Commentary on Doctrine & Covenants 90

/ Doctrina y Convenios 90 / Comentario

Find helpful commentary on the verses below to better understand the message of this revelation.

Verses 1-5

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)


It is common in revelations for the Lord to recognize the human nature of His servants by forgiving them of their sins (D&C 90:1). The Lord also asserted Joseph Smith’s leadership in these verses by affirming that the “keys of this kingdom shall never taken from you” (D&C 90:3). These words offer an interesting comparison to earlier declarations of the Lord. In an 1830 revelation the Lord said of Joseph Smith, “I have given him the keys of the mysteries, and the revelations which are sealed, until I shall appoint unto them another in his stead” (D&C 28:7). In a revelation given a few months after the 1830 revelation, Joseph was told he held “the keys of the mystery of those things which have been sealed”—but only “if he abide in me, and if not, another will I plant in his stead” (D&C 35:18). In a February 1831 revelation Joseph was appointed to receive commandments and revelations for the Church, but with the same condition as the previous revelation: “if he abide in me” (D&C 43:3). Finally, in a revelation given in September 1831, Joseph was told he held the “keys of the mysteries of the kingdom . . . inasmuch as he obeyeth mine ordinances” (D&C 65:5).


In contrast to these earlier revelations, the Lord sets no conditions on Joseph in verses 1–5, indicating His increased trust in Joseph Smith fulfilling the role of prophet, seer, and revelator. Later the Lord gave Joseph an even greater assurance of trust when He declared, “Verily I seal upon you your exaltation, and prepare a throne for you in the kingdom of my Father, with Abraham your father” (D&C 132:49). By comparing the verses in these revelations, it appears that even Joseph Smith went through a period of probation and testing as he grew into his prophetic calling. However, as indicated in section 90, he still holds the keys of this dispensation and acts as the presiding figure over all the prophets and apostles, and other servants called in the last days.


(Doctrine and Covenants Minute)

Verses 6-7

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)


When Joseph ordained Sidney Rigdon and Frederick G. Williams, he gave them the keys necessary to operate the Church. The counselors in the First Presidency are “accounted as equal” and can act in the place of the President of the Church if necessary. President Gordon B. Hinckley served as a counselor in three First Presidencies under Spencer W. Kimball, Ezra Taft Benson, and Howard W. Hunter. Near the end of their lives, it became increasingly difficult for Presidents Kimball, Benson, and Hunter to fulfill their duties because of health challenges. In these instances, President Hinckley assumed a greater role in the First Presidency to compensate.


When President Benson was in his ninety-fifth year and dealing with serious health issues, President Hinckley gave this assurance, “When the President is ill or not able to function fully in all of the duties of his office, his two Counselors together comprise a Quorum of the First Presidency. They carry on with the day-to-day work of the Presidency.”1 As long as the President of the Church is alive, the counselors in the First Presidency continue to lead the Church. But the promises made in verses 1–3 to Joseph Smith are different than the promises made to Sidney Rigdon and Frederick G. Williams in verse 6. Joseph was told that he would hold the keys of the kingdom in this world and the next. No such promise was given to his counselors.


In 1835 Joseph Smith taught, “Where I am not, there is no First Presidency.”2 The counselors in the First Presidency are released upon the death of the President, and the leadership of the Church falls on the shoulders of the next highest quorum in the Church, the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.


1. Gordon B. Hinckley, “God Is at the Helm,” April 1994 General Conference.


2. JS History, vol. B-1, p. 691, JSP.


(Doctrine and Covenants Minute)

Verses 8-11

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)


These verses also affirm that the gospel of Jesus Christ transcends national and cultural boundaries, creating a new nation and a new culture. Nephi saw in a vision “that the Church of the Lamb, who were the Saints of God, were also upon all the face of the earth” (1 Nephi 14:12). John the Revelator saw in a vision that those redeemed by God came from “every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation” and that these people became “kings and priests” unto God (Revelation 5:9–10). This does not downplay the importance and beauty of local customs and cultures. In section 90 the Lord declares “that every man shall hear the fulness of the gospel in his own tongue, and in his own language, through those who are ordained unto this power” (D&C 90:11). While honoring the best in their local cultures, Latter-day Saints can also see themselves as part of a growing global family.


(Doctrine and Covenants Minute)

Verses 12-18

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)


The revelation shifts to provide counsel to Joseph Smith in his numerous prophetic duties. God counsels Joseph to complete his “translation of the prophets,” which is most likely a reference to the books found at the end of the Old Testament. The day after receiving this revelation Joseph inquired of the Lord about the Apocrypha, which was found directly after the twelve minor prophets found in his Bible. Verse 13 indicates that Joseph was drawing to the end of his most intensive period of biblical study, though he continued to work on his Bible translation sporadically throughout the rest of his lifetime.


The Lord also counseled him to continue to study and learn and “become acquainted with all good books, and with languages, tongues, and people” (D&C 90:15). Joseph had an inquisitive mind and remained an enthusiastic student throughout the rest of his life. One scholar notes that “beginning in the mid-1830s and for the remainder of his life, [Joseph] studied Egyptian, Hebrew, Greek, and German” and that “while his skill with these languages was sometimes rudimentary, his exposure to each of them acted as steppingstones to additional scripture and distinct teachings about the nature of God, humanity, and the plan of salvation.”3 In a meeting of the Council of Fifty near the end of his life, Joseph counseled, “Every man ought to study geography, governments and languages, so that he may be able to go forth to any nation and before any multitude with eloquence.”4


3. Petra Javadi-Evans, “‘Knowledge Saves a Man’: Joseph Smith’s Devotion to Learning,” in Know Brother Joseph, 2021, 78.


4. Council of Fifty, Minutes, March 1844–January 1846; Volume 1, 10 March 1844–1 March 1845, pp. 107–8, JSP.


(Doctrine and Covenants Minute)

Verses 19-37

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)


In the final part of the revelation the Lord addresses the individual needs of several Church members, including the Presidency of the high Priesthood. A large part of this revelation provides direction and counsel to Vienna Jaques, a new convert who had traveled from Boston, Massachusetts, to Kirtland to meet with the Prophet. Vienna Jaques is one of the great heroic women of the early Restoration. Vienna was directed to consecrate her funds to the Church and to travel to Missouri to assist in building the city of Zion. Vienna traveled to Missouri that summer, arriving in Zion in July 1833. However, shortly after her arrival, she lost most of her property when the Saints were driven from Jackson County by mob persecution. When Zion’s Camp, a relief mission from Kirtland, arrived to assist the Saints, Vienna helped care for members of the camp who were stricken with cholera. Heber C. Kimball, a member of Zion’s Camp, later wrote in his journal, “I received great kindness . . . from Sister Vienna Jaques, who administered to my wants and also to my brethren.”5

Joseph Smith also expressed his gratitude for Vienna’s sacrifice, writing a letter to her in September 1833 to thank her for her generosity. The letter is the earliest known communication Joseph Smith wrote to a woman other than his wife Emma Smith.6 In the letter Joseph described the following: “I have often felt a whispering since I received your letter like this: ‘Joseph, thou art indebted to thy God for the offering of thy Sister Viana [Vienna Jaques], which proved a Savior of life as pertaining to thy pecuniary concern.’” He continued, “Therefore she should not be forgotten of thee, for the Lord hath done this, and thou shouldst remember her in all thy prayers and also by letter, for she oftentimes calleth on the Lord saying, ‘O Lord, inspire thy Servant Joseph to communicate by letter some word to thine unworthy handmaid; canst thou not speak peaceably unto thine handmaid?’”7

Vienna eventually relocated to Nauvoo with her husband Daniel Shearer, a widower she married after meeting in Missouri. While she was living in Nauvoo, Vienna served as one of the witnesses for what is likely the first baptism in this dispensation for a deceased person. The ordinance took place in the Mississippi River.8 Later, after her marriage ended, she drove her own wagon across the plains at the age of sixty, arriving in the Salt Lake Valley in October 1847. She remained true and faithful to the gospel to the end of her life at ninety-six years of age. One tribute written to her at the time of her death reads, “She was true to her covenants and esteemed the restoration of the Gospel as a priceless treasure.”9

5. Heber C. Kimball, “Extracts from H. C. Kimball’s Journal,” Times and Seasons, Mar. 15, 1845, 839–40.

6. “Historical Introduction,” Letter to Vienna Jaques, 4 September 1833, p. 1, JSP.

7. Letter to Vienna Jaques, 4 September 1833, p. 1, JSP, spelling and punctuation modernized.

8. Anthony Sweat, Repicturing the Restoration, 2020, 152.

9. Black, Who’s Who, 147.

(Doctrine and Covenants Minute)