In the summer of 1831, Joseph Smith was overseeing the dedication of the land where the Saints were to build Zion in Independence, Missouri. During the Prophet’s absence, some Church members in Ohio turned away from the Lord’s commandments and committed serious sins. The Prophet Joseph Smith returned to Kirtland on August 27, and on August 30, he received the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 63. This lesson covers a portion of that revelation, in which the Lord warned the Saints about the consequences of wickedness and rebellion.
Invite students to imagine that a friend asks the following question. Ask students to share how they might respond.
Why do you follow your Church’s teachings instead of having fun?
After students have responded, ask the following question:
As members of the Church of Jesus Christ, why do you think it is important that we live according to our beliefs?
Explain that in the summer of 1831, while Joseph Smith and other Church leaders were in Missouri to dedicate the land and the temple site in Zion, some Church members in Ohio were secretly committing serious sins. After the Prophet returned to Ohio, he received the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 63. Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 63:1 aloud, and ask the class to identify how the Lord referred to Church members in this verse. Invite students to report what they find.
How can calling ourselves the people of the Lord be different from being the people of the Lord?
Ask students to scan verse 1 again and look for the Lord’s command to those who call themselves His people.
What does the Lord want us to do as His people? (Summarize students’ responses by writing the following principle on the board: As the Lord’s people, we are to open our hearts and listen to His word and His will concerning us.)
What do you think it means to open our hearts?
How does opening our hearts prepare us to hear the Lord’s voice?
What do you do that helps you open your heart?
Invite students to open their hearts to the influence of the Holy Ghost during this lesson. You might suggest that they write down any impressions or promptings they receive from the Spirit.
Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 63:2, 6 aloud. Before the student reads, you may want to explain that in verse 6, the phrase “the day of wrath” refers to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, a time when those who have not repented of their sins will suffer the consequences of their choices. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what the Lord told the wicked and the rebellious. Invite students to report what they discover.
In Doctrine and Covenants 63:6, point out the command to “let the unbelieving hold their lips.” Explain that at this time, some Church members had ceased to believe in the truthfulness of the Church and were publicly speaking out against Joseph Smith and other Church leaders (see History of the Church, 1:216–17). One of the most vocal critics of the Church was a man named Ezra Booth. Invite a student to read aloud the following two paragraphs concerning the experiences that led Ezra Booth to join the Church.
Ezra Booth was a Methodist preacher in Ohio. He became interested in the Restoration in early 1831 after reading from the Book of Mormon. He traveled to Kirtland with John and Alice Johnson to meet the Prophet. Mrs. Johnson suffered from rheumatism, which had caused pain, swelling, and stiffness in her arm. When she first met Joseph Smith, she had not been able to raise her hand to her head for about two years.
“During the interview the conversation turned on the subject of supernatural gifts, such as were conferred in the days of the apostles. Some one said, ‘Here is Mrs. Johnson with a lame arm; has God given any power to man now on the earth to cure her?’ A few moments later, when the conversation had turned in another direction, [Joseph] Smith rose, and walking across the room, taking Mrs. Johnson by the hand, said in the most solemn and impressive manner: ‘Woman, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ I command thee to be whole,’ and immediately left the room. … Mrs. Johnson at once lifted [her arm] up with ease, and on her return home the next day she was able to do her washing without difficulty or pain” (in History of the Church, 1:215–16).
How do you think you might feel if you witnessed a miracle like this?
Explain that soon after Ezra Booth witnessed this miracle, he was baptized.
Write the following phrase on the board: Signs and Faith.
Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 63:7–9 aloud. Ask the class to follow along and identify what the Lord taught about signs and faith.
What do we learn from these verses about signs and faith? (Students may identify a variety of principles, but be sure to emphasize the following truth: Faith does not come by signs. Write this truth on the board below Signs and Faith.)
What are some examples in the scriptures of people who witnessed great signs or miracles but did not demonstrate lasting faith and righteousness? (Examples might include the children of Israel [see Numbers 14:22–23] and Laman and Lemuel [see 1 Nephi 17:43–45].)
Explain that Ezra Booth is an example of someone relying on signs rather than faith. After he was baptized, he received the priesthood and was sent on a mission to Missouri. Booth apparently began this mission with great expectations, assuming he would be able to convert many by displaying signs and performing miracles. However, after preaching for a short time and not seeing the results he anticipated, Booth “turned away” and apostatized (see History of the Church, 1:216). The Prophet Joseph Smith made the following observation about Ezra Booth:
“When he actually learned that faith, humility, patience, and tribulation go before blessing, and that God brings low before He exalts; that instead of the ‘Savior’s granting him power to smite men and make them believe’ … then he was disappointed” (in History of the Church, 1:216).
Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 63:10–12 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for additional truths about signs and faith.
According to verse 10, how do signs come? (Help students identify the following truth: Signs come by faith, according to the will of God. Add this truth to the board under Signs and Faith.)
Why do you think we receive signs after we have exercised faith?
According to verse 12, what is an appropriate reason to seek signs? (“For the good of men unto [God’s] glory”—meaning to help other people and to further the Lord’s work.)
Point out that signs and wonders are not always outwardly spectacular. Often we may receive a sign or a witness of the truthfulness of the gospel in a quiet, personal way as we exercise our faith.
How can we exercise faith in order to receive a witness of the gospel? (You may want to list students’ responses on the board. Responses might include activities such as prayer, scripture study, fasting, giving service, and living the principles of the gospel.)
Invite students to share their experiences with receiving a witness of the truthfulness of the gospel by exercising faith in one of these ways.
Remind students that in addition to seeking signs, some Church members in Ohio had also “turned away from [the] commandments” (D&C 63:13) and were committing serious sins. Ask students to read Doctrine and Covenants 63:14–19 silently and identify some of the sins Church members had committed. Invite students to report what they find. (You may want to explain that a whoremonger is a person who participates in sexual sin. A sorcerer is someone who participates in activities that invite the influence of evil spirits.)
Notice the Lord’s warning about lust in verse 16. What does it mean to look upon others with lust? (Lust means “to have an inappropriately strong desire for something” or someone [Guide to the Scriptures, “Lust,” scriptures.lds.org]. To look upon another with lust means to look at someone’s body inappropriately or in a way that arouses sexual feelings. This includes viewing pornography.)
What principle do you see in the Lord’s warning in verse 16? (Students should identify the following principle: If we look upon others with lust, we will not have the Spirit and we deny the faith. You may want to suggest that students mark words that teach this principle in their scriptures.)
Why do you think lusting after another causes a person to lose the Spirit?
What can we do to overcome temptations to lust after others?
As part of the discussion on avoiding lust, you may want to invite a student to read the following statement by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:
“Above all, start by separating yourself from people, materials, and circumstances that will harm you. …
“… If a TV show is indecent, turn it off. If a movie is crude, walk out. If an improper relationship is developing, sever it. Many of these influences, at least initially, may not technically be evil, but they can blunt our judgment, dull our spirituality, and lead to something that could be evil. …
“… Replace lewd thoughts with hopeful images and joyful memories; picture the faces of those who love you and would be shattered if you let them down. … Whatever thoughts you have, make sure they are welcome in your heart by invitation only. …
“Cultivate and be where the Spirit of the Lord is. Make sure that includes your own home or apartment, dictating the kind of art, music, and literature you keep there” (“Place No More for the Enemy of My Soul,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2010, 45, 46).
Point to the first principle you wrote on the board at the beginning of class: As the Lord’s people, we are to open our hearts and listen to His word and His will concerning us. Invite students to think about whether their hearts have been open to promptings or impressions during their study of the scriptures today. Encourage them to act on the promptings and impressions they receive from the Lord, and testify that as they do so they will be the Lord’s people.