“Chapter 39: Doctrine and Covenants 101,” Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual (2017)
“Chapter 39,” Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual
In late 1833, mobs attacked Church members in Jackson County, Missouri, and forced them from their homes. When news of the violence reached the Prophet Joseph Smith in Kirtland, Ohio, he grieved for the Missouri Saints and pled with the Lord to return them to their lands and homes. On December 16–17, 1833, the Lord revealed to the Prophet why He had allowed His Saints to suffer. This revelation, which is recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 101, also included counsel and words of comfort regarding “the redemption of Zion” (D&C 101:43).
- July 23, 1833
Under threat of mob violence, Church leaders in Missouri signed an agreement that all Mormons would leave Jackson County by April 1, 1834.
- October 20, 1833
Church leaders in Missouri announced that the Saints intended to remain in Jackson County and defend their property rights.
- October 31–November 8, 1833
Mobs attacked Mormon settlements in Jackson County, burning homes and forcing the Saints to leave the county.
- November 25, 1833
The Prophet Joseph Smith learned that mob violence had expelled the Saints from Jackson County.
- December 16–17, 1833
Doctrine and Covenants 101 was received.
Due to mob violence against the Saints in Jackson County, Missouri, during the summer of 1833, Church leaders there were forced to sign an agreement that half of the Saints would leave Jackson County by January 1, 1834, and the remainder would leave by April 1, 1834. However, in August 1833 the Prophet Joseph Smith and a council of Church leaders in Kirtland, Ohio, advised the Missouri Saints not to leave their homes and to ask the state government for help. In early October 1833, elders Orson Hyde and William W. Phelps met with Missouri governor Daniel Dunklin and requested help and protection for the Saints in Jackson County. The governor advised the Saints to seek help through the local courts. After Church leaders filed their suit in the Jackson County courts, the Saints prepared to defend themselves. (See The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 3: February 1833–March 1834, ed. Gerrit J. Dirkmaat and others , 386; Church History in the Fulness of Times Student Manual, 2nd ed. [Church Educational System manual, 2003], 134–35.)
On the evening of October 31, 1833, a mob of about 50 men on horses raided the Whitmer Settlement, west of Independence, Missouri. They went to the home of Church leader David Whitmer and “drew his wife out of the house by the hair of the head and proceeded to throw down the house” (affidavit of Orrin [Oren] Porter Rockwell, in Mormon Redress Petitions: Documents of the 1833–1838 Missouri Conflict, ed. Clark V. Johnson , 526). They continued their violence until they had “unroofed and partly demolished ten dwelling houses.” Church members fled into the woods, but not before the mob “whipt and beat, in a savage manner, several of the men.” The next evening a mob in Independence “commenced stoning houses, breaking down doors and windows, [and] destroying furniture.” Later that night they “split open” the doors of the Church-owned Gilbert and Whitney store in Independence and threw the wares out into the street. (Parley P. Pratt, “History of the Late Persecution,” in Mormon Redress Petitions, 65–66.)
A few days later, approximately 60 armed Missourians gathered outside a Church member’s home and threatened violence. A group of Latter-day Saints rushed to the scene to defend their settlement. As each side exchanged gunshots, two Missourians and one Church member were killed, with many more wounded on both sides. Later, exaggerated rumors spread throughout the county that the Saints had taken Independence with the Indians as their allies. Missourians heard other false rumored reports of Church members threatening death to citizens who had participated in hostilities against them. Though these rumors were unsupported, Missouri vigilantes used these allegations as a reason to call out the militia. (See The Joseph Smith Papers, Histories, Volume 2: Assigned Histories, 1831–1847, ed. Karen Lynn Davidson and others , 217–18; affidavit of Orrin Porter Rockwell, in Mormon Redress Petitions, 527–28.)
Recognizing that they were outnumbered and fearing that many of the Saints could be killed, the Church members sought for a peaceful resolution. Colonel Thomas Pitcher of the militia, who had taken an active part in the mob violence, forced the Saints to give up their weapons and leave the county immediately. However, even after the Saints pledged to leave, armed vigilantes marched throughout the county, expelling the Saints by force. (See The Joseph Smith Papers, Histories, Volume 2: Assigned Histories, 1831–1847, 219–21.)
