Section 52: Location of Zion
From all parts of the land came the saints to attend the fourth conference of the Church which had been announced in a revelation in February 1831 (D&C 44). The prior three conferences had all been held in Fayette on June 9, 1830, September 26, 1830, and January 2, 1831. This conference opened on the morning of the 3rd of June 1831 (a Friday) in Kirtland, Ohio, and closed on the 5th of June. Joseph Smith presided. Fourteen months had elapsed since the organization of the Church with six members. Forty-four elders attended the conferences. The membership of the Church by this time numbered about two thousand.
There was a great outpouring of the Spirit upon the assemblage. Several men were ordained to the office of high priest. Joseph Smith ordained five brethren to that office. Then Lyman Wight, one of the high priests ordained by Joseph, was instructed to ordain Joseph Smith and seventeen other men to the same office. This was the first time anyone in this dispensation had been ordained a high priest. In 1829 Peter, James, and John had bestowed apostolic authority upon Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, including the authority to ordain high priests. It was by this apostolic authority and by his office as first elder in the Church that Joseph ordained Lyman Wight and the others. It should be noted that Lyman Wight did not bestow upon Joseph Smith any priesthood authority Joseph did not already hold. This same pattern of “I-ordain-youyou-ordain-me” ordination had also been followed on April 6, 1830, when the Church was organized. On that date Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery ordained each other as elders in the Church, even though they already held apostolic authority from Peter, James, and John. As particular priesthood offices were created in the Church, it was necessary even for Joseph Smith to be ordained thereto according to the revealed pattern. Though Joseph had been an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ since May of 1829, he became first an elder and then a high priest in the Church only as those offices came into existence, and he did so in the revealed manner.
During the conference, Joseph prophesied that John the Revelator was then among the ten tribes to help prepare them for their return from their long dispersion. After Lyman Wight was ordained an high priest, the Spirit fell upon Brother Wight, and he prophesied concerning the coming of Christ. He said there were some in the congregation that would live until the Savior comes in glory. He prophesied that some of the saints would suffer martyrdom and seal their testimonies of Jesus Christ with their blood.
Satan even revealed himself during this conference. Parley P. Pratt recorded in his autobiography, “There also were some strange manifestations of false spirits which were immediately rebuked” (Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, 72). Satan bound two brethren, Harvey Whitlock and John Murdock, so that they could not speak. Joseph commanded the devil in the name of Christ, and he departed, much to the joy and comfort of the saints (John Whitmer’s History of the Church, chapter 7).
There had been rumors for months among the saints concerning the location of Zion. Until this section was received, no one knew that location. Section 52 was received on either the last day of the conference or on the day following. In verses 2 and 42 the Lord reveals that the next conference of the Church will be held in Missouri, which is Zion—“The land which I will consecrate unto my people, which are a remnant of Jacob, and those who are heirs according to the covenant” and “Missouri, which is the land of your inheritance.”
The Lord then called twenty-eight missionaries to leave their homes and travel the one thousand or so miles from Kirtland to Independence to preach the gospel. They were commanded to go forth two by two and proclaim the word, on the way, to every congregation where they could get a hearing. Although the western frontier of Missouri was their destination, they were commanded to take different routes on their way so they might broaden their exposure (verse 33). This was an exciting and dramatic revelation! The saints now knew where the gathering would take place.
The saints will live in Independence from June 1831 through 1833 when they will be forced to leave and move farther north. They will then leave Missouri altogether after the “extermination order” is issued by Governor Lilburn W. Boggs on October 27, 1838.
We have never lost the theology that Zion, the New Jerusalem, will be founded in Missouri and will be a gathering place of the saints before the Lord’s second coming. We have dedicated a temple site there, and in the Lord’s due time Zion will yet be established in Independence. Some saints will be called to go there but not all saints, certainly. The stake there will be the center stake of the Church. When the Lord returns to his temple, Jackson County will be the headquarters of the political kingdom of God—the center of the earth’s government. A passage in Isaiah suggests that during the Millennium the secular leadership will center in the New Jerusalem and the spiritual leadership in Old Jerusalem: “And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem” (Isaiah 2:3).
Some have suggested that Joseph’s use of the word “enemies” in verse 42 of this section may not have been exactly the word the Lord intended. In the verse the Missourians are referred to as the “enemies” of the saints. This kind of pre-conditioning may have resulted in a bias in the minds of the saints against the Missourians with whom they had to deal daily. As the saints moved into Missouri, they had to buy land, building materials, and provisions from the Missourians. As the saints were forced to do business with their “enemies” the relationship between the saints and the Missourians soon became an adversarial one resulting in the eventual persecution and expulsion of the saints. Perhaps in verse 42 the Lord wanted to simply express the idea that the Missourians did not know the gospel and would likely be unsympathetic toward the interests and intentions of the saints. Perhaps he would have wanted to warn them to deal with the Missourians in a kindly and diplomatic way.
As we have mentioned above, the date recorded for this revelation in the heading of the Doctrine and Covenants, June 7, 1831, is incorrect. Joseph indicated in the History of the Church (HC, 1:175-77) that this revelation was given the day after the conference closed. Since it was a three-day conference, beginning on Friday, June 3, and ending on Sunday June 5, the revelation had to have been received on Monday June 6. This date is corroborated by contemporary accounts (see Cook, Revelations of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 71).
1 Behold, thus saith the Lord unto the elders whom he hath called and chosen in these last days, by the voice of his Spirit—
2 Saying: I, the Lord, will make known unto you what I will that ye shall do from this time until the next conference, which shall be held in Missouri, upon the land which I will consecrate unto my people, which are a remnant of Jacob, and those who are heirs according to the covenant.
verse 2 “the next conference, which shall be held in Missouri” The Lord had commanded that conferences of the Church be held every three months or as often as the elders, assembled in conference, decided (see D&C 20:61). Usually the leaders of the Church decided, in one conference, the date and place of the next. The next one was obviously to be held in Missouri, “the land which I will consecrate unto my people.” This verse amounts to a revelation as to the general location of Zion. The exact location of Zion, however, has not yet been revealed.
3 Wherefore, verily I say unto you, let my servants Joseph Smith, Jun., and Sidney Rigdon take their journey as soon as preparations can be made to leave their homes, and journey to the land of Missouri.
verse 3 “let my servants Joseph Smith, Jun., and Sidney Rigdon . . . leave their homes” The sacrifices required by the Lord in these early days were no less difficult for Joseph and Emma than they were for the other saints. Four months prior to Joseph’s receiving this revelation, Joseph and Emma had arrived in Kirtland. At that time Emma had been six months pregnant. The Smiths had first boarded with the Whitneys, and had been in their own quarters on the Morley farm less than three months. Barely a month before this call was received, Emma had given birth to twins who both died within a few hours—her second and third babies to die at birth. Soon afterward the Smiths had adopted the Murdock twins, and now Joseph was called to leave Emma in Kirtland to the care of friends and travel to Missouri for the sake of Zion.
4 And inasmuch as they are faithful unto me, it shall be made known unto them what they shall do;
5 And it shall also, inasmuch as they are faithful, be made known unto them the land of your inheritance.
6 And inasmuch as they are not faithful, they shall be cut off, even as I will, as seemeth me good.
verses 4-6 Those of us who study scripture are always more comfortable when the Lord is expressing his love and tender mercy for each of us, and less comfortable when he is explaining the consequences of his justice. Our natural reaction to these three verses is to fly to the defense of Joseph and Sidney and think, “Is it really necessary that the Lord speak to them so plainly?” These verses do remind us that God is a God of Justice as well as mercy, and that he is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34).
verses 7-33 Twenty-eight elders, in addition to Joseph and Sidney, are called to travel as missionaries to Missouri by different routes, preaching the gospel as they go. While this work does contain some biographical information, many of these missionaries will remain unknown to the reader. Excellent biographical summaries for these and all other individuals mentioned in the Doctrine and Covenants may be found in Dean Jessee’s Papers of Joseph Smith (see also Black, Who’s Who in the Doctrine and Covenants).
7 And again, verily I say unto you, let my servant Lyman Wight and my servant John Corrill take their journey speedily;
8 And also my servant John Murdock, and my servant Hyrum Smith, take their journey unto the same place by the way of Detroit.
9 And let them journey from thence preaching the word by the way, saying none other things than that which the prophets and apostles have written, and that which is taught them by the Comforter through the prayer of faith.
verse 9 The missionaries are to teach only what they find in scripture when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; they are reminded not teach their own ideas.
10 Let them go two by two, and thus let them preach by the way in every congregation, baptizing by water, and the laying on of the hands by the water’s side.
verse 10 “Let them go two by two” Here is one modern scriptural basis for the practice in the Church of sending out missionaries in pairs.
11 For thus saith the Lord, I will cut my work short in righteousness, for the days come that I will send forth judgment unto victory.
verse 11 “I will cut my work short in righteousness” The Lord will make “short work” of the world when he moves suddenly and in total righteousness to end it and to establish his millennial kingdom. Missionaries, like these called to Missouri, are sent out to warn and prepare the world for the sudden and righteous judgments of God that are soon to come.
12 And let my servant Lyman Wight beware, for Satan desireth to sift him as chaff.
verse 12 The reader will recall that Lyman Wight, before his conversion to the gospel, had been a Campbellite and leader of a small group of families who had established themselves on the Isaac Morley farm near Kirtland. They were living a type of united order on a small scale—the so-called “common stock family.” They had become involved in petty controversies and major conflicts. Some members of the family had decided that what belonged to one belonged to all, hence they would take each other’s clothes and property and use them without permission. Joseph will advise them to abandon their common stock program.
13 And behold, he that is faithful shall be made ruler over many things.
verses 14-19 In these next six verses, the Lord teaches the secret or key (“a pattern in all things”) for discerning those individuals who are of God and those who are not. This teaching is made necessary because “Satan is abroad in the land” and will try to deceive by imitating the godly individual. The Lord is teaching this grand secret so that it might be used to discern those who lead and teach in the Church. In verses 15 and 16, “he that prayeth” and “he that speaketh” refers to those who lead and teach in the Church. These may also include the missionaries of the Church.
The grand secret is threefold: (1) He who is “of God” is obedient to the commandments of God, and he evidences, in his very character, the fruits (gifts of the Spirit—those increments of spiritual growth that are increments of the attributes of Christ) consequent to that obedience. (2) He “trembleth” under God’s power—he evidences a contrite spirit, and he is submissive to God. (3) He brings forth positive fruits. He who obeys the Lord’s commands and grows spiritually brings forth positive fruits in himself. Also, he naturally desires to influence others to do the same—he also brings forth good fruits in all those to whom he ministers and teaches.
He that fails to obey the Lord’s commandments, is not contrite and submissive, and who does not naturally focus on the spiritual betterment of others is not of God. He is the deceiver.
14 And again, I will give unto you a pattern in all things, that ye may not be deceived; for Satan is abroad in the land, and he goeth forth deceiving the nations—
15 Wherefore he that prayeth, whose spirit is contrite, the same is accepted of me if he obey mine ordinances.
verse 15 The unspoken implication of this verse is that there will be some who pray and appear to be contrite, yet their prayers are insincere and they only feign contrition. They are also hypocritical in their appearance of obedience—they do not obey or they obey for the wrong reasons. These may be found in and out of the Church. Again, they are the deceivers.
“obey mine ordinances” The expression ordinances here likely refers to all laws, statutes, and covenants—the commandments—associated with the restored gospel.
16 He that speaketh, whose spirit is contrite, whose language is meek and edifieth, the same is of God if he obey mine ordinances.
verse 16 Again, just as in the previous verse, we find here an implication that the deceiver will feign contrition and meekness in his speaking and teaching, yet he is disobedient to the Lord’s commands and he lacks the spiritual character of an obedient servant.
17 And again, he that trembleth under my power shall be made strong, and shall bring forth fruits of praise and wisdom, according to the revelations and truths which I have given you.
verse 17 “he that trembleth under my power” This expression refers to the genuine contrition and submissiveness of man. He who feels his frailties, inadequacies, and weaknesses compared to God is likely to obey—though it be difficult—and consequently grow spiritually (“bring forth fruits of praise and wisdom”). It requires little effort to disobey. One need only follow the promptings of his natural-man self. He who obeys must exert real effort in overcoming his natural tendencies, even to the point of trembling in the Lord’s presence.
18 And again, he that is overcome and bringeth not forth fruits, even according to this pattern, is not of me.
verse 18 “he that is overcome and bringeth not forth fruits” This phrase refers to those individuals who show outward evidence of being overcome by worldly influences and therefore lack evidence of spiritual growth.
19 Wherefore, by this pattern ye shall know the spirits in all cases under the whole heavens.
verse 19 The Lord has given this pattern so that each of us may be able to discern those of God from those of Satan.
20 And the days have come; according to men’s faith it shall be done unto them.
verse 20 “And the days have come” This expression refers to the last days prophesied of in the scriptures, when the fulness of the gospel would be preached and when it would be “done unto them” according to their faith—those leaders, teachers, and missionaries who are of God will receive their just eternal reward.
21 Behold, this commandment is given unto all the elders whom I have chosen.
verse 21 “this commandment” This likely refers to section 52 in its entirety, though the Lord could be referring more specifically to the important pattern that he has described in verses 14 through 19.
