Lesson 25 Teacher Material: Succession in the Presidency and the Trek West

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“Lesson 25 Teacher Material: Succession in the Presidency and the Trek West,” Foundations of the Restoration Teacher Material (2019)

“Lesson 25 Teacher Material,” Foundations of the Restoration Teacher Material

Lesson 25 Teacher Material

Succession in the Presidency and the Trek West

After Joseph and Hyrum Smith’s martyrdom, many Saints received a divine witness that Brigham Young and the Twelve Apostles were to lead the Lord’s Church. Under their inspired direction, the Saints journeyed to the Salt Lake Valley. This lesson is designed to deepen students’ faith that the First Presidency and Twelve Apostles hold all of the priesthood keys of this last dispensation. This lesson will also help students trust that the Lord will direct their individual lives as they honor their covenants.

Suggestions for Teaching

Apostles hold the keys of the kingdom.

Display the following image of Joseph and Hyrum Smith.

Illinois. Hancock Co. Carthage. Carthage Jail

Explain that the brothers were martyred on the evening of June 27, 1844. The following morning, the Prophet’s friend Porter Rockwell rode his horse into Nauvoo shouting, “Joseph is killed! Joseph is killed! They have killed him!” (Anson Call, Autobiography and journal, circa 1856–1889, 12, Church History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah).

  • How do you think the Saints felt after hearing this news?

You might ask students if they have experienced hearing the news of a prophet’s death and how that felt.

  • What questions and concerns do you think the early Saints had when they heard of Joseph Smith’s death?

  • How did Brigham Young react to the news of Joseph and Hyrum Smith’s death? (If needed, invite students to review Brigham Young’s reaction in section 1 of the preparation material.)

  • Despite his grief at the Prophet’s death, what comforted Brigham?

Display images of Brigham Young and Sidney Rigdon.

Brigham Young and Sidney Rigdon

Remind students that Brigham Young was the senior Apostle at the time of the Prophet’s death. Sidney Rigdon had served as Joseph Smith’s counselor in the First Presidency and felt that he should lead the Church as its guardian. Sidney called a special meeting, with the hope that Church members would approve his claim to leadership. Both Sidney and Brigham addressed the Saints.

Invite a student to read aloud the statements by President Brigham Young found in section 1 of the preparation material.

  • What truth can we learn from Brigham Young’s statement about the authority of those ordained as Apostles? (After students respond, write the following truth on the board: The Apostles hold all the keys of the priesthood necessary to preside over the Church. [See Doctrine and Covenants 27:12–13; 112:30–32.])

Point out that in our day, when each Apostle is ordained, he is given all of the priesthood keys the Lord has restored to the earth through Joseph Smith. However, only the President of the Church is authorized to exercise all of these keys. Members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles exercise their priesthood keys under the direction of the Church president.

  • What happens now when the President of the Church passes away?

If needed, display the following statement and invite a student to read it aloud:

When the President of the Church passes away, the First Presidency is automatically dissolved. The men previously serving as counselors assume their places in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and that quorum assumes leadership of the Church, with the senior Apostle at its head. … Throughout our history, the senior Apostle has always become the successor President of the Church. (“A Message from the First Presidency,” Jan. 16, 2018,

Refer back to the pictures of Brigham and Sidney, and ask:

  • What did many Saints experience as they watched and listened to Brigham Young speak? How did that affect them? (Encourage students to recall what they learned in section 1 of the preparation material.)

Display the following statement by Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Explain that Elder Andersen spoke these words on the day President Russell M. Nelson was sustained as the new President of the Church:

Neil L. Andersen

We have the privilege as Latter-day Saints to receive a personal witness that [the prophet’s] call is from God. (“The Prophet of God,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2018, 25–26)

Invite a few students to share their testimony that the current prophet is called of God and perhaps how they received that testimony. Encourage students to seek their own witness that Church leaders are called by inspiration.

Brigham Young and the Twelve lead the Saints to the Salt Lake Valley.

Nauvoo Temple

Show a picture of the Nauvoo Temple, and ask students why the Saints worked so hard to complete the temple before they left their homes and moved west. (You might invite students to read the statement by Sarah Rich in section 2 of the preparation material.)

Explain that when the Saints left Nauvoo to travel west, they had little knowledge of what lay before them. Invite a student to read the following statement by Elder Erastus Snow, an early pioneer and later a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:

Snow, Erastus

When the pioneers left [for the West] … we were seeking a country which had been pointed out by the Prophet Joseph Smith in the midst of the Rocky Mountains. … That band of pioneers went out, not knowing whither they went, only … that God had commanded them to go into a land which he would show them. And whenever the Prophet Brigham Young … was asked the question—“Whither goes thou?” the only answer he could give was—“I will show you when we come to it.” The prayers of that band of pioneers, offered up day and night, continually unto God, was to lead us, as he had promised, unto a land … he had declared he would give us. (Journal of Discourses, 16:207)

  • What do you notice from this statement about the faith of the pioneers?

Ask students to consider for a minute the journey of life they have before them and what guidance from heaven they hope to receive.

  • What are some of the challenges the Saints experienced as they left Nauvoo and started their journey west? (If needed, refer students to section 2 of the preparation material.)

Remind students that during the trying winter of 1846–47 while the Saints crowded into a makeshift settlement at Winter Quarters, Nebraska, Brigham Young received the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 136. Invite students to read Doctrine and Covenants 136:22, looking for the Lord’s promise to the Saints that can give us comfort as we strive to discover and follow God’s will for us in our lives.

You might point out that the phrase “my arm is stretched out in the last days” represents the Lord’s power and guidance being extended to His people.

  • What can we learn from this verse about what the Lord desires to do for His people? (After students respond, display or write the following truth on the board: The Lord desires to guide and help us in our lives.)

  • What are some ways the Lord guides us in our life? What do we need to do to receive such guidance? (Review with students President Oaks’s statement in section 2 of the preparation material.)

Write the following on the board: I can receive guidance and help from the Lord as I …

Invite students to read Doctrine and Covenants 136:2–4, 7–11, 19–24, looking for what kind of people the Saints needed to be to have the Lord’s guidance. Consider inviting students to list their responses on the board to complete the principle.

  • Why do you think striving to become the kind of people described in these verses helps us receive the Lord’s guidance and help?

Invite students to recall what Brigham Young said when he first saw the Salt Lake Valley (see section 2 of the preparation material). Ask students if they have had moments in their lives when the Lord has confirmed to them that they were doing the right thing or were in the right place. Consider inviting a few students to share their experiences.

Give students a few minutes to prayerfully ponder the following question and record any thoughts and impressions they may receive:

  • What do you feel you need to focus on in order to receive the guidance from the Lord you hope for?

Conclude by encouraging students to act on impressions they received and sharing your testimony of the truths taught in the lesson.

For Next Time

Explain to students that in the preparation material for the next class, they will study one of the most tragic events in Church history, the Mountain Meadows Massacre. Invite them to come to class prepared to discuss lessons we can learn from this experience.