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Relationship to Section 42. The relationship of Verses 42:30-42 to the rest of Section 42 is discussed at D&C 42.
Message. Themes, symbols, and doctrinal points emphasized in Verses 42:30-42 include:
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- D&C 42:39: Structure of the verse. Attempting to uncover the structure of the verse is perhaps a bit difficult, given that the text has taken two distinct canonical shapes. As it turns out, the two distinct texts seem best to be understood as bearing two distinct structures:
- For it shall come to pass,
- that which I spake by the mouths of my prophets shall be fulfilled;
- for I will consecrate the riches of the Gentiles,
- unto my people which are of the house of Israel. (1831)
- For it shall come to pass,
- For it shall come to pass,
- that which I spake by the mouths of my prophets shall be fulfilled;
- for I will consecrate of the riches of those
- who embrace my gospel among the Gentiles
- unto the poor of my people
- who are of the house of Israel. (1835)
- For it shall come to pass,
- What seems to change, in terms of structure, between 1831 and 1835 is that the addition of "those who embrace my gospel among" and "the poor of," as well as the change from "which" to "who," sets up a parallelism between the phrases "who embrace my gospel among the Gentiles" and "who are of the house of Israel." This change seems to add an amelioratory inflection to a potential and ongoing conflict to the Gentiles and Israelites. This might also be read as being analogous to the relation between the rich and the poor more generally.
- D&C 42:39: For it shall come to pass, that which I spake by the mouths of my prophets shall be fulfilled. The revelation here draws on a relatively common phrase, one that appears both in the New Testament and the Book of Mormon before making its several appearances in the Doctrine and Covenants. All three of the New Testament instances are Lucan, the first appearing in Zacharias' words of praise he shouts when his dumbness is removed (Luke 1:70), the second and third appearing in Peter's speech in the temple shortly after the Pentecostal outpouring (Acts 3:18, 21). Taken together, all three references attribute to the collective prophets the teaching: first, that Christ would come into the world; second, that Christ would suffer; and third, that Christ would be received into heaven until all things have been restored. The phrase seems to be genericized in the Book of Mormon, being used to summarize what is written in the brass plates (1 Ne 3:20), what has been said by the Old World prophets about the Abrahamic covenants (2 Ne 9:2), what should be taught by ordained priests in the Nephite church (Mosiah 18:19), what Nephite prophets had taught about "restoration" (Alma 40:22, 24), what the prophets had claimed about Jesus' mortal ministry (3 Ne 1:13), and what the Jaredite prophets had told Coriantumr would happen if he did not immediately repent (Ether 15:3).
- If any overarching usage could be said to unite the New Testament and Book of Mormon employments of the phrase, it would be that the phrase serves to indicate that whatever is under discussion should be made sense of in light of some available prophetic text (and that one can trust the prophetic texts to be fulfilled). The phrase certainly serves this purpose in its several appearances in the Doctrine and Covenants. References elsewhere in the Doctrine and Covenants are, with one exception (D&C 109:45), concerned (as the phrase is in D&C 42) particularly with the eventual building of Zion (D&C 58:8; 84:2; 86:10; 109:23, 41). Of course, in D&C 42:39, it seems clear—especially because of the specificity of the text that follows this mention of the prophets—to indicate that there are particular prophetic texts that are in mind. And, given especially the reference in the verse to the "riches of the Gentiles" (if the phrase is taken in its pre-clarified form), it seems clear which prophetic text that revelation indicates: Isaiah 60-62.
- D&C 42:39: Economics in revelation. This verse, situated in the text as a kind of conclusion to the law of consecration, forces one to think carefully about the role of economics in the revelations. It is perhaps far too common to talk about consecration as a kind of revealed economic order or revealed political system, but this verse in particular suggests that such an approach is oversimplistic in that it ignores a major facet of the Lord's intentions with consecration. Consecration is a question, at the very least, of (1) fulfillment of prophecy and (2) the relationship between the Gentiles and Israel. These somewhat surprising facets of consecration (as revealed in the Doctrine and Covenants) call for careful interpretation of verse 39.
- From the Book of Commandments. First, it should be noted that the text here differs in a few points from the "original" version of the text as published in the 1833 Book of Commandments:
- "For it shall come to pass, that which I spake by the mouths of my prophets shall be fulfilled; for I will consecrate the riches of the Gentiles, unto my people which are of the house of Israel." (Book of Commandments 44:32)
- What are the differences between the two texts?
- (1) The Doctrine and Covenants version adds the word "of" after the word "consecrate": "for I will consecrate of the riches of the Gentiles...."
- (2) The Doctrine and Covenants version adds the phrase "those who embrace my gospel among" between "of" and "the" (just before the word "Gentiles"): "I will consecrate of the riches of those who embrace my gospel among the Gentiles...."
- (3) The Doctrine and Covenants version adds the phrase "the poor of" between "unto" and "my people": "I will consecrate of the riches of those who embrace my gospel among the Gentiles unto the poor of my people...."
- (4) The Doctrine and Covenants replaces the word "which" with "who": "unto the poor of my people which are of the house of Israel."
- All four of these changes seem, on close analysis, to be clarifications rather than modifications of the text, made in order to forestall drastic misinterpretations of the text's intentions (though it should be noted that changes in the preceding nine verses seem often enough to be genuine modifications rather than clarifications, made in light of the change in the Saints' situation with respect to Zion). A brief analysis of each change might be profitable:
- (1) The addition of the word "of" might seem minor, but it softens what might be called the "violence" implied in the "original" text: whereas the 1831-33 version of the text might be read to imply that everything the Gentiles have will be taken from them and handed over to Israel, the "of" makes it clear that the Gentiles will retain something of their substance, even as their riches are used to outfit Israel in whatever ways are needed.
- (2) The addition of the phrase "those who embrace my gospel among" is more drastic a change, and it alters the significance of the verse more substantially. Though one might presume from the 1831-33 text, if it were read in abstract from the surrounding text, that the Gentiles were to be impoverished with or without their consent, the change makes it quite clear that the riches to be consecrated are to be those specifically belonging to the Gentiles who embrace the gospel.
- (3) The addition of the phrase "the poor of" is also more substantial. While the 1831-33 text might be taken to suggest that the Gentiles are to be impoverished while Israel is to be made rich, this change makes it clear that the shift of goods from the Gentiles to Israel is a question of transferring the excess of the Gentiles to the impoverished of Israel.
- (4) The change from "which" to "who" seems only to be a simple grammatical correction, of no particular importance.
- Isaiah 60-62: the riches of the Gentiles. It seems relatively obvious that the phrase (from the "original" version of the revelation) "the riches of the Gentiles" is drawn from Isaiah 60-62, where the phrase appears several times (see especially Isaiah 60:5, 11; 61:6). Some scholars, it should be pointed out, believe that these three chapters (Isaiah 60-62) form something like the kernel of Isaiah 56-66: the remainder of these eleven chapters are thematically built on the text of Isaiah 60-62. This kernel is in turn basically a commentary on a passage from Isaiah 49: "Lift up thine eyes round about and behold; all these gather themselves together, and they shall come to thee.... And kings shall be thy nursing fathers, and their queens thy nursing mothers; they shall bow down to thee with their face towards the earth, and lick up the dust of thy feet" (verses 18 and 23). Taken together, Isaiah 49 and Isaiah 60-62 paint a picture of the eschatological relationship between Israel and the Gentiles that is central to the way the Lord presents the purpose of the law of consecration in D&C 42.
- Summarized, the relationship between Israel and the Gentiles is one of benefaction: the Gentiles, "blessed" with riches and excess, eventually recognize that Israel has been the chosen, covenant people of the one true God, and so they use their substance to establish the poor and downtrodden of Israel, placing them in their land of inheritance and ensuring that they have the means they need to subsist. When the same passage from Isaiah 49 is taken up in the Book of Mormon (especially in 1 Ne 22 and 2 Ne 6), it is further noted that the Gentiles will be given an inheritance with Israel for their generosity (whereas the Isaiah passages might be interpreted to suggest that the Gentiles will—in a reversal of history—be given a place in Zion only as servants or slaves). This particularly Nephite interpretation of the Isaianic texts seems to be at work in the Doctrine and Covenants, at least at the time D&C 42 was originally received: the Saints understood themselves to be (as Europeans) the Gentiles who had been called to restore the Indians (understood then as the Lamanites, and hence, as Israel) to their rightful inheritance in Zion. The relevance of this early Mormon understanding of the Gentile-Israelite relationship for making sense of D&C 42 will have to be spelled out below in more detail.
- Consecration and the spoils of war. In the Bible, forms of the word consecration are not often used in an economic context. Rather, people or offerings are what are consecrated unto God. There are, however, two significant exceptions: (1) in Josh 6:19 where "silver, and gold of brass and iron, are consecrated unto the Lord" so that, roughly, the curse of Jericho does not infect the Israelites; and (2) in Micah 4:13 where the daughter of Zion is promised redemption and victory over her enemies and the spoils of war will be consecrated to the Lord. Both of these occurrences are in a military context, but the Joshua uses the Hebrew verb qodesh whereas Micah uses the verb charam. Nevertheless, the idea seems to be the same: the Lord will help his people, not to continue the economic, might-is-right logic of war, but in order to establish a new order.
