D&C 130:1-23

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Home > Doctrine & Covenants > Section 130
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Historical setting[edit]

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  • D&C 130:8. In verse 8 we learn that God dwells on a giant Urim and Thummim. Verse 9 tells us that our own earth will become a Urim and Thummim to those who live on it when it becomes glorified. It will allow the inhabitants to see the knowledge and truths of the lower kingdoms: the telestial and terrestrial.
  • D&C 130:11. Verse 11 tells us that each person who comes to the celestial kingdom will receive a white stone. This stone will allow them (as indicated in verse 10) to learn things "pertaining to a higher order of kingdoms." Some have interpreted this to mean that it is through this stone that they will learn how to become as God is.
  • D&C 130:16. Joseph is "left ... without being able to decide." This curious experience deserves close attention, perhaps provides a kind of model for doing theology in the face of revelation. What, then, is at stake here?
  • D&C 130:20-21: Law. What is the "law" mentioned in verse 20? I have at times heard people discuss verses 20-21 as though it describes a set of laws which correspond in some cause-and-effect fashion to the various blessing people receive. Yet these verses (or at least verse 20) seem to talk of only a singular "law." So what is the law? Who irrevocably decreed it? God? Somebody else? A group of beings? Nobody at all? And what is meant by irrevocably? Does it mean that this particular law is going remain in force through all the eternities? Why is that so? How is that so? Could "irrevocably decreed" imply that this law was not pronounced by a particular being, but in some way stands above and apart from human and divine action and intentionality? Perhaps that is why the verse begins rather straightforwardly "there is a law." It is simply there, and there isn't much anybody can do about it. Another possibility; does "irrevocably" simply mean that the decreeing of the law is now a past event that can no longer be undone?
Moving on, what about the mention of "this" as opposed to "the" world? Often in scripture, "the world" is mentioned, but "this world" seems to mean something different. Mother Earth, that particular celestial sphere we're all on right now. Does it follow that perhaps this law upon which all blessings are predicated was decreed before the foundation of this world but after the foundation of other worlds? Is it a law specific to this world alone? If so, what on earth does that mean?
Now, what about the relationship between this law and blessings? First, we know that blessings (in fact, all blessings) are "predicated on" the law. But it's not at all clear what "predicated" means here. But verse 21 complicates the picture quite a bit: whatever the relationship between the law and the blessings, it appears that we only obtain those blessings from God by obedience to the law. It remains unclear whether we can receive those same blessings from some source other than God, whether or not we are obedient (and of course, it is another question entirely whether it makes sense to talk of receiving a blessing or being blessed in a way that is disconnected from God's grace). So then, given that these verses don't give any content to this law, what does it mean to be obedient to it? Does the law have multiple parts? Can it be partly obeyed? Can the law and its predicated blessings be charted out on a diagram, as though there are one-to-one correspondences to some divine sets of rules and rewards? Is the law the same thing as the sum total of all of God's directives to us, is it equivalent to God's law, or is it something else?
It is also worth noting that these verses don't in any way guarantee that obedient people will actually receive blessings of any kind. Verse 21 merely lays out a general condition: when we obtain a blessing from God, it is always by at least some measure of obedience to this practically indefinable law. The first question that arises is whether us obtaining a blessing from God is the same as God giving us a blessing. At first blush, the verse seems to suggest that God is in some way confined to blessing us only in proportion to how obedient we are to the irrevocable law. When we are blessed, it must have been preceded by some kind of obedience. However, is this the only reading? Obtaining something and simply being given something are two different things. Obtaining something involves seeking after it. Being given something requires no such thing. The verse may only be saying that when we actively seek a particular blessing from God, we only obtain it from God if we have been obedient to the law on which the blessing was predicated. But that is an entirely different proposition than saying that blessings only come as the result of obedience. Just as the verse doesn't seem to bind God to not bless when there is no obedience, it equally doesn't seem to bind God to bless when there is obedience. The verse merely says that when blessings are obtained from God, it is by obedience, but it doesn't say that such obtaining ever necessarily will happen, no matter how much obedience is going on.
  • D&C 130:22: Personage. Webster's 1828 definition for personage lists three definitions. The first one is "exterior appearance; stature; air." Based on this definition, we might think that the "exterior appearance" of a spirit is the shape and form that a spirit takes on when it "appears." So we might think of a spirit as having a material body, though of “a finer matter,” matter that can be seen by spiritual eyes. The other two definitions for personage in Webster's are "character assumed" and "character represented." The definition for "character" in Webster's 1828 Dictionary is given here. If character is taken to refer to qualities or properties that are being represent or assumed, then the Spirit in this verse might be thought in terms of representing or assuming the qualities of God.
  • D&C 130:22. Verse 22 is the only scriptural source that clearly teaches that the Holy Ghost is a personage. It also purports to give a reason why a member of the Godhead does not have a body of flesh and bones, so the the Holy Ghost can "dwell in us". However, the source of this teaching is not only not from a prophet, but actually contradicts the prophetic teaching that the rest of the scriptural passage is based on.
The source of this teaching is Joseph Smith's corrections to a talk by Elder Orson Hyde at a conference in Ramus, Illinois on April 2, 1843. In the morning, Elder Hyde had preached that "it is our privilege to have the father & son dwelling in our hearts." After the morning meeting, at Joseph's sister Sophronia's house for dinner, Joseph indicated that he would correct Elder Hyde, who indicated his willingness to accept correction. Joseph then taught what we have in D&C 130:1-3, that "the idea that the Father and the Son dwell in a man's heart is an old sectarian notion, and is false."
When they returned for the evening session of the meeting, Joseph referred the congregation back to Elder Hyde's statement to give them the correction as well. This time he additionally taught (emphasis added):
The Father has a body of flesh & bones as tangible as mans the Son also, but the Holy Ghost is a personage of spirit. --and a person cannot have the personage of the H G in his heart he may receive the gift of the holy Ghost. it may descend upon him but not to tarry with him (Joseph Smith diary as recorded by Willard Richards)
The Holy Ghost is a personage, and a person cannot have the personage of the Holy Ghost in his heart. A man receive the gifts of the H. G., and the H. G. may descend upon a man but not to tarry with him. (William Clayton diary)
(Source for these documents is The Parallel Joseph; see the April 2, 1843 link below, footnote 1.)
Joseph's teachings as recorded by Willard Richards and William Clayton that the personage of the Holy Ghost cannot dwell in us are changed in the Doctrine & Covenants to state that he is a personage of spirit precisely so that he can dwell in us. This came about as follows:
Orson Pratt was given the assignment to select teachings of Joseph Smith for inclusion in the 1876 edition of the Doctrine & Covenants (see the December 1984 Ensign article The Story of the Doctrine & Covenants). In doing so, he relied on the compilations of Joseph's diaries and teachings by church historians (see link below) for details on who these historians were and when they wrote). Joseph himself wrote very little of his diary; it was actually kept by various people assigned to do so. Church historians compiled these various accounts into a cohesive whole (changing the text to the first person to appear as though Joseph had written it) and it formed the basis of the volumes of History of Church eventually edited by B.H. Roberts -- the ones most of us are familiar with.
Leo Hawkins was the historian who compiled the account that includes this scriptural passage from D&C 130. He added the sentence in question about the Holy Ghost dwelling in us, which contradicts what Joseph taught as recorded contemporaneously by his secretary.
Further sources for this information:
  • Scott H. Faulring, An American Prophet's Record: The Diaries and Journals of Joseph Smith, p.341
  • George D. Smith, An Intimate Chronicle; The Journals of William Clayton, p. 97
  • The Words of Joseph Smith: The Contemporary Accounts of the Nauvoo Discourses of the Prophet Joseph, compiled and edited by Andrew F. Ehat and Lyndon W. Cook [Provo: BYU Religious Studies Center, 1980], entries for 2 April 1843 (see particularly footnote 5)

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  • D&C 130:7. What might it mean for "all things...past, present, and future" to be "continually before the Lord"? Does that place God outside of time?
  • D&C 130:10. What kingdoms might be "higher" than the Celestial Kingdom--or at least the celestialized earth? Why don't we know more about these kingdoms?
  • D&C 130:18. What can "principle" mean? What of "intelligence"? How would such a principle of such intelligence rise with us (does this imply objectivation?)?
  • D&C 130:22: Flesh and bones. Do Old Testament scriptures such as Gen 2:23, 2 Sam 19:12 and 1 Chr 11:1 suggest this description is not just about the composition of God's physical body, but also an expression of his kinship with humans?
  • D&C 130:22: Tangible. If one of the definitions of this word is "capable of being handled or touched or felt," then why does this verse depart from the Mormon tradition of privileging the visual sense when it comes to personally interacting with God (e.g., Job 19:26 and 1 Jn 3:2)?
  • D&C 130:22. Why do you think this verse emphasizes the tangibility of the Father's body rather than, perhaps, its visibility?
  • D&C 130:22: Dwell. Is this a poetic way of saying that the Holy Ghost can take up residence in our body if we treat it like a temple?


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Previous editions.

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  • D&C 130 was first published in __.
  • D&C 130 was first included in the Doctrine & Covenants in the 18__ edition.
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Related passages that interpret or shed light on D&C 130.

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