Learning to Love
Doctrine and Covenants

Section 1: The Lord’s Preface — The Voice of Warning By Michael J. Preece

Section 1: The Lord’s Preface — the Voice of Warning

Scripture Mastery

D&C 1 The Lord’s Preface—the Voice of Warning

D&C 1:24 Scriptures given unto my servants in their weakness, after the manner of their language.

D&C 1:30 The Lord bears testimony of Church.

D&C 1:31-33 For I the Lord cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance; And he that repents not, from him shall be taken even the light which he has received; for my Spirit shall not always strive with man, saith the Lord of Hosts.

D&C 1:37 The Lord bears testimony of D&C.

D&C 1:38 Whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.

Section 1 is one of the few sections in the Doctrine and Covenants that is out of temporal sequence. Chronologically it was received between sections 66 and 67 in Hiram, Ohio, on November 1, 1831. It was originally placed at the front of the Book of Commandments, and it has retained that position in all subsequent editions of the Doctrine and Covenants. It is the Lord’s preface to this book of scripture. This is the only book in existence that has the honor of having a preface given by the Lord himself.

By the time this revelation was received the Church had been organized just over eighteen months. During the summer of 1830, within a few months of the organization of the Church, the Prophet and others began to compile the revelations of the Lord that had been received up to that time and also to edit these revelations in preparation for future publication. By November 1831, these revelations were collected and ready for publication. A council of the elders of the Church was convened in Hiram, Ohio, on November 1, 1831 to consider plans for publishing the revelations that had already been received. Following the first session of the conference in which a decision was made to publish the revelations, Joseph inquired of the Lord to receive divine confirmation of their resolve. This confirmation (section 1) was received in a marvelous manner. The Lord not only approved the work but gave a revelation as his own preface to the book. For more information on the historical setting for section 1, review the pertinent materials in the supplement entitled A Brief History of the Evolution of Our Present-day Doctrine and Covenants. Also, please read the background materials for section 67. Section 1 was first printed in The Evening and Morning Star in March 1833 and was subsequently placed at the beginning of the 1833 Book of Commandments as chapter 1.

At the conclusion of the conference of elders, Oliver Cowdery and John Whitmer were directed to take a copy of the edited revelations with them to Independence, Missouri, where William W. Phelps, a member and printer by vocation, would do the actual printing. A printing press had been purchased by the Church in Cincinnati, Ohio, and shipped to Independence for this purpose.

This revelation names the book and announces its purpose or theme—it is a universal voice of warning crying unto the people of this dispensation. To the righteous it is a voice of gladness and celebration. The gospel has been restored! To the unbelieving it is a voice of warning that unless they repent of their sins and adhere to the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the judgment of God shall befall them.

As Moses led the doubting Israelites through forty years of wanderings in the wilderness, an interesting means of communication was developed. A trumpet was sounded that could be heard throughout the entire camp (Leviticus 25:9). This trump was loud and was the alarm that roused Israel and called her to action in times of war and danger (Numbers 10:9; Ezekiel 33:3) and in times of jubilee and celebration (Leviticus 25:9). The Lord has used the symbol of sounding the trump as a signal of the restoration of gospel truths. It is a voice of gladness and a voice of warning. Its message to the righteous is one of celebration and gladness, but to the wicked it is a terrible trump of warning, alerting them to the perils that await the unrepentant. The message of the Doctrine and Covenants is that the warning trump will warn the camp (the world) one last time. It is not merely the Lord’s wish that the voice of warning be sounded to the world; it is his divine command. The voice of warning is delivered to the saints in scripture, then the Lord commands that the saints deliver the warning to all the world.

What is there in section 1 that sets it apart and justifies its removal from the midsection of the compiled revelations and renders it appropriate to become section 1, the preface? Elder John A. Widtsoe wrote: “A good preface should prepare the reader for the contents of the book. It should help him understand the book. It should display in a concentrated manner the full contents of the book. Section 1 of the Doctrine and Covenants is one of the great prefaces in the possession of mankind” (The Messsage of the Doctrine and Covenants, ed. G. Homer Durham [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1969], 11-12).

