On March 1, 1832, the Lord revealed to Joseph Smith the revelation now recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 78. In this revelation, the Lord directed the Prophet to organize a firm (later known as the United Firm) to manage the storehouses and publishing efforts of the Church. The Lord also described the blessings the Saints would receive if they obeyed the commandment to organize this firm. In an effort to protect this Church-operated entity from enemies of the Church, some of the language of this revelation was changed when it was first published in the 1835 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants. For example, the United Firm was referred to as the “order” or “united order.” Around the same time that the Lord commanded Joseph Smith to organize the United Firm, the Lord gave the revelations recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 79–80. In these revelations, the Lord called Jared Carter, Stephen Burnett, and Eden Smith to serve as missionaries.
Hold up a small amount of money, and ask the following questions:
How can money be used for evil purposes?
How can money be used to advance good causes?
After students respond, explain that in May 1831 the Lord had commanded that a storehouse be established to gather excess goods and money for the benefit of the poor (see D&C 51). Two storehouses were subsequently established: one run by Sidney Gilbert in Independence, Missouri, and one operated by Newel K. Whitney in Kirtland, Ohio. In this responsibility, Brother Gilbert and Brother Whitney acted as agents for the Church. These storehouses were to supply the Saints with necessary goods, while also generating funds to buy land and to finance the publication of the revelations Joseph Smith had received. These storehouses were also to help those who were in need (see D&C 72:10–12).
To help students understand the context of the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 78, invite a student to read the introduction to that section in the 2013 edition of the scriptures:
“This revelation originally instructed the Prophet, Sidney Rigdon, and Newel K. Whitney to travel to Missouri and organize the Church’s mercantile and publishing endeavors by creating a ‘firm’ that would oversee these efforts, generating funds for the establishment of Zion and for the benefit of the poor. This firm, known as the United Firm, was organized in April 1832 and disbanded in 1834 (see section 82). Sometime after its dissolution, under the direction of Joseph Smith, the phrase ‘the affairs of the storehouse for the poor’ replaced ‘mercantile and publishing establishments’ in the revelation, and the word ‘order’ replaced the word ‘firm.’”
Make sure students understand that in Doctrine and Covenants 78, the word order (see verse 4) refers to the United Firm. Ask a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 78:3–4 aloud, and invite the class to look for what this firm, or order, would allow the Saints to do.
According to verse 4, what is the cause that the Lord wanted to advance through the establishment of this firm? (The salvation of mankind.)
What are some ways that money can be used to advance the cause of salvation?
Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 78:5–6 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for reasons why the Lord commanded His Saints to help “the poor of [His] people” (D&C 78:3). Ask students to report their findings.
How would assisting the poor help the Saints become “equal in earthly things”?
You may need to remind students that in a previous revelation the Lord defined equality in terms of a family’s circumstances, needs, and wants (see D&C 51:3). Therefore, the commandment to be equal in earthly things does not imply that everyone will have exactly the same amount of resources, but rather that every family will have sufficient for their needs and wants, according to their individual circumstances.
Point out the phrase “heavenly things” in verses 5–6.
What “heavenly things” do you think the Lord desires us to be equal in?
How can being equal in earthly things allow us to be equal in obtaining heavenly things?
Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 78:7 aloud. Ask the class to follow along and look for an additional reason why the Lord commanded the Saints to care for the poor. Invite students to report what they found.
In what ways do you think caring for the poor would prepare the Saints to inherit the celestial kingdom?
What principle can we learn from this verse that applies to us today? (Students may use different words, but their responses should reflect the following principle: Obedience to the Lord’s commandments prepares us for a place in the celestial kingdom.)
Ask students to list as many of the Lord’s commandments as they can in one minute. Write their responses on the board. Invite students to choose one of the commandments listed on the board and write in their class notebooks or scripture study journals a few sentences that explain how obeying that commandment will help prepare them for the celestial kingdom. After sufficient time, invite a few students to share what they wrote.
To help students further understand the Lord’s purpose for giving us commandments, ask a student to read aloud the following statement by Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:
“It is not enough for anyone just to go through the motions. The commandments, ordinances, and covenants of the gospel are not a list of deposits required to be made in some heavenly account. The gospel of Jesus Christ is a plan that shows us how to become what our Heavenly Father desires us to become” (“The Challenge to Become,” Ensign, Nov. 2000, 32).
How can understanding the Lord’s purpose for giving us commandments help us obey Him with greater faithfulness?
Invite two students to take turns reading aloud from Doctrine and Covenants 78:8–9. Ask the class to follow along, looking for the names of those whom the Lord appointed to organize the United Firm. Invite students to report what they found.
According to verse 9, with whom were these three men commanded to sit in council? (Help students understand that the phrase “saints … in Zion” refers to Church members in Independence, Missouri.)
Explain that Joseph Smith, Newel K. Whitney, Sidney Rigdon, Peter Whitmer Jr., and Jesse Gause obeyed this commandment and traveled to Missouri in April 1832. Shortly after their arrival, the three held a council wherein they organized the United Firm in accordance with the direction in this revelation. The firm consisted of Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon, Newel K. Whitney, Edward Partridge, Sidney Gilbert, Oliver Cowdery, John Whitmer, William W. Phelps, and Martin Harris.
Summarize Doctrine and Covenants 78:10–16 by explaining that in these verses the Lord emphasized that members of the firm should bind themselves together through a covenant to manage the Church’s enterprises. By being faithful to this covenant, they would have the assistance of the Lord in accomplishing His commandments. The Lord also explained that if the Saints followed His instructions, the Church would be able to stand independent from all other earthly entities.
Ask students to name some gifts or blessings they received when they were younger that they appreciate even more now that they are older.
Why are you more appreciative of these gifts or blessings now?
How do you think this can relate to the blessings that our Heavenly Father has prepared for us?
Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 78:17–18 aloud. Ask the class to follow along and identify how the Saints were like little children.
Why is it sometimes difficult for us to understand the blessings the Lord has in store for us?
Even though we may not be able to understand or bear all things, what invitation does the Lord give to us? (To be of good cheer.)
How can knowing that the Lord “will lead [us] along” (D&C 78:18) through the things we cannot understand or bear help us be of good cheer?
Ask students to read Doctrine and Covenants 78:19 silently, looking for counsel the Lord gave to the Saints. Then invite them to report what they learned.
What did the Lord say will happen for those who choose to receive all things with thankfulness? (Students should identify a principle similar to the following: If we receive all things with thankfulness, the Lord will multiply our blessings.)
Why do you think the Lord would multiply blessings for those who receive all things with thankfulness?
How can choosing to receive all things with thankfulness also help us to be of good cheer?
Invite students to ponder how they can more fully receive all things with thankfulness.
Ask students to read Doctrine and Covenants 78:20–22 silently, looking for what the Lord said we ought to do as a result of understanding the promises described in verse 19. Invite students to share what they found.
Inform students that in the revelations recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 79 and 80, the Lord called three men to serve as missionaries. Assign students to work in pairs. Ask one partner to study Doctrine and Covenants 79 and the other to study Doctrine and Covenants 80. Invite them to look for principles that apply to missionary work as they study their assigned sections.
After sufficient time, ask students to share with their partners the principles they discovered. Then ask students to write in their class notebooks or scripture study journals one principle they learned. Invite them to write a few sentences about how they can use that principle to share the gospel with someone they know.
Conclude this lesson by bearing your testimony of the doctrines and principles you have discussed in class today.