Lesson 25: Doctrine and Covenants 19:23–41

Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Seminary Teacher Manual, 2013


Introduction

In order to guarantee E. B. Grandin payment for printing the Book of Mormon, Martin Harris signed a mortgage agreement on his farm in August 1829. In the revelation contained in Doctrine and Covenants 19, the Lord exhorted Martin to impart of his property freely to the printing of the Book of Mormon (see D&C 19:26). Martin eventually sold 151 acres of his farm to cover the printing costs.

Suggestions for Teaching

Doctrine and Covenants 19:23–24

The Savior testifies that He does the will of the Father

Before class, write the following question on the board: When have you had to do something that you knew was right, but you were unsure or nervous about how it would turn out?

Start class by inviting students to respond to this question. (Remind them that some experiences are too sacred or personal to share.)

After students have had sufficient time to share, ask the class the following questions:

  • If you were faced with having to do something that was right, but you were unsure how it would turn out, what would help you have the faith to follow through even though it was hard?

  • Would your reaction change depending on who had asked you to do the difficult thing? Why or why not?

To remind students of the historical context for Doctrine and Covenants 19, read aloud the lesson introduction. Then invite students to read the section introduction for Doctrine and Covenants 19 and Doctrine and Covenants 19:26 silently, looking for who commanded Martin Harris to mortgage his farm.

  • If you were in Martin’s position, how might knowing that this commandment came from God help you?

Explain that the decision to impart his property to fund the printing of the Book of Mormon was a difficult one for Martin Harris (see Documents, Volume 1: July 1828–June 1831, vol. 1 of the Documents series of The Joseph Smith Papers [2013], 86, 88). The Lord responded to Martin’s concern by revealing some things he needed to do and some things he needed to know. Create two columns on the board and label them To Do and To Know. Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 19:23–24 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what the Lord wanted Martin to do and to know. As students discuss their findings, write their responses in the appropriate column on the board. The lists should look something like the following:

To Do

To Know

Learn of Jesus Christ

Listen to Jesus Christ’s words

Walk in the meekness of the Spirit

This revelation came from Jesus Christ

Jesus Christ was obedient to the will of Heavenly Father

Point out the words learn, listen, and walk in the “To Do” column.

  • What can we do to learn of Christ, listen to His words, and walk in the meekness of His Spirit? (You may need to explain that meekness denotes submissiveness.)

  • How do you think doing these things might have helped Martin make the difficult decision to mortgage his property to fund the printing of the Book of Mormon?

Invite students to reread Doctrine and Covenants 19:23 silently, looking for the Lord’s promise to Martin Harris.

  • What truth did the Lord teach Martin Harris that we can also apply in our own lives? (As students identify the following principle, write it on the board: If we learn of Christ, listen to His words, and walk in the meekness of His Spirit, then we will have peace.)

Invite students to ponder whether they or someone they know have found strength to make difficult decisions because the Spirit gave them a feeling of peace. Invite a few students to share their experiences with the class.

  • How might feeling peace help you make correct choices, even when you are worried or nervous about an outcome? (Before students answer this question, you may want to explain that “in the scriptures, peace can mean either freedom from conflict and turmoil or the inner calm and comfort born of the Spirit that God gives to his faithful Saints” (Guide to the Scriptures, “Peace,” scriptures.lds.org).

Doctrine and Covenants 19:25–35

The Lord commands Martin Harris to sell his property for the printing of the Book of Mormon

Tell students that the Lord provided Martin Harris with additional commandments and counsel. Divide students into pairs. Ask each pair to search Doctrine and Covenants 19:25–35, looking for the commandments and counsel given to Martin. (You may want to suggest that they look for and consider marking the phrases “I command” and “thou shalt.”)

  • What commandments and counsel did the Lord give Martin Harris?

Point out that the Lord cared for Martin Harris and gave him specific commandments for his individual circumstances. We do not have sufficient information to understand why the Lord gave Martin Harris certain commandments. However, the Lord did make clear what would happen if Martin were to disregard those commandments.

  • According to Doctrine and Covenants 19:33, what did the Lord say would happen if Martin were to “slight” God’s commandments? (Explain that in this context, the word slight means to disregard something because it is seen as insignificant or of little value.)

Invite students to ponder some of the commandments they have received from the Lord. Encourage them to include the commandments and counsel they have received individually through priesthood blessings and priesthood leaders.

  • How are the commandments and counsel we receive evidence that the Lord knows us and loves us?

Invite students to ponder a time when they or someone they know have experienced misery because they disregarded God’s commandments.

Invite a student to read aloud the following counsel by Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:

Elder Russell M. Nelson

“[You] will encounter people who pick which commandments they will keep and ignore others that they choose to break. I call this the cafeteria approach to obedience. This practice of picking and choosing will not work. It will lead to misery. To prepare to meet God, one keeps all of His commandments” (“Face the Future with Faith,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2011, 34).

  • How might the “cafeteria approach to obedience” Elder Nelson described be evidence that a person is slighting the Lord’s commandments?

Assure students that just as the Lord knew Martin Harris, He knows each of us. And just as He gave Martin commandments and counsel to help him, the Lord gives commandments and counsel to help us. Ask students to consider whether they have a tendency to slight, or disregard, any of the commandments the Lord has given them and whether there is a particular commandment they could obey with greater dedication.

Doctrine and Covenants 19:36–41

The Lord counsels Martin Harris concerning his ministry

Explain that just like Martin Harris, we all have to decide whether or not we will submit our will to the will of the Father, even when what He asks is difficult. Invite a student to read the first part of the following account shared by President Thomas S. Monson.

President Thomas S. Monson

“Born in poverty but nurtured in faith, Jose [Garcia] prepared for a mission call. I was present the day his recommendation was received. There appeared the statement: ‘Brother Garcia will serve at great sacrifice to his family, for he is the means of much of the family support. He has but one possession—a treasured stamp collection—which he is willing to sell, if necessary, to help finance his mission.’

“President [Spencer W.] Kimball listened attentively as this statement was read to him, and then he responded: ‘Have him sell his stamp collection. Such sacrifice will be to him a blessing’” (“Profiles of Faith,” Ensign, Nov. 1978, 56).

  • How might difficult decisions like Jose’s be easier if we have already experienced the peace that results from obedience to the Lord’s commandments?

Invite students to read Doctrine and Covenants 19:36–41 silently, looking for principles that might have helped motivate Martin Harris to be obedient to the Lord’s commandments. Ask them to report what they find. Help students identify the following principle in Doctrine and Covenants 19:38: If we do the will of the Lord, He will give us blessings that are of greater value than the treasures of the earth. You may want to suggest that students write this truth in the margin next to Doctrine and Covenants 19:38.

  • How does this principle relate to other truths you have learned in this lesson?

Read the conclusion of the account by President Monson, and ask students to listen for how Jose was blessed for selling his stamp collection:

“Then, with a twinkle in his eye and a smile on his face, this loving prophet said, ‘Each month at Church headquarters we receive thousands of letters from all parts of the world. See that we save these stamps and provide them to Jose at the conclusion of his mission. He will have, without cost, the finest stamp collection of any young man in Mexico’” (“Profiles of Faith,”56).

Martin Harris obeyed the command to impart of his property to finance the printing of the Book of Mormon by mortgaging and eventually selling 151 acres of his farm. Because of Martin’s choice, millions of lives have been blessed and will continue to be blessed.

To conclude this lesson, consider inviting students to ponder what they can do to better submit their will to the will of the Father.

scripture mastery iconScripture Mastery—Doctrine and Covenants 19:23

Note: Because of the length of this lesson, you may want to use this activity on another day when you have more time.

To help students apply the doctrines and principles in Doctrine and Covenants 19:23, write the following questions on the board and invite students to answer them in their class notebooks or scripture study journals:

  1. 1.

    What can you do to learn more about Christ?

  2. 2.

    In what ways can you listen to the words of Christ?

  3. 3.

    How can you be more submissive to the Lord’s will?

