Doctrine and Covenants 64

Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Seminary Teacher Resource Manual, (2001), 110–14


The Lord has called today “a day of sacrifice” (D&C 64:23). Elder Bruce R. McConkie explained: “Sacrifice involves giving up the things of this world because of the promises of blessings to be gained in a better world. In the eternal perspective there is no sacrifice in giving up all things—even including the laying down of one’s life—if eternal life is gained through such a course” (Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed. [1966], 664).

Doctrine and Covenants 64 records commandments of the Lord that will, through the spirit of sacrifice, prepare us for His coming.

Some Important Gospel Principles to Look For

Additional Resources

  • Church History in the Fulness of Times: Religion 341–43, p. 108.

  • Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual: Religion 324–325, pp. 136–39.

Suggestions for Teaching

Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Video presentation 10, “Required to Forgive” (7:24), can be used in teaching Doctrine and Covenants 64:2–13. Presentation 11, “The Heart and a Willing Mind” (7:38), can be used in teaching Doctrine and Covenants 64:34. (See Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Video Guide for teaching suggestions.)

Doctrine and Covenants 64:3, 7. God forgives all who repent, except those who have “sinned unto death” (the sons of perdition).

(15–20 minutes)

Display a towel and three containers: one filled with mud; the second with warm, soapy water; and the third with clean rinse water. Invite a student to place a hand in the mud and hold it up for all to see. Ask:

  • What activities should someone with dirty hands not participate in?

  • Where might a person covered in mud feel uncomfortable going? Why?

Have students read Doctrine and Covenants 64:3, 7, and ask:

  • What words in these verses could be compared to mud?

  • What are some effects of sin?

  • How can sin affect one’s confidence and feelings of worth?

Invite the student with the muddy hand to wash and rinse it in the water provided. Have the class mark words from verses 3 and 7 that could be compared to washing. Discuss the following questions:

  • How is repentance like soap?

  • Who does the Lord say can be forgiven?

  • Is there anyone who cannot be forgiven? If so, who? (see v. 7).

Explain that those who have “sinned unto death” are called “sons of perdition.” Read Doctrine and Covenants 76:31–32, and then share the following statements. The Prophet Joseph Smith taught:

“All sins shall be forgiven, except the sin against the Holy Ghost; for Jesus will save all except the sons of perdition. What must a man do to commit the unpardonable sin? He must receive the Holy Ghost, have the heavens opened unto him, and know God, and then sin against him. After a man has sinned against the Holy Ghost, there is no repentance for him. He has got to say that the sun does not shine while he sees it; he has got to deny Jesus Christ when the heavens have been opened unto him, and to deny the plan of salvation with his eyes open to the truth of it; and from that time he begins to be an enemy” (History of the Church, 6:314).

Elder Spencer W. Kimball, who was then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, wrote:

“The sin against the Holy Ghost requires such knowledge that it is manifestly impossible for the rank and file to commit such a sin” (The Miracle of Forgiveness, 123).

(Note: This subject will be discussed in more detail in section 76.)

Ask: Why do you think some people who have not sinned unto death believe they cannot receive complete forgiveness?

Display a picture of Jesus Christ. Read with students Doctrine and Covenants 58:42 and cross-reference it with Doctrine and Covenants 64:7. Testify that the Atonement of Jesus Christ provides cleansing for all who sincerely repent. Read and discuss the following statements. President Gordon B. Hinckley said:

“Don’t ever feel that you can’t be forgiven. Our Father in Heaven loves you. He is your Father. He is your Heavenly Parent. He has great concern for you. He reaches out to you in love and in forgiveness” (Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley, 231).

President Boyd K. Packer, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve, said:

“Save for those few who defect to perdition after having known a fulness, there is no habit, no addiction, no rebellion, no transgression, no offense exempted from the promise of complete forgiveness. …

“So many live with accusing guilt when relief is ever at hand. So many are like the immigrant woman who skimped and saved and deprived herself until, by selling all of her possessions, she bought a steerage-class ticket to America.

