D&C 129 Three Grand Keys
President John Taylor said that Joseph Smith saw and spoke “not only with the Lord, but with the ancient apostles and prophets…. He seemed to be as familiar with these people as we are with one another” (Journal of Discourses, 21:94). As noted in the section heading, D&C 129 contains instructions from the Prophet Joseph Smith about how to know if a visitation is from God. He teaches how to identify true messengers, using “three grand keys” (verse 9; see also D&C 128:20; plus more of Joseph’s teachings about angels in D&C 130:4-7).
In verses 1-3, Joseph identified “two kinds of beings in heaven,” who may also be described as:
- Post-mortal resurrected beings (called “angels” in verses 1, 5).
- Post-mortal but not-yet resurrected beings (called “just men made perfect” in verses 3, 6). Verse 3 indicates that these first two kinds of beings are destined for the celestial kingdom.
- A third kind of being Joseph mentioned—but not from heaven—is “the devil” (verse 8; presumably including all those spirits who followed Satan in the premortal life).
Assuming that most of us probably do not receive angelic visitations, it is significant that President Wilford Woodruff taught, “The Holy Ghost is what every Saint of God needs. It is far more important that a man should have that gift than he should have the ministration of an angel” (Deseret Weekly, Nov. 7, 1896, p. 641). And Elder Dallin H. Oaks said, “The ministering of angels can also be unseen. Angelic messages can be delivered by a voice or merely by thoughts or feelings communicated to the mind…. Most angelic communications are felt or heard rather than seen” (Conference Report, Oct. 1998).
D&C 130 The Future of God’s People
This section contains more doctrinal teachings from Joseph Smith. A theme that runs throughout all of Section 130 is that of life beyond mortality. Consider:
- We anticipate a time in which we will enjoy the presence of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ (verses 1, 3).
- As you look toward a future life of “eternal glory,” with whom do you wish to enjoy the “same sociality” as here on earth? (verse 2).
- The future dwelling place we hope to enter—where God and angels reside—are places of great knowledge and revelation, including “all things … past, present, and future” (verse 7); where “all things … will be manifest” (verse 9); and with “a Urim and Thummim [to be given] to each individual” (verses 10-11).
- Joseph Smith prophesied that before the Second Coming of Christ (which will initiate the Millennium) there will be a time of “much bloodshed,” beginning with the pre-U.S. Civil War events that occurred in South Carolina (verses 12-13; see also D&C 87).
- Joseph Smith gained such confidence before the Lord that he ventured to ask when would be the time of His Second Coming (verse 14). The Lord’s reply in verses 15-17 does not appear to provide any major insights.
- Continuing with the theme of post-mortal life, what did Joseph teach about “intelligence” in verse 18? What does verse 19 teach about how to gain more intelligence?
- The inspired statement in verse 21 is crucial to fulfilling our purpose on earth. Re-state this verse in your own words, as if explaining it to a young child (see also D&C 132:5).
- A critical element of mortality is our access to the influence of the Holy Ghost, the Third Member of the Godhead (verses 22-23).
D&C 131 Celestial Glory
Again, we have more “instructions” from Joseph Smith, which continue the theme of the Saints’ future glory. According to verses 1-3, the celestial kingdom consists of three “heavens or degrees,” which we may also call levels. The highest of these, also known as “exaltation” or “Eternal Life,” is reserved for those sealed in eternal marriage who are faithful to their covenants. Such beings will have an eternal “increase,” or posterity (verse 4).
In the October 2008 general conference, President Russell M. Nelson said, “What of the many mature members of the Church who are not married? Through no failing of their own, they deal with the trials of life alone. Be we all reminded that, in the Lord’s own way and time, no blessings will be withheld from His faithful Saints. The Lord will judge and reward each individual according to heartfelt desire as well as deed.”
Verse 5 teaches more about the doctrine of “calling and election made sure,” here referred to as “the more sure word of prophecy.” This happens through revelation, as a personal appearance of the Savior (see also D&C 67:10; 88:68; 93:1).
Joseph teaches in verses 7-8 that “spirit is matter,” but its fine, pure, nature can only be discerned by “purer eyes.” All matter—whether “spirit matter” or other—is eternal (see D&C 93:33); man’s way of stating this is found in the scientific “law of conservation of mass,” explained thus: “Matter is never created or destroyed, it cycles through our world…. Matter can change form through physical and chemical changes, but through any of these changes, matter is conserved. The same amount of matter exists before and after the change—none is created or destroyed” (NationalGeographic.org; Resource Library; January 13, 2020).
D&C 132:3-33, 40-50 Eternal Marriage
The section heading indicates that this revelation consists of two major topics: “The eternity of the marriage covenant” (verses 3-33, 40-50) and “the principle of plural marriage” (verses 1-2, 34-39, 51-66). Note the following regarding the first topic; which we often refer to as temple marriage:
- In verses 3-6, the Lord emphasizes five times the importance of temple marriage, called in these verses “the new and everlasting covenant of marriage.”
- Verse 7 makes it clear that no man-made order can be recognized as eternal.
- Also in verse 7, covenants according to God’s order must be “sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise,” which means that such covenants are ratified in God’s eyes, in response to our obedience.
- In verses 8-12, the Lord states that in order for marriage to be eternal, it must be according to His order, in His name, by His appointment, ordained by Him, commanded by Him, by His word, and by His law (see also verses 13-14).
- To further make His point, the Lord offers several “case studies” related to marriage:
- A couple is married “until death do you part” (verses 15-17).
- A couple promises themselves to each other forever, but not by God’s law (verse 18).
- A couple marries in the temple and remains faithful (verses 19-20, 23-24; see also verse 46).
- A couple marries in the temple, but one of them fails to keep the covenants and does not repent (verses 41-43).
- The Lord listed some of the eternal blessings for those who enter into and “abide in [His] covenant,” including to come forth in the first resurrection, to inherit thrones, kingdoms, principalities, powers, dominions, heights, depths, exaltation, continuation of the seeds forever (verse 19); they shall be gods, from everlasting to everlasting, with all power (verse 20); for “where I am [they] shall be also” (verse 23), and they receive eternal lives (verse 24; see also D&C 76:58-59; 88:107).
- In verse 29 the Lord declares that Abraham (and of course, Sarah) “hath entered into his exaltation and sitteth upon his throne” (see also verse 37 regarding Isaac and Jacob).
- As the Lord declares to Joseph Smith that his calling and election are made sure, what are the promises He makes to Joseph in verses 49-50, 53, 57? What did the Lord say in verses 50, 53 that are the reasons Joseph would receive these blessings?
A note regarding verses 26-27: President Joseph Fielding Smith called verse 26 “the most abused passage in any scripture” (Doctrines of Salvation, 2:95-96), because of its potential for misinterpretation. In this verse, the Lord is warning against what could happen to those who seriously violate their temple marriage covenants. It seems reasonable to conclude that couples who keep their covenants—although not perfect, but living above the sins that would keep them out of the celestial kingdom—will gain their exaltation. Their only real danger would be a free-fall into apostasy and blasphemy against the Holy Ghost, which is mentioned in verse 27. This blasphemy is also known as “the unpardonable sin” or “denying the Holy Ghost” (see Hebrews 6:4-6; Alma 39:6; D&C 76:31, 35).
D&C 132:1-2, 34-39, 51-66 Plural Marriage
In D&C 132:45 the Lord states that that in these last days, He is to “restore all things, and make known unto you all things.” It is considered that the ancient practice of plural marriage is part of all things being restored in this last gospel dispensation (see Acts 3:21; see also D&C 27:13; 132:45). Another reason for the restoration of plural marriage was given by President Brigham Young, who said: “This is the reason why the doctrine of plurality of wives was revealed, that the noble spirits which are waiting for tabernacles might be brought forth” (Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 197; see also verse 63 and Jacob 2:30).
Perhaps the most helpful verses to study are verses 1-2, 34-38, 56, 61-63. Also, the following may be helpful (adapted from the Institute teacher manual):
In 1831, while the Prophet Joseph Smith was working on the inspired translation of the Bible (the JST), he asked the Lord why some of the ancient prophets, patriarchs, and Israelite kings had more than one wife. This was when Joseph began to receive revelation regarding plural marriage. In subsequent years the Lord commanded the Prophet and some other Church members to live the principle of plural marriage. In July 1843 Joseph dictated the revelation that is now Doctrine and Covenants 132. Joseph’s wife Emma consented to several of Joseph’s plural marriages, but she struggled to accept the practice.
During the presidency of Brigham Young, the principle of plural marriage was taught publicly and practiced openly. From the 1860s to the 1880s, the United States government passed laws against plural marriage. After prayerfully seeking guidance from the Lord and receiving revelation, President Wilford Woodruff announced “The Manifesto” (now Official Declaration—1, at the end of the Doctrine and Covenants), which ultimately led to the end of the practice of plural marriage by members of the Church. During the October 1890 general conference, the Manifesto was accepted by Church members as authoritative and binding. A “Second Manifesto” on this same topic was issued in 1904 by President Joseph F. Smith.