On November 1, 1831, the Prophet Joseph Smith met with a group of elders in Hiram, Ohio, for a special conference. They discussed the publication of the Book of Commandments, a collection of the revelations the Prophet had received. Four of the elders at the conference asked Joseph Smith to inquire of the Lord about His will for them. In response to this request, the Prophet received a revelation that is now recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 68. The revelation includes counsel to those called to preach the gospel, instructions about the calling of bishop, and a commandment that parents teach their children the principles and ordinances of the gospel.
If you or someone close to you has served a mission for the Church, begin class by sharing some of the feelings people experience as they prepare to leave home and be full-time missionaries. Then ask the following questions:
What worries or concerns might someone have about serving a full-time mission?
What are some reasons people sometimes feel nervous about sharing the gospel with their family members and friends?
Explain that during a conference held on November 1, 1831, four elders who would be serving as missionaries approached Joseph Smith and asked to know the Lord’s will concerning them. In response, the Lord revealed a pattern for preaching the gospel. Invite five students to take turns reading aloud from Doctrine and Covenants 68:1–5. Ask the class to follow along, looking for elements of that pattern. Before they read, point out that verses 2 and 3 contain the word ensample. An ensample is a pattern or model.
What do you see in these verses about how we should preach the gospel?
In verses 3–5, what promise does the Lord give to His servants?
What will the inspired words of missionaries do for those who receive them? (Students may use different words, but they should identify the following principle: When the Lord’s servants are moved upon by the Holy Ghost, their words will lead people to salvation. Write this principle on the board.)
What can we do to invite the influence of the Holy Ghost as we share the gospel?
Explain that while those who are ordained to preach the gospel can help people gain a testimony of the truth, only the President of the Church has the right to receive and declare the will of the Lord for the entire Church. Under his direction, the other members of the First Presidency and the members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles also have the authority to declare God’s will for us.
Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 68:6 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for additional encouragement the Lord gave to His servants.
What truths do you see in this verse that might bring comfort to a missionary?
Why is it important for you to know that the Lord stands by His faithful servants?
Point out that verse 6 outlines the primary responsibility of the Lord’s servants: to testify of Jesus Christ and of His mission in the past, present, and future. Then summarize Doctrine and Covenants 68:7–12 by explaining that the Lord calls faithful elders of the Church to preach the gospel and baptize those who believe.
Consider sharing an experience in which you have been guided by the Spirit to know how to share the gospel with someone.
Ask students to imagine that a friend of another faith asks, “How was your bishop chosen?”
How would you respond?
Explain that Edward Partridge was the first bishop called in the restored Church of Jesus Christ (on February 4, 1831; see D&C 41:9). Before Joseph Smith received the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 68 (in November 1831), Bishop Partridge was the only bishop in the Church. Other bishops were called shortly after the Prophet received this revelation.
Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 68:14–15 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for how bishops are selected.
Note: Verses 15–20 contain instructions concerning literal descendants of Aaron who may be called as Presiding Bishop. The phrase “literal descendant of Aaron” refers to descendants of Moses’s brother Aaron in the Old Testament. Such a descendant would have a right to the office of Presiding Bishop if he is called and approved by the First Presidency. Verses 16–20 pertain only to the Presiding Bishop, not to bishops of wards (see Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols. [1954–56], 3:92–93). Early Church literature often referred to Bishop Partridge as the Presiding Bishop. The responsibilities of the Presiding Bishop developed and changed over the next several years. Under the direction of President Brigham Young, the responsibilities of the Presiding Bishop were clarified more fully in 1847 at Winter Quarters, with Bishop Newel K. Whitney receiving that calling.
You may want to explain that in the early days of the Church, members of the First Presidency ordained and set apart all bishops. In the Church today, this is still true for the Presiding Bishop. However, the calling, ordaining, and setting apart of bishops is conducted by stake presidents under the direction of the First Presidency. A stake president, with support from his counselors in the stake presidency, seeks revelation to know when to call a new bishop and whom to call. He sends his recommendation to the First Presidency for approval. When the First Presidency approves the calling, they authorize the stake president to ordain and set apart the new bishop. (For more information, see Handbook 2: Administering the Church , 19.6.)
Why is it important for you to know that the First Presidency approved the calling of your bishop?
Ask students to think about the fact that they could be parents in a few years. Point out that the Lord entrusts mothers and fathers with great responsibilities—they are to teach the gospel to their children by word and example (see D&C 29:46–50 and “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” which is in the appendix at the end of this manual). Invite them to list in their class notebooks or scripture study journals three principles that they will want to teach their children.
Divide students into pairs. Ask them to read their lists to each other. Then invite them to read Doctrine and Covenants 68:25–27 together, looking for things they can add to their lists.
What has the Lord commanded parents to teach their children? (Students should identify the following doctrine: The Lord has commanded parents to teach their children to understand the doctrine of repentance, faith in Christ, baptism, and the gift of the Holy Ghost. You may want to invite students to mark the phrases in verse 25 that teach this doctrine.)
Why do you think it is important for little children to understand repentance? Faith in Christ? Baptism? The gift of the Holy Ghost?
Invite students to write about a time when they have seen parents teaching the principles and ordinances mentioned in Doctrine and Covenants 68:25. After they have had time to write, ask a few students to share what they have written.
Ask students to continue working in pairs for the next activity. Explain that in Doctrine and Covenants 68:28–31, the Lord gave additional counsel to parents. Give a copy of the following information to each partnership. Encourage the partners to read each scripture passage and discuss the questions together. Explain that when they are finished, they will report their findings to the class.
After students complete this activity, ask them to report what they have learned. (Consider asking a student to write the other students’ responses on the board.) One principle you may want to emphasize from verses 31 and 32 is that we are to eliminate idleness and greediness from our lives. (As students discuss this principle, you may want to point out that we do not need to acquire everything our friends have in order to be happy.)
Why do you think it is important for parents to teach and live the standards of the gospel?
What can young men and young women do to help their families “walk uprightly before the Lord”?
If you are a parent, consider expressing gratitude for the ways your children help you follow the Lord’s commandments in Doctrine and Covenants 68. Then invite students to write a goal that will help them prepare to be good parents. Or invite them to write a goal to help their parents with their responsibilities. If time permits, you may want to ask a few students to share their goals with the class.