Abide #9: Doctrine and Covenants 94-97
We will be discussing each week’s block of reading from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ “Come, Follow Me” curriculum. We aren’t here to present a lesson, but rather to hit on a few key themes from the scripture block that we believe will help fulfill the Maxwell Institute’s mission to inspire and fortify Latter-day Saints in their testimonies of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ and engage the world of religious ideas.”
In December 1832, Joseph Smith received a revelation from the Lord in which the Lord said to the saints, “Organize yourselves prepare every needful thing, and establish a house even a house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of learning, a house of glory, a house of order, a house of God.” This was the first direction to the Latter-day Saints to establish a temple. In the next six months, agents purchased different tracks of land for the church and began plans for the temple as well as a house for the Presidency and one for printing operations in Kirtland. Church leadership likewise sent similar plans for the city of Zion in Independence, Missouri. Yet, in a revelation that Joseph received on the 1st of June 1833 which we will talk about today, it made it clear that the Lord wanted them to move faster. “You have sinned against me a very grievous sin,” in other words, “build a temple, darn it.” My name is Janiece Johnson. I am a Willis Center research associate at the Maxwell Institute and I along with Joseph Stuart, the Public Communications Specialist at the institute will be discussing each week’s block of reading from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Come, Follow Me curriculum. We aren’t here to present a lesson but rather to hit on a few key themes from the scripture block that we believe will help fulfill the Maxwell Institute’s mission to inspire and fortify Latter-day Saints in their testimonies of the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ and to engage the world of religious ideas.
Joseph Stuart: The revelations found in sections 94-96 all rotate around the temple and the necessity of building a temple.
Janiece Johnson: I love what Richard Bushman says in Rough Stone Rolling. “Beginning in Kirtland temples became an obsession. For the rest of his life, no matter the cost of the temple to himself and his people, Joseph made plans, raised money, mobilized workers, and required sacrifice. Now, the saints haven’t quite realized how important the temple is yet. They are slow in following this commandment and the Lord is going to remind them and begin to teach them of how important temples will be with this revelation.
Joseph Stuart: Now I find it interesting that the Latter-day Saints are very interested in moving west. They are very interested in gathering together, in making printing presses and doing all the other things that the Lord has asked them to. But because a temple is so unfamiliar to them, I’m not sure if it’s the right thing to say, but maybe they don’t quite know where to start.
Janiece Johnson: I’ve personally received revelations that work like that for me. That it seems too big, I don’t know how to start. And I think the Lord shows some patience at the beginning. The Lord reminds them of this relationship. As we discussed with section 93, the restoration elevated not only family relationships but the importance of all relationships. Both section 94 and 95 begin, “I say unto you my friends, thus saith the Lord unto you whom I love…” This warm beginning to what will soon become censure. But unlike the series of revelations in August of 1833, when the Lord repeatedly stated, “It mattereth not unto me…” Here, it mattered.
Joseph Stuart: It is something that is marvelous to behold in the Doctrine and Covenants the way that the Lord progressively expects more out of those whom he has called to build his kingdom here on the earth. And something that I find particularly interesting in this section, section 94, is that he gives very specific instructions for the dimensions of the buildings they will construct. So, in verse 10, “Verily I say unto you, the second lot on the south shall be dedicated unto me for the building of a house unto me, for the work of the printing of the translation of my scriptures, and all things whatsoever I shall command you. And it shall be fifty-five by sixty-five feet in the width thereof and the length thereof, in the inner court; and there shall be a lower and a higher court. And this house shall be wholly dedicated unto the Lord from the foundation thereof, for the work of the printing, in all things whatsoever I shall command you, to be holy, undefiled, according to the pattern in all things as it shall be given unto you.” Now the Lord gives different dimensions for structures particularly in the Old Testament. I think about Noah’s ark for instance and being a six-year-old who thought it was very funny that there were such specific instructions for how big the ark should be. Similarly for the tabernacle and other structures that Israel employed while they were in the wilderness, and when they built. It seems to me that when the Lord gives dimensions, it is important to remember that he is constructing something to help the saints separate from danger and come to the Lord.
Janiece Johnson: And in verse two, the Lord says, it’s very clear, “…it must be done according to the pattern which I have given unto you.” So, this specific – he’s not going to tell them every last detail of what the temples should be planned for. But there are some things that are very specific.
Joseph Stuart: Now one of the buildings, the printing press, is something that sticks out to me that the scriptures can be printed. And continually, as I was thinking about this, the scriptural phrase, “…many are kept from the truth because they know not where to find it,” kept coming to my mind. This is a time when printing was expensive. It is still expensive today, but it was much more so in the 1830s. And how are you going to help people to find the restored gospel? How are they going to find out about it? They’re going to have to do so through a book, specifically the Book of Mormon and the Book of Commandments, Joseph Smith’s published revelations.
Janiece Johnson: The Book of Mormon had been published in 1830 using Egbert Grandin’s press at great cost, great financial cost to the saints. They needed something that was their own that would enable them to give people continued access to scripture. The second edition of the Book of Mormon wouldn’t be published until 1837. The first edition of the Doctrine and Covenants would be published in 1835 and before that we would get the Book of Commandments in 1833. But this focus on bringing scripture to the people is also going to be a central focus as time proceeds.
Joseph Stuart: Now this is something that in the modern church they invest a lot of time and effort in creating scriptures that can be translated into many different languages across the world. And we are so grateful for those who know the languages who are able to get those scriptures to the people.
Something else that the Lord requires to be built as part of the inner court is a dedicated space for the school of mine apostles, or what’s known as the school of the prophets. Now this is an organization where Joseph Smith and other early saints, I will say, men only, for now. The school of the prophets as we discussed in the episode on section 88, if you’re interested in learning more, brings Latter-day saints together to learn more about the world around them, languages, history, culture, archaeology, but also deep spiritual principles and ideas that Joseph Smith is communicating through revelation. And I think it’s crucial when we read section 95 to think that Joseph Smith did not see a disconnect between what was right in front of him and the heavens far beyond him. There was no artificial line between the spiritual and the secular. It reminds me of something that Spencer Fluhman said in a BYU address. He said, “When the early saints scarcely had resources for food and shelter, they were organizing universities. Joseph Smith, who had plenty to do, leading the church in its infant years, seemed inspired by the university ideal. Especially so for someone who lacked all the meager beginnings of formal education himself. Joseph Smith was spiritually and intellectually veracious. If indeed it makes sense in this case to separate the two, being spiritual and intellectually curious.”
Janiece Johnson: And I think these revelations on the temple also bring us together to think about these different kinds of learning that are also important for the saints. Another, to kind of shift gears a little bit, for a second, I just want to talk about the dating of these sections because this is perhaps something that seems a little didactic, but I think it’s actually useful for us to think about changes over time and as we’ve learned more about these revelations. If you have old scriptures, old paper scriptures, like I do, the dates of these sections are different than they are in post-2013 scriptures. And actually, the chronological order of the sections has changed. Section 95 and 96 were given before section 94. This comes as a result of the work that has been done on the Joseph Smith papers. For the 2013 edition of the scriptures, we made some shifts in the dating of different sections according to what those working on the Joseph Smith papers had learned. And these are some of those sections. And this changes, I think, the order and perhaps if you’re wondering why the dates don’t go in chronological order, we have this consistently through the Doctrine and Covenants. Initially they thought they were putting them in chronological order. They learned more and so we’ve shifted over time.
Joseph Stuart: That’s something that, as disciple scholars at the Maxwell Institute, we think about constantly: How do we use the learning that we have acquired through education, through experience, to create scholarship that benefits Latter-day saints, as well as people of all faiths or no faith at all? And something that I find particularly compelling about the work of the Joseph Smith papers is that the First Presidency approves each volume that they send out and I can tell that they are reading them when changes like this happen. They did not necessarily have to do something to this degree. And it may seem very small to think about the date in which a revelation was received and what that means in the long run when we can just focus on what is in the text of the scriptures, but it seems to me and maybe only to me, that the leaders of the church take the work of disciple scholarship undertaken in the Joseph Smith papers very seriously.
Janiece Johnson: Now, let’s shift. As those first three sections focus on the temple and the saints building the house, “…in which house I design to endow those whom I have chosen with power from on high.” This idea of an endowment that is being given to the saints, is closely connected with the idea of Zion. Now, while section 97 was given the same day as section 94, section 97 also shifts our attention to the idea of Zion. To those saints and leaders in Independence, Missouri, that physical place, that piece of real estate called Zion. The revelation was labeled, “the communication which we received from the Lord concerning the school in Zion” and began to focus the saints upon what Zion would require. However, unknown to Joseph, the saints in Jackson County had already begun to experience sore afflictions. When we read these verses, begin to think about what the Lord is asking of the saints: if they are ready to receive Zion.
Joseph Stuart: In verse 21, the Lord says, “Let Zion rejoice, for this is Zion, the pure in heart. Therefore, let Zion rejoice.” And I admit that I had a really hard time in rereading this section thinking about it. Over the past 16 or 18 months all of us have been having a very hard time. Some of us more than others. Some have been dealing with family circumstances or individual circumstances that put people to the test. Some people have lost loved ones. We have been disrupted in the way that we have been able to worship because in keeping our covenants to take care of one another we have had to stay away from one another. So, what are we supposed to do when it’s hard? I think about Elder Quentin L. Cook in his talk, Hope You Know, We Had A Hard Time. He said, “At times when we may feel to say, ‘hope you know, I had a hard time’ we can be assured that He is there and we are safe in his loving arms.”
Now, I imagine that each person listening to this can think of something that has happened in their life whether it was today or 16 months ago or 16 years ago where they just felt bone tired. In another section of Dr. Fluhman’s address from the BYU devotional he says, “This intellectual and spiritual work can be difficult. It can be exhausting. I know some of you are tired. You are not sure you can keep at it. You go ahead and find some stillness today. Gather your strength today. Rest up today, because tomorrow we ride for Zion. And it is not quite Zion if you are not there. Remember you don’t ride alone. Step back and consider the thousands around you. Consider the thousands who preceded you. Consider the unnumbered hosts yet to come. You don’t ride alone.” In thinking about how difficult the year has been, I have also rejoiced in finding how many people cared about me and my family and those that I loved by doing what they could, individually or as groups to help us stay safe and to help us get through this together. Although Joseph Smith may not have known when he received this revelation that there would be a pandemic in 2020 and 2021, I think about him giving us this revelation from the Lord, “Let Zion rejoice for what the Lord has given us.”
Janiece Johnson: That leads me to verse 8, “Verily I say unto you, all among them who know their hearts are honest and are broken and their spirits contrite and are willing to observe their covenants by sacrifice, yea, every sacrifice which I the Lord shall command, they are accepted of me.” There are certain times when we are asked to sacrifice more than other times, but the Lord accepts our sacrifice and our offering.
Joseph Stuart: I can’t think of a better place to stop than that. Let’s hear the words of Elder Cook and have a blessed week y’all.
Quentin L. Cook: “Think of the Savior in the Garden of Gethsemane during the Atonement process, suffering agony so great that he bled from every pore. His cry to his Father included the word, Abba. This might be interpreted as a cry of a son who is in distress to his father. “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me. Nevertheless, not as I will but as thou wilt.” I testify that the Atonement of Jesus Christ covers all of the trials and hardships that any of us will encounter in this life. At times when we may feel to say, “hope you know I had a hard time,” we can be assured that he is there and we are safe in his loving arms.”
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The views expressed here and in Maxwell Institute publications are those of the individual authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the Maxwell Institute, Brigham Young University, or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“Seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith.” (D&C 88:118)