Commentary on Doctrine & Covenants 46

/ Doctrine & Covenants 46 / Commentary

Find helpful commentary on the verses below to better understand the message of this revelation.

Verses 1-6

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)


In answer to the question of who is allowed to attend Church meetings, the Lord instructs the Saints to be as inclusive as possible in their public meetings. Confirmation meetings were open to all who are “earnestly seeking the kingdom” to attend (D&C 46:5). In all of the Church’s public meetings, leaders are expected to follow the promptings of the Spirit and to look after the needs of the members of the Church.


In the modern Church, ordinances such as the sacrament and confirmations can take place in the same meeting. Attendees who are not members of the Church are allowed to choose whether they participate in ordinances such as the sacrament. In a meeting instructing Church leaders, President Russell M. Nelson taught, “Because we invite all to come unto Christ, friends and neighbors are always welcome but not expected to take the sacrament. However, it is not forbidden. They choose for themselves. We hope that newcomers among us will always be made to feel wanted and comfortable. Little children, as sinless beneficiaries of the Lord’s Atonement, may partake of the sacrament as they prepare for covenants that they will make later in life.”[1]


[1] “Worshiping at a Sacrament Meeting,” Liahona, August 2004.


(Doctrine and Covenants Minute)

Verses 7-9

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)


Because the new converts in Kirtland held an unusual regard for spiritual gifts, the Lord takes time in these verses to explain several principles of spiritual gifts. The first counsel He gives the Saints is to earnestly seek the best gifts. The spiritual gifts a person receives in this life are not set in stone. It is true that premortal experiences may predispose a person to one or more gifts of the Spirit. It is also true that sin and transgression may cause a person to lose a spiritual gift. The Lord emphasizes here that men and women have the power to seek gifts that will help them build the kingdom and progress toward eternal life.


What kind of gifts should a person seek? President George Q. Cannon provided this counsel:


If any of us are imperfect, it is our duty to pray for the gift that will make them perfect. Have I imperfections? I am full of them. What is my duty? To pray to God to give me the gifts that will correct these imperfections. If I am an angry man, it is my duty to pray for charity, which suffereth long and is kind. . . . No man ought to say, “Oh, I cannot help this; it is my nature.” He is not justified in it, for the reason that God has promised to give strength [is] to correct these things, and to give gifts that will eradicate them . . . for this purpose he gives these gifts, and bestows them upon [those] who seek after them, in order that they may be a perfect people upon the face of the earth, notwithstanding their many weaknesses.”[1]


[1] Millennial Star, April 23, 1894, 56:260–61.


(Doctrine and Covenants Minute)

Verses 10-12

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)


Latter-day Saints believe that the same miraculous gifts and manifestations present in the ancient Church reside in the modern Church today. The Prophet Joseph Smith taught, “We believe in the gift of the Holy Ghost being enjoyed now, as much as it was in the apostles days;—we believe that it is necessary to make and to organize the priesthood; that no man can be called to fill any office in the ministry without it; we also believe in prophesy, in tongues, in visions, and in revelations, in gifts, and in healings; and that these things cannot be enjoyed without the gift of the Holy Ghost.” At the same time, the Prophet cautioned, “We believe in it in all its fulness, and power, and greatness, and glory: but whilst we do this we believe in it rationally, reasonably, consistently, and scripturally, and not according to the wild vagaries, foolish, notions and traditions of men.”[1]


One of the rules the Lord provides for spiritual gifts is that every man and woman in the Church is given at least one spiritual gift, but not all members possess all the gifts. The Lord asks that the Saints work together, drawing upon their unique gifts, to help others and to move the Lord’s work forward. Working with others bring forth the fruits of the Spirit. President Henry B. Eyring explained, “Vibrant faith in God comes best from serving Him regularly. Not all of us have received callings to offices in the Church. Some of you may not yet be called to something in a formal way, yet every member has a multitude of opportunities to serve God.”[2]


[1] Times and Seasons, 15 June 1842, 823, JSP.

[2] “Gifts of the Spirit for Hard Times,” BYU Devotional, Sept. 10, 2006.


