“Doctrine and Covenants 125,” Joseph Smith’s Revelations: A Doctrine and Covenants Study Companion from the Joseph Smith Papers (2020)
“Doctrine and Covenants 125,” Joseph Smith’s Revelations: A Doctrine and Covenants Study Companion from the Joseph Smith Papers
Revelation, Nauvoo, Hancock Co., IL, [ca. early Mar. 1841]. Featured version copied [between ca. 20 Mar. and 7 Apr. 1841] in Book of the Law of the Lord, p. 16; handwriting of Robert B. Thompson; CHL. For more information on the Book of the Law of the Lord, see the source note for JS, Journal, December 1841–December 1842, on the Joseph Smith Papers website.
In early March 1841, JS dictated a revelation directing the Latter-day Saints in Iowa Territory to settle in Zarahemla, Lee County, Iowa Territory, or in other appointed gathering sites.1 Beginning in 1839, many members of the church settled on the Illinois side of the Mississippi River, in and around Hancock County, while a smaller number settled in scattered communities across the river in Iowa Territory.
The precise date that JS dictated this revelation is unclear. In early March 1841 the settlement of church members in Iowa was apparently a pressing concern. John Smith, the president of the Iowa stake, recorded in his journal that on 6 March 1841, Bishop Alanson Ripley “came over to inform me that Joseph Said it was the will of the Lord the Brethren in generally in Ambrosia Should move in and about the City Zerahemla with all convenient Speed which the Saints are willing to Do Because it is the word of the Lord.”2 A few days later, on 11 March, John Smith and two other elders went to Nauvoo, Illinois, to see JS and “to learn the will of the Lord” concerning the Saints in Iowa. According to Smith, JS stated that the Saints were “to move into the city Speedily but make large fields without [and] rais[e] grain.”3 It is possible that this 11 March conversation between John Smith and JS led to both the “interrogatory” and the subsequent revelation featured here. It is also possible, however, that JS had dictated the revelation earlier and that the Saints in Iowa were already acting on the commands of the revelation prior to John Smith’s meeting with JS.4
Robert B. Thompson recorded this revelation in the Book of the Law of the Lord sometime around or after 20 March 1841, but he did not inscribe the date of its dictation. He placed the revelation after a 20 March 1841 revelation, and it was therefore included under that date in Willard Richards’s rough draft notes for JS’s multivolume manuscript history.5 This early March revelation was read, along with a 19 January 1841 revelation, at the April 1841 general conference of the church in Nauvoo.6
According to William Clayton’s diary, JS believed the intent of the revelation was to consolidate the scattered Latter-day Saint settlements in Iowa for the sake of safety. JS even invoked the grim specter of the 1838 massacre at Hawn’s Mill, Missouri, which occurred in part because Hawn’s Mill was isolated from other settlements.7 On 24 May 1841, JS wrote a letter in which he informed the Saints that all stakes except for those approved in Hancock County and Lee County were “discontinued” and that Saints living outside of those stakes should relocate to one of the approved areas as soon as they were able.8 In an August 1841 church conference held in Zarahemla, apostle John Taylor reemphasized the revelation’s call to gather there. A “large number present agreed to move in and assist in building up Zarahemla,” as the revelation directed. By August 1841, there were 326 members living in the Zarahemla branch.9
A Revelation given in the City of Nauvoo in answer to the following interrogatory.
What is the will of the Lord concerning the Saints in the Territory of Iowa?10
Verily thus saith the Lord, I say unto you if those who call themselves by <my> name, and are assaying to be my saints, if they will do my will and keep my commandments concerning them; let them gather themselves together unto the places which I shall appoint unto them by my servant Joseph, and build up cities unto my name, that they may be prepared for that which is in store for a time to come. Let them build up a city unto my name upon the land opposite to the city of Nauvoo and let the name of Zarahemla be named upon it.11 And let all those who come from the east and the west, and the north and the south that have desires to dwell therein, take up their inheritances in the same, as well as in the City of Nashville12 or in the City of Nauvoo, and in all the stakes which I have appointed saith the Lord.13 [p. 16]