Church History Lesson 11 (D&C 23–26)
Many of the revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants were given to individuals. While the counsel in these revelations was specific to individuals who lived many years ago, much of that counsel applies to us today. As the Lord repeatedly said, “What I say unto one I say unto all” (D&C 61:36; 25:16; 82:5; 93:49).
The introduction to this section states: “This section contains a series of five revelations given through Joseph Smith the Prophet, at Manchester, New York, April 1830, to Oliver Cowdery, Hyrum Smith, Samuel H. Smith, Joseph Smith Sr., and Joseph Knight Sr. As the result of earnest desire on the part of the five persons named to know of their respective duties, the Prophet inquired of the Lord and received a revelation for each person. (1–7), These early disciples are called to preach, exhort, and strengthen the Church.”
1 Behold, I speak unto you, Oliver, a few words. Behold, thou art blessed, and art under no condemnation. But beware of pride, lest thou shouldst enter into temptation.
2 Make known thy calling unto the church, and also before the world, and thy heart shall be opened to preach the truth from henceforth and forever. Amen.
3 Behold, I speak unto you, Hyrum, a few words; for thou also art under no condemnation, and thy heart is opened, and thy tongue loosed; and thy calling is to exhortation, and to strengthen the church continually. Wherefore thy duty is unto the church forever, and this because of thy family. Amen.
4 Behold, I speak a few words unto you, Samuel; for thou also art under no condemnation, and thy calling is to exhortation, and to strengthen the church; and thou art not as yet called to preach before the world. Amen.
Joseph Smith, Sr.
5 Behold, I speak a few words unto you, Joseph; for thou also art under no condemnation, and thy calling also is to exhortation, and to strengthen the church; and this is thy duty from henceforth and forever. Amen.
6 Behold, I manifest unto you, Joseph Knight, by these words, that you must take up your across, in the which you must pray vocally before the world as well as in secret, and in your family, and among your friends, and in all places.
7 And, behold, it is your duty to unite with the true church, and give your language to exhortation continually, that you may receive the reward of the laborer. Amen.
A REVELATION TO JOSEPH SMITH AND OLIVER COWDERY
The introduction to this section states: “Revelation given to Joseph Smith the Prophet and Oliver Cowdery, at Harmony, Pennsylvania, July 1830. Though less than four months had elapsed since the Church was organized, persecution had become intense, and the leaders had to seek safety in partial seclusion. The following three revelations were given at this time to strengthen, encourage, and instruct them.”
1–9, Joseph Smith is called to translate, preach, and expound scriptures.
(v. 1) Joseph was “called and chosen to write the Book of Mormon, and to my ministry,” and in doing these things the Lord had “lifted thee up out of thine afflictions, and have counseled thee, that thou hast been delivered from all thine enemies, and thou hast been delivered from the powers of Satan and from darkness!”
(v. 2) Joseph was “not excusable in thy transgressions,” which probably has reference to his disobedience in losing the 128 lost pages of the Book of Mormon. “Nevertheless,” the Lord says, “Go thy way and sin no more.”
(vv. 3–4) Joseph must “magnify thine office.” But this does not relieve him of his responsibility to do all he can to support his family. The Lord says, “after thou hast sowed thy fields and secured them” he is to “go speedily unto the church which is in Colesville, Fayette, and Manchester, and they shall support thee; and I will bless them both spiritually and temporally; But if they receive thee not, I will send upon them a cursing instead of a blessing.”
(vv. 5–7) Joseph is to “continue in calling upon God in my name, and writing the things which shall be given thee by the Comforter, and expounding all scriptures unto the church.” He is to speak to the members the things that “shall be given thee in the very moment what thou shalt speak” and “they shall hear it, or I will send unto them a cursing instead of a blessing.” In all these things, he must “devote all thy service in Zion; and in this thou shalt have strength.”
(v. 8) Joseph is not promised freedom from persecution. “Be patient in afflictions, for thou shalt have many; but endure them, for, lo, I am with thee, even unto the end of thy days.”
(v. 9) Joseph will not have strength in temporal matters, “for this is not thy calling.” Throughout his life, this continued to be true. He is counseled to “attend to thy calling and thou shalt have wherewith to magnify thine office, and to expound all scriptures, and continue in laying on of the hands and confirming the churches.”
10–12, Oliver Cowdery is called to preach the gospel;
(v. 10) “Oliver shall continue in bearing my name before the world, and also to the church. And he shall not suppose that he can say enough in my cause; and lo, I am with him to the end.”
(v. 11) Oliver “shall have glory, and not of himself.” This is a reference to his tendency to have excessive pride. He will experience “weakness [and] strength,” and will find himself in “bonds or free.”
(v. 12) His calling is to “open his mouth and declare my gospel as with the voice of a trump,” “at all times, and in all places” and “both day and night.” If he will do this, the Lord will “give unto him strength such as is not known among men.”
(vv. 13–14) “Require not miracles, except I shall command you.” The exceptions are “casting out devils, healing the sick, and against poisonous serpents, and against deadly poisons.” And even in those things, “ye shall not do, except it be required of you by them who desire it.”
(v. 15) “As they go forth to preach, “in whatsoever place ye shall enter, and they receive you not in my name, ye shall leave a cursing instead of a blessing, by casting off the dust of your feet against them as a testimony, and cleansing your feet by the wayside.” It is important to understand that today this applies only to general authorities and not to missionaries. It has to do with whether a nation or people will accept the message of the gospel or not.
(vv. 16–17) In any circumstance where enemies “shall lay their hands upon you by violence, ye shall command to be smitten in my name; and, behold, I will smite them according to your words, in mine own due time.” “And whosoever shall go to law with thee shall be cursed by the law.”
Traveling Without Purse or Scrip
(vv. 18–19) Missionaries are to be supported by their families and the Church. When they go forth to preach, they “shalt take no purse [money] nor scrip [food], neither staves, neither two coats, for the church shall give unto thee in the very hour what thou needest for food and for raiment, and for shoes and for money, and for scrip.” In their sacred duties to “prune my vineyard with a mighty pruning, yea, even for the last time” they are to “do even according to this pattern. Amen.”
A REVELATION TO EMMA SMITH
In July 1830, the Lord directed a revelation to Emma Smith, the wife of the Prophet Joseph Smith. Emma was a most remarkable lady, full of faith and courage. She married Joseph Smith knowing that if she became his wife, she would share in the persecution. This section is unique because it is the only section that is addressed to a woman. The section begins: “Hearken unto the voice of the Lord your God, while I speak unto you, Emma Smith, my daughter” (D&C 25:1).
The following summary was adapted from an article by Robert L. Millet and Kent P. Jackson.1
The revelation to Emma Smith includes many elements that we might find in a patriarchal blessing. Some of the instructions, admonitions, and promises to Emma pertain to the present and others to the future. The promised opportunities and blessings are predicated upon faithfulness and obedience.
(vv. 1–2) All who receive the Gospel are sons and daughters of Jesus Christ by adoption. As a woman, Emma is admonished to be faithful and virtuous.
(v. 3) Emma is an “elect lady” whom the Lord had called. The meaning of the term “elect lady” was given by the Prophet Joseph Smith several years later on 17 March 1842 in Nauvoo, Illinois. Emma Smith was chosen to be the president of the newly-formed women’s organization in the Church. When the prophet found that Emma had been chosen as president of the Relief Society, the following took place: “Joseph read to his wife the revelation given in July 1830, wherein she was called an elect lady and told the sisters that this appellation meant that she was to be elected to a certain work; this revelation was fulfilled in her election to the presidency of the Society.”
(v. 4) “Murmur not because of the things which thou hast not seen, for they are withheld from thee and from the world.” This apparently refers to the fact that Emma Smith would have liked to have seen the Book of Mormon plates. She was an educated and talented woman who contributed mightily to the events of the Restoration. Nevertheless, Emma was never permitted to see the Book of Mormon plates and never received any visit from an angel or other heavenly minister. She had a difficult time accepting this and apparently had expressed her disappointment to Joseph and/or to the Lord in prayer. Emma was admonished to accept the Lord’s will in this matter.
