Commentary on Doctrine & Covenants 78

/ Doctrine & Covenants 78 / Commentary

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

Verses 1-4

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)


The immediate context of this revelation is important in understanding how the revelation has developed. In the earliest version, the phrase “in regulating and establishing the affairs of the storehouse for the poor of my people” was not present. Instead, the revelation read that “it must needs be that there be an organization of the Literary and Mercantile establishments of my church.”1 The revelation referred to a group of Church leaders, known as the United Firm, who had consecrated their property to ensure the printing of the scriptures and other Church publications (D&C 70:1–5). The firm was also known as United Order and the Order of Enoch.2 This group covenanted to live an iteration of the law of consecration in which they gave of their resources to help ensure the printing of the scriptures. In exchange, their families were provided for from funds raised from the sale of the scriptures, and the surplus funds were used to operate the Church and to purchase land for the Saints in Ohio and Missouri.


By the time the Doctrine and Covenants was published in 1835, the United Firm had been reorganized as instructed in another revelation (D&C 104) that provided individual members with specific stewardships. However, the principles found in the revelation were still valuable to guide the Church in its attempts to live the law of consecration, so the revelation was revised with new phrasing that better fit the general needs of the Church. The word firm, which appeared in the revelation, was also replaced with order (D&C 78:8). The United Order referred only to this group, but in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries it became common for Church leaders to refer to the United Order and the law of consecration as the same thing.


1. Revelation, 1 March 1832 [D&C 78], JSP.


2. Cook, The Revelations of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 1985, 167.


(Doctrine and Covenants Minute)

Verses 5-12

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)


In this revelation, the Lord says that the establishment of the law of consecration is necessary “for the salvation of man” (D&C 78:4). That may seem like an overly dramatic statement, but these verses explain why consecration was and remains such an important law for the members of the Church. Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf has taught that “like two sides of a coin, the temporal and spiritual are inseparable. . . . Unfortunately, there are those who overlook the temporal because they consider it less important. They treasure the spiritual while minimizing the temporal. While it is important to have our thoughts inclined toward heaven, we miss the essence of our religion if our hands are not also inclined toward our fellowman.”3


The Lord teaches a similar principle in these verses. To be equal in heavenly things, we must strive to be united in earthly things. Those who cling too tightly to their temporal goods will have difficulty in living the laws of the gospel and gaining exaltation. Consecration was and is a sacred covenant for Church members, especially for those who have made temple covenants. The Lord warns that those who abuse or violate the law of consecration will lose their office and standing and be turned over to the buffetings of Satan. In particular, those who misuse the sacred funds of the Church or take advantage of the trust of Church members for financial gain are subject to severe penalties.


3. Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Providing in the Lord’s Way,” October 2011 General Conference.


(Doctrine and Covenants Minute)

Verses 13-14

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)


Though the law of consecration asks members of the Church to depend on and trust each other and their leaders, the Lord instructs the Church to remain independent. Self-reliance is a term used in concert with consecration. Brigham Young counseled Church members, “Ye Latter-day Saints, learn to sustain yourselves. If you cannot obtain all you wish for today, learn to do without that which you cannot purchase and pay for; and bring your minds into subjection that you must and will live within your means.”4


What the Church asks of its members, it also asks of itself. President Gordon B. Hinckley taught, “In the financial operations of the Church, we have observed two basic and fixed principles: One, the Church will live within its means. It will not spend more than it receives. Two, a fixed percentage of the income will be set aside to build reserves against what might be called a possible ‘rainy day.’ For years, the Church has taught its membership the principle of setting aside a reserve of food, as well as money, to take care of emergency needs that might arise. We are only trying to follow the same principle for the Church as a whole.”5


4. Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, 1997, 231.


5. Gordon B. Hinckley, “The State of the Church,” April 1991 General Conference.


(Doctrine and Covenants Minute)

Verses 15-16

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)


The last clause of verse 15 and all of verse 16 were added in by Joseph Smith during the publication of the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants. By that time Joseph Smith had received a revelation about Adam-ondi-Ahman being the place where Adam gathered his posterity to give them a final blessing before his death (D&C 107:53–57). Later, Spring Hill in Missouri was identified as the location of Adam-ondi-Ahman (D&C 116). 


The Lord also identifies the authority of Michael as second to that of Jesus Christ Himself, or the Holy One. While many faiths disparage Adam for his role in the Fall, the revelations of the Doctrine and Covenants uphold him as Michael, the angel who fought against Satan and his minions in premortality (Revelation 12:7–9). Joseph Smith taught,  


The priesthood was first given to Adam, he obtained the first presidency and held the keys of it from generation to generation; he obtained it in the creation before the world was formed as in Gen. 1:26, 28 [and] he had dominion given him over every living creature. He is Michael the Archangel spoken of in the scriptures. Then to Noah who is Gabriel, he stands next in authority to Adam in the priesthood. He was called of God to this office and was the father of all living in his day and to him was given the dominion. These men held keys first on earth and then in heaven. The priesthood is an everlasting principle and existed with God from eternity, and will to eternity, without beginning of days or end of years.6


6. Discourse, between circa 26 June and circa 4 August 1839–A, as Reported by William Clayton, pp. 1112, JSP.


(Doctrine and Covenants Minute)

Verses 17-22

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)


Doctrine and Covenants 78:20 uses a term, “Son Ahman,” that makes reference to a document, “Answers to Questions,” that became Doctrine and Covenants 77. The document is inscribed in the handwriting of Church Historian John Whitmer and is labeled “A Sample of pure Language given by Joseph the Seer.” The document reads as follows:


Question: What is the name of God in pure Language

Answer: Awmen.


Q: The meaning of the pure word A[w]men

A: It is the being which made all things in all its parts.


Q: What is the name of the Son of God.

A: The Son Awmen.


Q: What is the Son Awmen.

A: It is the greatest of all the parts of Awmen which is the Godhead the first born.


Q: What is man.

A: This signifies Sons Awmen. the human family the children of men the greatest parts of Awmen Sons the Son Awmen


Q: What are Angels called in pure language.

A: Awmen Angls-men


Q: What are the meaning of these words.

A: Awmen’s Ministering servants Sanctified who are sent forth from heaven to minister for or to Sons Awmen the greatest part of Awmen Son. Sons Awmen Son Awmen Awmen.7


7. Sample of Pure Language, between circa 4 and circa 20 March 1832, p. 144, JSP.


(Doctrine and Covenants Minute)