Church History Lesson 27 (D&C 101; 103; 105)


From 1831 to 1838, the Church had two centers of population—one in Kirtland, Ohio, and the other in western Missouri. Important events were happening in both places.

In January 1831 the first missionaries arrived in Missouri. In July 1831 Joseph Smith made his first journey to Missouri. There he received a revelation designating Missouri as the place for the city of Zion, with Independence as the center place (D&C 57:1–3). On August 2, 1831 Sidney Rigdon dedicated the land for the gathering of the Saints. The next day the Prophet Joseph Smith dedicated the temple site in Independence.

The Lord indicated from the very beginning that Zion would not be immediately established (D&C 58:1–3). The strict keeping of God’s commandments was a prerequisite in the establishment of and the perpetuation of Zion (v. 2). Tribulation would test the Saints to see if they were worthy of this great reward (v. 2). The Saints could not foresee the “design” or plan of God in bringing them all the way to Zion and then letting them fail in their objective (v. 3). The glory of Zion would come only “after much tribulation” (v. 3).

The Lord told the Saints this before it ever happened so they would “lay it to heart, and receive that which [was] to follow” (D&C 58:5). Instead of expecting the Saints to actually establish Zion (he knew they wouldn’t), the Lord had other purposes in mind (D&C 58:6–8). The Lord brought the Saints to Zion to see if they would be obedient to his word (v. 6). He sought to prepare their hearts to “bear testimony of the things which are to come” (v. 6). He desired to honor them in laying the foundation of Zion and to bear record of it (v. 7). And He wanted to let all of His Saints where Zion shall stand (v. 7).


Problems Arise with Non-Mormon Settlers

In 1832, there were more Saints living in Missouri (800) than in Ohio (150). By 1832 Missouri’s 800 Saints had gathered into five branches in Independence and the surrounding areas of Jackson County. They enjoyed a time of peace and optimism, but then troubles began to arise between the Mormons and other settlers.

Elder Joseph Fielding Smith said:

“Almost as soon as the members of the Church commenced settling in Jackson County, opposition began to show itself. The settlers were incited to violence by their ministers, who started a campaign of abuse and falsehood. . . . The Reverend Finis Ewing publicly distributed the report that ‘the Mormons were the common enemies of mankind,’ while the Reverend Pixley circulated falsehoods among the religious papers of the east, and used his influence among both the Indians and the whites for the destruction of the Church in Jackson County.

“Nearly all the Latter-day Saints were from the Eastern States, while the Missourians were from the South. The Missourians feared that the ‘Mormons’ would increase and take from them their political domination. The question of slavery, even in that day, was quite keen, and the Missourians were determined to keep the state within the control of the slave holders. Above all else, however, was their extreme hatred for the ‘Mormons’ because of their industry and belief. Some of the latter had also failed to show the proper discretion and wisdom, for they openly stated that the Lord had given them the land for their eternal inheritance, and although they were to purchase the lands, yet in time there the city Zion would be built unto which none but the faithful would be privileged to come. Such expressions aroused the Missourians to fever heat.”1

The Unfaithfulness of Some Saints

While the evil designs and lawlessness of some of the people of Missouri were major factors in Saints’ difficulties, the Lord allowed these things to come upon the Saints partly because of their own actions (D&C 101:1–8). Many had come to Zion contrary to the Lord’s express instructions not to gather “in haste” and to be adequately prepared to settle there. Some members would not accept the authority of their local Church leaders. Others criticized the Prophet Joseph, who had returned to Kirtland. Some members were contentious, covetous, selfish, and unbelieving.

The Mob Council at Independence, Missouri

On July 20, 1833, a call went out for all Missourians opposed to the Mormons to meet at the Independence courthouse. Between four and five hundred men assembled and decided that the Mormons had to be expelled, peacefully if possible, forcibly if necessary. A declaration was drawn up for presentation to the Saints. It forbade any future settlement by Mormons in the future. It allowed the Saints to settle their affairs and sell their property so long as they did so immediately. The printing office of the Evening and Morning Star was to close immediately. The leaders of the Church had to use their influence to get the Saints to comply with the provisions of the declaration. And they were given only fifteen minutes to accept the mob’s terms. There was, of course, no way for the Mormons to fulfill such terms—which is just what he mob wanted so they could have a pretext for attacking them.

Violence Erupts at Independence

Elder Joseph Fielding Smith said, “The horde of wretches started forth on their mission of destruction. . . . With the utmost fury these human fiends proceeded to the office of the Evening and Morning Star and razed it to the ground. The office was a part of the dwelling occupied by William W. Phelps. Mrs. Phelps and her children including a sick infant, were thrown out of doors amidst the furniture which was destroyed. hey then proceeded to the store of Gilbert, Whitney and Co., bent on further destruction; but Elder Gilbert assuring them that the goods would be packed by the 23rd of that month, and no more would be sold, they left him and the store and turned their attention to personal violence. They took bishop Edward Partridge and Charles Allen, stripped them and applied a coat of tar which had been mixed with acid which burned into their flesh, and then coated them with feathers. Others of the brethren were scourged, amidst horrid yells and blasphemous oaths, while others in the excitement, for all their captors were intent upon the ‘sport,’ were able to make their escape from similar treatment by the mob.”2

Three days later, on July 23, 1833, the mob came riding through the streets again, shouting blasphemous oaths. The leading elders of the Church—John Corrill, John Whitmer, William W. Phelps, Algernon S. Gilbert, Edward Partridge, and Isaac Morley—offered themselves as a ransom for the Church, agreeing to be whipped or even killed by the mob if that would appease their wrath and spare the Church. But the mob said that “every man, woman and child would be whipped and scourged even to death if they did not leave Jackson County.” Church leaders signed a document agreeing to leave the county as soon as possible in return for a halt to the violence. But the mob failed to keep their part of the agreement and the violence continued.


The Saints Appeal to Governor Dunklin

When the hostilities broke out in Missouri, the brethren sent Oliver Cowdery to Kirtland to report to the Prophet. The Prophet sent back instructions that the Saints were to petition the governor of Missouri for redress and ask for a halt to the wrongs. On October 19 Governor Daniel Dunklin replied, encouraging the Saints to take their grievances to the courts and expressing confidence that such action would solve their problem.

Elder Joseph Fielding Smith said, “Under ordinary circumstances the governor’s advice might have been of some worth. The conditions, however, were of no ordinary nature. The leaders of the mob were Samuel D. Lucas, judge of the county court; Samuel C. Owens, county clerk; John Smith, justice of the peace; Samuel Weston, justice of the peace; William Brown, constable; Thomas Pitcher, deputy constable; James H. Flournoy, postmaster, and Lilburn W. Boggs, lieutenant governor of the state, the latter, however, keeping in the background and aiding and abetting the others in their evil work. For the ‘Mormon’ people to accept the governor’s advice, would mean their trial would be conducted before their avowed and open enemies.”3

In his letter to the leaders of the Church in Missouri on 6 August 1833, the Prophet provided two revelations: Doctrine and Covenants 97, given 2 August 1833, and Doctrine and Covenants 98, in which the Lord warned the inhabitants in Zion to observe his commandments or they would be visited “with sore affliction, with pestilence, with plague, with sword, with vengeance, with devouring fire” (D&C 97:26). The Saints did not repent, and the promised devastations followed in November 1833.

 Violence Continues and Escalates

During the first week of November, 1833, the violence against the Saints continued and escalated. Elder Joseph Fielding Smith provided the following summary:4

— On the night of October 31, about fifty marauders attacked a branch of the Church west of the Big Blue River. They unroofed and partly demolished a number of houses, whipped several men and frightened the women and children, who were forced to flee for safety.

— On the first of November, another attack was made on a branch on the prairie, fourteen miles from Independence.

— The same night another party raided the homes of the Saints in Independence, where a number of houses were demolished and the goods in the store of Gilbert, Whitney and Co., were scattered in the street. . . .

— On Monday, November 4, 1833, mobbers gathered at the Big Blue River and began to destroy property. Nineteen men, members of the Church, gathered in defense, but turned back when they saw the size of the mob. The mob pursued the ‘Mormons’ who fled in various directions for safety. A battled commenced, which left two mobbers and one Church member dead. Philo Dibble was also severely wounded, “but was almost instantly healed by the laying on of hands by Elder Newel Knight. . . .”

— During the next two days more than 1,000 Saints were driven from Jackson County in the bitter cold. Destitute, most of them crossed the Missouri River and found temporary refuge in Clay County.


Reasons for the Missouri Afflictions (D&C 101)

When word of the atrocities in Missouri reached the Prophet Joseph Smith, he was deeply distressed and prayed concerning the redemption of Zion. He wrote a letter to the scattered Saints, dated December 10, 1833, in which he said that “the spirit withheld from him definite knowledge of the reason why the calamity had fallen upon Zion.”5  Six days later, on December 16, he received an answer that is now recorded as D&C 101.

— The Lord permitted their enemies to fill up the cup of their iniquity so that a just judgment might brought against them (vv. 10–11).

— The Saints were afflicted because of their transgressions (D&C 101:2, 6). The Saints must be “chastened for a little season” (v. 4) because of their failure to heed the Lord’s prior commandments concerning Zion (see D&C 97:19–27). “They did not hearken altogether unto the precepts and commandments” which the Lord had given to them (D&C 103:4). And as they had previously been taught, “of him unto whom much is given much is required” (D&C 82:3).

