Doctrine and Covenants Lesson 24 (D&C 63)
The Prophet Joseph Smith and the elders had just concluded a spiritual and historic month (August 1831). They had gone from Kirtland by the commandment of the Lord (D&C 52:3) to Missouri, where the following events took place:
— First log laid for the founding of Zion
— The land of Zion consecrated
— Site for the future temple dedicated
— First conference held in Zion
Then, according to instruction (D&C 58:58) the Prophet, Oliver Cowdery, and Sidney Rigdon returned to Kirtland, arriving on August 27, 1831.
● Sections 63 and 64 were the first revelations given after the Prophet’s return to Kirtland, bringing news that the center place of Zion was now known.
President Joseph Fielding Smith wrote, “When the report spread among the members of the Church that the Lord had revealed definitely where the city New Jerusalem was to be built, naturally there was rejoicing and many expressed the desire to know what they were to do in order to obtain inheritances. The Lord has given instruction repeatedly that all who go to Zion shall obey His law—the celestial law on which Zion was to be built. Those who were weak in the faith, or indifferent to the commandments, were warned that they would not be made welcome in that land unless they repented. ‘Hearken, O ye people, and open your hearts and give ear from afar; and listen, you that call yourselves the people of the Lord, and hear the word of the Lord and his will concerning you.’ These are the words by which this revelation is introduced.”1
The Prophet Joseph Smith said, “In these infant days of the Church, there was great anxiety to obtain the word of the Lord upon every subject that in any way concerned our salvation; and as the land of Zion was now the most important temporal object in view, I enquired of the Lord for further information upon the gathering of the Saints, and the purchase of the land, and other matters.”2
REBUKING THE UNRIGHTEOUS
Section 63 is addressed to “you that call yourselves the people of the Lord.” The Lord condemns impurities of the heart and raises his voice in warning to the “wicked and rebellious.”
● D&C 63:1–6 A day of wrath shall come upon the wicked.
Rebuking Sign Seekers
● D&C 63:7–13 Sign seekers. Counsel regarding the seeking of signs was particularly appropriate at this time, since certain members had come into the Church seeking signs. Some were professing prophecy and revelations; others required miracles without the necessary faith and works. Among those were Ezra Booth and Simon Ryder.
The Prophet Joseph Smith said, “Ezra Booth . . . came into the Church upon seeing a person healed of an infirmity of many years standing. He had been a Methodist priest for some time previous to his embracing the fulness of the Gospel . . . and upon his admission to the Church he was ordained an Elder. . . .He went up to Missouri as a companion of Elder Morley; but when he actually learned that faith, humility, patience, and tribulation go before blessing, and that God brings low before He exalts . . . then he was disappointed . . . and became an apostate.”3
Simon Ryder’s conversion to the gospel [came] through the fulfillment of a prophecy relating to an earthquake in Peking, China. He lost faith in the Church when he received a letter from the Prophet that it was the will of the Lord that he should preach the gospel. In the letter, his name was spelled Rider instead of Ryder. He felt that if the Spirit by which he had been called had erred in the spelling of his name, it might have erred in his calling to preach, and thus came his apostasy.4
The Prophet Joseph Smith said, “I will give you one of the Keys of the mysteries of the Kingdom. It is an eternal principle, that has existed with God from all eternity: That man who rises up to condemn others, finding fault with the Church, saying that they are out of the way, while he himself is righteous, then know assuredly, that that man is in the high road to apostasy; and if he does not repent, will apostatize, as God lives. The principle is as correct as the one that Jesus put forth in saying that he who seeketh a sign is an adulterous person; and that principle is eternal, undeviating, and firm as the pillars of heaven; for whenever you see a man seeking after a sign, you may set it down that he is an adulterous man.”5
President Brigham Young said, “When the voice of the Good Shepherd is heard, the honest in heart believe and receive it. It is good to taste with the inward taste, to see with the inward eyes, and to enjoy with the sensations of the ever-living spirit. No person, unless he is an adulterer, a fornicator, covetous, or an idolater, will ever require a miracle; in other words, no good, honest person ever will.”6
● D&C 63:14–16 Adulterers. Those who commit adultery—and even those who allow themselves to lust after another—will lose the spirit and deny the faith.
President David O. McKay said, “Let me make it simple. Many years ago a young man came to me while I was president of the European Mission and made a confession of a wrong and sinful act. He justified himself by saying that he happened to be in a bookstore at the closing hour, and when the door was locked he yielded to temptation. He rather blamed the circumstances for his fall. But I said, ‘It wasn’t the circumstances; it wasn’t the locked door, nor the enticement. You had thought of that before you went to that bookstore. If you had never thought of that act, there would have been no circumstance strong enough to entice or to tempt you, a missionary to fall. The thought always precedes the act'”7
Sister Linda S. Reeves, former member of the Relief Society General Presidency, taught:
“I know of nothing that will qualify us for the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost as much as virtue. . . .
“When we are involved in watching, reading, or experiencing anything that is below our Heavenly Father’s standards, it weakens us. Regardless of our age, if what we look at, read, listen to, or choose to do does not meet the Lord’s standards in For the Strength of Youth, turn it off, rip it up, throw it out, and slam the door. . . .
“. . . I believe that I we could daily remember and recognize the depth of love our Heavenly Father and our Savior have for us, we would be willing to do anything to be back in Their presence again, surrounded by Their love eternally.”8
Other Forms of Wickedness
● D&C 63:17–19 Unbelievers, whoremongers, liars, and sorcerers. None of these will have part in the first resurrection.
● D&C 63:20–21 “The earth will pass through two changes which might be called transfigurations: (1) At the beginning of the Millennium, it will be raised from its present telestial to a terrestrial state, and only the righteous will have a place on earth at that time. (2) After the thousand years are ended, the earth will be celestialized and the faithful who are worthy of that glory will receive their permanent inheritance thereon.”9
Gathering to the Land of Zion
● D&C 63:22–31 Instructions for gathering to the land of Zion:
— v. 24 Do not gather in haste.
— vv. 25–31 Zion is to be purchased with money; otherwise, it can only be done through bloodshed.
President Joseph Fielding Smith wrote, “This fact was taught the early members. They were warned against creating antagonism among their neighbors, many of whom were extremely bitter towards the members of the Church. The Lord said the land could not be obtained by the shedding of blood. Those who had the privilege of assembling there should not go up to Zion in haste, but gradually. The reason for this advice is apparent, for haste would lead to confusion, unsatisfactory conditions and pestilence, and then, also, it creates consternation and fear in the hearts of their enemies and arouses greater opposition. Satan desired to destroy them and in his anger endeavored to stir them up to strife and contention as well as the older settlers in Missouri.”10
Elder B. H. Roberts said, “The saints had been commanded to purchase lands in western Missouri and no hope was ever given that they could obtain them in any other way . . . And so the event turned out. The saints failed to respond with . . . promptness to the commandment to purchase the land of Zion; and all that was predicted in the revelation befell them.”11
Preparing for the Second Coming
● D&C 63:32–37 We gather together to prepare against a day of war and desolation, which even the Saints shall “hardly escape.”
The Prophet Joseph Smith said, “It is a false idea that the Saints will escape all the judgments, whilst the wicked suffer; for all flesh is subject to suffer, and ‘the righteous shall hardly escape;’ still many of the Saints will escape; for the just shall live by faith; yet many of the righteous shall fall a prey to disease, to pestilence, etc., by reason of the weakness of the flesh, and yet be saved in the Kingdom of God. So that it is an unhallowed principle to say that such and such have transgressed because they have been preyed upon by disease or death, for all flesh is subject to death; and the Savior has said, ‘Judge not, lest ye be judged.'”12
● D&C 63:49–51 The Lord concludes D&C 63 with a preview of the resurrection, millennial conditions, and the nearness of the second coming of the Lord.
● D&C 63:53–54 The coming of the Lord is near, and those that are wise will be prepared.
● D&C 63:57–63 Because the time is short, we must not engage in lengthy arguments or speeches. The Lord condemns those who “take his name in their lips” without proper authority.
Keeping Sacred Things Sacred
● D&C 63:64 That which we receive from God is sacred and should be shared with care and under the direction of the Spirit.
Elder Boyd K. Packer said, “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. I am ever mindful of Alma’s words (Alma 12:9). . . .”13
Elder Packer also taught:
“A teacher must be wise also in the use of his own spiritual experiences. I have come to believe that deep spiritual experiences are given to individuals for the most part for their own instruction and edification, and they are not ordinarily to be talked about. . . .
“There is also a scripture that says: ‘Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.’ (Matthew 7:6.) Sacred personal experiences are to be related only on rare occasions.
“I made a rule for myself a number of years ago with reference to this subject. When someone relates a spiritual experience to me, personally or in a small, intimate group, I make it a rigid rule not to talk about it thereafter. I assume that it was told to me in a moment of trust and confidence, and therefore I never talk about it. If, however, on some future occasion I hear that individual talk about it in public in a large gathering, or where a number of people are present, then I know that it has been stated publicly and I can feel free under the right circumstances to relate it. But I know many, many sacred and important things that have been related to me by others that I will not discuss unless I am privileged to do so under the rule stated above. I know that others of the Brethren have the same feeling.”14
Elder Marion G. Romney said, “I do not tell all I know. I have not told my wife all I know. I have found that if I tell everything I know and explain every experience that I have had, the Lord will not trust me.”15
1. Church History and Modern Revelation, 1:229.
2. History of the Church, 1:207.
3. History of the Church, 1:215–216.
4. History of the Church, 1:260–261, footnote.
5. Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 156–157.
6. Discourses of Brigham Young, 340.
7. “Cleanliness Is Next to Godliness,” Instructor, Mar. 1965, 86.
8. “Worthy of Our Promised Blessings,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2015, 10–11.
9. Cowan, Doctrine and Covenants, 101.
10. Church History and Modern Revelation, 1:232.
11. A Comprehensive History of the Church, 1:264.
12. History of the Church, 4:11.
13. Ensign, Jan. 1983, 53.
14. Teach Ye Diligently , 326.
15. Quoted by Boyd K. Packer, Church Employees Lecture Series, January 18, 1980.