On December 16 and 17, 1833, the Prophet Joseph Smith received a revelation concerning the afflictions the Saints were experiencing in Missouri. This revelation, recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 101, will be discussed in three lessons. This first lesson includes the Lord’s explanation of why He allowed the Saints to be afflicted. It also includes His words of counsel and comfort to the suffering Saints.
Draw the accompanying map on the board before class. You may want to refer to the map throughout the lesson to help students understand the historical accounts in the lesson.
To begin the lesson, ask the following question:
What are some examples of persecution the Saints suffered in Jackson County, Missouri? (You might need to remind students of the destruction of the Saints’ printing office, homes, and crops and the tarring and feathering of Edward Partridge and Charles Allen.)
Summarize or read the following paragraph or ask a student to read it.
Due to mob violence in Jackson County, Missouri, in July 1833, Church leaders in Missouri agreed to leave the county. However, in August 1833, a council of general Church leaders in Kirtland met to discuss the difficulties in Missouri. They sent instruction that the Saints in Missouri should not sell their land or move from the county unless they had already signed agreements to do so. Church leaders petitioned the government and used available legal channels to maintain their lands in Missouri and seek justice for those responsible for the violence. After hearing of these actions, and believing that the Saints were not planning to leave as expected, non–Latter-day Saint settlers attacked the Saints again. On the night of October 31, 1833, a mob of about 50 horsemen raided the Whitmer Settlement, west of Independence. They unroofed 13 houses and whipped several men, almost killing them. These attacks continued for the next two nights in Independence and other places where the Saints lived. Men were beaten, and women and children were terrorized.
What questions do you think the Saints in Missouri might have had at this time? (If students need help answering this question, consider suggesting that the Saints may have wondered why the Lord allowed them to be persecuted.)
Ask students if they have ever wondered why the Lord allows them or people they know to experience afflictions.
Explain that when the Saints in Missouri were suffering through these trials, the Lord revealed truths about why He allows His people to experience afflictions. Invite students to look at the section introduction to Doctrine and Covenants 101 and identify the dates when Joseph Smith received this revelation. Then invite them to scan the rest of the section introduction to find additional hardships the Saints experienced between the mob attack on October 31 and the dates when this revelation was given. Ask them to report what they find. (After they report, you may want to explain that more than 1,000 Saints were driven from their homes in Jackson County.)
Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 101:1–2 aloud. Ask the class to follow along and identify a reason why the Lord allowed the Saints in Jackson County to suffer persecution and affliction. Ask students to report what they find.
What can we learn from verse 2 about the consequences of violating the commandments of God? (Students may use different words, but they should express the following principle: When we violate the commandments, God allows us to suffer.)
Why do you think it is important to understand this principle?
Point out that although many Saints in Missouri were faithful and obedient, they still suffered because of persecution. Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 101:3–5 aloud. Ask the class to follow along and look for a reason why the Lord allows even the righteous Saints to be afflicted. Ask students to report what they find. You may want to explain that the word chasten means to discipline or correct, that the word try means to test, and that the word sanctify means to make someone or something pure or holy.
According to these verses, why does the Lord chasten and try His people? (Students should express the following principle: If we will not endure chastening, we cannot be sanctified. Write this principle on the board.)
How can chastening help us become sanctified?
How might the message in these verses have influenced the Missouri Saints?
To help students understand how being chastened and tested helps us become sanctified, invite a student to read aloud the following statement by Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:
“In addition to stimulating our repentance, the very experience of enduring chastening can refine us and prepare us for greater spiritual privileges” (“As Many as I Love, I Rebuke and Chasten,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2011, 98).
Point out that the Lord referred to Abraham as an example of someone who was chastened and tried. You may want to invite a student to briefly summarize the account of the Lord commanding Abraham to offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice (see Genesis 22:1–14). Explain that Abraham’s faithfulness during that test and during other trials prepared him to receive great spiritual blessings (see Genesis 22:15–18). Refer students to the principle you have written on the board.
How can this truth help us during difficult times?
Invite students to read Doctrine and Covenants 101:6–8 silently, looking for sins committed by some of the Saints in Missouri that led to afflictions for all of them. Ask students to report their findings to the class.
What do you learn from verses 7–8?
Based on verse 8, what do some people tend to do when their lives are peaceful?
According to verse 8, what do some people begin to do in their afflictions? What do you think it means to “feel after” the Lord?
Encourage students to ponder experiences when their trials have led them to turn their hearts to the Lord.
Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 101:9 aloud, and ask the class to look for a message of hope the Lord gave the Saints who were suffering in Missouri.
What message does the Lord give in verse 9 that can help us when we suffer the consequences of our sins? (Students’ responses may vary, but they should identify the following truth: Even when we have sinned, the Lord will have compassion toward us. Write this truth on the board. You may also want to suggest that students write it in their scriptures.)
How can this truth bring us hope?
Ask students to write in their class notebooks or scripture study journals what they can do to turn their hearts to the Lord and experience His compassion.
Summarize Doctrine and Covenants 101:10–11 by explaining that even though the Lord allowed the Saints to be persecuted, He said that He would punish the people who persecuted them. Invite a student to read the following paragraphs aloud, and ask the class to listen for additional trials the Saints in Missouri experienced. You may want to invite students to imagine what it may have been like to witness or experience those trials.
The mob in Jackson County continued persecuting the Saints until all members of the Church were driven out of the county. Lyman Wight reported, “I saw one hundred and ninety women and children driven thirty miles across the prairie, with three decrepit men only in their company, in the month of November, the ground thinly crusted with sleet; and I could easily follow on their trail by the blood that flowed from their lacerated feet on the stubble of the burnt prairie!” (in History of the Church, 3:439).
Most of the Saints fled north, where they had to cross the Missouri River. The shores of the river near the ferry were lined with refugees. Some people were fortunate enough to escape with some of their household goods, but many lost everything. Parley P. Pratt wrote: “Hundreds of people were seen in every direction, some in tents and some in the open air around their fires, while the rain descended in torrents. Husbands were inquiring for their wives, wives for their husbands; parents for children, and children for parents. … The scene was indescribable, and, I am sure, would have melted the hearts of any people on the earth, except our blind oppressors, and a blind and ignorant community” (Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, ed. Parley P. Pratt Jr. , 102).
Which aspects of these trials would have been especially difficult for you to witness or experience?
How do you think you might respond if you experienced such afflictions? (You may want to allow students to ponder this question without answering aloud.)
Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 101:12–16 aloud. Ask the class to follow along and look for the Lord’s promise to the righteous Saints. Ask students to report their findings. Explain that in verse 12, the phrase “all mine Israel” refers to those who are true to the gospel covenant.
What principle do you learn from verses 12–16? (Summarize students’ answers in one statement on the board. Their answers should reflect the following principle: When we live righteously, we can find comfort in the knowledge that all people are in the Lord’s hands.)
In verse 16, what do you think is the meaning of the command to “be still and know that I am God”?
How can being “still” help us receive comfort from the Lord?
Invite students to think about times when they have felt peace and known that they were in God’s hands. Ask a few students to share their experiences. You may want to share an experience you have had when you have been blessed with peace during a period of affliction.
Encourage students to continually turn to the Lord and trust that He will do what is best for them.