Chapter 47: Doctrine and Covenants 121:11–46

“Chapter 47: Doctrine and Covenants 121:11–46,” Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual (2017)

“Chapter 47,” Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual

Chapter 47

Doctrine and Covenants 121:11–46

Introduction and Timeline

On October 31, 1838, Missouri state militia troops took the Prophet Joseph Smith and other Church leaders prisoner in Far West, Missouri. These men were eventually imprisoned in Liberty Jail in Clay County, Missouri, and suffered greatly during their four months of confinement. While in Liberty Jail, the Prophet dictated a letter to Church members on March 20, 1839, and a second letter approximately two days later, in which he described the judgments the wicked will suffer as well as the blessings promised to those “who have endured valiantly for the gospel of Jesus Christ” (D&C 121:29). The Prophet Joseph Smith also taught principles about the authority and power of the priesthood. Portions of these letters are recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 121:11–46.

August–October 1838Misunderstanding and tension between Church members and other Missourians escalated to armed conflict.

October 27, 1838Governor Lilburn W. Boggs authorized the extermination or expulsion of all Latter-day Saints from the state of Missouri.

October 30, 1838Anti-Mormon vigilantes attacked Church members at the Hawn’s Mill settlement, located 12 miles east of Far West, Missouri, killing 17 men and boys and wounding 13 others.

October 31, 1838The Prophet Joseph Smith and others were taken prisoner by Missouri state militia troops at Far West, Missouri.

December 1, 1838The Prophet Joseph Smith and his companions were imprisoned in Liberty Jail in Clay County, Missouri.

March 20–22, 1839The Prophet Joseph Smith dictated letters from Liberty Jail, portions of which are recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 121–23.

April 6, 1839The Prophet Joseph Smith and his companions were taken from Liberty Jail to Gallatin, Missouri, to attend a court hearing. On April 16, 1839, they were allowed to escape custody, and they joined the Saints in Illinois.

Doctrine and Covenants 121:11–46: Additional Historical Background

After Governor Lilburn W. Boggs ordered the expulsion of all Latter-day Saints from the state of Missouri in October 1838, eight to ten thousand Church members were forced to leave their homes. From January through March 1839, many of them traveled east across the Mississippi River to Quincy, Illinois. The Quincy residents welcomed the Church members warmly, “providing [them with] food, shelter, and work” (in The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 6: February 1838–August 1839, ed. Mark Ashurst-McGee and others [2017], 275). Immediately, Church leaders began searching for potential settlement sites for the Saints. A land speculator named Isaac Galland offered to sell large tracts of land to the Church in Iowa as well as in Commerce, Illinois, and Church leaders wrote to the Prophet Joseph Smith, who was in Liberty Jail at the time, about the possibility of purchasing this land (see The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 6: February 1838–August 1839, 376–77; see also 377, note 650). On March 20, 1839, and again on approximately March 22, 1839, the Prophet responded to Church leaders by writing lengthy letters that included his thoughts and instructions regarding the potential land purchases (see The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 6: February 1838–August 1839, 389–90). These letters also included revelation the Lord gave the Prophet during his imprisonment. Portions of both letters are recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 121:11–46.

For additional information, see “Doctrine and Covenants 121–23: Additional Historical Background” in the previous chapter of this manual.

Doctrine and Covenants 121:11–25

The Lord describes the punishments reserved for those who oppose His work

Doctrine and Covenants 121:11–25. “They who do charge thee with transgression”

