On March 8, 1832, the Lord called Jesse Gause and Sidney Rigdon to serve as Joseph Smith’s counselors. One week later, on March 15, 1832, the Lord gave the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 81. In this revelation He described the role of counselors in the First Presidency and promised eternal life to Jesse Gause if he remained faithful to the end. Jesse Gause did not remain faithful, and the Lord transferred the call to serve as a counselor in the First Presidency to Frederick G. Williams, whose name was subsequently attached to this revelation.
Why does the Lord give us callings in His Church? What are the blessings of faithfully fulfilling a calling? What if someone chooses not to faithfully fulfill his or her calling? Although a Church leader may receive inspiration to call a member of the Church to a certain position, it is up to the individual who receives the call to faithfully respond to it.
Read the section introduction to Doctrine and Covenants 81, looking for who was initially called to serve as a counselor in the Presidency of the High Priesthood (the First Presidency) and what happened to him.
Jesse Gause was called to serve as a counselor in the Presidency of the High Priesthood (the First Presidency) in March 1832. Six months later, on August 1, 1832, he left to serve a mission with Zebedee Coltrin. Jesse visited with his wife and tried to convince her of the truthfulness of the restored Church, but she refused to join. A short time later, Jesse’s missionary companion, Zebedee, became very ill and had to return to Kirtland, Ohio. Left alone, Jesse did not complete his mission and did not stay faithful in the Church. He was excommunicated in December 1832.
According to the section introduction to Doctrine and Covenants 81, whom did the Lord call to replace Jesse?
You may want to mark the following phrase found in the section introduction: “The revelation … should be regarded as a step toward the formal organization of the First Presidency.” The Lord did not reveal the complete organization of His Church to the Prophet all at once. Rather, He revealed different parts of the organization as the need arose and as the Saints were ready to receive them. In March 1832, the Lord revealed the time had come to organize the Presidency of the High Priesthood.
In the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 81, the Lord explained one important role of the First Presidency. Read Doctrine and Covenants 81:1–2, and mark the words that teach that the Presidency of the High Priesthood holds the keys of God’s kingdom on the earth.
Remember that priesthood keys are the authority to preside over the Church and direct the use of priesthood power. Later, the First Presidency would be organized. The keys of the kingdom are always held by the First Presidency, presided over by the President of the Church.
President Joseph Fielding Smith explained what the keys of the kingdom enable the First Presidency to do in our day: “These keys are the right of presidency; they are the power and authority to govern and direct all of the Lord’s affairs on earth. Those who hold them have power to govern and control the manner in which all others may serve in the priesthood” (“Eternal Keys and the Right to Preside,” Ensign, July 1972, 87).
One way the First Presidency directs and governs the Church is through their teachings.
In your scripture study journal, write an example of how you have been blessed by the teachings of the First Presidency.
Read Doctrine and Covenants 81:3, looking for what the Lord told Frederick G. Williams to do as a counselor in the First Presidency.
Write the heading A Counselor in the First Presidency in your scripture study journal. Under this heading, list the responsibilities you identified in verse 3. In addition, write what you think it means for a counselor to be “faithful in counsel” to his or her president.
To help you better understand what it means for a counselor to be “faithful in counsel” to the president, consider what President Gordon B. Hinckley taught about how a counselor should counsel with the president.
“[A counselor] is an assistant to his president. …
“As an assistant, the counselor is not the president. He does not assume responsibility and move out ahead of his president.
“In presidency meetings, each counselor is free to speak his mind on all issues that come before the presidency. However, it is the prerogative of the president to make the decision, and it is the duty of the counselors to back him in that decision. His decision then becomes their decision, regardless of their previous ideas” (“In … Counsellors There Is Safety,” Ensign, Nov. 1990, 49).
Answer the following questions in your scripture study journal:
How might understanding the duties of a counselor help someone who is serving as a counselor in any presidency of the Church?
Why should counselors in a presidency support and strengthen the president?
What could you do to effectively serve in a presidency if or when you have that opportunity?
The Lord gave a powerful promise to Frederick G. Williams if he would be faithful in his calling. Read Doctrine and Covenants 81:4, and find the promise.
The phrase “promote the glory of … your Lord” in this context implies that by being faithful in our callings, we can help lead people to honor and worship the Lord. This promise applies to us as well. You may want to write the following principle in the margin of your scriptures: If we are faithful in our callings, we can do a great good for others and promote the glory of God.
Answer the following questions in your scripture study journal:
How might serving faithfully in our Church callings help us do a great good for other people?
When have you seen members of the Church do great good for others because they were faithful in their callings? Write about what you have observed.
How might serving faithfully in your Church callings help promote the glory of God?
Read Doctrine and Covenants 81:5, looking for additional counsel the Lord gave to Frederick G. Williams.
Based on what the Lord told Frederick in verse 5, what can we learn about being faithful in our Church callings or being faithful members of the Church?
The following statement from Elder Marvin J. Ashton of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles can help you understand the Lord’s counsel: “In Doctrine and Covenants 81:5, the verse might be interpreted as the Lord’s urging Frederick G. Williams to provide strength to the weak (‘succor the weak’), provide encouragement to those who are exhausted or discouraged (‘lift up the hands which hang down’), and to give courage and strength to those with feeble knees and fearful hearts” (“Strengthen the Feeble Knees,” Ensign, Nov. 1991, 70).
In your scripture study journal, write about an experience when you have been lifted or strengthened by someone else. Then list at least three things you could do to “succor the weak, lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees” of others. Write a goal to help someone else this week by doing one of the items on your list.
Read Doctrine and Covenants 81:6–7, looking for the blessings the Lord promised Frederick G. Williams if he would be faithful to the end.
This same promise is available to you as well. If you choose to be faithful to the Lord, which includes being faithful in your callings and helping those around you, you will also qualify for the Lord’s blessings.
Write the following at the bottom of today’s assignments in your scripture study journal:
I have studied Doctrine and Covenants 81 and completed this lesson on (date).
Additional questions, thoughts, and insights I would like to share with my teacher: