My Come, Follow Me lesson for this week comes from Doctrine and Covenants 18-19. Joseph Smith knew that Jesus Christ would reestablish His Church on the earth again. The Lord might have revealed this information as early as 1828 (see Doctrine and Covenants 10:53-55.) However, the time had not yet come.
Meanwhile in June 1829, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery had moved to the home of Peter Whitmer Sr. in Fayette, New York, and there they continued to translate the Book of Mormon. Peter, James, and John had conferred the Melchizedek Priesthood on Joseph and Oliver previous to their move. At this time, they were seeking knowledge about how to exercise the keys of that priesthood.
One day Joseph and Oliver were praying in the room they used in the Whitmer home, and the word of the Lord came to them. They were directed to use the priesthood to ordain elders, administer the sacrament, and bestow the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands. However, Joseph and Oliver were to wait until a group of believers could assemble to perform the ordinances.
Joseph and Oliver waited for the Lord’s command to organize the Church. At the same time, they were near the completion of the translation of the Book of Mormon. They learned as they translated the books of 3 Nephi and Moroni that these books contained information about the priesthood ordinances as well as the procedures of the Church of Jesus Christ. This information inspired and guided them as they awaited the time to organize the Savior’s Church.
Those were the circumstances of Joseph and Oliver when the Lord revealed the information now known as Doctrine and Covenants 18. The revelation came through Joseph Smith and was addressed to Joseph, Oliver Cowdery, and David Whitmer. It gave directions for building up the Church and contained instructions for the men that would be called as the Twelve Apostles. Much of Sections 18 and 19 are about repentance, and Doctrine and Covenants 18 contains these powerful verses (10-11, 15-16):
10 Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of the God.
11 For, behold, the Lord your Redeemer suffered death in the flesh; wherefore he suffered the pain of all men, that all men might repent and come unto him….
15 And if it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father!
16 And now, if your joy will be great with one soul that you have brought unto me into the kingdom of my Father, how great will be your joy if you should bring many souls unto me!
The Lord said that the worth of a soul is great in His sight. What does the word “great” mean to the Lord? What is the worth of a human soul? This is a question that was asked by Paul C. Child in the following experience related by President Thomas S. Monson.
In March 1967, early in my service as a member of the Council of the Twelve, I was attending a conference of the Monument Park West Stake in Salt Lake City. My companion for the conference was a member of the General Church Welfare Committee, Paul C. Child. …
When it was his opportunity to participate, President Child took in hand the Doctrine and Covenants and left the pulpit to stand among the priesthood brethren to whom he was directing his message. He turned to section 18 and began to read [verses 10 and 15]. …
President Child then raised his eyes from the scriptures and asked the brethren: “What is the worth of a human soul?” He avoided calling on a bishop, a stake president, or a high councilor for a response. Instead, he selected the president of an elders quorum – a brother who had been a bit drowsy and had missed the significance of the question.
The startled man responded, “Brother Child, could you please repeat the question?”
The question was repeated: “What is the worth of a human soul?”
… I prayed fervently for that quorum president. He remained silent for what seemed like an eternity and then declared, “Brother Child, the worth of a human soul is its capacity to become as God.”
All present pondered that reply. Brother Child returned to the stand, leaned over to me, and said, “A profound reply; a profound reply!” He proceeded with his message, but I continued to reflect on that inspired response” (“May Brother’s Keeper,” Ensign, Nov. 1994, 43).
[President Monson later declared:] We have the responsibility to see individuals not as they are but rather as they can become. I would plead with you to think of them in this way” (“See Others as They May Become,” Ensign, Nov. 2012, 70).
The Lord wants us to cry repentance to the people of the world because He desires that they all return to His presence. He knows that they cannot enter the presence of God without being cleansed by repentance. Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained that “crying repentance simply means helping people return to God” (“Preparing for Your Spiritual Destiny” [Brigham Young University fireside address, Jan. 10, 2010], 7 speeches.byu.edu).
Doctrine and Covenants 19 was a revelation given through Joseph Smith to Martin Harris. As the completion of the translation of the Book of Mormon neared in June 1829, Joseph Smith and Martin Harris hired the printer Egbert B. Grandin to do the printing. The price for printing 5,000 copies of the Book of Mormon was $3,000. Grandin refused to start printing the book without a guaranteed payment for the job.
The farm of Martin and Lucy Harris was one of the finest farms in Palmyra, New York. They worked for years to acquire and establish the farm, and the farm had provided for their family as well as given them good standing in the community. Martin made a verbal agreement to pay for the printing of the 5,000 copies of the Book of Mormon by mortgaging some of his farm. Later, he became concerned about the mortgage. In Doctrine and Covenants 19, the Lord commanded Martin to mortgage his farm and then revealed some important truths about His own atoning sacrifice. In Doctrine and Covenants 19:15-20, the Lord said the following.
15 Therefore I command you to repent – repent, lest I smite you by the rod of my mouth, and by my wrath, and by my anger, and your sufferings be sore – how sore you know not, how exquisite you know not, yea, how hard to bear you know not.
16 For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all that they might not suffer if they would repent;
17 But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I;
18 Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit – and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink –
19 Nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and finished my preparations unto the children of men.
20 Nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and finished my preparations unto the children of men.
Jesus Christ knew that the worth of a soul was great because He paid the price for each and every soul when He made His atoning sacrifice. Then-Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles testified why Jesus Christ was willing to suffer for our sins.
In some incredible way that none of us can fully comprehend, the Savior took upon Himself the sins of the world. Even though His life was pure and free of sin, He paid the ultimate penalty for sin – yours, mine, and everyone who has ever lived. His mental, emotional, and spiritual anguish were so great they caused Him to bleed from every poor (see Luke 22:44; D&C 19:18). And yet Jesus suffered willingly so that we might all have the opportunity to be washed clean – through having faith in Him, repenting of our sins, being baptized by proper priesthood authority, receiving the purifying gift of the Holy Ghost by confirmation, and accepting all other essential ordinances. Without the Atonement of the Lord, none of these blessings would be available to us, and we could not become worthy and prepared to return to dwell in the presence of God” (“The Atonement and the Value of One Soul,” Ensign, May 2004, 85).
What is the worth of a human soul? It is worth the suffering of a God! The Savior made the atoning sacrifice, but Heavenly Father also made a sacrifice. “For God loved us, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). The worth of every human soul is great because it is the price paid by the Father and the Son that we may all repent and return to their presence.