Come Follow Me: Doctrine and Covenants 102-105: “After Much Tribulation … Cometh the Blessing”

Conflict in Missouri

The Jackson County lands near Independence, Missouri that members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (commonly referred to as Mormons at the time) and other white Missourians were fighting over in 1834, when the events discussed in this lesson took place, had belonged to the Kaw and Osage peoples until 1825, only eight years earlier.  The influx of white settlers and members of other tribes who moved into the area after being displaced from their homelands further East had strained the resources of the Kaw and Osage and introduced new sources of conflict and violence. Under these circumstances, these native peoples were compelled to sign a treaty ceding all of their lands and moving out of the state of Missouri, in exchange for a relatively small amount of monetary compensation, reservations away from their homelands and promises of agricultural and educational resources. See Native History: Osage Forced to Abandon Lands in Missouri and Arkansas and The Kaw Nation: Cultural History Part 2.

Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints started moving to Jackson County, Missouri, near the city of Independence, in 1831, after Joseph Smith received a revelation designating the area as Zion (D&C 57).

A July [1833] article in the Latter-day Saint newspaper The Evening and the Morning Star stoked Missourians’ fears about abolitionism. The editorial discussed the legal obstacles relating to the migration of free black converts to Missouri, a slave state. Many locals felt the editorial—and, by extension, the Church—intended to encourage these migrations. On July 20, a group of vigilantes demanded that the Saints leave Jackson County, and when Church leaders refused, the vigilantes attacked the Church’s printing office, throwing the press out the window, scattering the type in the street, and tearing down the walls of the printing office. Some then tarred and feathered Edward Partridge, bishop of the Church in Missouri, and Charles Allen, another Church member, on the public square. The vigilantes dispersed after extracting an agreement from Church leaders that half of the Saints would vacate the county by January 1, 1834, and the rest by April 1. … On October 20, 1833, [the Mormons] publicly announced that the Saints would stay in the county. This immediately set the vigilantes in motion, and on October 31, 1833, violence resumed. For the next several days, vigilantes attacked Church settlements in Jackson County. On November 4, Missouri vigilantes attacked the homes of Latter-day Saints near the Big Blue River. In the skirmish that followed, two non-Mormons and one Church member were killed; several other individuals on both sides were wounded. The following day, Colonel Thomas Pitcher called out the local militia to restore order, but the militia instead forced nearly 150 Church members to surrender their weapons, after which the militia imprisoned several Mormon men. Church members—men, women, and children—began fleeing the county that same day, most of them crossing the Missouri River into Clay County.
—Church History Topics: Jackson County Violence

  • What patterns do you see in this history?
  • Do we continue to see the same patterns in the world today?
  • How can we work toward a better world?

Zion’s Camp

Joseph Smith communicated with Missouri Governor Daniel Dunklin about the situation. The governor told Smith that reclaiming lands for the Mormons would only be possible with a large influx of volunteers for the militia. (Was the governor actually offering to help the Mormons if they would provide more volunteers, as Joseph Smith interpreted the conversation? Or was the governor just making an excuse for not helping? “Golly, gee, I’d love to help, but the militia is understaffed. Darn it. Good luck with that.” Your call.)

Watch Joseph Smith Papers Television Documentary Episode 29-Zions Camp  from Time Stamp 2:02 to Time Stamp 3:27 for more on Joseph Smith’s communication with Governor Dunklin.

After receiving this communication, Joseph Smith announced the revelation which is now D&C:103 and began recruiting volunteers to assist the Missouri militia to reclaim the homes of displaced Missouri church members..

Therefore let my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., say unto the strength of my house, my young men and the middle aged—Gather yourselves together unto the land of Zion, upon the land which I have bought with money that has been consecrated unto me…

Therefore, if you cannot obtain five hundred, seek diligently that peradventure you may obtain three hundred.

And if ye cannot obtain three hundred, seek diligently that peradventure ye may obtain one hundred.

But verily I say unto you, a commandment I give unto you, that ye shall not go up unto the land of Zion until you have obtained a hundred of the strength of my house, to go up with you unto the land of Zion.
D&C 103:22, 32-34

The Lord warned them that this mission would entail “much tribulation.”

For after amuch tribulation, as I have said unto you in a former commandment, cometh the blessing.
D&C 103:12

That “former commandment” was D&C 58:4, given in Jackson County Missouri on August 1, 1831, shortly after Mormons began settling there.

For after much atribulation come the bblessings. Wherefore the day cometh that ye shall be ccrowned with much dglory; the hour is not yet, but is nigh at hand.
D&C 58:4

  • Have you had an experience where blessings came only after “much tribulation”?
  • How can we maintain hope while we are experiencing tribulation?

The Lord warned that their mission would only be successful under certain circumstances:

But verily I say unto you, that I have decreed a decree which my people shall arealize, inasmuch as they hearken from this very hour unto the bcounsel which I, the Lord their God, shall give unto them.

Behold they shall, for I have decreed it, begin to aprevail against mine benemies from this very hour

But inasmuch as they akeep not my commandments, and hearken not to observe all my words, the kingdoms of the world shall prevail against them.

For they were set to be a alight unto the world, and to be the bsaviors of men;

And inasmuch as they are not the saviors of men, they are as asalt that has lost its savor, and is thenceforth good for nothing but to be cast out and trodden under foot of men.
D&C 103:5-10

All victory and glory is brought to pass unto you through your adiligence, faithfulness, and bprayers of faith.
D&C 103: 36

  • What were the conditions Zion’s Camp would need to follow to have success, according to these verses?
  • What principles in these verses could help us during our own life challenges?

The Lord also made a promise to them:

But I say unto you: Mine aangels shall go up before you, and also my bpresence, and in time ye shall cpossess the goodly land.
D&C 103:20

How close did the church come to the goal of 500 recruits?

With recruits gathered along the way, the expedition—known at the time as the Camp of Israel and later called Zion’s Camp—eventually numbered about 205 men and approximately 25 women and children.9
Matthew C. Godfrey, “The Acceptable Offering of Zion’s Camp” Revelations in Context, 213–18

In this video, Sister Megan Whatcott discusses Nancy Holbrook, one of the female recruits of Zion’s Camp.

Nancy Holbrook Marches with Zion’s Camp

 

Elder Bednar taught that all of us will experience a metaphorical Zion’s Camp.

At some point in each of our lives, we will be invited to march in our own Zion’s Camp. The timing of the invitations will vary, and the particular obstacles we may encounter on the journey will be different. But our ongoing and consistent response to this inevitable call ultimately will provide the answer to the question ‘Who’s on the Lord’s side?’
—Elder David A. Bednar, On the Lord’s Side: Lessons from Zion’s Camp, Ensign, July 2017

  • Would anyone like to share an experience when you have felt like you were experiencing a personal “Zion’s Camp”?

Miraculous Intervention at Fishing River

 Missourians prepared a counter-attack against Zion’s Camp but the battle did not transpire. Zion’s Camp recruit Nathan Baldwin described what happened this way:

Little Fishing River

Little Fishing River, Missouri

On June 19, Nathan remembered, the group “encamped on an eminence between two forks of Fishing River, near a Baptist meeting house, built of hewn logs.”17 As the party prepared the camp for the evening, “several armed men” approached and told the group they would “see hell before morning.” A large group of men—Nathan remembered it as 1,600, but others placed it around 500—waited to attack the camp when the sun had set.18 No sooner had this threat been made, Nathan recalled, than “a small black cloud appeared in the west and increased in size until shortly the whole blue arch was draped in black, presenting a vengeful appearance, while the rain descended in torrents, the winds bellowed and such vivid flashes of lightning and such peals of thunder are seldom seen and heard.”19 Hail fell as well, some “as big as tumblers,” breaking off tree limbs and splintering fence rails. The great storm caused the river to become “wonderfully swollen, so that [they] could not advance, neither could [their] enemies reach [them] if they had a mind so to do.”

Nathan and other members of the camp perceived the storm as evidence of God’s protection, as it prevented the group of men from attacking the camp. “The Lord had previously said He would fight the battles of His saints,” Nathan stated, “and it seemed as though the mandate had gone forth from His presence, to ply the artillery of Heaven in defense of His servants.”20
Matthew C. Godfrey, “The Acceptable Offering of Zion’s Camp” Revelations in Context, 213–18

The words of the Lord that Nathan Baldwin remembered are found in D&C 98:37. This revelation was given on August 6, 1833, shortly after the first act of violence against Mormons in Missouri, when Missourians attacked Mormons Edward Partridge and Charles Allen and destroyed the Church’s printing press.

And I, the Lord, would afight their battles, and their children’s battles, and their children’s children’s, until they had avenged themselves on all their enemies, to the third and fourth generation.
D&C 98:37

  • In what ways does the Lord fight our battles today?
  • How do we know when we should step aside and let the Lord fight the battle?

Peaceful Resolution

Two days after the storm, a group of men representing Ray and Clay Counties entered the camp and told Joseph Smith that the camp’s approach had enraged the majority of western Missourians. Indeed, some newspapers reported that a large contingent of men had gathered in Jackson County, ready to shed blood, in case the camp crossed the Missouri River. The representatives from Ray and Clay Counties told the camp “what course would be policy for [the camp] to pursue in order to secure” the “favor and protection” of western Missourians.21 Joseph Smith also learned that Missouri governor Daniel Dunklin did not wish to call out the state militia at that time, meaning that there would be no militia guard to accompany the Saints back to their Jackson County lands.22

On June 22, Joseph held a council “to determine what steps” the camp should take.23 During the council, he dictated what is now Doctrine and Covenants 105—a revelation that, according to camp participant Joseph Holbrook [Nancy Holbrook’s husband], “show[ed] the mind of God concerning the redemption of Zion.”24
Matthew C. Godfrey, “The Acceptable Offering of Zion’s Camp” Revelations in Context, 213–18

The Lord told them to disband Zion’s Camp:

Therefore it is expedient in me that mine elders should wait for a little season, for the redemption of Zion.

For behold, I do not require at their hands to fight the battles of Zion; for, as I said in a former commandment, even so will I fulfil—I will afight your battles.
D&C  105:13-14

Although they had not joined the militia as intended, the Lord told them they had done enough:

I have heard their prayers, and will accept their offering; and it is expedient in me that they should be brought thus far for a atrial of their bfaith.
D&C 105:19

  • What is a trial of faith?
  • How was Zion’s Camp a trial of faith?
  • What kinds of trials of faith do we experience today?

Watch Joseph Smith Papers Television Documentary Episode 29-Zions Camp  from Time Stamp 13:56 to Time Stamp 19:18 to learn more about how the crisis was resolved and the resulting peace treaty.

Here is what future church president Wilford Woodruff said later about his experience at Zion’s Camp.

When the members of Zion’s Camp were called many of us had never beheld each others’ faces; we were strangers to each other and many had never seen the prophet. We had been scattered abroad, like corn sifted in a sieve, throughout the nation. We were young men, and were called upon in that early day to go up and redeem Zion, and what we had to do we had to do by faith. We assembled together from the various states at Kirtland and went up to redeem Zion, in fulfillment of the commandment of God unto us. God accepted our works as He did the works of Abraham. We accomplished a great deal, though apostates and unbelievers many times asked the question ‘what have you done?’ We gained an experience that we never could have gained [in] any other way. We had the privilege of beholding the face of the prophet, and we had the privilege of traveling a thousand miles with him, and seeing the workings of the spirit of God with him, and the revelations of Jesus Christ unto him and the fulfillment of those revelations. And he gathered some two hundred elders from throughout the nation in that early day and sent us broadcast into the world to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. Had I not gone up with Zion’s Camp I should not have been here today [in Salt Lake City, serving in the Quorum of the Twelve]. … By going there we were thrust into the vineyard to preach the gospel, and the Lord accepted our labors. And in all our labors and persecutions, with our lives often at stake, we have had to work and live by faith.4 The experience [we] obtained in traveling in Zion’s Camp was of more worth than gold.5
—Wilford Woodruff

  • What impresses you about his attitude?
  • What can we learn from his example?

Sue for Peace

In the final verses of D&C 105, the Lord commands church members to seek peace.

And again I say unto you, sue for apeace, not only to the people that have smitten you, but also to all people;

And lift up an aensign of bpeace, and make a proclamation of peace unto the ends of the earth;

And make proposals for peace unto those who have smitten you, according to the voice of the Spirit which is in you, and aall things shall work together for your good.

Therefore, be faithful; and behold, and lo, aI am with you even unto the end. Even so. Amen.
D&C 105:38-41

This commandment was particularly challenging because of the pervasiveness of violence in the culture of frontier America, and more specifically, the aggressiveness of their Missouri neighbors toward them.

It is extremely difficult for most of us today to comprehend the violence that was pervasive, often normative, in early American culture. Much of this normative violence reflected the national society, while regions (such as the South and the West) had their own traditions of sanctioned violence in daily life. Early Americans had perspectives about violence that were very different even from those of us who have served in the military or lived in war-torn societies because nearly all of us grew up in peaceful environments where violence was a disapproved violation of social norms….

…An 1806 decision by a Massachusetts court, [ruled] that one was legally justified in standing one’s ground to kill in self-defense. This resulted in America’s “proud new tolerance for killing in situations where it might have been avoided by obeying a legal duty to retreat.” During the same period, American norms were changing concerning violence by boys and teenagers. E. Anthony Rotundo observes: “Early in the late 1800s, men and women had seen youthful brawls as a badge of evil and a sign that manly self-control was not yet developed. However, during a decades-long transition, “bourgeois Northerners did more than endorse interpersonal violence: they now believed that fighting helped to build youthful character.”
D. Micheal Quinn, National Culture, Personality, and Theocracy in the Early Mormon Culture of Violence, The John Whitmer Historical Journal, 2002

  • Do any of these cultural tendencies toward violence continue?
  • What can we do to be “an ensign of peace” in our modern society?
  • How can we make “proposals for peace” when others treat us unkindly or unfairly?

Unfortunately, the peace attained by this treaty was only temporary. Dr. Quinn noted that although Mormons had reacted as passivists to initial attacks by Missourians, in the years following Zion’s Camp, Mormons  more often retaliated with violence. Four years after Zion’s Camp, the Mormon-Missouri War of 1838, including Governor Lillborn Bogg’s extermination order on October 27, 1838 and the Hawn’s Mill massacre on October 30, 1838, resulted in the forced exodus of church members from Missouri. While nothing justifies the extermination order or the massacre, Mormons contributed to and escalated this conflict, particularly the large number of them that joined a vigilante society called the Danites. Mormons raided two non-Mormon towns, Millport and Gallatin, burning homes and stealing goods on October 18, 1838 and attacked the Missouri militia at the Battle of Crooked River on October 25, 1838, killing one man and torturing another. (Two Mormons were also killed by the militia.) (See Church History: Danites and Church History: Mormon-Missouri War of 1838 and Leland H. Gentry, The Danite Band of 1838, BYU Studies, 1974 and D. Micheal Quinn, National Culture, Personality, and Theocracy in the Early Mormon Culture of Violence, The John Whitmer Historical Journal, 2002 )

In D&C 105, the Lord informed church members that their own transgressions precluded the redemption of Zion.

Behold, I say unto you, were it not for the atransgressions of my people, speaking concerning the church and not individuals, they might have been redeemed even now.

But behold, they have not learned to be obedient to the things which I required at their hands, but are full of all manner of evil, and do not aimpart of their substance, as becometh saints, to the poor and afflicted among them;

And are not aunited according to the union required by the law of the celestial kingdom;

And aZion cannot be built up bunless it is by the cprinciples of the dlaw of the celestial kingdom; otherwise I cannot receive her unto myself.

And my people must needs be achastened until they learn bobedience, if it must needs be, by the things which they csuffer.
D&C 105:2-6

Therefore, in consequence of the atransgressions of my people, it is expedient in me that mine elders should wait for a little season for the bredemption of Zion—

That they themselves may be prepared, and that my people may be ataught more perfectly, and have experience, and know more perfectly concerning their bduty, and the things which I require at their hands.

And this cannot be brought to pass until mine aelders are bendowed with power from on high.

For behold, I have prepared a great endowment and blessing to be apoured out upon them, inasmuch as they are faithful and continue in humility before me.
D&C 105:9-12

  • According to these verses, why wasn’t Zion redeemed?
  • What did church members need to do to better prepare for redemption?
  • What principals can we learn that can help us establish Zion today?

April Young Bennett

April Young Bennett is the author of the Ask a Suffragist book series and host of the Religious Feminism Podcast. Learn more about April at aprilyoungb.com.

You may also like...

2 Responses

  1. khwebastra says:

    Just wanted to say thank you for this, it really helped me prepare my own lesson.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.