“They Must Needs Be Chastened and Tried, Even as Abraham”
Lesson 27 – D&C 101; 103; 105; Our Heritage, pgs. 27-29, 37-45
The Church had two centers of population from 1831 to 1838—one in Kirtland, Ohio, and the other in western Missouri. Events of importance happened in both these places. The next two lessons will cover the doctrines and events that are associated with the Church in Missouri.
· July 1831: Joseph Smith, on his first journey to Missouri, received revelation designating Missouri as the place for the city of Zion. Independence was named the center place in D&C 57:1-3. After Sidney Rigdon dedicated the land for the gathering of the Saints, Joseph dedicated the temple site in Independence on August 3rd.
· Members of the Colesville Branch from New York were the first members to settle in Missouri. By 1832, more than 800 Saints were gathered in five branches in Independence and Jackson County.
· Peace and hope were enjoyed by the Saints for a while—until late 1832. Disobedience arose and some refused to accept the authority of their local Church leaders, while others criticized the Prophet for returning to Ohio. Some members became contentious, covetous, selfish, and faithless.
· Tensions with neighbors increased and then became violent on July 20, 1833. From that time, until November, persecution increased as mobs burned crops, destroyed homes, assaulted the brethren, and terrorized the women and children.
· Near Big Blue River on November 4th, a mob attacked a small group of LDS men and boys. During the next two days more than 1,000 Saints were driven out of Jackson County in the bitter cold. Most of the destitute Saints crossed over the Missouri River and took temporary refuge in Clay County.
Distressed over news of the persecution in Missouri, Joseph petitioned the Lord and received D&C 101. The Lord gave the following reasons for allowing afflictions to be visited upon the Saints:
· D&C 101:2, 6; (and D&C 103:4) Because of their transgressions
· D&C 101:4 because they needed to be chastened and tried
· D&C 101:7-8 because some of the Saints had been slow to hearken to the Lord during peaceful times
The Lord then demonstrated His compassion for the Saints after chastening them:
· D&C 101:9 promises Saints that he would not cast them off and would show mercy to them
· D&C 101:10 promises that the Lord’s indignation will fall upon the enemies of the Saints
· D&C 101:11-15 promises that they will be saved, gathered, and comforted
· D&C 101:16-19 promises that Zion will be redeemed at a future time
· D&C 101:35-38 promises eternal life for those who endure to the end in faith and continually seek the Lord
The persecuted Saints petitioned Missouri Governor Daniel Dunklin for assistance in restoring their homes and for protection. The governor expressed a willingness to help if the Saints would organize a group of men for their own protection. Joseph received word of the governor’s offer in February 1834 in Kirtland. He responded by organizing a group of the Ohio brethren for the mission of protection and aid to their Missouri brethren. It would require a march of nearly 1,000 miles to help return them to their lands and then protect them afterward. This expedition became known as Zion’s Camp and directions for it were given in the revelation known as D&C 103.
· As directed in D&C 103, the Prophet organized Zion’s Camp to help the Saints regain their property. When the expedition neared Jackson County, the Lord revealed that the redemption of Zion would have to wait. The Prophet Joseph then disbanded the camp without accomplishing their avowed purpose. However, important purposes intended by the Lord were actually accomplished:
o The participants were strengthened by several miraculous manifestations of the Lord’s power
o It was a trial of faith, allowing the participants to demonstrate their obedience and willingness to sacrifice all things including their lives if required.
o It determined who was faithful and could be called to positions of service in Church leadership
o Participants learned much from direct association with the Prophet and were prepared for future leadership responsibilities.
While some regarded it as a failure, Zion’s Camp demonstrated that God’s purposes can be accomplished in ways that we may not fully understand at the time. Brigham Young said of the experience: “I would not exchange the knowledge I have received this season for the whole of [this] County.” (Journal of Discourses, 2:10)
· Five months after the Camp was disbanded, the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and the First Quorum of the Seventy were organized in February 1835. Nine of the Twelve and all Seventies had served in Zion’s Camp. The Prophet Joseph spoke of how the camp helped prepare these leaders: “Brethren, some of you are angry with me, because you did not fight in Missouri; but let me tell you, God did not want you to fight. He could not organize His kingdom with twelve men to open the Gospel door to the nations of the earth, and with seventy men under their direction to follow in their tracks, unless He took them from a body of men who had offered their lives, and who had made as great a sacrifice as did Abraham” (History of the Church, 2:182).
· The experience of George A. Smith demonstrates how Zion’s Camp prepared men for future leadership in the Church. At 16, he was the youngest in the camp, inexperienced and lacking confidence. Despite personal discomfort and the complaints of many men about the poor conditions, George willingly followed all of the Prophet’s instructions. George slept in the Prophet’s tent and heard much of his counsel and instructions. Through this close association with the Prophet, George learned leadership skills and developed strength that prepared him for a lifetime of leadership. Less than five years after the camp, bro. Smith became an Apostle. Later, he served with Brigham Young as a member of the First Presidency.
We can use the Zion’s Camp experience to learn some valuable lessons:
· Understanding the purpose of trials. D&C 103:12. Blessings come after trials
· Appreciating the importance of obedience. D&C 103:7-10, 36. The obedient will prevail and succeed
· The need to be willing to sacrifice all things for the Lord. D&C 103:27-28. Total commitment is required.
· The importance of being unified in the Lord’s work
· The importance of sustaining the prophet and following his counsel even if it is difficult or when we do not fully understand the reasons for his counsel
The Lord’s instructions to the exiled Saints included:
· Seek the redemption of Zion. In D&C 101:43-62, the parable reminds the Saints that disobedience had weakened their position and allowed their enemies to overpower them. However, He assured them that Zion would be redeemed in His own time.
· Continue the work of the gathering. In D&C 101:63-75, the Lord instructed the Saints to continue gathering in the places He had designated. In our day, these places are the stakes of Zion.
· Seek for redress. In D&C 101:76-95, the Lord commanded that formal petitions should be made for compensation and justice since their constitutional rights of freedom of religion and property had been violated in Missouri. After being denied the help the constitution required, they left judgment and redress to the Lord and moved on with their lives.
· D&C 101:96-101 counseled them to hold onto their claim on the property in Jackson County.