“Unit 12: Day 4, Doctrine and Covenants 53–56,” Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Study Guide for Home-Study Seminary Students (2017)
“Unit 12: Day 4,” Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Study Guide
In June 1831, the Prophet Joseph Smith received the revelations recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 53–55. The revelations contained the Lord’s instructions for some Church members who lived in Ohio but would soon move to Missouri. In these revelations the Lord spoke to Sidney Gilbert, Newel Knight, and William W. Phelps, giving them instructions that were specific to their Church assignments and their talents.
After Sidney Gilbert found that his name was not on the list of missionaries called to travel to Missouri (see D&C 52:22–32), he went to the Prophet Joseph Smith and asked what the Lord would have him do. Joseph inquired of the Lord and received the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 53. In the revelation, the Lord instructed Brother Gilbert to be ordained an elder and to act as an agent to Bishop Edward Partridge. Brother Gilbert’s role as an agent to the bishop is explained more completely in Doctrine and Covenants 57:6–10, 15. The Lord also commanded Sidney to go to Missouri with Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon.
Consider the following experience of a young woman who also wondered what the Lord wanted her to do:
“It was in China that Aleisha Cramer got the answer to her prayers. The answer was simple yet hard to do at the same time. She was supposed to give up her lifelong dreams, go home, and live the life of an average college student. The answer surprised her, but she was willing to do the things the Lord told her to do.
“Aleisha … had made it to the top as a star soccer player. She had reached most of her goals, working her way up to become a member of the United States national women’s team, giving her a chance to play in the World Cup and the 2004 Olympics.
“She had it made. But it wasn’t making her happy.
“‘I had everything,’ said Aleisha. ‘I had a good family. I had friends. I was going to school at BYU. I was playing really well for the national team. But would I keep working towards making the World Cup team and still feel this emptiness?’
“Then, while in China to play exhibition games, Aleisha woke up one night crying. She felt a wonderful warm, comfortable feeling. ‘I remember putting my hand on my heart, and then I just had all these thoughts: “You need to quit the national team. It’s not okay for you to break the Sabbath day. It’s okay for you to take a different path. Things will work out.”’ She describes being filled with the Spirit and having the experience repeated several nights in a row.
“Although she had been a member of the Church her whole life, Aleisha’s interest in the gospel had been increasing. She was reading her scriptures at least 30 minutes every day, and she had noticed that her prayers were changing. She was asking the Lord what He wanted her to do. And in China, she received her answer.
“‘I’ve never had those feelings before, the comfort and the warmth. I wish I could have those experiences every time I have questions. Everything seemed so clear. It made so much sense.’
“Aleisha acted on the inspiration she received. She said, ‘When you get inspiration, you have to follow it right then. If I had said, “Yes, that’s right. But I really want to play in the World Cup, so I’ll do it after that,” then things may not have worked out like they were supposed to.’ …
“Not being on the national team gave Aleisha time to try some new things.” It was during this time that she began dating a young man who was teaching her to play the guitar, and they were later married in the temple.
“‘I am sure that I was prepared for this change by what happened in China. I gave something up and got something way better,’ Aleisha says.
“… She still wants to work hard, but now it will be working hard for her own family.
“[Aleisha] is listening to the greatest coach of all, her Heavenly Father, the one who can help guide her and give her direction and inspiration. As Aleisha said, ‘The Lord knows each of us. For me that’s so good to know and have a testimony of’” (Janet Thomas, “The Playmaker,” New Era, Nov. 2003, 21, 23).
Ponder ways you can receive direction from the Lord about your life.
In April 1831, Newel Knight led a group of Saints from Colesville, New York, to join the Saints in Ohio. In May, the Prophet Joseph Smith instructed Bishop Edward Partridge to have those Saints settle on land in Thompson, Ohio, that Leman Copley had previously covenanted (or promised) to give for that purpose. They planted crops there and started making other improvements on the property. But even as they worked together to improve the land, they began to be selfish and greedy. Their situation worsened when Leman Copley returned from his mission to the Shakers (see D&C 49) and began doubting his faith. He rejected his developing testimony of the restored gospel and ordered the Saints to leave the land. He also charged them $60. Because Leman had broken his covenant, these Saints now had nowhere to live. Newel Knight and others asked the Prophet what they should do.
Read Doctrine and Covenants 54:1–3, and mark what the Lord wanted these Saints to do to help improve their situation. Then ponder the following question: Why do you think repentance and humility would help these Saints?
Read Doctrine and Covenants 54:6, and mark a blessing that was given to those who kept the covenant to consecrate their properties.
Based on the Lord’s teachings in Doctrine and Covenants 54:1–6, complete the following principle: If we keep our covenants and obey the Lord’s commandments, we will obtain .
Every blessing we receive is an act of the Lord’s mercy. One example of the Lord’s mercy is when He forgives us of our sins. When we keep the covenants we make at baptism and obey God’s commandments, we will not only receive mercy in this life but will be extended mercy at the Final Judgment.
Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught some ways that the Lord extends mercy to us as we keep our covenants:
“The Lord’s tender mercies are the very personal and individualized blessings, strength, protection, assurances, guidance, loving-kindnesses, consolation, support, and spiritual gifts which we receive from and because of and through the Lord Jesus Christ. …
“… The Lord’s tender mercies do not occur randomly or merely by coincidence. Faithfulness, obedience, and humility invite tender mercies into our lives, and it is often the Lord’s timing that enables us to recognize and treasure these important blessings” (“The Tender Mercies of the Lord,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2005, 99–100).
- In your scripture study journal, write about some of the blessings you feel the Lord has given you recently because of your faithfulness to your covenants and obedience to His commandments.
In Doctrine and Covenants 54:7–10 we read that after these Saints lost their homes on Leman Copley’s land, the Lord commanded them to travel to Missouri. They were to appoint someone to pay for expenses along the way and to work for their living there until the Lord would prepare a place for them to settle. The Lord also counseled them to be patient in tribulation.
Think of some of your talents or skills. Then think of some talents or skills one of your friends has. Because of the variety of our abilities, we can help in the Lord’s work in different ways. God can use our talents, skills, and abilities to bless His children. William W. Phelps is an example of this principle. Before he arrived in Kirtland, Ohio, he had purchased a copy of the Book of Mormon two weeks after it was offered for sale. This led to his conversion.
Read the section introduction for Doctrine and Covenants 55, looking for one of William W. Phelps’s skills or abilities. Then read Doctrine and Covenants 55:4, looking for another of his talents. The Lord called Brother Phelps to use his talents and skills to help with the writing and printing of Church materials in Missouri (see D&C 55:5). Brother Phelps’s efforts there blessed the Church in many ways.
- Answer the following questions in your scripture study journal:
How have you seen the Lord use people’s talents and abilities to bless others?
How might your talents or abilities bless and lift others and move the Lord’s work forward?
- Write in your scripture study journal about someone you know who gave up something important to him or her in order to obey a commandment. (Examples could include someone sacrificing to join the Church, to go on a mission, or to obey certain Church standards.)
Ezra Thayre had been assigned to live and work with Joseph Smith Sr. on Frederick G. Williams’s farm in Kirtland, Ohio. In addition to working on the farm, Ezra also helped pay for some of the debt owed on the land. When he was called on a mission to Missouri with Thomas B. Marsh (see D&C 52:22), he demanded a deed to the portion of the Church’s land to which he felt entitled. Because of his concerns over his property and money, Ezra Thayre was not prepared to leave on that mission when Thomas was ready, so Thomas went to the Prophet Joseph Smith and asked what he should do.
In the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 56, the Lord revoked Ezra Thayre’s mission call and assigned a new companion for Brother Marsh. The Lord then warned against pride and taught the Saints that He has much more in store for them than land and money.
Read Doctrine and Covenants 56:3–5, looking for what happened because Ezra Thayre was not ready to go with Thomas B. Marsh to Missouri. As you read, it might be helpful to know that the word revoke means to take back or cancel. What did Ezra lose because he was not ready to go with Brother Marsh?
Doctrine and Covenants 56:4 teaches us that the Lord can command or revoke a commandment as He sees fit. You may want to mark the words or phrases that indicate this principle.
The following are a few examples from the scriptures and Church history of the Lord giving or revoking a command:
After the Lord offered a higher law to Moses and his people, the children of Israel rebelled and began worshiping a golden calf. The Lord then gave them a lesser law. (See Joseph Smith Translation, Exodus 32:14; 33:20; 34:1–2 [in the Bible appendix].)
During the Savior’s ministry on earth, He told the Apostles to preach only to the Jews (see Matthew 10:5). Shortly after the Savior’s death, Peter received a revelation that it was time to preach the gospel to people of all nations (see Matthew 28:19).
In this dispensation the Lord commanded some of the early Saints to practice plural marriage. The Prophet Joseph Smith and many other Church leaders found this commandment difficult, but they obeyed it. Years later, after receiving revelation, President Wilford Woodruff issued a written statement—the Manifesto—which was accepted by the Church as authoritative and binding on October 6, 1890. This led to the end of the practice of plural marriage in the Church (see Official Declaration 1).
Read Doctrine and Covenants 56:8–11, looking for what the Lord commanded Ezra Thayre to do after his mission call was revoked. Fortunately, Ezra chose to repent, and seven months later he was again called to serve as a missionary with Thomas B. Marsh (see D&C 75:31).
Sometimes people think that pride is a characteristic found only in the hearts of the rich. However, this is not always true, as you will learn in the following verses.
Read Doctrine and Covenants 56:16–17, looking for how an unrepentant heart can be manifest both in someone who is rich and in someone who is poor. Consider marking what you find. Ponder why pride and greed can be common traits in both the rich and the poor.
Read Doctrine and Covenants 56:18, looking for the Lord’s description of the hearts and spirits of those who will be blessed. Use the footnotes to understand some of the words the Lord used.
Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught: “As you seek the blessing of conversion, you can offer the Lord the gift of your broken, or repentant, heart and your contrite, or obedient, spirit. In reality, it is the gift of yourself—what you are and what you are becoming” (“When Thou Art Converted,” Ensign, May 2004, 12).
Read Doctrine and Covenants 56:19–20, looking for blessings the Lord promised to those with humble hearts. It may help you to know that the Lord’s “recompense” means that He will make payment for every good and every evil that has been done.
- Answer the following questions in your scripture study journal:
How do the blessings described in Doctrine and Covenants 56:18–20 compare to the property and money Ezra Thayre and other early Saints may have been concerned about?
What can you do to have the kind of heart that will receive the blessings listed in these verses?
- Write the following at the bottom of today’s assignments in your scripture study journal:
I have studied Doctrine and Covenants 53–56 and completed this lesson on (date).
Additional questions, thoughts, or insights I would like to share with my teacher: