Monday, August 2, 2021

For My LDS Readers: D&C 84:1-5

Kirtland Temple in Kirtland, Ohio.
 If you are following the schedule in "Come Follow Me," your Sunday School lesson yesterday should have covered Doctrine & Covenants § 84. And, if your class was like mine, you probably concentrated on the verses discussing the priesthood. But the first bit of D&C 84 is a rather amazing bit of prophecy.

    The background for Section 84 is as follows: "Revelation given through Joseph Smith the Prophet, at Kirtland, Ohio, September 22 and 23, 1832. During the month of September, elders had begun to return from their missions in the eastern states and to make reports of their labors. It was while they were together in this season of joy that the following communication was received. The Prophet designated it a revelation on priesthood." It is not known what portions were received on September 22 versus September 23, but it is believed that everything up through verse 110 was received on September 22, and verse 111 to the end was received the next day.

    The first five verses read as follows (footnotes omitted):

1 A revelation of Jesus Christ unto his servant Joseph Smith, Jun., and six elders, as they united their hearts and lifted their voices on high.

2 Yea, the word of the Lord concerning his church, established in the last days for the restoration of his people, as he has spoken by the mouth of his prophets, and for the gathering of his saints to stand upon Mount Zion, which shall be the city of New Jerusalem.

3 Which city shall be built, beginning at the temple lot, which is appointed by the finger of the Lord, in the western boundaries of the State of Missouri, and dedicated by the hand of Joseph Smith, Jun., and others with whom the Lord was well pleased.

4 Verily this is the word of the Lord, that the city New Jerusalem shall be built by the gathering of the saints, beginning at this place, even the place of the temple, which temple shall be reared in this generation.

5 For verily this generation shall not all pass away until an house shall be built unto the Lord, and a cloud shall rest upon it, which cloud shall be even the glory of the Lord, which shall fill the house.

Verses 1 and 2 should not be anything new as it is one of the fundamental beliefs of the Church that the New Jerusalem will be built upon the American continent (see the Tenth Article of Faith).  Verse 3 was not really new either, inasmuch as it indicated that the New Jerusalem would be built in the region of Independence, Missouri, something previously revealed to Joseph Smith in July 1831, and recorded in D&C 57.

    Of course, as we know, the Church was never able to build a temple in Independence nor establish that area as a place of gathering for the Church. In July 1833, mobs formed to drive the Saints from Jackson County, Missouri. Eventually, an agreement was reached wherein it was agreed that the Saints would leave by the beginning of 1834 if the mob would leave the Saints alone. Notwithstanding the agreement, in early November 1833, the Saints were driven from their homes and forced to march north on foot across the frozen ground. "During the next two days more than 1,000 Saints fled from their enemies in the bitter cold. One group of 190, mostly women and children, were driven thirty miles over sharp prairie stubble, which cut their feet as they fled. Most of the Saints camped along the banks of the Missouri River, some in tents and some in the open air around campfires, while heavy rain fell."

    This is important because Section 84, given back in September 1832, seems at a cursory glance to state that the Church would build a temple and gather in Jackson County, Missouri. In fact, anti-Mormons use Section 84:4-5 as an example of a failed revelation and evidence that Joseph Smith wasn't a prophet. 

    But is that really what it says? Verse 4 states: "... that the city New Jerusalem shall be built by the gathering of the saints, beginning at this place, even the place of the temple, which temple shall be reared in this generation." If you are sloppy in your English, you might see "this place" as referring to the location of the New Jerusalem in verse 3. But, applying correct grammar, if the reference was to the location in Jackson County, Missouri, it would have said "that place" or something more wordy ("the aforementioned place"). "This place" is incorrect as to Jackson County because when the revelation was given, Joseph Smith was not in Missouri, but was in fact in Kirtland, Ohio. In other words, "this place" was, when the revelation received, in Kirtland.

    And what happened in Kirtland? Well, as verse 5 states, a "house [was] built unto the Lord, and a cloud [did] rest upon it, which cloud [was] even the glory of the Lord, which [did] fill the house." The "house" was the Kirtland Temple, which the Lord issued a commandment in December 1832 (just a few months later) to be built. It was dedicated on March 27, 1836, and accompanied by many marvels and visions, including the Shekinah Glory resting on the temple;  Moses, Elias, and Elijah also appeared to Joseph and Oliver Cowdery to restore priesthood keys for the salvation of all mankind (i.e., the gathering of the Saints). In other words, verses 4-5 were literally fulfilled.

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