After Joseph Smith and other church leaders returned to Ohio from Independence, Missouri, in August, 1831, he and other church members had many questions, most of them practical and immediate: How should they organize themselves to immigrate to Missouri? When should they move? How should they acquire land? How could they obtain sufficient resources to establish themselves there? Doctrine and Covenants section 63 came in response to these questions.
At least three types of content are intermingled in this revelation: specific instructions to individuals and to the church, references to scriptural passages (mostly in the Gospels), and principles for righteous living. Here are some examples of each type of content:
Specific Instructions to Church Members
- The relocation to Missouri (Zion) should not be “in haste, lest there should be confusion” (verse 24).
- They should purchase land, not simply claim it, in order to avoid contention with their neighbors (verses 25-31). (See the essay “The Center Place” by Jed Woodworth to better understand the ambiguity and confusion about land ownership in Missouri at the time.)
- Titus Billings, a counselor to Bishop Edward Patridge, should sell the Isaac Morley farm, where a number of church members were living, and prepare to lead a group of church members to Missouri in the spring (verses 38-41).
- Newell K. Whitney should continue to operate his store, sending as much money as possible to Missouri and looking after the members who remained in Ohio (verses 42-45).
- Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery should visit the congregations of the church, raising money to help with the migration (verses 46-48).
- Sidney Rigdon should humble himself and rewrite a document which is “not acceptable” (verses 55-56).
- Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon should find new homes in Ohio (verse 65). (They were living on the Isaac Morley farm at the time.)
Note: following a theme from prior revelations, the Lord also gave these individuals some latitude in how they fulfilled these instructions. For example, Newell K. Whitney was told, “These things are in his own hands, let him do according to wisdom” (verse 44). See also the blog post “It Mattereth Not”.
- The Mount of Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-9, Mark 9:2-10, Luke 9:28-36): The disciples learned much while they were on that mountain. We do not have a complete record of what they learned (verses 20-21).
- Living water (John 4:13-14): Just as Jesus testified to the Samaritan woman, personal revelation can be like “a well of living water, springing up unto everlasting life” (verse 23).
- “Render unto Caesar” (Matthew 22:15-22, Mark 12:14-17, Luke 20:20-26): We demonstrate respect for others by obeying the law (verse 26).
- “In the twinkling of an eye” (1 Corinthians 15:51-52, 3 Nephi 28:8): When the Savior returns, we will not die, but will be changed immediately from mortal to immortal beings (verse 51).
- The Parable of the Ten Virgins (Matthew 25:1-13): There are currently foolish “virgins” among the wise. They will be separated when the Savior returns (verse 54).
- An “exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (2 Corinthians 4:17): The afflictions we endure today lead us to blessings which far outweigh the cost (verse 66).
Principles for Righteous Living (with relevant blog posts)
- Obedience (verses 1-6): We need to pay attention to God’s commandments, strive to understand and internalize them, and comply with them. – What Does It Mean to “Hearken?”
- Seeking for signs (verses 7-12): Signs will not bring faith, but faith will bring signs. – What’s Wrong with Seeking Signs?, Has the Day of Miracles Ceased? – Moroni 7:35-37
- Thoughts and feelings (verses 14-16): Lust and evil desires drive away the Spirit of the Lord. – What Is Lust?, “Suffer None of These Things to Enter into Your Heart” – 3 Nephi 12:29
- Words (verses 59-64): Be careful how you talk about sacred things. – The Things Which I Have Written – 1 Nephi 14:28-30
I love the fact that these instructions, scriptures, and principles are all commingled in a single revelation. To me, it illustrates the fact that God’s commandments are not independent from eternal principles. They are all connected. Here’s a blog post on that topic: Jesus Had Expounded All the Scriptures in One – 3 Nephi 23:14