The commandment to build a temple was first given in December 1832 (see D&C 88:119). The Prophet Joseph Smith reported that when Doctrine and Covenants 95 was given, “great preparations were making to commence a house of the Lord,” but “the Church was poor” and the work lagged (History of the Church, 1:349–50.) On 1 June 1833 the temple committee, composed of Hyrum Smith, Reynolds Cahoon, and Jared Carter, sent a circular to all the members, encouraging them to assist spiritually and temporally in building the temple. On the same day the Prophet Joseph Smith received section 95, in which the Lord reproved the Saints for neglecting the commandment to build a temple.
Notes and Commentary
D&C 95:1–2. How Is Chastening a Sign of Love?
If we love someone in the highest sense of the word, we are deeply concerned for that person’s eternal as well as temporal welfare. Sometimes a leader or parent sees that correction is necessary for a person to progress. President Spencer W. Kimball, counseling priesthood leaders, said:
“We are concerned that too many times the interviewing leader in his personal sympathies for the transgressor, and in his love perhaps for the family of the transgressor, is inclined to waive the discipline which that transgressor demands.
“Too often a transgressor is forgiven and all penalties waived when that person should have been disfellowshipped or excommunicated. Too often a sinner is disfellowshipped when he or she should have been excommunicated. …
“Do you remember what was said by the prophet Alma? ‘Now,’ he said, ‘repentance could not come unto men except there were a punishment.’ [Alma 42:16.]
“Ponder on that for a moment. Have you realized that? There can be no forgiveness without real and total repentance, and there can be no repentance without punishment. This is as eternal as is the soul. …
“Please remember these things when somebody comes before you who has broken the laws of God.
“It is so easy to let our sympathies carry us out of proportion; and when a man has committed sin, he must suffer. It’s an absolute requirement—not by the bishop—but it’s a requirement by nature and by the very part of a man.” (In Conference Report, Apr. 1975, p. 116; or Ensign, May 1975, p. 78.)
Sometimes chastening is the only way to bring about obedience and the happiness that results. “Whom I love I also chasten,” the Lord said (D&C 95:1). President Brigham Young said: “At times I may to many of the brethren appear to be severe. I sometimes chasten them; but it is because I wish them to so live that the power of God, like a flame of fire, will dwell within them and be round about them. These are my feelings and desires.” (In Journal of Discourses, 8:62.)
D&C 95:3. What Was the Saints’ “Grievous Sin”?
Later verses in section 95 show why it was so important to build the temple. Missionaries were to be prepared there “to prune [the Lord’s] vineyard” for the last time (v. 4). Also in the temple the Lord intended to “endow those whom I have chosen with power from on high” (v. 8).
President Joseph Fielding Smith explained: “The Kirtland Temple was necessary before the apostles (who had not yet been called), and other elders of the Church could receive the endowment which the Lord had in store for them. The elders had been out preaching the Gospel and crying repentance ever since the Church was organized and many great men had heard and embraced the truth, nevertheless the elders could not go forth in the power and authority which the Lord intended them to possess until this Temple was built where he could restore keys and powers essential to the more complete preaching of the Gospel and the administering in its ordinances. …
“Four days after the Lord had rebuked the brethren for their neglect, without waiting for subscriptions, the brethren went to work on the Temple. Elder George A. Smith, a recent convert, hauled the first load of stone for the Temple. Hyrum Smith and Reynolds Cahoon commenced digging the trench for the walls, and they finished the same with their own hands.” (Smith, Church History and Modern Revelation, 1:406–7.)
D&C 95:4. What Does Pruning the Vineyard Mean?
“The vineyard is the harvest symbol usually used to represent the world—the earth and all of the people who live on the earth. At times the vineyard (the people of the world) has become corrupt, and it is necessary to prune it so the vine will be able to produce good fruit in abundance. The process of pruning involves the separation of one part of the plant from other parts. This could be achieved by calling out or separating the righteous from among the wicked or by the actual destruction of the wicked. It is usually in the former sense that the Lord instructs his servants (missionaries) to prune his vineyard. However, the Lord has also warned that when the pruning process is completed, the vines that continue to bring forth bad fruit will be burned. This evidently refers to the burning of the wicked, which will take place at the second coming when Jesus Christ will come in power and great glory.” (Ludlow, Companion, 2:318.)
D&C 95:4. What Is the Lord’s “Strange Act”?
Elder Neal A. Maxwell wrote: “A fresh view is not always welcomed … ; it can be jarring to those who are intensely set in their ways (see Isaiah 28:21). Even the remarkable Enoch was not welcomed by many of his contemporaries. Of him and his labors it was said anciently, ‘There is a strange thing in the land’ (Moses 6:38). Isaiah’s phrase ‘strange work’ is amplified in Restoration scriptures. Fresh and striking truths were necessary so that mortals could ‘hear and know that which they have never considered’ (D&C 101:94). Without such vision, people perish (see Proverbs 29:18).
“Having described the Restoration as his ‘strange act,’ and ‘my strange work,’ the Lord indicated that it would go against the grain of much of society. Yet restitution of the unfamiliar, the uncommon, the unusual, and the unique would actually aid mortals by providing fresh, divine standards and help them in discerning between righteousness and wickedness, as God ‘poured out [His] Spirit upon all flesh.’ (D&C 95:4; 101:95.) With values otherwise shorn of true perspective, the inversions of certain of them become almost inevitable. Finally, evil can end up being called good, and good evil. (See Isaiah 5:20; 2 Nephi 15:20; Moroni 7:14.)” (A Wonderful Flood of Light, 9.)
D&C 95:5–6. Why Are Some Priesthood Holders Not Chosen or Accepted by the Lord?
It is one thing to be called to labor in the vineyard and another to be faithful in the performance of that work. Only those who faithfully fill their callings are chosen by the Lord for exaltation in the kingdom of God. Those who are called but not chosen “have sinned a very grievous sin, in that they are walking in darkness at noon-day” (D&C 95:6), for they do not respond to the light of the restored gospel that surrounds them (see also D&C 121:34–40).
D&C 95:7. What Is a “Solemn Assembly”?
President Spencer W. Kimball said: “Solemn assemblies have been known among the Saints since the days of Israel. They have been of various kinds but generally have been associated with the dedication of a temple or a special meeting appointed for the sustaining of a new First Presidency or a meeting for the priesthood to sustain a revelation, such as the tithing revelation to President Lorenzo Snow. …
“Joseph Smith and Brigham Young were first sustained by a congregation, including a fully organized priesthood. Brigham Young was sustained on March 27, 1846, and was ‘unanimously elected president over the whole Camp of Israel …’ by the council. (B. H. Roberts, A Comprehensive History of the Church, vo. 3, p. 52.) Later he was sustained, and the Hosanna Shout was given.
“Each of the presidents of the Church has been sustained by the priesthood of the Church in solemn assembly down to and including President Harold B. Lee, who was sustained October 6, 1972.” (In Conference Report, Apr. 1974, pp. 64–65; or Ensign, May 1974, p. 45.) All the Presidents of the Church after President Lee have also been sustained as prophet, seer, and revelator in solemn assemblies.
The Bible mentions several solemn assemblies held in ancient times (see Leviticus 23:36; Numbers 29:35; Deuteronomy 16:8; 2 Chronicles 7:9; Nehemiah 8:18; Isaiah 1:10–14; Ezekiel 45:17; 46:11). Such assemblies are sacred meetings attended by the priesthood or those who seek to separate themselves from the world by keeping God’s commands.
The command to the elders to hold a solemn assembly was given in Doctrine and Covenants 88:70. The purpose for the assembly was to help the elders spiritually prepare to continue their missionary work among the people of the world.
D&C 95:8–9. What Is an Endowment “with Power from on High”?
An endowment is a gift or a bequest. In the Church it usually refers to a temple ordinance in which members make certain promises and receive a gift of knowledge and spiritual power in return. The endowment spoken of here, however, is not the same as the ceremony administered in later temples. Priesthood members in Kirtland did participate in a “partial endowment, the full ordinance being reserved for a future performance when a temple designed for ordinance work itself should be built” (Bruce R. McConkie, “A New Commandment: Save Thyself and Thy Kindred!” Ensign, Aug. 1976, p. 10). The first complete endowment in this dispensation was given by Joseph Smith in Nauvoo on 4 May 1842.
The endowment received in Kirtland included washings and anointings, as well as the washing of feet for official priesthood brethren. The Lord also poured out His Spirit, or in other words endowed them with spiritual power, and many received revelations or other gifts (see History of the Church, 2:308–10).
D&C 95:10. Contention in the School of the Prophets
Adding to the “grievous sin” (D&C 95:10) of failing to commence the temple as commanded (see Notes and Commentary on D&C 95:3), the Lord named another serious sin: contention in the School of the Prophets. Members of that special group had been told by revelation before the school was started to “cease from all … [their] lustful desires, … pride and light-mindedness, and from all … wicked doings” (D&C 88:121).
D&C 95:11–17. “Let the House Be Built”
President Joseph Fielding Smith pointed out that the Kirtland temple “was to be erected for other and greater purposes than those made known at this time to the officers and members of the Church. The time had not come for the real purposes and the nature of the endowment to be revealed. The elders, much less the members, were not prepared in 1833 for the fulness of the revelation which the Lord declared would be bestowed upon them. The severe rebuke administered to the Church had its effect and the brethren forgot the need of other buildings and commenced to concentrate their efforts upon this house of the Lord.” (Church History and Modern Revelation, 1:406–7.)