Doctrine and Covenants 121 contains portions of an inspired letter the Prophet Joseph Smith wrote to the Saints, dated March 20, 1839, from Liberty Jail. Doctrine and Covenants 121:11–33 contains the Savior’s description of the judgment that will come upon the wicked and His promise of revelation to the valiant.
Imagine that one morning as you are leaving your home, you notice this statement posted outside on the door of your home: “The Mormons must be treated as enemies and must be exterminated.”
Would you be afraid to leave your home? Where would you turn for help? How would you feel if you found out the statement was influenced by some of your former friends?
Before the Prophet Joseph Smith was put in jail, some of his once loyal friends had turned against him. Two of these former friends, Thomas B. Marsh and Orson Hyde, had been members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Both of these men signed an affidavit (a sworn statement) falsely accusing Joseph Smith and other Church members of planning to drive their enemies out by burning and destroying their property. This affidavit influenced the governor of Missouri to issue a statement, known as the extermination order, declaring that all Mormons must be exterminated or driven from the state. The statement you imagined being posted on your door is a direct quote from that extermination order (see History of the Church, 3:175).
Remember that Doctrine and Covenants 121–23 are portions of an inspired letter the Prophet Joseph Smith wrote to the Saints in March 1839 while he was imprisoned in Liberty Jail. Read Doctrine and Covenants 121:11–17, looking for what the Prophet learned from the Lord concerning what would happen to those who had accused the Lord’s servants of transgression.
The phrase “their hope shall be blasted, and their prospects shall melt away” (D&C 121:11) indicates that those who fight against the Lord’s servants ultimately will not succeed in their designs.
Study Doctrine and Covenants 121:18–22, looking for additional consequences that would come to those who falsely accuse and fight against the servants of the Lord. (In verse 19, the phrase “severed from the ordinances of [the Lord’s] house” means to lose or be separated from the blessings associated with temple ordinances.)
Answer the following questions in your scripture study journal:
The false statements from apostate members of the Church and others, coupled with the governor’s extermination order, influenced mobs to increase their persecution of the Saints in Missouri.
As you read the following account, mark examples of how the Saints were treated unjustly:
On October 30, 1838, just three days after the extermination order was issued, approximately 240 men approached a Mormon settlement at a place called Hawn’s Mill (or Haun’s Mill). The women and children fled into the woods, while the men sought protection in the blacksmith shop. One of the Saints’ leaders, David Evans, swung his hat and cried for peace. The sound of a hundred rifles answered him, most of them aimed at the blacksmith shop. The mobbers shot mercilessly at everyone in sight, including women, elderly men, and children. Amanda Smith seized her two little girls and ran with Mary Stedwell across the millpond on a walkway. Amanda recalled, “Yet though we were women, with tender children, in flight for our lives, the demons poured volley after volley to kill us” (in Andrew Jenson, “Amanda Smith,” The Historical Record, July 1886, 84).
Members of the mob entered the blacksmith shop and found and killed 10-year-old Sardius Smith, son of Amanda Smith, when he was hiding under the blacksmith’s bellows. The man later explained, “Nits [young lice] will make lice, and if he had lived he would have become a Mormon” (in Jenson, “Haun’s Mill Massacre,” Historical Record, Dec. 1888, 673; see also B. H. Roberts, A Comprehensive History of the Church, 1:482). Alma Smith, Sardius’s seven-year-old brother, witnessed the murder of his father and brother and was himself shot in the hip. He was not discovered by the mob and was later miraculously healed through prayer and faith. Although a few men along with women and children escaped across the river into the hills, at least 17 people were killed, and about 13 were wounded. (See Church History in the Fulness of Times Student Manual, 2nd ed. [Church Educational System manual, 2003], 201, 203–4; see also History of the Church, 3:183–86.)
No one in the violent mob was brought to justice for their crimes in the courts of Missouri or by federal authorities.
What feelings might you have had if you had experienced these cruelties? How might you have felt when you learned that your attackers would not be held accountable for their actions?
Read Doctrine and Covenants 121:23–25, looking for phrases indicating that God would hold the Saints’ enemies accountable for their actions. (We do not know when these judgments will come upon the enemies of the Saints. Some consequences may not come until the next life.)
Complete the following statements of truth based on what you learned from verses 24–25.
The Lord and all our works.
Those who fight against the Lord and His people will receive at His appointed time.
Think of times when you have seen people do wrong and seem to avoid the consequences. In your scripture study journal, answer the following question: How might the principles you identified in Doctrine and Covenants 121:24–25 relate to situations today when people appear to escape the consequences for their wrongdoing?
Read Doctrine and Covenants 121:26, looking for a truth the Prophet Joseph Smith recorded while he was imprisoned in Liberty Jail.
Use what you learn in verse 26 to complete the following statement: God will through the .
As you consider how this truth can relate to you when you experience difficulties, ponder the following statement by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles: “You can have sacred, revelatory, profoundly instructive experience with the Lord in the most miserable experiences of your life—in the worst settings, while enduring the most painful injustices, when facing the most insurmountable odds and opposition you have ever faced” (“Lessons from Liberty Jail” [Brigham Young University fireside, Sept. 7, 2008], 4; speeches.byu.edu).
The following account by Lucy Mack Smith provides an example of how God can reveal knowledge to us through the Holy Ghost. As you read this account, notice how the knowledge she received through the Holy Ghost comforted her about the her sons’ imprisonment in Liberty Jail after Joseph and Hyrum were taken as prisoners and threatened with death.
“For some time our house was filled with mourning, lamentation, and woe; but, in the midst of my grief, I found consolation that surpassed all earthly comfort. I was filled with the Spirit of God, and received the following by the gift of prophecy: ‘Let your heart be comforted concerning your children, they shall not be harmed by their enemies. …’ This relieved my mind, and I was prepared to comfort my children. I told them what had been revealed to me, which greatly consoled them” (History of Joseph Smith by His Mother, ed. Preston Nibley , 291).
Answer one or both of the following questions in your scripture study journal:
How can receiving knowledge through the Holy Ghost help you when you experience difficulties?
When have you received knowledge through the Holy Ghost that has helped you through a difficult time?
In Doctrine and Covenants 121:26–33, the Lord promised to reveal knowledge that had “not been revealed since the world was” (D&C 121:26) and to bestow glorious blessings upon all who “endured valiantly for the gospel of Jesus Christ” (D&C 121:29).
In Doctrine and Covenants 121:33, the Prophet Joseph Smith used an analogy to help the Saints understand that the Lord was more powerful than those who were persecuting the Saints and attempting to stop the work of God.
Read verse 33, looking for the comparison Joseph Smith gave to illustrate the power of God. The Missouri River is a large and powerful river that many of the early Saints had lived near and were familiar with.
How effective would a person be in stopping the course of a large and powerful river by using only an arm? What do you think the Lord was teaching the Prophet about the revelation He was going to send?
One doctrine we learn from Doctrine and Covenants 121:33 is that nothing can stop the Lord’s work from going forward.
Answer the following question in your scripture study journal: How do you feel knowing that the Lord’s work will continue regardless of opposition?
Write the following at the bottom of today’s assignments in your scripture study journal:
I have studied Doctrine and Covenants 121:11–33 and completed this lesson on (date).
Additional questions, thoughts, and insights I would like share with my teacher: