Section 88: The Olive Leaf
During December 1832, Joseph continued his work on the Joseph Smith Translation at Kirtland and continued to receive, in connection with that work, some remarkable visions concerning the future of the world. According to Jedediah M. Grant, “The prophet stood in his own house when he told several of us of the night the visions of heaven were opened to him, in which he saw the American continent drenched in blood, and he saw nation rising up against nation. . . . The prophet gazed upon the scene his vision presented, until his heart sickened, and he besought the Lord to close it up again” (JD, 2:147).
Naturally, after Joseph had seen such terrible things lurking in the future of the world, both he and those with whom he shared these visions were concerned for the future of the Church and the saints. Consequently, beginning on December 27, two days after section 87 had been received, a council of ten leading high priests met to plead with the Lord for additional understanding, and God blessed them—and all his saints—with a great revelation. However, this was not a revelation of future doom and woes, but a revelation of peace and comfort for the Lord’s people, both at that time and in times to come.
This revelation (actually, a collection of revelations) was received beginning only two days after the vivid communication now identified as the Prophecy on War (D&C 87), which deals with the wars and destructions about to come upon the earth and which will eventually lead to a “full end of all nations.” After the stern warnings and declarations found in the Prophecy on War, it is interesting that the Prophet identified this revelation as “the olive leaf . . . plucked from the tree of paradise, the Lord’s message of peace to us” (Jessee, Personal Writings, 262). Section 88 is the Lord’s message of eternal peace to each of us. We are instructed in how we might escape adverse judgments and prepare to meet our Savior.
The circumstances under which section 88 was received were recorded in the Kirtland Council Minute Book. A council of high priests had convened in Joseph’s translating room above the Whitney store in Kirtland. “Brother Joseph arose and said, to receive revelation and the blessing of heaven it was necessary to have our minds on God and exercise faith and become of one heart and of one mind. Therefore he recommended all present to pray separately and vocally to the Lord for to reveal his will unto us concerning the building up of Zion and for the benefit of the saints and for the duty and employment of the elders. Accordingly we all bowed down before the Lord, after which each one arose and spoke in his turn his feelings, and determination to keep the commandments of God. And then proceeded to receive a revelation concerning the duty [of the Elders as] above stated. 9 o’clock PM the revelation not being finished the conference adjourned till tomorrow morning 9 o’clock AM [28th] met according to adjournment and commenced by prayer thus proceeded to receive the residue of the above revelation” (cited in Cook, Revelations of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 181).
The content of section 88 was received in portions on at least three different dates. Verses 1 through 126 were received on the 27th and 28th of December 1832, and verses 127 through 137 were received on January 3, 1833. The date for verses 138 through 141 is not known. Those high priests present on at least the first two dates were Joseph Smith, Jr., Sidney Rigdon, Orson Hyde, Joseph Smith, Sr., Hyrum Smith, Samuel H. Smith, Newell K. Whitney, Frederick G. Williams, Ezra Thayer, and John Murdock. Brother Williams served as scribe.
This document, which has a strong doctrinal content, contains some of the most marvelous instructions we have on record and is calculated not only to inform, but also to inspire every person who carefully examines it. To study it is a mind-stretching experience. The language is simple and direct, but the meaning has such depth that a mortal cannot grasp its entirety.
Next to section 124, it is the longest section in the Doctrine and Covenants, and next to Section 76, perhaps it is the most magnificent. It certainly ranks with 76, 84, 93, and 132 as a “five star” revelation in terms of its importance.
Section 88 contains a miscellany of materials, and hence the following commentary will be divided into numbered sections, each with its separate subject.
D&C 88 The Olive Leaf
D&C 88:6-10 He that ascended up on high, as also he descended below all things, in that he comprehended all things, that he might be in all and through all things, the light of truth; Which truth shineth. This is the light of Christ. As also he is in the sun, and the light of the sun, and the power thereof by which it was made. As also he is in the moon, and is the light of the moon, and the power thereof by which it was made; As also the light of the stars, and the power thereof by which they were made; And the earth also, and the power thereof, even the earth upon which you stand.
D&C 88:11-12 Light proceedeth forth from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space.
D&C 88:13 Light which is in all things and giveth life to all things.
D&C 88:15-16 The spirit and the body are the soul of man, and the resurrection from the dead is the redemption of the soul.
D&C 88:18-21 The purpose of the earth is to become the celestial kingdom, and they who are not sanctified through the law . . . must inherit another kingdom.
D&C 88:22-24 For he who is not able to abide the law of a celestial kingdom cannon abide a celestial glory. And he who cannot abide the law of a terrestrial kingdom cannot abide a terrestrial glory. And he who cannot abide the law of a telestial kingdom cannot abide a telestial glory; therefore he is not meet for a kingdom of glory. Therefore he must abide a kingdom which is not a kingdom of glory. D&C 88:34-35 That which is governed by law is also preserved by law, and perfected and sanctified by the same.
D&C 88:36-38 All kingdoms have a law given, for there is no space in the which there is no kingdom.
D&C 88:51-61 The parable of the multitude of kingdoms
D&C 88:77-78 And I give unto you a commandment that you shall teach one another the doctrine of the kingdom.
D&C 88:81-82 Behold, I sent you out to testify and warn the people, and it becometh every man who hath been warned to warn his neighbor.
D&C 88:118 Seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom, seek learning, even by study and also by faith.
D&C 88:123-124 See that ye love one another; cease to be covetous; learn to impart one to another as the gospel requires. Cease to be idle; cease to be unclean; cease to sleep longer than is needful; cease to find fault one with another.
Prologue (verses 1-5)
1 Verily, thus saith the Lord unto you who have assembled yourselves together to receive his will concerning you:
2 Behold, this is pleasing unto your Lord, and the angels rejoice over you; the alms of your prayers have come up into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth, and are recorded in the book of the names of the sanctified, even them of the celestial world.
verse 2 “the alms of your prayers” Alms are gifts of charity or sacrifices for the needy. Alms and prayers are elsewhere linked in scripture (see D&C 112:1; Acts 10:4), but in the beautiful image created here, the time and effort required to pray is equated by the Lord with acts of charity and sacrifice. Remember, the blessing of section 88 was obtained only through fervent collective and individual prayer for a considerable period of time.
“the Lord of Sabaoth” The term “Lord of Sabaoth” means Lord of Hosts or Lord of Armies. It implies ruler over great numbers. Sabaoth should not be confused with Sabbath.
The Lord’s hosts or armies consist of ancient Israel, which was called “the armies of the living God” (1 Samuel 17:26, 36); the hosts of heaven, also called armies (Daniel 4:35; Revelation 19:14; D&C 88:112); and the latter-day Church, described as being “terrible as an army with banners” (D&C 5:14) and “the army of Israel” (D&C 105:26, 3031; 109:73). As the Lord’s army, we are equipped with the “whole armor of God” (Ephesians 6:11-17; D&C 27:15-18), spiritual armor designed to assist us to use light and truth in the battle against the forces of evil. Jehovah is the “captain” (2 Chronicles 13:12), “leader” and “commander” (Isaiah 55:4), and “man of war” (Exodus 15:3) who will lead us against the armies of evil.
The term “Lord of Sabaoth” perhaps even has a more extensive meaning than is usually applied to it as we learn in D&C 95:7. There we have the unique declaration that the Lord of Sabaoth “is by interpretation, the creator of the first day, the beginning and the end.” Such a definition far exceeds the concept of just being Lord of armies, because it places a time factor of being Lord at the beginning and even being the cause of or initiator of the first day. This special primacy of Jesus Christ is consistent with other concepts in section 88 that speak of Christ as the creator and the sustainer of the universe in an ultimate and infinite manner.
“the book of the names of the sanctified” Elder Joseph Fielding Smith commented on this phrase: “We are not going to be saved in the kingdom of God just because our names are on the records of the Church. It will require more than that. We will have to have our names written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, and if they are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life then it is an evidence we have kept the commandments. Every soul who will not keep those commandments shall have his name blotted out of that book” (CR, September 1950, 10).
3 Wherefore, I now send upon you another Comforter, even upon you my friends, that it may abide in your hearts, even the Holy Spirit of promise; which other Comforter is the same that I promised unto my disciples, as is recorded in the testimony of John.
verse 3 This verse can be a bit confusing. Let us summarize what we know about the Comforters. We know that there are two Comforters. The First Comforter (usually referred as simply “the Comforter”) is the Holy Ghost. This is the Comforter given to the saints on the Day of Pentecost—they received the gift of the Holy Ghost. The Second Comforter is the Lord Jesus Christ himself. To receive the Second Comforter is to have a personal visit from the Savior. Please see additional discussion of the Second Comforter in the commentary for D&C 67:10.
Now, what is this verse trying to say? First it is clear that the council of high priests gathered on December 27, 1832, at the time Joseph received section 88 were full of concerns. They had recently learned of the Lord’s giving to Joseph section 86— the parable of the wheat and the tares and section 87—a prophecy on war. The future was obviously going to hold serious trials. The Lord therefore, in section 88, intended to give them a blessing of divine comfort. This council of high priests had already received the Holy Ghost. They had all been baptized, and hands had been laid on their head for the bestowing of the gift of the Holy Ghost. The mortal Jesus also promised his ancient disciples that he would send them another Comforter in addition to the first if they would love him and keep his commandments (see John 14:18, 21, 23). This other Comforter, or the second Comforter, is not the Holy Ghost, but is the resurrected Christ himself.
There is an intimate association between receiving this Second Comforter and being sealed up to eternal life or having one’s calling and election made sure (see a discussion of being sealed up to eternal life in the commentary for Helaman 10:4-7 and Calling and Election Made Sure in Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, volume 2, chapter 16). It therefore seems clear that the Lord is holding out to them the promise of one day receiving the Second Comforter and the blessing of being sealed up to eternal life.
Many of the Church’s best scriptural scholars have commented on this verse and have drawn different conclusions. As we approach this verse the questions are: What blessing is the Lord giving or at least offering to his disciples gathered in December 1832? the Holy Ghost? the Second Comforter? the blessing of being sealed up to eternal life?
The preponderance of evidence is that the Lord is holding out to this council of high priests, should they prove themselves worthy, the blessing of the Second Comforter with the associated blessing of having their calling and election made sure. The confusion in this verse seems to arise from its structure. The Lord starts out by telling them “Wherefore, I now send upon you another Comforter.” This is likely the promise of the Second Comforter and the promise of being sealed up to eternal life. The difficult part of the verse is the Lord’s appearing to identify “another Comforter” as the Holy Spirit of promise by his use of the phrase “even the Holy Spirit of promise.” There is no question that the “Holy Spirit of promise” is a name or title used for the Holy Ghost, and this title may have yet another meaning. Since the ultimate promise the Holy Ghost can extend is that of a guarantee of eternal life, and the Holy Ghost is somehow involved in revealing the Savior to an individual who receives the Second Comforter, it appears that the phrase “Holy Spirit of promise” might also be used to mean having one’s calling and election made sure. In the verse, the Lord then goes on to speak of the “other Comforter”—doubtless the Second Comforter—“as recorded in the testimony of John.” All of the church scriptural commentators agree that verses 18, 21, and 23 in John chapter 14 refer to the Second Comforter, but John 14:16 has caused some confusion with some exegetes feeling that this verse also refers to the Second Comforter and others feeling that it refers to the Holy Ghost.
“my friends” The close relationship of the Lord to his faithful servants is shown in his greeting them as friends. A servant carries out orders as he is commanded. A friend is one with whom the Lord confides his purposes and plans. This subject is more fully explained in John 15:15: “Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things, that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.” The knowledge about to be entrusted to the saints in this revelation is characteristic of that which would be shared by the Master with his faithful friends.
“even the Holy Spirit of promise” The title “Holy Spirit of promise” is clearly one used for the Holy Ghost. For a discussion of the various roles and the corresponding various titles of the Holy Ghost, see The Holy Ghost in Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, volume 2, chapter 5. When the Second Comforter is received by a faithful disciple, the Holy Ghost has a role to play in this great blessing. The Second Comforter can be received only by an individual who is worthy of having his calling and election made sure. A personal visit from the Savior himself (the Second Comforter) indicates to the individual that he is sealed up to eternal life. His probation is over and his exaltation assured. But this final promise of exaltation and eternal life, like any other blessing, must be witnessed, sealed, and ratified by the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost is the one who judges as to worthiness to receive a blessing, and he is also the one who then brings the blessing, witnesses the blessing, and seals the blessing as binding for all eternity. In this grand role, the Holy Ghost is referred to as the “Holy Spirit of promise.” As mentioned above, the ultimate blessing to a mortal in which the Holy Ghost may participate is that of sealing upon him his exaltation. Hence, one of the uses of the title, “Holy Spirit of promise” may also be to refer to this ultimate blessing.
4 This Comforter is the promise which I give unto you of eternal life, even the glory of the celestial kingdom;
verse 4 This verse simply emphasizes the intimate relationship between receiving the Second Comforter and having one’s calling and election made sure.
It should be mentioned here that the brethren gathered with the Prophet Joseph on December 27, 1832, had not actually seen the Savior, but rather are receiving the same comforting but conditional promise that the disciples of the mortal Jesus had received in John 14:16-28. Ordinances and sealings necessary for their exaltation had not yet taken place. Verses 3 and 4 were given to the brethren to prepare them for the fulfillment of this promise at some future time. Thus, three stages can be discerned: first, one receives the First Comforter, the Holy Ghost (actually the gift of the Holy Ghost). Second, one receives the specific promise of a Second Comforter, who is the risen Lord. Third, one actually receives a guarantee of exaltation from the risen Lord. Receiving this promise on December 27, 1832, did not constitute the fulfillment or final realization of these blessings at this time.
5 Which glory is that of the church of the Firstborn, even of God, the holiest of all, through Jesus Christ his Son—
verse 5 “Church of the Firstborn” See D&C 76:54 and its commentary. Here this term has reference to those who inherit or have been sealed up to inherit the celestial kingdom. They belong not only to the earthly Church of Jesus Christ (who himself is the “Firstborn”), but they constitute an eternal Church. The membership of this Church consists only of those who are exalted or are to be exalted and thus have the inheritance of the Firstborn. They are joint heirs with Jesus in all that the Father has.
The Light of Truth or the Light of Christ (verses 6-13)
Before undertaking a study of these verses, please read and study The Concept of Light in Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, volume 1, chapter 15.
6 He that ascended up on high, as also he descended below all things, in that he comprehended all things, that he might be in all and through all things, the light of truth;
verse 6 “ascended up on high . . . descended below all things . . . comprehended all things” Consider the personal experiences of Jesus Christ. Because of his personal righteousness, he rose to a position of God and Creator of all things in his premortal existence. He then descended into mortality where he experienced the worst of mortal sufferings (see Philippians 2:5-9). From here he descended into the very bottom of the lowest pits of hell—“below all things”—in atoning for the sins of mankind. He then reached the highest degree of exaltation after arising from the dead. Through these heights and depths he came to comprehend all things. No matter who we are or what we experience, Christ has been there (see D&C 122:7-8; Ephesians 4:7-10). He has infinite compassion for all those who suffer (see Hebrews 2:18; 4:15; Alma 7:11-12).
“that he might be in all and through all things” The omnipresence of the Son of God embraces more than just knowledge through experience. There is a further sense in which Christ is “in all and through all things.” His omnipresence is literal and spatial as well as experiential. It is through his light that his influence and power are not only in all things but “give life to all things” (see verse 13).
The expression “the light of truth” is synonymous with “the light of Christ.”
7 Which truth shineth. This is the light of Christ. As also he is in the sun, and the light of the sun, and the power thereof by which it was made.
verse 7 “Which truth shineth . . . the light of Christ” Again, see the important chapter, The Concept of Light as referenced above.
8 As also he is in the moon, and is the light of the moon, and the power thereof by which it was made;
9 As also the light of the stars, and the power thereof by which they were made;
10 And the earth also, and the power thereof, even the earth upon which you stand.
verses 7-10 “the light of the sun . . . moon . . . stars . . . earth” All energy in the universe is fundamentally and intimately involved with the light of Christ. The light of Christ is the very enabling source of the creative and functional energy of all things, and thus it gives life to all things in the universe. This includes the radiant light energy of the sun, moon, and stars. The light of Christ is the energy that holds even the atoms and molecules of all creation together. It is the attractive force of gravity.
11 And the light which shineth, which giveth you light, is through him who enlighteneth your eyes, which is the same light that quickeneth your understandings;
verse 11 “which giveth you light” That “light which shineth” is the light of Christ. When we make spiritual progress; when we partake of increments of the attributes of Christ, those attributes are delivered to us via the medium of the light of Christ. We grow spiritually by being allowed to partake of increments of the light of Christ. When the Spirit of God judges our efforts at obedience worthy and sufficient, he allows us to assimilate increments of the light of Christ (truth) into our own soul. That light becomes part of us. It becomes our light. In this way our spiritual eyes are enlightened, and our spiritual understandings are quickened.
12 Which light proceedeth forth from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space—
verse 12 “to fill the immensity of space” All of God’s creations, animate and inanimate, remain under the direct influence of the Creator, and the mechanism for this influence is the light of Christ which shines or radiates from the person of the Savior himself, at a rate of speed far in excess of the speed of light, to fill the universe of all his creations. This is what Paul means when he says, “And by him all things consist [or hold together]” (Colossians 1:17; see also verse 41).
13 The light which is in all things, which giveth life to all things, which is the law by which all things are governed, even the power of God who sitteth upon his throne, who is in the bosom of eternity, who is in the midst of all things.
verse 13 “which giveth life to all things” Since all living things require energy in order to exist, and since all energy is some form of the light of Christ, the light of Christ is the source of all life. What we normally think of as the physical laws of the universe, the laws by which particles, bodies, and elements are governed and which give stability to existence and make life possible—these are also manifestations of the light of Christ and of his power displayed throughout the universe.
Elder John A. Widtsoe expressed his opinion that “associated with matter-energy was the implication in Joseph Smith’s teachings that the energy in the universe is a form of intelligence; that is, in a manner not fully understood by man, some form of life resides in all matter, though of an order wholly different from the organized intelligence of man or higher living things. Hence, everything in the universe is alive. The differences among rock, plant, beast, and man are due to the amount and organization of the life element” (Joseph Smith, 149-50). See The Creation in Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, volume 1, chapter 3.
“the law by which all things are governed” The light of Christ imposes physical and spiritual laws upon all mankind. The Savior avoids forcing his will upon us. He makes no effort to alter our agency. But the consequences of our choices, whichever way we may choose, are set by the physical and spiritual laws that govern our universe. Obedience inevitably leads to spiritual growth: though the medium of the light of Christ, portions of that light—increments of the attributes of God—are imparted to man. Disobedience leads to an inevitable failure to grow or even a loss of those attributes which had been previously earned. Since the light of Christ is essential for all things to exist and have life, and also this life is the source of all spiritual growth—all truth—this light is standard or “the law by which all things are governed.”
“who is in the bosom of eternity” God rules his creation from its center; all things revolve around him. According to Joseph Smith, this universal center of time and space, the throne of God, has (or perhaps is on) a nearby star called Kolob (see Abraham 3:2-3).
Definition of the Soul of Man and Its Redemption (verses 14-17)
The most correct definition of a soul is: the combination of a spirit and a physical body (D&C 88:15-16). Keeping this definition in mind is helpful in clarifying other passages of scripture dealing with the creation, such as Moses 3:7-9 and Abraham 5:7. The scriptures are not always consistent in this particular use of the word soul, as sometimes this term is used to mean only a spirit—see Alma 40:21. Resurrection is the soul’s (the spirit’s) redemption—the spirit is rescued from an otherwise less than fully satisfactory existence by being resurrected.
14 Now, verily I say unto you, that through the redemption which is made for you is brought to pass the resurrection from the dead.
verse 14 “through the redemption which is made for you” See the commentary for D&C 19:1; 45:17. All men are redeemed from one aspect of the fall of Adam and Eve—our inevitable, eventual death. All mortals will one day be resurrected. Our resurrection is “made for [us].” We don’t even have to earn it.
15 And the spirit and the body are the soul of man.
verse 15 Here is the official definition of “the soul of man.” It consists of the combination of his spirit and his body. In many ancient languages (including the Hebrew, Nephesh), the words for soul and self are the same. The essence of the self (our intelligence) plus its spirit body is the spirit. The combination of the spirit and a body (mortal or resurrected eternal) is the soul. Once born into mortality to receive a physical body, we humans can never again be whole or complete without a body (see Genesis 2:7; Moses 3:7). Thus, the separation of our spirit and body at death is looked upon as “bondage” to us (D&C 45:17; 138:50) in a way we could not have comprehended as premortal spirits. Our whole soul must include our complete self, both our spirit and our body. The “body part” of our soul is now a mortal body, but in the future will be an eternal resurrected body.
16 And the resurrection from the dead is the redemption of the soul.
verse 16 Since we (our spirits) cannot be complete beings without our bodies, the process of redemption from death, hell, and the devil (the definition of salvation) cannot be complete until our spirits and bodies are reunited in resurrection. We are redeemed or rescued from unsatisfactory incompleteness by resurrection. The spirits of the righteous may be said to be redeemed from the devil from the moment of their conversion. However, the process of redemption will not be fully completed, or the promise of redemption totally fulfilled, until our whole self, both body and spirit is raised in the great resurrection of the dead.
17 And the redemption of the soul is through him that quickeneth all things, in whose bosom it is decreed that the poor and the meek of the earth shall inherit it.
verse 17 “quickeneth” To “quicken” means to bestow life. We have already established that it is only through the light of Christ that all things live (see verse 13). The redemption of our soul has been established to be our resurrection. We are all resurrected because of Christ’s atoning sacrifice and death.
“the poor and the meek of the earth shall inherit it” This phrase says that the poor and the meek of the earth shall inherit the earth. The poor are those who are “poor in spirit.” The “poor in spirit” are those who sense their estrangement and emptiness and realize their utter dependence upon the Lord. The poverty referred to here is that of the man who is fully conscious of the inadequacy of all human resources. The poor and the meek of the earth are thus the submissive and obedient. The physical earth upon which we now live will, in its sanctified condition, be the celestial kingdom for all those who have lived upon it and are found worthy of that kingdom.
Ultimate Function and Destiny of This Earth (verses 18-21)
“Every created thing has been made for a purpose; and every thing that fills the measure of its creation is to be advanced in the scale of progression, within the bounds of its own kind or kingdom, be it an atom or a world, a protozoan or a man” (James E. Talmage, Sunday Night Talks By Radio, 1931, 353-55).
18 Therefore, it must needs be sanctified from all unrighteousness, that it may be prepared for the celestial glory;
verse 18 The antecedent of it is the earth in the previous verse. The earth itself is being prepared for its eternal celestial existence. Those intelligences that make up the earth who live out their mortal trial sufficiently obedient will be a part of that celestial earth. During their trial here on earth, they will be incrementally justified and sanctified just as we will be. This justification and sanctification will occur in response to their obedience to the laws of God that are given to their kingdom (see verses 36-38). By this incremental justification and sanctification, they will grow spiritually. See Justification and Sanctification in volume 1, chapter 17 of Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine.
19 For after it hath filled the measure of its creation, it shall be crowned with glory, even with the presence of God the Father;
verse 19 “after it hath filled the measure of its creation” This means after the earth has fulfilled the purpose of its creation—after it has done what it was divinely created and intended to do.
20 That bodies who are of the celestial kingdom may possess it forever and ever; for, for this intent was it made and created, and for this intent are they sanctified.
verses 18-20 Presently, the physical earth is in a fallen, telestial condition, and there is much wickedness among its “children” (non-human intelligences) which are those intelligences that are included in the inanimate materials of the earth (Moses 7:48). The purpose of this earth, foreordained from its creation, is to become the celestial kingdom wherein may dwell all those embodied intelligences who earn that degree of glory and also wherein will dwell God the Father and Jesus Christ.
To complete its destiny, the earth must go through many of the things that each of us must go through if we qualify ourselves to go to the celestial kingdom. It was created spiritually first, then it became mortal. It was subjected to evil, then it was baptized during the Flood at the time of Noah. At the second coming of the Savior, the earth will be baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and all things that cannot abide a terrestrial glory will be burned away. This cleansing will include even the telestial parts of the physical earth—those materials inhabited by telestial—wicked and disobedient—intelligences. The earth will be raised from its present telestial state to a terrestrial state for the period of the Millennium. At the end of the Millennium, the earth will go through a change analogous to death and resurrection and will be raised from a terrestrial state to celestial glory (see verse 26). Thus will the earth fill “the measure of its creation” by being sanctified and glorified.
How does the physical earth become sanctified? To be sanctified is to grow spiritually: to be purged of evil and to have spiritual gifts added upon. It is to become more like God—more celestial—by virtue of obedience to law. Even those intelligences that are associated with the inanimate materials of the earth have their own kingdoms (verses 36-38) and their own laws or commandments. They have their unfettered agency. Among them there is obedience and disobedience in every shade of gray.
The earth itself is separate from those human intelligences that inhabit it. The earth is not accountable for its human inhabitants. Rather the intelligences that are embodied by the “inanimate” material earth are accountable for themselves, for their own unique laws. Some of the earth’s intelligences choose to obey, and some choose to disobey. We know that the majority of the earth’s intelligences—those intelligences that inhabit the inanimate things of the earth—have been, are, and will be obedient, and the earth is sealed up to receive its celestial glory by virtue of this general obedience (D&C 29:22-24).
21 And they who are not sanctified through the law which I have given unto you, even the law of Christ, must inherit another kingdom, even that of a terrestrial kingdom, or that of a telestial kingdom.
verse 21 “sanctified through the law” The “they” spoken of here are the human intelligences that inhabit this earth during their mortal sojourn. As they struggle to obey the “law of Christ,” including repentance when they stumble, they qualify to receive gifts of the Spirit—increments of the attributes of Christ, and concomitantly they have increments of evil (increments of their natural selves) purged from their soul. This (both the purging and the receiving gifts) is the process of sanctification. Sanctification is a two-fold process.
The Role of Law (verses 22-61)
These verses explain that every person will be resurrected, most to glory and some few to no glory, depending upon the laws each person chooses to obey. The law of Christ—the gospel—leads to a fulness of celestial glory. Any deviation leads to less. In these passages, “quickened” has reference to resurrection, and this quickening comes to all. Verses 24, 31, and 33 clearly indicate that the class of persons known as the sons of perdition shall be “quickened,” that is, they will be resurrected in a physical body, but not to a place of glory, for they failed to receive the only gift (the atonement of Christ) that could have redeemed them.
The judgment shall be in the resurrection (verse 28). Those who will inherit the celestial kingdom will come forth in the resurrection with a celestial body. Those bound for the terrestrial kingdom will rise with a body made up of terrestrial elements, and so forth.
22 For he who is not able to abide the law of a celestial kingdom cannot abide a celestial glory.
23 And he who cannot abide the law of a terrestrial kingdom cannot abide a terrestrial glory.
24 And he who cannot abide the law of a telestial kingdom cannot abide a telestial glory; therefore he is not meet for a kingdom of glory. Therefore he must abide a kingdom which is not a kingdom of glory.
verses 22-24 “he who is not able to abide the law . . . cannot abide [the] glory” Each kingdom of glory has its own law. The higher the law, the higher the glory. That law by which we attempt to govern ourselves here in mortality, even though we succeed at it only imperfectly (see verses 29-31), determines the glory we will ultimately receive in the resurrection. The resurrection and final judgment will employ a process of segregating like with like. The celestial kingdom will be celestial, in part, because non-celestial individuals will simply be removed and will be put somewhere else with people who are just like themselves. This is not only just. It is also merciful. For, on the one hand, we will all receive in eternity what we sought to achieve in mortality (thus satisfying justice), while, on the other hand, we will not be forced to live forever under conditions or law we cannot abide (thus allowing for mercy). Terrestrial people, for example will not belong or be comfortable in the celestial glory. They will not be able to abide the celestial law that applies there. They would prefer a lesser glory. They know they are suited for a lesser glory. They will be happiest in a lesser glory.
verse 24 “a kingdom which is not a kingdom of glory” Outer darkness.
25 And again, verily I say unto you, the earth abideth the law of a celestial kingdom, for it filleth the measure of its creation, and transgresseth not the law—
verse 25 This verse applies to the vast majority (but not all) of the intelligences that are combined with the elements of earth.
26 Wherefore, it shall be sanctified; yea, notwithstanding it shall die, it shall be quickened again, and shall abide the power by which it is quickened, and the righteous shall inherit it.
verse 26 The earth itself was created initially with a spirit body. The earth today has a spirit body just as each of us humans today have a spirit body. Initially the earth’s spirit was combined with a mortal or telestial body. When the Savior comes again, the telestial world will “die” (the telestial elements will be removed from the earth), and only terrestrial and celestial elements will remain. It will then be called a terrestrial earth. At the end of the millennium, the terrestrial elements will “die” and be removed from the earth. Then the earth will begin to live (be “quickened”) its eternal celestial existence.
27 For notwithstanding they die, they also shall rise again, a spiritual body.
verses 25-27 See the commentary for verses 17-21. “They” here refers to the intelligences that make up the “inanimate” earth.
verse 27 “a spiritual body” The word spiritual is used in more than one way in the scriptures. First, it may mean immaterial or nonphysical, such as a spirit. Second, spiritual may mean pertaining to things of God or to things of the eternities as opposed to natural or material which pertaining to things of the earth. It is in this latter sense that the word spiritual is used in this verse. All resurrected bodies, in this sense, are spiritual, but the celestial body is the most spiritual. This is also the same sense in which Paul uses the term “spiritual body” of the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15:44. A spirit body is a body composed of spirit matter (D&C 131:7-8) and is not the same as a “spiritual” body.
28 They who are of a celestial spirit shall receive the same body which was a natural body; even ye shall receive your bodies, and your glory shall be that glory by which your bodies are quickened.
verse 28 “They who are of a celestial spirit shall receive the same body which was a natural body” This phrase is at first confusing since the natural body is our mortal, physical body in its present fallen state, and we know that celestial spirits are resurrected with eternal celestial bodies which are “spiritual bodies” (see verse 27) and are not at all “natural” bodies. It is true that when Christ was resurrected, he took up the same body that had been laid in the tomb to demonstrate the reality of the resurrection, but this is not true of the rest of us. Certainly the bodies of most people who have died have been destroyed by various mechanisms including cremation, decay, consumption by animals, etc. While some people propose that there is some physical substance in the body that is never lost, there is no evidence, either from science or from the scriptures, to support this concept. The Prophet Joseph has suggested there is nothing of the natural body in the resurrected body: “There is no fundamental principle belonging to a human system that ever goes into another in this world or in the world to come. . . . If anyone supposes that any part of our bodies, that is, the fundamental parts thereof, ever goes into another body, he is mistaken” (HC, 5:339).
How then, do we explain this phrase? Apparently there is a moment in time, when our bodies come forth from the grave, when it is still, in some way, a natural body. It then is immediately changed, or quickened, with the glory that we have earned— celestial, terrestrial, or telestial glory. Joseph F. Smith wrote: “The death that came by the fall of our first parents is eradicated by the resurrection of the Son of God . . .. You will come forth from your graves, these same mortal bodies as they are now, bearing the marks just as much as Christ’s body bore the marks that were upon him. They will come forth from their graves, but they will be immediately immortalized, restored to their perfect frame, limb and joint. And the poor, unfortunate creature who has lost a leg or an arm or a finger will have it restored to its proper frame, every joint to its place, and every part to its part, and it will be made perfect [Alma 40:23], for that is the law of restoration that God has instituted by which His own purpose cannot fail, by which his own designs concerning His children must be consummated” (Doxey, The Latter-day Prophets and the Doctrine and Covenants, [Deseret Book Co., 1963] 3:168).
President Smith’s statement here may be confusing as we know that mortal bodies, after death, do invariably experience variable degrees of deterioration and destruction. It is difficult, and even somewhat comically horrifying to imagine all bodies coming forth from the grave. Perhaps it is that the resurrected body is initially a sort of restored and refurbished mortal body not yet imbued with the glory it is destined to receive. It might, then, be termed a “natural” body or, as President Smith has written a “mortal” body.
“even ye shall receive your bodies” This phrase refers to our receiving our resurrected, eternal, “spiritual” bodies.
29 Ye who are quickened by a portion of the celestial glory shall then receive of the same, even a fulness.
30 And they who are quickened by a portion of the terrestrial glory shall then receive of the same, even a fulness.
31 And also they who are quickened by a portion of the telestial glory shall then receive of the same, even a fulness.
verses 28-31 “your glory shall be that glory by which your bodies are quickened” See the commentary for verses 22-24. The word quickened in these verses means “made alive or revived.” In this case it means resurrected.
The word “fulness” in these verses refers to a perfect, eternal body commensurate with the complete glory of its respective kingdom. The terrestrial body, for example, will receive a “fulness” of terrestrial glory.
32 And they who remain shall also be quickened; nevertheless, they shall return again to their own place, to enjoy that which they are willing to receive, because they were not willing to enjoy that which they might have received.
verse 32 “they who remain” These are the sons of perdition, who will be resurrected (“quickened’), but who will not progress in glory from that time on. Rather, they will regress, having lost their second estate (see Abraham 3:26), and will be consigned after judgment to their own place or condition, one apparently totally without glory (see D&C 76:44-48).
“to enjoy that which they are willing to receive” The use of the work enjoy here is surprising. We wonder if it should be placed in italics. Those who are consigned to perdition are perdition by choice. Throughout their mortal lives, then throughout their sufferings in hell before their resurrection, these individuals will not repent, will not bend, will not yield to God nor respond to his love and mercy. Their eternal fate is deliberately and stubbornly selected by them: “I will have my way. I will not yield. I will not bend. I will not obey—no matter how terrible the cost—worlds without end.” God’s desire, his work and his glory, would be to exalt these sons of perdition, but he cannot, for they will not allow it. As free agents, they choose their fate with full knowledge of the consequences. They knowingly reject God and his plans and desires for their salvation.
A provocative question then remains. What will be the state of mind of the individual who is consigned to outer darkness? We resist the idea that they Lord would require them to spend eternity in agony. We wonder if an eternal state of ennui and lassitude might be their lot. But might it be that they also will end up being consigned to a place and a condition which is to their eternal satisfaction and even happiness? Will they, in fact, “enjoy” their eternal lot? We simply are not given sufficient information to formulate any type of answer to these questions.
33 For what doth it profit a man if a gift is bestowed upon him, and he receive not the gift? Behold, he rejoices not in that which is given unto him, neither rejoices in him who is the giver of the gift.
verse 33 “a gift is bestowed upon him, and he receive not the gift” This verse is most interesting, provocative, and enigmatic. Salvation in any degree of glory is a gift, indeed, the greatest of all God’s merciful gifts to us. Intuitively, we have settled on the notion that the level of salvation gifted to each individual is appropriate for who and what they really are. Each individual will be content and satisfied with the degree of glory he or she inherits. But is it possible that in the judgment, the Lord will offer to an individual a degree of glory that he knows is appropriate for that individual, yet the individual will refuse to accept it? We do know for certain that God will not, and in fact cannot, violate the absolute sanctity of an individual’s agency. This suggests the unbelievable and tragic possibility then, as suggested by this verse, that some individuals will be offered a degree of glory and refuse to accept that offer. They then will elect a lesser degree of glory or no glory at all.
Similarly, in human relationships some people are too proud or too independent to accept gifts from others, and consequently they lose both the rejected gift and also the opportunity to strengthen their relationship with the rejected giver.
34 And again, verily I say unto you, that which is governed by law is also preserved by law and perfected and sanctified by the same.
verse 34 “that which is governed by law is also preserved . . and perfected and sanctified by the same” God’s laws are not arbitrary rules designed to test our obedience. They are rules and guidelines by which we may achieve the ultimate happiness in this life and in the life to come. If obeyed, his laws help us enjoy the abundant life Christ promised to those who adhere to his gospel and ultimately they help us to become like him. We read in scripture that “there is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated—And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated” (D&C 130:20-21). God’s law provides us access to his blessings, and obedience to those laws assures us of these blessings. God knows us intimately, and he knows perfectly the potential vicissitudes of this mortal experience. His laws are designed to protect us, to uplift us, to enlighten our minds, and to enlarge our souls. There is nothing of arbitrariness in God’s laws or commandments. They are not arbitrary rules. They do not function as a mere problematic obstacle course just to see how each person will do. Nor are the commandments merely helpful suggestions that can be disregarded at will without consequence. It is only through our obedience to his law that we become like him—that we receive those incremental divine attributes that sanctify and perfect us.
In the scriptures, there is usually a difference between a rule and a law. For example, according to the rabbis, there are 613 rules (do’s and don’ts) that make up the single law of Moses. The term law, then, often refers to a whole system or plan made up of many rules. As we choose to live by the law of Christ or the law of Moses, we may not succeed in keeping all the rules incorporated therein, nevertheless, as we choose to govern ourselves according to one law or another in this life, we will eventually receive the fulness of that law’s glory and blessings in the resurrection. The law we accept and live here (though imperfectly) in turn exalts us there, and those who reject all law in this life (perdition) will have no law to protect or preserve them in eternity.
Living the law has a conditioning effect on the individual. Elder Loren C. Dunn said:
When I was younger, I lived to play basketball. It was on my mind constantly. I spent countless hours practicing. Gradually I began to go through the moves automatically, without thinking about them. Physically and mentally I had become conditioned to do certain things by instinct. I had practiced them until they became natural to me.
In like manner, we keep the commandments and teachings of the gospel in order to condition us spiritually. It is not a matter of how many laws we keep and how many we do not keep. We keep the commandments because they are the laws that govern the Spirit [notice “Spirit” is capitalized]. The Spirit in turn will sanctify us, condition us spiritually, and eventually prepare us to live in the kingdom where God is.
The laws that govern the Spirit are nothing more nor less than the laws that govern the Church (Ensign, May 1979, 70-71).
35 That which breaketh a law, and abideth not by law, but seeketh to become a law unto itself, and willeth to abide in sin, and altogether abideth in sin, cannot be sanctified by law, neither by mercy, justice, nor judgment. Therefore, they must remain filthy still.
verse 35 This verse is self explanatory and applies to the sons of perdition.
36 All kingdoms have a law given;
37 And there are many kingdoms; for there is no space in the which there is no kingdom; and there is no kingdom in which there is no space, either a greater or a lesser kingdom.
38 And unto every kingdom is given a law; and unto every law there are certain bounds also and conditions.
verses 36-38 “All kingdoms have a law given” All creation—all intelligences—have been organized by God and placed under certain laws. We are not given to understand the order or organization of the kingdoms, though we can easily identify a few of them. There are, for example, kingdoms incorporating the intelligences that are associated with the inanimate materials of the earth. There are kingdoms involving the microorganisms, the plants, and the animals. And finally, there is a kingdom of the human family. Each intelligence in all of these kingdoms has the priceless gift of agency, and each may make unfettered choices. There is no intelligence among God’s creations that does not have agency. All of these kingdoms have a law given by the Lord, and the laws or conditions of these separate kingdoms are all different.
Some of the multiple “kingdoms” spoken of here are macroscopic, some microscopic—“either a greater or a lesser kingdom.” Each kingdom is governed by its own laws, and in a way each kingdom is alive. John A. Widtsoe taught:
In a manner not fully understood by man, some form of life resides in all matter, though of an order wholly different from the organized intelligence of man or higher living things. Hence, everything in the universe is alive. . . . This implies clearly that the earth is a living organism. President Brigham Young who was trained in the gospel by the Prophet confirmed the teaching that life and intelligence pervade all things, animate and inanimate. Are this earth, the air, and the water composed of life? . . . We suggest that there is an eternity of organization, and an eternity of intelligence from the highest to the lowest grade, every creature in its order from the Gods to the animalculae. We live then in a living universe which in all its component parts is intelligent (Joseph Smith, Seeker After Truth, Prophet of God, 1951, 149-50).
39 All beings who abide not in those conditions are not justified.
verse 39 We are not given to know anything about the laws given to the separate orders of God’s creations, though we may assume that some intelligences in each order or kingdom obey more diligently than others. Those who repent and obey qualify for the merciful blessings of Christ’s atonement. Their sins are forgiven them (they are justified). Those who do not obey do not qualify for forgiveness or justification.
40 For intelligence cleaveth unto intelligence; wisdom receiveth wisdom; truth embraceth truth; virtue loveth virtue; light cleaveth unto light; mercy hath compassion on mercy and claimeth her own; justice continueth its course and claimeth its own; judgment goeth before the face of him who sitteth upon the throne and governeth and executeth all things.
verse 40 “intelligence cleaveth unto intelligence” “Cleaveth unto” means to be joined together with. In eternity, like will be joined to like. The law of God will sort us out, or perhaps it would be more correct to say that by the law of God we will sort ourselves out. We will all seek and obtain our own reward and will live among those with similar inclinations. In this verse, “intelligence” refers to a fully independent individual in God’s universe.
Another possible meaning for this verse is the point that we have made previously—that spiritual growth is exponential and not linear. That is, with each increment in spiritual growth comes an increment in the rate of spiritual growth. Spiritual growth is therefore self potentiating and self accelerating—in other words, exponential. Rather than referring to the individual essence of a person, this interpretation of the verse regards “intelligence” as a measure of an individual’s spiritual growth—the sum total of all the gifts of the Spirit he has accumulated. The more intelligence he acquires, the more he can cleave unto.
41 He comprehendeth all things, and all things are before him, and all things are round about him; and he is above all things, and in all things, and is through all things, and is round about all things; and all things are by him, and of him, even God, forever and ever.
verse 41 “He comprehendeth all things” “He,” here refers to the Lord. The word comprehendeth most often means “to understand.” Here, however, the word has an additional meaning. It means “to encompass, to include, or to be larger than something else.” This verse describes the relationship and influence of Christ on all of creation. Since the light of Christ is in all things and is the force that gives them life and holds them together, Christ himself must “comprehend” all these things (both understand and encompass) in all their aspects and in all their functions. The Creator is larger and greater than his creation, and he understands and is included in the whole of it.
42 And again, verily I say unto you, he hath given a law unto all things, by which they move in their times and their seasons;
verse 42 “he hath given a law . . . by which they move” This passage declares that the laws of physical motion, the physics of our universe, are decreed and imposed upon all the heavenly bodies by God through the light of Christ. Thus, the orbits of the moon around the earth, the earth around the sun, and our galaxy around its center are all functions of the governance and power of God through the light of Christ.
43 And their courses are fixed, even the courses of the heavens and the earth, which comprehend the earth and all the planets.
verse 43 “comprehend” See the commentary for verse 41. The word comprehend here means “include.”
44 And they give light to each other in their times and in their seasons, in their minutes, in their hours, in their days, in their weeks, in their months, in their years—all these are one year with God, but not with man.
verse 44 “all these are one year with God, but not with man” In Abraham 3:4, we are given the formula relating time, as reckoned by God, to time, as reckoned by man. That verse in Abraham teaches us that “one revolution [of Kolob] [is] a day unto the Lord, after his manner of reckoning, it being one thousand years according to the time appointed unto that whereon thou standest. This is the reckoning of the Lord’s time, [It is] according to the reckoning of Kolob” (see also Abraham 5:13; Psalm 90:4; 2 Peter 3:8). We obviously have no idea as to what exactly constitutes a year in Kolob’s reckoning of time.
It is clear that the scriptures are unanimous in declaring that time is not reckoned the same with God as it is with human beings (see, for example, D&C 130:4-7; Revelation 10:6). Alma’s statement that “all is as one day with God, and time only is measured unto men” (Alma 40:8), would seem to caution us against taking any particular formula too literally.
It is difficult to take a precise quantitative meaning away from this verse. The verse is ambiguous and simply seems to suggest that all man’s measures of time may be variable depending on their planets and the locations of those planet, but God’s time is always reckoned in its own consistent way.
verses 45-47 These verses seem to endorse what theologians call the teleological argument for the existence of God. Basically, this argument states that the existence of a glorious creation indicates or implies the existence of a glorious creator. All who have perceived the order and glory of creation or the orderly operation of natural laws have perceived the influence of God in the universe—whether or not they choose to accept this testimony borne by creation concerning its Creator (Moses 6:63).
45 The earth rolls upon her wings, and the sun giveth his light by day, and the moon giveth her light by night, and the stars also give their light, as they roll upon their wings in their glory, in the midst of the power of God.
46 Unto what shall I liken these kingdoms, that ye may understand?
verse 46 “these kingdoms” See the commentary for verses 36-38.
47 Behold, all these are kingdoms, and any man who hath seen any or the least of these hath seen God moving in his majesty and power.
48 I say unto you, he hath seen him; nevertheless, he who came unto his own was not comprehended.
verse 48 “he hath seen him” The man who has thoughtfully observed the order, power, and majesty of creation has seen God.
“nevertheless, he who came unto his own was not comprehended” The mortal Christ was not generally understood for who he was in spite of the fact that every man should know God from his experience with nature.
49 The light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehendeth it not; nevertheless, the day shall come when you shall comprehend even God, being quickened in him and by him.
verse 49 “The light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehendeth it not” Those unresponsive to the influence of the Holy Ghost cannot perceive the light of Christ. They live in darkness. The phrase “the light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehendeth it not” refers to the Lord’s mercy in allowing his light to shine even to those who do not receive or comprehend it.
To comprehend God the Father and God the Son is the same as to know them— to possess a revealed personal relationship with and testimony of them. No man can perceive and benefit from the light of Christ lest he is worthy of and desires the assistance of the influence of the Holy Ghost.
“the day shall come when you shall comprehend even God” Perhaps here the Lord speaks to those who live in darkness and fail to comprehend God. The day will come when all will be resurrected and stand before him. Then all will know him.
The Lord may also speak here to those who respond to the promptings of his Spirit while still in the second estate. They will come to know or comprehend him. They will have a personal relationship with him, a testimony of him.
“being quickened in him and by him” Here, “being quickened” could mean being resurrected by him. This would apply to those spiritually unresponsive to the Spirit’s promptings. They day will come when even they will all see and acknowledge God and be resurrected by him.
Those who are responsive to the Spirit are made spiritually alive by him—they are quickened by him.
50 Then shall ye know that ye have seen me, that I am, and that I am the true light that is in you, and that you are in me; otherwise ye could not abound.
verse 50 “Then shall ye know” Only when a man is quickened by the influence of the Spirit can he perceive the light of Christ and come to truly know God.
“that you are in me” This phrase refers to the intimate relationship with Christ available to us if we persist in righteousness.
“otherwise ye could not abound” To abound is to spiritually progress, enlarge, improve, and thrive.
verses 51-61 These verses contain a parable unique to the Doctrine and Covenants—the parable of the multitude of kingdoms. According to the book of Moses (Moses 1:27-35) and to the prophet Joseph Smith (see D&C 76:21, 24 and the commentary for these verses), there are countless inhabited worlds like ours among the creations of God, all of which are to receive God’s benevolence. This parable is one of the plainest assertions in the scriptures that there are inhabitants on other worlds, and Jesus Christ is their Lord and Savior. As these worlds go through the process of creation, cleansing, sanctification, and so forth that leads to their becoming celestial spheres, there is a time when each will enjoy the actual, physical presence of its Creator, the Lord Jesus Christ. In our case, the Lord will personally visit this earth during the Millennium, though he will likely not dwell here, and during that time all those raised in the first resurrection (that is, with celestial or terrestrial glory; see D&C 45:54; 76:17, 50 and their commentary) will at some time enjoy his personal presence. However, when our millennial day is over, the Lord will leave this earth to visit yet other worlds in their proper turn as they approach completion of their celestial natures. Thus, one by one the Lord personally visits each of his created worlds and all of his righteous servants.
After quoting these verses, President John Taylor wrote: “That is, each kingdom, or planet, and the inhabitants thereof, were [or will be] blessed with the visits and presence of their Creator, in their several times and seasons” (Meditation and Atonement, 77). Also, in the 1879 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants, Elder Orson Pratt wrote the following footnotes to verses 51-61: “Each planetary kingdom is visited by its Creator in its time and season,” and “The inhabitants of each planet [are] blessed with the presence and visits of their Creator.” Orson Pratt also wrote that as each world passes through its terrestrial millennium to be recreated a glorious, celestial sphere, “then, from that time henceforth and forever, there will be no intervening veil between God and his people who are sanctified and glorified, and he will not be under the necessity of withdrawing from one to go and visit another, because they will all be in his presence” (JD, 17:332).
We may speculate that just as the Nephite prophets had their prophecies and signs of Christ’s birth and atonement later verified by the Savior’s visit among them, perhaps the other planets or kingdoms that were created by the Savior also saw signs and heard prophecies that were then later verified by a visit from their Savior.
51 Behold, I will liken these kingdoms unto a man having a field, and he sent forth his servants into the field to dig in the field.
52 And he said unto the first: Go ye and labor in the field, and in the first hour I will come unto you, and ye shall behold the joy of my countenance.
53 And he said unto the second: Go ye also into the field, and in the second hour I will visit you with the joy of my countenance.
54 And also unto the third, saying: I will visit you;
55 And unto the fourth, and so on unto the twelfth.
56 And the lord of the field went unto the first in the first hour, and tarried with him all that hour, and he was made glad with the light of the countenance of his lord.
57 And then he withdrew from the first that he might visit the second also, and the third, and the fourth, and so on unto the twelfth.
58 And thus they all received the light of the countenance of their lord, every man in his hour, and in his time, and in his season—
59 Beginning at the first, and so on unto the last, and from the last unto the first, and from the first unto the last;
60 Every man in his own order, until his hour was finished, even according as his lord had commanded him, that his lord might be glorified in him, and he in his lord, that they all might be glorified.
61 Therefore, unto this parable I will liken all these kingdoms, and the inhabitants thereof—every kingdom in its hour, and in its time, and in its season, even according to the decree which God hath made.
General Instructions and Counsel to Elders and Missionaries (verses 62-86)
General advice is given: Be in tune with God and pray to him often and diligently (verses 62-63, 67). Be careful what you ask for in prayer (verses 64-65). Teach one another the doctrine of the kingdom (verses 77-80). Labor diligently (verses 81-85).
62 And again, verily I say unto you, my friends, I leave these sayings with you to ponder in your hearts, with this commandment which I give unto you, that ye shall call upon me while I am near—
63 Draw near unto me and I will draw near unto you; seek me diligently and ye shall find me; ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. 64 Whatsoever ye ask the Father in my name it shall be given unto you, that is expedient for you;
65 And if ye ask anything that is not expedient for you, it shall turn unto your condemnation.
verse 65 “that is not expedient for you” The 1828 edition of Webster’s American Dictionary of the English Language defines expedient as “that which serves to promote or advance.” When we seek what is right and what will move us toward our Heavenly Father or aid the cause of Zion, the Lord will answer our prayers positively. But should we attempt using the power of prayer for selfish or unrighteous goals, we will find ourselves condemned for it. President Joseph Fielding Smith taught that “too many times in prayers, things may be asked for which are not expedient but to gratify our vanity or foolish desires, and then if answered the prayer could be to our hurt. We have a wonderful example of this in the case of Martin Harris, when he persisted, after the Lord had refused his request and on his repeated seeking the request was granted.” President Smith also said that “the promise is sure that the Lord will not deny the humble petition which is offered, and it may not be expedient in some prayers that the answer be given as requested. Moreover, it is true that the Lord is not always near. The man who has ignored the Lord, who has not kept his commandments, and who does not pray, may find it a very difficult thing to obtain an answer to his earnest prayer when in distress, and the answer is sorely needed” (Answers to Gospel Questions, 3:84).
66 Behold, that which you hear is as the voice of one crying in the wilderness—in the wilderness, because you cannot see him—my voice, because my voice is Spirit; my Spirit is truth; truth abideth and hath no end; and if it be in you it shall abound.
verse 66 “the voice of one crying in the wilderness” This phrase is usually associated with the person of John the Baptist, who literally called out to Israel from the wilderness outside her towns and cities (see Mark 1:3-4). However, John’s voice cried out the words of Jehovah that prepared Israel for his coming, and so ultimately this phrase refers equally well to the voice of God himself (see D&C 1:38). The settled towns of Israel were then associated with the world of men and the worldliness which existed therein, while the wilderness symbolically represented a loftier plain from which God often spoke through his prophets. Those present when section 88 was received were privileged to hear word of Christ’s coming communicated through the Spirit and spoken by a prophet of God just as ancient disciples heard that preparatory word through John the Baptist.
We also learn here more about the symbolic significance of this phrase (“in the wilderness”). In the case of this phrase’s being applied to the voice of the Lord, we are taught that because the observers could not see God, it was as though he was speaking or crying “in the wilderness.”
“my voice is Spirit; my Spirit is truth” We are reminded that the light of Christ may be referred to as the Lord’s “voice,” his “Spirit,” and “truth.” If a man responds to the light of Christ he shall abound or flourish spiritually.
67 And if your eye be single to my glory, your whole bodies shall be filled with light, and there shall be no darkness in you; and that body which is filled with light comprehendeth all things.
verse 67 “if your eye be single” A man cannot serve two masters (Matthew 6:24; Moroni 7:11-14). If our every thought, our desires, our aspirations, our hopes, and our dreams are all centered in righteousness; if our reason for being is to build up the kingdom of God, then we have an eye single to the glory of God.
“your whole bodies shall be filled with light” President Gordon B. Hinckley has taught: “As we . . . serve him with an eye single to his glory, there goes from us the darkness of sin, the darkness of selfishness, the darkness of pride. There will come an increased love for our Eternal Father and for his Beloved Son, our Savior and our Redeemer. There will come a greater sense of service toward our fellow men, less of thinking of self and more of reaching out to others” (Ensign, March 1984, 5).
68 Therefore, sanctify yourselves that your minds become single to God, and the days will come that you shall see him; for he will unveil his face unto you, and it shall be in his own time, and in his own way, and according to his own will.
verses 68 “sanctify yourselves” As we have discussed previously, the twofold process of sanctification occurs in response to our obedience to the Lord’s commands. First we have an increment of our natural self burned out of our soul as if by fire. Second, we receive, by personal revelation, an increment of one of the Lord’s attributes—a gift of the Spirit. Sanctification causes us to become a little more like God. Our part of the process is diligent, properly motivated obedience to the commandments of the Lord. Hence, when we obey, we “sanctify ourselves.”
“for he will unveil his face unto you” Here the Lord is likely reiterating his promise made to some of these same individuals the preceding year (see D&C 67:10 and its commentary). But this phrase may also be regarded as a blessed but sobering promise for the rest of us as well. The day will come that each of us will meet him under one of the following circumstances: (1) We may die and see him following our mortal phase (Alma 11:40). (2) He may appear to us here in mortality when our calling and election is made sure—when we receive the Second Comforter. (3) If he returns during our lifetime, we will see him then.
The conditions of our seeing him again will be at his bidding. He will decide how, when, and where. It is inevitable, however, that we will one day see him whether we are prepared or not.
verses 69-76 The Lord instructs the Prophet to call a solemn assembly of the “first laborers in this last kingdom.” This is to be held in Kirtland and is to include a special spiritual manifestation to those who are worthy. Much needs to be done in anticipation. The laborers are to prepare their hearts and minds and rid themselves of idle thoughts and excess laughter. Those expecting to be invited to attend are to organize themselves, sanctify their lives, and purify their hearts.
69 Remember the great and last promise which I have made unto you; cast away your idle thoughts and your excess of laughter far from you.
verse 69 “the great and last promise” This “last” promise is the most recent promise—made in the preceding verse. It is that the brethren present would be privileged to see the Lord if they remained faithful. Brother Robert Matthews wrote: “Certainly the meaning is not that this was the final (or chronologically last) promise [God] would make to his servants. The meaning therefore seems to be that this was the ultimate promise—that is, that when they were ready, they would see his face and stand in his presence. The feeling is also contained in the passage that this was the last promise until they had accomplished the preparation needed to obtain the promise the Lord had given them” (“Olive Leaf,” in Studies in Scripture, eds. Millet and Jackson, 1:349).
“cast away your idle thoughts and your excess of laughter” See D&C 59:15 and its commentary. In the context of this verse, the Lord reminds the brethren that his work is serious business and should be viewed as such, though this phrase is neither a condemnation of pondering secular subjects nor a condemnation of humor. Note particularly that it is not laughter that is condemned here, but an excess of laughter. The issue is one of focus. Idle thoughts (empty and purposeless) and excess of laughter might indicate one has lost focus on the real purposes of life and is looking elsewhere for immediate, temporal satisfaction.
70 Tarry ye, tarry ye in this place, and call a solemn assembly, even of those who are the first laborers in this last kingdom.
verse 70 “tarry ye in this place, and call a solemn assembly” The leadership of the Church, at least as represented by those present when section 88 was received, were not to go to Missouri, but were to remain in Kirtland until the Lord prepared them for the full blessings they were yet to receive. One preparatory step would be the construction of the Kirtland Temple and the reception by some members of keys and ordinances associated with the temple (see verses 118-26). Within two weeks of receiving section 88 (on January 11, 1833), Joseph Smith wrote to the saints in Missouri informing them of the Lord’s instructions that a temple be built in Kirtland. He further clarified the promise of the Lord that the faithful would, by obedience to these instructions, be blessed with an appearance of the Lord himself (HC, 1:316-17; compare D&C 88:69, 75). On a later occasion, the Prophet taught the Twelve, “We must have all things prepared, and call our solemn assembly as the Lord has commanded us, that we may be able to accomplish his great work, and it must be done in God’s own way. The house of the Lord must be prepared, and the solemn assembly called and organized in it, according to the order of the house of God; and in it we must attend to the ordinance of washing of feet. . . . The endowment you are so anxious about, you cannot comprehend now. . . . You need an endowment, brethren, in order that you may be prepared and able to overcome all things. . . . All who are prepared, and are sufficiently pure to abide the presence of the Savior will see him in the solemn assembly” (HC, 2:308-310).
Some three years following Joseph’s receiving section 88, the commandment in this verse was completed, and the Lord’s blessed promises were fulfilled. The Kirtland Temple was dedicated. Between January and May 1, 1836, a number of meetings and assemblies were held in Kirtland in which there was a remarkable outpouring of spiritual gifts. During the week of March 27, 1836, solemn assemblies were held at the temple dedication and were accompanied by a spiritual outpouring akin to that experienced by the New Testament saints on the day of Pentecost (see Acts 2). According to accounts of many of those present at that dedication and other meetings during the week following, including a second dedication session, the gifts of the Spirit were manifested, and “the Savior made his appearance to some, while angels ministered to others” (HC, 2:432). Another solemn assembly was also held the following year on April 6, 1837. Elders who had not attended the earlier assembly were washed and anointed at that time (see Cook, Revelations of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 182-83).
“the first laborers in this last kingdom” This phrase likely refers to the early leadership of the restored Church in this final dispensation.
71 And let those whom they have warned in their traveling call on the Lord, and ponder the warning in their hearts which they have received, for a little season.
72 Behold, and lo, I will take care of your flocks, and will raise up elders and send unto them.
verse 72 “I will take care of your flocks” The reference here is to the converts made by traveling missionaries and to branches of the Church established in distant areas. The Lord will provide leadership (elders) according to the needs and the faithfulness of his saints.
73 Behold, I will hasten my work in its time.
verse 73 The Lord himself has a plan for the work of the restored gospel in this latter day and will do his part in this latter-day work. We don’t need to worry about how the gospel will finally be made available in this country or in that area. The Lord’s plans are already made and merely await the right time and obedient servants to carry them out.
74 And I give unto you, who are the first laborers in this last kingdom, a commandment that you assemble yourselves together, and organize yourselves, and prepare yourselves, and sanctify yourselves; yea, purify your hearts, and cleanse your hands and your feet before me, that I may make you clean;
verse 74 “And I give unto you . . . a commandment” The leaders of the Church are here commanded to prepare themselves for the blessings of the temple, which will in turn prepare them to receive the fulness of his “great and last promise” (verse 75), that they will be clean and worthy of his personal appearance to them.
“cleanse your hands and your feet” This is a reference to some of the ordinances soon to be received in the temple. The brethren are to prepare themselves for the ordinances of the temple by sanctifying their own lives individually. These ordinances would in turn make it possible for the Lord to keep his promise to the faithful to appear unto them (see verses 68-69, 75).
75 That I may testify unto your Father, and your God, and my God, that you are clean from the blood of this wicked generation; that I may fulfil this promise, this great and last promise, which I have made unto you, when I will.
verse 75 “That I may testify unto your Father” The Father has committed all judgment into the hands of the Son (see John 5:22) and will accept the testimony, the advocacy, or the intercession of the Son in regard to each and every individual (see D&C 29:27-29; 45:3-5; Matthew 10:32-33; 3 Nephi 27:16).
“clean from the blood of this wicked generation” The cleansing agent is the atonement of Jesus Christ. But how do we become free from the blood and sins of this generation? Obviously it is through repentance and abiding the Lord’s commandments, but there is more. We have an obligation to preach the gospel to those who have not been warned so that their fate, should they refuse to repent, cannot be charged to our negligence. A refusal to warn the world of its eternal peril in some form of missionary service leaves members guilty, in some degree, of the blood and wickedness of their generation (see verses 81-82).
76 Also, I give unto you a commandment that ye shall continue in prayer and fasting from this time forth.
verse 76 That is, continue in the regular practice of prayer and fasting.
verses 77-84 These verses instruct the leading elders of the Church to “teach ye diligently” other members of the Church. They originally referred to the School of the Prophets (see verses 127-138) which would prepare other leaders of the Church for their service, not just in frontier America, but throughout the world. The Lord needs informed, educated, knowledgeable, and intelligent people to lead his Church. Such qualifications are needed not to impress the world but to better serve the Lord and his saints. To be as effective as possible in the Lord’s service, church leaders and others must generally have some knowledge of the language and culture of the people whom they serve. In 1832 the instructions given here to establish a School of the Prophets were likely in part at least to prepare church leaders for the foreign missions to which they would soon be called (see verse 84). At a time before there was a Quorum of the Twelve, the Kirtland School of the Prophets served to train those likely to be called into that quorum in the future.
77 And I give unto you a commandment that you shall teach one another the doctrine of the kingdom.
verse 77 “teach one another the doctrine of the kingdom” Given originally here to the leading elders of the Church, this commandment has now been extended to the whole Church. Our efforts in all our classes, lessons, and sermons should be directed at teaching the doctrine of the kingdom to those who are less knowledgeable that ourselves.
78 Teach ye diligently and my grace shall attend you, that you may be instructed more perfectly in theory, in principle, in doctrine, in the law of the gospel, in all things that pertain unto the kingdom of God, that are expedient for you to understand;
verse 78 “and my grace shall attend you” This interesting and important phrase mentions an important principle of the gospel. It promises that if the brethren will study diligently and teach one another what they know, the grace of God will then add to what they learn, and the end result will include what was taught by man and what was mercifully added by the grace of God.
“in theory, in principle, in doctrine” See the commentary on D&C 97:14.
“the law of the gospel” This phrase is a reference to all the principles that together constitute the gospel (see also verse 123 and the commentary on D&C 104:18).
79 Of things both in heaven and in the earth, and under the earth; things which have been, things which are, things which must shortly come to pass; things which are at home, things which are abroad; the wars and the perplexities of the nations, and the judgments which are on the land; and a knowledge also of countries and of kingdoms—
verse 79 The Lord condones the study of science, politics, law, and foreign cultures.
80 That ye may be prepared in all things when I shall send you again to magnify the calling whereunto I have called you, and the mission with which I have commissioned you.
81 Behold, I sent you out to testify and warn the people, and it becometh every man who hath been warned to warn his neighbor.
82 Therefore, they are left without excuse, and their sins are upon their own heads.
83 He that seeketh me early shall find me, and shall not be forsaken.
verse 83 “He that seeketh me early” The word early here implies “right away,” “in a timely fashion,” “betimes,” “without delay,” etc.
84 Therefore, tarry ye, and labor diligently, that you may be perfected in your ministry to go forth among the Gentiles for the last time, as many as the mouth of the Lord shall name, to bind up the law and seal up the testimony, and to prepare the saints for the hour of judgment which is to come;
verse 84 “to go forth among the Gentiles” The term Gentiles here refers to those of every nation, kindred, tongue, and people, who are to receive their opportunity to hear the gospel in this dispensation (“the day of the Gentile”) of the restored gospel.
“to bind up the law and seal up the testimony” To “bind up the law” is to impose the law decreed by God upon those who are to receive it. To “seal up the testimony” is to make certain that a knowledge of the gospel and a warning of the fate that awaits the wicked have been given. Those to whom testimony has been born and to whom the law of the Lord has been revealed may then either accept or reject them. But the garments of the saints who have warned them are free of their blood and sins either way.
Joseph Smith later reflected upon this passage, saying that “when you are endowed and prepared to preach the gospel to all nations, kindred, and tongues, in their own languages, you must faithfully warn all, and bind up the testimony, and seal up the law, and the destroying angel will follow close at your heels, and exercise his tremendous mission upon the children of disobedience; and destroy the workers of iniquity, while the saints will be gathered out from among them, and stand in holy places ready to meet the Bridegroom when he comes” (HC, 2:309).
