Commentary on Doctrine & Covenants 25

/ Doctrine & Covenants 25 / Commentary

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

Verse 1

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)

Most of the Doctrine and Covenants is simply addressed to all people, without any specifications about gender. At the same time, many of Joseph Smith’s friends and family requested personal revelations addressed only to them. This is the only revelation in the Doctrine and Covenants given specifically to a woman. Because of its unique nature it has been spoken of as a revelation to all women in the Church.

 

President Gordon B. Hinckley taught, “I remind you of a great and remarkable revelation given through the Prophet Joseph Smith to his wife Emma and applicable to every woman in the Church, for the Lord said in concluding this revelation ‘that this is my voice unto all.’ In the first verse of this revelation the Lord states that ‘all those who receive my gospel are sons and daughters in my kingdom.’ Great and true are these words of divine promise. The revelation which follows these opening words is rich in counsel, in praise, in instruction, and in promise to Emma Smith, and to every other woman who heeds the word of the Lord as set forth therein.” (“Daughters of God,” October 1991 General Conference).

(Doctrine and Covenants Minute)

Verses 2-3

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)

Why did the Lord call Emma an “elect lady?” (v. 3). Twelve years after this revelation was given, at the first meeting of the Relief Society, Joseph Smith explained the meaning of this prophecy. According to the minutes of the Nauvoo Relief Society, “President Smith read the revelation to Emma Smith from the book of Doctrine and Covenants; and stated that she was ordained at the time, the revelation was given, to expound the scriptures to all; and to teach the female part of community” (Nauvoo Relief Society Minute Book, 125, JSP). Joseph Smith’s journal records that he “gave much instruction, read in the New Testament, and Book of Doctrine and Covenants, concerning the Elect Lady, and showed that the elect meant to be elected to a certain work, and that the revelation was then fulfilled by Sister Emma’s election to the Presidency of the Society, she having previously been ordained to expound the Scriptures” (JS Journal, Dec. 1841-Dec. 1842, 91, JSP). Joseph also added “that not [Emma] alone, but others, may attain to the same blessings” found in this revelation (Nauvoo RS Minute Book, 8, JSP).

(Doctrine and Covenants Minute)

Verses 4-6

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)

Emma served as one of the most important figures in the coming forth of the Book of Mormon. She acted as Joseph’s scribe during the early stages of the translation. She served as a constant source of support to the prophet during the difficulties surrounding the lost manuscript. She believed whole-heartedly in the Book of Mormon for the rest of her life.

 

In an interview with her son, Joseph III, she later commented, “My belief is that the Book of Mormon is of divine authenticity—I have not the slightest doubt of it. I am satisfied that no man could have dictated the writing of the manuscripts unless he was inspired; for, when acting as his scribe, your father would dictate to me hour after hour; and when returning after meals, or after interruptions, he could at once begin where he had left off, without either seeing the manuscript or having any portion of it read to him. This was a usual thing for him to do. It would have been improbable that a learned man could do this; and, for one so ignorant and unlearned as he was, it was simply impossible.”

 

However, Emma was not chosen to be one of the witnesses of the Book of Mormon and did not see the plates. She later noted, “The plates often lay on the table without any attempt at concealment, wrapped in a small linen tablecloth, which I had given him to fold them in. I once felt of the plates, as they thus lay on the table, tracing their outline and shape. They seemed to be pliable like thick paper, and would rustle with a metallic sound when the edges were moved by the thumb, as one does sometimes thumb the edges of a book” (“Last Testimony of Sister Emma,” Saint’s Herald, vol. 26, no. 19, 289).

 

The Lord’s counsel for Emma to go with Joseph “at the time of his going” is most likely a reference to the growing tension with Emma’s family over Joseph’s prophetic calling. Emma’s uncle, Nathaniel Lewis, was a Methodist minister and a leader of the persecutions that hindered Joseph during this time. Emma’s father, Isaac Hale, was also antagonistic toward the work, later calling the Book of Mormon “a silly fabrication of falsehood and wickedness.” In August 1833, a month after this revelation was given, Joseph and Emma left Harmony, Pennsylvania, because of persecution. Emma never saw her family again (Documentary History of the Book of Mormon, 2019, pp. 80–83).

