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