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The relationship of verses 38-67 to the rest of section 20 is discussed at D&C 20.
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Here a distinction is drawn between vocal prayer and prayer in secret. The distinction, when set against a rather broad survey of the scriptures, seems to be quite fruitful: vocal prayer seems generally to be a question of communal prayer, and hence, of praise; while secret prayer seems generally to be a question of intercessory prayer, and hence, of petition (and most usually, complaint). If this is the distinction being made here, then the constant exhortation of the visiting priest is to praise together as a family in prayer and to counsel with the Lord on an individual basis. Maintaining this distinction perhaps would lead a more genuine verbal relationship with the Lord: together God's people praise, but individually they counsel with God. That these questions are understood here as a question of the family is clear: "and attend to all family duties" does not separate itself from the two exhortations to prayer, since this last phrase picks up on the infinitive "to" of "to pray vocally." In other words, this distinction in prayer is one that is supposed to be present in one's family life, in the family specifically. (For a similar pairing in the context of missionary service, see D&C 84:61.)
Points to ponder
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- Verse 38 seems to have a rather limited scope as regards the priesthood. But the fact is that the priesthood was a series of offices, rather than two priesthoods and the several quorums, in 1830. That the Church seems at first to have been founded on the offices of the elder, priest, and teacher seems to reflect the organization of the churches in the Book of Mormon. What is the significance of the Book of Mormon's sway on the earliest organization of the Latter-day Church?
Verses 47, 53
- What is the difference between the priest's duty in what is now called home teaching and the teacher's duty (compare verses 47 and 53)?
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