Section 118

DC 118 Historical Background

July 1838 was a peaceful time of rebuilding for the Church.  Headquarters was officially shifted from Kirtland to Far West.  This required a reorganization of the Presidency of the church in Missouri as well as a reorganization of the Quorum of the Twelve.  Only four days previous, July 4, 1838, the saints had enjoyed a patriotic celebration of independence.  The peace and joy of that celebration would not last long.  During the ceremonies, Sidney Rigdon gave a defiant speech, declaring that the saints were done with persecution and mobbing.  They promised to defend themselves in the future.  This speech gave fuel to the miserable Missouri paranoia. The mob would assemble again; things got worse before they got better.  The organization of the Church was stabilized just in time for another period of dangerous instability.

"This revelation (Section 118) could hardly have come at a less opportune time. Apostasy continued to plague the Church, and even the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles was still riddled with dissent. Four apostles had apostatized in the aftermath of the Kirtland difficulties, and by the end of the year Quorum president Thomas B. Marsh turned against the Church, and apostle David W. Pattern was killed as a result of renewed mob activity. Also in 1838, Missouri, Governor Lilburn W. Boggs issued his infamous "extermination order," brutalities such as the Haun's Mill massacre were perpetrated against the Saints, Joseph Smith along with some members of the Twelve and other Church leaders were jailed, and the Missouri Saints began another tragic exodus, this time to Illinois.

"It would seem that Joseph Smith was singularly optimistic in sending the Quorum of the Twelve away in such trying times, for despite its lack of unity there were still within its ranks men who could be most helpful in the giant task of building a new gathering place for the Saints. Nevertheless, the commandment had been given. Perhaps the future well-being of the Church was directly related to the strengthening of the Twelve, both as individuals and as a quorum, that would result from this mission." (James B. Allen, Ronald K. Esplin, and David J. Whittaker, Men with a Mission, 1837-1841: The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in the British Isles [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1992], 55)

DC 118:1 Let a conference be held immediately; let the Twelve be organized

Minutes of a Meeting of the Twelve

Far West, July 9, 1838, a conference of the Twelve Apostles assembled at Far West, agreeable to the revelation, given July 8, 1838. Present, Thomas B. Marsh, David W. Patten, Brigham Young, Parley P. Pratt and William Smith. T. B. Marsh, presiding.

Resolved 1st. That the persons who are to fill the places of those who are fallen, be immediately notified to come to Far West; as also, those of the Twelve who are not present.

Resolved 2nd. That Thomas B. Marsh notify Wilford Woodruff, that Parley P. Pratt notify Orson Pratt, and that President Rigdon notify Willard Richards, who is now in England.

Voted that President Marsh publish the same in next number of The Elders' Journal.

President Rigdon gave some counsel concerning the provisions necessary to be made for the families of the Twelve, while laboring in the cause of their Redeemer, advising them to instruct their converts to move without delay to the places of gathering, and there to strictly attend to the law of God.

T. B. Marsh, President.
G. W. Robinson, Clerk.
(History of the Church, 3:47)

DC 118:1 let men be appointed to supply the place of those who are fallen

"In section 118 the Lord appointed four members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles to 'fill the places of those who have fallen' (D&C 118:1, 6). The four 'fallen' men were original members of the first Quorum of the Twelve established in this last dispensation. These four were William E. McLellin, excommunicated May 11, 1838; Luke S. Johnson, excommunicated April 13, 1838 (he was rebaptized in 1846 and died in Salt Lake in 1861); John F. Boynton, excommunicated December 1837; and Lyman E. Johnson, excommunicated April 13, 1838." (Hoyt W. Brewster, Jr., Doctrine and Covenants Encyclopedia [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1988], 594)

DC 118:2 let my servant Thomas remain for a season in the land of Zion

Earlier, Thomas B. Marsh had been disappointed that he was not the first to be called to preach the gospel in England (see commentary for D&C 112:17-19).  This revelation, however, holds out hope for his foreign mission.  Although he was to remain a season in the land of Zion, then Far West, he would join the other apostles in their mission abroad to begin April 26, 1839.  Elder Marsh's faithfulness, unfortunately, would not last that long.

"The command had been given, the date was known: finally President Marsh would have the opportunity to lead his colleagues abroad.

"But it was not to be. Before the spring mission, indeed even before existing vacancies could be filled, there would be two more, one when David Patten was killed during the violence that soon erupted in northern Missouri, and the other caused by the disaffection of President Marsh himself, also in some ways a by product of that same Missouri conflict.

"Marsh's disillusionment and decision to leave the Church were the result of many factors, having to do with pride, misunderstanding, hurt feelings, suspicion, and, in Marsh's own later words, stubbornness and a loss of the Spirit. Troubled of mind and spirit, feeling himself wavering, he humbled himself before the Lord in his printing shop long enough to receive a revelation about what course he should take. After sharing it with Heber Kimball and Brigham Young, he promptly went out and did the opposite. Once his face was set, the stubborn, inflexible Thomas was not a man who could be turned. By removing himself from the Saints he escaped the violence that soon decimated Far West and drove his coreligionists from Missouri, but at what cost? As he eventually came to acknowledge, his loss was the greater." (Byron R. Merrill et al., comps., The Heavens Are Open: The 1992 Sperry Symposium on the Doctrine and Covenants and Church History [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1993], 125 - 126)

DC 118:3 I, the Lord, give unto them a promise that I will provide for their families

"As Vilate [Kimball, Heber's wife] and the wives of the other apostles looked toward the future, they foresaw not only their loneliness but also the continuing hard work and difficulties they must endure. Their husbands would suffer considerable hardship and privation, but the women who remained behind would face challenges often much more trying than those of the missionaries. Rear the children, earn a livelihood, help build the new community, care for those less fortunate than they, buoy up their husbands through the mails and keep them informed of what was happening at home, and prepare for their eventual return: all that and more would fall on the lonely shoulders of the women while the apostles were out seeking converts to gather to the new community.

"Vilate might have complained, but instead she wrote a poem to her husband that exemplified her love, faith, courage, and hope for the future:

Dear Heber, you and I must part,
It seems as though it would brake my heart
But in Gods grace I will confide
Praying him to waft you safely oer the tide.
And when you land on Europes shore,
Where you have labored once before;
May you find favor in the eyes
Of rich and poor, both great and wise...

"...Mary Ann Angell Young and her family were desperately ill when Brigham left, and their economic situation in Iowa was precarious, to say the least. Though the apostles had received a general assurance that their families would be cared for, neither Joseph Smith himself nor the church could provide much help. From time to time the Nauvoo bishops were able to give Mary Ann, as well as other needy households, a few such provisions as meat, potatoes, and flour, but she was reluctant to accept charity. She worked hard to obtain whatever she could for herself and family, and did not complain to Brigham. For the most part he heard about her difficulties not from her but from others.

"Brigham Young left his family on the Iowa side of the river because there were a few rooms in a deserted military post. Both food and money were scarce, and on several occasions during the winter of 1839-40 Mary Ann's resources were so exhausted that she had to cross the river to see if she could obtain help from friends or from the Church. Though she left the children to be tended by the older girls, she could not leave the baby. On one bitter, cold day in November, she bundled little Emma as warmly as she could and took her across the Mississippi in an open boat. 'I shall never forget how she looked,' a friend recalled years later, 'shivering with cold and thinly clad.' Mary Ann left the baby with her friend while she went to the tithing office and was able to obtain a few potatoes and some flour. Then, still suffering from ague and fever, she took the baby and made her way back to the cold and uninviting river.

"Sometime during the summer of 1840 Mary Ann managed to move her family across the river into Nauvoo. Their means were still meager, but they would be closer to friends and other assistance. Brigham forced himself not to worry about them for, he told Mary Ann, 'the Lord said by the mouth of Brother Joseph, that they should be provided for, and I believed it.' Nevertheless, he let them know in no uncertain terms he longed deeply for them. Also, from time to time, he was able to send them a little money and a few presents. At least some of what he sent arrived. Mary Ann's good friend Vilate Kimball observed in June: 'I am glad Brother Brigham has sent some assistance to his family for they are needy.'

"Mary Ann resolved to have a house built while her husband was gone and also began to keep a garden. Their lot was in the low, swampy section of Nauvoo. By June 1840 the house was begun. Vilate Kimball wrote Heber that 'their house could hardly be called a shelter,' but added the expectation that 'they will soon have it fixed nice.' Brigham was delighted when he heard that it was begun, and he wrote Mary Ann that he would be glad if she could have it finished by the time he returned home, though she was not to trouble herself if she could not. When he arrived home on July 1, 1841, it was not complete. As he later described it: 'On my return from England I found my family living in a small unfinished log-cabin, situated on a low, wet lot, so swampy that when the first attempt was made to plow it the oxen mired; but after the city was drained it became a very valuable garden spot.'

"Toward the end of 1840, Mary Ann wrote a long letter to Brigham, describing her hard work and telling him she had been ill. The family was lonesome for him, and one night little Mary began to cry, saying she did not want to go to bed until she knelt down and prayed for her father. All the children felt the same except for Emma, born only ten days before Brigham left on his mission, who did not know him at all. After reviewing these and other troubles, Mary Ann hastened to add that she hoped her husband would not think her ungrateful. Brigham responded with exemplary love and tenderness. He prayed for her and the children continually, he said, but that was all he could do. He knew how well she supported him in this difficult assignment and thanked her for it. After loving admonitions to the children about helping their mother and each other, like any typical father, he promised them presents upon his return.


"On September 18, 1839, Vilate Murray Kimball was shaking so severely with the ague that she could do little more than weakly shake hands with her husband, who was also ill, when he came to her sickbed to say goodbye. Tenderly, Heber embraced her and the children and then painfully climbed into the wagon that would take him and Brigham from Nauvoo. No one knows what thoughts ran through Vilate's mind as she watched him go out the doorway, but, in addition to the loneliness she already felt, she must have wondered how she and four children would survive the coming months. Little David was less than four weeks old and only one child, four-year-old Heber Parley, was well enough even to carry water for the ailing family. She was thankful for the little log shanty just completed by her husband, for at least they would have a roof over their heads. Suddenly she heard an unexpected shout, 'Hurrah, hurrah, hurrah for Israel,' and dragged herself from her sickbed to the door. There she and Mary Ann Young, who had crossed the river for a farewell, saw their ailing husbands standing in the wagon waving their hats. A warm smile came to Vilate's face as she and Mary Ann cried out as strongly as they could, 'Good bye! God bless you!' That smile reflected not just her love for Heber but also her determined faith that, despite hardships, the family would survive." (James B. Allen, Ronald K. Esplin, and David J. Whittaker, Men with a Mission, 1837-1841: The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in the British Isles [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1992], 268-275)

Wilford Woodruff

Brother Brigham left home he told you that all his family had was one barrel of rotten flour. Two hundred cents would have bought every pound of provision I left with my family when I left home. But we left our wives, for we had the commandment of God upon us, and we were either going to obey it, or die trying. That was the spirit of the Elders of Israel; and I blessed my wife and child and left them in the hands of God, and to the tender mercies of our noble Bishops, and those who were acquainted with them know how it was in those days. (Journal of Discourses, 18:124)

Robert D. Hales

The service that couples provide is essential to the work of the Lord. Couples can make a difference. Couples can accomplish remarkable things no one else can do...

The Lord will send special blessings to your family as you serve. "I, the Lord, give unto them a promise that I will provide for their families" (D&C 118:3). Couples are sometimes concerned that in their absence they will miss weddings, births, family reunions, and other family events. We have learned that the impact on families while grandparents are on missions is worth a thousand sermons. Families are greatly strengthened as they pray for their parents and grandparents and read letters sent home which share their testimonies and the contribution they are making in the mission field. ("Couple Missionaries: A Time to Serve," Ensign, May 2001, 25)

DC 118:5 Let them take leave...on the twenty-sixth day of April next

"In the predawn hours of 26 April 1839, Brigham Young led two dozen Latter-day Saints in prayer and song on the temple block in Far West, Missouri. The meeting was in preparation for the departure of the Quorum of the Twelve on a mission to England, as the Lord had commanded them the year before. The revelation (D&C 118) had specified this date and place for their departure.

"It might have meant imprisonment or perhaps cost their lives if they had been seen. Mobbers, who had already driven the Saints out of Missouri, had vowed to prevent this meeting and thus prove Joseph Smith a false prophet. Certain that the Mormons were beaten and cowed, they had not posted a guard. At daybreak, they discovered with astonishment that the Saints had come and gone-the commandment in the revelation had been fulfilled." (Ronald K. Esplin, "Brigham Young in England," Ensign, June 1987, 28)

Wilford Woodruff

It will be observed that this differs from nearly all other revelations in this respect: a fixed day and a stated place were given for the commencement of the mission. When the revelation was given, all was peace and quietude in Far West, Missouri, the city where most of the Latterday Saints dwelt; but before the time came for its fulfillment, the Saints of God had been driven out of the State of Missouri into the State of Illinois, under the edict of Governor Boggs, and the Missourians had sworn that if all the other revelations of Joseph Smith were fulfilled, that should not be. It stated that the day and the place where the Twelve Apostles should take leave of the Saints, to go on their missions across the great waters, and the mobocrats of Missouri had declared that they would see that it should not be fulfilled.

