Section 118 Revelation to the Twelve

Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual, 2002


Historical Background

This revelation is another of the four given to the Prophet at Far West, Missouri, on 8 July 1838. It came in response to the question, “Show unto us thy will O Lord concerning the Twelve” (History of the Church, 3:46).

Notes and Commentary

D&C 118:1. “Let a Conference Be Held Immediately”

The following is recorded in the Prophet Joseph Smith’s history under the title “Minutes of a Meeting of the Twelve”:

“Far West, July 9, 1838, a conference of the Twelve Apostles assembled at Far West, agreeable to the revelation, given July 8, 1838 [section 118]. Present, Thomas B. Marsh, David W. Patten, Brigham Young, Parley P. Pratt and William Smith: T. B. Marsh, presiding.

“Resolved 1st. That the persons who are to fill the places of those who are fallen, be immediately notified to come to Far West; as also, those of the Twelve who are not present.

“Resolved 2nd. That Thomas B. Marsh notify Wilford Woodruff, that Parley P. Pratt notify Orson Pratt, and that President Rigdon notify Willard Richards, who is now in England.

“Voted that President Marsh publish the same in next number of The Elders’ Journal.

“President Rigdon gave some counsel concerning the provisions necessary to be made for the families of the Twelve, while laboring in the cause of their Redeemer, advising them to instruct their converts to move without delay to the places of gathering, and there to strictly attend to the law of God.” (History of the Church, 3:47.)

The minutes were signed by T. B. Marsh, president, and G. W. Robinson, clerk.

The Apostles and prophets are the foundation of the Church (see Ephesians 2:19–20), and the Lord wished to keep the Quorum of the Twelve functioning without any long delay, another evidence of the importance the Lord places on the presiding quorums.

D&C 118:2. What Was Thomas B. Marsh to Publish?

While the rest of the Twelve were to go forth and preach the gospel (see D&C 118:3), President Thomas B. Marsh was to continue publishing the Elders’ Journal, a responsibility he had while in Kirtland, Ohio. The Elders’ Journal was short-lived, running from October 1837 to August 1838. (See Notes and Commentary for D&C 112:6.)

fenceposts in field

The Twelve departed to their missions from the temple site at Far West, Missouri.

D&C 118:4–5. Were the Twelve Able to Leave Far West on the Appointed Day?

The people of Missouri knew of the Lord’s requirement to meet on 26 April 1839, nearly a year later, and they were determined to impede the work of the Twelve and stop Mormonism. During the time between the revelation and the appointed day, “the whole Church was driven out of the State of Missouri, and it was as much as a man’s life was worth to be found in the State if it was known that he was a Latter-day Saint; and especially was this the case with the Twelve. When the time came for the corner stone of the Temple to be laid, as directed in the revelation, the Church was in Illinois, having been expelled from Missouri by an edict from the Governor. Joseph and Hyrum Smith and Parley P. Pratt were in chains in Missouri for the testimony of Jesus. As the time drew nigh for the accomplishment of this work, the question arose. ‘What is to be done?’ Here is a revelation commanding the Twelve to be in Far West on the 26th day of April, to lay the cornerstone of the Temple there; it has to be fulfilled. The Missourians had sworn by all the gods of eternity that if every other revelation given through Joseph Smith were fulfilled, that should not be, for the day and date being given they declared that it would fail. The general feeling in the Church, so far as I know, was that, under the circumstances, it was impossible to accomplish the work; and the Lord would accept the will for the deed.” (Wilford Woodruff, in Journal of Discourses, 13:159.)

But the Apostles were not to be put off their commanded duty: “On the night of April 25, 1839, the little band of apostles with a small company of faithful brethren, high priests, elders and priests, arrived at Far West. Shortly after midnight, on the morning of April 26th, they assembled on the temple lot in Far West, and there they held a conference.” (Smith, Church History and Modern Revelation, pp. 196–97.)

Brigham Young presided; John Taylor, the clerk, wrote:

“The council then proceeded to the building spot of the Lord’s House; when the following business was transacted: Part of a hymn was sung, on the mission of the twelve.

“Elder Alpheus Cutler, the master workman of the house, then recommenced laying the foundation of the Lord’s House, agreeably to revelation, by rolling up a large stone near the southeast corner.

“The following of the twelve were present: Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, Orson Pratt, John E. Page, and John Taylor, who proceeded to ordain Wilford Woodruff and George A. Smith … to fill the places of those who had fallen.” (History of the Church, 3:336–38.)

After several of the Apostles had offered prayers, the assembly sang “Adam-ondi-Ahman,” and the Apostles left.

D&C 118:6. Who Had Fallen from the Twelve by This Time?

Elders William E. M’Lellin, Luke S. Johnson, John F. Boynton, and Lyman E. Johnson had at this point fallen into disharmony with the Church and had been excommunicated. They had been in the first Quorum of the Twelve in this dispensation, which was called on 14 February 1835 (see History of the Church, 2:509; 3:31–32). One of the replacements, John E. Page, also eventually apostatized, but the other three remained faithful (see D&C 118:6). Two of the replacements, John Taylor and Wilford Woodruff, later became Presidents of the Church. John Taylor was ordained an Apostle at Far West on 19 December 1838. Wilford Woodruff was ordained an Apostle during the early morning meeting at Far West on 26 April 1839.