Lesson 11: “The Field Is White Already to Harvest” #DandC2017

This lesson includes a slew of sections—all pretty similar. And some we may be quite familiar with. Let’s take for example Section 4. I understand that many mission presidents ask that their missionaries to memorize it. Here is a fundamental question:

Does it matter that this revelation and six of the other nine revelations are given close to a year before there is any church?

“[vs. 3] Therefore, if ye have desires to serve God ye are called to the work;”

What work is that when there is no church? After reading this section (it is short), what sort of goal or outcome would Joseph Sr. been working towards? Is that different than how missionaries today view their work?

Joseph Knight Sr got a similar revelation a couple of months later in what is now Section 12:

[7] Behold, I speak unto you, and also to all those who have desires to bring forth and establish this work; [8] And no one can assist in this work except he shall be humble and full of love, having faith, hope, and charity, being temperate in all things, whatsoever shall be entrusted to his care.

So, again (and this is just a recapitulation), what is absolutely essential for those that want to do “the work?”

June 1829, is an interesting time. Oliver Cowdery reveals the Articles of the Church of Christ, the antecedent to the Articles and Covenants of the church (Section 20). Ecclesiology is on the mind, but there is still no church as we understand it, at least. Or was the church established in 1829 not 1830?

David Whitmer’s revelation is next in June 1829, Section 14:

[8] And it shall come to pass, that if you shall ask the Father in my name, in faith believing, you shall receive the Holy Ghost, which giveth utterance, that you may stand as a witness of the things of which you shall both hear and see, and also that you may declare repentance unto this generation.

So here is a fun question, who gets to receive the Holy Ghost?

About the same time, John and Peter Whitmer get one too, Sections 15 and 16:

[6] And now, behold, I say unto you, that the thing which will be of the most worth unto you will be to declare repentance unto this people, that you may bring souls unto me, that you may rest with them in the kingdom of my Father. Amen.

How do you bring a soul unto the Lord in June 1829?

Section 18 is fun and was also given in 1829:

[5] Wherefore, if you shall build up my church, upon the foundation of my gospel and my rock, the gates of hell shall not prevail against you.

What church is that?

[14] Wherefore, you are called to cry repentance unto this people. [15] And if it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father!

What is the message that these missionaries were told to give?

[22] And as many as repent and are baptized in my name, which is Jesus Christ, and endure to the end, the same shall be saved.

What is the relationship between repentance and the church? What is the relationship between baptism and the church?

[26] And now, behold, there are others who are called to declare my gospel, both unto Gentile and unto Jew; [27] Yea, even twelve; and the Twelve shall be my disciples, and they shall take upon them my name; and the Twelve are they who shall desire to take upon them my name with full purpose of heart. [28] And if they desire to take upon them my name with full purpose of heart, they are called to go into all the world to preach my gospel unto every creature. [29] And they are they who are ordained of me to baptize in my name, according to that which is written; [30] And you have that which is written before you; wherefore, you must perform it according to the words which are written.

Who are these twelve, and what is written before them? Is it Moroni 3? 3 Nephi talks about Christ choosing twelve and giving them the authority to baptize. Jesus called them disciples, and Moroni called them “elders of the church.” Is this the beginning of a baptismal ministry? The organization of twelve apostles is something that doesn’t come to the church until 1835, six years after this.

Compare the next vs. to Moroni 3:

[31] And now I speak unto you, the Twelve—Behold, my grace is sufficient for you; you must walk uprightly before me and sin not. [32] And, behold, you are they who are ordained of me to ordain priests and teachers; to declare my gospel, according to the power of the Holy Ghost which is in you, and according to the callings and gifts of God unto men;

Definitely some resonance with OC’s Articles of the Church of Christ, note the absence of deacons. They aren’t mentioned in the Book of Mormon.

I guess after all these questions relating to the context of these revelations, the elephant in the room is what it looks like for us to be called to “the work.” How are we supposed to labor, and what are we supposed to cry out? Who is supposed to do it? My sense is that it is not all that different from 1829.

The lesson manual points to a lot of interesting things, including this write up on Ezra Thayer. Well worth checking out.


  1. Perhaps the question is answered by another revelation received in April 1829 (some parts in 1828), though not listed in Lesson 11 — D&C 10:67 “Behold, this is my doctrine—whosoever repenteth and cometh unto me, the same is my church.” It would seem that the 1829 concept of “church” was not a legal entity such as was attempted to be formed in April 1820 (some say unsuccessfully). Our occasional emphasis on formation of the 1830 entity may be misplaced anyway. The Corporation of the Presiding Bishop of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been active in Utah since 1916. The Corporation of the President of the Church … has been active in Utah since 1923. Each of these is a corporation sole. Each of those is registered in New York as a foreign (i.e. not New York) not-for-profit corporation. Also registered in New York is the Temple Corporation of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Neither the Utah nor the New York Secretary of States’ on-line business registry includes any entity named The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. So what is it that we are members of? I prefer the D&C 10:67 formulation to legalism — perhaps a strange attitude for a lawyer interested in the rule of law. :)

  2. J. Stapley says:

    Givens does some interesting stuff with the “invisible church” in his forthcoming book Feeding the Flock. But Like Zion, I think that the corporate church (in the physical sense) matters. The invisible Zion is nice, but we need the real interpersonal society. The vicissitudes of the legal structure of the church are interesting (but far less meaningful than some have claimed, I think), yet demonstrably we belong and have belonged.

  3. I agree. It just seems a bit silly under all the circumstances including baptism, priesthood, and priesthood offices prior to April 6, 1830, to make as big a deal as some do out of the purported legal corporate organization of the church. No such legal entity is necessary to the existence of and membership in a “real interpersonal society.”

  4. Yeah, my mind went straight to section 10 also. What do you think, J. about the argument that section 4 may have been the catalyst that convinced JS, Sr. to finally share the story about Moroni with Oliver Cowdery? If I remember correctly, Oliver had been living with the Smiths that winter, and had become interested in the gold bible story after he heard about it from his friend David Whitmer, but couldn’t get JS, Sr. to tell him anything about it. Then JS, Jr. dictated section 4 when JS, Sr. and another son (Hyrum or Samuel, I think) were down in Harmony visiting JS. Jr. and Emma, and after they came back up to Manchester, JS, Sr. told Oliver the story, which resulted not too long after, in Oliver going down to Harmony himself.

  5. Great fun, J.

  6. J. Stapley says:

    JKC, that is that tack that the JSPP folks outline in the document introduction. Seems plausible.

  7. God Bless

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