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These sections, at least to me, appear to be a little bit of a smorgasbord of different revelations. Doctrine and Covenants 77 is a section that holds a key to the book of Revelation. Section 78 seems to focus more on temporal welfare, and Sections 79-80 are mission calls to three individuals. We’re going to keep centered in Section 78.
Now, if you haven’t noticed, I like turning history and true stories into parables. So I’m going to tell part of the history surrounding Section 78. I’m also going to discuss the principles that the Lord was teaching regarding their circumstances, and after I cover all of that, I want to turn it into a parable for our lives.
History: The United Firm
Section 78 was given in March 1832. Within this revelation, the Lord organized an administration that would come to be known as the United Firm. Here’s what He says about it.
Doctrine and Covenants 78:3-4
3 For verily I say unto you, the time has come, and is now at hand; and behold, and lo, it must needs be that there be an organization of my people, in regulating and establishing the affairs of the storehouse for the poor of my people, both in this place and in the land of Zion—
4 For a permanent and everlasting establishment and order unto my church, to advance the cause, which ye have espoused, to the salvation of man, and to the glory of your Father who is in heaven;
So the Lord wanted an administration that would regulate the storehouse and “advance the cause.” Part of advancing the cause of Zion was to share the revelations by the medium of a printing press. The United Firm would be this administration. The United Firm would take care of temporal needs through the storehouse and spiritual needs through the printing press.
Just to clarify things right from the beginning, the United Firm is not the United Order. This may be confusing because there are about five sections in the Doctrine and Covenants after this section that call the United Firm the “United Order.” They are not the same. The United Order was a system put in place for Saints to live the Law of Consecration; the United Firm was a group of nine men that were called to handle church funds. It was in charge of seeing storehouses filled and printing presses working to establish Zion.
Here is something else the Lord said in this revelation that I think holds a key to why the United Firm was created.
Doctrine and Covenants 78:14 That through my providence, notwithstanding the tribulation which shall descend upon you, that the church may stand independent above all other creatures beneath the celestial world;
Three principles here I want to discuss. Through the Lord’s providence. Despite tribulation. Church may stand independent above all other creatures beneath the celestial world.
Principle One: The United Firm was meant to succeed through the Lord’s providence. It’s the Lord’s work. It’s always the Lord’s work. We are merely tools. Now what’s interesting about this is the fact that the United Firm lasted two years before dissolving into debt. But wait a second…it was supposed to succeed through the Lord’s providence…what’s that about? Don’t worry we’ll talk about it in a second. I wanted to reaffirm that principle though. This is the Lord’s work; we gotta do it His way.
Principles Two: The United Firm faced plenty of tribulation. There was a lot of work to be done, and it didn’t feel like there were a whole lot of resources with which to accomplish it. The Saints were dirt poor. Eventually, the printing press was destroyed in Missouri, and the Saints had to abandon the Missouri storehouse and goods when they were driven from Missouri. What a fun principle. Tribulation. However, the phrase was that these things were supposed to succeed through the Lord’s providence despite tribulation. And yet, the United Order failed. What gives? Hold tight. We’ll get there.
Principle Three: Stand independent above all other creatures beneath the celestial world. The Lord’s ultimate plan was that the church would need to rely on no one to take care of itself. Now it took a while, but I’d say we’re almost to that point (if not already there). President Marion G. Romney said this quote about the church’s welfare program.
“I do not want to be a calamity howler. I don’t know in detail what’s going to happen in the future. I know what the prophets have predicted. But I tell you that the welfare program, organized to enable us to take care of our own needs, has not yet performed the function that it was set up to perform. We will see the day when we will live on what we produce.”
I don’t know about you, but I think that’s pretty dope. It’s comforting to know that the Lord intends the church to be able to rely on itself. This is especially comforting because we know that the world goes crazy there at the end before the Second Coming.
Now the United Firm failed after just two years, but we have eventually got to the point where the church is pretty independent. Let’s look back at the scriptures.
Doctrine and Covenants 78:7 For if you will that I give unto you a place in the celestial world, you must prepare yourselves by doing the things which I have commanded you and required of you.
Let me rephrase that to fit this specific circumstance. If you want the Lord to help the United Firm succeed through His providence despite tribulation, we have to follow the commandments He gives. Just like with the United Order, the Saints were not quite prepared for these responsibilities.
A Parable for Us
I’m going to summarize that history really quick, and I want you to see if it sounds familiar or if anything applies to your specific life.
The Lord set up an organization. This organization was meant to provide temporally and spiritually. Through the Lord’s providence, this organization was meant to succeed brilliantly despite tribulation. It was meant to be able to stand independently of any being under the celestial world. This organization morphed and reinvented itself, failed a couple of times, but it eventually succeeded in its mission.
Us. Me and you. Each of us is the organization. Each of us is meant to stand independent of the world. We are to prepare temporally so that we don’t need the world. We are even supposed to prepare spiritually so that we don’t rely on others for our testimony and spiritual knowledge. We will face tribulation. We will stumble, and there may even be times when things look bleak enough that we believe that we’re too late. We may become so burdened down with debts that the Lord has to completely reinvent us. He has to continually lead us along until we eventually reach our ultimate goals.
There are mini lessons to be had here too. Perhaps you are in plenty of financial debt, and you don’t know how you’ll get to the point where you’re independent and prepared. Spiritually speaking, you may not yet be at the point where you’re self-reliant for your own testimony.
I didn’t specifically bring it up earlier while I was discussing the United Firm, but I bring it up now. The Lord said that He wanted the church to be independent above all other creatures beneath the celestial world. To me, that means we can depend on the Lord and His servants on the other side. This has specific implications both temporally and spiritually.
I close with these verses.
Doctrine and Covenants 78:17-18
17 Verily, verily, I say unto you, ye are little children, and ye have not as yet understood how great blessings the Father hath in his own hands and prepared for you;
18 And ye cannot bear all things now; nevertheless, be of good cheer, for I will lead you along. The kingdom is yours and the blessings thereof are yours, and the riches of eternity are yours.
In so many ways, we are still little children. We are not yet ready to be independent temporally or spiritually. Luckily, the Lord looks in terms of eternity. I promise you that He wasn’t worried when the United Firm failed. He doesn’t mind when we fail as long as we keep trying at taking baby steps (pun intended).