Section 44

DC 44 Historical Background

Section 44 would be the first call for a general church conference in the Kirtland area. Most of the Ohio saints had been taught according to the Campbellite principles of Sidney Rigdon. Many of them were very much in need of enlightened direction.

"The Prophet Joseph smith gave a very brief introduction to the Doctrine and Covenants 44 in History of the Church.  He simply stated: 'The latter part of February [1831] I received the following revelation, which caused the Church to appoint a conference to be held early in the month of June ensuing'-followed immediately by the text of section 44.

"In Doctrine and Covenants 20:61 the Lord had instructed the elders of the Church to meet in conference every three months. Thus far, after the founding of the Church on 6 April, they had met on 9 June 1830, 26 September 1830, and 2 January 1831. At the close of the 2 January conference in Fayette, New York, a date was not set for the next conference because the New York Saints would be moving to Ohio in the spring and would thus be prevented from meeting until after that time. Therefore, it was decided that a conference would be scheduled in Kirtland for 3 through 6 June 1831. This allowed time for both the New York Saints and the missionaries, who were particularly instructed to attend (see v. 1), to reach Kirtland.

"Some historians have suggested, on the evidence of John Whitmer's history, that a general conference was held in Kirtland on 4 March 1831. The original Whitmer manuscript, however, reads 4 June 1831, a date that was later changed to read 4 March. No other evidence for a March conference exists, and in a letter to Hyrum dated 3-4 March, Joseph mentioned the Lord's commandment that the elders gather to Kirtland, but he said nothing of the conference then in progress." (Stephen E. Robinson, H. Dean Garrett, A Commentary on the Doctrine and Covenants, [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 2001] 2:44-45)

DC 44:2 inasmuch as they are faithful...I will pour out my Spirit upon them in the day that they assemble themselves together

Noteworthy are the requirements of the Lord in this verse. He expects the saints to be faithful and exercise faith in him before they can expect to feel the Spirit at the next general conference. "Inasmuch as they are faithful, and exercise faith in me"-doesn't the Lord place responsibility on the individual? So many times we go to a meeting and feel unfulfilled because the speaker was monotone or the content uninteresting. Who's fault is that? Perhaps when we don't feel the Spirit in a meeting, it is because we have not exercised enough faith-because we have not sufficiently prepared ourselves for a spiritual experience.

Spencer W. Kimball

We attend sacrament meetings to worship the Lord. If the meeting is conducted or if we attend with any other thought, we have missed the spirit of the occasion. Those who attend meeting only when the speaker is eloquent, the lecturer is noted, or the music is excellent, are far afield of the high purpose and loftiness of this meeting in the house of prayer... Worship is an individual matter. The best choir, the best speaker, the most noted lecturer, cannot bring true worship into your soul. It must proceed from within, out of a deep sense of love and devotion and dependence and humility. ...

Because the speaker is local, or dry, is a poor excuse for not attending meetings, though it is often given. How very weak! If you sing and pray and partake of the sacrament worthily, you could sit through the next hour in worshipful contemplation with profit even if the speaker is poor. It is your responsibility to make the meeting worthwhile by your individual contribution. The average ward has in it many talented and forceful speakers. They should be used. They should be encouraged to fill their minds with useful knowledge so that their message and testimony will be of great value when they are called upon. The Lord has never agreed to bring finished sermons from empty minds and hearts, but he has covenanted that he will bring to your remembrance the things you have learned.

One good but mistaken man I know claimed he could get more out of a good book on Sunday than he could get in attending church services, saying that the sermons were hardly up to his standards. But we do not go to Sabbath meetings to be entertained or even solely to be instructed. We go to worship the Lord. It is an individual responsibility, and regardless of what is said from the pulpit, if one wishes to worship the Lord in spirit and in truth, he may do so by attending his meetings, partaking of the sacrament, and contemplating the beauties of the gospel. If the service is a failure to you, you have failed. No one can worship for you; you must do your own waiting upon the Lord. (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, edited by Edward L. Kimball [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1982], 514-515.)

DC 44:3 they shall go forth...and preach repentance unto the people

John Whitmer

The elders were sent for according to preceding revelation (section 44).

March 4, 1831 [probably June 4, 1831]. This was a day appointed for a general conference, from whence the elders were sent forth to preach the gospel and many were added of such as were determined to be saved...

Some of the elders returned from their missions to gain some rest and instructions. They rehearsed some of the wickedness which they had seen among the generations: while they were proclaiming the gospel and warning the people, some would cry false prophets, false christ, etc. Some would receive the word gladly until their priests would cry delusion! delusion!! for this generation abounds with priests, which they have heaped up unto themselves, and every one is teaching for hire: consequently everyone is looking for his gain from his quarter. They will persecute the disciples, and cause their followers to do likewise. Out of the mixed multitude some obey the gospel of peace and bring forth fruit some an hundredfold. (The Book of John Whitmer, typescript, [Provo: BYU Archives and Manuscripts], chap. 3)

DC 44:4-5 ye shall obtain power to organize yourselves according to the laws of man; That your enemies may not have power over you

Orson Pratt

We should have the Constitutional privileges, as a free, sovereign, and independent State, which are enjoyed by all other States of this Union: in other words, we should more fully be made partakers of the blessings which our Lord promised to us, more than twenty-five years ago, which I will repeat from the Doctrine and Covenants, [quotes D&C 44:3-5]

In other words, that you may not be tyrannized over by unrighteous governors, judges, and officers, that you have no voice in electing or appointing who may, according to their own will, trample upon your rights as American citizens.

The prophecy which I have quoted has been fulfilled in part, indeed it has been fulfilled to a very great extent. True, we are not a free and independent State; but we are organized according to the laws of man; we have the privilege of making laws, not for one little village, or to govern one little city, or only a few miles square, but we have already the privilege of making laws, the influence of which extend over many villages, cities, valleys, settlements, and counties.

All this has come to pass in fulfilment of the prediction, uttered more than a quarter of a century ago, when the Church was not a year old, and very few in numbers. Have we not reason to rejoice in the high and inestimable blessings, already received in fulfilment of the word of the Lord, especially when compared with the few privileges enjoyed by all the other nations of the earth?

Where can you find a people or nation, that scarcely begin to have the liberty and privileges which the Latter-day Saints enjoy here in these mountains? They cannot be found. (April 6, 1856, Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. [London: Latter-day Saints' Book Depot, 1854-1886], 3: 301-302.)

DC 44:6 ye must visit the poor and the needy and administer to their relief

George Q. Cannon

At no time during the Prophet's career did the care of the poor escape his attention or become a matter of indifference to him. He was a man of large benevolence, and his sympathies were quickly aroused by any tale of sorrow or appeal for relief. In the most busy and trying periods of his life those who went to him for counsel in their troubles, always found him willing to listen, and they were sure to receive encouragement and assistance. To extend comfort to the bruised spirit, and to help the needy and distressed appeared a constant pleasure to him. His hospitality, also, was a marked feature in his character. His house was always open to entertain the stranger. One of the most cherished recollections of many of the old members of the Church is the kindness with which they were treated by "Brother Joseph," and the warm welcome he gave them to his house upon their arrival at Kirtland and other places where he lived.

In the revelation above referred to the Lord said: . . . ye must visit the poor and the needy and administer to their relief, that they may be kept until all things may be done according to my law which ye have received. (D&C 44:6)

In other revelations which the Lord gave to Joseph, frequent mention was made of the poor and the provisions which should be made for their sustenance. Before leaving Fayette, New York, the Church was commanded to appoint certain men to look to the poor and the needy and administer to their relief that they should not suffer. Directly after reaching Kirtland, Joseph received a revelation in which the Church was told by the Lord to remember the poor and consecrate properties for their support, that every man who had need might be amply supplied and receive according to his wants. Again, the command was given to "remember in all things the poor and the needy, the sick and the afflicted, for," the Lord said, "he that doeth not these things the same is not my disciple." (The Life of Joseph Smith, the Prophet [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1986], 110.)

Marion G. Romney

The scriptures are full of commandments regarding our obligation to care for the poor... We lose our life by serving and lifting others. By so doing we experience the only true and lasting happiness. Service is not something we endure on this earth so we can earn the right to live in the celestial kingdom. Service is the very fiber of which an exalted life in the celestial kingdom is made. ("The Celestial Nature of Self-reliance," Ensign, Nov. 1982, 93)