DC 74 Historical Background
In the spring of 1829, Joseph Smith translated the book of Moroni. Therein he was taught the doctrine of the Lord with respect to infant baptism, "little children need no repentance, neither baptism... he that saith that little children need baptism denieth the mercies of Christ, and setteth at naught the atonement... For behold that all little children are alive in Christ" (Moro. 8:11-22). Mormon was teaching Moroni that it is impossible for children to be unholy because the atonement of Christ saves them.
Over two and a half years later, Joseph Smith is "translating" again-this time with Sidney Rigdon. He comes across a disturbing phrase, "else were your children unholy; but now are they holy." (1 Cor. 7:14) Think how this phrase could be interpreted! Did Paul mean that children were unholy until they were baptized? Is that what Paul meant to say-that the Corinthian children are now holy because they have received the ordinance of baptism? Joseph Smith knows that doctrine can't be right. He knows that a minister who performs infant baptism can use this scripture from Paul to teach the false doctrine that infants need baptism, saying without it the children were unholy.
The Prophet Joseph needs help understanding how and why Paul is referring to the children as being "unclean."
The doctrine of baptizing children, or sprinkling them, or they must welter in hell, is a doctrine not true, not supported in Holy Writ, and is not consistent with the character of God. All children are redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ, and the moment that children leave this world, they are taken to the bosom of Abraham." (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 197)
DC 74 Introduction: The importance of the Joseph Smith Translation
"Q. How did Joseph Smith make the translation of the Bible?
"A. The Prophet had a large, family-size edition of the King James version of the Bible. He read from this, marked certain passages, and dictated the revisions, corrections, and additions to a scribe, who wrote them on paper. Sometimes the entire verse was recorded, sometimes only the part to be revised. The translation was done by divine revelation to the mind of the Prophet ....
"Q. What is the proper place of Joseph Smith's translation of the Bible in the larger background of Church history?
"A. Familiarity with the facts and the history of Joseph Smith's translation of the Bible shows that it was the means by which many important doctrines of the gospel were revealed to the Prophet. He was translating the Bible, not because he already knew the answers and doctrines, but because by the process and experience of the translation he would learn things important for him to know. Thus the translation is inseparable from the history of the Church and the building up of the kingdom in the last days." (Robert J. Matthews in Pearl of Great Price Commentary: A Selection From the Revelations, Translations, and Narrations of Joseph Smith, by Milton R. Hunter [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1951], 29 - 32.)
"The Joseph Smith Translation is a fact of history. It occupied a great amount of the Prophet Joseph Smith's time and energy. But it appears to me that it has generally not been appreciated for what it is and for the influence it has had on Church scripture and doctrine. In reality it has largely been neglected and even ignored by historians and scriptorians." (Robert J. Matthews, 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], 27 - 28.)
"Joseph Smith's inspired translation of the Bible was one of the pivotal developments of his work as a prophet and has had a profound influence on the Church. Joseph's knowledge about the principles of the gospel and God's work with His ancient prophets and people increased immensely through this project. He considered it an important 'branch' of his calling and labored diligently at it. When he and Sidney Rigdon were at home in Ohio, this was their major preoccupation. The frequency with which the 'translation' is referred to in the revelations and historical documents of the period underscores the importance of this project." (Prophet Was Influenced by Translating the Bible, LDS Church News, 1997, 05/17/97)
DC 74:1 the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife
"In the Corinthian Church, some evidently held that when the husband, or wife, had been converted, he, or she, ought to abandon the unconverted partner as unclean and contaminating. Not at all! St. Paul says, in substance, that the conversion of one of the partners has brought a sanctifying influence into the family. As Meyer puts it, 'The non-believing partner in a marriage becomes partner-as if by sacred contagion-of the higher, divinely consecrated character of his consort.' 'Else,' the Apostle argues, 'were your children unclean.' If the wife-this is the argument-must abandon a husband because he is not a Church member, she would also be obliged to abandon her children. But this is not required." (L. G. Otten and C. M. Caldwell, Sacred Truths of the Doctrine and Covenants [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1982-1983], 2: 16.)
Paul recognizes the struggles of part-member families among the Corinthians. Since there were significant cultural and religious differences between the believers and the unbelievers, his advice must have been a source of comfort and peace for those that wondered if they should leave their spouse for the gospel's sake (1 Cor. 7:2-13). Rather than condescending to the unbeliever, Paul recognizes the sanctifying power of having a believer in the home. Hence, the husband is sanctified by the wife's example. He is sanctified by the wife who brings the Spirit into the home. He is sanctified by the wife who raises up his children in light and truth. He is sanctified by the home teaching and missionary visits made possible by his wife's membership. He is sanctified by the possibility that years of diligence will soften the husband's heart towards baptism. One sister described her experience as follows:
"I was married in the temple in 1945 to a fine young man, and one whom I had known since I was 10 years old. One thinks that when one grows up in the same neighborhood where everyone knows everyone, that one would feel secure in a marriage that is sealed in the temple. Not necessarily so. After high school, my husband went to serve in the U.S. Navy during World War II. His time in the service changed my nice young man into a person that I really didn't know.
"He remained in the military for 20 years and much of that time we were not close to our family or the Church. As our family grew my husband encouraged me to take the children to Church but he would not go. We also could not discuss the Church or any religious topics at home.
"After reading this scripture I fasted and prayed continually that my husband's heart would be softened. I learned that our time is not the Lord's time, and I needed to live my life to be worthy of the time when my husband would accept and return to the fold. Although I had faith, I really never thought it would happen in this life. On our 49th anniversary of marriage we were able to go to the temple once again and have been going ever since. The joy we both feel is unspeakable." (Living by the Scriptures, LDS Church News, 1998, 02/28/98)
DC 74:3 a great contention arose among the people concerning the law of circumcision
Bruce R. McConkie
Circumcision was the token, cut into the very flesh of the Hebrews, which bore record that they were the seed of Abraham and were under covenant to keep the law of Moses. It was a symbol of the acceptance or rejection of a whole system of worship. When Paul and the others debate whether circumcision is essential to salvation, what they are really considering is whether the law of Moses is still in force or has been fulfilled in Christ. (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965-1973], 2: 140.)
DC 74:3 the law of Moses...was fulfilled
"There is no doubt that Peter and the other Brethren knew that the law of Moses was fulfilled. (Latter-day revelation also makes it plain that the law of Moses was fulfilled in Christ; see, for example, 3 Ne. 15:4-5-the Savior's comments to others who had been practicing the law-as well as Moro. 8:8 and D&C 74.) Obedience to the law of Moses was no longer a requirement for salvation since Jesus had completed his atonement. Missionary work among the Gentile nations could go forth directly and without impediment. Yet still there was that conflict between the doctrine of the Church and Jewish culture. The long-standing cultural tradition persisted among many Jewish members for years, even after the doctrinal question was settled." (Robert J. Matthews, "A Crisis, a Council, and Inspired Leadership," Ensign, Oct. 1995, 59)
Joseph Fielding Smith
Paul spoke not by commandment, but of himself. His intent, as explained in Section 74, being that where there were mixed families in the Church, the teachings of the Law of Moses and the doctrines which were fulfilled, should not be maintained. Male children in such families were not to be circumcised, and they would be holy. It was the doctrine of the Jews that unless this were done children were unholy. This Paul wished to correct. It was very difficult for the Jewish members of the Church to forsake all of their traditions and turn from the Law of Moses, and from circumcision which were fulfilled. (Church History and Modern Revelation, 4 vols. [Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1946-1949], 2: 45.)
DC 74:4-5 the children...gave heed to the traditions of their fathers... wherein they became unholy
If the mother believed in Christ and the father held to the Law of Moses, then what would happen to the children? Inevitably, some would follow their mother and others would hold to the "traditions of their fathers." Those children who rejected Christ and the message of the gospel became unholy after they arrived at the age of accountability. None of them were unholy before the age of eight.
The danger of marrying an unbeliever-then as well as now-is that the children may choose either belief system. It is hard enough to bring children up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord without having one spouse belittling the gospel message.
Joseph Fielding Smith
My father on many occasions gathered his children together and instructed them. He said he would rather take them to the grave and lay them away in their purity because they would be entitled to the blessings of the kingdom of God, than to see them marry outside of the house of the Lord-unless they repented-or to marry outside of the Church. (Answers to Gospel Questions, 5 vols. [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1957-1966], 4: 198.)
Hyrum M. Smith
No young man can marry outside of the Church, except he dishonor his father and mother, and the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the command of God as given in the revelations of the latter-day. The same it is with a young woman who marries out of the Church. She marries unhappiness and misery, separation and disintegration, loss of husband and children in the world to come, and loses happiness and peace of mind and heart here; and it is unfortunate. I would like to call attention to this great principle and plead with our fathers and mothers to more thoughtfully and thoroughly teach these doctrines to their sons and daughters; that such dishonor to the latter, to their parents, to the Church of God, and the principles of righteousness may not be shown, and that the incident misery and unhappiness may not be or have to be endured. Let our young men and young women marry in the Church, and in the holy places that God has set apart where that ceremony may be performed. Let them marry as the performance of a part of their sacred religion, because it is a religious rite, and marriage without religion will never be a success but must spell failure sooner or later, both in time and eternity. (Conference Report, April 1913, Afternoon Session. 117 - 118.)
DC 74:5 a commandment, not of the Lord, but of himself
"There is a difference between doctrine and policy. Doctrine is revealed by the Lord through his prophet and never changes. Policy is created and implemented by the Lord's servants and may be adapted or changed from time to time as circumstances warrant. Doctrines are fundamental principles; policies interpret and apply doctrinal principles to broader Church contexts as directed by Church leaders. Though policy may not always come directly from the Lord but rather from his servants, as in this case, where those servants are properly appointed and sustained, the Saints are obligated also to sustain their policies (see D&C 107:30-32)." (Stephen E. Robinson, H. Dean Garrett, A Commentary on the Doctrine and Covenants, [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 2001] 2:277-278)
DC 74:7 little children are holy, being sanctified through the atonement of Jesus Christ
With regard to redemption, Paul said: All the children of Adam are redeemed from the fail by the atoning blood of Jesus, and all infants are redeemed as well as other people. There is no infant or child that has died before arriving at the years of accountability, but what is redeemed, and is therefore entirely beyond the torments of hell, to use a sectarian term. And any doctrine, such as the sprinkling of infants or any religious rite for little children, is of no effect whatever neither in this world nor in the world to come. It is a man-made doctrine, and therefore not ordained of God; and I will defy any man to find in any of the records of divine truth any ordinance instituted for the salvation of little innocent children; it would be unnecessary. (The Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, edited by G. Homer Durham [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1969], 232.)
Joseph Fielding Smith
"'Little children are redeemed from the foundation of the world' (DC 29:46)...when we come into this world, we come into it innocent as far as this world is concerned, just as we were innocent in the other world in the beginning. Every child-I don't care where it is born; I don't care what its color-that is born into this world comes into it innocent in its infant state.
"Why, when you look into the face of a little babe and he looks up and smiles at you, can you believe that that little child is tainted with any kind of sin that will deprive it of the presence of God should it die?" (Doctrines of Salvation, 2:51)