As the year 1831 dawned, Joseph Smith envisioned “a prospect great and glorious for the welfare of the kingdom” (History of the Church, 1:140). The Lord had previously charged the Church to “seek to bring forth and establish the cause of Zion” (D&C 6:6; 11:6; 12:6; 14:6). From the time this commandment was first given until his martyrdom, the Prophet labored diligently to this end. He once said, “We ought to have the building up of Zion as our greatest object” (History of the Church, 3:390).
During the month of December 1830, Joseph Smith received by revelation the remainder of the book of Moses. Chapters 6 and 7 dealt specifically with the establishment of Zion in Enoch’s day. Two things were needed before Zion could be built in this dispensation, however: revelation from the Lord giving His law and the order of Zion, and the preparation and sanctification of the Saints. The fulfillment of the first requirement was begun on 2 January 1831. During the third conference of the Church, the Prophet received Doctrine and Covenants 38. In it the Lord said that He was “the same which had taken the Zion of Enoch into mine own bosom” (D&C 38:4). He further revealed why He had commanded the Saints to move to Ohio: “There I will give unto you my law; and there you shall be endowed with power from on high” (D&C 38:32). This revelation was the Lord’s answer to those who wondered why they should move three hundred miles to the west in the dead of winter.
Notes and Commentary
D&C 38:1. Jesus Christ Is the Great I AM, Alpha and Omega
President Joseph Fielding Smith described the significance of the name-title “I AM”: “When Moses was tending the flocks of his father-in-law, Jethro, at Horeb, the mountain of God, the Lord appeared to him in a flaming bush and gave him commandment to go to Egypt and lead Israel from bondage. Moses said to the Lord: ‘Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of our Fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say unto them? And God said unto Moses, I am that I am; and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I Am hath sent me unto you.’ … The name given to Moses is the same as given by Jesus Christ to the Jews [see John 8:58], and the meaning of it is expressed in the saying that God is ‘omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient; without beginning of days or end of life; and that in him every good gift and every good principle dwell.’ (Lectures on Faith, No. 2.) Jesus declared to the Jews that which they were incapable of understanding, which is that the great I Am who appeared to Moses, was himself, and that he was God and gave commandments to Abraham.” (Church History and Modern Revelation, 1:165–66; see also Exodus 3:14; D&C 39:1.)
Alpha and omega are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, which was used widely at the time of Christ’s mortal ministry. The expression “Alpha and Omega” is thus the equivalent of the English expression “from A to Z.” Elder Bruce R. McConkie said, “These words, the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, are used figuratively to teach the timelessness and eternal nature of our Lord’s existence, that is, that ‘from eternity to eternity he is the same, and his years never fail.’ (D. & C. 76:4.)” (Mormon Doctrine, p. 31).
D&C 38:1. “Seraphic Hosts of Heaven”
“Seraphs are angels who reside in the presence of God. … it is clear that seraphs include the unembodied spirits of pre-existence, for our Lord ‘looked upon the wide expanse of eternity, and all the seraphic hosts of heaven, before the world was made.’ (D. & C. 38:1.) Whether the name seraphs also applies to perfected and resurrected angels is not clear. …
“In Hebrew the plural of seraph is seraphim.” (McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, pp. 702–3.)
D&C 38:2. Omniscience of God
Some have questioned whether God is omniscient, that is, whether He knows all things. They say that He knows all things relative to man but that He Himself is still learning. This scripture shows that God has all knowledge (see also 2 Nephi 9:20; D&C 88:41; 130:7; Moses 1:6).
Knowledge brings power, and to say that God is limited in knowledge is to limit His power. This principle is taught in Lectures on Faith, compiled under the direction of the Prophet Joseph Smith: “Without the knowledge of all things, God would not be able to save any portion of his creatures; for it is by reason of the knowledge which he has of all things, from the beginning to the end, that enables him to give that understanding to his creatures by which they are made partakers of eternal life; and if it were not for the idea existing in the minds of men that God had all knowledge it would be impossible for them to exercise faith in him.” (4:43; see also Enrichment D in the Appendix.)
D&C 38:3. Christ the Creator
“Under the direction of his Father, Jesus Christ created this earth. No doubt others helped him, but it was Jesus Christ, our Redeemer, who, under the direction of his Father, came down and organized matter and made this planet, so that it might be inhabited by the children of God.” (Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 1:74; see also 2 Nephi 9:5–6; 3 Nephi 9:15; Moses 1:33; 2:1, 27.)
D&C 38:4. I Have “Taken the Zion of Enoch into Mine Own Bosom”
To be “in the bosom” of someone is a Hebrew idiom. Anciently people wore loose robes bound around the waist with a sash. The cloth above the sash formed a pocket in which people might carry objects of all kinds, even small children. Something carried in this way was close to the chest or bosom, so the phrase “to be in the bosom of” implied a close and favored relationship (see 2 Samuel 12:8; Luke 16:22; John 1:18).
“Enoch, the seventh from Adam (Jude 14) built a city called Zion, after the people of God, so named by the Lord, because they were united, righteous, and prosperous. This city of Enoch flourished for three hundred and sixty-five years and then the Lord, by some process not known to us, took it with all its inhabitants, ‘to His bosom,’ thus saving them from destruction in the flood that was to come. ‘And from thence went forth the saying, Zion is fled’ (… Moses 7:18, 19, 68, 69).” (Smith and Sjodahl, Commentary, p. 199; see also D&C 45:11–14; Enrichment B.)
The Lord promises that all who have believed in His name will also be taken into His bosom.
D&C 38:5–8. Why Are the Wicked Facing Doom?
President Joseph Fielding Smith explained: “When Christ comes the second time it will be in the clouds of heaven, and it shall be the day of vengeance against the ungodly, when those who have loved wickedness and have been guilty of transgression and rebellion against the laws of God will be destroyed. All during the ministry of Christ wickedness ruled and seemed to prevail, but when he comes in the clouds of glory as it is declared in this message of Malachi to the world, and which was said by Moroni to be near at hand, then Christ will appear as the refiner and purifier of both man and beast and all that pertains to this earth, for the earth itself shall undergo a change and receive its former paradisiacal glory.” (Doctrines of Salvation, 3:11; see also 2 Nephi 23:6–11; Malachi 3:2–5; 4:1.)
When Christ comes, only the purified will be able to abide the day (see D&C 38:8).
D&C 38:7–8. “I Am in Your Midst”
President Harold B. Lee said: “I have a session with the missionary groups as they go out, in the temple, where they are permitted to ask intimate questions that wouldn’t be proper to be discussed elsewhere. They sometimes ask, Could you tell us a certain place in the temple where the Savior has been seen? My answer is, ‘Keep in mind that this is the house of the Lord; this is the place that we try to keep as pure and holy and sacred as any building we have. This is the most likely place he would come when he comes on earth. Don’t ask for a certain place because he has walked these halls. How do you know but what he is here in your midst?” (In Conference Report, British Area Conference 1971, pp. 135–36; or Ensign, Nov. 1971, pp. 12–13.)
D&C 38:9, 15. “The Enemy Shall Not Overcome”
President Joseph Fielding Smith wrote:
“He has given to us the kingdom. He has made us the promise that the enemy of the kingdom shall not overcome. We may have trouble. We have had trouble. We may meet with opposition, but that opposition shall fail in its endeavor to destroy the work of God.
“The gospel has been restored, and the kingdom given to his saints according to the prophecy of Daniel. It is not again to be removed, destroyed, or given to other people, and in his own way and time he is going to break down all other systems, that his kingdom may prevail and that he may come and reign as Lord of lords and King of kings upon the face of the whole earth.
“The Lord has called attention to the fact that he is going to destroy systems and organizations and combinations that are false. And how is he going to do it? By giving their members the truth, if they will receive it; by giving them the privilege of coming out of those organizations to receive the truth and have every opportunity to come into his kingdom, for his hand is outstretched ready to greet them. If they will not come; if they will not receive his message; then, of course, they must fall with their systems. Truth will prevail; truth will stand when all else is removed, and it is destined to cover the face of the earth.” (Doctrines of Salvation, 1:241.)
D&C 38:10–12. “Eternity Is Pained, and the Angels Are Waiting”
The imagery of angels waiting to reap down the fields comes from the parable of the wheat and the tares (see Matthew 13:24–43; D&C 86:1–7). Elder Wilford Woodruff explained: “It certainly is time that we prepare ourselves for that which is to come. Great things await this generation—both Zion and Babylon. All these revelations concerning the fall of Babylon will have their fulfillment. Forty-five years ago, in speaking to the Church, the Lord said—[D&C 38:10–11]. This causes silence to reign, and all eternity is pained. The angels of God are waiting to fulfill the great commandment given forty-five years ago, to go forth and reap down the earth because of the wickedness of men. How do you think eternity feels to-day? Why there is more wickedness, a thousand times over, in the United States now, than when that revelation was given. The whole earth is ripe in iniquity; and these inspired men, these Elders of Israel, have been commanded of the Almighty to go forth and warn the world, that their garments may be clear of the blood of all men.” (In Journal of Discourses, 18:128.)
Notes and Commentary on Doctrine and Covenants 86:5 discusses the time when those angels will be given the command to reap down the earth.
D&C 38:17–20. “The Lord of Your Inheritance”
To better understand the Lord’s promise in these verses, one needs to understand that the Lord created the earth for His children and that it reflects the level of life that they live. Elder Bruce R. McConkie described four of the stages the earth has gone through and will yet go through:
“Edenic earth. Following its physical creation, the earth was pronounced good. It was a terrestrial or paradisiacal state. There was no death either for man or for any form of life, and ‘all the vast creation of animated beings breathed naught but health, and peace, and joy.’ (2 Ne. 2:22; Voice of Warning, pp. 89–91.)
“Telestial earth. When Adam fell, the earth fell also and became a mortal sphere, one upon which worldly and carnal people can live. This condition was destined to continue for a period of 6,000 years, and it was while in this state that the earth was baptized in water. (D. & C. 77:6–7, 12; Man: His Origin and Destiny, pp. 415–436, 460–466.)
“Terrestrial earth. ‘We believe … that the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory.’ (Tenth Article of Faith.) Thus, the earth is to go back to the primeval, paradisiacal, or terrestrial state that prevailed in the days of the Garden of Eden. Accompanying this transition to its millennial status the earth is to be burned, that is, receive its baptism of fire. It will then be a new heaven and a new earth, and again health, peace, and joy will prevail upon its face. (D. & C. 101:23–32; Isa. 65:17–25; Mal. 3:1–6; 4:1–6; Man: His Origin and Destiny, pp. 380–397.)
“Celestial earth. Following the millennium plus ‘a little season’ (D. & C. 29:22–25), the earth will die, be resurrected, and becoming like a ‘sea of glass’ (D. & C. 130:7), attain unto ‘its sanctified, immortal, and eternal state.’ (D. & C. 77:1–2.) Then the poor and the meek—that is, the godfearing and the righteous—shall inherit the earth; it will become an abiding place for the Father and the Son, and celestial beings will possess it forever and ever. (D. & C. 88:14–26, 111.)” (Mormon Doctrine, p. 211.)
The statement that there will be no curse on the land when the Lord comes (see D&C 38:18) refers to the terrestrial earth during the Millennium, whereas the promise that the Saints will possess it during eternity (see D&C 38:18) reflects the earth’s eventual celestial state.
