DC 67 Historical Background
Joseph Fielding Smith
For some months before the Prophet moved to Hiram he was inspired by the Lord to prepare the important revelations from the beginning for publication. This selection was well under way at the close of the conference of October 25th. As Oliver Cowdery and John Whitmer were making preparations to go to Missouri to attend to the duties assigned them at an earlier date, a conference was called to assemble November 1, 1831, to consider matters as might need attention before their departure. The most important matter to be considered was the publishing of "The Book of Commandments," as it had been decided that the compilation of revelations should be called. On the first day of the conference (November 1st) the Lord gave his endorsement to the publication by giving one of the greatest revelations ever received by man as his Preface to the Book of his Commandments (D&C 1).... In this great revelation he proclaimed to the whole world his message of repentance and the restoration of the Gospel for the salvation of mankind. The conference decided that ten thousand copies of the book should be printed by the brethren when they arrived in Missouri. This was later changed because of the opposition by enemies and the difficulties in relation to the publication, to three thousand copies.
On the second day of the conference, the Prophet said that "inasmuch as the Lord had bestowed a great blessing upon us in giving commandments and revelations," he asked the conference what testimony they were willing to attach to these commandments which would shortly be sent to the world. A number of the brethren arose and said that they were willing to testify to the world that they knew that they (the commandments) "were of the Lord." The minutes of the second day also records:
"The revelation of last evening were read by the moderator, (Oliver Cowdery). The brethren then arose in turn and bore witness to the truth of the Book of Commandments; after which Brother Joseph Smith, Jun, arose and expressed his feelings and gratitude concerning the commandments and preface received yesterday."
(Joseph Fielding Smith, Church History and Modern Revelation, 4 vols. [Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1946-1949], 2: 18-19.)
"It was...the intention of the Prophet Joseph Smith that the elders present at this conference should bear written testimony to the world of the truth of these revelations in the same manner that the Three Witnesses and the Eight Witnesses had testified to the truth of the Book of Mormon. Such special witnesses as these do not merely testify to what they believe but also of what they have come to know through their own personal experience. For this purpose, the elders present were promised a remarkable blessing from the Lord that would confirm the truth of the revelations to them...(see v. 3). This blessing would enable them to testify of what they knew from their own personal experience rather than of what they accepted from others on faith.
"When the afternoon session of the conference convened, however, there was some disunity among the elders concerning the revelations. Apparently, the problem was threefold. First, the blessing offered to the elders, by which they would know for a surety that the revelations were true, had not been received (see v. 3). Second, without this blessing, at least some of the elders present felt they could not in good conscience testify that they absolutely knew that every single revelation was from God (see v. 7). Third, these elders' misgivings were based largely on the style and language of the revelations, which in their estimation was not sophisticated enough to convince others of their divine origin. Some who felt themselves better educated than Joseph wanted to edit his revelations in order to improve upon them (see v. 5).
"...Is the inspired quality of a revelation found in what it says or in how it says it? Is the divinity in the message or in its vocabulary and punctuation? The elders present at the November conference...with all their superior education polish, and literary skills...could not duplicate the divine element that they sensed in the revelation of the Prophet Joseph Smith." (Stephen E. Robinson, H. Dean Garrett, A Commentary on the Doctrine and Covenants, [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 2001] 2:232-233)
Joseph Fielding Smith
Considerable time was spent in discussion concerning the language as it had been given, whereupon the Prophet through prayer received a revelation in which the Lord submitted a challenge to these learned brethren. It appears that this revelation silenced the critics, all except one: William E. M'Lellin. (Church History and Modern Revelation, 4 vols. [Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1946-1949], 2:19.)
DC 67:3 the blessing...was offered unto you; but behold...there were fears in your hearts
"God had promised the ten elders present at the 1 November conference that they would receive a blessing that would give them personal proof of the revelations. The exact nature of this promised blessing is not stated, but it is strongly implied in verses 10-14. The elders had tried to believe God would give them what he promised, but they were also afraid...
"It appears the Lord had promised a special experience to these elders in connection with the Book of Commandments that would be similar to the experiences granted the Three Witnesses and Eight Witnesses of the book of Mormon (compare v. 10). Though they did not receive a special manifestation at this time, they would still be eligible in the future to have the veil parted and to see the Lord (see v. 13)." (Stephen E. Robinson, H. Dean Garrett, A Commentary on the Doctrine and Covenants, [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 2001] 2:234)
DC 67:4 I, the Lord, give unto you a testimony of the truth of these commandments
If the Lord were to speak at your testimony meeting, what would he say? What would be his testimony? Among other things, he would testify of the truthfulness of the scriptures. Of the Doctrine and Covenants he has already given us his personal "testimony of the truth of these commandments which are lying before [us]." Of the Book of Mormon, he has declared-even with an oath, "as your Lord and your God liveth it is true" (D&C 17:6, italics added). What more testimony do we need? What should we do with the revelations he has given us? Isn't it fair for him to judge us based on what scripture we have? Consider Nephi's bold declaration:
If they are not the words of Christ, judge ye-for Christ will show unto you, with power and great glory, that they are his words, at the last day; and you and I shall stand face to face before his bar; and ye shall know that I have been commanded of him to write these things, notwithstanding my weakness. (2 Ne. 33:11)
DC 67:5 my servant Joseph Smith...his language you have known, and his imperfections you have known
"Lorenzo Snow said: 'I can fellowship the President of the Church, if he does not know everything I know. . . . I saw the . . . imperfections in [Joseph Smith]. . . . I thanked God that he would put upon a man who had those imperfections the power and authority he placed upon him . . . for I knew that I myself had weakness[es], and I thought there was a chance for me.'
"Unfortunately, not all Latter-day Saints have been as sensitive or considerate of Joseph Smith and his successors as was Elder Snow. It has become somewhat fashionable, in fact, to emphasize the humanness and weaknesses of those called to lead the Church, to cast aspersions on their motives or character, and to reveal their personal and intricate details, the context and true meanings of which are often lacking.
"President Gordon B. Hinckley noted that 'we have critics who appear to cull out of a vast panorama of information those items which demean and belittle some men and women of the past who worked so hard in laying the foundation of this great cause. They find readers of their works who seem to delight in picking up these tidbits, in chewing them over and relishing them. . . . My plea is that as we continue our search for truth . . . we look for strength and goodness rather than weakness and foibles in those who did so great a work in their time.
"'We recognize that our forebears were human. They doubtless made mistakes. . . . There was only one perfect man who ever walked the earth. The Lord has used imperfect people in the process of building his perfect society. If some of them occasionally stumbled, or if their characters may have been slightly flawed in one way or another, the wonder is the greater that they accomplished so much.'
"Prophets are called and approved of God-what further and greater recommendation do we need? We ought to be grateful that God can utilize imperfect beings and that these men-molded into vessels of holiness over time-can prove such a benefit to their fellow imperfect humans. Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, Lorenzo Snow, Joseph F. Smith, or others of our leaders cannot be with us now to answer all the charges against them. But be it remembered again that God called them and God has evidenced his approbation of their labors. (Robert L. Millet, Selected Writings of Robert L. Millet: Gospel Scholars Series [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 2000], 141.)
Neal A. Maxwell
What is most to be focused on-the fact that Peter walked briefly on the water or that he did not continue? Has any other mortal so walked, even that briefly?
Imperfect people are, in fact, called by our perfect Lord to assist in His work. The Lord declared to certain associates of Joseph Smith that He knew that they had observed Joseph's minor imperfections. Even so, the Lord then testified that the revelations given through the Prophet were true! (See D&C 67:5, 9.)
Unsurprisingly, therefore, we do notice each other's weaknesses. But we should not celebrate them. Let us be grateful for the small strides that we and others make, rather than rejoice in the shortfalls. And when mistakes occur, let them become instructive, not destructive.
I cherish these generous lines from that very able, but very humble, prophet-editor Moroni:
"Condemn me not because of mine imperfection, neither my father, because of his imperfection, neither them who have written before him; but rather give thanks unto God that he hath made manifest unto you our imperfections, that ye may learn to be more wise than we have been." (Morm. 9:31; italics added.) ("A Brother Offended," Ensign, May 1982, 38-39)
DC 67:7-8 if there be any among you that shall make one like unto it, then ye are justified
"McLellin, perhaps under the urging of others, accepted the challenge. He retired from the conference and, in the solitude of his room, attempted to write that which might sound like a revelation from the Lord. On November 2nd he appeared again in the conference and with tears in his eyes begged the forgiveness of the Prophet, of his brethren, and of the Lord. He could not write a revelation. Try as he might, he could not write that which would sound as if it were a revelation from the Lord. Everyone who puts the matter to the test must come to the same conclusion." (William E. Berrett, Teachings of the Doctrine and Covenants [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1956], 6.)
After the foregoing was received (D&C 67), William E. M'Lellin, as the wisest man, in his own estimation, having more learning than sense, endeavored to write a commandment like unto one of the least of the Lord's, but failed; it was an awful responsibility to write in the name of the Lord. The Elders and all present that witnessed this vain attempt of a man to imitate the language of Jesus Christ, renewed their faith in the fulness of the Gospel, and in the truth of the commandments and revelations which the Lord had given to the Church through my instrumentality; and the Elders signified a willingness to bear testimony of their truth to all the world. Accordingly I received the following:
The testimony of the witnesses to the book of the Lord's commandments, which He gave to His Church through Joseph Smith, Jun., who was appointed by the voice of the Church for this purpose; we therefore feel willing to bear testimony to all the world of mankind, to every creature upon the face of all the earth and upon the islands of the sea, that the Lord has borne record to our souls, through the Holy Ghost, shed forth upon us, that these commandments were given by inspiration of God, and are profitable for all men, and are verily true. We give this testimony unto the world, the Lord being our helper; and it is through the grace of God, the Father, and His Son, Jesus Christ, that we are permitted to have this privilege of bearing this testimony unto the world, that the children of men may be profited thereby.
(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: 226.)
DC 67:10 strip yourselves from jealousies and fears
"Fearing that blessings may not come will weaken what faith we have been able to develop. Fearfulness is not of the spirit of the Lord. 'For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.' (2 Tim. 1:7.) Fear works against us. And when we give it heaven in our hearts, we may find ourselves in the same position as some early elders in the Church who were told, 'Ye endeavored to believe that ye should receive the blessing which was offered unto you; but behold, verily I say unto you there were fears in your hearts, and verily this is the reason that ye did not receive.' (D&C 67:3.) If I find myself in this situation, it demands that I discipline my mind to focus on the task at hand rather than on the fear itself." (Jeannie McAllister, LDS Women's Treasury: Insights and Inspiration for Today's Woman [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1997], 335.)
Neal A. Maxwell
The gospel of Jesus Christ is a gospel of love and hope-not jealousy and fear. (All These Things Shall Give Thee Experience [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1979], 84.)
Joseph F. Smith
We hear about living in perilous times. We are in perilous times, but I do not feel the pangs of that terror. It is not upon me. I propose to live so that it will not rest upon me. I propose to live so that I shall be immune from the perils of the world, if it be possible for me to so live, by obedience to the commandments of God and to his laws revealed for my guidance. No matter what may come to me, if I am only in the line of my duty, if I am in fellowship with God, if I am worthy of the fellowship of my brethren, if I can stand spotless before the world, without blemish, without transgression of the laws of God, what does it matter to me what may happen to me? I am always ready, if I am in this frame of understanding mind and conduct. It does not matter at all. Therefore I borrow no trouble nor feel the pangs of fear. (Gospel Doctrine: Selections from the Sermons and Writings of Joseph F. Smith, compiled by John A. Widtsoe [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1939], 89.)
Howard W. Hunter
Fear, which can come upon people in difficult days, is a principal weapon in the arsenal that Satan uses to make mankind unhappy. He who fears loses strength for the combat of life in the fight against evil. Therefore, the power of the evil one always tries to generate fear in human hearts. In every age and in every era fear has faced mankind. (The Teachings of Howard W. Hunter, edited by Clyde J. Williams [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1997], 83.)
Neal A. Maxwell
For us to be freed from our fears is to reassert our command over ourselves-to be able to direct our energy, concerns, thoughts, and talents into productive paths. For us to jettison our jealousies is to stop yet another form of waste, for we cannot go where He is if we worry rather than rejoice over who else will be there. Jousting for position among peers and friends is to waste what could better be used in the battle against the enemy of evil. To be more humble includes being more teachable. There is so much to learn. (Wherefore, Ye Must Press Forward [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1977], 94.)
DC 67:10 humble yourselves before me...the veil shall be rent and you shall see me
It is the privilege of every Elder to speak of the things of God; and could we all come together with one heart and one mind in perfect faith the veil might as well be rent today as next week, or any other time, and if we will but cleanse ourselves and covenant before God, to serve him, it is our privilege to have an assurance that God will protect us at all times. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 9.)
Bruce R. McConkie
Many of these first elders in the kingdom did qualify in due course, while they yet dwelt in the flesh, to see the face of their King. How much spiritual progress we have made in the Church since the day of this revelation may be measured in terms of the number of the elders of Israel for whom the veil has been rent and who have seen the face of Him whose we are. (The Promised Messiah: The First Coming of Christ [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1978], 591.)
Bruce R. McConkie
The Lord wants all his children to gain light and truth and knowledge from on high. It is his will that we pierce the veil and rend the heavens and see the visions of eternity.
By his own mouth he has given us this promise: "It shall come to pass that every soul who forsaketh his sins and cometh unto me, and calleth on my name, and obeyeth my voice, and keepeth my commandments, shall see my face and know that I am" (D&C 93:1).
Such is his promise to us here and now while we yet dwell as mortals in a world of sorrow and sin. It is our privilege even now-the privilege of all who hold the holy priesthood-if we will strip ourselves from jealousies and fears and humble ourselves before him, as he has said, to have the veil rent and see him and know that he is. (See D&C 67:10.)
To carnal men, and even to those among us whose souls are not attuned to the Infinite, these promises may seem as the gibberish of alien tongues, but to those whose souls are afire with the light of heaven they will be as a bush that burns and is not consumed. As Paul, our fellow apostle and witness of that same Lord whose servants we are, expressed it: "The things of God knoweth no man, except he has the Spirit of God" (JST-1 Cor. 2:11).
Now may I bear a solemn witness, one borne of the Spirit, that these doctrines are true, that the Lord God is raining down righteousness upon his people, and that he will continue to do so until that perfect day when they know all things and become as he is. ("Thou Shalt Receive Revelation," Ensign, Nov. 1978, 61)
Melvin J. Ballard
I know, as well as I know that I live and look into your faces, that Jesus Christ lives, and he is the Redeemer of the world, that he arose from the dead with a tangible body, and still has that real body which Thomas touched when he thrust his hands into his side and felt that wound of the spear, and also the prints of the nails in his hands. [John 20:26-29.] I know by the witness and the revelations of God to me that Thomas told the truth. I know by witness that Joseph Smith told the truth, for mine eyes have seen. For in the visions of the Lord to my soul, I have seen Christ's face, I have heard his voice. I know that he lives, that he is the Redeemer of the World, and that as he arose from the dead, a tangible and real individual, so shall all men arise in the resurrection from the dead. [Sec. 88:29-32.] (CR, April 1920, pp. 40-41.) (Roy W. Doxey, comp., Latter-day Prophets and the Doctrine and Covenants [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1978], 2: 357.)
George Q. Cannon
I know that God lives. I know that Jesus lives; for I have seen Him. I know that this is the Church of God, and that it is founded on Jesus Christ, our Redeemer. I testify to you of these things as one that knows-as one of the Apostles of the Lord that He lives send that He will live, and will come to reign on the earth, to sway an undisputed sceptre. I say that it is our duty to keep the commandments of God, and to be faithful in all things. (DW, October 6, 1896, 53:610.) (Roy W. Doxey, comp., Latter-day Prophets and the Doctrine and Covenants [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1978], 2: 357.)
DC 67:11-12 no man has seen God at any time in the flesh, except quickened by the Spirit of God
Harold B. Lee
Now, the explanation of that is well given by Moses when he was visited by the Lord. Notice how he explained how he had been able to see God. "But now mine own eyes have beheld God; but not my natural, but my spiritual eyes, for my natural eyes could not have beheld; for I should have withered and died in his presence; but his glory was upon me; and I beheld his face, for I was transfigured before him" (Moses 1:11).
Now, if you will read carefully the testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith, you will find him relating the experience of how the Father and the Son came to him and delivered that great message as to what he should do, what church he should join and not join; he says this: "When I came to myself again, I found myself lying on my back, looking up into heaven" (Joseph Smith-History 1:20). In other words, he had exactly the same kind of experience that Moses had. One must be transfigured, then, to see with his spiritual eyes and not his natural eyes. If you will read the first chapter of the book of Revelation, where this great revelation came to John the Revelator, you will find that same thing being said by John. He fell at His feet, he was overcome, he was witnessing by the Spirit things that he could not have beheld with his natural eyes.
So if we understand, then, that no man can see the Lord, or be in His presence, except quickened by the Spirit, except by that, we could not endure His presence. (The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, edited by Clyde J. Williams [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1996], 5.)
DC 67:13 continue in patience until ye are perfected
Russell M. Nelson
The Lord restored his church to help us prepare for perfection. Paul said that the Savior placed in the Church Apostles, prophets, and teachers, "for the perfecting of the saints, ... for the edifying of the body of Christ:
"Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ." (Eph. 4:12-13, emphasis added)
The perfect man described in Paul's quotation is the completed person-teleios-the glorified soul!
Moroni taught how to gain this glorious objective. His instruction stands in any age as an antidote for depression and a prescription for joy. I echo his plea: "Come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; ... love God with all your might, mind and strength ... [Then] ye may be perfect in Christ, ... holy, [and] without spot." (Moro. 10:32-33)
Meanwhile, brothers and sisters, let us do the best we can and try to improve each day. When our imperfections appear, we can keep trying to correct them. We can be more forgiving of flaws in ourselves and among those we love. We can be comforted and forbearing. The Lord taught, "Ye are not able to abide the presence of God now ... ; wherefore, continue in patience until ye are perfected."
We need not be dismayed if our earnest efforts toward perfection now seem so arduous and endless. Perfection is pending. It can come in full only after the Resurrection and only through the Lord. It awaits all who love him and keep his commandments. It includes thrones, kingdoms, principalities, powers, and dominions. It is the end for which we are to endure. It is the eternal perfection that God has in store for each of us. I so testify in the name of Jesus Christ, amen. ("Perfection Pending," Ensign, Nov. 1995, 88)