Section 62: Testimony
After three days of rowing down the Missouri River, Sidney Gilbert, W. W. Phelps, Joseph, Oliver, and Sidney Rigdon all left the river on August 12 to journey by land speedily to Kirtland while the others continued on in their canoes downriver toward St. Louis (see commentary for section 61 for the reasons they left the river). On the day following this separation, the 13th of August 1831, Joseph and his party crossed the Missouri River at Chariton, Missouri, and encountered there a party of missionaries still traveling toward Independence—Hyrum Smith, John Murdock, Harvey Whitlock, and David Whitmer. After joyful salutations, Joseph received section 62 which was directed to the missionaries on their way to Zion and included encouragement and instructions for them.
Keep in mind that Hyrum Smith and John Murdock had been instructed to travel to Missouri by way of Detroit, so they naturally would be expected to arrive later than Joseph and his party. Brother Murdock later, in his journal, provided an additional reason why this group may have been late:
August 1st, traveled 28 miles and crossed the Illinois River. 2nd, 30 miles to Mississippi River Louise—Ana [Louisiana] Ferry and got my feet wet by which I took a violent cold by which I suffered near unto death. 3rd, crossed the river into Missouri. Traveled 25 miles to New London, found it a very wicked place. As we slept in a tavern, in the night Brother Hyrum lay on the far side of the bed with his hand out on our clothes, which hung on a chair by the bedside, and a person seized his wrist. Brother H. [Hyrum] cried out, “Who is there,” and at the same time broke his hold, which awoke me. We heard the bedstead in the other room creak which notified us that he had gone to bed. Thursday 4th, arrived at Salt River where we preached next day, but I was sick and went to bed, and we continued there near one week and then I gave my watch in pay to Wm. [William] Ivy to carry me in a wagon to Charidon [Chariton] 70 miles. We stayed there 2 days. Met Brother J. [Joseph] Smith, Jr., S. [Sidney] Rigdon and others, and received the revelation recorded in the Book of Covenants [Doctrine and Covenants] on page 202 or 308 [section 62]. We also fell in company with Brother Harvey Whitlock and David Whitmore [Whitmer], and we four put our money together and bought a pony. I rode him to Lexington, 60 miles, and on the way we four slept one night in a chamber where one half of the floor was laid, and the other not and a window being open, on the opposite side of the chamber from me, and I had a raging fever and had occasion to go to the window; it being dark, I stepped off the floor and fell across the joints.
John Murdock’s illness probably turned out to be malaria (see the commentary for verse 7).
D&C 62 Testimony
D&C 62:3 The testimony which ye have borne is recorded in heaven for the angels to look upon.
1 Behold, and hearken, O ye elders of my church, saith the Lord your God, even Jesus Christ, your advocate, who knoweth the weakness of man and how to succor them who are tempted.
verse 1 “who knoweth the weakness of man and how to succor them who are tempted” To succor means to give aid or help. Because the Savior has personally experienced mortality and all of man’s weaknesses, sufferings, and temptations, he knows perfectly how to help those of us in mortality who suffer problems and temptations (Hebrews 2:18; 2 Nephi 9:21; Alma 7:11-12). He completed the process of his acquiring perfect empathy for all humankind during the agony of his atonement and death. He also is thus able to judge us with perfect exactness and perfect fairness.
2 And verily mine eyes are upon those who have not as yet gone up unto the land of Zion; wherefore your mission is not yet full.
verse 2 “those who have not as yet gone up unto the land of Zion” Section 62 is directed to those Missouri missionaries who arrived in Zion after the Prophet Joseph had left there, though it was given specifically to Hyrum Smith, John Murdock, Harvey Whitlock, and David Whitmer. We have mentioned previously that generally it is to the missionaries’ credit that they were late arrivers in Missouri, as it likely meant that they tarried in their journey from Kirtland to Missouri preaching the gospel to those whom they encountered along the way. Of the thirty-one men who had been called to go to Missouri (see D&C 52:3-7, 22-32; 55:1, 4, 6), only nine were in the Prophet’s returning party (Frederick G. Williams and Peter Whitmer Jr. were returning Lamanite missionaries), and Edward Partridge, Isaac Morley, and John Corrill had remained in Missouri. This leaves nineteen missionaries who were still on their way to Missouri.
3 Nevertheless, ye are blessed, for the testimony which ye have borne is recorded in heaven for the angels to look upon; and they rejoice over you, and your sins are forgiven you.
verse 3 These nineteen missionaries, still on their way to Zion (see verse 2), were, by and large, successful in preaching the gospel along the way to Independence. Levi Hancock, Zebedee Coltrin, Solomon Hancock, and Simeon Carter, for example baptized over 120 persons between them on the way to Zion, and Parley P. Pratt recorded having established branches of the Church in Ohio, Illinois, and Indiana.
“the testimony which ye have borne is recorded in heaven for the angels to look upon, and they rejoice over you” This phrase verbalizes the theme of section 62. How thrilling these words must have been for the missionaries to hear! Undoubtedly this verse applies to each of us as we bear a sincere testimony to others— the act is recorded in heaven and the angels rejoice.
There is also a more sobering implication of all of this. It seems likely that a heavenly record is kept in heaven of all that we say and do. Even our most private deeds are available to an audience who rejoices at our righteousness but also grieves at our sins.
“your sins are forgiven you” Again, we are made aware of the idea that it is our constant striving to be obedient that is all important. As we do strive to obey, the Lord, by virtue of his atoning sacrifice, regularly—hundreds or even thousands of times—extends to us the blessings of his atonement and justifies us (forgives us of our sins) and sanctifies us (grants to us those increments of the attributes of God which we merit through our obedience and burns from our soul a small modicum of our natural self). See Justification and Sanctification in Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, volume 1, chapter 17.
4 And now continue your journey. Assemble yourselves upon the land of Zion; and hold a meeting and rejoice together, and offer a sacrament unto the Most High.
verse 4 In D&C 58:61-63, the brethren in Independence were commanded to convene a conference presided over by Bishop Edward Partridge. Here the Lord tells these missionaries bound for Zion that they will be a part of that meeting which will be held on August 24, 1831, in Kaw Township.
5 And then you may return to bear record, yea, even altogether, or two by two, as seemeth you good, it mattereth not unto me; only be faithful, and declare glad tidings unto the inhabitants of the earth, or among the congregations of the wicked.
verses 4-5 These missionaries are told not to turn around and return to Kirtland, but to continue on to Independence, get a testimony that it is the site of Zion, and then return bearing their testimonies along the way.
6 Behold, I, the Lord, have brought you together that the promise might be fulfilled, that the faithful among you should be preserved and rejoice together in the land of Missouri. I, the Lord, promise the faithful and cannot lie.
verse 6 “that the promise might be fulfilled, that the faithful among you should be preserved and rejoice together in the land of Missouri” The “promise” here referred to by the Lord is that if all will be obedient and diligent, then Zion will flourish and prosper (see D&C 35:24; 39:13; 49:25; and 52:42). Unfortunately, not all of the elders present on this occasion did remain faithful. Ezra Booth lost his testimony on this very journey and later went public with complaints against Joseph Smith (see D&C 64:15-16). Joseph Coe was excommunicated in 1838.
One reason some of the men in Joseph’s party had become critical of the Prophet was that they had expected to make many converts, whereas—mostly because of their own unwillingness to preach—they actually had little missionary success.
7 I, the Lord, am willing, if any among you desire to ride upon horses, or upon mules, or in chariots, he shall receive this blessing, if he receive it from the hand of the Lord, with a thankful heart in all things.
verse 7 As described in the introductory commentary for this section, one reason these brethren had been so slow in traveling to Zion was that John Murdock was very ill with an illness that was thought to have been malaria. In his journal he reported that he was so sick that he didn’t even have the strength to close his mouth to keep the flies from buzzing around inside. The question was raised with Joseph as to whether or not the missionary group should use their meager funds to provide transportation for Elder Murdock. Once they had Joseph’s permission, they bought a horse, and he rode the rest of the way to Zion. Even so, he periodically fell off his horse and was so weak that he had to lie on the ground until the other missionaries caught up with him and placed him back in the saddle.
The Lord makes it clear in this verse that he has no objection to the expenditure of money to buy a horse, so long as it moved the work forward.
The word “chariots” in verse 7 refers to “light four-wheeled carriages with backed seats” in other words, a wagon.
“he shall receive this blessing . . . with a thankful heart in all things” This phrase refers to the blessing of riding a horse or riding in a wagon instead of walking.
8 These things remain with you to do according to judgment and the directions of the Spirit.
verse 8 “These things remain with you” It was up to the missionaries to decide how to administer their resources to best magnify their callings. Some people might have objected to the purchase of a horse for John Murdock as an unnecessary extravagance. After all, the elders probably would have made it to Independence eventually even without such a purchase. But it is up to individual stewards to manage their stewardships wisely for the long-term good of the kingdom. As long as our primary goal is to build the kingdom of God, we are justified in our expenditure of the Lord’s resources to that end, even though we may also benefit indirectly from such a decision. Should church leaders today spend sacred tithing funds for airplane tickets, renting vehicles, staying in hotels, and eating in restaurants when they travel on the Lord’s errand? If these measures make them more effective in building up the kingdom of God, then yes, of course they should.
9 Behold, the kingdom is yours. And behold, and lo, I am with the faithful always. Even so. Amen.
Brief Historical Setting
When Joseph arrived back in Kirtland, he found the saints there ripe for a rebuke from the Lord for some folly and wickedness that had crept in among them. The Lord revealed the appropriate rebuke [D&C 63 -Sign Seeking and Immortality]. The Lord also counseled the saints on another area of weakness [D&C 64 -Forgiveness].
- Michael J. Preece