Trouble in Missouri
During the summer of 1833, church members experienced severe persecution in Jackson County, Missouri. By July, some people in the community demanded that they leave and inflicted violence on members of the community and on their property. Their printing press was destroyed, and church leaders were tarred and feathered.
On August 6, Joseph Smith received a revelation in which the Lord explained how His disciples should act when they are threatened with physical violence. Here are some of the principles outlined in that revelation (Doctrine and Covenants 98):
- We should uphold the law of the land, and we should support leaders who are honest, good, and wise (v. 4-10).
- We should not be afraid of our enemies, and we should seek for peace (v. 14-18).
- We should bear persecution patiently and not seek revenge (v. 23-26, 34-35, 39-43).
- After all attempts to establish peace have been exhausted, there comes a point when self-defense is necessary and justified (v. 28-33, 44-46).
Four months later, Joseph received another revelation with additional instructions for church members suffering persecution (Doctrine and Covenants 101). He quoted Psalm 46:10: “Be still, and know that I am God” (v. 16). Church members could trust in Isaiah’s promise: Even if they were temporarily scattered and driven from their homes, they would be gathered again “with songs of everlasting joy, to build up the waste places of Zion” (v. 18). (See Isaiah 51:3, 11, 2 Nephi 8:3, 11.)
The Lord referenced two parables in this revelation. In the first, a group of negligent watchmen allowed a vineyard to be destroyed. The Lord of the vineyard promised to restore it eventually and asked them to follow His instructions in the meantime (v. 43-62). In the second, the Parable of the Importunant Widow (Luke 18:1-8), He urged church members to seek relief from the judge, then the governor, and finally from the President of the United States. If none of these authorities would provide justice, then they should leave the matter in the hands of God (v. 81-92).
Here are some lessons I’ve learned from these two sections, with relevant blog posts:
- Our spiritual state is both reflected in and influenced by the leaders we choose to follow (98:10): The Spirit of Revelation and Also Prophecy – 3 Nephi 3:19.
- We should do what we can to support leaders with high moral values (98:10): And He Did Cause His People to Commit Sin – Mosiah 11:1-2.
- We can take confidence from the Lord’s promise to “fight [our] battles, and [our] childrens’ battles, and [our] childrens’ childrens'” (98:37): What Is the Meaning of the Title “Lord of Hosts?”
- We can move forward confidently, doing our duty and trusting that the grand architecture is being executed by God (101:16): He Prepareth a Way – 1 Nephi 9:6.
- Each stake (a geographical unit in the church) serves as a gathering place for believers and as a defense and a refuge for church members (101:20-21): Lengthen Thy Cords and Strengthen Thy Stakes – 3 Nephi 22:2-3.
- After the Savior’s return to the earth, enmity will disappear from the earth (101:26): The Earth Shall Be Full of the Knowledge of the Lord – 2 Nephi 21:6-9.
- Durable peace comes only as a by-product of individual goodness (101:43-62): Thy Watchmen Shall Lift up Their Voice – Mosiah 15:28-29.
Missionary Service and Families
In October 1833, at the request of a new convert named Freeman Nickerson, Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon traveled to Mount Pleasant, Upper Canada (near Toronto), to preach the gospel. During their journey, they received a revelation reassuring them that their families were safe and that the Lord would look after members of the church in Missouri (Doctrine and Covenants 100). (See Eric Smith, “A Mission to Canada,” Revelations in Context, churchofjesuschrist.org.)
In August 1832, a church member named John Murdock had made a bigger sacrifice. He had been called to preach in the eastern part of the United States. His wife had died, and the bishop worked with him to ensure that his children were provided for as he served (Doctrine and Covenants 99). (See Lisa Olsen Tait, “‘I Quit Other Business’: Early Missionaries,” Revelations in Context, churchofjesuschrist.org.)
As important as our families are, the only way the gospel will be preached to diverse people across the world is for each of us to be willing to step outside of our comfort zone and talk to people beyond our friends and family. Full-time missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints leave their families for eighteen months to two years in order to preach to people around the world.
See the following blog post: They Shall See Eye to Eye – 3 Nephi 16:18-20.