Doctrine and Covenants 127–28

Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Seminary Teacher Resource Manual, (2001), 213–16


Introduction

On April 3, 1836, Elijah restored the sealing keys to the earth when he appeared to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery in the Kirtland Temple (see D&C 110:13–16). This power allows members of the Church to do ordinance work for the dead. Sections 127–28 are letters that Joseph Smith wrote to the Saints on this subject. President Wilford Woodruff said:

“[The Prophet’s] soul was wound up with this work before he was martyred for the word of God and testimony of Jesus Christ. He told us that there must be a welding link of all dispensations and of the work of God from one generation to another. This was upon his mind more than most any other subject that was given to him” (The Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, sel. G. Homer Durham [1946], 156; see D&C 128:1, 18).

We have an obligation to do work in behalf of our kindred dead. If we neglect this duty, our salvation is jeopardized (see D&C 128:15, 18). Elder John A. Widtsoe, who was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, explained:

“In our preexistent state, in the day of the great council, we made a certain agreement with the Almighty. The Lord proposed a plan. … We accepted it. Since the plan is intended for all men, we became parties to the salvation of every person under that plan. We agreed, right then and there, to be not only saviors for ourselves but … saviors for the whole human family. We went into a partnership with the Lord. The working out of the plan became then not merely the Father’s work, and the Savior’s work, but also our work” (“The Worth of Souls,” The Utah Genealogical and Historical Magazine, Oct. 1934, 189).

Some Important Gospel Principles to Look For

Additional Resources

  • Church History in the Fulness of Times: Religion 341–43, pp. 251–52.

  • Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual: Religion 324–325, pp. 314–19.

Suggestions for Teaching

Doctrine and Covenants 127:1–4. The righteous who endure persecution will be rewarded.

(15–20 minutes)

Display a large, clear container labeled mortality and a pitcher of water labeled tribulations. Ask students to list some of the tribulations Joseph Smith faced during his life, including those mentioned in Doctrine and Covenants 127:1. With each tribulation they mention, pour some of the water from the pitcher into the clear container. Discuss the following questions:

  • Why does the Lord allow tribulations to occur during mortality?

  • What tribulations do you and others your age face?

  • Why do people respond to their challenges with different levels of faith and courage?

  • What differences do you see between the character of those who respond to tribulations with faith and those who do not?

Show students two balls of equal size, one of which floats and one that does not. (You could use a hollow, plastic golf ball and a standard golf ball.) Place both balls in the container of water and ask: How might these two balls represent the different ways people respond to tribulations? Read verse 2 and look for which ball best represents the Prophet Joseph Smith. Ask:

  • What phrase in these writings of the Prophet impresses you most?

  • How do you think knowing he was “ordained from before the foundation of the world” helped him deal with tribulation? (see also Abraham 3:22–23).

  • Why might he write “deep water is what I am wont to swim in”?

  • Who did he give credit to for delivering him from tribulations?

  • Why is it important to turn to God in difficult times?

Share the following statement by the Prophet Joseph Smith:

“Never be discouraged … : if I were sunk in the lowest pit of Nova Scotia, with the Rocky Mountains piled on me, I would hang on, exercise faith, and keep up good courage, and I would come out on top” (in John Henry Evans, Joseph Smith, an American Prophet [1989], 9).

Have students search verses 3–4, and ask:

  • What do these verses teach about difficulties?

  • What does the Lord promise to those who endure persecution?

  • What persecutions have you faced? How do you think they compare to those faced by “the prophets and righteous men that were before you”?

Have students write on a piece of paper how they could better follow the Prophet Joseph Smith’s example.

Doctrine and Covenants 127:5–9; 128:1–10, 24. Temple ordinances must be recorded and verified by two or three witnesses. These records will be offered to the Lord.

(25–30 minutes)

Ask the class whether it is possible to tell if a student attended church last Sunday by looking at the student. Discuss how difficult it is to make a judgment without enough evidence. Ask: What could help you judge whether a student attended church last Sunday? (You could ask parents, teachers, or fellow students who were there, or you could consult class rolls.) Discuss the following questions:

  • Why is having enough evidence so helpful in making a judgment?

  • Why is it helpful to have witnesses? written records?

Read Doctrine and Covenants 128:6 and ask:

  • What will each of us be judged from one day?

  • Read verse 7. What are the books spoken of by John? (Records kept on earth.) What is the book of life? (A record kept in heaven.)

  • Read verses 8–9. What do these verses teach about the importance of having accurate records?

Invite students to raise their hand if they know the name of their ward or branch clerk. Determine what percentage of the class raised their hands. Have students scan Doctrine and Covenants 127:5–9; 128:3–4, 6, 8 to answer the following questions:

  • What are clerks or recorders to keep track of?

  • How does the law of witnesses relate to the records that are kept?

  • Why would you want your own ordinance records to be accurate? (We will be judged partly by these records.)

  • Why must the records of the ordinance work we do for the dead be accurate?

  • What role do clerks and recorders play in our salvation?

  • What qualifications has the Lord outlined for those who serve as clerks, recorders, or secretaries?

Invite students to thank the secretaries, clerks, and others who keep records in their ward or branch.

Distribute blank pedigree charts to class members and have them record from memory four generations of their ancestors (names, birth dates, dates of ordinances, and so on). After a few minutes, read Doctrine and Covenants 128:24 and ask:

  • What offering will the Lord require of Latter-day Saints? (The record of our dead.)

  • Why is family history work so important?

  • When do you think you should begin working on your family history?

  • How can keeping accurate records bless your ancestors?

  • How can it bless you?

  • How can it bless your posterity? (see D&C 128:15, 18).

Tell students: Imagine you had to offer your pedigree chart to the Lord in its present state. Do you think it is “worthy of all acceptation”? Invite students to participate in gathering the names of their ancestors and doing temple work for them. Share the following statement by Elder W. Grant Bangerter, then a member of the Seventy:

“May we always remember that we perform the temple ordinances for people and not for names. Those we call ‘the dead’ are alive in the spirit and are present in the temple” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1982, 101; or Ensign, May 1982, 72).

Doctrine and Covenants 128:12–14. Baptism by immersion represents death, burial, and resurrection.

(10–15 minutes)

Have two students come forward to play the role of missionaries. Ask them:

  • Why does your church believe in baptism?

  • Why do you believe baptism by immersion is necessary?

  • Do you really do baptisms for the dead? How does that work?

Invite other class members to share additional insights they have.

Study John 3:5; 1 Corinthians 15:29; Doctrine and Covenants 128:12–14. Invite another pair of students to come forward and play the role of missionaries. Have them use what they learned to answer the following questions:

  • What does baptism by immersion represent?

  • What happens if I am never baptized?

  • Were baptisms for the dead performed during biblical times?

  • How can an ordinance performed on earth be accepted in heaven?

  • Who can perform baptisms for the dead?

If any of your students have done baptisms for the dead, invite a few to the front of the class to answer these or similar questions. Invite other class members to share additional insights they have.

  • At what age can you begin to participate in baptisms for the dead? (Twelve.)

  • How should we dress when we go to the temple to do baptisms?

  • Why do you think we dress in white when we do baptisms for the dead?

  • What does the baptismal font in the temple look like?

  • Why are temple baptismal fonts placed underneath the ground? (The font represents the grave.)

  • What do the twelve oxen represent? (The twelve tribes of Israel.)

  • What can we do to prepare to do baptisms for the dead?

Invite students to share their testimonies of baptism for the dead. Encourage them to take every opportunity to go to the temple and do work for the dead.

Doctrine and Covenants 128:15–18. Elijah restored the keys necessary to perform saving ordinances for the living and the dead and to seal families together eternally. We cannot be made perfect without being sealed to our righteous ancestors.

(20–25 minutes)

Tell students that sections 127 and 128 are letters written by the Prophet Joseph Smith while he was in hiding. Share the information from the introduction to sections 127–28 (pp. 213–14), and ask:

  • What was occupying Joseph Smith’s mind in September 1842?

  • Why do you think the doctrines related to redeeming the dead were so important to him?

Tell students: Imagine you are walking across a frozen lake when the ice gives way and you fall into the water. You are unable to pull yourself up onto the ice again. You can see a long tree branch on the shore, and you can hear people coming and going a short distance away.

  • What might happen if no one hears your shouts for help?

  • What might happen if people hear you but no one offers you the branch?

Read Doctrine and Covenants 128:18 and ask:

  • How does this verse relate to the example of falling through the ice?

  • In what ways do those who have died depend on us?

  • Why do you think that “we without them cannot be made perfect”?

  • How important is it to be a part of this chain of people who have been “welded” or sealed together?

Read verse 17 and look for who restored the power to seal families together. Review Doctrine and Covenants 110 to remind students how and when Elijah restored that power.

Read Obadiah 1:21 and point out the phrase “saviours shall come up on mount Zion.” Explain that a “savior” is a person who does something for others that they cannot do for themselves. Read Doctrine and Covenants 128:15–16 and ask:

  • How can we be saviors for those who are dead?

  • How do you think those you do baptisms for will feel toward you?

Encourage students to do ordinance work for others and to prepare to one day be sealed in the temple.

Doctrine and Covenants 128:19–23. The Lord has revealed the fulness of priesthood keys and powers in our day. We should rejoice in these restored blessings.

(10–15 minutes)

Invite students to think of a time they felt so happy they wanted to sing, dance, cheer, or celebrate. Ask:

  • What made you so happy?

  • How often do you feel that way?

  • Read 2 Nephi 2:25. How would you define the word joy in this verse?

  • How does it relate to living the gospel?

Have students sing “Count Your Blessings” (Hymns, no. 241). Discuss what role gratitude plays in our ability to feel joy. Explain that Doctrine and Covenants 128:19–23 contains an expression of the joy Joseph Smith felt because of the gospel. These verses could be compared to a psalm or hymn. Have students read the verses and look for some of the visions, doctrines, or experiences that made the Prophet so joyful. Ask:

  • Why do you think these experiences brought Joseph Smith such great joy?

  • How do these verses make you feel about your membership in the Church?

  • Which of these blessings are you most grateful for?

  • Which of Joseph’s expressions of joy can you most relate to?

Share the following statement by Sarah Studevant Leavitt, an early member of the Church:

“To write the love of God … would drain the ocean, though the sea was ink, and the earth paper and every stick a pen and every man a scribe. When I try to praise Him in beauty, honor and magnify the name of God, I find I have no language at my command that will do justice to the case, but when I lay aside this weak, frail body I expect to praise Him in beauty and holiness” (History of Sarah Studevant Leavitt, ed. Juanita Leavitt Pulsipher [1969], 29).

Invite students to write their feelings about the gospel on a piece of paper, or take time in class for students to share their testimonies and gratitude. Also consider singing several hymns as expressions of joy and thanksgiving for gospel blessings.