In September 1830, the Lord called Thomas B. Marsh to preach the gospel and help establish the Church. This call, contained in Doctrine and Covenants 31, also included promises and counsel to guide Thomas in his personal life and as a missionary. In October 1830, Joseph Smith received the revelation now contained in Doctrine and Covenants 32, in which the Lord called Parley P. Pratt and Ziba Peterson to join Oliver Cowdery and Peter Whitmer Jr. on a mission to the Lamanites in western Missouri. The Lord promised to be with these men in their missionary labors.
Invite students to think of their family members and the feelings they have for them. You might display a picture of your family and briefly describe your love for them. Ask students to consider whether there is anyone in their family who is not a member of the Church or is not currently living according to his or her covenants with the Lord. You might also invite students to ponder their hopes for such family members.
Explain that in Doctrine and Covenants 31, the Lord addressed a recent convert named Thomas B. Marsh and spoke to him about his family.
To help the class understand the background of this section, invite a student to read the following description of how Thomas B. Marsh became a member of the Church.
While living in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1829, Thomas B. Marsh concluded that none of the churches he knew of were consistent with the teachings of the Bible. He wrote, “I believed the Spirit of God dictated me to make a journey west.” He departed from his wife, Elizabeth, and their young family to search for the truth. After a three-month journey, Thomas was traveling home when he “heard of [a] Golden Book found by a youth named Joseph Smith.” He made his way to Palmyra, New York, where he met Martin Harris. The printer gave Thomas a proof sheet containing the first sixteen pages of the Book of Mormon. Thomas later wrote, “After arriving home … I showed my wife the sixteen pages of the Book of Mormon … with which she was well pleased, believing it to be the work of God.” About a year later, after learning about the organization of the Church, Thomas and his family moved to Palmyra. While living in the area he was baptized near Fayette and ordained an elder by Oliver Cowdery in September 1830 (see Thomas B. Marsh, “History of Thomas Baldwin Marsh,” Millennial Star, June 11, 1864, 375).
What impresses you about Thomas B. Marsh’s search for the truth?
What encouragement did the Lord give to Thomas in these verses?
What promise did the Lord give Thomas concerning his family?
What principle can we learn from Doctrine and Covenants 31:1–2 that can help us if we have family members who are not members of the Church or are not faithfully living according to their covenants? (Although students may use different words, they should identify the following principle: Through our faithfulness, our family members may be blessed to believe and know the truth. Write this principle on the board.)
What are some ways individuals may be blessed through the faithfulness of family members? What examples of this have you seen?
Ask students to scan Doctrine and Covenants 31:3–4 and identify what the Lord called Thomas B. Marsh to do. Invite them to report what they find. Then ask a student to read the following statement by President Gordon B. Hinckley regarding the blessings that come to those who faithfully serve as missionaries. (You may want to provide students with a copy of this statement to keep in their scriptures.) Invite the class to listen for who is blessed through missionary service.
“You will bless the lives of those you teach, and their posterity after them. You will bless your own life. You will bless the lives of your family, who will sustain you and pray for you” (“Of Missions, Temples, and Stewardship,” Ensign, Nov. 1995, 52).
Who is blessed through missionary service?
Divide the class into three groups. Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 31:5–8 aloud. Ask one group to look for blessings that would come to those whom Thomas B. Marsh would teach. Ask the second group to look for blessings that would come to Thomas as he served as a missionary. Ask the third group to look for blessings that would come to Thomas’s family while he was away from them. After the student reads, ask the following questions:
What blessings would come to those whom Thomas would teach?
How would Thomas be blessed for his missionary service?
How would his family be blessed?
How has another person’s missionary service blessed your life or the life of someone you know?
You may want to share examples of how you have seen missionary service bless people’s lives.
Explain that Doctrine and Covenants 31:9–13 contains counsel the Lord gave to help Thomas B. Marsh in his personal life and as a missionary. Before class, write the following instructions on the board or prepare them on a handout for students:
Assign students to work in pairs. Ask them to study Doctrine and Covenants 31:9–12 individually and then share their answers to the questions with their partners.
After students have shared, invite them to read Doctrine and Covenants 31:13 silently and identify the blessing the Lord promised to Thomas B. Marsh if he would be faithful. Invite a student to come to the board and write this promise in the form of a principle, using the words if and then. Encourage the rest of the class to assist the student as needed. Although the student may use different words, the following principle should be clear: If we are faithful to the end, then the Lord will be with us. Point out that this truth applies to us as we try to share the gospel with others as well as in other situations.
When have you felt that the Lord was with you as you sought to be faithful to Him? (Give students time to ponder this question before they respond. Consider sharing an experience of your own.)
Ask students to look at the map in their scriptures titled “The Westward Movement of the Church” (see Church History Maps, Map 6). Or you could display a large map showing the distance between New York and Missouri, USA.
Where were Oliver Cowdery and Peter Whitmer Jr. called to preach the gospel? (If students do not remember, invite them to refer to Doctrine and Covenants 28:8–9; 30:5. These missionaries were called to preach “unto the Lamanites,” on the western border of Missouri. Help students locate this area on the map.)
Invite a student to read aloud the section introduction of Doctrine and Covenants 32. Ask the class to follow along and identify the question some elders of the Church had concerning the mission Oliver Cowdery and Peter Whitmer Jr. were called to perform.
What question did some elders of the Church have concerning the mission to the Lamanites? (They wanted to know if additional missionaries might be called to teach the Lamanites.)
Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 32:1–3 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what Parley P. Pratt and Ziba Peterson were called to do and what the Lord promised them.
What were Parley and Ziba called to do?
What did the Lord promise them?
You may want to point out the similarity between the promises given in Doctrine and Covenants 32:3 and the principle written on the board: If we are faithful to the end, then the Lord will be with us.
You may want to explain that during the fall of 1830 and the winter of 1830–31, this small group of missionaries (later joined by a convert from Ohio named Frederick G. Williams) traveled nearly 1,500 miles (about 2,400 kilometers) from Fayette, New York, to Independence, Missouri, much of the way on foot. These four missionaries arrived at Independence in mid-January 1831. For part of their journey, they endured intense cold, strong winds, and exhaustion, living mainly on frozen corn bread and raw pork. In some places, the snow where they walked was three feet deep. In spite of these hardships, the missionaries succeeded in introducing the gospel to American Indians who lived in Indian Territory near the western border of Missouri. They also preached the gospel in Mentor and Kirtland, Ohio, to a congregation of people who were looking for a restoration of New Testament Christianity. (Students will learn more about these people and their leader, Sidney Rigdon, in their study of Doctrine and Covenants 35.) The Lord fulfilled His promise that He would be with these missionaries and that nothing would prevail against them. (See Church History in the Fulness of Times Student Manual, 2nd ed. [Church Educational System manual, 2003], 84–85.)
You may want to conclude this lesson by testifying of the truths you have discussed.