Lesson 26 Teacher Material: The Church in the West

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“Lesson 26 Teacher Material: The Church in the West,” Foundations of the Restoration Teacher Material (2019)

“Lesson 26 Teacher Material,” Foundations of the Restoration Teacher Material

Lesson 26 Teacher Material

The Church in the West

The establishing of the Church in the western United States is a remarkable story of faith. This lesson will give students an opportunity to learn lessons from the faithful Saints who built their foundation on Jesus Christ and dedicated their lives to building His kingdom. It will also help students better understand one tragic event of Church history from this period that demonstrated a serious departure from the teachings of the Savior’s gospel: the Mountain Meadows Massacre.

Suggestions for Teaching

The Saints continued to build the Lord’s kingdom through faith and sacrifice.

Display the accompanying image of a tapestry, or bring one of your own to class. Make sure students understand that a tapestry is created by weaving together many threads in complex and intricate combinations to produce a beautiful picture or design.


Invite a student to read the following statement by Elder Steven E. Snow of the Seventy, who previously served as the Church Historian and Recorder.

Snow, Steven E.

If you think of Church history as a quilt or a tapestry, it is the most rich and beautiful thing I have ever observed. If you examine it carefully, you are going to find some peculiar threads in that beautiful quilt or tapestry, and if you pull at them and obsess on those threads, you will miss the wonderful message of our history. If you will step back and look at the whole quilt or tapestry, it’s beautiful. (Steven E. Snow, “Start with Faith: A Conversation with Elder Steven E. Snow,” Religious Educator, no. 3 [2013], 11)

Explain that from the early history of the Church in the West, there are thousands of stories of faithful Saints whose effort to follow Jesus Christ and build up the Lord’s Church created a beautiful tapestry of faith.

Find out which students read which accounts from section 1 of the preparation material. For each account, invite a student to do the following:

  1. Summarize the account he or she read.

  2. Explain how the Latter-day Saint or Saints in the account showed their faith in Jesus Christ and His restored gospel.

  3. Share lessons or principles he or she learned from the account.

Allow other students who read the same account to add their insights before moving on to the next account.

Some early Church members planned and carried out the Mountain Meadows Massacre.

Display the accompanying image, and explain to students that it is a picture of the Mountain Meadows Massacre grave site monument built by the Church in southern Utah. Explain that, sadly, the tragedy of Mountain Meadows is a regrettable thread woven into the Saints’ history.

Siege Site Memorial Mountain Meadow Massacre

Ask students what they learned from their reading about the Mountain Meadows Massacre. Make sure students understand that on September 11, 1857, about 50 to 60 local militiamen in southern Utah, assisted by some American Indian allies, massacred about 120 emigrants who were traveling by wagon to California. Only 17 children were spared.

  • What are some of the events and choices that led to the tragedy at Mountain Meadows? (If needed, give students a few minutes to review section 2 of the preparation material.)

Consider asking students to share principles and truths from scripture that could have helped these settlers make different choices. (Some examples could include Proverbs 28:13; 3 Nephi 12:24–25, 43–44; Doctrine and Covenants 64:9–11.)

  • What are some of the lessons we can learn from the tragedy of the Mountain Meadows Massacre? (Consider writing students’ responses on the board.)

You might give students a minute or two to write or share how these principles could prevent unnecessary heartache in their own lives.

Explain that because some local Church members and leaders were responsible for the planning and carrying out of the Mountain Meadows Massacre, some people have allowed this event to negatively affect their view of the Church.

  • What might you say to someone who thinks negatively about the Church because of the Mountain Meadows Massacre? (Invite students to draw on what they learned from section 2 of the preparation material.)

Invite students to read and identify a principle from Helaman 5:12. Display the following statement. Invite a student to read it aloud and ask the class to look for how it illustrates the principle taught in Helaman 5:12.

James Sanders is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and a great-grandson of Nancy Saphrona Huff, one of the children who survived the massacre. Brother Sanders shared these feelings about the massacre: “I still feel pain; I still feel anger and sadness that the massacre happened. … But I know that the people who did this will be accountable before the Lord, and that brings me peace.” Brother Sanders said that “learning [an] ancestor had been killed in the massacre ‘didn’t affect my faith because it’s based on Jesus Christ, not on any person in the Church’” (in Richard E. Turley Jr., “The Mountain Meadows Massacre,” Ensign, Sept. 2007, 21).

  • How is the principle taught in Helaman 5:12 illustrated in the statement by James Sanders? (After students respond, write the following principle on the board: Building our faith on the foundation of Jesus Christ and His gospel can help us remain strong despite the human failings of Church members.)

  • How can basing our faith in Jesus Christ help us when we see or learn of instances when Church members fail to live according to gospel teachings?

  • What do you do that helps you build and maintain your faith on the foundation of Jesus Christ?

Give students time to think about and write down what they will do to maintain and strengthen their faith in Jesus Christ and His gospel.

Testify of the importance of living the Savior’s teachings and basing our faith on Him and His gospel, regardless of the human failings of Church members. As we do so, we can help move Christ’s kingdom forward as the faithful pioneer Saints did.

For Next Time

Ask students if they have ever been asked about why the Church withheld priesthood authority and some temple ordinances from members of black African descent for a time. Explain that in preparation for the next class, students will have the opportunity to learn about this topic and the related revelation in Official Declaration 2 that prophets had anticipated for many years. Invite students to come to class prepared to discuss what they learn and any questions they have about this topic.