Commentary on Doctrine & Covenants 101

/ Doctrine & Covenants 101 / Commentary

Find helpful commentary on the verses below to better understand the message of this revelation.

Verses 1-8

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)

 

Verses 1-8 of the revelation addresses the question that had been weighing on the hearts and minds of the Saints, and especially of the Prophet: “Why [hath] God . . . suffered so great calamity to come upon Zion?”1 The Lord provides two clear answers for this calamity. First, “they [the Saints in Missouri] have been afflicted, in consequence of their transgressions” (D&C 101:2). This statement speaks to the actions of the Saints collectively, not individually. There were many among the Saints in Zion who were striving with all their power to keep the commandments. But, as the Lord declares, there were also many who were guilty of “jarrings, and contentions, and envyings, and strifes, and lustful and covetous desires” (D&C 101:6). Documents from the years leading up to the expulsion of the Saints from Jackson County show that there were many disagreements among the Saints and their neighbors.

 

Second, the Lord declared that the Saints “must needs be chastened and tried, even as Abraham” (D&C 101:4). The test the Lord gave to Abraham—sacrificing Abraham’s beloved son, Isaac—is among the most heartbreaking stories in all of scripture. Abraham was not guilty of any great sins, but he was put through his ordeal as a trial of his faith. The Saints in Missouri were guilty of certain transgressions, but trials also came to test their patience and faith. In a letter written near the time section 101 was given, Church leaders declared, “The days of tribulation are fast approaching, and the time to test the fidelity of the Saints, has come.—Rumor with her ten thousand tongues is diffusing her uncertain sounds in almost every ear: but in these times of sore trial, let the saints be patient and see the salvation of God. Those who cannot endure persecution and stand in the day of affliction, cannot stand in the day when the Son of God shall burst the veil, and appear in all the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”2

 

1. Letter to Edward Partridge and Others, 10 December 1833, pp. 71–72, JSP.

 

2. Letter to the Church, not after 18 December 1833, p. 120, JSP.

 

(Doctrine and Covenants Minute)

Verses 9-15

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)

 

In speaking frankly to the Saints about their shortcomings, the Lord was not condoning the actions of the Jackson County mob. The mob members had acted illegally and cruelly in their expulsion of the Saints. In verse 11, the Lord promises to pour out his judgements upon the wicked once the measure of their iniquity is full. But in the meantime, the Savior offers comfort and consolation to the Saints in Zion who are struggling amid their sorrows.

 

Even while the Saints were making their way out of Jackson County, manifestations of the Lord’s mercy appeared among them. Philo Dibble, who was so badly wounded in a skirmish with a mob that a surgeon announced he had no chance of living, later wrote:

 

David Whitmer, however, sent me word that I should live and not die, but I could see no possible chance to recover. After the surgeon had left me, Brother Newel Knight came to see me, and sat down on the side of my bed. He laid his right hand on my head, but never spoke. I felt the Spirit resting upon me at the crown of my head before his hand touched me, and I knew immediately that I was going to be healed. It seemed to form like a ring under the skin, and followed down my body. When the ring came to the wound, another ring formed around the first bullet hole, also the second and third. Then a ring formed on each shoulder and on each hip, and followed down to the ends of my fingers and toes and left me. I immediately arose and discharged three quarts of blood or more, with some pieces of my clothes that had been driven into my body by the bullets.

I then dressed myself and went outdoors and saw the falling of the stars, which so encouraged the Saints and frightened their enemies. It was one of the grandest sights I ever beheld. From that time not a drop of blood came from me and I never afterwards felt the slightest pain or inconvenience from my wounds, except that I was somewhat weak from the loss of blood. The next day I walked around the field, and the day following I mounted a horse and rode eight miles, and went three miles on foot.3

 

The “falling of stars” that Philo refers to was a meteor shower in November 1833 that the Saints witnessed in Kirtland and Missouri. Edward Partridge wrote to Joseph Smith about the celestial wonders, noting that from one to two o’clock on the morning of November 13 “there appeared an extraordinary phenomenon. The heavens were literally filled with meteors or shooting stars[,] as they are called.”4 Bishop Partridge’s daughter Eliza, who also witnessed the meteor shower, later recalled, “I saw the stars fall. They came down almost as thick as snowflakes and could be seen till the daylight hid them from sight. Some of our enemies thought the day of judgment had come and were very much frightened but the Saints rejoiced and considered it as one of the signs of the Latter days.”5 At least one Jackson County resident, Josiah Gregg, agreed with the Saints’ interpretation of the heavenly display. He later recalled that the meteor shower caused many of his neighbors “to wonder whether, after all, the Mormons might not be in the right; and whether this was not a sign sent from heaven as a remonstrance for the injustice they had been guilty of towards that chosen sect.”6

