Chapter 46: Doctrine and Covenants 121:1–10; 122–123

“Chapter 46: Doctrine and Covenants 121:1–10; 122–123,” Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual (2017)

“Chapter 46,” Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual

Chapter 46

Doctrine and Covenants 121:1–10; 122–23

Introduction and Timeline

On October 31, 1838, Missouri state militia troops took the Prophet Joseph Smith and other Church leaders prisoner in Far West, Missouri. These men were eventually imprisoned in Liberty Jail in Clay County, Missouri, and suffered greatly during their four months of confinement. While in Liberty Jail, the Prophet dictated a letter to Church members on March 20, 1839, and a second letter approximately two days later, in which the Prophet included prayers he had written asking the Lord to have compassion on him and on all the “suffering Saints” (see D&C 121:4, 6). He also included the Lord’s response to those prayers, as well as counsel to Church members who had been driven from their homes in Missouri. Portions of these letters are recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 121–23.

August–October 1838

Misunderstanding and tension between Missourians and Church members escalated to armed conflict.

October 27, 1838

Governor Lilburn W. Boggs authorized the extermination or expulsion of all Latter-day Saints from the state of Missouri.

October 30, 1838

Anti-Mormon vigilantes attacked Church members at the Hawn’s Mill settlement, located 12 miles east of Far West, Missouri, killing 17 men and boys and wounding 13 others.

October 31, 1838

The Prophet Joseph Smith and others were taken prisoner by Missouri state militia troops at Far West, Missouri.

December 1, 1838

The Prophet Joseph Smith and his companions were imprisoned in Liberty Jail in Clay County, Missouri.

March 20–22, 1839

The Prophet Joseph Smith dictated letters from Liberty Jail, portions of which are recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 121–23.

April 6, 1839

The Prophet Joseph Smith and his companions were taken from Liberty Jail to Gallatin, Missouri, to attend a court hearing. On April 16, 1839, they were allowed to escape custody, and they joined the Saints in Illinois.

Doctrine and Covenants 121–23: Additional Historical Background

On July 4, 1838, thousands of Church members gathered to celebrate the independence of the United States and to participate in a cornerstone-laying ceremony at the temple site in Far West, Missouri (see The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 6: February 1838–August 1839, ed. Mark Ashurst-McGee and others [2017], 170). One month later, however, the relative peace enjoyed in Far West had deteriorated, and by the end of 1838, Missourians were driving Church members out of the state. Earlier in the year, several prominent Church members had apostatized, including Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, John Whitmer, William W. Phelps, Lyman Johnson, and others. Afraid that these individuals might stir up mob violence against the Saints, some Church members formed a private military group and circulated a threatening letter among the dissenters, which caused the dissenters to flee Far West and Caldwell County. (See The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 6: February 1838–August 1839, 9–10.) While the Prophet Joseph Smith may have approved of the formation of this military group, eventually known as the Danites, he most likely was unaware of and did not approve of all of their activities, which sometimes involved intimidation and threats. These incidents increased the tension between Church members and the Missourians during the second half of 1838 (“Peace and Violence among 19th-Century Latter-day Saints,” Gospel Topics Essays,

The religious, cultural, and political differences between Church members and the other residents of Missouri, combined with the vengeful efforts of individuals who had been excommunicated from the Church, led to hostilities on both sides. On October 25, 1838, a skirmish between Church members belonging to the Caldwell County militia and non-Mormon members of the Ray County militia at Crooked River, Missouri, resulted in the deaths of three Church members and one Missourian (see The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 6: February 1838–August 1839, 269). Relying upon exaggerated anti-Mormon reports blaming Church members for this incident and other hostilities in Missouri, Governor Lilburn W. Boggs issued an executive order calling for the extermination or forcible removal of all Mormons from the state and authorized the state militia to march on Far West (see The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 6: February 1838–August 1839, 269–70).

Hawn’s Mill site

On October 30, 1838, approximately 240 men attacked a settlement of Latter-day Saints living at Hawn’s Mill near this location in Caldwell County, Missouri. At least 17 people were killed.

On October 30, 1838, an armed mob attacked the Mormon settlement at Hawn’s Mill (or Haun’s Mill), approximately 12 miles east of Far West, and opened fire on men, women, and children. Seventeen Church members were brutally killed or died later of their wounds, and thirteen others were wounded (see The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 6: February 1838–August 1839, 269).

Valiant in Our Testimony of the Savior, by Dan Burr

Valiant in Our Testimony of the Savior, by Dan Burr. The Prophet Joseph Smith and other Church leaders were confined in Richmond, Missouri, in November 1838.

Meanwhile, thousands of state militiamen approached Far West. The Prophet Joseph Smith and other Church leaders were arrested and, following a hasty military court, were sentenced to be executed for treason. However, Alexander Doniphan, who was a brigadier general in the Missouri state militia, refused to carry out the order. The accused Church leaders were then taken under heavy guard to authorities in Independence, Missouri, arriving on November 4, 1838. Days later they were transferred to Richmond, Missouri, where they were kept in chains for three weeks along with several dozen other Latter-day Saint men who had been arrested in Far West. During that time, Judge Austin King held a court of inquiry and determined that there was sufficient evidence to charge Joseph Smith, Hyrum Smith, Sidney Rigdon, Lyman Wight, Alexander McRae, and Caleb Baldwin with treason. He then sent them to Liberty Jail in Clay County, Missouri, to await their trial, which was scheduled for the following spring. (See The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 6: February 1838–August 1839, 265, 271–74.)

Through the winter of 1838–39, the Prophet Joseph Smith and his companions suffered in the unheated and filthy environment of Liberty Jail. Added to their misery was the fact that they could not help their families and other Church members who were being driven from Missouri without adequate provisions in the middle of a bitter winter. (See The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 6: February 1838–August 1839, 274–76; see also Justin R. Bray, “Within the Walls of Liberty Jail,” in Revelations in Context, ed. Matthew McBride and James Goldberg [2016], 258–59, or It was under these extremely difficult conditions that the Prophet Joseph Smith sought for and eventually received comfort and spiritual understanding from the Lord. On March 20, 1839, the Prophet dictated a letter to Bishop Edward Partridge and Church members in Quincy, Illinois, and in other locations. It was followed approximately two days later by another letter to Bishop Partridge and the Saints, in which the Prophet offered comfort and provided counsel. (See The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 6: February 1838–August 1839, 357, 389.) Portions of these letters are recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 121–23.

Map 8: The Missouri, Illinois, and Iowa Area of the United States

Doctrine and Covenants 121:1–10122

The Lord responds to the Prophet Joseph Smith’s pleadings

Doctrine and Covenants 121:1–6. “Where is the pavilion that covereth thy hiding place?”

For approximately four months, the Prophet Joseph Smith and his companions suffered greatly in Liberty Jail. The only entrance into the dungeon-like room was through a trap door in the ceiling. The walls were four feet thick, and there were only two small, barred windows in the dim room. The stone floor was cold and the room unheated, and the prisoners slept on filthy straw mats. One of the prisoners described the food they were given as “very coarse and so filthy that we could not eat it until we were driven to it by hunger” (in Bray, “Within the Walls of Liberty Jail,” 258). In the letter the Prophet Joseph Smith wrote to Church members on March 20, 1839, he described the jail as being a “hell surrounded with demons … where we are compelled to hear nothing but blasphemous oaths and witness a scene of blasphemy and drunkenness and hypocrisy and debaucheries of every description” (in The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 6: February 1838–August 1839, 361; spelling standardized). The prisoners also received discouraging reports of the hardships the Saints were experiencing as they were being driven from Missouri.

Liberty Jail display

A replica of Liberty Jail, located in the Liberty Jail Visitors’ Center in Missouri

In that same letter to the Saints, the Prophet pleaded with the Lord, “How long shall [the Saints] suffer these wrongs and unlawful oppressions, before thine heart shall be softened toward them, and thy bowels be moved with compassion toward them?” (D&C 121:3). The Prophet also cried, “O God, where art thou? And where is the pavilion that covereth thy hiding place?” (D&C 121:1; see also The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 6: February 1838–August 1839, 362). A pavilion is a covering, such as a canopy or tent that separates or hides something from view. After quoting this plea from the Prophet Joseph Smith, President Henry B. Eyring of the First Presidency explained:

“Many of us, in moments of personal anguish, feel that God is far from us. The pavilion that seems to intercept divine aid does not cover God but occasionally covers us. God is never hidden, yet sometimes we are, covered by a pavilion of motivations that draw us away from God and make Him seem distant and inaccessible. Our own desires, rather than a feeling of ‘Thy will be done,’ create the feeling of a pavilion blocking God. God is not unable to see us or communicate with us, but we may be unwilling to listen or submit to His will and His time.

“Our feelings of separation from God will diminish as we become more childlike before Him. That is not easy in a world where the opinions of other human beings can have such an effect on our motives. But it will help us recognize this truth: God is close to us and aware of us and never hides from His faithful children. …

“We remove the pavilion when we feel and pray, ‘Thy will be done’ and ‘in Thine own time.’ His time should be soon enough for us since we know that He wants only what is best” (“Where Is the Pavilion?” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2012, 72–73).

Doctrine and Covenants 121:4. “The dark and benighted dominion of Sheol”

Sheol is “the Hebrew name for the abode of departed spirits” (Bible Dictionary, “Sheol”). The phrase “dark and benighted dominion of Sheol” (D&C 121:4) may refer to the section of the world of spirits where darkness reigns. When the Prophet Joseph Smith addressed the Lord as the One “who controllest and subjectest the devil, and the dark and benighted dominion of Sheol” (D&C 121:4), he was expressing his faith in God’s power and control over all things, including Satan and his followers.

Doctrine and Covenants 121:7–10. “Thine afflictions shall be but a small moment”

After long months of suffering, the Prophet Joseph Smith received reassurance from the Lord: “My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment” (D&C 121:7). Then the Lord promised him, “If thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes” (D&C 121:8).

Elder Jeffery R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught about what we can learn from the Prophet’s experience in Liberty Jail:

replica of Liberty Jail door

A replica of the door at Liberty Jail

“In one way or another, great or small, dramatic or incidental, every one of us is going to spend a little time in Liberty Jail—spiritually speaking. We will face things we do not want to face for reasons that may not be our fault. Indeed, we may face difficult circumstances for reasons that were absolutely right and proper, reasons that came because we were trying to keep the commandments of the Lord. We may face persecution, we may endure heartache and separation from loved ones, we may be hungry and cold and forlorn. …

“But the lessons of the winter of 1838–39 teach us that every experience can become a redemptive experience if we remain bonded to our Father in Heaven through it. These difficult lessons teach us that man’s extremity is God’s opportunity, and if we will be humble and faithful, if we will be believing and not curse God for our problems, He can turn the unfair and inhumane and debilitating prisons of our lives into temples—or at least into a circumstance that can bring comfort and revelation, divine companionship and peace” (“Lessons from Liberty Jail,” Ensign, Sept. 2009, 28).

For more information about knowledge the Prophet Joseph Smith received during his experience in Liberty Jail, see the commentary for Doctrine and Covenants 121:26–33 in this manual.

Doctrine and Covenants 122:1–4. “The ends of the earth shall inquire after thy name”

When the angel Moroni visited young Joseph Smith in September 1823, he told Joseph “that [his] name [would] be had for good and evil among all nations, kindreds, and tongues” (Joseph Smith—History 1:33). During the years that followed, the Prophet Joseph Smith experienced a fulfillment of that prophecy. In 1838 his enemies succeeded in having him imprisoned in Liberty Jail and in having the Saints expelled from the state of Missouri. During this challenging time the Prophet received divine reassurance that “God [would] stand by [him] forever and ever” (see D&C 122:4). Furthermore, he was promised that “the pure in heart, and the wise, and the noble, and the virtuous, [would] seek counsel, and authority, and blessings constantly from under [his] hand” and that his “people [would] never be turned against [him] by the testimony of traitors” (D&C 122:2–3).

