Section 21

DC 21 Historical Background

Joseph Smith

Having opened the meeting by solemn prayer to our Heavenly Father, we proceeded, according to previous commandment, to call on our brethren to know whether they accepted us as their teachers in the things of the Kingdom of God, and whether they were satisfied that we should proceed and be organized as a Church according to said commandment which we had received. To these several propositions they consented by a unanimous vote. I then laid my hands upon Oliver Cowdery, and ordained him an Elder of the "Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints;" after which, he ordained me also to the office of an Elder of said Church. We then took bread, blessed it, and brake it with them; also wine, blessed it, and drank it with them. We then laid our hands on each individual member of the Church present, that they might receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, and be confirmed members of the Church of Christ. The Holy Ghost was poured out upon us to a very great degree-some prophesied, whilst we all praised the Lord, and rejoiced exceedingly. (History of the Church, 1:77-78)

John A. Widstoe

The re-establishment of the true gospel of Jesus Christ was foretold in the First Vision of Joseph Smith in 1820...At last, ten years after the First Vision, the promised Church was organized...

These ten years had been a period of preparation, education, and training of Joseph Smith for the prophetic office he was soon to fill. The day of organization had now come! He was glad; yet he stood in fear and trembling before his own inadequacy to assume the responsibility he knew he would have to carry. He was very humble. He had been called of God, but he was only a man. Now, he was to do God's work on earth!

...It was a day of great spiritual rejoicing. We can well imagine Joseph's feelings that evening when he retired. It had been a day of days for him. The promises, the labors, and the hopes of a decade had been realized. (Joseph Smith--Seeker after Truth, Prophet of God [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1951], 124.)

DC 21:1 there shall be a record kept among you

"A revelation to the newly organized Church on 6 April 1830 (D&C 21:1) initiated record keeping as an essential responsibility for the Latter-day Saints. Almost immediately, Oliver Cowdery began work on a Church history, and minutes were kept of the first meetings. Many of the early Saints began keeping diaries 'to comply with a requirement, oft repeated by the prophet Joseph Smith, `That every man should keep a daily journal.` ' (Diary of Oliver Boardman Huntington, typescript, p. 25, LDS Church Archives.)

"In 1832, the year after his arrival in Kirtland, Ohio, the Prophet began his own personal record, a document that contains his reflections about his early experiences. Since he subsequently depended heavily upon secretaries to write for him or at his dictation, this 1832 record is the only account of his early religious experiences in his own handwriting." (Dean C. Jessee, "Joseph Smith Jr.-in His Own Words, Part 1," Ensign, Dec. 1984, 24)

DC 21:4-5 give heed unto all his words and commandments... as if from mine own mouth

Virginia U. Jensen

Do we fully appreciate what a wondrous blessing it is to each one of us that we have found our prophet? The ways in which our lives have been enriched by listening to our prophet's voice are numerous. We have a clearer picture of who we are and what we mean to our Father in Heaven. We have received commandments and counsel to guide us, reminders to keep us on the straight and narrow, and encouraging words to spur us on when we become disheartened or discouraged. If we listen to the voices of the world, we will be misled. But if we listen to the voice of the Lord through His living prophet and follow his counsel, we will never go astray.

In a recent newspaper article President Hinckley was praised as "clearly a man for the season. ... He's a hand shaker, a praiser, a man who knows what to say and how to say it, often with a sense of humor." Brothers and sisters, those are just the things the general public sees. We as members of the Church see so much more. Through the whisperings of the Holy Spirit we know that the true head of this Church, the Lord Jesus Christ, does communicate with us through President Hinckley. ("Come, Listen to a Prophet's Voice," Ensign, Nov. 1998, 13)

Russell M. Nelson

Loyalty to the Lord carries an obligation of loyalty to those called by the Lord to lead His Church. He has empowered that men be ordained to speak in His holy name. As they guide His unsinkable boat safely toward the shore of salvation, we would do well to stay on board with them. "No waters can swallow the ship where lies / The Master of ocean and earth and skies."

Nevertheless, some individuals want to jump "out of the boat" before reaching land. And others, sadly, are persuaded out by companions who insist that they know more about life's perilous journey than do prophets of the Lord. ("Endure and Be Lifted Up," Ensign, May 1997, 72)

Ezra Taft Benson

One who rationalizes that he or she has a testimony of Jesus Christ but cannot accept direction and counsel from the leadership of His church is in a fundamentally unsound position and is in jeopardy of losing exaltation.

