Come Follow Me: D&C 85-87
The background story of each revelation in Doctrine and Covenants truly helps us understand the context of the revelation. Revelations were given as needed because of questions, events, and need. For the Missouri saints, we find that not all was "well in Zion." The Lord previously commanded them to move to Independence only as called to do so. Many, however, chose to go there, rather than first move to Kirtland. The leaders of the Church residing in Independence could scarcely keep up with the influx of poor church members.
It may be that many followed, hoping for free land to farm. Sadly, whether wealthy or poor, many chose not to consecrate their belongings. They sought to keep their own, and perhaps benefit from free land from the church, as well.
In this revelation, we begin to learn more of the importance of record keeping. Joseph will discuss it again later, especially regarding keeping records for baptisms for the dead. In this section, we learn the importance of records of faithfulness to obey the law of consecration. In teaching about this, Joseph used the term "tithing." Our modern minds immediately turn to tithing as 10 percent of our increase. However, in the context of consecration, it is giving everything to the bishop, and receiving back a stewardship - the remainder going to the storehouse to care for the poor. In this case, the excess would have purchased lands for saints to farm and to build Zion.
Keeping a record of who willingly complied with the Law of Consecration is as important as records of ordinances (baptism, ordination, temple work). Why?
"And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God: and the books were opened, and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works (Rev-20:12)
The Book of Life is the heavenly record, which records those who believe in Christ and will be saved from Outer Darkness in a kingdom of heaven. The other books, many of which are written here on earth, contain the ordinances received and works done by people here on earth. The earthly works include determining whether we live the law of consecration! Are we consecrating our wealth, our time and talents to God?
For the early saints, there was such a failure in establishing Zion and the Law of Consecration, that Joseph Smith foresaw "one mighty and strong ," who would take over the work of judging (the scepter) and building Zion,
"...to set inZion will have to be set in order. So, who is the "one mighty and strong?" Many over the years have speculated. There were some after Joseph's death, who claimed to be the person in the prophecy. The reality is, we don't exactly know. I personally would think it is either Jesus Christ himself, or Michael (Adam). the house of God, and to arrange by the of the saints whose names are found, and the names of their fathers, and of their children, enrolled in the book of the law of God" (vs 7)
The day will come when Zion will be built and established in Independence, Missouri. When it is, it will be built by the faithful. Those who refuse to consecrate their wealth and labor to the building up of Zion, will not be found in the books from which God will judge.
While working on his translation of the Bible, Joseph came across the parable of the wheat and tares. In this section, the Lord explained the parable to Joseph.
Interestingly, it comes directly after section 85, where we discussed the failures of many of the Church members in Missouri. Many refused to live the Law of Consecration. Some of these would later become apostates, and seek the death of Joseph Smith and other Church leaders.
Today, we dwell tares and wheat together. We see what the world is like. Satan has for generations been sewing tares among the wheat. We do not know, when our children are young and innocent, just what they will grow up to become. However, we find many choose to be tares in adulthood. It is especially true as we live in a time of confusion over sexuality, mental health issues, cultural divisions, etc. It is one thing for a person to struggle with an issue, but seek to remain faithful to God and the prophets. It is another thing for members to rise up against the Church and seek to destroy it.
D&C 87 - Prophecy on War - the story of slavery in the last days
In this section I will share my understanding/speculation on the revelation. You are free to accept or reject it.
D&C 87: The Prophecy on War
Smith's Prophecy on War (D&C 87) is a big thorn in the side of
those critics of the Mormon Prophet. Some claim that 'everyone knew that
the North and South were going to war, so it wasn't that big of a
prophecy.' However, the evidence is against that statement. Elder Orson
Hyde supplemented that prophecy in 1858, claiming the destructions and
wars were about to come upon the U.S.
When he made these claims, many eastern newspapers quoted him, mocking him. There was no way the States were going to war, according to the papers. In 1862, Elder Hyde commented on this fact as further evidence that the American people did not consider this prophecy valid prior to its accomplishment.
Secondly, we shall see that the Prophecy of War goes well beyond the Civil War, and deals with events down to our own day.
War Among the States and Among All Nations
It starts by prophesying of the Civil War, a war that will be the beginning point for all great wars . We read in D&C 87:
"Verily, thus saith the Lord concerning the wars that will shortly come to pass, beginning at the rebellion of South Carolina, which will eventually terminate in the death and misery of many souls;
"And the time will come that war will be poured out upon all nations, beginning at this place." (vs 1-2)
Here we see that the Civil War is
the beginning of wars to be poured out "on all nations." The Civil War
was a great turning point in warfare. With it came modern warfare,
which opened the way for wars of mass destruction to be commonplace and
widespread. Also, this was the first war where new weapons of
destruction were used: repeating rifles, gatling guns, iron ships, etc.
All this added up to tens of thousands being killed in a single battle. Finally, it became the point where the United States began considering retaining a standing army, rather than hobble one together whenever needed, leading to the tendency to using warfare and conflict as a first option, rather than last one.
"For behold, the Southern States shall be divided against the Northern States, and the Southern States will call on other nations, even the nation of Great Britain, as it is called, and they shall also call upon other nations, in order to defend themselves against other nations; and then war shall be poured out upon all nations." (vs 3)
The South, during the Civil War, called upon other nations for assistance, and "they" or Great Britain and other nations shall "also call upon other nations" for assistance in their defense. Imagine a nation like Great Britain, which at the time ruled the oceans and had a formidable army, having to call upon other nations for assistance! And yet it happened in both the First and Second World Wars, which is exactly the time when war was "poured out upon all nations."
The Fall of Communism
This next verse is very interesting. Some think it also refers to the
Civil War, but it doesn't. In terms of time, it refers to a time after the wars on all nations:
"And it shall come to pass, after many days, slaves shall rise up against their masters, who shall be marshaled and disciplined for war." (vs 4)
The only "slaves" in the days since the World Wars, have been those who have suffered under the bonds of Communism and racism. Isn't it interesting to see how quickly the shackles of slavery have fallen off of the slaves of the former Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, apartheid in South Africa, and to a real extent, even in the United States battling Jim Crow laws and continued systemic racism. However, since their "masters" are marshaled and disciplined for war, there are few primary choices, except Communism where this has occurred.
For those not alive in the 1980s and early 1990s, it was an amazing time for freedom. It began in the early 1980s, when a Polish union, Solidarity began demanding rights. It appears that the problems began in the ship yards. One day, a worker decided the ships sending 5 gallon buckets of paint to Russia wouldn't miss a couple pails, which he planned to use to paint his own house. Upon opening the containers, he didn't find paint, but cured ham. While Poland suffered from food shortages and long lines each day to obtain meat for families, much was secretly being sent to Russia to feed people in Moscow.
The Solidarity union stepped up, demanding rights for Poland's workers, who were being oppressed by the Soviet system. Tired of shortages on basic items, they believed greater freedoms and rights were needed. They went on strike, shaking the very foundations of socialism in the country.
At this time, three world leaders arose: US president Ronald Reagan, Great Britain's Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, and Pope John Paul II. The Pope was born in Poland and understood the oppression people endured as subjects under the Soviet yoke. Reagan and Thatcher became quick friends and allies for freedom.
Also during this time, a major change in Soviet leadership occurred. Brezhnev died, and was replaced by Mikhail Gorbachev. He was interested in ending the nuclear arms race, and understood that without major changes, Soviet socialism was not economically going to survive. Socialism had destroyed economies in Eastern Europe and Asia. Where the Ukraine was once the "bread basket of Europe," it now couldn't raise enough grain to feed its own people. Under tyrants, like Stalin, tens of millions of subjects had starved to death, or disappeared. People were encouraged to spy upon one another, turning each other in to the authorities for speaking out or questioning Soviet ideals. Many ended up in gulags, prison camps, where reforming the prisoners included torture. You could find yourself in prison for almost any trumped up charge convenient to the Communist party.
There were no rights to free speech, religion, assembly, or privacy. There were no inalienable rights given by our Creator, including "Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness."
However, during the 1980s, more and more of the slaves spoke out, demanding freedoms and rights that were enjoyed in western nations. A seminal moment occurred when Ronald Reagan stood at the Brandenburg Gate of the Berlin Wall, declaring that all people deserved freedom, and demanded of the Soviet leader, "Mr Gorbachev, tear down this wall!"
Within a couple years, the Berlin Wall - that symbol of tyranny and slavery - was literally torn down. It wasn't torn down by Gorbachev, but by the slaves who raised up in rebellion against their masters! I still have a piece of the Berlin Wall in my possession.
The Terrorist Connection
We come to a major moment in this prophesy. It ties in with September 11, 2001.
"And it shall come to pass also that the remnants who are left of the land will marshal themselves, and shall become exceedingly angry, and shall vex the Gentiles with a sore vexation." (vs 5)
Prior to 9/11, I pondered just which slaves would become angry with the Gentiles, instead of their own slave masters. For me, I believe they are the slaves bound under tyrannical and radical dictators of Muslim nations. There are many groups of peaceful and good people in Islam. However, we have seen what radical Islam has done in a multitude of wars throughout the Middle East and elsewhere. The leaders, such as the Taliban in Afghanistan, have kept their peoples in poverty and slavery. Women especially, are kept under wraps, as in many nations they cannot leave their homes without an escort. Even in Saudi Arabia, women could not drive a car until only recently.
They have stayed in power by turning the anger of the peoples against the Jews and the West. We are now feeling the pain of the remnant of Arab and Muslim slaves in the world, as they continue attacking and vexing the Gentile nations. Interestingly, the tactics they are using are very similar to the terrorist attacks used by the Gadianton Robbers in the Book of Mormon (Books of Helaman and 3 Nephi), not long prior to the First Coming of Christ in glory to the Nephites, and prior to their long period of peace (akin to the Millennial era we pray for today). As with the failures Nephites had in rooting Gadianton robbers out of the mountains, we have seen the West's failure in defeating radical Islam - which digs in for decades, because they hold onto a cause that they believe is more important than rights and freedoms.
Even in places like Israel, the Palestine areas are run by radical groups, who prefer to keep their people impoverished (with the unwitting help of Israel), in order to keep the people angry with the West.
Great Destructions to Come
Continuing with the prophecy, we read:
"And thus, with the sword and by bloodshed the inhabitants of the earth shall mourn; and with famine, and plague, and earthquake, and the thunder of heaven, and the fierce and vivid lightning also, shall the inhabitants of the earth be made to feel the wrath, and indignation, and chastening hand of an Almighty God, until the consumption decreed hath made a full end of all nations;
"That the cry of the saints, and of the blood of the saints, shall cease to come up into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth, from the earth, to be avenged of their enemies.Obviously, when the remnant of the slaves vex the Gentiles, we shall see great destruction and bloodshed begin. So, the times for great destruction may not be too far away.Stand In Holy Places
"Wherefore, stand ye in holy places, and be not moved, until the day of the Lord come; for behold, it cometh quickly, saith the Lord. Amen." (vs 6-8)
We live in a time (2021) of increasing instability. Freedoms are being lost worldwide. People are lost and confused by their personal status. Socialism is on the rise in the West and elsewhere. In Russia and other nations, Soviet socialism has been replaced by fascism. China has become a world power and threatens other nations and companies to comply with their demands. Instability grows in nations across the globe.
Natural disasters are on the rise: earthquakes, hurricanes, climate change, Covid 19 pandemic. A few years ago, a tsunami inundated Indonesia, killing over 100,000. Another earthquake and tsunami hit Japan and damaged a nuclear power plant.
These may be some of the signs preceding the Coming of Christ. If so, we can only expect them to get worse. Instability and disaster and death will become more and more common place in the world.
Except in the holy places.
And the "holy places" mentioned above are Zion and her stakes.
Regardless of whether my reading of the prophecy is correct or not, there are two foundational principles here: first, that people will seek freedom, even if they don't know where to find it. Second, there are places of safety, where we can stand and "not be moved."
People will flock to the "holy places" as places of refuge and safety. Not all will be Latter-day Saints, but all that seek freedom, are willing to keep the 10 Commandments, and perhaps a few other laws of righteousness, They will be welcomed to dwell in safety, while the wicked suffer through the great destructions of the last days prior to the Second Coming of the Lord.
Once again, this an amazing prophecy from God to the prophet Joseph Smith. It is still coming to pass.