D&C 85:1-12

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This revelation is extracted from a letter the Prophet wrote to William W. Phelps during the large migration of saints to Jackson County, Missouri. The saints had been instructed, both by direct revelation and by wise instruction from the leaders in Zion, that they were not to go up to Zion unless they were willing to obey the law of consecration (section 42). Unfortunately, many of the saints went up to Zion without any kind of commitment to the law, and hence Edward Partridge (the bishop in Zion) was soon overwhelmed with the situation. Joseph's letter was written precisely to address this issue: what should be done with regard to the saints who would go up to Zion but would reject the law upon which Zion is to be built? The letter Joseph wrote makes this quite clear from the very beginning. Joseph writes that William must have been praying (he said he had been shown William in vision) along these lines: "my God great and mighty art thou therefore shew unto thy servant what shall becom of all these who are assaying to come up unto Zion in order to keep the commandments of God and yet recive not there inhertance by consecration by order or deed from the bishop the man that God has appointed in a legal way agreeable to the law given to organize and regulate the church and all the affairs of the same" (as in original). Joseph wrote, then, "I will procede to unfold to you some of the feelings of my heart and procede to answer the questions." What follows immediately upon this sentence is this revelation.

Curiously, the letter has, in the middle of the revelation, a great deal of material crossed out, most of which is written back into the letter later on. By looking carefully at the crossed out writings, one can get a sense that Joseph was going to truncate things greatly. If the crossed out material had been retained, the revelation would have skipped from verse 2 to the last phrase of verse 11. The revelation, had it only consisted of verses 1-2 and 11b-12 would have remarkably cool in tone: the clerk keeps a record of the righteous and of the wicked, and the wicked are to have their names removed so that they will be punished as can be found in Ezra, etc. Though such a revelation would undeniably have been negative in character, it also would have been quite removed from "the feelings of [Joseph's] heart," though it might have "answer[ed] the questions." In a sense, one might suggest that verses 3-11a are where Joseph's feelings penetrate the revelation, enriching and enlarging it. At the very least, one can get a sense for the fact that Joseph had some say in how a revelation was worded, in how much of it was communicated to the saints.


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  • D&C 85:1. This first verse seems, at first glance, to be quite straightforward, in fact relatively temporal: the clerk is to keep a history and general record of Zion, including events as well as monetary transactions. But the point can hardly be temporal: the record is precisely related to Zion and not to the Church broadly. That is, this "history, and a general church record" is specifically for writing up "all things that transpire in Zion" (which at this point in the history of the Church would never have been understood as a broad reference to the Church, but would have been understood geographically). More importantly, it is to carry a record of consecration and inheritances. In short, what is called for in this verse is something ultimately quite holy (and not something merely practical): there is to be a book of Zion, a book that records the names of the faithful consecrated, and attaches to them the specific inheritances of land they have been given by the Lord through the bishop (cf. D&C 58:17). The (eternal!) importance of this record should not be missed: it is the established record that connects a person with a piece of the earth, one that has been inherited and is apparently assigned that person in Zion for eternity. Like a "land of our inheritance" in the Old World, this would secure one's place in the holy land, and apparently have something to do with the celestial kingdom (on earth, centered in Zion).
  • D&C 85:2. The record is also to describe the "manner of life," the "faith, and works" of the faithful consecrated. Already there seems to be some affinity between the book being described and the book described in Rev 20:12, especially as Joseph Smith described it in D&C 128:7: it is one of the "books spoken of ... which contained the record of their works, and refer to the records which are kept on the earth." These books, are at the judgment and through the power of the priesthood (the sealing power, apparently) to be copied over into the "book of life" (that is, the "book of life" is to receive into it a description of the "manner of life" of the faithful consecrated).
Perhaps more serious in some ways is the latter half of this verse, however: the book is also to have a record of "the apostates who apostatize after receiving their inheritances." It would appear from this verse that the clerk is to keep a record of their wickedness, though it may be that they are simply struck from the record. Perhaps it amounts to the same thing either way: the wicked are either written into the book with a description of their apostasy, or they are written into the book and crossed out, and either way they are in the book with a rather unfortunate mark attached to their names.
  • D&C 85:3. The broad point of this verse is quite straightforward, though the language is complex (mostly, it would seem, to link up the assertion with a number of other revelations): the unconsecrated are not to have their names enrolled in the book with the consecrated faithful. Combining this point with the two points of the previous two verses, it is clear that there are three kinds of people under consideration: the consecrated faithful, the once-consecrated apostates, and the unconsecrated. The first two kinds of people are to be written into the book, the one for good and the other for bad. The third kind of people, however, are simply not to be written into the book at all.
  • D&C 85:4. Understanding the distinctions between the three groups helps to make quite clear that it is only the unconsecrated that are under discussion in verses 4-5, but this does not mean that these two verses teach nothing about the consecrated and the apostates. As it turns out, there are important implications here for all three groups. The thrust of the verse is rather simple: the unconsecrated are not only not to be written into the record, but "their genealogy" is not "to be kept," apparently "on any of the records or history of the church." An important implication of this is that the genealogies of the faithful consecrated are kept in the records, as, apparently are/were the genealogies of the apostates. This has interesting ramifications. For example, having the apostates' genealogies on the record may well have something to do with the rather common promise that the Lord will recompense the wicked in judgment to the third and fourth generation. On the positive side, this revelation seems here to be laying the foundation of what will become the sealing ordinances of the Church. Curiously, sealing is here connected with keeping the law of consecration: one must covenant to keep the law of consecration before one's genealogy is written into the book of life, before one can be sealed. At the very least, the connection between the book described here and the books described in D&C 128 is growing quite a bit clearer.
  • D&C 85:5. The single word "genealogy" is here expanded to "the names of the father" and "the names of the children." This draws, importantly, on the language of Mal 4:5-6 (thereby suggesting another connection with section 128), again hinting at the ordinances of sealing still to be clarified by further revelation. Perhaps more importantly still, the record is at last given a name: "the book of the law of God." As must be clear by this point in the revelation, "the law of God" must mean the law of consecration, and its book is the book in which the names of the consecrated faithful (and their fathers and children) are written. But all of this only sets the stage for the far more important content of the next few verses.
  • D&C 85:6. If the former verses are relatively clear and almost self-explanatory (though they certainly interweave themselves with a number of other texts), this verse and the few that follow it make up one of the most disputed and misunderstood passages in the Doctrine and Covenants. Taking them up requires careful attention.
Not only are the previous five verses quite necessary for the interpretation of verses 7-8, but verse 6 is most important for making sense of the prophecy. It is, unlike most of the sections found in the D&C from this time period, given more or less in Joseph's language, rather than as the direct word of the Lord. This verse marks that in a peculiar manner: the words given are those spoken to Joseph by the "still small voice." But from the very beginning, it must be clear that this does not mean simply that Joseph feels a kind of thrill, a warm sensation, or even a kind of excitement. Rather, he himself describes the experience in the most frightening terms: the "still small voice" is what "whispereth through and pierceth all things," and, Joseph adds, "often times it maketh my bones to quake while it maketh manifest." These frightening images all connect Joseph's experience up with the textual source for the phrase "still small voice": 1 Kgs 19:12. There, in a rather well known story, Elijah, having fled to Mount Horeb (Sinai), stands on the mountain at the command of the Lord to see a storming wind, an earthquake, and a great fire all pass by in succession. After they pass—in all their majesty—Elijah experiences the most frightening thing of all: "a still small voice," or, as it might be more literally translated, "the voice of sheer silence." More frightened at this than the other experiences, Elijah returns to his cave in fear and trembling, wrapping his mantle about his head. The shocking, even alarming thing was precisely that God was not in the great physical shows, but spoke with pure silence. The scene might be connected up with the vision of Isaiah in Isa 6:1ff. There the prophet sees God sitting upon a throne in perfect silence, though the angels all about Him are chattering in praise. When a glowing stone from the altar of incense is brought to him and place on his lips, Isaiah learns the angelic tongue and understands at last how to interpret the silence of God: it becomes a voice to which he can respond.
If all of these Old Testament precedents are brought to bear on the present verse, one might recognize in this revelation something still more profound than Joseph's usual revelations, something more shocking, something to be approached in greater fear and more disquieting trembling: this revelation is something spoken by the silence of God, and Joseph dares to interpret that silence ("saying..."). The message Joseph here delivers is not a passing word, but the most important, the most revealing, and yet the hardest to interpret.
  • D&C 85:7: Bowels shall be a fountain. Cf. John 7:38. See the NET notes for interesting discussion and cross-references to this passage in John (which is often taken as a quotation of Isa 58:11).
  • D&C 85:7: And it shall come to pass. The word of the "still small voice" begins with "And." The point is curious, and yet vital: the silence of God is only suddenly interpretable, but it has been speaking, is in the middle of speaking when it is finally interpreted. Whatever else that "And" points to, whatever it is that has been said in pure silence must be inferred (and that in much more fear and trembling than ever) or ignored (and that is still more fear and trembling!).
The word speaks of the future, of something still to happen: "it shall come to pass." The phrase is almost always narrative in the scriptures, and it draws heavily on the open-ended "And" with which the verse begins: the event about to be described is part of a much larger story, is something following from other things ("And") and leading to still other things ("pass"). In short, what is about to be spoken is really only a clue, a hint at a single moment in a much grander picture of things. The event to be described is hardly a random happening that will occur obscurely or without fitting into a far broader context. The words of the prophecy itself will have to spell out that broader context.
  • D&C 85:7: I, the Lord God. The event, it should be noted, is to be performed by "the Lord God," who speaks in the sheer silence with the pronoun "I." While most of the verse will focus on the work of the one who is sent, it is from the very start the Lord God who does the sending: the event is a part of salvation history, of a greater unfolding of the work of God specifically. No self-appointment is possible here, and the figure to be discussed will quite specifically be "sent," and not simply "called" or "inspired." The title the Lord uses here for Himself is interesting: "the Lord God." The title is more familiar to the Old Testament idiom than to the New Testament idiom: the event here is to be seen as another event in the Old Testament style, a work of the Lord on behalf of a covenant people. In other words, the figure to be sent will be sent in the Old Testament style, as an angel or a prophet whose whole work is to fulfill the covenants given to the fathers by visiting the children.
  • D&C 85:7: Will send. And the word "send" itself deserves careful scrutiny. Not only does the word point to the action of the Lord God, rather than the action of whoever is sent, but it also draws on the rich theology of both the Old and New Testaments. Perhaps a key verse in the Old Testament for making sense of the word is Isa 6:8, where Isaiah, finally having been purified and brought into the council of God, responds to the divine query with the words "Here am I; send me." The words of course echo the words of the Savior in the same council, according to both Moses 4:1 and Abr 3:27. This kind of language becomes technical in the New Testament with the title "apostle," from the Greek apostolos, "one who is sent" (the Septuagint or Greek translation of the Old Testament uses this very word in Isa 6:8). Though the present verse is not likely drawing on the word in any technical sense, it is worth noting that it follows a rather rich tradition in which "sending" means, at least in theologically rich contexts, being sent specifically from the council/presence of God to accomplish a particularly difficult mission.
  • D&C 85:7: One mighty and strong. All that said, the key phrase of the verse might be discussed: "one mighty and strong." The only precedent for the phrase is found in a most curious location: Isa 28:2, a verse profoundly connected with the passage cited above in Isa 6 (both chapters 6 and 28 of Isaiah are taken up with Isaiah's mission to confuse and to confound, the very mission upon which he is sent). The context in Isa 28 is ultimately quite complex, and the "mighty and strong one" introduced in verse 2 only appears in that verse and then essentially disappears. Nonetheless, there are some hints in Isa 28 that may well provide a clearer understanding of this verse. For one, it is specifically Ephraim that the one mighty and strong deals with in Isaiah. Also, there is a specific spirit of judgment about the prophecy in Isa 28, which might be connected up with the tenor of this verse in a few important ways. Moreover, a possible retranslation of Isa 28:2 suggests that the "mighty and strong one" Isaiah mentions will, rather than "cast down" to the earth with a strong hand, settle (the people) on the earth with a strong hand, not at all unlike the distribution of inheritences (on the land) that is mentioned here. At the very least, there is here reason to take Isa 28 into careful consideration while thinking the nature of the present revelation.
Of course, the most common approach to this revelation is to take up the question of identity: who is the "one mighty and strong"? The verse is, in fact, rather notorious, since it has been used by many self-proclaimed prophets who desire to call the Church into question. Less radically, the prophecy is often cited in darkly apocalyptic readings of the revelations, where it is cited as part of a systematic prediction about how things on earth will wrap up. Still others have connected the prophecy up with obscure sayings by the Prophet Joseph, trying to identify whom he might have had in mind. Perhaps the safest approach that has been taken is to identify the "one mighty and strong" as a somewhat veiled reference to a righteous bishop in Zion (whether this is specified as Edward Partridge, or whether this is left as an empty category until further revelation or fulfillment clarifies the point). In the end, however, none of these approaches ultimately takes quite seriously all of what is said in the course of this verse. It is worth taking up each phrase in turn.
First, of course, the figure is said to be mighty and strong. If this is taken less as a title (and perhaps even less as a reference to Isa 28) than as a description, it might afford some help. There certainly seems to be a focus on the heavenly rather than on the earthly. This might be read into the grammar: "I ... will send one mighty and strong" might be read as "I will send someone in such a way that he is mighty and strong; that is, the manner of my sending will be what renders him mighty and strong." Such a reading would take the emphasis off of the "one mighty and strong" himself to lay it again on the Lord God. But all over again, one is thrust back on the precedent of Isaiah 28, and any further interpretation would probably have to look to that source.
  • D&C 85:7: Attributes of the mighty and strong one. The prophecy then lists a whole series of attributes (all of which might again be read as facets of the Lord's sending, but might just as well be read as attributes already inherent in the one sent). Each of these is rich enough to deserve careful attention.
  • D&C 85:7: Scepter of power. This is the only passage in the canon where one can find the phrase "scepter of power," but other scriptures use similar phrases: "a right sceptre" (Ps 45:6; cf. Heb 1:8, where this verse is quoted and the phrase is rendered "a sceptre of righteousness"), "a scepter of righteousness and truth" (D&C 121:46), and "the scepter of justice and judgment" (Fac. no. 3, fig. 1, in the Book of Abraham). Of these several related phrases, it is perhaps the last that is most instructive, because it, like the phrase in the present verse, is qualified by the definite article: "the scepter of power." In fact, the whole phrase is remarkably parallel to the explanation in Facsimile no. 3. Here: "holding the scepter of power in his hand." There: "with the scepter of justice and judgment in his hand." The parallel in construction suggests that further work might be done with reference to the facsimile. It is certainly curious that in that facsimile, Abraham is the one holding the scepter, though it is clear that he only holds it "by the politeness of the king" and inasmuch as he is "emblematical of the grand Presidency in Heaven." Indeed, the very idea behind a scepter is that it bears the authority the king ultimately borrows: the scepter at once marks the power of the king and marks his arbitrary position as place-holder. All of this would seem to cast the burden back on the Lord God in this verse. In the end, it is perhaps only in this way that one can make sense of the definite article: this "mighty and strong" one does not hold a scepter (marking thereby his own power), but the scepter, one that inevitably is not his own, something he can only hold in the meanwhile. But even so, it certainly marks him as an important royal figure (vassal).
  • D&C 85:7: Clothed with light. This figure is then said to be "clothed with light for a covering." The only obvious reference is Ps 104:2: the psalmist describes the LORD as Thou "Who coverest thyself with light as with a garment." But even as this is cited, the distance between the present verse and the psalm is evident: the Lord covers Himself with light as with a garment, whereas the "one mighty and strong" is, strictly speaking, "clothed." Again there seems to be an emphasis on the Sender rather than on the sent: the light is put upon the one sent. Moreover, there may be reason to tie this description to the Garden of Eden, due to the fact that there are many ancient traditions claiming that Adam and Eve were first clothed with light in the Garden before they fell and were thus clothed with skin (there is a play on words in this tradition: "light" and "skin" are pronounced basically identically in Hebrew, though there is a consonant change between the two words). This might be strengthened by the use of the word "covering": this garment of light is a covering to cover nakedness. A number of gnostic texts and a few works from the pseudepigrapha also describe the rites of ascension into the heavens to reclaim one's "garment of light." At the very least, then, one could suggest that the phrase here suggests a heavenly figure, one invested by another with the powers of heaven. Hence it seems quite clear that no earthly (natural?) figure is in question here.
  • D&C 85:7: Eternal words and bowels. All of this is followed by a rather curious phrase: "whose mouth shall utter words, eternal words." There seems to be no real precedent for this phrase (the phrase "eternal words" never appears elsewhere in scripture, nor does anything like "whose mouth shall utter words"). What should made of this statement, then? From the very start, it should be made clear that it is set in parallel to the following phrase: "while his bowels shall be a fountain of truth." That is, "mouth" is set in parallel to "bowels." This is also unprecedented in scripture (though cf. Job 20:12-15). How might all of this be interpreted? Certainly, one could tease out the difference between "mouth" and "bowels" (this latter has reference, in the scriptures, to one's insides minus, perhaps, the heart): the former opens onto the world, while the latter is closed up from the world. And yet the closedness of the bowels seems to be in question in the wording of this verse: "his bowels shall be a fountain [an unending source] of truth." Something like this might be at work if one ties together two restoration scriptures: D&C 84:101 and Moses 7:62. The former says (in the course of a poem) that "truth is established in her [the earth's] bowels," while the latter adds a prophecy that "righteousness will I send down out of heaven; and truth will I send forth out of the earth." If these two are drawn together—which may or may not be a legitimate locution—one may suggest that the truth, established in the bowels of the earth, is to issue forth out of those bowels precisely. This would appear to draw on the frequent parallelism in the Old Testament between "bowels" and "womb" (cf. Gen 25:23; Isa 49:1; etc.): the "one mighty and strong" is pictured (somewhat androgynously) as pregnant with truth. This complex reading of the question of bowels suggests a more strictly balanced parallelism at work in these two phrases than might at first appear: both bowels and mouth issue forth in some kind of edification, the one in words ("eternal words"), the other simply in "truth."
At the very least, of course, these two phrases provide the picture of a kind of teaching figure: speaking eternal words and being a constant source of truth. Following the above motif, these two phrases might well describe (all over again) the source of the mighty and strong one's power. Were the figure merely to utter words, it would be one thing; but to utter "eternal words" suggests that he speaks words that are not his own (cf. D&C 19:6-12). And were he simply to be true or able to speak truth, it would be one thing; but to have his bowels be "a fountain of truth" suggests that he has been impregnated with such truth by an other (and will be delivered by another?). At any rate, like his strength, power, and garment of light, it would appear that these last two attributes of the figure deflect attention from him himself to the Lord God who sends him.
  • D&C 85:7: Set in order the house of God. All of these attributes merely get the figure out and on the table, but the remainder of the verse at last begins to discuss what he is to do. And this is where things get really interesting.
First, he is "to set in order the house of God." It is ultimately difficult to know what "the house of God" might have meant to Joseph at the time. Only one reference to "the house of God" precedes this one in the Doctrine and Covenants, to be found in D&C 45:18. It has reference to the temple in Jerusalem, but it is a quotation of Jesus' words to the ancient apostles, and hardly has any kind of modern referent. The phrase appears later in the Doctrine and Covenants, always referring to the Kirtland House of the Lord (basically always with reference to the School of the Prophets), but the setting makes it clear that Kirtland is hardly in view here. The phrase never appears in the Book of Mormon, nor in the Book of Moses. This lack of help thrusts one back on the verse itself in its immediate context to look for a meaning. That there had already been issued a command to build a temple in Jackson County is suggestive. And the general sanctity of Zion may well suggest that the phrase simply has reference to all those in Zion. Of these two, perhaps the former is the better interpretation, especially in light of the themes of verses 1-5: there are here questions of the law of consecration, of sealing and genealogy, etc. But in the end, the phrase requires a leap of interpretation.
What, though, does the whole clause mean: "to set in order the house of God"? Perhaps something like 2 Chr 29:35 is in mind: "So the service of the house of the LORD was set in order." But there are some obvious differences. What can be said about this phrase? At the very least, one can recognize in the phrase the implication that "the house of God" is, before the coming of the mighty and strong one, out of order, that something is improper or undone. Perhaps one is tempted here—and especially in light of other connections—to link this up with the Book of Malachi, where the prophet specifically condemns the temple priesthood. This in turn reminds one of the New Testament stories of Jesus cleansing the temple by casting out the money changers, etc. But it is likely the picture in Malachi that is most important (Mal 3:8ff deals, of course, with the finances—tithing—of the temple, not unlike this revelation and others like it). In fact, Malachi's announcement of the sudden visitation of the Lord to the temple is paired with his announcement of someone coming first (one mighty and strong?) to set everything in order, to get the books squared up, etc. (Elijah in Mal 4:5-6, but an unnamed "messenger" in Mal 3:1; "Malachi" is just the Hebrew word, actually, for "my messenger"). But one must be careful here: there seems to be little merit in reading this revelation as a kind of veiled reference to the eventual coming of Elijah to the Kirtland temple, since though he might have set the house of God in order in some sense, it is not at all clear how one can say that he arranged the inheritances of the saints. If anything, Elijah prepares the way precisely for this visitor.
But to say this suggests that Malachi's picture needs fleshing out: Elijah comes to prepare the way for another, who in turn prepares the way for the coming of the Christ (the LORD, at any rate). Three visitors come in train, the second specifically to set everything in order and to arrange the inheritances—land inheritances—of the saints. And perhaps just in casually introducing this question of land and inheritance here and again, one can recognize a strong reason to recognize the temple to be the referent of "the house of God": the temple in Zion was to sit at the center of the lots for inheritances, and the setting in order of the house might well be the establishment of the temple at the heart of things, from which center the lots might be arranged as inheritances for the saints. In other words, one might take the arrangement of inheritances as a clue that centers the meaning of the house of God. Whatever it means to have that house "set in order," it is clear that it must be associated with (perhaps must precede) the establishment of the land.
  • D&C 85:7: Arrange by lot the inheritances of the saints. Paired, then, with the reordering of the house of God is the distribution of land. One should note from the very beginning how foreign this very idea has perhaps become, but the emphasis on it in the Doctrine and Covenants is unmistakable: one is to inherit a specific place in Zion, where the celestial kingdom will be centered. And this theme quite obviously echoes the Old Testament: to inherit a specific plot of land in Israel was to be tied to the promised land. There, in that land, the blessings would be poured out: abundance in produce, rain in season, the devourer rebuked, etc. And these inheritances were to radiate out from the temple. Since the saints were still in Jackson county when this revelation was received, it must be carefully interpreted. The question, it is clear, that grounded this revelation regarded what should be done about the many people who were coming to Zion and taking up land but not living the law of consecration (which was a contradiction: the land was to be inherited specifically by those willing to live that law). And now the weight of this revelation is becoming quite clear: this mighty and strong one is sent specifically to get the temple set in order and then to arrange the inheritances specifically for those living the law of consecration. That is, a heavenly figure is to get this all arranged, because the consequences are to be rather drastic, if not downright violent: it would appear that those who are not living the law will have to be removed (hopefully peacefully). In light of this, the rest of this verse is interpretable.
  • D&C 85:7: Of the saints whose names are found ... enrolled in the book of the law of God. In light of the above, it is clear what is in reference here: the book of the law of God is the book of the law of consecration. And it is those specifically who are written into that book (this must be the book from the first verses of this revelation) who are to be given inheritance in the land of Zion when the mighty and strong one is sent to set things in order at last. This title of the book is, then, quite clear: in the Doctrine and Covenants, the law is apparently always the law of consecration, since it is the law of God. And that book is a book written up specifically for the mighty and strong one to use when he comes to set everything in order. That is, it is a book that is to be given to the mighty and strong one so that he can effect a kind of judgment, setting in order the temple and arranging the inheritances of those written in this book (of life?). And, with that much said, it is perhaps quite clear who this figure is, or at least who Joseph probably understood it to be: Adam, at the event we call Adam-ondi-Ahman. All the themes, both in the scriptures, and in Joseph's public discourses, that surround this event are present here: a heavenly figure will be sent to set things in order for the second coming of the Christ, and to prepare the saints for Zion, all of this by arranging them for inheritance according to the divine law of the heavens. Several other themes will make this still more obvious.
  • D&C 85:7: And the names of their fathers, and of their children. Here again the identity of Adam is suggested: the task of the mighty and strong one is not only to draw on the names of the living in the book (of life?), but to save their fathers and their children as well, through the keys (one would assume) of sealing up the whole human family. The law of consecration, that is, is a kind of precursor to (a last step before) the ordinances of sealing: those written in the book by their obedience to that law are to be sealed up to their families precisely as they receive an inheritance in the land of Zion and thus in the celestial kingdom. And Adam will come to effect all of this at Adam-ondi-Ahman.
  • D&C 85:8. Starting with "while," verse 8 contrasts "that man" with the figure sent from God in verse 7. It might seem surprising that verse eight mentions that this man is "called of God" and "appointed." The point seems to be that these qualities only make one more in need of warning (just as in D&C 121:36). This suggests reading the verse as saying "While that man, although he be called of God and appointed, if he put for this hand to steady the ark of God, he shall fall..."
The contrast with verse 7 gives us an interpretation of "steadying the ark." The warning here is against taking on the work of setting in order the house of God and arranging by lot the inheritances of the saints.
  • D&C 85:9. Perhaps what is most important in this verse is the mention of the "book of remembrance." Here is another clue to unraveling the meaning of the revelation. The phrase is relatively uncommon in the scriptures and deserves some sustained attention. Certainly worth mentioning is Mal 3:16, the only biblical instance of the phrase. There, the apostate temple priesthood begins (or at least a part of it begins) to repent and to call on the name of the Lord. As soon as they do so, they are given to write up a "book of remembrance" among them. It is significant, then, that immediately thereafter the coming Day of the Lord is announced with its destruction of the wicked and the proud. But, the reader is assured, before that Day, Elijah will be sent to turn the hearts of the children to the fathers, and of the fathers to the children, so that not everyone will be destroyed. On one reading at least, the "book of remembrance" must be connected with this turning of hearts, since it is that book that appears to make all the difference. Also important is Moses 6:5 (cf. verse 46 as well), where the first "book of remembrance" is written by Adam after he first learns to call upon the Lord (in a presidency of sorts). The ability to write in the book is described as a priesthood that will be restored at the end of the world. And Adam writes into the book his genealogy, or the genealogy of the sons of God. At the very least, it is clear that the "book of remembrance" is a book that can only be written under the "spirit of inspiration," and it is a book that contains the names (of fathers and children in a family line) of the redeemed ("sons of God"). Here the phrase clearly articulates further the "book of the law of God," the book in which the names of the consecrated are written. This verse clarifies even as it draws on the others.
That said, the thrust of the verse is rather clear: those not found in that day in the book will be cut off and have no place in the land. The language is different from, but perhaps parallel to, the wording in Malachi.
  • D&C 85:10. To make sense of this verse, it is important to recognize that it is found in a letter, not a dictated revelation. Joseph is here asserting that the Lord's word is spoken here, rather than his own. And the promise is clear: He will fulfill it.
  • D&C 85:11. This reference to the "High Priesthood" seems again to draw on the phrase "sons of God," but it must be read in its historical context as well: a first version of the "endowment" had recently been given, which was understood as the bestowal of the "High Priesthood" (the "order of Melchizedek") on certain faithful brethren. The verse apparently has reference explicitly to them (though the "lesser priesthood" is added as well): if their names are not found written in the book, or if they have been crossed out, they will not have an inheritance. The point seems to be this: the law of consecration is what gets one into the kingdom, not the priesthood.
  • D&C 85:12. Very specific consequences are then pronounced for these priesthood holders (the "endowed") who have not lived the law of consecration: they are "the children of the priest" described in Ezra 2:61-62. The verses read: "And of the children of the priests: the children of Habaiah, the children of Koz, the children of Barzillai; which took a wife of the daughters of Barzillai the Gileadite, and was called after their name: These sought their register among those that were reckoned by genealogy, but they were not found: therefore were they, as polluted, put from the priesthood." This clarifies the last verse: it is precisely priesthood ("endowment") that will allow one into Zion, but the priesthood ("endowment") is predicated upon obedience to the law of consecration (cf. D&C 130:20-21; D&C 121:34-46). Those who will not keep the law are going to be dropped from the priesthood, though they are children of the priests.

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  • How might this revelation be historically situated? How might it outstrip its historical setting?
  • D&C 85:7. This prophecy remains, it would appear, completely unfulfilled. How should this prophecy be understood? Does it begin to help Latter-day Saints in the last days to think about what prophecy must have been like to the ancients?
  • D&C 85:7.What does it mean for his bowels (the bowels of the one might and strong) to be a fountain of truth?
  • D&C 85:7.What is it that "to set in order the house of God" refers back to. Is it the phrase previous to it? If so, it is the bowels what are a fountain of truth. This interpretation is consistent with the current punctuation. Or, does this phrase refer back to the "one mighty and strong"? In that case the intervening semicolon is out of place.


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Previous editions.

  • The oldest surviving copy of D&C 85 is __.
  • D&C 85 was first published in __.
  • D&C 85 was first included in the Doctrine & Covenants in the 18__ edition.
  • Changes to the text of D&C 85:

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