When the Prophet Joseph Smith received section 97, the Saints in Missouri were already suffering persecution. It seemed an unlikely time to build a temple there.
“God was, if we may say so reverently, anxious that His people should rear a Temple in which they could be endowed with power from on high before the conflict with the adversary. The history of Temples teaches us that the people of God have been strong, or weak, in proportion to the faithfulness with which they have attended to their sanctuaries. … Since the completion of the Salt Lake Temple, the adversary has had less power to injure the Church than he had before. If we remember that the Temples are the palaces of God, where His Presence is manifested, we can understand why, when the adversary was marshalling his forces against the Church [in Missouri], our Lord urged the Saints to build the Temple speedily. We can also understand why the evil one planned to have them scattered before they could rear that sacred edifice” (Hyrum M. Smith and Janne M. Sjodahl, The Doctrine and Covenants Commentary, rev. ed. , 612).
Unfortunately, as Elder Parley P. Pratt, who was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, attested: “This revelation was not complied with by the leaders and Church in Missouri, as a whole; notwithstanding many were humble and faithful. Therefore, the threatened judgment was poured out to the uttermost, as the history of the five following years will show” (Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt , 77).
Some Important Gospel Principles to Look For
Temples are places where Saints can be close to God and receive power and knowledge essential to building Zion. The Lord’s presence is felt there only when the pure in heart attend (see D&C 97:10–20).
Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual: Religion 324–325, pp. 228–30.
Suggestions for Teaching
Doctrine and Covenants 97:10–17. Temples are places where Saints can be close to God and receive power and knowledge essential to building Zion. The Lord’s presence is felt there only when the pure in heart attend.
Display several pictures of temples from around the world. Ask students where the first temple in this dispensation was built (Kirtland, Ohio). Have them look at the photograph of the Kirtland Temple in the back of their scriptures (no. 9). Explain that on August 2, 1833, the Lord commanded the Saints to build another temple in Zion. Have students read Doctrine and Covenants 97:10, and ask:
Where was this temple to be built? (Independence, Missouri.)
What was it to be patterned after? (The pattern the Lord had revealed.)
Have a student read the statements in the introduction to section 97 above. Explain that at the dedication of the Logan Temple, President John Taylor prophesied that during the Millennium there would be “temples, thousands of them” (The Gospel Kingdom, sel. G. Homer Durham , 287). Ask students to name some of the temples in the world. Share the following statements. Elder Howard W. Hunter, who was then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, said:
“The house of God … was erected for God’s worship. It was a home for the reverent heart. It was intended to be a place of solace for men’s woes and troubles, the very gate of heaven” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1977, 80; or Ensign, Nov. 1977, 53).
Later, as President of the Church, President Hunter said:
“Let us truly be a temple-attending and a temple-loving people. We should hasten to the temple as frequently, yet prudently, as our personal circumstances allow. … Let us make the temple, with temple worship and temple covenants and temple marriage, our ultimate earthly goal and the supreme mortal experience” (“A Temple-Motivated People,” Ensign, Feb. 1995, 5).
“Truly there is no work equal to that done in the temple” (“We Have a Work to Do,” Ensign, Mar. 1995, 65).
Divide students into three groups, and have them imagine they are members of a temple committee. The first group is to determine how to pay for temples. The second group is to determine what is to happen in the temples. The third group is to determine who should be allowed to attend the temples. Have each group read Doctrine and Covenants 97:10–17 and look for the Lord’s teachings on these three subjects. Choose a student from each group to report their findings to the class. Read verses 15–16 and ask:
What promise does the Lord make to those who attend the temple worthily?
How can those attending the temple unworthily affect those who are worthy?
Share the following statement by President Gordon B. Hinckley, then a counselor in the First Presidency:
“Every man who holds the Melchizedek Priesthood has an obligation to see that the house of the Lord is kept sacred and free of any defilement. This obligation rests primarily and inescapably upon the shoulders of bishops and stake presidents. They become the judges of worthiness concerning those eligible to enter the temple. Additionally, each of us has an obligation—first, as to his own personal worthiness, and second, as to the worthiness of those whom he may encourage or assist in going to the house of the Lord” (in Conference Report, Mar.–Apr. 1990, 66; or Ensign, May 1990, 50).
If possible, invite a priesthood leader to discuss what we must do to be worthy to enter the temple. Encourage students to live worthy every day to go to the temple. Testify of the blessings of the temple in your life.
Doctrine and Covenants 97:18–26. The righteous will escape the Lord’s vengeance if they keep the commandments.
Write on the board earthquakes, wars, famines, pestilence, floods, fires, plagues, sicknesses, death, great wickedness, false prophets. Share the following statement by Elder Neal A. Maxwell, who was then a member of the Seventy:
“Now we are entering times wherein there will be for all of us as Church members, in my judgment, some special challenges which will require of us that we follow the Brethren. All the easy things that the Church has had to do have been done. From now on, it’s high adventure, and followership is going to be tested in some interesting ways” (“The Old Testament: Relevancy within Antiquity,” in A Symposium on the Old Testament , 12).
Refer students to the words on the board, and ask how they might relate to Elder Maxwell’s statement. Ask:
What do these words have in common?
What time period in world history do they best describe?
How do you feel about these problems being so near?
Which one is most frightening to you?
What would you be willing to do or give to avoid these problems?
What is the best way to prepare for these problems?
Invite students to read Doctrine and Covenants 97:18–26 and look for what we can do to escape the vengeance of the Lord.
Have a student read the statements by Elder Joseph Fielding Smith and President Wilford Woodruff on page 402 of Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual: Religion 324–325. Have another student read the definition of Zion in verse 21. Point out that we must become pure in heart to qualify for the blessings of Zion. Read or sing