This lesson will give students a brief overview of the Saints’ experiences in Ohio. In December 1830 the Saints were commanded to move to Ohio (see D&C 37:3), and in January 1831 they were promised that they would be “endowed with power from on high” if they would obey (D&C 38:32).
Those who gathered in Ohio were greatly blessed. Continuous revelations led the Saints to deeper understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ. In addition, they received the blessings that came from building a temple and preaching the gospel. While the Church grew in numbers and spiritual strength in Ohio, severe opposition also increased against the Church and its leaders. The Prophet Joseph Smith lived in Kirtland from January 1831 to January 1838.
Suggestions for Teaching
Explain that in January 1831, the Prophet Joseph Smith and his wife, Emma, as well as Sidney Rigdon and Edward Partridge, left New York for Ohio. Most of the New York Saints followed during the next five months. The following four mini-lessons contain an overview of significant events of the Ohio period of Church history. Divide your class into four groups, and assign one of the mini-lessons to each group. (If the number of students in your class does not allow for this, you could divide your class into fewer groups and assign more than one mini-lesson to each group.) Invite students to study their outlines and prepare to teach the material to the class. After students have had time to prepare, invite each group to select one member to teach the class. Each lesson should take three to four minutes.
Mini-lesson 1—The Law of the Church
Begin by asking students the following questions:
Why are laws important?
Why might laws be important in the Church?
Remind the class that the Lord promised He would “give unto [the Saints] my law” once they went to Ohio (D&C 38:32). Explain that once the Saints arrived in Ohio, the Lord fulfilled His promise and gave a revelation referred to as the Law of the Church. This law, which is recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 42, includes commandments and instructions that guide the functions of the Church. Invite the class to skim the section summary of Doctrine and Covenants 42 (located before the first verse), looking for some of the laws the Lord gave to the Saints.
Invite students to mark the phrase “Laws governing the consecration of properties are set forth” in the section summary.
Explain that in this revelation the Lord gave the law of consecration, which is “a divine principle whereby men and women voluntarily dedicate their time, talents, and material wealth to the establishment and building up of God’s kingdom” (Guide to the Scriptures, “Consecrate, Law of Consecration,” scriptures.lds.org). Some purposes of the law of consecration included caring for the poor, eliminating greed, and creating unity among the Saints.
A little over a year after the Lord revealed the law of consecration, He commanded the leaders of the Church to establish the United Firm. One purpose of the United Firm, which was based on principles of the law of consecration, was to establish storehouses to assist with the temporal needs of Church members, especially those who were poor. This was a blessing to the Saints at this time because many Church members who had relocated from New York to Ohio had to leave behind their homes and property. The United Firm also provided funds to finance various Church undertakings, such as missionary work and publishing efforts. We will learn more about the law of consecration and its effect on the Saints in future lessons.
Mini-lesson 2—The Kirtland Temple
Remind students of the Lord’s promise to endow the Saints “with power from on high” when they arrived in Ohio (see D&C 38:32). Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 88:119 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for the commandment the Lord gave to the Saints. After they identify that the Lord commanded them to establish a house, explain that the “house” the Lord was referring to was a temple. The Kirtland Temple was the first temple built in this dispensation.
Invite students to turn to the photograph of the Kirtland Temple in their scriptures (Church History Photographs, Photograph 9, “Kirtland Temple”).
Explain that the Kirtland Temple took about three years to build. After the temple was dedicated on March 27, 1836, the Lord began to fulfill His promise to endow the Saints with power and they experienced marvelous spiritual blessings. For example, the Lord personally appeared to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery in the Kirtland Temple and declared that He had “accepted this house” (D&C 110:7). He also sent three heavenly messengers—Moses, Elias, and Elijah—to restore vital priesthood keys to the earth. These keys would give the Saints the authority to perform temple ordinances and to seal families for eternity. In addition, the “keys of the gathering of Israel” were restored at this time (D&C 110:11). As a result, missionaries are called and authorized to teach the gospel throughout the earth.
Mini-lesson 3—Missionary Work
Ask a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 42:6–7 aloud. Invite the class to follow along, looking for the commandment the Lord gave the Saints after they arrived in Ohio. After the student reads the verses, ask the following questions:
What commandment did the Lord give the Saints?
According to verse 6, how were these missionaries to preach the gospel?
How is this similar to how full-time missionaries preach the gospel today?
Explain that once the Kirtland Temple had been dedicated and the keys for the gathering of Israel had been restored, members of the Church began to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ in more places. Invite students to open their scriptures to Map 3 in the Church History Maps section of their scriptures (“The New York, Pennsylvania, and Ohio Area of the USA”).
As students are looking at the map, remind them that the Lord had promised the Saints He would send them forth to preach “among all nations” (D&C 38:33). Explain that Kirtland was an ideal location to begin to send missionaries throughout the world. Kirtland was near several main routes of transportation in the United States. From Kirtland, missionaries only had to travel short distances to access steamboats on America’s major rivers and Lake Erie. They also had access to a national road system to the south and a canal system to the north. Because of this, Kirtland was the point of departure for missions to Canada, other parts of the United States, and Great Britain.
Explain that because of missionary work during this time, the membership of the Church throughout the world increased by thousands. In 1837, Elders Heber C. Kimball and Orson Hyde were called along with five others on a mission to Great Britain, where they baptized around 2,000 people. By 1838, when the Saints left Kirtland because of persecution, there were about 2,000 members of the Church living in Kirtland and nearly 18,000 worldwide.
Mini-lesson 4—Other Significant Revelations and Events
Invite the class to read Doctrine and Covenants 42:61 silently. After they have finished reading, point out that after Joseph Smith arrived in Ohio, the Lord told him that he would “receive revelation upon revelation” if he would ask God. Then invite students to turn to the chronological order of contents of the Doctrine and Covenants (located after the introduction). Ask them to determine the location where most of the revelations recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants were received. After they discover that most of the revelations were received in Ohio, explain that the abundance of revelations in Ohio fulfilled the Lord’s word.
To show the class some of the significant revelations that were received in Ohio, assign one or two of the following sections from the Doctrine and Covenants to each student: Doctrine and Covenants 76; 89; 107; 137.
For each section, ask the assigned students to read the section introduction and skim the section summary located before the first verse. Then invite each student to report on why their assigned sections are significant. As they report, make sure they identify the following:
Doctrine and Covenants 107 (Revelation about the priesthood)
After each student has been able to report, ask the following question:
What do you think it was like for the Saints in Ohio to hear some of these truths for the first time?
Explain that in addition to these revealed truths, the Lord also instructed Joseph Smith to organize the Church leadership during this time. The First Presidency, the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and the Quorum of the Seventy were officially organized while the Saints lived in Ohio. In addition, Joseph Smith continued his work on the translation of the Bible.
Opposition and apostasy plague the faithful in Ohio
After students have completed the activity above, explain that at the same time the Saints were being greatly blessed by the Lord in Ohio, Satan increased his opposition against the Church. As soon as the Saints arrived in Kirtland, anti-Mormon critics began to attack the Church.
Invite a student to read the following statement by Joseph Smith regarding these conditions:
“Many false reports, lies, and foolish stories, were published in the newspapers, and circulated in every direction, to prevent people from investigating the work, or embracing the faith” (in History of the Church, 1:158).
Explain that some of these negative reports were started by some who had left the Church for various reasons. For example, in September of 1831, a former member of the Church named Ezra Booth tried to dissuade people from joining the Church and published nine letters detailing his criticisms of the Church (see Documents, Volume 1: July 1828–June 1831, vol. 1 of the Documents series of The Joseph Smith Papers , 203–4; see also Church History in the Fulness of Times Student Manual, 2nd ed. [Church Educational System manual, 2003], 113–15). These letters increased hostility toward the Church. The persecution resulting from such influences sometimes turned violent, particularly toward the Prophet and other Church leaders.
