“Unit 25: Day 4, Doctrine and Covenants 117–20,” Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Study Guide for Home-Study Seminary Students (2017)
“Unit 25: Day 4,” Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Study Guide
On July 8, 1838, in Far West, Missouri, the Prophet Joseph Smith received four revelations that are now recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 117–20. In the first of these revelations (D&C 117), the Lord commanded William Marks and Newel K. Whitney to settle their business in Kirtland, Ohio, and join the faithful Saints who were gathering in Far West. The Lord also commanded Oliver Granger to go to Kirtland as a representative of the First Presidency. In the second revelation (D&C 118), the Lord called new Apostles to fill the places of those who had fallen away, and He called all of the members of the Quorum of the Twelve to serve missions in Great Britain. In the third and fourth revelations, recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 119 and 120, the Lord taught the doctrine of tithing and revealed guidelines for Church leaders to determine how tithing funds are used.
In the first part of Doctrine and Covenants 117, the Lord spoke to William Marks and Newel K. Whitney. William Marks was the stake president in Kirtland, Ohio. He owned a bookselling business. Newel K. Whitney was the bishop in Kirtland. He was a successful business owner, and he consecrated much of his property to the Church.
On April 26, 1838, the Lord commanded the Saints to gather in Far West, Missouri, and other places (see D&C 115:17–18). On July 6, 1838, a group known as the Kirtland Camp, consisting of over 500 Saints from the Kirtland area, departed for Missouri (see Church History in the Fulness of Times Student Manual, 2nd ed. [Church Educational System manual, 2003], 179). President Marks and Bishop Whitney remained in Kirtland.
In Doctrine and Covenants 117:1–3, we read that the Lord commanded President Marks and Bishop Whitney to settle their business speedily and to leave Kirtland. They were to make this journey before the Lord would send snow to the area. In other words, they would need to leave within about four months.
As you read the Lord’s words in Doctrine and Covenants 117:4–5, you will see that these men were overly concerned about properties in Kirtland.
Notice the following question in verse 4: “What is property unto me?” Read Doctrine and Covenants 117:5–8, looking for reasons why the Lord would say this. (It may be helpful to know that the phrase “plains of Olaha Shinehah” refers to the area around Adam-ondi-Ahman in Missouri.)
Imagine you have a large pitcher of your favorite drink sitting in front of you and a large, empty drinking glass. Now imagine that someone pours a small drop of the drink into your drinking glass. Which would you rather have, a full glass or just a drop? Why?
What do you think it means to “covet … the drop, and neglect the more weighty matters”? (D&C 117:8). To covet means to desire something someone else has. How were the benefits of preserving the properties in Kirtland just a “drop” compared to the benefits of obeying the Lord’s command to gather in Missouri?
- In your scripture study journal, summarize what the Lord taught these men about the property they were coveting compared to His power to bless them.
From Doctrine and Covenants 117:5–8, we can identify a principle about what happens when we covet temporal things. One way to express this principle is that coveting temporal things can cause us to neglect weightier matters.
- Answer the following questions in your scripture study journal:
What are some temporal “drops” in your life that may be causing you to neglect the weightier matters of the gospel?
What can you do to focus more on matters that are eternally important?
In Doctrine and Covenants 117:10, we read that the Lord called William Marks to continue serving as a Church leader when he arrived in Far West, Missouri. The Lord also said that if President Marks would be “faithful over a few things,” he would “be a ruler over many” (see also Matthew 25:23).
Read Doctrine and Covenants 117:11, looking for the rebuke the Lord gave to Newel K. Whitney. The Nicolaitans, mentioned in this verse, were members of an ancient religious sect. They said they were Christians but they strayed from the principles of the gospel to worldly practices. For example, their worship included committing sexual sins. (See Bible Dictionary, “Nicolaitans”; Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual, 2nd ed. [Church Educational System manual, 2001], 290.)
If Newel K. Whitney had decided to focus on property in Kirtland rather than gathering with the Saints, how might his actions be similar to the actions of the Nicolaitans?
Because of their concern about Church property in Ohio and because of persecution in Missouri, William Marks and Newel K. Whitney were not able to gather with the Saints in Far West. However, they followed the counsel of the Lord and remained faithful, and they later gathered with the Saints in Nauvoo, Illinois, where William Marks served as stake president and Newel K. Whitney served as a bishop.
Think about Church callings and assignments you might receive. These callings and assignments might include serving in a quorum or class presidency, giving a talk in sacrament meeting, serving as a home teacher, fellowshipping someone, or serving as a full-time missionary. What kinds of sacrifices might these callings require?
The Lord commanded a man named Oliver Granger to leave Far West, Missouri, and return to Kirtland, Ohio, to “contend earnestly for the redemption of the First Presidency of my Church” (D&C 117:13). This assignment included selling Church properties and settling Joseph Smith’s business affairs. This would require Oliver, who was nearly blind, to make sacrifices. Read Doctrine and Covenants 117:12–15, looking for the blessings the Lord said Oliver would receive as he fulfilled this assignment.
In verse 13, notice the Lord’s statement that “his sacrifice shall be more sacred unto me than his increase.” This indicates that the Lord cared more about Oliver’s sacrifice than the money Oliver might obtain as part of his assignment. From this verse, we learn the following principle: The sacrifices we make in the service of the Lord are sacred to Him. Mark the words in verse 13 that teach this principle.
- Answer the following questions in your scripture study journal:
Why is it important to do everything you can to fulfill a Church assignment or calling?
How do you feel when you consider that the sacrifices you make in the service of the Lord are sacred to Him?
Oliver Granger died in Kirtland on August 25, 1841. At the time, he was still acting as the First Presidency’s representative in their business affairs, and he had also been called to preside over the Church in Kirtland. Although he was not completely successful in settling the business affairs of the Church, he worked to preserve the Church’s integrity and good name. He was true to the Lord and the Prophet Joseph Smith.
In a letter of recommendation, Joseph Smith and the other members of the First Presidency described Oliver Granger as “a man of the most strict integrity and moral virtue; and in fine, … a man of God” (in History of the Church, 3:350). President Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said:
“What did Oliver Granger do that his name should be held in sacred remembrance? Nothing much, really. It was not so much what he did as what he was. …
“The Lord did not expect Oliver to be perfect, perhaps not even to succeed. …
“We cannot always expect to succeed, but we should try the best we can” (“The Least of These,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2004, 86).
On July 8, 1838, the Lord called new Apostles to replace those who had apostatized. The Lord also called the Twelve Apostles to preach the gospel.
Read Doctrine and Covenants 118:4–5, looking for where the Lord directed the Twelve to preach the gospel. The phrase “over the great waters” referred to traveling across the Atlantic Ocean to Great Britain. In Doctrine and Covenants 118:5, notice the place where they were to gather before leaving on their missions. Notice also the date the Lord said they should gather in that place.
In the months following this revelation, persecution increased in Missouri. Eventually the Saints were expelled from that state. These conditions made it dangerous for the Twelve to fulfill the Lord’s command to meet in Far West. Many Missourians openly boasted that they would prevent the fulfillment of the revelation. But the Twelve were determined to obey the Lord’s command.
On the morning of April 26, 1839, members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles gathered at the temple site. (Not all faithful members of the quorum could be there. Some had been imprisoned.) They recommenced laying the foundation of the temple (see D&C 115:11) by placing a large stone near the southeast corner of the lot. They ordained new Apostles to fill vacancies in the Quorum of the Twelve. Then they left, undetected by their enemies. (For a more complete account of this experience, see Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Wilford Woodruff , 139–41.)
Doctrine and Covenants 119 and 120 contain two revelations on the law of tithing. In the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 120, the Lord directed that a council be organized to direct the use of the tithing funds of the Church. Today, each ward or branch submits the members’ tithing funds to Church headquarters and this council, called the Council on the Disposition of Tithes. Local leaders do not determine how tithing funds are used.
President Howard W. Hunter explained: “The law is simply stated as ‘one-tenth of all their interest.’ Interest means profit, compensation, increase. It is the wage of one employed, the profit from the operation of a business, the increase of one who grows or produces, or the income to a person from any other source. The Lord said it is a standing law ‘forever’ as it has been in the past” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1964, 35).
As you read the following statements by Presidents of the Church, look for blessings you can receive when you pay tithing:
President Harold B. Lee referred to the Lord’s promise to “open … the windows of heaven” to bless tithe payers (see Malachi 3:8–11): “The opening of the windows of heaven, of course, means revelations from God to him who is willing thus to sacrifice” (“The Way to Eternal Life,” Ensign, Nov. 1971, 16).
President Heber J. Grant spoke of the spiritual blessings that come to us when we pay tithing: “Prosperity comes to those who observe the law of tithing. When I say prosperity I am not thinking of it in terms of dollars and cents alone. … But what I count as real prosperity, as the one thing of all others that is of great value to every man and woman living, is the growth in a knowledge of God, and in a testimony, and in the power to live the gospel and to inspire our families to do the same. That is prosperity of the truest kind” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Heber J. Grant , 124).
President Grant also taught of one way we can be blessed financially when we pay tithing: “If we give in proportion to our means, if we pay our tithing, no matter how small the income, … God our Heavenly Father will magnify the remaining nine dollars out of ten, or the remaining forty-five cents out of every fifty and you will have sufficient wisdom to utilize it to advantage so that you will lose nothing in being honest” (Teachings: Heber J. Grant, 124–25).
- Answer the following question in your scripture study journal: What blessings have you received because you have obeyed the law of tithing?
- Write the following at the bottom of today’s assignments in your scripture study journal:
I have studied Doctrine and Covenants 117–20 and completed this lesson on (date).
Additional questions, thoughts, and insights I would like to share with my teacher: