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Lesson 20: Doctrine and Covenants 51–56
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“Lesson 20: Doctrine and Covenants 51–56,” Doctrine and Covenants Teacher Manual (2017)

“Lesson 20,” Doctrine and Covenants Teacher Manual

Lesson 20

Doctrine and Covenants 51–56

Introduction and Timeline

Saints from Colesville, New York, arrived in Ohio in May 1831, and Bishop Edward Partridge was responsible for arranging their settlement. To help guide Bishop Partridge, the Lord gave the Prophet Joseph Smith the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 51. In this revelation, the Lord instructed Bishop Partridge on how to organize stewardships of property and money among the Saints.

On June 3–6, 1831, the elders of the Church gathered for a conference. On the last day of the conference, the Lord gave Joseph Smith the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 52. In this revelation, the Lord indicated that the next conference should be held in Missouri and promised that He would make known the location of the Saints’ land of inheritance there. The Lord appointed certain elders to travel in pairs to Missouri and instructed them on how they might travel and preach the gospel. He also revealed a pattern for recognizing true followers of Jesus Christ.

In the days following the June 1831 conference, the Prophet Joseph Smith received the revelations recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 53–55. These revelations include instructions for some Church members who lived in Ohio but would soon move to Missouri. In these revelations the Lord spoke to Sidney Gilbert, Newel Knight, and William W. Phelps and gave them instructions specific to their Church assignments and talents.

In early June 1831, Ezra Thayre and Thomas B. Marsh were called on a mission to Missouri (see D&C 52:22). However, because of pride and selfishness, Ezra was not prepared to leave with Thomas. In the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 56, the Lord revoked Ezra Thayre’s call and called Selah J. Griffin to accompany Brother Marsh.

May 14, 1831

The Saints from Colesville, New York, arrived in Ohio and were invited to settle as a group on Leman Copley’s farm in Thompson, Ohio.

May 20, 1831

Doctrine and Covenants 51 was received.

May–June 1831

Leman Copley began to evict the Saints who were living on his property.

June 3–6, 1831

A Church conference was held in Kirtland, Ohio. During the conference Joseph Smith saw God the Father and Jesus Christ, and the first high priests in this dispensation were ordained.

June 6–15, 1831

Doctrine and Covenants 52–56 were received.

June 19, 1831

Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon, and others departed Ohio for their first journey to Missouri.

Suggestions for Teaching

Doctrine and Covenants 51

The Lord appoints Edward Partridge to oversee the temporal needs of the Saints

Write the following questions on the board:

What sacred responsibilities has Heavenly Father entrusted (or will entrust) to me in mortality?

What are the Lord’s expectations of me regarding these responsibilities?

What blessings can I receive from fulfilling these responsibilities?

Invite students to ponder these questions. Ask a few students to share their responses with the class.

Encourage students to look for a principle as they study Doctrine and Covenants 51 that will help them understand how they should fulfill their responsibilities from the Lord and what blessings they can receive from fulfilling those responsibilities.

Explain that the Saints who had moved from New York began arriving in Ohio in the spring of 1831. One group traveled from Colesville, New York, at great sacrifice. Under the leadership of Newel Knight, they left their homes in April and, after a month-long journey, arrived in the Kirtland area in mid-May. Joseph Smith advised them to settle in a neighboring town called Thompson on the property of Leman Copley. As bishop, Edward Partridge was responsible for instituting the law of consecration among the Saints (see D&C 42:30–33) and sought instruction on how he should proceed. The Prophet inquired of the Lord, and in response he received the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 51.

Summarize Doctrine and Covenants 51:1–8 by explaining that the Lord gave Bishop Edward Partridge specific directions on how to organize the Saints according to the law of consecration. Bishop Partridge was to give each family who had consecrated their property to the Church a portion of resources that was to be “equal” yet adapted according to the family’s “circumstances and … wants and needs” (verse 3).

Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 51:9 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for the Lord’s counsel to the Saints.

  • In what ways do you think the Lord’s counsel in verse 9 could have helped the Saints live the law of consecration? (See also Jacob 2:17.)

Summarize Doctrine and Covenants 51:10–18 by explaining that the Lord commanded the bishop to establish a storehouse to keep surplus goods. The Lord also explained that Ohio was to be only a temporary gathering place for the Saints.

Ask students to read Doctrine and Covenants 51:19 silently, looking for the Lord’s promise to the Saints who faithfully lived the law of consecration.

