In a revelation to the Prophet Joseph Smith, the Lord commanded that His Church be organized on April 6, 1830 (see D&C 20, section heading; D&C 20:1). This revelation also provided members with a greater understanding of the mission and teachings of the Savior. In a revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 1:30, the Lord identified the restored Church as the “only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth,” which emphasizes the important role the Church plays in the latter days and in our lives.
“Organization of the Church of Jesus Christ,” chapter 6 in Church History in the Fulness of Times Student Manual, 2nd ed. (Church Educational System manual, 2003), 67–68.
Boyd K. Packer, “The Only True Church,” Ensign, Nov. 1985, 80–83.
Jeffrey G. Cannon, “‘Build Up My Church’: D&C 18, 20, 21, 22,” Revelations in Context series, Jan. 3, 2013, history.lds.org.
Begin the lesson by asking students to describe what they know about the Church established by Jesus Christ during the New Testament time period. Then ask:
What do we believe happened to the Church of Jesus Christ following the death of the Apostles?
How does this explain the need for a restoration of the Church of Jesus Christ?
Ask a student to read the following statement aloud while the class listens for ways in which the organization of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints restored important features of the Church established by Jesus Christ in New Testament times.
“On April 6, 1830, just eleven days after the Book of Mormon was advertised for sale, a group of about 60 people assembled in the log home of Peter Whitmer Sr. in Fayette, New York. There Joseph Smith formally organized the Church, later designated by revelation as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (see D&C 115:4). It was a joyous occasion, with a great outpouring of the Spirit. The sacrament was administered, believers were baptized, the gift of the Holy Ghost was bestowed, and men were ordained to the priesthood. In a revelation received during the meeting, the Lord designated Joseph Smith as the leader of the Church: ‘a seer, a translator, a prophet, an apostle of Jesus Christ, an elder of the church through the will of God the Father, and the grace of your Lord Jesus Christ’ (D&C 21:1). The Church of Jesus Christ was once again established on the earth” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith , 8–9).
Invite students to describe some of the features of the restored Church of Jesus Christ that were similar to those of the New Testament Church.
Explain that when reading from the Doctrine and Covenants, it can be helpful to read the section headings. This helps establish the historical context of the revelations. Invite a student to read aloud the section heading for Doctrine and Covenants 20. (You might point out that in the 2013 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants, some historical information not included in the 1981 edition was added to the section heading.) Ask another student to read aloud Doctrine and Covenants 20:1–3. Ask the class to follow along, looking for insights about the Restoration of the gospel. Ask:
What truths concerning the Restoration of the gospel are taught in these verses? (One of the truths that students should identify is that Joseph Smith was called of God and commanded to organize the Church of Jesus Christ.)
Read aloud the following statement by President Gordon B. Hinckley (1910–2008):
“Joseph Smith and his associates met in the inconspicuous log house on the Peter Whitmer farm in the quiet village of Fayette, New York, and organized the Church of Christ. …
“From the original six members has grown a vast family of worshippers. … From that quiet village has grown a movement that today is scattered through some 160 nations of the earth. … That is a remarkable development. More members of the Church reside out of this nation than in it. That, too, is a remarkable thing. No other church to come out of the soil of America has grown so fast nor spread so widely. … It is a phenomenon without precedent” (“The Church Goes Forward,” Ensign, May 2002, 4).
What is remarkable to you about the rapid growth of the Church in the latter days?
How can we as individuals help the Lord’s Church continue to grow in our day?
Explain that section 20 of the Doctrine and Covenants was known to early Church members as the Articles and Covenants of the Church. This section contains many of the Lord’s instructions concerning the doctrine of the Church of Jesus Christ and the duties of its members. This revelation was read aloud at some early Church conferences.
Invite students to imagine that they are new members of the Church in 1830 and are seeking to know what they should believe as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ. Invite half of the class to silently read Doctrine and Covenants 20:17–28 and the other half to read verses 29–36, looking for doctrine that is important for every member of the Lord’s restored Church to know. You may want to suggest that they mark what they find.
After sufficient time, invite students to share truths they identified and to explain why each truth is significant to them. Consider writing the following truth on the board: Through revelation, the Lord clarified the doctrine and principles upon which His gospel is founded.
Consider inviting half of the class to read Doctrine and Covenants 20:37, looking for the requirements for those who desire to be baptized. Ask the other half of the class to read Doctrine and Covenants 20:68–69, looking for the Lord’s expectations of us following our baptism. Point out that the instructions found in these verses form a clear pattern for Church members to follow.
Discuss the following questions with the class:
What must a person demonstrate before he or she can be baptized? (Students should identify the following: Before individuals can be baptized, they must be humble, repentant, willing to take upon themselves the name of Jesus Christ, and determined to serve Him to the end.)
What does the Lord expect of us after we are baptized? (Students’ answers may vary, but they should identify the following truth: After baptism, we show the Lord our worthiness through our godly walk and conversation.)
What do you think it means to “manifest … a godly walk and conversation”? (D&C 20:69).
Why can blessings come to members of the Church who are “walking in holiness before the Lord?” (D&C 20:69).
If time permits, you might point out to students that the doctrines and Church practices recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 20 are also described in the Book of Mormon, helping us understand that the Church of Jesus Christ has been fundamentally the same in all dispensations. For instance, the doctrines described in Doctrine and Covenants 20:17–36 are also described in the Book of Mormon. Similarly, the ordinances and practices recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 20:73–80 are also recorded in the Book of Mormon.
Explain that many in our day believe that all churches are true and are equally right in the sight of God. However, about a year and a half after The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was organized, the Lord gave an important description of the Church. Invite students to read Doctrine and Covenants 1:30 silently. Then ask:
How did the Lord describe the restored Church? (Students should express the following truth: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the only true and living church upon the earth.)
What does it mean to you that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is “the only true and living church” on the earth? (Before students respond, you may want to remind them that this doctrine is not intended to mean we should feel superior to others.)
Display the following statements by President Henry B. Eyring of the First Presidency and Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and invite a student to read them aloud. Ask the rest of the class to follow along, looking for why The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is considered the “only true and living church.”
“This is the true Church, the only true Church, because in it are the keys of the priesthood. Only in this Church has the Lord lodged the power to seal on earth and to seal in heaven as He did in the time of the Apostle Peter. Those keys were restored to Joseph Smith, who then was authorized to confer them upon the members of the Quorum of the Twelve” (Henry B. Eyring, “The True and Living Church,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2008, 20).
“The Lord has declared that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is ‘the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth’ (D&C 1:30). This restored Church is true because it is the Savior’s Church; He is ‘the way, the truth, and the life’ (John 14:6). And it is a living church because of the workings and gifts of the Holy Ghost” (David A. Bednar, “Receive the Holy Ghost,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2010, 97).
How do the truths identified by President Eyring and Elder Bednar make The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints different from every other church on the earth? (It is the Savior’s Church, it has the workings and gifts of the Holy Ghost, and the keys of the priesthood are found in it. You may want to suggest that students write some of these ideas in the margin of their scriptures next to Doctrine and Covenants 1:30.)
Explain that President Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles quoted from Doctrine and Covenants 1:30 and then explained why this divinely given description of the Church is so important. Invite a student to read aloud the following statement by President Packer:
“Yield on this doctrine, and you cannot justify the Restoration. …
“We did not invent the doctrine of the only true church. It came from the Lord. Whatever perception others have of us, however presumptuous we appear to be, whatever criticism is directed to us, we must teach it to all who will listen. …
“We do not claim that others have no truth. The Lord described them as having “a form of godliness.” Converts to the Church may bring with them all the truth they possess and have it added upon” (“The Only True Church,” Ensign, Nov. 1985, 82).
How does this doctrine clarify the need for the Restoration?
Invite students to explain how individuals can come to know for themselves that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is true.