“Lesson 21: Doctrine and Covenants 57–58,” Doctrine and Covenants Teacher Manual (2017)
“Lesson 21,” Doctrine and Covenants Teacher Manual
In obedience to the Lord’s commandment to convene a Church conference in Missouri (see D&C 52:2–5), the Prophet Joseph Smith and several others traveled approximately 900 miles from Ohio to Missouri. On July 20, 1831, a few days after arriving in Jackson County, Missouri, Joseph Smith received the revelation now known as Doctrine and Covenants 57. In this revelation, the Lord declared that Independence, Missouri, was to be the center place of the city of Zion with its temple, and He instructed several individuals regarding their roles in building Zion.
On August 1, 1831, less than two weeks after Joseph received the revelation designating Independence as the center place of Zion, some Church members approached the Prophet desiring to know the Lord’s will concerning their participation in the building of Zion. In response, the Lord gave the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 58. In this revelation, the Lord instructed the Saints regarding principles on which the city Zion was to be established, including obedience to the commandments, faithfulness in tribulation, the use of agency to bring about righteousness, and repentance and forgiveness.
- July 14, 1831
Joseph Smith and his traveling companions arrived in Jackson County, Missouri.
- July 20, 1831
Doctrine and Covenants 57 was received.
- Late July, 1831
The Colesville Saints and several elders arrived in Jackson County.
- August 1, 1831
Doctrine and Covenants 58 was received.
- August 2–3, 1831
Land in Jackson County, Missouri, was dedicated for the establishment of Zion, and a site for the temple was dedicated in Independence, Missouri.
Write the words Expectations and Actual Outcome on the board. Ask students to think about a time when they were disappointed because the outcome of an event was different from what they expected or desired. Invite a few students to share their experiences with the class.
Encourage students to look for truths as they study Doctrine and Covenants 57–58 that will help them better understand how to remain faithful to the Lord when things don’t work out how they expect or hope.
Remind students that the Lord had previously revealed that He would establish the city of Zion “on the borders by the Lamanites” (D&C 28:9). The Saints understood this area to be the western edge of Missouri, so when the Lord commanded the Prophet Joseph Smith and several elders to hold a Church conference in Missouri (see D&C 52:2), they eagerly anticipated learning Zion’s exact location. The Saints were anxious to establish Zion because they knew that being part of Zion would allow them to receive redemption, protection, and peace from the Lord (see Isaiah 51:11; 52:7–8; 3 Nephi 21:22–29; D&C 45:66–75; Moses 7:61–64). In obedience to the Lord’s command, Joseph Smith and several elders left Kirtland, Ohio, in June 1831 and traveled approximately 900 miles to Missouri, arriving a month later on July 14, 1831 (see The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 2: July 1831–January 1833, ed. Matthew C. Godfrey and others , 5–6).
Invite a student to read aloud the section heading for Doctrine and Covenants 57. Ask the class to follow along, looking for the questions the Prophet asked the Lord when he arrived in Jackson County, Missouri.
Ask a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 57:1–3 aloud. Encourage the class to follow along, looking for how the Lord responded to the Prophet’s questions.
Where was the city of Zion to be built?
According to verse 3, where was the temple to be built in relationship to the city of Zion?
What do you think is significant about the Lord locating the temple in the center of the city of Zion?
Summarize Doctrine and Covenants 57:4–16 by explaining that the Lord instructed the Saints to purchase property in and around Independence, Missouri. The Lord also instructed certain people to use their individual strengths to help build up Zion.
Tell students that missionaries and members of the Colesville Branch who were commanded to go to Missouri arrived several days after the Prophet and his traveling companions. Some of the new arrivals had imagined that they would find a flourishing community of new members, but they were disappointed to discover that there were only a few converts. Others were disappointed that much of the land in Jackson County was uncultivated. In addition, the Prophet Joseph Smith and Bishop Edward Partridge had a disagreement regarding the land that was to be purchased for the Saints. It was in these circumstances that the Prophet Joseph Smith received the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 58. (See The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 2: July 1831–January 1833, 12–13.)
Invite students to read Doctrine and Covenants 58:1–5 silently, looking for what the Lord wanted the elders to understand as they first arrived in Missouri.
What principle can we learn from what the Lord told the elders in verse 2? (After students respond, write the following principle on the board: Our eternal reward will be greater if we remain faithful in tribulation.)
How might this principle have helped the Saints when the circumstances in their new home were not as they had anticipated?
Ask the class if anyone can briefly describe some of the persecution and trials that the Saints would experience over the next several years in Missouri. (If necessary, briefly inform students that the Saints suffered harassment and violence from their neighbors in Missouri, and some Church members were even murdered. The persecution eventually forced the Saints to flee Jackson County in November and December of 1833, and they were ultimately driven from Missouri altogether in the winter of 1838–39 when the governor of the state issued an extermination order against them.)
