Church History Lesson 16 (D&C 37–40)
The Church at the End of 1830
● Toward the end of 1830, Church membership numbered a few hundred.
● In the western New York area, about seventy baptized members were frequently in contact with the Prophet as they gathered for meetings.
● In Kirtland, Ohio, and nearby communities, over a hundred settlers had been baptized within a month of the arrival of the missionaries to the Lamanites. This number was rapidly increasing.
● Two early converts from Kirtland, Sidney Rigdon and Edward Partridge traveled to New York to inquire of the Prophet Joseph regarding the Lord’s will for them personally. (Edward Partridge had not been baptized in Kirtland but was baptized by the Prophet Joseph in Fayette on 11 December 1830).
● The Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible. Joseph Smith had commenced an inspired revision of the Bible in June of 1830. In connection with this work, some writings of Moses (the Book of Moses) were revealed, including visions and prophecies of Enoch (Moses 6 and 7) and a short description of the City of Enoch or Zion. (Moses 7:18–19)
● During the month of December 1830, Joseph Smith received by revelation the remainder of the book of Moses. Chapters 6 and 7 dealt specifically with the establishment of Zion in Enoch’s day.
● Two things were needed before Zion could be realized in this dispensation: revelation from the Lord giving his law and the revealed order of Zion, and the preparation and sanctification of the Saints.
● During the third conference of the Church, the Prophet received Doctrine and Covenants 38. In it the Lord said that he was “the same which had taken the Zion of Enoch into mine own bosom” (D&C 38:4).
● The Lord also revealed why he commanded the Saints to move to Ohio: “There I will give unto you my law; and there you shall be endowed with power from on high” (D&C 38:32). This was the Lord’s answer to those who wondered why they should move three hundred miles to the west in the dead of winter.
GATHERING A ZION PEOPLE
Gathering to Ohio
The Prophet Joseph Smith said, “Soon after the words of Enoch were given, the Lord gave the following commandment,”1 which consisted of section 37 of the Doctrine and Covenants. The Saints were, at that time, still in New York, but were now receiving word that they were to gather to Ohio.
● The Saints are called to gather at the Ohio (D&C 37:1–4).
● The commandment to gather was repeated on January 2, 1831, by a revelation given through Joseph Smith at a conference of the Church at Fayette, New York (D&C 38).
● The Savior made promises to the Saints and plead with the Father for them (D&C 38:5–8).
— The kingdom is theirs, along with blessings heretofore unknown (D&C 38:9, 15).
— They will inherit a land of promise (D&C 38:18–20).
— He will be their king and lawgiver (D&C 38:21–22).
— The Lord’s law to his Church will be given (D&C 38:32; 41:2–3).
— An endowment from on high will be received (D&C 38:32).
— Missionaries will be sent to all nations (D&C 38:33; 39:15).
— They will receive material prosperity (D&C 38:39).
● The endowment would be provided in the temple that they would be commanded to build after they had gathered together in one place. This was one key reason why they were commanded to gather.
The Prophet Joseph Smith said, “What was the object of gathering the Jews, or the people of God in any age of the world? The main object was to build unto the Lord a house whereby He could reveal unto His people the ordinances of His house and the glories of His kingdom, and teach the people the way of salvation; for there are certain ordinances and principles that, when they are taught and practiced, must be done in a place or house built for that purpose. It was the design of the councils of heaven before the world was, that the principles and laws of the priesthood should be predicated upon the gathering of the people in every age of the world.”2
The Saints Gather to Kirtland
● D&C 37:1–4 The saints are called to gather at the Ohio.
● D&C 38 The commandment to gather was repeated on January 2, 1831, by a revelation given through Joseph Smith at a conference of the Church at Fayette, New York.
● D&C 38:9–22, The Savior makes promises to the Saints and pleads with the
32–33, 39 Father for them.
— D&C 38:9, 15 The kingdom is theirs, along with blessings heretofore unknown
— D&C 38:18–20 An inheritance in a land of promise
— D&C 38:21–22 He will be their king and lawgiver.
— D&C 38:32; 41:2–3 The Lord’s law to his Church will be given
— D&C 38:32 An endowment from on high will be received
— D&C 38:33; 39:15 Missionaries will be sent to all nations.
— D&C 38:39 Material prosperity
● D&C 38:24–42 Commandments for a Zion people
Another reason for gathering was to strengthen the Saints and help them become a Zion people. The Lord provided several key commandments that would help them accomplish this mighty change in their hearts.
— Esteem their brothers and sisters as themselves (vv. 24–25).
— Be one (v. 27).
— Go to Ohio (physically gather) v. 32).
— Beware of pride and the love of riches (v. 39).
— Labor with their might to raise the voice of warning (in meekness) (vv. 40–41).
— Go out from the wicked and be clean (v. 42).
— “Be ye clean that bear the vessels of the Lord” (v. 42).
Dr. Daniel H. Ludlow said, “In ancient Israel, certain vessels (bowls, urns, vases, and other containers) and utensils were used in religious feasts and ceremonies. The vessels that were to be used in the temple had special significance and were handled only by those who were worthy and authorized and who had properly prepared themselves. In a somewhat similar manner, the Lord has indicated that his Saints should come ‘out from among the wicked’ (38:42) and leave the worldliness of Babylon so they will be worthy to ‘bear the vessels of the Lord’ (133:5).”3
● Between January and May 1831, most Church members in New York sold, rented, or left their farms and made the 300–mile journey to Ohio, making great sacrifices to be obedient.
