Section 77

Having been treated to section 76 in February 1832 for his efforts to understand and revise the Bible, Joseph continued his painstaking study of the scriptures. His history says that “about the first of March, in connection with the translation of the scriptures, I received the following explanation of the Revelations of Saint John.”[1] The questions answered by this revelation are embedded in it. 

Section 77 is a key to unlocking the meanings of The Revelation chapters 4-11. It models the right way to approach that famously complicated book. Joseph Smith studied the book carefully, formulated questions for the Lord, then sought and received the Lord’s answers to his specific questions.  

Joseph rarely spoke of or taught from John’s Revelation. One exception is an April 1843 sermon. The Nauvoo high council had recently convened a hearing to correct Pelatiah Brown’s interpretation of Revelation chapters 4-5. Joseph described Brother Brown as “one of the wisest old heads we have among us,” though he had misunderstood the meanings of the beasts John saw in Revelation 4. Joseph was frustrated that John’s Revelation was “a subject of great speculation” among Latter-day Saints and others, speculation based on ignorance about John’s intended meanings. Joseph decided to reveal some of John’s meaning to combat the ignorance.  

Joseph taught that with the exception of chapter 12, John’s Revelation is about the future, not the past. Joseph taught that “John saw curious looking beasts in heaven, he saw every creature that was in heaven, all the beasts, fowls, & fish in heaven, actually there, giving glory to God. I suppose,” Joseph continued, “John saw beings there, that had been saved from ten thousand times ten thousand earths like this, strange beasts of which we have no conception all might be seen in heaven. John learned that God glorified himself by saving all that his hands had made whether beasts, fowl fishes or man.” 

Because of section 77, Joseph knew what the beasts represented. He had a key to John’s Revelation, and he was not a hostage to the rampant speculation. “We may spiritualize and express opinions to all eternity,” Joseph told the saints, “but that is no authority.”[2] Section 77 is an authoritative key to understanding parts of John’s Revelation. As a possessor of such keys, Joseph could say as perhaps no other person can, “Revelation is one of the plainest books God ever caused to be written.”[3]

Section 78

Joseph purposely veiled the meaning of section 78. The issue it addresses is intentionally vague in the present form of the revelation. That is because it deals with church finances and assets. It addresses the problem of paying for the things the Lord has commanded, namely the building of Zion and publishing the Book of Commandments. Joseph—whose job in the Literary Firm was to oversee expensive publication of the Book of Commandments (see section 70)—sat in counsel with Bishop Whitney, whose job it was to meet the church’s needs from the storehouse, which was literally his store.  

Where today’s verse 3 vaguely talk about “an organization of my people,” the manuscript versions more specifically refer to “an organization of the literary and  mercantile establishments of my church.”[1] Joseph kept the issues behind section 78 as confidential as possible to avoid giving the church’s enemies information they could use to cripple it financially, and thus undermine Zion. Essentially the revelation tells how the church could use its profitable mercantile assets (like Bishop Whitney’s store) to finance its revealed priorities (buying land in Missouri and publishing the scriptures).

Joseph and the other members of the Literary Firm had covenanted to publish the Book of Commandments, but they lacked funding for the expensive project. The Lord commanded Bishop Partridge to buy land, lots of it, on which to build Zion in Missouri. Bishop Whitney had a profitable store and other businesses in Ohio. Based on the law of consecration’s principle of using the surplus of some to meet the needs of others, section 78 provides a solution to these problems. 

In obedience to the revelation, Joseph, Bishop Whitney, and Sidney Rigdon traveled to Missouri to counsel with Bishop Partridge and the Literary Firm members who were there printing the Book of Commandments. Together they created the United Firm, which is often called the United Order, which is not the law of consecration. The United Firm (Order) was a corporation designed to support the church according to the law of consecration. Technically, it was the joining of the Literary Firm with Newel Whitney’s Kirtland, Ohio store and the Independence, Missouri store operated by Whitney’s partner, Sidney Gilbert. Uniting these firms was meant to streamline the building of Zion. It did not ultimately work as intended. That is not God’s fault. It is the fault of free agents (see section 104). It worked great when saints chose to keep their covenants and were not overwhelmed by their enemies.

