Where should we begin? Perhaps we should go back to the time when John the Beloved was banished to the Isle of Patmos (circa 90 A.D.). By then, many of the Christian congregations had begun introduce pagan ideas into the true church of God. By 200 A.D., the power to administer divine ordinances was gone. Speaking of the Apostasy, Brigham Young remarked, “It is said the Priesthood was taken from the Church, but it is not so, the Church went from the Priesthood, and continued to travel in the wilderness, turned from the commandments of the Lord, and instituted other ordinances.” (Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. [London: Latter-day Saints' Book Depot, 1854-1886], 12: 70.)
For at least 1630 years, there was not a soul on the eastern hemisphere who could perform even a baptism the heavens would recognize. The church spoken of by John had been driven into the wilderness (Rev. 12:6), but a new day had arrived. One in which that church would come “out of the wilderness—clear as the moon, and fair as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners” (DC 5:14).
Joseph and Oliver had received the Priesthood 10 months earlier! For months, they had the power to set up the church, but one very important thing was missing—The Book of Mormon. In August, 1829 Joseph Smith had made a contract with Egbert B. Grandin to publish the book. The contract was only possible because Martin Harris promised to mortgage his farm to pay $3000 cost of publication.
By August, Joseph had been away from Emma for over two months. After the agreement had been reached, he returned to Harmony to attend to his temporal affairs. Oliver Cowdery was made custodian of the translation. By commandment of the Lord, the Prophet gave Oliver strict instructions regarding how the translation was to be handled. First, Oliver was to make another copy of the transcript so that the original could be kept secure. Second, he was only to take the copy to the publisher in installments. Third, he was only to travel to the publisher with a guard and the record was to be guarded day and night by members of the Smith and Whitmer families.
In spite of these careful preparations, the people of Palmyra did the best they could to prevent the publication of the famed “gold bible.” On two separate occasions the Prophet had to travel the 115 miles from Harmony to Palmyra keep the publication moving forward. Finally, on March 26, 1830, The Book of Mormon was complete and ready for sale. The Lord had declared that this miraculous book contained “all things written concerning the foundation of my church” (DC 18:4). It had to be complete before the true church could be established again on the earth.
L. Tom Perry
Peter Whitmer Sr. offered his home for the organization that was scheduled for Tuesday, April 6, 1830, in accordance with previously received revelations. At the appointed hour, somewhere around 60 people assembled to witness the formal organization of the Church of Jesus Christ.
The meeting was simple. Joseph Smith, then 24 years of age, called the group to order and designated five associates—Oliver Cowdery, Hyrum Smith, Peter Whitmer Jr., Samuel H. Smith, and David Whitmer—to join him to meet New York’s legal requirements for the incorporation of a religious society. After kneeling in solemn prayer, Joseph asked those present if they were willing to accept him and Oliver as their teachers and spiritual advisers. Everyone raised their hands to the affirmative. Although they had previously received the Melchizedek Priesthood, Joseph and Oliver ordained each other to the office of elder. They did this to signify that they were elders in the newly organized Church. The sacrament of the Lord’s Supper was administered next. (“Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper,” Ensign, May 1996, 54)
Gordon B. Hinckley
I have tried to picture in imagination that April 6 of 1830, the day the Church was organized. The few who believed in Joseph’s mission gathered on that day, which was designated by divine revelation as “being one thousand eight hundred and thirty years since the coming of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in the flesh” (D&C 20:1).
One wonders whether any of that group, other than Joseph Smith, who saw the prophetic vision, had any idea of the greatness of the thing they were beginning. From a rural area in Fayette, New York, from the simple Whitmer log farmhouse, there was to grow by constant accretion an organization worldwide in its scope and numbering millions in its membership. (“What Hath God Wrought through His Servant Joseph!” Ensign, Jan. 1997, 2)
DC 20:1 one thousand eight hundred and thirty years since the coming of our Lord and Savior
Is this revelation giving the year the church was organized, or is it making a statement about the year of the Lord’s birth? Some believe this phrase means that the church was organized exactly 1830 years since Jesus was born. This would place the birth of the Lord on April 6, 1 B.C. (See Jesus the Christ, 97)
“Does this give the exact year of Christ's birth? That calculation places too much weight on what may have been an elaborate phrase of dating or an incidental statement. The first edition of the Doctrine and Covenants Commentary (Hyrum M. Smith) cautioned against using this to prove that Christ was born at the exact beginning of the Christian Era; so have Bible scholars J. Reuben Clark and Bruce R. McConkie. Part of the problem is that Christ was alive at the death of Herod the Great, an event of 4 B.C. in careful chronologies.” (Robert L. Millet and Kent P. Jackson, eds., Studies in Scripture, Vol. 1: The Doctrine and Covenants [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1989], 114 - 115.)
From The Encyclopedia of Mormonism:
“Concerning the date of Christ's birth…Scholarly consensus recognizes that early Christians probably appropriated December 25 from pagan festivals such as the Dies Natalis Invicti, established by the Emperor Aurelian (cf. Hoehner, pp. 11-27). Controversy, ancient and modern, regarding that date has had little influence in the LDS community (see Christmas). Presidents of the Church, including Harold B. Lee (p. 2) and Spencer W. Kimball (p. 54), have reaffirmed that April 6 is the true anniversary of Christ's birth, but have encouraged Church members to join with other Christians in observing Christmas as a special day for remembering Jesus' birth and teachings.
“Some discussion has centered on the actual year of Jesus' nativity. Some argue that the phrase ‘one thousand eight hundred and thirty years since the coming of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in the flesh’ (D&C 20:1) should be interpreted to mean that Christ was born exactly 1,830 years before April 6, 1830 (Lefgren). This view has been both challenged (Brown et al., pp. 375-83) and supported (Pratt, pp. 252-54). Others assert that the phrase was not intended to fix the year of Christ's birth but was simply an oratorical mode of expressing the current year.
“…The LDS Church has not taken an official position on the issue of the year of Christ's birth. Bruce R. McConkie, an apostle, offers what for the present appears to be the most definitive word on the question: ‘We do not believe it is possible with the present state of our knowledge—including that which is known both in and out of the Church—to state with finality when the natal day of the Lord Jesus actually occurred’ (Vol. 1, p. 349, n. 2).” (Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 1-4 vols., edited by Daniel H. Ludlow (New York: Macmillan, 1992), 1:62.)
DC 20:1 it being regularly organized and established agreeable to the laws of our country
John K. Carmack
…the Church was “regularly organized and established agreeable to the laws of our country.”
To what laws does the statement refer? By 1830, the United States Constitution had been ratified and its first amendment was in force protecting the freedom of religion. The specific laws under which the Church was incorporated, however, seem to have been the laws of New York State. By 1784, the state of New York had enacted a procedure for incorporating religious societies. This statute was updated in 1813 and was in effect on 6 April 1830.
Although the law did not require a group of worshippers to incorporate to exist as a church, certain legal privileges, such as the right to acquire and hold property and perform marriages, would flow from the act of incorporation. In summary, the statute required a church or congregation to elect from three to nine trustees to take charge of church property and transact business affairs. Two elders of the congregation were to be selected to preside over the election. Fifteen days’ notice, given for two successive Sabbaths, was required. A certificate establishing a name for the church and evidencing completion of the organizational events was to be recorded in the county or counties where the church was located.
…In August 1879, President John Taylor sent a letter to William C. Staines asking him to search for a New York incorporation certificate. William Staines hurried to the area and sent a detailed report to President Taylor that evidenced a careful but fruitless search in several local government offices for the certificate.
I, too, have searched for the certificate [in Albany, Waterloo, and Canandaigua, New York]…. Other searches have been made for the Church’s original certificate of incorporation, but to date nothing has been located. (John K. Carmack, “Fayette: The Place the Church Was Organized,” Ensign, Feb. 1989, 16-17)
DC 20:2-3 Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery ordained as elders
“President Joseph Fielding Smith explained why Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery ordained each other elders nearly a year after they had received the keys of the Melchizedek Priesthood: ‘The priesthood is greater than the office, and all offices in the priesthood, we are taught, are appendages to the priesthood [see D&C 107:5]. … The priesthood with its keys existed before the Church organization, but not the offices in the Church, which belong to the Church and are held by the consent of the same.’
That Joseph and Oliver had previously received the keys of the Melchizedek Priesthood under the hands of Peter, James, and John is further affirmed by the proceedings of the organizational meeting held on 6 April 1830. Without those keys, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery would not have been authorized or would not have had the priesthood power to take the actions they took on that day. Although each already had received the keys of the Melchizedek Priesthood and apostolic authority, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery ordained each other to be an elder to ‘signify that they were elders in the newly organized Church.’ They then used the higher priesthood to confirm those who had previously been baptized members of the Church and conferred upon them the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands. Of that occasion the Prophet stated, ‘The Holy Ghost was poured out upon us to a very great degree—some prophesied, whilst we all praised the Lord, and rejoiced exceedingly.’” (Larry C. Porter, “The Restoration of the Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthoods,” Ensign, Dec. 1996, 33-34)
DC 20:5 it was truly manifested unto this first elder that he had received a remission of his sins
Joseph Smith received a very dramatic manifestation that his sins were forgiven. Although not recorded in the 1838 version of the First Vision as found in Joseph Smith—History, one of the things he was told during the First Vision is recorded as follows, “I was filled with the Spirit of God and the Lord opened the heavens upon me and I saw the Lord and he spake unto me saying Joseph my son thy sins are forgiven thee” (Milton V. Backman Jr., “Joseph Smith’s Recitals of the First Vision,” Ensign, Jan. 1985, 13)
DC 20:5 he was entangled again in the vanities of the world
Joseph Fielding Smith
It seems that this has reference to Joseph Smith's early youth between the time of his great vision of the Father and the Son and the coming of Moroni. The Prophet calls attention to this folly during that period, but also says that no one need think that he was guilty of any grievous sin, but being shunned by those who should have befriended him, he says, “I was left to all kinds of temptations; and mingling with all kinds of society, I frequently fell into many foolish errors, and displayed the weakness of youth, and the foibles of human nature” (JS-Hist. 1:28). (Church History and Modern Revelation, 4 vols. [Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1946-1949], 1: 87.)
DC 20:8-9 the Book of Mormon…a record of a fallen people
Ezra Taft Benson
The Doctrine and Covenants tells us that the Book of Mormon is the “record of a fallen people.” (D&C 20:9.) Why did they fall? This is one of the major messages of the Book of Mormon. Mormon gives the answer in the closing chapters of the book in these words: “Behold, the pride of this nation, or the people of the Nephites, hath proven their destruction.” (Moro. 8:27.) And then, lest we miss that momentous Book of Mormon message from that fallen people, the Lord warns us in the Doctrine and Covenants, “Beware of pride, lest ye become as the Nephites of old.” (D&C 38:39.)
I earnestly seek an interest in your faith and prayers as I strive to bring forth light on this Book of Mormon message—the sin of pride. This message has been weighing heavily on my soul for some time. I know the Lord wants this message delivered now. (“Beware of Pride,” Ensign, May 1989, 4)
DC 20:10-11 confirmed to others by the ministering of angels, and is declared unto the world by them
The natural man always wants proof. He declares, “if God exists, then let him show himself!” He says, “If he be the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him” (Matt 27:42) In the Prophet’s day, the cry went, “well, if Joe Smith has a gold bible, let him show it to us and then we will believe.”
The Lord, always accommodating, does indeed prove the truth of his work. The proof comes not according man’s request but by his divine plan. The natural man cries, “if one went unto [the living] from the dead, they will repent” (Luke 16:30). So the Lord sent Moroni, an angel “from the dead” to the living, to declare the truth of the Book of Mormon. The message was given to three individuals of sound mind and good character. These witnesses would declare the truth of what they saw to their dying day—even when they were no longer affiliated with the church. So the proof-seeker’s request has been granted. “In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established” (2 Cor 13:1). As far as the Lord is concerned, he has proved to the world that he “does inspire men and call them to his holy work in this age and generation”.
“A common reaction of people when they are told about the Book of Mormon is that they would believe it if they could see the plates from which the book was translated. Such people probably would not believe even if they were shown… The Lord does not give this kind of evidence but uses another system of conveying information. This system is the furnishing of witnesses. This the Lord declared when he organized the Church: “For the Lord God has spoken it; and we, the elders of the church, have heard and bear witness to the words of the glorious Majesty on high, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen” (D&C 20:16). Furthermore, the Lord does not operate with a single witness, but furnishes several witnesses… Each of these witnesses is unique. Collectively they will leave all who come to a knowledge of the Book of Mormon without excuse if they reject the sacred record.” (Monte S. Nyman, Studies in Scripture, Vol. 1: The Doctrine and Covenants, ed. by Robert L. Millet and Kent P. Jackson, [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1989], 64 - 65.)
DC 20:11 Proving to the world that the holy scriptures are true
“For behold, this (The Book of Mormon) is written for the intent that ye may believe that (The Bible); and if ye believe that ye will believe this also.” (Mormon 7:9)
Bruce R. McConkie
…the Nephite record came forth to prove that the Bible is true; it came forth to prove that Joseph Smith, its translator, was and is a prophet; it came forth to prove that God calls men again in this day “to his holy work,” which holy work, being the Lord's, is itself eternally and everlastingly true. (The Millennial Messiah: The Second Coming of the Son of Man [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1982], 179.)
If the Book of Mormon is to be the guiding star for a world that has lost its bearing, “proving to the world that the Holy Scriptures are true” (D&C 20:11), it must stand firm and unmoved without any external support. The Bible has been systematically dismantled by men who in the end did not want to believe it. For a hundred years they have been whittling away at it with dogged determination, and now they are all out to “demythologize” and “deeschatologize” it for good. But the Book of Mormon cannot be so dismantled, even by those most determined to reject it. It is a single monolithic block, given to the world at one time and place. Unlike the Bible, it cannot lead “into a morass of imponderables” due to the obscurity of its sources, for it is not the product of centuries or generations of editing and transmission. Unlike the Bible, it cannot be partly true, for the Book of Mormon itself closes the door on such a proposition. (Old Testament and Related Studies, edited by John W. Welch, Gary P. Gillum, and Don E. Norton [Salt Lake City and Provo: Deseret Book Co., Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1986], 16 - 17.)
DC 20:12 Thereby showing that he is the same God yesterday, today, and forever
Joseph Fielding Smith
Why should it be considered strange that the Lord should speak to man in this day, either by his own voice or by the voice of angels? is he less interested in man today? Or has man advanced so far that he has passed beyond the need of divine help?
One ancient prophet said, “Where there is no vision, the people perish,” and another said, “Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but [i.e, until] he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.” Yet another, speaking of the last days, said: “Your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions; And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit.”
Equally positive is the saying of an ancient Nephite prophet: “Have angels ceased to appear unto the children of men? Or has he withheld the power of the Holy Ghost from them? Or will he, so long as time shall last, or the earth stand, or there shall be one man upon the face thereof to be saved? Behold I say unto you, Nay; for it is by faith that miracles are wrought; and it is by faith that angels appear and minister unto men; wherefore, if these things have ceased wo be unto the children of men, for it is because of unbelief, and all is vain.”
Yes, it is very strange that the Latter-day Saints stand conspicuously alone in the belief that the Father may and does reveal himself and his truth to man, as proclaimed by ancient prophets that he should do in these latter days. (Doctrines of Salvation, 3 vols., edited by Bruce R. McConkie [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1954-1956], 1: 275-276.)
DC 20:15 those who…reject it, it shall turn to their own condemnation
Ezra Taft Benson
Once we realize how the Lord feels about this book it should not surprise us that He also gives us solemn warnings about how we receive it. After indicating that those who receive the Book of Mormon with faith, working righteousness, will receive a crown of eternal glory (see D&C 20:14), the Lord follows with this warning: “But those who harden their hearts in unbelief, and reject it, it shall turn to their own condemnation” (D&C 20:15).
In 1829, the Lord warned the Saints that they are not to “trifle with sacred things” (D&C 6:12). Surely the Book of Mormon is a sacred thing, and yet many trifle with it, or in other words, take it lightly, treat it as though it is of little importance. In 1832, as some early missionaries returned from their fields of labor, the Lord reproved them for treating the Book of Mormon lightly. As a result of that attitude, He said their minds had been darkened. Not only had treating this sacred book lightly brought a loss of light to themselves, it had also brought the whole Church under condemnation, even all the children of Zion. And then the Lord said, “And they shall remain under this condemnation until they repent and remember the new covenant, even the Book of Mormon” (D&C 84:54-57).
Has the fact that we have had the Book of Mormon with us for over a century and a half made it seem less significant to us today? Do we remember the new covenant, even the Book of Mormon? (The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1988], 52 - 53.)
DC 20:16 we, the elders of the church
The voice we hear in section 20 is not the Lord Jehovah as it is in so many other latter-day revelations. Rather, it is the inspired voice of the “elders of the church,” which at the time comprised only Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery. The Prophet Joseph was generous enough to make Oliver his equal—even when it came to revealing the word of the Lord. Historians tell us that Oliver actually “wrote the first draft of section 20 and had a definite interest in the final version.” (Susan Easton Black et al., Doctrines for Exaltation: The 1989 Sperry Symposium on the Doctrine and Covenants [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1989], Chap. 18, footnote 15)
“Before the Lord gave this revelation, he revealed several significant statements to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery regarding the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. In addition to receiving these statements, the first two elders of the Church, Joseph and Oliver, bore witness that they heard the words of the glorious Majesty on high regarding the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon (D&C 20:16). As further evidences the Lord added another spiritual testimony to the book through three special witnesses and another temporal witness through the physical handling of the plates by the Eight Witnesses. These combined testimonies leave the world without excuse.” (Monte S. Nyman, The Most Correct Book [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1991], 10 - 11.)
Alvin R. Dyer
I had an experience some few months before I left the mission field, of a ministerial association from one of the states in our mission, writing a letter and saying that they were receiving ever-increasing inquiries about the Mormon Church and would we please supply them with literature and information. We did this, and I had occasion also to visit the headquarters of this association. And there in the presence of a number of these men, and some of them were ministers, had the opportunity of explaining to them the premise under which the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had been organized.
I took occasion at that time to read to them from section twenty of the Doctrine and Covenants, and I would like to read to you what I read to them, beginning with verse 7: (quotes DC 20:7-16.)
This had a profound effect upon these men, and I was grateful to leave my witness with them as to the premise for the organization of God's Church upon the earth in this day and time. (Conference Report, April 1959, Afternoon Meeting 115-116.)
DC 20:17-31 The three pillars of eternity
It is both fitting and proper that the doctrinal treatise associated with the formation of the true church would include the three most fundamental concepts of the gospel plan: The Creation, The Fall, and The Atonement. Elder Bruce R. McConkie called these the “three pillars of eternity.”
Bruce R. McConkie
The three greatest events that ever have occurred or ever will occur in all eternity are these:
1. The creation of the heavens and the earth, of man, and of all forms of life;
2. The fall of man, of all forms of life, and of the earth itself from their primeval and paradisiacal state to their present mortal state; and
3. The infinite and eternal atonement, which ransoms man, all living things, and the earth also from their fallen state so that the salvation of the earth and of all living things may be completed.
These three divine events—the three pillars of eternity—are inseparably woven together into one grand tapestry known as the eternal plan of salvation. We view the atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ as the center and core and heart of revealed religion. It brings to pass the immortality and eternal life of man…
It is not possible to believe in Christ and his atoning sacrifice, in the true and full sense required to gain salvation, without at the same time believing and accepting the true doctrine of the fall. If there had been no fall, there would have been no need for a Redeemer or Savior. And it is not possible to believe in the fall, out of which immortality and eternal life come, without at the same time believing and accepting the true doctrine of the creation: If there had been no creation of all things in a deathless or immortal state, there could have been no fall, and hence no atonement and no salvation. The Father's eternal plan called for the creation, for the fall, and for the atonement, all woven together into one united whole. (A New Witness for the Articles of Faith [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1985], 82.)
DC 20:22 He suffered temptations but gave no heed unto them
Howard W. Hunter
It is important to remember that Jesus was capable of sinning, that he could have succumbed, that the plan of life and salvation could have been foiled, but that he remained true. Had there been no possibility of his yielding to the enticement of Satan, there would have been no real test, no genuine victory in the result. If he had been stripped of the faculty to sin, he would have been stripped of his very agency. It was he who had come to safeguard and ensure the agency of man. He had to retain the capacity and ability to sin had he willed so to do. As Paul wrote, “Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered” (Hebrews 5:8); and he “was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). He was perfect and sinless, not because he had to be, but rather because he clearly and determinedly wanted to be. As the Doctrine and Covenants records, “He suffered temptations but gave no heed unto them” (D&C 20:22). (The Teachings of Howard W. Hunter, edited by Clyde J. Williams [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1997], 4.)
Neal A. Maxwell
Though He was thus perfected in His empathy because He bore our mistakes, Jesus' own response to the common challenges of temptation that faced Him was not only uncommon, it was utterly unique. His immensely important, but simple, key was: “He suffered temptations but gave no heed unto them.” (D&C 20:22. Italics added.) What a grand yet practical insight! Some of us process the same temptations time and time again, letting them linger and savoring them, and thereby strengthening our impulse to sin and weakening our will to resist—rather than dispatching the temptations summarily as Jesus did when He “gave no heed.” Giving no heed includes recognizing for what it is an inducement to do wrong and refusing to consider it further. There is great strength in reflexive rejection and in refusing to spend any of our time, talent, thought, or treasure in hosting a temptation, which is enlarged by any attention given to it. (We Will Prove Them Herewith [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1982], 43 - 44.)
DC 20:24 He…ascended into heaven, to sit down on the right hand of the Father
The scriptures never speak of Jehovah being on the right hand of the Father until after his atonement and ascension into heaven. This implies that Jesus needed to accomplish the great atonement before that momentous event could occur. Paul said, “this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God.” (Heb. 10:12) “And they have done unto the Son of Man even as they listed; and he has taken his power on the right hand of his glory.” (DC 49:6) In this, there is a pattern, for Christ had to overcome the world in order to sit on the right hand of the Father, and we have to overcome the world in order to sit on the right hand of the Son (DC 133:56).
