Historical Context and Background of D&C 126

Video Overview

Brief Synopsis by Steven C. Harper

Section 126 put Brigham Young in position to lead when Joseph’s mission was finished. Brigham answered the Lord’s call to serve in England (see section 118). Both he and his family were sick and homeless when Brigham left Nauvoo in the fall of 1839. While Brigham was in England, section 124 formalized his call as president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (D&C 124:127). Then, having converted hundreds, he returned to Nauvoo in July 1841 and found his family living in a small, unfinished cabin. A week later the Lord gave section 126 to Joseph.1

Joseph communicated the revelation to Brigham with his own affectionate introduction to his “Dear and well-beloved brother.” The Lord, having accepted Brigham’s offering in laborious missions away from home, no longer requires him to leave his family. Instead, the Lord commands Brigham to send the Lord’s word abroad and look to the care of his family “henceforth and forever” (D&C 126:3).

Brigham set to work to care for his family. He chinked the cracks in the cabin, planted an orchard, built a cellar, and got up a garden to meet their needs. Joseph gave Brigham a few weeks and then assigned him to lead the apostles in taking care “of the business of the church in Nauvoo,” including overseeing missionary work (in obedience to section 126’s command to “send my word abroad”), the gathering of converts, and consecration.2 This represented a shift in the apostles’ responsibility. Joseph had often kept them at arm’s length since their calling in 1835, testing them with tough assignments. Some of Brigham’s fellow apostles apostatized under that pressure. Brigham did everything the Lord asked of him. He had marched into hostile Missouri to obey a revelation. Then, sick and impoverished, he forsook everything else dear to preach the gospel in England.

As a result of section 126, Brigham remained near Joseph for the Prophet’s few remaining years, learning and receiving the temple ordinances and ultimately also the keys angels had conferred on Joseph.

1. “Revelation, 9 July 1841 [D&C 126],” 26, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed December 5, 2020; Leonard J. Arrington, Brigham Young: American Moses (New York: Knopf, 1985), 98.

2. Arrington, Brigham Young, 99–100.

Additional Context by Casey Paul Griffiths

From Doctrine and Covenants Minute

On July 1, 1841, Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, and John Taylor arrived in Nauvoo after completing a two-year mission to the British Isles. Called to serve in Europe by a revelation given in 1838 (D&C 118), the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles converted thousands during their service. This mission also served to unite the Twelve into an effective priesthood body. During their time in England, the Apostles also formally sustained Brigham Young as the President of the Quorum of the Twelve.1 Summarizing the missionary labors of the Twelve, Brigham later recorded, “Through the mercy of God we have gained many friends, established churches in almost every noted town and city in the Kingdom of Great Britain, baptized between seven and eight thousand souls, printed 5000 Books of Mormon, 3000 Hymn Books, 2500 volumes of the Millennial Star, and 50,000 tracts.”2

In an 1854 discourse, Brigham later recalled his dire financial situation when he returned from his mission: “I returned again in two years, and found that I had spent hundreds of dollars, which I had accumulated on my mission, to help the brethren to emigrate to Nauvoo, and had but one sovereign left.” He remembered, “I said I would buy a barrel of flour with that, and sit down and eat it with my wife and children, and I determined I would not ask anybody for work, until I had eaten it all up. Brother Joseph asked me how I intended to live. I said, ‘I will go to work and get a living.’”3 On July 9, 1841, just a few days after Brigham returned from his mission, Joseph received section 126 in Brigham’s home in Nauvoo.4

Willard Richards copied this revelation into the “Book of the Law of the Lord” on December 17, 1841. It was first placed into the 1876 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants by Orson Pratt under the direction of President Brigham Young.5

See “Historical Introduction,” Revelation, 9 July 1841 [D&C 126].

1. James B. Allen, Ronald K. Esplin, David J. Whittaker, Men with a Mission, 1837–1841: The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in the British Isles, 1992, 134.

2. Quoted in Joseph Fielding McConkie and Craig J. Ostler, Revelations of the Restoration, 1999, 990.

3. Brigham Young, in Journal of Discourses, 2:19.

4. JSP, Documents, Volume 8, 187.

5. Robert J. Woodford, Historical Development of the Doctrine and Covenants, 3:1664.