— They were afflicted also because they needed to be “chastened and tried, even as Abraham (D&C 101:4–5).” The Prophet Joseph Smith said, “Those who cannot endure persecution, and stand in the day of affliction, cannot stand in the day when the Son of God shall burst the veil, and appear in all the glory of His Father, with all the holy angels.”6 The Lord’s chastening is a demonstration of His love for us, and it helps us learn obedience and remember Him (D&C 95:1; 105:6; Helaman 12:3; 12:11) .

— They were afflicted because some of the Saints had been slow to hearken unto the Lord (D&C 101:7–8). People sometimes forget God and disregard His counsel “in the day of their peace.”

Words of Compassion and Chastening (D&C 101)

In this revelation the Lord promised the Saints in Missouri that He would not cast them off and would be merciful “in the day of wrath” (v. 9). He also said that the “sword of mine indignation” will fall upon their enemies (vv. 10-12). The phrase “without measure” (v. 11) means that the Lord’s wrath will not be limited or restrained but will come with great fury and intensity. Other promises apply to us all:

— He will save, gather, and comfort His Saints (vv. 11–15).

— Zion will be redeemed in the future (vv. 16–19).

— During the Millennium, there will be no sorrow or death (v. 29).

— A person will grow old, then changed suddenly from mortal to immortal life (vv. 30–31).

— The Lord will reveal all things about the earth and heaven, including how the earth was created and what will become of it (vv. 32–34).

— We can keep our mortal life in proper perspective when we have a knowledge of the Lord’s eternal promises (vv. 35–38).

 Instructions for the Exiled Saints

The Saints were instructed to seek the redemption of Zion by telling them a parable about the future redemption of Zion (vv. 43–62). When the servant in the parable asked when the land would be possessed, the Lord responded, “When I will” (v. 62). These things will be fulfilled “after many days.” The redemption of Zion (meaning, the city of New Jerusalem in Missouri) is still future

In the meantime, we are to continue the work of the gathering to those places the Lord has appointed—His stakes (D&C 101:63–75). And we are to make our stakes “holy places” (D&C 101:21–22).

The Missouri Saints were told to seek for redress (D&C 101:76–95). The Saints followed the Lord’s counsel and sought for redress at the local, state, and national levels. They were denied help, so the Saints left the responsibility for judging in the hands of the Lord and moved on.

Nevertheless, they were commanded to hold claim on their property in Jackson County (D&C 101:96–101). Even though Zion had been temporarily abandoned, the Lord had not set it aside; it shall yet become the center place of Zion.


The Organization of Zion’s Camp

After the Saints were driven from Jackson County, they petitioned Governor Daniel Dunklin of Missouri for assistance in restoring their homes and for protection. The governor expressed a willingness to help if the Saints would organize a group of men for their own protection.

In February 1834, Joseph Smith received word of this offer in Kirtland, Ohio. He responded by organizing a group of men to march nearly 1,000 miles to carry relief to the Saints in Missouri, help them return to their lands, and protect them afterward.

D&C 103 is a revelation giving directions for the Zion’s Camp expedition. The Lord instructs Joseph to gather together the “strength of my house” (v. 22) by organizing Zion’s Camp to go forth to redeem Zion

The Lord promised to redeem Zion and restore His people to their lands in Jackson County, Missouri (D&C 103:5–8, 11–14). However, this promise was conditioned on the Saints’ obedience.

The Lord’s purpose in sending them and His will concerning the redemption of Zion were not fully understood by the Saints. The redemption of Zion would not take place at that time. The Lord had other reasons for organizing Zion’s Camp.

The March of Zion’s Camp

Eventually, Zion’s Camp numbered just over two hundred men plus a few women who accompanied their husbands.

Zion’s Camp marched nearly 1,000 miles from Ohio to Missouri. The journey took about six weeks, leaving on May 5, 1834, and arriving in Missouri on June 25, 1834. They were divided into two major groups: The main group led by the Prophet left Kirtland, Ohio, on May 5th. The second group, led by Hyrum Smith, joined Joseph’s group at Salt River on 8 June. 7

Zion’s Camp suffered much from disease, fatigue, heat, humidity, and lack of food and water. Some days they walked as many as forty miles without adequate provisions. Yet most of these Saints, motivated by charity for their afflicted brothers and sisters and by a deep desire to see the Church settled in the chosen land, endured well the extreme rigors of the journey. There were, however, some who rebelled against the Prophet.