DC 20:26 all those from the beginning…who believed in the words of the holy prophets
One of the ways in which the atonement is infinite is in time. It applies not only to those who lived after Christ but provides retroactive redemption to those who lived before. These souls even received forgiveness based on an atonement which had not yet been accomplished (Enos 1:5-8, Alma 36:13-20). President Joseph F. Smith saw these souls in the world of spirits as they awaited the coming of Christ:
“And there were gathered together in one place an innumerable company of the spirits of the just, who had been faithful in the testimony of Jesus while they lived in mortality;
And who had offered sacrifice in the similitude of the great sacrifice of the Son of God, and had suffered tribulation in their Redeemer's name.
All these had departed the mortal life, firm in the hope of a glorious resurrection, through the grace of God the Father and his Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ.” (DC 138:12-14)
“Does the Atonement apply retroactively to mortals who predated his sacrifice? In other words, could the people of the Old Testament repent and be cleansed of their sins before the Savior’s mission had been performed? The answer is yes. The headnote to Alma 39 reads in part, ‘Christ’s redemption is retroactive in saving the faithful who preceded it.’…King Benjamin put to rest any question about the retroactive nature of the Atonement in his magnificent discourse: ‘Whosoever should believe that Christ should come, the same might receive remission of their sins, and rejoice with exceedingly great joy, even as though he had already come among them’ (Mosiah 3:13, emphasis added).” (Tad R. Callister, The Infinite Atonement, 72-73)
DC 20:29 we know that all men must repent…and endure in faith on his name to the end
Well, why is the world full of misery? Who wants it? And yet someone seems to be pushing it on us all the time. [Satan’s] system works beautifully, and so he rules to this day on this earth. (See 1 Ne. 13:29; John 12:31; John 14:30.) But it is our privilege to rise above his viciousness and our own weakness by repentance. One of the most heartening and encouraging verses in the Book of Mormon explains that the way is wide open, and God “commandeth all men, everywhere, to repent” (3 Ne. 11:32)—all men all the time. In fact, our lives have been prolonged for the specific purpose of giving us more golden opportunities to repent: “The days of the children of men were prolonged, according to the will of God, that they might repent while in the flesh.” All live in “a state of probation, and their time was lengthened” to give them every possible chance, for otherwise “they were lost.” (2 Ne. 2:21.) So “all men must repent” and keep repenting as long as they live, for who would throw away that generous extension? (“The Atonement of Jesus Christ, Part 3,” Ensign, Sept. 1990, 25)
DC 20:30 we know that justification through the grace of our Lord…is just and true
Most members have a poor understanding of the principle of justification. Justification is a legal term. It has to do with one’s standing before the law—in this case, the law of the Lord. One may be justified only if he keeps the law and keeps it perfectly. Not one mistake. Not a single sin. Any transgressions and the individual has broken the law; he can no longer be justified on his own merits. Hence, James declared, ”For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.” (James 2:10) When Paul taught the early saints about salvation by grace, this is what he meant. He meant, “You can’t be justified on your own. You need the Savior’s help. Without his grace, you are a lost cause.”
“The only…way of being justified, of being declared not guilty before God, is to admit our own imperfections, admit we can't be perfect on our own or save ourselves by our own efforts, and have faith in Christ our Savior. We must accept his offer of help by entering into a completely new covenant in which his efforts are added to our own and make up for our deficiencies. This is called justification by faith in Christ.
“…In the New Testament the…obligation of the law with its demand for perfect obedience was compared to a heavy ‘yoke of bondage’ (Gal. 5:1; see Acts 15:10), while the obligations of the gospel covenant with its repentance, forgiveness, and atonement are called ‘easy’ and ‘light’: ‘Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.’ (Matt. 11:28-30.)
“There is no heavier yoke than the demand for perfection—the curse of the law. And many of the Saints still struggle under its load. But the good news is that in Christ we are set free of that crushing burden. He bore that particular burden for us, and his perfect performance extended and applied to us frees us from a similar requirement at this time. In the gospel covenant, we exchange the burden of sin for the obligation to love him and each other and to do the very best we can.” (Stephen E. Robinson, Believing Christ: The Parable of the Bicycle and Other Good News [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1992], 43-44.)
DC 20:31 sanctification through the grace of our Lord…is just and true
Sanctification is the process by which our souls are cleansed, purified, and glorified. “No unclean thing can dwell with God” (1 Ne. 10:21). Neither can we until we are cleansed from all unrighteousness and made holy, without spot. “Moses…sought diligently to sanctify his people that they might behold the face of God; But they hardened their hearts and could not endure his presence” (DC 84:23-24). Three things must happen in order for us to inherit a celestial glory: we must be resurrected, justified, and sanctified.
Much like justification, sanctification can only come by grace—meaning that we cannot purify ourselves. There is no act on our part that can take away the stains of previous sins. We need spiritual soap. Malachi calls it “fullers’ soap” (Mal 3:2). This divine cleaning solution is the blood of Jesus Christ which must be rubbed into our souls until they are washed clean, for the scripture says “by the blood ye are sanctified” (Moses 6:60).
What do we have to do in order to qualify for this perfect purification? Can we say, “I believe!” and expect all to be done? Purification is a process requiring real effort on our part. Obviously, it requires repentance but it also requires that we love God and serve him with all of our might (spiritual power), mind (intellectual power), and strength (physical power). Then and only then do we qualify for this great gift of grace. This concept is so crucial that Moroni’s last words to us were about the process of sanctification:
Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God.
And again, if ye by the grace of God are perfect in Christ, and deny not his power, then are ye sanctified in Christ by the grace of God, through the shedding of the blood of Christ, which is in the covenant of the Father unto the remission of your sins, that ye become holy, without spot. (Moroni 10:32-33, italics added)
DC 20:32 there is a possibility that man may fall from grace
Here is the doctrine of election that the world has quarreled so much about; but they do not know anything about it.
The doctrine that the Presbyterians and Methodists have quarreled so much about—once in grace, always in grace, or falling away from grace, I will say a word about. They are both wrong. Truth takes a road between them both, for while the Presbyterian says “once in grace, you cannot fall;” the Methodist says: “You can have grace today, fall from it tomorrow, next day have grace again; and so follow on, changing continually.” But the doctrine of the Scriptures and the spirit of Elijah would show them both false, and take a road between them both; for, according to the Scripture, if men have received the good word of God, and tasted of the powers of the world to come, if they shall fall away, it is impossible to renew them again, seeing they have crucified the Son of God afresh, and put Him to an open shame; so there is a possibility of falling away; you could not be renewed again, and the power of Elijah cannot seal against this sin, for this is a reserve made in the seals and power of the Priesthood. (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], 6: 252-253.)
Joseph Fielding Smith
We are not saved now. I have stood on the street corners and heard men declaring that they are saved, because they have received religion and been converted. No man is saved as long as mortality endures, unless he is faithful to the end, and there is always a possibility, as I have read to you here, that men may fall from grace. (Conference Report, October 1925, Second Day—Morning Session 116.)
DC 20:33 Therefore let the church take heed…lest they fall into temptation
Joseph Fielding Smith
Not only the Church collectively, but you and me; let us take heed. Never in the history of the world, that is, in the history of the Church, have there been so many temptations, so many pitfalls, so many dangers, to lure away the members of the Church from the path of duty and from righteousness, as we find today. Every day of our lives we come in contact with these temptations, these dangers. We should continue in the spirit of prayer and faith, remembering that there is this possibility that we may turn frond the grace of the living God, and fall, unless we continue in that humility, in the exercise of faith and obedience to every principle of truth. (Conference Report, October 1941, Afternoon Meeting 94.)