Commentary and Background Information

Doctrine and Covenants 19. Martin Harris financed the first printing of the Book of Mormon

Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles highlighted Martin Harris’s key contribution to the Restoration of the gospel:

“Having a special interest in Martin Harris, I have been saddened at how he is remembered by most Church members. He deserves better than to be remembered solely as the man who unrighteously obtained and then lost the initial manuscript pages of the Book of Mormon…

“One of Martin Harris’s greatest contributions to the Church, for which he should be honored for all time, was his financing the publication of the Book of Mormon. In August 1829 he mortgaged his home and farm to Egbert B. Grandin to secure payment on the printer’s contract. Seven months later, the 5,000 copies of the first printing of the Book of Mormon were completed. Later, when the mortgage note fell due, the home and a portion of the farm were sold for $3,000. In this way, Martin Harris was obedient to the Lord’s revelation:

“‘Thou shalt not covet thine own property, but impart it freely to the printing of the Book of Mormon…

“‘Pay the debt thou hast contracted with the printer. Release thyself from bondage’ (D&C 19:26, 35)” (“The Witness: Martin Harris,” Ensign, May 1999, 36).

Doctrine and Covenants 19. Martin Harris fulfilled his role in the Restoration “at great personal cost”

“None of the early residents of Palmyra, with the exception of the Smith family, ‘received so many rebuffs’ and endured ‘so many unfeeling comments’ from near neighbors as Martin did. Let it be remembered that no other early believer in the Restoration contributed more financial support to the coming forth of the Book of Mormon than Martin. Without his willingness to meet the publisher’s financial requirements, the printing of the Book of Mormon would have been delayed if not postponed for an indeterminate season. … The financial support of Martin Harris, too often forgotten in the abyss of history and the personal struggles of the man, was very significant. Martin was raised up to help a prophet of God secure the first publication of the Restoration, and he fulfilled that important role at great personal cost” (Susan Easton Black and Larry C. Porter, “For the Sum of Three Thousand Dollars,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, vol. 14, no. 2 [2005], 11).

Doctrine and Covenants 19:33. Do not slight God’s commandments

President Harold B. Lee taught:

“The safety of the church lies in the members keeping the commandments. … As they keep the commandments, blessings will come” (Stephen W. Gibson, “Presidency Meets the Press,” Church News, July 15, 1972, 3).

Elder Bruce A. Carlson of the Seventy explained:

“When we choose to disobey a commandment, it is usually because (1) we have convinced ourselves that the commandment does not apply to us; (2) we do not believe that it is important; or (3) we are certain that it is too difficult to obey” (“When the Lord Commands,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2010, 38).

Doctrine and Covenants 19:34. “Impart a portion of thy property”

Martin Harris was faithful to the Lord’s instructions in Doctrine and Covenants 19 and did impart freely of his property to finance the printing of the Book of Mormon. Martin Harris owned approximately 231 acres of quality farmland. He had previously deeded 80 acres to his wife Lucy Harris, leaving about 151 acres under his control. In August 1829 Martin mortgaged those 151 acres to the printer Egbert B. Grandin as payment for the $3,000 cost of printing the Book of Mormon. When the mortgage was signed, E. B. Grandin considered himself paid in full and immediately began work on printing the book.

According to the terms of the 18-month mortgage, Martin Harris was not required to make regular payments and he was entitled to remain on the land. He also retained the option to sell the property at any time and use the proceeds to pay E. B. Grandin the $3,000 owed him. E. B. Grandin had the right to sell the property or assign the mortgage note to someone else at any time during the term of the mortgage. In October 1830, E. B. Grandin sold the mortgage note to Thomas Rogers, who later sold the property to Thomas Lakey. Since E. B. Grandin had the ability to sell the mortgage at any time, his investment was secure from the moment the note was signed. Thus, Martin Harris’s mortgage essentially paid for the costs of printing the Book of Mormon from the beginning of the publication process. (See Documents, Volume 1: July 1828–June 1831, vol. 1 of the Documents series of The Joseph Smith Papers [2012], 86–89.)