(v. 5) Emma was called to comfort and console her husband. Through the Prophet Joseph Smith, the fulness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ was being restored to the earth. While he was engaged in this sublime work, he continually had to fend off the ignorant and the vicious. How needful, how wonderful, to have a wife—his closest friend and companion— to help, comfort, and console him. Joseph could not have achieved what he did without her. She stood by him throughout his life, never giving up and never losing faith (something that cannot be said about most of the male leaders of the early Church.
The Prophet Joseph Smith said, [Wives should treat their husbands] “with mildness and affection. When a man is borne down with trouble, when he is perplexed with care and difficulty, if he can meet a smile instead of an argument or a murmur—if he can meet with mildness, it will calm down his soul and soothe his feelings.”2
The Prophet also said, “It is the duty of a husband to love, cherish, and nourish his wife, and cleave unto her and none else; he ought to honor her as himself, and he ought to regard her feelings with tenderness.”3
We have noticed that this is the apparent role of the wives of other presidents of the Church. Camilla Kimball in our own day served as an excellent example of one who comforted and consoled her husband. Like Joseph Smith, President Spencer W. Kimball always served the Lord gladly, but he also knew challenges in his labors, including fatigue, disappointment, suffering, and sorrow. The pattern for future wives of the Lord’s prophets was apparently established when the Lord spoke to Emma Smith in July 1830.
Joseph and Emma endured the deaths of many of their children. In four years, they had four infant children die. Out of eleven children (two adopted), only three sons and one daughter lived into late adulthood.
Lucy Mack Smith said, “I have never seen a woman in my life, who would endure every species of fatigue and hardship, from month to month, and from year to year, with that unflinching courage, zeal, and patience, which she has ever done; for I know that which she had had to endure…. She has breasted the storms of persecution, and buffeted the rage of men and devils, which would have borne down almost any other woman.”4
Emma Smith was by the Prophet Joseph Smith’s side until his death at Carthage Jail on 27 June 1844. She married Lewis Bidamon in December 1847. Emma Smith lived the remainder of her life in Nauvoo. She was 75 years old when she died in the Mansion House on 30 April 1879.
(v. 6) Refers to Emma as a scribe to her husband in his revision of the Bible. Emma had served for a while as a scribe on the Book of Mormon, which had been published the previous March. It was not intended that she be a permanent scribe, but a substitute while the Prophet’s regular scribes were unavailable. On this occasion and on later occasions, Emma assisted Joseph in this way. Emma Smith was a very intelligent person and was a gifted writer.
(v. 7) “Thou shalt be ordained . . . to expound scriptures, and to exhort the church,” was fulfilled at the same time the promise in v. 3 was fulfilled when Emma Smith was set apart as the President of the Relief Society. The word ”ordained” is used in this verse. Presently, the word “ordain” pertains to priesthood offices, and the words “set apart” are used when one is called to a church position.
(v. 8) “Thou shalt receive the Holy Ghost.” Emma Smith had previously been baptized; it was shortly after this time that she was confirmed by her husband and had the gift of the Holy Ghost bestowed upon her.
(v. 10) “Lay aside the things of the world and seek eternal life.” In the revelation directed to her, Emma was told to do so. Her heart and mind were to be on those things which are of lasting substance and value—the eternal, not the earthly; that which is endless, not that which is fleeting. People who lose sight of the transcendent value of the eternal lose perspective and may lose their way.
(vv. 11–12) Music in the Church. This verse contains the best one-verse statement in the scriptures pertaining to the importance of music in the Lord’s Church. The Lord “delighteth in the song of the heart” and “the song of the righteous is a prayer unto me.” Such prayers will be answered with a blessing. Emma Smith was given a very sacred and important assignment (v. 11). She completed the assignment in an excellent manner; she selected hymns and prepared the first hymnbook of the restored Church. It was a book small in size and included the words of the hymns, but not music.
(v. 13) “Rejoice.” The Lord told Emma to rejoice. She had much to cause her to rejoice: she was a daughter of God, a member of the Lord’s kingdom on the earth, the wife of the Lord’s chosen prophet, and an elect lady. In addition, she had the promise that the Lord was with her. He would be her strength in trials and be near to strengthen and comfort her.
We can find peace and joy regardless of our circumstances. Elder Marvin J. Ashton said, “None of us will escape tragedy and suffering. Each of us will probably react differently. However, if we can recall the Lord’s promise, ‘for I the Lord am with you,’ we will be able to face our problems with dignity and courage. We will find the strength to be of good cheer instead of becoming resentful, critical, or defeated. We will be able to meet life’s unpleasant happenings with clear vision, strength, and power. . . . What a joy it is to see someone of good cheer, who, when others because of an unpleasant happening or development live in angry silence or vocal disgust, meets the situation with cheerful endurance and good spirits.”5
(v. 14) “Continue in . . . meekness, and beware of pride.” The Lord knows each of us better than we know ourselves. He knows our strengths and weaknesses. We each have our . . . agency; he loves us and wants us to use it wisely.
(v. 14) Spouses should delight in each other. Joseph and Emma Smith were a great support to each other during the many times of affliction they faced. In 1842, when Joseph was in hiding because his life was in danger, Emma was able to visit him. Joseph later said about this visit:
“With what unspeakable delight, and what transports of joy swelled my bosom, when I took by the hand, on that night, my beloved Emma—she that was my wife, even the wife of my youth, and the choice of my heart. Many were the reverberations of my mind when I contemplated for a moment the many scenes we had been called to pass through, the fatigues and the toils, the sorrows and sufferings, and the joys and consolations, from time to time, which had strewed our paths…. Oh what a commingling of thought filled my mind for the moment, again she is here,…undaunted, firm, and unwavering—unchangeable, affectionate Emma!”6
(v. 15) Emma will receive a crown of righteousness if she keeps the Lord’s commandments. “And except thou do this, where I am you cannot come.”
(v. 16) “This is my voice unto all.” This wonderful counsel given is not just for Emma Smith but to all.
The Law of Common Consent
In early July of 1830, the Church was barely ninety days old. There were, at that time, no wards or stakes, no seventies, high priests, or bishops. There were no quorums. There was not as yet a First Presidency or general authorities. The only executive or presiding officers were the First and Second Elders of the Church. The Prophet Joseph had just returned to Harmony, Pennsylvania from Colesville, New York. Section 26 was one of three revelations the Prophet received shortly after his return from Colesville.
● D&C 26:1–2 All things in the Church must be public (not secret) and subject to common consent.
It seems from the brevity of the language that the Lord (or the Prophet Joseph) was presuming a previous understanding of what “common consent” is. This was true. Though the Church had been in existence for only three months, the basic principle of common consent had been given one year earlier, in June of 1829, closely connected with the great visitation by Peter, James, and John and their restoration of the higher priesthood.
It was such an impressive experience, even among all the great revelations that came, that the Prophet mentioned it in his sublime letter on baptism for the dead where he listed the glad tidings that had come in the new dispensation (see D&C 128:21).
President N. Eldon Tanner explained at a solemn assembly in 1974: “Everyone is perfectly free to vote as he wishes. There is no compulsion whatsoever in this voting. When you vote affirmatively, you make a solemn covenant with the Lord that you will sustain, that is, give your full loyalty and support, without equivocation or reservation, to the officer for whom you vote.”7 That vote does count, though the Church is so united that rarely is there the necessity for counting the votes.
President John Taylor asked: “Is there a monarch, potentate or power under the heavens, that undergoes a scrutiny as fine as this? No, there is not; yet this is done twice a year.”8 In effect, there are general elections every six months.
1. Robert L. Millet and Kent P. Jackson, eds., Studies in Scripture, Vol. 1: The Doctrine and Covenants [1989.
2. Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Elder Joseph Fielding Smith , 228.
3. Elders’ Journal, August 1838, 61.
4. Lucy Mack Smith, History of Joseph Smith, ed. Preston Nibley , 190-191.
5. In Conference Report, Apr. 1986, 84-85; or Ensign, May 1986, 66.
6. History of the Church, 5:107.
7. In Conference Report, April 1974, p. 55.
8. Journal of Discourses 1:230.