“Chapter 30: Doctrine and Covenants 81–83,” Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual (2017)
“Chapter 30,” Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual
On March 8, 1832, the Prophet Joseph Smith called Jesse Gause and Sidney Rigdon to serve as his counselors in the Presidency of the High Priesthood. On March 15, 1832, the Prophet received the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 81, in which the Lord clarified Brother Gause’s duties as a counselor to Joseph Smith. However, Jesse Gause did not remain faithful, and the Lord later called Frederick G. Williams, whose name now appears in Doctrine and Covenants 81, to take Brother Gause’s place in the Presidency.
In April 1832, Joseph Smith and others traveled to Independence, Missouri, obeying the Lord’s command to establish an organization to build up Zion and care for the poor (see D&C 78). While there, the Prophet received two revelations. On April 26, during a council of high priests and elders of the Church in Independence, the Prophet received the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 82, in which the Lord forgave these brethren their trespasses and warned them against further sin. He also instructed members of the United Firm to bind themselves by covenant to manage the temporal affairs of Zion. Four days later, Joseph Smith received the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 83, in which the Lord gave instructions about the care of widows, orphans, and the poor.
January 25, 1832Joseph Smith was ordained as President of the High Priesthood in Amherst, Ohio.
March 8, 1832Joseph Smith appointed Sidney Rigdon and Jesse Gause as his counselors in the Presidency of the High Priesthood.
March 15, 1832Doctrine and Covenants 81 was received.
March 24–25, 1832Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon were taken in the night and violently beaten by a mob in Hiram, Ohio.
March 29, 1832Joseph Murdock Smith, adopted son of Joseph and Emma Smith, died.
April 1–24, 1832Joseph Smith and other leaders traveled to Independence, Missouri.
April 26, 1832Doctrine and Covenants 82 was received.
April 30, 1832Doctrine and Covenants 83 was received.
May–June 1832Joseph Smith stayed with Newel K. Whitney for several weeks in Greenville, Indiana. Newel had broken his foot and leg while jumping from a runaway stagecoach on his return trip to Ohio.
At a Church conference held on January 25, 1832, in Amherst, Ohio, the Prophet Joseph Smith was ordained as the President of the High Priesthood by Sidney Rigdon. On March 8, 1832, he selected Sidney Rigdon and Jesse Gause as counselors in the Presidency of the High Priesthood; the revelation given on March 15, 1832, confirmed Jesse Gause’s call and instructed him regarding the duties of a counselor. Gradually, the Presidency of the High Priesthood began to be known as the First Presidency. This revelation “should be regarded as a step toward the formal organization of the First Presidency” (D&C 81, section heading).
Jesse Gause was likely baptized in late 1831 or early 1832. In March 1832, after being appointed as a counselor in the Presidency of the High Priesthood, Jesse may have assisted for a time as a scribe while the Prophet Joseph Smith continued his inspired translation of the New Testament. He also traveled with Joseph Smith and other Church leaders to Independence, Missouri, in April 1832. Little is known about Jesse Gause after August 1832 except that he did not remain faithful and was excommunicated on December 3, 1832.
In January 1833, a few weeks after Jesse Gause was excommunicated, the Lord called Frederick G. Williams to replace him as a counselor. Frederick G. Williams had become a member of the Church after hearing the message of the missionaries who had traveled from New York to the Kirtland, Ohio, area in October 1830. He had volunteered to accompany Oliver Cowdery and the other missionaries as they continued to Missouri to preach the gospel “on the borders by the Lamanites” (D&C 28:9). He returned to Kirtland many months later and was ordained a high priest on October 25, 1831. He later became a clerk and a scribe for Joseph Smith. Sometime after he replaced Jesse Gause as a counselor in the Presidency of the High Priesthood, Frederick G. Williams’s name was written into the transcription of this revelation, replacing references to Jesse Gause. When this revelation was published in the 1835 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants, it referred only to Frederick G. Williams, illustrating that the instructions relating to the duties of a counselor were to be applied to others, not just to Jesse Gause.
Soon after the Saints began gathering to Ohio, a special conference was held June 3–6, 1831, for those who had previously been ordained as elders. At that conference the first high priests were ordained. For a time, early members of the Church referred to the office of high priest as the high priesthood. Over time, the use of the term high priesthood was understood to mean the Melchizedek Priesthood. In 1902 the First Presidency quoted the scripture passage stating that the “President of the High Priesthood of the Church” is “the Presiding High Priest over the High Priesthood of the Church” (D&C 107:65–66) and then declared, “It is well to remember that the term ‘High Priesthood,’ as frequently used, has reference to the Melchizedek Priesthood, in contradistinction to the ‘Lesser,’ or Aaronic Priesthood” (“The Priesthood and Its Offices,” Improvement Era, May 1902, 551).
The Lord had previously referred to Joseph Smith as an “apostle” and the “first elder” of the Church and as a “seer,” “translator,” and “prophet” (see D&C 20:2; 21:1). The ordination of Joseph Smith as President of the High Priesthood on January 25, 1832, further defined his presiding role in the Melchizedek Priesthood of the Church. In the revelation given originally to Jesse Gause and later assigned to Frederick G. Williams, the Lord explained that “the keys of the kingdom … belong always unto the Presidency of the High Priesthood” (D&C 81:2), further clarifying the sacred and distinguished role of the President of the Church and his counselors (see also D&C 107:91–92). Beginning in February 1834, the Lord referred to these officers as “the First Presidency” (D&C 102:26–27, 33; see also D&C 112:20, 30; 117:13; 120:1; 124:125–26). The use of “First Presidency” in Doctrine and Covenants 68:15, 22–23 was added to the original revelation later (see commentary in this manual in the additional historical background for Doctrine and Covanents 42 about the prophet’s authority to make inspired additions or changes to a revelation).
The Prophet Joseph Smith appointed two counselors in the Presidency of the High Priesthood. This pattern continues to be followed today, although there have been times when the President of the Church has appointed one or more additional counselors. The President of the Church and his two counselors form a presidency, allowing them to preside over the membership of the Church (see D&C 107:22). President Gordon B. Hinckley (1910–2008) explained the role of counselors:
“The counselors are not the president. In certain circumstances they may act in his behalf, but this is a delegated authority. …
“[A counselor] is an assistant to his president. Regardless of the organization, the assignment of president is a heavy and burdensome one. …
“As an assistant, the counselor is not the president. He does not assume responsibility and move out ahead of his president.
“In presidency meetings, each counselor is free to speak his mind on all issues that come before the presidency. However, it is the prerogative of the president to make the decision, and it is the duty of the counselors to back him in that decision. His decision then becomes their decision, regardless of their previous ideas. …
“… Even the President of the Church, who is Prophet, Seer, and Revelator, and whose right and responsibility it is to make judgment and direct the course of the Church, invariably consults with his counselors to determine their feelings. If there is a lack of unity, there follows an absence of action. Two counselors, working with a president, preserve a wonderful system of checks and balances. They become a safeguard that is seldom, if ever, in error and affords great strength of leadership” (“In … Counsellors There Is Safety,” Ensign, Nov. 1990, 49–50).
“The keys of the kingdom” mentioned in Doctrine and Covenants 81:2 refer to the authority to direct the Church and govern the use of the priesthood. See commentary for Doctrine and Covenants 65:2 in this manual for additional understanding about the keys of the kingdom.
The Lord’s promise to Jesse Gause, and later Frederick G. Williams, was that if he was “faithful in counsel, in the office which I have appointed” he would receive “a crown of immortality, and eternal life” (D&C 81:3, 6). To qualify for such a blessing also required ministering to the needs of others. The Lord said to “succor the weak, lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees” (D&C 81:5), meaning to help and administer relief to those who lack physical and spiritual strength. Elder Marvin J. Ashton (1915–1994) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles shared the following:
“There is a phrase used four times in the standard works which has always intrigued me. It is the expression ‘feeble knees.’
“By definition, feeble means weak, not strong, without force, easily broken, frail.
“When Frederick G. Williams was called to be a counselor to Joseph Smith, he was given this charge: ‘Wherefore, be faithful; stand in the office which I have appointed unto you; succor the weak, lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees.’ (D&C 81:5.)
“Coupled with the word strengthen, which is to make or become stronger, the phrase led me to contemplate the meaning of these words.
“Early on, I assumed ‘feeble knees’ meant weak or exhausted. However, the context of its use in Isaiah (see Isa. 35:3–4) suggests that it may have a somewhat richer meaning, something more like fearful. …
“In Doctrine and Covenants 81:5, the verse might be interpreted as the Lord’s urging Frederick G. Williams to provide strength to the weak (‘succor the weak’), provide encouragement to those who are exhausted or discouraged (‘lift up the hands which hang down’), and to give courage and strength to those with feeble knees and fearful hearts” (“Strengthen the Feeble Knees,” Ensign, Nov. 1991, 70).
In 1832 the Church had two centers of growing membership: one in Kirtland, Ohio, and one in Jackson County, Missouri. To assist needy Saints and to generate revenue that could be used to purchase land in Zion (Jackson County) and publish the revelations, a storehouse was established in each location (see D&C 57:8–10; 72:8–10). In November 1831, the Lord appointed a group of Church leaders to be “stewards over the revelations and commandments” (D&C 70:3) and see to their publication. Later, the Lord commanded that a “firm” be organized to manage the literary and mercantile endeavors of the Church (see the section headings to D&C 78 and D&C 82).
As recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 78, Joseph Smith, Newel K. Whitney, and Sidney Rigdon were commanded to travel to Independence, Missouri, and counsel with Church leaders there. Before their departure, however, the Prophet Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon were violently taken from their homes in Hiram, Ohio, and brutally beaten in the middle of the night of March 24–25, 1832. The mob of local residents, including some former Church members, covered Joseph’s body in tar and feathers in an effort to humiliate him. A few days later, perhaps partially because of exposure to the cold air on that night when the mobbers burst into their home, Joseph and Emma Smith’s 10-month-old adopted son, Joseph Murdock Smith, died.
To fulfill the Lord’s commandment to counsel with Church leaders in Missouri, the Prophet and others left Hiram, Ohio, on April 1, 1832, and made the nearly 900-mile journey to Independence, Missouri, arriving on April 24, 1832. As the Church leaders from Ohio assembled with those in Missouri in a council meeting held on April 26, 1832, the Prophet Joseph Smith dictated the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 82. This revelation was not published in the Book of Commandments but was included, using pseudonyms, or substitute names, in the 1835 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants. For more information about the use of substitute names, please see commentary in the additional historical background for Doctrine and Covenants 78 in this manual.
For several months, unkind feelings had existed between Sidney Rigdon in Ohio and Bishop Edward Partridge in Missouri. Soon after the arrival of Church leaders in Independence, Missouri, a council of high priests of the Church was held on April 26, 1832, and Sidney Rigdon and Edward Partridge resolved their differences. In the revelation received that day, recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 82, the Lord said that He forgave them (see D&C 82:1), but He also warned them that “unto that soul who sinneth shall the former sins return” (D&C 82:7). President James E. Faust (1920–2007) of the First Presidency gave the following counsel:
“We need to recognize and acknowledge angry feelings. It will take humility to do this, but if we will get on our knees and ask Heavenly Father for a feeling of forgiveness, He will help us. The Lord requires us ‘to forgive all men’ [D&C 64:10] for our own good because ‘hatred retards spiritual growth’ [Orson F. Whitney, Gospel Themes (1914), 144]. Only as we rid ourselves of hatred and bitterness can the Lord put comfort into our hearts. …
“Let us remember that we need to forgive to be forgiven. … With all my heart and soul, I believe in the healing power that can come to us as we follow the counsel of the Savior ‘to forgive all men’ [D&C 64:10]” (“The Healing Power of Forgiveness,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2007, 69).
Elder Richard G. Scott (1928–2015) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained how we can forgive others:
“You may be carrying a heavy burden of feeling injured by another who has seriously offended you. Your response to that offense may have distorted your understanding so that you feel justified in waiting for that individual to ask forgiveness so that the pain can leave. The Savior dispelled any such thought when He commanded:
“‘Wherefore, I say unto you, that ye ought to forgive one another; for he that forgiveth not his brother his trespasses standeth condemned before the Lord; for there remaineth in him the greater sin.
“Don’t carry the burden of offense any longer. Genuinely ask forgiveness of one that has offended you, even when you consider you have done no wrong. That effort will assuredly bring you peace and will likely begin the healing of serious misunderstandings” (“To Be Free of Heavy Burdens,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2002, 88).
The Lord emphasized to Church leaders at the conference in Independence, Missouri, that because they were blessed with a greater understanding of God’s plan, they were also held accountable for that knowledge (see D&C 82:3; see also James 4:17; Alma 9:23). Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained: “As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, having a witness of His reality not only from the Bible but also from the Book of Mormon; knowing His priesthood has been restored to the earth; having made sacred covenants to follow Him and received the gift of the Holy Ghost; having been endowed with power in His holy temple; and being part of preparing for His glorious return to the earth, we cannot compare what we are to be with those who have not yet received these truths. ‘Unto whom much is given much is required’ [D&C 82:3]” (“Never Leave Him,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2010, 41).
The Prophet Joseph Smith and other Church leaders had traveled to Independence, Missouri, in obedience to the Lord’s commandment to “sit in council with the saints which are in Zion” (D&C 78:9). They met to establish a “firm” or “order” that would oversee and regulate the mercantile and publishing endeavors of the Church. Church members who were invited to participate in the firm included Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon, Newel K. Whitney, and Martin Harris, all of whom resided in Kirtland, Ohio, and Edward Partridge, Sidney Gilbert, John Whitmer, Oliver Cowdery, and William W. Phelps, all of whom resided in Jackson County, Missouri (see D&C 78:9; 82:11). In 1833, two additional members—Frederick G. Williams and John Johnson—were added to the firm by revelation (see D&C 92:1–2; 96:6–9). The objective of the firm was to manage storehouses that would provide goods and money to help the poor as well as to generate revenue to purchase land for Zion and finance the publication of the Lord’s revelations to the Prophet. One branch of the firm would operate in Independence and was to be called “Gilbert, Whitney & Co.,” and one would operate in Kirtland and would be named “Newel K. Whitney & Co.” (see “Minutes, 26–27 April 1832,” page 25, josephsmithpapers.org).
The members of the firm, or order, were to be united with one another in a covenant. Each received a stewardship over part of the business interests of the Church, and each could draw upon the resources of the firm to manage his stewardship. The successful operation of the business endeavors would generate a surplus that was to be kept in the Church’s storehouses.
Today, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints continues to follow principles that allow it to generate funds through Church-owned businesses. Revenue obtained from these businesses is used to further Church interests and also enables the Church to help those in need throughout the world. President Gordon B. Hinckley spoke about the importance of Church-owned businesses:
“We have a few business interests. Not many. Most of these were begun in very early days when the Church was the only organization that could provide the capital that was needed to start certain business interests designed to serve the people in this remote area [such as banks, hospitals, and manufacturing]. We have divested ourselves long since of some of these where it was felt there was no longer a need. …
“Some of these business interests directly serve the needs of the Church. For instance, our business is communication. We must speak with people across the world. We must speak at home to let our stand be known, and abroad to acquaint others with our work. And so we own a newspaper, the Deseret News, the oldest business institution in Utah.
“We likewise own television and radio stations. These provide a voice in the communities which they serve. …
“We have a real estate arm designed primarily to ensure the viability and the attractiveness of properties surrounding Temple Square. The core of many cities has deteriorated terribly. This cannot be said of Salt Lake City. … With the beautiful grounds of Temple Square and the adjoining block to the east, we maintain gardens the equal of any in the world. …
“Are these businesses operated for profit? Of course they are. They operate in a competitive world. They pay taxes. They are important citizens of this community. And they produce a profit, and from that profit comes the money which is used by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Foundation to help with charitable and worthwhile causes in this community and abroad and, more particularly, to assist in the great humanitarian efforts of the Church.
“These businesses contribute one-tenth of their profit to the Foundation. The Foundation cannot give to itself or to other Church entities, but it can use its resources to assist other causes, which it does so generously. Millions of dollars have been so distributed. Thousands upon thousands have been fed. They have been supplied with medicine. They have been supplied with clothing and shelter in times of great emergency and terrible distress. How grateful I feel for the beneficence of this great Foundation which derives its resources from the business interests of the Church” (“Why We Do Some of the Things We Do,” Ensign, Nov. 1999, 53).
The Lord prepared the members of the United Firm to understand why they were to live obediently to the bond or covenant that they would make. He assured them of the promise of eternal blessings if they obeyed His commandments. His promise recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 82:10 is for us as well. President Joseph Fielding Smith (1876–1972) taught:
“When we turn from the commandments the Lord has given unto us for our guidance then we do not have a claim upon His blessings. …
“Keep the commandments. Walk in the light. Endure to the end. Be true to every covenant and obligation, and the Lord will bless you beyond your fondest dreams” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Fielding Smith , 232, 237).
The Saints knew that the Lord had designated the Jackson County area of Missouri as “the land of promise, and the place for the city of Zion” and that the city of Independence was to be “the center place” of Zion (D&C 57:2–3). The Old Testament prophet Isaiah saw the latter-day Zion, and he compared it to a tabernacle, or tent, “that shall not be taken down; not one of the stakes thereof shall ever be removed” (Isaiah 33:20). Using the metaphor of a tent that expands, he prophesied about the growth of Zion in the last days: “Enlarge the place of thy tent, and let them stretch forth the curtains of thine habitations: spare not, lengthen thy cords, and strengthen thy stakes” (Isaiah 54:2).
The Lord consecrated the land of Kirtland, Ohio, as the first stake of Zion (see D&C 82:13). Later, the high council was established in Kirtland on February 18, 1834, and was presided over by the Prophet Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon, and Frederick G. Williams.
The Lord said that “Zion must increase in beauty, and in holiness; her borders must be enlarged; her stakes must be strengthened” (D&C 82:14). President Harold B. Lee (1899–1973) explained: “The rule by which the people of God must live in order to be worthy of acceptance in the sight of God is indicated by [D&C 82:14]. This people must increase in beauty before the world; have an inward loveliness which may be observed by mankind as a reflection in holiness and in those inherent qualities of sanctity. The borders of Zion, where the righteous and pure in heart may dwell, must now begin to be enlarged. The stakes of Zion must be strengthened. All this so that Zion may arise and shine by becoming increasingly diligent in carrying out the plan of salvation throughout the world” (“Strengthen the Stakes of Zion,” Ensign, July 1973, 3).
The word mammon comes from an Aramaic word meaning “worldly riches” or “wealth.” President Joseph Fielding Smith explained: “The commandment of the Lord that the saints should make themselves ‘friends with the mammon of unrighteousness’ [D&C 82:22; see also Luke 16:9], seems to be a hard saying when not properly understood. It is not intended that in making friends of the ‘mammon of unrighteousness’ that the brethren were to partake with them in their sins. … They were to so live that peace with their enemies might be assured. They were to treat them kindly, be friendly with them as far as correct and virtuous principles would permit. … If they could allay prejudice and show a willingness to trade with and show a kindly spirit, it might help to turn them away from their bitterness. Judgment was to be left with the Lord” (Church History and Modern Revelation , 1:323).
Some of the Saints who immigrated to Jackson County, Missouri, had settled in or near the town of Independence, while the majority of Church members lived in small settlements about 12 miles to the west in Kaw Township. After meeting with Church leaders in Independence on April 26–27, the Prophet Joseph Smith visited the Saints residing in Kaw Township, including those who had moved from Colesville, New York. The Prophet later recorded the following about his visit: “On the 28th and 29th [of April 1832] I visited the brethren … in Kaw Township, twelve miles west of Independence, and received a welcome only known by brethren and sisters united as one in the same faith, and by the same baptism, and supported by the same Lord. The Colesville Branch, in particular, rejoiced as the ancient Saints did with Paul. It is good to rejoice with the people of God. On the 30th I returned to Independence, and again sat in council with the brethren” (in Manuscript History of the Church, vol. A-1, page 213, josephsmithpapers.org; capitalization standardized).
At that April 30 meeting in Independence, Missouri, the Prophet received the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 83. At the time, some of the Church members in Missouri were living according to the principles of consecration. During Joseph’s visit, it is possible that questions arose regarding the property rights of women following the death of their husbands, who had consecrated their property to the Church.
The revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 83 came after the Prophet Joseph Smith had visited the Saints who had settled in Kaw Township, Missouri, some of whom had covenanted to live according to the principles of consecration. The revelation seems to answer questions regarding the care of the widows and orphans (see D&C 83:1, 5–6). Church leaders today have expressed continued concern regarding the temporal welfare of women and children. President Gordon B. Hinckley explained:
“Included among the women of the Church are those who have lost their husbands through abandonment, divorce, and death. Great is our obligation to you. …
“… I hope that every woman who finds herself in [these kinds] of circumstances … is … blessed with an understanding and helpful bishop, with a Relief Society president who knows how to assist her, with home teachers who know where their duty lies and how to fulfill it, and with a host of ward members who are helpful without being intrusive” (“Women of the Church,” Ensign, Nov. 1996, 68–69).
In the revelation the Lord also emphasized the responsibility of parents to provide for their children (see D&C 83:4). Speaking specifically to husbands and fathers, President Howard W. Hunter (1907–1995) said: “You who hold the priesthood have the responsibility, unless disabled, to provide temporal support for your wife and children. No man can shift the burden of responsibility to another, not even to his wife. The Lord has commanded that women and children have claim on their husbands and fathers for their maintenance (see D&C 83; 1 Tim. 5:8)” (“Being a Righteous Husband and Father,” Ensign, Nov. 1994, 51).
President Spencer W. Kimball (1895–1985) gave the following instructions concerning self-reliance:
“The Church and its members are commanded by the Lord to be self-reliant and independent. (See D&C 78:13–14.)
“The responsibility for each person’s social, emotional, spiritual, physical, or economic well-being rests first upon himself, second upon his family, and third upon the Church if he is a faithful member thereof.
“No true Latter-day Saint, while physically or emotionally able will voluntarily shift the burden of his own or his family’s well-being to someone else. So long as he can, under the inspiration of the Lord and with his own labors, he will supply himself and his family with the spiritual and temporal necessities of life. (See 1 Timothy 5:8.)” (“Welfare Services: The Gospel in Action,” Ensign, Nov. 1977, 77–78).