In June and July 1830, Joseph Smith and other Church members were facing intense persecution. During this time of difficulty, the Lord strengthened Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery and instructed them concerning their responsibilities through the revelation contained in Doctrine and Covenants 24. The Lord also gave direction for the practice of common consent in the Church, found in Doctrine and Covenants 26.
Before class begins, write the following question on the board: What do you do when life is difficult?
Ask students to think about a difficult or frustrating time they have had and how they dealt with the difficulties. Invite a few students to share their experiences. (Remind students that some experiences are too sacred or personal to share.)
Explain that Joseph Smith experienced many difficult periods in his life. Ask a student to read the heading to section 24 aloud. Invite the class to follow along and identify the circumstances in which this and the following two revelations were received.
To illustrate the persecution Joseph Smith and others were facing at this time, consider asking a student to summarize the following historical background aloud (you might need to provide this information before class to allow the student time to prepare):
In June 1830, Joseph Smith and a few colleagues went to Colesville, New York, to visit with people who were interested in being baptized. A stream was dammed to prepare for baptisms the next day (Sunday), but a hostile mob destroyed the dam during the night. Early Monday morning, the dam was rebuilt and 13 people were baptized, including Emma Smith. By the time the baptisms were completed, however, a mob of nearly 50 men had gathered, insulting and threatening to harm the Saints. That evening, the Saints met to confirm those who had been baptized earlier that day, but before the confirmations could be performed, Joseph was arrested on charges of “being a disorderly person, of setting the country in an uproar by preaching the Book of Mormon.” (See History of the Church, 1:86–88.)
En route to his trial, Joseph escaped a mob with the help of the sympathetic constable who escorted him. After standing trial and being acquitted of the charges, Joseph was immediately arrested again by a constable from a different county. That night Joseph was ridiculed and abused by “a number of men,” and the next morning he stood trial. Joseph was again acquitted of the charges and escaped another mob as he traveled home. (See History of the Church, 1:88–96.)
Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery made another attempt to unite with the recently baptized members in Colesville, but a mob gathered shortly after they arrived. Joseph and Oliver were forced to flee, barely escaping as the mob pursued them throughout the night (see History of the Church, 1:97). Joseph said of this trying time, “Notwithstanding all the rage of our enemies, we had much consolation, and many things occurred to strengthen our faith and cheer our hearts” (in History of the Church, 1:101).
Ask a student to read aloud the last sentence of the section heading for Doctrine and Covenants 24. You may want to suggest that students mark this sentence. Invite them to consider during the lesson how the Lord’s counsel to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery can also help them when they experience a difficult time.
Write the following on the board:
Strengthen and Encourage
Assign students to study Doctrine and Covenants 24:1–12 in pairs. Invite one student to read the verses silently, looking for phrases that might have strengthened and encouraged the Prophet and Oliver Cowdery. Invite the second student to read the verses, searching for instructions the Lord gave. After sufficient time, direct students to share with their partners what they discovered. Invite both partners to select one phrase that was meaningful to them and include in their discussion how they think that specific encouragement or instruction from the Lord might have helped Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery.
After each pair has discussed Doctrine and Covenants 24:1–12, invite a few students to report what they learned. As students offer their insights, list the words of encouragement and instruction they discovered under the appropriate heading on the board.
What principle can we learn from Doctrine and Covenants 24:8 regarding what can help us in our afflictions? (You may need to explain that an affliction is a cause or condition of pain, distress, or suffering. Students may use different words, but make sure they identify the following principle: If we are patient and endure our afflictions, the Lord will be with us. Write this principle on the board.)
To help students understand this principle, ask them to write in their class notebooks or scripture study journals a brief explanation of what they feel it means to be patient and endure. Invite a few students to read their descriptions aloud. Add to their insights by explaining that in a gospel context, to endure afflictions can mean to remain faithful to the Lord and withstand trials with courage.
Why can it be hard to be patient during afflictions?
When have you seen people exercise patience and remain faithful during afflictions?
How did the Lord show those people that He was with them?
To help students identify a truth related to the principle written on the board, invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 24:10–12 aloud. Ask the class to follow along and identify the blessing the Lord promised Oliver Cowdery if he would continue faithfully in his calling to declare the gospel.
What blessings did the Lord promise Oliver if he would continue faithfully in doing what the Lord asked? (Help students see the following promises: “I am with him to the end” [verse 10]. “In me he shall have glory” [verse 11]. “I will give unto him strength such as is not known among men” [verse 12].)
Write the following on the board: If … , then …
Invite students to identify an “if–then” statement that expresses a principle taught in Doctrine and Covenants 24:10–12. (Students may identify a variety of principles, but be sure to emphasize the following principle: If we faithfully do what the Lord asks of us, then He will strengthen us. Fill in the blanks on the board to complete the principle.)
How has the Lord strengthened you as you have been faithful to Him?
Invite students to write down something they can do to be patient and remain faithful to the Lord when facing difficulties in their lives. Consider sharing how you have been strengthened and have had the Lord be with you because of your patient faithfulness in difficult times.
Summarize Doctrine and Covenants 24:13–19 by explaining that the Lord instructed Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery regarding miracles they could perform in His name. He also told them about protection they could receive when people opposed them. You may want to explain that the Lord gave them some instructions that were different from instructions missionaries receive today. For example, He gave them permission to “[cast] off the dust of [their] feet” as a testimony against those who would not receive them (D&C 24:15). This practice is reserved for extreme circumstances. Full-time missionaries are not authorized to do this today. Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery were also commanded to “take no purse nor scrip” (D&C 24:18), meaning that they traveled without money, relying on the goodness of Church members and others to provide food and shelter. Today, full-time missionaries are not commanded to go without purse or scrip.
Explain that Doctrine and Covenants 26:1 contains further instruction to Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, and John Whitmer regarding the spiritual and physical labors they were to perform. The Lord then reemphasized an important principle regarding Church governance. To introduce this principle, encourage students to imagine that a friend of another faith goes with them to a meeting in which Church officers are sustained. Ask how they would explain to their friend the practice of sustaining. (Consider inviting two students to role-play this scenario.)
Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 26:2 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for a phrase relating to the practice of sustaining. After the verse is read, ask students what they identified. You may want to suggest that they mark the words that express the following principle: All things in the Church shall be done by common consent.
What do you think “common consent” means? (You might need to explain that “common consent” refers to Church members using their agency to express their willingness or unwillingness to support a proposal from a Church leader. In sacrament meetings and stake and general conferences, we are asked to signify consent by raising our right hands.)
What is the difference between sustaining by common consent and voting?
You may need to explain that in the Lord’s kingdom, the Lord often reveals decisions to His appointed leaders. In some cases, however, He allows leaders to make decisions through the authority entrusted to them. The Holy Ghost confirms those decisions, and Church members then use their agency to signify their willingness to support the decisions. The law of common consent applies for Church callings, priesthood ordinations, and revelations. We participate in the law of comment consent each time we raise our hands to sustain a person or decision in a Church meeting.
To help students further understand what it means when we sustain others, ask a student to read aloud the following statement by President Gordon B. Hinckley. Invite the class to listen for three things we commit to do when we sustain others by common consent.
“The procedure of sustaining is much more than a ritualistic raising of the hand. It is a commitment to uphold, to support, to assist those who have been selected” (“This Work Is Concerned with People,” Ensign, May 1995, 51).
What do we commit to do when we raise our hands to sustain others?
Ask students if they have been sustained for an ordination, advancement, or calling.
How did you feel about being sustained?
How can we sustain others in the three ways President Hinckley described? (Write students’ responses on the board.)
Invite students to write down the name of an individual they have sustained by raising their hands (for example, the prophet, apostles, bishop, or youth leaders). Ask students to write down one action they will take to better sustain this individual. Express your testimony of the blessings that come from sustaining Church leaders.