DC 28 Biographical Sketch: Hiram Page
"It began with a curious, small, flat stone that Hiram Page wore on a chain around his neck. He believed that the stone held special powers and used it to seek inspiration. Foolish as the practice may now seem, Hiram lived at a time when many devout Christians believed in the use of such objects as rocks and tree branches to divine hidden truths or to learn the will of God. Folk superstition supported Hiram's claim to have a spiritual gift that enabled him to use his stone for inspiration, causing some to comment on his supposed gifts.
"Hiram Page spent his early years learning folk medicine in preparation for a career as a physician. His travels took him to Fayette, New York, where he met the Peter Whitmer Sr. family. In November 1825 he married Peter's daughter Catherine and made his new home with the Whitmers. Through his association with the Whitmer family he met Oliver Cowdery and the Prophet Joseph Smith. Hiram became an avid supporter of the young Prophet and was invited to be one of the Eight Witnesses of the gold plates. For the rest of his life he testified that he had actually seen the plates from which Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon.
"Hiram learned of the Urim and Thummim and the part it played in the translation of the Book of Mormon. He knew that Joseph possessed a seerstone and used it in his prophetic calling. Hiram assumed that his own gift of seership, exercised through the stone he wore around his neck, was of divine origin. He continued to use his stone as a source of 'inspiration,' even after he joined the Church.
"Before the September 1830 conference of the Church, Oliver Cowdery and the Whitmers became interested in Hiram's supposed spiritual gift and encouraged him to use his stone to seek information about Zion and the government of the Church. (Dennis A. Wright, The Doctrine and Covenants, a Book of Answers: The 25th Annual Sidney B. Sperry Symposium, ed. by Leon R. Hartshorn, Dennis A. Wright, and Craig J. Ostler, [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1996], 86-87)
DC 28 Historical Background
About the last of August, 1830 (the time was probably mid-September, see footnote in History of the Church, 1:110), I took my team and wagon to Harmony to move Joseph and his family to Fayette, New York. After arranging my affairs at home, I again set out for Fayette to attend our second conference, which had been appointed to be held at Father Whitmer's, where Joseph then resided. On my arrival I found Brother Joseph in great distress of mind on account of Hiram Page, who had managed to get up some dissension of feeling among the brethren by giving revelations concerning the government of the Church and other matters which he claimed to have received through the medium of a stone he possessed. He had quite a roll of papers full of these revelations, and many in the Church were led astray by them. Even Oliver Cowdery and the Whitmer family had given heed to them, although they were in contradiction to the New Testament and the revelations of these last days. Joseph was perplexed and scarcely knew how to meet this new exigency. That night I occupied the same room that he did, and the greater part of the night was spent in prayer and supplication.
As a conference meeting had been appointed for the 26th day of September, I thought it wisdom not to do much more than converse with the brethren on the subject until the conference should meet. Finding, however, that many, especially the Whitmer family and Oliver Cowdery, were believing much in the things set forth by this stone, we thought best to inquire of the Lord concerning so important a matter. (History of the Church 1:110)
After much labor with these brethren, they were convinced of their error and confessed the same, renouncing the revelations as not being of God, but acknowledging that Satan had conspired to overthrow their belief in the true plan of salvation. In consequence of these things, Joseph inquired of the Lord before conference commenced and received a revelation in which the Lord explicitly stated His mind and will concerning the receiving of revelation. (Hyrum L. Andrus and Helen Mae Andrus, comps., They Knew the Prophet [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1974], 14)
DC 28:1 Behold, I say unto thee, Oliver
Interestingly, this entire revelation is directed to Oliver Cowdery. Although the problem started with Hiram Page and involved a number of other church members, the Lord directs his comments to Oliver. Why would this be?
As the second elder in the church, witness to the Book of Mormon, and personal recipient of the restoration of the Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthoods, Oliver has been given more spiritual gifts than any other individual save Joseph Smith. Since Joseph can't be in all places at all times, he needs other church officers who can preside and exercise good judgment. Unfortunately, Oliver believes some of Hiram's revelations. Understandably, the church is young and the order of heaven poorly understood by the membership, but Joseph can't yet rely upon Oliver to keep things under control. Oliver's inability to spiritually discern Hiram's revelations as a fake and a fraud must have been disappointing to the Prophet-especially, since Oliver "took the Prophet to task for not accepting what Hiram Page had given." (Joseph Fielding Smith, Church History and Modern Revelation, 1:125)
DC 28:2 no one shall be appointed to receive commandments and revelations in this church excepting my servant Joseph Smith
The First Presidency
When visions, dreams, tongues, prophecy, impressions or any extraordinary gift of inspiration, convey something out of harmony with accepted revelations of the Church or contrary to the decisions of its constituted authorities, Latter-day Saints may know that it is not of God, no matter how plausible it may appear. Also, they should understand that directions for the guidance of the Church will come, by revelation, through the head. All faithful members are entitled to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit for themselves, their families, and for those over whom they are appointed and ordained to preside. But anything at discord with that which comes from God through the head of the Church is not to be received as authoritative or reliable. In secular as well as spiritual affairs, saints may receive divine guidance and revelation affecting themselves, but this does not convey authority to direct others, and is not to be accepted when contrary to Church covenants, doctrine or discipline, or to known facts, demonstrated truths, or good common sense. (Joseph F. Smith, Anthon H. Lund, Charles W. Penrose in Latter-day Prophets and the Doctrine and Covenants, by Roy W. Doxey, [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1978], 1: 297 - 298.)
