In November 1831, a group of elders gathered for a special conference in Hiram, Ohio. One item of discussion at the conference was the publication of revelations the Prophet Joseph Smith had received. During this meeting, the Lord gave a revelation to Joseph Smith and designated it as the preface to the book of revelations that would be published. That revelation is now the first section of the Doctrine and Covenants. Later in the conference, the Lord gave a revelation that is now recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 67. In that revelation, the Lord addressed brethren who had questions about the language of the revelations He had given to the Prophet.
Suggestions for Teaching
The Lord hears our prayers and knows our hearts
Before class begins, write the following question on the board: When have you felt that your prayers have been heard and answered? At the beginning of class, invite students to respond to the question.
Explain that in November 1831, a group of elders, including Joseph Smith, gathered to discuss the publication of the revelations the Prophet had received. Joseph Smith asked the elders to testify that the revelations were from the Lord, but some of them hesitated to do so. This hesitation led to the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 67.
Invite students to read Doctrine and Covenants 67:1–2 silently, looking for what the Lord said about prayer.
In these verses, what does the Lord say about His attention to our prayers? (Though your students may give many different answers, make sure they identify the following principle: The Lord hears our prayers and knows our hearts. Write this principle on the board.)
How can knowing this principle help you improve your prayers?
To help students feel the importance of the principle on the board, invite a few of them to share how they know that Heavenly Father hears their prayers and knows the desires of their hearts. After a few students have had a chance to share, encourage students to pray for the knowledge that God hears their prayers and knows their hearts.
Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 67:3. Ask the class to follow along, looking for why some of the elders did not receive the blessing the Lord had offered them.
Write the following question on the board: How might fear cause someone to miss out on blessings? Ask students to respond. As they discuss this question, write the following principle on the board: If we let fear into our hearts, then we can lose blessings.
What fears do people have that may stop them from obtaining blessings? (Examples may include the fear of not fitting in, fear of making mistakes, fear of changing their lives, fear of failure, fear of repentance, and so on.)
Invite students to think about fears that may have prevented them from acting in faith. Encourage students to seek the Lord’s help in replacing their fears with faith.
The Lord provides a way for the elders to gain a testimony of the revelations through Joseph Smith
Write the following question on the board: Why should we sustain our Church leaders even though we know they are imperfect?
Invite a student to read aloud the section introduction to Doctrine and Covenants 67. Invite another student to read Doctrine and Covenants 67:5 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for how the elders felt about the revelations that would be published in the Book of Commandments. (You may want to remind students that the first collection of Joseph Smith’s revelations was titled the Book of Commandments. In 1835 the book was published under the title the Doctrine and Covenants.)
How did the elders feel about the revelations? (Many elders “bore solemn testimony” of the truthfulness of the revelations. However, “some conversation was had concerning the language used in the revelations.” According to verse 5, some elders thought they could “express beyond [Joseph Smith’s] language.”)
Explain that some of the elders were concerned about the language in which the revelations were expressed. They may have felt that the revelations needed extensive editing to be prepared for publication, and they may have been fearful about what the enemies of the Church would do with the revelations once they were published. Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 67:4–5 aloud. Ask the class to follow along and look for the Lord’s response to concerns about the language of the revelations.
What did the Lord acknowledge about Joseph Smith?
Point out that Joseph Smith’s language skills were not perfect. He was not always eloquent when he spoke. Nevertheless, the Lord revealed truth to him and allowed him to express it as best he could.
Why might it be helpful to know that the Lord revealed His will to Joseph Smith even though He knew Joseph was not perfect?
Invite four students to take turns reading aloud from Doctrine and Covenants 67:6–9. Ask the class to follow along and look for the challenge the Lord gave to those who criticized the language of the revelations.
What challenge did the Lord give to those who thought they could express themselves beyond the language of the revelations?
Ask students what they remember from the previous lesson about William E. McLellin. Explain that William decided to take the Lord’s challenge to write a revelation comparable to those that Joseph Smith had received. Then invite a student to read aloud the following statement from Joseph Smith’s history:
“William E. M’Lellin, as the wisest man, in his own estimation, having more learning than sense, endeavored to write a commandment like unto one of the least of the Lord’s, but failed; it is an awful responsibility to write in the name of the Lord. The Elders and all present that witnessed this vain attempt of a man to imitate the language of Jesus Christ, renewed their faith in the fulness of the Gospel, and in the truth of the commandments and revelations which the Lord had given to the Church through my instrumentality; and the Elders signified a willingness to bear testimony of their truth to all the world” (in History of the Church, 1:226).
Explain that after this event, several elders who were present signed a document giving their formal testimony of the truthfulness of the revelations in the Book of Commandments.
Why do you think Joseph Smith, who had limited formal schooling, could produce these revelations, but William E. McLellin, who was well educated, could not?
What can we learn from this account about judging our leaders because of their imperfections?
Point to the question on the board about following imperfect leaders. Invite students to write answers under the question.
The Lord counsels His followers about how to prepare to abide in God’s presence
Write the following question on the board: What are some blessings that can come when we are patient with ourselves and others? Invite students to respond.
Ask a student to read aloud the following account, shared by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the First Presidency:
“In the 1960s, a professor at Stanford University began a modest experiment testing the willpower of four-year-old children. He placed before them a large marshmallow and then told them they could eat it right away or, if they waited for 15 minutes, they could have two marshmallows.
“He then left the children alone and watched what happened behind a two-way mirror. Some of the children ate the marshmallow immediately; some could wait only a few minutes before giving in to temptation. Only 30 percent were able to wait” (“Continue in Patience,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2010, 56).
How do you think this professor’s experiment and findings could relate to us?
What blessings have you received because you were patient?
Invite students to make a two-column chart in their class notebooks or scripture study journals. Ask them to label the first column Reward and the second column How to Obtain the Reward. Divide the class into pairs. Ask students to read Doctrine and Covenants 67:10–14 with their partners and look for the rewards promised by the Savior and the actions necessary to obtain the rewards. Invite them to record their answers in the appropriate columns in their charts.
After students have had sufficient time to study and discuss the passage, use the questions below to help them report their findings to the class.
What rewards did the Lord offer these elders?
What did the elders need to do in order to obtain these rewards? (As students mention the phrase “abide the presence of God,” you may want to explain that the word abide means to endure or to continue in a certain place.)
Explain that this passage applies to all of us. Write the following principle on the board: If we strip ourselves of jealousy and fear, humble ourselves, and continue in patience, we will be able to abide the presence of God.
Why do you think we need to be patient in our efforts to be worthy to abide the presence of God?
Invite a student to read aloud the following findings from the marshmallow experiment, as told by President Uchtdorf. Ask the class to listen for what we can learn about becoming pure before God.
“As time went on, [the professor] kept track of the children and began to notice an interesting correlation: the children who could not wait struggled later in life and had more behavioral problems, while those who waited tended to be more positive and better motivated, have higher grades and incomes, and have healthier relationships.
“… The ability to wait—to be patient—was a key character trait that might predict later success in life. …
“… Without patience, we cannot please God; we cannot become perfect. Indeed, patience is a purifying process that refines understanding, deepens happiness, focuses action, and offers hope for peace” (“Continue in Patience,” 56).
What can we learn from this experiment about blessings that come when we are patient?
Invite students to ponder and pray about areas of their life in which they need to have more patience with themselves and others. Encourage them to set a goal that will help them become worthy to abide the presence of God.
Commentary and Background Information
Doctrine and Covenants 67:3. “Fears in your hearts”
President Thomas S. Monson said:
“Remember that faith and doubt cannot exist in the same mind at the same time, for one will dispel the other. Cast out doubt. Cultivate faith” (“The Call to Serve,” Ensign, Nov. 2000, 49).
Doctrine and Covenants 67:5. “His imperfections you have known”
Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught how we should respond when we recognize imperfections in the people around us:
“Imperfect people are, in fact, called by our perfect Lord to assist in His work. The Lord declared to certain associates of Joseph Smith that He knew that they had observed Joseph’s minor imperfections. Even so, the Lord then testified that the revelations given through the Prophet were true! (See D&C 67:5, 9.)
“Unsurprisingly, therefore, we do notice each other’s weaknesses. But we should not celebrate them. Let us be grateful for the small strides that we and others make, rather than rejoice in the shortfalls. And when mistakes occur, let them become instructive, not destructive.
“I cherish these generous lines from that very able, but very humble, prophet-editor Moroni:
“‘Condemn me not because of mine imperfection, neither my father, because of his imperfection, neither them who have written before him; but rather give thanks unto God that he hath made manifest unto you our imperfections, that ye may learn to be more wise than we have been.’ (Morm. 9:31; italics added.)
“If such is our attitude, we are far less likely to be offended.
“Besides, if the choice is between reforming other Church members or ourselves, is there really any question about where we should begin? The key is to have our eyes wide open to our own faults and partially closed to the faults of others—not the other way around! The imperfections of others never release us from the need to work on our own shortcomings” (“A Brother Offended,” Ensign, May 1982, 38–39).
Supplemental Teaching Idea
Doctrine and Covenants 67:10–14. Video presentation—“Continue in Patience”
Instead of asking a student to read the account of the marshmallow experiment told by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, consider showing the Mormon Messages video “Continue in Patience.” This video can be found on LDS.org.