DC 86 Historical Background
"During December 1832, the Prophet continued to work in Kirtland on his translation of the Bible, with Frederick G. Williams as scribe. In that same month, Joseph received three revelations focused directly upon events associated with the end of the world. Doctrine and Covenants 86 explains the parable of the wheat and the tares; section 87 describes the wars and destruction that were soon to rage over the earth; and section 88 discusses the redemption of Christ and other events relating to his second coming.
"The parable of the wheat and the tares is found in Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43. Doctrine and Covenants 86 clarifies the timing and sequence of the elements symbolized in that parable. In particular, verse 7 explains that it is the wheat, the children of the kingdom, who are to be gathered first, whereas the tares left over will then be bundled for burning. This reverses both the order and focus of the parable as it is given in the King James Version but also brings the parable into agreement with other scriptures." (Stephen E. Robinson, H. Dean Garrett, A Commentary on the Doctrine and Covenants, [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 2001] 3:78)
DC 86:1 the parable of the wheat and of the tares
See Matthew 13:3-9, 18-23; Mark 4:3-9, 14-20; Luke 8:4-8, 11-15.
DC 86:3 after they have fallen asleep, the great persecutor... even Satan... soweth the tares
Neal A. Maxwell
A major falling away occurred after the deaths of the Apostles, "the sowers of the seed" (D&C 86:2; see also Jude 1:17; Mosiah 26:1).
New Testament epistles clearly indicate that serious and widespread apostasy-not just sporadic dissent-began soon. James decried "wars and fightings among" the Church (James 4:1). Paul lamented "divisions" in the Church and how "grievous wolves" would not spare "the flock" (1 Cor. 11:18; Acts 20:29-31). He knew an apostasy was coming and wrote to the Thessalonians that Jesus' second coming would not occur "except there come a falling away first," further advising that "iniquity doth already work" (2 Thes. 2:3, 7).
Near the end, Paul acknowledged how very extensive the falling away was: "All they which are in Asia be turned away from me" (2 Tim. 1:15).
Paul was even wrongly accused of teaching "Let us do evil, that good may come" (Rom. 3:8). Slandering Paul may have reflected some Nicolaitan nonsense by suggesting that since God provides a way for us to be saved from our sins, we should sin in order to allow Him to do that great good! No wonder the Lord in the book of Revelation denounced the pernicious doctrines and deeds of the Nicolaitans (see Rev. 2:6, 15; LDS Bible Dictionary, "Nicolaitans").
Widespread fornication and idolatry brought apostolic alarm (see 1 Cor. 5:9; Eph. 5:3; Jude 1:7). John and Paul both bemoaned the rise of false Apostles (see 2 Cor. 11:13; Rev. 2:2). The Church was clearly under siege. Some not only fell away but then openly opposed. In one circumstance, Paul stood alone and lamented that "all men forsook me" (2 Tim. 4:16). He also decried those who "subvert[ed] whole houses" (Titus 1:11).
Some local leaders rebelled, as when one, who loved his preeminence, refused to receive the brethren (see 3 Jn. 1:9-10).
No wonder President Brigham Young observed: "It is said the Priesthood was taken from the Church, but it is not so, the Church went from the Priesthood" (in Journal of Discourses, 12:69). ("From the Beginning," Ensign, Nov. 1993, 18-19)
DC 86:3 the great persecutor of the church, the apostate, the whore, even Babylon
"Can we, then, identify the historical agency that acted as the great and abominable church in earliest Christianity? Such an agent would have had its origins in the second half of the first century and would have done much of its work by the middle of the second century.
"This period might be called the blind spot in Christian history, for it is here that the fewest primary historical sources have been preserved. We have good sources for New Testament Christianity; then the lights go out, so to speak, and we hear the muffled sounds of a great struggle. When the lights come on again a hundred or so years later, we find that someone has rearranged all the furniture and Christianity has become something very different from what it was in the beginning. That different entity can accurately be described as hellenized Christianity...
"Clearly, whatever denominational name we choose to give it, the earliest apostate church and the great and abominable church that Nephi and John describe are identical. The fact is, we don't really know what name to give it. I have proposed hellenized Christianity, but that is a description rather than a name.
"The historical abominable church of the devil is that apostate church that replaced true Christianity in the first and second centuries, teaching the philosophies of men mingled with scriptures. It dethroned God in the church and replaced him with man by denying the principle of revelation and turning instead to human intellect. As the product of human agency, its creeds were an abomination to the Lord, for they were idolatry: men worshipping the creations, not of their own hands, but of their own minds.
"Babylon in the first and second centuries may even have been a collection of different movements. Some Jewish Christians couldn't let go of the law of Moses and eventually gave up Christ instead. The Orthodox Christians adopted Greek philosophy. The Gnostics wallowed in the mysteries and in unspeakable practices on the one hand or in neurotic asceticism on the other. Second-century compilers like Tatian and Marcion rewrote the scriptures, the latter boldly chopping out anything he didn't like. And all of them together forced the virtuous woman, the true church of Jesus Christ, into the wilderness." (Stephen E. Robinson, "Warring against the Saints of God," Ensign, January 1988)
Ezra Taft Benson
With the passing of the apostles and the loss of the priesthood keys, corrupt doctrines were introduced into the church. In the words of one eminent historian, "Christianity did not destroy paganism; it adopted it. The Greek mind, dying, came to a transmigrated [new] life in the theology and liturgy of the Church." (Will Durant, The Story of Civilization, New York: Simon and Schuster, 1944, 3:595.)
By the second and third centuries, widespread changes had been made in the pure doctrines and ordinances given by the Savior. The church that Jesus had established and sanctioned was no longer on this earth....
So the world entered that long night of apostasy, the Dark Ages. The church, no longer sanctioned by God, exercised an oppressive tyranny on the minds of men and shackled them with chains of false traditions. Truth was turned to superstition, joy to despair, and worship to ritual. (This Nation Shall Endure [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1977], 142.)
DC 86:4 behold, in the last days, even now... the Lord is beginning to bring forth the word
Joseph Fielding Smith
Now, in the parable as we have it in the book of Matthew we do not have this distinction drawn between the sowing of the seed in the dispensation of the Meridian of Time and again the sowing of the seed in the dispensation of the Fulness of Times, but here the Lord makes that clear... The sowing of the seed occurred twice, once by our Lord and His Apostles at the time of His ministry. The wicked one sowed the tares, and drove the Church into the wilderness. That has reference to the apostasy. Then again in this, our day, when the Gospel is again restored, this same thing is repeated. The good seed is sowed. The wicked one comes along and sows the tares, and the angels are now waiting, pleading with the Lord to reap down the earth. (Signs of the Times [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1952], 93.)
DC 86:5 angels are crying unto the Lord day and night... ready and waiting... to reap down the fields
The angels of God are waiting to fulfill the great commandment given forty-five years ago, to go forth and reap down the earth because of the wickedness of men. How do you think eternity feels today? Why there is more wickedness, a thousand times over, in the United States now, than when that revelation was given. The whole earth is ripe in iniquity; and these inspired men, these Elders of Israel, have been commanded of the Almighty to go forth and warn the world, that their garments may be clear of the blood of all men.
I tell you that God will not disappoint Zion or Babylon, the heavens or the earth, in regard to the judgment which he has promised in these last days, but every one of them will have its fulfillment upon the heads of the children of men; and when they are fully ripened in iniquity the nations of the earth will be swept away as with the besom of destruction. (Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. [London: Latter-day Saints' Book Depot, 1854-1886], 18: 128.)
Neal A. Maxwell
Years ago, I wondered over the scriptural imagery of angels waiting "day and night" for "the great command" to come down and reap the tares in a wicked and suffering world; it seemed rather eager to me. (See D&C 38:12; D&C 86:5.) Given such massive, needless human suffering, I don't wonder anymore!
Even so, the final reaping will occur only when the Father determines that the world is "fully ripe." (D&C 86:7.) Meanwhile, brothers and sisters, the challenge is surviving spiritually in a deteriorating "wheat and tares" world. (See D&C 86:7.)
Granted, occasionally a few defectors or dissidents may try to vex us as they hyperventilate over their particular concerns, but it is the engulfing effects of that deteriorating world on Church members which is the "clear and present danger." "Evils and designs" really do operate through "conspiring [individuals] in the last days." (D&C 89:4.) The Lord has even announced, "Behold, the enemy is combined." (D&C 38:12.)
