Section 30: More Counsel to the Whitmers
This is another revelation given to the Whitmer brothers: David, Peter, Jr., and John (see also sections 14, 15, and 16). At the time Joseph was still living in the Whitmer home in Fayette. Section 30 was received in September 1830 at the close of the quarterly conference of the Elders of the Church in Fayette, New York, but before anyone had returned home. Like section 23, this section is another composite revelation in that this material was printed as three different chapters in the Book of Commandments as chapters 30-32. In the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants these three were joined together to form one section. David is reminded to be obedient to those in authority over him and to stay at home. Peter is called to serve a mission to the Lamanites with Oliver Cowdery, and John is commanded to preach in the nearby area of Seneca Falls, New York, where lived a convert named Philip Burroughs.
1 Behold, I say unto you, David, that you have feared man and have not relied on me for strength as you ought.
verse 1 “you have feared man” This phrase refers to an over-concern with what people think and with political or social consequences. David had given too much weight to the opinions and feelings of people around him, particularly Hiram Page. Like David Whitmer, many of us worry too much about how our peers, colleagues, friends, neighbors, or family might react if we make a “big deal” of our religious convictions, yet we aren’t concerned enough about how God will react if we abandon or adjust those convictions in order to “get along.” The desire of some people to be considered broad-minded, intellectual, flexible, or non-dogmatic by the world is greater than their desire to be deemed faithful by the Lord—they cannot bring themselves to offend the idols of Babylon. It is true that people who are absolutely committed to the gospel are often also irritating to their more worldly neighbors because they will not negotiate or compromise their beliefs for the sake of better relations with others.
2 But your mind has been on the things of the earth more than on the things of me, your Maker, and the ministry whereunto you have been called; and you have not given heed unto my Spirit, and to those who were set over you, but have been persuaded by those whom I have not commanded.
verses 1-2 David Whitmer had been a strict Presbyterian and was always a man of high principles. It would be a mistake to think from these verses that he was worldly. He was engaged in farming about the time of his revelation, so “things of the earth” probably has reference to these farming activities, which may have prevented him from doing the work of the ministry. Since this revelation was received at harvest time, there is added reason for supposing that the Lord is referring to farming rather than worldliness. It is also possible that he is being rebuked at least in part for his role in the Hiram Page seerstone affair. David had been one of Hiram Page’s chief supporters in that affair. It is understandable that the Lord was displeased with David Whitmer. David, after all, had been one of the three witnesses of the Book of Mormon. He had stood in the presence of an angel and had heard a voice from heaven testify to the truthfulness of the book and the divine calling of Joseph Smith. Yet when the first counterfeit revelations came along little more than a year later, David Whitmer was among the first to be misled.
“you have not given heed unto my Spirit, and to those who were set over you” The two things that would have kept David (or any or us) from erring were the promptings of the Holy Ghost and the counsel of church leaders, but he did not listen to either of these in the Hiram Page affair.
“those whom I have not commanded” This phrase refers to those outside the priesthood line of authority.
3 Wherefore, you are left to inquire for yourself at my hand, and ponder upon the things which you have received.
4 And your home shall be at your father’s house, until I give unto you further commandments. And you shall attend to the ministry in the church, and before the world, and in the regions round about. Amen.
5 Behold, I say unto you, Peter, that you shall take your journey with your brother Oliver; for the time has come that it is expedient in me that you shall open your mouth to declare my gospel; therefore, fear not, but give heed unto the words and advice of your brother, which he shall give you.
verse 5 Note that Peter, Jr., is not rebuked. Apparently he was innocent in the matter of the Hiram Page seerstone. He is called to serve as a missionary to the Lamanites in the capacity of a “junior companion.” Along with Oliver Cowdery, Parley Pratt, and Ziba Peterson, Peter traveled by foot across New York, Ohio, Indiana, and Missouri to the federal Indian lands then beyond the borders of the United States. Peter remained faithful until his death in Missouri in 1836.
6 And be you afflicted in all his afflictions, ever lifting up your heart unto me in prayer and faith, for his and your deliverance; for I have given unto him power to build up my church among the Lamanites;
7 And none have I appointed to be his counselor over him in the church, concerning church matters, except it is his brother, Joseph Smith, Jun.
8 Wherefore, give heed unto these things and be diligent in keeping my commandments, and you shall be blessed unto eternal life. Amen.
9 Behold, I say unto you, my servant John, that thou shalt commence from this time forth to proclaim my gospel, as with the voice of a trump.
verse 9 John Whitmer is called to undertake a mission in his own neighborhood in Seneca County, New York.
10 And your labor shall be at your brother Philip Burroughs’, and in that region round about, yea, wherever you can be heard, until I command you to go from hence.
verse 10 Apparently Philip Burroughs was a member of the Church in Seneca Falls, New York, which was just a few miles north of Fayette.
11 And your whole labor shall be in Zion, with all your soul, from henceforth; yea, you shall ever open your mouth in my cause, not fearing what man can do, for I am with you. Amen.
verse 11 “your whole labor shall be in Zion” Perhaps this is a foreshadowing of John Whitmer’s still future call to replace Oliver Cowdery as church historian (see D&C 47).
This verse contains the first mention of the concept of “Zion” in the Doctrine and Covenants. For a discussion of the concept of Zion see the introductory comments for section 101.
- Michael J. Preece