Historical Context and Background of D&C 65

Early Manuscript of D&C 65
Manuscript of Section 65. William McLellin Papers, Church History Library.

Video Overview

Brief Synopsis by Steven C. Harper

Joseph’s history says that section 65 came to him in early October 1831 as he was living with the Johnsons in Hiram, Ohio, and that he regarded it as a prayer.1 An early copy of section 65 in the handwriting of William McLellin sheds more light on it. The revelation is linked to the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6 and particularly the meaning of verse 10: “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.”2

Section 65 teaches us to pray for the ideal government. We look for a literal, earthly fulfillment of Isaiah’s declaration, “The Lord is our judge, the Lord is our lawgiver, the Lord is our king; he will save us” (Isaiah 33:22). This short revelation also reminds us how thoroughly biblical Joseph became as he read that sacred text by the light of the Holy Ghost. In the 6 verses of section 65 there are clear references to Isaiah, Daniel, Matthew, and the Revelation of John.

Section 65 elaborates a prophecy of Daniel, who saw “the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever” (Daniel 2:44). Daniel compared this kingdom to a rolling stone that would eventually fill the earth. Some of the early Saints envisioned a snowball effect, but Joseph clarified Daniel’s meaning. The stone, Joseph said, “is stationary like a grind stone. It revolves.” He taught that it grew as “the Elders went abroad to preach the gospel and the people became believers in the Book of Mormon and were baptized.” In this way “they were added to the little stone. Thus they gathered around it so that it grew larger and larger.” Joseph prophesied that in this way the stone—the kingdom of God—would fill the earth.3

In 1838 Judge Austin King charged Joseph Smith with treason and confined him in jail at Liberty, Missouri, for believing what he taught about Daniel’s prophecy. Parley Pratt wrote that Judge King “inquired diligently into our belief of the seventh chapter of Daniel concerning the kingdom of God, which should subdue all other kingdoms and stand forever.” The Saints testified that they believed the prophecy, and Judge King instructed his clerk, “Write that down; it is a strong point for treason.” The Saints’ attorney objected. Is the Bible treason?4 The next time he was charged with treason came a month after he set up “the kingdom of Daniel by the word of the Lord” and declared his intent to “revolutionize the whole world.” Joseph’s life was ended abruptly by a lynch mob shortly after that.5

However, the work of God’s kingdom rolled on. It will continue to do so “till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear.”6 That, at least, is the prayer of section 65. “May the kingdom of God go forth that the Kingdom of Heaven may come” (D&C 65:6) so that he who is entitled may reign as King of Kings (Rev 17:14).

1. “History, 1838–1856, volume A-1 [23 December 1805–30 August 1834],” p. 155, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed October 5, 2020.

2. See The Journals of William E. McLellin, 243.

3. Henry William Bigler (1815–1900), Journal, Feb. 1846–Oct. 1899, Church History Library, Salt Lake City.

4. Parley P. Pratt, Jr., editor, The Autobiography of Parley Parker Pratt 4th edition (Salt Lake City: Deseret, 1950), 211–12.

5. Andrew F. Ehat, ‘”It Seems Like Heaven Began on Earth’: Joseph Smith and the Constitution of the Kingdom of God,” BYU Studies 20:3 (Spring 1980): 253–79.

6. “History, 1838–1856, volume C-1 [2 November 1838–31 July 1842],” p. 1285, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed October 5, 2020.

Additional Context by Casey Paul Griffiths

From Doctrine and Covenants Minute

The revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 65 was received on Sunday, October 30, 1831, at the John Johnson home in Hiram, Ohio. William E. McLellin, a new convert who may have been present when the revelation was received, recalled a Church service held in the Johnson home the day the revelation was given. He wrote,

This day the brethren and sisters collected at Bro. John Johnson’s. And the brethren called on me to preach. But it seemed to me as if I could not. Here was the church who had been instructed by the first elders in the church. Here was Brothers John [Johnson], Sidney [Rigdon], Oliver [Cowdery], and Joseph [Smith] and it did not seem to me as if I could instruct them or even entertain the congregation, but with confidence along in Enoch’s God I arose and addressed them about one hour and a half. And it was not I but the spirit and power of God which was in me and it did seem to me before I finished as though it was not I or that I had got into another region where all was light and glory. (Journals of William E. McLellin, 46–47)

Sometime during the day Joseph Smith received this revelation. William McLellin made his own copy of the revelation and said that it related to Matthew 6:10, a part of the Lord’s prayer, which reads, “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.” While Joseph Smith was working on a translation of the Bible at this time, he appears to have translated this passage some time earlier. However, the revelation does speak about the coming kingdom of God and the keys given to govern it. Joseph Smith also described the passage as a “revelation on prayer,” which fits with McLellin’s description (Joseph Smith—History, vol. A-1, 155).

Prior to the 2013 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants, the exact date of this revelation was not known. Revelation Book 1 dates it as being received on October 30, 1831, meaning it was actually received the day after Doctrine and Covenants 66.

“Historical Introduction,” Revelation, 30 October 1831 [D&C 65]