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Lesson 19: Doctrine and Covenants 50
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“Lesson 19: Doctrine and Covenants 50,” Doctrine and Covenants Teacher Manual (2017)

“Lesson 19,” Doctrine and Covenants Teacher Manual

Lesson 19

Doctrine and Covenants 50

Introduction and Timeline

When the Prophet Joseph Smith arrived in Kirtland, Ohio, in early February 1831, he observed that “some strange notions and false spirits had crept in among” the Saints. He began teaching with “caution, and some wisdom” in order to put an end to these false spiritual manifestations (Manuscript History of the Church, vol. A-1, p. 93, josephsmithpapers.org). A few months later, Elder Parley P. Pratt returned from a mission and observed similar behavior in branches of the Church outside of Kirtland, so he and several other elders approached Joseph Smith for guidance (see Manuscript History, vol. A-1, p. 114, josephsmithpapers.org). In May 1831 the Prophet inquired of the Lord regarding this issue and received the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 50. In this revelation, the Lord instructed the Saints to avoid deception by teaching and receiving the gospel by the Spirit of Truth.

Spring 1831

Some Church members in Kirtland were influenced by false spiritual manifestations.

Late March or early April, 1831

Parley P. Pratt returned to Kirtland from a mission to Indian Territory and Missouri.

April 30, 1831

Emma Smith gave birth to twins, a son and a daughter, who both died within a few hours.

May 9, 1831

Doctrine and Covenants 50 was received.

May 9, 1831

Joseph and Emma Smith adopted the infant twins of John and Julia Murdock after Julia died giving birth to the twins on April 30.

Suggestions for Teaching

Doctrine and Covenants 50:1–9

The Lord warns the elders of the Church about false spirits

Ask students to imagine that a friend or family member comes to them and shares the following concern: “I’m trying to live worthily, but I struggle to know whether my thoughts and feelings are inspiration from the Spirit or just my own ideas.”

  • How might you respond to this concern?

After a brief discussion, ask students to keep this concern in mind as they study Doctrine and Covenants 50 today. Invite them to look for doctrine and principles about the Holy Ghost and receiving truth from God that could help them and others seek and discern spiritual direction.

Remind students that after the Prophet Joseph Smith arrived in Kirtland, Ohio, in February 1831, he began working to curtail the “strange notions and false spirits that had crept in among” the Saints (Manuscript History, vol. A-1, p. 93, josephsmithpapers.org). The Prophet was concerned that these false spiritual manifestations would destroy the true principles of the restored gospel (see “Try the Spirits,” Times and Seasons, Apr. 1, 1842, 747, josephsmithpapers.org). In early March, the Prophet had received a revelation in which the Lord taught the Saints how to avoid being seduced by evil spirits and the doctrines of the devil (see D&C 46:7–8). Despite the Prophet’s efforts against these false spirits, the strange behaviors continued. In May 1831, several elders of the Church sought the Prophet Joseph Smith’s counsel because they did not understand the supposed spiritual manifestations they had witnessed in some of the members. The elders could not tell which spiritual manifestations were from God and which ones were not. The Prophet asked the Lord about these manifestations and received the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 50.

Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 50:1–3 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what the Lord taught the elders about the strange spiritual manifestations they had witnessed.

  • What did the Lord teach the elders about the spirits that had “gone forth in the earth” (D&C 50:2)?

  • Based on the Lord’s caution in verse 3, what truth can we learn about Satan? (Help students identify the following truth: Satan seeks to deceive us so that he can overthrow us. Consider inviting students to mark this truth in their scriptures.)

  • What are some ways in which Satan tries to deceive us?

Invite students to scan Doctrine and Covenants 50:7–9, looking for one way Satan gained power to deceive some early Church members.

  • According to these verses, how did Satan gain power to deceive some early Church members?

  • What is a hypocrite? (A hypocrite is someone who pretends to be righteous but whose actions contradict this false image. [See also Bible Dictionary, “Hypocrite.”])

  • In what ways might hypocrites have been able to deceive Church members in 1831? How might they deceive Church members today?

  • What did the Lord say would happen to these hypocrites?

Doctrine and Covenants 50:10–46

The Lord teaches the elders how to discern between false spirits and the Spirit of Truth

Explain that in Doctrine and Covenants 50:10–12, the Lord told the elders of the Church that He would reason with them so that they could understand. Remind students that the elders had come to the Prophet because they did not understand the false spiritual manifestations that they had seen some Church members display.

Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 50:13–16 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for the questions the Lord asked the elders as He reasoned with them.

  • What did the Lord ask the elders in verse 13?

  • What doctrine can we learn about the Holy Ghost from the Lord’s answer in verse 14? (After students respond, write the following doctrine on the board: God sends the Holy Ghost to teach the truth.)

  • Why would this doctrine have been important for the elders to understand during this time of confusion?

