“Chapter 40: Doctrine and Covenants 102, 104,” Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual (2017)
“Chapter 40,” Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual
From the time the Church was organized on April 6, 1830, the Prophet Joseph Smith had held conferences with elders and high priests to decide important Church matters. Later revelations further clarified the role and function of priesthood leaders in administering the Church (see D&C 107:59–100; see also D&C 107, section heading). In accordance with revelation given in November 1831 (see D&C 107:78–79; see also D&C 107, section heading), on February 17, 1834, the Prophet Joseph Smith organized the first high council, which was patterned after the order of ancient councils he had seen in vision. The minutes (or notes) of that meeting were revised by the Prophet and are recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 102.
In April 1832, in obedience to the Lord’s commandment, the Prophet Joseph Smith organized the United Firm to manage the Church’s business operations. By early 1834 the United Firm faced serious financial problems, and in a meeting held on April 10, 1834, United Firm members decided to dissolve the organization. However, two weeks later the Prophet received a revelation, recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 104, in which the Lord directed that the firm be reorganized and counseled Church leaders to pay their debts and take care of the poor.
- March–April 1832
- Fall 1833
The Saints in Jackson County, Missouri, were forced out of their homes.
- February 17, 1834
The Prophet Joseph Smith organized the first high council in Kirtland, Ohio. Doctrine and Covenants 102 contains the minutes, or notes, of the meeting as revised by the Prophet.
- April 10, 1834
Due to financial difficulties, members of the United Firm decided to dissolve the organization.
- April 23, 1834
Doctrine and Covenants 104 was received.
- May 5, 1834
The Prophet Joseph Smith left Kirtland, Ohio, with the Camp of Israel (later referred to as Zion’s Camp) to travel to Missouri.
After the Church was organized in April 1830, the Prophet Joseph Smith followed the Lord’s instructions to hold quarterly conferences to conduct Church business (see D&C 20:61–62). In addition to these conferences, smaller meetings were held periodically (also referred to as conferences or councils), in which elders and high priests helped decide important Church matters, including how to discipline members who had committed serious sins. Participants in these conferences, or council meetings, varied depending on the meetings’ location and who was available to attend (see The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 3: February 1833–March 1834, ed. Gerrit J. Dirkmaat and others , 435–36; see also Joseph F. Darowski and James Goldberg, “Restoring the Ancient Order,” in Revelations in Context, ed. Matthew McBride and James Goldberg , 208–9, or history.lds.org).
At a February 12, 1834, conference held in Kirtland, Ohio, the Prophet Joseph Smith explained, “I have never set before any council … the order in which a Council ought to be conducted, which, perhaps, has deprived the Councils of some, or many blessings” (reported by Orson Hyde as the clerk, in The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 3: February 1833–March 1834, 429; spelling standardized). The Prophet then explained how council meetings functioned anciently: “In ancient days councils were conducted with such strict propriety, that no one was allowed to whisper, be weary, leave the room, or get uneasy in the least, until the voice of the Lord, by revelation, or by the voice of the Council by the spirit was obtained.” He also pointed out that this contrasted with the way some council members had been behaving in the councils of the restored Church. Orson Hyde, who took notes during the meeting, wrote, “In our Councils, generally, one would be uneasy, another asleep, one praying another not; one’s mind on the business of the Council and another thinking on something else.” After the Prophet Joseph Smith mentioned this behavior, he encouraged the brethren to be more mindful and prayerful, especially as they “prepared to sit in judgment upon the soul of [another]” (in The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 3: February 1833–March 1834, 429–30).
Five days later, on February 17, 1834, the Prophet Joseph Smith met with priesthood leaders and Church members at his home in Kirtland and organized 12 high priests into a “standing council” (D&C 102:3), meaning that the council was not to be adjourned after handling pressing issues but would continue “standing” as a council for future needs. This council was referred to as the “‘Presidents Church Council’ in Kirtland, Ohio—later known as the ‘high council of the Church of Christ,’ or the Kirtland high council” (in The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 3: February 1833–March 1834, 435). As part of his instruction to this group, the Prophet said that “he would show the order of Councils in ancient days as shown to him by vision.” His vision of a Church council in Jerusalem presided over by the Apostle Peter and two counselors was used as the model for the newly organized council in Kirtland. (In The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 3: February 1833–March 1834, 437.)
The following day, the Prophet worked hard to revise the February 17 council meeting minutes, or notes, which outlined the high council’s organization and procedures to follow when disciplining Church members accused of transgression. On February 19 he presented his revisions to the new council, which accepted them as “a form, and constitution of the high Council of the Church of Christ hereafter.” After giving additional instruction and setting apart council members, the Prophet Joseph Smith declared that the council “was organized according to the ancient order, and also according to the mind of the Lord.” (In The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 3: February 1833–March 1834, 439). The revised minutes of the February 17, 1834, high council meeting are recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 102.
In 1835, verses 30–32 were added to the minutes recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 102 in preparation for the printing of the Doctrine and Covenants. These verses illustrate a difference between decisions made by temporary high councils organized in remote locations and those made by the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, which was organized in February 1835.
The Lord appointed high councils to deal with many administrative matters in the Church. The minutes, or notes of a meeting, recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 102 indicate that one of the purposes of organizing the high council of the Church in Kirtland was to “[settle] important difficulties … which could not be settled by the church or the bishop’s council to the satisfaction of the parties” (D&C 102:2). “Important difficulties” likely referred to situations in which members had committed serious transgressions, and “the bishop’s council” referred to a disciplinary council held by the bishop and his counselors (see D&C 107:69–75). Members who did not agree with the results of a bishop’s council could appeal their cases to “the high council of the church of Christ” at Kirtland (D&C 102:1).
The high council described in Doctrine and Covenants 102 was different in some ways from stake high councils today. Whereas stake high councils today are presided over by a stake presidency, the Kirtland high council was presided over by “the president of the Church … assisted by two other presidents,” meaning the First Presidency (D&C 102:9–10). Furthermore, the Kirtland high council served as the presiding high council for the Church and oversaw Church matters in Kirtland, Ohio, and the surrounding areas. To help regulate the Church in Missouri, the Prophet Joseph Smith organized another high council in July 1834, which was presided over by David Whitmer, as president, and his two counselors, John Whitmer and William W. Phelps (see The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 4: April 1834–September 1835, ed. Matthew C. Godfrey and others , 88). After Joseph Smith moved to Missouri in 1838, he presided over the Missouri high council, which replaced the one in Kirtland as the presiding high council of the Church (see The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 3: February 1833–March 1834, 440). As Church membership increased, stakes were eventually organized with stake presidencies and high councils to administer the Church within specific stake boundaries.
The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that through the high council “the will of the Lord might be known on all important occasions in the building up of Zion, and establishing truth in the earth” (reported by Frederick G. Williams as the clerk, in The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 4: April 1834–September 1835, 93; spelling standardized). It is through councils that the Lord governs His kingdom on the earth and directs the work of salvation.
Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained:
“God called a grand council in the premortal world to present His glorious plan for our eternal welfare. The Lord’s church is organized with councils at every level, beginning with the Council of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and extending to stake, ward, quorum, auxiliary, and family councils.
“President Stephen L Richards [of the First Presidency] said, ‘The genius of our Church government is government through councils. … I have had enough experience to know the value of councils. Hardly a day passes but that I see … God’s wisdom, in creating councils … to govern his Kingdom. …
“‘I have no hesitancy in giving you the assurance, if you will confer in council as you are expected to do, God will give you solutions to the problems that confront you’ (in Conference Report, Oct. 1953, p. 86)” (“Strength in Counsel,” Ensign, Nov. 1993, 76).
According to the council minutes recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 102, the President of the Church could preside over the council with or without the assistance of counselors. If the President himself was absent, “both or either” of his counselors could preside in his place (D&C 102:11). President Gordon B. Hinckley (1910–2008) explained how this provision applies to the First Presidency: “When the President is ill or not able to function fully in all of the duties of his office, his two Counselors together comprise a Quorum of the First Presidency. They carry on with the day-to-day work of the Presidency. In exceptional circumstances, when only one may be able to function, he may act in the authority of the office of the Presidency as set forth in the Doctrine and Covenants, section 102, verses 10–11” (“God Is at the Helm,” Ensign, May 1994, 54).
