Commentary on Doctrine & Covenants 84

/ Doctrine & Covenants 84 / Commentary

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

Verses 1-3

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)


No concept fired the imagination of the early Saints of this dispensation more than the construction of a holy city of God on the American continent. One survey found that in early Latter-day Saint literature the most quoted passage from the Book of Mormon was Ether 13:4–8, in which the ancient prophet Moroni foretold “that a New Jerusalem should be built up upon this land, unto the remnant of the seed of Joseph” (Ether 13:6).[i] Interest in this New Jerusalem continued as Joseph Smith’s translation of the Bible restored the knowledge of a city called Zion built by the antediluvian prophet Enoch, where the people “were of one heart and one mind and dwelt in righteousness” (Moses 7:18).[ii]


Early in the summer of 1833, a Plat of the City of Zion was sent to Church leaders in Missouri. This plan illustrates not only the grand designs of the city but also the practical details of its creation. Created as a collaborative effort among the members of the First Presidency—Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon, and Frederick G. Williams—the plat is essentially the master plan for the city of God. Written around the edges of the plan are detailed notes about the nature of the city. The city was to be one square mile and have a grid system outlining rectangular blocks with lots laid out for homes and gardens. In many ways the plat resembled urban land division patterns utilized throughout the United States in the 1830s. In other ways the plat was highly unusual.[iii]


Where the city’s design diverged from that of other American communities was at the heart of the map, where two prominent rectangles sat with numbers from 1 to 24 inside of them. These rectangles designated a sacred place at the center of the city where a complex of twenty-four temples was to be built. According to the plans, these temples were intended for a different function than were later Latter-day Saint temples. Rather than being places where ordinances were performed for the living and the dead, these temples were intended to serve as administrative centers. In divisions of three, the temples were assigned to house various Church organizations. For example, temples 10, 11, and 12 were designated as “the house of the Lord for the presidency of the high and most holy priesthood.” Other temple trios were identified by titles such as “the house of the Lord for the presidency of the high priesthood after the order of [Aaron],” “the house of the Lord for the teachers in Zion,” “the house of the Lord for the Deacons in Zion,” and so forth.[iv] The offices of the priesthood had been revealed gradually, but the designations of the orders of the priesthood came from information provided in this revelation (D&C 84).  


[i] Grant Underwood, “Book of Mormon Usage in Early LDS Theology,” Dialogue 17, no. 3 (Autumn 1984): 39.

[ii] “Old Testament Revision 1,” p. 16, JSP.

[iii] Richard Francaviglia, The New Mapmakers of Zion, 2015, 31.

[iv] “Plat of the City of Zion, circa Early June–25 June 1833,” p. 2, JSP.


(Doctrine and Covenants Minute)

Verses 4-5

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)


The city of Zion and its temples remain to be built. Some detractors have claimed that this passage proved to be false because the temple was not “reared in this generation” (D&C 84:4). There are several reasons why this claim is not true.


First, it is possible that this commandment is not a prophecy, but a commandment. When commandments are not kept they are not invalidated. The Lord commanded, “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor” (Exodus 20:16). If a person does not keep that commandment it is reflection of the weakness of the individual, not of the prophet who received the commandment or of the foreknowledge of God. In later revelations, the Lord provided two reasons why the temples were not built: there were contentions, envyings, and strife among the Saints in Missouri (D&C 101:2, 6–8), and the enemies of the Saints were demonstrating intense opposition. In Doctrine and Covenants 124:49–50, the Lord refers to the charge to build the temples as a commandment that He rescinded because of persecution.[i]


Second, there is some uncertainty surrounding the use of the word generation in this passage. The Lord told Joseph Smith, “This generation shall have my word through you” (D&C 5:10). It seems that in this case the word generation is used as a synonym for dispensation. Generation as used here does not appear to refer to the time between parents’ birth and the birth of their children, but as an epoch of time in this history of the human race.[ii]


Finally, the passage declares that “this generation shall not all pass away until an house shall be built unto the Lord” (verse 5). It is possible that this passage specifies only that a house will be built, not necessarily that the temples in Zion will be built. If this is the case, a house was built in Kirtland, Ohio (See D&C 109–110). Another house was built by this generation in Nauvoo, Illinois. Many of those who lived in the days of Joseph Smith survived long enough to see temples rise in Utah at St. George, Logan, Manti, and Salt Lake City. A smaller number who lived into the 1920s even saw temples dedicated in Cardston, Canada, and Laie, Hawaii. In this sense, the word of the Lord was more than fulfilled.


[i] Stephen E. Robinson and H. Dean Garrett, A Commentary on the Doctrine and Covenants, 2004, 4 vols. 3:26.

[ii] Joseph Fielding McConkie and Craig J. Ostler, Revelations of the Restoration, 2000, 588.


(Doctrine and Covenants Minute)

Verses 6-13

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)


The priesthood of Moses is traced back to Adam, who received it from God Himself (Abraham 1:2–4). One interesting addition to our understanding of priesthood is the knowledge that Moses received his priesthood from his father-in-law, Jethro. Jethro was a descendant of Midian, one of the children Abraham fathered with his wife Keturah after the death of his first wife, Sarah (Genesis 25:2). It is significant that Moses’s priestly lineage comes through a route outside of Israel. This lineage seems to indicate a number of the servants of Jehovah who were not descendants of Jacob (Israel) but were nonetheless key figures in the scriptures. Just as the Book of Mormon indicates, there are stories of God’s works that are yet to be told but that will someday be known.


Other illuminating names in Moses’s priestly lineage include Esaias (D&C 84:13). Esaias is a name for Isaiah used in the King James Version of the New Testament. This Esaias lived long before Isaiah’s time and appears to have been a contemporary of Melchizedek and Abraham. Other than what is written in these verses and a brief mention in Doctrine and Covenants 76:100, we have little information about Esaias. We know he was ordained under the hand of God, but the phrase under the hand of God likely means that he was ordained by someone who acted under God’s direction. For instance, Joseph Smith taught that “all the Prophets had the Melchizedek Priesthood and was ordained by God himself.”[i] In Joseph’s teaching, as well as in this passage, it is likely that one of God’s servants carried out the ordination. In this instance it was probably Abraham who ordained Esaias, as indicated in verse 13 and given the fact that Melchizedek and his city were taken into heaven (Joseph Smith Translation, Genesis 14:33–34).


[i] Discourse, 5 January 1841, as Reported by William Clayton, p. 5, JSP.


(Doctrine and Covenants Minute)

Verses 14-17

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)


Little is known about Melchizedek, except that Abraham, considered the father of the faithful, paid homage to him after the Battle of Kings (Genesis 14:18–20). Scriptures restored in the latter days greatly assist in our understanding of Melchizedek. The book of Alma provides a larger part of Melchizedek’s backstory, including that “there were many before him, and also there were many afterwards, but none were greater” (Alma 13:19; other illuminating passages include Joseph Smith Translation, Genesis 14:17, 25–40; Joseph Smith Translation, Hebrews 7:3; and D&C 107:1–4).


Some Church members speculate that Melchizedek, the king of Salem, and Shem, the son of Noah, are the same person. Based on the information given in section 84, however, it seems unlikely that Melchizedek and Shem are the same person. Another passage, Doctrine and Covenants 138:41, calls Shem “the great high priest” and fails to list Melchizedek among the prophets Joseph F. Smith saw in vision. However, verse 15 of section 84 says that Melchizedek received the priesthood “through the lineage of his fathers, even till Noah.” Although it does not definitively settle the controversy, this lineage seems to indicate that there is no father-son connection between Noah and Melchizedek. In addition, no writer in the Bible or the Book of Mormon explicitly made a connection between the two. Bible writers often paid attention to names and pointed out when a biblical figure went by two different names, such as Abram-Abraham, Sarai-Sarah, Jacob-Israel, Esau-Edom, and so on. That not one writer made this connection between Shem and Melchizedek is telling.


Another important figure illuminated in this lineage is Abel, who was identified as having received the priesthood from Adam. A similar priestly lineage given in Doctrine and Covenants 107:42–43 connects the priesthood from Adam to Seth, but this lineage recognizes the role of Abel as the first heir to Adam’s priesthood. The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that Abel “magnified the Priesthood which was conferred upon him and died a righteous man, and therefore has become an Angel of God by receiving his body from the dead, [and is] therefore [still] holding the Keys of his dispensation.”[i] Abel’s office as a priesthood holder also elevates the seriousness of Cain’s murder of Abel. In taking the life of his brother, Cain not only shed the blood of his own kin but also took the life of one of the Lord’s anointed and the heir to the priesthood.


[i] Joseph Smith—History, vol. C-1, p. 17 [addenda], JSP.


(Doctrine and Covenants Minute)

Verses 18-22

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)


The greater priesthood referenced in these verses is the Melchizedek Priesthood, which administers the gospel and holds the keys and ordinances necessary to enter again into the presence of God. The purpose of the priesthood is to bring men and women back into the presence of God in this life and in the life to come. There are a number of ways in which this goal can be accomplished. Ordinances such as baby blessings, blessings of healing or comfort, or Patriarchal blessings bring the power of God into the lives of their recipients by providing guidance, solace, or recovery. Ordinances required for salvation allow the receivers to enter into sacred covenants that open the door of salvation and unlock the powers of godliness. “Godliness” is the power to become like God and is made possible by the covenants and ordinances facilitated through the priesthood.


When this revelation declares that “without this no man can see the face of God, even the Father, and live” (verse 22), the this referred to is the power of godliness, not the priesthood. Many individuals, including Joseph Smith, have received the privilege of seeing the face of God without being ordained to the priesthood. Typically, the power of godliness necessary to see God is given to a person through the ordinances of the gospel, though there can be exceptions to this rule under unusual circumstances. One exception is transfiguration, in which an individual is temporally changed by the power of the Spirit to be able to exist in the presence of God (D&C 67:11; Moses 1:9, 11, 15). Transfiguration is most likely the way that Joseph Smith was able to behold the presence of God during his First Vision despite not holding the priesthood or receiving the ordinances. Other individuals have been granted this privilege, but for most men and women the way to enter the presence of God is to receive the power to do so through the ordinances of the gospel.


(Doctrine and Covenants Minute)

Verses 23-25

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)


This passage affirms that the laws Moses gave to Israel during their sojourn in the wilderness were not the fulness of the gospel but a temporary set of provisions to prepare them for the higher law. The prophet Abinadi taught that this lesser law of “performances and ordinances” was only a type of things to come. The true power of God to save was not solely bound in keeping the law but in accepting the atoning sacrifices of Jesus Christ. Abinadi taught, “that salvation doth not come by the law alone; and were it not for the atonement, which God himself shall make for the sins and iniquities of his people, that they must unavoidably perish, notwithstanding the law of Moses” (Mosiah 13:28).


It was not Moses’s original intent to give the children of Israel this lesser law, but because of the hardness of their hearts a change was required. The Joseph Smith Translation of this episode explains,


And the Lord said unto Moses, Hew thee two other tables of stone, like unto the first, and I will write upon them also, the words of the law, according as they were written at the first on the tables which thou brakest; but it shall not be according to the first, for I will take away the priesthood out of their midst; therefore my holy order, and the ordinances thereof, shall not go before them; for my presence shall not go up in their midst, lest I destroy them. But I will give unto them the law as at the first, but it shall be after the law of a carnal commandment; for I have sworn in my wrath, that they shall not enter into my presence, into my rest, in the days of their pilgrimage. Therefore do as I have commanded thee. (Joseph Smith Translation, Exodus 34:1–2)


(Doctrine and Covenants Minute)

Verses 26-28

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)


The “preparatory gospel,” as it is referred to in verse 26, was present among the Israelites until the coming of John. The importance of John the Baptist is sometimes overshadowed by the nearness of his ministry to that of Jesus Christ. John was the proper heir to the office held anciently by Aaron and could trace his authority directly to him (D&C 68:15–18; 107:16, 70, 76). This passage explains that John was baptized while he was in his childhood and had been “ordained” by an angel when he was eight days old. The word ordained in this context does not mean that John was ordained to the Aaronic or Melchizedek Priesthood, or any office of the priesthood. In the time of Joseph Smith, the term was used in the same way that set apart or blessed is used in the modern Church. For instance, Emma Smith was “ordained” to “expound scriptures, and to exhort the Church” but was not given the priesthood or a priesthood office (D&C 25:7).


In a similar fashion, John was ordained “unto this power, to overthrow the kingdom of the Jews, and to make straight the way of the Lord before the face of his people, to prepare them for the second coming of the Lord” (D&C 84:28; emphasis added). John was ordained by an angel because his father, Zacharias, held only the Aaronic Priesthood and lacked the authority to give such a blessing to an infant.


During his ministry, John preached the gospel of faith, repentance, and baptism by immersion for the remission of sins—the first three principles of the gospel. However, he lacked the authority to provide the fourth principle of the gospel, baptism by fire and the Holy Ghost. He also lacked the authority to administer the other ordinances of the Melchizedek Priesthood. Hence, when Jesus began His ministry, John directed his disciples toward Him, explaining that “He [Christ] must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). Having fulfilled his mission as the most important of forerunners, John allowed the true Messiah to take the lead.[i]


The submission John showed to Jesus was another sign of his greatness. The Savior Himself taught that “among those born of women there is not a great prophet than John the Baptist” (Luke 7:28). In an 1843 discourse, Joseph Smith provided three reasons why the Savior had given such high praise to John:


It could not have been on account of the miracles John performed, for he did no miracles; but it was, first, because he was trusted with a divine mission, of preparing the way before the face of the Lord. Who was trusted with such a mission, before or since? No man.

