Section 102

Joseph Smith convened councils to arbitrate and adjudicate church decisions, especially disciplinary decisions. These councils were called as needed, according to the law of the church revealed in February 1831 (D&C 42). By 1834, experience and church growth revealed the need for standing councils to deal with complex issues. On 17 February 1834, Joseph told a group of priesthood leaders that he “would show the order of councils in ancient days as shown to him by vision.”  

Joseph explained that “Jerusalem was the seat of the Church Council in ancient days.” He said that “the apostle, Peter, was the president of the Council and held the keys of the Kingdom of God on the earth [and] was appointed to this office by the voice of the Savior and acknowledged in it by the voice of the Church. He had two men appointed as Counsellors with him, and in case Peter was absent, his counsellors could also transact business alone.” Joseph explained that church councils operated on different principles of jurisprudence than secular courts. “It was not the order of heaven in ancient councils to plead for and against the guilty as in our judicial courts (so called) but that every councilor when he arose to speak, should speak precisely according to evidence and according to the teaching of the Spirit of the Lord.”  

Clerks kept minutes of Joseph’s teachings on how the council should be organized. They record that “many questions have been asked during the time of the organization of the Council and doubtless some errors have been committed, it was, therefore, voted by all present that Bro. Joseph should make all necessary corrections by the Spirit of inspiration hereafter.” Joseph began that job the next day, February 18, and the following day an even larger gathering of priesthood holders and general members met to review and consent to the new “constitution of the high council of the Church of Christ.” The minutes Joseph refined were subsequently canonized in the Doctrine and Covenants and are currently found in Section 102.  

At the February 19 meeting, Joseph then laid hands on his two counselors and blessed them with “wisdom to magnify their office, and power over all the power of the adversary.” He then laid hands on the twelve men called as high counselors and set them apart. He blessed them with “wisdom and power to counsel in righteousness upon all subjects that might be laid before them.” He also prayed that they might be delivered from those evils to which they were most exposed and that their lives might be prolonged on the earth. Then, in the name of Jesus Christ, Joseph gave his counselors and the high council a charge to “do their duty in righteousness and in the fear of God.” They signified their acceptance of Joseph’s charge by raising their right hands. Joseph pronounced the council organized “according to the ancient order, and also according to the mind of the Lord.”[1]

Section 102 restores the ancient order of church councils. The organization of the high council also went far toward establishing a stake of Zion in Kirtland, an ecclesiastical jurisdiction drawn on imagery from Isaiah 33:20 and 54:2 and applied to the church in a May 1833 revelation (D&C 94:1, 96:1). Moreover, these minutes provided for other standing high councils to be established as well as temporary councils to be organized beyond Zion and her stakes. 

The church’s first high council went to work immediately.  As specified in the minutes, the counselors drew numbers 1-12, with even numbers responsible to prevent insult and injustice against the accused person and the odd numbered counselors responsible to ensure the interests of the church. Ezra Thayer charged Curtis Hodges, an elder, with preaching too loudly and unclearly, and demanding that he was justified in doing so when corrected. Curtis said he was not guilty. Witnesses confirmed “that bro. Hodges was guilty of hollowing so loud that he, in a measure, lost his voice.” Oliver Cowdery, who had drawn number 1, summarized the church’s case against Curtis. Joseph Coe, who had drawn number 2, summarized the case for Brother Hodge “but could say but few words.” Ezra restated his accusations and Curtis restated his pleas.  

In other words, the case, which was not considered complicated, was conducted exactly as Section 102 specifies, including the ruling of Joseph Smith, president of the council.  He announced “that the charges in the declaration had been fairly sustained by good witnesses, also, that bro. H[odges]. ought to have confessed when rebuked by bro Thayer also that if he had the spirit of the Lord at the meetings when he hollowed, he must have abused it, and grieved it away. All the council agreed with the decision.” Brother Hodges then confessed, acknowledging that he could now see his error and would repent.[2]

Not all high council hearings are this straightforward but, remarkably, the specific instructions set forth in Section 102 continue to guide the standing high councils of the church in each stake of Zion.

