Doctrine & Covenants Lesson 14 (D&C 30–36)
March 27–April 2
THE FIRST MISSIONARIES
In 1830, shortly after the Church was organized, the Lord sent forth the early leaders of His Kingdom to preach the gospel to the world. Doctrine and Covenants sections 30 through 36 contain the call to these early brethren. From these revelations, we can learn concerning our own responsibility to preach the gospel in these latter days.
Samuel Smith’s First Mission
Joseph Fielding Smith said:
“In the month of June 1830, Samuel Harrison Smith was set apart by the Prophet to take a missionary journey to the east. This may be termed the first missionary journey in the Church. Taking with him several copies of the Book of Mormon, he started on his way. The first day he traveled twenty-five miles, and on the way attempted to sell copies of the book, but without success . . .
“Samuel was discouraged but continued on his journey. That night he slept under an apple tree. In the morning he called at the home of John Greene, a Methodist minister. Mr. Greene was just leaving on a preaching tour and like the others who had been approached, he was not interested in the book. However, he manifested a friendly spirit, and at the earnest solicitation of Samuel, consented to take a subscription paper and try to sell copies of the book. Thereupon Samuel left him a copy of the Book of Mormon with the understanding that he would call again in about two weeks. . . .
“He returned home after his labors were finished, feeling that his work had proved to be fruitless. More out of curiosity than desire, both Mr. Greene and his wife read the book and were deeply impressed. The copy Samuel left with John Greene was placed by the latter in the hands of members of the Young family, which was the first direct information to Brigham Young, and his brothers and some of their friends, including Heber C. Kimball, of the restoration of the Gospel.”1
D&C 30 Instruction to the Whitmers
This revelation was received by the Prophet Joseph Smith at Fayette in September 1830. Originally it was published as three revelations in the Book of Commandments, but later the Prophet combined them into one section in the 1835 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants. The first four verses are a rebuke to David Whitmer for listening to Hiram Page and using his influence over other members of the family in favor of the supposed seer-stone. The remaining verses give instructions concerning missionary work to Peter and John Whitmer.
● D&C 30:5–8 Peter Whitmer is called to accompany Parley Pratt on a mission to the Lamanites.
— v. 5 Fear not, and rely on your companions to help you.
● D&C 30:9–11 John Whitmer is called to labor among the saints in Zion.
— He was very active in the Church as an aid to the Prophet.
— He assisted in the compilation of the Revelations.
— He was one of 7 High Priests appointed to preside in Jackson County.
— He was Church historian and editor of important Church publications.
— In the end, however, he did not remain faithful.
— v. 11 Do not fear man, because God will be with you.
D&C 32 The Mission to the Lamanites — Parley Pratt & Ziba Peterson
● D&C 28:8 One of the first missionary efforts of this dispensation was among the Lamanites. The first such mission call was that given to Oliver Cowdery.
— On September 26, 1830, a conference of the Church convened at Fayette, New York. During this conference a great interest was manifested towards the Lamanites. Joseph Smith inquired of the Lord and received Doctrine and Covenants 30 and 32, which, among other things, called Peter Whitmer, Parley Pratt, and Ziba Peterson to assist Oliver Cowdery in his missionary labors among the Lamanites. Their assignment is generally recognized as the first formal mission call in the history of the Church.
● D&C 32:1 Parley Pratt is admonished to be meek and lowly of heart.
● The Lamanite missionaries commenced their work with the Catteraugus tribe near Buffalo, New York. Here they were fairly well-received, and after leaving copies of the Book of Mormon they continued their journey west.
● Near Kirtland, Ohio, they taught the gospel to a minister friend of Parley Pratt, Sidney Rigdon, and his congregation. What probably was thought to have been a diversion from the missionaries’ major purpose turned out to be a significant accomplishment. Reverend Rigdon had preached the need for a restoration of Christ’s primitive church. With such beliefs, Rigdon and many of his congregation accepted the missionaries’ message and joined the Church. The missionaries then continued their journey westward toward Missouri.
Parley Pratt said:
“In the beginning of 1831 we renewed our journey; and, passing through St. Louis and St. Charles, on foot for hundred miles through vast prairies and rough trackless wilds of snow—no beaten road; houses few and far between; and the bleak northwest wind always blowing in our faces a keenness which would almost take the skin off the face. We travelled for whole days, from morning till night, without a house or fire, wading in snow to the knees at every step, and the cold so intense that the snow did not melt on the south side of the houses, even in the midday sun or nearly six weeks. We carried on our backs our changes of clothing, several books, and corn bread and raw pork. We often ate our frozen bread and pork by the way, when the bread would be so frozen that we could not bite or penetrate any part of it but the outside crust. After much fatigue and some suffering we all arrived in Independence, in the county of Jackson, on the extreme western frontiers of Missouri and of the United States.”2
● Upon arriving at Independence, two of the missionaries worked for a time to help finance their mission. The other three continued a short distance to the Delaware Indian lands. The Indians were at first suspicious of the missionaries because they had been exploited by some previous Christian missionaries, but this suspicion was soon lessened by a moving speech by Oliver Cowdery.
● Chief Anderson of the Delaware Tribe was very impressed and asked the missionaries to remain during the winter and teach them the Book of Mormon. Success appeared imminent, but it was shattered when other Christian missionaries influenced the Indian agent to evict the Mormon elders from Indian lands. Asked to leave, the disappointed missionaries made their way back to Independence where they stayed, with the exception of Parley Pratt. Elder Pratt had been chosen to report the missionaries’ labors to Joseph Smith and to visit the Saints they had left behind in Kirtland.
● The missionaries who remained in Independence could have wondered what had accomplished if they had considered only their influence among the Lamanites. Often we are called to a work only to find t .tit takes us in an entirely different direction we anticipated. If we remember that we are called to serve the Lord then it does not matter in what direction the Lord takes us. The only thing that matters is that we do the work.
D&C 31 Revelation to Thomas B. Marsh
● He embraced the gospel after receiving witness of 16 pages of the Book of Mormon.
● His wife was similarly converted, and both believed it was of God.
● They moved to Palmyra and were baptized by David Whitmer in September, 1830.
● Elder Marsh had just been baptized into the Church and ordained an elder by Oliver Cowdery.
● Marsh later moved to Kirtland where he was called as an Apostle in 1835.
● Three years later he became disaffected during a wave of apostasy and apostatized.
● He was re-baptized on July 16, 1857, in Florence, Nebraska, and arrived in Utah in September 1857.
● After his return to the Church was approved by Church leaders he settled in Spanish Fork, Utah.
● He taught school there and was re-ordained an elder in 1859 and then a high priest in 1861.
● He received the endowment and was sealed to Hannah Adams in the Endowment House in 1862.
● D&C 31:1 “Blessed are you because of your faith.”
● D&C 31:2, 9 Family unity Is essential in God’s work.
Bruce R. McConkie said:
“The great work of every man is . . . to create and perfect an eternal family unit. . . . Salvation is a family affair.”3
● D&C 31:3–4 “Your tongue shall be loosed”—while faithful, Marsh was an eloquent speaker.
● D&C 31:8 “They shall be gathered”—one of the first indications of the coming gathering
● D&C 31:9–13 The Lord knew the dangers threatening Thomas B. Marsh and warned him of them.
D&C 33 Revelation to Ezra Thayer and Northrop Sweet
“Ezra Thayer wrote that sometime before he was baptized, he had a vision in which ‘a man came and brought me a roll of paper and presented it to me, and also a trumpet and told me to [play] it. I told him that I never [played] any in my life. He said you can [play] it, try it. . . . It made the most beautiful sound that I ever heard.’4 When Joseph Smith later received a revelation for Ezra Thayer and Northrop Sweet, now recorded as Doctrine and Covenants 33 [see below], Ezra interpreted the revelation as the roll of paper in his vision.”5
This revelation was given in October 1830 at Fayette to Ezra Thayer and Northrop Sweet, who had sought the will of the Lord concerning their role in the Restoration. Ezra Thayre had provided employment for Joseph Smith Sr. in New York and was later baptized by Parley Pratt in October of 1830. He was ordained an elder and a high priest, participated in missionary work (though with some degree of reluctance), and later became disaffected. Northrop Sweet was also baptized by Parley Pratt in October 1830 and was ordained an elder the following June. At first, he accepted the revelation but soon fell away from the restored Church.
● D&C 33:2–4 The spiritual condition of the world in 1830. Is it any better today?
● D&C 33:8–11 Open your mouth and it shall be filled.
● D&C 33:12–14 This is the Lord’s gospel, without which men cannot be saved.
● D&C 33:17 Living the gospel prepares us to meet the Lord when he comes.
● Three images from Hebrew culture appear in these verses:
— v. 5 The Church “called out of the wilderness”—imagery of restoration from apostasy
— v. 10 “Make the paths of the Lord straight”—something done for kings as they traveled.
— vv. 17–18 A reference to the parable of the Ten Virgins, where oil is equated with prayer.
D&C 34 Revelation to Orson Pratt
The Prophet Joseph Smith said:
“In the forepart of November, Orson Pratt, a young man nineteen years of age, who had been baptized at the first preaching of his brother, Parley Pratt, September 19th (his birthday), about six weeks previous, in Canaan, New York, came to inquire of the Lord what his duty was, and received the following answer: [D&C 34].”6
● D&C 34:1–3 Jesus loved us so much that he was willing to give his life for us.
● D&C 34:5–10 “Teach my gospel [and] prophesy”—his writings are full of prophetic insights
● All of the promises made to Orson Pratt in Doctrine and Covenants 34 were realized.
● He was heard throughout the world, as the silver trumpets of the sons of Aaron were heard.
● His ministry was “long”—He was a missionary from 1830 until 1881, a total of 51 years.
● He was a member of the Council of Twelve for 46 years—longer than any other man appointed in 1835
D&C 35 Revelation to Sidney Rigdon
● Sidney Rigdon became a Baptist minister at age 25 and took charge of a church at Pittsburgh, Pa.
● He became convinced that some of the doctrines of the Baptists were not Scriptural and resigned.
● He became acquainted with Alexander Campbell, the founder of the church known as “Campbellites.”
● In the fall of 1830, Parley Pratt and others on a mission to the Lamanites called at his house in Ohio
● Parley, who knew him, presented him a copy of the Book of Mormon and related its story.
● He believed and was baptized, as were many members of his church in that vicinity.
● Sidney Rigdon and Edward Partridge shortly afterward went to Fayette to visit the Prophet.
● While there, they sought to know the will of God concerning them.
● D&C 35:1–2 The Savior’s work is “one eternal round”—eternal, without beginning or end.
● D&C 35:3–6 Sidney Rigdon prepared the way by teaching Biblical truths to his congregation, but now he could now do a “greater work.”
● D&C 35:5–10 He would become a scribe for Joseph Smith. He would also have the fulness of the gospel, the priesthood. and the power to confer the Holy Ghost.
● D&C 35:17–20 Sidney would have the privilege of writing for the Prophet. Soon after this time, Joseph began a new translation of the scriptures, which Sidney helped him with.
● D&C 35:23 The commandment to “call on the holy prophets to prove his [Joseph Smith’s] words” meant that Sidney Rigdon was to use his knowledge of the words of the prophets in the scriptures to show that Joseph Smith taught the truth.
D&C 36 Revelation to Edward Partridge
● At age 20 Edward was impressed with the need for a “universal restoration” and joined the Campbellites.
● He first heard the gospel in Kirtland, Ohio, at the same time as Sidney Rigdon.
● He obtained a copy of the Book of Mormon and began to investigate.
● Shortly thereafter he traveled with Sidney Rigdon to New York, arriving in Fayette in December 1830.
● On the 11th of December, he was baptized by the Prophet Joseph.
● He was called to the Bishopric on February 4th, 1831, and the Lord declared that he was pure before Him.
● Edward Partridge died in Nauvoo, May 27th, 1840, the same year in which Joseph Smith, Sr., died.
● D&C 36:1 Christ Is the “Mighty One of Israel”—Jehovah, the Lord of Hosts of the Old Testament
● D&C 36:2 “I will lay my hand upon you”—recently baptized, he is promised the gift of the Holy Ghost
● D&C 36:6 “Come forth out of the fire, hating even the garments spotted with the flesh”
Bruce R. McConkie said:
“To stay the spread of disease in ancient Israel, clothing spotted by contagious diseases was destroyed by burning. (Lev. 13:47–59; 15:4–17). And so with sin in the Church, the saints are to avoid the remotest contact with it; the very garments, as it were, of the sinners are to be burned with fire, meaning that anything which has had contact with the pollutions of the wicked must be shunned. And so also with those yet in the world who are invited to join the kingdom.”7
● D&C 36:7 To embrace a commandment with “singleness of heart” is to have the heart or feelings concentrated upon the Lord’s will without vacillating.
● D&C 36:8 “Gird up your loins”—a Biblical idiom meaning to prepare for a journey, or for work. The Hebrews wore girdles [sashes] when traveling, and when at work. On such occasions, they girt their clothes about them [by tucking them under the sash] to ensure free movement of the limbs.
1. Essentials in Church History, 88–89.
2. Autobiography of Parley Pratt, 52.
3. In Conference Report, Apr. 1970, 26–27.
4. “Revelation, October 1830–B, Revelation Book 1,” historical introduction, josephsmithpapers.org.
5. Doctrine and Covenants 2021, Come Follow Me—For Sunday School: Living, Learning, and Teaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ., 31.
6. History of the Church, 1:127–128.
7. Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3:428.