Explain that in verses 15–16, the Lord chastised the elders for receiving false spirits that they could not understand. Nevertheless, the Lord told them that He would still be merciful to them.

Divide the class in half. Invite half of the class to read Doctrine and Covenants 50:17–18 silently, looking for what the Lord said about the way His truth should be preached. Invite the other half of the class to read Doctrine and Covenants 50:19–20 silently, looking for how His truth should be received.

  • How is the “word of truth” (verse 17) supposed to be preached?

  • How is it supposed to be received?

  • What does the phrase “if it be some other way it is not of God” in verses 18 and 20 mean?

  • What would be an example of how we might either preach or seek and receive truth in “some other way”?

Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 50:21–22 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what the Lord wanted the elders to understand about those who preach the word of truth and those who hear their message.

  • According to verse 21, what did the Lord want the elders to understand about preaching and receiving the word of truth?

  • According to verse 22, what did the Lord say happens when the word of truth is preached and received by the Spirit of Truth?

  • Based on what the Lord taught in verse 22, what manifestations of the Spirit can help us discern what comes from God and what does not? (After students respond, write the following doctrine on the board: The Spirit of the Lord brings understanding, edification, and joy.)

  • What do you think it means to be edified? (To be built up or strengthened spiritually.)

  • How might knowing this truth have helped the elders who felt confusion at the strange behaviors of some members?

  • How can this truth help us detect Satan’s deceptions in our day?

Invite students to think about times when they knew that what they had taught or heard was from the Spirit because it brought them understanding, edification, and joy. Ask a few students to share their experiences with the class.

Explain that in order to help the elders of the Church better recognize what was from God and what was not, the Lord used an analogy of light and darkness.

Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 50:23 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what the Lord told the elders about darkness.

  • What did the Lord say about darkness?

  • How would you describe the feelings and thoughts you have when something is not edifying?

  • How would knowing this have helped the elders of the Church respond to those members who exhibited bizarre behavior?

Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 50:24 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what the Lord told the elders about light.

  • Why is light an appropriate symbol for that which comes from God?

  • What did the Lord say would occur if we receive light and continue in God? (Students may use different words, but make sure they identify the following principle: If we receive light and continue in God, we will receive more light, which will grow brighter and brighter. Invite students to consider marking this principle in their scriptures.)

  • What do you think the phrase “continueth in God” means?

  • Why should we strive to make our light grow “brighter and brighter”?

Invite students to think about times when they have been consistently receptive to God’s light and influence in their lives and have experienced an increased outpouring of His Spirit and influence. Ask a few students to share their experiences with the class.

  • What can we do to receive more of God’s light in our lives?

Invite students to read Doctrine and Covenants 50:25 silently, looking for the reason the Lord taught these truths to the elders.

  • What reason did the Lord give for teaching these truths to the elders in Kirtland?

  • In what ways can having more light help us know the truth?

  • How can having more light and truth help us “chase darkness from among [us]” (verse 25), or dispel the temptations and influence of the devil?

Invite students to think of a time when they were able to chase away darkness, or temptation and evil, because of the light and truth they received. Invite a few willing students to share their experiences with the class.

Display the following statement by Elder Robert D. Hales (1932–2017) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and invite a student to read it aloud:

Hales, Robert D.

“Light dispels darkness. When light is present, darkness is vanquished and must depart. More importantly, darkness cannot conquer light unless the light is diminished or departs. When the spiritual light of the Holy Ghost is present, the darkness of Satan departs.

“… If we let the light of the Spirit flicker or fade by failing to keep the commandments or by not partaking of the sacrament or praying or studying the scriptures, the darkness of the adversary will surely come in” (Robert D. Hales, “Out of Darkness into His Marvelous Light,” Ensign, May 2002, 70, 71).

Invite students to ponder how they would answer the following question:

  • What will you do to receive greater light and continue in God so that you can know the truth and chase darkness from your life?

Encourage students to act on any promptings they receive.

Summarize Doctrine and Covenants 50:26–37 by explaining that the Lord counseled priesthood holders regarding the power and responsibilities that came with their ordination. He taught them to serve others and keep themselves pure. The Lord promised that as they did so, He would give them power to detect false spirits. Armed with principles to help the Saints detect false spirits and avoid deception, Parley P. Pratt, John Corrill, and Edward Partridge were called to “go forth and among the churches and strengthen them” (D&C 50:37).

Invite students to read Doctrine and Covenants 50:40–46 silently, looking for comforting counsel from the Lord. Ask students to share a phrase from these verses that is meaningful to them. List on the board the phrases students share.

  • How might the counsel listed on the board have provided comfort to the early Saints? How might it comfort us?

Conclude by testifying of the truths taught in this lesson. Invite students to ponder what they have learned today and to take a moment to write down how they will act upon what they learned.