DC 41 Historical Background
The latter part of January , in company with Brothers Sidney Rigdon and Edward Partridge, I started with my wife for Kirtland, Ohio, where we arrived about the first of February, and were kindly received and welcomed into the house of Brother Newel K. Whitney. My wife and I lived in the family of Brother Whitney several weeks, and received every kindness and attention which could be expected, and especially from Sister Whitney. (History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1: 145-146.)
B. H. Roberts
In the Whitney family folk lore the incident of the Prophet's arrival at Kirtland is thus related: "About the first of February, 1831, a sleigh containing four persons drove through the streets of Kirtland and drew up in front of the store of Gilbert and Whitney. One of the men, a young and stalwart personage alighted, and springing up the steps walked into the store and to where the junior partner was standing. 'Newel K. Whitney! Thou art the man!' he exclaimed, extending his hand cordially, as if to an old and familiar acquaintance. 'You have the advantage of me,' replied the merchant, as he mechanically took the proffered hand, 'I could not call you by name as you have me.' 'I am Joseph the Prophet,' said the stranger smiling. 'You've prayed me here, now what do you want of me?'" The Prophet, it is said, while in the East had seen the Whitneys, in vision, praying for his coming to Kirtland. "Mother Whitney" also tells how on a certain night prior to the advent of Elder Cowdery and his companions, while she and her husband were praying to the Lord to know how they might obtain the gift of the Holy Ghost, which of all things they desired, they saw a vision as of a cloud of glory resting upon their house, and heard a voice from heaven saying, "Prepare to receive the word of the Lord, for it is coming." Shortly afterwards Oliver Cowdery and his associates came with the Book of Mormon, and with the message of the restored Gospel. (History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1:146, footnote)
Elizabeth Ann Whitney
Joseph Smith, with his wife, Emma, and a servant girl, came to Kirtland in a sleigh early in 1831; they drove up in front of my husband's store. Joseph jumped out and went in; he reached his hand across the counter to my husband and called him by name. My husband spoke, saying: "I could not call you by name as you have me."
He answered, "I am Joseph the Prophet; you have prayed me here, now what do you want of me?"
My husband brought them directly to our own house. I remarked to my husband that this was the fulfillment of the vision we had seen of a cloud as of glory resting upon our house. During the time they resided with us, many of the revelations were given which are recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants.
...Early in the Spring of 1840 we went to Nauvoo. Here we were all sick with ague, chills and fever, and were only just barely able to crawl around and wait upon each other. Under these trying circumstances my ninth child was born. Joseph upon visiting us and seeing our change of circumstances, urged us at once to come and share his accommodations. We went to live in the Prophet Joseph's yard in a small cottage; we soon recruited in health, and the children became more like themselves.
One day while coming out of the house into the yard the remembrance of a prophecy Joseph Smith had made to me, while living in our house in Kirtland, flashed through my mind like an electric shock. It was this: that even as we had done by him, in opening our doors to him and his family when he was without a home, even so should we in the future be received by him into his house. We afterwards moved upstairs over the brick store. (Hyrum L. Andrus and Helen Mae Andrus, comps., They Knew the Prophet [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1974], 38-40.)
The branch of the Church in this part of the Lord's vineyard, which had increased to nearly one hundred members, were striving to do the will of God, so far as they knew it, though some strange notions and false spirits had crept in among them. With a little caution and some wisdom, I soon assisted the brethren and sisters to overcome them. The plan of "common stock," which had existed in what was called "the family," whose members generally had embraced the everlasting Gospel, was readily abandoned for the more perfect law of the Lord; and the false spirits were easily discerned and rejected by the light of revelation. (History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1: 146 - 147.)
DC 41:1 the greatest of all blessings... the heaviest of all cursings
Our Heavenly Father is more liberal in His views, and boundless in His mercies and blessings, than we are ready to believe or receive; and, at the same time, is more terrible to the workers of iniquity, more awful in the executions of His punishments, and more ready to detect every false way, than we are apt to suppose Him to be. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, selected and arranged by Joseph Fielding Smith [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1976], 256.)
DC 41:2 assemble yourselves together to agree upon my word
"Prior to the reception of section 42, the Lord revealed to Joseph Smith that he would give his law to the Saints once they had moved to Ohio (see D&C 38:32); however, after Joseph Smith arrived in Kirtland, the Lord revealed that the elders had to agree upon the word of the Lord and unite in a prayer of faith for that purpose (see D&C 41:2-3). Only then would they receive the law of the Church." (Robert J. Woodford, "How the Revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants Were Received and Compiled," Ensign, Jan. 1985, 28)
DC 41:3 that ye may know how to govern my church and have all things right before me
Boyd K. Packer
There are some things about the priesthood that every elder should know if he is to understand how the Church is governed to have things right before the Lord. There are principles and precepts and rules which are often overlooked and seldom taught.
Some of these principles are found in the scriptures, others in the handbooks. Some of them are not found in either. They are found in the Church. You might call them traditions, but they are more than that. They are revelations which came when the Brethren of the past assembled themselves, agreed upon His word, and offered their prayers of faith.
The Lord then showed them what to do. They received by revelation, "line upon line, precept upon precept," true principles which form the priesthood way of doing things. (See Isa. 28:13; 2 Ne. 28:30; D&C 98:12.) These are things we do to have things right before the Lord. ("What Every Elder Should Know-and Every Sister as Well: A Primer on Principles of Priesthood Government," Ensign, Feb. 1993, 7)
DC 41:5 He that receiveth my law and doeth it, the same is my disciple...
Mark E. Petersen
So you see, what we do or fail to do determines our status before him.
It is not Church membership alone that he asks. Nor is it reading the scriptures alone, nor paying tithing alone. It is wholehearted obedience and faithfulness of heart that counts.
The choice is placed before us-worldliness or salvation. Which shall it be? There is no middle ground in this matter. Lukewarm obedience is spurned by the Lord. ("What Will a Man Give?" Ensign, Jan. 1974, 112)
DC 41:5-6 it is not meet that the things which belong to the children of the kingdom should be given to them that are not worthy
"Because the Church was about to receive the law of consecration, it was not right that those who would not make the sacrifices of discipleship should reap the rewards of faithful members' consecration. Right now in the Church we have room for 'inactive' members. But when the Church as a whole begins again to live the law of consecration institutionally instead of individually as we now do, and we begin to establish Zion, there will quickly be no more middle ground for the passive and lukewarm to stand upon. Since Zion is a community of Saints who are of one heart and one mind, who dwell in righteousness, and have no poor among them, the less active who will not dwell in righteousness, or who are not of one heart and one mind with the Saints, must either repent or leave-otherwise Zion cannot be established.
"Diversity is not necessarily a virtue in Zion, nor is Zion a pluralistic society. There will certainly be diversity of races and to a degree a diversity of cultures, of personalities, of interests, and of wants. But there will be no diversity of values, ethics, morals, or of religious beliefs and doctrine, for Zion will be of one heart and one mind in these essentials and will dwell in righteousness according to one law-the heart and mind of the Savior, which is the law of the Church." (Stephen E. Robinson, H. Dean Garrett, A Commentary on the Doctrine and Covenants, [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 2001] 2:4-5)
DC 41:9 my servant Edward Partridge
For a more detailed background on the life of Edward Partridge, see commentary for D&C 36.
"What kind of a person was Edward Partridge? Early revelations refer to him as a man without guile 'like Nathanael of old,' and commend him for the 'integrity' of his heart (D&C 41:11; History of the Church, 2:302). Local townsmen trusted Edward's inquiry at the New York scene of Mormon beginnings because of his reputation as 'a man who would not lie.' And Joseph Smith described him as 'a pattern of piety, and one of the Lord's great men known by his steadfastness and patient endurance to the end' ("History of Joseph Smith," Times and Seasons, 15 Sept. 1843, vol. 4, p. 320). That same steadfastness and patience were also characteristic of his wife and their children. (Dean Jessee, " 'Steadfastness and Patient Endurance': The Legacy of Edward Partridge," Ensign, June 1979, 41)
James E. Faust
There comes down through my family a legacy of testimony concerning the truthfulness of Joseph Smith's work. I learned of this bequest as a small boy at my mother's knee. My great-great-grandfather, Edward Partridge, was intimately associated with the Prophet Joseph for several years prior to his losing his life in consequence of the persecution. (See History of the Church 4:132.) He was baptized by Joseph. In a revelation received by the Prophet, he was called as the first bishop of the restored Church. (See D&C 41:9.)
Grandfather was so tortured, humiliated, and suffered so much in his calling from lawless mobs, and was still so steadfast and faithful, that he could not possibly have doubted the genuineness of the revelation that appointed him. Like others who were close to the Prophet, he knew Joseph's heart and soul. Grandfather could not have been deceived. I believe his life and death both prove that he did not lie. His devotion, suffering, and sacrifice eloquently testify that he had implicit faith in Joseph as an inspired servant of God.
In addition to this heritage, I have my own inner witness which confirms to my soul that the Prophet Joseph Smith, as the instrument of God, revealed the greatest body of truth that has come to mankind since the Savior himself walked upon the earth. ("The Expanding Inheritance from Joseph Smith," Ensign, Nov. 1981, 77)
DC 41:9 Edward Partridge...ordained a bishop unto the church
"After Edward Partridge was called to be a bishop there were others who were called to be bishops. Did the Lord call Bishop Partridge to be a presiding bishop?
"The answer might seem obvious to students of Church history, who would immediately reply that yes, Edward Partridge was the first presiding bishop of the Church. Church histories have indicated that he became presiding bishop in 1831 and served until his death in 1840. According to these accounts, Newell K. Whitney then became the presiding bishop.
"However, the documents relating the history and development of the Church indicate that Edward Partridge was not actually the presiding bishop of the Church. In fact, the office of presiding bishop of the Church was not established until 1847. As the last presiding quorum of the Church to develop, the office of presiding bishop was preceded by the regional office of general bishops of the Church.
"The office of general bishop of the Church began as a result of ten dual centers of the early Church at Kirtland, Ohio, and Independence, Missouri. In 1831, each had a congregation numbering more than 1,000.
"Organization of the Church in Ohio and Missouri eventually entrenched the two-capital concept. Edward Partridge was appointed bishop of the Church February 4, 1831 (D&C 41:9), and later that year moved to Missouri to preside over the Saints in that area. On December 31, 1831, Newell K. Whitney was ordained bishop to preside in Kirtland. In 1834, the two capitals of the Church were organized further under a presidency and high council in each area.
"(With the exception of D&C 72:5-6)... There is no evidence that either bishop had any authority over the other. When they attended joint meetings of the leaders from both areas, the two men were simply listed as the Bishop of Zion and the Bishop of Kirtland, or were listed jointly as bishops of the Church.
"After the troubled time in Missouri, the Saints moved to Illinois, where the office of bishop was greatly expanded. Bishops were called for each of the Nauvoo wards and for the surrounding stakes. When Bishop Partridge died, there were nine bishops in the Church." (D. Michael Quinn, Senior historical associate in the Church Historical Department, "I Have a Question," Ensign, Dec. 1973, 32)
DC 41:11 he is like Nathanael of old, in whom there is no guile
Joseph B. Wirthlin
These passages of scripture help me understand what the Lord could see in Nathanael, Edward Partridge, and George Miller (D&C 124:20), and give me some insight into what he expects of the Saints. I believe the Savior was seeking purity of soul in those he called to be his twelve Apostles. When he spoke of being without guile, he referred to something far deeper than outward appearance. He was reaching into the soul, to the very heart of righteousness. He was touching the key to goodness and to the Christlike life.
To be without guile is to be pure in heart-an essential virtue of those who would be counted among true followers of Christ... If we are without guile, we are honest, true, and righteous. All of these are attributes of Deity and are required of the Saints. Those who are honest are fair and truthful in their speech, straightforward in their dealings, free of deceit, and above stealing, misrepresentation, or any other fraudulent action. Honesty is of God and dishonesty of the devil; the devil was a liar from the beginning. Righteousness is living a life that is in harmony with the laws, principles, and ordinances of the gospel...
What are the Latter-day Saints to do? The answer is plain. The Saints are to be absolutely without guile in every aspect of their lives: in their homes and families, Church callings, all business dealings, and, especially, the private and personal parts of their lives into which only they and the Lord see.
I suggest that we look into our hearts and see whether our motives and actions are pure and above reproach and to see whether we are free of deceit and fraud...
Yes, the Saints can be free of guile-and must be, to be prepared for the Savior's second coming. The Saints can provide a leavening influence and can demonstrate the value of guileless living. As we develop this divine attribute, we can become a shining light to the world. Certainly, we can teach the principles of the gospel and bless the families of the earth by following the perfect example of the Savior as one who is without guile. ("Without Guile," Ensign, May 1988, 80-82)