Doctrine and Covenants 121–22

Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Seminary Teacher Resource Manual, (2001), 201–5


The Prophet Joseph Smith and several companions were unjustly imprisoned in Liberty Jail from December 1, 1838, to April 6, 1839. While there, the Prophet wrote a letter to the Saints that included a prayer on his behalf and theirs (see D&C 121:1–6). One of the most poignant questions of life is “Why do bad things happen to good people?” The Lord’s response to Joseph Smith’s prayer gives perspective on trials and lists good things that come from enduring them (see D&C 121:9–46; 122).

Though the Prophet Joseph’s experience can help us understand our difficulties, some trials defy reason. Elder Harold B. Lee, who was then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, said, “It is not the function of religion to answer all the questions about God’s moral government of the universe, but to ive one courage, through faith, to go on in the face of questions he never finds the answer to in his present status” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1963, 108).

Some Important Gospel Principles to Look For

  • Some of our trials come from the actions of the wicked. Eventually the wicked will receive God’s justice (see D&C 121:1–25; see also Alma 14:10–11).

  • Those who righteously endure trials will receive knowledge, experience, and the blessings of the priesthood and will be exalted (see D&C 121:7–8, 26–33; 122).

  • Power in the priesthood comes from righteous living. When a priesthood holder is worldly, proud, or desires to control others, he loses priesthood power (see D&C 121:34–46).

  • Often people who are placed in positions of authority exercise their power unrighteously (see D&C 121:39–40).

  • Because the Savior suffered more than any mortal could, He understands our suffering and feels compassion for us. Having faith in Him and His promises helps us endure our trials (see D&C 122; see also Alma 7:11–13; D&C 19:16–19).

Additional Resources

  • Church History in the Fulness of Times: Religion 341–43, pp. 204–9.

  • Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual: Religion 324–325, pp. 295–302.

Suggestions for Teaching

Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Video presentation 18, “The Powers of Heaven” (9:08), can be used in teaching Doctrine and Covenants 121 (see Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Video Guide for teaching suggestions).

Doctrine and Covenants 121:1–25. Some of our trials come from the actions of the wicked. Eventually the wicked will receive God’s justice.

(35–40 minutes)

Share with students some of the trials experienced by Joseph Smith and others during their arrest at Far West and imprisonment in Liberty Jail (see Church History in the Fulness of Times, pp. 204–9). Ask: If you had suffered these trials with the early Saints, what kinds of questions would you have asked? Write responses on the board. These might include:

  • Why do we have to endure suffering and difficulties in this life?

  • How can we better endure the trials of mortality?

Tell students that during the four months the Prophet Joseph Smith was imprisoned in Liberty Jail, the Saints also experienced great tribulations as they were driven from their homes. The Prophet, under inspiration, wrote a powerful letter to the members of the Church, parts of which are included in Doctrine and Covenants 121–23. Have students read Doctrine and Covenants 121:1–6, and ask:

  • What do these verses sound like? (A prayer.)

  • What does this teach you about dealing with trials in your life?

  • How are the questions Joseph Smith asked similar to the questions on the board?

  • Does it appear from Joseph’s questions that the Saints deserved the trials they were experiencing?

  • What was the source of their suffering?

  • What are examples today of how one person’s unrighteous choice can cause another to suffer?

  • Read 1 Peter 2:19–21. What do these verses teach about undeserved suffering?

Explain that the Lord’s answer to Joseph’s prayer is found in Doctrine and Covenants 121:7–46; 122. Invite students to read Doctrine and Covenants 121:7–24 and underline what the Lord says will happen to the wicked who persecute the righteous. Discuss the following questions:

  • How do you feel toward those who persecute the righteous?

  • Read Matthew 5:44; Doctrine and Covenants 64:9–11. According to these verses, how has the Lord commanded us to treat our enemies?

  • What does the Lord say will happen to the wicked who persecute the righteous?

  • Why would the Lord want us to leave judgment and vengeance to Him?

Share the following statement by Elder Marion D. Hanks, then an Assistant to the Twelve:

“Years ago on Temple Square I heard a boy pour out the anguish of his troubled heart. … He had been living in a spirit of hatred toward a man who had criminally taken the life of his father. Nearly bereft of his senses with grief, he had been overcome with bitterness.

“On that Sabbath morning when others and I heard him, he had been touched by the Spirit of the Lord. … He tearfully declared his determined intent to leave vengeance to the Lord and justice to the law. He would no longer hate the one who had caused the grievous loss. He would forgive and would not for another hour permit the corrosive spirit of vengefulness to fill his heart.

“Some time later, touched with the remembrance of that moving Sabbath morning, I told the story to a group of people in another city. … Later a letter came from [a man who had heard the story]. He had gone home that night and prayed and prepared himself and had then made a visit to the place of a man in his community who had years before imposed upon the sanctity of his home. There had been animosity and revenge in his heart and threats made. That evening when it was made known that he was at the door, his frightened neighbor appeared with a weapon in his hand. The man quickly explained the reasons for his visit, that he had come to say that he was sorry, that he did not want hatred to continue to consume his life. He offered forgiveness and sought forgiveness and went his way in tears, a free man for the first time in years. He left a former adversary also in tears, shaken and repentant” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1973, 16; or Ensign, Jan. 1974, 21).

Ask students how having hatred can hurt the person who hates. Encourage students to set aside any feelings of hatred for others and to trust in the Lord’s justice.

Doctrine and Covenants 121:26–33; 122. Those who righteously endure trials will receive knowledge, experience, and the blessings of the priesthood and will be exalted.

(20–25 minutes)

Show the class a graduation cap, a trophy, a seminary graduation certificate, a paycheck, and a well-crafted piece of art. (If these items are not available, you could draw them or write the words on the board.) Ask students:

  • What do these items have in common? (They all require sacrifice to obtain.)

  • What blessings does the Lord promise to those who sacrifice to obey His commandments?

Read Doctrine and Covenants 121:26–33; 122:7–9. List on the board the blessings the Lord promised and what we must do to receive them. Your lists might look like the following:

Promised Blessings


  • How do these blessings compare with the graduation cap, the trophy, and the other items?

  • What can happen to make obeying the Lord difficult?

  • How hard is it to keep a commandment once?

  • How hard is it to keep that commandment day after day?

  • Read Matthew 6:34; Mosiah 4:27. What advice do these verses give that can help us endure?

Share the following statement by Elder Franklin D. Richards, who was then an Assistant to the Twelve:

“To be diligent one must learn to persevere—yes, to endure to the end. … Can we endure to the end of a day with the same dedication and enthusiasm we had at the beginning of the day even though faced with frustrations and problems? Each year has 365 days, and each day has twenty-four hours, each requiring enduring to the end. However, remember what King Benjamin said: ‘… it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength.’ (Mosiah 4:27.) …

“In all phases of my personal experience I have found it wise to survey large fields but cultivate small ones. In surveying large fields one in effect makes a master plan which he later develops in orderly stages. This is a sound way to build and avoid many disappointments which can result from overextending oneself. Surveying large fields and cultivating small ones involves the principles of order and diligence and results in growth and development” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1964, 77).

Ask: How can Elder Richards’s statement help you endure to the end? Invite students to consider what changes they can make in their lives to better endure in righteousness.

Doctrine and Covenants 121:34–46 (Scripture Mastery, Doctrine and Covenants 121:34–36). Power in the priesthood comes from righteous living. When a priesthood holder is worldly, proud, or desires to control others, he loses priesthood power.

(30–35 minutes)

Show the class several strings of thread. Invite a student to break a thread. Invite another student to break four at once. Have a third student break eight at once, and continue until there are too many threads to break. Show the class a rope, and ask what makes it strong (it is made from many strands). Write priesthood on the board and ask: If the rope represents the priesthood, what could the fibers represent?

Ask: Does being ordained to the priesthood automatically give you power? Share the following statement by Elder Boyd K. Packer:

“Your authority comes through your ordination; your power comes through obedience and worthiness. …

“Power in the priesthood comes from doing your duty in ordinary things: attending meetings, accepting assignments, reading the scriptures, keeping the Word of Wisdom” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1981, 47–48; or Ensign, Nov. 1981, 32–33).

Write on the board Strengthens Priesthood Power and Weakens Priesthood Power. Have students read Doctrine and Covenants 121:34–46 and search for what strengthens a person’s priesthood power and what weakens it. Write students’ answers and the accompanying references under the appropriate heading. Your lists might look like the following:

Priesthood Power


  • According to verse 37, what happens to the priesthood of those who do not live righteously?

  • According to verses 45–46, what happens to us when we live righteously?

  • How would these blessings influence your life?

Share the following statement by President Melvin J. Ballard, then president of the Northwestern States Mission and later an Apostle:

“We have learned that the greatest gift God has given to us, and, indeed, the greatest gift any of His children ever have or will enjoy, upon this earth, is the companionship of the Holy Ghost. We have learned from contact with Him, from association with Him, that real inspiration and real power are had in the companionship of the Holy Ghost” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1910, 41).