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland has made the point that the importance of section 1 lies not only in its content—what it says—but also in the historical context in which it was received—what the section is. In a very real way, when this section was received, the faith of the early brethren and their commitment to the Prophet Joseph and to these revelations as divine communication hung in the balance. Those brethren who gathered at Hiram, Ohio, for the conference of the elders of the Church in early November 1831 simply had to come to know that these revelations were not simply manufactured from Joseph’s vivid and fruitful imagination. The new Church’s future was on the line. Michel de Montaigne wrote: “The births of all things are weak and tender, and therefore we should have our eyes intent on beginnings” (“Of Managing the Will,” Essays, trans. Charles Cotton, ed. William Carew Hazlitt [London: Reeves & Turner, 1877]). Elder Holland wrote:

This may seem a minor thing to fourth-and-fifth-generation Latter-day Saints, but I suspect it was no minor thing to the Prophet Joseph and no minor thing to either the faithful or the skeptical who had to muscle through it and make peace with their own conscience and with the Lord. Indeed, we sense a painful poignancy in the Prophet Joseph’s phrase written on that day, “It was an awful responsibility to write in the name of the Lord” (HC, 1:226). Surely it was, and now William E. McLellin and the others understood it also [see a summary of the experience of William McLellin in the introductory commentary for section 67]. Perhaps here once again we see the Lord’s wisdom in choosing virtually an unlettered lad to be the vessel through which he would speak. In light of the educated McLellin’s failure, it seemed compellingly clear that neither the Prophet Joseph nor any other man was capable, on his own, of revealing prophecies that come true or of writing revelations that bear the familiar spirit of divinity. Elder Orson F. Whitney once noted that a vain boaster, ridiculing the proverbs of Solomon, had said, “Anybody can make a few proverbs.” The reply was simply, “Try a few.”

So both in terms of its internal message and the brief but dramatic confrontation out of which it came, section 1 establishes for the rest of the book and the rest of our reading the prophetic role, the divine process, the reality of revelation from the Almighty, and the virtual impossibility of pretense and posing and chicanery. Any man who is only a man will be found out soon enough in this business (Sperry Symposium Classics, The Doctrine and Covenants, 23-34).

1 Hearken, O ye people of my church, saith the voice of him who dwells on high, and whose eyes are upon all men; yea, verily I say: Hearken ye people from afar; and ye that are upon the islands of the sea, listen together.

verse 1 “Hearken, O ye people of my church” This section sounds a rather ominous note right here at the beginning. The Lord here is warning, not only ungathered Israel, but also those who are already in his Church. There is no room for complaisance in the kingdom of God on earth!

To “hearken” is not only to hear, but to obey as well.

“Hearken ye people from afar; and ye that are upon the islands of the sea” The phrases “ye people from afar” and “ye that are upon the islands of the sea” are scriptural phrases that usually refer to scattered Israel.

The origin of the expression “islands of the sea” is particularly interesting. This expression can mean any place to which one journeys by water (see Isaiah 20:6; 60:9; 2 Nephi 10:20-21), and so this phrase includes what we call continents as well as true islands.

2 For verily the voice of the Lord is unto all men, and there is none to escape; and there is no eye that shall not see, neither ear that shall not hear, neither heart that shall not be penetrated.

verse 2 The “Lord” is Jesus Christ who is the author and source of all of the revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants. The Father has seldom dealt with man directly since the fall of Adam, and he has never appeared except to introduce and bear record of the Son.

“there is none to escape” Joseph Smith wrote, “You cannot go anywhere but where God can find you out” (HC, 6:366).

3 And the rebellious shall be pierced with much sorrow; for their iniquities shall be spoken upon the housetops, and their secret acts shall be revealed.

verse 3 The “unbelieving” are those who reject the gospel (see verse 8). The “rebellious” are those who come out in open, willful, resistance against the Lord, and who might also act in defiance of God’s authority.

“and their secret acts shall be revealed” What a man truly is in his heart will inevitably be revealed in his thoughts and words and behaviors. The real truth about a man cannot be long hidden—it cannot be kept secret.

4 And the voice of warning shall be unto all people, by the mouths of my disciples, whom I have chosen in these last days.

verse 4 The world has not seen a more critical need for the saving truths of the gospel since the days of Noah than this final dispensation. Increased numbers of missionaries are being called to go to take the message of the restoration to every people. The missionaries, and indeed every man who has been warned, must lift up the trump and sound the warning (D&C 88:81-82) so that (1) the wicked will be left without excuse; (2) the member will free himself from the blood and sins of his generation; and (3) the righteous will be gathered from all nations to enjoy the blessings of the gospel.

“the voice of warning shall be unto all people” Joseph Fielding Smith taught that the Doctrine and Covenants “belongs to all the world, to the Catholics, to the Presbyterians, to the Methodists, to the infidel, to the non-believer. . . It belongs to all the world, not only to the Latter-day Saints. . . They will be judged by it, and you will be judged by it” (CR, October 1919, 146).

The warning voice cannot be silenced. The Prophet Joseph said, “No unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing; persecutions may rage, mobs may combine, armies may assemble, calumny may defame, but the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear, till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done” (HC, 4:540).

5 And they shall go forth and none shall stay them, for I the Lord have commanded them.

verse 5 These newly-called disciples are charged by the Lord with an overwhelming task—that of sharing the message of the restored gospel with all inhabitants of the earth (see the following verse). Just imagine for a moment what an overwhelming task this was! After all, it was a time of no television, telephones, radios, or other means of modern mass communication except newspapers with limited circulation. There were no automobiles, airplanes, or even railroads available. Transportation was basically limited to horse back, carriages, riverboats, or ships, and often great distances had to be covered on foot. And in all this they will go safely. Could such a monumental challenge be accomplished by such a small band of disciples? As this verse indicates, the Lord knew it could.

6 Behold, this is mine authority, and the authority of my servants, and my preface unto the book of my commandments, which I have given them to publish unto you, O inhabitants of the earth.

verse 6 The Lord places his stamp of approval and gives his authority for the publication of the Book of Commandments and even designates this revelation as his “preface unto the book of my commandments.” Further, the Lord provides the divine credentials to Joseph Smith and his associates in the ministry to preach the gospel and warn the world.

7 Wherefore, fear and tremble, O ye people, for what I the Lord have decreed in them shall be fulfilled.

verse 7 “fear and tremble, O ye people” Though it is usually considered politically incorrect and perhaps a bit insensitive to say so, those who reject the gospel do indeed have something to fear. They well ought to be terrified at the thought of one day meeting the Lord and having to make an accounting of their sojourns here on earth.

8 And verily I say unto you, that they who go forth, bearing these tidings unto the inhabitants of the earth, to them is power given to seal both on earth and in heaven, the unbelieving and rebellious;

9 Yea, verily, to seal them up unto the day when the wrath of God shall be poured out upon the wicked without measure–

verses 8-9 These verses refer to the sealing power of the priesthood. See a discussion of the sealing power in the commentary for Helaman 10:7 in Learning to Love the Book of Mormon.

These verses help explain D&C 24:15 and other verses wherein the Lord commands the missionary to dust off or wash his feet as a testimony against those who reject him. In D&C 75:19-22, the Lord explains that on the day of judgment, those who bear their testimonies will help in the judgment of those who rejected them. When we combine these scriptures with D&C 1:8, we get the impression that there is real power in testimony—power enough that those who reject it will find that it is part of their condemnation on judgment day. How poignant and formidable is the role of the Church’s latter-day missionaries in the history of this earth!

These verses help explain D&C 24:15 and other verses wherein the Lord commands the missionary to dust off or wash his feet as a testimony against those who reject him. In D&C 75:19-22, the Lord explains that on the day of judgment, those who bear their testimonies will help in the judgment of those who rejected them. When we combine these scriptures with D&C 1:8, we get the impression that there is real power in testimony—power enough that those who reject it will find that it is part of their condemnation on judgment day. How poignant and formidable is the role of the Church’s latter-day missionaries in the history of this earth!

“to them is power given to seal both on earth and in heaven, the unbelieving and rebellious” This “sealing” concerns the “unbelieving,” those who refuse to accept the gospel message; and the “rebellious,” those who turn against the servants of the Lord, especially those who do so after having enjoyed the privileges and blessings of membership in the Church. Those who have not yet had the opportunity to hear the gospel would not be classified, here in this verse, as “unbelieving.” Both the unbelieving and the rebellious ought to fear and tremble in view of what is coming to them and about which they have been duly warned.

