Lesson 78: Doctrine and Covenants 76:1–19

Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Seminary Teacher Manual, 2013


Introduction

On February 16, 1832, Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon were working on inspired revisions to the Bible (sometimes called the Joseph Smith Translation). While they were translating and pondering the meaning of John 5:29, they were shown a vision, which is recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 76. During this vision, the Savior showed Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon a series of distinct visions that affirmed the reality and divinity of Jesus Christ, taught about the fall of Satan and the sons of perdition, and revealed the nature of the three kingdoms of glory and those who will inherit them. President Wilford Woodruff said, “I will refer to the ‘Vision’ [in section 76] alone, as a revelation which gives more light, more truth and more principle than any revelation contained in any other book we ever read. It makes plain to our understanding our present condition, where we came from, why we are here, and where we are going to. Any man may know through that revelation what his part and condition will be” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Wilford Woodruff [2004], 120–21).

Doctrine and Covenants 76 will be taught in four lessons. This lesson covers a brief overview of the vision, the Lord’s promised blessings to the faithful, and the actions that led Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon to receive the vision.

Suggestions for Teaching

Overview of Doctrine and Covenants 76

Ask students to name a few places they would like to go on vacation or on holiday. (List their responses on the board.) Circle one of the destinations listed on the board. Ask students to write down a description of the path they would need to travel in order to arrive at the selected destination. After a minute or two, invite a few students to describe what they wrote. Then select a destination listed on the board that is significantly different from the first destination, and ask the following questions:

  • If you follow the path you described for the first destination, will it bring you to this other destination?

  • How does the destination you choose influence the path you must take to get there?

Explain that in February 1832, the Prophet Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon received a vision that revealed the possible eternal destinations of mankind. This vision, recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 76, describes the three degrees (or kingdoms) of glory and the degree of spiritual development of those who will inherit them. Invite students to identify choices that lead to eternal life in the celestial kingdom as they study this vision over the next four lessons. In addition, invite them to ponder whether the choices they are currently making are leading them to the eternal destination that will bring them the greatest happiness.

To provide a brief overview of the content of Doctrine and Covenants 76, give students a copy of the accompanying diagram. (You may want to make the copy small enough that students can insert it in their scriptures and refer to it as they study section 76.) Explain that the diagram outlines what Joseph and Sidney saw and learned about in the vision they received.

Doctrine and Covenants 76:1–10

The Lord promises blessings to those who are faithful to Him

Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 76:1–5 aloud. Ask the class to follow along and look for words and phrases that describe characteristics of Jesus Christ.

  • Which of the characteristics of Jesus Christ mentioned in these verses are important to you? Why?

Direct students’ attention to the characteristics of the Savior described in Doctrine and Covenants 76:5.

  • According to verse 5, what must we do to experience the Lord’s mercy and graciousness? (We must fear Him. Explain that in this context, to fear the Lord means to reverence, respect, and love Him.)

  • What must we do to receive the Lord’s honor? What do you think it means to serve the Lord “in righteousness and in truth unto the end”?

Invite students to read Doctrine and Covenants 76:6–9 silently and look for blessings the Lord promises to those who reverence and serve Him.

  • According to these verses, what blessings come to those who reverence and serve the Lord? (You may want to remind students that the word mysteries in verse 7 refers to spiritual truths that can be known only through revelation.)

Write the following incomplete statement on the board: If we reverence the Lord and serve Him to the end, He will honor us by …

Invite students to complete the principle on the board. They should identify the following: If we reverence the Lord and serve Him to the end, He will honor us by revealing truth to us.

To help students understand how the Lord can reveal truth to us, hold up a lightbulb (or flashlight) and ask how it might relate to the influence of the Spirit. After students have responded, invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 76:10 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for additional insight into how a lightbulb (or flashlight) might relate to the influence of the Spirit.

  • How is the influence of the Spirit like a source of light, such as a lightbulb? (Students’ answers may reflect the following truth: The Lord enlightens us by the Spirit.)

  • What does enlighten mean? (To provide knowledge or spiritual insight that increases our understanding or helps us see truth.)

  • When have you experienced being enlightened by the Spirit? (After students have responded, you may want to share an experience of your own.)

Doctrine and Covenants 76:11–19

Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon describe the circumstances that led to their vision

Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 76:11–14 aloud. Ask the class to follow along and look for a fulfillment of the promises mentioned in verses 5–10.

  • In what ways was Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon’s experience a fulfillment of the promises mentioned in verses 5–10?

Invite students to think about times when they have been reading the scriptures and have not understood what they were reading.

  • What have you done to better understand the scriptures?

Explain that Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon’s actions prior to receiving this vision can teach us how we can better understand the scriptures and invite the Holy Spirit to reveal truth to us.

Assign students to work in pairs. Invite one student in each pair to read the section introduction for Doctrine and Covenants 76 silently. Invite the other student in each pair to read Doctrine and Covenants 76:15–19 silently. Ask the students to look for what Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon had done or were doing that prepared them to receive understanding of the scriptures through revelation. (To help students better understand the section introduction, you may need to explain that the word sundry means various. You may also want to explain that in Joseph Smith’s day, most people who believed in the Bible thought that after the Final Judgment all people would be sent to either heaven or hell.) After students have had sufficient time to read, ask them to report what they found to their partner. Then ask students the following questions:

  • What did Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon do that prepared them to receive this vision? (They were studying and meditating on John 5:29.)

  • What does it mean to meditate on the scriptures? (Answers could include pondering or thinking about what you are reading, asking questions about what you are reading, and connecting what you are learning with what you already know.)

  • What principle can we learn from Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon’s example? (Students may suggest a variety of principles, but be sure to emphasize the following principle: As we prayerfully study and ponder the scriptures, we prepare ourselves to receive understanding from the Lord through the Holy Ghost.)

To help students better understand how to prayerfully study and ponder the scriptures, invite a student to read the following statement by Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Ask the class to listen for actions associated with prayerfully studying and pondering the scriptures. (You may want to provide students with a copy of the statement so they can follow along.)

Elder D. Todd Christofferson

“When I say ‘study,’ I mean something more than reading. … I see you sometimes reading a few verses, stopping to ponder them, carefully reading the verses again, and as you think about what they mean, praying for understanding, asking questions in your mind, waiting for spiritual impressions, and writing down the impressions and insights that come so you can remember and learn more. Studying in this way, you may not read a lot of chapters or verses in a half hour, but you will be giving place in your heart for the word of God, and He will be speaking to you” (“When Thou Art Converted,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2004, 11).

  • What actions did Elder Christofferson associate with prayerfully studying and pondering the scriptures?

  • In addition to Elder Christofferson’s suggestions, what else have you done to prayerfully study and ponder the scriptures? (List students’ responses on the board.)

  • What have you experienced as a result of prayerfully studying and pondering the scriptures?

Encourage students to apply the actions discussed today in their personal study of the scriptures. Consider sharing your testimony of prayerfully studying and pondering the scriptures.

Commentary and Background Information

Overview of Doctrine and Covenants 76. Choose the correct path for the desired destination

The following story, recounted by Elder Sterling W. Sill of the Seventy, illustrates the importance of selecting the path that will lead us to the eternal destination we most desire:

“We might learn a great many important lessons from the story told many years ago by Dr. Harry Emerson Fosdick entitled ‘On the Wrong Bus.’ It tells of a man [in the United States] who got on a bus with the intention and desire of going to Detroit. But when he arrived at the end of a long trip, he found himself in Kansas City. At first he would not believe it. When he asked for [directions to] Woodward Avenue and was told there was no Woodward Avenue, he was indignant—he knew there was. It was some time before he could face the fact that in spite of his good intentions and his earnest desire, he was not in Detroit at all but in Kansas City. Everything was fine except for one little detail; he had just caught the wrong bus.

“Isn’t it interesting that so many human beings arrive at some place in life where they never intended to go. We pick out goals of honor and success and happiness, and then we sometimes get on the buses that take us to destinations loaded with dishonor, failure, and unpleasantness. A primary purpose of our mortal existence is to prepare for the life that lies beyond. And our possible destination has been separated into three great subdivisions, which Paul compares in desirability to the light of the sun, the moon, and the stars. …

“And so we come back again to this great idea which is one of the most important in the world: first, that we know where we want to go; and second, that we get on the bus that will take us there” (“On the Wrong Bus,” New Era, July 1983, 4, 6.)

Doctrine and Covenants 76:11–12. “By the power of the Spirit our eyes were opened”

Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon said that while they were translating John 5:29 they were “in the Spirit” (D&C 76:11) and “by the power of the Spirit” (D&C 76:12) their eyes were opened. In this context, these phrases refer to a temporary physical and spiritual condition called transfiguration. Transfiguration occurs when “persons … are temporarily changed in appearance and nature—that is, lifted to a higher spiritual level—so that they can endure the presence and glory of heavenly beings” (Guide to the Scriptures, “Transfiguration,” scriptures.lds.org).

Doctrine and Covenants 76:19. Studying and pondering on the scriptures

President Henry B. Eyring of the First Presidency taught about the difference between studying and pondering and about the relationship between pondering and receiving revelation:

“Reading, studying, and pondering are not the same. We read words and we may get ideas. We study and we may discover patterns and connections in scripture. But when we ponder, we invite revelation by the Spirit. Pondering, to me, is the thinking and the praying I do after reading and studying in the scriptures carefully” (“Serve with the Spirit,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2010, 60).

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

“By pondering, we give the Spirit an opportunity to impress and direct” (“There Are Many Gifts,” Ensign, Nov. 1987, 20).

Doctrine and Covenants 76. “The Vision”

Under Joseph Smith’s direction, a poetic version of Doctrine and Covenants 76, commonly called “The Vision,” was written. The poem was printed February 1, 1843, in the Times and Seasons, a Church newspaper published at Nauvoo, Illinois, from November 1839 to February 1846 (see Times and Seasons, Feb. 1, 1843, 82–85). The table below shows portions of Doctrine and Covenants 76, corresponding stanzas from the poem, and insights we can gain from both.

Doctrine and Covenants 76

Poetic Rendition

Insight

Verse 24

“That by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God.”

Stanzas 19–20

“19. And I heard a great voice, bearing record from heav’n,

He’s the Saviour, and only begotten of God—

By him, of him, and through him, the worlds were all made,

Even all that career in the heavens so broad,

“20. Whose inhabitants, too, from the first to the last,

Are sav’d by the very same Saviour of ours;

And, of course, are begotten God’s daughters and sons,

By the very same truths, and the very same pow’rs.”

Jesus Christ is the Savior for not only the inhabitants of our world but also for the inhabitants of all the worlds made by Him.

Verses 72–73

“Behold, these are they who died without law;

“And also they who are the spirits of men kept in prison, whom the Son visited, and preached the gospel unto them, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh.”

Stanzas 54–55

“54. Behold, these are they that have died without law;

The heathen of ages that never had hope,

And those of the region and shadow of death,

The spirits in prison, that light has brought up.

“55. To spirits in prison the Savior once preach’d,

And taught them the gospel, with powers afresh;

And then were the living baptiz’d for their dead,

That they might be judg’d as if men in the flesh.”

Unlike Alvin Smith, who would have accepted the gospel had he had the chance to receive it before he died (see D&C 137), there are many who would have rejected the gospel had they received it during mortality. But because of the great mercies of God, these people will have the opportunity to hear and accept the gospel in spirit prison and be judged as though they were in the flesh.

Verses 74–77

“Who received not the testimony of Jesus in the flesh, but afterwards received it.

“These are they who are honorable men of the earth, who were blinded by the craftiness of men.

“These are they who receive of his glory, but not of his fulness.

“These are they who receive of the presence of the Son, but not of the fulness of the Father.”

Stanzas 56–57

“56. These are they that are hon’rable men of the earth;

Who were blinded and dup’d by the cunning of men:

They receiv’d not the truth of the Savior at first;

But did, when they heard it in prison, again.

“57. Not valiant for truth, they obtain’d not the crown,

But are of that glory that’s typ’d by the moon:

They are they, that come into the presence of Christ,

But not to the fulness of God, on his throne.”

There are many honorable people who reject the gospel in this life but later repent and accept the gospel when it is taught to them in the spirit world. They will receive terrestrial glory, which is likened to the light of the moon. They will be able to associate with Jesus Christ, but they will not receive of the fulness of God the Father.