Church History Lesson 20 (D&C 49–50)
THE MINISTRY TO THE QUAKERS
The Prophet Joseph Smith said, “At about this time [March 1831] came Leman Copley, one of the sect called Shaking Quakers, and embraced the fulness of the everlasting Gospel, apparently honest-hearted, but still retaining the idea that the Shakers were right in some particulars of their faith. In order to have more perfect understanding on the subject, I inquired of the Lord, and received [Doctrine and Covenants 49].”1
Smith and Sjodahl said, “Leman Copley had been a Shaker. When he embraced the gospel he was anxious to impart the truth to his former associates. He was, therefore, by revelation, chosen to accompany Sidney Rigdon and Parley Pratt on a mission to them.”2
Preaching to the Shakers
● D&C 49:1 In March, 1831, the Lord called Sidney Rigdon, Parley Pratt, and Leman Copley on a mission to the Shakers.
● A few months earlier, Elder Pratt and others, while on a mission to the Lamanites, had stopped at North Union for two nights and one day and worked among the Shakers, leaving seven copies of the Book of Mormon.
● In May, 1831, when these missionaries arrived at the Shaker village, things went well between the missionaries and the Shakers until the conclusion of the evening service on the Sabbath. During that service Elder Rigdon asked for permission to deliver to the Shakers a revelation from Jesus Christ given through Joseph Smith. Granted permission, he read Doctrine and Covenants 49.
● D&C 49 corrected many of the Shaker doctrines:
— God both male and female (v. 5)
— Christ is infused in Ann Lee (founder of the Shakers), and in her the Second Coming is fulfilled (vv. 7, 11–12)
— Confession alone brings forgiveness—no outward ordinances are needed (vv. 13–14)
— People can live without sin (v. 8)
— Celibacy is a higher law than marriage (v. 15)
— Pork is forbidden—many Shakers ate no meat (vv. 18–19)
● At the conclusion of his reading of the revelation, Elder Rigdon asked the Shakers if they were willing to be baptized for the remission of sins and receive the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost. Ashbel Kitchell, the leader of the group of Shakers said that he did not believe that God was the author of the revelation. Elder Rigdon told Kitchell he wanted to hear if this was also the desire of the community. The congregation said they were “fully satisfied” with what they had and wished to have nothing to do with either the missionaries or “their Christ.”3
● No converts resulted from the labors of these missionaries. In addition, Leman Copley apostatized from the Church and returned to the Shakers, apparently because he still retained the idea that “the Shakers were right in some particulars of their faith.”4
● Leman Copley’s apostasy brought some problems upon the Church, especially for the Colesville Saints, who at that time resided at Thompson, Ohio. Copley had promised to give his large farm of almost 1000 acres to the Church so that the Colesville Saints could live the Law of Consecration on that property. When Copley apostatized he reclaimed his land and approximately 100 Saints in Thompson were therefore prevented from keeping their covenant to live the law of consecration.
● In 1836 Leman Copley was re-baptized into the Church.5
● D&C 49:8 Holy men—translated beings.
President Joseph Fielding Smith said, “’Holy men that ye know not of,’ who were without sin, and reserved unto the Lord, are translated persons such as John the Revelator and the Three Nephites, who do not belong to this generation and yet are in the flesh in the earth performing a special ministry until the coming of Jesus Christ.”6
● D&C 49:10 Nations will bow to the gospel.
REFUTATIONS OF SHAKER DOCTRINES
Marriage Is Ordained of God
● D&C 49:5–17 Marriage is ordained of God . . . that it [the earth] might be filled with the measure of man, according to his creation before the world was made.”
President Harold B. Lee said, “If I were to name the first thing that impressed me always in these fine Latter-day Saint homes, I would say it was a love for and a desire for children. These are homes where the having of children was not delayed because of some social or educational or financial objective, and where the size of the families has not been limited by the practice of birth control.”7
— D&C 104:17–18 The Myth of Overpopulation: The Lord prepared the earth with sufficient resources for all his children.
Elder James E. Talmage said, “The population of the earth is fixed according to the number of spirits appointed to take tabernacles of flesh upon this planet; when these have all come forth in the order and time appointed, then, and not till then, shall the end come.”8
Eating Meat Is Not Forbidden
● D&C 49:19 Meat is ordained for the use of man. . . .
● D&C 49:21 . . . .but is not to be wasted.
President Joseph Fielding Smith said, “The killing of animals just for sport is a sin. . . . The Lord pronounced a woe on whosoever wasteth flesh and hath no need and who needlessly shed the blood of his creatures . . . It is a grievous sin in the sight of God to kill merely for sport. Such a thing shows a weakness in the spiritual character of the individual. We cannot restore life when it is taken, and all creatures have the right to enjoy life and happiness on the earth where the Lord has placed them. Only for food and then sparingly, should flesh be eaten, for all life is from God and is eternal.”9
THE COMING MILLENNIUM
● D&C 49:23 Great changes in the earth before Millennium.
● D&C 49:24 The Lamanites will blossom as a rose.
President Wilford Woodruff said, “Zion is bound to rise and flourish. The Lamanites will blossom as the rose on the mountains. . . . Every word that God has ever said of them will have its fulfillment, and they, by and by, will receive the Gospel. It will be a day of God’s power among them, and a nation will be born in a day.”10
● D&C 49:25 Zion shall be gathered and flourish and rejoice upon the mountains.
The Prophet Joseph Smith said, “I want to say to you before the Lord, that you know no more concerning the destinies of this Church and kingdom than a babe upon its mother’s lap. You don’t comprehend it . . . It is only a little handful of Priesthood you see here tonight, but this Church will fill North and South America—it will fill the world. . . . It will fill the Rocky Mountains. There will be tens of thousands of Latter-day Saints who will be gathered in the Rocky Mountains and there they will open the door for the establishing of the Gospel among the Lamanites, . . . This people will go into the Rocky Mountains; they will there build temples to the Most High. They will raise up a posterity there, and the Latter-day Saints who dwell in these mountains will stand in the flesh until the coming of the Son of Man. The Son of Man will come to them while in the Rocky Mountains.”11
● D&C 49:27 Christ will be in the midst of his missionaries.
FALSE SPIRITS AMONG US
● D&C 50:1–3 False spirits seek to confuse and deceive us.
Elder Parley Pratt said, “As I went forth among the different branches, some very strange spiritual operations were manifested, which were disgusting, rather than edifying. Some persons would seem to swoon away, and make unseemly gestures, and be drawn or disfigured in their countenances. Others would fall into ecstacies, and be drawn into contortions, cramp, fits, etc. Others would seem to have visions and revelations, which were not edifying, and which were not congenial to the doctrine and spirit of the gospel. In short, a false and lying spirit seemed to be creeping into the Church.
“All these things were new and strange to me, and had originated in the Church during our absence, and previous to the arrival of President Joseph Smith from New York. Feeling our weakness and inexperience, and lest we should err in judgment concerning these spiritual phenomena, myself, John Murdock, and several other Elders, went to Joseph Smith, and asked him to inquire of the Lord concerning these spirits or manifestations.”12
TEACHING AND LEARNING BY THE SPIRIT
● D&C 50:10–14 Elders are to preach the gospel by the Spirit.
● D&C 50:15–22 Both preachers and hearers need to be enlightened by the Spirit; otherwise, no communication of spiritual truth is possible.
● D&C 50:23–25 That which does not edify is not of God.
● D&C 50:31-32 How to discern the source of a manifestation.
1. History of the Church, 1:167.
2. Doctrine and Covenants Commentary, 282.
3. Kitchell Journal, 13.
4. History of the Church, 1:167.
5. History of the Church, 2:433.
6. Church History and Modern Revelation, 1:192.
7. In Conference Report, Oct. 1948, 52.
8. Articles of Faith, 194.
9. Church History and Modern Revelation, 1:193.
10. In Journal of Discourses, 15:282.
11. Quoted by President Wilford Woodruff, in Conference Report, Apr. 1898, 57.
12. Autobiography of Parley Pratt, 61–62.