Sections 15–16: Revelations to John Whitmer and Peter Whitmer Jr.

Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual, (2002), 31

Notes and Commentary

D&C 15–16. The Inclusion of Personal Revelation in the Doctrine and Covenants

Elder John A. Widtsoe gave these insights into why personal revelations for specific individuals are included in the Doctrine and Covenants:

“The Doctrine and Covenants is a compilation of the revelations received by Joseph Smith to individuals and for the guidance of the Church. From the first years of the work the Prophet kept every scrap of paper pertaining to the progress of the work. In fact this care of things that must have seemed trivial is one of the evidences of the sincerity of the man. For example, when John and Peter Whitmer asked for help, he received for each of them a revelation, substantially the same: [D&C 15–16].

“This simple revelation is directed to the individual and at first sight has no permanent value for the Church. Yet as a revelation from God it was preserved and published. An insincere man could have eliminated this and other similar revelations as of little consequence. Not so with Joseph. The Lord had spoken. The words were part of the building of the kingdom of God, and the same advice would be useful to many men then and now.” (Joseph Smith, pp. 251–52.)

Book of Commandments

The Book of Commandments contained early revelations to Joseph Smith.

D&C 15:2. What Does the Phrase “Mine Arm Is over All the Earth” Mean?

A person’s arm represents that person’s strength and power. Similarly, the phrase “arm of God” denotes His power and authority. The following references illustrate different ways this phrase is used: Doctrine and Covenants 1:14; 3:8; 35:8; Isaiah 52:10; John 12:38; 3 Nephi 9:14; see also Notes and Commentary on Doctrine and Covenants 1:14.

D&C 15:3–5. “I Will Tell You That Which No Man Knoweth”

Earlier the Lord had given Oliver Cowdery a similar revelation concerning the thoughts and intents of his heart (see Notes and Commentary on D&C 6:16).

D&C 15:6. “The Thing Which Will Be of the Most Worth unto You”

Elder Rudger Clawson, of the Quorum of the Twelve, commented on the significance of this revelation for all: “Cast your minds back to the early days of this Church, and there stood this man John Whitmer, recently come into the Church of Christ. Various occupations in which he might engage were before him. He had the opportunity to labor upon the farm, to engage in merchandising, to follow mining, to study the profession of medicine or law, or to adopt one of the many other occupations in which men employ themselves. The question he asked himself at that time was, What would be of the most worth to him? By his industry and thrift he might acquire the wealth of a Gould or a Vanderbilt; he might obtain a beautiful home, well furnished in every detail, and most desirable for the comfort and convenience of himself and family; he might obtain worldly renown in one of the professions, and by study and reflection become a skillful practitioner in medicine or a wise and able lawyer. I say, these opportunities were before him, because the country was before him, and this country is full of opportunities, which are within the reach of all. We live in a free country, and the way is open to you and to me, as it was to this man. He stood there in this situation, not having been trained long in the Gospel of Christ, and I say to you—for it is on record here—that a voice came to that man from the eternal worlds, and that voice set at rest in him every doubt, every dubiety, every fearful anticipation. At a critical time in his life, when he must choose which way to go, that voice said unto him that that which would be of most worth unto him was to declare repentance unto the people and bring souls unto Christ. The message was of such importance that it came to him with ‘sharpness and with power.’ It was the voice of Jesus Christ.” (In Conference Report, Apr. 1901, p. 7.)