Section 124: Nauvoo
Section 124 is the longest revelation in the Doctrine and Covenants. It was received January 19, 1841, in Nauvoo, nearly two years after the Prophet and his associates were allowed to escape from custody in Missouri and join the saints in Illinois. It contains the Lord’s instructions concerning Nauvoo. Some of these instructions are concerned with rather mundane matters, and a few with more lofty and inspirational topics.
The most recent previous revelation prior to Section 124 was received in March of 1839 in Liberty Jail. Never in the early church history had such a hiatus occurred between the canonical revelations received by Joseph! What had happened in the almost two years since Joseph and the others were allowed to escape captivity in Missouri?
For the following historical review, I will draw from B. H. Roberts’ A Comprehensive History of the Church (volume 2, 1-16). Some of this material will be quoted, and some edited for our use.
As the saints made their exodus from Missouri in the winter and spring of 183839, many settled in Quincy, Illinois on the eastern bank of the Mississippi River. A kindly reception was given the Mormon exiles by the people of Quincy. Expressions of sympathy and material aid were provided the saints; not only by those in Quincy, but also by many throughout the state including Governor Carlin. It would be unfair to detract from the warm welcome given the exiles on their arrival in Illinois, but the political leaders of Illinois doubtless realized the potential benefit to the state of twelve to fifteen thousand industrious and hard-working people as a needed labor force. And, should they be recruited into one political party or another, they formed a potential source of increased voting power.
A Doctor Isaac Galland lived in Commerce, Illinois, a small settlement fifty miles north of Quincy, also on the eastern shore of the Mississippi. He owned considerable land in Commerce and the surrounding vicinity. He wrote to the Church in Quincy and offered some farm land in Commerce for rent in case the saints wished to settle there.
Joseph Smith arrived in Quincy on April 22, 1839. Two days later, a conference was held and a committee appointed to select a place for the gathering of the exiled saints. On May 1, the committee purchased a farm in Commerce from Dr. Galland for nine thousand dollars and another smaller farm in Commerce for five thousand dollars from Hugh White.
Joseph later described the area of Commerce as it appeared in May 1839:
The place was literally a wilderness. The land was mostly covered with trees and bushes, and much of it was so wet that it was with the utmost difficulty that a footman could get through, and totally impossible for teams. Commerce was unhealthy, very few could live there; but believing that it might become a healthy place by the blessing of heaven to the saints, and not a more eligible place presenting itself, I considered it wisdom to make an attempt to build a city (B.H. Roberts, CHC 2:9).
Additional lands were soon purchased in Commerce from Dr. Galland and others. The terms on which Dr. Galland allowed the saints to buy land were very favorable. He sold at a reasonable price, and he provided long-term credit. He joined the Church on July 3, 1840. He later left the Church and died a nonmember. Isaac Galland’s true motives in his dealings with the Mormons have since been questioned. Conventional wisdom has it that though he seemed to be an altruistic benefactor, he turned out to be a promoter who sold lands he didn’t own and a swindler who made off with some of the church’s funds. Lyndon W. Cook has questioned these conclusions and has pointed out that Galland was never actually reprimanded by the Church for being a swindler or a thief. Brother Cook concluded:
While some questions regarding Isaac Galland’s Mormon-related activities remain unanswered, research confirms that Dr. Isaac Galland was clearly a Mormon benefactor. His correspondence with political leaders and his extensive landholdings combined in assisting the saints to gather again. Joseph Smith declared that the distinguished Dr. Galland was the “instrument of the Lord” in providing a place of refuge for the homeless, persecuted saints. Although his primary motivation for aiding the saints appears to have been financial gain, it is quite possible that without Isaac Galland there might never have been a Nauvoo (“Isaac Galland – Mormon Benefactor,” BYU Studies 19:3 ).
Some lands were also purchased in Iowa just across the Mississippi River from Commerce. The name Commerce was changed by Joseph to “Nauvoo,” a word apparently of Hebrew derivation which means “beautiful location,” carrying with it also the idea of “rest.”
During the spring and summer of 1839, the saints continued to gather at Nauvoo. Nauvoo was a swampy, mosquito-infested area, and by July of 1839 a malaria epidemic had swept through the saints. Many of the saints became infected, including the Prophet. On the morning of July 22, Joseph’s house was crowded with unwell saints whom he was trying to nurse back to health. In his house and yard were many saints camped in tents, many of whom were prostrate with the fever of malaria. While Joseph prayerfully considered the sorry plight of the saints, the Spirit of God rested upon him, and he was immediately healed. He arose from his sick bed and began to administer to the sick in his house and yard—all of whom immediately recovered. He then went from house to house healing the faithful. In company with some other brethren, he then crossed the river to Montrose and healed the saints who had settled on the Church-owned lands there, including Wilford Woodruff, Brigham Young, Orson Pratt, and John Taylor.
One remarkable anecdote is told of Joseph’s healing mission. A Brother Elijah Fordham was affected by the illness to the point of being semiconscious and apparently moribund. “Bending over him, the Prophet asked the dying man if he knew him, and believed him to be a servant of God. In a whisper, Brother Fordham replied that he did. Joseph then took him by the hand, and with an energy that would have awakened the dead, he commanded him in the name of Jesus Christ to arise from his bed and walk. Brother Fordham leaped from his bed, removed the bandages and mustard plasters from his feet, dressed himself, ate a bowl of bread and milk, and accompanied the brethren to the other houses on their mission of love” (B.H. Roberts, CHC 2:19).
In the fall of 1839, the Church in Nauvoo began to print the Times and Seasons, the fourth major periodical begun by the Church. The previous three were The Evening and Morning Star in Independence, the Messenger and Advocate in Kirtland, and the Elders’ Journal in Far West. The editor of the Times and Seasons was the Prophet’s brother, Don Carlos Smith, who served in that capacity until his premature death in August 1841 at the age of 25.
In late October 1839, Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon, Elias Higbee, and Orrin P. Rockwell (the latter was the horse team driver) left Nauvoo for Washington, D.C., to appeal to President Martin Van Buren, seeking redress for the wrongs done the saints in Missouri. En route, Joseph’s company passed through Springfield, the capital of Illinois. While there, they met a few men who would later become prominent in church affairs. Dr. Robert D. Foster was consulted regarding Sidney Rigdon who was ill. Dr. Foster accompanied the party for several days to provide Sidney with medical attention. William Law was a convert to the Church who was passing through Springfield while leading a small company of saints from Canada to Nauvoo. While in Springfield, Joseph stayed in the home of Judge James Adams who treated the Prophet with kindness and became a staunch and reliable friend during the remainder of Joseph’s lifetime.
Sidney Rigdon became so weak during the journey that it became necessary to leave him near Columbus, Ohio, and Orrin P. Rockwell and Dr. Foster remained with him. Joseph and Elias Higbee arrived in Washington on November 28.
An incident occurred as the party approached Washington which borders on the romantic. The coachman stopped his horses in front of one of the many public houses they passed en route, to get his grog. While he was still in the public house, the horses took fright and dashed down the road at break-neck speed. The passengers, as might be expected, became terror-stricken, and one woman in her excitement tried to throw her babe out of the window. She was prevented, however, by Joseph Smith, who calmed her fears and persuaded the rest of the passengers to keep their seats. He then opened the door of the coach and succeeded in climbing up the side of the vehicle to the driver’s seat. Gathering up the reins, he stopped the horses before any accident occurred either to coach or passengers.
Needless to say, the Prophet’s heroism drew from his fellow passengers their warmest expressions of admiration and gratitude. No terms were sufficiently strong to convey their admiration of his daring. Among the passengers were several members of congress who proposed mentioning the incident to congress, for they believed that body would reward his conduct by some public act. With this object in view they asked for his name and were dumbfounded to learn that they had been saved from their imminent peril by the courage of the “Mormon Prophet.” After that, the profusion of thanks and admiration was stayed, “and,” said the Prophet, “I heard no more of their praise, gratitude or reward” ( Roberts, CHC 2:19-30).
The delegation called upon President Van Buren who treated them insolently, and their presence seemed an annoyance to him. He acknowledged the rightness of their cause but refused to help. He said, “Gentlemen, your cause is just, but I can do nothing for you. If I take up for you, I shall lose the vote of Missouri.”
Petitions were also filed with a senate committee asking them to investigate the situation. Joseph and Brother Higbee held public meetings in both Philadelphia and Washington in which they delivered the gospel message. Brother Higbee was left in Washington to look after the petitions before the senate committee. These, predictably, came to naught. Joseph returned to Nauvoo in March of 1840.
At the April 1840 conference of the Church, two apostles, Orson Hyde and John E. Page, were called on a mission to the Jews in large cities of Europe and other places, including London, Amsterdam, Constantinople, and Jerusalem. They left in mid-April but lingered in the eastern states until January 1841. They were then sharply reproved and told “to hasten their journey towards their destination” (HC, 4:274). By then, Elder Page had lost the spirit and was not inclined to fulfill his mission. Orson Hyde, however, set sail at once for Europe. He reached Jerusalem in October, and on Sunday morning, October 24, 1841, on the Mount of Olives, he dedicated Palestine for the return of the Jews. After traveling for more than a year in Europe and completing his mission, he returned to Nauvoo, arriving there in December of 1842.
The summer of 1840 saw death reap a rich harvest among the early stalwart members of the Church. Bishop Edward Partridge died in May at the age of 45. Because of trials and persecutions in Jackson and Caldwell Counties, he had lost his earthly possessions, and his health was broken as well. He lived to see Illinois and Nauvoo but was never in robust health following the persecutions in Missouri. The Prophet’s father, Joseph Smith, Sr., died in September of 1840. The eulogy at his funeral service was preached by a talented young man with unusual writing ability, Robert B. Thompson, whose own untimely death occurred about a year later in August 1841.
In September of 1840, John Cook Bennett came to Nauvoo. He was a strikingly handsome, talented, sophisticated, and well-educated individual who was a practicing physician and a high ranking officer in the militia of the state of Illinois. He quickly found favor with Joseph, who saw in him great potential, and he was moved into the inner circles of influence in the city and in the Church. He had connections at the Illinois state capital and was instrumental in obtaining charters for the city of Nauvoo, the University of Nauvoo, and the Nauvoo Legion. He was elected mayor of Nauvoo, chancellor of the University of Nauvoo, and major general of the Nauvoo Legion. He was ordained an “assistant president” of the Church in April 1841 (probably a temporary counselor of sorts). This position was to be temporary until Sidney Rigdon recovered from an illness.
Bennett’s meteoric rise in power and influence was followed by a fall just as dramatic. In the summer of 1841, it was learned that this self-proclaimed bachelor had an estranged wife and children in Ohio. When confronted with this information, Bennett confessed, made a great show of contrition, and was allowed to remain in fellowship. He apparently had learned something of the doctrine of polygamy, then being taught by the Prophet to a few intimate friends. He began using his position, his reputation, and his personal magnetism to proposition and seduce several women in Nauvoo, both married and unmarried, under the guise of practicing the new marriage covenant— “spiritual marriage” he called it. He was found out, and many of the women whom he had seduced testified against him. He was excommunicated in May of 1842, and almost immediately published a series of letters in a Springfield, Illinois, newspaper in which he claimed to have been coerced into confessing to his misdeeds. He accused Joseph of being a lascivious, power-mad charlatan. These letters caused a sensation around the state and were picked up by other newspapers. They were even published as a book, The History of the Saints, or, An Expose’ of Joe Smith and Mormonism. His determined articulate opposition to the Church, both in print and in lectures throughout the country, helped eventually to bring about the destruction of Nauvoo and the Prophet Joseph.
In the summer of 1840, the state of Missouri renewed its attacks upon the Church. Some Missourians tried to discredit the saints by conveying stolen goods from Missouri to the vicinity of Commerce. When these goods were found, they hoped that suspicion might rest upon the people in whose neighborhood the stolen objects were discovered. Also a group of Missourians kidnapped four Mormon men near Quincy and dragged them back to Missouri. The four were threatened, abused, tormented, and then released. When the Illinois Governor Carlin was approached to assist in obtaining redress for this kidnapping, he made some pretensions in the direction of assisting the saints, but nothing came of it. The Illinois governor’s regard for the saints, though he had initially received them warmly, was beginning to cool.
Shortly thereafter, Governor Carlin agreed to Governor Boggs’ request to extradite Joseph Smith and others back to Missouri, charging them with being fugitives from justice. When the Missouri sheriff traveled to Nauvoo with his extradition order, Joseph and the other brethren were “not at home” and “could not be found,” so the sheriff returned empty handed.
A charter was granted to the city of Nauvoo by the Illinois legislature in December of 1840. The charter gave the saints full powers to govern themselves, restricting them only in that they could do nothing inconsistent with the Constitution of the United States or the constitution of Illinois. On February 1, 1841, John C. Bennett was elected the first mayor of Nauvoo.
The Nauvoo charter also contained two other specific charters: one for the establishment of a university in Nauvoo, and another for the organization of an independent military body to be called the “Nauvoo Legion.” The “Legion” was to have a commanding officer known as the lieutenant-general and a second officer, the major-general. In February 1841, when the Legion was actually organized, Joseph Smith and John C. Bennett were chosen to fill these two offices respectively. By September there were almost fifteen hundred men in the Legion, and at the time of the Prophet’s death in June 1844, the Legion numbered about five thousand. The men of the Legion shared an enthusiasm for military display, and since they were drilled by competent military officers, the Legion became the best body of militia in the state of Illinois. The Nauvoo Legion excited the jealousy and envy of the rest of the militia in the surrounding counties. The laudable efforts of the Legion to become an efficient military body for the purpose of assisting in the execution of state and national laws were construed by their enemies to mean a preparation for rebellion. Some in Illinois began to fear the spread of Mormonism by conquest of the sword. Hence, that which was intended to offer protection to the saints and support the state was interpreted as a threat to many in Illinois.
Section 124 was received shortly after the governor of Illinois signed the charter for the city of Nauvoo along with several other charters, including one for the University of Nauvoo. This revelation became something of a blueprint for the development of Nauvoo and the Church for the rest of Joseph Smith’s life.
The principal items addressed in section 124 are the proclamation to the king and rulers of the earth, sending the gospel to all nations (verses 1-14), the construction of the Nauvoo House (verses 22-25, 56-83), the construction of the Nauvoo Temple (verses 26-28), the priesthood ordinances to be performed in the temple (verses 29-44), and the organization of the priesthood quorums (verses 123-145). The Prophet recorded no background information about this revelation.
D&C 124 Nauvoo
D&C 124:49 It behooveth me to require that work no more at the hands of those sons of men.
1 Verily, thus saith the Lord unto you, my servant Joseph Smith, I am well pleased with your offering and acknowledgments, which you have made; for unto this end have I raised you up, that I might show forth my wisdom through the weak things of the earth.
verse 1 “for unto this end have I raised you up” The Lord reiterates the role of the prophet Joseph. In this isolated little community, obscure to most of the world, the reminder is given that Joseph Smith as one of the weak things of the earth has been raised up to show forth the wisdom of God. The Lord earlier revealed that Joseph Smith and his associates though “unlearned and despised” would, through the restoration of the fulness of the gospel, “break down the mighty and strong ones” of this world and “thrash the nations by the power of [his] Spirit” (D&C 1:17-19; 35:12-14).
verses 2-14 In these verses, Joseph is called to write a proclamation to all the world—to kings, queens, presidents, rulers, and governors, announcing that the gospel is upon the earth and warning them to “give heed to the light and glory in Zion.”
Robert B. Thompson is called in verse 12 to help write this proclamation. He died only seven months after this revelation was received and did not ever work on this proclamation. John C. Bennett, who was called to assist in the promulgation of the gospel, fell into apostasy. Joseph was burdened by many responsibilities and problems in Nauvoo and also never had a chance to write this letter. The Prophet worried over his failure to complete this project until the time of his death. At one point, W. W. Phelps was asked to write the proclamation. He finished twenty-two pages and took them to Joseph for approval. Joseph said in effect, “Not bad, but continue to work on it.” We still have these twenty-two pages in the church historian’s office. Joseph never saw the fulfillment of this commandment.
A year after Joseph’s martyrdom, Parley P. Pratt was directed by the Twelve to compose such a proclamation which was published in New York on April 6, 1845. That this Proclamation of the Twelve Apostles was published in fulfillment of the revelation is made clear by Wilford Woodruff in the Millennial Star of October 15, 1845. On October 3, 1975, Elder Ezra Taft Benson, then president of the Quorum of the Twelve, referred to this proclamation and read portions of it in a general conference address. At the 150th annual general conference of the Church, in April 1980, Elder Gordon B. Hinckley read another such proclamation from the reconstructed Peter Whitmer, Sr., farm house—the site of the organization of the Church.
2 Your prayers are acceptable before me; and in answer to them I say unto you, that you are now called immediately to make a solemn proclamation of my gospel, and of this stake which I have planted to be a cornerstone of Zion, which shall be polished with the refinement which is after the similitude of a palace.
3 This proclamation shall be made to all the kings of the world, to the four corners thereof, to the honorable president-elect, and the high-minded governors of the nation in which you live, and to all the nations of the earth scattered abroad.
4 Let it be written in the spirit of meekness and by the power of the Holy Ghost, which shall be in you at the time of the writing of the same;
5 For it shall be given you by the Holy Ghost to know my will concerning those kings and authorities, even what shall befall them in a time to come.
verse 5 “what shall befall them in a time to come” Throughout biblical history, the prophets of God were told what would happen to the nations that they served. Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, and others prophesied warnings concerning the downfall of the nations if they did not return to the God of Israel. Latter-day prophets have the same authority and mandate. The Lord informs Joseph in verse 7 not to fear the rulers of the world, for they were as grass and flowers before the Lord. If they did not respond to the proclamation, they would soon fall.
6 For, behold, I am about to call upon them to give heed to the light and glory of Zion, for the set time has come to favor her.
verse 6 “for the set time has come to favor her” The antecedent of the pronoun her seems to be Zion in verse 2 and in this verse. In D&C 64:32, the Lord declared “all things must come to pass in their time.” Elder Dallin H. Oaks declared: “During his lifetime the Lord instructed the Twelve Apostles not to preach to the Gentiles but ‘rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel’ (Matthew 10:5-6; see also 15:22-26). Then, at the appropriate time, this instruction was reversed in a great revelation to the apostle Peter. Only then, at the precise time dictated by the Lord, was the gospel taken to the Gentiles (see Acts 10). Elder Oaks continued:
As this example shows, continuing revelation is the means by which the Lord administers his timing. We need that revelatory direction. For example, many of us or our descendants will doubtless participate in the fulfillment of prophecies about the building of the city of New Jerusalem (see D&C 84:2-4). But in this matter the timing is the Lord’s, not ours. We will not be approved or blessed in clearing the ground or pouring the footings for that great project until the Lord has said that it is time. In this, as in so many other things, the Lord will proceed in his own time and in his own way” (“Timing,” Devotional Address delivered at BYU January 29, 2002, 2).
7 Call ye, therefore, upon them with loud proclamation, and with your testimony, fearing them not, for they are as grass, and all their glory as the flower thereof which soon falleth, that they may be left also without excuse—
8 And that I may visit them in the day of visitation, when I shall unveil the face of my covering, to appoint the portion of the oppressor among hypocrites, where there is gnashing of teeth, if they reject my servants and my testimony which I have revealed unto them.
9 And again, I will visit and soften their hearts, many of them for your good, that ye may find grace in their eyes, that they may come to the light of truth, and the Gentiles to the exaltation or lifting up of Zion.
verse 9 “I will visit and soften their hearts, many of them for your good”
The Quorum of the Twelve was establishing the Church in the British Isles at the time this revelation was received. The time would soon come when the gospel message would be taken to the nations of Europe and elsewhere. Many from these nations would flow into Nauvoo and later the Utah Territory to strengthen and build up the Church in fulfillment of this promise.
10 For the day of my visitation cometh speedily, in an hour when ye think not of; and where shall be the safety of my people, and refuge for those who shall be left of them?
11 Awake, O kings of the earth! Come ye, O, come ye, with your gold and your silver, to the help of my people, to the house of the daughters of Zion.
12 And again, verily I say unto you, let my servant Robert B. Thompson help you to write this proclamation, for I am well pleased with him, and that he should be with you;
verse 12 “Robert B. Thompson” As mentioned in the introductory comments for this section, Brother Thompson’s death in August 1841 prevented his assisting in preparing the proclamation.
13 Let him, therefore, hearken to your counsel, and I will bless him with a multiplicity of blessings; let him be faithful and true in all things from henceforth, and he shall be great in mine eyes;
14 But let him remember that his stewardship will I require at his hands.
15 And again, verily I say unto you, blessed is my servant Hyrum Smith; for I, the Lord, love him because of the integrity of his heart, and because he loveth that which is right before me, saith the Lord.
verse 15 “Hyrum Smith” Here was a man whom the Lord loved. Once he came to know that his brother, Joseph, was a prophet of God, he did not waver in his support. He was with Joseph throughout the trials in Kirtland, Missouri, Illinois, and Carthage. He truly stood as the second witness of the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ. President Heber J. Grant made this observation of Hyrum’s qualities: “No mortal man who ever lived in this Church desired more to do good than did Hyrum Smith, the patriarch. I have it from the lips of my own sainted mother that of all the men she was acquainted with in her girlhood days in Nauvoo, she admired Hyrum Smith most for his absolute integrity and devotion to God, and loyalty to the prophet Joseph” (CR, October 1920, 84).
16 Again, let my servant John C. Bennett help you in your labor in sending my word to the kings and people of the earth, and stand by you, even you my servant Joseph Smith, in the hour of affliction; and his reward shall not fail if he receive counsel.
17 And for his love he shall be great, for he shall be mine if he do this, saith the Lord. I have seen the work which he hath done, which I accept if he continue, and will crown him with blessings and great glory.
verses 16-17 “John C. Bennett” John C. Bennett is promised blessings from the Lord. Many have been critical of Joseph and his ready acceptance of Bennett into the leadership of the Church. Wouldn’t we expect Joseph to have been more discerning? With the Lord’s inspiration, shouldn’t Joseph have been able to recognize that Bennett was a fraud and a scoundrel?
Apparently the Lord and Joseph did recognize genuine potential in him. Note that the promise of blessings was contingent upon the “ifs” in verses 16 and 17: “if he receive counsel” and “if he continue.” He did neither, and his blessings were lost.
18 And again, I say unto you that it is my will that my servant Lyman Wight should continue in preaching for Zion, in the spirit of meekness, confessing me before the world; and I will bear him up as on eagles’ wings; and he shall beget glory and honor to himself and unto my name.
verse 18 “Lyman Wight” Similarly, Lyman Wight, who is promised a great blessing in this verse, was faithful for a time and was even called to the apostleship. He later rejected the leadership of the Twelve and published a pamphlet in 1848 repudiating their authority. He was excommunicated in December 1848.
19 That when he shall finish his work I may receive him unto myself, even as I did my servant David Patten, who is with me at this time, and also my servant Edward Partridge, and also my aged servant Joseph Smith, Sen., who sitteth with Abraham at his right hand, and blessed and holy is he, for he is mine.
verse 19 “David Patten . . . Edward Partridge . . . Joseph Smith, Sen.” All of the brethren mentioned here are deceased. David Patten died on October 25, 1838, at Crooked River, Missouri, Bishop Edward Partridge died in Nauvoo on December 27, 1840, and Father Smith died in Nauvoo on September 14, 1840. This verse implies that each has had his “calling and election made sure.”
20 And again, verily I say unto you, my servant George Miller is without guile; he may be trusted because of the integrity of his heart; and for the love which he has to my testimony I, the Lord, love him.
verse 20 “George Miller” Here the Lord describes George Miller as a man “without guile,” one who could be trusted because of his integrity. Later, however, George Miller changed. He became an important figure in Nauvoo, serving as trusteein-trust for the Church and a bishop, “like unto” Bishop Partridge (verse 21). He also supervised the obtaining of timber from Wisconsin for the building of the temple in Nauvoo. He served with the saints after the death of Joseph and Hyrum and traveled with them to Winter Quarters. There he rejected the leadership of Brigham Young in 1847 and was excommunicated from the Church on December 3, 1848. He journeyed to Texas and joined with Lyman Wight and other apostates. He soon became dissatisfied with Wight and moved to Michigan, joining with James J. Strang. He served several missions for the Strangite movement, including a mission to Texas in a failed effort to reclaim Wight for the Strangites. After Strang’s death, Miller proceeded toward California but died en route, in Meringo, Illinois, in 1856.
21 I therefore say unto you, I seal upon his head the office of a bishopric, like unto my servant Edward Partridge, that he may receive the consecrations of mine house, that he may administer blessings upon the heads of the poor of my people, saith the Lord. Let no man despise my servant George, for he shall honor me.
verse 21 George Miller is called to be bishop of the Church.
22 Let my servant George, and my servant Lyman, and my servant John Snider, and others, build a house unto my name, such a one as my servant Joseph shall show unto them, upon the place which he shall show unto them also. 23 And it shall be for a house for boarding, a house that strangers may come from afar to lodge therein; therefore let it be a good house, worthy of all acceptation, that the weary traveler may find health and safety while he shall contemplate the word of the Lord; and the corner-stone I have appointed for Zion. 24 This house shall be a healthful habitation if it be built unto my name, and if the governor which shall be appointed unto it shall not suffer any pollution to come upon it. It shall be holy, or the Lord your God will not dwell therein.
verses 22-24, 56-83, 111-122 “build a house unto my name” A major item in section 124 is the instruction given for building the “Nauvoo House”—a hotel or boarding house in Nauvoo. Isn’t it odd that something as mundane as the plans for a hotel would be received by revelation? It may be better understood once one realizes the important role this hotel was intended to play in the Lord’s work. The sacred nature of the Nauvoo House is made clear as one reads these verses. Note: “Build a house unto my name,” “my boarding house,” and “Let my name be upon it.” Finally, “It shall be holy, or the Lord your God will not dwell therein.”
The purpose of the hotel is made clear as we recall the command given to Joseph to make a proclamation of the restored gospel to kings and rulers the world over (verses 2-14). The Lord indicated that the hearts of many of them would be softened. The Lord challenged them in verse 11: “Awake, O kings of the earth! Come ye, O, come ye, with your gold and your silver, to the help of my people, to the house of the daughters of Zion.” A place had to be provided to receive such visitors: “And let it be a delightful habitation for man, and a resting place for the weary traveler, that he may contemplate the glory of Zion, and the glory of this, the cornerstone thereof.” With its position on a bend in the Mississippi River, the Nauvoo House would be a place where “strangers” from afar could lodge and where the “weary traveler may find health and safety while he shall contemplate the word of the Lord” (verse 23).
To pay for the cost of the house, plans were made to sell shares of stock to finance the construction of the building. Joseph Smith donated the land on which the house was to be built, and in return he and his descendants were to receive rooms in the hotel for their use.
The house was also to serve as a place where visitors to the city might receive counsel from those whom the Lord designated as “plants of renown” and as “watchmen upon her walls.” The Nauvoo House was an integral part of the long range plan for the gathering place of the Church. Joseph continually urged the saints to complete construction of the Nauvoo House. Verses 60-82 command several brethren to purchase stock in this house. The building was started in the fall of 1841, but progress was slow, and the house, as originally planned, was never completed. The labors of the saints focused on the temple, and at first, funding was not available for the house. After the Prophet’s death, the deed of the Nauvoo House was transferred to Emma Smith. By 1846 the walls reached the level of the second floor. After Emma married Lewis Bidamon, he used part of the uncompleted building to build a two-story home, known as the Riverside Mansion, on the southwest corner of the lot. The home built and lived in by Lewis Bidamon and Emma Smith Bidamon still stands and is owned by the Community of Christ Church (formerly Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints).
Joseph Smith put a copy of the manuscript of the Book of Mormon in the cornerstone of the Nauvoo House in 1841. It was recovered by Lewis Bidamon, who gave pages of this manuscript to visitors in Nauvoo. The bodies of Joseph and Hyrum were buried under the Nauvoo House when they were brought from Carthage. They were later removed and buried in what is now the family cemetery across the street.
verses 25-48, 55 The Kirtland Temple had never been intended as a place for the performance of endowment ceremonies or for the performance of ordinances for the dead. In the Kirtland Temple were given only the introductory or initiatory ordinances preparatory to the endowment. These verses contain instructions for building the temple in Nauvoo. It was in the Nauvoo Temple that the endowment ordinance and the ordinances for the dead were to be performed.
The temple was started in February 1841. On April 6, 1841, the cornerstone was laid. Work continued on the different levels of the temple. After the baptismal font was completed, the first baptisms for the dead were performed on November 21, 1841. As other areas of the temple were completed, initiatory and endowment work was performed. Perhaps sensing that he would not live to see the completion of the Nauvoo Temple, Joseph began on May 4, 1842, to administer and teach the endowment and other ordinances that had been revealed to him. These were administered in the upper part of Joseph’s red brick store. After the Prophet’s death on June 27, 1844, the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles continued to direct the work on the temple until it was completed.
Even before section 124 was received, the First Presidency had sent word to the saints the world over, declaring that the time had come to gather to Nauvoo to make the necessary sacrifices to build a temple (HC, 4:186). In 1843 Joseph taught the meaning of the principle of “gathering” as follows: What was the object of gathering the Jews, or the people of God in any age of the world? . . . the main object was to build unto the Lord a house whereby he could reveal unto his people the ordinances of his house” (HC, 5:423). The Lord intended to gather a chosen people at Nauvoo and make them a covenant people through the ordinances of the temple.
After a brief lull following the martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum, pressure intensified upon the saints to leave Nauvoo. The pressure drove Brigham Young to give the temple construction top priority. He was anxious to see the saints strengthened spiritually by the temple ordinances. Despite preparations to leave the city, the saints redoubled their work on the temple. On December 10, 1845, the first endowment ordinances were begun in the attic story, and during the next eight weeks, before the temple closed on February 8, 1846, nearly 5,600 members received their endowments (Lyndon W. Cook, The Revelations of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 250).
A crew of workers remained behind in Nauvoo to complete the construction of the temple after the other saints had left. Orson Hyde, representing the Twelve, was left to oversee the work. Finally on April 30, 1846, the work was finished, and Wilford Woodruff and Orson Hyde and several other elders, during a small private service (to avoid possible mob violence) met and dedicated the temple. It was later dedicated publicly on May 1-3, 1846.
Their offering was acceptable to God, and the workmen joined the remainder of the saints in Iowa.
George A. Smith tersely summarized the Nauvoo Temple experience as follows: “We went to work in Nauvoo and finished the temple, and had no sooner got it done but we had to leave it to be burned by our enemies” (HC, 4:454).
After the saints fled from Nauvoo, the temple was desecrated by mobs and set on fire on November 18, 1848. All that remained were the walls, three of which fell or were weakened by a tornado on May 27, 1850. It had served its purpose—that of introducing sacred temple work for the dead as well as for the living. A new temple was dedicated in June 2002 on the very spot where the original once stood overlooking the Mississippi River. It stands as a monument to the great faith and sacrifice of the early saints.
25 And again, verily I say unto you, let all my saints come from afar.
verse 25 “let all my saints come from afar” This was a command for the saints to move to Nauvoo. It was the intent of the Lord that the Saints build not only a city but also a temple, and the gathering was critical for that purpose.
26 And send ye swift messengers, yea, chosen messengers, and say unto them: Come ye, with all your gold, and your silver, and your precious stones, and with all your antiquities; and with all who have knowledge of antiquities, that will come, may come, and bring the box-tree, and the fir-tree, and the pine-tree, together with all the precious trees of the earth;
27 And with iron, with copper, and with brass, and with zinc, and with all your precious things of the earth; and build a house to my name, for the Most High to dwell therein.
verse 27 “build a house to my name, for the Most High to dwell therein” This statement was a command to build a temple in Nauvoo, the fifth of the temples the Lord had commanded to be built. Kirtland, Independence, Far West, and Adam-ondi-Ahman were the sites of the other temples, but only the Kirtland Temple had been completed. In verses 26-48 the saints were commanded to transport wood and metal to Nauvoo to be used as building materials for the temple (see verses 26-27). This commandment was fulfilled when the Prophet sent men up the Mississippi River to Wisconsin for timber. Stone was quarried at Nauvoo. Many of the workers on the temple were craftsmen who had immigrated to Nauvoo from the East and from Great Britain.
28 For there is not a place found on earth that he may come to and restore again that which was lost unto you, or which he hath taken away, even the fulness of the priesthood.
verse 28 “not a place found on earth that he may come to and restore again that which was lost” The highest ordinances of the priesthood are only performed in temples. Thus the saints may have the benefit of the “fulness of the priesthood” only when a temple is functioning. The Lord also states in this verse that the temple is necessary so that he will have a place in which to restore “that which was lost.” Since the priesthood and its keys had been restored already, the “fulness of the priesthood” can only result from the endowment, celestial marriage, and the sealing of families.
29 For a baptismal font there is not upon the earth, that they, my saints, may be baptized for those who are dead—
verse 29 “baptismal font” This is the first mention of baptism for the dead in the Doctrine and Covenants. President Joseph Fielding Smith wrote:
So important did the Lord consider baptisms for the dead that he authorized the saints to be baptized for their dead in the Mississippi River, until a place could be provided in his house for this purpose. He further said he would give them sufficient time to build such a house, and while they were doing so, their baptisms for their dead would be acceptable to him if performed in the river, but after a place was prepared, then all baptisms for the dead in the river must cease, for this ordinance as well as other ordinances for the dead properly belongs to the house of the Lord. This revelation was given January 19, 1841, and from that time until the October conference of the Church in 1841, the baptisms in the river were accepted. At the conference in October, the Prophet announced that the time had come to discontinue that practice, and from that time forth baptisms for the dead must be performed in the temple. Though the temple was not finished at that time, it had in the six months progressed far enough so that the basement could be enclosed, and in the basement a font had been build and dedicated, so that early in November, 1841, under the direction of the Prophet Joseph, baptisms for the dead commenced in the house of the Lord (Church History and Modern Revelation, 4:8).
30 For this ordinance belongeth to my house, and cannot be acceptable to me, only in the days of your poverty, wherein ye are not able to build a house unto me.
31 But I command you, all ye my saints, to build a house unto me; and I grant unto you a sufficient time to build a house unto me; and during this time your baptisms shall be acceptable unto me.
32 But behold, at the end of this appointment your baptisms for your dead shall not be acceptable unto me; and if you do not these things at the end of the appointment ye shall be rejected as a church, with your dead, saith the Lord your God.
verse 32 The Community of Christ Church (formerly the RLDS Church) uses verse 32 to justify their failure to do baptisms for the dead. They claim that the temple was never finished in time, and that the Lord has rejected the ordinance of baptism for the dead.
33 For verily I say unto you, that after you have had sufficient time to build a house to me, wherein the ordinance of baptizing for the dead belongeth, and for which the same was instituted from before the foundation of the world, your baptisms for your dead cannot be acceptable unto me;
34 For therein are the keys of the holy priesthood ordained, that you may receive honor and glory.
verse 34 The Lord indicated that one of the reasons for building the temple was to have a place where he could restore the “fulness of the priesthood” (see verse 28). He promised that he would show Joseph Smith all things pertaining to the priesthood (see verse 42). In the temple are used the keys of the holy priesthood, which bring honor and glory to the saints in the Father’s kingdom.
35 And after this time, your baptisms for the dead, by those who are scattered abroad, are not acceptable unto me, saith the Lord.
36 For it is ordained that in Zion, and in her stakes, and in Jerusalem, those places which I have appointed for refuge, shall be the places for your baptisms for your dead.
verse 36 The wording of this verse is very intriguing. First, it informs the saints that the Nauvoo Temple would not be the only one built. Others would be built in the stakes of Zion. Today, that prophecy is being fulfilled as temples are being built throughout the world. Second, Jerusalem is identified as a place where there will eventually be built a temple of the Lord. Doesn’t it seem a bit far fetched that the Church will some day be able to build a temple in Jerusalem? Would the Jews there, who espouse their own cause of Zionism, ever allow that? As to who exactly will build this temple and by what authority they will do so, Elder Bruce R. McConkie said:
By what power and under whose authorization shall the work be done? There is only one place under the whole heaven where the keys of temple building are found. There is only one people who know how to build temples and what to do in them when they are completed. That people is the Latter-day Saints. The temple in Jerusalem will not be built by Jews who have assembled there for political purposes as at present. It will not be built by a people who know nothing whatsoever about the sealing ordinances and their application to the living and the dead. It will not be built by those who know nothing about Christ and his laws and the mysteries reserved for the saints. But it will be built by Jews who have come unto Christ, who once again are in the true fold of their ancient Shepherd, and who have learned anew about temples because they know that Elijah did come, not to sit in a vacant chair at some Jewish feast of the Passover, but to the Kirtland Temple on April 3, 1836, to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery. The temple in Jerusalem will be built by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (The Millennial Messiah, 279-80).
37 And again, verily I say unto you, how shall your washings be acceptable unto me, except ye perform them in a house which you have built to my name?
38 For, for this cause I commanded Moses that he should build a tabernacle, that they should bear it with them in the wilderness, and to build a house in the land of promise, that those ordinances might be revealed which had been hid from before the world was.
verse 38 The purposes of Moses’ tabernacle were apparently generally the same as those of a temple. However, we do not fully understand the extent of the ordinances practiced by the Israelites during the time of Moses. Moses initially taught the children of Israel what was needed to prepare them to behold the face of God, which would have included the higher ordinances of the Melchizedek Priesthood and the temple. Nevertheless, the Israelites “hardened their hearts. . . . Therefore, [the Lord] took Moses out of their midst, and the Holy Priesthood also; and the lesser priesthood continued” (D&C 84:24-26). Thus, the ordinances generally available to the Israelites in the tabernacle in the wilderness would have been those pertaining to the lesser priesthood—the Aaronic Priesthood.
The endowment ordinance has been known to the saints since Adam’s time. It has only been “hid” from the world.
39 Therefore, verily I say unto you, that your anointings, and your washings, and your baptisms for the dead, and your solemn assemblies, and your memorials for your sacrifices by the sons of Levi, and for your oracles in your most holy places wherein you receive conversations, and your statutes and judgments, for the beginning of the revelations and foundation of Zion, and for the glory, honor, and endowment of all her municipals, are ordained by the ordinance of my holy house, which my people are always commanded to build unto my holy name.
verse 39 “which my people are always commanded to build unto my holy name” The command to build temples is not new to this dispensation, and the effect of the temples on society is immeasurable. Elder John A. Widtsoe oberserved: “When the history of human thought shall be written from the point of view of temple worship, it may well be found that temples and the work done in them have been the dominating influence in shaping human thought from the beginning of the race. “Even today,” he continued, “political controversies are as nothing in determining the temper of a people, as compared with religious sentiments and convictions, especially as practiced in the temples of the people” (“Temple Worship,” 52).
40 And verily I say unto you, let this house be built unto my name, that I may reveal mine ordinances therein unto my people;
verses 39-40 “your anointings, and your washings” On Wednesday, May 4, 1842, in the upper story of his Red Brick Store in Nauvoo, the Prophet Joseph met with seven brethren—Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, and Willard Richards (members of the Quorum of the Twelve and the future First Presidency) and James Adams, Hyrum Smith, Newel K. Whitney, and George Miller—“instructing them in the principles and order of the Priesthood, attending to washings, anointings, endowments, and the communication of keys pertaining to the Aaronic Priesthood, and so on to the highest order of the Melchizedek Priesthood” (HC, 5:2). This was the first time the temple endowment, as we know it, was administered in this dispensation.
41 For I deign to reveal unto my church things which have been kept hid from before the foundation of the world, things that pertain to the dispensation of the fulness of times.
42 And I will show unto my servant Joseph all things pertaining to this house, and the priesthood thereof, and the place whereon it shall be built.
verses 41-42 “I deign to reveal unto my church things which have been kept hid from before the foundation of the world” The word “deign” here implies that the Lord feels he shouldn’t have had to reveal the full ordinances of the temple only to those of this final dispensation. They were available from “before the foundation of the world” and apparently “have been kept hid” only because the people of earth have not been adequately prepared. The Lord is now willing to show the Prophet and the saints all things that pertain to the temple and the priesthood. “It was the design of the councils of heaven before the world was, that the principles and laws of the priesthood should be predicated upon the gathering of the people in every age of the world. . . . Ordinances instituted in the heavens before the foundation of the world, in the priesthood, for the salvation of men, are not to be altered or changed. All must be saved on the same Principles” (HC, 5:423-24). All of these things will be made known during the dispensation headed by Joseph Smith, the dispensation of the fulness of times.
43 And ye shall build it on the place where you have contemplated building it, for that is the spot which I have chosen for you to build it.
44 If ye labor with all your might, I will consecrate that spot that it shall be made holy.
45 And if my people will hearken unto my voice, and unto the voice of my servants whom I have appointed to lead my people, behold, verily I say unto you, they shall not be moved out of their place.
46 But if they will not hearken to my voice, nor unto the voice of these men whom I have appointed, they shall not be blest, because they pollute mine holy grounds, and mine holy ordinances, and charters, and my holy words which I give unto them.
47 And it shall come to pass that if you build a house unto my name, and do not do the things that I say, I will not perform the oath which I make unto you, neither fulfil the promises which ye expect at my hands, saith the Lord.
48 For instead of blessings, ye, by your own works, bring cursings, wrath, indignation, and judgments upon your own heads, by your follies, and by all your abominations, which you practise before me, saith the Lord.
verses 45-48 “if my people will hearken unto my voice, and unto the voice of my servants” The key to real success in this mortal life is to follow the counsel of God. Whether is comes through revealed word, the Spirit, or authorized servants of the Lord, it is the same (see D&C 1:38). If individuals think they know more than God does, they will lose and in the process pollute the ground upon which they stand and violate the ordinances and covenants into which they have entered (see verse 46). As in the case of the parable of the Lord and the choice piece of land (see D&C 101:43-62), if the saints in Nauvoo would not take seriously the command to build a temple, they would lose the spiritual blessings in store for them and would bring upon themselves the cursings and judgments of God.
We, too, are faced with the choice to follow the counsels of living prophets and apostles. There are always others we can follow and give heed to. President J. Reuben Clark Jr. taught: “Some of the greatest heresies that have crept into the Christian religion came in through a very few men who held no real official position, mostly, but who spent their time and their talents, and they were great, in trying to rationalize the gospel of Jesus Christ. There is some evidence—these were called ‘schoolmen,’ and the results of their work ‘scholasticism,’—and I am persuaded that we have some tendency in that direction as among ourselves, and I hope that the people will not listen to the rationalizing of men who undertake to make God’s plan conform to what they think it should be in their weak and ineffective reasonings” (CR, April, 1952, 95).
Author’s note: President Clark refers to “scholasticism” and “schoolmen.” Scholasticism is a form of Christian philosophy and theology developed by scholars who came to be called schoolmen. It flourished during the medieval period of European history. The system attempted to synthesize ideas expressed in classical Roman and Greek writings and in Christian Scripture, the writings of the patristic fathers, and other Christian writings preceding the medieval period. Aristotle’s views helped give scholasticism a systematic structure, but Platonism also played a large part in the enterprise.
49 Verily, verily, I say unto you, that when I give a commandment to any of the sons of men to do a work unto my name, and those sons of men go with all their might and with all they have to perform that work, and cease not their diligence, and their enemies come upon them and hinder them from performing that work, behold, it behooveth me to require that work no more at the hands of those sons of men, but to accept of their offerings.
verse 49 Here is a vital principle. When a man receives a commandment of the Lord, if he should go with all his might to accomplish it, but is prevented from doing so by factors beyond his control, then the Lord will accept their sacrifice.
Now, wait a moment! I thought that we believed what Nephi taught in 1 Nephi 3:7, “I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.”
Is there any contradiction between 1 Nephi 3:7 and D&C 124:49? There is a little. We must regard Nephi’s teaching as a truth, but an incomplete truth. D&C 124:49 gives us the complete truth on the matter. Beware of other incomplete truths in the Church. Can you think of any? How about: “Keep the Word of Wisdom, and you will enjoy good health.” “Pay your tithing, and you will become prosperous.” “Train up a child in the way he should go, and later in life he will not depart from it.”
50 And the iniquity and transgression of my holy laws and commandments I will visit upon the heads of those who hindered my work, unto the third and fourth generation, so long as they repent not, and hate me, saith the Lord God.
51 Therefore, for this cause have I accepted the offerings of those whom I commanded to build up a city and a house unto my name, in Jackson county, Missouri, and were hindered by their enemies, saith the Lord your God.
52 And I will answer judgment, wrath, and indignation, wailing, and anguish, and gnashing of teeth upon their heads, unto the third and fourth generation, so long as they repent not, and hate me, saith the Lord your God.
53 And this I make an example unto you, for your consolation concerning all those who have been commanded to do a work and have been hindered by the hands of their enemies, and by oppression, saith the Lord your God.
54 For I am the Lord your God, and will save all those of your brethren who have been pure in heart, and have been slain in the land of Missouri, saith the Lord.
55 And again, verily I say unto you, I command you again to build a house to my name, even in this place, that you may prove yourselves unto me that ye are faithful in all things whatsoever I command you, that I may bless you, and crown you with honor, immortality, and eternal life.
56 And now I say unto you, as pertaining to my boarding house which I have commanded you to build for the boarding of strangers, let it be built unto my name, and let my name be named upon it, and let my servant Joseph and his house have place therein, from generation to generation.
57 For this anointing have I put upon his head, that his blessing shall also be put upon the head of his posterity after him.
58 And as I said unto Abraham concerning the kindreds of the earth, even so I say unto my servant Joseph: In thee and in thy seed shall the kindred of the earth be blessed.
59 Therefore, let my servant Joseph and his seed after him have place in that house, from generation to generation, forever and ever, saith the Lord.
verses 56-59 “let my servant Joseph and his house have place therein, from generation to generation” The prophet Joseph and his children were to have stock in the Nauvoo House and were to have rights to the rooms for their housing from generation to generation. This applies only to the boarding house and has no application to the succession of the Presidency of the Church, as it is supposed by some. The anointing mentioned in verse 57 must be taken in context with verses 55 and 56, which refer to the building of the temple and the Nauvoo House.
verses 60-85 In these verses the Lord sets the parameters within which the building of the Nauvoo House was to be accomplished. Individuals are instructed to buy stock in the house and will, if possible, receive dividends in return. This gives the stockholders and their descendants rights to the stock through generations. For a discussion of the lives of the individuals mentioned in these verses, see Susan Easton Black, Who’s Who in the Doctrine and Covenants.
60 And let the name of that house be called Nauvoo House; and let it be a delightful habitation for man, and a resting-place for the weary traveler, that he may contemplate the glory of Zion, and the glory of this, the corner-stone thereof;
61 That he may receive also the counsel from those whom I have set to be as plants of renown, and as watchmen upon her walls.
62 Behold, verily I say unto you, let my servant George Miller, and my servant Lyman Wight, and my servant John Snider, and my servant Peter Haws, organize themselves, and appoint one of them to be a president over their quorum for the purpose of building that house.
63 And they shall form a constitution, whereby they may receive stock for the building of that house.
64 And they shall not receive less than fifty dollars for a share of stock in that house, and they shall be permitted to receive fifteen thousand dollars from any one man for stock in that house.
65 But they shall not be permitted to receive over fifteen thousand dollars stock from any one man.
66 And they shall not be permitted to receive under fifty dollars for a share of stock from any one man in that house.
67 And they shall not be permitted to receive any man, as a stockholder in this house, except the same shall pay his stock into their hands at the time he receives stock;
68 And in proportion to the amount of stock he pays into their hands he shall receive stock in that house; but if he pays nothing into their hands he shall not receive any stock in that house.
69 And if any pay stock into their hands it shall be for stock in that house, for himself, and for his generation after him, from generation to generation, so long as he and his heirs shall hold that stock, and do not sell or convey the stock away out of their hands by their own free will and act, if you will do my will, saith the Lord your God.
70 And again, verily I say unto you, if my servant George Miller, and my servant Lyman Wight, and my servant John Snider, and my servant Peter Haws, receive any stock into their hands, in moneys, or in properties wherein they receive the real value of moneys, they shall not appropriate any portion of that stock to any other purpose, only in that house.
71 And if they do appropriate any portion of that stock anywhere else, only in that house, without the consent of the stockholder, and do not repay fourfold for the stock which they appropriate anywhere else, only in that house, they shall be accursed, and shall be moved out of their place, saith the Lord God; for I, the Lord, am God, and cannot be mocked in any of these things.
72 Verily I say unto you, let my servant Joseph pay stock into their hands for the building of that house, as seemeth him good; but my servant Joseph cannot pay over fifteen thousand dollars stock in that house, nor under fifty dollars; neither can any other man, saith the Lord.
73 And there are others also who wish to know my will concerning them, for they have asked it at my hands.
74 Therefore, I say unto you concerning my servant Vinson Knight, if he will do my will let him put stock into that house for himself, and for his generation after him, from generation to generation.
75 And let him lift up his voice long and loud, in the midst of the people, to plead the cause of the poor and the needy; and let him not fail, neither let his heart faint; and I will accept of his offerings, for they shall not be unto me as the offerings of Cain, for he shall be mine, saith the Lord.
76 Let his family rejoice and turn away their hearts from affliction; for I have chosen him and anointed him, and he shall be honored in the midst of his house, for I will forgive all his sins, saith the Lord. Amen.
77 Verily I say unto you, let my servant Hyrum put stock into that house as seemeth him good, for himself and his generation after him, from generation to generation.
78 Let my servant Isaac Galland put stock into that house; for I, the Lord, love him for the work he hath done, and will forgive all his sins; therefore, let him be remembered for an interest in that house from generation to generation.
79 Let my servant Isaac Galland be appointed among you, and be ordained by my servant William Marks, and be blessed of him, to go with my servant Hyrum to accomplish the work that my servant Joseph shall point out to them, and they shall be greatly blessed.
80 Let my servant William Marks pay stock into that house, as seemeth him good, for himself and his generation, from generation to generation.
81 Let my servant Henry G. Sherwood pay stock into that house, as seemeth him good, for himself and his seed after him, from generation to generation.
82 Let my servant William Law pay stock into that house, for himself and his seed after him, from generation to generation.
83 If he will do my will let him not take his family unto the eastern lands, even unto Kirtland; nevertheless, I, the Lord, will build up Kirtland, but I, the Lord, have a scourge prepared for the inhabitants thereof.
verse 83 “I, the Lord, have a scourge prepared for the inhabitants thereof” The people, both nonmembers and apostates, drove the saints from the land of Kirtland. Therefore, a scourge was placed upon that land. A scourge is a thing that results in punishment. It is also a cause of affliction or calamity. It is difficult to tell exactly what the scourge was, but when the body of the saints fled from Kirtland, the gospel, along with the prophets, priesthood keys, and their attendant blessings went with them. Hyrum Smith, writing from Nauvoo as the Patriarch of the Church, told the saints that while they had been driven out of their houses and lands at Kirtland, “Yet your children may possess them, but not until many years shall pass away” (as quoted in Anderson, Joseph Smith’s Kirtland, 242-54). Kirtland declined in population and wealth until by 1890 only 909 individuals lived there. In 1979 Ezra Taft Benson, president of the Quorum of the Twelve, presided over the groundbreaking for a new chapel in Kirtland. During his address, he removed the scourge that had been placed on Kirtland. Since that time a stake has been organized, and the Church has returned to the area in greater force.
84 And with my servant Almon Babbitt, there are many things with which I am not pleased; behold, he aspireth to establish his counsel instead of the counsel which I have ordained, even that of the Presidency of my Church; and he setteth up a golden calf for the worship of my people.
85 Let no man go from this place who has come here essaying to keep my commandments.
86 If they live here let them live unto me; and if they die let them die unto me; for they shall rest from all their labors here, and shall continue their works.
verses 84-86 “with my servant Almon Babbitt, there are many things with which I am not pleased” Almon Babbitt was a member of Zion’s Camp and a member of the original Quorum of Seventy organized in February 1835. At the time section 124 was received, he was serving as president of the Kirtland Stake. It appears that the problems he was having at that time centered on his desire to build Kirtland again. He advised the emigrating saints to stay in Kirtland instead of moving to Nauvoo as the Lord commanded. He also attempted to persuade members living in Nauvoo to move to Kirtland. Part of his motivation was to rebuild Kirtland, but another part of his motivation was to gain financially from the influx of saints back into the Kirtland area. He was disfellowshipped from the Church for this action but moved to Nauvoo in 1842, where he was returned to full fellowship. He remained a member of the Church and served in various callings until his death. He was killed by Indians at Ash Hollow, Nebraska, in September 1856 as he was returning from Washington, D.C. He had been buying supplies for a new statehouse in Salt Lake City.
“he setteth up a golden calf for the worship of my people” Just as the children of Israel began to worship the golden calf that Aaron built, so members of the Church worship false gods then they stray from the God of Israel and his servants. In this case, following the counsel of Almon Babbitt instead of Joseph Smith was worshiping a golden calf. In our lives, the golden calf could be education, social life, political life, sports, or material wealth—in short, anything that takes us away from our covenants and obedience to God. Speaking of this “golden calf,” Elder Spencer W. Kimball wrote: “It would include both tangible and less tangible things, and everything which entices a person away from duty, loyalty, and love for and service to God” (Miracle of Forgiveness, 40).
