Official Declaration 1

Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Seminary Teacher Resource Manual, (2001), 250–52


Introduction

The Church faced strong opposition during the last decades of the 19th century. “Leaders in the legislative fight against the Church were willing to admit that their real objective was to prevent Mormon domination of political, educational, and economic affairs in Utah, but plural marriage was the rallying point for mass support.

“Their rallying point suddenly evaporated late in 1890, when President Wilford Woodruff issued the Manifesto (Official Declaration—1 in the Doctrine and Covenants) declaring an end to plural marriage. President Woodruff told the Saints that he had deliberated over the problem for some time, until ‘the God of heaven commanded me to do what I did do. … I went before the Lord and wrote what the Lord told me to write’ [Deseret Weekly, Nov. 14, 1891]” (Don L. Searle, “A ‘Magnificent and Enduring Monument,’” Ensign, Mar. 1993, 24).

Some Important Gospel Principles to Look For

  • We should obey the laws of the nation in which we live. If those laws conflict with the laws of God, we should follow the counsel of the living prophet (see Official Declaration 1; “President John Taylor,” Student Study Guide, pp. 175–76, par. 13–14; “President Wilford Woodruff,” Student Study Guide, p. 179, par. 8–10; see also Matthew 22:15–22; D&C 1:14, 38; 58:21–22; 90:3–5; Articles of Faith 1:12).

  • The Lord will never allow the President of the Church to lead its members astray (see Excerpts from Three. Addresses by President Wilford Woodruff Regarding the Manifesto, par. 1–2; see also D&C 64:38–39).

  • When enemies stop us from obeying one of God’s commandments, the Lord accepts our efforts and may, through His living prophet, release us from that commandment (see Excerpts from Three Addresses by President Wilford Woodruff Regarding the Manifesto, par. 3–9; see also Mosiah 5:5; D&C 56:3–4; 124:49).

Additional Resources

  • Church History in the Fulness of Times: Religion 341–43, pp. 439–42.

  • Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual: Religion 324–325, pp. 361–63.

Suggestions for Teaching

Official Declaration 1. We should obey the laws of the nation in which we live. If those laws conflict with the laws of God, we should follow the counsel of the living prophet.

(25–30 minutes)

Have students name several commandments (such as tithing and keeping the Sabbath day holy), and write them on the board. Choose one of these commandments, and tell students: Imagine that a law has been passed in our country that makes it illegal to obey this commandment. Anyone who is caught obeying this commandment will be arrested and jailed.

  • How might this affect your life?

  • Have you ever been faced with a similar dilemma?

  • Why might the decision whether to obey the commandment be a difficult one?

  • Read Doctrine and Covenants 58:21–22; Articles of Faith 1:12. What counsel do these verses give in this matter?

  • When has the Church faced this kind of situation?

Have students study paragraphs 13–14 of “President John Taylor” in the student study guide (pp. 175–76). Have them look for the difficulties the Saints faced when plural marriage was made illegal.

Tell students that after President Taylor died, President Wilford Woodruff became President of the Church. Invite students to read the first six paragraphs of Official Declaration 1 and paragraphs 8–10 of “President Wilford Woodruff” in the student study guide (p. 179). Have them summarize what happened to the practice of plural marriage. Ask: How did the revelation to President Woodruff differ from the instruction previous prophets gave to Church members?

Explain that some Church members wanted to live polygamy in spite of what President Woodruff said. Ask: Why are the words of the living prophet more important than the words of any other prophet? Share the following statement by President Taylor:

“We require a living tree—a living fountain—living intelligence, proceeding from the living priesthood in heaven, through the living priesthood on earth. … And from the time that Adam first received a communication from God, … or Joseph Smith had the heavens opened to him, it always required new revelations, adapted to the peculiar circumstances in which the churches or individuals were placed. Adam’s revelation did not instruct Noah to build his ark; nor did Noah’s revelation tell Lot to forsake Sodom; nor did either of these speak of the departure of the children of Israel from Egypt. These all had revelations for themselves, and so had Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Jesus, Peter, Paul, John, and Joseph. And so must we, or we shall make a shipwreck” (The Gospel Kingdom, sel. G. Homer Durham [1943], 34).

Ask students what they think President Taylor’s statement means. Share your testimony of the importance of following living prophets.

Excerpts from Three Addresses by President Wilford Woodruff Regarding the Manifesto, par. 1–2. The Lord will never allow the President of the Church to lead its members astray.

(20–25 minutes)

Before class make a path on the floor from the back of the room to the front. Tape pieces of paper to the floor to represent stepping stones. Show the class the path and stepping stones, and explain that those who walk along this path can only be safe if they stay on the stones. Blindfold a student, and ask the class:

  • Why would it be difficult to walk along this path blindfolded?

  • If we compared this path to our lives, what might the blindfold represent? (The veil of forgetfulness.)

  • How might a guide who knows the path be helpful?

  • In what ways is a prophet like a guide?

  • Why is it important to know that our prophet is a trustworthy guide?

Select another student to be a guide. Have this student give verbal directions as the blindfolded student walks along the path. Ask:

  • What obligation does a guide have?

  • Why would it be important to give accurate instructions?

  • How do you think the prophet might feel about his responsibilities toward us?

Ask students to read President Lorenzo Snow’s statement at the end of Official Declaration 1. Discuss the following questions:

  • Who was the Church’s guide in 1890?

  • What keys did he hold?

  • Who else had the right to exercise these keys? (No one. Only one man on earth is authorized at any one time to exercise all priesthood keys.)

Invite students to read the first two paragraphs of Excerpts from Three Addresses by President Wilford Woodruff Regarding the Manifesto (following Official Declaration 1). Discuss the following questions:

  • What could happen to the Church if its President was a wicked man? (see Jeremiah 23:32).

  • Why can’t this happen?

  • How could the Lord remove a prophet from his place?

  • What is the only way a prophet can lead the Church? (By inspiration from God.)

Have students look through the remaining paragraphs of Excerpts from Three Addresses. Discuss what the Lord revealed to President Woodruff and what would have happened if he had not followed the Lord’s inspiration. Sing or read “We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet” (Hymns, no. 19). Invite students to share ways that following the living prophet has helped keep them safe.

Excerpts from Three Addresses by President Wilford Woodruff Regarding the Manifesto, par. 3–9. When enemies stop us from obeying one of God’s commandments, the Lord accepts our efforts and may, through His living prophet, release us from that commandment.

(20–25 minutes)

Ask students to name a time the Lord revoked one of His commandments. (The gospel was first withheld from the Gentiles and then was taken to them [see Matthew 10:5–6; Mark 16:15]. In Moses’s time the priesthood was given to descendants of Levi. Today all worthy males are allowed the privilege [see Official Declaration 2].) Write the following scripture on the board and discuss with students what it means: “I, the Lord, command and revoke, as it seemeth me good” (D&C 56:4).

Have students read Doctrine and Covenants 124:49–50 and compare it with Doctrine and Covenants 56:3–4. Have students turn to Excerpts from Three Addresses by President Wilford Woodruff Regarding the Manifesto (following Official Declaration 1). Invite students to study the excerpts, beginning with the third paragraph. Ask them to tell how the excerpts relate to the verses in Doctrine and Covenants 56 and 124. Have students write in their own words the question the Lord told President Woodruff to ask the Latter-day Saints. Discuss the following questions:

  • What was the answer to the question the Lord told President Woodruff to ask?

  • What would have happened if President Woodruff had not received this revelation?

List the three things the Lord “decreed” in the final paragraph.