Within six months of the Church’s organization, Oliver Cowdery and Peter Whitmer Jr. were called to preach the gospel to the American Indians (see D&C 28:8; 30:5). Ziba Peterson and Parley P. Pratt were called soon thereafter to accompany them (see D&C 32). On their way to the western borders of Missouri, they stopped in Mentor, Ohio, and Kirtland, Ohio, where they shared the message of the restored gospel with Elder Pratt’s friend and former minister, Sidney Rigdon. In a short time more than 100 people, including Sidney Rigdon and many members of his congregation, were baptized. This more than doubled the Church’s total membership.
After the elders left the Kirtland area to continue their journey, Sidney Rigdon and a friend named Edward Partridge traveled to Fayette, New York, to meet the Prophet Joseph Smith. Soon after their arrival, Joseph received the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 35. In it, the Lord gave Sidney specific responsibilities within the newly restored Church.
Before class, write the following question on the board: What have you experienced that helps you know that the Lord knows you and has a plan for your life?
To begin the lesson, invite students to share responses to this question if they feel comfortable doing so.
Explain that in the revelation now recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 35, the Lord addressed a man named Sidney Rigdon, who had recently been baptized and confirmed. The Lord spoke to Sidney about his role in assisting the Prophet Joseph Smith. Encourage students to continue to think about the question on the board as they study the Lord’s instructions to Sidney.
To help students understand some of Sidney Rigdon’s background, ask a student to read aloud the introduction to this lesson. Then invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 35:1–3 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for evidence that the Lord was aware of Sidney Rigdon and his works.
What evidence did you find that the Lord was aware of Sidney Rigdon?
What do these verses suggest about the Lord’s relationship with us? (As students respond, write the following principle on the board: The Lord knows us and has a work for each of us to do.)
Why does this truth matter to you?
To affirm that the Lord knows us individually, invite a student to read aloud the following statement by Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:
“I testify to you that God has known you individually … for a long, long time (see D&C 93:23). He has loved you for a long, long time. … He knows your names and all your heartaches and your joys!” (“Remember How Merciful the Lord Hath Been,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2004, 46).
Display a picture of John the Baptist preaching or of John baptizing the Savior (see John the Baptist Baptizing Jesus, Gospel Art Book , no. 35; see also LDS.org). Ask students to identify who John the Baptist was and how he prepared others for the coming of Jesus Christ.
Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 35:4–6 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for how Sidney Rigdon was like John the Baptist.
According to verse 4, how was Sidney like John the Baptist? (He had prepared others to receive the fulness of the gospel.)
The Lord said that Sidney would do a “greater work” than the work he had already done (D&C 35:3). According to Doctrine and Covenants 35:6, what was part of this “greater work”? (He would help others receive baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost through the proper authority.)
Invite students to ponder how experiences and situations in their lives now might be preparing them for a “greater work” in the future. You might want to give them a few minutes to write about this in their class notebooks or scripture study journals.
Point out the phrase “and thou knewest it not” in Doctrine and Covenants 35:4. Explain that before Sidney ever learned about the restored Church of Jesus Christ, he had been preparing himself and others to receive it. He did so by using the Bible to teach the people in his church in Ohio. Testify that although we may not know the specific labors the Lord has in store for us, we can have confidence that He is aware of us. As we strive to follow Him, He will help us accomplish the work He wants us to do.
Invite students to read Doctrine and Covenants 35:7–11 silently. Ask them to look for what will occur in the lives of those who believe and exercise faith in God in the last days.
According to these verses, what did the Lord promise those who follow Him in faith? (Though students may use different words, they should identify the following doctrine: The Lord will work miracles, signs, and wonders according to the faith of those who believe on His name.)
Why do you think miracles, signs, and wonders are so closely linked to faith?
Invite students to imagine that they are putting together a sports team. Ask them to describe the strengths and skills they would desire in their players.
Explain that in this revelation the Lord described those He calls upon to help in the latter-day work of building His kingdom. Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 35:13 aloud, and ask the class to identify characteristics of those whom the Lord chooses to assist in His work.
Which phrases in this verse describe those whom the Lord calls to assist in His work?
In what ways could those whom the Lord calls to assist in His work be considered “the weak things of the world”?
Why might those whom the world considers weak be good candidates to help the Lord accomplish His work?
Explain that the word thrash (or thresh) in this verse refers to the practice of threshing grain. Threshing is the process by which a grain, such as wheat, is separated from its stalk and husk. The grain is kept, and the stalk and husk are discarded.
What do you think is the meaning of the phrase “thresh the nations by the power of my Spirit”? (You may need to help students understand that this refers to the Lord’s efforts to separate and gather those people who are ready to receive the gospel from those who are not.)
What truth can we learn from verse 13? (Students may use different words, but they should identify the following principle: God calls upon those who are weak to accomplish His work through the power of His Spirit. Write this truth on the board.)
How could this truth help someone who feels nervous about serving a mission? How could it help someone who has been asked to teach at church but feels inadequate? How could it help someone who feels prompted to share the gospel but isn’t sure what to say or do?
Invite students to read Doctrine and Covenants 35:14–15 silently and look for ways the Lord has promised to strengthen those who assist in His work.
What are some phrases in these verses that describe how the Lord will bless us as we assist in His work?
Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 35:17–19, 22 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for the Lord’s counsel to Sidney Rigdon regarding the Prophet Joseph Smith.
What counsel did the Lord give to Sidney Rigdon regarding the Prophet Joseph Smith? (“Watch over him that his faith fail not,” “tarry with him,” and “forsake him not.”)
How can we apply this counsel in regard to our Church leaders today?
Ask students to describe their callings or duties in the Church. Then ask students to scan Doctrine and Covenants 35:20–23 silently, looking for the specific duties the Lord called Sidney Rigdon to perform.
What are some of the duties the Lord called Sidney Rigdon to perform?
Point out that one of Sidney’s duties was to be a scribe for Joseph Smith. Joseph’s previous scribes, Oliver Cowdery and John Whitmer, had been called on missions. The translation of the Book of Mormon was complete by this time, but the Lord had commanded Joseph to restore or revise portions of the King James Version of the Bible that had been lost or changed. Joseph needed a scribe to assist with this work. (See Bible Dictionary, “Joseph Smith Translation.”)
Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 35:24–25 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for blessings the Lord promised to Sidney if he would keep the covenants he had made with the Lord. You may want to suggest that students mark what they find.
What do you think it means that the Lord would cause the heavens to shake for your good? (One possible meaning is that the Lord would send the blessings and powers of heaven to help us accomplish His work and overcome evil. See also D&C 21:6.)
Invite students to summarize these verses by identifying a principle about how we can be successful in accomplishing the work God has for us. Although students may phrase it differently, their answers should reflect the following principle: As we keep the commandments and honor our covenants, the Lord will help us accomplish His work. Write this principle on the board.
Draw students’ attention to the three truths written on the board:
How do the three truths on the board relate to each other?
When have you (or someone you know) received the Lord’s help while seeking to accomplish His work?
To conclude, invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 35:26–27 aloud.
Based on what you have learned in Doctrine and Covenants 35, what reasons do you think Sidney Rigdon and Joseph Smith had to lift up their hearts and be glad?
Invite students to share reasons they have to lift up their hearts and be glad. You may want to add your testimony of the Lord’s willingness to help us in our efforts to assist in His work.