“Chapter 26: Doctrine and Covenants 71–75,” Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual (2017)
“Chapter 26,” Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual
In the fall of 1831, former Church members Ezra Booth and Symonds Ryder tried to discredit the Church and its leaders and dissuade people from becoming members of the Church. They did so by speaking against the Church in public meetings and actively publishing anti-Mormon criticisms in local newspapers, which led to widespread antagonism. On December 1, 1831, the Prophet Joseph Smith dictated the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 71. In it, the Lord instructed Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon to defend the Church and dispel falsehoods by proclaiming the gospel from the scriptures as guided by the Spirit.
The rapid growth of the Church in Kirtland, Ohio, coupled with Bishop Edward Partridge’s relocation to Missouri, necessitated calling a new bishop to serve in Ohio. On December 4, 1831, Joseph Smith received the three revelations now combined in Doctrine and Covenants 72 (verses 1–8, 9–23, and 24–26). In these revelations the Lord called Newel K. Whitney to serve as bishop in Ohio and outlined his responsibilities.
After a month of preaching the gospel to dispel the falsehoods spread by Ezra Booth and Symonds Ryder, Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon returned to Hiram, Ohio. On January 10, 1832, Joseph Smith received the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 73, wherein the Lord instructed Joseph and Sydney to resume their translation of the Bible.
At a Church conference held on January 25, 1832, Joseph Smith received the two revelations recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 75 (verses 1–12 and 13–36). In these revelations the Lord instructed the elders concerning their missionary duties and assigned them mission companions.
Doctrine and Covenants 74 was received.
The Ohio Star newspaper began publishing nine letters from apostate Ezra Booth denouncing the Church and its leaders.
November 1, 1831
A Church conference passed a resolution to publish the revelations of Joseph Smith as the Book of Commandments.
December 1, 1831
Doctrine and Covenants 71 was received.
December 4, 1831
Doctrine and Covenants 72 was received.
January 10, 1832
Doctrine and Covenants 73 was received.
January 25, 1832
Doctrine and Covenants 75 was received.
In October 1831, the Ohio Star newspaper began publishing letters that criticized the Church and its leaders. The letters were written by Ezra Booth, a former Methodist preacher who became a member of the Church after reading the Book of Mormon and seeing the Prophet Joseph Smith miraculously heal Alice (Elsa) Johnson’s rheumatic arm. However, pride led Ezra to be critical of the Prophet and the Church. He had traveled to Missouri as a missionary in the summer of 1831, but he became disillusioned by the rigors of the journey. He was also disappointed when the land of Zion and Joseph Smith’s leadership did not meet his expectations. (See Matthew McBride, “Ezra Booth and Isaac Morley,” in Revelations in Context, ed. Matthew McBride and James Goldberg , 131–32, or history.lds.org; Mark Lyman Staker, Hearken, O Ye People: The Historical Setting for Joseph Smith’s Ohio Revelations , 296.)
After returning from Missouri in September 1831, Ezra Booth began criticizing the Church and the Prophet Joseph Smith. At a conference of elders held on September 6, Ezra was prohibited “from preaching as an Elder in this Church” (in The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 2: July 1831–January 1833, ed. Matthew C. Godfrey and others , 61). Later that month, he and another dissident, Symonds Ryder, renounced their Church membership. In his letters to the Ohio Star, Ezra Booth denounced the Prophet Joseph Smith as an imposter, claiming that his revelations were a ploy to defraud people of their money. Joseph Smith’s history records that Booth’s letters, “by their coloring, falsity, and vain calculations to overthrow the work of the Lord, exposed [Booth’s] weakness, wickedness and folly, and left him a monument of his own shame for the world to wonder at” (in Manuscript History of the Church, vol. A-1, page 154, josephsmithpapers.org).
Symonds Ryder (or Simonds Rider) learned about the restored gospel from Ezra Booth. Symonds became a member of the Church after witnessing what he considered to be a miracle. Shortly after his baptism he was ordained an elder of the Church. Later accounts suggest that when he received an official commission to preach the gospel, he found that his name was misspelled on the certificate. Supposing that a revealed call would have been free from even small errors, Symonds began to question the extent of Joseph Smith’s prophetic inspiration. Symonds was further influenced by the failing faith of his close friend Ezra Booth, who returned disappointed from his mission to Missouri. More than anything else, his concerns over the principle of consecration seem to have led to his disaffection. (See A. S. Hayden, Early History of the Disciples in the Western Reserve, Ohio , 220–21, 251–52.) After separating himself from the Church in the fall of 1831, Symonds Ryder gave copies of one of the Prophet Joseph Smith’s unpublished revelations to the Western Courier newspaper in an attempt to dissuade people from joining the Church. Ryder later claimed that new converts could learn from these revelations that “a plot was laid to take their property from them and place it under the control of Joseph Smith the prophet” (in Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 2: July 1831–January 1833, 144–45; see also Hayden, Early History of the Disciples, 221).
The Lord’s revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 71 came as a result of the agitation and negative publicity caused by Ezra Booth and Symonds Ryder.
The Lord told the Prophet Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon to respond to criticism of the Church by teaching the truths of the gospel “out of the scriptures, according to that portion of Spirit and power which shall be given unto you” (D&C 71:1) This counsel serves as a pattern for all Church members when responding to those who criticize the Church and its teachings. The prophet Alma in the Book of Mormon taught that preaching the word of God has a “more powerful effect upon the minds of the people than the sword, or anything else” (Alma 31:5). Elder Neal A. Maxwell (1926–2004) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught: “The Lord has told us that ‘the sword of the Spirit … is the word of God’ (Ephesians 6:17); it can facilitate communication and penetrate as nothing else. Thus holy scripture and the words of living prophets occupy a privileged position; they are the key to teaching by the Spirit so that we communicate in what the Prophet Joseph Smith called ‘the language of inspiration’ (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1976], p. 56)” (“Teaching by the Spirit—‘The Language of Inspiration’” [address given at the Church Educational System Symposium, Aug. 15, 1991], 1).
The Lord commanded the Prophet Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon to preach the gospel to the Saints and the people in the surrounding region (see D&C 71:2). In addition, the Lord instructed them to “confound [their] enemies” (D&C 71:7), or in other words, disprove their false claims by inviting them to meet and discuss their allegations. In obedience to the Lord’s commandment, Sidney Rigdon invited Ezra Booth to meet him at a lecture on December 25, 1831, “where he would ‘review’ Booth’s letters and show them to be ‘an unfair and false representation of the subjects on which they treat’” (in Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 2: July 1831–January 1833, 145). He also asked Symonds Ryder to a public meeting where they could discuss the Book of Mormon. Neither man accepted the invitation.
For the next month the Prophet Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon worked to dispel the unfriendly feelings toward the Church resulting from Ezra Booth’s newspaper articles. The two men preached throughout northern Ohio, teaching the gospel and repudiating the claims that were directed at the Church and its leaders. According to the Prophet, their efforts to follow the Lord’s counsel and respond by preaching the truths of the gospel by the power of the Spirit “did much towards allaying the excited feelings which were growing out of the scandalous letters then being published in the ‘Ohio Star,’ at Ravenna, by the … apostate Ezra Booth” (in Manuscript History of the Church, vol. A-1, page 179, josephsmithpapers.org).
Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught that when we encounter criticism against the Church and its teachings, it is essential to respond in a Christlike way according to the guidance of the Holy Ghost:
“When we respond to our accusers as the Savior did, we not only become more Christlike, we invite others to feel His love and follow Him as well.
“To respond in a Christlike way cannot be scripted or based on a formula. The Savior responded differently in every situation. …
“As we respond to others, each circumstance will be different. Fortunately, the Lord knows the hearts of our accusers and how we can most effectively respond to them. As true disciples seek guidance from the Spirit, they receive inspiration tailored to each encounter. And in every encounter, true disciples respond in ways that invite the Spirit of the Lord” (“Christian Courage: The Price of Discipleship,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2008, 72–73).
The Prophet Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon received the Lord’s promise that if they remained faithful, their enemies would be humbled (see D&C 71:7). The Lord then reiterated the promise He made to ancient Israel through the prophet Isaiah that “no weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper” (Isaiah 54:17; see D&C 71:7). In other words, God and His work will always triumph, regardless of attacks from critics of the Church. Despite the apostasy and attacks of Ezra Booth and Symonds Ryder, missionaries continued to find success in preaching the gospel. Ira Ames, who lived in New York, recalled that when he read Booth’s letters in the newspaper, he “felt an impression that there was something to Mormonism. There was considerable talk about it in the neighborhood” (in Hayden, Early History of the Disciples, 302). Some time after Ira Ames read Booth’s letters, missionaries came to Ira’s village and he was baptized a member of the Church (see Hayden, Early History of the Disciples, 303). Thus, while Booth and Ryder hoped to dissuade people from embracing the restored gospel, their influence increased people’s exposure to the Church, and in some instances this contributed to more conversions.
In obedience to the Lord’s commandment (see D&C 71:1–7), on December 3, 1831, the Prophet Joseph Smith and Sidney Ridgon traveled from Hiram to Kirtland, Ohio, to proclaim the gospel to help dispel hostile feelings against the Church. According to the Prophet’s history, the next day, December 4, “several of the Elders and members assembled together to learn their duty and for edification,” and after discussing their “temporal and Spiritual welfare,” the Prophet received three related revelations, which are now recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 72 (in Manuscript History of the Church, vol. A-1, page 176, josephsmithpapers.org). With the Church’s expansion into Missouri and Bishop Edward Partridge’s relocation to Independence, the Saints in Ohio were left without a bishop. In one of the revelations, the Lord declared the need to call a new bishop in Ohio (see D&C 72:2).
Because some of the Church members in Ohio were living the law of consecration, a bishop was needed to receive consecrated properties, distribute and oversee individual stewardships, collect surpluses, and disperse funds from the storehouse to those in need (see the commentary for D&C 42:30–39 in this manual). The Lord required the Saints to “render an account” of their stewardships to the bishop (D&C 72:3). The principle of stewardship is based on the teaching that all things belong to the Lord and we are His stewards (see D&C 104:13–16). While we are not given stewardships under the law of consecration today, the Lord does bestow upon us both spiritual and temporal responsibilities for which we are accountable to Him.
Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin (1917–2008) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught of one such responsibility for which we will need to render an account:
“Each of you has an eternal calling from which no Church officer has authority to release you. This is a calling given you by our Heavenly Father Himself. In this eternal calling, as with all other callings, you have a stewardship. … This most important stewardship is the glorious responsibility your Father in Heaven has given you to watch over and care for your own soul.
“At some future day, you and I will each hear the voice of the Lord calling us forward to render an account of our mortal stewardship. This accounting will occur when we are called up to ‘stand before [the Lord] at the great and judgment day’ [2 Nephi 9:22]” (“True to the Truth,” Ensign, May 1997, 16).
Newell K. Whitney was a businessman who owned a store in Kirtland, Ohio, with his business partner, A. Sidney Gilbert. Before learning about the restored gospel, Newell and his wife, Ann, had been part of Sidney Rigdon’s congregation of Reformed Baptists, and they “desired the things of the Spirit. One night in 1829, as they were praying to be guided, they received a powerful spiritual manifestation. Ann explained:
“‘The Spirit rested upon us and a cloud overshadowed the house. … A solemn awe pervaded us. We saw the cloud and felt the Spirit of the Lord. Then we heard a voice out of the cloud saying, “Prepare to receive the word of the Lord, for it is coming.” At this we marveled greatly, but from that moment we knew that the word of the Lord was coming to Kirtland’ [Andrew Jenson, Latter-day Saint Biographical Encyclopedia, 4 vols. (1901–36), 1:223]” (“Newel K. Whitney: A Man of Faith and Service,” Museum Treasures, history.lds.org).
Not long after that experience, the Whitneys heard the word of the Lord when Sidney Rigdon invited missionaries to preach to his congregations. The Whitneys became members of the Church in November 1830. A few months later Joseph and Emma Smith arrived in Kirtland. The Prophet wrote: “I and my wife lived [with] the family of Brother Whitney several weeks, and received every kindness and attention, which could be expected, and especially from Sister Whitney” (in Manuscript History of the Church, vol. A-1, page 93, josephsmithpapers.org). Later, in September 1832, the Whitneys invited Joseph and Emma Smith to live in the dwelling part of their store, which became the headquarters of the Church for a time.
When Newel was called in December 1831 to serve as bishop in Ohio, he expressed feelings of inadequacy to the Prophet Joseph Smith. Bishop Whitney’s grandson, Elder Orson F. Whitney (1855–1931) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, recounted how his grandfather felt when called as bishop and the assurances he received:
“The thought of assuming this important responsibility (the office of bishop) was almost more than he could bear. Though in natural gifts few men were better qualified for such a position, he nevertheless distrusted his ability, and deemed himself incapable of discharging the high and holy trust. In his perplexity he appealed to the Prophet:
“‘I cannot see a bishop in myself, Brother Joseph; but if you say it’s the Lord’s will, I’ll try.’
“‘You need not take my word alone;’ answered the Prophet, kindly, ‘Go and ask Father for yourself.’
“Newel … determined to do as [the Prophet] advised. His humble, heartfelt prayer was answered. In the silence of night and the solitude of his chamber, he heard a voice from heaven: ‘Thy strength is in me.’ The words were few and simple, but they had a world of meaning. His doubts were dispelled like dew before the dawn. He straightway sought the Prophet, told him he was satisfied, and was willing to accept the office to which he had been called” (in B. H. Roberts, A Comprehensive History of the Church, 1:271).
Newel K. Whitney served as bishop until his death in 1850.
During this early period of organization, the Church was not divided into wards or branches with bishops or branch presidents presiding over each ward or branch as it is now. As of December 4, 1831, there were only two bishops—Bishop Edward Partridge in Missouri and Bishop Newel K. Whitney in Ohio. The responsibilities outlined by the Lord as recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 72:9–19 related primarily to Bishop Whitney’s role under the law of consecration.
While we do not live the law of consecration in the same manner as the early Saints did, many of the duties outlined in Doctrine and Covenants 72 still apply to bishops today. Bishops are responsible for overseeing the distribution of food and supplies from bishops’ storehouses to members who are in need, and they receive and have responsibility for the funds of the Church in the form of tithing, fast offerings, and other donations (see D&C 72:10). Bishops serve as the Lord’s representatives when members render an account of their responsibilities and callings (see D&C 72:11). They look after the spiritual and temporal welfare of the Saints. In particular, they have a duty to seek out and care for the poor and needy within their ward boundaries (see D&C 72:11–12). As judges in Israel, bishops also have the solemn responsibility to determine and certify the worthiness of members to be baptized, receive the priesthood, serve missions, enter the house of the Lord, and serve in ward callings (see D&C 72:17). In addition, as common judges they are responsible for convening and conducting disciplinary councils in their ward in cases of serious transgression (see D&C 58:17–18).
After spending a month preaching the gospel in eastern Ohio, trying to counter the effects of Ezra Booth’s letters against the Church and its leaders, the Prophet Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon returned to the John Johnson home in Hiram, Ohio. A few days later, on January 10, 1832, the Prophet dictated the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 73, “making known the will of the Lord” unto the elders of the Church until the convening of the next conference, which was held two weeks later (in Manuscript History of the Church, vol. A-1, page 179, josephsmithpapers.org).
The Lord commanded the Prophet Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon to resume working on the inspired translation of the Bible and to continue preaching locally until the next Church conference (see D&C 73:3–4). After the conference, however, they were to devote their time fully to “the work of translation until it be finished” (D&C 73:4). The Prophet and Sidney Rigdon worked diligently on the Bible translation from this time until July 2, 1833, when the translators wrote to the brethren in Missouri that they had, that day, completed the translation of the Bible. Portions of Joseph Smith’s translation are now contained in the Pearl of Great Price (the book of Moses and Joseph Smith—Matthew) and in increasingly more languages in the Latter-day Saint edition of the Bible. The Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible had “a significant influence on the Church in the way it shaped the content of the Doctrine and Covenants. More than half of the current Doctrine and Covenants consists of revelations received during the three-year period in which Joseph Smith labored over the Bible translation. Many revelations were received as direct answers to questions Joseph was inspired to ask as his understanding of the gospel expanded during the effort to restore plain and precious parts of the Bible” (Elizabeth Maki, “Joseph Smith’s Bible Translation,” in Revelations in Context, 103, or history.lds.org).
For additional explanation of Joseph Smith’s translation of the Bible, see the commentary for Doctrine and Covenants 35:20 in this manual.
When Church historian and recorder John Whitmer copied the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 74 into the official record book, he recorded the date as 1830 (see The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 1: July 1828–June 1831, ed. Michael Hubbard MacKay and others , 228). Years later, those editing the Prophet Joseph Smith’s history mistakenly wrote that the Prophet received this revelation in January 1832 while he was making inspired revisions to the New Testament. However, John Whitmer identified Wayne County, New York, as the place where Joseph Smith dictated the revelation and 1830 as the date when it was received. The Prophet’s later history described this revelation as “an Explanation of the epistle to the first Corinthians, 7th Chapter, 14th verse” (in Manuscript History of the Church, vol. A-1, page 178, josephsmithpapers.org). The passage in 1 Corinthians 7:14 had often been cited in Joseph Smith’s day to justify infant baptism.
Doctrine and Covenants 74 provides important historical context to the Apostle Paul’s teachings in 1 Corinthians 7:14. His counsel to the Saints in Corinth addressed a problem that developed when wives converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ and their husbands still practiced the law of Moses. We read in Doctrine and Covenants 74:3 that conflicts arose when fathers desired to have their male children circumcised and become subject to the law of Moses, which had been fulfilled by the Savior and His atoning sacrifice. Many children in these situations, raised under the law of Moses, came of age and “gave heed to the traditions of their fathers and believed not the gospel of Christ” (D&C 74:4). Paul counseled the Saints who were already married to unbelievers not to divorce their spouses but to remain married and live faithfully. By so doing, spouses could have a sanctifying influence on their families (see 1 Corinthians 7:13–14; D&C 74:1).
The Apostle Paul was not teaching that children are born unclean or sinful. Rather, he taught that a believing spouse could have a righteous influence that could lead children, when they reached the age of accountability, to obey the gospel and become “holy” (1 Corinthians 7:14; D&C 74:1) through the Savior, Jesus Christ.
According to Doctrine and Covenants 74:5, Paul counseled those who were not yet married against marrying unbelievers unless the spouses agreed that the law of Moses “be done away among them.” The Lord explained that these recommendations were not commandments from Him, but rather counsel from Paul himself.
Some of the Jews who followed the law of Moses in the Apostle Paul’s day believed in the false tradition that male infants were born unholy, or unclean, unless they entered a covenant with God through circumcision. Such a teaching, however, was in conflict with the prophets’ counsel that little children are innocent because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ (see Mosiah 3:16), “have eternal life” (Mosiah 15:25), and “are alive in Christ” (Moroni 8:12, 22). In addition, to teach that children are unholy contradicts the Lord’s purpose for instituting the practice of circumcision with Abraham. With added insight from the Joseph Smith Translation, we learn that circumcision represented a covenant between the Lord and Abraham’s posterity and that “children are not accountable before [the Lord] until they are eight years old” (Joseph Smith Translation, Genesis 17:11 [in the Bible appendix], scriptures.lds.org).
For additional teachings regarding the salvation of little children, see the commentary for Doctrine and Covenants 29:46–50 in this manual.
On January 25, 1832, the Church convened a conference at Amherst, Ohio, about 50 miles east of Kirtland. The Prophet Joseph Smith’s history states that during the conference “the Elders seemed anxious for me to enquire of the Lord, that they might know his will, or learn what would be most pleasing to him, for them to do, in order to bring men to a sense of their condition” (in Manuscript History of the Church, vol. A-1, page 180, josephsmithpapers.org). Orson Pratt, who was appointed president of the elders at the conference, later recounted, “At this Conference the Prophet Joseph was acknowledged President of the High Priesthood, and hands laid on him by Elder Sidney Rigdon who sealed upon his head the blessings which he had formerly received.” Elder Pratt also noted that “by the request of the Priesthood, the Prophet inquired of the Lord, and a revelation was given and written in the presence of the whole assembly, appointing many of the Elders to missions” (“History of Orson Pratt,” The Latter-day Saints’ Millennial Star, vol. 27 [Jan. 28, 1865], 56). The Prophet dictated two revelations at the conference, which were later combined and are recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 75. The first revelation (D&C 75:1–22) was given to a group of elders who had submitted their names for missionary service. The second revelation (D&C 75:23–36) was given to a group of elders desiring to know the Lord’s will concerning them.
The Lord promised great blessings to those who faithfully proclaim the gospel, including honor, glory, and eternal life (see D&C 75:5). President Spencer W. Kimball (1895–1985) taught of additional blessings that come to us as we faithfully share the gospel with others:
“Sharing the gospel brings peace and joy into our own lives, enlarges our own hearts and souls in behalf of others, increases our own faith, strengthens our own relationship with the Lord, and increases our own understanding of gospel truths.
“The Lord has promised great blessings to us in proportion to how well we share the gospel. We will receive help from the other side of the veil as the spiritual miracles occur. The Lord has told us that our sins will be forgiven more readily as we bring souls unto Christ and remain steadfast in bearing testimony to the world” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball , 259).
In both of the revelations recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 75, the Lord emphasized the importance of prayer in missionary work. The Lord promised that if those who are called as missionaries would inquire of Him through prayer, “the Comforter [would] teach them all things that are expedient for them” (D&C 75:10) and direct them “wither they shall go” to proclaim the gospel (D&C 75:27). Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles testified that as we pray for help and follow the promptings of the Spirit, the Lord will guide us in sharing the gospel with others:
“We must pray for the Lord’s help and directions so we can be instruments in His hands for one who is now ready—one He would have us help today. Then, we must be alert to hear and heed the promptings of His Spirit in how we proceed.
“Those promptings will come. We know from countless personal testimonies that in His own way and His own time the Lord is preparing persons to accept His gospel. Such persons are searching, and when we are seeking to identify them the Lord will answer their prayers through answering ours. He will prompt and guide those who desire and who sincerely seek guidance in how, where, when, and with whom to share His gospel” (“Sharing the Gospel,” Ensign, Nov. 2001, 8).
The Lord’s commandment to “be diligent in all things” (D&C 75:29) included His commandment to those called on missions to arrange for the support of their families while they served. If such arrangements could not be made, those men were obligated to remain at home, care for their families, and labor in the Church locally (see D&C 75:24–28). To be diligent in all things is to give persistent, careful, and energetic effort, especially in serving the Lord and obeying His commandments. The scriptures contain many examples and admonitions regarding diligence. President Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the First Presidency taught, “Diligently doing the things that matter most will lead us to the Savior of the world” (“Of Things That Matter Most,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2010, 21).