Chapter 41: Doctrine and Covenants 103; 105

“Chapter 41: Doctrine and Covenants 103; 105,” Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual (2017)

“Chapter 41,” Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual

Chapter 41

Doctrine and Covenants 103105

Introduction and Timeline

On February 24, 1834, Parley P. Pratt and Lyman Wight met with the Prophet Joseph Smith and the Kirtland high council to explain the plight of the Saints in Missouri and to seek counsel and help. On the same day, the Prophet received the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 103, in which the Lord promised that the Saints would be “[restored] to the land of Zion” if they did not “pollute their inheritances” (D&C 103:13–14) and directed Church leaders to gather resources and recruits to help the Saints in Missouri.

In obedience to the Lord’s command, the Prophet Joseph Smith and just over 200 volunteers formed the Camp of Israel (later known as Zion’s Camp) in order to go to the aid of the Saints who had been forced out of their homes in Jackson County, Missouri. On June 22, 1834, while camped four miles north of Fishing River, Missouri, Joseph Smith dictated the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 105, in which the Lord explained that the Saints must “wait for a little season for the redemption of Zion” (D&C 105:9). The Lord also gave instructions concerning what would need to occur in order for Zion to be redeemed, or reclaimed by the Saints, at a future time.

November–December 1833The Saints were forced to leave Jackson County, Missouri.

February 24, 1834Doctrine and Covenants 103 was received.

March–May 1834Church leaders recruited men and gathered money in preparation for the march to Missouri.

May 1834Members of Zion’s Camp began their march from Ohio and Michigan to Missouri.

June 15, 1834The Prophet Joseph Smith learned that Governor Daniel Dunklin would not provide a militia to help the Saints return to their homes in Jackson County, Missouri.

June 22, 1834Doctrine and Covenants 105 was received.

Late June 1834Members of Zion’s Camp and other Church members were afflicted with cholera.

Early July 1834Zion’s Camp members were discharged.

Doctrine and Covenants 103: Additional Historical Background

When the Saints living in Jackson County, Missouri, were driven from their homes in late 1833, many of them found refuge across the Missouri River in Clay County, Missouri. The Prophet Joseph Smith learned of these Saints’ circumstances through letters he received from them. In early January 1834, Parley P. Pratt and Lyman Wight volunteered to travel from Missouri to Kirtland, Ohio, to talk to Joseph Smith in person and give him details about the Saints’ condition in Missouri.

On February 24, 1834, the Prophet Joseph Smith, the newly created Kirtland high council, and others met to hear from Parley P. Pratt and Lyman Wight, and the group discussed how the Saints might be returned to their homes in Jackson County. The Prophet stated that he was determined to go to Missouri and help redeem Zion, and approximately 30–40 persons who were present in the meeting also committed to go. (See The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 3: February 1833–March 1834, ed. Gerrit J. Dirkmaat and others [2014], 453–54.)

Sometime that same day, the Prophet Joseph Smith received the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 103. It was seen in part as the continued fulfillment of the prophecy given six months earlier, in which the Lord indicated that the Prophet would lead “the strength of mine house … unto the land of my vineyard, and redeem my vineyard” (see D&C 101:55–56). In obedience to the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 103, Church leaders traveled for several weeks among many congregations of the Saints, gathering funds and supplies and recruiting volunteers to assist in an expedition that was originally known as the Camp of Israel and later called Zion’s Camp. (See The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 3: February 1833 –March 1834, 453–54, 457–59.)

Map 9: Zion’s Camp Route, 1834

Doctrine and Covenants 103:1–20

The Lord promises that Zion will be redeemed

Doctrine and Covenants 103:1–3. “How to act in the discharge of your duties concerning … your brethren”

In late July 1833, Church leaders in Missouri were forced to sign an agreement stating that half of the Saints would leave Jackson County by January 1, 1834, and the rest by April 1, 1834 (see The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 3: February 1833–March 1834, 187). However, the Prophet Joseph Smith advised the Saints not to sell their lands in Jackson County and that they seek protection and redress from government authorities (see The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 3: February 1833–March 1834, 332–33). During the final weeks of 1833, Church members faced hostile persecution, leading them to abandon their homes and to seek refuge in Clay County, Missouri, and in other locations. Hundreds of Church members struggled as refugees during the winter months of 1833–1834, living in shelters that they hastily constructed along the northern bank of the Missouri River (see The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 3: February 1833–March 1834, 346–47, note 142). In February 1834 the Lord gave Church leaders in Kirtland, Ohio, “a revelation and commandment, that [they] might know how to act in the discharge of [their] duties concerning the salvation and redemption of [their] brethren, who [had] been scattered on the land of Zion” (D&C 103:1).

fence and field in Clay County, Missouri

Many of the Saints who were forced to leave their homes in Jackson County, Missouri, in late 1833 found refuge near this location in Clay County, Missouri.

Similarly, Church leaders today have admonished the Saints to reach out to and assist refugees around the world and in our own communities. Elder Patrick Kearon of the Seventy compared the plight of refugees today to that of the early Latter-day Saints:

“As members of the Church, as a people, we don’t have to look back far in our history to reflect on times when we were refugees, violently driven from homes and farms over and over again. …

“The Lord has instructed us that the stakes of Zion are to be ‘a defense’ and ‘a refuge from the storm’ [D&C 115:6; see also Isaiah 4:5–6]. We have found refuge. Let us come out from our safe places and share with them, from our abundance, hope for a brighter future, faith in God and in our fellowman, and love that sees beyond cultural and ideological differences to the glorious truth that we are all children of our Heavenly Father” (“Refuge from the Storm,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2016, 111, 113–14).

Sister Linda K. Burton, who served as Relief Society General President, also spoke of the plight of refugees and provided counsel on how to help those in need:

“There are more than 60 million refugees, including forcibly displaced people, worldwide. Half of those are children. ‘These individuals have undergone tremendous difficulties and are starting over in … new countr[ies] and culture[s]. While there are [sometimes] organizations that help them with a place to live and basic necessities, what they need is a friend and ally who can help them [adjust] to their new home, a person who can help them learn the language, understand the systems, and feel connected’ [‘40 Ways to Help Refugees in Your Community,’ Sept. 9, 2015,]. …

“A First Presidency letter sent to the Church on October 27, 2015, expressed great concern and compassion for the millions of people who have fled their homes seeking relief from civil conflict and other hardships. The First Presidency invited individuals, families, and Church units to participate in Christlike service in local refugee relief projects and to contribute to the Church humanitarian fund, where practical. …

“As we consider the ‘pressing calls’ of those who need our help, let’s ask ourselves, ‘What if their story were my story?’ May we then seek inspiration, act on impressions we receive, and reach out in unity to help those in need as we are able and inspired to do so” (“I Was a Stranger,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2016, 13–15).

Doctrine and Covenants 103:4–10. “They shall … begin to prevail against mine enemies”

The Lord explained that the Saints who were forced to leave Jackson County, Missouri, suffered “because they did not hearken altogether unto the precepts and commandments which [He] gave unto them” (D&C 103:4; see also D&C 101:2, 6–9). The Lord had earlier noted that “there were jarrings, and contentions, and envyings, and strifes, and lustful and covetous desires among them” (D&C 101:6). As followers of Jesus Christ, the Saints were commanded to be “a light unto the world, and to be the saviors of men” (D&C 103:9). Because some of the Saints had not heeded the Lord’s commandments, they were “chastened … with a sore and grievous chastisement” (D&C 103:4). Nevertheless, He promised divine help and protection if they would repent and immediately “hearken … unto [His] counsel” (D&C 103:5).

The Prophet Joseph Smith (1805–1844) taught the following to Church leaders who were serving missions in Great Britain :

“The work in which we are unitedly engaged is one of no ordinary kind. The enemies we have to contend against are subtle and well skilled in maneuvering; it behooves us to be on the alert to concentrate our energies, and that the best feelings should exist in our midst; and then, by the help of the Almighty, we shall go on from victory to victory, and from conquest to conquest; our evil passions will be subdued, our prejudices depart; we shall find no room in our bosoms for hatred; vice will hide its deformed head, and we shall stand approved in the sight of heaven, and be acknowledged the sons of God.

“Let us realize that we are not to live to ourselves, but to God; by so doing the greatest blessings will rest upon us both in time and in eternity” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith [2007], 276).

President Gordon B. Hinckley (1910–2008) affirmed that our ability to prevail against those who oppose the Lord and His work depends upon our obedience to the Lord’s commandments and standards: “While [the world’s] standards generally may totter, we of the Church are without excuse if we drift in the same manner. We have standards—sure, tested, and effective. To the extent that we observe them, we shall go forward. To the extent that we neglect them, we shall hinder our own progress and bring embarrassment to the work of the Lord. These standards have come from Him. Some of them may appear a little out-of-date in our society, but this does not detract from their validity nor diminish the virtue of their application. The subtle reasoning of men, no matter how clever, no matter how plausible it may sound, cannot abridge the declared wisdom of God” (“Pursue the Steady Course,” Ensign, Jan. 2005, 4–5).

Doctrine and Covenants 103:11–20. “The redemption of Zion”

In June of 1831 the Lord declared to the Saints that the land of Missouri would be consecrated as “the land of their inheritance” (see D&C 52:2–5, 42). Revelation given to the Prophet Joseph Smith indicated that the city of Independence in Jackson County, Missouri, was to be the center place of the city of Zion, or the New Jerusalem, where the Saints would gather from every nation, where a temple would be built, and where the Saints would dwell in safety and peace in their land of inheritance (see D&C 45:66–69; 57:3; 84:2–4). Yet, by the end of 1833, Church members living in Jackson County had been forced to leave their homes and lands and “[had] been scattered” (see D&C 103:11).

Following the expulsion of the Saints from Jackson County, the Prophet received revelations indicating that Zion would eventually be redeemed, meaning that the modern-day land of promise would be reclaimed, or recovered, after the Saints had been sanctified (see D&C 101:16–20; 103:11–15; 105:1–10). In the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 103, the Lord likened the redemption of Zion to the children of Israel being led to the land of their inheritance. He said, “I will raise up unto my people a man, who shall lead them like Moses led the children of Israel” (D&C 103:16; see also Exodus 3:7–10). He told the Saints that they were “the children of Israel, and of the seed of Abraham” and needed to be “led out of bondage by power” (D&C 103:17). He assured them that not only would His angel go before them, like it was with the ancient Israelites, but His “presence” would be there as well (see D&C 103:19–20). The Lord had withheld His presence from the children of Israel led by Moses because they were “a stiffnecked people” (see Exodus 33:2–3).

The Lord explained in an earlier revelation that not only was the Prophet Joseph Smith like a latter-day Moses, but that each President of the Church would “be like unto Moses” as well (D&C 107:91; see also D&C 28:2).

Doctrine and Covenants 103:21–40

The Lord instructs the Saints to return to Zion and commands the Prophet Joseph Smith to organize the Camp of Israel

Doctrine and Covenants 103:21–28. The Lord commands the Prophet Joseph Smith to go to Zion

In December 1833 the Lord revealed a parable regarding the redemption of the land of Zion. In that parable “a certain nobleman” had his servants plant 12 olive trees on a “very choice piece of land” (D&C 101:44). He commanded his servants to “set watchmen round about them, and build a tower, that one may overlook the land” and protect it from the enemy (D&C 101:45). However, the servants did not complete the tower, and the enemy “came by night, and … destroyed their works, and broke down the olive-trees” (see D&C 101:46–51). The nobleman, the Lord of the vineyard, then said to one of his servants, “Go and gather together the residue of my servants, and take all the strength of mine house, which are my warriors, … and go ye straightway unto the land of my vineyard, and redeem my vineyard” (D&C 101:55–56).

In the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 103, the Lord identified the Prophet Joseph Smith as the servant in the parable who would “redeem,” or reclaim, the vineyard (see D&C 103:21). The Lord instructed the Prophet to deliver the Saints who had been scattered from their lands by leading a group comprised of “the strength of my house” to Missouri (D&C 103:22). Because this assignment was potentially dangerous, the Lord said that the members of this group should be willing to sacrifice their lives if necessary in order to fulfill His commandment (see D&C 103:27–28).

President James E. Faust (1920–2007) of the First Presidency explained that sacrifice is required of all disciples of Jesus Christ, whether or not they are asked to sacrifice their lives:

“True followers of the Savior should be prepared to lay down their lives, and some have been privileged to do so. …

“For most of us, however, what is required is not to die for the Church but to live for it. For many, living a Christlike life every day may be even more difficult than laying down one’s life” (“Discipleship,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2006, 21–22).

Doctrine and Covenants 103:29–40. “Five hundred of the strength of my house”

During a meeting held in Kirtland, Ohio, on February 24, 1834, upon hearing Parley P. Pratt and Lyman Wight’s report of the suffering of the Church members in Missouri, the Prophet Joseph Smith and approximately 30–40 other men who were present in the meeting committed to go to the land of Zion to help the persecuted Saints (see The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 3: February 1833–March 1834, 458) In the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 103, the Lord called the Prophet Joseph Smith and seven other brethren to recruit volunteers for an expedition to Missouri. They were to enlist at least one hundred men, but preferably “five hundred of the strength of my house” (D&C 103:30; see also D&C 103:34).

Within days of receiving the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 103, the Prophet Joseph Smith and seven other Church leaders left the Kirtland, Ohio, area for several weeks to visit congregations of the Saints, gather contributions, and recruit volunteers who were willing to come to the aid of the displaced Saints in Missouri. They worked quickly because they planned to depart on May 1, 1834. (See The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 3: February 1833–March 1834, 458–59; see also The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 4: April 1834–September 1835, ed. Matthew C. Godfrey and others [2016], xix).

Doctrine and Covenants 105: Additional Historical Background

In February 1834 the Prophet Joseph Smith declared his intention to lead an expedition of men to Missouri to help Church members regain their homes and lands in Jackson County. In the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 103, the Lord instructed the Prophet and seven other men to travel to outlying branches of the Church to recruit volunteers willing to help redeem Zion (see D&C 103:22–40). Although the Lord had asked them to try to recruit 500 men for the journey, the most they were able to recruit was a little more than 200 men, accompanied by approximately 12 women and 10 children (see The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 4: April 1834–September 1835, xx).

On several occasions, as hostilities toward the Saints escalated in Missouri, Church leaders there petitioned the governor, Daniel Dunklin, for protection and asked that the state provide a military escort so that the Saints could return to their lands and homes. In December 1833, William W. Phelps sent a letter to Church leaders in Ohio, explaining that “the Governor is willing to restore us, but as the constitution gives him no power to guard us, when back, we are not willing to go” (in The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 3: February 1833–March 1834, 384).

Members of the expedition organized by the Prophet Joseph Smith made preparations to go to Missouri to assist the state militia in helping the displaced Saints return to their homes. The men in the expedition would then remain as a protective force in Jackson County. In early May 1834 the Prophet Joseph Smith departed with around 100 men from northeastern Ohio. This group was referred to as the Camp of Israel and later became known as Zion’s Camp (see The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 4: April 1834–September 1835, xx). The group traveled approximately 900 miles through Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois to Missouri. They were joined by additional men who had been recruited by Hyrum Smith and Lyman Wight in the Michigan Territory and others who joined them on the way west (see The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 4: April 1834–September 1835, xx).

As Zion’s Camp traveled through northern Missouri, tension grew in Jackson County and in surrounding counties as word spread that a Mormon army was approaching. The Prophet Joseph Smith sent Parley P. Pratt and Orson Hyde to the Missouri state capitol in Jefferson City to request the military assistance that Governor Daniel Dunklin had promised in order to help the Saints reclaim their lands in Jackson County. However, Governor Dunklin was reluctant to get involved in the matter. This meant that the Saints would not receive the protection they needed in order to regain their homes. (See The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 4: April 1834–September 1835, 62.)

