Lesson 13: “This Generation Shall Have My Word through You”

Doctrine and Covenants and Church History: Gospel Doctrine Teacher’s Manual, (1999), 69–74


Purpose

To help class members appreciate the Prophet Joseph Smith’s role in bringing forth the word of the Lord in this dispensation.

Preparation

  1. 1.

    Prayerfully study the scriptures in this lesson and the following other materials:

    1. a.

      Our Heritage, pages 23–25, 41, 58.

    2. b.

      Bible Dictionary, “Joseph Smith Translation,” page 717.

  2. 2.

    Review the material for this lesson in the Class Member Study Guide (35686). Plan ways to refer to the material during the lesson.

  3. 3.

    Ask a class member to prepare to summarize the account of Mary Elizabeth and Caroline Rollins saving pages of the Book of Commandments (Our Heritage, page 41).

  4. 4.

    If the picture Mary and Caroline Rollins Saving the Book of Commandments is available (62605; Gospel Art Picture Kit 409), prepare to use it during the lesson.

  5. 5.

    Copy selected entries from the chart on page 74 onto a poster or prepare to write them on the chalkboard.

Suggestions for Lesson Development

Attention Activity

As appropriate, use the following activity or one of your own to begin the lesson.

List some or all of the following subjects on the chalkboard before class begins.

Physical nature of the Godhead

Our creation in God’s image

Apostles and prophets

Melchizedek Priesthood

Aaronic Priesthood

Mode of baptism

The gift of the Holy Ghost

Premortal existence

Baptism for the dead

Resurrection

The three kingdoms of glory

Eternal marriage

Our potential to become like Heavenly Father

Invite a class member to erase from the chalkboard anything that has not been revealed through the Prophet Joseph Smith. Help class members see that nothing can be erased from the chalkboard—that all of these truths were restored through the Prophet Joseph. This lesson discusses how Joseph Smith has been instrumental in bringing forth the word of the Lord in this dispensation.

Discussion and Application

Prayerfully select the lesson material that will best meet class members’ needs. Encourage class members to share experiences that relate to the principles you teach.

1. The Lord declared that the people in this dispensation would receive His word through Joseph Smith.

Read D&C 5:10 with class members. Explain that in this verse, the phrase “this generation” refers to this dispensation—the time in which we live. Then share the following statement by President Brigham Young:

“What I have received from the Lord, I have received by Joseph Smith” (Discourses of Brigham Young, sel. John A. Widtsoe [1941], 458).

  • How is this statement true for you? How is it true for all Latter-day Saints?

Point out that the great outpouring of truth in this dispensation has come through the Prophet Joseph Smith. For example, latter-day scriptures, priesthood ordinances, the organization of the priesthood, and temple building have come from the Lord through the Prophet Joseph Smith.

2. Many ancient and latter-day scriptures have come through Joseph Smith.

  • Read Moses 1:40–41 with class members. How is the prophecy in verse 41 being fulfilled? (Emphasize that in a time when many have esteemed the Lord’s words lightly, the Lord raised up the Prophet Joseph Smith. The words of the Lord are now “had again among the children of men.”)

  • What scriptures have come to us through the Prophet Joseph Smith? (The Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, Pearl of Great Price, and Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible. Point out that Joseph Smith was an instrument in the Lord’s hands in restoring ancient scriptures, and he received many revelations that became latter-day scriptures.)

    Speaking about Joseph Smith, Elder LeGrand Richards of the Quorum of the Twelve said, “As far as our records show, he has given us more revealed truth than any prophet who has ever lived upon the face of the earth” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1981, 43; or Ensign, May 1981, 33).

The Book of Mormon

Read 2 Nephi 3:11–15 with class members. Explain that this passage contains a prophecy about Joseph Smith. The writings mentioned in verse 12 are the Bible and the Book of Mormon.

  • In what ways does the Book of Mormon help eliminate contention and establish peace? In what ways does the Book of Mormon bring people to a knowledge of the Lord’s covenants?

  • How has the Book of Mormon blessed your life?

  • What are some of your favorite passages in the Book of Mormon?

As part of this discussion, you may want to share one or two passages from the Book of Mormon that are particularly meaningful to you.

The Doctrine and Covenants

Explain that from 1823 to 1831, Joseph Smith received more than 60 revelations from the Lord. A few handwritten copies of these revelations were given to missionaries and others, but most Church members did not have access to them. At a conference held in Ohio in late 1831, Church leaders decided to publish the revelations in a volume called the Book of Commandments (see the headings to D&C 67 and D&C 69). Oliver Cowdery and John Whitmer were selected to take the revelations to Independence, Missouri, a distance of approximately 1,000 miles, where the book would be printed and bound.

The Book of Commandments

The Book of Commandments. This is the first compilation of the revelations given through the Prophet Joseph Smith. These revelations later became part of the Doctrine and Covenants.

Oliver Cowdery and John Whitmer reached Independence in January 1832, and by July 1833 William W. Phelps had printed the first 160 pages of the Book of Commandments. However, on 20 July 1833 a mob destroyed Brother Phelps’s printing press and many of the unbound pages of the Book of Commandments.

Ask the assigned class member to tell the story of the courage of Mary Elizabeth and Caroline Rollins (Our Heritage, page 41).

The pages that were salvaged were bound into a few copies of the Book of Commandments, but the revelations still were not widely available. In 1835, after 45 more revelations were added, the Book of Commandments was published as the Doctrine and Covenants.

  • What does the story of Mary Elizabeth and Caroline Rollins teach about how we should value the revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants?

  • How have you been blessed as you have studied the Doctrine and Covenants this year?

  • What are some of your favorite passages in the Doctrine and Covenants?

As part of this discussion, you may want to share one or two passages from the Doctrine and Covenants that are particularly meaningful to you.

The Pearl of Great Price

Point out that the Pearl of Great Price is appropriately named. Like a pearl, it is small in size but great in worth. Although it is only 61 pages long, it spans the eternities, including passages about the Grand Council in Heaven, the restoration of the gospel in the dispensation of the fulness of times, the Savior’s Second Coming, the Millennium, and everlasting life. It contains valuable teachings on the Creation, the Fall, the Atonement, and the agency of mankind. This book of scripture has five parts:

  1. a.

    Selections from the book of Moses

  2. b.

    The book of Abraham

  3. c.

    Joseph Smith—Matthew

  4. d.

    Joseph Smith—History

  5. e.

    The Articles of Faith

Ask class members to turn to the Introductory Note at the beginning of the Pearl of Great Price. Have them review the last five paragraphs, which explain the background of each part of this book of scripture.

  • How have the teachings in the Pearl of Great Price helped you? What are some passages in the Pearl of Great Price that are particularly meaningful to you?

As part of this discussion, you may want to share one or two of your favorite passages from the Pearl of Great Price.

The Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible

  • Read the eighth article of faith with class members. What is the significance of the phrase “as far as it is translated correctly”?

Read 1 Nephi 13:24–28 with class members. (Explain that “the book [that] proceeded from the mouth of a Jew” is the Bible. The phrase “great and abominable church” refers to all those who fight against God, not to a specific church.) Remind class members that because of the Great Apostasy, the Lord withdrew the fulness of the gospel from the earth. During the centuries that followed, many parts of the Bible were changed and many plain and precious truths were lost.

Soon after the Church was restored, the Lord instructed the Prophet Joseph to begin making inspired corrections to the King James Version of the Bible. There are many references to this instruction in the Doctrine and Covenants (see, for example, D&C 35:20; 37:1; 45:60–61; 73:3–4; 93:53). Today we refer to the Prophet’s work as the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible.

Joseph Smith’s translation of the Bible differs from what we normally call a translation. The Prophet did not translate the Bible from one language to another. His only text was the King James Version of the Bible, and he was guided by the Spirit to make corrections and restore passages that had been lost completely.

Two excerpts from the Joseph Smith Translation are in the Pearl of Great Price (the book of Moses and Joseph Smith—Matthew). In addition, brief portions of the Joseph Smith Translation are included in the footnotes of the Latter-day Saint edition of the King James Bible. Longer excerpts are included in the appendix following the Bible Dictionary.

To help class members gain a greater appreciation of the Joseph Smith Translation, you may want to briefly compare some passages with the King James Bible. Two comparisons are suggested below:

  1. a.

    The account and teachings of Enoch are an example of the restoration of long passages in the Joseph Smith Translation. The Bible’s only references to Enoch are in Genesis 5:18–24, Luke 3:37, Hebrews 11:5, and Jude 1:14–15. The Joseph Smith Translation’s references to Enoch are greatly expanded to include his teachings, visions, and prophecies as recorded in Moses 6:21–68 and Moses 7:1–69. Select a few of these verses to read in class, and discuss their value.

  2. b.

    The revisions to Matthew 4 are an example of inspired corrections to specific verses in the Bible. If class members have excerpts of the Joseph Smith Translation in the footnotes of their Bibles, have them review a few of the footnotes for Matthew 4 that begin with “JST.” Discuss how these corrections clarify the verses in the King James Version.

The process of translating the Bible not only brought the correction and restoration of doctrines in the Bible. It also helped bring about the restoration of doctrines through the Doctrine and Covenants. Many revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants are responses to questions the Prophet asked while pondering the translation of the Bible. One Church member who spent many years studying the Joseph Smith Translation observed, “The Joseph Smith Translation is not just a better Bible; it was the channel, or the means, of doctrinal restoration in the infancy of this Church” (Robert J. Matthews, in The Capstone of Our Religion: Insights into the Doctrine and Covenants [1989], 64).

To give an example of how the Joseph Smith Translation led to “doctrinal restoration,” read the second full paragraph on page 24 of Our Heritage. You may also want to read the heading to D&C 76 and verses 15–19 in D&C 76:15–19.

Encourage class members to use the Joseph Smith Translation as they study the scriptures.

3. Plain and precious doctrines of the gospel have been restored through Joseph Smith.

The chart on page 74 highlights some of the doctrines of the gospel that were restored or clarified through the Prophet Joseph Smith. Note that the subjects listed in the left column are the same as those in the attention activity.

The middle column of the chart lists verses in the Bible where the doctrines and principles are unclear, incorrect, or incomplete. The right column shows where these doctrines and principles are explained or clarified in scripture given through Joseph Smith.

Select a few subjects from the chart, and review the accompanying scripture passages with class members. Discuss how the revelations that came through the Prophet clarify these subjects.

Subject

Scriptures in the Bible

Scriptures Given through Joseph Smith

Physical nature of the Godhead

Matthew 3:16–17; John 4:24; Acts 7:55

Joseph Smith—History 1:17; D&C 130:1, 22

Our creation in God’s image

Genesis 1:27

Moses 6:8–9

Apostles and prophets

Ephesians 2:20; 4:11–16

D&C 107:23, 33, 35, 39, 58; 112:30–32

Melchizedek Priesthood

Hebrews 6:20; 7:17

D&C 84:19–25; 107:1–8, 18–19

Aaronic Priesthood

Hebrews 7:11

D&C 13; 84:18, 26–27, 30; 107:1, 13–14, 20

Mode of baptism

Matthew 3:16

3 Nephi 11:22–26; Moroni 8:8–12; D&C 20:71–74

The gift of the Holy Ghost

Acts 8:17

D&C 20:41, 43; 35:6; 121:46

Premortal existence

Jeremiah 1:4–5

D&C 93:29; Abraham 3:22–26

Baptism for the dead

1 Corinthians 15:29

D&C 128:16–18

Resurrection

Job 19:25–26; John 5:28–29; 1 Corinthians 15:22

Alma 11:42–45

The three kingdoms of glory

1 Corinthians 15:40–42

D&C 76:50–112; 131:1

Eternal marriage

Genesis 2:24; 1 Corinthians 11:11

D&C 131:1–4; 132:19

Our potential to become like Heavenly Father

Romans 8:17

D&C 88:107; 93:20; 132:20–24

Conclusion

Express your appreciation for Joseph Smith’s role in bringing the Lord’s word to us. As prompted by the Spirit, testify of the truths discussed during the lesson.