Lesson 69: Doctrine and Covenants 64:1–19

Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Seminary Teacher Manual, 2013


On August 27, 1831, the Prophet Joseph Smith and a number of elders had recently returned to Ohio from their journey to dedicate the land and the temple site in Zion, or Independence, Missouri. During the journey to and from Missouri, some of the elders had disagreements with each other and experienced contentious feelings, but most were able to reconcile with each other. On September 11, the Prophet received the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 64. This lesson covers Doctrine and Covenants 64:1–19, in which the Lord speaks of His willingness to forgive His servants. He also commands Church members to forgive one another.

Note: Lesson 70 provides an opportunity for two students to teach. If you have not already done so, you may want to select two students now and give them copies of the designated portions of lesson 70 so they can prepare.

Suggestions for Teaching

Doctrine and Covenants 64:1–7

The Lord assures the elders of His willingness to forgive

Before class, write the following questions on the board:

When have you felt hurt because of the words or actions of another person?

How did you respond in that situation?

Begin class by inviting students to ponder the questions on the board.

Explain that in Doctrine and Covenants 64, the Lord teaches us how to respond when others have hurt us. Joseph Smith received the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 64 on September 11, 1831, about two weeks after he and a group of elders had returned to Ohio from Independence, Missouri. These elders and other Church members had experienced difficulties because of disagreements and contentious feelings among some members of the group. In this revelation, the Lord said, “There are those among you who have sinned” (D&C 64:3).

Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 64:1–4 aloud, and ask the class to look for phrases that describe how the Lord would respond to those who had sinned. You may want to suggest that students mark the phrases they identify.

  • How did the Lord say He would respond to members of the Church who had sinned?

  • What do these responses teach us about the Lord? (Students may use different words, but they should identify the following principle: The Lord is compassionate, forgiving, and merciful. Write this principle on the board.)

  • Why might this truth have been significant for Church members who had experienced difficulties because of disagreements and hard feelings? Why does this truth about the Savior matter to you?

Explain that at this time, some members of the Church, including some of the elders who had been traveling with Joseph Smith, had become critical of Joseph Smith. Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 64:5–6 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what the Lord said about Joseph Smith. Before the student reads, explain that to seek occasion against someone, as expressed in verse 6, is to find fault with someone.

  • What did the Lord say about Joseph Smith? (Joseph Smith held the keys of the Lord’s kingdom and was the Lord’s servant. Some people had found fault with Joseph.)

Invite students to read Doctrine and Covenants 64:7 silently, looking for something else the Lord said about Joseph Smith.

  • What can we learn from this verse about Joseph Smith? (Joseph Smith had sinned, but the Lord was willing to forgive him. To help students understand this passage, you may want to point out that like all people, Joseph Smith had weaknesses and needed to seek the Lord’s forgiveness for his sins. However, he was not guilty of serious sins.)

  • What can we learn from this verse about what we must do to receive the Lord’s forgiveness?

Doctrine and Covenants 64:8–19

The Lord commands His servants to forgive one another

If possible, display a picture of a poisonous snake that lives in your area or a picture of a wound caused by a bite from a poisonous snake.

  • In addition to feeling physical pain, what emotions do you think you would feel if you were bitten by a poisonous snake?

Explain that someone in this situation could (1) pursue the snake and kill it out of anger or fear, or (2) take immediate measures to get the poison out of his or her system.

  • Which of these two courses of action do you think is wiser? Why?

Explain that a person’s choices after receiving a poisonous bite can be compared to our choices when we feel hurt because of the words or actions of another person. Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 64:8 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for the consequences some of the Lord’s disciples faced because they refused to forgive one another. Invite students to report what they find.

  • What principle can we learn from verse 8? (Students may use different words, but they should identify the following principle: When we refuse to forgive others, we bring affliction upon ourselves. Consider inviting students to write this principle in their own words in their scriptures.)

  • How can a person be afflicted (or hurt) by not forgiving others? How is this like the consequences of a person chasing a rattlesnake that has just bitten him?

Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 64:9 aloud. Invite the class to identify another consequence of not forgiving others.

  • According to verse 9, what is another consequence of refusing to forgive others? (If we do not forgive others, we stand condemned before the Lord. Write this doctrine on the board.)

As part of this discussion, you may want to ask a student to read the following statement by Elder David E. Sorensen of the Seventy:

Elder David E. Sorensen

“It can be very difficult to forgive someone the harm they’ve done us, but when we do, we open ourselves up to a better future. No longer does someone else’s wrongdoing control our course. When we forgive others, it frees us to choose how we will live our own lives. Forgiveness means that problems of the past no longer dictate our destinies, and we can focus on the future with God’s love in our hearts” (“Forgiveness Will Change Bitterness to Love,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2003, 12).