In the Church today, a stake president has authority over Church discipline in his stake. A bishop, with his counselors and in consultation with the stake president, has the authority to hold disciplinary councils for members of his ward. If it is determined that the excommunication of a Melchizedek Priesthood holder may be necessary, then the stake president, with his counselors and the members of the stake high council, holds a stake disciplinary council. The minutes recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 102 give directions for a high council when it acts as a disciplinary council (see D&C 102:12–26).
Elder M. Russell Ballard explained the purposes of Church disciplinary councils:
“In the scriptures, the Lord has given direction concerning Church disciplinary councils. (See D&C 102.) The word council brings to mind a helpful proceeding—one of love and concern, with the salvation and blessing of the transgressor being the foremost consideration.
“Members sometimes ask why Church disciplinary councils are held. The purpose is threefold: to save the soul of the transgressor, to protect the innocent, and to safeguard the Church’s purity, integrity, and good name” (“A Chance to Start Over: Church Disciplinary Councils and the Restoration of Blessings,” Ensign, Sept. 1990, 15).
An official statement from the Church gives further explanation about Church discipline:
“The purpose of any counseling or discipline in the Church is to help the individual to obtain the peace and hope provided by Christ’s Atonement. It should not be confused with punishment.
“Church discipline is administered at a local level by those who know the circumstances and the individual best and who can be at his or her side throughout the repentance process.
“The purpose of Church discipline is not to punish but to facilitate full repentance and fellowship for a person who has made serious mistakes. …
“God loves all His children and wants them to feel the peace and restoration that come from the Atonement of His Son, Jesus Christ. Discipline at any level, from personal repentance and self-discipline to formal discipline in a Church setting, is intended to make us better, to help us overcome weakness and sin and to lift us as we seek to become true followers of Jesus Christ” (“Church Discipline,” mormonnewsroom.org).
The scriptures contain examples of casting lots, which was “a way of selecting or eliminating several options of a choice, often done by choosing one slip of paper or piece of wood from among several” (Guide to the Scriptures, “Lots,” scriptures.lds.org; see also Matthew 27:35; Acts 1:23–26; 1 Nephi 3:11). In Church stake disciplinary councils today, high councilors “cast lots” by randomly selecting an object (such as a slip of paper) with a number from 1 to 12 on it (see D&C 102:12). According to Doctrine and Covenants 102:17, “those councilors who draw even numbers … are to stand up in behalf of the accused, and prevent insult and injustice,” meaning that the accused are to be fairly represented.
The Prophet Joseph Smith explained that “it was not the order of heaven in ancient Councils to plead for and against the guilty as in our judicial Courts.” Rather, when a high councilor speaks in a disciplinary council, he “should speak precisely according to evidence and according to the teaching of the spirit of the Lord.” High councilors were not to “attempt to screen the guilty when his guilt was manifest.” Instead, council members assigned to stand up in behalf of the accused were “to plead his cause, in order that his case might be fairly presented before the President [of the high council] that a decision might be rendered according to truth and righteousness” (reported by Orson Hyde as the clerk, in The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 3: February 1833–March 1834, 437; spelling standardized). Thus, the objective of a disciplinary council is to seek after truth through the Spirit of the Lord and to let fairness and justice guide its proceedings. In this way Church disciplinary councils help “to save the soul of the transgressor, to protect the innocent, and to safeguard the Church’s purity, integrity, and good name” (M. Russell Ballard, “A Chance to Start Over: Church Disciplinary Councils and the Restoration of Blessings,” 15).