Yet we must not be intimidated or lose our composure even though the once morally unacceptable is becoming acceptable, as if frequency somehow conferred respectability! ("Behold, the Enemy Is Combined," Ensign, May 1993, 76)
Do the inhabitants of the earth realize the judgments that hang over their heads? They do not, no more than the people did in the days of Noah, in the days of Lot, and in the days of the Jews when they put to death the Messiah. (Brian H. Stuy, ed., Collected Discourses, 5 vols. [Burbank, Calif., and Woodland Hills, Ut.: B.H.S. Publishing, 1987-1992], vol. 2, April 6, 1890)
DC 86:7 lo the tares are bound in bundles, and the field remaineth to be burned
The end of the world is the destruction of the wicked, the harvest and the end of the world have an allusion directly to the human family in the last days, instead of the earth, as many have imagined; and that which shall precede the coming of the Son of Man, and the restitution of all things spoken of by the mouth of all the holy prophets since the world began; and the angels are to have something to do in this great work, for they are the reapers. As, therefore, the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so shall it be in the end of the world; that is, as the servants of God go forth warning the nations, both priests and people, and as they harden their hearts and reject the light of truth, these first being delivered over to the buffetings of Satan, and the law and the testimony being closed up, as it was in the case of the Jews, they are left in darkness, and delivered over unto the day of burning; thus being bound up by their creeds, and their bands being made strong by their priests, are prepared for the fulfilment of the saying of the Savior-"The Son of Man shall send forth His angels, and gather out of His Kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity, and shall cast them into a furnace of fire, there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth." (Matt. 13:41-42) We understand that the work of gathering together of the wheat into barns, or garners, is to take place while the tares are being bound over, and preparing for the day of burning; that after the day of burnings, the righteous shall shine forth like the sun, in the Kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 101)
DC 86:8 the priesthood hath continued through the lineage of your fathers
Theodore M. Burton
One thing we often fail to realize is that our priesthood comes to us through the lineage of our fathers and mothers. The Lord explained it in these words: "Therefore, thus saith the Lord unto you, with whom the priesthood hath continued through the lineage of your fathers. ..." (D&C 86:8.)
"Oh," I can hear some of you say, "there must be something wrong with that statement, for I am the only member of my family who has joined the Church. How could I have received the priesthood from my parents?"
In this scripture the Lord was not talking about your priesthood line of authority. He was talking about your inherited right to receive and use priesthood power. This readiness to listen and believe is an inherited gift which enabled you to recognize and accept the truth. Jesus explained this thought as he said: "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me." (John 10:27.)
That spirit of acceptance is a manifestation of your inherited right to priesthood blessings. Such willingness to believe does not represent predestination, but it does represent foreordination. The Lord continues the revelation: "For ye are lawful heirs, according to the flesh, and have been hid from the world with Christ in God." (D&C 86:9.)
This means we receive a right to priesthood blessings from our blood ancestry. I hope you can understand that priesthood with its accompanying blessings is dependent to a great degree on family relationship.
What does the Lord mean by the expression "hid from the world with Christ in God"? He means that according to the plan of salvation you were reserved or held back in the heavens as special spirit children to be born in a time and at a place where you could perform a special mission in life. This concept of being foreordained for a special mission is not new.
... God reserved for these days some of his most valiant sons and daughters. He held back for our day proved and trusted children, who he knew from their premortal behavior would hear the voice of the Shepherd and would accept the gospel of Jesus Christ. He knew they would qualify themselves to receive the priesthood, that they would use the holy priesthood to limit Satan's destructiveness and make it possible for God to complete the work he had planned for the saving of his children. ("Salvation for the Dead-A Missionary Activity," Ensign, May 1975, 69)
DC 86:9 ye are lawful heirs, according to the flesh
Royal blood coursed through the veins of Joseph Smith. Furthermore, the early elders of the church, though raised in a nation which the Book of Mormon calls Gentile, were actually literal descendants of Israel. These have been called "Israelite by descent but Gentile by culture." (Robert L. Millet, Selected Writings of Robert L. Millet: Gospel Scholars Series, 562 - 563.)
"The latter-day seer was destined to perform a monumental labor in regard to the fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant in the final dispensation. Truly, the tribe of Joseph was foreordained to 'push the people together from the ends of the earth' (D&C 58:45; see also Deut. 33:17).
"In a revelation received on 6 December 1832, the Savior said: (quotes D&C 86:8-10).
"The Prophet Joseph Smith was a descendant of Abraham, a 'pure Ephraimite.' By actual lineage he had a right to the gospel, the priesthood, and eternal life (see Abr. 2:8-11). President Brigham Young declared on one occasion: 'You have heard Joseph say that the people did not know him; he had his eyes on ... blood-relations. ... His descent from Joseph that was sold into Egypt was direct, and the blood was pure in him. ... He had the sole right and lawful power, as he was the legal heir to the blood that has been on the earth and has come down through a pure lineage. The union of various ancestors kept that blood pure. There is a great deal the people do not understand, and many of the Latter-day Saints have to learn all about it.' President Young also taught: 'It was decreed in the counsels of eternity, long before the foundations of the earth were laid, that he, Joseph Smith, should be the man, in the last dispensation of this world, to bring forth the word of God to the people, and receive the fulness of the keys and power of the Priesthood of the Son of God. The Lord had his eyes upon their progenitors clear back to Abraham, and from Abraham to the flood, from the flood to Enoch, and from Enoch to Adam. He has watched that family and that blood as it has circulated from its fountain to the birth of that man. He was foreordained in eternity to preside over this last dispensation." (Robert L. Millet, "The Ancient Covenant Restored," Ensign, Mar. 1998, 43-44)
"Joseph Smith... is called a pure Ephraimite by Brigham Young. (DS 3:250-54; WTP, pp. 125-27)
"There is not the same recorded evidence of Joseph Smith being a descendant of Jesse through the tribe of Judah. However, there were occasions in earlier Church history when a number of the brethren, including Joseph Smith, claimed that they shared lineage with Jesus in the tribe of Judah. (See Life of Heber C. Kimball , p. 185; JD 4:248; Journal of President Rudger Clawson, pp. 374-75; Ivins Journal, p. 21.)
"In short, Joseph Smith fulfills the requirements as a descendant of Joseph through his son Ephraim. He was also a descendant of Judah through Jesse, and he may have descended through the same lineage as Jesus." (Isaiah: Prophet, Seer, and Poet, by Victor L. Ludlow, p. 172)
DC 86:10 the restoration of all things spoken by the mouths of all the holy prophets since the world began
The Lord's promise that the priesthood would remain with the Joseph Smith, the elders of Israel, and their descendants "until the restoration of all things" obviously implies that the promised restoration had not yet occurred. In the church, we speak of "the Restoration" in reference to the ministry of Joseph Smith. However, when the ancient prophets and Peter spoke of the restitution of all things (Acts 3:21), they were referring to the Millenium-not so much Joseph Smith's day as the time of "the restoration of the Ten Tribes," the establishment of Zion, Christ's reign upon the earth, and the time when "the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory." (A of F 10) They spoke of something more great and marvelous than what is transpiring in our day. They understood that the restitution of all things (Acts 3:21) is a Millennial concept more than a latter-day one.
The Lord's plan of restitution includes gathering 'together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him' (Eph. 1:10). Think of all the things for which restitution has not yet come.
Bruce R. McConkie
"What is it that shall be restored in the times of restitution of all things? What is it that God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began?
"It is everything pertaining to the salvation and exaltation of his children. God's eternal purposes are to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man...Was this earth once a garden fair, without thorns, thistles, briers, and noxious weeds? It shall be renewed and receive again its paradisiacal glory. The burning desert shall blossom as the rose and become once again like the garden of the Lord. Was it once blessed with rolling hills, pleasant valleys, and rivers of splendor? In the promised day every mountain shall be made low, every valley shall be exalted, and the rough places shall be made smooth.
"Was there a day when the continents were one land and the islands were not separated from them? Such shall come again. The great deep shall be driven back into the north and the land surfaces of the earth shall be one again as they were in the days before they were divided.
"Did Enoch's Zion, filled with righteous souls, once grace the earth? So shall it yet be. He and all his city shall return to dwell in peace on earth with those who once again can abide the laws which caused the ancient ones to be translated. Was the earth once new, glorious, and paradisiacal in nature? So shall it be again. The earth shall be renewed. There will be a new heaven and a new earth whereon dwelleth righteousness.
"All things pertaining to the creation and peopling and destiny of the earth-these are the things that God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets. This revealed knowledge shall be restored, and the events of which they spoke shall come to pass, all during that age of the earth known as the times of restitution. Of all these things we shall speak more particularly hereafter in their proper settings." (The Millennial Messiah: The Second Coming of the Son of Man [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1982], 87-89.)
DC 86:11 blessed are ye if ye continue in my goodness, a light unto the Gentiles
Bruce R. McConkie
Well, we are latter-day Israel; we are part of the seed of Abraham; we hold the power and authority of this priesthood; we are a light to the gentile nations, and as a result we are under command to carry the message of salvation to them. But we are also chosen and appointed to be saviors to Israel itself, to the seed of Abraham-to the whole kingdom and nation of people of the chosen lineage, who have lived in all the days since Abraham-whether they lived when the gospel was here or whether they did not. (Conference Report, April 1959, Afternoon Meeting 118.)