Lesson 124: Doctrine and Covenants 117–118

Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Seminary Teacher Manual, 2013


On July 8, 1838, in Far West, Missouri, the Prophet Joseph Smith received the four revelations recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 117–120. In the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 117, the Lord commanded Newel K. Whitney and William Marks to quickly settle their business in Kirtland and join the faithful Saints who were gathering in Far West. The Lord also said that Oliver Granger was to serve as a representative of the First Presidency to sell Church properties and settle Joseph Smith’s business affairs. In the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 118, the Lord called new Apostles to fill the places of those who had fallen away and called all the members of the Quorum of the Twelve to serve missions in Great Britain.

Suggestions for Teaching

Doctrine and Covenants 117:1–11

The Lord commands William Marks and Newel K. Whitney to settle their business speedily and leave Kirtland

Ask students to list reasons why someone might be hesitant to obey a commandment from the Lord. Write their answers on the board.

Invite students to scan Doctrine and Covenants 117:1 and identify to whom this revelation was given. Explain that Newel K. Whitney was the bishop in Kirtland. He was a successful business owner, and he consecrated much of his property to the Church. William Marks was called to serve as an agent to Bishop Whitney on September 17, 1837. He owned a bookselling business.

Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 117:1–3 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what the Lord commanded these men to do. You may want to explain that the word tarry means to stay somewhere.

  • What did the Lord command Newel K. Whitney and William Marks to do? (He commanded them to settle their business speedily and to leave Kirtland. They were to make this journey before the Lord would send snow to the area. In other words, they would need to leave within a period of about four months.)

Remind students that on April 26, 1838, the Lord had commanded the Saints to gather in Far West, Missouri, and other places (see D&C 115:17–18). On July 6, 1838, a group known as the Kirtland Camp, consisting of over 500 Saints from the Kirtland area, departed for Missouri (see Church History in the Fulness of Times Student Manual, 2nd ed. [Church Educational System manual, 2003], 178–79).

Point out that as we read the Lord’s words in Doctrine and Covenants 117:4–5, we see that Bishop Whitney and William Marks were overly concerned about the Church’s properties in Kirtland. Because of their callings as bishop and agent to the bishop, they were stewards over these properties. Invite a student to read verse 4 aloud, and ask the class to listen for the Lord’s question in this verse.

Write the following on the board: What is property unto me?

  • What do you think this means?

To help students understand the meaning of the Lord’s question in verse 4, invite a few students to take turns reading aloud from Doctrine and Covenants 117:5–8. Ask the class to look for reasons why the Lord would say “What is property unto me?” (You may want to explain that the phrase “plains of Olaha Shinehah” refers to the area around Adam-ondi-Ahman in Missouri.)

  • What do you think it means to “covet … the drop, and neglect the more weighty matters”? (D&C 117:8). How were the properties in Kirtland a “drop” compared to the blessings the Lord could give Bishop Whitney and President Marks? (After students discuss these questions, write the following principle on the board: Coveting temporal things can cause us to neglect weightier matters.)

Ask students to ponder how they can give more attention to the things that are most important in their lives.

Summarize Doctrine and Covenants 117:10 by explaining that the Lord called William Marks to continue serving as a Church leader when he arrived in Far West. The Lord also said that if President Marks would be “faithful over a few things,” he would eventually “be a ruler over many” things (see also Matthew 25:23).

Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 117:11 aloud, and ask the class to look for the rebuke the Lord gave to Newel K. Whitney. After the student reads this verse, explain that the Nicolaitans were an ancient religious sect. They said they were Christians, but they strayed from the principles of the gospel to follow worldly practices (see Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual [Church Educational System manual, 2001], 290).

  • If Newel K. Whitney had decided to focus on property in Kirtland rather than gathering with the Saints, how might his actions be similar to the actions of the Nicolaitans?

Explain that because of their delayed departure from Kirtland and the persecutions in Missouri, William Marks and Newel K. Whitney were not able to gather with the Saints in Far West. However, they followed the counsel of the Lord and remained faithful, and they later gathered with the Saints in Nauvoo, Illinois, where William Marks served as stake president and Newel K. Whitney served as a bishop.

Doctrine and Covenants 117:12–16

The Lord commissions Oliver Granger to represent the First Presidency in business dealings in Kirtland

Invite students to list on the board various callings or Church assignments they may receive.

Explain that the Lord commanded a man named Oliver Granger to leave Far West and return to Kirtland to “contend earnestly for the redemption of the First Presidency of my Church” (D&C 117:13). This assignment included selling Church properties and settling Joseph Smith’s business affairs. This would require Oliver Granger, who was nearly blind, to make sacrifices. Invite students to read Doctrine and Covenants 117:12–15 silently, looking for the blessings the Lord said Oliver Granger would receive as he fulfilled this assignment.

  • What blessings would Oliver Granger receive?

  • How did the Lord feel about sacrifices Oliver Granger would make? (You may need to explain that the statement that “his sacrifice shall be more sacred unto me than his increase” indicates that the Lord cared more about Oliver’s sacrifice than the money Oliver might obtain as he fulfilled his assignment. Write the following principle on the board: The sacrifices we make in the service of the Lord are sacred to Him.)

Refer to the callings and assignments you have written on the board. Ask students what sacrifices those callings and assignments might require.

  • Why is it important to do everything we can to fulfill an assignment or calling?

Explain that Oliver Granger died in Kirtland on August 25, 1841. At the time, he was still acting as the First Presidency’s representative in their business affairs. Although he was not completely successful in settling the business affairs of the Church, he worked to preserve the Church’s integrity and good name. He was true to the Lord and the Prophet Joseph Smith.

Invite a student to read aloud the following statement by President Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:

President Boyd K. Packer

“What did Oliver Granger do that his name should be held in sacred remembrance? Nothing much, really. It was not so much what he did as what he was. …

“The Lord did not expect Oliver to be perfect, perhaps not even to succeed. …

“We cannot always expect to succeed, but we should try the best we can” (“The Least of These,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2004, 86).

  • Why do you think our sacrifices are sacred to the Lord, even when we do not feel completely successful in our efforts?

Doctrine and Covenants 118

The Lord appoints new Apostles and calls all the Apostles to serve a mission

Explain that on July 8, 1838, the Lord called four new Apostles to replace Luke Johnson, Lyman E. Johnson, William E. McLellin, and John F. Boynton, who had apostatized. Invite students to read Doctrine and Covenants 118:3 silently, looking for what the Lord wanted the Apostles to do.

  • What did the Lord command the Apostles to do?

  • What words and phrases in verse 3 describe how the Lord wanted the Apostles to preach the gospel?

Write the following on the board: If we preach the gospel in the Lord’s way, …

  • Based on verse 3, what are two ways we can complete this statement? (Students may use different words, but they should identify the following principles: If we preach the gospel in the Lord’s way, He will provide for our families. If we preach the gospel in the Lord’s way, He will prepare others to receive His message.)

You may want to invite students to share how they have been blessed through the missionary service of a sibling or other family member.

Summarize Doctrine and Covenants 118:4–5 by explaining that the Lord called the members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles to “go over the great waters” (the Atlantic Ocean) to preach His gospel, beginning their mission at the temple site in Far West. They would serve in Great Britain.

  • According to verse 5, when were the Apostles to leave for their mission? Where were they to leave from?

Explain that in the months following this revelation, persecution increased in Missouri. Eventually the Saints were expelled from that state. These conditions made it dangerous for the Twelve to fulfill the Lord’s command to meet in Far West. Many Missourians openly boasted that they would prevent the fulfillment of the revelation. But the Twelve were determined to obey the Lord’s command. On the morning of April 26, 1839, Elders Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, and Orson Pratt, along with Elders John E. Page and John Taylor, who had recently been ordained Apostles (see D&C 118:6), went to the Far West temple site. (Not all faithful members of the quorum could be there. For example, Elder Parley P. Pratt had been arrested and imprisoned on false charges.) They recommenced laying the foundation of the temple (see D&C 115:11) by placing a large stone near the southeast corner of the lot. They also ordained new Apostles, Elders Wilford Woodruff (see D&C 118:6) and George A. Smith, to fill vacancies in the Quorum of the Twelve. Having fulfilled the Lord’s instructions, they left, undetected by those who had planned to stop them. Willard Richards, who is mentioned in Doctrine and Covenants 118:6, was ordained an Apostle about a year later, on April 14, 1840. (For a more complete account of this experience, see Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Wilford Woodruff [2004], 139–41.)

Conclude by testifying of the principles that have been discussed in today’s lesson.

Commentary and Background Information

Doctrine and Covenants 117:11. Nicolaitane band

The word Nicolaitans is found in Revelation 2:6, 15. Some scholars believe the Nicolaitans tried to bring idolatrous practices into the early Christian church. Elder Bruce R. McConkie of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles wrote that Nicolaitans were “members of the Church who were trying to maintain their church standing while continuing to live after the manner of the world. … Whatever their particular deeds and doctrines were, the designation has come to be used to identify those who want their names on the records of the Church, but do not want to devote themselves to the gospel cause with full purpose of heart” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [1966–73], 3:446; see also Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual [Church Educational System manual, 2001], 290).

Doctrine and Covenants 117:16. Moneychangers

Before Joseph Smith left Kirtland, a group of apostates had taken control of the temple. The Lord referred to these men as “moneychangers,” like those who had polluted the temple grounds in Jerusalem (see Matthew 21:12–13). Even after this happened, the Lord wanted His servants “in the land of Kirtland” to remember the holiness of the temple.

Doctrine and Covenants 118. Fulfillment of the command for missionaries to depart from Far West

“In the early morning hours [on April 26, 1839, after the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles met at the Far West temple site,] Theodore Turley, one of the Saints who had been at Far West with the Twelve, went to the home of apostate Isaac Russell to say goodbye. Russell was astounded that his friend was in Far West with members of the Twelve and speechless upon learning that the prophecy was fulfilled” (Church History in the Fulness of Times Student Manual, 2nd ed. [Church Educational System manual, 2003], 226).