87 Therefore, let my servant William put his trust in me, and cease to fear concerning his family, because of the sickness of the land. If ye love me, keep my commandments; and the sickness of the land shall redound to your glory.
88 Let my servant William go and proclaim my everlasting gospel with a loud voice, and with great joy, as he shall be moved upon by my Spirit, unto the inhabitants of Warsaw, and also unto the inhabitants of Carthage, and also unto the inhabitants of Burlington, and also unto the inhabitants of Madison, and await patiently and diligently for further instructions at my general conference, saith the Lord.
verses 87-88 “William” This passage refers to William Law (see verses 82-83). He was concerned for his children, who were exposed to the diseases from which the saints were suffering and from which many had died. The Lord reassured him that if he kept the commandments, his family would be well. He is commanded to preach the gospel in Warsaw and Carthage, areas of strong anti-Mormon sentiment. Burlington and Madison were across the river from Nauvoo in Iowa.
89 If he will do my will let him from henceforth hearken to the counsel of my servant Joseph, and with his interest support the cause of the poor, and publish the new translation of my holy word unto the inhabitants of the earth.
verse 89 “publish the new translation of my holy word unto the inhabitants of the earth” This phrase has reference to the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible, which the Prophet and his scribes had been working on since June of 1830. He had largely suspended work on this project in July 1833. It was Joseph’s desire, along with the Lord’s, that the work be finished and published as soon as possible. That goal was not achieved in the Prophet’s lifetime, however. The inspired translation was eventually published in 1867 by the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (now Community of Christ). William Law was to use his talents and interest, or material goods, to care for the poor and to assist in the publishing of Joseph Smith’s translation of the Bible. He was to be appointed as a counselor in the First Presidency, replacing Hyrum Smith.
90 And if he will do this I will bless him with a multiplicity of blessings, that he shall not be forsaken, nor his seed be found begging bread.
91 And again, verily I say unto you, let my servant William be appointed, ordained, and anointed, as counselor unto my servant Joseph, in the room of my servant Hyrum, that my servant Hyrum may take the office of Priesthood and Patriarch, which was appointed unto him by his father, by blessing and also by right;
92 That from henceforth he shall hold the keys of the patriarchal blessings upon the heads of all my people,
93 That whoever he blesses shall be blessed, and whoever he curses shall be cursed; that whatsoever he shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever he shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
94 And from this time forth I appoint unto him that he may be a prophet, and a seer, and a revelator unto my church, as well as my servant Joseph;
verses 91-94 “Hyrum” On September 14, 1840, the Patriarch to the Church, Joseph Smith Sr., died in Nauvoo. By the command of the Lord, Hyrum was released as a counselor in the First Presidency and called as patriarch to the Church to replace his father. The office of patriarch came to Hyrum by blessing but also by right, meaning that as the eldest son, he had inherited rights to this office. Throughout the history of the Church, the office of Patriarch to the Church has been held by descendants of the Smith family. Today, however, because of the growth of the stakes of Zion in all parts of the world, the need for a church patriarch has diminished, and no one has been called to serve in that office since 1979. As Assistant President of the Church, Hyrum held all the keys of the priesthood and was appointed “a prophet, and a seer, and a revelatory” unto the Church, “as well as my servant Joseph.”
95 That he may act in concert also with my servant Joseph; and that he shall receive counsel from my servant Joseph, who shall show unto him the keys whereby he may ask and receive, and be crowned with the same blessing, and glory, and honor, and priesthood, and gifts of the priesthood, that once were put upon him that was my servant Oliver Cowdery;
verse 95 “Oliver Cowdery” Oliver Cowdery was excommunicated on April 12, 1838, in Far West, Missouri, for apostasy. Hyrum was called to serve as the Assistant President of the Church in place of Oliver. In that position, he stood as a second witness of the events and doctrines of the Restoration. Thus, Hyrum was to bear record of the things which the Lord would show him, and his name would be remembered in generations to come. Elder Joseph Fielding Smith made this observation: “I am firmly of the opinion that had Oliver Cowdery remained true to his covenants and obligations as a witness with Joseph Smith, and retained his authority and place, he, and not Hyrum Smith, would have gone with Joseph Smith as a prisoner and to martyrdom at Carthage” (Doctrines of Salvation, 1:219). As Assistant President, Oliver had held all the keys of the priesthood and had been sustained as a prophet, seer, and revelator.
96 That my servant Hyrum may bear record of the things which I shall show unto him, that his name may be had in honorable remembrance from generation to generation, forever and ever.
verses 91-96 Hyrum Smith is given all the keys that were previously held by Oliver Cowdery and Joseph Smith, Sr., combined. He is made a Patriarch of the Church, Assistant President of the Church, and possessor of the keys of the priesthood. Joseph Fielding Smith taught that Hyrum’s receiving all these keys qualified him to die in Carthage jail and thus help seal this dispensation by the blood of two witnesses.
Since Hyrum’s death, we’ve never had another Assistant President of the Church.
97 Let my servant William Law also receive the keys by which he may ask and receive blessings; let him be humble before me, and be without guile, and he shall receive of my Spirit, even the Comforter, which shall manifest unto him the truth of all things, and shall give him, in the very hour, what he shall say.
98 And these signs shall follow him—he shall heal the sick, he shall cast out devils, and shall be delivered from those who would administer unto him deadly poison;
99 And he shall be led in paths where the poisonous serpent cannot lay hold upon his heel, and he shall mount up in the imagination of his thoughts as upon eagles’ wings.
100 And what if I will that he should raise the dead, let him not withhold his voice.
101 Therefore, let my servant William cry aloud and spare not, with joy and rejoicing, and with hosannas to him that sitteth upon the throne forever and ever, saith the Lord your God.
102 Behold, I say unto you, I have a mission in store for my servant William, and my servant Hyrum, and for them alone; and let my servant Joseph tarry at home, for he is needed. The remainder I will show unto you hereafter. Even so. Amen.
verses 97-102 “Let my servant William Law also receive the keys” William Law is appointed to the First Presidency and given a blessing contingent upon his continued faithfulness. He was an Irish immigrant to the United States and was converted to the Church in Canada in 1836. He led a company of saints from northern Canada to Nauvoo in 1839, arriving in November. He had a firm testimony of the gospel and of Joseph Smith as a Prophet, yet within a few years he would leave the Church to become a literal “Judas,” betraying the Prophet in a vitally harmful way. In the summer of 1843, he openly opposed the revelation on plural marriage (D&C 132) and the Prophet’s practice of polygamy. This eventually resulted in his apostasy and excommunication in April 1844. Law was accused of complicity with some Missourians, in the spring of 1844, who were trying to kidnap and harm the Prophet. After his excommunication, Law and others declared Joseph a “fallen prophet” and tried unsuccessfully to organize a new church. On June 7, 1844, Law and some of his colleagues printed one issue of the Nauvoo Expositor. This paper charged the Prophet with malfeasance and immorality and other misdeeds. The people of Nauvoo were incensed, and the city council directed the city marshal to destroy the press, which he did on June 10th. This episode was instrumental in the cascade of events that culminated in Joseph’s martyrdom.
103 And again, verily I say unto you, if my servant Sidney will serve me and be counselor unto my servant Joseph, let him arise and come up and stand in the office of his calling, and humble himself before me.
104 And if he will offer unto me an acceptable offering, and acknowledgments, and remain with my people, behold, I, the Lord your God, will heal him that he shall be healed; and he shall lift up his voice again on the mountains, and be a spokesman before my face.
105 Let him come and locate his family in the neighborhood in which my servant Joseph resides.
106 And in all his journeyings let him lift up his voice as with the sound of a trump, and warn the inhabitants of the earth to flee the wrath to come.
107 Let him assist my servant Joseph, and also let my servant William Law assist my servant Joseph, in making a solemn proclamation unto the kings of the earth, even as I have before said unto you.
108 If my servant Sidney will do my will, let him not remove his family unto the eastern lands, but let him change their habitation, even as I have said.
109 Behold, it is not my will that he shall seek to find safety and refuge out of the city which I have appointed unto you, even the city of Nauvoo.
110 Verily I say unto you, even now, if he will hearken unto my voice, it shall be well with him. Even so. Amen.
verses 103-110 “Sidney” This passage refers to Sidney Rigdon, the first counselor in the First Presidency. The Nauvoo period was very difficult for Sidney. He held various public and political positions as well as serving in the First Presidency. He was sickly, however, and the record is fairly quiet concerning his involvement in the work of the Church. At times he was accused of being in league with the enemies of Joseph Smith, especially John C. Bennett, although he denied those charges. Joseph Smith requested that he be removed from the First Presidency, but Hyrum spoke in Rigdon’s behalf and no action was taken. Rigdon moved his family from Nauvoo in the spring of 1844 and was living in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, at the time of the Prophet’s death.
verses 111-122 The Lord calls on others to buy stock in the Nauvoo House (see the commentary on D&C 124:22-24).
111 And again, verily I say unto you, let my servant Amos Davies pay stock into the hands of those whom I have appointed to build a house for boarding, even the Nauvoo House.
112 This let him do if he will have an interest; and let him hearken unto the counsel of my servant Joseph, and labor with his own hands that he may obtain the confidence of men.
113 And when he shall prove himself faithful in all things that shall be entrusted unto his care, yea, even a few things, he shall be made ruler over many;
114 Let him therefore abase himself that he may be exalted. Even so. Amen.
115 And again, verily I say unto you, if my servant Robert D. Foster will obey my voice, let him build a house for my servant Joseph, according to the contract which he has made with him, as the door shall be open to him from time to time.
116 And let him repent of all his folly, and clothe himself with charity; and cease to do evil, and lay aside all his hard speeches; 117 And pay stock also into the hands of the quorum of the Nauvoo House, for himself and for his generation after him, from generation to generation; 118 And hearken unto the counsel of my servants Joseph, and Hyrum, and William Law, and unto the authorities which I have called to lay the foundation of Zion; and it shall be well with him forever and ever. Even so. Amen. 119 And again, verily I say unto you, let no man pay stock to the quorum of the Nauvoo House unless he shall be a believer in the Book of Mormon, and the revelations I have given unto you, saith the Lord your God; 120 For that which is more or less than this cometh of evil, and shall be attended with cursings and not blessings, saith the Lord your God. Even so. Amen. 121 And again, verily I say unto you, let the quorum of the Nauvoo House have a just recompense of wages for all their labors which they do in building the Nauvoo House; and let their wages be as shall be agreed among themselves, as pertaining to the price thereof. 122 And let every man who pays stock bear his proportion of their wages, if it must needs be, for their support, saith the Lord; otherwise, their labors shall be accounted unto them for stock in that house. Even so. Amen.
verses 123-145 These verses complete section 124 and list and give instructions the priesthood officers of the Church. Note particularly the call of Hyrum Smith to serve as Patriarch in place of his deceased father. Hyrum was also still serving as the Assistant President of the Church. The First Presidency was to consist of Joseph, Sidney, and William Law, with Brother Law filling the vacancy left by the calling of Hyrum Smith to be the Patriarch. Brigham Young is officially appointed President of the Twelve. The vacancy in the Twelve, resulting from the death of David Patten, had not been filled.
123 Verily I say unto you, I now give unto you the officers belonging to my Priesthood, that ye may hold the keys thereof, even the Priesthood which is after the order of Melchizedek, which is after the order of mine Only Begotten Son.
124 First, I give unto you Hyrum Smith to be a patriarch unto you, to hold the sealing blessings of my church, even the Holy Spirit of promise, whereby ye are sealed up unto the day of redemption, that ye may not fall notwithstanding the hour of temptation that may come upon you.
verse 124 “patriarch unto you, to hold the sealing blessings of my church”
In verse 93, the Lord had indicated that the patriarch had the power to bless and to curse and whatsoever he bound on earth would be bound in heaven. We know that he had this power under the keys held by the President of the Church, for D&C 132:7 states that only one person at a time holds the keys to this sealing power. It must also be remembered that this verse was given to Hyrum Smith, who was also serving as the Assistant President of the Church.
125 I give unto you my servant Joseph to be a presiding elder over all my church, to be a translator, a revelator, a seer, and prophet.
126 I give unto him for counselors my servant Sidney Rigdon and my servant William Law, that these may constitute a quorum and First Presidency, to receive the oracles for the whole church.
verses 125-126 “to receive the oracles for the whole church” The First Presidency of the Church will receive revelations and commandments (“oracles”) of God for the entire Church. No others have the keys or authority to do so.
127 I give unto you my servant Brigham Young to be a president over the Twelve traveling council;
verse 127 “Brigham Young” Thomas B. Marsh apostatized and was excommunicated from the Church in March 1839. He was replaced as the president of the Quorum of the Twelve by Brigham Young.
128 Which Twelve hold the keys to open up the authority of my kingdom upon the four corners of the earth, and after that to send my word to every creature.
verse 128 “open up the authority of my kingdom upon the four corners of the earth” One of the principle responsibilities of the Quorum of the Twelve is to supervise the taking of the gospel to the whole world. All of the missionary efforts of the Church are carried out under the direction of the Twelve.
129 They are Heber C. Kimball, Parley P. Pratt, Orson Pratt, Orson Hyde, William Smith, John Taylor, John E. Page, Wilford Woodruff, Willard Richards, George A. Smith;
130 David Patten I have taken unto myself; behold, his priesthood no man taketh from him; but, verily I say unto you, another may be appointed unto the same calling.
verses 131-142 Listed here are the members of the high council, presidencies of the high priests, seventies, elders, bishoprics, priests, teachers, and deacons, along with the duties and responsibilities of their office and calling.
131 And again, I say unto you, I give unto you a high council, for the corner-stone of Zion—
132 Namely, Samuel Bent, Henry G. Sherwood, George W. Harris, Charles C. Rich, Thomas Grover, Newel Knight, David Dort, Dunbar Wilson—Seymour Brunson I have taken unto myself; no man taketh his priesthood, but another may be appointed unto the same priesthood in his stead; and verily I say unto you, let my servant Aaron Johnson be ordained unto this calling in his stead—David Fullmer, Alpheus Cutler, William Huntington.
verses 130, 132 “no man taketh from him” David Patten and Seymour Brunson had both died faithful in their callings. These verses indicate that the priesthood they held on earth was not removed from them by death, but rather continued with them into the spirit world. President Harold B. Lee commented on this idea when he declared: “I believe that every President of this Church, every apostle of this Church, every bishop, every stake president, every presiding position will have a bearing on what one is called to do when he leaves this earth” (Ensign, January 1973, 107).
133 And again, I give unto you Don C. Smith to be a president over a quorum of high priests;
134 Which ordinance is instituted for the purpose of qualifying those who shall be appointed standing presidents or servants over different stakes scattered abroad;
135 And they may travel also if they choose, but rather be ordained for standing presidents; this is the office of their calling, saith the Lord your God.
136 I give unto him Amasa Lyman and Noah Packard for counselors, that they may preside over the quorum of high priests of my church, saith the Lord.
137 And again, I say unto you, I give unto you John A. Hicks, Samuel Williams, and Jesse Baker, which priesthood is to preside over the quorum of elders, which quorum is instituted for standing ministers; nevertheless they may travel, yet they are ordained to be standing ministers to my church, saith the Lord.
138 And again, I give unto you Joseph Young, Josiah Butterfield, Daniel Miles, Henry Herriman, Zera Pulsipher, Levi Hancock, James Foster, to preside over the quorum of seventies;
139 Which quorum is instituted for traveling elders to bear record of my name in all the world, wherever the traveling high council, mine apostles, shall send them to prepare a way before my face.
140 The difference between this quorum and the quorum of elders is that one is to travel continually, and the other is to preside over the churches from time to time; the one has the responsibility of presiding from time to time, and the other has no responsibility of presiding, saith the Lord your God.
141 And again, I say unto you, I give unto you Vinson Knight, Samuel H. Smith, and Shadrach Roundy, if he will receive it, to preside over the bishopric; a knowledge of said bishopric is given unto you in the book of Doctrine and Covenants.
142 And again, I say unto you, Samuel Rolfe and his counselors for priests, and the president of the teachers and his counselors, and also the president of the deacons and his counselors, and also the president of the stake and his counselors.
143 The above offices I have given unto you, and the keys thereof, for helps and for governments, for the work of the ministry and the perfecting of my saints.
144 And a commandment I give unto you, that you should fill all these offices and approve of those names which I have mentioned, or else disapprove of them at my general conference;
verse 144 “approve of those names which I have mentioned, or else disapprove of them at my general conference” Even though the Lord has called these individuals to serve in the offices of the priesthood, he does not impose his will upon the members of the Church. He gives them an opportunity through common consent (sustaining vote) to accept or reject the individuals called. It is important to note that the members cannot nominate or select the person to serve, for the Lord does that through his servants. The members may only accept or reject.
145 And that ye should prepare rooms for all these offices in my house when you build it unto my name, saith the Lord your God. Even so. Amen.
William B. Smith
He was the younger brother of the Prophet Joseph by six years. He was baptized into the Church in June 1830 and worked faithfully in the Church. He was a member of Zion’s Camp in 1834 and was ordained an apostle in February 1835. He stayed faithful in the Church until October 1845 when he was excommunicated for apostasy, and he preached against President Brigham Young. After associating with several apostate factions, he returned briefly to the Church in 1860. He soon left the Church again, however, and joined the Reorganized LDS Church.
George A. Smith
He was Joseph Smith’s cousin. After his baptism in 1832, he moved to Kirtland. He was ordained an apostle in 1839 and served a mission in England with other members of the Twelve. He would later serve as Brigham Young’s counselor in the First Presidency in Salt Lake City. In Utah he became recognized as the father of the southern Utah settlements. The chief settlement, St. George, was named in his honor.
- Michael J. Preece