Come Follow Me: Doctrine and Covenants 37–40 “If Ye Are Not One Ye Are Not Mine”

The Church as a Cause

To the early Saints, the Church was more than a place to hear some preaching on Sunday. Throughout His revelations to Joseph Smith, the Lord described the Church with words like cause, kingdom, Zion, and, quite often, work. That may have been part of what attracted many early members to the Church. As much as they loved the Church’s restored doctrine, many also wanted something they could dedicate their lives to.
Come Follow Me for Individuals and Families, D&C 37-40: “If ye are not one ye are not mine”

  • What do you usually think of when you think of a cause?
  • When you think of a kingdom?
  • When you think of Zion?
  • When you think of work?

Examples

Now behold, a marvelous work is about to come forth among the children of men. Therefore, O ye that embark in the service of God, see that ye serve him with all your heart, might, mind and strength, that ye may stand blameless before God at the last day. Therefore, if ye have desires to serve God ye are called to the work.
D&C 4:1-3

And your whole labor shall be in Zion, with all your soul, from henceforth; yea, you shall ever open your mouth in my cause, not fearing what man can do, for I am with you. Amen.
D&C 30:11

Wherefore, gird up your loins and be prepared. Behold, the kingdom is yours, and the enemy shall not overcome.
D&C 38:9

Therefore, be ye strong from henceforth; fear not, for the kingdom is yours.
D&C 38:15

  • How does you thinking shift when you think of our faith as a cause?
    • When you think of a kingdom?
    • When you think of Zion?
    • When you think of work?

Other Examples

Joseph Smith used the term cause here:

Brethren [and sisters], shall we not go on in so great a cause? Go forward and not backward. Courage, brethren [and sisters]; and on, on to the victory! Let your hearts rejoice, and be exceedingly glad. Let the earth break forth into singing. Let the dead speak forth anthems of eternal praise to the King Immanuel, who hath ordained, before the world was, that which would enable us to redeem them out of their prison; for the prisoners shall go free.
D&C 128:22

Jesus used the term kingdom in the Sermon on the Mount:

And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said, Blessed be ye poor: for yours is the kingdom of God.
Luke 6:20

The Lord described the people of Enoch like this:

And the Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them.
Moses 7:18

The psalmist wrote:

Lord, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God…. Let thy work appear unto thy servants, and thy glory unto their children. And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us: and establish thou the work of our hands upon us; yea, the work of our hands establish thou it.
Psalm 90:1-2, 16-17

How do these examples expand your thinking about the Church as a cause, kingdom, Zion or work?

The Gathering of the Church in Kirtland, Ohio

Sidney Rigdon Preaching_his First Mormon Sermon

Sidney Rigdon Preaching his First Mormon Sermon; Tucker, Pomeroy. Origin, Rise, and Progress of Mormonism. New York: C. Appleton, 1867

The LDS Church sent Parley P. Pratt and Oliver Cowdery to Ohio in late October, 1830. Among their first converts were Sidney Rigdon, a Baptist pastor in Kirtland, Ohio and his wife, Phebe Brooks Rigdon. (Sidney Rigdon, Church History Topics)

Accepting the Book of Mormon would mean losing his employment as a pastor. He had a good congregation, and they provided him, his wife, Phebe, and their six children with a comfortable life. Some people in the congregation were even building a home for them. Could he really ask his family to walk away from the comfort they enjoyed?

Sidney prayed until a sense of peace rested over him. He knew the Book of Mormon was true. “Flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto me,” he exclaimed, “but my Father which is in heaven.”

Sidney shared his feelings with Phebe. “My dear,” he said, “you have once followed me into poverty. Are you again willing to do the same?”

“I have counted the cost,” she replied. “It is my desire to do the will of God, come life or come death.” (Saints, Chapter 9)

They converted 135 new members within the first month of the mission, in a large part due to the influence of Sidney Rigdon. Soon after his conversion, Sidney Rigdon traveled to New York to meet Joseph Smith. (Kirtland, Ohio: The Encyclopedia of Mormonism,  Sidney Rigdon, Church History Topics)

The commandment for members of the church to gather in Ohio was revealed to Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon in Fayette, New York, in December 1830 (D&C 37). Joseph Smith instructed members in New York to gather in Ohio at a conference of the church on January 2, 1831 (D&C 38). Kirtland Ohio is 280 miles away from Fayette, New York, which was a considerable journey given the transportation options of the time period. Sections 39 and 40 also relate to the commandment to gather in Ohio, with Joseph Smith asking a Methodist minister, James Covel, to join the church and gather with them in Ohio. He did not choose to do so.

The revelation in Section 37 specifically encouraged Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon to strengthen members of the Church in Colesville, New York, in preparation for the gathering in Ohio because “they pray unto me in much faith.”

And again, I say unto you that ye shall not go until ye have preached my gospel in those parts, and have strengthened up the church whithersoever it is found, and more especially in Colesville; for, behold, they pray unto me in much faith.
D&C 37:2

About the church members in Colesville:

Equally notable among those whose connections strengthened and sustained Joseph during his many trials and travails were the extended Knight family and their neighbors in Colesville, New York. Allying themselves with the young Joseph Smith, they followed him into the budding Church, defended him, and formed the nucleus of one of the first branches of the Church. The story of the Knights and the Colesville Branch testifies of the power of kinship and friendship in the Restoration of the gospel and the building up of the Lord’s kingdom.

When instructions were given in December 1830 and January 1831 for the New York members to move to the Ohio Valley region, the Colesville Branch members made significant financial sacrifices and prepared themselves for the move west. The families associated with the Colesville Branch included, among others, the Knights, Pecks, DeMilles, Stringhams, Culvers, Slades, Badgers, Hineses, and Carters….The story of the Colesville Saints began with Joseph’s visits to the region in the mid-1820s, when he began working for Josiah Stowell of neighboring South Bainbridge, New York, in a failed treasure-seeking venture. Though that quest proved unsuccessful, it yielded Joseph Smith’s close friendship with Joseph Knight Sr. and his son Newel Knight. Later, Joseph Knight Sr. aided Joseph in his courtship of Emma Hale. He was present at the Smith homestead the night Joseph Smith, with Emma’s help, retrieved the golden plates from the Hill Cumorah, and he provided food and writing materials to Joseph Smith during the Book of Mormon translation.

Knight family members and some of their neighbors were among the first to join the Church in 1830. Later that year they became the nucleus of one of the first (if not the first) branches organized in the Church. (Joseph F. Darowski, The Journey of the Colesville Branch)

Phoebe Carter Woodruff

Phoebe Carter Woodruff

Phebe W. Carter emigrated to Kirtland, Ohio from 1,000 miles away in Maine. She was in her twenties and had only ever lived with her parents until then. She moved to Ohio by herself, a brave act during a time period when single women had few options for protection or financial support. (At Kirtland, she eventually met and married Wilford Woodruff, a future president of the church.) (Phoebe W. Carter Woodruff, 1807-1885 Autobiography, in Edward W. Tullidge, The Women of Mormondom, New York, 1877)

My friends marveled at my course, as did I, but something within impelled me on. My mother’s grief at my leaving home was almost more than I could bear; and had it not been for the spirit within I should have faltered at the last. My mother told me she would rather see me buried than going thus alone out into the heartless world.

“[Phebe],” she said, impressively, ‘will you come back to me if you find Mormonism false?”

I answered, “Yes, mother; I will.”

…My answer relieved her trouble; but it cost us all much sorrow to part. When the time came for my departure I dared not trust myself to say farewell; so I wrote my good-byes to each, and leaving them on my table, ran downstairs and jumped into the carriage. Thus I left the beloved home of my childhood to link my life with the saints of God.” . (Voices of the Restoration: Phebe Carter Gathering to Ohio)

Phebe Carter’s letter to her mother said:

Mother, I believe it is the will of God for me to go to the west and I have been convinced that it has been for a long time. Now the way has opened.

…I believe that it is the spirit of the Lord that has done it which is sufficient for all things. O be not anxious for your child; the Lord will comfort me. I believe that the Lord will take care of me and give me that which is for the best.

… I go because my Master calls—he has made my duty plain. (Voices of the Restoration: Phebe Carter Gathering to Ohio)

Kirtland, Ohio became headquarters of the church and the location of its first temple. The population of the town rapidly grew from about 100 to thousands, which strained local resources. Many of these newcomers arrived in poverty because they left their jobs and property behind when they emigrated. (Kirtland, Ohio: The Encyclopedia of Mormonism https://eom.byu.edu/index.php/Kirtland,_Ohio)

  • How do the actions of early church members such as Sidney and Phebe Rigdon, the Knight family and other members of the Colesville branch, and Phebe Carter demonstrate devotion to the cause, building the kingdom, establishing Zion or contributing to the work?
  • How can we emulate their devotion to the cause?

Purposes of Gathering

Read these scriptures and look for:

  • The work church members could accomplish when they gathered
  • Blessings that would come from gathering

But, verily I say unto you, teach one another according to the office wherewith I have appointed you.
D&C 38:23

Wherefore, for this cause I gave unto you the commandment that ye should go to the Ohio; and there I will give unto you my law; and there you shall be endowed with power from on high.
D&C 38:32

And they shall look to the poor and the needy, and administer to their relief that they shall not suffer; and send them forth to the place which I have commanded them.
D&C 38:35

Thou art called to labor in my vineyard, and to build up my church, and to bring forth Zion, that it may rejoice upon the hills and flourish.
D&C 39:13

And inasmuch as my people shall assemble themselves at the Ohio, I have kept in store a blessing such as is not known among the children of men, and it shall be poured forth upon their heads. And from thence men shall go forth into all nations.
D&C 39:15

Church members are no longer commanded to gather by moving to the same location.

  • How do we gather today?
  • How do we accomplish the work described in these scriptures today?

 Being “one” versus being the same

Gathering diverse people with different backgrounds, cultures, opinions and perspectives brings blessings, but also challenges. Anticipating the potential for conflict when diverse church members began to gather, the Lord counseled:

And let every man esteem his brother [or sister] as him[or her]self, and practice virtue and holiness before me.

And again I say unto you, let every man esteem his brother [or sister] as him [or her]self.

For what man [or woman] among you having twelve sons [or daughters], and is no respecter of them, and they serve him [or her] obediently, and he [or she] saith unto the one: Be thou clothed in robes and sit thou here; and to the other: Be thou clothed in rags and sit thou there—and looketh upon his sons [or daughters] and saith I am just?

Behold, this I have given unto you as a parable, and it is even as I am. I say unto you, be one; and if ye are not one ye are not mine.
D&C 38:24-27

  • Why do you think the Lord repeated His admonition to esteem others as ourselves twice in a row?
  • What does it mean to esteem our brothers and sisters as ourselves?
  • How do you interpret the parable? What do you think the Lord was trying to teach us?

Video: Love in Our Hearts

Sister Christina B. Franco, Second Counselor in the General Primary Presidency, on embracing differences

  • How is being “one” different from being the same?
  • Why would focusing less on ourselves and more on others help us be united?

Video: A Friend to All

Elder Ulisses Soares talks of the need for kindness and acceptance and the value of diversity

  • What is the value of bringing people together who think differently from each other? 
  • Why do we sometimes fail to value diversity or see other people as equals?
  • How can we change these patterns of behavior? What can we do to be more inclusive?

 

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.

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1 Response

  1. EmilyCC says:

    April, this is a really good lesson! I love Phebe Woodruff’s story, and the General Authorities’ pieces at the end really highlight the individual contribution each member of the Church has to make to building the Kingdom of God.

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