Lesson 75: Doctrine and Covenants 69–71

Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Seminary Teacher Manual, 2013


Introduction

In late October or early November 1831, Oliver Cowdery received an assignment to carry the manuscript for the Book of Commandments from Ohio to Missouri. In Missouri, William W. Phelps would print the book at his press. On November 11, 1831, the Lord appointed John Whitmer to be Oliver’s traveling companion and commanded him to continue in his duties as Church Historian (see D&C 69). The next day, the Lord appointed six men to serve as stewards over the revelations (see D&C 70). In December 1831, the Lord commanded Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon to serve a mission to dispel unfriendly feelings against the Church and to prepare the way for the revelations and commandments that were to be published (see D&C 71).

Suggestions for Teaching

Doctrine and Covenants 69

The Lord reveals the importance of keeping histories

Before class, write the following question on the board: Has anyone ever trusted you to take care of something valuable?

    At the beginning of the lesson, give students time to think about the question on the board. Then ask the following questions:
  • What were you trusted to do? How did that trust influence your care for the thing of value?

Invite a student to read aloud the section introduction for Doctrine and Covenants 69. Ask the class to follow along and look for what Oliver Cowdery was entrusted with.

  • What was Oliver Cowdery entrusted with?

  • If you were trusted with these valuable items, how would you care for them?

Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 69:1–2 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for the counsel the Lord gave in regard to these valuable items.

  • Why do you think it would be wise to have more than one person carry these valuable items?

Explain that the Lord trusted John Whitmer with another important responsibility, in addition to helping Oliver transport the revelations and money to Missouri. Invite several students to take turns reading aloud from Doctrine and Covenants 69:3–8, and ask the class to look for what else the Lord trusted John Whitmer to do. Ask students to report what they find. You may want to remind students that John Whitmer had been called to serve as Church Historian and Recorder in the early part of 1831 (see D&C 47).

  • According to Doctrine and Covenants 69:3, what did the Lord command John Whitmer to record?

  • According to verse 8, why was it important for John Whitmer to keep a history of the Church?

Explain that from the time of Joseph Smith, Church leaders have diligently sought to follow the Lord’s direction to record “all the important things … concerning [the] church” (D&C 69:3). They have retained “all things which shall be for the good of the church” (D&C 69:8), even when some of those things could cause some embarrassment. For example, the Doctrine and Covenants includes some revelations in which the Lord chastises early Church leaders (see D&C 3:5–9; 93:41–50). Today the Church Historian, under the direction of the First Presidency, leads the efforts of the Church History Department to maintain an accurate history “of all the important things.”

To help students identify a principle in Doctrine and Covenants 69:3, 8, write the following incomplete statement on the board: The Lord expects histories to be kept for the good of …

Ask students how they would complete this statement based on verses 3 and 8. As they answer, complete the statement on the board: The Lord expects histories to be kept for the good of the Church and the rising generations. You may want to make sure students understand that the phrase “rising generations” refers to them, the youth of the Church.

  • In your opinion, how might Church histories and personal histories benefit the Church? How might they benefit the rising generation?

Ask students to think about an account from Church history or their family histories that has helped them. Divide students into pairs, and ask them to share their accounts with each other. Also ask them to talk about how the accounts have influenced them. Or you may want to invite a few students to share their accounts with the entire class.

Doctrine and Covenants 70

The Savior appoints stewards to care for His revelations

Invite students to read silently the section introduction for Doctrine and Covenants 70 and look for what Joseph Smith’s history says about the Doctrine and Covenants (originally called the Book of Commandments).

  • How did the Prophet describe the Doctrine and Covenants?

Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 70:1 aloud, and ask the class to look for the names of six Church leaders. Then invite another student to read Doctrine and Covenants 70:2–4 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for the responsibility that the Lord gave these six men.

  • What responsibility did the Lord give these six men? (They were to be stewards over the revelations and commandments.)

  • According to Doctrine and Covenants 70:4, what did the Lord say He would require of these men in the day of judgment? (He would require an account of their stewardship. In other words, He would ask them to report on their service.)

  • What does this suggest about what the Lord will require of us at the day of judgment? (As students respond, help them identify the following truth: The Lord will hold us accountable for the duties He has entrusted to us. Write this truth on the board.)

  • How might this truth influence the way we respond to Church callings and assignments?

