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Lesson 14: Doctrine and Covenants 35–36; 39–40
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“Lesson 14: Doctrine and Covenants 35–36; 39–40,” Doctrine and Covenants Teacher Manual (2017)

“Lesson 14,” Doctrine and Covenants Teacher Manual

Lesson 14

Doctrine and Covenants 35–36; 39–40

Introduction and Timeline

In the winter of 1830, Sidney Rigdon and Edward Partridge traveled from Ohio to New York to meet the Prophet Joseph Smith. Both men had heard the restored gospel preached by Oliver Cowdery, Parley P. Pratt, Ziba Peterson, and Peter Whitmer Jr. in Kirtland, Ohio. Soon after Sidney and Edward arrived in Fayette, Joseph Smith received revelations for each of them. In the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 35, the Lord gave Sidney Rigdon specific responsibilities within the newly restored Church. In the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 36, the Lord called Edward Partridge to preach the gospel.

Several weeks later, James Covel, who had been a Methodist minister for about 40 years, visited the Prophet Joseph Smith and covenanted with the Lord to obey any commandment given him through the Prophet. Consequently, on January 5, 1831, the Prophet received the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 39. In it, the Lord commanded James Covel to be baptized and to preach the restored gospel. However, the day after the revelation was received, James left Fayette, New York, without being baptized and “returned to his former principles and people” (Manuscript History of the Church, vol. A-1, p. 92, josephsmithpapers.org). The Lord then gave Joseph Smith the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 40, explaining that James Covel’s “fear of persecution and the cares of the world caused him to reject [God’s] word” (D&C 40:2).

October 29, 1830

Oliver Cowdery, Parley P. Pratt, Ziba Peterson, and Peter Whitmer Jr. preached the gospel in northeastern Ohio for several weeks.

Early December 1830

Sidney Rigdon and Edward Partridge traveled from Ohio to New York to meet the Prophet Joseph Smith.

December 7, 1830

Doctrine and Covenants 35 was received.

December 9, 1830

Doctrine and Covenants 36 was received.

December 11, 1830

Edward Partridge was baptized by Joseph Smith.

January 2, 1831

The third conference of the Church was held, and Joseph Smith announced that the Saints were to gather in Ohio.

January 1831

James Covel, a Methodist minister, became acquainted with Joseph Smith.

January 5, 1831

Doctrine and Covenants 39 was received.

January 6, 1831

Doctrine and Covenants 40 was received.

Suggestions for Teaching

Doctrine and Covenants 35

The Lord calls Sidney Rigdon to a greater work

Before class, write the following question on the board: What have you experienced that helps you know that the Lord knows you and is interested in the course of your life?

When class begins, invite a few students to share their experiences with the class.

As students study Doctrine and Covenants 35 today, invite them to look for a truth that illustrates that the Lord knows them and is interested in the course of their lives.

Explain that in the fall of 1830, Oliver Cowdery, Parley P. Pratt, Ziba Peterson, and Peter Whitmer Jr. set out from New York on their mission to western Missouri (see D&C 32). Parley P. Pratt convinced the group to stop in the area of Kirtland, Ohio, on their way. While there, they shared the restored gospel with Sidney Rigdon, an acquaintance of Parley and a Reformed Baptist minister, and members of his congregation. In a short time, Sidney Rigdon and more than 120 people were baptized in the Kirtland area, approximately doubling the size of the Church’s membership. Anxious to meet the Prophet Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon and his friend Edward Partridge traveled to Fayette, New York, arriving in early December 1830. After they arrived in Fayette, Sidney expressed his desire to know the will of the Lord concerning him. In response to his inquiry, Joseph Smith received the revelation contained in Doctrine and Covenants 35.

Invite students to read Doctrine and Covenants 35:1–3 silently, looking for what the Lord said to Sidney Rigdon.

  • What words or phrases show that the Lord was aware of Sidney?

  • What does verse 3 teach us about what the Lord knows and will do for us? (After students respond, write the following doctrine on the board: The Lord knows us and helps prepare us for the work He calls us to do.)

To help your students better understand and feel the importance of this doctrine, display the following statement by President Henry B. Eyring of the First Presidency, and invite a student to read it aloud:

Eyring, Henry B.

“Your life is carefully watched over, as was mine. The Lord knows both what He will need you to do and what you will need to know. He is kind and He is all-knowing. So, you can with confidence expect that He has prepared opportunities for you to learn in preparation for the service you will give. You will not recognize those opportunities perfectly, as I did not. But when you put the spiritual things first in your life, you will be blessed to feel directed toward certain learning and you will be motivated to work harder. You will recognize later that your power to serve was increased, and you will be grateful” (Henry B. Eyring, “Education for Real Life,” Ensign, Oct. 2002, 18–19).

  • According to President Eyring, what are some ways the Lord can prepare us for the work He calls us to accomplish?

  • What can we do to receive additional guidance from the Lord so that we can be prepared to do His work?

Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 35:4–6 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for part of the “greater work” (D&C 35:3) that the Lord had prepared Sidney Rigdon to accomplish.

  • According to verse 4, how was Sidney like John the Baptist? (Explain that like John, Sidney had prepared people through his ministry to hear and accept the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Most, if not all, of the approximately 120 people initially baptized in the Kirtland area were members of Sidney’s Reformed Baptist congregation.)

