DC 72 Historical Background
While Kirtland was the center of the Ohio community of saints, Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon had spent the preceding weeks in Hiram, Ohio at the John Johnson home. They were working on the translation of the Bible until the Lord commanded them to serve a brief mission. They were to preach the gospel and dispel the animosity brought from the newspaper articles of apostate Ezra Booth (D&C 71).
Knowing now the mind of the Lord, that the time had come that the Gospel should be proclaimed in power and demonstration to the world, from the Scriptures, reasoning with men as in days of old, I took a journey to Kirtland, in company with Elder Sidney Rigdon on the 3rd day of December, to fulfil the above revelation. On the 4th, several of the Elders and members assembled together to learn their duty, and for edification, and after some time had been spent in conversing about our temporal and spiritual welfare, I received [D&C 72]... (History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1: 239.)
One of the subjects under discussion among the high priests gathered was the temporal and spiritual welfare of the Ohio saints. Edward Partridge had been serving as the Bishop since he was called in February of 1831 (D&C 41:9). However, in August the Lord had revealed that Bishop Partridge was to go to Zion and serve as Bishop there (D&C 58:24). Sometime that fall, the first group of saints moved Missouri to establish Zion. This left the Ohio saints without a bishop to manage their temporal and spiritual affairs. D&C 72 would answer that need in calling Newel K. Whitney to serve as the Bishop for the saints in Ohio. Of note, "this was the last section received during 1831, the year in which there were more Doctrine and Covenants revelations received than in any other single year." (Richard O. Cowan, The Doctrine and Covenants, Our Modern Scripture [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1984], 109.)
DC 72:2 it is expedient in me for a bishop to be appointed...in this part of the Lord's vineyard
The Lord was establishing two great centers of church activity-one in Jackson County Missouri and the other in Kirtland, Ohio. Once Bishop Partridge made the move to Zion, he obviously could not manage the temporal affairs of the Ohio saints, and the Prophet Joseph had more pressing duties to attend to. The time had come for another Bishop to manage the spiritual and temporal affairs of the Ohio saints.
D. Michael Quinn noted, "On December 31, 1831, Newell K. Whitney was ordained bishop to preside in Kirtland. In 1834, the two capitals of the Church were organized further under a presidency and high council in each area." (Ensign, Dec. 1973, 32) At this time, bishops served over general congregations of the saints, and can be referred to as general bishops. "Not until 1839, when the Saints settled in Nauvoo, were bishops associated with specific local congregations known as wards." (Richard O. Cowan, Answers to Your Questions About the Doctrine and Covenants [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1996], 29.)
"The title bishop is applied to several categories of men in the Church: First, those 'general bishops' who served in the early days of the Church when membership was small and scattered. These bishops had a jurisdiction which was 'quite extensive or special, yet not over the whole Church' (PCG, 177). Edward Partridge, Newel Whitney, and George Miller were all early examples of this type of bishop (D&C 41:9-10; 72:5-8; 84:112-14; 124:20-21).
"Second, the Presiding Bishop of the Church... Third, men who have previously served as bishops who continue to be referred to as 'bishop'.. Fourth, men who are currently functioning as bishops... in the wards in which they serve." (Hoyt W. Brewster, Jr., Doctrine and Covenants Encyclopedia [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1988], 46.)
Here then was a Bishop whose duties were made known and specified, and which were very different in their nature in many respects from our Ward Bishops. Can you not see the difference between these duties assigned to Edward Partridge, and the duties assigned to the several Ward Bishops of our Church? So far as the Ward Bishops' duties go, they coincide perfectly with the duties that were assigned to this general Bishop. But there were a great many things required of him that are not required of Ward Bishops; quite different in their duties and in their callings.
In December, 1831, the Lord saw proper again to give another Bishop, his name was Newel K. Whitney. Was he merely a Bishop of a Ward, whose jurisdiction was limited to a little spot of ground that might be termed a place for the residence of a Ward Bishop? No; he was another general Bishop. Bishop Partridge having general jurisdiction in Jackson County, and in the regions round about; while the duties of Newel K. Whitney extended to the State of Ohio and the States of Pennsylvania and New York, and throughout all the Eastern countries, wherever the Church of God was organized.
Here were two Bishops, then, one having jurisdiction in the West, a thousand miles from the other; the other having jurisdiction in the East. Their duties were pointed out, but neither of them was a Presiding Bishop. But what were they? As was clearly shown by President Taylor at the Priesthood meeting on last evening, they were general Bishops. By and by, after the Church of God was driven from the State of Missouri, it became necessary to have a Presiding Bishop. (Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. [London: Latter-day Saints' Book Depot, 1854-1886], 22: 34.)
DC 72:3 it is required of the Lord, at the hand of every steward, to render an account of his stewardship
J. Richard Clark
The lessons of stewardship are vividly taught in the parable of the talents (see Matt. 25:14-30). To be profitable servants, we must improve that which the Lord has entrusted to us. Stewards are managers, and sound management reduces waste and ensures an appropriate return on invested resources. How happy were the servants who could report to their lord that they had done all that was expected of them and were told, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things" (Matt. 25:21).
I believe there are three elements which characterize successful stewardship-agency, diligence, and accountability. We are free to accept or reject the invitation to serve, but once we accept, we assume full responsibility for the results. In section 4 of the Doctrine and Covenants, we read, "O ye that embark in the service of God [I see this as the invitation], see that ye serve him with all your heart, might, mind and strength" (D&C 4:2). And then, in section 72: "It is required of the Lord, at the hand of every steward, to render an account of his stewardship, both in time and in eternity" (D&C 72:3). While we are ultimately accountable to the Lord, we are also accountable to his mortal priesthood administrators. ("Successful Welfare Stewardship," Ensign, Nov. 1978, 81)
Joseph B. Wirthlin
Each of you has an eternal calling from which no Church officer has authority to release you. This is a calling given you by our Heavenly Father Himself. In this eternal calling, as with all other callings, you have a stewardship, and "it is required of the Lord, at the hand of every steward, to render an account of his stewardship, both in time and in eternity." This most important stewardship is the glorious responsibility your Father in Heaven has given you to watch over and care for your own soul.
At some future day, you and I will each hear the voice of the Lord calling us forward to render an account of our mortal stewardship. This accounting will occur when we are called up to "stand before [the Lord] at the great and judgment day."
Each day on this earth is but a small part of eternity. The day of resurrection and final judgment will surely come for each one of us.
Then our Father in Heaven's great and noble heart will be saddened for those of His children who, because they chose evil, will be cast out, unworthy to return to His presence. But He will welcome with loving arms and with indescribable joy those who have chosen to be "true to the truth." Righteous living, combined with the grace of the Atonement, will qualify us to stand before Him with clean hearts and clear consciences. ("True to the Truth," Ensign, May 1997, 16)
DC 72:6 These things shall be...handed over unto the bishop in Zion
While each bishop was to serve independent of the other, the Lord requires order in his kingdom. Therefore, Bishop Whitney was required to provide Bishop Partridge with a stewardship report of the Ohio church. This was because Zion was to be the place "where the permanent records should be kept." (Joseph Fielding Smith, Church History and Modern Revelation, 2:40-41.)
DC 72:8 my servant Newel K. Whitney is the man
Orson F. Whitney
Edward Partridge was the first Bishop called, but he had been sent down into Missouri, where the foundations of Zion were laid, and another Bishop was needed for Kirtland,-a Stake of Zion. The Lord said: "My servant Newel K. Whitney is the man who shall be appointed and ordained unto this power." (Doctrine & Covenants 72:8.) Newel K. Whitney, staggering under the weight of the responsibility that was about to be placed upon him, said to the Prophet: "Brother Joseph, I can't see a Bishop in myself."
No; but God could see it in him. He was a natural Bishop-a first class man of affairs. Probably no other incumbent of that important office, the Presiding Bishopric, to which he eventually attained, has been better qualified for it than Newel K. Whitney. But he could not see it, and he shrank from the responsibility. The Prophet answered: "Go and ask the Lord about it." And Newel did ask the Lord, and he heard a voice from heaven say: "Thy strength is in me." That was enough. He accepted the office, and served in it faithfully to the end of his days-a period of eighteen years. (Conference Report, June 1919, Afternoon Session 47 - 48.)
