Lesson 100: Doctrine and Covenants 97

Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Seminary Teacher Manual, 2013


Introduction

The Prophet Joseph Smith received the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 97 on August 2, 1833. In this revelation, the Lord provided instruction and encouragement for Parley P. Pratt, who presided over a school for priesthood holders in Missouri, and for the men who attended that school. The Lord also emphasized His will that the Saints in Missouri build a temple. He promised that if they did so, and if their hearts were pure, His glory and presence would dwell there.

Suggestions for Teaching

Doctrine and Covenants 97:1–9

The Lord teaches members of the school of elders in Missouri what they must do to be accepted of Him

Write the following incomplete statements on the board. Ask students to complete these statements in their class notebooks or scripture study journals:

I go to school because …

I go to church because …

After sufficient time, invite a few students to share how they completed the statements.

Remind students that in the winter of 1832–33, the Lord directed Church leaders to establish the School of the Prophets in Kirtland, Ohio. Parley P. Pratt presided over a similar school in Independence, Missouri—a school for the elders. Members of this school wrote to Joseph Smith, who was in Ohio. In response, he sent them a letter containing the revelation that is now recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 97. Invite students to read Doctrine and Covenants 97:1 silently and identify how the Lord described many of the brethren in the land of Zion (Missouri).

  • How did the Lord describe many of the brethren in Missouri?

Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 97:2 aloud. Ask the class to follow along and identify what the Lord promised these men. Ask students to report what they find.

  • In verses 1–2, what principle do you see regarding how we can obtain wisdom and truth? (Students may use different words, but they should identify a principle similar to the following: If we humble ourselves and seek diligently to learn, we will obtain wisdom and truth.)

  • How do you think humility and diligence help us obtain wisdom and truth?

Invite students to read Doctrine and Covenants 97:3–5 silently, looking for how the Lord felt about Parley P. Pratt’s service and what the Lord promised Brother Pratt. Ask students to report what they learn. Assure them that, like Parley P. Pratt, they can know that the Lord is pleased with them as they continue to follow Him.

To prepare students to study Doctrine and Covenants 97:6–9, invite two students to draw pictures on the board. Ask one student to draw a tree that produces good fruit and that is planted in good soil next to a stream (see verse 9). Ask the other student to draw a tree that does not produce good fruit, with an ax laid at its roots (see verse 7).

tree with good fruit tree with ax

Explain that in both illustrations, the trees represent Church members. Remind students that many members of the school of elders were humble and faithful. However, others had become prideful and disobedient.

  • If the trees represent Church members, what do you think the fruits represent? (Church members’ works or actions. If students have difficulty expressing this answer, you may want to invite them to read Doctrine and Covenants 97:6 silently, looking for the answer there.)

Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 97:6–7 aloud, and ask the class to look for principles taught in these verses.

  • What are some principles taught in these verses?

Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 97:8–9 aloud, and ask the class to look for principles taught in these verses.

  • What are some principles taught in these verses?

  • How might the descriptions of what happens to the trees motivate us to be more faithful?

Write the following incomplete statement on the board: To be accepted of the Lord, we must …

Invite students to review Doctrine and Covenants 97:8 and identify characteristics of a person who is accepted of the Lord. As they identify these characteristics, complete the statement on the board as follows: To be accepted of the Lord we must have an honest and broken heart and a contrite spirit and be willing to observe our covenants by sacrifice.

  • What do you think it means to have a broken heart and a contrite spirit?

  • What do you think it means to observe our covenants by sacrifice? (One possible answer is that it means to do whatever we must do to keep the covenants we have made with the Lord.)

  • What are some sacrifices you have made in order to keep your covenants?

Give students time to ponder their standing before the Lord and to think about how they can apply the principle from Doctrine and Covenants 97:8 in their lives.

Doctrine and Covenants 97:10–21

The Lord emphasizes His will that the Saints in Missouri build a temple

Ask a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 97:10–12 aloud, and invite the class to look for the sacrifice the Lord required of the Saints in Missouri.

  • What sacrifice did the Lord require of the Saints in Missouri? (They were to build a temple—a house unto the Lord.)

Remind students that the Lord had designated the lot for the temple two years earlier (see D&C 57:1–3). In June 1833, Joseph Smith wrote to Church leaders in Missouri and instructed them to begin construction of the temple immediately. However, when the revelation in Doctrine and Covenants 97 was given on August 2, 1833, the Saints in Missouri had not yet begun the construction. In addition, the first mob action against the Saints in Jackson County, which took place before a copy of this revelation arrived, greatly increased the difficulty of obeying this commandment.

Ask students to search Doctrine and Covenants 97:12–14 silently, identifying reasons the Lord wanted the Saints in Missouri to build a temple. Invite students to report their findings. Then ask the following question:

  • How has the temple been “a place of thanksgiving” for you? How has it been “a place of instruction”?

Assign students to work in pairs. Ask them to study Doctrine and Covenants 97:15–20 with their partners, looking for promises the Lord gave the Saints if they would build a temple. Invite them to report their findings.

To help students understand that the promise of seeing God in the temple may include more than seeing Him with our natural eyes, read the following statement by Elder David B. Haight of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:

David B. Haight

“It is true that some have actually seen the Savior, but when one consults the dictionary, he learns that there are many other meanings of the word see, such as coming to know Him, discerning Him, recognizing Him and His work, perceiving His importance, or coming to understand Him” (“Temples and Work Therein,” Ensign, Nov. 1990, 61).

  • According to verses 15–17, how do we qualify to experience the Lord’s glory and presence in the temple?

After students have responded, write the following principle on the board: In the temple, God will manifest Himself to those who are pure in heart.

  • What do you think it means to be pure in heart?

  • What can we do to purify our hearts so we can receive the blessings of the temple?

  • How have you felt blessed as you have worthily attended the temple? (If you have students in your class who have not yet had the opportunity to attend the temple, you may want to ask the following question instead: How have you felt blessed as you have sought to be pure in heart?)

Ask students to read Doctrine and Covenants 97:21 silently and identify how the Lord defined the word Zion. Students should identify the following doctrine: Zion is the pure in heart.

Doctrine and Covenants 97:22–28

The Lord explains what we must do to escape His indignation and receive His blessings

tornado

To prepare students to understand the Lord’s message in Doctrine and Covenants 97:22–24, display or draw a picture of a whirlwind. Explain that whirlwinds occur all over the world. Strong whirlwinds can turn into violent tornadoes that cause terrible damage. Ask students if they have ever seen a whirlwind or severe tornado in person or seen video footage of one. Let students describe their experiences.

Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 97:22–24 aloud, and ask the class to identify what the Lord compared to a whirlwind. Ask them to report what they find. Explain that in verse 22, the word vengeance refers to the consequences of disobeying the Lord.

  • How might the Lord’s vengeance be like a whirlwind?

Ask students to search Doctrine and Covenants 97:25–28 silently, looking for what we need to do to escape the Lord’s vengeance and receive His blessings. You may want to suggest that students mark the word if wherever it occurs in these verses.

  • What must we do to escape the Lord’s vengeance and receive His blessings?

  • How does the Lord’s message in these verses relate to the images of the two trees we discussed earlier? What do verses 27–28 teach about repentance and forgiveness?

Share your testimony of the following principle: If we are obedient, we will escape the vengeance of the Lord and receive a multiplicity of His blessings.

You may want to explain that according to Parley P. Pratt, the revelation in Doctrine and Covenants 97 “was not complied with by the leaders and church in Missouri, as a whole; notwithstanding many were humble and faithful. Therefore, the threatened judgment was poured out to the uttermost, as the history of the five following years will show” (Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, ed. Parley P. Pratt Jr. [1938], 96). By November 1833, the Saints were expelled from Jackson County, Missouri, and they continued to face persecution in Missouri until they were driven from the state in 1838 and 1839.

Invite students to consider what they have felt prompted to do as they have studied Doctrine and Covenants 97. Encourage them to act on those promptings so they can receive the Lord’s blessings.

Commentary and Background Information

Doctrine and Covenants 97:3. Parley P. Pratt and the school in Zion

Elder Parley P. Pratt described the school of the elders in Zion and his labors during the summer of 1833:

“This class, to the number of about sixty, met for instruction once a week. The place of meeting was in the open air, under some tall trees, in a retired place in the wilderness, where we prayed, preached and prophesied, and exercised ourselves in the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Here great blessings were poured out, and many great and marvelous things were manifested and taught. The Lord gave me great wisdom, and enabled me to teach and edify the Elders, and comfort and encourage them in their preparations for the great work which lay before us. I was also much edified and strengthened. To attend this school I had to travel on foot, and sometimes with bare feet at that, about six miles. This I did once a week, besides visiting and preaching in five or six branches a week” (Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, ed. Parley P. Pratt Jr. [1938], 93–94; see also Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual, 2nd ed. [Church Education System student manual, 2001], 228).

Those who participated in the school of the elders studied scriptures, doctrine, and subjects like English grammar, other languages, history, literature, philosophy, arithmetic, and penmanship.

Doctrine and Covenants 97:13–14. The temple is “a place of instruction”

Elder John A. Widtsoe of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said:

“Temple work … gives a wonderful opportunity for keeping alive our spiritual knowledge and strength. … The mighty perspective of eternity is unraveled before us in the holy temples; we see time from its infinite beginning to its endless end; and the drama of eternal life is unfolded before us. Then I see more clearly my place amidst the things of the universe, my place among the purposes of God; I am better able to place myself where I belong, and I am better able to value and to weigh, to separate and to organize the common, ordinary duties of my life, so that the little things shall not oppress me or take away my vision of the greater things that God has given us” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1922, 97–98; see also Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual, 2nd ed. [Church Educational System student manual, 2001], 229).

Doctrine and Covenants 97:15–16. Worthiness to enter the temple

In order to attend the temple, a member of the Church must obtain a temple recommend. President Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the First Presidency taught:

“Every member who wants to go to the temple, regardless of age, needs to prepare for this sacred experience. Certain questions will be asked by your bishop and stake president, who hold keys of priesthood authority and are common judges in the Church. These vital questions will include: Are you honest? Are you morally clean? Do you keep the Word of Wisdom? Do you obey the law of tithing? And do you sustain the authorities of the Church? The answers to these key questions reflect your attitudes and actions.

“… The standards set by the Lord in the temple recommend questions are very similar to the standards found in For the Strength of Youth” (“See the End from the Beginning,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2006, 44).