Commentary on Doctrine & Covenants 24

/ Doctrine & Covenants 24 / Commentary

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

Verses 1-9

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)

Joseph is told in the revelation that his first responsibility is to the Church. The Lord instructs him to seek support from among the members of the Church. The rising persecution at the time may have also caused anxiety for Joseph about being able to support his family. The Lord reminds him that his first calling is to minister in spiritual things, and that “in temporal labors thou shalt not have strength” (v. 9).

           

Joseph sought throughout his life to open successful businesses, but to the end of his days he struggled to make ends meet. Brigham later noted, with some tone of exasperation, why Joseph wrestled with his desire for temporal success and his calling as a prophet:

 

“Joseph goes to New York and buys 20,000 dollars’ worth of goods, comes into Kirtland and commences to trade. In comes one of the brethren, ‘Brother Joseph, let me have a frock pattern for my wife.’ What if Joseph says, ‘No, I cannot without the money.’ The consequences would be, ‘He is no Prophet,’ says James. Pretty soon Thomas walks in. ‘Brother Joseph, will you trust me for a pair of boots?’  ‘No, I cannot let them go without the money.’ “Well,” says Thomas, ‘Brother Joseph is no Prophet; I have found that out, and I am glad of it.’  

 

Brigham continued, “After awhile, in comes Bill and sister Susan. Says Bill, ‘Brother Joseph, I want a shawl, I have not got the money, but I wish you to trust me a week or a fortnight.’ Well, Brother Joseph thinks the others have gone and apostatized, and he don’t know but these goods will make the whole Church do the same, so he lets Bill have a shawl. Bill walks off with it and meets a brother. ‘Well,’ says he, ‘what do you think of brother Joseph?’ ‘O he is a first-rate man, and I fully believe he is a Prophet. See here, he has trusted me this shawl.’ Richard says, ‘I think I will go down and see if he won’t trust me some.’ In walks Richard. ‘Brother Joseph, I want to trade about 20 dollars.’ ‘Well,’ says Joseph, ‘these goods will make the people apostatize, so over they go, they are of less value than the people.’ Richard gets his goods. Another comes in the same way to make a trade of 25 dollars, and so it goes.”

 

“Joseph was a first-rate fellow with them all the time, provided he never would ask them to pay him. In this way it is easy for us to trade away a first-rate store of goods, and be in debt for them. . . . I have known persons that would have cursed brother Joseph to the lowest hell hundreds of times, because he would not trust out everything he had on the face of the earth, and let the people squander it to the four winds. When he had let many of the brethren and sisters have goods on trust, he could not meet his liabilities, and then they would turn round and say, ‘What is the matter brother Joseph, why don’t you pay your debts?’ ‘It is quite a curiosity that you don’t pay your debts; you must be a bad financier; you don’t know how to handle the things of this world.’ At the same time the coats, pants, dresses, boots and shoes that they and their families were wearing came out of Joseph’s store, and were not paid for when they were cursing him for not paying his debts” (The Complete Discourses of Brigham Young, 2009, p. 601, 1017).

(Doctrine and Covenants Minute)

Verses 10-14

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)

The second half of the revelation is addressed to Oliver Cowdery. It informs the two elders of the power they have to perform miracles, though it implies that the power should be used sparingly. The Savior may have spoken of the power of miracles because around this time the first miracle in the Church was performed. Newell Knight, the son of Joseph Knight Sr., had difficulty praying publicly in Church meetings. He went to a nearby wood and made several attempts to pray when he began to feel mentally and physically unwell. When he returned home, Newell’s wife was alarmed at his appearance, and called Joseph for help.