Marion G. Romney
Now, brethren, if we will keep these things in mind, we shall not be deceived by false teachings. I remember years ago when I was a bishop I had President Grant talk to our ward. After the meeting I drove him home. At that time there was a great deal of criticism against the president of the Church because of a front-page editorial some of you may remember. We talked about it. When we arrived at his home I got out of the car and went up on the porch with him. Standing by me, he put his arm over my shoulder and said, "My boy, you always keep your eye on the president of the Church, and if he ever tells you to do anything, and it is wrong, and you do it, the Lord will bless you for it." Then with a twinkle in his eye he said, "But you don't need to worry. The Lord will never let his mouthpiece lead the people astray."
I have thought much about this statement. I remember that counselors in the presidency have been deceived. I remember that members of the Twelve have been deceived and left the Church. And men in every other council in the Church have been deceived, and, according to President Grant (and I believe him), there never will be a president of this Church who will lead the people astray. (Look to God and Live [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1971], 62 - 63.)
DC 28:2-3 Joseph and Oliver compared to Moses and Aaron
When missionaries declare that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God, investigators are often astounded to find out that we believe that Joseph Smith was as much a prophet as Moses. The Christian, Jewish, and Muslim worlds can't believe we would dare make such an outlandish statement, "Joseph Smith a prophet like Moses? No way. You've got to be kidding, right?"
For some reason, it's always easier to believe in dead prophets than living ones. This phenomenon plagued the Savior as well. Jesus said, "behold, a greater than Solomon is here...for they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here." (Luke 11:31-32) The Jewish response was disbelief, "Art thou greater than our father Abraham?" they asked. Jesus replied, "Before Abraham was I AM" (John 8:53,58, punctuation altered)
But Joseph was a prophet who received revelations and commandments directly from the Lord. Like Moses, he had a spokesman. Like Moses who came down from the Mount to find Aaron helping the children of Israel make a golden calf, Joseph came back from Harmony to find Oliver contributing to the misconceptions regarding Hiram's stone. As Aaron and the children of Israel needed correction, so did Oliver and the fledgling church. The only one who could provide this divine leadership was the Prophet.
Nevertheless, neither Moses nor Joseph Smith wanted to keep the people from receiving revelation. The point is that they can't receive it for the whole church nor can they receive it by way of commandment. In fact, both prophets tried to bring the people into the presence of the Lord. Both prophets wanted the people to receive revelation and prophecy. Remember when two of the elders went about in the camp prophesying? "Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of Moses...said, My lord Moses, forbid them. And Moses said unto him, Enviest thou for my sake? Would God that all the Lord's people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit upon them!" (Numbers 11:27-28) Similarly, Joseph wanted all the saints to have the Lord's spirit in order to receive revelation and prophesy. Joseph declared, "God hath not revealed anything to Joseph, but what He will make known unto the Twelve, and even the least Saint may know all things as fast as he is able to bear them" (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 149) If the saints had the spirit of revelation and prophecy, they would have been able to discern Hiram's "revelations" for what they were.
A man must have the discerning of spirits before he can drag into daylight this hellish influence and unfold it unto the world in all its soul-destroying, diabolical, and horrid colors; for nothing is a greater injury to the children of men than to be under the influence of a false spirit when they think they have the Spirit of God. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 205.)
DC 28:5 thou shalt not write by way of commandment
"It is interesting that the Lord draws a distinction between written and spoken inspiration: Oliver Cowdery could speak by way of commandment, when inspired, but could only write by way of wisdom, giving advice.
"That same instruction can apply to us today. Many Saints have sat in a particularly inspired Sunday School class, where insights from the teacher or class members answered serious questions or changed people's lives. A bishop receives inspiration in many things pertaining to his ward, and Saints heed instructions and callings from their local leaders. All these things are the workings of the Lord.
"But they do not pertain to all people and to all times. Though the bishop is inspired to call a woman to serve as Relief Society president in the ward, this does not mean she will always serve in that calling. Though a wise and inspired teacher gives an insight that can help a wandering soul find the right path, that insight may not always apply to the person's life-and it may not apply to all Church members." (Melvin J. Petersen, "I Have a Question," Ensign, July 1978, 31-32)
DC 28:6 thou shalt not command him who is at thy head
James E. Faust
The Prophet Joseph Smith stated that "it is contrary to the economy of God for any member of the Church ... to receive instruction for those in authority, higher than themselves."
In addition, some have claimed higher spiritual gifts or authority outside the established priesthood authority of the Church. They say that they believe in the principles and ordinances of the gospel and accept the President of the Church as the legal administrator thereof, but claim they have a higher order which the President does not have. This is often done to justify an activity which is not in accordance with the doctrines of the Church. There can be no higher order, however, because the President of the Church both holds and exercises all of the keys of the kingdom of God on earth. The Lord has said of the President of the Church "that none else shall be appointed [to receive commandments and revelations] except it be through him." ("The Prophetic Voice," Ensign, May 1996, 6-7)
Joseph F. Merrill
Occasionally there comes to my office and presumably to other offices in the building, an individual who claims he has a divine message for the Church or for President Grant. Of course, we give no credence to their claims. But I refer to their claims in illustration of the statement that our belief in modern revelation may be the means of leading away some of the people unless they are on their guard. Perhaps at no time in history did Satan have power as great as he has today. There was no time in the past when so many people believed in revelation as today. Satan tempts us where we are most vulnerable. He misleads a few into believing that the promptings that come from him are divine revelations. These false prophets in turn are seemingly so devout, so humble, so earnest and sincere that they, with Satan's help, are able to deceive and mislead many others-only those, however, who profess a belief in modern revelation. Thus heresies spring up, faith in our leaders is destroyed and the devil laughs because of his successes. The foolish who have been blinded have been led to believe that they are serving the cause of the Master when the fact is they are dupes of the devil. I speak plainly to avoid being misunderstood.
There are adulterous [men] going about lying...and trying to deceive people into believing that the President and leaders of the Church have lost the spirit of their callings and have repudiated some Gospel principles. This is one of the ways in which the devil is working. (Conference Report, April 1941, Second Day-Morning Meeting 50.)
DC 28:8 you shall go unto the Lamanites and preach my gospel unto them
See commentary for DC 30 and DC 32.
"Oliver Cowdery, with his companions, Peter Whitmer Jr., Parley P. Pratt, Ziba Peterson, and Frederick G. Williams, in early October headed through sparsely settled land to a goal 1,500 miles distant in present-day Kansas. En route, near Buffalo, New York, they visited a tribe of Cattaraugus Indians, had difficulty making themselves understood, but left two copies of the Book of Mormon. After spending considerable time in Kirtland, Ohio, they journeyed to Upper Sandusky, Wyandot County, Ohio, where they stayed with Wyandot Indians for several days and then made their truly heroic trek during the famous 'winter of the deep snow' to Independence, Missouri. In early February 1831 they went into Indian territory and, through an interpreter, preached to the Shawnee and subsequently to the Delaware Indians (see Parley P. Pratt, Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, sixth ed., Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1964, pp. 47-58)." (Jay M. Todd, "News of the Church," Ensign, Mar. 1996, 76-77)
DC 28: 9 no man knoweth where the city of Zion shall be built
Joseph Fielding Smith
Among other things [Hiram Page] claimed to have received a revelation making known the place where the City of Zion would be built. In reading the Book of Mormon (Ether 13) it was discovered that Zion, or the New Jerusalem, was to be built upon this continent. This prediction caused some speculation at that early day and Hiram Page endeavored to settle the question by means of revelation received through his stone. As it was but a few months after the organization of the Church the members had not learned that there was but one appointed of the Lord to receive revelations for the Church, and several others thought that Hiram Page or Oliver Cowdery could receive revelation, just as well as Joseph Smith. Oliver Cowdery and the members of the Whitmer family were deceived by these false declarations of Hiram Page. This caused serious trouble and Oliver Cowdery took the Prophet to task for not accepting what Hiram Page had given. Finally the prophet persuaded Oliver Cowdery that these things were wrong, and later the whole membership renounced the revelation given through this stone, but this did not come until the Lord had given to the Church the revelation known as section twenty-eight. (Church History and Modern Revelation, 1:125)
DC 28:11 take thy brother, Hiram Page, between him and thee alone
One principle of righteousness often neglected is the art of divine correction. The Lord intends these conflicts be resolved in private according to the scripture: "if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother." (Matt. 18:15) There is no need for public display, embarrassing accusation, or self-righteous condescension.
DC 28:11 Satan deceiveth him
Marion G. Romney
Before the end of 1830, the very year in which the restored Church was organized, some of the leading brethren were deceived as to the source of certain spiritual manifestations...The Saints were cautioned by the Lord to walk uprightly before him, doing all things with prayer and thanksgiving, that they might ". . . not be seduced by evil spirits, or doctrines of devils. or the commandments of men,. . ." (D&C 46:7.)
These citations not only sustain the proposition that there are counterfeits to the gifts of the spirit, but they also suggest the origin of the counterfeits. However, we are not required to rely alone upon their implications, plain as they are, for the Lord states specifically that some of the counterfeits ". . . are of men, and others of devils." (D&C 46:7.)
Some of these counterfeits are crude and easily detected, but others closely simulate true manifestations of the spirit. Consequently, people are confused and deceived by them. Without a key, one cannot distinguish between the genuine and the counterfeit. The Egyptians could not tell the difference between the power through which Moses and Aaron worked and that by which the magicians worked. On the day of Pentecost, the non-believers did not recognize that the apostles were speaking in tongues by the power of the spirit; on the contrary, they concluded that they were "drunken with new wine." The Savior himself said, "there shall also arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders, insomuch, that, if possible, they shall deceive the very elect, who are the elect according to the covenant." (JS-Hist 1:22.)
Joseph F. Merrill
Yes, the devil is among the Saints. Let them beware. He uses various means and methods-those that are found to be most effective, depending on many pertinent factors. He catches often those who are off their guard. None of us is secure from his wiles. To be as secure as may be we must have the help of the Lord. This is available if we worthily seek it. Every one in the Church must have it if he does well the work authoritatively assigned him to do. But no officer, no missionary can fully enjoy the work of his calling in the Church without the spirit thereof, which is given through the Holy Ghost.
Brethren and sisters, let us not be deceived. There are many agents of Satan abroad in the land and some of them may be self-deceived, not knowing that they are in the power of the evil one. However, the spirit of the devil among this people may be detected by all honest, sincere members who keep the commandments of the Lord. The spirit of the Lord is comforting, joy-producing, love-inspiring, help-giving. The spirit of the devil is manifested in fault-finding, envy, selfishness, hatred, deceit, dishonesty, and produces misery, sin and crime. (Conference Report, April 1941, Second Day-Morning Meeting 51.)
DC 28:13 all things must be done in order, and by common consent in the church
"The September 1830 conference proved most important in the development of the Church. During the conference Joseph raised the matter of Hiram Page's revelations and found that some still did not understand how revelation comes to the Church. Those present discussed the matter at length as the Prophet taught how the 'Articles and Covenants' (now D&C 20 and 22), accepted at the June conference, applied to this situation. He referred to the revelation received before the September conference (D&C 28) and taught the danger of conflicting revelations. Joseph treated the matter as a principle of Church government and in doing so emphasized that 'all things must be done in order, and by common consent in the church, by the prayer of faith' (D&C 28:13). Newel Knight recorded, 'It was wonderful to witness the wisdom that Joseph displayed on this occasion, for truly God gave unto him great wisdom and power, and . . . none who saw him administer righteousness under such trying circumstances, could doubt that the Lord was with him, as he acted-not with the wisdom of man, but with the wisdom of God. The Holy Ghost came upon us and filled our hearts with unspeakable joy.' After the discussion, 'Brother Page, as well as the whole Church who were present, renounced the said stone, and all things connected therewith.' Those present then partook of the sacrament and participated in confirmations and ordinations with a spirit of charity and peace. The minutes of the meeting simply record: 'Brother Joseph Smith, Jr. was appointed by the voice of the Conference to receive and write Revelations & Commandments for this Church.'
The experience with the Hiram Page revelations marked an important point in the doctrinal development of the Church. The issue was one of Church government because the false revelations challenged the unique role of the anointed prophet. The conference established a clear precedent in defining the process of revelation and the central role of the prophet as the one 'given . . . the keys of the mysteries, and the revelations' (D&C 28:7). From that time forth this principle has remained central in the governing principles of the Church. Of this matter the Prophet later said, 'I will inform you that it is contrary to the economy of God for any member of the Church, or any one, to receive instructions for those in authority, higher than themselves . . . for the fundamental principles, government, and doctrine of the Church are vested in the keys of the kingdom.'" (Dennis A. Wright, The Doctrine and Covenants, a Book of Answers: The 25th Annual Sidney B. Sperry Symposium, ed. by Leon R. Hartshorn, Dennis A. Wright, and Craig J. Ostler, [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1996], 91.)