In one severe incident, on the night of March 24, 1832, a mob of 25 to 30 men attacked the John Johnson home in Hiram, Ohio, where Joseph and Emma Smith were staying. The men overpowered Joseph Smith and dragged him out into the night. They choked him, stripped him, and tried to force a vial of acid into his mouth, which chipped one of his teeth, causing him thereafter to speak with a slight whistle. Then they left him covered with tar and feathers. When Joseph regained some strength he made his way back to the house. When he came to the door and Emma saw him covered in tar, which looked to her like blood, she fainted. Friends spent the night cleaning off the tar. The next day, which was Sunday, Joseph preached a sermon that was attended by some members of the mob. Following the sermon, Joseph baptized three people. (See History of the Church, 1:261–65.)
During the struggle and confusion of this attack, the door to the house was left open. As a result, Joseph’s son, Joseph Murdock Smith, who was already sick with the measles, caught a “severe cold” and died five days later. That same night Sidney Rigdon was dragged by his heels from his home. His head was severely lacerated by the rough, frozen ground, and he was delirious for several days. (See History of the Church, 1:265.)
Explain that in spite of these and other difficulties, the Saints continued to gather in Kirtland, particularly from 1836 to 1838. However, persecution became so intense during the winter of 1837 and spring of 1838 that most of the Saints were compelled to leave Ohio. Some Church leaders, including Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon, and Brigham Young, had to flee Kirtland for the safety of their lives.
Conclude the lesson by testifying that although the Church experienced great trials and persecution in Kirtland, the Lord greatly blessed those who remained faithful.
Commentary and Background Information
Apostasy in Kirtland
In 1833, another former member caused great problems for the Church. Doctor Philastus Hurlbut had been an elder in the Church but was excommunicated for committing adultery while serving a mission. Although the Church leaders showed him mercy and allowed his membership to be restored, he again transgressed and was cut off a second time. Hurlbut then attempted to discredit the Church and Joseph Smith by collecting anti-Mormon affidavits and falsely claiming that the Book of Mormon was based on a manuscript written by Solomon Spaulding rather than translated by the power of God.
Hurlbut claimed that Sidney Rigdon had secretly obtained the Spaulding manuscript and had plagiarized it with Joseph Smith to create the Book of Mormon. However, this attempt to discredit the Book of Mormon was entirely unfounded. When the Spaulding manuscript was found, an examination could not find the alleged parallels to the Book of Mormon or even a resemblance between the two. Further, Sidney Rigdon did not even meet Joseph Smith until well after the publication of the Book of Mormon. Oliver Cowdery testified to the falsehood of Hurlbut’s accusations: “‘I … handled with my hands the gold plates from which [the Book of Mormon] was translated. I also beheld the interpreters. That book is true. Sidney Rigdon did not write it. Mr. Spaulding did not write it. I wrote it myself as it fell from the lips of the prophet.’ [Reuben Miller, journal, 1848–1849, Family and Church History Department Archives, 21 Oct. 1848; punctuation and spelling modernized.]” (as quoted in James E. Faust, “Some Great Thing,” Ensign, Nov. 2001, 47).
Some Ohioans, worried that members of the Church would soon be so numerous that they would form a voting block and have political power, paid Philastus Hurlbut to defame Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon. Joseph Smith lamented in a letter that the Church members were “suffering great persecution on account of one man by the name of Doctor Hurlbut who has been expelled from the church for lewd and adulterous conduct and to spite us he is lying in a wonderful manner and the people are running after him and giving him money to break down Mormonism which much endangers our lives at present” (“Letter to William W. Phelps and Others, 18 August 1833,” 3; see josephsmithpapers.org; spelling standardized).
Other developments in Kirtland
It was in Kirtland that the Lord revealed more of the structure of the Church. The following priesthood offices were revealed during the Kirtland period: bishop, high priest, the First Presidency, patriarch, high council, Apostle, and Seventy.
Supplemental Teaching Ideas
Video presentation—“The Heart and a Willing Mind”
To help students visualize the mission of Heber C. Kimball and his companions to England, show the video “The Heart and a Willing Mind.” This video can be found on the Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Visual Resource DVDs and on LDS.org. This video portrays the call of Heber C. Kimball to serve in England and the difficult circumstances under which he exercised his faith and fulfilled that call.
Video presentation—Opposition to the Church
To help students visualize the opposition the Saints experienced in Ohio in 1831 and 1832, show segments of the film Joseph Smith: The Prophet of the Restoration. This film is available on mormonchannel.org. A portion of the film contains a depiction of the mob’s attack on Joseph Smith that is referenced in this lesson. The segment most fitting this lesson begins at about 25:30 and runs until approximately 28:00. If time is available, you could also show the next approximately seven minutes of the film to give students insight into what life was like in Kirtland at this time, the organization of Church leadership, and the building of the Kirtland Temple. In addition, the video depicts some of the persecution related to the Saints’ decision to leave Kirtland.
The Lord commanded the Saints to gather in Ohio to receive promised blessings
Consider using the following activity to begin the lesson.
Ask students if they or their families have ever moved from one residence to another. Ask those who respond to share some of the details of their moves. You might ask questions like the following:
Why did you or your family move? What were some of the challenges you experienced when you moved? What blessings have come to you as a result of your move?
Point out that the reasons people move may vary, but many people make sacrifices to relocate because they believe life will be better for them in the new place.
Ask students to recount what they remember from Doctrine and Covenants 37–38 about the events surrounding the Lord’s commandment for the Saints to leave New York and move to Ohio. Explain that in this lesson they will learn about the blessings the Lord promised to give the Saints when they arrived in Ohio and how He fulfilled those promises.
The following activity will give students a brief overview of the Ohio period of Church history and help them see how the Lord began to prepare the Saints for the blessings they would receive in Ohio. Prior to class, copy the following chart on the board, but do not include any of the information in the columns titled “Promise” and “Fulfillment.”
“I will give unto you my law”
“You shall be endowed with power from on high”
“Go forth among all nations”
“Receive revelation upon revelation”
Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 38:32 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what the Lord promised to give the Saints when they arrived in Ohio.
What two things did the Lord promise to give the Saints when they arrived in Ohio?
Invite a student to list the answers in the column labeled Promise on the board.
Explain that the Lord went on to declare that He would send missionaries from Ohio to preach the gospel. Ask another student to read Doctrine and Covenants 38:33 aloud. Invite the class to follow along, looking for where the Lord said He would send them.
Where did the Lord promise to send missionaries?
Ask a student to write the response in the Promise column on the board.
Write the following on the board: D&C 42, 71, 75, 80, 109, 110. Divide students into pairs and explain that each section of the Doctrine and Covenants you have written on the board fulfills one of the three promises the Lord gave the Saints concerning their move to Ohio. Ask students to read the section introduction and section summary to each of these revelations with their partners and identify which promise it corresponds to.
After sufficient time, ask students which sections correspond to each of the Lord’s promises to the Saints. As they respond, fill in the answers in the chart on the board.
Explain that shortly after Joseph Smith arrived in Ohio, the Lord revealed Doctrine and Covenants 42. Ask students to scan Doctrine and Covenants 42:61 and identify the additional promise the Lord gave to the Saints. After students report, write “receive revelation upon revelation” in the Promise column next to D&C 42:61. Inform students that in this lesson they will learn more about how this promise began to be fulfilled.
What do you learn about the Lord and His promises from this scripture activity? (Students may respond with something similar to the following principle: The Lord fulfills His promises to those who obey His commandments.)
When have you witnessed a promise of the Lord being fulfilled?