Lesson 119: Doctrine and Covenants 111

Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Seminary Teacher Manual, 2013


Introduction

In 1836 the Church was deeply in debt. The Prophet Joseph Smith and other Church leaders traveled to Salem, Massachusetts, where they hoped to be able to obtain money to pay the Church’s debts. On August 6, 1836, Joseph Smith received the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 111, in which the Lord reassured him about concerns regarding debt and the welfare of Zion. The Lord also gave the Prophet instructions related to the Church leaders’ stay in Salem.

Suggestions for Teaching

Doctrine and Covenants 111

The Lord provides reassurance and instruction for Joseph Smith and other Church leaders

Begin class by asking students to write an answer to the following question in their class notebooks or scripture study journals:

  • What are some things that bring stress or anxiety into your life?

You may want to invite a few students to share their thoughts with the class. (Remind students that some thoughts and experiences are too personal to share.)

Explain that in the summer of 1836, Joseph Smith and other Church leaders were experiencing concern over the Church’s finances. In the preceding years, the Church had incurred a large amount of debt as Church leaders had obeyed the Lord’s commands to build the Kirtland Temple, purchase lands in Ohio and Missouri, and fund Zion’s Camp. The Church also needed funds to buy land for the Saints in Missouri who had been forced from their homes. In 1834, the Lord had instructed Joseph Smith and other Church leaders to “pay all [their] debts” (D&C 104:78). However, their efforts to pay these debts had been hampered by the loss of income-producing businesses in Missouri. Thus, Church leaders did not have sufficient funds to meet the demands of the Church’s creditors.

Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 104:80 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what the Lord had promised to do to help Church leaders with their debt problems. Invite students to report what they discover.

Explain that in 1836, a member of the Church named William Burgess arrived in Kirtland, Ohio, and told Church leaders about a large amount of money available in Salem, Massachusetts. He said the money was located in the cellar of a house and that he was the only living person who knew about the location of the money.

Inform students that Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon, Oliver Cowdery, and Hyrum Smith left Kirtland on July 25, 1836, to meet with the Church’s creditors in New York. After a few days in New York, the group traveled to Salem. Brother Burgess met them there, but he stated that the city had changed so much since he had last been there that he was unable to locate the house that contained the money. Brother Burgess departed shortly thereafter.

  • How do you think you would have felt after traveling to Salem in hopes of finding the means to help pay the Church’s debt and not finding what you expected? What would you have done?

Explain that the Church leaders spent some time looking for the house that reportedly contained the money. On August 6, 1836, while they were still in Salem, Joseph Smith received the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 111.

Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 111:1 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for how the Lord felt about the journey of these men to Salem. Ask students to report what they find. (As students respond, you may want to explain that the word folly may be defined as “a weak or absurd act not highly criminal; an act which is inconsistent with the dictates of reason, or with the ordinary rules of prudence” [Noah Webster, An American Dictionary of the English Language, facsimile of the first edition (1828; repr., 1967), “Folly”].)

  • What about the trip to Salem might have been considered a folly?

Inform students that although the search for money in Salem had been unsuccessful, the Lord indicated that this journey could still benefit His kingdom. Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 111:2 aloud. Ask the class to look for what the Lord said He had in the city of Salem.

  • What did the Lord say He had in Salem? (Much treasure and many people.)

  • When did the Lord say He would gather out the people He had in Salem? (In due time.)

Inform students that Joseph Smith and those with him spent a few weeks in Salem, and they preached the gospel during their stay. Five years later, Erastus Snow was called on a mission to Salem, where he organized a branch of 120 members (see Church History in the Fulness of Times Student Manual, 2nd ed. [Church Educational System manual, 2003], 170–71).

  • What can we learn from Joseph Smith’s experience in Salem and the Lord’s teachings in Doctrine and Covenants 111:1–2? (Students may give a variety of good responses. As part of their discussion, write the following principle on the board: The Lord can bring forth good from our sincere efforts.)

  • In what ways can the Lord bring forth good from our efforts, even if they are originally misguided? (One possible response is that He can help us learn from our experiences.)

  • How does it influence you to know that the Lord can bring forth good from your sincere efforts?

Explain that the Lord gave instructions to Joseph Smith and his companions to help them accomplish good while they were in Salem. Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 111:5–8 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what the Lord wanted Joseph Smith and his companions to do.

  • How did the Lord comfort Joseph Smith and his companions with regard to the Church’s debts and the status of Zion?

  • According to verse 8, how would Joseph Smith and the other Church leaders know where to stay during the rest of their visit in Salem?

  • What truth can we learn from the Lord’s instruction in verse 8? (After students respond, write the following principle on the board: We can receive the Lord’s direction through the peace and power of His Spirit.)

  • How can this principle help you face concerns and challenges?

Invite students to read Doctrine and Covenants 111:9–10 silently and look for an additional task the Lord instructed Joseph Smith and his companions to complete while they were in Salem. Ask students to report what they learn.

Inform students that Joseph Smith and the other men followed the Lord’s counsel to “inquire diligently concerning the more ancient inhabitants and founders of [the] city” (D&C 111:9). They visited historical sites while they were in Salem. From these visits they learned that some residents of Salem, Massachusetts, and the surrounding New England area had been persecuted and killed as a result of religious intolerance and bigotry. (See History of the Church 2:464–65.) These events led Joseph Smith to write in his history, “When will man cease to war with man, and wrest [or take] from him his sacred rights of worshiping his God according as his conscience dictates?” (in History of the Church, 2:465). Later, the Prophet reiterated the importance of allowing all people to exercise the right of religious liberty (see Articles of Faith 1:11). Although Joseph Smith and his companions did not obtain the money they thought they might find in Salem, they obtained other treasures from this journey, including treasures of knowledge.

Ask a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 111:11 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for the Lord’s concluding counsel in this revelation. Explain that the word order as used in verse 11 means to arrange.

  • How would you restate the Lord’s counsel in verse 11? (Although students may use different words, be sure they understand the following principle: If we are wise and avoid sin, then the Lord will arrange all things for our good. You may want to explain that even when righteous people experience trials, the Lord can “order [these] things for [their] good.”)

  • What are some wise choices we can make? (Students may suggest a variety of answers, including striving to obey the commandments.)

  • What do you think it means that the Lord “will order all things for [our] good”?

  • When have you seen an example of this principle?

Invite students to review their written answers to the question you asked at the beginning of class. Ask them to >consider what they have learned from their study of Doctrine and Covenants 111 that can help them with the challenges they face. Invite them to record their thoughts in their class notebooks or scripture study journals.

Conclude by sharing your testimony of the principles you have discussed. Encourage students to act on these principles.

Commentary and Background Information

Doctrine and Covenants 111:9. “This place you may obtain by hire”

After Joseph Smith and his companions arrived in Salem, Massachusetts, they leased a house. This was not the house that supposedly had money in the cellar. It was this leased house that the Lord referred to when He said, “This place you may obtain by hire” (D&C 111:9).