Lesson 102: Doctrine and Covenants 98:23–48

Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Seminary Teacher Manual, 2013


The Prophet Joseph Smith received the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 98 on August 6, 1833, about two weeks after persecution of the Saints in Missouri had turned violent. This revelation provided guidance for the Saints who were being mistreated. In it the Lord taught the Saints how they should respond to their enemies.

Suggestions for Teaching

Doctrine and Covenants 98:23–32

The Lord reveals how the Saints are to respond to persecution

Before class, make three columns on the board and label them with the following titles: The Lord’s Law on Retaliation (D&C 98:23–32); The Lord’s Law on War (D&C 98:33–38); and The Lord’s Law on Forgiveness (D&C 98:39–48).

Ask students to describe a few ways people might react when they are offended or hurt by someone. Explain that in the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 98, the Lord teaches principles that can help us know how to respond when we are hurt by other people’s words or actions. Encourage students to look for these principles throughout today’s lesson.

Remind students that the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 98 was given in 1833, soon after persecution of the Saints in Missouri had turned violent. Ask students to recall details from the previous lesson about the mistreatment the Saints had experienced.

Invite students to copy the chart on the board in their class notebooks or scripture study journals. Ask a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 98:23–27 aloud. Invite the class to follow along and look for what the Lord taught the Saints about retaliation. Ask them to note the Lord’s repeated counsel in these verses.

  • What repeated phrases teach about retaliation? (You may want to suggest that students mark the phrases “revile not” and “bear it patiently” in verses 23–27.)

  • What did the Lord promise the Saints if they would bear persecution patiently and not seek revenge?

  • What principle can we learn from the Lord’s words in verses 23–27? (Help students identify the following principle: If we bear mistreatment patiently and without retaliating, the Lord will reward us. Invite a student to write this truth under the heading The Lord’s Law on Retaliation.)

Explain that when the mob formed in Jackson County, Missouri, on Saturday, July 20, 1833, they wanted to do more than destroy property. They also sought to harm Church members. Invite a student to read the following historical account aloud, and ask the class to listen for how Bishop Edward Partridge and Charles Allen, a 27-year-old convert from Pennsylvania, responded to persecution.

“The mob caught Bishop Edward Partridge and Charles Allen, and dragged them through the maddened crowd, which insulted and abused them along the road to the public square. Here two alternatives were presented them; either they must renounce their faith in the Book of Mormon or leave the county. The Book of Mormon they would not deny, nor consent to leave the county. Bishop Partridge, being permitted to speak, said that the saints had to suffer persecution in all ages of the world, and that he was willing to suffer for the sake of Christ, as the saints in former ages had done; that he had done nothing which ought to offend anyone, and that if they abused him, they would injure an innocent man. Here his voice was drowned by the tumult of the crowd, many of whom were shouting: ‘Call upon your God to deliver you … !’ The two brethren, Partridge and Allen, were stripped of their clothing, and bedaubed with tar, mixed with lime, or pearl-ash, or some other flesh-eating acid, and a quantity of feathers scattered over them. They bore this cruel indignity and abuse with so much resignation and meekness that the crowd grew still, and appeared astonished at what they witnessed. The brethren were permitted to retire in silence” (B. H. Roberts, A Comprehensive History of the Church, 1:333; see also Church History in the Fulness of Times Student Manual, 2nd ed. [Church Educational System manual], 2003, 133).

  • What impresses you about how Charles Allen and Bishop Partridge responded to persecution?

Summarize Doctrine and Covenants 98:28–32 by explaining that the Lord counseled the Saints that if an enemy had harmed them three times without incurring the vengeance of God, they should warn the enemy in the name of the Lord not to harm them again. If the enemy continued to harm them after this warning, the Saints were justified in “reward[ing] him according to his works.” However, the Saints were also told that if they spared their enemies even though they were justified in retaliating, they would be rewarded for their righteousness.

Doctrine and Covenants 98:32–38

The Lord explains when war is justified

Ask students to ponder whether they know what the Lord has said about war. You might ask the following question:

  • What do you think the Lord’s law on war is?

Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 98:32–34 aloud. Ask the class to follow along and look for what the Lord told ancient prophets about war.

  • According to verse 33, what was the law given to ancient prophets? (As students respond, write their answer on the board under the title The Lord’s Law on War. Point out that the Lord gave this law specifically to people who lived in a different time and in a different culture. Although the principle of the law is true, today we are also subject to the laws of the nations in which we live.)

  • What were the ancient prophets to do if someone declared war against them? (Add the answer on the board under the title The Lord’s Law on War.)

Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 98:35–38 aloud, and ask the class to look for what the Lord told the ancient prophets to do if their offer of peace was not accepted. Ask students to report what they find.

  • What can we learn from these verses about the Lord’s law on war? (Students may suggest a variety of principles, but be sure to emphasize the following: War can be justified under circumstances prescribed by the Lord. Write this principle on the board under the title The Lord’s Law on War.)

Explain that most of us will not have to decide whether we will go to war against another nation. However, these teachings can help us know what to do in our personal relationships—for example, when we have disagreements with others.

  • Based on what we have learned about the Lord’s counsel on war, what should we do when we disagree with others? (Help students identify the following truth: We should seek peaceful resolutions to our disagreements.)

  • What blessings might come from seeking peaceful resolutions?

Doctrine and Covenants 98:39–48

The Lord teaches the Saints how they should respond to their enemies

Invite a student to read aloud the following account:

“In Holland during World War II, the Casper ten Boom family used their home as a hiding place for those hunted by the Nazis. This was their way of living out their Christian faith. Four members of the family lost their lives for providing this refuge. Corrie ten Boom and her sister Betsie spent horrific months in the infamous Ravensbrück concentration camp. Betsie died there—Corrie survived.

“In Ravensbrück, Corrie and Betsie learned that God helps us to forgive. Following the war, Corrie was determined to share this message. On one occasion, she had just spoken to a group of people in Germany suffering from the ravages of war. Her message was ‘God forgives.’ It was then that Corrie ten Boom’s faithfulness brought forth its blessing.

“A man approached her. She recognized him as one of the cruelest guards in the camp. ‘You mentioned Ravensbrück in your talk,’ he said. ‘I was a guard there. … But since that time, … I have become a Christian.’ He explained that he had sought God’s forgiveness for the cruel things he had done. He extended his hand and asked, ‘Will you forgive me?’

“Corrie ten Boom then said:

“‘It could not have been many seconds that he stood there—hand held out—but to me it seemed hours as I wrestled with the most difficult thing I had ever had to do.

“‘… The message that God forgives has a … condition: that we forgive those who have injured us. …

“… ‘Help me!’ I prayed silently. ‘I can lift my hand. I can do that much. You supply the feeling.’

“‘… Woodenly, mechanically, I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me. As I did, an incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes.

“‘I forgive you, brother!’ I cried. ‘With all my heart.’

“For a long moment we grasped each other’s hands, the former guard and the former prisoner. I had never known God’s love so intensely, as I did then.’ [Corrie ten Boom, Tramp for the Lord (1974), 54–55.]” (Keith B. McMullin, “Our Path of Duty,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2010, 13).

After the student finishes reading, ask the following question:

  • What impresses you about this account?

Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 98:39–40 aloud, and ask the class to look for the Lord’s law on forgiveness.

  • According to these verses, what should we do when someone asks for forgiveness?

  • According to verse 40, how many times are we to forgive someone who repents and seeks our forgiveness? (“Until seventy times seven” implies that we should forgive others as many times as they repent and seek our forgiveness after offending or hurting us. Although we are commanded to forgive, this does not mean that we should allow others to continue harming us.)

Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 98:41–43 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for truths the Lord taught the Saints concerning their enemies who would not repent. Invite students to report what they find.

  • Why would these truths have been important for the Saints in Missouri to understand?

  • How would you summarize the Lord’s law on forgiveness? (Help students identify the following commandment: The Lord has commanded us to forgive our enemies. Write this commandment on the board under the title The Lord’s Law on Forgiveness.)

  • Why do you think we are commanded to forgive others even if they don’t ask for forgiveness?

Summarize Doctrine and Covenants 98:44–48 by explaining that the Lord promised that if the Saints’ enemies would repent, they would escape His vengeance. (Note: In verse 44, the phrase “thou shalt not forgive” means that the perpetrators should be held fully accountable for their actions, not that the Saints should have continuing feelings of animosity.)

Conclude by encouraging students to follow the Lord’s law on forgiveness by seeking to forgive anyone who has hurt them or those they care about.

Commentary and Background Information

Doctrine and Covenants 98. Mary Elizabeth Rollins and Caroline Rollins rescue pages of the Book of Commandments

Elder Steven E. Snow of the Presidency of the Seventy shared the story of Mary Elizabeth and Caroline Rollins:

“After moving with their mother to Independence, Missouri, in the fall of 1831, young sisters Mary Elizabeth and Caroline Rollins soon learned of the hardship and persecution the Saints faced there. One night an angry mob attacked their home; on another occasion, they witnessed an attack on the newly constructed printing office located on the upper floor of the William W. Phelps residence.

“During the attack on the printing office [on July 20, 1833], the mob forced the Phelps family from their home and threw their belongings into the street. Mobsters then went to work destroying the printing equipment upstairs and throwing unbound manuscripts from the building. Some brought out large sheets of paper and declared, ‘Here are the Mormon Commandments!’ [“Mary Elizabeth Rollins Lightner,” The Utah Genealogical and Historical Magazine, July 1926, 196]. By this time, the Prophet Joseph Smith had received many sacred revelations, some as early as 1823, when the angel Moroni appeared to the boy prophet. Joseph had recorded numerous revelations in his own handwriting, but no text had been prepared and distributed for the benefit of members of the Church. With much excitement, the Saints in Missouri anticipated the publication of these revelations as a ‘Book of Commandments.’ This work was under way at the printing office when the mob struck. Mary Elizabeth, then 15, described what happened:

“‘My sister Caroline [age 13] and myself were in a corner of a fence watching them; when they spoke of the commandments I was determined to have some of them. Sister said if I went to get any of them she would go too, but said “they will kill us”’ [“Mary Elizabeth Rollins Lightner,” 196].

“While the mob was busy at one end of the house, the two girls ran and filled their arms with the precious sheets. The mob saw them and ordered the girls to stop. Mary Elizabeth recalled: ‘We ran as fast as we could. Two of them started after us. Seeing a gap in a fence, we entered into a large cornfield, laid the papers on the ground, and hid them with our persons. The corn was from five to six feet high, and very thick; they hunted around considerable, and came very near us but did not find us’ [“Mary Elizabeth Rollins Lightner,” 196]” (“Treasuring the Doctrine and Covenants,” Ensign, Jan. 2009, 50).

Doctrine and Covenants 98:23–27. “Revile not against your enemy, and bear it patiently”

Although we are to bear mistreatment patiently and without retaliating, this does not mean we should allow others to abuse or harm us. Handbook 2: Administering the Church says that “abuse cannot be tolerated in any form. Those who abuse or are cruel to their spouses, children, other family members, or anyone else violate the laws of God and man” (Handbook 2: Administering the Church [2010], 21.4.2).