Chapter 24: Doctrine and Covenants 64–65

“Chapter 24: Doctrine and Covenants 64–65,” Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual (2017)

“Chapter 24,” Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual

Chapter 24

Doctrine and Covenants 64–65

Introduction and Timeline

On August 27, 1831, the Prophet Joseph Smith and a number of elders returned to Ohio from their journey to Zion, or Independence, Missouri. During the journey to and from Missouri, some of the elders had disagreements with each other, but most reconciled their contentious feelings. On September 11 the Prophet received the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 64. In this revelation the Lord commanded Church members to forgive one another and taught them about the sacrifices He requires of the Saints in the latter days.

In September 1831, Joseph Smith and his family moved from Kirtland to Hiram, Ohio, about 30 miles southeast of Kirtland. On October 30, 1831, he received the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 65. In this revelation the Lord taught that the gospel will go to every nation in preparation for the Second Coming and that the Saints are to pray for the growth of the kingdom of God.

September 1, 1831Ezra Booth and Isaac Morley returned to Ohio from their mission to Missouri.

September–December 1831Ezra Booth wrote a series of letters that were critical of Joseph Smith and the Church and published them in the Ohio Star newspaper.

September 11, 1831Doctrine and Covenants 64 was received.

September 12, 1831Joseph and Emma Smith moved to Hiram, Ohio.

October 30, 1831Doctrine and Covenants 65 was received.

Doctrine and Covenants 64: Additional Historical Background

Ezra Booth had been a Methodist preacher before he joined the Church in 1831. When the Lord commanded Church leaders and others to go to Missouri in the summer of 1831, Ezra Booth and Isaac Morley, his missionary companion, were among those elders who were called by the Lord to walk to Missouri “preaching the word by the way” (D&C 52:23). Ezra considered this to be unfair when he learned that the Prophet Joseph Smith and other Church leaders were traveling to Missouri by boat and stagecoach. Upon arriving in Missouri, several of the elders, including Ezra Booth, were disappointed with the appearance of the land and with the lack of converts in the frontier town of Independence. Ezra also felt that Joseph Smith did not behave as a prophet because he had a “spirit of lightness and levity, a temper of mind easily irritated, and an habitual proneness to jesting and joking” (in The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 2: July 1831–January 1833, ed. Matthew C. Godfrey and others [2013], 60, note 332). Contrary to revelation that had been given the elders (see D&C 60:8), Ezra Booth and Isaac Morley returned quickly to Ohio by boat and stagecoach rather than preaching the gospel along the way.

After arriving in Ohio, Ezra Booth came out in opposition to the Prophet Joseph Smith and the Church. Church leaders took action against Ezra Booth on September 6, 1831, and revoked his authority to preach the gospel. Shortly thereafter, Ezra began writing a series of letters critical of the Prophet and the Church that were published in the Ohio Star newspaper. Also during this time, in response to the Lord’s command, several brethren in Ohio were preparing to move to Missouri. On September 11, 1831, Joseph Smith received the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 64. The next day the Prophet and his family moved from Kirtland to Hiram, Ohio.

Map 5: The New York, Pennsylvania, and Ohio Area of the United States

Doctrine and Covenants 64:1–19

The Lord assures us of His willingness to forgive us and commands us to forgive one another

Doctrine and Covenants 64:1–7. “I, the Lord, forgive sins unto those who confess their sins before me and ask forgiveness”

Some of the brethren who traveled to Missouri and back were guilty of faultfinding and arguing. The Lord extended great compassion and mercy by forgiving them of their sins. The Prophet Joseph Smith was one who had sinned and was forgiven. However, the Lord clarified that those who had been critical of the Prophet had done so “without cause” (D&C 64:6). The Lord stated that He forgives the sins of “those who confess their sins before [Him] and ask forgiveness” (D&C 64:7).

Elder Richard G. Scott (1928–2015) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained that confession is needed in order to obtain forgiveness: “You always need to confess your sins to the Lord. If they are serious transgressions, such as immorality, they need to be confessed to a bishop or stake president. Please understand that confession is not repentance. It is an essential step, but is not of itself adequate. Partial confession by mentioning lesser mistakes will not help you resolve a more serious, undisclosed transgression. Essential to forgiveness is a willingness to fully disclose to the Lord and, where necessary, His priesthood judge all that you have done. Remember, ‘He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy’ [Proverbs 28:13]” (“Finding Forgiveness,” Ensign, May 1995, 76).

Doctrine and Covenants 64:7. What does it mean to sin unto death?

The Lord promised that He will “forgive sins unto those who confess their sins before [Him] and ask forgiveness, who have not sinned unto death” (D&C 64:7; italics added). Elder Bruce R. McConkie (1915–1985) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained: “Those who turn from the light and truth of the gospel; who give themselves up to Satan; who enlist in his cause, supporting and sustaining it; and who thereby become his children—by such a course sin unto death. For them there is neither repentance, forgiveness, nor any hope whatever of salvation of any kind. As children of Satan, they are sons of perdition” (Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed. [1966], 737; see also Matthew 12:31–32; Hebrews 10:26–27; 1 John 5:16–17; Alma 5:41–42).

It is important to note that sons of perdition are different from Church members who once had active testimonies of the truth but later fall away from activity and stop living the principles of the gospel. Sons of perdition commit the unpardonable sin of denying the Holy Ghost. Because they utterly turn against God and refuse to be redeemed through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, for them it “is as though there was no redemption made” (Mosiah 16:5). Because the sons of perdition cannot be redeemed from spiritual death, or the second death, their sin is a sin “unto death” (D&C 64:7).

portrayal of Jesus and His disciples on a hillside

The Lord chastened His disciples in Jerusalem because they “forgave not one another in their hearts” (D&C 64:8).

Doctrine and Covenants 64:8–11. “Ye ought to forgive one another”

The Church leaders and elders who had received the Lord’s forgiveness were instructed to extend personal forgiveness to others. The Lord explained that during His mortal ministry, His disciples “sought occasion against one another and forgave not one another in their hearts” (D&C 64:8). An outward demonstration of forgiveness is not sufficient; the Lord requires “the hearts of the children of men” (D&C 64:22). President Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the First Presidency explained why extending forgiveness is critical for our spiritual growth:

“Extending forgiveness is a precondition to receiving forgiveness.

“For our own good, we need the moral courage to forgive and to ask for forgiveness. Never is the soul nobler and more courageous than when we forgive. This includes forgiving ourselves.

“Each of us is under a divinely spoken obligation to reach out with pardon and mercy and to forgive one another. There is a great need for this Christlike attribute in our families, in our marriages, in our wards and stakes, in our communities, and in our nations.

“We will receive the joy of forgiveness in our own lives when we are willing to extend that joy freely to others. Lip service is not enough. We need to purge our hearts and minds of feelings and thoughts of bitterness and let the light and the love of Christ enter in. As a result, the Spirit of the Lord will fill our souls with the joy accompanying divine peace of conscience (see Mosiah 4:2–3)” (“Point of Safe Return,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2007, 101).

portrayal of the Prophet Joseph Smith standing with two men

The Prophet Joseph Smith freely forgave those who wronged him.

Doctrine and Covenants 64:15–16. Ezra Booth and Isaac Morley

Ezra Booth and Isaac Morley had been assigned by the Lord to journey to Missouri and back as missionary companions. They were to travel by foot, “preaching the word by the way” (D&C 52:23; see also D&C 42:6–8). They did this begrudgingly on their trip to Missouri, but they avoided doing so on the return trip to Ohio. From Doctrine and Covenants 64:15–16 we learn that Ezra Booth and Isaac Morley forfeited the blessings of the Spirit because “they kept not the law, neither the commandment” and “they sought evil in their hearts.”

It seems that Isaac Morley repented quickly because the Lord declared that he was forgiven (see D&C 64:16). Isaac subsequently obeyed the Lord’s commandment to sell his farm (see D&C 63:38–39; 64:20), and then he moved with his family to Missouri, where he served as a counselor to Bishop Edward Partridge. Ezra Booth, however, did not repent but continued to allow his doubts and critical opinions to lead him down a path to full apostasy.

copy of the Ohio Star on a desktop

Ezra Booth renounced his beliefs and pubished a series of letters in the Ohio Star newspaper that were critical of the Prophet Joseph Smith and the Church.

