Find helpful commentary on the verses below to better understand the message of this revelation.
Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)
Doctrine and Covenants 53 is the only place in the Doctrine and Covenants where the phrase “calling and election” appears (D&C 53:1). However, in this case, the calling in question refers only to Sidney Gilbert’s church calling, or his appointed role among the Saints, at the time. Sidney is the first person asked in the revelations to serve as an agent for the Church. He was commanded to travel along with Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon to Missouri. Once he arrived there, he was commanded by the Lord to “establish a store, that he may sell goods without fraud . . . and thus provide for my saints” (D&C 57:8, 10). Sidney did establish a store in Missouri and served among the Saints in Zion. In 1833, his store was ransacked during the persecutions against Church members in Jackson County, and Sidney was taken to jail. The only possessions he took with him when he was arrested were a Bible and several revelations of Joseph Smith that he had personally copied. Sidney later died during a cholera outbreak among the volunteers in Zion’s Camp, a relief mission sent to the Saints in Missouri (Black, Who’s Who in the Doctrine and Covenants, 102–103).
Sidney lived for only four years after joining the Church, but his influence lived on through the family members he helped bring into the gospel. After his sister’s husband died in a shipwreck on Lake Ontario, Sidney had taken his sister and her children into his home. When the missionaries arrived in Kirtland a few years later with the Book of Mormon, Sidney helped introduce the book to his sister and her family, which included his niece, Mary Elizabeth Rollins. When Mary first heard of the Book of Mormon, she went to the home of Isaac Morley, who had a copy of the book. When he saw Mary’s interest in it, Morley agreed to loan her the book. Mary ran home, proclaiming to Sidney, “Oh Uncle I have the Golden Bible.” She stayed up late that night, studying the book with her family.
Mary woke up early the next day to study the book. She later remembered, “I learned the first paragraph by heart.” When she brought the book back to Brother Morley, he told her, “You are early, I guess you did not read much of it.” Mary showed him how far she had read and repeated an “outline of the history of Nephi.” In response, Morley looked at her in surprise, telling her, “Child, you take this back and finish it, I can wait.” A few days later, Joseph Smith visited Sidney Gilbert’s home, saw the copy of the Book of Mormon, and remarked, “I sent that book to Brother Morley.” Sidney explained how Mary had obtained it, and Joseph sent for her. She later remembered, “He came and put his hands on my head and gave me a great blessing, the first I ever received, and made me a present of the book, and said he would give Brother Morley another.” Mary later moved with her uncle to Missouri and was instrumental in saving the early manuscripts of Joseph Smith’s revelations from a mob (“Mary Elizabeth Rollins Lightner,” Utah Genealogical and Historical Magazine, 17 (July 1826): 193–205, 250).
(Doctrine and Covenants Minute)