The Church’s financial institution, the Kirtland Safety Society, ended near the end of the summer of 1837 due to opposition from local citizens, the effects of a national economic crisis, and poor financial decisions made by Joseph Smith and other Church leaders. Many Church members in Ohio were disappointed and angry with the Prophet Joseph Smith, blamed him for their financial troubles, and called him a “fallen prophet” (see The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 5: October 1835–January 1838, ed. Brent M. Rogers and others [2017], 365). Some of these dissenters were excommunicated, after which they continued to oppose the Prophet and the Church and even threatened the lives of Joseph Smith and other Church leaders. Heeding the Lord’s warning that their lives were in danger, Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon left Kirtland, Ohio, in January 1838 and arrived with their families in Far West, Missouri, in March 1838. (See The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 5: October 1835–January 1838, 441–42, 537.) When they arrived they found that some of the Kirtland dissenters had also moved to Far West and had influenced Church leaders there, leading some of them to oppose the Prophet as well (see The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 6: February 1838–August 1839, 4, 8–9). These former Church members contributed to the events that led to the Prophet Joseph Smith’s imprisonment and the Saints’ expulsion from Missouri.

In the inspired words given to the Prophet Joseph Smith during his imprisonment in Liberty Jail, the Lord declared severe consequences for those who had lost faith and had actively sought to destroy God’s “anointed” servant (D&C 121:16). During the Last Supper, Jesus Christ announced that one of His disciples would betray Him. He quoted from a passage in the Old Testament: “Yea, mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread, hath lifted up his heel against me” (Psalm 41:9; see also John 13:18). The phrase “hath lifted up his heel against me” describes a person who has decided to openly oppose or fight against the Lord and His work or to turn his or her back and walk away from it. The use of this phrase in John 13:18 referred to the treachery of Judas, who betrayed Jesus Christ into the hands of His enemies. As recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 121, the Lord used the same phrase when referring to the apostates who had turned against the Prophet Joseph Smith and were seeking his destruction (see D&C 121:16).

depiction of Jesus giving the sop to Judas Iscariot

An Old Testament prophecy spoke of those who, like Judas, “hath lifted up his heel against me” (Psalm 41:9; see also John 13:18; D&C 121:16).

The Prophet Joseph Smith (1805–1844) explained:

“From apostates the faithful have received the severest persecutions. Judas was rebuked and immediately betrayed his Lord into the hands of His enemies, because Satan entered into him.

“There is a superior intelligence bestowed upon such as obey the Gospel with full purpose of heart, which, if sinned against, the apostate is left naked and destitute of the Spirit of God, and he is, in truth, nigh unto cursing, and his end is to be burned. When once that light which was in them is taken from them they become as much darkened as they were previously enlightened, and then, no marvel, if all their power should be enlisted against the truth, and they, Judas-like, seek the destruction of those who were their greatest benefactors” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith [2007], 321).

President Boyd K. Packer (1924–2015) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles cautioned Church members about individuals today who, like the apostates in Ohio and Missouri, fight against God’s kingdom:

“[The Lord] warned us of those few in the Church ‘who have professed to know my name and have not known me, and have blasphemed against me in the midst of my house’ [D&C 112:26]. …

“Some few within the Church openly or perhaps far worse, in the darkness of anonymity, reproach their leaders in the wards and stakes and in the Church, seeking to make them ‘an offender for a word’ [Isaiah 29:21], as Isaiah said. To them the Lord said:

“‘Cursed are all those that shall lift up the heel against mine anointed, saith the Lord, and cry they have sinned when they have not sinned … but have done that which was meet in mine eyes, and which I commanded them. …

“‘But those who cry transgression do it because they are the servants of sin, and are the children of disobedience themselves. …

“… because they have offended my little ones they shall be severed from the ordinances of mine house.

“‘Their basket shall not be full, their houses and their barns shall perish, and they themselves shall be despised by those that flattered them.

“‘They shall not have right to the priesthood, nor their posterity after them from generation to generation’ [D&C 121:16–17, 19–21].

“That terrible penalty will not apply to those who try as best they can to live the gospel and sustain their leaders. Nor need it apply to those who in the past have been guilty of indifference or even opposition, if they will repent, confess their transgressions, and forsake them [see D&C 58:43]” (“The Twelve Apostles,” Ensign, Nov. 1996, 7).

Doctrine and Covenants 121:19–21. “They shall not have right to the priesthood, nor their posterity after them”

The unrepentant apostates in Missouri determined that they would no longer follow the Prophet of God and, therefore, lost the privilege of participating in the ordinances and blessings of the priesthood. Their decision to separate themselves from God’s Church would eventually impact “their posterity after them from generation to generation” and restrict these descendants’ opportunities to enjoy the blessings of the gospel and the “right to the priesthood” (D&C 121:21). President Spencer W. Kimball (1895–1985) explained how this can occur:

“Among Church members rebellion frequently takes the form of criticism of authorities and leaders. They ‘speak evil of dignities’ and ‘of the things that they understand not,’ says Peter. (2 Pet. 2:10, 12.) They complain of the programs, belittle the constituted authorities, and generally set themselves up as judges. After a while they absent themselves from Church meetings for imagined offenses, and fail to pay their tithes and meet their other Church obligations. In a word, they have the spirit of apostasy, which is almost always the harvest of the seeds of criticism. …

“Such people fail to bear testimony to their descendants, destroy faith within their own homes, and actually deny the ‘right to the priesthood’ [D&C 121:21] to succeeding generations who might otherwise have been faithful in all things” (The Miracle of Forgiveness [1969], 42–43).

While it is important to know that a person’s choices have a significant influence on their generations after them, it should be remembered that each person is accountable for his or her own choices and not for the choices of his or her forbearers.

Doctrine and Covenants 121:26–33

The Prophet Joseph Smith teaches that God will reveal eternal truths through the Spirit

Doctrine and Covenants 121:26–33. “God shall give unto you knowledge”

While the Prophet Joseph Smith certainly longed for release during the four difficult months he spent in Liberty Jail, it also provided opportunities for him to be taught. Elder Neal A. Maxwell (1926–2004) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained:

“The period of adversity commencing in Richmond Jail and continuing in Liberty Jail from 1 December 1838 until the first week in April 1839 provides a special window through which we can see the process of revelation and personal consolidation under way. …

“During his stay in Liberty Jail, the Prophet Joseph Smith received some of the most sublime revelations ever received by any prophet in any dispensation, known now as sections 121 and 122 of the Doctrine and Covenants. Therein are divine tutorials by which the Lord schooled his latter-day prophet—probably the most tender tutorials in all of holy writ now available” (“A Choice Seer” [Brigham Young University fireside, Mar. 30, 1986], 5,

Winter at Liberty Jail, by Al Rounds

Winter at Liberty Jail, by Al Rounds. The Prophet Joseph Smith and other Church leaders suffered during the winter of 1838–1839 while they were imprisoned in Liberty Jail.

The lofty truths that the Prophet recorded in his March 1839 letters to the Saints are evidence that his experiences in Liberty Jail drew him even closer to the Lord. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained:

“Most of us, most of the time, speak of the facility at Liberty as a ‘jail’ or a ‘prison’—and certainly it was that. But Elder Brigham H. Roberts (1857–1933) of the First Council of the Seventy, in recording the history of the Church, spoke of the facility as a temple, or, more accurately, a ‘prison-temple’ [see Comprehensive History of the Church, 1:521 chapter heading; see also 526]. … Certainly this prison-temple lacked the purity, beauty, comfort, and cleanliness of our modern temples. The speech and behavior of the guards and criminals who came there were anything but temple-like. In fact, the restricting brutality and injustice of this experience at Liberty would make it seem the very antithesis of the liberating, merciful spirit of our temples and the ordinances performed in them.

“So in what sense could Liberty Jail be called a ‘temple,’ and what does such a title tell us about God’s love and teachings, including where and when that love and those teachings are made manifest? In precisely this sense: that you can have sacred, revelatory, profoundly instructive experiences with the Lord in any situation you are in. Indeed, you can have sacred, revelatory, profoundly instructive experiences with the Lord in the most miserable experiences of your life—in the worst settings, while enduring the most painful injustices, when facing the most insurmountable odds and opposition you have ever faced” (“Lessons from Liberty Jail,” Ensign, Sept. 2009, 28).

Not long after the Church was organized, the Lord promised faithful Church members that if they asked, they would “receive revelation upon revelation, knowledge upon knowledge, … that which bringeth joy, that which bringeth life eternal” (D&C 42:61; see also D&C 1:28). Those who keep God’s commandments “receiveth truth and light, until [they are] glorified in truth and knoweth all things” (D&C 93:28). As recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 121:26–32, God will bless the Saints with significant revelation.

The Prophet Joseph Smith taught: “The dispensation of the fullness of times will bring to light the things that have been revealed in all former dispensations; also other things that have not been before revealed” (Teachings: Joseph Smith, 510–11). And on another occasion he wrote that this dispensation is “a day in which God has begun to make manifest and set in order in His Church those things which have been, and those things which the ancient prophets and wise men desired to see but died without beholding them; a day in which those things begin to be made manifest, which have been hid from before the foundation of the world, and which Jehovah has promised should be made known in His own due time unto His servants, to prepare the earth for the return of His glory, even a celestial glory, and a kingdom of Priests and kings to God and the Lamb, forever, on Mount Zion” (Teachings: Joseph Smith, 510).

This outpouring of knowledge began at the beginning of the Restoration and will continue into the Millennium, when “the Lord … shall reveal all things” (D&C 101:32) and “nothing shall be withheld” (D&C 121:28). Elder Bruce R. McConkie (1915–1985) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles described the knowledge that will be revealed during the Millennium:

“We have the fulness of the everlasting gospel, meaning that we have all that is needed to gain the fulness of salvation. We have every truth, doctrine, and principle, every rite, power, and ordinance—all that is needed—to gain exaltation in the highest heaven of the celestial world. But we do not know all things. …

“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. … Nothing in or on or over the earth will be withheld from human [knowledge], for eventually man, if he is to be as his Maker, must know all things” (The Millennial Messiah: The Second Coming of the Son of Man [1982], 675–77).

Doctrine and Covenants 121:28. “Whether there be one God or many gods, they shall be manifest”

The phrase “whether there be one God or many gods” (D&C 121:28) is an example of the questions that will be more clearly answered when “the Lord … shall reveal all things” (D&C 101:32) during the Millennium. The Prophet Joseph Smith gained firsthand knowledge that the Father and the Son are separate Beings (see Joseph Smith—History 1:17; see also D&C 76:19–23; 137:1–3). He later explained, “I have always declared God to be a distinct personage, Jesus Christ a separate and distinct personage from God the Father, and that the Holy Ghost was a distinct personage and a Spirit: and these three constitute three distinct personages and three Gods” (Teachings: Joseph Smith, 41–42). The Lord also revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith what God’s children must do in order to become like Him (see D&C 132:19–20). However, our understanding of the nature and order of heavenly beings will continue to be limited until “a time to come in the which nothing shall be withheld” (D&C 121:28).

Doctrine and Covenants 121:34–46

The Prophet Joseph Smith teaches that “the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven”

Doctrine and Covenants 121:34–35. “There are many called, but few are chosen”

During late 1837 and throughout 1838, the Prophet Joseph Smith watched a number of friends who had been members and leaders of the Church apostatize from the Church. In the inspired instructions he wrote to Church members while he was in Liberty Jail, the Prophet distinguished between those who are “called” and those who are “chosen” (D&C 121:34). In this context, being “called” can refer specifically to receiving the authority of the priesthood, but to be “chosen,” a priesthood holder must be worthy to draw on “the powers of heaven” [D&C 121:36] to help others receive the blessings of the priesthood. However, being “called” and being “chosen” can also apply more broadly to all Church members—not just to those who hold the priesthood. Before the Church was organized in 1830, the Lord taught, “If ye have desires to serve God ye are called to the work” (D&C 4:3). Elder Bruce R. McConkie gave the following explanation about what it means to be “called”:

“To be called is to be a member of the Church and kingdom of God on earth; it is to be numbered with the saints; it is to accept the gospel and receive the everlasting covenant; it is to have part and lot in the earthly Zion. …

“Within this over-all framework, there are individual calls to positions of trust and responsibility, but these are simply assignments to labor on the Lord’s errand, in particular places, for a time and a season. The call itself is to the gospel cause; it is not reserved for apostles and prophets or for the great and mighty in Israel; it is for all the members of the kingdom” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary [1973], 3:326).

To be “chosen” is used in the scriptures to refer to “those selected by God for special responsibilities” (Guide to the Scriptures, “Chosen,” As used in Doctrine and Covenants 121, “chosen” also refers to those who receive priesthood power and other blessings from God because of their faithfulness in fulfilling the calling or special responsibilities they have received (see D&C 121:36, 45–46). Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles gave the following insight on what it means to be “chosen”:

“The dictionary indicates that chosen suggests one who is selected, taken by preference, or picked out. It also can be used to refer to the elect or chosen of God (Oxford English Dictionary Online, second ed. [1989], ‘Chosen’). …

“To be or to become chosen is not an exclusive status conferred upon us. Rather, you and I ultimately determine if we are chosen. Please now note the use of the word chosen in the following verses from the Doctrine and Covenants:

“‘Behold, there are many called, but few are chosen. And why are they not chosen?

“‘Because their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world, and aspire to the honors of men’ (D&C 121:34–35; emphasis added).

“I believe the implication of these verses is quite straightforward. God does not have a list of favorites to which we must hope our names will someday be added. He does not limit ‘the chosen’ to a restricted few. Rather, it is our hearts and our aspirations and our obedience which definitively determine whether we are counted as one of God’s chosen” (“The Tender Mercies of the Lord,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2005, 100–101).

Doctrine and Covenants 121:36. “The rights of the priesthood”

The Prophet Joseph Smith indicated that the proper understanding and use of “the rights of the priesthood” (D&C 121:36) can determine whether a person will obtain the promised blessing of being “chosen” (D&C 121:34, 40). President Boyd K. Packer explained: “Authority in the priesthood comes by way of ordination; power in the priesthood comes through faithful and obedient living in honoring covenants. It is increased by exercising and using the priesthood in righteousness” (“The Power of the Priesthood,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2010, 9).

young woman receiving a priesthood blessing

The use of priesthood authority is based “upon the principles of righteousness” (D&C 121:36).

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the First Presidency discussed why priesthood holders need to be righteous in order to access priesthood power:

“Our all-powerful Father in Heaven has entrusted priesthood authority to us—mortal beings who, by definition, are flawed and imperfect. He grants to us the authority to act in His name for the salvation of His children. By this great power we are authorized to preach the gospel, administer the ordinances of salvation, help build the kingdom of God on the earth, and bless and serve our families and our fellowmen. …

“The priesthood, or any responsibility within it, cannot be purchased or commanded. The use of priesthood power cannot be influenced, swayed, or compelled by position, by wealth, or by influence. It is a spiritual power that operates on heavenly law. It originates in the great Heavenly Father of us all. Its power can be controlled and directed only through principles of righteousness, not self-righteousness [see D&C 121:36].

“Christ is the source of all true priesthood authority and power on earth [see Hebrews 5:4–10; D&C 107:3]. It is His work, in which we are privileged to assist. ‘And no one can assist in this work except he shall be humble and full of love, having faith, hope, and charity, being temperate in all things, whatsoever shall be entrusted to his care’ [D&C 12:8]” (“The Joy of the Priesthood,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2012, 58–59).

Every faithful Church member can enjoy the blessings of priesthood power. Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained:

“We sometimes overly associate the power of the priesthood with men in the Church. The priesthood is the power and authority of God given for the salvation and blessing of all—men, women, and children.

“A man may open the drapes so the warm sunlight comes into the room, but the man does not own the sun or the light or the warmth it brings. The blessings of the priesthood are infinitely greater than the one who is asked to administer the gift.

“To receive the blessings, power, and promises of the priesthood in this life and the next is one of the great opportunities and responsibilities of mortality. As we are worthy, the ordinances of the priesthood enrich our lives on earth and prepare us for the magnificent promises of the world ahead. The Lord said, ‘In the ordinances … the power of godliness is manifest’ [D&C 84:20].

“There are special blessings from God for every worthy person who is baptized, receives the Holy Ghost, and regularly partakes of the sacrament. The temple brings added light and strength, along with the promise of eternal life [see D&C 138:37, 51]” (“Power in the Priesthood,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2013, 92).

Doctrine and Covenants 121:37–40. “Any degree of unrighteousness”

The examples listed in Doctrine and Covenants 121:37–40 illustrate the improper or unworthy use of the priesthood. Any priesthood holder who abuses his authority and fails to repent will lose the Spirit of the Lord and no longer have access to the authority and power of the priesthood.

President Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said:

“I fear that there are too many men who have been given the authority of the priesthood but who lack priesthood power because the flow of power has been blocked by sins such as laziness, dishonesty, pride, immorality, or preoccupation with things of the world.

“I fear that there are too many priesthood bearers who have done little or nothing to develop their ability to access the powers of heaven. I worry about all who are impure in their thoughts, feelings, or actions or who demean their wives or children, thereby cutting off priesthood power.

“I fear that too many have sadly surrendered their agency to the adversary and are saying by their conduct, ‘I care more about satisfying my own desires than I do about bearing the Savior’s power to bless others.’

“I fear, brethren, that some among us may one day wake up and realize what power in the priesthood really is and face the deep regret that they spent far more time seeking power over others or power at work than learning to exercise fully the power of God [see D&C 121:36]” (“The Price of Priesthood Power,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2016, 67–68).

Doctrine and Covenants 121:38. What does it mean to “kick against the pricks”?

“A ‘prick’ refers to a goad, which is a sharp spear or stick used to poke animals to make them move ahead. Rather than move forward, stubborn animals sometimes kick back to retaliate, literally kicking ‘against the pricks.’ Such a reaction only adds distress as the animal incurs more painful prompting from its master” (New Testament Student Manual [Church Educational System manual, 2014], 295). In Doctrine and Covenants 121:38, the phrase “to kick against the pricks” means to oppose or resist direction from the Lord or His appointed servants.

Doctrine and Covenants 121:41–45. The righteous use of the priesthood

Priesthood holders properly use the priesthood by following “the principles of righteousness” (D&C 121:36). They must work to develop the attributes listed in Doctrine and Covenants 121:41–45 in order to exercise the priesthood righteously. These characteristics are exemplified in Jesus Christ’s life and ministry. President Boyd K. Packer taught: “When priesthood authority is exercised properly, priesthood bearers do what [God] would do if He were present” (“The Power of the Priesthood,” 7).

President Russell M. Nelson with young adults

Those who seek to influence others through priesthood power do so “by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned” (D&C 121:41).

President Thomas S. Monson gave the following counsel to those who hold the priesthood:

“Brethren, each of us has been entrusted with one of the most precious gifts ever bestowed upon mankind. As we honor our priesthood and live our lives so that we are at all times worthy, the blessings of the priesthood will flow through us. I love the words found in the Doctrine and Covenants, section 121, verse 45 which tell us what we must do to be worthy: ‘Let thy bowels … be full of charity towards all men, and to the household of faith, and let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distil upon thy soul as the dews from heaven.’

“As bearers of the priesthood of God, we are engaged in the work of the Lord Jesus Christ. We have answered His call; we are on His errand. Let us learn of Him. Let us follow in His footsteps. Let us live by His precepts. By so doing, we will be prepared for any service He calls us to perform” (“The Priesthood—a Sacred Gift,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2015, 90).

Doctrine and Covenants 121:45. “The doctrine of the priesthood shall distil upon thy soul”

The following statement by Elder Craig A. Cardon of the Seventy helps us understand the application of the truths recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 121:45:

“The Lord instructed all of us when He taught that for priesthood bearers, unrighteousness brings an end to heavenly power or influence, while righteousness strengthens them. He identified qualities that ‘greatly enlarge the soul’ as ‘persuasion, … long-suffering, … gentleness[,] … meekness, … love unfeigned[,] … kindness, and pure knowledge’ [D&C 121:41–42]. He then added these instructive words: ‘Let thy bowels also be full of charity towards all men, and to the household of faith, and let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distil upon thy soul as the dews from heaven’ [D&C 121:45].

“It is significant that after inviting us to have charity toward ‘all men,’ the Lord added the phrase ‘and to the household of faith.’ Why? Doesn’t ‘all men’ include the household of faith? Consider the implications when this added phrase is understood to mean more specifically ‘your very own household of faith.’ Unfortunately, there are a few within the Church who exhibit greater charity toward nonfamily members than toward their own spouses and children, siblings and parents. They may show feigned kindness publicly while privately sowing and cultivating seeds of contention, demeaning those who should be closest to them. These things should not be.

“The Lord then spoke of thoughts that are garnished—embellished and guarded—by virtue unceasingly. Such thoughts abhor sin [see Alma 13:12]. They allow our communications to be ‘Yea, yea; Nay, nay’ [Matthew 5:37], unencumbered by guile. They see the good and the potential in others, undeterred by the inevitable imperfections in others.

“The verse concludes with a beautifully instructive reference to a distilling process. To better understand the application of these principles in the refinement of our personal lives, consider two glasses of water, each with the same outward appearance, placed in a room with high humidity. After a period of time, water begins to condense on one of the glasses because it is at a different temperature, occasioned by prior preparation not obvious initially, while the other glass remains dry and unaffected. Without compulsory means, the humidity is able to ‘flow unto’ [D&C 121:46] the one glass while the other receives nothing. In a similar way, qualities that greatly enlarge the soul; charity toward others, especially our families; and thoughts garnished with virtue adjust our spiritual temperatures to allow the doctrine of the priesthood to distil upon our souls.

“So it is that the priesthood, through the workings of the Spirit, moves individuals closer to God through ordination, ordinances, and refinement of individual natures, thus affording God’s children the opportunity to become like Him and live eternally in His presence—a work more glorious than moving mountains [see Moses 1:39]” (“Moving Closer to Him,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2006, 96).

Doctrine and Covenants 121:46. “The Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion, and thy scepter an unchanging scepter of righteousness and truth”

Priesthood holders who seek for and practice the Christlike attributes listed in Doctrine and Covenants 121:41–45 will receive power through the blessings of the priesthood. This divine power is described as “an unchanging scepter of righteousness and truth” (D&C 121:46). A scepter is a rod or staff representing earthly authority held by a ruler, such as a king. In Doctrine and Covenants 121:46, the scepter is a metaphor for the authority and power of the priesthood granted by Jesus Christ, the King of kings, to those who exercise “the rights of the priesthood” using “the principles of righteousness” (D&C 121:36). These righteous priesthood holders will also have “the Holy Ghost [as their] constant companion,” and their “dominion shall be an everlasting dominion, and without compulsory means it shall flow unto [them] forever and ever” (D&C 121:46). Thus, the power of the wicked, exercised through “unrighteous dominion” (D&C 121:39), is contrasted with the divine power shared by the Lord with “all who have endured valiantly for the gospel of Christ” (D&C 121:29), whose “bowels [are] full of charity,” and who have allowed “virtue [to] garnish [their] thoughts unceasingly” (D&C 121:45). These individuals lead and influence others through love and righteousness, rather than by coercion or compulsion (see D&C 121:37), and consequently, those who love righteousness desire to follow them.