Joseph Smith wrote a letter to the Saints while in Liberty Jail from which have been derived some sections in the Doctrine and Covenants (D&C 121-123). In addition to what we find in the D&C, the letter also contained valuable information that was never canonized and therefore, unfamiliar to many saints today. In the letter written between 20 and 25 March 1839 Joseph explains the following:
"If anything should have been suggested by us, or any names mentioned, except by commandment, or thus saith the Lord, we do not consider it binding; therefore our hearts shall not be grieved if different arrangements should be entered into. Nevertheless we would suggest the propriety of being aware of an aspiring spirit...
To Joseph, when a prophet was acting as a prophet he spoke like a prophet. Joseph made many "thus saith the Lord" pronouncements (D&C 56:14; D&C 86:1, 8; D&C 124:1; etc). His direction to the saints was that unless the brethren had put forth a "commandment," or spoken "thus saith the Lord," they could make arrangements to suit their needs and circumstances. They could seek guidance in living their religion according to the dictates of God's Spirit to them and their families. Joseph was incarcerated and not with the saints, yet they wondered at the continued operation of the church and how to conduct themselves. Joseph explained that he did not consider even the leaders' opinions "binding" upon the saints.
In the same letter, Joseph went on to teach that "outward appearance" is not always the best way to judge a man; he must be judged by his words and deeds. For "lips betray the haughty."
He spoke out against the use of flattery:
"Flattery also is a deadly poison. A frank and open rebuke provoketh a good man to emulation; and in the hour of trouble he will be your best friend; but on the other hand, it will draw out all the corruptions of corrupt hearts, and lying and the poison of asps is under their tongues; and they do cause the pure in heart to be cast into prison, because they want them out of their way" (HC 3:295).
Lastly, there is a verse in D&C 121 which was pulled from Joseph's letter that reads as follows:
"God shall give unto you knowledge by his Holy Spirit, yea, by the unspeakable gift of the Holy Ghost, that has not been revealed since the world was until now" (D&C 121:26).
In the original letter there was a sentence that preceded that verse that helps you understand what is actually required to obtain that unspeakable gift and knowledge. That paragraph of the letter began by saying:
"And now, brethren, after your tribulations, if you do these things, and exercise fervent prayer and faith in the sight of God always, He shall give unto you knowledge by his Holy Spirit, yea, by the unspeakable gift of the Holy Ghost, that has not been revealed since the world was until now" (HC 3:296).
Oh, what we miss out on when we fail to consider context.