In obedience to the Lord’s instructions, the Prophet Joseph Smith and about 200 other volunteers and recruits formed what became known as Zion’s Camp to go to the aid of the Saints who had been exiled from Jackson County, Missouri. On June 22, 1834, while encamped near Fishing River in Missouri, Joseph Smith received the revelation contained in Doctrine and Covenants 105. In this revelation the Lord provided instructions regarding the redemption of Zion.
Imagine being a member of an orchestra. In the middle of a performance, a few violin players decide to play from a different page of music than the rest of the orchestra. Just before they begin to do so, some flutists decide to play more quickly. At the same moment, the entire brass section decides to stop playing altogether.
As a member of this orchestra, how will you be affected by these decisions? What will be the result in the performance? Why is being unified in purpose and working together essential for an orchestra to produce beautiful music?
Remember that in February 1834, the Lord directed the Prophet Joseph Smith and others to gather temporal resources and recruit volunteers to assist the Saints who had been driven out of Jackson County, Missouri, in reclaiming their land. As you study Doctrine and Covenants 105, look for the role unity played in the Saints’ attempts to reclaim the land of Zion.
In a previous revelation (see D&C 103:30–34), the Lord stated His desire that 500 volunteers take part in Zion’s Camp. If 500 could not be obtained, 100 volunteers was the minimum He required. The response to the efforts of the Prophet Joseph Smith and others to recruit volunteers and resources for Zion’s Camp was not as successful as hoped for. By the time the camp began its march in the beginning of May 1834, only 122 people had volunteered to go. Zion’s Camp recruited additional volunteers along the way to Missouri. When the group that Hyrum Smith and Lyman Wight had recruited from Michigan Territory met up with Joseph’s company in early June 1834, Zion’s Camp consisted of just over 200 men, 12 women, and 9 children (see Alexander L. Baugh, “Joseph Smith and Zion’s Camp,” Ensign, Jun. 2005, 45).
The average age of the men in Zion’s Camp was 29 years old. The youngest camp member was 14, and the oldest was 79. Joseph Smith, who had been selected to be “the commander-in-chief of the armies of Israel” (in History of the Church, 2:39), was only 28.
Read Doctrine and Covenants 105:7–8, looking for one reason why some members of the Church chose not to help their fellow Saints in Missouri.
Some Church members were waiting to see if God would intervene and help the Missouri Saints before they would aid or give financial support to their fellow Church members. What do you think is wrong with this attitude?
Read Doctrine and Covenants 105:1–6, looking for how disobedience and a lack of unity had affected members of the Church. It might be helpful to understand that “the law of the celestial kingdom” mentioned in verses 4–5 includes all of the laws and principles we need to obey, the ordinances we need to receive, and the covenants we need to keep to inherit the celestial kingdom.
Answer the following questions in your scripture study journal:
What principle can we learn from these verses about what we must do in order for Zion to be built up?
Why do you think unity and obedience are required to build up Zion?
What experiences have helped you understand the importance of Church members being united?
Those who volunteered for Zion’s Camp experienced many challenges and miracles throughout their expedition. Ponder how you might have responded to some of the following challenges:
Zion’s Camp marched about 900 miles (1,450 kilometers) through four states, traveling between 20 and 40 miles (32 and 64 kilometers) a day for 45 days. Camp members experienced blistered feet, hot and humid weather conditions, food shortages, and unhealthy food. (See Alexander L. Baugh, “Joseph Smith and Zion’s Camp,” 44; Church History in the Fulness of Times Student Manual, 2nd ed. [Church Educational System manual, 2003], 143–44.) On occasion, intense thirst moved some camp members to drink swamp water from which mosquito larvae had been strained out (sometimes using their teeth) or to drink water out of horse tracks after a rainstorm. Throughout the expedition, Zion’s Camp was also often threatened with violence from others. (See Church History in the Fulness of Times, 144–45.)
Despite their challenges, Zion’s Camp was blessed to experience numerous miracles throughout their expedition. For example, on one hot day in June 1834, the camp had traveled all day and had been without water since morning. After observing the suffering of the men and their animals, the Prophet asked for a shovel, selected a spot, and dug a shallow well. Immediately, water filled it, and it remained full even after all of the camp members and their animals were refreshed.
In mid-June 1834, Zion’s Camp was encamped on a fork of the Fishing River in Missouri. Five armed Missourians rode into camp and swore that the members of Zion’s Camp would “see hell before morning” (in History of the Church, 2:103). They said that a mob of more than 300 men had combined from different counties and were preparing to cross the Missouri River to destroy them. Some of the men in Zion’s Camp wanted to fight, but the Prophet promised that the Lord would protect them. The Prophet declared, “Stand still and see the salvation of God” (quoted from Joseph Holbrook, “History of Joseph Holbrook, 1806–1885,” 15, in Church History in the Fulness of Times, 148.)
A few minutes after the Missourians left, a small black cloud appeared in the sky. It moved eastward, unrolling like a scroll, filling the heavens with darkness. An intense storm of rain, hail, wind, thunder, and lightning struck. Zion’s Camp abandoned their tents and found shelter in an old Baptist meetinghouse nearby. When Joseph Smith came in, he exclaimed, “Boys, there is some meaning to this. God is in this storm.” The mobbers who attempted to cross the Missouri River were stopped by the storm. The furious storm soaked the mobbers’ ammunition, making it useless. It also frightened and scattered their horses and raised the level of the Fishing River several feet, preventing them from attacking Zion’s Camp. (See Church History in the Fulness of Times, 148; see also History of the Church, 2:104–5.)
These experiences illustrate significant and miraculous ways the Lord helped Zion’s Camp. He also helped them in small ways. In your scripture study journal, write about a time when the Lord has helped you or someone you know accomplish His purposes.
Before Zion’s Camp left Kirtland, Ohio, Church leaders had received a promise from Daniel Dunklin, the governor of Missouri, that if the Jackson County justices of the peace would not ensure the safety of the Saints, he would use other means to enforce the law. He also said that a state militia would be necessary to help the Saints return to their homes. After the members of Zion’s Camp arrived in Missouri, they learned that Governor Dunklin would not keep his promise to assist the Saints. (See Church History in the Fulness of Times, 135, 146–47.) Despite this discouraging news, Zion’s Camp continued on toward Jackson County, awaiting additional direction from the Lord.
This needed direction came in a revelation from the Lord on June 22, 1834, after Zion’s Camp had been traveling for nearly seven weeks and was only 10–20 miles (16–32 kilometers) from Jackson County. This revelation is recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 105. Read Doctrine and Covenants 105:9–14, looking for what the Lord said they were to do regarding the redemption of Zion.
Imagine being a member of Zion’s Camp. After having come this far, you learn that you are going to need to wait “a little season” before Zion will be redeemed. How would you feel?
In your scripture study journal, list two of the reasons the Lord gave in Doctrine and Covenants 105:9–14 for why Zion would not be redeemed at that time. For each of these reasons, explain what would need to be corrected or take place before Zion could be redeemed and why.
Remember that redeeming Zion is not just about regaining possession of the land of Zion. Though Zion is a physical location, it is also a society composed of a certain type of people. The Lord’s people must become sanctified and worthy to reclaim and build up the city of Zion.
Most members of Zion’s Camp accepted the Lord’s instructions in this revelation, but some murmured and did not continue faithful after they learned they would not fight in Missouri. They failed to understand that the deeper intent of Zion’s Camp was not to engage in battle or regain possession of the Saints’ land in Jackson County by military power. The men in the camp were prepared to fight should their lives be threatened, but the Lord does not intend to redeem Zion by the power of man (see D&C 103:15–18; 105:14). As a result of this revelation commanding them to wait and not fight, some men openly rebelled and later apostatized.
Read Doctrine and Covenants 105:18–19, looking for why the Lord brought Zion’s Camp all the way to Missouri and then revealed once they arrived that they were not to act to restore the Saints to their lands in Zion at that time. (It might be helpful to understand that a trial of faith can refer to a test of whether or not we will choose to trust and obey the Lord no matter what the circumstances are.)
Consider marking phrases in verses 18–19 that teach the truth that God has prepared blessings for those who are faithful through their trials.
Answer the following questions in your scripture study journal:
When have you or someone you know experienced a trial of faith?
How was the trial of faith preparation for future blessings?
One of the blessings many members of Zion’s Camp received came as opportunities to serve in the Lord’s kingdom. In February 1835, the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and the First Quorum of the Seventy were organized. Nine of the original Apostles and all of the members of the Quorum of the Seventy served in Zion’s Camp. (See Church History in the Fulness of Times, 151.)
The Prophet Joseph Smith taught about the role Zion’s Camp had in preparing these men for their leadership positions: “God did not want you to fight. He could not organize His kingdom with twelve men to open the Gospel door to the nations of the earth, and with seventy men under their direction to follow in their tracks, unless He took them from a body of men who had offered their lives, and who had made as great a sacrifice as did Abraham” (in History of the Church, 2:182).
Church leaders later expressed gratitude for the experiences they had as members of Zion’s Camp. For example, when Brigham Young returned to Kirtland, Ohio, a man asked him, “Well, what did you gain on this useless journey to Missouri with Joseph Smith?” Brigham Young replied, “All we went for.” He added, “I would not exchange the experience I gained in that expedition for all the wealth of Geauga county” (in B. H. Roberts, “Brigham Young: A Character Sketch,” Improvement Era, June 1903, 567). At the time, Kirtland was part of Geauga County.
In Doctrine and Covenants 105:20–37, we read that the Lord told the Saints in Missouri how they were to respond to the persecution they were experiencing while awaiting the future redemption of Zion. He counseled them to be humble and avoid stirring up contention. He explained that they needed to be sanctified in preparation for the eventual redemption of Zion. As He had said earlier in the same revelation, they were to “be taught more perfectly, and have experience, and know more perfectly concerning their duty, and the things which [He required] at their hands” (D&C 105:10).
The Lord concluded this revelation by instructing the Saints to do something not only for those who had persecuted them but for the entire world. Read Doctrine and Covenants 105:38–41, looking for what He instructed them to do. (As you read, it may be helpful to know that that sue means to seek for and an ensign is a banner or signal.)
Complete the following assignments in your scripture study journal:
Based on the Lord’s teachings in Doctrine and Covenants 105:38–41, write a principle about the blessing that can come if we seek to establish peace with others.
List four or five things that Church members in our day can do to seek to establish peace with others, especially with those who may persecute them.
Select one of the things you listed, and write a goal to implement it in your life.
Write the following at the bottom of today’s assignments in your scripture journal:
I have studied Doctrine and Covenants 105 and completed this lesson on (date).
Additional questions, thoughts, and insights I would like to share with my teacher: