DC 83 Historical Background
The first saints to settle in Missouri had been there only about 6 months. They had survived a harsh winter under less than ideal circumstances. Already, suspicion and jealousy among their neighbors had cast a foreboding omen. On the other hand, the Prophet had just been through some traumatic events. In March he was dragged from his home and was tarred and feathered. Consequently, his adopted son Joseph F. Murdock contracted a severe cold and died.
Amidst these early persecutions, the saints held on to the promise of the redemption of Zion. Parley P. Pratt had a dream in which he found himself in the New Jerusalem clothed in glorious white robes. "This dream certainly encouraged me, and enabled me to bear my sickness, privation and long absence from my wife and former friends more patiently." (Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, 72)
In April, the Prophet had come to encourage the saints and set things in order. He came with his new counselors, Jesse Gause and Sidney Rigdon, who were his counselors in the Presidency of the High Priesthood (later to be called The First Presidency).
On the 27th [of April 1832], we transacted considerable business for the salvation of the Saints, who were settling among a ferocious set of mobbers, like lambs among wolves. It was my endeavor to so organize the Church, that the brethren might eventually be independent of every incumbrance beneath the celestial kingdom, by bonds and covenants of mutual friendship, and mutual love.
On the 28th and 29th, I visited the brethren above Big Blue river, in Kaw township, a few miles west of Independence, and received a welcome only known by brethren and sisters united as one in the same faith, and by the same baptism, and supported by the same Lord. The Colesville branch, in particular, rejoiced as the ancient Saints did with Paul. It is good to rejoice with the people of God. On the 30th, I returned to Independence, and again sat in council with the brethren, and received [Section 83]. (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: 269.)
DC 83:1 women and children...who have lost their husbands or fathers
"On the 30th, the council meeting was resumed. It is probable that the question came up, 'What, under the law of Enoch (i.e. law of consecration), would be the status of women and children, whose natural protectors were dead?' In answer to some such inquiry, the Revelation in this Section was received. Widows, if faithful, have fellowship in the Church, and, therefore, a claim on the Church; if not in the Church, they were, nevertheless, to remain on their inheritances, according to the law (verses 1-3). Children have a claim upon the Church, if the parents are unable to provide for them (verses 4-6)." (Hyrum M. Smith and Janne M. Sjodahl, Doctrine and Covenants Commentary [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1978], 495.)
DC 83:2 women have claim on their husbands for their maintenance
Ezra Taft Benson
Early in the history of the restored Church, the Lord specifically charged men with the obligation to provide for their wives and family. In January of 1832 He said, "Verily I say unto you, that every man who is obliged to provide for his own family, let him provide, and he shall in nowise lose his crown" (D&C 75:28). Three months later the Lord said again, "Women have claim on their husbands for their maintenance, until their husbands are taken" (D&C 83:2). This is the divine right of a wife and mother. While she cares for and nourishes her children at home, her husband earns the living for the family, which makes this nourishing possible.
In a home where there is an able-bodied husband, he is expected to be the breadwinner. Sometimes we hear of husbands who, because of economic conditions, have lost their jobs and expect the wives to go out of the home and work, even though the husband is still capable of providing for his family. In these cases, we urge the husband to do all in his power to allow his wife to remain in the home caring for the children while he continues to provide for his family the best he can, even though the job he is able to secure may not be ideal and family budgeting may have to be tighter. ("To the Fathers in Israel," Ensign, Nov. 1987, 49)
Ezra Taft Benson
We realize also that some of our choice sisters are widowed and divorced and that others find themselves in unusual circumstances where, out of necessity, they are required to work for a period of time. But these instances are the exception, not the rule. ("To the Mothers in Zion," pamphlet, Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1987, p. 5).
Spencer W. Kimball
Peter urged us to give honor unto our wives (see 1 Pet. 3:7). ... When Paul said that a man who did not provide for his own and those of his own household was "worse than an infidel" (1 Tim. 5:8), I like to think of providing for our own as including providing them with affectional security as well as economic security. When the Lord told us in this dispensation that "women have claim on their husbands for their maintenance" (D&C 83:2), I like to think of maintenance as including our obligation to maintain loving affection and to provide consideration and thoughtfulness as well as food. ...
Some of us are not as thoughtful and considerate of [our wives] as we should be. Our pantries can be filled with food and yet our sisters can be starved for affection and recognition... (Gerald R. Schiefer, "When Your Wife Has a Church Calling ... ," Ensign, Apr. 1982, 57)
DC 83:3 if they are not faithful...they may remain upon their inheritances
At this time, the saints are trying to live the law of consecration. Under that law, properties were divided among the saints as the Lord divided up the land of Israel in Joshua's day-as inheritances. An inheritance is not something you own; it is a stewardship received from the Lord. The Lord, through the church, holds the right of property.
What should the Missouri saints do if one of their number goes inactive? Their property is technically the Lord's, and they are not living the law of consecration as revealed. The question comes up, "should their land be taken away and given to another who can live the law?"
The Lord's answer is to allow them to live on the land because of the laws of the land. Within 1 year, a Missouri court would rule against the bishop retaining legal ownership of the stewardships divided amongst the members.
"As originally received, Doctrine and Covenants 51 directed the Saints to legally deed over all their property and possessions to the bishop as agent for the Church. Stewardships would then be appointed back to them, but legal title to their stewardship remained with the bishop. Should a steward over consecrated property leave the Church, he could therefore take nothing of his original property with him. This was all in accordance with the law of the Lord given earlier (see D&C 42:30-32).
"In March 1833, however, a Missouri court held that irrevocably deeding all of one's property to the Church was not a practice that should be allowed, since it conflicted with the court's views of fairness and its understanding of the intent of British common law. The Missouri court ordered that property formerly consecrated to the Church be returned to its original owner, in this specific case an apostate member named Bates. Since the intent of section 51 was that all aspects of consecration should be strictly legal, Joseph revised the wording of the revelation to accommodate the court's decision by deleting the verse between the present verses 2-3 that instructed Edward Partridge to retain legal title to consecrated properties. Joseph also added verse 5, which clarifies that stewardships are the private property of their stewards." (Stephen E. Robinson, H. Dean Garrett, A Commentary on the Doctrine and Covenants, [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 2001] 2:111)
According to Section 83 and subsequent to the legal ruling, a dissenting individual leaving the Church was allowed to live on the property received as an inheritance from the Bishop. He could not have claim on the surplus that he had donated to the Bishop's storehouse. This was to be treated as charitable donation to the Church.
DC 83:4 All children have claim upon their parents for their maintenance
Gordon B. Hinckley
Husband and wife have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and for their children. "Children are an heritage of the Lord" (Psalms 127:3). Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, to teach them to love and serve one another, to observe the commandments of God and to be law-abiding citizens wherever they live. Husbands and wives-mothers and fathers-will be held accountable before God for the discharge of these obligations. (From "The Family: A Proclamation to the World," Ensign, Nov. 1995, 101)
DC 83:5 after that they have claim upon the church
H. Burke Peterson
When an individual cannot care for himself, his family should provide every assistance possible; and when the family of the needy person has done all it can do to provide money or commodities, the bishop is empowered to assist. According to the Welfare Services Handbook, the bishop of each ward has "the sole mandate to care for, and the sole discretion in caring for the poor [and needy] of the Church... It is his duty and his only to determine to whom, when, how and how much shall be given to any member of his ward from Church funds [or commodities]... This is his high and solemn obligation imposed by the Lord Himself. Whoever and whatever the help he calls in to assist him to perform this service, he is still responsible." (Welfare Services Handbook, p. 6.) Bishops must remember that they are under sacred obligation to follow the whole welfare services program of the Church as it relates to serving the poor and the needy. ("Acquiring and Managing Production Projects," Ensign, Nov. 1976, 114-115)
DC 83:6 a storehouse shall be kept by the consecrations of the church
"Your bishop is empowered-indeed he is commanded-to actively seek out those who need help and to provide for their needs. To aid him in assessing and meeting those needs, the bishop has the Storehouse Resource System he can call upon. He has access to an employment system coordinated by Melchizedek Priesthood Quorums. He has the bishops storehouse from which he may obtain food and nonfood commodities. He has the fast offering fund out of which he may pay for rent and utilities. As approved by his stake president, he may call upon LDS Social Services where necessary. Deseret Industries stocks nonfood items that your bishop may obtain by using a bishop's order. Normally the bishop will call upon the Relief Society president to assist in determining how to apply the resources in the Storehouse Resource System." (R. Quinn Gardner, "I Have a Question," Ensign, Mar. 1978, 19-20)
J. Reuben Clark, Jr.
Our storehouses today under the welfare plan are kept, in fact, by the consecrations of the Church, that is, of the membership of the Church. The storehouses we have now are ... stocked by the produce raised and materials fabricated for the purpose by the Church members. These contributions are truly consecrations, for they are freely and gratuitously given, with no claim back by the donor either as to the contributions themselves or to compensations therefore. (Victor L. Brown, "Welfare Services Essentials: The Bishops Storehouse," Ensign, Nov. 1976, 114)
DC 83:6 widows and orphans shall be provided for
Thomas S. Monson
The widow's home is generally not large or ornate. Frequently it is a modest one in size and humble in appearance. Often it is tucked away at the top of the stairs or the back of the hallway and consists of but one room. To such homes he sends you and me.
There may exist an actual need for food, clothing-even shelter. Such can be supplied. Almost always there remains the hope for that special hyacinth to feed the soul.
Go, gladden the lonely, the dreary;
Go, comfort the weeping, the weary;
Go, scatter kind deeds on your way;
Oh, make the world brighter today!
Let us remember that after the funeral flowers fade, the well wishes of friends become memories, and the prayers offered and words spoken dim in the corridors of the mind. Those who grieve frequently find themselves alone. Missed is the laughter of children, the commotion of teenagers, and the tender, loving concern of a departed companion. The clock ticks more loudly, time passes more slowly, and four walls do indeed a prison make.
Hopefully, all of us may again hear the echo of words spoken by the Master, inspiring us to good deeds: "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these ... ye have done it unto me." ("The Fatherless and the Widows-Beloved of God," Ensign, Nov. 1994, 70)
Joseph F. Smith
It is intended that the widows shall be looked after when they are in need, and that the fatherless and the orphans shall be provided for from the funds of the Church; that they shall be clothed and fed, and shall have opportunity for education, the same as other children who have parents to look after them. When a child is fatherless and motherless the Church becomes the parent of that child, and it is obligatory upon the Church to take care of it, and to see that it has opportunities equal with the other children in the Church. This is a great responsibility. Have we ever seen the day since the Church was organized when we could carry out this purpose of the Lord fully, and to our heart's content? We have not, because we never have had the means to do it with. But if men will obey the laws of God so that there shall be abundance in the storehouse of the Lord, we will have wherewith to feed and clothe the poor and the orphan and to look after those who are in need in the Church. (Stephen E. Robinson, H. Dean Garrett, A Commentary on the Doctrine and Covenants, [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 2001] 3:21)