I’ve been thinking today about two verbs that appear repeatedly in section 20 of the Doctrine and Covenants: “expound” and “exhort.” Elders, priests, teachers, and deacons are all instructed to do both. (See Doctrine and Covenants 20:42, 46, 50, 59.) Several sections later, the Lord directs Emma Smith to “expound scriptures, and to exhort the church, according as it shall be given thee by my Spirit” (Doctrine and Covenants 25:7). And, as President Russell M. Nelson has pointed out, the Lord expanded this mandate by subsequently saying, “This is my voice to all” (Doctrine and Covenants 25:16, see “Spiritual Treasures,” General Conference, October 2019).
To expound something is to explain it in detail. The King James Version of the Bible uses the word to translate several Greek words: epiluó (to unpack or untie), dierméneuó (to thoroughly interpret), and ektithémi (to expose or declare).
When the Savior visited the American continent, He “expounded all the scriptures in one” (3 Nephi 23:6, 14). After quoting two chapters from the book of Malachi and having His disciples write them, he expounded on those words (3 Nephi 24:1). He then expounded “all things unto them, both great and small…from the beginning until the time that he should come in his glory” (3 Nephi 26:1, 3).
To exhort is to urge someone to do something. When the word appears in the King James Version of the Bible, it is usually a translation of the Greek word parakaleó (παρακαλέω), which means to personally invite or to call someone from up close.
Moroni ends the Book of Mormon with a series of exhortations to his future readers. In Moroni 10, he says “I exhort you,” or “I would exhort you” eight times in one chapter.
Even though the word “exhort” may seem formal or even heavy-handed, it actually refers to an individual invitation. As we quietly and naturally encourage people to do what is right, we fulfill this responsibility.
In summary, we have all been invited to help one another understand the truth and encourage one another to do good.
The words “expound” and “exhort” can remind us why we have a church in the first place. As Elder D. Todd Christofferson has reminded us, we cannot receive God’s full blessings on our own. “A major reason the Lord has a church is to create a community of Saints that will sustain one another in the ‘strait and narrow path which leads to eternal life'” (“Why the Church,” General Conference, October 2015).
Today, I will strive to help people understand the truth, and I will encourage people to make wise choices. I will remember that those two actions—expounding and exhorting—help me connect with other people in a way that lifts us all closer to God.