Section 75 Conference of January 25, 1832
An important conference of the Church was held on January 25, 1832, in Amherst, Ohio, located about sixty miles west of Kirtland. Amherst was the home of Gideon Carter, Sylvester Smith, and others. One reason for holding conferences away from Kirtland or Hiram was to promulgate the gospel in those areas.
At this conference Joseph Smith was sustained and ordained “President of the High Priesthood” of the Church by Sidney Rigdon. Also at this conference, by the request of the priesthood, the Prophet inquired of the Lord and a revelation (section 75) was given and written in the presence of the whole assembly, appointing many of the elders to missions.
Even though section 75 itself says nothing about this historic ordination of Joseph, it is important that we remember the importance of this event. Actually, the stage had been set for Joseph’s ordination to this office at the conference of November 1831. Some revealed instructions regarding the organization of the priesthood of the Church had been received at that gathering that were not inserted into the scriptural canon until they were later placed in section 107 (examples include verses 59-60, 74, 75, 78-87, 89, 91, 92, 99, and 100). More pertinent examples include verses 65 and 66 of section 107 which call for the selection and ordination of a president to preside over the high priesthood of the Church. Hence, at the next conference, in January 1832, Joseph is ordained.
In our study of the history of the Church, it is fascinating to watch the gradual unfolding of the concepts of priesthood and church government as we now understand them. You will recall that at the June conference of 1831 (see the commentary for sections 44 and 52), twenty-three priesthood bearers were ordained “to the high priesthood” which now corresponds to the office of high priest. Now we witness the selection and ordination of the “president of the high priesthood,” meaning president of the priesthood. Although the term “First Presidency” will not be used until 1835, this supreme council in the Church was organized at this January 1832 conference. The following March, Joseph will learn in an unpublished revelation that the office of president of the high priesthood is vested with the authority to preside, with the assistance of counselors, over all the concerns of the Church. On March 8, 1832, the Prophet selected and ordained Jesse Gause and Sidney Rigdon as his counselors. After the former, a convert from the Shakers, denied the faith and was excommunicated in December 1832, Frederick G. Williams was called to serve as counselor in the presidency.
Also in section 75, the newly called missionaries are given instructions as to how they ought to deport themselves while on their missions. Whenever they are received into a house, they are to leave their blessing (verse 19). From such houses where they are not received, they are to depart speedily, shaking off the dust of their feet as a testimony against those who reject them (verse 20). The elders who deliver their messages and are rejected are also assigned to be judges in the day of judgment against those who rejected their testimonies (verse 21).
Apparently, many of the elders went on these short missions and left their families to take care of themselves. They probably assumed that the Lord and the Church would somehow provide for them. In verses 24-28 the Lord tells them they are not to do their missionary work until they have made adequate provisions for their families.
The earliest manuscripts of section 75, including one in the handwriting of Sidney Rigdon which may be the original manuscript, indicate that, like section 72, this revelation may have been received in two parts that were subsequently joined together—the first part consisting of verses 1-22 and the second part consisting of verses 23-36.
1 Verily, verily, I say unto you, I who speak even by the voice of my Spirit, even Alpha and Omega, your Lord and your God–
verse 1 “Alpha and Omega” See the commentary for D&C 19:1.
2 Hearken, O ye who have given your names to go forth to proclaim my gospel, and to prune my vineyard.
verse 2 “ye who have given your names to go forth” Most of the elders present at this conference had already indicated their willingness to serve missions and had been instructed to wait until this conference to receive their specific calls (see D&C 73:2). In contemporary church terms, they had already “put in their papers.”
3 Behold, I say unto you that it is my will that you should go forth and not tarry, neither be idle but labor with your might—
4 Lifting up your voices as with the sound of a trump, proclaiming the truth according to the revelations and commandments which I have given you.
5 And thus, if ye are faithful ye shall be laden with many sheaves, and crowned with honor, and glory, and immortality, and eternal life.
verse 5 “laden with many sheaves” Anciently, grain was cut by hand and tied into large bundles or sheaves that were then carried to the place of threshing. To see a person or an animal “laden with many sheaves” was proof that this person had reaped an abundant harvest and would now enjoy the fruits of his labors.
“crowned with honor” Elder Bruce R. McConkie commented on the symbolism of being crowned: “Those who gain exaltation in the highest heaven of the celestial world shall wear crowns. Perhaps literal crowns may be worn on occasion— emblematic of their victory over the world and signifying that they rule and reign as kings and queens in the eternal house of Israel. But at all times they will be ‘crowned with honor, and glory, and immortality, and eternal life’” (Mormon Doctrine, 173).
