In June 1831, the Lord commanded Joseph Smith and other elders to convene a conference of the Church in Missouri (see D&C 52:2). Obedient to the command, Joseph Smith and others traveled approximately 900 miles from Ohio to Missouri. After the Prophet arrived in Missouri, he received the revelation now recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 57. In this section the Lord revealed the location for the city of Zion, fulfilling a promise He had made earlier to the Saints (see D&C 52). The Lord also instructed several individuals concerning their roles in establishing Zion.
Invite students to think of a time when they have eagerly anticipated something, such as celebrating a holiday or birthday, serving a mission, visiting the temple, receiving a gift, or visiting a loved one. Ask students how they felt as the event they were anticipating approached.
Why was this event so important to you?
How did your actions reflect your excitement for this event?
Remind students that through revelations given to Joseph Smith, the Saints had learned that Zion would be located somewhere in Missouri (see D&C 52:2, 5, 42). Explain that after the Lord called some of the early Saints to travel from Ohio to Missouri, many members of the Church eagerly anticipated learning the exact location of the city of Zion.
To help students gain a sense of the Saints’ enthusiasm for the building up of Zion, invite a student to read the following account about Sister Polly Knight. Ask the class to listen for how Sister Knight’s actions reflected her anticipation for the establishment of Zion.
“Sister Knight, mother of Newel and a member of the Colesville branch, risked her life making the trip to Zion. Polly’s health was failing, but her anxiety to see the promised land was so great that she refused to be left behind in Ohio. … Her son wrote, ‘Her only, or her greatest desire, was to set her feet upon the land of Zion, and to have her body interred in that land.’ … He later reported that ‘the Lord gave her the desire of her heart, and she lived to stand upon that land’ [Scraps of Biography: Tenth Book of the Faith-Promoting Series (1883), 70; see also History of the Church, 1:199]. Polly died within two weeks of her arrival in the land of Zion and was the first Latter-day Saint to be buried in Missouri” (Church History in the Fulness of Times, 2nd ed. [Church Educational System manual, 2003], 105).
Remind students that three groups had been called to travel the nearly 900 miles to Missouri: the Prophet and a small group of elders (see D&C 52, 53); a group of missionaries called to preach along the way (see D&C 52); and the Colesville Saints, led by Newel Knight (see D&C 54).
Explain that after arriving in Missouri, the Prophet inquired of the Lord to know more about where the city of Zion would be located and when it should be built. The Lord’s response is recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 57. Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 57:1–3 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for where the Lord said the city of Zion was to be built.
Where was the city of Zion to be built? (Independence, Jackson County, Missouri.)
Where was the temple to be built in relationship to the land of Zion? (In Independence, Missouri, the center place of Zion.)
Invite students to reread Doctrine and Covenants 57:3 silently, looking for what the Lord said should be located in Independence, Missouri, the center place of Zion.
What did the Lord indicate should be located in Independence, Missouri, or in the center place of Zion? (As students respond, write the following truth on the board: The temple is in the center place of Zion.)
Summarize Doctrine and Covenants 57:4–6 by explaining that the Lord commanded the Saints to purchase property in and around Jackson County, Missouri, which would enable them to begin to establish Zion and build a temple.
Invite two students to role-play the following scenario in front of the class (you may want to speak with the two students before class begins and allow them time to prepare):
One student asks the other why he or she hasn’t been coming to Church meetings or activities lately. The second replies that he or she doesn’t feel needed. The student is not a leader in a youth class or quorum and doesn’t feel like he or she makes a difference to the others in the group.
After the second student has shared these concerns, ask the class how they would respond to help this student. After they have shared their thoughts, invite them to look for a principle that could help this young man or young woman as they study the remainder of Doctrine and Covenants 57.
Divide students into pairs and assign each pair one of the references listed on the board. Ask students to read the passages they have been assigned and find the answers to the following questions. You may want to write these questions on the board.
Whom did the Lord assign to help establish Zion?
What was this person assigned to do?
After sufficient time, ask students to report their findings. Explain that each person who was counseled to settle in Missouri had gifts and talents that were needed in order to establish Zion.
What does the Lord’s counsel teach us about the way He builds His kingdom? (Students may use different words, but they should express the following principle: We should use our individual strengths to help build the Lord’s kingdom as He calls upon us to do so. Write this principle on the board. You may want to suggest that students write it in the margin of their scriptures near verses 8–13.)
How could understanding this truth help the young man or young woman in the role play?
To help students better understand this truth and how it relates to them, write the following questions on the board and ask students to answer them in their class notebooks or scripture study journals:
After sufficient time, ask a few students to share their responses with the class.
Invite students to share examples of people they know who build the Church by using the personal strengths, spiritual gifts, or skills they possess. Conclude by testifying that each of your students has an important role to play in building the Lord’s kingdom. Encourage them to use their individual strengths to bless their families and the Church.