Second, He was trusted, and it was required at his hands, to baptise the son of man. Who ever did that? Who ever had so great a privilege or glory? Who ever led the Son of God into the waters of baptism, beholding the Holy Ghost descend upon him in the sign of the Dove? No man.

Third, John, at that time, was the only legal administrator, holding the keys of power, there was on earth: The keys, the kingdom, the power, the glory, had departed from the Jews; and John, the son of Zachariah, by the holy anointing, and decree of heaven, held the keys of power at the time.”[ii]


[i] Robinson and Garrett, A Commentary on the Doctrine and Covenants, 2004, 3:38.

[ii] Discourse, 29 January 1843, as Reported by Willard Richards–B, p. 2, JSP.


(Doctrine and Covenants Minute)

Verses 29-32

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)


In this passage, the offices of elder and bishop are established as “necessary appendages” of the Melchizedek Priesthood, and it is assumed that those holding the office of bishop, which is an office of the Aaronic Priesthood, will be high priests set apart as bishops. An earlier revelation explained that literal descendants of Aaron have a right to the office of bishop if they are found worthy and set apart by those holding the keys of the Melchizedek Priesthood (D&C 68:15–20). The offices of teacher and deacon are given as necessary appendages of the Aaronic Priesthood because those offices did not exist as part of the Aaronic or Levitical Priesthood in Old Testament times.


The concept of an acceptable offering from the sons of Moses and the sons of Aaron goes back to the initial appearance of John the Baptist to restore the Aaronic Priesthood (D&C 13). Joseph Smith commented on the Aaronic Priesthood in an 1840 discourse, explaining,


It is generally supposed that sacrifice was entirely done away when the great sacrifice was offered up, and that there will be no necessity for the ordinance of Sacrifice in future; but those who assert this, are certainly not acquainted with the duties, privileges, and authority of the priesthood, or with the prophets. The offering of sacrifice has ever been connected and forms a part of the duties of the priesthood. It began with the priesthood and will be continued until after the coming of Christ, from generation to generation. We frequently have mention made of the offering of Sacrifice by the Servants of the most High in Ancient days prior to the law of Moses.

He continued, “These sacrifices as well as every ordinance belonging to the priesthood will, when the temple of the Lord shall be built and the sons of Levi be purified, be fully restored and attended to in all their powers, ramifications and blessings; this ever did and will exist when the powers of the Melchizedek Priesthood are sufficiently manifest. Else how can the restitution of all things spoken of by all the Holy Prophets be brought to pass?”[i]


[i] JS History, vol. C-1, p. 18 [addenda], JSP.


(Doctrine and Covenants Minute)

Verses 33-34

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)


The central part of this revelation is commonly known as the Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood and constitutes verses 33 through 44. Every Church member should understand and become familiar with this passage. The oath makes the men who receive the priesthood and fully enter into it adopted sons of Aaron, Moses, Abraham, and heirs to the powers of God and “heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:17). To “obtain” these two priesthoods is more than just being ordained to an office within the priesthood. A later revelation to Joseph Smith explains that “many are called, but few are chosen,” and only those who can wield the power of the priesthood “upon the principles of righteousness are fully chosen” (D&C 121:36).


To obtain the priesthood is to magnify one’s calling within the priesthood. President Thomas S. Monson provided a simple definition of what it means to magnify one’s calling: “What does it mean to magnify a calling? It means to build it up in dignity and importance, to make it honorable and commendable in the eyes of all men, to enlarge and strengthen it, to let the light of heaven shine through it to the view of other men. And how does one magnify a calling? Simply by performing the service that pertains to it.”[i]


In return for their faithful service, priesthood holders are “sanctified,” or “made holy.” The Lord also promises a renewal of their bodies. This blessing can happen in this life but comes to full fruition in the First Resurrection, when the priesthood holder is blessed to receive a celestial body and be truly renewed to become like God and Jesus Christ.


[i] Thomas S. Monson, “The Sacred Call of Service,” April 2005 General Conference.


(Doctrine and Covenants Minute)

Verses 35-37

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)


The phrase receive the priesthood most likely has a double meaning. It is true that men receive the priesthood when they are ordained to priesthood office, but in a larger sense anyone, male or female, can receive the priesthood by accepting those who have been sent to minister of God. While this passage refers specifically to the oath and covenant pertaining to the priesthood, in a larger sense, when those who hold the keys give priesthood authority to worthy Church members, these members hold the priesthood—and this group encompasses both men and women. President Dallin H. Oaks taught,


We are not accustomed to speaking of women having the authority of the priesthood in their Church callings, but what other authority can it be? When a woman—young or old—is set apart to preach the gospel as a full-time missionary, she is given priesthood authority to perform a priesthood function. The same is true when a woman is set apart to function as an officer or teacher in a Church organization under the direction of one who holds the keys of the priesthood. Whoever functions in an office or calling received from one who holds priesthood keys exercises priesthood authority in performing her or his assigned duties. Whoever exercises priesthood authority should forget about their rights and concentrate on their responsibilities.[i]

The oath and covenant of the priesthood can be understood in multiple contexts and applications. A person who participates in the ordinances of the temple enters into an oath and covenant with God that facilitates their entrance into the celestial kingdom. A couple sealed in the temple might understand the “oath and covenant” to be in part fulfilled by their entering into “this order of the priesthood,” meaning the new and everlasting covenant of marriage (D&C 131:2). Those who enter into these promises receive the same blessing as Adam and Eve, Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, and so forth.


[i] Dallin H. Oaks, “The Keys and Authorities of the Priesthood,” April 2014 General Conference.


(Doctrine and Covenants Minute)

Verses 38-41

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)


In a letter written to his uncle Silas Smith in September 1833, Joseph Smith commented on the blessings received in this promise and the potential the promise held for all men and women everywhere. He wrote,


Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, had the promise of eternal life confirmed to them by an oath of the Lord, but that promise or oath was no assurance to them of their salvation; but they could by walking in the footsteps and continuing in the faith of their fathers, obtain, for themselves an oath for confirmation that they were meet to be partakers of the inheritance, with the Saints in light. . . . Must I not rather obtain for myself by my own faith and diligence in keeping the commandments of the Lord, an assurance of salvation for myself? And have I not an equal privilege with the ancient Saints? And will not the Lord hear my prayers and listen to my cries as soon as he ever did to theirs, if I come to him in the manner they did? Or, is he a respecter of persons?[i]

This statement captures as much as anything the essence of the latter-day Restoration of the gospel. God made oaths and covenants with His sons and daughters anciently, but He offers the same blessings to His children in the latter days.


[i] Letter to Silas Smith, 26 September 1833, pp. 4–5, JSP.


(Doctrine and Covenants Minute)

Verses 42-53

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)


A marvelous contrast is made in these verses between the Light of Christ and the darkness of sin. A revelation received shortly after Doctrine and Covenants 84 was given revealed that the Light of Christ is “the light which is in all things, which giveth life to all things, which is the law by which all things are governed, even the power of God who sitteth upon his throne, who is in the bosom of eternity, who is in the midst of all things” (D&C 88:13). This radiant light, energy, and intelligence was to be the focus of the next phase of teaching the early Saints about the nature and power of Jesus Christ. The Light of Christ is highlighted again in Doctrine and Covenants sections 88 and 93. As men and women accept and live the truths of the gospel, this light, and their capacity to bear it and use it, becomes greater and greater.


In contrast, if people move away from the commandments and truths of the gospel, they receive less light and are more susceptible to the bondage of sin. These truths apply broadly to humanity, since this passage is discussing the Light of Christ and not the gift of the Holy Ghost. While the Holy Ghost can inspire people everywhere, only those who have entered into covenants through ordinances can gain the gift of the Holy Ghost, and then only those who keep their covenants have the constant companionship of the Spirit.


But all children of God, regardless of their religious background, are given the Spirit of Christ to enlighten them. As the revelation declares, “[The] Spirit [of Christ] giveth light to every man that cometh into the world” (D&C 84:46). President Brigham Young taught,


 Honest hearts, the world over, desire to know the right way. They have sought for it, and still seek it. There have been people upon the earth all the time who sought diligently with all their hearts to know the ways of the Lord. These individuals have produced good, inasmuch as they had the ability. And to believe that there has been no virtue, no truth, no good upon the earth for centuries, until the Lord revealed the Priesthood through Joseph the Prophet, I should say is wrong. There has been more or less virtue and righteousness upon the earth at all times, from the days of Adam until now. That we all believe.[i]


[i] Journal of Discourses, p. 170.


(Doctrine and Covenants Minute)

Verses 54-61

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)


One of the most powerful ways to increase the light and truth in our lives is through regular study of the scriptures. In these verses, the Lord declares condemnation on the Saints for their vanity, unbelief, and neglect of the new covenant—the Book of Mormon. They treated lightly this sacred book—the sign of a “new covenant” between God and His children in the latter days. In response to this warning, a few months after the revelation was received William W. Phelps dedicated several pages of the Evening and Morning Star, the Church newspaper in Missouri, to the Book of Mormon. He wrote, “The inhabitants of Zion are brought under condemnation for neglecting the book of Mormon, from which they not only received the new covenant, but the fulness of the gospel. Has this been done for the sake of hunting mysteries in the prophecies? or has it come to pass by carelessness?”[i]


The censure offered to the early Saints in this revelation has also been applied to the Saints in our day. President Ezra Taft Benson declared,


Unless we read the Book of Mormon and give heed to its teachings, the Lord has stated in section 84 of the Doctrine and Covenants that the whole Church is under condemnation: “And this condemnation resteth upon the children of Zion, even all” (D&C 84:56). The Lord continues: “And they shall remain under this condemnation until they repent and remember the new covenant, even the Book of Mormon and the former commandments which I have given them, not only to say, but to do according to that which I have written” (D&C 84:57). . . . The Book of Mormon has not been, nor is it yet, the center of our personal study, family teaching, preaching, and missionary work. Of this we must repent.[ii]

To date, no prophet of the Church has removed the condemnation found in these verses for the neglect of the Book of Mormon. More recently, President Thomas S. Monson has pleaded,


If you are not reading the Book of Mormon each day, please do so. If you will read it prayerfully and with a sincere desire to know the truth, the Holy Ghost will manifest its truth to you. If it is true—and I solemnly testify that it is—then Joseph Smith was a prophet who saw God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. Because the Book of Mormon is true, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Lord’s Church on the earth, and the holy priesthood of God has been restored for the benefit and blessing of His children. If you do not have a firm testimony of these things, do that which is necessary to obtain one. It is essential for you to have your own testimony in these difficult times, for the testimonies of others will carry you only so far.[iii]


[i] William W. Phelps, “Some of Mormon’s Teaching,” The Evening and the Morning Star, January 1833, p. 4; Revelation, 22–23 September 1832 [D&C 84], fn. 28.

[ii] Ezra Taft Benson, “Cleansing the Inner Vessel,” General Conference April 1986.

[iii] Thomas S. Monson, “The Power of the Book of Mormon,” General Conference April 2017.


(Doctrine and Covenants Minute)

Verses 62-76

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)


In 1832, the year this revelation was given, the Quorum of the Twelve was yet to be organized in this dispensation. When the Savior declares that “you are mine apostles” (D&C 84:63) He is using the word apostle in its broadest sense as “one sent forth.”[i] The list given here is very similar to instructions Jesus gave to the Twelve in Jerusalem and the Americas (Mark 16:15–18; Mormon 9:23–25). Everyone sent forth by Jesus Christ to minister to the children of men are, in a sense, apostles and carry with them the power to perform miracles in His name. The promise that if poison was administered to them they would be kept safe must have been extremely meaningful to Joseph Smith. Only a few months earlier, during his return journey from Missouri, he was poisoned while staying at a boarding house in Greenville, Indiana.[ii]


Many of the Church’s early missionaries experienced the blessings found in these verses to heal and bless those they served. A few months prior to this revelation, William McLellin recorded in his journal that “Sister Sarah St. John’s child was scalded badly and Br. [Samuel] was there and laid his hands upon it and healed it in so much that it did not even so much as blister.” A few days later, a woman who was ill approached McLellin. He wrote, “I prayed for her and and laid my hands upon her and she was restored to health.” Only a few days after this, McLellin himself fell ill and was healed by Joseph Smith.”[iii]


Healings like this were common in the early Church and continue to happen in the Church in our day. However, the Saints were commanded that “they shall not boast themselves of these things, neither speak them before the world; for these things are given unto you for your profit and for salvation” (verse 73). The Savior’s instructions to avoid boasting or speaking of these miracles is echoed in the modern counsel of Boyd K. Packer, who said, “I have come to believe also that it is not wise to continually talk of unusual spiritual experiences. They are to be guarded with care and shared only when the Spirit itself prompts you to use them to the blessing of others.”[iv]


[i] Dan Nesselqvist, “Apostle,” Lexham Bible Dictionary.

[ii] JS History, vol. A-1, p. 215

[iii] The Journals of William E. McLellin, 1994, 66–67.

[iv] Boyd K. Packer, “The Candle of the Lord,” Ensign, January 1983.