  • According to verse 6, what was part of the “greater work” the Lord called Sidney to do?

Summarize Doctrine and Covenants 35:7–12 by explaining that the Lord told Sidney Rigdon of the great work of the Restoration of the gospel. The Lord taught that He works “miracles, signs, and wonders” according to the faith of “those who believe on [His] name” (verse 8).

Invite students to read Doctrine and Covenants 35:13–14 silently, looking for the characteristics of those whom the Lord calls to assist in His work and what the Lord will do to help them. Before students read, explain that to “thresh” means to separate grain from its stalk and husk. This analogy refers to the Lord’s efforts to gather those who are ready to receive the gospel and separate them from those who are not. (Note: In the 2013 English edition of the Doctrine and Covenants, the word thrash in verse 13 was changed to thresh to reflect the wording of the original revelation.)

  • What doctrine can we identify in verse 13 about those whom the Lord calls to accomplish His work? (Students may use different words, but make sure they identify the following doctrine: The Lord calls those who are weak to accomplish His work through the power of His Spirit.)

  • Why do you think God’s servants might be considered weak?

  • According to verse 14, what did the Lord promise to do for those who serve Him?

  • How do you think the truths taught in verses 13–14 might have helped Sidney Rigdon at this point in his life? Invite students to ponder what these truths mean for them in their current situations.

Summarize Doctrine and Covenants 35:17–27 by explaining that the Lord told Sidney Rigdon that He had blessed Joseph Smith in his weakness. The Lord also called Sidney Rigdon to watch over the Prophet, to help him work on the translation of the Bible, to preach the gospel, and to keep the covenants he had made.

Doctrine and Covenants 36

The Lord forgives Edward Partridge and calls him to preach the gospel

Explain that when the missionaries arrived in Ohio in the fall of 1830, most members of Sidney Rigdon’s congregation, including Lydia Partridge, believed their message and were soon baptized. Lydia’s husband, Edward Partridge, remained skeptical and wanted to meet the Prophet before he would consent to be baptized. After traveling to New York and meeting the Prophet, Edward desired to be baptized. Two days prior to his baptism, the Lord gave him a revelation through Joseph Smith. Summarize Doctrine and Covenants 36 by explaining that the Lord forgave Edward’s sins and called him to preach the gospel. He told Edward that the Holy Ghost would teach him the “peaceable things of the kingdom” (D&C 36:2).

Doctrine and Covenants 39

Jesus Christ commands James Covel to be baptized and to labor in His vineyard

Display the following statement by Sister Linda K. Burton, Relief Society General President:

Burton, Linda K.

“Keeping covenants is essential for true happiness” (Linda K. Burton, “The Power, Joy, and Love of Covenant Keeping,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2013, 113).

  • If keeping our covenants brings happiness, why do you think people sometimes break them or consider breaking them?

As students study Doctrine and Covenants 39–40, invite them to look for principles that will help them remain true to their covenants with the Lord.

Invite a student to read aloud the section heading for Doctrine and Covenants 39, and ask the class to follow along, looking for whom this revelation was given to and why it was given.

Summarize Doctrine and Covenants 39:1–6 by explaining that Jesus Christ began this revelation by teaching that He would give those who receive Him power to become His spiritually begotten sons and daughters. We receive Him when we receive His gospel by repenting, being baptized, and receiving the Holy Ghost.

Invite a few students to take turns reading aloud from Doctrine and Covenants 39:7–12. Ask half of the class to look for what the Lord counseled James Covel to do. Ask the other half to look for what the Lord promised him if he obeyed. Invite students to report what they find.

  • What do you think it means that James Covel’s heart was “now right before” the Lord? (verse 8).

  • Why might it have required great faith for James Covel to obey the Savior’s command to receive the restored gospel and be baptized? (Because James Covel was a Methodist minister, if he were baptized he would have to give up the position, associations, and income he had established over the past 40 years.)

Explain that in Doctrine and Covenants 39:13–24, the Lord called James Covel to preach the gospel in Ohio. The Lord also instructed him regarding what to teach and how to teach it.

Doctrine and Covenants 40

The Lord reveals why James Covel rejected His words

Tell students that the day after Joseph Smith received the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 40, James Covel left Fayette without being baptized. According to Joseph Smith, James “rejected the word of the Lord, and returned to his former principles and people” (Manuscript History of the Church, vol. A-1, p. 92, josephsmithpapers.org).

Invite students to read Doctrine and Covenants 40:1–3 silently, looking for why James Covel didn’t obey the Lord’s word. Ask students to report what they find.

  • Compare Doctrine and Covenants 40:1 with Doctrine and Covenants 39:8. What had changed?

  • Based on what you have learned about James Covel, what can happen if we yield to fear and are overcome by the cares of the world? (After students respond, write the following principle on the board: Fear of persecution and the cares of the world can cause us to reject God’s word and break our covenants with Him.)

Ask students to discuss with a partner how they would answer the following question:

  • In what ways can the cares of the world and the fear of persecution cause someone to reject God’s teachings and break covenants with Him?

After sufficient time, ask a few students to share their answers with the class.

  • What has helped you to resist the fear of persecution and the cares of the world in order to remain faithful to God and your covenants?

Invite students to ponder what they can do to avoid allowing the fear of persecution or the cares of the world to prevent them from faithfully living the gospel. Encourage them to act on any promptings they receive.