 

3. Philo Dibble, “Early Scenes in Church History,” in Four Faith-Promoting Classics, 1968, pp. 74–96.

 

4. Letter from Edward Partridge, between 14 and 19 November 1833, p. 1, JSP.

 

5. Letter from Edward Partridge, between 14 and 19 November 1833, p. 1, fn 12, JSP.

 

6. Letter from Edward Partridge, between 14 and 19 November 1833, p. 1, fn 12, JSP.

 

(Doctrine and Covenants Minute)

Verses 16-21

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)

 

In this passage the Lord answers another question that had been weighing on the minds of the Saints: was Jackson County still the place for the City of Zion? The Lord declares unequivocally in verse 20 that “there is none other place appointed than that which I have appointed.” The city of Zion will still be built in the same location designated by the Lord, the present-day site of Independence, Missouri (D&C 57:1–3). In the Lord’s due time, the way will be opened for the city to be built. This does not mean that the city that is eventually built will follow precisely the plans laid down by the Saints in Joseph Smith’s time. The designs for the temples that were to be built in the city of Zion, for example, had no provisions for modern lighting or indoor plumbing, which were both unheard of in 1833. When the city is built, the Saints will take advantage of all the modern advances the Lord has blessed us with.

 

In the meantime, the question of building Zion is not one of geography but one of purity. The Lord has declared that “Zion is the pure in heart” (D&C 97:21). When the Saints are sufficiently pure and humble, the Lord will open the way for them to return to Jackson County and build the city of Zion. In the meantime, stakes of Zion will continue to rise in different places around the globe, serving as gathering places for the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

 

(Doctrine and Covenants Minute)

Verses 22-31

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)

 

Doctrine and Covenants 101:22–42 contains some of the most detailed descriptions in scripture of the nature of life during the Millennium. The veil will be rent. The Lord will remove the condition that prevents us from perceiving the larger universe that God reigns over, and all people will see their place in the larger works of God. Because the veil separating the living and the deceased will be taken away, it is likely that God will accelerate temple work during the Millennium. Brigham Young taught that during the Millennium the Saints “will have revelations to know our forefathers clear back to Father Adam and Mother Eve, and we will enter into the temples of God and officiate for them. Then [children] will be sealed to [parents] until the chain is made perfect back to Adam, so that there will be a perfect chain of Priesthood from Adam to the winding-up scene.”7

 

During this time the earth will “be renewed and received her paradisiacal glory” (Article of Faith 10). All corruptible things, meaning those things of a telestial order, will be consumed, and the earth will once again achieve a terrestrial status. At the end of the Millennium the earth will die and be resurrected as a celestial world, the eternal home of the righteous (D&C 88:25–26). Most notably, death will cease to exist. Mortal men and women will still live on the earth during the Millennium, but when they reach a certain age, they will be changed from mortality to immortality in an instant. This age is given generally in verse 30 “as the age of a tree,” which Isaiah identified as one hundred years (Isaiah 65:20). Most importantly, Satan, having been bound by the angel of God, will lose his power to tempt man (Revelation 20:1–2). He will be kept in check by the righteousness of the people (1 Nephi 22:26).

 

7. Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, 1997, 334.

 

(Doctrine and Covenants Minute)

Verses 32-36

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)

 

Another great blessing of living in the Millennium will be the abundance of knowledge made available during this time. The prophet Habakkuk declared that “the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea” (Habakkuk 2:14). All people will fully comprehend the complexity of their origins and their place in the great creation of God. Many of the questions asked by men and women since the dawn of time—questions about dinosaurs, ancient civilizations, the origins of the universe, and the worlds beyond our own—will find answers at last. Even questions we now lack the knowledge to ask, questions about “hidden things which no man knew,” will be answered (D&C 101:33).

 

There is no conflict between being curious and being a believer. The Lord delights in answering our questions. But He provides answers in His own time and for His own purposes. The universe is a wondrous place, and men and women are endowed with minds that are designed to seek answers. The Millennium will be a time when earnest seekers of truth will find themselves dining at a table overflowing with answers to the deep and mysterious things of the universe.

 

(Doctrine and Covenants Minute)

Verses 37-42

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)

 

The Savior hearkens back to the Sermon on the Mount and His sermon at the temple as He explains the role of the Saints in the world by comparing them to salt. Salt cannot lose its savor with age, only through mixing or contaminating it with another substance. In the time of the New Testament, if salt lost its usefulness for seasoning or preserving food, it was thrown out in streets and trodden under the foot of men. Just like salt, we need to keep ourselves clean from the impurities of sin. The Lord in verse 41 declares that “many, but not all” of the Saints in Zion were guilty of transgression.

 

Unfortunately, at times the sins of others also affect those who have committed no transgression. Recognizing the plight of the faithful, Joseph Smith wrote to the Saints in Missouri:

 

When I contemplate upon all things that have been manifested, I am sensible that I ought not to murmur and do not murmur only in this, that those who are innocent are compelled to suffer for the iniquities of the guilty; and I cannot account for this, only on this wise, that the saying of the Savior has not been strictly observed: If thy right eye offend thee pluck it out. and cast it from thee or if thy right arm offend thee pluck it of[f] and cast it from thee. Now the fact is, if any of the members of our body are disordered, the rest of our body will be affected with them and then all is brought into bondage together. And yet notwithstanding all this, it is with difficulty that I can restrain my feelings; when I know that you my brethren with whom I have had so many happy hours, sitting as it were in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. and also having the witness which I feel, and even have felt, of the purity of your motives—are cast out, and are as strangers and pilgrims on the earth, exposed to hunger, cold, nakedness peril, sword &c I say when I contemplate this, it is with difficulty that I can keep from complaining and murmurings against this dispensation; but I am sensible that this is not right, and may God grant that notwithstanding your great afflictions and sufferings there may not anything separate us from the Love of Christ.8

 

8. Letter to Edward Partridge and Others, 10 December 1833, pp. 71–72, JSP.

 

(Doctrine and Covenants Minute)

Verses 43-54

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)

 

During his earthly ministry the Savior often spoke in parables. Parables can have multiple interpretations, but in this instance at least one interpretation of the story in verses 43–54 seems clear. The choice spot of land mentioned in verse 44 is the location for the city of Zion, and the nobleman is the Lord Himself. Twelve is a number often associated with the house of Israel and the Church, and the twelve olive trees represent the Saints in Jackson County. Later in the parable, the watchmen (the leaders of the Church in Missouri) failed to build the tower (the temple) as they were commanded. As a consequence, the enemy was able to ransack the orchard.

 

Beyond laying the foundation stones to mark the site, the Saints in Missouri did little to promote the work of building the temple. This neglect might be justifiable, given that many of the Saints were emigrants with families and farms to look after. However, the parable identifies a deeper problem among the Saints in Missouri. In the parable the servants of the nobleman began to question the need for having a tower in the first place; they suggest that the resources for the tower could be used for more worldly things (D&C 101:46–50). This detail from the parable suggests that even if the Saints had possessed the time and resources to construct the temple, they would still have neglected to carry out the work. Because they wavered in their desire to even begin work on the temple, the Saints failed to gain the spiritual foresight that might have prevented their enemies from destroying their work. Likewise, in our own lives, if we place spiritual things first, we will find more joy and success in all areas of life.

 

(Doctrine and Covenants Minute)

Verses 55-62

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)

 

The second part of the parable (D&C 101:55-62) hints at a commandment that was not given until several months later. After consulting with leaders who had just arrived from Missouri in February 1834, Joseph Smith received a revelation instructing him to lead a relief mission to the Saints in Zion (D&C 103). Gathering together a small but dedicated group of men and women, Joseph Smith marched to Missouri a few months later. The expedition, known as “Zion’s Camp,” ultimately failed to return the Saints to their homes in Jackson County, but it served as a rich training ground for future Church leaders, including Brigham Young, Wilford Woodruff, Parley P. Pratt, and others.

 

It is interesting that when the concept of a march to Zion is brought up in these verses, the servant’s first response is to ask, “When will these things be?” The Lord provides an ambiguous answer, only saying, “When I will; go ye straightway and do all things whatsoever I have commanded you” (D&C 101:59). The road to redeeming Zion was going to be much longer and more complex than any of the Saints in 1833 could have imagined.

 

(Doctrine and Covenants Minute)

Verses 63-75

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)

 

One of the reasons that the mob leaders in Jackson County openly cited for persecuting the Saints was that “since the arrival of the first of them [the Saints] they have been daily increasing in numbers.”9 The calamities and persecutions that fell upon the Saints in Zion might have caused an impulse in the Church to cease the practice of gathering to one place. But in Doctrine and Covenants 101:63-74 the Lord emphasizes the importance of continuing the gathering to “build them [the Saints] up unto my name upon holy places” and to prepare them for the time of harvesting, a likely reference to the Second Coming (D&C 101:64). The Lord also asks the Saints to purchase land in Zion with money and to not respond to persecution with violence. This counsel echoes the earlier counsel He gave to the Saints to obtain the land for Zion peacefully (D&C 63:27–31). In a revelation given a few months later to the Saints in Zion’s Camp, the Lord reiterates the need to obtain the land through peaceful means (D&C 105:29).

 

While the Lord continued to command the Saints to gather to Zion, he also urged them to not gather in haste; the Saints were to ensure that they had enough money to provide for themselves before moving (D&C 101:72). Failure to follow this commandment led to an overflow of Saints gathering to Kirtland without the resources to establish themselves. In an attempt to help, Church leaders established the Kirtland Safety Society, a bank which later collapsed. The fall of the Kirtland Safety Society led to a major apostasy in Kirtland, and Kirtland eventually ceased to be a meaningful church center.

 

9. Letter from John Whitmer, 29 July 1833, p. 53, JSP.

 

(Doctrine and Covenants Minute)

Verses 76-80

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)

 

Throughout their trials in Missouri and elsewhere the Saints sought peaceful redress of their wrongs through legal means. The Lord in verse 80 explains that the Constitution of the United States was created by wise men whom the Lord had “raised up unto this very purpose.” Joseph Smith at one point proclaimed, “I am the greatest advocate of the Constitution of [the] U.S. [that] there is on the earth.”10 The Prophet also saw a need for the US Constitution to be amended and enforced justly. In a discourse given to the Council of Fifty on April 11, 1844, Joseph Smith taught, “There is only two or three things lacking in the constitution of the United States. If they had said all men [are] born equal, and not only that but they shall have their rights, they shall be free, or the armies of the government should be compelled to enforce those principles of liberty . . . And when a Governor or president will not protect his subjects he ought to be put away from his office.”11 This was, in part, why Joseph Smith was running for president in 1844, to ensure the rights of the Constitution extended to all peoples.

 

The Lord’s statement that “it is not right that any man should be in bondage one to another” powerfully refutes slavery and racism (D&C 101:79). President Dallin H. Oaks used this passage to disaffirm those who would use the scriptures to justify racism and discrimination. He taught:

 

Some religious people have sought to justify practices of racism by references to the Bible, as I will discuss later. Nevertheless, the proper understanding of scriptures—ancient and modern—and recent prophetic statements help us to see that racism, as defined, is not consistent with the revealed word of God. We know that God created all mortals and we are all children of God. Moreover, God created us with the differences that identify races. Therefore, any personal attitudes or official practices of racism involve one group whom God created exercising authority or advantage over another group God created, both groups having God-given qualities they cannot change. So understood, neither group should think or behave as if God created them as first-class children and others as second-class children. Yet that is how racism affects thinking and practices toward others. Members of the Church of Jesus Christ must remember that all such attitudes and official practices were outlawed for us by the Lord’s 1833 revelation to the Prophet Joseph Smith that “it is not right that any man should be in bondage one to another” (D&C 101:79).12

 

10. Discourse, 15 October 1843, as Reported by Willard Richards, p. 128, JSP.

 

11. Council of Fifty, Minutes, March 1844–January 1846; Volume 1, 10 March 1844–1 March 1845, p. 122, JSP; emphasis in original.

 

12. Dallin H. Oaks, “Racism and Other Challenges,” Brigham Young University devotional, October 27, 2020.

 

(Doctrine and Covenants Minute)

Verses 81-101

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)

 

Doctrine and Covenants 101:81-101 of the revelation the Lord references the parable of the woman and the unjust judge, found in Luke 18:1–8. The parable can be interpreted in different ways, but the parable’s central message seems to be to continue enduring when engaged in a just cause. Like the unjust judge, the unjust officials in Missouri refused for a long time to help the Saints. However, it was still important to seek redress and reparations through legal means rather than through force and violence. Joseph Smith wrote to the Saints in Missouri:

 

Therefore this is my counsel[:] that you retain your land; even unto the uttermost, and seek every lawful means to seek redress of your enemies, &c, &c, and pray to God, day and night, to return you in peace and in safety to the Lands of your inheritance; and when the Judge fails you, appeal unto the executive; and when the executive fails you[,] appeal unto the President; and when the President fails you, and all laws fail you, and the humanity of the people fails you, and all things else fail you but God alone, and you continue to weary him with your importunings, as the poor woman did the unjust Judge, he will not fail to execute Judgment upon your enemies, and to avenge his own elect that cry unto him day and night.13

 

The Lord also makes an ominous promise to “vex the nation” if the leaders of the federal and state governments refuse to help the Saints (D&C 101:89). The hint of coming judgement upon the United States, later stated even more directly in Doctrine and Covenants 105:15, is a dark thread in the revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants. Eventually, judgment in the form of the American Civil War did come upon the land because of its callous disregard for human rights.

 

13. JS History, vol. A-1, p. 395, JSP.

 

(Doctrine and Covenants Minute)