Unit 26: Day 4

Doctrine and Covenants 123; The Establishment of Nauvoo

“Unit 26: Day 4, Doctrine and Covenants 123; The Establishment of Nauvoo,” Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Study Guide for Home-Study Seminary Students (2017)


Introduction

While the Prophet Joseph Smith was imprisoned in Liberty Jail in Liberty, Missouri, from December 1838 to April 1839, he wrote letters of comfort and counsel to the Saints. Doctrine and Covenants 123 is an excerpt from a letter dated March 20, 1839, that he wrote to the Saints. In this excerpt, Joseph gave counsel to the Saints who had been driven from Missouri. After Joseph Smith was allowed to escape imprisonment, he rejoined the Saints and worked with them to establish the city of Nauvoo, Illinois.

Doctrine and Covenants 123:1–6

Joseph Smith counsels the Saints to collect and publish accounts of their persecutions and sufferings

In March 1839 the Saints were suffering harsh persecutions in Missouri. The Prophet Joseph Smith and some of the other Church leaders were being held in the jail at Liberty, Missouri, and the Saints had been driven from the state of Missouri during the harsh winter months because of Governor Lilburn W. Boggs’s extermination order.

Read the following statement, which describes some of the wrongs done to the Saints: “This may certify that I, Delia Reed, moved to Missouri in the year 1836. My husband died soon after we arrived and left me with seven small children. I then moved to Caldwell County, made an improvement, [and] continued on said farm until the autumn of 1838. When the troubles came on between the inhabitants and the Mormons, I, with the rest of our society, was obliged to leave the state. … I was obliged to sacrifice the most of my property [and] my family [became] scattered, and I had to gain a daily pittance among strangers” (Delia Reed, in Mormon Redress Petitions: Documents of the 1833–1838 Missouri Conflict, ed. Clark V. Johnson [1992], 523; punctuation, capitalization, and spelling standardized).

Sister Reed gave this official statement to a judicial official. Ponder why she might have given this statement.

Read Doctrine and Covenants 123:1–5, looking for what the Prophet Joseph Smith counseled the persecuted Saints to do. It may be helpful to know that in verse 5 the phrase “concatenation of diabolical rascality” refers to a collection of wicked lies, and the phrase “nefarious and murderous impositions” refers to evil and violent deeds.

Read Doctrine and Covenants 123:6, looking for reasons why the Saints were told to collect accounts of their persecutions and sufferings. (As you read, it may help to know that the phrase “enjoined on us” means “required of us.”)

Many of the Saints were obedient to the Prophet’s counsel and collected numerous accounts of their persecutions, which included the destruction and loss of their homes, livestock, and other properties; physical abuses; and even the loss of lives. Why do you think it was important for the Saints to gather these accounts and submit them to the heads of government rather than just waiting or hoping for God to solve their problems for them? One truth we can learn from Doctrine and Covenants 123:6 is that the Lord will fulfill His promises after we have done our part. Ponder why you think the Lord expects us to do our part before He will fulfill His promises.

  1. journal iconAnswer the following question in your scripture study journal: When have you seen this truth fulfilled in your own life or in the life of someone you know?

Doctrine and Covenants 123:7–17

Joseph Smith counsels the Saints to help those who are deceived by falsehoods

Imagine you have been given an assignment to write a report about the Church for one of your school classes. As part of the requirement, you need to include at least three sources. Think about how you would answer the following questions:

  • What sources might you use for your paper?

  • Why does it matter what sources you use to write about the Church?

  • How do you know which sources accurately describe the Church?

Read Doctrine and Covenants 123:7–10. When the Prophet Joseph Smith wrote this letter, many lies were being spread about the Church. The Saints were told that it was their “imperative duty” (D&C 123:7, 9) to collect and publish the accounts of their persecutions and sufferings in response to these lies.

Read Doctrine and Covenants 123:11–12, looking for additional reasons why the Saints were directed to collect and publish these accounts.

  1. journal iconAnswer the following questions in your scripture study journal:

    1. According to Doctrine and Covenants 123:12, how are many of the pure in heart blinded from seeing the truth?

    2. How might publishing the truth about the Saints’ persecutions and sufferings at this time have helped others find the truth of the gospel?

    3. According to verse 12, why are many people on the earth kept from the truth? Answer this question by completing the following truth: There are many who are kept from the truth because …

There are still many people today “who are blinded by the subtle craftiness of men” and who are kept from the truth only because they do not know where to find it (D&C 123:12).

Elder M. Russell Ballard

As you read the following statement by Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, underline what he said keeps people from knowing the truth about the Church in our day: “Far too many people have a poor understanding of the Church because most of the information they hear about us is from news media reports that are often driven by controversies. Too much attention to controversy has a negative impact on peoples’ perceptions of what The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints really is” (“Sharing the Gospel Using the Internet,” Ensign, July 2008, 62).

Similar to the Saints in 1839, we are directed to help others have a correct understanding of the Church—its members, leaders, beliefs, history, teachings, and practices.

  1. journal iconIn your scripture study journal, list what you can do to help others obtain a correct understanding of the Church and to help them know where they can find the truth.

As you read the following statement from Elder Ballard, look for one way he said we can help others obtain a correct understanding of the Church:

Elder M. Russell Ballard

“There are conversations going on about the Church constantly. Those conversations will continue whether or not we choose to participate in them. But we cannot stand on the sidelines while others, including our critics, attempt to define what the Church teaches. While some conversations have audiences in the thousands or even millions, most are much, much smaller. But all conversations have an impact on those who participate in them. Perceptions of the Church are established one conversation at a time. …

“Now, may I ask that you join the conversation by participating on the Internet to share the gospel and to explain in simple and clear terms the message of the Restoration. … This, of course, requires that you understand the basic principles of the gospel. It is essential that you are able to offer a clear and correct witness of gospel truths” (“Sharing the Gospel Using the Internet,” 61–62).

  1. journal iconComplete the following assignments in your scripture study journal:

    1. Write about a time when you or someone you know helped others understand more about the Church.

    2. Select one of the ways you listed in assignment 3, and write how you will do that to help others learn and find truths about the Church and the gospel.

Read Doctrine and Covenants 123:13–16, looking for what the Saints were told about their efforts to present an accurate account of their experiences to others. According to verse 15, why were they told not to consider their efforts as “small things”?

helm and sail

One principle we can learn from Doctrine and Covenants 123:15 is that our decisions to obey the seemingly small commandments of the Lord can have great influence on our lives in the future.

According to Doctrine and Covenants 123:16, how can such a small thing like a helm (the steering wheel that controls the rudder) affect even a very large ship? (In this verse the phrase “being kept workways with the wind and the waves” refers to being able to turn the ship so that it maintains its balance and does not capsize during a storm.)

  1. journal iconAnswer the following questions in your scripture study journal:

    1. How are our small decisions like the helm of a ship?

    2. How can these decisions help you maintain your balance during the storms of life?

    3. What small decisions are you making in your life now that could have a big impact on your future?

Read Doctrine and Covenants 123:17, looking for how this verse relates to the principle identified from verse 6: The Lord will fulfill His promises to help us after we have done our part.

Based on what the Prophet Joseph Smith wrote, we learn that if we do all things that lie within our power to be obedient to the Lord’s commands, then we can have the assurance that God will use His power to help us according to His will and timing.

  1. journal iconAnswer the following questions in your scripture study journal:

    1. Why do you think we need to “do all things that lie in our power” (D&C 123:17) before we can have the assurance that God will help us?

    2. Why do you think it is important to cheerfully do all things that lie in our power?

You can be confident that when you have done everything you can to obediently follow God’s commands, He will fulfill His promises.

The Establishment of Nauvoo

Following their expulsion from Missouri, the Saints found refuge in Quincy, Illinois, and in other small communities in Illinois and Iowa. Locate Quincy on Church history map 5, “The Missouri, Illinois, and Iowa Area of the USA,” in your scriptures.

Nauvoo across Mississippi River

In April 1839, prison guards at the jail in Liberty, Missouri, allowed Joseph Smith to escape, and he joined his family in Quincy, Illinois. Under the Prophet’s direction, the Church purchased land on both sides of the Mississippi River north of Quincy. The west side of the river was part of Iowa Territory, and the east side was part of the state of Illinois. The Saints established the new headquarters of the Church on the Illinois side at a place called Commerce, which they renamed Nauvoo. Nauvoo is a Hebrew word that means “beautiful.”

While the Saints maintained headquarters in Nauvoo, the Prophet Joseph Smith was inspired to organize the Relief Society; the Lord revealed the ordinances of baptism for the dead, the temple endowment, and the marriage sealing; and missionary work was expanded throughout the world.

  1. journal iconAsk someone who is a member of Relief Society (such as a family member or friend) to tell you about some ways Relief Society has given her opportunities to participate in the Lord’s work and has blessed her life. Write down what you learn from her in your scripture study journal, and be prepared to share what you have written with other home-study students.

  2. journal iconWrite the following at the bottom of today’s assignments in your scripture study journal:

    I have studied Doctrine and Covenants 123 and “The Establishment of Nauvoo” and completed this lesson on (date).

    Additional questions, thoughts, and insights I would like to share with my teacher: