Chapter 10: Doctrine and Covenants 23–25

“Chapter 10: Doctrine and Covenants 23–25,” Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual (2017)

“Chapter 10,” Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual

Chapter 10

Doctrine and Covenants 23–25

Introduction and Timeline

Within days after the Church’s organization on April 6, 1830, five individuals approached the Prophet Joseph Smith seeking to know their duties with respect to the restored Church. A personalized answer was given to each of them in a series of five revelations that were later combined into Doctrine and Covenants 23.

In June and July 1830, persecution arose in the Colesville, New York, area against the Prophet Joseph Smith and other Church members. During this difficult time the Lord strengthened the Prophet and Oliver Cowdery by giving them the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 24, in which they were instructed to be patient in afflictions and to continue teaching and declaring the gospel.

Emma Smith, the Prophet’s wife, was baptized on June 28, 1830. Persecution at the time forced her confirmation to be postponed until nearly two months later, in August. In July 1830, the Lord provided the revelation in Doctrine and Covenants 25 to Emma. In this revelation the Lord told Emma she was an elect lady and gave her instructions regarding her family and Church responsibilities.

April 6, 1830

The restored Church of Jesus Christ was organized.

April 1830

Doctrine and Covenants 23 was received.

June 9, 1830

The first conference of the Church was held at the home of Peter Whitmer Sr.

June 28, 1830

Emma Smith was baptized.

June 28–July 2, 1830

Joseph Smith was arrested and acquitted of being a disorderly person in South Bainbridge, New York, and again in Colesville, New York.

July 1830

Doctrine and Covenants 24 was received.

July 1830

Doctrine and Covenants 25 was received.

August 1830

Emma Smith was confirmed as a member of the Church.

Doctrine and Covenants 23: Additional Historical Background

In April 1830, shortly after the Church was organized, Oliver Cowdery, Hyrum Smith, Samuel H. Smith, Joseph Smith Sr., and Joseph Knight Sr. received individual revelations from the Lord through the Prophet Joseph Smith. When these divine instructions were first published in the Book of Commandments in 1833, they were listed as five separate revelations. However, since the publication of the Doctrine and Covenants in 1835, they have been combined into one section.

Map 3: Northeastern United States

Doctrine and Covenants 23

In response to their desires, the Lord reveals His will to five men

Doctrine and Covenants 23:1–2. “Beware of pride, lest thou shouldst enter into temptation”

Oliver Cowdery was instrumental in the translation and publication of the Book of Mormon, and he had recently been ordained as the second elder of the Church (see D&C 20:3) when the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 23 was received. However, the Lord, knowing Oliver’s strengths and weaknesses, counseled him to beware of pride. Regarding this counsel, President James E. Faust (1920–2007) of the First Presidency said: “Oliver had great intellect and enjoyed marvelous spiritual blessings. However, over time he forgot the Lord’s warning, and pride entered into his heart. Brigham Young later said of this pride: ‘I have seen men who belonged to this kingdom, and who really thought that if they were not associated with it, it could not progress. One man especially, whom I now think of, … was peculiarly gifted in self-reliance and general ability. He said as much to the Prophet Joseph a number of times as to say that if he left this kingdom, it could not progress any further. I speak of Oliver Cowdery. He forsook it, and it still rolled on, and still triumphed over every opposing foe, and bore off safely all those who clung to it’ [in Journal of Discourses, 11:252]” (“The Prophetic Voice,” Ensign, May 1996, 5–6).

When difficulties arose among the Saints in Kirtland, Ohio, in 1837, Oliver Cowdery fell out of harmony with the Prophet Joseph Smith and other Church leaders and relocated to Missouri. In 1838, Church leaders in Missouri charged Oliver Cowdery with “persecuting Church leaders with vexatious lawsuits, seeking to destroy the character of Joseph Smith, not abiding ecclesiastical authority in temporal affairs, selling lands in Jackson County [which was against counsel given by the Lord], and leaving his calling as Assistant President of the Church and turning to the practice of law. Oliver refused to appear before the council, but he answered by letter. He denied the Church’s right to dictate how he should conduct his life and asked that his fellowship with the Church be ended” (Church History in the Fulness of Times Student Manual, 2nd ed. [Church Educational System manual, 2003], 186–87). Oliver was excommunicated on April 12, 1838. He remained unaffiliated with the Church for 10 years but was rebaptized on November 12, 1848 in Kanesville, Iowa. Before Oliver could arrange to join the Saints in the Salt Lake Valley, he became very ill in Richmond, Missouri, where he died on March 3, 1850.

Doctrine and Covenants 23:3. “Thy duty is unto the church forever … because of thy family”

As the older brother of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Hyrum was an eyewitness to many of the earliest events of the Restoration. He assisted in the publication of the Book of Mormon by working directly with the printer. He served as president of the first branch of the Church in Colesville, New York. Throughout his life he was a loyal supporter of his brother and had a firm testimony that Joseph was a prophet of God.

In May 1829 the Lord had told Hyrum to study the Bible and also the Book of Mormon when the translation was completed and to wait to declare the gospel until the Church was organized and he obtained the word (see D&C 11:21–22). In April 1830 when the revelation in Doctrine and Covenants 23 was given, after the Book of Mormon was published and the Church was organized, he was told that his calling was to exhort—to urge and encourage—“and to strengthen the Church continually” (D&C 23:3). Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, who is a second great-grandson of Hyrum Smith, explained how Hyrum strengthened the Church and sustained his brother the Prophet:

“Throughout Hyrum’s life, the forces of evil combined against him in an attempt to defeat him or at least to prompt him to stray off course.

“After his older brother Alvin’s death in 1823, Hyrum bore significant responsibility in the Smith family. At the same time, he assisted and served his brother, Joseph the Prophet, throughout the long and arduous process of the Restoration. Ultimately, he joined Joseph and other martyrs of past gospel dispensations. His blood was shed as his final testimony to the world.

“Through it all, Hyrum stood firm. He knew the course his life would take, and he consciously chose to follow it. To Joseph, Hyrum became companion, protector, provider, confidant, and eventually joined him as a martyr. Unjust persecution engulfed them throughout their lives. Although he was older, Hyrum recognized his brother’s divine mantle. While he gave Joseph strong counsel on occasion, Hyrum always deferred to his younger brother.

“Speaking to his brother, Joseph once said, ‘Brother Hyrum, what a faithful heart you have got! Oh may the Eternal Jehovah crown eternal blessings upon your head, as a reward for the care you have had for my soul! O how many are the sorrows we have shared together’ [in History of the Church, 5:107–8]. …

“Hyrum gave unfailing service to the Church” (“Hyrum Smith: ‘Firm as the Pillars of Heaven,’” Ensign, Nov. 1995, 6–7).

Doctrine and Covenants 23:4. “Thou art not as yet called to preach before the world”

Samuel Smith, a younger brother of the Prophet, was the third person baptized after the restoration of the Aaronic Priesthood in May 1829. Though he is not as well known as his brothers Joseph and Hyrum, Samuel was one of the Eight Witnesses who saw the golden plates. At the time of the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 23, the Lord did not command Samuel to preach the gospel. However, after he was ordained an elder on June 9, 1830, Samuel was called as the first missionary in the Church and began to visit neighboring towns around Palmyra to sell copies of the Book of Mormon and preach the gospel. On one such trip he sold a copy of the Book of Mormon that eventually led to the conversion of Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball and many of their family members.

Doctrine and Covenants 23:5. “Thy calling also is to exhortation, and to strengthen the church”

Doctrine and Covenants 23 is the second recorded revelation addressed to Joseph Smith Sr. The Prophet’s father provided essential support and encouragement to his son. He became a member of the Church the day it was organized. He fulfilled a mission, beginning in August 1830, with his son Don Carlos to upstate New York to take the gospel message to extended family members. In his later calling as the first patriarch of the Church, he had the opportunity to bless, exhort, and counsel many of the early Church members.

Doctrine and Covenants 23:6–7. “It is your duty to unite with the true church”

At the time that the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 23 was received, Joseph Knight Sr. was not yet baptized as a member of the Church. He was a close friend of the Prophet Joseph Smith and had shown him great kindness. He provided the Prophet with supplies while he worked on the translation of the Book of Mormon. He had felt a desire to be baptized with others on the day the Church was organized, but he refrained because he wanted to study the Book of Mormon further. He was the only one of the five individuals in this revelation who was not specifically told that he was “under no condemnation” (D&C 23:1, 3, 4, 5). Shortly after this revelation was received, Joseph Knight Sr. was baptized, and later Joseph Smith described him as “faithful and true, and even-handed and exemplary, and virtuous and kind, never deviating to the right hand or to the left” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith [2007], 462).

Doctrine and Covenants 24: Additional Historical Background

In late June 1830, Joseph Smith, Emma Smith, Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, and John Whitmer traveled from Harmony, Pennsylvania, to visit Church members and other believers in Colesville, New York. On Saturday, June 26, a stream was dammed to prepare for baptisms the next day (Sunday), but a hostile mob destroyed the dam during the night. Early Monday morning, the dam was rebuilt and 13 people were baptized, including Emma Smith. By the time the baptisms were completed, however, a mob of nearly 50 men gathered, insulting and threatening to harm the Saints. That evening, the Saints met to confirm those who had been baptized earlier that day, but before the confirmations could be performed, Joseph was arrested on charges of “being a disorderly person, of setting the country in an uproar by preaching the Book of Mormon” (in The Joseph Smith Papers, Histories, Volume 1: Joseph Smith Histories, 1832–1844, ed. Karen Lynn Davidson and others [2012], 396).

exterior of Joseph Knight Sr. home, Colesville, New York

The original home of Joseph Knight Sr. in Nineveh (Colesville), New York

On the way to his trial, Joseph escaped a mob with the help of the sympathetic constable who escorted him. After standing trial and being acquitted of the charges, Joseph was immediately arrested again by a constable from a different county. That night Joseph was ridiculed and abused by “a number of men” (in The Joseph Smith Papers, Histories, Volume 1: Joseph Smith Histories, 1832–1844, 402), and the next morning he stood trial. Joseph was again acquitted of the charges and escaped another mob as he traveled home.

Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery made another attempt to unite with the recently baptized members in Colesville, but a mob gathered shortly after they arrived. Joseph and Oliver were forced to flee, barely escaping as the mob pursued them throughout the night (see The Joseph Smith Papers, Histories, Volume 1: Joseph Smith Histories, 1832–1844, 414). Sometime in July, after they had returned to Harmony, Joseph and Oliver received the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 24.

Doctrine and Covenants 24

Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery receive direction for their callings

Doctrine and Covenants 24:3. “Magnify thine office”

In March 1829, the Prophet Joseph Smith learned that when that work of translating the Book of Mormon plates was completed, he would be “ordained and go forth and deliver [the Lord’s] words unto the children of men” (D&C 5:6). When the Church was organized one year later, Joseph was ordained as the first elder. The divine instructions given in Doctrine and Covenants 24 served to remind Joseph that his time and attention were now to be devoted to his office as the Lord’s prophet rather than to temporal concerns. The Lord explained that the Church members would support Joseph Smith temporally, for which they would be blessed (see also D&C 41:7; 43:12–14). In the face of the persecution that Joseph and early Church members were experiencing, the natural desire for many may have been to minimize their efforts to build the Church to avoid further persecution. However, the Lord counseled the Prophet to magnify his office, meaning to enlarge his time and devotion to his calling. Speaking to priesthood holders, President Gordon B. Hinckley (1910–2008) said:

“That word magnify is interesting. As I interpret it, it means to enlarge, to make more clear, to bring closer, and to strengthen. …

“All of you, of course, are familiar with binoculars. When you put the lenses to your eyes and focus them, you magnify and in effect bring closer all within your field of vision. But if you turn them around and look through the other end, you diminish and make more distant that which you see.

“So it is with our actions as holders of the priesthood. When we live up to our high and holy calling, when we show love for God through service to fellowmen, when we use our strength and talents to build faith and spread truth, we magnify our priesthood. When, on the other hand, we live lives of selfishness, when we indulge in sin, when we set our sights only on the things of the world rather than on the things of God, we diminish our priesthood” (“Magnify Your Calling,” Ensign, May 1989, 46–47).

farm area of Joseph Smith, Harmony, New York

Joseph Smith was commanded to plant crops and then go quickly to teach and minister to the people in Colesville, New York (see D&C 24:3–4).

Doctrine and Covenants 24:4. “If they receive thee not”

The Saints were to receive, or sustain, the Prophet Joseph Smith spiritually and to assist him temporally. Those who receive the prophet today and act on his words will receive blessings, and those who do not will experience consequences. Sister Carol F. McConkie, First Counselor in the Young Women General Presidency, said:

“To be in harmony with heaven’s divine purposes, we sustain the prophet and choose to live according to his words. …

“In a world threatened by a famine of righteousness and spiritual starvation, we have been commanded to sustain the prophet. As we give heed to, uphold, and affirm prophetic word, we witness that we have the faith to humbly submit to the will, the wisdom, and the timing of the Lord.

