The subject of that video has been very much on my mind today, broadly understood. The funeral for the missionary grandson of a friend and former department colleague and chairman was held this afternoon. My friend spoke. He acknowledged that he had never been through a worse nightmare than this one. But he spoke powerfully and faithfully. He pled with those in his audience not to make their temporary separation from his grandson a permanent one. He also cited Doctrine and Covenants 59 and, in doing so, he taught me something very important:
First, though, some background: Polly Knight, the wife of Joseph Knight Sr., traveled with a group of Saints on the nearly 900-mile journey from Kirtland, Ohio, to Jackson County, Missouri. The Knight family — who are among my maternal ancestors; I descend through her son Joseph Jr. — had been turned out of their their lodgings in Kirtland, to which they had recently gathered from their home in Colesville, New York, by Leman Copley. So they determined to go further west, to the newly designated land of Zion. On the way to Missouri, Sister Knight became gravely ill. However, she would not agree to stop traveling, declaring that her greatest desire was to set foot on the land of Zion and to be buried there. Her son Newel later recorded that, at one point in their journey, he actually “bought lumber to make a coffin in case she should die before we arrived at our place of destination—so fast did she fail. But the Lord gave her the desire of her heart, and she lived to stand upon that land.” Polly Knight died less than two weeks after her arrival in Zion, in Jackson County, Missouri. She was the first Latter-day Saint to die in Zion.
On the day that she died, 7 August 1831, the Prophet Joseph Smith received the revelation that we know today as Section 59 of the Doctrine and Covenants. Joseph had been close to the Knights since even before the actual founding of the Church, and I expect that her death troubled him. The revelation opens with these words:
Behold, blessed, saith the Lord, are they who have come up unto this land with an eye ingle to my glory, according to my commandments. For those that live shall inherit the earth, and those that die shall rest from all their labors, and their works shall follow them; and they shall receive a crown in the mansions of my Father, which I have prepared for them. Yea, blessed are they whose feet stand upon the land of Zion, who have obeyed my gospel. (Doctrine and Covenants 59:1-3)
I hope, someday, to meet Polly Knight, my heroic and faithful ancestor.
But how did my friend teach me? What did he teach me? He connected the death of Polly Knight, to which the first verses of Section 59 seem to refer, with one of the final verses of the section:
And in nothing doth man offend God, or against none is his wrath kindled, save those who confess not his hand in all things, and obey not his commandments. (Doctrine and Covenants 59:21)
This got me to thinking of a very famous passage in the Old Testament book of Job:
The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord. (Job 1:21)
I also thought of the vision granted to President Joseph F. Smith on 3 October 1918 — one of the greatest given in human history — and especially of these passages:
As I pondered over these things which are written, the eyes of my understanding were opened, and the Spirit of the Lord rested upon me, and I saw the hosts of the dead, both small and great. And there were gathered together in one place an innumerable company of the spirits of the just, who had been faithful in the testimony of Jesus while they lived in mortality; and who had offered sacrifice in the similitude of the great sacrifice of the Son of God, and had suffered tribulation in their Redeemer’s name. All these had departed the mortal life, firm in the hope of a glorious resurrection, through the grace of God the Father and his Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ. . . . I beheld that the faithful elders of this dispensation, when they depart from mortal life, continue their labors in the preaching of the gospel of repentance and redemption, through the sacrifice of the Only Begotten Son of God, among those who are in darkness and under the bondage of sin in the great world of the spirits of the dead. (Doctrine and Covenants 138:11-14, 57)
Finally, as my friend spoke, I found myself thinking of a scriptural passage that had no particular impact upon me for many decades but that, in recent years, has become one of the most important verses to me in all of the canon:
And moreover, I would desire that ye should consider on the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God. For behold, they are blessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual; and if they hold out faithful to the end they are received into heaven, that thereby they may dwell with God in a state of never-ending happiness. O remember, remember that these things are true; for the Lord God hath spoken it. (Mosiah 2:41)
Some of you may perhaps be aware that I’ve also been involved in another film that will premiere next week. A new article about it has just gone up in Meridian Magazine:
I’m grateful to Jonn Claybaugh, who has, once again, contributed a helpful piece to the Interpreter Foundation website:
And there is also this:
The Interpreter Radio Roundtable for Come, Follow Me Doctrine and Covenants Lesson 23, “All Flesh Is in Mine Hand” on D&C 60-62, featured Steve Densley, Matthew Bowen, and Mark J. Johnson. That roundtable has now been extracted from the 25 April 2021 broadcast of the Interpreter Radio Show, purified of commercial and other interruptions. The complete program may be accessed at https://interpreterfoundation.org/interpreter-radio-show-april-25-2021/. The Interpreter Radio Show can be heard live on Sunday evenings from 7 to 9 PM (MDT), on K-TALK, AM 1640, or you can listen live on the Internet at ktalkmedia.com.