I’ve been intending for several weeks now to put something together on D&C section 78. Both before and after this section, the Lord begins revealing His perfect social order, but it seems that in this section He reveals its purpose more clearly than elsewhere. The intent of this post was initially to pose some questions that would stimulate discussion on the significance of the contents of this revelation for the church and the humble followers of Christ today. After all, we have been released from living the United Order, right? We have……right?
However, as I began writing, I discovered that I had far fewer questions and far more personal insights and understanding. The importance of this section for all saints became much clearer. I still invite discussion and other insights, while I stand amazed at the gentleness and perfection with which the Lord teaches His truth.
The chapter heading for this section reads thus:
1–4, The Saints should organize and establish a storehouse; 5–12, Wise use of their properties will lead to salvation; 13–14, The Church should be independent of earthly powers; 15–16, Michael (Adam) serves under the direction of the Holy One (Christ); 17–22, Blessed are the faithful, for they will inherit all things.
Having read and pondered this section many times recently, I’m struck that this heading fails to capture the connection between the highlighted points. For me, it fails to fully connect the dots. The section itself begins innocuously enough, if the voice of the Lord can ever be innocuous.
1 The Lord spake unto Joseph Smith, Jun., saying: Hearken unto me, saith the Lord your God, who are ordained unto the high priesthood of my church, who have assembled yourselves together;
2 And listen to the counsel of him who has ordained you from on high, who shall speak in your ears the words of wisdom, that salvation may be unto you in that thing which you have presented before me, saith the Lord God.
What is “that thing which you have presented before me”? Given the answer subsequently provided, perhaps the prophet had asked how to care for the poor. If so, the Lord seems to be suggesting that “salvation” may come unto him (and the church?) through doing so – through caring for the poor. That would make sense given the next two verses.
3 For verily I say unto you, the time has come, and is now at hand; and behold, and lo, it must needs be that there be an organization of my people, in regulating and establishing the affairs of the storehouse for the poor of my people, both in this place and in the land of Zion—
4 For a permanent and everlasting establishment and order unto my church, to advance the cause, which ye have espoused, to the salvation of man, and to the glory of your Father who is in heaven;
Initially, the Lord is simply saying that the high priesthood of His church needs to maintain a storehouse for the poor. This should resolve the issue, right? However, He then says this is to be a “permanent and everlasting establishment and order” – to advance the cause “which ye have espoused”. Again – what cause is this? The inference that it is “caring for the poor” still seems valid. Then the Lord introduces what I perceive to be a truly celestial principle, which he applies to our earthly existence:
5 That you may be equal in the bonds of heavenly things, yea, and earthly things also, for the obtaining of heavenly things.
6 For if ye are not equal in earthly things ye cannot be equal in obtaining heavenly things;
7 For if you will that I give unto you a place in the celestial world, you must prepare yourselves by doing the things which I have commanded you and required of you.
He is telling us that we must learn to apply this celestial principle even on this earth; that we must escape our reliance on property and possessions for comfort and for security, and turn to Him for those things. We must take seriously unto ourselves the principle of Zion that there be “no poor among them” (Moses 7:18). And not only that – we must do it and all else that we do with an eye single to His glory!
8 And now, verily thus saith the Lord, it is expedient that all things be done unto my glory, by you who are joined together in this order; (emphasis added)
The Lord here also slips in another reference to an order. Here’s where things get dicey in my mind – and a little disturbing. I refer back to verse 4, where the Lord specifies a “permanent and everlasting establishment and order”. At first, I thought to myself, “Well, the church does maintain a storehouse for the poor”, but when I noticed the references to an “order”, I realized we do NOT have the order established. This was a “permanent and everlasting” commandment. What happened to the order? Were we released from this obligation, or are we under condemnation for not keeping it? It gets worse:
9 Or, in other words, let my servant Newel K. Whitney and my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., and my servant Sidney Rigdon sit in council with the saints which are in Zion;
10 Otherwise Satan seeketh to turn theirhearts away from the truth, that they becomeblinded and understand not the things which are prepared for them.
11 Wherefore, a commandment I give unto you, to prepare and organize yourselves by a bond or everlasting covenant that cannot be broken.
12 And he who breaketh it shall lose his office and standing in the church, and shall be delivered over to the buffetings of Satan until the day of redemption.
The Lord is charging these three high priests specifically with introducing the saints in Zion to these principles lest they be blinded and “understand not the things which are prepared for them”. Then he again commands the church to prepare and organize themselves by a bond and everlasting covenant. I need to expound a little here on “the things which are prepared for them”, as this theme returns below in verse 17. I think the Lord is beckoning to the saints, saying, as He has said personally to me in the past, “Come! See what great things I have prepared for you! You need not continue to live beneath your privileges.” Reading these verses, I get a sense of celestial blessings far beyond my comprehension. But to qualify for them, we must:
- Be equal in earthly things so that we can be equal in heavenly things
- Keep the Lord’s commandments….fully
- Engage and keep this “establishment and order”
Unfortunately, the saints as a church, as a people, seem to have failed to meet these criteria, leaving us to assume that they (we) continued to live beneath their (our) privileges. While I think this means we are under at least a certain degree of condemnation, I also suggest that we can redeem ourselves individually from this condemnation by forsaking our love of material things and the security they provide us; by putting our trust in the Lord to care for us; and by truly consecrating our lives to the building up of the Kingdom of Zion.
Yet another related principle is emphasized in the next verses:
13 Behold, this is the preparation wherewith I prepare you, and the foundation, and the ensample which I give unto you, whereby you may accomplish the commandments which are given you;
14 That through my providence, notwithstanding the tribulation which shall descend upon you, that the church may stand independent above all other creatures beneath the celestial world;
15 That you may come up unto the crown prepared for you, and be made rulers over many kingdoms, saith the Lord God, the Holy One of Zion, who hath established the foundations of Adam-ondi-Ahman;
16 Who hath appointed Michael your prince, and established his feet, and set him upon high, and given unto him the keys of salvation under the counsel and direction of the Holy One, who is without beginning of days or end of life.
This screams to me that both individual saints and the church must position ourselves to “stand independent above all other creatures beneath the celestial world”. In other words, as long as we are dependent upon man, the arm of flesh, possessions, WalMart, Big Pharma, the Nanny State, or Hollywood (to name just a few), we will always find it difficult to fully keep the Lord’s commandments, and as a result we will be condemned to living beneath our privileges. He is telling us that only through His providence will we be able to survive the tribulations that await us, and come up to the crown prepared for us (again – “things which are prepared for them”). We must place our trust in Him – our creator. We must consecrate ourselves to He who established the plan of salvation through Prince Michael, who answers to Christ Himself. I believe that is the ultimate purpose of this proposed United Order – to prepare us to be independent, that we might stand above the telestial powers that rule this world, and be totally dedicated to serving our God. Just as our bodies and our homes can be temples unto our God – a place where He can dwell – we can live our own United Order individually and as families, and in doing so, we can “Approach Zion” (tribute to the great book by Hugh Nibley) and qualify for the great blessings that the Lord has prepared for us.
And now we read of even more glorious promises that so many have sadly failed to qualify for:
17 Verily, verily, I say unto you, ye are little children, and ye have not as yet understood how great blessings the Father hath in his own hands and prepared for you;
18 And ye cannot bear all things now; nevertheless, be of good cheer, for I will lead you along. The kingdom is yours and the blessings thereof are yours, and the riches of eternity are yours.
19 And he who receiveth all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious; and the things of this earth shall be added unto him, even an hundred fold, yea, more.
20 Wherefore, do the things which I have commanded you, saith your Redeemer, even the Son Ahman, who prepareth all things before he taketh you;
The Lord says, “….I will lead you along”. I must testify here that I have felt Him leading me along. It is a glorious thing. I cannot of myself qualify for this attention, this nurturing, but I declare that it is real – and if I can feel it, anyone can. He has told me, in ways that only I can understand, that “the kingdom” is mine, and “the blessings thereof, and the riches of eternity” are mine. Friend, there is a gathering taking place. Many are being prepared to build up Zion. We must be humble, we must be obedient, and we must teach ourselves and each other, with His help, not to depend on telestial powers that rule this world, but on His celestial power – powers that rule His kingdom – His love. If we can do this, we shall realize the glorious promise that concludes this revelation:
21 For ye are the church of the Firstborn, and he will take you up in acloud, and appoint every man his portion.
22 And he that is a faithful and wise steward shall inherit all things. Amen.
I invite each of you, my brothers and sisters – my friends – to actively seek with me the blessings of the kingdom and the riches of eternity by building the United Order in our hearts; that the Lord might then gather us unto Zion, a temple society, even a place where He can dwell.
I yearn for His presence.