Chapter 18: Doctrine and Covenants 46–49
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“Chapter 18: Doctrine and Covenants 46–49,” Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual (2017)

“Chapter 18,” Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual

Chapter 18

Doctrine and Covenants 46–49

Introduction and Timeline

In the winter of 1831, some Church members in Kirtland, Ohio, became concerned when they saw some new converts acting in a bizarre manner while claiming to be under the Spirit’s influence. The Prophet Joseph Smith inquired of the Lord about this behavior as well as about the Kirtland Saints’ practice of excluding nonmembers from sacrament meetings and other Church gatherings. In response, on March 8, 1831, the Lord gave the revelation now recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 46. In this revelation the Lord explained how to conduct Church meetings and how to avoid deception by seeking after gifts of the Spirit.

Before March 1831, Oliver Cowdery had been Joseph Smith’s scribe and recorder for the Church. However, when he was called on a mission, he could no longer perform these duties. In the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 47, the Lord called John Whitmer to take Oliver’s place and to write and keep the Church’s history. During this same time, the Saints in Ohio also wanted to know how they should help Church members emigrating from New York. In the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 48, the Lord told the Saints how to assist these newly arriving converts.

Leman Copley, a recent convert to the Church, wanted missionaries to preach the gospel to members of his former religious group, the Shakers. However, he continued to hold on to some of the Shakers’ false beliefs. Concerned about Leman’s lingering beliefs, Joseph Smith inquired of the Lord on May 7, 1831, and received the revelation that is now recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 49. In this revelation the Lord clarified His true doctrine and denounced several false beliefs of the Shakers.

Spring 1831

New converts in Kirtland, Ohio, experienced false spiritual manifestations.

March 8, 1831

Doctrine and Covenants 46 was received.

March 8, 1831

Doctrine and Covenants 47 was received.

March 10, 1831

Doctrine and Covenants 48 was received.

March 1831

John Whitmer was appointed to serve as Church historian and recorder.

Late March 1831

Parley P. Pratt returned to Kirtland from a mission to Indian Territory and Missouri.

May 7, 1831

Doctrine and Covenants 49 was received.

May 7, 1831

Sidney Rigdon, Parley P. Pratt, and Leman Copley left Kirtland to visit a community of Shakers.

Doctrine and Covenants 46: Additional Historical Background

In the early days of the Church, the Saints in Kirtland, Ohio, were not allowing those of other faiths to attend worship meetings. This was contradictory to the instruction given in the Book of Mormon that specifically teaches that Christ’s followers should not forbid anyone from meeting together with the Saints (see 3 Nephi 18:22). Moreover, in June 1829, when Oliver Cowdery assembled a document called “Articles of the Church of Christ” (which was written to provide direction to the faithful until the Church was officially organized), he alluded to this instruction in the Book of Mormon when he wrote, “‘And the church shall meet together oft for prayer [and] supplication casting out none from your places of worship but rather invite them to come’ [‘Articles of the Church of Christ,’ June 1829, p. 372 herein]” (in The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 1: July 1828–June 1831, ed. Michael Hubbard MacKay and others [2013], 281; spelling standardized). The practice of excluding unbelievers from public meetings was, therefore, a concern, and, according to John Whitmer, “the Lord deigned to speak on this subject, that his people might come to understanding” (in The Joseph Smith Papers, Histories, Volume 2: Assigned Histories, 1831–1847, ed. Karen Lynn Davidson and others [2012], 34). The revelation that followed (Doctrine and Covenants 46) made clear the Lord’s will. He commanded the Saints “never to cast any one out from [their] public meetings” (D&C 46:3).

In addition to these exclusionary practices, some of the new Church members were exhibiting unusual behaviors as part of their worship. John Whitmer recorded: “Some would fancy to themselves that they had the sword of Laban [see 1 Nephi 4:8–9], and would wield it as expert as a [soldier], … some would slide or scoot … [on] the floor, with the rapidity of a serpent, which the[y] termed sailing in the boat to the Lamanites, preaching the gospel. And many other vain and foolish manoeuvers that are unseeming, and unprofitable to mention. Thus the devil blinded the eyes of some good and honest disciples” (in The Joseph Smith Papers, Histories, Volume 2: Assigned Histories, 1831–1847, 38). In the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 46, the Lord taught the Saints how to discern between the influence of the Spirit and that of false spirits and clarified the true purpose and nature of gifts of the Spirit.

Church History Maps: The New York, Pennsylvania, and Ohio Area of the United States

Doctrine and Covenants 46

The Lord instructs the Saints concerning Church meetings and the gifts of the Spirit

Doctrine and Covenants 46:2. “Conduct all meetings as they are directed and guided by the Holy Spirit”

At the time the Church was organized, the Lord commanded His Saints to “meet together often” (D&C 20:55). In accordance with this commandment, the Saints gathered frequently for sacrament meetings and occasionally for conferences. They also met together for “confirmation meetings,” in which individuals who had recently been baptized were confirmed members of the Church (see D&C 46:6). These early members had read that Christ’s followers in the Book of Mormon conducted their meetings “after the manner of the workings of the Spirit, … for as the power of the Holy Ghost led them whether to preach, or to exhort, or to pray, or to supplicate, or to sing, even so it was done” (Moroni 6:9). The Lord reemphasized this principle in our day, commanding that meetings be conducted “as [Church leaders] are directed and guided by the Holy Spirit” (D&C 46:2; see also D&C 20:45).

Church leaders are to “conduct all meetings as they are directed and guided by the Holy Spirit” (D&C 46:2).

Doctrine and Covenants 46:3–6. “Never … cast any one out”

In Doctrine and Covenants 46:3–6, the Lord corrected the early Saints’ practice of excluding those of other faiths from sacrament meetings and confirmation meetings. Church members should help all who desire to attend public Church meetings feel welcome. President Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained: “Because we invite all to come unto Christ, friends and neighbors are always welcome but not expected to take the sacrament. However, it is not forbidden. They choose for themselves. We hope that newcomers among us will always be made to feel wanted and comfortable. Little children, as sinless beneficiaries of the Lord’s Atonement, may partake of the sacrament as they prepare for covenants that they will make later in life” (“Worshiping at Sacrament Meeting,” Ensign, Aug. 2004, 28).

Doctrine and Covenants 46:7–8. “That ye may not be deceived seek ye earnestly the best gifts”

Some of the Church members in Kirtland, Ohio, were engaging in strange behaviors when they attended Church meetings, claiming that their actions were inspired by the Holy Ghost. Some Church members believed them, while others felt that these behaviors were not of God. The day before the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 46 was given, the Prophet Joseph Smith received the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 45. In this revelation the Lord reminded Church members that they can avoid being deceived if they “have taken the Holy Spirit for their guide” (D&C 45:57). The adversary seeks to deceive the Saints so that he can “destroy the work of God” and “the souls of men” (D&C 10:23, 27). His tactics include using “evil spirits, or doctrines of devils, or the commandments of men” (D&C 46:7). But the Lord promised that we will not be deceived if we do things “in all holiness of heart, walking uprightly before [Him]” and “seek … earnestly the best gifts” (D&C 46:7–8). The “best gifts” refer to the spiritual gifts that are available to those who have received the gift of the Holy Ghost.

Doctrine and Covenants 46:9–11. Spiritual gifts are for the benefit of those who love God and seek to keep His commandments

God does not force His spiritual gifts upon His children, but He invites them to “seek … earnestly” for them (D&C 46:8). The Lord explained that these gifts are for the benefit of those who love Him and strive to keep His commandments (see D&C 46:9). He bestows spiritual gifts in order to bless individuals and the Church as a whole (see D&C 46:12), not to prove the truthfulness of the gospel to those who are seeking signs.

The gifts of the Spirit are given to those who have received the gift of the Holy Ghost (see D&C 46:9–11).

Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught about who can receive spiritual gifts:

“The Spirit of Christ is given to all men and women that they may know good from evil, and manifestations of the Holy Ghost are given to lead earnest seekers to repentance and baptism. These are preparatory gifts. What we term spiritual gifts come next.

“Spiritual gifts come to those who have received the gift of the Holy Ghost. As the Prophet Joseph Smith taught, the gifts of the Spirit ‘are obtained through that medium’ [the Holy Ghost] and ‘cannot be enjoyed without the gift of the Holy Ghost.’ … (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, comp. Joseph Fielding Smith, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1938, pp. 243, 245; see also Elder Marion G. Romney in Conference Report, Apr. 1956, p. 72.)” (“Spiritual Gifts,” Ensign, Sept. 1986, 68).

All faithful Church members have at least one spiritual gift. While “all have not every gift given unto them” (D&C 46:11), all spiritual gifts are found collectively among Church members, “that all may be profited thereby” (D&C 46:12). Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained how we can seek gifts of the Spirit:

“A prerequisite for seeking after the gifts may require that we find out which gifts we have been given. …

“To find the gifts we have been given, we must pray and fast. Often patriarchal blessings tell us the gifts we have received and declare the promise of gifts we can receive if we seek after them. I urge you each to discover your gifts and to seek after those that will bring direction to your life’s work and that will further the work of heaven” (“Gifts of the Spirit,” Ensign, Feb. 2002, 16).

Bestowing gifts of the Spirit is one way that Heavenly Father helps us to become more like Him. President George Q. Cannon (1827–1901) of the First Presidency explained: “If any of us are imperfect, it is our duty to pray for the gift that will make us perfect. Have I imperfections? I am full of them. What is my duty? To pray to God to give me the gifts that will correct these imperfections. If I am an angry man, it is my duty to pray for charity, which suffereth long and is kind. Am I an envious man? It is my duty to seek for charity, which envieth not. So with all the gifts of the Gospel. They are intended for this purpose. No man ought to say, ‘Oh, I cannot help this; it is my nature.’ He is not justified in it, for the reason that God has promised to give strength to correct these things, and to give gifts that will eradicate them. If a man lack wisdom, it is his duty to ask God for wisdom. The same with everything else. That is the design of God concerning His Church. He wants His Saints to be perfected in the truth. For this purpose He gives these gifts, and bestows them upon those who seek after them, in order that they may be a perfect people upon the face of the earth, notwithstanding their many weaknesses, because God has promised to give the gifts that are necessary for their perfection” (“Discourse by President George Q. Cannon,” Millennial Star, Apr. 23, 1894, 260–61).

Doctrine and Covenants 46:13–27. Spiritual gifts

Doctrine and Covenants 46:13–27 lists a number of key spiritual gifts that are similar to those listed in 1 Corinthians 12:8–11 and Moroni 10:8–17. The early Saints needed a proper understanding of spiritual gifts in order to correct the counterfeit spiritual expressions that some of the new converts in Kirtland, Ohio, had been exhibiting through extreme religious behaviors. The Lord explained that by remembering these gifts and seeking for them, Church members would not be deceived (see D&C 46:7–8). He commanded the Saints to “always retain in your minds what those gifts are” (D&C 46:10). Years later, the Prophet Joseph Smith reaffirmed the importance of spiritual gifts in the Church when he wrote the seventh article of faith, which named several of the gifts.

The gifts of the Spirit can be manifest in countless ways in our lives. While Doctrine and Covenants 46:13–27 lists approximately 14 spiritual gifts, as Elder Bruce R. McConkie (1915–1985) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles stated, “These are by no means all of the gifts. In the fullest sense, they are infinite in number and endless in their manifestations” (Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed. [1966], 315).

Speaking of additional spiritual gifts Elder Marvin J. Ashton (1915–1994) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught:

“Let me mention a few gifts that are not always evident or noteworthy but that are very important. Among these may be your gifts—gifts not so evident but nevertheless real and valuable.

“Let us review some of these less-conspicuous gifts: the gift of asking; the gift of listening; the gift of hearing and using a still, small voice; the gift of being able to weep; the gift of avoiding contention; the gift of being agreeable; the gift of avoiding vain repetition; the gift of seeking that which is righteous; the gift of not passing judgment; the gift of looking to God for guidance; the gift of being a disciple; the gift of caring for others; the gift of being able to ponder; the gift of offering prayer; the gift of bearing a mighty testimony; and the gift of receiving the Holy Ghost” (“There Are Many Gifts,” Ensign, Nov. 1987, 20).

Doctrine and Covenants 46:13–14. “To some it is given by the Holy Ghost to know. … To others it is given to believe on their words”

The Lord taught the Saints in Kirtland, Ohio, that some are blessed to know, by the power of the Holy Ghost, that Jesus is the Christ (see D&C 46:13). Others are blessed to believe in their words (see D&C 46:14) until they come to know for themselves. Belief, not doubt, is always the first step toward testimony and conviction. Belief in the testimony of others is a gift of the Spirit.

Doctrine and Covenants 46:23, 27. The gift of discernment

Through the gift of the Holy Ghost, we can qualify for guidance and spiritual insight to discern or to see things clearly. President George Q. Cannon explained why it is important for Church members to seek the gift of discernment: “The gift of discerning of spirits not only gives men and women who have it the power to discern the spirit with which others may be possessed or influenced, but it gives them the power to discern the spirit which influences themselves. They are able to detect a false spirit and also to know when the Spirit of God reigns within them. In private life this gift is of great importance to the Latter-day Saints. Possessing and exercising this gift they will not allow any evil influence to enter into their hearts or to prompt them in their thoughts, their words or their acts. They will repel it; and if perchance such a spirit should get possession of them, as soon as they witness its effects they will expel it or, in other words, refuse to be led or prompted by it” (Gospel Truth: Discourses and Writings of George Q. Cannon, comp. Jerreld L. Newquist [1987], 157).

To Church leaders the Lord gives the gift “to discern all those gifts lest there shall be any among you professing and yet be not of God” (D&C 46:27). This special gift makes it possible for those who preside in the Church to discern between false spirits and legitimate manifestations of the Holy Ghost.

Doctrine and Covenants 46:24. The gift of tongues

There are differing manifestations of the gift of tongues:

  • There have been occasions throughout the Church’s history when persons have been moved upon by the Spirit to speak the language of God—the Adamic language described in modern revelation as “pure and undefiled” (see Moses 6:5–6, 46). During events surrounding the dedication of the Kirtland Temple, many of the Saints spoke and interpreted tongues.

  • On the day of Pentecost, when the gift of the Holy Ghost was poured out in an unusually powerful manner, men and women were empowered by the Spirit to speak and understand foreign but known languages (see Acts 2:1–6). The servants of the Lord throughout the world are granted special privileges on a regular basis in learning languages, speaking them fluently, and communicating the message of salvation to those of every nation, kindred, tongue, and people.

  • People speak in tongues when they speak by the power of the Holy Ghost, when they “speak with the tongue of angels,” or, in other words, “speak the words of Christ” (2 Nephi 31:13; 32:2–3).

Elder Robert D. Hales summarized some cautions regarding the gift of tongues:

“We are told by prophets in this dispensation that revelation for the direction of the Church will not be given through the gift of tongues. The reason for this is that it is very easy for Lucifer to falsely duplicate the gift of tongues and confuse the members of the Church.

“Satan has the power to trick us as it pertains to some of the gifts of the Spirit. One in which he is the most deceptive is the gift of tongues. Joseph Smith and Brigham Young … explained the need to be cautious when considering the gift of tongues.

“‘You may speak in tongues for your own comfort, but I lay this down for a rule, that if anything is taught by the gift of tongues, it is not to be received for doctrine’ (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith [1976], 229).

“‘Speak not in the gift of tongues without understanding it, or without interpretation. The devil can speak in tongues’ (Teachings, 162).

“‘The gift of tongues is not … empowered to dictate … the Church. All gifts and endowments given of the Lord to members of his Church are not given to control the Church; but they are under the control and guidance of the Priesthood, and are judged of by it’ (Discourses of Brigham Young, comp. John A. Widtsoe [1941], 343)” (“Gifts of the Spirit,” 14–15).

Doctrine and Covenants 47: Additional Historical Background

John Whitmer was called to serve as Church historian and recorder (see D&C 47).

John Whitmer, one of the Eight Witnesses of the Book of Mormon, had assisted the Prophet Joseph Smith as a scribe during a portion of the Book of Mormon translation and later during the Prophet’s inspired translation of the Bible. John’s duties increased after Oliver Cowdery departed in October 1830 for his mission to the Lamanites. John helped take notes at Church conferences and continued to compile the revelations Joseph Smith had received and copy them into a manuscript record book that would become known as the Book of Commandments and Revelations. In March 1831, the Prophet Joseph Smith appointed John Whitmer to write the history of the Church. John later recounted, “I would rather not do it but observed that the will of the Lord be done, and if he desires it, I desire that he would manifest it through Joseph the Seer” (in The Joseph Smith Papers, Histories, Volume 2: Assigned Histories, 1831–1847, 36). The subsequent revelation to the Prophet affirmed John Whitmer’s calling to “write and keep a regular history” of the Church (D&C 47:1). John accepted the Lord’s will and eventually prepared “a ninety-six-page narrative history that primarily described events from fall 1830 through the mid-1830s” (in The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 1: July 1828–June 1831, 285).

Doctrine and Covenants 47

The Lord calls John Whitmer to keep a history of the Church and to write for the Prophet

Doctrine and Covenants 47:1. “Write and keep a regular history”

The Lord has commanded the Church to keep accurate records (see D&C 21:1; 47:1–3; 72:5–6; 123:1–6; 127:6–9; 128:4–9). Today, keeping and preserving records is a high priority in the Church. In 2009 the Church dedicated a new Church History Library for the purpose of preserving manuscripts, books, Church records, photographs, oral histories, patriarchal blessings, architectural drawings, pamphlets, newspapers, periodicals, maps, microfilm, and audiovisual materials. Elder Marlin K. Jensen of the Seventy explained why the efforts to preserve Church history continue:

“The primary purpose of Church history is to help Church members build faith in Jesus Christ and keep their sacred covenants. In fulfilling this purpose, we are guided by three main considerations:

“First, we seek to bear witness of and defend the foundational truths of the Restoration.

“Second, we desire to help Church members remember the great things God has done for His children.

“Third, we have a scriptural charge to help preserve the revealed order of the kingdom of God. This includes the revelations, documents, procedures, processes, and patterns that provide order and continuity for the exercising of priesthood keys, the proper functioning of priesthood quorums, the performance of ordinances, and so on—those things that are essential to salvation” (“There Shall Be a Record Kept among You,” Ensign, Dec. 2007, 28–29).

Doctrine and Covenants 48: Additional Historical Background

Edward Partridge had been called by revelation to be the Church’s first bishop and was given the responsibility “to administer to the poor and the needy” (D&C 42:34; see also D&C 41:9). Anticipating the arrival of Saints emigrating from New York to Ohio, Bishop Partridge was “anxious to know something” about how to prepare to meet their needs (John Whitmer, in The Joseph Smith Papers, Histories, Volume 2: Assigned Histories, 1831–1847, 35). Questions also arose regarding where the city of Zion was to be established. New Church members wondered whether they should plan to stay in Ohio permanently or prepare to move again to wherever Zion would be located. For these reasons the Prophet Joseph Smith sought the Lord’s direction and consequently received the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 48.

Doctrine and Covenants 48

The Lord tells the Saints how to assist Church members who will be moving from New York to Ohio

Doctrine and Covenants 48:1–3. Impart to others

The Lord counseled the Saints in Kirtland to use their means to help new converts who would be arriving in Ohio. This instruction gave Church members an opportunity to practice the principles of consecration outlined in previous revelations (see D&C 38:24–25, 35; 41:5; 42:30). President Thomas S. Monson shared an experience that illustrates how we can help those in need today:

“On a cold winter’s night in 1951, there was a knock at my door. A German brother from Ogden, Utah, announced himself and said, ‘Are you Bishop Monson?’ I answered in the affirmative. He began to weep and said, ‘My brother, his wife, and family are coming here from Germany. They are going to live in your ward. Will you come with us to see the apartment we have rented for them?’

“On the way to the apartment, he told me he had not seen his brother for many years. Through the holocaust of World War II, his brother had been faithful to the Church, once serving as a branch president before the war took him to the Russian front.

“I observed the apartment. It was cold and dreary. The paint was peeling, the wallpaper soiled, the cupboards empty. A forty-watt bulb, suspended from the living room ceiling, revealed a linoleum floor covering with a large hole in the center. I was heartsick. I thought, ‘What a dismal welcome for a family which has endured so much.’ …

“… The next morning was Sunday. In our ward welfare committee meeting, one of my counselors said, ‘Bishop, you look worried. Is something wrong?’

“I recounted to those present my experience of the night before, revealing the details of the uninviting apartment. There were a few moments of silence. Then Brother Eardley, the group leader of the high priests, said, ‘Bishop, did you say that apartment was inadequately lighted and that the kitchen appliances were in need of replacement?’ I answered in the affirmative. He continued, ‘I am an electrical contractor. Would you permit the high priests of this ward to rewire that apartment? I would also like to invite my suppliers to contribute a new stove and a new refrigerator. Do I have your permission?’ …

“Then Brother Balmforth, the seventies president, responded, ‘Bishop, as you know, I’m in the carpet business. I would like to invite my suppliers to contribute some carpet, and the seventies can easily lay it and eliminate that worn linoleum.’

“Then Brother Bowden, the president of the elders quorum, spoke up. He was a painting contractor. He said, ‘I’ll furnish the paint. May the elders paint and wallpaper that apartment?’

“Sister Miller, the Relief Society president, was next to speak. ‘We in the Relief Society cannot stand the thought of empty cupboards. May we fill them?’

“The three weeks which followed are ever to be remembered. It seemed that the entire ward joined in the project. The days passed, and at the appointed time, the family arrived from Germany. Again at my door stood the brother from Ogden. With an emotion-filled voice, he introduced to me his brother, his brother’s wife, and their family. Then he asked, ‘Could we go visit the apartment?’ As we walked up the staircase leading to the apartment, he repeated, ‘It isn’t much, but it’s more than they have had in Germany.’ Little did he know what a transformation had taken place and that many who had participated were inside waiting for our arrival.

“The door opened to reveal a newness of life. We were greeted by the aroma of freshly painted woodwork and newly papered walls. Gone was the forty-watt bulb, along with the worn linoleum it had illuminated. We stepped on carpet deep and beautiful. A walk to the kitchen presented to our view a new stove and new refrigerator. The cupboard doors were still open; however, they now revealed every shelf filled with food. As usual, the Relief Society had done its work.

“… The father, realizing that all of this was his, took me by the hand to express his thanks. His emotion was too great. …

“It was time to leave. As we walked down the stairs and out into the night air, snow was falling. Not a word was spoken. Finally, a young girl asked, ‘Bishop, I feel better than I have ever felt before. Can you tell me why?’

“I responded with the words of the Master: ‘Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.’ (Matt. 25:40.)” (“A Provident Plan—A Precious Promise,” Ensign, May 1986, 64–65).

Doctrine and Covenants 48:4–6. “The place is not yet to be revealed”

The Lord urged the Saints to save money for the time when they would need to purchase land to build the city of Zion. At that time the Lord had not yet revealed Zion’s location other than declaring that it would be located “on the borders by the Lamanites” (D&C 28:9). Within a few months of the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 48, the Lord revealed to Church leaders that Zion would be built in Independence, Missouri (see D&C 52:2–3; 57:1–5).

Doctrine and Covenants 49: Additional Historical Background

Approximately 15 miles southwest of Kirtland, Ohio, was a congregation belonging to the United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Coming. They were commonly known as Shakers because of their manner of worship, which involved shaking their bodies as they sang, danced, and clapped their hands to music. The Shakers believed that Christ had returned to the earth in the form of a woman, Ann Lee, who was the leader of the Shaker movement. The Shakers believed in total celibacy (abstaining from marriage and sexual relations). They did not consider baptism to be essential, and some forbade the eating of meat. In early 1831, a member of the Shakers, Leman Copley, converted to the Church and hoped that elders in the Church would go preach the gospel among his former associates. However, like some new converts may, he continued to hold to some of his earlier false beliefs. The revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 49, which the Prophet Joseph Smith received on May 7, 1831, refuted several beliefs of the Shakers. In addition, Sidney Rigdon, Parley P. Pratt, and Leman Copley were called to go preach among the Shaker community. Soon after the revelation was given, these three men visited the Shakers and were permitted to read it to an assembled congregation, but the group rejected their message.

Leman Copley covenanted under the principles of consecration to allow many of the immigrating Saints from New York to live on his farm, located in Thompson, Ohio. However, after a brief time, he broke his covenant and demanded that they leave his property. Leman’s faith in the Restoration waivered, and he did not fully associate with the Saints after that time.

In March 1831, missionaries from the Church visited the Shaker community at this location in North Union (Shaker Heights), Ohio (see D&C 49:1).

Doctrine and Covenants 49

The Lord calls Sidney Rigdon, Parley P. Pratt, and Leman Copley to preach to the Shakers in northern Ohio.

Doctrine and Covenants 49:1–4. “They desire to know the truth in part, but not all”

The Lord explained that the Shakers “desire[d] to know the truth in part, but not all” (D&C 49:2). Although the Shakers sought to follow God, they eventually rejected the message of the Restoration as taught by the missionaries who were called to declare the word of the Lord to them. It is essential that God’s children accept all of the doctrinal truths that are part of the everlasting gospel. Elder Glenn L. Pace (1940–2017) of the Seventy described how some members of the Church today choose to only “know the truth in part”:

“There are some of our members who practice selective obedience. A prophet is not one who displays a smorgasbord of truth from which we are free to pick and choose. … A prophet doesn’t take a poll to see which way the wind of public opinion is blowing. He reveals the will of the Lord to us. …

“In 1831, some converts wanted to bring a few of their previous beliefs into the Church with them. Our problem today is with members who seem very vulnerable to the trends in society (and the pointing fingers which attend them) and want the Church to change its position to accommodate them. The doctrinal grass on the other side of the fence looks very green to them.

“The Lord’s counsel in 1831 is relevant today: ‘Behold, I say unto you, that they desire to know the truth in part, but not all, for they are not right before me and must needs repent.’ (D&C 49:2.)

“We need to accept the full truth—even all of it—‘put on the whole armour of God’ (Eph. 6:11), and get to work building up the kingdom” (“Follow the Prophet,” Ensign, May 1989, 26).

As Elder Dallin H. Oaks taught, the gospel of Jesus Christ requires us to renounce practices that are contrary to gospel teachings when we become members of the Church:

“As a way to help us keep the commandments of God, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have what we call a gospel culture. It is a distinctive way of life, a set of values and expectations and practices common to all members. This gospel culture comes from the plan of salvation, the commandments of God, and the teachings of the living prophets. It guides us in the way we raise our families and live our individual lives. …

“To help its members all over the world, the Church teaches us to give up any personal or family traditions or practices that are contrary to the teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ and to this gospel culture” (“The Gospel Culture,” Ensign, Mar. 2012, 42).

Doctrine and Covenants 49:7. No one knows the hour or day of the Second Coming of Jesus Christ

The Shakers believed that the Second Coming of Jesus Christ had already occurred and that He had returned in the form of a woman named Ann Lee. This belief is an example of the false teachings that the Savior prophesied would be prevalent in the last days:

“Behold … if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there, believe him not;

“For in those days there shall also arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders, insomuch, that, if possible, they shall deceive the very elect, who are the elect according to the covenant. …

“Wherefore, if they shall say unto you: Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: Behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not;

“For as the light of the morning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west, and covereth the whole earth, so shall also the coming of the Son of Man be” (Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:21–22, 25–26).

The Prophet Joseph Smith (1805–1844) warned about those who claim to know the time of the Savior’s Second Coming: “Jesus Christ never did reveal to any man the precise time that He would come [see Matthew 24:36; D&C 49:7]. Go and read the Scriptures, and you cannot find anything that specifies the exact hour He would come; and all that say so are false teachers” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, 253).

Doctrine and Covenants 49:15–17. Marriage is ordained of God

The Shakers created a community in which men and women lived separately and abstained from marrying and having children. The Apostle Paul described false teachings that would lead to apostasy in the last days, including “forbidding to marry” (see 1 Timothy 4:1, 3).

In an official proclamation issued in 1995, the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles declared that “marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and that the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children” (“The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2010, 129).

The Lord revealed that “marriage is ordained of God unto man” (D&C 49:15).

Elder L. Tom Perry (1922–2015) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained why marriage and family are so important:

“The entire theology of our restored gospel centers on families and on the new and everlasting covenant of marriage. …

“We believe that marriage and family ties can continue beyond the grave—that marriages performed by those who have the proper authority in His temples will continue to be valid in the world to come. Our marriage ceremonies eliminate the words ‘till death do us part’ and instead say, ‘for time and for all eternity.’

“We also believe that strong traditional families are not only the basic units of a stable society, a stable economy, and a stable culture of values—but that they are also the basic units of eternity and of the kingdom and government of God. …

“It is because of our belief that marriages and families are eternal that we, as a church, want to be a leader and a participant in worldwide movements to strengthen them” (“Why Marriage and Family Matter—Everywhere in the World,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2015, 41).