D&C 37-38 To Gather and to Receive His Law
In a footnote to his October 2020 general conference talk, “Let God Prevail,” President Russell M. Nelson revealed that in the more than 800 talks he has given since being ordained an apostle in April 1984, he has spoken of “Israel” in at least 378 of them (see Ensign, Nov. 2020, p. 95, footnote 1). And President Nelson has made it clear that to speak of Israel is to speak of the latter-day gathering of God’s children, through missionary work and temple and family history work.
The heading for Section 37 of the Doctrine and Covenants indicates that this revelation contains “the first commandment concerning a gathering in this dispensation.” The Lord tells Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon the following:
- “Because of the Enemy”—One reason to leave New York and gather in Ohio is “because of the enemy” (37:1). Read also 38:11-13, 28-31 and consider reasons the Saints in December 1830 may have felt afraid. What reasons do you see in 38:7-9, 14-15, 30 for them not to fear? How do you think gathering together—whether literally or figuratively—can help protect members of the Church? How does “gathering” bless you, other members of your ward or branch, and others you are close to?
- “Behold, Here is Wisdom”—In 37:4 the Lord, as always, allowed for “every man [to] choose for himself.” The instruction to gather at this time was no doubt a hardship for many, it being a journey of some 300 miles in the middle of winter. As in all things, we have the Lord’s commands; we have our agency; and He promises blessings for our obedience.
- “There I Will Give Unto You My Law”—In 38:32 the Lord said that in Ohio He would reveal to the Saints “my law,” a reference to what we now call “The Law of Consecration” (see D&C 42; especially verses 30-39). Find in D&C 38:24-25, 27, 30, 32, 34-35, 39-42 key words and phrases that would help these early Saints—and will help us—to “practise virtue and holiness” before the Lord (38:24).
- “As Seemeth Them Good”—Why do you think it should not have mattered to the Saints who were leaving their farms and other properties behind, without being able to sell or rent them? (38:37). In what ways has the Lord “made up” to you any losses or sacrifices you have made for the gospel cause? How does verse 39 help?
D&C 38:7-39 “I Am in Your Midst”
As members of the new church struggled temporally and/or spiritually, note what the Lord Jesus Christ revealed about Himself in D&C 38:1-4, 7; and in D&C 39:1-4. How would these truths about the Savior be helpful for these early Saints, and for us? Note also the many sweet, glorious promises the Lord makes to His Saints:
- “I am in your midst” (verse 7).
- “Ye shall see me, and know that I am” (verse 8).
- “The kingdom is yours, and the enemy shall not overcome” (verse 9).
- “I will be merciful unto your weakness” (verse 14).
- “Fear not, for the kingdom is yours” (verse 15).
- “I hold forth and deign to give unto you greater riches,… Ye shall have it for the land of your inheritance, and for the inheritance of your children forever” (verses 18-20).
- “In time ye shall have no king nor ruler, for I will be your king and watch over you” (verse 21).
- “Hear my voice and follow me, and you shall be a free people.… For I am your lawgiver and what can stay my hand?” (verse 22).
- “That ye might escape the power of the enemy, and be gathered unto me a righteous people” (verse 31).
- “You shall be endowed with power from on high” (verse 32).
- “Israel shall be saved, and I will lead them withersoever I will, and no power shall stay my hand” (verse 33).
- “Ye shall be the richest of all people, for ye shall have the riches of eternity” (verse 39).
In 1830 the Lord gave His young church commands and promises regarding their gathering. In our day we have been taught the following by President Russell M. Nelson regarding our current role in helping to gather the Lord’s people: “Anytime you do anything that helps anyone—on either side of the veil—take a step toward making covenants with God and receiving their essential baptismal and temple ordinances, you are helping to gather Israel. It is as simple as that” (“Hope of Israel,” Worldwide Youth Devotional, 3 June 2018).
D&C 39-40 James Covel
In Matthew 13 Jesus taught and explained a parable about a sower who scattered seeds. The seeds represented the gospel word, and there were varying results, depending on the soil and on the care of the planted seeds. In January 1831 James Covel, having been a Methodist minister for about forty years, initially received the message of the restored gospel with enthusiasm, even to the point of promising to obey anything the Lord would reveal to him through the Prophet Joseph Smith.
Read D&C 39:7-14. If James Covel were to accept and obey everything the Lord commanded in these verses, what would he be giving up, or sacrificing? What would he gain? Do you see any additional insights as you re-read verses 7-13, substituting your own name for “James”?
The very next day the Lord gave a follow-up revelation for James. Read D&C 40:1-3; and read also the Savior’s parable of the sower in Matthew 13:3-8, 18-23. Do you see James Covel’s experience in the parable? How can temptation, fear of persecution, and the cares of the world (40:2) affect those who hear the gospel message? What can you do in your life to assure that your “soil” is always ready to receive and to nurture the word of God?