Lesson 9: Joseph Smith—History 1:27–54; Doctrine and Covenants 2

Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Seminary Teacher Manual, 2013


Young Joseph Smith continued to affirm that he had seen a vision, and he continued to be persecuted for it. He later said that during this time, he “fell into many foolish errors, and displayed the weakness of youth” (Joseph Smith—History 1:28). One evening when he was 17 years old, he prayed for forgiveness and asked to know his standing before God. An angel named Moroni appeared and declared that God had a work for Joseph to do, including the translation of an ancient record written on gold plates. While explaining Joseph’s role in the Restoration of the gospel, Moroni quoted a number of prophecies from the Bible, including Malachi’s prophecy about the return of Elijah. The next day, Joseph Smith went to the hill where Moroni had said the gold plates were buried. There he received further instruction from Moroni.

Suggestions for Teaching

Joseph Smith—History 1:27–29

Joseph Smith prays for forgiveness

Invite students to think about what they have learned from Joseph Smith’s example as a young man. You might ask a few students to briefly share a principle they have learned that has impacted them. Then ask a student to read Joseph Smith—History 1:27–29 aloud. Before he or she reads, point out that the events described in these verses occurred when Joseph was between the ages of 14 and 17. Invite students to liken these verses to themselves, identifying experiences Joseph Smith had that are similar to experiences they have had.

  • What are some experiences Joseph Smith had as a youth that you can relate to? (Remind students that they should not share experiences that are too personal or private.)

  • According to the end of Joseph Smith—History 1:28, what did Joseph say about the temptations and errors he fell into? (He was not guilty of any great sins, but he sometimes felt that he did not act as one who had been called of God should act.)

  • What did Joseph Smith do about the guilt he felt for his sins? (He prayed for forgiveness and asked to know of his standing before God.)

  • What truths can we learn from Joseph Smith’s example?

As students discuss their insights, help them identify the following truths:

As we recognize our sins and feel sorrow for them, we can pray to Heavenly Father for forgiveness.

We can pray to know of our standing before God.

  • What do you think it means to know your standing before God? (You may need to explain that to know our standing before God means to know if God is pleased with us.)

  • Why might it be important for us to know our standing before God?

Invite a student to read the following statement by Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Explain that Elder Andersen’s counsel can help us know how we can learn our standing before God.

Elder Neil L. Andersen

“[We can] humbly petition the Lord: ‘Father, what wouldst Thou have me do?’ The answers come. We feel the changes we need to make. The Lord tells us in our mind and in our heart” (“Repent … That I May Heal You,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2009, 41).

Share your testimony of the truths students have discussed. Assure students that Heavenly Father is willing to forgive us as we exercise faith in Jesus Christ and do all that is necessary to repent of our sins.

Joseph Smith—History 1:30–35

The angel Moroni appears to Joseph Smith

Invite students to read Joseph Smith—History 1:30 silently, looking for what occurred as Joseph Smith prayed for forgiveness. Ask them to report what they discover. Display the picture Moroni Appears to Joseph Smith in His Room (Gospel Art Book [2009], no. 91; see also LDS.org).

Moroni Appears to Joseph Smith in His Room

Ask a student to read Joseph Smith—History 1:32–33 aloud, and invite the class to look for Moroni’s first message to Joseph Smith.

  • What did Moroni say about Joseph Smith’s future? (Students should express that God had a work for Joseph Smith to do.)

  • Moroni said that Joseph Smith’s name would “be had for good and evil among all nations.” When have you seen examples of this?

Ask a student to read Joseph Smith—History 1:34–35 aloud. Invite the class to follow along, identifying what Moroni taught about the work Joseph would perform.

  • How would the book be translated? (By using special stones, called the Urim and Thummim, that God had prepared.)

Explain that in coming lessons, students will learn about Joseph Smith’s efforts to translate and publish the Book of Mormon.

Joseph Smith—History 1:36–49; Doctrine and Covenants 2

Moroni instructs Joseph Smith

Summarize Joseph Smith—History 1:36–42 by explaining that Moroni quoted prophecies from the Bible to explain Joseph Smith’s role in bringing about the Restoration of the gospel. (Consider suggesting that students mark the scripture references mentioned in these verses. For example, in verse 40, students could mark the phrase “the eleventh chapter of Isaiah.”)

Point out that the words in the prophecy quoted in Joseph Smith—History 1:38–39 also appear in Doctrine and Covenants 2. This is one of the earliest revelations in this dispensation, having been given to Joseph Smith when he was 17 years old.

You might also mention that this prophecy is of such importance that it also appears in the Old Testament (see Malachi 4:5–6), the New Testament (see Luke 1:17), and the Book of Mormon (see 3 Nephi 25:5–6).

Before class, make copies of the following chart. Cut it into three separate handouts. Divide the class into three groups, and give each group one of the handouts. Ask each group to study their assigned verse and the prophetic explanation that follows it. In addition, ask each group to summarize the message of their assigned verse in their own words and to answer the question or questions on their handouts.

