Cover image: Interior of the Newel and Elizabeth Ann Whitney Home, likely where the Law of the Church (Section 42) was given. Photo by Scot Facer Proctor.

We live in a time when the Church of Jesus Christ has been well established and we are used to talking in terms of large numbers, but in the era we are talking about today, none of these things were yet a reality. When Joseph and Emma arrived in Kirtland, Ohio in February, 1831, the successful missionary efforts of Parley P. Pratt and his companions had just doubled the entire membership of the Church to about 250 people!


We live in a time when the Church of Jesus Christ has been well established and we are used to talking in terms of large numbers, general conferences translated into scores of languages simultaneously, missionaries serving in diverse countries all over the world and the Kingdom of God on the earth organized unlike any worldly entity. We are used to thinking in terms of the First Presidency, the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Church Headquarters, the Conference Center, Temple Square—but in the era we are talking about today, the early part of 1831, none of these things were yet a reality. When Joseph and Emma arrived in Kirtland, Ohio in February, 1831, the successful missionary efforts of Parley P. Pratt and his companions had just doubled the entire membership of the Church to about 250 people!


Welcome to Meridian Magazine’s Come Follow Me Podcast. We are Scot and Maurine Proctor and we are so delighted to be with you again this week. Today we will be talking about Doctrine and Covenants, Sections 41-44 with a lesson entitled “My Law to Govern My Church.”

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Maurine, I have studied the history of the Church my entire life. I grew up in Missouri in the heart of it. I was just six days walk from Jackson County! I spent lots of time in Nauvoo, back in the day when very little was there. I remember the early excavations of the Nauvoo Temple site in the sixties when young people from Utah came to help. I remember going to Adam-ondi-Ahman in 1971 and it was just brambles, thorny honey locust trees and a sign hanging sideways from one nail that indicated where we were. That was 50 years ago. I have to see and understand the history of the Church in context. One thing I’ve learned is that the Kirtland period is pivotal to understanding the history of the Church. It is a time of rich outpouring of the Spirit from the heavens, a cascade of revelations. President Ezra Taft Benson used to say that the Church was legally formed in Fayette, New York but it was truly organized in Kirtland. We will see the beginnings of that foundation in this week’s lesson.


Remember, those intrepid missionaries, Parley Pratt, Oliver Cowdery, Ziba Peterson and Peter Whitmer, Jr. had been in the Kirtland and Mentor area for a few weeks and left about 130 converts and then gone on their way to the western frontier of America. When Joseph and Emma arrived from New York, those converts were barely new to the idea that a Prophet was on the earth again and that he was the mouthpiece for God. This small group of just over 100 were extremely anxious to meet the Prophet Joseph and to understand who and what a prophet of God was.

Of course, when Joseph and six-months pregnant Emma arrived, they did not have a home and so Newel and Elizabeth Ann Whitney took them in for a number of weeks and saw to their needs and delighted to have them in their home. You have to understand that wherever the Prophet Joseph Smith was, that was the headquarters of the Church in those early days. So, for a few short weeks, the headquarters of the Church was Newel and Elizabeth Whitney’s home. The Smiths had only been there for three days when Joseph received this first revelation from God in Ohio.


And it’s important to understand that during what we call the Ohio Period of Church History, which is from February 1831 to about January 1838, Joseph will receive 65 revelations in Ohio itself. And there are ten different locations where those 65 Ohio revelations are received. You’re more familiar with these than you think, but we will touch on these sacred rooms or places of revelation in the weeks to come. The Newel and Elizabeth Whitney HOME becomes the first of those ten Ohio locations where Joseph receives revelation.

I remember when I took a pilgrimage to Kirtland after I had served in Washington D.C. for a semester of my time at BYU. I was alone and one of the things I wanted to do was read the revelations out loud that had been given to the Prophet Joseph in Ohio. I was not aware of all the various locations yet and so, I came to the Newel K. Whitney store, which the Church had just acquired, and the couple there let me go upstairs and have my own time to read the revelations aloud. I read ALL the Kirtland revelations out loud, alone, in that upper area of the Newel K. Whitney store. It took me hours to do this, but it was a foundational experience for me in my studies of early Church History. Now, I have picked a good place to read in those days, because 16 or possibly 17 revelations were received in that upper room of the Newel K. Whitney Store, but I wasn’t at that time very aware of the other nine locations.


Imagine Joseph sitting down to dictate a revelation to his scribe—and with a number of people present who are just seeing a prophet for the very first time. This is such a sacred and tender experience for all of them. Parley P. Pratt was present for the reception of several revelations and described the process:

“After we had joined in prayer in his translating room, he dictated in our presence the following revelation:—(Each sentence was uttered slowly and very distinctly, and with a pause between each, sufficiently long for it to be recorded, by an ordinary writer, in long hand.

“This was the manner in which all his written revelations were dictated and written. There was never any hesitation, reviewing, or reading back, in order to keep the run of the subject; neither did any of these communications undergo revisions, interlinings, or corrections. As he dictated them so they stood, so far as I have witnessed; and I was present to witness the dictation of several communications of several pages each.” (Pratt, Parley P., Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, Revised and Enhanced Edition, edited by Scot Facer Proctor and Maurine Jensen Proctor, Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, 2000, p. 72).


Parley’s brother, Orson described the revelatory process this way:

… “no great noise or physical manifestation was made; Joseph was as calm as the morning sun…Joseph’s face was exceedingly white and seemed to shine.” (Millennial Star, 32 (August 11, 1874): 498.)

Brigham Young reported: “Those who were acquainted with [Joseph] knew when the Spirit of revelation was upon him, for his countenance wore an expression peculiar to himself while under that influence. He preached by the Spirit of revelation, and taught in his council by it, and those who were acquainted with him could discover it at once, for at such times there was a peculiar clearness and transparency in his face.” (Journal of Discourses, 9:89)

Philo Dibble said at the reception of what we now call Section 76: Joseph “seemed to be dressed in an element of glorious white, and his face shone as if it were transparent.” (Dibble, Philo, Four Faith Promoting Classics, Early Scenes in Church History,” Salt Lake City, Bookcraft, 1968, p. 81.)

In that very first interaction with the Prophet Joseph in February, 1831, Mary Elizabeth Rollins, as just a girl, was also a witness: “Joseph got up and began to speak to us. As he began to speak very solemnly and very earnestly, all at once his countenance changed and he stood mute. Those who looked at him that day said there was a search light within him, over every part of his body. I never saw anything like it on the earth. I could not take my eyes off him; he got so white that anyone who saw him would have thought he was transparent. I remember I thought I could almost see the cheek bones through the flesh. I have been through many changes since but that is photographed on my brain. I shall remember it and see in my mind’s eye as long as I remain upon the earth.” (Mary Lightner 1905 Address, typescript, BYU, Mary Lightner, Address to Brigham Young University, The Testimony of Mary Elizabeth Rollins Lightner, 1905, BYU Archives and Manuscripts, Source: Mary Elizabeth Lightner, Address at Brigham Young University, April 14, 1905, typescript, BYU.)


Zebedee Coltrin testified of seeing the Prophet come from the translating room after receiving the revelation known as the Word of Wisdom. “His face shone with brilliance,” Zebedee reported. (McConkie, Mark, Remembering Joseph, Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, 2003, p. 252)

One brother William Kelley gleaned from William E. McLellin that he, Brother McLellin, had been in the presence of the Prophet Joseph when he received the preface to the Doctrine and Covenants. A committee had been tasked to write the preface and they came to the Prophet and asked him to inquire of the Lord about it. “He said that he would if the people would bow in prayer with him. This they did, and Joseph Smith prayed. When they arose, Joseph dictated by the Spirit the preface found in the book of Doctrine and Covenants while sitting by a window of the room in which the conference was sitting, and Sidney Rigdon wrote it down. Joseph would deliver a few sentences and Sidney would write them down, then read them aloud, and if correct, then Joseph would proceed and deliver more, and by this process the preface was given. In reply to the question, ‘Did Joseph seem to be inspired at the time? that is, did any thing of unusual character appear to be moving him?’ He said, ‘There was something ahold of him.” (McConkie, Mark, Remembering Joseph, p. 257)


Wilford Woodruff recorded one of the last times the Prophet Joseph instructed the Twelve apostles in a room in the uncompleted Nauvoo Temple:

“…upon one occasion he stood upon his feet in our midst for nearly three hours declaring unto us the great and last dispensation which God had set His hand to perform upon the earth in these last days. The room was filled as if with consuming fire; the Prophet was clothed upon with much of the power of God, and his face shone and was transparently clear, and he closed that speech, never-to-be-forgotten in time or in eternity.” (James R. Clark, comp., Messages of the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966), 3:134)

So, make no mistake, when the Prophet Joseph Smith received revelation, he became an instrument through which God would speak and many, as we have just reported, could actually see a transformation come over Joseph as he spoke the word of the Lord.

And remember, the witnesses of this first revelation, Section 41, which was given in the Newel and Elizabeth Whitney home, were members of the Church for just a few weeks and they truly were in the presence of a prophet of the most high God.


This is all very exciting and humbling for these new members of the Church. And the first words the Lord speaks through the Prophet in the Whitney home are these:

Hearken and hear, O ye my people, saith the Lord and your God, ye whom I delight to bless with the greatest of all blessings, ye that hear me; and ye that hear me not will I curse, that have professed my name, with the heaviest of all cursings.

Immediately, the Lord sets up the importance of obedience and listening to, hearkening and obeying His words through the mouth of the Prophet of God.

Hearken, O ye elders of my church whom I have called, behold I give unto you a commandment, that ye shall assemble yourselves together to agree upon my word;

And by the prayer of your faith ye shall receive my law, that ye may know how to govern my church and have all things right before me.

The promise is given here in verse 3 that the law will be given, and five days later, here in the Whitney home, the law of the Church would be given in two parts and would become Section 42 of the Doctrine and Covenants.


So, on that following Wednesday, the Law of the Church was given in the presence of twelve elders, again, all of them newly baptized members of the Church.

Hearken, O ye elders of my church, who have assembled yourselves together in my name, even Jesus Christ the Son of the living God, the Savior of the world; inasmuch as ye believe on my name and keep my commandments.

Again I say unto you, hearken and hear and obey the law which I shall give unto you.

Throughout the Doctrine and Covenants—and all the scriptures for that matter—the Lord is very interested in our hearkening to His words and obeying His commandments.


In fact, the Lord said in the pre-mortal council of heaven:

We will go down, for there is space there, and we will take of these materials, and we will make an earth whereon these may dwell;

25 And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them;

This whole idea of receiving commandments from heaven seems to be a problem for some and for others it is second nature to follow the words and commands of the Lord.


Maurine, sometimes we don’t know why the Lord has commanded certain things in our personal lives. We might think we do, but we don’t always know His mind and will.

I remember when we took our two youngest daughters to the British Isles to live for the summer that many months before we left, I had the distinct impression that I was to do pushups every day, to strengthen my arms as never before. Now, I immediately assumed that this was for me to be a protective father of these young girls and of you, Maurine, and that I would have those arms in the best shape possible for that reason.

I obeyed. I started with 12 pushups three times a day for the first week—I mean, legitimate, real, no-cheating, all the way to the floor pushups. I then increased to three sets of 15 pushups each day for a week. By the time we left for London, I was doing 3 sets of 45 pushups a day. I was prepared to be a protective Dad for these young daughters.


And I remember that first day in London, dragging all our bags from the airport and on the tube into the city and you were just behind the three of us, keeping us safe and bringing up the rear and making us feel safe. You were just a few steps behind us, watching all around us.


That’s right. And then we came to a large round column in the underground right before the long escalators going up, we got separated. You three went to the left and I went to the right and I ended up just a little ahead of you. And then it happened. A man on the long escalator ahead of us lost his balance with his big heavy bags and fell backwards down the escalator so that his back was against those moving stairs. His head was slashed open and his hair caught in between the steps as they were moving up. He was clearly going to be pulled right into the jaws of the escalator at the top. I ran onto the escalator and was able to grab both his large bags and move them out of the way and carefully take him, whose feet were fast reaching the top, by the shoulders, carefully undo his head and lift him up off the moving stairs and probably saved his life. There was blood everywhere and I was able to lift him and the bags and get him safely off the escalator. People gathered all around, and a Bobby came and took charge of the situation and offered first aid to help this poor soul. At that moment, the Spirit whispered to me, “This is why I asked you to do pushups. To save this man.” I was stunned. I truly thought it had been for the girls’ sake, but I was wrong.

