The material we talk about today gives us specifics about a dramatic, heart-rending series of events from the 19th century, but is also so relevant for our times, as if the story was written just for us. It simply could not be more to the point.
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The material we talk about today gives us specifics about a dramatic, heart-rending series of events from the 19th century, but is also so relevant for our times, as if the story was written just for us. It simply could not be more to the point.
Hello our dear friends and welcome to Meridian Magazine’s Come Follow Me podcast . We’re Scot and Maurine Proctor and today we are talking about Doctrine and Covenants 102-105 in a lesson called “After Much Tribulation…Cometh the Blessings.” Before we launch in, here’s an invitation. You are invited to join us on the most unique and remarkable river cruise we have ever offered, next Aug. 20, 2022. We sail from Moscow to St. Petersburg and one evening we will have the former Soviet Union president, Mikhail Gorbachev, join us, speak to us, and answer our questions about the new era he ushered in that changed the world. I can’t imagine that such a thing could be arranged.
This 13-day tour will cruise the rivers, explore the charming villages and sites of Russia, but also much more because Russian Latter-day Saints will join us who will share their vibrant testimonies and give us true heart-to-heart and people-to-people experiences. Our time on board the ship will include magnificent Russian entertainment as well as lectures on all things Russia from Pushkin’s fairy tales to dramatic history.
This makes it not only a trip to see the sights of an ancient land of tsars and commissars, but a true cultural immersion like no one else is offering. If you would like to learn more go to heartofrussiacruises.com/Meridian. That’s heartofrussiacruises.com/Meridian or call 801-669-1777. Again, that’s heartofrussiacruises.com/Meridian or call 801-669-1777.
Today, as we study Doctrine and Covenants sections 103-105, you may be surprised how these sections work together to address a major problem facing the Saints, as well as became an important pivotal moment in gospel understanding. Yet, these may be hard to connect together and deeply understand without the back story, which, we just so happen to be giving you today. Section 103 instructs Joseph Smith and the leaders of the Church to organize Zion’s Camp. This, of course, calls for money and resources, and with the loss of the property in Missouri and challenges in Kirtland, the Church is struggling in debt. The Lord gives section 104 to address this problem, and finally Section 105 is given when Zion’s Camp is disbanded at Fishing River.
So let’s take our story back to Missouri. In November 1833, the Saints are driven out of Missouri, forced from the property they had purchased and the land the Lord had consecrated to them.
The mobs rejoiced as they saw the Mormons driven north to Clay County out of their midst.
These were exiles, first huddled along the banks of the Missouri River and later scattered in counties, looking for shelter and work and seeking redress. What should be done about this? In February, 1834, Parley P. Pratt and Lyman Wight arrived in Kirtland with the sad news of the Missouri Saints and a letter from William Phelps saying that the Missouri Governor Dunklin would be willing to help the Saints return to their homes in Jackson County, but he could not maintain a militia to protect them beyond that. The Church would have to raise and arm a force sufficiently big to maintain the safety of the Saints once these displaced returned back home.
Joseph had already been told in Section 101, that the “the strength of mine house” (Doctrine and Covenants 101:55), would be called to go to Zion and redeem the land and aid “the dispossessed Saints in Missouri…This was no vigilante movement. It was Joseph’s clear intention to work within the law and in cooperation with the state of Missouri in returning the Jackson County Saints to their homes,” (H. Dean Garrett, Stephen E. Robinson, Commentary on the Doctrine and Covenants, Vol. 3). The moment had come.
Before Zion’s Camp could leave, however, 8 recruiters, including Joseph, were sent out to find 500 volunteers, as the Lord said was necessary, that these companies could “go up unto the land of Zion by tens, or by twenties, or by fifties, or by an hundred, until they have obtained to the number of five hundred of the strength of my house” (Doctrine and Covenants 103:30). This was not an easy task.
Zion will be reclaimed “by power”, we learn in Doctrine and Covenants 103:15, but the Lord does not specify what power. Joseph is compared to Moses as he is called upon to gather an army of Israel, and as the children of Israel were led out of bondage, “so shall the redemption of Zion be” (v. 18). They will leave not knowing if they will face violence and certainly without the promise that they would all come home. The Lord says, “Let no man be afraid to lay down his life for my sake” (vv. 20, 27).
Heber Kimball said they gathered “with what means they could spare to go up to Zion and render all the assistance that we could to our afflicted brethren. We gathered clothing and other necessaries to carry up to our brethren and sisters who had been plundered; and putting our horses to the wagons and taking our firelocks and ammunition, we started on our journey.”( http://www.boap.org/LDS/Early-Saints/HCKimball.html)
They had hoped for gathering of 500, but they ended up with only a little over 200. They were hardy, and willing, and about to face an Abrahamic test.
Little money was available among them to make this journey, and they all gave it to a general fund. What that really meant was that they could starve together equally, living on poor rations, with aching and sometimes swollen feet in the march from Kirtland to Jackson County.
Wilford recorded: ““He [Joseph] said . . . ‘Brethren, don’t be discouraged about our not having means. The Lord will provide, and He will put it into the heart of somebody to send me some money.’ The very next day he received a letter from Sister Vose, containing one hundred and fifty dollars. When he opened the letter and took out the money, he held it up and exclaimed: ‘See here, did I not tell you the Lord would send me some money to help us on our journey? Here it is.’ I felt satisfied that Joseph was a Prophet of God in very deed.”
Joseph spoke to the group before leaving: “I want to say to you before the Lord, that you know no more concerning the destinies of this Church and kingdom than a babe upon its mother’s lap. You don’t comprehend it. It is only a little handful . . . you see here tonight, but this Church will fill North and South America—it will fill the world. It will fill the Rocky Mountains. There will be tens of thousands of Latter-day Saints who will be gathered in the Rocky Mountains.”
The little group departed on their thousand-mile march to western Missouri, calling themselves “Zion’s Camp.” They armed themselves with weapons, many supplies, and great faith.
The Lord says, “let not your hearts faint, for I say not unto you as I said unto your fathers: Mine angel shall go up before you, but not my presence. But I say unto you: Mine angels shall go before you, and also my presence and in time ye shall possess the goodly land” (vv. 19,20).
Now the question might be legitimately asked, why did the Lord let their enemies prevail against the Saints in Jackson County any way? He answers here that “those who call themselves after my name might be chastened for a little season with sore and grievous chastisement, because they did not hearken altogether unto the precepts and commandments which I gave them.”
The Lord also promised that He would “pour out his wrath without measure in mine own time”(v. 2) on the persecutors, but he has “suffered them thus far, that they might fill up the measure of their iniquities, that their cup might be full” (v. 3). In other words, he allows people their agency to act out their evil intent that it might stand in judgment against them.
This reminds me of the moment in the Book of Mormon where Alma and Amulek are forced to watch the believers, who are their own converts, burn by fire. Alma says, that the Lord allowed it “that the people may do this thing unto them, according to the hardness of their hearts, that the judgments which he shall exercise upon them in his wrath may be just, and the blood of the innocent shall stand as a witness against them” (Alma 14:11).
Twelve hundred homeless Saints were scattered through the counties of Missouri, their dream of a Zion at the center place vanished like smoke on the wind. Elizabeth Haven, who endured many persecutions, recorded in a letter to a friend: “God moves in a mysterious way, his wonders to perform. Many have been sifted out of the Church, while others have been rooted . . . in love and are the salt of the earth. . . . We are to be tried (everyone who inhabits the celestial kingdom) like gold seven times purified.” (in Scot Facer Proctor, Maurine Jensen Proctor, Witness of the Light, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book).
What the Lord must build first, before Zion can come to be, is people.
In verses 5-10, the Lord gives them an if-then proposition. If the people will “hearken from this very hour unto the counsel which I, the Lord their God shall give them,” and hearken “to observe all the words which I, the Lord their God shall speak unto them”, they will “begin to prevail against [their] enemies from this very hour” and “shall never cease to prevail.” If not, that promise does not hold.
So often we want a world with no expectations, where nothing is demanded of us. We believe we are entitled to rewards even if we do nothing or follow the lowest or laziest common denominator of our natures. A God of high expectations might even be offensive to us, opting instead for a world where little is expected of us. That’s not the God we have.
He tells us why here. “Those who want to build and live in Zion were set to be a light unto the world, and to be the saviors of men.”
This is a calling and a privilege. Who can the Lord send to be a light and the saviors of men in this mortal world, if not us. We’re not much, but we are what he’s got.
“And…as they are not the saviors of men, they are as salt that has lost its savor, and is thenceforth good for nothing but to be cast out and trodden under foot of men” (vv. 9-10). His rewards are conditioned upon obedience.
This image of being salt that has lost its savor is interesting. You can trace the history of the world through the need to acquire salt. Roman soldiers were often paid in salt instead of money-thus the word salary comes into our language from salt. Not only does salt improve the flavor of food, but foremost, it is a preservative. It is used to preserve meat, fish and vegetables. When you are called to be the salt of the earth, you are called both to have a positive influence in the life of others, but, more importantly, you are called to preserve a world. That need for preservation is even greater when a world is in decline. It’s a remarkable calling and a powerful one.
How does salt lose its savor? Salt doesn’t lose its savor by becoming old. It does not go stale or mold or rot. Salt loses its savor when it becomes corrupted with something else, another element. If salt is not pure, it loses its savor. That’s quite a metaphor for what the Lord expects. If ye are the salt of the earth, ye are the preservers of the earth, and the Lord will sanctify you, even with hardship, to make you pure. It is his gift to you.
Before Zion’s Camp could leave for Missouri to help the Saints in the spring of 1834, the Prophet Joseph Smith had to solve huge financial challenges for the Church. H.Dean Garrett and Stephen E. Robinson note, “Joseph wrote to Orson Hyde on 7 April, ‘[U]nless we can obtain [financial] help, I myself cannot go to Zion, and if I do not go, it will be impossible to get my brethren in Kirtland, any of them, to go; and if we do not go, it is in vain for our eastern brethren to think of going.’
“Two years earlier, in April 1832, the united order (or united firm) had secured a five-year loan for $15,000, an immense sum at the time, primarily for purchasing goods and property in Missouri. When the Saints were driven out of Jackson County, not only did they suffer staggering financial losses and abject poverty, but the united order also lost its collateral on this loan and its primary means of paying it back. Added to this were other debts incurred by the order on behalf of the Church in Missouri and in Kirtland. The provisioning of Zion’s Camp also would require a great outlay of funds, as did continuing construction on the Kirtland Temple. Further, an apostate named Philastus Hurlbut was trying to acquire property owned by the united order by suing Church leaders, and defending themselves in court was causing escalating legal fees. And, as always, the needs of Kirtland’s poor Saints also had to be met. For all of these reasons, the Church in the spring of 1834 was deeply in debt.” (H. Dean Garrett, Stephen E. Robinson, Commentary on the Doctrine and Covenants, Vol. 3, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book).
Garrett and Robinson continue: “At a conference in Avon, New York, on 17 March 1834, Joseph Smith proposed, besides raising volunteers and contributions for Zion’s Camp, also raising two thousand dollars to pay the debts of the Church in Kirtland. On 7 April 1834, Joseph wrote in Kirtland, ‘Bishop Whitney, Elder Frederick G. Williams, Oliver Cowdery, Heber C. Kimball, and myself, met in the council room, and bowed down before the Lord, and prayed that He would furnish the means to deliver the Firm [the united order] from debt, that they might be set at liberty; also, that I might prevail against that wicked man, Hurlburt, and that he might be put to shame.’ Two days later, Hurlbut lost his lawsuit, was put under bond to keep the peace, and was forced to pay court costs.”
What came two weeks later was Section 104, which contains one of the most emphatic sections in all of scripture on consecration, something the Lord calls “an everlasting order” (v. 1). The scripture has much that is practical. Under the threat of lawsuit from Hurlbut, the brethren had considered dissolving the United Firm or what we generally know as the United Order, but in this section instead the united order in Kirtland and the one in Zion are to operate separately. Stewardships are given. Treasuries are established.
But here is the key, and the first principle of consecration, said with the greatest clarity.
“I, the Lord, stretched out the heavens, and built the earth, my very handiwork; and all things therein are mine” (D&C 104:14). What is His? The air we breathe, the land we stand on, the food we eat, the things we think we own. Our lives, our time, our talents, all are His.
The Lord as the creator of the earth decrees the rules of stewardship and accountability over it. He says, “It is my purpose to provide for my saints, for all things are mine.”
“But it must needs be done in mine own way; and behold this is the way that I, the Lord, have decreed to provide for my saints, that the poor shall be exalted, in that the rich are made low.
“For the earth is full, and there is enough and to spare; yea, I prepared all things, and have given unto the children of men to be agents unto themselves” (vv. 15-17).
If the Saints would not willingly consecrate, Joseph said, “God shall…prevent them from ever obtaining a place of refuge or an inheritance upon the Land of Zion.”
Those who left on Zion’s Camp in May and June 1834, led by Joseph Smith, traveled about 900 miles from Kirtland to Clay County, Missouri. The participants in that group included names we are familiar with: Parley P. Pratt, Orson Hyde, Wilford Woodruff, Heber C. Kimball, and Brigham Young. These were willing to stake their lives and time on the line for the aid of their ailing friends in Missouri.
“As Wilford Woodruff was settling his business affairs and preparing to join Zion’s Camp, his friends and neighbors warned him not to undertake such a hazardous journey. They counseled, ‘Do not go, if you do you will lose your life.” He replied, “If I know that I should have a ball put through my heart the first step I took in the state of Missouri I would go.’”(in David A. Bednar, On the Lord’s Side: Lessons from Zion’s Camp, https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/ensign/2017/07/on-the-lords-side-lessons-from-zions-camp?lang=eng)
“Wilford Woodruff later declared while serving as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles: ‘We gained an experience that we never could have gained in any other way. We had the privilege of … traveling a thousand miles with [the Prophet], and seeing the workings of the Spirit of God with him, and the revelations of Jesus Christ unto him and the fulfilment of those revelations. … Had I not gone up with Zion’s Camp I should not have been here today.’” (See Bednar https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/ensign/2017/07/on-the-lords-side-lessons-from-zions-camp?lang=eng)
“George A. Smith described in his journal the reaction of the Prophet to the daily challenges of the march to Missouri.
“’The Prophet Joseph took a full share of the fatigues of the entire journey. In addition to the care of providing for the Camp and presiding over it, he walked most of the time and had a full proportion of blistered, bloody and sore feet. … But during the entire trip he never uttered a murmur or complaint, while most of the men in the Camp complained to him of sore toes, blistered feet, long drives, scanty supply of provisions, poor quality of bread, bad corn dodger, frouzy butter, strong honey, maggoty bacon and cheese, etc., even a dog could not bark at some men without their murmuring at Joseph. If they had to camp with bad water it would nearly cause rebellion, yet we were the Camp of Zion, and many of us were prayerless, thoughtless, careless, heedless, foolish or devilish, and yet we did not know it. Joseph had to bear with us and tutor us, like children.’”(See Bednar).
“On one occasion, three prairie rattlesnakes were found in the spot where Joseph had pitched his tent. Some of the brethren were about to kill them, but Joseph said: ‘Let them alone—don’t hurt them! How will the serpent ever lose his venom, while the servants of God possess the same disposition, and continue to make war upon it?’ The brethren took the snakes carefully on sticks and carried them across the creek to safety. Joseph felt that “men must become harmless, before the brute creation; and when men lose their vicious dispositions . . . the lion and the lamb can dwell together, and the sucking child can play with the serpent in safety.”
“‘Notwithstanding our enemies were continually breathing threats of violence,’ wrote Joseph, ‘we did not fear, neither did we hesitate to [take] our journey, for God was with us, and His angels went before us, and the faith of our little band was unwavering.’” (See Proctor, Witness).
After walking eight hundred miles in six weeks, Zion’s Camp arrived in Clay County to a threatening environment and disappointing news. Governor Dunklin refused to fulfill his promise to provide a force to assist the Saints to regain their homes in Jackson County. Rumors had spread that about the size and intentions of the camp, and several hundred Missourians had gathered, threatening attack. Five marauders rode wildly through the camp to warn them of their impending doom.
