Section 29: The Millennium
The Church was born into a period of intense millennialism — a time when the Savior’s second coming was thought to be imminent by many of America’s Christians. There was no lack of interest within the new Church of Christ. In fact, there seemed to even exist in the Church the feeling and belief and hope that the Savior’s advent might occur during the life span of the charter members of the Church in this dispensation. So expectant were the early Mormons that these were indeed the last days that they eventually began to constantly search for signs that might give further evidence that the winding up scenes had begun. Later developments in church history testify to this enthusiastic anticipation. For example, in the Millennial Star, a publication the Church will establish in England, Parley P. Pratt regularly published a column in which he reported news of disasters such as an earthquake in Scotland, a plague in the Middle East, volcanic eruptions in the West Indies, and other “supernatural” occurrences which signified the last days before the Lord’s second coming. The final event preceding the second coming was to be the restoration of Israel. Parley P. Pratt wrote of this restoration:
Thus, all things seem preparing, in a political point of view, for the great restitution of Israel; and it is a matter of certainty that when the Jews gather home and rebuild Jerusalem, the second coming of Christ and the Millennium are just at the door. . . . We feel that the Second Advent is near, with the same assurance which we feel in regard to the near approach of summer when we see the trees put forth their leaves and blossom (Millennial Star, 1:75).
Predicting the coming of the great apocalyptic calamity, in which corrupt secular governments would be replaced by the kingdom of God on earth, Wilford Woodruff will later write:
It seems as though the nations at the present time were insane and their kings, presidents and senators entirely destitute of all wisdom. But they will all soon learn there is a God in Israel who is about to take peace from the earth and cut off nations not a few for great Babylon is about to come, in remembrance before God (Woodruff Journal, 17 February 1841, spelling and punctuation changes made for clarity).
While on a mission in England in 1841, Wilford Woodruff will write to Willard Richards, “I feel as though it will be day of warning and not of many words to England. I think that what we do, we shall do quickly” (letter of February 3, 1840). As brother Woodruff was preparing to leave his mission in England, he wrote that “the saints universally felt that the judgments of God are near in this land and are anxious to gather with the saints in Nauvoo as soon as possible” (Woodruff Journal, March 15, 1841).
A spirit of urgency surrounded the Church’s plan to prepare the earth for the Millennium. This grand plan consisted of three essential parts:
- Conversion of the Indians—gathering this “lost remnant of the House of Israel” who had dwindled in unbelief. The tool to be used in this gathering was the Book of Mormon—the “testimony of their fathers.”
- Establishing the city called New Jerusalem, as prophesied by John the Revelator (Revelation 21:2) and the Book of Mormon prophets (Ether 13). The New Jerusalem is a city that must serve as a refuge for the believers, against the terrors that will precede the one thousand year reign of the Lord. It is also a place where the temple of God will be built to which the Savior will come.
- Gathering the scattered elect of God unto the New Jerusalem. Section 29 was given a few days before an important conference of the Church held on September 26, 1830. This revelation was given by the Lord in anticipation of that gathering.
The Lord had commanded Oliver to tarry until after this conference before departing on his mission to the Lamanites. The doctrines contained in this section are of such importance that it was considered vital by the Lord that Oliver and his companions know them and be able to teach them to those to whom they preached during their great mission.
Section 29 is essentially a miscellany on the second coming of the Lord, the Millennium, and the preparation of the earth for the Lord’s advent. It is the first large revelation dedicated primarily to eschatological themes (Eschatology is the study of last or final matters such as the Lord’s second coming, the final judgment, and the life hereafter). It is likely that the prophetic passages in the inspired revision of Genesis (which was in progress at the time) led Joseph to inquire of the Lord for more revelation concerning the last days.
For a more complete discussion of the Millennium, see Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, volume 3, chapter 30, The Millennium.
D&C 29 The Millennium
D&C 29:7-9 Ye are called to bring to pass the gathering of mine elect.
D&C 29:12 Mine apostles who were with me in Jerusalem will judge Israel.
D&C 29:22-24 End of millennium . . . a new heaven and new earth.
D&C 29:27-29 Fate of the sons of perdition—where I am they cannot come, for they have no power.
D&C 29:34-35 All thing unto me are spiritual—not at any time have I given unto you a law which was temporal.
D&C 29:36-37 The devil rebelled against God, saying, Give me thine honor, which is my power; and also a third part of the hosts of heaven turned he away from me because of their agency; and they were thrust down, and thus came the devil and his angels.
D&C 29:46-47 Little children are redeemed from the foundation of the world—for power is not given unto Satan to tempt little children.
1 Listen to the voice of Jesus Christ, your Redeemer, the Great I AM, whose arm of mercy hath atoned for your sins;
verses 2, 7-9 In these verses for the first time the Lord introduces the concept of gathering.
2 Who will gather his people even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, even as many as will hearken to my voice and humble themselves before me, and call upon me in mighty prayer.
verse 2 “as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings” This expression is used in two additional places in the Doctrine and Covenants (see also D&C 10:65 and D&C 43:24). It evokes a poignant image of a mother hen gathering her chicks about her in a time of danger. It is obvious that the Savior is motivated, even driven, to gather his people Israel about him. Another analogy that helps us to understand the Lord’s infinite love and concern is that of a mother who is happiest when her children are gathered about her. She is thus able to see them and touch them and nurture and teach them and assure herself that they are safe.
Note also in this verse the Lord’s description of those scattered Israelites who will be qualified to gather in this last dispensation.
3 Behold, verily, verily, I say unto you, that at this time your sins are forgiven you, therefore ye receive these things; but remember to sin no more, lest perils shall come upon you.
4 Verily, I say unto you that ye are chosen out of the world to declare my gospel with the sound of rejoicing, as with the voice of a trump.
5 Lift up your hearts and be glad, for I am in your midst, and am your advocate with the Father; and it is his good will to give you the kingdom.
verse 5 “it is his good will to give you the kingdom” It is the Father’s good will or good pleasure to restore his kingdom to the saints.
6 And, as it is written—Whatsoever ye shall ask in faith, being united in prayer according to my command, ye shall receive.
7 And ye are called to bring to pass the gathering of mine elect; for mine elect hear my voice and harden not their hearts;
verse 7 “the gathering of mine elect” Who are the Lord’s elect? They are those individuals in and out of the Church who by the purity of their lives and thoughts maintain a high level of responsiveness to the Spirit of God. They readily perceive and comprehend spiritual truths.
8 Wherefore the decree hath gone forth from the Father that they shall be gathered in unto one place upon the face of this land, to prepare their hearts and be prepared in all things against the day when tribulation and desolation are sent forth upon the wicked.
verses 7-8 In 1830 the Lord commanded that the saints physically gather to a single place—Zion—which will later be designated to be in Jackson County, Missouri. Today the Lord still commands that the saints should gather to Zion, but Zion has been redefined as being wherever the saints are in the world. The doctrine that the center pole of the “tent” of Zion will one day be in Jackson County, Missouri, is still apparently true doctrine. The “stakes” of this tent are found all over the world.
The role of Zion in the lives of those saints who gather to Zion is here set forth. It is “to prepare their hearts and be prepared in all things against the day when tribulation and desolation are sent forth upon the wicked.”
For a discussion of the phenomena of scattering and gathering, see the introductory discussion to 1 Nephi 20 in Learning to Love the Book of Mormon.
9 For the hour is nigh and the day soon at hand when the earth is ripe; and all the proud and they that do wickedly shall be as stubble; and I will burn them up, saith the Lord of Hosts, that wickedness shall not be upon the earth;
verse 9 “they that do wickedly shall be as stubble; and I will burn them up” Apparently this “burning” of the wicked is to be taken literally and not just figuratively. (Smith, Church History and Modern Revelation, 1:238.) The scriptures also talk about the time when “devouring fire” will be poured out upon the wicked (D&C 29:21; 35:14; 1 Nephi 22:17, 23; Ezekiel 38:22; 39:6). This will, of course, occur at the time of the Lord’s second coming to the earth in glory.
10 For the hour is nigh, and that which was spoken by mine apostles must be fulfilled; for as they spoke so shall it come to pass;
verse 10 The time is near at hand for the great destruction of the wicked to begin.
11 For I will reveal myself from heaven with power and great glory, with all the hosts thereof, and dwell in righteousness with men on earth a thousand years, and the wicked shall not stand.
12 And again, verily, verily, I say unto you, and it hath gone forth in a firm decree, by the will of the Father, that mine apostles, the Twelve which were with me in my ministry at Jerusalem, shall stand at my right hand at the day of my coming in a pillar of fire, being clothed with robes of righteousness, with crowns upon their heads, in glory even as I am, to judge the whole house of Israel, even as many as have loved me and kept my commandments, and none else.
verse 12 The original Twelve whom Christ called during his mortal ministry in the Old World will have a role in judging those of the house of Israel. Several unanswered questions remain concerning the judgment of mankind. We have discussed previously the concept that the essence of the judgment will be evident at the instant of our resurrection since we will be resurrected with a celestial, terrestrial, or telestial body. What part of the judgment then remains? It will be exciting to learn exactly what role these original twelve apostles will have in the judgment of the house of Israel.
13 For a trump shall sound both long and loud, even as upon Mount Sinai, and all the earth shall quake, and they shall come forth—yea, even the dead which died in me, to receive a crown of righteousness, and to be clothed upon, even as I am, to be with me, that we may be one.
verse 13 These are they who are resurrected with celestial bodies, the “first fruits.”
verses 14-21 We encounter for the first time in the Doctrine and Covenants the concept of the divinely orchestrated signs of the Lord’s second coming. These may be referred to as “signs of the times” or “signs of the coming of the Son of Man.” For a discussion of this subject, please see three chapters in Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, volume 3. These are chapter 24, Sign’s of the Lord’s Second Coming—Introduction, chapter 25, Signs of the Lord’s Second Coming—Those that Warn, and chapter 26, Signs of the Lord’s Second Coming—Those that Punish and Cleanse. The commentary notes in this section will only be those not included in those chapters.
The Prophet Joseph said, “I will prophesy that the signs of the coming of the Son of Man are already commenced. One pestilence will desolate after another. We shall soon have war and bloodshed. The moon will be turned into blood. I testify of these things, and that the coming of the Son of Man is nigh, even at your doors” (HC, 3:390).
14 But, behold, I say unto you that before this great day shall come the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall be turned into blood, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and there shall be greater signs in heaven above and in the earth beneath;
verse 14 “this great day” This expression refers to the great day of the coming of the Lord which will be a day of great destruction on the earth when all telestial elements will be destroyed from off the earth. Charles A. Callis, in General Conference said, “Now brethren and sisters, the great day of the Lord is coming. It is going to be a terrible day. The wicked are going to be destroyed, and when I say the wicked I do not mean everybody outside the Mormon Church. There will be countless millions of people not of this Church spared because they are not ripe in iniquity and to them we will preach the everlasting Gospel and bring them unto Christ” (CR, April 1935, 18).
“there shall be greater signs in heaven above and in the earth beneath” When the natural signs (those that warn) shall lose their effect on humankind, they will be superseded by even greater signs in heaven and earth—signs that certainly will get our attention and will teach a stronger and more pointed message than their predecessors. These are the signs and punish and cleanse. Among these greater signs will be the pestilences and disasters that will precede the Lord’s coming, as described in verses 15-21. If humanity will not listen to the quiet natural signs we have already been given, the Lord will speak to us more loudly as the end approaches.
15 And there shall be weeping and wailing among the hosts of men;
16 And there shall be a great hailstorm sent forth to destroy the crops of the earth.
verse 16 “there shall be a great hailstorm” John the Revelator described this hailstorm in Revelation 16:21 and informed us that the hailstones will weigh about a talent each or somewhere between 50 and 100 pounds. Because there were several different weights of talents in the ancient world, more information would be needed to give an exact weight, but these are the broad limits.
17 And it shall come to pass, because of the wickedness of the world, that I will take vengeance upon the wicked, for they will not repent; for the cup of mine indignation is full; for behold, my blood shall not cleanse them if they hear me not.
verse 17 “I will take vengeance upon the wicked” Vengeance is the application of punishment to wrongdoers. The Lord has said that “vengeance is mine” (Romans 12:19). The Lord’s vengeance is neither wrong nor unjust. It is the punishment the Lord metes out to satisfy the demands of justice so that the wicked may be forgiven and eventually receive some degree of glory. What form does the Lord’s vengeance or punishment take? It obviously causes suffering by those who receive it. Is this suffering for a good purpose, or is it purely punitive and meted out by the Lord to the unrepentant as punishment of discipline for their recalcitrance? We have previously discussed that there is nothing of purely punitive or arbitrary suffering in the Lord’s universe.
“the cup of mine indignation is full” This figurative cup symbolizes the accumulated iniquities of the wicked. After the death of the wicked, justice will demand that they drink that which they have prepared for themselves (see D&C 43:26; 103:3; Revelation 14:10). It is a bitter cup, figuratively full of the indignation, wrath, or anger of God at their failure to repent. This bitterness can be removed only by drinking the cup themselves and paying the full penalty for their sins (D&C 19:15-19).
“my blood shall not cleanse them if they hear me not” There are only two possibilities for fallen and sinful man: either he gets clean or he stays filthy. The only way to get clean is through the blood—the atonement—of Jesus Christ. Thus, those in the gospel covenant are sometimes said to be “washed in the blood of the lamb” (Ether 13:11; see also Alma 13:11; Revelation 7:14). Those few who steadfastly refuse to repent and accept the atonement of Christ, either in this life or in the spirit world, will be raised up “filthy still” to stand before God at the final judgment, and they will be cast out into outer darkness (D&C 88:35).
President Spencer W. Kimball taught: “But if we do not repent, then the Lord clearly lets us know that there will be discipline and a denial of blessings and advancement. The Lord teaches that he cannot forgive people ‘in’ their sins. He can only save them ‘from’ their abandoned sins” (Ensign, October 1982, 5).
verses 18-20 Those divinely orchestrated signs of the Lord’s second coming may be divided generally into two categories: those that warn and those that punish and cleanse (purge and destroy). The following three verses generally describe the category of signs that punish and cleanse. The sufferings these verses describe may be intended to be figurative (symbolic) or literal.
18 Wherefore, I the Lord God will send forth flies upon the face of the earth, which shall take hold of the inhabitants thereof, and shall eat their flesh, and shall cause maggots to come in upon them;
19 And their tongues shall be stayed that they shall not utter against me; and their flesh shall fall from off their bones, and their eyes from their sockets;
20 And it shall come to pass that the beasts of the forest and the fowls of the air shall devour them up.
21 And the great and abominable church, which is the whore of all the earth, shall be cast down by devouring fire, according as it is spoken by the mouth of Ezekiel the prophet, who spoke of these things, which have not come to pass but surely must, as I live, for abominations shall not reign.
verse 21 “the great and abominable church” This is the only occurrence of this phrase in the Doctrine and Covenants, though the great and abominable is probably identical to the churches built up “to get gain” in D&C 10:56 and “the church of the devil” in D&C 18:20.
The phrase “great and abominable church” does not refer to any particular denomination, neither Roman Catholics, nor Jews, nor Baptists, nor any other individual church. In its broadest definition, the great and abominable church is the collective term for all who oppose or fight against Zion. It is also a general term for any manifestation of Satan’s form of religion—religion practiced for money, gain, or pleasure, or religion that seeks to justify wickedness. For this reason the great and abominable church is called the whore of all the earth, because for her, everything is negotiable (all values, standards, and principles) and because anything can be bought or arranged for with enough money. All who qualify under the label of great and abominable church will be part of the telestial carnage at the time of the Lord’s second coming.
“as it is spoken by the mouth of Ezekiel the prophet” See Ezekiel 5:9-11.
22 And again, verily, verily, I say unto you that when the thousand years are ended, and men again begin to deny their God, then will I spare the earth but for a little season;
verse 22 “when the thousand years are ended” After the end of the Millennium, some mortals upon the terrestrial earth will once again rebel against God. This rebellion will be allowed to go on for a little while, but then there shall be another end—this time the end of the terrestrial world. This is often referred to as the “end of the earth,” as opposed to the “end of the world” which occurs at the beginning of the Millennium. Other scriptures tell us that after the Millennium, Satan will again get power over mortals and will gather all his forces for one final contest, the battle of the Great God, which Satan will lose (see D&C 88:110-16; Revelation 20:7-21:1). This is sometimes called the battle of Gog and Magog (see Revelation 20:8; Ezekiel 38-39). Then the earth itself will experience a change comparable to death and resurrection, passing away as a terrestrial world and being born again or resurrected as a celestial world (see D&C 88:26). A “new heaven and a new earth” (verse 23) are promised by the Lord and recorded by the sacred writers. Or, in other words, the planetary systems are to be changed. Could it be that the earth will be moved and take up its place in a new planetary system as a celestial planet?
23 And the end shall come, and the heaven and the earth shall be consumed and pass away, and there shall be a new heaven and a new earth.
verse 23 “there shall be a new heaven and a new earth” Just as man dies and is resurrected with a new eternal body, so will the earth die (at the end of the one thousand-year millennial period) and be resurrected. The earth will be resurrected with a celestial body. All of the matter upon the earth will be celestial matter. The earth will become the home of all those who lived upon the earth who are worthy of an eternal celestial reward.
24 For all old things shall pass away, and all things shall become new, even the heaven and the earth, and all the fulness thereof, both men and beasts, the fowls of the air, and the fishes of the sea;
verse 24 All things shall be resurrected: the earth, man, animals, birds, fish, etc. Those who inherit the earth will be resurrected with a celestial body, and those who inherit lesser degrees of glory will be resurrected with terrestrial or telestial bodies.
25 And not one hair, neither mote, shall be lost, for it is the workmanship of mine hand.
verse 25 The earth and all things in it will be resurrected with eternal “perfect” bodies.
26 But, behold, verily I say unto you, before the earth shall pass away, Michael, mine archangel, shall sound his trump, and then shall all the dead awake, for their graves shall be opened, and they shall come forth—yea, even all.
verse 26 “Michael, mine archangel” Although Jewish and Christian tradition make Michael one of several archangels, the scriptures themselves refer predominantly to Michael, the archangel (see D&C 88:112; 107:54; Jude 1:9). Archangel in Greek means “first angel,” or “ruling angel,” or “presiding angel.” Thought there may be other angels in positions of authority, there is only one angel who presides over all the others, and that is Michael who was first of all the angels of God and who presides over all who came after him. D&C 128:21 seems to give priority to Michael the archangel over Gabriel, Raphael, and other angels who were also in positions of authority in the premortal life. Christian tradition credits Gabriel with the trumpet blast that will wake the dead and bring them to judgment—as in “Gabriel, blow your horn!”—but this verse tells us that Michael will sound that great blast.
Resurrection is a priesthood ordinance, and the individual who holds all the priesthood keys of all of the dispensations of the earth is Adam. Apparently he has some role, perhaps a central role in the process of the resurrection of mankind. He likely holds the keys of the resurrection, which keys have not been given the prophets of the earth.
All of mankind, save for Satan and the third part of the hosts of heaven who followed him, will be resurrected under the supervision of Adam. Some will come forth with celestial bodies; some with terrestrial; others with telestial bodies; and a few with bodies destined for outer darkness. The reader may wish to review the sequence of the resurrection in the commentary for Alma 40:16-20 in Learning to Love the Book of Mormon.
After the earth is cleansed and purified and becomes a celestial globe, Adam will preside over the children of men, who are of his posterity (D&C 107:54-57).
“then shall all the dead awake, for their graves shall be opened” Everyone who has ever lived on this earth will be resurrected. This includes the wicked and even those who will be cast into outer darkness at judgment. No one who has ever been born into this earth and received a mortal body will be denied resurrection.
27 And the righteous shall be gathered on my right hand unto eternal life; and the wicked on my left hand will I be ashamed to own before the Father;
28 Wherefore I will say unto them—Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.
29 And now, behold, I say unto you, never at any time have I declared from mine own mouth that they should return, for where I am they cannot come, for they have no power.
verses 26-29 The judgment scene alluded to here is the judgment from the great white throne (see Revelation 20:11-15) that occurs after the second resurrection— that is, after all have been resurrected. This is the only judgment that involves all the dead at once. The “wicked” spoken of here are those who still at that time stubbornly refuse to repent, even after suffering the pains of hell in the spirit world. These are they who suffer the second death and who cannot be given any glory, because they will not come to Christ. They are to be cast out with the devil and his angels into outer darkness—spoken of figuratively in verse 28 as “everlasting fire”—and are called sons of perdition (D&C 76:31-38; see also McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 280-81).
The “righteous,” on the other hand, are all those who have repented, whether in mortality or in the spirit prison, and have turned to Christ to be saved. They include all who will be given some degree of glory, whether celestial, terrestrial, or telestial. For Jesus Christ saves and glorifies “all the works of his hands” (see D&C 76:43, 88). This is different from the earlier judgment scene at the second coming, where those on the Savior’s right hand are limited to those who repented in mortality, or would have repented, given the opportunity, and who will inherit the celestial kingdom.
30 But remember that all my judgments are not given unto men; and as the words have gone forth out of my mouth even so shall they be fulfilled, that the first shall be last, and that the last shall be first in all things whatsoever I have created by the word of my power, which is the power of my Spirit.
verse 30 “all my judgments are not given unto men” This phrase means that man is not given to know or completely understand the judgments of the Lord. Though we do not understand all the reasons for his actions, we may be certain that all of God’s judgments are just and right.
The Prophet Joseph wrote:
He [God] holds the reins of judgment in his hands; he is a wise lawgiver, and will judge all men, not according to the narrow, contracted notions of men, but, “according to the deeds done in the body whether they be good or evil.” . . . He will judge them “not according to what they have not, but according to what they have,” those who have lived without law, will be judged without law, and those who have a law, will be judged by that law. We need not doubt the wisdom and intelligence of the Great Jehovah; he will award judgment or mercy to all nations according to their several deserts, their means of obtaining intelligence, the laws by which they are governed, the facilities afforded them of obtaining correct information, and his inscrutable designs in relation to the human family; and when the designs of God shall be made manifest, and the curtain of futurity be withdrawn, we shall all of us eventually have to confess that the Judge of all the earth has done right (HC, 4:595-96).
“the first shall be last, and . . . the last shall be first in all things” The beginning of Christ’s work—creation—is to get us here to earth, to bring us from the spiritual realm to the temporal. The end of Christ’s work—redemption—is to get us home again, from the temporal realm back to the spiritual. So in this instance, as in many others, the first will be last and the last will be first—the end of Christ work will then be of primal importance.
“word of my power, which is the power of my Spirit” Both the phrases “word of my power” and “power of my Spirit” refer to Jesus Christ.
31 For by the power of my Spirit created I them; yea, all things both spiritual and temporal—
32 First spiritual, secondly temporal, which is the beginning of my work; and again, first temporal, and secondly spiritual, which is the last of my work–
verses 31-32 All things have a spiritual as well as a temporal creation. That is all intelligences were first embodied with spirit matter (spirit bodies), and subsequently they were embodied with mortal matter (mortal bodies). The sequence apparently also applies to all things of the earth including animals, plants, and even the so-called “inanimate” things of the earth.
33 Speaking unto you that you may naturally understand; but unto myself my works have no end, neither beginning; but it is given unto you that ye may understand, because ye have asked it of me and are agreed.
verse 33 “that you may naturally understand” That we may understand with our limited, mortal, natural minds. Actually, the reference points of “the beginning” and “the end” are artificial and are used by the Lord only so that we mortals can make sense of his words. From God’s perspective, there is no beginning and no end, a concept that is impossible for us mortals to completely understand.
Likewise the division of things into temporal and spiritual is also an artificial human way of looking at things, for from God’s perspective all things are spiritual—all things have spiritual implications—and all that God does and says has eternal, spiritual significance.
34 Wherefore, verily I say unto you that all things unto me are spiritual, and not at any time have I given unto you a law which was temporal; neither any man, nor the children of men; neither Adam, your father, whom I created.
verse 34 An important verse stating clearly that none of God’s laws is purely temporal. Smith and Sjodahl in their Doctrine and Covenants Commentary wrote:
Man makes a distinction between temporal and spiritual laws, and some are very much concerned about keeping the two separate. To the Lord every thing is both spiritual and temporal, and the laws he gives are consequently spiritual, because they concern spiritual beings. When he commanded Adam to eat bread in the sweat of his brow, or Moses to strike the rock that the people might drink, or the Prophet Joseph to erect the Nauvoo House, or the saints in Utah to build fences and roads, such laws were for their spiritual welfare, as well as physical. To obey such laws, when given, is a spiritual duty. One who performs his daily labor “as to the Lord, and not to men” (Ephesians 6:7) derives spiritual benefit from whatever his duties are (156).
“neither any man, nor the children of men; neither Adam, your father” The Lord emphasizes the fact that no purely temporal commandment has ever been given to any man.
“Adam . . . whom I created” We know that the speaker here is the Lord Jesus Christ, and he speaking as though he were the Father by the principle of divine investiture of authority.
35 Behold, I gave unto him that he should be an agent unto himself; and I gave unto him commandment, but no temporal commandment gave I unto him, for my commandments are spiritual; they are not natural nor temporal, neither carnal nor sensual.
verse 35 “Him,” in this verse of refers to all mankind.
verses 36-39 From the second line in verse 36 to the end of verse 39 (the material between the two dashes) we find a parenthetical interruption to the original line of thought, which expands upon the origin and function of the devil. The subject begun in verse 36, the temptation of Adam, resumes in verse 40.
36 And it came to pass that Adam, being tempted of the devil—for, behold, the devil was before Adam, for he rebelled against me, saying, Give me thine honor, which is my power; and also a third part of the hosts of heaven turned he away from me because of their agency;
verse 36 A very important verse! The only verse of scripture in all four standard works that states clearly that one-third of the hosts of heaven rebelled.
“being tempted of the devil” The word devil is from the Greek diabolos, meaning “one who separates or divides.”
“for he rebelled against me, saying, Give me thine honor, which is my power” Herein lies an important clue as to the very basis of God’s power. God has taught us that his power does not come from above; but from beneath (see D&C 63:59). That is, he would not, nor indeed can he, force any individual to do anything against that individual’s will. Agency is the law of heaven which God will not ever and cannot violate or abrogate. The great majority of God’s creations hold him in high esteem and are inclined to obey him. When he commands, he does not force, rather he requests, and all of his creations are inclined to obey him because they hold him in the highest honor. See the discussion in Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, volume 1, chapter 14, The Power of God.
A scriptural example of God’s use of his power occurred during the creation of this world, the Lord and those assisting him did not authoritatively command that the creation take place. Rather, they requested of the intelligences that they organize themselves. Then, they were obliged to “watch those things which they had ordered until they obeyed” (Abraham 4:18).
Satan, knowing the basis of God’s power, made the laughable request of the Father “Give me thine honor.” Satan knew that if all of the intelligences in God’s kingdom honored him as they honor God, then Satan would possess the same power that God possesses—the intelligences would be inclined to obey him as they obey God. That Satan’s request is completely ludicrous is obvious to all.
37 And they were thrust down, and thus came the devil and his angels;
verse 37 Satan and his adherents, one-third of the hosts of heaven, were thrust down to earth, never to receive a mortal body and never to be resurrected.
38 And, behold, there is a place prepared for them from the beginning, which place is hell.
verse 38 Generally, the word hell in scripture refers to the spirit world, especially that part of the world of spirits we call prison. Here, however, hell is used to refer to the awful fate of the sons of perdition—outer darkness. There is no indication in scripture that there will ever be a redemption for these unfortunate souls.
39 And it must needs be that the devil should tempt the children of men, or they could not be agents unto themselves; for if they never should have bitter they could not know the sweet—
verse 39 Is the devil’s influence essential in order for a man to be able to use his agency to decide between right and wrong? If the devil and his minions were not here on earth, would our existence be all sweetness without any of the bitterness of temptation to do evil? It would not, as we would still experience adversity in the form of our natural self. But certainly the moral challenges of this world are greatly enhance through Satan’s skillful manipulations.
40 Wherefore, it came to pass that the devil tempted Adam, and he partook of the forbidden fruit and transgressed the commandment, wherein he became subject to the will of the devil, because he yielded unto temptation.
verse 40 There may be some connection between section 29 and Joseph’s work on the King James Bible revision. He had started in June 1830 with Genesis. Section 29 contains reference to Adam, the Garden of Eden, the Creation, the Fall, etc.
“because he yielded unto temptation” Here is a pertinent reminder that whenever we give in to our natural self and to the promptings of Satan, we experience an automatic incremental increase in our inclination to give in to his promptings again and again. Contrariwise, when we are able to overcome our natural self and obey, we earn an incremental increase in an enhanced responsiveness to the promptings of the Spirit and a greater inclination to overcome our natural inclinations again. In short, obedience leads to protection from Satan’s evil influences.
41 Wherefore, I, the Lord God, caused that he should be cast out from the Garden of Eden, from my presence, because of his transgression, wherein he became spiritually dead, which is the first death, even that same death which is the last death, which is spiritual, which shall be pronounced upon the wicked when I shall say: Depart, ye cursed.
verse 41 “he became spiritually dead, which is the first death” The “he” here refers to Adam. The first death is that temporary spiritual death which Adam and all of us experience because of the transgression of Adam. To become “spiritually dead,” as is written in this verse, does not imply that our spirit is destroyed or ceases to function. Rather this phrase simply means that we are separated from God. Through Christ’s atonement and resurrection, he completely overcame this spiritual death (as well as physical death) for all people. That is, no one will ever suffer permanently because of Adam’s transgression.
The second or “last” death is a permanent separation of man from God caused by a man’s own sins and his persistent refusal to repent and be saved by the Savior’s atonement. These are those who, in the final judgment following the Millennium, will be condemned by the Lord to outer darkness for eternity. He will say, “Depart, ye cursed.”
This verse suggests that these two deaths are the same—“even that same death which is the last death”—but they are the same only in that they are both spiritual deaths, that is, a separation of man from God.
42 But, behold, I say unto you that I, the Lord God, gave unto Adam and unto his seed, that they should not die as to the temporal death, until I, the Lord God, should send forth angels to declare unto them repentance and redemption, through faith on the name of mine Only Begotten Son.
verse 42 Apparently, the lives of Adam and his children before the Flood were lengthened so that no one died during Adam’s dispensation without first having had the opportunity to accept or reject the gospel (see 2 Nephi 2:21). Further, it would seem that in Noah’s pre-flood dispensation the Lord was particularly inclined to send to the earth angels to preach his gospel (Moses 5:58; 7:27). This longevity changed with the Flood (see Genesis 6:3), and it then became possible for people to die in ignorance. Perhaps that is why preaching the gospel to spirits in prison is often described as beginning with those “which sometime were disobedient [not ignorant], when once the long-suffering of God waited in the days of Noah” (see D&C 138:9; 1 Peter 3:20). Thus, through the preaching of Adam, Enoch, Noah, angels from heaven, and even God himself (see Moses 5:58), no one who died before the Flood died in ignorance.
43 And thus did I, the Lord God, appoint unto man the days of his probation—that by his natural death he might be raised in immortality unto eternal life, even as many as would believe;
verse 43 “the days of his probation” This term means the days of our mortal lives. However, for those who are not blessed to be placed, at their mortal death, in a state of paradise in the spirit world, it also includes the experience in spirit prison. No one can be said to have utterly and permanently failed their test or probation until their resurrection takes place, when any change in glory is no longer possible and when those who have refused to repent will be “filthy still” and the Lord will command them to depart.
44 And they that believe not unto eternal damnation; for they cannot be redeemed from their spiritual fall, because they repent not;
verse 44 God does not condemn anyone to outer darkness except those who steadfastly refuse to repent and allow Christ to extend to them the blessings of the atonement.
45 For they love darkness rather than light, and their deeds are evil, and they receive their wages of whom they list to obey.
verse 45 To “list” to obey is to prefer, choose, or want to obey.
46 But behold, I say unto you, that little children are redeemed from the foundation of the world through mine Only Begotten;
verse 46 The plan of salvation has made merciful provisions for those who die before the age of accountability and for the mentally handicapped.
47 Wherefore, they cannot sin, for power is not given unto Satan to tempt little children, until they begin to become accountable before me;
verse 47 Unaccountable children and the mentally handicapped are not assessed a penalty by the law of justice when they inadvertently sin. Should they never have a chance to live in mortality as accountable individuals, they will be judged by a merciful and all knowing Savior who will see to their eternal happiness and welfare.
48 For it is given unto them even as I will, according to mine own pleasure, that great things may be required at the hand of their fathers.
verse 48 This verse contains two ideas joined by the conjunction “that” which implies a relationship between the two.
“For it is given unto them even as I will, according to mine own pleasure” One is tempted to interpret this phrase as meaning that the eternal reward of the unaccountable is meted out by the merciful Lord at his own good pleasure. But this meaning is difficult to connect to the second phrase in the verse. Hence, we must wonder if the Lord might be intending to say here that the premature deaths of some children or the mental handicaps of some individuals might be even orchestrated by the Lord “even as I will, according to mine own pleasure.” This is difficult doctrine, as we know that much of adversity here on earth is simply the result of the built-in nature of mortality. Most adversities are what we might term “mortal accidents.” I personally find it difficult to believe that all premature deaths and congenital handicaps are individually orchestrated by the Lord. See a discussion of this matter in chapter 1, volume 3 of Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, Adversity and Suffering. Particularly see the section titled “How Might We Categorize Adversities and Sufferings.” See also chapter 2 of that same volume, The Roles of Suffering in Our Lives.
“that great things may be required at the hand of their fathers” In the teaching of unaccountable children and in the rearing of mentally handicapped children there are great obligations and great challenges. Could it be that this verse is teaching us that the Lord may allow or even cause that some children may die before the age of accountability or that some children are born with mental handicaps so that their parents might be tested? During the period of time before children are accountable, “fathers” (parents) are to teach them correct principles. Otherwise, the “sin [will] be upon the heads of the parents” (D&C 68:25). Perhaps a similar obligation may bear upon those parents rearing mentally handicapped children.
49 And, again, I say unto you, that whoso having knowledge, have I not commanded to repent?
verse 49 The phrase “whoso having knowledge” refers to those who are accountable for their own sins.
50 And he that hath no understanding, it remaineth in me to do according as it is written. And now I declare no more unto you at this time. Amen.
verse 50 “he that hath no understanding” This phrase applies to those who are mentally deficient or to those who are too young to be accountable before the Lord. The Lord will judge them perfectly fairly according to what will make them happy and fulfilled for all eternity.
- Michael J. Preece