“November 29–December 5. Doctrine and Covenants 137–138: ‘The Vision of the Redemption of the Dead,’” Come, Follow Me—For Individuals and Families: Doctrine and Covenants 2021 (2020)
“November 29–December 5. Doctrine and Covenants 137–138,” Come, Follow Me—For Individuals and Families: 2021
Record Your Impressions
The revelations recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 137 and 138 are separated by more than 80 years and 1,500 miles. Section 137 was received by the Prophet Joseph Smith in 1836 in the unfinished Kirtland Temple, and section 138 was received by Joseph F. Smith, sixth President of the Church, in 1918 in Salt Lake City. But doctrinally, these two visions belong side by side. They both answer questions about the destiny of God’s children in the next life. And both take on added depth of meaning when we consider the life experiences of the prophets who received them.
Joseph Smith’s vision helped him understand the eternal destiny of his beloved brother Alvin, who had died six years before the authority to baptize was restored. Questions about Alvin’s eternal salvation had stayed with Joseph ever since. Joseph F. Smith’s vision revealed glorious truths about the spirit world—surely a comforting revelation to one who had grieved the deaths of many close family members. Joseph F. Smith lost his father, Hyrum Smith, at age 5 and his mother, Mary Fielding Smith, at age 13. By the time of his vision in 1918, he had mourned the passing of 13 children.
Many questions that people have about life after death are answered in these revelations. Section 137 casts some initial light on such questions, and section 138 opens the curtains even wider. Together, they testify of “the great and wonderful love made manifest by the Father and the Son” (Doctrine and Covenants 138:3).
The common understanding among Christians in 1836 was that if a person died without being baptized—as Joseph Smith’s brother Alvin had—that person could not go to heaven. Yet Joseph saw Alvin in a vision of the celestial kingdom. As you read section 137, ponder what you learn about Heavenly Father, His plan of salvation, and the celestial kingdom.
See also Saints, 1:232–35.
Sometimes revelation comes even though we do not seek it. But more often, it comes because we diligently search and prepare for it. As you read Doctrine and Covenants 138:1–11, 25–30, note what President Joseph F. Smith was doing when “the eyes of [his] understanding were opened” to better understand the Savior’s redeeming mission. Then consider how you can follow President Smith’s example. For instance, what changes can you make to your scripture study to allow for more “pondering over the scriptures” and more “reflecting upon the [Savior’s] great atoning sacrifice”? (verses 1–2).
In his message “The Vision of the Redemption of the Dead” (Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2018, 71–74), President M. Russell Ballard suggested other ways in which President Smith was prepared to receive this revelation. Consider how you have been prepared for experiences you are having or will have in the future.
See also “Ministry of Joseph F. Smith: A Vision of the Redemption of the Dead,” video, ChurchofJesusChrist.org.
Joseph F. Smith, by Albert E. Salzbrenner
President Russell M. Nelson taught, “Our message to the world is simple and sincere: we invite all of God’s children on both sides of the veil to come unto their Savior, receive the blessings of the holy temple, have enduring joy, and qualify for eternal life” (“Let Us All Press On,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2018, 118–19). Ponder this statement as you read Doctrine and Covenants 138:25–60. You could also consider these questions:
What do you learn from these verses about how the work of salvation is being accomplished in the spirit world? Why is it important for you to know that this work is taking place? How do these verses strengthen your faith in the Savior’s Atonement?
What do these verses teach about those who are participating in the work of salvation in the spirit world? Why is it important to understand that the work of salvation is being done on both sides of the veil?
See also Dallin H. Oaks, “Trust in the Lord,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2019, 26–29; “Susa Young Gates and the Vision of the Redemption of the Dead,” Revelations in Context, 315–22.
Doctrine and Covenants 137:1–5.Invite your family to draw what they think the celestial kingdom might look like based on these verses. What do you find in these verses that helps you look forward to living there? What are we doing now to prepare to live in the celestial kingdom with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ?
Doctrine and Covenants 137:5–10.To learn about what it would have meant for Joseph Smith to see several of his family members together in the celestial kingdom, your family could watch the video “Ministry of Joseph Smith: Temples” (ChurchofJesusChrist.org). Perhaps you could also talk about someone you know who died without the chance to be baptized. What does Doctrine and Covenants 137:5–10 teach us about that person?
Doctrine and Covenants 138:12–24.What does Doctrine and Covenants 138:12–24 teach about the people the Savior visited in the spirit world? What blessings did they receive? What do we learn from their example?
Doctrine and Covenants 138:38–55.These verses describe those whom President Joseph F. Smith saw in the spirit world and brief details about them. Maybe your family could make a list of your ancestors who are in the spirit world, along with details about their lives.
For more ideas for teaching children, see this week’s outline in Come, Follow Me—For Primary.
Suggested song: “Search, Ponder, and Pray,” Children’s Songbook, 109.
Pondering over the scriptures. President David O. McKay called meditation “one of the … most sacred doors through which we pass into the presence of the Lord” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: David O. McKay , 32).
Jesus Christ commissioned righteous spirits to preach the gospel in the spirit world. The Commissioned, by Harold I. Hopkinson