Doctrine and Covenants 5

Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Seminary Teacher Resource Manual, (2001), 32–33


President Joseph Fielding Smith, then President of the Quorum of the Twelve, said of Doctrine and Covenants 5:

“Having humbly repented of his folly which brought upon him the charge from the Lord of wickedness, Martin Harris again sought the Prophet Joseph Smith and pleaded for the privilege to become one of the three witnesses which were spoken of in the Book of Mormon. ([See D&C 3:12; 10:1;] 2 Nephi 27:12–14.) It was in the summer of 1828 when the manuscript was lost, and in March, 1829, when Martin again plead with the Prophet for this great privilege of being a witness. The Lord hearkened to his request and gave the revelation known as section five in the Doctrine and Covenants. … The Lord commences this wonderful revelation with an admonishment and stated that Joseph Smith had been called as a witness and had entered into a covenant with the Lord that he would not show the record except to those persons to whom the Lord had commanded him. He was further informed that he had received the gift to translate the plates and that he should pretend to no other gift until this duty was fulfilled, for no other gift would be given him until this work was finished, after that he would be called on to bear witness to all the world” (Church History and Modern Revelation, 1:38–39).

For added insight into this revelation, see the historical background for section 5 in Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual: Religion 324–325 (p. 12).

Some Important Gospel Principles to Look For

Additional Resources

  • Church History in the Fulness of Times: Religion 341–43, pp. 47–52, 273.

  • Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual: Religion 324–325, pp. 12–14.

Suggestions for Teaching

Doctrine and Covenants 5:1–14. Sacred experiences should be shared with others only as the Spirit directs.

(25–30 minutes)

Tell students: Imagine you are attending a youth training meeting when a priesthood leader is impressed to share a sacred experience and testimony with your group. He asks that you do not repeat that experience but hold it sacred. Afterward you hear a friend who was in the meeting describe the sacred experience to some acquaintances. Discuss with students how they would handle this situation, using some or all of the following questions:

  • What would be so wrong about telling your friend what you heard?

  • Why might you be tempted to tell something you shouldn’t?

  • Would you be excused from your obligations if you swore your friend to secrecy?

  • Why is it important to keep sacred matters in confidence?

Read Doctrine and Covenants 5:1–3 and ask:

  • How is this situation similar to the youth training meeting?

  • Why wasn’t Joseph Smith allowed to show the plates to any except those the Lord permitted?

  • What had the Prophet Joseph recently experienced that had taught him to strictly obey the Lord?

Read verses 4–9 and ask some or all of the following questions:

  • Why do you think the Lord warned the Prophet Joseph Smith not to aspire to any gift other than translation for the time being? (see v. 4).

  • Why do you think the Lord doesn’t give us every good gift at once? (see v. 4; 2 Nephi 28:30).

  • According to Doctrine and Covenants 5:5, what does the world need to do?

  • What does hearken mean? (“To listen and obey.”)

  • According to verses 6–8, what is a major problem with this generation?

  • Would it have helped for the Prophet Joseph to show the world the plates and other items the Lord had entrusted him with? Why or why not? (see v. 7).

  • How might it help the young prophet to know that?

  • According to verse 9, why did the Lord preserve the plates and other items?

  • Why are some truths too sacred to share indiscriminately with skeptics and unbelievers? (see 3 Nephi 14:6; D&C 63:64).

Read Doctrine and Covenants 5:10 and ask some or all of the following questions:

  • What are examples of God’s word given to our generation through the Prophet Joseph Smith? (Most of the revelations contained in the Doctrine and Covenants.)

  • What are examples of ancient revelations that have been given to this generation through Joseph Smith? (The Book of Mormon, the Book of Moses, the Book of Abraham, the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible.)

  • Why is it so important that we have prophets in the world today? (see D&C 1:37–38).

Read Doctrine and Covenants 5:11–14 to find how the Lord would provide witnesses to support the Book of Mormon. Ask:

  • Why were the Three Witnesses so important to the coming forth of the Book of Mormon?

  • By what power would they be able to view the plates and the angel?

  • How might Martin Harris have felt when he realized the Lord would choose these witnesses?

Martin Harris was promised that he could view the plates if he humbled himself and admitted his mistakes before God (see vv. 24, 28). Even after the lesson of losing the 116 pages, Brother Harris found it difficult to humble himself. Eventually he succeeded and saw the angel and the plates. Consider asking the following questions:

  • What can you learn from this revelation about being trusted with sacred truths?

  • How do you earn sacred trust?

  • What are the blessings of being trusted with sacred truths?

Doctrine and Covenants 5:1–20. We will be judged by our belief in the testimony of the witnesses God chooses for His work.

(15–20 minutes)

Tell students: Imagine that a scientist discovers that the water where you live is contaminated. Using a microscope the scientist learns that the water contains such dangerous microbes that drinking it can cause death. The scientist sends word throughout the community that no one should drink the water. Ask:

  • Would you drink the water?

  • Would you demand to look through the microscope?

  • Would you ignore the advice because you had not personally seen the deadly microbes?

  • What would be the consequences of drinking the water?

Explain that the scientist in this example is a witness of things others have not seen. Read Doctrine and Covenants 5:1–2, 6–20 and find what the Lord said about those who believe His witnesses and those who do not believe.

Ask whether it is more important to be a witness or to believe a witness. Point out that in the example, if the scientist drinks the water, the scientist will become ill like anyone else. Ask:

  • What might strengthen your resolve not to drink the water? (Help students see the value of additional witnesses.)

  • Who are the witnesses in the Church today that we need to believe and follow? (see D&C 107:23, 25 for important examples).

Read Ether 12:6 with the class, and discuss how our faith grows as we experience trials.

Doctrine and Covenants 5:21–35. To receive revelation, we must keep the commandments.

(5–10 minutes)

Hold up a lightbulb and ask: What must I do to make this work? (Put the bulb in a lamp or other fixture, connect the lamp to a power source, and turn on the switch.) Explain that just as there are steps to making the lightbulb give light, there are also requirements for receiving revelation.

Read Doctrine and Covenants 5:21–35 looking for what the Lord asked Joseph Smith and Martin Harris to do and what He promised them. You could have students look for the word if in these verses to see how each blessing or cursing is dependent on the person’s actions. Discuss how these promises apply to us. For example, you could compare Martin Harris’s desire to see the plates to our desire for spiritual understanding by asking: According to verse 24, what is required in order to “see” and understand the things of God? (see also v. 28).

Encourage students to ponder how they can grow in obedience to the commandments.