Section 98
Letter to Church Leaders in Jackson County, Missouri, 18 August 1833. Image courtesy of

In the summer of 1833, Oliver Cowdery wrote from Independence, Missouri to church leaders in Kirtland, Ohio, informing them that opposition from the saints’ Missouri neighbors was rising. By the time the letter arrived in Ohio, Bishop Partridge had been tarred and feathered in Missouri, the church’s press there had been destroyed, and the saints given an ultimatum to leave Jackson county or face escalating violence.

In Kirtland, Doctor Philastus Hurlbut had been excommunicated twice from the Church in a short period, and he thereafter “sought the destruction of the saints,” Joseph wrote, “and more particularly myself and family.”[1] Section 98 is the Lord’s prescription for peace and diplomacy amidst the strife and violence.[2]

Foreseeing the saints emotional reactions to hostility and violence, the Lord prescribes “be comforted,” “rejoice,” “give thanks,” and wait “patiently” for him, the Lord of Hosts, the defender of his people, to answer their prayers, for he has covenanted to do so. He promises that “all things wherewith you have been afflicted shall work together for your good, and to my name’s glory” (3).  

The revelation then upholds the rule of constitutional law applied without bias. Freedom comes from God and “belongs to all mankind” (5, 8). The saints should therefore do all that lies in their power to preserve freedom for themselves and everyone else.  

Section 98 reiterates the law of sacrifice described in Section 97. The saints are being tried and proven to see “whether you will abide in my covenant,” the Lord says, “even unto death” (14, cross reference Mosiah 18:8-10). Saints are commanded to “renounce war and proclaim peace” (16).  

At verse 19 the Lord expresses his displeasure with materialistic saints in Kirtland, condemning pride, covetousness, and “all their detestable things,” he repeats the terms and conditions on which he will save or damn them.       

Beginning in verse 23 the Lord reveals his law of forbearance and justified retaliation. It is the same law Nephi and Israelite patriarchs knew and obeyed. It applies to all people (32, 38). Simply put, the law requires saints to bear attacks “patiently and revile not . . . neither seek revenge” (23). After three offenses, patiently endured, the saints are to warn their attackers in the name of the Lord to stop. If they do not, the Lord says, “I have delivered thine enemy into thine hands” (29). At that point the saints can opt to spare the transgressor or deliver justice. “If he has sought thy life, and thy life is endangered by him, thine enemy is in thine hands and thou are justified” (31).  

The Lord’s law includes the commandment that his people should “not go out to battle against any nation, kindred, tongue, or people, save I, the Lord, commanded them” (33).  When an enemy declares war, the saints “should first lift a standard of peace” (34).  If that gesture is rejected three times, the saints should testify to the Lord of their good faith efforts. “Then I, the Lord, would give unto them a commandment, and justify them in going out to battle against that nation,” and then the Lord would be on the saints’ side (36-37).  

Beginning in verse 39, the Lord adds another dimension to the law. It is that enemies are to be forgiven as often as they repent, truly repent. The Lord’s vengeance is just and sure but it evaporates just as soon as there is real repentance (46-48).  

Three days after section 98 was revealed, Oliver Cowdery arrived in Kirtland with the latest news from Missouri about the violent persecution and the saints’ pending expulsion from Jackson County. Joseph was passionate about Zion and responded to the crisis with a long letter in his own hand, written to the leaders in Missouri. Joseph’s letter begins with a broken-hearted prayer that the Lord would comfort the saints and curse their enemies before concluding, “O Lord glorify thyself thy will be done and not mine.”  

Joseph’s first reaction was to curse the Saints’ enemies but he believed section 98’s promises and bowed to its moderating instructions in response to the crisis. For example, he urged the Saints to “wait patiently until the Lord come[s] and resto[res] unto us all things and build the waist places again for he will do it in his time.”  He wrote to Zion, “th[ere] is no saifty only in the a[r]m of Jehovah none else can deliver and he will not deliver unless we do prove ourselves faithful to him in the severeest trouble for he that will have his robes washed in the blood of the Lamb must come up throught great tribulation even the greatest of all affliction but know this when men thus deal with you and speak all maner of evil of you falsly for the sake of Christ that he is your friend and I verily know that he will spedily deliver Zion for I have his immutible covenant that this shall be the case but god is pleased to keep it hid from mine eyes the means how exactly the thing will be done.” Joseph concluded his letter “by telling you that we wait the Comand of God to do whatever he plese and if <he> shall say go up to Zion and defend thy Brotheren by <the sword> we fly and we count not dear our live[s] dear to us.”[3]

Section 99

Section 99 fits chronologically between sections 83 and 84. Generically it is like sections 32-34 and 66. It is a mission call for John Murdock, but his is unique. No other missionaries were given the option to inherit Zion or serve as missionaries for the rest of their lives.[1]

John was among the early converts in Ohio, and from the time of his baptism in November 1830, he had hardly stopped preaching the gospel. His wife Julia had died after giving birth to twins, giving John five children under age seven to care for.   

Then section 52 called John to preach and travel to Missouri in the summer of 1831.  John shouldered and balanced his family and missionary calling as best he could. He made a selfless decision to accept an invitation an invitation from Emma and Joseph Smith, whose twins had just died, to adopt John and Julia’s. John left his other children in the care of relatives and fellow saints and endured a long, sickly, and extremely successful mission to Missouri and back. He found his children well with the exception of little Joseph, who had succumbed to measles in March 1832.

John nurtured his children, regained his health, and served in the church at headquarters until August 1832, when section 99 called him back to the mission field. The revelation shows the Lord’s familiarity with John’s family situation and tells him how to both provide for his motherless children and perform his mission. John, meanwhile, is given the unusual choice to inherit Zion in a few years or continue his missionary labors for the rest of his life.

John wrote that having received Section 99, “I immediately commenced to arrange my business and provide for my children and send them up to the Bishop in Zion,” Edward Partridge. Then John set out to preach the gospel. Some received him as section 99 predicted.  Others, including his in-laws, rejected his message. When John “met with a Dr. Matthews, a very wicked man” who rejected his offering, John and his companion followed the revelation’s instruction: “We bore testimony according to the commandment and the Lord helped us in tending to the ordinance” of cleansing their feet “in the secret places by the way for a testimony against them” (99:4).[2]

Section 100


The adulterous apostate Doctor Philastus Hurlbut threatened to wash his hands in Joseph Smith’s blood.[1] Besides that, the saints in Missouri were in the midst of being forced from the promised land. On the bright side, missionary work around the Great Lakes was thriving. In the midst of the chaos, Joseph and Sidney accepted the invitations from prospective converts and referrals from friends and relatives, and went on a mission through Pennsylvania to upstate New York and Ontario, Canada.   

Journal, 1832–1834. Image courtesy of

On October 12, 1833, Joseph did something he rarely did. He wrote his own journal entry, or at least part of it. “I feel very well in my mind,” it says in his handwriting, “the Lord is with us but have been much anxiety about my family.”[2] The Lord was with them, and gave Joseph section 100 that day. It addresses Joseph’s mission with Sidney Rigdon and the two concerns that occupied his anxious mind: Zion and the safety of his family and other Saints.[3] The revelation begins with the Lord’s omnipotent assurance that Joseph and Sidney’s families are well.  “They are in mine hands, and I will do with them as seemeth me good” (1).  

About the mission, the Lord gives Joseph and Sidney specific, omniscient counsel to ensure success that could guarantee their success, depending on how they decide to act on the counsel. If Joseph and Sidney speak the thoughts the Lord puts into their hearts, he says, they will not be confounded. If they solemnly, meekly declare the gospel in the Lord’s name, He promises that the Holy Ghost will testify of their words. He promises Joseph a powerful testimony and Sidney the ability to expound scripture. He makes Joseph a revelator for Sidney and Sidney a spokesman for Joseph.  

Beginning in verse 13 the Lord offers “a word concerning Zion.” He promises protection and salvation to the brethren Joseph sent to Missouri with messages. “Zion shall be redeemed,” the Lord promises, after she is chastened and becomes pure and willing to serve the Lord.  

