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).
“Therefore, what I say unto one I say unto all: Watch, for the adversary spreadeth his dominions, and darkness reigneth . . .” (D&C 82:5).
“What I say unto one I say unto all” (D&C 92:1).
“What I say unto one I say unto all; pray always lest that wicked one have power in you, and remove you out of your place” (D&C 93:49).
I knew a member of many years in the Church in a country in South America 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 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 in 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 circumstances, the Lord concluded His counsel to this daughter with the injunction: “This is my voice unto all” (D&C 25:16).
This lesson will explore what He said to all of us in D&C 25. The lesson manual divides the material in this section into three headings.
1. Husbands and wives should support and comfort each other
2. We should be meek and avoid pride
3. We should rejoice and be of good cheer
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 encouraged Emma to exemplify. Generally, these are qualities of an elect lady, for the Lord said to Emma,
“Behold, thy sins are forgiven thee, and thou art an elect lady, whom I have called” (D&C 25:3).
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). This is no small matter in the environment in which we live. 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. But if we are successful, our marriages will be strengthened. Alma taught Shiblon, “and also see that ye bridle all your passions, that ye may be filled with love . . .”
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 witness had seen them. Mary Whitmer had evidently seen them. But no one had suffered more as a result of those ancient records than Emma. And she had not seen them. Why would the Lord give blessings to some and not to others equally deserving? If priesthood were, for example, simply a matter of worthiness, then I am confident that more women than men would have it. But there is another issue here, one that we may not understand clearly. Elder Neal A. Maxwell taught:
“We know so little, brothers and sisters, about the reasons for the division of duties between womanhood and manhood as well as between motherhood and priesthood. These were divinely determined in another time and another place. We are accustomed to focusing on the men of God because theirs is the priesthood and leadership line. But paralleling that authority line is a stream of righteous influence reflecting the remarkable women of God who have existed in all ages and dispensations, including our own. Greatness is not measured by coverage in column inches, either in newspapers or in the scriptures. The story of the women of God, therefore, is, for now, an untold drama within a drama. . . .
“When the real history of mankind is fully disclosed, will it feature the echoes of gunfire or the shaping sound of lullabies? The great armistices made by military men or the peacemaking of women in homes and in neighborhoods? Will what happened in cradles and kitchens prove to be more controlling than what happened in congresses? When the surf of the centuries has made the great pyramids so much sand, the everlasting family will still be standing, because it is a celestial institution, formed outside Telestial time. The women of God know this” (Ensign, May 1978, pp. 10,11).
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. Read D&C 101:16 and Psalm 46:10.
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 than men at this. 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. When she is heavy-laden, I must resist the urge to preach and prescribe. 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 13 different homes. They have all, except the last two, been related to my work. School and the army and more school and employment with the Church Education System have required me to move from state to state and from coast to coast. And Lydia has come with me. I have never heard a word of resentment or complaint. When it has been time for me to go, she has gone 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. We are and have agreed to be a package. Many things we do alone, but when we need support, we lean first on each other. What a blessing that has been.
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. (25:7) “and to exhort the church . . .” As callings [and ordinations] come, we can exhort the members of the Church for whom we have stewardship. It is a delight to listen to my wife teach my children out of the scriptures. In addition, she has taught frequently in the auxiliaries of the Church. She is a superb teacher and a fine scriptorian, and her teachings are fortified by her spirituality and her Christianity. People have told me how their lives have changed as a result of her ability to expound the scriptures.
8. (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, 60B61).
A member of the Twelve gave this advice:
“Knowledge carefully recorded is knowledge available in time of need. Spiritually sensitive information should be kept in a sacred place that communicates to the Lord how you treasure it. That practice enhances the likelihood of your receiving further light” (Richard G. Scott, “Acquiring Spiritual Knowledge,” Ensign, Nov. 1993, 88).
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. A special thought can also be lost later in the day in the rough and tumble of life. 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).
I think the message is clear enough. The Lord expects all of us to do some writing. I remember years ago hearing Elder Marion D. Hanks quote a Chinese proverb that goes like this: "The palest ink is better than the sharpest memory."
When the Lord cares about us and about a principle enough to give inspiration, we ought to care enough about it to write it down in a sacred place.
With regard to education, the command to give our time to learning, President Hinckley taught:
“It is so important that you young men and you young women get all of the education that you can. The Lord has said very plainly that His people are to gain knowledge of countries and kingdoms and of things of the world through the process of education, even by study and by faith. Education is the key which will unlock the door of opportunity for you. It is worth sacrificing for. It is worth working at, and if you educate your mind and your hands, you will be able to make a great contribution to the society of which you are a part, and you will be able to reflect honorably on the Church of which you are a member. My dear young brothers and sisters, take advantage of every educational opportunity that you can possibly afford, and you fathers and mothers, encourage your sons and daughters to gain an education which will bless their lives” (meeting, Hermosillo, Mexico, 9 Mar. 1998. Quoted in “Inspirational Thoughts” from Gordon B. Hinckley, Ensign, June 1999, 4).
9. (25:9) “And thou needest 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. When I was a teenager living in northern Utah, a young woman in our ward with four little children was left a widow by an unfortunate airplane accident at an Air Force base. The ward built her a house. Someone donated land. A construction company owned by a ward member dug the foundation and poured the footings. Priesthood holders came with hammers and nails. Appliances were purchased and donated. Painters painted. Carpenters constructed. Workers worked. I was young and contributed little but I remember. We could not do much about the loneliness, but we could turn away the fear.
10. “And verily I say unto thee that thou shalt lay aside the things of this world . . .” In an ode to W.H. Channing, Emerson wrote, “Things are in the saddle and ride mankind.” If that was true in Emerson’s day, it is certainly true now. 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). We are blinded by our bank accounts and our credit card payments and our regular pay checks. The things of the world are necessary to get through this world, but none of them should be so important to us that we are unable to lay them aside if the Lord requires it.
11. (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. The Lord commanded:
“Hearken ye to these words. Behold, I am Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world. Treasure these things up in your hearts, and let the solemnities of eternity rest upon your minds.
“Be sober. Keep all my commandments. Even so. Amen” (D&C 43:34,35).
12. (25:13) “Wherefore, lift up thy heart and rejoice . . .” We have been directed on several occasions to be of good cheer.
D&C 61:36 “And now, verily I say unto you, and what I say unto one I say unto all, be of good cheer, little children; for I am in your midst, and I have not forsaken you;”
D&C 68:6 “Wherefore, be of good cheer, and do not fear, for I the Lord am with you, and will stand by you; and ye shall bear record of me, even Jesus Christ, that I am the Son of the living God, that I was, that I am, and that I am to come.”
D&C 78:18 “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 112:4 “Let thy heart be of good cheer before my face; and thou shalt bear record of my name, not only unto the Gentiles, but also unto the Jews; and thou shalt send forth my word unto the ends of the earth.”
13. (25:13) “Cleave unto the covenants which thou hast made.” Agreements with a 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 fitness for heaven will be determined.
“Therefore, be not afraid of your enemies, for I have decreed in my heart, saith the Lord, that I will prove you in all things, whether you will abide in my covenant, even unto death, that you may be found worthy. For if ye will not abide in my covenant ye are not worthy of me” (D&C 98:14,15).
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.
“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)
14. (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. And it is this that Emma is asked to do for her husband.
15. (25:13) “Beware of pride.”
“Be not ashamed, neither confounded; but be admonished in all your high-mindedness and pride, for it bringeth a snare upon your souls” (D&C 90:17).
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. Beware indeed! The word beware suggest a sobriety, a vigilance as we regularly examine our lives and our souls for traces of this condition.
16. (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).
We learn to rejoice in the accomplishments of others better in families than anywhere else in our lives. We seem to be able to delight in the achievements of our children and spouses. And when we learn to expand that feeling to all around us, we will have made great progress. For, it seems to me, humility is not the attitude of belittling our own achievements, but of regarding them with no greater sense of satisfaction we would feel if they had been performed by another.
17. (25:15) “Keep my commandments continually, and a crown of righteousness thou shalt receive.”
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.
I think I will include a favorite story here about the power of a good woman and a good mother.
In South Royalton, Vermont, in the village square, just a mile or two down the hill from the place where Joseph Smith was born, is a monument with an inscription to a Mrs. Handy, a heroine indeed.
On October 17, 1780, Robert Havens, a distant neighbor to Mrs. Handy, left his house in the wee hours of the morning and ascended the hill behind the house to check on the sheep. He had been awakened by the barking of a neighbor's dog and feared that something was molesting the sheep. The boys had neglected to bring them in the night before. He found the animals safe. Then he looked back at his cabin as the first light of dawn passed over it. He stood pensively, sensing that something was wrong. Then he saw a large party of Indians move from the woods toward his cabin.
It was the time of the American Revolution. A large force of Indians, 300 in number, had been offered a bounty by the British-eight dollars a head for men, something less for boys, if they were alive. There was a lesser bounty for scalps.
This force, commanded by a Captain Haughton, moved down the river from cabin to cabin, capturing the men they could, killing those who resisted, and, with questionable humanity, leaving the women subjected to something less than death.
Some distance downstream the Handy family was warned. The father sent his wife and their two little youngsters toward the woods to hide. Then he set out on foot to warn others and to get help.
Mrs. Handy, with her son, age 7, and her baby daughter, climbed the hill toward the safety of the woods. As she reached the edge of the forest, a band of Indians stepped from the shadows. They took her little boy from her. She asked an Indian who spoke English what they intended to do with him. She was told that they would take him to Canada and make a soldier of him.
As the Indian carried her sobbing son away, she made her way toward the river. Her little girl was screaming in panic and fear, pleading with her mother to keep the Indians away. The obvious course was to move downstream to the larger settlements, where there would be protection, but she did not do the obvious.
Instead, she found the English leader of the Indians and asked him what they intended to do with the little boys they had taken captive. She knew the boys couldn't endure the long march to Montreal, and she told him so. Her worst fears were then confirmed; if the boys couldn't endure the march, they would be killed.
This mother, with uncommon resolution, determined that they would not have her son. She turned back up the river to the bank opposite the place where they were gathering their captives. Somehow she managed to cross the river, assisted by an Indian who pulled her and her little girl ashore.
Oblivious to danger, she demanded the return of her son. The leader of the Indians, Captain Haughton, said that he could not control them; that it was none of his concern what they did.
"You are the commander here, and they must obey you," she said. Then, quoting scripture, she charged him that if innocent blood were shed, it would be on his head. "When the secrets of men's hearts are made known, you shall stand convicted," she warned him.
When her little boy was brought into the camp, she took him by the hand and refused to let go. The Indians threatened her with knives and tomahawks. She defiantly replied that she would follow them every step of the way to Canada. She would never relent! They would not have her son!
Finally, in exasperation, they gave her permission to leave camp with her little fellow. She had proceeded but a few yards when she was captured again. This time the captain said, "You must stay. If the Indians catch you again, we'll never be able to persuade them to let you go. You'll have to wait in camp until the march north begins."
Other little boys were brought in. They clung to her in pathetic desperation. Somehow this 27-year-old mother with uncommon courage interceded for them as vigorously as she had for her own son. When the assembled captives finally began the long march to Canada, Mrs. Handy crossed the river with her baby daughter and nine small boys—her son Michael, Roswell Parker, Andrew and Sheldon Ourkey, Joseph Ricks, Nathaniel Evans, Daniel Downer, and Rufus Fish and his brother. She carried two of them while the others waded through the water with their arms around each other's necks and clinging to her skirts. Somehow they reached the opposite bank.
As night closed in, Mrs. Handy huddled in the woods with the little brood she had rescued from certain death. One little fellow was so terrified by the experience that he never spoke again.
This mother did what few men would have dared to do—and what none could have accomplished. She was a woman. She was a mother.
It will take that kind of courage in our day, and it will take defiance of a power more destructive than an invading army, if the ideals of motherhood are to be protected. In our generation once again mothers will need to be heroines. They may well rescue their own children and future generations from another kind of invasion that even now moves into our Settlements (Mothers, Boyd K. Packer 1977).