Joseph Smith in Liberty Jail, by Greg K. Olsen

Joseph Smith in Liberty Jail, by Greg K. Olsen. The Prophet Joseph Smith was incarcerated at Liberty Jail for months in 1838–1839.

Opposition against the Prophet Joseph Smith and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has continued since that time. Church members today are sometimes confronted by the arguments of those who claim that Joseph Smith was not a prophet of God. Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles emphasized that we must turn to God to obtain the spiritual understanding that Joseph Smith was a prophet:

“Why does the Lord allow the evil speaking to chase after the good? One reason is that opposition against the things of God sends seekers of truth to their knees for answers.

“Joseph Smith is the prophet of the Restoration. His spiritual work began with the appearance of the Father and the Son, followed by numerous heavenly visitations. He was the instrument in God’s hands in bringing forth sacred scripture, lost doctrine, and the restoration of the priesthood. The importance of Joseph’s work requires more than intellectual consideration; it requires that we, like Joseph, ‘ask of God’ [James 1:5; see also Joseph Smith—History 1:11–13]. Spiritual questions deserve spiritual answers from God” (“Joseph Smith,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2014, 28).

Doctrine and Covenants 122:5–7. “All these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good”

The Lord’s counsel to the Prophet Joseph Smith while the Prophet was imprisoned in Liberty Jail demonstrates that He was fully aware of Joseph’s difficulties. The Prophet had experienced nearly every one of the trials the Lord listed in His response to the Prophet’s suffering (see D&C 122:5–7). The Lord’s divine instruction emphasized that adversity can strengthen and refine us. As we endure our trials patiently and faithfully, “all these things shall give [us] experience, and shall be for [our] good” (D&C 122:7; see also D&C 100:15). President Spencer W. Kimball (1895–1985) taught:

depiction of Hawn’s Mill

The Saints suffered much at Hawn’s Mill and in other places in Missouri.

“If we looked at mortality as the whole of existence, then pain, sorrow, failure, and short life would be calamity. But if we look upon life as an eternal thing stretching far into the premortal past and on into the eternal post-death future, then all happenings may be put in proper perspective.

“Is there not wisdom in [God] giving us trials that we might rise above them, responsibilities that we might achieve, work to harden our muscles, sorrows to try our souls? Are we not exposed to temptations to test our strength, sickness that we might learn patience, death that we might be immortalized and glorified? …

“Should all prayers be immediately answered according to our selfish desires and our limited understanding, then there would be little or no suffering, sorrow, disappointment, or even death, and if these were not, there would also be no joy, success, resurrection, nor eternal life and godhood. …

“Being human, we would expel from our lives physical pain and mental anguish and assure ourselves of continual ease and comfort, but if we were to close the doors upon sorrow and distress, we might be excluding our greatest friends and benefactors. Suffering can make saints of people as they learn patience, long-suffering, and self-mastery” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball [2006], 15).

Doctrine and Covenants 122:8. “The Son of Man hath descended below them all”

The Prophet Joseph Smith experienced overwhelming challenges while he was imprisoned in Liberty Jail. He was blessed with the peaceful assurance that the Lord was aware of every detail of his suffering. Additionally, he learned that none of the adversity he experienced during his mortal life would ever equal what Jesus Christ suffered during His mortal mission. Answering the question the Lord asked the Prophet Joseph Smith—“The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than he?” (D&C 122:8)—Elder Jeffery R. Holland explained:

“No, Joseph was not greater than the Savior, and neither are we. And when we promise to follow the Savior, to walk in His footsteps, and be His disciples, we are promising to go where that divine path leads us. And the path of salvation has always led one way or another through Gethsemane. So if the Savior faced such injustices and discouragements, such persecutions, unrighteousness, and suffering, we cannot expect that we are not going to face some of that if we still intend to call ourselves His true disciples and faithful followers.

“In fact, it ought to be a matter of great doctrinal consolation to us that Jesus, in the course of the Atonement, experienced all of the heartache and sorrow, all of the disappointments and injustices that the entire family of man had experienced and would experience from Adam and Eve to the end of the world in order that we would not have to face them so severely or so deeply. However heavy our load might be, it would be a lot heavier if the Savior had not gone that way before us and carried that burden with us and for us.

“Very early in the Prophet Joseph’s ministry, the Savior taught him this doctrine. After speaking of sufferings so exquisite to feel and so hard to bear, Jesus said, ‘I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they [and that means you and I and everyone] might not suffer if they would repent’ (D&C 19:16). In our moments of pain and trial, I guess we would shudder to think it could be worse, but without the Atonement it not only could be worse, it would be worse. Only through our faith and repentance and obedience to the gospel that provided the sacred Atonement is it kept from being worse.

depiction of Jesus Christ carrying the cross

“The Son of Man hath descended below them all” (D&C 122:8).

“Furthermore, we note that not only has the Savior suffered, in His case entirely innocently, but so have most of the prophets and other great men and women recorded in the scriptures. The point is this: if you are having a bad day, you’ve got a lot of company—very, very good company. The best company that has ever lived” (“Lessons from Liberty Jail,” 31).

Doctrine and Covenants 122:9. “Hold on thy way”

When the Lord gave the instructions that are recorded in the Prophet Joseph Smith’s letters to the Saints and in Doctrine and Covenants 122, the Prophet and his companions in Liberty Jail did not know that within a month they would be reunited with their families. The Lord clarified that the influence of the Prophet’s enemies was limited and that his life was in the Lord’s hands (see D&C 122:9). The Prophet Joseph Smith (1805–1844) would later express confidence in the Lord’s protection: “I understand my mission and business. God almighty is my shield, and what can man do if God is my friend[?] I shall not be sacrificed until my time comes, then I shall be offered freely. … I thank God for preserving me from my enemies; I have no enemies but for the Truth’s sake. I have no desire but to do all men good; I feel to pray for all men” (in Manuscript History of the Church, vol. D-1 [addenda], page 6,

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland gave the following counsel regarding how we might proceed when times are difficult:

“Cling to your faith. Hold on to your hope. ‘Pray always, and be believing’ [D&C 90:24]. …

“Even if you cannot always see that silver lining on your clouds, God can, for He is the very source of the light you seek. He does love you, and He knows your fears. He hears your prayers. He is your Heavenly Father, and surely He matches with His own the tears His children shed” (“An High Priest of Good Things to Come,” Ensign, Nov. 1999, 36).

Doctrine and Covenants 123

The Prophet Joseph Smith counsels the Saints to publish accounts of their suffering and persecution

Doctrine and Covenants 123:1–6. “Gathering up a knowledge of all the facts, and sufferings and abuses put upon them”

From January through March 1839, after facing intense persecution and threats of violence, approximately eight to ten thousand Church members from Caldwell and Daviess Counties fled the state of Missouri in harsh winter conditions. Many of them found refuge across the Mississippi River in Quincy, Illinois, and in other areas of Illinois and Iowa (see The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 6: February 1838–August 1839, 275, 327). With the help of a neighboring Church member, the Prophet’s wife, Emma Smith, left Far West, Missouri, with her children in February 1839. The Mississippi River had temporarily frozen, and Emma was able to cross the river by walking on the ice with her four small children (see Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith [2007], 369). She and many other Church members were blessed by the kindness and compassion of the residents of Quincy, Illinois. By early April 1839, most Church members had left Missouri.

monument in Quincy, Illinois

Many Latter-day Saints found refuge in Quincy, Illinois, after they were forced to leave the state of Missouri in early 1839. The Saints crossed the Mississippi River near this monument, which commemorates the kindness shown by the residents of Quincy, Illinois.

