Section 111

The revelation of section 111 on August 6, 1836 reoriented Joseph and his companions. They had been preoccupied with paying their debts to the point of pursuing an unwise strategy. The revelation taught them to think of treasure in terms of human lives, “people  . . . whom I will gather,” and to not be overly concerned about their debts (D&C 111). It is a comforting revelation. 

Just as the Saints in Missouri were being asked to leave another county there, Joseph and the Saints in Ohio finished the House of the Lord in Kirtland at great expense. The resulting blessings far surpassed the value of every penny, but the process left Joseph indebted around $13,000 with more expenses looming. Under these circumstances Joseph took a risk. A man named Jonathan Burgess had told him that there was a lot of money buried in the cellar of a house in Salem, Massachusetts. He said he knew where it was, and that he was the only living person who did. Joseph, his brother Hyrum, Oliver Cowdery and Sidney Rigdon set out for Salem in July, planning to meet Burgess, locate the house, and hopefully find the treasure. They eventually found the house, but it was not for sale or rent, and they left Salem without getting access to it.[1]

Church historian B.H. Roberts wrote that “while in Salem the Prophet received a revelation in which the folly of this journey is sharply reproved.”[2] Elder Roberts may have been overly sensitive to the emphasis antagonistic writers placed on Joseph’s youthful treasure seeking (see Joseph Smith—History 1:55-57).[3] The Lord does not sharply reprove Joseph in Section 111. He says, in fact, that he is not displeased with the prophet despite his follies, by which he meant “a weak or absurd act not highly criminal; an act which is inconsistent with the dictates of reason, or with the ordinary rules of prudence.”[4]

In this and other revelations that respond to Joseph or other saints being in anxious, high-pressure situations, the Lord’s response is cool and in control. Joseph is overwhelmed with debt to the point of taking unsound risks. The Lord replies that he will gather Salem’s treasures and souls for Zion in due time. Joseph and his companions responded by seeking out the place the Lord wanted them to stay, a house on Union Street not far from where Nathaniel Hawthorne was writing tales of buried treasure in Salem and the local newspaper was reporting similar rumors.[5] They visited from house to house and did some preaching. On August 19 they visited the East India Marine Society Museum, comparatively relaxed in their efforts to obey the revelation and stop being too concerned with their debts and with things they could not control in Zion, and focus instead on souls both past and present. 

These efforts led to some of the “treasures” the Lord mentioned in verse 10. Returning from another trip to Salem in 1841, Hyrum Smith met with Erastus Snow, gave him a copy of Section 111 and urged him to go there and harvest the “many people” the Lord promised to gather in due time (1). At great sacrifice to himself and his family, Elder Snow went. He and Benjamin Winchester started the harvest and others followed. In 1841 the Salem Gazette announced that “a very worthy and respectable laboring man, and his wife, were baptized by immersion in the Mormon Faith.” Six months later the Salem Register noted that “Mormonism is advancing with a perfect rush in this city.”[6] The church has inquired into Salem’s early inhabitants too. The early records of Salem and surrounding areas have been preserved and are accessible for genealogical research leading to the sacred ordinances of the House of the Lord.

With Section 111, the Lord transformed folly into treasures in his own due time. 

Section 112

Do you know someone who only hears the parts of a conversation that validate their thoughts or actions? Are you that person? 

Apostasy swept through the Saints in Ohio in 1837, including the apostles. Thomas Marsh, president of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles, tried to reconcile the struggling members of his quorum and prepare the apostles for a mission to Great Britain under his leadership. Thomas had scheduled a July 24, 1837 meeting of the apostles in Kirtland. When he arrived he discovered that Joseph had already called and sent apostles Heber Kimball and Orson Hyde to England.[1] After consulting with quorum member Brigham Young, Thomas went to Joseph for counsel and reconciliation.[2] In that meeting, Thomas wrote Section 112 as Joseph dictated. Aspiring and full of potential, Thomas and some of the apostles found themselves divided, unfulfilled, and undervalued.  The revelation acknowledges the apostles’ receipt of priesthood keys, and the greatness of their calling, but it also implies pride, even blasphemy and apostasy among some, and the need for Thomas and his quorum to repent and then to preach repentance and baptism (23-26).

Though he wrote the Lord’s words as Joseph spoke them, Thomas Marsh heard section 112 selectively. He took the revelation to Heber Kimball’s wife Vilate and told her that Joseph had assured him that her husband’s missionary work in England would not be effective until Thomas said so.[3] Meanwhile, Heber and his companions sent letters back across the Atlantic reporting their successful labors. As Heber put it, “it was all right to prepare the way for brother Marsh.”[4]

Thomas Marsh had an arrogance problem. He heard and self-servingly interpreted the passages of the revelation that reminded him of his high position, the greatness of his calling, his possession of powerful priesthood keys, and his impressive role in spreading the gospel to the nations. He did not hear the revelation’s command to be humble (10), to “exalt not yourselves,” or “rebel not against my servant Joseph” (15).   

Thomas returned to his home in Missouri as commanded in verse 5 and continued to serve as the church’s publisher there. In the autumn of 1838 he exalted himself and rebelled against Joseph. He famously repudiated the decisions of church councils to defend his wife in a domestic dispute with another sister.[5] Then he signed an affidavit charging Joseph Smith with treason, leading to his incarceration. Thomas was subsequently excommunicated in March 1839 and remained estranged from the church for nearly two decades.   

In May 1857 he wrote a humble letter to, of all people, Heber Kimball, then serving in the First Presidency. “I deserve no place among you in the church as the lowest member,” Thomas confessed, “but I cannot live without a reconciliation with the 12 and the Church whom I have injured.” In the same letter Marsh referred back to his apostolic commission affirmed in section 112. “A mission was laid upon me & I have never filled it and now I fear it is too late but it is filled by another I see, the Lord could get along very well without me and He has lost nothing by my falling out of the ranks; But O what have I lost?”[6]

Don’t be that person. Be humble, don’t exalt yourself, and don’t rebel against the Lord’s servants, and the Lord will lead you by the hand and answer your prayers (D&C 112:10)

Section 113

Section 113 answers questions about passages of Isaiah, chapters 11 and 52. It was recorded in Joseph’s scriptory book in 1838 after Joseph moved to Missouri, but Joseph had been thinking about the meaning of Isaiah 11 since 1823, when Moroni began teaching him.[1]

Imagine being an obscure, poorly educated “boy of no consequence” as Joseph described his teenage self (Joseph Smith—History, 22). Seventeen-year-old Joseph prayed for forgiveness and an angel appeared. He started quoting and paraphrasing scripture: Malachi, Joel, Acts, and all of Isaiah 11, among others. He returned again and again that night and then again the next day, repeating Isaiah 11 each time, saying it was just about to be fulfilled. 

That chapter invites readers to imagine think of a man named Jesse as a tree. Jesse is the father of the Israelite King David in the Old Testament. God promised David that the Messaiah would occupy his throne forever (2 Samuel 7:13, Luke 1:32). Isaiah 11 is about the genealogy (families are often represented as trees) of the rightful king of Israel. It also says that someone related to Jesse and Ephraim will raise an ensign (a signal, a standard, a rally point) for the gathering of the Lord’s people in the latter days.

Now imagine that you are Joseph six years later, age 24, translating what’s now 2 Nephi 21, the entire text of Isaiah 11. How much of it do you understand by now? Flash forward to age 32. It has been 15 years since Moroni first quoted Isaiah 11 to you. You know what it means by now. It has been the story of your life. You have since seen the prophecies fulfilled, received the priesthood and its keys to gather the scattered remnants of Israel “to return them to the Lord from whence they have fallen,” to be their revelator, and to bring again Zion (D&C 113:8-10).

It’s not clear whether Joseph or someone else posed the question in D&C 113:1, who is the stem of Jesse, the tree trunk, spoken of in Isaiah 11? The clear answer, however, is Jesus Christ. Scholars generally interpret that entire passage to refer to the same Messianic figure, but Joseph did not. Joseph had learned to see himself as the rod or branch that would grow out from the trunk, Jesus Christ. He said so cryptically rather than explicitly. But by age 32 if not at 17, Joseph knew what Moroni knew: Joseph was “a servant in the hands of Christ . . . on whom there is laid much power. . . the priesthood, and the keys of the kingdom, for an ensign, and for the gathering” of the Lord’s people in the latter days (D&C 113). Section 113 also answers Elias Higbee’s questions about Isaiah 52, interpreting some of the symbolism in terms of D&C Section 86 and what Joseph had learned by revelation about priesthood, Zion, and the gathering of Israel.  

