In this portion of section 20, the Lord gave instructions about the government of His Church, including explanations about the requirements for baptism and confirmation and the correct way to administer the ordinances of baptism, confirmation, and the sacrament.
Suggestions for Teaching
The Lord reveals the requirements for individuals before and after baptism
Invite students to think about what they might say in the following situation:
A friend who belongs to another church has gained a testimony of the restored gospel. She asks you, “What do I need to do so I can be baptized and become a member of your church?”
Ask students to write their answers to this question in their class notebooks or scripture study journals. Then invite them to read Doctrine and Covenants 20:37, looking for the requirements for those who desire to be baptized. You might suggest that students mark each requirement they discover. To help students better understand the meaning of this verse, you may want to explain that people with “broken hearts and contrite spirits” are humble and receptive to the will of God. They feel deep sorrow for sin and a sincere desire to repent.
Write the following incomplete statement on the board: Before people can be baptized, they must …
Invite a student to come to the board and act as a scribe. Ask the class the following questions:
Based on Doctrine and Covenants 20:37, what must a person demonstrate before he or she can be baptized? (As students answer this question, ask the scribe to complete the statement on the board. The scribe might write something like this: Before people can be baptized, they must be humble, repentant, willing to take upon themselves the name of Jesus Christ, and determined to serve Him to the end.)
Why do you think a person needs to meet these requirements before being baptized?
Point out that Doctrine and Covenants 20:37 also outlines the covenant we made when we were baptized. Invite students to ponder what they are doing now to live according to their baptismal covenant.
Invite students to imagine that the same friend asks about what takes place when someone is baptized. After a few students respond, invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 20:72–74 aloud. You may want to suggest that students mark the manner of baptism described by the Lord.
According to verses 72–74, how does the Lord want baptisms to be performed? (Students’ answers should reflect the following principle: Baptism must be done by immersion and performed by one holding proper authority. Write this principle on the board under the previous principle.)
Invite students to read Doctrine and Covenants 20:68–69 silently, identifying the Lord’s expectations for each of us after we have been baptized. You might suggest that students mark these expectations.
What are some things you discovered that the Lord expects from us after we are baptized?
Note: Students may ask about the requirement in verse 68 that newly baptized members must be taught by elders before they can be confirmed. Explain that the current practice of teaching missionary lessons to investigators prior to baptism allows people to be confirmed and receive the gift of the Holy Ghost soon after they are baptized.
From verse 69, what do you learn about how we show the Lord our worthiness after we are baptized? (Students’ answers may vary, but they should identify the following principle: After baptism, we show the Lord our worthiness through our godly walk and conversation. Write this truth on the board under the previous two.)
What do you think it means to “manifest … a godly walk and conversation”? (You may need to explain that a person manifests, or shows, “a godly walk and conversation” through actions, attitude, and speech that are in harmony with God.)
Based on the needs of your students, consider asking them to turn to a section of For the Strength of Youth for more specific counsel on how a young person might manifest a “godly walk and conversation.”
When have you seen others “manifest … a godly walk and conversation”? How do you think their actions and attitude influence others around them?
To help students apply this principle, encourage them to ponder how they could more fully manifest a “godly walk and conversation” in the next few days. If any students feel comfortable sharing how they plan to do this, invite them to share their ideas with the class. You may want to do the same, sharing your testimony about the blessings that come when we honor our baptismal covenant.
The Lord gives instructions on administering the sacrament
Invite a pair of students to come to the front of the class. Ask one of the students to represent a friend who is coming to sacrament meeting for the first time and wants to know why bread and water is passed to the congregation. Ask the other student to explain the ordinance of the sacrament to the friend. After the student has shared his or her insights, encourage the class to look for scriptural support for what the student has explained, as well as any additional insights they could use to explain the sacrament, as they study the next several verses.
Why do you think we are directed to partake of the sacrament together often?
As part of this discussion, ask a student to read the following statement by Elder Melvin J. Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. (You may want to explain that when Elder Ballard spoke of “appear[ing] at the sacrament table,” he simply referred to the practice of partaking of the sacrament.)
“The one thing that would make for the safety of every man and woman would be to appear at the sacrament table every Sabbath day. We would not get very far away in one week—not so far away that, by the process of self-investigation, we could not rectify the wrongs we may have done. … The road to the sacrament table is the path of safety for Latter-day Saints” (in Bryant S. Hinckley, Sermons and Missionary Services of Melvin Joseph Ballard , 151).
Write the following headings on the board:
What we promise What the Lord promises
Ask one half of the class to read Doctrine and Covenants 20:77–79, looking for what we promise as we partake of the sacrament. Invite the other half to read the same verses, looking for what the Lord promises. After students have had sufficient time to study the passage, ask them to report what they have found. Invite a student to list their answers on the board under the appropriate headings. As students complete these lists, they will identify the following principles:
When we partake of the sacrament, we witness that we are willing to take upon ourselves the name of Jesus Christ, that we will always remember Him, and that we will keep His commandments.
When we are faithful to the promises we make during the sacrament, we can always have the Spirit to be with us.
You may want to suggest that students mark these truths in their scriptures.
Comparing the lists on the board with Doctrine and Covenants 20:37, what similarities do you see in the promises made during the sacrament and the covenant of baptism?
Explain that when we partake of the sacrament, we renew the covenant we made when we were baptized and confirmed.
How can we show our willingness to take upon ourselves the name of Jesus Christ? (Answers may include standing for what is right, telling others that we are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, sharing our belief in Him, and participating in His work.)
What are some things we can do to always remember the Savior?
How does partaking of the sacrament help us “manifest … a godly walk and conversation”?
To help students understand the value of having the Spirit with us, ask a student to read the following statement from True to the Faith. Ask the class to listen for blessings of renewing our baptismal covenant.
“You receive great blessings when you keep the baptismal covenant. As you renew it, the Lord renews the promised remission of your sins. Cleansed from sin, you are able to ‘always have his Spirit to be with [you]’ (D&C 20:77). The Spirit’s constant companionship is one of the greatest gifts you can receive in mortality. The Spirit will guide you in the paths of righteousness and peace, leading you to eternal life with your Father in Heaven and Jesus Christ” (True to the Faith: A Gospel Reference , 148).
Invite students to ponder (or write) how they will prepare themselves to partake of the sacrament this week. You may want to share your testimony of the value of renewing our baptismal covenant weekly.
The Lord instructs Church leaders to keep accurate Church membership records
Summarize Doctrine and Covenants 20:81–84 by informing students that priesthood holders in the early Church were instructed to record the names of people who had joined the Church. They kept these names in a book. The names of those who fell away from the Church were removed from the book. In addition, Church members who moved from one location to another were to take a certificate of their membership with them to give to their new priesthood leaders. In our day, Church leaders continue to keep accurate membership records, but the methods of doing so are more efficient.
You may want to conclude by sharing your testimony of the doctrines and principles discussed in the lesson.
Commentary and Background Information
Doctrine and Covenants 20:37, 68–74. Joy at the baptisms of loved ones
On April 6, 1830, as part of the meeting to organize the restored Church of Jesus Christ, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery confirmed those who had previously been baptized and bestowed upon them the gift of the Holy Ghost (see History of the Church, 1:61).
Joseph Smith’s parents were baptized and confirmed that day. This was a joyful time for the Prophet, who exclaimed, “Praise to my God! that I lived to see my own father baptized into the true Church of Jesus Christ!” (in Lucy Mack Smith, History of Joseph Smith by His Mother, ed. Preston Nibley , 168; see also History of the Church, 1:79).
Doctrine and Covenants 20:77. “Always remember him”
Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught that prayer and scripture study help us keep our baptismal covenant to always remember the Lord.
“Consider the reasons we pray and study the scriptures. … These holy habits primarily are ways whereby we always remember Heavenly Father and His Beloved Son and are prerequisites to the ongoing companionship of the Holy Ghost” (“Receive the Holy Ghost,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2010, 96).
Doctrine and Covenants 20:77, 79. “That they may always have his Spirit to be with them”
The following statement by President James E. Faust of the First Presidency helps us understand the value of the companionship of the Holy Ghost:
“Baptism by immersion in water is ‘the introductory ordinance of the gospel, and must be followed by baptism of the Spirit in order to be complete.’ [Bible Dictionary, “Baptism,” 618.] …
“If worthy, those possessing this spiritual gift can come to enjoy greater understanding and enrichment and guidance in all of life’s activities, both spiritual and temporal. The Holy Ghost bears witness to us of the truth and impresses upon our souls the reality of God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, so surely that no earthly power or authority can separate us from that knowledge. [See 2 Ne. 31:18.] Indeed, not having the gift of the Holy Ghost is somewhat like having a body without an immune system. …
“Those who possess the gift of the Holy Ghost after baptism and confirmation can receive more light and testimony. This is because the gift of the Holy Ghost is ‘a permanent witness and higher endowment than the ordinary manifestation of the Holy Spirit.’ [In James R. Clark, comp., Messages of the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 6 vols. (1965–75), 5:4.] It is the higher endowment because the gift of the Holy Ghost can act as ‘a cleansing agent to purify a person and sanctify him from all sin.’ [Bible Dictionary, “Holy Ghost,” 704.]” (“Born Again,” Ensign, May 2001, 55, 58).