Lesson 110: Doctrine and Covenants 105

Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Seminary Teacher Manual, 2013


In obedience to the Lord’s instructions, the Prophet Joseph Smith and about 200 other volunteers and recruits formed what became known as Zion’s Camp to go to the aid of the Saints who had been exiled from Jackson County, Missouri. On June 22, 1834, while encamped near Fishing River in Missouri, Joseph Smith received the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 105. In this revelation, the Lord informed the Saints that the land of Zion would not be redeemed at that time. The Lord also gave instructions concerning what must happen for Zion to be redeemed at some future time.

Suggestions for Teaching

Doctrine and Covenants 105:1–19

The Lord instructs the Saints to wait for the redemption of Zion

Before class, obtain a paper cup, a rubber band, and three pieces of string. The circumference of the rubber band must be smaller than the circumference of the cup. Tie the pieces of string to the rubber band at equal intervals.

paper cup, rubber band, string

Begin the lesson by asking for three volunteers. Place the cup on a flat surface, and instruct the volunteers to pick up the cup using only the rubber band and strings. Tell them that they cannot touch the rubber band; they must hold the pieces of string. (To accomplish this task, students will need to work together and pull simultaneously on each of the strings with equal force in order to expand the rubber band enough to place it around the cup and then to lift it.)

After students have completed this activity, ask the following question:

  • What role did unity play in accomplishing this task?

Remind students that in February 1834, the Lord directed the Prophet Joseph Smith and others to gather temporal resources and recruit volunteers to assist the Saints who had been driven from Jackson County, Missouri, in reclaiming their land. As students begin today’s discussion of Doctrine and Covenants 105, encourage them to look for the role unity played in the Saints’ attempts to reclaim the land of Zion.

Ask students to recall from their study of Doctrine and Covenants 103 the number of volunteers the Lord desired to take part in Zion’s Camp (500) and the minimum number He required (100). Invite a student to read the following paragraph aloud. Ask the class to listen for the number of people who actually volunteered for Zion’s Camp when the group initially departed.

The response to the Prophet Joseph Smith and others’ efforts to recruit volunteers and resources for Zion’s Camp was not as successful as hoped for. By the time the camp, or army, began its march in the beginning of May 1834, only 122 people had volunteered to go. Zion’s Camp recruited additional volunteers along the way to Missouri. When the group that Hyrum Smith and Lyman Wight had recruited from Michigan Territory met up with Joseph Smith’s company in early June 1834, Zion’s Camp consisted of just over 200 men, 12 women, and 9 children (see Alexander L. Baugh, “Joseph Smith and Zion’s Camp,” Ensign, June 2005, 45).

Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 105:7–8 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for one reason why some members of the Church chose not to help their fellow Saints in Missouri. Then ask students to report what they have found.

Invite a few students to take turns reading aloud from Doctrine and Covenants 105:1–6. Ask the class to follow along, looking for how disobedience and a lack of unity had affected members of the Church. (To help students better understand the meaning of verse 5, it might be helpful to explain that “the law of the celestial kingdom” includes all of the laws and principles we need to obey, the ordinances we need to receive, and the covenants we need to keep to inherit the celestial kingdom.)

  • In what ways had Church members failed to be united and obedient?

  • According to these verses, what must we do to help build up Zion? (As students respond, help them identify the following principle: To help build up Zion, we must be united and obedient to all that God asks.)

  • Why do you think unity and obedience are required for Zion to be built up?

  • What experiences have helped you understand the importance of Church members being united?

Explain that those who volunteered for Zion’s Camp experienced many challenges and miracles throughout their expedition. Invite a student to read the following paragraph aloud. Ask the class to ponder how they might have responded to some of the challenges.

Zion’s Camp marched about 900 miles (1,450 kilometers) through 4 states, traveling between 20 and 40 miles (about 30–60 kilometers) a day for 45 days. Camp members experienced blistered feet, hot and humid weather conditions, food shortages, and unhealthy food. On occasion, intense thirst moved some camp members to drink swamp water from which mosquito larvae had been strained out (sometimes using their teeth as strainers) or to drink water out of horse tracks after a rainstorm. Throughout the expedition, Zion’s Camp was also often threatened with violence from others. (See Church History in the Fulness of Times Student Manual, 2nd ed. [Church Educational System manual, 2003], 143–45.)

  • How do you think you would have responded to these challenges?

Explain that after the members of Zion’s Camp arrived in Missouri, they learned that Daniel Dunklin, the governor of Missouri, would not keep his promise to help the Saints return to their lands in Jackson County. Despite this discouraging news, Zion’s Camp continued on toward Jackson County, awaiting additional direction from the Lord.

