Lesson 60: Doctrine and Covenants 56

Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Seminary Teacher Manual, 2013


Introduction

Ezra Thayre was assigned to live and work, along with Joseph Smith Sr., on Frederick G. Williams’s farm in Kirtland, Ohio. Brother Thayre also helped pay for some of the debt owed on the land. In early June 1831, he and Thomas B. Marsh were called on a mission to Missouri (see D&C 52:22). Because of pride and selfishness, Brother Thayre was unprepared to leave with Brother Marsh. In the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 56, received on June 15, the Lord revoked Brother Thayre’s call and assigned a new companion for Brother Marsh. The Lord warned against pride and taught the Saints that He has much more in store for them than land and money.

Suggestions for Teaching

Doctrine and Covenants 56:1–13

The Lord revokes Ezra Thayre’s mission call and warns him to repent

Ask students if they know someone who gave up something important in order to obey one of the Lord’s commandments. (Examples could include someone sacrificing to join the Church, to go on a mission, or to obey certain standards of the Church.) Invite a few students to share their examples.

Explain that in June 1831, the Lord called Ezra Thayre to serve a mission in Missouri with Thomas B. Marsh. Brother Thayre’s concerns over property and money caused him to be unprepared to leave when Brother Marsh was ready, so Brother Marsh went to Joseph Smith to ask what to do. When the Prophet inquired of the Lord, the Lord answered him with the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 56.

Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 56:1–2 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what the Lord said about those who refuse to obey His commandments.

  • What did the Lord say about those who refuse to obey His commandments?

Write the following incomplete statement on the board: To be saved, we must …

Invite students to complete the statement according to verse 2. Students may use different words, but they should identify the following principle: To be saved, we must take up our cross, follow the Savior, and keep His commandments. (Complete the principle on the board.)

  • What do you think it means to “take up [our] cross”? (To help students understand this phrase, you may want to invite them to read the Joseph Smith Translation of Matthew 16:24, found in Matthew 16:24, footnote e)

  • What commandments has the Lord given that require you to take up your cross and make sacrifices to be obedient? (Some examples can be found in For the Strength of Youth.)

  • What blessings have you received or will you receive because you choose to be obedient?

Ask in what ways people in the following examples could take up their crosses and obey the Lord’s commandments:

  1. 1.

    A young man is approaching the age when he will be able to serve a mission. He worries about everything he will leave behind when he serves.

  2. 2.

    A young woman knows that the youth in her ward will be visiting the temple in a few months, but she doesn’t have a temple recommend. There is something in her life right now that will prevent her from receiving one.

Explain that if we choose not to take up our cross, we may lose opportunities to bless others and receive blessings ourselves. Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 56:3–5 aloud. Ask the class to look for what happened because Ezra Thayre was not ready to go to Missouri. Before students read, you may want to explain that the word revoke means to take back or cancel.

  • What did Ezra Thayre lose because he was not ready to go? (He lost his chance to serve the mission as well as receive the blessings that would have resulted.)

  • According to verse 4, what can the Lord do with commandments He gives? (Students should identify the following principle: The Lord can give a commandment or revoke a commandment as He sees fit.)

Ask students if they can think of examples from the scriptures or Church history of the Lord giving and then revoking a command. The following are a few examples:

  1. 1.

    After the Lord offered a higher law to Moses and his people, the children of Israel rebelled and began worshiping a golden calf. The Lord then gave them a lesser law. (See Exodus 32–34; Joseph Smith Translation, Exodus 34:1–2; D&C 84:23–27.)

  2. 2.

    During the Savior’s mortal ministry, He sent the Apostles only to members of the house of Israel (see Matthew 10:5). Shortly after the Savior’s Resurrection, He told the Apostles to preach the gospel to people of all nations (see Matthew 28:19).

  3. 3.

    In this dispensation the Lord commanded some of the early Saints to practice plural marriage. The Prophet Joseph Smith and many other Church leaders found this commandment difficult, but they obeyed it. After receiving revelation, President Wilford Woodruff issued the Manifesto, which was accepted by the Church as authoritative and binding on October 6, 1890. This led to the end of the practice of plural marriage in the Church (see Official Declaration 1).

Summarize Doctrine and Covenants 56:6–7 by explaining that the Lord also changed the mission calls of Selah J. Griffin and Newel Knight. Remind students that due to the difficulties caused by Leman Copley in Thompson, Ohio, the Colesville Saints were directed to move to Missouri. They asked the Prophet Joseph Smith if they could make the move with Newel Knight leading them, as he had since they left Colesville. Newel Knight had been called to serve with Selah J. Griffin prior to these difficulties (see D&C 52:32), so the Lord directed Selah J. Griffin to take Ezra Thayre’s place as Thomas B. Marsh’s companion and Newel Knight to stay with the Colesville Saints.

Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 56:8–11 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what the Lord commanded Ezra Thayre to do after his mission call was revoked.

  • What did the Lord say would happen if Ezra Thayre repented? What would happen if he did not repent?

Explain that Ezra chose to repent, and seven months later he was again called to serve as a missionary with Thomas B. Marsh (see D&C 75:31).

Doctrine and Covenants 56:14–20

The Lord warns the Saints against greediness and prideful hearts

Ask students to imagine they have a friend who has sinned and is feeling bad. The friend comes to them and asks, “What do I need to do to repent?” Give students time to ponder and respond. After they respond, invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 56:14–15 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for attitudes and actions that prevent our sins from being pardoned, or forgiven.

  • According to Doctrine and Covenants 56:14–15, what attitudes or actions prevent our sins from being pardoned, or forgiven?

  • What do you think the phrase “counsel in your own ways” means? What does the phrase “your hearts are not satisfied” suggest? (It implies not being content with what you have.)

  • What can we learn from verses 14 and 15 about what is necessary in order to repent and receive forgiveness? (Students may identify a variety of principles, but be sure to emphasize the following truth: Repentance includes obeying the Lord’s counsel and turning away from unrighteous desires. You may want to invite students to write this truth in their scriptures near Doctrine and Covenants 56:14–15.)

  • Why are obedience and turning away from unrighteousness necessary in true repentance?

Explain that repentance is not just about following a set of steps but requires a full change of heart—a commitment to obey the Lord and turn away from all unrighteousness. When this revelation was received, it appears that Ezra Thayre’s selfishness and pride were preventing him from obeying the Lord’s counsel.

  • How can a person’s pride affect his or her ability to have a repentant heart?

Invite students to read Doctrine and Covenants 56:16–17 with a partner. Ask one partner to look for how an unrepentant heart can be manifest in someone who is rich. Ask the other partner to look for how an unrepentant heart can be manifest in someone who is poor. You might suggest they mark what they find. Ask students to explain what they discovered to their partners and then discuss the following questions together (you may want to write them on the board):

  • What similarities can you see in the unrepentant hearts of both the rich and the poor?

  • Why can greed be a common trait in both the rich and poor?

Ask students to ponder when they may have seen these kinds of attitudes manifest in their own lives or in the lives of those they know.

Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 56:18 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for words that describe the hearts of those who will be blessed.

  • According to verse 18, what should our hearts be like? What does it mean to have a broken heart? What about a contrite spirit? (These terms denote humility and submission to the Lord.)

  • If our hearts have been greedy or proud, how can we change?

Invite students to continue reading Doctrine and Covenants 56:19–20 with their partners. Ask them to look for blessings the Lord promised to those with humble hearts. You might suggest that they mark what they find.

Write the following incomplete statement on the board: Those with humble hearts will …

  • According to verses 18–20, what blessings complete the sentence on the board? (As students identify the blessings mentioned in these verses, write them on the board. You may want to explain that the word recompense refers to rewards for good deeds and punishment for unrighteous actions.)

Explain that under the law of consecration, the portion given to an individual or family according to their circumstances was called an “inheritance” (D&C 57:7). It is likely that during the early practice of this law, some of the Saints, like Ezra Thayre, became overly anxious about receiving their “inheritance.”

Write the words My Inheritance next to the blessings listed on the board.

  • From what we have listed, how would you summarize the blessings the Lord has in store for those with humble hearts? (Students may use different words, but they should identify the following principle: Those with humble hearts will inherit the earth.)

  • How do the blessings described in verses 18–20 compare to the property and money Ezra Thayre and other early Saints may have been anxious about?

Testify of the blessings, or “inheritance,” the Lord has in store for us as we deny ourselves of unrighteousness and commit to follow His commandments.

Commentary and Background Information

Doctrine and Covenants 56:2. Taking up our cross and following the Lord as missionaries

President Ezra Taft Benson spoke of the expectation for young men to sacrifice whatever is necessary to serve a mission:

“Concerning serving a mission, President [Spencer W.] Kimball has said, ‘How selfish and thoughtless would it be for a young man to grow to maturity, spend his time preparing for his life’s work and his occupation and be unwilling to serve his Creator in this, the most important service in the world’ (Regional Representatives’ seminar, 30 Sept. 1977). …

“Young men, this statement by President Kimball should be your personal motto: “Every LDS male who is worthy and able should fill a mission” (Ensign, May 1974, p. 87). We ask you to make the sacrifice. We call it that because of want for a better name for it. It’s an investment. Enlist in this, the greatest service in the world. Do not evade the responsibility. Do not conscientiously object. We invite you to join the army … that is swelling in numbers each day. Your job will be to proclaim the message of the Restoration to the world. Know that you have our confidence and love. We expect you to perform that mission” (“This Is a Day of Sacrifice,” Ensign, May 1979, 33).

Doctrine and Covenants 56:4. The Lord commands and revokes

President Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles gave insights into how the Lord sometimes changes the direction given to the Church. President Packer encouraged members to trust in the revelation process given to the Apostles and to accept changes in practices and procedures as they are revealed:

“Changes in organization or procedures are a testimony that revelation is ongoing. While doctrines remain fixed, the methods or procedures do not. …

“The gospel plan was revealed line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little, and there a little. And it goes on: ‘We believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.’ (A of F 1:9.)

“There will be changes made in the future as in the past. Whether the Brethren make changes or resist them depends entirely upon the instructions they receive through the channels of revelation which were established in the beginning.

“The doctrines will remain fixed, eternal; the organization, programs, and procedures will be altered as directed by Him whose church this is. …

“And in the end, what is given comes because the Lord has spoken it, ‘whether by [His] own voice or by the voice of [His] servants, it is the same.’ (D&C 1:38.) We know His voice when He speaks” (“Revelation in a Changing World,” Ensign, Nov. 1989, 15, 16).

Doctrine and Covenants 56:14–15. To be pardoned of sin

Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles emphasized the results of experiencing a full change of heart through repentance:

“Repentance requires a seriousness of purpose and a willingness to persevere, even through pain. Attempts to create a list of specific steps of repentance may be helpful to some, but it may also lead to a mechanical, check-off-the-boxes approach with no real feeling or change. True repentance is not superficial. …

“With faith in the merciful Redeemer and His power, potential despair turns to hope. One’s very heart and desires change, and the once-appealing sin becomes increasingly abhorrent. A resolve to abandon and forsake the sin and to repair, as fully as one possibly can, the damage he or she has caused now forms in that new heart. This resolve soon matures into a covenant of obedience to God. With that covenant in place, the Holy Ghost, the messenger of divine grace, will bring relief and forgiveness” (“The Divine Gift of Repentance,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2011, 40).

Doctrine and Covenants 56:19. The Lord will bring recompense for the humble in heart

The following statement by Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles teaches the principle of compensation, which is included in the promise of recompense from the Savior:

“The Lord compensates the faithful for every loss. That which is taken away from those who love the Lord will be added unto them in His own way. While it may not come at the time we desire, the faithful will know that every tear today will eventually be returned a hundredfold with tears of rejoicing and gratitude” (“Come What May, and Love It,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2008, 28).

Supplemental Teaching Idea

Doctrine and Covenants 56:1–13. Video presentation—“Your Day for a Mission”

To help students appreciate that the blessings of missionary service outweigh the sacrifices, you may want to show them the Mormon Messages for Youth video “Your Day for a Mission” (available on LDS.org and mormonchannel.org) in place of or as a supplement to the beginning of the lesson. If you prefer, you could invite a student to tell or read Elder Neil L. Andersen’s account about Sidney Going, a Latter-day Saint rugby player from New Zealand. This account can be found in Elder Andersen’s talk titled “Preparing the World for the Second Coming” (in Ensign or Liahona, May 2011, 49–50).