Doctrine and Covenants 23–26

I can help strengthen the Lord’s Church.

In the early period after the Church was organized, the Saints were admonished to strengthen those who had already joined the Church, even as opposition and persecution increased. The “great and marvelous work” seemed to be experiencing challenges on every hand. Even so, the Lord continued to provide encouragement and counsel to those who desired to help build the kingdom and establish the cause of Zion. These words are not just intended for those early Church members—they are for everyone engaged in God’s work—including you and me today.  In Doctrine and Covenants 25:16, God says this counsel represents His “voice unto all.” He often repeats the words, “What I say unto you, I say unto all” (See Doctrine and Covenants 12:7, 61:18, 61:36, 82:5, 92:1, 93:49.) 

In Doctrine and Covenants 23, Oliver Cowdrey, Hyrum and Samuel Smith, Joseph Smith, Sr., and Joseph Knight, Sr. are each given counsel as to their duties in building the kingdom. The Lord speaks to each one by name and directs him to “strengthen the Church” in various ways. I was especially touched by the admonition to Joseph Knight, Sr. to “pray vocally.” He was a Unitarian, somewhat liberal in his views, and not given to prayer.

Many years ago, I had an experience that taught me the importance of this principle.

As I am usually inclined to do before each general conference, I prepared by praying that I might know what I was supposed to do and what special message I was supposed to receive from the addresses of the Brethren.  When President Hinckley was speaking in his talk on “Forgiveness,” I heard a thought in my mind saying this, “Write _____’s story and in doing so, you will find forgiveness.”  Previous to this time, I had ambivalent feelings towards this person.  While I loved him/her, I still harbored deep feelings of betrayal and resentment toward him/her.  Although I had tried many times to forgive this person for the painful consequences our family had suffered as a result of his/her personal choices, I had been unsuccessful in my attempts at finding peace through forgiveness.  So when the Spirit spoke these words to me, my initial reaction was, “No way, I’m not going to spend all that time and effort on a person that caused me such pain!”  And so, for nine months, I didn’t do anything about it.

That next summer, I was preparing for my Relief Society lesson on prayer.  I was reading everything I could get my hands on about prayer, trying to get a new angle from which I could approach this much discussed subject.  I happened to hear part of a BYU-TV speaker who was speaking on effective prayer, and he counseled us to pray aloud if we wanted our prayers to be more effectual.  I had not been one to pray aloud before this time, but I thought it sounded reasonable, and I wanted to be able to say that I had tried it out when I gave my lesson.  That night, I carefully formed the words of my prayer with my mouth, and asked the Lord sincerely what He would have me do.  It was amazing!  I got a definite reply immediately afterward.  The Spirit said clearly, “I told you nine months ago what I wanted you to do.  Why are you asking me again?”  Imagine, if you will, my shock and surprise!  I decided I had better do it! 

Doctrine and Covenants 25

Emma Smith is “an elect lady.”

When Emma Hale marries Joseph Smith against the wishes of her father, she probably knew she would be making many sacrifices. She was leaving a life of relative comfort for an uncertain future, and yet she had faith in the words of the man she loved. She believed in the visions and revelations received by her husband, and the three eventful years as his wife thus far had confirmed to her that he was indeed a prophet.

“By the time of their marriage, Joseph had met with the angel Moroni once a year for three consecutive years at a hill near Palmyra, New York, to discuss the golden plates from which he would translate the Book of Mormon. In the fall of 1827, Emma went with Joseph and waited in the wagon while he received the golden plates. She soon began to assist as a scribe in the translation process. Decades later, she marveled at what had happened. She recalled that at the time of their marriage Joseph “could neither write nor dictate a coherent and well-worded letter; let alone dictating a book like the Book of Mormon” (Matthew J. Grow, “Thou Art an Elect Lady”).

Her mother-in-law said of her:

She was then young, and, being naturally ambitious, her whole heart was in the work of the Lord, and she felt no interest except for the church and the cause of truth. If elders were sent away to preach, she was the first to volunteer her services to assist in clothing them for their journey, let her own privations be what they might. I have never seen a woman in my life, who would endure every species of fatigue and hardship, from month to month, and from year to year, with that unflinching courage, zeal and patience, which she has always done; for I know that which she has had to endure; that she has been tossed upon the ocean of uncertainty; that she has breasted the storm of persecution, and buffeted the rage of men and devils, until she has been swallowed up in a sea of trouble which [would] have borne down almost any other woman”( Lucy Mack Smith, History, 1844–1845, book 13, pages 7–8,190, josephsmithpapers.org; language modernized.

While he was in hiding, Joseph Smith used to hide on an island in the Mississippi River and Emma used to meet him there. Speaking of Emma, Joseph wrote, “With what unspeakable delight, and what transports of joy swelled my bosom, when I took by the hand, on that night, my beloved Emma—she that was my wife, even the wife of my youth, and the choice of my heart. Many were the reverberations of my mind, when I contemplated for a moment the many scenes we had been called to pass through, the fatigues and the toils, the sorrows and sufferings, and the joys and consolations, from time to time, which had strewed our paths and crowned our board. Oh what a commingling of thought filled my mind for the moment, again she is here, even in the seventh trouble—undaunted, firm, and unwavering—unchangeable, affectionate Emma!” (History of the Church 5:107)

Throughout her life, Emma boldly testified of the Book of Mormon. Shortly before her death she told her son: “My belief is that the Book of Mormon is of divine authenticity—I have not the slightest doubt of it” (Emma Smith, in “Last Testimony of Sister Emma,” Saints’ Herald, Oct. 1, 1879, 290). Obedient to the Lord’s command, Emma also compiled the Church’s first hymnbook.

Emma taught by example: “In New York, she sewed clothing for … missionaries called to preach the gospel. … In Kirtland, she worked with other women to collect blankets, food, and clothing for the Zion’s Camp marchers to take to distressed Saints in Missouri. She helped prepare meals and make [clothes] for the workmen building the Kirtland Temple. She took in so many temple workmen as boarders that she and Joseph had to sleep on the floor. In the early days of Nauvoo, she devoted much of her time and attention to nursing the many malaria victims camped outside her home on the banks of the Mississippi River. In these and other ways, she exemplified the service given by many sisters in her day” (Teachings: Joseph Smith, 450).

The readings found in “Revelations in Context” provide essential information for understanding the background that preceded these revelations. (This information can be found easily by tapping on the icon that looks like a picture of mountains to the right of the number of the section.)  I obtained the  following information is from Matthew J. Grow, “Thou Art an Elect Lady” posted on “Revelations in Context.”

At the time section 25 was given, persecution was beginning to increase in Harmony, where Joseph and Emma were staying with the Hales. Emma’s Uncle Nathaniel, who was a minister, and others had tried to poison her mind against her “prophet” husband. Some were making attempts to persuade her to leave Joseph and stay in Harmony with her family when he was forced to leave.

Notwithstanding these challenges, Emma desired to be baptized in June 1830. Joseph and Emma traveled to Colesville, New York, where she was baptized along with several other converts, including members of the Knight family, who had also supported them financially during the translation of the Book of Mormon. However, in the early morning hours of Sunday, June 27, enemies destroyed a dam built for the baptisms. However, early the next morning Joseph and others were able to repair the dam and proceed with the baptisms as planned. Oliver Cowdery baptized Emma and twelve others. However, before the baptismal service had ended, a mob of about fifty men began to collect, and Joseph, Emma, and the other Church members sought safety in Joseph Knight Sr.’s home. I was soon surrounded by men “raging with anger and apparently wishful to commit violence upon us.” Some questioned them, and others threatened them, so they thought it wise to leave and go to the house of Newel Knight. Unfortunately, the Saints were followed, and the harassment continued.

They had planned a meeting for that evening, during which Emma and the other newly baptized individuals would be confirmed members of the Church and receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. However, as they gathered, a constable arrested Joseph Smith on charges of being “a disorderly person; of setting the country in an uproar by preaching the Book of Mormon.” The constable explained that the mob hoped to ambush Joseph after his arrest, writes Joseph Smith, he “was determined to save me from them, as he had found me to be a different sort of person from what I had been represented to him.” They soon encountered the mob, but to the “great disappointment” of the vigilantes, the constable “gave the horse the whip and drove me out of their reach.” After arriving in South Bainbridge in Chenango County, the constable stayed with Joseph Smith that night “in an upper room of a Tavern.” To protect Joseph, the constable “slept during the night with his feet against the door, and a loaded musket by his side.” (I love these kind of stories of “friendly foes” embedded in Church history.)

Joseph Smith was tried and acquitted in South Bainbridge, but was then immediately arrested again to stand trial on similar charges in neighboring Broome County. The second constable initially treated Joseph harshly. When they arrived in Broome County, this constable took him to a tavern where he gathered in a group of men who ridiculed and insulted Joseph. They spat on him and demanded that he prophesy to them. As they were relatively close to his home at the time, Joseph asked the constable if he could “be allowed the privilege of spending the night with my wife at home,” but the constable denied his request.

Following a second trial the next day, Joseph was again acquitted. The constable then asked for Joseph’s forgiveness, and learning of plans by the mob to tar and feather him, the constable helped him escape. Joseph arrived safely at the house of Elizabeth Hale Wasson, Emma’s sister, which was nearby.

During her husband’s absence, Emma had been “awaiting with much anxiety the issue of those ungodly proceedings.” She had gathered with other women “for the purpose of praying for the deliverance” of her husband. Once reunited, Joseph and Emma traveled home to Harmony, Pennsylvania, in early July. Along with Oliver Cowdery, Joseph made one more unsuccessful trip to Colesville to confirm the newly baptized Saints, but renewed opposition forced him to return quickly to Harmony.

Whatever Emma’s hopes for her married life were, she could hardly have anticipated the degree to which opponents of the new church would physically intimidate and legally harass the Smiths.  This was in addition to the demands of guiding the newly-formed church which took her husband away from their farm and family, threatening their livelihood.

It was in the context of these anxieties and disappointments, Joseph received a revelation for Emma, Doctrine and Covenants 25.  Of all of the revelations that Joseph Smith received for individuals through July 1830, this was the first given to a woman. After all this persecution, Emma sorely needed comfort and reassurance to buoy her up in her role as the wife of the prophet of the restored Church of Jesus Christ. These admonitions apply to every woman who seeks to become an “elect lady.” “And verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my voice unto all” (Doctrine and Covenants 25:16.)

In Doctrine and Covenants 25:1, the Lord calls Emma his daughter. All people who come to earth are spirit children of our Heavenly Father. Moreover, those who receive the restored gospel and the accompanying covenants and ordinances, and are truly born again, are adopted into the family of Jesus Christ. He becomes the Father of their spiritual new birth and the Father of their salvation. This is what King Benjamin meant when he spoke to those who had undergone a “mighty change of heart” and desired to enter into a covenant to keep the commandments of God” (Mosiah 5:7).

President Hinckley often spoke about women’s divine nature and urged them forward to greater achievement and faith. To young women, he declared:

“You are literally a daughter of the Almighty. There is no limit to your potential. If you will take control of your lives, the future is filled with opportunity and gladness. You cannot afford to waste your talents or your time. Great opportunities lie ahead of you”

(“Let Virtue Garnish Thy Thoughts Unceasingly,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2007, 115.)

Doctrine and Covenants 25:2–3. Emma was admonished to “walk in the paths of virtue before me.” Virtue is a strength that comes from purity.

President Gordon B. Hinckley said:

I feel those words were given to Emma Smith, and consequently to all of us, as a condition to be observed if we are to receive an inheritance in the kingdom of God. Lack of virtue is totally inconsistent with obedience to the commandments of God. There is nothing more beautiful than virtue. There is no strength that is greater than the strength of virtue. …

(“If Thou Art Faithful,” Ensign, Nov. 1984, 91).

The Lord said that Emma Smith was “an elect lady” (D&C 25:3), meaning that she was chosen because of her faithfulness to assist in God’s work. Later, Joseph Smith explained one of the meanings of this title when he organized the Relief Society on March 17, 1842. He “showed that elect meant to be elected to a certain work … and that the revelation was then fulfilled by Sister Emma’s election to the Presidency of the [Relief] Society” (in History of the Church, 4:552–53).

Gordon B. Hinckley wrote: “Emma was called “an elect lady.” That is, to use another line of scripture, she was a “chosen vessel of the Lord.” (See Moro. 7:31.) Each of you is an elect lady. You have come out of the world as partakers of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. You have made your election, and if you are living worthy of it, the Lord will honor you in it and magnify you” (Daughters of God, 98.)

The Lord knew and loved Emma Smith. She had endured so much for her support of her prophet husband. The Lord’s instructions to “murmur not” (D&C 25:4) came because she had not seen the Book of Mormon plates. As we have noted, she was present during some of the translation of the golden plates and even participated briefly as a scribe. It may have been difficult for her when the Three Witnesses and Eight Witnesses were permitted to view them and she was not.

Though Emma did not have the opportunity to view the plates, she later explained that during the translation process,

“the plates often lay on the table without any attempt at concealment, wrapped in a small linen table cloth, which I had given him [Joseph Smith] to fold them in. I once felt of the plates, as they thus lay on the table, tracing their outline and shape. They seemed to be pliable like thick paper, and would rustle with a metallic sound when the edges were moved by the thumb, as one does sometimes thumb the edges of a book. …

“I did not attempt to handle the plates, other than [through the linen cloth]. … I was satisfied that it was the work of God, and therefore did not feel it to be necessary to do so” (“Last Testimony of Sister Emma,” Saints’ Herald, Oct. 1, 1879, 290; spelling standardized).

I am quite impressed that Emma had the integrity not to take even one small “peek” at the plates. The self-restraint of this woman is amazing!

Doctrine and Covenants 25:5–9.

Emma receives a special calling to be a comforter to her husband. As I have said, Emma had endured many difficulties and sorrows herself, as well as enduring the hardships, abuse, and persecution inflicted upon her husband. The Lord called Emma to comfort and support her husband in his unique capacity as the Prophet of the Restoration. She was to use “consoling words, in the spirit of meekness,” and treat her husband with tenderness and care.

Patricia T. Holland shared, “It is not marriage unless we literally share each other, the good times and the bad, the sickness and the health, the life and the death. It is not marriage unless I am there for him whenever he needs me” (BYU Speeches, “Some Things We Have Learned Together,” January 15, 1985).

President Gordon B. Hinckley said, “The world needs the touch of women and their love, their comfort, and their strength. Our harsh environment needs their encouraging voices, the beauty that seems to fall within their natures, the spirit of charity that is their inheritance” (Discourses of President Gordon B. Hinckley, Volume 2: 2000–2004 (2005), 509–10.

We might ask the question, “Which of the roles is most important—the witness role or the comforter role?  The Lord might have said, “I don’t need another witness!  I’ve got twelve of them!  I need a comforter for Joseph Smith.”  The sistersMary and Martha filled this same role for the Savior in the New Testament.

Joseph Smith said:

When a man is borne down with trouble, when he is perplexed with care and difficulty, if he can meet a smile instead of an argument or a murmur—if he can meet with mildness, it will calm down his soul and soothe his feelings; when the mind is going to despair, it needs a solace of affection and kindness. … When you go home, never give a cross or unkind word to your husbands, but let kindness, charity and love crown your works henceforward.

(History of the Church, 4:605–7; spelling modernized; paragraph divisions altered; from a discourse given by Joseph Smith on Apr. 28, 1842, in Nauvoo, Illinois; reported by Eliza R. Snow; see also appendix, page 562, item 3.)

What is Joseph Smith’s major role in the Restoration?  He RECEIVES REVELATION.  What state of mind does somebody need to receive revelation?  A calm soul and soothed feelings. The Lord might be saying, “Emma, your role is to keep your husband CALM and SOOTHED so I can talk to him.  So he can receive revelation.” Usually we view the role of a woman as support to her husband AFTER the fact. But here, God says we better put it up FRONT so he can do his job.

On March 20–25, 1839, after three and a half months of unjust imprisonment in Liberty Jail, Joseph Smith dictated a letter for members of the Church to scribes and fellow prisoners Alexander McRae and Caleb Baldwin. The poignant letter, reminiscent of the epistles of Paul in the New Testament, detailed the suffering of the Saints and offered comfort and instruction. All of the men in the jail, including Joseph and his brother Hyrum, signed the letter. In 1876, portions of the letter were added to the Doctrine and Covenants as sections 121, 122, and 123. (This letter is on display in the Church History Museum.)

Section 121 begins with an anguished plea to God for relief from extreme affliction and injustice. The first six verses are filled with a soul-petition growing out of pain and frustration. Between verse six and seven is a section that lashes out at his oppressors.  “Joseph’s confidence was still tested in the extreme. His lawyers were unfaithful, swayed by public opinion. Government officials were treacherous.  These men receive a scathing denunciation. An escape attempt by the prisoners had been frustrated and their pro se self-representation in court had proven ineffectual” (Dean C. Jesse and John W. Welch, Revelations in Context: Joseph Smith’s Letter from Liberty Jail, March 20, 1839, 126, 127)

The harsh tone of this letter is replaced in the section that begins verse 7, “My son, peace be unto thy soul.” Joseph writes that he received comfort from a friendly voice that dispels grief “with a vivacity of lightning.” “Healed by the loving voice of a friend, enmity departed from the Prophet’s soul; his heart became ‘sufficiently contrite,’ and only then could ‘the voice of inspiration’ steal along and whisper the reassuring peaceful text that begins in Doctrine and Covenants 121:7.” (Ibid., 127)

When we read section 121, it sounds like Joseph Smith prays and then in verse 7 he gets an answer.  This “mighty change of spirit” was evidently a result of a loving letter from Emma that calmed him down. Emma had fulfilled her charge to be a comfort to her husband. She had calmed and soothed his soul. 

Emma was told to “go with him at the time of his going,” and to “expound the scriptures.”

President Kimball often taught, “I stress again the deep need each woman has to study the scriptures. We want our homes to be blessed with sister scriptorians” (Spencer W. Kimball, “The Role of Righteous Women.”)