Testify of the importance of living righteously so we can have the blessing of priesthood power in our lives.

Doctrine and Covenants 121:39–40. Often people who are placed in positions of authority exercise their power unrighteously.

(10–15 minutes)

Ask students: Who were Kings Saul, David, and Solomon? (They were kings of Israel when Israel was at the height of its glory.) Invite a student who knows the history of these men to tell how each began and if he remained righteous. (Each began righteously, but each fell away from the Lord at different times.)

Invite students to turn to the table of kings in the Bible Dictionary (see “chronology,” pp. 637–39). Have students count the rulers of Israel and Judah that followed Saul, David, and Solomon. (There are 39. Omri, Pekahiah, and Pekah are listed twice.) Invite students to mark the names of Asa, Jehoshaphat, Joash, Amaziah, Azariah or Uzziah, Jotham, Hezekiah, and Josiah. Explain that these 8 are the only ones the Bible says did right in the sight of the Lord. Ask: Why do you think only 8 of 39 rulers did right?

Read Doctrine and Covenants 121:39 and discuss how it relates to the ancient rulers of Israel. Ask:

  • Who else has trouble exercising righteous authority?

  • What examples of unrighteous dominion have you seen in the scriptures or Church history?

  • What can you do to avoid unrighteous actions the next time you have a leadership responsibility?

Doctrine and Covenants 122. Because the Savior suffered more than any mortal could, He understands our suffering and feels compassion for us. Having faith in Him and His promises helps us endure our trials.

(30–35 minutes)

Ask several students who they go to for advice and comfort when they have troubles. List their answers on the board (these might include parents, bishops, friends, older brothers or sisters). Ask:

  • Why do you go to these people?

  • Why not go to a stranger or a child?

  • What do the people listed on the board have in common that gives you confidence that they can help? (One answer is that they have experience.)

  • Of all people who have ever lived, who has the most experience, the most compassion, and the most inspiration? (see Mosiah 3:7; 3 Nephi 17:4–8; D&C 43:24).

  • Read Alma 7:11–13. How is it possible that someone whose mortal life was so short could be the most experienced?

  • According to verse 12, why did Jesus endure this great suffering?

Remind students of the trials the Prophet Joseph Smith suffered in Liberty Jail. Have them read the section heading for Doctrine and Covenants 122. Ask: Who did Joseph go to for advice and comfort? Divide the class into two groups. Have the first group study verses 1–8 and identify the trials the Lord said Joseph would or might experience. Have the second group study the same verses looking for the encouragement the Lord gave Joseph. Have a person from each group describe what they found. Discuss the following questions:

  • Why does the Lord allow us to have trials?

  • In what way can trials be for our good?

  • How could someone who has experienced life’s trials better appreciate the Savior’s suffering in the Atonement?

  • Why can we turn to the Savior in the midst of any trial?

Share the following statements. Elder Orson F. Whitney said:

“When we want counsel and comfort, we do not go to children, nor to those who know nothing but pleasure and self-gratification. We go to men and women of thought and sympathy, men and women who have suffered themselves and can give us the comfort that we need. Is not this God’s purpose in causing his children to suffer? He wants them to become more like himself. God has suffered far more than man ever did or ever will, and is therefore the great source of sympathy and consolation. …

“There is always a blessing in sorrow and humiliation. They who escape these things are not the fortunate ones. ‘Whom God loveth he chasteneth.’ … Flowers shed most of their perfume when they are crushed. Men and women have to suffer just so much in order to bring out the best that is in them” (“A Lesson from the Book of Job,” Improvement Era, Nov. 1918, 7).

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve wrote:

“The wounds in [the Lord’s] hands, feet, and side are signs that in mortality painful things happen even to the pure and the perfect, signs that tribulation is not evidence that God does not love us. It is a significant and hopeful fact that it is the wounded Christ who comes to our rescue. He who bears the scars of sacrifice, the lesions of love, the emblems of humility and forgiveness is the Captain of our Soul. That evidence of pain in mortality is undoubtedly intended to give courage to others who are also hurt and wounded by life, perhaps even in the house of their friends” (Christ and the New Covenant: The Messianic Message of the Book of Mormon [1997], 259).

Share also the statement by Elder Harold B. Lee in the introduction to sections 121–22 (p. 201). Discuss with students how the principles in section 122 can help us better endure our trials.