“Lesson 12: The Camp of Israel,” Latter-day Saint History: 1815–1846 Teacher Material (2018)
“Lesson 12,” Latter-day Saint History: 1815–1846 Teacher Material
The Camp of Israel
Introduction and Timeline
On February 24, 1834, Joseph Smith received a revelation from the Lord commanding him to organize a group of volunteers to assist the suffering Saints in Missouri (see D&C 103). The more than 200 volunteers were known as the Camp of Israel (later Zion’s Camp) and marched approximately 900 miles to help the Missouri Saints reclaim their lands. After the camp arrived in Missouri, the Lord revealed to Joseph Smith that the time for Zion’s redemption had not yet come, and the camp disbanded (see D&C 105:9–11). About six months after returning to Kirtland, Joseph Smith organized the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and the Quorum of the Seventy. Eight members of the Twelve and each member of the Seventy had marched with the Camp of Israel.
February 24, 1834
Joseph Smith received a revelation commanding him to organize the Camp of Israel (see D&C 103).
Joseph Smith led the Camp of Israel on their march to Missouri.
June 22, 1834
The Lord revealed that Zion would not be redeemed at this time (see D&C 105), and the Camp of Israel began to disband.
Joseph Smith returned to Kirtland, Ohio.
February 14, 1835
Joseph Smith organized the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
February 28–March 1, 1835
Joseph Smith organized the Quorum of the Seventy.
Saints: The Story of the Church of Jesus Christ in the Latter Days, Volume 1, The Standard of Truth, 1815–1846 (2018), chapters 18–19
Suggestions for Teaching
The Lord commands Joseph Smith to organize the Camp of Israel
Before class, write the following question on the board: What are some ways we might be invited to serve the Lord in circumstances that may be inconvenient or difficult?
Ask students to share their responses to this question. Write their responses on the board.
Invite students to look for principles and doctrine in today’s lesson that can help them when they are invited to serve the Lord in inconvenient or difficult circumstances.
Display the accompanying map of Missouri.
Remind students that in the fall of 1833, the Saints in Jackson County, Missouri, were violently driven from their lands and homes, and most found temporary refuge across the Missouri River in Clay County, Missouri.
Invite a student to read the following paragraph aloud:
As Church leaders appealed to local and state officials for help, they were informed that the governor of Missouri, Daniel Dunklin, was willing to call out the state militia to escort the Saints back to their lands in Jackson County. However, the Saints would need to provide their own armed force to protect Church members once their land had been restored. On February 24, 1834, the Prophet Joseph Smith received the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 103, in which the Lord commanded him to organize a group of volunteers to march to the aid of the suffering Saints in Missouri. Shortly after receiving the revelation, Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon, Parley P. Pratt, and other Church leaders traveled throughout the branches of the Church to find recruits. These volunteers formed the Camp of Israel (later known as Zion’s Camp) and intended to help the Missouri Saints reclaim their lands and prevent further attacks against them once the state militia had been discharged. (See The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 3: February 1833–March 1834, ed. Gerrit J. Dirkmaat and others , 458–59; The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 4: April 1834–September 1835, ed. Matthew C. Godfrey and others , xix–xxi.)
What thoughts or feelings do you think you might have had if you were called to join the Camp of Israel? Why?
Ask students to locate chapter 18 of Saints: Volume 1. Invite a few students to take turns reading aloud from page 197, starting with the paragraph that begins “In April 1834 …” and concluding with the paragraph on page 199 that begins “Once assembled …” Ask the class to follow along, looking for reasons why joining the Camp of Israel was difficult for some of the Saints.
In what ways did the call to go to Missouri test the faith of some Saints?
Invite a student to read aloud the following statement by President Wilford Woodruff (1807–98). Ask the class to listen for why President Woodruff accepted the invitation to join the Camp of Israel.
“I was called to take my life in my hands and go up to Missouri, and a little handful of us went up to redeem our brethren. We certainly had to go by faith. My neighbors called upon and pled with me not to go; said they—‘Do not go, if you do you will lose your life.’ I said to them—‘If I knew that I should have a ball [shot] through my heart the first step I took in the State of Missouri I would go.’ … That is the way I felt in those days with regard to the work of God, and that is the way I feel today. I am after salvation and eternal life, and I do not want anything to stand between me and that which I am in pursuit of” (Wilford Woodruff, in Journal of Discourses, 17:246; spelling standardized).
What principles can we learn from this statement by President Woodruff? (Students may identify several principles, including the following: Obeying the Lord’s invitations to serve Him requires us to exercise faith in Him and helps us progress toward eternal life. Write this principle on the board.)
In what ways do these invitations to serve the Lord require us to exercise faith in Him?
Why might it be helpful to view the Lord’s invitations to serve Him as opportunities for us to progress toward salvation and eternal life?
The Camp of Israel marches to Missouri
Display the accompanying map, “Zion’s Camp Route, 1834,” of the route taken by the Camp of Israel.
Explain that while Joseph Smith led a group of volunteers from Kirtland, Ohio, to Missouri, Hyrum Smith and Lyman Wight led another group from Michigan Territory and joined the Prophet’s group on June 9, 1834. Altogether, the Camp of Israel consisted of more than 200 men, accompanied by approximately 12 women and 10 children. (See The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 4: April 1834–September 1835, xx.)
Invite a student to read the following four paragraphs aloud:
Many members of Zion’s Camp were eager to take part in the expedition and viewed the experience positively. However, they encountered many hardships as well. The group traveled over 900 miles on rough terrain. Most traveled on foot. They suffered from heat, humidity, rain, mud, broken equipment, sickness, sore and bloody feet, and food and water shortages. One participant, Nathan Baldwin, recalled:
“In crossing these large fields of the woods, we sometimes suffered for want of water; not being accustomed to such a country, we had not prepared for it. Sometimes we drank dew gathered from the grass by scooping a dish suddenly through the grass, which was laden with drops that would fall into the dish and, on being strained, was ready for use” (Nathan Bennett Baldwin, Account of Zion’s Camp, 1882, 11–12, Church History Library, Salt Lake City; spelling and punctuation standardized).
George A. Smith, who was 16 years old when he marched with the Camp of Israel, later recorded:
“We suffered much from thirst and were compelled to drink water from Sloughs [swamps] which were filled with living creatures—here I learned to strain Wigglers [possibly mosquito larvae] with my teeth” (Memoirs of George A. Smith, circa 1860–1882, 19–20, Church History Library, Salt Lake City; spelling standardized).
How might you have responded to these conditions if you had been part of the Camp of Israel?
Invite a student to read aloud the following account by George A. Smith. Ask the class to listen for how some camp members reacted to the circumstances of the march.
“The Prophet Joseph took a full share of the fatigues of the entire journey. In addition to the care of providing for the Camp and presiding over it, he walked most of the time and had a full proportion of blistered, bloody, and sore feet, which was the natural result of walking from 25 to 40 miles a day in a hot season of the year. But during the entire trip he never uttered a murmur or complaint, while most of the men in the Camp complained to him of sore toes, blistered feet, long drives, scanty supply of provisions, poor quality of bread, bad corn dodger [corn bread], frowsy [spoiled] butter, strong honey, maggoty bacon and cheese, etc. Even a dog could not bark at some men without their murmuring at Joseph. If they had to camp with bad water, it would nearly cause rebellion. Yet we were the Camp of Zion, and many of us were prayerless, thoughtless, careless, heedless, foolish, or devilish, and yet we did not know it. Joseph had to bear with us and tutor us like children. There were many, however, in the Camp who never murmured and who were always ready and willing to do as our leader desired” (George A. Smith, in Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith , 287–88).
Why do you think members of the camp responded so differently to the same circumstances?
Explain that in addition to experiencing hardships on the journey, many members of the Camp of Israel also acknowledged that the Lord’s angels and His presence were with them, fulfilling a promise He gave in the revelation that initiated the expedition (see D&C 103:20; Teachings: Joseph Smith, 288–89).
Invite a student to read aloud the following statement by President Wilford Woodruff:
“Notwithstanding our enemies were continually breathing threats of violence, we did not fear, neither did we hesitate to prosecute our journey, for God was with us, and His angels went before us, and the faith of our little band was unwavering. We know that angels were our companions, for we saw them” (Wilford Woodruff, in Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith , 288–89).
Based on your reading of chapter 18 of Saints: Volume 1, what discouraging news did Parley P. Pratt and Orson Hyde deliver to the Camp of Israel after they arrived in Missouri? (They informed the Camp of Israel that Governor Daniel Dunklin would not call out the state militia to help the Saints return to their lands.)
What did the Camp of Israel decide to do after hearing this news? (They decided to continue on their journey with the hope of helping “the exiled Saints in Clay County … negotiate a compromise with the people of Jackson County” [Saints: Volume 1, 203].)
Display the accompanying image, and explain that it is a picture of the Fishing River in Missouri.
Ask students to locate chapter 18 of Saints: Volume 1. Invite a few students to take turns reading aloud from page 203, starting with the paragraph that begins “The Camp of Israel cut across …” and concluding with the paragraph on page 204 that begins “The rivers remained swollen …” Ask the class to follow along, looking for evidence that God was watching over the Camp of Israel.
Instead of reading about the miracle at Fishing River from Saints: Volume 1, consider showing the video “Zion’s Camp” (18:43) from time code 8:01 to 13:04. This video is available on ChurchofJesusChrist.org.
In what ways did God protect and bless the Camp of Israel?
What truths can we learn from the experiences of members of the Camp of Israel? (Students may identify several truths, such as the following: As we place our faith in God, He can deliver us from difficult and uncertain situations. If we are faithful, we may see the Lord’s blessings during our trials.)
The Camp of Israel disbands
Explain that three days after the storm, on June 22, 1834, the Lord revealed to Joseph Smith that the “elders should wait for a little season for the redemption of Zion” (D&C 105:9), indicating that the Camp of Israel should not continue with its intended mission of helping the Saints reclaim their lands in Jackson County. This revelation came after Governor Dunklin refused to provide militia support for the Saints and it became clear that there would be battle and bloodshed if the Saints attempted to enter Jackson County. Soon after the revelation, the Camp of Israel began to disband.
Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 105:9–13, 18–19 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what the Lord said about the faithful members of the Camp of Israel. Ask a few students to report what they found.
How might verse 19 have helped members of the Camp of Israel understand the Lord’s purposes for the expedition?
Explain that after hearing the revelation, many camp members accepted it as the word of the Lord, but some became angry that they had not had the chance to fight. Heber C. Kimball (1801–68), a member of the Camp of Israel who later served in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and the First Presidency, recorded that before the members of the camp had entered Missouri, the Prophet Joseph Smith had warned them “that there would be a scourge come upon the camp in consequence of the fractious and unruly spirits that appeared among them, and they would die like sheep with the rot; still if they would repent and humble themselves before the Lord, the scourge in a great measure might be turned away” (in Orson F. Whitney, Life of Heber C. Kimball , 61–62).
Two days after the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 105 was received, the camp experienced an outbreak of cholera. As a result, 68 people, including the Prophet Joseph Smith, suffered from the sickness, and 13 members of the camp and two other Latter-day Saints who were living in Clay County died (see Whitney, Life of Heber C. Kimball, 76; The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 4: April 1834–September 1835, 72, note 334). After the surviving camp members recovered, most returned to their homes by August 1834.
Invite a student to read the following statement by Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
“Because of the failure to reestablish the Saints on their lands in Jackson County, Zion’s Camp was considered by some an unsuccessful and unprofitable endeavor. A brother in Kirtland—one who lacked the faith to volunteer to go with the camp—met Brigham Young on his return from Missouri and asked, ‘Well, what did you gain on this useless journey to Missouri with Joseph Smith?’ ‘All we went for,’ promptly replied Brigham Young. ‘I would not exchange the experience I gained in that expedition for all the wealth of Geauga County,’ the county in which Kirtland was then located [Brigham Young, in B. H. Roberts, A Comprehensive History of the Church, 1:370–71]” (David A. Bednar, “On the Lord’s Side: Lessons from Zion’s Camp,” Ensign, July 2017, 29).
What might Brigham Young have meant when he replied that the camp had gained “all we went for”? (They had accomplished what the Lord desired for them to accomplish.)
Invite a student to read the following statement by President Wilford Woodruff aloud. Ask the class to listen for what he said about his experience with the Camp of Israel.
“We gained an experience that we never could have gained in any other way. We had the privilege of beholding the face of the Prophet, and we had the privilege of traveling a thousand miles with him, and seeing the workings of the Spirit of God with him, and the revelations of Jesus Christ unto him and the fulfillment of those revelations” (Wilford Woodruff, in Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith , 283).
Explain that on February 14, 1835, several months after camp members returned to Ohio, the Prophet Joseph Smith organized the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Two weeks later, he organized the Quorum of the Seventy. You might want to ask students if they can recall the names of those who were called to serve in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (see Saints: Volume 1, 215–16).
Invite a student to read the following statement by Elder David A. Bednar. Ask the class to follow along, looking for the role that marching in the Camp of Israel played in preparing the newly called Church leaders for their service.
“Interestingly, eight of the brethren called into the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in 1835, as well as all of the Seventies called at that same time, were veterans of Zion’s Camp. At a meeting following the call of the Seventies, the Prophet Joseph Smith declared:
“‘Brethren, some of you are angry with me, because you did not fight in Missouri; but let me tell you, God did not want you to fight. He could not organize his kingdom with twelve men to open the gospel door to the nations of the earth, and with seventy men under their direction to follow in their tracks, unless he took them from a body of men who had offered their lives, and who had made as great a sacrifice as did Abraham’ [Joseph Smith, in Joseph Young Sr., History of the Organization of the Seventies (1878), 14; see also History of the Church, 2:182]. …
“The experiences gained by the volunteers in the army of the Lord also were a preparation for larger, future migrations of Church members. More than 20 of the Zion’s Camp participants became captains and lieutenants in two great exoduses—the first but four years in the future, involving the removal of 8,000 to 10,000 people from Missouri to Illinois; and the second, 12 years in the future, the great western movement of approximately 15,000 Latter-day Saints from Illinois to the Salt Lake and other Rocky Mountain valleys. As a preparatory training, Zion’s Camp was of immense value to the Church” (David A. Bednar, “On the Lord’s Side: Lessons from Zion’s Camp,” Ensign, July 2017, 30).
What principle can we learn from the march of Zion’s Camp about how the Lord prepares us to accomplish His work? (Students should identify a principle similar to the following: The Lord gives us experiences that help prepare us to accomplish His work.)
Why do you think it is important for us to understand this principle?
How have you seen the Lord prepare you or someone you know to accomplish His work?
Review the truths that have been discussed in this lesson. Invite the students to write in their study journals something they will commit to do because of what they have learned or felt in class. Consider inviting a few students to share their response with the class.
Invite students to prepare for the next class by reading chapters 20–21 of Saints: Volume 1.