Doctrine and Covenants, section 25, was a revelation directed to Emma Smith in July of 1830. In my D&C class with Dr. Holzapfel, we literally dissected this revelation verse by verse and it opened my eyes to the several profound, underlying messages that the Lord conveys while speaking to Emma. This section has incredible historical, organizational, and doctrinal significance for the church.
During the 19th century, the role of women was quite limited, and her duties and responsibilities were confined to the home and the family. In this revelation, the Lord shatters this 19th century mold and calls Emma to duties that are traditionally masculine. He sets her up on the same level as Oliver Cowdery when he calls her to “be unto [Joseph] a scribe, while there is no one to be a scribe for him…”. She is also called to be “ordained under [Joseph’s] hand to expound scriptures, and to exhort the church,” and is told “thy time shall be given to writing, and to learning much….verily I say unto thee that thou shalt lay aside the things of this world, and seek for the things of a better.” Traditionally a woman would not have time to participate in such affairs, for her time would be dedicated to running the home and raising the family. But the Lord issues a call to Emma, loud and clear, that he wants her to do more. He wants her to be a significant participant in the restoration of the gospel. We see Emma follow the Lord’s will as she puts together the hymn book and is called to set up the church’s Relief Society in March of 1842.
One of my favorite insights in this revelation is the guidance the Lord gives concerning the nature of husband-wife relationships. This portion of the revelation still stands in the church today as an organizational principle regarding the make-up of the family. One of Emma’s most important callings is to “be for a comfort unto my servant, Joseph Smith, Jun., thy husband, in his afflictions, with consoling words, in the spirit of meekness.” As I pondered this particular call, I discovered a newfound respect for Emma and the magnitude of her role in the restoration. Joseph’s journey was new and difficult and draining. Emma was the one called to follow him on that same journey and then still have the spiritual strength to give comfort, to soothe, to motivate. On the flipside, the Lord counsels Emma “thou needest not fear, for thy husband shall support thee in the church….” Thus, we see the partnership characteristic that is necessary in a husband-wife relationship. Emma has duties to fulfill as well, and so Joseph has the responsibility to sustain her. Celestial couples are synergistic couples.
One of the main messages from this revelation that we discussed in class was that we are actors in our lives. We choose; we have been blessed with the powerful gift of agency. The Lord addresses Emma in verse 2, saying, “if thou art faithful and walk in the paths of virtue before me, I will preserve thy life, and thou shalt receive an inheritance in Zion.” Dr. Holzapfel emphasized the word “if.” This word indicates that Emma is the actor in her life. She is not being acted upon. She chooses whether she will believe and support Joseph without seeing everything he sees. She chooses whether she will “delight in [her] husband, and the glory which shall come upon him.” She chooses whether she will “continue in the spirit of meekness, and beware of pride.” She chose her life’s course, and so can I.