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Lesson 49: Doctrine and Covenants 125–28
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“Lesson 49: Doctrine and Covenants 125–28,” Doctrine and Covenants Teacher Manual (2017)

“Lesson 49,” Doctrine and Covenants Teacher Manual

Lesson 49

Doctrine and Covenants 125–28

Introduction and Timeline

By the summer of 1839, many of the Saints who had been forced from their homes in Missouri were establishing new settlements on land purchased by the Church in Commerce, Illinois, and in Iowa Territory. In March 1841 the Prophet Joseph Smith received the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 125, in which the Lord revealed His will concerning the gathering of the Saints in Iowa Territory.

After his baptism in April 1832, Brigham Young served missions in Upper Canada, in the northeastern United States, and in England. His extensive missionary service required him and his family to make significant sacrifices. On July 1, 1841, Brigham Young returned from his mission in England after an absence of almost two years. On July 9, 1841, the Prophet Joseph Smith received a revelation for Brigham Young, which is recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 126. In this revelation, the Lord told Brigham that he was no longer required to leave his family to serve missions “as in times past” (D&C 126:1).

On September 1, 1842, the Prophet Joseph Smith wrote a letter to Church members instructing them to keep records of the baptisms they performed for their deceased ancestors. This letter is recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 127. Recent research indicates that on September 7, 1842 (rather than September 6, as reported in the section heading), the Prophet wrote another letter to Church members, in which he taught them further about the proper administration and recording of baptisms for the dead. He also explained the doctrinal significance of this ordinance. This letter is recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 128.

August 15, 1840

The Prophet Joseph Smith delivered his first public discourse on baptisms for the dead at the funeral service for Seymour Brunson in Nauvoo, Illinois.

Early March 1841

Doctrine and Covenants 125 was received.

July 1, 1841

Brigham Young arrived in Nauvoo after serving a mission in England.

July 9, 1841

Doctrine and Covenants 126 was received.

November 8, 1841

A temporary baptismal font was dedicated for baptisms for the dead in the basement of the unfinished temple in Nauvoo, Illinois.

August 1842

To avoid being unlawfully arrested and returned to Missouri, the Prophet Joseph Smith hid in various locations in and around Nauvoo, Illinois.

September 1, 1842

The Prophet Joseph Smith dictated a letter to Church members, which is recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 127.

September 7, 1842

The Prophet Joseph Smith dictated another letter to Church members, which is recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 128.

Suggestions for Teaching

Doctrine and Covenants 125:1–4

The Lord directs Church members in Iowa Territory to gather in designated places

Church History Maps: The Missouri, Illinois, and Iowa Area of the United States

Display the map “The Missouri, Illinois, and Iowa Area of the United States.” Remind students that after the Saints were driven from Missouri in the winter of 1838–1839, they found refuge in settlements along the Mississippi River in both Illinois and Iowa Territory.

Summarize Doctrine and Covenants 125:1–4 by explaining that although the Lord had directed Church members to establish a stake in Nauvoo, Illinois, and to build a temple there, He also told them that they were to build up other cities in Illinois and across the Mississippi River in Iowa Territory. Furthermore, the Lord told the arriving Saints to settle in any of His appointed cities where a stake was established.

Doctrine and Covenants 126:1–3

The Lord tells President Brigham Young that he is no longer required to leave his family to serve missions

Brigham Young, America's Moses

Display a picture of Brigham Young. To help students understand the context of Doctrine and Covenants 126, invite a student to read the following paragraphs aloud:

After Brigham Young was baptized in April 1832, he served several missions over the next nine years. Most of these missions lasted for three to five months. In April 1838, Brigham Young and the other members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles were called to serve missions to Great Britain, which would require them to be gone from home for a much longer time.

Brigham Young left Montrose, Iowa Territory, for Great Britain on September 14, 1839. This was a difficult time for him to leave home. In the summer of 1839, a malaria epidemic struck the area, leaving Brigham, his wife Mary Ann, and several of their children ill. Mary Ann had also just given birth to their fourth child. In addition, because they had been driven out of Missouri the previous year, they had lost most of their possessions, and when Brigham left on his mission, he was only able to leave Mary Ann $2.72 with which to support their family. During the nearly two years Brigham Young was away in England, Mary Ann struggled to find enough food and adequate shelter for herself and her children. On July 1, 1841, Brigham Young, who had been appointed as President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles during his mission, arrived in Nauvoo and rejoined his family. Eight days later, the Prophet Joseph Smith received the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 126. (See Leonard J. Arrington, Brigham Young: American Moses [1985], 74–75, 413–14; Lisa Olsen Tait and Chad M. Orton, “Take Special Care of Your Family,” in Revelations in Context, ed. Matthew McBride and James Goldberg [2016], 244–46, or history.lds.org.)

Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 126:1–3 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for how this revelation might have brought comfort to both Brigham Young and his family. Invite students to report what they find.

  • What can this revelation to Brigham Young teach us about the Lord? (Students may identify a truth such as the following: The Lord is aware of our specific circumstances and will guide us according to our needs.)

Doctrine and Covenants 127:1–12

The Prophet Joseph Smith glories in persecution and counsels the Saints to keep records of their baptisms for the dead

Explain that in May 1842, Lilburn W. Boggs, the former governor of Missouri who issued the extermination order against the Saints, was wounded in an assassination attempt. Missouri authorities falsely accused the Prophet Joseph Smith of arranging for someone to murder Boggs, and both Missouri and Illinois officials tried to arrest the Prophet in Nauvoo, Illinois, and return him to Missouri for trial. Knowing that if he returned to Missouri he would likely be killed, the Prophet hid from these officials through much of August, September, and October of 1842 to avoid being arrested. In January 1843, it was determined that the proceedings to arrest the Prophet and return him to Missouri were illegal. Doctrine and Covenants 127 contains a letter the Prophet Joseph Smith wrote to Church members while in these difficult circumstances.

Divide the class into pairs. Invite students to read Doctrine and Covenants 127:2–3 aloud in their pairs, looking for how the Prophet Joseph Smith responded to his “tribulation[s]” (verse 2).

  • What words or phrases stand out to you about the way the Prophet responded to his tribulations?

Summarize Doctrine and Covenants 127:4–12 by explaining that the Prophet told the Saints to hasten their efforts to build the Nauvoo Temple. He also included instructions the Lord had given him regarding baptisms for the dead.

Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 127:5–7 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for the instructions the Lord gave regarding baptisms for the dead. Invite a few students to report what they found.

  • According to verse 7, why was it important for Church members to perform their baptisms for the dead in the presence of a recorder?

Doctrine and Covenants 128:1–18

The Prophet Joseph Smith explains why keeping records of saving ordinances is necessary

Explain that about a week after the Prophet Joseph Smith wrote the letter recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 127, he wrote another letter to the Saints that included additional teachings about baptisms for the dead. This letter is recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 128.

Summarize Doctrine and Covenants 128:1–14 by explaining that the Prophet taught that local recorders should be appointed to witness and record baptisms for the dead and that “a general recorder” should be appointed to compile the local records into a “general church book,” or record (verse 4). He explained that the ordinances performed and recorded on earth would be valid in heaven because of the sealing “power which records or binds on earth and binds in heaven” (verse 9). The Prophet also taught that the ordinance of baptism symbolizes death and resurrection (verses 12–13).

  • In addition to baptism, what other ordinances must all accountable individuals receive in order to obtain eternal life and dwell in God’s presence? (Confirmation [which includes receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost], ordination to the Melchizedek Priesthood [for men], the temple endowment, and the marriage sealing. Point out that these are called “saving ordinances.”)

Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 128:15 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for why saving ordinances are important “to the dead and the living.”

  • Based on verse 15, why is it important for us to perform saving ordinances for our ancestors who have died without knowledge of the gospel? (As needed, direct students’ attention to the phrase “they without us cannot be made perfect,” and help them identify the following doctrine: Our ancestors who have died without a knowledge of the gospel cannot progress toward perfection until saving ordinances are performed for them.)

  • What doctrine can we learn from the phrase “neither can we without our dead be made perfect” (verse 15)? (Help students identify the following doctrine: The salvation of our deceased ancestors is necessary and essential to our salvation.)

Write the following question on the board: Why do you think that our ancestors’ “salvation is necessary and essential to our salvation”?

Invite students to discuss their answers to this question in small groups of two or three. After sufficient time, ask students from one or more groups to report their answers to the class.

Summarize Doctrine and Covenants 128:16–17 by explaining that in this letter to the Saints, the Prophet quoted two passages from the Bible about baptism for the dead.

Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 128:17–18 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for how performing baptisms for the dead helps fulfill the prophecy recorded in Malachi 4:5–6.

  • According to verse 18, how does performing baptisms for the dead help fulfill Malachi’s prophecy?

Doctrine and Covenants 128:19–25

Joseph Smith rejoices in the restored gospel and exhorts the Saints to continue performing baptisms for the dead

Explain that in the second letter the Prophet Joseph Smith wrote to the Saints regarding baptism for the dead, he recounted several significant events of the Restoration. Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 128:19 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for how the Prophet described the Restoration.

  • How did the Prophet describe the Restoration?

  • In what ways is the restored gospel “a voice of gladness for the living and the dead”?

Summarize Doctrine and Covenants 128:20–21 by explaining that the Prophet described some of the miraculous events of the Restoration, illustrating that angels came to restore the “rights,” “keys,” and “power” of past dispensations (verse 21).

Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 128:22 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what the Prophet told the Saints to do, knowing that the rights, keys, and power of the priesthood have been restored in our day.

  • What is the “great … cause” that the Prophet wanted the Saints to “go forward” in?

  • According to verse 22, how can our participation in family history and temple service help our ancestors?

Explain that as the Prophet concluded his letter to the Saints, he quoted Malachi 3:2–3, which includes Malachi’s prophecy about the latter days. Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 128:24 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what the Prophet instructed the Saints to do.

  • According to this verse, what “offering in righteousness” are we to “offer unto the Lord”?

  • What can we do to contribute to this “book”? (Help students understand that we do this today by entering the records of our ancestors into the Church’s FamilySearch website and performing ordinances for them in the temple. If possible, consider introducing students to FamilySearch.org.)

Write the following principle on the board: As we participate in family history and perform ordinances in the temple for our deceased ancestors, we help make an offering to the Lord in righteousness.

  • What are some ways you are currently participating in family history and temple service?

  • What blessings have you received as you have participated in this service?

Share your testimony that as we participate in family history and temple service, we help make an offering to the Lord in righteousness. Invite students to set a goal that will help them in their efforts to participate in family history and temple service.