85 That their souls may escape the wrath of God, the desolation of abomination which awaits the wicked, both in this world and in the world to come. Verily, I say unto you, let those who are not the first elders continue in the vineyard until the mouth of the Lord shall call them, for their time is not yet come; their garments are not clean from the blood of this generation.
verse 85 “their souls” The antecedent of their is the Gentiles and the saints in verse 84.
“the desolation of abomination” See the commentary on D&C 84:117. This passage informs us that for those who will not repent, the desolation they experience here continues into the next life, the spirit world. For those who will not repent even in the spirit world, the abomination of total desolation continues as “outer darkness,” a place reserved for perdition that is outside the created order and is desolate of the light and power of Christ.
“let those who are not the first elders continue in the vineyard” The Lord’s vineyard is anywhere on the earth where his work is being done. Those church missionaries who were not church leaders and were in the mission field at the time this revelation was received are counseled to remain in the mission field until they are called home. Their work is not yet complete (see the commentary on verse 75).
86 Abide ye in the liberty wherewith ye are made free; entangle not yourselves in sin, but let your hands be clean, until the Lord comes.
verse 86 “Abide ye in the liberty wherewith ye are made free” The principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ fulfill, supersede, and render obsolete the rules of the law of Moses, just as redemption in Christ supersedes the conditions of the Fall. Therefore, knowledge of and obedience to the law of Christ set his saints free from all other requirements and considerations—including the demands of the law of Moses. This “Christian liberty” was a frequent subject of Paul’s epistles to the saints in the New Testament (see, for example, 1 Corinthians 8:8-9; 10:29; 2 Corinthians 3:17; Galatians 5:1, 13). The apostle James spoke of the gospel as another law, “the perfect law of liberty” (James 1:25), by which the saints were set free from their sins that had been committed under the rules of the law of Moses (see also James 2:10-13). The law of Moses was, completely, a law of justice. The gospel of Jesus Christ includes the law of mercy whereby a man may be made free from his sins.
On the other hand, those who have been set free from sin and error through the atonement of Christ cannot use his sacrifice as an excuse to continue willfully in their sins (compare Romans 6:16). The gospel frees us from sin. It does not sustain us in the continued pursuit of sin. The liberty of the gospel frees us from sin. It does not free us to sin.
The term abide is important here as descriptive of our loyalty. Granted that we are all imperfect in our performance. We must “abide” in Christ, giving him our loyalty, while making occasional mistakes. We must not “abide” in anything else. We must not bestow upon any other thing our ultimate loyalty.
h3>Eschatological Materials (verses 87-116)
This large segment of section 88 bears a striking similarity to chapters 7 through 22 of the book of Revelation. It is a prophecy of destruction and calamity but also a message of hope. It is, as with all revealed scripture, an assurance that in the end, righteousness will triumph over evil; Christ over the devil; the saints over their oppressors. Ultimate victory will come through the Lord Jesus Christ. Parallel passages to these verses may also be seen in D&C 29:14; 43:18-25; 45:26, 42, 48; and 133:22, 49. See also the commentary for these verses. See also Joel 2:10, 31; 3:1516; Matthew 24:29-31; JS–M 1:23-37; Revelation 11:13. Doctrine and Covenants 133, received before section 88, explains that the sun and moon shall hide their light and the stars be hurled from their places out of shame when confronted by the incomparable glory of the Lord’s presence (see D&C 133:49). See, again, the chapters on the Signs of the Lord’s Second Coming in volume 3 of Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine. See chapter 24, Signs of the Lord’s Second Coming—Introduction, chapter 25, Signs of the Lord’s Second Coming—Those that Warn, and chapter 26, Signs of the Lord’s Second Coming—Those that Punish and Cleanse.
87 For not many days hence and the earth shall tremble and reel to and fro as a drunken man; and the sun shall hide his face, and shall refuse to give light; and the moon shall be bathed in blood; and the stars shall become exceedingly angry, and shall cast themselves down as a fig that falleth from off a fig-tree.
88 And after your testimony cometh wrath and indignation upon the people.
89 For after your testimony cometh the testimony of earthquakes, that shall cause groanings in the midst of her, and men shall fall upon the ground and shall not be able to stand.
90 And also cometh the testimony of the voice of thunderings, and the voice of lightnings, and the voice of tempests, and the voice of the waves of the sea heaving themselves beyond their bounds.
91 And all things shall be in commotion; and surely, men’s hearts shall fail them; for fear shall come upon all people.
verse 91 “men’s hearts shall fail them” People will become disheartened; there will be widespread despair, discouragement, despondency, and depression.
verses 87-91 These signs will occur in the seventh seal. The Lord tells his latter-day servants that after they have carried the message of the gospel to the world, then will come the testimony of nature that his coming is nigh. Certainly we may assume that as of today, mankind’s chance for repentance is rapidly coming to a close. God has tried every means to reclaim them, but they have not heard. Now comes heaven’s response to the cry of the earth itself: “Wo, wo is me, the mother of men; I am pained, I am weary, because of the wickedness of my children. When shall I rest, and be cleansed from the filthiness which is gone forth out of me? When will my Creator sanctify me, that I may rest, and righteousness for a season abide upon my face?” (Moses 7:48). The answer is “now,” for judgment has commenced.
92 And angels shall fly through the midst of heaven, crying with a loud voice, sounding the trump of God, saying: Prepare ye, prepare ye, O inhabitants of the earth; for the judgment of our God is come. Behold, and lo, the Bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him.
verse 92 “angels shall fly through the midst of heaven . . . sounding the trump of God” It may well be that this verse describes collectively the activity of all the angels or messengers of God from the restoration to the Lord’s second coming, including the seven angels whose activities will be summarized in verses 94-106. According to Smith and Sjodahl, “These angels are mighty men of God, messengers of the Almighty, who shall call upon the inhabitants of the earth to prepare themselves for the coming of the Bridegroom. Moroni was such an angel [Revelation 14:6-7]” (Doctrine and Covenants Commentary, 560).
“for the judgment of our God is come” See the account of the testimony of the final seven angels in verses 94-107.
“Low, the Bridegroom cometh” The second coming of Jesus Christ will fulfill the prophecy implicit in the parable of the ten virgins (see Matthew 25:1-13; see also D&C 33:17-18; 65:3-5).
93 And immediately there shall appear a great sign in heaven, and all people shall see it together.
verse 93 “a great sign in heaven” Orson Pratt taught: “After the angels have sounded the trump in the ears of all living (verse 92), we are informed that there will be a great sign in the heavens. It is not to be limited so that only a few of the human family can see it; but it is said, `all people shall see it together!’ At least, it is to be like our sun seen over one entire side of the globe, and then passing immediately round to the other, or else it will encircle the whole earth at the same time.” This sign is most often referred to as “the sign of the coming of the Son of Man” or the “sign of the Son of Man in heaven” (JS-T Matthew 24:32-37). This sign occurs at the time of the Lord’s coming in glory.
It is difficult to say exactly what this sign will be. In commenting upon this passage, the prophet Joseph Smith said: “There will be wars and rumors of wars, signs in the heavens above and on the earth beneath. . . . Then will appear one grand sign of the Son of Man in heaven. But what will the world do? They will say it is a planet, a comet, etc. But the Son of Man will come as the sign of the coming of the Son of Man, which will be as the light of the morning coming out of the east” (TPJS, 286-87). It will not be recognized by the world for what it is. Rather, the world will conclude that “it is a planet, a comet, etc” (Ibid.).
It has been suggested: Could such a dramatic occasion be the re-appearance of the City of Enoch? According to Wandle Mace, this was what Joseph Smith taught (see Sayings of Joseph Smith in “Joseph Smith Papers,” Church Historian’s Library, Salt Lake City, Utah.) Other suggestions have included the idea that it could be the approach to earth of the Son himself accompanied by his entourage.
verses 94-107 These verses provide us an account of the seven angels that will sound the final warning, by blowing their trumps, prior to the Lord’s second coming (see D&C 77:12; 29:13 and the commentary for these verses). The blowing of these trumpets announces the return of the risen Lord and the beginning of his judgment. As each of the seven blasts is heard, a different category of people is addressed, from the celestial at the first trump (verses 96-98), to the terrestrial (verse 99), the telestial (verses 100-101), and perdition (verse 102). Then Zion is established (see verses 103104), Babylon falls (see verses 105; see also Revelation 8:2-11, 15), and the saints receive their inheritances (verses 106-107).
A second series of trumpet blasts (see verses 108-10) will herald a review of earth’s history and announce the finishing of God’s millennial works. These passages agree with D&C 77:12, which states that the two series of blasts mark (1) the preparing and (2) the finishing of the Lord’s work, respectively (“the sounding of the trumpets of the seven angels are the preparing and the finishing of his work.”
94 And another angel shall sound his trump, saying: That great church, the mother of abominations, that made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, that persecuteth the saints of God, that shed their blood—she who sitteth upon many waters, and upon the islands of the sea—behold, she is the tares of the earth; she is bound in bundles; her bands are made strong, no man can loose them; therefore, she is ready to be burned. And he shall sound his trump both long and loud, and all nations shall hear it.
verse 94 “another angel shall sound his trump” This is not the first of the many angels of God to come to assist with the restoration of the gospel, for there have been many. Rather, this trump is the first of the series of trumpet blasts associated specifically with the end time, the final warning. This sounding of the first trumpet heralds the destruction of the great and abominable church. The sounding of this first trump also brings about the resurrection of the celestial dead and the raising up of the celestial living to meet the Lord in the air (see verses 96-98; 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17).
“That great church, the mother of abominations” This is the great and abominable church described in 1 Nephi 13. It is not a particular church or religious philosophy, but rather it is all influence in the earth that opposes the truth of the living God. It is all that is of the telestial nature upon the earth (see 1 Nephi 22:23; 2 Nephi 10:16).
“that made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication” See D&C 35:11 and its commentary.
95 And there shall be silence in heaven for the space of half an hour; and immediately after shall the curtain of heaven be unfolded, as a scroll is unfolded after it is rolled up, and the face of the Lord shall be unveiled;
verse 95 “silence in heaven” Orson Pratt also taught: “Immediately after the sounding of this trump [verse 94], there will be silence in heaven for the space of half an hour. Whether the half hour here spoken is according to our reckoning—thirty minutes—or whether it be according to the reckoning of the Lord we do not know. We know the word ‘hour’ is used in some portion of the scriptures to represent quite a lengthy period of time. For instance, we the latter-day saints are living in the eleventh hour, that the eleventh period of time and for aught we know the half hour during which silence is to prevail in heaven may be quite an extensive period of time. . . . During the period of silence all things are perfectly still; no angels flying during that half hour; no trumpets sounding; no noise in the heaven above; but immediately after this great silence the curtain of heaven shall be unfolded as a scroll is unfolded . . . so that the people may gaze upon those celestial beings who will make their appearance in the clouds” (JD, 16:328).
“immediately after shall the curtain of heaven be unfolded” A curtain is a veil, and it is possible to understand this passage to mean that the veil which separates this world from the direct presence of Christ the Creator will be removed. Certainly, there will be no more shade in which evil may work. When this curtain or veil is drawn, all things telestial, including the great and abominable church and its works, will be burned by the glory of the presence of Christ (see D&C 29:9 and it commentary). We do not know at this time what the veil or curtain of heaven consists of or how it actually works physically. We only know that what separates us now from the presence of the resurrected Christ will be removed, and a new terrestrial reality will express itself, as though a curtain had suddenly been drawn aside or a scroll had been unfolded before our eyes.
96 And the saints that are upon the earth, who are alive, shall be quickened and be caught up to meet him.
verses 97-102 These verses summarize the sequence of the resurrection. The reader may wish to review the sequence of the resurrection in the introductory commentary for Alma 40:16-20.
97 And they who have slept in their graves shall come forth, for their graves shall be opened; and they also shall be caught up to meet him in the midst of the pillar of heaven—
verses 96-97 “the saints that are upon the earth . . . And they who have slept in their graves shall come forth” This is the phenomenon to which other
churches have given the name “the rapture” (from the Greek word for being “grabbed” or “caught up”). At his second coming, the Lord Jesus will raise off of the earth those who are to receive celestial glory—the ultimate “gathering” of the saints. Also the righteous dead will be resurrected and caught up to meet the returning Christ. The apostle Paul states that the dead in Christ shall be resurrected first; then the living saints will be raised up (see 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17). During this time, the earth will be cleansed by fire, purified, and raised to a terrestrial glory.
98 They are Christ’s, the first fruits, they who shall descend with him first, and they who are on the earth and in their graves, who are first caught up to meet him; and all this by the voice of the sounding of the trump of the angel of God.
verse 98 “They are Christ’s, the first fruits” These are the first to be resurrected, those who come forth with celestial bodies, the Church of the First Born. They come forth in the “morning of the first resurrection.” These celestial individuals are those who already belong to Christ through the gospel covenant before his coming to the earth. These are the saints who have already accepted the fulness of the gospel and been redeemed from the devil in this life—and those who would have accepted it in this life if only they had had the opportunity (see D&C 137:5-9).
99 And after this another angel shall sound, which is the second trump; and then cometh the redemption of those who are Christ’s at his coming; who have received their part in that prison which is prepared for them, that they might receive the gospel, and be judged according to men in the flesh.
verse 99 “Christ’s at his coming” The sounding of the second trumpet announces the judgment and resurrection of the rest of the just, those of a terrestrial glory. Hence, these will be resurrected with terrestrial bodies. Note that they also come forth in the first resurrection—what we might call the afternoon of the first resurrection. These people will also belong to Christ, but they refused the fulness of the gospel, the celestial law. These are good people, but they allowed themselves to be deceived throughout their probation, largely because they were not comfortable with the celestial law. These will not be redeemed or resurrected until after Christ comes—during the Millennium. The celestial saints belong to Christ from the moment of their entrance into his covenant, Church, and kingdom, which is prior to his second coming. The terrestrial, on the other hand, though they are ultimately numbered among the just and will also belong to Christ, will belong to him only after their redemption during the Millennium—“at his coming.”
100 And again, another trump shall sound, which is the third trump; and then come the spirits of men who are to be judged, and are found under condemnation;
verse 100 “the spirits of men who are . . . found under condemnation” Those “found under condemnation” are those who will rise after the millennial thousand years and will find themselves with telestial bodies. They come forth in the second resurrection.
101 And these are the rest of the dead; and they live not again until the thousand years are ended, neither again, until the end of the earth.
verse 101 “these are the rest of the dead” Those remaining following the first resurrection (the resurrection of the celestials and the terrestrials) include mostly those who will be resurrected with telestial glory and a very few who will be resurrected with no glory. The former group comprises the vast majority of those to be resurrected in the second resurrection.
“they live not again until the thousand years are ended” To “live again” here is to be resurrected. This expression, then, simply means that the telestials will not be resurrected until after the Millennium.
102 And another trump shall sound, which is the fourth trump, saying: There are found among those who are to remain until that great and last day, even the end, who shall remain filthy still.
verse 102 The fourth trump announces the resurrection of those who steadfastly refuse to repent—those “who shall remain filthy still.” These are the sons of Perdition who will inherit bodies and a kingdom void of glory. They also rise in the second resurrection, following the resurrection of the telestials.
103 And another trump shall sound, which is the fifth trump, which is the fifth angel who committeth the everlasting gospel—flying through the midst of heaven, unto all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people;
104 And this shall be the sound of his trump, saying to all people, both in heaven and in earth, and that are under the earth—for every ear shall hear it, and every knee shall bow, and every tongue shall confess, while they hear the sound of the trump, saying: Fear God, and give glory to him who sitteth upon the throne, forever and ever; for the hour of his judgment is come.
verses 103-104 “the fifth angel . . . flying through the midst of heaven” This language is usually associated with the angel Moroni and his work in the restoration of restoration, particularly with the bringing forth of the Book of Mormon. But these verses do not likely refer to Moroni, as Moroni is one of the many angels who figuratively sound the trump of God before these seven angels and seven trumpets of the end time enumerated here (see the commentary for verses 94-107). Here the fifth angel and fifth trump announce the victory of the gospel of Jesus Christ in all the world, for the wicked will have been destroyed and removed, the earth will be cleansed, and the remaining mortals, both celestial and terrestrial, will belong to Christ. Therefore, every knee that remains upon the earth will bow before him and every tongue will confess that he is the Lord Jesus Christ.
This does not mean that everyone upon the earth at the beginning of the Millennium will accept the fulness of the gospel and its ordinances, however. Other Christian churches will remain upon the earth during the millennial period. All human beings will be just. All will belong to Christ. But not all will accept the fulness of his gospel and its ordinances in order to receive “the fulness of the Father” (D&C 76:77). Thus, there will be both celestial and terrestrial beings upon the earth during the Millennium.
105 And again, another angel shall sound his trump, which is the sixth angel, saying: She is fallen who made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication; she is fallen, is fallen!
verse 105 “the sixth angel” The sixth trump announces the total destruction of Babylon. With the destruction of the wicked at the Lord’s coming, Babylon will have no more inhabitants. Babylon, the great and abominable church, is telestial at its best (see D&C 133:5, 14), and after the coming of the Savior to the earth, nothing telestial will remain here. Babylon will truly and utterly be fallen.
106 And again, another angel shall sound his trump, which is the seventh angel, saying: It is finished; it is finished! The Lamb of God hath overcome and trodden the wine-press alone, even the wine-press of the fierceness of the wrath of Almighty God.
verse 106 “the seventh angel . . . it is finished” In scriptural symbolism, the number seven often stands for completion or perfection. Thus, the sounding of the seventh trumpet announces the complete victory of Jesus over his enemies and the completion or perfection of his work: “It is finished!”
“trodden the wine-press alone” See D&C 76:107 and its commentary.
107 And then shall the angels be crowned with the glory of his might, and the saints shall be filled with his glory, and receive their inheritance and be made equal with him.
verse 107 “and be made equal with him” The celestial law of consecration requires that we be willing to sacrifice all that we have in order to be equal one with another and that there be no poor among us. Will Jesus Christ obey the law of consecration? Yes, just as he has obeyed all other laws of the kingdom of God. And what will Jesus’s sacrifice and consecration be? It will be his perfection, his righteousness, his glory, and the supreme gift of his atoning sacrifice! As we are willing to be made equal with one another, for better or worse, in temporal things in obedience to the celestial law, so Christ is willing to be made equal with us in all things in obedience to the same celestial law. It is not blasphemy to assert that we shall in some sense become equal with the Savior in the celestial kingdom. Rather, it is a tribute to his perfect righteousness, obedience, and love for us. It is a measure of his perfect grace that he desires to share all things equally with us, and it is a tribute to his power that he can accomplish this if we are willing. Thus, through his gospel and his grace, we can truly become “joint-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:16-17).
It is common for some to think of the Church as a collection of individuals all competing with one another for greater or lesser eternal rewards or glory. Perhaps the clear teachings of the law of consecration, the concept of Zion, and the promise of this verse ought to give us pause before accepting such a highly competitive view of the eternities. There, certainly the “abundance mentality” prevails, and will be absolutely no need for the “scarcity mentality.”
verses 108-110 A second series of seven soundings of the trumpet will mark the completion of Christ’s works and herald a review of the true history of the world from the beginning to the end. This revelation will announce to all what really happened historically, including all previously unknown plans, intents, and acts of human beings and all the workings of God throughout the dispensations of time.
108 And then shall the first angel again sound his trump in the ears of all living, and reveal the secret acts of men, and the mighty works of God in the first thousand years.
109 And then shall the second angel sound his trump, and reveal the secret acts of men, and the thoughts and intents of their hearts, and the mighty works of God in the second thousand years—
110 And so on, until the seventh angel shall sound his trump; and he shall stand forth upon the land and upon the sea, and swear in the name of him who sitteth upon the throne, that there shall be time no longer; and Satan shall be bound, that old serpent, who is called the devil, and shall not be loosed for the space of a thousand years.
verse 110 “there shall be time no longer” See verse 44 and D&C 84:100 and their commentaries. Here the word time is used as a synonym for mortality. This phrase certainly does not mean that time will no longer be reckoned, since the following period of a thousand years can still be measured by some kind of temporal reckoning. Just as time runs out at the end of a basketball game and there is no more time, so here the sense is that the time allotted to this world for probation and change will have run out.
“Satan shall be bound . . . and shall not be loosed for the space of a thousand years” There has long been a controversy as to whether this binding of
Satan is caused by the righteousness of the people and thus their failure to respond to Satan’s promptings or whether it is due to some act of God in which God is able to place limits on the agency of Satan during the Millennium. Perhaps this argument has not been settled, but please see 1 Nephi 22:26 and its commentary which argues that both points of view may have some validity.
111 And then he shall be loosed for a little season, that he may gather together his armies.
112 And Michael, the seventh angel, even the archangel, shall gather together his armies, even the hosts of heaven.
113 And the devil shall gather together his armies; even the hosts of hell, and shall come up to battle against Michael and his armies.
114 And then cometh the battle of the great God; and the devil and his armies shall be cast away into their own place, that they shall not have power over the saints any more at all.
115 For Michael shall fight their battles, and shall overcome him who seeketh the throne of him who sitteth upon the throne, even the Lamb.
verses 111-115 “he shall be loosed for a little season” After the thousand years are ended, “and men again begin to deny their God” (D&C 29:22), Satan will be loosed again “for a little season” (D&C 29:22) to gather his resources and take his last best shot at overthrowing the kingdom of God. His forces will consist solely of those who choose perdition, for all others will by this time have bent their knees, confessed Christ, and been resurrected with some degree of glory. Then Michael, who is Adam, and the forces of God will battle Satan and his followers. Just as there was war in heaven at the creation of the earth (Revelation 12:7-9), so there will be a final cosmic conflict at its end involving both spiritual and physical beings. At least, through the power of Christ, Michael, the same who fell in the beginning, will utterly defeat his old enemy, the serpent, in eternity. This final battle is sometimes referred to in scripture as the battle of Gog and Magog (see, for example, Revelation 20:7-9).
116 This is the glory of God, and the sanctified; and they shall not any more see death.
verse 116 “and they shall not any more see death” With the resurrection of all who have ever lived, including the wicked at the end of the Millennium, and with the banishment of Satan and his followers, those who remain, redeemed in some degree of glory, will never experience death again, neither in themselves nor among their associates. Truly, the final resurrection and the final victory over Satan constitute the death of death, for those who have been resurrected can never again be separated from their bodies (see Alma 11:45; 12:18).
Instructions on Organizing the School of Prophets (verses 117-141)
In the remaining verses of the revelation, the Lord outlines the procedure for the School of the Prophets. This school was the forerunner of all formal educational efforts by the Church. It was actually a seminary for missionaries and church leaders. Section 88 provides instructions concerning the curriculum, the operation of the school, the student body, and the blessings to be derived from complying with the commandment. We are taught that knowledge, wisdom, books, learning, faith, prayer, and fasting are all closely associated. Learning and wisdom are not solely intellectual pursuits but are linked with faith, prayer, and fasting. The School of the Prophets thus presents the highest and best ideal in education. In order for mortal men and women to be able to learn essential truths, there must be a certain mind set and spiritual preparation. Not only is intellectual attainment related to spiritual preparation, but also it is inseparably connected with physical preparation and characteristics as well. Thus the instructions are given that those who were to participate in the school were to cease from lightmindedness, loud laughter, pride, lustful desires, covetousness, idleness, uncleanliness, fault finding, and excessive sleep. In addition, they were to practice diligence, study, faith, prayer, love for one another, charity, and were to retire to bed early and arise early.
The School of the Prophets was officially organized in January 1833. Fourteen individuals, twelve high priests and two elders, attended. Orson Pratt was admitted to the school a few weeks later.
Although most rules governing the actions of those who attended the school were gospel principles which all of the saints were expected to follow, some policies of the school marked it as a distinct educational experience. The students frequently gathered at sunrise in the spirit of fasting and prayer. The teacher preceded the students into the classroom and, after offering a personal prayer, admitted others into the room. When the students had gathered, the instructor saluted them with uplifted hands (see verse 120) and cited an oath that had been received by revelation (see verse 133). The students repeated this oath, which included a promise that they were keeping all the commandments of God. The classes often continued until about four o’clock in the afternoon. The students usually fasted during the day and broke their fast before leaving for home by partaking of the sacrament together, eating some bread, and drinking a glass of wine, in harmony with the pattern practiced by Jesus and his disciples.
Another unusual aspect of the school was that members were admitted only after participating in the ordinance of washing of feet. On January 23, 1833, a select group of elders assembled in Kirtland, and “after much speaking, singing, praying and praising God, all in tongues,” they followed the procedure outlined in the thirteenth chapter of John’s Gospel and participated in this sacred ordinance of washing of feet. According to Joseph Smith, “Each elder washed his own feet first, after which I girded myself with a towel and washed the feet of all of them.” Before washing the feet of his father, the Prophet requested and received a father’s blessing. Frederick G. Williams washed Joseph’s feet, after which the Prophet pronounced the elders “clean from the blood of this generation” (HC, 1:323).
Two months after the school was organized, the Prophet instructed the students to prepare themselves for a day of “revelation and vision.” After the students gathered at sunrise, Joseph counseled them to prepare their minds, for “the pure in heart should see a heavenly vision.” For a brief period, the elders offered personal prayers. Then a powerful spiritual experience occurred. According to minutes kept by Frederick G. Williams, which were later included in the History of the Church, “Many of the brethren saw a heavenly vision of the Savior, and concourses of angels, and many other things, of which each one has a record of what he saw” (HC, 1:334-35).
This initial School of the Prophets met until April of 1833 and likely never had more than about twenty-five members. It was closely linked to the teachings and ordinances of the temple and was designed to train and prepare future apostles (see D&C 95:17). It is largely this school to which the guidelines of verses 127-141 applied. The participants in this first School of the Prophets studied secular subjects at times but spent a much greater proportion of time studying the scriptures and doctrines of the kingdom. This original apostolic school was open only to the first elders of the Church who were worthy according to the specifications given in this revelation. Subsequent schools were open to a larger number of church leaders who studied the regular curriculum of secular schools of the day as well as church doctrine.
