Lesson 56: Doctrine and Covenants 49

“Lesson 56: Doctrine and Covenants 49,” Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Seminary Teacher Manual (2013)

“Lesson 56,” Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Seminary Teacher Manual

Lesson 56

Doctrine and Covenants 49


Leman Copley, a convert to the Church, wanted missionaries to preach the gospel to members of his former religious group, the Shakers. However, he continued to hold on to some of the false beliefs of that religion. Concerned about Leman’s lingering beliefs, Joseph Smith inquired of the Lord on May 7, 1831, and received the revelation that is now recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 49.

Suggestions for Teaching

Doctrine and Covenants 49:1–4

The Lord calls Sidney Rigdon, Parley P. Pratt, and Leman Copley to preach to the Shakers

box with hole

Before class, make a monkey trap or draw the accompanying illustration on the board. To make a monkey trap, obtain a box with a lid. Secure the lid to the box, and cut an opening in one side of the box just large enough for a student to insert an open hand but not a fist. Put a piece of fruit or a ball inside the box.

Ask students if they know how to catch a monkey. (If they know the following method, invite them to explain it to the rest of the class. If you have built a trap, you might also invite a student to demonstrate getting caught.) Suggest that one way to trap a monkey is to place a desirable object in a container that has a hole just large enough for the monkey to reach its hand through. When the monkey grasps the object, it is unable to remove its fist because it is grasping an object too large to fit through the hole. In their determination to hold on to the object, some monkeys will allow themselves to be caught.

Invite students to silently read the section introduction to Doctrine and Covenants 49 and look for ways the situation described is like the monkey trap. After students point out that Leman Copley struggled to let go of certain Shaker beliefs, ask students to list some of the Shakers’ beliefs.

As students respond, write their answers on the board, as shown below. Do not include the column with the heading “The Lord’s Doctrine.” You will add that column later in the lesson.

Shakers’ Beliefs

The Lord’s Doctrine

  1. Christ’s Second Coming had already occurred.

D&C 49:5–8

  1. Christ had appeared in the form of a woman named Ann Lee.

D&C 49:22–25

  1. Baptism by water was not considered essential.

D&C 49:11–14

  1. They rejected marriage and believed in living a life of total celibacy (abstaining from marriage and sexual relations).

D&C 49:15–17

  1. Some Shakers forbade the eating of meat.

D&C 49:18–21

If students are curious about the name Shaker, explain that members of the United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing were commonly called Shakers because of their manner of worship, which involved shaking their bodies as they sang, danced, and clapped their hands to music.

Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 49:1–4 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what the Lord revealed about the Shakers.

  • How did the Lord describe the Shakers? (See verse 2.)

  • What do you think it means to “desire to know the truth in part, but not all”? (They accepted some of God’s teachings but ignored or rejected others.)

  • In what ways might members of the Church have similar attitudes today?

Write the following incomplete sentence on the board: Being right before the Lord includes …

Ask students how they would complete this principle based on the Lord’s words in verse 2. As students respond, complete the principle on the board: Being right before the Lord includes desiring to receive all the truth He has revealed. You may want to suggest that students write this principle in their scriptures next to verse 2. Point out that if we earnestly desire to know the truth, we also desire to live according to the truth.

  • Why did Leman Copley need the counsel in verse 2? How might this principle be helpful to us?

  • What blessings might a person miss out on by choosing to accept only part of the truth?

Refer to the monkey trap. Invite students to list some traps that might lead people to reject some of God’s teachings—actions and attitudes that people hang on to that keep them from being right before the Lord. (Some examples might include rationalizing a destructive habit, listening to music that chases away the Spirit, participating in activities on Sunday that are inappropriate for the Sabbath, preferring the teachings and philosophies of the world over God’s teachings, and not accepting the commandment to forgive others.)

  • What are some consequences of holding on to such actions and attitudes? How is this like a trap?

Invite students to consider what they might need to let go of in order to receive all the blessings Heavenly Father intends for them. Consider inviting them to set a goal to let go of something that is keeping them from being right before the Lord.

