Commentary on Doctrine & Covenants 124

/ Doctrine & Covenants 124 / Commentary

Verses 1-14

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)

The first commandment given in section 124 is to make a solemn proclamation “toall the kings of the world, to the four corners thereof, to the honorable president-elect, and the high-minded governors of the nation in which you live, and to all the nations of the earth scattered abroad” (D&C 124:3). The proclamation was not completed in Joseph Smith’s lifetime, though he did make several attempts to complete it. His efforts were hindered by the death of Joseph’s assistant, Robert B. Thompson, who was commanded to assist in writing the proclamation (D&C 124:12). The proclamation was also delayed by the apostasy of John C. Bennett and William Law, who were also commanded to assist with it (D&C 124:16, 107).

Joseph Smith began work on the proclamation on December 22, 1841, in accordance with the instructions given in Doctrine and Covenants 124.1 However, by November 21, 1844, the proclamation was still not complete, and Joseph “instructed Elders [Willard] Richards, [Orson] Hyde, [John] Taylor and [William W.] Phelps to write a proclamation to the Kings of the earth.”2 In 1863 William W. Phelps reported that he was commissioned in May 1844 to write the proclamation under the direction of Joseph Smith. He produced twenty-two pages, but the project was dropped in the aftermath of Joseph Smith’s martyrdom in June 1844.3 The proclamation was finally completed by the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in 1845 and published to the world.

The finished proclamation was written by Parley P. Pratt on behalf of the Quorum of the Twelve. It was published in Liverpool, England, under the title “Proclamation of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” It began by announcing: “That the kingdom of God has come: as has been predicted by ancient prophets, and prayed for in all ages; even that kingdom which shall fill the whole earth, and shall stand for ever . . . Being established in these last days for the restoration of all things spoken by the prophets since the world began; and in order to prepare the way for the coming of the Son of Man.”4

1. JS Journal, December 1841–December 1842, p. 36, JSP.

2. JS History, vol. E-1, p. 1779, JSP.

3. Lyndon W. Cook, The Revelations of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 1985, 243.

4. “Proclamation of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” 1845, accessed June 14, 2021,


(Doctrine & Covenants Minute)

Verses 15-21

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)

Doctrine and Covenants 124:15–21 notes the loss of three of the most valiant early Saints, David W. Patten, Edward Partridge, and Joseph Smith Sr. (see commentary for D&C 4; 35; 41:7–112; 114). David W. Patten was killed during the Battle of Crooked River on October 25, 1838.5 Edward Partridge, the first bishop called in this dispensation (D&C 41:9), survived the travails of Missouri but passed away on May 27, 1840, near Nauvoo.6 Joseph Smith Sr, the Prophet’s father, had served as Patriarch of the Church and as a counselor in the First Presidency before passing away at the age of sixty-nine on September 14, 1840.7

Lucy Mack Smith recorded the poignant scene as Joseph Smith Sr. gave each of his sons a final blessing on his deathbed. Lucy wrote:

To Joseph [Smith Jr.] he said: “Joseph, my son; thou art called to an high and holy calling—thou art even called to do the work of the Lord—hold out faithful and you shall be blessed, and your children after you—you shall even live to finish your work.” (At this Joseph cried out, weeping “Oh my father will I[?]”) “Yes,” said his father, “you shall live to lay out the plan of all the work which, which God has given you to do. This is my dying blessing on your head in the name of Jesus—I also confirm your former blessings upon your head; for it shall be fulfilled, even so. Amen.”8

Doctrine and Covenants 124 assures the Church that David W. Patten and Edward Partridge are “with me [the Lord] at this time” and that Joseph Smith Sr. “sitteth with Abraham at his right hand” (D&C 124:19).

The revelation also introduces a number of important figures in the story of Nauvoo. John C. Bennett (D&C 124:16) joined the Church in 1840 and became a close associate of Joseph Smith. He was vital in securing the generous charter from the state of Illinois that helped establish the city of Nauvoo, and he served as the first mayor of the city. His relationship with the Church and its leaders quickly deteriorated when it was discovered that Bennett had abandoned a wife and several children before coming to Nauvoo. Bennett had also engaged in several illicit affairs with women in the city. Joseph Smith wrote that after being discovered in these acts Bennett “attempted to destroy himself by taking poison but[,] being discovered before it had taken sufficient affect, and proper antidotes administered[,] he again recovered.”9 Bennett was excommunicated for adultery in May 1842 and subsequently became one of the most bitter enemies of the Church. He even published a searing anti-Mormon book, The History of the Saints, or, An Expose of Joe Smith and Mormonism.10

