Section 41
License for Edward Partridge, circa 4 August 1831–circa 5 January 1832. Image courtesy of

“Joseph the Prophet and Sidney arrived at Kirtland to the joy and satisfaction of the Saints,” John Whitmer wrote. They were homeless. Joseph and Emma had left their home in Pennsylvania. Sidney and Phebe Rigdon had, because of their conversions, lost the home their Reformed Baptist congregation built for them. 

Joseph received section 41 the day they arrived. It answered the questions about housing and did something out of the blue: called a bishop named Edward Partridge.[1]

Edward had served apprenticed four years for a hat maker in New England before venturing west to Ohio to open his own factory with his bride, Lydia Clisbee.  They succeeded economically but remained unsettled. They could see a great need for God to “again reveal himself to man and confer authority upon son one, or more, before his church could be built up in the last days.”[2] Oliver Cowdery was just such a man.  When he and his companions brought the Book of Mormon to Painesville, Ohio, Edward initially reacted with disbelief.  Knowingly, and perhaps with a smile, Oliver thanked God for honest-hearted souls and departed.  Before long Edward sent one of his employees to fetch a Book of Mormon from Oliver and his fellow missionaries.[3] Hungering for truth, Edward set out for New York to interview Joseph Smith and returned to Ohio having been baptized by the Prophet himself.[4] Lydia, meanwhile, had been baptized by Parley Pratt. “I saw the Gospel in its plainness as it was in the New Testament,” she testified, “and I also knew that none of the sects of the day taught these things.”[5] Edward returned to New England to declare the good news to his parents and siblings. Joseph, meanwhile, received Sections 37 and 38, commanding the New York saints to move to Ohio and promising revelation of the Lord’s law and an endowment of power there. Joseph and Emma traveled to Ohio by sleigh with the returning Edward Partridge and Sidney Rigdon. 

Section 41 is strikingly counter cultural.

It highlights the differences between the kingdom of God and the world in which Joseph Smith lived. The revelation is neither democratic nor republican. It assumes that the Lord, not the people, are sovereign. It does not separate legislative, judicial, and executive powers. The Lord exercises them all. 

He assumes both the power and prerogative to bless and curse, to include and to cast out, to make and declare law, and to bring lawbreakers to judgment. He repeatedly refers to “my law,” and calls for an assembly not to debate and create law, but “to agree upon” law dictated by revelation. Moreover, he commands specific action, most notably for Edward Partridge, to “leave his merchandise” and spend his whole effort executing the divine law. Section 41 is a revelation from a King with instructions about how to build His kingdom. 

As Section 38 declared, this King of Kings gives laws that make us free (D&C 38:21-22). He retains sovereignty, including the prerogative to make the laws, but grants agency—the power to decide whether or not to obey them.    

“Bishop Partridge had been a member of the Church for less than two months when he was asked to sacrifice everything he had worked for in his life and devote his time completely to his new Church.” How did he choose to act on the revelation? He fed and clothed the saints, left hat-making and factory-owning to others, and faithfully if imperfectly acted out the commands in this revelation and others for the rest of his life.  That was not the American way. It was the Lord’s way. Edward Partridge had been called to model and then implement the law of consecration (Section 42). His daughter remembered that he “was called to leave his business, which was in a most flourishing condition, and go to Missouri to attend to the business of the Church.  He went.” Soon thereafter, when the Lord called for them in section 57, Lydia and their children went too. This revelation was the beginning of the Partridge family consecrating their lives to the kingdom of God on earth.[6]

Section 42

“We have received the laws of the Kingdom since we came here,” Joseph Smith wrote to Martin Harris in February 1831, “and the Disciples in these parts have received them gladly.”[1]

Joseph had been in Ohio less than a month when he wrote those words to Martin Harris, who was still in Palmyra, New York. Prior to Joseph’s own move from New York, the Lord commanded him to gather the Church in Ohio and promised: “There I will give unto you my law.”[2] Shortly after Joseph’s arrival in Kirtland, he received the promised revelation. Early manuscripts call it “The Laws of the Church of Christ” (now Doctrine and Covenants 42:1–73).

The need for the revelation at this time was acute. Joseph found the Saints in Ohio to be sincere but confused about the biblical teaching that early Christians “were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common” (Acts 4:32).

Many of the Ohio converts belonged to “the Family,” a communal group that shared the home and farm of Lucy and Isaac Morley in an effort to be true Christians. Their intentions were in keeping with the account Joseph himself had recently received of Enoch’s Zion, where the people had achieved the ideal “of one heart and one mind” and completely eliminated poverty (Moses 7:18). However, their practices undermined personal agency, stewardship, and accountability—though they were “striving to do the will of God, so far as they knew it.”[3] As a result, the converts were, in the words of Joseph Smith’s history, “going to destruction very fast as to temporal things: for they considered from reading the scripture that what belonged to a brother belonged to any of the brethren.”[4]

Very shortly after Joseph arrived in Ohio, the Lord revealed that “by the prayer of your faith ye shall receive my law that ye may know how to govern my Church.”[5] A few days later, Joseph gathered several elders and in “mighty prayer” asked the Lord to reveal His law as promised.[6]

The revelation Joseph received in response upheld the first great commandment, loving God wholeheartedly, as the motivation for keeping all the others, including the law of consecration, suggesting that love for God is the reason for the practice. To consecrate, the early Saints were taught, meant to make their property sacred by using it for the Lord’s work, including purchasing land on which to build New Jerusalem and crowning it with a temple. The law revealed that consecration was as much about receiving as it was about giving, since the Lord promised that each faithful Saint would receive “sufficient for him self and family” here and salvation hereafter.[7]

The law clarified that consecration did not necessarily mean communal ownership of property.

Rather, it required willing souls to acknowledge that the Lord was the owner of all and that each of the Saints was to be a hardworking “steward over his own property”[8] and thus accountable to the actual owner, the Lord, who required that the Saints freely offer their surplus to His storehouse to be used to relieve poverty and build Zion.[9]

The Ohio converts’ faith in Joseph’s revelations led them to align their practices with the Lord’s revealed plan. As Joseph’s history put it, “The plan of ‘common stock,’ which had existed in what was called ‘the family,’ whose members generally had embraced the ever lasting gospel, was readily abandoned for the more perfect law of the Lord.”[10]

As time went on, Bishop Edward Partridge implemented the law as best he could, and willing Saints signed deeds consecrating their property to the Church. But obeying the law was voluntary, and some Saints refused. Others were untaught, and many were scattered.[11] Some rebellious Saints even challenged the law in court, leading to refinements in its language and changes in practice.

Other early Saints understood that the eternal principles of the law—agency, stewardship, and accountability to God—could be applied in changing situations, as when Leman Copley decided not to consecrate his farm in Thompson, Ohio, sending the Saints gathered there on to Missouri to live the law, or again when a mob drove Church members from Jackson County in 1833, ending the bishop’s practice of giving and receiving consecration deeds, but not ending the law itself. Just as the law of consecration, though revealed in February 1831, did not begin then, it did not end when some refused to obey and others were thwarted in their attempts. 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.”[12]

In addition to expounding the law of consecration, section 42 answered many questions the saints had.

Joseph and the elders who gathered in February 1831 in pursuit of the revelation first asked if the Church should “come to gether into one place or continue in separate establishments.” The Lord answered with what are now essentially the first 10 verses of Doctrine and Covenants 42, calling on the elders to preach the gospel in pairs, declare the word like angels, invite all to repent, and baptize all who were willing. By gathering Saints into the Church from every region, the elders would prepare for the day when the Lord would reveal the New Jerusalem. Then, “ye may be gathered in one,” the Lord said.[13]

