In response to the elders’ questions about how to proceed to build the city of Zion, the Lord gave the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 58 on August 1, 1831. Verses 34–65 contain instructions on living the law of consecration for those who had moved to Zion. In these verses, the Lord also taught principles of repentance, commanded the elders to preach the gospel, and counseled them concerning how to build Zion.
Suggestions for Teaching
In the previous lesson, students were invited to use their agency to do something good before today’s class. Follow up on this invitation by asking students to share their experiences of choosing to be “anxiously engaged” (D&C 58:27) in doing good.
The Lord gives instructions concerning Zion and teaches principles of repentance
Before class, write the following question on the board: What does it mean to repent?
Ask a few students to respond to this question. Then write the following questions on the board: How can I know if I have fully repented? How can I know if the Lord has forgiven me of my sins?
Invite students to write these questions in their class notebooks or scripture study journals. Ask them to take a few minutes to write responses to each one. After sufficient time, inform them that they will have an opportunity to revisit their answers later in the lesson.
Summarize Doctrine and Covenants 58:34–37 by explaining that many of the elders who had traveled to Missouri and would be living there wanted to know what they needed to do to plan, organize, and build the city of Zion. The Lord instructed those moving to Missouri to give their money and property to the cause of building up Zion. Martin Harris was instructed to be an example in giving money to the bishop. He donated a large sum of money to help Bishop Edward Partridge purchase land for the Church.
Write the following names on the board: Martin Harris, William W. Phelps, and Ziba Peterson. Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 58:38–41, 60 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for the counsel the Lord gave to Martin Harris, William W. Phelps, and Ziba Peterson as they prepared to build Zion.
What sin did the Lord say Martin Harris was guilty of? What did the Lord tell him to do?
What sins did the Lord say William W. Phelps was guilty of? What did the Lord tell him to do? (You may need to explain that the phrase “seeketh to excel” [verse 41] does not mean doing our best or trying to improve. Rather, this phrase refers to an unrighteous, prideful desire to appear better or more important than other people.)
What was Ziba Peterson trying to do with his sins?
Point out that the sins of these men threatened to prevent them from helping to build Zion.
What are some ways our sins may limit our ability to serve the Lord?
Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 58:42 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what the Lord taught about repentance.
According to this verse, what does the Lord promise us if we repent of our sins? (Students should identify the following principle: If we repent of our sins, the Lord will forgive us and remember our sins no more. Write this principle on the board. You may want to suggest that students mark the words that teach this principle in verse 42.)
Which of our sins does this promise apply to? (All of them.)
Invite a student to read aloud the following statement by President Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Ask the class to listen for words or phrases that relate to the principle written on the board.
“No matter what our transgressions have been, no matter how much our actions may have hurt others, that guilt can all be wiped out. To me, perhaps the most beautiful phrase in all scripture is when the Lord said, ‘Behold, he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more’ [D&C 58:42].
Refer students to the questions written on the board.
How does the Lord’s promise in verse 42 help answer the third question: How can I know if the Lord has forgiven me of my sins? (The Lord’s promise helps us know that He always grants forgiveness when we have fully repented.)
In addition to knowing that the Lord has promised to forgive us when we fully repent, how else can we know that we have been forgiven?
Invite a student to read aloud the following statement by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the First Presidency. Ask students to listen for how they can know when the Lord has forgiven them of their sins.
“Once we have truly repented, Christ will take away the burden of guilt for our sins. We can know for ourselves that we have been forgiven and made clean. The Holy Ghost will verify this to us; He is the Sanctifier. No other testimony of forgiveness can be greater” (“Point of Safe Return,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2007, 101).
How has knowing that you can be forgiven of all of your sins blessed your life?
Explain to students that some people mistakenly think that if they can still remember their sins then they haven’t fully repented. Invite a student to read aloud the following statement by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf. Ask the class to listen for why we may remember our sins even after we have repented.
“Satan will try to make us believe that our sins are not forgiven because we can remember them. Satan is a liar; he tries to blur our vision and lead us away from the path of repentance and forgiveness. God did not promise that we would not remember our sins. Remembering will help us avoid making the same mistakes again. But if we stay true and faithful, the memory of our sins will be softened over time. This will be part of the needed healing and sanctification process” (“Point of Safe Return,” 101).
Point out that the promise written on the board is conditional. We can receive the Lord’s forgiveness only if we do everything we can to fully repent of our sins.
What does it mean to repent? (You may want to invite students to refer back to the answers they wrote to the questions on the board.)
After students respond, invite a student to read aloud the following statement from the For the Strength of Youth booklet. Ask the class to listen for additional things they can learn about what it means to repent.
“Repentance is more than simply acknowledging wrongdoings. It is a change of mind and heart. It includes turning away from sin and turning to God for forgiveness. It is motivated by love for God and the sincere desire to obey His commandments” (For the Strength of Youth [booklet, 2011], 28).
Explain that true repentance includes several requirements. Two of these requirements are mentioned in Doctrine and Covenants 58:43. Invite a student to read that verse aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for two things we must do to fully repent of our sins.
According to verse 43, what are two things we must do to fully repent of our sins? (Students should identify the following principle: To repent, we must confess and forsake our sins. Write this principle on the board.)
How does this truth help us answer the question How can I know if I have fully repented? (Help students understand that confessing and forsaking sins are essential to full repentance.)
What does it mean to confess our sins?
To help students better understand what it means to confess our sins, invite a student to read aloud the following statement by Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:
“Confessing and forsaking are powerful concepts. They are much more than a casual ‘I admit it; I’m sorry.’ Confession is a deep, sometimes agonizing acknowledgment of error and offense to God and man” (“The Divine Gift of Repentance,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2011, 40).
How does confessing our sins help us turn away from sin and turn to God for forgiveness?
As part of this discussion, students may wonder what sins need to be confessed and to whom. Explain that we need to confess all of our sins to Heavenly Father. Serious transgressions, such as sexual transgression or use of pornography, should also be confessed to the bishop or branch president.
Refer students to the last truth you wrote on the board.
What does it mean to forsake our sins? (To completely turn away from our sins and stop doing them.)
Testify of the Savior’s Atonement and the principles of repentance and forgiveness you have discussed. Invite students to ponder whether there are sins they need to repent of, and encourage them to repent by acting on the truths they have learned.
The Lord commands the elders to preach the gospel and counsels them regarding how to build Zion
Summarize Doctrine and Covenants 58:49–62 by explaining that the Lord told the elders who were to stay in Missouri that they should purchase land and prepare for the gathering of the Saints in Missouri.
Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 58:46–47, 63–65 aloud. Ask the class to look for the counsel the Lord gave to the elders who were to return to Ohio.
According to verses 46–47, what were the elders supposed to do as they returned to Ohio?
According to verse 64, who must the gospel be preached to? (Students may use different words, but their responses should reflect the following truth: The gospel must be preached to every person. You may want to suggest that students mark the words that teach this truth in verse 64.)
Encourage students to follow promptings of the Spirit to share the truths of the gospel with those around them.
Scripture Mastery—Doctrine and Covenants 58:42–43
Help students memorize Doctrine and Covenants 58:42–43 and apply the principles of repentance taught in this passage. To do so, invite them to write the passage on a card or piece of paper and recite it each time they kneel in personal prayer. Encourage them to pray for help in their efforts to confess and forsake their sins. You may want to follow up on their memorization of the passage during the next few lessons.
Commentary and Background Information
Doctrine and Covenants 58:39. “Repent”
Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught that repentance is more than just a checklist of things to do:
“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. The Lord gives two overarching requirements: ‘By this ye may know if a man repenteth of his sins—behold, he will confess them and forsake them’ (D&C 58:43)” (“The Divine Gift of Repentance,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2011, 40).
Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained what it means to repent:
“The doctrine of repentance is much broader than a dictionary’s definition. When Jesus said ‘repent,’ His disciples recorded that command in the Greek language with the verb metanoeo. This powerful word has great significance. In this word, the prefix meta means ‘change.’ The suffix relates to four important Greek terms: nous, meaning ‘the mind’; gnosis, meaning ‘knowledge’; pneuma, meaning ‘spirit’; and pnoe, meaning ‘breath.’
“Thus, when Jesus said ‘repent,’ He asked us to change—to change our mind, knowledge, and spirit—even our breath. A prophet explained that such a change in one’s breath is to breathe with grateful acknowledgment of Him who grants each breath. King Benjamin said, ‘If ye should serve him who has created you … and is preserving you from day to day, by lending you breath … from one moment to another—I say, if ye should serve him with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants.’ [Mosiah 2:21.]
“Yes, the Lord has commanded us to repent, to change our ways, to come unto Him, and be more like Him. [See 3 Nephi 27:21, 27.] This requires a total change” (“Repentance and Conversion,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2007, 103).
Doctrine and Covenants 58:42. “Remember them no more”
Elder F. Burton Howard of the Seventy shared an experience he had in which he learned that after repentance, the Lord truly remembers our sin no more:
“One final story—once again from when I was a bishop. One night, while I was in a sound sleep, the doorbell rang. I stumbled to answer it and found a young member of my priests quorum at the door. I knew him well, well enough to have gone on outings with him, to have prayed with and about him, and to have taught him. I knew him as well as a good bishop knows any active eighteen-year-old priest, which was well enough for me to ask what he was doing at my front door in the middle of the night.