Lyman Wight (D&C 124:18) and George Miller (D&C 124:20–21) are two more interesting case studies of the dramatic history of the Nauvoo era. Wight was a fellow prisoner in Liberty Jail with Joseph Smith. He was ordained a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles on April 8, 1841. After Joseph Smith’s death, Wight apostatized from the Church and led a group of 150 Saints to the Republic of Texas, where they established a colony at Zodiac, Texas. He was excommunicated on December 3, 1848, and died in 1858 in Texas.11 George Miller was appointed in section 124 to serve as a bishop in Nauvoo. Unlike Edward Partridge and Newel K. Whitney, who served as regional or traveling bishops, Miller was appointed to serve as a bishop over a limited geographical area, or ward, in Nauvoo. The term ward came from designated political areas already existing in the city. Miller was excommunicated in 1848 after he chose to follow Lyman Wight rather than Brigham Young and the Twelve. He later left Wight’s movement to follow another break-off group led by James Strang. After Strang was murdered, Miller attempted to travel to California, dying en route in 1856.12

5. Lyndon W. Cook, The Revelations of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 1985, 226.

6. Cook, Revelations of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 54.

7. Cook, Revelations of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 11.

8. Lucy Mack Smith, History, 1845, p. 298, JSP.

9. Letter to Thomas Carlin, 24 June 1842, p. 234, JSP.

10. John Cook Bennett, biography, JSP; Cook, Revelations of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 253.

11. Lyman Wight, biography, JSP; Cook, Revelations of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 83.

12. George Miller, biography, JSP; Cook, Revelations of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 269.

(Doctrine & Covenants Minute)

Verses 22-28

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)

Earlier in Doctrine and Covenants 124, even before the directive to build the temple, the Lord commanded George Miller, John Snider, and others to build another “house unto my name” (D&C 124:22). While the temple was a sacred home for the ordinances, the house mentioned in verse 22 was intended for visitors to the city. The revelation explains, “Let it be a good house, worthy of all acceptation, that the weary traveler may find health and safety while he shall contemplate the word of the Lord; and the cornerstone I have appointed for Zion” (see D&C 124:23). This house was to provide hospitality without descending into worldly practices. The revelation warns, “It shall be holy, or the Lord your God will not dwell therein” (D&C 124:24).

The boarding house mentioned in the revelation became commonly known as the “Nauvoo House.” In February 1841, George Miller, one of the men mentioned in the revelation, was elected “president of the Quorum of the Nauvoo boarding house,” an interesting combination of sacred and secular titles.13 In keeping with the Lord’s command to build a holy house, the article of incorporation for the Nauvoo House Association described the building as a “public house of entertainment” for visitors and as a place that prohibited all “spiritous liquors of every description.” To finance the project, interested parties could invest in the association by buying shares.14

The Nauvoo House’s location illustrates how important it was to the city’s plans. The structure was located on the banks of the Mississippi River near the point of arrival for most visitors to the city. In effect, the boarding house served as the gateway to Nauvoo. It was built on a road leading to the house of the Lord, which rose on the bluff above the city. The Nauvoo temple and the Nauvoo House often competed for labor and resources during their construction, and on at least one occasion Joseph Smith chastised the Saints for their neglect of the hospitality project. In a discourse given in Nauvoo on February 21, 1843, the Prophet declared, “The building of N[auvoo] House is just as sacred in my view as the Temple. I want the Nauvo[o] House bui[l]t[;] it must be built, our salvation depends upon it. When men have done what they can or will for the temple[,] let them do what they can for the Nauvoo House.”15 At a Church meeting held a month later, Joseph declared, “It is important that this conference give importance to the N[auvoo] House, as a prejudice exists against the Nauvoo House in favor of the Lord’s House.”16 At one Sunday sermon, Brigham Young called for the Saints to support the temple and the Nauvoo House, saying that “for the salvation of the Church it was necessary these public buildings should be erected.”17 Joseph Smith indicated the importance of the Nauvoo House when he placed the original manuscript of the Book of Mormon, along with a draft of the revelation calling for the construction of the Nauvoo House, in the cornerstone of the Nauvoo House on September 25, 1841.18

The Saints never fully realized their vision for the Nauvoo House. Construction on the Nauvoo House continued throughout Joseph Smith’s lifetime, at one point even surpassing the efforts put into the temple.19 Sadly, increasing persecution and limited resources resulted in the Saints diverting most of Nauvoo’s limited labor and resources to the completion of the temple. After the martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum Smith in June 1844, hostilities in Hancock County led the Saints to consider abandoning their beloved city. At a meeting of Church leaders in September 1845, it was “agreed to turn more force of hands to the Temple even if it ha[s] to hinder the Nauvoo House.”20 The work on the Nauvoo House, set aside after the deaths of Joseph and Hyrum Smith, never resumed. One visitor to Nauvoo lamented the incomplete state of the structure in 1845, writing, “the building of the Nauvoo House is wholly abandoned, its bare walls and large piles of brick nearby exposed to the weather, presenting a striking contrast to the view which would be presented if the measures of the martyred Prophet were to be carried out as he designed.”21

In the years following the exodus of the Saints from Nauvoo, Emma Smith and her second husband, Lewis Bidamon, constructed a three-story structure on the southwest corner of the foundations of the Nauvoo House. The completed structure was known as the Riverside Mansion. It was operated as a boarding house by Bidamon. Bidamon even opened the cornerstone of the house and found the decaying manuscript of the Book of Mormon. Apparently, Bidamon gave away pages of the manuscript to visitors as souvenirs.22 The building is still in use and is operated as a boarding house by Community of Christ.

13. Alex D. Smith, “Symbol of Mormonism: The Nauvoo Boarding House,” The John Whitmer Historical Association Journal, vol. 35, no. 2 (Fall/Winter 2015), 115.

14. Smith, “Symbol of Mormonism,” 115–17.

15. Discourse, 21 February 1843, as Reported by Willard Richards, p. 206, JSP.

16. JS Journal, December 1842–June 1844, p. 51, JSP.

17. JS Journal, December 1842–June 1844, p. 174, JSP.

18. Smith, “Symbol of Mormonism,” 123, fn. 40.

19. Temple Building Committee Timebook, 1842–1846, Nauvoo Temple Committee Building Records 1841–1852, Church History Library; Smith, “Symbol of Mormonism,” 130.

20. William Clayton Journal, September 14, 1845; Smith, “Symbol of Mormonism,” 131.

21. Oliver Olney, Spiritual Wifery at Nauvoo Exposed: Also a True Account of Transactions in and about Nauvoo, 1845, 5, quoted in Smith, “Symbol of Mormonism,” 133–34.

22. Richard Neitel Holzapfel and T. Jeffrey Cottle, Old Mormon Nauvoo and Southeastern Iowa, 1991, 150–56.

(Doctrine & Covenants Minute)

Verses 29-35

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)

Following the pattern established in earlier cities built by the Church, a house of the Lord was found in the heart of Nauvoo. In section 124, the Lord declared, “I command you, all ye my saints, to build a house unto me; and I grant unto you a sufficient time to build a house unto me” (D&C 124:31). The temple in Nauvoo was to function primarily as a home for ordinances, including the newly introduced practice of baptisms for the dead. The Lord specifies “your anointings, and your washings, and your baptisms for the dead, and your solemn assemblies, and your memorials for your sacrifices by the sons of Levi, and for your oracles in your most holy places, wherein you receive conversations, and your statutes, and judgments, for the beginning of the revelations and foundation of Zion, and for the glory and honor and endowment of all her municipals, are ordained by the ordinance of my holy house, which my people are always commanded to build unto my holy name”(D&C 124:39). The purposes of this new temple differ greatly from the earlier temple built in Kirtland. Even though Church leaders performed some ordinances in the Kirtland temple, its primary function was to serve as a meetinghouse and a community center for the Saints. Another vital role of the Kirtland temple was to serve as a place where the keys could be received that were later used in the Nauvoo temple.23 The primary purpose for this new house of the Lord was to be performing sacred ordinances for the Saints, and every subsequent temple built by the Latter-day Saints has followed this pattern.

On August 15, 1840, Joseph Smith preached at a funeral in Nauvoo and, for the first time in public, taught the doctrine of salvation for the dead. According to Simon Baker, who was at the funeral, the Prophet began by testifying that the “gospel of Jesus Christ brought glad tidings of great joy.” He read most of 1 Corinthians 15 and explained that “the Apostle was talking to a people who understood baptisms for the dead, for it was practiced among them.” He then declared that “people could now act for their friends who had departed this life, and that the plan of salvation was calculated to save all who were willing to obey the requirements of God.”24

Doctrine and Covenants 124, received several months after the practice of proxy baptisms for the deceased began in Nauvoo, clarified that baptisms for the dead needed to take place within the temple (D&C 124:29). In 1843 Joseph Smith elaborated on baptism for the dead and its relationship to the temple. He taught:

It was the design of the Councils of heaven before the world was, that the principles and Laws of the Priesthood were predicated upon the gathering of the people in every age of the world. Jesus did everything possible to gather the people[,] and they would not be gathered[;] and he therefore poured out curses upon them. Ordinances instituted in the heavens before the foundation of the World in the Priesthood for the Salvation of men, are not to be altered or changed, all must be saved on the same principles.

