The Lord is trying to create a Zion society, His covenant people—those who will follow him at all hazards, at all costs. These are those who will “Let God Prevail” in their lives. Those who would be a Zion people are those who hold fast to the word of God and these are “they that are wise and have received the truth, and have taken the Holy Spirit for their guide.”
Sometimes we project our modern-day experiences on those early days in the Church and we can’t figure out why somebody did something the way they did it, or why didn’t so-and-so talk to the Prophet Joseph about this or that. We really cannot do this. In our studies this week we will be talking about some of those early elders who had traveled a thousand miles to get to Western Missouri, had fulfilled a small mission, held a special conference, had dedicated the land of Zion and a temple site in Independence, Missouri, had buried the first person to die in Zion and now, they were turning around and making their way back the thousand miles to Kirtland. You can learn a lot in 2,000 miles of walking and traversing in a wilderness land, which we will see over and over again in the early history of the Church.
Welcome to Meridian Magazine’s Come Follow Me podcast. We are Scot and Maurine Proctor and we are delighted to be with you, our many dear friends and family throughout the world. This week’s lesson will cover Doctrine and Covenants, Sections 60 through 62 with a lesson entitled “All Flesh is in Mine Hand.”
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We certainly do love you.
Now, remember the setting for this week’s lesson. Joseph Smith and Sydney Rigdon and many others have made their first trek to Missouri and they have now finished up their conference and various other duties in this extreme western portion of the United States. It has been revealed to the Prophet Joseph that this is the land to be consecrated for the Latter-day Saints and they will refer to it as Zion.
You have to understand that from this point on in the early history of the Church, there will be two leadership centers of the kingdom of God for a number of years: Kirtland, Ohio and Zion in Western Missouri. Many times, throughout the Doctrine and Covenants, when Zion is referenced, it is specifically referring to this land in Western Missouri—not just the future City of the New Jerusalem or the Pure in Heart—a Zion People—although from the beginning of the dispensation of the fulness of times, this is what the Lord is trying to create.
That’s right: The Lord is trying to create a Zion society, His covenant people—those who will follow him at all hazards, at all costs. These are those who will “Let God Prevail” in their lives. These are Latter-day Covenant Israel. These are those who understand that “in coming days, it will not be possible to survive spiritually without the guiding, directing, comforting, and constant influence of the Holy Ghost.” (See Nelson, Russell M. Revelation for the Church, Revelation for Our Lives, General Conference, April 2018). Those who would be a Zion people are those who hold fast to the word of God (see 1 Nephi 15:24) and these are “they that are wise and have received the truth, and have taken the Holy Spirit for their guide, and have not been deceived.” (see D&C 45:57) These are those who will be valiant in the testimony of Jesus (See D&C 76: 51, 79).
And in fact, the Lord makes it clear in Section 60 about His servants sharing their witness of Him and spreading the glad tidings of great joy:
2 But with some I am not well pleased, for they will not open their mouths, but they hide the talent which I have given unto them, because of the fear of man. Wo unto such, for mine anger is kindled against them.
And that talent that the Lord is referring to here can be as simple as the testimony of Jesus or a testimony of this latter-day work. The Lord wants us to share our witness of Him. And notice that the reason the Lord gives that some do not open their mouths is because of “the fear of man.” What is it that will really happen when we share our feelings and our testimony? What is it that man can do? We are safe, our dear friends, and the Lord has promised He will fill our mouths with what to say (Doctrine and Covenants 100: 5,6).
5 Therefore, verily I say unto you, lift up your voices unto this people; speak the thoughts that I shall put into your hearts, and you shall not be confounded before men;
6 For it shall be given you in the very hour, yea, in the very moment, what ye shall say.
That’s quite a promise and both Scot and I have experienced the fulfillment of this promise numerous times in our lives. The Lord is good to His word. You can trust Him.
Then Elder M. Russell Ballard taught:
“God has spoken through His prophet and announced to the world that “the Standard of Truth has been erected” and that “no unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing.” That is undeniably and indisputably true. We have seen it for ourselves, in decade after decade, from the time of the Prophet Joseph Smith to [today]. Persecutions have raged. Calumny and lies and misrepresentation have attempted to defame. But in every decade from the time of the Restoration forward, the truth of God has gone “forth boldly, nobly, and independent.” … we are well on our way to penetrating every continent, visiting every clime, sweeping every country, and sounding in every ear.
“This is God’s work, and God’s work will not be frustrated. But there is still much to be done before the Great Jehovah can announce that the work is done. While we praise and honor those faithful Saints who have brought us to this point of public prominence, we cannot afford, my brothers and sisters, to be comfortable or content.”
Elder Ballard continued:
“We are all needed to finish the work that was begun by those pioneering Saints…and carried out through the subsequent decades by faithful Saints of every generation. We need to believe as they believed. We need to work as they worked. We need to serve as they served. And we need to overcome as they overcame.
“Of course, our challenges are different today,” he continues, “but they are no less demanding. Instead of angry mobs, we face those who constantly try to defame. Instead of extreme exposure and hardship, we face alcohol and drug abuse, pornography, all kinds of filth, sleaze, greed, dishonesty, and spiritual apathy. Instead of families being uprooted and torn from their homes, we see the institution of the family, including the divine institution of marriage, under attack as groups and individuals seek to define away the prominent and divine role of the family in society.”
Elder Ballard concluded:
“This is not to suggest that our challenges today are more severe than the challenges faced by those who have gone before us. They are just different. The Lord isn’t asking us to load up a handcart; He’s asking us to fortify our faith. He isn’t asking us to walk across a continent; He’s asking us to walk across the street to visit our neighbor. He isn’t asking us to give all of our worldly possessions to build a temple; He’s asking us to give of our means and our time despite the pressures of modern living to continue to build temples and then to attend regularly the temples already built. He isn’t asking us to die a martyr’s death; He’s asking us to live a disciple’s life.” (Ballard, M. Russell, The Truth of God Shall Go Forth, General Conference, October 2008)
So, back to those elders in the early days who would not open their mouths because of fear. Let’s go forward to Section 62 and see the great blessings that come from opening our mouths.
“…ye are blessed, for the testimony which ye have borne is recorded in heaven for the angels to look upon; and they rejoice over you, and your sins are forgiven you.” (D&C 62:3)
That is a powerful promise. Your testimony is recorded in heaven for the angels to look upon? And they, the angels, rejoice over you! Who are those angels? Are they your ancestors? Are they the ancestors of those who have received your testimony and embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ?
President Spencer W. Kimball talked about the importance of recording your thoughts and feelings and testimony in your own personal journals:
“On a number of occasions I have encouraged the Saints to keep personal journals and family records. I renew that admonition. We may think there is little of interest or importance in what we personally say or do—but it is remarkable how many of our families, as we pass on down the line, are interested in all that we do and all that we say.”
And I can attest to this next part of President Kimball’s teachings on this:
“Any Latter-day Saint family that has searched genealogical and historical records has fervently wished its ancestors had kept better and more complete records. On the other hand, some families possess some spiritual treasures because ancestors have recorded the events surrounding their conversion to the gospel and other happenings of interest, including many miraculous blessings and spiritual experiences…
“We hope you will begin as of this date. If you have not already commenced this important duty in your lives, get a good notebook, a good book that will last through time and into eternity for the angels to look upon. Begin today and write in it your goings and your comings, your deeper thoughts, your achievements, and your failures, your associations and your triumphs, your impressions and your testimonies. We hope you will do this, our brothers and sisters, for this is what the Lord has commanded, and those who keep a personal journal are more likely to keep the Lord in remembrance in their daily lives.” (Kimball, Spencer W., President Kimball Speaks Out on Personal Journals, Ensign, December 1980, emphasis added)
So, we can bear our testimonies to our families regularly. Many of us have large families who have grown generationally. Our immediate family now numbers almost 47—Mariah, whom most of you know, is just days away from having her second son. We have opportunities to bear testimony to this growing crowd.
Scot and I do an annual Cousins’ Camp for all the grandchildren who are six years old and over. This is fairly simply. We just gather all these little ones and take them to the mountains or even in our backyard and we go from 4:00 in the afternoon until about Noon the next day. We have themes and one year the theme was faith and miracle stories from our own family line. It’s amazing when you have these little children around a campfire, away from their parents, up in the mountains or in a forest campground, and you are talking to them as grandparents—trust me: You have their attention. These children listen! And it is then that we not only tell wonderful family stories, but we bear powerful testimonies of what we know to be true.
And there is something about having that crackling fire and looking up at the stars and hearing the gentle breeze rush through the pine trees that is a perfect setting to bear testimony of Jesus Christ and of the power of the priesthood and of the efficacy of faith in Jesus Christ and of your absolute knowledge that Heavenly Father is there and that He is aware of each of these little ones by name (I say little ones, but some of them are taller than me now). I look at that firelight reflecting off the eyes of these ones I love and I can testify to you that they hear us. You can see the Spirit working on their hearts. There is something sacred about these moments at Cousins’ Camp.
