DC 70 Historical Background
November 1 to November 12, 1831 was a time of great revelation. In conference with the Brethren, the Prophet would receive six revelations in only 12 days. Sections 67, 68, 69, & 70 are included in the Doctrine and Covenants in chronological order. Section 1 and Section 133 were received at this time but are found elsewhere. Section 1 as the Lord's preface to his Book of Commandments was placed first. Section 133, an anthem to the glory of Millenial Zion, was originally placed as an appendix to the early revelations.
Up to November 1831, the Prophet had received 72 revelations which eventually were included in the Doctrine and Covenants. In addition to these revelations, the Prophet had received several others which were not canonized. With so much revelation recorded but not available for the saints to read, it became necessary to publish them.
"This revelations established what was essentially the first scripture committee of the Church. It created a joint stewardship over the modern scriptures, which included the Prophet, his scribes, and the Church printer. This joint stewardship or oversight committee was responsible for any plans or decisions involving the revelations. They were responsible for publishing them to the world, and they were to be compensated for their labors from whatever profits the sale of copies generated. This joint stewardship and financial partnership, organized upon the principles of the law of consecration, soon came to be known as the Literary Firm, a term reflecting its stewardship over the media concerns of the Church." (Stephen E. Robinson, H. Dean Garrett, A Commentary on the Doctrine and Covenants, [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 2001] 2:256)
My time was occupied closely in reviewing the commandments and sitting in conference, for nearly two weeks; for from the first to the twelfth of November we held four special conferences. In the last which was held at Brother Johnson's, in Hiram, after deliberate consideration, in consequence of the book of revelations, now to be printed, being the foundation of the Church in these last days, and a benefit to the world, showing that the keys of the mysteries of the kingdom of our Savior are again entrusted to man; and the riches of eternity within the compass of those who are willing to live by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God-therefore the conference voted that they prize the revelations to be worth to the Church the riches of the whole earth, speaking temporally. The great benefits to the world which result from the Book of Mormon and the revelations which the Lord has seen fit in His infinite wisdom to grant unto us for our salvation, and for the salvation of all that will believe, were duly appreciated; and in answer to an inquiry, I received [section 70]: (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: 235 - 236.)
In the minutes of the special conference of November 12th, spoken of in the foregoing by the Prophet, occurs the following account of what took place in addition to what the Prophet has written: "Brother Joseph Smith, Jun., said one item he wished acted upon was that our brothers Oliver Cowdery and John Whitmer and the sacred writings which they have entrusted to them to carry to Zion-be dedicated to the Lord by the prayer of faith. Secondly, Brother Oliver has labored with me from the beginning in writing, &c. Brother Martin has labored with me from the beginning and Brothers John Whitmer and Sidney Rigdon also for a considerable time, and as these sacred writings are now going to the Church for its benefit, that we may have claim on the Church for recompense-if this conference think these things worth prizing to he had on record to show hereafter-I feel that it will be according to the mind of the Spirit, for by it these things were put into my heart which I know to be the Spirit of truth.
"Voted; that Joseph Smith, Jun., be appointed to dedicate and consecrate these brethren and the sacred writings and all they have entrusted to their care, to the Lord. Done accordingly. * * * * Voted; that in consequence of the diligence of our brethren, Joseph Smith, Jun., Oliver Cowdery, John Whitmer, and Sidney Rigdon in bringing to light by the grace of God these sacred things,-[they] be appointed to manage them according to the laws of the Church and the commandments of the Lord. And also that in consequence of the families of Joseph Smith, Hyrum Smith, Peter Whitmer, Christian Whitmer, Jacob Whitmer, Hiram Page and David Whitmer administering to their wants in temporal things; and also [on account of] the labors of Samuel H. Smith, Peter Whitmer, Jun., William Smith and Don Carlos Smith-voted by the conference that the above named brethren be remembered to the Bishop in Zion as being worthy of inheritances among the people of the Lord according to the laws of said Church."-Far West Record, pp. 18, 19. (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: 236.)
