D&C section 57 is where Independence, Missouri is revealed as the center place of Zion. Beside that prophetic bombshell (which continues to echo and haunt and inspire all our yearnings to this day) section 57 also has a number of interesting characteristics about that establishment that I want to point out.
First, I noticed there is a repetition of “here is wisdom” and variants throughout this revelation. There are at least five instances of it in the space of sixteen verses, which is a little less than 1 every 3 verses. What is this wisdom, and will we be able to see it?
And thus saith the Lord your God, if you will receive wisdom here is wisdom. Behold, the place which is now called Independence is the center place; and a spot for the temple is lying westward, upon a lot which is not far from the courthouse. (D&C 57:3)
We are told that making Independence the center place of Zion with a spot for the temple lying westward close to the courthouse is wisdom. I admit I have yet to learn what was wise about the placement of both Zion and the spot for the temple; but that is because I labor under limited vision. Yet I have faith that at some future time the wisdom of it will become perfectly apparent, and we will all love to talk about how wise the Lord was to choose that spot, just as we love to talk about how wise the Lord was to ask Mormon to include the small plates of Nephi with the abridgement of Nephite history.
Wherefore, it is wisdom that the land should be purchased by the saints, and also every tract lying westward, even unto the line running directly between Jew and Gentile. (D&C 57:4)
We are told that it is wise for the Saints to purchase the land, buying every tract lying westward up to the line between “Jew and Gentile,” or in other words, between Indian and white settler. Purchasing the land was wise because it would make it legal and demonstrate the Saints would follow the rules. (It also allows disputes to be settled peacefully in the courts instead of through violence.) I can’t help but wonder how the church leaders are following this acquisition command today, and I do not pretend to know anything about it. I wonder what happened to the lands that the Saints vacated when they were forced to leave Jackson County, Missouri. I wonder whether they stayed completely unoccupied or whether the lands were taken over and sold illegally and false deeds of ownership made up. I could go on and on with my questions, but this might become a completely different post. ;-) (If anyone knows anything that is not hearsay or rumor that they are able to share, they are welcome to comment below.)
And also every tract bordering by the prairies, inasmuch as my disciples are enabled to buy lands. Behold, this is wisdom, that they may obtain it for an everlasting inheritance. (D&C 57:5)
We are told it is wisdom for the disciples to buy lands nearby to “obtain it for an everlasting inheritance.” It seems this land was meant to be kept eternally in the hands of the Saints. The implications of that are significant. It means that Saints who receive their inheritance there are expected to pass it to their heirs, and if it must be sold, owners would be expected to sell it to another member of the church. I don’t think I ever thought of it in that way before. I think those instructions are not meant to limit personal freedom in relation to the land, but as a reminder that the land was sacred and was to be kept in the hands of those who would not pollute their inheritance. (Remember, the inheritance was to be a stewardship, with God acknowledged as the owner.)
And also let my servant Sidney Gilbert obtain a license—behold here is wisdom, and whoso readeth let him understand—that he may send goods also unto the people, even by whom he will as clerks employed in his service; (D&C 57:9)
We are told it is wisdom for Sidney Gilbert to obtain a license to send goods to the people and provide for the Saints. I get the idea that somehow it required a license to move large shipments about or to trade in the area. This was part of Sidney Gilbert starting a store for the Saints. A store would help them achieve a measure of economic independence from their neighbors, and it could act as an informal bank, extending needed credit.
It is curious that Sidney Gilbert’s providing for the Saints was to cause the gospel to be preached to those in darkness. Somehow it was meant to enable missionary work, but I’m not sure how. Maybe the funds he collected were to finance missionary work or to help care for families whose fathers were away on missions. Or maybe his store would become a gathering place for the inhabitants where informal discussions about the gospel could occur.
11 And again, verily I say unto you, let my servant William W. Phelps be planted in this place, and be established as a printer unto the church.12 And lo, if the world receive his writings—behold here is wisdom—let him obtain whatsoever he can obtain in righteousness, for the good of the saints. (D&C 57:12)
We are told it is wisdom for William W. Phelps to start a church printing concern and “obtain in righteousness for the good of the saints.” It seems like this would make it so the church could begin printing its own materials, including the Book of Commandments, or a newspaper, whatever else was needed. Indeed, the newspaper Evening & Morning Star turned into the main way for the saints in Missouri to learn about new revelations as they were given.
All together, we see that the Lord wanted development on several fronts to help the Saints as they gathered to Missouri. He wanted them to have legal right to the land, He wanted them to be provided for with goods, and He wanted them to have a means of publishing the gospel message to the world. This really would lay a foundation for Zion as a gathering place.
Next, I notice that D&C 57 has some good counsel about running a business.
“buy…inasmuch as can be done in righteousness, and as wisdom shall direct.” (v6) -- This seems to teach that business buying can’t be spendthrift. Spending has to have a purpose to it, according to wisdom. It also has to be within limits so that other priorities aren’t neglected, and especially if it is on credit, it can’t be so much that the debt can’t be repaid.
“sell goods without fraud” (v8) – Obviously dishonesty can have no part in business dealings. There can be no cheating of customers, no lying about the products or the terms of agreements.
“obtain a license” (v9) – The business has to be legally formed, aboveboard, and regulated. Ideally this means the owner can be preserved by adhering to the law.
“let him obtain whatsoever he can obtain in righteousness, for the good of the saints” (v12) – Means of procuring supplies must be honest and legal. Also, the products must be ones that will be good for the Saints.
A final thing I notice in this section is that there are five instances of the Lord speaking of “planting” people in Missouri.
- “let my servant Sidney Gilbert plant himself in this place” (v8) Sidney was to start his store.
- Sidney’s store was to provide goods that would help to plant others (“obtain whatsoever things the disciples may need to plant them in their inheritance” (v8)
- “let my servant William W. Phelps be planted in this place” (v11) William W. Phelps was to start the printing concern.
- “let those of whom I have spoken be planted in the land of Zion, as speedily as can be, with their families” (v14) Them and their families were to come quickly to be planted.
- The families of those commanded to come were to be assisted by the bishop and the agent to “plant them in their inheritance.” (v15)
I love that the Lord says “plant” and not “transplant.” It conveys a sense of permanence, even though it didn’t turn out to be permanent. It also makes me think of a seed being dropped in the soil to grow and flourish, even if it must lie dormant for a while. It evokes the sense of setting down roots and anchoring to the place. These people got to be the seeds of Zion. What an honor and challenge!