Students studied Doctrine and Covenants 132:1–33 in their day 4 lesson. Today’s lesson can help them better understand all of Doctrine and Covenants 132 and the principle of plural marriage. Students will also increase their understanding about why plural marriage was practiced in the past.
Note: Students learned two scripture mastery passages in this unit: Doctrine and Covenants 130:22–23 and Doctrine and Covenants 131:1–4. At the beginning of this lesson, consider inviting half of the class to explain what they have learned from the first passage and the other half of the class to explain what they have learned from the second.
Before class, write the following questions on the board:
Invite students to ponder these questions as they study Doctrine and Covenants 132 today.
Explain that while the Prophet Joseph Smith was working on the inspired translation of the Old Testament in 1831, he read about some of the ancient prophets practicing plural marriage (also called polygamy). Under this practice, one man is married to more than one living wife. The Prophet studied the scriptures, pondered what he learned, and eventually took his questions about plural marriage to Heavenly Father in prayer.
Write Genesis 16:1–3 on the board. Explain that these verses describe the actions of Sarai and Abram, later known as Sarah and Abraham. Invite a student to read these verses aloud. Ask the class to follow along and think about any questions they might have about this event in Abram and Sarai’s life.
Invite students to read Doctrine and Covenants 132:1 silently, looking for what the Prophet Joseph Smith asked as he studied passages in the Old Testament concerning the practice of plural marriage. Ask students to report what they find. (You may want to explain that the word concubine is a term used to describe women in the Old Testament who, in the time and culture in which they lived, were lawfully married to a man but had a lower social and legal status than a wife. Concubines were not part of the practice of plural marriage in our dispensation.)
Write the following question on the board: Why would the Lord command righteous men and women to obey the principle of plural marriage at certain times?
Explain that in their study of Doctrine and Covenants 132, students can find answers to the question on the board and other questions they may have concerning plural marriage. Invite them to write down the truths they discover during their study today.
Invite a few students to take turns reading aloud from Doctrine and Covenants 132:34–36. Ask the class to follow along, looking for why Abraham and Sarah began to practice plural marriage.
According to verse 34, why did Sarah give Abraham another wife? What does this teach us about the principle of plural marriage? (As students respond, write the following principle on the board: Plural marriage is approved of the Lord only when He commands it. To help students understand this principle, you may want to ask them to read Jacob 2:27, 30. You might also suggest that they write this reference in their scriptures near Doctrine and Covenants 132:34.)
Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 132:37–38 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for phrases that describe instances when the Lord commanded the practice of plural marriage. Ask students to report what they find.
Summarize Doctrine and Covenants 132:39, 41–43 by explaining that the Lord affirmed that when people practice the principle of plural marriage according to His commandment, they are not guilty of the sin of adultery. However, if anyone practices plural marriage under any circumstances that the Lord does not command, they are guilty of adultery. (Note that the word destroyed in verse 41 indicates that those who violate their sacred covenants will be separated from God and from His covenant people [compare Acts 3:22–23; 1 Nephi 22:20].)
Invite students to read Doctrine and Covenants 132:40 silently, looking for what the Lord said He was going to do. Ask students to report what they find.
Explain that “all things” refers to the laws and ordinances of the gospel that had been revealed in previous dispensations. Write the following principle on the board: The commandment to live the law of plural marriage in the latter days was part of the restoration of all things. (See also Acts 3:20–21.)
Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 132:45, 48 aloud.
What do we learn from these verses about plural marriage? (As students respond, write the following principle on the board: Plural marriage can be authorized only through the priesthood keys given to the President of the Church.)
Explain that early in this dispensation, as part of the restoration of all things, the Lord commanded some of the early Saints to practice plural marriage through the priesthood keys held by the Prophet Joseph Smith and subsequent Presidents of the Church—Brigham Young, John Taylor, and Wilford Woodruff. In 1890, President Woodruff, acting with those same priesthood keys, received revelation that the practice of plural marriage should end (see Official Declaration 1).
Explain that the Prophet Joseph Smith was reluctant to begin the practice of plural marriage. He stated that he did not begin the practice until he was warned that he would be destroyed if he did not obey (see “Plural Marriage,” Historical Record, May 1887, 222). Because of a lack of historical documentation, we know very little about his early efforts to comply with the commandment. However, by 1841 the Prophet obeyed the commandment, and over the next three years he married additional wives in accordance with the Lord’s commands. The Prophet Joseph Smith’s obedience to the Lord’s commandment to practice plural marriage was a trial of faith for him and his wife Emma, whom he loved dearly.
Summarize Doctrine and Covenants 132:49–56 by explaining that the Lord counseled Joseph and Emma Smith and promised them blessings if they would obey the principle of plural marriage. Explain that in 1841, the Prophet Joseph Smith began to teach other faithful men and women the principle of plural marriage. Although these faithful Church members initially were hesitant and frustrated about the command, they received individual confirmations through the Holy Ghost and accepted the principle of plural marriage.
Read Doctrine and Covenants 132:63 aloud, beginning with the phrase “for they are given unto him.” Before you read, explain that this verse helps us understand one reason why the Lord commanded Joseph Smith and others to practice plural marriage. Ask the class to follow along, looking for that specific purpose. After you read, write the following principle on the board: The Lord has at times instituted plural marriage to provide further opportunities for His people to raise up children unto Him. (You may want to refer again to Jacob 2:30.)
What does it mean to “multiply and replenish the earth”? (To have children.)
How does having children allow parents to be part of the continuing work of Heavenly Father?
Refer to the question you wrote on the board near the beginning of the lesson: Why would the Lord command righteous men and women to obey the principle of plural marriage at certain times? You may want to invite students to summarize for the class what they have learned from their study of Doctrine and Covenants 132 and Jacob 2:27, 30 that helps them answer this question.
Conclude by sharing your testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith and that he received and obeyed revelation from God (see D&C 132:37).
Ask students what they would do if they had to choose between going to their death or fleeing those who sought to kill them. What if choosing to face death could save the lives of your family, friends, and hundreds of others? Would you do it? The Prophet Joseph Smith willingly chose to face death, saying, “I am going like a lamb to the slaughter; but I am calm as a summer’s morning” (D&C 135:4). Students will read about the martyrdom of the Prophet Joseph Smith in the next unit.