Doctrine and Covenants 3

Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Seminary Teacher Resource Manual, (2001), 29–31


Elder Dallin H. Oaks, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, wrote:

“‘The works, and the designs, and the purposes of God cannot be frustrated, neither can they come to naught. … Remember, remember that it is not the work of God that is frustrated, but the work of men.’ (D&C 3:1, 3.) …

“Those who believe in God should not find it difficult to accept these propositions—that his thoughts are higher than our thoughts, that he comprehends things we do not comprehend, that his ways are higher than our ways, and that his work ‘shall be in his own time, and in his own way.’ But in practice these are apparently difficult concessions for some to make and difficult principles for some to apply.

“Many mortals have a myopic view of the power and position of God. As the brother of Jared observed, even the great power of God ‘looks small unto the understanding of men.’ (Ether 3:5.) In truth, many mortals—even some members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—are so shortsighted that they presume to judge the things of God by their own mortal reasoning. As Elder Neal A. Maxwell has observed: ‘Yes, we may acknowledge His overall plan but criticize His style, because He does things in His own way. … We would prefer that things be done in our way, even though our ways are much lower than His.’ [A Wonderful Flood of Light (1990), 67.]” (The Lord’s Way [1991], 3).

For added insight, see the historical background for section 3 in Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual: Religion 324–325 (pp. 9–10).

Some Important Gospel Principles to Look For

Additional Resources

  • Church History in the Fulness of Times: Religion 341–43, pp. 47–49.

  • Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual: Religion 324–325, pp. 9–11, 22–24.

Suggestions for Teaching

Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Video presentation 5, “The Work of God” (13:26), can be used in teaching Doctrine and Covenants 3 and 10 (see Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Video Guide for teaching suggestions).

Doctrine and Covenants 3. God’s plans do not fail. If we keep His commandments and trust in Him, Satan will not have power to destroy us.

(20–25 minutes)

Note: This teaching suggestion can also be used to teach section 10. Since sections 3 and 10 deal with the same events, you may choose to teach them together.

To help your students understand the historical background for sections 3 and 10, review the materials in the additional resource section above.

Hold up a copy of the Book of Mormon and ask students why they think the Lord gave us this book. Read Doctrine and Covenants 20:8–9 and ask what these verses teach about that purpose. (The Book of Mormon contains the fulness of the gospel.) Joseph Smith stated “that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book” (History of the Church, 4:461; see also the Introduction to the Book of Mormon). Ask: Why do you think Satan would want to destroy this book even before it could be published?

Read Doctrine and Covenants 10:12–19, 29–33 looking for how Satan planned to destroy the Book of Mormon, and discuss it as a class.

Have students review 1 Nephi 9; Words of Mormon 1:1–7; Doctrine and Covenants 10:38–45. Ask: How did the Lord prepare more than a thousand years in advance to stop Satan’s plan to destroy the Book of Mormon?

Read the following statement by Elder Neal A. Maxwell, then a member of the Presidency of the Seventy:

“Few doctrines, save those pertaining to the reality of the existence of God, are more basic than the truth that God is omniscient [all-knowing]. ‘O how great the holiness of our God! For he knoweth all things, and there is not anything save he knows it.’ (2 Ne. 9:20.) Unfortunately, this truth is sometimes only passively assented to by individuals who avoid exploring it and coming to understand its implications. Later on, such believers sometimes have difficulty with the implications of this core doctrine—which connects with other powerful doctrines such as the foreknowledge of God, foreordination, and foreassignment. The all-loving God who shapes our individual growing and sanctifying experiences—and then sees us through them—could not do so if He were not omniscient” (All These Things Shall Give Thee Experience [1979], 6).

Explain that Joseph Smith learned many valuable lessons from his experience with the lost 116 pages. Divide the class into two groups. Have one group read Doctrine and Covenants 3:1–10 and the other group verses 11–20. Have both groups look for verses that show the principles Joseph Smith learned from this experience, and suggest they underline them. Discuss their findings, and list them on the board. If desired, use the following ideas and questions to help your discussion.

  1. 1.

    The work of God cannot be frustrated or stopped (see D&C 3:1, 3).

    • Why do you think the work of God cannot be frustrated or stopped?

    • What do the scriptures teach about God that helps us understand how He can prepare for any future event?

    • How does knowing that God’s work cannot be stopped help you trust in Him?

  2. 2.

    We should never ignore the revelations of God (see D&C 3:4–7).

    • How many times did the Prophet Joseph Smith pray for permission to let Martin Harris take the plates? (Three; see Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual: Religion 324–325, p. 9.)

    • Why do you think the Prophet didn’t accept the first answer the Lord gave?

    • How do people today “set at naught the counsels of God”? (v. 7). Why do you think they do so?

  3. 3.

    We should trust God and accept His counsel instead of man’s (see D&C 3:6–8).

    • How did the Prophet’s concern for Martin Harris get in the way of his fulfilling his duty to God?

    • Martin Harris was much older than the Prophet and had done much to help the work of translation. What would be a good way to act if a person you respected asked you to do something contrary to God’s will?

  4. 4.

    We must be careful with those sacred truths that have been entrusted to us (see D&C 3:5, 12).

    • What was Joseph Smith entrusted with?

    • What are some of the sacred truths and possessions we have been entrusted with that we must guard carefully?

  5. 5.

    We all need to be careful or we may fall prey to Satan’s temptations (see D&C 3:4, 9).

    • How is it that someone as great as the Prophet Joseph Smith could do other than what the Lord commanded?

    • How do similar temptations come to us?

    • How can we gain the strength and power to overcome the temptations of the devil?

    • What does Doctrine and Covenants 3:9–10 teach us about God’s mercy?

  6. 6.

    Sin always has consequences (see D&C 3:14).

    • What were the consequences Joseph Smith faced because of the lost manuscript?

    • What are some of the consequences we face when we sin?

    • Do those consequences always come immediately after we sin?

Explain that this experience taught the young prophet many truths, including the importance of relying on the Lord and not fearing man. Joseph Smith said that he adopted the following rule for himself: “When the Lord commands, do it” (History of the Church, 2:170).