Doctrine and Covenants 42

Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Seminary Teacher Resource Manual, (2001), 75–80


The Prophet Joseph Smith described section 42 as “embracing the law of the Church” (History of the Church, 1:148). The Lord’s laws are not intended to restrict our freedom or enjoyment but to bring blessings (see D&C 130:21). His laws are so important to our happiness that He promises to crown those who obey Him “with blessings from above, yea, and with commandments not a few” (D&C 59:4). Imagine being blessed with commandments!

Elder George Albert Smith, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, provided this thoughtful perspective:

“As a child I presume I may have felt that the Lord had so arranged affairs … in this life that I must obey certain laws or swift retribution [punishment] would follow. But as I grew older I have learned the lesson from another viewpoint, and now to me the laws of the Lord … are but the sweet music of the voice of our Father in heaven in His mercy to us. They are but the advice and counsel of a loving parent, who is more concerned in our welfare than earthly parents can be, and consequently that which at one time seemed to bear the harsh name of law to me is now the loving and tender advice of an all-wise heavenly Father” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1911, 43–44).

Some Important Gospel Principles to Look For

Additional Resources

  • Church History in the Fulness of Times: Religion 341–43, pp. 89, 95–99.

  • Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual: Religion 324–325, pp. 82–86, 393–97.

Suggestions for Teaching

Doctrine and Covenants 42. The Lord’s laws bless His children. His laws are not burdens that limit freedom but opportunities that bring joy.

(15–20 minutes)

List several laws on the board (for example, do not speed, do not steal, pay your bills). Discuss the following questions:

  • Do you believe these laws are necessary? Why or why not?

  • How would your town and country be different if there were no laws?

  • What are some of God’s laws?

  • How do these laws relate to our happiness?

Display the following statement by the Prophet Joseph Smith on the board or an overhead projector, and have students read it silently:

“Happiness is the object and design of our existence; and will be the end thereof, if we pursue the path that leads to it; and this path is virtue, uprightness, faithfulness, holiness, and keeping all the commandments of God. But we cannot keep all the commandments without first knowing them, and we cannot expect to know all, or more than we now know unless we comply with or keep those we have already received” (History of the Church, 5:134–35).

Read with students Doctrine and Covenants 38:32, and have them mark what the Lord promised to give the Saints when they moved to Ohio. Suggest that they also mark the cross-references for the word law (see note 32c). Read the section heading for Doctrine and Covenants 42. Ask: Why do you think the Lord would give a set of laws for His young Church?

Write the following quiz on the board. Have students quickly read the references on the left and match them with the summaries on the right. Discuss the answers with students as you correct their papers as a class.

  1. _____1.

    D&C 42:4–17

  • A.

    The Lord’s law for governing the Church is given in the scriptures.

  1. _____2.

    D&C 42:18–29

  • B.

    Laws concerning teaching the gospel, especially as missionaries.

  1. _____3.

    D&C 42:30–42

  • C.

    Laws concerning priesthood action for serious sin.

  1. _____4.

    D&C 42:43–52

  • D.

    Laws of morality.

  1. _____5.

    D&C 42:56–60

  • E.

    The law of consecration.

  1. _____6.

    D&C 42:74–93

  • F.

    Laws concerning administration to the sick.

(Answers: 1–B, 2–D, 3–E, 4–F, 5–A, 6–C)

Read Doctrine and Covenants 130:20–21, and discuss the relationship between obedience and blessings. Invite students to select one of the laws from the quiz and explain how we can be blessed by obeying it.

Sing or read “How Gentle God’s Commands” (Hymns, no. 125). Have students tell which verse of the hymn they like best and why. Read Elder George Albert Smith’s statement from the introduction to section 42 (p. 76).

Doctrine and Covenants 42:12–17. We are commanded to teach gospel principles from the scriptures as directed by the Spirit. The Spirit will accompany our teaching if we pray in faith and obey the covenants and commandments of the gospel.

(20–25 minutes)

Ask students:

  • What are some examples of teaching opportunities Church members might have during their lifetime? (List responses on the board.)

  • Which of these opportunities will likely involve using the scriptures?

Invite students to talk about opportunities they have had to teach from the scriptures.

Write the following references and questions on the board:

D&C 42:12–17; 50:13–14, 17–18, 21–22

  1. 1.

    What should be our source for teaching?

  2. 2.

    What role does the Holy Ghost have in gospel teaching?

  3. 3.

    What is the role of the teacher in gospel teaching?

Have students search the verses for answers to the questions. You may wish to have them write below each question their answers and what verses they found them in. Discuss their findings. Use the statements below as desired to help your discussion.

  1. 1.

    What should be our source for teaching?

“You are to teach this gospel, using as your sources and authorities the standard works of the Church and the words of those whom God has called to lead His people in these last days” (J. Reuben Clark Jr., “The Charted Course of the Church in Education,” in Charge to Religious Educators, 3rd ed. [1994], 7).

“I don’t know much about the gospel other than what I’ve learned from the standard works. When I drink from a spring I like to get the water where it comes out of the ground, not down the stream after the cattle have waded in it. … I appreciate other people’s interpretation, but when it comes to the gospel we ought to be acquainted with what the Lord says” (Marion G. Romney, in J. Richard Clarke, in Conference Report, Oct. 1982, 19; or Ensign, Nov. 1982, 15).

  1. 2.

    What role does the Holy Ghost have in gospel teaching?

“In the gospel of Jesus Christ it is a cardinal rule that ‘the Spirit shall be given unto you by the prayer of faith; and if ye receive not the Spirit ye shall not teach’ (D&C 42:14). I take the imperative form of the verb shall in that verse to mean not only that without the Spirit we won’t teach very well or that learning isn’t really going to take place, but more emphatically that God forbids us to teach without the Spirit. ‘Ye shall not teach’ sounds like a commandment to me” (Jeffrey R. Holland, in CES videoconference, June 20, 1992).

“Doctrine gains its power as the Holy Ghost confirms that it is true. We prepare those we teach, as best we can, to receive the quiet promptings of the still, small voice. That takes at least some faith in Jesus Christ. It takes at least some humility, some willingness to surrender to the Savior’s will for us” (Henry B. Eyring, in Conference Report, Apr. 1999, 95; or Ensign, May 1999, 74).

“Teachers and class members should seek the Spirit during the lesson. A person may teach profound truths, and class members may engage in stimulating discussions, but unless the Spirit is present, these things will not be powerfully impressed upon the soul. …

“When the Spirit is present in gospel teaching, ‘the power of the Holy Ghost carrieth [the message] unto the hearts of the children of men’ (2 Nephi 33:1)” (Church Handbook of Instructions, Book 2: Priesthood and Auxiliary Leaders [1998], 300).

  1. 3.

    What is the role of the teacher in gospel teaching?

“We cannot hope to influence others in the direction of virtue unless we live lives of virtue. The example of our living will carry a greater influence than will all the preaching in which we might indulge. We cannot expect to lift others unless we stand on higher ground ourselves” (Gordon B. Hinckley, in Conference Report, Oct. 1975, 57; or Ensign, Nov. 1975, 38–39).

“We must … get our teachers to speak out of their hearts rather than out of their books, to communicate their love for the Lord and this precious work, and somehow it will catch fire in the hearts of those they teach” (Gordon B. Hinckley, Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley, 619–20).

“A gospel teacher will never be satisfied with just delivering a message or preaching a sermon. A superior gospel teacher wants to assist in the Lord’s work to bring eternal life to His children” (Dallin H. Oaks, in Conference Report, Oct. 1999, 103; or Ensign, Nov. 1999, 80).

Share the following statement by Elder Dallin H. Oaks, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve:

“The scriptures are obviously the primary source of our understanding of the doctrine of the gospel of Jesus Christ. …

“We must also remember that, as we read the scriptures, our minds need to be enlightened by the Spirit of the Lord. … Since the scriptures were written (or uttered) under the influence of the Holy Ghost, they will not be correctly understood unless they are read under the influence of the Holy Ghost” (“Studying the Scriptures,” address delivered on the BYU—Hawaii campus, Mar. 14, 1986, 6, 8; see also 2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:21).

Doctrine and Covenants 42:30–42, 53–55, 70–73. Saints who live the law of consecration covenant to remember the poor by consecrating their possessions to the Savior’s Church.

(40–45 minutes)

Before class, use tape or a marker to mark a line on each of six clear glasses. Mark the lines at differing heights on the glasses. Fill one glass to its line, three above their lines, and two below their lines. (You could use colored water.) Place a label that reads Bishops’ Storehouse on a pitcher.

