Joseph Smith received the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 18 for himself, Oliver Cowdery, and David Whitmer in June 1829, shortly after Peter, James, and John conferred the Melchizedek Priesthood upon Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery. At the beginning of the revelation, the Lord taught Oliver Cowdery about building up the Church. Then He called Oliver Cowdery and David Whitmer to preach repentance.
Suggestions for Teaching
The Lord teaches how to build up His Church
Draw the accompanying picture on the board before class.
Consider reading the following information or sharing similar information about an earthquake that may have occurred more recently or closer to where you live:
On October 17, 1989, at 5:04 p.m., an earthquake measuring 6.9 on the Richter scale hit the San Francisco, California, area of the United States. Thousands of buildings were damaged or destroyed. The foundations of many buildings cracked, which caused the buildings to be declared unsafe.
What concerns would you have about living in a house with a weak foundation?
Explain that Doctrine and Covenants 18 records the Lord’s revelation to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery regarding how to build His Church on a secure foundation. At the beginning of this revelation, the Lord refers to the things Oliver Cowdery had written, meaning the words of the Book of Mormon that Oliver had recorded while acting as a scribe for the Prophet Joseph Smith. Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 18:1–4 aloud. Ask the class to look for how the things written in the Book of Mormon would help in the building up of the Church.
What did the Lord say was in the Book of Mormon? How could the teachings in the Book of Mormon help in the building up of the Church?
Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 18:5 aloud. Ask the class to identify what the Savior promised if we would build His Church on the foundation of His gospel.
The Lord calls Oliver Cowdery and David Whitmer to preach repentance
Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 18:6 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for how the Lord describes the world we are living in. After students report what they have discovered, invite them to read Doctrine and Covenants 18:9 to learn what the Lord commanded in response to the increasing iniquity in the world.
What was the Lord’s response to the increasing iniquity in the world? (He called servants to preach repentance.)
Point out that the Lord called Oliver Cowdery and David Whitmer to preach repentance, as He had called the ancient Apostle Paul to do. While Oliver and David were not called to be members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, they would have roles in establishing this quorum in the latter days. Explain that students will learn more about Oliver Cowdery and David Whitmer’s roles in the next lesson.
To help students prepare to study the Lord’s teachings about the worth of souls, display a few items that you think may have value to your students. Ask them how much they would pay for each item. Explain that one way to determine an object’s worth is to find out what people would be willing to pay for it. Someone might claim that a particular object is worth a certain amount of money, but this price is accurate only if another person is willing to pay that amount for the object.
Read Doctrine and Covenants 18:10 aloud. Invite students to use this verse to explain their value in the eyes of God. Students may suggest a variety of principles, but be sure to emphasize that the worth of souls is great in the sight of God.
Why do you think you are of such great worth to God?
Ask a student to read the following statement by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the First Presidency:
“God sees you not only as a mortal being on a small planet who lives for a brief season—He sees you as His child. He sees you as the being you are capable and designed to become. He wants you to know that you matter to Him” (“You Matter to Him,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2011, 22).
Remind students of the activity in which you demonstrated that an item’s worth is based on what someone is willing to pay for it. Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 18:11–12. Ask the class to follow along and identify what the Savior was willing to pay for us.
What price did the Savior pay for our souls? (You may want to remind students that in these verses, the phrase “all men” refers to all people.)
How can we show gratitude for the sacrifice the Savior has made for us? (Though various answers are correct, emphasize that one of the best ways we can show our gratitude is by repenting.)
Write the following statement on the board: My worth is so great that Jesus Christ suffered and died so I can repent.
You may want to suggest that students write this principle in their class notebooks or scripture study journals.
How might this truth influence how you see yourself?
How might this truth influence the way you treat other people?
Testify of the Savior’s love and willingness to die for each of us.
Invite students to read Doctrine and Covenants 18:13 silently.
Why do you think the Lord feels great joy when we repent?
If someone believes that the worth of souls is great in the sight of God, then what might their belief lead them to do? (Answers might include the following: treat others with respect, serve others, or prepare to serve a mission.)
Invite students to read Doctrine and Covenants 18:14 silently to learn what the Lord called Oliver Cowdery and David Whitmer to do.
What do you think it means to “cry repentance”?
To help students better understand this phrase, read the following statement by Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles: “Crying repentance simply means helping people return to God” (“Preparing for Your Spiritual Destiny” [CES fireside address, Jan. 10, 2010], 7, speeches.byu.edu).
What are some ways we can help others repent?
Invite students to read Doctrine and Covenants 18:15–16 to learn what individuals experience when they help someone come unto Jesus Christ.
What blessings are given to those who help others come unto Jesus Christ? (As students respond, you may want to write the following principle on the board: If we help others to repent and come unto the Lord, we will feel joy with them in the kingdom of God.)
Why do you think you will feel joy if you bring others to Jesus Christ?
Invite students to share an experience in which either they or someone they know felt joy because they helped someone grow closer to the Lord. You may want to share an experience of your own.
Invite students to write one thing they can do to assist in the work of saving souls. Ask them to consider specific people they might help.
Scripture Mastery—Doctrine and Covenants 18:10–11
Give students time to write the words from Doctrine and Covenants 18:10–11 on note cards or small pieces of paper. Invite students to carry their cards with them and refer to them periodically throughout the day to help them remember their worth and the worth of others in the sight of God. You might encourage students to share this scripture with a friend or family member. Follow up with students at the beginning of the next class to see how the truths in Doctrine and Covenants 18:10–11 have influenced them and others.
Scripture Mastery—Doctrine and Covenants 18:15–16
Divide the class into five groups. Assign each group a line from Doctrine and Covenants 18:15–16:
Group 1: “And if it so be that you should labor all your days”
Group 2: “in crying repentance unto this people,”
Group 3: “and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father!”
Group 4: “And now, if your joy will be great with one soul that you have brought unto me into the kingdom of my Father,”
Group 5: “how great will be your joy if you should bring many souls unto me!”
Invite the first group to recite the first segment in unison, followed by the second group, and so on until students have recited the entire passage. Repeat this activity several times. Then ask students to try to recite the entire verse in unison.
Note: You may use these scripture mastery teaching ideas as part of this lesson, or you may use them at another time.
Commentary and Background Information
Doctrine and Covenants 18:5. “My rock”
Doctrine and Covenants 18:5 says that the Lord’s Church should be built “upon the foundation of my gospel and my rock.” The Guide to the Scriptures defines rock as “figuratively, Jesus Christ and his gospel, which are a strong foundation and support (D&C 11:24; 33:12–13). Rock can also refer to revelation, by which God makes his gospel known to man (Matt. 16:15–18)” (Guide to the Scriptures, “Rock,” scriptures.lds.org).
Doctrine and Covenants 18:10. “The worth of souls is great in the sight of God”
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the First Presidency taught:
“Every person we meet is a VIP [very important person] to our Heavenly Father. Once we understand that, we can begin to understand how we should treat our fellowmen.
“One woman who had been through years of trial and sorrow said through her tears, ‘I have come to realize that I am like an old 20-dollar bill—crumpled, torn, dirty, abused, and scarred. But I am still a 20-dollar bill. I am worth something. Even though I may not look like much and even though I have been battered and used, I am still worth the full 20 dollars’” (“You Are My Hands,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2010, 69).
Doctrine and Covenants 18:15–16. “If it so be that you should labor”
The following accounts illustrate President Thomas S. Monson’s efforts to bring souls to the Savior:
“My responsibilities as a bishop were many and varied, and I tried to the best of my ability to do all that was required of me. The United States was engaged in a … war by then. Because many of our members were serving in the armed services, an assignment came from Church headquarters for all bishops to provide each serviceman a subscription to the Church News and the Improvement Era, the Church’s magazine at that time. In addition, each bishop was asked to write a personal, monthly letter to each serviceman from his ward. Our ward had 23 men in uniform. The priesthood quorums, with effort, supplied the funds for the subscriptions to the publications. I undertook the task, even the duty, to write 23 personal letters each month. After all these years I still have copies of many of my letters and the responses received. Tears come easily when these letters are reread. It is a joy to learn again of a soldier’s pledge to live the gospel, a sailor’s decision to keep faith with his family.
“One evening I handed to a sister in the ward the stack of 23 letters for the current month. Her assignment was to handle the mailing and to maintain the constantly changing address list. She glanced at one envelope and, with a smile, asked, ‘Bishop, don’t you ever get discouraged? Here is another letter to Brother Bryson. This is the 17th letter you have sent to him without a reply.’
“I responded, ‘Well, maybe this will be the month.’ As it turned out, that was the month. For the first time, he responded to my letter. His reply is a keepsake, a treasure. He was serving far away on a distant shore, isolated, homesick, alone. He wrote, ‘Dear Bishop, I ain’t much at writin’ letters.’ (I could have told him that several months earlier.) His letter continued, ‘Thank you for the Church News and magazines, but most of all thank you for the personal letters. I have turned over a new leaf. I have been ordained a priest in the Aaronic Priesthood. My heart is full. I am a happy man.’
“Brother Bryson was no happier than was his bishop. I had learned the practical application of the adage ‘Do [your] duty; that is best; leave unto [the] Lord the rest.’ (Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, “The Legend Beautiful,” in The Complete Poetical Works of Longfellow , 258).
“Years later, while attending the Salt Lake Cottonwood Stake when James E. Faust served as its president, I related that account in an effort to encourage attention to our servicemen. After the meeting, a fine-looking young man came forward. He took my hand in his and asked, ‘Bishop Monson, do you remember me?’
“I suddenly realized who he was. ‘Brother Bryson!’ I exclaimed. ‘How are you? What are you doing in the Church?’
“With warmth and obvious pride, he responded, ‘I’m fine. I serve in the presidency of my elders quorum. Thank you again for your concern for me and the personal letters which you sent and which I treasure.’
“Brethren, the world is in need of our help” (“Willing and Worthy to Serve,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2012, 68–69).
“When I served as a bishop, I noted one Sunday morning that one of our priests was missing from priesthood meeting. I left the quorum in the care of the adviser and visited Richard’s home. His mother said he was working at the West Temple Garage.
“I drove to the garage in search of Richard and looked everywhere, but I could not find him. Suddenly I had the inspiration to gaze down into the old-fashioned grease pit situated at the side of the station. From the darkness I could see two shining eyes. Then I heard Richard say, ‘You found me, Bishop! I’ll come up.’ After that he rarely missed a priesthood meeting.
“The family moved to a nearby stake. Time passed, and I received a phone call informing me that Richard had been called to serve a mission in Mexico, and I was invited by the family to speak at his farewell testimonial. At the meeting, when Richard responded, he mentioned that the turning point in his determination to fill a mission came one Sunday morning—not in the chapel, but as he gazed up from the depths of a dark grease pit and found his quorum president’s outstretched hand.
“Through the years, Richard has stayed in touch with me, telling of his testimony, his family, and his faithful service in the Church, including his calling as a bishop” (“They Will Come,” Ensign, May 1997, 46).