In January of 1831, a Protestant minister named James Covel (often spelled Covill in Church history records) met with Joseph Smith in Fayette, New York, and “covenanted with the Lord that he would obey any command that the Lord would give to him through … His servant [the Prophet Joseph Smith]” (Joseph Smith, in History of the Church, 1:143). Joseph then received the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 39.
In the revelation, the Lord directed James Covel to be baptized and to preach the fulness of the gospel in Ohio. However, the day after the revelation was dictated, James departed from Fayette without explanation. The Lord then gave a revelation to Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon, explaining why James had not obeyed the commandment given to him. That revelation is recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 40. (See Documents, Volume 1: July 1828–June 1831, vol. 1 of the Documents series of The Joseph Smith Papers , 233–37).
Imagine that you have been given a wonderful gift by a parent or another loved one. Can you think of any reasons why you would choose not to receive the gift?
Read Doctrine and Covenants 39:1–3, looking for a gift Heavenly Father gave His children that some chose not to receive. The Lord uses the phrase “mine own” to refer to the people He ministered unto in mortality, during “the meridian of time.”
The gift these people chose not to receive was Jesus Christ. When we choose to receive the gift of Jesus Christ and His Atonement, we receive many additional blessings and gifts. Read Doctrine and Covenants 39:4, and identify a gift the Savior said He gives to those who receive Him.
From this verse we learn that if we receive Jesus Christ, He will give us power to become His children. Consider marking the words that teach this principle in verse 4.
Read the following statement from President Joseph Fielding Smith to help you better understand what it means to become the sons and daughters of Jesus Christ:
“The Savior becomes our Father, in the sense in which this term is used in the scriptures, because he offers us life, eternal life, through the atonement which he made for us. …
“So, we become the children, sons and daughters of Jesus Christ, through our covenants of obedience to him. Because of his divine authority and sacrifice on the cross, we become spiritually begotten sons and daughters, and he is our Father” (Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols. [1954–56], 1:29).
According to what President Smith taught, write in your own words in your scripture study journal how we can become children of Jesus Christ.
As you have already learned, we must choose to receive Jesus Christ before we receive power to become His sons and daughters. Read Doctrine and Covenants 39:5–6, looking for what we must do to receive Him and His power to become His sons and daughters.
Summarize, in your own words, what we must do to become sons and daughters of Jesus Christ:
As you learned in the introduction to this lesson, the revelation in Doctrine and Covenants 39 was addressed to a Protestant minister named James Covel soon after he had learned about the restored gospel of Jesus Christ and had covenanted to obey any commandment he received through the Prophet Joseph Smith.
In your scripture study journal, write how you think the teachings in Doctrine and Covenants 39:1–6 applied to James Covel. Also write your thoughts on how these verses apply to you.
Read Doctrine and Covenants 39:7–9. What did the Lord say about the condition of James Covel’s heart at the time the revelation was given? (You may want to mark the word now in verse 8.) What reasons did the Lord give for why James had rejected Him in the past? If you had been in James’s position, how might you have felt after hearing these words? Why?
Copy the following chart in your scripture study journal:
If you will …
Read Doctrine and Covenants 39:10–12. As you read, look for what the Lord instructed James Covel to do. Write these instructions under the heading “If you will …” on the chart. In addition, look for what the Lord promised James Covel he would receive if he obeyed the Lord. Write these promised blessings under the heading “Then …” on the chart.
Consider the blessings the Lord offered James Covel. Although James had been a minister for about 40 years, the Lord offered him the fulness of the gospel, which included responsibilities and blessings he did not have before, such as the gift of the Holy Ghost and ordination to the priesthood.
Notice the word if in Doctrine and Covenants 39:10–11. You may want to mark this word in your scriptures. Ponder the significance of the word if in these verses and what the Lord was telling James Covel that he would need to do in order to receive the promised blessings.
From these verses we can learn that the Lord’s promised blessings are conditional upon our hearkening to His voice. You may want to write this truth in your scriptures next to Doctrine and Covenants 39:10–11.
Consider some of the blessings the Lord has promised you. In your scripture study journal, write down three of these blessings and what you must do to receive them.
Read Doctrine and Covenants 39:13–14, and identify where the Lord called James Covel to preach the gospel.
In Doctrine and Covenants 39:15–24 the Lord gave some instructions to James Covel about what he was to teach. Read Doctrine and Covenants 39:22, and consider how it relates to the principles you have already learned in this revelation.
The day after the revelation in Doctrine and Covenants 39 was dictated, James Covel left Fayette, New York, without explanation. The Lord revealed to Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon why James did not obey His instructions and receive the promised blessings. Read Doctrine and Covenants 40:1–3, looking for why he did not hearken to the voice of the Lord.
President Joseph Fielding Smith gave further clarification: “[James Covel] was convinced of the truth, for it is clear that the Lord revealed to him things which he and the Lord alone knew to be the truth. However, when he withdrew from the influence of the Spirit of the Lord and had time to consider the fact that he would lose the fellowship of the world, and his place and position among his associates, he failed and rejected the promises and blessings which the Lord offered him” (Church History and Modern Revelation, 2 vols. , 1:174).
What can tempt us to reject God’s words today? You may want to write the following principle in your scriptures by Doctrine and Covenants 40 and in your scripture study journal: Fear and the cares of the world can lead us to reject the word of God.
Write in your scripture study journal some fears or cares of the world that might prevent us from following the Lord with all our hearts. Then write what you can do to have faith to overcome these fears or cares of the world and truly receive the Lord.
Write the following at the bottom of today’s assignments in your scripture study journal:
I have studied Doctrine and Covenants 39–40 and completed this lesson on (date).
Additional questions, thoughts, and insights I would like to share with my teacher: