In late November 1832, some Saints had moved to Zion but had not consecrated their properties as the Lord had commanded. Because they had not consecrated their properties, they had not received their inheritances according to the established order of the Church. The Prophet Joseph Smith addressed this issue in an inspired letter to William W. Phelps, dated November 27, 1832. A portion of this letter is recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 85. Later, on December 6, 1832, Joseph Smith received the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 86 as he was working on the inspired revision of the Bible. This revelation provided further explanation of the parable of the wheat and the tares and the role of the priesthood in helping the Lord gather the righteous in the last days.
Invite students to imagine they have just been awarded a starting position on a sports team. (You could name a predominant team sport in your culture and a popular team that plays that sport.) After a few days of playing with this team they observe that one team member is a selfish player, some team members won’t play their positions properly, and others ignore the coach.
Why might it be difficult for this team to win? What might need to change so this team can play better?
Explain that a similar situation began to arise in 1832 as a growing number of Saints arrived in Missouri. Earlier revelations had stipulated that the city of Zion would be built in Jackson County, Missouri, according to the Lord’s laws and under the direction of the priesthood. According to these laws, Church members were not to travel to Zion unless they received a certificate from the Church leaders. Once they arrived, they were to consecrate all their money and property to the Church and receive an inheritance from the bishop. In addition, they were to keep all the commandments of God. (See D&C 64:34–35; 72:15–19, 24–26.)
To help students understand the context of the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 85, explain that many of the Saints in Missouri lived in harmony with the laws the Lord had set forth for building Zion. However, some Church members disobeyed the Lord’s command to consecrate their properties and traveled to Zion without obtaining a certificate from their leaders. Because of this, they did not receive their inheritances.
Why might it have been difficult to establish the city of Zion under these circumstances?
Explain that in response to these difficulties in Missouri, Joseph Smith sent a letter to William W. Phelps, a Church leader who was living in Independence at the time (see the section introduction to Doctrine and Covenants 85).
Explain that the Prophet’s letter provided instructions for the Lord’s clerk, John Whitmer, who lived in Missouri. Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 85:1–2 aloud. Ask the class to follow along and look for what the Lord instructed the clerk of the Church in Missouri to do.
What was the clerk instructed to record?
Ask a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 85:3–5 aloud. Invite the class to follow along and look for who the Lord said should not have their names written in the records of the Church.
Which people were not to have their names written in the records of the Church?
Explain that just as records were kept in Joseph Smith’s day, Church records are also kept in our day. One purpose for this is to preserve a record of the names of the faithful as well as an account of their works.
What are some things we must do to have our names recorded as faithful members of the Church?
After students respond, write the following truth on the board: If we live the laws of God, our names will be written upon the records of the Church as faithful members. Explain that the actions of the faithful that are recorded on earth are also recorded in heaven in what is called the book of life (see D&C 128:6–7). Invite students to scan Doctrine and Covenants 85:5, 9, 11 and identify other titles used to describe the record that is kept on earth about those who are faithful. Ask them to report what they find.
To help students feel the importance of the truth you have written on the board, invite them to imagine that they have plans to attend a prestigious event. Ask them how they would feel if they arrived at the event but were not allowed in because their name was not on the invitation list.
Invite students to read Doctrine and Covenants 85:9–11 silently and imagine how it would feel to find their names missing from the Lord’s book of remembrance.
What do you think it means that those whose names are not recorded “shall find none inheritance” with the Saints? (They will not receive the blessings that will be given to the faithful.)
According to verse 11, what can cause Church members to have their names removed from the book of the law of God?
How would you summarize what you have learned about the importance of having your name recorded as a faithful member of the Church?
Testify that records are kept both here on the earth and in heaven. We will all have to account for our actions and our faithfulness in living the laws of God. Invite students to ponder their attitudes toward and obedience to the laws of God.
Before class invite a student to read Matthew 13:24–30 and be ready to summarize the parable of the wheat and the tares for the class. Write the following words on the board: wheat, tares, the field, sowers of the seed, the enemy.
After the selected student summarizes the parable, ask the class the following questions:
What do the wheat and the tares symbolize? (The wheat symbolizes the righteous, and the tares symbolize the wicked [see Matthew 13:38].)
Why did the man in the parable want to wait to have the tares pulled out?
Display the accompanying picture of wheat and tares, or draw it on the board. Explain that tares are a type of poisonous weed. Wheat and tares are almost identical when they sprout, but they can be distinguished once they mature. If a reaper tried to pull out the tares before the wheat and tares matured, he or she would likely destroy much of the wheat as well.
Invite a few students to take turns reading aloud from Doctrine and Covenants 86:1–6. Ask the class to follow along and look for the meanings of the field, sowers of the seed, and the enemy. Invite students to report what they learned.
Based on the Lord’s explanation of the symbols, how would you summarize the meaning of the parable?
Explain that Joseph Smith was reviewing and editing the inspired revision of the Bible (the Joseph Smith Translation) when he received this revelation. The revelation in Doctrine and Covenants 86 expands on the parable as it is recorded in Matthew 13:24–30. For example, in Doctrine and Covenants 86 we learn that the sowers in the parable represent the Savior’s Apostles (see verse 2) and that the tares “choke the wheat and drive the church into the wilderness” (verse 3). We also learn that “in the last days,” new blades of wheat will begin “springing up” (verse 4). The sowing of the tares can represent the Apostasy, and the sprouting of new wheat can represent the Restoration.
Point out that in the parable, the householder instructs his servants to first gather the tares to be burned and then to gather the wheat in the barn (see Matthew 13:27–30). Invite students to read Doctrine and Covenants 86:7 silently to discover an insight this revelation provides that clarifies the order of gathering.
What do we learn from verse 7 about the order of gathering?
What does this teach about what will happen to the righteous and the wicked in the last days? (Students should identify the following doctrine: The Lord will gather the righteous during the last days and then destroy the wicked at His Second Coming.)
Display the pictures Missionaries: Elders and Missionaries: Sisters (Gospel Art Book , nos. 109, 110; see also LDS.org).
How do these pictures relate to the parable of the wheat and the tares? (Help students see that we can assist in the gathering of the righteous by sharing the gospel with others.)
Explain that remembering the many ways we are blessed as members of the Lord’s Church can increase our desire to share those blessings with others. Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 86:8–10 aloud. Ask the class to follow along and look for ways we have been blessed as members of the Lord’s Church.
According to verses 8–10, what are some ways we have been blessed as members of the Lord’s Church?
Point out the phrase “ye are lawful heirs” in verse 9. Explain that this means that members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are part of the covenant God made with Abraham, through which Abraham was promised that his descendants would enjoy the blessings of the priesthood and would share those blessings with others (see Abraham 2:9–11).
How have you been blessed through the priesthood?
Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 86:11 aloud, and ask the class to identify ways we are to help others. Ask students to report what they found. Write the following principle on the board: We can bring salvation to others by helping them receive the blessings of the priesthood.
Invite students to share experiences they have had when they were able to set a righteous example for someone else or when they helped another person receive the blessings of the priesthood.