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Lesson 47: Doctrine and Covenants 121:11–46
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“Lesson 47: Doctrine and Covenants 121:11–46,” Doctrine and Covenants Teacher Manual (2017)

“Lesson 47,” Doctrine and Covenants Teacher Manual

Lesson 47

Doctrine and Covenants 121:11–46

Introduction and Timeline

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 he described the judgments the wicked will suffer as well as the blessings promised to those “who have endured valiantly” (D&C 121:29). The Prophet Joseph Smith also taught principles about the authority and power of the priesthood. Portions of these letters are recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 121:11–46.

August–October 1838

Misunderstanding and tension between Church members and other Missourians 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, Missouri, 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.

Suggestions for Teaching

Doctrine and Covenants 121:11–25

The Lord describes the judgments that will come upon those who oppose His work

Invite students to think about a Church member they know who has experienced significant difficulties and yet has chosen to remain faithful.

  • Why do you think this person has chosen to remain faithful even during times of adversity?

Invite students to look for doctrine and principles as they study Doctrine and Covenants 121 that can help them remain faithful during times of tribulation.

Remind students that the Prophet Joseph Smith and several other Church leaders endured severe afflictions while they were imprisoned in Liberty Jail from December 1, 1838, to April 6, 1839. During that time, Church members in Missouri also suffered greatly. After Governor Lilburn W. Boggs ordered the expulsion of all Mormons from the state of Missouri in October 1838, Church members had to abandon their homes and many of their belongings and make their way across the Mississippi River during a bitterly cold winter. Many of these Saints ended up in small communities in Illinois, where they struggled to find sufficient food and shelter. In March 1839, while still in prison, the Prophet wrote two letters to Church members that included his prayers regarding their afflictions and the answers he received to those prayers, along with his counsel to the “suffering Saints” (D&C 121:6). Portions of these letters are recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 121:11–46.

Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 121:1–3 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for the questions the Prophet Joseph Smith asked the Lord.

  • How would you summarize what the Prophet asked the Lord?

Explain that as recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 121:7–25, the Lord offered comfort and reassurance in answer to the Prophet’s questions. The Lord also described what would happen to those who oppress the Saints. Invite several students to take turns reading aloud from Doctrine and Covenants 121:16–20, 23–25. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what the Lord said would happen to those who oppress the Saints.

  • What did the Lord say would happen to those who oppress the Saints?

Doctrine and Covenants 121:26–33

The Prophet Joseph Smith teaches that the Lord will reveal eternal truths through the Spirit

Point out that only some portions of the Prophet Joseph Smith’s March 1839 letters are included in Doctrine and Covenants 121–23. In a section of his March 20, 1839, letter that is not recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 121–23 but which immediately precedes the promise recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 121:26, the Prophet counseled the Saints to stay faithful in tribulation and continue in fervent prayer (see The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 6: February 1838–August 1839, ed. Mark Ashurst-McGee and others [2017], 369; spelling, punctuation, and capitalization standardized). By following this counsel, the Saints would qualify for the promised blessing recorded in verse 26.

Invite several students to take turns reading aloud from Doctrine and Covenants 121:26–32. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what was promised to faithful Church members.

  • According to verse 26, what was promised to faithful Church members?

  • Based on what was promised the Saints, what doctrine can we identify regarding how the Lord will reveal truth to us? (After students respond, write the following doctrine on the board: The Lord reveals truth through the Holy Ghost.)

  • According to verses 27–32, what will be revealed to “all who have endured valiantly for the gospel of Jesus Christ” (verse 29)? (After students respond, write the following principle on the board: All truth will be revealed to those who have endured valiantly for the gospel of Jesus Christ.)

  • How might knowing this principle have helped the Saints remain faithful during their afflictions?

Invite students to read Doctrine and Covenants 121:33 silently, looking for the analogy used to emphasize that no one can stop the Lord from “pouring down knowledge from heaven upon the … Saints.”

  • What analogy is used to emphasize that no one can stop the Lord from “pouring down knowledge … upon the Saints”?

Testify that the Lord will reveal truth through the Holy Ghost and that if we endure valiantly, the Lord will reveal all things to us.

Doctrine and Covenants 121:34–46

The Prophet Joseph Smith teaches that the rights of the priesthood are connected with the powers of heaven

Display the following statement by President Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and invite a student to read it aloud:

“Recently, Wendy and I were in a meeting where the organist was poised and ready to play the opening hymn. His eyes were on the music, and his fingers were on the keys. He began pressing the keys, but there was no sound. I whispered to Wendy, ‘He has no power.’ I reasoned that something had stopped the flow of electrical power to that organ.

“Well, brethren, in like manner, I fear that there are too many men who have been given the authority of the priesthood but who lack priesthood power” (Russell M. Nelson, “The Price of Priesthood Power,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2016, 67).

  • How would you describe the difference between priesthood authority and priesthood power?

  • What might cause priesthood holders to “lack priesthood power”?

Explain that as recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 121:34–46, the Prophet Joseph Smith taught priesthood holders how to qualify for priesthood power. Because all Church members, male and female, receive priesthood authority and power as they righteously serve in the kingdom, these verses contain principles that apply to all Church members.

Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 121:34–36 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what the Prophet taught about priesthood power.

Draw on the board the following unlabeled diagram. Invite students to draw the same diagram on a piece of paper and label it based on what they learned from Doctrine and Covenants 121:34–36. After sufficient time, invite one or more students to use what they wrote on their papers to label the diagram on the board and to explain why they labeled it that way. (Students will likely come up with several ways to portray ideas found in these verses.)

Doctrine and Covenants: Powers of Heaven

If necessary, consider adding to the diagram on the board to reflect the information depicted in the following completed diagram.

Doctrine and Covenants: Powers of Heaven
  • What do you think the phrase “there are many called, but few are chosen” in verse 34 means?

If necessary, explain that in this context being “called” can refer specifically to receiving the authority of the priesthood and that in order to be “chosen,” a priesthood holder must be worthy to draw on “the powers of heaven” [verse 36] to help others receive the blessings of the priesthood. However, being “called” and “chosen” can also apply more broadly to all Church members who are “called to the work” (D&C 4:3)—not just to those who hold the priesthood. (For more information, see the student manual commentary for Doctrine and Covenants 121:34–35.)

  • What choices might prevent a person from being “chosen”?

  • Why would those whose “hearts are set so much upon the things of this world” and who “aspire to the honors of men” (verse 35) not qualify to be chosen?

  • What doctrine can we identify from verse 36? (After students respond, write the following statements of doctrine above the drawing on the board: The rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected to the powers of heaven. The powers of heaven can only be controlled upon the principles of righteousness.)

Explain that the phrase “the rights of the priesthood” (verse 36) refers to the privileges, gifts, and blessings that come through the keys and ordinances of the priesthood, which are available to all worthy Church members, male and female.

To help students better understand how they can qualify to receive “the powers of heaven” (verse 36), draw the following chart on the board, or provide it to students as a handout.

Ways we forfeit the rights of the priesthood and the powers of heaven (D&C 121:37–40).

Ways we qualify for the rights of the priesthood and the powers of heaven (D&C 121:41–45).

Invite students to search Doctrine and Covenants 121:37–40 silently, looking for attitudes and actions that can cause us to lose access to the powers of heaven. After sufficient time, ask them to report what they found. Record their answers in the left column of the chart. Ask students to explain the meaning of each phrase you list. (If necessary, explain that “to cover our sins” [verse 37] includes avoiding repentance by blaming others, excusing ourselves from responsibility, and dishonestly denying that we did anything wrong. “To gratify our pride, our vain ambition” [verse 37] includes seeking worldly status over others and placing our will and desires before the Lord’s. “To exercise control or dominion or compulsion … in any degree of unrighteousness” [verse 37] includes seeking to control or manipulate others through criticism, fear, or force.)

Display the rest of the statement by President Russell M. Nelson that was displayed previously, and ask a student to read it aloud. Invite the class to look for additional choices that limit the powers of heaven.

“I fear that there are too many men who have been given the authority of the priesthood but who lack priesthood power because the flow of power has been blocked by sins such as laziness, dishonesty, pride, immorality, or preoccupation with things of the world.

“I fear that there are too many priesthood bearers who have done little or nothing to develop their ability to access the powers of heaven. I worry about all who are impure in their thoughts, feelings, or actions or who demean their wives or children, thereby cutting off priesthood power” (Russell M. Nelson, “The Price of Priesthood Power,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2016, 67).

  • Based on President Nelson’s statement, what could we add to the list on the board?

Divide the class into pairs. Invite each pair to read Doctrine and Covenants 121:41–45 together, looking for principles of righteousness that qualify us for the rights of the priesthood and the powers of heaven. After sufficient time, ask them to report what they found. Record their answers in the right column of the chart. Ask students to explain the meaning of each phrase you list. (If necessary, explain that the phrase “love unfeigned” [verse 41] means to love people sincerely and genuinely. The phrase “reproving betimes with sharpness when moved upon by the Holy Ghost” [verse 43] means to correct someone quickly, promptly, and with clarity when inspired to do so by the Holy Ghost.)

Invite students to think of an example from the Savior’s life when He demonstrated one or more of these principles of righteousness. Ask a few students to share the example they thought of with the class.

Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 121:45–46 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for blessings the Lord promises those who live by principles of righteousness. Ask students to report what they find.

  • Which of these blessings would be particularly valuable to you right now in your life? Why?

  • How do these blessings relate to gaining exaltation?

Testify that as we seek to live according to the principles of righteousness, we can enjoy the rights of the priesthood and invite the powers of heaven into our life and the lives of others. Invite students to consider how well they are qualifying for the powers of heaven. Encourage them to select one item from the left side of the chart that they will strive to stop doing and one item from the right side of the chart that they will strive to do better.