Commentary on Doctrine & Covenants 55

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

Verses 1-3

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)


William W. Phelps was baptized shortly after this revelation was given. In an 1835 letter, Phelps gives the date of his baptism as June 10, 1831. However, several different sources give the date of this revelation as June 14, 1831, and at the time the revelation was given Phelps was not baptized (See “Letter No. 6,” LDS Messenger and Advocate, April 1835, 1:97, also JSP D1:336).


In the revelation, the Lord directs that William be immediately ordained an elder, a step that was rare in the early Church. The Lord may have recognized the earlier struggles William had experienced and knew his talents as a leader and writer. William was among the most influential of the early converts to the Church, and the works produced by his pen continue to resound in the Church today. William wrotoe the words of a number of beloved Latter-day Saint hymns, including “Now Let Us Rejoice,” “Redeemer of Israel,” “Praise to the Man,” “If You Could Hie to Kolob,” and “The Spirit of God.”


Phelps also possessed a strong testimony of the Book of Mormon, refined by his trials before he joined the Church. He later wrote of the importance of the Book of Mormon in helping him join the Church: “Whenever I have meditated upon the Book of Mormon, and looked ahead at the glory which will be brought to pass by that, and the servants of God, I have been filled with hope; filled with light; filled with joy; and filled with satisfaction. What a wonderful volume! What a glorious treasure! By that book I learned the right way to God; by that book I received the fulness of the everlasting gospel; by that book I found the new covenant” (“Letter No. 10, Latter-day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate 12 (September 1835): 177–78).


(Doctrine and Covenants Minute)

Verses 4-6

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)


William was commanded to accompany Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon on their journey to Missouri. He departed along with them on June 19, 1831, just three days after his baptism. He was also selected for a special work: alongside Oliver Cowdery, he was to write books for the schools of the Church “that little children also may receive instruction” (D&C 55:4). This is the earliest revelation relating to the educational initiatives of the Church. Later, Parley P. Pratt and others were told that “there should be a school in Zion” (D&C 97:3).


In later revelations the Lord directed not only the creation of schools for children but also the building of educational programs for adults (D&C 88:78–80). The revelatory command for William W. Phelps to serve as an educator in Zion serves as a precursor to the Church’s emphasis on education. Throughout its history, the Church has engaged in a myriad of educational programs. Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf succinctly summarized the Church’s approach to education when he said, “For members of the Church, education is not merely a good idea—it’s a commandment” (“Two Principles for Any Economy,” October 2009 General Conference).


(Doctrine and Covenants Minute)