Sunday, April 25, 2021

April 19-25: D&C 41-44


These sections contain some of the most profound teachings in the D&C, as I'm sure you already know. We'll look at a few specifically below.

First, I like reviewing the historical background to D&C 41 as presented by the Joseph Smith Papers. The part in bold below is especially significant.

This revelation was dictated the same day JS arrived in , Ohio, from . 
According to ’s headnote, inscribed a few months later in spring 1831, the revelation was a response to JS’s prayer regarding an offer made by new convert  to provide JS and  “houses & provisions” on his farm in , Ohio, about twenty miles east of  JS and his family were in need of housing because of their recent move, and Sidney and Phebe Rigdon had lost a house apparently being built for them by his former Campbellite congregation in nearby , Ohio, when he converted to the Church of Christ. Early published versions of this revelation did not include Whitmer’s headnote, and in their later histories neither JS nor Whitmer connected Copley’s offer to this revelation. Both histories instead place the revelation in the context of concerns about religious excesses among the new church members in . The revelation, however, does not explicitly address this matter.
In setting the scene for the revelation,  wrote in his history: “About these days Joseph the Prophet and  arrived at  to the joy and satisfaction of the Saints. The disciples had all things common, and were going to destruction very fast as to temporal things: for they considered from reading the  that what belonged to a brother belonged to any of the brethren, therefore they would take each others clothes and other property and use it without leave: which brought on confusion and disappointments: for they did not understand the scripture. After Joseph lived here a few days the word of the Lord came.” JS’s history gave a similar introduction: “The branch of the church in this part of the Lord’s vineyard, which had increased to nearly one hundred members, were striving to do the will of God, so far as they knew it; though some strange notions and false spirits had crept in among them. With a little caution, and some wisdom, I soon assisted the brethren and sisters to overcome them. The plan of ‘common stock,’ which had existed in what was called ‘the family,’ whose members generally had embraced the ever lasting gospel, was readily abandoned for the more perfect law of the Lord: and the false spirits were easily discerned and rejected by the light of revelation.”
’s headnote in Revelation Book 1 listed another purpose for this revelation: “pointing at [out] the office of ,” who the revelation commanded to be  as the church’s first . This is the first extant document that uses bishop as an office in the church. JS first met  businessman and hatter Edward Partridge in December 1830 in , New York. Partridge had accompanied recent convert  on a trip to  to meet JS. On 9 December, JS dictated a revelation calling Partridge to “preach my Gospel as with the voice of a Trump,” and Partridge was  by JS two days later. Partridge spent the next month and a half sharing his new faith with relatives and friends in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, an effort that his daughter Emily later characterized as unsuccessful. He returned to  from  in time to join JS, , and Sidney Rigdon in their move to Ohio during the last week of January 1831.

This historical context is a good example of how people, no matter how well intentioned, cannot devise economic systems that produce a Zion society. To do that requires guidance from God and a changed heart.


The three verses below could each support an entire chapter in a book. There is a popular movement in the Church toward universalism, but these verses are difficult to reconcile with universalism. 

45 Thou shalt live together in love, insomuch that thou shalt weep for the loss of them that die, and more especially for those that have not hope of a glorious resurrection.

46 And it shall come to pass that those that die in me shall not taste of death, for it shall be sweet unto them;

47 And they that die not in me, wo unto them, for their death is bitter.

(Doctrine and Covenants 42:45–47)

This verse anticipates the subsequent revelations that encourage us to "seek learning, even by study and also by faith." (Doctrine and Covenants 88:118) We can ask and receive revelation (learning by faith) and knowledge (learning by study). I keep a book on my desk titled The Pleasure of Finding Things Out. It's sort of my motto for continual learning.

61 If thou shalt ask, thou shalt receive revelation upon revelation, knowledge upon knowledge, that thou mayest know the mysteries and peaceable things—that which bringeth joy, that which bringeth life eternal. (Doctrine and Covenants 42:61)

The next verse is one which prompted me to write my short novel, Before the World Finds Out.

65 Behold, thou shalt observe all these things, and great shall be thy reward; for unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom, but unto the world it is not given to know them. (Doctrine and Covenants 42:65)

Here we see the Lord reiterating the passage in James that prompted Joseph Smith in the first place.

68 Therefore, he that lacketh wisdom, let him ask of me, and I will give him liberally and upbraid him not. (Doctrine and Covenants 42:68)

The next passage is an important point when we're tempted to follow the scholars instead of the prophets.

5 And this shall be a law unto you, that ye receive not the teachings of any that shall come before you as revelations or commandments;
6 And this I give unto you that you may not be deceived, that you may know they are not of me.
7 For verily I say unto you, that he that is ordained of me shall come in at the gate and be ordained as I have told you before, to teach those revelations which you have received and shall receive through him whom I have appointed. (Doctrine and Covenants 43:5–7)

This verse cross-references to Alma 12:9.

10 That inasmuch as ye do this, glory shall be added to the kingdom which ye have received. Inasmuch as ye do it not, it shall be taken, even that which ye have received.
(Doctrine and Covenants 43:10)

An all-time classic.

Treasure these things up in your hearts, and let the solemnities of eternity rest upon your minds.
(Doctrine and Covenants 43:34)

Sunday, April 18, 2021

April 12-18: D&C 37-40


Section 37 alludes to the translation of the Book of Moses. 

1 Behold, I say unto you that it is not expedient in me that ye should translate any more until ye shall go to the Ohio, and this because of the enemy and for your sakes.

(Doctrine and Covenants 37:1)

The lesson explains:

When Joseph received the revelation recorded in section 37, he had completed a few chapters of the book of Genesis and had just learned about Enoch and his city of Zion (see Genesis 5:18–24; Moses 7). Some of the principles the Lord taught Enoch are similar to those He revealed in section 38.

Section 38 begins by referring to the creation and the Zion of Enoch.

1 Thus saith the Lord your God, even Jesus Christ, the Great I Am, Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the same which looked upon the wide expanse of eternity, and all the seraphic hosts of heaven, before the world was made;

2 The same which knoweth all things, for all things are present before mine eyes;

3 I am the same which spake, and the world was made, and all things came by me.

4 I am the same which have taken the Zion of Enoch into mine own bosom; and verily, I say, even as many as have believed in my name, for I am Christ, and in mine own name, by the virtue of the blood which I have spilt, have I pleaded before the Father for them.

(Doctrine and Covenants 38:1–4)

Joseph dictated the Book of Moses chapters 1-7 from June through December 1830 while he was still living in western New York, but there is little information about the source. People have long assumed it was purely a revelation, partly because of the comment inserted by Willard Richards, "Given by revelation to Joseph Smith, Jr.," which you can see here:

Chapter 7 of Moses was first published in The Evening and the Morning Star in August, 1832.

Regarding the origin of the Enoch material in the Book of Moses, we can refer to what Moroni said in Ether.

3 And as I suppose that the first part of this record, which speaks concerning the creation of the world, and also of Adam, and an account from that time even to the great tower, and whatsoever things transpired among the children of men until that time, is had among the Jews—

4 Therefore I do not write those things which transpired from the days of Adam until that time; but they are had upon the plates; and whoso findeth them, the same will have power that he may get the full account(Ether 1:3–4)

This suggests Joseph may have obtained "the full account" of the creation of Adam and the ensuing history from the plates. Oliver Cowdery explained that he and Joseph visited the repository of Nephite records in the Hill Cumorah in New York multiple times. Neither he nor Joseph explained much detail about these visits, but some think Joseph may have translated at least part of the Book of Moses from the plates in the repository, as Moroni told him he could.

The reality of a Zion society appeals to everyone in the world, but no one knows where to find it. The Lord revealed the key principles to Joseph Smith and offered to make it possible, but only if we "seek it with all our hearts." 

D&C 38, which discusses the "Zion of Enoch," was given to Joseph in Fayette, New York, but it refers to the imminent gathering to Ohio. Verse 32 "for this cause I gave unto you the commandment that ye should go to the Ohio; and there I will give unto you my law; and there you shall be endowed with power from on high."

The section also invokes the example of the Nephites in verse 39. "And if ye seek the riches which it is the will of the Father to give unto you, ye shall be the richest of all people, for ye shall have the riches of eternity; and it must needs be that the riches of the earth are mine to give; but beware of pride, lest ye become as the Nephites of old."

Many of we Latter-day Saints who still believe the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah also think the Nephite Zion of 4th Nephi was established in "the Ohio." It's interesting to consider the parallels. We could say this is a chiastic structure of time and place. 

We've previously discussed how the last place where true prophets lived on Earth (Mormon and Moroni at Cumorah in New York) became the first place where a new prophet was called (Joseph Smith near Cumorah in New York).

Now we see that the last place on earth to experience a Zion society (Ohio, per 4 Nephi) is the first place where the Zion society was restored (Ohio, per D&C 38).

That's all interesting, but what about today?


So far, neither the Latter-day Saints nor the people of the world generally have sought Zion "with all our hearts." We love the idea, but we want everyone else to do it. If we sought Zion with all our hearts, we would heed the Lord's direction, which he emphasized here:

24 And let every man esteem his brother as himself, and practice virtue and holiness before me.

25 And again I say unto you, let every man esteem his brother as himself.

(Doctrine and Covenants 38:24–25)

People have all kinds of rationalizations to justify their behavior. We can each measure ourselves by King Benjamin's address.

16 And also, ye yourselves will succor those that stand in need of your succor; ye will administer of your substance unto him that standeth in need; and ye will not suffer that the beggar putteth up his petition to you in vain, and turn him out to perish.
17 Perhaps thou shalt say: The man has brought upon himself his misery; therefore I will stay my hand, and will not give unto him of my food, nor impart unto him of my substance that he may not suffer, for his punishments are just—
18 But I say unto you, O man, whosoever doeth this the same hath great cause to repent; and except he repenteth of that which he hath done he perisheth forever, and hath no interest in the kingdom of God.
(Mosiah 4:16–18)

Because we have no statistics on Latter-day Saints specifically, we can look for proxies. The state with the highest proportion of Latter-day Saints also has the least income inequality in the United States.

That's a remarkable statistic, but the difference between Utah and the next least-unequal state, Alaska, is not that much. 

It could be that inequality among the Latter-day Saints is evident in these statistics. Thanks to the Church's program of Fast Offerings and assistance to people in need, income inequality among Latter-day Saints is probably much less than the statistics for Utah show.

I've seen the Church's programs operate in many countries around the world. Among Latter-day Saints everywhere, income inequality is undoubtedly lower than among non-Latter-day Saints.

Nevertheless, we could do better. We seek our own prosperity and do not share our wealth equally. In the midst of poverty, homelessness, and hunger, people build mansions and accumulate real estate, investments, cars, boats, and other toys. "Utah has the highest average home size in the United States, at 2,305 square feet. Utah also boasts a whopping median of four bedrooms for the typical real estate listing."

That may be attributed to the relatively large family sizes in Utah, but while there are enormous mansions in Utah, there remain homeless people. Utah ranks #30 among the states for the highest rate of homelessness.

We are all distracted by "pride and the cares of the world."
(Doctrine and Covenants 39:9)

The Lord's parable is devastating when we consider it in light of our behavior as Saints.

26 For what man among you having twelve sons, and is no respecter of them, and they serve him obediently, and he saith unto the one: Be thou clothed in robes and sit thou here; and to the other: Be thou clothed in rags and sit thou there—and looketh upon his sons and saith I am just?
27 Behold, this I have given unto you as a parable, and it is even as I am. I say unto you, be one; and if ye are not one ye are not mine.
(Doctrine and Covenants 38:26–27)

Still, the promises remain if we ever decide to seek Zion with all our hearts.

16 And for your salvation I give unto you a commandment, for I have heard your prayers, and the poor have complained before me, and the rich have I made, and all flesh is mine, and I am no respecter of persons.

17 And I have made the earth rich, and behold it is my footstool, wherefore, again I will stand upon it.

18 And I hold forth and deign to give unto you greater riches, even a land of promise, a land flowing with milk and honey, upon which there shall be no curse when the Lord cometh;

19 And I will give it unto you for the land of your inheritance, if you seek it with all your hearts.

(Doctrine and Covenants 38:16–19)

The Church has several programs to motivate the Saints to seek for Zion. The self-reliance program alone could do much to bring forth Zion if everyone participated and incorporated the lessons in their lives. The Pathway program can help bring forth Zion by elevating the educational level and talents of Latter-day Saints everywhere in the world.

