“Unit 22: Day 3, Doctrine and Covenants 104,” Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Study Guide for Home-Study Seminary Students (2017)
“Unit 22: Day 3,” Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Study Guide
By the spring of 1834, the Church was having financial difficulties, and efforts to collect funds for its relief had failed. In 1832 the Lord directed Church leaders to “organize the Church’s mercantile and publishing endeavors by creating a ‘firm’ that would oversee these efforts, generating funds for the establishment of Zion and for the benefit of the poor. This firm, known as the United Firm, was organized in April 1832 and disbanded in 1834 (see section 82)” (Doctrine and Covenants 78 section introduction). On April 23, 1834, the Prophet Joseph Smith received the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 104. In this revelation the Lord revealed that the United Firm was to be reorganized and its properties were to be divided among its members as their stewardships. Under Joseph Smith’s direction, the term “United Firm” was later replaced with “United Order” in this revelation. This lesson uses the term United Order to match the language of Doctrine and Covenants 104. The Lord also instructed Church members on how they were to care for the poor and counseled Church leaders regarding their debts. The members of the United Firm were Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon, Oliver Cowdery, William W. Phelps, Edward Partridge, John Whitmer, Sidney Gilbert, Martin Harris, Newel K. Whitney, John Johnson, and Frederick G. Williams.
Imagine that your parents have given you a key to their car (or think of something else that requires a key, such as your home). Does this make you the owner of the car? Can you use the car for whatever you want? Why or why not? How would knowing that you would be held accountable for what you do with it affect your use of the car?
In March and April 1832, the Lord directed leaders of the Church to organize the United Firm (or United Order), whose members would be responsible for overseeing the Church’s mercantile and publishing operations in order to care for the poor and further His work. By the spring of 1834, Church leaders considered dissolving the firm for various reasons. The Lord, however, wanted the brethren to reorganize it and divide its properties among its members as their stewardships.
Read Doctrine and Covenants 104:1–4, and identify one of the reasons for the United Order’s troubles.
Doctrine and Covenants 104:5–10 contains a decree from the Lord that the consequences for breaking the covenant associated with the United Order would include being cursed and being cut off from the Church.
Read Doctrine and Covenants 104:11–13, looking for what the Lord said each member of the United Order was to receive. (It might be helpful to know that a steward is a person who is given responsibility for something that belongs to someone else.)
Read Doctrine and Covenants 104:14, looking for who owned the property associated with the United Order. Mark phrases that teach the doctrine that the Lord created the earth, and all things in it are His.
- Complete the following assignments in your scripture study journal:
Make a list of 10 earthly possessions that you have (for example, shelter, clothing, garden, food).
Write about how the doctrine taught in Doctrine and Covenants 104:14 might influence the way you view and use your possessions.
The Lord’s reminder to the Saints that all things upon the earth are His may have assured them that He could provide for their temporal needs. He continued by explaining how He would draw upon those resources to care for His Saints. Read Doctrine and Covenants 104:15–16, looking for how the Lord said He would provide for His Saints.
Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles provided insight into the Lord’s way of providing for His Saints: “The Lord’s way consists of helping people help themselves. The poor are exalted because they work for the temporary assistance they receive, they are taught correct principles, and they are able to lift themselves from poverty to self-reliance. The rich are made low because they humble themselves to give generously of their means to those in need” (“Inspired Church Welfare,” Ensign, May 1999, 77). Today, “the Lord’s way” of “helping people help themselves” includes the Church’s welfare program and the gathering of fast offerings.
Read Doctrine and Covenants 104:17–18, looking for what the Lord instructed us to do with the abundance He has provided.
From these verses we learn that we are accountable to use what the Lord has given us to help others.
Think back to the example of the car key presented earlier in the lesson and how your use of the car would be influenced by your accountability for it. How does this relate to the truth you learned in Doctrine and Covenants 104:14–18?
We can think of “the poor and the needy” as not only those who are in need of financial assistance but also those in need of spiritual, emotional, mental, and social assistance. Likewise, we can think of our abundance as more than just the money or material possessions we have. Our abundance also includes our time, talents, knowledge, and skills.
- Answer the following questions in your scripture study journal:
Why do you think it is important that we impart of the abundance we receive from the Lord?
What are some examples in the scriptures of people who have helped those in need? How did they help others in the Lord’s way?
How can you help others in the Lord’s way? (Write a specific goal to do so.)
In Doctrine and Covenants 104:19–53, the Lord gave specific instructions about the stewardships assigned to various members of the United Order. Read Doctrine and Covenants 104:23, 25, 31, 33, 35, 38, 42, 46, looking for a pattern in the Lord’s promises to each member of the order. It may help you to know that the phrase “inasmuch as” means “insofar as” or “to the extent that.”
- Based on what you learned in these verses, write a principle in your scripture study journal explaining what will happen inasmuch as we are humble and faithful. Then answer the following questions:
What can you learn from this principle about how obedience affects the blessings you receive?
When have you seen someone be faithful in their responsibilities to the Lord and be blessed accordingly?
In Doctrine and Covenants 104:54–77, the Lord provided instructions for establishing treasuries into which funds obtained from stewardships could be placed for the benefit of the Church, such as in printing the scriptures.
Think of a time when you were asked to do something that you thought was impossible or extremely difficult for you to accomplish.
In the process of obeying the Lord’s commands, the United Order had incurred a large debt. A number of events prevented the order from repaying the loans. For example, the mob’s destruction of the printing press in Jackson County, Missouri, kept the Saints from earning money from the printing of the scriptures and other products, and mobs also kept the Saints from using the storehouse in Independence.
Read Doctrine and Covenants 104:78, and mark the Lord’s instruction concerning the Church’s debts.
Repaying the debts may have felt impossible to the Saints, but the Lord gave instructions to help them.
- In your scripture study journal, make two columns—title one IF and the other THEN. Read Doctrine and Covenants 104:80–82. Under the “IF” column write what the Lord asked members of the order to do in order to receive His help in paying their debts. Under the “THEN” column write what the Lord promised to do to help the Saints get out of debt. Based on what you read and recorded, write a principle we can learn from these verses.
- Complete two or more of the following activities in your scripture study journal:
Write about someone in the scriptures or someone you know who is an example of the principle you wrote in assignment 4. Describe how you see this principle in this person’s life. Or write about how you have seen this principle in your own life.
Answer the following questions: What are some things the Lord has asked Church members to do that might be considered challenging? What role do you think humility, faithfulness, and prayer have in accomplishing the things the Lord has asked you to do?
Write how you can be more humble, faithful, or prayerful so that the Lord can help you accomplish the things He has asked you to do. Write a goal to do so.
- Write the following at the bottom of today’s assignments in your scripture journal:
I have studied Doctrine and Covenants 104 and completed this lesson on (date).
Additional questions, thoughts, and insights I would like to share with my teacher: