On February 9, 1843, the Prophet Joseph Smith gave instructions to help the Saints know how to distinguish the nature of ministering angels and spirits. These instructions are recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 129. Doctrine and Covenants 130 contains Joseph Smith’s teachings on various doctrines while he was meeting with Saints in Ramus, Illinois, on April 2, 1843.
Ask students what they would tell someone who wanted to know if Latter-day Saints believe in angels. After students respond, invite a student to read the following statement by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:
“From the beginning down through the dispensations, God has used angels as His emissaries in conveying love and concern for His children. …
“Usually such beings are not seen. Sometimes they are. But seen or unseen they are always near. Sometimes their assignments are very grand and have significance for the whole world. Sometimes the messages are more private. Occasionally the angelic purpose is to warn” (“The Ministry of Angels,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2008, 29).
Explain that beginning in 1839 and continuing through 1843, the Prophet Joseph Smith gave instructions to several people to help them know how to distinguish the nature of ministering angels and spirits. Some of these instructions are recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 129.
Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 129:1–3 aloud. Ask the class to follow along and look for an important difference between angels and spirits. (You may want to explain that the word just means righteous.)
How are angels different from spirits? (Angels have resurrected bodies of flesh and bones; spirits do not.)
Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 129:4–7 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for a way to distinguish between angels and righteous spirits. Ask students to report what they find.
What do we learn from verse 7 about the nature of true messengers sent from Heavenly Father? (After students respond, you may want to suggest that they write the following doctrine in the margin of their scriptures: True messengers sent from Heavenly Father will not deceive us.)
Explain that the devil sometimes tries to appear as an “angel of light” in order to deceive people (see D&C 129:8). In addition, “the scriptures also speak of the devil’s angels. These are those spirits who followed Lucifer and were thrust out of God’s presence in the premortal life and cast down to the earth (Rev. 12:1–9; 2 Ne. 9:9, 16; D&C 29:36–37)” (Guide to the Scriptures, “Angels,” scriptures.lds.org). Do not relate experiences concerning Satan or evil spirits or allow the discussion to degenerate to relating sensational stories and spurious material.
Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 129:8–9 aloud. Ask the class to follow along and look for how to recognize an evil spirit who seeks to deceive by appearing as an angel of light. (Explain that the word administration in verse 9 refers to a manifestation or visit from an angel or a spirit.) Invite students to report what they learn.
In addition to the instruction in these verses, what has Heavenly Father given you to help you discern Satan’s deceptions?
Explain that on April 2, 1843, Joseph Smith held a stake conference with Saints in Ramus, Illinois, which was about 20 miles southeast of Nauvoo. During a morning meeting Elder Orson Hyde preached a sermon and taught an interpretation of scripture he had learned in his previous association with another church.
What responsibility did the Prophet have in this situation? (To correct any false doctrine taught in the meeting.)
Explain that presiding leaders in the Church such as prophets, stake presidents, and bishops have the responsibility to ensure that correct doctrine is taught in Church settings. After the morning meeting, Joseph Smith, Orson Hyde, and a few others had lunch at the home of Joseph’s sister Sophronia. During lunch, the Prophet said that he “was going to offer some corrections to [Brother Hyde’s] sermon.” Brother Hyde responded, “They shall be thankfully received” (in History of the Church, 5:323).
What can we learn from how Joseph Smith dealt with this situation?
What can we learn from Orson Hyde’s response to the Prophet?
Explain that in his morning remarks, Orson Hyde had misinterpreted John 14:23. Invite a student to read this verse aloud.
Inform the class that after Orson Hyde referred to this verse, he told the people that it is “our privilege to have the Father and Son dwelling in our hearts” (in History of the Church, 5:323). Doctrine and Covenants 130 contains the Prophet Joseph Smith’s correction of this idea. It also includes some additional teachings.
Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 130:1–3 aloud. Ask students to follow along, looking for why Orson Hyde’s statement regarding the meaning of John 14:23 was incorrect. Ask them to report what they find.
Explain that many people today either have no concept of God, or perhaps like Orson Hyde, who was once a Campbellite preacher, have an incorrect understanding of the nature of Deity because of false traditions. We can help others understand Heavenly Father’s true nature and their relationship to Him.
How can we respond with kindness and understanding when discussing the gospel with those who have mistaken ideas because of false traditions?
Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 130:22–23 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for doctrines they can explain when teaching others about the Godhead.
What doctrines are taught in these verses? (Students should identify the following doctrines: Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ are separate individuals with physical bodies of flesh and bones. The Holy Ghost is a personage of spirit.)
Why do you think it is important to understand that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ are separate individuals with bodies of flesh and bones?
To help students further understand the doctrine of the Godhead, assign them to work in pairs. Provide each pair with a copy of the following statement. Invite students to study the statement with their partners and underline truths about the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost that stand out to them.
After students have completed this assignment, ask several to report what they marked and explain why those truths stood out to them. You might conclude this activity by inviting one or two students to share their testimonies of the Godhead with the class.
To help students discover another doctrine Joseph Smith taught to the Saints in Ramus, invite them to review Doctrine and Covenants 130:2, looking for what he said about our relationships.
What does sociality mean? (Sociality pertains to the nature of our personal interactions and relationships.)
What did Joseph Smith teach regarding the nature of our relationships in heaven? (Students may use different words, but they should identify the following truth: The relationships we can have in heaven are the same as those we enjoy on the earth, but they will include eternal glory.)
How might this truth influence your interaction with others?
Ask a student to read aloud the following testimony of eternal relationships by President Henry B. Eyring of the First Presidency:
“Because of the restoration of the knowledge of eternal families, we are more hopeful and more kindly in all our family relations. The greatest joys in this life center in families, as they will in the worlds to come. I am so grateful for the assurance I have that if we are faithful, the same sociality which we enjoy here in this life will be forever with us in the world to come, in eternal glory” [see D&C 130:2] (“The True and Living Church,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2008, 22).
Invite students to ponder their relationships with others, especially their family members. Invite them to write a goal to strengthen those relationships.
To help students discover other doctrines the Prophet taught at this meeting in Ramus, invite a few students to take turns reading aloud from Doctrine and Covenants 130:4–11.
What do we learn about angels from verses 4–7?
What do we learn from verse 9 about the future of the earth?
You may want to explain that according to verses 10–11, all who inherit the celestial kingdom will receive a Urim and Thummim to help them learn about and understand heavenly things. The Prophet did not elaborate on this teaching.