President Russell M. Nelson reiterated this same idea: “We need women who have a bedrock understanding of the doctrine of Christ and who will use that understanding to teach and help raise a sin-resistant generation” (Russell M. Nelson, “A Plea to My Sisters.”)

President Gordon B. Hinckley said:

I love our scriptures. I like to quote from them, for they give the voice of authority to that which I say. I do not claim distinction as a scholar of the scriptures. For me, the reading of the scriptures is not the pursuit of scholarship. Rather, it is a love affair with the word of the Lord and that of his prophets. (Gordon B. Hinckley, “Feasting upon the Scriptures,” talk given during the “Using the Scriptures” Churchwide satellite fireside, March 10, 1985; see Ensign, December 1985, pp. 42-45)

I love the idea of having a love affair with the scriptures. What a noble aspiration. Emma is set apart to “exhort the church” as it is given to her by the Spirit. As President of the Relief Society, she had opportunity to do just that. 

In verse 8, Emma is told that after she receives the Holy Ghost, she will “learn much.” An elect lady is going to spend as much time as she can LEARNING. This could cover a broad spectrum of areas—a degree from a university, or perhaps continuing to learn in other areas of personal interest.  Emma was going to experience many trials in her life. I find it interesting that she is counseled to “learn much.” Perhaps this was not just to broaden her horizons. Perhaps the Lord was providing her with a recipe for avoiding discouragement and frustration.

I love the line from The Once and Future King, when young King Arthur, who has been betrayed and retreats to the  forest of Camelot, asks Merlin the question, “What do you do when you are sad?”

‘The best thing for being sad,’ replied Merlin, beginning to puff and blow, ‘is to learn something. That’s the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then — to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the only thing for you. Look what a lot of things there are to learn.

Emma was also told to write, giving expression to her thoughts. President Hinckley also gave the same admonition to women in our day:

To you women of today, who are old or young, may I suggest that you write, that you keep journals, that you express your thoughts on paper. Writing is a great discipline. It is a tremendous educational effort. It will assist you in various ways, and you will bless the lives of many ” (Daughters of God, 99.)

One of the things that might have been worrying Emma was her temporal support. She fully supported her husband in his prophetic calling, and was his greatest cheerleader in bringing forth every aspect of the restoration. But still, they had to eat, and have a roof over their heads. She might have been concerned about how Joseph could support a family by farming if he spent his full time building the kingdom of God. The Lord assured her that the support would come in and through the Church for which he labored.

In Doctrine and Covenants 24:9, Joseph was told, “And in temporal labors thou shalt not have strength, for this is not thy calling,” for “thou shalt devote all thy service to Zion; and in this thou shalt have strength.” Commentators have concluded that “Joseph’s talents did not lie in farming, business, finance, real estate speculation, or other temporal matters. His strength and calling was in building the kingdom; this is what the Lord wanted him to worry about” (Stephen E. Robinson and H. Dean Garrett, A Commentary on the Doctrine and Covenants: Volume 1, 164)

In this verse, the Lord tells Emma not to fear, and he would provide for her. Her husband’s calling was to the church, “that all things might be revealed unto them.” Although Emma didn’t live in a home of her own until Nauvoo, she always trusted in the Lord to provide her temporal support. Joseph was her strength, and the Lord provided the means through other individuals who responded to inspiration.

In verse 10, Emma is told that an elect lady needs to lay aside the things of the world—and to have an eternal perspective.  The things she is involved in are of eternal importance.

President Gordon B. Hinckley, commenting on these instructions, said: “I feel he was not telling Emma that she should not feel concerned about a place to live, food on her table, and clothing. He was saying to her that she should not be obsessed with these things, as so many of us are wont to be. He was telling her to get her thoughts on the higher things of life, the things of righteousness and goodness, matters of charity and love for others, the things of eternity”

(“If Thou Art Faithful,” 91).

Nineteenth-century poet William Ross Wallace is best known for writing “the hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world.” This sentiment illustrates the power of women to create a beautiful society through nurturing their children.  Wallace conveys the belief that women are actually given an opportunity and privilege by God to be his partner in giving life to another human being. Every occupation will one day be phased out—except motherhood.

In chapter 5 of Daughters of God, President Gordon B. Hinckley states:

It is the home which produces the nursery stock of new generations. I hope that you mothers will realize that when all is said and done, you have no more compelling responsibility, nor any laden with greater rewards, than the nurture you give your children in an environment of security, peace, companionship, love, and motivation to grow and do well. (Gordon B. Hinckley, “Stand Strong Against the Wiles of the World,” 99.)

The true strength of any nation, society, or family lies in those qualities of character that have been acquired for the most part by children taught in the quiet, simple everyday manner of mothers. (Motherhood: A Heritage of Faith (pamphlet, 1995), 6.)

God bless you, mothers! When all the victories and defeats of men’s efforts are tallied, when the dust of life’s battles begins to settle, when all for which we labor so hard in this world of conquest fades before our eyes, you will be there, you must be there, as the strength for a new generation, the ever-improving onward movement of the race. Its quality will depend on you. (Ibid.,13)

Emma Smith was assigned by the Lord to “make a selection of sacred hymns” (D&C 25:11). The Lord declared that “the song of the righteous is a prayer unto me” (D&C 25:12). Emma is to collect hymns and the Lord gives her some parameters—pick hymns that are like prayers. She fulfilled this charge with the help of William W. Phelps, and the collection was supposed to be printed in February 1833, but mobs destroyed the press before the hymnbook could be printed. A revised collection was finally printed in Kirtland, Ohio in February 1836, and included ninety hymns, thirty-four of which had been written by Latter-day Saints, primarily W.W. Phelps. ( See Lyndon W. Cook, The Revelations of the Prophet Joseph Smith: A Historical and Biographical Commentary on the Doctrine and Covenants, 1985, 36-37.)  Those original hymns that are still in our current hymnal are so identified at the bottom of the page. I always feel a kinship with those early saints when we sing one of them.

Michael Ballam, the founding General Director of the Utah Festival Opera and Musical Theatre, taught that music has great power, and that inspired music has great power to heal the human spirit and body, because music has more order than anything in the universe. He advised making a “musical first aid kit” to help deal with pain and sorrow.  I personally find great comfort in the hymn “Be Still, My Soul” when I am feeling wounded or confused.

The Primary song, “Hum Your Favorite Hymn” conveys the idea that singing a hymn will elevate your thoughts. Young Women are taught that  memorizing a hymn and turning to it when facing temptation can help them when they need to get rid of a bad thought. (Young Women lesson on “Pure Thoughts”)

The power of music has been extolled by many. I want to include some of my favorite quotes:

“Can anyone doubt that good music is godly or that there can be something of the essence of heaven in great art?” —Gordon B. Hinckley

“Some of the greatest sermons that have ever been preached were preached by the singing of a song.” —Spencer W. Kimball

“We get nearer to the Lord through music than perhaps through any other thing except prayer.” —J. Reuben Clark Jr.

“Music is an effective way to worship our Heavenly Father and his Son, Jesus Christ.”
—Dallin H. Oaks

“Through the miracle of sacred music, the Spirit of the Lord descended upon us, and we were made ready for gospel instruction and worship.” —Dallin H. Oaks

“Sacred music has a unique capacity to communicate our feelings of love for the Lord.”
—Dallin H. Oaks

“The hymns of the Restoration are hymns of revelation.”  —Boyd K. Packer

“Inspiring music may fill the soul with heavenly thoughts, move one to righteous action, or speak peace to the soul.” –Ezra Taft Benson

We are in a position, as musicians, to touch the souls of those who listen.” –Spencer W. Kimball

“Music is given of God to further his purposes. Sweet melodies mellow the souls of men and help prepare them for the gospel. —Bruce R. McConkie

Music is truly the universal language, and when it is excellently expressed how deeply it moves our souls.” –David O. McKay

“The most effective preaching of the gospel is when it is accompanied by beautiful, appropriate music.” —Harold B. Lee

As Long Beach Mission secretary, my desk was next to the Mission President’s office. Each Thursday, the Assistants to the President would hold their planning meetings. It warmed my soul to hear these wonderful elders begin each meeting with a hymn in order that the Spirit might be present.

President Heber J. Grant shares a story about John Taylor, then the president of the Council of the Twelve Apostles. It illustrates how song has the power to soothe irritated feelings and bring harmony to the hearts of men who are filled with a contentious spirit. It involved a quarrel between two faithful brethren whose membership dated back to the days of Nauvoo. They had been full of integrity and devotion to the work of the Lord, and had been through many of the persecutions of the Saints in Nauvoo, as well as the hardships of pioneering the settlement of the west. These men had quarreled over some business affairs, and finally concluded that they would try to get President John Taylor to help them adjust their difficulties.

These brethren pledged their word of honor that they would faithfully abide by whatever decision Brother Taylor might render. … They did not immediately tell him what their trouble was, but explained that they had seriously quarreled and asked him if he would listen to their story and render his decision. President Taylor willingly consented. But he said: “Brethren, before I hear your case, I would like very much to sing one of the songs of Zion for you.”

President Taylor was a very capable singer, and he sang one of our hymns to the two brethren.

Seeing its effect, he remarked that he never heard one of the songs of Zion but that he wanted to listen to one more, and so asked them to listen while he sang another. Of course, they consented. Having sung the second song, he remarked that he had heard there is luck in odd numbers and so with their consent he would sing still another, which he did. Then in his jovial way, he remarked: “Now, brethren, I do not want to wear you out, but if you will forgive me, and listen to one more hymn, I promise to stop singing, and will hear your case.”

When President Taylor had finished the fourth song, the brethren were melted to tears, got up, shook hands, and asked President Taylor to excuse them for taking up his time. They then departed without his even knowing what their difficulties were. The trifles over which they had quarreled had become of no consequence in their sight. The songs of the heart had filled them with the spirit of reconciliation. (Gospel Standards, 285-87)

Continuing, in D&C 25:13 the Lord said: “Wherefore, lift up thy heart and rejoice, and cleave unto the covenants which thou hast made.”

An elect lady is happy. She keeps her covenants, in fact she CLEAVES unto them. Merriam-Webster defines “cleave” as “to adhere firmly and closely, or loyally and unwaveringly.”

In verse 14, Emma is told, “Continue in the spirit of meekness, and beware of pride”. An elect lady is meek.  She is aware of pride. 

“Let thy soul delight in thy husband.”  An elect lady delights in her husband.  Like she delights in her children. They are her most precious possessions.

Doctrine and Covenants 25:15 “Keep my commandments continually, and a crown of righteousness thou shalt receive.” An elect lady has a consistency in her life in keeping the commandments. She will receive a “crown,” and become queen.  Elect “manhood” is described in Doctrine and Covenants 121.  He will receive get a scepter, (121:44) and become a king.  

Doctrine and Covenants 26:2

What is common consent?

In July of 1830, the Church was only a few days old, and there was no formal organization as yet—no quorums , First Presidency, or general authorities. Joseph Smith had just returned from Harmony, Pennsylvania to Colesville, New York. The majority of the members of the Church was still in Colesville  and Joseph sought to strengthen them.   He was told that “all things shall be done by common consent in the church.”

The basic principle of common consent had been given one year earlier, in June of 1829.  The original direction about this subject was connected with the visitation of Peter, James, and John to restore the Melchizedek Priesthood.

We had not long been engaged in solemn and fervent prayer, when the word of the Lord came unto us in the chamber, commanding us that I should ordain Oliver Cowdery to be an Elder in the Church of Jesus Christ; and that he also should ordain me to the same office; and then to ordain others, as it should be made known unto us from time to time. We were, however, commanded to defer this our ordination until such times as it should be practicable to have our brethren, who had been and who should be baptized, assembled together, when we must have their sanction to our thus proceeding to ordain each other, and have them decide by vote whether they were willing to accept us as spiritual teachers or not. (History of the Church 1:60-61)

When this meeting was held the following April, the law of common consent was instituted as one of the basic procedures of the newly-organized church.  By so doing, the Lord showed that he honored and safeguarded the moral agency of his children. The First Presidency said in 1907:

It is a law that no person is to be ordained [or set apart[ to any office in the Church, where there is a regularly organized branch of the same, without the vote of its members. . . The ecclesiastical government itself exists by the will of the people; elections are frequent, and the members are at the liberty to vote as they choose.  (Joseph F. Smith, John R. Winder, and Anthon H. Lund, Improvement Era, 10 (May 1907): 487-88.)

In his article on common consent, Wilson K. Andersen, summarizes why the Church operates on the basis of such a “theo-democratic principle.”  The law of common consent:

  1.  Teaches us God’s attributes of love and patience, and his desire that his children have their agency that they might thereby become truly free.
  2. Safeguards our agency in his kingdom and under the priesthood.
  3. Keeps discipleship, and membership in his kingdom “a voluntary association.”
  4. Keeps leaders accountable to the members they serve, as well as to God who calls them.
  5. Makes the members accountable and responsible. The members are accountable both for faith in their divinely called leaders and for sustaining those leaders in what the Lord calls them to do.
  6. Places us in a position where the Holy Spirit can bestow confirming witness when we act in spirit and truth.
  7. Protects the Church against deception, it restricts false aspirants and autocrats, and brings to account those who might exercise unrighteous dominion.
  8. Requires public knowledge and individual member decision for the regular and continued operation of the Church. Common consent precludes any secret organizations or bestowals of authority.
  9. The uplifted hand in the operation of the law of common consent is both a vote and a token of a sacred covenant. As one votes in our sustaining assemblies, he is evidencing before God, angels, and those witnessing that he will sustain, or that he refuses to sustain, the chosen one in what he is called of God to do. (See “The Law of Common Consent,” Studies in Scripture: Volume Two—The Doctrine and Covenants, 147-148.)

This concept is reinforced in Doctrine and Covenants 42:11:  “Again I say unto you, that it shall not be given to any one to go forth to preach my gospel, or to build up my church, except he be ordained by some one who has authority, and it is known to the church that he has authority and has been regularly ordained by the heads of the church.”

Joseph F. Smith wrote, “No man can preside in this Church in any capacity without the consent of the people. The Lord has placed upon us the responsibility of sustaining by vote those who are called to various positions of responsibility. No man, should the people decide the contrary, could preside over any body of Latter-day Saints in the Church.” (Doctrines of Salvation 3:123)

President John Taylor asked: “Is there a monarch, potentate or power under the heavens that undergoes a scrutiny as fine as this? No, there is not; yet this is done twice a year.”

Gordon B. Hinckley said, “The procedure of sustaining is much more than a ritualistic raising of the hand. It is a commitment to uphold, to support, to assist those who have been selected. …

“Your uplifted hands in the solemn assembly this morning became an expression of your willingness and desire to uphold us, your brethren and your servants, with your confidence, faith, and prayer” (“This Work Is Concerned with People,” Ensign, May 1995, 51; emphasis added).

Once  we have sustained a person in a calling, it is our responsibility to do our part to support  and help that person move forward  successfully.

Concluding Thoughts

In Doctrine and Covenants 24:1, Joseph Smith is told by the Lord, “I have lifted thee up out of thine afflictions.” How has the Lord lifted you out of your afflictions during difficult times? I believe the scriptures we have considered today give us much to consider as we seek delivery from the darkness we may face.  Being “patient in our afflictions” is difficult, but if we cleave to the assurance the Lord has given us that “I am with thee, even unto the end of days,” we may learn to see the difficulties we face as opportunities to gain strength. I love this quote from Elder Neal A. Maxwell:

How can you and I really expect to glide naively through life, as if to say, ‘Lord, give me experience, but not grief, not sorrow, not pain, not opposition, not betrayal, and certainly not to be forsaken. Keep from me, Lord, all those experiences which made Thee what Thou art! Then, let me come and dwell with Thee and fully share Thy joy!’ (Ensign, May 1991, 88)

We can be confident that these trials will be for “but a small moment” Doctrine and Covenants 121:7–8, and that the Lord promised to “strengthen [you] that that [you] can bear up [your] burdens with ease,” so you may “submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord” Mosiah 24:14–15.

In addition we may be strengthened by the healing power of sacred music, to nourish and heal our aching hearts. Sometimes the only thing that can touch us is the gentle power of a song. The Savior himself was strengthened by the power of sacred music, as he and his apostles sang a hymn before going to Gethsemane. Music can help us endure patiently as Christ did.

I remember feeling deeply misunderstood one Sunday tears ago. As we sang “I Stand All Amazed” before the sacrament was administered, I found that tears were streaming down my face. As the words “Oh, it is wonderful that he should care for me, enough to die for me,” entered my heart, it was indeed “Wonderful to me.”

God has promised to “be with us always” (Matthew 28:20). As President Spencer W. Kimball has observed, “God does notice us, and he watches over us. But it is usually through another person that he meets our needs.” (“Small Acts of Service”) Joseph Smith had many such friends come to his aid when he was in desperation. Moreover, when we are on the giving end of service, the blessings are multiplied.  President Kimball continues,

When we are engaged in the service of our fellowmen, not only do our deeds assist them, but we put our own problems in a fresher perspective. When we concern ourselves more with others, there is less time to be concerned with ourselves. In the midst of the miracle of serving, there is the promise of Jesus, that by losing ourselves, we find ourselves. (See Matt. 10:39.)

Not only do we “find” ourselves in terms of acknowledging guidance in our lives, but the more we serve our fellowmen in appropriate ways, the more substance there is to our souls. We become more significant individuals as we serve others. We become more substantive as we serve others—indeed, it is easier to “find” ourselves because there is so much more of us to find!

I conclude by inviting you to carefully ponder these powerful words of President Kimball. At times when I have felt like holding my own private “pity party,” I have been moved to look up and down my street, and ponder the challenges faced by my neighbors. As my paradigm shifted from focusing on myself to turning outwards and how I might relieve the distress of others, my thoughts of self-pity evaporated.  I found myself digging deep into the reserves of my inner strength, and finding joy and fulfillment in making someone else’s day a little better. 

Through serving our fellow man, we can indeed lose our pitiful selves and find ourselves, which have become just a little more Christlike.  I affirm the truth of these words from President Kimball, “We become more substantive as we serve others—indeed, it is easier to “find” ourselves because there is so much more of us to find!”