Section 56 The Lord Commands and the Lord Revokes

Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual, (2002), 117–118


Historical Background

After the conference of 3 June 1831, the Lord gave a revelation to the Church (D&C 52) in which a number of brethren were called in pairs to go to Missouri, preaching the gospel as they traveled, and to hold another conference in that land. But when Ezra Thayre lost the spirit of his assignment because of problems at Thompson, Ohio, and was slow in making preparations to go on his mission, Thomas B. Marsh, his assigned companion, went to Joseph Smith seeking an answer to the dilemma. The Prophet inquired of the Lord and received what is now known as section 56 (see History of the Church, 1:186).

Notes and Commentary

D&C 56:2. “Take Up His Cross and Follow Me”

See Notes and Commentary on Doctrine and Covenants 23:6.

D&C 56:3–4. Under What Circumstances Does the Lord Revoke What He Has Commanded?

Elder James E. Talmage noted that “only the rebellious, those who will not obey the commandments of God are to be thus dealt with, are to have their blessings revoked; only these will forfeit the blessings to which they were entitled. In another revelation given shortly after that, Section 58, the Lord takes people to task because they were in the habit of saying—and he might well take some of us to task, for we still say it—that the Lord doesn’t keep his word, that he makes promises and fails to fulfil them.” (In Conference Report, Apr. 1921, p. 113.)

The Lord further stated that those who are not in the Church, who hinder the Lord’s work, will bear that condemnation (see D&C 124:49–50).

D&C 56:6–8. A Change of Assignments

In these verses the Lord changed the assignments given in Doctrine and Covenants 52:22, 32. Selah J. Griffin, formerly assigned to Newel Knight, was assigned to Thomas B. Marsh. Newel Knight was called to go with the Colesville Saints to Missouri, and Ezra Thayre was released from his missionary calling.

D&C 56:8–9. How Does One Overcome Selfishness?

“Selfishness consists in caring unduly or supremely for oneself; it is one of the lusts of the flesh which must be overcome by those who gain salvation. A selfish person clings to his own comfort, advantage, or position at the expense of others. Men are commanded to repent of their pride and selfishness. (D. & C. 56:8.) In practice the way to do this is to serve in the Church and make generous financial contributions to sustain its programs.” (McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p. 701.)

man giving bishop an envelope

Unselfish contributions sustain the temporal kingdom of God.

D&C 56:16. A Proper Attitude toward the Temporal Blessings of Life

The remainder of this revelation was directed to Ezra Thayre. Because of his selfishness, which was a cause of the Colesville Saints’ having to leave Thompson, Ohio, the Lord gave him, and all Saints, counsel on the proper use of temporal things. Doctrine and Covenants 56:16 delineates the responsibility of the rich. The Lord has instructed his prophets about how the poor are to be taken care of: such principles as tithing and fast offerings assist Latter-day Saints to take care of their responsibility to the poor. (See 1 Timothy 6:9–10, 17–19; Jacob 2:17–19; Mosiah 4:26–27.)

D&C 56:17–18. What Should Be the Attitude of the Poor?

President George Albert Smith warned against taking what belongs to others. After quoting Doctrine and Covenants 56:17 he said:

“That is the situation of many of our own brothers and sisters in America with all the blessings that we enjoy—better wages, better homes, better opportunities for education than have ever been known before. Yet we have today men who not only will not work themselves, but they also will not permit somebody else to be employed. They are not willing to earn their living by work, but they propose to take it from the rich man. …

“We must not fall into the bad habits of other people. We must not get into the frame of mind that we will take what the other man has. Refer back to the ten commandments, and you will find one short paragraph, ‘Thou shalt not covet.’ That is what is the matter with a good many people today. They are coveting what somebody else has, when as a matter of fact, many of them have been cared for and provided with means to live by those very ones from whom they would take away property.” (In Conference Report, Oct. 1949, pp. 170, 172.)