From Liberty Jail the Prophet Joseph Smith instructed Church members to prepare affidavits, or formal statements, detailing “all the facts, and sufferings and abuses put upon them by the people of [Missouri],” as well as “all the property and amount of damages which [Church members had] sustained, both of character and personal injuries, as well as real property” (D&C 123:1–2). Hundreds of Church members went before civil authorities in Illinois and Iowa and completed petitions for redress—requests for compensation for their losses and justice for the wrongs they had suffered. In late fall 1839 the Prophet Joseph Smith traveled to Washington, D.C. with a small delegation of Church members to meet with United States president Martin Van Buren and members of the United States Congress. These officials refused to act on behalf of the Saints. For example, President Van Buren was sympathetic to the circumstance of the Saints but exclaimed, “What can I do? … If I do any thing, I shall come in contact [conflict] with the whole State of Missouri” (in Joseph Smith and Elias Higbee, Letter to Hyrum Smith and Nauvoo, Illinois, High Council, Dec. 5, 1839, page 85, In the early 1840s, Church leaders again attempted several times to obtain redress from the United States government, but their efforts failed (see Clark V. Johnson, ed., Mormon Redress Petitions: Documents of the 1833–1838 Missouri Conflict [1992], xxi–xxii). However, they had done what the Lord required of them (see D&C 123:6).

Doctrine and Covenants 123:7–14. “An imperative duty”

In his second letter to Church members written from Liberty Jail in March 1839, the Prophet Joseph Smith explained that it was their “imperative duty” to publish accounts “of [the] murder, tyranny, and oppression” they had suffered at the hands of their enemies, who had acted under the adversary’s influence (D&C 123:7). On other occasions, the Prophet Joseph Smith taught:

“Our religious principles are before the world ready for the investigation of all men, yet we are aware that all the persecution against our friends has arisen in consequence of calumnies [false charges] and misconstructions without foundation in truth and righteousness. This we have endured in common with all other religious societies at their first commencement.”

“It is thought by some that our enemies would be satisfied with my destruction; but I tell you that as soon as they have shed my blood they will thirst for the blood of every man in whose heart dwells a single spark of the spirit of the fullness of the Gospel. The opposition of these men is moved by the spirit of the adversary of all righteousness. It is not only to destroy me, but every man and woman who dares believe the doctrines that God hath inspired me to teach to this generation.”

“I have learned by experience that the enemy of truth does not slumber, nor cease his exertions to bias the minds of communities against the servants of the Lord, by stirring up the indignation of men upon all matters of importance or interest” (Teachings: Joseph Smith, 372–73).

photo of Liberty Jail

Liberty Jail, located in Liberty, Missouri

Courtesy LDS Church Archives

President Ezra Taft Benson (1899–1994) taught that the word of God can protect us from Satan’s influence:

“We live in a day of great challenge. We live in that time of which the Lord spoke when he said, ‘Peace shall be taken from the earth, and the devil shall have power over his own dominion.’ (D&C 1:35.) … Satan is waging war against the members of the Church who have testimonies and are trying to keep the commandments. And while many of our members are remaining faithful and strong, some are wavering. Some are falling. …

“The Apostle Paul … saw our day. He described it as a time when such things as blasphemy, dishonesty, cruelty, unnatural affection, pride, and pleasure seeking would abound. (See 2 Tim. 3:1–7.) He also warned that ‘evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived.’ (2 Tim. 3:13.)

“Such grim predictions by prophets of old would be cause for great fear and discouragement if those same prophets had not, at the same time, offered the solution. In their inspired counsel we can find the answer to the spiritual crises of our age.

“In his dream, Lehi saw an iron rod which led through the mists of darkness. He saw that if people would hold fast to that rod, they could avoid the rivers of filthiness, stay away from the forbidden paths, stop from wandering in the strange roads that lead to destruction. Later his son Nephi clearly explained the symbolism of the iron rod. When Laman and Lemuel asked, ‘What meaneth the rod of iron?’ Nephi answered, ‘It was the word of God; and [note this promise] whoso would hearken unto the word of God, and would hold fast unto it, they would never perish; neither could the temptations and the fiery darts of the adversary overpower them unto blindness, to lead them away to destruction.’ (1 Ne. 15:23–24; italics added.) Not only will the word of God lead us to the fruit which is desirable above all others, but in the word of God and through it we can find the power to resist temptation, the power to thwart the work of Satan and his emissaries” (“The Power of the Word,” Ensign, May 1986, 79–80).