DC 72:10-12 the duty of the bishop
The bishop has many responsibilities but the scriptures help us to understand what the core duties are.
- Keep the Lord's storehouse
- Receive the funds of the church
- Take an account of the elders' stewardship
- Care for the poor and the needy
Marion G. Romney
Except for those duties which are unique to the Presiding Bishopric of the Church and those which were made inoperative at the time the formal law of consecration was suspended, the role of the bishop today is essentially the same as was defined in these early revelations. Bishops have been given added responsibilities for the youth and as presiding high priest of the ward. However, of all of the bishop's assignments, as important as each one is, none is more important than care for the poor.
There is only one common judge in each ward, only one man authorized to perceive the needs of the people, only one priesthood holder acting as the Lord's representative to succor the feeble knees and hands that hang down (see D&C 81:5). Perhaps the most pointed and clear summary of the bishop's assignment to care for the poor was given by President J. Reuben Clark when he said:
"To the bishop is given all the powers, and responsibilities which the Lord has specifically prescribed in the Doctrine and Covenants for the caring of the poor, to him go the funds necessary therefore, and to him are given the gifts and functions necessary for carrying on this work. No one else is charged with this duty and responsibility, no one else is endowed with the power and functions necessary for this work." ("The Role of a Bishop in the Church Welfare Program," Ensign, Nov. 1979, 94)
Marion G. Romney
The success of the Church's Welfare Services system depends on how effectively bishops perform their role. The manner in which assistance is actually administered to the needy determines the success or failure of Church welfare. Notwithstanding all the aids provided from both ecclesiastical and temporal lines, ultimately you bishops must care for your flock. What a great responsibility and what a great opportunity for Christlike service! ("The Role of a Bishop in the Church Welfare Program," Ensign, Nov. 1979, 95)
DC 72:14 the labors of the faithful...shall answer the debt unto the bishop in Zion
When the Bishop offers help to those in need, what is their responsibility? Are they required to pay him back? This scripture explains how that debt should be answered. The Lord is happy to receive payment in kind and the kind of payment He wants is faithfulness to "the gospel and the things of the kingdom." Those idlers who would have the Bishop pay their bills and yet do not even attend church do not understand their responsibility. They do not understand that the Bishop is not obligated to continue to support them if they are negligent in their spiritual duty.
DC 72:15 every man that cometh up to Zion must lay all things before the bishop
Remember, that as long as there is inequality in the things that belong to the Lord, the world lieth in sin. It is not given to them that they should possess one above another. I intend to explain how this is to be brought about...
We read, in another revelation that God gave in the early rise of this Church, that unless we are equal in earthly things, we cannot be made equal in heavenly things. Here is an equality preached. There must be an equality in earthly things, in order that we may be equal in heavenly things...
In the first place how shall we get at this order? In what manner and by what means shall we begin to lay the foundation of this equality? The Lord has told us, that it is required of every man in this Church to lay all things, not one tenth alone, but to lay all things before the bishop of His Church; consecrate the whole of it-everything he has-his flocks and herds-his cattle, horses, and mules-his gold and silver-his wearing apparel, watches, jewelry, and everything he possesses; consecrate it; not keep back a portion like Annanias and his wife, but give everything-make a full consecration to begin with. (Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. [London: Latter-day Saints' Book Depot, 1854-1886], 2: 98 - 99.)
DC 72:17-19 A certificate from the judge or bishop...rendereth every man acceptable
Elders in Zion
We hope brethren, that you will be particular to teach the disciples abroad prudence and economy in all things. Teach them in plainness, that without regular recommends, they cannot be received in fellowship with the Church in Zion, until after they have proven themselves worthy by their godly walk. And those who are recommended by you, we expect will be such as are personally known to you to be disciples indeed, and worthy the confidence of all Saints.
Viewing the quotation relative to your obtaining a certificate from the Bishop in the East concerning your worthiness, you cannot blame us brethren if we are strict on this point. It may be understood, therefore, by our brethren, the EIders, who come from the East and do not bring a regular certificate showing that their labors have been accepted there, that they cannot be accepted in Zion. We do not set ourselves up as judges in this; we have only a desire to see the order of our Redeemer's kingdom observed in all things; for His commandments are precious with us, we have them in our hands, and they are sacred to our hearts.
Our brethren who labor in the churches a distance to the west of the residence of the Bishop in the East, who do not render their accounts to him, should be particular to bring recommends from the churches in which they do labor, and present them with the accounts of their labors to the Bishop immediately after their arrival here. And those Elders who labor continually in preaching the Gospel to the world, should also be particular to render their account of the same, that they may show themselves approved in all things, and be known to be worthy of the high office in which they stand in the Church of Christ. (Originally published July 1833 in the Evening and Morning Star as recorded in History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1: 386-387.)
DC 72:20 my servants who are appointed as stewards over the literary concerns of my church
Who were the stewards appointed over the literary concerns of the church?
"At a conference held in Hiram, Ohio, members agreed that some of the revelations received by the Prophet should be printed and circulated; six men-Joseph Smith, Martin Harris, Oliver Cowdery, John Whitmer, Sidney Rigdon, and William W. Phelps-were entrusted with this assignment. They organized a 'literary firm' in November 1831 as a joint stewardship to publish and sell books, periodicals, and newspapers for the Church. Although none of the men owned property in Kirtland, they were commanded to be equal in 'temporal things.' They were to be provided with the necessities of life, but any surplus they earned was to be given into the Lord's storehouse. (D&C 70:1-3, 7, 14)" (Milton V. Backman, Jr., The Heavens Resound: A History of the Latter-day Saints in Ohio, 1830-1838 [Salt Lake City: Desert Book Co., 1983], 70 - 71.)
"The Literary Firm, [an] implementation of consecration principles... [was] established in November 1831 to print the revelations and other publications for the Church, it operated in several forms until August 1837. Following the 1833 Missouri mob actions, printing operations were moved from Independence to Kirtland. Up to eight men were made stewards over the revelations and consecrated their efforts to manage publication. Although constantly beset by problems, the firm published the Doctrine and Covenants (1st ed.), the Book of Mormon (2nd ed.), and other Church books and periodicals." (Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 1-4 vols., edited by Daniel H. Ludlow (New York: Macmillan, 1992), 314.)
DC 72:24-26 respecting the members of the church...Let them carry up unto the bishop a certificate
At first glance these verses may seem redundant. Already, the Lord had instructed the elders going to Zion to bring a certificate of worthiness (v. 16-19). But these verses clarify that such a requirement is not for priesthood leadership only-it applies to every member of the church. Do we still follow this practice in the church? How does a bishop know whether someone moving into his ward is true and faithful?
While bishops may provide certificates of worthiness when needed, for all practical purposes the temple recommend serves the same function. This is one more reason why we should be careful to always have a current temple recommend.
"When a member of a ward or branch is invited to bless or to baptize, confirm, or ordain someone in another ward or branch, he must take with him from his bishop a Recommend to Perform an Ordinance or a signed, current temple recommend, unless he is well known by the presiding officers where the ordinance is performed; it would also be sufficient for a bishop to permit a priesthood bearer from another ward to perform an ordinance on the presentation of a current temple recommend." ("Policies, Programs, and People," Ensign, Apr. 1972, 68)
Howard W. Hunter
It would please the Lord for every adult member to be worthy of-and to carry-a current temple recommend, even if proximity to a temple does not allow immediate or frequent use of it. The things that we must do and not do to be worthy of a temple recommend are the very things that ensure we will be happy as individuals and as families. ("A Temple-Motivated People," Ensign, Feb. 1995, 5)
Another great blessing of having a current temple recommend is noted in the following story:
"Members who follow President Hunter's counsel sometimes find opportunities to attend the temple open to them in surprising ways. One such member was Kuteka Kamulete of Zaire. Though he lived thousands of kilometers from the nearest temple, President Hunter's words touched his heart. He met with his branch president and received a recommend. Later, through an opportunity at work to travel to North Korea, in unexpected and unusual ways he was able to arrange a stopover in Switzerland and attend the Swiss Temple.
"He later wrote: 'How humble and grateful I felt! ... I received my endowment that day, and it has been the greatest gift in my life' ("From Zaire to the Lord's House," Ensign, July 1998, 67)." ("Preparing for the Temple," Ensign, Dec. 1999, 55)