- A similar contrast between the logic of war and the logic of consecrated offerings occurs in Genesis 14 when Abraham pays tithing to Melchezidek. Since D&C 42 was given during the period when Joseph Smith was working through his new translation of Genesis, further study of this thematic might be quite productive.
- The poor of my people. When the wording of the revelation was altered for the 1835 publication of the Doctrine and Covenants, the phrase "the poor of my people" was first introduced into the text. It is not without significance, since it draws on at least two other Isaianic texts, both of which are quoted by Nephi in the Book of Mormon: Isaiah 10:2 (see 2 Ne 20:2) and Isaiah 14:32 (see 2 Ne 24:32). In both of these texts—as in so much of both the Old and the New Testaments—it is specifically the poor of the people who will be exalted, while the rich will be destroyed for their pride. In the former of the two texts, in fact, Isaiah rails specifically against the manner in which the rich use even the law to further impoverish the poor; while in the latter of the two texts, it is to be told to the "messenger of the nations (or Gentiles)" that the poor of Israel are those who will inherit Zion.
- Moreover, the same phrase ("the poor of my people") appears twice more in the Doctrine in Covenants, both times in revelations that are particularly concerned with the connection between the law of consecration and the fulfillment of ancient promises and covenants: D&C 78:3 comes from the revelation that ties consecration to Adam-ondi-Ahman, while D&C 124:21 comes from the revelation that calls (very much in the spirit and at times even the words of Isaiah 60-62) for the kings and queens of the Gentiles to come and outfit the Saints in Nauvoo with their riches (it should be noted that by the time D&C 124 was revealed, the Saints understood themselves—again, as Europeans—to be Ephraimites, and so they had become, in the language of D&C 42, "the poor of my people who are of the house of Israel"). (There are a number of ways in which D&C 124 can be read as a kind of Nauvoo repetition of D&C 42.)
- From all of this, it seems clear that D&C 42:39 follows in suit with other scripture in its focus on Israel's poor being exalted by the benevolent charity of the Gentiles.
- My people who (which) are of the house of Israel. Except for the present text and a passing reference in D&C 39:11, it seems this phrase is a uniquely Nephite locution: 1 Ne 14:17; 2 Ne 25:4; 29:1, 2, 14; 3 Ne 16:8, 9, 14; 23:2; 29:3; 30:2. The phrase itself can, of course, be understood in at least two ways. On the one hand, "who (which) are of the house of Israel" can be understood to be offering a kind of clarification of "my people," such that "my people" is equivalent to "those who are of the house of Israel." On the other hand, "who (which) are of the house of Israel" can be understood to be specifying a particular part of "my people" that is implicated in the statement being made, such that "my people" is broader than "those who are of the house of Israel" and "those who are of the house of Israel" make up a subset of "my people."
- A look at the Book of Mormon instances of the phrase shows quickly that both of these ways of utilizing the total phrase appear in the text. At times, it seems clear from the context that the one is meant; and at times, it seems clear from the context that the other is meant. Here, however, things are less than simple. One might argue that the 1831 version of the text employed the phrase according to one understanding, while the 1835 version of the text employed the phrase according to the other understanding. In 1831, that is, it seems best to understand "my people" and "those who are of the house of Israel" to be equivalent: the riches of the Gentiles will be consecrated to the Lord's people, that is, to Israel. In 1835, however, it seems best to understand "my people" to be a broader category within which "those who are of the house of Israel" fall: the riches of the converted Gentiles will be used to outfit the poor of the Lord's people who happen to be Israelites (though the Lord's people embraces a larger group).
- An alternative interpretation would read the clause "of the house of Israel" as simply modifying "my people" in a way that conceives as the Gentiles and the Israelites as overlapping groups, following the parallel structure of the 1835 text. That is, those who embrace the gospel among the Gentiles are parallel, and in at least some sense synoymous with (perhaps through a linguistic kind of adoption), those who are of the house of Israel.
- In Context. If all of the above comments situate this verse with regard to the various texts that came before and after it, it is also necessary to situate it with regard to the history surrounding it (in both versions of the text). The law of consecration (as laid out in verses 30-38) is apparently best understood as the crux of the law of the Church (which D&C 42 "embraces," according to Joseph Smith). That is, when the Lord announced in D&C 38:32 that the Saints were to be given both the law and the endowment in "the Ohio," preparatory to their being told where to build up Zion, He seems to have been announcing that in Kirtland He would give the Saints the law of consecration, to be paired with the endowment of the highest order of the priesthood, that would organize them in Zion.
- Further, given the relatively clear Book of Mormon understanding of the role of the New Jerusalem, it seems clear that the early Saints (should have) recognized their gathering to Zion as part of the task of exalting the remnant of the Lamanites: the New Jerusalem was to be a place where the Gentiles who embraced the gospel could exalt the remnant of Israel and so involve themselves in the covenants given anciently to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. This understanding of the broader purposes of Zion should have been drastically reinforced by this verse (39) in particular: the law of consecration, in its concluding words, is described as being first and foremost a question of ensuring that the wealth of the Gentiles is used to outfit the poor of Israel, a reference that would—especially in light of the Book of Mormon usage of the phrase "my people who (which) are of the house of Israel"—seem to point directly to the Lamanites.
- In other words, this verse might be most important because it calls for a recognition that the law of consecration is not merely an economic order: any attempt to understand consecration as the Lord's revealed way of breaking the deadlock between capitalism and communism is far too narrow. Rather, it must be understood as a system designed to fulfill the prophecies concerning the Abrahamic covenant in the last days, as a way of ensuring that the promises that undergird the entirety of the Book of Mormon will be brought to pass. The law of consecration is, or at least was in 1831, a way of sorting out the prophesied relation between the Gentiles and Israel.
- Of course, though, much happened between 1831 and 1835. Whereas in 1831, the Saints had not yet been told that the New Jerusalem was to be built in Jackson County, Missouri, by 1835, the Saints had been to, built up, been driven from, attempted to recover, and more or less definitively lost Jackson County. Moreover, a good deal of legal and economic history made up the months and years between February 1831 and the revisions of the revelations in 1835. And again, the Saints' self-understanding with relation to the categories of Israelite and Gentile had gone through major changes (in light especially of D&C 86:8-10). And yet again, the endowment had been redefined along with the reorganization of the priesthood into quorums. In short, the fabric of Mormonism had—through revelation—changed drastically between 1831 and 1835. Thus, even as the changes made to the text of the present verse were relatively minor (all of them can be understood as clarificatory rather than revisionary), the immeasurably different circumstances in which the clarified text was presented to the Saints inevitably made for its being understood differently.
- That said, it is perhaps necessary to say that the critical importance of this particular verse became much easier to overlook: the New Jerusalem was less and less a focus for the Saints; the identification of the Lamanites did not appear to be as easy as it had been in 1831-33; the very notion of "Israelite" had changed so much that it was no longer clear how a verse like this would have be understood, etc. By 1835, this verse, rather than being a straightforward confirmation of what the early Saints most likely understood by the inauguration of the law of consecration, had become a trace of an earlier understanding. That the text of the revelation has not changed in the many years since the alterations in 1835 suggests that it still serves the same purpose today: it remains a trace of an earliest assumed understanding of the revelation, one that today is perhaps more obscure than ever.
- One way to way to make sense of all of this might be to understand the earlier, 1831 understanding as being flawed so that the 1835 revisions represent a kind of repentance. Whereas the 1831 text might suggest a strong differentiation between the Gentiles and the Israelites with clearly demarcated lines of culture or genetics, and a consequently simplistic understanding of the Isaianic revelations, the 1835 text seems to complexify things. If read in light of passages such as D&C 86:8-10, where the weeding process of judgment is delayed until he harvest is fully ripe, then the 1835 revision might be read as an admonition against over-simplifying the interdependence of the Gentiles and the Israelites, and the world as Zion, as having interconnected roots whose development cannot be as cleanly distinguished as the early Saints might have wanted to believe.
- D&C 42:42: Idleness. According to the 1828 Websters, "idle" meant "unemployed" and "unoccupied with business" as well as "slothful." In fact, "slothful" is the second definition and the other meanings are first.
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- D&C 42:30-31. In speaking of consecrating of our substance “with a covenant and a deed which cannot be broken,” verse 30 clearly has reference to the Law of Consecration, which we are not presently under obligation to practice in the way it was to be practiced in the nineteenth century. But does this verse have a meaning for us anyway?
- D&C 42:30-31. What does the word "consecrate" mean?
- D&C 42:30-31. How do we consecrate something?
- D&C 42:30-31. How do we consecrate of our properties to support the poor?
- D&C 42:30-31. To whom do we make such consecrations?
- D&C 42:42. If this verse doesn’t refer to the idle poor (see the lexical notes), to whom does it refer? In the early nineteenth century and in earlier times, what kinds of people would have been idle? How might we “translate” the meaning of this scripture for our own understanding and circumstances? (To see a warning to the poor, see D&C 56:17.)
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