The lesson was this: When the Lord gives inspiration whether personal or for the entire Church, we don’t have to ask why He gave it, we just need to be obedient and let the Lord use us as His instruments in His work here on the earth.


I think it’s fascinating, Scot, that one of the first things the Lord talks about in these 93 verses in section 42 is the importance of teaching the gospel by the spirit.  Let’s look at verse 14:

And the Spirit shall be given unto you by the prayer of faith; and if ye receive not the Spirit ye shall not teach.

That’s like a negative covenant promise. If you don’t have the Spirit of the Lord with you, you will not teach.

And, on the other hand, it means, if you have the Spirit you will be able to teach all things. And this is a critical principle in the Kingdom of God, because the Lord in His perfect organization does not hire professional teachers—He teaches this principle: Obtain the Spirit and you will be able to teach.


That’s right. And as we have given firesides in hundreds of stakes around the Church, I have always put this scripture in play. Obviously, we are constantly praying for the Spirit to be our constant companion—to always be with us. But I still always find a quiet place right before a fireside, a talk, a lecture, a conference, whatever we’re doing—even teaching our lectures on our tours—and I ask the Lord for His Spirit to be with us. And I repeat this: I know that if we don’t have the Spirit, we cannot teach and if we do have the Spirit, we will be able to teach all things.

Oh, Maurine, I remember years ago—and I’m sure you remember too, when I was just starting a new semester of teaching adult institute. I had been teaching in one particular location for two or three years and now, that stake moved me to a different building. I’d always had a chapel-full of students and I figured this semester would be no different. That evening there were not a lot of people who came. When the time came to start, I think there were maybe 30 or 40 people there. I said, “Well, let’s sing an opening hymn and we’ll wait just a little longer for all the others to arrive.” I could feel in my heart that I was focused on me and on how many people were coming and I immediately lost the Spirit. That evening was one of the worst nights for teaching in all the years I taught institute. I went home and talked to you, Maurine, and remember how badly I felt? I spent the rest of the evening asking for the Lord’s forgiveness for being so self-centered and being so concerned about numbers that I wasn’t concerned and focused on trying to have the Spirit with me that evening so that I could teach those who did come.


What a great lesson. And how do we obtain the Spirit of the Lord in our lives? Well, there are the basics—and they are NEVER to be taken lightly: Read and study and ponder your scriptures every day. Have your prayers at least morning and night. Attend the Temple, obviously when possible, as often as you can. Attend to your Church duties. Partake of the sacrament weekly. Ask the Lord to send His Spirit. Let virtue garnish your thoughts unceasingly.

I think we can think of all the ways we can offend the Spirit but we sometimes do not joyfully account all the ways we can invite the Spirit to be with us.


I know this to be true: Whenever I do Family History work it invites the Spirit to be with me and I can feel Him more readily. This is service to those who are on the other side of the veil and with service comes the Spirit of the Lord.

Now, as you know, Maurine, I love verse 22 of Section 42:

Thou shalt love thy wife with all thy heart, and shalt cleave unto her and none else.

That’s an easy commandment for me to keep—imagine be commanded to love you with all my heart—and that word cleave is an interesting one, isn’t it? It’s called a contranym.  What is a contranym, Maurine.


The English language includes an interesting category of words and phrases called contranyms — terms that, depending on context, can have opposite or contradictory meanings. When you use these words, you have to be sure the context clearly identifies which meaning is intended.

Cleave is certainly a contranym because it means to strongly adhere to and it means to rend in twain or separate.

Bound is a contranym which means heading to a destination, or it can mean restrained from movement.

Buckle is a contranym which means to connect or it can mean to break or collapse.

Bolt is another contranym which means to fasten or secure or, it means to flee.

One more example is: Refrain which means to desist from doing something or to repeat (as in music).

We have our 75 favorite contranyms that we carry with us and share on our tours and people get the biggest kick out of them.


So, let’s talk about this early commandment in the law of the Church, to cleave unto your wife. First of all, does this apply the other direction? Are wives to cleave unto their husbands?  Let’s see what President Kimball has to say on this matter:

“The Lord says in no uncertain terms: “Thou shalt love thy wife with all thy heart, and shalt cleave unto her and none else.” (D&C 42:22.)

“And, when the Lord says all thy heart, it allows for no sharing nor dividing nor depriving. And, to the woman it is paraphrased: ‘Thou shalt love thy husband with all thy heart and shalt cleave unto him and none else.’

“The words none else eliminate everyone and everything. The spouse then becomes preeminent in the life of the husband or wife, and neither social life nor occupational life nor political life nor any other interest nor person nor thing shall ever take precedence over the companion spouse. We sometimes find women who absorb and hover over the children at the expense of the husband, sometimes even estranging them from him.

“The Lord says to them: ‘Thou shalt cleave unto him and none else.’

“Marriage presupposes total allegiance and total fidelity. Each spouse takes the partner with the understanding that he or she gives totally to the spouse all the heart, strength, loyalty, honor, and affection, with all dignity. Any divergence is sin; any sharing of the heart is transgression. As we should have ‘an eye single to the glory of God,’ so should we have an eye, an ear, a heart single to the marriage and the spouse and family.” (Kimball, Spencer W., Faith Precedes the Miracle, 142-143)


I love what your Proctor Family Crest says at the bottom, Scot: Toujours Fidele which means Always faithful, Always true. It’s the same meaning as the United States Marines’ motto: Semper fi (ever faithful, ever true). That is what the Lord expects of His people and here, in Kirtland, Ohio, within 8 days of Joseph’s arrival, the Lord puts this at the forefront of the Law of the Church. Husbands and wives in His kingdom are to be faithful and true to each other, to cleave to one another and none else.

Now, how does this apply to singles? We understand varying circumstances and that many of us in this Podcast family are single mothers or single dads and we can all be faithful and true to the Lord in all circumstances, at all times and in all places.  Wasn’t it interesting, Scot, that in General Conference the statistic was given by Elder Gong that “the majority of adult Church members are now unmarried, widowed, or divorced. This is a significant change. It includes more than half our Relief Society sisters and more than half our adult priesthood brothers. This demographic pattern has been the case in the worldwide Church since 1992 and in the Church in the United States and Canada since 2019.” (Gong, Gerrit W., Room in the Inn, General Conference, April 2021)

In the law of the Church we are to cleave unto our spouses, or, if single, we are to cleave unto the Lord.


Now, you have to understand that when Joseph arrived in Ohio, there were just over 1,000 people living in the township of Kirtland. Because of the efforts of those first missionaries, just over 1 in 10 of them was baptized. During the Kirtland period, that population number would swell to over 3,000, about 2/3 of whom were Latter-day Saints.

And the group who had been striving to live the true gospel of Jesus Christ before the missionaries came, was referred to as the “Common Stock” or “The Family.” They were trying to live an imperfect form of the law of consecration, based on their limited understanding of the New Testament. They did not understand the Lord’s ways in this matter.  Let me give you an example.

Isaac and Lucy Morley were members of “The Family” and one day, another ‘brother’ who was a part of the Common Stock or the Family said, “Brother Morley, may I see your watch?” He pulled out a fine pocket watch and let the brother hold it. Within a few moments that brother said, “I think I shall take this watch and have it for myself.” And he did! This did not gender the greatest feelings between these brothers and sisters. The Lord would give them a better way.


In addition to the law of fidelity between spouses, the Lord reminded His people to live the commandments, to not kill, steal, lie or lust, and to not speak evil against others. These are some of the most basic laws of a Zion society. This is a frontier society where stealing and lying could be common actions among strangers.

Remember in Ecclesiastes when the Lord said, “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13)

The Lord repeats that commandment in Section 42, verse 29:

“If thou lovest me thou shalt serve me and keep all my commandments.”

The Lord commanded His disciples at the Last Supper with those same words:

If ye love me, keep my commandments. (John 14:15)

This is a one of the clearest commands in the scriptures and He says it over and over again.


Let’s look at verse 61 in Section 42—this is one of our own personal mastery scriptures to memorize:

If thou shalt ask, thou shalt receive revelation upon revelation, knowledge upon knowledge, that thou mayest know the mysteries and peaceable things—that which bringeth joy, that which bringeth life eternal.

This is not just an invitation to the Prophet Joseph, this is an invitation to all. President Russell M. Nelson taught:

“Pray in the name of Jesus Christ about your concerns, your fears, your weaknesses—yes, the very longings of your heart. And then listen! Write the thoughts that come to your mind. Record your feelings and follow through with actions that you are prompted to take. As you repeat this process day after day, month after month, year after year, you will ‘grow into the principle of revelation.’

I know we’ve talked about this before, but I love that the Prophet and the Lord are trusting us to seek answers and to write them down and to follow through with things we are told from the heavens.


President Nelson continues:

“Does God really want to speak to you? Yes! ‘As well might man stretch forth his puny arm to stop the Missouri river in its decreed course … as to hinder the Almighty from pouring down knowledge from heaven upon the heads of the Latter-day Saints.’

“You don’t have to wonder about what is true. You do not have to wonder whom you can safely trust. Through personal revelation, you can receive your own witness that the Book of Mormon is the word of God, that Joseph Smith is a prophet, and that this is the Lord’s Church. Regardless of what others may say or do, no one can ever take away a witness borne to your heart and mind about what is true.

“I urge you to stretch beyond your current spiritual ability to receive personal revelation, for the Lord has promised that “if thou shalt [seek], thou shalt receive revelation upon revelation, knowledge upon knowledge, that thou mayest know the mysteries and peaceable things—that which bringeth joy, that which bringeth life eternal.”

“Oh, there is so much more that your Father in Heaven wants you to know. As Elder Neal A. Maxwell taught, “To those who have eyes to see and ears to hear, it is clear that the Father and the Son are giving away the secrets of the universe!”

“Nothing opens the heavens quite like the combination of increased purity, exact obedience, earnest seeking, daily feasting on the words of Christ in the Book of Mormon, and regular time committed to temple and family history work.” End of quote. (Nelson, Russell M., Revelation for the Church, Revelation for our Lives, General Conference, April 2018)


It’s marvelous that we live in a kingdom where individual revelation is invited and that we have a Prophet, Seer and Revelator who leads the Church and gives us the word of the Lord:

For behold, verily, verily, I say unto you, [in Section 43, verse 2] that ye have received a commandment for a law unto my church, through him whom I have appointed unto you to receive commandments and revelations from my hand.

And this ye shall know assuredly—that there is none other appointed unto you to receive commandments and revelations until he be taken, if he abide in me.

But verily, verily, I say unto you, that none else shall be appointed unto this gift except it be through him; for if it be taken from him he shall not have power except to appoint another in his stead.

And this shall be a law unto you, that ye receive not the teachings of any that shall come before you as revelations or commandments;

And this I give unto you that you may not be deceived, that you may know they are not of me.


What a glorious blessing to have a mouthpiece of the Lord who gives us guidance and direction and revelation in these difficult, confusing and tumultuous times. Joseph Smith was called at a time when the people were just learning that God had called a prophet to speak for Him on the earth in these latter days. And we have had successive prophets since Joseph all the way down to our time who hold and exercise all the keys of the priesthood and who speak the mind and will of the Lord.


That’s all for this week. We’ve loved being with you, as always. Next week our lesson will cover Section 45 of the Doctrine and Covenants and is entitled: “The Promises…Shall Be Fulfilled.” Don’t forget to pre-register for the new Meridian app at that’s You’ll get a free eBook for pre-registering. Thanks to Paul Cardall for the beautiful music and thanks to Michaela Proctor Hutchins for producing this podcast.  Have a wonderful week and see you next time.