This lesson will help students understand some of the work the Prophet Joseph Smith has done for the salvation of mankind. Students will also have an opportunity to share their testimonies of the Prophet Joseph Smith and the Restoration of the gospel.
Before class, display a picture of Joseph Smith (see Gospel Art Book , no. 87; see also LDS.org). You might consider having the class sing “Praise to the Man” (Hymns, no. 27) for the devotional hymn. Before the devotional, explain that W. W. Phelps wrote the words of this hymn in memory of Joseph Smith shortly after the Prophet’s martyrdom.
Begin the lesson by asking the following questions:
Have you ever talked with someone who is not a member of the Church about the Prophet Joseph Smith? If so, what did you talk about? (If no one has had this experience, ask students what they would want to tell people about Joseph Smith.)
Remind students that Doctrine and Covenants 135 contains an announcement of the martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum Smith. Invite a student to read the first sentence of Doctrine and Covenants 135:3 aloud. Ask the class to follow along.
What is the message of this verse? (Students should express that Joseph Smith has done more, save Jesus Christ only, for the salvation of men in this world, than any other man that ever lived in it.)
What has the Prophet Joseph Smith done for our salvation and exaltation? (Write students’ responses on the board.)
Invite a student to read the rest of Doctrine and Covenants 135:3 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for phrases that describe what Joseph Smith has done for our salvation. Ask students to look for additional items to add to the list on the board.
Invite a student to read the following statement by President Joseph F. Smith. Ask the class to listen for who is influenced by the work of the Prophet Joseph Smith.
“The work in which Joseph Smith was engaged was not confined to this life alone, but it pertains as well to the life to come, and to the life that has been. In other words, it relates to those who have lived upon the earth, to those who are living and to those who shall come after us. It is not something which relates to man only while he tabernacles in the flesh, but to the whole human family from eternity to eternity” (Gospel Doctrine, 5th ed. , 481).
Refer to the description of Joseph Smith bringing forth the Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants in verse 3. To help students further understand the significance of this work, invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 135:6 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for a reason the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants were brought forth.
According to verse 6, why were the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants brought forth? (Students may use other words, but they should identify the following truth: The Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants were brought forth for the salvation of the world.)
In what ways do these books contribute to the salvation of the world?
According to verse 6, what makes the Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants among the most valuable books you might own?
Ask students to ponder what they have done with the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants in their lives.
What can we do to show our gratitude for the sacrifice Joseph and Hyrum Smith made to bring forth these books?
Invite students to write in their class notebooks or scripture study journals a specific way they can show their gratitude for the sacrifices made to bring forth these books.
Refer to the list written on the board earlier in the lesson. Testify that by helping to restore scripture, true doctrine, priesthood authority and keys, ordinances, and the organization of the Church of Jesus Christ, Joseph Smith helped all of God’s children gain full access to the blessings of the Atonement.
Explain that some people may misunderstand Latter-day Saints’ feelings toward or beliefs about the Prophet Joseph Smith. Invite a student to read the following statement by President Gordon B. Hinckley aloud. Ask the class to listen for how Church members view Joseph Smith in relation to Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. If possible, you may want to provide each student with a copy of this statement.
“We do not worship the Prophet. We worship God our Eternal Father and the risen Lord Jesus Christ. But we acknowledge the Prophet; we proclaim him; we respect him; we reverence him as an instrument in the hands of the Almighty in restoring to the earth the ancient truths of the divine gospel, together with the priesthood through which the authority of God is exercised in the affairs of His Church and for the blessing of His people” (“Joseph Smith Jr.—Prophet of God, Mighty Servant,” Ensign, Dec. 2005, 4).
In your own words, how would you explain Church members’ feelings about the Prophet Joseph Smith?
Invite students to think about the effect the Prophet Joseph Smith’s ministry has had on their lives and on the lives of millions throughout the world. Write the following questions on the board, and ask students to respond to them in their scripture study journals:
Invite students to take the rest of the class time to share their feelings and testimonies about the Prophet Joseph Smith and the Restoration of the gospel. Invite them to consider using their responses from the earlier writing activity as they express their feelings and testimonies.
Conclude by sharing your testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith and the Restoration. Invite students to look for opportunities in the next few days to share with others their testimonies of the Prophet Joseph Smith and his role in restoring the gospel. You might also encourage them to record their testimonies of the Prophet Joseph Smith and the Restoration of the gospel in their personal journals.
Note: Giving students sufficient time to share their testimonies at the end of this lesson is more important than completing the following activity. If students’ testimonies fill the rest of your class time, you may want to use this activity on another day when you have more time.
Give students a list of the 25 scripture mastery references for Doctrine and Covenants and Church history. Invite them to consider which of the scripture mastery passages they could use to teach someone about the Restoration of the gospel through the Prophet Joseph Smith. Ask students to write a short lesson or talk using some of the scripture mastery passages they identified. They could write their lessons or talks on pieces of paper or in their scripture study journals. Consider inviting a few students to teach their lessons or read their talks to the class as part of future class devotionals.
Ask students to imagine that the prophet asked them to pack up a few of their belongings and travel hundreds of miles in a wagon or pushing a handcart to an unsettled land. Explain that in the next unit, they will learn about the Saints’ trek west. They will also learn how the Lord continued to direct the Church, including establishing the next leader following the death of the Prophet Joseph Smith.