Institute
Chapter 7: Doctrine and Covenants 4; 11–12; 14–16
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“Chapter 7: Doctrine and Covenants 4; 11–12; 14–16,” Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual (2017)

“Chapter 7,” Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual

Chapter 7

Doctrine and Covenants 4; 11–12; 14–16

Introduction

In early 1829, Joseph Smith Sr. visited his son Joseph in Harmony, Pennsylvania. While there, Joseph Smith Sr. desired to know what he could do to assist in the Lord’s work. The Prophet inquired of the Lord and received the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 4. In this revelation, the Lord identified attributes that qualify a person to assist in His work.

In May 1829, the Prophet’s older brother Hyrum traveled to Harmony, Pennsylvania, to visit Joseph. At Hyrum’s request, the Prophet asked the Lord to reveal His will concerning his brother. In the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 11, the Lord told Hyrum what he must do to help establish Zion.

Joseph Knight Sr. visited the Prophet Joseph Smith in May 1829. He expressed his desire to serve and assist in God’s work. Doctrine and Covenants 12 contains the Lord’s counsel to him.

After Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery moved to the home of Peter Whitmer Sr. in Fayette, New York, and resumed the Book of Mormon translation, the Prophet received revelations for three of Peter Whitmer Sr.’s sons: David, John, and Peter Whitmer Jr. In these revelations, recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 14–16, the Lord emphasized the importance of declaring repentance in order to bring souls unto Him.

January 1829

Joseph Smith Sr. visited Joseph and Emma Smith in Harmony, Pennsylvania.

February 1829

Doctrine and Covenants 4 was received.

May 1829

Joseph and Emma Smith received visits from Hyrum Smith and Joseph Knight Sr.

May 1829

Doctrine and Covenants 11–12 were received.

About June 1, 1829

Joseph and Oliver moved to Fayette, New York, to continue the translation of the Book of Mormon.

June 1829

Doctrine and Covenants 14–16 were received.

Late June 1829

The Three Witnesses and the Eight Witnesses viewed the golden plates.

Doctrine and Covenants 4: Additional Historical Background

Joseph Smith Sr. was among the first to hear the accounts of the heavenly manifestations that had been given to his son Joseph. He became a steadfast believer in his son and a defender of Joseph’s divinely appointed mission. In January 1829, Joseph Smith Sr. and his son Samuel traveled from their home near Palmyra, New York, to Harmony, Pennsylvania, to visit Joseph Smith Jr. and his wife, Emma. During this visit, Joseph Smith Sr. asked for a revelation concerning his possible role in God’s work. (See The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 1: July 1828–June 1831, ed. Michael Hubbard MacKay and others [2013], 5.) The revelation that was given in response described the essential attributes a person must develop in order to be called to God’s work. After returning to his home, Joseph Smith Sr. and his wife, Lucy, invited the school teacher Oliver Cowdery to board with them. When Oliver inquired about Joseph Smith Jr. and the rumors he’d heard about a “gold Bible,” Joseph Smith Sr. was initially reluctant to provide details, knowing that many others in the community had ridiculed his son. However, he finally shared some of the facts regarding the Book of Mormon plates and Joseph’s assignment to translate them. The call to the work that Joseph Smith Sr. received in Doctrine and Covenants 4 may have given him the courage to speak more openly with Oliver Cowdery about the plates. (See The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 1: July 1828–June 1831, 11, 13.)

Church History Maps: Northeastern United States

Doctrine and Covenants 4

The Lord reveals to Joseph Smith Sr. what qualifies a person to assist in His work

Doctrine and Covenants 4:1. “A marvelous work is about to come forth”

Anciently, the Lord prophesied that there would be an apostasy in the last days. Therefore, He would “proceed to do a marvellous work among this people, even a marvellous work and a wonder” (Isaiah 29:14).

The wording in Doctrine and Covenants 4:1 indicates that at the time this revelation was given, Isaiah’s prophecy had not yet been fulfilled. President David O. McKay (1873–1970) observed the following about this verse: “When this revelation was given to the Prophet Joseph, he was only 23 years of age. The Book of Mormon was not yet published; no man had been ordained to the priesthood. The Church was not organized; yet the statement was made and written without qualification that ‘a marvelous work [was] about to come forth among the children of men’” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1966, 86). Several additional revelations were given before the organization of the Church that contain similar language as that found in Doctrine and Covenants 4:1 (see D&C 6:1; 11:1; 12:1; 14:1).

Joseph Smith : the Prophet of the Restoration

Joseph Smith Sr., the Prophet’s father, was one of the first to learn about and accept the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.

Doctrine and Covenants 4:2–3. “Serve him with all your heart, might, mind, and strength”

While the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 4 was originally given to Joseph Smith Sr., it can be applied to any individual who desires to participate in God’s work. President Joseph Fielding Smith (1876–1972) wrote: “This revelation is very short, only seven verses, but it contains sufficient counsel and instruction for a lifetime of study. … Perhaps there is no other revelation in all our scriptures that embodies greater instruction pertaining to the manner of qualification of members of the Church for the service of God, and in such condensed form than this revelation. It is as broad, as high and as deep as eternity” (Church History and Modern Revelation [1953], 1:35).

Those who desire to serve God are required to give great personal effort, as explained by Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:

“We learn from this command [in D&C 4:2] that it is not enough to serve God with all of our might and strength. He who looks into our hearts and knows our minds demands more than this. In order to stand blameless before God at the last day, we must also serve him with all our heart and mind.

“Service with all of our heart and mind is a high challenge for all of us. Such service must be free of selfish ambition. It must be motivated only by the pure love of Christ” (“Why Do We Serve?” Ensign, Nov. 1984, 15).

Doctrine and Covenants 4:4. “The field is white already to harvest”

During His mortal ministry, the Lord spoke to His disciples and compared people who were prepared to receive the gospel to grain in the field ready to be harvested: “Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest” (John 4:35). Grains such as wheat or barley change color as they grow. When the grain is young it is green, but as it matures it grows pale. When the grain is ready for harvesting, it can be described as “white.” This metaphor was used by the Lord in several latter-day revelations to indicate that people were prepared to be taught the gospel and gathered to the Lord and His Church (see D&C 6:3; 11:3; 12:3; 14:3; 31:4; 33:3).

President Gordon B. Hinckley (1910–2008) reminded Church leaders and members that the field is still ready to be harvested:

“I invite you to become a vast army with enthusiasm for this work and a great overarching desire to assist the missionaries in the tremendous responsibility they have to carry the gospel to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people. ‘The field is white [and] ready to harvest’ (D&C 4:4). The Lord has repeatedly declared this. Shall we not take Him at His word?

“Before the Church was organized, there was missionary work. It has continued ever since, notwithstanding the difficulties of many of the seasons through which our people have passed. Let us, every one, resolve within ourselves to arise to a new opportunity, a new sense of responsibility, a new shouldering of obligation to assist our Father in Heaven in His glorious work of bringing to pass the immortality and eternal life of His sons and daughters throughout the earth” (“Find the Lambs, Feed the Sheep,” Ensign, May 1999, 110).

Doctrine and Covenants 4:4. “He that thrusteth in his sickle … bringeth salvation to his soul”

Thrust in Your Sickle

Thrust in Your Sickle, by Greg Newbold. A sickle is a farming tool with a curved blade used for cutting grain.

A sickle is a large curved knife used to harvest grain. A reaper uses a sickle by either drawing it toward him or her to catch and cut the crop or by swinging it against the base of the crop. Using this tool to harvest grain is a very labor intensive and slow process. This metaphor describes the diligent work required to bring people to Jesus Christ.

Elder Kevin R. Duncan of the Seventy provided additional insight about how the metaphor of a sickle can apply to missionary work:

“The scriptures teach us to thrust in our sickle with all our might (see D&C 4:4). I used a sickle constantly on our farm. For me, I learned it wasn’t enough to only swing a sickle hard. The sickle also had to be sharp in order to cut. If it was dull, I’d spend a lot of effort swinging it without much success.

“On the farm, we kept a file on hand to sharpen our sickle every day. In missionary work and indeed in all areas of life, we need to keep our spiritual sickles sharp so that we can achieve our own best potential. Reading scriptures daily, praying, and keeping all other commandments help us stay sharp and useful” (“Abandoned Seeds in Rocky Places,” New Era, July 2014, 18).

In Doctrine and Covenants 4:4 the Lord promised that through our missionary labors, we bring salvation to our own souls. President Henry B. Eyring of the First Presidency explained how this can happen: “When you give your heart to inviting people to come unto Christ, your heart will be changed. … By helping others come unto Him, you will find that you have come unto Him yourself” (“Come unto Christ,” Ensign, Mar. 2008, 52).

Doctrine and Covenants 4:5–6. “Faith, hope, charity and love … qualify him for the work”

The Lord does not require a person to be physically gifted or intellectually brilliant to help with His work. Rather, He asks that the person strive to develop the Christlike attributes listed in Doctrine and Covenants 4:5–6. President Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the First Presidency taught what happens as we develop these attributes: “If it is your great desire to cultivate Christlike attributes of ‘faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, brotherly kindness, godliness, charity, humility, [and service]’ [D&C 4:6], Heavenly Father will make you an instrument in His hands unto the salvation of many souls” (“Lord, Is It I?” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2014, 58).

Doctrine and Covenants 4:7. “Ask, and ye shall receive”

Joseph Smith Sr. learned from the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 4 that the Lord is willing to provide spiritual guidance and help to those who are called to the work. President Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles clarified the importance of acquiring Christlike attributes to help us obtain answers to our prayers:

“For each of you to receive revelation unique to your own needs and responsibilities, certain guidelines prevail. The Lord asks you to develop ‘faith, hope, charity and love, with an eye single to the glory of God.’ Then with your firm ‘faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, brotherly kindness, godliness, charity, humility, [and] diligence,’ you may ask, and you will receive; you may knock, and it will be opened unto you. [D&C 4:5–6; emphasis added; see also verse 7.] …

“Every Latter–day Saint may merit personal revelation” (“Ask, Seek, Knock,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2009, 83–84).

Doctrine and Covenants 11: Additional Historical Background

Joseph Smith’s older brother Hyrum demonstrated his ongoing belief in Joseph’s work when he visited the Prophet in May 1829 in Harmony, Pennsylvania. As he learned of the progress of the Book of Mormon translation and of the restoration of the priesthood, he wanted to know what the Lord would have him do to assist in the work. Joseph used the Urim and Thummim to obtain the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 11. Joseph baptized Hyrum a few weeks later, in June 1829, and Hyrum was privileged to become one of the Eight Witnesses of the Book of Mormon. He also became one of the six original members of the restored Church of Jesus Christ when it was organized on April 6, 1830.

Doctrine and Covenants 11

The Lord reveals to Hyrum Smith what he must do to assist in the work

Doctrine and Covenants 11:2. God’s word is “sharper than a two-edged sword”

The power of the word of God has been described as “sharper than a two-edged sword” in several passages in the Doctrine and Covenants (see D&C 6:2; 11:2; 12:2; 14:2; 33:1). A weapon having two sharpened edges would be more effective at cutting than a sword with only one sharpened edge. God’s word is described as being even sharper than such a weapon. Like “the still, small voice, which … pierceth all things” (D&C 85:6), the word of God can quickly enter the inner depths of a person’s soul.

Elder Orson Pratt (1811–1881) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles further explained the imagery of the sword and how it illustrates the power of the word of God: “A message of simple truth, when sent from God—when published by divine authority, through divinely inspired men, penetrates the mind like a sharp two-edged sword, and cuts asunder the deeply-rooted prejudices, the iron-bound sinews of ancient error and tradition, made sacred by age and rendered popular by human wisdom. It severs with undeviating exactness between truth and falsehood—between the doctrine of Christ and the doctrines of men; it levels with the most perfect ease every argument that human learning may array against it. Opinions, creeds invented by uninspired men, and doctrines originated in schools of divinity, all vanish like the morning dew—all sink into insignificance when compared with a message direct from heaven” (“Divine Authority—or Was Joseph Smith Sent of God?” Orson Pratt’s Works on the Doctrines of the Gospel [1945], 1:1).

Doctrine and Covenants 11:6–8. “You shall be the means of doing much good in this generation”

The Lord promised Hyrum Smith that if he kept the commandments, he would be the means of doing much good in his lifetime. Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles pointed out some of Hyrum Smith’s significant accomplishments:

“[Hyrum] assisted and served his brother, Joseph the Prophet, throughout the long and arduous process of the Restoration. Ultimately, he joined Joseph and other martyrs of past gospel dispensations. His blood was shed as his final testimony to the world. …

“Hyrum gave unfailing service to the Church. In 1829 he was among a handful of individuals who were allowed to view the gold plates from which the Book of Mormon was translated, and for the rest of his life he testified to the divine nature of the Book of Mormon as one of the Eight Witnesses who ‘had seen the plates with his eyes and handled them with his hands’ [quoted in Richard Lloyd Anderson, Investigating the Book of Mormon Witnesses [1981], 158–59]. … At age thirty, he was the oldest of the six men chosen in 1830 to formally organize The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter–day Saints. … As chairman of the temple committee, Hyrum rallied the Church to perform the seemingly impossible task of building the Kirtland Temple when most Church members literally had nothing to give to the cause. A few years later he repeated this service with the building of the Nauvoo Temple.

“Hyrum served in the Ohio bishopric, on the first high council, as Patriarch, counselor in the First Presidency, and finally as one of only two men ever to hold the office of Assistant President of the Church. …

“Clearly, Hyrum Smith was one of the firm pillars of the Restoration. But sadly, many Church members know little about him except that he was martyred with his brother in Carthage Jail. That is significant, but he did far more. Indeed, Joseph Smith himself once suggested that his followers would do well to pattern their lives after Hyrum’s [see History of the Church, 5:108]” (“Hyrum Smith: ‘Firm as the Pillars of Heaven,’” Ensign, Nov. 1995, 6–7).

Doctrine and Covenants 11:9. “Say nothing but repentance unto this generation”

The Lord’s command to “say nothing but repentance unto this generation” (D&C 11:9) means to preach the reality of Jesus Christ and His Atonement and the salvation available to those who repent and are obedient to the laws and ordinances of the gospel. To “say nothing but repentance” does not mean we should not teach other doctrines and principles of the gospel. Rather, it means we confine our teaching to the gospel, which is the gospel of repentance and salvation through the mercy, grace, and merits of the Lord Jesus Christ.

PRS: Priesthood Restoration Site - Susquehanna River (horiz)

The Susquehanna River near the home of Joseph and Emma Smith in Harmony, Pennsylvania

Doctrine and Covenants 11:12–14. “Put your trust in that Spirit which leadeth to do good”

During the months before the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 11 was received, the Lord had instructed Oliver Cowdery concerning how to seek and recognize inspiration through the Holy Ghost (see D&C 6; 8–9). In this revelation the Lord added to that understanding by revealing additional insight about how to recognize the influence and direction of the Spirit. The Lord counseled Hyrum Smith to trust the Spirit and taught him that the Spirit “leadeth to do good—yea, to do justly, to walk humbly, to judge righteously” (D&C 11:12).

The Lord also built on His earlier instruction that the Spirit would reveal truth to our minds and our hearts (see D&C 8:2). In this revelation to Hyrum, the Lord explained that the Spirit “shall enlighten your mind” and “fill your soul with joy” (D&C 11:13). When the Spirit enlightens our minds, we see and understand truth more clearly (see D&C 76:12). The Lord taught Hyrum that this increased understanding is a means by which the Spirit would help him “know, all things whatsoever you desire of me” (D&C 11:14).

Elder Richard G. Scott (1928–2015) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained why we should put our trust in the Spirit as we face challenges and seek direction in our lives: “Father in Heaven knew that you would face challenges and be required to make some decisions that would be beyond your own ability to decide correctly. In His plan of happiness, He included a provision for you to receive help with such challenges and decisions during your mortal life. That assistance will come to you through the Holy Ghost as spiritual guidance. It is a power, beyond your own capability, that a loving Heavenly Father wants you to use consistently for your peace and happiness” (“To Acquire Spiritual Guidance,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2009, 6).

Doctrine and Covenants 11:15–21. Wait … until you shall have my word, my rock, my church, and my gospel”

The Lord reminded Hyrum Smith that he was not yet called to preach the gospel (see D&C 11:15). Before that call was to come, the Lord taught Hyrum what he must do to be able to teach His gospel with power and with the Spirit. In May 1829 when this revelation was given, Hyrum had not yet been baptized, the Church was not organized, and he had not had the gift of the Holy Ghost conferred upon him. The Lord commanded him to wait to preach until he had obtained a greater understanding of the gospel and knew of a surety the Lord’s doctrine. Hyrum was promised that in time, if he kept the commandments and appealed to the Spirit, He would have the Spirit and the power to help others come to a knowledge of the truth.

Doctrine and Covenants 11:20. “This is your work, to keep my commandments”

The Lord instructed Hyrum Smith four times in Doctrine and Covenants 11 to keep His commandments (see D&C 11:6, 9, 18, 20). Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught how the Lord’s words to Hyrum relate to each of us:

“One of the most well-known and frequently cited passages of scripture is found in Moses 1:39. This verse clearly and concisely describes the work of the Eternal Father: ‘For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man’ (emphasis added).

“A companion scripture found in the Doctrine and Covenants describes with equal clarity and conciseness our primary work as the sons and daughters of the Eternal Father. Interestingly, this verse does not seem to be as well known and is not quoted with great frequency. “Behold, this is your work, to keep my commandments, yea, with all your might, mind and strength” (D&C 11:20; emphasis added).

“Thus, the Father’s work is to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of His children. Our work is to keep His commandments with all of our might, mind, and strength” (“The Tender Mercies of the Lord,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2005, 101–2).

Doctrine and Covenants 11:21–22. “First seek to obtain my word”

The Lord did not ask Hyrum Smith to begin preaching the gospel. Rather, He commanded Hyrum to study the Bible and also the Book of Mormon when the translation was completed (see D&C 11:22). Then, the Lord said, Hyrum could go forward declaring His word with the promise of help from the Spirit. President Henry B. Eyring explained how a study of the scriptures will prepare a person to declare the gospel with God’s power:

“The Holy Ghost will guide what we say if we study and ponder the scriptures every day. The words of the scriptures invite the Holy Spirit. The Lord said it this way: ‘Seek not to declare my word, but first seek to obtain my word, and then shall your tongue be loosed; then, if you desire, you shall have my Spirit and my word, yea, the power of God unto the convincing of men’ (D&C 11:21). With daily study of the scriptures, we can count on this blessing even in casual conversations or in a class when we may be asked by a teacher to respond to a question. We will experience the power the Lord promised: ‘Neither take ye thought beforehand what ye shall say; but treasure up in your minds continually the words of life, and it shall be given you in the very hour that portion that shall be meted unto every man’ (D&C 84:85).

“We treasure the word of God not only by reading the words of the scriptures but by studying them. We may be nourished more by pondering a few words, allowing the Holy Ghost to make them treasures to us, than to pass quickly and superficially over whole chapters of scripture” (“Feed My Lambs,” Ensign, Nov. 1997, 83–84).

Doctrine and Covenants 12: Additional Historical Background

Joseph Knight Sr. and his family became acquainted with Joseph Smith in the latter part of 1826 when Joseph Knight hired Joseph and others to work at his farm and mill in Colesville, New York, which is about 115 miles southeast of Palmyra. While Joseph boarded with the Knight family, he told them that a heavenly personage had appeared to him and told him where an ancient record was buried. One of the sons, Newel Knight, wrote that the family was “very deeply impressed with the truthfulness of his statements concerning the Plates of the Book of Mormon which had been shown him by an Angel of the Lord” (quoted in William G. Hartley, “The Knight Family: Ever Faithful to the Prophet,” Ensign, Jan. 1989, 43).

Later, while the Prophet Joseph Smith was translating the Book of Mormon plates, Joseph Knight assisted him on a few occasions by giving provisions and a little money. It may have been during one of Joseph Knight’s visits to bring supplies to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery in Harmony, Pennsylvania, that the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 12 was received, probably in late May 1829.

JOSEPH KNIGHT SR. HISTORIC  HOME, NINEVA NEW YORK

The interior of the Joseph Knight Sr. home in Colesville (Ninevah), New York

Doctrine and Covenants 12

Joseph Knight Sr. is taught what is required to assist in the Lord’s work

Doctrine and Covenants 12:1–9. Instructions for those who are called to assist in God’s work

The repetition of instructions found in Doctrine and Covenants 12 and other sections of the Doctrine and Covenants illustrates that the principles governing the work of salvation apply to all who seek to assist in the work (see D&C 4; 6; 11; 1214).

Doctrine and Covenants 12:8. “No one can assist in this work except he shall be humble and full of love”

As recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 12, the Lord told Joseph Knight Sr. that it is essential to obtain Christlike attributes in order to assist in His work. President Russell M. Nelson described the process by which a person can obtain these attributes: “The attributes by which we shall be judged one day are all spiritual. These include love, virtue, integrity, compassion, and service to others. Your spirit, coupled with and housed in your body, is able to develop and manifest these attributes in ways that are vital to your eternal progression. Spiritual progress is attained through the steps of faith, repentance, baptism, the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end, including the endowment and sealing ordinances of the holy temple” (“Thanks Be to God,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2012, 79).

Doctrine and Covenants 14–16: Additional Historical Background

Shortly after his arrival in Harmony, Pennsylvania, Oliver Cowdery sent a letter to his friend David Whitmer in Fayette, New York, explaining that he was serving as a scribe to Joseph Smith, who was translating the Book of Mormon plates. Oliver continued to correspond with the Whitmer family over the ensuing months and testified of the truthfulness of the plates.

When persecution began to intensify in Harmony for the Prophet Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, the Prophet asked Oliver to write to David Whitmer again, asking if they could come and finish the translation of the Book of Mormon in his home. In response, David’s father, Peter Whitmer Sr., invited Joseph and Oliver to stay with them as long as they needed to in order to finish the translation.

David Whitmer wanted to go immediately with a wagon to pick up the Prophet and Oliver Cowdery, but he needed to plow and prepare the soil on the farm before he could go. “At the end of a day of plowing he found he had accomplished in one day what normally would have taken two days to do. David’s father was likewise impressed with this apparent miracle. Peter Whitmer, Sr., said, ‘There must be an overruling hand in this, and I think you would better go down to Pennsylvania as soon as your plaster of paris is sown.’ (Plaster of paris was used to reduce the acidity of the soil.) The next day David went to the fields to sow the plaster, but to his surprise he found the work had been done. His sister, who lived near the field, said that her children had called her to watch three strangers the day before spread the plaster with remarkable skill. She assumed they were men David had hired.

“Grateful for this divine intervention, David Whitmer hurried off on the three-day journey to Harmony. Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery met him as he approached the town. Although David had not told them exactly when he was coming, Joseph had seen in vision the details of David’s trip to Harmony” (Church History in the Fulness of Times Student Manual, 2nd ed. [Church Educational System manual, 2003], 56–57).

David transported Joseph and Oliver to Fayette, New York, arriving in the early part of June 1829. Joseph Smith later wrote that “David, John, and Peter Whitmer Jr became our zealous friends and assistants in the work” (in The Joseph Smith Papers, Histories, Volume 1: Joseph Smith Histories, 1832–1844, ed. Karen Lynn Davidson and others [2012], 308). These three brothers, “each having received a testimony as to the genuineness of the work, became deeply concerned over the matter of their individual duty” (D&C 14, section heading). In response to their inquiry, the Prophet Joseph Smith received a revelation for each of the brothers (see D&C 14–16).

Doctrine and Covenants 14–16

The Lord reveals His will to David Whitmer, John Whitmer, and Peter Whitmer Jr.

Doctrine and Covenants 14:7. “If you keep my commandments and endure to the end”

The Lord’s counsel to “keep my commandments and endure to the end” (D&C 14:7) could be considered as a warning or caution to David Whitmer. David became one of the Three Witnesses and also one of the six original members of the Church. He later settled in Missouri and served as a Church leader there. However, in 1837, David Whitmer aligned himself with others who had apostatized from the Church. He was excommunicated on April 13, 1838, and never returned to the Church, but he bore testimony of the Book of Mormon plates until he died. The importance of enduring to the end was explained by Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin (1917–2008) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:

“Some think of enduring to the end as simply suffering through challenges. It is so much more than that—it is the process of coming unto Christ and being perfected in Him. …

“Enduring to the end is the doctrine of continuing on the path leading to eternal life after one has entered into the path through faith, repentance, baptism, and receiving the Holy Ghost. Enduring to the end requires our whole heart. …

“Enduring to the end means that we have planted our lives firmly on gospel soil, staying in the mainstream of the Church, humbly serving our fellow men, living Christlike lives, and keeping our covenants” (“Press On,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2004, 101).

Doctrine and Covenants 14:7. “Eternal life … is the greatest of all the gifts of God”

Elder Bruce R. McConkie (1915–1985) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained what eternal life is and why it is considered to be the greatest gift we can receive from God:

“Eternal life is the name of the kind of life which God lives and is therefore ‘the greatest of all the gifts of God’ (D&C 14:7); and because those who gain it become like God, they are one with him.

“Exaltation consists of an inheritance in the highest heaven of the celestial world, where alone the family unit continues and where each recipient gains for himself an eternal family unit, patterned after the family of God our Heavenly Father, so that every exalted person lives the kind of life which God lives and is therefore one with him. …

“Thus, to be saved, to gain exaltation, to inherit eternal life, all mean to be one with God, to live as he lives, to think as he thinks, to act as he acts, to possess the same glory, the same power, the same might and dominion that he possesses” (The Promised Messiah: The First Coming of Christ [1978], 130).

Doctrine and Covenants 15–16. Revelations containing the same words

At times, the Lord reveals the same message to different individuals because they may have similar desires or circumstances. For example, mission calls that are extended today by the President of the Church have nearly identical wording. Nevertheless, those who receive the calls recognize the personal application of the direction given as it guides them in their missionary service. As recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 15–16, the Lord called John Whitmer and Peter Whitmer by name and revealed His will to them one at a time.

Doctrine and Covenants 15:4–6 (16:4–6). “The thing which will be of the most worth unto you”

In the revelations recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 15–16, the Lord blessed John and Peter Whitmer for having shared God’s words with others. They learned that declaring repentance and bringing souls to Jesus Christ is the most worthwhile thing that they could do. Elder M. Russell Ballard explained one of the reasons why bringing souls unto Christ is of such great importance: “Don’t ever forget, brothers and sisters, that you and I have in our possession the very points of doctrine that will bring people to the Lord. The restored gospel of Jesus Christ has within it the power to bring deep and abiding happiness to the human soul—something that will be valued and cherished for the rest of time and for all eternity. We are not just trying to get people to join our Church; we are sharing with them the fulness of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. But as powerful as our message is, it cannot be imposed or forced upon people. It can only be shared—heart to heart, soul to soul, spirit to spirit—by being good neighbors and by caring and showing love” (“The Essential Role of Member Missionary Work,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2003, 40).

Days of Harmony

The Lord called the early Saints on missions to declare His gospel.