In late May 1829, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery endured threats from mobs while completing the translation of the Book of Mormon. David Whitmer helped them move from Harmony, Pennsylvania, to the Whitmer home in Fayette, New York, so they could escape persecution and so they could teach the restored gospel to the Whitmers and their neighbors. The Whitmer family took great interest in the unfolding events of the Restoration. Joseph Smith described David Whitmer, John Whitmer, and Peter Whitmer Jr. as “zealous friends and assistants in the work; and … anxious to know their respective duties” (History of the Church, 1:48–49). The Prophet prayed and received revelations for David Whitmer and his brothers John and Peter. These brothers learned about their roles in bringing forth the Lord’s work.
To help students understand the historical background of the revelations they will study today, summarize the information in the introduction to this lesson. In addition, you may want to ask a student to read the following account. Before the student reads, explain that David Whitmer needed to plant wheat seed on the family farm and spread plaster of paris, which was used as a fertilizer. He felt inspired that he should help Joseph and Oliver after he had completed those tasks. Invite the class to listen for the miracles that allowed David Whitmer to help Oliver Cowdery and Joseph Smith escape from their persecutors:
“David went to the field, and found that he had two heavy days’ work before him. … He then fastened his horses to the harrow, and instead of dividing the field into what is, by farmers, usually termed lands, drove around the whole of it, continuing thus till noon, when, on stopping for dinner, he looked around, and discovered to his surprise, that he had harrowed in full half the wheat. After dinner he went on as before, and by evening he finished the whole two days’ work.
“His father, on going into the field the same evening, saw what had been done, and he exclaimed, ‘There must be an overruling hand in this, and I think you would better go down to Pennsylvania as soon as your plaster of paris is sown.’
“The next morning, David took a wooden measure under his arm and went out to sow the plaster, which he had left, two days previous, in heaps near his sister’s house, but, on coming to the place, he discovered that it was gone! He then ran to his sister, and inquired of her if she knew what had become of it. Being surprised she said, ‘Why do you ask me? was it not all sown yesterday?’
“‘Not to my knowledge,’ answered David.
“‘I am astonished at that,’ replied his sister, ‘for the children came to me in the forenoon, and begged of me to go out and see the men sow plaster in the field, saying, that they never saw anybody sow plaster so fast in their lives. I accordingly went, and saw three men at work in the field, as the children said, but, supposing that you had hired some help, on account of your hurry, I went immediately into the house, and gave the subject no further attention.’
“David made considerable inquiry in regard to the matter, both among his relatives and neighbors, but was not able to learn who had done it” (Lucy Mack Smith, History of Joseph Smith by His Mother, ed. Preston Nibley , 148–49).
How do you think these experiences might have influenced David Whitmer?
Summarize Doctrine and Covenants 14:1–5 by explaining that the Lord announced the coming forth of His work and promised blessings to those who take part in it. Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 14:6–7. Ask the class to follow along, looking for the Lord’s directions to David and the blessing David would receive as a result of heeding the Lord’s instructions.
What did the Lord promise David Whitmer? What was David required to do in order for this promise to be fulfilled?
Ask students to restate the principle in Doctrine and Covenants 14:7 in their own words. As students respond, write the following principle on the board: If we keep God’s commandments and endure to the end, we will receive eternal life.
What does it mean to receive eternal life? (To receive eternal life is to live forever with our families in God’s presence. Eternal life is the kind of life God lives.)
How can the promise of eternal life motivate us to keep God’s commandments and endure to the end?
Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 14:8 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for other blessings David Whitmer could receive if he was obedient. After students report what they find, explain that shortly after Joseph Smith received this revelation for David, David became one of the Three Witnesses of the Book of Mormon. He saw the angel Moroni and the gold plates, and he heard God’s voice testifying of the record’s truthfulness.
Explain that the Lord gave David Whitmer another promise based on David’s faithfulness. To prepare students to identify a principle in the Lord’s words to David, write the following on the board: If we , the Lord will .
Invite students to read Doctrine and Covenants 14:9–11 silently. Ask them to identify a principle that fits the pattern on the board. Allow a few students to share what they find. Students may suggest a variety of principles, but make sure it is clear that if we faithfully assist the Lord in His work, the Lord will bless us spiritually and temporally.
In what ways has the Lord asked you to assist in His work? What blessings have come into your life as you have assisted in the Lord’s work?
Invite two students to come to the front of the room. Ask one of them to read Doctrine and Covenants 15:1 aloud, and then ask the other student to read Doctrine and Covenants 16:1 aloud. Ask these students to read verses 2–6 of these sections in the same manner.
What did both John Whitmer and Peter Whitmer Jr. desire? (To know what they could do that would be of greatest worth to them.)
How did the Lord answer their question? What principle can we learn from the Lord’s answer? (Although students may use other words, be sure they understand that our efforts to bring others to Jesus Christ are of great worth to us.)
What can we do to help other people come unto Christ?
Why are these efforts of great worth to us?
Invite students to review Doctrine and Covenants 15 and 16, looking for how the two revelations are different from each other. (The only difference is that one is addressed to John and the other is addressed to Peter.)
Explain that at times, the Lord reveals the same message to different individuals because they may have similar needs, circumstances, or desires. However, we can be sure that He knows us individually. In this example, He called John Whitmer and Peter Whitmer Jr. by name and revealed His will to them one at a time.
How can a priesthood blessing or mission call show that God knows us personally, even if the blessing or mission call contains similar wording to those given to others?
To provide another example that God knows us personally, ask a student to read the following account by Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:
“Some time ago I spoke with a priesthood leader who was prompted to memorize the names of all of the youth ages 13 to 21 in his stake. Using snapshots of the young men and women, he created flash cards that he reviewed while traveling on business and at other times. This priesthood leader quickly learned all of the names of the youth.
“One night the priesthood leader had a dream about one of the young men whom he knew only from a picture. In the dream he saw the young man dressed in a white shirt and wearing a missionary name tag. With a companion seated at his side, the young man was teaching a family. The young man held the Book of Mormon in his hand, and he looked as if he were testifying of the truthfulness of the book. The priesthood leader then awoke from his dream.
“At an ensuing priesthood gathering, the leader approached the young man he had seen in his dream and asked to talk with him for a few minutes. After a brief introduction, the leader called the young man by name and said: ‘I am not a dreamer. I have never had a dream about a single member of this stake, except for you. I am going to tell you about my dream, and then I would like you to help me understand what it means.’
“The priesthood leader recounted the dream and asked the young man about its meaning. Choking with emotion, the young man simply replied, ‘It means God knows who I am.’ The remainder of the conversation between this young man and his priesthood leader was most meaningful, and they agreed to meet and counsel together from time to time during the following months” (“The Tender Mercies of the Lord,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2005, 100).
Why can it be helpful for us to realize that God knows us personally?
Invite a few students to share how they know God knows them personally. (You may need to explain that students’ examples need not be extraordinary. Remind students that they do not need to share experiences that are too personal or private.)
How can the knowledge that God knows you personally influence the decisions you make daily? How has this knowledge influenced your decisions?
You may want to conclude this lesson by testifying of the truths you have discussed and inviting students to act on these truths.