“Chapter 33: Doctrine and Covenants 88:1–69,” Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual (2017)
“Chapter 33,” Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual
On December 27, 1832, during a conference of priesthood leaders in the upper room of the Whitney store, those present prayed to know the Lord’s will concerning the establishment of Zion. The Prophet Joseph Smith received the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 88:1–126 on December 27 and 28, 1832. The revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 88:127–37 was received later, on January 3, 1833. The Prophet referred to the revelation as an “‘olive leaf’ … plucked from the Tree of Paradise” (D&C 88, section heading) perhaps because it was a message of peace with the potential to mend the harsh feelings some Saints in Missouri were having toward Church leaders in Kirtland, Ohio (see D&C 84:76). Four additional verses (D&C 88:138–41) were added during the publication of the 1835 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants.
Doctrine and Covenants 88 is addressed in two chapters in this student manual. This chapter includes Doctrine and Covenants 88:1–69, in which Jesus Christ declared that He is “the light … which giveth life to all things” (D&C 88:13) and then invited us to “draw near unto [Him]” (D&C 88:63).
- June 1832–January 1833
Disagreements arose between Church leaders in Missouri and Church leaders in Ohio.
- December 27–28, 1832
Doctrine and Covenants 88:1–126 was received.
- January 3, 1833
- January 5, 1833
Frederick G. Williams was called by revelation to replace Jesse Gause as a counselor in the Presidency of the High Priesthood.
- January 11, 1833
- January 23, 1833
The School of the Prophets began in Kirtland, Ohio.
On December 27, 1832, the Prophet Joseph Smith met with several Church leaders and other members in the “translating room,” located upstairs in Newel K. Whitney’s store in Kirtland, Ohio. He desired further divine instruction about the elders’ duties and about how to build up Zion. As this meeting, or conference, began, the Prophet explained that in order for revelation to be received, each person in the assembled group should exercise faith in God and be of one heart and mind. He proceeded to invite each person to take a turn praying aloud to know the Lord’s will. The ensuing revelation was then dictated by Joseph Smith until 9:00 p.m. that evening, at which time they stopped for the night. The next morning the group reassembled and prayed, and the remainder of the revelation was received. Later, on January 3, 1833, the Prophet received additional revelation that was later added to the revelation he had received in December (see D&C 88:127–37). Beginning with the 1835 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants, the revelation that was given on January 3, 1833, was added to the one received on December 27–28, 1832, along with four more verses that were added at the end (see D&C 88:138–41).
For many months before January 1833, Church leaders in Missouri had directed accusations and expressed unkind feelings toward Church leaders in Ohio. On January 11, 1833, Joseph Smith sent a letter to William W. Phelps in Independence, Missouri, and included a copy of the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 88:1–126 (and perhaps the portion in verses 127–37) and explained: “I send you the olive leaf which we have plucked from the tree of Paradise, the Lord’s message of peace to us; for though our Brethren in Zion indulge in feelings towards us, which are not according to the requirements of the new covenant, yet we have the satisfaction of knowing that the Lord approves of us and has accepted us, and established His name in Kirtland for the salvation of the nations. … Let me say to you, seek to purify yourselves, and also all the inhabitants of Zion, lest the Lord’s anger be kindled to fierceness. … The Brethren in Kirtland pray for you unceasingly, for knowing the terrors of the Lord, they greatly fear for you” (in The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 2: July 1831–January 1833, ed. Matthew C. Godfrey and others (2013), 365, 367; capitalization, spelling, and punctuation standardized).
The olive leaf and olive branch have long been recognized as symbols of peace in many cultures. It is possible that Joseph Smith labeled this revelation as an “olive leaf” to provide a sign to the brethren in Missouri that spiritual safety was to be found in living the gospel, just as Noah learned that it was safe to walk again on the earth after the dove he sent out returned with an olive leaf in its beak (see Genesis 8:10–11).
The New Testament Apostle known as John the Revelator had a vision wherein he saw that God’s children would be judged by their works, which are written in books kept in heaven. One of these books is called “the book of life” (see Revelation 20:12; D&C 128:6–7) and is reserved for the names and deeds of the righteous (see Revelation 3:5; Alma 5:58; D&C 132:19). “The book of the names of the sanctified” referred to in Doctrine and Covenants 88:2 is the same as “the book of life.”
In response to the earnest prayers of the Prophet Joseph Smith and the others who were assembled on December 27 and 28, 1832, the Lord promised to “send upon [them] another Comforter, … even the Holy Spirit of promise” (D&C 88:3). The Holy Spirit of Promise is another name for the Holy Ghost and should not be confused with the Second Comforter, which is spoken of in John 14:18, 21, 23 and Doctrine and Covenants 130:3.
President Joseph Fielding Smith (1876–1972) explained: “The Holy Spirit of Promise is not the Second Comforter. The Holy Spirit of Promise is the Holy Ghost who places the stamp of approval upon every ordinance that is done righteously; and when covenants are broken he removes the seal” (Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie , 1:55.)
While each of those who were present had previously received the gift of the Holy Ghost, they were then being promised that they could receive an assurance of eternal life through a manifestation of the Holy Ghost (see Ephesians 1:13–14; D&C 76:51–54; 132:7). The Holy Spirit of Promise is an assurance from the Holy Ghost that the ordinances and covenants necessary for salvation have been properly entered into and have been kept. In essence, it is a witness from the Spirit that a person has the promise of eternal life.
Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained this role of the Holy Ghost:
“The Holy Spirit of Promise is the ratifying power of the Holy Ghost. When sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise, an ordinance, vow, or covenant is binding on earth and in heaven. (See D&C 132:7.) Receiving this “stamp of approval” from the Holy Ghost is the result of faithfulness, integrity, and steadfastness in honoring gospel covenants “in [the] process of time” (Moses 7:21). However, this sealing can be forfeited through unrighteousness and transgression.
“Purifying and sealing by the Holy Spirit of Promise constitute the culminating steps in the process of being born again” (“Ye Must Be Born Again,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2007, 22).
Jesus Christ is the Firstborn of Heavenly Father’s spirit children (see D&C 93:21). In the premortal life He obtained all knowledge and power and represented the Father as the Creator of all things (see D&C 38:1–3; 45:1; 76:23–24). It was through His power that the sun, moon, stars, and earth were made (see D&C 88:7–10). This creative power is identified as “the light of truth,” or “the light of Christ,” which “proceedeth forth from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space” (D&C 88:6–7, 12). This “light … which giveth life to all things” (D&C 88:13) is also the spiritual power that “quickeneth [our] understandings” (D&C 88:11). In earlier revelations the Saints had learned that if they would receive and hearken to this light, it would lead them to Heavenly Father and the covenants of the gospel (see D&C 50:24; 84:45–48).
Elder Richard G. Scott (1928–2015) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained: “The Light of Christ is that divine power or influence that emanates from God through Jesus Christ. It gives light and life to all things. It prompts all rational individuals throughout the earth to distinguish truth from error, right from wrong. It activates your conscience [see Moroni 7:16]. Its influence can be weakened through transgression and addiction and restored through proper repentance. The Light of Christ is not a person. It is a power and influence that comes from God and when followed can lead a person to qualify for the guidance and inspiration of the Holy Ghost [see John 1:9; D&C 84:46–47]” (“Peace of Conscience and Peace of Mind,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2004, 15).
An understanding that the Light of Christ is also “the law by which all things are governed” (D&C 88:13) increases our appreciation for God’s power and for the fact that it makes life possible for all. President Joseph Fielding Smith provided this description:
“This Light of Christ is not a personage. It has no body. I do not know what it is as far as substance is concerned; but it fills the immensity of space and emanates from God. …
“… Unless a man had the blessings that come from this Spirit, his mind would not be quickened; there would be no vegetation grow; the worlds would not stay in their orbits; because it is through this Spirit of Truth, this Light of Truth, according to this revelation [in D&C 88], that all these things are done” (Doctrines of Salvation, 1:52).
The Resurrection of the dead is the reuniting of a person’s spirit with his or her physical body, never again to be separated (see Alma 11:44–45). This redemption is made possible through Jesus Christ and His Atonement and Resurrection from the dead. The phrase “soul of man” in Doctrine and Covenants 88:15 refers to the spirit and the body when they are united. President Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained that our understanding of this principle should influence how we care for our bodies and our spirits:
“We are dual beings. Each soul is comprised of body and spirit [see D&C 88:15], both of which emanate from God. A firm understanding of body and spirit will shape our thoughts and deeds for good. …
“Spirit and body, when joined together, become a living soul of supernal worth. Indeed, we are children of God—physically and spiritually.
“… The gift of a physical body is priceless. Without it, we cannot attain a fulness of joy [see D&C 138:17]. …
“How should these truths influence our personal behavior? …
“We will regard our body as a temple of our very own [see 1 Corinthians 3:16]. … We will control our diet and exercise for physical fitness.
“Who are we? We are children of God. Our potential is unlimited. Our inheritance is sacred” (“We Are Children of God,” Ensign, Nov. 1998, 85–87).
When Jesus Christ instructed His disciples during the Sermon on the Mount, He promised that the poor in spirit, those who are humble, would receive the kingdom of God and that the meek, those who are kind and forgiving, would inherit the earth (see Matthew 5:3, 5). As recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 88:17, the Lord also said that “the poor and the meek of the earth shall inherit it.” And the Old Testament prophet Isaiah declared that “the meek … and the poor” in the latter days will be those who rejoice in the Lord (see Isaiah 29:18–19; 2 Nephi 27:29–30).
To inherit the earth means to inherit the celestial kingdom. At the Fall of Adam and Eve, the earth was changed from having a paradisiacal or terrestrial glory and became a telestial world. At the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, the earth will “be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory” (Articles of Faith 1:10; see also D&C 101:24–25). Following that Millennial period, the earth will again undergo a change and become new—this time as a celestial world (see D&C 29:22–23; 77:1; 130:9). As recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 88:18–20, 25–26, in order to become an inheritance for those of the celestial kingdom, the earth will be “sanctified” and “crowned with glory” (D&C 88:18–19).
In February 1832, the Prophet Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon witnessed a vision of the three kingdoms of glory and recorded a general description of the inhabitants of each kingdom (see D&C 76:50–112). Later, when the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 88 was received, the Saints learned that “every kingdom is given a law” (D&C 88:38) and that the light of Christ “is the law by which all things are governed” (D&C 88:13). The glory and kingdom that a person inherits in the Resurrection will be based upon the law that he or she is able to abide. For example, a person must “abide the law of a celestial kingdom” in order to inherit celestial glory (D&C 88:22). Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles summarized the law of the celestial kingdom: “The law of the celestial kingdom is, of course, the gospel law and covenants, which include our constant remembrance of the Savior and our pledge of obedience, sacrifice, consecration, and fidelity” (“Come to Zion,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2008, 38; see also D&C 105:3–5).
President Russell M. Nelson taught that we can choose to live according to the requirements of the celestial kingdom: “Each of you will be judged according to your individual works and the desires of your hearts [see D&C 137:9]. … Your eventual placement in the celestial, terrestrial, or telestial kingdom will not be determined by chance. The Lord has prescribed unchanging requirements for each. You can know what the scriptures teach and pattern your lives accordingly [see John 14:2; 1 Corinthians 15:40–41; D&C 76:50–119; 98:18]” (“Constancy amid Change,” Ensign, Nov. 1993, 35).
Just as there are three different kingdoms of glory that God has prepared for His children to inherit, He has also revealed that resurrected bodies possess different degrees of glory. As recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 88:29–31, when a person is resurrected, the spirit and physical body will be “quickened by a portion of the … glory” that is either celestial, terrestrial, or telestial. Doctrine and Covenants 88:27 refers to the resurrected body as “a spiritual body.” This is not to be confused with the spirit body that every human being possesses as a “spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents” (“The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2010, 129; see also D&C 77:2; 130:22).
President Joseph Fielding Smith explained the nature of a spiritual body: “After the resurrection from the dead our bodies will be spiritual bodies, but they will be bodies that are tangible, bodies that have been purified, but they will nevertheless be bodies of flesh and bones, but … they will no longer be quickened by blood but quickened by the spirit which is eternal and they shall become immortal and shall never die” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1917, 63).
The account in Doctrine and Covenants 76 of the vision received by the Prophet Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon explains that “the sons of perdition” will “not be redeemed” but that “all the rest shall be brought forth by the resurrection of the dead, through the triumph and the glory of the Lamb” (D&C 76:32, 38–39). When the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 88 was received, the fate of the sons of perdition was clarified when the Lord explained that they will be “quickened” (D&C 88:32), meaning they will be resurrected with a physical body, but since they “cannot abide the law of a telestial kingdom,” they will inherit “a kingdom which is not a kingdom of glory” (D&C 88:24). Because they “abideth not by law, … and altogether abideth in sin” (D&C 88:35), they cannot be “preserved by law and perfected and sanctified by the same” (D&C 88:34).
While the revelation in Doctrine and Covenants 88 describes what the sons of perdition fail to obtain, it also teaches that when the righteous exercise agency and are “governed by [God’s] law,” they are “preserved by law and perfected and sanctified by the same” (D&C 88:34).
The revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 88 contributes to our understanding of the nature of God. The scope of God’s power is dramatically illustrated by the explanation of His influence on the sun, moon, stars, earth, and all the planets. Anyone who has “seen any or the least of these hath seen God moving in his majesty and power” (D&C 88:47).
The Prophet Joseph Smith (1805–1844) wrote some of his personal history during the summer of 1832. At that time he reflected on the spiritual schooling he had received in his home. He described how observing the vastness of God’s creations in the heavens gave him confidence to go to God for answers when he wanted to know which church to join: “I learned in the scriptures that God was the same yesterday, today, and forever, that He was no respecter [of] persons, for He was God. For I looked upon the sun, the glorious luminary of the earth, and also the moon, rolling in their majesty through the heavens; and also the stars shining in their courses; and the earth also upon which I stood; and the beast of the field and the fowls of heaven and the fish of the waters; and also man walking forth upon the face of the earth in majesty and in the strength of beauty, whose [God’s] power and intelligence in governing the things which are so exceeding great and marvelous, even in the likeness of Him who created them. And when I considered upon these things, my heart exclaimed, ‘Well hath the wise man said it is a fool that saith in his heart there is no God’ [see Psalm 14:1; 53:1]. My heart exclaimed, ‘All … these bear testimony and bespeak an omnipotent and omnipresent power, a Being who maketh laws and decreeth and bindeth all things in their bounds, who filleth eternity, who was and is and will be from all eternity to eternity.’ And when I considered all these things and that that Being seeketh such to worship Him as worship Him in spirit and in truth [see John 4:23; Alma 34:38], therefore I cried unto the Lord for mercy, for there was none else to whom I could go and obtain mercy” (in The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 2, July 1831–January 1833, 281; spelling, punctuation, and capitalization standardized).
After providing an overview of the vast power that God has over His creations in the universe, the Lord explained that those who receive God’s light will eventually become like Him and be united with Him. The righteous will come to understand God and even see God. (See D&C 88:49–50; see also D&C 35:2; 50:24, 40–43.)
Answering His own question, “Unto what shall I liken these kingdoms, that ye may understand?” (D&C 88:46), the Lord gave a parable of a man who sent servants into a field and then visited each of them (see D&C 88:51–61). This parable may have helped early Church members to understand that God has created many worlds that are inhabited by His children and that He visits each of them (see D&C 76:23–24; Moses 1:29–35). Elder Neal A. Maxwell (1926–2004) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles testified:
“As to the Lord’s continuing role amid His vast creations, so little has been revealed. There are inklings, however, about kingdoms and inhabitants. …
“Nevertheless, we do not worship a one-planet God!” (“Our Creator’s Cosmos” [address given at the Church Educational System Conference, Aug. 13, 2002], 4–5).
As recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 88:62–63, the Lord referred to the Prophet Joseph Smith and those who were present with him as “my friends” and commanded them to call upon Him, to draw near to Him, to seek Him diligently, and to ask and knock. He went on to explain that through obedience to this commandment, these individuals would be able to hear the voice of the Spirit speaking truth to them (see D&C 88:66). Those who receive truth are filled with spiritual light, making it possible for them to eventually comprehend all things as God does (see D&C 88:41, 67).
The revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 88 began with a promise that God would send to Joseph Smith and the others “another Comforter,” who is the Holy Ghost functioning as the Holy Spirit of Promise (see D&C 88:3–4). Later, these brethren learned that there was another promise available to those who sanctify themselves, who have minds that are “single to God,” and who “cast away [their] idle thoughts and [their] excess of laughter” (D&C 88:68–69). That “great and last promise” (D&C 88:69) is that God would “unveil his face” to the righteous (D&C 88:68; see also D&C 50:45; 67:10; 93:1; 130:3).
The Prophet Joseph Smith referred to that appearance of the Lord Jesus Christ as the “other Comforter” or the “last Comforter”: “There are two Comforters spoken of. One is the Holy Ghost, the same as given on the day of Pentecost, and that all Saints receive after faith, repentance, and baptism. This first Comforter [is the] Holy Ghost. … The other Comforter spoken of is a subject of great interest and perhaps understood by few of this generation. After a person hath faith in Christ, repents of his sins, and is baptized for the remission of his sins, and receives the Holy Ghost, (by the laying on of hands), which is the first Comforter, then let him continue to humble himself before God, hungering and thirsting after righteousness, and living by every word of God, and the Lord will soon say unto him, Son, thou shalt be exalted. … When the Lord has thoroughly proved him, and finds that the man is determined to serve Him at all hazard, then the man will find his calling and election made sure, then it will be his privilege to receive the other Comforter. … Now what is this other Comforter? It is no more or less than the Lord Jesus Christ Himself; and this is the sum and substance of the whole matter, that when any man obtains this last Comforter, he will have the personage of Jesus Christ to attend him or appear unto him from time to time, and even He will manifest the Father unto him, and They will take up their abode with him, and the visions of the heavens will be opened unto him and the Lord will teach him face to face, and he may have a perfect knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of God” (in Manuscript History of the Church, vol. C-1, pages 8–9 [addenda], josephsmithpapers.org; spelling, punctuation, and capitalization standardized).
The revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 88 contains rich promises that can bless the Saints now and in eternity. The Lord promised the Saints that He was ready to “draw near” to them if they would exercise faith and “draw near” to Him (D&C 88:63). While serving as a counselor in the Relief Society General Presidency, Sister Sheri L. Dew illustrated how we can draw near to the Lord:
“There are no disclaimers or exceptions in His invitation [in D&C 88:63]. We are the ones who determine whether or not we will come unto Him. The drawing near, seeking, asking, and knocking are up to us. And the more we know about the Lord—meaning the more we experience His mercy, devotion, and willingness to guide us even when we may not feel worthy of His direction—the more confident we become that He will respond to our petitions. …
“There are many ways to draw near, seek, ask, and knock. If, for example, your prayers offered to Heavenly Father in the name of Christ have become a little casual, would you recommit yourself to meaningful prayer, offered in unrushed solitude and with a repentant heart? If you have not yet come to appreciate the peace and the power of temple worship, would you partake of the ordinances of the house of the Lord as often as your circumstances allow? If you have not yet found that immersion in the scriptures increases your sensitivity to the Spirit, would you consider incorporating the word of God into your life more consistently? Tonight would be a wonderful time to begin.
“These efforts and many others increase our connection with Jesus Christ. As our testimony of Him expands and matures, we begin to care more about life forever than life today, and we have no desire but to do what He needs us to do and to live as He has asked us to live” (“Are You the Woman I Think You Are?” Ensign, Nov. 1997, 92).
God has commanded His children to call upon Him in prayer and to ask for that which they stand in need of. The Lord promised that whatsoever we ask our Heavenly Father in His name “shall be given you, that is expedient for you” (D&C 88:64). Elder Richard G. Scott testified:
“[Heavenly Father] will always hear your prayers and will invariably answer them. …
“President David O. McKay testified, ‘It is true that the answers to our prayers may not always come as direct and at the time, nor in the manner, we anticipate; but they do come, and at a time and in a manner best for the interests of him who offers the supplication’ [in Conference Report, Apr. 1969, 153]. Be thankful that sometimes God lets you struggle for a long time before that answer comes. Your character will grow; your faith will increase. …
“It is so hard when sincere prayer about something you desire very much is not answered the way you want. It is difficult to understand why your exercise of deep and sincere faith from an obedient life does not grant the desired result. The Savior taught, ‘Whatsoever ye ask the Father in my name it shall be given unto you, that is expedient for you’ [D&C 88:64; emphasis added; see also D&C 88:63, 65]. At times it is difficult to recognize what is best or expedient for you over time. Your life will be easier when you accept that what God does in your life is for your eternal good. …
“Some misunderstandings about prayer can be clarified by realizing that the scriptures define principles for effective prayer, but they do not assure when a response will be given” (“Using the Supernal Gift of Prayer,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2007, 9–10).
We see physical light when we open our eyes and focus on the world around us. According to Doctrine and Covenants 88:67, spiritual light comes into a person’s soul when his or her spiritual eyes are “single to [God’s] glory” (see also Matthew 6:21–23; Luke 11:34–36; 3 Nephi 13:22–23; D&C 4:5; 55:1; 82:19). Spiritual sight is lost when we yield to sin (see Alma 10:25). People “reject the Spirit of God” because of “blindness of their minds” (Alma 13:4; see also Alma 14:6; D&C 58:15).
The Prophet Joseph Smith explained how receiving spiritual light prepares us to return to God: “We consider that God has created man with a mind capable of instruction, and a faculty which may be enlarged in proportion to the heed and diligence given to the light communicated from heaven to the intellect; and that the nearer man approaches perfection, the clearer are his views, and the greater his enjoyments, till he has overcome the evils of his life and lost every desire for sin; and like the ancients, arrives at that point of faith where he is wrapped in the power and glory of his Maker, and is caught up to dwell with Him. But we consider that this is a station to which no man ever arrived in a moment” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith , 210–11).
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the First Presidency taught that the process of obtaining spiritual light begins when we come to God: “As we draw near to Heavenly Father, we become more holy. And as we become more holy, we will overcome disbelief and our souls will be filled with His blessed light. As we align our lives with this supernal light, it leads us out of darkness and toward greater light. This greater light leads to the unspeakable ministerings of the Holy Spirit, and the veil between heaven and earth can become thin” (“The Love of God,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2009, 23–24).