- Zion's Camp (D&C: 103) 24 Feb 1834
- First Company leaves Kirtland 1 May 1834
- Second company leaaves Kirthland with Joseph Smith 5 May 1834
- John Davis PARKER member of Zion's Camp
- 1st joins 2nd Zion's Camp company at New Portage, Ohio 7 May 1834
- Zion's Camp crosses Mississippi river into Missouri, 4 and 5 Jun 1834
- Hyrum and recruits from Michigan join Zion's Camp at Salt River, Missouri 8 Jun 1834
- Zion's Camp discharged and start home 3 July 1834
Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Seminary Student Study Guide
Doctrine and Covenants 105 - Zion's Camp
In Doctrine and Covenants 103:22–35 , the Lord gave orders for the organization of Zion’s Camp, a group that was to march to Missouri and assist the Saints who had been driven from their homes (see the introduction to D&C 103 in this study guide, p.117 ). Governor Dunklin of Missouri had promised Church leaders that his state militia would help return the Saints to their homes, properties, and businesses. He also suggested that the Saints may need a militia of their own to help protect their rights after they returned to Jackson County. Zion’s Camp was to be that militia.
Because of pressure from the Saints’ enemies, however, the governor changed his mind concerning the use of the state militia in helping the Saints. By the time he made this decision, Zion’s Camp was already marching toward Missouri. After arriving in Missouri, ParleyP. Pratt, a member of Zion’s Camp and, later, one of the first Apostles of this dispensation, recalled: “We had an interview with the Governor, who readily acknowledged the justice of the demand, but frankly told us he dare not attempt the execution of the laws in that respect, for fear of deluging [burying] the whole country in civil war and bloodshed. He advised us to relinquish [give up] our rights, for the sake of peace, and to sell our lands from which we had been driven” ( Autobiography of ParleyP. Pratt , 94).
Those in Zion’s Camp had suffered hunger, thirst, terrible weather, diseases, and lack of shelter during their march of nearly 1,000 miles. It was difficult for them to think of giving up after such effort and hardship. The Prophet Joseph Smith sought the Lord’s counsel, which came in the revelation in Doctrine and Covenants 105 . In that revelation, the Lord gave additional information about why Zion would not be redeemed at that time and what must occur before Zion will be redeemed. In it the Lord also told the members of Zion’s Camp that He accepted their sacrifices and would bless them for what they were willing to do. A year later, when the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and First Quorum of Seventy were organized, the majority of them were men who had marched in Zion’s Camp, who had proved their faithfulness, and who had spent a considerable length of time during the march learning from and observing the Prophet Joseph Smith.
Would you have volunteered to walk 1,000 miles? Sometimes we learn the most when we volunteer to help with difficult tasks. The Lord needed special men to lead the Church. Zion’s Camp provided an opportunity for the most faithful to be tried and proved in their determination to help with the work. What are some experiences that prepare future leaders today?
After the Lord gave the counsel to recruit men for Zion’s Camp (see D&C 103 ), Church leaders wasted no time making preparations. Many in Kirtland, Ohio, courageously volunteered for what appeared to be a call of great danger—mobs had brutally treated the Saints in Missouri and threatened to do so again. HeberC. Kimball, who would be called as one of the first Apostles of this dispensation, expressed the feelings of many at that time: “We started on the 5th of May (1834), and truly this was a solemn morning to me. I took leave of my wife and children and friends, not knowing whether I would see them again in the flesh, as myself and brethren were threatened both in that country and in Missouri by enemies, that they would destroy us and exterminate us from the land” (in OrsonF. Whitney, Life of HeberC. Kimball , 40). Those who stayed in Kirtland agreed to help the families of the men who volunteered.
This “army of Israel” ( D&C 105:26 ) began their march in early May. They were joined along the way by new recruits from Ohio, Michigan, and Illinois. They kept a military routine, rising at 4 A.M. and marching as many as 35 miles a day. They practiced military drills, but unlike most armies, they also took time for prayer, singing, and gospel study.
Unfortunately, some of the men complained about their hardships or about their leaders’ decisions. On one occasion dissension was so great that the Prophet Joseph Smith warned them that before they left their camp the next day, they would see signs of the Lord’s displeasure with them. The next day, nearly every horse in the camp was sick or lame. The Prophet then told them that if they would humble themselves, repent, and become unified as a group, the animals would immediately receive their health. By noon, all of the animals had recovered, except for that of one man who retained his bitter feelings and tried to stir up others.
For most of the men in Zion’s Camp, their close association with a prophet of God was worth the hardships they endured. Years later, Elder Wilford Woodruff, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, testified: “We gained an experience that we never could have gained in any other way. We had the privilege of beholding the face of the prophet, and we had the privilege of travelling a thousand miles with him, and seeing the workings of the Spirit of God with him, and the revelations of Jesus Christ unto him and the fulfillment of those revelations” (in Journal of Discourses, 13:158).
As Zion’s Camp arrived in Missouri, their enemies were prepared to meet them. While making preparations to camp at Fishing River (where the revelation in D&C 105 was received), a group of Missourians rode into camp. The Prophet Joseph Smith recorded: “Five men armed with guns rode into our camp, and told us we should ‘see hell before morning;’ and their accompanying oaths partook of all the malice of demons. They told us that sixty men were coming from Richmond, Ray county, and seventy more from Clay county, to join the Jackson county mob, who had sworn our utter destruction” ( History of the Church, 2:102–3). The Prophet comforted the members of Zion’s Camp, however, and promised that the Lord would protect them. A short time later, a huge storm began to blow in. While many in Zion’s Camp found shelter in an old Baptist church nearby, the storm ruined the plans of the mobbers, who gave up their efforts to fight the “Mormon army.”
Some were disappointed at the Lord’s revelation in Doctrine and Covenants 105 to not fight, and they murmured against the Prophet and the Lord. As a result, a plague of cholera swept the camp. Fourteen people died, including some of those who had remained faithful. Sometimes the righteous also suffer when there are wicked people among them. The Prophet Joseph Smith promised that if the rebellious would humble themselves and repent, the plague would leave. His words were fulfilled.
Zion’s Camp may not have accomplished what some of the members thought it would, but as the Lord said in Doctrine and Covenants 105:19 , it served as a “trial of their faith.” Some did not pass the test and left the Church, while the faithful were strengthened by their experience. Nine of the first Twelve Apostles in this dispensation were members of Zion’s Camp, along with the first seven Presidents of the Seventy and the other 63 members of the First Quorum of the Seventy. It seems that the Lord used this experience to show who was faithful and whom He could trust (see also D&C 105:35 ).