“Chapter 37: Doctrine and Covenants 94–97,” Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual (2017)
“Chapter 37,” Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual
As recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 94, the Lord directed the Saints to plan the city of Kirtland “according to the pattern” He had given them (D&C 94:2). The Lord also commanded the Saints in Kirtland to build a house for the Presidency of the Church and a printing house.
In a revelation given on December 27–28, 1832, the Lord commanded the Saints to build a temple in Kirtland, Ohio (see D&C 88:119). More than five months later, Church leaders and members still had not begun constructing the temple. On June 1, 1833, the Prophet Joseph Smith received the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 95, in which the Lord sternly chastened the Kirtland Saints for delaying building the temple. He also promised to endow the Saints with power in the temple and gave instructions regarding its construction.
On June 4, 1833, several high priests met to discuss how to use and manage the recently acquired Peter French farm. Unable to come to a consensus, they inquired of the Lord, and in response, the Prophet Joseph Smith received the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 96. In this revelation the Lord gave Bishop Newel K. Whitney the responsibility for overseeing the French farm, which included property on which the Kirtland Temple would be built, and appointed John Johnson as a member of the United Firm.
In the summer of 1833, in obedience to the Lord’s instructions recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 88, Church leaders in Missouri organized a school similar to the School of the Prophets in Kirtland, Ohio. In early July these Church leaders wrote to the Prophet Joseph Smith, asking for further instruction regarding this school. The Presidency of the Church sent a reply on August 6, 1833, which included the revelations recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 94; 97–98. In the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 97, the Lord commanded the Missouri Saints to build the temple in Missouri “speedily” (D&C 97:11) and described the blessings they would receive for doing so. The Lord also warned the Saints that they would experience “sore affliction” if they did not follow His commandments (D&C 97:26).
- December 27–28, 1832
The Lord commanded the Saints in Kirtland, Ohio, to build a temple.
- April 10, 1833
The Church purchased 103 acres of land in Kirtland from Peter French.
- June 1, 1833
Doctrine and Covenants 95 was received.
- June 4, 1833
Doctrine and Covenants 96 was received.
- July 20, 1833
A mob in Independence, Missouri, destroyed the printing office and tarred and feathered Bishop Edward Partridge and Charles Allen.
- July 23, 1833
Under pressure, the Saints agreed to the mob’s demand that they begin leaving Jackson County, Missouri, by the end of the year.
- August 2, 1833
- August 6, 1833
Early in 1833, Church agents began purchasing several tracts of land in Kirtland, Ohio, including the Peter French farm. This property, along with large land holdings owned by Frederick G. Williams and Newel K. Whitney, “became the focal point of new city-planning efforts” (in The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 3: February 1833–March 1834, ed. Gerrit J. Dirkmaat and others , 208). On May 4, 1833, a conference of high priests appointed Hyrum Smith, Jared Carter, and Reynolds Cahoon to serve on a building committee. These men were charged with raising money for and overseeing the construction of Church buildings in Kirtland (see D&C 94:13–15; see also The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 3: February 1833–March 1834, 82). One month later the Saints began constructing the Kirtland Temple on the newly acquired land. In the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 94, the Lord revealed His will concerning additional structures to be built in Kirtland near the temple.
In early publications of the Doctrine and Covenants, the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 94 was incorrectly dated as May 6, 1833. The corrected date of the revelation, August 2, 1833, is included in the 2013 edition of the scriptures, though the order in which the sections appear has not changed.
In the summer of 1831, the Lord designated Independence, Missouri, as the “center place” of Zion, where the Saints would gather to build a holy city dedicated to the Lord and live together in righteousness (see D&C 57:1–3). In a June 25, 1833, letter to Church leaders in Missouri, the Prophet Joseph Smith and his counselors sent architectural plans for a temple and the layout for the city of Zion to be built in Independence. Frederick G. Williams, a counselor to the Prophet, wrote, “The plot for the City and the size, form, and dime[n]sions of the [temple] were given us of the Lord” (in The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 3: February 1833–March 1834, 203–4; punctuation standardized).
