Section 48: Land for Gathering in Ohio
After section 37, commanding the saints to gather in the Ohio, the spirit of gathering was poured out upon them, and in the spring of 1831, many saints began the westward move from New York. Some in the Church even wondered if the Ohio might be the place of gathering spoken of in the Book of Mormon, the New Jerusalem.
The law of consecration and stewardship had not yet been implemented in Kirtland mostly because there were not sufficient properties in the Kirtland area to provide for even the local saints, let alone for the many who would shortly be gathering to Ohio from the East. The question was how to provide for the newcomers.
The saints in Kirtland became agitated and concerned wondering where all these New York saints would live, and they inquired of Joseph. Section 48 was given in response to their inquiries.
The Lord commands the Kirtland saints to share any extra lands with the immigrants, and if sufficient lands are not available, then the immigrants should buy additional lands (verses 1-3).
Another question also arose among both the saints already in Kirtland and those migrating into the Kirtland area from the east. The question was, how permanent is our stay here in Kirtland? Should we buy homes and farms, or should we rent? Will the law of consecration be instituted here, or will Zion be located somewhere else? The Lord told both groups that their stay in Kirtland was only temporary, and they should, insofar as possible, save their money for the time in the future when they might begin to build a city in another gathering place, the location of which was not yet revealed (verses 4-6). We, of course, know now that Ohio was a place where the saints gathered while the Lord prepared them to establish Zion in the land of Missouri.
1 It is necessary that ye should remain for the present time in your places of abode, as it shall be suitable to your circumstances.
verse 1 The Lord uses the phrase “present time” three times in the first three verses of this section implying that the Ohio would be only a temporary place of gathering.
And yet in D&C 51:17 the Lord advises the saints to act as though they would be in Ohio for years, and in D&C 64:21 they were told to maintain a strong presence in Kirtland for at least five more years, until the Kirtland Temple could be dedicated.
2 And inasmuch as ye have lands, ye shall impart to the eastern brethren;
verse 2 The Kirtland saints are commanded to consecrate what property they possessed to the needs of the New York saints who would soon be arriving. Many in Ohio obeyed this commandment for the benefit of incoming saints who had already given up their own homes and lands to gather to Kirtland. Joseph and Emma themselves lived in shared or borrowed lodgings for much of their time in Kirtland.
3 And inasmuch as ye have not lands, let them buy for the present time in those regions round about, as seemeth them good, for it must needs be necessary that they have places to live for the present time.
verse 3 The Lord is still addressing the Kirtland saints. He says that when the consecrated Ohio properties are all given out as stewardships, those New York saints who are still arriving will have to find accommodations in the area as best they can and at their own expense.
4 It must needs be necessary that ye save all the money that ye can, and that ye obtain all that ye can in righteousness, that in time ye may be enabled to purchase land for an inheritance, even the city.
verse 4 Zion is not to be located in Ohio. The saints are instructed by the Lord to not expend all of their financial resources in Ohio. Rather, they are to earn and save as much money as they can in hopes that they may one day invest that money in the land and city of Zion. “The city” in this verse is the New Jerusalem. This city is to be built through the sacrifice and consecration of the saints. The Church had first learned about the city from Ether 13:3-8 and two previous revelations received by Joseph Smith, D&C 28:9 and D&C 42:6-9. The location of this city had not been revealed at this point in the church’s history (see verse 5). Three months later, in June 1831, the Lord will reveal that Missouri is the place for the gathering (see D&C 52:2-3), but he will not reveal the specific location as being Jackson County until July of 1831 (see D&C 57:13).
“land for an inheritance” This phrase suggests that each individual’s share of the land or city of Zion is rightfully his through the Abrahamic covenant. Among the other blessings promised in the Abrahamic covenant is that the righteous children of Abraham will receive a holy land on which to dwell (for a summary of the Abrahamic covenant, see the commentary for 1 Nephi 14:8). This promise, of course, is extended also to those Gentiles who accept Christ and his gospel and become Christ’s sons and daughters and members of the house of Israel by adoption. Our portion in the earthly Zion is a symbol and token of our portion in the coming celestial world, the ultimate “promised land.”
5 The place is not yet to be revealed; but after your brethren come from the east there are to be certain men appointed, and to them it shall be given to know the place, or to them it shall be revealed.
verse 5 “there are to be certain men appointed” This phrase refers to an advance party of saints that would be sent ahead to scout the area, make the necessary arrangements, purchase the land, and lay the foundations of the New Jerusalem in order to prepare Zion for the gathering of the saints. This commandment was obeyed, and the prophecy that the place would be revealed to these men was fulfilled three or four months later when sections 52 and 57 were received.
6 And they shall be appointed to purchase the lands, and to make a commencement to lay the foundation of the city; and then shall ye begin to be gathered with your families, every man according to his family, according to his circumstances, and as is appointed to him by the presidency and the bishop of the church, according to the laws and commandments which ye have received, and which ye shall hereafter receive. Even so. Amen.
verse 6 “they shall be appointed to purchase the lands” The Lord has already revealed in D&C 45:65 how the land of Zion was to be acquired: it was to be purchased. The saints would not find the lands they sought unoccupied, nor would Joseph lead the Church to take them by conquest as Joshua had done in obtaining the lands of the Canaanites. The Lord expected the Church generally and the saints individually to purchase the lands that would be pointed out to them.
“then shall ye begin to be gathered with your families” The basic unit of Zion, or the Church and kingdom of God upon the earth, is the family.
“as is appointed to him by the presidency and the bishop of the church” Today the First Presidency of the Church holds the keys of gathering and instructs the saints as to who should gather where, when, and how. President Harold B. Lee taught this point clearly:
It would be well, before the frightening events concerning the fulfillment of all God’s promises and predictions are upon us, that the saints in every land prepare themselves and look forward to the instruction that shall come to them from the First Presidency of this Church as to where they shall be gathered (Ye Are the Light of the World, 167).
In March of 1831, there was no First Presidency. The presiding leadership of the Church on the earth at that time was Joseph Smith who was the “first elder” of the Church and Oliver Cowdery, who was the “second elder” (see D&C 20:3). In January 1832 Joseph will be ordained president of the high priesthood. Though most historians might date the organization of the First Presidency from that time, it was not actually referred to as the First Presidency until 1834. It is interesting also to note that Joseph Smith will not receive the “keys of gathering” Israel until Moses returns them to him on April 3, 1836 in the Kirtland Temple.
A careful reading of this particular phrase, however, suggests that it does not refer to the gathering of Israel, but rather to the gathering of each man and his family to Zion and to the law of consecration and stewardship where he will receive a stewardship “according to his family” and “according to his circumstances.” And this “as [it] is appointed him by the presidency and the bishop of the church.”
Brief Historical Setting
The infamous Shaker affair occurred in May 1831. At the urging of a new convert to the Church, the former Shaker Leman Copley, the best missionaries in the Church, Sidney Rigdon and Parley P. Pratt, were dispatched by the Lord to visit the Shaker settlement. These two missionaries, accompanied by Brother Copley, took with them a revelation given by the Lord specifically for the Shakers [D&C 49 -The Shakers]. This missionary experience ended negatively when the missionaries, after delivering their message, were summarily rejected by the Shakers. Further, the Shakers were angered when Parley P. Pratt, following the Shakers’ rejection of his message, “shook the dust off his garments” as a testimony against them. Leman Copley was also angered by Parley’s undiplomatic gesture, so much so that he left the Church and evicted the Colesville saints from his land (see Historical Setting for section 51 below).
The peculiar spiritual manifestations in the Kirtland area in the spring of 1831 did not disappear with one rebuke. In May, again it was necessary for the Lord to speak to Joseph on the matter [D&C 50 -Teaching by the Spirit].
- Michael J. Preece