During the winter of 1834-35, one year after the initial school had been organized, the Church organized the School of the Elders which replaced the School of the Prophets. Although Joseph Smith sometimes referred to this new school as the School of the Prophets, there is no evidence that members of the priesthood involved in it participated in the foot-washing ordinance. As with the School of the Prophets, a major purpose of this institution was to train the men who were enrolled to be more effective missionaries and ministers of the gospel. This school was initially held in a thirty by thirty-eight foot room below the printing shop in a building on the lot west of the temple.
Those who attended the school studied such subjects as English grammar, writing, philosophy, government, literature, geography, and ancient and modern history. Although the students explored a variety of disciplines, religious topics received the main emphasis. Under the date of December 1, 1834, the Prophet recorded that the school was well attended, and lectures on theology were delivered regularly. He also recorded that the school absorbed nearly all the time of the students (HC, 2:175-76). It was in the School of the Elders that the excellent lessons known as the seven Lectures on Faith were taught.
After the Kirtland Temple was completed in 1836, the School of the Elders was reorganized, again under the name School of the Prophets. Within the walls of the temple, the students participated again in the ordinance of washing of feet, partook of the sacrament, received counsel from the Prophet, and many went forth to serve as missionaries of the Church.
A similar school was held in Missouri for a short time. Parley P. Pratt taught the school in Jackson County. He reported that class membership was about sixty and that he had to travel on foot about six miles each week to reach the class.
The school was eventually discontinued in Kirtland and in Missouri and revived again in the west. The school still exists today but is limited to the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve. The ordinance of washing of feet is still practiced among these brethren.
Some have suggested that the priesthood meeting today has actually evolved from the School of the Prophets.
117 Therefore, verily I say unto you, my friends, call your solemn assembly, as I have commanded you.
verse 117 “call your solemn assembly” The Lord repeats the command he gave in verse 70—see that verse and its commentary.
118 And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith.
verse 118 “seek ye out of the best books” The Lord encourages his leaders to seek out the best of human wisdom from the best sources available to them in preparation for their church service. The LDS tradition is certainly not anti-intellectual, as some Christian denominations have been, but rather it encourages secular education. While it would be foolish to put more trust in human reason than in the word of the Lord, “to be learned is good if hearken unto the counsels of God” (2 Nephi 9:2829). President Ezra Taft Benson wrote: “While the gospel includes the more crucial saving truths contained within theology, it also embraces truth in other branches of learning” (Ensign, September 1988, 5).
119 Organize yourselves; prepare every needful thing; and establish a house, even a house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of faith, a house of learning, a house of glory, a house of order, a house of God;
verse 119 This verse is the Lord’s command to the saints to build a temple in Kirtland. This same verse will be repeated during the dedication of the Kirtland temple (see D&C 109:8). As we will learn in section 95, the saints initially ignored this directive from the Lord. Note the intimate association of this verse with the Lord’s instructions for the School of the Prophets. There is a close association because as soon as the temple in Kirtland is completed, the School of the Prophets is to be held in the House of God. Also evidence shows that the Prophet initially perceived the primary function of the temple to be that of a schoolhouse for those called to the ministry.
Eventually, after the Lord called his saints to repentance (D&C 95:1-3), construction on the temple in Kirtland was begun in 1833 and was completed in the spring of 1836.
“establish . . . a house of God” Note that the command given the saints was not merely to build an important church edifice. Rather it was to establish a house of God. To “establish” means to secure or to set on a firm foundation. They were not just to build. They were to establish, and it takes more to establish a temple than merely to build the building. It takes righteous people to make use of the house of God in all the way listed in verse 119. The term house denotes a family dwelling. Establishing the household or the exalted family of God is the very heart and soul of what temples are about.
120 That your incomings may be in the name of the Lord; that your outgoings may be in the name of the Lord; that all your salutations may be in the name of the Lord, with uplifted hands unto the Most High.
verse 120 “with uplifted hands unto the Most High” The ancient pattern of Jewish prayer was not on the knees with hands or arms folded, but standing, with the hands lifted to heaven (see Psalm 44:20; 88:9; Isaiah 1:15; Romans 10:21). This is also, approximately, the position of a body on a cross and may be the symbol or type behind Moses on the hill with uplifted hands and a man supporting his arms on either side of him winning victory for Israel at Rephidim (see Exodus 17:10-12).
121 Therefore, cease from all your light speeches, from all laughter, from all your lustful desires, from all your pride and light-mindedness, and from all your wicked doings.
verse 121 “cease . . . from all laughter” In D&C 59:15, the command was that we not have “much laughter.” In D&C 88:69 we are told not to have an “excess of laughter.” Yet in this verse the wording is “all laughter.” Does this mean we are not to laugh at all? No, for the context is different in each case. Section 88 counsels us to avoid “an excess of laughter” in our daily lives. Section 59 counsels us to avoid “much laughter” on the Sabbath day, and this verse counsels avoiding “all laughter’ while engaged in the solemn activities of the School of the Prophets and the temple.
Elder Joseph F. Smith once observed: “I believe that it is necessary for the saints to have amusement, but it must be of the proper kind. I do not believe the Lord intends and desires that we should pull a long face and look sanctimonious and hypocritical. I think he expects us to be happy and of a cheerful countenance, but he does not expect of us the indulgence in boisterous and unseemly conduct and the seeking after the vain and foolish things which amuse and entertain the world” (CR, October 1916, 70).
122 Appoint among yourselves a teacher, and let not all be spokesmen at once; but let one speak at a time and let all listen unto his sayings, that when all have spoken that all may be edified of all, and that every man may have an equal privilege.
verse 122 “let one speak at a time” See 1 Corinthians 14:29-31.
123 See that ye love one another; cease to be covetous; learn to impart one to another as the gospel requires.
verse 123 “See that ye love one another” This is obviously an oft-repeated commandment of the Lord (see John 13:34-35; 15:12, 17). This command is the “royal law” of James 2:8 and “the more excellent way” of 1 Corinthians 12:31.
“learn to impart one to another as the gospel requires” See D&C 104:18 and its commentary.
124 Cease to be idle; cease to be unclean; cease to find fault one with another; cease to sleep longer than is needful; retire to thy bed early, that ye may not be weary; arise early, that your bodies and your minds may be invigorated.
verse 124 “cease to sleep longer than is needful” Time is a stewardship; and excessive lying in bed is a sin. This phrase obviously also implies that appropriate sleep is “needful.”
“arise early” Elder Russell M. Nelson has suggested that “those who feel defeated and downtrodden, look to the early hours of the day for your rescue. . . . The dawning of a brighter day heralds a time of forgiveness. Shadows of yesterday’s grief melt in the rays of early morn’s opportunity” (CR, October 1986, 88).
125 And above all things, clothe yourselves with the bond of charity, as with a mantle, which is the bond of perfectness and peace.
126 Pray always, that ye may not faint, until I come. Behold, and lo, I will come quickly, and receive you unto myself. Amen.
verse 126 “Pray always” See D&C 10:5 and its commentary.
“I will come quickly” See D&C 33:18 and its commentary.
verses 127-137 With verse 126 of section 88 the original revelation of December 27, 1832 is concluded. The portion from verses 127 through 137 was added on January 3, 1833, and one notices a change in the literary style in this second part. It is equally inspired and informative but seems less poetic and more prosaic.
127 And again, the order of the house prepared for the presidency of the school of the prophets, established for their instruction in all things that are expedient for them, even for all the officers of the church, or in other words, those who are called to the ministry in the church, beginning at the high priests, even down to the deacons—
128 And this shall be the order of the house of the presidency of the school: He that is appointed to be president, or teacher, shall be found standing in his place, in the house which shall be prepared for him.
129 Therefore, he shall be first in the house of God, in a place that the congregation in the house may hear his words carefully and distinctly, not with loud speech.
verse 129 “he shall be first in the house of God” The teacher who presided over each session of the school was to arrive at the classroom first and was to greet class members as they arrived, according to the salutation revealed in verse 133. Note that it was intended that the School of the Prophets would eventually meet in the Kirtland Temple, although most of its meetings were actually held in a room over Newel K. Whitney’s store adjacent to the rooms in which Joseph and Emma Smith then resided.
130 And when he cometh into the house of God, for he should be first in the house—behold, this is beautiful, that he may be an example—
131 Let him offer himself in prayer upon his knees before God, in token or remembrance of the everlasting covenant.
132 And when any shall come in after him, let the teacher arise, and, with uplifted hands to heaven, yea, even directly, salute his brother or brethren with these words:
133 Art thou a brother or brethren? I salute you in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, in token or remembrance of the everlasting covenant, in which covenant I receive you to fellowship, in a determination that is fixed, immovable, and unchangeable, to be your friend and brother through the grace of God in the bonds of love, to walk in all the commandments of God blameless, in thanksgiving, forever and ever. Amen.
verse 133 This revealed salutation conveys a warm spirit of friendship, indeed a covenant of brotherhood, which ought to prevail in the covenant brotherhood of the priesthood and in the brotherhood and sisterhood of the Lord’s earthly kingdom.
134 And he that is found unworthy of this salutation shall not have place among you; for ye shall not suffer that mine house shall be polluted by him.
verse 134 “he that is found unworthy of this salutation” This first School of the Prophets required a level of righteousness consistent with the fellowship of the temple. Should an individual not be worthy of the salutation described in verse 133, he would be unworthy of entry into the school just as much as he would be unworthy to enter into the temple if it had then been completed and dedicated.
135 And he that cometh in and is faithful before me, and is a brother, or if they be brethren, they shall salute the president or teacher with uplifted hands to heaven, with this same prayer and covenant, or by saying Amen, in token of the same.
136 Behold, verily, I say unto you, this is an ensample unto you for a salutation to one another in the house of God, in the school of the prophets.
137 And ye are called to do this by prayer and thanksgiving, as the Spirit shall give utterance in all your doings in the house of the Lord, in the school of the prophets, that it may become a sanctuary, a tabernacle of the Holy Spirit to your edification.
138 And ye shall not receive any among you into this school save he is clean from the blood of this generation;
verse 138 “clean from the blood of this generation” See the commentary on verses 75 and 85. In the setting of this first School of the Prophets, the ordinance of washing of the feet signified, among other things, that an individual had performed his duty to call the world to repentance and warn of the wrath to come and was therefore clean of the blood of this generation.
139 And he shall be received by the ordinance of the washing of feet, for unto this end was the ordinance of the washing of feet instituted.
verse 139 “the ordinance of the washing of feet” In the institution of the sacrament of the Lord’s supper, Jesus took an existing practice of the law of Moses and gave it a new, fuller meaning in the context of the gospel covenant. Jesus did the same thing with the Jewish custom under the law of Moses of washing the feet (see JST John 13:10; see also Genesis 24:32; Luke 7:44). The ancient priests were required, not by custom but by the law, to wash their feet before entering the temple and participating in its ordinances (see Exodus 30:18-21; 40:30-31).
One change instituted by Jesus in the washing of feet was that Jesus himself, in an act of humility and service, washed the feet of the disciples, rather than allowing them to wash their own feet. Joseph Smith described the washing of feet that occurred on January 23, 1833, as recorded in the History of the Church, 1:323: “We again assembled in conference; when, after much speaking, singing, praying, and praising God, all in tongues, we proceeded to the washing of feet (according to the practice recorded in the 13th chapter of John’s Gospel), as commanded of the Lord. Each elder washed his own feet first, after which I girded myself with a towel and washed the feet of all of them, wiping them with the towel with which I was girded. Among the number, my father presented himself, but before I washed his feet, I asked of him a father’s blessing, which he granted by laying his hands upon my head, in the name of Jesus Christ, and declaring that I should continue in the Priest’s office until Christ comes. At the close of the scene, Brother Frederick G. Williams, being moved upon by the Holy Ghost, washed my feet in token of his fixed determination to be with me in suffering or in journeying, in life or in death, and to be continually on my right hand; in which I accepted him in the name of the Lord.”
Although various washings continued in the restored Church, the practice described in verses 139-141 was limited at that time to the first elders of the Church who were being trained and disciplined for leadership in the first School of the Prophets. The initiatory washing of feet and the salutation (verses 133) were not practiced in the subsequent schools in Kirtland or in Missouri, which were open to a broader number of the saints. After the Kirtland Temple was completed, the practices described in verses 139-141 were continued by the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve, the successors to the original School of the Prophets. These practices continue even today among the First Presidency and the Quorum of Twelve.
140 And again, the ordinance of washing feet is to be administered by the president, or presiding elder of the church. 141 It is to be commenced with prayer; and after partaking of bread and wine, he is to gird himself according to the pattern given in the thirteenth chapter of John’s testimony concerning me. Amen.
Brief Historical Setting
As the brethren assembled in the School of the Prophets and discussed things of the Kingdom, they also smoked their pipes, chewed their tobacco, and spat all over the floor. Joseph and Emma lived in the same building, and it was Emma’s responsibility to clean the filthy floor each evening after the school had adjourned. Emma doubtless wondered aloud in Joseph’s presence about the appropriateness of so vile a habit as smoking and chewing tobacco. Perhaps partly as a result of Emma’s encouragement, Joseph inquired of the Lord and was given a health law for the good of the saints [D&C 89 -The Word of Wisdom].
- Michael J. Preece