John the Beloved in Latter-day Scripture

Frank F. Judd Jr. and Terry L. Szink, “John the Beloved in Latter-day Scripture (D&C 7),” in The Doctrine and Covenants, Revelations in Context: The 37th Annual Brigham Young University Sidney B. Sperry, ed. Andrew H. Hedges, J. Spencer Fluhman, and Alonzo L. Gaskill (Provo and Salt Lake City: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, and Deseret Book, 2008), 90–107.

John the Beloved in Latter-day Scripture (D&C 7)

Frank F. Judd Jr. and Terry L. Szink

 

Frank F. Judd Jr. was an assistant professor of ancient scripture and Terrence L. Szink was an assistant professor of ancient scripture at Brigham Young University when this was published.

 

In the New Testament, there are two main persons named John. One is John the Baptist, who baptized the Savior of the world. The other man has many different titles: John the Beloved, John the Apostle, John the brother of James, John the Evangelist, and John the Revelator.

John the Beloved is a key figure in the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ in the latter days and has an entire section of the Doctrine and Covenants devoted to him (see D&C 7). It is vital that Latter-day Saints understand what we know about John the Beloved from modern revelation. In this paper we will discuss the historical background of section 7, followed by possible situations giving rise to the revelation on John the Beloved, including the possibility that questions arose while translating the Book of Mormon. We will also explore the traditional date for the revelation in section 7 and a theory for another possible date of the revelation. We will then examine John’s mission, the doctrine of translation, and additional light and understanding gleaned from latter-day sources. It is hoped that this paper will help Latter-day Saints appreciate the wealth of additional truth the Restoration provides about this wonderful disciple of Christ.

Historical Context of Section 7

The traditional date for the reception of the revelation in section 7 is April 1829. This is the date given in the 1833 Book of Commandments, the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants, and every subsequent edition of the Doctrine and Covenants, including the current 1981 edition. [1] In a letter written to W. W. Phelps in 1834, Oliver Cowdery explained that he arrived in Harmony, Pennsylvania, on April 5, 1829. [2] He and Joseph spent the remainder of April translating the Book of Mormon.

In his 1839 “History of Joseph Smith,” the Prophet Joseph Smith stated the following about the reception of section 7: “During the month of April [1829] I continued to translate, and he [Oliver Cowdery] to write, with little cessation, during which time we received several revelations. A difference of opinion arising between us about the account of John the Apostle, mentioned in the New Testament, John, as to whether he died or continued to live, we mutually agreed to settle it by the Urim and Thummim and the following is the word which we received.” [3]

Possible Situations Leading to the Discussion of John

Joseph does not explicitly state how the issue of John’s mortality arose. A few scenarios could have led up to such a conversation. Perhaps the topic spontaneously came up during one of what must have been many heartfelt discussions between Joseph and Oliver. We know that the issue of what happened to John was a popular subject of debate in the early nineteenth century. [4]

Another possibility is that Joseph and Oliver were reading John 21, which prompted the discussion about John. In a slightly ambiguous conversation between the resurrected Savior and His chief Apostle, Jesus explained that Peter would eventually be martyred for his testimony of Christ (see John 21:18–19). Peter then asked, referring to John, “What shall this man do?” (John 21:21). The Savior responded with a question, “If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?” (John 21:22). The next verse shows that there was confusion about the precise fate of John from the very beginning: “Then went this saying abroad among the brethren, that that disciple should not die: yet Jesus said not unto him, He shall not die; but, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?” (John 21:23). The reading of this account may have been the catalyst for the reception of section 7.

Yet because Joseph and Oliver were so busy translating the Book of Mormon during this period, it is unlikely that they had time to peruse the Bible in April 1829. The Lord stated in March 1829 that He had given the Prophet “a gift to translate the plates” and further instructed Joseph, “You should pretend to no other gift until my purpose is fulfilled in this; for I will grant unto you no other gift until it is finished” (D&C 5:4).

Another theory is that a discussion of John’s fate was sparked by the translation of the Book of Mormon, as were a number of other sections in the Doctrine and Covenants. For example, section 6 grants Oliver Cowdery permission to translate, rather than just act as scribe for Joseph (see D&C 6:25–27). Section 8 gives him instructions on how to translate (see D&C 8:1–2). Section 9 consoles Oliver after his unsuccessful attempt at translating the Book of Mormon (see D&C 9:1–10). All three sections are directly related to the early translation period of the Book of Mormon. [5] Except for a brief trip to Colesville for provisions, Joseph and Oliver spent virtually all their time translating the plates. [6] Their urgent focus on translation opens up the possibility for this third theory.

Robert J. Matthews said that “many of the revelations that comprise the Doctrine and Covenants have a direct relationship to the translation of the Bible which the Prophet Joseph was making at the time the revelations were received.” [7] Dr. Matthews was referring to the Prophet’s work on the Joseph Smith Translation, but the principle could also apply to his translation of the Book of Mormon.

In another instance of revelation prompted by translation, the question of Joseph and Oliver concerning baptism—which resulted in the restoration of the Aaronic Priesthood at the hands of John the Baptist—was sparked by the translation of the plates. Concerning this, the Prophet stated, “We still continued the work of translation, when, in the ensuing month (May, 1829), we on a certain day went into the woods to pray and inquire of the Lord respecting baptism for the remission of sins, that we found mentioned in the translation of the plates” (Joseph Smith—History 1:68). In addition, John W. Welch has shown that the manifestation of the Three Witnesses in June 1829 was likely “prompted by the translation of 2 Nephi 27:12,” which mentions that Three Witnesses would behold the plates. [8] Based on this model, it is possible that section 7 may have been revealed because of questions that arose while translating the Book of Mormon.

Book of Mormon Translation as Catalyst

If section 7 was indeed prompted by translation, what passages in the Book of Mormon might have functioned as catalysts for questions relating to the fate of John the Beloved? One such passage might be Alma 45:18–19, which states:

And when Alma had done this he departed out of the land of Zarahemla, as if to go into the land of Melek. And it came to pass that he was never heard of more; as to his death or burial we know not of.

Behold, this we know, that he was a righteous man; and the saying went abroad in the church that he was taken up by the Spirit, or buried by the hand of the Lord, even as Moses. But behold, the scriptures saith the Lord took Moses unto himself; and we suppose that he has also received Alma in the spirit, unto himself; therefore, for this cause we know nothing concerning his death and burial.

While it does not specifically mention John, this account may have reminded Joseph and Oliver of the Beloved Disciple. The phrase, “the saying went abroad in the church that he was taken up by the Spirit,” is similar to a phrase in John 21:23 concerning the fate of John: “Then went this saying abroad among the brethren, that that disciple should not die.” It is therefore possible that the translation of Alma 45:18–19 served as a springboard into a discussion about what happened to John.

Another possible candidate from the Book of Mormon is 3 Nephi 28, where the resurrected Savior asks the Nephite disciples, “What is it that ye desire of me?” (v. 1). Nine of the twelve desired to return to be with the Lord at the end of their lives (see 3 Nephi 28:2). Jesus discerned the desire of the remaining three: “Behold, I know your thoughts, and ye have desired the thing which John, my beloved, who was with me in my ministry, before that I was lifted up by the Jews, desired of me” (3 Nephi 28:6). Jesus then explained that they would not die but would remain on the earth until His return (see 3 Nephi 28:7–8). One can see how translation of this chapter could lead to questions about the fate of John.

Some Latter-day Saint scholars have pointed out similarities between 3 Nephi 28 and section 7 but have not posited an explicit causal connection. [9] This possibility merits exploration. [10] In 3 Nephi 28, nine of the twelve Nephite disciples, like Peter the chief Apostle in section 7, desired to immediately return to the Savior at the conclusion of their mortal lives. [11] They were all told that their desire was a good one. [12] John and the Three Nephites were asked what they desired, and they all wanted to continue to live on earth so they might continue to preach the gospel, which desire was subsequently granted unto them. [13] Although there are differences—for example, the Savior spiritually discerned the desire of the Three Nephites, and John verbally declared his desire [14]—the similarities are striking.

Close parallels in the language of 3 Nephi 28 and section 7 are noteworthy. Nine of the Nephite disciples expressed their desire “that we may speedily come unto thee in thy kingdom” (3 Nephi 28:2; emphasis added). Likewise, the Lord explained to Peter, “Thou desiredst that thou mightest speedily come unto me in my kingdom” (D&C 7:4; emphasis added). There are no other places in the standard works that employ this phraseology.

Furthermore, when the resurrected Lord spoke to the Three Nephites, He declared: “Ye shall live to behold all the doings of the Father unto the children of men, even until all things shall be fulfilled according to the will of the Father, when I shall come in my glory with the powers of heaven. And ye shall never endure the pains of death; but when I shall come in my glory ye shall be changed in the twinkling of an eye from mortality to immortality” (3 Nephi 28:7–8; emphasis added). When the Savior responded to John’s desire, He said: “Because thou desirest this thou shalt tarry until I come in my glory” (D&C 7:3; emphasis added). Significantly, the phrase “come in my glory” appears in these two passages and twice in section 45, but nowhere else in scripture (see D&C 45:16, 56).

What is the significance of these parallels between 3 Nephi 28 and section 7? It is likely that the Savior simply used the same phraseology when speaking to the Nephite disciples and also the Apostles Peter and John. But it is also possible that these similarities may suggest more. Speaking of analogous parallels between 3 Nephi 9–21 and section 10, Max Parkin concluded, “This similarity does not claim literary dependency, but rather concurrent rendering.” [15] In other words, the similarities may indicate both were received during the same time period. These similarities in phraseology open up the possibilities that the discussion of the fate of John was triggered by the translation of 3 Nephi 28 and, further, that when the Lord revealed section 7 to Joseph Smith, the revelation reflected familiar language from the catalyst.

Another Possible Date for Section 7

The theory that 3 Nephi 28 may have been the catalyst for the reception of section 7 suggests we reexamine the traditionally accepted date for that revelation. As stated above, Joseph Smith said that he received section 7 in April 1829. [16] It must be remembered, however, that Joseph Smith’s history was dictated to James Mulholland one decade later. [17] There are difficulties in precisely dating events from this time period, including the reception of section 10 and the restoration of the Melchizedek Priesthood. [18]

Further, we must consider whether Joseph Smith would likely have been translating 3 Nephi 28 by the end of April, if he began on April 7. It is well known that after the Prophet translated 116 pages of manuscript with Martin Harris in 1828, he allowed the manuscript pages to leave his possession, and they were lost (see D&C 10:1–3). It is not as well known, however, that when Joseph Smith received permission to recommence translation, he likely continued in the translation from the point where he had ended with the lost manuscript. In other words, Mosiah 1 was probably translated first, not 1 Nephi 1. [19] The Lord subsequently instructed Joseph: “You shall translate the engravings which are on the [small] plates of Nephi, down even till you come to the reign of king Benjamin, or until you come to that which you have translated, which you have retained [not lost]” (D&C 10:41). [20]

The Prophet Joseph made little progress in translation between the return of the Urim and Thummim on September 22, 1828, and the arrival of Oliver Cowdery on April 5, 1829. [21] Once Oliver arrived, however, they resumed translating—probably somewhere near the beginning of the book of Mosiah. To get a sense of the speed of translation this would have required, the beginning of the book of Mosiah through the end of 3 Nephi takes up 360 pages in the 1830 edition of the Book of Mormon. In order to finish translating that material by the end of April, Joseph and Oliver would have had to translate the equivalent of about fifteen pages per day.

A statement by Oliver Cowdery, however, could have bearing on the dating of the translation of 3 Nephi 28 and the possibility of this theory. Oliver stated that he and Joseph completed the translation “of the Savior’s ministry to the remnant of the seed of Jacob, upon this continent . . . not long” before the time of the restoration of the Aaronic Priesthood, which was not until May 15, 1829. [22] The ambiguity of the phrase “not long” opens the possibility that the translation of 3 Nephi was completed during the first half of May—still with miraculous speed but at a more moderate rate of translation, between nine and ten pages per day.

The traditional understanding of the origin of section 7 suggests that the question concerning the fate of John arose in April—either independently of the translation of the Book of Mormon or possibly as a response to translating Alma 45:18–19. If, on the other hand, the discussion of what happened to John was prompted by the translation of 3 Nephi 28, it is possible that the date for section 7 might be the first half of May 1829, rather than April.

The Text of Section 7

Doctrine and Covenants 7 is one of seven sections received by means of the Urim and Thummim (see D&C 3; 6; 7; 11; 14; 15; 16). After the 116 pages of manuscript were lost in June 1828, the Lord took away the plates as well as the Urim and Thummim from Joseph Smith. A few months later, the Lord restored Joseph’s gift and authorized him to resume translation (see D&C 10:1–3). At some point after Oliver Cowdery began assisting the Prophet in early April 1829, they were discussing the fate of John the Beloved and sought understanding through the Urim and Thummim. [23]

The heading to this revelation in the 1833 Book of Commandments states that it was “translated from parchment, written and hid up by himself [John].” [24] There is no further information available about this parchment. Lyndon W. Cook surmised, “The parchment would not have been in the Prophet’s possession, rather, it would have been seen and translated by means of the Urim and Thummim.”[25] Presumably Joseph used the Urim and Thummim to translate the parchment similar to the way that he used it to translate the gold plates.

Two versions of this revelation exist. The original, shorter version was published in the 1833 Book of Commandments. An expanded version was published in the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants. [26] The current 1981 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants follows the 1835 expanded version, with slight alteration to the numbering of the verses. Both versions contain the same basic information: the Savior asks John what he wants; John expresses his desire to bring souls unto Christ; the Savior informs John that he will remain on earth until the Second Coming. Much of what was added in 1835 is a more detailed elaboration of these basic concepts, especially concerning the specifics of John’s future mission as a translated being.

For example, the original edition declares that John would “tarry until I come in my glory” while the current version adds “and shalt prophesy before nations, kindreds, tongues and people” (D&C 7:3). In addition, the shorter version simply states to Peter that John “has undertaken a greater work,” but the expanded edition illustrates in greater detail what that mission would entail: “I will make him as flaming fire and a ministering angel; he shall minister for those who shall be heirs of salvation who dwell on the earth” (D&C 7:6). [27]

How does one account for this additional information? Concerning this, Stephen E. Robinson and H. Dean Garrett concluded: “Verses 6–7 were added to the text of section 7 in the 1835 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants under the supervision of the Prophet Joseph Smith, and the wording of other verses was revised at that time by the Prophet. Because Joseph worked on the Joseph Smith Translation after section 7 was received, it may be that he obtained additional insights on John 21:20–23 from that labor, which he then added to this revelation in the 1835 edition.” [28]

Although the Joseph Smith Translation does not change the text of John 21:20–23, it is interesting to note that while work on the Joseph Smith Translation led Joseph Smith to receive further inspiration, that revealed information was not always included in the translation but sometimes in the Doctrine and Covenants. [29] For instance, while the Prophet and Sidney Rigdon were working on the Joseph Smith Translation, Joseph read John 5:29 and they began to wonder about the resurrections of the just and the unjust (see D&C 76:15–18). As a result they received the wonderful revelation contained in section 76 (see D&C 76:19). The information received in section 76 is not reflected in the Joseph Smith Translation, but the study of John 5 led to additional revelation on the subject. Regardless of the exact source for the additional information in the expanded version, however, the current edition of section 7 contains valuable insights that illuminate our understanding of John’s mission.

Past Perspectives on the Fate of John

Without the additional truth that modern revelation supplies, the information contained in John 21:20–23 is ambiguous enough to have fostered a great deal of confusion concerning the fate of John the Beloved. It is important to note that there is evidence of scribal editing in our current edition of the Gospel of John. [30] Some editorial comments seem to have made their way into the text itself. For instance, following the Savior’s declaration that John would “tarry till I come” (John 21:22), the narrative continues: “Then went this saying abroad among the brethren, that that disciple should not die: yet Jesus said not unto him, He shall not die; but, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?” (v. 23). Taken at face value, the second part of this statement seems to discount the idea of John’s being translated. Those words likely reflect an editor’s view of the speculation about John. [31]

Whether those particular words are to be attributed to John or an editor, they have been a key factor in the traditional interpretation of the Savior’s statement over the past two millennia; namely, it may have sounded like Jesus said John would not die, but He did not really say that John would not die. The Christian leader Papias, who probably lived sometime between A.D. 60 and 130, is reported to have said that John and his brother James were both killed by Jews. [32] Tertullian, an early Christian theologian from around A.D. 200, taught that “John underwent death, although concerning him there had prevailed an ungrounded expectation that he would remain alive until the coming of the Lord.” [33] This same conclusion was common among other early Christian writers down to the fifth century. [34]

Furthermore, interest in the fate of John was alive and well in the days of Joseph Smith. For example, Adam Clarke, a scholar who published a comprehensive commentary on the Bible at the beginning of the nineteenth century, stated: “Some have concluded from these words [in John 21:22] that John should never die. Many eminent men, ancients and moderns, have been and are of this opinion. . . . For nearly eighteen hundred years, the greatest men in the world have been puzzled with this passage. It would appear intolerable in me to attempt to decide, where so many eminent doctors have disagreed, and do still disagree.” [35]

With Joseph’s and Oliver’s interest in religion, they had likely already been exposed to this debate. Hence, when the topic came up again—either spontaneously or as a result of translating the Book of Mormon—they naturally wanted to know what had happened to John.

The Doctrine of Translation

Latter-day scripture not only confirms that John did not die but also provides valuable information about translated beings. During His mortal ministry, the Savior declared to His Apostles, “There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom” (Matthew 16:28; see also Mark 9:1; Luke 9:27). John apparently desired to fulfill this prophecy. According to the translated parchment, John asked the Savior for “power over death” so that he might “live and bring souls unto thee” (D&C 7:2). The Lord responded by confirming to John that he would “tarry until I come in my glory” (D&C 7:3)—in other words, he would be translated. Use of the English word translated to describe someone who was taken to heaven without tasting death can be traced all the way back to the first English version of the Bible by John Wycliffe in the year 1380. [36] The King James Version of the Bible describes Enoch in the following way: “By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God” (Hebrews 11:5; emphasis added).

What does it mean to be translated? The Greek verb used in Hebrews 11:5 is metatithemi and can mean “to effect a change in state or condition” as well as “to convey from one place to another.” [37] Because of its association with the biblical story of Enoch, by the time of the Prophet Joseph Smith the word translated was understood not only to mean “conveyed from one place to another” but specifically “removed to heaven without dying.” [38] It is noteworthy that when discussing the doctrine of translation, latter—day scripture includes important information concerning changes to the condition of an individual’s body (see 3 Nephi 28:7, 37–38).

Although the Book of Mormon does not provide details about John’s translation, the resurrected Savior’s words to the Three Nephites link their translation to that of John, declaring that they “desired the thing which John, my beloved, who was with me in my ministry, before that I was lifted up by the Jews, desired of me” (3 Nephi 28:6). Thus, the information we learn about the translation of the Three Nephites illuminates us about the translation of John as well. In other words, 3 Nephi 28 is essentially a commentary on Doctrine and Covenants 7 (and John 21:21–23). [39]

John requested “power over death” (D&C 7:2) and was promised by the Savior that he would “tarry until I come in my glory” (D&C 7:3). The Savior taught in more detail to the Three Nephites: “Ye shall never taste of death; but ye shall live to behold all the doings of the Father unto the children of men, even until all things shall be fulfilled according to the will of the Father, when I shall come in my glory with the powers of heaven” (3 Nephi 28:7). Further, the editor Mormon explained, “That they might not taste of death there was a change wrought upon their bodies” (3 Nephi 28:38).

What kind of change? Mormon continued, “This change was not equal to that which shall take place at the last day; but there was a change wrought upon them” so that “they were sanctified in the flesh, that they were holy” (3 Nephi 28:39). Translated beings are not celestial or resurrected, but they are immortal. The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that the bodies of translated individuals are changed from their mortal or telestial state to an immortal or terrestrial state. [40]

The Three Nephites were further told that they would “not have pain” while they continued to live, nor would they have “sorrow save it be for the sins of the world” (3 Nephi 28:9; see also v. 39). When comparing the glory and peace associated with the Resurrection with that of translation, Joseph Smith explained, “Translation obtains deliverance from the tortures and sufferings of the body, but their existence will prolong as to the labors and toils of the ministry, before they can enter into so great a rest and glory.” [41] This change also made it possible that “Satan could have no power over them, that he could not tempt them” (3 Nephi 28:39). Translated beings are perfectly suited to devote themselves to the service of the Lord: they have power over death, they cannot be harmed physically, and they are immune to the temptations of the devil.

The Mission of Translated Beings

The primary mission of translated beings is sharing the gospel. John’s request included the desire to “live and bring souls unto [Christ]” (D&C 7:2). The Savior promised John that he would “prophesy before nations, kindreds, tongues and people” (D&C 7:3) and then explained to Peter that John would “minister for those who shall be heirs of salvation who dwell on the earth” (D&C 7:6).

The missionary experiences of the Three Nephites may provide a glimpse into the experiences of John the Beloved. As they went forth to preach the gospel, the Three Nephites baptized those who “would believe in their preaching” (3 Nephi 28:18). They encountered opposition and dangerous situations—such as prisons, pits, furnaces, or dens of wild beasts—but they were always delivered in a miraculous manner (see 3 Nephi 28:18–22). In addition, the Three Nephites prayed unto the Father and received power to “show themselves unto whatsoever man it seemeth them good” (3 Nephi 28:30) so that they were able to “preach the gospel of Christ unto all people upon the face of the land” (3 Nephi 28:23). The prophet Mormon explained that the Three Nephites would minister among the Jews and the Gentiles (see 3 Nephi 28:27–28). We know that John was given a mandate to “prophesy before nations, kindreds, tongues and people” (D&C 7:3) as he continued to “minister for those who shall be heirs of salvation who dwell on the earth” (D&C 7:6). Perhaps John the Beloved was also given special protection from harm and divine power as he went forth “as flaming fire and a ministering angel” (D&C 7:6). [42]

The Lord explained that John the Beloved would continue his ministry until the Second Coming (see D&C 7:3). At the time of the Savior’s triumphant return, translated beings will “receive a greater change” (3 Nephi 28:40; see also v. 39), namely instantaneous resurrection. The Savior instructed the Three Nephites that when He would return in His glory, they would be “changed in the twinkling of an eye from mortality to immortality” (3 Nephi 28:8). At that point they would “be received into the kingdom of the Father to go no more out, but to dwell with God eternally in the heavens” (3 Nephi 28:40), and there they would experience a “fulness of joy” (3 Nephi 28:10).

John in the Latter Days

In the latter days, we have greater revealed knowledge about John the Beloved, yet verifiable eyewitness accounts are extremely limited. [43] There is an important reason for this. Concerning the translated Three Nephites, the prophet Mormon explained that as they preached the gospel, the Jews and the Gentiles “shall know them not” (3 Nephi 28:27–28). The fact that the Three Nephites appeared to the prophet Mormon as well as to his son Moroni illustrates that translated beings “can show themselves unto whatsoever man it seemeth them good” (3 Nephi 28:30), especially to the prophets (see 3 Nephi 28:24–26; Mormon 8:10–11). But the implication of 3 Nephi 28:27–28 remains that translated individuals will not normally be recognized by the general populace.

We know that the chief Apostles of the ancient church—the translated John, together with the resurrected Peter and James—appeared to the Prophet Joseph Smith in the spring of 1829 to restore the Melchizedek Priesthood. [44] The Lord declared to the Prophet Joseph: “Peter, and James, and John, whom I have sent unto you, by whom I have ordained you and confirmed you to be apostles, and especial witnesses of my name, and bear the keys of your ministry and of the same things which I revealed unto them” (D&C 27:12; see also D&C 128:20).

In June 1831, Church historian John Whitmer recorded the following: “The spirit of the Lord fell upon Joseph [Smith] in an unusual manner. And prophesied that John the Revelator was then among the ten tribes of Israel.” [45] Oliver B. Huntington, an early Latter—day Saint, later reported that Joseph met with John the Beloved in 1834 during the march of Zion’s Camp and that the Prophet stated that John was on his way to visit the ten tribes of Israel. [46] After ordinances had been performed in the Kirtland Temple in 1836, Elder Heber C. Kimball reported that “the beloved disciple John was seen in our midst by the Prophet Joseph, Oliver Cowdery, and others.” [47]

If one desires to actually pinpoint the location of John the Revelator, these statements are actually less helpful than they may seem. The Book of Mormon clearly teaches that the ten tribes of Israel are scattered all over the world: “The house of Israel, sooner or later, will be scattered upon all the face of the earth, and also among all nations . . . and whither they are none of us knoweth, save that we know that they have been led away” (1 Nephi 22:3–4). [48]

Conclusion

John had the sacred honor of being known as “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (see John 13:23; 20:2; 21:7, 20). He was devoted to his Master, Jesus Christ, and desired to serve Him. So strong was John’s desire and so great was his commitment that he did not want to cease bringing souls unto Christ. John received a special commission according to his desire and continues to bless countless lives as the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ floods the earth. The Melchizedek Priesthood that he helped restore brings with it the authority to act in the name of God. As we have demonstrated, the Restoration of the gospel in the latter days has provided us with crucial information about the mission of John, which confirms his translation, describes his authority, and documents his continuing involvement in preparing for the Savior’s glorious return.

Although we may not receive the same specific call as John, we can still follow his example in our lives. The Lord has invited all of us, “If ye have desires to serve God ye are called to the work” (D&C 4:3). If we respond to the call to lose ourselves in the Lord’s work, we have been promised, “How great will be your joy if you should bring many souls unto me!” (D&C 18:16). Every Latter-day Saint has the opportunity to follow John’s example of love, discipleship, and missionary work.

Notes

[1] Robert J. Woodford, “The Historical Development of the Doctrine and Covenants,” 3 vols. (PhD diss., Brigham Young University, 1974), 1:179.

[2] Oliver Cowdery to W. W. Phelps, Messenger and Advocate, October 1834, 14.

[3] Joseph Smith, History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1955), 1:35–36. For a transcript of the original document, see The Papers of Joseph Smith, ed. Dean C. Jessee (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1989), 1:289

[4] For example, see Adam Clarke, The New Testament of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, vol. 5, Matthew to the Acts (Nashville, TN: Abingdon, 1977), 663. This commentary was originally published in the early nineteenth century.

[5] For a detailed chronology, see John W. Welch, “The Miraculous Translation of the Book of Mormon,” in Opening the Heavens: Accounts of Divine Manifestations 1820–1844, ed. by John W. Welch and Erick B. Carlson (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2005), 90–93.

[6] Welch, “The Miraculous Translation of the Book of Mormon,” 92.

[7] Robert J. Matthews, “A Plainer Translation,” Joseph Smith’s Translation of the Bible: A History and Commentary (Provo, UT: Brigham Young University Press, 1975), 255–56.

[8] Welch, “The Miraculous Translation of the Book of Mormon,” 97. It is also possible that the translation of Ether 5:2–4 prompted the manifestation to the Three Witnesses, but Professor Welch persuasively argues that the translation of 2 Nephi 27 is the more likely scenario (Welch, “The Miraculous Translation of the Book of Mormon,” 113). Because of the similarity of language between 3 Nephi and D&C 10, Max H. Parkin has shown how D&C 10 could possibly be dated to the time of the translation of 3 Nephi (Max H. Parkin, “A Preliminary Analysis of the Dating of Section 10,” The Seventh Annual Sidney B. Sperry Symposium: The Doctrine and Covenants [Provo, UT: Brigham Young University Press, 1979], 82–83).

[9] Keith H. Meservy, “New Testament Items in the Doctrine and Covenants,” in Studies in Scripture, vol. 1: The Doctrine and Covenants, ed. Robert L. Millet and Kent P. Jackson (Salt Lake City: Randall Book, 1985), 266–68; Jonn D. Claybaugh, “As Flaming Fire and a Ministering Angel,” Ensign, October 1999, 56.

[10] The only other Book of Mormon references to John discuss his role as the author of the New Testament book of Revelation and do not mention his desire or his fate (see 1 Nephi 14:19–27; Ether 4:16).

[11] Compare 3 Nephi 28:2 with D&C 7:4.

[12] Compare 3 Nephi 28:3 with D&C 7:5.

[13] Compare 3 Nephi 28:4–7 with D&C 7:1–3.

[14] Compare 3 Nephi 28:6 with D&C 7:2.

[15] Parkin, “A Preliminary Analysis of the Dating of Section 10,” 82.

[16] Smith, History of the Church, 1:35–36.

[17] There are other instances where the Prophet misstated a precise date many years after the fact. For example, when Joseph recounted his First Vision, his 1832 account has “in the 16th year of my age” while the 1835 account has “I was about 14 years old” (see Milton V. Backman Jr., Joseph Smith’s First Vision: Confirming Evidences and Contemporary Accounts, 2nd ed. [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1980], 157, 159).

[18] On the dating of D&C 10, see Parkin, “A Preliminary Analysis of the Dating of Section 10,” 68–84; Lyndon W. Cook, The Revelations of the Prophet Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1985), 122–23. On the dating of the restoration of the Melchizedek Priesthood, see Larry C. Porter, “The Restoration of the Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthoods,” Ensign, December 1996, 30–47.

[19] For evidence of the “Mosiah-first” theory, see Welch, “The Miraculous Translation of the Book of Mormon,” 115–17; Richard L. Bushman, Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling (New York: Alfred Knopf, 2005), 579–80n63

[20] Assigning a date to D&C 10 is very complicated. Some Latter-day Saint scholars propose that “the revelation was given in 1828 and that some additions were made in 1829” (Joseph Fielding McConkie and Craig J. Ostler, Revelations of the Restoration [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2000], 101). On the evidence for the various dates proposed for the reception of D&C 10, see Parkin, “A Preliminary Analysis of the Dating of Section 10,” 68–84. Regardless of the precise date, the revelation still implies that after he lost the 116 manuscript pages, Joseph eventually resumed translating at Mosiah 1, rather than at 1 Nephi 1.

[21] Welch, “The Miraculous Translation of the Book of Mormon,” 88–90.

[22] Oliver Cowdery to W. W. Phelps, Messenger and Advocate, October 1834, 15; see also a portion of this letter appended to the end of Joseph Smith—History in the Pearl of Great Price.

[23] Smith, History of the Church, 1:35; emphasis added.

[24] Robert J. Woodford mistakenly stated that “the earliest account that indicates this revelation was a translation of an ancient parchment” was the version published in the Times and Seasons on July 15, 1842 (Woodford, “The Historical Development of the Doctrine and Covenants,” 1:176, 179).

[25] Cook, The Revelations of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 15; see also H. Michael Marquardt, The Joseph Smith Revelations: Text and Commentary (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1999), 33.