Fishing River campsite, Clay County, Missouri

Zion’s Camp stopped in this area between the two branches of Fishing River in Clay County, Missouri, on June 19, 1834. A violent storm occurred on that night, protecting the Saints from attack by a mob.

After receiving news that they would not receive assistance from Governor Dunklin, the members of Zion’s Camp proceeded toward the displaced Saints who were sheltered in Clay County, Missouri, and then camped approximately 10 miles northeast of Liberty, Missouri, between two forks of the Fishing River. On June 19, five armed men approached the camp and threatened that approximately 400 men were planning to attack the camp that night. However, the members of Zion’s Camp were protected when a thunderstorm dropped large hailstones and caused the Fishing River to rise nearly 40 feet, preventing the mob from attacking. (See The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 4: April 1834–September 1835, 63.) Members of Zion’s camp viewed the storm as evidence that God was protecting them. One member of the camp, Nathan Baldwin, stated, “The Lord had previously said He would fight the battles of His saints … and it seemed as though the mandate had gone forth from His presence, to ply the artillery of Heaven in defense of His servants” (in Matthew C. Godfrey, “The Acceptable Offering of Zion’s Camp,” in Revelations in Context, ed. Matthew McBride and James Goldberg [2016], or

In an effort to calm the Missouri citizens, the Prophet Joseph Smith and some others in the camp signed a statement on June 21, 1834, indicating that they did not intend “to commence hostilities against any man or body of men” but sought for a peaceful way for the Saints to return to Jackson County (in The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 4: April 1834–September 1835, 69–70; spelling standardized). The following day, on June 22, 1834, the Prophet held a council to discuss how the camp should proceed. During the meeting, he received the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 105, which revealed that the Church was no longer required to redeem the land of Zion at that time. As members of the camp learned that they would not be required to fight, some accepted it as the Lord’s will, but some were upset and murmured and some even apostatized from the Church (see The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 4: April 1834–September 1835, 71–72).

Heber C. Kimball, a member of Zion’s Camp who later served in the First Presidency, recorded that before the members of Zion’s Camp entered Missouri, the Prophet Joseph Smith had warned them of a scourge: “Brother Joseph got up in a wagon and said he would deliver a prophecy. After giving the brethren much good advice, he exhorted them to faithfulness and humility, and said the Lord had told him that there would be scourge come upon the camp in consequence of the fractious and unruly spirits that appeared among them, and they would die like sheep with the rot; still if they would repent and humble themselves before the Lord, the scourge in great measure might be turned away; ‘but, as the Lord lives, this camp will suffer for giving way to their unruly temper’; which afterwards actually did take place to the sorrow of the brethren” (Orson F. Whitney, The Life of Heber C. Kimball [1945], 47–48).

Rush Creek campsite, Clay County, Missouri

On June 24, 1834, Zion’s Camp stayed on the banks of Rush Creek just a few miles east of Liberty, Missouri. Here the group was struck by an outbreak of cholera that killed 13 from Zion’s Camp and 2 local Church members. Some of the victims were buried near here on property owned by Church member George Burkett.

Two days after the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 105 was received, the camp experienced the beginnings of an outbreak of cholera, causing vomiting and severe diarrhea. As a result, 68 people, including the Prophet Joseph Smith, suffered from the sickness, and 13 members of the camp and 2 other Latter-day Saints who were living in Clay County died (see The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 4: April 1834–September 1835, 72, note 334).

Doctrine and Covenants 105:1–19

The redemption of Zion is deferred “for a little season”

Doctrine and Covenants 105:1–8. “They have not learned to be obedient”

In the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 105, the Lord outlined some of the reasons why Zion was not to be redeemed at that time. The Saints’ transgressions prevented them from achieving the unity that is required for Zion to be established (see D&C 105:3–5). For example, Church members who lived outside of Missouri withheld the requested funds for purchasing land in Missouri and in Kirtland, Ohio, for the temple and to help with the Zion’s Camp expedition. (See The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 4: April 1834–September 1835, 5–6.) On April 7, 1834, in a letter written before the camp’s departure, the Prophet Joseph Smith, along with two members of the United Firm, expressed displeasure with the Saints’ lack of response, saying, “If this Church which is [attempting] to be the church of Christ will not help us when they can do it without sacrifice with those blessings which God has bestowed upon them, … God shall take away their talent and give it to those who have no talent and shall prevent them from ever obtaining a place of refuge or an inheritance upon the Land of Zion” (in The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 4: April 1834–September 1835, 8; spelling and punctuation standardized).

Doctrine and Covenants 105:4–5. “The principles of the law of the celestial kingdom”

Through the Prophet Joseph Smith, the Lord told the Saints that “Zion cannot be built up unless it is by the principles of the law of the celestial kingdom” (D&C 105:5). The city of Zion is to be “the City of Holiness” (Moses 7:19), “the city of our God” (D&C 97:19), a place of purity where the Lord may dwell among His Saints. It is a representation of the celestial kingdom here on the earth. “The principles of the law of the celestial kingdom” (D&C 105:5) are found in the gospel of Jesus Christ (see D&C 76:50–60). By living the principles of the gospel, we become “of one heart and one mind, and [dwell] in righteousness; and there [are] no poor among [us],” which are distinguishing characteristics of Zion (Moses 7:18).

Zion’s Camp, by Judith A. Mehr

Zion’s Camp, by Judith A. Mehr. A storm occurred on June 19, 1834, when Zion’s Camp stopped for the night on land between the forks of Fishing River in Clay County, Missouri, which prevented a mob from attacking the Saints.

Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles described how we as Saints can become united:

“As we consider the unity required for Zion to flourish, we should ask ourselves if we have overcome jarrings, contentions, envyings, and strifes (see D&C 101:6). Are we individually and as a people free from strife and contention and united ‘according to the union required by the law of the celestial kingdom’? (D&C 105:4). Forgiveness of one another is essential to this unity. Jesus said, ‘I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men’ (D&C 64:10).

“We will become of one heart and one mind as we individually place the Savior at the center of our lives and follow those He has commissioned to lead us” (“Come to Zion,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2008, 38).

Doctrine and Covenants 105:9–13. “Wait for a little season for the redemption of Zion”

The Lord explained that the Saints would have to “wait for a little season” before Zion would be redeemed (D&C 105:9, 13; see also D&C 100:13; 103:4). Elder Bruce R. McConkie (1915–1985) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught about what Church members need to do during that “little season” before Zion is redeemed:

“A little season—how long will it last? Will it be two hundred years? or three hundred? Though the day of the Second Coming is fixed, the day for the redemption of Zion depends upon us. After we as a people live the law of the celestial kingdom; after we gain the needed experience and learn our duties; after we become by faith and obedience as were our fellow saints in the days of Enoch; after we are worthy to be translated, if the purposes of the Lord should call for such a course in this day—then Zion will be redeemed, and not before.

“‘This cannot be brought to pass until mine elders are endowed with power from on high. For behold, I have prepared a great endowment and blessing to be poured out upon them, inasmuch as they are faithful and continue in humility before me’ [D&C 105:11–12]. As of this time the ordinances of the house of the Lord had not been revealed, and the endowment of power from on high received through them was needed in the heavenly work that lay ahead. ‘Therefore it is expedient in me that mine elders should wait for a little season, for the redemption of Zion’ [D&C 105:13]. And so we wait, wondering the while how long the ‘little season’ is destined to last. As to its length, we cannot say. This much only do we know: the ‘little season’ is the appointed period of preparation for the Latter-day Saints. In it we must attain the same spiritual stature enjoyed by those who built the original Zion. Then and then only will we build our latter-day City of Holiness” (A New Witness for the Articles of Faith [1985], 616).

Doctrine and Covenants 105:16–19. “It is expedient in me that they should be brought thus far for a trial of their faith”

While the primary purpose of the march of Zion’s Camp to Missouri seemed to go unfulfilled, the Lord explained that He had accepted the participants’ sacrifices as an “offering” and that they should view their experience as “a trial of their faith” (D&C 105:19). Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught:

“According to its ostensible purpose, the expedition [of Zion’s Camp] was a failure. But most of the men who were to lead the Church for the next half-century, including those who would take the Saints across the plains and colonize the Intermountain West, came to know the Prophet Joseph and received their formative leadership training in the march of Zion’s Camp. As Elder Orson F. Whitney said of Zion’s Camp:

“‘The redemption of Zion is more than the purchase or recovery of lands, the building of cities, or even the founding of nations. It is the conquest of the heart, the subjugation of the soul, the sanctifying of the flesh, the purifying and ennobling of the passions.’ (The Life of Heber C. Kimball, 2d ed., Salt Lake City: Stevens & Wallis, 1945, p. 65).” (“Spirituality,” Ensign, Nov. 1985, 62).

In February 1835, when the Prophet Joseph Smith organized the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and the Quorum of the Seventy, eight of the members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and all of the members of the Seventy had served in Zion’s Camp. “As recalled by Joseph Young, one of the original members of the Seventy, the Prophet explained to a group of these brethren: ‘God did not want you to fight. He could not organize His kingdom with twelve men to open the Gospel door to the nations of the earth, and with seventy men under their direction to follow in their tracks, unless He took them from a body of men who had offered their lives, and who had made as great a sacrifice as did Abraham’” (in Teachings: Joseph Smith, 283).

President Brigham Young and many other men who would become leaders in the Church received valuable training and experience at the Prophet Joseph Smith’s side during the march of Zion’s Camp. President Wilford Woodruff (1807–1898) testified of the blessings he received as a participant in Zion’s Camp:

“I was in Zion’s Camp with the Prophet of God. I saw the dealings of God with him. I saw the power of God with him. I saw that he was a Prophet. …

“When the members of Zion’s Camp were called, many of us had never beheld each other’s faces; we were strangers to each other and many had never seen the prophet. … We accomplished a great deal, though apostates and unbelievers many times asked the question, ‘What have you done?’ We gained an experience that we never could have gained in any other way. We had the privilege of beholding the face of the prophet, and we had the privilege of traveling a thousand miles with him, and seeing the workings of the Spirit of God with him, and the revelations of Jesus Christ unto him and the fulfilment of those revelations.

“The experience [we] obtained in travelling in Zion’s Camp was of more worth than gold” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Wilford Woodruff [2011], 135138).

Doctrine and Covenants 105:20–41

The Lord teaches the Saints what they must do before Zion is redeemed

Doctrine and Covenants 105:23–25, 38–40. “Carefully gather together, … consistently with the feelings of the people”

After Zion’s Camp was disbanded, the Lord commanded the Saints to continue gathering to other regions in Missouri, even though hostile circumstances persisted. The Lord counseled them not to “boast of faith nor of mighty works” to their neighbors or to suggest that judgments would come upon those who opposed them, as some Saints had previously done (D&C 105:24). Instead, they were to “lift up an ensign of peace” (D&C 105:39).

memorial in Mound Grove Cemetery, Independence, Missouri

In 1958 the remains of some of the Zion’s Camp cholera victims were discovered by a farmer; they were later reburied here in the Mound Grove Cemetery in Independence, Missouri, in 1976.

Similarly, in our day Church leaders have counseled us to show love and respect toward all people regardless of their beliefs or actions. Elder Dallin H. Oaks taught:

“We must … practice tolerance and respect toward others. … We should be alert to honor the good we should see in all people and in many opinions and practices that differ from our own. …

“That approach to differences will yield tolerance and also respect toward us.

“Our tolerance and respect for others and their beliefs does not cause us to abandon our commitment to the truths we understand and the covenants we have made. … We must stand up for truth, even while we practice tolerance and respect for beliefs and ideas different from our own and for the people who hold them” (“Balancing Truth and Tolerance,” Ensign, Feb. 2013, 27–28).