Joseph Smith possessed a dogged tenacity. He did not want to give up on Zion, on New Jerusalem being built around a holy temple in Jackson County, Missouri. Oliver Cowdery had recently suggested that the Saints could start over somewhere else. Joseph resisted that thought. He told the Saints in Missouri that the Lord wanted them to hold on to their land, not sell it, not give up on Zion. He promised them that Zion would flourish in spite of Hell, though he did not pretend to know how or when.  

Joseph described himself as praying fervently and often in the past weeks after Zion had been beaten. He could not understand why. He even said that he murmured about it. Section 100 comforted Joseph. It reinforced his faith in Zion, though it did not answer his questions about how or when the Lord would put the Saints back in the promised land. Joseph wrote that based on Section 100, “I know that Zion, in the own due time of the Lord will be redeemed, but how many will be the days of her purification, tribulation and affliction, the Lord has kept hid from my eyes; and when I enquire concerning this subject the voice of the Lord is, Be still, and know that I am God! all those who suffer for my name shall reign with me, and he that layeth down his life for my sake shall find it again.”[4]

Section 100 eased Joseph’s anxieties about his family’s safety in the hostile environment of Kirtland, Ohio.  On returning from his month-long mission, he dictated the following journal entry: “Found my family all well according to the promise of the Lord for which blessings I feel to thank his holy name.”[5]

Section 101

On December 10, 1833, the morning mail brought Joseph Smith “the melancholy intelligence” that the Saints in Missouri were being exiled from the promised land.[1] He had already learned that leading citizens had mobbed the saints, destroyed their press, and forced on them an ultimatum to leave the county. Joseph hoped, however, that the rule of law would prevail, that the saints could get redress for the illegal acts against them, and that they would not have to leave the land they had legally purchased and occupied. The letter disappointed that hope.  

The news depressed and bewildered Joseph. Why had the Lord let the saints be driven from the promised land. Would they return? If so, how? It was the Lord who had told Joseph to consecrate Independence, Missouri as Zion, a refuge and gathering place for the saints. “Therefore I ask thee,” Joseph prayed, “in the name of Jesus Christ, to return thy people unto their homes . . . [and] that all the enemies of thy people, who will not repent and return unto thee be destroyed from off the face of that Land.”[2] Section 101 came a week later to answer these questions and Joseph’s prayer, though not as he had hoped.

The Lord explains that he will let the saints be tried and chastened even as much as Abraham was if it will lead to their sanctification. They must choose to stop being contentious, jealous, covetous, and lustful or there will be no Zion even if he rescues them. Then he promises emphatically that he will rescue them. “Notwithstanding their sins, my bowels are filled with compassion towards them. I will not utterly cast them off; and in the day of wrath I will remember mercy” (9). 

Just a week earlier, Joseph felt like murmuring because “those who are innocent are compelled to suffer for the iniquities of the guilty; and I cannot account for this.”[3]  The Lord acknowledges the injustice in Section 101:41 and has his own “wisdom” in allowing it. From the Lord’s perspective, a potent does of “trouble” can be useful. For when the Saints were well and good they treated lightly the revelations to gather, to consecrate, to buy land and to build a temple. Now all of a sudden they “of necessity feel after me,” the Lord says (8).  

Section 101 reaffirms that Zion will be established despite the Saints being driven. It prophesies the millennial day when the pure in heart will inherit Zion, enmity will cease, Satan will be rendered powerless, the Lord will reveal all things, and death, like sorrow, will depart. With that perspective, the faithful, persecuted saints can afford to “fear not even unto death; for in this world your joy is not full, but in my your joy is full” (36).    

Beginning in verse 43, the Lord relates a parable to explain his will concerning how to get Zion back. It implies that the unfaithful Saints in Zion were bad stewards.  Rather than building the temple as commanded, they second-guessed the Lord, used his money selfishly, and opened themselves to attacks that could have been prevented by obedience. “Ought ye not to have done even as I commanded you,” the nobleman of the parable asks the disobedient servants? (53).  

The nobleman’s plans for reclaiming his vineyard from enemies includes gathering an army of his servants, “the strength of mine house” to go to battle (55-58).  The nobleman promises to redeem his overrun vineyard and the servants ask when.  “When I will” comes the answer, “go ye straightway, and do all things whatsoever I have commanded you” (60). The servants go and do as the nobleman commanded, “and after many days all things were fulfilled” (62).  

Immediately following the parable the Lord resumes, as if he were the nobleman commanding his servants what to do, or, in the words of verse 43, “my will concerning the redemption of Zion.”  He commands the Saints to obey Sections 57, 63, and 86—that is, to continue the work of gathering by preaching the gospel, gaining converts, and gathering together to pool resources so they can systematically (not hastily or haphazardly) purchase land and build Zion legally. The Lord calls for wise men to be sent to purchase the lands, to buy out the settlers of Jackson County, satisfy them for their land and resolve the controversies between them (73). There is no shortage of money among the saints in the eastern branches, the Lord says. They have enough to buy the land if they are willing to consecrate it for Zion (75).  

In verse 76 the Lord calls for the Saints to continue to appeal to government for redress of their civil and property rights like the biblical parable of the unjust judge who finally relented to an insistent woman’s pleas for justice. Similarly, the saints are to petition for justice at the feet of every government official including the president. “And if the president heed them not, then will the Lord arise and come forth out of his hiding place; and in his fury vex the nation” (89). The Saints are to pray for their government officials to be responsive and therefore escape the Lord’s vengeance.  

The revelation closes with a command that the saints not sell the storehouse nor any of the land they legally own. Though driven unjustly, they must not relent to their oppressors. They must not sell the promised land.      

Section 101 explains why Zion was postponed. God could stop every mobbing and prevent every Saint from being lustful, covetous, and contentious. He chooses instead to put agency in his individual children. He gives them power to act and commandments to act upon. When they or some of them act disobediently to His commands, the blessings promised for obedience are not forthcoming. That’s how some of the Saints, and their enemies, postponed Zion. It is our fault, not God’s, that there is still no holy city in Jackson County, Missouri.    

Section 101 promises an ultimate redemption of Zion, though its timing is dependent on the Saints’ decisions. In several places the Lord guarantees that Zion will come. In just as many he speaks ambiguously about when. When depends on what the Saints decide to do with the Lord’s commandments.

Section 98 notes

[1] “Journal, 1832–1834,” p. 48, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed July 9, 2020,

[2] “Revelation, 6 August 1833 [D&C 98],” p. 66, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed July 9, 2020,

[3] “Letter to Church Leaders in Jackson County, Missouri, 18 August 1833,” p. [1], The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed July 9, 2020,

Section 99 notes

[1] “Revelation, 29 August 1832 [D&C 99],” p. 19, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed July 9, 2020,

[2] John Murdock, “An Abridged Record of the Life of John Murdock, Taken from His Journal by Himself,” typescript, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah.

Section 100 notes

[1] “Letter to Church Leaders in Jackson County, Missouri, 18 August 1833,” p. [1], The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed September 9, 2020,

[2] “Journal, 1832–1834,” p. 7, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed September 9, 2020,

[3] “Revelation, 12 October 1833 [D&C 100],” p. [1], The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed September 9, 2020,

[4] “Letter to Church Leaders in Jackson County, Missouri, 18 August 1833,” p. [1], The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed September 9, 2020, 

[5] “Journal, 1832–1834,” p. 18, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed September 9, 2020,

Section 101 notes

[1] “Letterbook 1,” p. 70, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed November 11, 2020,

[2] Joseph Smith, Kirtland, Ohio, to Edward Partridge, William W. Phelps, John Whitmer, Algernon Sidney Gilbert, John Corrill, Isaac Morley and all Saints, Independence, Missouri, 10 December1833, in Joseph Smith Letterbook 1, pp. 70-75, in hand of Frederick G. Williams, CHL.

[3] “Letterbook 1,” p. 72, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed November 11, 2020,

The post Come, Follow Me: Doctrine & Covenants 98-101 appeared first on Steven C. Harper.

Continue reading at the original source →