“He said, ‘I have to talk to you, bishop. I’ve just done something serious, and I can’t go home.’
“He was right. It was serious. I invited him in, and we talked. He talked and I listened, then I talked and he listened, until dawn. He had many questions. He had committed a terrible sin. He wanted to know if there was hope. He wanted to know how to repent. He wanted to know if repentance included telling his parents. He wanted to know if there was any chance of his going on a mission. He wanted to know many other things.
“I didn’t have all of the answers, but I told him there was hope. I told him the way back would be difficult, but it was possible. I explained what I knew about the process of repentance and helped him see what he must do. I told him if he really wanted to go on a mission that that decision could only be made in the future after he had repented. Then I told him to go home, and he did.
“He made his peace with his parents. He asked forgiveness from those he had wronged. He put sin and bad company behind him and did everything he could to repent.
“A year or so later, five young men from that quorum went on missions. He was one of them. I was close to them all. I attended each of their farewells. They all served honorable missions. Within a brief time after returning home, they all were married in the temple. My wife and I attended each of the ceremonies. I could take a piece of paper, even today, and write their names and the names of their wives and some of their children. That is how well I knew them.
“But now let me tell you something—something very private and very important. I cannot remember the name of the young man who came to my home in the middle of the night. I know he was one of the five, but I don’t remember which one.
“There was a time I used to worry about that. I thought perhaps my memory might be failing. I consciously tried to recall who it was that had the problem, but I could not.
“I was eventually released, and I put the entire incident out of my mind. On a late evening walk some years later, I found myself in the ward where I had once been bishop. The shadowy quiet brought back many memories. I was deep in thought when I realized I was walking in front of a house where one of my priests had lived years before. Suddenly, the story of the young man I have mentioned came to mind, and again I tried to remember which of the five he had been. Had he lived in that house? I wondered. Why couldn’t I remember?
“As I continued on my way, something happened—something difficult to explain, but real to me. I seemed to hear a voice which said: ‘Don’t you understand, my son? I have forgotten that. Why should you remember?’
“I was chagrined. There was no satisfactory answer to the question. I have never wondered about it again. And I knew more surely then than I had ever known before that the Lord is pleased when his children return to him.
“All who are shepherds and all lost sheep should note this one last thing. The Lord really meant it when he said, ‘He who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more (D&C 58:42)’” (“Come Back to the Lord,” Ensign, Nov. 1986, 77–78).
Doctrine and Covenants 58:43. “Confess them”
Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained the requirements of confession:
“You always need to confess your sins to the Lord. If they are serious transgressions, such as [sexual] immorality, they need to be confessed to a bishop or stake president. Please understand that confession is not repentance. It is an essential step but is not of itself adequate. Partial confession by mentioning lesser mistakes will not help you resolve a more serious, undisclosed transgression. Essential to forgiveness is a willingness to fully disclose to the Lord and, where necessary, His priesthood judge all that you have done” (“Finding Forgiveness,” Ensign, May 1995, 76).
President Spencer W. Kimball taught about the importance of sincerity and complete honesty when confessing our sins:
“No one can ever be forgiven of any transgression until there is repentance, and one has not repented until he has bared his soul and admitted his intentions and weaknesses without excuses or rationalizations” (Love versus Lust, Brigham Young University Speeches of the Year [Jan. 5, 1965], 10).
Doctrine and Covenants 58:43. Why must some sins be confessed to an authorized priesthood leader?
As president of the Aaronic Priesthood in the ward, a bishop or branch president holds the keys of repentance for the people of his ward. Bishops and branch presidents use such keys to determine a person’s standing in the Church and assist the person in the repentance process. Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles provided additional insight into the purpose of confessing serious sins to authorized priesthood leaders:
“Serious transgression such as immorality requires the help of one who holds keys of authority, such as a bishop or stake president, to quietly work out the repentance process to make sure that it is complete and appropriately done” (“The Power of Righteousness,” Ensign, Nov. 1998, 69–70).
Doctrine and Covenants 58:43. “Confess them and forsake them”
Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught what it means to repent of our sins:
“The forsaking of sins implies never returning. Forsaking requires time. To help us, the Lord at times allows the residue of our mistakes to rest in our memory. It is a vital part of our mortal learning.
“As we honestly confess our sins, restore what we can to the offended, and forsake our sins by keeping the commandments, we are in the process of receiving forgiveness. With time, we will feel the anguish of our sorrow subside, taking ‘away the guilt from our hearts’ [Alma 24:10] and bringing ‘peace of conscience.’ [Mosiah 4:3.]
“For those who are truly repentant but seem unable to feel relief: continue keeping the commandments. I promise you, relief will come in the timetable of the Lord. Healing also requires time” (“Repent … That I May Heal You,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2009, 42).