“Unit 31: Day 4, Doctrine and Covenants 138,” Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Study Guide for Home-Study Seminary Students (2017)
“Unit 31: Day 4,” Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Study Guide
On October 3, 1918 President Joseph F. Smith received the vision recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 138. In this vision he saw the resurrected Savior minister to righteous spirits awaiting deliverance from the bands of death.
Have you had a loved one pass away, or do you know a friend who has had a loved one pass away? When a person dies, the spirit and the body separate, and his or her spirit goes to the spirit world. What do you imagine the spirit world is like?
President Joseph F. Smith, the sixth president of the Church, received a revelation about the spirit world. Read the introduction to Doctrine and Covenants 138, looking for what President Smith experienced during the months before the October 1918 general conference.
During those months President Joseph F. Smith was mourning the loss of his son Hyrum Mack Smith, who had served as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Hyrum Mack Smith had died earlier that year from a ruptured appendix at the age of 45.
Read Doctrine and Covenants 138:1–4, looking for the doctrine President Joseph F. Smith was pondering on October 3, 1918.
In verse 4, we learn that through the Atonement of Jesus Christ and by obedience to the principles of the gospel, all mankind may be saved.
Read Doctrine and Covenants 138:5, looking for what President Smith experienced as he pondered the Atonement.
Have you ever had a scripture come to mind as you pondered an aspect of the gospel? By continuing to study the word of God and master key scripture passages, you will find that the Holy Ghost can bring them to your mind when needed.
Read Doctrine and Covenants 138:6–10, looking for the teachings that impressed President Smith.
President Smith opened his scriptures and read scripture passages in 1 Peter 3 and 4. In these passages Peter explained that Jesus Christ visited the spirit world after He died. The Savior taught the gospel in the spirit world so that everyone could be judged fairly.
Read Doctrine and Covenants 138:11, looking for what President Smith saw as he pondered the scriptures.
Before you learn about President Smith’s vision of the spirit world, notice the process of revelation he described: As he was pondering the scriptures, he reflected on the doctrine of the Atonement and the love evidenced by Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ in the coming of the Savior into the world. These thoughts brought to his mind the words of Peter. Then, as he again read and pondered Peter’s words, “the eyes of [his] understanding were opened” (D&C 138:11), the Holy Ghost rested on him, and he saw the spirit world. One principle we can learn from this account is that as we read and ponder the scriptures, we prepare ourselves to receive revelation.
- Answer the following questions in your scripture study journal:
How does reading and pondering the scriptures help invite revelation?
Describe an experience when you followed this pattern in your scripture study. How did following this pattern change your scripture study experience?
Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles described how we should study the scriptures. As you read his description, mark any ideas that you could apply as you study the scriptures.
“When I say ‘study,’ I mean something more than reading. … I see you sometimes reading a few verses, stopping to ponder them, carefully reading the verses again, and as you think about what they mean, praying for understanding, asking questions in your mind, waiting for spiritual impressions, and writing down the impressions and insights that come so you can remember and learn more” (“When Thou Art Converted,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2004, 11).
Consider setting a goal to read and ponder the scriptures the way Elder Christofferson described this week.
What future event are you looking forward to the most? Why are you excited for it?
When President Joseph F. Smith saw the spirit world in vision, he saw an immense group of spirits gathered together. Read Doctrine and Covenants 138:12–13, looking for what kind of spirits were gathered. You may want to mark what you find.
Read Doctrine and Covenants 138:38–49, looking for the names of some of the individuals gathered in this assembly.
Read Doctrine and Covenants 138:15–16, 50. What kind of deliverance were these righteous spirits waiting for? Ponder for a moment why the reunion of their spirits and bodies would be like a deliverance for these righteous spirits.
Read Doctrine and Covenants 138:17 to find the blessings that righteous souls receive after their spirits and bodies reunite.
From Doctrine and Covenants 138:16–17, we learn the following doctrines: Through the grace of God the Father and Jesus Christ, we will be delivered from the bands of death. We can receive a fulness of joy through resurrection.