(Doctrine and Covenants Minute)

Verse 13

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)


A testimony of Jesus Christ is the most vital of spiritual gifts. Joseph Smith taught, “We believe that no man can know that Jesus is the Christ, but by the Holy Ghost.”[1] Note that the phrasing used here is not “that a person may believe” but “that a person may know” by the power of the Holy Ghost that Jesus is the Christ. Testimonies can come through logic, evidence, and study. But to gain true power each of these methods must be supplemented by the witness of the Holy Ghost.


President George Albert Smith taught, “We have another testimony, another evidence that is even more perfect and more convincing than the others, because it is a testimony that comes to the individual when he has complied with the requirements of our Father in Heaven. It is a testimony that is burned into our souls by the power of the Holy Ghost, when we have performed the work that the Lord has said must be performed if we would know that the doctrine be of God or whether it be of man.”[2]


[1] Times and Seasons, 15 June 1842, 823, JSP.

[2] Teachings of Presidents of the Church: George Albert Smith, 2011, 28.


(Doctrine and Covenants Minute)

Verse 14

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)


Elder Joseph F. Merrill, a scientist by profession, saw the process of gaining faith not just as mystical development but also as demonstrable process, much like the rules of science. He taught:


Faith is one of those spiritual gifts that I believe is based on laws. We learn, from the teachings of the Prophet Joseph, that if we get any blessing from heaven, it is because we fulfill the conditions upon which that blessing is based, and that is a truth that not only comes from the mouth of our Prophet, it is also a truth that has been established by scientific research. Every investigator in the field of material science knows that when he fulfills the conditions he can predict the results, and if the conditions vary, then the results will vary, and when the conditions are completely fulfilled the results will be realized completely. So faith is one of those gifts we acquire, that we may cultivate only if we fulfill the conditions upon which faith is based.[1]


[1] Conference Report, October 1937, 72.


(Doctrine and Covenants Minute)

Verse 15

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)


Hyrum M. Smith and Janne M. Sjodahl, early commentators on the revelations, noted that the phrase “differences of administration” has a connection to a phrase Paul used in his discussion of the “different divisions or courses of service the priests and Levites engaged in the temple service” (1 Corinthians 12:5). Because of this connection, Smith and Sjodahl believed the gift described in verse 15 pertains specifically to an understanding of how priesthood holders should be directed in their duties and responsibilities.[1]


More recently, Church leaders have taken notice of the accompanying phrase—that the Lord will “suit his mercies according the conditions of the children of men” (D&C 46:15). Only the Savior understands perfectly the conditions in which individuals find themselves, and He suits the mercies to provide everyone with the gifts they need to handle their own personal challenges. Elder David A. Bednar noted, “Through personal study, observation, pondering, and prayer, I believe I have come to better understand that the Lord’s tender mercies are the very personal and individualized blessings, strength, protection, assurances, guidance, loving-kindnesses, consolation, support, and spiritual gifts which we receive from and because of and through the Lord Jesus Christ.”[2]


[1] Doctrine and Covenants Commentary, 1951, 274.

[2] “The Tender Mercies of the Lord,” April 2005 General Conference.


(Doctrine and Covenants Minute)

Verse 16

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)


The phrase “diversities of operations” is also found in 1 Corinthians 12:5. In alternate translations of the Greek, the phrase has been written as “differences of ministries” (NKJV) or “different kinds of service” (NIV). In the larger context of Paul’s sermon on the body of Christ, the Lord appears to be noting that there are different kinds of service within the Church and that one of the spiritual gifts is to recognize the value of each type of service. The Apostle Paul notes, “But now are they many members, yet but one body. And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you” (1 Corinthians 12:20–21).


President Dallin H. Oaks has noted,


At this conference we have seen the release of some faithful brothers, and we have sustained the callings of others. In this rotation—so familiar in the Church—we do not ‘step down’ when we are released, and we do not ‘step up’ when we are called. There is no ‘up or down’ in the service of the Lord. There is only ‘forward or backward,’ and that difference depends on how we accept and act upon our releases and our callings.[1]


In 1951, President J. Reuben Clark was released from serving as the First Counselor in the First Presidency and was called instead to serve as the Second Counselor. Leaders in many other organizations would have seen this change as a demotion. However, rising to speak, President Clark noted, “In the service of the Lord, it is not where you serve but how. In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, one takes the place to which one is duly called, which place one neither seeks nor declines.”[2] While all officers of the Church are expected to be worthy of the callings they hold, blessings and righteousness are not measured according to the office held, only by the dedication shown in carrying out the service the Lord asks of a person.


[1] “The Keys and Authorities of the Priesthood,” April 2014 General Conference.

[2] Conference Report, April 1951, 154.


(Doctrine and Covenants Minute)

Verses 17-18

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)


Though the phrase “word of wisdom” would eventually be associated with the law of health given to the Lord’s Church in the last days, that revelation did not come until nearly two years later in February 1833. In these verses, the Lord refers to knowledge and wisdom as two separate gifts. Stephen L Richards, a counselor in the First Presidency, defined wisdom as “the beneficent application of knowledge in decision.” He added, “I think of wisdom not in the abstract but as functional. Life is largely made up of choices and determinations, and I can think of no wisdom that does not contemplate the good of man and society. . . . I do not believe that wisdom can be exercised in living without a sound fundamental knowledge of truth about life and living. . . . The fundamental knowledge which the Church brings you will bring understanding. Your testimony, your spirit, and your service will direct the application of your knowledge; that is wisdom.”[1]


[1] Conference Report, April 1950, 163–164.


(Doctrine and Covenants Minute)

Verses 19-20

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)


One of the most prominent gifts of the Spirit demonstrated in the latter-day Church is the gift of healing. Around the time this revelation was received, Joseph Smith exercised the gift of healing. Elsa Johnson, who lived in the town of Hiram, Ohio, about forty miles from Kirtland, traveled with her husband, John Johnson, to where the Prophet was lodging. They were seeking for a way to heal Elsa’s arm, which she had not been able to use for some time. Philo Dibble, who was present in Kirtland when the Johnsons met with Joseph, later recalled,


[Elsa] went to Joseph and requested him to heal her. Joseph asked her if she believed the Lord was able to make him an instrument in healing her arm. She said she believed the Lord was able to heal her arm. Joseph put her off till the next morning, when he met her at Brother [Newel K.] Whitney’s house. There were eight persons present, one a Methodist preacher, and one a doctor. Joseph took her by the hand, prayed in silence a moment, pronounced her arm whole, in the name of Jesus Christ, and turned and left the room. The preacher asked her if her arm was whole, and she straightened it out and replied: “It is as good as the other.” The question was then asked if it would remain whole. Joseph hearing this, answered and said, “It is as good as the other, and as liable to accident as the other.”[1]

After Elsa’s healing, the Johnson family joined the Church, and they allowed Joseph and Emma to stay in their home for several months. During this time Joseph worked on his translation of the Bible, held the conference determining to print the revelations (D&C 1), and received the vision of the different degrees of the glory (D&C 76). Two of John and Elsa’s sons, Luke and Lyman, also served as original members of the Quorum of the Twelve called in 1835.


[1] Juvenile Instructor, May 1892, 303.


(Doctrine and Covenants Minute)

Verse 21

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)


Miracles large and small took place among the early Saints, and they still take place in the Church today. The prophet Moroni chastised those who believe the day of miracles has passed: “O all ye that have imagined up unto yourselves a god who can do no miracles, I would ask of you, have all these things passed, of which I have spoken? Has the end come yet? Behold I say unto you, Nay; and God has not ceased to be a God of miracles” (Mormon 9:15).


Levi Curtis recalled a conversation with William D. Huntington in which William described a time that Joseph Smith exercised the power to raise the dead. Levi wrote that William recalled how he had become deathly ill while living in Joseph Smith’s home in Nauvoo:


He said he had been sick some weeks and kept getting weaker, until he became so helpless that he could not move. Finally, he got so low he could not speak, but had perfect consciousness of all that was passing in the room. He saw friends come to the bedside, look at him a moment and commence weeping, then turn away.

He further stated that he presently felt easy, and observing his situation found that he was in the upper part of the room near the ceiling, and could see the body he had occupied lying on the bed, with weeping friends, standing around as he had witnessed in many cases where people had died under his own observation.

About this time he saw Joseph Smith and two other brethren come into the room. Joseph turned to his wife Emma and asked her to get him a dish of clean water. This she did; and the Prophet with the two brethren accompanying him washed their hands and carefully wiped them. Then they stepped to the bed and laid their hands upon the head of his body, which at that time looked loathsome to him, and as the three stretched out their hands to place them upon the head, he by some means became aware that he must go back into that body and started to do so. The process of getting in he could not remember; but when Joseph said “amen,” he heard and could see and feel with his body. The feeling for a moment was most excruciating, as though his body was pierced in every part with some sharp instruments.

As soon as the brethren had taken their hands from his head he raised up in bed, sitting erect, and in another moment turned his legs off the bed. At this juncture Joseph asked him if he had not better be careful, for he was very weak. He replied, “I never felt better in my life,” almost immediately adding, “I want my pants” . . . every looker-on was ready to weep for joy . . . every hand was anxious to supply the wants of a man who, a few moments before was dead, really and truly dead! . . . Joseph listened to the conversation and in his turn remarked that they had just witnessed as great a miracle as Jesus did while on the earth. They had seen the dead brought to life.”[1]


[1] Levi Curtis, “Recollections of the Prophet Joseph Smith,” Juvenile Instructor 27, no. 12, 385–86.


(Doctrine and Covenants Minute)

Verse 22

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)


The gift of prophesy is to speak in the name of the Lord, declaring things past, present, or future. The gift has been present in both men and women in the Church. As a child, Heber J. Grant witnessed a meeting where his mother, Emmeline B. Wells, Eliza R. Snow, Zina D. Young, and a number of other prominent women in the Church were present. In the meeting both the gift of tongues and the gift of prophesy were exercised. Heber later wrote,


After the meeting was over Sister Eliza R. Snow, by the gift of tongues, gave a blessing to each and every one of those good sisters, and Sister Zina D. Young gave the interpretation. After blessing those sisters, she turned to the boy playing on the floor and pronounced a blessing upon my head by the gift of tongues, and Zina D. Young gave the interpretation. I of course did not understand one word that Aunt Eliza was saying. I was astonished because she was talking to me and pointing at me. I could not understand a word, and all I got of the interpretation, as a child, was that some day I should be a big man. I thought it meant I would grow tall.

Thanks to Heber’s mother, Rachel Ivins Grant later found out what Eliza R. Snow had said to him on that occasion. “My mother made a record of that blessing,” Heber later recalled. “What was it? It was a prophecy, by the gift of tongues, that her boy should live to be an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ; and oftimes she told me that if I would behave myself, that honor would come to me. I always laughed at her and said, ‘Every mother believes that her son will become president of the United States, or hold some great office. You ought to get that out of your head, Mother.’ I did not believe her until that honor came to me.”[1]


[1] Janiece Johnson and Jennifer Reeder, The Witness of Women, 2016, 103–104.


(Doctrine and Covenants Minute)

Verse 23

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)


This gift refers to the ability to discern whether a spiritual manifestation has come from God or another source. As mentioned earlier, spiritual manifestations were abundant among the Saints at Kirtland, but not all manifestations came from God. The Prophet addressed this question in this revelation, and again in another revelation received a few months later (D&C 50). Joseph Smith counseled the Saints to “try the spirits” manifested among them to see if they came from God or Satan. In an 1839 discourse reported by William Clayton, Joseph taught, “We may look for angels . . . but we are to try the spirits and prove them. It is often the case that men make a mistake in regard to these things. God has so ordained that when he has communicated no vision to be taken but what you see by the seeing of the eye, or what you hear by the hearing of the ear. When you see a vision, pray for the interpretation, if you get not this shut it up.”[1]


[1] Discourse, between circa 26 June and circa 4 August 1839–A, 23, JSP.


(Doctrine and Covenants Minute)

Verses 24-26

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)


The gift of speaking in tongues was common in the early Church and manifested abundantly among the Saints in Kirtland. Elizabeth Ann Whitney reported that after she received her patriarchal blessing from Joseph Smith Sr. she received an unusual expression of the gifts of the Spirit, singing in tongues. She wrote, “I received the gift of singing inspirationally, and the first Song of Zion ever given in the pure language was sung by me then, and interpreted by Parley P. Pratt, and written down; of which I have preserved the original copy. It describes the manner in which the ancient patriarchs blessed their families, and gives some account of ‘Adamoni Ahman.’ . . . The Prophet Joseph promised me that I should never lose this gift if I would be wise in using it; and his words have been verified.”[1]


Because of its dramatic nature, the gift of tongues is often sought after by believers in Jesus Christ, but the gift comes with some warnings. Paul described speaking in tongues as a lesser gift of the Spirit than the gift of charity, which isn’t as conspicuous (1 Corinthians 13:8). President Joseph F. Smith warned,


There is perhaps no gift of the spirit of God more easily imitated by the devil than the gift of tongues. Where two men or women exercise the gift of tongues by the inspiration of the spirit of God, there are a dozen perhaps who do it by the inspiration of the devil. . . . So far as I am concerned, if the Lord will give me ability to teach the people in my native tongue, or in their own language, to the understanding of those who hear me, that will be sufficient gift of tongues to me. Yet if the Lord gives you the gift of tongues, do not despise it, do not reject it.”[2]

The Prophet Joseph Smith counseled, “Be not so curious about tongues, do not speak in tongues except there be an interpreter present; the ultimate design of tongues is to speak to foreigners, and if persons are very anxious to display their intelligence, let them speak to such in their own tongues. The gifts of God are all useful in their place, but when they are applied to that which God does not intend, they prove an injury, a snare, and a curse instead of a blessing.”[3]


[1] The Witness of Women, 99.

[2] Conference Report, April 1900, 41.

[3] Times and Seasons, 15 June 1842, 825–826, JSP.


(Doctrine and Covenants Minute)

Verse 27

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)


At the time this revelation was given, there was only one bishop in the Church, Edward Partridge. The system of presiding Church officers, including stake presidents, bishops, Relief Society presidents, and others “such as God shall appoint and ordain to watch over the church” (D&C 46:27), was gradually revealed in the years following. The general principle given here is that those appointed as presiding officers in the Church are given the power to discern what gifts come from God. President Boyd K. Packer commented,


There is a power of discernment granted “unto such as God shall appoint . . . to watch over [his] church.” To discern means “to see.” President Harold B. Lee told me once of a conversation he had with Elder Charles A. Callis of the Quorum of the Twelve. Brother Callis had remarked that the gift of discernment was an awesome burden to carry. To see clearly what is ahead and yet find members slow to respond or resistant to counsel or even rejecting the witness of the apostles and prophets brings deep sorrow. Nevertheless, “the responsibility of leading this church” must rest upon us until “you shall appoint others to succeed you.”[1]

[1] “The Twelve Apostles,” October 1996 General Conference.


(Doctrine and Covenants Minute)

Verses 28-33

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)


We should not assume that the list the Lord gives in these verses, or the list Moroni gives in the Book of Mormon’s concluding chapter, or the list Paul gives in 1 Corinthians 12–13 represent all of the gifts of the Spirit. “Spiritual gifts are endless in number and infinite in variety,” taught Elder Bruce R. McConkie. “Those listed in the revealed word are simply illustrations of the boundless outpouring of divine grace God gives those who love and serve him.”[1]


Apostle Marvin J. Ashton listed a few of the gifts of the Spirit not mentioned in the scripture canon. He said, “Taken at random, let me mention a few gifts that are not always evident or noteworthy but that are very important. Among these may be your gifts—gifts not so evident but nevertheless real and valuable.” Elder Ashton took a moment to


review some of these less-conspicuous gifts: the gift of asking; the gift of listening; the gift of hearing and using a still, small voice; the gift of being able to weep; the gift of avoiding contention; the gift of being agreeable; the gift of avoiding vain repetition; the gift of seeking that which is righteous; the gift of not passing judgment; the gift of looking to God for guidance; the gift of being a disciple; the gift of caring for others; the gift of being able to ponder; the gift of offering prayer; the gift of bearing a mighty testimony; and the gift of receiving the Holy Ghost.”[2]

While the lists provided in the scriptures provide a useful start in understanding the gifts God offers His children, they are not a comprehensive list of all spiritual gifts. Our own spiritual gifts are discovered through study, revelation, and earnest labors in the service of God.


[1] A New Witness for the Articles of Faith, 1985, 371.

[2] “There are Many Gifts,” October 1987 General Conference.


(Doctrine and Covenants Minute)