DC 70 Importance of the Doctrine and Covenants
Howard W. Hunter
The Doctrine and Covenants is a unique book. It is the only book on the face of the entire earth with a preface composed by the Creator himself. Furthermore, this book of scripture contains more direct quotations from the Lord than any other existing book of scripture.
It is not a translation of an ancient document, but is of modern origin. It is a book of revelation for our day. It is a unique and divinely inspired selection of revelations that came through prophets of God in our day in answer to questions, concerns, and challenges they and others faced. It contains divine answers to real-life problems involving real people.
The Doctrine and Covenants contains the word and will of the Lord as revealed to men and women in this dispensation of time. It is a book of scripture specifically for our day. It is a book for the entire world. (The Teachings of Howard W. Hunter, edited by Clyde J. Williams [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1997], 55.)
The book of Doctrine and Covenants is given for the Latter-day Saints expressly for their everyday walk and actions. (Discourses of Brigham Young, selected and arranged by John A. Widtsoe [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1954], 128.)
Joseph F. Smith
I say to my brethren that the book of Doctrine and Covenants contains some of the most glorious principles ever revealed to the world, some that have been revealed in greater fulness than they were ever revealed before to the world; and this, in fulfilment of the promise of the ancient prophets that in the latter times the Lord would reveal things to the world that had been kept hidden from the foundation thereof; and the Lord has revealed them through the Prophet Joseph Smith. (Gospel Doctrine: Selections from the Sermons and Writings of Joseph F. Smith, compiled by John A. Widtsoe [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1939], 45.)
Ezra Taft Benson
The Book of Mormon brings men to Christ. The Doctrine and Covenants brings men to Christ's kingdom, even The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, "the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth" (D&C 1:30). I know that. (The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1988], 41.)
DC 70:1 hearken, O ye inhabitants of Zion, and all ye people of my church
We find on page 233 that the Lord called together six of his Elders, and gave them commandments and revelation, and appointed unto them a stewardship: "Behold, and hearken, O ye inhabitants of Zion, and all ye people of my Church." Now this was quite extensive. "All ye people of my Church." The Lord was going to speak, here, something that concerned all the Saints, wherever they might be, whether in New York, Ohio, Missouri, Indiana or any other part of the world. "Hearken, O ye inhabitants of Zion, and ALL ye people of my Church, who are afar off." Now here is something which concerned all the Latter-day Saints, and which the Lord considered of vast importance to everybody worthy to be called by that name. He wanted all the inhabitants of Zion to pay particular attention to what he was going to say to these six of his Elders. It concerned everybody. The fact in the case was that he took these six Elders and made them an example to all the Saints. (Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. [London: Latter-day Saints' Book Depot, 1854-1886], 20: 366.)
DC 70:1-3 I, the Lord, have appointed them, and ordained them to be stewards over the revelations
"For two weeks following the conference, Joseph Smith reviewed and arranged the manuscript revelations... [Section 70 called] Joseph Smith, Martin Harris, Oliver Cowdery, John Whitmer, Sidney Rigdon, and W. W. Phelps to be 'stewards over the revelations and commandments.' This group, subsequently known as the 'Literary Firm,' was to assume the responsibility for publishing the revelations. Their support was to come from the proceeds of this publishing venture and any profits over and above what was needed for their support were to be paid into the bishops storehouse.
"Cowdery and Whitmer left Kirtland November 20, 1831, arriving in Independence January 5, 1832. That April, Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon, and others journeyed to Independence, bringing with them paper for the Independence press. On April 30, 1832, the publishing of the revelations was again taken up.
"A council meeting of the Literary Firm was held in Zion, Jackson County, Mo. There was present: Joseph Smith Jun, Sidney Rigdon, John Whitmer, Oliver Cowdery, Wm. W. Phelps and Jesse Gause (one of the President's Counselors). The Council ordered that 3000 copies of the Book of Commandments should be printed as the first edition. . . . Brother Wm. W. Phelps, Oliver Cowdery and John Whitmer were appointed to review the Book of Commandments and select for printing such as should be deemed by them proper, as dictated by the spirit, and make all necessary verbal corrections." (A Bibliography of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in New York, Ohio, and Missouri by Peter Crawley Fn, BYU Studies, vol. 12 (1971-1972), Number 4 - Summer 1972, 481-482.)
"The revelations were duly reviewed and prepared and the printing of them began, when on the 20th of July, 1833, a mob destroyed the press, scattering the papers and other supplies, and threw down the printing establishment itself.
"Just how many copies of A Book of Commandments were saved or how many of the revelations that were to be printed, were printed is not known. It is known that sixty-five chapters or revelations were printed and a few copies of that many printed revelations were saved.
"It was not intended that the Book of Commandments should contain all the revelations that had been given up to the year 1833, and, when the press was destroyed, it is doubtful that all those selected were printed.
"...[In] August 17, 1835... at the general assembly of the Priesthood and the Church held in Kirtland the book or manuscript of the book of Doctrine and Covenants was presented for approval. It contained seven Lectures on Faith which had been given previously to a class of Elders in Kirtland, Ohio. They were placed in the 1835 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants because 'they were judiciously arranged and compiled and were profitable for doctrine.'" (The Doctrine and Covenants, Improvement Era, 1941, Vol. Xliv. October, 1941. No. 10)
DC 70:4-5 an account of this stewardship will I require of them
Now, was it designed that these six men should go and build fine houses, and spread abroad and obtain immense treasures of the earth, independent of the obligations devolving upon them to other people? There was great latitude given them, but they were held accountable unto the Lord. "I give you this latitude to exercise, but, remember, you are accountable; and an account of your stewardship will I require of you in the day of judgment." Some of these Elders had seen God and talked with him face to face, and angels had laid their hands upon their heads. They knew that there was a God in heaven. This was made clear to them by the power of the Almighty, and by angels making their appearance unto them, and talking with them as one man talks with another. Now, when we consider what the Lord said to these men that were thus enlightened, and had this wonderful experience, we see that it required a man to be a little careful how he acted in regard to these temporal affairs that were given to him in charge. (Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. [London: Latter-day Saints' Book Depot, 1854-1886], 20: 367 - 368.)
DC 70:7-9 inasmuch as they receive more than is needful
Now, you notice here, the Lord did not intend those individuals whom he named to become rich out of the avails of the sale of the Book of Mormon and the Book of Doctrine and Covenants, and other revelations and the literary concerns of his Church, he never intended that they should become rich while others were poor, that was not the order; but inasmuch as they received more than was needful for their support what should they do with it? Should they aggrandize themselves while their poor brethren were destitute? No, not at all; they were to give all the surplus, over and above what was really necessary to support them, into the Lord's store-house, and it was to be for the benefit of all the people of Zion, not only the living but for their generations after them, inasmuch as they became heirs according to the laws of the kingdom of God.
There was a certain way to become heirs according to the laws of the kingdom of God. Heirs of what? Heirs of the avails arising from the sale of the revelations which all the inhabitants of Zion were to be benefited by. Says one-"But perhaps that was limited to those six individuals who are here named, and did not mean the whole Church." Wait, let us read the next sentence-"Behold, this is what the Lord requires of every man in his stewardship, even as I the Lord have appointed or shall hereafter appoint." From this we learn that all the stewards which the Lord had appointed; and all that he should appoint, in a future time, to stewardships, were to hand over all their surplus-all that was not necessary to feed and clothe them-into the Lord's store house. None who belonged to the Church of the living God are exempt from this law. Does that law include us? It includes all who belong to the Church, not one is exempt from it. (Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. [London: Latter-day Saints' Book Depot, 1854-1886], 17: 106.)
DC 70:12 He who is appointed to administer spiritual things, the same is worthy of his hire
John A. Widstoe
The work of the church may be said correctly to be done by an unpaid ministry. Nevertheless, those who serve the church in this manner of sacrifice unanimously declare that the spiritual reward from the service is far greater than any material reward that might be offered. (Roy W. Doxey, comp., Latter-day Prophets and the Doctrine and Covenants [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1978], 2: 395.)
When I was on my first mission, I received a letter from my father in which he said in words such as these, "My son, I would like to say to you that there is no organization, corporation, or society in the world that will pay as great dividends on your time, your means invested, and your talents as the Church and Kingdom of God." And I want to bear testimony to you this day, brethren, of the truth of this statement. I feel that the Lord owes me nothing for what I have done in the Church. He is the best Paymaster I know anything about. (Conference Report, April 1943, Second Day-Morning Meeting 46.)
DC 70:12-14 the abundance of the manifestations of the Spirit
An important principle is alluded to in these verses. The Lord is teaching how we are to receive the abundance of the manifestations of the Spirit. The requirements are that we are faithful stewards in our spiritual responsibilities and that we are equal with respect to temporal things.
Certainly one of the greatest blessings of church membership is the regular manifestation of the Spirit in our lives. How can we make these manifestations more abundant? The abundant life requires faithfulness and obedience to the spirit of the law of consecration.
There is no doubt, if a person lives according to the revelations given to God's people, he may have the Spirit of the Lord to signify to him his will, and to guide and to direct him in the discharge of his duties, in his temporal as well as his spiritual exercises. I am satisfied, however, that in this respect, we live far beneath our privileges. (Discourses of Brigham Young, selected and arranged by John A. Widtsoe [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1954], 32.)
This is the grand privilege of every Latter-day Saint. We know that it is our right to have the manifestations of the spirit every day of our lives... This is a grand means that the Lord has provided for us, that we may know the light, and not be groveling continually in the dark. (James A. Cullimore, "Grieve Not the Holy Spirit, Lest We Lose It," Ensign, May 1978, 26)
DC 70:14 in your temporal things you shall be equal, and this not grudgingly
"The LDS doctrine of equality was formulated early. "If ye are not equal in earthly things, ye cannot be equal in obtaining heavenly things," read one March 1832 revelation (D&C 78:6), and, from the beginning, there was an earnest attempt to conduct business in this spirit of equality. When New York converts to the young Church began to arrive at the newly established gathering place of Kirtland, Ohio, in May 1831, the governing principle for the allotment of land and other properties was that every man receive "equal according to his family, according to their circumstances," and that all "receive alike, that ye may be one" (D&C 51:3, 9). Similarly, a revelation in Ohio instructed the Saints that "in your temporal things you shall be equal, and this not grudgingly, otherwise the abundance of the manifestations of the Spirit shall be withheld" (D&C 70:14). Similar instructions accompanied the stewardship system tried in Jackson County, Missouri: "And you are to be equal, or in other words, you are to have equal claims on the properties, for the benefit of managing...your stewardships, every man according to his wants and his needs, inasmuch as his wants are just" (D&C 82:17).
The core of the policy was reflected in the system of immigration (the more well-to-do were encouraged to donate means to assist in the immigration of poorer converts), the construction of public works (those with a surplus were expected to contribute), the allotment of land and water (parceled out equally to all by means of community drawings), and the initiation of many cooperative village stores and industries. But the influence of the ideal of equality was still wider. It led to several attempts to completely reorganize society and put economic affairs on a more egalitarian basis. (Leonard J. Arrington, Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 1-4 vols., edited by Daniel H. Ludlow (New York: Macmillan, 1992), 439.)
Bruce R. McConkie
Perfect equality does not now prevail either in the world or in the Church. But when life is perfected among the saints and when the highest gospel law is lived, then both temporal and spiritual equality will prevail. Temporal adjustments under the principles of consecration will make "every man equal according to his circumstances and his wants and needs." (D. & C. 51:3; 82:17.) "In your temporal things you shall be equal, and this not grudgingly, otherwise the abundance of the manifestations of the Spirit shall be withheld." (D. & C. 70:14.) "For if ye are not equal in earthly things ye cannot be equal in obtaining heavenly things." (D. & C. 78:3-7.) (Mormon Doctrine, 2d ed. [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966], 231.)