Section 58: Instructions Concerning Zion
Please review the introductory background material for section 57. Joseph recorded the events of his first week in Zion as follows:
The first Sabbath after our arrival in Jackson County [ironically, the 24th of July], Brother W. W. Phelps preached to a western audience over the boundary of the United States, wherein were present specimens of all the families of the earth; Shem, Ham, and Japheth; several of the Lamanites or Indians—representative of Shem; quite a respectable number of Negroes—descendants of Ham; and the balance was made up of citizens of the surrounding country, and fully represented themselves as pioneers of the West. At this meeting two were baptized, who had previously believed in the fulness of the Gospel.
During this week the Colesville branch, referred to in the latter part of the last revelation [57:15], and Sidney Rigdon, Sidney Gilbert, and wife [Elizabeth], and Elders Morley and Booth, arrived. I received the following—section 58 (HC, 1:191).
In the background materials for section 57, we learned that Joseph had asked three questions of the Lord: When will the wilderness blossom as the rose (Isaiah 35:1)? When will Zion be built up in her glory (Isaiah 60:1-2)? And, where will thy temple stand unto which all nations shall come in these last days (Isaiah 2:2)? In section 57 the Lord answered the third question: Where will thy temple stand? The Lord concluded section 57 by promising: “Further directions shall be given hereafter” (D&C 57:16).
In section 58, received August 1, 1831, the Lord answers the first two questions. The second question—When will Zion be built up in her glory?—was answered first.
On August 2, 1831, the day following the reception of section 58, Joseph and Sidney helped members of the Colesville Branch “lay the first log, for a house, as a foundation of Zion,” a combination church and school in Kaw Township, twelve miles west of Independence (HC, 1:196). Following the Lord’s instructions (see verse 57), Sidney Rigdon also consecrated and dedicated Jackson County, Missouri, specifically as the land of Zion and for the gathering of the saints. According to Oliver Cowdery: “Brother Sidney Rigdon stood up and asked saying: Do you receive this land for the land of your inheritance with thankful hearts from the Lord? answer from all: ‘We do.’ Do you pledge yourselves to keep the laws of God on this land, which you never have kept in your own lands? ‘We do.’ Do you pledge yourselves to see that others of your brethren who shall come hither do keep the laws of God? ‘We do.’ After prayer he arose and said, I now pronounce this land consecrated and dedicated to the Lord for a possession and inheritance for the saints (in the name of Jesus Christ having authority from him). And for all the faithful servants of the Lord to the remotest ages of time. Amen” (cited in John Whitmer’s Early Latter Day Saint History, 79).
On the next day, August 3, 1831, two days after section 58 had been received, Joseph Smith laid the cornerstone of the temple in Independence a mile and a half west of the new brick courthouse. According to the commandment in verse 57, Sidney Rigdon consecrated the ground and pronounced the land dedicated to the Lord. On the following day, the Prophet Joseph dedicated the temple site.
D&C 58 Instructions Concerning Zion
D&C 58:26-29 It is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant. Men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause.
D&C 58:42-43 If a man repenteth of his sins . . . he will confess them and forsake them.
D&C 58:64-65 The gospel must be preached unto every creature, and behold the Son of Man cometh.
1 Hearken, O ye elders of my church, and give ear to my word, and learn of me what I will concerning you, and also concerning this land unto which I have sent you.
verse 1 “learn of me what I will concerning you” The Lord commands his saints, and particularly his elders or the leaders of his Church to pay attention to this revelation and learn well what the Lord would have them do.
“also concerning this land unto which I have sent you” The Lord will also make his will known regarding the land of Zion. At this point the saints know the basic principles for establishing Zion (sections 42, 51). They also know where Zion is to be established (section 57), and they know who among the saints will begin to establish it (sections 52-57). What they do not know is the details of how they should proceed, the time table for these events, and exactly what to expect in the future. It is natural that they should want the Lord to provide them with detailed instructions for every step of the process. They will learn, however, that true saints should not be expected to be commanded in everything but should employ their own initiative in accomplishing worthwhile projects (see verses 26-29).
2 For verily I say unto you, blessed is he that keepeth my commandments, whether in life or in death; and he that is faithful in tribulation, the reward of the same is greater in the kingdom of heaven.
verse 2 “whether in life or in death” The Lord here begins to prepare the saints for the truth that while the rewards of obedience are sure and certain, for some those rewards will come only after further tribulation and perhaps even following death. Zion will not be established easily or all at once, and the saints might not enjoy its blessings in their lifetime.
3 Ye cannot behold with your natural eyes, for the present time, the design of your God concerning those things which shall come hereafter, and the glory which shall follow after much tribulation.
verse 3 “Ye cannot behold with your natural eyes” In spite of the revelations the saints have received concerning Zion, they do not, nor can they as yet, understand what is to befall them and the city of Zion. The faithful saints will receive their promised inheritance, but only after more trials and sacrifices. They will learn in the next verse that “the hour is not yet.” It is likely that this verse and the next caught the saints by surprise. They were not expecting a delay.
4 For after much tribulation come the blessings. Wherefore the day cometh that ye shall be crowned with much glory; the hour is not yet, but is nigh at hand.
verse 4 “after much tribulation come the blessings” When this verse is coupled with D&C 101:4-5 and D&C 136:31, we learn that the Lord will try us and test us until the dross is removed from our souls and we are worthy for an inheritance in Zion.
It would seem that there are separate categories of tribulations that may be experienced by us during our mortal sojourn.
First, there are adversities that we may simply term “accidents of mortality.” This telestial world is characterized by diseases, personal challenges, and the potential for accidents. These are simply characteristic of this mortal phase. The Lord does not necessarily dictate that they happen, rather he simply allows us to deal with this mortal phase and its inherent trials (“type 1” sufferings). In this latter category are found the problems we may encounter as a consequence of the poor choices or unrighteousness of other people. This mortal phase is hazardous. We humans are all in it together and must watch out for each other and care for each other while we are here.
Second, tribulations may come as a natural consequence of disregarding the Lord’s counsel. These occur as the result of unwise choices (“type 2” sufferings).
Third, trials may come as tutorials from the Lord given to righteous people whom he wishes to teach patience, character, long-suffering, and courage (“type 3” sufferings). For a more complete discussion of adversities and suffering, see Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, volume 3, chapter 1, Adversity and Suffering.
5 Remember this, which I tell you before, that you may lay it to heart, and receive that which is to follow.
verse 5 The Lord continues his warnings and foreshadowings that trials and tragedies are in the offing. He is warning the saints of trials yet to come, even though no one can, at this time, see a troubling cloud on the horizon. How, for example, are the saints, in August of 1831, to know that Jackson County, like Kirtland, will not be a permanent place for them, even though it has been dedicated and consecrated for that purpose?
6 Behold, verily I say unto you, for this cause I have sent you—that you might be obedient, and that your hearts might be prepared to bear testimony of the things which are to come;
verse 6 “for this cause I have sent you—that you might be obedient” Here the Lord implies that an important purpose for the commandment to establish Zion is not so much to establish Zion physically but to establish a spiritual Zion—a faithful, obedient, and consecrated people.
The saints are today still establishing spiritual Zion in all the stakes of Zion throughout the world. The physical Zion will yet be built in this dispensation, and on the very ground dedicated for that purpose in 1831. But in the meantime, each of us can and should establish spiritual Zion in our own homes and in our own hearts by obedience and faithfulness to the Lord. When the Lord’s people have at last become a righteous people, the Lord will direct them in the details of establishing the complete physical and spiritual Zion.
“the things which are to come” This phrase refers to the events associated with the end of the world and the second coming of Christ, including the inevitable establishment of a physical Zion in Jackson County, Missouri. The Church’s investments in Zion, the beginnings made by these pioneers, testify that Zion will be built as the prophets have spoken.
7 And also that you might be honored in laying the foundation, and in bearing record of the land upon which the Zion of God shall stand;
verse 7 It would seem, as we study today the Lord’s answer to Joseph Smith, that the Lord was trying to tell the saints that Zion was not to be established in 1831 but rather in the future, after the saints had experienced much tribulation. It is also apparent, however, that the saints did not take this meaning from the revelation, as they seemed to continue to anticipate that they would build Zion immediately. Joseph Fielding Smith said:
That Zion was to be established and the city built at once was evidently the idea possessed by some of the saints. . . . That the city was not to be built at that time is indicated in this word: [Section 58:3-7, quoted]. From this we see that the glory and greatness of the city of Zion was reserved for the future; although in the scriptural sense the time is “nigh at hand” (Essentials in Church History, 1950, 131).
If Zion was not to be built up immediately, why were the saints sent to Missouri? In verses 3-7 above, the Lord outlines the purposes for which he had sent the saints to Zion. The first was a test of obedience for the saints (verse 6). They had already been obedient in coming to Missouri and would yet have the opportunity to be obedient to instructions still to come from the Lord. Second, they were to prepare their hearts so they could bear a personal conviction of what was to come (also verse 6)—the building of Zion. By living in Zion they would acquire the personal knowledge and experience upon which to base that testimony. Third, they were to lay the foundations for the city of Zion (verse 7). An apparent fourth reason is found in the two following verses.
“that you might be honored” Here we learn that by sending these saints to Zion, the Lord is honoring them. He judges them worthy of being honored by him.
“in laying the foundation . . . of Zion” These saints were sent to Jackson County to establish the location and lay the foundation (largely a figurative foundation) of Zion. They did not yet understand that a later generation would actually build the holy city.
8 And also that a feast of fat things might be prepared for the poor; yea, a feast of fat things, of wine on the lees well refined, that the earth may know that the mouths of the prophets shall not fail;
verse 8 “a feast of fat things” The “feast of fat things” refers to a fatty, sumptuous, full-flavored meal fit for royalty.
“wine on the lees” This expression refers to wine which remains on its settlings or dregs until it is well matured. It is then poured off and strained to provide the best wine possible. The word lees here is a translation of the Hebrew shmarim, which literally means “dregs.” The expression “wine on the lees” apparently refers to only a part of the total fermented wine, the part nearest the dregs. That is the strongest, sweetest, and most concentrated portion of the fermented product—the “fat part” (see Isaiah 25:6). These concentrated dregs, which contained the most flavor, were similar to a jelly or preserve and were considered a great delicacy.
It should also be noted, parenthetically, that when drinking is given a negative connotation—for example, if the cup were bitter like gall or vinegar—then the dregs are the bitterest and most difficult portion to drink (as in Psalm 75:8; Alma 40:26). The lees or the dregs represent the most concentrated part of a substance or, metaphorically, of an experience. If a drink is sweet like wine, then the dregs are the sweetest part, but if the drink is bitter like vinegar, then the dregs are the most bitter part.
Only the best will be served at the Lord’s feast. These two expressions figuratively, then, express the idea that the fulness of the gospel brings both spiritual and temporal plenty to all, but particularly to the poor.
9 Yea, a supper of the house of the Lord, well prepared, unto which all nations shall be invited.
verse 9 Not only were the saints to begin to prepare a “feast of fat things . . . for the poor” (see Isaiah 25:6—Joseph may well have been studying the book of Isaiah at the time), they were also to prepare “a supper of the house of the Lord.” Both of these expressions, the “feast of fat things” and the “supper of the house of the Lord,” figuratively represent the law of consecration and stewardship. The object of the law of consecration and stewardship is to bring to the world an entirely new social order, to establish a community in which even the poor will share the “fat things” with the “rich and the learned, the wise and the noble” (Smith and Sjodahl, Doctrine and Covenants Commentary, 336).
The “feast of fat things . . . prepared for the poor” and “supper of the house of the Lord” seem, on another level, to refer to the latter-day Zion and the restored gospel. This is the same meal referred to in other places as the marriage feast of the Lamb, when Jesus as the bridegroom comes to the earth to receive his bride—the Church— unto himself with joy and rejoicing (see Revelation 19:7-9, 17). The implication is that in Zion the celestial law, the law of consecration and stewardship, will eventually be fully observed.
10 First, the rich and the learned, the wise and the noble;
11 And after that cometh the day of my power; then shall the poor, the lame, and the blind, and the deaf, come in unto the marriage of the Lamb, and partake of the supper of the Lord, prepared for the great day to come.
verses 10-11 “First, the rich . . and then . . . the poor” Before the celestial order is established in Zion, the world lieth in sin (D&C 49:20), and it is only the rich who have a material abundance. It is inevitable that the wealthy and the educated will also have some advantage in learning the gospel. But when the law of consecration and stewardship is instituted, then all injustices (ignorance and poverty) and all worldly advantages will be done away, and the righteous poor will receive full measure of the blessings of the gospel.
12 Behold, I, the Lord, have spoken it.
13 And that the testimony might go forth from Zion, yea, from the mouth of the city of the heritage of God—
verse 13 “that the testimony might go forth from Zion” This testimony is to that of future events associated with the end of the world, the second coming of Christ, and the establishment of the law of consecration and stewardship.
verses 14-20 In these following verses, the Lord gives counsel to Bishop Edward Partridge some of which applies to bishops in general—especially verse 17 which calls a bishop to be a “judge in Israel.”
14 Yea, for this cause I have sent you hither, and have selected my servant Edward Partridge, and have appointed unto him his mission in the land.
verse 14 “Edward Partridge . . . his mission in the land” Edward Partridge had previously been called as bishop of the Church (see D&C 41:9). As such, his proper functions included assigning stewardships and judging the hearts and behaviors of the saints relative to the law of the Lord. This will continue to be his particular function when called to stay in Missouri (see verse 24). There can be no doubt that Bishop Edward Partridge was the individual called of God and appointed to “divide unto the saints their inheritance” in Zion (D&C 57:7).
15 But if he repent not of his sins, which are unbelief and blindness of heart, let him take heed lest he fall.
verse 15 “if he repent not of his sins” During their weeks in Missouri together, “Bishop Partridge several times strenuously opposed the measures of the Prophet, and was sharply reproved by the latter for his unbelief and hardness of heart” (Clark, Messages of the First Presidency, 113). Despite his high calling as the bishop in Zion, if Partridge had not repented of this attitude he would have fallen. Bishop Partridge was a good man with a firm testimony of the gospel, and he eventually sacrificed all he had for the kingdom. But he also had some very firm opinions about how Zion was to be built—opinions which were at odds with the instructions he received from Joseph Smith. These differences with the Prophet continued for some time and will eventually contribute to the loss of Zion in Jackson County, Missouri. Edward Partridge will not be the last saint to doubt the words or plans of the prophets.
16 Behold his mission is given unto him, and it shall not be given again.
verses 15-16 During the administration of Joseph F. Smith, the First Presidency of the Church issued a statement to clarify the role played by Edward Partridge in Missouri. The following is an excerpt from that statement:
On occasion of the Prophet’s first visit to Independence, Missouri—Edward Partridge accompanied him—in the meetings and conferences held upon the land of Zion, bishop Partridge several times strenuously opposed the measures of the Prophet, and was sharply reproved by the latter for his unbelief and hardness of heart. Indeed, the apostate, Ezra Booth, who was present, made the scene between the bishop and the Prophet one of the items that justified to him his apostasy. He refers to the circumstance in a letter, addressed to Bishop Partridge, which has been several times published in anti-Mormon literature. The bishop, moreover, was reproved for his “blindness of heart and unbelief,” and warned of the danger of falling from his high station, in a revelation given in August 1831, while both he and the Prophet were still in Missouri (Messages of the First Presidency, 4:113).
Your author has frequently had feelings of empathy for the Prophet Joseph as I have studied the Doctrine and Covenants and the events of the early history of the Church. How often must he have felt discouraged and lonely! He repeatedly encountered apostasy and recalcitrance in those whose support he so desperately needed. I have become fond of a story related by Daniel Tyler, an associate of the prophet in Kirtland:
At the time William Smith and others rebelled against the Prophet at Kirtland, I attended a meeting . . . where Joseph presided. Entering the school house a little before the meeting opened and gazing upon the man of God, I perceived sadness in his countenance and tears trickling down his cheeks. A few moments later a hymn was sung, and he opened the meeting by prayer. Instead of facing the audience, however, he turned his back and bowed upon his knees, facing the wall. This, I suppose, was done to hide his sorrow and tears.
I had heard men and women pray . . . from the most ignorant, both as to letters and intellect, to the most learned and eloquent. But never until then had I heard a man address his Maker as though he was present listening as a kind father would listen to the sorrows of a dutiful child. Joseph was at that time unlearned, but that prayer, which was to a considerable extent in behalf of those who accused him of having gone astray and fallen into sin, was that the Lord would forgive them and open their eyes that they might see aright. . . . There was no ostentation, no raising of the voice as by enthusiasm, but a plain conversational tone, as a man would address a present friend. It appeared to me as though the veil were taken away. I could see the Lord standing facing his humblest of all servants I had ever seen (in Hyrum and Helen Mae Andrus’s, They Knew the Prophet, 51-52).
17 And whoso standeth in this mission is appointed to be a judge in Israel, like as it was in ancient days, to divide the lands of the heritage of God unto his children;
verse 17 “a judge in Israel” Bishops are authorized to judge in the area of a man’s standing or stewardship in the Church. Their jurisdiction is limited to matters spiritual and pertaining to the Church. They are not, of course, empowered to judge infractions of civil law or to impose punishments for crimes (see D&C 42:79-86).
18 And to judge his people by the testimony of the just, and by the assistance of his counselors, according to the laws of the kingdom which are given by the prophets of God.
verses 16-18 Edward Partridge, at the time, was not a ward bishop, for there were none in the Church. He was rather the bishop of the whole Church (see D&C 41:9). Soon Newell K. Whitney will be called as bishop in Kirtland, and Edward Partridge will remain as bishop in Missouri (see D&C 72). Neither will preside over the other. Neither was the Presiding Bishop in the modern sense, which office will not be created until later (see D&C 124:41). Bishop Partridge was also the acknowledged leader of the Church in Missouri until 1834, when a presidency of local high priests was appointed.
19 For verily I say unto you, my law shall be kept on this land.
verse 19 “my law shall be kept on this land” In context, the Lord seems to be saying that those who intend to enjoy the full fellowship of the Church in Zion will have to obey his commandments. Some have interpreted this phrase as referring to the law of consecration and stewardship. Those in Zion must adhere to this celestial law.
20 Let no man think he is ruler; but let God rule him that judgeth, according to the counsel of his own will, or, in other words, him that counseleth or sitteth upon the judgment seat.
verse 20 The bishop, the judge in Israel, must seek the mind and will of the Lord as he works in his calling. This is, of course, true for all of the Lord’s servants who labor with him in his kingdom.
21 Let no man break the laws of the land, for he that keepeth the laws of God hath no need to break the laws of the land.
verse 21 “Let no man break the laws of the land” It is tempting for religious groups to think that since they obey a higher law, they are not obligated to observe the secular laws of the land. The Lord here prohibits such thinking among the saints. Unless specifically commanded otherwise, the saints are to observe the constitutionally valid law of the land. This includes observing legalities in business, obeying speed limits, paying taxes, etc.
22 Wherefore, be subject to the powers that be, until he reigns whose right it is to reign, and subdues all enemies under his feet.
verse 22 “until he reigns” The saints are reminded that as Zion is built up, the laws of the land must be obeyed—at least until “he reigns”—until Christ returns to stand at the head of the political kingdom of God. After his coming there will be no laws but his laws, and the saints will be subject to no other power but his (see D&C 38:22).
23 Behold, the laws which ye have received from my hand are the laws of the church, and in this light ye shall hold them forth. Behold, here is wisdom.
verse 23 “the laws of the church” The Lord wishes the saints to distinguish between the laws of the Church, by which fellowship and the right to an inheritance are decided within the Church, and the laws of the land, by which the saints are to be governed in civil matters. There is an implied caution here against attempting to turn the law of the Church into the law of the land.
24 And now, as I spake concerning my servant Edward Partridge, this land is the land of his residence, and those whom he has appointed for his counselors; and also the land of the residence of him whom I have appointed to keep my storehouse;
verse 24 “also the land of the residence of him whom I have appointed to keep my storehouse” This refers to A. Sidney Gilbert. See the introductory commentary for section 53.
25 Wherefore, let them bring their families to this land, as they shall counsel between themselves and me.
26 For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward.
27 Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness;
28 For the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves. And inasmuch as men do good they shall in nowise lose their reward.
29 But he that doeth not anything until he is commanded, and receiveth a commandment with doubtful heart, and keepeth it with slothfulness, the same is damned.
verse 29 “receiveth a commandment with doubtful heart” The word commandment in the Doctrine and Covenants is often used as a synonym for “revelation.” Thus, the condemnation spoken of here cannot be limited to violations of specific “thou shalts” or “thou shalt nots” but also applies to resisting the general information and programs revealed to the saints by the Lord.
“the same is damned” The verb to damn comes from a Latin root meaning “to condemn,” or “to pronounce guilty.” It is unrelated to the similar verb to dam, meaning to stop or to block one’s progress. Despite common confusion of these two verbs, and though the effect of being damned might also be to be dammed (as several writers have pointed out), “to be damned” does not merely mean having one’s progress stopped. It means to be condemned, to be judged guilty or worthy of punishment. In a spiritual sense it means being declared guilty of sin, the exact opposite of being “justified” or declared innocent of sin.
Thus, according to this verse, refusing to do what good we can when we have the opportunity simply because “we don’t have to” is an attitude with serious spiritual consequences. To resist the revelations, or to accept them only grudgingly, or to do good only when specifically commanded, is to find ourselves condemned, “damned,” and consigned, if we don’t repent, into the power of Satan to suffer for our sloth and hard-heartedness.
verses 26-29 Herein is a profound and vital principle. Ezra Taft Benson explained:
Usually the Lord gives us the overall objectives to be accomplished and some guidelines to follow, but he expects us to work out most of the details and methods. The methods and procedures are usually developed through study and prayer and by living so that we can obtain and follow the promptings of the Spirit. Less spiritually advanced people, such as those in the days of Moses, had to be commanded in many things. Today those spiritually alert look at the objectives, check the guidelines laid down by the Lord and his prophets, and then prayerfully act—without having to be commanded “in all things.” This attitude prepares men for godhood. . . .
Sometimes the Lord hopefully waits on his children to act on their own, and when they do not, they lose the greater prize, and the Lord will either drop the entire matter and let them suffer the consequences or else he will have to spell it out in greater detail. Usually, I fear, the more he has to spell it out, the smaller is our reward (CR, April 1965, 121-22).
While this principle is as applicable today as it was then, in 1831 there was a particular reason why it was essential. In that day, the fastest means of communication between Kirtland and Independence was a three week ride on horseback each way. The church headquarters was not in Zion but in Kirtland. Therefore it was vital that the saints and leaders in Missouri exercise their agency and not wait to be commanded “in all things.”
These verses were particularly directed to Bishop Edward Partridge. In section 57, Bishop Partridge learned that he was now to live in Zion. Keep in mind that he had a business, home, and family in Ohio, and thus he was being called to sacrifice much. He had many questions, as most of us would have. How will he provide for his family? Who will pay the expenses of moving everything to Missouri? Perhaps even: Is this a temporary or a permanent assignment? These verses were given in response to his question. What is the Lord’s answer? Solve these problems yourself!
It should be the nature of the Lord’s children—to make things better wherever we go—even without being specifically commanded in every detail. God’s true sons and daughters set about to do good in this world, without selfish intent and without necessarily being commanded to do so.
30 Who am I that made man, saith the Lord, that will hold him guiltless that obeys not my commandments?
31 Who am I, saith the Lord, that have promised and have not fulfilled?
verses 30-31 “Who am I . . .” These are rhetorical questions equivalent to “Do you think I’ll declare the guilty innocent?” or “Do you think I won’t keep my promises?” It anticipates a negative response.
32 I command and men obey not; I revoke and they receive not the blessing.
33 Then they say in their hearts: This is not the work of the Lord, for his promises are not fulfilled. But wo unto such, for their reward lurketh beneath, and not from above.
verses 32-33 Many of God’s blessings are promised contingent upon living certain principles or keeping certain commandments. When we obey the commandments or live the principles, we receive the promised blessings. But some people expect God to give them these conditional blessings anyway, even without their obedience. When this does not happen, they unjustly condemn God, his prophets, or his programs as false and his promises as unkept.
“their reward lurketh beneath, and not from above” The doubters, skeptics, and disobedient will still receive rewards and accolades, but they will come from “beneath”—they will be the rewards of men and not the rewards of God.
34 And now I give unto you further directions concerning this land.
verse 34 “directions concerning this land” The land referred to is Jackson County, Missouri, or Zion.
verses 35-39 Martin Harris, a relatively wealthy man, is called to consecrate all his money to the bishop’s storehouse. Martin had previously been commanded to offer up his possessions to publish the Book of Mormon (see D&C 19:26, 34-35). He then moved with the saints to Ohio and traveled with the Prophet to Missouri. Orson Pratt observed that “Martin Harris was the first man that the Lord called by name to consecrate his money, and lay the same at the feet of the Bishop in Jackson County, Mo., according to the order of consecration. He willingly did it; he knew the work to be true; he knew that the word of the Lord through the Prophet Joseph was just as sacred as any word that ever came from the mouth of any Prophet from the foundation of the world. He consecrated his money and his substance, according to the word of the Lord. What for? As the revelation states, as an example to the rest of the Church” (JD, 18:160-61).
35 It is wisdom in me that my servant Martin Harris should be an example unto the church, in laying his moneys before the bishop of the church.
36 And also, this is a law unto every man that cometh unto this land to receive an inheritance; and he shall do with his moneys according as the law directs.
verse 36 “this is a law unto every man” Kirtland was to be a collection point and a staging area to organize the saints in the East and prepare them for Zion. The Lord here commands that only those saints who have agreed to consecrate all their possessions, as Martin Harris had (see verse 35), were to emigrate to Zion (compare verses 44, 46). Unfortunately, many of the Ohio saints disregarded this commandment and moved to Jackson County, Missouri, before being called to do so and without having entered into the covenant of consecration. Spiritually unprepared, disobedient to counsel, and unwilling to live the law of consecration, they eventually caused economic, social, and spiritual problems in Missouri that contributed to the loss of Zion there.
37 And it is wisdom also that there should be lands purchased in Independence, for the place of the storehouse, and also for the house of the printing.
38 And other directions concerning my servant Martin Harris shall be given him of the Spirit, that he may receive his inheritance as seemeth him good;
39 And let him repent of his sins, for he seeketh the praise of the world.
40 And also let my servant William W. Phelps stand in the office to which I have appointed him, and receive his inheritance in the land;
verse 40 William W. Phelps had been called to serve the Lord as a printer, publisher, and educator (see the introductory commentary for section 55).
41 And also he hath need to repent, for I, the Lord, am not well pleased with him, for he seeketh to excel, and he is not sufficiently meek before me.
verse 41 “he seeketh to excel” W. W. Phelps’s attitude toward other saints was competitive rather than cooperative. He wanted to get ahead of them rather than push them ahead of him. It is not evil to pursue excellence. Indeed, Jesus was the most excellent of all men. But Jesus also sought to share his merits with us to make us as he is, rather than simply wanting to outperform us. The pursuit of personal excellence for the glory of God and the benefit of our fellows is a positive virtue, but the competitive urge that simply compels us to win for our ego’s sake is not. Evidently, it is in this latter sense that Brother Phelps “[sought] to excel” and is here cautioned about it. The compulsive need always to beat our brothers and sisters, to establish our superiority over them by always winning, is as incompatible with establishing Zion as is the need to have more money, a newer car, or a larger house than they do.
42 Behold, he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more.
verse 42 “I, the Lord, remember them no more” Note that this scripture does not promise that repentant sinners will forget their sins. Neither does any other scripture. Alma 36:17-21, for example, says only that Alma remembered his pains no more, and that the memory of his sins didn’t harrow him up (vex, torment, distress, afflict, or torture) him anymore. Rather, we are promised that it is the Lord who “will remember them no more.”
43 By this ye may know if a man repenteth of his sins—behold, he will confess them and forsake them.
verse 43 “he will confess them” Certain serious sins require confession to a bishop. However, all transgressions require honest confession or admission to oneself and often to the injured party, if there is one. Elder Spencer W. Kimball taught:
No one can ever be forgiven of any transgression until there is repentance, and one has not repented until he has bared his soul and admitted his intentions and weaknesses without excuses or rationalizations. He must admit to himself that he has grievously sinned. When he has confessed to himself without the slightest minimizing of offense, or rationalizing its seriousness, or soft-pedaling its gravity, and admits it is as big as it really is, then he is ready to begin his repentance (“Love Versus Lust,” Brigham Young University Speeches of the Year [Provo, 5 January 1965] 10).
Unwillingness to admit our sins to the injured parties by confession indicates that true repentance has not yet taken place, for our desire to be cleansed of sin is weaker than our desire to hide our faults and protect our egos.
“and forsake them” To forsake means to abandon.
44 And now, verily, I say concerning the residue of the elders of my church, the time has not yet come, for many years, for them to receive their inheritance in this land, except they desire it through the prayer of faith, only as it shall be appointed unto them of the Lord.
verse 44 “I say concerning the residue of the elders of my church” The Lord addresses here those Missouri missionaries who have not been specifically called to remain in Independence, and he instructs them on his will for them (see verses 4465).
“the time has not yet come, for many years” The Lord is not willing for most members of the Church to go to Zion yet. It would be many years to come (compare D&C 51:17: “as for years” and D&C 64:21: “a space of five years”). It would actually not be until seven years later, in 1838, that most of the Ohio Saints will be called to Missouri. The Lord desires that several things occur in preparation: (1) that Zion be built up slowly (see verse 56), (2) that the land be purchased by contributions from the Ohio saints (see verse 49), (3) that missionary work be done in Missouri (see verse 48) and in all the world (see verse 64), (4) that the Prophet has time to complete his work in Kirtland (see verse 58), (5) and that other preparations be made over a period of years.
Unfortunately, overeager and disobedient saints refused to follow the Lord’s plan for gradual, economically sensible, and spiritually consecrated settlement in Missouri but went there on their own, unbidden and unprepared, and expecting the bishop in Zion to provide them with an inheritance. The financial and logistical strain on the resources of the saints in Independence eventually proved too great. Too many of these incoming saints were too greedy, too inexperienced, too self-willed, and too disobedient to help in establishing Zion. Since they did not live according to the covenant that was made when the land was dedicated (see the introductory commentary for this section), in barely more than two years the Lord allowed the saints to be driven off the land (additional reasons are given in D&C 101:7-8; 103:3-4; 105:11, 17).
45 For, behold, they shall push the people together from the ends of the earth.
verse 45 Having sufficiently answered the question concerning the time of the building of Zion, the Lord turned to the first question asked by the Prophet: When will the wilderness blossom as a rose? In this verse the Lord tells the elders of the Church what they must do in the years before the fulfillment of Zion. They must “push the people together from the ends of the earth.” This phrase specifically refers to the gathering of the scattered ten tribes of Israel under gospel tent in America (see Deuteronomy 33:13-17, 3 Nephi 14:12-13).
The Lord obviously knew that that these early saints would not succeed in establishing Zion in their day. This verse and others suggest that there is much to be done, before Zion is established.
46 Wherefore, assemble yourselves together; and they who are not appointed to stay in this land, let them preach the gospel in the regions round about; and after that let them return to their homes.
verse 46 “let them return to their homes” Those saints not commanded to remain in Independence are commanded to return to their homes in Kirtland.
47 Let them preach by the way, and bear testimony of the truth in all places, and call upon the rich, the high and the low, and the poor to repent.
48 And let them build up churches, inasmuch as the inhabitants of the earth will repent.
49 And let there be an agent appointed by the voice of the church, unto the church in Ohio, to receive moneys to purchase lands in Zion.
verse 49 This verse was necessary because the bishop (Edward Partridge) and his agent (A. Sidney Gilbert) were now to make their home in Zion. This left the Kirtland area with no one to preside over the United Order there. In this verse, the Lord commands that a second agent be called to assist in Ohio. In section 63:42-45, Newell
K. Whitney will be called to fill this position (see also D&C 72:8).
verses 50-51 Money was going to be required to buy lands in Zion. Sidney Rigdon is commanded in these verses to write a description of Zion—a sort of “brochure”—to be distributed among the branches of the Church for the purpose of encouraging contributions.
Later the Lord will indicate that what Sidney Rigdon had written was unacceptable (see D&C 63:55-56, a probable reference to this assignment). The glowing description of Jackson County found in the History of the Church (1:197-98) is a revised version of Sidney’s second, more acceptable attempt to describe Zion (see Van Wagoner, Sidney Rigdon, 101-05).
50 And I give unto my servant Sidney Rigdon a commandment, that he shall write a description of the land of Zion, and a statement of the will of God, as it shall be made known by the Spirit unto him;
51 And an epistle and subscription, to be presented unto all the churches to obtain moneys, to be put into the hands of the bishop, of himself or the agent, as seemeth him good or as he shall direct, to purchase lands for an inheritance for the children of God.
verse 51 “an epistle and subscription” The description of Zion—the “brochure”—commanded in verse 50 was to be accompanied by a cover letter to local leaders that included a sign-up sheet for the members to indicate their interest in contributing. Funds would then be received by local authorities, to be forwarded to Bishop Partridge or his agents in Missouri. The subscription, or sign-up sheet, would provide church leaders with a list of those willing to contribute or invest in the land described in the brochure.
52 For, behold, verily I say unto you, the Lord willeth that the disciples and the children of men should open their hearts, even to purchase this whole region of country, as soon as time will permit.
verse 52 If the saints had been perfectly obedient to the Lord’s commands concerning Zion, he would have prepared the way for the legal purchase of most all of the land in Independence. He would have done this by opening the hearts, or influencing his “disciples” to raise the money and purchase the lands from “the children of men.”
53 Behold, here is wisdom. Let them do this lest they receive none inheritance, save it be by the shedding of blood.
verse 53 The Lord emphasizes the need for the saints to obtain clear and legal title to the lands they purchase. In this way any disputes over ownership could be settled by law, and violence can be avoided.
Some people have incorrectly concluded that this verse implies that the saints were authorized by the Lord to take land in Missouri by force if necessary. While it is true that property can sometimes be obtained in this manner, theft and murder could never be acceptable means of establishing Zion (see Whitmer, Early Latter Day Saint History, 79). Essentially the Lord is saying, “If you don’t buy the land, you’ll have to kill for it, and that is unacceptable” (compare D&C 57:4-5; 63:29-31). Ironically, when blood later was shed over this land, it was mostly the blood of the saints who held legal title to it but were driven out anyway.
54 And again, inasmuch as there is land obtained, let there be workmen sent forth of all kinds unto this land, to labor for the saints of God.
verse 54 “let there be workmen sent forth of all kinds” Those saints in the east with necessary skills for building Zion were to be called and sent there as needed.
55 Let all these things be done in order; and let the privileges of the lands be made known from time to time, by the bishop or the agent of the church.
verse 55 “Let all these things be done in order” This is a further commandment by the Lord that Zion should be built up slowly, sensibly, and according to the principles of consecration and the law of the Lord (see verse 56). Only those who were prepared and appointed to go to Missouri were to go, according to the procedures revealed to the Church. As mentioned previously, however, sometimes self-willed saints want to get ahead of the Lord and do things according to their own timetable. The violation of these instructions and procedures by the saints who would not wait to be called to Missouri contributed to the eventual downfall of the saints there.
“privileges of the lands” This phrase refers to a report on the availability of the lands and the opportunities for the saints to obtain lands.
56 And let the work of the gathering be not in haste, nor by flight; but let it be done as it shall be counseled by the elders of the church at the conferences, according to the knowledge which they receive from time to time.
verse 56 The gathering to Zion was to be an orderly process, and only those called to Zion should go there.
57 And let my servant Sidney Rigdon consecrate and dedicate this land, and the spot for the temple, unto the Lord.
verse 57 On August 2, 1831, the day following this revelation, Sidney Rigdon dedicated the land of Zion to the Lord as directed in this verse.
58 And let a conference meeting be called; and after that let my servants Sidney Rigdon and Joseph Smith, Jun., return, and also Oliver Cowdery with them, to accomplish the residue of the work which I have appointed unto them in their own land, and the residue as shall be ruled by the conferences.
verse 58 “let a conference meeting be called” The Lord had also previously indicated that a conference was to be held in Missouri (see D&C 52:2). Thirty-one members attended this conference, which was held on August 4, 1831, in Kaw Township at the home of Joshua Lewis, a local convert of the missionaries to the Lamanites.
“their own land” Kirtland, Ohio. Joseph, Oliver, and Sidney had much to do back in Kirtland as directed by the Lord and as decided by the conferences of the elders of the Church.
59 And let no man return from this land except he bear record by the way, of that which he knows and most assuredly believes.
verse 59 What contemporary mission president has not emphasized the necessity of his missionaries’ talking to people and bearing testimony to them in all circumstances—as they are traveling on a bus, shopping, or walking on the street.
60 Let that which has been bestowed upon Ziba Peterson be taken from him; and let him stand as a member in the church, and labor with his own hands, with the brethren, until he is sufficiently chastened for all his sins; for he confesseth them not, and he thinketh to hide them.
verse 60 “Let that which has been bestowed upon Ziba Peterson be taken from him” Ziba Peterson was one of the missionaries called to preach to the Lamanites (see D&C 32:3). He had departed Fayette, New York, with Oliver Cowdery ten months earlier, in October 1830. In April 1831 he and Oliver Cowdery traveled to Lafayette County, Missouri, and preached to the people of Lexington, baptizing forty to fifty persons.
Following this pointed rebuke by the Lord given August 1, 1831, Ziba confessed his sins at the conference held August 4, and he received forgiveness. One week later, on August 11, he married Rebecca Hooper, one of the Lafayette County converts. Ziba Peterson later became disaffected, and when the saints fled Jackson County in 1833, he and his family remained behind.
61 Let the residue of the elders of this church, who are coming to this land, some of whom are exceedingly blessed even above measure, also hold a conference upon this land.
verse 61 “Let the residue of the elders of this church . . . also hold a conference upon this land” This conference was held August 24, 1831, in Kaw Township. Several elders who had not reached Jackson County by the previous conference on August 4 attended on August 24, with Bishop Partridge presiding (see verses 62-63). After this second conference in Missouri, the late-arriving elders were also to return to Ohio.
62 And let my servant Edward Partridge direct the conference which shall be held by them.
63 And let them also return, preaching the gospel by the way, bearing record of the things which are revealed unto them.
64 For, verily, the sound must go forth from this place into all the world, and unto the uttermost parts of the earth—the gospel must be preached unto every creature, with signs following them that believe.
verse 64 "the sound must go forth from this place" Even though most of the Church still lived in Ohio, and would for some years to come, the perspective of the Church was changed. Independence was the "center place" from which the gospel was to go forth (D&C 57:1-3).
“the gospel must be preached unto every creature” How literally did the Lord intend this command to be? President Spencer W. Kimball, referring to this verse and others, said:
It seems to me that the Lord chose his words when he said “every nation,” “every land,” “uttermost bounds of the earth,” “every tongue,” “every people,” “every soul,” “all the world,” “many lands.”
. . . I feel that when we have done all in our power that the Lord will find a way to open doors. That is my faith (“When the World Will Be Converted,” Ensign, October 1974, 5, 10-11).
Truly the words of the prophet Joseph Smith will be fulfilled:
No unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing; persecutions may rage, mobs may combine, armies may assemble, calumny may defame, but the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear, till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done (HC, 4:540).
65 And behold the Son of Man cometh. Amen.
Joseph Smith and the others were involved in many other activities in Missouri. On August 2, 1831, the Prophet assisted the Colesville saints in laying the first log for a house of worship in Kaw township, twelve miles west of Independence. The log was carried by twelve men in honor of the twelve tribes of Israel. That same day Sidney Rigdon was in Independence consecrating and dedicating the area for the gathering of the saints. On August 3, in the company of eight other men, Joseph stood on the plot where the temples were to be erected and dedicated the land for the building of a House of the Lord.
- Michael J. Preece