The Book of Mormon identified Joseph as a descendant of Joseph of Egypt (2 Nephi 3:6-16). When Joseph’s father gave him a patriarchal blessing in 1834, it said: 

I bless thee with the blessings of thy fathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; and even the blessings of thy father Joseph, the son of Jacob. Behold, he looked after his posterity in the last days, when they should be scattered and driven by the Gentiles, and wept before the Lord: he sought diligently to know from whence the son should come who should bring forth the word of the Lord, by which they might be enlightened, and brought back to the true fold, and his eyes beheld thee, my son: his heart rejoiced and his soul was satisfied.[2]

It is not clear exactly when Joseph understood himself to be the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecies of a servant of Christ who would establish a gathering place for Israel and bring again Zion. The recording of Section 113 in early 1838 testifies that these ideas were on his mind then. The Church was in upheaval. Joseph was trying to exercise the priesthood keys he had recently received to loose the scattered Israelites from the bands around their necks and bring them to Zion (D&C 110 and 113:8-10).

Section 114

What would happen if one-third of the apostles apostatized or were killed? Section 114 is an answer. Elder David W. Patten was second in seniority in the quorum of twelve apostles when he and his wife Ann moved from Kirtland, Ohio to Far West, Missouri, in late 1836 or early 1837. With his quorum president Thomas Marsh, David led the Saints in Missouri as several church leaders apostatized in the early months of 1838. After Joseph arrived in Missouri that spring, David asked Joseph to seek a revelation for him. Section 114 was recorded in Joseph’s Scriptory Book, his journal for 1838.[1] That book is full of records of counsels in which several of the apostles as well as Oliver Cowdery and David Whitmer were disciplined or excommunicated from the Church.   

The brief revelation instructed David and other apostles to prepare for a mission the following spring (1839). Although the revelation does not mention where the apostles would serve, apostles Heber Kimball, Orson Hyde and their companions had sent reports of their success in Great Britain. Section 114 implies a call to the entire quorum to serve a follow-up mission to the British Isles the next year. David Patten did not live to serve that mission. He was killed on 25 October 1838 after being wounded in a conflict between saints and Missouri militiamen. The apostles did go to Britain, however. On 8 July, just over two months following the receipt of this revelation, Joseph received another with more details of their call (see section 118).

The vacancies left by David Patten’s death and the apostasy of Oliver Cowdery, the entire presidency of the Church in Missouri, and a third of the apostles, did not remain. Rather nonchalantly, the revelation says their “bishopric” or office can be filled by others. The Lord seems unconcerned. Section 114 shows how the Lord grants individual agency, including the potential for apostasy, without compromising the Kingdom. Sad as the casualties are, the work rolls forward when someone opts out. Replacements are ready. In this case men named John Taylor and Wilford Woodruff, among others, were called and filled in nicely (see section 118).

Section 111 notes

[1] “Letter to Emma Smith, 19 August 1836,” p. [1], The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed November 25, 2020,

[2] B. H. Roberts, A Comprehensive History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1: 410-11.

[3] Richard L. Bushman, Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling (New York: Knopf, 2005), 328-29.

[4] Webster’s 1828 Dictionary, s.v. “follies.”

[5] David R. Proper, “Joseph Smith and Salem,” Essex Institute Historical Collections 100 (April 1964): 93. On the day Section 111 was revealed, the Salem Observer reprinted a Long Island Star article on rumors of treasure buried by Captain Kidd and unsuccessful efforts to find it.

[6] Salem Gazette, December 7, 1841. Salem Register, June 2, 1842.

Section 112 notes

[1] Ronald K. Esplin, “The Emergence of Brigham Young,” 287-92.

[2] Wilford Woodruff, Journal, June 25, 1857, Church History Library. 

[3] Vilate Kimball to Heber C. Kimball, September 6, 1837, photocopy of original in private possession, Church History Library. 

[4] Heber C. Kimball to Vilate Kimball, November 12, 1837, Church History Library. 

[5] Journal of Discourses, 3:283-84.

[6] Thomas B. Marsh to Heber C. Kimball, May 5, 1857, Church History Library.

Section 113 notes

[1] “Questions and Answers, between circa 16 and circa 29 March 1838–A [D&C 113:1–6],” p. 17, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed November 25, 2020,

[2] “Blessing from Joseph Smith Sr., 9 December 1834,” p. 3, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed November 25, 2020,

Section 114 notes

[1] “Revelation, 11 April 1838 [D&C 114],” p. 32, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed November 25, 2020,

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