Doctrine and Covenants 64:20–43

The Lord gives the requirements for the establishment of Zion

Doctrine and Covenants 64:21–22. “Retain a strong hold in the land of Kirtland, for … five years”

Although some of the Saints were commanded to move to Missouri, others, like Frederick G. Williams, were to remain in Kirtland, Ohio. The Lord promised that Kirtland would be “a strong hold” of the Church for at least five more years (D&C 64:21). This promise was fulfilled, and during that period the Kirtland Temple was constructed and dedicated, priesthood keys were restored by heavenly messengers to the Prophet Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, and a great outpouring of spiritual blessings was given to the Saints. However, in 1837, problems arose among the Church members in Kirtland, and many apostatized. Joseph Smith left Kirtland in January 1838 and went to Missouri. The majority of the faithful Saints who remained in Kirtland left by July 1838.

Doctrine and Covenants 64:23–25. “Labor while it is called today”

The Lord used the word today to refer to the period of time from when Doctrine and Covenants 64 was received to the Second Coming (see D&C 64:23). From the Lord’s perspective, today refers to “this life,” the time that we are to “perform [our] labors” and “prepare to meet God” (Alma 34:32; see also Alma 34:31, 33–35). In Doctrine and Covenants 64:24, the word tomorrow refers to the time of the destruction of the wicked and the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

President Henry B. Eyring of the First Presidency taught about the importance of serving the Lord “this day”:

“The scriptures make the danger of delay clear. It is that we may discover that we have run out of time. The God who gives us each day as a treasure will require an accounting. We will weep, and He will weep, if we have intended to repent and to serve Him in tomorrows which never came or have dreamt of yesterdays where the opportunity to act was past. This day is a precious gift of God. The thought ‘Someday I will’ can be a thief of the opportunities of time and the blessings of eternity. …

“It is hard to know when we have done enough for the Atonement to change our natures and so qualify us for eternal life. And we don’t know how many days we will have to give the service necessary for that mighty change to come. But we know that we will have days enough if only we don’t waste them. …

“For those who are discouraged by their circumstances and are therefore tempted to feel they cannot serve the Lord this day, I make you two promises. Hard as things seem today, they will be better in the next day if you choose to serve the Lord this day with your whole heart. …

“The other promise I make to you is that by choosing to serve Him this day, you will feel His love and grow to love Him more” (“This Day,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2007, 89–91).

Doctrine and Covenants 64:23–24. “He that is tithed shall not be burned at his coming”

stubble in a field

The wicked shall be burned as stubble at the last day if they do not obey the Lord’s commandments (see D&C 64:23–24).

The instructions given to Newel K. Whitney, Sidney Gilbert, Isaac Morley, Frederick G. Williams, and others in the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 64 included details regarding their personal property and their labors to help build God’s kingdom. The word tithing in Doctrine and Covenants 64:23 refers to all of the Saints’ contributions to the Church, particularly under the law of consecration, rather than a percentage of earnings. The Lord promised that those who obeyed the laws of sacrifice and consecration would escape the burning that would destroy the unrepentant at the last day. Our current understanding of the law of tithing was further clarified in 1838, when the Lord gave the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 119.

For more information about tithing, see the commentary for Doctrine and Covenants 119:1–4 in this manual.

Doctrine and Covenants 64:26–30. Sidney Gilbert and Newel K. Whitney

Sidney Gilbert and Newel K. Whitney were business partners who were called to serve “on the Lord’s errand” as business “agents” (D&C 64:29). Their mercantile stores in Independence, Missouri, and in Kirtland, Ohio, would eventually function as the Lord’s storehouses, operating under the principles of the law of consecration (see D&C 78:3). The Lord warned Sidney and Newel not to go into debt to their enemies (see D&C 64:27).

President Thomas S. Monson reminded all those who are on the Lord’s errand to be worthy: “Ours is the task to be fitting examples. We are strengthened by the truth that the greatest force in the world today is the power of God as it works through man. If we are on the Lord’s errand, … we are entitled to the Lord’s help. Never forget that truth. That divine help, of course, is predicated upon our worthiness. Each must ask: Are my hands clean? Is my heart pure? Am I a worthy servant of the Lord?” (“Examples of Righteousness,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2008, 65).

Doctrine and Covenants 64:31–33. “Out of small things proceedeth that which is great”

The Prophet Joseph Smith and other Church leaders likely felt overwhelmed at the challenges they faced to meet the needs of a growing Church in Ohio and build Zion in Missouri. Some members, like Ezra Booth, were concerned because the establishment of Zion had not occurred as quickly as they had anticipated. Yet the Lord promised that everything He had previously declared would eventually come to pass (see D&C 64:31). The Lord encouraged the weary Saints by helping them see that they were “laying the foundation of a great work” (D&C 64:33). That divine perspective likely helped the Saints move forward with renewed confidence and energy.

It is not uncommon to become discouraged with personal abilities or opportunities to help build God’s kingdom. Elder Bruce D. Porter (1952–2016) of the Seventy observed:

“We do not have to be called to serve far from home, nor do we have to hold a prominent place in the Church or in the world to build up the Lord’s kingdom. We build it in our own hearts as we cultivate the Spirit of God in our lives. We build it within our families by instilling faith in our children. And we build it through the organization of the Church as we magnify our callings and share the gospel with neighbors and friends.

“As our missionaries labor in fields ready for harvest, others labor in fields at home to strengthen the kingdom in the ward and community where they reside. From its earliest days, the Lord’s Church has been built up by ordinary people who magnified their callings in humility and devotion. It does not matter to what office we are called to serve, only that we act ‘in all diligence’ (D&C 107:99). In the words of modern revelation: ‘Be not weary in well-doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great work. And out of small things proceedeth that which is great’ (D&C 64:33)” (“Building the Kingdom,” Ensign, May 2001, 80–81).

Doctrine and Covenants 64:34–36. “The Lord requireth the heart and a willing mind”

The Lord requires His people to willingly obey His law in order to receive an inheritance in the land of Zion in this world or in the next (see D&C 38:17–20; 58:44; 63:20, 49; 64:34; 88:17–20). Those who have been gathered to the gospel and given an inheritance in the land of Zion in this life but have subsequently broken the covenant they made with God and are “rebellious” will be “sent away” from or “plucked out” of the land of their inheritance (D&C 64:35–36; see also Deuteronomy 28:63–64). The Lord reminded the Saints that those who serve God with “the heart and a willing mind” will enjoy the blessings of Zion in the last days (D&C 64:34).

Elder Donald L. Hallstrom of the Presidency of the Seventy explained the importance of serving God with “the heart and a willing mind”:

“If we love the Lord with all our heart, we are willing to give Him everything we possess. Elder Neal A. Maxwell (1926–2004) said: ‘The submission of one’s will is really the only uniquely personal thing we have to place on God’s altar. … The many other things we give to God … are actually things He has already given us, and He has loaned them to us. But when we begin to submit ourselves by letting our wills be swallowed up in God’s will, then we are really giving something to Him’ [‘Sharing Insights from My Life,’ in Brigham Young University 1998–99 Speeches (1999), 4]. …

“Having ‘a willing mind’ [D&C 64:34] connotes giving our best effort and finest thinking and seeking God’s wisdom. It suggests that our most devoted lifetime study should be of things that are eternal in nature. It means that there must be an inextricable relationship between hearing the word of God and obeying it.

“The Apostle James said, ‘Be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only’ (James 1:22).

“Some of us ‘hear’ selectively and ‘do’ when it is convenient. But for those who give their heart and mind to the Lord, whether the burden is light or heavy makes no difference. We demonstrate a consecrated heart and mind by consistently following God’s commandments no matter how difficult the circumstances” (“The Heart and a Willing Mind,” Ensign, June 2011, 31–32).