10 Unto the day when the Lord shall come to recompense unto every man according to his work, and measure to every man according to the measure which he has measured to his fellow man.

verse 10 This verse is a reminder of the profound principle that the very essence of the commandments of the gospel of Jesus Christ is selflessness and concern for others—the command to be charitable. The expressions “every man” and “fellow man,” of course, refer to all mankind and include all men and all women.

11 Wherefore the voice of the Lord is unto the ends of the earth, that all that will hear may hear:

12 Prepare ye, prepare ye for that which is to come, for the Lord is nigh;

verse 12 “Prepare ye” is a major theme of the Doctrine and Covenants. The command appears some ninety times in the book. Man is warned to ready himself for the Lord’s second coming. Here, the command “Prepare ye” is repeated twice for emphasis.

13 And the anger of the Lord is kindled, and his sword is bathed in heaven, and it shall fall upon the inhabitants of the earth.

verse 13 The world has reached such a state that even the patient and long-suffering Lord Jesus Christ is angry. The “sword” symbolizes Christ’s authority and power to destroy and eventually triumph over Satan and the forces of evil. Until now the Lord has allowed good and evil to exist together in the world, but at the last day—the day of his coming in glory—anything or anyone who cannot tolerate his glorious presence will be cut off and removed by the sword, which is about to fall.

“his sword is bathed in heaven” Smith and Sjodahl suggest that “this is a very expressive term from Isaiah 34:5, where it is used to signify the pouring out of the indignation of the Lord upon all nations and His fury upon their armies, delivering them to destruction and slaughter” (Doctrine and Covenants Commentary, 7). Another possible interpretation is that the Lord will bathe (wash or clean) his sword in preparation for its use.

“the inhabitants of the earth” The terms earth and world do not usually describe the same things in scripture. The earth is the physical planet upon which we live. The world is all of the worldly influences present here on earth—Satan’s kingdom. At the day of Christ’s second coming, the earth will continue, but the world and all its wickedness will abruptly end.

14 And the arm of the Lord shall be revealed; and the day cometh that they who will not hear the voice of the Lord, neither the voice of his servants, neither give heed to the words of the prophets and apostles, shall be cut off from among the people;

verse 14 The “arm of the Lord” is symbolic of the strength or power of God. Here the Lord lifts his arm in anger. The imagery of the Lord’s arm is not always used in the sense of negative power. For example, D&C 29:1 speaks of the Lord’s “arm of mercy,” which has atoned for sins. The Lord will tell Joseph Smith, after the loss of 116 pages of Book of Mormon manuscript, that he would have “extended his arm” and supported him against the temptations. Thus the Lord lifts his arm other than just in anger.

To be “cut off from among the people” is to be severed from the community of believers, or excommunicated.

15 For they have strayed from mine ordinances, and have broken mine everlasting covenant;

verse 15 An ordinance can be understood either as a decree or as a set procedure, ritual, or ceremony. Laws passed by municipalities are often referred to as city ordinances. The term ordinances here includes the rules and commandments as well as the rituals of the gospel.

“mine everlasting covenant” This expression refers to the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ restored in this latter day.

16 They seek not the Lord to establish his righteousness, but every man walketh in his own way, and after the image of his own god, whose image is in the likeness of the world, and whose substance is that of an idol, which waxeth old and shall perish in Babylon, even Babylon the great, which shall fall.

verses 15-16 The Lord enumerates the world’s major sins. The world has: (1) “strayed from mine ordinances,” (2) “broken mine everlasting covenant”—broken the laws of the gospel, and (3) succumbed to the worship of idols. Idol worship? Today? Idol worship was a common problem in Moses’s day, but certainly not today! Or, is it? Idol worship is very common today but takes a little different form from that of Moses’s day. Idolatry is to love the creation more than the creator (see Romans 1:25). Men today commonly worship the idols of bodily appetites, materialism and other forms of worldliness. Whatever thing a man sets his heart and his trust in most is his god. The first commandment on Sinai is the commandment to avoid idolatry in any form: “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” Closely related is his commandment: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.”

“Babylon” is the symbol of the world—wickedness and depravity among men and nations. Babylon is the world of things as our carnal selves might wish them to be rather than of things “as they really are” (Jacob 4:13). Ancient Babylon was viewed by God and the people of Judah as the epitome of wickedness and godlessness and therefore the archenemy of Zion. Thus, the prophets of old issued the frequent cry to come out of Babylon and to leave her practices and values behind (see also D&C 133:7).

17 Wherefore, I the Lord, knowing the calamity which should come upon the inhabitants of the earth, called upon my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., and spake unto him from heaven, and gave him commandments;

verse 17 “the calamity” The calamity consists of all the unpleasant events associated with Christ’s second coming and the end of the world. The gospel has been restored in the latter days to protect those who will receive it from the coming calamity. Many judgments are mentioned by the prophets that will occur before the Lord’s second coming, including pestilence, storm (rain, winds, and hail), fires, plagues, earthquakes, famines, lightning, wars, and floods. These will cleanse the earth of wickedness prior to the Lord’s advent. Apparently one may escape these destructive forces only through faithfully living the gospel and gathering to the safety of Zion about which we will be reading much more as we study the Doctrine and Covenants.

Does this mean that if we live righteously we will be guaranteed escape from the vicissitudes of any and all natural disasters? The answer is, no. The Prophet Joseph said, “It is a false idea that the saints will escape all judgments, whilst the wicked suffer; for all flesh is subject to suffer . . . . Many of the righteous shall fall prey to disease, to pestilence, etc. . . .” (HC, 4:11). Another author added, “It would be wrong to assume that the more righteous one is . . . the less he will suffer . . . . He will be blessed even though his blessings may be strength to endure the suffering . . . . The difference is that the wicked must suffer the consequences of their sins in addition to the suffering that is part of life . . . Those who live faithful to their covenants can be assured that they will not have to suffer in vain” (Book of Mormon Student Manual, 2nd ed. [Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1981], 185).

“I the Lord . . . called upon my servant Joseph Smith, Jun.” The Lord chose him! Of the millions out of every nation who could have been called to head this last and greatest of all gospel dispensations, the Lord chose a New York farm boy. But certainly Joseph was more than that. Is there any doubt that he was one of the “noble and great ones” in the premortal councils? (Abraham 3:22-25). Is there any doubt that he was foreordained to his high calling? Elder Stephen L. Richards said, “My grandfather [Willard Richards] was a close friend and companion of this man. He knew him as intimately as one man may know another. He had abundant opportunity to detect any flaws in his character and discover any deceit in his work. He found none, and he has left his testimony to his family and to all the world that this man was true, that he was divinely commissioned for the work he had to do, and that he gave his life to the fulfillment of his mission” (CR, October 1951, 117).

“and gave him commandments” All the revelations are commonly referred to as commandments, even though many of them are not commandments of the “thou shalt” or “thou shalt not” type.

18 And also gave commandments to others, that they should proclaim these things unto the world; and all this that it might be fulfilled, which was written by the prophets–

verse 18 The Lord also called prophets of other ages.

19 The weak things of the world shall come forth and break down the mighty and strong ones, that man should not counsel his fellow man, neither trust in the arm of flesh–

verse 19 The phrase “arm of flesh” refers to the weakness, frailty, and imperfections of men—in other words, to merely human resources and capacities. The admonition not to trust in man’s power is a common one throughout the scriptures (see D&C 3:7; 2 Nephi 28:31; Mosiah 23:14; 2 Chronicles 32:8).

20 But that every man might speak in the name of God the Lord, even the Savior of the world;

verses 19-20 President Joseph Fielding Smith wrote:

The Lord called Joseph Smith and others from among the weak things of the world, because he and his associates were contrite and humble. The great and mighty ones in the nations the Lord could not use because of their pride and self-righteousness.

The Lord’s ways are not man’s ways, and he cannot choose those who in their own judgment are too wise to be taught. Therefore he chooses those who are willing to be taught, and he makes them mighty even to the breaking down of the great and mighty. . . . When we think of our missionary system, we can see how the weak have gone forth among the strong ones and have prevailed. The mighty and strong ones have been broken down by the humble elders of the Church (Church History and Modern Revelation, 1:255).

verses 21-23 The following three verses outline what might be considered to be the goals of the missionary effort of the Church today.

21 That faith also might increase in the earth;

22 That mine everlasting covenant might be established;

23 That the fulness of my gospel might be proclaimed by the weak and the simple unto the ends of the world, and before kings and rulers.

verse 23 “the fulness of my gospel” This phrase has two separate meanings:

  1. In scripture it always refers to those principles necessary for entrance into the celestial kingdom of God—faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, repentance, baptism by immersion for the remission of sins, and the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost. For example, the scriptures state over and over again that the fulness of the gospel is found in the Book of Mormon (see D&C 20:9; 27:5; 42:12; 135:3; JS-H 1:34), yet the temple ordinances are not found there. Neither are the three degrees of glory nor a clear description of the interval between mortal life and resurrection. Also, the Doctrine and Covenants speaks repeatedly of the early saints as already having the fulness of the gospel, even before the ordinances of the temple were revealed to them, beginning around 1842 (see D&C 35:12, 17; 39:11; 66:2; 118:4).

  2. In the Church today, however, the phrase “fulness of the gospel” is often used to mean all that the Lord has ever revealed—including the ordinances of the temple— and the complete plan of salvation. Hence, the proper interpretation of this phrase in scripture depends on the audience to whom the scripture is directed.

“by the weak and the simple unto the ends of the world” In the eyes of the unbelieving and rebellious, the servants of the Lord are “weak and simple” when compared to kings, rulers, or scholars. That is, their message is considered by the unbelieving and rebellious to be insipid and not pertinent. The Lord cannot call those who in their own judgment are too wise to be taught. The Lord promises that these supposed weak and simple persons will prevail over those whom the world considers mighty and strong.

24 Behold, I am God and have spoken it; these commandments are of me, and were given unto my servants in their weakness, after the manner of their language, that they might come to understanding.

verse 24 “Behold, I am God” In this, as in all the revelations found in the Doctrine and Covenants, the divine speaker is Jesus Christ.

“in their weakness, after the manner of their language” This phrase is important in helping us to understand one characteristic of the revelatory process. When the Lord reveals his words through a prophet, that prophet’s mind is imbued with divine thoughts; but when those thoughts are written down, they are clothed in human words. All the frailties of the prophet’s vocabulary, literary skills, and level of sophistication will be evident as the revelation is read by others. William McLellin lacked understanding of this concept when he questioned the divine authenticity of Joseph’s revelations (see the introductory commentary for section 67).

25 And inasmuch as they erred it might be made known;

26 And inasmuch as they sought wisdom they might be instructed;

27 And inasmuch as they sinned they might be chastened, that they might repent;

28 And inasmuch as they were humble they might be made strong, and blessed from on high, and receive knowledge from time to time.

verses 24-28 In these verses the Lord gives us some specific and personal reasons for reading these revelations:

  1. So we might “come to understanding” (verse 24). For example, consider the many lofty concepts we are brought to understand in section 76.

  2. So we might detect errors in our lives (verse 25). We might, for example, be making unintentional mistakes. As a specific example, section 20:69 teaches us that others ought to be able to tell that we are saints by the way we deport ourselves. If they cannot, then we must change or be guilty of sin.

  3. So we can gain wisdom by being instructed (verse 26). Consider, for example, the several divine instructions we are given in section 93.

  4. So we can gain knowledge (verse 28). We gain valuable knowledge, for example, as we study section 86—the interpretation of the parable of the wheat and tares.

29 And after having received the record of the Nephites, yea, even my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., might have power to translate through the mercy of God, by the power of God, the Book of Mormon.

verse 29 “the record of the Nephites” It is reasonable to assume that this expression refers to the Book of Mormon even though it is also a record of the Jaredites.

When one becomes informed as to exactly how Joseph was able to “translate” the Book of Mormon record, one may conclude that saying it was translated “through the mercy of God” is an understatement (The Process of Translating the Book of Mormon in Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, volume 2, Appendix A).

30 And also those to whom these commandments were given, might have power to lay the foundation of this church, and to bring it forth out of obscurity and out of darkness, the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth, with which I, the Lord, am well pleased, speaking unto the church collectively and not individually–

verses 30 The Lord himself proclaims the divine authenticity of the Church! Other churches are not without some truth—some have much of the truth and many adherents who practice the virtues of Christianity. All other churches are, nonetheless, incomplete. The Lord is well pleased with the Church “collectively,” but not “individually.” The reason is that some in the Church are still sinning, and according to verse 31 he “cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance.” What a succinct statement by the Lord on the subject of sin!

The Church may be said to be a “living church” because it is connected continuously to God, the source of life and light, by continuing revelation and by the direct bestowal of priesthood authority. The Church has direct and living links with the divine in the chain of priesthood authority from Jesus Christ, to Peter, to Joseph Smith, and eventually to each priesthood holder.

31 For I the Lord cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance;

verse 31 The Lord is beholden to the law of justice: He who commits even one sin is unworthy to live in the presence of God. No unrepentant sinner will be allowed into the celestial kingdom—or into any kingdom of glory, for that matter. There will be no exceptions.

But the Lord also avers, in the following verse, that the law of mercy is operational because of the Savior’s atoning sacrifice.

32 Nevertheless, he that repents and does the commandments of the Lord shall be forgiven;

33 And he that repents not, from him shall be taken even the light which he has received; for my Spirit shall not always strive with man, saith the Lord of Hosts.

verse 33 Regardless of the state of spiritual development and attainment a man may earn, he will backslide spiritually if he ceases to obey.

“for my Spirit shall not always strive with man” What does it mean to strive? It means to try hard or to exert oneself vigorously. But in this phrase it is the Spirit who is striving! The Spirit wrestles or struggles with all of us. He wrestles against our carnal selves to tug and pull and prod us in the right direction. However, there is a degree of disobedience that will cause the Spirit to cease his work of coaxing us toward the light. In other words, we must be striving to obey in order for the Spirit to strive with us.

The Lord teaches that the process of keeping or maintaining the influence of the Spirit of the Holy Ghost in one’s life is an active and ongoing process. Failure to maintain a constant righteous and diligent striving will result in a loss of the influence of the Spirit and a regression in one’s spiritual progress. There are no plateaus in spiritual growth.

34 And again, verily I say unto you, O inhabitants of the earth: I the Lord am willing to make these things known unto all flesh;

verse 34 The expression “all flesh” here refers to all human beings.

35 For I am no respecter of persons, and will that all men shall know that the day speedily cometh; the hour is not yet, but is nigh at hand, when peace shall be taken from the earth, and the devil shall have power over his own dominion.

verse 35 “For I am no respecter of persons” The Lord is impartial and grants to each man, on conditions of repentance, the same privileges and opportunities of salvation and exaltation.

“when peace shall be taken from the earth” “The beginning of the fulfillment of this day when peace was taken from the earth appears to be at the commencement of the Civil War” (Smith and Sjodahl, Commentary, 10). President Wilford Woodruff wrote: “God has held the angels of destruction for many years, lest they should reap down the wheat with the tares. But I want to tell you now, that those angels have left the portals of heaven, and they stand over this people and this nation now, and are hovering over the earth waiting to pour out the judgments. And from this very day they shall be poured out. Calamities and troubles are increasing in the earth, and there is a meaning to these things. . . . If you do your duty, and I do my duty, we’ll have protection” (Young Woman’s Journal, 5 [9 July 1853]: 512-13).

36 And also the Lord shall have power over his saints, and shall reign in their midst, and shall come down in judgment upon Idumea, or the world.

verse 36 “Idumea,” also called Edom, was a nation south of the Dead Sea. The Idumeans were a wicked people. Hence, traveling through their country symbolized the pilgrimage of men through a wicked world. In Jesus’s day Idumea had produced King Herod, the evil usurper who tried to murder the infant Jesus and succeeded in killing the babies in Bethlehem. Figuratively, the term Idumea, like the term Babylon, is used in scripture as a symbol for worldliness and wickedness.

37 Search these commandments, for they are true and faithful, and the prophecies and promises which are in them shall all be fulfilled.

verse 37 The Lord also pronounces the truth and divinity of the Doctrine and Covenants and commands us not just to casually read this book but instead to “search” it.

For a definition of the word commandments here, see the commentary for verse 17 of this section.

38 What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.

verse 38 What power is afforded those who preach the Lord’s word! “Whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.”

39 For behold, and lo, the Lord is God, and the Spirit beareth record, and the record is true, and the truth abideth forever and ever. Amen.

- Michael J. Preece