Doctrine and Covenants 49:5–28

The Lord corrects the false doctrine of the Shakers and commands His servants to invite them to repent and be baptized

Remind students that the Lord commanded Leman Copley, Sidney Rigdon, and Parley P. Pratt to preach the gospel to the Shakers (see D&C 49:1–4). Explain that before receiving this command, Leman Copley had been “anxious that some of the elders should go to his former brethren [the Shakers] and preach the gospel” (Histories, Volume 2: Assigned Histories, 1831–1847, vol. 2 of the Histories series of The Joseph Smith Papers [2012], 37). When these elders went to the Shakers, they read the revelation in Doctrine and Covenants 49 aloud to them.

On the board, copy the second column of the chart from earlier in this lesson.

Divide the class into five groups. Assign each group one of the scripture passages you have written on the board. (If you have a small class, divide the passages among the students and discuss them all as a class.) Invite students to read their assigned passages, looking for doctrines and principles that correct the false beliefs of the Shakers.

When students have had time to study these scripture passages, invite them to discuss the following questions in their groups and prepare to share their answers with the class.

  • What doctrines and principles did the Shakers and Leman Copley need to understand?

  • How do your assigned verses explain these truths?

When the groups have had sufficient time to read and discuss their assigned passages, invite a student from each group to answer these questions for the entire class. You may want to suggest that students mark the passages that teach the truths they have identified.

Students should identify the following doctrines and principles. (Note that these truths are numbered to correspond with the list of false beliefs on the board.) As students mention these truths, consider asking follow-up questions to prompt further discussion.

  1. In Doctrine and Covenants 49:7, students should identify the following doctrine: No one except God knows when the Second Coming will occur.

  2. In Doctrine and Covenants 49:22–25, one principle students might identify is the following: If we know the signs of the Second Coming, we will not be deceived by false claims.

    • What are some of the signs mentioned in verses 23–25? (You may want to explain that the name Jacob in verse 24 refers to the house of Israel.) In what ways have you seen these signs in our day?

  3. In Doctrine and Covenants 49:11–14, students should identify the following doctrine: Jesus Christ has commanded His servants to call upon people to believe in Him, repent, be baptized, and receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

    • Why are you grateful that you have been baptized and that you have received the gift of the Holy Ghost? Why do you look forward to helping other people receive these ordinances?

  4. In Doctrine and Covenants 49:15–17, students should identify one or more of the following doctrines: Marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God, and husbands and wives are commanded to be one and to have children. You might need to explain the phrase “that the earth might answer the end of its creation; and that it might be filled with the measure of man.” This passage teaches that one purpose of the earth’s creation was to provide a place where God’s children could live as families.

    • What purposes does marriage between a man and a woman fulfill in Heavenly Father’s plan?

    • How is “forbidd[ing] to marry” counter to Heavenly Father’s plan?

    • According to verse 16, God approves of traditional marriage between a man and a woman. What are some ways people attempt to ridicule or destroy traditional marriage?

    • What can young men and young women do now to prepare for celestial marriage?

  5. In Doctrine and Covenants 49:18–21, students should identify the following doctrine: The Lord has provided the animals of the earth for our use. (You may need to explain that the word raiment means clothing.)

    • What warning is found in verse 21? Why do you think the Lord is not pleased with those who kill animals needlessly?

Explain that the Shakers and Leman Copley did not follow the Lord’s counsel. The Shakers rejected the missionaries’ message, and Leman Copley returned to his former beliefs and left the Church.

Conclude by asking a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 49:26–28 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for the Lord’s counsel and promises. (You may need to explain that the word rearward refers to someone who protects someone else from behind.)

Invite students to reread these verses silently and think about how the Lord’s counsel and promises apply to them individually. Share your testimony of the blessings that come when we seek the Lord’s teachings and follow them.

Commentary and Background Information

Doctrine and Covenants 49:2. Desiring “to know the truth in part”

Elder Glenn L. Pace of the Seventy spoke of the danger of partial obedience to prophetic counsel:

Elder Glenn L. Pace

“There are some of our members who practice selective obedience. A prophet is not one who displays a smorgasbord of truth from which we are free to pick and choose. However, some members become critical and suggest the prophet should change the menu. A prophet doesn’t take a poll to see which way the wind of public opinion is blowing. He reveals the will of the Lord to us. The world is full of deteriorating churches who have succumbed to public opinion and have become more dedicated to tickling the ears of their members than obeying the laws of God.

“In 1831, some converts wanted to bring a few of their previous beliefs into the Church with them. Our problem today is with members who seem very vulnerable to the trends in society (and the pointing fingers which attend them) and want the Church to change its position to accommodate them. The doctrinal grass on the other side of the fence looks very green to them.

“The Lord’s counsel in 1831 is relevant today: ‘Behold, I say unto you, that they desire to know the truth in part, but not all, for they are not right before me and must needs repent.’ (D&C 49:2.)

“We need to accept the full truth—even all of it—‘put on the whole armour of God’ (Eph. 6:11), and get to work building up the kingdom. Each of us might ask ourselves, ‘Am I a positive contributor to building up the kingdom in our day of this dispensation of the fulness of times?’” (“Follow the Prophet,” Ensign, May 1989, 26–27).

Doctrine and Covenants 49:7. “The hour and the day no man knoweth”

You may want to share the following statement by the Prophet Joseph Smith, warning about those who claim to know the time of the Savior’s Second Coming: “Jesus Christ never did reveal to any man the precise time that He would come [see Matthew 24:36; D&C 49:7]. Go and read the Scriptures, and you cannot find anything that specifies the exact hour He would come; and all that say so are false teachers” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith [2007], 253).

Doctrine and Covenants 49:15–17. “Marriage is ordained of God”

President Gordon B. Hinckley extolled marriage between a man and a woman in the following statement:

President Gordon B. Hinckley

“How wonderful a thing is marriage under the plan of our Eternal Father, a plan provided in His divine wisdom for the happiness and security of His children and the continuity of the race. …

“President Joseph F. Smith once declared ‘that no man can be saved and exalted in the kingdom of God without the woman, and no woman can reach perfection and exaltation in the kingdom of God, alone. … God instituted marriage in the beginning. He made man in His own image and likeness, male and female, and in their creation it was designed that they should be united together in sacred bonds of marriage, and one is not perfect without the other.’ (In Conference Report, April 1913, p. 118.)

“Surely no one reading the scriptures, both ancient and modern, can doubt the divine concept of marriage. The sweetest feelings of life, the most generous and satisfying impulses of the human heart, find expression in a marriage that stands pure and unsullied above the evil of the world.

“Such a marriage, I believe, is the desire—the hoped-for, the longed-for, the prayed-for desire—of men and women everywhere” (“What God Hath Joined Together,” Ensign, May 1991, 71).

As expressed in the following statement, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does not condone same-sex marriage:

“The Church has a single, undeviating standard of sexual morality: intimate relations are proper only between a husband and a wife united in the bonds of matrimony.

“The Church’s opposition to same-sex marriage neither constitutes nor condones any kind of hostility towards homosexual men and women. Protecting marriage between a man and a woman does not affect Church members’ Christian obligations of love, kindness and humanity toward all people. … We can express genuine love and friendship for a homosexual family member or friend without accepting the practice of homosexuality or any re-definition of marriage” (“The Divine Institution of Marriage,”

President Gordon B. Hinckley taught:

President Gordon B. Hinckley

“People inquire about our position on those who consider themselves so-called gays and lesbians. My response is that we love them as sons and daughters of God. They may have certain inclinations which are powerful and which may be difficult to control. Most people have inclinations of one kind or another at various times. If they do not act upon these inclinations, then they can go forward as do all other members of the Church. If they violate the law of chastity and the moral standards of the Church, then they are subject to the discipline of the Church, just as others are” (“What Are People Asking about Us?” Ensign, Nov. 1998, 71).

Doctrine and Covenants 49:18–21. Animals are provided “for the use of man”

President Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught:

President Boyd K. Packer

“Young people, learn to use moderation and common sense in matters of health and nutrition, and particularly in medication. Avoid being extreme or fanatical or becoming a faddist.

“For example, the Word of Wisdom counsels us to eat meat sparingly (see D&C 89:12). Lest someone become extreme, we are told in another revelation that ‘whoso forbiddeth to [eat meat] is not ordained of God’ (D&C 49:18)” (“The Word of Wisdom: The Principle and the Promises,” Ensign, May 1996, 18).