Working on D&C 42: Day 2 – D&C 46 and the situation in Kirtland


D&C 46 sought to clarify some of the spiritual gifts given to saints and what was or was not an appropriate manifestation of spiritual power. Kirtland was certainly not excluded from the Second Great Awakening and all of the shouts, camp meetings, barking, etc. that that movement fostered. Some Americans saw this as base and pagan, but increasingly this was allowed as a legitimate expression of the “power” felt during conversion. (For a thorough examination of this religious revivalism and its response, see Mark Lyman Staker’s book Hearken, O Ye People.) Some of the leaders in Kirtland were wary of the manifestations they saw among the saints. The Lord affirmed their concerns by warning the saints to “walk in all holiness … that ye may not be seduced by evil spirits” and “beware lest ye are deceived” (D&C 46:7-8).

The solution, interestingly, was not to have the saints avoid seeking after spiritual manifestations. Rather, the solution was to seek them: “and that ye may not be deceived seek ye earnestly the best gifts” (verse 8). Verses 13-26 provide a list of these gifts, much of which is almost identical to the list Moroni gives in Moroni 10:9-17. Not included in this list were things like jerking, barking, dancing, shouting, falling to the ground, or being bound. (The closest may be speaking in tongues, but it was a debate even then whether or not the “barking” and “shouting” had anything to do with the speaking in tongues mentioned in the Bible. Again, I recommend reading Staker’s book for all the details.)

However, it wasn’t a matter of laying out lists of what was acceptable and what wasn’t. D&C 46:27 calls upon the church leaders to use their own spiritual ability to keep manifestations in check: “the bishop of the church, and unto such as God shall appoint and ordain to watch over the church and to be elders unto the church, are to have it given unto them to discern all those gifts lest there shall be any among you professing and yet be not of God.” The implication is that even if someone appeared to be manifesting the Spirit in an acceptable way, it might still be “of man, and others of devils” (verse 7).

 

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