Inform students that the needed direction came in a revelation from the Lord on June 22, 1834, after Zion’s Camp had been traveling for nearly seven weeks and was only 10–20 miles (about 15–30 kilometers) from Jackson County. Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 105:9–14 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what the Lord said they were to do regarding the redemption of Zion.

  • What did the Lord instruct the camp to do regarding the redemption of Zion?

  • If you had been a member of Zion’s Camp, how might you have felt hearing this revelation just before arriving at your destination?

  • What reasons did the Lord give for why Zion would not be redeemed at that time?

Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 105:18–19 aloud. Ask the class to look for why the Lord directed Zion’s Camp to travel all the way to Missouri and then revealed that they were not to restore the Saints to their lands in Zion at that time.

  • According to these verses, why did the Lord command Zion’s Camp to travel all the way to Missouri and then reveal that Zion would not yet be redeemed? (This was a trial of faith. It might be helpful to explain that a trial of faith can refer to a test of whether we will choose to trust and obey the Lord no matter what the circumstances are.)

  • In what ways was the faith of the members of Zion’s Camp tried during their experience?

  • What can we learn from these verses? (One principle students may identify is that God has prepared great blessings for those who are faithful through their trials.)

  • When have you or someone you know experienced a trial of faith? How have trials of your faith prepared you for greater blessings?

Inform students that many men who had served with Zion’s Camp were blessed with opportunities to serve in the Lord’s kingdom. In February 1835, the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and the First Quorum of the Seventy were organized. Nine of the original Apostles and all of the members of the Quorum of the Seventy served in Zion’s Camp. (See Church History in the Fulness of Times, 151.)

Invite a student to read aloud the following statement by the Prophet Joseph Smith. Ask the class to listen for the role Zion’s Camp had in preparing men for leadership positions:

Brother Joseph

“God did not want you to fight. He could not organize His kingdom with twelve men to open the Gospel door to the nations of the earth, and with seventy men under their direction to follow in their tracks, unless He took them from a body of men who had offered their lives, and who had made as great a sacrifice as did Abraham” (in History of the Church, 2:182; see also Church History in the Fulness of Times, 151).

Share your testimony of the importance of trusting and obeying the Lord when our faith is being tried.

Doctrine and Covenants 105:20–41

The Lord teaches the Saints what they are to do before Zion is redeemed

Summarize Doctrine and Covenants 105:20–37 by explaining that the Lord told the Saints in Missouri how they were to respond to the persecution they were experiencing while awaiting the future redemption of Zion. He counseled them to be humble and avoid stirring up contention. He explained that they needed to be sanctified in preparation for the eventual redemption of Zion. As He had said earlier in the same revelation, they were to “be taught more perfectly, and have experience, and know more perfectly concerning their duty, and the things which [He] require[d] at their hands” (D&C 105:10).

  • What are some ways we should respond to persecution?

Invite students to read Doctrine and Covenants 105:38–41 silently and select a phrase from the verses that summarizes what the Lord directed the Saints to do in response to their oppressors.

  • According to verse 40, what blessing would come to the Saints in Missouri if they sought to establish peace with others? (Students’ responses should reflect the following principle: If we seek to establish peace with others, then all things will work together for our good.)

  • What can we do to help establish peace with others?

  • How have you been blessed as you have sought to establish peace, including with those who might persecute you?

Invite students to ponder one thing they can do to better seek to establish peace with others in their lives, especially when they might be treated wrongly, and to write a goal in their class notebooks or scripture study journals to follow this principle.

Commentary and Background Information

Doctrine and Covenants 105. Departing for Zion’s Camp

Before leaving Kirtland, Ohio, Joseph Smith “promised the brethren that if they all would live as they should, before the Lord, keeping his commandments, … they should all safely return” (in Church History in the Fulness of Times Student Manual, 2nd ed. [Church Educational System manual, 2003], 143). Otherwise, the Prophet warned, they would suffer God’s wrath.

With such assurances the members of Zion’s Camp departed, knowing that they were placing their lives in danger by participating in this expedition. Heber C. Kimball expressed the feelings of many at that time:

“We started on the 5th of May (1834), and truly this was a solemn morning to me. I took leave of my wife and children and friends, not knowing whether I would see them again in the flesh, as myself and brethren were threatened both in that country and in Missouri by enemies, that they would destroy us and exterminate us from the land” (in Orson F. Whitney, The Life of Heber C. Kimball [1945], 40).

Many of the men in Zion’s Camp left families with little or no money and no source of income. To prevent undue hardships, members of the Church planted gardens so the women and children could harvest corn and other crops during the army’s absence. The average age of the men in the camp was 29 years old. The Prophet’s cousin George Albert Smith was 16 years old, and Addison Greene was 14 years old. The oldest was 79. Joseph Smith, who had been selected to be the “commander-in-chief of the armies of Israel,” was only 28 years old. (See Church History in the Fulness of Times, 142–52.)

Doctrine and Covenants 105. The Lord’s protection of Zion’s Camp

Throughout the expedition, Zion’s Camp was often threatened with violence by others. However, the Lord fulfilled the promise contained in Doctrine and Covenants 103:20. Joseph Smith said, “Notwithstanding our enemies were continually breathing threats of violence, we did not fear, neither did we hesitate to prosecute our journey, for God was with us, and His angels went before us, and the faith of our little band was unwavering. We know that angels were our companions, for we saw them” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith [2007], 288–89).

Doctrine and Covenants 105:5. The law of the celestial kingdom

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

“The law of the celestial kingdom is … the gospel law and covenants, which include our constant remembrance of the Savior and our pledge of obedience, sacrifice, consecration, and fidelity” (“Come to Zion,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2008, 38).

President Ezra Taft Benson said:

“The law of the gospel embraces all laws, principles, and ordinances necessary for our exaltation” (The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson [1988], 337).

Doctrine and Covenants 105:19. “A trial of their faith”

The commandment to return to Kirtland without fighting for the Saints in Missouri was a trial of faith for many members of Zion’s Camp. Some openly rebelled and later apostatized. Earlier in their journey, the Prophet had warned the members of Zion’s Camp that their disunity, contention, and disobedience would bring a scourge (a great affliction or illness) on them. As a result of anger and unrighteous complaints stemming from the Lord’s instructions to not fight, the Prophet repeated this warning. On June 24, 1834, several members of Zion’s Camp were struck with cholera. The epidemic spread, causing severe diarrhea, vomiting, and leg cramps. Before it ended, about 68 people, including Joseph Smith, were stricken with the disease, and 13 camp members and 2 local members died. Joseph Smith said that on July 2, he “told them that if they would humble themselves before the Lord and covenant to keep His commandments and obey my counsel, the plague should be stayed from that hour, and there should not be another case of the cholera among them. The brethren covenanted to that effect with uplifted hands, and the plague was stayed” (in History of the Church, 2:120).

The Lord accepted the sacrifices of the camp members and blessed them for what they were willing to do. In July 1834 the Prophet Joseph Smith disbanded Zion’s Camp. While some did not pass the test of their faith and left the Church, those who were faithful were strengthened by the experience.

Elder Franklin D. Richards of the Presidency of the Seventy explained:

“The ‘journey of Zion’s Camp’ was regarded by many as an unprofitable and unsuccessful episode. A brother in Kirtland who did not go with the camp, meeting Brigham Young upon his return, said to him, ‘Well, what did you gain on this useless journey to Missouri with Joseph Smith?’ ‘All we went for,’ replied Brigham Young. ‘I would not exchange the experience I gained in that expedition for all the wealth of Geauga County,’ the county in which Kirtland was then located. (B. H. Roberts, “Brigham Young, A Character Sketch,” Improvement Era, vol. 6 [June 1903], p. 567.)” (“The Purpose of Life: To Be Proved,” Ensign, Dec. 1971, 50).

Zion’s Camp was an opportunity for its members to show the Lord and themselves the depth of their faithfulness and dedication to the Lord’s work. Like Abraham, many of the early leaders of the Church went through a test designed to accomplish divine purposes. Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said, “Those who marched in Zion’s Camp were not exploring the Missouri countryside but their own possibilities” (“Notwithstanding My Weakness,” Ensign, Nov. 1976, 14).

Supplemental Teaching Idea

Doctrine and Covenants 105. Video presentation—“Zion’s Camp”

As you teach this lesson, you may want to show segments of the video “Zion’s Camp,” which portrays some of the experiences of Zion’s Camp. This video can be found on Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Visual Resource DVDs or on LDS.org.

After you explain that those who volunteered for Zion’s Camp experienced many challenges and miracles throughout their expedition, you could show the first part of the video. (Stop the video after the portrayal of how the members of Zion’s Camp were protected at Fishing River. If you use the online version, stop at time code 13:05. If you use the DVD, stop at 14:48.) Ask students to look for the trials and miracles experienced by the members of Zion’s Camp, and invite them to ponder how they might have responded to those challenges.

After the class has discussed the questions and principles related to Doctrine and Covenants 105:18–19, you could show the remainder of the video. Invite students to look for how some members of Zion’s Camp responded to the revelation. You might also ask them to watch for how Zion’s Camp prepared some men for future service opportunities in the Church.