Doctrine and Covenants Lesson 42 (D&C 115–120)
INSTRUCTIONS CONCERNING THE CHURCH
● D&C 115:1–2 Additional counselors authorized for the First Presidency. At a conference held at Kirtland, Ohio, on 3 September 1837, Oliver Cowdery, Joseph Smith, Sr., Hyrum Smith, and John Smith were sustained as “assistant counselors.”
● D&C 115:2–4 The Official Name of the Church. The Lord names his church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
3 Nephi 27:8
Elder B. H. Roberts said, “The appropriateness of the title is self-evident, and in it there is a beautiful recognition of the relationship of the Lord Jesus Christ and the saints to the organization. It is The Church of Jesus Christ.’ He owns it, for he organized it. It is his, for he gave himself for it. It is the sacred depository of his truth. It is his instrumentality for promulgating all those spiritual truths in which he would have mankind instructed. It is also the Christ’s instrumentality for the perfecting of the saints, as well as for the work of the ministry.”1
● D&C 115:5–6 Zion and her stakes are places of defense and refuge for the saints.
The Prophet Joseph Smith said, “Without Zion, and a place of deliverance, we must fall; because the time is near when the sun will be darkened, and the moon turn to blood, and the stars fall from heaven, and the earth reel to and fro Then, if this is the case, and if we are not sanctified and gathered to the places God has appointed, with all our former professions and our great love for the Bible, we must fall; we cannot stand; we cannot be saved; for God will gather out His Saints from the Gentiles, and then comes desolation and destruction, and none can escape except the pure in heart who are gathered.”2
The Prophet also said, “We ought to have the building up of Zion as our greatest object. When wars come, we shall have to flee to Zion. The cry is to make haste. The last revelation says, Ye shall not have time to have gone over the earth, until these things come. . . . The time is soon coming when no man will have any peace but in Zion and her stakes.”3
The Far West Temple
● D&C 115:7–16 The saints are commanded to build a temple at Far West.
Smith and Sjodahl said, “At this time there were about 150 houses at Far West, and among them were stores, hotels, and a fine school house. The City had sprung up, as by magic, in the midst of a rolling prairie. It might have been a large center of population today, into which would have been poured the wealth of continents, instead of a [deserted] spot [as it is today because of] the bigotry and strange madness of the neighbors. The corner stones of the Temple were laid on the 4th of July, 1838. The excavation, one historian says, 120 by 80 feet in area, and 5 feet in depth was completed in half a day, more than 500 men being employed in the work. Little else was done, however, for the storm of persecution broke loose in all its fury, and the Saints at that place went into exile again.”4
● D&C 115:17–18 Building up Far West. In earlier revelations, the Lord had directed the Saints not to gather in haste (D&C 58:56; 63:24; 101:68). Now he encouraged them to gather speedily to Far West.
Smith and Sjodahl said, “It is quite probable that if the Saints had gathered in greater numbers and built up their Stakes and cities more rapidly, the enemies would have had less power to execute their designs. That they did not do their duty in this respect, may be inferred from Section 117:1–6.”5
Joseph Smith and the Keys of the Kingdom
● D&C 115:19 Joseph Smith holds the keys of the kingdom of God on earth. This is an important re-affirmation of Joseph’s standing before the Lord. Despite claims by apostates that he was a “fallen prophet,” the Saints are assured that he still holds the keys of revelation and presidency.
● D&C 116:1 This very brief section was taken from an entry in Joseph Smith’s diary in 1838.
The Prophet Joseph Smith said, “Friday, May 18. I left Far West, in company with . . . many others, for the purpose of visiting the north country, and laying off a stake of Zion; making locations, and laying claim to lands to facilitate the gathering of Saints. . . .
“Saturday, 19. This morning we struck our tents and [crossed] Grand River at the mouth of Honey Creek and Nelson’s Ferry. Grand River is a large, beautiful, deep and rapid stream, during the high waters of Spring . . . We pursued our course up the river, mostly through timber, for about eighteen miles, when we arrived at Colonel Lyman Wight’s home. He lives at the foot of Tower Hill (a name I gave the place in consequence of the remains of anold Nephite altar or tower that stood there), where we camped for the Sabbath.
“In the afternoon I went up the river about half a mile to Wight’s Ferry, accompanied by President Rigdon, and my clerk, George W. Robinson, for the purpose of selecting and laying claim to a city plat near [that] ferry in [a place] which the brethren called ‘spring Hill,’ but by the mouth of the Lord it was named Adam-ondi-Ahman; because, said He, it is the place where Adam shall come to visit his people, or the Ancient of Days shall sit, as spoken of by Daniel the Prophet.”6
“Adam-ondi-Ahman is located immediately on the north side of Grand River, in Daviess county, Missouri, about twenty-five miles north of Far West. It is situated on an elevated spot of ground, which renders the place as healthful as any part of the United States, and overlooking the river and the country round about, it is certainly a beautiful location.”7
President Heber C. Kimball said, “While (at Adam-Ondi-Ahman) we laid out a city on a high elevated piece of land, and set the stakes for the four corners of a temple block, which was dedicated, Brother Brigham Young being mouth; there were from three to five hundred men present on the occasion, under arms. This elevated spot was probably from two hundred and fifty to five hundred feet above the level of Grand River, so that one could look east, west, north or south, as far as the eye could reach; it was one of the most beautiful places I ever beheld.
“The Prophet Joseph called upon Brother Brigham, myself and others, saying, “Brethren, come, go along with me, and I will show you something.” He led us a short distance to a place where were the ruins of three altars built of stone, one above the other, and one standing a little back of the other, like unto the pulpits in the Kirtland Temple, representing the order of three grades of Priesthood; “There,” said Joseph, “is the place where Adam offered up sacrifice after he was cast out of the garden.” The altar stood at the highest point of the bluff.”8
● D&C 107:53 Adam-ondi-Ahman is also the place where Adam bestowed his last blessing upon his posterity before he died.
Elder Orson Pratt said, [Adam-ondi-Ahman] means “Valley of God, where Adam dwelt. It is in the original language spoken by Adam.”9
“What is the name of God in the pure language? The answer [is] ‘Ahman.’ What is the name of the Son of God?’ Answer: ‘son Ahman—the greatest of all the parts of God excepting Ahman.’”10
President Joseph Fielding Smith said, “Adam-ondi-Ahman was not just a small spot resting on the brow of the hill, but this name has reference to the surrounding territory. One can obtain a beautiful view from this ancient altar overlooking the valley through which courses Grand River. It was in this valley where Adam called together the faithful of his posterity three years before his death and blessed them . . . It will be in this same valley where the Ancient of Days shall sit at the grand gathering of the worthies who have held keys of the dispensations, and where Adam will make his report, likewise all others who have been given keys, and our Savior shall be crowned King of kings and take his place as the rightful ruler of the earth.”11
The Prophet Joseph Smith said, “Daniel in his seventh chapter speaks of the Ancient of Days; he means the oldest man, our father Adam, Michael; he will call his children together and hold a council with them to prepare them for the coming of the Son of Man. He (Adam) is the father of the human family, and presides over the spirits of all men, and all that have had the keys must stand before him in this grand council. This may take place before some of us leave this stage of action. The Son of Man stands before him (Adam) and there is given him glory and dominion. Adam delivers up his stewardship to Christ, that which was delivered to him as holding the keys of the universe, but retains his standing as head of the human family.”12
President Joseph Fielding Smith also said, [The council at Adam-ondi-Ahman, as prophesied in Daniel 7:9–14, will be] “of the greatest importance to this world. At that time there will be a transfer of authority . . . to the rightful King, Jesus Christ. Judgment will be set and all who have held keys will make their reports and deliver their stewardships, as they shall be required. Adam will direct this judgment; and then he will make his report, as the one holding the keys for this earth, to his Superior Officer, Jesus Christ. Our Lord will then assume the reins of government; directions will be given to the Priesthood; and He, whose right it is to rule, will be installed officially by the voice of the Priesthood there assembled.
“This grand council of Priesthood will be composed, not only of those who are faithful who now dwell on this earth, but also of the prophets and apostles of old, who have had directing authority. Others may also be there, but if so they will be there by appointment, for this is to be an official council called to attend to the most momentous matters concerning the destiny of this earth.
“When this gathering is held, the world will not know of it; the members of the Church at large will not know of it, yet it shall be preparatory to the coming in the clouds of glory of our Savior Jesus Christ as the Prophet Joseph Smith has said. The world cannot know of it. The Saints cannot know of it—except those who officially shall be called into this council—for it shall precede the coming of Jesus Christ as a thief in the night, unbeknown to all the world..”13
● D&C 117:8 An explanation of “Adam-ondi-Ahman” and “Olaha Shinehah.”
President Joseph Fielding Smith said, “The plains of Olaha Shinehah, or the place where Adam dwelt, must be a part of, or in the vicinity of Adam-ondi-Ahman. This name Olaha Shinehah, may be, and in all probability is, from the language of Adam. We may without great controversy believe that this is the name which Adam gave to this place . . . Shinehah, according to the Book of Abraham, is the name given to the sun. (Abraham 3:13).. Olaha is possibly a variant of the word Olea, which is “the moon” (Abraham 3:13). If so the plains of Olaha Shinehah would be the Plains of the Moon and the Sun, so called, perhaps because of astronomical observations there made.
“We learn from the writings of Moses that the Lord revealed to the ancients great knowledge concerning the stars, and Abraham by revelations and through the Urim and Thummim received wonderful information concerning the heavens and the governing planets, or stars. It was also revealed by the Prophet Joseph Smith that Methuselah was acquainted with the stars as were others of the antediluvian prophets including Adam. So it may be reasonable that here in this valley important information was made known anciently in relation to the stars of our universe.”14
“MORE WEIGHTY MATTERS”
Chastisement for Disobedience
● Joseph Smith received four revelations on 8 July 1838 at Far West, Missouri. Their order in the Doctrine and Covenants is somewhat different, however, from the order given in Joseph Smith’s history.
● D&C 117:1–9 William Marks and Newel K. Whitney were mentioned by the Lord as not relinquishing their property in Kirtland and obeying the commandment to go to Missouri.
President Joseph Fielding Smith said, “It is quite evident that these two brethren had fallen under the spell of speculation and temptation so rife in Kirtland in 1837, and which was the downfall of so many of the leading brethren of the Church. However, they had not lost their faith and when the Lord gave them this call, they proceeded to obey the command.”15
— vv. 4, 6 “For what is property unto me?” the Lord says. “Have I not made the earth?”
President Brigham Young said, “Anything we have upon this earth we only seem to have, for in reality we own nothing. No person on the earth can truly call anything his own, and never will until he has passed the ordeals we are all now passing, and has received his body again in a glorious resurrection, to be crowned by him who will be ordained and set apart to set a crown upon our heads. Then will be given to us that which we now only seem to own, and we will be forever one with the Father and the Son, and not until then.”16
● D&C 117:11 Newell K. Whitney is told to forsake the “Nicolaitan Band.”
— Many scholars believe that the Nicolaitans in New Testament times were followers of Nicolas (Acts 6:5). He was one of the seven appointed by the Church at Jerusalem to supervise the distribution of food and goods. Nicolas was believed by some of the early Church fathers to have apostatized from the true gospel and then to have established a sect of his own—the Nicolaitans.
— This was bad enough, but there was an even worse evil. Mingling themselves in the orgies of idolatrous feasts, they brought the impurities of those feasts into the meetings of the Christian Church.
Elder Bruce R. McConkie said, [Nicolaitans today are] “members of the Church who [are] trying to maintain their church standing while continuing to live after the manner of the world . . . The designation has come to be used to identify those who want their names on the records of the Church, but do not want to devote themselves to the gospel cause with full purpose of heart.”17
● D&C 117:12–15 Oliver Granger is commended. This faithful brother assisted the Prophet and the Church in disposing of their property and debts in Kirtland.
A REVELATION TO THE TWELVE APOSTLES
● This revelation is another one given to the Prophet at Far West, Missouri, on 8 July 1838.
● It came in response to the prayer: “Show unto us thy will O Lord concerning the Twelve.”
● D&C 118:1–3 The Lord will provide for the families of the Twelve if they are faithful in their missions.
● D&C 118:4–5 They are commanded to leave from Far West on their missions on April 26, 1839.
— By that date the Saints had been driven from the state of Missouri.
— The Twelve were determined to keep this commandment with exactness.
— Their enemies swore that it would never be fulfilled—proving Joseph to be a false prophet.
— Nevertheless, the Twelve returned on the assigned day (more in our next lesson)
● D&C 118:6 Those who had fallen from the Twelve were to be replaced
— Elders William E. M’Lellin, Luke S. Johnson, John F. Boynton, and Lyman E. Johnson had at this point fallen into apostasy and had been excommunicated.
— One of the replacements, John E. Page, also eventually apostatized.
— The other three—John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff, and Willard Richards—remained faithful.
THE LAW OF TITHING
● The Prophet Joseph Smith received the revelation on tithing on 8 July 1838 at Far West, Missouri.
● D&C 119:headnote It came in response to prayer: “O Lord! Show unto thy servant how much thou requirest of the properties of thy people for a tithing.”
● Genesis 14:18–20 Abraham paid tithing to Melchizedek.
● Genesis 28:20–22 Jacob promised tithing to the Lord.
● Leviticus 27:30–34 Israel was commanded to pay tithing.
● Luke 11:42 Jesus affirmed the need to pay tithing.
● 3 Nephi 24:10 Jesus affirmed tithing to the Nephites.
The Basic Principles Behind Tithing
● 1 Corinthians 10:26 The earth is the Lord’s.
● Luke 18:18–25 The rich young man.
● D&C 104:13–18 The earth is full.
● D&C 105:1–10 The results of selfishness.
The Law of Tithing Today
● D&C 119:1–3 The “beginning” of tithing is to provide all our “surplus” to the work of the Lord. This is the principle of consecration—to make “free-will offerings” or “contributions” from our available funds and also to give of our time and talents.
● D&C 119:4–7 After our free-will consecration, then we are commanded to pay a tithe.
— v. 4 This is defined by the Lord as “one-tenth of our interest (income) annually.”
The First Presidency said in 1970: “For your guidance in this matter, please be advised that we have uniformly replied that the simplest statement we know of is that statement of the Lord himself that the members of the Church should pay one-tenth of all their interest annually, which is understood to mean income. No one is justified in making any other statement than this. We feel that every member of the Church should be entitled to make his own decision as to what he thinks he owes the Lord, and to make payment accordingly.”18
President Joseph Fielding Smith said, “It is remarkable how many excuses can be made and interpretations given as to what constitutes the tenth. . . . It is written, however, that as we measure it shall be measured to us again. If we are stingy with the Lord, he may be stingy with us, or in other words, withhold his blessings.”19
— v. 4 Tithing is an eternal principle, not a temporary one.
— vv. 5–7 Tithing is an essential part of our worthiness.
Apostle John Wells said, “Tithing is a fundamental principle of the gospel of Jesus Christ. To those who observe it fully there comes a deeper love of the gospel. It is just as essential to our growth and development in this Church as are repentance, baptism, or any other fundamental laws. It will develop in men and women a deeper devotion to the truth and greater willingness to serve their fellowmen; and, above all, it will increase their testimony of the gospel.”20
President Joseph F. Smith said, “By this principle, the loyalty of the people of this Church shall be put to the test. By this principle it shall be known who is for the kingdom of God and who is against it. By this principle it shall be seen whose hearts are set on doing the will of God and keeping His commandments, thereby sanctifying the land of Zion unto God, and who are opposed to this principle and have cut themselves off from the blessings of Zion. There is a great deal of importance connected with this principle, for by it shall be known whether we are faithful or unfaithful. In this respect, it is as essential as faith in God, as repentance of sin, as baptism for the remission of sin, or as the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.”21
The Promises of Tithing
● Malachi 3:8–12 The ancient prophet Malachi taught concerning tithes and offerings.
— v. 8 “Will a man rob God?” Withholding tithes is stealing the Lord’s resources.
President Spencer W. Kimball said:
“If the earth is the Lord’s, then we are merely tenants and owe our landlord an accounting. The scripture says: ‘Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s, and to God that which is God’s.’ What percentage of our increase do we pay Caesar? And what percent to God? . . .
“Would you steal a dollar from your friend? A tire from your neighbor’s car? Would you borrow a widow’s insurance money with no intent to pay? Do you rob banks? You are shocked at such suggestions. Then, would you rob your God, your Lord, who has made such generous arrangements with you?
“Do you have a right to appropriate the funds of your employer with which to pay your debts, to buy a car, to clothe your family, to feed your children, to build your home?
“Would you take from your neighbor’s funds to send your children to college or on a mission? Would you help relatives or friends with funds not your own? Some people get their standards mixed, their ideals out of line. Would you take tithes to pay your building fund or ward maintenance contribution? Would you supply gifts to the poor with someone else’s money? The Lord’s money?”22
— v. 10 We are invited to “prove” the Lord in this matter—to pay our tithing in faith and then see what He will do for us. Thus, we will gain a testimony of tithing only by actually paying it and then seeing what the Lord will do for us.
— v. 10 “Windows of heaven” means inspiration and revelation, not money. We will be blessed with inspiration to know how to obtain our resources and use them wisely. And we will receive the Holy Spirit in our lives which will bless us in a myriad of ways each day—so many that there will “not be room enough to receive” them all.
President Gordon B. Hinckley said:
“Now, do not get me wrong. I am not here to say that if you pay an honest tithing you will realize your dream of a fine house, a Rolls Royce, and a condominium in Hawaii. The Lord will open the window of heaven according to our need, and not according to our greed. If we are paying tithing to get rich, we are doing it for the wrong reason. The basic purpose for tithing is to provide the Church with the means needed to carry on His work. The blessing to the giver is an ancillary return, and that blessing may not be always in the form of financial or material benefit. . . .
“There are many ways in which the Lord can bless us beyond the riches of the world. There is the great boon of health. The Lord has promised that he will rebuke the devourer for our sakes. Malachi speaks of the fruits of our ground. May not that rebuke of the devourer apply to various of our personal efforts and concerns.
“There is the great blessing of wisdom, of knowledge, even hidden treasures of knowledge. We are promised that ours shall be a delightsome land if we will walk in obedience to this law. I can interpret the word land as people, and those who walk in obedience shall be a delightsome people. What a marvelous condition to be a delightsome people whom others would describe as blessed!”23
— v. 11 “Rebuking the devourer” means protection from temporal destruction. We can expect the Lord to keep us from being destroyed in temporal matters, though this does not suggest that we will never have difficulty. In these times of financial distress, this promise carries great comfort as we watch the world descend into financial chaos.
— v. 11 “Vines casting fruit” has to do with the “fruits” of our efforts. We can expect them to come at the right moment—not “before their time” nor “too late” to be of benefit. The timing of our blessings will be appropriate to our needs.
President Gordon B. Hinckley said:
“With all my heart, my brethren, I plead with the Latter-day Saints to live honestly with the Lord in the payment of tithes and offerings. I plead with you young men who are with us tonight to establish this habit while you are still young and to resolve to continue with it all the days of your lives. I plead with you who are Church officers to plead with the people for their benefit and blessing to increase their faithfulness in the payment of tithes and offerings.”24
Dallin H. Oaks said, “During World War II, my widowed mother supported her three young children on a schoolteacher’s salary that was meager. When I became conscious that we went without some desirable things because we didn’t have enough money, I asked my mother why she paid so much of her salary as tithing. I have never forgotten her, explanation: ‘Dallin, there might be some people who can get along without paying tithing, but we can’t. The Lord has chosen to take your father and leave me to raise you children. I cannot do that without the blessings of the Lord, and I obtain those blessings by paying an honest tithing. When I pay my tithing, I have the Lord’s promise that he will bless us, and we must have those blessings if we are to get along.'”25
What Are Tithing Funds Used For?
Dallin H. Oaks said, “[Tithing] funds are spent to build and maintain temples and houses of worship, to conduct our worldwide missionary work, to translate and publish scriptures, to provide resources to redeem the dead, to fund religious education, and to support other Church purposes selected by the designated servants of the Lord.”26
President Gordon B. Hinckley said, “There has been laid upon the Church a tremendous responsibility. Tithing is the source of income for the Church to carry forward its mandated activities. The need is always greater than the availability. God help us to be faithful in observing this great principle which comes from him with his marvelous promise.”27
● D&C 120: The Council on the Disposition of the Tithes
Elder Robert D. Hales said:
“As revealed by the Lord, the use of tithing is determined by a council comprised of the First Presidency, the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and the Presiding Bishopric. The Lord specifically states that the council’s work be directed ‘by mine own voice unto them’ [D&C 120:1]. This council is called the Council on the Disposition of the Tithes.
“It is remarkable to witness this council heed the Lord’s voice. Each member is aware of and participates in all the council’s decisions. No decision is made until the council is unanimous. All tithing funds are spent for the purposes of the Church, including welfare— care for the poor and needy—temples, buildings and upkeep of meetinghouses, education, curriculum—in short, the work of the Lord. . . .
“. . . I bear my testimony of the Council on the Disposition of the Tithes. I have sat on this council for 17 years, as the Presiding Bishop of the Church and now as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Without exception, the tithing funds of this Church have been used for His purposes.”28
1. A Comprehensive History of the Church, 1:393.
2. History of the Church, 2:52.
3. History of the Church, 3:390–391.
4. D&C Commentary, 742.
5. D&C Commentary, 743.
6. History of the Church, 3:34–35.
7. History of the Church, 3:39.
8. Whitney, Life of Heber C. Kimball, 209.
9. In Journal of Discourses, 18:343.
10. In Journal of Discourses, 2:342.
11. Church History and Modern Revelation, 3:113.
12. History of the Church, 3:386–387.
13. Way to Perfection, 290–291.
14. Church History and Modern Revelation, 2:97–98.
15. Church History and Modern Revelation, 2:96.
16. In Journal of Discourses, 9:106.
17. Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3:446.
18. First Presidency Letter, March 19, 1970.
19. Church History and Modern Revelation, 2:92.
20. In Conference Report, Apr. 1926, 121.
21. In Conference Report, Apr. 1926, 47.
22. Faith Precedes the Miracle, 282–83, 289–290.
23. General Conference Address, April 1982, Ensign, May 1982, 40.
24. General Conference Address, April 1982, Ensign, May 1982, 41.
25. In Conference Report, Apr. 1994, 43–44; or Ensign, May 1994, 33.
26. In Conference Report, Apr. 1994, 46; or Ensign, May 1994, 35.
27. General Conference Address, April 1982, Ensign, May 1982, 41.
28. “Tithing: A Test of Faith with Eternal Blessings,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2002, 28.