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Lesson 9: Doctrine and Covenants 20–22
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“Lesson 9: Doctrine and Covenants 20–22,” Doctrine and Covenants Teacher Manual (2017)

“Lesson 9,” Doctrine and Covenants Teacher Manual

Lesson 9

Doctrine and Covenants 20–22

Introduction and Timeline

In a revelation to the Prophet Joseph Smith, the Lord commanded that His Church be organized on April 6, 1830. Although this revelation, now known as Doctrine and Covenants 20, was recorded a few days after the Church’s organization, portions of it may have been revealed as early as June 1829. This revelation highlights the importance of the Book of Mormon, outlines responsibilities of priesthood offices, and provides instructions for the ordinances of baptism and the sacrament.

On the day the Church was organized, the Prophet Joseph Smith received the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 21. In it, the Lord designated Joseph as a prophet, seer, and leader of the restored Church and exhorted the Church to heed the Prophet’s words. Soon after the Church was established, some people questioned whether those who had been baptized previously in other churches needed to be baptized again to become members of the restored Church. Joseph inquired and received the revelation in Doctrine and Covenants 22, wherein the Lord taught that baptism must be performed by those with proper authority.

End of March, 1830

The printing of the Book of Mormon was completed.

April 6, 1830

The Church was organized by Joseph Smith in Fayette, New York.

April 6, 1830

Doctrine and Covenants 21 was received.

After April 6, 1830

Doctrine and Covenants 20 was finalized and recorded (though portions were likely received months earlier).

April 16, 1830

Doctrine and Covenants 22 was received.

June 9, 1830

The first Church conference was held in Fayette, New York.

Suggestions for Teaching

Doctrine and Covenants 20:1–36

The events of the Restoration are recounted and truths taught in the Book of Mormon are summarized

Invite students to imagine that a friend who is less active in the Church says, “You don’t need to be active in the Church to be a good person or to be close to God.”

  • Why might some people feel this way?

  • How would you respond to your friend?

As students study Doctrine and Covenants 20 today, invite them to look for truths that will help them understand the need for and blessings of actively participating in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Explain that as early as 1828, the Prophet Joseph Smith had received revelations that discussed establishing a church (see D&C 10:53). Preparations for this began in June 1829, when the Lord instructed Oliver Cowdery to help build up His church based on the teachings of the Book of Mormon (see D&C 18:3–4).

Invite students to silently read the section heading for Doctrine and Covenants 20 and verses 1–2, looking for what the Lord revealed about the organization of the Church of Jesus Christ in the last days.

  • What truths can we learn from the section heading and these verses about the organization of the Church of Jesus Christ? (Though students may identify several truths, ensure that they identify that Joseph Smith organized the Church of Jesus Christ according to God’s will.)

  • Why is it important to you to know that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was organized under the Lord’s direction?

Invite a student to read aloud the following account of this event:

Brother Joseph

“On April 6, 1830, just eleven days after the Book of Mormon was advertised for sale, a group of about 60 people assembled in the log home of Peter Whitmer Sr. in Fayette, New York. There Joseph Smith formally organized the Church, later designated by revelation as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (see D&C 115:4). It was a joyous occasion, with a great outpouring of the Spirit. The sacrament was administered, believers were baptized, the gift of the Holy Ghost was bestowed, and men were ordained to the priesthood” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith [2007], 8).

Tell students that on March 26, 1830, just a few days prior to the Church’s organization, the first copies of the Book of Mormon were made available. Explain that Doctrine and Covenants 20:5–36 recounts the coming forth of the Book of Mormon and highlights some of the foundational doctrine taught within its pages. Assign half the class to read Doctrine and Covenants 20:5–16 silently, looking for doctrinal truths about the Book of Mormon. Invite the other half of the class to read Doctrine and Covenants 20:17–25 silently, looking for some of the foundational doctrine and principles taught within the Book of Mormon. To help students understand verse 17, you may need to point out that the phrase “these things” refers to the doctrine and principles we know through the Book of Mormon.

Invite students to share the doctrine and principles they identified in their assigned verses. Students might identify truths such as the following: the Book of Mormon is evidence that God has restored the gospel in our day (verses 11–15). If we receive the Book of Mormon in faith and are righteous, we will receive eternal life (verse 14). If we believe in Jesus Christ, are baptized in His name, and endure to the end, we will be saved (verse 25).

  • Based on the truths we have identified, why might the Lord have waited until the translation and publication of the Book of Mormon was complete before organizing His Church again on earth?

Doctrine and Covenants 20:37–84

The Lord instructs the Church regarding priesthood offices, baptism, and the sacrament

Explain that as part of the instructions about the organization of the Church, the Lord outlined the qualifications necessary for baptism into the Church. Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 20:37 aloud. Ask the class to follow along and note phrases that describe the Lord’s requirements for baptism. (You may wish to write on the board the phrases students discover.)

  • Which of these phrases are most meaningful to you and why?

Summarize Doctrine and Covenants 20:38–67 by explaining that these verses outline the duties of elders, priests, teachers, and deacons. In verse 65, we learn that no one is to be ordained to any priesthood office without Church members’ sustaining vote (see also D&C 26:2).

Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 20:68–70 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for the duties of Church members. To help students understand these verses, you may need to point out that conversation in verse 69 refers to conduct or behavior.

  • How can a person “manifest … by a godly walk and conversation” (D&C 20:69) that he or she is worthy of receiving the Holy Ghost and partaking of the sacrament?

Summarize Doctrine and Covenants 20:71–74 by informing students that these verses explain that individuals are not to be baptized before reaching the age of accountability and becoming capable of repentance. Also, baptism must be done by immersion and performed by one holding the priesthood.

Inform students that after instructing Church members regarding baptism, the Lord commanded that the Saints meet together regularly. Invite students to read Doctrine and Covenants 20:75 silently, looking for why Church members should meet together often. Invite students to report what they discover.

Write the following incomplete statements on the board:

When we partake of the sacrament, we witness …

As we faithfully keep the promises made during the sacrament, the Lord promises …

Invite students to read Doctrine and Covenants 20:76–79 silently, looking for how they would complete these two statements of principle. After sufficient time, invite students to share the principles they identified. Although they may use other words, students should identify the following principles: When we partake of the sacrament, we witness that we are willing to take upon us the name of Jesus Christ, to always remember Him, and to keep His commandments. As we faithfully keep the promises made during the sacrament, the Lord promises that we will always have His Spirit to be with us.

  • What similarities do you see in the promises made during the sacrament and the covenant of baptism (see verse 37)?

  • Why is it important to always have the Spirit with you?

Invite students to ponder how well they are keeping the covenants they renew through partaking of the sacrament. Encourage them to make any changes necessary to more faithfully keep those covenants. Assure them that as they make those changes, they will have the Spirit to be with them.

Doctrine and Covenants 21

Members of the Church are to heed the words of Joseph Smith

Display and invite a student to read aloud the following statement by Elder Robert D. Hales (1932–2017) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:

Hales, Robert D.

“Beloved young men and young women of the Church, we are engaged in a battle between the forces of light and darkness. …

“And in this world, darkness is never far away” (Robert D. Hales, “Out of Darkness into His Marvelous Light,” Ensign, May 2002, 70, 71).

Invite students to look for a principle in Doctrine and Covenants 21 that will help them know how to win the battle against darkness. To help students understand the context of this revelation, ask a student to read aloud the section heading for Doctrine and Covenants 21.

Summarize Doctrine and Covenants 21:1–3 by explaining that the Lord commanded that a record be kept of the Church’s history. He also designated Joseph Smith’s calling as a seer, translator, prophet, apostle, and elder of the Church.

Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 21:4–6 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what the Lord commanded Church members to do.

  • According to verse 5, how does the Lord want us to regard the prophet’s words? (Students should identify a truth similar to the following: The Lord commands us to receive the prophet’s words as if they were from His own mouth.)

  • Based on these verses, what can we do to be protected against “the powers of darkness” (verse 6)? (After students respond, write the following principle on the board: As we heed the words of the prophet in patience and faith, we will be protected against the powers of darkness.)

  • How does heeding the prophet’s words “disperse the powers of darkness” (D&C 21:6)?

  • Why might it sometimes take patience and faith to accept and heed the prophets’ words?

Display the following statement by President Harold B. Lee (1899–1973), and invite a student to read it aloud:

Lee, Harold B.

“The only safety we have as members of this church is to … give heed to the words and commandments that the Lord shall give through His prophet. … There will be some things that take patience and faith. You may not like what comes from the authority of the Church. It may contradict your political views. It may contradict your social views. It may interfere with some of your social life. But if you listen to these things, as if from the mouth of the Lord Himself, with patience and faith, the promise is that ‘the gates of hell shall not prevail against you; … and the Lord God will disperse the powers of darkness from before you, and cause the heavens to shake for your good, and his name’s glory’ (D&C 21:6)” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Harold B. Lee [2000], 84–85).

  • How have you been blessed for heeding the words of living prophets? (Consider sharing an experience of your own.)

Invite students to reflect on the recent teachings of the Lord’s prophets. Encourage them to make a commitment to follow those teachings in all patience and faith.

Doctrine and Covenants 22

Baptisms must be performed by those with proper authority

Explain that following the organization of the Church in April 1830, many desired to become members of the Lord’s restored Church. However, some who had already been baptized in other churches wanted to join without being baptized again. After inquiring of the Lord, Joseph Smith received the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 22, which taught that baptism must be performed by those with proper authority.

Conclude by sharing your testimony of the restoration of the Lord’s Church upon the earth and of the living prophets who direct His work.