The journey from Missouri to Ohio was challenging. The problem wasn’t the weather or the terrain. It was the travelers themselves. They made some poor decisions, clashed with one another, and neglected their most important responsibility.
After dedicating the land near Independence, Missouri, identifying the location for the future temple, and helping some newly arrived church members begin to settle, Joseph Smith and other church leaders were ready to return to their families in Kirtland, Ohio. The Lord instructed them to do two things:
- Travel “speedily” (Doctrine and Covenants 60:1)
- Preach the gospel along the way (Doctrine and Covenants 60:2)
As they traveled in canoes on the Missouri River, the Lord pointed out that this method of transportation limited their opportunities to preach the gospel as He had directed:
It is not needful for this whole company of mine elders to be moving swiftly upon the waters, whilst the inhabitants on either side are perishing in unbelief.Doctrine and Covenants 61:3
The canoe trip itself was anything but peaceful. By the second day, the men had begun arguing and criticizing one another. Some of them refused to paddle in protest. As the river became more difficult to navigate, this lack of teamwork became more dangerous. One of the canoes hit a submerged tree in a dangerous location, and the canoe nearly capsized.
In a revelation received later that day, the Lord acknowledged the difficulties of their journey. “There are many dangers upon the waters,” He said; “yea, and especially upon these waters.” But He reassured them that He could help them complete their journey safely. “All flesh is in mine hand, and he that is faithful among you shall not perish by the waters” (Doctrine and Covenants 61:5-6). He did instruct them, however, to split up into smaller groups and to take different routes home, preaching as they went.
The following day, they met a group of church leaders who were traveling the opposite direction, to visit Independence. Joseph received a joyful and comforting revelation for this second group. “Ye are blessed,” said the Lord, “for the testimony which ye have borne is recorded in heaven for the angels to look upon; and they rejoice over you, and your sins are forgiven you” (Doctrine and Covenants 62:3). He instructed this second group to finish their journey to Independence, “hold a meeting and rejoice together, and offer a sacrament unto the Most High” (Doctrine and Covenants 62:3). They were then to return home, preaching the gospel along the way.
Throughout these revelations, the Lord repeatedly reaffirmed a principle He had previously taught: His disciples should be proactive in making decisions and taking action. He would not “command in all things” (Doctrine and Covenants 58:26). Several times in these revelations, The Lord used the phrase “as seemeth you good,” or “it mattereth not.” (See Doctrine and Covenants 60:5, 61:22, 35, 62:5.) Ultimately, He wanted them to take responsibility for their decisions: “These things remain with you to do according to judgment and the directions of the Spirit” (Doctrine and Covenants 62:8).
Here are a few lessons I have learned from these revelations, together with some relevant blog posts:
- We need to focus on the things that matter most and not allow unimportant details to distract us or to slow our progress (Doctrine and Covenants 60:5, 61:22, 62:5): “It Mattereth Not”
- We need to constantly extend invitations to other people without worrying excessively about how they are likely to respond (Doctrine and Covenants 60:2-3): Invite.
- God can help us overcome every challenge, because He has power over all things (Doctrine and Covenants 61:6): “All Power, All Wisdom, and All Understanding” – Alma 26:35.
- Jesus Christ knows how to succor us (Doctrine and Covenants 62:1): What Does It Mean to “Succor” Someone?
- To help the Lord do His work we need to reach beyond our immediate social circles, outside of our comfort zone (Doctrine and Covenants 61:3): How Can I Be a Better Missionary?