Brethren demonstrated readiness for leadership during Zion's Camp trek

In November 1833 the Saints were forced to flee from their homes in Jackson County, Mo., despite bitterly cold weather. The following February the Lord called for volunteers to aid these exiles in recovering their homes (D&C 103). That spring, more than 200 men, known as "Zion's Camp," marched nearly 1,000 often-trackless miles to Missouri, experiencing great tribulations. When they arrived, promised help from the state militia was withdrawn, so the immediate goal of restoring the Saints to their homes was frustrated.

Some critics described this venture as a failure, but the difficult march did provide Brigham Young and others with practical experience for the later, more arduous trek of the Pioneers to the Rocky Mountains. The march of Zion's Camp also provided a test in which these brethren demonstrated their readiness to respond to the Lord's call. Furthermore, their close associations with the Prophet over a period of several weeks provided an unequaled opportunity for spiritual growth.

In February 1835 Joseph Smith indicated that he wanted to meet with those "who went up to Zion in the camp, the previous summer, for [heT had a blessing for them." Consequently, on Saturday, Feb. 14, the veterans of Zion's Camp and others who "were disposed to attend" met under the Prophet's direction in the "new school house under the printing office." After inviting those who had participated in Zion's Camp to sit together in a group, Joseph reviewed their trials and then declared that "God had not designed all this for nothing, but He had it in remembrance yet; and it was the will of God that those who went to Zion, with a determination to lay down their lives, if necessary, should be ordained to the ministry, and go forth to prune the vineyard for the last time."

After Joseph Smith spoke about calling the Twelve, the elders present sustained his proposition that "the Spirit of the Lord dictate in choice of the Elders to be Apostles." He next directed the Three Witnesses to the Book of Mormon to join in prayer and then to "choose twelve men from the Church, as Apostles, to go to all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people" (History of the Church 2:181-7). This was consistent with the Lord's revelation given to two of the Three Witnesses six years before (D&C 18:26-39). "It was preeminently proper," Elder B. H. Roberts concluded, "that these Twelve [specialT Witnesses should be chosen by the Three very special Witnesses - witnesses of the Book of Mormon in particular, and of God's marvelous work in general" (HC 2:187). Nine of these twelve individuals had served in Zion's Camp.

Two weeks later, another council convened at which Joseph Smith chose the Seventy from among those who had participated in the Zion's Camp march. He explained that "the Seventies are to constitute traveling quorums, to go into all the earth, whithersoever the Twelve Apostles shall call them." Soon afterwards, speaking to the elders in Kirtland, Joseph remarked: "Brethren, some of you are angry with me, because you did not fight in Missouri; but let me tell you, God did not want you to fight. He could not organize His kingdom with twelve men to open the Gospel door to the nations of the earth, and with seventy men under their direction to follow in their tracks, unless He took them from a body of men who had offered their lives, and who had made as great a sacrifice as did Abraham. Now the Lord has got His Twelve and His Seventy" (Joseph Young, "History of the Organization of the Seventies," quoted in HC 2:182).

Just one month after the Seventy were called the Lord gave the great revelation (D&C 107) setting forth His instructions concerning the duties of the Twelve and the Seventies, as well as other priesthood officers. - Richard O. Cowan

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