Church History Lesson 31 (D&C 84)
Section 84 was given at Kirtland when the Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthoods were being organized for the first time into quorums. It contains much information about their respective duties.
THE REVELATION ON PRIESTHOOD (D&C 84)
This section was given through the Prophet Joseph Smith on September 22–23, 1832, at the Whitney store in Kirtland, Ohio, at a time when many missionaries were returning to Kirtland from their missionary labors. It was received in two parts:
— vv. 1– 41 Were apparently received on September 22nd.
— vv. 42–120 Were received on the 23rd (Note the shift from 3rd to 1st person in v. 42).
Teachings in this revelation apply not only to those missionaries but to all who serve in the Lord’s kingdom, male or female. It sheds great light on priesthood functions, and Joseph Smith designated it as a “revelation on priesthood.”
This is the first revelation received after Joseph and Emma and young Julia moved from Hiram on September 12 into their new quarters above the Whitney store. It appears that the Prophet pursued his re-translation of the Bible and while doing so he received most of these revelations in the upper southeast corner room in the Whitney store.
New Jerusalem and a Temple in Missouri (D&C 84:1–5)
The Lord placed the labors of the early latter-day missionaries in perspective by declaring the purposes for which they were laboring (vv. 2–5).
● “Generation” in this context means this present dispensation (v. 4).
● The Lord is speaking of the temple in Zion, that is, Jackson County, Missouri (v. 4). The Lord later excused the Saints from building that temple because the mobs prevented it (D&C 124:49–51) and because the Saints at that time had not kept the commandments as they should (D&C 105:1–9).
● The day will come, however, when the holy city of God will be established in Jackson County, Missouri, and the temple will be filled with the glory of God as envisioned by the prophets (3 Nephi 20:22; 21:23–25; Ether 13:3–4, 6–8).
● “A cloud shall rest upon it” means the Lord will be there, just as he was in the tabernacle in the wilderness when the cloud rested upon it during the day (v. 4).
The Line of Priesthood from Moses to Adam (D&C 84:6–17)
● Between the beginning of verse 6 (“and the sons of Moses”) and verse 31 (“therefore, as I said concerning the sons of Moses”, the Lord gives an explanation of the priesthood line of authority for Moses, going back to Adam. From this we learn, among other things, that Abraham was ordained by Melchizedek (v. 14).
The Powers of the Two Priesthoods: (D&C 84:19–22).
1. Holds the keys of the ministering of angels (v. 26).
2. Administers the preparatory gospel (v. 26), including:
a. Faith (v. 19)
c. Baptism for remission of sins
d. The law of carnal commandments
3. Officiates in temporal matters (D&C 20:46–59).
1. Administers the gospel (v. 19)and holds the keys to the spiritual blessings of the Church (D&C 107:18).
2. Holds the keys of the mysteries of the kingdom (D&C 107:19).
● Elder Joseph Fielding Smith said, “It is impossible for men to obtain the knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom or the knowledge of God, without the authority of the priesthood. Secular learning, the study of the sciences, arts and history, will not reveal these vital truths to man. It is the Holy priesthood that unlocks the door to heaven and reveals to man the mysteries of the Kingdom of God. It is this Divine Authority which makes known the knowledge of God! Is there any wonder that the world today is groping in gross darkness concerning God and the things of his kingdom? We should also remember that these great truths are not made known even to members of the Church unless they place their lives in harmony with the law on which these blessings are predicated. (D&C 130:20–21).”1
3. Necessary to see God and live (D&C 84:22; 107:19).
● Following the time of Moses, the greater priesthood was withdrawn from the people as a whole because of their unrighteousness (D&C 84:23–28). Only the Aaronic priesthood continued among the tribe of Levi, John the Baptist being the last to receive it before the ministry of Christ.
● D&C 84:31–32, the Lord continues the thought he had begun in verse 1. Without the parenthetical insertion, the sentence would read, “And the sons of Moses, according to the Holy priesthood . . . shall offer an acceptable offering and sacrifice”.
● This specific offering will be performed by worthy priesthood bearers in the temple to be constructed in Jackson County, Missouri. Till then, we make other offerings:
— Service to others and in the Church
— Acceptable records of temple work for our dead (D&C 127:9 and 128:24)
— “A broken heart and a contrite spirit” (D&C 59:8).
● D&C 84:33–34 explains how faithful priesthood bearers who magnify their callings can become “the sons of Moses and of Aaron and the seed of Abraham. . . and the elect of God” (v. 34).
● President M. Russell Ballard taught: “All who have made sacred covenants with the Lord and who honor those covenants are eligible to receive personal revelation, to be blessed by the ministering of angels, to commune with God, to receive the fulness of the gospel, and, ultimately, to become heirs alongside Jesus Christ of all that our Father has.”2
● The first Relief Society presidency of the Salt Lake Stake wrote in 1878: “We feel truly thankful that through the blessing of our Heavenly Father, we, His handmaidens are called to be co-laborers with our brethren in building up the kingdom of God upon the earth, in assisting to build Temples, wherein we can receive blessings for time and eternity. In all the ordinances received in the house of the Lord, woman stands beside the man, both for the living and the dead, showing that the man is not without the without the woman nor the woman without the man in the Lord.”3
THE OATH AND COVENANT OF THE PRIESTHOOD (D&C 84:31–42)
The Importance of this Oath and Covenant
● The oath and covenant of the priesthood is one of the most important covenants in the entire gospel (D&C 84:33–44).
● Elder Joseph Fielding Smith said, “There is no exaltation in the Kingdom of God without the fullness of the priesthood, and every man who receives the Melchizedek priesthood does so with an oath and a covenant that he shall be exalted.”4
● Carlos E. Asay said, “Of all the holy agreements pertaining to the gospel of Jesus Christ, few, if any, would transcend in importance the oath and covenant of the priesthood. It is certainly one of the most sacred agreements, for it involves the sharing of heavenly powers and man’s upward reaching toward eternal goals.”5
What the Priesthood Holder Promises (vv. 33–44)
● To be “faithful unto the obtaining [of] these two priesthoods,” which suggests worthiness to be ordained (v. 33).
● To magnifying our callings (v. 33). Elder Joseph Fielding Smith said, “It does not matter what office we hold as long as we are true and faithful to our obligations. One office is not greater than another, although for administrative reasons one priesthood holder may be called to preside over and direct the labors of another. . . . We are called upon to magnify our callings in the priesthood and to do the work which goes with the office we receive. And so the Lord says, in the revelation on priesthood: ‘Therefore, let every man stand in his own office, and labor in his own calling; . . . that the system may be kept perfect’ (vv. 109–110).”6
President Gordon B. Hinckley said, “We magnify our priesthood and enlarge our calling when we serve with diligence and enthusiasm in those responsibilities to which we are called by proper authority. . . . We magnify our calling, we enlarge the potential of our priesthood when we reach out to those in distress and give strength to those who falter. . . .We magnify our calling when we walk with honesty and integrity.”7
● To “give diligent heed” suggests a serious effort to understand and live the gospel (v. 43).
● To “live by every word . . . of God” (v. 44) means a willingness to be obedient to whatever the Lord commands in scripture or through the word of his priesthood leaders.
What the Lord Promises (vv. 33–42)
● We are “sanctified by the Spirit” meaning we becoming holy and pure (v. 33). This cleansing by the Holy Ghost, which truly makes us Saints, is also called a “baptism of fire” (D&C 20:41).
● “The renewing of their bodies” refers to the time when those who have lived the celestial law will be resurrected with celestial bodies (D&C 88:28–29) (v. 33). But this promise can also apply during mortality.
● Becoming “the sons of Moses and of Aaron” means that priesthood bearers are entitled to the power & blessings of the Melchizedek and Aaronic priesthood (v. 34).
● “The seed of Abraham” are entitled to all the blessings promised to his posterity (Abraham 2:9–11) (v. 34).
● We become the “elect of God,” meaning we belong to the “church and kingdom” of God and become worthy of exaltation through the magnification of priesthood callings (v. 34). For example, the Lord described those who would be exalted as “the church of the Firstborn” (D&C 76:54).
● We “receive the Lord” as we accept the message and ordinances of the gospel from the Lord’s servants, we also receive the Lord (v. 36).
● We will receive “all that [the] Father hath,” eternal life being “the greatest of all the gifts of God” (D&C 14:7) (v. 38). President Spencer W. Kimball said, “The word ‘receive’ in these sentences has deep meaning. To receive in this connection seems to mean more than merely to accept casually, but to magnify and develop and make effective. To receive the servants might mean to accept calls and responsibilities and to serve well and faithfully; to receive the Lord would mean loving him and obeying all his commandments; to receive the Father would mean to leave nothing undone toward arriving at personal perfection; and all this means exaltation and eternal life, for the promise is the kingdom and ‘all that my Father hath.’ A moment’s reflection will remind us of the infinite knowledge, power, dominion, kingdoms, exaltations, and joy offered to us here in an oath and covenant which the Father cannot break. If we measure up fully we are guaranteed limitless blessings!”8
● The consequences for breaking or avoiding this covenant (D&C 84:41–42). Elder Marion G. Romney said, “Now, I do not think this means that all who fail to magnify their callings in the priesthood will have committed the unpardonable sin, but I do think that priesthood bearers who have entered into the covenants that we enter into—in the waters of baptism, in connection with the law of tithing, the Word of Wisdom, and the many other covenants we make—and then refuse to live up to these covenants will stand in jeopardy of losing the promise of eternal life.”9
THE LORD WILL SUSTAIN THOSE WHO SERVE HIM (D&C 84:61–88)
● D&C 84:61 The Lord will forgive His messengers of their sins as they go forth to preach and testify.
● D&C 84:65–73 The signs that shall follow those who go forth.
● D&C 84:77–84 Those who go forth to preach will be taken care of, in things both temporal and spiritual, by their Heavenly Father who knows their needs.
● D&C 84:87–88 The Lord will go with His messengers, the Spirit will be in their hearts, and angels will be round about them to bear them up.
● D&C 84:96–98 The Lord will scourge the nations for their wickedness until all that remain will believe in the Lord and see eye to eye.
● D&C 84:106 Those who are strong in spirit shall take companions who are weaker that both may be edified and become strong.
● D&C 84:109–110 Let each man stand in his own office and labor in his own calling. All things must be done in order with all members valued for their contributions, and with all things being done in perfect order.
1. Church History and Modern Revelation, 4 vols. [1946–1949], 1:338.
2. “Men and Women and Priesthood Power,” Ensign, Sept. 2014, 32.
3. Mary Isabella Horne, Elmina S. Taylor, and Serepta M. Heywood, “To the Presidents and Members of the Relief Society of Salt Lake Stake of Zion, Greeting!” Woman’s Exponent, Jan 15, 1878, 123.
4. In Conference Report, Apr. 1970, 58.
5. In Conference Report, Oct. 1985, 56; or Ensign, Nov. 1985, 43.
6. In Conference Report, Oct. 1970, 91–92; or Improvement Era, Dec. 1970, 26–27.
7. In Conference Report, Apr. 1989, 63; or Ensign, May 1989, 48–49.
8. The Miracle of Forgiveness, 123–124.
9. In Conference Report, Apr. 1972, 112; or Ensign, July 1972, 99.