Doctrine and Covenants 81

Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Seminary Teacher Resource Manual, (2001), 133


Section 81 contains instructions regarding the counselors in the First Presidency of the Church. President Joseph Fielding Smith said:

“I think there is one thing which we should have exceedingly clear in our minds. Neither the President of the Church, nor the First Presidency, nor the united voice of the First Presidency and the Twelve will ever lead the Saints astray or send forth counsel to the world that is contrary to the mind and will of the Lord” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1972, 99; or Ensign, July 1972, 88).

Some Important Gospel Principles to Look For

  • The First Presidency holds the keys of the kingdom, which include the authority to direct the work of the Lord on the earth (see D&C 81; see also D&C 107:21–22).

Additional Resources

  • Church History in the Fulness of Times: Religion 341–43, pp. 121–22.

  • Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual: Religion 324–325, pp. 175–77.

Suggestions for Teaching

Doctrine and Covenants 81. The First Presidency holds the keys of the kingdom, which include the authority to direct the work of the Lord on the earth.

(15–20 minutes)

Display pictures of each member of the First Presidency. Ask students to give the names of these men and what we call the group of them together. Share a brief example of how you have learned from or been blessed by the First Presidency’s teachings.

Display a picture of the Prophet Joseph Smith. Have students read the section heading for Doctrine and Covenants 81 and find who the Lord called to serve in the original First Presidency in this dispensation. Discuss the following questions:

  • Why did Jesse Gause lose his calling as a member of the First Presidency?

  • Who did the Lord call to replace him?

  • What can we learn about Church callings from this example?

Read Doctrine and Covenants 81; 90:2–6 looking for the answers to the following questions:

  • What power does the First Presidency hold on the earth?

  • What work is the First Presidency to do?

  • What blessings does the Lord promise them?

Discuss students’ findings, using the commentaries for section 81 in Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual: Religion 324–325 (pp. 175–77) as needed.

Many of your students will likely serve in quorum or class presidencies. President Gordon B. Hinckley, then a counselor in the First Presidency, said of presidencies:

“It is imperative that the president himself select his counselors because theirs must be a compatible relationship. … They must work together in a spirit of mutual trust and respect. The counselors are not the president. …

“[A counselor] is an assistant to his president.  …

“In presidency meetings, each counselor is free to speak his mind on all issues that come before the presidency. However, it is the prerogative of the president to make the decision, and it is the duty of the counselors to back him in that decision. His decision then becomes their decision, regardless of their previous ideas.

“The president, if he is wise, will assign to these chosen assistants particular duties and then leave them free to perform, requiring from them accountability for what happens” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1990, 64; or Ensign, Nov. 1990, 49).