“We heed prophetic word even when it may seem unreasonable, inconvenient, and uncomfortable. According to the world’s standards, following the prophet may be unpopular, politically incorrect, or socially unacceptable. But following the prophet is always right. …

“The Lord honors and favors those who will heed prophetic direction” (“Live according to the Words of the Prophets,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2014, 77–78).

Doctrine and Covenants 24:8. “I am with thee”

The Prophet Joseph Smith was 24 years old when the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 24 was received. Up to that point in his life, Joseph had endured a number of challenges and trials, such as a painful leg operation, the death of a beloved brother, the ridicule and persecution of his community because of the First Vision and the golden plates, the death of his first child, the loss of the 116 Book of Mormon manuscript pages, and most recently, the persecution of mobs in Colesville, New York, and arrests and trials on false charges. Surely Joseph felt comforted when the Lord told him, “I have lifted thee up out of thine afflictions, and have counseled thee, that thou hast been delivered from all thine enemies, and … from the power of Satan and from darkness” (D&C 24:1). Yet the Prophet learned that he would need to “be patient in afflictions, for thou shalt have many” (D&C 24:8). Nevertheless, the Lord reassured him with the promise “I am with thee, even unto the end of thy days” (D&C 24:8).

Doctrine and Covenants 24:9. “In temporal labors thou shalt not have strength”

Church members and leaders do not receive increased ability to accumulate wealth. All experience the challenges and risks of mortality. Nevertheless, some may be blessed with talents for business, finance, and other matters. These were not Joseph Smith’s gifts. Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained: “[Joseph Smith] was almost continually on the edge of financial distress. In the midst of trying to fulfill the staggering responsibilities of his sacred calling, he had to labor as a farmer or merchant to provide a living for his family. He did this without the remarkable spiritual gifts that sustained him in his prophetic calling. The Lord had advised him that ‘in temporal labors thou shalt not have strength, for this is not thy calling’ (D&C 24:9)” (“Joseph, the Man and the Prophet,” Ensign, May 1996, 71).

Doctrine and Covenants 24:13–14. “Require not miracles”

The servants of the Lord can cast out devils and administer blessings to the sick, but miracles occur according to the Lord’s will and when faith is exercised. Miracles are not given to convert people to the truth but to strengthen those who demonstrate their faith in the Lord. (See also Mark 16:16–18, 20; Mormon 9:23–25; D&C 84:64–73.)

Doctrine and Covenants 24:15. “Casting off the dust of your feet”

The Lord gave the Prophet Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery permission to “[cast] off the dust of [their] feet” as a testimony against those who would not receive them (D&C 24:15). Concerning this, Elder James E. Talmage (1862–1933) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught: “To ceremonially shake the dust from one’s feet as a testimony against another was understood by the Jews to symbolize a cessation of fellowship and a renunciation of all responsibility for consequences that might follow. It became an ordinance of accusation and testimony by the Lord’s instructions to His apostles [see Matthew 10:12–14; Mark 6:10–11; Luke 9:4–5]. … In the current dispensation, the Lord has similarly directed His authorized servants to so testify against those who wilfully and maliciously oppose the truth when authoritatively presented (see Doc. and Cov. 24:15; 60:15; 75:20; 84:92; 99:4). The responsibility of testifying before the Lord by this accusing symbol is so great that the means may be employed only under unusual and extreme conditions, as the Spirit of the Lord may direct” (Jesus the Christ, 3rd ed. [1916], 345). Full-time missionaries are not authorized to do this today.

Doctrine and Covenants 24:18. “Take no purse nor scrip”

The Prophet Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery were also commanded to “take no purse nor scrip” (D&C 24:18), meaning that they traveled without money and relied on the hospitality and kindness of others, particularly members of the Church (see D&C 24:3), to provide food and shelter. The Lord knew that the demands of leading the Church would require all of the Prophet’s time and energy, and thus He directed that the Church provide the necessary temporal support for the Prophet and his family so he could devote his time and attention to the work of the Lord. In later revelations the Lord reiterated that the Church should provide temporal assistance for the Prophet so he could accomplish the work he was called to do (see D&C 41:7; 43:13). While the Church has no paid ministry, the Church today follows these same principles by providing a modest living allowance for Church leaders called to full-time Church service, allowing them to devote their full strength, time, and attention to the work of the Lord.