(Doctrine and Covenants Minute)

Verses 7-11

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)

Emma was given active role to play in the Church that was later fulfilled when she served as the president of the Nauvoo Relief Society. Among her other duties given by the Lord was to compile a selection of sacred hymns (v. 11). Five years after this revelation was given, Emma published the first Latter-day Saint hymnbook. The hymnal contained the text of ninety hymns, divided into sections titled “Sacred Hymns,” “Morning Hymns,” “Evening Hymns,” “Farewell Hymns,” “On Baptism,” “On Sacrament,” “On Marriage,” and “Miscellaneous.”

 

Many of the hymns used in the first hymnbook such as “The Spirit of God” and “Redeemer of Israel” were written by W. W. Phelps and are still used by Latter-day Saints around the world. Other hymns such as “O Stop and Tell Me, Red Man” are no longer in use. The hymnal also adapted some of the favorite hymns among all Christians such as Handel’s “Joy to the World.” In the text of the Latter-day Saint hymnal, the original words of “Joy to the World” were adapted to read “the Lord will come” instead of “the Lord is come,” and instead of “heaven and nature sing” the text reads “and saints and angels sing.”

 

The first hymnbook, though small in size, launched the grand Latter-day Saint tradition of worship through music. The second hymnal, published in Nauvoo in 1841, included 304 hymns, nearly triple the number of its predecessor.18  Latter-day Saints continue today to worship Jesus Christ through song and gather music and poetry reflecting the unique beliefs of the restored gospel.19 All of this grew from the Lord’s counsel to Emma Smith, “For my soul delighteth in the song of the heart; yea, the song of the righteous is a prayer unto me, and it shall be answered with a blessing upon their heads” (v. 12).

See Historical Introduction, “Collection of Sacred Hymns, 1835,” The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed November 6, 2020, https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/collection-of-sacred-hymns-1835/132

(Doctrine and Covenants Minute)

Verse 12

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)

In the introduction to the 1985 Church hymnbook the First Presidency taught: “Inspirational music is an essential part of our church meetings. The hymns invite the Spirit of the Lord, create a feeling of reverence, unify us as members, and provide a way for us to offer praises to the Lord. Some of the greatest sermons are preached by the singing of hymns. Hymns move us to repentance and good works, build testimony and faith, comfort the weary, console the mourning, and inspire us to endure to the end” (Hymns, 1985, ix).

(Doctrine and Covenants Minute)

Verses 13-16

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)

At the end of the blessing, the Lord gives items of warning and counsel to Emma. At different times during the history of the Church, Emma has been both vilified and venerated. Rather than casting her in either of these simplified ways, it is best to embrace the complexity surrounding Emma Smith. During her marriage to Joseph she endured immense adversity and persecution. Understandably, she struggled with the introduction and practice of plural marriage (see Doctrine and Covenants 132). She chose not to join the Saints in their westward exodus but remained a faithful witness to the early history of the Church, especially the miraculous coming forth of the Book of Mormon. She was a flawed, struggling human being who endured and overcame her trials through the strength of her faith.

           

The persecutions she endured inflicted trauma that remained with her to the end of her life. According to one visitor who spoke to her later in her life, Emma remarked, “I have always avoided talking to my children about having anything to do in the church, for I have suffered so much I have dreaded to have them take any part in it” (cited in Newell and Avery, Mormon Enigma, 1984, 269). At the same time, what Emma did endure endeared her to those around her. Lucy Mack Smith, speaking of Emma’s courage, remarked, “I have never seen a woman in my life, who would endure every species of fatigue and hardship, from month to month, and from year to year, with that unflinching courage, zeal and patience, which she has always done; for I know that which she has had to endure; that she has been tossed upon the ocean of uncertainty; that She has breasted the storm of persecution, and buffeted the rage of men and devils, until she has been swallowed up in a sea of trouble which have borne down almost any other woman” (Lucy Mack Smith, History, 1845, 190, JSP).

           

Joseph Smith saw Emma as his constant companion through the travails of his prophetic ministry. Near the end of his life, he remarked,  “With what unspeakable delight, and what transports of joy swelled my bosom, when I took by the hand on that night, my beloved Emma she that was my wife, even the wife of my youth; and the choice of my heart. Many were the re-vibrations of my mind when I contemplated for a moment the many scenes we had been called to pass through. The fatigues, and the toils, the sorrows, and sufferings, and the joys and consolations from time to time had strewed our paths and crowned our board. Oh! what a co-mingling of thought filled my mind for the moment, Again she ​is​ here, even in the seventh trouble, undaunted, firm and unwavering, unchangeable, affectionate Emma” (JS Journal, Dec. 1841-Dec. 1842, 164, JSP).  

(Doctrine and Covenants Minute)