“February 15–21. Doctrine and Covenants 14–17: ‘Stand as a Witness,’” Come, Follow Me—For Individuals and Families: Doctrine and Covenants 2021 (2020)
“February 15–21. Doctrine and Covenants 14–17,” Come, Follow Me—For Individuals and Families: 2021
Record Your Impressions
Even though the work of translation was progressing well, by May 1829 the situation in Harmony had become more difficult for Joseph, Emma, and Oliver. Hostility from neighbors was growing while support from Emma’s family was waning. Feeling that Harmony was no longer safe, Oliver reached out to a friend who had expressed interest in Joseph’s work: David Whitmer. David lived with his parents and siblings in Fayette, New York, about 100 miles away. He had met Oliver a year earlier, and Oliver had written him several letters since then, sharing his experiences working with the Prophet. Neither David nor anyone in his family had ever met Joseph. But when Oliver asked if he and Joseph might move to the Whitmer home to finish translating the Book of Mormon, the Whitmers readily opened their doors. And the Lord had more in store for the Whitmers than simply housing the Prophet. He had some specific instruction for them, found in Doctrine and Covenants 14–17, and in time they were to become one of the foundational families of the Church and witnesses to the unfolding Restoration.
For more about the Whitmer family, see Saints, 1:68–71.
When he met Joseph Smith, David Whitmer was a young man dedicated to his work on the family farm. But the Lord had a different labor in mind for David—though in some ways it was a bit like farming. As you read Doctrine and Covenants 14:1–4, notice how the Lord compares His work to the kind of work David was familiar with. What do you learn about the work of the Lord from this comparison?
The Lord compared His word to a “two-edged sword” (Doctrine and Covenants 14:2). What does this comparison suggest to you about the word of God? For instance, how is His word quick, powerful, and sharp? How have you experienced the power of God’s word?
Consider other ways God describes His word. For example, what do you learn about God’s word from the comparisons in the following passages?
As you read Doctrine and Covenants 14:7, ponder why eternal life is “the greatest of all the gifts of God.” This insight from President Russell M. Nelson might help: “Under God’s great plan of happiness, families can be sealed in temples and be prepared to return to dwell in His holy presence forever. That is eternal life!” (“Thanks Be to God,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2012, 77).
Consider adding cross references to verse 7 that help you understand more about eternal life (see “Eternal Life” in the Topical Guide or Guide to the Scriptures, scriptures.ChurchofJesusChrist.org). What do you learn that inspires you to strive for eternal life?
John and Peter Whitmer both wanted to know what “would be of the most worth” in their lives (Doctrine and Covenants 15:4; 16:4). Have you ever wondered about this for yourself? As you read Doctrine and Covenants 15–16, ponder why bringing souls to Christ is of such great worth. How can you invite souls unto Christ?
See also Doctrine and Covenants 18:10–16.
What is a witness? Why does the Lord use witnesses in His work? (see 2 Corinthians 13:1). Ponder these questions as you read God’s words to the Three Witnesses in Doctrine and Covenants 17. It might also be helpful to review “The Testimony of Three Witnesses” in the Book of Mormon. How do witnesses help bring about God’s “righteous purposes”? (verse 4).
Did you know that Mary Whitmer also received a witness of the gold plates? The angel Moroni showed them to her as an acknowledgment of the sacrifices she made while Joseph, Emma, and Oliver were living in her home (see Saints, 1:70–71). What do you learn from her experience about receiving a witness?
Doctrine and Covenants 14:1–4.
Consider inviting your family to find phrases related to farming in these verses. Why might the Lord compare His work to a harvest? What can we do to help in His work?
Doctrine and Covenants 14:2.
The activity for this verse in “Ideas for Personal Scripture Study” lists some scripture passages about the word of God. Maybe family members could read them and share what they learn. How do these scripture passages inspire us to “give heed” to the word of God?
Doctrine and Covenants 15:6; 16:6.
These verses could inspire a conversation about things that are of most worth to your family (see also Doctrine and Covenants 18:10).
Doctrine and Covenants 17.
Your family might enjoy drawing pictures of each of the items the Three Witnesses saw (see verse 1). As you read section 17, look for phrases that teach about the importance of the Book of Mormon. How can we be witnesses of the Book of Mormon? Your family could also watch the video “A Day for the Eternities” (ChurchofJesusChrist.org).
For more ideas for teaching children, see this week’s outline in Come, Follow Me—For Primary.
Suggested song: “I’ll Go Where You Want Me to Go,” Hymns, no. 270.
The angel Moroni showed the gold plates to Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, and Martin Harris in the woods near the Whitmer home in Fayette, New York. Joseph’s parents were visiting the Whitmers at the time. Lucy Mack Smith, Joseph’s mother, described the effect this miraculous experience had on the witnesses:
“It was between three and four o’clock. Mrs. Whitmer and Mr. Smith and myself were sitting in a bedroom. I sat on the bedside. When Joseph came in, he threw himself down beside me. ‘Father! Mother!’ said he. ‘You do not know how happy I am. The Lord has caused the plates to be shown to three more besides me, who have also seen an angel and will have to testify to the truth of what I have said. For they know for themselves that I do not go about to deceive the people. And I do feel as though I was relieved of a dreadful burden, which was almost too much for me to endure. But they will now have to bear a part, and it does rejoice my soul that I am not any longer to be entirely alone in the world.’ Martin Harris then came in. He seemed almost overcome with excess of joy. He then testified to what he had seen and heard, as did also the others, Oliver and David. Their testimony was the same in substance as that contained in the Book of Mormon. …
“Martin Harris particularly seemed altogether unable to give vent to his feelings in words. He said, ‘I have now seen an angel from Heaven who has of a surety testified of the truth of all that I have heard concerning the record, and my eyes have beheld him. I have also looked upon the plates and handled them with my hands and can testify of the same to the whole world. But I have received for myself a witness that words cannot express, that no tongue can describe, and I bless God in the sincerity of my soul that he has condescended to make me, even me, a witness of the greatness of his work and designs in behalf [of] the children of men.’ Oliver and David also joined with him in solemn praises to God for his goodness and mercy. We returned home [to Palmyra, New York,] the next day a cheerful, rejoicing little company.”1
Lucy Mack Smith was also present when the Eight Witnesses returned from their experience:
“After these witnesses returned to the house, the angel again made his appearance to Joseph; at which time Joseph delivered up the plates into his hands. That evening we held a meeting, in which all the witnesses bore testimony to the facts as stated above; and all of our family, even to Don Carlos [Smith], who was but 14 years of age, testified of the truth of the latter day dispensation—that it was then fully ushered in.”2