In a revelation received in August 1833, the Lord designated the city of Kirtland, Ohio, as a “stake of Zion” (D&C 94:1). The Lord instructed the Saints to lay out the city of Kirtland “according to the pattern” which He had given to the Prophet Joseph Smith (D&C 94:2). This pattern likely refers to the plan for the city of Zion in Missouri. Frederick G. Williams drew a plan, or plat, for the city of Kirtland similar to the one for the city of Zion. The Kirtland plat reflected the Lord’s instructions that the city be laid out with the temple as the starting point and that the rest of the city be built in relation to it (see The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 3: February 1833–March 1834, 208–11). The temple was to be the focus of their community, which is shown by its central location and the priority of its construction.
The Lord commanded the Saints in Kirtland, Ohio, to construct two houses, or buildings: one “for the work of the presidency” (D&C 94:3) and the other “for the work of the printing of the translation of my scriptures” and other works commanded of the Lord (D&C 94:10). The phrase “translation of my scriptures” refers to the Prophet Joseph Smith’s inspired translation of the Bible, which he had recently finished in July 1833. Both houses were to be two-story buildings with similar dimensions as the Kirtland Temple (see D&C 95:15). The instructions to construct these two buildings, together with the temple, illustrate the importance of the temple, the work of the First Presidency, and the publication of scriptures.
The two buildings meant for the Presidency of the Church and printing were never constructed in Kirtland. After the violent expulsion of the Saints from Jackson County, Missouri, in the fall of 1833, the Kirtland Saints shifted resources to provide relief to Church members in Missouri. Furthermore, completing the Kirtland Temple consumed all available resources for several years. The Saints eventually constructed a smaller two-story building to the west of the Kirtland Temple, which served as a printing office and meeting place for the School of the Prophets (see Letterbook 1, pages 57–58, josephsmithpapers.org).
In the revelations recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 88, which were given in late December 1832 and early January 1833, the Lord instructed the Saints in Kirtland, Ohio, to organize a “school of the prophets” (see D&C 88:70–74, 117–41) and to build “a house of God” that would serve as a place of worship and learning (see D&C 88:119, 137). In a letter to William W. Phelps in Missouri, the Prophet Joseph Smith emphasized the urgency of constructing the house of God in Kirtland and providing a school to instruct the elders of the Church. “This is the word of the Lord to us,” the Prophet wrote. “Yea the Lord helping us we will obey, as on conditions of our obedience, he has promised us great things, yea even a visit from the heavens to honor us with his own presence” (in The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 3: February 1833–March 1834, 104–5; see also D&C 110:1–4).
Despite the promise of this glorious blessing, during the months following the receipt of this revelation the Saints did little to fulfill the Lord’s commandment. In April 1833, Church leaders purchased land on which to build the Lord’s house. On May 4, 1833, a conference appointed a committee consisting of Hyrum Smith, Jared Carter, and Reynolds Cahoon to raise money to construct the building. However, nearly a month later, when the Prophet Joseph Smith received the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 95, neither the committee nor other Church members had begun construction of the Lord’s house. The Saints did not seem to understand at first that they were building a temple. Records suggest that they envisioned “the house” the Lord commanded them to establish as a schoolhouse (see Lisa Olsen Tait and Brent Rogers, “A House for Our God,” in Revelations in Context, ed. Matthew McBride and James Goldberg , 166, or history.lds.org). The revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 95 expanded the Saints’ vision and prepared them to better understand the nature of the house of God.
By June 1, 1833, the Saints in Kirtland, Ohio, had not adequately established, or begun to construct, a house as instructed in revelations given to the Prophet Joseph Smith in late December 1832 and early January 1833 (see D&C 88:119, 137). The Lord chastened and rebuked the Saints for neglecting to obey His “great commandment … concerning the building of [His] house” in Kirtland, and He called their neglect “a very grievous sin” (D&C 95:3). The Lord reminded them that He chastened them because He loved them. As used in this revelation, to chasten means to “correct by punishment” and to “purify” (Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th ed. , “chasten”). The Lord’s chastening was not meant to punish but rather to correct and bring His people to repentance, “that their sins may be forgiven” (D&C 95:1). Other scripture passages attest to the Lord’s loving purposes for chastening His people, including to help them “remember him” (Helaman 12:3), to help them “learn obedience” (D&C 105:6), and to refine them “as gold” (Job 23:10). Thus, disciples of Jesus Christ should take to heart the words in Job: “Behold, happy is the man whom God correcteth: therefore despise not thou the chastening of the Almighty” (Job 5:17).
Speaking of divine chastening, Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught: “Correction is vital if we would conform our lives ‘unto a perfect man, [that is,] unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ’ (Ephesians 4:13). … Though it is often difficult to endure, truly we ought to rejoice that God considers us worth the time and trouble to correct” (“As Many as I Love, I Rebuke and Chasten,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2011, 97–98).
The Lord explained that with His chastisement of the Saints, He also “prepare[d] a way for their deliverance” (D&C 95:1). In other words, the Lord not only pointed out how the Saints had sinned but also provided instruction to help them accomplish His commandment to build the temple (see D&C 95:11–17).
The Lord said that completion of His house was needed “to prepare mine apostles to prune my vineyard for the last time” (D&C 95:4). The word apostles in this revelation refers broadly to those called by the Lord and sent forth to preach the gospel. The organization of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles would not occur until February 1835. The phrase “prune my vineyard” likely has reference to the allegory of the olive trees spoken of in the Book of Mormon (see Jacob 5:61–77). The pruning of the Lord’s vineyard for the last time represents the final effort of the Lord’s servants to proclaim the gospel and gather Israel in preparation for Jesus Christ’s Second Coming.
The Lord’s house would provide a place for His servants to be taught “the doctrine of the kingdom” and “be instructed more perfectly” (D&C 88:77–78) and to be endowed “with power from on high” (D&C 95:8). To endow means to give something. To be endowed in the temple is to receive a bestowal of spiritual knowledge and power. The endowment spoken of in the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 95 is not the same as the ordinance administered in later temples. The first complete temple endowment in this dispensation was introduced by the Prophet Joseph Smith in Nauvoo, Illinois, in May 1842. The endowment received by the Church members in Kirtland, Ohio, included occasions when the Lord poured out His Spirit and endowed them with spiritual power, when they received revelations or other gifts, when priesthood keys were given, and also when sacred ceremonies were performed, which included washings and anointings as well as the washing of feet for priesthood leaders (see the commentary for Doctrine and Covenants 88:70–76 in this manual).
President Joseph Fielding Smith (1876–1972) taught the following: “The Kirtland Temple was necessary before the [Lord’s servants] could receive the endowment which the Lord had in store for them. The elders had been out preaching the Gospel and crying repentance ever since the Church was organized and many great men had heard and embraced the truth, nevertheless the elders could not go forth in the power and authority which the Lord intended them to possess until this Temple was built where he could restore keys and powers essential to the more complete preaching of the Gospel and the administering of its ordinances” (Church History and Modern Revelation , 1:406).
In temples today, the Lord continues to endow His servants with power and prepare them to accomplish His sacred work of salvation. Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles described the blessings of being endowed with power in the Lord’s temple:
“When men and women go to the temple, they are both endowed with the same power, which by definition is priesthood power. …
“Our Father in Heaven is generous with His power. All men and all women have access to this power for help in their lives. All who have made sacred covenants with the Lord and who honor those covenants are eligible to receive personal revelation, to be blessed by the ministering of angels, to commune with God, to receive the fulness of the gospel, and, ultimately, to become heirs alongside Jesus Christ of all our Father has” (“Men and Women and Priesthood Power,” Ensign, Sept. 2014, 32).
