“Lesson 17 Class Preparation Material: Remaining Faithful amid Opposition and Affliction,” Foundations of the Restoration Teacher Material (2019)
“Lesson 17 Class Preparation Material,” Foundations of the Restoration Teacher Material
“The knees of many of the strongest men in the Church faltered,” Brigham Young said of the crisis that gripped the Church in 1837 (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith , 317). Just the previous year the Saints had enjoyed peace and an outpouring of revelation at the dedication of the Kirtland Temple. But in the months following the dedication, a “spirit of speculation” that had overtaken the nation also began to prevail among the Saints. Kirtland “seemed to be moving in great prosperity,” Heber C. Kimball wrote, “and all seemed determined to become rich; in my feelings they were artificial or imaginary riches. This appearance of prosperity led many of the Saints to believe that the time had arrived for the Lord to enrich them with the treasures of the earth, and believing so, it stimulated them to great exertions, so much so that two of the Twelve, Lyman E. Johnson and John F. Boynton, went to New York and purchased to the amount of $20,000 worth of goods, and entered into the mercantile business, borrowing considerable money from Polly Voce and other Saints in Boston and the regions round about, and which they have never repaid” (in Orson F. Whitney, The Life of Heber C. Kimball , 111–12).
A spirit of pride, faultfinding, and apostasy began to spread among many of the Saints. Eliza R. Snow recalled:
Many who had been humble and faithful to the performance of every duty … were getting haughty in their spirits, and lifted up in the pride of their hearts. As the Saints drank in the love and spirit of the world, the Spirit of the Lord withdrew from their hearts. (In Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith , 317)
Despite the illusion of prosperity, financial pressures on the Church were high following the expense of building a temple and purchasing land that had caused the Church to amass tens of thousands of dollars in debt. Now, in Kirtland and in Missouri, Saints struggled to follow the Lord’s command to acquire even more land and build new settlements at Far West and in Jackson County. In an attempt to help ease financial pressures on the Church, Joseph Smith and other Church leaders created a small bank called the Kirtland Safety Society. Several Saints bought stock in the new bank, including Joseph. Many Saints believed that the future would bring prosperity and wealth if they were faithful.
But as a result of a widespread economic depression in early 1837, many banks failed throughout the United States. A nationwide economic panic along with heavy opposition from some nonmember citizens contributed to the failure of the Kirtland Safety Society about seven months after it opened. Two hundred investors in the bank lost almost everything, with Joseph Smith sustaining the greatest losses.
Although most of the Saints responded with faith, remaining true to their testimonies during this period of testing, many others, including some Church leaders, blamed Joseph Smith for their financial problems. Some claimed he was a fallen prophet and wanted to appoint a new President of the Church in his place.
In early 1837, Thomas B. Marsh, who was President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, was helping lead the Church in Missouri. After learning that some members of the quorum had become critical of Joseph Smith and had begun to quarrel with each other, Thomas traveled to Kirtland, Ohio, hoping to unify the Twelve.
On his way to Kirtland, Thomas learned that the Prophet had called two members of the quorum to serve missions to England. Thomas believed that as president of the quorum it was his duty to call them on missions. When Thomas arrived in Kirtland, he shared his concerns with Joseph Smith, and the Prophet received a revelation with counsel for Thomas (see Revelations in Context , 55–57).
As you read the Lord’s words to Thomas, consider what advice and truths from this passage could help someone who was struggling with his or her faith. Consider marking what you find.
A few of those in Kirtland who had left the Church sought to kill Joseph Smith. Warned by the Lord in a revelation, he and Sidney Rigdon left during the night and traveled to Far West, Missouri, arriving in March 1838. During the summer and fall of that year, misunderstandings and tensions between the Missourians and Church members led to armed conflict in northern Missouri. Relying on exaggerated reports of this conflict, the Missouri governor issued an extermination order to drive the Saints from the state by force. Shortly after this, in November 1838, the Prophet Joseph Smith and other Church leaders were arrested, falsely charged with treason against the state, and eventually imprisoned in Liberty Jail in Clay County, Missouri.
Life in prison wore Joseph down. Hecklers would peek through the barred windows to gawk or shout obscenities at him. He and the other prisoners often had nothing but a little cornbread to eat. The straw they had used for bedding since December was now matted and provided no comfort. When they lit a fire to try to warm themselves, the dungeon filled with smoke and choked them. …
Since receiving his divine call, Joseph had pressed forward in the face of opposition, striving to obey the Lord and gather the Saints. And yet, as much as the church had flourished over the years, it seemed to now be on the verge of collapse.
Mobs had driven the Saints out of Zion in Jackson County. Internal dissent had divided the church in Kirtland and left the temple in the hands of creditors. And now, after a terrible war with their neighbors, the Saints were scattered along the eastern bank of the Mississippi River, disheartened and homeless. …
[Joseph felt that] the Saints were good people who loved God. They did not deserve to be dragged from their homes, beaten, and left to die. (Saints: The Story of the Church of Jesus Christ in the Latter Days, vol. 1, The Standard of Truth, 1815–1846 , 384–85)
In a letter to Church leaders and Saints back home, Joseph cried out prayerfully, “O God, where art thou? … How long shall thy hand be stayed, and thine eye … behold from the eternal heavens the wrongs of thy people and of thy servants, and thine ear be penetrated with their cries?” (Doctrine and Covenants 121:1–2).
Think about a time when you struggled with adversity and cried out to God for help. As you study the following words the Lord spoke to Joseph in Liberty Jail, imagine the Lord speaking them to you. Consider marking phrases and principles that stand out to you.