The exiled Saints took refuge in temporary shelters along the north bank of the Missouri River in the midst of winter. Describing these awful conditions, Parley P. Pratt wrote:
“The shore [of the Missouri River] began to be lined on both sides of the ferry with men, women and children; goods, wagons, boxes, provisions, etc., while the ferry was constantly employed. … Hundreds of people were seen in every direction, some in tents and some in the open air around their fires, while the rain descended in torrents. Husbands were inquiring for their wives, wives for their husbands; parents for children, and children for parents. Some had the good fortune to escape with their families, household goods, and some provisions; while others knew not the fate of their friends, and had lost all their goods. The scene was indescribable, and, I am sure, would have melted the hearts of any people on the earth, except our blind oppressors, and a blind and ignorant community. …
“… Every member of [our] society was driven from the county, and fields of corn were ravaged and destroyed; stacks of wheat burned, household goods plundered, and improvements and every kind of property destroyed” (Autobiography of Parley Parker Pratt, ed. Parley P. Pratt Jr. , 102–3).
More than 1,000 Saints were driven from Jackson County, and more than 200 of their homes were burned.
When the Prophet Joseph Smith heard that the Saints had been driven out of Zion, he was greatly dismayed. In a letter to Church leaders in Missouri on December 10, 1833, the Prophet wrote: “I have always expected that Zion would suffer some affliction, from what I could learn from the commandments which have been given. … I know that Zion, in the own due time of the Lord will be redeemed; but how many will be the days of her purification, tribulation and affliction, the Lord has kept hid from my eyes; and when I enquire concerning this subject, the voice of the Lord is, Be still, and know that I am God! All those who suffer for my name shall reign with me, and he that layeth down his life for my sake, shall find it again. Now, there are two things of which I am ignorant, and the Lord will not shew them [unto] me; … why God hath suffered so great calamity to come upon Zion; and what the great moving cause of this great affliction is: And again, by what means he will return her back to her inheritance” (in Manuscript History of the Church, vol. A-1, page 393, josephsmithpapers.org). The Prophet continued to inquire of God for answers, and on December 16–17, 1833, he received a revelation concerning Zion and the suffering of the Missouri Saints.
The Lord revealed that the Missouri Saints were afflicted and driven from Jackson County because of “their transgressions,” which included “contentions, and envyings, and strifes, and lustful and covetous desires” (D&C 101:2, 6; see also D&C 105:2–9). Consequently, they had “polluted their inheritances” in the land of Zion (D&C 101:6).
Some of the Missouri Saints had transgressed the Lord’s commandments by rushing to Jackson County contrary to the Lord’s counsel to the Saints not to gather “in haste, lest there be confusion, which bringeth pestilence” (D&C 63:24). Only those who had prepared themselves materially and spiritually and who, upon arrival, would live the law of consecration were supposed to go to Zion. Moreover, they were to be called, or “appointed by the Holy Spirit to go unto Zion,” and upon arrival they were to present “a certificate from three elders of the church, or a certificate from the bishop,” indicating their worthiness and good standing (D&C 72:24–25). John Corrill, a Church leader in Missouri before his apostasy from the faith, wrote that many Saints did not follow these instructions, “for the church got crazy to go up to Zion. … The rich were afraid to send up their money to purchase lands, and the poor crowded up in numbers, without having any places provided, contrary to the advice of the bishop and others” (in The Joseph Smith Papers, Histories, Volume 2: Assigned Histories, 1831–1847, 146). The rapid influx of Latter-day Saints into Jackson County alarmed the local Missourians, who feared they would lose economic and political power if the Saints became the majority in the county.
Disunity among the Church members in Missouri occurred when they disregarded the law of consecration by refusing to use their material wealth to care for the poor and build up Zion. President Lorenzo Snow (1814–1901) explained: “The Saints in Jackson county and other localities, refused to comply with the order of consecration, consequently they were allowed to be driven from their inheritances; and should not return until they were better prepared to keep the law of God, by being more perfectly taught in reference to their duties, and learn through experience the necessity of obedience” (“Discourse,” Deseret News, Jan. 7, 1874, 772).