It is for the same purpose that God gathers together his people in the last days to build unto the Lord a house to prepare them for the ordinances and endowments[,] washings and anointings, etc.. One of the ordinances of the house of the Lord is baptism for the dead. God decreed before the foundation of the world that that ordinance should be administered in a font prepared for that purpose in the house of the Lord.25

23. See Trevor Anderson, “Doctrine and Covenants 110: From Vision to Canonization,” MA Thesis, Brigham Young University, 2010.

24. Simon Baker, quoted in Journal History of the Church, August 15, 1840.

25. JS History, vol. D-1, p. 1572, JSP.

(Doctrine & Covenants Minute)

Verses 36-44

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)

Doctrine and Covenants 124:36–44 begins by explaining that Nauvoo will not be the only place where a temple of the Lord will be built—places appointed for refuge (temples) will be built in Zion, her stakes, and in Jerusalem. The Lord also lists some of the ceremonies intended to take place in His temples. Anointings, washings, and solemn assemblies all took place in the Kirtland Temple, though in an earlier form different from the ceremonies performed in temples today. The Lord also directed Joseph Smith to introduce new ordinances, taking the form of the temple endowment to what we are now familiar with.

Joseph Smith labored to instruct the Saints about these ordinances as quickly as possible, even before the temple was completed. On May 1, 1842, Joseph’s journal records, “Preached in the grove on the keys of the kingdom charity &c.—The keys are certain signs & words by which false spirits & personages may be detected from true.—which cannot be revealed to the Elders till the Temple is completed.—The rich can only get them in the Temple. The poor may get them on the Mountain top as did Moses.”26 With the help of a few other close associates, Joseph arranged the office and assembly room in his Red Brick Store to represent “the interior of a temple as much as the circumstances would permit.”27

Willard Richards, who was present when Joseph introduced some of the Saints to the endowment on May 4, 1842, later wrote that Joseph Smith instructed those present

in the principles and order of the priesthood, attending to washings & anointings, endowments, and the communications of keys, pertaining to the Aaronic Priesthood, and so on to the highe[s]t order of the Melchizedek Priesthood, setting forth the order pertaining to the Ancient of days & all those plans & principles by which any one is enabled to secure the fulness of those blessings which has been prepared for the chu[r]ch of the first-born, and come up, and abide in the prese[n]ce of Eloheim in the eternal worlds. In this council was instituted the Ancient order of things for the fir[s]t time in these last days.

According to Richards, Joseph Smith’s instructions

were of things spiritual, and to be received only by the spiritual minded: and there was nothing made known to these men but what will be made known to all saints, of the last days, so soon as they are prepared to receive, and a proper place is prepared to communicate them, even to the weakest of the saints; therefore let the saints be diligent in building the Temple and all houses which they have been or shall hereafter be commanded of God to build, and wait their time with patience, in all meekness[,] faith, & perseverance unto the end, knowing assuredly that all these things refer[re]d to in this council are always governed by the principles of Revelation.28

26. JS Journal, December 1841–December 1842, p. 94, JSP.

27. Deseret News, 15 February 1884, p. 2.

28. JS Journal, p. 94, fn. 177, JSP; Church Historian’s Office, JS History, draft notes, 4 May 1842; see also JS History, vol. C-1, 1328–29, JSP.  

(Doctrine & Covenants Minute)

Verses 45-55

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)

In verses 45–55, the Lord returns to the first time he gave the Saints a commandment to build a temple in His name, specifically the temple in Jackson County, Missouri (D&C 84:1–5). Because of persecution and difficulties among the Saints themselves, the temple was never built (D&C 101:6–8). The Saints were also commanded to build a temple in Far West, Missouri (D&C 115:7–14). In both cases the construction of these temples ceased because of persecution. The Lord assures the Saints that those who hindered the temples’ work, whether by transgressions or persecutions, will suffer if they do not repent (D&C 124:47–48, 50).

The Lord also assures the faithful Saints who were unable to complete the Missouri temples that their offerings are acceptable to Him. By applying this principle in our own lives, we see that the Lord expects us to do our best. We may not always be able to achieve what is asked of us, but all the Lord requires is a genuine, sincere effort. As long as we do our best, the Lord will accept our offering. In a 2015 general conference address, Elder Dale G. Renlund quoted Nelson Mandela, who said, “I’m no saint—that is, unless you think a saint is a sinner who keeps on trying.” Elder Renlund added, “My invitation to all of us is to evaluate our lives, repent, and keep on trying. If we don’t try, we’re just latter-day sinners; if we don’t persevere, we’re latter-day quitters; and if we don’t allow others to try, we’re just latter-day hypocrites. As we try, persevere, and help others to do the same, we are true Latter-day Saints. As we change, we will find that God indeed cares a lot more about who we are and about who we are becoming than about who we once were.”29

29. Dale G. Renlund, “Latter-day Saints Keep on Trying,” April 2015 General Conference.

(Doctrine & Covenants Minute)

Verses 56-83

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)

Doctrine and Covenants 124:56–83 contains instructions pertaining to the Nauvoo House, the house for boarding mentioned earlier in the revelation (D&C 124:22–24). The plans for the Nauvoo House reflected part of the grand expectations for the city of Nauvoo. The existent plans describe an L-shaped building, 120 feet on each side and 40 feet wide. Some sources indicate the building was planned to have five floors and be “built after Grecian Doric order as near as is practicable.”30 The plans also include a suite of rooms designated for Joseph Smith and his heirs in perpetuity (D&C 124:59). Lucien Woodworth, William Weeks, and Truman Angell are all identified in different sources as architects of the Nauvoo House. Weeks was the primary architect of the Nauvoo Temple, and Angell designed several key structures in Utah, including the temples in Salt Lake City and St. George, as well as the Salt Lake Tabernacle with its exquisite acoustics. Historian Alex D. Smith identifies Woodworth as the primary architect for the Nauvoo House.31

The Lord commands several Church leaders to purchase stock in the Nauvoo House, including Joseph Smith (verse 72), Vinson Knight (verse 74), Hyrum Smith (verse 77), Isaac Galland (verse 78) and others. Church leaders also worked to promote the Nauvoo House to those outside the faith as well. Apostle Willard Richards wrote several letters to the Boston Daily Bee under the pseudonym “Viator” to promote the development of Nauvoo. In a letter published in May 1843, he wrote, “The Nauvoo House will be a splendid establishment when completed, and is much needed, for individuals of great respectability and worth are frequently calling to see the Prophet . . . I understand it is their design to finish the building in such style as to render it acceptable to the fancy and accommodation of the Kings, Queens, Lords, Ladies, and Nobles of the earth.”32 Another Church member, Benjamin Winchester, wrote a letter infused with enthusiasm over the planned building, even boasting, “This house when finished, I should think from what I have seen, will surpass any house of the kind for beauty, convenience, and durability, west of the Allegany mountains.”33

30. Alex D. Smith, “Symbol of Mormonism: The Nauvoo Boarding House,” The John Whitmer Historical Association Journal, vol. 35, no. 2 (Fall/Winter 2015), 116–20.

31. Smith, “Symbol of Mormonism,” 116–20

32. Viator [Willard Richards], Truthiana, no. 6 (April 22, 1843), Church History Library, quoted in Smith, “Symbol of Mormonism,” 121–22.

33. “Communications,” Times and Seasons, November 15, 1841; see also Smith, “Symbol of Mormonism,” 124–25.

(Doctrine & Covenants Minute)

Verses 84-86

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)

At the time section 124 was received, Almon Babbit was serving as the stake president in Kirtland. Part of the rebuke Babbit received in this revelation came from his desire to build up Kirtland at the expense of Nauvoo. Earlier in section 124, the Lord promises to eventually “build up Kirtland,” but at the time He had prepared a scourge for Kirtland and its inhabitants (D&C 124:83). In a letter written to Oliver Granger, a Church agent in Kirtland (see D&C 117:12–16), Joseph Smith wrote, “I am sorry to be informed not only in your letter but from other respectable sources of the strange conduct pursued in Kirtland by Elder Alman Babbit [Almon Babbitt]; I am indeed Surprised that a man having the experience which Bro Babbit has had should take any steps whatever calculated to destroy the confidence of the brethren in the presidency or any of the Authorities of the church.”34

Continuing, Joseph elaborated on the importance of harmony and love in Church leadership: “In order to conduct the affairs of the kingdom in righteousness it is all important, that the most perfect harmony kind feeling, good understanding and confidence should exist in the hearts of all the brethren and that true charity—love one towards another, should characterize all their proceedings. If there are any uncharitable feelings, any lack of confidence, then pride and arrogancy and envy will soon be manifested and confusion must inevitably prevail and the Authorities of the church set at nought.”35 Joseph lamented that “under such circumstances Kirtland cannot rise and free herself from the captivity in which she is held and become a place of safety for the Saints[,] nor can the blessings of Jehovah rest upon her. If the saints in Kirtland deem me unworthy of their prayers when they assemble together, and neglect to bear me up at a throne of heavenly grace, it is a strong and convincing proof to me that they have not the spirit of God.”36

Almon Babbitt repented and eventually gathered with the Saints. He was appointed as the presiding elder in Ramus, Illinois. Even though he was a gifted and able leader, Babbitt had a tempestuous relationship with Church leaders. Several times he was disfellowshipped, and on one occasion he was excommunicated for immorality and intemperance. He was killed in an attack by American Indians at Ash Hollow, Nebraska, while crossing the plains in 1856.37

34. Letterbook 2, p. 159, JSP.

35. Letterbook 2, p. 159, JSP.

36. Letterbook 2, p. 159, JSP.

37. Almon Whiting Babbitt, biography, JSP; Lyndon W. Cook, Revelations of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 1985, 252.

