Come Follow Me: D&C 37-40
For Joseph and many of the saints, the restoration initially meant just building up a small little set of congregations. Never did any of them consider the vast work that was ahead. In D&C 37, the saints, most living in New York prior to the missionary work to the Lamanites by Oliver Cowdery, were called to the Gathering.
The concept of Gathering partially came from Joseph reworking the book of Genesis. While we call it a "translation," it really isn't. Joseph didn't use ancient Hebrew and Greek documents in his rework of the Bible. Instead, he used an English Bible purchased at the Grandin book store. Joseph was less concerned with the language and grammar, and more focused on finding the "plain and precious" things that had been lost out of the Bible. Rather than a translation, it would be a series of refining revelations. Some sections he would revisit several times, improving and enhancing the information. In addition, for basic corrections, Joseph heavily borrowed from Methodist theologian Adam Clarke's commentary of the Bible.
Still, for most Latter-day Saints, the truly important additions are the revelatory sections that teach us more on Cain and Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Joseph, and important doctrines and teachings that are not found in our standard Bibles today. In adding these sections, Joseph added concepts that are now found in ancient pseudepigrapha (ancient texts whose provenance is questionable)) regarding Enoch, Abraham and others.
One example of Joseph hitting the mark comes from the Book of Moses, part of the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible. In this, Enoch travels to a place called Mahujah and is questioned by a man named Mahijah (Moses 6:40). It happens that among the Dead Sea Scrolls, discovered in 1947, a parchment of a book of Enoch that has a man, Mahujah, questioning Enoch! Ancient Hebrew did not have vowels, so Mahujah and Mahijah are basically interchangeable.
In writing about Enoch, we learn about Zion and gathering out of the world to places of refuge and safety. Joseph's little church was told via revelation to begin the Gathering in our day. While D&C 37 told the saints to gather to Kirtland, it would be the first step in gathering. Later, God will reveal the modern Zion to be established in Independence Missouri. Then, the gathering will move to Far West, Nauvoo, and Utah. In our day, we are to gather in stakes of Zion, understanding that the center of Zion will one day be established in Independence. At one point, Joseph's understanding of Zion would expand to the point where he would declare that ALL of North and South America would be Zion. But it begins with the gathering to Kirtland happening barely 8 months after the establishing of the Church.
The revelation in D&C 38 came during the final conference of the Church in New York prior to moving to Kirtland Ohio. In it, the Lord warns the saints of the dangers coming. Not only would there be dangers elsewhere, but dangers nearby. Perhaps here is the greatest danger:
"I tell you these things because of your prayers; wherefore, up in your bosoms, lest the wickedness of men reveal these things unto you by their wickedness, in a manner which shall speak in your ears with a voice louder than that which shall shake the earth; but if ye are prepared ye shall not fear." (D&C 38:30)
Imagine in Joseph's day, being warned about men's wickedness being shouted in the ears. Today, we can see the technology that often drowns out the sane voices Recently, the Church added a section to the handbook on “Seeking Information from Reliable Sources” which warns about conspiracies and false information that screams across social media.
Hitler was the first to use modern microphone technology, which was clear enough to note every inflection and intonation. The technology entranced the German people into believing his rhetoric, which included Aryan white supremacy and racism against Jews, black people and others. Today, the megaphones on the Internet, whether on Twitter, Facebook, podcast, or other social media, insist on pushing false conspiracies and theories. Frequently we see in April 2021 stories of evil intent regarding Covid 19 vaccine shots, the evils of the other major party, and stolen elections (disproven and rejected by 50 courts).
On the opposite side of the cacophonous voices that "shake the earth," we find the "still, small voice" of the Holy Spirit.
In this recent General Conference (April 2021), President Russell M. Nelson noted four things we've learned through the Covid pandemic. Number four is this: "We hear Jesus Christ better when we are still."
"We live in a time prophesied long ago, when “all things shall be in commotion; and surely, men’s hearts shall fail them; for fear shall come upon all people.” That was true before the pandemic, and it will be true after. Commotion in the world will continue to increase. In contrast, the voice of the Lord is not “a voice of a great tumultuous noise, but … it [is] a still voice of perfect mildness, [like] a whisper, and it [pierces] even to the very soul.” In order to hear this still voice, you too must be still!
"For a time, the pandemic has canceled activities that would normally fill our lives. Soon we may be able to choose to fill that time again with the noise and commotion of the world. Or we can use our time to hear the voice of the Lord whispering His guidance, comfort, and peace. Quiet time is sacred time—time that will facilitate personal revelation and instill peace.
"Discipline yourself to have time alone and with your loved ones. Open your heart to God in prayer. Take time to immerse yourself in the scriptures and worship in the temple." ( https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2021/04/36nelson?lang=eng )
Joseph Smith found that even in the persecution, lies, and trials of life, there would always be time for quiet reflection, peace, and revelatory experiences. It is still true today.