Doctrine and Covenants 39-40: James Coville—Promises Given and Promises Lost

Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Student Study Guide, (2005), 49


Why do you think it is so hard to change a habit or a custom you are used to? Do reminders of that habit tend to make it easier or more difficult to change? James Covill was in a situation like that. He had been a Baptist minister for 40 years when he went to the Prophet Joseph Smith for a revelation. Notice the promises and the warnings the Lord gave him inDoctrine and Covenants 39. Then notice inDoctrine and Covenants 40what he chose to do and what the consequences were.

Understanding the Scriptures

Doctrine and Covenants 39

Meridian(v. 3)Middle or high point 
Bestowed(v. 8)Sent, given 
Stay my hand in judgment(vv. 16, 18)Hold back the punishments 
Pruned(v. 17)Trimmed and prepared 
Sanctified(v. 18)Holy 
Hosanna(v. 19)From a Hebrew word meaning “Save now, we pray” 

Doctrine and Covenants 40

Straightway(v. 2)Immediately 

Studying the Scriptures

Do activity A and activity B or C as you studyDoctrine and Covenants 39–40.

Activity A iconA Tragic Change of Heart

A Tragic Change of Heart

In your notebook, draw two hearts and label one heart “Is” and the other “Was.”

  1. 1.

    Read the section heading forDoctrine and Covenants 39and verses 7–13. Write in the first heart what the Lord said about James Covill’s heart and what he was called to do because of that.

  2. 2.

    Read the section heading toDoctrine and Covenants 40and verses 1–3. Write in the second heart how James’s heart had changed and why. Explain also what the Lord said would happen to him because of that change.

  3. 3.

    Compare what happened to James Covill to the parable the Lord gave inMark 4:3–9, 14–20. Which of the soils described there most closely resembles James Covill’s heart?

Activity B iconWrite a Want Ad

Doctrine and Covenants 39:10–24describes some important responsibilities of missionaries. Think about how a “Help Wanted” ad is written in a newspaper. Using the information in those verses, write what a missionary must be and do. Start out your ad: “Wanted: Full-Time Missionaries.”

Activity C iconWrite a Story

ReadDoctrine and Covenants 40:1–3, which tells why James Covill did not follow the directions from the Lord. Then write a short fictional story about a modern person with the same weaknesses as James Covill but who is able to overcome them, obey the Lord, and serve a mission.