The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was officially organized on April 6, 1830. Nearly 60 people attended the first worship service. The meeting consisted of prayers, sustainings, ordinations, the administration of the sacrament, and confirmations. During this meeting the Prophet Joseph Smith received the revelation now recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 21. A few days later the Lord clarified that baptism must be performed by those with proper priesthood authority (see D&C 22). He also gave personal counsel to five men who desired to know their duty (see D&C 23).
Listen to or read the words to the hymn “We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet” (Hymns, no. 19). What are some reasons you feel thankful to God for a prophet? As you study today’s lesson, look for truths that can increase your gratitude for prophets.
Read Doctrine and Covenants 21:1, looking for the different titles by which Joseph Smith would be known. You may want to mark these in your scriptures or write them in your scripture study journal.
Elder John A. Widtsoe of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught about the broad meaning of the title “prophet” and how it includes other titles:
“A prophet is a teacher. That is the essential meaning of the word. He teaches the body of truth, the gospel, revealed by the Lord to man; and under inspiration explains it to the understanding of the people. …
“In the sense that a prophet is a man who receives revelations from the Lord, the titles ‘seer and revelator’ merely amplify the larger and inclusive meaning of the title ‘prophet.’ …
“A seer is one who sees with spiritual eyes. He perceives the meaning of that which seems obscure to others; therefore he is an interpreter and clarifier of eternal truth. He foresees the future from the past and the present. This he does by the power of the Lord operating through him directly, or indirectly with the aid of divine instruments such as the Urim and Thummim. In short, he is one who sees, who walks in the Lord’s light with open eyes. [See Mosiah 8:15–17.]
“A revelator makes known, with the Lord’s help, something before unknown. It may be new or forgotten truth, or a new or forgotten application of known truth to man’s need. …
“In summary: A prophet is a teacher of known truth; a seer is a perceiver of hidden truth, a revelator is a bearer of new truth. In the widest sense, the one most commonly used, the title, prophet, includes the other titles and makes of the prophet, a teacher, perceiver, and bearer of truth” (Evidences and Reconciliations, arr. G. Homer Durham, 3 vols. in 1 , 257–58).
In the Guide to the Scriptures, we learn that a prophet is “a person who has been called by and speaks for God. As a messenger of God, a prophet receives commandments, prophecies, and revelations from God. His responsibility is to make known God’s will and true character to mankind and to show the meaning of his dealings with them. A prophet denounces sin and foretells its consequences. He is a preacher of righteousness. On occasion, prophets may be inspired to foretell the future for the benefit of mankind. His primary responsibility, however, is to bear witness of Christ” (“Prophet,” scriptures.lds.org).
Answer the following question in your scripture study journal: How do the titles given to Joseph Smith in Doctrine and Covenants 21:1 help you to understand the importance of his role and the various responsibilities he held in the restoration of the fulness of the gospel and the Church of Jesus Christ on the earth?
Read Doctrine and Covenants 21:2–3, looking for words or phrases indicating that God inspired Joseph Smith to restore the Church of Jesus Christ. You may want to mark these words or phrases in your scriptures.
In your scripture study journal, explain why you think it is important to know that Joseph Smith was called by God to restore and lead the Church of Jesus Christ.
Read Doctrine and Covenants 21:4–5, and identify an important message the Lord revealed on the day the Church was organized.
Answer the following question in your scripture study journal: Why may it sometimes require “patience and faith” to heed the words of a prophet?
President Wilford Woodruff gave assurance that we can always have faith in the Lord’s prophet: “The Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as President of the Church to lead you astray. It is not in the programme. It is not in the mind of God. If I were to attempt that, the Lord would remove me out of my place” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Wilford Woodruff , 199).
President Joseph F. Smith gave similar testimony: “If [the President of the Church] should become unfaithful, God would remove him out of his place. I testify in the name of Israel’s God that He will not suffer the head of the Church, him whom He has chosen to stand at the head, to transgress His Laws and apostatize; the moment he should take a course that would in time lead to it, God would take him away. Why? Because to suffer a wicked man to occupy that position, would be to allow, as it were, the fountain to become corrupted, which is something He will never permit” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith , 227).
Read Doctrine and Covenants 21:6, and number in your scriptures the three blessings extended to those who receive the prophet’s word in patience and faith.
How would you summarize the promises given to those who heed the words of the prophet? (The following is one way to state the principle: If we heed the words of the prophet, we will be protected against the adversary.)
In your scripture study journal, write about a time when you or someone you know was blessed for heeding the counsel and words of the living prophets. This could include following counsel given in general conferences and the For the Strength of Youth booklet.
President James E. Faust of the First Presidency spoke about the importance of sustaining the living prophet: “I do not believe members of this Church can be in full harmony with the Savior without sustaining His living prophet on the earth, the President of the Church. If we do not sustain the living prophet, whoever he may be, we die spiritually. Ironically, some have died spiritually by exclusively following prophets who have long been dead. Others equivocate in their support of living prophets, trying to lift themselves up by putting down the living prophets, however subtly” (“Continuing Revelation,” Ensign, Aug. 1996, 5).
Ponder what you must do to claim the blessings promised in Doctrine and Covenants 21:6.
Some individuals who desired to join the Church in April 1830 had been baptized in other churches and wondered why they needed to be baptized again (see the section introduction to D&C 22). The Prophet Joseph Smith inquired of the Lord about the necessity of their being rebaptized. In His response, the Lord spoke about an important purpose for the Restoration of the gospel and the Church.
Read Doctrine and Covenants 22. What did the Lord say about why baptism by the proper authority is necessary?
In Doctrine and Covenants 22:1, the Lord spoke about “a new and an everlasting covenant.” In the following explanation, mark any words that may help you understand the meaning of this phrase:
The new and everlasting covenant is “the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ (D&C 66:2). It is new every time it is revealed anew following a period of apostasy. It is everlasting in the sense that it is God’s covenant and has been enjoyed in every gospel dispensation where people have been willing to receive it. The new and everlasting covenant was revealed again to men on earth by Jesus Christ through the Prophet Joseph Smith. It contains sacred ordinances administered by priesthood authority—such as baptism and temple marriage—that provide for man’s salvation, immortality, and eternal life” (Guide to the Scriptures, “New and Everlasting Covenant,” scriptures.lds.org).
When we understand these truths about the new and everlasting covenant, it is clear that baptism must be performed by one having authority from God. Read Doctrine and Covenants 22:2–4, and identify phrases indicating that the Lord does not accept baptisms performed without the proper priesthood authority. It may be helpful to know that in verse 2 the Lord referred to the ordinance of baptism as entering “in at the strait gate” (see 2 Nephi 31:17).
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has the priesthood authority necessary to perform essential ordinances such as baptism. Answer the following question in your scripture study journal: How have you been blessed by your membership in the restored Church of Jesus Christ?
Mark the following names in Doctrine and Covenants 23: Oliver, Hyrum, Samuel, Joseph, and Joseph Knight. Read the section introduction to learn what these men desired of the Lord.
The Lord first addressed Oliver Cowdery. Oliver was of great help to the Prophet Joseph Smith during the initial events of the Restoration, including the coming forth of the Book of Mormon and the organization of the Church. He had many gifts and righteous desires. He was called to be the second elder of the Church (see D&C 20:3) and was appointed, along with David Whitmer, to assist in selecting the Twelve Apostles. Unfortunately, Oliver allowed many of these early privileges to lead to pride, and he left the Church for a time. He eventually recognized his mistakes and was rebaptized.
Read Doctrine and Covenants 23:1–2, and look for a warning the Lord gave to Oliver Cowdery. Then answer the following questions in your scripture study journal:
How can pride lead to temptation?
In your opinion, what are some ways we can avoid feelings of pride that would lead us to temptation?
Read Doctrine and Covenants 23:3–5, looking for similarities in the instructions the Lord gave to Hyrum Smith, Samuel Smith, and Joseph Smith Sr.
The call to exhortation referred to the responsibility to teach the gospel to others. Notice how Hyrum, Samuel, and Joseph Smith Sr. each fulfilled this responsibility as you read the following information about them:
Hyrum Smith assisted in the publication of the Book of Mormon by working directly with the printer. He was baptized in June 1829, shortly after the priesthood had been restored. He served as president of the first branch of the Church in Colesville, New York. Known for his humbleness and loyalty, Hyrum was faithful to the Lord and the Church throughout his life. He died as a martyr along with his brother Joseph in Carthage, Illinois.
Samuel Smith, a younger brother of the Prophet Joseph, was baptized in May 1829, shortly after the restoration of the Aaronic Priesthood. He is often credited with being the Church’s first missionary. In June 1830 he left on a mission and placed a copy of the Book of Mormon that would eventually lead to the conversion of Brigham Young and many of his family members. Samuel was loyal to his family and the Church throughout his life.
Joseph Smith Sr., the Prophet’s father, joined the Church the day it was organized. The following summer he and his son Don Carlos went on a mission to extended family in New York. He became a high priest and eventually the first patriarch of the Church. At his funeral he was described as “a man faithful to his God and to the Church in every situation and under all circumstances through which he was called to pass” (Robert B. Thompson, in History of the Church, 4:192).
The last person the Lord addressed in Doctrine and Covenants 23 is Joseph Knight Sr. He was a close friend of Joseph Smith Jr. and had shown him great kindness. He provided the Prophet with supplies, such as paper and food, during the translation of the Book of Mormon. At the time Doctrine and Covenants 23 was received, Joseph Knight Sr. had not been baptized. He had felt a desire to be baptized with others on the day the Church was organized, but refrained because he wanted to study the Book of Mormon further. However, he later wrote, “I should [have] felt better if I had gone forward” to be baptized (see Larry Porter, “The Joseph Knight Family,” Ensign, Oct. 1978, 40; spelling and capitalization standardized).
Study the Lord’s counsel to Joseph Knight Sr. in Doctrine and Covenants 23:6–7, looking for what the Lord commanded him to do. The phrase “take up your cross” in this context means to do something that is difficult for you.
Answer the following questions in your scripture study journal:
Why might the Lord sometimes direct us to do things we are not comfortable doing?
What evidence do you see in Doctrine and Covenants 23:7 that the Lord desired to bless Joseph Knight Sr.?
A short time after this revelation was received, Joseph Knight Sr. chose to be baptized. He remained devoted to the Church throughout his life, defending the Prophet Joseph Smith privately and publicly. The Prophet later described Joseph Knight Sr. as “faithful and true, and even-handed and exemplary, and virtuous and kind, never deviating to the right hand or to the left” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith , 462).
From Doctrine and Covenants 23, we learn that as we desire to serve the Lord, we can receive personal guidance from Him. We also learn that the Lord will bless us as we follow the guidance He gives us. Ponder the guidance you have received from the Lord through the Holy Ghost, the words of living prophets, and the scriptures. Make a plan to act on the guidance you have received.
Write the following at the bottom of today’s assignments in your scripture study journal:
I have studied Doctrine and Covenants 21–23 and completed this lesson on (date).
Additional questions, thoughts, and insights I would like to share with my teacher: