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Why Is Doctrine and Covenants 65 Called a Revelation on Prayer?
Doctrine and Covenants 65:4
While the exact occasion that inspired the short revelation now known as Doctrine and Covenants 65 is not clear, Joseph Smith clearly called it a “revelation on prayer.”1 The revelation exhorts its hearers to “pray unto” and “call upon” the Lord (D&C 65:4–5), and the concluding verse is itself a prayer (D&C 65:6). But at first glance, prayer may not seem like the main theme of this revelation, which talks about the “keys of the kingdom of God” being “committed unto man on the earth” (D&C 65:2) and clearly emphasizes the uniting of the heavenly kingdom and its earthly counterpart (D&C 65:6).
William E. McLellin, who was evidently present when the revelation was given, made an early copy for his own records. In that document, which was lost until the 1990s, McLellin said the revelation was “on the 6th Matthew 10 verse,” meaning Matthew 6:10.2 This verse is part of the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9–13) and says, “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.”
In fact, there are numerous parallels between D&C 65 and the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew that have largely gone unnoticed. The Lord’s Prayer begins, “Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name” (Matthew 6:9; emphasis added). Similarly, D&C 65:4 says, “Pray unto the Lord, call upon his holy name” (emphasis added). The Lord taught his disciples to pray that they be given “this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11), which may allude to the great millennial day feast.3 In D&C 65:3, the text exhorts, “Prepare ye the supper of the Lamb.” In addition, the Lord’s Prayer includes the plea “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Matthew 6:13), and D&C 65:6 prays that “thine enemies may be subdued.” Both texts also conclude with similar doxologies (“hymns of praise”):
“For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.” (Matthew 6:13)
“For thine is the honor, power and glory, forever and ever. Amen.” (D&C 65:6)
While connections can be found between this revelation and words throughout the Lord’s Prayer, as indicated by McLellin, the most predominant themes of D&C 65 relate to the petition in Matthew 6:10: “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.” D&C 65 talks about God’s kingdom “go[ing] forth upon the earth” and the “Son of Man … com[ing] down in heaven,” and it prays that “thou, O God, mayest be glorified in heaven so on earth” (vv. 5–6).
The information William E. McLellin provided on the background for this revelation—that it was given as commentary specifically on Matthew 6:10—“provides readers with a valuable key to unlock and appreciate the meaning of this revelation.”4 This contextual detail explains both why it was considered to be “a revelation on prayer” and why it emphasizes the coming kingdom of God. It is a revelation on prayer—the Lord’s Prayer, and specifically its plea “Thy kingdom come.” As such, section 65 provides guidance on what the Saints should pray for: that the gospel and kingdom “shall … roll forth unto the ends of the earth” (D&C 65:2).
Moreover, in a certain respect, section 65 is itself a prayer, as the headnote to this revelation previously read.5 This pious petition sends up an acknowledgement of “a voice as of one sent down.” It beseeches, “Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight” (v. 1). It prays that, with the keys of the kingdom now in hand, “the gospel [shall] roll forth . . . until it has filled the whole earth” (v. 2). It implores, “Prepare ye the way of the Lord, prepare ye the supper of the Lamb, make ready for the Bridegroom” (v. 3). It calls upon the Lord’s holy name to “make known his wonderful works among the people” (v. 4). It calls upon the Lord, praying that the Son of Man will “come down in heaven, clothed in … glory” (v. 5). And it prays for God’s kingdom to go forth that the kingdom of heaven will come and that God may be glorified. And as with all proper prayers, it ends with words of praise for God and concludes with a solemn “amen” (v. 6).
One may well pray that this revelation will guide and inspire all as we increase our ability to pray in harmony with the mind and will of the Lord Jesus Christ, whose revealed gospel taught His disciples most earnestly to pray. Like them, we plea: “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1).
Jan Shipps and John W. Welch, eds., The Journals of William E. McLellin, 1831–1836 (Provo, UT: BYU Studies; Urbana and Chicago, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1994), 241–246.
“Historical Context and Background of D&C 65,” by Steven C. Harper and Casey Paul Griffiths, online at doctrineandcovenantscentral.org.
Book of Mormon Central, “Why Is the Lord's Prayer Different in 3 Nephi? (3 Nephi 13:9; Matthew 6:9; cf. Luke 11:2),” KnoWhy 204 (October 7, 2016)
- 1. Joseph Smith, History, 1838–1856, vol. A-1, p. 155, online at josephsmithpapers.org. When B. H. Roberts re-edited Joseph Smith’s history for publication in the 1900s, he edited Joseph’s introduction to this revelation to say, “I received the following prayer through revelation.” See B. H. Roberts, ed., History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 6 vols., 2nd rev. ed. (Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 1951), 1:218. This was the basis for the claim in the heading to the 1981 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants that Joseph “designates this revelation as a prayer.” In 2013, the heading was updated to say it was a “revelation on prayer,” as it was in the original 1835 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants. See Joseph Smith Jr. et al., comps., Doctrine and Covenants of the Church of the Latter Day Saints: Carefully Selected from the Revelations of God (Kirtland, OH: F. G. Williams & Co., 1835), 151.
- 2. See Jan Shipps and John W. Welch, eds., The Journals of William E. McLellin, 1831–1836 (Provo, UT: BYU Studies; Urbana and Chicago, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1994), 243.
- 3. See Hans Dieter Betz, The Sermon on the Mount, Hermeneia—A Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1995), 397–399; John W. Welch, The Sermon on the Mount in the Light of the Temple (Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2009), 129; John W. Welch, Illuminating the Sermon at the Temple and the Sermon on the Mount (Provo, UT: FARMS, 1999), 145–146.
- 4. Shipps and Welch, eds., Journals of William E. McLellin, 243. In the acknowledgments (p. xx), the historical notes and commentary on D&C 65 are attributed to Trevor Packor.
- 5. For details, see n.1.
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