Lesson 108: Doctrine and Covenants 103

Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Seminary Teacher Manual, 2013


Introduction

In a meeting of the Kirtland high council on February 24, 1834, Parley P. Pratt and Lyman Wight sought direction regarding how the Saints in Missouri could obtain temporal relief and regain possession of their lands in Jackson County. On the same day, Joseph Smith received the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 103, in which the Lord promised that the land of Zion would be redeemed. The Lord directed Church leaders to gather resources and recruits to help the Saints in Missouri. This group came to be known as Zion’s Camp.

Suggestions for Teaching

Doctrine and Covenants 103:1–20

The Lord promises that Zion will be redeemed

    Begin class by asking the following question:
  • What enemies do the righteous have today?

Ask students to think about how the enemies of the Lord are seeking to hinder their spiritual progress.

  • Why do you think the enemies of the Lord are able to hinder the spiritual progress of some of the Lord’s people?

As students begin today’s study and discussion of Doctrine and Covenants 103, encourage them to look for principles that will help them overcome such enemies.

Invite a student to read aloud the section introduction to Doctrine and Covenants 103. Ask the class to follow along, looking for why Parley P. Pratt and Lyman Wight had come to Kirtland, Ohio, from Missouri.

  • Why had Brother Pratt and Brother Wight come to Kirtland?

Explain that Joseph Smith received the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 103 on the same day these two leaders met with him and the high council in Kirtland.

Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 103:1–4 aloud. Ask the class to look for two reasons the Lord allowed His enemies to persecute the Saints in Missouri.

  • According to verses 3–4, what are two reasons the Lord allowed His enemies to persecute the Saints? (One reason was to allow the persecutors to “fill up the measure of their iniquities, that their cup might be full”—in other words, to justify His judgments on the wicked. Another reason was to chasten the disobedient Saints.)

  • According to verse 4, why did the Saints need to be chastened? What do you think is the meaning of the phrase “they did not hearken altogether”? (They were not completely obedient to the Lord.)

Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 103:5–7 aloud. Ask the class to look for what the Lord taught the Saints they must do to prevail against His enemies. (You may want to explain that the word prevail means to be stronger than an opponent or to be victorious.)

  • If the Saints would follow the Lord’s counsel “from [that] very hour,” what blessing would they receive? (They would prevail against the Lord’s enemies “from [that] very hour.”)

  • What do these verses teach about how we can prevail against the influences of the world? (Students may use different words, but they should express the following principle: When we begin to follow the Lord’s counsel, we receive strength to begin to prevail against the world.)

Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 103:8–10 aloud. Ask the class to follow along and look for what the Lord warned will happen if we choose not to obey His words.

  • What are some results of choosing not to obey all the Lord’s words? (Students may identify different principles, including the following: If we disobey the Lord’s commandments, the world will prevail against us. If we do not observe all the Lord’s words, we lose the ability to be a light to others.)

  • Why do you think someone who is disobedient or only partially obedient to the Lord might not be able to prevail against the enemies of the Lord?

  • What are some examples of how people can gain victory over an enemy of the Lord by striving to obey the Lord’s words? (Examples may include people who, through obedience, have received strength from the Lord to overcome addiction or live the gospel after having lived a worldly lifestyle.)

You may want to explain that while we might not be perfectly obedient to all the Lord’s words, if we diligently strive to obey Him and sincerely repent when we fall short, the Lord will help us prevail against His enemies.

Invite students to write in their class notebooks or scripture study journals one principle they can start following “from this very hour” to better hearken to the Lord’s counsel.

Summarize Doctrine and Covenants 103:11–20 by explaining that the Lord promised the Saints that after their tribulations, Zion would be redeemed by His power. However, if the Saints polluted their inheritances, they would be removed from them.

Doctrine and Covenants 103:21–40

The Lord reveals how the land of Zion is to be redeemed

Before class, make a sign that reads VOLUNTEERS NEEDED! Display it where students can see it. In addition, prepare the following announcement on a piece of paper:

Volunteers needed! Fellow Saints in Jackson County, Missouri, have been forcibly driven from their lands by ruthless mobs. Join in bringing relief to these Saints and helping protect them as they regain and maintain their lands in Zion. Depart from Kirtland, Ohio, on May 1, 1834.

Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 103:21–23 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what the Lord directed Church leaders to do to redeem the land of Zion. Ask students to report what they find.

Ask a student to stand by the sign that reads VOLUNTEERS NEEDED! Give the student the announcement you prepared before class, and ask him or her to read it aloud. Then ask the class the following questions:

  • Do you think you would have been willing to go to Jackson County to help the Saints? Why or why not?

Explain that the group of men whom Joseph Smith would lead to Missouri came to be known as Zion’s Camp. (You may need to explain that camp is another word for army [see Noah Webster, An American Dictionary of the English Language, facsimile of the first edition (1828; repr., 1967), “Camp”].) The members of Zion’s Camp had two main purposes. First, they were to bring resources to the Saints in Missouri to provide relief and enable them to return to their homes and purchase additional land. Second, as authorized by Governor Daniel Dunklin of Missouri, after the Missouri state militia had escorted the Saints back to Jackson County, the members of Zion’s Camp would be left to help maintain order and peace there.

  • If you had been a member of the Church during this time, what concerns might you have had about volunteering to join Zion’s Camp?

Invite students to read Doctrine and Covenants 103:20 silently.

  • How would the promise in this verse affect your decision to volunteer?

Explain that joining Zion’s Camp required leaving family and work responsibilities to march about 900 miles (1,450 kilometers) through grueling conditions into a hostile and dangerous environment. Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 103:27–28 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what the Lord said to those who would join Zion’s Camp. Ask students to report what they find.

  • What do you think the phrase “lay down his life for my sake” means?

  • According to these verses, what does the Lord call someone who is willing to lay down his or her life for the Lord’s sake? (After students respond, write the following on the board: Disciples of Jesus Christ are willing to give their lives for His sake.)

Point out that for the Saints in Zion’s Camp, the possibility of losing their lives was real. While we might not face the same peril, this truth can still apply to us. Invite a student to read aloud the following statement by President James E. Faust of the First Presidency. Ask the class to listen for one way we all can give our lives for the Lord’s sake.

President James E. Faust

“For most of us … what is required is not to die for the Church but to live for it. For many, living a Christlike life every day may be even more difficult than laying down one’s life” (“Discipleship,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2006, 22).

  • Why do you think it might be even more difficult to live for the Lord than to die for Him?

Invite students to read Doctrine and Covenants 103:30–34 silently, looking for how many volunteers the Lord desired for Zion’s Camp.

  • How many volunteers did the Lord desire? (500.) What was the minimum number the Lord required? (100.)

Explain that at the end of the high council meeting in which Church leaders discussed the situation of the Missouri Saints, Joseph Smith said that he would travel to Zion and help redeem it. Approximately 30 or 40 of the men present also volunteered. Then the Lord assigned 8 men to go throughout congregations of the Church to recruit volunteers for Zion’s Camp and to seek contributions of provisions and money for the Saints in Missouri (see D&C 103:37–40). About 200 people went with Zion’s Camp, including some women and children.

Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 103:35–36 aloud. Ask the class to identify what the Saints needed to do in order to succeed in their efforts to redeem Zion.

  • Based on the Lord’s promise in these verses, what principle can we learn about how we can obtain all victory and glory? (Students should identify the following principle: All victory and glory is brought to pass unto us through our diligence, faithfulness, and prayers of faith.)

Testify that we will gain victory over the enemies of the Lord as we strive diligently and faithfully to obey all the Lord’s words. Encourage students to apply what they have written in their class notebooks or scripture study journals “from this very hour.”

Commentary and Background Information

Doctrine and Covenants 103. Missouri Governor Daniel Dunklin

As the Saints endured anti-Mormon hostilities in Missouri in 1833 and 1834, Church leaders repeatedly sought help from state and federal government leaders, including Missouri Governor Daniel Dunklin. Governor Dunklin offered little help in response to the Saints’ petitions. In October 1833 he advised Church leaders to seek redress and protection through the courts in Jackson County. He promised that if these efforts failed, he would use other means to enforce the law. Governor Dunklin’s advice proved ineffective and impractical, however, for several officers of the court in Jackson County were among those who were trying to force the Mormons out. (See Church History in the Fulness of Times Student Manual, 2nd ed. [Church Educational System manual, 2003], 134–35.)

In the late fall of 1833, the Saints were forcefully expelled from Jackson County. Most of them found temporary shelter in neighboring Clay County, while the rest found accommodation in other nearby counties. The following spring, as Zion’s Camp was formed and began its march toward Missouri, Church leaders continued to petition Governor Dunklin for assurance that he would provide support to help the Saints regain their homes and property and live in peace in Jackson County. The governor acknowledged that the Saints had been wronged, and he recognized that an armed force sent by the state would be needed to restore the Mormons to their lands and protect them while the courts decided the legal issues involved. (See Church History in the Fulness of Times, 135–37, 146.)

However, in June 1834, Governor Dunklin changed his position. He claimed that calling out the militia would likely plunge the state into open war. Instead of offering support, he advised the Saints that to avoid bloodshed they should relinquish their rights, sell their lands, and settle someplace else. He also advised them again to make an appeal to the courts. These suggestions were unacceptable to Church leaders, and their hopes that the Saints might be allowed to return to their homes peacefully were dashed. (See Church History in the Fulness of Times, 146–47.)

Doctrine and Covenants 103:1, 13. The redemption of Zion

Ultimately, redeeming Zion is not just about regaining possession of the land. Zion is both a physical location and a society composed of a certain type of people. Before the land of Zion is reclaimed and the city of Zion is built, the Lord’s people must become sanctified.

Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained:

“Zion is Zion because of the character, attributes, and faithfulness of her citizens. Remember, ‘the Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them’ (Moses 7:18). If we would establish Zion in our homes, branches, wards, and stakes, we must rise to this standard. It will be necessary (1) to become unified in one heart and one mind; (2) to become, individually and collectively, a holy people; and (3) to care for the poor and needy with such effectiveness that we eliminate poverty among us. We cannot wait until Zion comes for these things to happen—Zion will come only as they happen” (“Come to Zion,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2008, 38).

Doctrine and Covenants 103:15–18. “The redemption of Zion must needs come by power”

The purpose of Zion’s Camp was not to regain possession of the Saints’ land in Jackson County by military power, though some members of the camp believed that was the case. The men were prepared to fight if their lives were threatened, but the Lord does not need to rely on the power of man to redeem Zion.

President Joseph Fielding Smith wrote of the power by which Zion will be redeemed:

“The redemption of Zion must needs come by power. Not the power of arms and the shedding of blood; but the power of the Lord” (Church History and Modern Revelation [1953], 1:484).

The Lord referenced the role of His power in the redemption of Zion when He said the Saints would be “led out of bondage by power, and with a stretched-out arm” (D&C 103:17). “Stretched-out arm” is a symbolic term that refers to God using His power (symbolized by His arm) in behalf of His people. The Saints will gain victory in redeeming Zion only through the power of God, and they can obtain this power by obeying all of His words.

Doctrine and Covenants 103:27. “Whoso layeth down his life for my sake shall find it again”

Elder Franklin D. Richards of the Seventy explained what will happen if we lay down our lives for the Savior:

“It becomes evident that many great blessings are predicated upon obedience to the eternal law of sacrifice.

“The Savior said, ‘Let no man be afraid to lay down his life for my sake; for whoso layeth down his life for my sake shall find it again.’ (D&C 103:27.)

“Thus the supreme sacrifice of one’s life is rewarded by that person finding his life again, ‘even life eternal’ (D&C 98:13.)” (in Conference Report, April 1967, 75).