Section 15: Revelation to John Whitmer
Sections 14, 15, and 16 were all received by Joseph Smith at the same time— June 1829—and share the same historical setting. For historical background pertinent to sections 15-16, please refer to the introductory material for section 14. Sections 15 and 16 are identical except for the names in verse 1 and the one word, unto, which was added in section 16 verse 5. Apparently this difference occurred because of a copying error in the 1844 edition.
D&C 15:6 (also 16:6) The thing which be of the most worth unto you will be to declare repentance unto this people.
1 Hearken, my servant John, and listen to the words of Jesus Christ, your Lord and your Redeemer.
2 For behold, I speak unto you with sharpness and with power, for mine arm is over all the earth.
verse 2 “with sharpness and with power” See the commentary for D&C 6:2. These words are related to what the Lord told Oliver Cowdery in that verse. There the Lord’s words are referred to as both “powerful” and “sharper than a two-edged sword.”
“mine arm is over all the earth” The “arm” of God represents his power and authority—to his ability to put into effect what he intends. For different ways this phrase is used see the following references: D&C 1:14; 3:8; 35:8; Isaiah 52:10; John 12:38; 3 Nephi 9:14.
3 And I will tell you that which no man knoweth save me and thee alone—
4 For many times you have desired of me to know that which would be of the most worth unto you.
verses 3-4 Both John Whitmer and Peter Whitmer Jr. asked the Lord repeatedly and privately what he would have them do. Here, the Lord reveals to John Whitmer (and to Peter Jr. in section 16), as he did to Oliver Cowdery in section 6 and also anciently to Nathanael (see John 1:47-51), that he knows the thoughts of their hearts. In verse 6 both receive their answer.
verse 4 Elder Rudger Clawson, of the Quorum of the Twelve, commented on the significance of this verse:
Cast your minds back to the early days of this Church, and there stood this man John Whitmer, recently come into the Church of Christ. Various occupations in which he might engage were before him. He had the opportunity to labor upon the farm, to engage in merchandising, to follow mining, to study the profession of medicine or law, or to adopt one of the many other occupations in which men employ themselves. The question he asked himself at that time was, What would be of the most worth to him? . . . I say, these opportunities were before him because the country is full of opportunities, which are within the reach of all. We live in a free country, and the way is open to you and to me, as it was to this man. He stood there in this situation, not having been trained long in the gospel of Christ, and I say to you—for it is on record here—that a voice came to that man from the eternal worlds, and that voice set at rest in him every doubt, every dubiety, every fearful anticipation. At a critical time in his life, when he must choose which way to go, that voice said unto him that that which would be of most worth unto him was to declare repentance unto the people and bring souls unto Christ [see verse 6]. The message was of such importance that it came to him with “sharpness and with power.” It was the voice of Jesus Christ (CR, April 1901, 7).
5 Behold, blessed are you for this thing, and for speaking my words which I have given you according to my commandments.
verse 5 John Whitmer (and Peter Jr. in the following section) are “blessed” for asking God what he desired of them and for speaking God’s word according to the commandments they had already received from the Bible and perhaps from revelations through the Prophet Joseph.
6 And now, behold, I say unto you, that the thing which will be of the most worth unto you will be to declare repentance unto this people, that you may bring souls unto me, that you may rest with them in the kingdom of my Father. Amen.
verse 6 “that you may rest with them in the kingdom of my Father” The celestial kingdom is often referred to as a place of rest when the struggles of mortality are over, the contest with Satan and with our own carnal nature is won, and our place in the kingdom is secured. However, there is ample reason to believe that the eternal celestial experience will hardly be one of rest. Judging by what we know of the position, experiences, and responsibilities of our Father in heaven, we may surely conclude that there will be abundant challenge, excitement, and joy in the celestial heaven.
The term rest is also used to refer to the state of being sealed up to exaltation in the celestial kingdom and receiving God’s oath that we shall inherit that kingdom, even while we remain in mortality. To see and converse with God while still in the flesh and receive his personal promise of exaltation would also, then, be considered entering “into his rest” (D&C 84:24—see the commentary for this verse).
- Michael J. Preece