The Lord then answered a question that had troubled Christianity for centuries: was Christ’s Church an orderly, authoritative institution or an unfettered outpouring of the Spirit and its gifts? Some people made extreme claims to spiritual gifts, and others responded with an equal and opposite reaction, stripping away the spontaneity of the Spirit, completely in favor of rigid rules. This dilemma existed in the early Church in Ohio, and the Lord responded to it with several revelations, including His law. The law did not envision the Church as either well ordered or free to follow the Spirit; rather, it required that preachers be ordained by those known to have authority, that they teach the scriptures, and that they do it by the power of the Holy Ghost.[14]

Other portions of the law restated and commented on the commandments revealed to Moses and included conditional promises of more revelation depending on the Saints’ faithfulness to what they had received, including sharing the gospel.[15]

“How,” the elders wondered, should they care for “their families while they are proclaiming repentance or are otherwise engaged in the Service of the Church?”[16] The Lord answered with what has become verses 70–73, then elaborated further in later revelations, now found in Doctrine and Covenants 72:11–14 and 75:24–28

Early versions of the law also include short answers to two additional questions: Should the Church have business dealings—especially get into debt—with people outside the Church, and what should the Saints do to accommodate those gathering from the East? The answers have been left out of later versions of the text, perhaps because Doctrine and Covenants 64:27–30 answers the first question, while the answer to the second is so specific to a past place and time that it may have been considered unimportant for future generations.[17]

Section 43

Section 43 is one of the loveliest, most poetic of Joseph’s revelations. It is an eschatological text, meaning that it addresses the end of the world and the events that lead up to the Savior’s return. But perhaps its most significant contribution is its solution to the old and perplexing problem of revelation. Avoiding the extremes of no revelation at all or a completely chaotic free-for-all, section 43 validates personal revelation and sets boundaries for what such revelations will contain. Only Joseph or his authorized successors will reveal the Lord’s will for the entire Church of Jesus Christ.  

Oliver Cowdery and his companions converted well over one hundred people in northeastern Ohio in the fall of 1830, then left for the western frontier to fulfill their mission call. The natural leaders of the converts, Sidney Rigdon and Edward Partridge, went to New York to meet Joseph. So almost overnight there was a large group of new, leaderless converts. “The enemy of all righteous had . . . made them think that an angel of God appeard to them, and showed them writings on the outside cover of the Bible, and on parchment, which flew through the air, and on the back of their hands, and many such foolish and vain things, others lost their strength, and some slid on the floor, and such like maneuvers.”[1]

Into the chaos stepped a woman we only know by her surname, Hubble. She claimed to be a prophetess. She testified that the Book of Mormon was true, and she received revelations that included commandments and laws. The saints believed her.[2]

When Joseph arrived he had a problem.

Critics of revelation complain that God no longer reveals his will to women and men on earth. Believers in revelation, meanwhile, receive revelations themselves and many believe in counterfeits. Joseph did not want to make the false claim that God would not reveal himself to ordinary people, including women. Like Moses, he wished “that all the LORD’s people were prophets, and that the LORD would put his spirit upon them!” (Numbers 11:29).  But how could he affirm that God continues to reveal his will while simultaneously maintaining the revealed order of the Lord’s church?

Hubble’s gender was not the issue. Hiram Page had created a similar problem by presuming to receive revelations (section 28). To Emma Smith, meanwhile, the Lord had promised the power to expound scripture and exhort the church by the spirit of revelation to her (section 25:7). The question was not whether women could receive revelation.  They could, and did, and do. The question was to whom the Lord would reveal his will for the whole church. The confusion required clarification.  

John Whitmer prefaced section 43 by saying that “the Lord gave Revelation that the saints might not be deceived which reads as follows.” He noted that “after this commandment was received the saints came to understanding on this subject, and unity and harmony prevailed throughout the church of God: and the Saints began to learn wisdom, and treasure up knowledge which they learned from the word of God, and by experience as they advanced in the way of eternal life.”   

Section 43 makes an important distinction between revealed commandments and teachings about how to act on the revealed commandments and teachings.

