“Be Patient in Afflictions, for Thou Shalt Have Many”: Finding Christ Again (and Again) in Adversity – Doctrine and Covenants 24
by Matthew L. Bowen
My mind was called across the years
Of rages and of strife
Of all the human misery
And all the waste of life
We wondered where our God was
In the face of so much pain
I looked up to the stars above
To find you once again
“I Have Lifted Thee Up out of Thine Afflictions”: Jesus’s Saving Us from Temporal Afflictions
Although only used twice in the text, a keyword in the revelation that became Doctrine and Covenants 24 is “afflictions.” The revelation begins with a reminder to Joseph Smith, not only of his divine calling, but also of past divine deliverances: “Behold, thou wast called and chosen to write the Book of Mormon, and to my ministry; and I have lifted thee up out of thine afflictions, and have counseled thee, that thou hast been delivered from all thine enemies, and thou hast been delivered from the powers of Satan and from darkness!” (D&C 24:1). In what follows here, we will briefly explore Joseph’s afflictions in the days preceding the reception of Doctrine and Covenants 24, its prescience of his future, and its relevance for us in the present.
Coming to know Christ as our kinsman Redeemer (Heb. gōʾēl) by covenant who buys us back and saves us from sin means, at least sometimes, experiencing his deliverance from temporal afflictions, as the ancient Israelites experienced in the exodus (“Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord [Heb. yĕšûʿat yhwh], which he will shew to you to day,” Exodus 24:13). Joseph had experienced such deliverances more than once. Afflictions from which Joseph Smith had been “lifted up” in the years previous to this revelation included evident acquittal in an 1826 trial for being a “disorderly person” and Martin Harris’s loss of the Book of Mormon manuscript pages, concomitant with Emma and Joseph’s loss of their firstborn son (and the near loss of Emma herself).“Thou hast been delivered from all thine enemies” might remind the reader of the preservation of Joseph and the plates during the Book of Mormon’s translation. The words “thou hast been delivered from the power of Satan and from darkness” perhaps poignantly reminded Joseph, as they do the contemporary reader, of the divine deliverance he experienced before his First Vision. Nevertheless, Doctrine and Covenants 24 emerged from more immediate deliverance from more immediate afflictions and enemies.
A Season of Afflictions
The weeks and months after the church’s formal organization on April 6, 1830 were times of intense persecution for its members and Joseph himself. At the time of the reception of this revelation, Joseph had recently been delivered out of terrifying persecutions and immediate threats to his life.
On June 28, 1830, during the baptisms of his wife Emma Smith, Hezekiah Peck and Martha Long Peck, Joseph Knight and Polly Peck Knight, William Stringham, Joseph Knight Jr., Aaron Culver and Hannah Peck Culver, Levi Hale, Polly Knight, and Julia Stringham, a mob interrupted the services. Joseph recalled: “Before we had yet finished the baptism of these, the same mob began again to collect together, and shortly after we had done and retired to the house of Joseph Knight, the mob had amounted to about fifty men. They surrounded the House, raging with anger, and apparently wishful to commit violence upon us, some of them asked questions, others threatened us, and annoyed us so much that we thought it wisdom to go to the house of Newel Knight.”
The mob followed them to the Newel Knight home where the confirmations were to take place. A constable arrested Joseph before the meeting began:
We had appointed a meeting on the evening of the same day, for the purpose of confirmations, the time appointed had arrived and our friends had nearly all collected together, when to my surprise I was visited by a constable, and arrested by him, on <a> warrant, on a charge of being a disorderly person, of setting the country in an uproar by preaching the Book of Mormon, and various other such like charges. The constable informed me soon after he had arrested me that the plan of those who had got out this warrant, was to get me into the hands of the mob who were now lying in ambust [ambush] for me … but that he was determined to save me from them, as he had found me to be a different kind of person, from what had been represented to him. We got into <had> a wagon to travel in and he I soon found that he had told me the truth in this mater, for not far from Mr Knight’s house the wagon was surrounded by the mob, who seemed only to await some signal from constable, but to their great disappointment—he gave the horse the whip, and left them far behind—and drove me out of their reach …”
The Lord had softened the heart of the constable who seems to have been initially in league with the mob. Consequently, Joseph was delivered from his enemies that night. The constable evacuated Joseph to Bainbridge. Joseph subsequently stood trial and was acquitted after the witnesses “bore such testimony in my favor as left my enemies with out a pretext on their account.”
This, however, was far from the end of Joseph’s troubles. Immediately after his acquittal, another constable served another arrest warrant and within half an hour Joseph was hauled away to Colesville in Broom County. He recollected, “The Constable who served this warrant had no sooner done so than he began to abuse and insult me, and so unfeeling was he with me, that although, I had been kept all the day in court with out any thing to eat since the morning yet he hurried off to Broom County, a distance of about 15 miles we before he allowed me time <to> eat anything.”
It would get worse that night: “He then took me to a Tavern, and gathered in a number of men who used every means to abuse, ridicule, and insult me. They spit on me, pointed their fingers at me, saying to me, prophesy prophesy, and in many <others> ways did the[y] insult me. I applied for some thing to eat, The constable order me some crusts of bread and some water which was the only fare I that night received…” Joseph had gone from the frying pan into the fire.
During this second trial, the tide again turned in Joseph’s favor. Witnesses for Joseph’s defense, in his words, were “enabled to put silence” the prosecution and its witnesses “and convince the courts that I was innocent. They spoke like men inspired of God, whilst their lawyers who were arrayed against me, trembled under the sound of their voice and quailed before them like criminals before a bar of Justice.” At some point during all this, the second more abusive constable had a change of heart and turned in Joseph’s favor: “Even the Constable who had arrested me and who had treated me so badly—now came and apologized to me, and asked my forgiveness of his behaviour towards me. And so far was he changed that he informed me, that the mob were determined; that if the court acquitted me, that they would have me, and rail ride me and tar & feather me, and further told me that he was willing to favor me so, that he would lead me out in safety by a private way.”
Joseph was again “acquitted to the great satisfaction of my friends and vexation of my enemies; who were now once more set for me [i.e., again lay in wait to assault him], but through the instrumentality of my new friend the Constable I was enabled to escape them, and make my way in safety to my wife’s sister’s house[,] where I found my wife—with whom I next day returned to my own house.” The Lord had not only “counseled” Joseph in amply providing for his acquittal (legal counsel), but “counseled” Joseph through enemies-turned-friends with the result that he had “been delivered from all … enemies” (D&C 24:1).
“Be Patient in Afflictions, For Thou Shalt Have Many … I am with Thee, Even unto the End of Thy Days”
It was within the wake of these distressing persecutions, arrests, abuses, trials, all while involuntarily separated from family, that the Lord told Joseph: “Be patient in afflictions, for thou shalt have many; but endure them, for, lo I am with thee, even unto the end of thy days” (D&C 24:8). The Lord had given Joseph multiple witnesses—including his friends acting as literal witnesses—that he was with him during these actual trials. And the revelation in Doctrine and Covenants stood as one more witness of this truth.
The Lord’s promise to Joseph Smith—“lo, I am with thee, even unto the end of thy days”—poignantly quotes the promise that the Lord made to Moses after he had overcome an encounter with and an assault from Satan with divine help (see Moses 1:12), in a revealed translation that Joseph had received by revelation within the previous month: “And lo, I am with thee, even unto the end of thy days; for thou shalt deliver my people from bondage, even Israel my chosen” (Moses 1:26). Joseph would play a similar prophetic role for latter-day Israel (see 2 Nephi 3:6-24; D&C 113:3-6).
“The Fellowship of His Sufferings”: Finding Christ Again (and Again) in the Sacrament
Joseph, as the prophet-leader of a nascent latter-day church, came (and would come) to know what the members of Christ’s nascent church during New Testament times came to know during times of severe Roman persecution. Wrote Peter: “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: but rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of [koinōneite, you partner in/share in] Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy” (1 Peter 4:12). Joseph had become a partaker or partner “of Christ’s sufferings” as he recognized.
Joseph and the early saints of this dispensation became a part of what Paul described as “the fellowship [koinōnian] of [Christ’s] sufferings” (Philippians 3:10). It is in that “fellowship” that they found Christ again and again. Regarding this fellowship, Elder Neal A. Maxwell wrote, “being admitted fully to ‘the fellowship of his sufferings’ requires the full dues of discipleship. Elder Bruce C. Hafen noted that these dues included being afflicted in each other’s affliction: “When we really are afflicted in the afflictions of other people, we may enter ‘the fellowship of his sufferings.’” Paul, Peter, and the early saints, paid the full dues of discipleship. They knew something about afflictions generally and incarceration in particular. The Savior himself had suffered such (“In all their affliction[s] he was afflicted,” Isaiah 63:9; D&C 133:53; cf. Isaiah 53:7). Joseph’s experiences in prisons and courts recall not only the prison scenes in the Acts of the Apostles, but the arrest and confinement to which the Savior himself was subjected (see Matthew 26:57–27:31; John 18:12-40) before crucifixion.
We partake of the sacrament of the Lord’s supper “that we may ever witness the suff’rings of” Christ. Paul reminded the Corinthian saints, “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion [Greek koinōnia, fellowship, partnership] of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion [koinōnia, fellowship, partnership] of the body of Christ? For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers [metechomen] of that one bread” (1 Corinthians 10:16-17). Always remembering Christ’s sufferings and afflictions helps us find Christ in our own.
Conclusion: “Thine Afflictions Shall Be But for a Small Moment”
The Lord “lifted” Joseph Smith “up out of his afflictions” time and time again, just as he lifts us up out of ours. Just eight and a half years later Joseph would find himself feeling utterly forsaken (“O God, where art thou?”) in Liberty Jail. The Lord’s response recalled previous assurance to Joseph regarding afflictions: “My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment” (D&C 121:7). This promise remains consonant with the Lord’s promise to scattered Israel-Judah: “For a small moment have I forsaken thee; but with great mercies will I gather thee” (Isaiah 54:7). The Lamanites and Nephites heard Jesus speak the same words at the temple in Bountiful after brief but unimaginable afflictions (see 3 Nephi 22:7).
Liberty Jail would not be the end of Joseph Smith’s troubles. That end would only come on June 27, 1844 at Carthage Jail—a day short of fourteen years from the events of June 28-30, 1830. The Lord had kept his promise from July 1830, “I am with thee, even unto the end of thy days” (D&C 24:8). He continued to keep his promise at Liberty Jail, “thy God shall stand by thee forever and ever” (D&C 122:4). The Lord never promised Joseph—nor does he promise us—an absence of afflictions. He does promise to stand with us in them. And he does.
More Come, Follow Me resources here.
 Jesus’s naming—Hebrew/Aramaic yēšûaʿ (“the Lord is salvation”), Greek Iēsous—is explained thus in Matthew 1:21: “And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS [Iēsoun < yēšûaʿ]: for he shall save [sōsei ≅ yôšîaʿ] his people from their sins.”
 Regarding this trial, see Gordon A. Madsen, “Being Acquitted of a ‘Disorderly Person’ Charge in 1826,” in Gordon A. Madsen, Jeffrey N. Walker, and John W. Welch, eds., Sustaining the Law: Joseph Smith’s Legal Encounters (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Studies, 2014), 71–92; Marvin S. Hill, “Joseph Smith and the 1826 Trial: New Evidence and New Difficulties,” BYU Studies, vol. 12, no. 2 (Apr. 1972), 223-33.
 See also Karen Lynn Davidson, David J. Whittaker, Mark Ashurst-McGee, and Richard L. Jensen, ed., The Joseph Smith Papers: Histories, Volume 1: Joseph Smith Histories, 1832-1844 (Salt Lake City: Church Historian’s Press, 2012), 395. See also Larry C. Porter, “The Colesville Branch and the Coming Forth of the Book of Mormon,” BYU Studies 10/3 (1970): 5.
 In Draft 2 of his history, Joseph concludes regarding those who persecuted him while under arrest, “[A]nd thus did they imitate those who crucified the Saviour of mankind not knowing what they did.” JSP, Histories, 402, 404.
 “Collection of Sacred Hymns, 1835,” p. 75, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed March 6, 2021, https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/collection-of-sacred-hymns-1835/77. “O God, the Eternal Father,” Hymns of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1985), #175.
Matthew L. Bowen is an associate professor of Religious Education at Brigham Young University–Hawaii where he has taught since 2012. He holds a Ph.D. in Biblical Studies from the Catholic University of America in Washington, DC, where he also earned an M.A (Biblical Studies). He previously earned a B.A. in English with a minor in Classical Studies (Greek emphasis) from Brigham Young University (Provo) and subsequently pursued post-Baccalaureate studies in Semitic languages, Egyptian, and Latin there. In addition to having taught at Brigham Young University–Hawaii, he has previously taught at the Catholic University of America and at Brigham Young University. Bowen is the author of numerous peer-reviewed articles on scripture- and temple-related topics as well as the recent book Name as Key-Word: Collected Essays on Onomastic Wordplay and the Temple in Mormon Scripture. Bowen grew up in Orem, Utah, and served a two-year mission in the California Roseville Mission. He and his wife, the former Suzanne Blattberg, are the parents of three children, Zachariah, Nathan, and Adele.