Although the high councilors in a stake disciplinary council offer insight and the stake president and his counselors privately confer, it is left to the stake president, the president of the council, to decide the outcome of the matter (see D&C 102:19). As the stake president considers the details of the case and the Church’s doctrine and policy, he may seek clarifying revelation from the Lord. It is important to remember that in the context of the first high council, the “president” referred to in Doctrine and Covenants 102:23 was the Prophet Joseph Smith, the President of the Church, who had the authority and priesthood keys to receive revelation to clarify Church doctrine. In the Church today, bishops and stake presidents hold priesthood keys that allow them to inquire of the Lord and obtain revelation when deciding the outcomes of ward or stake disciplinary councils.
President Gordon B. Hinckley taught: “In times of disciplinary councils, the three brethren of the bishopric, or the three brethren of the stake presidency, or the three brethren of the presidency of the Church, sit together, discuss matters together, pray together, in the process of reaching a decision. I wish to assure you, my brethren, that I think there is never a judgment rendered until after prayer has been had. Action against a member is too serious a matter to result from the judgment of men alone, and particularly of one man alone. There must be the guidance of the Spirit, earnestly sought for and then followed, if there is to be justice” (“In … Counsellors There Is Safety,” Ensign, Nov. 1990, 50).
In March and April of 1832, the Lord commanded the Prophet Joseph Smith and a small group of priesthood leaders in Ohio and Missouri to organize the United Firm (also referred to as the United Order). They covenanted to consecrate property to the Church and to work together to manage the Church’s storehouses and printing business (see D&C 78:1–3; 82:11–12). In addition, United Firm members “supervised farms and residential real estate, an ashery, a tannery, a stone quarry, a sawmill, and a brick kiln” (in The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 2: July 1831–January 1833, ed. Matthew C. Godfrey and others , 498). The profits made from these businesses were to be used to finance the work of building Zion as well as to provide income to United Firm members (see D&C 82:17–19).
By April 1834 the United Firm was experiencing serious financial problems. Because of mob violence in Missouri in 1833, William W. Phelps’s printing office in Jackson County had been destroyed and Sidney Gilbert was forced to close his storehouse. Consequently, neither the printing office nor the store could produce income for the firm, but the firm still had to repay the debts it had acquired to establish and supply these businesses. In Ohio, United Firm members increasingly became indebted to New York companies as they borrowed money to supply the Kirtland storehouse and to purchase land and a new printing press in Kirtland. In addition, some of the firm’s members “manifest[ed] a covetous spirit toward the firm’s property for which they were responsible” (in The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 4: April 1834–September 1835, 20). Because of these difficulties, “members of the Kirtland branch of the United Firm met on 10 April 1834 and decided ‘that the firm should be [dissolved] and each one’ receive a stewardship, or property, to oversee and manage” (in The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 4: April 1834–September 1835, 21; see also The Joseph Smith Papers, Journals, Volume 1: 1832–1839, ed. Dean C. Jessee and others , 38). About two weeks later the Prophet Joseph Smith received the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 104, which contained further instructions from the Lord regarding the United Firm and its properties.
For more information concerning the United Firm, see the commentary for Doctrine and Covenants 78 and 82 in chapters 29 and 30 in this manual.
Note: “In later editions of the Doctrine and Covenants, the United Firm was called the ‘United Order,’ and code names were inserted in place of the participants’ names. In addition, language about the firm’s purpose was changed so that it referred more vaguely to meeting the needs of the poor. This was done to protect the identity of those involved in the firm and to keep its purposes confidential. The names of the individuals were restored to the revelations in the 1980s, but the firm is still referred to as the United Order in the 2013 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants” (Matthew C. Godfrey, “Newel K. Whitney and the United Firm,” in Revelations in Context, ed. Matthew C. Godfrey and James Goldberg , 146, or history.lds.org).
When the United Firm was established, its members covenanted to consecrate their property to the firm and to work in unity to build up Zion (see D&C 78:11–12; 82:11–12, 15). Later, the Lord gave them a “promise immutable and unchangeable,” or absolute and binding, “that inasmuch as [they] were faithful [to their covenants] they should be blessed with a multiplicity of blessings” (D&C 104:2). Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles listed some of the many blessings that Church members can receive as they make and faithfully keep their covenants with the Lord:
“A covenant is an agreement between God and man, an accord whose terms are set by God (see Bible Dictionary, “Covenant,” 651). In these divine agreements, God binds Himself to sustain, sanctify, and exalt us in return for our commitment to serve Him and keep His commandments. …
“… As we walk in obedience to the principles and commandments of the gospel of Jesus Christ, we enjoy a continual flow of blessings promised by God in His covenant with us. Those blessings provide the resources we need to act rather than simply be acted upon as we go through life. …
“In the covenant path we find a steady supply of gifts and help. … We are part of a covenant people, a community of Saints who encourage, sustain, and minister to one another. …
“… Our covenants … produce the faith necessary to persevere and to do all things that are expedient in the Lord. Our willingness to take upon us the name of Christ and keep His commandments requires a degree of faith, but as we honor our covenants, that faith expands. …
“… Our covenant commitment to Him permits our Heavenly Father to let His divine influence, ‘the power of godliness’ (D&C 84:20), flow into our lives. He can do that because by our participation in priesthood ordinances we exercise our agency and elect to receive it. …
“Divine covenants make strong Christians. I urge each one to qualify for and receive all the priesthood ordinances you can and then faithfully keep the promises you have made by covenant. In times of distress, let your covenants be paramount and let your obedience be exact. Then you can ask in faith, nothing wavering, according to your need, and God will answer. He will sustain you as you work and watch. In His own time and way He will stretch forth his hand to you, saying, ‘Here am I’” (“The Power of Covenants,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2009, 20–22).
The Lord chastened some members of the United Firm who “[broke] the covenant through covetousness, and with feigned words” (D&C 104:4). “Feigned words” are words that are dishonest or that conceal a person’s true intent, and to covet means “to envy someone or to have an excessive desire for something” (Guide to the Scriptures, “Covet,” scriptures.lds.org). The Apostle Paul taught that covetousness is a form of “idolatry” (see Colossians 3:5). Setting our hearts upon the things of the world prevents us from being completely loyal and devoted to the Lord and His kingdom.
Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin (1917–2008) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles warned against the dangers of covetousness: “Brothers and sisters, beware of covetousness. It is one of the great afflictions of these latter days. It creates greed and resentment. Often it leads to bondage, heartbreak, and crushing, grinding debt” (“Earthly Debts, Heavenly Debts,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2004, 40).
The Lord warned members of the United Firm that if they violated their covenants and did not repent, they would be “cut off,” or excommunicated from the Church, and “deliver[ed] … over unto the buffetings of Satan” (see D&C 104:8–10). Elder Bruce R. McConkie (1915–1985) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles wrote that “to be turned over to the buffetings of Satan is to be given into his hands; it is to be turned over to him with all the protective power of the priesthood, of righteousness, and of godliness removed, so that Lucifer is free to torment, persecute, and afflict such a person without let or hindrance. When the bars are down, the cuffs and curses of Satan, both in this world and in the world to come, bring indescribable anguish typified by burning fire and brimstone” (Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed. , 108).
A steward is someone who manages the property or affairs of someone else. Because the Lord created the earth and everything on it, “all things” belong to Him—the land, its resources, and His children who dwell on the earth (see D&C 104:13–14, 55–56). Since all things belong to the Lord, we are His stewards. Based on this principle, the Lord instructed that each member of the United Firm be given an individual stewardship, which would be allotted from the properties managed by the United Firm. In this way the Lord made each member of the firm accountable for the management and use of the resources He entrusted to him. Similarly, the Lord will hold each of us accountable for our use of the earth’s resources and the degree to which we fulfill the responsibilities He gives us.
For more information regarding stewardships and accountability for stewardships, see the commentary for Doctrine and Covenants 51:19 and 72:2–3 in this manual.
The Lord intends to “provide for [His] Saints, … but it must needs be done in [His] own way” rather than according to the ways of the world (D&C 104:15–16). The Lord revealed what His way is when He gave the Saints the law of His gospel, which included the law of consecration and the principles of stewardship and personal accountability (see D&C 42:18–42). By consecrating, or dedicating, their “time, talents, and material wealth to the establishment and building up of God’s kingdom” (Guide to the Scriptures, “Consecrate, Law of Consecration,” scriptures.lds.org), Latter-day Saints fulfill their sacred stewardship to help care for one another, particularly the poor and needy.
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the First Presidency taught about the Lord’s way to care for the poor and needy: “There are many good people and organizations in the world that are trying to meet the pressing needs of the poor and needy everywhere. We are grateful for this, but the Lord’s way of caring for the needy is different from the world’s way. The Lord has said, ‘It must needs be done in mine own way’ [D&C 104:16]. He is not only interested in our immediate needs; He is also concerned about our eternal progression. For this reason, the Lord’s way has always included self-reliance and service to our neighbor in addition to caring for the poor” (“Providing in the Lord’s Way,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2011, 54).
Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin explained how “the poor [are] exalted” and “the rich are made low” (D&C 104:16) when Church members provide for others in the Lord’s way: “The Lord’s way consists of helping people help themselves. The poor are exalted because they work for the temporary assistance they receive, they are taught correct principles, and they are able to lift themselves from poverty to self-reliance. The rich are made low because they humble themselves to give generously of their means to those in need” (“Inspired Church Welfare,” Ensign, May 1999, 77).
Some have suggested that the earth’s population will eventually exceed its resources. In the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 104, the Lord emphasized that there are plenty of resources in the earth for all of God’s children (see D&C 104:17). The problem is not limited resources. The problem is an unwillingness to share the earth’s abundance with the poor and needy. In His “law” unto the Church, the Lord commanded the Saints to “remember the poor, and consecrate of [their resources] for their support” (D&C 42:30). As recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 104:18, the Lord warned that if the Saints did not “impart” their “portion, according to the law of [His] gospel, unto the poor and the needy,” they would “with the wicked, lift up [their] eyes in hell, being in torment.” This has reference to Jesus Christ’s parable of the rich man and Lazarus (see Luke 16:19–31). Like the rich man in the parable, those who will not share their abundance with the poor will suffer the pains of hell in the world to come.
Elder D. Todd Christofferson commended Church members for their generosity while inviting them to consider what more they can do to help the poor and needy:
“We control the disposition of our means and resources, but we account to God for this stewardship over earthly things. It is gratifying to witness your generosity as you contribute to fast offerings and humanitarian projects. Over the years, the suffering of millions has been alleviated, and countless others have been enabled to help themselves through the generosity of the Saints. Nevertheless, as we pursue the cause of Zion, each of us should prayerfully consider whether we are doing what we should and all that we should in the Lord’s eyes with respect to the poor and the needy.
“We might ask ourselves, living as many of us do in societies that worship possessions and pleasures, whether we are remaining aloof from covetousness and the lust to acquire more and more of this world’s goods. Materialism is just one more manifestation of the idolatry and pride that characterize Babylon. Perhaps we can learn to be content with what is sufficient for our needs” (“Come to Zion,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2008, 39).
While the phrase “the poor and the needy” (D&C 104:18) can refer specifically to those in financial need, it can also include those in need of spiritual, emotional, mental, and social assistance. Similarly, “the abundance” of the earth can include a person’s time, talents, skills, spiritual gifts, and knowledge, in addition to material possessions.
In the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 104, the Lord gave specific instructions about the stewardships assigned to members of the United Firm living in Kirtland, Ohio. The revelation does not mention assigning properties to members of the firm living in Missouri, likely because the Saints had recently been expelled from Jackson County. The Lord directed that the firm’s properties in Kirtland be divided and assigned to individual members, who became responsible for managing them, so “that every man may give an account unto [Him] of the stewardship which is appointed unto him” (see D&C 104:11–13). The Lord then made the same promise to each firm member mentioned in the revelation: If they were faithful in their stewardships, the Lord would “multiply blessings upon them” (see D&C 104:23, 25, 31, 33, 35, 38, 42, 46). Similarly, if we are faithful in the stewardships the Lord gives us, He will “multiply” our blessings.
Although members of the United Firm in Ohio had decided on April 10, 1834, to disband the firm, the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 104 instructed them to reorganize the firm and to separate the Ohio and Missouri branches so they could function independently (see D&C 104:47–50). The Lord explained, “This I have commanded to be done for your salvation” (D&C 104:51), likely referring to the firm members’ financial salvation. However, rather than being reorganized, “the United Firm effectively ceased to exist soon after this revelation was dictated,” perhaps because “leaders may have decided to transfer much of the responsibility for the church’s temporal endeavors to other administrative bodies, such as the Kirtland high council” (in The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents 4: April 1834–September 1835, 21–22).
The Lord reminded members of the United Firm that the individual properties assigned to them were His and that they were His stewards. He expected each of them to manage his stewardship wisely so that funds would be created for the printing of the scriptures and other revelations He would give (see D&C 104:58, 63). While the phrase “the fulness of my scriptures” (D&C 104:58) refers specifically to Joseph Smith’s inspired translation of the Bible, the earliest copy of the revelation recorded in section 104 suggests that this phrase was also intended to include the Book of Mormon and the revelations contained in the Doctrine and Covenants (see The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 4: April 1834–September 1835, 29).
Elder D. Todd Christofferson taught, “The central purpose of all scripture is to fill our souls with faith in God the Father and in His Son, Jesus Christ” (“The Blessing of Scripture,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2010, 34). Therefore, publishing the scriptures and making them available to be read and studied would help bring God’s children to a knowledge of the restored gospel, “[build] up [the Lord’s] church and kingdom on the earth, and … prepare [His] people” for His Second Coming (D&C 104:59).
To finance the work of printing the scriptures and building Zion, the Lord instructed that two treasuries, or accounts, be established. The first, known as the “sacred treasury of the Lord,” was to fund the printing operations of the Church (see D&C 104:63–66). The “avails,” or profits, from the sale of Church publications were to be kept in this treasury (see D&C 104:65). The second treasury was to contain the profits made from individual stewardships. Members of the firm could draw from the funds in this treasury when necessary to help them carry out their stewardships (see D&C 104:72–73).
Less than a week before the Prophet Joseph Smith received the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 104, Bishop Newel K. Whitney, a member of the United Firm, prepared a document detailing the many debts owed by the United Firm (see The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 4: April 1834–September 1835, 10–12). Members of the firm had borrowed money through Bishop Whitney’s store to pay for the Church’s mercantile and publishing operations in Ohio and Missouri. The Lord did not command that the United Firm be reorganized because He wanted the firm to avoid paying its debts; in fact, He instructed firm members that “it is my will that you shall pay all your debts” (D&C 104:78). Given the enormous financial burdens of the Church in the spring of 1834, this was a challenging task. The Lord promised, however, that if they would be “diligent and humble, and exercise the prayer of faith,” He would “soften the hearts” of their creditors until He sent “means” for them to pay their debts (D&C 104:80).
In the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 104, the Lord referred to the firm’s debts as “bondage.” By paying their debts, members of the firm would be “delivered” from their financial “bondage” (see D&C 104:80, 83–84). Likewise, latter-day prophets have admonished Church members to pay what they owe and avoid unnecessary and excessive debt. Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin taught:
“Honor your financial obligations. From time to time, we hear stories of greed and selfishness that strike us with great sorrow. We hear of fraud, defaulting on loan commitments, financial deceptions, and bankruptcies. …
“We are a people of integrity. We believe in honoring our debts and being honest in our dealings with our fellow men” (“Earthly Debts, Heavenly Debts,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2004, 42).
President Gordon B. Hinckley declared:
“So many of our people are living on the very edge of their incomes. In fact, some are living on borrowings. …
“I urge you … to look to the condition of your finances. I urge you to be modest in your expenditures; discipline yourselves in your purchases to avoid debt to the extent possible. Pay off debt as quickly as you can, and free yourselves from bondage.
“This is a part of the temporal gospel in which we believe” (“To the Boys and to the Men,” Ensign, Nov. 1998, 53–54).