Summarize Doctrine and Covenants 70:5–18 by explaining that the Lord told these six men to make their stewardship over the revelations “their business in the church of God, to manage them and the concerns thereof, yea, the benefits thereof” (D&C 70:5). In accordance with the law of consecration, any income they received that was in excess of their needs was to be given to the Lord’s storehouse for the care of the poor (see D&C 70:7).

Doctrine and Covenants 71

The Lord teaches Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon how to respond to critics of the Church

Ask students if any of them have ever heard criticisms about the Church. You might consider inviting a few students to tell about their experiences.

  • What are appropriate ways to respond to criticism of the Church?

To help students understand the context of Doctrine and Covenants 71, invite a student to read the following information aloud (or read the paragraph yourself). Ask the class to listen for how the Church and its leaders were being criticized at the time this revelation was given.

Ezra Booth was a former Methodist minister who became a member of the Church after reading the Book of Mormon, talking with Joseph Smith, and witnessing a healing. He traveled as a missionary to Missouri but was disappointed when he couldn’t perform miracles to convince others of the truth. In addition, Booth did not believe that Joseph Smith’s conduct was appropriate for a prophet or a spiritual leader. He became highly critical of Joseph Smith, left the Church, and wrote nine letters criticizing the Church and its leaders. These letters, published in a newspaper called the Ohio Star, led some people to develop unfriendly feelings toward the Church and its leaders. The Prophet Joseph Smith’s history called Ezra Booth’s writings a “series of letters, which, by their coloring, falsity, and vain calculations to overthrow the work of the Lord, exposed his [Booth’s] weakness, wickedness and folly, and left him a monument of his own shame, for the world to wonder at” (History of the Church, 1:216–17). Symonds Ryder, another disaffected member, gave copies of some of the revelations to another newspaper, attempting to discourage people from joining the Church.

Explain that the agitation caused by Ezra Booth and Symonds Ryder grew into a serious problem. Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 71:1–4 aloud, and ask the class to look for what the Lord told Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon to do to calm the unfriendly feelings that resulted from the newspaper articles.

  • According to verse 1, what did the Lord instruct Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon to do to calm people’s negative feelings about the Church? (They were to use the scriptures and the power of the Spirit that the Lord would give them.)

  • What principle can we learn from this instruction about how to respond to criticism of the Church? (Although students may give many correct responses, make sure they identify the following principle: When people criticize the Church, we can respond by sharing truths from the scriptures and following the guidance of the Spirit. Write this principle on the board.)

  • What can we do now to prepare to respond to criticism against the Church or its leaders?

To help students understand the importance of having the Spirit’s guidance as they respond to criticism against the Church, invite a student to read aloud the following statement by Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Ask the class to listen for how the Spirit can help us respond to criticism against the Church.

Elder Robert D. Hales

“As we respond to others, each circumstance will be different. Fortunately, the Lord knows the hearts of our accusers and how we can most effectively respond to them. As true disciples seek guidance from the Spirit, they receive inspiration tailored to each encounter. And in every encounter, true disciples respond in ways that invite the Spirit of the Lord” (“Christian Courage: The Price of Discipleship,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2008, 73).

Read Doctrine and Covenants 71:5–11 aloud. Ask students to look for counsel and comfort the Lord gave to those who respond to criticism against the Church.

  • What counsel do you see in verse 7?

Explain that Sidney Rigdon obeyed the Lord’s counsel and invited Ezra Booth to join him in the town of Ravenna, where they would publicly discuss the letters Ezra had sent to the newspaper. Sidney also challenged Symonds Ryder to a public debate on the Book of Mormon. Both men declined the invitations. Sidney still testified of the truth in Ravenna and other locations.

Invite students to consider what they will do to better prepare themselves to respond to criticism against the Church. Share your testimony of the Church and its leaders.

Commentary and Background Information

Doctrine and Covenants 69:3, 8. “He shall continue in writing and making a history”

President Spencer W. Kimball testified of the importance of writing personal histories:

“Your journal is your autobiography, so it should be kept carefully. You are unique, and there may be incidents in your experience that are more noble and praiseworthy in their way than those recorded in any other life. There may be a flash of illumination here and a story of faithfulness there. …

“Your story should be written now while it is fresh and while the true details are available. …

“What could you do better for your children and your children’s children than to record the story of your life, your triumphs over adversity, your recovery after a fall, your progress when all seemed black, your rejoicing when you had finally achieved? …

“Get a notebook, … a journal that will last through all time, and maybe the angels may quote from it for eternity. Begin today and write in it your goings and comings, your deepest thoughts, your achievements and your failures, your associations and your triumphs, your impressions and your testimonies” (“The Angels May Quote from It,” New Era, Oct. 1975, 5).

Doctrine and Covenants 71. Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon’s mission in Ohio

Joseph Smith’s history includes a description of how Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon worked to fulfill the Lord’s command to calm the unfriendly feelings toward the Church that had developed because of newspaper articles written by Ezra Booth:

“From this time until the 8th or 10th of January, 1832, myself and Elder Rigdon continued to preach in Shalersville, Ravenna, and other places, setting forth the truth, vindicating the cause of our Redeemer; showing that the day of vengeance was coming upon this generation like a thief in the night; that prejudice, blindness and darkness filled the minds of many, and caused them to persecute the true Church, and reject the true light; by which means we did much towards allaying the excited feelings which were growing out of the scandalous letters then being published in the Ohio Star, at Ravenna, by the before-mentioned apostate, Ezra Booth” (in History of the Church, 1:241).

Doctrine and Covenants 71. Symonds Ryder

When Symonds Ryder first learned about the Church, he remained undecided for a time about whether he wanted to be baptized. However, in 1831 he read a newspaper account of the destruction of Peking, China, and remembered that a Mormon girl had predicted the destruction of that city six weeks earlier. This experience led him to join the Church.

Shortly after Symonds was baptized and confirmed, he was ordained an elder. He received a letter signed by the Prophet Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon, stating that it was the will of the Lord, made known by the Holy Ghost, that he should preach the gospel. Both in the letter he received and in the official commission to preach, however, his name was spelled Rider instead of Ryder. Because of the misspelling, Symonds began to doubt the revelations of Joseph Smith and his calling as a prophet of God. Eventually Symonds left the Church. While his reaction to the misspelling of his name was not the only reason for his apostasy, it contributed to it. After his apostasy, Symonds Ryder became one of the members of the mob that tarred and feathered Joseph Smith outside of the home of John and Elsa Johnson on the night of March 24–25, 1832.

Doctrine and Covenants 71:7. Helping others understand the truth

Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles gave the following counsel on how to respond to people who criticize the Church:

As true disciples, our primary concern must be others’ welfare, not personal vindication. Questions and criticisms give us an opportunity to reach out to others and demonstrate that they matter to our Heavenly Father and to us. Our aim should be to help them understand the truth, not defend our egos or score points in a theological debate. Our heartfelt testimonies are the most powerful answer we can give our accusers. And such testimonies can only be borne in love and meekness” (“Christian Courage: The Price of Discipleship,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2008, 73–74).

Elder Marvin J. Ashton of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles counseled:

“Probably we will never be free of those who are openly anti-Mormon. Therefore, we encourage all our members to refuse to become anti-anti-Mormon” (“Pure Religion,” Ensign, Nov. 1982, 63).

Supplemental Teaching Idea

Doctrine and Covenants 70:12, 16. “Worthy of his hire”

Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 70:12, 16 aloud. Ask the class to follow along and look for how Church members are directed to support leaders who are called to full-time Church service. Ask students to report what they find. After they report, explain that General Authorities give up their livelihoods to serve full-time, so they receive a modest living allowance—enough for them to support themselves and their families. This allowance comes from the Church’s corporate funds, not from tithing funds.

  • Why is it appropriate for Church leaders who are called to full-time service to receive compensation for their needs?

You may want to share the following statement by Elder Bruce R. McConkie of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. In this statement, Elder McConkie explains the phrase “worthy of his hire” (D&C 70:12).

“The ministers of salvation must eat and drink; they must be clothed, marry, raise families, and live as other men do. When all of their time and strength is expended in building up the kingdom, others—happily, those blessed by their ministrations—must supply the just needs and wants of the laborers in the vineyard, for ‘the laborer is worthy of his hire.’ (D&C 84:79) ‘But the laborer in Zion shall labor for Zion; for if they labor for money they shall perish.’ (2 Ne. 26:31)” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [1966–73], 2:351; see also D&C 24:3–9; 42:71–72).