Lesson 66: Doctrine and Covenants 60–62

Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Seminary Teacher Manual, 2013


On August 8, 1831, Joseph Smith and several elders prepared to leave Independence, Missouri, and return to Ohio. The Lord instructed the elders to preach the gospel as they traveled—instruction that is now recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 60. On the third day of their journey the company experienced danger on the Missouri River. The next two days, August 12 and 13, the Prophet Joseph Smith received two revelations from the Lord. Those revelations are now recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 61 and 62. They include words of instruction, warning, comfort, and encouragement.

Suggestions for Teaching

Doctrine and Covenants 60

The Lord commands elders to preach the gospel as they travel from Missouri to Ohio

Before class, write the following question on the board: Can you think of a time when you hesitated to tell others about your beliefs or were reluctant to share your testimony of the gospel?

Begin class by asking students to ponder the question on the board. As students are pondering, you may want to share your own answer to this question by relating an experience from your life.

Explain that a group of elders had traveled from Ohio to participate in the dedication of the land and the temple site in Independence, Missouri. The Lord had commanded them to preach the gospel to others as they traveled to Missouri (see D&C 52:9–10). Doctrine and Covenants 60 contains the Lord’s words to several of these elders as they prepared to return to Ohio. Invite students to read Doctrine and Covenants 60:1–2 silently, looking for why the Lord was displeased with some of these elders.

  • Why was the Lord displeased with some of the elders? (He said, “They will not open their mouths, but they hide the talent which I have given unto them.” In other words, they had not shared their testimonies of the gospel.)

  • According to Doctrine and Covenants 60:2, why had some of the elders not shared their testimonies?

Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 60:3 aloud. Ask the class to follow along and identify what can happen if we do not share our testimonies.

  • What can happen if we do not share our testimonies? (Students may use different words, but they should identify the following principle: We can lose our testimonies if we do not share them.)

  • Why do you think we have to share our testimony in order for it to remain with us? When have you felt that your testimony has grown stronger because you have shared it?

Encourage students to share their testimonies when they have opportunities to do so. Summarize the rest of Doctrine and Covenants 60 by explaining that the Lord commanded these elders to proclaim the gospel as they traveled back to Ohio.

Doctrine and Covenants 61

The Lord provides direction for Joseph Smith and other elders on their journey to Ohio

Ask students to think of a time when they were concerned for their safety and felt that the Lord protected them. Explain that on August 11, 1831, the Prophet Joseph Smith and ten elders found that they were in danger as they traveled by canoe upon the powerful currents of the Missouri River. Joseph Smith recalled that on the third day of the journey, “many of the dangers so common upon the western waters, manifested themselves; and after we had encamped upon the bank of the river, … Brother [William W.] Phelps, in open vision by daylight, saw the destroyer in his most horrible power, ride upon the face of the waters; others heard the noise, but saw not the vision” (in History of the Church, 1:203). Prior to this vision, “some disagreements and ill feeling had developed among the brethren” (B. H. Roberts, A Comprehensive History of the Church, 1:262–63). That evening, the brethren discussed their difficulties and most of them were able to forgive one another. The following morning, Joseph Smith prayed and received the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 61.

Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 61:2, 20, 36–37 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for words and phrases that might have brought comfort to these elders.

  • What words or phrases did you find that may have comforted these elders? (As students respond, you might want to ask them to explain how the words or phrases they mention could have been comforting.)

Explain that in this revelation, the Lord taught that “many destructions” would occur on the waters in the last days (see D&C 61:5, 14–19). The Lord also spoke of His power. Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 61:1 aloud. Ask the class to follow along and look for what the Lord teaches about His power.

  • How does the Lord describe His power in this verse? (After students respond, write the following doctrine on the board: The Lord has all power.)

You may want to point out that because of William W. Phelps’s vision of the destroyer upon the waters, some have assumed that Satan has power over the waters. However, Doctrine and Covenants 61:1 affirms that the Lord has all power—including power over the waters.

Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 61:6, 10 aloud. Ask the class to follow along and look for phrases that may have helped the elders further appreciate the Lord’s power. Ask students to report what they find, and then add to the statement on the board so that it reads as follows: The Lord has all power, and He is able to preserve us.

  • What experiences have you had that have strengthened your testimony of the Lord’s power and of the Lord’s ability to protect us from harm?

You may want to summarize the rest of Doctrine and Covenants 61 by explaining that the Lord gave further instructions to guide these elders’ return to Ohio.

Doctrine and Covenants 62

The Lord commends the faithfulness of a group of elders traveling to Independence, Missouri

Write the following questions on the board:

What color of shirt should I wear today?

Should I go to Church on Sunday?

Should I serve a mission? If so, when?

If my mom offers to fix my favorite meal, what should I choose?

Whom should I date? Where should we go to eat on our date?

Ask students to consider which of these questions might matter most to the Lord.

Explain that as the Lord instructed the elders who were traveling from Missouri to Ohio, He helped them understand that some of the decisions they needed to make mattered more to Him than others. Encourage students to look for insights in Doctrine and Covenants 62 that can guide them in making decisions.

Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 62:1–3 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for phrases that show that the elders’ efforts to preach the gospel mattered to the Lord.

  • What phrases did you find? How do these phrases show how the Lord felt about these missionaries’ efforts?

To help students consider examples of things that mattered to the Lord and things that did not matter, copy the following chart on the board or prepare it as a handout. Do not include the information in parentheses. Depending on the needs of your students, ask them to do this activity individually or with partners. Or you might complete the activity as a class.

What mattered to the Lord

What did not matter to the Lord

D&C 60:5

(That the elders take their journey speedily to St. Louis)

(Whether the elders made or bought a craft to travel in)

D&C 61:21–22

(That the elders take their journey in haste and that they fill their mission)

(Whether they traveled by water or by land)

D&C 62:5–7

(That the elders be faithful, bear testimony of the gospel, and help the Saints gather)

(Whether the elders journeyed all together or two by two; whether the elders rode horses or mules or in chariots)

    After students have completed the chart, ask the following questions:
  • What differences do you notice between the things that mattered to the Lord and the things that did not matter?

  • How can this pattern guide you as you make decisions?

Explain that Doctrine and Covenants 62:8 teaches a principle that can guide us as we make decisions. Invite students to read this verse silently, looking for that principle. Then ask them to report what they find. They might use other words, but they should express the following principle: When we make decisions, we are to rely on our judgment and the directions of the Spirit. You might want to invite students to write this principle in their own words in their scriptures.

  • Why do you think it is important to rely on our judgment as well as the directions of the Spirit when we make decisions?

  • When have you made a decision based on your own judgment as well as direction from the Spirit? How were you blessed for doing so?

Testify of the truths you have discussed in the lesson. Invite students to ponder how they can act on the truths they have learned from their study of Doctrine and Covenants 60–62. You may want to invite one or two students to share how they plan to act on one of these truths.

Commentary and Background Information

Doctrine and Covenants 61:5–19. How are the waters cursed?

The Lord’s words in Doctrine and Covenants 61:5–19 do not prohibit Latter-day Saints from traveling on or swimming in the water. In describing the curse on the waters in the last days, the Lord may have been referring to passages in the book of Revelation in which the Apostle John describes destruction that will occur in the waters prior to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ (see Revelation 8:8–11; 16:2–6). In Doctrine and Covenants 61, the Lord refers specifically to the danger of “these waters,” meaning the Missouri River (see D&C 61:5, 18). President Joseph Fielding Smith explained some of the damage that has been caused by the Missouri River:

“In regard to the Missouri-Mississippi waters, we have seen year by year great destruction upon them, and coming from them. Millions upon millions of dollars almost annually are lost by this great stream overflowing its banks. Many have lost their lives in these floods as they sweep over the land, and even upon this apparently tranquil or sluggish stream there can arise storms that bring destruction. Verily the word of the Lord has been, and is being, fulfilled in relation to those waters” (Church History and Modern Revelation, 2 vols. [1953], 1:224).

Doctrine and Covenants 62. Historical background

While Joseph Smith and others were traveling east to Ohio, they encountered four elders traveling west to Independence, Missouri. One of these elders, John Murdock, had become ill while preaching the gospel during the journey from Ohio. John and his companion, Hyrum Smith, were lodging at Chariton, Missouri, waiting for John’s illness to pass. There they met two other elders, David Whitmer and Harvey Whitlock, who had also been faithful to the commandment to preach the gospel on the way to Missouri. After these four elders met Joseph Smith at Chariton and received the Lord’s instructions that are recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 62, they combined their money and bought a horse, which allowed John Murdock to travel with greater ease to Zion.

Supplemental Teaching Idea

Doctrine and Covenants 60:4–14. Bearing testimony to strengthen others

After students read Doctrine and Covenants 60:3 and discover that we can lose our testimonies if we do not share them with others, invite them to read verses 4–14 silently. Ask them to search for additional reasons why the Lord commanded these elders to preach the gospel during their journey back to Ohio.

After students search these verses, ask them to report what they have learned. Help them understand that the commandment to preach and bear testimony was not only meant to strengthen the elders, but was also for “the good of the churches” in Ohio (D&C 60:9), meaning the branches of the Church they were returning to. Another reason the elders were to bear testimony was to help people who had not yet received the gospel. The Lord referred to these people as the “congregations of the wicked” (D&C 60:8, 13). You might invite students to read Doctrine and Covenants 61:3 to see how the Lord reiterated His concern for the salvation of those who did not enjoy the blessings of the gospel.