“Lesson 23 Teacher Material: The Prophetic Mission and the Martyrdom of Joseph Smith,” Foundations of the Restoration Teacher Material (2019)
“Lesson 23 Teacher Material,” Foundations of the Restoration Teacher Material
Consider singing a few verses (including verse 7) of the hymn “A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief.” Explain that this hymn and its message about serving the Savior was a favorite of Joseph Smith’s. The Prophet asked John Taylor to sing it in Carthage Jail just before the mob attacked.
Ask students to explain what they know about the events that led to the arrest and imprisonment of Joseph and Hyrum Smith in Carthage, Illinois. (Encourage students to draw on what they learned from the preparation material.)
How do you think the words of “A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief” may have reflected Joseph’s commitment to the Savior? (If needed, you might give students a minute to review the words of the hymn as they answer this question.)
Explain that Joseph knew that he faced certain death if he went to Carthage to stand trial. Church member Dan Jones, who was with the Prophet in Nauvoo as he prepared to travel to Carthage, recalled:
I shall never forget that scene when [the Prophet] stood … , and looking around him, then at the city and its inhabitants who were so dear to him, he said, “If I do not go [to Carthage], the result will be the destruction of this city and its inhabitants; and I cannot think of my dear brothers and sisters and their children suffering the scenes of Missouri again in Nauvoo; no, it is better for your brother, Joseph, to die for his brothers and sisters, for I am willing to die for them. My work is finished.” (Dan Jones, in Ronald D. Dennis, trans., “The Martyrdom of Joseph Smith and His Brother, Hyrum,” BYU Studies, vol. 24, no. 1 , 85)
What do the Prophet’s words and actions reveal about his character?
You might point out that Joseph Smith followed the Savior’s example of love by his willingness to give his life to protect the Saints (see John 15:13).
Display an image of Carthage Jail. Invite students to recount what they know about the events in Carthage Jail on June 27, 1844, when Joseph and Hyrum were killed. (Encourage students to recall what they learned from the preparation material.)
Explain that the announcement of the Prophet’s death, now included in Doctrine and Covenants 135, was taken from the eyewitness accounts of Elders John Taylor and Willard Richards.
Read Doctrine and Covenants 135:1–2, 4–6 with the class.
What are your thoughts and feelings as you consider the sacrifice Joseph and Hyrum Smith were willing to make for their testimonies of the restored gospel?
Invite students to read the last two sentences of Doctrine and Covenants 135:3 (starting with “He lived great …”) and Doctrine and Covenants 136:39, looking for what we learn about Joseph’s and Hyrum’s deaths.
What do these verses teach us about the significance of Joseph’s and Hyrum’s deaths? (Students may identify a truth similar to the following: Joseph and Hyrum Smith sealed their testimonies of the restored gospel with their blood.)
Explain that this act of sealing their testimonies with their blood permanently established their testimonies and their divine missions related to the Restoration of the gospel.
To help students better understand this truth, consider showing the video “Testimony of the Book of Mormon” (4:39) by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Invite students to think about the unwavering commitment Joseph and Hyrum showed to their testimonies of the restored gospel even in the face of death.
How does Joseph Smith’s willingness to give his life for the restored gospel strengthen your testimony of him as the Lord’s Prophet?
Invite students to read the first sentence of Doctrine and Covenants 135:3, which teaches that Joseph Smith has done more for the salvation of people in this world than any other person except Jesus Christ. (You might encourage students to mark this truth in their scriptures.)
Consider asking students to share how they would explain this truth to a friend of another Christian faith.
Invite students to read the rest of Doctrine and Covenants 135:3, looking for the contributions the Prophet Joseph Smith made to help Heavenly Father’s children gain salvation. Have students report what they found. You might list their responses on the board.
What else would you add to the list of contributions the Prophet Joseph Smith has made for the salvation of the world?
Invite students to choose one of the following questions to answer. Provide students some time to record their thoughts.
What experiences have you had that have helped you gain a testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith?
How has your life been influenced and blessed because Joseph Smith fulfilled his prophetic mission?
After sufficient time, invite a few students to share with the class what they wrote. Conclude by sharing your testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith.
Ask students to imagine what it might be like to be called to lead in the Church with little experience and many weaknesses. Invite them to ponder whether or not they would have faith and trust that the Lord would help them in such a calling. Encourage students to study the preparation material for the next lesson with this question in mind.