Learning to Love
Doctrine and Covenants

Section 117: Far West Is the Gathering Place By Michael J. Preece

Section 117: Far West Is the Gathering Place

Section 117 is only one of five revelations received by Joseph on July 8, 1838. Following the Independence Day celebration, during which the cornerstones of the temple at Far West were laid on July 4, a conference was held between July 6 and 8. Joseph received these five revelations on the final day of the conference. Four are included in the Doctrine and Covenants as sections 117 through 120. One of them has never been printed in the Doctrine and Covenants. It contained instructions to Frederick G. Williams and W. W. Phelps, who had been excommunicated from the Church, regarding what they needed to do to return to fellowship in the Church (HC, 3:46).

The Lord had made it clear in section 115 that he wanted as many saints as possible to gather to Zion and as rapidly as possible (D&C 115:17). After “Kirtland Camp” left Kirtland on July 6, 1838, only a few members remained there. It is estimated that by September only 260 members were left in Kirtland. Kirtland Camp arrived in Far West in October. See the commentary on Kirtland Camp in the introductory commentary for section 112. When the Kirtland Camp left Ohio for Missouri, two notable Ohio church leaders were missing from their number, William Marks, who will later be called to preside as stake president at Far West, and Bishop Newell K. Whitney. They had remained behind in an attempt to protect investments in Kirtland without simply walking way from them. Joseph, living in Far West, could not have known who was traveling in Kirtland Camp, but the Lord knew. Hence, on the date mentioned, which was two days after the departure of Kirtland Camp from Kirtland, Joseph received this revelation which called William Marks and Newell K. Whitney to give up the Ohio properties and to come to Far West (“Zion”).

It is apparent that these two had become entangled in the spirit of apostasy in Kirtland. Yet, the Lord knew that they were salvageable. Section 117 is basically a rebuke of Brothers Marks and Whitney.

William Marks had been appointed a member of the Kirtland high council in September 1837. He also served as an agent to Bishop Whitney, and he was president of the stake in Kirtland.

The oldest copies of sections 117-120 are located in the Scriptory Book of Joseph Smith, Jr., and are roughly contemporary with the revelations themselves. There are several other manuscript copies of section 117, including one in the handwriting of Newel K. Whitney, to whom this revelation was addressed. Section 117 was first published in the Deseret News for April 2, 1853, and first appeared in the Doctrine and Covenants in the 1876 edition at the direction of Brigham Young.

1 Verily thus saith the Lord unto my servant William Marks, and also unto my servant Newel K. Whitney, let them settle up their business speedily and journey from the land of Kirtland, before I, the Lord, send again the snows upon the earth.

verse 1 William Marks was a relatively new member of the Church, having been converted about three years before this revelation. He had risen rapidly in the leadership of the Church in Kirtland. After serving on the Kirtland high council and as an agent for Newel K. Whitney, he was called as Kirtland Stake president in 1838. This revelation also called him to be a stake president at Far West. He, however, never made it to Missouri, as the Extermination Order was issued before he and Bishop Whitney could arrive in Far West. They met the saints in Quincy, Illinois. Newel K. Whitney had been the bishop of the Church in Kirtland since 1831.

“before, I, the Lord, send again the snows” Since this revelation was received in July 1838 and reached Marks and Whitney in August, the Lord is still giving these brethren a short time to settle up what affairs they could before the snow fell.

2 Let them awake, and arise, and come forth, and not tarry, for I, the Lord, command it.

3 Therefore, if they tarry it shall not be well with them.

verse 3 “if they tarry it shall not be well with them” In section 117, we find an implicit chastening of President Marks and Bishop Whitney. Many members of the Kirtland Camp had simply left their property in Kirtland and started for Missouri as the Lord had commanded. Whitney and Marks had not. Perhaps, however, as stake president and presiding bishop, they felt an obligation to continue managing their stewardships for maximum profit to the Church. In addition, Newel K. Whitney owned a mercantile store and other property in Kirtland. It is easy to see how their church stewardships and their own financial interests might have become intertwined in their thinking, clouding their judgment and causing them to remain in Kirtland.

Yet, both of these brethren were faithful in the kingdom, and when they received the command contained in this section, they responded immediately by settling their affairs and leaving for Missouri. By the time they arrived at the Missouri border, however, the Missouri saints were fleeing that state for Illinois and Iowa as a result of Governor Boggs’ Extermination Order of October 27, 1838. Therefore, they traveled to Illinois. President Marks never entered Missouri, and Bishop Whitney got only as far as St. Louis before recrossing the Mississippi River to Illinois.

4 Let them repent of all their sins, and of all their covetous desires, before me, saith the Lord; for what is property unto me? saith the Lord.

verse 4 “Let them repent of all their . . . covetous desires” It is clear that Marks and Whitney were basically concerned about financial matters, at least partly for their own interests.

“for what is property unto me?” All property is the Lord’s anyway (D&C 104:14). The Lord assures them that he does not need their property (nor does he need ours). Rather they need to give him what he does require—obedience to his commands.

5 Let the properties of Kirtland be turned out for debts, saith the Lord. Let them go, saith the Lord, and whatsoever remaineth, let it remain in your hands, saith the Lord.

verse 5 “Let the properties of Kirtland be turned out for debts” Rather than continuing to manage the Kirtland properties for possible income, President Marks and Bishop Whitney are commanded to liquidate them to satisfy the debts of the Church in Kirtland.

6 For have I not the fowls of heaven, and also the fish of the sea, and the beasts of the mountains? Have I not made the earth? Do I not hold the destinies of all the armies of the nations of the earth?

verse 6 The earth is the Lord’s. He has promised that his saints will receive it all. Yet, during this period of mortal probation, it serves his purposes to test and try the saints with unfulfilled wants and needs. The point of our mortal probation is not to acquire money or property but to learn obedience and righteousness.

7 Therefore, will I not make solitary places to bud and to blossom, and to bring forth in abundance? saith the Lord.

verse 7 Those intelligences that inhabit the plants, animals, and inanimate things of the earth honor and obey the Lord and do his bidding.

8 Is there not room enough on the mountains of Adam-ondi-Ahman, and on the plains of Olaha Shinehah, or the land where Adam dwelt, that you should covet that which is but the drop, and neglect the more weighty matters?

verse 8 “the mountains of Adam-ondi-Ahman” See section 116 and its commentary.

“the plains of Olaha Shinehah” In Abraham 3:13, the Lord revealed to Abraham that the word Shinehah signifies the sun and that Olea signifies the moon. If Olaha is a variant form of Olea, then Elder Janne M. Sjodahl may have been correct in suggesting that the term means “the plains of the moon and the sun” in the language of Adam (cited in Smith, Church History and Modern Revelation, 3:125-26). The “plains of Olaha Shinehah” is apparently an area near Adam-ondi-Ahman. The term Shinehah was also used by the prophet Joseph as a code word for the city of Kirtland in early editions of the Doctrine and Covenants (D&C 82:12-13; 104:21, 40, 48).

“that you should covet that which is but the drop” “The drop” is used here in contrast to “the more weighty matters.” “The drop” therefore refers to that which is of trivial importance and here refers to the properties of the Church left behind in Kirtland. In contrast, the “more weighty matters” which are being neglected include obedience to the Lord’s command to gather to Far West and Mark’s and Whitney’s own obligations to have provided leadership and support for the poor of the Kirtland Camp.

9 Therefore, come up hither unto the land of my people, even Zion.

verse 9 The two are instructed to gather with the saints in Far West.

10 Let my servant William Marks be faithful over a few things, and he shall be a ruler over many. Let him preside in the midst of my people in the city of Far West, and let him be blessed with the blessings of my people.

verse 10 Brother Marks is appointed by revelation to be president of the stake at Far West. This would have allowed Thomas B. Marsh, Brigham Young, and David H. Patten, who were acting in Far West as presidents pro tempore, to be released from that calling and resume their apostolic responsibilities. Brother Marks never assumed this position because of the Mormon expulsion from Missouri. He later became president of the stake in Nauvoo. William Marks was later to leave the Church. He was ambivalent over the right of the Twelve to govern the Church after Joseph’s death. He sympathized with Sidney Rigdon’s claim to the church presidency and left the Church. He was later to assist in the founding of the Reorganized LDS Church in 1860, and he served as a counselor in their First Presidency.

11 Let my servant Newel K. Whitney be ashamed of the Nicolaitane band and of all their secret abominations, and of all his littleness of soul before me, saith the Lord, and come up to the land of Adam-ondi-Ahman, and be a bishop unto my people, saith the Lord, not in name but in deed, saith the Lord.

verse 11 “Let my servant Newel K. Whitney be ashamed of the Nicolaitane band” The term “Nicolaitane band” refers to an apostate heretical sect in New Testament times that apparently fit into the Gnostic category—that is, they had their own version of Christ’s gospel which they considered more sophisticated and more acceptable than the saints’ version. They considered themselves intellectually a cut above other saints. Elder Bruce R. McConkie suggested that the “Nicolaitans” in the ancient Church were “members of the Church who were trying to maintain their church standing while continuing to live after the manner of the world” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3:446).

Apparently a group, in some rough way comparable to the Nicolaitans, had risen up in Kirtland, and Bishop Whitney was sympathetic with them. They somehow sought personal gain from the destruction of the Kirtland Anti-Banking Society. Nicolas, in New Testament times, was one of seven men appointed by the Apostles to preside over the distribution of food and common goods (see Acts 6:5). Nicolas was believed to have apostatized from the true faith and become a founder of the “Nicolaitans” (see Revelation 2:6, 15). There is evidence that Nicolas’ followers labored to put items in the “storehouse” but not entirely for the use of the poor. Nicolas and his followers glutted themselves with the surpluses. Notice that Newell K. Whitney had the same job that Nicolas had—he was a bishop in the law of consecration. William Marks was his agent. Perhaps Bishop Whitney and Brother Marks were trying somehow to capitalize on the economic turmoil created when so many saints abandoned Kirtland.

“come up to the land of Adam-ondi-Ahman” Bishop Whitney, responding to section 117, left Kirtland for Missouri in the fall of 1838. He did not make it to Missouri, however. He learned of the extermination order en route, and because of the subsequent turmoil involving the saints, he was unable to join the saints until 1839 in Nauvoo.

12 And again, I say unto you, I remember my servant Oliver Granger; behold, verily I say unto him that his name shall be had in sacred remembrance from generation to generation, forever and ever, saith the Lord.

verse 12 “Oliver Granger” Oliver Granger was a man of great integrity and great business skills who could have made himself wealthy had he not consecrated his time and talents to the service of the kingdom. Notably, he was nearly blind. Brother Granger had arrived in Far West in June 1838, but when section 117 was received the following month, he was sent to Kirtland with a copy of that revelation for President Marks and Bishop Whitney. He remained in Kirtland conducting business for the First Presidency until October 1838, when he returned briefly to Far West. The exodus from Missouri prevented Granger from returning to Ohio until 1840, where he continued to conduct the business of the Church in Kirtland until his death on August 25, 1841. As long as the world stands, this revelation (section 117) and the Lord’s glorious commendation of Oliver Granger will be sacred scriptures for the Latter-day Saints.

Some have poked fun at the Church because of verse 12. They accuse us of disregarding our scriptures. Here the Lord states that Oliver Granger’s name will be held in “sacred remembrance from generation to generation,” and yet few members of the Church recall anything about the life of this faithful brother!

13 Therefore, let him contend earnestly for the redemption of the First Presidency of my Church, saith the Lord; and when he falls he shall rise again, for his sacrifice shall be more sacred unto me than his increase, saith the Lord.

verse 13 “the redemption of the First Presidency” This phrase refers to the financial redemption of the First Presidency and the restoration of their reputation for honesty, which Granger brought about by his skillful management of church affairs in Ohio. Among several published tributes to the skill and integrity of Brother Granger is the following: “To all persons that are or may be interested. I, Horace Kingsbury, of Painsville township, Geauga County, and state of Ohio, feeling the importance of recommending to remembrance every worthy citizen who has by his conduct commended himself to personal acquaintance by his course of strict integrity, and desire for truth and common justice, feel it my duty to state that Oliver Granger’s management in the arrangement of the unfinished business of people that have moved to the Far West, in redeeming their pledges and thereby sustaining their integrity, has been truly praiseworthy, and has entitled him to my highest esteem, and ever grateful recollection” (HC, 3:174).

“his sacrifice shall be more sacred unto me than his increase” Note the contrast between this praise for Oliver Granger and the rebuke of Brothers Marks and Whitney in verses 3 and 4. The latter two had been putting increase before their own obedience.

14 Therefore, let him come up hither speedily, unto the land of Zion; and in the due time he shall be made a merchant unto my name, saith the Lord, for the benefit of my people.

verse 14 “unto the land of Zion” Granger attempted to establish his family in Far West in October 1838 but was driven out of the sate by the Extermination Order of Governor Boggs. He moved back to Kirtland as Joseph Smith’s business agent in 1840. There he died (September 1841) and is buried.

“a merchant unto my name” Oliver Granger would remain “the Lord’s businessman” for the remainder of his life. All his financial skills were consecrated to the Lord’s name, and all his decisions and actions were made and done in the Lord’s name.

15 Therefore let no man despise my servant Oliver Granger, but let the blessings of my people be on him forever and ever.

16 And again, verily I say unto you, let all my servants in the land of Kirtland remember the Lord their God, and mine house also, to keep and preserve it holy, and to overthrow the moneychangers in mine own due time, saith the Lord. Even so. Amen.

verse 16 “to overthrow the moneychangers” Faithful saints were still living in Kirtland in the summer of 1838, and the stake was not disbanded there until 1841. Nevertheless, there were factions among those who professed to be saints, and it was difficult to know who really was on the Lord’s side. Many different parties struggled for control of the Kirtland Temple, and there were deep differences of opinion concerning its proper uses and function. Many Kirtland members thought of the temple as a financial resource and thus became “moneychangers.” Note, for example the disagreement over public “exhibitions” in the temple and Oliver Granger’s correct refusal to hand over the temple keys to some church leaders in Ohio who favored using the building for profane purposes (Backman and Cook, Kirtland Elders’ Quorum Record, 53­55).

Character Vignette

Wilford Woodruff

He was born March 1, 1807, in Connecticut. His father, paternal grandfather, and great-grandfather were born of strong constitutions and were noted for their arduous manual labors. At an early age he worked with his father in a flour mill.

As a youth, Wilford was influenced by a Robert Mason who was called “old Prophet Mason.” Mason taught that no man had authority to administer in the things of God without revelation from God; that the extant religions were without that authority; and that the time would come when the true Church would be established with its gifts, manifestations, and authority. This led young Wilford to hold himself aloof from the churches of the day and to pray for the coming of an inspired man to show the way.

Beginnings at age twenty years, he managed three flour mills in succession. In the spring of 1832, he and his brother Azmon moved to Richland, New York, purchased a farm and a saw mill, and settled down to work. On December 29, 1833, he and his brother heard the gospel preached by missionaries. They both believed at once, read the Book of Mormon, received a divine testimony of its truthfulness, and offered themselves for baptism. He was baptized and confirmed December 31, 1833. For three years prior to his baptism, he had been impressed with the conviction that God was about to set up his Church on the earth in these last days. Hence, he was prepared to receive the truth when it was presented to him by the elders.

He eventually was called to go to Kirtland, and he sold his businesses and moved there in April 1834. There he met with the Prophet, and one week later he joined the company of volunteers organized by Joseph known as Zion’s Camp to go to Missouri to help the suffering saints in that state. He later fulfilled memorable missions to the southern states, the Fox Islands, and, after his ordination to the Quorum of the Twelve, to the British Isles.

John Taylor

He was born November 1, 1808, in Milnthorp, England, not far from Lake Windemere. At the age of seventeen, John was appointed to be a Methodist preacher, and he was very active and earnest in his ministerial labors. In 1832 he moved with his family to Toronto, Canada, and there continued as a Methodist minister. While living in Toronto, John made a number of educated and influential friends who were not quite satisfied with the doctrines of their churches, as those doctrines did not seem to agree with the teachings of the Bible. This group of friends organized themselves to seek for greater religious light. It was under these circumstances that Parley P. Pratt arrived in Toronto and preached to this group seeking the truth. John was converted and was baptized May 9, 1836. He was then ordained an elder and commenced his missionary labors. He immediately went forth to preach the gospel. In the summer of 1836 he traveled to Kirtland to meet with the Prophet Joseph. There he received instructions to return to Canada and preside over the branches of the Church that had recently been organized in that land.

He journeyed to Kirtland in May 1837, when the Church was on the verge of collapse due to apostasy, and he defended the Prophet against the rising tide of apostasy. He even rescued the floundering Parley P. Pratt. He was later ordained an Apostle in December 1838 in Far West..

Willard Richards

He was baptized in Kirtland by his cousin Brigham Young in 1836. In April 1840, while serving a mission in England, he was ordained an apostle by Brigham Young in Preston, England. He is thus the only man to be ordained an apostle outside the United States. He would yet remain faithful in the Church and eventually serve as counselor to President Brigham Young in Utah.

John E. Page

After he was baptized in 1833 in Ohio, he served two missions in Canada and baptized nearly six hundred converts. He was ordained an apostle in December 1838 in Far West. In 1839 he failed to serve a mission with others of the Twelve. He was appointed to accompany Orson Hyde to Jerusalem in 1840 but did not complete that mission. He later left the Church and was excommunicated in 1846.

- Michael J. Preece