D&C 18:1-6 “The Gates of Hell Shall Not Prevail”
This section is for Oliver Cowdery and David Whitmer, who (along with Martin Harris), would have a role in the calling of the twelve apostles. The Lord’s words to Oliver in verses 2-6 provide a pattern for each of us:
- The Lord has given us His witness that the Book of Mormon is true, as “manifested unto [us], by [His] Spirit in many instances” (verse 2). It’s wonderful to know that He knows that we know.
- Our testimony of the Book of Mormon compels us to “rely upon” on its sacred writings (verse 3).
- The Book of Mormon is key to the latter-day restoration, for it contains “all things … concerning the foundation of my church” (verse 4).
- Each of us has a role in helping to “build up” the Lord’s Church; the promise being that as we do so, “the gates of hell shall not prevail against [us]” (verse 5).
- “The world is ripening in iniquity” and the Lord is stirring up its inhabitants to repentance (verse 6).
Have you received multiple manifestations by the Lord’s Spirit that the Book of Mormon is true? Have you learned to rely on its teachings? How do you feel about your role in helping to build up the Lord’s church in the last days?
D&C 18:9, 37-38 The Three Witnesses Are to “Search Out” the Twelve Apostles
In verse 9 the Lord mentions “Paul mine apostle” and then identifies Oliver Cowdery and David Whitmer as being “called even with that same calling with which he was called,” meaning that they would be ordained apostles, allowing them to assist in the calling of the first members of the of the Quorum of the Twelve in this dispensation.
This role of the Three Witnesses relates to the practice of knowing one’s priesthood “line of authority.” Most men in the Church trace their priesthood line to the Three Witnesses (mostly through Brigham Young), but the question may be asked, when were the Three Witnesses ordained to the apostleship, thus allowing them to ordain others? Note the following:
- In late May or early June 1829, Peter, James, and John appeared to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery and conferred upon them the Melchizedek priesthood (see Joseph Smith—History 1:72; D&C 128:20).
- This ordination of Joseph and Oliver included the apostleship, as verified by the Lord in Doctrine and Covenants 20:2-3; 21:10; 27:12.
- In Doctrine and Covenants 17 the Lord revealed that Oliver and David, along with Martin Harris, were to be the three special witnesses of the divinity of the Book of Mormon. In Doctrine and Covenants 18:9 the Lord certified the callings of Oliver and David as apostles, and in verse 37 the Lord assigned them to “search out the Twelve.”
- In 1852 Brigham Young stated: “Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, and David Whitmer were the first Apostles of this dispensation” (Journal of Discourses, 6:320; see also Larry C. Porter, “David Whitmer’s Calling,” Ensign, Dec. 1996).
- When Section 18 was given, it appears that Martin was not assigned to help Oliver and David to search out the Twelve because at this time Martin was out of favor with the Lord (see D&C 19:13-20, 25-26). However, Martin was later called to share this sacred responsibility (see History of the Church 2:186–87).
- Heber C. Kimball, one of the original members of the Twelve, taught: “Peter comes along with James and John and ordains Joseph to be an Apostle, and then Joseph ordains Oliver, and David Whitmer, and Martin Harris; and then they were ordered to select twelve more and ordain them. It was done” (Journal of Discourses, 6:29).
The Twelve Apostles
- On February 14, 1835, Joseph Smith met with a number of brethren in the Kirtland schoolhouse and stated that the first business of the meeting was for the Three Witnesses of the Book of Mormon to pray and then choose the Twelve.
- Oliver, David, and Martin prayed together and then each received a blessing under the hands of Joseph Smith and his counselors (Sidney Rigdon and Frederick G. Williams).
- Oliver, David, and Martin then announced the names of the Twelve and ordained three of them (Lyman E. Johnson, Brigham Young, and Heber C. Kimball; the other nine apostles were ordained between February 15 and April 26, 1835).
- Heber later recorded, “After we had been thus ordained by these brethren, the First Presidency laid their hands on us and confirmed these blessings and ordinations” (see History of the Church, 2:185–88).
D&C 18:9-16 The Worth of Souls
We are all familiar with the words, the worth of souls is great in the sight of God (verse 10).
- What did the Lord say in verses 11-16 that helps you understand how great our worth is to Him?
- What role does repentance play in all this? (mentioned in verses 9, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15).
- The Lord mentions “joy” four times in these verses. Think of the joy you have experienced as you have helped bring a soul to Christ.
D&C 18:17-25 My Gospel and My Rock
Find in these verses the principles and doctrines that could be considered the basic definition and message of the gospel.
D&C 18:26-46 The Apostles
Study these verses and make a list of the things the latter-day apostles are called to be and to do; looking especially for the words shall and must. How have members of the Twelve blessed your life?
D&C 19 What the Lord Said about Himself and About Martin Harris
It had been almost two years since Martin Harris became interested in the Lord’s work and approached Joseph Smith to give him fifty dollars at a time of great need. Martin had been through the experiences with Charles Anthon in New York, the lost 116 pages, and becoming one of the Three Witnesses who saw the angel and the plates and heard the voice of God. Still feeling somewhat troubled and perhaps a little weak in faith, Martin approached Joseph Smith, who in turn went to the Lord and received Section 19. As with all of us, the Lord continued working with Martin in order to help him become the servant the Lord wants. First, look for the things the Lord said about Himself and His work:
- Find in verses 1, 4, 10, 18, 24, 27, 31, 37 the many titles, names, or descriptions that the Lord used to describe Himself.
- Find in verses 2-3, 5, 18-19, 24, 27, 38 the things the Lord said He had done, was doing, or will do.
Also—in exacting terms—the Lord counsels and commands Martin:
- In verses 26, 34-35 the Lord commanded Martin to finance the printing of the first 5,000 copies of the Book of Mormon—at a cost of $3,000—by “freely” imparting his large and valuable farm to pay off the debt Joseph owed to the printer. Martin did so and never recouped the money, thus losing his farm.
- What other specific commands did the Lord give Martin? (see verses 13-15, 20-21, 23, 25, 28-31, 41).
- What promises did the Lord make to Martin, if he would be obedient? (see verses 23, 38).
- What did the Lord say would happen if Martin did not obey? (see verses 15, 20, 33; the Lord said to Martin in verse 20 that if he didn’t repent, his suffering and punishments would be “even in the least degree [that which] you have tasted at the time I withdrew my Spirit;” this is in reference to the horrific aftermath of the loss of the first 116 pages of the Book of Mormon translation; see Saints, 1:50-53).
Which of these commandments, promises, or warnings can best help you to become a better servant in the Lord’s hands?
D&C 19:4-20 “Repent, Lest I Humble You”
Again, the Lord reveals precious truths about Himself in this revelation:
- The Lord invites us to repent and warns us that failure to repent will result in our suffering, which can be “sore,” “exquisite,” and “hard to bear” (verses 4, 15, 17, 20).
- For those who refuse to repent, the Lord terms their suffering as “endless” and “eternal” (verses 4, 7) but He makes clear that they are labeled that way because the suffering, punishment, and damnation are imposed by Him and He is “endless” and “eternal” (verses 6, 10-12).
- However, the Lord also makes clear that the suffering will not last forever (verse 6). He explains that He uses such language to “work upon” our hearts, motivating us to turn to Him and repent (verse 7).
- The Lord invites us to repent and accept His suffering in our behalf, rather than suffer ourselves (verse 16).
This brings us to some key verses that need careful consideration:
- The Lord says in verse 18, “If they would not repent they must suffer even as I.” Some take this to mean that the suffering of the unrepentant will be identical to the Savior’s suffering, but this cannot be.
- It is impossible to suffer as Jesus did because He was perfect and because He was the offspring of a mortal mother and an eternal, perfect Father. Only Jesus could endure suffering and punishment beyond the ability of any and all mortals, without succumbing to death until His suffering satisfied all the demands of justice for all humankind (see Mosiah 3:7; Alma 34:14-16).
- The Atonement for all required the sacrifice of a God (see Alma 34:9-11). The point can also be made that if it were possible for a man to suffer as Jesus did, then he would not need Jesus, for he alone could satisfy the demands of justice. But this is not possible. We may suffer because of our sins, but we cannot pay the price for our sins.
- So why did Jesus say “they must suffer even as I”? Perhaps for the same reason, as He explained, that He used the terms endless and eternal to describe the suffering of the unrepentant, when it actually does have an end (again, see D&C 19:6). He is trying to work upon our hearts (verse 7).
More of the magnificent truths about the Atonement—and one of the few times our Redeemer spoke personally about it—are found in verses 18-19. Jesus reveals:
- His greatest concern was that He might “shrink” and not succeed (see also Matthew 26:39; Mark 14:35-36; Luke 22:42).
- His bleeding “at every pore” was literal, unlike the expression “his sweat was as it were, great drops of blood, falling to the ground” (Luke 22:44; Mosiah 3:7 also makes it clear that Jesus literally bled from every pore).
- After all this, the Savior still proclaimed, “Nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and finished.” As in all other God-like attributes, He is our perfect example in humility, obedience, and diligence. How does Section 19 “work upon” your heart?