Elder Hyrum M. Smith, grandson of Hyrum Smith the Patriarch wrote:
“In this Revelation [Section 62] we are told that angels are scrutinizing the records kept of the testimonies of the Elders [and I’m sure the Sisters] and that they rejoice over the witnesses. It appears from this that the ministry on earth has its effects beyond the veil as well as on this side. An Elder [or Sister] who bears his [or her] testimony to the truth does not know how far-reaching the result may be, though his [or her] visible audience may consist of but few.” (Smith, Hyrum M. and Sjodahl, Janne M., The Doctrine and Covenants Commentary, Revised Edition, Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, 1978, p. 371)
And what about that last promise in section 62, verse 3:
“and your sins are forgiven you.” ?
I’ve wondered about that too. In fact, I used to try to bear my testimony as often as possible in Germany because I was counting on this added blessing of a forgiveness of my sins!
And I’ve made it a habit of recording my testimony of the Book of Mormon each and every time I finish reading it. So, I have dozens of little hand-written testimonies of that great book that I will place in my personal history.
Drs. Stephen Robinson and Dean Garrett, professors at Brigham Young University, have written about this:
“Even though we are not yet perfect, our honest but imperfect attempts to live the gospel and teach it to others are acceptable to God. Our ultimate innocence, worthiness, and perfection are in the end his work rather than ours and constitute the highest blessings of his atonement (see D&C 76: 69). Through Christ, the official tapes of our lives may be edited, so to speak, and every sin and unworthiness removed. And if through Christ all our mistakes are removed from the records, then we are left with perfect records!” (Robinson, Stephen E. and Garrett, H. Dean, A Commentary on the Doctrine and Covenants, Volume 2, Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, 2001, p. 185)
The very thought makes reason stare.
Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf gives us five simple suggestions on how we can open our mouths in this great work of the Lord:
“First, draw close to God. The first great commandment is to love God. It is a primary reason why we are on this earth. Ask yourself, “Do I really believe in Heavenly Father?”
“Do I love and trust Him?”
The closer you draw to our Heavenly Father, the more His light and joy will shine from within you. Others will notice that there is something unique and special about you. And they will ask about it.
“Second, fill your heart with love for others. This is the second great commandment. Try to truly see everyone around you as a child of God. Minister to them—regardless of whether their names appear on your ministering sister or brother list.
“Laugh with them. Rejoice with them. Weep with them. Respect them. Heal, lift, and strengthen them.
“Strive to emulate the love of Christ and have compassion for others—even to those who are unkind to you, who mock you and wish to cause you harm. Love them and treat them as fellow children of Heavenly Father.
“Third, strive to walk the path of discipleship. As your love for God and His children deepens, so does your commitment to follow Jesus Christ.
You learn about His way by feasting upon His word and heeding and applying the teachings of modern prophets and apostles. You grow in confidence and courage to follow His way as you communicate with Heavenly Father with a teachable, humble heart.
“Walking the path of discipleship takes practice—each day, little by little, “grace for grace,” “line upon line.” Sometimes two steps forward and one step back.
“The important thing is that you don’t give up; keep trying to get it right. You will eventually become better, happier, and more authentic. Talking with others about your faith will become normal and natural. In fact, the gospel will be such an essential, precious part of your lives that it would feel unnatural not to talk about it with others. That may not happen immediately—it is a lifelong effort. But it will happen.
“Fourth, share what is in your heart. I am not asking that you stand on a street corner with a megaphone and shout out Book of Mormon verses. What I am asking is that you always look for opportunities to bring up your faith in natural and normal ways with people—both in person as well as online. I am asking that you “stand as witnesses” of the power of the gospel at all times—and when necessary, use words.
“Because “the gospel of Christ … is the power of God unto salvation,” you can be confident, courageous, and humble as you share it. Confidence, courage, and humility may seem like contradictory attributes, but they are not. They reflect the Savior’s invitation not to hide gospel values and principles under a bushel but to let your light shine, that your good works may glorify your Father in Heaven…
“Pray not only for the missionaries to find the elect. Pray daily with all your heart that you will find those who will come and see, come and help, and come and stay. Keep the full-time missionaries in the loop. They are like angels, ready to help!
“Fifth, trust the Lord to work His miracles. Understand that it’s not your job to convert people. That is the role of the Holy Ghost. Your role is to share what is in your heart and live consistent with your beliefs.
“So, don’t be discouraged if someone does not accept the gospel message immediately. It is not a personal failure.
“That is between the individual and Heavenly Father.
“Yours is to love God and love your neighbors, His children.
“Believe, love, do.
“Follow this path, and God will work miracles through you to bless His precious children.” End of Quote. (Uchtdorf, Dieter F., Missionary Work: Sharing What Is in Your Heart, General Conference, April 2019).
Remember, these elders in the early days of the Church were young and inexperienced. They were just learning about the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. They were just barely familiar with the newly published Book of Mormon. And they naturally had some fears opening their mouths. We certainly know what that is like, but we have so many more resources and so much more knowledge and understanding of this great work. I think Elder Uchtdorf’s counsel is so good for each of us to ponder and then to put in practice.
Now, as the Prophet Joseph and Sidney Rigdon and Oliver Cowdery and about 8 others were returning from Independence, they took canoes down the Missouri River. You have to understand, the Missouri River crosscuts the state of Missouri and it is flowing from west to east. So, if they were to float downstream from Independence, they will eventually end up at the confluence of the Mississippi River, which is just north of where St. Louis was established. It was natural for them to try to take the fastest way to head back east. Roads in those days, in this wilderness, were few and far between and they were very poor indeed. A fast-flowing river seemed to be the natural highway to the east.
You have to know, the Missouri River is really a big river. It is the longest river in North America at 2,341 miles, and flows at a rate of 86,340 cubic feet per second. That is a lot of water! Do you remember, Scot, that one time when we were photographing the Missouri River near Council Bluffs and Winter Quarters and we were standing right on the shore, trying to set up the perfect shot? That water is muddy and fast-flowing and as we were getting ready to press the shutter, we heard the little quack, quack, quack sounds of tiny newborn mallard ducklings. We looked down and there were five or six of them that had gotten separated from their parents and the current was just sweeping them down the river. We almost wanted to jump in to save them but we knew that would endanger our own lives.
Back to these elders on this very river: On the third day of their float trip down river, they experienced some very frightening experiences. Some of the canoes capsized and a few of the brethren nearly drowned. The Prophet Joseph recorded:
“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, Vol 1: 202-203.)
This experience caused Joseph to pray about these things and he received a revelation that next morning which we now have as Section 61.
“3 But verily I say unto you, that it is not needful for this whole company of mine elders to be moving swiftly upon the waters, whilst the inhabitants on either side are perishing in unbelief…
“14 Behold, I, the Lord, in the beginning blessed the waters; but in the last days, by the mouth of my servant John, I cursed the waters…
“16 And it shall be said in days to come that none is able to go up to the land of Zion upon the waters, but he that is upright in heart.”
I believe this is where the doctrine comes from that gives us the rule that full-time missionaries are not allowed to swim during their missions.
And you can imagine how William Phelps would have been shaken up as he beheld this vision of Satan riding upon the very waters where he had just been on a canoe! It would have been utterly terrifying. But here is the Prophet Joseph who had faced Satan 11 years earlier in the Sacred Grove and who had overcome him by faith in Jesus Christ and faith in his Heavenly Father.
“Nevertheless, all flesh is in mine hand, and he that is faithful among you shall not perish by the waters.” (D&C 61:6)
Our responsibility and calling is to be faithful and true to the Lord and He will bless us given whatever circumstances we find ourselves in and whatever dangers we face.
We have a very sacred experience that goes right along with this from my family. In October 1910, my grandfather, William Henry Facer, was called to serve in the Central States Mission—which, at that time included Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Texas and Louisiana! He spent most of his time in Texas and, in fact, for those of you listening from Houston, he opened that city to the gospel, with his companion and four others, in 1912!
In those days the missionaries were allowed to swim and on one particularly delicious preparation day, William Henry Facer and ten other elders went to the beach on the Gulf of Mexico for a few hours of relaxation, swimming and sun. I have a picture of all eleven of them that is one of the classics in our family collection. I carry it in my phone. My grandfather was a good swimmer but he especially enjoyed relaxing and swimming on his back. He was just doing what he thought were a few strokes on his back and after a time he decided to see if the water was still shallow below him. He stood up to touch the bottom and he couldn’t find it. He looked to see where the other elders were and they were about the size of ants on the distant shore. The currents had taken him far out into the Gulf and he could feel it still pulling him far away from shore.
