Commentary on Doctrine & Covenants 39

/ Doctrine & Covenants 39 / Commentary

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

Verses 1-6

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)


The Lord repeats to James Covel a theme found in many of the revelations given during the fall and winter of 1830–31. The Lord’s words are a capstone on the instructions He gave to many of the new converts, from Emma Smith to James Covel, of the promise of becoming a son or daughter of God. The sonship promised here is different than our heritage as the beloved spirit sons and daughters of Heavenly Parents. The new birth described here makes men and women the sons and daughters of Christ and the sons and daughters of Heavenly Parents through adoption into the family of Christ.


Elder Bruce R. McConkie taught,


Baptism and church membership standing alone do not make men sons of Christ, but through them, as he said, man have “power to become my sons” (D&C 39:4; Rev. 21:7). Those who are sons of God (meaning the Father) are persons who, first, receive the gospel, join the true Church, obtain the priesthood, marry for eternity, and walk in obedience to the whole gospel law. They are then adopted into the family of Jesus Christ, become joint-heirs with him, and consequently receive, inherit, and possess equally with him in glorious exaltation in the kingdom of his Father (D&C 76:54–60; 84:33–41; 88:107; 132:15–25; Rom. 8:14–18; Gal. 3:26–29; 4:1–7).” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 1:73–74)


(Doctrine and Covenants Minute)

Verses 7-14

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)


James eventually rejected the call from the Lord to teach and gather with the Saints to the Ohio. As was the case with James, no person is forced to accept callings or commandments from God; they always have the power to reject them. In response to the question, “Do we really need to obey all of God’s commandments?” Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf answered, “I think God knows something we don’t—things that are beyond our capacity to comprehend! Our Father in Heaven is an eternal being whose experience, wisdom, and intelligence are infinitely greater than ours. Not only that, but He is also eternally loving, compassionate, and focused on one blessed goal: to bring to pass our immortality and eternal life. In other words, He not only knows what is best for you; He also anxiously wants you to choose what is best for you.”


Elder Uchtdorf continued,


Part of our challenge is, I think, that we imagine that God has all of His blessings locked in a huge cloud up in heaven, refusing to give them to us unless we comply with some strict, paternalistic requirements He has set up. But the commandments aren’t like that at all. In reality, Heavenly Father is constantly raining blessings upon us. It is our fear, doubt, and sin that, like an umbrella, block these blessings from reaching us. . . . His commandments are the loving instructions and the divine help for us to close the umbrella so we can receive the shower of heavenly blessings.” (“Living the Gospel Joyful,” October 2014 General Conference


James Covel, in making the choice not to comply with the Lord’s commandments, deprived himself of the shower of blessings the Lord intended to provide for him. Rather than punishing him, the Lord instead was unable to provide the promised blessings to James because he refused to take the actions necessary to receive them. In another discourse, Elder Uchtdorf explained, “Faith is powerful, and often it does result in miracles. But no matter how much faith we have, there are two things faith cannot do. For one, it cannot violate another person’s agency . . . God will invite, persuade. God will reach out tirelessly with love and inspiration and encouragement. But God will never compel—that would undermine His great plan for our eternal growth” (“Fourth Floor, Last Door,” October 2016 General Conference).


(Doctrine and Covenants Minute)

Verses 15-24

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)


In the last part of this revelation, the Lord reiterates the promises made to the Saints who choose to gather to the Ohio. He also emphasizes one other purpose of the gathering—to bring the people to safety before the time of His return to earth. The Savior says that those who receive the gift of the Holy Ghost will be “be looking forth for the signs of my coming, and shall know me” (D&C 39:23). Being aware of the signs of the Savior’s coming is one of the Savior’s commands to his disciples in the last days. In an 1839 discourse, Joseph Smith taught,


I will prophecy that the signs of the coming of the Son of man are already commenced, one pestilence will desolate after another. We shall soon have war and bloodshed [and] the moon will be turned to blood. I testify of these things and that the coming of the Son of man is nigh, even at your very doors. If our souls and our bodies are not looking forth for the coming of the Son of man and after we are dead if we are not looking forth we shall be among those who are calling for the rocks to fall upon us.” (Discourse, between circa 26 June and circa 4 August 1839, as Reported by William Clayton, 19, JSP)


At the same time, it is possible to become imbalanced in our approach toward the signs of the time. When this revelation was given, the signs of the Savior’s coming consisted essentially of Doctrine and Covenants 29, 38; Matthew 24; Mark 13; the book of Revelation; 1 Nephi 21; 3 Nephi 21–22; and Mormon 8. Further information about the signs of the Second Coming would come in Doctrine and Covenants 45, 87, 101, and 133. In an era in which we are flooded with constant information and speculation about the signs it is still good counsel to keep our search for the signs closely aligned to the words of God found in the scriptures or given to modern prophets.


(Doctrine and Covenants Minute)