To help students identify and apply the Lord’s commandment to forgive all people, read the following examples and ask the questions that follow:

  1. 1.

    A young woman is hurt and embarrassed after learning that some of her peers have been spreading gossip about her. Later, some of these peers apologize, but others do not. The young woman forgives those who have apologized but holds a grudge against the others.

    Invite students to read Doctrine and Covenants 64:10–11. Ask them to think about how these verses relate to the example you have read.

    • What commandment does the Lord give in verse 10? (Help students identify the following commandment: The Lord commands us to forgive all people.)

    • How does this commandment relate to the young woman in the example? Why do you think it is important to forgive all people, regardless of whether they apologize for their wrongdoings?

  2. 2.

    A young man disobeys a commandment. He prays for forgiveness and discusses the problem with his bishop. However, even after the bishop has assured the young man that he has fully repented, the young man continues to feel unworthy because of his past sin.

    • How does the commandment to forgive all people relate to the young man in this example? Why must we forgive ourselves?

  3. 3.

    A young woman is feeling sad and confused because of the actions of her father. He has abandoned his family. Before he left, he rarely showed love for the family and was often cruel. She does not understand why her father acted this way, and she carries feelings of anger toward him. She knows she should seek to forgive him but doesn’t think that she can.

    • How could the Lord’s counsel in verse 11 help this young woman forgive her father? How does it help us to let God be the judge of those who have hurt us?

Ask students to consider if there is anyone whom they need to forgive. Acknowledge that at times it can be extremely difficult to forgive another. Invite a student to read the following statement by President Gordon B. Hinckley. Ask the class to listen for what they can do if they are struggling to forgive someone.

President Gordon B. Hinckley

“I plead with you to ask the Lord for strength to forgive. … It may not be easy, and it may not come quickly. But if you will seek it with sincerity and cultivate it, it will come” (“Of You It Is Required to Forgive,” Ensign, June 1991, 5).

  • What did President Hinckley counsel us to do if we are struggling to forgive someone? How do you think praying for strength can help us to forgive?

Summarize Doctrine and Covenants 64:12–14 by explaining that the Lord taught that our choice to forgive others does not relieve them of responsibility for their actions. They are still accountable to the Lord for the wrongs they have done. In Doctrine and Covenants 64:15–17 we see that the Lord specifically forgave two of His servants, Isaac Morley and Edward Partridge, because they had repented of their sins.

Display a picture of Jesus Christ. Point to the first truth you wrote on the board at the beginning of the lesson: The Lord is compassionate, forgiving, and merciful. Testify that as we forgive, we become more like the Savior.

Invite students to ponder how they can apply the principles of forgiveness they have learned today. Give them time to write what they will do to apply these truths and to record any impressions they have received.

Commentary and Background Information

Doctrine and Covenants 64:8. We bring afflictions upon ourselves when we do not forgive others

Elder David E. Sorensen of the Seventy told of two men who harmed themselves and many others because of their unwillingness to forgive:

Elder David E. Sorensen

“I grew up in a small farming town where water was the lifeblood of the community. I remember the people of our society constantly watching, worrying, and praying over the rain, irrigation rights, and water in general. …

“Under the stress and strain of our climate, sometimes people weren’t always at their best. Occasionally, neighbors would squabble over one farmer taking too long a turn from the irrigation ditch. That’s how it started with two men who lived near our mountain pasture, whom I will call Chet and Walt. These two neighbors began to quarrel over water from the irrigation ditch they shared. It was innocent enough at first, but over the years the two men allowed their disagreements to turn into resentment and then arguments—even to the point of threats.

“One July morning both men felt they were once again short of water. Each went to the ditch to see what had happened, each in his own mind reckoning the other had stolen his water. They arrived at the headgate at the same time. Angry words were exchanged; a scuffle ensued. Walt was a large man with great strength. Chet was small, wiry, and tenacious. In the heat of the scuffle, the shovels the men were carrying were used as weapons. Walt accidentally struck one of Chet’s eyes with the shovel, leaving him blind in that eye.

“Months and years passed, yet Chet could not forget nor forgive. The anger that he felt over losing his eye boiled inside him, and his hatred grew more intense. One day, Chet went to his barn, took down the gun from its rack, got on his horse, and rode down to the headgate of the ditch. He put a dam in the ditch and diverted the water away from Walt’s farm, knowing that Walt would soon come to see what had happened. Then Chet slipped into the brush and waited. When Walt appeared, Chet shot him dead. Then he got on his horse, went back to his home, and called the sheriff to inform him that he had just shot Walt.

“My father was asked to be on the jury that tried Chet for murder. Father disqualified himself because he was a longtime friend of both men and their families. Chet was tried and convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison.

“After many years, Chet’s wife came to my father and asked if he would sign a petition to the governor, asking for clemency for her husband, whose health was now broken after serving so many years in the state penitentiary. Father signed the petition. A few nights later, two of Walt’s grown sons appeared at our door. They were very angry and upset. They said that because Father had signed the petition, many others had signed. They asked Father to have his name withdrawn from the petition. He said no. He felt that Chet was a broken and sick man. He had suffered these many years in prison for that terrible crime of passion. He wanted to see Chet have a decent funeral and burial beside his family.

“Walt’s sons whirled in anger and said, ‘If he is released from prison, we will see that harm comes to him and his family.’

“Chet was eventually released and allowed to come home to die with his family. Fortunately, there was no further violence between the families. My father often lamented how tragic it was that Chet and Walt, these two neighbors and boyhood friends, had fallen captive to their anger and let it destroy their lives. How tragic that the passion of the moment was allowed to escalate out of control—eventually taking the lives of both men—simply because two men could not forgive each other over a few shares of irrigation water. …

“… When someone has hurt us or those we care about, that pain can almost be overwhelming. It can feel as if the pain or the injustice is the most important thing in the world and that we have no choice but to seek vengeance. But Christ, the Prince of Peace, teaches us a better way. It can be very difficult to forgive someone the harm they’ve done us, but when we do, we open ourselves up to a better future. No longer does someone else’s wrongdoing control our course. When we forgive others, it frees us to choose how we will live our own lives. Forgiveness means that problems of the past no longer dictate our destinies, and we can focus on the future with God’s love in our hearts” (“Forgiveness Will Change Bitterness to Love,” Ensign, May 2003, 10–11, 12).

Doctrine and Covenants 64:12–14. “Ye shall bring [him] before the church”

The Lord’s teachings in Doctrine and Covenants 64:12–14 show that our forgiveness of others does not relieve them of consequences for their actions. Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught:

Elder Richard G. Scott

“If as an innocent victim you have been seriously wronged, don’t harbor feelings of hatred, anger at what appears to be unjust. Forgive the offender even when you are innocent. To do that may require an enormous effort on your part. Such forgiveness is most difficult, but it is the sure path to peace and healing. If there is discipline required for a serious transgression against you, leave that to the Church and civil authorities. Don’t burden your own life with thoughts of retribution. The Lord’s mill of justice grinds slowly, but it grinds exceedingly well. In the Lord’s economy, no one will escape the consequences of unresolved violation of His laws. In His time and in His way full payment will be required for unrepented evil acts” (“Peace of Conscience and Peace of Mind,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2004, 16–17).

Elder David E. Sorensen of the Seventy similarly explained:

Elder David E. Sorensen

“I would like to make it clear that forgiveness of sins should not be confused with tolerating evil. In fact, in the Joseph Smith Translation, the Lord said, ‘Judge righteous judgment.’ [Joseph Smith Translation, Matthew 7:1 (in Matthew 7:1, footnote a.] The Savior asks us to forsake and combat evil in all its forms, and although we must forgive a neighbor who injures us, we should still work constructively to prevent that injury from being repeated. A woman who is abused should not seek revenge, but neither should she feel that she cannot take steps to prevent further abuse. A businessperson treated unfairly in a transaction should not hate the person who was dishonest but could take appropriate steps to remedy the wrong. Forgiveness does not require us to accept or tolerate evil. It does not require us to ignore the wrong that we see in the world around us or in our own lives. But as we fight against sin, we must not allow hatred or anger to control our thoughts or actions” (“Forgiveness Will Change Bitterness to Love,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2003, 12).

Supplemental Teaching Idea

video iconDoctrine and Covenants 64:9–11. Video presentation—“Forgiveness: My Burden Was Made Light”

To help students understand how they can forgive others, show the Mormon Messages video “Forgiveness: My Burden Was Made Light” (available on LDS.org). It portrays the true story of a man who forgave the teenage driver who caused the deaths of the man’s wife and several of his children in a car crash. You may want to show this video near the end of the lesson to illustrate how the Lord can give us strength to forgive others when it is difficult to do so.

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After students have watched the video, ask them to imagine that a drunk driver has caused a car accident that has killed a friend or family member. Invite them to ponder the following questions:

  • Would it be difficult for you to forgive the person who caused the accident?

  • How would your life change if you refused to forgive?

  • Why would it be better to forgive?