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Chapter 12: Doctrine and Covenants 29
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“Chapter 12: Doctrine and Covenants 29,” Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual (2017)

“Chapter 12,” Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual

Chapter 12

Doctrine and Covenants 29

Introduction and Timeline

In September 1830, before the second conference of the Church was held in Fayette, New York, some early Church members anticipated that Book of Mormon prophecies about Zion and the gathering of God’s elect would soon be fulfilled. A group of six elders and three other Church members met together and asked the Lord about these prophecies. In response to their inquiry, the Prophet Joseph Smith received the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 29. In this revelation the Lord taught them about the gathering of the Savior’s elect before His Second Coming and about our redemption from the Fall of Adam and Eve through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

June–October 1830

Joseph Smith dictated Moses 1–5 as he worked on the inspired translation of the early chapters of Genesis.

August–September 1830

Church members were confused by Hiram Page’s alleged revelations.

September 1830

Doctrine and Covenants 29 was received.

September 1830

Doctrine and Covenants 28 was received (likely after Doctrine and Covenants 29).

September 26–28, 1830

The second conference of the Church was held in Fayette, New York.

October 1830

Oliver Cowdery and his missionary companions departed on a mission to the Lamanites.

Doctrine and Covenants 29: Additional Historical Background

When Joseph Smith moved to Fayette, New York, in September 1830, he found that the Saints there were curious about the fulfillment of Book of Mormon prophecies regarding Zion. These prophecies spoke of the latter-day gathering of the house of Israel in order to build Zion, or “the New Jerusalem,” and of the promised return of Jesus Christ (see 3 Nephi 21:23–26; see also 3 Nephi 16:18). A group that included six elders and three other Church members sought for further understanding regarding the coming forth of Zion and the transgression of Adam and Eve. In response to their enquiry, the Prophet Joseph Smith received the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 29 (see The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 1: July 1828–June 1831, ed. Michael Hubbard MacKay and others [2013], 177–78).

The truths taught in Doctrine and Covenants 29 added to the Saints’ understanding about the need for Zion in the last days and may have corrected some of the doctrinal confusion caused by Hiram Page’s writings (see the commentary for Doctrine and Covenants 28 in this manual). The Prophet Joseph Smith had been engaged since June 1830 on an inspired translation of the early chapters of Genesis, and this information provided clarification about Adam and Eve’s transgression in the Garden of Eden. Furthermore, Doctrine and Covenants 29 provided important truths about the gathering of Israel and the plan of salvation before Oliver Cowdery and his companions left on a mission to preach the gospel to the Lamanites.

Church History Maps: Northeastern United States

Doctrine and Covenants 29:1–21

Jesus Christ calls His people to gather in preparation for His Second Coming

Doctrine and Covenants 29:1–2. “Listen to the voice of Jesus Christ, your Redeemer, the Great I AM”

During His premortal ministry, Jehovah identified Himself to Moses as “I AM” and as the God of the ancient patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (see Exodus 3:13–15). The title “I AM” is a variation of “Jehovah” and comes from the first-person Hebrew verb meaning “I exist,” and represents the eternal and all-powerful nature of God (see also D&C 68:6). During the summer months before the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 29 was received, the Prophet Joseph Smith had started his inspired translation of the book of Genesis in the Old Testament. Jesus Christ’s introduction of Himself recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 29:1–2 confirmed the truth that He was indeed the God of the Old Testament. These verses also confirm that, just as Jesus Christ gathered, protected, and delivered ancient Israel when they were in bondage in Egypt, He will gather His latter-day children under His protection if they will hearken unto His voice.

Peter Whitmer Home, NY, Room where the Book of Mormon translation occurred

Joseph Smith was staying in the home of Peter Whitmer Sr., in Fayette, New York, when he received the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 29.

Doctrine and Covenants 29:4–8. The gathering of the elect

The small group of elders who met with the Prophet Joseph Smith when this revelation was given learned that the members of the Church in this dispensation are chosen to declare the gospel and to gather the Lord’s “elect,” whom God defined as those who “hear [His] voice and harden not their hearts” (D&C 29:7). The elect are also those who are chosen to assist the Lord in the work of salvation (see D&C 101:39–40; 115:5; 138:55–56). The gathering of the elect occurs when individuals accept the gospel of Jesus Christ, make covenants with God, and gather with the faithful Saints. This gathering of the scattered house of Israel must occur so that God’s people can prepare for “the day when tribulation and desolation are sent forth upon the wicked” (D&C 29:8).

In October 1830, Oliver Cowdery was sent on a mission to the Lamanites to prepare for the time when the Lord would identify the place where the Saints were to gather (see D&C 29:8–9). The Saints later learned that the Lord intended for Church members to gather in an orderly manner in Jackson County, Missouri (see D&C 57:1–3; 58:56). However, those who later gathered in Jackson County were driven from their homes, and eventually the gathering shifted to Far West, Missouri (see D&C 115:7–8), then to Nauvoo, Illinois (see D&C 124:25–28, 55), and then later “to the West” (D&C 136:1). Today, it is no longer necessary to relocate to a specific geographical place in order to gather with the Church. Rather, Latter-day Saints are to help build up the stakes of Zion wherever they live (see D&C 101:20–22).

President Spencer W. Kimball (1895–1985) explained: “The gathering of Israel consists of joining the true Church and … coming to a knowledge of the true God. … Any person, therefore, who has accepted the restored gospel, and who now seeks to worship the Lord in his own tongue and with the Saints in the nations where he lives, has complied with the law of the gathering of Israel and is heir to all of the blessings promised the Saints in these last days” (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, ed. Edward L. Kimball [1982], 439).

Elder missionaries

God has called us “to bring to pass the gathering of [His] elect” (D&C 29:7).

President Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught how the gathering of God’s elect occurs today:

“Here on earth, missionary work is crucial to the gathering of Israel. … Consequently, servants of the Lord have gone forth proclaiming the Restoration. In many nations our missionaries have searched for those of scattered Israel. …

“The choice to come unto Christ is not a matter of physical location; it is a matter of individual commitment. People can be ‘brought to the knowledge of the Lord’ [3 Nephi 20:13] without leaving their homelands. True, in the early days of the Church, conversion often meant emigration as well. But now the gathering takes place in each nation. The Lord has decreed the establishment of Zion [see D&C 6:6; 11:6; 12:6; 14:6] in each realm where He has given His Saints their birth and nationality. Scripture foretells that the people ‘shall be gathered home to the lands of their inheritance, and shall be established in all their lands of promise’ [2 Nephi 9:2]. ‘Every nation is the gathering place for its own people’ [Bruce R. McConkie, in Conference Report, Mexico City Mexico Area Conference 1972, 45]. The place of gathering for Brazilian Saints is in Brazil; the place of gathering for Nigerian Saints is in Nigeria; the place of gathering for Korean Saints is in Korea; and so forth. Zion is ‘the pure in heart’ [D&C 97:21]. Zion is wherever righteous Saints are. Publications, communications, and congregations are now such that nearly all members have access to the doctrines, keys, ordinances, and blessings of the gospel, regardless of their location” (“The Gathering of Scattered Israel,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2006, 81).

Doctrine and Covenants 29:9. The proud will burn as stubble

The Lord warned that those who are “proud and they that do wickedly shall be as stubble” and burn at His coming (D&C 29:9). While pride is a common sin that affects everyone to some degree, in this case “the proud” refers to those who cannot abide the Lord’s glory because of wickedness. In a later revelation, the Lord clarified that this group includes “they who are liars, and sorcerers, and adulterers, and whoremongers, and whosoever loves and makes a lie. These are they who suffer the wrath of God on earth” (D&C 76:103–4).

Doctrine and Covenants 29:9–13. “I will reveal myself … with power and great glory”

Second Coming, The

The Second Coming, by Grant Romney Clawson. Jesus Christ will return to earth with power and great glory.

Near the conclusion of the Savior’s mortal life, His disciples asked when the end of the world would occur and what signs would be given that His coming was near (see Matthew 24:3; D&C 45:15–16). The Lord’s declaration to His Saints in the latter days is that “the hour is nigh” (D&C 29:10). When Jesus Christ returns, His Apostles who “were with [Him] in [His] ministry at Jerusalem” will stand with Him, wearing “robes of righteousness, with crowns upon their heads” (D&C 29:12). This description signifies their royal authority in God’s kingdom. Doctrine and Covenants 29:12–13 indicates that “as many as have loved me and kept my commandments” will also receive a crown and be clothed like the Savior is clothed on that day, symbolic of their eternal inheritance with Him in the kingdom of God (see also D&C 88:107; 109:75–76, 80).

Doctrine and Covenants 29:14–21. Signs of the coming of the Son of Man

The Lord described in vivid detail some of the ways that He will “take vengeance upon the wicked” before His Second Coming (D&C 29:17). The most significant consequence that the unrepentant will suffer will be that the Lord’s “blood shall not cleanse them” (D&C 29:17; see also D&C 88:35). Some of the destructive events of the last days will be similar to those that have occurred at other times in history, such as when the Lord sent plagues upon the Egyptians in order to deliver the children of Israel from bondage (see Exodus 8:21; 9:23–25; 10:22) or when the wicked were destroyed in the Americas before the Resurrected Lord’s appearance among the Nephites (see 3 Nephi 8:5–7, 14–16, 22). The prophecy that “the great and abominable church” will be destroyed by fire (D&C 29:21) refers to the combined forces of evil that fight against Zion as foretold throughout scripture (see Ezekiel 38:18–22; 39:17–20; 1 Nephi 14:10–17; 22:13–14; 2 Nephi 10:16; D&C 88:94). The Lord makes it clear that wickedness must be removed from the earth—either through repentance or destruction. Doctrine and Covenants 29 serves as a merciful reminder and warning to all to repent and prepare for that day.

Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles emphasized why it is important to prepare now for the Lord’s Second Coming:

“Brothers and sisters, as the Book of Mormon teaches, ‘this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; … the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors’ (Alma 34:32). Are we preparing?

“In His preface to our compilation of modern revelation the Lord declares, ‘Prepare ye, prepare ye for that which is to come, for the Lord is nigh’ (D&C 1:12). …

“Always we are cautioned that we cannot know the day or the hour of His coming. …

“What if the day of His coming were tomorrow? If we knew that we would meet the Lord tomorrow—through our premature death or through His unexpected coming—what would we do today? What confessions would we make? What practices would we discontinue? What accounts would we settle? What forgivenesses would we extend? What testimonies would we bear? …

“We need to make both temporal and spiritual preparation for the events prophesied at the time of the Second Coming. And the preparation most likely to be neglected is the one less visible and more difficult—the spiritual” (“Preparation for the Second Coming,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2004, 8–9).

Doctrine and Covenants 29:22–29

The Savior reveals truths about what will happen after the Millennium, including the Final Judgment

Doctrine and Covenants 29:22. “Men again begin to deny their God”

The Second Coming of Jesus Christ will usher in the thousand-year period called the Millennium, when the Lord Himself will dwell upon the earth (see D&C 29:11). There will be many important changes that will distinguish conditions during the Millennium from the conditions we experience in the world today. For example, during that time, “whatsoever any man shall ask, it shall be given unto him” (D&C 101:27) and the Lord will reveal all things (see D&C 101:32–34). The Lord has also said that during the Millennium “Satan shall be bound” (D&C 43:31) and “shall not have power to tempt any man” (D&C 101:28). Because of God’s power and the righteousness of the people, Satan “shall have no place in the hearts of the children of men” (D&C 45:55). Sadly, at the conclusion of the thousand years, people will “again begin to deny their God” (D&C 29:22) and Satan will be “loosed again … for a little season” (D&C 43:31). It may be hard to comprehend why some who have experienced the blessings of the Millennium will begin to deny God. Nevertheless, there will be those who, having been partakers of God’s power, will still deny the truth and knowingly and “wilfully rebel against God” (3 Nephi 6:18; see also 4 Nephi 1:38; D&C 29:44–45; 76:31).

Doctrine and Covenants 29:23–25. “A new heaven and a new earth”

The earth will be transfigured, or changed, when Jesus Christ returns to reign (see D&C 63:20–21). It will return to the “paradisiacal,” or terrestrial, state that it was in before the Fall of Adam and Eve (Articles of Faith 1:10). At the end of the Millennium, the earth, and the heavens around it, will once again be changed—this time to become a celestial kingdom for those who have also received celestial glory (see D&C 88:19–20).

Doctrine and Covenants 29:26. Who is Michael?

Michael was the noble archangel who occupied a position of authority next to Jesus Christ in the premortal world and later became Adam, the first mortal man to live on earth (see Revelation 12:7–9; D&C 27:11; 107:54–55). The Prophet Joseph Smith (1805–1844) taught that Michael was “the first to hold the spiritual blessings, to whom was made known the plan of ordinances for the salvation of his posterity unto the end, and to whom Christ was first revealed” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith [2007], 107).

Doctrine and Covenants 29:30–50

The Savior declares that He has redeemed us from the Fall and offers us salvation from our sins

Doctrine and Covenants 29:31–35. “All things unto me are spiritual”

God “created … all things both spiritual and temporal” (D&C 29:31). Temporal things have to do with mortality and the temporary nature of this earth. While we distinguish between spiritual and temporal things, God declared, “All things unto me are spiritual” (D&C 29:34). As recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 29:34–35, the Lord explained that He never gave Adam or his posterity temporal commandments. All commandments are spiritual, meaning that they have eternal purpose.

President Joseph Fielding Smith (1876–1972) taught, “In our mortal, or carnal, way of thinking, many of the commandments the Lord has required seem to be temporal, but he has said that at no time has he given a temporal law. (D. & C. 29:34.) All things to him are spiritual, or in other words intended to be eternal. The Lord does not think in temporal terms; his plan is to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. In his eyes, therefore, all the commandments that have to do with our present welfare, are considered to be but steps on the way to his eternal salvation” (Church History and Modern Revelation [1953], 1:307–8).

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the First Presidency explained how we must consider both the temporal and the spiritual aspects of our actions:

“Like two sides of a coin, the temporal and spiritual are inseparable. …

“Unfortunately, there are those who overlook the temporal because they consider it less important. They treasure the spiritual while minimizing the temporal. While it is important to have our thoughts inclined toward heaven, we miss the essence of our religion if our hands are not also inclined toward our fellowman. …

“As always, we can look to our perfect example, Jesus Christ, for a pattern. As President J. Reuben Clark Jr. taught, ‘When the Savior came upon the earth he had two great missions; one was to work out the Messiahship, the atonement for the fall, and the fulfilment of the law; the other was the work which he did among his brethren and sisters in the flesh by way of relieving their sufferings’ [in Conference Report, Apr. 1937, 22].

“In a similar way, our spiritual progress is inseparably bound together with the temporal service we give to others.

“The one complements the other. The one without the other is a counterfeit of God’s plan of happiness” (“Providing in the Lord’s Way,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2011, 53).

Doctrine and Covenants 29:35. What does it mean to have agency?

When God created Adam, He made Adam “an agent unto himself” (D&C 29:35). This agency, however, carries with it the responsibility of accepting the consequences of their choices: blessings for righteousness or condemnation for sin (see D&C 93:28, 31–32). Therefore, God’s commandments provide us with the opportunity to live the laws He lives and enjoy the blessings He enjoys. President Boyd K. Packer (1924–2015) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught:

“Those scriptural words, ‘Thou mayest choose for thyself, for it is given unto thee’ (Moses 3:17), introduced Adam and Eve and their posterity to all the risks of mortality. In mortality men are free to choose, and each choice begets a consequence. The choice Adam made energized the law of justice, which required that the penalty for disobedience would be death.

“… A redeemer was sent to pay the debt and set men free. That was the plan. …

“An atonement was made. Ever and always it offers amnesty from transgression and from death if we will but repent. Repentance is the escape clause in it all. Repentance is the key with which we can unlock the prison from inside. We hold that key within our hands, and agency is ours to use it.

“How supernally precious freedom is; how consummately valuable is the agency of man.

“Lucifer in clever ways manipulates our choices, deceiving us about sin and consequences. He, and his angels with him, tempt us to be unworthy, even wicked. But he cannot, in all eternity he cannot, with all his power he cannot completely destroy us; not without our own consent. Had agency come to man without the Atonement, it would have been a fatal gift” (“Atonement, Agency, Accountability,” Ensign, May 1988, 71).

Doctrine and Covenants 29:36–43. New understanding about God’s plan

After the Prophet Joseph Smith began his inspired translation of the Bible and had dictated what is now Moses 1 in the Pearl of Great Price, he continued during the summer of 1830 the work of translation, with Oliver Cowdery as his scribe. The Prophet’s translation of Genesis 1–5 is now contained in the Pearl of Great Price as Moses 2–5. Included in those chapters is the account of Satan’s rebellion in the premortal life, his efforts to tempt Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, and our first parents’ partaking of the forbidden fruit and being cast out of the garden. The doctrinal truths that were obtained through the inspired translation of Genesis certainly prepared the Prophet to receive similar truths about God’s plan that were summarized in Doctrine and Covenants 29:30–45.

Doctrine and Covenants 29:36–39. Satan and his angels seek to deceive

The principle of agency functioned in premortality, as evidenced by Lucifer’s rebellion and the fact that “a third part of the hosts of heaven” chose to follow Lucifer instead of God (D&C 29:36). Here in mortality, Satan and his followers work to oppose the Father’s plan of salvation by tempting and deceiving God’s children. Nevertheless, their power is limited when we exercise our agency to obey Heavenly Father’s commandments. President James E. Faust (1920–2007) of the First Presidency explained:

“We need not become paralyzed with fear of Satan’s power. He can have no power over us unless we permit it. He is really a coward, and if we stand firm, he will retreat. The Apostle James counseled: ‘Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you’ [James 4:7]. And Nephi states that ‘he hath no power over the hearts’ of people who are righteous [1 Nephi 22:26].

“We have heard comedians and others justify or explain their misdeeds by saying, ‘The devil made me do it.’ I do not really think the devil can make us do anything; certainly he can tempt and he can deceive, but he has no authority over us which we do not give him.

“The power to resist Satan may be stronger than we realize. The Prophet Joseph Smith taught: ‘All beings who have bodies have power over those who have not. The devil has no power over us only as we permit him. The moment we revolt at anything which comes from God, the devil takes power’ [Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith (1976), 181]. He also stated, ‘Wicked spirits have their bounds, limits, and laws by which they are governed’ [in History of the Church, 4:576]. So Satan and his angels are not all-powerful. …

“… Satan’s efforts can be thwarted by all who come unto Christ by obedience to the covenants and ordinances of the gospel. The humble followers of the divine Master need not be deceived by the devil. Satan does not sustain and uplift and bless. He leaves those he has grasped in shame and misery. The Spirit of God is a sustaining and uplifting influence” (“Serving the Lord and Resisting the Devil,” Ensign, Sept. 1995, 6–7).

Doctrine and Covenants 29:41–42. What is “the first death” and “the last death”?

When Adam and Eve partook of the forbidden fruit and were cast out of the Garden of Eden, they experienced spiritual death, meaning that they were separated from God’s immediate presence. Doctrine and Covenants 29:41 calls this “the first death,” and it comes upon all of God’s children in mortality. “The last death” (D&C 29:41) is also a spiritual death, but it is experienced only by those known as the sons of perdition as they suffer the everlasting punishment of being eternally cast out of God’s presence (see Helaman 14:15–18; D&C 76:34–37, 44). Because they choose to rebel against God rather than repent, “they cannot be redeemed from their spiritual fall” (D&C 29:44).

The Lord decreed that Adam and Eve would not experience temporal death until they had an opportunity to learn “repentance and redemption, through faith on the name of [God’s] Only Begotten Son” (D&C 29:42).

Adam and Eve

Adam and Eve, by Douglas M. Fryer. Adam and Eve were cast out from the Garden of Eden for partaking of the forbidden fruit (see D&C 29:40–41).

Elder Dallin H. Oaks explained more regarding spiritual death and how we can overcome spiritual death:

“By yielding to temptation, Adam and Eve were ‘cut off from the presence of the Lord’ (Helaman 14:16). In the scriptures this separation is called spiritual death (see Helaman 14:16; D&C 29:41).

“The atonement of our Savior overcame this spiritual death. … As a result of this atonement, ‘men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression’ (Articles of Faith 1:2).

“Our Savior has redeemed us from the sin of Adam, but what about the effects of our own sins? Since ‘all have sinned’ (Romans 3:23), we are all spiritually dead. Again, our only hope for life is our Savior. …

“In order to lay claim upon our Savior’s life-giving triumph over the spiritual death we suffer because of our own sins, we must follow the conditions he has prescribed. …

“Our third article of faith describes the Savior’s conditions in these words: ‘We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel’” (“The Light and Life of the World,” Ensign, Nov. 1987, 64–65).

D&C 29:46–50. “Little children are redeemed from the foundation of the world”

Doctrine and Covenants 29:46–50 explains that there are those “having knowledge” and those who “hath no understanding” of the gospel. Those who have knowledge are commanded to repent (see D&C 29:49), while little children (and those with “no understanding”) are not accountable and, therefore, cannot sin. Little children cannot be tempted by Satan “until they begin to become accountable” (D&C 29:47).

The Lord’s declaration that “little children are redeemed from the foundation of the world” (D&C 29:46) refers to the fact that God’s plan of salvation, including the Atonement of Jesus Christ, was known and understood from the time of our premortal estate. One of the unconditional blessings of the Lord’s atoning sacrifice is that little children are redeemed, meaning their misdeeds are covered by Jesus Christ’s Atonement until they become accountable before God, at which time they are responsible for their own actions. The Lord later defined the age of accountability as “eight years old” (D&C 68:27).

Elder Bruce R. McConkie (1915–1985) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained the significance of the phrase that children “begin to become accountable” (D&C 29:47; italics added): “Accountability does not burst full-bloom upon a child at any given moment in his life. Children become accountable gradually, over a number of years. Becoming accountable is a process, not a goal to be attained when a specified number of years, days, and hours have elapsed. … There comes a time, however, when accountability is real and actual and sin is attributed in the lives of those who develop normally. It is eight years of age, the age of baptism. (D&C 68:27.)” (“The Salvation of Little Children,” Ensign, Apr. 1977, 6).

The prophet Mormon taught this principle in an epistle to his son Moroni:

“Little children are alive in Christ, even from the foundation of the world. …

“And he that saith that little children need baptism denieth the mercies of Christ, and setteth at naught the atonement of him and the power of his redemption” (Moroni 8:12, 20).

The Prophet Joseph Smith taught: “The doctrine of baptizing children, or sprinkling them, or they must welter in hell, is a doctrine not true, not supported in Holy Writ, and is not consistent with the character of God. All children are redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ, and the moment that children leave this world, they are taken to the bosom of Abraham” (Teachings: Joseph Smith, 94–95).

Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles described the universal nature of God’s merciful plan of salvation: “The marvelous doctrine revealed to the Prophet Joseph unveiled to us a plan of salvation that is applicable to all mankind, including those who do not hear of Christ in this life, children who die before the age of accountability, and those who have no understanding [see D&C 29:46–50; 137:7–10]” (“Our Father’s Plan—Big Enough for All His Children,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2009, 37).