(Doctrine & Covenants Minute)

Verses 87-90

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)

Doctrine and Covenants 124:87–88 mentions William Law, who just verses later is called to take the place of Hyrum Smith as a counselor in the First Presidency (D&C 124:91). Law was a prominent leader in Nauvoo. He served on the city council and in several different civic position. He is also mentioned prominently in Doctrine and Covenants 124:97–102, in which the Lord counsels him to “be humble before me, and be without guile, and he shall receive of my Spirit, even the Comforter, which shall manifest unto him the truth of all things” (D&C 124:91).

Rejecting the principles taught in Doctrine and Covenants 132, William Law later became one of the most bitter enemies of Joseph Smith. He was removed from the First Presidency in January 1844 and was excommunicated on April 18, 1844. Dissenters appointed Law to replace Joseph Smith as President of the Church, and eventually Law organized his own church in 1844. In June 1844 Law published the Nauvoo Expositor, a newspaper designed to criticize the leaders of Nauvoo, particularly Joseph Smith. The decision of the Nauvoo city council to destroy the Expositor press directly led to the arrest and murder of Joseph and Hyrum Smith in Carthage Jail.38

38. William Law, biography, JSP.

(Doctrine & Covenants Minute)

Verses 91-96

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)

In Doctrine and Covenants 124:91–96, Hyrum Smith is appointed to two new positions. First, following the death of Joseph Smith Sr., Hyrum was appointed to serve as the Patriarch to the Church. This office has at times been known by different names, including Patriarch over the whole Church, Patriarch of the Church, and Presiding Patriarch.39 Section 124 specifies that Hyrum received this office “by blessing, and also by right” (D&C 124:91). In a blessing given to Hyrum in September 1835 by Joseph Smith, Hyrum was blessed that “he shall stand in the tracts of his father and be numbered among those who hold the right of patriarchal priesthood, even the evangelical priesthood.”40

When Joseph Smith Sr. was on his deathbed, he gave Hyrum a blessing, saying, “I seal upon your head the patriarchal power and you shall bless the people.”41 Following Hyrum’s death, the office of Patriarch to the Church generally passed by hereditary succession from Joseph Smith Sr. to his descendants, with a few exceptions, until Elder Eldred G. Smith.42 In 1979 the First Presidency honorably released Elder Eldred G. Smith from his calling and made him an emeritus General Authority Seventy without a replacement, effectively ending the office of Patriarch to the Church.43 The calling of thousands of patriarchs in stakes around the world had made the office of Patriarch to the Church less necessary.

Verses 91–96 also contain Hyrum’s call to fill the position of Oliver Cowdery, who was excommunicated from the Church in April 1838. Hyrum was “crowned with the same blessing, and glory, and honor, and priesthood, and gifts of the priesthood” (D&C 124:95) that had belonged to Oliver Cowdery. Hyrum was also appointed to serve as “a prophet, and a seer, and a revelator unto my church” and given the authority to “act in concert” with Joseph Smith (D&C 124:94–95). From this point on, Hyrum effectively occupied the place of Oliver Cowdery as one of the co-testators of the Restoration (D&C 135:5).

Joseph Fielding Smith, a descendent of Hyrum Smith, once remarked on the special relationship between the first and second elders of the Restoration (D&C 20:2–3). He said, “I am firmly of the opinion that had Oliver Cowdery remained true to his covenants and obligations as witness with Joseph Smith, and retained his authority and place, he, and not Hyrum Smith, would have gone with Joseph Smith as prisoner and to martyrdom at Carthage.”44

39. Church History Library, “A History of Patriarchs and Patriarchal Blessings,” March 26, 2019,

40. Appendix 5, Document 2. Blessing to Hyrum Smith, between circa 15 and 28 September 1835, p. 10, JSP.

41. Lucy Mack Smith, History, 1844–1845, p. 5, bk. 18, JSP.

42. All Patriarchs to the Church except George F. Richards, who served as Patriarch to the Church between 1937 and 1942, were descendants of Joseph Smith Sr.’s father, Asael Smith, see Irene M. Bates and E. Gary Smith, Lost Legacy: The Mormon Office of Presiding Patriarch, 1996, Appendix B.

43. “The Sustaining of Church Officers,” October 1979 General Conference, see also Church History Library, “A History of Patriarchs and Patriarchal Blessings,” 2019.

44. Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 1954, 1:219.

(Doctrine & Covenants Minute)

Verses 97-110

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)

Doctrine and Covenants 124:97–110 contains further instructions to William Law and counsel to Sidney Rigdon, both members of the First Presidency. Following his ordeal in Liberty Jail, Sidney Rigdon was in poor health. During most of the 1840–44 period in Nauvoo, illness prevented Sidney Rigdon from taking as large a role in Church leadership as he had in the past. Sidney’s son Wickliffe later wrote, “Sidney Rigdon being a bilious temperament was sick most of the time while he remained at Nauvoo . . . for weeks at a time he would not be able to leave his bed.”45 When his cousin John Rigdon, a Campbellite minister, challenged Sidney to a debate in the summer of 1840, Sidney had to decline, writing, “My health is very bad, and it is only at intervals that I am able to write . . . it is known through the country, generally, that I am unable to get five miles from my house, let alone discuss a subject of importance with any person. And it is also a fact that my attendant physician has forbidden my using any exertions, either mental or physical, except very moderate exercise, as it will endanger my life.”46

Sidney’s health struggles during the Nauvoo period prompted Joseph Smith to take a more active role in speaking publicly to the Saints. In 1843 Joseph wrote a scathing letter to Sidney, accusing him of working with apostates to undermine the Church. “I believe, I am laboring under the fullest conviction that you are actually practicing deception and wickedness against me, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints,” Joseph wrote to Sidney.47 Joseph threatened in the same letter to remove Sidney from Church fellowship. The relationship between the two men remained unstable throughout the remainder of the Nauvoo period, though Sidney remained a member of the First Presidency until Joseph’s death.

45. Richard S. Van Wagoner, Sidney Rigdon, 1994, 279.

46. Van Wagoner, Sidney Rigdon, 279–80.

47. Letter to Sidney Rigdon, 27 March 1843, p. 1, JSP.

(Doctrine & Covenants Minute)

Verses 111-122

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)

In Doctrine and Covenants 124:111–22, the Lord calls on other Church members to purchase stock in the Nauvoo House. Consistent with other revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants, a line is not drawn between temporal and spiritual things (D&C 29:34–35). Building a hotel for guests might be considered a strictly temporal affair, but the Lord asks that anyone who purchases stock in the venture to “be a believer in the Book of Mormon, and the revelations I have given unto you, saith the Lord your God” (D&C 124:119). Given this connection between the builders of the Nauvoo House and a belief in the Book of Mormon, it is fitting that the building itself played a unique role in the history of the book.

The original manuscript of the Book of Mormon was kept by Joseph Smith. It remained in his care until he placed it in the cornerstone of the Nauvoo House during the building’s cornerstone ceremony held on October 2, 1841. Warren Foote, a Church member present at the ceremony, recorded, “I was standing very near the cornerstone when Joseph Smith came up with the manuscript of the Book of Mormon, and said he wanted to put that in there as he had had trouble enough with it. It appeared to be written on foolscap paper and was about three inches in thickness . . . a close-fitting stone cover was laid in cement, and the wall built over it.”48

In 1882, over forty years later, the original manuscript was removed from the cornerstone by the second husband of Emma Smith, Lewis Bidamon. When the manuscript was in the cornerstone, water seeped in and destroyed most of it. Only portions of the beginning of the book (1 Nephi) and its middle (Alma 22 into the early parts of the book of Helaman) remained intact. In the following six years, Bidamon gave away most of the better-preserved portions to several individuals, mostly Latter-day Saints from Utah, among them Church historians Andrew Jenson, Edward Stephenson, and Joseph W. Summerhays. Bidamon kept a few fragments of the manuscript for himself, and they remained with his son, Charles, until 1937, when Wilford Wood, an avid collector of Latter-day Saint memorabilia, purchased the fragments.49 Today, only about 28 percent of the original manuscript of the Book of Mormon is extant. Nearly all of it (roughly 25 percent of the current text) is held by the historical department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.50

48. Joseph F. Smith Jr., “The Original Manuscript of the Book of Mormon,” Improvement Era, December 1906, 574, spelling and punctuation modernized.

49. Royal Skousen, ed., The Original Manuscript of the Book of Mormon: Typographical Facsimile of the Extant Text, 2001, 7.

50. Skousen, Original Manuscript of the Book of Mormon, 7.

(Doctrine & Covenants Minute)

Verses 123-145

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)

The final part of the revelation (D&C 124:123–45) concerns the reorganization of the leading quorums of the Church, following their disruption during the Missouri persecutions. After the apostasy of Thomas B. Marsh, Brigham Young was chosen to serve as President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (D&C 124:127). The Twelve were affirmed in their role as “special witnesses of the name of Christ in all the world” (D&C 107:23) and told that they “hold the keys to open up the authority of my kingdom upon the four corners of the earth, and after that to send my word to every creature” (D&C 124:128). The Twelve fulfilled these responsibilities in part by carrying out the Lord’s charge to preach the gospel in Europe (D&C 118:5).

Even though the Twelve were aware of their mission call to Europe, the difficult conditions of the Saints in the summer of 1839 delayed the departure of the Twelve from Illinois for several months. The malaria-infested swamps around Nauvoo took a huge toll on the already weakened Saints. But although the Twelve (and their families) suffered from the terrible illness found in Nauvoo’s swamplands, they were determined to fulfill their mission to England and made plans to depart. As Wilford Woodruff lay on the ground to rest after traveling just a short distance from his home on the day of his departure, the Prophet Joseph Smith happened upon him and cheerfully remarked, “Well, Brother Woodruff, you have started upon your mission.” Wilford replied, “Yes, but I feel and look more like a subject for the dissecting room than a missionary.”51 Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball, knowing full well of the terrible conditions in which they were leaving their families and of their own troubled health, stopped their wagon on their way out of Nauvoo and with great effort arose to shout three times to their wives, “Hurrah, hurrah for Israel!”52 After traveling a modest distance, illness forced them to rest for several days in Quincy.

The journey across the United States and the voyage across the Atlantic proved slow and difficult for the Twelve. It was several months before the majority of the Twelve reached the British Isles. At a council meeting held on April 14, 1840, in the home of Willard Richards in Preston, England, Richards was ordained an apostle as commanded in the July 1838 revelation (D&C 118:6). After this meeting, the majority of the Apostles preached in the British Isles, and the work of spreading the good news of the Restoration moved forward. The Twelve’s encouragement and enthusiasm for the work was much needed among the English Saints. Persecution and a lack of strong local leadership had left once faithful converts struggling to keep their faith. The Twelve reinvigorated the work in the British Isles and spread the gospel at an unprecedented rate. Elder John Taylor explained why they enjoyed such success: “I feel the word of the Lord like fire in my bones . . . you may rejoice with us in those great and glorious things which God has revealed for the salvation of the world.”53

Through the efforts of the Twelve and that of others, by 1841 over four thousand people had entered the waters of baptism. Several hundred of these converts, joining the Twelve when they voyaged home across the Atlantic, settled in the new Church center of Nauvoo. In the decades that followed, thousands of converts from the British Isles joined the Saints in the Intermountain West. Another success from the Twelve’s British mission was the unification of the Twelve under the able leadership of Brigham Young. Joseph Smith, noting the confidence and unity of the Quorum of the Twelve, expanded their responsibilities and gave them the keys of the kingdom.

The Twelve’s mission to England was a sacrificial effort to fulfill Joseph’s prophecy on April 26, 1839, at Far West, Missouri, that the Twelve would journey “over the great waters [to] promulgate my gospel, the fulness thereof, and bear record of my name” (D&C 118:4). Thousands of new Church members reaped the benefit of the devotion of the Twelve to the Lord and His servant Joseph Smith. The blessings of the gospel of Jesus Christ became rooted in Great Britain through the Twelve’s sacrifice and willingness to serve the Lord.

51. Matthias F. Cowley, Wilford Woodruff: History of His Life and Labors, 1909, 109.

52. Orson F. Whitney, Life of Heber C. Kimball, 1972, 266.

53. John Taylor to Leonora Taylor, January 30, 1840, quoted in James B. Allen, Ronald K. Esplin, and David J. Whittaker, Men with a Mission, 1992 366.

(Doctrine & Covenants Minute)

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)

(Doctrine & Covenants Minute)

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)

(Doctrine & Covenants Minute)

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)

(Doctrine & Covenants Minute)

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)

(Doctrine & Covenants Minute)

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)

(Doctrine & Covenants Minute)

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)

(Doctrine & Covenants Minute)

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)

(Doctrine & Covenants Minute)

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)

(Doctrine & Covenants Minute)

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)

(Doctrine & Covenants Minute)

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)

(Doctrine & Covenants Minute)

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)

(Doctrine & Covenants Minute)

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)

(Doctrine & Covenants Minute)

— Note: If there are empty verse section containers, please refresh the page —