Doctrine and Covenants Study
Joseph Smith’s Revelations, Doctrine and Covenants 131
Footnotes

Hide Footnotes

Theme

“Doctrine and Covenants 131,” Joseph Smith’s Revelations: A Doctrine and Covenants Study Companion from the Joseph Smith Papers (2020)

“Doctrine and Covenants 131,” Joseph Smith’s Revelations: A Doctrine and Covenants Study Companion from the Joseph Smith Papers

Doctrine and Covenants 131

[This section comprises instruction given by JS on three occasions.]

Instruction, 16 May 1843

Source Note

JS, Instruction, [Macedonia, Hancock Co., IL, 16 May 1843]. Featured version copied [ca. 19 May 1843] in William Clayton, Journal, 25 Apr. 1843–24 Sept. 1844, pp. [13]–[16]; handwriting of William Clayton; William Clayton, Journals, 1842–1846, CHL. For more information, see the source note for William Clayton, Journal, 25 Apr. 1843–24 Sept. 1844, in JSP, D12 (forthcoming).

Historical Introduction

On 16 May 1843 at the residence of Benjamin F. Johnson in Macedonia, Illinois, JS instructed William Clayton, Johnson, and Melissa LeBaron Johnson, Benjamin’s wife, “on the priesthood.”1 Benjamin Johnson recalled that “in the evening,” JS invited him and Melissa “to come and sit down, for he wished to marry us according to the law of the Lord. I thought it a joke, and said I should not marry my wife again, unless she courted me, for I did it all, the first time. He chided my levity, told me he was in earnest, and so it proved; for we stood up and were sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise.”2 Contemporaneous records, however, show that when he later recounted the story, Johnson conflated when he first heard this teaching and when he and Melissa were actually sealed. According to William Clayton’s journal, the couple was “united in an everlasting covenant” on 20 October 1843.3

JS taught that if a man and a woman were sealed as husband and wife by the power of the priesthood, their marriage would continue beyond death, and they would live together in marriage in the highest level of heaven. His teachings included the idea that couples properly sealed would have “children in the resurrection.”4 Based on JS’s statement to Johnson that he knew in whom he could confide, it seems he expected the Johnsons not to discuss this doctrine with others.

William Clayton was present during JS’s instruction and took notes. However, based on the uniformity of the ink flow and character formation in his journal, it appears that Clayton created the entries covering 14 May through most of 19 May in one sitting. It is likely the entries were based upon earlier notes that are no longer extant.5


He put his hand on my knee6 and says “your life is hid with Christ in God.” and so is many others”.7 Addressing [p. [13]] Benjamin [F. Johnson] says he “nothing but the unpardonable sin8 can prevent him (me)9 from inheriting eternal glory for he is sealed up by the power of the priesthood unto eternal life having taken the step which is necessary for that purpose.”10 He said that except a man and his wife enter into an everlasting covenant and be married for eternity while in this probation by the power and authority of the Holy priesthood they will cease to increase when they die (i e) they will not have any children in the resurrection, but those who are married by the power & authority of the priesthood in this life & continue without committing the sin against the Holy Ghost will continue to increase & have children in the celestial [p. [14]] glory. The unpardonable sin is to shed innocent blood or be accessory thereto.11 All other sins will be visited with judgement in the flesh and the spirit being delivered to the buffetings of Satan12 untill the day of the Lord Jesus.”13 I feel desirous to be united in an everlasting covenant to my wife and pray that it may soon be.14

prest. J. said that they way he knew in whom to confide.15 God told him in whom he might place confidence. He also said that [1]in the celestial glory there was three heavens or degrees,16 [2]and in order to obtain the highest a man must enter into this order of the priesthood [3]and if he dont he cant obtain it. [4]He may enter into the other but that is the end of his kingdom [p. [15]] he cannot have an increase.


Discourse, 17 May 1843–A

Source Note

JS, Discourse, [Macedonia, Hancock Co., IL, 17 May 1843]. Featured version copied [ca. 19 May 1843] in William Clayton, Journal, 25 Apr. 1843–24 Sept. 1844, p. [16]; handwriting of William Clayton; William Clayton, Journals, 1842–1846, CHL. For more information, see the source note for William Clayton, Journal, 25 Apr. 1843–24 Sept. 1844, in JSP, D12 (forthcoming).

Historical Introduction

On 17 May 1843, JS preached a discourse in Macedonia, Illinois, on the first chapter of 2 Peter in the New Testament. In the discourse, JS revisited a subject he had addressed three days before in Morley Settlement, Illinois—the individual Christian believer’s obtaining assurance of having eternal life.17 As he did in the earlier discourse, JS emphasized the importance of knowledge in this process and explained the “more sure word of prophecy” mentioned in 2 Peter 1:19, which he interpreted as receiving divine confirmation of being “sealed up unto eternal life.” In this 17 May discourse, JS indicated that this divine affirmation would come through the priesthood.

Having been apprised on the evening of 16 May 1843 that JS planned to preach the following day, the Saints congregated at 10:00 a.m. on 17 May, possibly in a schoolhouse built by church members in Macedonia.18 Samuel Prior, a Methodist preacher who was visiting Macedonia to observe the Latter-day Saints in general and JS in particular, attended the meeting and subsequently wrote an account of his experience, which was published in the Times and Seasons. Prior described taking his “seat in a conspicuous place in the congregation” and waiting for JS’s arrival, after which JS “commenced calmly and continued dispassionately to pursue his subject. … He glided along through a very interesting and elaborate discourse, with all the care and happy facility of one who was well aware of his important station, and his duty to God and man, and evidencing to me, that he was well worthy to be styled ‘a workman rightly dividing the word of truth,’ and giving without reserve, ‘saint and sinner his portion in due season.’” Prior stated, “I was compelled to go away with a very different opinion from what I had entertained when I first took my seat to hear him preach.”19

William Clayton, who accompanied JS to Macedonia, wrote an account of the discourse in his journal. The relatively polished nature of the featured text suggests that Clayton reconstructed JS’s words after the fact, likely from notes taken at the time. Based on the uniformity of the ink flow and character formation in his journal, it appears that Clayton created the entries covering 14 May through most of 19 May in one sitting. The original notes are apparently not extant.


He shewed that knowledge is power & the man who has the most knowledge has the greatest power.20 Also that Salvation means a mans being placed beyond the power of all his enemies. [5]He said the more sure word of prophecy meant, a mans knowing that he was sealed up unto eternal life by revelation & the spirit of prophecy,21 through the power of the Holy priesthood.22 [6]He also showed that it was impossible for a man to be saved in ignorance.23 Paul had seen the third heavens24 and I more.25 Peter penned the most sublime language of any of the apostles. [p. [16]]


Discourse, 17 May 1843–B

Source Note

JS, Discourse, [Macedonia, Hancock Co., IL, 17 May 1843]. Featured version copied [ca. 19 May 1843] in William Clayton, Journal, 25 Apr. 1843–24 Sept. 1844, p. [18]; handwriting of William Clayton; William Clayton, Journals, 1842–1846, CHL. For more information, see the source note for William Clayton, Journal, 25 Apr. 1843–24 Sept. 1844, in JSP, D12 (forthcoming).

Historical Introduction

On the evening of 17 May 1843, JS preached a discourse in Macedonia, Illinois, in response to a sermon given by Samuel Prior, a visiting Methodist preacher, who had been “invited to preach” earlier that evening before a “large and respectable” congregation of Latter-day Saints.26 Prior wrote an article that was published in the Times and Seasons shortly after JS gave the sermon featured here.27 After Prior delivered his unrecorded discourse, JS sought to correct Prior’s interpretation of Genesis 2 and the “eternal duration of matter”—doing so “mildly, politely, and affectingly,” according to Prior.28

During his remarks, JS questioned the King James Bible’s language in Genesis 2:7, which states, “The Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” According to Clayton’s notes of the discourse, JS also discussed aspects of Hebrew in his argument. JS argued that the “breath of life” referred to Adam’s spirit, and he included comments on the Hebrew word ruach (breath or spirit), arguing that when the word is applied to Eve, life should be rendered lives.29

Genesis 2:7 prompted pronouncements from religious thinkers of JS’s era on the nature of bodies and souls and on their duration throughout eternity. Methodist minister Adam Clarke, for instance, wrote that “man is a compound being, having a body and a soul, distinctly and separately created; the body out of the dust of the earth, the soul immediately breathed from God himself.”30 A widely circulated nineteenth-century theological dictionary stated that the “generally received opinion” held that the human soul “began to exist in his mother’s womb.”31 Though it is impossible to reconstruct Prior’s sermon, JS’s response makes clear that Prior used his sermon to engage this topic. JS responded to Prior and offered his own thoughts on the nature of the human spirit.

JS’s own teachings about the soul and matter differed from those of other Christians of his day in some important respects. Common teachings stated that the soul consisted of “the vital, immaterial, active substance, or principle, in man.”32 For some years, JS had taught that all beings were composed of eternal matter. A May 1833 revelation stated that “the Elements are eternal.”33 On 30 August 1840, JS preached a “discourse on Eternal Judgement and the Eternal Duration of matter.”34 In 1842, JS published an editorial directly opposing the traditional idea that the spirit was immaterial. He argued, much as he did in the discourse featured here, that “the body is supposed to be organized matter, and the spirit by many is thought to be immaterial, without substance. With this latter statement we should beg leave to differ—and state that spirit is a substance; that it is material, but that it is more pure, elastic, and refined matter than the body.”35 Also in 1842, the published Book of Abraham stated that “the Gods formed man from the dust of the ground, and took his spirit, that is the man’s spirit, and put it into him, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul.”36 The discourse featured here shares the Book of Abraham’s emphasis on the eternal nature of humankind and the idea that spirits were embodied at birth.

William Clayton was present during JS’s discourse and took notes. However, based on the uniformity of the ink flow and character formation in his journal, it appears that Clayton created the entries covering 14 May through most of 19 May in one sitting. It is likely the entries were based upon earlier, nonextant notes.


The 7th verse of c 2 of Genesis ought to read God breathed into Adam the his spirit or breath of life. but when the word “ruach”37 applies to Eve it should be translated lives.38

Speaking of eternal duration of matter he said. [7]There is no such thing as immaterial matter. All spirit is matter but is more fine or pure and can only be discerned by purer eyes [8]We cant see it but when our bodies are purified we shall see that it is all matter.39 [p. [18]]