Group 1
Doctrine and Covenants 2:1—Who is Elijah? What priesthood power did Moroni say Elijah would restore?

“Elijah was a great prophet with great power given him by God. He held the greatest power God gives to His children: he held the sealing power, the power to bind on earth and have it bound in heaven” (President Henry B. Eyring, “Hearts Bound Together,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2005, 78).

Group 2
Doctrine and Covenants 2:2—Who are the fathers and the children referred to in this verse?

In the prophecy that “he shall plant in the hearts of the children the promises made to the fathers,” the phrase “the fathers” refers to “Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to whom the promises were made. What are the promises? They are the promises of a continuation of the family unit in eternity” (Elder Bruce R. McConkie, Millennial Messiah [1982], 267).

In the prophecy that “the hearts of the children shall turn to their fathers,” the phrase “their fathers” refers to “our dead ancestors who died without the privilege of receiving the gospel, but who received the promise that the time would come when that privilege would be granted them. The children are those now living who are preparing genealogical data and who are performing the vicarious ordinances in the temples” (President Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, ed. Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols. [1954–56], 2:127).

Group 3
Doctrine and Covenants 2:3—Why would the earth be utterly wasted if the sealing power had not been restored?

“Why would the earth be wasted? Simply because if there is not a welding link between the fathers and the children—which is the work for the dead—then we will all stand rejected; the whole work of God will fail and be utterly wasted” (President Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, ed. Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols. [1954–56], 2:122).

After the groups have had sufficient time to prepare, invite students from the groups to report their summaries and answers to the class. Students’ responses should reflect the following truths:

Doctrine and Covenants 2:1God would send Elijah to restore the sealing power to the earth before the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

Doctrine and Covenants 2:2Our hearts can be turned to our ancestors, and we can perform ordinances for them in temples.

Doctrine and Covenants 2:3Without the power to unite families for eternity, the earth would be destroyed at Jesus Christ’s Second Coming.

If you have been sealed in the temple, you may want to display a picture of your family. If you have not yet been sealed, tell about your excitement to be sealed. Briefly explain that when students study Doctrine and Covenants 110, they will learn about Elijah bestowing the sealing power upon the Prophet Joseph Smith.

Direct students’ attention back to the narrative in Joseph Smith—History by explaining that after Moroni quoted the prophecy about the return of Elijah, he quoted other prophecies about the Restoration. Then he provided further instructions about the gold plates and departed (see Joseph Smith—History 1:42–43). Invite a student to read Joseph Smith—History 1:44–45 aloud. Ask the class to follow along and identify what happened after Moroni’s departure. Once students recognize that Moroni returned that night and repeated the same message, invite them to scan Joseph Smith—History 1:46–49 and look for the number of times Moroni delivered basically the same message to Joseph Smith.

  • How many times did Moroni deliver the message to Joseph Smith? (Four times.)

  • What are some messages that have been repeated in the scriptures, in Church lessons, and in general conference talks?

  • In what ways do we benefit when the Lord and His servants repeat their messages?

Encourage students to look for repeated teachings as they study the scriptures on their own and to consider the importance of those teachings.

Joseph Smith–History 1:50–54

Joseph goes to the hill and uncovers the record, the Urim and Thummim, and the breastplate

Summarize Joseph Smith—History 1:50–51 by explaining that Joseph obeyed Moroni’s command and told his father about his experience the previous night. His father believed him and counseled him to do what Moroni had told him to do. So Joseph went to the hill where the gold plates were buried. Ask three students to take turns reading aloud from Joseph Smith—History 1:52–54 while the class follows along. To make sure students clearly understand the events described in these verses, ask a student to restate what happened in his or her own words. Inform students that in the next lesson they will discuss the events surrounding the time when Joseph was allowed to obtain the plates.

You may want to conclude by testifying of the truths you have discussed in this lesson and by inviting students to act on any promptings they have received to apply these truths in their lives.

Commentary and Background Information

Joseph Smith—History 1:33. “My name … should be both good and evil spoken of among all people”

Elder John H. Groberg of the Seventy told of an experience in which he saw a fulfillment of Moroni’s prophecy in Joseph Smith—History 1:33. While serving as a missionary in the South Pacific, Elder Groberg visited a remote island named Tafahi, which had only 18 homes and no electricity or running water. He wrote:

“At the last home, a strange thought occurred to me, ‘Why don’t you test the prophecy that the name of Joseph Smith should be known for good and evil throughout the world?’ I don’t know why the thought came, but it did.”

He asked the family living in this home if they had ever heard of the president of the United States. They responded, “Who’s he?” and “Where’s the United States?” Elder Groberg reported:

“I tried to explain where it was, but they couldn’t understand. They asked how big an island it was. I replied that it was a very big island, thousands of miles away with millions of people living on it. I told them that many people there had never even seen the ocean and that many people didn’t know one another. They couldn’t comprehend that.”

He then asked them about the leaders of Russia and France, but they could not answer his questions.

“Next,” he said, “I asked about some sports figures, some movie stars, famous business people, about the Depression, the Korean War, and other things. …

“There was not a member of the Church living on this island, although there were two other churches there. I took a deep breath and said, ‘Have you ever heard of Joseph Smith?’

“Immediately their faces lit up. Everyone looked at me, and the father said, ‘Don’t talk to us about that false prophet! Not in our home! We know all about him. Our minister has told us!’ I could hardly believe what I was hearing. The scripture … sounded in my mind that Joseph’s name ‘should be had for good and evil among all nations’ (JS—H 1:33). To me this was a direct fulfillment of prophecy.

“I am convinced that you could hardly get a place more remote, more out of touch with modern civilization, than the little island of Tafahi. The people there knew nothing of the great leaders of the day—political, economic, or otherwise—but they knew the name Joseph Smith. In this case they knew it for ill, at least to begin with. I spent the next few days explaining more of the mission of the Prophet Joseph Smith, and before we left, a few of them knew his name for good” (In the Eye of the Storm [1993], 104–6).

Supplemental Teaching Idea

Joseph Smith—History 1:36–49; Doctrine and Covenants 2. “The hearts of the children shall turn to their fathers.”

Help students realize the joy that comes from searching for records of their ancestors and going to the temple to perform ordinances on their behalf. Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 2:1–3 aloud, and ask the class to listen for what would happen to “the hearts of the children.”

  • What did God say He would plant in the hearts of the children? (The “promises made to the fathers.”)

Help students understand that “the promises made to the fathers” are the promises in the Abrahamic covenant, which include the blessings of the priesthood and eternal families. You may want to have students review the entry for “Abrahamic Covenant” in True to the Faith: A Gospel Reference.

  • What do you think it means to turn our hearts to our fathers?

Help students understand that in addition to turning our hearts to our earthly parents and remembering the promises the Lord made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, we should turn our hearts to our ancestors who have died without receiving the gospel. This is part of our responsibility and privilege as recipients of the promises in the Abrahamic covenant. Because of our love for our ancestors, we should go to temples and help them receive the ordinances of salvation.

Invite a student to read the following statement by Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:

“Temple and family history work is one work divided into two parts. They are connected together like the ordinances of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost. Some members may not be able to do both works because of health or distances to temples” (“The Joy of Redeeming the Dead,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2012, 93).

Explain that after making this statement, Elder Scott quoted President Howard W. Hunter. Invite another student to read President Hunter’s words:

“We must accomplish the priesthood temple ordinance work necessary for our own exaltation; then we must do the necessary work for those who did not have the opportunity to accept the gospel in life. Doing work for others is accomplished in two steps: first, by family history research to ascertain our progenitors; and second, by performing the temple ordinances to give them the same opportunities afforded to the living” (“A Temple-Motivated People,” Ensign, Feb. 1995, 4; see also “The Joy of Redeeming the Dead,” 93).

  • What are the two parts of temple and family history work?

Invite another student to continue reading the statement by President Hunter:

“There are many members of the Church who have only limited access to the temples. They do the best they can. They pursue family history research and have the temple ordinance work done by others. Conversely, there are some members who engage in temple work but fail to do family history research on their own family lines. Although they perform a divine service in assisting others, they lose a blessing by not seeking their own kindred dead as divinely directed by latter-day prophets. …

“I have learned that those who engage in family history research and then perform the temple ordinance work for those whose names they have found will know the additional joy of receiving both halves of the blessing” (“A Temple-Motivated People,” 4–5; see also “The Joy of Redeeming the Dead,” 93).

Ask another student to read the following statement by Elder Scott:

“Father in Heaven wants each of us to receive both parts of the blessing of this vital vicarious work. He has led others to show us how to qualify. It is up to you and me to claim those blessings.

“Any work you do in the temple is time well spent, but receiving ordinances vicariously for one of your own ancestors will make the time in the temple more sacred, and even greater blessings will be received. The First Presidency has declared, ‘Our preeminent obligation is to seek out and identify our own ancestors.’ [First Presidency letter, Feb. 29, 2012; emphasis added.]

“Do you young people want a sure way to eliminate the influence of the adversary in your life? Immerse yourself in searching for your ancestors, prepare their names for the sacred vicarious ordinances available in the temple, and then go to the temple to stand as proxy for them to receive the ordinances of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost. As you grow older, you will be able to participate in receiving the other ordinances as well. I can think of no greater protection from the influence of the adversary in your life” (“The Joy of Redeeming the Dead,” 93–94).

  • What blessings come to those who do temple and family history work?

  • What are you doing to participate in both parts of temple and family history work? Think about what you can do to improve.