“When the five men entered the camp, not a cloud was to be seen in the whole heavens, but soon a small cloud like a black spot appeared in the northwest and began to unroll itself like a scroll. In a few minutes, the whole heavens were covered with a pall as black as ink. The storm soon broke with wind, rain, thunder, lightning, and hail. Many Saints fled to a nearby Baptist meetinghouse. Wilford Woodruff remembered: ‘As the Prophet Joseph came in shaking the water from his hat and clothing he said, ‘Boys, there is some meaning to this. God is in this storm.’ We sang praises to God, and lay all night on benches under cover while our enemies were in the pelting storm.”
Wilford Woodruff continued, “Very little hail fell in our camp . . . the lightning flashed incessantly. . . . The earth trembled and quaked, the rain fell in torrents, and, united, it seemed as if the mandate of vengeance had gone forth from the God of battles.” The water in nearby Big Fishing River, which had been only ankle deep the night before, had risen to forty feet deep, drowned some of the mob, and sent the others running for shelter and galloping off to their homes. They declared that if that was the way God fought for the Mormons, they might as well go about their business.
“While their enemies attacked them from without, a deadly enemy attacked the army from within. Cholera broke out, ravaging about sixty-eight of the men and women, fourteen of whom died. The brethren rolled the corpses in blankets and buried them on the bank of Brush Creek. Heber C. Kimball remembered, ‘We felt to sit and weep over our brethren, and so great was our sorrow that we could have washed them with our tears, to realize that they had traveled one thousand miles through so much fatigue to lay down their lives for our brethren.’” (See Proctor, Witness).
Joseph and Hyrum related this account to their mother:
“Soon after arriving at the point of destination, the cholera broke out among us, and the brethren were so violently attacked that it seemed impossible to render them any assistance. They immediately sent for us to lay hands on them, but we soon discovered that this also was the judgment of the Almighty, for when we laid our hands upon them in the name of the Lord in order that they might be healed, the disease instantly fastened itself upon us. And in a few minutes we were in awful distress. We made mute signals to each other and left the house for the purpose of going into some secluded place to join in prayer that God would deliver us from this awful influence; but before we could get a sufficient distance to be secure from interruption, we were scarcely able to stand upon our feet and we were greatly alarmed, fearing that we should die in this western wilderness so far from our families, without even the privilege of blessing our children or giving them one word of parting counsel. Hyrum cried out, ‘Joseph, what shall we do? Must we be cut off from the face of the earth by this horrid curse?’
“‘Let us,’ said Joseph, ‘get down upon our knees and pray to God to remove the cramp and other distress and restore us to health, that we may return to our families.’ We did so but without receiving any benefit, but still grew worse. We concluded, however, to make a second effort, and when we kneeled again, the cramp seized the calves of Joseph’s legs, gathering the cords into bunches, and then the operation extended in like manner all over his system. He cried heartily unto God, but the heavens seemed sealed against us and every power that could render us any assistance shut within its gates. The universe was still. ‘When we arose again,’ said Joseph, ‘I found Hyrum was in the same situation with myself.’
“We soon came to the resolution of appealing again to God for mercy, and not to rise from our knees until one or the other got a testimony that we should be healed, and he who received the first intimation from the Spirit should inform the other of the same. We prayed some time, first one and then the other, and soon perceived that the cramp began to loose its hold. In a short time Hyrum sprang to his feet and exclaimed, ‘Joseph, we shall return, for I have seen an open vision in which I saw Mother on her knees under an apple tree praying for us, and she is even now asking God, in tears, to spare our lives, that she may behold us again in the flesh. The Spirit testifies to me that her prayers and ours shall be heard’-and from that moment we were healed and went on our way rejoicing.” (Lucy Mack Smith, and Scot Facer Proctor, Maurine Jensen Proctor, editors. The Revised and Enhanced History of Joseph Smith by His Mother, Salt Lake City, Deseret Book.)
On June 21, the Saints met with county and militia officials hoping to resolve the issue. Joseph assured them that they were anxious for a settlement to the difficulties upon constitutional principles. These meetings went nowhere, and, finally, Joseph, seeing his little band of Zion’s Camp was badly outnumbered, appealed to the Lord and received Section 105 on June 22, 1834. Here he was assured, “For behold, I do not require at their hands to fight the battles of Zion: for, as I said in a former commandment, even so will I fulfil—I will fight your battles” (v. 14). The Lord said, “I have heard their prayers, and will accept their offering.”
The building of Zion must be postponed “for a little season” (v. 9) “that my people may be taught more perfectly, and have experience, and know more perfectly concerning their duty, and the things which I require at their hands.”
We asked earlier, what kind of power would it take to redeem Zion? Now the Lord gives the answer, “This cannot be brought to pass until mine elders are endowed with power from on high” (v. 11) It is not military power, nor any kind of power that man can scramble together. Instead, “I have prepared a great endowment and blessing to be poured out upon them, inasmuch as they are faithful and continue in humility before me” (v. 12). It is the Lord’s power, and the Lord postpones the building of Zion, until the people are ready to receive it. Zion’s Camp is to be disbanded.
Steven Harper notes, “The revelation which is both pacifistic and militant, marks a turning point in Church history. It is a document of détente. It calls for a proclamation of peace now even as it foreshadows a future role for the army of Israel. It postpones Zion in Jackson County for an ambiguous ‘little season’ (v. 9). It commands Saints in the meantime to receive the anticipated endowment of power to help them gain experience, to learn their duty and doctrine better, and to increase in number and holiness. They are to continue to purchase western Missouri lands but to avoid gathering in numbers perceived as threatening by non-Mormon settlers.
“Doctrine and Covenants 105 gives Joseph and his army orders to retreat. They are instructed to seek redress lawfully. But the war is far from over. These tactics will buy time ‘until the army of Israel becomes very great’ (v. 26) while more land in Jackson and adjoining counties can be legally purchased. Once it is, the revelation says, ‘I will hold the armies of Israel guiltless in taking possession of their own lands, which they have previously purchased with their moneys, and of throwing down the towers of mine enemies that may be upon them’ (v. 30). First, however, ‘let my army become very great, and let it be sanctified before me, that it may become fair as the sun, and clear as the moon, and that her banners may be terrible unto all nations; that the kingdoms of this world may be constrained to acknowledge that the kingdom of Zion is in very deed the kingdom of our God and his Christ; therefore, let us become subject unto her laws’ (vv. 31–32).”
Meanwhile, Latter-day Saints are to “sue for peace, not only to the people that have smitten you, but also to all people; and lift up an ensign of peace, and make a proclamation of peace unto the ends of the earth” (vv. 38–39)…
“The brethren were to return to the house of the Lord in Kirtland, to be endowed with power on conditions of humility and faithfulness (v. 12), and then spread out over the globe to gather Israel. Then, when the army became very great both numerically and in”
“obedience to the law of consecration, they would regain Zion.”
“Back in Kirtland [Joseph] urged the Saints to finish the house of the Lord, and he began holding sanctifying training meetings to prepare the brethren for the solemn assembly.” (Steven C. Harper, Making Sense of the Doctrine and Covenants, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book).
Some who had come on Zion’s Camp were disgruntled when it was disbanded and questioned the prophet, but the Lord revealed this to Joseph in Section 105. “It is expedient in me that they should be brought thus far for a trial of their faith” (v. 19).
Elder David A. Bednar said, “Because of the failure to reestablish the Saints on their lands in Jackson County, Zion’s Camp was considered by some an unsuccessful and unprofitable endeavor. A brother in Kirtland—one who lacked the faith to volunteer to go with the camp—met Brigham Young on his return from Missouri and asked, “‘Well, what did you gain on this useless journey to Missouri with Joseph Smith?’ ‘All we went for,’ promptly replied Brigham Young. ‘I would not exchange the experience I gained in that expedition for all the wealth of Geauga County,’” the county in which Kirtland was then located.”
Elder Bednar continued, “In a most literal way, the physical and spiritual challenges of Zion’s Camp constituted a sifting of the wheat from the tares (see Matthew 13:25, 29–30; D&C 101:65), a dividing of the sheep from the goats (see Matthew 25:32–33), a separating of the spiritually strong from the weak. Thus, each man and woman who enlisted in the army of the Lord faced and answered the penetrating question of ‘Who’s on the Lord’s side?’”
“Indeed, ‘the time to show’ for those faithful men and women was the summer of 1834. But the decision to march with the Prophet Joseph to Missouri was not necessarily a one-time, all-inclusive, or immediate response to the question of ‘Who’s on the Lord’s side?’ The time to show for those Saints arose frequently and repeatedly through mental and physical fatigue, through bloody blisters on their feet, through inadequate food and unclean water, through a multitude of disappointments, through dissensions and rebellions within the camp, and through external threats from vicious enemies.”
Elder Bednar said, “The time to show came in the experiences and privations of every hour, of every day, and of every week. It was the grand combination of the many seemingly small choices and actions in the lives of these devoted Saints that provided the conclusive answer to the question ‘Who’s on the Lord’s side?’
“How did the testing and sifting that occurred in the lives of the Zion’s Camp participants serve as a preparation? Interestingly, eight of the brethren called into the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in 1835, as well as all of the Seventies called at that same time, were veterans of Zion’s Camp. At a meeting following the call of the Seventies, the Prophet Joseph Smith declared:
“’Brethren, some of you are angry with me, because you did not fight in Missouri; but let me tell you, God did not want you to fight. He could not organize his kingdom with twelve men to open the gospel door to the nations of the earth, and with seventy men under their direction to follow in their tracks, unless he took them from a body of men who had offered their lives, and who had made as great a sacrifice as did Abraham.’
“Now, the Lord has got his Twelve and his Seventy, and there will be other quorums of Seventies called.”(David A. Bednar, On the Lord’s Side: Lessons from Zion/s Camp, https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/ensign/2017/07/on-the-lords-side-lessons-from-zions-camp?lang=eng).
The call to join Zion’s Camp was an opportunity for testing, sifting and proving your spiritual mettle. We mentioned at the beginning of this podcast that these sections were particularly relevant for our time—and they are. Surely when the call came from the prophet to join Zion’s Camp, a great number would not make that sacrifice. Surely, when the group was disbanded, after much sacrifice, without achieving an apparent purpose, many felt justified in criticizing the prophet.
I am surprised at how many not only resist our prophet’s counsel, today,but are angered by it. They don’t want to hear things they don’t want to hear. I love what Elder Bednar continued to say as he reflected on Zion’s Camp.
He said, “As a result of my call in 2004 to serve in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, I have a decidedly distinctive perspective about what it means to observe, to learn from, and to follow the Brethren. I now see on a daily basis the individual personalities, the various preferences, and the noble characters of the leaders of this Church. Some people find the human limitations and shortcomings of the Brethren troubling and faith diminishing. For me, those weaknesses are faith promoting. The Lord’s revealed pattern of governance in His Church provides for and attenuates the impact of human frailty. It is truly miraculous to me to witness the Lord accomplishing His will through His servants despite the flaws and failings of His chosen leaders. These men never have claimed to be and are not perfect; they certainly are, however, called of God.
Elder Bednar said, “Since my call as a General Authority, I have tried to observe and learn as some of my Brethren have faced the effects of aging or the relentless demands of physical limitations and constant pain. You cannot and will never know the private and silent suffering some of these men live through as they serve publicly with all of their heart, might, mind, and strength. Serving with and watching President Gordon B. Hinckley (1910–2008), President James E. Faust (1920–2007), Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin (1917–2008), President Boyd K. Packer (1924–2015), Elder L. Tom Perry (1922–2015), Elder Richard G. Scott (1928–2015), and my other apostolic associates empower me to declare clearly and authoritatively that the Brethren with whom I serve are warriors—noble and great spiritual warriors—in the truest and most admirable sense of that word! Their patience, persistence, and courage enable them to “press forward with a steadfastness in Christ” (2 Nephi 31:20) that is worthy of our emulation.” (Bednar, Lessons).
That’s all for today. Next week we’ll discuss Doctrine and Covenants Sections 106-108 in a lesson called “To Have the Heavens Opened”. Thanks to Paul Cardall for our music and to Michaela Proctor Hutchins who produces this podcast. See you next week.