Commentary on Doctrine & Covenants 77

/ Doctrine & Covenants 77 / Commentary

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

Verse 1

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)

The revelations of Joseph Smith make it clear that the work of Jesus Christ saves and sanctifies not only men and women but also the entire ecosystem in which we live. A revelation given a few months after section 77 declares that “the earth abideth the law of a celestial kingdom, for it filleth the measure of its creation, and transgresseth not the law—Wherefore, it shall be sanctified; yea, notwithstanding it shall die, it shall be quickened again, and shall abide the power by which it is quickened, and the righteous shall inherit it” (D&C 88:25–26). 

In a later discourse, Joseph Smith also explained the existence of other sanctified worlds, teaching that “the angels do not reside on a planet like this earth; But they reside in the presence of God, on a globe like a sea of glass and fire, where all things for their glory are manifest, past, present, and future, and are continually before the Lord. The place where God resides is a great Urim and Thummim” (D&C 130:6–8). 

Because the earth fills the measure of its creation, it will eventually die and be resurrected as a glorified celestial world. Joseph Smith taught, “This earth, in its sanctified and immortal state, will be made like unto crystal and will be a Urim and Thummim to the inhabitants who dwell thereon, whereby all things pertaining to an inferior kingdom, or all kingdoms of a lower order, will be manifest to those who dwell on it; and this earth will be Christ’s” (D&C 130:9). This change will take place after the end of the millennium. John saw this event in vision, writing, “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea” (Revelation 21:1). 

(Doctrine and Covenants Minute)

Verse 2

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)

 

John saw in vision four beasts surrounding the throne of God, and he described them as follows: “In the midst of the throne, and round about the throne, were four beasts full of eyes before and behind. And the first beast was like a lion, and the second beast like a calf, and the third beast had a face as a man, and the fourth beast was like a flying eagle. And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him; and they were full of eyes within: and they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come” (Revelation 4:6–8).

 

The beasts are symbolic representations of the joy found in eternity. In mentioning the beasts, however, the Lord’s explanation also teaches that spirits of all living things appear in the likeness of their physical forms. The spirits of people are not ethereal and unrecognizable but exist in the same form as men and women do here on earth. This was illustrated when the premortal spirit of Jesus Christ appeared to the brother of Jared. On that occasion the Savior explained, “Behold, this body, which ye now behold, is the body of my spirit; and man have I created after the body of my spirit; and even as I appear unto thee to be in the spirit will I appear unto my people in the flesh” (Ether 3:16). 

 

The Savior gave this explanation to the brother of Jared partly to emphasize the connection between God and man. He taught, “Seest thou that ye are created after mine own image? Yea, even all men were created in the beginning after mine own image” (Ether 3:15). Speaking to Moses, the Lord declared that “I, the Lord God, created all things, of which I have spoken, spiritually, before they were naturally upon the face of the earth” (Moses 3:5). Our spirits, as well as our bodies, were created in the image of God and testify of our divine heritage as children of heavenly parents. 

 

(Doctrine and Covenants Minute)

Verse 3

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)

 

While section 77 notes that these beasts are figurative expressions, their presence in John’s vision is meant to underline the broad nature of the atoning work of Jesus Christ, which saves not only mankind but all living things. Joseph Smith explained that

 

John saw the actual beast in heaven, showing to John that beasts did actually exist there and not to represent figures of things on the earth. . . . I suppose John saw beings there of a thousand forms that had been saved from ten thousand times ten thousand earths like this;—strange beasts of which we have no conception—all might be seen in heaven. The grand secret was to show John what there was in heaven: John learned that God glorified himself by saving all that his hands had made, whether beasts, fowl, fishes, or men, and he will gratify himself with them.1

Joseph Smith decried those who would confine the saving work of Jesus Christ to only humanity. He taught,

 

Says one, “I cannot believe in the salvation of beasts.” Any man who would tell you that this could not be, would tell you that the revelations are not true. John heard the words of the beasts giving glory to God and understood them. God who made the beasts could understand every language spoken by them. The four beasts were four of the most noble animals that had filled the measure of their creation, and had been saved from other worlds, because they were perfect; they were like angels in their sphere; we are not told where they came from, and I do not know; but they were seen and heard by John, praising and glorifying God.2

1. JS History, vol. D-1, p. 1523, JSP.

 

2. JS History, vol. D-1, p. 1523, JSP.

 

(Doctrine and Covenants Minute)

Verse 4

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)

 

While the book of Revelation and the Prophet Joseph Smith taught of animals enjoying eternal glory alongside men and women, the four beasts are only symbols of this principle. John’s description that the beasts were “full of eyes before and behind” (Revelation 4:6) would have presented a horrifying sight to an uninitiated observer! The eyes are not literal, however; they are a symbol of the knowledge given to exalted beings.

 

In a similar fashion, wings are symbolic of the greater ability exalted beings possess to travel and move throughout the universe. The prophet Isaiah saw similar symbolism when he saw seraphim (angels) in the temple in Jerusalem. Isaiah described one as having “six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly” (Isaiah 6:2). It is likely that in both of these visions the wings shown were meant to demonstrate the greater power of movement given to exalted beings. After His resurrection, the Savior, now an exalted being, moved easily between different continents on earth. He ministered to His disciples in Palestine and to the Nephites in the western hemisphere; He also spoke of ministering to “other sheep, which are not of this land [where the Nephites lived], neither of the land of Jerusalem, neither in any parts of that land round about whither I have been to minister” (3 Nephi 16:1).

 

(Doctrine and Covenants Minute)

Verse 5

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)

 

Along with the fantastic visions of the throne of God, the exalted earth, and the symbolic beasts, John saw the familiar faces of his fellow servants in the work. Seated around the throne were twenty-four elders from the churches John worked with, who had passed beyond this life and gained an eternal reward. The poignance of seeing these elders perhaps needs to be emphasized. At this point, John was alone and exiled to the island of Patmos, while nearly all of the other leaders of the Church had died. Many of them had died violently, martyred at the hands of their persecutors.

 

The long night of apostasy was beginning in the world that John lived in. Within a few more centuries, the light of the gospel on the other side of the world among the children of Lehi would be extinguished as well. Yet in these dark moments, the Lord offered John and his fellow servants a glimpse of the dawn of eternity, and of the reward waiting for their sacrifices made on earth. 

 

(Doctrine and Covenants Minute)

Verses 6-7

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)

 

The book seen by John represents the temporal existence of the earth, that is, the time from the Fall of Adam and Eve to the end of the Millennium. We do not know how old the earth is in total, but these seven thousand years contain the saga of the sons and daughters of God, their dealings with Him, and the covenants and blessings He has given to humankind stretching back to our first parents. The Prophet Joseph Smith explained, “John had the curtains of heaven withdrawn, and by vision looked through the dark vista of future ages, and contemplated events that should transpire throughout every subsequent period of time until the final winding up scene.”3

 

Section 77 does not explain the symbols John saw with each of the seven seals, and John’s revelation does not spend equal time on the history of each of the thousand years seen in vision. In fact, the first through fifth seals are covered in only eleven verses (Revelation 6:1–11), and the events of the sixth seal are covered in fourteen verses (Revelation 6:12–7:8). However, the events that take place after the opening of the seventh seal to the second coming of Jesus Christ are covered in 211 verses, or the totality of Revelation 8–19. Six verses then describe the millennium (Revelation 20:1–6). Nine verses cover the final scenes, including the last rebellion of the wicked and their ultimate destruction in the final great conflict (Revelation 20:7–15). Finally, John’s vision concludes with thirty-three verses containing his description of the earth in its celestial glory (Revelation 21:1–22:6).

 

One of the most valuable contributions that Doctrine and Covenants 77 makes to our understanding of the book of Revelation is to show that the clear focus of the book is on the latter days. We must view the symbols of the book through that lens. The timetable revealed in section 77 shows that most of the tribulations that John saw will take place after the opening of the seventh seal, or during the seventh thousand years (D&C 77:13).4

 

3. JS History, vol. C-1, p. 69, JSP. 

 

4. McConkie and Ostler, Revelations of the Restoration, p. 555.

 

(Doctrine and Covenants Minute)

Verse 8

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)

 

Angels played a key role in the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ. This work of restoration took place during the sixth seal, through the work of these angels along with Joseph Smith and other men and women called to assist in the work. An angel holding a trumpet has become one of the most well-known symbols of the Restoration and adorns many of the Church’s temples. While the angel on our temples is affectionately referred to as Moroni, the angel itself is a symbol of all of the angels involved in the work of the Restoration.  

 

Moroni is identified in the Doctrine and Covenants as being given the specific commission to reveal the Book of Mormon, which contains “the fulness of my everlasting gospel” (D&C 27:5). But the visitations of Moroni were only the first of many angels who took part in the Restoration. Not all of the angels who participated in the Restoration were named, but at least the following were involved: Moroni, John the Baptist, Peter, James, John, Moses, Elijah, Elias, Gabriel, Raphael, and Michael (see D&C 13; 110; 128:19–21). 