As you read the following statement by Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, look for why our bodies are essential to receiving a fulness of joy:
“Our physical bodies make possible a breadth, a depth, and an intensity of experience that simply could not be obtained in our premortal existence. Thus, our relationships with other people, our capacity to recognize and act in accordance with truth, and our ability to obey the principles and ordinances of the gospel of Jesus Christ are amplified through our physical bodies. …
“The Father’s plan is designed to provide direction for His children, to help them become happy, and to bring them safely home to Him with resurrected, exalted bodies” (“We Believe in Being Chaste,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2013, 41, 43).
Think about the following question for a moment: Why do we need a body to receive a fulness of joy?
A fulness of joy is the kind of joy Heavenly Father experiences. Heavenly Father has a physical body of flesh and bones (see D&C 130:22). When our spirits and bodies are separated, we are unlike Him and cannot receive a fulness of joy (see D&C 93:33–34). As we become like Him, we can experience the same blessings, peace, and joy He experiences.
Read Doctrine and Covenants 138:51–52, looking for additional phrases that describe what the resurrection will allow righteous souls to do. Consider marking what you find.
- Imagine that one of your friends asked you to explain why the resurrection is important in Heavenly Father’s plan. Using what you have learned so far in Doctrine and Covenants 138 and the statement from Elder Bednar, write an explanation for your friend in your scripture study journal.
The righteous in the spirit world were waiting for the “advent,” or arrival, of the Son of God to free them and restore them to their “perfect frame” (D&C 138:16–17). Imagine what was happening on the earth while these righteous spirits were assembled. Jesus Christ was suffering in Gethsemane and on the cross. Some of the righteous spirits in the spirit world had waited thousands of years for their deliverance from death. Jesus Christ’s sacrifice provided salvation from physical death for them, and eventually for all people.
Read Doctrine and Covenants 138:18–24, and imagine what the event described in these verses might have been like.
- Answer the following questions in your scripture study journal:
What might you have thought or felt if you had been there to hear the Savior preach in the spirit world?
How might you have responded to the Savior, who had just performed the Atonement for you?
You may have noticed in Doctrine and Covenants 138:20–22 that there were some spirits who were not able to see the Savior when He visited the spirit world. While President Joseph F. Smith was pondering passages in 1 Peter, the Lord revealed to him how the people in spirit prison will have the opportunity to receive the blessings of the gospel. Read Doctrine and Covenants 138:29–31, looking for how the spirits in prison would receive knowledge of the gospel. You may want to mark what you find.
- In your scripture study journal, use what you learned in verses 29–31 to write a brief explanation of how the gospel is taught in the spirit world.
In Doctrine and Covenants 138:32–37, President Joseph F. Smith wrote that he saw the gospel of Jesus Christ being taught to two types of spirits in prison: those who had died without a knowledge of the gospel and those who had rejected the prophets in mortality. These spirits, who were in spirit prison, would all receive a chance to repent and accept the gospel through the teachings of the Lord’s chosen messengers.
Think of your righteous family members or ancestors who have died. Have you ever wondered what they are doing in the spirit world?
As part of the vision, President Joseph F. Smith saw his father, Hyrum Smith; his uncle Joseph Smith; and other choice spirits. All of these noble spirits contributed to the work of the Lord in mortality. They and many others were prepared before they were born to accomplish great things on earth.
Read Doctrine and Covenants 138:57, looking for what faithful elders will continue to do after they die. You may want to mark what you find.
President Joseph F. Smith also explained that the work in the spirit world is not limited to those who hold the Melchizedek Priesthood: “Good sisters who have been set apart, ordained to the work, [and] called to it, … will be fully authorized and empowered to preach the gospel” (Gospel Doctrine, 5th ed. , 461).
One of the truths we learn from Doctrine and Covenants 138:57 and President Smith’s statement is that after departing mortal life, faithful Saints will continue their labors in preaching the gospel.
Read Doctrine and Covenants 138:60, looking for President Joseph F. Smith’s testimony of the truths he recorded.
It is a wonderful blessing to know that all of Heavenly Father’s children will receive an opportunity to accept and live the gospel. The work we do for the dead in the temple gives them the ability to be cleansed from their sins, redeemed from spirit prison, and join the great work of redemption in the spirit world.
- Write the following at the bottom of today’s assignments in your scripture study journal:
I have studied Doctrine and Covenants 138 and completed this lesson on (date).
Additional questions, thoughts, and insights I would like to share with my teacher: