After looking at D&C 46 and D&C 50 more closely, including the allusions to James 4:3 and Mormon 9:28, I think I finally have an answer to what D&C 42:14 means when it says, “And if ye receive not, ye shall not teach.”Link to D&C 42
D&C 42:14’s command to “not teach” has perplexed me for quite some time. Why not teach? Who is being given this commandment? How does someone know for sure if they don’t have the Spirit? Does this apply to every class and discussion in our modern lds church context?
Still much to sort out.
However, over the last year I have come to see the command to not teach with out receiving the Spirit to be addressing several specific possibilities.
First, it could be a warning that there will be false spirits trying to pass as the Spirit, so praying and waiting is a safeguard against this. See D&C 50.
Second, it could be a charge to be worthy of the Spirit. If it doesn’t come it is because you are unworthy. Or, if you are too proud to receive it, don’t teach. This is a route I saw but hadn’t taken up until recently.
Third, it could mean that the Spirit has other things besides teaching in mind. This reading comes from D&C 20, where those conducting meetings might be led to do several different things in meeting. Teaching is only one of those things.
The first two readings are being wrapped together for me now as I read D&C 46 more closely. There is a promise in D&C 50 that any one who is set apart to preach and build up the church, and who is clean and worthy, has power over the spirits. Any thing they as for, in the Spirit, will be given to them. If they see a spirit manifest that they cannot understand, they can pray for it. If they do not receive it, they know it is not of God. This sounds remarkably like D&C 42:14. D&C 46 encourages the saints to avoid deception, even from evil spirits, by seeking after the gifts of the spirit. It reminds them that they need to know why the gifts are given: to benefit all the saints. They are given to those who are keeping all the commandments (or who are seeking to do so), and are not for those who would ask only to “consume it upon their lusts.” You cannot receive a true spiritual manifestation by praying if you are doing so only for selfish reasons. It will not work. Plus, the promised safeguard won’t be valid unless you are “purified and cleansed from all sin” (D&C 50:29 and 30).
If ye pray and receive not the Spirit, then, from D&C 46’s perspective, you are either seeking for selfish reasons or, it was a deceptive spirit you were seeking after and didn’t receive it. Whether a person was not worthy or whether they were, but the spirit they sought wasn’t, the direction is the same: don’t teach! Either way, you have not been given a true spiritual gift, and have been instructed to not teach.
So what of the other interpretation, where teaching is one thing among many that could be done?
I think it’s still a good way to understand things in general, but given all that is said in D&C 46 and D&C 50, which to me seem to be clear responses to D&C 42, I think the reading outlined above is the best so far. I believe that D&C 42:11-14 are definitely drawing on D&C 20, which is most definitely drawing on Moroni, so there is some hint of this last interpretive possibility here in the verse. But even so, how would one know how to conduct a meeting by the Spirit, without these same principles laid out in D&C 46 and D&C 50? Don’t the same concerns apply? Perhaps D&C 46 and D&C 50 are as much a commentary on D&C 20:45 and Moroni 6:9 as D&C 42:14.
Finally, then, I see the three interpretations wrapping up into one. Conduct and teach by the Spirit of Truth. In order to have this gift you will need to be clean and only seek for the benefit and welfare of Zion. If you are not pure, you are at risk to assume that spiritual gifts are being given to you, which are in fact deceptions by men or by devils. Do not seek to consume it upon your lusts! You very well may be given a manifestation, and well may impress others, but it will not be of God. If it is by some other way, it is not of God. (Even if they are words of truth! And even if it looks like a spiritual gift!) Be pure. Seek the Spirit. When you ask in the spirit, by the prayer of faith, it will be done even as you ask: unless it is not of God.
A lot of instruction with subtle distinctions here…