6 Therefore, verily I say unto my servant William E. McLellin, I revoke the commission which I gave unto him to go unto the eastern countries;
verse 6 If the reader wishes to review a capsule biographical summary of William E. McLellin, see the introductory commentary for section 66. William E. McLellin had previously been called to a mission to “the eastern lands” with Samuel Smith (see D&C 66:7-9). Though called on October 25, 1831, he did not actually leave until November 16, and he returned home before the end of December showing little inclination to go out again. Samuel Smith parted company with William McLellin before Christmas when “because of disobediences our way was hedged up before us [and] Brother William was taken sick” (Shipps and Welch, Journals of William E. McLellin, 75).
7 And I give unto him a new commission and a new commandment, in the which I, the Lord, chasten him for the murmurings of his heart;
verse 7 “I give unto him a new commission and a new commandment” William McLellin was given another mission call, this time to work south of Kirtland, but this mission was as unsuccessful as his first.
“for the murmurings of his heart” There are indications other than this verse that William McLellin’s heart was not entirely right. For example, after only three weeks on this second mission, he stopped preaching, claiming ill health and inclement weather. When he took a job working in a store, his companion, Luke Johnson, returned home and got another companion. William McLellin himself wrote, “I determined to cease proclaiming until I was satisfied in my own mind” (Ibid., 70-83).
8 And he sinned; nevertheless, I forgive him and say unto him again, Go ye into the south countries.
9 And let my servant Luke Johnson go with him, and proclaim the things which I have commanded them—
10 Calling on the name of the Lord for the Comforter, which shall teach them all things that are expedient for them—
11 Praying always that they faint not; and inasmuch as they do this, I will be with them even unto the end.
12 Behold, this is the will of the Lord your God concerning you. Even so. Amen.
13 And again, verily thus saith the Lord, let my servant Orson Hyde and my servant Samuel H. Smith take their journey into the eastern countries, and proclaim the things which I have commanded them; and inasmuch as they are faithful, lo, I will be with them even unto the end.
verse 13 A statement of Orson Hyde is interesting relative to this verse:
Soon after our return to Kirtland, I was sent on another mission in company with Brother Samuel H. Smith, a younger brother of the Prophet, who was a man slow of speech and unlearned, yet a man of good faith and extreme integrity. We journeyed early in the spring of 1832, eastward together without “purse or scrip,” going from house to house, teaching and preaching in families, and also in the public conversations of the people. Wherever we were received and entertained, we left our blessing; and wherever we were rejected, we washed our feet in private against those who rejected us, and bore testimony of it unto our Father in Heaven, and went on our way rejoicing, according to the commandment (Millennial Star, volume 26:774-75).
14 And again, verily I say unto my servant Lyman Johnson, and unto my servant Orson Pratt, they shall also take their journey into the eastern countries; and behold, and lo, I am with them also, even unto the end.
15 And again, I say unto my servant Asa Dodds, and unto my servant Calves Wilson, that they also shall take their journey unto the western countries, and proclaim my gospel, even as I have commanded them.
16 And he who is faithful shall overcome all things, and shall be lifted up at the last day.
verse 16 “overcome all things” See the commentary for D&C 64:2. “lifted up” See the commentary for D&C 5:35.
17 And again, I say unto my servant Major N. Ashley, and my servant Burr Riggs, let them take their journey also into the south country.
18 Yea, let all those take their journey, as I have commanded them, going from house to house, and from village to village, and from city to city.
19 And in whatsoever house ye enter, and they receive you, leave your blessing upon that house.
20 And in whatsoever house ye enter, and they receive you not, ye shall depart speedily from that house, and shake off the dust of your feet as a testimony against them.
verse 20 “shake off the dust of your feet” See D&C 24:15 and its commentary.
21 And you shall be filled with joy and gladness; and know this, that in the day of judgment you shall be judges of that house, and condemn them;
verse 21 “you shall be filled with joy and gladness” Not because those who reject the gospel are going to be punished, but because the missionaries themselves will have borne witness of the truth and acquitted themselves of any blame for not warning their neighbors.
22 And it shall be more tolerable for the heathen in the day of judgment, than for that house; therefore, gird up your loins and be faithful, and ye shall overcome all things, and be lifted up at the last day. Even so. Amen.
verse 22 “it shall be more tolerable for the heathen in the day of judgment” Heathens are those without a knowledge of Christ, the traditionally non-Christian nations of the world. In the final judgment, those who had no opportunity to live by the light of the gospel will be judged with leniency because of their ignorance. We are even taught that they will be judged by an all-knowing Savior as if they had heard the gospel (D&C 137:5-9). But the non-heathens—those who heard the gospel and rejected it, or who knew a portion of it and rejected the fulness, will be judged more harshly. Ignorance in itself is not a sin, unless it is willful. We are assured, by the scriptural passage just mentioned, that this mortal experience will provide each individual with sufficient experience and knowledge to allow the Lord to judge him or her. Deliberate rejection of available light, however, is a sin and cannot be forgiven without repentance.
