Lesson 72: Doctrine and Covenants 66

Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Seminary Teacher Manual, 2013


Introduction

After William E. McLellin was baptized in the summer of 1831, he accepted a call to preach the gospel. In October, he journeyed to Ohio to attend a Church conference. There he met the Prophet Joseph Smith, and on October 29, 1831, he asked Joseph Smith to inquire of the Lord on his behalf. In response to this request, the Lord gave Joseph Smith the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 66. This revelation contains specific counsel regarding Brother McLellin’s spiritual standing, his calling to preach the gospel, and his potential to receive great blessings.

Suggestions for Teaching

Doctrine and Covenants 66:1–3

The Lord declares that William E. McLellin is blessed because he has received the gospel

Before class, copy the following diagram on the board.

line diagram

As class begins, invite students to examine the diagram on the board. Ask them to silently ponder where they would place themselves on the diagram. Also suggest that they consider in which direction they are moving—closer to God or farther away from Him. Then invite a student to read aloud the following statement by President Henry B. Eyring of the First Presidency. Ask the class to listen for ways we can draw closer to God.

President Henry B. Eyring

“If you want to stay close to someone who has been dear to you, but from whom you are separated, you know how to do it. You would find a way to speak to them, you would listen to them, and you would discover ways to do things for each other. The more often that happened, the longer it went on, the deeper would be the bond of affection. If much time passed without the speaking, the listening, and the doing, the bond would weaken.

“God is perfect and omnipotent, and you and I are mortal. But he is our Father, he loves us, and he offers the same opportunity to draw closer to him as would a loving friend. And you will do it in much the same way: speaking, listening, and doing” (“To Draw Closer to God,” Ensign, May 1991, 66).

  • According to President Eyring, how can we draw closer to God? What do you think it means to speak, listen, and do?

Explain that in the early days of the Church, a man named William E. McLellin drew closer to God when he learned about the restored gospel. He was baptized on August 20, 1831. Soon after that, he was ordained an elder, and he accompanied Hyrum Smith for a few weeks as a missionary. In October 1831, he traveled to Ohio for a conference of the Church. While there, he met the Prophet Joseph Smith. On October 29, Brother McLellin prayed in secret, asking the Lord to reveal answers to five specific questions through Joseph Smith. Without telling Joseph Smith the questions, Brother McLellin requested a revelation. As the Prophet dictated the revelation found in Doctrine and Covenants 66, Brother McLellin found that each of his questions was answered. The Lord gave him instructions and warnings to help him stay faithful and eventually receive eternal life.

Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 66:1–2 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for reasons the Lord blessed Brother McLellin at the time of this revelation.

  • Why had Brother McLellin been able to receive blessings from the Lord? (Because he had turned away from his sins, received the Lord’s truths, and received the fulness of the gospel.)

Invite students to read Doctrine and Covenants 66:3 silently, looking for what the Lord said Brother McLellin still needed to do. Ask students to report what they learn.

  • What do you think it means to be “clean, but not all”? (You may need to help students understand that although Brother McLellin had made great progress and had been blessed for his efforts, he still needed to repent of some sins.)

  • What can we learn from the Lord’s counsel in verse 3? (Students should identify the following doctrine: We are commanded to repent of all our sins. Write this doctrine on the board.)

  • Why is it important to repent of all of our sins, and not just some of them?

Invite students to read verse 3 again silently, looking for what the Lord would do to help William E. McLellin repent of all his sins.

  • What can we learn from this verse about how the Lord will help us in our repentance? (Students should express the following principle: The Lord will show us the things we need to repent of. Write this truth on the board.)

  • What are some ways the Lord might show us the things we need to repent of?

Invite a student to read aloud the following statement by President Henry B. Eyring. Ask the class to listen for one way that we can ask the Lord to help us repent.

“One of the questions we must ask of our Heavenly Father in private prayer is this: ‘What have I done today, or not done, which displeases Thee? If I can only know, I will repent with all my heart without delay.’ That humble prayer will be answered” (“Do Not Delay,” Ensign, Nov. 1999, 34).

Encourage students to think about blessings they have received as they have turned away from sin and received the gospel. Invite them to seek to know the things they need to repent of so they can receive even greater blessings.

Doctrine and Covenants 66:4–13

The Lord commands William E. McLellin to proclaim the gospel, forsake all unrighteousness, and continue faithfully to the end

Refer back to the Lord’s promise to show William E. McLellin the sins he needed to repent of. Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 66:4 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what else the Lord promised to show Brother McLellin. Ask students to report what they find.

  • Why is it a blessing to know God’s will for us?

Divide the students into pairs. Ask the pairs to read Doctrine and Covenants 66:5–9 together, looking for what the Lord wanted Brother McLellin to do. Ask students to report what they find.

  • According to verses 8–9, what blessings would Brother McLellin receive if he would faithfully do the Lord’s will? (The Lord would be with him and would bless him to be able to strengthen the faithful and heal the sick.)

  • What can we learn from these verses about blessings we can receive when we follow the Lord’s will for us? (Students should identify the following principle: If we are faithful in doing the Lord’s will, He will be with us and will bless us so we can accomplish what He requires of us. Write this principle on the board.)

Explain that in addition to giving Brother McLellin instructions about what to do, the Lord gave him a warning. Ask a student to read the first two sentences of Doctrine and Covenants 66:10 aloud. Before he or she reads, point out that the first sentence includes the word cumbered. Explain that something cumbers us if it blocks our way or makes a task very difficult to accomplish.

  • The Lord commanded Brother McLellin to “forsake all unrighteousness.” How would unrighteousness, or sin, cumber Brother McLellin’s missionary work? How does unrighteousness cumber us spiritually?

After students respond, write the following principle on the board: The Lord wants us to forsake all things that cumber our spiritual progress.

Encourage students to silently consider things in their lives that may be cumbering them.

Read the third sentence of Doctrine and Covenants 66:10 aloud, and invite the class to look for a specific warning that the Lord gave Brother McLellin.

  • According to verse 10, what temptation had Brother McLellin struggled with?

  • From verse 10, what can we learn about the Lord’s knowledge about each of us? (Help students see that the Lord knows our specific challenges and temptations, just as He knew Brother McLellin’s. Consider inviting students to write this truth next to verse 10.)

  • Why do you think it is important to understand that the Lord knows our specific challenges and temptations?

Point out that in addition to knowing our challenges and temptations, the Lord knows our strengths and abilities. He knows everything about each of us. With an understanding that He loves us and knows us perfectly, we can seek and follow His will with confidence and trust in Him.

Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 66:11–13 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for additional counsel the Lord gave William McLellin. Also ask the class to look for blessings the Lord promised if Brother McLellin would follow that counsel. Ask students to report what they find.

  • According to verse 12, what do we need to do to receive eternal life? (Help students recognize that if we continue faithfully to the end, we will receive eternal life. Write this principle on the board.)

  • What does it mean to you to continue faithfully to the end?

Explain that when this revelation was given, Brother McLellin had received a testimony of the restored gospel. After the revelation was given, he testified of Joseph Smith’s prophetic calling. He said, “Joseph Smith is a true Prophet … of the Lord and … has power and does receive revelations from God” (Letter from William E. McLellin to relatives, Aug. 4, 1832, RLDS Archives, 4; quoted in M. Russell Ballard, “What Came from Kirtland” [Church Educational System fireside for young adults, Nov. 6, 1994], 8, speeches.byu.edu). Brother McLellin served faithfully for several years and was called to serve as one of the first members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in this dispensation. However, he did not continue faithfully to the end. In fact, he turned against the Prophet Joseph Smith, and he was excommunicated in 1838. You may want to read the following paragraph aloud:

“While Joseph was in prison at Richmond, Mo., McLellin, who was a large and active man, went to the sheriff and asked for the privilege of flogging the Prophet. Permission was granted on condition that Joseph would fight. The sheriff made known … McLellin’s earnest request, to which Joseph consented, if his irons were taken off. McLellin then refused to fight unless he could have a club, to which Joseph was perfectly willing; but the sheriff would not allow them to fight on such unequal terms” (“History of Brigham Young,” Millennial Star, Dec. 17, 1864, 808).

    Direct students’ attention to the diagram on the board, and suggest that they once again consider where they would place themselves on that diagram. Ask them to ponder the following question:
  • What will you do to move closer to God and to continue faithfully to the end?

Testify of the doctrines and principles you have discussed, and encourage students to act on them.

Commentary and Background Information

Doctrine and Covenants 66. William E. McLellin’s five questions

Ten years after William E. McLellin was excommunicated from the Church, he wrote about the revelation Joseph Smith received that is now recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 66:

“I received through him, and wrote from his mouth a revelation concerning myself. I had expected and believed that when I saw Bro. Joseph, I should receive one; and I went before the Lord in secret, and on my knees asked him to reveal the answer to five questions through his Prophet, and that too without his having any knowledge of my having made such request. I now testify in the fear of God, that every question which I had thus lodged in the ears of the Lord of Sabbaoth, were answered to my full and entire satisfaction. I desired it for a testimony of Joseph’s inspiration. And I to this day consider it to me an evidence which I cannot refute” (in Ensign of Liberty, of the Church of Christ, Jan. 1848, 61).

We do not know what Brother McLellin’s five questions were. However, based on his statement that the revelation answered his questions, we can surmise that he was concerned about his standing before the Lord and that he wanted to know what the Lord would have him do.