DC 99 Historical Background
This revelation is not placed in the Doctrine and Covenants chronologically. At the time the revelation was given, actually August of 1832, the idea of redeeming Zion seemed utopian but possible. A year later, the saints were being forced out of their settlements. The Savior's reference to John's children being sent to the bishop in Zion (v. 6) only makes sense in the historical context of August 1832, not August 1833.
Section 99 may read like many others, but the story behind John Murdock's discipleship is quite remarkable. Our study of D&C 99 allows us to take a moment and consider what kind of integrity and sacrifice it took to be a faithful latter-day saint in 1832.
DC 99 Biographical Sketch: John Murdock
"John Murdock, Parley Pratt, Sidney Rigdon, and John Taylor were members in their lifetimes of more than one denomination or religious group before joining the Church, and in each move they sought a Christianity closer to that which they found in the New Testament. Brothers Murdock, Pratt, Rigdon, and Woodruff were Campbellites immediately prior to becoming Latter-day Saints...
"John Murdock, seeking a place where the ordinances of the gospel were administered, first joined the Lutheran Dutch Church. He later affiliated loosely with the Methodists, for whom he occasionally preached after he withdrew himself from fellowship with a Baptist group whose strongly Calvinistic position he could not accept. In 1827 he joined the Campbellites but became dissatisfied when he learned that Alexander Campbell denied the gift of the Holy Ghost...
"At seventeen, John Murdock had an accident that led him to covenant with the Lord that if the Lord would spare his life, John would serve him from that time on. Later, when he was around age twenty-five, he was engaged in prayer when a vision was opened in which he found himself before the bar of God being asked whether he 'had commemorated the death and sufferings of the Saviour, by obeying the Ordinances.' As a result, he immediately began to seek a society where such ordinances could be found.
"His study of the Bible convinced him that immersion was the proper form of baptism, that infant baptism was unnecessary, and that faith and repentance must precede baptism. He also contemplated what it meant to be born of water and of the Spirit, as recorded in John 3:5. He recognized that to be born of water was to be baptized, and after reflection he learned that to be born of the Spirit was to receive the Holy Ghost.
"Further study led him to conclude that none of the extant denominations were authorized by God. If that was so, then who had the authority to baptize or to administer any ordinance of the church? Murdock finally concluded, 'If the [denominations] are out of the way, as we [Campbellites] believe, they have lost all authority, and ... the only way the authority can be obtained is, the Lord must either send an angel to baptise the first man, or He must give a special command to some one man to baptise another.'
"It was shortly after this realization that he learned of Mormon missionaries in the area. His first reaction was that they were of the devil, but 'I was immediately checked in my feelings, and I made no more harsh expressions respecting them.' Murdock's concern was whether these missionaries were the persons authorized by God to bring that for which he had been searching. 'I said, If it be so, their walk will agree with their profession, and the Holy Ghost will attend their ministration of the ordinances. And the Book of Mormon will contain the same plan of Salvation as the Bible. I was sensible that such a work must come forth, but the question with me was, are these the men that are to commence the work?'
"After reading the Book of Mormon and talking with missionaries and others who had already accepted the restored gospel, John Murdock received from the Spirit a confirmation of the truth of the things he had been told. With that assurance, he entered the waters of baptism. His comment about the event summarizes his search. 'This was the third time that I had been immersed, but I never before felt the authority of the Ordinance, but I felt it this time and felt as though my sins were forgiven!'" (Roger R. Keller, "Prepared for the Fulness," Ensign, Jan. 1993, 22-23)
"[After baptism], he returned home and began preaching the gospel so energetically that 'about seventy souls were added to the church' in four months. Among the first five converts was his wife, Julia. Requests flocked in from investigators so thickly that 'I quit other business.' He and his household consolidated with another Mormon family so that he could give 'my full time to the ministry.' That was during the winter of 1830-31. In April, his wife died six hours after giving birth to twins, a boy named Joseph and a girl named Julia, whom the Prophet and Emma took as consolation for their own recently deceased child. Only Julia survived. Little Joseph, recuperating from measles, suffered exposure when a mob burst into the house and dragged out the Prophet to tar and feather him.
"The loss of his wife and child did not buckle John Murdock's knees. In the following month, he was ordained a high priest by Joseph Smith and within two weeks was on a mission to Michigan. He later became an important colonizer in Utah. (Lavina Fielding Anderson, "Kirtland's Resolute Saints," Ensign, Jan. 1979, 51)
DC 99:1 Thou art called to go into the eastern countries
"[Some early saints] distinguished themselves by quiet faithfulness. John Murdock, recipient of section 99, was told 'to proclaim mine everlasting gospel. ... And after a few years, if thou desirest of me, thou mayest go up ... unto the goodly land, to possess thine inheritance.' (D&C 99:1, 7.) He served six missions for the Church before resting. The depth of his sacrifice is made clear by the fact that he laid a wife to rest in each of the early gathering places of the Saints: Kirtland, Ohio; Missouri; and Illinois. Such are his and their legacies of faith and perseverance." (Dale S. Cox, "To Hear or Not to Hear," Ensign, Jan. 1993, 46)
DC 99:1 proclaim mine everlasting gospel... in the midst of persecution and wickedness
John Murdock went on many missions regardless of the sacrifice required. In company with Zebedee Coltrin, he had just returned from a mission to New York in April of 1832. Now, only four months later, he was called to go again. This particular mission was not as long or as productive as some of his other missions, but he fulfilled it faithfully and left the following record in his journal:
"I then settled my business and on the 24th of Sept. I visited Father Clapp's family [his deceased wife's father and family] preached the gospel to them. They were very unbelieving and hard. I returned to the brethren in Kirtland on the 25th and on the 27th started, in company with Brother Zebedie Coltrin, and on that day called on Mr. Conning's family, Father Clapp's family and Benjamin Blich's family; all unbelieving. Stayed with Bro. Kingsbury, in Painesville, Preached in the evening. He gave each of us 75¢ God bless him. Met with a Dr. Matthews, a very wicked man, and [he] reviled against us, the Book of Mormon, and the Doctrine we taught. We bore testimony according to the Commandment and the Lord helped us in tending to the ordinance." (Leon R. Hartshorn, Dennis A. Wright, and Craig J. Ostler, eds., The Doctrine and Covenants, a Book of Answers: The 25th Annual Sidney B. Sperry Symposium [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1996], 132)
DC 99:4 whoso rejecteth you shall be rejected of my Father and his house
Orson F. Whitney
Inherent in the Priesthood is the principle of representation. So plenary and far-reaching are its powers, that when those holding this authority are in the line of their duty, and possess the spirit of their calling, their official acts and utterances are as valid and as binding as if the Lord himself were present, doing and saying what his servants do and say for him. [see D&C 84:35-39.]
This is what it means to bear the Priesthood. It constitutes men agents of the Almighty, transacting sacred business in the interest of the one who sent them. (Roy W. Doxey, comp., Latter-day Prophets and the Doctrine and Covenants [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1978], 3: 349.)
DC 99:5 to convince all of their ungodly deeds which they have committed against me
See Jude 1:14-16.
DC 99:6 it is not expedient that you should go until your children are provided for
"John Murdock, at the time of this missionary call, was a widower left to bring up five children at the death of his wife. Two of his children had been given to Joseph the Prophet and his wife, Emma, to rear as their own. John's beloved wife, Julia, had died in giving birth to twins. About the same time Emma Smith had also given birth to twins, both of whom died within hours of their birth. John, having no relatives who had accepted the fulness of the restored gospel and to whom he could entrust the babies, took his motherless babies to Emma. The twins, a boy and a girl, were named Joseph and Julia.
"By the time this revelation was received, in August 1832, the baby Joseph had become the first martyr for the gospel. At the time of the baby's death, Joseph and Emma resided with John Johnson and his wife, Elsa, on their farm in Hiram, Ohio. On the evening of 24 March 1832, a mob entered the Johnson home and dragged the Prophet Joseph from his room. Emma and Joseph had been taking turns caring for the eleven-month-old twins, who were seriously ill with measles. Emma had nursed the children, and Joseph was sleeping in the trundle bed with little Joseph lying on his chest. The mob took the Prophet but left little Joseph behind to the ravages of the cold that swept into the room. On March 29, on account of the cold and the measles, the not-quite-year-old baby boy died. John Murdock was on a mission at the time. When he returned he recorded in his journal: '[I] arrived in Ohio, in the Church in the month of June, about 12 months after leaving my children. . . . arrived there about the 1st of June, found my little son Joseph had died. I had left my eldest son Orrice with Benjamin Bragg and John with Philo Judd and Phebe with Syrenus Burnet. I had to pay them all full price for keeping my children during my absence. But my daughter was still doing well with Bro. Joseph, the Prophet.'
"At this time Orrice was seven years old; John, six; and Phebe, four. These were the children whom, in obeying the instructions contained in the revelation, John Murdock was to send to Zion to stay with the family of Bishop Edward Partridge. Again we read from John's journal: 'I then continued with the church preaching to them and strengthening them and regaining my health till the month of Aug. when I received the Revelation recorded in the Book of Covenants [D&C], page 206, at which time I immediately commenced to arrange my business and provide for my children and send them up to the Bishop in Zion, which I did by the hand of Bro. Caleb Baldwin in Sept. I gave him ten dollars a head for carrying up my 3 eldest children.'" (Leon R. Hartshorn, Dennis A. Wright, and Craig J. Ostler, eds., The Doctrine and Covenants, a Book of Answers: The 25th Annual Sidney B. Sperry Symposium [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1996], 131.)
DC 99:7 after a few years, if thou desirest of me, thou mayest go up also unto the goodly land
"The placement of section 99 in the Doctrine and Covenants positions it in the chronological context of the Saints' persecutions in and expulsion from Jackson County, Missouri, during 1833. Actually, the revelation was received a year earlier, in August 1832. But, the placement of this section directs our attention to the fact that John Murdock had sent his children to Zion and they had been there without father or mother during that troubled time. As recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 103, the Lord called for an army to march to Missouri to redeem the Saints who had been driven from their homes and property. John Murdock had a double interest in going with the army (which became known as Zion's Camp). He had not seen his three eldest children in more than a year. What had happened to these children sent to Zion at the instructions of the Lord? At the end of the journey to Zion, the little army of Saints was disbanded at Fishing River. John wrote concerning his little daughter: 'On the 30th [of June 1834], word came to me that my daughter Phebe was sick nigh unto Death, of Cholera, and Bro. A. [Algernon] S. [Sidney] Gilbert, with whom she lived was dead. I immediately went and took care of her till July 6th when the Spirit left the body just at the break of day, being 6 years, 3 months, 27 days old.'
"His journal continues with the names of two young men, Reid Peck and Henry Rawlins, being blessed for their help as they 'assisted me and we buried her by little after sun rise in the morning. She was decently laid out, and they dug a grave and we laid 2 split shakes in the bottom and one each side and laid in some straw, and laid the corpse on it, laid 2 sticks across and covered it over, and that was her coffin.'
"What may have been passed over as insignificant verses of the Doctrine and Covenants mean more to us when we understand the real people involved and the influence their real covenants had in their lives." (Leon R. Hartshorn, Dennis A. Wright, and Craig J. Ostler, eds., The Doctrine and Covenants, a Book of Answers: The 25th Annual Sidney B. Sperry Symposium [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1996], 133.)
DC 99:8 thou shalt continue proclaiming my gospel
Loren C. Dunn
The two missionaries who introduced the gospel to Australia were John Murdock and Charles Wandell, who arrived in Sydney on October 30, 1851. Brother Murdock was fifty-nine years of age at the time and was one of the early stalwarts of the Church. He was in the first group to be ordained high priests by Joseph Smith. He was called on two of his missions by revelations which are in the Doctrine and Covenants. (See D&C 52:8; D&C 99:1.) His wife died, leaving him twins only six hours old. These were the twins that the Prophet Joseph Smith received into his home to raise.
For a time he lived in the home of Joseph Smith and relates this incident: "During the winter that I boarded with Brother Joseph ... we had a number of prayer meetings, in the Prophet's chamber. ... In one of those meetings the Prophet told us, 'If we would humble ourselves before God, and exercise strong faith, we should see the face of the Lord.' And about midday the visions of my mind were opened, and the eyes of my understanding were enlightened, and I saw the form of a man, most lovely, the visage of his face was sound and fair as the sun. His hair a bright silver grey, curled in a most majestic form; His eyes a keen penetrating blue, and the skin of his neck a most beautiful white and he was covered from the neck to the feet with a loose garment, pure white: Whiter than any garment I have ever before seen. His countenance was most penetrating, and yet most lovely. And while I was endeavoring to comprehend the whole personage from head to feet it slipped from me, and the vision was closed up. But it left on my mind the impression of love, for months, that I never before felt to that degree." (John Murdock, An Abridged Record of the Life of John Murdock, p. 26.)
Such was the man who opened the work of the gospel of Jesus Christ in Australia in this dispensation. (Loren C. Dunn, "Did Not Our Heart Burn Within Us?" Ensign, May 1977, 30)