To teach class members about the restoration of the Church of Jesus Christ through the Prophet Joseph Smith, to help them appreciate the blessings of Church membership, and to encourage them to show the Lord their gratitude for membership in His Church.
Prayerfully study the following scriptures and other materials:
Review the material for this lesson in the Class Member Study Guide (35686). Plan ways to refer to the material during the lesson.
If you use the second attention activity, bring a piece of paper and a pen or pencil for each class member.
Suggestions for Lesson Development
As appropriate, use one of the following activities to begin the lesson. Select the activity that would be most appropriate for the class.
If your class is small, ask each class member to briefly share one reason why he or she is grateful to be a member of the Church. If the class is large, you may want to assign a few class members to do this.
Write the following questions on the chalkboard. Give each class member a piece of paper and a pen or pencil. Ask them to write down the answers to as many of these questions as they can:
On what date was the Church organized in this dispensation?
How did Joseph Smith know when the Church should be organized?
Where was the Church organized?
How many members did the Church have when it was first organized?
Explain that this lesson discusses the latter-day organization of the Church of Jesus Christ. Invite class members to listen for the answers to the questions as the lesson progresses and to write down or correct their answers as needed.
Discussion and Application
Prayerfully select the scripture passages, questions, and other lesson material that will best meet class members’ needs. Discuss how the selected scriptures apply to daily life. Encourage class members to share experiences that relate to the scriptural principles.
1. The Church is organized in the latter days.
Explain that 1830 was a momentous time in the history of the world. The time had come for ancient prophecies to be fulfilled (Isaiah 11:11–12; 29:13–14; Jeremiah 31:31–33; Daniel 2:44–45). After the Book of Mormon was published and the priesthood was restored, the next major step in the restoration of the gospel was the formal organization of the Church. Doctrine and Covenants 20 contains instructions from the Lord to Joseph Smith about organizing the Church.
Ten years passed between the First Vision and the organization of the Church. During this time, what events occurred to prepare the way for the organization of the Church and to prepare Joseph Smith to lead it? (You may want to list answers on the chalkboard. If necessary, see the following quotation to help answer this question.)
While serving in the Quorum of the Twelve, Elder Gordon B. Hinckley said:
“This day of organization was, in effect, a day of commencement, the graduation for Joseph from ten years of remarkable schooling. It had begun with the incomparable vision in the grove in the spring of 1820, when the Father and the Son appeared to the fourteen-year-old boy. It had continued with the tutoring from Moroni, with both warnings and instructions given on multiple occasions. Then there was the translation of the ancient record, and the inspiration, the knowledge, the revelation that came from that experience. There was the bestowal of divine authority, the ancient priesthood again conferred upon men by those who were its rightful possessors—John the Baptist in the case of the Aaronic Priesthood, and Peter, James, and John in the case of the Melchizedek. There were revelations, a number of them, in which the voice of God was heard again, and the channel of communication opened between man and the Creator. All of these were preliminary to that historic April 6” (“150-Year Drama: A Personal View of Our History,” Ensign, Apr. 1980, 11–12).
How did the coming forth of the Book of Mormon help prepare the way for the restoration of the gospel? (See D&C 20:6–12.) How did the restoration of the priesthood help prepare the way? (Priesthood authority was necessary to lead the Church and officiate in the ordinances of salvation.)
Explain that on 6 April 1830, Joseph Smith and more than 50 other people met at the log home of Peter Whitmer Sr. in Fayette, New York, for the organization of the Church. New York law required that a church have at least six members to be formally organized. So six men, all of whom had been baptized and had seen the gold plates, became the first official members of the Church. These men were Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, Hyrum Smith, Peter Whitmer Jr., Samuel H. Smith, and David Whitmer (see History of the Church, 1:76; for additional historical background, see Our Heritage, pages 14–16).
By what name was the Church called when it was organized? (See D&C 20:1.) Explain that the Church was also called by other names in its early years, but in April 1838 the Lord revealed the name by which His Church was to be known. What name did the Lord give His Church? (See D&C 115:4.) Why is it important that the Lord’s Church be called in His name? (See 3 Nephi 27:8.)
You may want to explain that the name Mormon is a nickname given to the Church because of the Book of Mormon. We prefer to call our Church by its complete name to emphasize our belief in the Savior, Jesus Christ.
If you used the second attention activity, briefly review the answers to the questions (all answers are given in the preceding discussion).
2. The Lord commands Church members to follow the prophet.
During the meeting at which the Church was organized, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery were sustained as the presiding officers of the Church (History of the Church, 1:77). The Lord also gave a revelation instructing members of the Church to follow Joseph Smith as the prophet. This revelation is recorded in D&C 21.
Read D&C 1:38 and D&C 21:4–5 with class members. What do these verses teach about how we should regard the words of the prophet? (Point out that while the statements in D&C 21 were spoken about Joseph Smith, they also apply to the prophets who have succeeded him.) Where can we find the words of the living prophet? (Answers could include in official letters, general conference, and Church magazines.) What counsel or teachings of latter-day prophets have been especially meaningful to you?
In D&C 21:5, the Lord said we must give heed to the words of the prophet “in all patience and faith.” Why might it sometimes require patience or faith to follow the counsel of the prophet? Invite class members to share experiences when following the counsel of the prophet has required patience or faith.
Read D&C 21:6 with class members. What blessings does the Lord promise to those who follow the prophet? (You may want to list these blessings on the chalkboard.) How are these promises fulfilled in the lives of Church members today? In what ways have you been blessed because you have followed the prophet?
In D&C 21:9, the Lord promised “a mighty blessing” to those who labor in His service. How have you been blessed as you have served the Lord? (You may want to point out that one blessing of serving the Lord is that our testimonies of the words of the prophets are strengthened.)
3. The Lord encourages Church members to meet together often to partake of the sacrament.
Explain that at the meeting in which the Church was organized, members partook of the sacrament (History of the Church, 1:78). Why do you think it was important to have the ordinance of the sacrament performed at the first meeting of the restored Church?
In D&C 20, the Lord revealed information about how the sacrament should be administered (verses D&C 20:75–79). Read D&C 20:75 with class members. Why is it important to partake of the sacrament often?
Ask a class member to read the sacrament prayers (D&C 20:77, 79). What promises do we make when we partake of the sacrament? (See also Luke 22:19–20; 3 Nephi 18:7, 10–11.) You may want to point out that both prayers emphasize remembering Jesus. What does it mean to remember Him always? How does the sacrament help us remember Him?
What promise is made in the sacrament prayers to those who partake worthily? (See D&C 20:77, 79.) As appropriate, invite class members to tell how partaking of the sacrament has blessed their lives.
In D&C 27, the Lord gave further instructions to Joseph Smith regarding the sacrament. What was Joseph doing when he received this revelation? (See the heading to D&C 27.) What did Joseph learn about the sacrament in this revelation? (See D&C 27:2.) How can we partake of the sacrament “with an eye single to [Christ’s] glory”?
4. The Lord explains the duties of Church members.
Read D&C 20:68–69 with class members. In these verses the Lord explains “the duty of the members after they are received by baptism.” What does verse 69 reveal about the Lord’s expectations of us as Church members? How can we show the Lord our gratitude for membership in His Church?
Emphasize that the organization of the Church of Jesus Christ in 1830 was one of the great miracles of the latter days. Even though that small meeting in Fayette, New York, went unnoticed by most people, the events of that day have changed the world. Invite class members to reflect on the miracle of the Church’s worldwide growth from such humble beginnings. You may want to relate the following experience:
President Wilford Woodruff told of a meeting in which the Prophet Joseph Smith prophesied of the Church’s growth. The meeting was in “a small house, perhaps 14 feet square. But it held the whole of the Priesthood of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who were then in the town of Kirtland, and who had gathered together to go off in Zion’s camp.” After several of the men had borne their testimonies of the work, the Prophet said:
“Brethren I have been very much edified and instructed in your testimonies here tonight, but I want to say to you before the Lord, that you know no more concerning the destinies of this Church and kingdom than a babe upon its mother’s lap. You don’t comprehend it. … It is only a little handful of Priesthood you see here tonight, but this Church will fill North and South America—it will fill the world” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1898, 57).
As prompted by the Spirit, testify of the truths discussed during the lesson.
Additional Teaching Ideas
You may want to use one or more of the following ideas to supplement the suggested lesson outline.
1. Growth of the Church
Direct class members’ attention to the photo of the Peter Whitmer Sr. Log House on page 50. Explain that the house in the photograph is a replica of the house in which The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was formally organized. Contrast the Church’s beginnings with its worldwide growth today.
2. Our relationship with God
Ask class members to read D&C 20:8–31 to identify truths about God and His relationship with His sons and daughters on the earth. Encourage class members to consider how their lives might be different if they did not know these truths. Some of the truths you may want to discuss are listed below:
D&C 20:11. (God still inspires people and calls them to do His work.)
D&C 20:12. (He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.)
D&C 20:17. (He is infinite, eternal, and unchangeable.)
D&C 20:17. (He framed the heaven and the earth and all things in them.)
D&C 20:18. (He created us in His image.)
D&C 20:21–25. (God gave His Only Begotten Son to atone for our sins.)
D&C 20:29–31. (If we believe, repent, love and serve God, and endure to the end, we will be justified and sanctified through the grace of Jesus Christ and saved in the kingdom of God.)
3. “I will drink of the fruit of the vine with you” (D&C 27:5)
Read D&C 27:5. What promise about the sacrament does the Lord make in this verse? (He will at some future time partake of the sacrament with His followers on the earth.) Whom does the Lord say will be with Him at this event? (See D&C 27:5–14. Point out that in verse 14, He said that “all those whom my Father hath given me out of the world” will be in attendance.)
4. “Organization of the Church” video presentation
If Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Video Presentations (53912) is available, consider showing “Organization of the Church,” an eight-minute segment.