Isaiah prophesied that before the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, the Lord would “do his work, his strange work; and bring to pass his act, his strange act” (Isaiah 28:21). The “strange act” mentioned by Isaiah, and reaffirmed in the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 95, refers to the restoration of the gospel and all that God will yet do to accomplish His work in the last days (see D&C 95:4; 101:95). As part of this work, the Lord promised to “pour out [His] Spirit upon all flesh” (D&C 95:4; see also Joel 2:28–32). Those who do not believe in heavenly visitations, revelation, visions, gifts of the Spirit, and other spiritual matters may view the restored gospel as “strange.” In context of this revelation on the temple, the Lord’s promise to pour out His Spirit likely relates to the promised endowment of spiritual power that He taught would come from His holy house.
For information on what it means to be called but not chosen, see the commentary for Doctrine and Covenants 121:34–36 in this manual.
For an explanation of this solemn assembly, see the commentary for Doctrine and Covenants 88:70–76 in this manual.
The Lord promised the Saints in Kirtland that they would have “power to build” His house if they kept His commandments (D&C 95:11). “Building the temple would be a huge challenge for the Saints. In the summer of 1833, there were only 150 members of the Church living in the area. None of them had the traditional qualifications to oversee such an ambitious construction project—there was not a single architect or engineer among them, or even an experienced draftsman to draw up the plans” (Tait and Rogers, “A House for Our God,” in Revelations in Context, 169, or history.lds.org).
On June 4, 1833, three days after the Prophet Joseph Smith received the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 95, Church leaders held a conference to discuss the construction of the temple. Some members suggested they construct a simple, inexpensive structure. Lucy Mack Smith, mother of the Prophet Joseph Smith, recalled: “A council was called and Joseph requested the brethren, each one, to rise and give his views, and after they were through he would give his opinion. … Some thought that it would be better to build a frame [house]. Others said that a frame [house] was too costly … , and the majority concluded upon the putting up [of] a log house and made their calculations about what they could do towards building it. Joseph rose and reminded them that they were not making a house for themselves or any other man but a house for God: ‘And shall we, brethren, build a house for our God of logs? No, brethren. I have a better plan than that. I have the plan of the house of the Lord given by Himself. You will see by this the difference between our calculations and His ideas.’” The Prophet then provided the “plan in full of the house of the Lord at Kirtland,” which “highly delighted” the brethren. After the meeting, they walked to the building site and began to work—removing a fence, clearing the ground, and digging a trench for the wall (“Lucy Mack Smith, History, 1844–1845,” book 14, pages 1–2, josephsmithpapers.org; spelling, punctuation, and capitalization standardized).
For the next three years, Church members made enormous sacrifices to build the temple. During that time the Lord inspired individuals with means to help finance the temple’s construction. New converts, such as Artemus Millet, contributed their skills in carpentry and masonry to building the temple. Despite their poverty, afflictions, and the opposition they faced, the Saints indeed were given power to build the Lord’s temple (see Tait and Rogers, “A House for Our God,” in Revelations in Context, 170–71, or history.lds.org).
In the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 95, the Lord specified the dimensions of His house—the Kirtland Temple—and the functions of specific rooms. He explained that the Saints were not to build the house “after the manner of the world” but “after the manner which [He would] show unto three of [His servants]” (D&C 95:13–14). Frederick G. Williams, counselor to the Prophet Joseph Smith, recalled the fulfillment of the Lord’s promise: “Joseph [Smith] received the word of the Lord for him to take his two counselors, [Frederick G.] Williams and [Sidney] Rigdon, and come before the Lord, and He would show them the plan or model of the house to be built. We went upon our knees, called on the Lord, and the building appeared within viewing distance, I being the first to discover it. Then all of us viewed it together. After we had taken a good look at the exterior, the building seemed to come right over us” (in Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith , 271). When the temple was nearing completion, President Williams said it looked like the building he had seen in vision to the smallest detail, and he could not tell the difference between the temple he saw in vision and the temple as built (see Tait and Rogers, “A House for Our God,” in Revelations in Context, 167, or history.lds.org).
In April 1833, Joseph Coe, acting as agent for the Church, purchased 103 acres of land in Kirtland, Ohio, belonging to Peter French. The Kirtland Temple would eventually be built on a portion of this property. On June 4, 1833, a conference of high priests gathered in council to discuss the use and management of the newly acquired property. Unable to come to an agreement, Church leaders inquired of the Lord about the issue. In response, the Prophet Joseph Smith received the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 96 (see The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 3: February 1833–March 1834, 108–9).
In answer to Church leaders’ inquiry, the Lord appointed Bishop Newel K. Whitney to manage the newly acquired property in Kirtland, Ohio. As bishop of the Church in Ohio, he served as the Lord’s steward over temporal matters (see D&C 72:8–13). The revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 96 designated a portion of the property for the building of the Lord’s house and instructed Church leaders to divide the remainder of the land into lots for those seeking inheritances. “Church members who consecrated their property [to the Church] through the bishop … were eligible to receive an ‘inheritance’ of land on which to live” (in The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 3: February 1833–March 1834, 111, note 276).
A portion of the property was to be used to benefit the Lord’s “order, for the purpose of bringing forth [His] word to the children of men” (D&C 96:4). This had reference to the United Order, or United Firm. “A subset of the United Firm, the Literary Firm, was responsible for publishing the revelations [see D&C 70)]. ‘That portion’ [D&C 96:4] to be devoted to bringing forth God’s word may refer either to acreage allotted for building a print shop or to land-sale proceeds that could be used to support such a printing operation” (in The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 3: February 1833–March 1834, 111, note 277).
The Lord emphasized the “most expedient” need to publish and send forth His word “for the purpose of subduing the hearts of the children of men” (D&C 96:5). Hearts are subdued when they are softened and become receptive to God’s will and commandments. The Book of Mormon prophet Alma taught that God’s word has “a great tendency to lead the people to do that which is just” and has a “more powerful effect upon the minds of the people than the sword, or anything else” (Alma 31:5). The scriptures contain many examples of the power of God’s word to bring a mighty change to the hearts of people and lead them to obey His commandments (see Acts 2:37–38, 41–47; Mosiah 5:1–2; Helaman 15:7–8).
Shortly after the conversion of their son Lyman in February 1831, John and Alice (Elsa) Johnson began studying the Book of Mormon. They traveled the 30 miles from their home in Hiram, Ohio, to Kirtland to meet the Prophet Joseph Smith in person. During their visit the Prophet miraculously healed Alice’s crippled arm. Convinced that Joseph Smith was indeed a prophet of God, John and Alice were baptized and became members of the Church. After their conversion, the Johnsons generously supported the Prophet and the gospel cause. They opened their home in Hiram to the Prophet and his family, who stayed there from September 1831 to September 1832. (See Curtis Ashton, “Kirtland through the Eyes of the John and Elsa Johnson Family,” history.lds.org.) The Johnsons’ home became the headquarters of the Church during this time, and it was there that the Prophet Joseph Smith worked on the inspired translation of the Bible, received several revelations, and held Church conferences.
In the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 96, the Lord said he had accepted John Johnson’s “offering” (D&C 96:6). This may refer to Brother Johnson’s financial support of the Prophet Joseph Smith as well as to funds he provided the Church to help purchase the Peter French properties (see The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 3: February 1833–March 1834, 549). The Lord also directed in this revelation that John Johnson be made a member of the United Firm and “assist in bringing forth [God’s] word” (D&C 96:8). Later, when John and Alice sold their large, prosperous farm in Hiram, Ohio, they consecrated much of the proceeds to the Church (see Ashton, “Kirtland through the Eyes of the John and Elsa Johnson Family,” history.lds.org). As a member of the firm, John helped manage Church assets. Much of the French farm was eventually deeded to him (see The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 3: February 1833–March 1834, 109). In a later revelation, given April 23, 1834, the Lord instructed John to “sell the lots,” or parts of the French farm, that were “laid off for the building up” of Kirtland (D&C 104:34–36).