DC 20:37 The Qualifications for Baptism
There is some irony in the fact that we work so hard to interest people in baptism and yet the requirements for baptism are quite strict. Whether from the Book of Mormon or the Doctrine and Covenants, the qualifications for baptism require a real, long-term commitment. Efforts to baptize people quickly, before they have met the necessary requirements, will ultimately meet with failure.
1. humble themselves
2. desire to be baptized
Came forth with a broken heart and a contrite spirit
3. come forth with a broken heart and contrite spirit
Witnessed unto the church that they truly repented
4. Witness before the church that they have truly repented
Took upon them the name of Christ
5. willing to take upon them the name of Christ
Determination to serve God to the end
6. determination to serve God to the end
Brought forth fruit meet that they were worthy of it
7. manifest by their works that they have received of the Spirit of Christ unto the remission of their sins
George F. Richards
Mankind everywhere must subscribe to these conditions. There are no other conditions prescribed by the Lord by which we may obtain entrance into his kingdom and obtain salvation. These requirements are very plain, simple, and easy to be understood. (Conference Report, October 1934, Afternoon Meeting 73.)
Francis M. Lyman
And all those who do not thus come before the Lord, humbling themselves, and with these conditions, shall not be received into this Church. Now, if there have been any received into this Church that have not met those conditions, they are at fault and they have not pleased the Lord. Their faith has not been genuine, for genuine faith produces genuine repentance, genuine baptism, a profitable and acceptable baptism unto the Lord, and the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands. (Conference Report, October 1911, Afternoon Session. 32.)
DC 20:37 come forth with broken hearts and contrite spirits
Francis M. Lyman
I believe that it has been a fault with the Latter-day Saints, with us all, perhaps, without exception, that we have not properly maintained our repentance and kept it good; that we have, after we have embraced the Gospel and have received baptism properly, slackened our course; that we have become careless; that we have not maintained the broken heart and the contrite spirit, for be it known, it is necessary that men should have the broken heart, the tender and soft heart, and the contrite spirit, or they are not worthy of that great ordinance of baptism of water and of fire and of the Holy Ghost. And when we have reached this point, that we have complied with the revelation which is so clear and pointed, so definite that no one can mistake, I believe that that same condition must be maintained. I believe that my heart should be as tender today as it ever was. I cannot afford to be hard-hearted, I cannot afford to be stubborn, I cannot afford to be haughty and high-minded; but I must be contrite in spirit and my heart broken and tender… to the end of life, if [I] would have the blessing of eternal life. (Conference Report, October 1897, Afternoon Session .)
DC 20:37 witness before the church that they have truly repented of all their sins
Joseph Fielding Smith
A few months ago, when I was in one of the mission fields, meeting with a group of missionaries, one of them asked me this question:
Shall we baptize men into this Church when they say they believe that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God, and they believe that the Lord appeared to him, and that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is indeed the Church of Christ upon the earth, and yet they have not forsaken all of their sins?
He stated that this question had been discussed among the Elders. Some took one view, some another. Some held that if we accepted a man who so expressed himself, that eventually he would repent of all his sins. I said in answer to him: “I shall read to you what the Lord Himself has said, and we will see if that will not answer your question.” I am going to read those words here this afternoon: (quotes DC 20:37)
Then I asked if that did not answer the question. The missionaries concluded that it did. (Conference Report, October 1941, Afternoon Meeting 92.)
Marion G. Romney
That the Prophet [Joseph Smith] applied these instructions strictly is apparent from this entry in his diary of July 5, 1835: “Michael H. Barton tried to get into the Church, but he was not willing to confess and forsake all his sins—and he was rejected.” (DHC 2, 235.)
Had Mr. Barton obtained membership in the Church in his then unrepentant state, it would have availed him nothing no matter how much he knew about the gospel, because he was not converted. (Conference Report, October 1963, Afternoon Meeting 24.)
DC 20:37 having a determination to serve him to the end
David E. Sorensen
Our baptism might be compared to the promises made in marriage. Simply taking the wedding vows does not constitute a good marriage, nor does it demonstrate the partners’ devotion to each other. Rather, it is carrying out those vows, day after day, year after year, that makes a real marriage. Just as we see the promises at the wedding altar as a joyous first step on the long journey, we understand that the ordinance of baptism is not an end in itself. Our goal then as parents, members, or missionaries should not be simply to lead people to the waters of baptism but to help each person experience a mighty change of heart (see Alma 5:14) and then to help them act on that change of heart over the long term. (“Why Baptism Is Not Enough,” Ensign, Apr. 1999, 19)
M. Russell Ballard
Many of you were baptized when you were eight years old, and you may not realize that this is the promise you made to your Heavenly Father when you were baptized. Always remember that you are under this covenant. Your Heavenly Father has promised in return that He will give marvelous blessings to those who honor their covenants, keep His commandments, and endure faithfully to the end. They will be sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise and will be “given all things” (D&C 76:55; emphasis added; see also D&C 76:50–54, 70), including an inheritance in the celestial kingdom (see 2 Ne. 31:16–20). (“Keeping Covenants,” Ensign, May 1993, 6)
DC 20:37 Historical Vignette
Shortly after we had received the above revelations (i.e. DC 26, July 1830), Oliver Cowdery returned to Mr. Peter Whitmer's, Sen., and I began to arrange and copy the revelations, which we had received from time to time; in which I was assisted by John Whitmer, who now resided with me.
Whilst thus employed in the work appointed me by my Heavenly Father, I received a letter from Oliver Cowdery, the contents of which gave me both sorrow and uneasiness. Not having that letter now in my possession, I cannot of course give it here in full, but merely an extract of the most prominent parts, which I can yet, and expect long to, remember.
He wrote to inform me that he had discovered an error in one of the commandments—Book of Doctrine and Covenants: “And truly manifest by their works that they have received of the Spirit of Christ unto a remission of their sins.” (DC 20:37)
The above quotation, he said, was erroneous, and added: “I command you in the name of God to erase those words, that no priestcraft be amongst us!”
I immediately wrote to him in reply, in which I asked him by what authority he took upon him to command me to alter or erase, to add to or diminish from, a revelation or commandment from Almighty God.
A few days afterwards I visited him and Mr. Whitmer's family, when I found the family in general of his opinion concerning the words above quoted, and it was not without both labor and perseverance that I could prevail with any of them to reason calmly on the subject. However, Christian Whitmer at length became convinced that the sentence was reasonable, and according to Scripture; and finally, with his assistance, I succeeded in bringing, not only the Whitmer family, but also Oliver Cowdery to acknowledge that they had been in error, and that the sentence in dispute was in accordance with the rest of the commandment. And thus was this error rooted out, which having its rise in presumption and rash judgment, was the more particularly calculated (when once fairly understood) to teach each and all of us the necessity of humility and meekness before the Lord, that He might teach us of His ways, that we might walk in His paths, and live by every word that proceedeth forth from His mouth. (History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1: 104-105.)
DC 20:37 manifest by their works that they have received of the Spirit of Christ
Notice that the individual receives of the Spirit of Christ rather than the Holy Ghost prior to baptism. This is in keeping with the generalization that those who have not received the Gift of the Holy Ghost walk primarily by the light of Christ. Mormon shows us that the terms “light of Christ” and “Spirit of Christ” can be used interchangeably, “For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ” (Moroni 7:16, italics added).
DC 20:38-70 The duty of the elders, priests, teachers, deacons, and members
With the Church in its infancy, there is no reason to lay out the entire priesthood organization at the first. According to the Lord’s line upon line plan, only a portion of the priesthood offices are discussed. The office of high priest, patriarch, seventy, and bishop would be revealed later (see DC 107). The Quorum of the Twelve would not be formed for another five years.