Section 103

As 1834 dawned, the Saints in Missouri were “exiles in a land of liberty.”[1] They sent Parley Pratt and Lyman Wight to seek Joseph’s counsel in Kirtland, Ohio. The messengers probably carried a letter from William Phelps informing Joseph that Missouri governor Daniel Dunklin was willing to help the Saints get their Jackson County lands back, but he would not maintain a militia to defend them indefinitely.[2]

Would eastern saints come to the aid of Zion? Joseph counseled with his brethren, resolved that “he was going to Missouri, to assist in redeeming it,” and asked for volunteers to go with him. Sometime in this sequence of events, the Lord revealed section 103 to Joseph. It is not clear whether the revelation motivated Joseph’s actions or affirmed them after the fact.[3]

Zion depended on the Latter-day Saints. They had been driven by wicked people acting on their own free will. In section 103, the Lord promises to punish them “in mine own time” (2-3).  But the saints were driven “because they did not hearken altogether unto the precepts and commandments which I gave unto them” (5). The Lord offers another chance at Zion by revealing the conditions on which the saints can prevail against their enemies. First he states these positively (what will happen if they do, 5-7), then restates them negatively (what will happen if they do not, 8-10). Section 103 reaffirms the section 58’s promise Zion will come “after much tribulation” (12). Even that promise, the Lord qualifies, is conditional.  “If they pollute their inheritances,” he says of the saints again, “they shall be thrown down” (14, cross reference D&C 84:59). 

Beginning in verse 15, the Lord maps out the way Zion will be reclaimed “by power.” Then the Lord evokes section 101, reminding the Saints of his promise to raise up a Moses to lead the modern Israelites. He calls on Joseph to gather an army of Israel.  It could get violent, the Lord suggests, perhaps to as a test to see who is willing “to lay down his life for my sake” (27).

The Lord appoints calls eight recruiters, including Joseph, to gather five hundred more men to march to Zion, though he acknowledges that, because they are free agents, “men do not always do my will,” and that relatively few may respond to the call. He forbids the undertaking unless at least one hundred men are willing to consecrate their lives to Zion. The Lord leaves the outcome in the hands of the free agents. “All victory and glory is brought to pass unto you through your diligence, faithfulness, and prayers of faith” (36).       

Heber Kimball described the action motivated by Section 103.  “Brother Joseph . . . . sent Messengers to the East and to the North, to the West and to the South to gather up the Elders and, He gathered together as many of the brethren as he conveniently could, 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.”[4]

They were a faltering band, to be sure, but willing to give their lives for Zion. Section 103’s most significant result is the way it tested that resolve. A local newspaper reported on section 103, “in obedience to a revelation communicated to their great Prophet, Joseph Smith, three hundred young men are to ‘to well armed and equipped to defend the promised land in Missouri.”[5] The revelation seems purposefully ambiguous, leaving Joseph and his followers uncertain how Zion would be redeemed. “By power,” they knew, but what kind of power? Were they to take the promised land by the force of arms? Would the God of Israel lead them with “a stretched-out arm” (17). Would they lay down their lives? The revelation raised these questions but did not answer them, making it a suitable test of faith and sacrifice (D&C 101:4-5). 

The Camp of Israel, as it came to be known, literally walked in faith, the considerable faith required to kiss one’s family goodbye and march with a small, poorly-equipped band to an unknown encounter for the cause of Zion. As a result of Section 103, the Lord let many, though not as many as he asked for, pledge their allegiance to him and his cause. Their lives were his. He let them march all the way there before explaining that the power to redeem Zion would come not from a confrontation in Missouri, but from an endowment in the House of the Lord back in Kirtland. (See Section 105).

Section 104

Revelation, 23 April 1834 [D&C 104]. Image courtesy of
The Savior told a story in Luke 16:19-31 about a rich man who “fared sumptuously” in life while a “beggar named Lazarus” waited in vain for some of his table scraps. When the two men died, angels carried Lazarus into Abraham’s bosom while the rich man went to hell. “And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments,” begging for Lazarus to relieve his suffering. Section 104 evokes that story and applies it to Latter-day Saints, but it is hard to recognize that now.[1]

Early manuscripts of the revelation refer to Dives, a proper name: “he shall with Dives lift up his eyes <in hell> being in torment.”[2] The intertextual relationship of this passage and the story in Luke is obvious, but who is Dives? Dives is Latin for rich, opulent, wealthy, and is the word in the Latin Vulgate Bible translated into English as rich in Luke 16:19, “there was a certain rich man.” In the middle ages, the word dives adopted as the name of the rich man, and that’s how it’s used in D&C 104:18. 

The revelation came when the problems of the United Firm had become acute. The Firm was composed of Church leaders, including the two bishops, and was responsible to manage the Church’s two mercantile firms and its printing office. The printing office had been destroyed in Independence, Missouri and the mercantile there had also been shut down by the mob’s ultimatum. The United Firm still owed debts on these unprofitable losses, and its members were growing more indebted to Bishop Whitney’s remaining mercantile in Ohio, which in turn was owing its creditors. Section 103’s expensive command to lead a large group of men to Missouri to aid the saints there added to the pressure. 

Joseph counseled with the other members of the United Firm. He sought and received the revelation in section 104 to address the complex financial reality. It is no overstatement to say that Joseph was pretty frustrated with saints who could and should have relieved the Church’s financial obstacles, but chose not to.[3]

The Lord was pretty frustrated too, including with some members of the United Firm whose covetousness was complicating the problem. Joseph and the members of the United Firm who were in Kirtland met on April 10, 1834 and reluctantly decided to dissolve the Firm and make its members individual stewards over its various properties. Section 104 affirmed those decisions.

All that helps explain why the revelation emphatically sets forth the law of consecration. The Lord declares the first principle of consecration—“the earth is the Lord’s” (Exodus 9:29) —repeatedly and clearly: “I, the Lord, stretched out the heavens, and built the earth, my very handiwork; and all things therein are mine” (14). 

The Lord’s logic is potent: He made the earth. It is therefore His. He endowed mankind with agency to act on the ample, abundant earth as stewards. He decreed that the rich must share with the poor (16). “Therefore,” the next premise follows, “if any man take of the abundance which I have made, and impart not his portion, according to the law of my gospel, unto the poor and the needy, he shall, with the wicked, lift up his eyes in hell, being in torment” (18). 

Section 104 begins with a curse upon the members of the United Firm who had broken the covenant of Section 82. “I the Lord am not to be mocked in these things,” He says, referring to making covenants with “feigned words” (4-6). Covenants are serious, and section 104 announces that those who break the covenant to consecrate cannot escape the Lord’s wrath and the buffetings of Satan, as prophesied in Section 82:21. So the Lord offers the members of the United Firm an opportunity to repent and consecrate in verse 10, after which he reviews the law of consecration in verses 11-18, before getting very specific in verses 19-46 about the stewardships for which He will hold each members of the Firm accountable. 

Beginning in verse 47, the Lord dissolves the United Firm into two firms, one in Kirtland, Ohio and the other in Missouri. Again He emphasizes that this Firm, which was supposed to last and would have according to the terms of the covenant in Section 82:20-21, has been undermined by the broken covenants of free agents, “the covenants being broken through transgression, by covetousness and feigned words” (52).   

Beginning in verse 54, the Lord reviews the principle of stewardship with emphasis on how it relates to the specific stewardships he gave to the Literary Firm in Section 70 (and the United Firm’s responsibility to support the Literary Firm as revealed in Sections 78 and 82). Verses 55-56 reaffirm the first premise of consecration—“the earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof” (Psalm 24:1)–with an inescapable logic that brings covenant-breaking Saints face to face with hypocrisy: If the Lord is not Creator and Owner of the earth, why worship Him? If He is, why pretend to be “owners” of anything or to resent or resist his prerogative to distribute his resources in what he calls “mine own way” (16)? In other words, to acknowledge the Lord at all is to accept one’s role as an accountable steward, not an unaccountable owner determined to “play-act just a little longer—risking righteousness and true happiness merely in order to be reassured about our independence.”[4]

The revelation ends by reminding the brethren that the Lord is the sovereign master who has given them agency to act and stewardships to be acted upon, and that he will continue to hold them accountable. He concludes with what must have been a reassuring guarantee that His house will not be broken up (86). 

After the Lord revealed section 104, Joseph and his brethren in the United Firm at Kirtland acted on properties the Lord had assigned each of them as stewardships. They also forgave each other all debts they owed to the Firm. This relieved Joseph of paying more $1,151.31, and the six men combined forgave debts to each other totaling $3,635.35.[5] That did not satisfy the debts they owed other creditors, however. 

Mindful of those obligations, Joseph and his brethren acted on this revelation. They did the specific things the Lord set forth as terms on which He promised to “soften the hearts of those to whom you are in debt, until I shall send forth means unto you for your deliverance” (104:80-82). Joseph’s journal records humility, diligent effort, and faithful prayers for this deliverance, and documents that it came as prophesied. On the day the revelation came, Joseph and other members of the Firm “united in asking the Lord” to bless Zebedee Coltrin and Jacob Myers in their efforts “to borrow for us.” Meanwhile, donations began to pour in from consecrating Saints. Joseph and Oliver Cowdery “united in prayer” for such blessings to continue, and covenanted as the Lord was enabling them to pay their debts, they would return one-tenth of what they received “to be bestowed upon the poor of his Church, or as he shall command, and that we will be faithful over that which he has entrusted to our care.”[6] They prayed and prayed, asking the Lord “to lift the mortgage on the farm upon which the temple was being built.”[7]

One evening they received an impression “that in a short time the Lord would arrange his providences in a merciful manner and send us assistance to deliver us from debt and bondage.”[8] Two months later as creditors were about to foreclose on the temple site, a converted hotel owner from New York, John Tanner, arrived in Kirtland with $2000 “with which amount the farm was redeemed.”[9] Good for His word, the Lord had delivered the “means” as promised (104:80). In the meantime, Joseph and his brethren learned to trust in the Lord, pray in faith, to be humble and diligent. The Saints in general also rose to the occasion and, though belatedly, consecrated to the building of Kirtland and its crowning temple. As a result of their offerings, the Lord poured out blessings in that temple that no amount of money could buy (see sections 109-110).

Section 105

As the Camp of Israel journeyed to Missouri in the summer of 1834, Governor Daniel Dunklin backed away from his promise to provide a militia force to assist the saints’ return to their Jackson County land.[1] Meanwhile, Joseph knew very well that the camp was “altogether too small for the accomplishment of such a great enterprise.” He repeatedly urged the eastern Saints to provide men and means to reclaim Zion, but they offered too little, too late.[2]

 The camp was preceded by exaggerated rumors of its size and intentions. When it arrived, local citizens were already alarmed. Several hundred of them gathered, threatening attack. Joseph assured the sheriff and militia officers that the camp had come to defend, not to attack. “We are anxious for a settlement of the difficulties existing between us,” Joseph assured them, “upon honorable and constitutional principles.”[3]

Wondering when and how, not if, Zion would be reclaimed, Joseph sought revelation to know what the Lord wanted the camp to do next. While encamped near Fishing River, he received the landmark revelation in section 105.[4]

“I do not require at their hands to fight the battles of Zion,” the revelation said of the camp. It assured them that their prayers were heard, their offering accepted, and that they had been “brought thus far for a trial of their faith” (D&C 105:19). Because too few saints had chosen to live the law of consecration and respond to the Lord’s will and Joseph’s repeated invitations to send men and means to redeem Zion, the Lord postponed Zion (1-10). He said it had to wait until the elders could be endowed with the necessary power. The power, it turned out, would come through a priesthood endowment in the House of the Lord being constructed back in Kirtland (D&C 105:11, 33). 

The revelation is a document of détente. It calls for proclamation of peace now and foreshadows a future role for the army of Israel in redeeming Zion. It postpones Zion in Jackson County for an ambiguous “little season” (9). It commands saints in the meantime to receive the anticipated endowment of power to help them gain experience, learn their duty and doctrine better, and to increase in number and in holiness. In the little season the saints are to continue to purchase all the land in western Missouri but to avoid gathering in quantities perceived as threatening by neighbors. 

Section 105 gives Joseph and his army orders to retreat. They were instructed to seek redress lawfully, but the war was far from over. These tactics would buy time “until the army of Israel becomes very great” while more and more land in Jackson and adjoining counties could be legally purchased. Once it was, the revelation said, “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.” 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 un an ensign of peace, and make a proclamation of peace unto the ends of the earth” (D&C 105).

Section 105 led Joseph to disband the camp and direct its members to return to their families or, if they had none, to remain in Missouri to assist the exiled Saints. The revelation reoriented Joseph Smith and the Church. Zion remained the ultimate goal, but the revelation declared that Zion would not be redeemed until the saints were endowed with power. Now, having submitted to the trial of their faith, the brethren could understand section 103’s promise that Zion would be redeemed by power. They were to return to the House of the Lord in Kirtland, there be endowed with power on conditions of humility and faithfulness (12), and then spread out over the globe to gather Israel. Then, when the army became very great both numerically and by obedience to the law of consecration, they would regain Zion.  

