Section 133: The Appendix
Section 133 was received on November 3, 1831, and is thus obviously placed in the Doctrine and Covenants out of temporal sequence. It was received during the memorable series of short conferences of the elders of the Church held between November 1 and 12, 1831, at the home of John Johnson in Hiram, Ohio. It was during these conferences that it was first decided to print and distribute a collection of Joseph’s revelations. Additional material about this conference, or series of conferences, may be found in the supplemental article entitled A Brief History of the Evolution of Our Present-day Doctrine and Covenants and in the commentary for section 67.
Joseph described the circumstances of his receiving this revelation as follows:
It had been decided by the conference that Elder Oliver Cowdery should carry the commandments and revelations to Independence, Missouri, for printing, and that I should arrange and get them in readiness by the time that he left, which was to be by— or, if possible, before—the 15th of the month [November]. At this time there were many things which the elders desired to know relative to preaching the Gospel to the inhabitants of the earth, and concerning the gathering; and in order to walk by the true light, and be instructed from on high, on the 3rd of November, 1831, I inquired of the Lord and received the following important revelation, which has since been added to the book of Doctrine and Covenants, and called the Appendix (HC, 1:229).
This section, which serves as the appendix to the Doctrine and Covenants, was received two days after section 1 which serves as the preface to the Book of Commandments. It is placed in the Doctrine and Covenants at the end of those revelations received by Joseph. Those revelations which follow section 133 (except section 137) were received by someone else.
This revelation has appeared in all editions of the Doctrine and Covenants.
Section 133 deals largely with doctrines of the end of the world—the doctrines of “last things.” It continues the same sub-themes found in section 1. These are “Prepare ye,” “Flee out of Babylon,” “The Lord is surely going to come,” and “Go out, ye elders, and prepare the people for what is to come.”
An interesting way to place into perspective the themes that are sounded in sections 1 and 133 is this: The Lord has restored his Church to the earth in this dispensation and has given it three major functions or missions to perform. These are: (1) Teach the gospel—missionary responsibilities; (2) Perfect the saints; and (3) Perform ordinances of salvation for the dead. In sections 1 and 133, the Lord gives emphasis to the first two.
D&C 133 The Appendix of the Doctrine and Covenants
1 Hearken, O ye people of my church, saith the Lord your God, and hear the word of the Lord concerning you—
verse 1 “Hearken, O ye people of my church” There are parallels between sections 1 and 133. For example these words which begin section 1 also begin section 133. Other parallels include 133:4-5 and 1:12, 16; 133:3 and 1:14; and 133:8 and 1:1.
2 The Lord who shall suddenly come to his temple; the Lord who shall come down upon the world with a curse to judgment; yea, upon all the nations that forget God, and upon all the ungodly among you.
verse 2 “The Lord who shall suddenly come to his temple” The allusion here is to Malachi 3:1. This verse is among the Lord’s last words and warnings to his people Israel in the Old Testament dispensation. The prophecy here does not deal with Jesus’s mortal life and his mortal visits to the Jerusalem Temple, but rather to the sudden and unexpected coming of the resurrected Lord in his power on the occasion of his second coming (see also D&C 36:8; 42:36; Malachi 3:1). We are left to wonder to which temple this phrase has reference. It could be the Zion temple (D&C 84:2), any of the latter-day temples, or perhaps even the earth as a symbolic temple where the purposes of the temple are accomplished.
“and upon all the ungodly among you” This is a sobering phrase. While it is true that the Lord will pour out justice upon the wicked telestial elements of the earth who have rejected or forgotten him, he will also judge the “ungodly” among the saints. To be godly is to be like God. Included in being “ungodly” is to know the character of the Savior and yet refuse to become like him.
3 For he shall make bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of their God.
verse 3 “he shall make bare his holy arm” This phrase means that he will show his power at the time of his second coming.
4 Wherefore, prepare ye, prepare ye, O my people; sanctify yourselves; gather ye together, O ye people of my church, upon the land of Zion, all you that have not been commanded to tarry.
verse 4 “sanctify yourselves” A person is sanctified as they receive gifts of the Spirit—increments of the attributes of Christ—through their obedience to law. To be sanctified is to receive these spiritual gifts. A second element to sanctification is to have increments of one’s natural self removed—the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost. This process is intimately associated with spiritual growth. How do we best prepare for the Lord’s second coming? It is simply to establish a pattern in our lives of continuous spiritual growth—receiving these incremental attributes of Christ through constantly striving to be obedient—and then to continue that pattern unrelentingly. There should be no thought of making special preparations for his coming. Rather, we must be ready constantly, through constant striving to obey the commandments, as is made clear in the parable of the ten virgins (Matthew 25:1-13).
5 Go ye out from Babylon. Be ye clean that bear the vessels of the Lord.
verse 5 “Go ye out from Babylon” This phrase is an allusion to the return of the Jews from their Babylonian captivity beginning in 539 BC, when the Persian king Cyrus defeated the Babylonians. By New Testament times, Babylon had become a symbolic term for the fallen world, for the kingdom of Satan established illegitimately in opposition to the kingdom of God (see Revelation 17:5; 18:4). Further, just as those who carried the sacred vessels of Solomon’s Temple out of Babylon to reestablish Judah (Ezra 1:7) were required to be clean and worthy—“Be ye clean that bear the vessels of the Lord—so all those who bear the responsibility of establishing Zion are required to depart from the world and bear worthily the holy things of God just as he commanded the priests of the Jerusalem Temple to be clean (Isaiah 52:11). The commandment to leave Babylon, or the world, behind us is repeated in this section three times (verses 5, 7, 14). In times past, the members of the Church left their homes in foreign lands and gathered to Zion in the United States. Today, the saints are required to remove themselves spiritually from Babylon, the wickedness of the world around us (verse 14), and to make their present homes, wards, and stakes the spiritual Zion that is made up of “the pure in heart” (D&C 97:21), free from the influences of modern Babylon.
6 Call your solemn assemblies, and speak often one to another. And let every man call upon the name of the Lord.
verse 6 “Call your solemn assemblies” A solemn assembly is a special gathering of the Church, or a representative body thereof, for extraordinary sacred worship, blessing, or instruction (Ludlow, Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 3:1380-81). these are usually held in the temples of the Church. Inasmuch as there were no temples as yet constructed in the latter days for this purpose, this commandment also implies a preliminary obligation to build temples at Kirtland and Independence.
7 Yea, verily I say unto you again, the time has come when the voice of the Lord is unto you: Go ye out of Babylon; gather ye out from among the nations, from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
verse 7 “from the four winds” From the four quarters of the earth—from all directions and from all parts of the earth.
“from one end of heaven to the other” The word heaven in this verse, which verse speaks of the latter-day gathering, might refer to the gathering of the city of Enoch, the city of Melchizedek, etc. There are some who wonder if it might not also refer to the gathering of the lost tribes. For example, Wilford Woodruff made an entry in his record that indicates Brigham Young believed the lost tribes of Israel were [not] of the earth and thus would be gathered from the heavens. He wrote: “The leaders on their return from Provo made a visit to Logan. Here, President Young is quoted as saying that the ten tribes of Israel are on a portion of the earth—a portion separated from the main land” (Matthias F. Cowley, Wilford Woodruff, 448). This view is also expressed in one of the . . . hymns written by Eliza R. Snow: “And when the Lord saw fit to hide, The ten lost tribes away, Thou, earth, was severed to provide, The orb on which they stay” (Ibid.).
8 Send forth the elders of my church unto the nations which are afar off; unto the islands of the sea; send forth unto foreign lands; call upon all nations, first upon the Gentiles, and then upon the Jews.
verse 8 “unto the islands of the sea” The phrase “the islands of the sea” is a scriptural phrase that usually refers 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.
“first upon the Gentiles, and then upon the Jews” As we have discussed previously, the order of gathering in this final dispensation is first the Gentiles and then the Jews (see the commentary for D&C 45:25).
9 And behold, and lo, this shall be their cry, and the voice of the Lord unto all people: Go ye forth unto the land of Zion, that the borders of my people may be enlarged, and that her stakes may be strengthened, and that Zion may go forth unto the regions round about.
verse 9 “that Zion may go forth unto the regions round about” As more and more people are gathered to Zion, the size of Zion increases. And soon people don’t need to be gathered to Zion—there will be stakes in all the earth—eventually Zion comes to them.
10 Yea, let the cry go forth among all people: Awake and arise and go forth to meet the Bridegroom; behold and lo, the Bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him. Prepare yourselves for the great day of the Lord.
verse 10 “behold and lo, the Bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him” These words are from the parable of the ten virgins (Matthew 25:1-13). They declare to the worldly that their time is up, and the second coming of Christ is at hand. Jesus Christ is the Bridegroom of scripture, and the faithful Church is his bride. These words announce that the Savior has arrived to take possession of that which is his. As in the New Testament parable, the saints are expected to be prepared for this sudden event before it occurs, for there will be no time to find oil for our lamps once he arrives. The First Presidency has expanded upon the parable of the ten virgins, saying, “Let the Church, therefore, prepare as a bride to receive her bridegroom; let the saints have on their wedding garments, and have their lamps well supplied with oil, trimmed and burning; let all things be made ready for the reception of our Savior and Redeemer, even our Lord the Christ. Let all the saints throughout the world live their religion, that they may be worthy to enjoy his presence” (Millennial Star 19 [April 1857]: 253).
11 Watch, therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour.
12 Let them, therefore, who are among the Gentiles flee unto Zion.
13 And let them who be of Judah flee unto Jerusalem, unto the mountains of the Lord’s house.
verse 13 “the mountains of the Lord’s house” Since mountains are raised up from the world and represent the place where heaven and earth come together, in scriptural terms a mountain has often symbolized the Lord’s house, or his temple. On some occasions, mountains have actually served as temples, when no such structure was available to the saints, as, for example, Mount Sinai or the Mount of Transfiguration. The plural here probably refers to temples both in the Old and New Jersualem built by and for the gathering Jews and Gentiles, respectively (Ether 13:2-12) (Smith, Answers to Gospel Questions, 5:73).
14 Go ye out from among the nations, even from Babylon, from the midst of wickedness, which is spiritual Babylon.
verses 11-14 Because no one knows when the Savior will return (Matthew 24:36; D&C 49:7) and because all men are commanded to repent and prepare for his coming by leaving spiritual Babylon, the Gentiles who hear the Lord’s word are to gather to Zion (the New Jerusalem) and the Jews are to gather to Jerusalem. Currently, the Gentiles who join the Church throughout the world are not commanded to physically gather to Zion, as a location. They are expected to leave spiritual Babylon and gather to a spiritual Zion—to be “pure in heart” and build up the Church in their own lands.
15 But verily, thus saith the Lord, let not your flight be in haste, but let all things be prepared before you; and he that goeth, let him not look back lest sudden destruction shall come upon him.
verse 15 “let not your flight be in haste, but let all things be prepared before you” When the events of the end take place and the Bridegroom comes, there will be no time to scramble to get things done that should have been prepared beforehand. Those for whom the Lord’s coming will represent a signal to begin getting their lives in order are already too late—they are the foolish virgins found without sufficient oil in their lamps.
“let him not look back” Here the Lord cautions those who are fleeing Babylon, heading for Zion, “not to look back.” True conversion means change of heart and interest as well as behavior. Longing for the “flesh pots of Egypt” (Exodus 16:1-3) or the pleasures and comforts of Sodom is spiritually destructive. The Lord’s directive to “remember Lot’s wife” is an appropriate reminder for all (Genesis 19:17-26; Luke 17:2630).
16 Hearken and hear, O ye inhabitants of the earth. Listen, ye elders of my church together, and hear the voice of the Lord; for he calleth upon all men, and he commandeth all men everywhere to repent.
verse 16 “he commandeth all men everywhere to repent” “Repent” is likely used here to mean that all are to obey the first principles of the gospel.
17 For behold, the Lord God hath sent forth the angel crying through the midst of heaven, saying: Prepare ye the way of the Lord, and make his paths straight, for the hour of his coming is nigh—
verse 17 “the Lord God hath sent forth the angel crying through the midst of heaven” The message of the angel flying through the midst of heaven is to prepare the way of the Lord (see D&C 88:92).
This is probably the same as the “great sign” described in D&C 88:92-93: “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. And immediately there shall appear a great sign in heaven, and all people shall see it together.” This sign occurs at the time of the Lord’s coming in glory.
The wording of verse 17 and the use of the term “the angel” might make it seem that only one angel is associated with these events. In the modern Church, some have identified this one angel as the angel Moroni. Moroni may have been the first such angel, but the parallel passages in Revelation 14:6 and D&C 88:92 make it clear that these events associated with the end of the world will be announced and accompanied by the ministration of many angels, all declaring the same message in one way or another—prepare ye, prepare ye (D&C 128:20).
Concerning this revelation, an important interpretive key to these verses is sometimes overlooked. Section 133 is the “appendix” and was intended to come at or near the end of the Doctrine and Covenants in much the same way that the book of Revelation comes at the end of the New Testament. Further, both section 133 and the book of Revelation describe events associated with the end of the world, and they often use the same or similar language and imagery to do so. Therefore, it is possible, and perhaps even likely, that the parts of section 133 that are most like the book of Revelation are written as apocalyptic revelation with apocalyptic images and symbols as the book of Revelation itself is (see a discussion of apocalyptic literature in the introductory commentary for section 77).
Just as the Prophet Joseph generally did not interpret apocalyptic imagery from the book of Revelation literally, but symbolically, so it is possible that parts of section 133 are meant to be interpreted symbolically rather than literally. Further, since the angel described in Revelation 14:6 is at least in part the same angel described in D&C 133:17, it is likely that where the proclamations are similar in both passages, they should both be understood and interpreted apocalyptically rather than literally. Apocalyptic prophecy or imagery in scriptures dealing with the end warns us against interpreting them too narrowly or literally.
18 When the Lamb shall stand upon Mount Zion, and with him a hundred and forty-four thousand, having his Father’s name written on their foreheads.
verse 18 “When the Lamb shall stand upon Mount Zion” As we might expect from a revelation about the end of the world, section 133 contains many references and allusions to the Book of Revelation. This verse is almost identical to Revelation 14:1, and both passages describe the Savior’s future appearance on Mount Zion. The term “Mount Zion” is used in scripture to describe both the Old and the New Jerusalem. It is sometimes used in reference to temples generally, as in Obadiah 1:21, and it is used in D&C 76:66 as a symbol for the celestial kingdom itself.
There will be more than one appearance of the Lord associated with the end of the world, and the following verses enumerate some of those appearances, including appearances on more than one “Mount Zion.” However, since the order of these events is not the same in all scriptural accounts—and may not be intended to be listed chronologically—it would be unwise to attempt to construct a very rigid time line or sequence, based on present prophecies, for the events of the end. They will all be fulfilled, but in the Lord’s own time and in his own way. The Lord has not revealed all the information necessary to create a reliable chronology of the end of the world and the second coming. This was certainly the case with Jesus’s first coming, when the Jews failed to recognize the Messiah because he did not fit a preconceived picture based on their Old Testament prophecies.
“a hundred and forty-four thousand” We have been taught in the book of Revelation (7:4-8) and by modern prophets that there are one hundred forty-four thousand high priests who will do a special work in these last days, but who are they and what will they be called to do?
First, perhaps the number, one hundred forty-four thousand, need not be taken literally. The Doctrine and Covenants states “that those who are sealed are high priests, ordained unto the holy order of God, to administer the everlasting gospel; for they are they who are ordained out of every nation, kindred, tongue, and people, by the angels to whom is given power over the nations of the earth, to bring as many as will come to the church of the Firstborn” (D&C 77:11). Note that this scripture does not specify a number. Instead, it notes that the group is composed of high priests who have a special calling “to administer the everlasting gospel” and “to bring as many as will come to the church of the Firstborn.”
So, this group consists of a large number of high priests who will assist with the great final gathering of Israel in the latter days. It also seems clear that they will be sealed up to eternal life and will assist with the gathering of Israel before the earth is “hurt”—that is, before the great final cleansing of the earth begins. But, again, who are these high priests, however many there may be, who have been sealed up to eternal life and who will help with the great final work of gathering? We are told nothing further concerning their identity. We may speculate, but it is only speculation. Could they be the body of men who comprise the leaders or “general authorities” of the Lord’s latter day kingdom? Perhaps so. One statement of President Joseph Fielding Smith’s suggests that it is a great honor to be included in this group, and he even suggests that they may include those called to tarry as translated beings until the Lord’s coming:
This certainly is a great honor to be one of the one hundred forty-four thousand who are specially called by the power of “the angels to whom is given power over the nations of the earth” [D&C 77:11] to bring souls unto Christ. John the Apostle, had the great desire to bring souls to Christ. The Three Nephite Disciples likewise sought this great honor and it was granted to them. It is one of the noblest desires that a man can have. It will be a wonderful blessing to those who are called in this great group (Church History and Modern Revelation, volume 2, 71).
It is difficult to say when the actual calling of these men will take place. Some prophets have spoken as though it would be after the return of the ten tribes or during the council of Adam-ondi-Ahman. Perhaps some of them have already been called. The question of when they are selected or called is an interesting, but not critical, one.
We know that these one hundred forty-four thousand will assist with the latter-day gathering of the Lord’s people. We are also taught that they will have the blessed opportunity to be “caught up” to meet the Savior at his second coming in glory. Joseph Fielding Smith wrote: “The one hundred forty-four thousand mentioned in Revelation 7:4-8 represent special groups from the tribes of Israel, twelve thousand from each tribe, who will be caught up to meet Christ at his coming” (Answers to Gospel Questions, 5 volumes, [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1957-1966], 3: 185).
Joseph Smith associated them with the temple (HC, 6:365). The symbolic meaning of the number supports this association. Twelve represents the priesthood. Biblical people squared a number to amplify its symbolic meaning. Thus, 144 suggests a fulness of priesthood authority. But John is not satisfied with that. He gives the image a superlative quality by multiplying by 1,000, representing completeness. In this way he shows the strength and breadth of the priesthood in the latter days, in this dispensation that is, indeed, the dispensation of the fulness of times. During this period that complete priesthood authority will operate. The attachment to the temple fits perfectly since only there can one receive the fulness of the priesthood (D&C 124:25-30).
19 Wherefore, prepare ye for the coming of the Bridegroom; go ye, go ye out to meet him.
20 For behold, he shall stand upon the mount of Olivet, and upon the mighty ocean, even the great deep, and upon the islands of the sea, and upon the land of Zion.
verse 20 “he shall stand upon the mount of Olivet” Historically, this is the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem. This appearance of Jesus will fulfill the prophecy of D&C 45:48-53.
verses 21-25 The imagery in these verses seems to be symbolic. The thunders and lightnings may indicate that all nature is in an uproar as a result of the judgments poured forth at the Lord’s second coming. The voice, which is heard by all people, may be God’s proclamations of judgment and command where he prepares the earth to return to its paradisiacal glory. See the commentary on Revelation 4:5; see also Revelation 8:5; 11:19.
21 And he shall utter his voice out of Zion, and he shall speak from Jerusalem, and his voice shall be heard among all people;
verse 21 “Zion . . . Jerusalem” At the coming of the Lord, two administrative centers from which the kingdom will be governed will be established upon the earth. One will be in the Jerusalem of old in the Holy Land. The other will be the New Jerusalem in Independence, Missouri, on the American continent (see Ether 13:2-6; D&C 57:1-3).
verses 20-21 These verses contain a list of the places in which the Lord will make appearances prior to his second coming in glory with the angels of heaven. Symbolically, he will appear to all the earth.
22 And it shall be a voice as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder, which shall break down the mountains, and the valleys shall not be found.
23 He shall command the great deep, and it shall be driven back into the north countries, and the islands shall become one land;
24 And the land of Jerusalem and the land of Zion shall be turned back into their own place, and the earth shall be like as it was in the days before it was divided.
25 And the Lord, even the Savior, shall stand in the midst of his people, and shall reign over all flesh.
verses 26-34 One of the ways in which section 133 is different from Section 1 is that 133 contains information about the return of the ten lost tribes of Israel. They were taken north by the Assyrians (see 2 Kings 17). The Lord has promised that these tribes of Israel will return and be reunited with the two remaining tribes (Judah and Dan) in the latter days. Members of these tribes of Israel are even now “returning” from the “north countries” (from wherever they were scattered after being taken north from the Holy Land by the Assyrians). They are returning individually and as families as they hear the gospel and join the Church in a multitude of countries around the world. We know of no large, identifiable groups of Israelites under the direction of prophets who might literally fulfill the expectations given in these verses.
Perhaps an appeal to apocalyptic or symbolic interpretation may be helpful here. Are the prophets referred to true prophets with priesthood and keys, as we know prophets, or are they social or political leaders to whom people look for direction? Are the “ice” and “rocks” physical ice and rocks, or a representation of communication barriers which must be broken down to facilitate the understanding and acceptance of the gospel? Is the highway a literal road, or a highway designated by the prophet Isaiah as “the way of holiness,” a path the “unclean shall not pass over” but on which “the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with songs of everlasting joy” (Isaiah 35:8-10; 51:10-11)? After the continents have been reassembled into one land mass (verse 23), what will “north” mean, the original north or the new north created by the rearrangement of the earth? On the other hand, because north was the direction associated symbolically with apostasy and evil in biblical times, the language here may be symbolic, describing the return of the tribes from being “scattered” among the Gentiles. This interpretation would seem to be supported by 1 Nephi 22:3-4, 12. But the truth is, we don’t have enough reliable information currently to clarify the true meaning of all these verses. As we strive to understand these prophecies, we must remain open to receiving further light and knowledge that may come from the Lord through his authorized servants or from the unfolding of the events themselves.
26 And they who are in the north countries shall come in remembrance before the Lord; and their prophets shall hear his voice, and shall no longer stay themselves; and they shall smite the rocks, and the ice shall flow down at their presence.
27 And an highway shall be cast up in the midst of the great deep.
28 Their enemies shall become a prey unto them,
29 And in the barren deserts there shall come forth pools of living water; and the parched ground shall no longer be a thirsty land.
verse 29 “in the barren deserts there shall come forth pools of living water” The geological upheavals associated with the Lord’s second coming will literally create a new earth with a new geography and a new ecology.
30 And they shall bring forth their rich treasures unto the children of Ephraim, my servants.
verse 30 When the descendants of Israel who have been scattered among the nations accept the gospel and turn to the Lord, they will be the best (most celestially-inclined individuals) from their respective nations. When they gather, they will come with their power and treasures to the Lord, and they will also receive the blessings of a spiritually elite. Just as Israel left Babylon with the wealth of those nations, so will the descendants of scattered Israel bring with them to the kingdom all that is good and useful from the Gentile world.
31 And the boundaries of the everlasting hills shall tremble at their presence.
32 And there shall they fall down and be crowned with glory, even in Zion, by the hands of the servants of the Lord, even the children of Ephraim.
verse 32 The expression “the children of Ephraim” means the Church in this final dispensation. The ten tribes will come to America and contribute wealth and treasures to help build the kingdom of the Lord in Zion.
33 And they shall be filled with songs of everlasting joy.
34 Behold, this is the blessing of the everlasting God upon the tribes of Israel, and the richer blessing upon the head of Ephraim and his fellows.
verse 34 “the richer blessing upon the head of Ephraim and his fellows” In this generation, Ephraim holds the birthright in the house of Israel. Hence, Ephraim must be gathered first to prepare the way and establish the Church and the priesthood. The large majority of those coming into the Church today are of the tribe of Ephraim. Today Ephraim holds the keys of the priesthood. It is with Ephraim that the Lord has made covenant, and through Ephraim has he restored his gospel in its fulness. Ephraim is building temples and performing the ordinances in them for the living and the dead.
35 And they also of the tribe of Judah, after their pain, shall be sanctified in holiness before the Lord, to dwell in his presence day and night, forever and ever.
verse 35 “Judah, after their pain” Both the Lord and Joseph Smith knew that the collective suffering of the Jews was not yet at an end. Even today, after the Holocaust, hatred of the Jews continues and seemingly will increase until the Lord returns in his glory to save them from their united enemies (D&C 45:48-53). However, their ultimate fate, collectively, is to dwell in the presence of God “day and night, forever and ever.” As Brigham Young observed: “When the Savior visits Jerusalem, and the Jews look upon him, and see the wounds in his hands and in his side and in his feet, they will then know that they have persecuted and put to death the true Messiah, and then they will acknowledge him, but not till then. They have confused his first and second comings—expecting his first coming to be as a mighty prince instead of as a servant” (JD, 11:279).
verses 36-45 Again, note the parallels in the proclamation of the angel in these verses with that of the angel in Revelation 14:6-7.
36 And now, verily saith the Lord, that these things might be known among you, O inhabitants of the earth, I have sent forth mine angel flying through the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel, who hath appeared unto some and hath committed it unto man, who shall appear unto many that dwell on the earth.
verse 36 “mine angel flying through the midst of heaven” See the commentary for verse 17.
37 And this gospel shall be preached unto every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people.
38 And the servants of God shall go forth, saying with a loud voice: Fear God and give glory to him, for the hour of his judgment is come;
39 And worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters—
40 Calling upon the name of the Lord day and night, saying: O that thou wouldst rend the heavens, that thou wouldst come down, that the mountains might flow down at thy presence.
41 And it shall be answered upon their heads; for the presence of the Lord shall be as the melting fire that burneth, and as the fire which causeth the waters to boil.
42 O Lord, thou shalt come down to make thy name known to thine adversaries, and all nations shall tremble at thy presence—
43 When thou doest terrible things, things they look not for;
44 Yea, when thou comest down, and the mountains flow down at thy presence, thou shalt meet him who rejoiceth and worketh righteousness, who remembereth thee in thy ways.
45 For since the beginning of the world have not men heard nor perceived by the ear, neither hath any eye seen, O God, besides thee, how great things thou hast prepared for him that waiteth for thee.
46 And it shall be said: Who is this that cometh down from God in heaven with dyed garments; yea, from the regions which are not known, clothed in his glorious apparel, traveling in the greatness of his strength?
verse 46 “Who is this that cometh down from God in heaven with dyed garments” Probably because of the descriptions of the risen Lord in the New Testament and Book of Mormon, Latter-day Saints usually picture Christ wearing white robes at his second coming (see 3 Nephi 11:8). However, the verses that follow make it clear that he will be dressed in red. This fact conveys wonderful symbolic meaning on the appearance of the Savior at the great and dreadful day of the Lord, the day of his second coming. For the wicked, the redness of Christ’s apparel at his second coming indicates that he comes as a judge and as a conqueror, to slay the wicked with the sword of his mouth. Christ the conqueror will symbolically be drenched in the blood of the wicked, which the great judge exacts from them as a just penalty for their crimes and iniquities. For the wicked, the day of the Lord will be “dreadful,” and the blood with which Christ is symbolically covered will be their blood, spilled as he tramples his enemies underfoot in the great day of his vengeance.
On the other hand, for the saints, the redness of Jesus’s robe at his second coming will symbolize his own blood, shed by him at every pore in Gethsemane and upon Calvary. The redness of his robe will be symbolic of his redeeming blood and atoning sacrifice. As Elder Neal A. Maxwell observed: “Having bled at every pore, how red his raiment must have been in Gethsemane, how crimson that cloak! No wonder, when Christ comes in power and glory, he will come in red attire (see D&C 133:48), signifying not only the winepress or wrath, but also to bring to our remembrance how he suffered for each of us in Gethsemane and on Calvary!” (CR, April 1987, 89-90).
Taken in this sense, the redness of his apparel is a positively glorious sign to those who also have been washed in his blood. He has performed for us the horrible task of treading the wine-vat, or of meeting the demands of justice by suffering infinite agony, and the robe stained red with his own blood will testify of his atonement and his power to save. Thus, the sight of Jesus coming in his red apparel will be a terrifying encounter with justice for the wicked, and it will comfort the righteous with the promise of the atonement.
47 And he shall say: I am he who spake in righteousness, mighty to save.
48 And the Lord shall be red in his apparel, and his garments like him that treadeth in the wine-vat.
verse 48 Jesus will look like someone who has been stomping grapes in a wine-vat, totally covered with the red juice squeezed from the grapes and thoroughly stained or dyed.
49 And so great shall be the glory of his presence that the sun shall hide his face in shame, and the moon shall withhold its light, and the stars shall be hurled from their places.
verse 49 So great shall be the glory of his presence that it will outshine the sun.
