Commentary on Doctrine & Covenants 72

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

Verses 1-8

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)


Prior to this revelation there was only one bishop in the Church, Edward Partridge (D&C 41:9). Bishop Partridge traveled to Missouri with Joseph Smith and was instructed to relocate there with his family (D&C 58:14). To assist the Saints in Kirtland, a new bishop was needed. Newel K. Whitney, who was earlier called to act as an agent for the Church (D&C 63:42–45), was called to serve as the bishop for the Kirtland area. These two leaders acted as regional bishops, with Bishop Partridge watching over the Church in Missouri, and Bishop Whitney watching over the Church in Ohio.


Speaking generally to all Church members, the revelation declares that an accounting of each member’s stewardship shall one day be required before the Lord. But every person’s stewardship is not the same. Church leaders who are asked to preside over an area of geographical stewardship are called local and area authorities. Church leaders with no specific geographical stewardship are called general authorities. Fathers and mothers hold a joint stewardship over their families, acting as co-presiding officers. Elder L. Tom Perry taught, “Since the beginning, God has instructed mankind that marriage should unite husband and wife together in unity. Therefore, there is not a president or a vice president in a family. The couple works together eternally for the good of the family. They are united together in word, in deed, and in action as they lead, guide, and direct their family unit. They are on equal footing.”[i]


Again, regardless of age, callings, or marital status, everyone has a stewardship. Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin taught, “Each of you has an eternal calling from which no Church officer has authority to release you. This is a calling given you by our Heavenly Father Himself. In this eternal calling, as with all other callings, you have a stewardship, and ‘it is required of the Lord, at the hand of every steward, to render an account of his stewardship, both in time and in eternity’ (D&C 72:3). This most important stewardship is the glorious responsibility your Father in Heaven has given you to watch over and care for your own soul.”[ii]


[i] L. Tom Perry, “Fatherhood, an Eternal Calling,” April 2004 General Conference.

[ii] Joseph B. Wirthlin, “True to the Truth,” April 1997 General Conference.


(Doctrine and Covenants Minute)

Verses 9-15

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)


The responsibilities of the bishop are further explained here. Included among them is the responsibility to watch over the Lord’s storehouse and look after the poor and the needy of the Church. This was especially fitting for Bishop Whitney, whose store, “N. K. Whitney & Co.,” effectively functioned as the bishops’ storehouse in Kirtland and the first such storehouse in the Church. The Church was small enough during this time that having two bishops facilitate the law of consecration and the temporal needs of the Church was sufficient.


As the role of bishop evolved within the Church, more bishops continued to be called to meet the needs of the growing membership. By 1842, the city of Nauvoo was organized into municipal “wards,” and each ward was assigned a bishop who would watch over the temporal needs of the Saints in the respective location. Later, after the main body of the Church emigrated to the western United States, bishops were called to preside over wards in larger settlements, such as Salt Lake City, and in smaller settlements. During this time, the role of bishop was elevated to include the function of also acting as the presiding high priest of each ward, giving the bishops and their counselors responsibilities for the temporal and spiritual needs of the members in their wards.[i]


Today, just like in Bishop Whitney’s day, bishops are called to teach the doctrine and principles relating to welfare and self-reliance and to direct the welfare work of the ward council. Bishops are told directly to “seek out the poor and provide assistance to those in need.”[ii] As welfare needs have increased, other officers of the Church have been directed to assist the bishops. President Henry B. Eyring counseled, “It is the duty of the bishop to find and provide help to those who still need assistance after all they and their families can do. I found that the Lord sends the Holy Ghost to make it possible to ‘seek, and ye shall find’ in caring for the poor as He does in finding truth. But I also learned to involve the Relief Society president in the search. She may get the revelation before you do.”[iii]


[i] William G. Hartley, “Bishop, History of the Office,” in My Fellow Servants: Essays on the History of the Priesthood, 2010, 117–19.

[ii] General Handbook (2020), 6.4.

[iii] Henry B. Eyring, “Opportunities to Do Good,” April 2011 General Conference.


(Doctrine and Covenants Minute)

Verses 16-26

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)


The final part of the revelation emphasizes the role of the bishop as a judge in Israel. Part of the bishops’ responsibilities, they were told, would be to provide certificates for worthy Church members who act as wise stewards over their own responsibilities. However, because there were only two bishops in the Church at the time, the Lord directed that these certificates could also be signed by three elders in good standing with the Church (D&C 72:25). Members were required to obtain a certificate of this kind before they were allowed to emigrate to Missouri to assist in building the city of Zion.


These certificates are the earliest forerunners of present-day temple recommends. At the time of this revelation, no temples had yet been built by the Church, and many years would pass before the full blessings of the temple would be revealed. But being found worthy to travel to Zion and to be declared a wise and faithful steward by a bishop of the Church carried its own blessings. The certificates and recommends issued by Church leaders then and now signify more than worthiness to travel to Zion or to enter the temple. In the ultimate sense, they certify our worthiness to enter the Kingdom of God.


President Howard W. Hunter expressed the importance of a certification from a Church leader when he said, “Truly, the Lord desires that His people be a temple-motivated people. It would be the deepest desire of my heart to have every member of the Church be temple worthy. I would hope that every adult member would be worthy of—and carry—a current temple recommend, even if proximity to a temple does not allow immediate or frequent use of it.”[i]


[i] Howard W. Hunter, “The Great Symbol of Our Membership,” Ensign, October 1994.


(Doctrine and Covenants Minute)