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Lesson 52: Doctrine and Covenants 132:34–66; Official Declaration 1
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“Lesson 52: Doctrine and Covenants 132:34–66; Official Declaration 1,” Doctrine and Covenants Teacher Manual (2017)

“Lesson 52,” Doctrine and Covenants Teacher Manual

Lesson 52

Doctrine and Covenants 132:34–66; Official Declaration 1

Introduction and Timeline

While the Prophet Joseph Smith was working on the inspired translation of the Bible in 1831, he asked the Lord why some of the ancient patriarchs and Israelite kings had more than one wife. At that time, the Prophet began to receive revelation regarding plural marriage. In subsequent years the Lord commanded the Prophet and some other Church members to live the principle of plural marriage. On July 12, 1843, in Nauvoo, Illinois, the Prophet dictated the revelation now recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 132, in which the Lord revealed truths regarding “the new and everlasting covenant of marriage” (D&C 131:2). This lesson addresses Doctrine and Covenants 132:34–66, which includes the Lord’s teachings about plural marriage and His counsel to Joseph and Emma Smith.

After the Saints migrated to the Salt Lake Valley in the western United States, they began to practice plural marriage openly. From the 1860s to 1880s, the United States government passed laws against plural marriage. After prayerfully seeking guidance from the Lord and receiving revelation, President Wilford Woodruff prepared the Manifesto on September 23–24, 1890, which ultimately led to the end of the practice of plural marriage by members of the Church. The Manifesto, recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants as Official Declaration 1, was issued publicly on September 25, 1890.

May–July 1843

Emma Smith consented to several of Joseph Smith’s plural marriages but struggled to accept the practice.

July 12, 1843

The revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 132 was dictated.

June 27, 1844

The Prophet Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum were martyred in Carthage Jail in Carthage, Illinois.

July 24, 1847

President Brigham Young and other Saints arrived in the Salt Lake Valley.

August 29, 1852

Under the direction of President Brigham Young, Elder Orson Pratt publicly taught the principle of plural marriage.

1860s–1880s

The United States government passed laws to prohibit plural marriage.

September 25, 1890

President Wilford Woodruff issued the Manifesto, now contained in Official Declaration 1.

October 6, 1890

During a general conference of the Church, the Manifesto was accepted by Church members as authoritative and binding.

Suggestions for Teaching

Doctrine and Covenants 132:34–50

The Lord teaches about the sealing power given to the Prophet Joseph Smith

Invite students to list on the board commandments and counsel given by the Lord that some young adults might find difficult to obey. Ask students to choose one or two of the examples listed and to briefly explain why young adults might find it difficult to obey that commandment.

Invite students to think about a commandment that may be personally difficult for them to follow. Invite them to look for doctrine and principles as they study Doctrine and Covenants 132:34–66 that can help increase their faith and commitment to obey the Lord’s commandments.

To help students understand the context of the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 132, invite a student to read the following paragraph aloud:

The Prophet Joseph Smith reported that “an angel appeared to him three times between 1834 and 1842 and commanded him to proceed with plural marriage” (“Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo,” Gospel Topics, topics.lds.org). The Prophet was reluctant to obey the principle. He described to a friend “the trying mental ordeal he experienced in overcoming the repugnance of his feelings” toward the practice (Eliza R. Snow, Biography and Family Record of Lorenzo Snow [1884], 69). Historical evidence suggests that he made an attempt to obey the commandment in the mid-1830s. However, it was not until the early 1840s that the Prophet began to obey the commandment in earnest and introduced the principle of plural marriage to others. Although Joseph Smith dictated Doctrine and Covenants 132 in the summer of 1843, some principles in the revelation were received as early as 1831 in connection with the Prophet’s inspired translation of the Old Testament. (See “Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo,” topics.lds.org.)

Invite students to read Doctrine and Covenants 132:1–2 silently, looking for the question Joseph Smith asked the Lord. Ask them to report what they find.

Explain that the word concubine in the Old Testament refers to a woman who was legally married to a man but had a lower social status than a wife. Concubines were not part of the practice of plural marriage in our dispensation.

Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 132:34–36 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for why Abraham married Hagar.

Point out that “it is lawful for a man to have only one wife, unless the Lord commands otherwise by revelation (Jacob 2:27–30)” (Guide to the Scriptures, “Marriage, Marry,” scriptures.lds.org).

  • According to verse 36, what did the Lord teach Joseph Smith about obedience to His commandments? (Whatever the Lord commands is right, and when we obey Him, it will be “accounted unto [us] for righteousness.”)

  • Knowing what we do about Abraham, why would the commandment to sacrifice Isaac have been particularly difficult for Abraham?

  • How might the Lord’s commandment to Abraham to sacrifice Isaac be compared to His commandment to the early Saints to practice plural marriage?

Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 132:37 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob received because of their obedience to God’s commandments. Ask students to report what they find.

  • What principle can we identify from Abraham’s willingness to obey God’s commandments, even when it was difficult to do so? (After students respond, write the following principle on the board: If we are willing to obey God’s commandments, even when it is difficult to do so, we will receive His promised blessings.)

Refer to the list of commandments students wrote on the board, and point out that the ultimate blessing we receive for obeying God’s commandments is exaltation. Invite students to select one of the commandments on the board, and ask them to describe other blessings we can receive for obeying that commandment.

  • In addition to knowing that we will be blessed as we obey the commandments, what else can help us obey a commandment when it is difficult to do so?

Display the following account by Lucy Walker. Explain that Lucy was one of Joseph Smith’s plural wives. Invite a student to read the account aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for how Lucy Walker initially reacted to the principle of plural marriage and what she did to gain a testimony of that principle.

“When the Prophet Joseph Smith first mentioned the principle of plural marriage to me I felt indignant and so expressed myself to him, because my feelings and education were averse to anything [of that] nature. But he assured me that this doctrine had been revealed to him of the Lord, and that I was entitled to receive a testimony of its divine origin for myself. He counselled me to pray to the Lord” (Lucy Walker, affidavit, December 17, 1902, Church History Library, Salt Lake City).

“Oh, how earnestly I prayed. … It was near dawn after another sleepless night. While on my knees in fervent supplication, my room became filled with a holy influence. To me it was in comparison like the brilliant sunshine bursting through the darkest cloud.

“… My soul was filled with a calm sweet peace that I never knew. Supreme happiness took possession of my whole being and I received a powerful and irresistible testimony of the truth of [plural marriage]. Which has been like an anchor to the soul through all the temptations and trials of life” (Lucy Walker Kimball, “Brief Biographical Sketch,” Church History Library, Salt Lake City, 11).

  • What did Lucy Walker do to gain a testimony of this difficult commandment?

  • How do you think Lucy Walker’s example might help someone who is struggling to accept or obey a commandment from God?

Ask students to think of someone they know personally or from the scriptures who obeyed a difficult commandment and was blessed for his or her obedience. Ask them to also consider what that person did that helped him or her be obedient. Invite a few students to share their examples with the class. Consider sharing an example of your own.

Testify that we will receive God’s blessings when we obey His commandments, even when it is difficult to do so. Encourage students to determine what they will do to help them better obey God’s commandments.

Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 132:38–40 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for others who practiced the principle of plural marriage.

  • According to verse 39, why was it important that plural marriages be performed by those who held “the keys of this power”—meaning the sealing keys of the priesthood? (This indicated that the Lord approved of the marriages.)

  • According to verse 40, what did the Lord say He was going to do through Joseph Smith? (Point out that the practice of plural marriage was part of “the restoration of all things” [D&C 27:6] from previous dispensations.)

Summarize Doctrine and Covenants 132:41–48 by explaining that the Lord addressed the subject of adultery in connection with plural marriage. The Lord taught that if anyone practiced plural marriage under circumstances that the Lord had not sanctioned, he or she would be guilty of adultery. The Lord reassured the Prophet that all marriages, including plural marriages, performed “by [His] word and according to [His] law” (verse 48) and by the sealing power of the priesthood (verse 46) would be “visited with blessings … and [would] be without condemnation on earth and in heaven” (verse 48).

Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 132:49–50 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for the blessings the Lord promised Joseph Smith.

  • What blessings did the Lord promise Joseph Smith?

  • According to verse 50, why did the Lord promise Joseph Smith the same blessings He had given Abraham?

Doctrine and Covenants 132:51–66

The Lord counsels Emma Smith and gives instructions regarding plural marriage

Ask students to consider why the commandment to practice plural marriage might have been difficult not only for the Prophet Joseph Smith but especially for his wife Emma. Invite a student to read the following paragraph aloud:

The Prophet’s obedience to the principle of plural marriage was a severe trial for him and his beloved wife Emma. Despite giving her consent in May 1843 for Joseph to marry additional wives, Emma continued to struggle with accepting the practice of plural marriage. “She vacillated in her view of plural marriage, at some points supporting it and at other times denouncing it” (“Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo,” Gospel Topics, topics.lds.org). As recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 132:51–57, the Lord specifically addressed His “handmaid,” or servant, Emma, giving her counsel and instruction regarding plural marriage.

Invite a few students to take turns reading aloud from Doctrine and Covenants 132:52–54, 56. Ask the class to follow along, looking for the Lord’s commandments and promises to Emma Smith.

  • What did the Lord command Emma to do?

Point out that the word destroyed as used in these verses means to be cut off or separated from God (see Acts 3:22–23; 1 Nephi 22:20; D&C 25:15). The Prophet Joseph Smith received the same stern warning that he would be destroyed, or cut off, if he did not practice plural marriage and introduce it to others (see Biography and Family Record of Lorenzo Snow [1884], 69–70).

  • What did the Lord promise Emma Smith if she obeyed His commandments?

Summarize Doctrine and Covenants 132:57–62 by explaining that the Lord told Emma that He was “with [her husband, Joseph], as [He] was with Abraham” (verse 57). The Lord repeated that those who enter into plural marriage according to His law and authority are “justified,” or accepted by the Lord (verse 61).

Read Doctrine and Covenants 132:63 aloud, beginning with the phrase “for they are given unto him.” Ask the class to follow along, looking for a reason the Lord gave for instituting the practice of plural marriage.

  • What does the phrase “multiply and replenish the earth” mean?

Invite a student to read Jacob 2:30 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for how this verse helps us better understand the Lord’s teachings recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 132:63.

  • What does it mean to “raise up seed unto [the Lord]” (Jacob 2:30)?

  • Based on Jacob 2:30 and Doctrine and Covenants 132:63, what is one reason the Lord has at times instituted plural marriage? (After students respond, write the following truth on the board: The Lord has at times instituted plural marriage to provide further opportunities for His people to raise up righteous children unto Him.)

Point out that the early Saints’ efforts to obey the principle of plural marriage “did result in the birth of large numbers of children within faithful Latter-day Saint homes” (“Plural Marriage and Families in Early Utah,” Gospel Topics, topics.lds.org; see also the student manual commentary for Doctrine and Covenants 132:63).

Note: If students have questions regarding Joseph Smith’s practice of plural marriage, refer to the Gospel Topics essay “Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo” (topics.lds.org) to help answer their questions.

Official Declaration 1

President Wilford Woodruff issues the Manifesto, which leads to the end of the practice of plural marriage in the Church

Summarize Official Declaration 1 by explaining that after the Saints migrated to the Salt Lake Valley, plural marriage came to be practiced openly. While plural marriage became more widespread among the Saints, it was likely never practiced by the majority of adult Church members. From the 1860s to the 1880s, the United States government passed laws designed to stop the practice. On September 25, 1890, after prayerfully seeking guidance from the Lord and receiving revelation, President Wilford Woodruff issued the Manifesto, which advised Church members “to refrain from contracting any marriage forbidden by the law of the land” (Official Declaration 1). Although a relatively small number of plural marriages were performed after it was issued, the Manifesto would ultimately lead to the end of the practice of plural marriage by members of the Church.

Conclude by testifying that the Prophet Joseph Smith and subsequent prophets received and faithfully obeyed God’s commandments.