“…it is easy to see that on the day of the Church's establishment, its organization was very simple, and much more was to come. Indeed, the Church was ‘restored’ on 6 April 1830, but ‘the same organization that existed in the Primitive Church’ (Article of Faith 6) came later, as the growing needs of the Church warranted the continued development of its structure.” (Kent P. Jackson, From Apostasy to Restoration [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1996], 167 - 168.)
DC 20:38 An apostle is an elder
Joseph Fielding Smith
Since the restoration of the Gospel the apostles in the Church are called elders. It is by that title that they greet each other, and so they greet all the men holding the Melchizedek Priesthood. It is an honorable title. John respected it and as an elder of the Church he wrote his epistles. (Man, His Origin and Destiny [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1954], 526.)
DC 20:46-47, 53-54 Priests and teachers are to visit the house of each member and watch over the church
“Watching over the Church, with all that that portends, is a function of the Melchizedek Priesthood. The Lord uses members of the Aaronic Priesthood, in the nature of on-the-job training, to assist and thus serve and enjoy learning experiences and growth. In subsequent chapters, the revealed duties of the several offices within the Aaronic Priesthood are discussed. To be properly understood, all of this must be seen in the context of overall Melchizedek Priesthood superintendence and ultimate responsibility.” (Oscar W. McConkie, Aaronic Priesthood [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1977], 38.)
Harold B. Lee
Home teaching then means “watching over the Church” as the scriptures have defined it. Missionary work is but home teaching to those who are not now members of the Church, and home teaching is nothing more or less than missionary work to church members. (Conference Report, October 1964, General Priesthood Meeting 82.)
Gene R. Cook
We do not visit the active just to “visit,” or the less active just to get them out to church, although that may be part of what happens. In essence, we visit to help the heads of those homes, male or female, to become the spiritual leaders in their homes, to lead their families to Christ, to pray, to fast, and to read the scriptures together. If that happens in our visits, all else will take care of itself. (“Inviting Others to ‘Come unto Christ,’ ” Ensign, Nov. 1988, 37–38)
Russell M. Nelson
Home teaching requires energy. I remember times when I was so exhausted from the demands of difficult days in the surgical operating room (in addition to duties relating to family needs and to Church responsibilities) that the prospects of spending evening hours in home teaching were not always anticipated eagerly. Almost without exception, however, I can say that I returned home more invigorated and happy than when I left. (“Shepherds, Lambs, and Home Teachers,” Ensign, Aug. 1994, 18)
Joseph F. Smith
I don't know of any duty that is more sacred, or more necessary, if it is carried out as it should be, than the duties of the teachers who visit the homes of the people, who pray with them, who admonish them to virtue and honor, to unity, to love, and to faith in and fidelity to the cause of Zion; who strive to settle uncertainties in the minds of the people and bring them to the standard of the knowledge that they should possess in the gospel of Jesus Christ. May all the people open their doors, call in the members of their families, and respect the visit of the teachers to their homes, and join with them in striving to bring about a better condition, if possible, in the home than ordinarily exists. (Gospel Doctrine: Selections from the Sermons and Writings of Joseph F. Smith, compiled by John A. Widtsoe [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1939], 189.)
DC 20:47 exhort them to pray vocally and in secret ant attend to all family duties
“Words of William Farrington Cahoon: I was called and ordained to act as a teacher to visit the families of the Saints. I got along very well till I found that I was obliged to call and pay a visit to the Prophet. Being young, only about seventeen years of age, I felt my weakness in visiting the Prophet and his family in the capacity of a teacher. I almost felt like shrinking from duty. Finally I went to his door and knocked, and in a minute the Prophet came to the door. I stood there trembling, and said to him, ‘Brother Joseph, I have come to visit you in the capacity of a teacher, if it is convenient for you.’
He said, ‘Brother William, come right in, I am glad to see you; sit down in that chair there and I will go and call my family in.’
They soon came in and took seats. He then said, ‘Brother William, I submit myself and family into your hands.’
He then took his seat. ‘Now Brother William,’ said he, ‘ask all the questions you feel like.’
By this time all my fears and trembling had ceased, and I said, ‘Brother Joseph, are you trying to live your religion?’
He answered, ‘Yes.’
I then said, ‘Do you pray in your family?’
He said, ‘Yes.’
Do you teach your family the principles of the gospel?’
He replied, ‘Yes, I am trying to do it.’
Do you ask a blessing on your food?’
He answered, ‘Yes.’
Are you trying to live in peace and harmony with all your family?’
He said that he was.
I then turned to Sister Emma, his wife, and said, ‘Sister Emma, are you trying to live your religion? Do you teach your children to obey their parents? Do you try to teach them to pray?’
To all these questions she answered, ‘Yes, I am trying to do so.’
I then turned to Joseph and said, ‘I am now through with my questions as a teacher; and now if you have any instructions to give, I shall be happy to receive them.’
“He said, ‘God bless you, Brother William; and if you are humble and faithful, you shall have power to settle all difficulties that may come before you in the capacity of a teacher.’
“As a teacher, I then left my parting blessing upon him and his family and took my departure. (Hyrum L. Andrus and Helen Mae Andrus, comps., They Knew the Prophet, pp. 132-33)
DC 20:48 he may also ordain other priests, teachers, and deacons
John A. Widstoe
Priests have the authority to ordain other Priests, Teachers and Deacons, when called upon to do so by Bishops, Branch Presidents, Mission or District President; but neither Teachers nor Deacons have authority to lay on hands for spiritual gifts or ordain others. Remember, that while a person may have the authority to ordain others, it must only be done under the sanction and approval of the presiding officers. (Priesthood and Church Government [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1939], 164 - 165.)
DC 20:54 neither lying, backbiting, nor evil speaking
Spencer W. Kimball
Slander, backbiting, evil speaking, faultfinding are all destructive termites that destroy the home. Quarreling and swearing are also evils that sometimes affect the home.
Lies and gossip which harm reputations are scattered about by the four winds like the seeds of a ripe dandelion held aloft by a child. Neither the seeds nor the gossip can ever be gathered in. The degree and extent of the harm done by the gossip is inestimable. (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, edited by Edward L. Kimball [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1982], 263.)
DC 20:60 he is to be ordained by the power of the Holy Ghost
In performing priesthood ordinations and blessings, the phrase, “by the power of the Holy Melchizedek Priesthood” is commonly used. Interestingly, in the scriptures (DC 20:60 and Moroni 3:4), the wording used is “by the power of the Holy Ghost.” This argument may be semantic, but in performing priesthood functions, it is preferable to use the phrase, “by the authority of the Holy Melchizedek Priesthood,” rather than by the power of the priesthood. This is because the power of the priesthood comes through the Holy Ghost. When a man receives the priesthood, he has the authority to perform the functions of that priesthood, but the power comes from God through the Spirit. This is why the loss of priesthood power is associated with a loss of the Spirit (DC 121:37).
“How is the Holy Ghost involved in ordinations? A man may properly wire his house for electricity, observing the code most carefully. Still, if the power company refuses to connect him to the power source, no light or heat will come on in his house. He could turn switches to no avail…” (Book of Mormon Student Manual, 1981 ed., p. 508)
“…without the Holy Ghost there can be no priesthood, let us now say, conversely, that without the priesthood there can be no gift of the Holy Ghost.” (Joseph Fielding McConkie, Joseph Smith: The Choice Seer [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1996], chap. 5)
DC 20:64 Each priest, teacher, or deacon…may take a certificate from him at the time
John A. Widstoe
When a person has been ordained to any office in the Priesthood, he should receive a certificate of ordination, which should be carefully preserved and whenever necessary should be presented to the proper authority as an evidence of ordination. (Priesthood and Church Government [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1939], 165.)
DC 20:65 No person is to be ordained to any office…without the vote of that church
“One of the great principles in governing the kingdom of God in all dispensations of the gospel is the law of common consent. Whenever that kingdom has been organized on the earth it has never been a democracy, as such, but one of the elements of democracy is this principle. The members do not legislate their own laws by which they are governed, nor do they elect their officers. Revelation from the Law Giver, Jesus Christ, is the means of governing his kingdom. Common consent means that by the united voice of the Church certain actions pertaining to its operations are submitted to the members. As verses 60 through 67 of Section 20 point out, general Church business and ordinations to offices are performed by common consent. Elders of the Church act only under direction of those who are empowered to direct them because of the right given to them by the approval of the members. That the vote of the Church is necessary to make valid the privilege to hold office is brought out clearly in other revelations.” (Roy W. Doxey, The Doctrine and Covenants Speaks [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1964], 1: 124 - 125.)
DC 20:68 after they are received by baptism.—The elders are to have sufficient time to expound all things…previous to their partaking of the sacrament and being confirmed
In the late 1990’s, the First Presidency distributed a letter to priesthood leaders instructing them not to confirm converts directly after their baptisms. Rather, according to DC 20:68, the individual was to receive further instructions prior to being confirmed. Since then, this instruction has been followed to a greater or lesser degree depending on the circumstances. The underlying principle is that membership in the church is a serious commitment requiring a well-founded understanding of “all things concerning the church of Christ.” Apparently, the Lord is as concerned about retention as the latter-day prophets have been.
New members need further instruction. We can’t afford to baptize them and walk away. The new member lessons fulfill the spirit of this commandment
Elder Bruce Porter
As a missionary in Germany nearly 25 years ago, I arrived in the city of Wuppertal as a new zone leader shortly after the missionaries who preceded me had had phenomenal success in baptizing several families and individuals. Their baptisms represented a substantial addition to that branch, which had nearly 100 members. We decided as missionaries to concentrate a great deal of effort on integrating and fellowshipping these new members so that they would remain active members of the branch for the rest of their lives. We taught them all of the new member lessons, as well as additional lessons of our own making; we enrolled them in a yearlong Gospel Essentials class taught by the missionaries; we worked with the branch leadership to ensure that they received callings and were integrated into the branch through socials and fellowshipping by members; we arranged for them to meet one another and help teach other investigators so that they would form bonds among themselves that would help them as a group remain active in the future. In short, we spent more than six months after their baptism doing what we could to ensure that their testimonies were strong and that they were integrated into the Church.
Today, 25 years later, almost all of those families and individuals are still active and faithful. Many of their children have served missions and have been married in the temple. We now have a second and even a third generation of activity in the Church. The one couple who did go inactive had a daughter who remained active and has since been married in the temple. Although this is only one case, my experience then persuaded me that time spent by missionaries working with members to integrate new members into the Church will pay off richly in the long term. (Gordon B. Hinckley, “Find the Lambs, Feed the Sheep,” Ensign, May 1999, 110)
DC 20:68 previous to their partaking of the sacrament
Implicit in the wording of this revelation is that the sacrament is intended specifically for members of the church. This makes sense because the partaking of the sacrament symbolizes the renewal of baptismal covenants. Obviously, an unbaptized individual can’t renew covenants he has never made. This issue, however, frequently comes up when investigators are brought to church meetings.
The First Presidency
“The effort has always been made by the Brethren to avoid hurting the feelings of investigators in the matter of partaking of the sacrament and sometimes investigators do partake of the sacrament, but the Brethren have always felt that in view of the statement of the Savior in III Nephi 18:5 the partaking of the sacrament by nonmembers is not only not authorized but has little or no real benefit for the non-member partaking of it. Some feel that there is implicit in the Savior's statement an inhibition against non-members partaking of the sacrament. However, the responsibility of partaking or not partaking rests with the individual.” (The Presiding Bishopric's Page, Improvement Era, 1952, Vol. Lv. November, 1952. No. 11)
DC 20:69 members shall manifest…by a godly walk and conversation, that they are worthy of it
“The call to discipleship is a call to a higher righteousness. The Saints are asked to put off the natural man, put away the toys of a telestial world, and grow up in the Lord. They are summoned to be obedient, to keep the commandments, to manifest ‘by a godly walk and conversation that they are worthy’ of membership in the Church and kingdom of God (D&C 20:69). They covenant to take upon them the sacred name of Jesus Christ, to bear the same with fidelity and devotion, and to behave as becomes Christians. In short, they covenant before God and man to see to it that their actions evidence their Christian commitment. Disciples are expected to have clean hands.” (Robert L. Millet, An Eye Single to the Glory of God: Reflections on the Cost of Discipleship [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1991], 55.)
DC 20:71 No one can be received into the church of Christ unless he has arrived unto the years of accountability
Bruce R. McConkie
There is no change in the law of baptism that strays farther from the divine standard than “the washing of children,” or in other words the baptism of children who have not arrived at the age of accountability. It appears from what the Lord told Abraham that infant baptism was practiced in the very earliest days of man's mortal life on planet earth. We know it was had among the Nephites around 400 A.D. About the same time in the Old World it became the established system of the Christian world, and it prevails in many places at the present time. (A New Witness for the Articles of Faith [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1985], 251.)
DC 20:74 Then shall he immerse him or her in the water, and come forth again out of the water
How long has Christianity argued over baptism? How many useless, contentious debates have raged over the centuries? How should the ordinance be performed? “Some believe in sprinkling, some in pouring, some in immersion; but most say it is unnecessary. God has revealed the law so that we do know the way to enter in at the door and feel that we are accepted of him, even by baptism by immersion for the remission of sins, administered by one having authority. This is assuredly the way God has pointed out for us to be members of his Church.” (Don. B. Colton., Conference Report, April 1917, Third Day—Morning Session 74.)
The Lord’s instructions in DC 20 break upon the world as a ray of needed sunlight through the dark clouds of apostasy.
Orson F. Whitney
“…the world had lost sight of the fact that baptism was for the remission of sins, and they had changed the mode instituted by the Savior and His apostles. They were practicing different kinds of baptism. Instead of immersing the whole body in water, as we do, some practiced baptism by sprinkling or pouring water upon the head, and none believed that baptism was anything more than “the outward sign of an inward grace.” It was not regarded as necessary to salvation, and as having been instituted for the remission of sins. But the Book of Mormon, like the Bible, declared this to be its purpose, and Joseph and Oliver, while translating the plates, when they came upon this doctrine, which was new to them also, marveled over it, and they went into the woods and prayed, asking the Lord for light upon the subject. (Conference Report, April 1909, First Day—Morning Session. 14 - 15.)
DC 20:75 It is expedient that the church meet together often to partake of bread and wine
David B. Haight
Usually once a week, for a little more than an hour, we have the opportunity to attend sacrament meeting and reflect on the life of our Savior; to recall with deep gratitude and reverence His life of purity, kindness, and love; to reflect upon the great atoning sacrifice; and to partake of the broken bread, symbolic of His torn flesh, and drink of the cup, symbolic of His blood that was shed on the cross.
The Savior taught the Nephites that ‘I came into the world to do the will of my Father, because my Father sent me.
‘And my Father sent me that I might be lifted up upon the cross; … that I might draw all men unto me.’ (3 Ne. 27:13–14.)
As we partake of the sacrament and reflect upon His sacrifice for each of us, we make a solemn commitment to keep the commandments which He has given us, that by so doing we might always have His spirit to be with us. By partaking of the sacrament each Sunday we receive the encouragement and strength to keep the commandments of God, to live uprightly, virtuously, and honestly. Did not Jesus Himself sum them all up as follows: ‘Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.’ (Luke 10:27.)
This is what every person who partakes of the sacrament is committed to do. Living God’s commandments obligates a person to a life of goodness—goodness to society and a genuine helpfulness to humanity, and excluding from one’s life hatred, enmity, immorality, selfishness, drunkenness, jealousy, and dishonesty.
May we experience the joy of regular attendance at sacrament meeting and feel the blessings of eternal progression in our personal lives through wholehearted compliance, in spirit and actions, with the sacred words of the sacrament. (“The Sacrament,” Ensign, May 1983, 14)
DC 20:77 witness…that they are willing to take upon them the name of thy Son, and always remember him
Henry B. Eyring
Even a child can understand what to do to have the Holy Ghost as a companion. The sacramental prayer tells us. We hear it every week as we attend our sacrament meetings. In those sacred moments we renew the covenants we made at baptism. And the Lord reminds us of the promise we received as we were confirmed members of the Church—the promise that we might receive the Holy Ghost. Here are the words of the sacramental prayer: “They are willing to take upon them the name of thy Son, and always remember him and keep his commandments which he has given them; that they may always have his Spirit to be with them” (D&C 20:77).
We can have His Spirit by keeping that covenant. First, we promise to take His name upon us. That means we must see ourselves as His. We will put Him first in our lives. We will want what He wants rather than what we want or what the world teaches us to want. As long as we love the things of the world first, there will be no peace in us. Holding an ideal for a family or a nation of comfort through material goods will, at last, divide them (see Harold B. Lee, Stand Ye in Holy Places , 97). The ideal of doing for each other what the Lord would have us do, which follows naturally from taking His name upon us, can take us to a spiritual level which is a touch of heaven on earth.
Second, we promise always to remember Him. We do that every time we pray in His name. Especially when we ask for His forgiveness, as we must do often, we remember Him. At that moment we remember His sacrifice that makes repentance and forgiveness possible. When we plead, we remember Him as our advocate with the Father. When the feelings of forgiveness and peace come, we remember His patience and His endless love. That remembering fills our hearts with love.
We also keep our promise to remember Him when as families we pray together and when we read the scriptures. At family prayer around a breakfast table, one child may pray for another to be blessed that things will go well that day in a test or in some performance. When the blessings come, the child blessed will remember the love of the morning and the kindness of the Advocate in whose name the prayer was offered. Hearts will be bound in love.
We keep our covenant to remember Him every time we gather our families to read the scriptures. They testify of the Lord Jesus Christ, for that is the message and always has been of prophets. Even if children do not remember the words, they will remember the true Author, who is Jesus Christ.
Third, we promise as we take the sacrament to keep His commandments, all of them. President J. Reuben Clark Jr., as he pled—as he did many times—for unity in a general conference talk, warned us against being selective in what we will obey. He put it this way: “The Lord has given us nothing that is useless or unnecessary. He has filled the Scriptures with the things which we should do in order that we may gain salvation…When we keep our covenants to take His name upon us, to remember Him always, and to keep all His commandments, we will receive the companionship of His Spirit. That will soften our hearts and unite us.” (“That We May Be One,” Ensign, May 1998, 67-68)
DC 20:77 that they may always have his Spirit to be with them
Henry D. Taylor
What a wonderful blessing it would be if we could always have the Spirit of the Savior in our lives to guide and direct us!
While Wilford Woodruff was crossing the ocean on his final mission to Great Britain, he testified that the martyred Prophet, Joseph Smith, and his brother Hyrum appeared to him in his cabin aboard the ship. The vessel had been caught in a terrible storm, which had abated as a result of the prayers of the brethren. Hear Brother Woodruff’s own words of what happened: “The night following [the storm] Joseph and Hyrum visited me, and the Prophet laid before me a great many things. Among other things, he told me to get the Spirit of God, as we all needed it.”
Many years later Brigham Young, after his death, also appeared to Brother Woodruff and said virtually the same thing—the importance of gaining and keeping the Spirit of the Lord in our lives.
One of the surest ways to obtain and retain the Spirit of the Lord is to so live and keep ourselves unspotted from the sins of the world that we can partake worthily of the Lord’s Supper each week as we attend our sacrament meetings. (“And Always Remember Him,” Ensign, July 1973, 48)
Chieko N. Okazaki
I have had a lifetime of building faith in Christ, and hearing the promise in the sacrament prayer: “that they may always have his Spirit to be with them.” That prayer is very personal to me now. I need the Spirit of Christ through the Holy Ghost to be with me more now than I ever have, and I feel that promise being literally fulfilled, week by week. You cannot imagine the gratitude I feel, each Sabbath, as I partake of the sacrament, renew the promises I made at baptism, and feel the Savior making an answering promise to me. I cannot find words to tell you how strong and how comforting that sense of companionship is as I go about my duties. (Lighten Up! [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1993], 221.)
DC 20:82 a regular list of all the names
Computers have aided greatly in keeping track of church membership records, but in 1830, there were neither computers nor experienced ward clerks. In spite of this direct command of the Lord to keep a regular list, persecution and inexperience kept the early church from keeping comprehensive records. As late as 1843, Joseph Smith admitted, “There are no correct data by which the exact number of members comprising this . . . Church . . . can be known.“ (Larry C. Porter and Susan Easton Black, eds., The Prophet Joseph: Essays on the Life and Mission of Joseph Smith [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1988], 144.)
Why does this matter? Many of these early members never received temple ordinances. What a tragedy for the earliest martyrs of the Restoration to have to wait for these saving ordinances because no one recorded the information!
“Although the Lord commanded the Church as early as April 1830 to keep a list of members (see D&C 20:81–83), the records of the early Church lack a ‘regular list of all the names of the whole church.’ (D&C 20:82.) For years, this lack of information has frustrated the posterity of the early Saints. Essential information such as baptisms and confirmations has been unavailable, and temple work for many of the early Saints has not been completed. Because of the unavailability of statistics, historians have even resorted to making broad ‘guesstimates’ about Church membership—statements such as ‘7,000 to 15,000 people fled Missouri’ are prevalent in historical circles.
“The need to gather this crucial information led to a recently completed six-year project to compile a membership list of the early Church members. Through financial support from the Religious Education area at Brigham Young University, and from private donors to the LDS Foundation, our team of researchers has been able to find and comb journals, biographies, dissertations, historical and genealogical records, periodicals, minutes, census records, ship lists, church and land records, rosters, cemetery records, tax and property lists, and civil records in North America and Europe. We spent day after day at Church historical sites searching for tombstones, court documents, and local histories. Hundreds of hours of interviewing descendants, examining family memorabilia, and recording family traditions helped establish the identities of early members.
“The first result of the study was the development of a membership list. This list comprises a fifty-volume compilation numbering approximately fifty thousand pages. It is called Membership of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1830–1848.
“Brigham Young University recently gifted the compilation to the Church for microfilm use. As such, it will be published by the Church and made available to local LDS family history libraries.
“The compilation attempts to reconstruct something of the Church activity of each member of the Church from 1830 to 1848. It is organized in alphabetical order, beginning with Abiel Abbott and ending with Thomas Zundle. The information on each member is divided into four sections: vital statistics, Church ordinances, temple ordinances, and biographical information.” (Susan Easton Black, “The Search for Early Members of the Church,” Ensign, July 1989, 28)