           

Joseph later recorded, “I went and found him suffering very much in his mind, and his body acted upon in a very strange manner. His visage and limbs distorted and twisted in every shape and appearance possible to imagine; and finally he was caught up off the floor of the apartment and tossed about most fearfully. . . . After he had thus suffered for a time, I succeeded in getting hold of him by the hand, when almost immediately he spoke to me, and with great earnestness requested of me, that I should cast the Devil out of him, saying that he knew he was in him, and that he also knew that I could cast him out. I replied, ‘If you know that I can, it shall be done,’ and then almost unconsciously I rebuked the devil, and commanded him in the name of Jesus Christ to depart from him; when immediately Newell spoke out and said that he saw the devil leave him and vanish from his sight.” 

 

Joseph later noted, “This was the first miracle which was done in this Church, or by any member of it, and it was done, not by man nor by the power of man, but it was done by God, and by the power of Godliness: Therefore let the honor and the praise, the dominion and the glory be ascribed to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit for ever and ever Amen” (JS, History, vol. A-1, p. 40, JSP). During Joseph Smith’s trial, Newell later testified in court on Joseph’s behalf. When he was asked by one of the attorneys if Joseph had cast the devil out of him, Newell replied, “No Sir; it was done by the power of God, and Joseph Smith was the instrument in the hands of God on this occasion. He commanded him out of me in the name of Jesus Christ” (MacKay and Hartley, The Rise of the Latter-day Saints, 2019, p. 14).

(Doctrine and Covenants Minute)

Verses 15-19

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)

There is much folklore in the Church surrounding the practice of “casting off the dust of your feet against them as a testimony” (v. 15). Elder James E. Talmage later offered clarification on this practice, explaining, “To ceremonially shake the dust from one’s feet as a testimony against another was understood by the Jews to symbolize a cessation of fellowship and a renunciation of all responsibility for consequences that might follow. It became an ordinance of accusation and testimony by the Lord’s instructions to His apostles as cited in the text. In the current dispensation, the Lord has similarly directed His authorized servants to so testify against those who willfully and maliciously oppose the truth when authoritatively presented (D&C 24:15; 60:15; 75:20; 84:92; 99:4). The responsibility of testifying before the Lord by this accusing symbol is so great that the means may be employed only under unusual and extreme conditions, as the Spirit of the Lord may direct (Jesus the Christ, 1915, 345).

 

An instance of the washing of feet is found in the History of the Church, occurring during Samuel H. Smith’s first mission. Joseph Smith’s later history records, “On the 30th of June following the organization of the Church, [Samuel] took some Books of Mormon and started out on his mission, to which he had been set apart by his brother Joseph, and on​ travelling twenty-five miles, which was his first day’s journey, he stopped at a number of places in order to sell his books but was turned out of doors as soon as he declared his principles. When evening came on, he was faint and almost discouraged, but coming to an inn, which was surrounded with every appearance of plenty, he called to see if the Landlord would buy one of his books. On going in, Samuel inquired of him, if he did not wish to purchase a history of the origin of the Indians.

 

‘I do not know,’ replied the host, ‘how did you get hold of it?’

 

‘It was translated,’ rejoined Samuel, ‘by my brother from some gold plates that he found buried in the earth.’

 

‘You damned liar!’ cried the landlord, ‘get out of my house— you shan’t stay one minute with your books’

 

Samuel was sick at heart, for this was the fifth time he had been turned out of doors that day. He left the house, and travelled a short distance, and washed his feet in a small brook, as a testimony against the man. He then proceeded five miles further on his journey and seeing an apple tree a short distance from the road, he concluded to pass the night under it; and here he lay all night upon the cold, damp ground.”

 

A few weeks later, Samuel was traveling with his father and mother near the tavern where he was rejected. “Just before they came to the house, a sign of smallpox intercepted them. They turned aside, and meeting a citizen of the place, they inquired of him to what extent this disease prevailed. He answered, that the tavernkeeper and two of his family had died with it not long since, but he did not know that anyone else had caught the distemper, and that it was brought into the neighborhood by a traveler who stopped at the tavern overnight” (JS History vol. F-1, 287-288, JSP).

(Doctrine and Covenants Minute)