There are some who want to expose the weaknesses of Church leaders in an effort to show that they, too, are subject to human frailties and error like unto themselves. Let me illustrate the danger of this questionable philosophy.

President Brigham Young revealed that on one occasion he was tempted to be critical of the Prophet Joseph Smith regarding a certain financial matter. He said that the feeling did not last for more than perhaps thirty seconds. That feeling, he said, caused him great sorrow in his heart. The lesson he gave to members of the Church in his day may well be increased in significance today because the devil continues more active:

"I clearly saw and understood, by the spirit of revelation manifested to me, that if I was to harbor a thought in my heart that Joseph could be wrong in anything, I would begin to lose confidence in him, and that feeling would grow from step to step, and from one degree to another, until at last I would have the same lack of confidence in his being the mouthpiece for the Almighty. ...

"I repented of my unbelief, and that too, very suddenly; I repented about as quickly as I committed the error. It was not for me to question whether Joseph was dictated by the Lord at all times and under all circumstances. ...

"It was not my prerogative to call him in question with regard to any act of his life. He was God's servant, and not mine. He did not belong to the people but to the Lord, and was doing the work of the Lord." (In Journal of Discourses, 4:297.) ("Valiant in the Testimony of Jesus," Ensign, May 1982, 64)

Harold B. Lee

Brigham Young was a great defender of the Prophet Joseph Smith. There were Judases in the ranks in that day, just as there were in the Savior's day, and just as we have today, some who are members of the Church who are undercutting us, who are betraying their trusts. We are shocked when we see the places from which some of these things come.

Brigham Young was invited by some of these men who were trying to depose the Prophet Joseph from his position as President of the Church; but they made a mistake by inviting President Brigham Young into their circle. And after he had listened to what their motives were, he said something to this effect: "I want to say something to you men. You cannot destroy the appointment of a prophet of God, but you can cut the thread that binds you to the prophet of God, and sink yourselves to hell." ("Admonitions for the Priesthood of God," Ensign, Jan. 1973, 107)

DC 21:5 his word ye shall receive

Bruce R. McConkie

The test of discipleship is how totally and completely and fully we believe the word that was revealed through Joseph Smith, and how effectively we echo or proclaim that word to the world. ("This Generation Shall Have My Word through You," Ensign, June 1980, 56)

Bruce R. McConkie

It seems easy to believe in the prophets who have passed on and to suppose that we believe and follow the counsel they gave under different circumstances and to other people. But the great test that confronts us, as in every age when the Lord has a people on earth, is whether we will give heed to the words of his living oracles and follow the counsel and direction they give for our day and time. ("God Foreordains His Prophets and His People," Ensign, May 1974, 71-72)

DC 21:6 by doing these things the gates of hell shall not prevail against you

Harold B. Lee

Now the only safety we have as members of this church is to do exactly what the Lord said to the Church in that day when the Church was organized. We must learn to give heed to the words and commandments that the Lord shall give through his prophet, "as he receiveth them, walking in all holiness before me; ... as if from mine own mouth, in all patience and faith." (D&C 21:4-5.) There will be some things that take patience and faith. You may not like what comes from the authority of the Church. ... But if you listen to these things, as if from the mouth of the Lord himself, with patience and faith, the promise is that "the gates of hell shall not prevail against you; yea, and the Lord God will disperse the powers of darkness from before you, and cause the heavens to shake for your good, and his name's glory." (D&C 21:6.)" (Conference Report, Oct. 1970, p. 152.)

Boyd K. Packer

As a "spiritual doctor" I counsel you to follow the Brethren. If you don't understand a problem or a position the Church has taken, restrain your tongue. Check the mote in your own eye before you criticize.

Follow the Brethren. Three words. There is nothing in your life that will destroy you if you will follow the Brethren. (Things of the Soul [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1996], 80.)

James E. Faust

As a young stake president, I met many of the General Authorities when they came to speak at our stake conferences. That was a great experience! President Hugh B. Brown, as an Assistant to the Twelve, came to one of our stake conferences just a week before he was sustained as a member of the Council of the Twelve. We enjoyed his warm spirit and his good humor. As I helped him with his coat and walked out to his car with him, I asked, "Elder Brown, do you have any personal advice for me?" "Yes. Stick with the Brethren." He did not choose to elaborate or explain, but he left that indelible message: Have the simple faith to follow the Brethren.

My grandmother, Maud Wetzel Faust, used to tell her young grandsons about going to general conference when President Brigham Young presided. With the exception of the Prophet Joseph Smith, she had known all of the presidents of the Church, up to Heber J. Grant. From her observations over the years, she had this to say: "Those who have turned their backs on the Brethren have not prospered." Then she proceeded to tell of a few examples. What caused her to impart this lesson to her grandsons I do not know, but I would certainly wish all of us would have the simple faith to "stick with the Brethren." (Reach Up for the Light [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1990], 18.)

DC 21:6 God will disperse the powers of darkness...and cause the heavens to shake for your good

Sometimes the most powerful effect of scriptural commentary is that it slows down the reader, forcing him to stop and think about a passage longer than the five seconds it takes to read it. Consider for a moment the great promise that is given to you when you follow the Prophet:

  • The gates of hell shall not prevail against you
  • The Lord God will disperse the powers of darkness from before you
  • God will cause the heavens to shake for your good

What an incredible promise! The very heavens shake when we are obedient! Who could possibly want anything else? What have the Brethren said about this great promise? N. Eldon Tanner asked, "Is that promise enough, brethren? (Ensign, Jan. 1974, 94) Mark E. Petersen inquired, "What more can we ask?" (Ensign, May 1974, 55) President Harold B. Lee said, "To you Latter-day Saints everywhere, that promise will be yours if you will follow the leadership the Lord has placed within the Church." (Ensign, Nov. 1971, 12)

DC 21:7 Him have I inspired to move the cause of Zion in mighty power

Gordon B. Hinckley

Standing at the crest of a century and a half since the organization of the Church, we are inclined to exclaim, "What hath God wrought through the instrumentality of his servant Joseph!"

I give you my testimony of him. He was the ordained servant of God, this Joseph raised up to become the mighty prophet of this dispensation-"a seer, a translator, a prophet, an apostle of Jesus Christ" (D&C 21:1). To that witness I add another word of testimony, that President Spencer W. Kimball, with us today, is Joseph Smith's rightful successor, the prophet of our time, the President of the church which was organized here 150 years ago today. Its history has been heroic. It stands today a tower of strength, an anchor of certainty in an unsettled world. Its future is secure as the church and kingdom of God, of which I bear solemn witness in the sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen. ("What Hath God Wrought through His Servant Joseph!" Ensign, May 1980, 61)

DC 21:8 his weeping for Zion I have seen

Anthon H. Lund

This comforting revelation was given on the 6th of April 1830. The Lord was referring to the Prophet. We can understand Joseph's feelings. He knew that a great and marvelous work was going to be ushered in. He felt how weak he was-a young man, little more than twenty four years old-to have placed upon him the responsibility of introducing this last dispensation and establishing again the Church of Christ upon the earth. No doubt he felt much anxiety, for the Lord said that he had seen his weeping for Zion, but promised that he should be comforted. Joseph did see the work begun, the Church organized, the members sustaining him as their leader, and the offices being filled in the Church, he knew it was the Lord's work, and he rejoiced to see its beginning. (Conference Report, April 1913, First Day-Morning Session 10 - 11.)

DC 21:10-12 Oliver Cowdery is the second elder and the first preacher of this church

George Q. Cannon

The first public meeting of the Church after the day of its organization was held at the house of Peter Whitmer in Fayette, on the 11th day of April, 1830. On that occasion, Oliver Cowdery, under Joseph's direction, proclaimed the word of God for the comfort and instruction of saints and strangers. The appointment for this meeting had gone forth through all the neighborhood; and many persons came to hear what wonderful things were to be spoken by the men who professed to be called directly of God to the ministry. This was the first public discourse delivered by an authorized servant of God in these last days. At the conclusion of the services a number of persons demanded baptism and membership among the people of God. (Daniel H. Ludlow, A Companion to Your Study of the Doctrine and Covenants, 2 vols. [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1978], 1: 167.)