They are not of the same importance even if they come from the same source. The revelations of the Lord through Joseph are more important and binding than the teachings of Joseph about those “how to act upon the points of my law and commandments.”[3]

In section 43, saints are commanded not to receive the teachings of anyone as if they were revelations or commandments (DC& 43:5). The Lord commands saints to instruct and edify each other—to produce teachings—about “how to act upon the points of my law and commandments, which I have given” (D&C 43:8). Inspired teachings about how to obey commandments are good, but they are not the same as the Lord’s actual commandments and revelations. A saint who feels guilty for seeking and receiving personal revelation that runs counter to the teachings of a church leader is actually obedient to the Lord’s command in section 43 to not equate anyone’s teachings with the Lord’s commandments and revelations. Section 43 was necessary, John Whitmer said, so saints could “learn to discern.”[4]

Section 44

Shortly after he relocated to Kirtland, Ohio, as commanded (D&C 37, 38), Joseph wrote an urgent letter to Martin Harris, still living in New York.“Inform the Elders which are there that all of them who can be spared will come here without delay if possable this by Commandment of the Lord,” the prophet said.[1]

Section 44 was Joseph’s motivation—the commandment he mentioned to Martin.[2] The rationale of the revelation goes like this. The Lord explains that it is expedient, or a means to a highly desired end. Often, as in section 44, the Lord says something is “expedient in me,” meaning that the thing is a vital means to accomplish his purposes. The means, in the case of section 44, is to gather all the elders of the Church who can possibly attend. At least that is the first premise of the means, or what is expedient. 

Here is a paraphrase of the rest of the Lord’s rationale in section 44:
  • Gather all the elders
  • If they are faithful they will have the Lord’s Spirit poured out upon them when they assemble
  • That will make them powerful preachers of repentance
  • That will lead many people to convert
  • That will give the saints power to organize economically in ways that are legal (and so not vulnerable to suits by enemies)
  • That will give the saints power to organize economically in ways that are also legal in terms of the Lord’s law of consecration

Meanwhile, the Lord explains, “you must visit the poor and the needy and administer to their relief” (D&C 44:6). 

That all makes more sense when you know that Ohio law demanded that twenty members of a church meet to elect officers and have their organization recorded by the county clerk in order for that church to have legal recognition and be able to own property.[3] The gathering of the Saints in Ohio led prominent and powerful men, including Eber Howe and Grandison Newell, to oppose the church economically, in the press, and in the courts. Foreseeing the need to organize and the antagonism the saints would experience, the Lord revealed section 44. 

Joseph wrote to his brother Hyrum, “I think you had better come into the country immediately for the Lord has commanded us that we should call the elders of this Church together unto this place as soon as possible.”[4] There was a “special meeting of the Elder of the Church of Christ held at Kirtland” on April 9, 1831, but it seems like the meeting that best fulfills the command and prophesied blessings in section 44 was held in early June.[5]

Section 41 notes

[1] “Revelation, 4 February 1831 [D&C 41],” p. 61, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed July 28, 2020, B.H. Roberts, A Comprehensive History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 6 volumes (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1977-78), 1:244.

[2] Edward Partridge Papers, May 26, 1839, Church History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah.

[3] Richard L. Anderson, “Impact of the First Mormon Preaching in Ohio,” BYU Studies 11:4 (Summer 1971): 489.

[4] History of Edward Partridge, Jr., 5, quoted in Anderson, “Impact of the First Mormon Preaching in Ohio,” BYU Studies 11:4 (Summer 1971): 493.  Lavina Fielding Anderson, Lucy’s Book : A Critical Edition of Lucy Mack Smith’s Family Memoir  (Salt Lake City: Signature, 2001), 504-05.

[5] Quoted in Scott H. Partridge, “Edward Partridge in Painesville, Ohio,” BYU Studies 42:1 (2003): 59.

[6] Scott H. Partridge, editor, Eliza Maria Partridge Journal (Provo: Grandin, 2003), 2-3.

Section 42 notes

[1] Joseph Smith letter to Martin Harris, Feb. 22, 1831, 1,

[2] “Revelation, 2 January 1831 [D&C 38],” in Revelation Book 1, 52,; see also Doctrine and Covenants 38:32.

[3] Joseph Smith, “History, 1838–1856, volume A-1 [23 December 1805–30 August 1834],” 93,

[4] “John Whitmer, History, 1831–circa 1847,” 11,

[5] “Revelation, 4 February 1831 [D&C 41],” in Revelation Book 1, 61,; see also Doctrine and Covenants 41:3.

[6] “John Whitmer, History, 1831–circa 1847,” 12.

[7] “Revelation, 9 February 1831 [D&C 42:1–72],” 3,; see also Doctrine and Covenants 42:32.

[8] “Revelation, 9 February 1831 [D&C 42:1–72],” 3.

[9] See “Revelation, 9 February 1831 [D&C 42:1–72],” 3, 4.

[10] Joseph Smith, “History, 1838–1856, volume A-1 [23 December 1805–30 August 1834],” 93.

[11] See “John Whitmer, History, 1831–circa 1847,” 17.

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

[13] “Revelation, 9 February 1831 [D&C 42:1–72],” 1–2.

[14] See “Revelation, 9 February 1831 [D&C 42:1–72],” 2.

[15] See “Revelation, 9 February 1831 [D&C 42:1–72],” 2–5.

[16] See “Revelation, 9 February 1831 [D&C 42:1–72],” 1–5. This concept was further clarified in the 1835 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants.

[17] One question read, “How far it is the will of the Lord that we Should have dealings with the wo[r]ld & how we Should conduct our dealings with them?” The answer was, “Thou shalt contract no debts with them & again the Elders & Bishop shall Council together & they shall do by the directions of the spirit as it must be necessary.” The other question was, “What preperations we shall make for our Brethren from the East & when [another manuscript asks where] & how?” The Lord answered, “There shall be as many appointed as must needs be necessary to assist the Bishop in obtaining places that they may be together as much as can be & is directed by the holy Spirit” (“Revelation, 9 February 1831, [D&C 42:1–72],” 6).

Section 43 notes

[1] “John Whitmer, History, 1831–circa 1847,” p. 10, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed September 28, 2020,

[2] “John Whitmer, History, 1831–circa 1847,” p. 18, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed September 28, 2020, “History, 1838–1856, volume A-1 [23 December 1805–30 August 1834],” p. 101, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed September 28, 2020, Ezra Booth letter November 29, 1831, in Ohio Star (Ravenna, Ohio) December 8, 1831.

[3] Ezra Booth letter November 29, 1831, in Ohio Star (Ravenna, Ohio) December 8, 1831.  Book of John Whitmer, chapter 3, Community of Christ Archives, Independence, Missouri.  Manuscript History of the Church, Book A-1, pages 101-03; History of the Church, 1:154.

[4] “John Whitmer, History, 1831–circa 1847,” p. 10, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed September 28, 2020,

Section 44 notes

[1] “Letter to Martin Harris, 22 February 1831,” p. [1], The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed July 28, 2020,

[2] “Revelation, February 1831–B [D&C 44],” p. 70, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed July 28, 2020,

[3] “Act for the Incorporation of Religious Societies,” Acts Passed at the First Session of the Seventeenth General Assembly of the State of Ohio, Vol XII (Chillicothe, Ohio: Office of the Supporter, 1819), chapter LIV.

[4] “Letter to Hyrum Smith, 3–4 March 1831,” p. [2], The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed September 28, 2020,

[5] “Minute Book 2,” p. 3, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed September 28, 2020, “Minutes, circa 3–4 June 1831,” p. 3, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed September 28, 2020,

The post Come, Follow Me: Doctrine & Covenants 41-44 appeared first on Steven C. Harper.

Continue reading at the original source →