Lesson 40: Doctrine and Covenants 35

Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Seminary Teacher Manual, 2013


Introduction

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.

Suggestions for Teaching

Doctrine and Covenants 35:1–12

The Lord says that He has prepared Sidney Rigdon for a greater work

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:

Elder Neal A. Maxwell

“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).

John the Baptist Baptizing Jesus

Display a picture of John the Baptist preaching or of John baptizing the Savior (see John the Baptist Baptizing Jesus, Gospel Art Book [2009], 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?

Doctrine and Covenants 35:13–19

The Lord promises to help those He calls to do His work

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?

Doctrine and Covenants 35:20–27

The Lord commands Sidney Rigdon to write for Joseph Smith, preach the gospel, and keep the covenants he had made

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:

The Lord knows us and has a work for each of us to do.

God calls upon those who are weak to accomplish His work through the power of His Spirit.

As we keep the commandments and honor our covenants, the Lord will help us accomplish His work.

  • 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.

Commentary and Background Information

Doctrine and Covenants 35:3–4. “I have … prepared thee for a greater work”

Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke of the importance of accepting the Lord’s plans for our lives:

“Faith and trust in the Lord give us the strength to accept and persist, whatever happens in our lives. …

“… Do not rely on planning every event of your life—even every important event. Stand ready to accept the Lord’s planning and the agency of others in matters that inevitably affect you. Plan, of course, but fix your planning on personal commitments that will carry you through no matter what happens. Anchor your life to eternal principles, and act upon those principles whatever the circumstances and whatever the actions of others. Then you can await the Lord’s timing and be sure of the outcome in eternity” (“Timing,” Ensign, Oct. 2003, 17).

Doctrine and Covenants 35:13–14. “The weak things of the world”

President Boyd K. Packer taught:

“The Church has no professional clergy. The call to leadership positions worldwide is drawn from the congregation. …

“Everything that is done in the Church—the leading, the teaching, the calling, the ordaining, the praying, the singing, the preparation of the sacrament, the counseling, and everything else—is done by ordinary members, the ‘weak things of the world’” (“The Weak and the Simple of the Church,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2007, 6–7).

Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles offered the following encouragement to those who feel too inadequate or weary to assist in the Lord’s work:

“For you members of the Church who hold back because of feelings of inadequacy, I plead with you to step forward, put your shoulder to the wheel, and push. Even when you feel that your strength can add little, the Church needs you. The Lord needs you. Remember that the Lord often chooses ‘the weak things of the world’ to accomplish His purposes. [D&C 1:19.]

“To all who are weary, let the comforting words of the Savior console you: ‘Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.’ [Matthew 11:28.] Let us rely on that promise. The power of God can infuse our spirits and bodies with energy and vigor. I urge you to seek this blessing from the Lord.

“Draw near to Him, and He will draw near to you, for He has promised that ‘they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.’ [Isaiah 40:31.] …

“Remember, sometimes those who start out the slowest end up going the farthest” (“Concern for the One,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2008, 19).

Doctrine and Covenants 35:13–14. “I will gird up their loins”

President Thomas S. Monson taught that the Lord will help us accomplish His work:

“Some of you may be shy by nature or consider yourselves inadequate to respond affirmatively to a calling. Remember that this work is not yours and mine alone. It is the Lord’s work, and when we are on the Lord’s errand, we are entitled to the Lord’s help. Remember that the Lord will shape the back to bear the burden placed upon it” (“To Learn, to Do, to Be,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2008, 62).

Doctrine and Covenants 35:19, 22. “Watch over him … , tarry with him, … forsake him not”

The Lord commanded Sidney Rigdon to “watch over [Joseph Smith],” to “tarry with him,” and to “forsake him not” (D&C 35:19, 22). Although Sidney dissented from the Church after Joseph Smith’s martyrdom, he was always faithful when the Prophet was alive. He was a diligent and loyal Church leader, the only counselor in the First Presidency who served during Joseph Smith’s entire administration as President of the Church. Sidney suffered terrible adversity at the Prophet’s side, and he enjoyed great spiritual manifestations with the Prophet.

Doctrine and Covenants 35:20. The Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible

“The scriptures shall be given, even as they are in mine own bosom” (D&C 35:20). This passage implies that Joseph Smith’s work on the inspired translation of the Bible was to go beyond simply restoring the original texts of the Bible. Rather, the biblical text was to communicate the message the Lord Himself intended it to convey. As a result, Joseph not only corrected or revised the biblical text, but he was also inspired to add to what had originally been included, giving us a more complete understanding of the truths the Lord desires for us to understand.

Doctrine and Covenants 35:23. “Call on the holy prophets to prove his words”

Sidney Rigdon was an experienced preacher with a good knowledge of the Bible. The Lord charged him to use these gifts to preach the restored gospel and to use the teachings of biblical prophets to support Joseph’s words.

Supplemental Teaching Idea

Doctrine and Covenants 35:7–9. Miracles in our day

You may want to explain that the phrase “great work in the land” in verse 7 refers to the great work of the Lord to be done throughout the earth.

  • According to verse 9, in whose name will the miracles be done? (The Savior’s name. This implies that the great work of the Lord, including miracles, will be done by God’s authorized servants who hold the priesthood.)

Explain that the signs listed in verse 9 are the same signs the Savior promised to the believers during His mortal ministry (see Mark 16:17).