Over many months, some of the Church leaders in Missouri had been criticizing and finding fault with the Prophet Joseph Smith and Church leaders in Ohio (see The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 2: July 1831–January 1833, ed. Matthew C. Godfrey and others , 364). In a letter to William W. Phelps dated January 11, 1833, Joseph Smith lamented certain accusations made by Phelps and A. Sidney Gilbert: “Our hearts are greatly grieved at the spirit which is breathed both in your letter [and] that of [Brother Sidney Gilbert] the very spirit which is wasting the strength of Zion like a pestilence, and if it is not detected [and] driven from you it will ripen Zion for the threatened Judgments of God” (in The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 2: July 1831–January 1833, 367; spelling standardized).
Several days later Orson Hyde and Hyrum Smith, appointed by “a Conference of Twelve High Priests,” wrote a letter to Bishop Edward Partridge, his counselors, and the Saints in Missouri. They began their letter by quoting the Lord’s commandment that the Saints “are to be upbraided for their evil hearts of unbelief; and [the] brethren in Zion for their rebellion against [Joseph Smith]” (D&C 84:76). They referred to a letter from Sidney Gilbert that contained “low, dark, [and] blind insinuations.” They also condemned another letter that implied the Prophet was “seeking after Monarchal power, and authority.” Because the Missouri Saints had committed these transgressions and others, Orson Hyde and Hyrum Smith, with “feelings of the greatest anxiety for the welfare of Zion,” warned them that “the judgments of God … must fall upon [Zion] except she repent and purify herself before the Lord.” (In The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 2: July 1831–January 1833, 373–75.)
Despite the Saints’ transgressions, the Lord said He would still “own them,” promising they would be His when He comes again to “make up [His] jewels” (D&C 101:3; see also Malachi 3:17). The Lord’s “jewels” refer to His faithful Saints, who are precious to Him and will be set apart as His treasure when He returns. To be prepared to become His jewels, the Saints needed to be “chastened and tried, even as Abraham” (D&C 101:4). Abraham’s faith was severely tested when the Lord commanded him to sacrifice his son Isaac (see Genesis 22:1–13).
Similarly, in order to prove their faith and help them understand their need for repentance, the Lord allowed the Saints in Missouri to be afflicted and chastened. He explained, “All those who will not endure chastening, but deny me, cannot be sanctified” (D&C 101:5). To be sanctified is to become pure, holy, and free from sin. Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained God’s purposes for chastening His children:
“Divine chastening has at least three purposes: (1) to persuade us to repent, (2) to refine and sanctify us, and (3) at times to redirect our course in life to what God knows is a better path. …
“… If we are open to it, needed correction will come in many forms and from many sources. It may come in the course of our prayers as God speaks to our mind and heart through the Holy Ghost (see D&C 8:2). It may come in the form of prayers that are answered no or differently than we had expected. Chastening may come as we study the scriptures and are reminded of deficiencies, disobedience, or simply matters neglected.
“Correction can come through others, especially those who are God-inspired to promote our happiness. Apostles, prophets, patriarchs, bishops, and others have been put into the Church today, just as anciently, ‘for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ’ (Ephesians 4:12)” (“As Many as I Love, I Rebuke and Chasten,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2011, 98–99).
Anciently, the bowels were viewed as the center of a person’s emotions, especially that of compassion and love (see Genesis 43:30; Colossians 3:12; 1 John 3:17; 3 Nephi 17:6; see also D&C 101:9; 121:3–4, 45). “In the scriptures, compassion means literally ‘to suffer with.’ It also means to show sympathy, pity, and mercy for another” (Guide to the Scriptures, “Compassion,” scriptures.lds.org). Although the Church members in Missouri had been chastened because of their transgressions, the Lord had compassion on them. He reassured them that He had not rejected them as His people and that “in the day of wrath,” or during their chastening, He would “remember mercy” (D&C 101:9). Jesus Christ took upon Himself our “pains and afflictions and temptations,” as well as our “infirmities [through His atoning sacrifice], that his bowels may be filled with mercy” and compassion toward us (Alma 7:11–12). As we come unto Him, repent, and strive with all our hearts to obey His gospel, the Savior will show compassion, extend mercy, and forgive our sins.
The scriptures contain marvelous prophecies regarding the building up of Zion and the city of New Jerusalem as a place of refuge and safety (see Isaiah 35:10; Ether 13:5–8; D&C 42:9; 45:66–71). For this reason the early Saints were eager to gather to Jackson County, Missouri, to begin establishing Zion as the Lord had commanded. When the Saints were later driven from their lands and homes in Jackson County, they were devastated and uncertain about the future of Zion. Amid their grief and confusion, the Lord counseled them to “be still” and trust in Him (D&C 101:16).
President Gordon B. Hinckley (1910–2008) told of a time when he was comforted by the principles recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 101:16:
“Recently while wrestling in my mind with a problem I thought to be of serious consequence I went to my knees in prayer. There came into my mind a feeling of peace and the words of the Lord, ‘Be still and know that I am God.’ I turned to the scripture and read this reassuring statement spoken to the Prophet Joseph Smith 150 years ago: ‘Let your hearts be comforted concerning Zion; for all flesh is in mine hands; be still and know that I am God.’ (D&C 101:16.)
“God is weaving His tapestry according to His own grand design. All flesh is in His hands. It is not our prerogative to counsel Him. It is our responsibility and our opportunity to be at peace in our minds and in our hearts, and to know that he is God, that this is his work, and that he will not permit it to fail.
“We have no need to fear. We have no need to worry. We have no need to speculate. Our imperative need is to be found doing our duty individually in the callings which have come to us. And because, for the most part, the Latter-day Saints are walking in faith and working with conviction, the Church is consistently growing ever stronger” (“He Slumbers Not, nor Sleeps,” Ensign, May 1983, 6).
Despite the Saints’ expulsion from Jackson County, Missouri, the Lord reaffirmed that “Zion shall not be moved out of her place, notwithstanding her children are scattered” (D&C 101:17). Although the stakes of Zion have spread over the face of the earth, “the center place,” Jackson County, continues to be designated by the Lord as the location for the city of New Jerusalem (see D&C 57:1–3; 101:17, 20–21).
Elder Bruce R. McConkie (1915–1985) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught: “There is no occasion for uncertainty or anxiety about the building up of Zion—meaning the New Jerusalem—in the last days. The Lord once offered his people the chance to build that Zion from which the law shall go forth to all the world. They failed. Why? Because they were unprepared and unworthy, as is yet the case with those of us who now comprise the kingdom. When we as a people are prepared and worthy, the Lord will again command us and the work will go forward—on schedule, before the Second Coming, and at the direction of the President of the Church. Until then, none of us need take any personal steps toward gathering to Missouri or preparing for a landed-inheritance there. Let us, rather, learn the great concepts involved and make ourselves worthy for any work the Lord may lay upon us in our day and time. Some things must yet precede the building up of Jackson County” (A New Witness for the Articles of Faith , 586).
After being expelled from Jackson County, the Saints in Missouri were scattered throughout the surrounding region. The Lord commanded them to “gather together, and stand in holy places” (D&C 101:22). A holy place is not just a temple or chapel but can be any place where a person enjoys the Spirit of God. Today, the Lord’s people of His Church gather in holy places such as branches, wards, and stakes; families and homes; and temples. One reason we gather to these holy places is to “prepare for the revelation which is to come” (D&C 101:23). This refers to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, when all people will see Him. This global event will be witnessed not only by those living in mortality, but also by the righteous who have died, who will be resurrected at that time (see D&C 61:39; 63:49–50; 101:35).
The Savior’s Second Coming will usher in the 1,000-year period known as the Millennium. The earth will be cleansed of its corruption and be transformed, or renewed, so that the “knowledge and glory [of the Lord] may dwell upon [it]” (see D&C 101:24–25; see also Articles of Faith 1:10). The Millennium will also be a time of great peace. “Enmity,” or hatred and violence, among animal life and mortal men and women will cease (see Isaiah 11:6–9; D&C 101:26). The power of God and the righteousness of those who remain on earth will bind Satan so that he “shall not have power to tempt any [of God’s children]” (see Revelation 20:2–3; 1 Nephi 22:26; D&C 101:28).
Sorrow because of the death of loved ones will also cease. Although mortality will continue on the earth during the Millennium, children will not die prematurely but will grow old and live to “the age of a tree” (D&C 101:30; see also D&C 63:50–51). Prophesying of the Millennium, the prophet Isaiah suggested that the age of a tree is about “an hundred years” (see Isaiah 65:20, 22). President Joseph Fielding Smith (1876–1972) taught that at the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, “a change … will come over all who remain on the earth; they will be quickened so that they will not be subject unto death until they are old. Men [and women] shall die when they are one hundred years of age, and the change shall be made suddenly to the immortal state. Graves will not be made during this thousand years” (The Way to Perfection , 298–99). Thus, when people die during the Millennium, they will pass instantaneously, or “in the twinkling of an eye,” from mortality to a glorious resurrected state (D&C 101:31).
Explaining how “the Lord … shall reveal all things” when He comes again (D&C 101:33), Elder Bruce R. McConkie taught: “All things are to be revealed in the millennial day. The sealed part of the Book of Mormon will come forth; the brass plates will be translated; the writings of Adam and Enoch and Noah and Abraham and prophets without number will be revealed. We shall learn a thousand times more about the earthly ministry of the Lord Jesus than we now know. We shall learn great mysteries of the kingdom that were not even known to those of old who walked and talked with the Eternal One. We shall learn the details of the creation and the origin of man.” Elder McConkie concluded that in the millennial day, “nothing in or on or over the earth will be withheld” (The Millennial Messiah: The Second Coming of the Son of Man , 676; see also 2 Nephi 30:15–18; D&C 121:26–28).
The Saints in Missouri experienced tremendous difficulties resulting from intense religious persecution. The Lord promised them, “All they who suffer persecution for my name, and endure in faith, though they are called to lay down their lives for my sake yet shall they partake of all this glory” (D&C 101:35; see also D&C 101:26–34).
President James E. Faust (1920–2007) of the First Presidency related an account of how two faithful Church leaders living in Mexico in the early 1900s faithfully endured persecution for the Savior’s sake:
“Rafael Monroy was the president of the small San Marcos Mexico Branch, and Vicente Morales was his first counselor. On July 17, 1915, they were apprehended by the Zapatistas [a Mexican revolutionary group]. They were told they would be spared if they would give up their weapons and renounce their strange religion. Brother Monroy told his captors that he did not have any weapons and simply drew from his pocket his Bible and Book of Mormon. He said, ‘Gentlemen, these are the only arms I ever carry; they are the arms of truth against error.’
“When no arms were found, the brethren were cruelly tortured to make them divulge where arms were hidden. But there were no arms. They were then taken under guard to the outskirts of the little town, where their captors stood them up by a large ash tree in front of a firing squad. The officer in charge offered them freedom if they would forsake their religion and join the Zapatistas, but Brother Monroy replied, ‘My religion is dearer to me than my life, and I cannot forsake it.’
“They were then told that they were to be shot and asked if they had any request to make. Brother Rafael requested that he be permitted to pray before he was executed. There, in the presence of his executioners, he kneeled down and, in a voice that all could hear, prayed that God would bless and protect his loved ones and care for the little struggling branch that would be left without a leader. As he finished his prayer, he used the words of the Savior when He hung upon the cross and prayed for his executioners: ‘Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do’ [Luke 23:34]. With that the firing squad shot both Brother Monroy and Brother Morales” (“Discipleship,” Ensign, Nov. 2006, 21–22).
This account illustrates that even when faithful, Latter-day Saints are not always protected from persecution or death. Not all persecution is as intense or violent as that experienced by the Saints in Missouri or by these Church leaders in Mexico. For most people religious persecution comes in a variety of forms, including being reviled or belittled for one’s religious convictions.
Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught that Latter-day Saints must be careful not to persecute or be intolerant of others whose beliefs may differ from their own:
“We should all follow the gospel teachings to love our neighbor and avoid contention. Followers of Christ should be examples of civility. We should love all people, be good listeners, and show concern for their sincere beliefs. Though we may disagree, we should not be disagreeable. Our stands and communications on controversial topics should not be contentious. We should be wise in explaining and pursuing our positions and in exercising our influence. In doing so, we ask that others not be offended by our sincere religious beliefs and the free exercise of our religion. We encourage all of us to practice the Savior’s Golden Rule: ‘Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them’ (Matthew 7:12).
