Section 24: Be Patient in Persecution
By June 1830 a number of Knight family members in Colesville, New York, were ready to join the Church. Along with the growing interest in the Church shown by the Knight family, there was also found a growing animosity among some of their neighbors in Colesville, largely due to the efforts of local ministers.
In late June Joseph, Emma, Oliver, and David and John Whitmer traveled to Colesville to baptize the new converts. A small stream was dammed up to make a pond for baptisms. Some antagonistic Colesville residents tore down the dam, and it had to be rebuilt. Finally the baptism was held, and Joseph Knight, his wife Polly, Newel Knight’s wife Sally, several other members of the Knight family, and Emma Smith were all baptized.
Enraged at the proceedings, a mob of about fifty people gathered and surrounded the home of Joseph Knight, Sr., where the Prophet Joseph had a confrontation with them. Before the newly baptized members could be confirmed, Joseph was arrested at the Newel Knight home and taken into custody on trumped-up charges of “disturbing the peace.” After a grueling day in court, he was acquitted but then immediately arrested again by a constable from another county. Eventually he was cleared of all charges, and he returned to Harmony.
Joseph and Oliver tried to steal back to Colesville a few days later to complete the confirmations, but their enemies were alert. They had no sooner arrived at the Knights’ when a mob began to gather, and Joseph and Oliver had to flee immediately. They were forced to travel all night, with their enemies in hot pursuit, to reach Harmony.
During this period of time, July 1830, while Joseph was at his farm in Harmony, he received the “vision of Moses” now found in the Pearl of Great Price (see Moses 1). He also received sections 24 through 26 of the Doctrine and Covenants.
Section 24 was given to Joseph and Oliver in July 1830 to strengthen and encourage them after the persecution they had endured.
D&C 24 Be patient in persecution
D&C 24:8 Be patient in afflictions, for thou shalt have many.
D&C 24:12 At all times and in all places he shall open his mouth . . . and I will give unto him strength such as is not known among men.
1 Behold, thou wast called and chosen to write the Book of Mormon, and to my ministry; and I have lifted thee up out of thine afflictions, and have counseled thee, that thou hast been delivered from all thine enemies, and thou hast been delivered from the powers of Satan and from darkness!
verse 1 “thou hast been delivered from all thine enemies, and thou hast been delivered from the powers of Satan and from darkness” Certainly the Lord was not blessing Joseph here with a temporal blessing that would guarantee him freedom from any further persecution, as we know Joseph would yet experience much persecution. It is true that none of the plots or stratagems against Joseph succeeded in stopping his work, so doubtless the Lord’s protective hand was over Joseph.
It seems more likely that this is a spiritual blessing that seems to seal him up to eternal life.
2 Nevertheless, thou art not excusable in thy transgressions; nevertheless, go thy way and sin no more.
verse 2 “thou art not excusable in thy transgressions”It is interesting to note that Joseph was honest in recording for posterity even those portions of his revelations that reflect badly on him even though he could easily have edited them out. Joseph was not perfect, but he was nevertheless eminently worthy to translate the Book of Mormon, receive the keys of the kingdom, restore the gospel, and build up the kingdom of God.
verses 3-4, 7, 9 Apparently it was difficult for Joseph himself (and the rest of the Church for that matter) to understand Joseph’s role as full-time prophet and leader of the Church. The Lord here commands him to quit trying to work the land as a means of support and rely instead on the church members for his support. He is called to full-time labor in the kingdom. The Lord even says he will not bless Joseph in temporal labors since they are not his calling. “The laborer in Zion shall labor for Zion; for if they labor for money they shall perish” (2 Nephi 26:31).
The obligation of the saints was to support him in this, temporally as well as spiritually, with material sacrifice as well as with prayer. If they keep this commandment they will be blessed. The situation is the same today. There are those who labor full time for the kingdom, and it is necessary for them to be supported by the kingdom. Today these include many of the general authorities and, to some extent, mission and temple presidents, and others. This is not a form of divine extortion. If the kingdom is to be built, there will be those who must work full time in the kingdom.