One of the signs of the coming of the Son of Man is that the sun will be darkened and the moon turned to blood. One explanation of this phenomenon is that the destruction prior to the second coming will cause sufficient air pollution to produce this phenomenon. Perhaps verse 49 refers to this pollution-related effect, or perhaps this verse refers to another occasion when these two orbs will be darkened for a different reason.
50 And his voice shall be heard: I have trodden the wine-press alone, and have brought judgment upon all people; and none were with me;
51 And I have trampled them in my fury, and I did tread upon them in mine anger, and their blood have I sprinkled upon my garments, and stained all my raiment; for this was the day of vengeance which was in my heart.
verses 48-51 Some have raised a question as to the literality of Christ’s red attire at his second coming. The problem of a literal versus figurative interpretation of the scripture is sometimes difficult. Some verses of scripture are not a problem. For example, most of us would agree that when the scripture states that God took a rib from the man Adam and made a woman (Genesis 2:21-22), this description of Eve’s creation is simply figurative. But when the scripture states that it rained forty days and forty nights, are we to take this literally or otherwise? How are we to know?
Those who feel that the red attire may be figurative only have suggested that we look at these verses in context. Verse 51 tells us how the Savior’s garments became red. He squashed the wicked in the wine-vat and their blood got all over his clothes! It seems likely, they feel, that this scene is being described symbolically, and that we should not be surprised if the Savior is dressed in white robes at his second coming.
52 And now the year of my redeemed is come; and they shall mention the loving kindness of their Lord, and all that he has bestowed upon them according to his goodness, and according to his loving kindness, forever and ever.
53 In all their afflictions he was afflicted. And the angel of his presence saved them; and in his love, and in his pity, he redeemed them, and bore them, and carried them all the days of old;
verse 53 “In all their afflictions he was afflicted” See Alma 7:11-12 and the commentary for those verses (see also Hebrews 2:18; 5:8-9).
“the angel of his presence” This delightful phrase refers to the literal presence of the Lord Jesus Christ himself. Perhaps it refers to his incomprehensible grace and mercy which give us the opportunity to be rescued from this mortal trial (see Isaiah 63:9; Abraham 1:15).
54 Yea, and Enoch also, and they who were with him; the prophets who were before him; and Noah also, and they who were before him; and Moses also, and they who were before him;
55 And from Moses to Elijah, and from Elijah to John, who were with Christ in his resurrection, and the holy apostles, with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, shall be in the presence of the Lamb.
verses 54-55 Here is a list of the prophets who were resurrected with the Savior.
56 And the graves of the saints shall be opened; and they shall come forth and stand on the right hand of the Lamb, when he shall stand upon Mount Zion, and upon the holy city, the New Jerusalem; and they shall sing the song of the Lamb, day and night forever and ever.
verse 56 When the Lord returns and the Millennium begins, the earth will be populated with mortals who will have been found worthy to remain—those who have earned “celestial” or “terrestrial” status. Joining them perhaps will be some righteous saints who have lived and died on the earth since the ascension of Christ, who have earned celestial status. These will be resurrected with celestial bodies at his coming (we might regard this as the end of the “morning of the first resurrection”). Also those who have lived and died on the earth since the ascension of Christ who have earned the terrestrial degree of glory will come forth in the first resurrection (in the “afternoon” of the first resurrection—during the millennial thousand years), following the resurrection of those who come forth with celestial bodies. These might also be assigned to live on the earth. Actually we don’t know which of the resurrected personages will make their abode on the terrestrial millennial earth.
57 And for this cause, that men might be made partakers of the glories which were to be revealed, the Lord sent forth the fulness of his gospel, his everlasting covenant, reasoning in plainness and simplicity—
58 To prepare the weak for those things which are coming on the earth, and for the Lord’s errand in the day when the weak shall confound the wise, and the little one become a strong nation, and two shall put their tens of thousands to flight.
59 And by the weak things of the earth the Lord shall thrash the nations by the power of his Spirit.
60 And for this cause these commandments were given; they were commanded to be kept from the world in the day that they were given, but now are to go forth unto all flesh—
verses 57-60 “for this cause these commandments were given” The phrase “these commandments” refers to the revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants. And why were they given? That the “weak things of the earth,” the Lord’s messengers or missionaries might be prepared to accomplish their mission in the latter days that men may return to their celestial home.
61 And this according to the mind and will of the Lord, who ruleth over all flesh.
62 And unto him that repenteth and sanctifieth himself before the Lord shall be given eternal life.
verse 62 The essence of exaltation is that a man constantly progresses spiritually. The process of spiritual growth is the sanctification of the individual.
verses 63-74 Having described the blessed state of his saints in the previous verses, he now ends this revelation with a warning concerning the fate of those who reject him and his gospel.
The woes enumerated here can be understood on two levels. First, those who reject the light of the gospel will suffer hell until they repent and are finally redeemed in a kingdom of glory. On another level, it can refer to those who refuse to repent even after experiencing hell. These are the sons of perdition, whose who “remain filthy still” (D&C 88:35) who will never be redeemed.
63 And upon them that hearken not to the voice of the Lord shall be fulfilled that which was written by the prophet Moses, that they should be cut off from among the people.
verse 63 This verse refers to Deuteronomy 18:15-22 and Acts 3:22-23.
64 And also that which was written by the prophet Malachi: For, behold, the day cometh that shall burn as an oven, and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble; and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the Lord of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch.
verse 64 “that which was written by the prophet Malachi” Note that just as section 133 parallels and expands upon information from the book of Revelation, the last book of the New Testament, so the Doctrine and Covenants ends with the warning of the book of Malachi (4:2), the last book of the Old Testament.
“neither root nor branch” This expression implies that wicked and indifferent individuals who reject the gospel of Jesus Christ will have no eternal family inheritance or patriarchal lineage—they will not belong to an eternal family. They will have neither root (ancestors or progenitors) nor branch (children or posterity).
65 Wherefore, this shall be the answer of the Lord unto them:
66 In that day when I came unto mine own, no man among you received me, and you were driven out.
67 When I called again there was none of you to answer; yet my arm was not shortened at all that I could not redeem, neither my power to deliver.
verse 67 “when I called again there was none of you to answer” When the Lord came to Israel willing to redeem her from captivity, no one requested his help, and they even rejected him. They separated from him because of their sins. Again, this statement might apply to any time period. In almost every generation there are few or even none to receive the Lord. It does fit nicely with the period of the Lord’s mortal ministry, though it also applies to the latter day gathering of Israel.
“yet my arm was not shortened at all that I could not redeem, neither my power to deliver” The hand and arm of the Lord are symbols of his power. He who has a “shortened hand” is weak and powerless. The Lord is declaring, “I am not so weak that I cannot redeem Israel.” The opposite of the shortened hand is the Lord’s stretching out or extending his hand or arm to deliver his people. His hand is indeed stretched out and not shortened.
68 Behold, at my rebuke I dry up the sea. I make the rivers a wilderness; their fish stink, and die for thirst.
verse 68 “Behold, at my rebuke I dry up the sea. I make their rivers a wilderness; their fish stink, and die for thirst” The Lord then confirms that he does, of course, have sufficient power, and he illustrates this power by recalling the miracles the Lord performed at the time of the exodus from Egypt: he dried up the sea with his command (Exodus 7:21; 14:26-31), turned the rivers into a desert so that the fish in them died for lack of water, and (in verse 3) darkened the sky as if it were mourning for the dead (Exodus 10:21).
69 I clothe the heavens with blackness, and make sackcloth their covering.
verse 69 The dark sky heralds the coming judgments, as well as Christ’s second coming. The Lord said in Matthew 24:29-30: “Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: And then . . . they shall see the son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.”
Elder Bruce R. McConkie gave another interpretation:
I clothe the heavens with blackness” (Isaiah 50:3), and there is no more revelation. . . . Thus saith our God. Such is his promise, spoken prophetically of our day. And here, given in modern times, is his announcement that as he spake, so has it come to pass: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, darkness covereth the earth, and gross darkness the minds of the people, and all flesh has become corrupt before my face (D&C 112:23) (Millennial Messiah: The Second Coming of the Son of Man, 39).
“Sackcloth” is the clothing of mourning. Perhaps this symbolizes the mourning of the wicked at the second coming of Christ. Or it may symbolize the mourning of the righteous over the wickedness of the earth.
70 And this shall ye have of my hand—ye shall lie down in sorrow.
verse 70 “ye shall lie down in sorrow” To “lie down” probably means to die. You shall die in spiritual misery.
71 Behold, and lo, there are none to deliver you; for ye obeyed not my voice when I called to you out of the heavens; ye believed not my servants, and when they were sent unto you ye received them not.
72 Wherefore, they sealed up the testimony and bound up the law, and ye were delivered over unto darkness.
verse 72 “they sealed up the testimony and bound up the law” The Lord’s servants tie up with a strip of leather or a cord, and seal their manuscript with wax (“bind up” and “seal”). This manuscript contains their testimony against those who rejected their ministrations. Thus, the testimonies of the Lord’s servants may stand (with the testimonies of the other prophets—the combination forming “the law”) as a permanent witness against the people.
A divine sequence is illustrated here. The Lord’s people must first receive the law by covenant. Then they warn the world’s inhabitants of God’s coming judgments. After they have testified to and warned the nations, they will figuratively “bind,” “tie up,” or “shut up” their testimonies and “affix a seal” to the law of God. Finally the judgments of God will come (see D&C 88:84; 109:38, 46; 133:72) (TPJS, 92).
73 These shall go away into outer darkness, where there is weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth.
verse 73 “outer darkness” We are not given to know the exact condition or place described by the term “outer darkness,” but we do know that it will be devoid of all spiritual light.
74 Behold the Lord your God hath spoken it. Amen.
Brief Historical Setting
The saints in Nauvoo had several avowed enemies of influence. Among them was Thomas C. Sharp, editor of the Warsaw (Illinois) Signal, a viciously anti-Mormon newspaper. Another was John C. Bennett, the ex-Mormon, who attacked the Church both in print and by his oratory. Particularly did Bennett delight in accusing the Church of practicing a licentious form of polygamy.
Some of the doctrines of the Church that were pronounced and promulgated by Joseph in 1843 were criticized as heretical and resulted in emotional attacks upon the Church by ministers of other churches. The doctrines that were particularly criticized included the concept of the plurality of Gods and the doctrine that man’s consummate potential destiny is to become as God is.
In the spring of 1844, a small group of Mormon dissidents began preparations to publish the Nauvoo Expositor (an “expositor” is one who expounds or explains). They published only one issue, on June 7, which contained inflammatory allegations about the sex lives of Mormon leaders, branding Joseph as a base seducer, a liar, and a murderer. The Nauvoo city council, led by Joseph who was mayor and his brother Hyrum who was vice-mayor, declared the newspaper libelous and a public nuisance endangering civil order. The city marshal was dispatched to destroy that issue and the Expositor’s printing press. No single action could have provided better ammunition for the anti-Mormons in Illinois, who by now had already organized into vigilante groups dedicated to the destruction of Mormonism. The anti-Mormons quickly raised the issue of freedom of the press, and they cried out in the press for the utter extermination of the “wicked” Mormon leaders. Some of the Mormon dissidents went to the county seat at Carthage, about fifteen miles east of Nauvoo, and filed charges of inciting a riot against Joseph and other church leaders. A constable was dispatched to arrest Joseph and Hyrum.
Realizing full well the fatal consequences of going to Carthage, Joseph and Hyrum, by some legal maneuvering, managed to be tried and acquitted by a court in Nauvoo. When the constable returned to Carthage without Joseph, the fury among the Church’s enemies exploded. Governor Ford was petitioned, and demands were made that he mobilize the state militia and end Joseph’s “defiance” of the law.
Joseph responded by declaring a state of martial law, and the Nauvoo Legion was mobilized. He also wrote to the traveling apostles and other church leaders asking them to return home. Governor Ford arrived in Carthage on June 21, 1844, and, reviewing the evidence against Joseph, he declared the destruction of the Expositor illegal and demanded that the Smiths come to Carthage and submit to the charges made against them. If they refused, the Governor threatened to employ the state militia to destroy Nauvoo.
Joseph realized that the circle was narrowing, and that his options were becoming limited. In a letter written to the Governor on June 22, he expressed his willingness to be tried, but he made it clear to the Governor that he dared not come to Carthage. That same day Joseph met with trusted associates including Hyrum Smith, Willard Richards, John Taylor, and John M. Bernhisel in an upper room of the Mansion House to consider Joseph’s options. Reportedly three hundred armed guards stood watch outside the Mansion House while they met. A remarkable insight into the Prophet’s character and presence of mind during these tense times is provided by a letter written by a visitor to Nauvoo on June 22 who managed an audience with Joseph. The visitor was John C. Calhoun, Jr., a son of a prominent United States senator at the time who was passing through Nauvoo on a steamboat with his brother. Calhoun reported that Joseph preached the gospel to them and testified of his prophetic calling, a remarkable thing in view of Joseph’s desperate circumstances (Clyde N. Wilson, ed., The Papers of John C. Calhoun, 21 volumes, [Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1959] 19:397-99).
Joseph knew that if he and Hyrum were taken into custody, they would be massacred. Thus he bade an emotional farewell to his family, and at midnight on June 22 Porter Rockwell rowed him and Hyrum and Apostle Willard Richards across the Mississippi River. From there, Joseph apparently intended to travel east to Washington, D.C., to lay his cause directly before President John Tyler.
The next morning a posse arrived in Nauvoo to arrest the brothers but left empty handed after threatening to occupy the city until the Smiths were arrested. That afternoon Emma sent messengers with a letter to Joseph and Hyrum. The letter likely informed Joseph of Governor Ford’s promise of protection and a fair trial. The messengers told Joseph of the posse’s threats on the city, reminding him that if mobs destroyed their property, they would all be homeless. The messengers even accused Joseph of cowardice. These were cutting words. Joseph replied, “If my life is of no value to my friends, it is of none to myself” (HC, 6:549).
After consulting with Hyrum and Porter Rockwell, Joseph agreed to return to Nauvoo, and he did so later on June 23. From that moment on, Joseph had a strong premonition of his death. He spent the night with his family in Nauvoo and then traveled the next day, the 24th, to Carthage. As he was passing through Nauvoo he was overheard to say, “I am going as a lamb to the slaughter” (HC, 6:555).
After spending the night in a hotel in Carthage, the next day, the 25th, the prisoners were shown to the troops of militia who were lined up for review. The local militia, known as the Carthage Greys, was difficult to control and almost mutinied, threatening to lynch the prisoners. The prisoners were arraigned, and a high bail was set. The bail was met by friends of the Prophet, and the prisoners would have gone free, but that night they were arrested for treason on the grounds of having declared martial law in Nauvoo. The two prisoners, Joseph and Hyrum, along with eight of their friends, were placed in the unbarred debtors’ room, on the second floor of the small two-story jail on the edge of town.
The next day, June 26, the prisoners were walked through town to the courthouse. Joseph expected to be massacred by the mob in the streets. Nevertheless, he walked boldly along, and as a gesture of defiance even locked arms with the worst mobocrat he could find, and Hyrum in turn locked arms with Joseph.
The next morning, June 27, the Governor broke his promise not to leave Carthage without taking the prisoners along. The Governor had promised protection for the prisoners and knew full well the critical dangers that awaited them. His leaving Carthage may then be regarded as an act of at least tacit complicity. He left the Carthage Greys guarding the jail. In a hasty note written to Emma, Joseph betrayed his fear, “Dear Emma, I am very much resigned to my lot, knowing I am justified and have done the best that could be done. Give my love to the children and all my friends” (HC, 6:605). By that afternoon, all of the Smiths’ friends had been forced to leave except the apostles Willard Richards and John Taylor. A pistol had been smuggled in to Joseph by a visitor. As the hot and sultry day wore on, the prisoners sat silent and depressed. Joseph asked John Taylor to sing “A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief.”
At about five o’clock, a mob of one hundred fifty to two hundred men surrounded the jail. They were fired upon by the Carthage Greys who were guarding the jail. The guards, however, were part of the conspiracy and used blanks. Shortly thereafter, a group of attackers stormed up the stairs. Hyrum was killed immediately. As Hyrum tried to hold the door closed, one of the attackers shot through the door, and Hyrum was struck directly in the face. Joseph fired three times down the stairs wounding three men. He then leaped from the jail window, but as he did so he was struck fatally. As he fell to the ground, he cried, “Oh Lord, my God.” John Taylor was wounded by four separate bullets, and only Willard Richards escaped injury. The attackers then dispersed.
Some weeks later, John Taylor penned a report of the martyrdom that was included in the next addition of the Doctrine and Covenants [D&C 135 -The Martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum].
Feeling that the Mormons would retaliate, the people of Carthage evacuated their town by nightfall. Samuel Smith carried his brothers’ bodies by wagon back to Nauvoo on June 28. In Nauvoo, thousands of mourners filed by their coffins. After making a show of burying them publicly, the bodies were hidden and guarded in fear that they would be exhumed and desecrated.
- Michael J. Preece