This revelation was given as a result of Joseph Smith’s revisions in the Bible. As early as 7 March 1831 the Prophet was told to begin translating the New Testament (see D&C 45:60–61). He wrote of this period: “I recommenced the translation of the Scriptures, and labored diligently until just before the conference, which was to convene on the 25th of January. During this period, I also received the following [D&C 74], as an explanation of the First Epistle to the Corinthians, 7th chapter, 14th verse.” (History of the Church, 1:242.)
Notes and Commentary
D&C 74:1–7. Little Children
Unbelieving, as used here, refers to those Jews who had not joined the Church of Jesus Christ. They were still living by the rituals of the Mosaic law, which included circumcision of their male children. Paul taught that little children were sanctified through the Atonement of Christ and that circumcision was no longer necessary as taught by the adherents of the Mosaic law.
D&C 74:2. What Is Meant by the Law of Circumcision?
Circumcision was given to Abraham and his posterity as a token of their covenant with God (see JST, Genesis 17:3–7, 11). Other scriptures make it clear that it was not circumcision itself but rather what it stood for that gave it its greatest significance (see Deuteronomy 10:16; 30:6; Jeremiah 4:4; Ezekiel 44:7; Romans 2:25–29).
D&C 74:4–6. Why Was the Circumcision of Children a Problem in the Early Church?
“When the unbelieving husband had his way, which in that day would be usual, it would too often have the effect of causing the children to give heed to the Jewish tradition which their father followed (vs. 4), the result being that they, too, would not believe the Gospel of Christ. Hence the children became ‘unholy’—that is to say, they became unholy according to the false Jewish tradition which prevailed at the time, for the tradition of the Jews was that little children were unholy (vs. 6). It was for this cause, the Lord continues (vs. 5), that Paul wrote to the Corinthians giving them his own opinion, not the Lord’s, that a member of the Church (‘believer’) should not be united in marriage to an unbeliever, unless the Law of Moses was renounced or done away by them. Then the children of a given couple would not have to be circumcised as the Law of Moses required, and the false tradition of the Jews that little children are unholy could be gradually eliminated.” (Sperry, Compendium, p. 328.)