Doctrine and Covenants 123:12–13. “There are many … who are only kept from the truth because they know not where to find it”

The Prophet Joseph Smith identified false religious “creeds,” or beliefs, as a source of the oppression against Church members (D&C 123:7). He explained that these beliefs had “filled the world with confusion” (D&C 123:7) and “blinded” many of God’s children so that it was difficult for them to recognize the truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ (D&C 123:12). Therefore, Church members have a duty to help others discover the truth.

Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained how we should respond when others challenge our faith:

“Through the years we learn that challenges to our faith are not new, and they aren’t likely to disappear soon. But true disciples of Christ see opportunity in the midst of opposition. …

“Experience shows that seasons of negative publicity about the Church can help accomplish the Lord’s purposes. In 1983 the First Presidency wrote to Church leaders, ‘Opposition may be in itself an opportunity. Among the continuing challenges faced by our missionaries is a lack of interest in religious matters and in our message. These criticisms create … interest in the Church. … This provides an opportunity [for members] to present the truth to those whose attention is thus directed toward us’ [First Presidency letter, Dec. 1, 1983].

“We can take advantage of such opportunities in many ways: a kind letter to the editor, a conversation with a friend, a comment on a blog, or a reassuring word to one who has made a disparaging comment. We can answer with love those who have been influenced by misinformation and prejudice—who are ‘kept from the truth because they know not where to find it’ (D&C 123:12). I assure you that to answer our accusers in this way is never weakness. It is Christian courage in action” (“Christian Courage: The Price of Discipleship,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2008, 72–73).

Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught:

“There are conversations going on about the Church constantly. Those conversations will continue whether or not we choose to participate in them. But we cannot stand on the sidelines while others, including our critics, attempt to define what the Church teaches. While some conversations have audiences in the thousands or even millions, most are much, much smaller. But all conversations have an impact on those who participate in them. Perceptions of the Church are established one conversation at a time. …

“Now, may I ask that you join the conversation by participating on the Internet to share the gospel and to explain in simple and clear terms the message of the Restoration. … This, of course, requires that you understand the basic principles of the gospel. It is essential that you are able to offer a clear and correct witness of gospel truths. It is also important that you and the people to whom you testify understand that you do not speak for the Church as a whole. You speak as one member—but you testify of the truths you have come to know.

“Far too many people have a poor understanding of the Church because most of the information they hear about us is from news media reports that are often driven by controversies. Too much attention to controversy has a negative impact on peoples’ perceptions of what The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints really is. …

“… Do not be afraid to share with others your experiences as a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ. We all have interesting stories that have influenced our identity. Sharing those stories is a nonthreatening way to talk to others. Telling those stories can help demystify the Church. You could help overcome misperceptions through your own sphere of influence, which ought to include the Internet.

“… Let us all stand firmly and speak with faith in sharing our message with the world” (“Sharing the Gospel Using the Internet,” Ensign, July 2008, 61–63).

Doctrine and Covenants 123:13–17. “May we stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God”

In contrast to the discouragement the Prophet Joseph Smith expressed in the opening words of his March 20, 1839, letter (see D&C 121:1–6), he concluded his subsequent letter to Church members with renewed spiritual confidence. He comforted the persecuted Saints, and he reminded them that they were doing God’s work “in bringing to light all the hidden things of darkness” (D&C 123:13). He also assured them, “Let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power; and then may we stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed” (D&C 123:17).

letter written by Joseph Smith in Liberty Jail

Letter written by the Prophet Joseph Smith while he was in Liberty Jail

President Henry B. Eyring testified that God strengthens those who seek to assist Him in His work: “You can have the utmost assurance that your power will be multiplied many times by the Lord. All He asks is that you give your best effort and your whole heart. Do it cheerfully and with the prayer of faith. The Father and His Beloved Son will send the Holy Ghost as your companion to guide you. Your efforts will be magnified in the lives of the people you serve. And when you look back on what may now seem trying times of service and sacrifice, the sacrifice will have become a blessing, and you will know that you have seen the arm of God lifting those you served for Him, and lifting you” (“Rise to Your Call,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2002, 78).