Section 66

DC 66 Historical Background and Biographical Sketch

William E. McLellin

[Paris, Illinois. July 18, 1831] This morning I heard very early that two men (who said they were traveling to Zion, which they said was in upper Missouri. They had also a book with them which they said was a Revelation from God, calling it the book of Mormon) were to preach 2 1/2 miles below Paris. . . . Their names were Harvey Whitlock and David Whitmer. The people were assembled in a beautiful sugartree grove. Mr. Whitlock arose and gave some particulars respecting the book and some reasons why he believes it to be a divine revelation. Spoke some of the signs of the times. Then he expounded the gospel with more plainness than I ever heard in my life, which astonished me. David Whitmer then arose and bore testimony to having seen an Holy Angel who had made known the truth of the record to him. All these strange things I pondered in my heart... And from the solemnity which attended these men in giving their testimony and the plainness of the truths which they declared I was induced to believe something in their mission. People seemed to be anxious for them to stay longer. They told me that Joseph Smith, the man who translated the book, and a number of others had gone to Jackson Co. Mo. and if I would go there I could see them. They said also that Smith was a prophet. Finally I told them if they would stay one week longer that I would go with them. They agreed to stay. Then Harvey Whitlock arose and spoke about three hours. I never heard such preaching in all my life. The glory of God seemed to encircle the man and the wisdom of God to be displayed in his discourse. Some of the people seemed to be much affected. The meeting was closed by a few observations of David Whitmer [who bore] a solemn testimony also of the truths which they had just heard. (Excerpts from Journal and Writings of William E. Mclellin, Early, LDS Church News, 1992, 10/24/92)

William E. McLellin

I [William McLellin] united with the Church of Christ on the 20th day of August, 1831, in Jackson County, Missouri, and I was administered to in baptism and confirmation by Elder Hyrum Smith, the brother of Joseph. I first heard the preaching in Paris, Edgar County, Illinois. When I heard it, I made up my mind that there was more in it than any religion I have ever before heard advocated; consequently, I put myself to the trouble and expense of travelling about 450 miles, in order to examine the matter. And after all the examination I was capable of making, I was fully convinced and converted to the doctrine and practices of the church as they were then held and taught. . . .

We [William McLellin and Hyrum Smith] reached Kirtland [from Independence] on the 18th day of October, and on the 25th, I attended a general conference in the town of Orange, about 20 miles distant. Here I first and formed an acquaintance with Joseph Smith, Jr., Oliver Cowdery, Sidney Rigdon, John Whitmer, etc. About 40 ministers attended the conference. During its sittings, I, with nine others, was pointed out again by the spirit of revelation, as having the gifts and callings to the office of High Priest, and was ordained thereunto under the hands of Pres. Oliver Cowdery. Following this conference I went home with the Prophet, and on Saturday, the 29th, I received through him, and wrote from his mouth a revelation concerning myself [D&C 66]. I had expected and believed that when I saw Brother Joseph [Smith], I should receive one: and I went before the Lord in secret, and on my knees asked him to reveal the answer to five questions through his Prophet, and that too without his having any knowledge of my having made such request. I now testify in the fear of God, that every question which I had thus lodged in the ears of the Lord of Sabbath, were answered to my full and entire satisfaction. I desired it for a testimony of Joseph's inspiration. And I to this day consider it to me an evidence which I cannot refute.

...General peace pervaded the conference... From thence I went home with Joseph [Smith] and lived with him about three weeks; and from my acquaintance then and until now I can truly say I believed him to be a man of God. (The Ensign of Liberty, of the Church of Christ . . . Kirtland, Lake County, Ohio 1 (January 1848):60-61, as taken from Writings of Early Latter-day Saints 60-61, 98.) 

DC 66:2 mine everlasting covenant, even the fullness of my gospel

Dallin H. Oaks

In a revelation given the same month the restored Church was organized, the Lord declared, 'I say unto you that all old covenants have I caused to be done away in this thing; and this is a new and an everlasting covenant, even that which was from the beginning' (D&C 22:1).

The covenant described in these scriptures, made new by its renewal and confirmation in these latter days, refers to our covenant relationship with Jesus Christ. It incorporates the fulness of the gospel (see D&C 66:2; D&C 132:6), which President Joseph Fielding Smith described as "the sum total of all gospel covenants and obligations" (Doctrines of Salvation, 1:156).

From the foregoing it is evident that the new covenant contained in the Book of Mormon and the former commandments is that central promise of the gospel, rooted in the atonement and resurrection of Jesus Christ, which gives us the assurance of immortality and the opportunity for eternal life if we will repent of our sins and make and keep the gospel covenant with our Savior. By this means, and through his grace, we can realize the great promise "that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel" (A of F 1:3).

Thus, the "new covenant," the "new and everlasting covenant" the early Saints had received and treated lightly by the time the quoted revelation was given, included all of the commandments and ordinances of the gospel, which are explained most clearly (but not exclusively) in the Book of Mormon. ("Another Testament of Jesus Christ," Ensign, Mar. 1994, 63-64)

DC 66:3 repent, therefore, of those things which are not pleasing in my sight...for the Lord will show them unto you

Of all things the Lord can reveal to us, there are few more important than our weakness and shortcomings. Of all the things the Lord wants us to know, there are few things more pertinent. Therefore, the Lord is quite willing to teach the humble student.  Since all of us, to some degree or another, have our introspective vision blocked by beams and motes of various sizes and shapes, we desperately need his help. We are usually our own worst judges-laying fault where we deserve none and blindly offending the Spirit with bad habits and character traits to which we remain oblivious.

On the other hand, the proud never have to worry. They continue to live in the ignorant bliss of their own hubris. But the true disciples want to know what they are doing wrong. Try this experiment. Ask the Lord to show you what things are not pleasing in his sight for one day-just one day. Be prepared to be surprised! The Spirit will bring to your mind those indiscretions which need attention.

And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them. (Ether 12:27)

George Q. Cannon

If you go to the Lord with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, he will show to you all your faults, and all your weaknesses, he will bring plainly before you wherein you have come short in doing his will, and when you see yourself in the light of that spirit instead of being filled with pride, you will feel to abase yourselves and bring yourselves down in the very dust of humility; your own unworthiness will be so plain before you, that if pride should come into your heart at any time, you will almost be shocked at it, and you will feel to put it away from you. It is in this way that we as Latter-day Saints should live. (Journal of Discourses, 22:101-2)

DC 66:5-9 proclaim my gospel...Let my servant Samuel H. Smith go with you...Lay your hands upon the sick, and they shall recover

While William McLellin's writings speak of Harvey Whitlock and David Whitmer as the missionaries who helped convert him, Samuel H. Smith apparently also took part in his conversion. From Lucy Mack Smith's history, we get the impression that her son, Samuel H. Smith, and his companion, Reynolds Cahoon, were the first missionaries to make contact with William McLellin. He asked them to preach and "went out, and in a short time he had a large congregation seated in a convenient room, well lit up at his expense. After the meeting was dismissed, Mr. McLellin urged them to stay in the place and preach again, but they refused, as their directions were to go forward without any further delay than to warn the people as they passed." (Lucy Mack Smith, History of Joseph Smith, Revised and Enhanced, edited by Scot Facer Proctor and Maurine Jensen Proctor [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1996], chap. 39)

Subsequently, Elders Whitlock and Whitmer would preach to William-staying in the area long enough for their message to stick. William would follow them to Zion where he was baptized. Yet it is interesting to note that the relationship between Samuel Smith and William McLellin began as missionary and investigator only to blossom into a missionary companionship within only a few months.

Lucy Mack Smith

Samuel returned home from Missouri and remained until the next October, when a revelation was given commanding him and William McLellin to go to the town of Hiram, which was about thirty miles distant, and warn the people in the name of the Lord. He began to make preparations to set out on this mission, but before he was ready to start, he heard a voice in the night which called to him, saying, "Samuel, arise immediately and go forth on the mission which thou wast commanded to take to Hiram." He arose and took what clothing he had in readiness and set out without eating.

He traveled fifteen miles that day, warning the people by the way, and the next day he arrived at Hiram, where he met William McLellin according to previous appointment, for they had not gone the same route. They held a meeting at noon as they could make arrangements to do so, and being tolerably well received, they continued to preach in Hiram and the surrounding country. They had not been in this place long until they were sent for by a woman who had been sick many months and had prayed much that the Lord would send some of the Mormons into that country, that she might have hands laid on her for the recovery of her health. Samuel went immediately to her and administered to her by the laying on of hands in the name of the Lord, and she was healed and was also baptized.

After finishing this mission, he returned home on December twenty-seventh. (History of Joseph Smith, Revised and Enhanced, edited by Scot Facer Proctor and Maurine Jensen Proctor [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1996], chap. 40)

DC 66:8 he that is faithful shall be made strong in every place

Russell M. Nelson

We should not be discouraged or depressed by our shortcomings. No one is without weakness. As part of the divine plan, we are tested to see whether we master weakness or let weakness master us. Proper diagnosis is essential to proper treatment. The Lord gave us this remarkable assurance: "Because thou hast seen thy weakness thou shalt be made strong" (Ether 12:37). But wishing for strength won't make us strong. It takes faith and work to shore up a weakened cord of integrity.

We know the process of self-repair called repentance. Mercifully, we do not have to begin that process alone. We can receive help through counsel with trusted family members and Church leaders. But their aid is more likely to help if we seek it not merely to satisfy a formality but with real intent to reform and come closer to Christ. He is the ultimate physician.

Real faith in Him will provide real relief-and glorious rewards. He said, "Because thou hast seen thy weakness thou shalt be made strong, even unto the sitting down in the place which I have prepared in the mansions of my Father" (Ether 12:37; see also Ether 12:27, 2 Cor. 12:9). ("Integrity of Heart," Ensign, Aug. 1995, 21-22)

DC 66:10 Commit not adultery-a temptation with which thou hast been troubled

"A remarkably blunt bit of advice, but William McLellin seems to have accepted it with no attempt to refute the allegation, even in his private journals. Indeed, he seems even to have appreciated the warning, since he wrote that this revelation fully answered the specific questions he had asked the Lord and that he was entirely satisfied with the answers. At his excommunication trial on 11 May 1838, William McLellin stated that after he lost confidence in Church leaders he 'quit praying and keeping the commandments of God, and indulged himself in his lustful desires.' Heber C. Kimball also once reminded the apostate William McLellin that Joseph had foretold he would become a Judas 'if you did not forsake your adultery, fornication, lying and abominations.'" (Stephen E. Robinson, H. Dean Garrett, A Commentary on the Doctrine and Covenants, [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 2001] 2:229-230)

DC 66:12 Continue in these things even unto the end

Having a great beginning cannot compensate for a bitter end. So many of the early Brethren could not remain faithful. Satan's insidious sifting tactics began to bear fruit, and William E. McLellin was one of his casualties. Initial faith and testimony gave way to criticism and prejudice. When he left the Church in 1838, it is doubtful that he remembered the counsel to "continue in these things even unto the end."

"On 15 February 1835 he was called to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

His faithfulness in that Quorum was short-lived. In 1835 he wrote a letter censuring the First Presidency and by 1836 had apostatized. He explained his actions in a letter to J. T. Cobb: 'I left the church in Aug. 1836 ... because the Leading men to a great extent left their religion and run into and after speculation, pride, and popularity! ... I quit because I could not uphold the Presidency as men of God.'

On Friday, 11 May 1838, he appeared before a bishop's court in Far West, Missouri. He explained that his apostasy centered on his lack of confidence in the Presidency of the Church. He volunteered that this lack had caused him to quit praying and keeping the commandments for a time and that he had indulged in sinful lusts. William was excommunicated in 1838 for 'unbelief and apostasy.'

After his excommunication he joined mobbers in robbing and driving the Saints from Missouri. While the brethren were imprisoned at Richmond,

McLellin, who was a large and active man, went to the sheriff and asked for the privilege of flogging the Prophet. Permission was granted on condition that Joseph would fight. The sheriff made known to Joseph McLellin's earnest request, to which Joseph consented, if his irons were taken off. McLellin then refused to fight unless he could have a club, to which Joseph was perfectly willing; but the sheriff would not allow them to fight on such unequal terms.

After his separation from the Church, William resided in Hampton, Illinois, where apostates William Law and Robert Foster also lived. By 23 January 1847 he was with Martin Harris in Kirtland organizing a new church-the Church of Christ. Soon after the organization began William visited David Whitmer in Richmond, Missouri, and encouraged him to lead the new church; thereafter David was considered to be the church's prophet. However, the sect apparently did not last beyond 1849.

"... During his last year William remained aloof from all churches, holding the belief that the Lord would 'establish the Church of Christ shortly, and then if they will accept me, I'll unite with them!!!'  He died on 24 April 1883 in obscurity at the age of seventy-seven." (Susan Easton Black, Who's Who in the Doctrine and Covenants [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1997], 191-192.)