Sign up for Meridian’s Free Newsletter, please CLICK HERE
Cover image via LDS.org.
In the revelation now called D&C 112, the Lord counseled Thomas B. Marsh, then President of the Twelve Apostles, relative to his priesthood calling. This section can be helpfully broken down into four parts: vv. 1-11-the personal status of Elder Marsh, vv. 12-22-instructions for his ministering to the Twelve, vv. 23-32-the Twelve’s duty to the testify to the world, and vv. 33-34-further admonition and a reminder about the rewards the Lord will bring at his coming (see Smith & Sjodhal’s Doctrine and Covenants Commentary , Deseret Book, 1978, revised edition, 732).
Historical Background in Kirtland
The section heading notes that this revelation was received on the same day as several of the Twelve and their companions began preaching in England , the first foreign mission of the modern Church. The significance of this is best grasped by understanding the dire situation of the Church in1837-38. “Members of the Church had established ‘a bank in real estate,’ the Kirtland Safety Society. Elder George A. Smith stated concerning it: ‘If they had followed the counsel of Joseph, there is not a doubt it would have been the leading bank in Ohio, probably of the nation. It was founded upon safe principles, and would have been a safe and lasting institution’ ( Journal of Discourses , 11:11 ). But a spirit of apostasy gripped some of the leading elders of the Church, including some of the Kirtland Safety Society Officers. One hundred thousand dollars was stolen from the bank, unknown to the president or the cashier” (Wilson K. Anderson, in Studies in Scripture, Volume One: The Doctrine and Covenants , 413-14).
It is sad to note that not a few of the ranking members of the priesthood were infected with this divisive spirit. “At the quarterly conference assembled at Far West, April 7, 1838, David W. Patton declared that, as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, he could confidently recommend Thomas B. Marsh, Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, Orson Hyde, Parley P. Pratt and Orson Pratt as being men of God. However, in a spirit of discernment rather than of disparagement, he stated that he somewhat doubted William Smith, and that he could not recommend William E. McLellin , Luke S. Johnson, Lyman E. Johnson, or John F. Boyington . As time was to prove, Elder Patten’s discernments were valid” (Wilburn Talbot, The Acts of the Modern Apostles , Randall Book, 40; cited in McConkie and Ostler , Revelations of the Restoration , 903-04).
Eventually even the Pratt brothers and Orson Hyde succumbed to brief periods of disaffection, while Thomas B. Marsh fully apostatized. The sad tale of Elder Marsh’s wife’s fraud in a milk-sharing agreement with a neighbor and his stubborn insistence to defend her dishonesty in defiance of multiple Church rulings stands as one of the more confusing and disappointing moments in all of Church history. The Lord had offered Thomas counsel that would have saved him had he heeded it. “Inasmuch as thou hast abased thyself thou shalt be exalted … Thy voice shall be a rebuke unto the transgressor … Be thou humble … Be not partial towards [the Twelve] above many others, but let thy love be for them as for thyself; and let thy love abound unto all men, and unto all who love my name” (D&C 112:3, 9, 10, 11). Sadly Thomas chose stand by his wife “even if he had to go to hell for it” (George Albert Smith, JD 3:284) and was subsequently excommunicated. He returned alone, without his wife and children, to the Church nineteen years later after the Saints had already established themselves in Utah. Thomas Marsh had suffered dearly for his absence from the Church and loss of the Spirit. Several of the leading Brethren at that time commented about how he was only a shadow of his former self. They attributed his sorry condition to the spirit of apostasy. Brother Marsh lived for a time among the saints and died a pauper in Ogden, never regaining his physical and spiritual strength or stature.
The Mission to the United Kingdom
In these dark days, the omniscience of the Lord and Joseph’s humble obedience overcame the forces of opposition in a surprising and ironic way. Elder Boyd K. Packer spoke about the divine solution. “You remember at the time of Kirtland when the Prophet Joseph Smith was beleaguered on every side. He was harassed by those who should have supported him. In an incredible move he called around him those who were secure to him and whom he trusted and those who might have given him some protection and sent them away on missions to foreign lands. It was a move that certainly was not reasonable, and yet as the pages of history unfolded and the apostates had their day and left the Church, hundreds and thousands and tens of thousands of converts came forth to fill the ranks that had been abandoned by those who would not listen to the voice of the Prophet” (“A Dedication To Faith,” Speeches of the Year , 1969, Provo, BYU, 7; cited in Anderson, Studies in Scripture , 414-15).
Those that served in England did so at great sacrifice. To leave their families during the financial and ecclesiastical crisis that existed in Kirtland must have been extraordinarily difficult. However, the Lord rewarded them with remarkable success. They baptized between 7,000 and 8,000 converts and established many congregations, as well as published 5,000 copies of the Book of Mormon as well as thousands of hymnbooks, tracts and copies of the Millennial Star . Directly through their ministry 1,000 new members immigrated to America (see Harold B. Lee, Conference Report , April 1960, 108; cited in Anderson, Studies in Scripture , 415). We are reminded of the missions of Ammon and Aaron and their brethren in the Book of Mormon as recorded in Mosiah 28 and Alma chapters 17-26. These brethren suffered greatly at the hands of the Lamanites to proclaim the gospel, but were also richly rewarded with thousands of converts and spiritual experiences that gave them “great reason to rejoice” (Alma 26:13). We should not neglect Alma’s great ministry among the Nephites that also bore bounteous harvest, but came after significant sacrifice (see Alma 4-16, 27-35; and his personal ministry to his sons in Alma 39-42).
“Bear Testimony of My Name”
It is interesting to note that the Lord refers to His name no less than ten times in Section 112. Elder Dallin H. Oaks wrote a book entitled His Holy Name where he explores the scriptural meanings of the Lord’s name. He has been intrigued by the consistent and continual references by the Lord to His name throughout scripture. In Elder Oaks analysis, he notes that there are four distinct usages of the name in holy writ: (1) identity, (2) authority/priesthood, (3) work/plan of God, and (4) essence or subject of exaltation ( His Holy Name , 3). As we ponder what the Lord is calling his Apostles to do in “bear[ ing ] testimony of,” (D&C 112:1), “bear[ ing ] record of,” (112:4) “publishing,” (112:6) and “proclaim[ ing ]” (112:19) the Lord’s name , Elder Oaks’ explanation of a name as essence is illuminating. “In this meaning the scriptural words name of the Lord or His Name or My name not only incorporate the ideas of His identity, His authority (priesthood), and His work, but also include the idea of His essence, including His Godliness ” ( His Holy Name , 43).
So, if the Lord is directing his Apostles to publish his name through their own ministry and by the ministry of “whosoever [they] shall send in my name ” (112:21), then He is really asking that knowledge of His nature and essence be taught to the world.
The significance of this nuance to me is two-fold. Externally, this will help me focus on the big picture of what Christ and his gospel and Church are really all about for non-members. Conceptions of interrupting the contented lives of neighbors and acquaintances with “our brand of Christianity” miss the point. If I can see that further progress toward and full development of a Christ-like nature is only available through full participation in the Lord’s Church with its fulness of truth and complete array of authorized ordinances, then I can see through the mists and barriers of my own fears and reservations toward “missionary work.”
Elder Oaks quotes a well-known Bible Dictionary entry that captures this idea of conversion. “It could also be said soberly of anyone that his name is his very self. Thus, when a radical change in a person’s character took place so that he became a new man, he was given a new name” ( Interpreter’s Dictionary , 2:408; cited in His Holy Name , 47). In this way, I can conceive of sharing the gospel with each person so that they can become changed in their nature and receive the name of Christ through baptism-receipt of His name identifying and confirming their conversion to His character, not simply membership in His Church. Further, through the receipt of the Holy Ghost as a constant gift, their birth as a new son or daughter of God will be nurtured through the Spirit’s constant guidance along the strait and narrow path of discipleship.
Internally, understanding references to the Lord’s name as referring to his nature will also help me accomplish what the Lord’s gospel and His Church are supposed to be doing to me . In other words, if I allow myself to think of the Lord’s essence/nature every time I hear or see the Lord’s name (in prayers, in ordinances, in the scriptures, in Church meetings), then I will be more able to pursue attaining His nature myself – being constantly reminded of it. The Lord warned the early members of the Church against “profess[ ing ] to know my name and … not know[ ing ] me” (112:26; see also Matt. 7:22-23; Matt. 25:12). To be sure, this verse in D&C 112 is particularly directed at some of the ranking leaders bent on apostasy in Kirtland and Missouri referred to above. However, we are told that one of the tactics of our adversary is to “pacify” and “lull … into carnal security” so that some may say “All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth , all is well-and thus the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell” (2 Nephi 28:21). Nephi is not talking about non-members! These people are in “Zion” and appear to be prospering there, at least externally. The real question is not necessarily my geographical, social or statistical location in “Zion ,” but my personal progress toward attaining His nature in me .
In our missionary labors am I thinking of this grand purpose of the gospel? Am I being inspired by the fact that without His gospel in its brilliant fulness none have hope, least of all me, of ever becoming like Him? That is my opportunity. At times, though, I allow myself to get preoccupied in my own worries and fears. If I do, then I am keeping myself from following the Savior who set the selfless example. He condescended to mortality from his premortal throne to accomplish the atonement, which required the incomprehensible sacrifice of his life and death and resurrection. This also required lesser, but real, sacrifices. His time, his comfort, his proximity to Heavenly Father and Mother, and much more also had to be placed on the altar of sacrifice to fulfill his Father’s call. If I am unwilling to bring our Father’s plan of personal progression and eternal salvation to my brothers and sisters, then can I really consider myself a “true follower of his Son, Jesus Christ” ( Moroni 7:48)?
Raising the Voice of Warning as Witnesses of Christ
In recent years two addresses by the General Authorities on sharing the Lord’s gospel have helped me to put aside my fears and share the Savior and his gospel more with others. In October 1998 Elder Henry B. Eyring spoke about the “Voice of Warning” (see D&C 112:5 and D&C 88:81). He helpfully outlined three basic things that will more effectively help others to come unto Christ. ” Love always comes first. A single act of kindness will seldom be enough … Second, we will need to be better examples of what we invite others to do … The third thing we must do better is to invite with testimony . Love and example will open the way. But we still have to open our mouths and bear testimony” ( Ensign , Nov. 1998, 33-34; emphasis added).
In the April 2001 General Conference Elder Jeffrey R. Holland spoke of being “Witnesses Unto Me.” In this talk the Apostle also confirmed the simple methods of effective missionary work noted by Elder Eyring . He said,
These people are not lifeless objects disguised as a baptismal statistic. They are children of God, our brothers and sisters, and they need what we have. Be genuine … If we listen with love , we won’t need to wonder what to say. It will be given to us-by the Spirit and by our friends … Above all else we can live the gospel. Surely there is no more powerful missionary message we can send to this world than the example of a loving and happy Latter-day Saint life … Asking every member to be a missionary is not nearly as crucial as asking every member to be a member! … When the Lord delivers this person to your view [in answer to your prayers to share the gospel], just chat-about anything. You can’t miss. You don’t have to have a prescribed missionary message. Your faith, your happiness, the very look on your face is enough to quicken the honest in heart … I promise you that something in what they say will always highlight a truth of the gospel about which you can bear testimony and about which you can then offer more (Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, Ensign , May 2001, 15-16; emphasis added).
Years ago I knew a young lady who was troubled over a friend of hers who seemed lost and confused about life. She told me that she felt the usual fears about approaching her and decided to ask the Lord’s help. Her method was humble and powerful. She simply prayed that if the person was ready, and if the Lord wanted to use her as his instrument in this instance to help her friend, then He could provide the opportunity for them to be talking under appropriate circumstances and give her the right words to say. This fine young woman related to me that indeed she was placed in that very position during the next few days. She found the situation was conducive to an important conversation. She started feeling the words she should say and that they had a deep effect on her friend. She knew a special joy through this experience and her faith grew tremendously. My young friend learned her part in the Lord’s conversion of his children-care, be there, and be willing to open her mouth! In this way, she reduced her fears by placing the appropriate load on the Lord. He knows her friend, he knows her needs, he knows the words of healing and instruction, and he knows the timing.
These simple yet significant acts will empower us as we seek to fulfill the Lord’s charge to take his word to our families, our neighbors and the world.
They Will Know that You Knew
In conclusion, Elder Eyring has pictured the next world and our associations there in a way that motivates me to more faithfully love others, live the gospel and share its sanctifying powers with them. I haven’t been the same since I heard him poignantly state it in General Conference. He said:
“At some moment in the world to come, everyone you will ever meet will know what you know now. They will know that the only way to live forever in association with our families and in the presence of our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, was to choose to enter into the gate by baptism at the hands of those with authority from God. They will know that the only way families can be together forever is to accept and keep sacred covenants offered in the temples of God on this earth. And they will know that you knew. And they will remember whether you offered them what someone had offered you.
“It’s easy to say, “The time isn’t right.” But there is danger in procrastination. Years ago I worked for a man in California. He hired me, he was kind to me, he seemed to regard me highly. I may have been the only Latter-day Saint he ever knew well. I don’t know all the reasons I found to wait for a better moment to talk with him about the gospel. I just remember my feeling of sorrow when I learned, after he had retired and I lived far away, that he and his wife had been killed in a late night drive to their home in Carmel, California. He loved his wife. He loved his children. He had loved his parents. He loved his grandchildren, and he will love their children and will want to be with them forever.
“Now, I don’t know how the crowds will be handled in the world to come. But I suppose that I will meet him, that he will look into my eyes, and that I will see in them the question: ‘Hal, you knew. Why didn’t you tell me?'” ( Ensign , November 1998, 33).