In 1836 the Church was deeply in debt. The Prophet Joseph Smith and other Church leaders traveled to Salem, Massachusetts, where they hoped to be able to obtain money to pay the Church’s debts. On August 6, 1836, Joseph Smith received the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 111, in which the Lord reassured him about concerns regarding debt and the welfare of Zion. The Lord also gave the Prophet instructions related to the Church leaders’ stay in Salem.
In your scripture study journal, list some of the things that bring stress or anxiety into your life.
Ponder the stressful situation the Prophet Joseph Smith and other Church leaders were facing as you read the following information:
In the summer of 1836, the Prophet Joseph Smith and other Church leaders were concerned about the Church’s finances. In the preceding years, the Church had incurred a large amount of debt as Church leaders had obeyed the Lord’s commands to build the Kirtland Temple, purchase lands in Ohio and Missouri, and fund Zion’s Camp. The Church also needed funds to buy land for the Saints in Missouri who had been forced from their homes. In 1834 the Lord had instructed Joseph Smith and other Church leaders to “pay all [their] debts” (D&C 104:78). However, their efforts to pay these debts had been hampered by the loss of income-producing businesses in Missouri. Thus, Church leaders did not have sufficient funds to meet the demands of the Church’s creditors.
If you had been a Church leader at this time, why might this situation have concerned you?
The Lord had told Church leaders that He would “send means unto [them] for [their] deliverance” (D&C 104:80) from the Church’s debt problems. In 1836 a member of the Church named William Burgess arrived in Kirtland, Ohio, and told Church leaders about a large amount of money available in Salem, Massachusetts. He said the money was located in the cellar of a house and that he was the only living person who knew about the location of the money.
If you had been a Church leader at this time, how might you have responded to this news?
Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon, Hyrum Smith, and Oliver Cowdery left Kirtland, Ohio, on July 25, 1836, to meet with the Church’s creditors in New York. After a few days in New York, the group traveled to Salem, Massachusetts. William Burgess met them in Salem, but he stated that the city had changed so much since he had last been there that he was unable to locate the house that contained the money. Brother Burgess left Salem shortly thereafter.
How do you think you would have felt after traveling to Salem in hopes of finding the means to help pay the Church’s debt and not finding what you expected? What would you have done?
The Church leaders spent some time looking for the house that reportedly contained the money. On August 6, 1836, while they were still in Salem, the Prophet Joseph Smith received the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 111.
Read Doctrine and Covenants 111:1, looking for how the Lord felt about the journey to Salem. The word folly may be defined as “a weak or absurd act not highly criminal; an act which is inconsistent with the dictates of reason, or with ordinary rules of prudence” (Noah Webster’s First Edition of an American Dictionary of the English Language, 1828 , “folly”). Sometimes when people engage in follies, they are sincerely trying to do something good even though their actions are misguided.
Although the search for money in Salem had been unsuccessful, the Lord indicated that this journey could still benefit His kingdom. Read Doctrine and Covenants 111:2, and identify what the Lord said He had in the city of Salem.
Notice in verse 2 that the Lord said He would gather out the people He had in Salem in due time. Joseph Smith and those with him spent a few weeks in Salem, and they preached the gospel during their stay. Five years later, Erastus Snow was called on a mission to Salem, where he organized a branch of 120 members (see Church History in the Fulness of Times Student Manual, 2nd ed. [Church Educational System manual, 2003], 170–71).
One truth we can learn from Joseph Smith’s experience in Salem and the Lord’s teachings in Doctrine and Covenants 111:1–2 is that the Lord can bring forth good from our sincere efforts.
Answer the following questions in your scripture study journal:
In what ways can the Lord bring forth good from our efforts, even if those efforts are originally misguided?
How does it influence you to know that the Lord can bring forth good from your sincere efforts?
The Lord gave instructions to Joseph Smith and his companions to help them accomplish good while they were in Salem, Massachusetts. Search Doctrine and Covenants 111:3–8, looking for what the Lord wanted them to do. (In verse 4, the phrase “they shall not discover your secret parts” means that the people of Salem would not look upon these Church leaders with shame.)
The Lord taught Joseph Smith and the other Church leaders in Salem how they would know where to stay in that city. Use the Lord’s words in verse 8 to complete the following doctrinal truth: We can receive the Lord’s direction through the and of His Spirit.
In your scripture study journal, write about how remembering this doctrine can help you with the concerns and challenges you face in your life.
Read Doctrine and Covenants 111:9–10, looking for an additional task the Lord gave Joseph Smith and his companions to complete while they were in Salem.
The Prophet Joseph Smith and the other men followed the Lord’s counsel to “inquire diligently concerning the more ancient inhabitants and founders of [the] city” (D&C 111:9). They visited historical sites while they were in Salem. From these visits they learned that some residents of Salem, Massachusetts, and the surrounding New England area had been persecuted and killed as a result of religious intolerance and bigotry. (See History of the Church, 2:464–65.) These events led Joseph Smith to write in his history, “When will man cease to war with man, and wrest [take] from him his sacred rights of worshiping his God according as his conscience dictates?” (in History of the Church, 2:465).
The Prophet later stated that it was one of the fundamental beliefs of the Church to allow all people the right of religious freedom (see Articles of Faith 1:11).
Although Joseph Smith and his companions did not obtain the money they thought they might find in Salem, they obtained other treasures from this journey. These included treasures of knowledge and of people in the area who were later baptized and confirmed members of the Church.
Complete the following principle based on what you learned from verse 11: If we are and avoid , then the Lord will arrange all things .
Answer the following questions in your scripture study journal:
What are some ways you can be wise in your choices?
What do you think it means that the Lord “will order all things for your good” (D&C 111:11)?
When have you seen an example of this principle?
Look back at assignment 1 for today’s lesson in your scripture study journal—the list of things that bring stress or anxiety into your life. Write a sentence or two explaining what you have learned from your study of Doctrine and Covenants 111 that can help you with the challenges you face.
Write the following at the bottom of today’s assignments in your scripture study journal:
I have studied Doctrine and Covenants 111 and completed this lesson on (date).
Additional questions, thoughts, and insights I would like to share with my teacher: