“Chapter 11: Doctrine and Covenants 26–28,” Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual (2017)
“Chapter 11,” Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual
Following the organization of the Church, the Prophet Joseph Smith traveled several times between Harmony, Pennsylvania, and the branches of the Church in New York to strengthen the members and build the Church. This left little time for him to tend to his farm and provide for his material needs. In July 1830, the Lord gave a revelation instructing Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, and John Whitmer on how they should occupy their time while preparing for an upcoming Church conference in the fall. This revelation, recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 26, gave direction for both spiritual and temporal matters and gave further instruction regarding the principle of common consent in the Church.
While at Harmony in August 1830, Joseph Smith went to obtain wine for the sacrament and was met by a heavenly messenger. The Prophet was given instructions regarding the emblems of the sacrament as well as the importance of putting on the whole armor of God. The directions he received are recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 27.
Because of increasing persecution in Harmony, Pennsylvania, Joseph and Emma Smith accepted Peter Whitmer Sr.’s invitation to live with his family again in Fayette, New York. As they arrived in early September 1830, the Prophet learned that Hiram Page claimed to be receiving revelation for the Church through a stone. Joseph inquired of the Lord and received the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 28, in which the Lord clarified the order of receiving revelation for the Church.
June 1830Mob persecution in Colesville, New York, prevented newly baptized converts from being confirmed.
June 1830Joseph Smith begins the inspired translation of the Bible by dictating the “Visions of Moses” (Moses 1).
July 1830Doctrine and Covenants 26 was received.
August 1830Doctrine and Covenants 27 was received.
August 1830Hiram Page claimed to be receiving revelation for the Church.
Early September 1830Joseph and Emma Smith moved to Fayette, New York.
September 1830Doctrine and Covenants 28 was received.
September 26–28, 1830The second conference of the Church was held in Fayette, New York.
October 1830Oliver Cowdery and others departed on a mission to the Lamanites.
Following the publication of the Book of Mormon and the organization of the Church, the Prophet Joseph Smith traveled back and forth from his home in Harmony, Pennsylvania, to visit the members of the three branches of the Church in New York (Manchester, Fayette, and Colesville). In Colesville, New York, some newly baptized members were not confirmed after their baptism because of mob persecution and the arrest of the Prophet on false charges of “being a disorderly person, of setting the country in an uproar by preaching the Book of Mormon” (Joseph Smith, in History of the Church, 1:88). In July 1830, the Lord instructed the Prophet Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, and John Whitmer to return to Colesville and confirm the baptized individuals there (see D&C 26:1). Newel Knight recorded, “This revelation was a great consolation to the little band of brethren and sisters at Colesville after having been abandoned from time to time, by the Servants of God, in consequence of the wickedness of the wicked who were constantly seeking to destroy the work of God from the earth” (Newel Knight autobiography, circa 1871, 114–15, Church History Library, Salt Lake City).
The Lord had previously instructed the Saints to “meet in conference once in three months, or from time to time as said conferences shall direct or appoint” (D&C 20:61). The first conference of the Church was held in Fayette, New York, on June 9, 1830. In July 1830, when the Prophet Joseph Smith was living at his home in Harmony, Pennsylvania, the Lord indicated that the time was approaching when Joseph “shall go to the west to hold the next conference” (D&C 26:1). That conference was held on September 26–28, 1830, in Fayette, which is approximately 100 miles (161 kilometers) northwest of Harmony.
During the translation of the Book of Mormon, the Prophet Joseph Smith learned that “many plain and precious things” (1 Nephi 13:28) had been lost from the Bible and that those truths would someday be restored (see 1 Nephi 13:28, 32).
In addition to those truths taught in the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith’s inspired translation of the Bible and other revelations have helped to restore lost truths. In October 1829, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery purchased a Bible from E. B. Grandin in Palmyra, New York, that was used during the inspired translation of the Bible. In June 1830, as Joseph began his revelatory translation of the Bible, he dictated the “Visions of Moses,” which is now Moses 1 in the Pearl of Great Price. Although it is not known where Joseph and Oliver were when this revelation was received, the Prophet later recorded that “amid all the trials and tribulations we had to wade through, the Lord, who well knew our infantile and delicate situation, vouchsafed for us a supply of strength, and granted us ‘line upon line of knowledge—here a little and there a little’ [see 2 Nephi 28:30], of which the following [Moses 1] was a precious morsel” (in History of the Church, 1:98).
It is possible that the Lord’s direction to “let your time be devoted to the studying of the scriptures” (D&C 26:1) was an instruction for Joseph to continue with his inspired translation of the Bible that is known today as the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible (see Robert J. Matthews, “A Plainer Translation”: Joseph Smith’s Translation of the Bible, a History and Commentary , 27).
The principle of common consent was first implemented in this dispensation when the Church was organized on April 6, 1830. The believers who were gathered at the home of Peter Whitmer Sr. were asked to give their consent that Joseph Smith should serve as the presiding first elder in the Church and that Oliver Cowdery should preside under Joseph as the second elder. This practice of common consent has continued in the Church since that time. It demonstrates a belief in the principle that every person is free to express his or her willingness or unwillingness to sustain those who are called to positions in God’s kingdom here on earth. The principle of common consent was reaffirmed in several revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants (see D&C 26:2; 28:13; 38:34; 42:11; 104:71–72, 85; 124:144).
President Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained what sustaining our leaders means for us today:
“Often we sing, ‘We thank thee, O God, for a prophet’ [‘We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet,’ Hymns, no. 19]. Do you and I really understand what that means? Imagine the privilege the Lord has given us of sustaining His prophet, whose counsel will be untainted, unvarnished, unmotivated by any personal aspiration, and utterly true!
“How do we really sustain a prophet? Long before he became President of the Church, President Joseph F. Smith explained, ‘It is an important duty resting upon the Saints who … sustain the authorities of the Church, to do so not only by the lifting of the hand, the mere form, but in deed and in truth’ [Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith (1998), 211; emphasis added]” (“Sustaining the Prophets,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2014, 74).
The Lord commanded the Saints that “all things shall be done by common consent” in the Church (D&C 26:2).
President Joseph Fielding Smith (1876–1972) taught that the purpose of a sustaining vote is not to express personal preference regarding those whom the Lord has duly called: “The priesthood selects, under the inspiration of our Father in heaven, and then it is the duty of the Latter-day Saints, as they are assembled in conference, or other capacity, by the uplifted hand, to sustain or to reject; and I take it that no man has the right to raise his hand in opposition, or with contrary vote, unless he has a reason for doing so that would be valid if presented before those who stand at the head. In other words, I have no right to raise my hand in opposition to a man who is appointed to any position in this Church, simply because I may not like him, or because of some personal disagreement or feeling I may have, but only on the grounds that he is guilty of wrong doing, of transgression of the laws of the Church which would disqualify him for the position which he is called to hold” (Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie , 3:123–24).
After the Church members sustained President Thomas S. Monson as the President of the Church for the first time, Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles emphasized the covenantal nature of the law of common consent in the Church. He taught that when we raise our hands to the square, it is “not just a vote” but more “a private and personal commitment, even a covenant, to sustain and to uphold the laws, ordinances, commandments, and the prophet of God” (“Gaining a Testimony of God the Father; His Son, Jesus Christ; and the Holy Ghost,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2008, 29).
Emma Smith was baptized near Pickerel Pond on Joseph Knight’s farm in Colesville, New York (photograph ca. 1907).
Courtesy Church History Library and Archives
Before the Prophet Joseph Smith could return to Colesville, New York, Newel and Sally Knight went to visit him and his wife, Emma, in Harmony, Pennsylvania, in August 1830. Because of persecution from the mob in June, neither Sally Knight nor Emma Smith had been confirmed members of the Church and given the gift of the Holy Ghost. Before the Knights returned home, the couples decided to partake of the sacrament together and perform the confirmations. Joseph wrote, “I set out to go to procure some wine for the occasion, but had gone only a short distance when I was met by a heavenly messenger” (in The Joseph Smith Papers, Histories, Volume 1: Joseph Smith Histories, 1832–1844, ed. Karen Lynn Davidson and others , 428). Joseph received the instructions recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 27 from the messenger.
Joseph returned home and, after preparing wine of their own making, those in attendance held a small meeting and partook of the sacrament, and Emma and Sally were confirmed. The Prophet later recorded that “the Spirit of the Lord was poured out upon us, [and] we praised the Lord God, and rejoiced exceedingly” (in The Joseph Smith Papers, Histories, Volume 1: Joseph Smith Histories, 1832–1844, 432).
The sacrament prayers recorded in scripture indicate that wine was used to remind believers of the Savior’s blood, which was shed in their behalf (see Moroni 5; D&C 20:40, 78–79). Wine was used for the sacrament at the Church’s organization on April 6, 1830. The heavenly messenger that spoke to the Prophet Joseph Smith in August 1830 said that wine was not necessary to commemorate the Lord’s sacrifice as long as we partake “with an eye single to [His] glory” (D&C 27:2). Joseph was specifically warned not to purchase wine or strong drink from the enemies of the Church for use in the sacrament, but he could use wine of his own making. Even after the Word of Wisdom was received in 1833, the use of water instead of wine was not adopted everywhere at first. Today, however, water is used exclusively in the Church for the sacrament.
When bread is not available for use in the sacrament, an appropriate substitute may be used. For example, potatoes or potato peelings were sometimes used for the sacrament by European Latter-day Saints during World War II (see Ezra Taft Benson, in Conference Report, Oct. 1952, 120).
Interior of the reconstructed home of Joseph and Emma Smith in Harmony, Pennsylvania, where they welcomed Newel and Sally Knight in August 1830
Participating in the ordinance of the sacrament to commemorate Jesus Christ’s Atonement should be the most important part of our worship on the Sabbath. Our duty to remember the sacrifice of the Savior’s body and blood while we partake of the sacrament was described by the angel who appeared to the Prophet Joseph Smith (see D&C 27:2). Specifically, we are to “partake of the sacrament … with an eye single to [the Lord’s] glory” (D&C 27:2). Having an “eye single” means to be spiritually focused on the Savior and His redeeming work. Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles reminds us of how easily distracted we may be from the true purpose of the sacrament:
“The ordinance of the sacrament makes the sacrament meeting the most sacred and important meeting in the Church. It is the only Sabbath meeting the entire family can attend together. …
“During sacrament meeting—and especially during the sacrament service—we should concentrate on worship and refrain from all other activities, especially from behavior that could interfere with the worship of others. … Sacrament meeting is not a time for reading books or magazines. Young people, it is not a time for whispered conversations on cell phones or for texting persons at other locations. When we partake of the sacrament, we make a sacred covenant that we will always remember the Savior. How sad to see persons obviously violating that covenant in the very meeting where they are making it” (“Sacrament Meeting and the Sacrament,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2008, 17–19).
Jesus Christ promised that the time was coming when He would “drink of the fruit of the vine” with His disciples again, as He had during the Last Supper (D&C 27:5).
When the Savior met with His disciples in Jerusalem to partake of the Passover meal and institute the ordinance of the sacrament, He informed them that He would “not drink of the fruit of the vine, until the kingdom of God shall come” (Luke 22:18; see also Matthew 26:29; Mark 14:25). This prophecy anticipates the time when Jesus Christ will partake of the sacrament as part of the events surrounding His return to the earth in glory. In August 1830, the Prophet Joseph Smith learned that not only will ancient prophets join together to partake of the emblems of the sacrament with the Savior but also “all those whom [the] Father hath given [Him] out of the world” (D&C 27:14), meaning all faithful members of the Church who come unto Christ and endure to the end.
Elder Bruce R. McConkie (1915–1985) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained who would have the privilege of participating in this important event: “Jesus is going to partake of the sacrament again with his mortal disciples on earth. But it will not be with mortals only. He names others who will be present and who will participate in the sacred ordinance [see D&C 27:5–14]. … The sacrament is to be administered in a future day, on this earth, when the Lord Jesus is present, and when all the righteous of all ages are present. This, of course, will be a part of the grand council at Adam-ondi-Ahman” (The Millennial Messiah: The Second Coming of the Son of Man , 587). Concerning that event, Elder McConkie also taught: “Every faithful person in the whole history of the world, every person who has so lived as to merit eternal life in the kingdom of the Father will be in attendance and will partake, with the Lord, of the sacrament” (The Promised Messiah: The First Coming of Christ , 595).
Doctrine and Covenants 27:5–13 contains a list of some of the ancient prophets and apostles who held priesthood keys of authority and who will someday participate in the sacrament with Savior. The restoration of these priesthood keys in the latter days was essential to the establishment of the dispensation of the fulness of times. The Prophet Joseph Smith (1805–1844) explained:
“God purposed in Himself that there should not be an eternal fullness until every dispensation should be fulfilled and gathered together in one. …
“… All the ordinances and duties that ever have been required by the Priesthood, under the directions and commandments of the Almighty in any of the dispensations, shall all be had in the last dispensation, therefore all things had under the authority of the Priesthood at any former period, shall be had again, bringing to pass the restoration spoken of by the mouth of all the Holy Prophets” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith , 511).
Elder Bruce R. McConkie testified that the priesthood keys of authority were transmitted to Joseph Smith and subsequent prophets and apostles in our dispensation: “We know that God has in these last days restored again the fulness of his everlasting gospel for the salvation of all men on earth who will believe and obey; and that he has called Joseph Smith, Jr., to be his latter-day prophet, to be the first and chief Apostle in the dispensation of the fulness of times, and has given him every key and priesthood and power that Peter and the Apostles and the ancient prophets held in the days of their ministry; and that these keys and this holy Apostleship have descended [through each President of the Church to the present]; and that this holy Apostleship and these keys will continue to descend from one Apostle to another until the Lord Jesus Christ comes in the clouds of heaven to reign personally upon the earth. … His is the only name given under heaven whereby salvation comes, and we are his ministers” (“Upon This Rock,” Ensign, May 1981, 77).
The Apostle Paul warned the Ephesian Saints to “put on the whole armour of God that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11; see Ephesians 6:11–18), and the same counsel was given to the Latter-day Saints (see D&C 27:15–18). President Harold B. Lee (1899–1973) explained some of the symbolic meaning of the armor of God and what we should seek to protect if we are to put on the whole armor of God: “We have the four parts of the body that the Apostle Paul said or saw to be the most vulnerable to the powers of darkness. The loins, typifying virtue, chastity. The heart typifying our conduct. Our feet, our goals or objectives in life and finally our head, our thoughts” (Feet Shod with the Preparation of the Gospel of Peace, Brigham Young University Speeches of the Year [Nov. 9, 1954], 2).
The Lord’s declaration “Wherefore, lift up your hearts and rejoice, and gird up your loins, and take upon you my whole armor” (D&C 27:15) follows His promise that not only His servants from past dispensations will be present at the great sacrament meeting when he returns to earth but “all those whom the Father hath given me out of the world” (D&C 27:14). This suggests an important connection between putting on the armor of God and being prepared and worthy to be numbered among those who will gather with the Savior before His return in glory to earth.
On the day the Church was organized, the Lord commanded the members of His Church to “give heed unto all [the Prophet’s] words and commandments … for his word ye shall receive, as if from mine own mouth” (D&C 21:4–5). However, it took time for Church members to fully understand the meaning of this doctrine. In the summer of 1830, Oliver Cowdery wrote to the Prophet Joseph Smith to inform him that he felt there was an error in one of the commandments contained in the passage now recorded as Doctrine and Covenants 20:37, and Oliver commanded the Prophet to change the wording.
Joseph Smith explained: “I immediately wrote to him in reply, in which I asked him, by what authority he took upon him to command me to alter, or erase, to add or diminish to or from a revelation or commandment from Almighty God. In a few days afterwards I visited him and Mr. Whitmer’s family, when I found the family in general of [Oliver’s] opinion … ; and it was not without both labor and perseverance that I could prevail with any of them to reason calmly on the subject. … Finally, … I succeeded in bringing not only the Whitmer family, but also Oliver Cowdery also to acknowledge that they had been in error” (in The Joseph Smith Papers, Histories, Volume 1: Joseph Smith Histories, 1832–1844, 426).
In early September 1830 another serious challenge to the Lord’s order of revelation in His Church occurred. As a result of increasing persecution in Harmony, Pennsylvania, Joseph and Emma Smith moved to the Peter Whitmer Sr. home in Fayette, New York. Upon their arrival, Joseph learned that Hiram Page was claiming to have received revelations through a stone. Excitement and support for these so-called revelations abounded among the Whitmers and Oliver Cowdery.
Newel Knight, who had arrived in Fayette to attend the second conference of the Church, shared the following:
“On my arrival I found Brother Joseph in great distress of mind on account of [Hiram] Page, who had managed to get up some dissension of feeling among the brethren by giving revelations concerning the government of the Church and other matters, which he claimed to have received through the medium of a stone he possessed. He had quite a roll of papers full of these revelations, and many in the Church were led astray by them. Even Oliver Cowdery and the Whitmer family had given heed to them, although they were in contradiction to the New Testament and the revelations of these last days. Here was a chance for Satan to work among the little flock, and he sought by this means to accomplish what persecution failed to do. Joseph was perplexed and scarcely knew how to meet this new exigency [emergency]. That night I occupied the same room that he did and the greater part of the night was spent in prayer and supplication. After much labor with these brethren they were convinced of their error, and confessed the same, renouncing the revelations as not being of God, but acknowledged that Satan had conspired to overthrow their belief in the true plan of salvation. In consequence of these things Joseph enquired of the Lord before conference commenced and received the revelation [recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 28], wherein God explicitly states His mind and will concerning the receiving of revelation.
“Conference having assembled, the first thing done was to consider the subject of the stone in connection with [Hiram] Page, and after considerable investigation and discussion, Brother Page and all the members of the Church present renounced the stone, and the revelations connected with it, much to our joy and satisfaction. …
“During this time we had much of the power of God manifested among us and it was wonderful to witness the wisdom that Joseph displayed on this occasion, for truly God gave unto him great wisdom and power, and it seems to me, even now, that none who saw him administer righteousness under such trying circumstances, could doubt that the Lord was with him, as he acted—not with the wisdom of man, but with the wisdom of God” (“Newel Knight’s Journal,” in Scraps of Biography , 10:64–65).
In the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 28, given through the Prophet Joseph Smith to Oliver Cowdery, the Lord gave the proper order of revelation in the Church. Although Oliver was ordained as the second elder of the Church, his role was not to receive revelations or write commandments for the Church, nor was he to command Joseph Smith, who stood at the head of the Church. Rather, Oliver was to follow the pattern found in the example of Aaron, “to declare faithfully the commandments and the revelations” (D&C 28:3) that had been given to the Lord’s prophet. Like Moses, Joseph Smith was the prophet who had received the keys of the kingdom in his day. Nevertheless, Oliver was promised that he would be led by the Comforter and would be blessed with power and authority as he taught the things revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith.
The Lord compared Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery to Moses and Aaron (see D&C 28:2–3).
President Joseph Fielding Smith explained: “It was very necessary that Oliver Cowdery should receive this admonition, for he was inclined to take issue with the Prophet even in regard to matters of revelation. Much good came out of this unpleasant incident, for the members were taught that there was order in the Church and only one appointed to receive commandments and revelations for their guidance, and he was the one God had called” (Church History and Modern Revelation , 1:135).
In speaking about this proper order of revelation, the Prophet Joseph Smith taught: “It is contrary to the economy of God for any member of the Church, or any one, to receive instruction for those in authority, higher than themselves; … if any person have a vision or a visitation from a heavenly messenger, it must be for his own benefit or instruction; for the fundamental principles, government, and doctrine of the Church are vested in the keys of the kingdom” (Teachings: Joseph Smith, 197–98). On a later occasion he declared, “The Presidents or [First] Presidency are over the Church; and revelations of the mind and will of God to the Church, are to come through the Presidency. This is the order of heaven, and the power and privilege of [the Melchizedek] Priesthood. It is also the privilege of any officer in this Church to obtain revelations, so far as relates to his particular calling and duty in the Church” (Teachings: Joseph Smith, 197).
Elder Dallin H. Oaks outlined how this order of revelation continues today in the Church: “Our Heavenly Father’s house is a house of order, where his servants are commanded to ‘act in the office in which [they are] appointed’ (D&C 107:99). This principle applies to revelation. Only the president of the Church receives revelation to guide the entire Church. Only the stake president receives revelation for the special guidance of the stake. The person who receives revelation for the ward is the bishop. For a family, it is the priesthood leadership of the family. Leaders receive revelation for their own stewardships. Individuals can receive revelation to guide their own lives. But when one person purports to receive revelation for another person outside his or her own stewardship—such as a Church member who claims to have revelation to guide the entire Church or a person who claims to have a revelation to guide another person over whom he or she has no presiding authority according to the order of the Church—you can be sure that such revelations are not from the Lord” (“Revelation” [Brigham Young University devotional, Sept. 29, 1981], 7, speeches.byu.edu).
Oliver Cowdery was called to lead a mission to the Lamanites (see D&C 28:8–10, 14–16; see also D&C 30:5–6; 32:1–3). The term Lamanites refers to a group of people in the Book of Mormon, many of whom were descendants of Laman, the eldest son of Lehi. The Lord’s use of the term Lamanites in Doctrine and Covenants 28:9 indicates that some of Lehi’s descendants were among the Native Americans, or American Indians, who, at the time, were living on what was considered the western border of the United States. In May 1830, the United States Congress passed the Indian Removal Bill, which required all American Indians to relocate to the federal Indian Territory west of the state of Missouri. Thus, Oliver Cowdery and his companions traveled to western Missouri, “on the borders by the Lamanites” (D&C 28:9), to teach the gospel to American Indians.
The Book of Mormon does not claim that American Indians descended exclusively from the family of Lehi. President Anthony W. Ivins (1852–1934) of the First Presidency said: “We must be careful in the conclusions that we reach. The Book of Mormon teaches the history of three distinct peoples … who came from the old world to this continent. It does not tell us that there was no one here before them. It does not tell us that people did not come after. And so if discoveries are made which suggest differences in race origins, it can very easily be accounted for, and reasonably, for we do believe that other people came to this continent” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1929, 15).
After the Book of Mormon was published, the Saints became familiar with prophecies about latter-day Zion—the New Jerusalem to be built upon the American continent (see 3 Nephi 20:22; 21:22–23; Ether 13:4–8). It was only natural that the Saints would inquire about its location. In the summer of 1830, Hiram Page sought to discover the location of the latter-day city of Zion through a stone that he believed enabled him to receive revelation. However, he was eventually convinced that he had been deceived by Satan, and he renounced his purported “revelations.” Along with Oliver Cowdery’s call to preach the gospel to the Lamanites, the Lord indicated that the location for the city Zion “shall be on the borders by the Lamanites” (D&C 28:9). Months later, the location for Zion was identified as being in Missouri (see the commentary for Doctrine and Covenants 57:1–3 in this manual).
An issue in the controversy created by Hiram Page was his presumption that the Lord would permit him to obtain revelation that was not his privilege to receive. This presumption further allowed him to be deceived and influenced by Satan. The Whitmer family and others in the Fayette, New York, area, including Oliver Cowdery, who believed Hiram Page’s claims were similarly deceived. According to Doctrine and Covenants 28, Oliver was assigned to correct Hiram Page and to teach true principles. The Prophet Joseph Smith recorded that at the September 1830 conference, “Brother Page, as well as the whole church who were present, renounced the said stone, and all things connected therewith” (in The Joseph Smith Papers, Histories, Volume 1: Joseph Smith Histories, 1832–1844, 452).
President James E. Faust (1920–2007) of the First Presidency testified that the President of the Church is the only person who can receive revelation for the whole Church and explained how this provides order and protection for Latter-day Saints:
“Some have claimed higher spiritual gifts or authority outside the established priesthood authority of the Church. They say that they believe in the principles and ordinances of the gospel and accept the President of the Church as the legal administrator thereof, but claim they have a higher order which the President does not have. This is often done to justify an activity which is not in accordance with the doctrines of the Church. There can be no higher order, however, because the President of the Church both holds and exercises all of the keys of the kingdom of God on earth. The Lord has said of the President of the Church ‘that none else shall be appointed [to receive commandments and revelations] except it be through him’ [D&C 43:4]. …
“… Continuing revelation and leadership for the Church come through the President of the Church, and he will never mislead the Saints” (“The Prophetic Voice,” Ensign, May 1996, 6–7).
In northwestern New York during the early 1800s, many people believed individuals could receive knowledge supernaturally through an instrument such as a stone or a divining rod. Hiram Page claimed that words would appear on the stone he possessed. He said that after he dictated the words and had them copied to paper, the words would disappear from the stone and others would appear (see The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents: Volume 1: July 1828–June 1831, ed. Michael Hubbard MacKay and others , 184). The Lord denounced Hiram Page’s false revelations.
In addition to using the Urim and Thummim, the Prophet Joseph Smith may have used a seer stone he found in his youth to translate a portion of the Book of Mormon. Several possibilities exist as to how the Prophet used the Urim and Thummim to translate the Book of Mormon and about other particulars of the translation process, but Elder Neal A. Maxwell (1926–2004) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles stated, “We simply do not know the details” (“By the Gift and Power of God,” Ensign, Jan. 1997, 39). One very important difference between Joseph Smith and Hiram Page is that God called Joseph Smith to perform the work of translation and to receive revelation for the Church (see D&C 21:1–6). In contrast, the Lord clearly stated that Satan was deceiving Hiram Page and those who believed in the words Hiram dictated (see D&C 28:11).
President James E. Faust cautioned us to avoid activities that may invite Satan’s influence into our lives:
“Satan is not an enlightening subject. I consider him to be the great imitator. …
“It is not good practice to become intrigued by Satan and his mysteries. No good can come from getting close to evil. Like playing with fire, it is too easy to get burned. … The only safe course is to keep well distanced from him and any of his wicked activities or nefarious practices. The mischief of devil worship, sorcery, witchcraft, voodooism, casting spells, black magic, and all other forms of demonism should always be avoided” (“The Forces That Will Save Us,” Ensign, Jan. 2007, 5).