[WARNING: THIS IS MOSTLY OLD BLOG POSTS STUCK TOGETHER IN AN ATTEMPT TO GET AN OUTLINE OF MY NEW PAPER TOGETHER!] I’m editing it slowly 🙂 But I have a plan now! whoo-hoo!
To Teach or Not To Teach: Interpretations of D&C 42:14
Or, “D&C 42:14 – our slogan for teaching” or something like that
D&C 42:14 is a complex, enigmatic verse. On the one hand, certainly no one can be surprised by the verse’s direction to seek the spirit by the “prayer of faith.” But what does one do with the latter half of the verse, which states, “and if ye receive not the Spirit, ye shall not teach”? This isn’t just “suggesting” that we teach by the Spirit, it is commanding us to stop if the Spirit isn’t received!
BYU has a “scripture index” where you can search through all the conference talks from Joseph’s and Brigham’s recorded sermons right through October 2010 and see who has quoted a particular verse. I searched this index for this verse within the larger D&C 42:11-14 passage, and looked to see how this verse was used.
What I discovered was that most people use the verse for the first part: “And the Spirit shall be given unto you by the prayer of faith.” Hardly anyone mentions the second half of the verse, except once in a while to emphasize something like “See? The Spirit’s important. So teach with it.” And many, many talks simply quote the verse with no additional commentary on any part of it! (Add examples of both kinds)
The early talks in the Journal of Discourses were the only ones to address this head on. For example,
I know that I am not qualified to teach either the Latter-day Saints or the world without the Spirit of God. I desire this this afternoon, and also your faith and prayers, that my mind may be led in a channel which may be beneficial to you. In my public teaching I never permit my mind to follow in any channel except that which the Spirit dictates to me, and this is the position we all occupy when we meet with the Saints, or when we go forth to preach the Gospel.
Wilford Woodruff said this in 1873. He believes D&C 42:14 completely: “I never permit my mind to follow in any channel except that which the Spirit dictates to me” and he assumes “this is the position we all occupy.” Also, he has applied this both to “meeting with the Saints” and going forth to preach as missionaries.
Orson Pratt talked about experiences where he tried to teach without the Spirit, and felt “entirely closed up” and his teaching was “unsatisfactory to my own mind, and I presume to those who heard me” (1872 J of D vol 15). He also said this, in relation to D&C 42: “…our own judgment, thoughts and reflections are not what the Lord requires; but he does require, and has required, ever since the rise of this Church, that his servants should speak by the power of the Holy Ghost.”
I think in some ways this would actually be a comfort to most Latter-day Saints preparing a talk or a lesson. Our own judgments, thoughts and reflections, which often feel so weak and inadequate – are not even what was asked for! What is required – and also promised – is that the Spirit comes when we teach. Unfortunately that brings with it its own anxieties: how many of us are secure enough in our grasp of how the Spirit feels to say for sure that we have (or have not) received the Spirit?
In 1997, Elder Oaks talked about how we as a church use D&C 42:14 and some of D&C 50 very, very often when we teach about teaching by the Spirit. However, we use them so often that they are heard as quick reminders rather than something striking and changing. The way he put it was, “These familiar references portray the essence of all teaching in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They are so familiar they are almost slogans, yet we are in danger of using them without understanding them.” (footnote: Ensign March 1997, Teaching and Learning By the Spirit).
Slogan was an interesting word to use. A slogan is something that a company uses to help someone remember their product or service. It is something repeatable and identifiable. We point to these verses to identify that we teach differently than “the world” -that we have a way of teaching that is “of God.” We point to these verses as a reminder that the Spirit should be received. And then the danger is, as he put it, that we will use these verses without thinking them or understanding them because they are so commonly used. That was certainly what I saw, that the verse was quoted over and over again usually with no commentary at all.
So how do we begin to shake up our understanding of these verses, in a way that will lead to us understanding them? First, let’s place D&C 42:14 back in its immediate context. D&C 42:14 finds itself among commandments “concerning your teaching” (as labeled by verse 15). The passage starts in verse 11 and runs through 14 (add footnote on why 16-17 are being left out in this paper.) Simple summary: Verse 11 – ordination necessary, 12- teach principles from Book of Mormon and Bible, 13- obey covenants & church articles, aka D&C 20, teach BofM and Bible as Spirit directs, and 14- prayer of faith, Spirit NECESSARY. Then verse 15 marks the end of the passage.
Considering D&C 42:14 as part of a unit of verses concerning teaching, I will ask four specific questions that will hopefully lead us to a better understanding:
How does our understanding change by seeing the place of the verses on teaching (D&C 42:11-14) within its own section, the “Law of the Church”?
How does our understanding change by looking at these verses in the historical moment of February 1831?
How does our understanding change by looking at these verses in relation to the revelations received in the months following?
Finally, will any of this change our modern-day approach to D&C 42:14 and how we talk about teaching by the Spirit?
D&C 42:11-14 find themselves in the “Law” of the church. This was received by a group of gathered elders in Kirtland, Ohio, in February 1831. The group was anticipating receiving a law because of a promise recorded in D&C 38. The gathered elders asked two questions that day (footnote should go here). The first question was: “Shall the Church come together into one place or remain as they are in separate bodies?” The answer came specifically in verses 8 and 9, that those preaching should build up the church wherever they found converts. The second question was “[What is] the Law regulating the Church in her present situation till the time of her gathering[?]” Verses 11-69 are the “law” received.
This puts D&C 11-14 in an interesting position: teaching instructions are what opens up the latter-day “law” for the church! Whether preaching in the regions round about or teaching in their gathered church meetings, the Spirit was what would guide their work. They also needed to be clear about ordination, about the scriptures, and about the place of D&C 20.
D&C 42 is most known for its verses on property consecration. This section is often pointed to as the source for the “law” of consecration. In some ways, the verses on teaching constitute a consecration of teaching parallel to the consecrating of properties. Though the details of the process changed, the basic formula was that a person’s property became consecrated in that the person symbolically gave it to the Lord, then received it back as a stewardship to do the Lord’s work. D&C 11-14 suggest something parallel, at least: a teacher is ordained, studies God’s words and work, acts according to the Lord’s instructions in D&C 20, and most of all: he only proceeds as the Spirit directs. This is not the teacher’s work, but Gods. This is most strongly emphasized by this highlighted part of verse 14: if ye receive not the Spirit, ye shall not teach. It is not that the Spirit helps us to do what we want to do, it is that the Spirit guides his work and we are simply his servants.
(Footnote: Other parts of D&C 42 can also be read in ways parallel to the verses on property consecration. In the instance of taking care of the sick, the Lord explains that those near death can be blessed by the elders, and if “they die they die unto me, and if they live they live unto me.” The person is consecrated to God, whether it be in life or in death. D&C 42 also explains that a person will be healed – unless that person is already appointed unto death. This is similar to D&C 42:14. When you pray in faith you will receive the Spirit – but goes on to say if you don’t, do not teach. The Spirit will be given – unless God appoints it otherwise.)
To summarize, teaching is a stewardship over something directed in the end by the Spirit.
How does our understanding change by looking at the historical moment of February 1831?
How would this section and these verses specifically have been heard in Feb 1831?
(or idea is to talk about Moroni’s reference in 6:9 and also the lists of spiritual gifts. Then to say is this justified. then to trace connection via 20, which is alluded to right in D&C 42.)
In 1831, group gathered together in Kirtland mostly
A person familiar with the Covenants and Church Articles (referred to in verse 13!) would have recognized that Doctrine and Covenants 42: 11-14 are in many ways a repetition of D&C 20.
Verse 11 dictates that any person who preaches or builds up the church must follow this procedure: they must be one, ordained, two, ordained by someone with authority, and three, the people of the church know that the person ordaining has authority. D&C 20: 60-67 lay out the rules of ordaining elders, priests, teachers, and deacons. Verse 60 states that all of these must be ordained, ordained by one with “power of the Holy Ghost,” and verse 64 says that these “may take a certificate from him at the time, which certificate, when presented to an elder, shall entitle him to a license, which shall authorize him to perform the duties of his calling.” Additional details are given in verses 62-62 and 65-67. The short account in D&C 42 verse 11 is simply a summary of the instruction already given in D&C 20:60-67.
D&C 42 verse 12 explains what the elders, priests, and teachers ought to teach. They are instructed to “teach the principles of the gospel, which are in the Bible and the Book of Mormon.” Verse 12 also notes that the Book of Mormon has a “fulness of the gospel.” D&C 20 does not include specific instructions on what to teach, but verses 17-36 are dedicated to rehearsing some of these “principles of the gospel.” President Benson saw these verses as “summarizing the vital truths which the Book of Mormon teaches.” Verse 9, like D&C 42:12, also states that the Book of Mormon “contains … the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ.” Verses 11-12 of D&C 20 suggest that the Book of Mormon “proves to the world” that the Bible and its principles are true.
Verse 13 of D&C 42 refers the elders, priests and teachers directly to D&C 20, calling the text the “covenants and church articles.” They are also told to teach “as they shall be directed by the Spirit.” D&C 20:45 gives this direction to the elders (and by implication of verse 49 and 56, to the priests and teachers as well): “The elders are to conduct the meetings as they are led by the Holy Ghost, according to the commandments and revelations of God.” D&C 42:13 has a similar formula: rely on the things already written as led by the Spirit.
Verse 14 is where this short passage goes beyond summarizing D&C 20. Verse 14 reads: “And the Spirit shall be given unto you by the prayer of faith; and if ye receive not the Spirit ye shall not teach.”
In addition, these articles were based on the Book of Mormon, and a person familiar with that fact or simply with the Book of Mormon may have thought of Moroni 6:9.
For example (summarize this part into a few sentence. but here is the research ready-to-hand:) SO, summarize most of it, but don’t talk about Moroni 6:9 yet so that can be its own paragraph:
Verse 37 of Doctrine and Covenants 20 begins a series of instructions on baptism, ordination, priesthood offices, and the sacrament. Much of this was drawn directly from the Book of Mormon, especially the book of Moroni
(italics have been added to highlight similarities):
The first part of verse 37 explains some initial requirements for baptism: “All those who humble themselves before God, and desire to be baptized, and come forth with broken hearts and contrite spirits, and witness before the church that they have truly repented of all their sins … shall be received by baptism into his church.” This is almost identical to Moroni 6:2: “Neither did they receive any unto baptism save they came forth with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, and witnessed unto the church that they truly repented of all their sins.”
Further in D&C 20:37 we read: “and are willing to take upon them the name of Jesus Christ, having a determination to serve him to the end.” This matches up with the next verse by Moroni: “And none were received unto baptism save they took upon them the name of Christ, having a determination to serve him to the end” (Moroni 6:3).
And verse D&C 20:37 ends by saying: “and truly manifest by their works that they have received the Spirit of Christ unto the remission of their sins.” This is similar, though not identical, to portions of verses 1 and 4 in Moroni 6: “they were not baptized save they brought forth fruit meet that they were worthy of it” (verse 1) and “after they had been received unto baptism, and were wrought upon and cleansed by the power of the Holy Ghost” (verse 4).
The next portion of D&C 20, dealing with the duties of the various offices of the priesthood, does not show up in Moroni until verse 60. However, in the middle of these duties is some instruction to the elders on how to conduct their meetings. “The elders are to conduct the meetings as they are led by the Holy Ghost, according to the commandments and revelations of God” (D&C 20:45). See Moroni’s description in Moroni 6:9: “And theirmeetings were conducted by the church after the manner of the workings of the Spirit, and by the power of the Holy Ghost; for as the power of the Holy Ghost led them whether to preach, or to exhort, or to pray, or to supplicate, or to sing, even so it was done.”
D&C 20:60 “Every elder, priest, teacher, or deacon is to be ordained according to the gifts and callings of Godunto him; and he is to be ordained by the power of the Holy Ghost, which is in the one who ordains him.” Moroni 3:4 reads “And after this manner did they ordain priests and teachers, according to the gifts and callings of God unto men; and they ordained them by the power of the Holy Ghost, which was in them.
Sacrament prayers and instructions were taken from the Book of Mormon as well. D&C 20:75 directs the church to “meet together often to partake of bread and wine in remembrance of the Lord Jesus.” Moroni 6:6 “And they did meet together oft to partake of bread and wine, in remembrance of the Lord Jesus.” The sacrament prayers and “manner” in D&C 20:76-79 are taken directly from Moroni 4:1-3 and Moroni 5:1-2.
Finally, D&C 20:80-83 provides instruction regarding those who transgress “Any member of the church Christ transgressing or being overcome in a fault, shall be dealt with as the scriptures direct,” with the possibility of ”their names [being] blotted out of the general church record of names. Moroni 6:7-8 is similar, and may even be among the “scriptures” that D&C 20 is referring to: “And they were strict to observe that there should be no iniquity among them; and whoso was found to commit iniquity, and three witness of the church did condemn them before the elders, and if they repented not, and confessed not, their names were blotted out, and they were not numbered among the people of Christ. But as oft as they repented and sought forgiveness, with real intent, they were forgiven.”
This all of course points us to Moroni 6:9 specifically. There we learn that the meetings of the Nephites were done after the manner the Spirit led them. Whether to do this or that, it was led by the Spirit.
“Led” becomes “directed” in D&C 42, but the sense is the same. In both cases, there is a guide telling the teacher which way to proceed.
So, a person in Feb 1831 who was familiar with the revelations likely would have heard 11-14 as a repetition of D&C 20, and within that a reference to Moroni. The Spirit may direct to teach, or not teach, but if it did it would direct to via the Book of Mormon and Bible. And if it directed to not teach, perhaps it would direct to sing, pray, etc.
However, would this have been a satisfactory reading?
Likely not. Someone living in Kirtland in 1831 was not entirely basing their religious habits on Joseph’s revelations and translation projects. Rather, the understanding of the Saints was largely based on previous religious understanding of the gifts of the Spirit. 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 bookHearken, O Ye People.)
This context made a reference to the “spirit” here all-but clear.
Quote some passages at length in my final version….
The revelations given so far didn’t specifically respond to the practices in Kirtland. Saints were left to read between the lines and figure it out for themselves. Mostly, things didn’t change; those who liked the manifestations of twitching and barking kept doing them, and those who were uncomfortable stayed uncomfortable.
So in the months following D&C 42’s revelation, the Lord sent more information. It came because some of the leaders in Kirtland grew more wary of the manifestations they saw among the saints. The result was D&C 46. 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). 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.
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. The list was not conclusive, but it did provide a beginning point: the gifts mentioned in scripture were real and would be a part of the latter-day church. The revelation, however, did not specifically include nor condemn things like jerking, barking, dancing, shouting, falling to the ground, or being bound. (There was a debate 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.)
After reading Staker’s book on Kirtland, I can appreciate this statement, which he made in 1842: (I’ve added my own words in italics)
“Various and conflicting are the opinions of men in regard to the gift of the Holy Ghost. Some people have been in the habit of calling every supernatural manifestation the effects of the Spirit of God, [this was certainly going on in Kirtland!] whilst there are others that think there is no manifestation connected with it at all; and that it is nothing but a mere impulse of the mind, or an inward feeling, impression, or secret testimony or evidence, which men possess, and that there is no such a thing as an outward manifestation.”
“There are several gifts mentioned here, yet which of them all could be known by an observer at the imposition of hands? [This is a good point, and he makes a good case as to why people were so overly excited about “barking” etc.]The word of wisdom, and the word of knowledge, are as much gifts as any other, yet if a person possessed both of these gifts, or received them by the imposition of hands, who would know it? [Not visible, and not sought after so much…]Another might receive the gift of faith, and they [I assume he means the observer, not the receiver] would be as ignorant of it. Or suppose a man had the gift of healing or power to work miracles, that would not then be known; it would require time and circumstances to call these gifts into operation. [Worked out over time, interesting. Saying these signs follow them that believe does not necessarily imply any immediate effects.] Suppose a man had the discerning of spirits, who would be the wiser for it? Or if he had the interpretation of tongues, unless someone spoke in an unknown tongue, he of course would have to be silent; there are only two gifts that could be made visible—the gift of tongues and the gift of prophecy. [Therefore:] These are things that are the most talked about, and yet if a person spoke in an unknown tongue, according to Paul’s testimony, he would be a barbarian to those present [see 1 Corinthians 14:11]. They would say that it was gibberish; and if he prophesied they would call it nonsense. The gift of tongues is the smallest gift perhaps of the whole, and yet it is one that is the most sought after.”
Ah, fantastic analysis. The reason people in early 1800′s were so eager to have these two types of spiritual gifts was because over the course of human history, only those two have been visible and in the end, it seems it was only those two that ended up in the category of “spiritual gifts.”
As he says in the beginning of what I’ve copied over here, “Some people have been in the habit of calling every supernatural manifestation the effects of the Spirit of God-” I think the logic flows from the other point on prophecy and tongues: since those two gifts were the outward and visible ones, they got written of more, talked of more, and sought after more, to the point where they alone almost defined what a “spiritual gift” was. That would lead to “gift” or “manifestation” being equated with an outward sign. The next step was to consider any unusual, outward sign a manifestation of the spirit. Thus, “Some people have been in the habit of calling every supernatural manifestation the effects of the Spirit of God.”
So this was the situation in Kirtland: gifts of the Spirit were validated, both by D&C 42 and by D&C 46, but what exactly a “gift” was needed to be clarified.
more details on how D&C 46 defines or talks about the Spirit itself.
end this part by saying how it really came down to knowing whether the manifestation was by a real spirit from God or not.
However, it really 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).
At root, it didn’t matter so much what things were okay to do, but how to tell if whatever was being done was from God. And how exactly was one to do that?
More help was needed, so the elders asked again (see Staker – quote it!!!!!!!!!!!!) Received D&C 50
I want to show that D&C 46 builds on D&C 42 and that D&C 50 is a continuation of what is being talked about.
So first, some quotation from D&C 46:
7But ye are commanded in all things to ask of God, who giveth liberally; and that which the Spirit testifies unto you even so I would that ye should do in all holiness of heart, walking uprightly before me, considering the end of your salvation, doing all things with prayer and thanksgiving, that ye may not be seduced by evil spirits, or doctrines of devils, or the commandments of men; for some are of men, and others of devils.
8Wherefore, beware lest ye are deceived; and that ye may not be deceived seek ye earnestly the best gifts, always remembering for what they are given;
9For verily I say unto you, they are given for the benefit of those who love me and keep all my commandments, and him that seeketh so to do; that all may be benefited that seek or that ask of me, that ask and not for a sign that they may consume it upon their lusts.
Note that like D&C 46, Moroni says that the “gifts of God … are given by the manifestations of the Spirit of God unto men, to profit them” (verse 8).
But what has this to do with D&C 42 and D&C 50? As I read it, the situation in Kirtland called for much clarification on what exactly was the Spirit and how it manifested itself through spiritual gifts. In D&C 42, the direction is to simply ask for the Spirit, with the prayer of faith, and then teach as it directs. It adds the possibility that the Spirit might not be received, and in that case, don’t teach. D&C 46 addresses the problem of being deceived. You might be deceived by an evil spirit, or one teaching by an evil spirit, or professing a spiritual gift, or all of this might be done not through an evil spirit, but by man’s own construction or misunderstanding. D&C 46 answers this concern by not turning the saints away from manifestations, but towards them. If the saints can seek after these gifts and receive them in the right way, they will soon be able to tell the difference between a true spiritual manifestation and one “not of God” (see verse 27).
In addition to all saints being encouraged to seek these gifts, it will be appointed for one man to be at the head to judge all the other manifestations of the spirit:
26And all these gifts come from God, for the benefit of the children of God.
27And unto 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.
28And it shall come to pass that he that asketh in Spirit shall receive in Spirit;
29That unto some it may be given to have all those gifts, that there may be a head, in order that every member may be profited thereby.
(Again note the similarities between this and Moroni 10!)
So there will be one appointed as the “head.” See D&C 50, now, which uses some of the same language and ideas that are present in D&C 46.
2Behold, verily I say unto you, that there are many spirits which are false spirits, which have gone forth in the earth, deceiving the world.
3And also Satan hath sought to deceive you, that he might overthrow you.
13Wherefore, I the Lord ask you this question—unto what were ye ordained?
14To preach my gospel by the Spirit, even the Comforter which was sent forth to teach the truth.
15And then received ye spirits which ye could not understand, and received them to be of God; and in this are ye justified?
30But know this, it shall be given you what you shall ask; and as ye are appointed to the head, the spirits shall be subject unto you.
31Wherefore, it shall come to pass, that if you behold a spirit manifested that you cannot understand, and you receive not that spirit, ye shall ask of the Father in the name of Jesus; and if he give not unto you that spirit, then you may know that it is not of God.
D&C 50 wraps together D&C 42 and D&C 46. In D&C 46, the question seems to be about spiritual manifestations themselves and how to know a spirit is from God, and what kinds of spiritual gifts the church has been given, etc. But D&C 50 addresses those who should know better, and who are called to go forth and teach, and that even these have been deceived! This responds to D&C 42′s call that those who teach do so by the Spirit. D&C 50 asks if they are preaching “by the Spirit of truth or some other way? And if it be by some other way it is not of God.” D&C 42 had instructed them that if they “receive not the Spirit, ye shall not teach.”
Apparently, however, there were those who thought they were indeed teaching by the Spirit of truth, but in fact had been deceived. D&C 46 and D&C 50 are set out to clarify what the Spirit is and how it is manifest, and how one can know if what they are seeing or feeling is of God.
D&C 50 gives this direction, which seems to especially link up with D&C 42:
31 Wherefore, it shall come to pass, that if you behold a spirit manifested that you cannot understand, and you receive not that spirit, ye shall ask of the Father in the name of Jesus; and if he give not unto you that spirit, then you may know that it is not of God.
32 And it shall be given unto you, power over that spirit;
So here it seems, at least to me, that if you want to teach by the Spirit, or if you see some spiritual power manifested in others, and you desire that Spirit that “all may be profited thereby,” including teaching to them, then you pray and ask in faith for that Spirit to come. If it does not, and you have prayed for it, then you may know that it is not of God. And thus you will not be deceived.
But, does this apply to everyone or just to someone “appointed to be the head,” which I assume here is talking about and to Joseph Smith?
D&C 50 leads up to the verses quoted above with this:
26 He that is ordained of God and sent forth, the same is appointed to be the greatest, notwithstanding he is the least and the servant of all.
27 Wherefore, he is possessor of all things; for all things are subject unto him, both in heaven and on the earth, the life and the light, the Spirit and the power, sent forth by the will of the Father through Jesus Christ, his Son.
28 But no man is possessor of all things except he be purified and cleansed from all sin.
29 And if ye are purified and cleansed from all sin, ye shall ask whatsoever you will in the name of Jesus and it shall be done.
30 But know this, it shall be given you what you shall ask; and as ye are appointed to the head, the spirits shall be subject unto you…
Here it sounds like more than Joseph Smith can qualify for this ability to pray for the spirits and know that all good spirits will be given. It sounds like all who are ordained to go forth (go forth and preach, etc.?) AND are purified, are “possessors of all things,” including this ability to have the spirits subject to them. This makes it sound like there are those – a group, not one – who are appointed to be a head.( Or perhaps a “head” is one type of member of the body of Christ, a member whose job is to receive information and discern what action to take?) This special place, however, is only given to those who are cleansed and purified, who would not ask a gift “to consume it upon their lusts.” See D&C 46:9
9For verily I say unto you, they are given for the benefit of those who love me and keep all my commandments, and him that seeketh so to do; that all may be benefited that seek or that ask of me, that ask and not for a sign that they may consume it upon their lusts.
(The language of “consume” upon “lusts” comes from Mormon 9:28, written by Moroni)
D&C 46 has the same idea of being pure: “those who love me and keep all my commandments” – that “all may be benefited.”
So, it seems, that if we want to fully take up the commandment in D&C 42 to teach by the Spirit, and have the privilege of knowing when we have the Spirit and when we do not, then we need to be seeking only His glory – no desire to show off our teaching and “consume” these gifts “upon our lusts.” It follows the same direction we usually hear that we should be worthy of the Spirit in order to teach by it, but it does throw some extra weight and some extra promise into it. If we are worthy, we can receive the Spirit but also, we can know when we do not have the Spirit. We won’t be deceived. And we will know when the Spirit is not with us and will actually know when not to teach. I assume this is a privilege given to few currently. I assume that many actually do teach with the Spirit now and then, even without all of this full promise given to them of all the spirits being subject to them. I don’t think that I have ever had this full privilege, for example. It could be that this talk of a “head” is actually only talking about Bishops or specific leaders afterall, and would not apply to members in general anyway. But I think D&C 50 may suggest (perhaps) that this privilege is something intended for anyone who is called to teach and who is pure before God. But who knows? – much more to think and read.
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…
And by June 1831, at the conference connected with D&C 52, the distinctions were clear. Quote Staker again!
So a person after June 1831 could have understood D&C 11-14 not so much as when to teach or how to teach, but as directions on how to tell if your teaching was of God or not.
But still, no one addresses this possibility that D&C 42:14 opens up: what if the Spirit does not come?
I wonder why no one ever addresses this? My first assumption is that we as a people (and me included!) are often unsure of what the Spirit feels like, at least to the extent that we could say for sure that the Spirit wasn’t with us.
This being the case, it would serve little purpose to address this verse in its full weight directly head on.
But in addition, after all of my recent research, I think I would add one more perspective on this. All three of my interpretive ideas could come down to one thing: nothing works unless you are pure, clean, and worthy. The promise of being able to pray and receive spirits unless they are not of God only comes to those who are pure and sanctified. So even if I go that route and pick D&C 50 as the interpretive key to D&C 42:14, it still comes down to being worthy of the promise. If I pick the route of interpreting through D&C 20 and Moroni, then problem is still the same: how can a leader know how to conduct a meeting by the Spirit? Only if they are worthy of the Spirit. And if we see the “not” receiving the Spirit as a lack of the faith mentioned in D&C 42:13, then the same exhortation results: seek the Spirit, be worthy of it, trust it.
So, coming full circle, I can see the wisdom and the necessity of addressing this topic in the way it is always done. Seek the Spirit, be worthy of it, and trust it. There may be a lot more to gain from these verses than just a good slogan, but perhaps there is much we need to do first