and through those various dispensations, certain principles, powers, privileges, and Priesthoods have been developed. But in the dispensation of the fulness of times a combination or a fulness, a completeness of all those dispensations was to be introduced among the human family. If there was anything pertaining to the Adamic (of what we may term more particularly the patriarchal) dispensation, it would be made manifest in the last days. If there was anything associated with Enoch and his city, and the gathering together of his people, or of the translation of his city, it would be manifested in the last days. . . . If there was anything associated with the Apostleship and Presidency that existed in the days of Jesus, or that existed on this continent, it would be developed in the last times; for this is the dispensation of the fulness of times, embracing all other times, all principles, all powers, all manifestations, all Priesthoods, and the powers thereof that have existed in any age, in any part of the world . . . shall be revealed unto babes and sucklings in this the dispensation of the fulness of times” (JD, 22:298-99).
31 Which power you hold, in connection with all those who have received a dispensation at any time from the beginning of the creation;
verse 31 “in connection with all those who have received a dispensation at any time from the beginning of the creation” In receiving and holding the priesthood keys of the kingdom of God, the modern apostles and prophets are united with their predecessors and counterparts since the beginning of time, and all the knowledge, keys, and powers of God scattered through the ages are collected and welded together in one last fulness in preparation for the coming of the Son of Man and the end of the world (see D&C 128:18). Thus, part of the great gathering of the last keys is the gathering together into one complete whole all the gospel truth and light that have ever existed in any degree in all the various ages and dispensations of history.
32 For verily I say unto you, the keys of the dispensation, which ye have received, have come down from the fathers, and last of all, being sent down from heaven unto you.
33 Verily I say unto you, behold how great is your calling. Cleanse your hearts and your garments, lest the blood of this generation be required at your hands.
verse 33 “how great is your calling” Upon those who hold the Melchizedek Priesthood and its keys, in these last days, depend all the souls of the children of God in this dispensation and the work of building Zion, that the earth might be spared from total destruction at the coming of the Lord (Malachi 4:5-6). Therefore, “how great is your calling”!
“lest the blood of this generation be required at your hands” Given the powers and keys described in section 112, the task of taking the gospel to the world in this generation falls upon those who are blessed to hold its keys and powers in any degree. Should those who hold the powers and keys of the priesthood do their duty and warn their neighbors and build Zion, then they will be held guiltless when those who have been so warned refuse to be cleansed by the atonement of Christ or to gather to safety in Zion. On the other hand, should we fail in our duty to preach the gospel and to build Zion, then the blood of those we should have warned, but didn’t, will come upon our garments because of our negligence.
34 Be faithful until I come, for I come quickly; and my reward is with me to recompense every man according as his work shall be. I am Alpha and Omega. Amen.
verse 34 “I come quickly . . . I am Alpha and Omega” See the commentary on D&C 33:18 and 19:1.
Born in Vermont on June 1, 1801, he was about four and one-half years older than the prophet Joseph. He was taught early by his parents to live a strictly moral life, but it was not until he was twenty-six years of age that he gave serious thought to religion. He joined the Methodist Church, married Miriam Works, and worked for a number of years as a carpenter and painter. In the spring of 1829 he moved to Mendon, New York, a small town some fifteen miles southeast of Rochester where his father also resided. A year later he saw, for the first time, a copy of the Book of Mormon that was left at the house of his brother Phineas by Samuel Smith, the brother of the Prophet. He failed to receive a witness of it after just one reading. Nevertheless he continued to study and pray.
In the fall of 1831, two missionaries preached in the vicinity of Mendon, and Brigham was moved by their testimonies. In January 1832, he traveled with his brother Phineas and his friend and neighbor Heber C. Kimball to Columbia, Pennsylvania, to learn more about the Restoration from members of a small branch of the Church there. The three brethren remained with the branch in Columbia for about a week during which time their faith was much strengthened in the mission of the modern Prophet. After returning to Mendon, Brigham hitched up his horse and traveled by sleigh to Kingston, Canada, to find his elder brother Joseph, then a preacher in the Methodist Church. On meeting his brother, Brigham related what he had learned of the restoration, and Joseph rejoiced at hearing the glad tidings. Together they returned to Mendon where they arrived in March 1832.
On April 6, 1832, Joseph Young was baptized. Eight days later, after almost two years of investigating the Church, on the 14th of April, Brigham was baptized and confirmed at the water’s edge. He was ordained almost immediately an elder in the Church. One week after his baptism, Brigham gave his first sermon. He declared “[After I was baptized] I wanted to thunder and roar out the Gospel to the nations. It burned in my bones like fire pent up, so I [commenced] to preach. . . . Nothing would satisfy me but to cry abroad in the world, what the Lord was doing in the latter days” (JD, 1:313). During the summer of 1832 he preached in Mendon and vicinity and assisted in raising up several branches of the Church. On September 8, 1832, his wife died of “consumption” leaving him with two small children, both girls. Brigham felt the impulse to “cry abroad” so strongly that he enlisted the assistance of Vilate and Heber C. Kimball to care for his daughters and abandoned his trade to devote himself wholeheartedly to building the “kingdom of God.” That fall, after Miriam’s death, he, Heber Kimball, and several relatives traveled to Kirtland, Ohio, where he first met the twenty-six-year-old Prophet Joseph Smith. Invited to evening prayer in the Smith home, Brigham was moved by the Spirit and spoke in tongues, the first speaking in tongues witnessed by the Prophet.
Heber C. Kimball
Born June 14, 1801, he was almost the exact same age as Brigham Young and four and one-half years older than the Prophet. His parents were American born, but of Scotch extraction. At age nineteen he was apprenticed to his elder brother Charles to learn the potter’s trade. He worked two years as an apprentice, then worked for his brother as a journeyman potter. Both he and his brother moved to Mendon, New York, where the latter established a pottery. While there, Heber married Vilate Murray and joined the Baptist Church. In the fall of 1831, he heard missionaries of the Church preach in company with Brigham Young. Then followed the visit to the branch of the Church in Columbia, Pennsylvania, mentioned in the Character Vignette on Brigham Young. After his return from Columbia, he was baptized on April 15, 1832. During the summer of 1832, he was ordained an elder, and with Joseph, Phineas, and Brigham Young, he succeeded in raising up several small branches of the Church. In September 1832, he made the journey to Kirtland spoken of in the aforementioned vignette.
Brief Historical Setting
Shortly after arriving in Far West, Joseph received a revelation answering some questions that had arisen relative to certain verses in the book of Isaiah [D&C 113 Book of Isaiah].
- Michael J. Preece