Doctrine and Covenants 64: Forgiving Others

Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Student Study Guide, (2005), 75–77

WhenDoctrine and Covenants 64was received, the Prophet Joseph Smith and his family were preparing to move from Kirtland to Hiram, Ohio, about 30 miles to the southeast. They were invited to live with recent converts John and Alice Johnson so the Prophet could have a quiet place to continue his work on the translation of the Bible. The first part of this revelation deals with what some might consider the most difficult of all the commandments—the duty we have to forgive those who have harmed or offended us. Notice the startling truth the Lord revealed to those who refuse to forgive others.

Understanding the Scriptures

Doctrine and Covenants 64

Compassion(v. 2)Sympathy, mercy 
Sought occasion against(vv. 6, 8)Looked to find fault with 
Babylon(v. 24)A symbol for the world or worldliness 
Errand(v. 29)Calling, business 
Plucked out(v. 36)Removed 
Ensign(v. 42)Flag or banner; an object, person, or idea to which people gather 

Doctrine and Covenants 64—The Move to Hiram, Ohio

The invitation extended to the Prophet Joseph Smith and his family to move in with John Johnson (known as “Father Johnson” in the Church) was an answer to the Lord’s command for Joseph and Sidney Rigdon to “k them a home” in which to continue their work (D&C 63:65). The Johnsons had joined the Church as a result of a remarkable experience they had with the Prophet Joseph:

“Soon after the Prophet’s arrival in Ohio, fifty-three-year-old Father Johnson, his wife, Elsa, and Methodist minister Ezra Booth journeyed to Kirtland to investigate Mormonism. While discussing the tenets of the new faith Elsa [Alice] was healed of chronic rheumatism. A historical record recounts details of the miraculous healing: ‘During the interview the conversation turned on the subject of supernatural gifts, such as were conferred in the days of the apostles. Some one said, “Here is Mrs. Johnson with a lame arm; has God given any power to man now on the earth to cure her?” A few moments later, when the conversation had turned in another direction, Smith rose, and walking across the room, taking Mrs. Johnson by the hand, said in the most solemn and impressive manner: “Woman, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ I command thee to be whole,” and immediately left the room.’ Elsa was instantly healed, and the next day she did her washing ‘without difficulty or pain.’ [ footnote,History of the Church,1:215–16.] The healing led directly to the conversion of Father and Mother Johnson and their baptism by the Prophet” (Black,Who’s Who in the Doctrine and Covenants,152).


“I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men” (D&C 64:10).

Doctrine and Covenants 64:7—What Does It Mean to Sin “unto Death”?

Elder Bruce R. McConkie, who was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, explained: “Those who turn from the light and truth of the gospel; who give themselves up to Satan; who enlist in his cause, supporting and sustaining it; and who thereby become his children—by such a coursesin unto death.For them there is neither repentance, forgiveness, nor any hope whatever of salvation of any kind. As children of Satan, they are sons of perdition” (Mormon Doctrine,737).

Doctrine and Covenants 64:21—Frederick G. Williams

Frederick G. Williams

Frederick G. Williams joined the Church in October 1830, in Kirtland, Ohio. He faithfully served a mission soon after his baptism. In 1832 the Lord called Brother Williams to be a counselor to the Prophet Joseph Smith in the First Presidency. The Prophet trusted him, and he was a faithful leader in the Church. In 1837 his devotion to the truth wavered. He was released from his calling and lost his membership in the Church. He was rebaptized in 1838 and remained faithful until his death in 1842 ( Black,Who’s Who in the Doctrine and Covenants,pp. 346–48).

Doctrine and Covenants 64:23—What Does “Tithing” Refer to in This Verse?

The law of tithing was not given until nearly seven years after the revelation inDoctrine and Covenants 64was received (D&C 119). The term “tithing,” as used in verse 23, “meant not just one-tenth, but all free-will offerings, or contributions, to the Church funds” (D&C 119heading).

Doctrine and Covenants 64:21—Why Did the Lord Want a “Strong Hold in the Land of Kirtland, for the Space of Five Years”?

Kirtland Temple

President Joseph Fielding Smith taught: “It was in that land where the first temple in this dispensation was to be built. In that Temple the essential keys of restoration were to be revealed. It ms apparent that had all the people moved to Zion in Missouri at that time, the building of a temple would have been frustrated by the enemies of the people. … The restoration of the keys of the Priesthood held by the ancient prophets was essential to the progress of the Church. The Lord decreed that a house to his name should be reared in Kirtland where he could come and where he could send his messengers with these keys of power. The building of such a temple required time. … The revelation in which the Lord called upon the Saints to keep a strong hold in Kirtland, was given Sept. 11, 1831. It was in March, 1836, that the house of the Lord was dedicated and the following April when these holy keys were bestowed” (Church History and Modern Revelation,1:237).

Studying the Scriptures

Do two of the following activities (A–D) as you studyDoctrine and Covenants 64.

Activity A Scripture Mastery iconScripture Mastery—Doctrine and Covenants 64:9–11

Each one of us has sinned and needs to k forgiveness. InDoctrine and Covenants 64:7–11, the Lord gave some clarification about whom He will forgive.

  1. 1.

    Write the phrase “I, the Lord, forgive sins unto those who …” in your notebook. Search verses 7–11 for the wordsconfess, ask, death,andforgiveand list the four conditions the Lord gave for being forgiven.

  2. 2.

    Some have felt that the fourth condition (vv. 8–10) is very difficult. Explain why you agree or disagree.

  3. 3.

    Elder Boyd K. Packer, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, said: “Forgiveness is powerful spiritual medicine. To extend forgiveness, that soothing balm, to those who have offended you is to heal” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1987, 20; orEnsign,Nov. 1987, 18). Using Elder Packer’s statement, explain why you think refusing to forgive is the “greater sin” (D&C 64:9).

Activity B Scripture Mastery iconScripture Mastery—Doctrine and Covenants 64:23

InDoctrine and Covenants 64:23, the Lord indicated that the honest payment of tithing is protection from being burned in the cleansing that will accompany His Second Coming.

  1. 1.

    Compare verse 23 with verse 24 and explain how the payment of an honest tithe would keep someone from being among those who are “proud” and “do wickedly.”

  2. 2.

    Why do you think it more likely that a person who pays a full tithe would also try to keep the other commandments?

  3. 3.

    Ask a parent or priesthood leader to describe some general characteristics of those who are full tithe-payers. What does that tell you about the value and importance of paying a full tithe?

Activity C iconWrite a Letter of Encouragement

Suppose you had a friend who was planning to serve a mission but he was concerned that he did not have the ability to be successful. Using what the Lord said inDoctrine and Covenants 64:29–33, write your friend a letter of encouragement. Explain what the Lord said that should give him courage. Explain what “success” is according to those verses and why he can be successful.

Activity D iconUse Key Words in a Sentence

InDoctrine and Covenants 64, the Lord gave more information on what Zion will be like. Review verses 37–43 and find the wordsjudge, glory, ensign,andtremble.Then use each word in a sentence that explains how that word describes Zion.