It seemed as though the Lord, having a foreknowledge of what would take place, had given the revelation in this manner to see whether the Apostles would obey it at the risk of their lives.

When the time drew near for the fulfillment of this commandment of the Lord, Brigham Young was the President of the Twelve Apostles; Thos. B. Marsh, who was the senior Apostle, had fallen. Brother Brigham called together those of the Twelve who were then at Quincy, Illinois, to see what their minds would be about going to Far West, to fulfill the revelation. The Prophet Joseph and his brother Hyrum, Sidney Rigdon, Lyman Wight and Parley P. Pratt were in prison in Missouri, at the time; but Father Joseph Smith, the Patriarch, was at Quincy, Illinois. He and others who were present did not think it wisdom for us to attempt the journey, as our lives would be in great jeopardy. They thought the Lord would take the will for the deed. But when President Young asked the Twelve what our feelings were upon the subject, we all of us, as the voice of one man, said the Lord God had spoken, and it was for us to obey. It was the Lord's business to take care of His servants, and we would fulfill the commandment, or die trying.

To fully understand the risk the Twelve Apostles ran in making this journey, my readers should remember that Lilburn W. Boggs, governor of the State of Missouri, had issued a proclamation, in which all the Latter-day Saints were required to leave that State or be exterminated. Far West had been captured by the militia, who were really only an organized mob; the citizens had been compelled to give up their arms; all the leading men who could be got hold of had been taken prisoners; the rest of the Saints-men, women and children-had to flee as best they could out of the State to save their lives, leaving all their houses, lands and other property which they could not carry with them to be taken by the mob. In fact they shot down the cattle and hogs of the Saints wherever they could find them, and robbed them of nearly everything they could lay their hands upon. Latter-day Saints were treated with merciless cruelty and had to endure the most outrageous abuses. It was with the greatest difficulty that many of them got out of the State, especially the prominent men; for there were many men of that State at that time, who acted as though they thought it no more harm to shoot a "Mormon" than a mad dog. From this brief explanation you will be able to understand why some of the brethren thought we were not required to go back to Far West to start from there upon our mission across the ocean to Europe.

...On the night of the 25th of April, we arrived at Far West, and spent the night at the home of Morris Phelps, who was not there, however, himself; he, having been taken prisoner by the mob, was still in prison.

On the morning of the 26th of April, 1839, notwithstanding the threats of our enemies that the revelation which was to be fulfilled this day should not be, and notwithstanding that ten thousand of the Saints had been driven out of the State by the edict of the governor, and though the Prophet Joseph and his brother, Hyrum Smith, with other leading men were in the hands of our enemies, in chains, and in prison, we moved on to the temple grounds in the city of Far West, and held a council, and fulfilled the revelation and commandment given unto us. (Wilford Woodruff, Leaves from My Journal [Salt Lake City: Juvenile Instructor Office, 1881], 69-71)

Brigham Young's desire to fulfill the prophecy in section 118 and his obedience to every command begin to show the fortitude of his still developing character.

"Some of the Saints who were gathered in Quincy, Illinois, argued that in their persecuted condition surely the Lord would not require them to fulfill his word to the letter, but Brigham had been learning from Joseph the value of something more important than practical expediency. He knew the value of energetic, even dangerous, effort and sacrifice in keeping faith with the Lord and His prophet, and he knew the value of great example in motivating faith in the Saints. The three other apostles in Quincy agreed with Brigham that 'the Lord God had spoken and it was our duty to obey and leave the event in his hands and he would protect us.'  The four traveled back by carriage, picking up apostle John E. Page (who was still bringing his family out of Missouri) on the way and meeting Heber Kimball in Far West, where he had been in hiding awaiting them. Heber recorded that the Lord cast a deep sleep on the town. They met while it was still dark (Brigham was practical as well as courageously faithful) on the morning of April 26, ordained Wilford Woodruff and George A. Smith apostles, thus providing a minimum Quorum of seven to do business, directed the laying of a token stone for the foundation of the temple, and 'took their leave ... agreeable to revelation.'

"The Twelve then returned to Illinois (taking with them the last group of refugees, who had risked their lives to fulfill the Lord's command to the Twelve to 'take leave of my saints'), assisted in settling the scattered Saints on the future site of Nauvoo, and spent the summer getting ready for their missions-preparing physically for their families as much as their destitute condition would allow, and preparing spiritually through meetings with the Prophet, who had been released from jail in time to join them in founding the new city. Then a memorable meeting was held at Brigham Young's cabin across the river in Montrose on July 2, where 'brother Joseph taught many important, glorious principles calculated to benefit and bless [us] on [our] mission,' especially advising the apostles to be merciful with each other and pray for each other, to avoid all pride and backbiting such as had brought on the past troubles with dissension and apostasy.