  • What principle can we learn from this verse about what we will receive if we are faithful, just, and wise stewards? (Students should identify that if we are faithful, just, and wise stewards, then we will enter into the joy of the Lord and inherit eternal life.)

  • Why would this principle be important for the Saints to understand as they began to learn how to live the law of consecration?

  • What does it mean to be a steward?

If necessary, explain that a steward is “a person who takes care of the affairs or property of another. That which a steward cares for is called a stewardship. All things on earth belong to the Lord; we are His stewards” (Guide to the Scriptures, “Steward, Stewardship,” scriptures.lds.org).

Explain that in the Doctrine and Covenants, the terms steward and stewardship are associated with the law of consecration. The term steward refers to those who have consecrated material possessions to the Lord by covenant and are given resources and lands from the Lord to use according to their needs and just wants. The term stewardship refers to those resources or lands given by the Lord. Though these terms have specific meanings in the context of the law of consecration, the principles that guided the Saints in how to fulfill their stewardships can also guide us in the responsibilities and duties that we receive from the Lord.

Display the following statement by Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, in which he explains how these principles can relate to us today. Ask a student to read it aloud:

Cook, Quentin L.

“We live in perilous times when many believe we are not accountable to God and that we do not have personal responsibility or stewardship for ourselves or others. …

“In the Church, stewardship is not limited to a temporal trust or responsibility. President Spencer W. Kimball taught: ‘We are stewards over our bodies, minds, families, and properties. … A faithful steward is one who exercises righteous dominion, cares for his own, and looks to the poor and needy’ [“Welfare Services: The Gospel in Action,” Ensign, Nov. 1977, 78]” (Quentin L. Cook, “Stewardship—a Sacred Trust,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2009, 91).

  • What does it mean to you to be a faithful, just, and wise steward?

  • When have you been blessed by someone who is faithful, just, and wise in fulfilling the responsibilities that the Lord has given him or her?

Invite students to consider the responsibilities the Lord has given them. Ask them to ponder how they can be more faithful, just, and wise in fulfilling those responsibilities. Encourage them to act on any promptings they receive.

Doctrine and Covenants 52

The Lord commands certain leaders to travel to Missouri and gives a pattern to avoid deception

Explain that in response to the Lord’s command for the elders of the Church to meet together (see D&C 44:1–2), the elders assembled at a conference held in Kirtland, Ohio, in June 1831. Invite students to read the section heading for Doctrine and Covenants 52 silently, looking for what happened at the conference. Invite a student to report what he or she discovered.

Explain that on the last day of the conference, Joseph Smith received the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 52. Summarize Doctrine and Covenants 52:1–13 by explaining that the Lord commanded Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon, and other elders to travel to Missouri and preach the gospel as they journeyed.

Ask a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 52:14 aloud. Ask the class to look for the Lord’s warning to the elders before they began their journey.

  • What warning did the Lord give the elders, and how does that warning relate to us?

  • What principle can we learn from this verse that can help us avoid being deceived? (Students should identify a principle similar to the following: If we follow God’s pattern in all things, we can avoid being deceived by Satan.)

  • What is a pattern? (A model that we can follow.)

  • What are some examples of patterns God has provided to help us avoid deception?

Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 52:15–19 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for the pattern that the Lord gave the Saints to help them recognize true followers of Jesus Christ.

  • According to the Lord’s pattern, how can we recognize true followers of Jesus Christ? (You might explain that the word ordinances as used in this revelation can refer to priesthood ordinances or more generally to the commandments and laws of the Lord.)

  • How can this pattern help us avoid being deceived?

Summarize Doctrine and Covenants 52:20–44 by explaining that the Lord called additional missionaries and invited all Saints to care for the poor, sick, and afflicted.

Doctrine and Covenants 53

The Lord calls Sidney Gilbert to preach the gospel and to travel to Missouri

Explain that Sidney Gilbert, Newel K. Whitney’s business partner, was probably present on June 6 when Joseph Smith received the revelation commanding many elders to go to Missouri (see D&C 52). However, Sidney’s name was not mentioned in that revelation. Shortly after that revelation was received, Sidney approached Joseph Smith and asked for direction. In response, the Lord gave the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 53. He commanded Sidney to forsake the world, serve as a bishop’s agent, and travel with the Prophet Joseph Smith to Missouri.

Doctrine and Covenants 54

The Lord instructs the Colesville Saints to leave Ohio and relocate to Missouri

Draw two columns on the board, and write Keep Covenants above one column and Break Covenants above the other column.

  • What has helped motivate you to keep your covenants?

Ask students to think about what influences in the world may try to persuade them to break their covenants.

Invite students to look for truths as they study Doctrine and Covenants 54 that will help them better understand the importance of keeping their covenants with God.

Remind students that Leman Copley was a former member of the United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing (also known as Shakers). After he converted to the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, he covenanted under the principles of consecration to allow the Colesville Saints to live on his property in Thompson, Ohio. As the Saints began to settle on his property, Leman traveled with other missionaries to North Union, Ohio, to preach the gospel to the Shakers (see D&C 49). The mission was unsuccessful, and Leman’s faith in the restored gospel wavered. Shortly after returning from his mission to the Shakers, Leman broke his covenant and ordered the Saints to leave his property.

Ask students to read the section heading for Doctrine and Covenants 54 silently, looking for what led to this revelation.

Invite a few students to take turns reading aloud from Doctrine and Covenants 54:1–6. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what the Lord taught the Saints about what happens when someone breaks their covenants.

  • What do the Lord’s teachings in verses 4–5 suggest about the seriousness of breaking our covenants with God? (Write students’ responses on the board under Break Covenants.)

  • What do you think it means for a covenant to “become void and of none effect” (verse 4)? What blessings would we lose if we were to break our covenants?

  • What principle can we identify in verse 6 about the blessings we receive if we keep our covenants and the commandments of God? (If we faithfully keep our covenants and observe God’s commandments, we will receive mercy. Write this principle on the board under Keep Covenants.)

  • What are some ways we may experience God’s mercy? (Answers may include forgiveness, help to overcome sin, divine guidance, physical and spiritual healing, answers to prayers, and every blessing we receive.)

To help students understand this principle, display the following statement by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and invite a student to read it aloud:

Holland, Jeffrey R.

“Only covenant makers and covenant keepers can claim the ultimate blessings of the celestial kingdom. Yes, when we talk about covenant keeping, we are talking about the heart and soul of our purpose in mortality. …

“If we really want to succeed … , if we want to have access to every help and every advantage and every blessing from the Father, if we want to have the door of heaven thrown open to us that we might receive the powers of godliness, we must keep our covenants!” (Jeffrey R. Holland, “Keeping Covenants: A Message for Those Who Will Serve a Mission,” New Era, Jan. 2012, 2, 4).

  • How have you experienced God’s mercy as you have faithfully kept your covenants with Him? (Consider sharing an experience of your own, and encourage students to faithfully keep their covenants with God.)

Summarize verses 7–10 by explaining that in these verses, the Lord directed that the Colesville Saints, whom Leman Copley had evicted from his land, journey to Missouri, where the Lord would prepare a place for them.

Doctrine and Covenants 55

The Lord instructs William W. Phelps regarding his calling in the Church

Explain that William W. Phelps, an editor and printer from New York, arrived in Kirtland, Ohio, with his family in June 1831. William was convinced of the truthfulness of the restored gospel but had not yet been baptized. Summarize Doctrine and Covenants 55 by explaining that in this revelation the Lord instructed William to be baptized and called him to use his experience and talents to help print and write books for the Church.

Doctrine and Covenants 56

The Lord revokes Ezra Thayre’s mission call and warns the Saints about greed and pride

Explain that the Lord called Thomas B. Marsh and Ezra Thayre to travel together to Missouri and preach the gospel, and He also called Newel Knight and Selah J. Griffin to do the same (see D&C 52:22, 32). However, when Thomas was ready to depart, Ezra was not.

Summarize Doctrine and Covenants 56:1–13 by explaining that the Lord revoked Ezra Thayre’s call to serve with Thomas B. Marsh and appointed Selah J. Griffin to replace him. Because of the situation of the Saints at Thompson, Ohio, the Lord also revoked the commandment that Selah J. Griffin and Newel Knight go together to Missouri. The Lord told Newel to remain with the Saints who had attempted to settle in Thompson and to lead them to Missouri.

Invite several students to take turns reading aloud from Doctrine and Covenants 56:14–20. Ask the class to follow along, looking for truths we can learn from the Lord’s correction and counsel to the early Saints. Ask students to report some of the truths they discovered.

Close by sharing your testimony of the truths taught in this lesson.