(Doctrine and Covenants Minute)

Verses 77-91

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)


The instructions given in this passage are directed primarily to missionaries, who are promised divine protection for their service. In the early Restoration, missionaries were sent forth without “purse or scrip,” a phrase meaning roughly “without much money or belongings.” Missionaries in this time were instructed to trust in the Lord for their food, housing, and other needs. As the conditions in which missionaries served changed, the policies changed as well, and now missionaries serve with support from their families and home wards. Missionaries are still instructed to see those funds as sacred and to seek to use them responsibly and honestly.[i]


The Lord also promises the missionaries sent forth that they will be accompanied by the angels of God and will act as the angels of God. Wilford Woodruff recorded an experience in which he and several other apostles were protected by angels during their 1840 mission to the British Isles:


Brother Kimball, Brother George A. Smith and myself had a similar experience in London, at a house where we were stopping. It seemed as if there were legions of spirits there. They sought our destruction; and on one occasion, after Brother Kimball had left, these powers of darkness fell upon us to destroy our lives, and both Brother Smith and myself would have been killed, apparently, had not three holy messengers come into the room and filled the room with light. They were dressed in temple clothing. They laid their hands upon our heads and we were delivered, and that power was broken, so far as we were concerned.

Why did the Lord send these men to us? Because we could not have lived without it; and, as a general thing, angels do not administer to anybody on the earth unless it is to preserve the lives of good men, or to bring the Gospel, or perform a work that men cannot do for themselves. . . . Lucifer may appear to man in the capacity of an angel of light; but there is no deception with the Holy Ghost. We do not particularly need the administration of angels unless we are in a condition similar to that in which Brother Kimball, Brother Smith and myself were placed, when we could not save our lives without them.”[ii]


[i] Missionary Standards for Disciples of Jesus Christ, 4.8.4.

[ii] Collected Discourses, edited by Brian H. Stuy, 5 vols., 1987–1992, 1:218.



(Doctrine and Covenants Minute)

Verses 92-97

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)


The cleansing of the feet mentioned here appears to be a variation of shaking the dust off the feet explained earlier in the Doctrine and Covenants. (See commentary on D&C 24:15–19.) Earlier in the revelation the Lord tells missionaries that they are being sent out to “reprove the world of all their unrighteous deeds, and to teach them of a judgment which is to come” (verse 87). The Lord’s promise here that He will lay His hands upon the nations and “scourge them for their wickedness” shows that part of missionary work is simply warning people of the judgments coming upon humankind.


In another sense, this cleansing is symbolic of the act of Church members fulfilling their stewardship to preach the gospel to their fellow brothers and sisters. Elder Orson Pratt explained, “The Lord has commanded us to purify ourselves, to wash our hands and our feet, that he may testify to his Father and to our Father—to his God and our God, that we are clean from the blood of this generation.”[i]


[i] The Essential Orson Pratt, 1991, 127–128.


(Doctrine and Covenants Minute)

Verses 98-102

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)


This passage contains a song that will be sung after the Savior has accomplished all of His great works and has brought them to full fruition. The song speaks of “the election of grace,” borrowing a phrase from Paul (Romans 11:5), and praises the glory, honor, mercy, grace, and truth of God. These verses emphasize that though men and women are called to assist in bringing about this great work, the power behind this transformation is found in Jesus Christ and the grace He extends to all humanity.


An “election of grace” spoken of in D&C 84:98–102 and Rom. 11:1–5 has reference to one’s situation in mortality; that is, being born at a time, at a place, and in circumstances where one will come in favorable contact with the gospel. This election took place in the premortal existence. Those who are faithful and diligent in the gospel in mortality receive an even more desirable election in this life and become the elect of God. These receive the promise of a fulness of God’s glory in eternity (D&C 84:33–41).


Another important phrase here is the recognition that after Satan is bound “time is no longer” (D&C 84:100). Latter-day Saints commonly use the phrase “time and eternity.” Time commonly refers to linear time, the state of past, present, and future that we live in during mortality. Eternity is different than time. Church members often raise the question, “After millions of years in the celestial kingdom we will grow tired of our existence?” This question assumes that time operates the same way in eternity as it does in mortality. However, the scriptures teach that “time only is measured unto men” (Alma 40:8) and that after the fulfillment of God’s plan “there should be time no longer” (Revelation 10:6). Trying to comprehend this concept in our mortal state is like trying to describe color to a person who was born blind, but it remains a valid teaching. There is no danger of boredom in heaven, because time is no more.


Latter-day Saints see the Restoration as only the beginning of the change that the Savior will carry out on the earth. In a letter written to the Queen of England, Parley P. Pratt declared,


Know assuredly that the world in which we live is on the eve of a revolution, more rapid in its progress—more powerful in its operations—more extensive in its effects—more lasting in its influence—and more important in its consequences, than any which man has yet witnessed upon the earth; a revolution in which all the inhabitants of the earth are vitally interested, both religiously and politically—temporally and spiritually; one on which the fate of nations is suspended, and upon which the future destiny of all the affairs of earth is made to depend. Nay, the angels have desired to look into it, and heaven itself has waited with longing expectation for its consummation.


(Doctrine and Covenants Minute)

Verses 103-110

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)


In the midst of the soaring declarations about the power and promises of the ordinances and covenants of the gospel there is a return to the practical work of the Church to improve the lives of the people it serves. After the lofty song of Zion, the revelation returns to more earthly concerns: addressing the bishop in Zion (Edward Partridge) and the bishop in Ohio (Newel K. Whitney). The bishops are instructed to continue to carefully use Church funds to look after the poor and to see to the needs of the Church, especially the printing of the revelations.


While the earlier passages in the revelation speak of a hierarchy of priesthood and the adoptive and literal children of Moses and Aaron who are carrying out the work, it is important to remember that the humblest callings in the kingdom are vital to its success. The Lord declares, “the body hath need of every member, that all may be edified together, that the system may be kept perfect” (D&C 84:110).


President Dallin H. Oaks reminded us that though we speak in terms of organizational hierarchy within the Church, there is no hierarchy of righteousness. President Oaks taught,


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. I once presided at the release of a young stake president who had given fine service for nine years and was now rejoicing in his release and in the new calling he and his wife had just received. They were called to be the nursery leaders in their ward. Only in this Church would that be seen as equally honorable!


(Doctrine and Covenants Minute)

Verses 111-120

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)


Following the commandment given in this revelation, Bishop Whitney traveled to New York City, with Joseph Smith accompanying him. During his stay, Joseph wrote a letter to Emma Smith that captured the conflicting feelings of compassion he felt toward the people in the city alongside his sorrow for their wickedness. Joseph wrote,


This day I have been walking through the most splendid part of the city of New Y[ork]— the buildings are truly great and wonderful to the astonishing of every beholder, and the language of my heart is like this—can the great God of all the Earth maker of all things magnificent and splendid be displeased with man for all these great inventions sought out by them? My answer is no, it cannot be seeing these works are calculated to make men comfortable wise and happy.

Therefore, not for the works can the Lord be displeased only against man is the anger of the Lord kindled because they give him not the glory. Therefore, their iniquities shall be visited upon their heads and their works shall be burned up with unquenchable fire. The iniquity of the people is printed in every countenance, and nothing but the dress of the people makes them look fair and beautiful. All is deformity, there is something in every countenance that is disagreeable with few exceptions. Oh, how long, oh Lord, shall this order of things exist and darkness cover the Earth and gross darkness cover the people? After beholding all that I had any desire to behold I returned to my room to meditate and calm my mind and behold the thoughts of home of Emma and Julia [M. Smith] rushes upon my mind like a flood and I could wish for a moment to be with them. My breast is filled with all the feelings and tenderness of a parent and a husband and could I be with you I would tell you many things yet when I reflect upon this great city like Ninevah not discerning their right hand from their left. Yea, more than two hundred thousand souls. My bowels [are] filled with compassion towards them, and I am determined to lift up my voice in this city and leave the event with God who holdeth all things in his hands and will not suffer an hair of our heads unnoticed to fall to the ground.

I hope God will give you strength that you may not faint [Emma was expecting her fourth child]. I pray God to soften the hearts of those around you to be kind to you and take the burden off your shoulders as much as possible and not afflict you. I feel for you, for I know your state and that others do not, but you must comfort yourself knowing that God is your friend in heaven and that you have one true and living friend on Earth your Husband, Joseph Smith Jr.[i]

Also of note is the charge in these verses to warn the cities of New York, Albany, and Boston. Wilford Woodruff may have been referring to this passage of section 84 when he prophesied of the destruction of these three cities. In 1863 he prophesied of a time when people in the millennium would recall, “That was before New York was destroyed by an earthquake; it was before Boston was swept into the sea, by the sea heaving itself beyond its bounds; it was before Albany was destroyed by fire; yea, at that time you will remember the scenes of this day. Treasure them up and forget them not.’” President Brigham Young stood up afterward and declared, “What Brother Woodruff has said is revelation and will be fulfilled.”[ii]


[i] Letter to Emma Smith, 13 October 1832, pp. 1–2, JSP.

[ii] N. B. Lundwall, Temples of the Most High, 97–98.


(Doctrine and Covenants Minute)