● Newly baptized converts flowed into Kirtland from New England, the southern States, and Canada. Almost 1,000 Saints had gathered to Kirtland by the time the Temple was built. Joseph and Emma Smith immediately obeyed the commandment to go to Ohio.
● Emma Smith was pregnant at the time, and endured the bumpy journey by sleigh over snow-packed country roads. As it turned out, she was pregnant with twins. This is a pattern of which we would do well to take notice: Nearly every time the Lord asked the Prophet and his family to move, it was in winter and Emma was pregnant.
● They were heading for a strange city where they had no home and very few people who would even know them. Many of their friends would eventually follow. But the Prophet wanted to set the example by going immediately. And so they went.
● The Prophet Joseph Smith said, “The latter part of January, in company with Brothers Sidney Rigdon and Edward Partridge, I started with my wife for Kirtland, Ohio, where we arrived about the first of February, and were kindly received and welcomed into the house of Brother Newel K. Whitney. My wife and I lived in the family of Brother Whitney several weeks, and received every kindness and attention which could be expected, and especially from Sister Whitney.”4
● The kindness with which the Whitneys received Joseph and Emma was a God-send. But when they first met, they were complete strangers.
● Elder B. H. Roberts said, “About the first of February, 1831, a sleigh containing four persons drove through the streets of Kirtland and drew up in front of the store of Gilbert and Whitney. One of the men, a young and stalwart personage, alighted, and springing up the steps walked into the store and to where the junior partner was standing. “Newel K. Whitney! Thou art the man!” he exclaimed, extending his hand cordially, as if to an old and familiar acquaintance. “You have the advantage of me,” replied the merchant, as he mechanically took the proffered hand, “I could not call you by name as you have me.” “I am Joseph the Prophet,” said the stranger smiling. “You’ve prayed me here, now what do you want of me?” The Prophet, it is said, while in the East had seen the Whitneys, in vision, praying for his coming to Kirtland.”5
The Gathering of Israel in the Latter Days
● 10th Article of Faith We believe in a literal gathering of Israel in the latter days.
The Prophet Joseph Smith said, “All that the prophets . . . have written, from the days of righteous Abel, down to the last man that has left any testimony on record for our consideration, in speaking of the salvation of Israel in the last days, goes directly to show that it consists in the work of the gathering.”6
● In the 1800s, a convert was baptized and then “gathered” geographically with the Saints in an appointed place: Kirtland, Ohio; Independence, Far West, Nauvoo, or Salt Lake City.
● D&C 115:6 Gathering in every nation
Bruce R. McConkie said:
“This promised gathering of the Lord’s chosen people was the hope and prayer of all the prophets of Israel. Of it they spoke, and wrote, and prophesied. Even after the Lord Jesus had completed his earthly ministry, the ancient apostles asked, ‘Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?’
“He answered that this glorious eventuality was not for their day; that it was not for them to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power’ (Acts 1:6–8); and that the gathering of Israel was, thus, to await the great day of restoration.
[This gathering] “shall continue until the righteous are assembled into the congregations of the Saints in all the nations of the earth.”7
Bruce R. McConkie continued:
“We are now in a new era of church growth and development. In the early days of this dispensation, in the very nature of things, if the saints were to survive as a people, they had to assemble together in chosen places. Otherwise, they would have been lost among the masses of men overcome by the world.
“’But now, in large measure, we are past that stage of our history . . . We are becoming a world church—not an American church, not a British church, not a Mexican church, but a church for all mankind, for the honest and upright in every nation.
“The place of gathering for the Mexican Saints is in Mexico; the place of gathering for the Guatemalan Saints is in Guatemala; the place of gathering for the Brazilian Saints is in Brazil; and so it goes throughout the length and breadth of the whole earth. Japan is for the Japanese; Korea is for the Koreans; Australia is for the Australians; every nation is the gathering place for its own people.”8
Boyd K. Packer said, [In April 1973, President Harold B. Lee, the 11th President of the Church, quoted those words in general conference. In doing so, he] “in effect, announced that the pioneering phase of gathering was now over. The gathering is now to be out of the world into the Church in every nation.”9
Harold B. Lee said, “The Lord has placed the responsibility for directing the work of gathering in the hands of the leaders of the Church to whom he will reveal his will where and when such gatherings would take place in the future. It would be well—before the frightening events concerning the fulfillment of all God’s promises and predictions are upon us, that the Saints in every land prepare themselves and look forward to the instruction that shall come to them from the First Presidency of this Church as to where they shall be gathered and not be disturbed in their feelings until such instruction is given to them as it is revealed by the Lord to the proper authority.”10
● D&C 133:14 The gathering is to be spiritual (not merely geographical), leaving wickedness and accepting the commitment to live more righteously.
The Case of James Covill (D&C 39)
● James Covill did not become a leader in the Church. In fact, he did not even become a member.
The Prophet Joseph Smith said, “Not long after this conference of the 2nd of January closed, there was a man came to me by the name of James Covill, who had been a Baptist minister for about forty years, and covenanted with the Lord that he would obey any commandment that the Lord would give to him through me, as His servant, and I received the following.”11
1. History of the Church, 1:139.
2. History of the Church, 5:423.
3. A Companion to Your Study of the Doctrine and Covenants, 2:317.
4. History of the Church, 1:145-46.
5. History of the Church, 1:145-46, footnote.
6. Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 83.
7. Address at Mexico City Area Conference, Church News, 2 Sept., 1972, 13.
8. Address at Mexico City Area Conference, Church News, 2 Sept., 1972, 13.
9. In Conference Report, Oct. 1992, 99; or Ensign, Nov. 1992, 71.
10. In Conference Report, Apr. 1948, 55.
11. History of the Church, 1:143.