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Lesson 54: Doctrine and Covenants 134–36
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“Lesson 54: Doctrine and Covenants 134–36,” Doctrine and Covenants Teacher Manual (2017)

“Lesson 54,” Doctrine and Covenants Teacher Manual

Lesson 54

Doctrine and Covenants 134–36

Introduction and Timeline

On August 17, 1835, Church members in Kirtland, Ohio, held a special meeting to approve the upcoming publication of the Doctrine and Covenants. During the meeting Church members voted to include in the Doctrine and Covenants “a declaration of belief regarding governments and laws” (D&C 134, section heading). This statement is recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 134.

On June 27, 1844, the Prophet Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum, who was the Assistant President of the Church as well as Patriarch of the Church, were martyred at Carthage, Illinois. An announcement of the martyrdom was included in the 1844 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants and was based on the eyewitness accounts of Elder John Taylor and Elder Willard Richards, members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. This announcement is recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 135.

In February 1846, Church members began leaving Nauvoo, Illinois, and traveling west across Iowa Territory. President Brigham Young received the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 136 at Winter Quarters, Nebraska, in January 1847. In it, the Lord counseled the Saints to organize themselves and prepare for their journey west.

August 17, 1835

Doctrine and Covenants 134 was approved for inclusion in the Doctrine and Covenants by Church members in Kirtland, Ohio.

June 27, 1844

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

July–August 1844

Doctrine and Covenants 135 was written.

February 4, 1846

The first company of Saints left Nauvoo, Illinois, on their trek west.

June 1846

Brigham Young’s company of Saints arrived at the Missouri River, where Kanesville, Iowa, and Winter Quarters, Nebraska, would be established.

January 14, 1847

Doctrine and Covenants 136 was received.

July 24, 1847

Brigham Young’s pioneer company arrived in the Salt Lake Valley.

Suggestions for Teaching

Doctrine and Covenants 134:1–12

The responsibilities of governments and their citizens are outlined

Note: Consider singing “Praise to the Man” (Hymns, no. 27) as part of the devotional.

Display or write on the board the following question, and invite students to respond: What would it be like if there were no governments on earth?

Invite students to look for doctrine and principles as they study Doctrine and Covenants 134 today that can help them understand the proper role of government.

To help students understand the context of Doctrine and Covenants 134, invite a student to read the following paragraph aloud:

After mobs in Jackson County, Missouri, drove Church members from their homes in late 1833, Church leaders asked state and federal government officials for protection and help in reclaiming their lost properties, but their appeals for help failed. In August 1835, while Church members were still petitioning the government for restitution and justice, Oliver Cowdery and Sidney Rigdon presented a document to a general Church assembly in Kirtland, Ohio, that outlined Latter-day Saint beliefs regarding governments and laws. (See Spencer W. McBride, “Of Governments and Laws,” in Revelations in Context, ed. Matthew McBride and James Goldberg [2012], 295, or history.lds.org.) This declaration is recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 134.

Invite a few students to take turns reading aloud from Doctrine and Covenants 134:1–3. Ask the class to follow along, looking for who instituted the idea of governments and why.

  • What truth can we identify from verse 1 about the purpose of governments? (Help students identify the following truth: Governments were instituted by God for the benefit of all people.)

Point out that governments in verse 1 refers to government in general, not a specific form of government.

  • According to verse 2, what rights should governments protect?

  • According to verse 3, why is it important for governments to have “civil officers”?

Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 134:4 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what this verse teaches about religious freedom.

  • What does verse 4 teach about religious freedom?

  • How does religious freedom affect our ability to follow Heavenly Father’s plan of salvation?

Summarize Doctrine and Covenants 134:5–12 by explaining that the declaration states that all citizens should “sustain and uphold” just governments and respect the law (verse 5). Governments should establish laws that protect religious observance, but they should not favor one religion over another. In addition, religious groups can discipline their members when necessary through excommunication, but they cannot confiscate their members’ property or harm them physically.

Doctrine and Covenants 135:1–7

The Church announces the martyrdom of the Prophet Joseph Smith and Hyrum Smith

Brother Joseph

Display a picture of the Prophet Joseph Smith. Point out that as they had during previous periods of persecution against the Church, government officials again failed to protect the rights of Latter-day Saints when the Prophet Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum were martyred in Carthage Jail on June 27, 1844. Afterward, Church members recorded tributes to the Prophet in journal entries, letters, and public writings. These members often described their feelings upon learning of the Prophet’s death as well as their testimonies of his divine role and mission (see Jeffrey Mahas, “Remembering the Martyrdom,” in Revelations in Context, ed. Matthew McBride and James Goldberg [2012], 299–306, or history.lds.org). One of those tributes is recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 135 and is based on the eyewitness accounts of Elder John Taylor and Elder Willard Richards, who were with the Prophet when he died.

Invite several students to take turns reading aloud from Doctrine and Covenants 135: Additional Historical Background in the Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what led to the martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum Smith.

Invite students to read Doctrine and Covenants 135:1–2 silently, looking for details about the martyrdom.

  • How would you have felt if you had been living in Nauvoo and heard about the Prophet’s death?

Invite several students to take turns reading aloud from Doctrine and Covenants 135:3–7. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what was said about the Prophet Joseph Smith. Consider inviting students to mark words or phrases that stand out to them.

  • What stands out to you in these verses?

  • What truth can we identify from verse 3 about what Joseph Smith has done “for the salvation of [God’s children]”? (Help students identify the following truth: The Prophet Joseph Smith has done more, save Jesus only, for the salvation of God’s children in this world than any other person who has lived.)

Display the following statement by President Joseph F. Smith (1838–1918), and invite a student to read it aloud:

Joseph F. Smith

“The work in which Joseph Smith was engaged was not confined to this life alone, but it pertains as well to the life to come, and to the life that has been. In other words, it relates to those who have lived upon the earth, to those who are living and to those who shall come after us” (Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine, 5th ed. [1939], 481).

  • How might this statement help us understand the importance of the Prophet Joseph Smith’s mission?

Invite students to write down what the Prophet Joseph Smith has done for their salvation. After sufficient time, ask a few students to report what they wrote.

Share your testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith, and invite several students who are comfortable doing so to share their testimonies as well.

Doctrine and Covenants 136:1–33

The Lord organizes and counsels Church members in preparation for their journey west

Explain that two weeks after Joseph and Hyrum Smith were killed at Carthage, Illinois, a newspaper reported the death of the Prophet and his brother. “The article … ended with this three-word conclusion and prediction: ‘Thus ends Mormonism’” (Lawrence R. Flake, “Of Pioneers and Prophets” [Brigham Young University devotional, July 18, 1995], 3, speeches.byu.edu).

  • What did the author of this article not understand about the restored Church of Jesus Christ?

Brigham Young

Display a picture of President Brigham Young, and invite a student to read the following paragraph aloud:

Before his death, the Prophet Joseph Smith committed priesthood keys to members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. After his death, the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, presided over by Brigham Young, continued to lead the Church. Amidst intensifying persecution, the Saints began leaving Nauvoo, Illinois, in February 1846 and headed west toward the Rocky Mountains. Their journey was slow, however, because of excessive rain and insufficient supplies, and it took them nearly four months to travel 300 miles across Iowa. Church leaders decided to wait until the following spring to continue their journey west, so they established temporary settlements on the banks of the Missouri River, one of the largest being Winter Quarters. It was here that President Brigham Young received the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 136. (See Church History in the Fulness of Times Student Manual, 2nd ed. [Church Educational System manual, 2003], 291–93, 306–14, 319330.)

Invite a few students to take turns reading aloud from Doctrine and Covenants 136:1–5. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what the Lord revealed through President Brigham Young. Ask students to report what they find.

  • How might knowing that the Lord continued to reveal His will to them have helped Church members?

Summarize Doctrine and Covenants 136:6–16 by explaining that the Lord told President Brigham Young how to “prepare for those who [were] to tarry,” or who would come later (verse 6), and called individuals to lead various companies of Saints.

Write the following reference on the board: Doctrine and Covenants 136:1731. Assign each student one or more of these verses (so that all verses are assigned). Invite students to read their assigned verses silently, looking for the counsel the Lord gave the Saints. After sufficient time, ask several students to report what they found.

  • How might the Lord’s counsel have blessed Church members on their trek west?

Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 136:30–33 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for the Lord’s promises to the Saints.

  • What principles can we identify from the Lord’s promises to the Saints? (Help students identify principles similar to the following: We do not need to fear our enemies because they are in the Lord’s hands. Our trials can prepare us to receive future glory. If we humble ourselves and call upon the Lord, He will enlighten us through His Spirit. Write these principles on the board.)

  • How might these principles have helped Church members on their journey west?

Invite students to ponder how these principles can help them as they journey through life. Bear your testimony about how applying these principles has blessed you.

Doctrine and Covenants 136:34–42

The Lord reassures the Saints and counsels them to be diligent in keeping His commandments

Refer again to the picture of the Prophet Joseph Smith you displayed earlier. Summarize Doctrine and Covenants 136:34–40 by explaining that the Lord told Brigham Young that although many had “marveled because of [Joseph Smith’s] death” (verse 39), or wondered why he had died, Joseph had faithfully completed his mission (verse 38). The Lord also explained that the Prophet was slain so that he could “seal his testimony with his blood, that he might be honored and the wicked might be condemned” (verse 39).

Explain that the Lord concluded this revelation with words of encouragement. Invite a few students to take turns reading aloud from Doctrine and Covenants 136:37, 40–42. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what the Lord said to reassure the Saints.

  • How might the Lord’s words have been reassuring to the Saints?

  • According to verse 37, what blessing will we receive “if [we] are faithful in keeping all [the Lord’s words,” or commandments? (After students respond, write the following principle on the board: If we are faithful in keeping all of the Lord’s words, we will one day behold His glory.)

Point out that the Lord knows that it is difficult to keep, or obey, all of His words all the time, but He expects us to do our best.

  • How can this principle encourage you to live the gospel?

Testify of the truthfulness of this principle. Invite students to strive to keep all of Lord’s words and to patiently await His promises.