Lesson 65: Doctrine and Covenants 59

Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Seminary Teacher Manual, 2013


Introduction

On Sunday, August 7, 1831, the Prophet Joseph Smith received the revelation in Doctrine and Covenants 59 while in Jackson County, Missouri. In this revelation the Lord set forth His expectations for the Saints who had recently arrived in Zion, including proper Sabbath day observance. The Lord also confirmed that those who keep His commandments will receive spiritual and temporal blessings.

Suggestions for Teaching

Doctrine and Covenants 59:1–4

The Lord describes the blessings He will bestow upon the faithful Saints in Zion

Before class, write the following questions on the board:

What do you think it means to love the Lord with all of your _________________________?

What are some actions or attitudes you might see in people who love the Lord with all of their _________________________ versus those who do not?

At the beginning of class, write the name Polly Knight on the board. Ask students what they remember about her from the lesson on Doctrine and Covenants 57. If students need help remembering, invite a student to read the account about Polly Knight given in lesson 62.

  • What do you admire about Polly Knight?

Tell students that Joseph Smith received the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 59 on the day Polly died. Invite them to read Doctrine and Covenants 59:1–2 silently and find phrases that might have been meaningful to her friends and loved ones. Invite students to share what they discovered.

  • According to verse 1, who does this revelation apply to besides Polly Knight? (The Saints who obey God’s commandments with an eye single to His glory.) What do you think it means to have an eye single to God’s glory?

Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 59:3–4 aloud, and ask the class to look for the temporal and spiritual blessings promised to those who obey the Lord with an eye single to His glory. Ask them to report what they discovered.

  • In verse 4, what blessing does the Lord promise that some people might not think of as a blessing? (“Commandments not a few.”) In what ways are commandments a blessing to us? (As students respond to this question, you may want to suggest that they read Doctrine and Covenants 130:20–21.)

Write the following incomplete statement on the board: If we keep the commandments with an eye single to the glory of God, then. …

Invite students to complete the statement using what they have learned from verses 1–4. One way students may express this principle is if we keep the commandments with an eye single to the glory of God, then we will be blessed both temporally and spiritually. Invite students to look for further examples of this principle as they continue to study this revelation.

Doctrine and Covenants 59:5–8

The Lord gives commandments to the Saints

Explain that the Lord continued this revelation by giving the Saints in Zion several commandments. Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 59:5 aloud, and ask the class to identify a commandment the Lord gave the Saints.

According to this verse, what does the Lord expect of His Saints? (Students should identify the following doctrine: We must love God with all of our heart, might, mind, and strength.)

Divide the class into pairs. Assign each pair one of the words that describes how we should love the Lord (heart, might, mind, strength). Instruct students to use their assigned words to complete the questions you wrote on the board before class. Invite one student in each pair to respond to the first question and the other student to respond to the second question. After students have had sufficient time to discuss these questions as pairs, invite a few students to share their responses with the class.

    To help students feel the truth and importance of the commandment to love the Lord with all our heart, might, mind, and strength, invite them to respond to one of the following statements in their scripture study journals or class notebooks:
  • Describe a time when you have felt great love for the Lord.

  • Describe a time when your love for the Lord influenced a decision you made.

After sufficient time, invite a few students to share their responses. (Remind students that they should not share experiences that are sacred or private.)

Invite students to read Doctrine and Covenants 59:6–8 silently and identify additional commandments the Lord gave the Saints at this time.

  • How do these commandments relate to the commandment to love the Lord with all of our heart, might, mind, and strength?

  • How does loving our neighbor show our love for the Lord?

Doctrine and Covenants 59:9–19

The Lord teaches the Saints about the Sabbath day

Provide students with copies of the following statement by Elder Mark E. Petersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, or write it on the board before class begins. (This statement is found in “The Sabbath Day,” Ensign, May 1975, 49.)

Elder Mark E. Petersen

“Our observance or nonobservance of _________________________ is an unerring measure of our attitude toward the Lord personally and toward his suffering in Gethsemane, his death on the cross, and his resurrection from the dead” (Elder Mark E. Petersen).

Invite students to guess the words that are missing from this statement (“the Sabbath”). After they have shared their ideas, explain that in the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 59, the Lord restated a commandment that could help the Saints put God first in their lives and deepen their relationship with Him. This is the commandment that Elder Petersen referred to. Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 59:9–10 aloud, and ask students to identify the commandment the Lord gave to the Saints.

  • What commandment did the Lord give in these verses? (Keep the Sabbath day holy.)

Invite students to complete Elder Petersen’s statement with the words the Sabbath.

  • According to Elder Petersen, how does our observance of the Sabbath day relate to our love toward the Lord and His Atonement?

Point out that in verse 9, the Lord promised a great blessing to those who honor His holy day. Write the following incomplete statement on the board: If we keep the Sabbath day holy, it will help us …

Ask students to review verse 9 and identify the promise the Lord gave with this commandment.

  • According to verse 9, how will we be blessed by keeping the Sabbath holy? What do you think it means to keep ourselves “unspotted from the world”?

Invite students to complete the statement on the board using their own words. The following is one way students may express this principle: If we keep the Sabbath day holy, it will help us to resist temptation and overcome sin. You may want to suggest that students write this principle in their scriptures.

