Doctrine and Covenants 124–25

Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Seminary Teacher Resource Manual, (2001), 208–12


Introduction

The Saints were expelled from Missouri in the winter of 1838–39. They made their way to Illinois and Iowa, where they settled on both sides of the Mississippi River. On the Illinois side of the river they built Nauvoo, the City Beautiful. On the Iowa side they built Zarahemla and Nashville. (See D&C 125.) The Saints had greater political power in Illinois than in Missouri. They formed a militia, founded a university, and controlled their own city affairs. But these activities were secondary to a more important work.

President Joseph Fielding Smith, who was then President of the Quorum of the Twelve, wrote:

“Almost as soon as the Prophet and his brethren arrived in Nauvoo from their imprisonment and persecutions in Missouri, the Lord gave instructions that a temple should be built in Nauvoo. By this time the fulness of the doctrine of salvation for the dead had been revealed and the importance of performing ordinances for the dead was impressed upon the mind of the Prophet and by him, in discourses and letter, upon the saints. No doubt Joseph Smith had been praying to the Lord on this subject, and this revelation [D&C 124] is an answer to his pleadings” (Church History and Modern Revelation, 2 vols. [1953], 2:265–66).

Some Important Gospel Principles to Look For

Note: Prayerfully study each assigned scripture block and consider the principles under this heading before preparing your lessons.

  • The Lord commanded the Church to prepare a proclamation of the gospel and send it to the rulers of the earth (see D&C 124:1–11).

  • The Lord knows His servants individually and gives them counsel and direction through personal revelation and inspired leaders (see D&C 124:12–21, 62–118; see also Alma 5:37–41).

  • The temple is the only place to obtain the fulness of priesthood ordinances to redeem the living and the dead (see D&C 124:25–45, 55; see also D&C 128:11–15).

  • If we try diligently to fulfill the Lord’s commands but are stopped by our enemies, the Lord will hold them accountable, not us. He can change His commands, and He can bless our faithful efforts despite our lack of ability (see D&C 124:45–54; see also D&C 56:3–4).

  • We should avoid placing our wisdom above that of the Lord or His servants (see D&C 124:84–85; see also Isaiah 55:8–9; 2 Nephi 9:28–29).

  • The Lord established priesthood offices for the work of the ministry and the perfecting of the Saints (see D&C 124:91–93, 123–43; see also Ephesians 4:11–16).

  • The Lord directs the Saints to gather together and prepare for what will happen in the future (see D&C 125; see also D&C 82:14; 115:5–6).

Additional Resources

  • Church History in the Fulness of Times: Religion 341–43, pp. 240–42, 251–54, 289, 304–6.

  • Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual: Religion 324–325, pp. 304–12.

Suggestions for Teaching

Note: Choose from the ideas under this heading, or use some of your own, as you prepare to teach the assigned scripture block.

CES Church History Resource Videocassette presentation 2, “Remembering Nauvoo” (20:25), can be used in teaching Doctrine and Covenants 124.

Doctrine and Covenants 124. The threefold mission of the Church is to proclaim the gospel, perfect the Saints, and redeem the dead.

(50–60 minutes)

Display a camera mounted on a tripod (or draw one on the board). Ask students:

  • Camera
  • What purpose does a tripod serve in taking pictures?

  • What might happen to your picture if your tripod were missing one leg?

Invite a student to read the following statement by President Ezra Taft Benson:

“The mission of the Church is glorious—to invite all of us to come unto Christ through proclaiming the gospel, perfecting our lives, and redeeming our dead. As we come unto Christ, we bless our own lives, those of our families, and our Father in Heaven’s children, both living and dead” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1988, 98; or Ensign, May 1988, 85).

Ask:

  • How is the mission of the Church similar to a tripod?

  • What would happen if Church members did missionary work and obeyed the commandments but failed to do temple work?

Invite students to scan the following three groups of verses: Doctrine and Covenants 124:1–5, 25–30, 143–45. Have them look for words or phrases that relate to each part of the three-part mission of the Church. Tell them that the mission of the Church is one of the central messages of section 124, and then study each part of the mission as a class.

Proclaim the Gospel

Write on the board the name of your country’s leader. Tell students: Imagine you are teaching the gospel to the leader of our country.

  • What might it be like to “proclaim the gospel” to this person?

  • Why might it be difficult?

  • What would you fear the most?

Read Doctrine and Covenants 124:1–3 and identify what Joseph Smith was called to do. (“Make a solemn proclamation” to the kings, rulers, and people of all nations.) Have students search verses 3–11, and ask:

  • What do verses 5, 8, and 10 suggest this proclamation was to include?

  • What is the “day of visitation” that all need to prepare for? (The Second Coming.)

  • How does proclaiming the gospel lead kings and the Gentiles to help build Zion? (see vv. 6, 9, 11).

  • According to verse 7, what did the Lord say about fearing individuals in high office?

Testify that the gospel of Jesus Christ is far more important than any position a person may hold. We must boldly proclaim our message to everyone, regardless of their station in life.

Read Doctrine and Covenants 124:23, 60 and ask:

  • What did the Lord want the Nauvoo Saints to provide for visitors? (Explain that the Nauvoo House was a hotel the Saints were commanded to build for travelers.)

  • What can we do today to make visitors to the stakes of Zion feel welcome?

  • What did the Lord want visitors to Zion to contemplate?

  • Why do you think the Lord said to “contemplate” His word, and not just to read it?

Redeem the Dead

Show students a picture of the Salt Lake Temple. (You could use the accompanying drawing or Gospel Art Picture Kit, no. 502). Point out the battlements along the top of the central wall.

Ask: What might the battlements suggest about the temple? (The temple is a place of protection.) Read Doctrine and Covenants 124:10–11, 36 and look for words that relate to the protecting power of the temple. Ask: What kind of safety and refuge might the Lord be referring to? Have a student share the following statement by President James E. Faust, a counselor in the First Presidency:

“The need for temples all over the world is great. This is because they are spiritual sanctuaries. Those who attend the temples can find protection against Satan and his desire to destroy them and their families” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1998, 75; or Ensign, Nov. 1998, 59).

Ask: How can temples protect you and your family against Satan? Have students scan verses 26–44 and choose a passage they think best illustrates the importance of the temple. Have some students share their passage and explain why they chose it.

Tell students: Imagine you are traveling by car to a distant city. The trip requires a full tank of gas, and there are no gas stations along the way. (Note: You could use a destination familiar to your students.) Ask:

  • What would you do if after traveling several hours you realized you started with only half a tank of gas?

  • What if you did not realize this until it was too late to turn back for gas?

Explain that it is possible to get in a similar predicament spiritually. Read verse 28 and look for the reason the Lord gives for building a temple (to restore the fulness of the priesthood). Ask:

  • What do you think “the fulness of the priesthood” is? (According to Elder Bruce R. McConkie, who was then a member of the Seventy, this refers to “the fulness of the blessings of the priesthood. These blessings are found only in the temples of God” [Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed. (1966), 482].)

  • In the analogy, how does the word fulness relate to getting to your destination? How does it relate to reaching your spiritual destination?

  • What spiritual destination should we all be striving for?

  • What priesthood ordinances are available in the temple for both the living and dead? (Baptisms for the dead [see vv. 29, 39]; washings, anointings, and the endowment [see v. 39]; celestial marriage and sealings [see D&C 132:19]. Note: Remember the sacred nature of temple ordinances as you discuss these verses.)

Invite a student to read the following statements. President Brigham Young taught:

“Your endowment is, to receive all those ordinances in the house of the Lord, which are necessary for you, after you have departed this life, to enable you to walk back to the presence of the Father” (Discourses of Brigham Young, sel. John A. Widtsoe [1941], 416).

Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin of the Quorum of the Twelve said:

“We can seek to enter holy temples frequently to perform essential ordinances regularly for others who have preceded us. Temple work enables us to do for others what they cannot do for themselves. It is a labor of love that permits our forefathers to continue their progress toward eternal life. As valuable and beneficial as temple work is to them, it is equally valuable to us. The house of the Lord is a place where we can escape from the mundane and see our lives in an eternal perspective. We can ponder instructions and covenants that help us understand more clearly the plan of salvation and the infinite love of our Heavenly Father for his children. We can ponder our relationship to God, the Eternal Father, and his Son, Jesus Christ” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1992, 122–23; or Ensign, May 1992, 88).

Perfect the Saints

Invite students to imagine they are members of the Nauvoo 1st Ward. Have them read Doctrine and Covenants 124:133–37, 141–42 and identify the Church positions being organized. Explain that the bishopric described in verse 141 is the Presiding Bishopric, but that beginning in the Nauvoo period the Lord called ward bishops as well. Assign students to serve in each of the positions mentioned in these verses, and appoint a ward bishop. Ask what other organizations common in wards today are not mentioned in these verses. (Relief Society, Primary, Young Women, Sunday School.) Have the student assigned as bishop organize the missing auxiliaries from the remaining students.

Invite the class to consider the number of people it takes to staff a ward or branch. Ask:

  • What sacrifices do you think these people make?

  • Why do you think the Lord provided these organizations?

Read verse 143 and identify why the Lord provided these organizations. Discuss the following questions:

  • How do these organizations “help” you?

  • How are they like a “government”?

  • What ultimate blessing can come to the Saints as a result of the Church’s organization?

  • Read Ephesians 4:11–16. How is the organization described in these verses like the one described in section 124?

  • What can you do to help perfect the Saints and establish Zion?

Have a student read the following statement by President Howard W. Hunter:

“I invite all members of the Church to live with ever more attention to the life and example of the Lord Jesus Christ, especially the love and hope and compassion he displayed. I pray that we will treat each other with more kindness, more patience, more courtesy and forgiveness.

“To those who have transgressed or been offended, we say, come back. The path of repentance, though hard at times, lifts one ever upward and leads to a perfect forgiveness.

“To those who are hurt or are struggling and afraid, we say, let us stand with you and dry your tears. Come back. Stand with us in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Take literally his invitation to ‘come, follow me’ (see Matthew 16:24; 19:21; Mark 8:34; 10:21; Luke 9:23; 18:22; John 21:22; D&C 38:22). He is the only sure way; he is the light of the world.

“We will, as you would expect us to do, continue to hold to the high standards of conduct which define a Latter-day Saint. It is the Lord who established those standards, and we are not free to set them aside” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1994, 7–8; or Ensign, Nov. 1994, 8).

Conclude by sharing the following statement, also by President Hunter:

“All of our efforts in proclaiming the gospel, perfecting the Saints, and redeeming the dead lead to the holy temple. This is because the temple ordinances are absolutely crucial; we cannot return to God’s presence without them. I encourage everyone to worthily attend the temple or to work toward the day when you can enter that holy house to receive your ordinances and covenants” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1994, 118; or Ensign, Nov. 1994, 88).

Doctrine and Covenants 124:12–21, 62–118. The Lord knows us individually and gives us counsel and direction through personal revelation and inspired leaders.

(20–25 minutes)

Write on the board the following statement by Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve: “If we will listen to the counsel of our prophet, we will become stronger and be able to withstand the tests of mortality” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1995, 20; or Ensign, May 1995, 17). Ask students what they think is the most important little word in this statement. Ask: Why is the word if so significant?

Tell students that several of the individuals mentioned in section 124 later apostatized from the Church. Have students read verses 16–17, 103–10 and mark each instance of the word if and the phrases that follow it. Ask:

  • What three men are referred to in these verses?

  • What blessings did the Lord promise John C. Bennett and Sidney Rigdon?

  • What “if clauses” did the Lord give with these promises?

  • What does this teach you about the Lord’s promises in your own life?

Write on the board the following names and scripture references:

Invite students to select a name, read the accompanying verses, and write answers to the following questions:

  • What words or phrases show that the Lord knew this person individually?

  • What counsel or direction did the Lord give this person?

  • What blessings did this person receive or was he promised for obedience?

Explain that of the four men, only Hyrum Smith and Vinson Knight remained faithful. Ask:

  • What can we learn from the experiences of these men?

  • Read verses 45–46, 48. What blessings come to those who obey the Lord’s servants? (see v. 45).

  • According to verse 48, what comes to those who are disobedient?

  • Who is to blame for God’s judgments upon the disobedient?

  • Read Doctrine and Covenants 90:5. According to this verse, how should we receive what is taught by the Lord’s servants?

Have a student read the following statement by President N. Eldon Tanner, who was a counselor in the First Presidency:

“Recently, at the Churchwide fireside meeting held for the women of the Church, Young Women President Elaine Cannon made the following statement:

“‘When the Prophet speaks, … the debate is over’ (Ensign, Nov. 1978, p. 108).

“I was impressed by that simple statement, which carries such deep spiritual meaning for all of us. Wherever I go, my message to the people is: Follow the prophet” (“The Debate Is Over,” Ensign, Aug. 1979, 2).

Doctrine and Covenants 124:49–54. If we try diligently to fulfill the Lord’s commands but are stopped by our enemies, the Lord will hold them accountable, not us. He can change His commands, and He can bless our faithful efforts despite our lack of ability.

(15–20 minutes)

Invite students to give examples of ways we sometimes cause difficulties for ourselves. Read Doctrine and Covenants 124:48 to help answer this question. Ask: For what other reasons might the Lord allow us to have difficulties? (To test and perfect us.)

Explain that the early Saints were commanded to build the city of Zion and a temple in Jackson County, Missouri (see D&C 97:10). Ask: Why were the Saints not able to complete the temple? (see D&C 124:49, 51).

Read the following statement by President Joseph Fielding Smith, who was then President of the Quorum of the Twelve:

“It is true that the Lord commanded the saints to build to his name a temple in Zion. This they attempted to do, but were prevented by their enemies, so the Lord did not require the work at their hands at that time. The release from the building of the temple did not, however, cancel the responsibility of building the City and the House of the Lord, at some future time. When the Lord gets ready for it to be accomplished, he will command his people, and the work will be done” (Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols. [1954–56], 3:79).

Read verses 50–52 and ask:

  • According to these verses, what will the Lord do with those who hinder His work?

  • Read verses 53–54. What “consolation” or comfort will the Lord give to those who were afflicted or killed by their enemies?

  • Why is it important to remember that the Lord will do things in His own time?

  • What do these principles teach you about God’s love for His children?

Doctrine and Covenants 125. The Lord directs the Saints to gather together and prepare for what will happen in the future.

(10–15 minutes)

Tell students: Imagine you leave home to go to university or trade school and you find that you are the only member of the Church on campus.

  • How would you feel?

  • Who would you miss?

  • What challenges would you face?

  • How important would your ward or branch be in this situation? Why?

  • Why do you think the Lord would rather have us gather together as Saints than remain alone?

Read the introduction to sections 124–25 (p. 208) and discuss the blessings the Saints enjoyed from gathering together. Read section 125 and ask:

  • According to verse 2, what did the Lord want the Saints to do at this time? (Gather to places He had appointed through His prophet and build up cities unto Him.)

  • What would result from the Saints’ gathering? (They would be prepared “for that which is in store” [v. 2].)

  • How might gathering to places like Nauvoo and Zarahemla prepare the Saints for what was to come?

  • How might the Lord’s direction to settle in the Salt Lake Valley fulfill this revelation?

Read the following statement by Elder Harold B. Lee, who was then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve:

“The spirit of gathering has been with the Church from the days of [the] restoration. Those who are of the blood of Israel, have a righteous desire after they are baptized, to gather together with the body of the Saints at the designated place. …

“Thus, clearly, the Lord has placed the responsibility for directing the work of gathering in the hands of the leaders of the Church to whom he will reveal his will where and when such gatherings would take place in the future. It would be well—before the frightening events concerning the fulfilment of all God’s promises and predictions are upon us, that the Saints in every land prepare themselves and look forward to the instruction that shall come to them from the First Presidency of this Church as to where they shall be gathered” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1948, 55).

Ask:

  • Where are we to gather today?

  • Who directs where the Saints gather today?

  • What will following this pattern prepare us for?