Lesson 42: Doctrine and Covenants 38:1–16

Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Seminary Teacher Manual, 2013


In December 1830 the Lord had revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith a commandment for the Church to gather to Ohio (see D&C 37). In 1831 the Lord gave the revelation now recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 38, which explained several reasons why the Saints should gather to Ohio. He also gave commandments to guide them in gathering. This lesson covers the first 16 verses of section 38. In this revelation, Jesus Christ told members of the Church that He was in their midst. He also described who would abide His Second Coming, warned the Saints of danger, and gave the Saints encouragement.

Suggestions for Teaching

Doctrine and Covenants 38:1–7

Jesus Christ tells the members of His Church that He is in their midst

Invite students to list in their class notebooks or scripture study journals some commandments they feel are easy for them to obey. Then invite them to consider which commandments are difficult for them to obey and why. (Students might also write down these thoughts if they feel comfortable doing so.)

  • Why might some commandments be difficult for us to obey?

  • What has motivated you to keep commandments that are difficult for you to obey?

Remind students that in December 1830, the Lord commanded the Saints in New York to gather to Ohio (see D&C 37). For some of these Church members, this commandment was very difficult to obey. On January 2, 1831, the Saints from the various branches in New York met at the home of Peter Whitmer Sr. for the third conference of the Church. During the conference, several Church members asked about the commandment to move to Ohio.

  • Why do you think it might have been difficult for some of the Saints to obey the commandment to leave New York and gather to Ohio?

You may need to explain that not everyone at the conference understood the wisdom of this commandment. Some would not accept it as the word of the Lord, and others were reluctant to leave their prosperous farms and comfortable circumstances for the uncertainties of a new place. There was a real possibility that many would lose money on their property and that some might even be unable to sell their property.

Explain that during the January 1831 conference, Joseph Smith prayed to the Lord to learn more about the commandment to gather to Ohio. The Lord responded with the revelation now recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 38. Inform students that as they study this revelation, they will learn truths that can help them as they make choices concerning commandments they find difficult to obey.

Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 38:1–3 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for truths we can learn about Jesus Christ. As students respond, you may want to suggest that they mark the words and phrases associated with their answers.

  • What truths can we learn about Jesus Christ from these verses? (As students respond, help them identify the following doctrine: Jesus Christ knows all things.)

  • How might understanding that Jesus Christ knows all things have helped the Saints who were commanded to move to Ohio?

  • How might this truth also help us at times when we struggle to obey the Lord’s commandments?

Explain that just prior to receiving this revelation, Joseph Smith had been working on the inspired revision of the Bible and had received what is now Moses 6–7 in the Pearl of Great Price. These chapters give an account of a prophet named Enoch and his people. Because of their righteousness and unity, the Lord called these people Zion. Invite students to read Doctrine and Covenants 38:4 silently and look for what the Lord did for Enoch and his people. Ask students to report what they have found. You may need to explain that when the Lord used the phrase “mine own bosom,” He was referring to His presence.

  • According to verse 4, what was one thing Enoch’s people did that caused the Lord to take them up to heaven? (They believed on His name.)

  • What did the Savior say He had done for those who had believed on His name? How does that make you feel about the Savior?

Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 38:5–7 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what Jesus Christ said about where He is.

  • Where did Jesus Christ say He is?

  • When have you felt that the Savior was near even though you could not see Him with your eyes?

Doctrine and Covenants 38:8–12

The Lord describes who will abide His Second Coming

Display the picture The Second Coming (Gospel Art Book [2009], no. 66; see also LDS.org). Explain that as the Savior was helping the Saints in New York understand the importance of gathering to Ohio, He spoke of His Second Coming.

The Second Coming

Ask a few students to take turns reading aloud from Doctrine and Covenants 38:8–10. Invite the class to follow along, looking for what the Savior revealed about His Second Coming. It may help to explain that those who “abide the day” (D&C 38:8) of the Second Coming are those who, rather than being destroyed, will be able to remain on the earth with the Savior when He comes.

  • How do these verses help us understand the importance of being purified and clean before the Second Coming?

Invite students to read Doctrine and Covenants 38:11–12 silently and look for the Lord’s description of the conditions that would exist on the earth prior to the Second Coming. Then ask students to report what they have learned. (To help students understand these verses, you may want to explain that the description of angels waiting to “reap down the earth” is a reference to the New Testament parable of the wheat and the tares [see Matthew 13:24–30; D&C 86:1–7], in which the wheat [those who are righteous] are gathered up prior to the burning of the tares [those who are wicked].)

  • What evidence do you see that the conditions described in verse 11 exist today?

  • What can we do to remain pure in the midst of these conditions?

Doctrine and Covenants 38:13–16

The Lord warns the Saints of danger and gives them encouragement

Explain that in addition to speaking of His Second Coming, the Lord delivered a warning concerning danger the Saints faced. Refer students to Doctrine and Covenants 38:12 and ask the following question:

  • At the end of verse 12, what did the Lord teach about the enemy of the Saints?

Help students understand that the phrase “the enemy is combined” could be generally referring to the fact that Satan and his forces are combined against the Saints in the latter days. It might also be referring to people who were enemies of the Saints at the time this revelation was given. Ask a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 38:13 aloud, and invite students to look for what this combined enemy’s intentions were. Invite students to report what they have found.

  • What can the Lord do when we are in danger? (Students may give a variety of responses. Be sure to emphasize the following principle, and write it on the board: The Lord can warn us of danger.)

Give students a few moments to ponder the messages the Lord’s prophets have given us in general conference and through Church publications.

  • In what ways are these messages warnings from the Lord of spiritual or physical dangers we face?

  • In what other ways have you been warned of spiritual or physical dangers?

Invite students to read Doctrine and Covenants 38:14–15 silently and look for how the Lord encouraged the Saints during this time of danger and uncertainty. Ask students to report what they have found.

Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 38:16 aloud. Ask the class to follow along and look for what the Lord gave to the Saints for their salvation. Help students understand that the commandment referred to was the commandment to move from New York to Ohio.

  • How might the commandment to move from New York have been for the Saints’ physical salvation?

  • How could the commandment to gather to Ohio have been for their spiritual salvation?

Add to the principle on the board so it reads as follows: The Lord can warn us of danger and give us commandments for our protection.

  • How can keeping the Lord’s commandments protect us?

  • When have you felt that you were protected by keeping a commandment? (You may want to give students time to ponder their answers before asking them to respond.)

Invite students to recall the activity at the beginning of class in which they thought about commandments that are difficult for them to obey. Ask them to consider how these commandments can be blessings from the Lord to protect them from spiritual or physical dangers.

  • How can understanding the truth written on the board encourage you to obey the Lord’s commandments, especially when obeying those commandments may seem difficult?

Conclude by inviting students to share their testimonies of the Lord’s ability to warn us of danger and provide commandments that, if obeyed, will give us protection. You may also want to testify of this truth.

scripture mastery iconScripture Mastery Review

To help students increase their understanding of scripture mastery passages, give them opportunities to create questions or clues that they can use to challenge you. For example, you could invite students to work as a class or in small groups to write clues that point to specific scripture mastery passages. (You may want to select a specific group of passages that you would like students to learn or review.) Then have them read their clues to you. Points are awarded to you if you guess a scripture mastery passage correctly. Points are awarded to the class if you are unable to guess correctly.

Note: If you do not have time to use this activity as part of this lesson, you may use it on another day. For other review activities, see the appendix at the end of this manual.

Commentary and Background Information

Doctrine and Covenants 38:16. “For your salvation I give unto you a commandment”

President George Albert Smith taught:

“When I was a child I recognized, or thought I did, that the commandments of the Lord were His laws and regulations for my guidance. I thought I recognized in the disobedience to those laws that punishment would follow. … But as I grew older I have learned the lesson from another viewpoint, and now to me the laws of the Lord … are but the sweet music of the voice of our Father in heaven in His mercy to us. They are but the advice and counsel of a loving parent, who is more concerned in our welfare than earthly parents can be, and consequently that which at one time seemed to bear the harsh name of law to me is now the loving and tender advice of an all-wise Heavenly Father. And so I say it is not hard for me to believe that it is best for me to keep the commandments of God” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: George Albert Smith [2011], 193–94).