Prayerfully select the lesson material that will best meet class members’ needs. You may want to use two class periods to teach this lesson.
1. The Saints settle in Jackson County, Missouri, and are later driven out.
Briefly review the following historical information. Remind class members that from 1831 to 1838, the Church had two centers of population—one in Kirtland, Ohio, and the other in western Missouri. Important events were happening in both places. Lessons 27 and 28 focus on doctrines and events associated with the Church in Missouri.
In July 1831, Joseph Smith made his first journey to Missouri. There he received a revelation designating Missouri as the place for the city of Zion, with Independence as the center place (D&C 57:1–3). On 2 August, Sidney Rigdon dedicated the land for the gathering of the Saints. The next day the Prophet Joseph Smith dedicated the temple site in Independence.
Members from the Colesville Branch in New York were the first Saints to settle Missouri, and others soon gathered there, eager to help build the city of Zion (D&C 63:24, 36). By 1832 there were more than 800 Saints gathered into five branches in Independence and the surrounding areas of Jackson County.
The Saints in Jackson County enjoyed a time of peace and optimism. However, problems arose in late 1832. Some members would not accept the authority of their local Church leaders. Others criticized the Prophet Joseph, who had returned to Kirtland. Some members were contentious, covetous, selfish, and unbelieving.
In addition, tensions with other settlers in the area were increasing. On 20 July 1833, these tensions escalated into violence. Ask the assigned class member to summarize the sections “Persecution in Jackson County” and “Tarring and Feathering of Bishop Partridge” from Our Heritage, pages 39–40 and 41–42.
Between July and November 1833, persecutions against the Saints intensified. Mobs burned their crops, destroyed their homes, whipped and beat the men, and terrorized the women and children.
On 4 November, near the Big Blue River, members of the mob began a battle against a small group of Latter-day Saint men and boys (Our Heritage, pages 42–43). During the next two days more than 1,000 Saints were driven from Jackson County in the bitter cold. Destitute, most of them crossed the Missouri River and found temporary refuge in Clay County. Ask the assigned class member to summarize the section “Refuge in Clay County” from Our Heritage, pages 43–44.
3. Zion’s Camp is organized and marches to Missouri.
Explain that after the Saints were driven from Jackson County, they petitioned Governor Daniel Dunklin of Missouri for assistance in restoring their homes and for protection. The governor expressed a willingness to help if the Saints would organize a group of men for their own protection.
In February 1834, Joseph Smith received word of this offer in Kirtland, Ohio. He responded by organizing a group of men to march nearly 1,000 miles to carry relief to the Saints in Missouri, help them return to their lands, and protect them afterward. The revelation giving directions for this expedition, which came to be known as Zion’s Camp, is recorded in D&C 103.
Ask the assigned class member to review the story of Zion’s Camp from Our Heritage, pages 27–29 and 44–45. To show the distance between Kirtland and Missouri, you may want to refer to map 3 on page 276 in this manual and page 31 in the Class Member Study Guide.
As directed by the Lord in D&C 103, Joseph Smith organized Zion’s Camp to help the Saints in Jackson County regain their homes and lands. What was the outcome of Zion’s Camp with regard to this purpose? (After the camp had traveled nearly 1,000 miles to Fishing River, near Jackson County, the Lord revealed that the Saints would have to wait for the redemption of Zion. Soon afterward, the Prophet disbanded the camp.)
When Brigham Young returned to Kirtland after Zion’s Camp, he was asked, “What have you gained by this journey?” He replied, “Just what we went for; … I would not exchange the knowledge I have received this season for the whole of [this] County” (in Journal of Discourses, 2:10). What important purposes did Zion’s Camp accomplish? (Answers could include those listed below.)
The participants were strengthened by several miraculous manifestations of the Lord’s power (see Our Heritage, pages 44–45, for one example).
It provided an opportunity to try the faith of the participants, allowing them to prove that they would obey the Lord and sacrifice all things, even their lives if necessary, to do His will.
It served as a proving ground to determine who was faithful to serve in positions of Church leadership.
It gave participants an opportunity to associate closely with the Prophet and learn from him, preparing them for future leadership responsibilities.
Explain that while some people thought Zion’s Camp was a failure, the accomplishment of these purposes was of great importance to the Church. Zion’s Camp is an example of how God’s purposes can be accomplished in ways that we may not understand at the time.
How did the experience of Zion’s Camp prepare future leaders of the Church?
In February 1835, five months after the camp was disbanded, the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and the First Quorum of the Seventy were organized. Nine of the Twelve Apostles and all 70 members of the Quorum of the Seventy had served in Zion’s Camp. Speaking of how the camp helped prepare these leaders, Joseph Smith said:
“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” (History of the Church, 2:182).
The experience of George A. Smith demonstrates how Zion’s Camp prepared men for future leadership in the Church. At age 16, he was the youngest man in the camp, inexperienced and lacking confidence. Despite personal discomfort and the complaints of many men about the poor conditions, George willingly followed all of Joseph Smith’s instructions. George slept in the Prophet’s tent and was able to hear much of his counsel and instructions. By closely associating with the Prophet, George learned leadership skills and developed strength that prepared him for a lifetime of leadership. Less than five years after Zion’s Camp, George A. Smith was ordained an Apostle. He later served with Brigham Young as a member of the First Presidency.
What can we learn from the experiences of Zion’s Camp that we can apply in our lives? (Some possible answers are listed below, with questions to encourage discussion.)
An understanding of the purposes of trials. What were some of the trials associated with Zion’s Camp? What can the experiences of Zion’s Camp teach us about the purposes of trials in our lives? (See D&C 103:12.)
The importance of obedience. What can we learn from Zion’s Camp about obedience? (See D&C 103:7–10, 36.)
The need to be willing to sacrifice all things for the Lord. What can we learn from Zion’s Camp about sacrifice? (See D&C 103:27–28.) Why does the Lord require us to be willing to sacrifice all things for Him? How can we develop such a willingness? How can we show this willingness now?
The importance of being unified in the Lord’s work. Point out that when even a few people murmur and rebel, the entire group is weakened.
The importance of sustaining the prophet and following his counsel even when it is difficult or when we do not fully understand the reasons for it.