Section 46

Like several other revelations Joseph received shortly after relocating to Kirtland, Ohio, section 46 fights deception. The revelation is known for its list of spiritual gifts, but the Lord presents them as part of a larger rationale that may not be easy to grasp. The Lord’s command for us to earnestly seek the gifts of the Spirit is so that we will not be deceived. If saints live in the light of the Holy Ghost, they will not be deceived. If they do not have the Spirit, they will be deceived. Joseph taught that someone “who has none of the gifts has not faith; and he deceives himself if he supposes he has.”[1]

The revelation arose from a conflict between missionaries. Some returned to Kirtland from Cleveland having had an awful experience. They were preaching when a deceiver came forward and knelt as if to pray, but then led an attack. His cohorts blew out the candles and threw inkstands and books at the speaker. Some missionaries understandably wanted to restrict attendance at their meetings as a result of this abuse. Others opposed this idea, citing 3 Nephi 18:22 where the Lord commands the church “not to forbid any man from coming unto you when ye shall meet together.” Both positions seemed justified. The saints needed further light. “Therefore,” wrote John Whitmer, “the Lord deigned to speak on this subject, that his people might come to understanding, and said, that he had always given to his Elders to conduct all meetings as they were led by the spirit.”[2]

The Lord knows very well what the Book of Mormon says in 3 Nephi 18:22-34 about allowing everyone who wants to worship with the saints to do so. However, it is always the case that the elders should conduct meetings by the Holy Ghost. There may be times when exceptions to what the Book of Mormon says are in order. How will those exceptional cases be known? By the Spirit.  

The saints must prayerfully, gratefully seek the Holy Spirit in holiness, with honest motives, a clear conscience, and concern about eternal consequences. Otherwise they are likely to be seduced by evil spirits, doctrines of devils, or commandments of men. Section 46 commands saints to beware of these deceptions, and promises them they will not be deceived if they seek earnestly the gifts of the Holy Ghost and always remembering their intended purposes to benefit those who love the Lord and keep all his commandments, and those who seek to do so. The gifts of the Spirit are not given to satisfy selfish motives. They are to be shared, the Lord explains. Not all saints have every gift, but all have at least one gift. Some have one, some another, and thus by sharing everyone gains access to all the gifts.

When asked by one skeptic whether one could be saved simply by repenting and being baptized but not seeking the Holy Ghost, Joseph made an analogy.  “Suppose I am traveling and am hungry, and meet with a man and tell him I am hungry; and he tells me to go yonder, there is a house for entertainment, go and knock and you must conform to all the rules of the house, or you cannot satisfy your hunger; knock, call for food, sit down and eat and I go and knock and ask for food and sit down to the table, but do not eat, shall I satisfy my hunger? No! I must eat: the gifts are the food.”[3]

Section 47

The day the Savior restored his Church, he commanded the saints to keep records (D&C 21:1). Oliver Cowdery assumed the responsibility to do so, then the Lord called him on a mission. John Whitmer, meanwhile, returned from a mission and “was appointed by the voice of the Elders to keep the Church record.” Joseph asked him to also write and preserve a history of the church. John didn’t want to. “I would rather not do it,” he explained, “but observed that the will of the Lord be done, and if he desires it, I desire that he would manifest it through Joseph the Seer.”[1]

That’s when Joseph asked and received section 47. It assigns John to preserve the Church’s history and also to copy Joseph’s revelations. John accepted his revealed assignments. He was sustained by the church at a special conference in April 1831, a month after the revelation, and began writing in June.[2] “I shall proceed to continue this record,” his first sentence says, “being commanded of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, to write the things that transpire in this church.”[3] John was not near as good a historian as Oliver. His history is an important but sketchy source that became quite cynical when John apostatized in 1838. John was faithful to his calling as a transcriber, however. Many of the earliest revelation manuscripts that exist are copies in his handwriting.[4]

Joseph Smith had lived in John Whitmer’s home. John had scribed part of the Book of Mormon as Joseph translated. What does it tell us about Joseph Smith and the restoration that someone who knew him as well as John did would resist obeying Joseph’s personal counsel and then obey a revelation received through Joseph? The people who knew Joseph best “accepted the voice in the revelations as the voice of God, investing in the revelations the highest authority, even above Joseph Smith’s counsel. In the revelations, they believed, god himself spoke, not a man.”[5]

Section 48

The literal gathering of Israel and building of New Jerusalem raise questions. Section 48 was given to answer some of them. Sections 37 and 38 inspired saints in New York to move to Ohio in the fall and winter of 1830-1831. Section 41 called Edward Partridge to be their bishop. Section 42 gave them the law of consecration to live by and gave the bishop responsibility for “the properties of my church” and “the poor and the needy.” It also told Bishop Partridge to obtain places where the New York saints to settle.[1]

As spring of 1831 arrived in Ohio and saints from New York with it, the bishop became anxious for more specific instructions and answers.[2] It is premature, the Lord says, to try to build New Jerusalem yet. Rather, let the New York saints get settled as best they can first. Then the Lord will reveal more about New Jerusalem. Then he will appoint people to lay its foundation. “Then shall ye begin to be gathered with your families” (D&C 48:6). 

Section 48 answered Bishop Partridge’s questions and mapped out and orderly, step-by-step process for building and inhabiting New Jerusalem based on previous and future revelation. It also answers common questions related to the law of consecration. Is saving contrary to consecration? What about “obtaining” money? Section 48 clarifies that one’s motives matter very much when it comes to saving and obtaining. It commands the saints, as prophets have since, to save all they can for righteous purposes. It commands them to earn all they can “in righteousness” so they can build Zion. It is a restatement of the Lord’s command to seek his Kingdom first and foremost. Earning and saving for that reason is not only justified. It is commanded.

Section 46 notes

[1] “History, 1838–1856, volume D-1 [1 August 1842–1 July 1843],” p. 1434, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed July 28, 2020,

[2] “John Whitmer, History, 1831–circa 1847,” p. 23, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed July 28, 2020,

[3] “Journal, December 1842–June 1844; Book 1, 21 December 1842–10 March 1843,” p. 46, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed July 28, 2020,

Section 47 notes

[1] “John Whitmer, History, 1831–circa 1847,” p. 24, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed July 28, 2020,

[2] “Minute Book 2,” p. 3, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed July 28, 2020,

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

[4] “Revelation Book 1,” The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed July 28, 2020,

[5] Richard L. Bushman, Believing History : Latter-day Saint Essays, edited by Reid L. Neilson and Jed Woodworth (New York : Columbia University Press, 2004), 258-59.

Section 48 notes

[1] “Revelation, 9 February 1831 [D&C 42:1–72],” p. [1], The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed September 30, 2020,

[2] “John Whitmer, History, 1831–circa 1847,” p. 23, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed July 30, 2020, 

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