Commentary on Doctrine & Covenants 94

/ Doctrine & Covenants 94 / Commentary

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

Verses 1-5

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)

 

Christ intends the city of Zion, which was planned for Jackson County, Missouri, to be the eventual seat of the Church in the latter days. However, this revelation and others demonstrate that Christ also wanted the Saints to build additional cities before the Second Coming. The instructions sent to the Saints in Missouri even specified that after the first city of Zion was finished, they should “lay off another in the same way and so fill up the world in these last days and let every man live in the City for this is the City of Zion.”1 The Lord refers to Kirtland as “the city of the stake of Zion” (D&C 94:1). In a revelation given several years later, the Lord declared that the Saints would gather “together upon the land of Zion, and upon her stakes,” which act “for a defense, and refuge from the storm” (D&C 115:6).

 

At the center of the city of Zion, the Saints planned to build a complex of twenty-four temples, each dedicated to different offices of the priesthood.2 In the heart of Kirtland, a smaller complex was to be built. Next to the Kirtland Temple, which is referred to in verse 1 simply as “my house,” the Saints were commanded to build a house for the First Presidency. This house was to be similar in size to the Kirtland Temple (see D&C 95:15) and would have functioned as an administrative center in which the presidency of the Church could labor. At the time this revelation was given, the presidency of the high priesthood, later called the First Presidency, were the only general officers of the Church. The offices of Apostle, Seventy, Presiding Bishopric, and others were revealed later (see D&C 107). The command to build this structure reflects the priorities of the Lord. Next to His own house, a place that would provide the means for his prophets to carry out their work was also of great importance.

 

1. Letterbook 1, p. 40, JSP.

 

2. See Plat of the City of Zion, circa Early June–25 June 1833, JSP.

 

(Doctrine and Covenants Minute)

Verses 6-9

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)

 

These verses set the pattern of dedicating all Church buildings, whether they are temples, chapels, schools, or any other manner of structure, “according to the order of the priesthood” (D&C 94:6). Later, when the cornerstones for the Nauvoo Temple were put into place, Joseph Smith explained in more detail what the “order of the priesthood” meant in regard to laying out the foundation of temples:

 

If the strict order of the Priesthood, were carried out in the building of Temples. The first stone will be laid at the South East Corner by the First Presidency of the Church; the South West Corner should be laid next, the Third or N.W. Corner next, and the fourth or N.E. corner the last. The first presidency should lay the S.E. Corner stone, and dictate who are the proper persons to lay the other Corner Stones. If a Temple is built at a distance, and the First Presidency are not present, then the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles are the persons to dictate the order for that Temple; and in the absence of the Twelve Apostles, then the Presidency of the Stake, will lay the South East Corner Stone; the Melchisedeck [sic] Priesthood laying the Corner Stones at the East side of the Temple; and the Lesser Priesthood, those on the West side.3

 

Rather than reading too much into the meaning of these details, we can simply note the importance of temples and the need to involve prophets and apostles in every phase of their creation. Every temple is dedicated and rededicated under the direction of the First Presidency and the Twelve. In our time of temple building, the rapid growth in the number of temples means that at times the First Presidency delegates the responsibility of dedicating temples to members of the Quorum of the Twelve. For instance, from 1998 to 2000 more temples were dedicated than in the previous 167 years. In an unprecedented event on November 14, 1999, President Gordon B. Hinckley dedicated the Halifax Nova Scotia Temple on the same day that President Boyd K. Packer dedicated the Regina Saskatchewan Temple.4 In all cases, the structures built by the Church, whatever their purpose, are dedicated to the work of the Lord.

 

Even a home can be considered a sacred space that is in need of dedicating. In the Church handbook published in 2020, dedicating a home was listed as a priesthood ordinance. The handbook states, “Church members may have their homes dedicated by the authority of the Melchizedek Priesthood. Homes do not need to be owned or free of debt to be dedicated. Unlike Church buildings, homes are not consecrated to the Lord.”5 If there is no Melchizedek Priesthood holder in the home, a family can also invite a close friend, relative, or ministering brother to perform the dedication.

 

3. JS History, vol. C-1, p. 1186, JSP.

 

4. Temple Chronology accessed April 21, 2021, https://churchofjesuschristtemples.org/temples/chronology/.

 

5. General Handbook, 18.15.

 

(Doctrine and Covenants Minute)

Verses 10-12

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)

 

The design of the “city of the stake of Zion” at Kirtland also reflected another important priority: the printing of the scriptures. Joseph Smith completed his translation of the Bible in July 1833, though he tinkered with it throughout the remainder of his life. The Lord designated the printing office in Kirtland for printing this new translation.6 Though the printing office was intended to be the same size as the temple, a few months after this revelation was given work began on a smaller printing office (thirty by thirty-eight feet). The building, completed in November 1834, was put to immediate use by the Saints in Kirtland. The first story housed the School of the Prophets and the upper story housed the printing press. Other rooms in the building were used as offices for the First Presidency and other Church functions.7

 

In 1837–38 a serious apostasy occurred in Kirtland, and Joseph Smith was forced to flee. Some of Joseph’s enemies sought to use the printing office and its materials to set up an organization opposed to the work of the Prophet. To defy the apostates, who intended to seize the printing office, the building was set on fire by Lyman Sherman, a Church member who remained loyal to Joseph Smith (see D&C 108). The printing office and its equipment were completely destroyed in the fire.8

 

6. Letter to Church Leaders in Jackson County, Missouri, 6 August 1833, p. 3, JSP.

 

7. Lyndon W. Cook, The Revelations of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 1985, 196–97.

 

8. Lyndon W. Cook, “Lyman Sherman—Man of God, Would-Be Apostle,” BYU Studies, Fall 1978, 123.

 

(Doctrine and Covenants Minute)

Verses 13-17

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)

 

Construction of the Kirtland Temple drained the already-limited resources of the Saints, and they were unable to build the house of the Presidency (verse 3) and the house for printing scriptures (verse 10). A smaller building housed both functions until it was destroyed in 1838. However, the three priorities associated with these houses are reflected in the later cities of Zion built by the Saints. At Church headquarters today there is a house of the Lord (the Salt Lake Temple), a house for the Presidency (the Church Administration Building), and a house for printing scriptures (the Church Office Building). Each of these buildings has evolved beyond its original intended use in the city of the stake of Zion in Kirtland. The house of the Lord now houses the sacred ordinances made possible by the keys given in the Kirtland Temple. The Church Administration Building currently houses the offices of not only the First Presidency but also the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and many other general officers of the Church. Finally, not just in the Church Office building but in many facilities around the world, the scriptures are printed, filmed, and sent forth to the world in ways not dreamt of by the Kirtland Saints.

 

(Doctrine and Covenants Minute)