“Lesson 46: Doctrine and Covenants 121:1–10; 122–123,” Doctrine and Covenants Teacher Manual (2017)
“Lesson 46,” Doctrine and Covenants Teacher Manual
On October 31, 1838, Missouri state militia troops took the Prophet Joseph Smith and other Church leaders prisoner in Far West, Missouri. These men were eventually imprisoned in Liberty Jail in Clay County, Missouri, and suffered greatly during their four months of confinement. While in Liberty Jail, the Prophet dictated a letter to Church members on March 20, 1839, and a second letter approximately two days later, in which the Prophet included prayers he had written asking the Lord to have compassion on him and on all the “suffering Saints” (see D&C 121:4, 6). He also included the Lord’s response to those prayers, as well as counsel to Church members who had been driven from their homes in Missouri. Portions of these letters are recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 121–23.
- August–October 1838
Misunderstandings and tensions between Missourians and Church members escalated to armed conflict.
- October 27, 1838
Governor Lilburn W. Boggs authorized the extermination or expulsion of all Latter-day Saints from the state of Missouri.
- October 30, 1838
Anti-Mormon vigilantes attacked Church members at the Hawn’s Mill settlement, located 12 miles east of Far West, killing 17 men and boys and wounding 13 others.
- October 31, 1838
The Prophet Joseph Smith and others were taken prisoner by Missouri state militia troops at Far West, Missouri.
- December 1, 1838
The Prophet Joseph Smith and his companions were imprisoned in Liberty Jail in Clay County, Missouri.
- March 20–22, 1839
The Prophet Joseph Smith dictated letters from Liberty Jail, portions of which are recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 121–23.
- April 6, 1839
The Prophet Joseph Smith and his companions were taken from Liberty Jail to Gallatin, Missouri, to attend a court hearing. On April 16, 1839, they were allowed to escape custody, and they joined the Saints in Illinois.
Invite six students to each read aloud one of the following paragraphs. Invite students to think about how they would have responded in these situations.
As Church members began to settle in northern Missouri in 1836, they faced the same problems they had encountered previously in Jackson County and elsewhere in Missouri: the area’s original settlers were suspicious of them and feared that the Mormons would soon control the area’s economy and politics. Religious differences also caused tension between the two groups. In addition, those who had apostatized from the Church caused problems for the Saints.
By the summer of 1838, relations between Church members, dissenters, and northern Missouri’s original settlers deteriorated rapidly. In a speech given on June 17, 1838, Sidney Rigdon argued that apostates should be cast out of the Saints’ communities. Soon thereafter, a letter was delivered to these dissenters, warning them to leave the area or suffer the consequences. On July 4, 1838, Sidney Rigdon gave another speech in which he warned potential mobs that Church members would respond aggressively if attacked. In addition, a small number of men formed a military group called the Danites, which at times acted without the First Presidency’s knowledge and used intimidation and even violence against the Church’s enemies.
In August 1838, a group of angry settlers gathered at Gallatin, Missouri, to stop a small group of Church members from voting. A fight ensued, in which several people on both sides were seriously wounded. Meanwhile, residents of Carroll County, Missouri, told the Saints that they must leave the county by August 7, 1839. Despite the Saints’ efforts to defend themselves, in early October, a mob laid siege on the Mormon settlement of De Witt, Carroll County, until the Saints were forced to leave.
After the Saints were expelled from De Witt, the mob threatened similar action in Adam-ondi-Ahman. The Prophet Joseph Smith “and other church leaders determined that the failure of state authorities to protect the Saints necessitated agressive self-defense. … Over the next few weeks, Latter-day Saints and anti-Mormons engaged in vigilante actions in the absence of civil and militia responses to the rising tensions.” These actions included burning buildings and confiscating property. (The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 6: February 1838–August 1839, ed. Mark Ashurt-McGee and others , 265–66). In October 1838, several Church dissenters signed an affidavit accusing the Prophet Joseph Smith of promoting violence in Missouri. In late October 1838, a group of state militia captured three Latter-day Saint men scouting the area near Crooked River, Missouri. Upon hearing reports that the prisoners would be executed that night, the Saints quickly mobilized 60 Mormon militia members to rescue the prisoners. When these men encountered the non-Mormon militia at Crooked River, a gun battle ensued, and three Church members, including Apostle David W. Patten, and one Missourian were killed. Relying upon exaggerated accounts blaming Church members for hostilities in Missouri, Governor Lilburn W. Boggs issued an executive order on October 27, 1838, calling for all Mormons to be driven from the state or exterminated. On October 30, 1838, over 200 men attacked the Mormon settlement of Hawn’s Mill near Far West and killed 17 men and boys and wounded 13 others.
In October 1838, 1800 members of the state militia gathered around the city of Far West. During the standoff, the militia arrested the Prophet Joseph Smith and other Church leaders. The militia then entered Far West, plundered the city, and threatened and attacked Church members. Charged with treason and other crimes, the Prophet Joseph Smith and other Church leaders were eventually taken to Richmond, Missouri, where Judge Austin King ordered them to be imprisoned in Liberty Jail in Clay County, Missouri, until their trial the following spring. They arrived at Liberty Jail on December 1, 1838.
The Prophet Joseph Smith, his brother Hyrum, Sidney Rigdon, Alexander McRae, Lyman Wight, and Caleb Baldwin were imprisoned in the lower dungeon of Liberty Jail for four months during a bitterly cold winter. The room was 14 by 14 feet (4.3 by 4.3 meters) and capped with a ceiling between 6 and 6.5 feet high (between 1.8 and 2 meters). Two small barred windows offered very little light. Their meager furnishings included dirty straw on the floor for sleeping and a bucket for human waste. Their only protection from the cold was a single blanket. Their food was so spoiled and disgusting that only desperate hunger compelled them to eat, and it often made them sick. In addition, they were deeply pained to hear of the suffering Saints driven from Missouri in the middle of winter.
If you had been a Church member in Missouri during this time, how might you have reacted to these challenges?
Explain that while he was in Liberty Jail, the Prophet Joseph Smith wrote a letter to Church members on March 20, 1839, and another one approximately two days later. Doctrine and Covenants 121–23 contain portions of these letters. Invite students to look for doctrine and principles as they study Doctrine and Covenants 121–23 that can help us today during times of trial.
Invite a few students to take turns reading aloud from Doctrine and Covenants 121:1–6. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what the Prophet Joseph Smith did during this difficult time.
What did the Prophet do during this difficult time?
What impresses you about his pleas and questions to the Lord?
Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 121:7–10 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for the Lord’s response to the Prophet Joseph Smith’s questions and pleadings.
What phrases in these verses might have comforted the Prophet and other Church members who had suffered?
What principles can we identify from these verses that can help us during times of “adversity and … affliction” (verse 7)? (After students respond, write the following principles on the board: When we call upon God during times of adversity and affliction, we can receive His peace. If we endure our afflictions well, God will bless us now and in the eternities.)
What does it mean to “endure [our afflictions] well” (verse 8)?
Invite a student to read aloud the following statement by President Henry B. Eyring of the First Presidency:
“The test a loving God has set before us is not to see if we can endure difficulty. It is to see if we can endure it well. We pass the test by showing that we remembered Him and the commandments He gave us. And to endure well is to keep those commandments whatever the opposition, whatever the temptation, and whatever the tumult around us” (Henry B. Eyring, “In the Strength of the Lord,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2004, 17).
According to this statement, how can we endure our afflictions well?
On what occasions during the Savior’s mortal life did He endure adversity and afflictions well?
Explain that Doctrine and Covenants 121:11–46 contains instructions regarding some of the Prophet Joseph Smith’s questions and pleadings recorded in verses 1–10 and will be discussed in a subsequent lesson.
Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 122:1–4 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what the Lord promised the Prophet while he was in Liberty Jail.
Which promises stand out to you? Why?
Invite a few students to take turns reading aloud from Doctrine and Covenants 122:5–7. Ask the class to follow along, looking for a principle the Lord taught the Prophet Joseph Smith about the difficulties he and the Saints had experienced.
What principle can we identify from verse 7 about how our afflictions can benefit us? (After students respond, write the following principle on the board: Our afflictions can give us experience and be for our good.)
In what ways can adversity and affliction “give [us] experience, and … be for [our] good” (verse 7)?
Invite students to think about a time when adversity or affliction ultimately benefitted them. Ask a few students to share their experiences with the class.
Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 122:8–9 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what else the Lord taught the Prophet Joseph Smith while he was in Liberty Jail.
What doctrine can we identify about Jesus Christ in verse 8? (After students respond, write the following doctrine on the board: Jesus Christ descended below all things.)
In what ways did the Savior “[descend] below … all [things]”?
How can knowing that the Savior descended below all things help us when we experience adversity and affliction?
What counsel is recorded in verse 9?
Ask students to ponder the adversity or afflictions they are currently experiencing or have recently experienced. Review the doctrine and principles written on the board, and share your testimony of them. Encourage students to remember to apply these truths during times of adversity and affliction.
Summarize Doctrine and Covenants 123:1–10 by explaining that the Prophet counseled the Saints to collect and publish accounts of their persecutions.
Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 123:11–12 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for some of the reasons the Saints were to collect and publish these accounts. Ask students to report what they find.
Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 123:13–16 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what the Prophet Joseph Smith told the Saints about their efforts to present the truth to others.
According to verse 15, why were the Saints told not to consider their efforts “as small things”?
What principle can we identify from verse 15 about the importance of seemingly small decisions? (Help students identify a principle similar to the following: Making wise choices in seemingly small matters can greatly bless our lives and those of future generations.)
How does the example of a ship’s helm (its wheel or steering mechanism) in verse 16 help us understand the importance of some choices that can seem small?
What are some examples of commandments that may seem small or unimportant but could have a great effect on us and on future generations? (Write students’ answers on the board.)
Invite students to share their experiences and testimonies regarding this principle.
Encourage students to silently identify a few “small” commandments they could more diligently keep. Invite them to write a goal to begin today to more diligently keep those commandments.
Invite students to read Doctrine and Covenants 123:17 silently, looking for what the Prophet Joseph Smith counseled the Saints to do during this difficult time.
What did the Prophet counsel the Saints to do?
What do you think it means “to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed” (verse 17)? (If necessary, point out that this means to receive God’s help.)
What principle can we identify in verse 17? (Help students identify the following principle: If we do all things that lie in our power as we seek God’s help, we can be assured that God will help us.)
Why do you think it is important to “cheerfully do all things that lie in our power” as we seek God’s help in difficult circumstances?
Share your testimony of the truths students identified in Doctrine and Covenants 123:15, 17, and encourage them to diligently keep the Lord’s commandments and put forth their own best efforts as they seek God’s help.