On March 8, 1832, the Lord called Jesse Gause and Sidney Rigdon to serve as counselors to Joseph Smith. One week later, on March 15, 1832, the Lord gave the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 81. In this revelation, He described the role of counselors to the President of the Church and outlined blessings for those who are faithful in their ministry. Jesse Gause did not remain faithful, and the Lord called Frederick G. Williams, whose name now appears in Doctrine and Covenants 81, to take Brother Gause’s place in the Presidency. At the time of this revelation, the President of the Church and his counselors were called the Presidency of the High Priesthood. Beginning in 1834, revelations referred to the President and his counselors as the First Presidency (see D&C 102:26–28).
Before class, write the following questions on the board:
Begin class by inviting students to respond to the questions on the board. As part of the discussion, you might explain that although a Church leader may receive inspiration to call a member of the Church to a certain position, it is up to the individual who receives the call to faithfully respond to it.
Invite a student to read aloud the section introduction to Doctrine and Covenants 81. Ask the class to follow along, looking for an example of someone who was called by the Lord but was not faithful to his calling.
Whom did the Lord initially call to serve as a counselor to Joseph Smith in the Presidency of the High Priesthood?
Why did Jesse Gause lose his calling?
Explain that Jesse Gause was called to serve as a counselor in the Presidency of the High Priesthood in March 1832. On August 1, 1832, he embarked on a mission with Zebedee Coltrin. While on this mission, Brother Gause visited with his wife and tried to convince her of the truth, but she refused to join the Church. A short time later, Brother Coltrin became very ill and returned to Kirtland. Unfortunately, Brother Gause did not complete his mission and did not stay faithful in the Church.
According to the section introduction, whom did the Lord call to replace Jesse Gause?
You may want to suggest that students mark the following phrase in the section introduction: “The revelation … should be regarded as a step toward the formal organization of the First Presidency.” Explain that the President of the Church and his counselors (the Presidency of the High Priesthood) would not be referred to as “the First Presidency” until 1834 (see D&C 102:26–28). The Lord did not reveal the complete organization of His Church to the Prophet all at once. He revealed different parts of the organization as the need arose and as the Saints were ready to receive them.
Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 81:1–2 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what the Lord taught Frederick G. Williams about the Presidency of the High Priesthood.
According to verse 2, what does the Presidency hold? (Students should identify the following truth: The Presidency of the High Priesthood holds the keys of God’s kingdom on the earth. You may want to suggest that students mark the words and phrases that teach this truth.)
To help students understand this doctrine, remind them that “priesthood keys are the authority God has given to priesthood leaders to direct, control, and govern the use of His priesthood on earth. The exercise of priesthood authority is governed by those who hold its keys (see D&C 65:2; 81:2; 124:123). Those who hold priesthood keys have the right to preside over and direct the Church within a jurisdiction.
“Jesus Christ holds all the keys of the priesthood pertaining to His Church. He has conferred upon each of His Apostles all the keys that pertain to the kingdom of God on earth. The senior living Apostle, the President of the Church, is the only person on earth authorized to exercise all priesthood keys” (Handbook 2: Administering the Church , 2.1.1).
What do the keys of the priesthood enable the First Presidency to do? (Direct the Lord’s work upon the earth.)
Display a picture of the current First Presidency or separate pictures of its members. Ask students if they can name the members of the First Presidency.
Write the following heading on the board: A Counselor in the First Presidency.
From your understanding, what are the duties and responsibilities of the counselors in the First Presidency?
Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 81:3 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for the instruction the Lord gave Frederick G. Williams concerning his calling as a counselor in the First Presidency.
According to verse 3, what was Frederick G. Williams supposed to do as a counselor in the First Presidency? (Invite a student to list the responses on the board under the heading. You may want to explain that counselors in a presidency support and strengthen the president.)
What do you think it means for a counselor to be “faithful in counsel” to the president?
To help students better understand what it means to be faithful in counsel, invite a student to read aloud the following statement by President Gordon B. Hinckley. Ask the class to listen for how a counselor in a presidency should counsel with the president.
“[A counselor] is an assistant to his president. …
“As an assistant, the counselor is not the president. He does not assume responsibility and move out ahead of his president.
“In presidency meetings, each counselor is free to speak his mind on all issues that come before the presidency. However, it is the prerogative of the president to make the decision, and it is the duty of the counselors to back him in that decision. His decision then becomes their decision, regardless of their previous ideas” (“In … Counsellors There Is Safety,” Ensign, Nov. 1990, 49).
According to President Hinckley, how should a counselor in a presidency counsel with the president?
How might understanding how to be faithful in counsel help someone who is serving as a counselor in any presidency in the Church?
Invite students to think about times when they have served (or have seen others serve) in a presidency in the Church. (You may want to point out that a bishopric acts as a presidency of a ward.) Ask them to consider what they or others have done to effectively give support in presidencies in their priesthood quorums or Young Women classes. Invite a few students to share their thoughts with the class.
Invite students to read Doctrine and Covenants 81:4 silently, looking for what the Lord promised Frederick G. Williams if he would be faithful in his calling. You may want to explain that the phrase “promote the glory of … your Lord” in this context implies that by being faithful in our callings, we can help lead people to honor and worship the Lord.
According to verse 4, what can we do if we are faithful in our callings? (Although students may use other words, their responses should reflect the following principle: If we are faithful in our callings, we can do a great good for others and promote the glory of God. Using students’ words, write this principle on the board.)
How might serving faithfully in our Church callings help us do a great good for other people?
How might serving faithfully in our Church callings help promote the glory of God?
Invite students to think of a time when they have seen an individual do great good for others by serving faithfully in his or her calling. Invite a few students to share their observations with the class.
Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 81:5 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for additional counsel the Lord gave to Frederick G. Williams.
Based on what the Lord told Frederick G. Williams in verse 5, what can we learn about being faithful in our Church callings or being faithful members of the Church?
What do you think it means to “succor the weak, lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees”?
Invite a student to read aloud the following statement by Elder Marvin J. Ashton of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Ask the class to listen for insights into the meaning of these phrases.
“In Doctrine and Covenants 81:5, the verse might be interpreted as the Lord’s urging Frederick G. Williams to provide strength to the weak (‘succor the weak’), provide encouragement to those who are exhausted or discouraged (‘lift up the hands which hang down’), and to give courage and strength to those with feeble knees and fearful hearts” (“Strengthen the Feeble Knees,” Ensign, Nov. 1991, 70).
What are some ways we can “succor the weak, lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees”? (Write students’ responses on the board.)
When have you been lifted or strengthened by someone else?
Challenge students to pick an item from the list of responses on the board and seek out opportunities to help those around them.
Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 81:6–7 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for the blessings the Lord promised Frederick G. Williams if he would be faithful to the end. Ask students to report what they found.
Testify of the importance of being faithful in our callings and helping those around us so they, too, may qualify for eternal life.