3 Magnify thine office; and after thou hast sowed thy fields and secured them, go speedily unto the church which is in Colesville, Fayette, and Manchester, and they shall support thee; and I will bless them both spiritually and temporally;
verse 3 “Magnify thine office”To magnify is to “make it great” or make it greatly effective, so that no one in our stewardship can shift responsibility for their sins from their own choices to our negligence. Conversely, failing to magnify our calling is to neglect our duty, so that blame for the sins of others is due in part to our own negligence (see Jacob 1:19). To magnify a calling or an office in the Church is to accept pro-actively all of the responsibilities of the calling and to perform the duties of the calling enthusiastically and completely.
“after thou hast sowed thy fields”This revelation was given in July, which is not a good time to plant in Harmony, Pennsylvania, but Joseph had been too busy planting and nurturing the Church and the saints to plant his own fields at the appropriate time. The Lord’s advice is to go ahead and plant his crops late, and then rely on the saints for additional help if he should need it.
4 But if they receive thee not, I will send upon them a cursing instead of a blessing.
verse 4 The Lord’s warning to withhold blessings from those saints who failed to provide support, both material and spiritual, to the Prophet Joseph.
5 And thou shalt continue in calling upon God in my name, and writing the things which shall be given thee by the Comforter, and expounding all scriptures unto the church.
verse 5 Joseph was already involved in revising the Bible—producing what we know call the Joseph Smith Translation (the JST)—and this verse seems to refer, at least in part, to that project.
6 And it shall be given thee in the very moment what thou shalt speak and write, and they shall hear it, or I will send unto them a cursing instead of a blessing.
verse 6 Another warning to the Church as to how they should regard the teachings and writings of the Prophet Joseph.
7 For thou shalt devote all thy service in Zion; and in this thou shalt have strength.
8 Be patient in afflictions, for thou shalt have many; but endure them, for, lo, I am with thee, even unto the end of thy days.
verse 8 A rather ominous warning to Joseph from the Lord, but at the same time a comforting promise. One of the ironies of afflictions experienced by those in the Lord’s service is that the more good one does, the more persecution he will provoke and the more afflictions he is likely to experience.
9 And in temporal labors thou shalt not have strength, for this is not thy calling. Attend to thy calling and thou shalt have wherewith to magnify thine office, and to expound all scriptures, and continue in laying on of the hands and confirming the churches.
verse 9 “in temporal labors thou shalt not have strength”The Lord reminds Joseph that his strengths lie in his spiritual calling. Church members sometimes assume that church service implies increased chances of temporal success. This may not be true. Members all share the conditions and risks of mortal life with everyone else.
10 And thy brother Oliver shall continue in bearing my name before the world, and also to the church. And he shall not suppose that he can say enough in my cause; and lo, I am with him to the end.
11 In me he shall have glory, and not of himself, whether in weakness or in strength, whether in bonds or free;
verse 11 Oliver receives here another gentle reminder that he is to glory in God and not in himself. He should trust in and glory in the Lord regardless of whether he finds himself in positions of weakness or bondage or in positions of strength or freedom. This is perhaps another hint of the wedge of pride in Oliver’s character that will later almost destroy him and will cause him to lose many blessings.
verses 12-19 These verses, at least in part, constitute an apostolic commission for the last pruning the vineyard in the latter days. Note the similarities of these verses to Matthew 10:7-15 and Mark 16:15-18. These verses are directed primarily to Oliver Cowdery and Joseph Smith both of whom have apostolic authority (see the commentary for verse 14). Though they are intended for those with apostolic office, certainly those with other priesthood callings might also find sound counsel in these verses.
12 And at all times, and in all places, he shall open his mouth and declare my gospel as with the voice of a trump, both day and night. And I will give unto him strength such as is not known among men.
verse 12 “declare my gospel as with the voice of a trump”As Moses led the doubting Israelites through forty years of wanderings in the wilderness, an interesting means of communication was developed. A trumpet was sounded that could be heard throughout the entire camp (Leviticus 25:9). This trump was loud and was the alarm that roused Israel and called her to action in times of war and danger (Numbers 10:9; Ezekiel 33:3) and in times of jubilee and celebration (Leviticus 25:9). The Lord has used the symbol of sounding the trump as a signal of the restoration of gospel truths. It is a voice of gladness and a voice of warning. Its message to the righteous is one of celebration and gladness, but to the wicked it is a terrible trump of warning, alerting them to the perils that await the unrepentant. The message of the Doctrine and Covenants is that the warning trump will warn the camp (the world) one last time. It is not merely the Lord’s wish that the voice of warning be sounded to the world. It is his divine command. The voice of warning is delivered to the saints in scripture, then the Lord commands that the saints deliver the warning to all the world.
13 Require not miracles, except I shall command you, except casting out devils, healing the sick, and against poisonous serpents, and against deadly poisons;
verse 13 “Require not miracles”The Lord continues to counsel Oliver (and the rest of the Church as well). As Oliver opens his mouth to do missionary work, he is commanded to “require not miracles.” This means that Oliver (as well as the rest of us) is counseled by the Lord to do missionary without trying to convert people through the working of miracles. Miracles of themselves do not convert people and therefore should not be used as a missionary tool. The purpose of miracles is to bless and reassure those who are already converted rather than to convert.
14 And these things ye shall not do, except it be required of you by them who desire it, that the scriptures might be fulfilled; for ye shall do according to that which is written.
verse 14 It is felt that verses 13-19 of section 24 are addressed to both Oliver and Joseph rather than just to Oliver. The reason is that the pronoun ye is the second person plural form of the pronoun you.
verses 13-14 We should not seek to perform miracles, with but few exceptions. Why these exceptions? These are the signs that follow all believers (see D&C 84:6572) which are also summarized in verse 13. They are gifts of the Spirit bestowed upon those who accept Christ and his gospel and are obedient to the Lord’s commandments.
A request to perform a healing should be granted if those requesting really desire to be healed rather than merely to witness a miracle. It is usually wise to require the person who is in need of a miracle to request a priesthood blessing rather than preemptively offer him one. In this way the scriptures are fulfilled, that is, the miracle is performed in behalf of one who believes, and his request for a blessing is a sign of his faith. It is probably not prudent for priesthood holders to visit hospitals uninvited, soliciting opportunities to give blessings.
15 And in whatsoever place ye shall enter, and they receive you not in my name, ye shall leave a cursing instead of a blessing, by casting off the dust of your feet against them as a testimony, and cleansing your feet by the wayside.
verse 15 Cursings as well as blessings may be administered by the power and authority of the priesthood (see D&C 124:93) and include the sealing up of the unbelieving and rebellious to punishment (see D&C 1:8-9). The act of cleansing the feet as a testimony against those who reject the servants of the Lord is an ordinance less of cursing and more a witness or demonstration that a witness of the truth has been given and has been rejected. Through this cleansing ordinance, those who rejected the truth are on their own, and those who preached the gospel to them are no longer responsible for them before the Lord (see D&C 88:81-82). The responsibility for their rejection is on their own heads. It is apparent in this and other scriptures given later in the Doctrine and Covenants that this ordinance is to be performed only when the Lord expressly commands it (see also D&C 75:20-22) and only under unusual and extreme conditions. It would likely be commanded only when individuals willfully and maliciously oppose the truth when the truth is authoritatively presented.
16 And it shall come to pass that whosoever shall lay their hands upon you by violence, ye shall command to be smitten in my name; and, behold, I will smite them according to your words, in mine own due time.
17 And whosoever shall go to law with thee shall be cursed by the law.
verses 16-17 The Lord avows that whatever men do to Joseph and Oliver will be done also to them. If men are violent toward them, God will smite them in return, in his own due time. If men use the law and the courts to attack the apostles and prophets, they will suffer themselves by the law and the court. “Whoso diggeth a pit shall fall therein” (Proverbs 26:27).
18 And thou shalt take no purse nor scrip, neither staves, neither two coats, for the church shall give unto thee in the very hour what thou needest for food and for raiment, and for shoes and for money, and for scrip.
verse 18 A purse is a coin-pouch. Many have taken the word “scrip”to mean the scriptures. This is not correct. Scrip was a small bag that shepherds carried at their side with a strap over their shoulder. It was filled with extra clothing and some food. The Lord is saying not to take any luggage, but rather depend upon the Lord, the Church, and the good people they contacted and taught for their temporal support.
19 For thou art called to prune my vineyard with a mighty pruning, yea, even for the last time; yea, and also all those whom thou hast ordained, and they shall do even according to this pattern. Amen.
verse 19 In this final dispensation the Lord’s missionaries are going forth to gather scattered Israel before the appointed day of burning when the vineyard will be purified of corruption. The imagery in this passage is similar to that used in the allegory of the olive tree. Pruning is the cutting off of evil individuals and preserving the righteous for spiritual instruction.
- Michael J. Preece