To receive a dispensation is to be called and chosen for a work.  As God said to Moses while they talked face to face: “And I have a work for thee, Moses, my son” (Moses 1:6).

Receiving a dispensation requires one to exercise “the keys whereby he may ask and receive, and be crowned with [a] blessing, and glory, and honor, and priesthood, and gifts of the priesthood” (DC 124:5). This priesthood is received with an “oath and covenant,” “not by man, nor by the will of man, but of God…by the calling of his own voice, according to his own will” (DC 84:40, JST Gen. 14:29).   When one exercises those keys, receiving the attendant blessings comes with being shown things by God in vision, of which they can then bear testimony (DC 124:96).

Having entered into the rest of the Lord, their calling is to persuade others to repent, “to teach his commandments unto the children of men, that they also might enter into his rest” (Alma 13:6).  “Now this Moses plainly taught to the children of Israel in the wilderness, and sought diligently to sanctify his people that they might behold the face of God; But they hardened their hearts and could not endure his presence; therefore, the Lord in his wrath, for his anger was kindled against them, swore that they should not enter into his rest while in the wilderness, which rest is the fulness of his glory” (DC 84:23-24).  Moses’ dispensation saved only himself, but came with the mandate to invite others up the mountain to receive their own dispensations.  They can then be among those dispensations gathered by Adam, when he gathers all things together in one in Christ Jesus.

Those who are on the Lord’s errand with their own dispensation are the “servants” of Matthew 21, whose duty is to bring that season’s fruit to the Lord of the vineyard.  Their ministry was never well received by the chief priests and scribes (“the husbandmen”) of ancient Israel, and they are not well received by the chief priests and scribes of the Gentiles (JST matt 21).

The spread of the gospel is supposed to be simple: People who have been redeemed invite others to be redeemed. It is to be spread anecdotally by those who have real experience with heaven  If a person has not entered into the presence of God, they are not qualified to lead anyone else there.  Anyone who wants to be qualified to lead others to salvation must first receive a dispensation empowering them to do so.   We are never obligated to follow anyone simply because of their title or office.  We should only give heed to those whose “views have been glorious” (2 nephi 1:24).  Joseph Smith, in June 1839, taught:

Salvation cannot come without revelation, it is in vain for anyone to minister without it. No man is a minister of Jesus Christ, without being a Prophet. No man can be the minister of Jesus Christ, except he has the testimony of Jesus & this is the Spirit of Prophecy. Whenever Salvation has been administered it has been by Testimony. Men at the present time testify of Heaven & of hell, & have never seen either–& I will say that no man knows these things without this.

Joseph clarifies what he means by revelation.  He doesn’t mean receiving a nice feeling while reading the scriptures, or even feeling a call to preach, or feeling strong emotions in reaction to another’s preaching.  All of contemporary Christianity possesses those things. He means “being a Prophet”, and receiving “the testimony of Jesus,” which comes by real experience with Christ.

He clarifies what he means by bearing “testimony.”  He doesn’t mean simply sharing a personal belief or conviction customarily clothed in language of “knowledge”. He meant actually seeing Heaven and Hell and bearing straightforward witness to that fact.  Joseph’s witness was always unadorned by “a fanciful and flowery and heated imagination.”   He knew that “the things of God are of deep import and time, and experience and careful and ponderous and solemn thoughts can only find them out.”  He never gave the impression that he knew more than he did.  He could claim “to lead a soul unto salvation”, only because he had “commune[d] with God” himself (Letter, 20 march 1839).

While it is the tendency of almost all men to attempt to coerce obedience and compliance from others using their supposed power and authority, those who have received dispensations use other methods.  They confine themselves to teaching “by persuasion, by long suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; by kindness and pure knowledge” (DC 121:45).   It is only by restraining themselves in that way, with virtue and charity, that their “confidence [can] wax strong in the presence of God” as they receive their dispensation, an “unchanging scepter of righteousness,” (ibid, v. 46).   Only those who possess meekness, humility, and restraint can be chosen to do the Lord’s work, which can only be done “according to his own will.”  In this way, virtue, or restraint, precedes righteousness.

The ministry of one who receives a dispensation doesn’t end at his death. If he endures to the end and faithfully discharges the responsibilities given him, then he continues his ministry in another sphere.  Joseph Smith said of such men:

Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister to those who shall be heirs of Salvation?…

By Faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent Sacrifice than Cain by which he obtained witness that he was righteous God testifying of his gifts and by it he being dead yet speaketh. how doth ye yet speak?

Why he magnified the Priesthood which was confired upon him and died a righteous man, and therefore has become an angel of God by receiving his body from the dead, therefore holding still the keys of his dispensation and was sent down from heaven unto Paul to minister consoling words & to commit unto him a knowledge of the mysteries of Godliness and if this was not the case I would ask how did Paul know so much about Abel and why should he talk about his speaking after he was dead. How that he spoke after he was dead must be, by being sent down out of heaven, to administer (October 5, 1840).

Those who receive and faithfully discharge dispensations then join the ranks of those sent by Adam to conduct men into the presence of the Son.  They retain the keys of their dispensation, and can, like Abel did for Paul and diverse angels did for Joseph Smith, declare “their dispensation, their rights, their keys, their honors, their majesty and glory, and the power of their priesthood” (DC 128:21). Those who want to be heirs of salvation should earnestly seek to commune with such beings, because if without that communion “they are as though there had been no redemption made” (Moroni 7:38).