Lesson 39: Doctrine and Covenants 33–34

Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Seminary Teacher Manual, 2013


Introduction

In October 1830 the Lord called Ezra Thayre and Northrop Sweet to proclaim the gospel. This revelation, recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 33, includes instructions on how these men were to teach the gospel. Shortly thereafter, in the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 34, the Lord commended Orson Pratt for his faith and also commanded him to preach the gospel.

Suggestions for Teaching

Doctrine and Covenants 33:1–6

The Lord calls Ezra Thayre and Northrop Sweet to proclaim the gospel

Before class write the following on the board: trumpet, mouth, ear, a field ready to be harvested. (If possible, display pictures of these things.) At the beginning of class, ask the following question:

To help students understand the context for Doctrine and Covenants 33, explain that Ezra Thayre lived near the family of Joseph Smith Sr. He had come to know members of the Smith family through work they had done for him at various times. In October 1830, Ezra Thayre and another resident of Palmyra, Northrop Sweet, were baptized into the Church. Shortly thereafter, the Prophet Joseph Smith received a revelation addressed to these two men, which is now recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 33.

Invite students to read Doctrine and Covenants 33:1–2 silently, looking for words and phrases that relate to the drawings (or words) on the board. (The image of the mouth will be addressed later in this lesson.) After students report what they find, ask the following questions:

  • What do you think it means to “open … your ears and hearken to the voice of … God”? How can we show the Lord that our ears are open to hearing His voice?

  • What do you think it means to declare the gospel “as with the sound of a trump”?

Explain that the Lord often uses familiar objects, such as the trumpet, as symbols to teach His gospel and to help us understand eternal truths. Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 33:3 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for additional symbols the Lord used in this revelation.

  • What do you think the Lord’s vineyard represents? (The world.)

  • Who might the laborers in the Lord’s vineyard represent? (Members of the Lord’s Church.)

  • What do you think the phrase “it is the eleventh hour” means? (This is the final dispensation of the gospel and the last time the Lord will set up His kingdom on earth before His Second Coming.)

Ask students to read Doctrine and Covenants 33:4 silently, looking for how the Lord described the condition of the world in 1830.

  • Which phrases in this verse stand out to you? Why? What can we do to strengthen ourselves against the corrupt influences of the world?

Write the following on the board: The Lord has _____________________________________________ and is _____________________________________________.

Give students a few moments to ponder what the Lord has done or is doing to help strengthen them against the corruption of the world. Explain that in Doctrine and Covenants 33:5–6, the Lord declared something He has done and one thing He is doing to help strengthen us against the corruption of the world. Invite a student to read these verses aloud. Invite the class to follow along, and identify what the Lord has done and will do to strengthen us.

  • According to these verses, what is something God has done and something He is now doing that can help strengthen us against the corruption of the world? (As students respond, invite a student to fill in the blanks in the statement on the board. Students’ answers should reflect the following principle: The Lord has established His Church and is gathering His elect in the last days.)

To help students further understand this truth and feel its importance, assign them to work in pairs and discuss their answers to the following questions. You could read these questions aloud, write them on the board, or distribute them on a handout. (Do not include the answer in parentheses.)

  1. 1.

    According to verse 6, who are the elect? (Those who will believe in God and hearken to His voice.)

  2. 2.

    Considering the corruptness of the world, why would it be important for the Lord’s elect to gather together?

  3. 3.

    How has your membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints strengthened you against the corruption in the world?

Doctrine and Covenants 33:7–18

The Lord gives Ezra Thayre and Northrop Sweet instructions for teaching the gospel

Refer to the drawing of a mouth (or to the word mouth) on the board. Invite students to read Doctrine and Covenants 33:7–10 silently, looking for what the Lord taught Ezra Thayre and Northrop Sweet they were to do. Ask students to report what they learned.

Write the following incomplete statement on the board: If we open our mouths to declare the gospel …

Ask students to use what they have learned from Doctrine and Covenants 33:7–10 to complete this statement. You may want to invite a student to come to the board to finish writing the principle. It could be written as follows: If we open our mouths to declare the gospel, the Lord will inspire us with what to say.

  • What are some situations in which we might be reluctant to open our mouths about the gospel?

  • When have you decided to open your mouth to speak about the gospel and felt inspired to know what to say? When have you seen someone else share the gospel and felt that they were inspired in what they said?

Summarize Doctrine and Covenants 33:11–15 by explaining that in these verses, the Lord instructed Ezra Thayre and Northrop Sweet to preach the first principles and ordinances of the gospel—faith in Jesus Christ, repentance, baptism, and the gift of the Holy Ghost.

Refer again to the principle written on the board. Ask students to ponder what we need to do, in addition to opening our mouths, so the Lord can inspire us to know what to say as we share the gospel with others. Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 33:16–18 aloud. Ask the class to follow along and identify specific counsel the Lord gave Ezra and Northrop that would help them know what to say as missionaries.

  • What counsel did the Lord give Ezra and Northrop that could help them know what to say as missionaries? (Consider writing students’ answers on the board.)

  • What do you think is the meaning of the Lord’s counsel to have “your lamps trimmed and burning, and oil with you”? (D&C 33:17). (To be spiritually prepared and ready at all times for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. This verse relates to the parable of the ten virgins, found in Matthew 25:1–13 and mentioned in Doctrine and Covenants 45:56–57.)

  • How can the Lord’s counsel in these verses help us be ready to open our mouths to share the gospel at any moment and in any situation?

Doctrine and Covenants 34

The Lord commends Orson Pratt for his faith and commands him to preach the gospel

Invite students to look in the section introduction to Doctrine and Covenants 34 to find an example of someone who was blessed when another person opened his mouth to share the gospel.

  • Who was blessed in this example? How old was Orson Pratt when he was baptized? How did he learn about the gospel?

Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 34:1 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for how the Lord referred to Orson. Invite students to report what they find. Then ask the class to read Doctrine and Covenants 34:2–3 silently to discover why the Lord called him “My son.”

  • Why did the Lord call Orson His son? (Because of Orson’s belief in the Lord.)

  • According to Doctrine and Covenants 34:3, what did the Lord do for “as many as” believe in Him? (To help students understand that the truth in this verse applies equally to women, you may want to suggest that they read Doctrine and Covenants 25:1.)

Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 34:4–6 aloud. Ask students to follow along, looking for what the Lord told Orson would bring more blessings into his life.

  • Why do you think we are “more blessed” when we teach the gospel to others?

Invite another student to read Doctrine and Covenants 34:10–11 aloud. Ask students to follow along, looking for blessings given to those who diligently share the gospel with others.

  • What blessings are given to those who diligently teach the gospel? (As students respond, you may want to write the following principle on the board: Those who diligently teach the gospel will do so by the power of the Holy Ghost.)

  • What blessing is promised to those who are faithful? (You might also want to write this principle on the board: If we are faithful, the Lord will be with us.)

  • How might the truth in Doctrine and Covenants 34:11 help you in a time of discouragement?

You may want to conclude by sharing about a time when you have felt the Lord with you as you have been faithful to Him. You may also want to testify of the truths discussed in this lesson.

Commentary and Background Information

Doctrine and Covenants 33. Northrop Sweet

Northrop Sweet was baptized a member of the Church by Parley P. Pratt in October 1830, in Palmyra, New York. He was appointed to serve a mission in October 1830 (see D&C 33). He had moved to Kirtland, Ohio, by June 1831, where he was ordained an elder; however, he left the Church shortly thereafter and attempted to form another church, claiming that Joseph Smith was a false prophet.

Doctrine and Covenants 33:1. God’s word is quick and powerful

The Lord used some impressive images to describe the power of His word. The idea that God’s word is powerful is easy to understand because by His word everything from the heavens to the human heart is moved. The word quick in Doctrine and Covenants 33:1 does not mean swift; it means living, or alive (see Bible Dictionary, “Quick”). The phrase “sharper than a two-edged sword, to the dividing asunder of the joints and marrow, soul and spirit” graphically describes how God’s word can cut through to the very heart of a person (see also 1 Nephi 16:1–2).

The conversion of Ezra Thayre provides an example of how God’s word is quick and powerful. Ezra Thayre recalled:

“When Hyrum began to speak, every word touched me to the inmost soul. I thought every word was pointed to me. God punished me and riveted me to the spot. I could not help myself. The tears rolled down my cheeks, I was very proud and stubborn. There were many there who knew me, I dare not look up. I sat until I recovered myself before I dare look up. They sung some hymns and that filled me with the Spirit. When Hyrum got through, he picked up a book and said, ‘here is the Book of Mormon.’ I said, let me see it. I then opened the book, and I received a shock with such exquisite joy that no pen can write and no tongue can express. I shut the book and said, what is the price of it? ‘Fourteen shillings’ was the reply. I said, I’ll take the book. I opened it again, and I felt a double portion of the Spirit, that I did not know whether I was in the world or not. I felt as though I was truly in heaven.

“Martin Harris rushed to me to tell me that the book was true. I told him that he need not tell me that, for I knew that it is true as well as he” (in Lyndon W. Cook, The Revelations of the Prophet Joseph Smith: A Historical and Biographical Commentary of the Doctrine and Covenants [1985], 47–48).

Doctrine and Covenants 33:9. Laden with sheaves upon your back

What does it mean that we can be “laden with sheaves upon [our] backs”? This phrase refers to the crops, or sheaves, harvested from a field. To be “laden with sheaves” denotes a large and plentiful harvest. This is a symbolic phrase representing great missionary success.

Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles further explained the meaning of this analogy:

“The sheaves in this analogy represent newly baptized members of the Church. The garners are the holy temples. Elder Neal A. Maxwell explained: ‘Clearly, when we baptize, our eyes should gaze beyond the baptismal font to the holy temple. The great garner into which the sheaves should be gathered is the holy temple’ (in John L. Hart, ‘Make Calling Focus of Your Mission,’ Church News, Sept. 17, 1994, 4). This instruction clarifies and emphasizes the importance of sacred temple ordinances and covenants—that the sheaves may not be wasted” (“Honorably Hold a Name and Standing,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2009, 97).

Doctrine and Covenants 34:1. Orson Pratt

Orson Pratt described how he exercised faith in Jesus Christ as a young man:

“From the age of ten to nineteen I saw much of the world, and was tossed about without any permanent abiding place; but through the grace of God, I was kept from many of the evils to which young people are exposed; the early impressions of morality and religion, instilled into my mind by my parents, always remained with me; and I often felt a great anxiety to be prepared for a future state; but never commenced, in real earnest, to seek after the Lord, until the autumn of 1829. I then began to pray very fervently, repenting of every sin. In the silent shades of night, while others were slumbering upon their pillows, I often retired to some secret place in the lonely fields or solitary wilderness, and bowed before the Lord, and prayed for hours with a broken heart and contrite spirit; this was my comfort and delight. The greatest desire of my heart was for the Lord to manifest His will concerning me” (in The Orson Pratt Journals, comp. Elden J. Watson [1975], 8–9).

Doctrine and Covenants 34:10. “Lift up your voice”

In obedience to the Lord’s command recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 34:10, Orson Pratt lifted up his voice to share the gospel. Shortly after receiving this revelation, Orson Pratt embarked on a mission to Colesville, New York. On another mission a few years later, Orson traveled “on foot near 4000 miles, attended 207 meetings, … baptized 104 persons, and organized several new Branches of the Church” (Orson Pratt, “History of Orson Pratt,” Millennial Star, Feb. 4, 1865, 72). In his lifetime of service, “he crossed the ocean sixteen times, on missions of salvation” (“Orson Pratt,” Contributor, Nov. 1881, 61).

Supplemental Teaching Ideas

Doctrine and Covenants 33:11–13. Building our lives on the rock

Ask students to read Doctrine and Covenants 33:11–13 silently, looking for the definition of the rock.

  • According to these verses, what is the “rock” that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is built upon? (The gospel of Jesus Christ.)

  • What can we do daily to build our lives on this “rock”?

  • Why would we want to build our lives on the “rock”?

To help students identify a principle in Doctrine and Covenants 33:13, write the following phrase on the board: If we build our lives on the gospel of Jesus Christ …

Invite students to complete the statement with words from verse 13. (Students may use different words, but they should identify the following principle: If we build our lives on the gospel of Jesus Christ, the devil will not prevail against us. Complete the principle on the board.)

  • What does it mean that “the gates of hell shall not prevail against” us?

  • Why is it true that if we build our lives on the gospel of Jesus Christ, the devil will not prevail against us? (You may want to suggest that students write a cross-reference to the scripture mastery passage Helaman 5:12 next to Doctrine and Covenants 33:13.)

  • When have you felt power to overcome the adversary as you have focused on these fundamental gospel principles?