After the Prophet Joseph Smith received sections 24–26, Oliver Cowdery confronted him, claimed there was an error in one of the revelations, and commanded him to change it. Only with difficulty could the Prophet convince him that it was not his place “to command me to alter or erase, to add to or diminish from, a revelation or commandment from Almighty God” (History of the Church, 1:105). Not long afterward, the Prophet discovered that Hiram Page claimed to be receiving revelations for the Church through a stone, and many people, including Oliver Cowdery, believed these revelations. Newel Knight wrote that “Joseph was perplexed and scarcely knew how to meet this new exigency. That night I occupied the same room that he did and the greater part of the night was spent in prayer and supplication. After much labor with these brethren they were convinced of their error, and confessed the same. … In consequence of these things Joseph enquired of the Lord … and received [section 28]” (“Newel Knight’s Journal,” in Scraps of Biography: Tenth Book of the Faith-Promoting Series , 65).
Some Important Gospel Principles to Look For
Church History in the Fulness of Times: Religion 341–43, pp. 77–78.
Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual: Religion 324–325, pp. 57–59.
Suggestions for Teaching
Doctrine and Covenants 28. The President of the Church is the Lord’s spokesman and the only person who can declare doctrine or revelation that is binding for the whole Church.
Tell students: Imagine that a well-respected member of your ward or branch begins to tell people that he has received a revelation on changes the Church should make. When someone asks him, “Why haven’t we heard this taught by the General Authorities of the Church?” he replies: “The Lord said that all who ask may receive. I have a special spiritual gift to receive these revelations. I’m sure the General Authorities believe these things—they just haven’t taught them openly.” Discuss the following questions:
How would you respond to this man’s claims?
How could you know whether his revelation came from God or from another source?
Who should we always look to for revelation for the Church?
Who can receive revelation for a family? a branch or ward? a mission or stake?
Share the story of Hiram Page from Church History in the Fulness of Times (pp. 77–78). Tell students that section 28 contains true principles about revelation. This section states who can receive revelation for the whole Church and helps us distinguish between true revelation from God and false revelation from the adversary.
Have students read Doctrine and Covenants 28 and list the principles they can find concerning revelation. Discuss the following points and compare them to the list the students made.
Only the prophet receives revelation that is binding on the whole Church (see v. 2).
Other Church leaders may counsel and teach the Saints over whom they have responsibility, but they may not establish Church doctrine or give revelation for the whole Church (see vv. 4–5).
Members may receive personal revelation for their own benefit but do not receive revelation to direct someone who presides over them (see vv. 6–12).
Revelation that is binding on the Church will either be presented for the sustaining vote of the Church or presented and taught by those who are sustained as leaders of the Church (see vv. 12–13).
Share the following statement by the Prophet Joseph Smith:
“It is contrary to the economy of God for any member of the Church, or any one, to receive instructions for those in authority, higher than themselves; therefore you will see the impropriety of giving heed to them; but if any person have a vision or a visitation from a heavenly messenger, it must be for his own benefit and instruction; for the fundamental principles, government, and doctrine of the Church are vested in the keys of the kingdom” (History of the Church, 1:338).
Explain that in 1840 Lorenzo Snow, who later became President of the Church, received a personal revelation in the form of a poetic couplet:
He shared this revelation with no one except his sister Eliza and Brigham Young.
“President Young listened with interest to his recital, and then said: ‘Brother Snow, that is a new doctrine; if true, it has been revealed to you for your own private information, and will be taught in due time by the Prophet to the Church; till then I advise you to lay it upon the shelf and say no more about it.’ Elder Snow took this wise counsel, and [several years later] it was Brigham Young himself who came to him and told him that what had been revealed to him was true, for the Prophet had just been teaching it to the people” (Orson F. Whitney, “Lives of Our Leaders—The Apostles: Lorenzo Snow,” Juvenile Instructor, Jan. 1, 1900, 3–4).