But ultimately, it's the responsibility of each individual member to seek Zion in our own lives and in our own ways.

As the lesson notes,

The need to gather to Ohio has long since passed, but Saints today still unite around the same cause, the same work: to “bring forth Zion” (Doctrine and Covenants 39:13). Like those early Saints, we forsake “the cares of the world” (Doctrine and Covenants 40:2) because we trust the Lord’s promise: “You shall receive … a blessing so great as you never have known” (Doctrine and Covenants 39:10).

My blog on Zion,, discusses various ways in which we, in our day, can help to establish Zion.

Sunday, April 11, 2021

April 5-11: D&C 30-36


This lesson covers the Mission to the Lamanites.

I discussed this lesson separately on another blog, so I'll repost that here.


This week's Come Follow Me lesson focuses on D&C 30-36. Sections 30 and 32 discuss the Mission to the Lamanites.

Because Church members hold a variety of theories about the identity of the Lamanites, it's always useful to review the scriptures on this topic, as well as what Joseph Smith taught, and then compare the teachings of other theories, such as the hemispheric theory and M2C. 

People can believe whatever they want, but they should at least make informed decisions.

And we know from long experience that people will confirm their biases regardless of the facts. But sometimes there are people who are willing to change their minds when they learn new information, especially when the new information comes from the scriptures and from authentic Church history instead of spin from the scholars.

For those few who have open minds, here are some facts to consider.

There are 12 references to the Lamanites in the D&C. Five of these focus on the mission to the Lamanites.

8 And now, behold, I say unto you that you shall go unto the Lamanites and preach my gospel unto them; and inasmuch as they receive thy teachings thou shalt cause my church to be established among them; and thou shalt have revelations, but write them not by way of commandment.

9 And now, behold, I say unto you that it is not revealed, and no man knoweth where the city Zion shall be built, but it shall be given hereafter. Behold, I say unto you that it shall be on the borders by the Lamanites.

14 And thou shalt assist to settle all these things, according to the covenants of the church, before thou shalt take thy journey among the Lamanites.
(Doctrine and Covenants 28:8–9, 14)

6 And be you afflicted in all his afflictions, ever lifting up your heart unto me in prayer and faith, for his and your deliverance; for I have given unto him power to build up my church among the Lamanites;
(Doctrine and Covenants 30:6)

2 And that which I have appointed unto him is that he shall go with my servants, Oliver Cowdery and Peter Whitmer, Jun., into the wilderness among the Lamanites.
(Doctrine and Covenants 32:2)

There is a nice summary of the Mission to the Lamanites here:

Separately, the Lord referred to Missouri as the borders of the Lamanites.

8 And thus you shall take your journey into the regions westward, unto the land of Missouri, unto the borders of the Lamanites.
(Doctrine and Covenants 54:8)

These verses are the only scriptural references that identify specific people as Lamanites; i.e., the Lamanites include the Indian (Native American) tribes these missionaries visited in New York, Ohio, and Missouri/Kansas. These are the tribes Joseph Smith met with when he told them the Book of Mormon told them about their ancestors. These tribes are predominantly haplogroup X2, not the Asian haplogroups ABCD that predominate in Latin America.


Outside of the scriptures, several traditions have arisen in the Church about the identity of the Lamanites. Orson Pratt, especially, taught that the native peoples of Latin America were Lamanites. 

For example, in his 1840 pamphlet, Orson Pratt spent several pages of commentary to describe his hemispheric model of the Book of Mormon:

This remnant of Joseph were also led in a miraculous manner from Jerusalem, in the first year of the reign of Zedekiah, king of Judah. They were first led to the eastern borders of the Red Sea; then they journeyed for some time along the borders thereof, nearly in a south-east direction; after which, they altered their course nearly eastward, until they came to the great waters, where, by the commandment of God, they built a vessel, in which they were safely brought across the great Pacific ocean, and landed upon the western coast of South America.

In the eleventh year of the reign of Zedekiah, at the time the Jews were carried away captive into Babylon, another remnant were brought out of Jerusalem; some of whom were descendants of Judah. They landed in North America; soon after which they emigrated into the northern parts of South America, at which place they were discovered by the remnant of Joseph, something like four hundred years after.

... The persecuted nation emigrated towards the northern parts of South America, leaving the wicked nation in possession of the middle and southern parts of the same. The former were called Nephites... the Lord gave unto them the whole continent, for a land of promise...

The second colony, which left Jerusalem eleven years after the remnant of Joseph left that city, landed in North America, and emigrated from thence, to the northern parts of South America; and about four hundred years after, they were discovered by the Nephites, as we stated in the foregoing.
They were called the people of Zarahemla....

And in process of time, the Nephites began to build ships near the Isthmus of Darien, and launch them forth into the western ocean, in which great numbers sailed a great distance to the northward, and began to colonize North America. Other colonies emigrated by land, and in a few centuries the whole continent became peopled. North America, at that time, was almost entirely destitute of timber, it having been cut off by the more ancient race, who came from the great tower, at the confusion of languages...

The Nephites and Lamanites were all converted unto the Lord, both in South and North America...

The Lamanites, at that time, dwelt in South America, and the Nephites in North America.
A great and terrible war commenced between them, which lasted for many years, and resulted in the complete overthrow and destruction of the Nephites. This war commenced at the Isthmus of Darien, and was very destructive to both nations for many years. At length, the Nephites were driven before their enemies, a great distance to the north, and north-east; and having gathered their whole nation together, both men, women, and children, they encamped on, and round about the hill Cumorah, where the records were found, which is in the State of New York, about two hundred miles west of the city of Albany. 

When Joseph Smith wrote the Wentworth letter, published as "Church History" in the March 1842 Times and Seasons, he adapted some of Orson Pratt's pamphlet. The Joseph Smith Papers notes that "“Church History” echoes some wording from Orson Pratt’s A[n] Interesting Account of Several Remarkable Visions, and of the Late Discovery of Ancient American Records."

In writing the Wentworth letter, however, Joseph deleted all of Orson Pratt's speculation about the hemispheric model. Instead, he reiterated D&C 28, 30, and 32, as well as Moroni's explanation during his first visit.

"Church History" (aka the Wentworth letter):

"The principal nation of the second race fell in battle towards the close of the fourth century. The remnant are the Indians that now inhabit this country."

"This country" is the same phrase Moroni used when he first explained the Book of Mormon to Joseph Smith.

"He [Moroni] then proceeded and gave a general account of the promises made to the fathers, and also gave a history of the aborigenes of this country, and said they were literal descendants of Abraham." 

Orson Pratt outlived Joseph Smith. Orson inserted his hemispheric theory into the footnotes of the 1879 edition of the Book of Mormon, and many Latter-day Saints accepted the hemispheric model. 

Others accept the designation in D&C 28, 30, and 32; i.e., the Lamanites are the Indians who live in the U.S. circa 1830-1842 (the northeastern tribes and those who had been removed to the borders of Missouri).

In the early 1900s, RLDS scholar L.E. Hills proposed a limited geography based on Mesoamerica, with Cumorah in southern Mexico (M2C, or the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory). Eventually, LDS scholars such as John Sorenson, Dan Peterson, and Jack Welch adopted M2C. They have been promoting it ever since.

Orson Pratt's hemispheric model retains some vitality, however. Lots of people over the years have alluded to it. 

In the modern world, people have traveled and migrated so much that bloodlines and DNA are mingled everywhere in the world. In that sense, just as Abraham's descendants are everywhere, we could say Lehi's descendants are everywhere.

The demographics of Latin America show that, apart from the indigenous populations (Amerindians) whose ancestry is north Asian (mtDNA Haplogroups A, B, C, and D), the ancestors of most of the population originated in Europe. It was the incongruence between the DNA evidence and Orson Pratt's hemispheric model (Lamanites are the ancestors of all the Latin Americans) that caused such confusion and led to rewording the Introduction to the Book of Mormon from "principal ancestors" to "among the ancestors" of the American Indians. Introduction (

The studies summarized in Wikipedia indicate that "Whites presently compose the largest racial group in Latin America (36% in the table herein) and, whether as White, Mestizo, or Mulatto, the vast majority of Latin Americans have white ancestry."

In Latin America as a whole, 36% of the population is "white" (mainly Europeans from Spain and Portugal), 30% is Mestizo (mixture of European and indigenous), 20.3% is Mulattoes (mixture of African and European), and only 9.2% are Amerindians. 

You can see the data here (click to enlarge):

As we saw at the beginning of this post, people will confirm their biases no matter what the facts are. We have M2C scholars who claim the Book of Mormon took place entirely in a limited geography of Mesoamerica, yet who also claim the descendants of Lehi are found throughout Latin America. It's unclear why they designate Latin America to the exclusion of North America, but maybe this is merely the legacy of Orson Pratt living on.

Which is fine. 

People can and will believe whatever they want.

But if you look at this issue from the perspective of missionaries teaching nonmembers, Orson Pratt's theory is probably not the strongest argument in favor of the historicity of the Book of Mormon. 

You can decide yourself whether it is a strong argument to reject D&C 28, 30 and 32 by claiming that the X2 Haplogroup Indians to whom those sections refer are not Lamanites, because the Lamanites are the A, B, C, and D Haplogroup Indians in Latin America.

But again, people can believe whatever they want.

Sunday, April 4, 2021

March 29-April 4 Easter


The Book of Mormon and the experiences of Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery (especially in the Kirtland temple) affirm the reality--the historicity--of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

There is no more important message in the world than "He is Risen."

The fundamental principles of our religion is the testimony of the apostles and prophets concerning Jesus Christ, “that he died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended up into heaven;” and all other things are only appendages to these, which pertain to our religion. 

Historicity--historical authenticity-- is a  critical prelude to faith.


A thoughtful article by Bishop Robert Barron of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, published in the Wall St. Journal, points out the difference between historicity and mythology.

Especially today, it is imperative that Christians recover the sheer strangeness of the Resurrection of Jesus and stand athwart all attempts to domesticate it [meaning to rationalize away the historicity of the resurrection]....

Another strategy of domestication, employed by thinkers from the 19th century to today, is to reduce the Resurrection of Jesus to a myth or an archetype. There are numberless stories of dying and rising gods in the mythologies of the world, and the narrative of Jesus’ death and resurrection can look like just one more iteration of the pattern. Like those of Dionysus, Osiris, Adonis and Persephone, the “resurrection” of Jesus is, on this reading, a symbolic evocation of the cycle of nature. In a Jungian psychological framework, the story of Jesus dying and coming back to life is an instance of the classic hero’s journey from order through chaos to greater order.

The problem with these modes of explanation was well articulated by C.S. Lewis: Those who think that the New Testament is a myth just haven’t read many myths. Precisely because they have to do with timeless verities and the great natural and psychological constants, mythic narratives are situated “once upon a time,” or to bring things up to date, “a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away.” No one wonders who was Pharaoh during Osiris’s time or during which era of Greek history Heracles performed his labors, for these tales are not historically specific.

But the Gospel writers are keen to tell us that Jesus’ birth, for instance, took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria and Augustus the Emperor of Rome—that is to say, at a definite moment of history and in reference to readily identifiable figures. The Nicene Creed, recited regularly by Catholics and Orthodox Christians as part of their Sunday worship, states that Jesus was “crucified under Pontius Pilate,” a Roman official whose image is stamped on coins that we can examine today.

If not for the historical authenticity of the resurrection, there would be no basis for faith in Christ. The Book of Mormon affirms the reality that the resurrected Christ visited people who lived not in or around Israel, but on the other side of the world. Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, to whom the resurrected Christ appeared in the Kirtland temple, affirmed the reality of the resurrection yet again.

Continuing with Bishop Barron's article:

For believers ever since, if the crucified and risen Jesus is divine, there is a moral imperative to make him unambiguously the center of our lives. But we also have the assurance that God has not given up on the human project, that God intends fully to save us, body and soul. One of the favorite phrases in the writings of the Fathers of the Church is Deus fit homo ut homo fieret Deus, which means, God became man that man might become God. No religion or philosophy has ever proclaimed a more radical humanism than that.