Doctrine and Covenants 17

Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Seminary Teacher Resource Manual, (2001), 45–46


Elder Bruce R. McConkie wrote: “The Lord always sends his word by witnesses who testify of its truth and divinity; … two or more witnesses always unite their voices to make the divinely borne testimony binding on earth and sealed everlastingly in the heavens” (The Mortal Messiah: From Bethlehem to Calvary, 4 vols. [1979–81], 2:76). For information on the Three Witnesses to the Book of Mormon, see the historical background for section 17 in Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual: Religion 324–325 (p. 32).

Some Important Gospel Principles to Look For

Additional Resources

  • Church History in the Fulness of Times: Religion 341–43, pp. 58–61.

  • Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual: Religion 324–325, pp. 32–34.

Suggestions for Teaching

Doctrine and Covenants 17. God calls witnesses to establish the truth of all things.

(30–35 minutes)

Arrange for someone to come into the classroom carrying a small object and quickly leave. Ask students:

  • How tall was the person?

  • What was the person wearing?

  • What color was the person’s hair?

  • What was the person carrying?

  • What value is there in having more than one witness?

Read Matthew 18:16 and ask: What does this verse teach about the Lord’s law of witnesses?

Invite students to study Doctrine and Covenants 17 and answer the following questions. (These could be written on the board prior to class.)

  • What would the Three Witnesses see in addition to the plates? (see v. 1).

  • What were they asked to do before they could receive their witness? (see vv. 1–2).

  • After the vision, what did the Lord expect of the Three Witnesses? (see vv. 3–5).

  • Who bore testimony to them of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon? (see v. 6).

  • According to this section, what are some reasons the Lord wanted additional witnesses to the Book of Mormon? (see vv. 4, 9).

  • What promise did the Lord give the Three Witnesses if they remained faithful? (see v. 8).

    Book of Mormon

Draw the accompanying diagram on the board without any words except Book of Mormon. Invite students to read the scriptures and statements below, identify as many witnesses to the Book of Mormon as they can, and fill in the chart as they discover the answers.

  • The Testimony of Three Witnesses and The Testimony of Eight Witnesses in the Introduction to the Book of Mormon

  • Ezekiel 37:15–17

  • Doctrine and Covenants 1:29

  • Moroni 10:3–4

  • “I testify that the Book of Mormon is the word of God” (Ezra Taft Benson, in Conference Report, Apr. 1986, 100; or Ensign, May 1986, 78).

“I pray that we may … abide by the great truths of the Book of Mormon. I testify that [this] keystone of our religion is solidly in place, bearing the weight of truth as it moves through all the earth” (James E. Faust, in Conference Report, Oct. 1983, 12; or Ensign, Nov. 1983, 11).

Although the Three Witnesses were privileged to see an angel and the plates, the real power of their witness, as with us, came through the Holy Ghost. Share the following statement by President Joseph Fielding Smith, who was then President of the Quorum of the Twelve:

“Christ has himself declared that the manifestations … from a visitation of an angel, a tangible resurrected being, would not leave the impression and would not convince us and place within us that something which we cannot get away from which we receive through a manifestation of the Holy Ghost [see Luke 16:27–31; D&C 5:7–10]. Personal visitations might become dim as time goes on, but this guidance of the Holy Ghost is renewed and continued, day after day, year after year, if we live to be worthy of it” (Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols. [1954–56], 1:44).

Have students read and compare 2 Nephi 32:5 and Moroni 10:5 and tell how these verses relate to the statement above. Ask:

  • How can having so many witnesses of the Book of Mormon strengthen our testimony?

  • What difference would knowing the Book of Mormon is true make in your daily life?

  • Review Moroni 10:4 and read John 7:17. According to these verses, what could you do to strengthen your testimony?

Invite students to turn to the first page of their triple combination or Book of Mormon, and ask: Of what is the Book of Mormon a witness? (One meaning of the word testament is “witness.”) Complete the chart on the board by writing Another Witness of and Jesus Christ in the appropriate places. Ask: How are all the witnesses of the Book of Mormon also witnesses of Jesus Christ?

Share portions of the experience of the Three and Eight Witnesses (see Church History in the Fulness of Times, pp. 59–61). Ask:

  • Why do you think the vision didn’t come while Martin Harris was with Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, and the Prophet Joseph Smith?

  • How might this lesson apply in a person’s life today?