Explain that verses 9–14 help us understand what it means to keep the Sabbath day holy. Assign each student one of the following verses: Doctrine and Covenants 59:9, 10, 12, and 13. Invite students to study their assigned verses silently, looking for insights into how we can keep the Sabbath day holy. Inform students that they will have an opportunity to share what they discover with the class. Before students begin to read their assigned verses, it might be helpful to explain that the phrase “pay thy devotions” in verse 10 means to worship or to demonstrate our love and loyalty. In addition, you may want to point out the footnote for the word oblations in verse 12.

After sufficient time, ask a student who studied verse 9 to read it aloud. Invite the students who studied this verse to share the insights they discovered about how we can keep the Sabbath day holy. Appoint one student to be a scribe and list these insights under the principle on the board. (For example, in verse 9 students might identify going to church, praying, and partaking of the sacrament as important parts of keeping the Sabbath day holy.) Invite students to repeat this process with each of the remaining verses.

  • How have your efforts to keep the Sabbath day holy helped you resist temptation and strengthened you spiritually?

Invite students to read Doctrine and Covenants 59:15 silently, looking for phrases that describe the attitude we should have regarding the Sabbath day. Ask students to share the phrases they identified and explain why approaching the Sabbath day with this attitude could help us to keep it holy.

Briefly summarize Doctrine and Covenants 59:16–19 by explaining that the Lord promised temporal and spiritual blessings to those who honor His holy day. Share how keeping the Sabbath day holy has influenced your relationship with the Lord. Invite students to write in their class notebooks or scripture study journals something they will do to help them keep the Sabbath day holy.

Doctrine and Covenants 59:20–24

The Lord decrees earthly and eternal blessings upon the faithful

Ask students to imagine they are parents who give gifts to their children. Some of their children always express sincere gratitude each time a gift is given.

  • How does that make you feel as a parent? Would that influence your decision to give more gifts? Why?

Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 59:20–21 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for how God feels about blessing us and how we should respond to Him when we receive blessings.

  • How does God feel about blessing us? (It pleases Him.) According to verse 21, how might we offend God? (Students should identify the following principle: We offend God when we do not express our gratitude to Him and keep His commandments.)

Help students understand that the offense and wrath of God described in verse 21 are evidence of His love for us. He is displeased when we are ungrateful or disobedient because these attitudes distance us from Him.

  • Why do you think it hurts our relationship with God when we do not thank Him for blessings we receive from Him?

  • How does this truth relate to the principle identified earlier about keeping the Sabbath day holy?

Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 59:23–24 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for the blessings the Lord promises to those who keep His commandments.

  • In what ways has living according to the truths we have identified in this revelation brought peace to your life?

Conclude by inviting students to ponder the many ways God has blessed them for keeping His commandments and ways in which they can demonstrate their gratitude to Him.

Commentary and Background Information

Doctrine and Covenants 59:9. “My holy day”

The revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 59 was the first revelation recorded in this dispensation in which the Lord gave specific instructions on Sabbath day observance. The Lord directed the revelation toward the Saints who would be building up the city of Zion. These Saints lived near other residents of Jackson County, many of whom followed a worldly trend and did not keep the Sabbath day holy, choosing instead to pursue various forms of entertainment.

Doctrine and Covenants 59:9. “Keep thyself unspotted from the world”

Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained how partaking of the sacrament can help us remain unspotted from the world:

“We live in the perilous times prophesied by the Apostle Paul (see 2 Timothy 3:1). Those who try to walk the straight and narrow path see inviting detours on every hand. We can be distracted, degraded, downhearted, or depressed. How can we have the Spirit of the Lord to guide our choices and keep us on the path?

“In modern revelation the Lord gave the answer in this commandment:

“‘And that thou mayest more fully keep thyself unspotted from the world, thou shalt go to the house of prayer and offer up thy sacraments upon my holy day;

“‘For verily this is a day appointed unto you to rest from your labors, and to pay thy devotions unto the Most High’ (D&C 59:9–10).

“This is a commandment with a promise. By participating weekly and appropriately in the ordinance of the sacrament we qualify for the promise that we will ‘always have his Spirit to be with [us]’ (D&C 20:77). That Spirit is the foundation of our testimony. It testifies of the Father and the Son, brings all things to our remembrance, and leads us into truth. It is the compass to guide us on our path. This gift of the Holy Ghost, President Wilford Woodruff taught, ‘is the greatest gift that can be bestowed upon man’ (Deseret Weekly, Apr. 6, 1889, 451). …

“How can we have the Spirit of the Lord to guide our choices so that we will remain ‘unspotted from the world’ (D&C 59:9) and on the safe path through mortality? We need to qualify for the cleansing power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. We do this by keeping His commandment to come to Him with a broken heart and a contrite spirit and in that wonderful weekly meeting partake of the emblems of the sacrament and make the covenants that qualify us for the precious promise that we will always have His Spirit to be with us (see D&C 20:77)” (“Sacrament Meeting and the Sacrament,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2008, 17, 20).

Supplemental Teaching Idea

Doctrine and Covenants 59:1. “With an eye single to my glory”

Display a picture of the Savior. Invite students to make a loose fist with one hand, close one eye, and look at the picture through the small opening created by their hand. Ask students to describe what they see. Then invite students to open their other eye and view the picture with both eyes. Tell them to notice everything in their field of vision when they use both eyes.

  • What can you see when you look at the picture with both eyes? What can you see when you look with one eye through the opening in your hand? (You may need to point out that when they use one eye to look through the opening in their hand, they can see only the picture of the Savior. With both eyes open, they can see everything in the room that surrounds the picture.)

  • What do you think it means to have an eye single to the glory of God?