[26] An additional 111 words were added to the revelation in the 1835 expanded version. For a comparison of the two versions, see Marquardt, The Joseph Smith Revelations, 33–35.

[27] Immediately following this, the current edition also adds: “And I will make thee to minister for him and for thy brother James; and unto you three I will give this power and the keys of this ministry until I come” (D&C 7:7). Although the previous verse was addressing Peter, this verse seems to be addressing John again because it mentions “thy brother James.”

[28] Stephen E. Robinson and H. Dean Garrett, A Commentary on the Doctrine and Covenants, 4 vols. (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2000–2005), 1:59. It should be noted, however, that the Joseph Smith Translation does not make any changes to the text of John 21:20–23. For the Joseph Smith Translation of the New Testament, see Thomas A. Wayment, The Complete Joseph Smith Translation of the New Testament (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2005).

[29] Matthews, “A Plainer Translation,” 255–56.

[30] For a study of the work of editors in the Gospels, see Frank F. Judd Jr., “Who Really Wrote the Gospels? A Study of Traditional Authorship,” in How the New Testament Came to Be, ed. Kent P. Jackson and Frank F. Judd Jr. (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2006), 123–40.

[31] C. K. Barrett, The Gospel According to St. John, 2nd ed. (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1978), 587; George R. Beasley-Murray, John, 2nd ed. (Waco, TX: Word Books, 1999), 412.

[32] Bart D. Ehrman, trans., The Apostolic Fathers, 2 vols. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2003), 2:112–13.

[33] Tertullian, An. 50. English translation is from Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson, eds., Ante-Nicene Fathers, 10 vols. (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1994), 3:228.

[34] This includes Clement of Alexandria, Irenaeus, the apocryphal Acts of John, Ambrose, Theodore of Mopsuestia, and Augustine. For references, see Joel C. Elowsky, ed., John 11–21 (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2007), 393–95; Wilhelm Schneemelcher, New Testament Apocrypha, rev. ed. (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1992), 2:23.

[35] Adam Clarke, The New Testament of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, 5:663; emphasis in original

[36] The word translated was used to describe Enoch in the most prominent early English Bibles, including John Wycliffe (1380), William Tyndale (1534), the Great Bible (1539), the Geneva Bible (1560), Rheims (1582), and King James (1611) (see The English Hexapla [London: Samuel Bagster and Sons, 1841]).

[37] Frederick W. Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 3rd ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 642.

[38] Noah Webster, An American Dictionary of the English Language (New York: S. Converse, 1828), s.v. “translated.”

[39] For a full study of the doctrine of translation, see Clyde J. Williams, “The Three Nephites and the Doctrine of Translation,” in The Book of Mormon: Third Nephi 9–30, This Is My Gospel, ed. Monte S. Nyman and Charles D. Tate Jr. (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1993), 237–51.

[40] Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, comp. Joseph Fielding Smith (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1976), 170

[41] Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 171.

[42] This power, protection, and longevity is possibly what the Book of Mormon prophet Alma longed for when he expressed his desire: “O that I were an angel, and could have the wish of mine heart, that I might go forth and speak with the trump of God, with a voice to shake the earth, and cry repentance unto every people! Yea, I would declare unto every soul, as with the voice of thunder, repentance and the plan of redemption, that they should repent and come unto our God, that there might not be more sorrow upon all the face of the earth” (Alma 29:1–2). For Alma, as for the rest of us, that ultimate wish remains unfulfilled as we utilize the gifts God has given mortals to be “an instrument in the hands of God to bring some soul to repentance” (Alma 29:9).

[43] Jonn D. Claybaugh, “What the Latter-day Scriptures Teach about John the Beloved,” in The Testimony of John the Beloved (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1998), 16–35; Claybaugh, “As a Flaming Fire and a Ministering Angel,” 54–60.

[44] Porter, “The Restoration of the Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthoods,” 30–44.

[45] Bruce N. Westergren, ed., From Historian to Dissident: The Book of John Whitmer (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1995), 69; see also Smith, History of the Church, 1:176.

[46] Diary of Oliver B. Huntington, 1847–1900, part 2, 162, typescript in Harold B. Lee Library; cited in Jerry C. Roundy, “The Greatness of Joseph Smith and His Remarkable Visions,” New Era, December 1973, 12.

[47] Orson F. Whitney, Life of Heber C. Kimball (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1967), 91–92.

[48] On this issue, see Kent P. Jackson, Lost Tribes and Last Days: What Modern Revelation Tells Us about the Old Testament (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2005), 62–71.