Panic began to take ahold of him, but he turned and started swimming towards shore. He worked and worked and swam and worked and he looked up and he hadn’t made any progress. He could feel himself getting very tired and fatigued and it frightened him. At this point he heard a voice, and it was NOT the voice from the heavens: “You’re not going to make it. You’re going to drown.” And there was a sense of victory in that voice.
He immediately began to pray to Heavenly Father and he made a sacred personal covenant with Him: “Dear Heavenly Father, I am far out here in the Gulf of Mexico and I am losing my strength. If you will strengthen me, and help me get back safely to shore, I covenant with you that I will carefully raise my children in the gospel and send each one of them on missions. Please help me. Please. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.”
At this point, the other voice was still trying to talk to him, but he felt a surge of strength come into his body and he started swimming with all his might and with renewed courage to make it safely to shore. He did make it back.
He married my grandmother, Martha Amanda Holbook, April 14, 1914. Together they had 8 children, two of whom died in childhood. He sent his four sons, Bill, Keith, Reed and Norman on missions and his two daughters, Martha and Donna as well. As the youngest, Norman, received his father’s blessing, from my grandfather, someone asked Grandpa, “Dad, why have you been so diligent in sending us all on missions? Norman is the last, and we will all have served. Why this insistence and faithfulness?” With the family gathered around, this was the first time he told the family about the experience in the Gulf of Mexico and the covenant he had made. I’m so grateful my Grandfather was true to that covenant.
I’ve always loved that story and I’m so eternally grateful that your Grandfather was saved on that occasion so that I could have you! And the promises of the Lord are sure.
There are two verses in Section 62 that I don’t want us to miss. One is verse 1 and one is verse 6:
1 Behold, and hearken, O ye elders of my church, saith the Lord your God, even Jesus Christ, your advocate, who knoweth the weakness of man and how to succor them who are tempted.
Now that really helps me to draw closer to Jesus Christ, to absolutely know that HE knows the weakness of us mortals and He knows how to succor us as we are tempted. When Joseph Smith taught in the Lectures on Faith that “three things are necessary in order that any rational and intelligent being may exercise faith in God unto life and salvation…
The second thing is that we have to have “a correct idea of his character, perfections, and attributes.” (Lectures on Faith 3: 2-5).
As I study the scriptures I am always looking to understand the attributes of God so that I can exercise better more effective faith in Him. And this verse, section 61:1, really tells me a lot about Him. He doesn’t condemn or disdain me when I am tempted, but instead succors and strengthens me.
And verse 6 is really a wonderful one to understand an amazing attribute of God. Listen carefully:
6 Behold, I, the Lord, have brought you together that the promise might be fulfilled, that the faithful among you should be preserved and rejoice together in the land of Missouri. I, the Lord, promise the faithful and cannot lie. (D&C 61:6)
The Lord Jesus Christ and Heavenly Father and the Holy Ghost cannot lie. It’s not just that they will not lie, they CANNOT lie. I really put my trust in that attribute and have exercised that trust numerous times. It’s the same thing that the Prophet Enos heard from the Lord when he had prayed all day and into the night. Remember?
5 And there came a voice unto me, saying: Enos, thy sins are forgiven thee, and thou shalt be blessed.
6 And I, Enos, knew that God could not lie; wherefore, my guilt was swept away. (Enos 1: 5-6)
If you, our dear and precious listener, absolutely know that God cannot lie, then you can exercise great faith in Him. I repeat: If you absolutely know that God cannot lie, then you can exercise great faith in Him.
And, Scot, I love this last verse we will mention today from section 61, verse 36:
36 And now, verily I say unto you, and what I say unto one I say unto all, be of good cheer, little children; for I am in your midst, and I have not forsaken you;
Now, remember, God cannot lie. He cannot lie. And He tells us here that He is in our midst—one of His names is Immanuel—God with us—and He has not, He will not, He cannot forsake us. Whatever your trials, whatever you are facing, whatever struggles are upon you—and these are difficult times—He is with us. This I know. This I am sure of. This I believe in.
That’s all for today. We’ve loved being with you and just studying with you. After all your hundreds of letters this past couple of weeks, well, we feel closer to you and we are grateful for you. Will you share the podcast with someone this next week? Just tell them to go to latterdaysaintmag.com/podcast that’s latterdaysaintmag.com/podcast
Next week we will be studying Doctrine and Covenants Section 63 with the lesson entitled: “That Which Cometh from Above Is Sacred”
Thanks to our good friend Paul Cardall for the music that accompanies this podcast and, as ever, to Michaela Proctor Hutchins who produces this show. Blessings to you, each one, and see you next time.