How might the principle on the board and the Lord’s promises in verses 2–4 have strengthened the Saints during the difficulties they would endure in Missouri?
According to verse 3, what do we often not see or understand when we are going through tribulation?
How might the teachings in these verses help us when we experience disappointment and tribulation?
Summarize Doctrine and Covenants 58:6–13 by explaining that the Lord revealed some of the reasons He sent the Saints to Zion, one of which was so that the elders could lay the foundation of Zion and begin to prepare the earth for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. As recorded in these verses, the Lord referred to a New Testament parable (see Matthew 22:1–14; Luke 14:12–24) that teaches that people in all nations will be invited to partake of the blessings of the gospel.
Remind students that Bishop Edward Partridge, who was called to stay in Missouri to manage the properties of the Church and purchase land in and around Independence, had a disagreement with the Prophet concerning which parcels of land to purchase. Explain that as recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 58:15, the Lord warned Bishop Partridge that if he did not repent of his “unbelief and blindness of heart,” he would fall. Bishop Partridge accepted the Lord’s warning and rebuke with humility (see The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 2: July 1831–January 1833, 12–13). Summarize Doctrine and Covenants 58:16–20 by explaining that the Lord also outlined some of Edward Partridge’s duties and responsibilities as bishop in Missouri. Then summarize Doctrine and Covenants 58:21–23 by explaining that the Lord instructed the Saints in Missouri to keep the laws of the land and the laws of God.
Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 58:24–28 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what the Lord told Bishop Partridge and his counselors to do.
According to verse 25, what did the Lord tell Bishop Partridge and his counselors to do?
How might counseling together and with the Lord have helped them to manage the affairs of the Church in Missouri and to build Zion?
Based on what the Lord taught these men in verses 26–28, what doctrine and principles can we learn regarding what the Lord expects of us? (Students may give several responses, but make sure they identify the following truths: If we wait for the Lord to tell us everything we should do, we will receive no reward. We have power to act for ourselves. If we use our agency to bring to pass righteousness, we will be rewarded. Invite students to consider highlighting these truths in their scriptures.)
Why would it have been important for those who were called to build Zion to understand these principles?
Why are these truths important for us to understand in our day?
Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 58:29–33 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what the Lord said happens to those who do not use their agency to do good or who doubt His commandments.
What happens to those who do not use their agency to do good or who doubt the Lord’s commandments?
According to verses 32–33, how do some people respond when they do not receive blessings they believe they are entitled to, even though they have been slothful or disobedient?
What warning does the Lord give to such individuals?
Testify that although the Lord had revealed the location of the city of Zion, He still required the Saints to use their agency to do good and help establish it. The same is true for us in our day. Even though the Lord guides us with revelation, He expects us to use our agency to do good and “bring to pass much righteousness” (D&C 58:27) to accomplish His work.
Invite students to ponder what they can do to bring to pass much righteousness. Encourage them to act on any promptings they receive.
Explain that in Doctrine and Covenants 58:34–37, the Lord gave further instructions concerning the land of Zion. He directed that Martin Harris consecrate his money to the Lord, that the Saints who settle in Zion follow this example and live the law of consecration, and that land be purchased for a storehouse and printing press.
Ask a few students to take turns reading aloud from Doctrine and Covenants 58:38–43, 60. Encourage the class to follow along, looking for the counsel the Lord gave to Martin Harris, William W. Phelps, and Ziba Peterson as they prepared to settle in Zion.
How might the sins of these men have prevented them from helping to build Zion?
How might our sins limit our ability to serve the Lord?
What truth did the Lord teach these men about repentance in verse 42? (Help students identify the following truth: If we repent of our sins, the Lord will forgive us and remember our sins no more.)
How might this truth bring us hope?
What truth did the Lord teach these men about repentance in verse 43? (Help students identify the following truth: To repent, we must confess and forsake our sins.)
To help students understand what it means to confess and forsake sin, invite a student to read aloud the following statement by Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:
“The forsaking of sins implies never returning. Forsaking requires time. To help us, the Lord at times allows the residue of our mistakes to rest in our memory. It is a vital part of our mortal learning.
“As we honestly confess our sins, restore what we can to the offended, and forsake our sins by keeping the commandments, we are in the process of receiving forgiveness. With time, we will feel the anguish of our sorrow subside, taking ‘away the guilt from our hearts’ [Alma 24:10] and bringing ‘peace of conscience’ [Mosiah 4:3]” (Neil L. Andersen, “Repent … That I May Heal You,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2009, 42).
Testify that because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, we can be completely forgiven of our sins. Encourage students to repent of their sins by confessing and forsaking them.
Summarize Doctrine and Covenants 58:44–65 by explaining that the Lord instructed the elders who were to stay in Missouri to purchase land and prepare for the gathering of the Saints in Zion, which included preaching the gospel to all the world.