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Lesson 23: Doctrine and Covenants 63
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“Lesson 23: Doctrine and Covenants 63,” Doctrine and Covenants Teacher Manual (2017)

“Lesson 23,” Doctrine and Covenants Teacher Manual

Lesson 23

Doctrine and Covenants 63

Introduction and Timeline

In the summer of 1831, the Prophet Joseph Smith was overseeing the dedication of the land in Independence, Missouri, where the Saints were to build Zion. When the Prophet returned to Kirtland, Ohio, on August 27, the Saints there were anxious to learn more about this new land and their role in establishing Zion.

Unfortunately, during the Prophet’s absence some Church members in Kirtland had turned away from the Lord’s commandments and committed serious sins. On August 30, 1831, the Prophet received the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 63, in which the Lord warned the Saints about the consequences of wickedness and rebellion. The Lord also told the Saints how to prepare to gather to Zion and prepare for His Second Coming

July 14, 1831

Joseph Smith and others arrived in Independence, Missouri.

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.

August 27, 1831

Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery returned to Kirtland, Ohio.

August 30, 1831

Doctrine and Covenants 63 was received.

Suggestions for Teaching

Doctrine and Covenants 63:1–21

The Lord warns about the consequences of wickedness and promises the faithful an inheritance

Display or write the following questions on the board:

Why might some people who had once been faithful to the Lord turn away from following Him?

What helps you to keep the Lord’s commandments and remain faithful to Him?

Invite students to ponder these questions, and then ask one or two students to share their thoughts. Encourage students to look for truths as they study Doctrine and Covenants 63 that will help them understand what they can do to remain faithful to the Lord and why it’s important to do so.

Explain that on August 27, 1831, when the Prophet returned to Kirtland, Ohio, after his journey to Missouri, he found that some Saints in Ohio had fallen into sin and apostatized in his absence. Three days after arriving in Kirtland, Joseph Smith received the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 63.

Invite several students to take turns reading aloud from Doctrine and Covenants 63:1–6. Ask the class to follow along, looking for how the Lord addressed those who had rebelled against Him.

  • How would you summarize what the Lord said about those who had rebelled?

Explain that some of those who apostatized began speaking out publicly against Joseph Smith and other Church leaders. For example, by mid-October 1831, an apostate named Ezra Booth became one of the most vocal critics and the first to publish anti-Mormon literature. Booth had been a Methodist preacher in Ohio and had become interested in the Restoration after reading the Book of Mormon. In the spring of 1831, he traveled to Kirtland with John and Alice (Elsa) Johnson to meet Joseph Smith. During their visit he witnessed the Prophet heal Alice’s crippled arm, and soon after witnessing this miracle, he was baptized. (See Manuscript History of the Church, vol. A-1, p. 153–54, josephsmithpapers.org; see also “History of Brigham Young,” Millennial Star, Dec. 31, 1864, 834.)

Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 63:7–9 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what the Lord taught about the relationship between faith and signs.

  • According to these verses, why were some of the Saints in Kirtland struggling with their faith?

  • What doctrine does the Lord teach in these verses regarding faith and signs? (Make sure students identify the following truth: Faith does not come by signs.)

  • What is faith? (See Joseph Smith Translation, Hebrews 11:1 [in Hebrews 11:1, footnote b]; Alma 32:21.)

  • Why doesn’t lasting faith come from witnessing signs?

Explain that Ezra Booth is an example of someone who relied on signs rather than faith. After he was baptized, he received the priesthood and was sent on a mission to Missouri. Apparently, he expected to convert many by displaying signs and performing miracles. However, after preaching for a short time and not seeing the results he anticipated, Ezra became disaffected and soon after apostatized. (See Manuscript History, vol. A-1, p. 153–54, josephsmithpapers.org.)

Invite students to read Doctrine and Covenants 63:10–12 silently, looking for an additional truth the Lord taught about signs and faith.

  • What additional doctrine did the Lord teach in these verses about signs and faith? (After students respond, write the following truth on the board: Signs come by faith according to the will of God.)

  • Why is it important to remember that signs come according to God’s will rather than our will?

  • How might Ezra Booth’s mission have been different if he had understood and believed this truth?

Explain that in addition to seeking signs, many Church members “had turned away from [God’s] commandments” (D&C 63:13) in the Prophet’s absence. Invite students to read Doctrine and Covenants 63:14–16 silently, looking for a sin that some members had committed. Ask students to report what they find.

  • According to verse 16, what would happen to those who did not repent of adultery? (They would lose the Spirit and deny the faith.)

Explain that approximately six months earlier, in a revelation to the Prophet Joseph Smith, the Lord had commanded the Saints to not commit adultery and to not lust (see D&C 42:22–26), but apparently some of the Saints did not heed the Lord’s command.

Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 63:17–19 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what else the Lord said would happen to those who committed serious sins.

  • Why do you think the Lord was so direct with the Saints as He spoke to them about the consequences of sin?

Explain that although some members in Kirtland had committed serious sins and apostatized during the Prophet’s absence, most Saints had remained faithful. Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 63:20–21 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what the Lord promised to those who remain faithful and do His will. Before the student reads, explain that the phrase “day of transfiguration” in verse 20 refers to the time when the Lord comes again and the earth receives its paradisiacal glory.

  • What principle can we identify in verse 20 about what the Lord will do for us if we endure in faith and do His will? (Students should identify a principle similar to the following: If we endure in faith and do the Lord’s will, we will overcome the world and receive an inheritance from the Lord. [See also D&C 63:47.])

  • What does the phrase “overcome the world” mean? (To prevail over the sins and temptations of the world.)

Ask students to ponder how their faith in Heavenly Father and the Savior has helped them to overcome temptations and challenges they have faced. Consider inviting one or two students to share experiences they have had with this principle. (Remind students not to share anything that is too personal.)

Doctrine and Covenants 63:22–56

The Lord instructs the Saints concerning establishing Zion and promises blessings to the faithful

Invite students to think about a time when they were worried about accomplishing a difficult task. Invite a few students to share what they did when faced with this task.

Explain that when the Prophet Joseph Smith returned to Kirtland, despite the sins and apostasy of some Church members there, many Saints were anxious to know how to fulfill the Lord’s commandment to establish Zion. Invite students to read the section heading for Doctrine and Covenants 63 silently, looking for what the Prophet did when he was faced with these circumstances.

Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 63:22–23 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for the answer the Lord gave the Prophet.

  • According to verse 23, how can we know the Lord’s will and the mysteries of His kingdom? (Help students identify the following principle: If we keep the commandments, the Lord will help us know His will and the mysteries of His kingdom.)

  • What are the mysteries of the Lord’s kingdom? (In the context of the gospel, mysteries are truths that can only be known and understood by revelation.)

  • What is the meaning of the phrase “the same shall be in him a well of living water, springing up unto everlasting life” (D&C 63:23)? (If necessary, explain that “living water” refers to truths about God and His kingdom that will help us become like God and gain eternal life.)

Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 63:24–27 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for the counsel the Lord gave about establishing Zion.

  • What counsel did the Lord give to the Saints about establishing Zion?

Explain that in Doctrine and Covenants 63:28–48, the Lord told the Saints not to use force to obtain the land in Zion. The Lord also told the Saints to gather to Zion for protection in the last days. Additionally, some Saints were told to make preparations to move to Missouri the following spring, and others were to stay in Ohio for a while longer.

Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 63:41, 46–48 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for additional teachings the Lord gave the Saints regarding the establishment of Zion.

  • According to verse 41, how would the Prophet know who should go to Zion and who should stay in Ohio?

  • What promise did the Lord give to those who willingly sent money to help establish Zion?

Explain that in Doctrine and Covenants 63:49–54, the Lord promised blessings to the faithful who die before His Second Coming as well as to those who are alive at that time. In verses 55–56, the Lord chastened Sidney Rigdon because of his pride. Sidney had received an assignment to write a description of the land of Zion (see D&C 58:50) so that Church members who lived far away would know what the land was like. This description was going to be used to inspire the Saints to donate money to purchase land in Missouri. Sidney’s initial effort was not done in the way the Lord had instructed, so He chastened Sidney and told him to write another description.

Doctrine and Covenants 63:57–66

Jesus Christ instructs His servants to remember the sacredness of His name

Invite a student to read aloud the following account from the life of President Spencer W. Kimball (1895–1985):

Kimball, Spencer W.

“In the hospital one day I was wheeled out of the operating room by an attendant who stumbled, and there issued from his angry lips vicious cursing with a combination of the names of the Savior. Even half-conscious, I recoiled and implored: ‘Please! Please! That is my Lord whose names you revile’” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball [2006], 157).

  • How was President Kimball’s reverence for the Lord’s name different from the way many people use the Lord’s name?

Invite two students to take turns reading aloud from Doctrine and Covenants 63:59–64. Encourage the class to follow along, looking for what the Savior said about using His name.

  • Based on what the Lord taught in these verses, what truth can we identify about how we are to use the Lord’s name? (After students respond, write this doctrine on the board: The name of Jesus Christ is sacred and must be spoken with care.)

  • Why do you think the Lord commands us to use His name with reverence?

  • How does verse 62 increase our understanding of what it means to take the Lord’s name in vain?

Invite students to reread Doctrine and Covenants 63:64 silently, looking for additional teachings the Lord gave regarding talking about sacred things.

  • What are some other words, truths, or subjects that “come from above” and are sacred?

  • How can we make sure we speak about them with care?

Testify of the blessings that come from honoring the name of Jesus Christ in our speech and actions. Invite students to consider a specific way they could use or act in the Lord’s name with greater reverence and honor. Encourage them to act on these thoughts in the coming week.