Doctrine and Covenants 64:35–36. “The rebellious are not of the blood of Ephraim”

Ephraim was a grandson of the Old Testament prophet Jacob, whose name was changed to Israel. Ephraim was given the birthright blessing (see Genesis 48:20). The phrase “blood of Ephraim” (D&C 64:36) refers to those who (1) are literal descendants of Ephraim, as well as (2) those who are not of the house of Israel but who, through baptism into the restored Church, are adopted into the tribe of Ephraim. Only those who are believing and obedient members of the Church are considered to be of the blood of Ephraim. The rebellious, though they may be literal descendants of Ephraim, will not receive an inheritance in Zion (see D&C 64:35–36).

President Joseph Fielding Smith (1876–1972) explained the importance of Ephraim’s birthright and the responsibility Ephraim’s descendants have to bless others in the latter days: “It is essential in this dispensation that Ephraim stand in his place at the head, exercising the birthright in Israel which was given to him by direct revelation. Therefore, Ephraim must be gathered first to prepare the way, through the gospel and the priesthood, for the rest of the tribes of Israel when the time comes for them to be gathered to Zion” (Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie [1956], 3:252).

Doctrine and Covenants 65: Additional Historical Background

Joseph and Emma Smith were living on Isaac Morley’s property when the Lord commanded Isaac to sell his farm (see D&C 63:65; 64:20). On September 12, 1831, the Prophet Joseph Smith moved his family to Hiram, Ohio, where many new Church members lived, to live with John and Alice (Elsa) Johnson and their family. A church service was held at the Johnson home on Sunday, October 30, 1831. On that same day, the Prophet received the revelation that is recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 65.

The Prophet Joseph Smith had completed his inspired translation of the early chapters of Matthew more than six months before this revelation was received. William E. McLellin wrote, however, that this revelation referred in theme to Matthew 6:10, where the Lord prays, “Thy kingdom come” (see The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 2: July 1831–January 1833, 92).

Doctrine and Covenants 65

The Lord declares that the gospel will fill the whole earth

Doctrine and Covenants 65:2. “The keys of the kingdom of God are committed unto man on the earth”

On March 15, 1832, the Lord declared that the Prophet Joseph Smith had been “given the keys of the kingdom” (D&C 81:2). These keys are also known as the “keys of the church” (D&C 42:69) and consist of the power and authority to preside and govern over the affairs of the Lord’s Church on the earth. President Joseph Fielding Smith taught about the importance of the keys of the kingdom of God:

“Now I shall say a few words to you about the priesthood and those keys which the Lord has conferred upon us in this final gospel dispensation.

“We hold the holy Melchizedek Priesthood, which is the power and authority of God delegated to man on earth to act in all things for the salvation of men.

“We also hold the keys of the kingdom of God on earth, which kingdom is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“These keys are the right of presidency; they are the power and authority to govern and direct all of the Lord’s affairs on earth. Those who hold them have power to govern and control the manner in which all others may serve in the priesthood. All of us may hold the priesthood, but we can only use it as authorized and directed so to do by those who hold the keys.

“This priesthood and these keys were conferred upon Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery by Peter, James, and John, and by Moses and Elijah and others of the ancient prophets. They have been given to each man who has been set apart as a member of the Council of the Twelve. But since they are the right of presidency, they can only be exercised in full by the senior apostle of God on earth, who is the president of the Church.

“May I now say—very plainly and very emphatically—that we have the holy priesthood and that the keys of the kingdom of God are here. They are found only in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” (“Eternal Keys and the Right to Preside,” Ensign, July 1972, 87–88).

Doctrine and Covenants 65:2. “Until it has filled the whole earth”

Daniel 2, in the Old Testament, contains the account of a dream that King Nebuchadnezzar had that the prophet Daniel interpreted. The revelation in Doctrine and Covenants 65 indicates that King Nebudchadnezzar’s dream was a prophecy about the growth and destiny of the kingdom of God in the latter days.

In April 1834, Wilford Woodruff participated in a priesthood meeting in Kirtland, Ohio, where the Prophet Joseph Smith prophesied about the destiny of the kingdom of God. President Woodruff later spoke about what transpired during that meeting: “The Prophet called on all who held the Priesthood to gather into the little log school house they had there. It was a small house, perhaps 14 feet square. But it held the whole of the Priesthood of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who were then in the town of Kirtland. … When we got together the Prophet called upon the Elders of Israel with him to bear testimony of this work. … When they got through the Prophet said, ‘Brethren I have been very much edified and instructed in your testimonies here tonight, but I want to say to you before the Lord, that you know no more concerning the destinies of this Church and kingdom than a babe upon its mother’s lap. You don’t comprehend it.’ I was rather surprised. He said, ‘It is only a little handful of Priesthood you see here tonight, but this Church will fill North and South America—it will fill the world’” (in Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith [2007], 137).

Church Office Building, Salt Lake City, Utah

God’s kingdom grows as the gospel rolls forth “until it has filled the whole earth” (D&C 65:2).

President Gordon B. Hinckley (1910–2008) described how Daniel’s prophecy concerning the gospel continues to be fulfilled:

“The Church has become one large family scattered across the earth. … The Lord is fulfilling His promise that His gospel shall be as the stone cut out of the mountain without hands which would roll forth and fill the whole earth, as Daniel saw in vision (see Daniel 2:31–45; D&C 65:2). A great miracle is taking place right before our eyes. …

“… When the Church was organized in 1830 there were but six members, only a handful of believers, all residing in a largely unknown village. Today, we have become the fourth or fifth largest church in North America, with congregations in every city of any consequence. Stakes of Zion today flourish in every state of the United States, in every province of Canada, in every state of Mexico, in every nation of Central America and throughout South America.

“Congregations are found throughout the British Isles and Europe, where thousands have joined the Church through the years. This work has reached out to the Baltic nations and on down through Bulgaria and Albania and other areas of that part of the world. It reaches across the vast area of Russia. It reaches up into Mongolia and all down through the nations of Asia into the islands of the Pacific, Australia, and New Zealand, and into India and Indonesia. It is flourishing in many of the nations of Africa. …

“And this is only the beginning. This work will continue to grow and prosper and move across the earth” (“The Stone Cut Out of the Mountain,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2007, 83–84).

Doctrine and Covenants 65:3. “Prepare ye the supper of the Lamb, make ready for the bridegroom”

The Lord’s references to “the supper of the Lamb” and the “bridegroom” (D&C 65:3) are allusions to imagery used by the Lord and His Apostles in the New Testament (see Matthew 22:2–14; 25:1–13; Revelation 19:7–9). Jesus Christ is the Lamb of God and the Bridegroom, and the Church is His bride (see Revelation 19:7–9). At the time of His Second Coming, the righteous Saints will rejoice. The joyful reunion between the Lord and His people is symbolized in the celebratory marriage feast. In fulfillment of the Lord’s invitation to prepare and make ready for the coming of the Bridegroom and the marriage supper of the Lamb, the Saints are to search out the righteous from the four corners of the earth and invite them to repent and be baptized. Those who heed the invitation and make and keep their covenants with the Lord shall be “arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of the saints” (Revelation 19:8), and those people will have the joy of welcoming the Lord and rejoicing with Him at His coming.

Doctrine and Covenants 65:6. The kingdom of God and the kingdom of heaven

The petition, or prayer, found in Doctrine and Covenants 65:6 illustrates the important connection between God’s church on earth and the divine organization of heaven. Elder James E. Talmage (1862–1933) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained:

“The Kingdom of God is the Church established by divine authority upon the earth; this institution asserts no claim to temporal rule over nations; its sceptre of power is that of the Holy Priesthood, to be used in the preaching of the gospel and in administering its ordinances for the salvation of mankind living and dead. The Kingdom of Heaven is the divinely ordained system of government and dominion in all matters, temporal and spiritual; this will be established on earth only when its rightful Head, the King of kings, Jesus the Christ, comes to reign. …

“The Kingdom of God has been established among men to prepare them for the Kingdom of Heaven which shall come; and in the blessed reign of Christ the King shall the two be made one” (Jesus the Christ, [1916], 788–89).