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.
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.
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.