“Chapter 15: Doctrine and Covenants 37–38; 41,” Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual (2017)
“Chapter 15,” Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual
In late December 1830, the Prophet Joseph Smith continued working on his inspired translation of the Bible. During this time, Joseph received the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 37. In this revelation, the Lord commanded the Prophet to temporarily lay aside the Bible translation and to preach the gospel and strengthen the Church. He also commanded the Saints to gather to Ohio.
At a Church conference held on January 2, 1831, Joseph Smith announced the Lord’s commandment for the Saints to gather to Ohio. Many of the Saints desired to know more about the commandment, so the Prophet inquired of the Lord during the conference. Joseph received the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 38 in the presence of the congregation. In this revelation the Lord revealed His reasons for commanding the Saints to gather to Ohio and explained the promised blessings for doing so.
Most of the Saints accepted the commandment and began preparations to move to Ohio. Near the end of January 1831, the Prophet Joseph; his wife, Emma; and others traveled by sleigh from New York to Ohio and arrived in Kirtland in the early part of February. On February 4, Joseph received the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 41, in which the Lord instructed the Prophet and other Church leaders to pray to receive His law. In addition, the Lord called Edward Partridge as the first bishop of the Church.
Sidney Rigdon began acting as a scribe for Joseph Smith during the inspired translation of the Bible.
While translating the Bible Joseph Smith received part of the ancient record of Enoch (Moses 7).
December 30, 1830
Doctrine and Covenants 37 was received.
January 2, 1831
During the third conference of the Church, Joseph Smith announced that the Saints were to gather to Ohio.
January 2, 1831
Doctrine and Covenants 38 was received.
Joseph and Emma Smith moved to Kirtland, Ohio, arriving in early February.
February 4, 1831
Doctrine and Covenants 41 was received.
Sidney Rigdon was converted to the gospel when he heard the preaching of Oliver Cowdery, Parley P. Pratt, and the other missionaries who had stopped in Ohio on their way to the western border of Missouri. In the space of just a few weeks, the missionaries had baptized over 100 converts in the Kirtland area, including Sidney Rigdon. After his baptism, Sidney, along with Edward Partridge, traveled to New York and met the Prophet Joseph Smith. Sidney was called by revelation to assist Joseph Smith as a scribe while the Prophet continued an inspired translation of the Bible. With Sidney as his scribe, Joseph dictated Moses 7 in the Pearl of Great Price. In December 1830 the Lord instructed them to stop translating and to strengthen the Church members in New York. The Lord also commanded the Saints to gather to Ohio and join with those who had been converted there. Although the Lord had previously said that His people would need to gather together in one body to be protected from tribulation (see D&C 29:8), this revelation (D&C 37) was the first commandment concerning a literal gathering of the Saints to a central location in this dispensation.
In June 1830, the Prophet Joseph Smith began an inspired revision of the Bible that he referred to as a translation. From June to December 1830, the Prophet focused on the Old Testament book of Genesis, with Oliver Cowdery, John Whitmer, Emma Smith, and Sidney Rigdon assisting him as scribes. In December 1830 the Lord commanded Joseph and Sidney to stop their work on the translation at that time and instructed them to resume it after arriving in Kirtland, Ohio.
From April to October 1830, essentially all of the membership of the Church resided in New York, in the areas of Palmyra, Fayette, and Colesville. That changed when missionaries who were sent to preach to the American Indians on the western border of Missouri stopped in Kirtland, Ohio. The missionaries found that the Lord had prepared many people there to receive the message of the restored gospel. Over 100 individuals were converted within a few weeks. The commandment for the Saints to “assemble together at the Ohio” (D&C 37:3), meaning the vast Ohio River Valley in northeastern Ohio where Kirtland was located, required the Saints to travel a distance of approximately 300 miles (480 kilometers) from where they lived in New York.
In September 1830, the Lord explained that the Saints were “called to bring to pass the gathering of mine elect” and that “they shall be gathered in unto one place upon the face of this land” (D&C 29:7–8). The city of Zion—the New Jerusalem—was designated by the Lord as the place where the Saints were to gather. One purpose of Oliver Cowdery’s mission was to prepare for the time when the Lord would identify the location of Zion (see D&C 28:8–9). The Lord eventually revealed that Independence, Missouri, was to become Zion (see D&C 57:1–3). However, the Lord commanded the Saints to gather in Ohio until further information could be obtained from Oliver Cowdery when he returned from his mission. Subsequent teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith and other latter-day prophets have clarified that Zion will expand to fill North and South America and even beyond to fill the whole earth.
On January 2, 1831, shortly after the Prophet Joseph Smith received the commandment for the Church to “assemble together at the Ohio” (D&C 37:3), a conference was held in Fayette, New York. Church members attended from the three areas of New York where members lived: Palmyra, Fayette, and Colesville. The Prophet announced the Lord’s command to assemble in Ohio. John Whitmer recorded that “the solemnities of eternity rested on the congregation, and … they desired to know somewhat more concerning this matter” (in The Joseph Smith Papers, Histories, Volume 2: Assigned Histories, 1831–1847, ed. Karen Lynn Davidson and others , 18). Joseph Smith inquired of the Lord, and, in the presence of the congregation, he received a revelation that provided a detailed explanation about why the Saints were to relocate.
The Lord knows all things (see 2 Nephi 2:24; 9:20). He knows “the end from the beginning” (Abraham 2:8), and He can see and comprehend all things in the past, present, and future (see D&C 88:41; 130:7). Because He knows all things, we can exercise faith in Him. The Lectures on Faith, a collection of lessons that were published with the sanction and approval of the Prophet Joseph Smith, contains an explanation of the relationship between God’s perfect knowledge and our ability to exercise complete faith in Him: “Without the knowledge of all things God would not be able to save any portion of his creatures; for it is by reason of the knowledge which he has of all things, from the beginning to the end, that enables him to give that understanding to his creatures by which they are made partakers of eternal life; and if it were not for the idea existing in the minds of men that God had all knowledge it would be impossible for them to exercise faith in him” (Lectures on Faith , 51–52).
Doctrine and Covenants 38:12 refers to the New Testament parable of the wheat and the tares (see Matthew 13:24–30). The imagery of the angels waiting to reap the earth is an allusion to the destruction of the wicked at the end of the world. Elder Neal A. Maxwell (1926–2004) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained how God’s followers can have peace in a deteriorating world:
“Years ago, I wondered over the scriptural imagery of angels waiting ‘day and night’ for ‘the great command’ to come down and reap the tares in a wicked and suffering world; it seemed rather eager to me. (See D&C 38:12; 86:5.) Given such massive, needless human suffering, I don’t wonder any more!
“Even so, the final reaping will occur only when the Father determines that the world is ‘fully ripe.’ (D&C 86:7.) Meanwhile, brothers and sisters, the challenge is surviving spiritually in a deteriorating ‘wheat and tares’ world. [D&C 86:7.]
“Granted, occasionally a few defectors or dissidents may try to vex us as they hyperventilate over their particular concerns, but it is the engulfing effects of that deteriorating world on Church members which is the ‘clear and present danger.’ ‘Evils and designs’ really do operate through ‘conspiring [individuals] in the last days.’ (D&C 89:4.) The Lord has even announced, ‘Behold, the enemy is combined.’ (D&C 38:12.)
“Yet we must not be intimidated or lose our composure even though the once morally unacceptable is becoming acceptable, as if frequency somehow conferred respectability!” (“‘Behold, the Enemy Is Combined’ (D&C 38:12),” Ensign, May 1993, 76).
The revelation that Church members were to relocate to Ohio was unexpected, and great sacrifices were anticipated. The Saints’ belief that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God was tested. John Whitmer recorded that some people suspected that “Joseph had invented [the revelation] himself to deceive the people that in the end he might get gain” (in The Joseph smith Papers, Histories, Volume 2: Assigned Histories, 1831–1847, 21).
Although some questioned Joseph Smith’s divine role as a prophet, the Lord mercifully shared with Church members something that they did not know, “a mystery, a thing which is had in secret chambers” (D&C 38:13). Joseph Smith and the Saints learned from the Lord that enemies were plotting to bring about their destruction (see D&C 38:13, 28).
Although the Saints would need to make sacrifices to migrate to Ohio, the Lord shared details about how His righteous children would find “a land of promise, a land flowing with milk and honey” (D&C 38:18), meaning a place of great abundance (see Exodus 3:8). This promise of a “land of … inheritance” (D&C 38:19) may have temporal fulfillment in the site of the future city of Zion in Missouri, but it also seems to refer to the earth when it will be renewed and receive a paradisiacal glory during the Millennium (see Articles of Faith 1:10; see also D&C 63:20–21, 49). The righteous who live God’s laws and who seek to become like Him will receive an eternal land of inheritance on the earth when it becomes a celestial kingdom (see D&C 88:17–20). The Lord told Church members to seek this land of inheritance “with all [their] hearts” (D&C 38:19).
As the Lord prepared the Saints in this dispensation to establish Zion, He taught them about Enoch and the people of Zion anciently. In December 1830 the Prophet Joseph Smith received a revelation about the city of Zion where Enoch’s people “were of one heart and one mind, … and there was no poor among them” (Moses 7:18). In a revelation received on January 2, 1831, the Lord reiterated the timeless principle that would help His children establish a latter-day Zion, including unity, righteousness, and caring for the poor. His commandment to “let every man esteem his brother as himself” (D&C 38:24) applies to everyone because we are all brothers and sisters—children of God. Caring for and respecting others is vital to preparing to live the law of consecration, which was given approximately one month later, after Joseph Smith arrived in Kirtland, Ohio (see D&C 42:30).
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles illustrated the importance of considering every person as someone to serve and love:
“Often we can, usually unwittingly, be quite insensitive to the circumstances and difficulties of those around us. We all have problems, and ultimately each individual has to take responsibility for his or her own happiness. None of us is so free of difficulty ourselves or so endowed with time and money that we can do nothing but tend ‘the wounded and the weary’ (‘Lord, I Would Follow Thee,’ Hymns, no. 220). Nevertheless, in looking to the Savior’s life for an example, I suspect we can probably find a way to do more of that than we do. …
“… I wish I could go back to my youth and there have another chance to reach out to those who, at the time, didn’t fall very solidly onto my radar scope. Youth want to feel included and important, to have the feeling they matter to others. … It is the associations I didn’t have, the friends I didn’t reach, that cause me some pain now all these years later.
“Let me cite just one case, which will be guilt enough for now. In 1979 we held in St. George, Utah, our 20-year class reunion for Dixie High School. We had great high school years filled with state football and basketball championships and a host of other ‘hometown, USA’ memories. An effort was made to find current addresses for the entire class and get everyone to the reunion.
“In the midst of all that fun, I remember the terribly painful letter written by one very bright—but, in her childhood, somewhat less popular—young woman who wrote something like this:
“‘Congratulations to all of us for having survived long enough to have a 20-year class reunion. I hope everyone has a wonderful time. But don’t reserve a place for me. I have, in fact, spent most of those 20 years trying to forget the painful moments of our school days together. Now that I am nearly over those feelings of loneliness and shattered self-esteem, I cannot bring myself to see all of the class and run the risk of remembering all of that again. Have a good time and forgive me. It is my problem, not yours. Maybe I can come at the 30-year mark.’
“Which, I am very happy to report, she did. But she was terribly wrong about one thing—it was our problem, and we knew it.
“I have wept for her—my friend—and other friends like her in my youth for whom I and a lot of others obviously were not masters of ‘the healer’s art’ (Hymns, no. 220). We simply were not the Savior’s agents or disciples that he intends people to be. I cannot help but wonder what I might have done to watch out a little more for the ones not included, to make sure the gesture of a friendly word or a listening ear or a little low-cost casual talk and shared time might have reached far enough to include those hanging on the outer edge of the social circle, and in some cases barely hanging on at all.
“Jesus said in his most remarkable sermon ever: ‘For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?’ (Matt. 5:46–47).
“I make an appeal for us to reach beyond our own contentment, to move out of our own comfort and companion zone, to reach those who may not always be so easy to reach” (“Come unto Me,” Ensign, Apr. 1998, 21–22).
President Henry B. Eyring of the First Presidency taught how we can become one with those around us:
“We know from experience that joy comes when we are blessed with unity. We yearn, as spirit children of our Heavenly Father, for that joy which we once had with Him in the life before this one. His desire is to grant us that sacred wish for unity out of His love for us.
“He cannot grant it to us as individuals. The joy of unity He wants so much to give us is not solitary. We must seek it and qualify for it with others. It is not surprising then that God urges us to gather so that He can bless us. He wants us to gather into families. He has established classes, wards, and branches and commanded us to meet together often. In those gatherings, which God has designed for us, lies our great opportunity. We can pray and work for the unity that will bring us joy and multiply our power to serve” (“Our Hearts Knit as One,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2008, 69).
In Doctrine and Covenants 38, the Lord commanded the Saints to be unified and to take care of the poor. These are two of the fundamental principles upon which Zion is to be established and are part of the law of the celestial kingdom. These two commandments are also emphasized in Moses 7:18 and 4 Nephi 1:2–3. Later, when the Saints attempted to live the law of consecration in Missouri, they were unsuccessful because they “[did] not impart of their substance … to the poor and afflicted among them” and they were “not united” (D&C 105:3–4; see also D&C 105:5). Today there are many opportunities in the Church to care for those in need, including giving a generous fast offering.
In Doctrine and Covenants 38:28–32, the Lord gently warned the Saints of events that only He knew from His divine perspective and commanded the Saints to go to Ohio. He emphasized that through their obedience and preparation, they would have no need to fear (see D&C 38:15, 30).
Elder L. Tom Perry (1922–2015) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke of the importance of preparation:
“On a daily basis we witness widely fluctuating inflation; wars; interpersonal conflicts; national disasters; variances in weather conditions; innumerable forces of immorality, crime, and violence; attacks and pressures on the family and individuals; technological advances that make occupations obsolete; and so on. The need for preparation is abundantly clear. The great blessing of being prepared gives us freedom from fear, as guaranteed to us by the Lord in the Doctrine and Covenants: ‘If ye are prepared ye shall not fear’ [D&C 38:30].
“Just as it is important to prepare ourselves spiritually, we must also prepare ourselves for our temporal needs. Each of us needs to take the time to ask ourselves, What preparation should I make to care for my needs and the needs of my family?” (“If Ye Are Prepared Ye Shall Not Fear,” Ensign, Nov. 1995, 35–36).
In addition to helping His people escape destruction, the Lord also promised that when the Saints gathered together in Ohio, He would give them His law and endow them with power. On February 9, 1831, shortly after arriving in Kirtland, the Prophet Joseph Smith received the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 42:1–72. He received further instruction on February 23 (see D&C 42:73–93). Together, these revelations are known as “the law of the Church” (D&C 42, section heading). Later, in June 1833, the Lord reminded the Saints of His command to “build a house, in the which house I design to endow those whom I have chosen with power from on high” (D&C 95:8; see also D&C 88:119). Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery were endowed with power on April 3, 1836, when they received priesthood keys of authority from heavenly messengers (see D&C 110:9). The righteous Saints who participated in the temple dedication in Kirtland and in other meetings at the temple received an outpouring of spiritual gifts and manifestations. This endowment of power is not the same as the ordinance that was introduced to the righteous members of the Church later in Nauvoo, Illinois.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland described the meaning of a phrase found in Doctrine and Covenants 38:42:
“Let me tell you what that phrase ‘bear the vessels of the Lord’ means. Anciently it had at least two meanings, both related to the work of the priesthood.
“The first refers to the recovery and return to Jerusalem of various temple implements that had been carried into Babylon by King Nebuchadnezzar. In physically handling the return of these items, the Lord reminded those early brethren of the sanctity of anything related to the temple. Therefore as they carried back to their homeland these various bowls, basins, cups, and other vessels, they themselves were to be as clean as the ceremonial instruments they bore [see 2 Kings 25:14–15; Ezra 1:5–11].
“The second meaning is related to the first. Similar bowls and implements were used for ritual purification in the home. The Apostle Paul, writing to his young friend Timothy, said of these, ‘In a great house there are … vessels of gold and … silver, … of wood and of earth’—these means of washing and cleansing common in the time of the Savior. But Paul goes on to say, ‘If a man … purge himself [of unworthiness], he shall be a vessel … sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work.’ Therefore, Paul says, ‘Flee … youthful lusts: … follow righteousness, … call on the Lord out of a pure heart [2 Timothy 2:20–22; emphasis added].
“In both of these biblical accounts the message is that as priesthood bearers not only are we to handle sacred vessels and emblems of God’s power—think of preparing, blessing, and passing the sacrament, for example—but we are also to be a sanctified instrument as well. Partly because of what we are to do but more importantly because of what we are to be, the prophets and apostles tell us to ‘flee … youthful lusts’ and ‘call on the Lord out of a pure heart.’ They tell us to be clean” (“Sanctify Yourselves,” Ensign, Nov. 2000, 39).
Joseph and Emma Smith left New York with Sidney Rigdon and Edward Partridge to go to Kirtland, Ohio. When they arrived in Kirtland in early February 1831, Joseph stopped at the Newel K. Whitney store. Newel Whitney and his wife, Ann, were recent converts to the Church, but they had not yet met the Prophet. Joseph entered the store, reached his hand across the counter, and said, “Newel K. Whitney, thou art the man.” When Newel expressed that he was at a disadvantage because he did not know to whom he was speaking, the Prophet replied, “I am Joseph the Prophet; you have prayed me here, now what do you want of me?” (in Mark Staker, “Thou Art the Man,” Ensign, Apr. 2005, 37).
Emma Smith was expecting twins within a couple of months, and the Whitneys invited Joseph and Emma to stay with them in their home. Still, Joseph and Emma needed a more permanent place to live, as did Sidney and Phebe Rigdon. With their conversion to the Church, the Rigdons had given up the opportunity to live in a home being built for them by Sidney’s former congregation when he was a minister in Mentor, Ohio. Leman Copley, who had a large farm in Thompson, Ohio, about 20 miles east of Kirtland, offered to provide houses and supplies to Joseph and Sidney. (See The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 1: July 1828–June 1831, ed. Michael Hubbard MacKay and others, , 241.) Joseph prayed and received the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 41, which indicated that the Saints should build a home for the Prophet and that Sidney Rigdon “should live as seemeth him good” (D&C 41:8). Joseph and Emma stayed with the Whitneys for only a few weeks, and then they relocated to the home of Isaac Morley while the Saints built a small frame home for them on the Morley farm.
In a revelation received on February 4, 1831, the Lord said that Church leaders would receive His law “by the prayer of [their] faith” (D&C 41:3). Within a few days of this promise, on February 9, the Lord revealed His law to the Church (see D&C 42:1–72). In anticipation of that revelation, the Lord explained that to become true disciples, His followers must receive His law and do it (see D&C 41:5). Although many may profess to believe in Jesus Christ, not all of them are willing to do what He says. Those who will do what He asks are promised that they will enter into the kingdom of heaven (see Matthew 7:21).
Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles reminded us of what it means to be true disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ: “Following Christ is not a casual or occasional practice but a continuous commitment and way of life that applies at all times and in all places” (“Followers of Christ,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2013, 97).
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the First Presidency also testified:
“It is not enough merely to speak of Jesus Christ or proclaim that we are His disciples. It is not enough to surround ourselves with symbols of our religion. Discipleship is not a spectator sport. We cannot expect to experience the blessings of faith by standing inactive on the sidelines any more than we can experience the benefits of health by sitting on a sofa watching sporting events on television and giving advice to the athletes. And yet for some, ‘spectator discipleship’ is a preferred if not a primary way of worshipping.
“Ours is not a secondhand religion. We cannot receive the blessings of the gospel merely by observing the good that others do. We need to get off the sidelines and practice what we preach” (“The Way of the Disciple,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2009, 76–77).
In the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 41, the Lord not only called Edward Partridge to serve as a bishop in His Church, but He also revealed the pattern pertaining to all who are called to serve in the Church. First, an individual must be called by God through revelation to one in authority. In the calling of Edward Partridge, the Lord revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith that Edward should serve as the first bishop of the Church in this dispensation. Second, those who are properly called by the Lord should be appointed, or sustained, “by the voice of the church.” Finally, individuals are to be ordained or set apart to their office or calling by the authority of the priesthood.
Edward Partridge first heard the restored gospel in the fall of 1830, when the missionaries who had been sent to the Lamanites stopped in Kirtland, Ohio, on their way to Missouri (see D&C 28:8; 30:5–8; 32:2–3). He was not baptized, however, until December. Lucy Mack Smith, the Prophet’s mother, wrote the following about Edward Partridge’s decision to be baptized: “In December , Joseph appointed a meeting at our house, and while he was presiding Sidney Rigdon and Edward Partridge came in and seated themselves in the congregation. When Joseph had finished his discourse, he gave all the privilege of speaking who had any remarks to make. Upon this Mr. Partridge rose and stated that he had been to Manchester, with the view of obtaining information respecting the doctrine which we preached, [but], not finding us, he had made some inquiry of our neighbors concerning our character, which they stated had been unimpeachable until Joseph deceived us relative to the Book of Mormon. He also said that he had walked over our farm and observed the good order and industry which it exhibited, and having seen what we had sacrificed for the sake of our faith, also, having heard that our veracity was not questioned upon any other point than that of our religion, he believed our testimony and was ready to be baptized, ‘if,’ said he, ‘brother Joseph will baptize me’” (“Lucy Mack Smith, History, 1845,” 191, josephsmithpapers.org; spelling and punctuation standardized). Edward Partridge was baptized by Joseph Smith on December 11, 1830.
In Kirtland, Ohio, Edward Partridge was called to be the first bishop of the Church, and he later suffered many persecutions in Missouri, including being tarred and feathered by an angry mob because he would not renounce his faith in the Book of Mormon. He died a faithful member of the Church in 1840 in Nauvoo, Illinois, at the age of 46. An obituary recorded the following about Edward’s death: “He lost his life in consequence of the Missouri Persecutions, and he is one of that number whose blood will be required at their hands” (obituary for Edward Partridge, Times and Seasons, June 1840, 128). (For more information about Edward Partridge, see D&C 36; 41:9–11; 42:10; 50:39; 51:1–5, 18; 52:24; 57:7; 58:14–16, 24–25, 61–62; 60:10; 64:17; 124:19; see also Church History in the Fulness of Times Student Manual, 2nd ed. [Church Educational System manual, 2003], 82.)
Edward Partridge’s willingness “to leave his merchandise and to spend all his time in the labors of the church” (D&C 41:9) is confirmed in the following account: “[Edward] Partridge’s daughter later recalled that after this revelation was dictated, her father sold his property and ‘realized but little’ from the transactions. She added, ‘My fathers course in joining the mormon religion and sacrificing his property caused his friends of the world to think him insane. They could not see what there was in religion to make a man give up all worldly considerations for it’” (in The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 1: July 1828–June 1831, 244).