"When the apostles tried to leave in August, the malaria that infested the low, swampy ground where they had settled along the Mississippi had disabled nearly everyone. Brigham's description is typically simple and restrained, leaving us to imagine the physical and emotional suffering of this second dramatic departure: 'My health was so poor I was unable to go thirty rods to the river without assistance. ... I left my wife sick, with a babe only ten days old, and all my children sick and unable to wait upon each other.'  His family was even without adequate clothing because of losses to the mob in Missouri; Brigham himself was wearing a cap made out of a pair of old pantaloons, and he took along a quilt because he had no overcoat until some Saints in New York made him one. He commented that he thus 'had not much of a ministerial appearance.' But though deathly ill for a time, and literally carried from place to place as he and a few companions were shuttled by the Saints across Illinois, he gradually recovered strength and began to have experiences commensurate with his calling-even though he lacked the 'appearance.'

"Traveling without purse or scrip, Brigham found that $13.50 given them by the Saints and kept in his trunk became like the Old Testament widow's cruse of oil and barrel of flour that were continually replenished; drawn from again and again, it provided $87 worth of fares and meals as they traveled." (Eugene England, "Brigham Young As a Missionary," New Era, Nov. 1977, 34-35)

David B. Haight

There is a spirit moving upon our people to want to live their lives in harmony with truth, that they may someday respond to an opportunity to serve. This is the same spirit and heavenly influence that directed John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff, and others to take leave of the Saints from the city of Far West early on the morning of April 26, 1839, before departing for their missions to Great Britain (see D&C 118:4-5). On that occasion each prayed in turn at the temple site and bore testimony. Then, after a song, they took leave, directed by revelation, filled with the blessings of heaven and the confirming influence of the Holy Ghost. These early Apostles departed for their missions having been spiritually fed and blessed in a manner that would sustain them and their families throughout their many hardships and inspire their powerful testimonies of the truthfulness of the message of the restored church upon the earth.

What a privilege and a blessing to be a small part of this great work! With that heritage, however, comes a great responsibility. The Lord needs messengers to match His message. He needs those who are able to wield the mighty and eternal influence that He has placed in their hands. ("Missionary Work-Our Responsibility," Ensign, Nov. 1993, 62)

DC 118:6 Let my servant John Taylor, and also my servant John E. Page... be officially notified of their appointment

John Taylor

I will state that I was living in Canada at the time, some three hundred miles distant from Kirtland. I was presiding over a number of churches in that region, in fact, over all of the churches in Upper Canada. I knew about this calling and appointment before it came, it having been revealed to me. But not knowing but that the devil had a finger in the matter, I did not say anything about it to anybody. [Brother Woodruff here spoke up and said that he was on the Fox Islands, which were farther away still; and also knew, by the Spirit, that he would be called to the apostleship.] A messenger came to me with a letter from the First Presidency, informing me of my appointment, and requesting me to repair forthwith to Kirtland, and from there to go to Far West. I went according to the command.

When I reached Far West, John E. Page, another one mentioned in the revelation just read to you, was there also. John E. Page and I were ordained into the quorum of the twelve at the same meeting. Brother Woodruff was ordained, after the scenes of the war at Far West; but I think it was right in the midst of the war when Brother Page and I were ordained. Brother Woodruff was ordained on the cornerstone of the foundation of the temple in Far West, on the 26th of April, 1839, when we went to fulfil this same revelation that you have heard read, and I helped to ordain him. Brother George A. Smith was ordained at the same time, and I am informed that he took the place of Thomas B. Marsh, who apostatized. (The Gospel Kingdom: Selections from the Writings and Discourses of John Taylor, selected, arranged, and edited, with an introduction by G. Homer Durham [Salt Lake City: Improvement Era, 1941], 190 - 191)

Orson F. Whitney

John Taylor and John E. Page were ordained Apostles December 19, 1838, and Wilford Woodruff on the 26th of the following April. Willard Richards received his ordination in Preston, England, after the arrival there of the Apostles in April, 1840. George A. Smith was added to the quorum the same day that Wilford Woodruff was ordained, to fill a vacancy caused by the fall of another of the Twelve. All, save John E. Page, who fell from grace a few years later, have won immortal fame in Israel, and left to posterity the legacy of a spotless name. (Life of Heber C. Kimball [Salt Lake City: Kimball Family, 1888], 186)