Learning to Love
Doctrine and Covenants

Section 40: Judge Not By Michael J. Preece

Section 40: Judge Not

Within a few weeks of James Covill’s “conversion” (see section 39), he fizzled out and left the Church, largely because of the fear of persecution and his unwillingness to leave his ministry and to his reluctance to obey the Lord’s command to move to Ohio. He never was actually baptized into the Church.

Doubtless, the saints wondered how a man could be fully committed and have his heart right before the Lord one minute, and be out of the Church the next. The Saints’ tongues likely wagged and passed judgment on their erstwhile Brother Covill. In one of the great verses of scripture, the Lord reminds us not to judge but to leave the judging to him: “It remaineth with me to do with him as seemeth me good” (D&C 40:3).

Section 40 was the last of the revelations now recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants to be received in New York.

Scripture Mastery

D&C 40 Judge Not

D&C 40:3 It remaineth with me to do with him as seemeth me good.

1 Behold, verily I say unto you, that the heart of my servant James Covill was right before me, for he covenanted with me that he would obey my word.

verse 1 Apparently at one time James Covill was truly convinced of the truth, and his intentions were pure.

2 And he received the word with gladness, but straightway Satan tempted him; and the fear of persecution and the cares of the world caused him to reject the word.

verse 2 “he received the word with gladness” The Lord’s reference here is to the parable of the sower (Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23), particularly the man who received the word of God in stony places: “But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy [with gladness] receiveth it; Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended” (Matthew 13:20-21).

Among all of the worldly influences that led James Covill away, the Lord particularly mentions “the fear of persecution.” Again, the contrast between Covill and Sidney Rigdon is notable and informative.

3 Wherefore he broke my covenant, and it remaineth with me to do with him as seemeth me good. Amen.

verse 3 “he broke my covenant” Since he never was baptized, it is evident that the covenant which Covill had made with the Lord was personal. But the Lord had accepted it, and then Covill broke it.

“it remaineth with me to do with him as seemeth me good” There is only one who is qualified and authorized to judge a man; the Lord Jesus Christ (John 5:22). This statement by the Lord contains a veiled warning to all of us. We should not judge (Matthew 7:1-5).

Character Vignette

Newell Kimball Whitney

It may be noted that Brother Whitney’s first name, Newell is spelled with two “l’s” in most of the LDS scholarly literature, but with one “l” in the Doctrine and Covenants. Perhaps we may conclude that it is of little importance how we spell it. Brother Whitney was born in Vermont on February 5, 1795, and was thus almost eleven years older than the Prophet. After fighting in the War of 1812, he became an Indian trader at Green Bay, Lake Michigan. He next settled in the Ohio where he met Algernon Sidney Gilbert, a merchant in Painesville, Ohio. Together they established a successful store in Kirtland.

In 1822 he married Elizabeth Ann Smith, who has come to be known in our church history as Mother Whitney. When Oliver Cowdery and his fellow missionaries came to Kirtland (see section 32) en route to Missouri, the Whitneys were Campbellites and members of Sidney Rigdon’s congregation. On hearing the gospel preached by these elders, the Whitneys were converted.

Mother Whitney told the story that one night prior to the arrival of Elder Cowdery and his companions, she and her husband were praying to the Lord to learn how they might obtain the gift of the Holy Ghost. They “saw a vision as a cloud of glory” resting upon their house, and heard a voice from heaven saying, “Prepare to receive the word of the Lord, for it is coming.” Shortly afterwards Oliver Cowdery and his associates came with the Book of Mormon and with the message of the restored gospel (HC, 2:486, footnote).

Brief Historical Setting

Late in January, Joseph, Emma, and others traveled the 300 miles from Fayette to Kirtland by sleigh, arriving in Kirtland on February 1, 1831. Joseph and Emma were invited to live with the Newell K. Whitneys, and they did so for five months. Newell Whitney was a co-owner of the Gilbert and Whitney store in Kirtland along with A. Sidney Gilbert. Shortly after their arrival in Kirtland, Joseph received a revelation calling Edward Partridge to serve as the first bishop of the Church in this dispensation [D&C 41 -Edward Partridge Called as First Bishop]. For an introduction to Edward Partridge, see the introductory commentary for sections 35 and 36. Less than one week later, Joseph received a doctrinally important revelation introducing the law of consecration and other laws important to the conduct of church members in their everyday lives [D&C 42 -The Law].

- Michael J. Preece