After the close of the June 1831 conference, a revelation was given in which several missionaries were called to go to the land of Missouri, where the Lord would reveal the center place of Zion (see D&C 52).
Joseph Smith, who was called by revelation to travel with Sidney Rigdon, recorded the following after arriving in Missouri: “The meeting of our brethren [Oliver Cowdery, Peter Whitmer Jr., Ziba Peterson, and Frederick G. Williams, all of whom had gone to Missouri as missionaries], who had long awaited our arrival, was a glorious one, and moistened with many tears. It seemed good and pleasant for brethren to meet together in unity. But our reflections were many, coming as we had from a highly cultivated state of society in the east, and standing now upon the confines or western limits of the United States, and looking into the vast wilderness of those that sat in darkness; how natural it was to observe the degradation, leanness of intellect, ferocity, and jealousy of a people that were nearly a century behind the times, and to feel for those who roamed about without the benefit of civilization, refinement, or religion; yea, and exclaim in the language of the Prophets: ‘When will the wilderness blossom as the rose? When will Zion be built up in her glory, and where will Thy temple stand, unto which all nations shall come in the last days?’ Our anxiety was soon relieved by receiving the following: [D&C 57].” (History of the Church, 1:189.)
Before this revelation was given, the members of the Church had read in the Book of Mormon about a New Jerusalem that would be located in America (see 3 Nephi 20:22; 21:23–24; Ether 13:1–12). Also, in September 1830 the Lord had explained that the holy city would be erected “on the borders by the Lamanites” (D&C 28:9). And finally, the Lord had promised he would reveal the exact location of the New Jerusalem (see D&C 42:62). It was therefore with great joy that Doctrine and Covenants 57 was received by the members of the Church.
Notes and Commentary
D&C 57:4. What Is Meant by the Phrase, “the Line Running Directly between Jew and Gentile”?
President Joseph Fielding Smith explained that this expression “has reference to the line separating the Lamanites from the settlers in Jackson County. At this time the United States Government had given to the Indians the lands west of the Missouri, only later to take them away again. The Lamanites, who are Israelites, were referred to as Jews, and the Gentiles were the people, many of whom were of the lawless element, living east of the river.” (Church History and Modern Revelation, 1:206; see also the map in Notes and Commentary on D&C 28:9.)
D&C 57:9. Obtain a License
“Brother Gilbert is also instructed to obtain a license. This license was probably needed because of the laws of the time, in order that he might transport goods to the people by clerks or others employed in his service.” (Sperry, Compendium, p. 234.)
D&C 57:13. Why Was Oliver Cowdery Instructed to Assist William W. Phelps?
“In Sec. 55:4, Phelps is appointed to assist Cowdery; here Cowdery is mentioned as the assistant. There is no discrepancy in this. It only shows that God intended them to assist each other as fellow-laborers in the same service.” (Smith and Sjodahl, Commentary, p. 330.)
D&C 57:14–15. Who Are the Families Who Are to Gather to Zion?
“The Bishop and the agent are here instructed to make preparations for the reception of the Colesville Saints who, in obedience to the divine command (Sec. 54:7, 8), were on the road to Zion” (Smith and Sjodahl, Commentary, p. 330).
The concept of establishing Zion is discussed in Enrichment B in the Appendix.