Show students a newspaper article that discusses the plight of the poor or efforts to help them. Ask: How long have there been poor people on the earth? Read Deuteronomy 15:11; Luke 14:12–14; Jacob 2:17–19. Ask: What has the Lord taught regarding the poor? Students should understand that in all ages the Lord has commanded us to care for the poor.

Show students the glasses. Write consecrate on the board and ask what it means. Have a student find the definition in the student study guide (see the “Understanding the Scriptures” section for D&C 42:30–42), and write it on the board. Have the class read Doctrine and Covenants 42:30, and ask what the word properties means (land, money, other possessions).

Share the following statement by President J. Reuben Clark Jr., who was a counselor in the First Presidency:

“The basic principle of all the revelations on the [law of consecration] is that everything we have belongs to the Lord; therefore, the Lord may call upon us for any and all of the property which we have, because it belongs to Him [see D&C 104:14–17, 54–57]” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1942, 55).

Ask: How could remembering that “everything we have belongs to the Lord” affect our attitude about caring for the poor? Invite students to keep this principle in mind as you discuss the law of consecration.

Explain that the lines on the glasses represent the needs and righteous desires of various families. The water represents each family’s wealth or means. Place the empty “Bishops’ Storehouse” pitcher next to the glasses. Have students read Doctrine and Covenants 42:31, and ask: What is the first step in living the law of consecration? Pour all the water from the six glasses into the pitcher.

Read verse 32 and look for the next step. Pour water from the pitcher and fill each glass to its line. Ask: Who decides how much each family receives? Explain that this decision was made by the bishop and the head of household. If desired, share the following counsel from the Prophet Joseph Smith and the First Presidency to Edward Partridge, the first bishop of the Church:

“The matter of consecration must be done by the mutual consent of both parties; for to give the Bishop power to say how much every man shall have, and he be obliged to comply with the Bishop’s judgment, is giving to the Bishop more power than a king has; and upon the other hand, to let every man say how much he needs, and the Bishop be obliged to comply with his judgment, is to throw Zion into confusion, and make a slave of the Bishop” (History of the Church, 1:364).

Show students the water left in the pitcher. Read verses 33–35 and ask what the “residue” was for. (Help the poor, finance Church buildings, add to other members’ stewardships.) Ask: How could the law of consecration be a blessing to the Church?

Draw the following diagram on the board or display it on an overhead projector. Invite a volunteer to explain how each part of the diagram represents part of the law of consecration.

Law of Consecration

Read verses 40–42 and discuss the characteristics a person must have to live this law. Ask:

  • What financial requirements has the Lord given to Church members today?

  • In what ways do tithes and fast offerings bless the poor?

  • What similarities do you see between tithing and fast offerings, and the law of consecration?

  • In addition to money, what else can we consecrate to the Lord?

Explain that although we are not commanded to live the law of consecration in the same manner as the early Saints, the law is still in force today. Share the following statements. President Spencer W. Kimball taught:

“We must lay on the altar and sacrifice whatever is required by the Lord. We begin by offering a ‘broken heart and a contrite spirit.’ We follow this by giving our best effort in our assigned fields of labor and callings. We learn our duty and execute it fully. Finally we consecrate our time, talents, and means as called upon by our file leaders and as prompted by the whisperings of the Spirit. In the Church, as in the Welfare system also, we can give expression to every ability, every righteous desire, every thoughtful impulse. Whether a volunteer, father, home teacher, bishop, or neighbor, whether a visiting teacher, mother, homemaker, or friend—there is ample opportunity to give our all. And as we give, we find that ‘sacrifice brings forth the blessings of heaven!’ (Hymns, no. [27].) And in the end, we learn it was no sacrifice at all” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1978, 123–24; or Ensign, May 1978, 81).

President Marion G. Romney, who was a counselor in the First Presidency, said:

“I hope we all understand how our consecrations to the Lord—whether in time, work, or money—unite to relieve suffering while sanctifying both the giver and the receiver” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1977, 118; or Ensign, May 1977, 92).

Ask: How do you feel paying tithes and offerings and giving service in the Church bless both the giver and the receiver? Invite students to suggest ways they can consecrate their attitude, time, and abilities to the service of the Lord.

Doctrine and Covenants 42:43–44. In times of illness, the Lord counsels us to seek priesthood blessings and competent medical help.

(5–10 minutes)

Hold up a bottle of consecrated oil in one hand and a bottle of medicine in the other. Ask students: Which of these should we rely on in times of illness? Invite students to look for the Lord’s answer to this question in James 5:14–15; Doctrine and Covenants 42:43–44. Discuss the following questions:

  • What value might “herbs and mild food” have in healing the sick?

  • How could “herbs and mild food” relate to the bottle of medicine?

Share the following statements. President Brigham Young said:

“If we are sick, and ask the Lord to heal us, and to do all for us that is necessary to be done, according to my understanding of the Gospel of salvation, I might as well ask the Lord to cause my wheat and corn to grow, without my plowing the ground and casting in the seed. It appears consistent to me to apply every remedy that comes within the range of my knowledge, and to ask my Father in Heaven, in the name of Jesus Christ, to sanctify that application to the healing of my body. …

“But supposing we were traveling in the mountains, … and one or two were taken sick, without anything in the world in the shape of healing medicine within our reach, what should we do? According to my faith, ask the Lord Almighty … to heal the sick. This is our privilege, when so situated that we cannot get anything to help ourselves. Then the Lord and his servants can do all. But it is my duty to do, when I have it in my power” (Discourses of Brigham Young, sel. John A. Widtsoe [1941], 163).

Elder Russell M. Nelson, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve and a medical doctor, said:

“One of the great applications of spiritual power is obeying the laws of both God and man. Freedom to act and mastery of our actions both emanate from law. …

“I relearned that so well from President [Spencer W.] Kimball. On one occasion when he needed an operation that I was to perform, he first asked me for a priesthood blessing. Following that, he said, ‘Now you may proceed to do that which must be done in order to make that blessing possible.’

“He knew, and I knew, that not even for God’s prophet can anyone be exempted from law” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1984, 38; or Ensign, Nov. 1984, 30–31).

Doctrine and Covenants 42:44–52. Sorrow for the loss of a loved one is proper, but death is not a tragedy for those who have lived the gospel.

(15–20 minutes)

Note: Be sensitive to the feelings of those who may have recently experienced the death of a loved one. The statements on pages 85–86 of Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual: Religion 324–325 may be helpful as you study this scripture block with students.


  • Have any of you recently attended a funeral?

  • What emotions do you think the family members felt?

Show one or more pictures of the resurrected Savior (for example, Gospel Art Picture Kit, nos. 233–35). Testify that because of Jesus Christ’s Atonement, everyone will live again. Read Doctrine and Covenants 42:45, and discuss why, even though we know of the Resurrection, it is appropriate to weep for those who die. Share the following statement by Elder Russell M. Nelson:

“Irrespective of age, we mourn for those loved and lost. Mourning is one of the deepest expressions of pure love” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1992, 101; or Ensign, May 1992, 72).

Read verses 46–47 and ask: Why do you think death will be “sweet” to those who have kept their gospel covenants? Have students search verses 48–52, and ask:

  • What do you think the phrase “not appointed unto death” means? (see the commentary for D&C 42:48 in Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual: Religion 324–325, pp. 85–86).

  • In what ways can the power of faith bless an individual?

  • Why might an individual with great faith endure years of sickness or other ailments?

  • Will the Lord always take away our sicknesses? Why not?

Share the following insight by President Spencer W. Kimball, then President of the Quorum of the Twelve:

“If all the sick for whom we pray were healed, if all the righteous were protected and the wicked destroyed, the whole program of the Father would be annulled. … No man would have to live by faith. …

“… There would be little or no suffering, sorrow, disappointment, or even death, and if these were not, there would also be no joy, success, resurrection, nor eternal life. …

“Being human, we would expel from our lives physical pain and mental anguish and assure ourselves of continual ease and comfort, but if we were to close the doors upon sorrow and distress, we might be excluding our greatest friends and benefactors. Suffering can make saints of people as they learn patience, long-suffering, and self-mastery” (Faith Precedes the Miracle [1972], 97–98).

Have students review Doctrine and Covenants 42:43–52. Invite them to mark the verses that most impress them and write a paragraph on how these scriptures can help them.