DC 57 Historical Background
"ZION! THE HOLY CITY! The New Jerusalem! Enoch built a Zion (see Moses 7:19-21), Isaiah predicted a future Zion (see Isaiah 33:20; 52:1, 8), and John the Revelator envisioned Zion's descent from heaven (see Revelation 21:2). The publication of the Book of Mormon helped clarify this dream because it said that America would be the place of the New Jerusalem (see Ether 13:2-3; 3 Nephi 20:22). The Book of Mormon thus fired the Saints with a zeal to know the time and place for the establishment of Zion. Only in Zion, the Saints believed, could they find protection from the desolation and tribulation soon to descend upon the wicked...
"Locating and establishing Zion became one of the prime objectives of the Latter-day Saints. In early 1831 curiosity about the location of the land of Zion began to grow. On the day following the fourth general conference of the Church (held 3 Jun3 1831) a revelation directed Joseph Smith and other Church leaders to go to Missouri where the land of their inheritance would be revealed. In addition, thirteen pairs of missionaries were called to travel two by two, each pair taking a different route to Missouri, and to preach along the way (D&C 52:3-8, 22-33; 56:5-7)" (Church History in the Fulness of Times, 1989 Institute Manual, p. 102)
On the 19th of June, in company with Sidney Rigdon, Martin Harris, Edward Partridge, William W. Phelps, Joseph Coe, Algernon S. Gilbert and his wife, I started from Kirtland, Ohio, for the land of Missouri, agreeable to the commandment before received, wherein it was promised that if we were faithful, the land of our inheritance, even the place for the city of the New Jerusalem, should be revealed. We went by wagon, canal boats, and stages to Cincinnati, where I had an interview with the Rev. Walter Scott, one of the founders of the Campbellites, or Newlight church. Before the close of our interview, he manifested one of the bitterest spirits against the doctrine of the New Testament (that "these signs shall follow them that believe," as recorded in Mark the 16th chapter,) that I ever witnessed among men. We left Cincinnati in a steamer, and landed at Louisville, Kentucky, where we were detained three days in waiting for a steamer to convey us to St. Louis. At St. Louis, myself, Brothers Harris, Phelps, Partridge and Coe, went by land on foot to Independence, Jackson county, Missouri, where we arrived about the middle of July, and the rest of the company came by water a few days later.
Notwithstanding the corruptions and abominations of the times, and the evil spirit manifested towards us on account of our belief in the Book of Mormon, at many places and among various persons, yet the Lord continued His watchful care and loving kindness to us day by day; and we made it a rule wherever there was an opportunity, to read a chapter in the Bible, and pray; and these seasons of worship gave us great consolation.
The meeting of our brethren, who had long awaited our arrival, was a glorious one, and moistened with many tears. It seemed good and pleasant for brethren to meet together in unity. But our reflections were many, coming as we had from a highly cultivated state of society in the east, and standing now upon the confines or western limits of the United States, and looking into the vast wilderness of those that sat in darkness; how natural it was to observe the degradation, leanness of intellect, ferocity, and jealousy of a people that were nearly a century behind the times, and to feel for those who roamed about without the benefit of civilization, refinement, or religion; yea, and exclaim in the language of the Prophets: "When will the wilderness blossom as the rose? When will Zion be built up in her glory, and where will Thy temple stand, unto which all nations shall come in the last days?" Our anxiety was soon relieved by receiving [D&C 57]: (History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 vols., introduction and notes by B. H. Roberts [Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1932-1951], 1: 188-189.)
DC 57:1 the land which I have appointed...for the gathering of the saints
Marion G. Romney
The interest of the Saints in the building of temples and the city of Zion was great in those early days. Incident to the interest in temples was the spirit of gathering that then fell upon the Saints. The relationship between the spirit of gathering and the interest in temples was thus explained by the Prophet... he asked, "What was the object of gathering the Jews, or the people of God in any age of the world?"
He responded: "The main object was to build unto the Lord a house whereby He could reveal unto His people the ordinances of His house and the glories of His kingdom, and teach the people the way of salvation; for there are certain ordinances and principles that, when they are taught and practiced, must be done in a place or house built for that purpose.
"It was the design of the councils of heaven before the world was, that the principles and laws of the priesthood should be predicated upon the gathering of the people in every age of the world. ... Ordinances instituted in the heavens before the foundation of the world, in the priesthood, for the salvation of men, are not to be altered or changed. All must be saved on the same principles.
"It is for the same purpose that God gathers together His people in the last days, to build unto the Lord a house to prepare them for the ordinances and endowments, washings and anointings." ("Temples-The Gates to Heaven," Ensign, Mar. 1971, 14-15)
DC 57:2-3 this is the land of promise, and the place for the city of Zion
Bruce R. McConkie
It is of this city, a city that shall be built before the Second Coming, that the Lord said to Enoch: "I shall prepare, and Holy City, that my people may gird up their loins, and be looking forth for the time of my coming; for there shall be my tabernacle, and it shall be called Zion, a New Jerusalem." (Moses 7:62.) It is in this city, the New Jerusalem in Jackson County, that the house of the Lord unto which all nations shall come in the last days shall be built, "which temple," the Lord said in September 1832, "shall be reared in this generation. 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." (D&C 84:1-5.)
Because the saints were "hindered by the hands of their enemies, and by oppression," the Lord withdrew the time limitation (D&C 124:49-54), and the command now in force is: "Zion shall be redeemed in mine own due time." (D&C 136:18.) When that is to be remains to be seen, but that it will surely come to pass, as part of the preparation of the Lord's people for his glorious return, is as certain as that the sun shines or that the Great God is Lord of all. When the appointed time comes, the Lord will reveal it to his servants who preside over his kingdom from Salt Lake City, and then the great work will go forward. They will direct the work; they hold the keys of temple building; the temple will be built by gathered Israel and particularly by Ephraim, for it is unto Ephraim that the other tribes shall come to receive their temple blessings in due course. Some Lamanites may assist and some Gentiles may bring their wealth to adorn the buildings, but the keys are with Ephraim, and it is Ephraim that is now stepping forth and that yet shall step forth to bless the rest of the house of Israel. (The Millennial Messiah: The Second Coming of the Son of Man [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1982], 281.)
DC 57:3 Independence is the center place
"Independence was then a raw frontier settlement, the final 'civilized' stop for Santa Fe traders. One of the elders in Joseph Smith's party described the village as 'a new town containing a court-house built of brick, two or three merchants' stores and 15 or 20 dwelling houses, built mostly of logs hewed on both sides.' Both residents and visitors praised the country's astonishing beauty and productivity. The famous writer Washington Irving passed through Independence the next year and wrote, 'The soil is like that of a garden [and the] beauty of the forest exceeded anything that I have seen.'
"For the Latter-day Saints, however, both Jackson County's newness and its fertility were secondary to its sacredness; for in July, the Lord spoke to the Prophet: 'Behold, the place which is now called Independence is the center place; and a spot for the temple is lying westward, upon a lot which is not far from the court-house' (D&C 57:3)...
"'Gathering to Zion' immediately became a topic for Church leaders and missionaries. W. W. Phelps gave the [Evening and Morning Star] a strong 'last days' emphasis with articles in every issue about the new revelations, Enoch's Zion, the Second Coming, or disasters that would befall a wicked world.
"But more than a refuge against calamity, Zion was to become headquarters for the millennial government of Christ, wrote Phelps... Thus, the Saints gathering in Jackson County could rightfully feel the worth of their labors and the immense importance of that location." (Max H Parkin, "Missouri's Impact on the Church," Ensign, Apr. 1979, 59)
DC 57:4 it is wisdom that the land should be purchased by the saints
"Near the end of 1831, Bishop Partridge, representing the Church, purchased sixty-three acres of land at Independence, Missouri, including the spot where Joseph Smith had placed a cornerstone for the future temple." (Milton V. Backman, Jr. and Richard O. Cowan, Joseph Smith and the Doctrine and Covenants [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1992], 45.)
"Today (1952) the Church owns much of the sixty-three acres originally designated at the Independence temple lot, but does not own the three acres where the temple cornerstone was placed by the Prophet Joseph Smith on August 3, 1831. That parcel of land is owned by the Church of Christ (Temple Lot), one of the factions which broke from the Church following the martyrdom of the Prophet and the Patriarch." (A New Era in Church History Begins as President David O. Mckay Visits Europe by Doyle L. Green, Managing Editor and Albert L. Zobell, Jr., Research Editor, Improvement Era, 1952, Vol. Lv. September, 1952. No. 9)
"A tract of 4,250 acres of land in and near Kansas City, Missouri, has been purchased by an investment arm of the Church...
"Elder Howard W. Hunter of the Quorum of the Twelve, chairman of the Church Investment Advisory Committee, said the land is being purchased as a long-term investment. The tract was assembled and sold by a Kansas City attorney in behalf of a group of Kansas City businessmen.
"The tract, in Clay County, Missouri, is about ten miles northeast of the Kansas City city hall. Most of the land is being farmed, and probably will continue to be." ("News of the Church," Ensign, Feb. 1979, 79)
DC 57:4 the line running directly between Jew and Gentile
Joseph Fielding Smith
This expression-"lying westward, even unto the line running between Jew and Gentile," has reference to the line separating the Lamanites from the settlers in Jackson County. At this time the United States Government had given to the Indians the lands west of the Missouri, only later to take them away again. The Lamanites, who are Israelites, were referred to as Jews, and the Gentiles were the people... living east of the river. (Church History and Modern Revelation, 4 vols. [Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1946-1949], 1: 189.)
DC 57:7 let my servant Edward Partridge...divide unto the saints their inheritance
"Bishop Edward Partridge was appointed to remain in Independence and divide unto the saints their inheritance. Sidney Gilbert, a young merchant, was appointed to remain as agent of the Church to purchase lands for the Saints. William W. Phelps was appointed printer of the Church, with Oliver Cowdery to assist him. Under the leadership of these men the Law of Consecration was put into effect in Independence and other parts of Jackson County. The growth of the Mormon settlement was rapid. Thrift was rewarded with prosperity. Funds from the Saints in Ohio for the purchase of lands in Missouri began to pour into the hand of the purchasing agent, and Bishop Partridge had to work feverishly to settle the constant stream of incoming Saints satisfactorily." (William E. Berrett, The Restored Church, 7th ed. [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1953], 121.)
DC 57:8 let my servant Sidney Gilbert...establish a store
For biographical background on Sidney Gilbert, see commentary for D&C 53.
"In obedience Sidney established a branch store of dry goods and groceries in Independence for the blessing of 'the affairs of the poor' (D&C 82:12).
When violent mob action erupted in Independence, the brick portion of Sidney's home was demolished and the windows were broken. The doors of the Gilbert and Whitney store were split open and goods tossed into the street." (Susan Easton Black, Who's Who in the Doctrine and Covenants [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1997], 102-103.)
DC 57:9-10 obtain a license...that he may send goods also unto the people
"The saints were settling right on the line between the United States and the Indian territory (today approximately the Missouri-Kansas border) and apparently intended to operate on both sides of this border. On the first Sunday in Zion, W. W. Phelps preached to a mixed audience of Native Americans and settlers on the western side of the border, and as an agent for the Church in Independence, Sidney Gilbert would undoubtedly need to send goods across the border, which was only a few miles away (see v. 10). Any trade across the state line into Indian territory, however, was closely controlled by the federal government. Therefore, it was necessary for Sidney to get a permit to send goods across the border to the Lamanites, to the missionaries, and to other Saints operating there.
"The phrase, ['those who sit in darkeness'], is used here particularly in reference to the Lamanites in the Indian territory, among whom the Saints would attempt to labor: 'Looking into the vast wilderness [Indian territory] of those that sat in darkness.' The missionaries to the Lamanites had already preached to the Shawnees and Delawares west of the border, and the Saints at this time still intended to further evangelize the Lamanites there. Oliver had already notified the Prophet of the great tribe knows as the Navajos 'three hundred miles west of Sante Fe,' and it was envisioned that the Latter-day Saints and the Lamanites would one day mingle together. Also, the two earliest manuscript copies of Doctrine and Covenants 57 read in verse 9: 'that he may send goods also unto the Lamanites even by whom I will as clerks employed in his service and then the gospel may be proclaimed unto them.'" (Stephen E. Robinson, H. Dean Garrett, A Commentary on the Doctrine and Covenants, [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 2001] 2:144-145)
"Many who discover a difference in an earlier text of the scripture assume that either the earlier text is the most correct since it is closer to the time of reception, or that the change was made by designing men who were trying to change the scriptures of the Lord to suit their own purpose. Neither of these opinions is valid in the light of recent research. The majority of changes that have some significance were made in the days of Joseph Smith, and were made under his direction. The most important thing that must be kept in mind is that we accept the revelations as they are now written. Knowing about earlier texts and changes which have occurred may aid the researcher in his studies of Church history, but the earlier versions have no claim upon our faith-it is the current edition upon which we rely. The fundamental concepts upon which our faith rests are not affected by the variant readings." (Robert J. Woodford, "How the Revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants Were Received and Compiled," Ensign, Jan. 1985, 33)
DC 57:11 Let my servant William W. Phelps be...established as a printer unto the church
"After Brother Phelps's arrival at Independence, a printing press was established and various publications began to come from it. The first periodical of the Church printed on this press was volume 1, number 1, of the Evening and Morning Star, dated June 1832. Subsequent monthly issues of the Star published items of instruction from the Prophet Joseph Smith for the guidance of the Church. These items consisted of letters from the Prophet and a record of the revelations that he had received, including excerpts from the new translation of the Bible, which was then underway.
"Thus, the earliest publication of the materials now identified as the book of Moses was in the Evening and Morning Star, with the first installment being in August 1832, another in March 1833, and a third in April 1833.
"Although the Prophet Joseph made several trips to Independence during these early years, he maintained his home eight hundred miles away in Kirtland. Consequently, manuscript copies of materials for publication had to be made in Kirtland and taken to Independence for printing. These copies presented the Bible translation as far as it had been done at that time." (Robert J. Matthews, "How We Got the Book of Moses," Ensign, Jan. 1986, 44)
"In this periodical appeared many of the revelations which are now found in the Doctrine and Covenants and also a chapter and parts of three other chapters of the book of Moses. It was published from the period June 1832, until the destruction of the press on July 20, 1833, at which time the Book of Commandments, the first compilation of revelations consisting of 65 chapters, was being printed." (Roy W. Doxey, The Doctrine and Covenants Speaks [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1964], 1: 406.)
In July (1832), we received the first number of The Evening and Morning Star, which was a joyous treat to the Saints. Delightful, indeed, was it to contemplate that the little band of brethren had become so large, and grown so strong, in so short a time as to be able to issue a paper of their own, which contained not only some of the revelations, but other information also,-which would gratify and enlighten the humble inquirer after truth.
So embittered was the public mind against the truth, that the press universally had been arrayed against us; and although many newspapers published the prospectus of our paper, yet it appeared to have been done more to calumniate the editor, than give publicity to the forthcoming periodical. Editors thought to do us harm, while the Saints rejoiced that they could do nothing against the truth but for it. (History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1: 273.)
DC 57:15 make preparations for those families which have been commanded to come to this land
"The members of the Colesville Branch immediately concentrated their efforts in building homes for their families. Joseph Knight, Jr., recalled their initial plight, 'As we came by water, we had no tents, and my father and I slept in a hen coop two weeks, till we got a shelter.' Emily Partridge pointed out the resourcefulness of the Saints in working together to provide the necessary housing for one another. She remembered: 'In building their houses they would have `raisings.` After the logs were hauled and prepared, then all the men in the neighborhood would turn out and lay them up.... Some of the houses were built very neatly. The logs being hewn on the outside and inside, and the corners sawed off smooth, and for a log house they looked very respectable.'
"Not only were they initially without tents, but virtually without any farm implements. They sent teams to St. Louis to obtain them. It took four days to make the trip to the city. With the necessary tools they began to break up the prairie. Exhilarated by what she saw, Emily Coburn related, 'It was a strange sight indeed, to see four or five yolk of oxen turning up the rich soil. Fencing and other improvements went on in rapid succession. Cabins were built and prepared for families as fast as time, money, and labor could accomplish the work.'" (Arnold K. Garr and Clark V. Johnson, eds., Regional Studies in Latter-day Saint History: Missouri [Provo: Department of Church History and Doctrine, 1994], 292.)
Parley P. Pratt
This Colesville branch... constituted the first settlers of the members of the Church in Missouri. They had arrived late in the summer, and cut some hay for their cattle, sowed a little grain, and prepared some ground for cultivation, and were engaged during the fall and winter in building log cabins, etc. The winter was cold, and for some time about ten families lived in one log cabin, which was open and unfinished, while the frozen ground served for a floor. Our food consisted of beef and a little bread made of corn, which had been grated into coarse meal by rubbing the ears on a tin grater. This was rather an inconvenient way of living for a sick person; but it was for the gospel's sake, and all were very cheerful and happy.
We enjoyed many happy seasons in our prayer and other meetings, and the Spirit of the Lord was poured out upon us, and even on the little children, insomuch that many of eight, ten or twelve years of age spake, and prayed, and prophesied in our meetings and in our family worship. There was a spirit of peace and union, and love and good will manifested in this little Church in the wilderness, the memory of which will be ever dear to my heart. (Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, edited by his son, Parley P. Pratt [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1985], 56.)