Section 59

“That Thou Mayest More Fully Keep Thyself Unspotted from the World”

“Section 59, ‘That Thou Mayest More Fully Keep Theyself Unspotted from the World’” Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual (2002), 124–29

Historical Background

Polly Knight, mother of Newel Knight, was a member of the Colesville Branch and was determined to go to the land of Zion with other members of the branch.

“Polly Knight’s health had been failing for some time, according to a statement made by her son, Newel. She was very ill during her journey from Kirtland to Missouri. ‘Yet,’ says her son, ‘she would not consent to stop traveling; her only, or her greatest desire was to set her feet upon the land of Zion, and to have her body interred in that land. I went on shore and bought lumber to make a coffin in case she should die before we arrived at our place of destination—so fast did she fail. But the Lord gave her the desire of her heart, and she lived to stand upon that land.’ (Scraps of Biography, p. 70.)” (In History of the Church, 1:199n.)

The Prophet Joseph Smith recorded: “On the 7th, I attended the funeral of Sister Polly Knight, the wife of Joseph Knight, Sen. This was the first death in the Church in this land, and I can say, a worthy member sleeps in Jesus till the resurrection.

“I also received the following: [D&C 59].” (History of the Church, 1:199.)

Notes and Commentary

D&C 59:1–4. If Righteous, Those Who Live and Those Who Die Shall Both Inherit the Earth

Verses 1–2 seem to refer to Polly Knight, who had come up to the land with an eye single to God, although the blessings apply to all who come in a similar fashion.

President Joseph Fielding Smith explained: “Today, with the earth subject to Satan’s rule, it is quite generally the selfish, self-centered, proud and haughty people of the earth who apparently inherit it. This is in harmony with the spirit of unrighteousness which has prevailed on the earth since the fall of man. When Christ comes to take possession of the earth and rule in his right as King of kings, he will keep his promise and the meek shall come into their own [see Matthew 5:5]. If they die, even then their inheritance shall stand, for the earth is to be the eternal abode of those who inherit the celestial kingdom. … This earth eventually … will be prepared for the righteous, or the meek, and it is their everlasting inheritance.” (Church History and Modern Revelation, 1:215–16.)

D&C 59:5–6. The Two Great Commandments

President Joseph Fielding Smith noted that “so important is this commandment that the Latter-day Saints have had their attention called to it in a number of revelations. It is plain to be seen that on these commandments hang all the law and the prophets. If a person observes these commandments as they are given in verses 5 and 6 of this section (59) he will keep the full law of God. We cannot love our Heavenly Father, and worship him in the name of his Only Begotten Son, our Redeemer, with all our ‘heart, might, mind, and strength’ without keeping all other commandments. It naturally follows that we will love our neighbor as ourselves and have sympathy and love for all men who are the children of God. There would be no occasion for us to be constantly reminded that we should keep the Sabbath holy, or pay our honest tithes, or keep our bodies clean by observing the Word of Wisdom, or that we should not neglect our prayers, secret and in the family circle[. We] would observe all of these things and all else that we are instructed to do, IF we loved the Lord our God with all our heart, might, mind, and strength. To the extent that members of the Church observe the laws of the Lord may their love for him be measured.” (Church History and Modern Revelation, 1:216–17.)

D&C 59:6–13. The Ten Commandments Reiterated

The Lord in modern times has reiterated the basic laws that define man’s relationship to God and to his fellowman. A comparison of verses in Doctrine and Covenants 42 and 59 with the Ten Commandments in Exodus shows how the modern revelations clarify and amplify the earlier account. As can be seen, there is not a strict parallelism between each of the three sources, but additional insights are often given in sections 42 and 59 or both.

Exodus 20

D&C 42

D&C 59

“Thou shalt have no other gods before me” (v. 3).


“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy might, mind, and strength” (v. 5).

“Thou shalt offer a sacrifice unto the Lord thy God in righteousness, even that of a broken heart and a contrite spirit” (v. 8).

“In the name of Jesus Christ thou shalt serve him” (v. 5).

“Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image” (v. 4).


“Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain” (v. 7).

“If thou lovest me thou shalt serve me and keep all my commandments” (v. 29).*


“Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy” (v. 8).


“And that thou mayest more fully keep thyself unspotted from the world, thou shalt go to the house of prayer and offer up thy sacraments upon my holy day” (v. 9).

“On this the Lord’s day, thou shalt offer thine oblations and thy sacraments unto the Most High, confessing thy sins unto the brethren, and before the Lord” (v. 12).

“On this day, thou shalt do none other thing, only let thy food be prepared with singleness of heart” (v. 13).

“Honour thy father and thy mother” (v. 12).


“Thou shalt not kill” (v. 13).

“Thou shalt not kill” (v. 18).*

“Thou shalt not … kill, nor do anything like unto it” (v. 6).

“Thou shalt not commit adultery” (v. 14).

“Thou shalt not commit adultery” (v. 24).*

“Thou shalt love thy wife with all thy heart, and shalt cleave unto her and none else” (v. 22).*

“He that looketh upon a woman to lust after her shall deny the faith, and shall not have the Spirit” (v. 23).*

“Thou shalt not … commit adultery, … nor do anything like unto it” (v. 6).

“Thou shalt not steal” (v. 15).

“Thou shalt not steal” (v. 20).*

“Thou shalt not take thy brother’s garment; thou shalt pay for that which thou receivest of thy brother” (v. 54).

“Thou shalt not steal, … nor do anything like unto it” (v. 6).

“Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour” (v. 16).

“Thou shalt not lie” (v. 21).*

“Thou shalt not speak evil of thy neighbor, nor do him any harm” (v. 27).

“Thou shalt live together in love” (v. 45).

“Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” (v. 6).

“Thou shalt not covet” (v. 17).

“He that looketh upon a woman to lust after her shall deny the faith, and shall not have the Spirit” (v. 23).*


“Thou shalt not be proud in thy heart” (v. 40).

“Thou shalt thank the Lord thy God in all things” (v. 7).

“Thy vows shall be offered up in righteousness on all days and at all times” (v. 11).


“Thou shalt not be idle” (v. 42).*

“Thou shalt stand in the place of thy stewardship” (v. 53).*

“If thou obtainest more than that which would be for thy support, thou shalt give it into my storehouse” (v. 55).**

“Thou shalt take the things which thou hast received … to be my law” (v. 59).

“Thou shalt observe all these things, and great shall be thy reward” (v. 65).

“Ye shall observe the laws which ye have received and be faithful” (v. 66).

“God … hath given all these things unto man; for unto this end were they made to be used, with judgment, not to excess, neither by extortion” (v. 20).

  • After each of these commandments, an instruction is given to the Church for dealing with violations of these laws.

  • These were specific commands, or laws, applying to the law of consecration.

D&C 59:7–8. “A Broken Heart and a Contrite Spirit”

Before the birth of Christ on earth, the Lord commanded that sacrifices of animals or the fruits of the field be offered. These sacrifices signified both His own sacrifice and the willingness of the individual making the sacrifice to be obedient to God. After His Resurrection, Jesus ended those sacrifices, and He commanded that the sacrifice thereafter be a broken heart and a contrite spirit (see 3 Nephi 9:15–22). Smith and Sjodahl explained the significance of the two phrases: “‘Contrite’ means ‘humble.’ ‘The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise’ (Psalm 51:17); a broken spirit and a contrite heart are those in which the obstinacy of pride has been replaced by the humility of repentance, frequently brought about by sorrow and affliction.” (Commentary, pp. 305–6.)

D&C 59:9–10. Pay Thy Devotion unto the Most High

President John Taylor said: “To serve the Lord, is one of the great objects of our existence; and I appreciate as a great privilege the opportunity we enjoy of worshiping God on the Sabbath day. And when we do meet to worship God, I like to see us worship him with all our hearts. I think it altogether out of place on such occasions to hear people talk about secular things; these are times, above all others perhaps, when our feelings and affections should be drawn out towards God. If we sing praises to God, let us do it in the proper spirit; if we pray, let every soul be engaged in prayer, doing it with all our hearts, that through our union our spirits may be blended in one, that our prayers and our worship may be available with God, whose Spirit permeates all things, and is always present in the assemblies of good and faithful Saints.” (In Journal of Discourses, 22:226.)

D&C 59:11–12. What Is an Oblation?

Elder Bruce R. McConkie defined an oblation in the highest sense as “giving full devotion to the Lord, of offering him a broken heart and a contrite spirit. (D. & C. 59:8–12, 3 Ne. 9:19–20.) In a lesser and more temporal sense, an oblation is the offering of sacrifices, or of fast offering, or of any charitable contribution to the Church. (Ezek. 44:30.) Isaiah spoke of vain oblations meaning the ritualistic offering of sacrifices when the spirit and meaning of the ordinance and offering had been lost. (Isa. 1:13.) Ezekiel foretold that oblations would again be offered by Israel in the day of gathering. (Ezek. 20:33–44.)” (Mormon Doctrine, pp. 541–42.)

D&C 59:13. “That Thy Fasting May Be Perfect”

President Joseph F. Smith said:

“Now, while the law requires the Saints in all the world to fast from ‘even to even’ and to abstain both from food and drink, it can easily be seen from the Scriptures, and especially from the words of Jesus, that it is more important to obtain the true spirit of love for God and man, ‘purity of heart and simplicity of intention,’ than it is to carry out the cold letter of the law. The Lord has instituted the fast on a reasonable and intelligent basis, and none of his works are vain or unwise. His law is perfect in this as in other things. Hence, those who can are required to comply thereto; it is a duty from which they cannot escape; but let it be remembered that the observance of the fast day by abstaining twenty-four hours from food and drink is not an absolute rule, it is no iron-clad law to us, but it is left with the people as a matter of conscience, to exercise wisdom and discretion. Many are subject to weakness, others are delicate in health, and others have nursing babies; of such it should not be required to fast. Neither should parents compel their little children to fast. I have known children to cry for something to eat on fast day. In such cases, going without food will do them no good. Instead, they dread the day to come, and in place of hailing it, dislike it; while the compulsion engenders a spirit of rebellion in them, rather than a love for the Lord and their fellows. Better teach them the principle, and let them observe it when they are old enough to choose intelligently, than to so compel them.

“But those should fast who can, and all classes among us should be taught to save the meals which they would eat, or their equivalent, for the poor. None are exempt from this; it is required of the Saints, old and young, in every part of the Church. It is no excuse that in some places there are no poor. In such cases the fast donation should be forwarded to the proper authorities for transmission to such stakes of Zion as may stand in need.” (Gospel Doctrine, pp. 243–44.)

D&C 59:13–14. How Can One’s Fasting Be Done with Singleness of Heart?

Fasting is sometimes thought of as going without food and drink. Here the Lord uses the terms joy and rejoicing to describe fasting. The preparation of food and fasting can go together. Smith and Sjodahl pointed out that “upon the Sabbath, even the food should be prepared ‘with singleness of heart’; that is to say, in simplicity. Our hearts, our desires, on that day should not be elaborate feasts, whereby some are prevented from having a Sabbath. A simple meal should suffice. To that extent every Sabbath should be a fast day, one bringing perfect joy.

“Our Lord, on one occasion, entered the house of Martha and Mary. Martha was cumbered about much serving, desirous of giving the Master many courses, and all in grand style. Mary was anxious to listen to the Master. To Martha’s rebuke of her younger sister, our Lord gently replied, ‘But one thing is needful.’ This might well be always remembered on our Lord’s day.” (Commentary, p. 352.)

D&C 59:15. “Not with Much Laughter, for This Is Sin”

For a discussion of light-mindedness and inappropriate laughter see Notes and Commentary on Doctrine and Covenants 88:69, 121.

D&C 59:16–20. Is There a Relationship between the Richness of the Earth and the Righteousness of the People?

One of the prominent themes of the Book of Mormon is that “as ye shall keep my commandments, ye shall prosper” (1 Nephi 2:20). “Prosper” implies more than an accumulation of physical wealth, but temporal prosperity is included in that blessing. Moses told the Israelites, “It shall come to pass, if ye hearken to these judgments, and keep, and do them, that … he will love thee, and bless thee, and multiply thee: he will also bless the fruit of thy womb, and the fruit of thy land, thy corn, and thy wine, and thine oil, the increase of thy kine [cattle], and the flocks of thy sheep, in the land which he sware unto thy fathers to give thee” (Deuteronomy 7:12–13). The Lord promises to bless the land as well as the people.

In section 59 the Lord again promises temporal blessings for spiritual obedience, including obedience to the law of the Sabbath. After a serious drought had ravaged the western United States, President Spencer W. Kimball asked if such a natural calamity might not be related to the obedience of the people, especially their observance of the Sabbath.

“The Lord uses the weather sometimes to discipline his people for the violation of his laws. He said to the children of Israel:

“‘If ye walk in my statutes, and keep my commandments, and do them;

“‘Then I will give you rain in due season, and the land shall yield her increase, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit.

“‘And your threshing shall reach into the vintage, and the vintage shall reach unto the sowing time; and ye shall eat your bread to the full, and dwell in your land safely.

“‘And I will give peace in the land, and ye shall lie down, and none shall make you afraid: … neither shall the sword go through your land.’ (Lev. 26:3–6.)

“With the great worry and suffering in the East and threats of drouth here in the West and elsewhere, we asked the people to join in a solemn prayer circle for moisture where needed. Quite immediately our prayers were answered, and we were grateful beyond expression. We are still in need and hope that the Lord may see fit to answer our continued prayers in this matter. …

“Perhaps the day has come when we should take stock of ourselves and see if we are worthy to ask or if we have been breaking the commandments, making ourselves unworthy of receiving the blessings. …

“But today numerous of the people of this land spend the Sabbath working, devoting the day to the beaches, to entertainment, to shows, to their weekly purchases. The Lord makes definite promises. He says:

“‘Then I will give you rain in due season, and the land shall yield her increase, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit.’ (Lev. 26:4.)

“God does what he promises, and many of us continue to defile the Sabbath day.” (In Conference Report, Apr. 1977, pp. 4–5; or Ensign, May 1977, p. 4–5.)

D&C 59:20. What Is Extortion?

“‘Extortion’ is the act of taking something by violence, by threats, by overcharge, etc., unlawfully. It is lawful to procure, by honest labor, the means whereby the good things of the Earth may be obtained, but it is not lawful to wrest anything from another by methods contrary to this great law: ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.’” (Smith and Sjodahl, Commentary, p. 354.)

D&C 59:23. The Fruits of the Gospel and the Price Required for Them

Elder Marion G. Romney explained:

“When earth life is over and things appear in their true perspective, we shall more clearly see and realize what the Lord and his prophets have repeatedly told us, that the fruits of the gospel are the only objectives worthy of life’s full efforts. Their possessor obtains true wealth—wealth in the Lord’s view of values. We need constantly to deepen our understandings and sharpen our realization of what the fruits of the gospel are.

“The Lord has defined them as ‘… peace in this world, and eternal life in the world to come.’ (D. & C. 59:23.) It is a bit difficult to define the ‘peace in this world’ referred to in the revelation. But we may be assured that it is not the ease, luxury, and freedom from struggle envisioned by the world’s utopian dreamers. Jesus told his apostles that it would be found by them even in their days of tribulation. ‘Peace I leave with you,’ he said, ‘my peace I give unto you.’ And then, by way of caution, it seems to me, he added, ‘… not as the world giveth, give I unto you.’ (John 14:27.)

“The other fruit of the gospel named in the quotation—‘eternal life in the world to come’—must be a glorious thing, for the Lord has said that ‘he that hath eternal life is rich,’ (D. & C. 6:7) and that the ‘gift of eternal life is the greatest of all the gifts of God.’ (D. & C. 14:7.) He who obtains it will obtain an exaltation in the celestial kingdom of our Father in heaven. …

“This gift of eternal life in the world to come may not, of course, be fully realized during earth life. An assurance that it will be obtained in the world to come may, however, be had in this world. As a matter of fact, the blessings of the celestial kingdom are promised only to those who have such an assurance. According to the vision, a successful candidate for these blessings must qualify on three counts: First, he must have ‘… received the testimony of Jesus, and believed on his name’ and been ‘… baptized after the manner of his burial’; second, he must have received ‘the Holy Spirit by the laying on of the hands of him who is ordained and sealed unto this power’; and third, he must be ‘sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise.’ (D. & C. 76:51–53.)

“The Prophet Joseph taught that one so sealed would have within himself an assurance born of the spirit, that he would obtain eternal life in the world to come. He urgently and repeatedly admonished the Saints of his day to obtain such an assurance by making their calling and election sure. It is this assurance within a person which brings to him the peace in this world which will sustain him in every tribulation. …

“These fruits of the gospel—assurance that we shall obtain eternal life, peace in this world sustained by such an assurance, and finally eternal life in the world to come—are within the reach of us all. …

“I conceive the blessings of the gospel to be of such inestimable worth that the price for them must be very exacting, and if I correctly understand what the Lord has said on the subject, it is. The price, however, is within the reach of us all, because it is not to be paid in money nor in any of this world’s goods but in righteous living. What is required is wholehearted devotion to the gospel and unreserved allegiance to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. …

“A half-hearted performance is not enough. We cannot obtain these blessings and be like the rich young man who protested that he had kept the commandments from his youth up but who went away sorrowful when, in answer to the question, ‘What lack I yet?’ Jesus said unto him, ‘If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor … and come and follow me.’ (Matt. 19:21.) Evidently he could live everything but the welfare program.

“There can be no such reservation. We must be willing to sacrifice everything. Through self-discipline and devotion we must demonstrate to the Lord that we are willing to serve him under all circumstances. When we have done this, we shall receive an assurance that we shall have eternal life in the world to come. Then we shall have peace in this world. …

“Let us each day in solemn honesty confront ourselves with the rich man’s question, ‘What lack I yet?’ And thus, with utter frankness, discovering our own limitations, let us conquer them one by one until we obtain peace in this world through an assurance that we shall have eternal life in the world to come.” (In Conference Report, Oct. 1949, pp. 39–45.)

Anciently, sacrifices were types of the suffering of Jesus Christ.

Marion G. Romney taught, “The fruits of the gospel are the only objectives worthy of life’s full efforts” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1949, p. 39).