This is the second of two lessons on Doctrine and Covenants 135 and the martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum Smith on June 27, 1844. In this lesson students will discuss the role the Prophet Joseph Smith played in the salvation of God’s children.
Suggestions for Teaching
The martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum Smith is announced
Before class, display a picture of Joseph Smith in the front of the room (see Gospel Art Book , no. 87; see also LDS.org). You might consider asking the class to sing “Praise to the Man” (Hymns, no. 27) for the devotional hymn. Before singing the hymn, explain that W. W. Phelps wrote the words of the hymn in memory of the Prophet Joseph Smith shortly after the 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 others 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 help bring about 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 for the living and the dead, 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 aloud the following statement by President Gordon B. Hinckley. 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 class notebooks or scripture study journals:
In what specific ways might your life be different without the ministry of the Prophet Joseph Smith?
How has the Prophet Joseph Smith influenced your knowledge of and relationship with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ?
Ask a student to read aloud the following statement by President Thomas S. Monson. Ask the class to listen for how we can help others experience the joy of the gospel.
“[The Prophet Joseph Smith] left behind a legacy that enables [millions of] followers today on every continent to proclaim him as a prophet of God. May we, each of us, strive to continue the Prophet Joseph’s vision for this work and to magnify his legacy through our works and testimonies to others, that they may know him as we do and that they may experience the peace and joy of the gospel he restored” (“Brother Joseph,” Church News, Dec. 31, 2005, 4).
How can we help others experience the joy of the gospel as restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith?
Explain that for the remainder of the class students may share their testimonies of 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 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 of Jesus Christ.
Commentary and Background Information
The Prophet Joseph Smith was a witness of Jesus Christ
We look to the Prophet Joseph Smith with reverence because of what he did for our understanding of Jesus Christ and His mission. Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said:
“Through his personal association with the Lord, his translation and publication of the Book of Mormon, and the sealing of his testimony with his martyr’s blood, Joseph has become the preeminent revelator of Jesus Christ in His true character as divine Redeemer. Jesus has had no greater witness nor more devoted friend than Joseph Smith” (“Born Again,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2008, 79; italics added).
The influence of Joseph Smith
In the spring of 1844, Josiah Quincy, former mayor of Boston, Massachusetts, and then president of Harvard University, along with his cousin Charles Francis Adams, son of former United States President John Quincy Adams, visited Nauvoo. They spent a day with the Prophet Joseph Smith. Years later, Josiah Quincy wrote of his experience:
“It is by no means improbable that some future text-book, for the use of generations yet unborn, will contain a question something like this: What historical American of the nineteenth century has exerted the most powerful influence upon the destinies of his countrymen? And it is by no means impossible that the answer to that interrogatory may be thus written: Joseph Smith, the Mormon prophet” (Figures of the Past: From the Leaves of Old Journals , 376).
Supplemental Teaching Ideas
Doctrine and Covenants 135. Video presentation—“Joseph Smith—Prophet of the Restoration”
After discussing the death of the Prophet in Carthage Jail, you might consider showing a depiction of the events at Carthage Jail from the video “Joseph Smith—Prophet of the Restoration” (through time code 2:37), available on Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Visual Resource DVDs and LDS.org.
“Praise to the Man”
If the class sings “Praise to the Man” (Hymns, no. 27) for the devotional hymn, invite students to review the words of the hymn and select their favorite phrases. During the lesson, ask a few students to share a phrase they selected and explain why it stood out to them.
Contributions of the Prophet Joseph Smith
Before inviting students to write in their class notebooks or scripture study journals about specific ways their lives would be different without the ministry of the Prophet Joseph Smith, you might consider showing a clip from the video “Joseph Smith—Prophet of the Restoration” (beginning at time code 2:49 through the end), available on disc 2 of Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Visual Resource DVDs and on LDS.org. This approximately 10-minute clip provides an overview of significant events associated with the Restoration of the gospel through Joseph Smith. If you show the video, make sure that sufficient time will remain for students to share their testimonies. If students watched the film Joseph Smith: The Prophet of the Restoration in the previous class session, it may not be necessary to show this video.