Section 79

One of the most remarkable facts about Joseph Smith as a revelator is that many intelligent, faithful people went to great lengths to seek, receive, and obey his revelations. Jared Carter embraced Joseph’s revelations and went on a mission because of them. After he returned he went to the home where Joseph was living to ask “the seer to inquire the will of the Lord concerning my ministry the ensuing season. And the word of the Lord came forth.”[1]

Jared noted that April 25, 1832 marked “the commencement of a mission by Jared Carter, a servant of the Lord.” He followed section 79 specifically, going from town to town in the power of his ordination, “which was to the high privilege of administering in the name of Jesus Christ.”  Jared went northeast along Lake Erie and continued on to Benson, Vermont, his birthplace, proclaiming the everlasting gospel in each location. He battled opposition and bouts of depression. He kept careful track of his obedience to the revelation and the fulfillment of the promised blessings. His records testify that, as promised, the Lord sent him the Comforter, the Holy Ghost, to teach him the truth and where he should go. Since Jared was faithful to section 79, the Lord crowned him again with a bountiful harvest. Jared summarized his service after returning in October. “I have been gone six months and two days. The Lord has permitted me to administer the Gospel to 79 souls and many others by my instrumentality have been convinced of this most glorious work.” He rejoiced on the completion of his difficult yet successful mission. “God has blessed me according to the prophecy of Brother Joseph before I went from Ohio,” Jared wrote.[2]

Section 80

Steven Burnett started fast. He converted at age 16 and was ordained a teacher, then an elder, and then a high priest before he turned 18. He was filled with the Holy Ghost and a desire to take the gospel to his relatives. He led his parents into the church and was called to preach in January 1832 (D&C 75:35) and again in March by section 80.  

Stephen and Eden Smith started their on mission on July 15 and spent a few days together declaring the gospel in villages south of Kirtland, Ohio.[1] Stephen also went east with success. He “was the first one that sounded the glad tidings of the everlasting gospel” in Dalton, New Hampshire.[2] By 1838 Stephen felt completely disillusioned. He tried but failed to regain the Spirit. Finally he “proclaimed all revelation lies” and left the church. He said that the foundation of his faith failed and the entire structure fell in “a heap of ruins.”[3] Joseph thought there was more to it. He thought that Stephen’s unwillingness to consecrate his life to the kingdom of God contributed to his unconversion.[4]

Section 77 notes

[1] “History, 1838–1856, volume A-1 [23 December 1805–30 August 1834],” p. 192, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed June 7, 2020,

[2] “Discourse, 8 April 1843, as Reported by William Clayton–A,” p. [2], The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed June 7, 2020,

[3] “History, 1838–1856, volume D-1 [1 August 1842–1 July 1843],” p. 1523, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed June 7, 2020,

Section 78 notes

[1] “Revelation, 1 March 1832 [D&C 78],” p. [1], The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed October 7, 2020, “Revelation Book 1,” p. 145, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed October 7, 2020,

Section 79 notes

[1] Jared Carter, Autobiography, typescript, p. 9, Church History Library. “Revelation, 12 March 1832 [D&C 79],” p. 12, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed July 7, 2020,

[2] Ibid., p. 7.  Here Jared confused his first mission with his second.  In both instances the Lord crowned him with sheaves as prophesied for his second mission in Section 79.

Section 80 notes

[1] Eden Smith, Journal, Church History Library, Salt Lake City.  Stephen Burnett had earlier preached with Eden Smith’s father John.  See Lyndon Cook, The Revelations of the Prophet Joseph Smith (Provo, Utah: Seventy’s Mission Bookstore, 1981), 170, 314.

[2] Levi B. Wilder to the editor, 15 February, 1835, in Messenger and Advocate 1:5 (February 1835): 75.

[3] “Letterbook 2,” p. 64, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed July 7, 2020,

[4] “Elders’ Journal, August 1838,” p. 57, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed July 7, 2020,

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