23 And again, thus saith the Lord unto you, O ye elders of my church, who have given your names that you might know his will concerning you—
24 Behold, I say unto you, that it is the duty of the church to assist in supporting the families of those, and also to support the families of those who are called and must needs be sent unto the world to proclaim the gospel unto the world.
verse 24 “it is the duty of the church to assist in supporting the families” Most of those called on full-time missions in 1832 were married men with families to support. Since the responsibility of supporting one’s family in most cases has priority over serving a mission (see verses 26, 28), most of these men needed some assurance of support for their families before they could accept mission calls. Once individual resources had been exhausted, it was the responsibility of church members either to assist in supporting or to support entirely, if necessary, the dependents of those called on full-time missions.
25 Wherefore, I, the Lord, give unto you this commandment, that ye obtain places for your families, inasmuch as your brethren are willing to open their hearts.
26 And let all such as can obtain places for their families, and support of the church for them, not fail to go into the world, whether to the east or to the west, or to the north, or to the south.
verses 25-26 “places for your families” Those who are called on missions are commanded—not merely advised—to find church members willing to take in and support their families. Once these missionaries had found lodging and support for their families, then, and only then, were they to embark on their missions.
27 Let them ask and they shall receive, knock and it shall be opened unto them, and be made known from on high, even by the Comforter, whither they shall go.
verse 27 In some cases the Lord leaves the direction in which a missionary companionship travels entirely up to them (see verse 30).
28 And again, verily I say unto you, that every man who is obliged to provide for his own family, let him provide, and he shall in nowise lose his crown; and let him labor in the church.
verse 28 “let him provide” When a choice must unavoidably be made between supporting one’s family or accepting a mission call, one must meet the higher obligation and support one’s family. When such a choice is necessary, the faithful member need not fear losing his place in the kingdom. When resources are not sufficient to do all that is asked of us, we must prioritize. According to President Harold B. Lee, “The first priority should be to maintain their own spiritual and physical strength; then comes their family; then the Church; and then their professions” (Bishop’s Training Course and Self-Help Guide, sections 2, 7, cited in James E. Faust, CR, October 1973, 18-19).
“let him labor in the church” Where individuals are not able to accept a mission call because lodging and support for their families cannot be obtained, they are to labor in their local church units.
29 Let every man be diligent in all things. And the idler shall not have place in the church, except he repent and mend his ways.
verse 29 “the idler” An idler is anyone with available time who is unwilling to consecrate it to the kingdom. In this context, the idler is one who will neither serve a full-time mission nor accept a local calling or assignment. Idlers may be members of record, and they may even attend their church meetings, but those who will not work to build the kingdom are not members in good standing and, unless they repent, they have forfeited their place in the celestial kingdom.
30 Wherefore, let my servant Simeon Carter and my servant Emer Harris be united in the ministry;
verse 30 “united in the ministry” That is, serve as missionary companions.
“Simeon Carter and . . . Emer Harris” Excellent biographical summaries for these and all other individuals mentioned in the Doctrine and Covenants may be found in Lyndon W. Cook’s Revelations of the Prophet Joseph Smith (see also Black, Who’s Who in the Doctrine and Covenants). It is worthy of note that the first five pairs of missionaries called in this revelation received specific assignments (see verses 6-17), while the next seven pairs were instructed to ask and to knock and the Comforter would tell them where they should go (see D&C 80:3).
31 And also my servant Ezra Thayre and my servant Thomas B. Marsh;
verse 31 “Ezra Thayre” Note that Elder Thayre was issued another mission call (see D&C 52:22; 56:5, 8). He accepted this call, and all indications are that he served faithfully.
32 Also my servant Hyrum Smith and my servant Reynolds Cahoon;
33 And also my servant Daniel Stanton and my servant Seymour Brunson;
34 And also my servant Sylvester Smith and my servant Gideon Carter;
35 And also my servant Ruggles Eames and my servant Stephen Burnett;
36 And also my servant Micah B. Welton and also my servant Eden Smith. Even so. Amen.
Brief Historical Setting
Shortly after returning to Hiram, following the conference of January 1832, Joseph and Sidney, upon resuming their revision of the Bible, came to John 5:28-29, and a discussion arose between the two of them regarding the nature of the resurrection. Are there only two rewards for those who are resurrected? Or are there more than two degrees of goodness and badness?
With a few elders looking on (who came to the Johnson home to simply watch the interesting process of Joseph and Sidney’s working on the inspired revision), Joseph and Sidney received a glorious vision and revelation concerning the three degrees of glory [D&C 76 -The Vision].
About a month later, the Lord also gave some helps in understanding the final book in the New Testament [D&C 77 -Book of Revelation].
- Michael J. Preece