“… We should be persons of goodwill toward all, rejecting persecution of any kind, including persecution based on race, ethnicity, religious belief or nonbelief, and differences in sexual orientation” (“Loving Others and Living with Differences” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2014, 27).
In the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 101, the Savior likened members of His Church to “the salt of the earth” (D&C 101:39; see also Matthew 5:13; 3 Nephi 12:13). Elder Carlos E. Asay (1926–1999) of the Seventy explained the symbolism of salt: “According to the historians, ‘Salt at one time had religious significance, and was a symbol of purity. … Among many peoples, salt is still used as a sign of honor, friendship, and hospitality. …’ (The World Book Encyclopedia, 1978, 17:69)” (“Salt of the Earth: Savor of Men and Saviors of Men,” Ensign, May 1980, 42).
Under the Mosaic law, salt was added to sacrificial offerings, showing that salt is also associated with making covenants (see Leviticus 2:13). As “the salt of the earth,” Church members should exemplify purity and faithfulness to the covenants they have entered into. The Lord calls His covenant people to “be the savor of men” (D&C 101:40). Savor refers to flavor or seasoning; salt improves the flavor and quality of food. Savor also refers to salt’s unique preserving and healing properties. As “the savor of men,” covenant members of the Church are to be a righteous influence in the world and help preserve, or save, others by bringing them to Jesus Christ and His everlasting gospel (see D&C 103:9–10). However, if Church members lose their “savor,” they lose their ability to influence others for good and to lead them to the Savior.
Elder Carlos E. Asay further taught:
“A world-renowned chemist told me that salt will not lose its savor with age. Savor is lost through mixture and contamination. …
“Flavor and quality flee a man when he contaminates his mind with unclean thoughts, desecrates his mouth by speaking less than the truth, and misapplies his strength in performing evil acts. …
“I would offer these simple guidelines … as the means to preserve one’s savor: If it is not clean, do not think it; if it is not true, do not speak it; if it is not good, do not do it (see Marcus Aurelius, “The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius,” in The Harvard Classics, Charles W. Eliot, ed., New York: P. F. Collier and Son, 1909, p. 211)” (“Salt of the Earth: Savor of Men and Saviors of Men,” 42–43).
It is important to remember that, unlike salt, covenant members of the Church can regain their “savor,” or purity and righteous attributes, through God’s gift of repentance made available through Jesus Christ and His Atonement.
The parable of the nobleman and the olive trees is unique to the Doctrine and Covenants, though it shares similarities with parables taught by Isaiah and Jesus Christ (see Isaiah 5:1–7; Matthew 21:33–46). The Lord used the parable to explain why the Saints had been driven from the land of Zion and to reveal His will concerning Zion’s redemption.
The Lord compared the land of Zion in Jackson County, Missouri, to a choice piece of land owned by a nobleman. The nobleman’s instruction to his servants to plant 12 olive trees upon this land can represent the Lord’s commandment to the Saints to establish settlements in Zion (see D&C 57:8, 11, 14). Setting watchmen around the olive trees may represent the calling of Church leaders and officers to guide the Saints in Zion. Anciently, watchmen on a wall or tower had the responsibility to protect cities, as well as vineyards and fields, by warning of impending danger from enemy attacks (see Ezekiel 33:1–6). The scriptures liken the Lord’s prophets and leaders to watchmen (see Isaiah 62:6; Jeremiah 6:17; Ezekiel 3:17; 33:7). Through revelation these watchmen are able to see the enemy from afar and can warn the Saints of coming danger.
The interpretation of the tower in the parable is not clear. It may represent the temple that the Lord commanded the Saints to build in Jackson County (see D&C 57:2–3; 84:1–5; 97:10–12). More broadly, the tower may represent Zion, which the Saints could build up only by obeying the Lord’s commandments (see D&C 101:11–12; 105:3–6). In the parable, the servants of the nobleman “began to build a tower,” but afterward “they became very slothful, and they hearkened not unto the commandments of their lord” (D&C 101:46, 50). Consequently, their enemies scattered them and destroyed their work.
In the parable, the nobleman commanded a servant to gather “the strength of [his] house” and go to the land of his vineyard and redeem it (D&C 101:55). The servant represents the Prophet Joseph Smith (see D&C 103:21–22). In obedience to the Lord’s commandment, the Prophet organized the Camp of Israel (later referred to as Zion’s Camp) to redeem Zion and restore the Saints to their lands and homes (see D&C 103:29–40).
The parable foreshadowed that some time would elapse between the Camp of Israel and Zion’s eventual redemption. When the servant asked the nobleman when the vineyard would be redeemed, the nobleman responded, “When I will” (see D&C 101:59–60). The parable concludes by saying that “after many days all things were fulfilled” (D&C 101:62). In a later revelation that disbanded the Camp of Israel, the Lord explained why the Saints were to “wait for a little season” for the redemption of Zion (D&C 105:9; see D&C 105:1–19).
After giving the parable of the nobleman and the olive trees, the Lord explained His will “concerning all the churches,” meaning all of the congregations of Latter-day Saints (D&C 101:63). He instructed the Saints to continue “gathering together” so that He could “build them up unto [His] name upon holy places” (D&C 101:64). The Lord promised to “gather together [His] people, according to the parable of the wheat and the tares” (D&C 101:65). Tares are harmful weeds that look similar to wheat when they are young, but they can be distinguished from wheat once they mature. In the parable of the wheat and the tares, the wheat represents faithful members of the Church and the tares represent the wicked who are scattered among them (see Matthew 13:24–30, 36–43; D&C 86:1–7).
The Lord likened the gathering of His people to the gathering of wheat into “garners” (D&C 101:65). Anciently, wheat was gathered into garners, or granaries, to safely store and protect it. While speaking about Alma 26:5, in which Ammon refers to “sheaves,” or bundles of grain, being “gathered into the garners,” Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught, “The garners are the holy temples” (“Honorably Hold a Name and Standing,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2009, 97). Members of the Church receive protective blessings and are prepared for celestial glory and eternal life as they gather to the Lord’s holy temples to receive saving ordinances and enter into covenants for themselves and on behalf of their ancestors.
The Prophet Joseph Smith (1805–1844) taught: “What was the object of gathering the … people of God in any age of the world? … The main object was to build unto the Lord a house whereby He could reveal unto His people the ordinances of His house and the glories of His kingdom, and teach the people the way of salvation” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith , 416).
For more explanation of the parable of the wheat and the tares, see the commentary for Doctrine and Covenants 86:1–7 in this manual.
The Lord instructed the Missouri Saints to “importune,” or appeal to, the government “for redress, and redemption” (D&C 101:76), meaning they should continue to seek justice and help in returning to their lands in Jackson County. He also explained that the laws of the Constitution of the United States “should be maintained for the rights and protection of all [people], according to just and holy principles;
“That every man may act in doctrine and principle … , according to the moral agency which I have given unto him, that every man may be accountable for his own sins in the day of judgment” (D&C 101:77–78).
“For this purpose,” the Lord said, “I established the Constitution of [the United States], by the hands of wise men whom I raised up unto this very purpose” (D&C 101:80).
President Ezra Taft Benson (1899–1994) expressed his gratitude and respect for the Constitution of the United States: “I reverence the Constitution of the United States as a sacred document. To me its words are akin to the revelations of God, for God has placed his stamp of approval on the Constitution of this land. I testify that the God of heaven selected and sent some of his choicest spirits to lay the foundation of this government as a prologue to the restoration of the gospel and the second coming of our Savior” (“The Constitution—A Glorious Standard,” Ensign, May 1976, 93).
The persecution of the early Saints for their beliefs showed the importance of protecting religious freedom in order for the restored gospel to be established and eventually taken to all the earth. In December 1833, during a season of intense persecution against the Saints in Missouri, the Lord testified of His divine hand in the establishment of the Constitution and the rights and freedoms of religious liberty that it protected. Elder Bruce R. McConkie explained:
“Coming to America to escape religious persecution, the original colonists—retaining their various religious persuasions—immediately set up their own separate systems of worship and reached out to condemn and persecute all others. Witches were burned and heretics persecuted as in the Old World. The American colonists had simply transported the traditions of a false and decadent Christendom to new shores. But the Revolutionary War and the need for national survival brought forth the Constitution with this provision: ‘Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.’ Thus, religious freedom was almost thrust upon them by a power beyond their control, and the union of church and state was forever banned in the United States.
“That the Lord’s hand was in all this is axiomatic [clear]. ‘I established the Constitution of this land,’ he tells us, ‘by the hands of wise men whom I raised up unto this very purpose.’ Why? That laws might be established and ‘maintained for the rights and protection of all flesh, according to just and holy principles; that every man may act in doctrine and principle pertaining to futurity, according to the moral agency which I have given unto him, that every man may be accountable for his own sins in the day of judgment.’ (D&C 101:77–80” (A New Witness for the Articles of Faith, 679).
The Lord revealed that “moral agency”—the power to choose and act for ourselves—is vital to our accountability and to our ability to “act in doctrine and principle” (D&C 101:78).
“Agency is essential in Heavenly Father’s plan of salvation, and religious freedom ensures we can use our agency to live and share what we believe. Everyone needs to have that freedom, no matter what they believe.
“Yet despite its importance, religious freedom is increasingly under assault around the world. That’s why the Apostles have spoken about this topic dozens of times in the last decade. As prophets, seers, and revelators, they recognize the need to defend religious freedom. Each of us has a role to play” (“Religious Freedom,” LDS.org).
Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught: “As we walk in the path of spiritual liberty in these last days, we must understand that the faithful use of our agency depends upon our having religious freedom. We already know that Satan does not want this freedom to be ours. He attempted to destroy moral agency in heaven, and now on earth he is fiercely undermining, opposing, and spreading confusion about religious freedom—what it is and why it is essential to our spiritual life and our very salvation” (“Preserving Agency, Protecting Religious Freedom,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2015, 111–12).
In the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 101, the Lord repeated the parable found in the New Testament of the woman who continued to appeal to a judge until he granted her request (see D&C 101:81–84; see also Luke 18:1–8). He likened this parable to the Saints in Missouri in order to encourage them to continue to ask government leaders for help. The Saints were to seek justice, beginning with appealing to a judge, and then, if necessary, to the governor of Missouri, and finally, to the president of the United States (see D&C 101:85–88). The Lord said that if their pleas for help went unanswered, He would “arise and come forth out of his hiding place, and in his fury vex the nation” (D&C 101:89).
The Saints in Missouri followed the Lord’s instructions and appealed to the courts in Jackson County “for redress” (D&C 101:76), or recompense for their lost properties. However, local judges and juries, who sided with those who drove the Saints from Jackson County, made it impossible for the Saints to receive redress from the courts (see The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 3: February 1833–March 1834, 468–69).
The Saints “petitioned Missouri governor Daniel Dunklin to help restore church members to their property in Jackson County, to protect them from further violence until they were able to protect themselves, and to commence a court of inquiry into the violence against the Mormons.” Governor Dunklin was willing to use state militia, or civilian soldiers, to escort Church members back to their homes, but he “indicated that he did not have the authority to keep a military force in Jackson County to protect the Mormons from possible attacks in the future” (in The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 3: February 1833–March 1834, 407). At that time local militias enforced law and order rather than modern-day police departments. Though Governor Dunklin had agreed to help the Saints regain their properties, in the end he did not provide the protection he had promised (see The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 3: February 1833–March 1834, 334).
In April 1834, Church leaders sent a letter to the president of the United States, Andrew Jackson, asking him to send federal troops to Jackson County to protect the Saints’ religious and property rights. In response, Secretary of War Lewis Cass sent Church leaders in Missouri a letter “stating that the president did not have the right to send troops into Missouri to aid in the enforcement of state laws” (in The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 3: February 1833–March 1834, 396, note 441).
Despite repeated efforts, the Missouri Saints failed to receive protection and recompense from government authorities for the injustices they had suffered. The Lord promised that if this was the case, He would come forth and “vex the nation” (D&C 101:89), meaning He would pour out His judgments upon it.