Lesson 120: Doctrine and Covenants 112

Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Seminary Teacher Manual, 2013


Introduction

On July 23, 1837, the Prophet Joseph Smith received a revelation for Thomas B. Marsh, who was then President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. In this revelation, recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 112, the Lord gave counsel regarding the responsibilities of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

Suggestions for Teaching

Doctrine and Covenants 112:1–13

The Lord gives counsel and promises blessings to Thomas B. Marsh

Write the following words on the board: angry, frustrated, offended, jealous. Invite students to think of times when they may have experienced these feelings.

Invite a student to read the following account aloud. Ask the class to listen for a situation Thomas B. Marsh faced that may have led him to experience the feelings written on the board.

Soon after Thomas B. Marsh was called to be an Apostle in 1835, he was appointed President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. In the spring of 1837, President Marsh learned that one of the Twelve Apostles, Elder Parley P. Pratt, was planning a mission to England without President Marsh’s direction. President Marsh, who was in Missouri, wrote to Elder Pratt and the other members of the Twelve and invited them to meet him in Kirtland, Ohio, on July 24, 1837, so they could be unified in their plans for missions. However, a month before that meeting took place, two other members of the Twelve, Elders Heber C. Kimball and Orson Hyde, departed for England after receiving mission calls from the Prophet Joseph Smith. President Marsh was apparently upset that members of the Twelve were proceeding to preach the gospel in England without his involvement.

  • In this situation, what could President Marsh do to avoid the feelings listed on the board? What are some dangers of allowing such feelings to govern our thoughts and actions?

Explain that President Marsh shared his concerns with the Prophet Joseph Smith and sought his counsel. In response, the Lord gave the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 112.

Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 112:1–3 aloud. Ask half of the class to look for the warnings the Lord gave to President Thomas B. Marsh. Ask the other half to look for the good things the Lord said President Marsh had done. (Before students read, you may want to explain that the word abased in verse 3 indicates that President Marsh had humbled himself.)

  • What warnings did the Lord give to Thomas B. Marsh?

  • What good things did the Lord say President Marsh had done?

Explain that the Lord gave further counsel to President Marsh and revealed some blessings President Marsh could receive for his faithfulness. Invite a few students to take turns reading aloud from Doctrine and Covenants 112:4–10. Ask the class to follow along and look for the promises the Lord gave to Thomas B. Marsh. Consider inviting a student to write these promises on the board as students find them.

  • How would you restate the Lord’s teaching in verse 10 in your own words? (Students may use different words, but they should identify the following principle: If we are humble, the Lord will lead us and give us answers to our prayers.)

  • Why do you think humility helps us receive the Lord’s direction?

  • When have you felt guided by the Lord after humbling yourself?

Explain that in July 1837, when the Lord gave this revelation, the Church was experiencing disunity, contention, and apostasy. Pride and greed led some members of the Church to openly criticize the Prophet Joseph Smith and question his authority. Some Church members, including some of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, even sought to remove Joseph Smith as President of the Church.

Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 112:11–13 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what the Lord instructed President Marsh to do to help members of the Quorum of the Twelve who were struggling. Ask students to report what they find.

Doctrine and Covenants 112:14–34

The Lord teaches Thomas B. Marsh concerning the duties of the Twelve Apostles

Point out that the Lord had given President Thomas B. Marsh many important responsibilities. Write the following question on the board: What can help you to be humble when you receive important responsibilities or recognition? Invite students to ponder this question.

Explain that the Lord helped Thomas B. Marsh recognize the importance of his responsibilities as President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles while continuing to remind him to be humble. Copy the following chart on the board or prepare it as a handout. Ask students to read the designated verses and complete the chart in pairs (or complete it as a class).

D&C 112:14–22, 28–33

Phrases emphasizing the importance of the responsibilities of President Marsh and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

 

Phrases reminding President Marsh and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the need to be humble

 

After students have had sufficient time to complete the chart, ask the following questions:

  • What phrases did you find that emphasize the importance of President Marsh’s responsibilities?

  • According to verses 16–17, what keys are held by the President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles? (Students may use different words, but they should identify the following truth: The President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles holds the keys to direct the work of the Twelve in proclaiming the gospel in all nations.)

  • According to verses 30–32, what did the Lord teach Thomas B. Marsh about the priesthood keys he held? (Students may identify a variety of principles, but be sure they identify the following truth: The keys of the priesthood have been restored for the last time in the dispensation of the fulness of times. You may want to briefly review the meaning of the term dispensation [see Bible Dictionary, “Dispensations”].)

  • What phrases did you find that reminded Thomas B. Marsh of the need to be humble?

  • What do the Lord’s words in verses 15 and 30 teach about the relationship between Thomas B. Marsh’s responsibilities as President of the Quorum of the Twelve and Joseph Smith’s responsibilities as President of the Church?

To help students see that Thomas B. Marsh struggled to follow the counsel he had received in this revelation, invite a student to read the following paragraph:

Not long after the revelation in Doctrine and Covenants 112 was given, Thomas B. Marsh told Vilate Kimball that her husband, Elder Heber C. Kimball, would not be effective on his mission in England. President Marsh apparently felt that because proclaiming the gospel abroad was his responsibility, the door to missionary work in England could not be opened until he either sent someone or went himself.

  • How does this incident illustrate that President Marsh may have struggled to remain humble?

Refer to the question that you have written on the board. Invite students to answer the question. As part of this discussion, consider using the following statement by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the First Presidency:

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf

“We don’t discover humility by thinking less of ourselves; we discover humility by thinking less about ourselves. It comes as we go about our work with an attitude of serving God and our fellowman.

“… The moment we stop obsessing with ourselves and lose ourselves in service, our pride diminishes and begins to die” (“Pride and the Priesthood,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2010, 58).

Remind students of the blessings the Lord promised to President Marsh (see D&C 112:4–10). You may have had a student list these blessings on the board earlier. Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 112:34 aloud. Ask the class to follow along and identify what President Marsh needed to do to receive these blessings. Ask students to report what they find. Then write the following principle on the board: We must be faithful in order to receive the Lord’s promised blessings.

To help students understand this principle, read or summarize the following account of Thomas B. Marsh’s falling away and return to the Church:

For a time, President Marsh followed the counsel he had received. He worked to strengthen the Church and sustain Joseph Smith. However, he soon returned to his contentious feelings about the way the Church was led. These feelings combined with concerns about conflicts between disobedient and aggressive Church members and their neighbors in Missouri. In September 1838, while he was beset by this spirit of apostasy, his wife, Elizabeth, became involved in a dispute. She and another woman, both members of the Church, had agreed to regularly exchange milk to have enough to make cheese, but Sister Marsh was accused of violating her agreement by keeping the part of the milk that was richest in cream. The matter was brought before Church leaders more than once. It was even brought before the First Presidency. Each time, it was decided that Sister Marsh was at fault. President Marsh was angry and unsatisfied with these decisions (see George A. Smith, “Discourse,” Deseret News, Apr. 16, 1856, 44). While this situation did not lead him to leave the Church, it compounded with his other frustrations. He became increasingly critical of other Church leaders, and he eventually turned against the Saints. He later recalled, “I became jealous of the Prophet … and overlooked everything that was right, and spent all my time in looking for the evil” (“Remarks,” Deseret News, Sept. 16, 1857, 220).

In October 1838, Thomas B. Marsh swore before a magistrate that Joseph Smith and the Latter-day Saints were hostile toward the state of Missouri. This affidavit contributed to the government issuing an extermination order that resulted in the expulsion of more than 15,000 Saints from their homes in Missouri.

Eighteen years after Thomas B. Marsh left the Church, he humbly wrote a letter to President Heber C. Kimball of the First Presidency, asking for forgiveness and permission to rejoin the Church. He explained what he had learned through his mistakes: “The Lord could get along very well without me and He has lost nothing by my falling out of the ranks; But O what have I lost?!” (Thomas B. Marsh letter to Heber C. Kimball, May 5, 1857, Brigham Young Collection, Church History Library, as quoted in Kay Darowski, “The Faith and Fall of Thomas Marsh,” Revelations in Context, history.lds.org).

Refer to the principle on the board. Explain that Thomas B. Marsh was received back into full fellowship with the Church. However, because he did not follow the Lord’s counsel to humble himself and be faithful as President of the Quorum of the Twelve, he did not receive the blessings listed in Doctrine and Covenants 112:4–10.

Ask a few students to summarize what they have learned today. Invite students to select one way they can be more humble and faithful, and write a goal to act upon it.

Commentary and Background Information

Doctrine and Covenants 112:30. “The First Presidency … are appointed … to be your counselors and your leaders”

Each member of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles holds the keys of the kingdom. The President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles also holds the keys, or authority, to direct the work of the Twelve in proclaiming the gospel among all nations of the earth (see D&C 112:16). However, the President of the Quorum of the Twelve and each of the Apostles exercises his priesthood keys only under the direction of the President of the Church and his counselors in the First Presidency. Thus, the Lord admonished Thomas B. Marsh and other members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles to recognize Joseph Smith’s authority to preside over them (see D&C 112:15–20). This presiding authority is why Joseph Smith, as President of the Church, had the authority to call two members of the Quorum of the Twelve, Heber C. Kimball and Orson Hyde, on a mission to England even though Thomas B. Marsh, as President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, held the keys to direct the work of the Twelve in proclaiming the gospel.

Supplemental Teaching Idea

Doctrine and Covenants 112. Video presentation—“If They Harden Not Their Hearts”

In place of the three historical summaries in the lesson, you may want to show segments of the video “If They Harden Not Their Hearts.” This video can be found on the Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Visual Resource DVDs or on LDS.org. The three historical summaries in the lesson correspond with the following time codes in the video:

  • Summary 1—4:04 to 5:20 (Thomas B. Marsh is upset that missionaries are preparing for missionary service without his direction.)

  • Summary 2—5:53 to 6:47 (Thomas B. Marsh tells Vilate Kimball that her husband will not be an effective missionary in England.)

  • Summary 3—9:03 to 11:20 (Thomas B. Marsh asks for forgiveness and seeks permission to rejoin the Church.)