Section 60: Journey Back to Kirtland
Having fulfilled their mission in Missouri, those missionaries not called to remain in Independence turned their attention to the return trip home to Kirtland as instructed in D&C 58:46. The Prophet and his party had accomplished much. During their time in Missouri, they had located and dedicated the land of Zion and the site of its temple. They had established a bishopric, a mercantile store, and a bishops’ storehouse. They had made plans for a publishing house. They had begun to buy land and build upon it, and they had familiarized more than two dozen Kirtland saints with the land of Zion and how to get there.
On Monday, August 8, 1831, the day after Polly Knight’s funeral and the reception of section 59, the returning elders asked the prophet Joseph Smith just how they should return to Ohio and by what routes; whether they should do missionary work along the way; and if Joseph had any other special instructions for them. In response to their inquiries, Joseph received section 60 on August 8. It consists of the Lord’s instructions pertaining to the journey home. Sections 60-62 constitute a unit dealing with the return from Zion, and they should be studied together.
Joseph and ten companions departed the following day, Tuesday August 9, rowing down the Missouri River in a flotilla of sixteen canoes.
D&C 60:2 With some I am not well pleased, for they will not open their mouths, because of the fear of man.
1 Behold, thus saith the Lord unto the elders of his church, who are to return speedily to the land from whence they came: Behold, it pleaseth me, that you have come up hither;
2 But with some I am not well pleased, for they will not open their mouths, but they hide the talent which I have given unto them, because of the fear of man. Wo unto such, for mine anger is kindled against them.
verse 2 “they will not open their mouths” Some of the elders called as missionaries to Missouri refused to preach or bear testimony of the restored gospel while on this mission. A few seemed to have expected the Lord to give them greater powers of public speaking as a reward for their even attempting to preach. This is obviously a stern warning to those elders.
Young missionaries today are often surprised to learn that the Lord commands that they open their mouths in most all circumstances in which they find themselves. Since most new missionaries find this a stressful and anxiety-producing activity, and they face the real “fear of man” for the first time, they are sobered to learn that the Lord is angry if they do not do so.
“they hide the talent which I have given unto them” The frightened young missionary may attempt to justify himself by claiming that he never had a talent in public speaking or preaching, so he shouldn’t be required to open his mouth. Here the missionaries’ talents lie in their knowledge and testimony of the restored gospel. This great blessing brings with it the obligation that one’s knowledge and testimony be shared with others who lack that witness (see the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30).
The first missionaries to arrive in Zion were those who had done little or no missionary work on their way to Missouri, and that is why they arrived before the others. When Joseph was ready to leave Independence, there were still several pairs of missionaries yet to arrive from Kirtland, having been delayed by preaching the gospel on the way to Zion. It is ironic that some of the less faithful missionaries were the ones rewarded with being on the scene when the land was dedicated and the conference held. Perhaps in these verses there is something of a rebuke to those who had not fulfilled the mandate given them, and the Lord is giving them a chance to redeem themselves on the journey back to Kirtland.
Brigham Young explained one of the benefits of sharing our “testimony talent”: “A man who wishes to receive light and knowledge, to increase in the faith of the holy gospel, and to grow in knowledge of the truth as it is in Jesus Christ, will find that when he imparts knowledge to others he will also grow and increase” (JD, 2: 267).
3 And it shall come to pass, if they are not more faithful unto me, it shall be taken away, even that which they have.
verse 3 The principle of “use it or lose it” applies in all our spiritual growth, including our testimonies of the restored gospel. As we grow spiritually, the increments of the attributes of God the Father or Jesus Christ that we acquired through our obedience must be utilized and applied during our mortal lives. If they are not, we will surely lose them (see D&C 1:31-33; 82:7). It is because of this concept that “there are no plateaus in spiritual growth.” If we are not actively growing spiritually, we are surely deteriorating.
4 For I, the Lord, rule in the heavens above, and among the armies of the earth; and in the day when I shall make up my jewels, all men shall know what it is that bespeaketh the power of God.
verse 4 “in the day when I shall make up my jewels” When the Lord comes in glory, he will claim his “jewels”—those who have been obedient to his commandments. The metaphorical imagery here suggests God as the emperor of the universe taking the finest treasures from all his vast domains to make up his “crown jewels.” When this earth has fulfilled its present purpose, God will take the most precious and valuable things upon it, his obedient sons and daughters—his “jewels”— and place them in their proper settings among his treasures (compare Isaiah 62:3; Zechariah 9:16).
“what . . . bespeaketh the power of God” Bespeaketh means to give evidence, to testify, or to signify. On that day when the Lord makes up his “jewels,” everyone will see the shining glory and favored status of those obedient saints who did not fear men. Their glorious exaltation before all the world, even though they may have personally been the meek, lowly, or uneducated during their mortal lives, will be God’s final witness of his own infinite power.
5 But, verily, I will speak unto you concerning your journey unto the land from whence you came. Let there be a craft made, or bought, as seemeth you good, it mattereth not unto me, and take your journey speedily for the place which is called St. Louis.
verse 5 The Lord instructs the returning missionaries to either make or purchase boats and head down the Missouri River to St. Louis. The elders ended up buying large canoes, capable of holding several men.
“it mattereth not unto me” Even though the Lord has given rather specific counsel to the returning elders in this verse, he makes it clear in this brief but profoundly meaningful phrase that it really doesn’t matter to him how they return home, so long as they “fill their mission” (D&C 61:22) on their way. Some details of our life are simply unimportant to the Lord. It is apparent here that it didn’t really matter to him whether the elders “made, or bought” a craft, whether they traveled “by water or by land” (D&C 61:22), or whether they rode on horses, mules, or in wagons (see D&C 62:7-8).
Some saints today agonize over whether God wants them to drive a Ford or a Chevy, to buy a house or rent an apartment, to study sociology in college or dental hygiene in a vocational school. But God might not care one way or the other. However, sometimes God does care about such details, and it is important for us to be prayerful and to follow the promptings of the Spirit. If we get no promptings, in response to our prayers, concerning the details of our lives or the many choices we face, it may be because any of the available options is equally acceptable to the Lord, or because there may be no spiritual advantage or disadvantage of any one option over any other (compare D&C 80:3). If the Lord does not prompt us one way or the other, we should not become paralyzed and unable to proceed. We should just make the best choice we can and get on with our lives. After all, our goal is not for God to make every decision for us. But rather, our objective is to become like God, with the power of independent decision and action within ourselves (see D&C 58:26-29).
“take your journey speedily” What is the Lord commanding here? Is he telling the elders to “hurry and go”—to leave promptly—or to “go in a hurry”—to travel swiftly once they were underway? D&C 61:3 suggests that the Lord is instructing them to “hurry and go”—to leave Missouri quickly. They left the following morning. Compare this with verse 14, where the elders are to “speedily return” but “not in haste,” that is, they were to start as soon as possible, but they were not to travel in great haste once they left. The Lord wanted them to proselyte along the way.
6 And from thence let my servants, Sidney Rigdon, Joseph Smith, Jun., and Oliver Cowdery, take their journey for Cincinnati;
verse 6 Keep in mind that Oliver Cowdery had been away from Joseph and the main body of the Church for some ten months. When he left on his mission to the Lamanites, the center of the Church was located in New York, but he will eventually return to it in Kirtland, a branch he had helped to found.
“take their journey for Cincinnati” It is not entirely clear why the Lord commanded the “presidential party” to travel to Cincinnati. Oliver and the other missionaries to the Lamanites had already preached in Cincinnati without success while on their way west from Fayette to Missouri. They will, however, be commanded to preach the gospel while they are there (see verse 7).
A short time later, the printing press for W. W. Phelps in Zion will be purchased in Cincinnati. Perhaps their business there had partly also to do with this printing press.
7 And in this place let them lift up their voice and declare my word with loud voices, without wrath or doubting, lifting up holy hands upon them. For I am able to make you holy, and your sins are forgiven you.
verse 7 “I am able to make you holy, and your sins are forgiven you” One sense of the word holy is whole, entire, complete, sound, unimpaired. In this setting we would expect the word to mean whole in a moral sense. Hence, free from sin and actively receiving the incremental attributes of God as they grow spiritually. Though all human beings are imperfect, Jesus Christ has, through his atonement, the power to justify and sanctify, or to “make holy,” those who enter with him into the covenant of baptism and subsequently work to keep that covenant through constant striving to obey him. Through the instrumentality of the Holy Ghost, those human beings who earnestly strive to keep his commandments are regularly justified and sanctified. See Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, volume 1, chapter 17, Justification and Sanctification.
8 And let the residue take their journey from St. Louis, two by two, and preach the word, not in haste, among the congregations of the wicked, until they return to the churches from whence they came.
verse 8 “not in haste” As emphasized in the commentary for verse 5, the Lord cautions that the elders were not to go in haste. Rather, they were to take their time and preach the gospel en route.
“congregations of the wicked” Congregations are gatherings. In 1831 this word did not necessarily mean only church congregations but wherever people congregated.
The word “wicked” in that day meant “someone who is of slight or little blame.” The Lord often, according to Joseph Fielding Smith, “refers to the people scattered abroad as ‘congregations of the wicked’” (Church History and Modern Revelation, 1:223). The Lord is telling these missionaries to preach to the “congregations of the wicked” who are not really wicked (sinful and immoral) but simply those who do not have or understand the truth (see also verses 13, 14).
“until they return to the churches from whence they came” The word churches here refers to branches of the restored Church
9 And all this for the good of the churches; for this intent have I sent them.
verse 9 “all this for the good of the churches” The Lord has commanded the returning elders to preach the gospel which will build up the branches of the restored Church.
10 And let my servant Edward Partridge impart of the money which I have given him, a portion unto mine elders who are commanded to return;
verse 10 “impart of the money which I have given him” This phrase refers to the assets Bishop Partridge has received as bishop and agent for the Church. He is to use some of these church funds to help the elders get home to Kirtland. Those elders who are able are then expected to pay the money back when they arrive in Kirtland, but those who are financially unable to pay it back are not required to do so (see verse 11).
11 And he that is able, let him return it by the way of the agent; and he that is not, of him it is not required.
12 And now I speak of the residue who are to come unto this land.
verse 12 “the residue who are to come unto this land” This phrase refers to those missionaries who were called to travel to Zion on a mission who are delayed in arriving in Jackson County until after the receiving of this revelation on August 8. They had missed the conference of elders held on August 4 and will thus attend a second conference to be held for the late arrivers on August 24. Among these are Hyrum Smith and John Murdock, who are coming by way of Detroit (see D&C 52:8), also David Whitmer, Harvey Whitlock, Levi Hancock and Zebedee Coltrin (see verse 14). The Lord is about to give specific instructions to this group.
13 Behold, they have been sent to preach my gospel among the congregations of the wicked; wherefore, I give unto them a commandment, thus: Thou shalt not idle away thy time, neither shalt thou bury thy talent that it may not be known.
verse 13 “they have been sent to preach my gospel among the congregations of the wicked” We have made the point previously that the late arrivers to Zion may well have arrived later because they did a better job in preaching the gospel to the people whom they encountered on the way to Missouri.
“Thou shalt not idle away thy time” They are given counsel that the Lord would give to all his missionaries: Don’t spend time in alternative activities. Spend your time in directly preaching the gospel. Every mission president in the Church knows that missionaries can be creative in finding ways to spend their time in activities that have little to do with missionary work. Teaching potential investigators about the restored gospel is stressful because of the risk of rejection. Nevertheless, that is how the Lord would have his missionaries spend their time.
“neither shalt thou bury thy talent” Here the ”talent” of the missionaries is a knowledge of the restored gospel. It should not be kept hid under a bushel.
14 And after thou hast come up unto the land of Zion, and hast proclaimed my word, thou shalt speedily return, proclaiming my word among the congregations of the wicked, not in haste, neither in wrath nor with strife.
verse 14 “thou shalt speedily return . . . not in haste” See the commentary for verse 5. The late arrivers are also counseled to depart Independence soon after their arrival there.
15 And shake off the dust of thy feet against those who receive thee not, not in their presence, lest thou provoke them, but in secret; and wash thy feet, as a testimony against them in the day of judgment.
verse 15 The missionaries are told to perform the ordinance of shaking the dust off their feet as a witness against those who reject them. This was to be done “in secret,” however, so as to avoid the kind of unpleasantness as happened during the mission to the Shakers (see section 49). See also the commentary for D&C 24:15.
16 Behold, this is sufficient for you, and the will of him who hath sent you.
17 And by the mouth of my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., it shall be made known concerning Sidney Rigdon and Oliver Cowdery. The residue hereafter. Even so. Amen.
verse 17 “it shall be made known concerning Sidney Rigdon and Oliver Cowdery” The Lord will give further specific travel instructions to Sidney and Oliver in the following section (see especially verses 23-24, and 30 of section 61).
“The residue hereafter.” This sentence likely refers to additional travel instructions—the rest of his instructions to the returning missionaries—that will yet be given prior to their arriving back in Kirtland.
- Michael J. Preece