In obedience to the Lord’s counsel, Church members in Missouri started a School of the Elders in the summer of 1833 (see D&C 88:77–80, 117–41). By early July, 1833, they desired further instruction regarding the school and sent two letters to the Prophet Joseph Smith requesting that he inquire “of the Lord … concerning the school in Zion” (in The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 3: February 1833–March 1834, 199). In response, the Prophet and his counselors wrote a letter on August 6, 1833, which included the three revelations recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 94; 97–98. They referred to the revelation recorded in section 97 as “the communication which we received from the Lord concerning the school in Zion” (in The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 3: February 1833–March 1834, 199). The Prophet received this revelation a few weeks after mob violence broke out in Jackson County, Missouri. On July 23, 1833, under pressure, Church leaders in Missouri signed an agreement to leave Jackson County. Joseph Smith was unaware of these events when he dictated this revelation.
The Lord said that many of the Saints in Jackson County, Missouri, were “truly humble and … seeking diligently to learn wisdom and to find truth” (D&C 97:1). Elder Richard G. Scott (1928–2015) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught of the importance of humility and diligence in acquiring spiritual knowledge:
“Humility is essential to the acquiring of spiritual knowledge. To be humble is to be teachable. Humility permits you to be tutored by the Spirit and to be taught from sources inspired by the Lord, such as the scriptures. The seeds of personal growth and understanding germinate and flourish in the fertile soil of humility. Their fruit is spiritual knowledge to guide you here and hereafter. …
“Since it requires much personal effort to gain and use worthwhile knowledge, you cannot endlessly sample from every fascinating arena of life. Therefore, you should select carefully a few vital areas where you can focus energy to learn and share vital truths. I know that to gain knowledge of great worth requires extraordinary personal effort. This is particularly true when our desire is to obtain spiritual knowledge. President Kimball said it this way:
“‘The treasures of both secular and spiritual knowledge are hidden ones—but hidden from those who do not properly search and strive to find them. … Spiritual knowledge is not available merely for the asking; even prayers are not enough. It takes persistence and dedication of one’s life. … Of all treasures of knowledge, the most vital is the knowledge of God’ (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, pp. 389–90)” (“Acquiring Spiritual Knowledge,” Ensign, Nov. 1993, 87).
In the summer of 1833, a “school of Elders” began in Zion, with Parley P. Pratt as its teacher. Its main purpose was to prepare the brethren living there to go forth as missionaries during the coming winter. Elder Pratt wrote the following description of the school and his call to preside over it: “A school of Elders was … organized, over which I was called to preside. This class, to the number of about sixty, met for instruction once a week. The place of meeting was in the open air, under some tall trees, in a retired place in the wilderness, where we prayed, preached and prophesied, and exercised ourselves in the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Here great blessings were poured out, and many great and marvelous things were manifested and taught. The Lord gave me great wisdom, and enabled me to teach and edify the Elders, and comfort and encourage them in their preparations for the great work which lay before us. I was also much edified and strengthened” (Autobiography of Parley Parker Pratt, ed. Parley P. Pratt Jr. , 93–94).
While many members of the School of the Elders in Zion were humble and faithful, some had become prideful and disobedient. The Lord likened the Saints in Missouri to trees. Those members who “bringeth not forth good fruit,” referring to those who do not perform works of righteousness, would be “hewn down and cast into the fire” (D&C 97:7; see also Matthew 3:10; Alma 5:52). In other words, if they did not repent and live righteously, they would suffer God’s judgments. In contrast, those with honest and broken hearts and contrite spirits, and who were “willing to observe their covenants by sacrifice,” were accepted by the Lord (D&C 97:8).
Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained the necessity of making sacrifices consistent with our covenants:
“President Hinckley has taught, ‘Without sacrifice there is no true worship of God’ [Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley (1997), 565]. Sacrifice is the crowning test of the gospel. It means consecrating time, talents, energy, and earthly possessions to further the work of God. In Doctrine and Covenants 97, verse 8, it concludes, ‘All … who … are willing to observe their covenants by sacrifice—yea, every sacrifice which I, the Lord, shall command—they are accepted of me.’
“Saints who respond to the Savior’s message will not be led astray by distracting and destructive pursuits and will be prepared to make appropriate sacrifices. The importance of sacrifice to those who want to be Saints is exemplified by the atoning sacrifice of the Savior, which is at the center of the gospel [see Alma 34:8–16]. …
“… In order to serve God and be holy, are we making sacrifices consistent with our covenants?” (“Are You a Saint?” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2003, 96).
In a July 1831 revelation, the Lord designated the site where the Saints were to build a temple in Independence, Missouri (see D&C 57:2–3). A few days later the Prophet Joseph Smith dedicated the site for the temple. Two years passed, however, without the Saints taking any further action to begin construction. In June 1833 the Lord gave the “pattern” for the construction of the temple in a revelation to the Prophet and his counselors (see D&C 95:14–17). With a letter dated June 25, 1833, Joseph Smith, Frederick G. Williams, and Sidney Rigdon sent the plans for the temple and a plat map for the city of Zion to Church leaders in Missouri (see The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 3: February 1833–March 1834, 147).
In the revelation given in August 1833, the Lord commanded the Saints to build the temple “like unto the pattern” that He had previously given them (D&C 97:10). He instructed that the house, or temple, “be built speedily, by the tithing of [His] people” (D&C 97:11). As used in this revelation, tithing referred to any freewill offering or donation (see The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 3: February 1833–March 1834, 201, note 241). To construct the temple in Zion according to the pattern the Lord gave would require tremendous sacrifice in time, labor, and financial resources. Nevertheless, the Saints’ sacrifice in building the temple would be “for the salvation of Zion” (D&C 97:12; see also D&C 97:18–28).
The Lord said that the temple in Missouri was to be “a place of thanksgiving for all saints, and for a place of instruction for all those who are called to the work of the ministry” (D&C 97:13). It was to serve as a meeting place for the school of the elders, where they could be instructed in principles and doctrines pertaining to God’s kingdom. This instruction would help prepare those who had been called to do the work of the Lord. Temples today continue to serve as places of thanksgiving, or worship, and instruction for Latter-day Saints. President Gordon B. Hinckley (1910–2008) taught:
“I am satisfied that every man or woman who goes to the temple in a spirit of sincerity and faith leaves the house of the Lord a better man or woman. There is need for constant improvement in all of our lives. …
“This sacred edifice becomes a school of instruction in the sweet and sacred things of God. Here we have outlined the plan of a loving Father in behalf of His sons and daughters of all generations. Here we have sketched before us the odyssey of man’s eternal journey from premortal existence through this life to the life beyond. Great fundamental and basic truths are taught with clarity and simplicity well within the understanding of all who hear. …
“The temple is also a place of personal inspiration and revelation. Legion are those who in times of stress, when difficult decisions must be made and perplexing problems must be handled, have come to the temple in a spirit of fasting and prayer to seek divine direction. Many have testified that while voices of revelation were not heard, impressions concerning a course to follow were experienced at that time or later which became answers to their prayers” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Gordon B. Hinckley , 316–17).
The Lord will not dwell in unholy temples (see D&C 97:17; Alma 7:21). As long as the Saints strive to keep the temple a holy and sacred place by not permitting any unclean thing to come into it, the glory, power, and presence of the Lord will be there. It is for this reason that strict worthiness standards must be met in order to enter into the temple and participate in temple ordinances. Sister Silvia H. Allred, who served in the General Relief Society Presidency, taught how we can worthily enter the temple:
“The temple is the house of the Lord. He directs the conditions under which it may be used, the ordinances that should be administered, and the standards that qualify us to enter and participate in temple worship. …
“The Lord has designated the bishop and stake president to be responsible for determining the worthiness of individuals to receive a recommend to enter His holy house. We have to be completely honest with our bishop and stake president when they interview us before issuing a temple recommend. The gift we bring to the altar is a pure heart and a contrite spirit. Personal worthiness is an essential requirement to enjoy the blessings of the temple” (“Holy Temples, Sacred Covenants,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2008, 113).
The Lord promised that “all the pure in heart that shall come into [the temple] shall see God” (D&C 97:16; see also Matthew 5:8). Elder David B. Haight (1906–2004) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught that the promise of seeing God in the temple includes more than seeing Him with our natural eyes:
“It is true that some have actually seen the Savior, but when one consults the dictionary, he learns that there are many other meanings of the word see, such as coming to know Him, discerning Him, recognizing Him and His work, perceiving His importance, or coming to understand Him.
“Such heavenly enlightenment and blessings are available to each of us” (“Temples and Work Therein,” Ensign, Nov. 1990, 61).
The promised blessings of the Lord are always conditioned upon obedience to His commandments (see D&C 130:21). The Lord promised the Saints that if they obeyed His command to build a temple in Independence, Missouri, Zion would flourish and become “very glorious, very great,” and immovable (see D&C 97:18–19). He would be their “salvation” and “high tower” (D&C 97:20). Anciently, a community’s high tower served as a place from which to see approaching danger and defend against attack. For the Saints in Zion, the power of the Lord would be their defense. Furthermore, the Lord promised that if they “observe[d] to do all things whatsoever [He] commanded” (D&C 97:25), they would escape the judgments He would pour out upon “the ungodly” (D&C 97:22). However, if the Saints did not do as He commanded, they would experience “sore affliction” (D&C 97:26).
In November 1833, mobs violently expelled the Saints from Jackson County, Missouri, and the Church members were eventually driven from the entire state of Missouri in 1838 and 1839. In a revelation given in January 1841, the Lord, in His mercy, explained that His previous commandment to the Saints to build His house in Jackson County, Missouri, was no longer required of them (see D&C 124:49–54).
For more information regarding the persecution the Saints in Missouri suffered, see the additional historical background for Doctrine and Covenants 98; 101; and 121 in this manual.
The revelations recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants often refer to Zion as a geographical place. For example, the Lord designated Independence, Missouri, as “the place for the city of Zion” (see D&C 57:2–3), and He spoke of “the stake of Zion” in Kirtland, Ohio (D&C 94:1). However, the Lord also declared that Zion was also a group of people who are “pure in heart” (D&C 97:21). A pure heart is free from the contamination of evil and the stain of sin. Those who are pure in heart have received a remission of their sins through faith in Jesus Christ and obedience to the principles and ordinances of the gospel. President Spencer W. Kimball (1895–1985) taught of the role that purity of heart plays in building Zion today:
“The length of time required ‘to accomplish all things pertaining to Zion’ [D&C 105:37] is strictly up to us and how we live, for creating Zion ‘commences in the heart of each person.’ ([Brigham Young, in] Journal of Discourses, 9:283.) …
“… Zion can be built up only among those who are the pure in heart, not a people torn by covetousness or greed, but a pure and selfless people. Not a people who are pure in appearance, rather a people who are pure in heart. Zion is to be in the world and not of the world, not dulled by a sense of carnal security, nor paralyzed by materialism. No, Zion is not things of the lower, but of the higher order, things that exalt the mind and sanctify the heart” (“Becoming the Pure in Heart,” Ensign, May 1978, 80–81).