Prayerfully select the lesson material that will best meet class members’ needs. Encourage class members to share experiences that relate to the scriptural principles.
Explain that while Joseph Smith was in jail at Liberty, Missouri, the main responsibility for directing the Saints’ flight from Missouri fell upon Brigham Young, President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. To escape their persecutors, the Saints began crossing the Mississippi River into Illinois in late 1838. Map 3 on
page 276 in this manual and page 31 in the Class Member Study Guide shows the route the Saints used when they were driven out of Missouri.
Ask the assigned class member to tell of the trials that John Hammer and his family experienced as they sought refuge in Illinois (
Our Heritage, pages 51–52).
The Saints gathered first in Quincy, Illinois. After Joseph Smith returned from Liberty Jail, they moved about 35 miles up the Mississippi River to what was then the small village of Commerce. The Saints quickly started draining the swampy land, planting crops, and building homes. During the summer of 1839, the Prophet renamed the place Nauvoo. He said, “The name of our City (Nauvoo) is of Hebrew origin, and signifies a beautiful situation, or place, carrying with it, also, the idea of rest” (
Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith , 182).
In December 1840 the state of Illinois granted Nauvoo a charter that allowed the city to establish a militia, a municipal court, and a university. Nauvoo became the second largest city in Illinois as the Church grew rapidly and new converts gathered there.
On 19 January 1841, the Prophet Joseph Smith received a revelation in which the Lord gave commandments to the Saints about their responsibilities in Nauvoo. This revelation is recorded in
D&C 124. Explain that by studying D&C 124 and the examples of the early Nauvoo Saints, we can more clearly understand the vital role each of us plays in building the kingdom of God.
Explain that many Church members in Nauvoo, including the members of the Quorum of the Twelve, were called to serve as missionaries. Ask the assigned class member to report on the missions of the Nauvoo Saints (
Our Heritage, pages 55–58).
Within a few months after arriving in England, Elder Wilford Woodruff had baptized and confirmed many people. Then he had the following experience:
“I … met with a large assembly of Saints and strangers, and while singing the first hymn the spirit of the Lord rested upon me and the voice of God said to me, ‘This is the last meeting that you will hold with this people for many days.’ I was astonished at this, as I had many appointments out in that district. When I arose to speak to the people, I told them that it was the last meeting I should hold with them for many days. They were as much astonished as I was. At the close of the meeting four persons came forward for baptism; we went down into the water and baptized them.
“In the morning I went in secret before the Lord, and asked Him what was His will concerning me. The answer I received was that I should go to the south; for the Lord had a great work for me to perform there, as many souls were waiting for His word.”
For the next two days he traveled south until he came to the farm of John Benbow in Herefordshire. Mr. Benbow and his wife, Jane, received him gladly and said that there was a company of over 600 men and women who had formed their own congregation called the United Brethren. Elder Woodruff said:
“This body of United Brethren were searching for light and truth, but had gone as far as they could, and were calling upon the Lord continually to open the way before them and send them light and knowledge, that they might know the true way to be saved. When I heard these things I could clearly see why the Lord had commanded me, while in the town of Hanley, to leave that place of labor and go to the south; for in Herefordshire there was a great harvest-field for gathering many saints into the Kingdom of God.”
Elder Woodruff’s efforts in this area of England enabled him “to bring into the Church, through the blessings of God, over eighteen hundred souls during eight months, including all of the six hundred United Brethren except one person” (in
Wilford Woodruff: History of His Life and Labors, ed. Matthias F. Cowley , 116–19).
Point out that the Church was strengthened by the sacrifices and efforts of the missionaries who served in England. Elder Harold B. Lee summarized what happened during this remarkable time:
“In one year, 1840 to 1841—one year and fourteen days, to be exact—nine members of the twelve were called to labor in the British Mission. If you remember the history [in Nauvoo], those years marked the period of some of the severest persecution that the Church was to undergo in this dispensation. In that one year and fourteen days the nine members of the twelve, with their associates, established churches in every noted town and city in the kingdom of Great Britain. They baptized between 7000 and 8000 converts. They printed 5000 copies of the Book of Mormon, 3000 hymnbooks, and 50,000 tracts, … and [they] emigrated 1000 souls to America” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1960, 108).
D&C 124 includes many instructions and promises to individuals who lived during the Nauvoo period. Read some of the following verses with class members and identify the instructions and promises:
D&C 124:12–14 (to Robert B. Thompson).
D&C 124:16–17 (to John C. Bennett).
D&C 124:18–19 (to Lyman Wight).
D&C 124:87–90, 97–102 (to William Law).
D&C 124:103–10 (to Sidney Rigdon).
During the Nauvoo period, most of the Saints remained faithful and were greatly blessed. However, John C. Bennett, Lyman Wight, William Law, and Sidney Rigdon were among those who fell into apostasy and forfeited many of their blessings.
What has helped you most in your efforts to endure to the end in righteousness?
Read D&C 124:15 with class members. What character traits did the Lord praise in Hyrum Smith? (See also the following quotation.) How can we develop integrity of heart? How can we develop a love of what is right?
The Prophet Joseph Smith said of his brother Hyrum, “I could pray in my heart that all my brethren were like unto my beloved brother Hyrum, who possesses the mildness of a lamb, and the integrity of a Job, and in short, the meekness and humility of Christ; and I love him with that love that is stronger than death, for I never had occasion to rebuke him, nor he me” (
History of the Church, 2:338).
Explain that while the Saints were living in Nauvoo, they were blessed with a new Church organization. By the authority of the priesthood, the Prophet Joseph Smith organized the Relief Society. Ask the assigned class member to summarize the section
“The Relief Society” from Our Heritage, pages 61–62.
To emphasize the purposes of the Relief Society, read the following declaration, which was presented in the 1999 general Relief Society meeting. If you have asked the Relief Society president or one of her counselors to make this presentation, invite her to do so now.
“We are beloved spirit daughters of God, and our lives have meaning, purpose, and direction. As a worldwide sisterhood, we are united in our devotion to Jesus Christ, our Savior and Exemplar. We are women of faith, virtue, vision, and charity who:
“Increase our testimonies of Jesus Christ through prayer and scripture study.
“Seek spiritual strength by following the promptings of the Holy Ghost.
“Dedicate ourselves to strengthening marriages, families, and homes.
“Find nobility in motherhood and joy in womanhood.
“Delight in service and good works.
“Love life and learning.
“Stand for truth and righteousness.
“Sustain the priesthood as the authority of God on earth.
“Rejoice in the blessings of the temple, understand our divine destiny, and strive for exaltation” (Mary Ellen Smoot, “Rejoice, Daughters of Zion,”
Ensign, Nov. 1999, 92–93).
How does the Relief Society build faith and strengthen testimonies? How does it strengthen marriages and families? How does it help people in need?
What blessings have come into your life because of the Relief Society?