Doctrine and Covenants 25: Additional Historical Background

Emma Smith was among 13 Saints baptized in Colesville, New York, on June 28, 1830. As a consequence of mob action and the Prophet Joseph Smith being arrested on false charges, these newly baptized individuals were not confirmed as Church members that evening. Between Emma’s baptism in June and her eventual confirmation in August, the Lord provided the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 25 to Emma through her husband, Joseph. Of all of the revelations that Joseph Smith received for individuals through July 1830, this was the first given to a woman. This revelation is an indication of the prominent role that Emma would fulfill in the Restoration. She was selected as the first president of the Relief Society in March 1842 in Nauvoo, Illinois. (See The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 1: July 1828–June 1831, ed. Michael Hubbard MacKay and others [2013], 162).

reconstructed home of Isaac and Elizabeth Hale, Harmony, Pennsylvania

The reconstructed home of Isaac and Elizabeth Hale, parents of Emma Hale Smith, in what was called Harmony Township, Pennsylvania

Doctrine and Covenants 25

The Lord gives Emma Smith personalized counsel and instruction

Doctrine and Covenants 25:1. “Sons and daughters in my kingdom”

All people who come to earth are spirit children of our Heavenly Father. The Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants both teach that those who receive the restored gospel and the accompanying covenants and ordinances, and are truly born again, are adopted into the family of the Lord Jesus Christ. He becomes the Father of their spiritual new birth and the Father of their salvation. This is what King Benjamin meant when, speaking to those who had undergone a mighty change of heart and desired to enter into a covenant to keep the commandments of God, he declared: “And now, because of the covenant which ye have made ye shall be called the children of Christ, his sons, and his daughters; for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you; for ye say that your hearts are changed through faith on his name; therefore, ye are born of him and have become his sons and his daughters” (Mosiah 5:7; see also Ether 3:14; D&C 35:2; 39:4–6; 45:8). Emma Smith had recently been baptized into the Church, and, therefore, the Savior referred to her as His daughter in Doctrine and Covenants 25.

Doctrine and Covenants 25:2–3. “Walk in the paths of virtue before me”

The Christlike attribute of virtue “is a pattern of thought and behavior based on high moral standards … [and] is prerequisite to receiving the Spirit’s guidance” (Preach My Gospel: A Guide to Missionary Service [2004], 118). Commenting on the Lord’s direction to Emma Smith to “walk in the paths of virtue” (D&C 25:2), President Gordon B. Hinckley said:

“I feel those words were given to Emma Smith, and consequently to all of us, as a condition to be observed if we are to receive an inheritance in the kingdom of God. Lack of virtue is totally inconsistent with obedience to the commandments of God. There is nothing more beautiful than virtue. There is no strength that is greater than the strength of virtue. …

“It is interesting that in this revelation, when the Lord gave that great conditional promise to Emma, he went on to say, ‘Thy sins are forgiven thee, and thou art an elect lady.’ [D&C 25:3.] I am so grateful for the gift of forgiveness extended by a merciful Father. Said the Lord through the prophet Isaiah concerning those who repent and are forgiven, ‘Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.’ (Isa. 1:18.)

“To any within the sound of my voice who may be grieving over serious mistakes in their lives, I hold out the assurance, given anciently and in modern revelation, that where there is repentance there may be forgiveness. Do not dwell upon the tragic mistakes of the past. Rather, ‘look to God and live.’ (Alma 37:47.)” (“If Thou Art Faithful,” Ensign, Nov. 1984, 91).

Doctrine and Covenants 25:3. In what way was Emma “an elect lady”?

The Lord said that Emma Smith was “an elect lady” (D&C 25:3), meaning that she was chosen because of her faithfulness to assist in God’s work. The Prophet Joseph Smith (1805–1844) later explained the meaning of this title when he organized the Relief Society on March 17, 1842: “I assisted in commencing the organization of ‘The Female Relief Society of Nauvoo’ in the Lodge Room. Sister Emma Smith, President, and Sister Elizabeth Ann Whitney and Sarah M. Cleveland, Counselors. I gave much instruction, read in the New Testament, and Book of Doctrine and Covenants, concerning the Elect Lady, and showed that the elect meant to be elected to a certain work … and that the revelation was then fulfilled by Sister Emma’s election to the Presidency of the Society, she having previously been ordained to expound the Scriptures” (in History of the Church, 4:552–53).

Doctrine and Covenants 25:4. What had Emma not seen that may have caused her to murmur?

The Lord knew and loved Emma Smith. His instruction for her to “murmur not” (D&C 25:4) came because she had not seen the Book of Mormon plates. She was present during some of the translation of the golden plates and even participated briefly as a scribe. It may have been difficult for her when the Three Witnesses and Eight Witnesses were permitted to view them and she was not. Though Emma did not have the opportunity to view the plates, she later explained that during the translation process, “the plates often lay on the table without any attempt at concealment, wrapped in a small linen table cloth, which I had given him [Joseph Smith] to fold them in. I once felt of the plates, as they thus lay on the table, tracing their outline and shape. They seemed to be pliable like thick paper, and would rustle with a metallic sound when the edges were moved by the thumb, as one does sometimes thumb the edges of a book. …

“I did not attempt to handle the plates, other than [through the linen cloth]. … I was satisfied that it was the work of God, and therefore did not feel it to be necessary to do so” (“Last Testimony of Sister Emma,” Saints’ Herald, Oct. 1, 1879, 290; spelling standardized).

Doctrine and Covenants 25:5–9. “The office of thy calling”

Emma Smith endured many difficulties and sorrows as she also endured the hardships, abuse, and persecution inflicted upon her husband. The Lord called Emma to comfort and support her husband in his unique capacity as the Prophet of the Restoration. Additionally, Emma received significant assignments to lead and teach in the Church. Sister Julie B. Beck, a former Relief Society General President, taught the following regarding Emma’s role in the Restoration:

“As the Lord began restoring His Church through the Prophet Joseph Smith, He again [as He did anciently] included women in a pattern of discipleship. A few months after the Church was formally organized, the Lord revealed that Emma Smith was to be set apart as a leader and teacher in the Church and as an official helper to her husband, the Prophet [see D&C 25]. In her calling to help the Lord build His kingdom, she was given instructions about how to increase her faith and personal righteousness, how to strengthen her family and her home, and how to serve others.

“I hope my granddaughters will understand that from the day the gospel began to be restored in this dispensation, the Lord has needed faithful women to participate as His disciples” (“What I Hope My Granddaughters (and Grandsons) Will Understand about Relief Society,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2011, 110).

depiction of Joseph and Emma Smith by a fence

The Lord called Emma Smith to “be for a comfort” to her husband, Joseph, in his afflictions (D&C 25:5).

Speaking of the important contributions women make to the Church, President Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said:

“The women of this dispensation are distinct from the women of any other because this dispensation is distinct from any other. This distinction brings both privileges and responsibilities.

“… In 1979, President Spencer W. Kimball made a profound prophecy about the impact that covenant-keeping women would have on the future of the Lord’s Church. He prophesied: ‘Much of the major growth that is coming to the Church in the last days will come because many of the good women of the world … will be drawn to the Church in large numbers. This will happen to the degree that the women of the Church reflect righteousness and articulateness in their lives and to the degree that the women of the Church are seen as distinct and different—in happy ways—from the women of the world’ [Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball (2006), 222–23].

“My dear sisters, you who are our vital associates during this winding-up scene, the day that President Kimball foresaw is today. You are the women he foresaw! Your virtue, light, love, knowledge, courage, character, faith, and righteous lives will draw good women of the world, along with their families, to the Church in unprecedented numbers!

“We, your brethren, need your strength, your conversion, your conviction, your ability to lead, your wisdom, and your voices. The kingdom of God is not and cannot be complete without women who make sacred covenants and then keep them, women who can speak with the power and authority of God!

“President [Boyd K.] Packer declared:

“‘We need women who are organized and women who can organize. We need women with executive ability who can plan and direct and administer; women who can teach, women who can speak out. …

“‘We need women with the gift of discernment who can view the trends in the world and detect those that, however popular, are shallow or dangerous’ [“The Relief Society,” Ensign, Nov. 1978, 8].

“Today, let me add that we need women who know how to make important things happen by their faith and who are courageous defenders of morality and families in a sin-sick world. We need women who are devoted to shepherding God’s children along the covenant path toward exaltation; women who know how to receive personal revelation, who understand the power and peace of the temple endowment; women who know how to call upon the powers of heaven to protect and strengthen children and families; women who teach fearlessly” (“A Plea to My Sisters,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2015, 96).

Doctrine and Covenants 25:7. The meaning of the word ordained

At the March 17, 1842, meeting to organize the Female Relief Society of Nauvoo, Emma Smith was elected president, and Sarah M. Cleveland and Elizabeth Ann Whitney were selected as Emma’s counselors in the presidency. John Taylor ordained Sarah and Elizabeth to their callings. However, when he “laid his hands on the head of Mrs. Smith,” he “blessed her, and confirmed upon her all the blessings which have been conferred on her” (The First Fifty Years of Relief Society: Key Documents in Latter-day Saint Women’s History, ed. Jill Mulvay Derr, Carol Cornwall Madsen, Kate Holbrook, and Matthew J. Grow [2016], 32; spelling standardized). The Prophet Joseph Smith clarified that Emma was not ordained at the meeting because “she was ordained at the time, the Revelation [D&C 25] was given” (The First Fifty Years of Relief Society, 32; spelling standardized; see also The Joseph Smith Papers, Journals: Volume 2: December 1841–April 1843, ed. Andrew H. Hedges and others [2011], 45, note 163).

depiction of Emma Smith teaching

The Lord called Emma Smith “to expound scriptures, and to exhort the church” (D&C 25:7).

President Joseph Fielding Smith (1876–1972) explained what was meant when the Lord said that Emma Smith would “be ordained under [the Prophet Joseph Smith’s] hand (D&C 25:7): “The term ‘ordain’ was used generally in the early days of the Church in reference to both ordination and setting apart. … Men holding the Priesthood were said to have been ‘ordained’ to preside over branches and to perform special work. Sisters also were said to have been ‘ordained’ when they were called to some special duty or responsibility. In later years we developed a distinction between ordain and setting apart. Men are ordained to offices in the Priesthood and set apart to preside over stakes, wards, branches, missions, and auxiliary organizations. The sisters are set apart—not ordained—as presidents of auxiliary organizations, to missions, etc. This saying that Emma Smith was ‘ordained’ to expound scripture, does not mean that she had conferred upon her the Priesthood, but that she was set apart to this calling, which found its fulfillment in the Relief Society of the Church” (Church History and Modern Revelation, [1953], 1:126).

Doctrine and Covenants 25:10. “Lay aside the things of this world”

President Gordon B. Hinckley, commenting on the Lord’s instructions to Emma Smith in Doctrine and Covenants 25:10, said: “I feel he was not telling Emma that she should not feel concerned about a place to live, food on her table, and clothing. He was saying to her that she should not be obsessed with these things, as so many of us are wont to be. He was telling her to get her thoughts on the higher things of life, the things of righteousness and goodness, matters of charity and love for others, the things of eternity” (“If Thou Art Faithful,” 91).

Doctrine and Covenants 25:11–12. “My soul delighteth in the song of the heart”

The scriptures provide evidence that music has often been an important part of worship for God’s children (see 1 Chronicles 15:27; Matthew 26:30; Colossians 3:16; Alma 26:8; Mormon 7:7; Moroni 6:9; D&C 136:28). The Lord declared that “the song of the righteous is a prayer unto me” (D&C 25:12). Emma Smith was assigned by the Lord to “make a selection of sacred hymns” (D&C 25:11). In 1835, the first hymnal of the Church was published in Kirtland, Ohio, and the title page identifies Emma Smith as having selected the hymns. She gathered 90 hymn texts from mostly Protestant sources, along with new hymns written by Church members, such as W. W. Phelps.

title page of 1835 Church hymnal

Title page of an original copy of the 1835 hymnal prepared by Emma Smith

Doctrine and Covenants 25:16. “This is my voice unto all”

While some of the revelations found in the Doctrine and Covenants were originally given to specific individuals, it is appropriate and important for readers to view the doctrinal truths and principles found in scripture passages as if they had received them personally from the Lord. A diligent study of the scriptures will help readers identify these important truths. President Marion G. Romney (1897–1988) of the First Presidency explained, “One cannot honestly study the scriptures without learning gospel principles because the scriptures have been written to preserve principles for our benefit” (“The Message of the Old Testament,” [address to Church Educational System religious educators, Aug. 17, 1979], 3). When gospel truths and principles are identified and valued, they can be applied to everyday living.