“She rationed out the meager provisions she was able to bring with her. Even so, they were gone early in the voyage. When others went for their meals, she stayed below deck—determined to suffer through it. Finally, on the last day, she must, she thought, afford one meal to give her strength for the journey yet ahead. When she asked what the meal would cost, she was told that all of the meals had been included in the price of her ticket.

“That great morning of forgiveness may not come at once. Do not give up if at first you fail. Often the most difficult part of repentance is to forgive yourself. Discouragement is part of that test. Do not give up. That brilliant morning will come” (in Conference Report, Sept.–Oct. 1995, 22–24; or Ensign, Nov. 1995, 19–20).

Doctrine and Covenants 64:8–11 (Scripture Mastery, Doctrine and Covenants 64:9–11). We are commanded to forgive others. If we refuse, there remains in us the greater sin.

(35–40 minutes)

Tell students that rattlesnakes are venomous snakes common in the Americas. Rattlesnake bites cause pain, swelling, numbness, and discoloration. If untreated they can lead to tissue death or even the death of the patient. Ask students: Besides physical pain, what do you think you would feel if you were bitten by a rattlesnake? Point out that some people who are bitten, out of fear or anger, delay their treatment to try to catch and kill the snake. Discuss the following questions:

  • Why is it foolish to chase a rattlesnake when you have its venom in your bloodstream? (During the time you chase the snake, the venom is endangering your life and health.)

  • Read Doctrine and Covenants 64:8–9. What in these verses could be compared to rattlesnake venom?

  • Why do you think refusing to forgive is a “greater sin” than the trespasses others have committed against us?

Share the following statement:

“Why is our salvation at stake when we fail to forgive others? … Why is it ‘the greater sin’? When we take the position of withholding forgiveness from our fellow men, we are attempting to block his progress towards salvation. This position is satanical and our motive is not Christlike. We are endeavoring to impede the progress of a living soul and deny him the forgiving blessings of the atonement. This philosophy is saturated with impure motives that are designed to destroy the soul” (Otten and Caldwell, Sacred Truths, 1:314).

Read verse 10 and ask:

  • According to this verse, whom must we forgive?

  • How are we to accomplish this difficult task? (see v. 11).

  • Why can the Lord make a proper judgment on someone’s repentance?

  • Why is it better to let God judge another person than to judge the person ourselves?

Tell students that during the period of Missouri persecution, Elder William W. Phelps fell into apostasy, betrayed Church members, and became an enemy of the Prophet. Read the following excerpts from the letter Brother Phelps wrote to Joseph Smith after spending time away from the Church:

“I have seen the folly of my way. … I will repent and live, and ask my old brethren to forgive me, and though they chasten me to death, yet I will die with them, for their God is my God. …

“I know my situation, you know it, and God knows it, and I want to be saved if my friends will help me. … I have done wrong and I am sorry. The beam is in my own eye. … I ask forgiveness in the name of Jesus Christ of all the Saints. … I want your fellowship; if you cannot grant that, grant me your peace and friendship” (History of the Church, 4:142).

In answer, the Prophet wrote:

“It is true, that we have suffered much in consequence of your behavior—the cup of gall, already full enough … , was indeed filled to overflowing when you turned against us. One with whom we had oft taken sweet counsel together, and enjoyed many refreshing seasons from the Lord—‘had it been an enemy, we could have borne it.’ …

“However, the cup has been drunk, the will of our Father has been done. … And having been delivered from the hands of wicked men by the mercy of our God, we say it is your privilege to be delivered from the powers of the adversary … and again take your stand among the Saints. …

“Believing your confession to be real, and your repentance genuine, I shall be happy once again to give you the right hand of fellowship. …

“Your letter was read to the Saints last Sunday, and an expression of their feeling was taken, when it was unanimously Resolved, That W. W. Phelps should be received into fellowship.

‘Come on, dear brother, since the war is past,

For friends at first, are friends again at last.’

“Yours as ever, Joseph Smith, Jun.” (History of the Church, 4:163–64).

Tell students that William W. Phelps continued in the Church and died a faithful member. Brother Phelps wrote the words to many of the Church’s hymns, including “Praise to the Man” (Hymns, no. 27), which affirmed his great love for the Prophet Joseph Smith. Discuss the following questions:

  • Why would forgiving William W. Phelps have been difficult for the Saints and Joseph Smith?