 

The four angels referred to in Doctrine and Covenants 77:8 are involved in the sealing of the servants of God. Joseph Smith taught that “four destroying angels [hold] power over the four quarters of the earth, until the servants of God are sealed in their foreheads which signifies sealing the blessing upon their heads meaning the everlasting covenant, thereby making their calling and election sure. When a seal is put upon the father and mother it secures their posterity so that they cannot be lost but will be saved by virtue of the covenant of their father and mother.”5

 

5. JS History, vol. E-1, p. 1690, JSP.

 

(Doctrine and Covenants Minute)

Verse 9

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)

 

We do not know the precise identity of the Elias mentioned in this passage. According to the scriptures, several people have been identified as Elias. The Doctrine and Covenants identifies the ancient prophet Noah as an Elias and as the person to whom the Lord has “committed the keys of bringing to pass the restoration of all things” (D&C 27:6–7; Luke 1:19). The prophet Elijah acts as an Elias preparing the way (Malachi 4:5; D&C 110:13–14). John the Baptist was identified as an Elias (see Matthew 17:10–13). John the Revelator is identified as an Elias, based on how this revelation is interpreted (see D&C 77:14). 

 

Given that Elias can function as a calling and a title in addition to being a personal name, it is possible that the Elias referred to in this verse is a composite figure. This Elias may represent all of the angels involved in the work of the Restoration of the latter days.6 In the 1835 account of the First Vision, Joseph Smith mentioned that he saw not only the Father and the Son but also “many angels in this vision.”7 The Elias referred to in this passage may represent the many named and unnamed angels who participated and who still assist in the work of Restoration, from the First Vision down to the present day. 

 

One last possibility is that this Elias is not John the Baptist, John the Revelator, or any other prophet, but Jesus Christ Himself. The Joseph Smith Translation of John 1:20–28 identifies another Elias who “was to restore all things” (Joseph Smith Translation, John 1:22). In this passage, John the Baptist identifies Christ as this Elias, saying, “He it is of whom I bear record. He is that prophet, even Elias, who, coming after me, is preferred before me, whose shoe’s latchet I am not worthy to unloose, or whose place I am not able to fill; for he shall baptize, not only with water, but with fire, and with the Holy Ghost (Joseph Smith Translation, John 1:28). If we are speaking of the restoration of “all things” (D&C 77:9), then the person who serves as Elias in this instance is the Savior. He is the person who began the greatest of all restorations by reversing the work of death itself (1 Corinthians 15:22) and redeeming humankind. He is the one who will carry out the “restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began” (Acts 3:21). 

 

6. See Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 19541956, 3 vols., 1:170174.

 

7. JS Journal, 18351836, p. 24, JSP.

 

(Doctrine and Covenants Minute)

Verse 10

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)

 

We do not know the precise correlation between our time and God’s time, and so it is difficult to know precisely when the sixth seal ends and the seventh seal begins. We should not assume, for instance, that the year AD 2000 corresponds with the opening of the seventh seal, and so forth. The Lord’s answer to the question in verse 10 makes it clear that the initial work of the Restoration of the gospel took place in the sixth thousand years, but we do not know precisely when those thousand years end and the seventh thousand years, which are prophesied to be the millennium of peace, begins.

 

(Doctrine and Covenants Minute)

Verse 11

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)

 

The book of Revelation mentions a that one-hundred-forty-four thousand, or twelve thousand from each of the tribes of Israel, will be sealed. The number twelve is associated symbolically with Israel. For instance, there are twelve tribes, and twelve apostles called to minister to and judge those tribes (1 Nephi 12:9). Twelve multiplied by twelve, or twelve squared, represents the idea of Israel raised to a new order of magnitude, or the millennial Israel.9 These high priests will be drawn from “every nation, kindred, tongue, and people” (D&C 77:11), demonstrating the global reach of the Church in the latter days. As the gospel rolls forth throughout the world, it is encouraging to think of the formation of this select group of high priests. According to this passage, represented among the one-hundred-forty-four thousand will be members from Brazil, Russia, Malaysia, Italy, Ghana, and every other nation.

 

We should not make the assumption that the one-hundred-forty-four thousand will be the only ones who will receive blessings on that day. John also spoke of a “great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues” that stood before the throne of God (Revelation 7:9). The Prophet Joseph tied the identity of the one-hundred-forty-four thousand and the great multitude to those who participate in temple ordinances for the dead. He taught,

 

It is not only necessary that you should be baptized for your dead, but you will have to go through all the ordinances for them, same as you have gone through to save yourselves; there will be 144,000 Saviors on Mount Zion, and with them an innumerable host, that no man can number. Oh! I beseech you to go forward, and make your calling and your election sure; and if any man preach any other gospel than that which I have preached, he shall be cursed, and some of you who now hear me shall see it, and know that I testify the truth concerning them.10 

 

9. Robinson and Garrett, 2:344.

 

10. JS History, vol. F-1, p. 19, JSP.

 

(Doctrine and Covenants Minute)

Verse 12

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)

 

The seventh thousand years act effectively as the Sabbath of the earth’s temporal existence. John wrote, “And when he had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour. And I saw the seven angels which stood before God; and to them were given seven trumpets” (Revelation 8:1–2). This series of trumps sounding, and the events associated with them, are detailed in Doctrine and Covenants 88:95–107, which describes the resurrection of all of God’s children who came to earth. This resurrection will culminate with the final trump, when “the angels be crowned with the glory of his might, and the saints shall be filled with his glory, and receive their inheritance and be made equal with him” (D&C 88:107).

 

During this thousand-year-long Sabbath day the Savior will carry out and complete His work of “the salvation of man,” which is defined here as judging and redeeming all things. These blessings come to all those “which he hath not put into his power,” meaning that the people in the telestial kingdom and the sons of perdition will not be able to partake of the blessings of the millennium until near its end.

 

(Doctrine and Covenants Minute)

Verse 13

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)

 

The ninth chapter of Revelation contains some of the most terrifying imagery found in the book and speaks of wars and plagues poured out upon the earth in the latter days. Doctrine and Covenants 77:13 indicates that these events will take place after the opening of the seventh seal but before the coming of Christ. This seems to indicate not that the seventh thousand years will commence immediately with the coming of Christ but that His coming will be preceded by some of the most terrible of the events foreseen by John. Again, we do not know the precise time of the opening of the seventh seal or even if we are currently living in the sixth or the seventh seal.

 

In this case, using the metaphor that each of the thousand years is like a day and the seventh thousand years is the Sabbath of the earth’s temporal existence is instructive. A day does not begin when the sun emerges over the mountain, but in the middle of the night, when the darkness is at its height. Likewise, the seventh thousand years begins in a dark place but eventually gives way to the gradual coming of the light. The coming of Christ may be likened to the moment when the sun finally bursts over the horizon and bathes the earth in light.

 

(Doctrine and Covenants Minute)

Verse 14

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)

 

John describes the book spoken of here in these words: “And I took the little book out of the angel’s hand, and ate it up; and it was in my mouth sweet as honey: and as soon as I had eaten it, my belly was bitter” (Revelation 10:10). The sweetness and bitterness of the book speak to the bittersweet nature of John’s mission. The Savior said of John, “He has undertaken a greater work; therefore I will make him as flaming fire and a ministering angel; he shall minister for those who shall be heirs of salvation who dwell on the earth” (D&C 7:6). John was told he would “never taste of death” (3 Nephi 28:7), a sweet thing for sure. He was told that he would never have pain while in the flesh, the same blessing given to the three Nephite disciples.

 

But John and the three Nephite disciples were not made completely impervious to pain. The bitterness of their mission came in the Savior’s promise that they would not know “sorrow save it be for the sins of the world” (3 Nephi 28:9). John watched as the early Christian Church fell into apostasy and disarray. He witnessed the depraved use of the name of Christ to carry out horrific acts of violence and prejudice over the centuries. But he also continued to labor to fill the mission the Lord had given to him. Only a year prior to this revelation Joseph Smith was caught up by the Spirit and prophesied “that John the Revelator was then among the ten tribes of Israel who had been lead away by Salmanaser King of Israel, to prepare them for their return, from their Long dispersion, to again possess the land of their father’s.”11

 

John lived to see some of the worst and greatest events in the history of mankind, a bitter and sweet mission indeed.

 

11. John Whitmer, History, p. 27, JSP.

 

(Doctrine and Covenants Minute)

Verse 15

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)

 

The two witnesses spoken of here are described by John as ministering to the people of Jerusalem for “a thousand two hundred and threescore days” (Revelation 11:3). They will have power to shut the heavens and smite the earth with plagues. When they have finished their testimony they will be overcome by their enemies and killed. However, after three and a half days they will be resurrected and ascend into heaven (Revelation 11:7–12). Doctrine and Covenants 77 identifies them as “two prophets that are to be raised up to the Jewish nation in the last days” (D&C 77:15). 

 

The title of “prophet” given to these two witnesses indicates that they will likely be leaders from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, ordained and set apart by the heads of the Church. An earlier revelation to Joseph Smith declares that “it shall not be given to any one to go forth to preach my gospel, or to build up my church, except he be ordained by some one who has authority, and it is known to the church that he has authority and has been regularly ordained by the heads of the church” (D&C 41:11). The designation of “prophets” raised up to the Jewish nation means they these witnesses will likely be called from among the General Authorities of the Church. 

 

Another significant addition that this passage makes to the text of Revelation is that these prophets are to be called after the Jewish people have gathered and rebuilt the city of Jerusalem. This is a prophecy of Joseph Smith’s that foresaw the modern establishment of the state of Israel in the wake of the Second World War. As Nephi prophesied, the gentile nations will act as nursing fathers and mothers as the Jewish people return to Palestine (1 Nephi 21:7). The establishment of the state of Israel in 1948 constitutes another prophecy of Joseph Smith that has been fulfilled. 

 

(Doctrine and Covenants Minute)