D&C 107:21-32

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Home > Doctrine & Covenants > Section 107 > Verses 107:21-32
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Relationship to Section 107. The relationship of Verses 107:21-32 to the rest of Section 107 is discussed at D&C 107.


Message. Themes, symbols, and doctrinal points emphasized in Verses 107:21-32 include:


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  • D&C 107:21-32: Beyond characterizing the priesthoods in general. Beginning with verse 21, this revelation radically altered the saints' understanding of the priesthood, systematizing and organizing it so that it might function as a form of government, in addition to its "cultic" role, dwelt upon in the previous verses. Each verse that follows in this revelation is worth very careful consideration: each has had a major impact on the structure of the Church, as well as on the understanding of the priesthood.
The setting is significant. 1835 marks the establishment of church government--an incredibly controversial moment in LDS history now and then ("apostasy" from the Church's organization--as opposed to apostasy from the Church's moral standards or from the contents of a particular revelation--might well be said to center on this very moment of institutionalization, both in Joseph's day and even now). The same year also marks the supersecion of the "Book of Commandments" by the "Doctrine and Covenants," the latter text radically altering the former--most obviously in focus and function, but also in actual wording. More still, 1835 is also marked by the acceleration of the work on the Kirtland House of the Lord, with its accompanying emphasis on priesthood. Though this revelation comes early in the year, all of these events form a sort of aura around it.
Perhaps still more significant is the immediate textual setting: what follows not only marks a sort of "departure" from previous revelations on the priesthood, it makes a "departure"--as it were--from the characterization of the priesthood offered in the previous twenty verses! But this very fact ensures that what follows is not, strictly speaking, a departure. Rather, something is being added--by the Lord, it must be remembered--to the priesthood ("added" might be the best word to be used here: the governmental structure of the priesthood does not appear to be "eternal"; cf. D&C 84:29-30, D&C 107:5). Government for the Church, in other words, is a duty the Lord decided to assign to the priesthood (which, in and of itself, was not of governmental function). All these details, it should be hoped, establish the absolute importance of what begins with verse 21.
  • D&C 107:21. So radical a shift in the role of the priesthood begins with two vital words: "Of necessity...."
  • D&C 107:22. This verse marks the first instance of the word "quorum" in scripture. Besides its numerous appearances in the following verses, it only shows up elsewhere in D&C 124:62 and 117ff. The institutional importance of a word so seldomly used in scripture suggests that these two revelations are vital for understanding the role and development of the structure of the priesthood in terms of government. (If a broad characterization of section 107 as over and against section 124 is justified: section 107 deals with the introduction and grounding of quorums, while section 124 basically only mentions quorums because the revelation provides names for some specific positions in those quorums. In other words, section 107 is "theoretical," whereas section 124 is "practical." However, it should not be missed how much the "practicality" of section 124 establishes the vitality of more "theoretical" section 107: the institutional importance of the quorums of the priesthood is not a late phenomenon, but something that developed rather quickly--within the lifetime of the prophet Joseph.
It is vital to note that in this passage (as it extends through to verse 37), however, the quorums that are discussed are only the quorums that govern the Church in the broadest sense. The word "quorum," then, appears to have been understood in its more "official" sense. In fact, by 1835, the less official senses of the word were mostly obselete (see the OED entry on "quorum"), and the 1828 Webster's dictionary lists only meanings that bear on official practices (all implying, interestingly, a situation of judgment or justice). The establishment at work in these verses is not, it must be understood, the establishment of the hierarchical quorums of the priesthood. Rather, it is the establishment of a governing system of quorums/councils who have the authority to conduct the business of the entire Church. Verse 32 is perhaps the clearest confirmation of this point: these several quorums (apparently meaning only the First Presidency, the Quorum of the Twelve, and the Quorum of the Seventy) "constitute the spiritual authorities of the church." In short, this first instance of "quorums" in scripture is an establishment, not of the quorums of the priesthood, but of the quorums of general authorities in the several and balancing levels of authority. Hence when, later in the revelation, the Lord discusses the "quorums" of the priests, teachers, and deacons, He never uses the term "quorum" at all (see verses 85-90, a series of verses quoted there from an otherwise unpublished revelation of November 1831). (It might be noted further that even in D&C 124, there is never mention of a quorum in the Aaronic Priesthood. Though there is some discussion there of the quorum of the elders, the wording is complex, and this might be only a reference to the quorum of the seventy. The implication seems to be that, at least at first, quorums were only a question of the High Priesthood.)

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Prompts for further study[edit]

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  • D&C 107:23. What does it mean to be a witness of the name of Christ?
  • D&C 107:23. What does it mean to be a special witness of that name?
  • D&C 107:23. Which authorities are special witnesses of Christ?


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Footnotes are not required but are encouraged for factual assertions that average readers cannot easily evaluate for themselves (such as the date of King Solomon’s death or the nuanced definition of a Greek word). In contrast, insights rarely benefit from footnoting, and the focus of this page should always remain on the scriptures themselves rather than what someone has said about them. Links are actively encouraged on all sections of this page, and links to authoritative sources (such as Strong's Bible Concordance or the Joseph Smith Papers) are preferable to footnotes.

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