Commentary on Doctrine & Covenants 23

/ Doctrine & Covenants 23 / Commentary

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

Verses 1-2

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)

This revelation contains commendation and subtle warnings for five of Joseph Smith’s closest friends and family members. First, Oliver Cowdery is given a blessing, but also admonished to “beware of pride” (v. 1). Only a few months after this revelation was given, Oliver entered into contention with Joseph over some of the wording in the Articles and Covenants and then became embroiled in a dispute over who had the right to receive revelation in the Church. Oliver served as one of the most important leaders of the Church but was excommunicated in 1838. Wilford Woodruff related a conversation between Joseph and Oliver, stating, “If the president of the Church or either of his counselors or any of the apostles or any other man feels in his heart that God cannot do without him, and that he is especially important in order to carry on the work of the Lord, he stands upon slippery ground. I heard Joseph Smith say that Oliver Cowdery, who was the second apostle in this Church, said to him, ‘If I leave this Church it will fall.’ Said, Joseph, ‘Oliver, you try it.’ Oliver tried it. He fell.” (Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, 1990, p. 123).

(Doctrine and Covenants Minute)

Verses 3-4

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)

Joseph’s brothers, Hyrum and Samuel, also sought counsel from the Lord at this time. Hyrum was told that “his duty is unto the Church forever” (v. 3). Hyrum eventually succeeded Oliver Cowdery as the second elder of the Church, held the office of patriarch to the Church, was a prophet, seer, and revelator unto the Church, and fell a martyr with Joseph in Carthage Jail (D&C 124:94–95, D&C 135:6).

           

Samuel H. Smith is traditionally recognized as the first missionary of this dispensation. Only a few days after this revelation was given, Samuel embarked with a knapsack filled with copies of the Book of Mormon. He was initially discouraged about his lack of success as a missionary: he only managed to give away a few copies, including one to John P. Greene, a Methodist minister, who agreed to take the book on his next preaching tour to see if anyone was interested in their own copy.

 

In a subsequent visit with the Greene family, Samuel was impressed to offer a copy of the book to the matriarch of the household, Rhoda Young Greene. When Samuel offered her the book, she burst into tears and asked if he would pray with her. Samuel did and promised her that the Spirit of God would give her a testimony of the things she had read. Within a year, both Rhoda and her husband were baptized. Rhoda then introduced Samuel to her brother, Phineas Young. Phineas later recalled meeting with Samuel and pointing out his name on the page that listed the eight witnesses of the Book of Mormon. In response to this inquiry, Samuel responded, “Yes . . . I know the book to be a revelation from God, translated by the gift and power of the Holy Ghost, and that my brother, Joseph Smith, jun., is a Prophet, Seer, and Revelator.” Phineas Young was converted by Samuel’s teachings and later shared the book with his brother, Brigham Young (Walker, United by Faith, 2005, pp. 209–10).

(Doctrine and Covenants Minute)

Verses 5-7

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)

The Lord last spoke to two of the patriarchs of the three leading families in the Church at the time. Joseph Smith Sr. was baptized on the day the Church was organized, but Joseph Knight Sr. appears to have shown some hesitation to be baptized and was commanded by the Lord to unite with the Church (v. 7). He was baptized on June 27, 1830, along with several other members of his family. Father Knight later recalled, “Soon after the Church began to grow the people began to be angry and to persecute and called them fools and said they were deceived.” Father Knight stayed true to his testimony and the covenants he made at his baptism to the end of his life (Jessee, “Joseph Knight’s Recollection of Early Mormon History,” 1976, 11).

(Doctrine and Covenants Minute)