Commentary on Doctrine & Covenants 7

/ Doctrine & Covenants 7 / Commentary

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

Verses 1-3

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)

Two versions of this revelation have been published; the first, published in 1833 in the Book of Commandments, featured only these first three verses (Book of Commandments, 1833, 18). When the Doctrine and Covenants was published in 1835, the revelation was expanded with several verses added, and there was a slight shift in the way the verses were ordered. Verse 8 was the final verse in the 1833 version and was moved to the end of the revelation when the other verses were added in 1835 (Doctrine and Covenants, 1835, 161).


In 3 Nephi 28, when speaking to the Nephite disciples, the Savior makes reference to John’s desire to tarry and save souls and provides the most enlightening commentary on the change that John experienced. After the Savior promised a full life and salvation in the kingdom of God for nine of the twelve Nephite disciples, He then told the remaining three that “ye have desired the thing which John, my beloved . . . desired of me” (3 Nephi 28:6). The Savior promised the three disciples they would “never taste of death” and would “live to behold all of the works of the Father unto the children of men” (verse 8). When the time of the resurrection came they would be changed “in the twinkling of an eye from mortality to immortality” and come into God’s kingdom.


Joseph Smith later referred to this change as “the doctrine of translation,” designating it as “a power which belongs to the priesthood” (Instruction on Priesthood, circa October 5, 1840, 7, JSP). Some time after this revelation was received, Joseph and Oliver had the privilege of meeting with John the Beloved, along with the ancient Apostles Peter and James. In later revelation the Lord spoke of this event, speaking of “Peter, and James, and John, whom I have sent unto you, by whom I have ordained you and confirmed you to be apostles, and especial witnesses of my name, and bear the keys of your ministry and of the same things which I revealed unto them” (D&C 27:12; see also Doctrine and Covenants, 1835, 180).


Several other experiences relating to John occurred during Joseph Smith’s ministry. In June 1832, John Whitmer, the historian of the Church, recorded that “The spirit of the Lord fell upon Joseph [Smith] in an unusual manner. And prophesied that John the Revelator was then among the ten tribes of Israel” (John Whitmer, History, 1831–circa 1847, 27, JSP). Oliver B. Huntington, another early Latter-day Saint, recounted that Joseph met with John the Beloved during the 1834 march of Zion’s Camp (Diary of Oliver B. Huntington, part 2, 162). Heber C. Kimball also reported that John appeared in the Kirtland Temple in 1836, writing that “the beloved disciple John was seen in our midst by the Prophet Joseph, Oliver Cowdery, and others” (Orson F. Whitney, The Life of Heber C. Kimball, 1967, 91–92; see also Frank F. Judd and Terrence L. Szink, “John the Beloved in Latter-day Scripture,” in The Doctrine & Covenants: Revelations in Context). (Doctrine and Covenants Minute)

Verses 4-6

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)

While John became a translated being who served as a ministering angel, Peter is told that he will leave mortality as a martyr for the cause of Christ (John 21:18–19). Both John and Peter are told their desires are good and align with the Savior’s will. Which of the two made the greater sacrifice? While the Savior’s teachings to the three Nephite disciples indicate that translated beings “shall not have pain while ye shall dwell in the flesh” (3 Nephi 28:9), John and those in a similar state are not impervious to pain. The Lord frees them from pain “save it be for the sorrows of the sins of the world” (3 Nephi 28:9, 38), indicating that John and those like him will still feel emotional pain for the sins of others. In doing so, the Lord possibly provided a glimpse into the state of resurrected, glorified beings who enjoy a “fulness of joy” (3 Nephi 28:10) but who are never completely free from pain because their compassion for others does not end with the translation or resurrection. Taking into account several millennia of John enduring this type of pain, John’s sacrifice may have been greater than Peter’s. (Doctrine and Covenants Minute)

Verses 7-8

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)

In verses 7 and 8, the Savior notes that the “power and the keys of the ministry” are given to Peter, James, and John. These power and keys are later defined as “the keys of the kingdom, and of the dispensation of the fulness of times.” These keys were in turn passed on to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery by Peter, James, and John “in the wilderness between Harmony, Susquehanna county, and Colesville, Broome County, on the Susquehanna river” (D&C 128:20). (Doctrine and Covenants Minute)