Section 87 contains Joseph Smith’s prophecy on war. It includes the reminder that in the last days “war will be poured out upon all nations” (v. 2). Elder Gordon B. Hinckley, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, said:
“War I hate with all its mocking panoply [display]. It is a grim and living testimony that Satan, the father of lies, the enemy of God, lives. War is earth’s greatest cause of human misery. It is the destroyer of life, the promoter of hate, the waster of treasure. It is man’s costliest folly, his most tragic misadventure. …
“But since the day that Cain slew Abel, there has been contention among men. There have always been, and until the Prince of Peace comes to reign, there always will be tyrants and bullies, empire builders, slave seekers, and despots who would destroy every shred of human liberty if they were not opposed by force of arms” (Lest We Forget, Brigham Young University Speeches of the Year [Nov. 10, 1970], 3).
Elder M. Russell Ballard taught:
“The prophecies of the last days lead me to believe that the intensity of the battle for the souls of men will increase and the risks will become greater as we draw closer to the second coming of the Lord.
“Preparing ourselves and our families for the challenges of the coming years will require us to replace fear with faith. We must be able to overcome the fear of enemies who oppose and threaten us. The Lord has said, ‘Fear not, little flock; do good; let earth and hell combine against you, for if ye are built upon my rock, they cannot prevail’ (D&C 6:34)” (in Conference Report, Sept.–Oct. 1989, 43; or Ensign, Nov. 1989, 34).
Some Important Gospel Principles to Look For
Church History in the Fulness of Times: Religion 341–43, pp. 122–23.
Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual: Religion 324–325, pp. 192–96.
Suggestions for Teaching
Doctrine and Covenants 87. The latter days will be a time of war and bloodshed, but the Lord will protect those who stand in holy places.
Ask students if they have ever heard of people who claim to be able to predict the future. Discuss the following questions:
What is the difference between prophecies and predictions?
Who is qualified to make true prophecies?
What percentage of these prophecies will be fulfilled? (see D&C 1:37–38).
Have students read Doctrine and Covenants 87:1–4 and look for a prophecy made by Joseph Smith. Share information from the commentaries for section 87 in Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual: Religion 324–325, pages 192–95.
Have students mark words and phrases in verses 1–4 that show that this prophecy was about more than just the United States Civil War (for example, “wars” [v. 1]; “beginning at this place” [v. 2]; “then war shall be poured out upon all nations” [v. 3]). Discuss the following questions:
When was the first war fought? (see Revelation 12:7).
What will be the last great battle before the Second Coming? (see Revelation 16:14–18).
Read James 4:1–2. According to these verses, why do wars exist?
Why do you think God allows wars?
Share the following statement by Presidents Joseph F. Smith, Anthon H. Lund, and Charles W. Penrose, who were members of the First Presidency:
“God, doubtless, could avert war, prevent crime, destroy poverty, chase away darkness, overcome error, and make all things bright, beautiful and joyful. But this would involve the destruction of a vital and fundamental attribute in man—the right of agency” (in James R. Clark, comp., Messages of the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 6 vols. [1965–75], 4:325–26).
Read Doctrine and Covenants 87:5–6 and ask students how they feel about this description. Explain that even though these wars can be frightening, the Lord has not left us without hope.
Read verses 7–8 and find the Lord’s message of hope. Ask students to define a “holy place.” Have them name as many holy places as they can, and write them on the board. Read and discuss the commentary for Doctrine and Covenants 87:8 in Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual: Religion 324–325 (p. 196). Invite students to list ways they can stand in holy places. Testify that even though the Saints will not be immune to the destructions of the last days, the Lord will protect the righteous spiritually (see D&C 63:32–34).