Joseph organized the saints in Missouri and appointed many of them to return to Ohio to participate in the solemn assembly. Back in Kirtland, Joseph and the saints finished the temple and received an endowment of priesthood power (see section 110). These were means to the end of Zion, and Joseph turned his attention back to regaining the promised land. He anticipated that the “little season” (D&C 105:9) leading up to Zion would end within a few months, and it could have if the saints had done the specific things listed in verse 10.  

We remain in the little season, perhaps in part because we have not acted on section 105’s specific instructions to learn obedience to the law of consecration and gain experience obeying it. Some commentators have suggested that D&C 105:34 rescinds, postpones, or suspends the law of consecration, but that is not what it says. It says that the specific commands for the bishop to give the saints inheritances of the land in Zion, and to establish a storehouse and print the scriptures there, will necessarily need to wait until after the saints reclaim the land on which to keep those commandments (see section 57). 

Section 105 charts the way to Zion by obedience to the law of consecration. It declares that “Zion cannot be built up unless it is by the principles of the law of the celestial kingdom; otherwise I cannot receive her unto myself” (105:5). So Zion will be postponed as long as Latter-day Saints postpone fidelity to the law. Verse 34 cannot be to blame for that. President Gordon B. Hinckley taught that “the law of sacrifice and the law of consecration have not been done away with and are still in effect.”[5] Just as when Section 105 was given, however, “there are many who will say: Where is their God? Behold, he will deliver them in a time of trouble, otherwise we will not go up to Zion, and will keep our moneys” (8-9).

Section 102 notes

[1] “Minutes, 17-18 February 1834,” pages 29-31, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed November 11, 2020,

[2] “Minutes, 19 February 1834,” p. 38, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed November 11, 2020,

Section 103 notes

[1] Kenneth H. Winn, Exiles in a Land of Liberty: Mormons in America, 1830-1846 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1989)

[2] William W. Phelps to Dear Brethren, December 15, 1833, in The Evening and the Morning Star 2:16 (January 1834): 127.

[3] Historical Introduction to Revelation, 24 February 1834 [D&C 103], p. [7], The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed November 12, 2020,

[4] “Extract from the Journal of Heber C. Kimball,”

[5] “Mormonism,” Huron Reflector (Norwalk, OH), 20 May 1834, [2], italics in original.

Section 104 notes

[1] Steven C. Harper, “The Rich Man, Lazarus, and Doctrine & Covenants 104:18,” BYU Studies 47:4 (2008): 51-54.

[2] “Revelation Book 1,” p. 193, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed November 13, 2020, “Revelation Book 2,” p. 102, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed November 13, 2020,

[3] “Letter to Orson Hyde, 7 April 1834,” p. 82, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed November 13, 2020,

[4] Neal A. Maxwell, All These Things Shall Give Thee Experience (Salt Lake City: Deseret, 1979), 2.

[5] Frederick G. Williams Papers, CHL. Amt. of Balances due as of April 23, 1834, Newel K. Whitney Collection, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah. Max Parkin painstakingly documented each of these in “Joseph Smith and the United Firm,” BYU Studies 46:3 (2007): 5-66.

[6] “Covenant, 29 November 1834,” p. 88, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed November 13, 2020,

[7] John Tanner, “Sketch of an Elder’s Life,” Scraps of Biography (Salt Lake City: Juvenile Instructor’s Office, 12.

[8] “Journal, 1832–1834,” p. 92, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed November 13, 2020,

[9] John Tanner, “Sketch of an Elder’s Life,” Scraps of Biography (Salt Lake City: Juvenile Instructor’s Office, 12.

Section 105 notes

[1] Peter Crawley and Richard L. Anderson, “The Political and Social Realities of Zion’s Camp,” BYU Studies 14:4 (1974): 406-20. History of George Albert Smith, Church History Library. Parley P. Pratt, Jr., editor, Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt (Salt Lake City: Deseret, 1950), 115.

[2] “Letter to Emma Smith, 4 June 1834,” p. 56, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed November 13, 2020,

[3] Letter From Cornelius Gilliam, Clay County, Missouri, 21 June 1834, and a statement of reconciliation, Church History Library, Salt Lake City.

[4] Autobiography of Joseph Holbrook, typescript, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University. Autobiography of Harrison Burgess in Kenneth Glyn Hales, ed. and comp., Windows: A Mormon Family (Tucson, Arizona: Skyline Printing, 1985).

[5] Gordon B. Hinckley, Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley (Salt Lake City: Deseret, 1997), 639.

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