Doctrine and Covenants 105: Zion's Camp

Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Student Study Guide, (2005), 120–122


InDoctrine and Covenants 103:22–35, the Lord gave orders for the organization of Zion’s Camp, a group that was to march to Missouri and assist the Saints who had been driven from their homes ( the introduction toD&C 103in this study guide, p. 117). Governor Dunklin of Missouri had promised Church leaders that his state militia would help return the Saints to their homes, properties, and businesses. He also suggested that the Saints may need a militia of their own to help protect their rights after they returned to Jackson County. Zion’s Camp was to be that militia.Because of pressure from the Saints’ enemies, however, the governor changed his mind concerning the use of the state militia in helping the Saints. By the time he made this decision, Zion’s Camp was already marching toward Missouri. After arriving in Missouri, Parley P. Pratt, a member of Zion’s Camp and, later, one of the first Apostles of this dispensation, recalled: “We had an interview with the Governor, who readily acknowledged the justice of the demand, but frankly told us he dare not attempt the execution of the laws in that respect, for fear of deluging [burying] the whole country in civil war and bloodshed. He advised us to relinquish [give up] our rights, for the sake of peace, and to sell our lands from which we had been driven” (Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt[1985], 94).Those in Zion’s Camp had suffered hunger, thirst, terrible weather, diseases, and lack of shelter during their march of nearly 1,000 miles. It was difficult for them to think of giving up after such effort and hardship. The Prophet Joseph Smith sought the Lord’s counsel, which came in the revelation inDoctrine and Covenants 105. In that revelation, the Lord gave additional information about why Zion would not be redeemed at that time and what must occur before Zion will be redeemed. In it the Lord also told the members of Zion’s Camp that He accepted their sacrifices and would bless them for what they were willing to do. A year later, when the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and First Quorum of Seventy were organized, the majority of them were men who had marched in Zion’s Camp, who had proved their faithfulness, and who had spent a considerable length of time during the march learning from and observing the Prophet Joseph Smith.Would you have volunteered to walk 1,000 miles? Sometimes we learn the most when we volunteer to help with difficult tasks. The Lord needed special men to lead the Church. Zion’s Camp provided an opportunity for the most faithful to be tried and proved in their determination to help with the work. What are some experiences that prepare future leaders today?

Understanding the Scriptures

Doctrine and Covenants 105

Provisions(section heading)Supplies 
Endowed, endowment(vv. 11–12, 18, 33)Given a spiritual gift 
Lay waste(v. 15)Ruin, destroy 
Blaspheme(v. 15)Mock sacred and holy things 
Consistently(v. 24)In agreement with 
Execute, executed(vv. 25, 34)Bring about 
Redress(v. 25)Correct, make right 
Constrained(v. 32)Compelled, forced 
Ensign(v. 39)Flag, banner 

Doctrine and Covenants 105Heading—A Brief History of Zion’s Camp

After the Lord gave the counsel to recruit men for Zion’s Camp (D&C 103), Church leaders wasted no time making preparations. Many in Kirtland, Ohio, courageously volunteered for what appeared to be a call of great danger—mobs had brutally treated the Saints in Missouri and threatened to do so again. Heber C. Kimball, who would be called as one of the first Apostles of this dispensation, expressed the feelings of many at that time: “We started on the 5th of May (1834), and truly this was a solemn morning to me. I took leave of my wife and children and friends, not knowing whether I would them again in the flesh, as myself and brethren were threatened both in that country and in Missouri by enemies, that they would destroy us and exterminate us from the land” (in Orson F. Whitney,Life of Heber C. Kimball[1945], 40). Those who stayed in Kirtland agreed to help the families of the men who volunteered.

Zion's camp march - Map

This “army of Israel” (D&C 105:26) began their march in early May. They were joined along the way by new recruits from Ohio, Michigan, and Illinois. They kept a military routine, rising at 4 A.M.and marching as many as 35 miles a day. They practiced military drills, but unlike most armies, they also took time for prayer, singing, and gospel study.

Unfortunately, some of the men complained about their hardships or about their leaders’ decisions. On one occasion dissension was so great that the Prophet Joseph Smith warned them that before they left their camp the next day, they would signs of the Lord’s displeasure with them. The next day, nearly every horse in the camp was sick or lame. The Prophet then told them that if they would humble themselves, repent, and become unified as a group, the animals would immediately receive their health. By noon, all of the animals had recovered, except for that of one man who retained his bitter feelings and tried to stir up others.

For most of the men in Zion’s Camp, their close association with a prophet of God was worth the hardships they endured. Years later, Elder Wilford Woodruff, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, testified: “We gained an experience that we never could have gained in any other way. We had the privilege of beholding the face of the prophet, and we had the privilege of travelling a thousand miles with him, and ing the workings of the Spirit of God with him, and the revelations of Jesus Christ unto him and the fulfillment of those revelations” (inJournal of Discourses,13:158).

Speaking about his experience in Zion’s Camp, President Brigham Young said: “When I returned from that mission to Kirtland, a brother said to me, ‘Brother Brigham, what have you gained by this journey?’ I replied, ‘Just what we went for; but I would not exchange the knowledge I have received this season for the whole of Geauga County [the county he lived in]; for property and mines of wealth are not to be compared to the worth of knowledge” (inJournal of Discourses,2:10).

As Zion’s Camp arrived in Missouri, their enemies were prepared to meet them. While making preparations to camp at Fishing River (where the revelation inD&C 105was received), a group of Missourians rode into camp. The Prophet Joseph Smith recorded: “Five men armed with guns rode into our camp, and told us we should ‘ hell before morning;’ and their accompanying oaths partook of all the malice of demons. They told us that sixty men were coming from Richmond, Ray county, and seventy more from Clay county, to join the Jackson county mob, who had sworn our utter destruction” (History of the Church,2:102–3). The Prophet comforted the members of Zion’s Camp, however, and promised that the Lord would protect them. A short time later, a huge storm began to blow in. While many in Zion’s Camp found shelter in an old Baptist church nearby, the storm ruined the plans of the mobbers, who gave up their efforts to fight the “Mormon army.”

Some were disappointed at the Lord’s revelation inDoctrine and Covenants 105to not fight, and they murmured against the Prophet and the Lord. As a result, a plague of cholera swept the camp. Fourteen people died, including some of those who had remained faithful. Sometimes the righteous also suffer when there are wicked people among them. The Prophet Joseph Smith promised that if the rebellious would humble themselves and repent, the plague would leave. His words were fulfilled.

Zion’s Camp may not have accomplished what some of the members thought it would, but as the Lord said inDoctrine and Covenants 105:19, it served as a “trial of their faith.” Some did not pass the test and left the Church, while the faithful were strengthened by their experience. Nine of the first Twelve Apostles in this dispensation were members of Zion’s Camp, along with the first seven Presidents of the Seventy and the other 63 members of the First Quorum of the Seventy. It ms that the Lord used this experience to show who was faithful and whom He could trust ( alsoD&C 105:35).

Studying the Scriptures

Do two of the following activities (A–D) as you studyDoctrine and Covenants 105.

Activity A iconMake a List

  1. 1.

    InDoctrine and Covenants 105:1–6, the Lord reviewed “the transgressions of my people, speaking concerning the church and not individually,” that kept them from ing Zion built up at that time. Study these verses and list what the Lord said the people were not doing. Explain what you think we are doing in the Church today to more fully establish the cause of Zion.

  2. 2.

    In verses 9–12 and 31, the Lord explained more about what Church members needed in order to bring forth Zion. Instead of something they did wrong, it was something they had not yet done. Explain what the Church needed to do.

  3. 3.

    From what you have learned in these verses, explain what you are doing or what you feel you should do to help establish the cause of Zion.

Activity B iconGive an Example

Give an example of how the principle taught inDoctrine and Covenants 105:6has been effective in your life or in the life of someone else.

Activity C iconWhat Would You Say to Them?

Imagine you had the opportunity to speak to the following three members of Zion’s Camp. (You may want to review the brief history found in the “Understanding the Scriptures” section.) First, think about what each of them might have said after the Prophet Joseph Smith told them what the Lord said inDoctrine and Covenants 105:17–19. Then write what you would say to each of them.

Storm on Zion’s Camp
  1. 1.

    A middle-aged father who is frustrated because he feels betrayed by his leaders and that he walked one thousand miles for nothing.

  2. 2.

    An older member who found the experience difficult but was always willing to do what was asked of him and feels grateful for the experience.

  3. 3.

    A young unmarried member—a recent convert—who feels a little discouraged because of the way some members of the camp behaved during their march and wonders if he should stay with this new church.

Activity D iconWhat to Do and What Not to Do

  1. 1.

    Make two lists from what you read inDoctrine and Covenants 105:23–40. In the first, list what the Lord told the Saints “in the regions round about” (Missouri) to do. In the second, list what He told them not to do.

  2. 2.

    Choose an item from the lists and explain how it still applies to the Church today.