Lesson 36: “The Desert Shall Rejoice, and Blossom as the Rose”

Doctrine and Covenants and Church History: Gospel Doctrine Teacher’s Manual, (1999), 208–12


Purpose

To help class members understand how they have been blessed by the sacrifices of the early Saints in the Salt Lake Valley and to encourage them to follow the example of these faithful members.

Preparation

  1. 1.

    Prayerfully study Our Heritage, pages 81–96.

  2. 2.

    Review the material for this lesson in the Class Member Study Guide (35686). Plan ways to refer to the material during the lesson.

  3. 3.

    Ask class members to prepare to summarize the following sections from Our Heritage:

    1. a.

      “The First Year in the Valley” and “Explorations” (pages 82–84).

    2. b.

      “Callings to Colonize” (pages 86–89).

    3. c.

      “Missionaries Answer the Call” (pages 84–86).

    4. d.

      “Missionary Work” (pages 93–96).

  4. 4.

    If the following pictures are available, prepare to display them during the lesson: Salt Lake Temple (62433; Gospel Art Picture Kit 502; page 210 in this manual); Brigham Young (Gospel Art Picture Kit 507); and John Taylor (Gospel Art Picture Kit 508).

Suggestions for Lesson Development

Attention Activity

As appropriate, use the following activity or one of your own to begin the lesson.

Display a picture of the Salt Lake Temple. Explain that deep in the ground underneath the temple is a strong foundation of stone blocks. The foundation has supported this magnificent temple for over 150 years.

Salt Lake Temple

Salt Lake Temple. Dedicated in 1893, this temple took 40 years to build.

  • Why is it so important that the foundation of a building be strong and deep?

Explain that just as buildings require strong foundations, so do our lives. This lesson discusses the building of the Salt Lake Temple and the efforts of the pioneers to colonize their new home and spread the gospel. It also discusses some of the foundation principles upon which the early Saints built their lives and how we can learn from their examples.

Discussion and Application

Prayerfully select the lesson material that will best meet class members’ needs. Encourage class members to share experiences that relate to the principles you discuss.

1. “Right here will stand the temple of our God.”

Explain that on 28 July 1847, four days after arriving in the Salt Lake Valley, President Brigham Young stood on the spot where the Salt Lake Temple now stands. He struck his cane on the ground and said, “Right here will stand the temple of our God” (in Wilford Woodruff, Deseret Evening News, 25 July 1888, 2). Thus the sacrifice and blessings of building another temple began.

Elder John A. Widtsoe of the Quorum of the Twelve said, “The pioneers were hungry and weary; they needed food and rest; a hostile desert looked them in the face; yet in the midst of such physical requirements they turned first to the building of temples and to the spiritual food and strength that the temples provide” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1943, 38).

Within one week after President Young marked the spot for the temple, the Saints began surveying the new city, with the temple at the center of the survey. The layout of the city focused the people on the temple.

  • Why should the temple be central in our lives today? (See the following quotation.) How can we make the temple a more important part of our lives?

    President Howard W. Hunter taught:

    “We … emphasize the personal blessings of temple worship and the sanctity and safety that are provided within those hallowed walls. It is the house of the Lord, a place of revelation and of peace. As we attend the temple, we learn more richly and deeply the purpose of life and the significance of the atoning sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ. Let us make the temple, with temple worship and temple covenants and temple marriage, our ultimate earthly goal and the supreme mortal experience. …

    “May you let the meaning and beauty and peace of the temple come into your everyday life more directly” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1994, 118; or Ensign, Nov. 1994, 87–88).

Display a picture of the Salt Lake Temple. Explain that excavation for the large foundation was done by hand, requiring thousands of hours of labor. The cornerstones were laid on 6 April 1853. After a few years of work on the foundation, the Saints stopped work because of a problem with the United States government. The president of the United States had heard false stories that the Saints were rebelling against the government, so he sent an army to the Salt Lake Valley. In response, President Young had the Saints cover the foundation with dirt to make it look like an ordinary field.

When the Saints later unearthed the sandstone foundation, they noticed cracks in the rocks. They removed the sandstone and replaced it with solid granite blocks. President Young insisted that only the best materials and craftsmanship be used in the construction of the temple. He said:

“I want to see the temple built in a manner that it will endure through the Millennium. This is not the only temple we shall build; there will be hundreds of them built and dedicated to the Lord. … And when the Millennium is over, … I want that temple still to stand as a proud monument of the faith, perseverance and industry of the Saints of God in the mountains, in the nineteenth century” (Discourses of Brigham Young, sel. John A. Widtsoe [1941], 395).

It took years for the Saints to quarry, transport, and shape the granite blocks for the construction of the temple. During this time, they struggled just to survive, as they lost crops to the elements, served missions in faraway lands, and accepted calls to leave their homes and establish communities in remote areas. In spite of these many challenges, the Saints persevered, and with the Lord’s help they prevailed. The Salt Lake Temple was dedicated in 1893, 40 years after the cornerstones had been laid.

  • What can we learn from the perseverance of the Saints as they built the Salt Lake Temple? How can the Saints’ example of perseverance help us?

    When Jeffrey R. Holland was president of Brigham Young University, he compared the building of our lives to the building of the Salt Lake Temple:

    “The prestigious Scientific American referred to [the Salt Lake Temple] as a ‘monument to Mormon perseverance.’ And so it was. Blood, toil, tears, and sweat. The best things are always worth finishing. ‘Know ye not that ye are the temple of God?’ (1 Corinthians 3:16.) Most assuredly we are. As long and laborious as the effort may seem, we must keep shaping and setting the stones that will make our accomplishments ‘a grand and imposing spectacle.’ We must take advantage of every opportunity to learn and grow, dream dreams and see visions, work toward their realization, wait patiently when we have no other choice, lean on our sword and rest a while, but get up and fight again. … We are laying the foundation of a great work—our own inestimable future” (However Long and Hard the Road [1985], 127).

2. The Saints were obedient as they settled and colonized the Salt Lake Valley and the surrounding areas.

Explain that the Saints faced great challenges as they began the task of settling the Salt Lake Valley and the surrounding areas. Ask the assigned class member to summarize the sections “The First Year in the Valley” and “Explorations” from Our Heritage, pages 82–84.

  • What characteristics helped the Saints overcome the great difficulties they faced during their first years in the Salt Lake Valley? What situations in our lives today might require these same characteristics?

  • How were the Saints blessed during their times of adversity? How has the Lord blessed you in times of adversity?

Ask the assigned class member to summarize the section “Callings to Colonize” from Our Heritage, pages 86–89.

  • What impresses you about the stories of Charles Lowell Walker and Charles C. Rich?

Explain that these two brethren and their families are great examples of obedience. One of the great teachings of Church history is that we will be blessed as we obey the Lord and follow His prophets. The Doctrine and Covenants also contains many teachings about the blessings of obedience. Read the following scriptures with class members. Discuss what each passage teaches about obedience, as shown below.

  1. a.

    D&C 58:2–4. (If we keep the commandments and are “faithful in tribulation,” we will be “crowned with much glory.”)

  2. b.

    D&C 64:33–34. (Those who are willing and obedient will be blessed in the land of Zion in the last days.)

  3. c.

    D&C 82:10. (The Lord is bound when we do what He says. He will bless us when we obey His commandments.)

  4. d.

    D&C 93:1. (Those who repent, come unto the Savior, and keep His commandments will see His face.)

  5. e.

    D&C 130:19–21. (A person who gains more knowledge and intelligence through diligence and obedience in this life will have an advantage in the world to come. We obtain blessings by obeying God’s laws.)

  • What experiences could you appropriately share that have taught you the importance of obedience? Although we are not called to colonize new areas, in what ways are we asked to obey the prophet today? What feelings do you have when you are obedient to God’s will?

3. Missionaries made sacrifices to teach the gospel throughout the world.

Explain that while the Saints settled in the Salt Lake Valley, President Brigham Young called many missionaries to serve throughout the world. Ask the assigned class member to summarize the section “Missionaries Answer the Call” from Our Heritage, pages 84–86.

  • In what areas of the world did the Saints preach the gospel while President Brigham Young led the Church? What sacrifices did these early Saints make to share the gospel with people around the world?

  • How did the faith and prayers of Elder Lorenzo Snow help open the hearts of the people in Italy to the gospel message?

  • What can we learn from the examples of Elder Edward Stevenson? Elizabeth and Charles Wood? Elder Joseph F. Smith?

President Brigham Young led the Church for 33 years. After President Young died in 1877, John Taylor led the Church for three years as President of the Quorum of the Twelve and was then sustained as President of the Church on 10 October 1880 (Our Heritage, page 93).

Explain that under President Taylor’s leadership, the Saints continued to preach the gospel throughout the world. Ask the assigned class member to summarize the section “Missionary Work” from Our Heritage, pages 93–96.

  • In what areas of the world did the Saints preach the gospel while President John Taylor led the Church?

  • How was Milton Trejo guided throughout his life to be able to participate in building the kingdom of God? How can we better prepare ourselves to build the kingdom of God?

  • What can we learn from the stories of Elder Thomas Biesinger? Elders Kimo Pelio and Samuela Manoa? Elder and Sister Dean? Jonathan and Kitty Napela?

Conclusion

Point out that in the Salt Lake Valley, the Saints built a strong foundation for the Lord’s temple and for their lives. Encourage class members to follow the early Saints’ example of faith, perseverance, obedience, and desire to share the gospel. As prompted by the Spirit, testify of the truths discussed during the lesson.