Significant Events of Zion’s Camp

No attempt is made in this lesson to examine in detail the events and miracles of Zion’s Camp. Suffice it to say that, along the way, they saw their Prophet perform numerous miracles and received great counsel from him on how to lead the Saints in righteousness. Soon after Zion’s Camp arrived in Missouri, a severe storm thwarted a planned attack by 330 mobocrats who were determined to wipe out the Mormons in the camp.


Zion’s Camp Is Disbanded Without a Fight

After the camp arrived at the Fishing River, near Jackson County, the Prophet Joseph sent word to Governor Daniel Dunklin that the Saints were ready to accept his proposal to have their lands restored. Even though the governor had retained troops to assist Zion’s Camp, he now feared that the hostile forces gathering in Jackson County would deluge the whole area in blood. He and the Prophet agreed that a military clash would not be wise.

With this announcement, the main object of Zion’s Camp appeared to be defeated. But the Lord made clear that the question of the restoration of the Jackson County lands to the Saints did not entirely depend upon the decision of the governor. Zion was not to be established at the time—not because the Saints’ enemies were too powerful, but because the Saints themselves were not yet fully prepared.

— The Saints were not sufficiently united and had failed to live the law of consecration fully, which was necessary for a Zion people to inherit the land of Zion (D&C 105:1–6).

— The Church had to “wait for a little season” (D&C 105:9–12, 33, 34) before redeeming Zion because the elders needed further instruction and experience. They also needed an endowment of power (in the temple), which had not yet been completed.

— The Lord’s “army” (or people) still needed to become “very great” [or numerous] and “sanctified” [holy or worthy] (D&C 105:31).

The Blessings of Zion’s Camp

Some people thought Zion’s Camp was a failure, but the purposes of Zion’s Camp had been completed (D&C 105:19). Zion’s Camp is an example of how God’s purposes can be accomplished in ways that we may not understand at the time.

— Participants were strengthened by miraculous manifestations of the Lord’s power.

— It tried the faith of the participants, allowing them to prove that they would obey the Lord and sacrifice all things, even their lives if necessary, to do His will.

— It served as a proving ground to determine who was faithful to serve in positions of Church leadership.

— It gave participants an opportunity to associate closely with the Prophet and learn from him, preparing them for future leadership responsibilities.

The Prophet Joseph Smith said, “Brethren, some of you are angry with me, because you did not fight in Missouri; but let me tell you, God did not want you to fight. He could not organize His kingdom with twelve men to open the Gospel door to the nations of the earth, and with seventy men under their direction to follow in their tracks, unless He took them from a body of men who had offered their lives, and who had made as great a sacrifice as did Abraham. Now the Lord has got His Twelve and His Seventy.”8

In February 1835, five months after the camp was disbanded, the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and the First Quorum of the Seventy were organized. Nine of the Twelve Apostles and all 70 members of the Quorum of the Seventy had served in Zion’s Camp.

What We Learn from Zion’s Camp in Our Own Day

Even today, we learn much from the march of Zion’s Camp.

— The purposes of trials (D&C 103:12).

— The importance of obedience (D&C 103:7–10, 36).

— Zion was not to be redeemed in 1834, but “in time ye shall possess the goodly land” (D&C 103:20).

— When Zion is finally redeemed it will be accomplished by the Lord’s power, with appropriate spiritual leadership and with Christ at the head (D&C 103:15–20).

— The need to be willing to sacrifice all things for the Lord (D&C 103:27–28).

— The importance of being unified in the Lord’s work.

— The importance of sustaining the prophet and following his counsel even when it is difficult or when we do not fully understand the reasons for it.


Requirements for the Establishment of Zion

We all look forward to the great day when the land of Zion will be redeemed and the City of Zion built there are the “New Jerusalem” of the latter days. But we still have much to do to prepare for that great day:

— The Saints must learn obedience (D&C 105:3, 6, 37).

— They must care for the poor and needy (D&C 105:3).

— They must be “united according to the union required by the law of the celestial kingdom” (D&C 105:4–5).

— They must be taught more perfectly, gain more experience, and know their duties more perfectly (D&C 105:9–10).

— They must gain experience (D&C 105:10). And they must do their duty more perfectly.

— They must be endowed with power from on high, which will require a temple (D&C 105:11–12, 33).

— They must be faithful, enduring in humility to the end (D&C 105:12).

The Lord counseled the Saints to seek peace, even with those who had persecuted them. He promised that in return, “all things shall work together for your good” (D&C 105:38–40).


1. Essentials in Church History, 27th ed. [1974], 131–132.
2. Essentials in Church History, 134.
3. Essentials in Church History, 136.
4. Essentials in Church History, 136–137.
5. Doctrine and Covenants Commentary, 637.
6. Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Elder Joseph Fielding Smith [1976], 42.
7. For details, see History of the Church, 2:87–33.
8. History of the Church, 2:182.