D&C 38:21–22. “I Will Be Your King”
“Christ is the King. (Ps. 5:2; 10:16; 44:4; 47:6–7; 89:18; Isa. 6:5; 43:15; Jer. 23:5; 46:18; 1 Tim. 1:17.) By this is meant that he is the Ruler, Lawgiver, and Sovereign in whom all power rests. As King he rules over the heavens and the earth and all things that are in them (Alma 5:50); and also, in a particular sense, he rules over the kingdom of God on earth which is the Church and over the kingdom of God in heaven which is the celestial kingdom.” (McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p. 414.)
Though Jesus is King by right and authority, President Joseph Fielding Smith taught that at the council of Adam-ondi-Ahman, Christ will be crowned the actual, political ruler of the world (see Notes and Commentary on D&C 116:1). President Smith further explained that the kingdom of God includes both political and spiritual aspects, for “when our Savior comes to rule in the millennium, all governments will become subject unto his government, and this has been referred to as the kingdom of God, which it is; but this is the political kingdom which will embrace all people whether they are in the Church or not. Of course, when every kindred, tongue and people become subject to the rule of Jesus Christ such will be in that political kingdom. We must keep these two thoughts in mind. But the kingdom of God is the Church of Jesus Christ, and it is the kingdom that shall endure forever. When the Savior prayed, ‘Thy kingdom come,’ he had reference to the kingdom in heaven which is to come when the millennial reign starts.
“When Christ comes, the political kingdom will be given to the Church. The Lord is going to make an end to all nations; that means this nation as well as any other. The kingdom of God is the Church, but during the millennium, the multitudes upon the face of the earth who are not in the Church will have to be governed, and many of their officers, who will be elected, may not be members of the Church.” (Doctrines of Salvation, 1:229–30.)
D&C 38:27. “If Ye Are Not One Ye Are Not Mine”
Elder Harold B. Lee explained:
“If we are not united, we are not his. Here unity is the test of divine ownership as thus expressed. If we would be united in love and fellowship and harmony, this Church would convert the world, who would see in us the shining example of these qualities which evidence that divine ownership. Likewise, if in that Latter-day Saint home the husband and wife are in disharmony, bickering, and divorce is threatened, there is an evidence that one or both are not keeping the commandments of God.
“If we, in our wards and our branches, are divided, and there are factions not in harmony, it is but an evidence that there is something wrong. If two persons are at variance, arguing on different points of doctrine, no reasonable, thinking persons would say that both were speaking their different opinions by the Spirit of the Lord. …
“If it is so important, then, that this people be a united people, we might well expect that upon this principle the powers of Satan would descend for their greatest attack. We might well expect, also, that if there be those of apostate mind among us, they would be inclined to ridicule and to scorn this principle of oneness and unity as being narrow-minded or as being unprogressive. We would likewise expect that those who are enemies would also seek to fight against that principle.” (In Conference Report, Apr. 1950, pp. 97–98.)
D&C 38:13, 28. “The Enemy … Seeketh Your Lives”
The Saints should not be surprised when the world opposes the kingdom and tries to thwart the work of God, for He Himself promised that such would be the case. Elder Joseph F. Smith said that “the hatred of the wicked always has and always will follow the Priesthood and the Saints. The devil will not lose sight of the power of God vested in man—the Holy Priesthood. He fears it, he hates it, and will never cease to stir up the hearts of the debased and corrupt in anger and malice towards those who hold this power, and to persecute the Saints, until he is bound.” (In Journal of Discourses, 19:24.)
Elder Bruce R. McConkie made this observation in general conference:
“Nor are the days of our greatest sorrows and our deepest sufferings all behind us. They too lie ahead. We shall yet face greater perils, we shall yet be tested with more severe trials, and we shall yet weep more tears of sorrow than we have ever known before. …
“The way ahead is dark and dreary and dreadful. There will yet be martyrs; the doors in Carthage shall again enclose the innocent. We have not been promised that the trials and evils of the world will entirely pass us by.
“If we, as a people, keep the commandments of God; if we take the side of the Church on all issues, both religious and political; if we take the Holy Spirit for our guide; if we give heed to the words of the apostles and prophets who minister among us—then, from an eternal standpoint, all things will work together for our good.
“Our view of the future shall be undimmed, and, whether in life or in death, we shall see our blessed Lord return to reign on earth. We shall see the New Jerusalem coming down from God in heaven to join with the Holy City we have built. We shall mingle with those of Enoch’s city while together we worship and serve the Lord forever.” (In Conference Report, Apr. 1980, pp. 98–100; or Ensign, May 1980, pp. 71, 73.)
D&C 38:30. “If Ye Are Prepared Ye Shall Not Fear”
President Ezra Taft Benson commented on this verse in one of his general conference addresses:
“What are some of the calamities for which we are to prepare? In section 29 the Lord warns us of ‘a great hailstorm sent forth to destroy the crops of the earth.’ (D&C 29:16.) In section 45 we read of ‘an overflowing scourge; for a desolating sickness shall cover the land.’ (D&C 45:31.) In section 63 the Lord declares he has ‘decreed wars upon the face of the earth. …’ (D&C 63:33.)
“In Matthew, chapter 24, we learn of ‘famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes. …’ (Matt. 24:7.) The Lord declared that these and other calamities shall occur. These particular prophecies seem not to be conditional. The Lord, with his foreknowledge, knows that they will happen. Some will come about through man’s manipulations; others through the forces of nature and nature’s God, but that they will come seems certain. Prophecy is but history in reverse—a divine disclosure of future events.
“Yet, through all of this, the Lord Jesus Christ has said: ‘… if ye are prepared ye shall not fear.’ (D&C 38:30.)
“Here then is the key—look to the prophets for the words of God, that will show us how to prepare for the calamities which are to come [see D&C 1:38].” (In Conference Report, Oct. 1973, p. 89; or Ensign, Jan. 1974, p. 68.)
D&C 38:39. Pride and the Riches of the Earth
This scripture contains one of the clearest statements found anywhere in scripture about the proper attitude one should have toward the riches of the world.
Elder George Q. Cannon said: “There is something in the human heart of that character that when human beings are prospering they are apt to be lifted up in pride and to forget the cause or the source of their prosperity; they are apt to forget God, who is the fountain of all their blessings, and to give glory to themselves. It requires a constant preaching of the word of God, a constant pleading with the people, a constant outpouring of the Spirit of God upon the people to bring them to a true sense of their real condition. … Is it right that we should be prudent, that we should take care of those gifts and blessings which God has given unto us, that we should husband our resources, that we should be economical, and not extravagant? Certainly; this is right, this is proper, we should be culpable if we were not so. But with this there is also something else required, and that is, to keep constantly in view that the management and care of these things is not the object that God had in sending us here, that is not the object of our probation. … I have been in reduced circumstances; been on missions when I did not know where to get a mouthful to eat; turned away by the people who dare not entertain me because of the anger that was kindled against us. I could stand by and weep, being a boy and away from all my friends. But I, nevertheless, was happy. I never enjoyed myself in my life as I did then. I know that happiness does not consist in the possession of worldly things. Still it is a great relief when people can have the means necessary for the support of themselves and families. If they possess these things and the Spirit of God with them, they are blessed.” (In Journal of Discourses, 22:100–101.)
D&C 38:42. “Be Ye Clean That Bear the Vessels of the Lord”
“In ancient Israel, certain vessels (bowls, urns, vases, and other containers) and utensils were used in religious feasts and ceremonies. The vessels that were to be used in the temple had special significance and were handled only by those who were worthy and authorized and who had properly prepared themselves. In a somewhat similar manner, the Lord has indicated that his saints should come ‘out from among the wicked’ (38:42) and leave the worldliness of Babylon so they will be worthy to ‘bear the vessels of the Lord’ (see 133:5).” (Ludlow, Companion, 2:317.)