  • How does this account from Church history apply to us?

  • How have you felt when your apologies to another have been accepted?

  • What can forgiving another teach you about the Savior’s Atonement for your sins?

Invite students to discuss how they can find the inner strength to forgive. Testify of the peace that comes as we forgive others for their offenses against us. Read or sing “Praise to the Man” or “Lord, I Would Follow Thee” (Hymns, no. 220).

Doctrine and Covenants 64:22, 34. The Lord requires an obedient heart and a willing mind.

(15–20 minutes)

Display the picture Joseph Receives the Gold Plates (Gospel Art Picture Kit, no. 406). Have students read Joseph Smith—History 1:46, and ask:

  • What warning did Moroni give Joseph Smith regarding the plates?

  • What motive was Joseph to have for retrieving the plates?

  • What other motives might have tempted Joseph when he saw the plates? (see Church History in the Fulness of Times, p. 40).

  • What different reasons might people have for keeping the commandments?

Read Doctrine and Covenants 64:22, 34, and discuss the following questions:

  • In addition to obedience, what does the Lord require of us?

  • How would our obedience be different if we obeyed grudgingly?

Draw a heart and a head on the board and label them heart and mind.

Heart and Mind

Ask students what they think the heart and mind represent. Tell them that the heart gives life to the physical body by sending blood to it. The heart is also the symbolic center of man’s spiritual life. To give our heart physically is to give our life. To give our heart spiritually is to put the Lord at the center of our life. Our minds represent our thoughts and our ability to exercise our will or agency. When the Lord asks for a willing mind, He is asking for us to choose to follow Him without being forced. (See the commentary for D&C 64:22 in Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual: Religion 324–325, p. 137.)

Share the following statement by Elder Dallin H. Oaks:

“We must not only do what is right. We must act for the right reasons. The modern term is good motive. The scriptures often signify this appropriate mental attitude with the words full purpose of heart or real intent.

“The scriptures make clear that God understands our motives and will judge our actions accordingly. If we do not act for the right reasons, our acts will not be counted for righteousness. …

“… It is the motive that gives life and legitimacy to the acts of the believer” (Pure in Heart [1988], 15–16).

Doctrine and Covenants 64:23–25 (Scripture Mastery, Doctrine and Covenants 64:23). The Lord declared that today “is a day of sacrifice, and a day for the tithing of my people.”

(15–20 minutes)

Ask students:

  • What is the greatest act of sacrifice you have seen in the last week?

  • What impression did it have on you? Why?

  • What does it mean to sacrifice?

Read to students the statement by Elder Bruce R. McConkie in the introduction to section 64 above. Invite students to discuss how this applies to their lives. Read Doctrine and Covenants 64:23–25 and the section heading for Doctrine and Covenants 119. Ask:

Have students read Alma 22:18; 3 Nephi 9:20 looking for what else we have been asked to sacrifice. Invite students to share examples of times they willingly gave up something (other than money) for the Lord. Ask them to discuss the following questions:

  • What did you learn from making these offerings?

  • How did it make you feel?

  • Why is it important that sacrifices be made willingly?

  • How can giving to the Lord willingly prepare us for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ?

Share the statement by Elder Rudger Clawson, who was then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, in the commentary for Doctrine and Covenants 64:23 in Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual: Religion 324–325 (p. 138). You may also wish to share the following statement by Elder Gordon B. Hinckley, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve:

“Some years ago one of our brethren spoke of the payment of tithing as ‘fire insurance’; that statement evoked laughter. Nonetheless, the word of the Lord is clear that those who do not keep the commandments and observe the laws of God shall be burned at the time of his coming. For that shall be a day of judgment and a day of sifting, a day of separating the good from the evil. I would venture a personal opinion that no event has occurred in all the history of the earth as dreadful as will be the day of the Second Coming—no event as fraught with the destructive forces of nature, as consequential for the nations of the earth, as terrible for the wicked, or as wonderful for the righteous” (“We Need Not Fear His Coming,” in 1979 Devotional Speeches of the Year [1980], 82–83).