22 And again, verily I say unto you, let my servant Thomas B. Marsh and my servant Ezra Thayre take their journey also, preaching the word by the way unto this same land.
verse 22 “and my servant Ezra Thayre” This command for Ezra Thayre to travel to Missouri as a companion to Thomas B. Marsh will be revoked less than two weeks following Joseph’s receiving this revelation (see D&C 56:5) due to Thayre’s lack of preparation. He will, however, be called again about seven months from the date of this revelation (see D&C 75:31).
“unto this same land” That is, to Missouri.
23 And again, let my servant Isaac Morley and my servant Ezra Booth take their journey, also preaching the word by the way unto this same land.
24 And again, let my servants Edward Partridge and Martin Harris take their journey with my servants Sidney Rigdon and Joseph Smith, Jun.
25 Let my servants David Whitmer and Harvey Whitlock also take their journey, and preach by the way unto this same land.
26 And let my servants Parley P. Pratt and Orson Pratt take their journey, and preach by the way, even unto this same land.
27 And let my servants Solomon Hancock and Simeon Carter also take their journey unto this same land, and preach by the way.
28 Let my servants Edson Fuller and Jacob Scott also take their journey.
29 Let my servants Levi W. Hancock and Zebedee Coltrin also take their journey.
30 Let my servants Reynolds Cahoon and Samuel H. Smith also take their journey.
31 Let my servants Wheeler Baldwin and William Carter also take their journey.
32 And let my servants Newel Knight and Selah J. Griffin both be ordained, and also take their journey.
verse 32 The commandment given these two brethren was also changed through no fault of their own (see D&C 56:6-7).
Though twenty-eight missionaries were called in this revelation to go the Missouri, thirty actually went. One of the original twenty-eight did not go (Ezra Thayer), and three additional brethren were called later (see sections 53, 55, and 56).
33 Yea, verily I say, let all these take their journey unto one place, in their several courses, and one man shall not build upon another’s foundation, neither journey in another’s track.
verse 33 “one man shall not build upon another’s foundation, neither journey in another’s track” As the missionaries traveled to Missouri, they were commanded to take different routes so that they might preach to as many people as possible.
34 He that is faithful, the same shall be kept and blessed with much fruit.
35 And again, I say unto you, let my servants Joseph Wakefield and Solomon Humphrey take their journey into the eastern lands;
36 Let them labor with their families, declaring none other things than the prophets and apostles, that which they have seen and heard and most assuredly believe, that the prophecies may be fulfilled.
37 In consequence of transgression, let that which was bestowed upon Heman Basset be taken from him, and placed upon the head of Simonds Ryder.
verse 37 “let that which was bestowed upon Heman Basset be taken from him” One of the Kirtland saints involved in “the family” before the arrival of Joseph Smith, Heman Basset was one of those most caught up in the false spiritual manifestations discussed in sections 46, 49-50. He had left the Church by May 1831, a month before this revelation was received. “That which was bestowed upon” him was the office of an elder in the Church and a call to preach the gospel in the Kirtland area.
“and placed upon the head of Simonds Ryder” Symonds Ryder is called on a mission. The story of his conversion and apostasy are interesting. He was a Campbellite preacher who was converted after reading an account in the newspaper of a great earthquake in China which destroyed Peking. Six weeks prior he had heard a young Mormon girl predict the destruction of that city. The superficiality of his conversion was soon evident. In the letter, signed by Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon, in which Brother Ryder was called on a mission and in the license-to-preach he received from the Church, his name was spelled R-i-d-e-r instead of R-y-d-e-r. He was greatly offended and claimed that his call could not have come from God because the “Spirit” would never err and misspell his name! He left the Church in the fall of 1831, and he later assisted others in tarring and feathering Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon in March 1832 (see the background material for section 81). It is ironic that his name is still not spelled correctly in the Doctrine and Covenants. His tombstone and his signature give the spelling as Symonds Ryder, not Symonds Rider or Simonds Ryder.
38 And again, verily I say unto you, let Jared Carter be ordained a priest, and also George James be ordained a priest.
39 Let the residue of the elders watch over the churches, and declare the word in the regions round about them; and let them labor with their own hands that there be no idolatry nor wickedness practised.
verse 39 “Let the residue of the elders watch over the churches” The Lord commands those elders not assigned to go as missionaries to Missouri to stay home and be the priesthood leaders for the saints in the branches (“churches”) in and around Kirtland.
“let them labor with their own hands that there be no idolatry nor wickedness practised” The Lord reminds the saints that the law of consecration which is to be practiced in Kirtland is not going to mean a free ride for anyone but is an opportunity and an obligation to work as faithful stewards for the benefit of all. Those who are more interested in what they might obtain from the labor of others than they are in what they might contribute (these value their own material possessions above their covenant obligations) may be accused of “idolatry” as well as “wickedness.”
40 And remember in all things the poor and the needy, the sick and the afflicted, for he that doeth not these things, the same is not my disciple.
verse 40 “remember in all things the poor and the needy” The Lord seldom speaks of the law of consecration and stewardship without commenting on the importance of looking after the poor and the needy. The care of the poor and the needy is obviously a most important and nonnegotiable requirement for the saints if they are to be celestial people.
41 And again, let my servants Joseph Smith, Jun., and Sidney Rigdon and Edward Partridge take with them a recommend from the church. And let there be one obtained for my servant Oliver Cowdery also.
verse 41 “a recommend” The Lord has previously commanded that those moving from branch to branch carry a recommend (see D&C 20:64, 84), a written document certifying the holder’s worthiness and good standing in the Church. Even the leaders of the Church were required to observe the policy (see also D&C 72:17-19). In our day this requirement is observed by forwarding individual membership records from one church unit to another. Also, with modern means of communication, a bishop can contact a new member’s previous bishop for confirmation of good standing even before receiving printed membership records.
42 And thus, even as I have said, if ye are faithful ye shall assemble yourselves together to rejoice upon the land of Missouri, which is the land of your inheritance, which is now the land of your enemies.
verse 42 “the land of your inheritance, which is now the land of your enemies” As mentioned in the introduction of this section, this phrase was a clear foreshadowing of, and possibly even a contributing factor to, the difficulties to come. When the saints began to gather in Jackson County, Missouri, the local non-LDS inhabitants quickly became antagonistic.
43 But, behold, I, the Lord, will hasten the city in its time, and will crown the faithful with joy and with rejoicing.
verse 43 “I, the Lord, will hasten the city in its time” This phrase refers to the city of New Jerusalem, the latter-day Zion.
44 Behold, I am Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and I will lift them up at the last day. Even so. Amen.
verse 44 “I will lift them up at the last day” The Lord avows that he will exalt them (“the faithful” in the previous verse) at his coming (see also the commentary for D&C 17:8).
He was a Methodist minister in Mantua, Ohio—a small town near Hiram, Ohio— and was a man of “more than ordinary culture and with strong natural abilities.” He was a friend of John and Elsa Johnson of Hiram, Ohio. One day in 1831, Ezra Booth, along with the Johnsons, visited Joseph in his home in Kirtland. Elsa Johnson at the time had been afflicted with a chronically “lame arm” and was not, at the time of their visit to Joseph, able to lift her hand to her head. Ezra Booth and the Johnsons visited Joseph partly out of curiosity and partly to see for themselves what there might be in the “New Doctrine.” During the interview, the conversation turned to the ancient Apostles. Someone said, “Here is Mrs. Johnson with a lame arm. Has God given any power to men on earth to cure her?” A few moments later, when the conversation had turned to another subject, Joseph rose, walked across the room, took Elsa Johnson by the hand, and said in the most solemn and impressive manner: “Woman, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ I command thee to be whole.” He then immediately left the room. The group was awe-struck at the presumption of the man and the calm assurance with which he spoke. Mrs. Johnson at once lifted her arm with ease, and on her return home the next day was able to do her washing without difficulty or pain.
Ezra Booth came into the Church shortly after witnessing this miraculous healing. He was ordained an elder and called, in section 52, to go to Missouri as a companion of Isaac Morley. While in Missouri, he was disillusioned to find that he was not granted that which he had requested of the Lord: the power to “smite men and make them believe.” It appears that he required a continuous flow of miraculous manifestations to maintain his spiritual vitality. When he learned that faith, humility, and patience were required, he was disappointed and turned away from the Church.
He announced his apostasy in September 1831, about the time Joseph was moving from Kirtland to Hiram, Ohio (see the commentary for section 64), and he was excommunicated from the Church. He was later to write a series of nine anti-Mormon letters that were initially published in the Ohio Star in Ravenna, Ohio. They were eventually also published in Eber D. Howe’s book, Mormonism Unvailed (sic). Booth’s letters did not deal with any fundamental truths but rather decried “lightness and levity” in the Prophet and a “proneness to jesting and joking”—also a “temper easily irritated.” He also brought up other points that did not bear on the doctrine, rather on what he perceived as inconsistencies in the restored Church. His letters played a direct role in inflaming mob violence against the saints in Hiram.
- Michael J. Preece