Lesson 16: The Saints Gather in Northern Missouri

“Lesson 16: The Saints Gather in Northern Missouri,” Latter-day Saint History: 1815–1846 Teacher Material (2018)

“Lesson 16,” Latter-day Saint History: 1815–1846 Teacher Material

Lesson 16

The Saints Gather in Northern Missouri

Introduction and Timeline

On January 12, 1838, the Lord instructed the Prophet Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon to leave Kirtland, Ohio, and relocate to Far West, Missouri. After the Prophet arrived at Far West, he approved a recent council decision to replace the stake presidency in Missouri, which consisted of David Whitmer, John Whitmer, and William W. Phelps. These three men were later excommunicated for disobedience and rebellion against Church leadership. Oliver Cowdery, then serving as Assistant President of the Church, was also later excommunicated for his disobedience and rebellion. In the spring and summer of 1838, Joseph Smith received important revelations about the name of the Church and gathering places for the Saints, including Adam-ondi-Ahman (see D&C 115–16).

January 12, 1838Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon fled Kirtland, Ohio, to relocate to Far West, Missouri.

March 14, 1838Joseph Smith arrived at Far West, Missouri.

April 12, 1838Oliver Cowdery was excommunicated for disobedience and rebellion.

May 19, 1838Joseph Smith selected a site for a Latter-day Saint settlement that was subsequently revealed to be Adam-ondi-Ahman (see D&C 116).

Student Readings

Saints: The Story of the Church of Jesus Christ in the Latter Days, Volume 1, The Standard of Truth, 1815–1846 (2018), chapters 26–28

Suggestions for Teaching

Joseph Smith flees Kirtland, Ohio, for Far West, Missouri

Kirtland Temple

Display the accompanying image of the Kirtland Temple. Explain that in a revelation given to the Prophet Joseph Smith in September 1831, the Lord said that He would “retain a strong hold in the land of Kirtland, for the space of five years” (D&C 64:21). From January to April 1836, about four and a half years after that revelation was given, the Saints in Kirtland had marvelous spiritual experiences, including the dedication of the Kirtland Temple in March 1836.

  • What changed for the Saints in Kirtland during the latter half of 1836 and throughout 1837? (The Kirtland Saints faced increasing opposition from individuals in the community who were not Church members and from dissenters within the Church.)

Invite a student to read aloud the following statement by President Brigham Young (1801–77) and the statement recorded in Joseph Smith’s history:

Brigham Young

“On the morning of December 22nd [1837], I left Kirtland in consequence of the fury of the mob and the spirit that prevailed in the apostates, who had threatened to destroy me because I would proclaim, publicly and privately, that I knew, by the power of the Holy Ghost, that Joseph Smith was a Prophet of the Most High God, and had not transgressed and fallen as apostates declared” (Brigham Young, “History of Brigham Young,” Millennial Star, Aug. 1863, 518).

“A new year dawned upon the church in Kirtland in all the bitterness of the spirit of apostate Mobocracy; which continued to rage and grow hotter and hotter until Elder [Sidney] Rigdon and myself were obliged to flee from its dea[d]ly influence” (Manuscript History of the Church, vol. B-1, p. 780,

  • How do these statements help us understand the extent to which conditions had changed in Kirtland from 1836 through the end of 1837?

Explain that Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon’s decision to flee Kirtland was prompted by a revelation the Lord gave on January 12, 1838. (This revelation is not recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants.) Invite a student to read aloud the following portion of that revelation:

“Thus saith the Lord, Let the presidency of my Church take their families as soon as it is practicable and a door is open for them and move on to the west as fast as the way is made plain before their faces, and let their hearts be comforted, for I will be with them[.] …

“Let all your faithful friends arise with their families also and get out of this place and gather themselves together unto Zion” (in “Journal, March–September 1838,” 53,; spelling and punctuation standardized).

  • Based on what the Lord told the Prophet Joseph Smith, what principle can we learn about heeding the Lord’s counsel? (After students respond, write the following principle on the board: As we heed the Lord’s counsel, He will be with us.)

Display the accompanying map, “Some Important Locations in Early Church History,” and explain that Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon obeyed the Lord’s command and left Kirtland the same night they received this revelation. After riding their horses all night, Joseph and Sidney stopped and waited until their families could join them. They then resumed their journey to Far West, Missouri.

map of important locations in Church history

Invite a student to read aloud the following account recorded in Joseph Smith’s history, which describes what happened as the Prophet and his family traveled to Far West:

“The weather was extremely cold, and we were obliged to secrete ourselves in our wagons sometimes to elude the grasp of our pursuers, who continued their race more than 200 miles from Kirtland armed with pistols, … seeking our lives. They frequently crossed our track; twice they were in the houses where we stopped. Once we tarried all night in the same house with them, with only a partition between us and them, and heard their oaths, and imprecations [curses], and threats concerning us if they could catch us, and late in the evening they came in our room and examined us, but decided we were not the men. At other times we passed them in the Streets, and gazed upon them and they on us, but they knew us not” (Manuscript History of the Church, vol. B-1, p. 780,; spelling and punctuation standardized).

  • How does this account illustrate the Lord’s promise that He would be with the First Presidency and their families as they traveled?

  • When have you felt that the Lord was with you as you have obeyed His commandments?

Joseph Smith arrives in Far West, Missouri, and sets the Church in order

Invite a student to read aloud the following description by the Prophet Joseph Smith of what happened when the Prophet and his family finally neared Far West in March 1838:

Joseph Smith

“When within eight miles of the city of Far West we were met by an escort of brethren from the city … who received us with open arms and warm hearts and welcomed us to the bosom of their society. On our arrival in the city we [were] greeted on every hand by the Saints who bid us welcome … to the land of their inheritance” (“Letter to the Presidency in Kirtland, 29 March 1838,” in “Journal, March–September 1838,” 23–24,; spelling, capitalization, and punctuation standardized).

  • If you had been in Joseph Smith’s position, what thoughts or feelings might you have had after leaving the hostilities of Kirtland and arriving in Far West?

Explain that even though Joseph Smith was treated better by Church members in Far West, there were still some serious problems within the Church that he needed to address.

  • Based on your reading of chapter 26 of Saints: Volume 1, what decisions did Oliver Cowdery, John Whitmer, and William W. Phelps make that affected their standing in the Church? (Each of these men, who were serving as leaders in the Church, had chosen to sell lands in Missouri for personal profit after they had consecrated those lands to the Lord. They also found fault with the leadership of the Church and exhibited a spirit of rebellion.)

Oliver Cowdery

Display the accompanying image of Oliver Cowdery. Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 23:1 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for a warning the Lord gave to Oliver Cowdery in 1830. Before the verse is read, explain that this warning was given eight years before Church leaders reviewed Oliver Cowdery’s standing in the Church. Ask students to report what they find.

  • What principle can we learn from verse 1 about what pride leads to? (After students respond, write the following principle on the board: If we give in to pride, it will lead us into temptation.)

Invite a student to read the following statement by President Ezra Taft Benson (1899–1994) aloud. Ask the class to listen for what he taught about pride.

Ezra Taft Benson

“Most of us think of pride as self-centeredness, conceit, boastfulness, arrogance, or haughtiness. All of these are elements of the sin, but the heart, or core, is still missing.

“The central feature of pride is enmity—enmity toward God and enmity toward our fellowmen. Enmity means ‘hatred toward, hostility to, or a state of opposition.’ It is the power by which Satan wishes to reign over us.

“Pride is essentially competitive in nature. We pit our will against God’s. When we direct our pride toward God, it is in the spirit of ‘my will and not thine be done.’ …

“Our will in competition to God’s will allows desires, appetites, and passions to go unbridled. (See Alma 38:12; 3 Ne. 12:30.)

“The proud cannot accept the authority of God giving direction to their lives. (See Hel. 12:6.)” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Ezra Taft Benson [2014], 232).

Write the following questions on the board:

In what ways does it appear that pride led Oliver Cowdery into temptation?

What are some ways pride can lead individuals into temptation in our day?

Divide students into groups of two or three, and ask them to locate chapter 26 of Saints: Volume 1. Invite students to take turns reading aloud in their groups from page 305, starting with the paragraph that begins “On April 12, Edward Partridge …” and concluding with the paragraph on page 306 that begins “Oliver had turned away …” Encourage students to discuss their answers to the questions on the board with their group members.

After students have had sufficient time to discuss their responses to the questions on the board, invite a student to read aloud the following statement by President Wilford Woodruff (1807–98) and the subsequent paragraph. Ask the class to listen for what happened to Oliver Cowdery after he left the Church.

Wilford Woodruff

“I have seen Oliver Cowdery when it seemed as though the earth trembled under his feet. I never heard a man bear a stronger testimony than he did when under the influence of the Spirit. But the moment he left the kingdom of God, that moment his power fell” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Wilford Woodruff [2004], 105).

On October 21, 1848, after more than a decade of separation, Oliver Cowdery rejoined the Saints in Council Bluffs, Iowa. In a conference held that day, Oliver bore heartfelt testimony of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon and the restoration and authority of the priesthood. While in Council Bluffs, Oliver also testified to George A. Smith and Orson Hyde that “Joseph Smith had fulfilled his mission faithfully before God until death” (George A. Smith, “Letters to the Editor,” Millennial Star, Jan. 1849, 14). After humbly petitioning the presiding authorities to rejoin the Church, Oliver Cowdery was rebaptized in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

  • What blessings did Oliver Cowdery lose when he renounced his membership in the Lord’s Church?

  • In what ways did Oliver Cowdery eventually show that he had repented of his pride?

Enourage students to evaluate their lives and repent of any feelings of pride they may have.

The Lord reveals the location of Adam-ondi-Ahman, and the Saints experience further conflicts with other Missouri citizens

Invite a student to read the following paragraph aloud:

In April 1838, the Prophet received the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 115. In this revelation, the Lord designated the official name of the Church, commanded the Saints to build a temple in Far West, and directed the Saints to establish more stakes in the surrounding regions. On May 18, 1838, Joseph Smith and several other Church leaders left Far West and traveled north, looking for other possible places for the Saints to settle in Missouri. The next day they arrived at the home of Lyman Wight, who had secured property in an area called Spring Hill. While visiting this region, the Prophet received the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 116.

Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 116:1 aloud. Ask the class to listen for what the Lord revealed about this land.


Display the accompanying image, and explain that it is a photograph of Adam-ondi-Ahman, “the land where Adam dwelt” (D&C 117:8). Shortly before his death, Adam gathered his righteous posterity in this place and gave them a blessing. While Adam and his posterity were gathered there, “the Lord appeared unto them,” and Adam “predicted whatsoever should befall his posterity unto the latest generation” (D&C 107:54, 56).

  • If you had been present when the Prophet Joseph Smith received the revelation identifying the land of Adam-ondi-Ahman, what feelings do you think you might have had?

  • In Doctrine and Covenants 116:1, what does it mean that “Adam shall come to visit his people” in Adam-ondi-Ahman? (Prior to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, Adam and his righteous posterity, which includes Saints of all dispensations, will assemble in Adam-ondi-Ahman to meet with the Savior [see Daniel 7:9–10, 13–14; Matthew 26:29; D&C 27:5–18; 107:53–57].)

Explain that although the Saints in northern Missouri experienced blessings, such as the revelations the Prophet received and the growing settlements they established, they also experienced increasing conflict with other Missouri citizens.

  • Based on your reading of chapters 27–28 of Saints: Volume 1, what conflicts occurred between Church members and others during the summer and early fall of 1838? (In June, Sidney Rigdon publicly condemned those who had dissented from the Church. In July, Sidney warned that Church members would defend themselves against their enemies. In August, a brawl occurred as Church members were attacked in Gallatin, Missouri, when they tried to vote. In October, mobs forced the Saints living in DeWitt, Missouri, to abandon their homes.)

Invite a student to read the following paragraphs aloud:

“Joseph Smith believed that opposition from Church dissidents and other antagonists had weakened and ultimately destroyed their community in Kirtland, Ohio, where only two years before they had completed a temple at great sacrifice. By the summer of 1838, Church leaders saw the rise of similar threats to their goal of creating a harmonious community in Missouri.

“At the Latter-day Saint settlement of Far West, some leaders and members organized a paramilitary group known as the Danites, whose objective was to defend the community against dissident and excommunicated Latter-day Saints as well as other Missourians. Historians generally concur that Joseph Smith approved of the Danites but that he probably was not briefed on all their plans and likely did not sanction the full range of their activities” (“Peace and Violence among 19th-Century Latter-day Saints,” Gospel Topics,

  • How might the Saints’ experiences of being expelled from Jackson County, Missouri, and Kirtland, Ohio, have affected their responses to the opposition they faced in northern Missouri?

Invite students to prepare for the next class by reading chapters 29–31 of Saints: Volume 1. Encourage them to look for the various ways that Church members responded to the increasing tension and violence they faced.