Institute
Chapter 25: Doctrine and Covenants 66–70
Footnotes

Hide Footnotes

Theme

“Chapter 25: Doctrine and Covenants 66–70,” Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual (2017)

“Chapter 25,” Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual

Chapter 25

Doctrine and Covenants 66–70

Introduction and Timeline

On October 29, 1831, William E. McLellin, a recent convert to the Church, went to the Lord with five questions and prayed to receive answers through the Prophet Joseph Smith. William then asked the Prophet to inquire of the Lord on his behalf. Joseph, who knew nothing concerning William’s prayer or the five questions, inquired of the Lord and received the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 66. This revelation details promised blessings and specific counsel regarding William’s spiritual standing and his call to preach the gospel.

In November 1831, priesthood holders gathered for a series of conferences in Hiram, Ohio, to discuss publication of the revelations that the Prophet Joseph Smith had received from the Lord to that point. During the conference, the Lord gave the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 1, which He designated as His preface to the book of revelations that would be published. The Lord also gave the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 67, in which He addressed those who questioned the language of the revelations received by the Prophet.

During the conference, four brethren asked Joseph Smith to inquire of the Lord concerning His will for them. In response, the Prophet received the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 68. The revelation includes counsel to those called to preach the gospel, additional understanding about what constitutes scripture, instructions about the calling of bishops, and a commandment for parents to teach their children the principles and ordinances of the gospel.

During the time of these conferences, Oliver Cowdery was assigned to carry the manuscript of Joseph Smith’s compiled revelations from Ohio to Missouri for printing. On November 11, 1831, Joseph Smith dictated the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 69, instructing John Whitmer to accompany Oliver to Missouri and to continue collecting historical material as Church historian and recorder. The next day at a conference in Hiram, Ohio, the Prophet received the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 70. In that revelation the Lord appointed six men to oversee the publication of His revelations to Joseph Smith.

October 29, 1831

Doctrine and Covenants 66 was received.

November 1–2, 1831

Elders at a Church conference held at Hiram, Ohio, discussed publishing the Lord’s revelations to Joseph Smith (the Book of Commandments). During the conference, the Prophet received Doctrine and Covenants 67–68.

November 11, 1831

Doctrine and Covenants 69 was received.

November 12, 1831

Doctrine and Covenants 70 was received.

November 20, 1831

Oliver Cowdery and John Whitmer departed Ohio for Missouri with revelations to be printed in the Book of Commandments.

Doctrine and Covenants 66: Additional Historical Background

In the summer of 1831, William E. McLellin, a former schoolteacher and recent widower, was baptized a member of the Church in Jackson County, Missouri. Soon after his baptism he was ordained an elder and preached the gospel with Hyrum Smith before attending a Church conference in Orange, Ohio. At the conference, William met the Prophet Joseph Smith for the first time and was ordained a high priest.

On October 29, 1831, while at the home of Joseph Smith in Hiram, Ohio, William “went before the Lord in secret, and on [his] knees asked him to reveal the answer to five questions through his Prophet” (William E. McLellin, The Journals of William E. McLellin, 1831-1836, ed. Jan Shipps and John W. Welch [1994], 248). Without saying anything about his prayer or questions, William asked Joseph Smith to inquire of the Lord on his behalf. Referring to the revelation the Prophet dictated, William later wrote that “every question which I thus lodged in the ears of the Lord … were answered to my full and entire satisfaction. I desired for a testimony of Joseph’s inspiration. And I to this day consider it to me an evidence which I cannot refute” (The Journals of William E. McLellin, 249).

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

Doctrine and Covenants 66

The Lord commends William E. McLellin and commands him to preach the gospel and forsake unrighteousness

Doctrine and Covenants 66:1–2. “Blessed are you for receiving mine everlasting covenant, even the fulness of my gospel”

The Lord told William E. McLellin that he was blessed for turning away from his sins and receiving the “everlasting covenant, even the fulness of [the] gospel” (D&C 66:2) by being baptized. At the time of William’s conversion, the term “fulness of the gospel” included faith in Jesus Christ, repentance, baptism by immersion, the gift of the Holy Ghost, and obedience to the commandments of God (see D&C 39:5–6). However, at the time of this revelation there were ordinances and covenants necessary for exaltation that were yet to be revealed. In due time, through the Prophet Joseph Smith, the Lord restored all of the ordinances and covenants necessary to inherit exaltation in the kingdom of God, including those performed in holy temples.

Elder John M. Madsen of the Seventy taught that today the fulness of the gospel and the Lord’s everlasting covenant refers to all gospel covenants and ordinances necessary for salvation:

“To know the Lord Jesus Christ, we and all mankind must receive Him. …

“To receive Him, we must receive the fulness of His gospel, His everlasting covenant, including all those truths or laws, covenants, and ordinances needed for mankind to enter back into the presence of God” (“Eternal Life through Jesus Christ,” Ensign, May 2002, 79).

Doctrine and Covenants 66:3. “You are clean, but not all”

After commending William E. McLellin for turning away from his iniquities and embracing the restored truth through baptism, the Lord declared that he was clean, but not entirely (see D&C 66:3). President Joseph Fielding Smith (1876–1972) explained that William had received forgiveness, “but still there lingered in some manner, evidently in his mind and thoughts, some thing from which he had not cleansed himself by full repentance” (Church History and Modern Revelation [1953], 1:245). The Lord exhorted William to repent of those things that were not pleasing to Him and promised that He would reveal to William what he needed to repent of. Similarly, as we seek to know God’s will, He will help us progress spiritually by showing us what we need to repent of.

William McLellin

William E. McClellin, then a recent convert to the Church, participated in the November 1831 conference of the Church in Hiram, Ohio. He was later called as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in 1835. He was excommunicated for apostasy in 1838.

Elder Larry R. Lawrence of the Seventy described how the Lord reveals through the Holy Ghost what changes and improvements we need to make in our lives:

“The journey of discipleship is not an easy one. It has been called a ‘course of steady improvement’ [Neal A. Maxwell, ‘Testifying of the Great and Glorious Atonement,’ Ensign, Oct. 2001, 12]. As we travel along that strait and narrow path, the Spirit continually challenges us to be better and to climb higher. The Holy Ghost makes an ideal traveling companion. If we are humble and teachable, He will take us by the hand and lead us home.

“However, we need to ask the Lord for directions along the way. We have to ask some difficult questions, like ‘What do I need to change?’ ‘How can I improve?’ ‘What weakness needs strengthening?’ …

“The Holy Ghost doesn’t tell us to improve everything at once. If He did, we would become discouraged and give up. The Spirit works with us at our own speed, one step at a time, or as the Lord has taught, ‘line upon line, precept upon precept, … and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, … for unto him that receiveth I will give more’ [2 Nephi 28:30]. For example, if the Holy Ghost has been prompting you to say ‘thank you’ more often, and you respond to that prompting, then He may feel it’s time for you to move on to something more challenging—like learning to say, ‘I’m sorry; that was my fault.’

“A perfect time to ask, ‘What lack I yet?’ is when we take the sacrament. The Apostle Paul taught that this is a time for each of us to examine ourselves [see 1 Corinthians 11:28]. In this reverent atmosphere, as our thoughts are turned heavenward, the Lord can gently tell us what we need to work on next” (“What Lack I Yet?” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2015, 33–34).

Doctrine and Covenants 66:4–13. “I, the Lord, will show unto you what I will concerning you”

William E. McLellin desired to know the Lord’s will for him. Like many of the early Saints, he was anxious to move to Jackson County, Missouri. However, rather than sending William to Zion, the Lord commanded him to travel east and proclaim the gospel with the Prophet’s younger brother Samuel H. Smith. The Lord told William that He would be with him and promised him the power to heal the sick.

William and Samuel left Hiram, Ohio, a few weeks after receiving their call and traveled throughout eastern Ohio preaching the gospel. William recorded in his journal instances of miraculous healings through the laying on of hands in fulfillment of the Lord’s promise to him (see D&C 66:9; The Journals of William E. McLellin, 1831–1836, 66). Despite some success, the two missionaries experienced much opposition while preaching the gospel. As winter set in, William became sick and decided in late December to return. In so doing, William ignored the Lord’s instructions to “be patient in affliction” and to “return not” from his mission until the Lord called him back (D&C 66:9).

The Lord also counseled William to “seek not to be cumbered” and “forsake all unrighteousness” (D&C 66:10). To be cumbered means to be hindered or weighed down by something that prevents you from progressing. The ensuing command to forsake all unrighteousness reminds us that sin is the primary obstacle that cumbers our spiritual progression. The Lord specifically warned William to be on guard against sexual immorality, a temptation that he had apparently struggled with (see D&C 66:10). The Lord promised William that if he obeyed His counsel and continued faithful “unto the end” he would be crowned with eternal life (D&C 66:12).

William served the Lord faithfully for a time, and in 1835 he was called to serve as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Sadly, William did not heed the Lord’s counsel to continue faithful to the end and later apostatized and turned against the Prophet Joseph Smith. When he was excommunicated from the Church in May 1838, he admitted that he had “quit praying, and keeping the commandments, and indulged himself in his lustful desires” (Joseph Smith, in Manuscript History of the Church, vol. B-1, page 796, josephsmithpapers.org).

Doctrine and Covenants 67: Additional Historical Background

By the fall of 1831, the Prophet Joseph Smith had received more than 60 revelations from the Lord. Preparations were made to compile and publish the revelations to make them more accessible to Church members. On November 1–2, 1831, a group of priesthood leaders convened at a conference in the home of John and Alice (Elsa) Johnson in Hiram, Ohio, to discuss the publication of the revelations in a single volume that would be titled the Book of Commandments. These priesthood leaders decided to print 10,000 copies (later the number was reduced to 3,000 copies).

Johnson Farm

A special conference of the Church was held here, in the John Johnson home in Hiram, Ohio, in early November 1831 to compile the revelations of the Prophet Joseph Smith and prepare them for publication in the Book of Commandments (see D&C 67, section heading).

The Prophet intended to include in the Book of Commandments a written testimony from the elders declaring the truthfulness of the revelations in the same manner the Three Witnesses and the Eight Witnesses had testified of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. At one point in the conference, Joseph asked the elders “what testimony they were willing to attach to these commandants [revelations] which should shortly be sent to the world” (in The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 2: July 1831–January 1833, ed. Matthew C. Godfrey and others [2013], 97). Several of the brethren “arose and said that they were willing to testify to the world that they knew that [the revelations] were of the Lord” (in The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 2: July 1831–January 1833, 97). However, some of the elders had not received such a spiritual conviction, and they hesitated to testify that the revelations were given by inspiration from God. Some of the elders also voiced concerns regarding the language used in the revelations. In response to these concerns, the Prophet Joseph Smith received the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 67.

Doctrine and Covenants 67

The Lord counsels those who questioned the language of the revelations given to the Prophet Joseph Smith

Doctrine and Covenants 67:5–9. “That which is righteous cometh down from above, from the Father”

It seems that some of the elders had lingering doubts about the divine origin of the revelations to the Prophet Joseph Smith because of the imperfections in language and composition. Joseph Smith lacked formal education, and he was not always eloquent in speaking or writing. Nevertheless, the Lord revealed truth to His Prophet and allowed him to express it “after the manner of [his] language” (D&C 1:24). The Lord challenged those who felt that they could express themselves more eloquently than the Prophet to appoint the wisest man among them to select what he considered the least revelation and write one “like unto it” (D&C 67:6). William E. McLellin, a former schoolteacher, accepted the challenge.

Joseph Smith Jr. Receiving Revelation

Joseph Smith Jr. Receiving Revelation, by Daniel A. Lewis. Some of the elders were critical of the wording the Prophet Joseph Smith used in his revelations (see D&C 67:4–9).

Joseph Smith described the outcome of William’s attempt to write a revelation: “[William] E. McLellin … endeavored to write a [revelation] like unto one of the least of the Lord’s, but failed; it was an awful responsibility to write in the name of the Lord. The elders, and all present, that witnessed this vain attempt of a man to imitate the language of Jesus Christ, renewed their faith in the fulness of the gospel and in the truth of the commandments and revelations which the Lord had given to the church through my instrumentality; and the elders signified a willingness to bear testimony of their truth to all the world” (in Manuscript History of the Church, vol. A-1, page 162, josephsmithpapers.org).

The Lord bore testimony to the elders that the revelations came “down from above” (D&C 67:9) and told the elders that they were to bear record that the revelations were true or they would be under condemnation (see D&C 67:8). Following the failed attempt to write a revelation, the assembled brethren signed a statement bearing testimony of the revelations. This testimony with the names of the members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in 1835 is included in the introduction of the more recent editions of the Doctrine and Covenants.

For additional insight regarding the language of the revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants, see the commentary for Doctrine and Covenants 1:24 in this manual.

Doctrine and Covenants 67:10–14. “Continue in patience until ye are perfected”

In both ancient and modern times, the veil of the temple has symbolized separation from the presence of the Lord. The Lord promised the elders who were in attendance at the conference that if they stripped themselves of jealousies and fears and humbled themselves, the veil between Him and them would be rent and they would see and know Him (see D&C 67:10). The Lord explained that no one had seen Him except those who had been “quickened,” or spiritually enlivened, by the Spirit of God, because the “natural [mortal] man” cannot abide His presence (D&C 67:11–12; see also Moses 1:11). Although the Lord declared that the elders were not sufficiently ready to receive such a glorious blessing at that time, He encouraged them to “continue in patience until [they were] perfected” (D&C 67:13).

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the First Presidency explained the role of patience in becoming perfected:

“Without patience, we cannot please God; we cannot become perfect. Indeed, patience is a purifying process that refines understanding, deepens happiness, focuses action, and offers hope for peace. …

“… Patience means active waiting and enduring. It means staying with something and doing all that we can—working, hoping, and exercising faith; bearing hardship with fortitude, even when the desires of our hearts are delayed. Patience is not simply enduring; it is enduring well! …

“Patience is a godly attribute that can heal souls, unlock treasures of knowledge and understanding, and transform ordinary men and women into saints and angels. …

“Patience is a process of perfection. The Savior Himself said that in your patience you possess your souls [see Luke 21:19]. Or, to use another translation of the Greek text, in your patience you win mastery of your souls [see Luke 21:19 footnote b]. Patience means to abide in faith, knowing that sometimes it is in the waiting rather than in the receiving that we grow the most” (“Continue in Patience,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2010, 56–57, 59).

Doctrine and Covenants 68: Additional Historical Background

During the Church conference in Hiram, Ohio, Orson Hyde, Luke S. Johnson, Lyman E. Johnson, and William E. McLellin petitioned the Prophet Joseph Smith to make known the Lord’s will concerning them. Three of the four men had recently been ordained to the office of high priest, and Lyman E. Johnson was ordained shortly thereafter. William later recalled that when he was ordained a high priest, he “did not understand the duties of the office” (W. E. McLellan [sic], M. D., letter to D. H. Bays, May 24, 1870, in Saints’ Herald, Sept. 15, 1870, 553). This lack of understanding may have been one of the reasons the men petitioned the Prophet for a revelation, which is now recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 68.

Doctrine and Covenants 68

The Lord explains the meaning of scripture, counsels those called to preach the gospel, reveals truths about the calling of bishop, and gives instructions to the Saints in Zion

Doctrine and Covenants 68:1–4 “When moved upon by the Holy Ghost”

The Lord directed His instructions in these verses to Orson Hyde and all those ordained “unto this priesthood” (D&C 68:2), which likely refers to the office of high priest but was then called the high priesthood. Orson and several others had recently been ordained to this office. At the time of this revelation, the office of high priest was the highest office in the Church, aside from the offices of First and Second Elder who were also designated Apostles; other presiding offices in the priesthood were established later. Thus, the instruction in Doctrine and Covenants 68:3–4 was probably not directed to priesthood holders generally but rather to those ordained to the high priesthood, or office of high priest. These servants of the Lord had the responsibility to proclaim the gospel by the Spirit, and the Lord declared that the words they spoke “when moved upon by the Holy Ghost” would be His will, mind, word, and voice and have the power to lead people to salvation (D&C 68:4). President J. Reuben Clark (1871–1961) of the First Presidency taught how this responsibility is now held by the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:

“Over the years, a broader interpretation has been given to [D&C 68:4.] …

“In considering the problem involved here, it should be in mind that some of the General Authorities [meaning the Apostles] have had assigned to them a special calling; they possess a special gift; they are sustained as prophets, seers, and revelators, which gives them a special spiritual endowment in connection with their teaching of the people. They have the right, the power, and authority to declare the mind and will of God to his people, subject to the over-all power and authority of the President of the Church. Others of the General Authorities are not given this special spiritual endowment. …

“… Only the President of the Church, the Presiding High Priest, is sustained as Prophet, Seer, and Revelator for the Church, and he alone has the right to receive revelations for the Church, either new or amendatory, or to give authoritative interpretations of scriptures that shall be binding on the Church, or change in any way the existing doctrines of the Church” (“When Are Church Leaders’ Words Entitled to Claim of Scripture?” Church News, July 31, 1954, 9–10).

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles shared the following example of how the principle taught in Doctrine and Covenants 68:4 applies to general conference: “I ask you to reflect in the days ahead not only on the messages you have heard but also on the unique phenomenon that general conference itself is—what we as Latter-day Saints believe such conferences to be and what we invite the world to hear and observe about them. We testify to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people that God not only lives but also that He speaks, that for our time and in our day the counsel you have heard is, under the direction of the Holy Spirit, ‘the will of the Lord, … the word of the Lord, … the voice of the Lord, and the power of God unto salvation’ [D&C 68:4]” (“An Ensign to the Nations,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2011, 111).

Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles clarified when and how the Lord makes His word known through His prophets:

“Not every statement made by a Church leader, past or present, necessarily constitutes doctrine. It is commonly understood in the Church that a statement made by one leader on a single occasion often represents a personal, though well-considered, opinion, not meant to be official or binding for the whole Church. The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that ‘a prophet [is] a prophet only when he [is] acting as such’ [in History of the Church, 5:265]. President [J. Reuben] Clark … observed: …

“‘… The Church will know by the testimony of the Holy Ghost in the body of the members, whether the brethren in voicing their views are “moved upon by the Holy Ghost”; and in due time that knowledge will be made manifest’ [J. Reuben Clark Jr., ‘When Are Church Leaders’ Words Entitled to Claim of Scripture?’ Church News, July 31, 1954, 10]” (“The Doctrine of Christ,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2012, 88).

“Be of good cheer, and do not fear, for I the Lord am with you, and will stand by you” (D&C 68:6).

Doctrine and Covenants 68:14–21. The office of bishop and descendants of Aaron

At the time the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 68 was given, Edward Partridge served as the only bishop in the Church. However, the Lord promised that in due time He would call “other bishops” (D&C 68:14). A month later, on December 4, 1831, the Lord called Newel K. Whitney to serve as the bishop for Ohio (see D&C 72:1–8). Those called to serve as bishops were to be high priests in good standing, called and appointed by the First Presidency. However, the Lord also revealed that firstborn sons of Aaron’s literal descendants have a right to this office by virtue of lineage if called, found worthy, and ordained by the Presidency of the High Priesthood (the First Presidency). Anciently, Moses’ brother Aaron was the presiding high priest of the Aaronic Priesthood. In ancient Israel, only descendants of Aaron could hold the office of priest, and the high priest was selected from among the firstborn of his descendants.

President Joseph Fielding Smith explained that the provision about descendants of Aaron in Doctrine and Covenants 68:15–21 refers to the office of Presiding Bishop of the Church: “This has reference only to the one who presides over the Aaronic Priesthood. It has no reference whatever to bishops of wards. Further, such a one must be designated by the First Presidency of the Church and receive his anointing and ordination under their hands. … In the absence of knowledge concerning such a descendant, any high priest, chosen by the Presidency, may hold the office of Presiding Bishop” (Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie [1956], 3:92–93; see also D&C 107:13–16, 69–83).

Doctrine and Covenants 68:25–28. “Inasmuch as parents have children in Zion, or in any of her stakes”

The Lord taught that parents in the Church have the responsibility to teach their children to understand the first principles and ordinances of the gospel of Jesus Christ (see D&C 68:25). Parents are not only to teach their children to understand the doctrine but also to observe the teachings of the gospel so as to “walk uprightly before the Lord” (D&C 68:28). This includes teaching their children to pray, to keep the Sabbath day holy, and to avoid idleness (see D&C 68:28–31).

Brother Tad R. Callister of the Sunday School General Presidency gave additional insight into parents’ responsibility to teach their children the gospel: “As parents, we are to be the prime gospel teachers and examples for our children—not the bishop, the Sunday School, the Young Women or Young Men, but the parents. As their prime gospel teachers, we can teach them the power and reality of the Atonement—of their identity and divine destiny—and in so doing give them a rock foundation upon which to build. When all is said and done, the home is the ideal forum for teaching the gospel of Jesus Christ” (“Parents: The Prime Gospel Teachers of Their Children,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2014, 32–33).

Boy Using Book of Mormon Coloring Book with his Dad

Parents are commanded to “teach their children to pray, and to walk uprightly before the Lord” (D&C 68:28).

Elder D. Todd Christofferson warned parents about the spiritual danger of failing to teach their children the truths of the gospel:

“I have heard a few parents state that they don’t want to impose the gospel on their children but want them to make up their own minds about what they will believe and follow. They think that in this way they are allowing children to exercise their agency. What they forget is that the intelligent use of agency requires knowledge of the truth, of things as they really are (see D&C 93:24). Without that, young people can hardly be expected to understand and evaluate the alternatives that come before them. Parents should consider how the adversary approaches their children. He and his followers are not promoting objectivity but are vigorous, multimedia advocates of sin and selfishness.

“Seeking to be neutral about the gospel is, in reality, to reject the existence of God and His authority. We must, rather, acknowledge Him and His omniscience if we want our children to see life’s choices clearly and be able to think for themselves” (“Moral Discipline,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2009, 107).

Doctrine and Covenants 68:25 “The sin be upon the heads of the parents”

It is important to remember that the word sin (singular) is used in Doctrine and Covenants 68:25, not the word sins. It does not refer to the sins children may commit but to the sin of the parents in not teaching their children the doctrine of the kingdom. Misreading this verse may cause some parents to mistakenly feel they are responsible for the sins of their children. Consequently, some parents blame themselves for their children’s poor choices despite having diligently taught them correct principles.

President Howard W. Hunter (1907–1995) provided the following comforting counsel to those who may feel they have been unsuccessful as a parent because of a wayward child:

“A successful parent is one who has loved, one who has sacrificed, and one who has cared for, taught, and ministered to the needs of a child. If you have done all of these and your child is still wayward or troublesome or worldly, it could well be that you are, nevertheless, a successful parent. …

“… Don’t give up hope for a boy or a girl who has strayed. Many who have appeared to be completely lost have returned. We must be prayerful and, if possible, let our children know of our love and concern. …

“We should never let Satan fool us into thinking that all is lost. Let us take pride in the good and right things we have done; reject and cast out of our lives those things that are wrong; look to the Lord for forgiveness, strength, and comfort; and then move onward” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Howard W. Hunter [2015], 228–29).

Doctrine and Covenants 69: Additional Historical Background

In late October or early November 1831, Oliver Cowdery was assigned to take the transcripts of revelations that the Prophet Joseph Smith had received to Independence, Missouri. The revelations were to be printed there by William W. Phelps in his printing office. Oliver was also appointed to take with him money contributed for the establishment of Zion. To help safeguard the manuscript and money, it was decided that a traveling companion should accompany him. On November 11, 1831, the Lord gave the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 69, in which He appointed John Whitmer to accompany Oliver Cowdery to Missouri. At the time this revelation was received, John Whitmer was serving as the Church historian and recorder (see D&C 47:1–3).

Doctrine and Covenants 69

The Lord commands John Whitmer to accompany Oliver Cowdery to Missouri and continue his duties as Church historian

Doctrine and Covenants 69:3–8 “Writing and making a history of all the important things”

In March of 1831, John Whitmer was called by the Lord to “keep a regular history” of the Church and to assist the Prophet Joseph Smith by writing for him (D&C 47:1). This call was in harmony with the Lord’s earlier counsel that “there shall be a record kept among you” (D&C 21:1). The Lord reiterated to John Whitmer his responsibility to document the history of the Church by collecting and recording “all the important things” that transpired among the Saints (D&C 69:3). The purpose for keeping such a history is “for the good of the church, and for the rising generations” (D&C 69:8).

Doctrine and Covenants 70: Additional Historical Background

The Prophet Joseph Smith dictated the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 70 during or immediately after a conference held in Hiram, Ohio, on November 12, 1831. This was the last of four special conferences that were held November 1–12. During these two weeks, Joseph Smith and others spent much of their time reviewing the revelations the Prophet had received and preparing them for publication. At this final conference, those present approved a resolution declaring the revelations “to be worth to the Church the riches of the whole Earth” (in The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 2: July 1831–January 1833, 138). Also at this conference the Prophet noted the contributions made by a handful of brethren who had labored with him from the beginning to bring forth the sacred writings given by the Lord. The conference passed a proposal to provide compensation from the sale of the publications for the families of those who were devoting their time to the preparation and publication of the revelations.

The elders voted that Joseph Smith Jr., Oliver Cowdery, John Whitmer, and Sidney Rigdon “be appointed to manage [the revelations] according to the Laws of the Church [and] the commandments of the Lord” (in The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 2: July 1831–January 1833, 138). A later history states that the Prophet received the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 70 in answer to an inquiry. In this revelation the Lord sanctioned the decision to appoint individuals to oversee the publication of the revelations.

Doctrine and Covenants 70

The Lord appoints six men to serve as stewards over His revelations

Doctrine and Covenants 70:3–8 “Stewards over the revelations and commandments”

In the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 70, the Lord called Martin Harris and William W. Phelps to join the four men who had been previously appointed to serve as stewards over the revelations. These stewards were not only responsible for publishing the revelations but also for managing the revenue generated from the sale of the Book of Commandments. The Lord commanded them to use the profits to provide for their families and to consecrate what was left to the Lord’s storehouse for the benefit of the people in Zion. The Lord organized this joint stewardship according to the principles of the law of consecration.

In March 1832, a revelation directed the Prophet Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon, and Newel K. Whitney to organize “the Literary and Mercantile establishments” of the Church (in The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 2: July 1831–January 1833, 198; spelling standardized). Consequently, the stewards over the revelations joined with the Church’s bishops and those responsible for the storehouses in what would be called the United Firm (see section headings for D&C 78 and 82). The six men appointed to oversee the Church’s printing endeavors made up a branch of the United Firm called the Literary Firm. In addition to the Book of Commandments, other publishing projects of the Literary Firm were the Church hymnal, children’s literature, the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible, and Church newspapers.