Doctrine and Covenants 85 is a portion of an inspired letter the Prophet Joseph Smith sent to William W. Phelps on November 27, 1832. In this letter the Prophet explained that the Lord desired an accurate record to be kept of those who were living the law of consecration in Missouri. Later, on December 6, 1832, Joseph Smith received the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 86 as he was working on the inspired revisions of the Bible. This revelation provided further explanation of the parable of the wheat and the tares and the role of the priesthood in helping the Lord gather the righteous in the last days.
Imagine you are on a sports team that has the potential to be really great. After a few days of playing with this team, you observe that one team member is a selfish player, some team members won’t play their positions properly, and others ignore the coach. Why might it be difficult for your team to win? What might need to be changed so the team can play better?
A similar situation began to arise in 1832 as more and more Church members arrived in Missouri. Many of the Saints in Missouri lived in harmony with the laws the Lord had set forth for building Zion. However, a number of Church members disobeyed the Lord’s commandments and traveled to Missouri without obtaining a certificate from their leaders (which was required by the laws the Lord had set forth in D&C 72:17–18, 25). A certificate was a piece of paper signed by the Bishop of the Church or the three presiding Elders of the Church, stating that the person was worthy and in good standing and able to receive a stewardship. Although all Church members in Missouri were commanded to consecrate their property to the Church, some arrived without any resources to consecrate, which increased the challenges the people faced. At least one member who had consecrated property demanded it back upon leaving the Church. Others in Missouri refused to consecrate their properties to the Church.
Answer the following questions in your scripture study journal:
How is this behavior by some Church members like being an unproductive member of a team?
Why might it have been difficult to establish the city of Zion under these circumstances?
Read the section introduction to Doctrine and Covenants 85 to understand how the Prophet Joseph Smith responded to these difficulties in Missouri.
Joseph Smith’s letter provided instructions for the Lord’s clerk, John Whitmer, who lived in Missouri. Read Doctrine and Covenants 85:1–2, looking for what the Lord instructed the clerk of the Church in Missouri to do. (As you study these verses, it may help to know that apostates are those who apostatize, or turn away from the Church and deny the faith.)
Read Doctrine and Covenants 85:3–5, looking for the reasons why some of the people were not to have their names written in the records of the Church. In verse 3 the phrase “those who receive not their inheritance by consecration” refers to Church members who refused to live the law of consecration as the Lord had commanded.
Just as records were kept in the early days of the Church, records are also kept in our day to preserve a record of the names of the faithful, as well as an account of their works. One principle we learn from the Prophet’s letter is if we live the laws of God, our names will be written upon the records of the Church as faithful members.
In your scripture study journal, write about the things you must do to have your name recorded as a faithful member of the Church. (After you finish this assignment, compare what you wrote with the answers identified at the end of this lesson.)
The reference to the “one mighty and strong” (D&C 85:7) who is to set in order the house of God and the reference to one who “putteth forth his hand to steady the ark” (D&C 85:8) have been used by many apostates to justify their falling away from the Church. They claim that various Presidents of the Church have lost favor with God and are rejected and that they, the apostates, are the “one mighty and strong” called by God to set things right. Such claims contradict the meaning of the scriptures. In an official statement issued in 1905, the First Presidency (Joseph F. Smith, John R. Winder, and Anthon H. Lund) discussed the circumstances that brought this revelation forth and those to whom these two phrases referred:
“It is to be observed first of all that the subject of this whole letter [the Prophet’s letter to William W. Phelps], as also the part of it subsequently accepted as a revelation [D&C 85], relates to the affairs of the Church in Missouri, the gathering of the Saints to that land and obtaining their inheritances under the law of consecration and stewardship; and the Prophet deals especially with the matter of what is to become of those who fail to receive their inheritances by order or deed from the bishop. …
“It was while these conditions of rebellion, jealousy, pride, unbelief and hardness of heart prevailed among the brethren in Zion—Jackson county, Missouri—in all of which Bishop Partridge participated, that the words of the revelation taken from the letter to William W. Phelps, of the 27th of November, 1832, were written. The ‘man who was called and appointed of God’ to ‘divide unto the Saints their inheritance’—Edward Partridge—was at that time out of order, neglecting his own duty, and putting ‘forth his hand to steady the ark’; hence, he was warned of the judgment of God impending, and the prediction was made that another, ‘one mighty and strong,’ would be sent of God to take his place, to have his bishopric—one having the spirit and power of that high office resting upon him, by which he would have power to ‘set in order the house of God, and arrange by lot the inheritance of the Saints’; in other words, one who would do the work that Bishop Edward Partridge had been appointed to do, but had failed to accomplish. …
“… And inasmuch as through his repentance and sacrifices and suffering, Bishop Edward Partridge undoubtedly obtained a mitigation of the threatened judgment against him of falling ‘by the shaft of death, like as a tree that is smitten by the vivid shaft of lightning,’ so the occasion for sending another to fill his station—‘one mighty and strong to set in order the house of God, and to arrange by lot the inheritances of the Saints’—may also be considered as having passed away and the whole incident of the prophecy closed” (in James R. Clark, comp., Messages of the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 6 vols. [1965–75], 4:112, 115, 117.)
Imagine that you have plans to attend a prestigious event (for example, the wedding of a well-known person or a dinner party with someone you have always wanted to meet). How would you feel if you arrived at the event but were not allowed in because your name was not on the invitation list?
Read Doctrine and Covenants 85:9–11, looking for what the Lord said would happen to those early Saints whose names were missing from the Lord’s book of remembrance, or the book of the law of God. (Remember that these titles refer to the written account of the faith and works of the early Saints.)
Records are kept both here on the earth and in heaven. We will all have to account for our actions and our faith in living the laws of God. Ponder your attitude toward and obedience to the laws of God.
A parable is a story that uses comparison to teach a truth. Read the parable of the wheat and the tares in Matthew 13:24–30.
What do you think the wheat symbolizes?
What do you think the tares symbolize?
You can check your answers to the questions above by referring to Matthew 13:38.
Answer the following question in your scripture study journal: Why did the man in the parable want to wait to have the tares pulled out?
Tares are a type of poisonous weed. Wheat and tares are almost identical when they sprout, but they can be identified once they are fully grown. If a reaper tried to pull out the tares before the wheat and the tares matured, much of the wheat would likely be destroyed as well.
Read Doctrine and Covenants 86:1–6, looking for the meanings of the field, the sowers of the seed, and the enemy. Answer the following question in your scripture study journal: Based on the Lord’s explanation of the symbols, how would you summarize the meaning of the parable?
The Prophet Joseph Smith was reviewing and editing the inspired revision of the Bible when he received this revelation. According to Matthew 13:30, the Lord indicated that the tares would first be gathered and bundled together to be burned, and then the wheat would be gathered into the barn (see Joseph Smith Translation, Matthew 13:29 [in Matthew 13:30, footnote b].
Read Doctrine and Covenants 86:7, looking for an insight this revelation provides about the order of the gathering. How do you think the righteous will be gathered in the last days?
Consider how missionaries teaching people about the restored gospel relates to the parable of the wheat and the tares.
We also can assist in the gathering of the righteous by sharing the gospel with others. People are gathered into the fold when they accept Christ and are baptized. Remembering the many ways we are blessed as members of the Lord’s Church can increase our desire to share those blessings with others.
Read Doctrine and Covenants 86:8–10, and identify ways we have been blessed as members of the Lord’s Church. You may want to mark what you find.
The phrase “ye are lawful heirs” in verse 9 means that members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are part of the covenant God made with Abraham, through which Abraham was promised that his descendants would enjoy the blessings of the priesthood and would share those blessings with others (see Abraham 2:9–11).
Ponder the following question: How have you been blessed through the priesthood?
While pondering the question above, you may have thought about the ordinances you have been able to receive through the priesthood, including the saving ordinances of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost. Read Doctrine and Covenants 86:11, and identify ways we are to help others.
The phrase “a light unto the Gentiles” means setting a righteous example for those who do not have the blessings of the gospel. Verse 11 teaches that we can bring salvation to others by helping them receive the blessings of the priesthood. You may want to write this principle in the margin of your scriptures.
Ponder experiences when you or someone you know set a righteous example for someone else or helped another person receive the blessings of the priesthood.
In your scripture study journal, write about what you will do to be “a light” unto others so that they can receive the ordinances and blessings of the priesthood.
Write the following at the bottom of today’s assignments in your scripture study journal:
I have studied Doctrine and Covenants 85–86 and completed this lesson on (date).
Additional questions, thoughts, and insights I would like to share with my teacher: