INTRODUCTION: There is an economy in revelation. The Lord does not seem to waste anything, including his words, and expects that his disciples will be of the same inclination. Thus we need not expect that he will reveal things to us personally that he has already revealed to others and that are available in the standard works or the words of the living prophets.
Thus the Lord said, “What I say unto one I say unto all” (D&C 61:36). He also said, “And verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my voice unto all. Amen” (D&C 25:16).
In the Church in a country in South America, I knew a member of many years who had tried unsuccessfully to abandon her cigarettes since before her baptism. Her lack of success in giving up tobacco finally caused her to petition the Lord for permission to smoke. I believe she sincerely hoped that he would make an exception in her case because of the difficulty she had experienced in trying to adhere to the instructions of D&C 89. The verses in that section and in those cited above ought to have been sufficient incentive for her to desist from prayers for permission to ignore one of the commandments, but they were not. She continued to pray, and finally announced that she had received her answer. “Joseph Smith appeared to me,” she testified, “And told me that it was all right if I smoked.”
It was in part a lack of understanding the scriptures that led her into difficulty. The Lord had made his will on this matter known clearly. It is not likely that he would reverse himself in such a way or on such a matter as this.
The principle of general application of specific lessons taught to particular individuals is one that first appears in a revelation given to Emma Smith—D&C 25. And even though the revelation came through the prophet Joseph Smith to his wife, with specific instructions for her in her unique problems, the Lord concluded his counsel to this daughter with the injunction: “This is my voice unto all” (D&C 25:16).
HUSBANDS AND WIVES SHOULD SUPPORT AND COMFORT EACH OTHER
Even though we do not understand perfectly what God intended with the division of responsibility between men and women, we do understand much of what God expects of men and women in their marriage relationships. I have gone through this revelation and marked 17 qualities the Lord expected of Emma. But many of them are equally applicable to men, and all of them apply to women.
1. (25:2) “If thou are faithful . . .” The Lord promises in this verse that faithfulness and virtue (see #2) will allow the Lord to preserve the life of Emma and to grant her an inheritance in Zion.
2. (25:2) “If thou . . . walk in the paths of virtue . . .” The Lord commanded all priesthood bearers about this matter: “let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly . . .” (D&C 121:45). We are assailed on every side at almost every moment with images that are anything but virtuous. A great discipline will be required of us to walk in the paths of virtue and to have our minds garnished unceasingly with the beauty of virtue.
3. (25:4) “Murmur not because of the things which thou hast not seen, for they are withheld from thee and from the world . . .” This seems to be a reference to the gold plates. The eleven witnesses had seen them. Mary Whitmer had evidently seen them. But no one had suffered more as a result of those ancient records than Emma. But she had not seen them. Why would the Lord give blessings to some and not to others equally deserving? We must not murmur because we do not have all the opportunities that others have. God is on the job and he knows what he is doing.
4. (25:5) “And the office of thy calling shall be for a comfort unto . . . thy husband, in his afflictions, with consoling words, in the spirit of meekness.” I have a feeling that women are much better at this than men. But even so, it is a duty that each partner in a relationship owes to the other. My wife has come to me often, troubled and weighed down and telling me her difficulties, and has then said, “Say something to make me feel better.” I don’t know that I have always done a very good job at this, but I have tried. I have a divine duty to try to comfort my wife in her afflictions with consoling words. And I ought to do it meekly. And she must do the same for me. It is in this way that we truly become one.
5. (25:6) “And thou shalt go with him at the time of his going . . .” I have taken my wife to twelve different homes. They have all, except the last one, been related to my work. My work has required me to move from state to state and from coast to coast. And Lydia has come with me. But I must also go with her. When the office of her calling takes her to places unknown or uncomfortable—to the hospital to have a baby or to the school to meet with a disagreeable teacher, I have gone with her. Many things we do alone, but when we need support, we lean first on each other.
6. (25:7) “Thou shalt be ordained under his hand to expound scriptures . . .” What a blessing scriptural knowledge is for anyone. This is not a man’s responsibility, and with or without ordination, we ought to pay the price to know and expound the scriptures.
7. (25:8) “Thy time shall be given to writing, and to learning much.” Writing what? The prophets have given some interesting counsel about writing to the members of the Church. For example:
Any Latter-day Saint family that has searched genealogical and historical records has fervently wished their ancestors had kept better and more complete records. On the other hand, some families possess some spiritual treasures because ancestors have recorded the events surrounding their conversion to the gospel and other happenings of interest, including many miraculous blessings and spiritual experiences. People often use the excuse that their lives are uneventful and nobody would be interested in what they have done. But I promise you that if you will keep your journals and records, they will indeed be a source of great inspiration to your families, to your children, your grandchildren, and others, on through the generations. (Spencer W. Kimball, “President Kimball Speaks Out on Personal Journals,” Ensign, Dec. 1980, 60-61)Another apostle wrote this:
We should learn, too, that the prompting that goes unresponded to may not be repeated. Writing down what we have been prompted with is vital. . . . God should not, and may not, choose to repeat the prompting if we assign what was given such a low priority as to put it aside. (Neal A. Maxwell, Wherefore Ye Must Press Forward, p.122)8. (25:9) “And thou neediest not fear . . .” No woman should have to. The man has the duty to support his family, and if he becomes unable or unwilling, then the righteous woman, after doing what she can, has every right to turn to the priesthood of God for the necessary assistance.
9. “And verily I say unto thee that thou shalt lay aside the things of this world . . .” We seem to be obsessed with stuff. We seek to acquire more and more stuff. The Lord gave solemn warning to those whose hearts are set “so much upon the things of this world . . .” When we focus too much on the material things that enrich our lives, we become much like those people in the days of Enoch of whom it was written, “Their eyes cannot see afar off” (Moses 6:27).
10. (25:10) “And verily I say unto thee that thou shalt lay aside the things of this world, and seek for the things of a better.” This is what we ought to seek. As we distance ourselves from the things of this world, our efforts and focus will turn unerringly to the things of a better world. I think the oft-repeated scriptural counsel to “be sober” is based on this attitude.
WE SHOULD REJOICE AND BE OF GOOD CHEER
11. (25:13) “Wherefore, lift up thy heart and rejoice . . .” We have been directed on several occasions to be of good cheer. “And ye cannot bear all things now; nevertheless, be of good cheer, for I will lead you along. The kingdom is yours and the blessings thereof are yours, and the riches of eternity are yours” (D&C 78:18).
12. (25:13) “Cleave unto the covenants which thou hast made.” Agreements with God are not to be taken lightly. We have made covenants and we must hold on to them. It is by means of our covenants and what we do with them that our worthiness for heaven will be determined. Robert E. Wells taught that
One of the principal purposes of this life is to find out if the Lord can trust us. One of our familiar scriptures says, “And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them” (Abr. 3:25). We are destined to be tried, tested, and proven during our sojourn on earth to see if we are trustworthy.WE SHOULD BE MEEK AND AVOID PRIDE
The Prophet Joseph Smith indicated that to attain the highest blessing of this life, we will first be tested and proved thoroughly until the Lord is certain that he can trust us in all things, regardless of the personal hazard or sacrifice involved. (Robert E. Wells, “The Cs of Spirituality,” Ensign, Nov. 1978, 24)
13. (25:14) “Continue in a spirit of meekness . . .” John Taylor taught,
Let us continue to live in humility and meekness before God, seeking in faith and good works to get an increased portion of his Holy Spirit, that we may comprehend the laws of God and live according to the principles of eternal truth. (JD, 18:334 335, December 31, 1876)I sense that this quality of meekness is another of those divine attributes at which women may be more proficient than men. The whole text of this verse suggests that Emma’s glory and renown will come in some measure from her husband. A willingness to stand in the background while someone else is revered shows a purity of meekness.
14. (25:13) “Beware of pride.” In D&C 90:17, it continues this warning: “Be not ashamed, neither confounded; but be admonished in all your high mindedness and pride, for it bringeth a snare upon your souls.”
This language is interesting. Hunters from the Arctic to Zimbabwe have used snares to trap unsuspecting animals. Size is not an issue. If you want to trap a bigger animal, you construct a bigger snare, and pride can be fashioned in any shape and size. It is a trap that only the most cautious and spiritually sensitive can avoid. It is a trap used by Lucifer with more success than almost any other device to entangle the souls of men.
15. (25:14) “Let thy soul delight in thy husband, and in the glory which shall come upon him.” This is great medicine for pride. If we are able to delight in the successes—the glory—that comes to others, we are well-insulated against pride.
In the words of C. S. Lewis:
Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man. . . . It is the comparison that makes you proud: the pleasure of being above the rest. Once the element of competition has gone, pride has gone. (Mere Christianity, New York: Macmillan 1952, pp. 109-10)16. (25:15) “Keep my commandments continually, and a crown of righteousness thou shalt receive.”
CONCLUSION: We have been promised that as we read the words of the Doctrine and Covenants by the Spirit, we are hearing the voice of the Lord. D&C 84:60 tells us: “Verily, verily, I say unto you who now hear my words, which are my voice, blessed are ye inasmuch as you receive these things.”
Have you heard his voice in this remarkable revelation given to Emma Smith? For it was not given to her alone, but to all those children and disciples inclined to serve God and keep his commandments.