Doctrine and Covenants 61: Danger on the Water

Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Student Study Guide, (2005), 72–73


Danger on the waters
The Prophet Joseph Smith wrote: “On the 9th [of August 1831], in company with ten Elders, I left Independence landing for Kirtland. We started down the river in canoes, and went the first day as far as Fort Osage, where we had an excellent wild turkey for supper. Nothing very important occurred till the third day, when many of the dangers so common upon the western waters, manifested themselves; and after we had encamped upon the bank of the river, at McIlwaine’s Bend, Brother Phelps, in open vision by daylight, saw the destroyer in his most horrible power, ride upon the face of the waters; others heard the noise, but saw not the vision.” (History of the Church,1:202–3).The following morning, August 12, the Prophet received the revelation recorded inDoctrine and Covenants 61. As you read this revelation, look for at least two reasons for the Lord to not want the whole group to travel “swiftly upon the waters” (v. 3). Think about how this revelation applies to missionary work today.

Understanding the Scriptures

Doctrine and Covenants 61

Alpha and Omega(v. 1)The first and last letters of the Greek alphabet (symbolizing the Lord’s power over everything) 
Suffered(v. 4)Allowed, permitted 
Decreed(v. 5)Declared 
Behooveth(v. 9)Is necessary to 
Fatness(v. 17)Abundance, surplus 
Canal(vv. 23–24)Man-made waterway (the Ohio Canal) 

Doctrine and Covenants 61:20–22—“I, the Lord, Was Angry with You Yesterday”

“During the three days upon the river some disagreements and ill feeling had developed among the brethren and explanations and reconciliations had become necessary; it had also been discovered that progress on their journey by the river in canoes was slow, and hence it became necessary for those who had been appointed to purchase the printing press, Sidney Gilbert and William W. Phelps; and the Prophet, Sidney Rigdon, and Oliver Cowdery, who had been commanded to hasten their return to Kirtland, found it imperative to find a more expeditious means of travel than by the canoes. The greater part of the night at Mcllwaine’s Bend was devoted to these matters. The brethren became reconciled to each other, and those whose affairs more especially cried haste started overland the next morning for St. Louis, and the rest of the company continued the journeyviathe river” (B. H. Roberts,A Comprehensive History of the Church,1:262–63).

Doctrine and Covenants 61:30–31—Why Was the Lord Angry with the Inhabitants of Cincinnati, Ohio?

President Joseph Fielding Smith explained: “At the time of this revelation, Cincinnati was only a village, yet it was like other western towns such as Independence, the gathering place of many who had been forced to flee from the larger cities because of the violation of the law. In all the border towns in that day wickedness to a very great extent prevailed. After fulfilling their mission in Cincinnati, these two brethren were to continue their journey back to Kirtland” (Church History and Modern Revelation,1:225).

Studying the Scriptures

Do activity A or B as you studyDoctrine and Covenants 61.

Activity A iconUnderstanding the Power of God

  1. 1.

    ReadDoctrine and Covenants 61:1–5and answer the following questions:

    1. a.

      What opportunities were the missionaries missing by traveling on the water?

    2. b.

      Why did the Lord allow the missionaries to travel on the water?

  2. 2.

    Search verses 6–16 and explain how the Lord said they could be safe upon the waters. What do you learn here about the power of God compared to the power of the devil?

Activity B iconHow to Be “Spotless”

ReviewDoctrine and Covenants 61:33–39and list the reasons for accepting a call to serve a mission. Choose a reason that impresses you and explain why that would be a good reason to serve the Lord.