Commentary on Doctrine & Covenants 18

/ Doctrine & Covenants 18 / Commentary

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

Verses 1-5

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)

The language in this revelation closely follows the Savior’s words to Simon Peter (Matthew 16:13–19) and to his Nephite Twelve (3 Ne. 27:9-10). These verses are a direct response to Oliver Cowdery’s desire for guidance in writing the “Articles of the Church of Christ.” God’s command for him to “rely upon the things which are written” is a command for Oliver to look in the manuscript of the Boof of Mormon he had been writing as scribe for the blueprint to build up the Lord’s Church. Hence, the Church was based almost entirely upon the Book of Mormon, not the Bible. Oliver ended up drafting the text of the “Articles of the Church of Christ” as a result of the Lord’s command to him here in D&C 18:1-5. In composing this document, Oliver drew heavily from the Lord’s words in D&C 18 itself as well as from the text of the Book of Mormon, especially material from 3 Nephi and Moroni, and other scripture. “More than half of this document was either a direct quotation or a close paraphrase from the Book of Mormon manuscript” (“Build Up My Church,” Revelations in Context, 2016). (Doctrine and Covenants Minute)

Verses 6-8

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)

In the sequence of Book of Mormon translation, the small plates of Nephi, consisting of 1 Nephi through Omni, were translated last, making it likely that this part of the revelation addresses the prophecy in 2 Nephi 3 about three Josephs. In the passage, Lehi teaches his youngest son, Joseph, about a prophecy made by the patriarch Joseph that “a seer shall the Lord my God raise up, who shall be a choice seer unto the fruit of my loins” (2 Nephi 3:6). The Savior uses Joseph’s name to connect the prophecy of this ancient Joseph with the Joseph raised up in the latter days to begin the work of restoration. The name “Joseph” itself holds significance beyond its association with the ancient patriarch. The name is related to the Hebrew root yasaph, meaning “to add,” and to asaph, meaning both “to take away” and “to gather” (see Genesis 30:24, footnote A, the Latter-day Saint edition of the Bible). Rachel’s act of naming her firstborn son Joseph was a plea for God to gather more children to her and also suggested the Lord removing her reproach. Both of these meanings—“to add sons” and “to gather”—are fitting associations for the founding prophet of this dispensation. (Doctrine and Covenants Minute)

Verses 9-16

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)

The word apostle simply means “one sent forth.” Oliver Cowdery and David Whitmer are given an apostolic calling in this passage, though most likely this is in the broadest sense of apostolic because they are called as special witnesses of Jesus Christ to all the world. At the time of this revelation, the Church was not formally organized, and for a person to serve in the apostolic office as it currently exists in the Church requires a sustaining vote by the general membership of the Church. When the Church was organized in April 1830, both Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery were sustained as the first and second elders of the Church (D&C 20:2–3). Later, on February 14, 1835, Joseph Smith called the first Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in this dispensation (JS—History, vol. B-1, 564, JSP). Oliver and David were never officially brought into the Quorum of the Twelve and so did not become apostles in the way the modern Church defines the term, but they can be considered “special witnesses of the name of Christ in all the world,” as a later revelation defined the term apostle (D&C 107:23).

 

The first principle the Lord taught to Oliver and David is the worth of souls. The Savior then testified of His own role in suffering death in the flesh, which he defines as suffering “the pain of all men,” to bring about the salvation of mankind. Hence, given the unfathomable cost paid by Christ to make salvation possible, “how great is his joy in the soul that repenteth” and how great will be our joy with those whom we help to inspire to repent. (Doctrine and Covenants Minute)

Verses 17-25

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)

When the Savior tells David Whitmer and Oliver Cowdery to “contend against no church, save it be the church of the devil,” He is likely using the broadest sense of the term church to describe the dark forces arrayed against the tiny group that will become the Church of the Lamb (see 1 Nephi 14:12–14). While different entities have at times taken on the role of the church of the devil, the term is often used in a general sense. Just as Zion denotes the pure in heart regardless of their religious background (D&C 97:21) and Babylon denotes the impure in heart, the “church of the devil” can consist of any person or organization that seeks to thwart the work of God.

 

In contrast to the church of the devil, the Lord asks His disciples to emphasize His name and teaches them the importance of truly taking on His name in order to gain salvation. In the Book of Mormon the King Benjamin emphasizes the same principle with the righteous people he gathered together, saying, “I shall give this people a name, that thereby they may be distinguished above all the people which the Lord God hath brought out of the land of Jerusalem; and this I do because they have been a diligent people in keeping the commandments of the Lord. And I give unto them a name that never shall be blotted out, except it be through transgression” (Mosiah 1:11-12). After receiving confirmation of the acceptance of their willingness to enter in a covenant with God, King Benjamin told his people, “because of the covenant which ye have made ye shall be called the children of Christ, his sons, and his daughters; for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you” (Mosiah 5:7). (Doctrine and Covenants Minute)

Verses 26-36

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)

This part of the revelation is addressed directly to the future Quorum of the Twelve, who were called six years later in 1835. Joseph Smith made reference to this revelation in the meeting where the original Twelve of this dispensation were called. The Savior’s commandment for the Twelve to testify that they had heard His voice was directly fulfilled when the Doctrine and Covenants was first published in 1835. The publication included the written testimony of the Twelve, which reads in part,

 

The testimony of the witnesses to the book of the Lord’s commandments, which he gave to his church through Joseph Smith, jr. who was appointed by the voice of the church for this purpose: we therefore feel willing to bear testimony to all the world of mankind, to every creature upon the face of all the earth, and upon the islands of the sea, that the Lord has borne record to our souls, through the Holy Ghost shed forth upon us, that these commandments were given by inspiration of God, and are profitable for all men, and are verily true (Doctrine and Covenants, 1835, 256, JSP). (Doctrine and Covenants Minute)

Verses 37-47

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)

As instructed here, Oliver and David, assisted by Martin Harris, conducted the search to find the first Quorum of the Twelve in this dispensation. The date the search began is unknown, but in a conference held on October 26, 1831, Oliver declared that the Twelve would be “ordained and sent forth from the land of Zion” (Minutes, 25–26 October 1831, 15, JSP). The record of the February 1835 meeting at which the Twelve were called reads, “President Joseph Smith Jun. said that the first business of the meeting was for the three Witnesses of the Book of Mormon to pray, each one, and then proceed to choose twelve men from the church as Apostles to go to all nations, kindreds, tongues and people. The three Witnesses, viz, Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, and Martin Harris, united in prayer. These three witnesses were then blessed by the laying on of the hands of the Presidency. The witnesses, then, according to a former commandment, proceeded to make choice of the Twelve” (JS History, vol. B-1, 565–69).

 

The first members of the Quorum of the Twelve chosen by the witnesses were (listed in the order given in the history of the Church) Lyman E. Johnson, Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, Orson Hyde, David W. Patten, Luke Johnson, William E. McClellin, John F. Boynton, Orson Pratt, William Smith, Thomas B. Marsh, and Parley P. Pratt. Since all of the Twelve were called at the same time, they were ordained in order according to their ages. Oliver Cowdery delivered the first charge to the Twelve (JS History, vol. B-1, 565–69). (Doctrine and Covenants Minute)