Commentary on Doctrine & Covenants 66

/ Doctrine & Covenants 66 / Commentary

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

Verses 1-4

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)


The Lord begins his message to William by noting that William had already received the truth of the gospel. McLellin was baptized a few months prior to this revelation, in August 1831. On the day of his baptism he recorded the following in his journal:


I rose early and betook myself to earnest prayer to God to direct me into truth; and from all the light that I could gain by examinations searches and researches I was bound as an honest man to acknowledge the truth and validity of the Book of Mormon and also that I had found the people of the Lord—the Living Church of Christ. Consequently as soon as we took breakfast I told Elder H. Smith that I wanted him to baptize me because I wanted to live among a people who were based upon pure principles and actuated by the Spirit of the Living God.” (Journals of William E. McLellin, 33–34)


The Lord addresses William’s worthiness in what seems to be a direct response to feelings and doubts that had crept into William’s heart after his baptism. McLellin wrote, “The enemy of all righteousness made a mighty struggle to persuade me that I was deceived until it seemed to me that horror would overwhelm me. I did not doubt the truth of the things which I had embraced, but my fears were respecting my own salvation.” After these doubts came, William was visited by Newel Knight, who “came and by the Spirit of God was enabled to tell me the very secrets of my heart and in a degree chase darkness from my mind” (Journals of William E. McLellin, 34). It appears that by the time William met Joseph Smith, he was once again in need of assurance of his salvation and in need of guidance in repenting of his sins.


(Doctrine and Covenants Minute)

Verses 5-9

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)


William was called to proclaim the gospel and was also given the promise that he would have the power to heal the sick. He was commanded to travel with Samuel H. Smith, the Prophet’s brother. Prior to this revelation, McLellin had already preached with another Smith brother, Hyrum, and had seen the power of healing. When McLellin became sick he asked Hyrum Smith for a blessing. He recorded in his journal, “We immediately bowed before the Lord and with all the faith which we had, we opened our hearts to him.” Hyrum Smith laid hands on McLellin, who later wrote that it was “marvelous for me to relate that I was instantly healed” (Journals of William E. McLellin, 40).


A few days later McLellin gave a sermon to a group of preachers on the coming forth of the Book of Mormon and on spiritual gifts. Afterward he was approached by a man called “Father Wood,” who told him that his granddaughter was very sick. Without hesitation McLellin and Hyrum Smith set out to the family’s home, two miles away. He wrote, “The family seemed quite believing, and we all bowed before the great Jehovah and implored his mercy upon the child, we then arose and Brother Hyrum and I laid our hands upon it, and in a few minutes the little child got down from its mother’s lap and began to play upon the floor. This caused them to rejoice and the old gentleman got down and prayed mightily, then arose and said that he believed that the Lord was there” (Journals of William E. McLellin, 43).


Only a few days before this revelation was given, McLellin had injured his ankle and asked Joseph Smith about healing. McLellin recorded that in response Joseph “turned to me and asked me if I believed in my heart that God through his instrumentality would heal it. I answered that I believed he would. He laid his hands on it and it was healed.” William then accompanied Joseph to Hiram, Ohio, where this revelation was given (Journals of William E. McLellin, 45).


(Doctrine and Covenants Minute)

Verses 10-13

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)


The last portion of this revelation must have been especially piercing for William to hear. We do not know the exact nature of his temptation to commit adultery. His wife, Cynthia Ann, whom he had married only two years earlier in 1829, had died sometime before the summer of 1831. In an August 1, 1831, entry in William’s journal, he wrote of visiting the grave of “my departed and dear companion Cinthia [sic] Ann and there they seemed to mourn with me for the loss of my dearest friend and her blessed little infant” (Journals of William E. McLellin, 30). McLellin’s journal entry may hint that Cynthia died in childbirth. He later spoke of spending “many lonesome and sorrowful hours” after her death. It appears that William and Cynthia enjoyed a warm and affectionate marriage, and the temptation to commit adultery came from his loneliness after her death, and not any unhappiness with his spouse (Revelation, 29 October 1831 [D&C 66], fn. 26, JSP).


It must have been encouraging for William to hear that in spite of his temptations he was promised a “crown of eternal life” provided he endured faithful to the end. In a copy of the revelation he recorded himself, there is an addendum, which reads, “A revelation given to Wm. E. McLellin, a true descendant from joseph who was sold into Egypt down through the loins of Ephraim his son” (Revelation, 29 October 1831 [D&C 66], 10, JSP). This addition to the revelation may have been part of the original record or may have been added by William himself. John Whitmer did not include these last two lines when he recorded the revelation in Revelation Book 1 (Revelation Book 1, 112, JSP). At any rate, so soon after the Lord had declared that “the rebellious are not of the blood of Ephraim” (D&C 64:35) it must have been encouraging for William to know that he was of the blood of this birthright tribe of Israel.


William E. McLellin was a gifted preacher who was eventually called to serve as a member of the original Quorum of the Twelve Apostles called in this dispensation in 1835. Unfortunately, his service in the Twelve was short-lived because he was excommunicated in 1838. He explained that his apostasy centered on a loss of confidence in the Presidency of the Church, and “consequently he​ left off praying and keeping the commandments of God, and went his own way, and indulged himself in his lustful desires” (JS Journal, March–September 1838, 40). William never lost his testimony of the Book of Mormon, or of the inspiration he saw in his early days in the Church, but he never fully returned to the Church either.


(Doctrine and Covenants Minute)