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Lesson 35: Doctrine and Covenants 89–92
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“Lesson 35: Doctrine and Covenants 89–92,” Doctrine and Covenants Teacher Manual (2017)

“Lesson 35,” Doctrine and Covenants Teacher Manual

Lesson 35

Doctrine and Covenants 89–92

Introduction and Timeline

After the School of the Prophets began meeting in early 1833, the Prophet Joseph Smith inquired of the Lord concerning priesthood holders’ use of tobacco during their meetings. On February 27, 1833, in response to Joseph’s inquiry, the Lord gave the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 89. In this revelation, which became known as the Word of Wisdom, the Lord warned against the use of harmful substances, encouraged the consumption of wholesome foods, and promised blessings to the obedient.

On March 8, 1833, the Lord gave the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 90. This revelation contains instructions to the Presidency of the High Priesthood and was “a continuing step in the establishment of the First Presidency” (D&C 90, section heading).

While working on the inspired translation of the Old Testament, the Prophet inquired of the Lord concerning whether he should include the Apocrypha as part of his translation of the Bible. On March 9, 1833, the Lord responded to Joseph Smith’s question through the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 91 and told him he did not need to translate the Apocrypha.

On March 15, 1833, the Prophet received the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 92, instructing Frederick G. Williams to be an active member of the United Firm, which had been established to oversee the welfare and business affairs of the Church.

February 2, 1833

Joseph Smith finished reviewing his translation of the New Testament.

February 27, 1833

Doctrine and Covenants 89 was received.

March 8, 1833

Doctrine and Covenants 90 was received.

March 9, 1833

Doctrine and Covenants 91 was received.

March 15, 1833

Doctrine and Covenants 92 was received.

March 18, 1833

Sidney Rigdon and Frederick G. Williams were ordained as Presidents (counselors) in the Presidency of the High Priesthood.

Suggestions for Teaching

Doctrine and Covenants 89:1–21

The Lord reveals the Word of Wisdom

Write The Word of Wisdom on the board.

  • Have you ever had to explain to someone why you do not drink alcohol, tea, or coffee or use tobacco? What did you say? How did the person respond?

To help students understand the context of the revelation contained in Doctrine and Covenants 89, explain that in obedience to the Lord’s command to organize the School of the Prophets (see D&C 88:127), the Prophet Joseph Smith and other elders met in an upper room of the Newel K. Whitney store in Kirtland, Ohio. (If possible, display a picture of the room.)

Newel K. Whitney Store, Kirtland, Geauga County, Ohio

Invite a student to read the following paragraph aloud:

“Every morning after breakfast, the men met in the school to hear instruction from Joseph Smith. … The first thing they did, after sitting down, was ‘light a pipe and begin to talk about the great things of the kingdom and puff away,’ Brigham Young recounted. The clouds of smoke were so thick the men could hardly even see Joseph through the haze. Once the pipes were smoked out, they would then ‘put in a chew on one side and perhaps on both sides and then it was all over the floor’ [Brigham Young, unpublished discourse, December 2, 1867]. In this dingy setting, Joseph Smith attempted to teach the men how they and their converts could become holy, ‘without spot,’ and worthy of the presence of God” (Jed Woodworth, “The Word of Wisdom,” in Revelations in Context, ed. Matthew McBride and James Goldberg [2016], 183, or history.lds.org).

Invite a student to read aloud the following statement by President Brigham Young (1801–1877) about how the Prophet reacted to these conditions:

“Often when the Prophet entered the room to give the school instructions he would find himself in a cloud of tobacco smoke. This, and the complaints of his wife at having to clean so filthy a floor [from chewing tobacco], made the Prophet think upon the matter, and he inquired of the Lord relating to the conduct of the elders in using tobacco, and the revelation known as the Word of Wisdom was the result of his inquiry” (Brigham Young, in Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith [2007], 263).

Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 89:1–3 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for words or phrases that describe the Lord’s purpose for giving this revelation.

Point out the phrase “not by commandment or constraint” in verse 2, and explain that the Lord did not initially give the Word of Wisdom to the Saints as a commandment. Eventually, after the Saints had many years to practice obeying the principles in the Word of Wisdom, the Lord’s prophets began teaching that the Word of Wisdom was now to be considered a commandment (see the student manual commentary for D&C 89:1–2).

Write the following phrase on the board: A Principle with Promise. Invite students to look for the principle and promise the Lord revealed as part of the Word of Wisdom as they continue to study Doctrine and Covenants 89.

Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 89:4 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for another reason the Lord gave for revealing the Word of Wisdom.

  • What are examples of “evils and designs” in the world today that we can avoid by following the Word of Wisdom?

Invite students to read Doctrine and Covenants 89:5–9 silently, looking for harmful substances the Lord warned the Saints to not use.

  • What substances did the Lord warn the Saints not to use? (If necessary, explain that Church leaders have taught that the term “hot drinks” refers to tea and coffee [see Hyrum Smith’s teaching reported in “The Word of Wisdom,” Times and Seasons, June 1, 1842,” 800, josephsmithpapers.org].)

Point out that not all harmful substances that we should avoid are named in the revelation. Church leaders have warned against the use of “any drink, drug, chemical, or dangerous practice that produces a ‘high’ or other artificial effect that may harm your body or mind. Some of these include marijuana, hard drugs, prescription or over-the-counter medications that are abused, and household chemicals” (For the Strength of Youth [2011], 26).

Invite students to read Doctrine and Covenants 89:10–17 silently, looking for the foods that the Lord encourages us to eat.

  • What foods does the Lord encourage us to eat?

  • According to verse 11, what should our attitude be when eating these foods?

Remind students that the Lord described the Word of Wisdom as “a principle with promise” (D&C 89:3). Write the following incomplete sentence on the board: If we obey the Word of Wisdom and strive to keep the commandments, the Lord will bless us with …

Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 89:18–21 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for the blessings promised for following the Word of Wisdom.

  • What blessings does the Lord promise those who follow the Word of Wisdom?

Remind students that the promise of health in verse 18 does not necessarily mean that the Word of Wisdom is a cure for chronic disease or debilitating illness. Instead, it helps people have the best health and strength that their bodies are capable of.

  • How can living the Word of Wisdom help us gain “wisdom and great treasures of knowledge” (verse 19)? (Help students understand that obeying the Word of Wisdom allows us to enjoy the companionship of the Holy Ghost, who imparts wisdom and knowledge to the faithful.)

Display the following statement by President Boyd K. Packer (1924–2015) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and invite a student to read it aloud:

Packer, Boyd K.

“I have come to know … that a fundamental purpose of the Word of Wisdom has to do with revelation. …

“If someone ‘under the influence’ [of harmful substances] can hardly listen to plain talk, how can they respond to spiritual promptings that touch their most delicate feelings?

“As valuable as the Word of Wisdom is as a law of health, it may be much more valuable to you spiritually than it is physically” (Boyd K. Packer, “Prayers and Answers,”Ensign, Nov. 1979, 20).

  • In verse 21, what scriptural account does the phrase “the destroying angel shall pass by them, as the children of Israel, and not slay them” refer to? (This phrase refers to the account of the children of Israel receiving divine protection during the first Passover in Egypt [see Exodus 12:21–28].)

Explain that this promise of divine protection can refer to spiritual as well as physical safety.

  • Based on what you have learned from Doctrine and Covenants 89, how would you complete the statement on the board to form a principle about the blessings of following the Word of Wisdom? (After students respond, complete the sentence on the board as follows: If we obey the Word of Wisdom and strive to keep the commandments, the Lord will bless us with health, wisdom, strength, and protection.)

  • When have you or someone you know experienced these blessings? (You may also want to share an experience.)

Explain that after Joseph Smith read this revelation to the elders at the School of the Prophets, they threw their tobacco pipes into the fireplace, illustrating that some of the Saints willingly observed the Word of Wisdom even though Church leaders did not present it as a commandment until many years later. Encourage students to commit now to obey the Word of Wisdom so they can receive the Lord’s promised blessings of health, wisdom, strength, and protection.

Doctrine and Covenants 90:1–37

The Lord instructs the First Presidency concerning their duties and authority

Tell students that just over a week after the Prophet received the revelation about the Word of Wisdom, he received the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 90. To help students better understand the context of this revelation, invite a student to read the section heading aloud.

Invite several students to take turns reading aloud from Doctrine and Covenants 90:1–6. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what the Lord taught about the First Presidency. Before students read, invite them to note the definition of the word oracles (verses 4–5) in verse 4, footnote a.

  • What did the Lord teach about the First Presidency in verses 3 and 6? (Remind students that phrase “the keys of the kingdom” [verse 2] refers to the power and authority to govern and direct God’s kingdom on the earth. If necessary, explain that from verse 6 we learn that the First Presidency holds these keys.)

  • According to verse 4, how do the keys of the kingdom relate to the revelations that God gives the Church? (We receive revelations from God through His prophets, who hold the keys of the kingdom.)

  • Based on what the Lord taught in verse 5, what will happen to us if we treat lightly the revelations God gives us through those who hold the keys of the kingdom? (Students should identify a principle similar to the following: If we treat lightly the revelations God gives through His prophets, we may stumble and fall when the storms of life beat upon us.)

  • What are some ways people treat lightly the revelations God gives through His prophets?

  • What can we do to ensure that we don’t treat the words of the prophets lightly?

Summarize Doctrine and Covenants 90:7–37 by explaining that the Lord instructed the First Presidency to prepare members of the School of the Prophets for teaching the gospel throughout the world and also to set their families and the affairs of the Church in order. The Lord also counseled various individuals to walk uprightly and serve in the Lord’s kingdom.

Doctrine and Covenants 91:1–6

The Lord instructs Joseph Smith not to translate the Apocrypha

If available, show students a magazine, a newspaper, and a cell phone, and ask them how they know whether what they read or hear is true.

As students study Doctrine and Covenants 91, invite them to look for a principle that can help them discern the truthfulness of what they read and hear.

Explain that in March 1833, Joseph Smith was engaged in the inspired translation of the Old Testament. The Bible that he used in the translation contained the Old Testament and the New Testament as well as a section of books placed between the testaments, known as the Apocrypha. The Apocrypha consists of “sacred books of the Jewish people that were not included in the Hebrew Bible but are retained in the Bibles of some Christian churches. These books are often valuable in linking the Old and New Testaments” (Guide to the Scriptures, “Apocrypha,” scriptures.lds.org). As the Prophet Joseph Smith worked on translating the Bible, he asked the Lord whether he should translate the Apocrypha.

Invite students to search Doctrine and Covenants 91:1–6 silently, looking for the Lord’s instructions regarding the Apocrypha.

  • What did the Lord say about the Apocrypha in verses 1–3?

  • According to verses 4–6, how could Joseph Smith know what was true in the Apocrypha?

  • How can the counsel in verses 4–6 help us know the truth of what we read and hear? (After students respond, write the following principle on the board: The Holy Ghost can help us discern the truth of what we read and hear.)

Invite students to think about a time when the Holy Ghost let them know that what they read or heard was true. Ask a few students to share their experiences with the class.

Doctrine and Covenants 92:1–2

Frederick G. Williams is called to join the United Firm

Explain that in 1832 a few Church leaders were called to be part of the United Firm, sometimes known as the United Order, which had been established to oversee the welfare and business affairs of the Church. (This organization was different from the United Order that President Brigham Young later established in some communities in Utah.) In this revelation, the members of the United Firm were instructed to accept Frederick G. Williams as a member.

Conclude by asking students what truths or insights from this lesson stood out to them, and invite them to share their experiences and testimonies concerning these truths. Encourage them to act on what they have learned.