D&C 121 in preparation for MSH paper

As usual I’m assuming no one will actually read this, though I’ll be flattered if anyone notices I posted! 🙂 I’m using this space to write out some thoughts on a paper I’m working on.


 35 Because their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world, and aspire to the honors of men, that they do not learn this one lesson—

Honors of men = place of superiority — lesson could be a good word to latch on to

 36 That the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness.

 37 That they may be conferred upon us, it is true; but when we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man.

 Rights of priesthood have power or work because they are filled with powers of heaven. And powers of heaven will leave if there is unrighteousness. This is the lesson they do not learn, and they do not learn this because they are interested in the honors of men. Why does that distract them? Well he goes on to say that having your hearts and aspirations on this world will mean that we want to look better than we really are (cover our sins) or feel better about ourselves (gratify our pride), or want to feel that we deserve this privilege (vain ambition) or want to secure our place of authority over others (exercising control, dominion, compulsion)

But the lesson that isn’t learned is that when we organize our leadership – even in part – to prove that we deserve that leadership, then we lose the chance to be connected to heaven and have the power to do anything real. If we think we deserve it, or think we need others to think we deserve it, then we have already lost the power of the position.

This is so similar to Ranciere’s point about “Reason begins when discourses organized with the goal of being right cease” (pg 72). 

But more importantly, this is stultification. (When the hierarchy of intelligence over intelligence is matched with the hierarchy of will over will, then we have stultification or  what we might call stagnation.) In this case, we have spirituality over spirituality and will over will. We have a presupposition that if someone is in a higher spiritual position or we might say a higher ministerial position or just simply a higher priesthood position, then they must be a more spiritual person. But then we have all these problems creep in: cover our weakness (broader than sins), gratify pride, vain ambition, and we try to look confident (control dominion, compulsion). Gotta be a Gusteu! We have all seen leaders and teachers like this. They think suddenly they have to know more or be more spiritual in order to fill the calling. This results in a variety of unproductive reactions, but they all seem to be rooted in the confusion of these two hierarchies.

So more importantly, this is similar to Ranciere’s many discussions of what the ignorant master will do as compared to what the old master will do. To his many discussions of how a old master stultifies. That would be the place to look.


But all of those things come about because we suddenly find ourselves in a hierarchy, and we feel like we need to justify or prove ourselves worthy of that position or else those “under” us won’t obey us. If we have a job to do that is over other people, then we’d better start proving that we deserve this position?

*** find these places in Ranciere too 

 39 We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.

Is it perhaps that they suppose they have an kind of authority that they don’t actually have? Or do they have it? Is it that they think that they have authority similar to all the hierarchies they see around them which are based on ideas of superior and inferior people or abilities, and so they transfer that idea into the word authority? Do they have authority to do certain things rather than authority in a structure? But there are many that have authority to do something because they have both the ordination and a place in a hierarchy. The counselor can do something when the Bishop is out of town that usually the bishop does. Things like that. D&C 20 lays out all sorts of rules and regulations about who can do what when, based on their office. Office, calling, these are places within a hierarchical structure, whereas priesthood ordination is a general confirmation of access to powers of heaven. Is ordination just used to talk about an office? Do we talk about confirmation otherwise? (and is this different in 1830s versus now? I would assume yes. 🙂 ) So, I think what Joseph is talking about is men who have both the general priesthood and also an office within a hierarchy. But men pull in ideas about hierarchy from elsewhere ***READ RANCIERE HERE* and immediately begin to think of themselves as unequal to others or think that others need to see them as unequal to others. *This is the distraction that leads them away from being about to access the powers of heaven* If seeking after honors or men, asrpiring to impress men, if covering sins and trying to control or compel are all the pitfalls — does that mean that seeing equality would fix the problem? Is that what is missing?

King Benjamin certainly thought that seeing everyone as equal was essential. He wanted everyone to know that he was equal to them But also, he wanted to make sure that all of his people thought that they were equal to everyone else. Even those who serve God —  priests! — are only serving God, just like all of us. We have the same master, we are co-equal servants to God. That was an essential part of his message, and the main point of one of hte most famous and oft-quoted verses from his speech.

How does treating every other member as equal make it possible for a priesthood holder to access the powers of heaven? 

Note in the following list things that are also similar to Ranciere:

 41 No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion,

Persuasion is the sign that you believe another person can understand what you are saying and change because of it. Good persuaders (as I think the list goes on to confirm) don’t just try to talk someone into something, or try to force or coerce someone into doing something, they try to carefully explain and reason with the person they are persuading. In other words, if you are trying to communicate, it is because you trust the other person has the intelligence to understand what you are saying. Equal intelligence is presupposed…

Taking the time to talk to someone, instead of commanding them, is a sign of humility. You still obviously believe what you are saying is true and right, but you aren’t forcing someone else to take it. You recognize there is more to think about

by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned;

Again, patience is a sign of humility. I’m thinking of Elder Scott’s talk about patiently waiting for loved ones to return to the Church. He said to wait and trust them. That all of God’s children on earth once chose good and that give the chance, they will again. But that patience is a lot stronger when we sense that there was an equality of choice before and at least somewhat of an equality of choice in the end. Time doesn’t matter. 

Again, gentleness and meekness are the opposite of manly force, and again require time, patience, and putting yourself in a humbled state.

Love unfeigned. I can’t help but think of love as related to the equality of intelligence, though I don’t think I need to go into that during my MSH paper… But I’d love to get into Badiou and have some fun with the idea of “love”

 42 By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile—

I’m not sure what others would think of as “pure knowledge,” but I have a few things that come to mind. First, when I put it into this list of how to help others, this might mean revelation that came in response to a ministering situation. This person, that I have a stewardship over, needed counsel and this was the pure information that came to me from the spirit. Second, it might be pure because we don’t have our vain ambition mixed up with it. And of course, without that impurity the spirit could talk to us/can have powers of heaven, so that’s related to idea #1. Third, I think of Joseph Smith saying that (paraphrasing:) “oh man if you would lead a soul to heaven, your mind must stretch as wide as eternity.” Does that mean knowledge? I don’t know. But it could and is probably a part of what that means. 

Hm, I just noticed that there is no “by” in front of pure knowledge. Is that because it goes along with kindness? Or does it go along with something after it… 

I just checked the Joseph Smith Papers Project. There was a “by” before knowledge originally.

Pure knowledge, eh? Knowledge which is given purely (whatever that means) is something that will enlarge their souls – the person you are trying to persuade or minister to. Your mind must expand so that their sounds can expand?

And how does this match up with Ranciere? If you are emancipated, you can share knowledge in such a way that it emancipates rather than stultifies? If you are stultifying, do you share information that is in a sense not pure because of how you are sharing it? It also says without guile – you arent using knowledge to get your way about something? That seems like a forced connection, and not one helpful for this paper…

A few helpful thoughts in there for this paper.


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