Lesson 6: Publishing the Book of Mormon and Organizing the Church

“Lesson 6: Publishing the Book of Mormon and Organizing the Church,” Latter-day Saint History: 1815–1846 Teacher Material (2018)

“Lesson 6,” Latter-day Saint History: 1815–1846 Teacher Material

Lesson 6

Publishing the Book of Mormon and Organizing the Church

Introduction and Timeline

In June 1829, as the translation of the Book of Mormon neared completion, Joseph Smith and Martin Harris contracted with Egbert B. Grandin, a printer in Palmyra, New York, to publish the manuscript. Grandin began printing in the fall of 1829, and initial printed copies became available in March 1830. Soon thereafter, Joseph Smith organized the Church of Christ according to the Lord’s commandment in Fayette, New York, on April 6, 1830 (see D&C 20:1). In late June 1830, Joseph Smith traveled to Colesville, New York, and baptized several believers. The Prophet then returned to Harmony, Pennsylvania, where he received several revelations. In September 1830, during the second conference of the Church, the Lord addressed Hiram Page’s purported revelations and called Oliver Cowdery (and later a few others) to preach the gospel among the Lamanites, or American Indians (see D&C 28:8; see also D&C 3032). During their journey, the missionaries stopped in the Kirtland, Ohio, area, where they preached the gospel to then-pastor Sidney Rigdon and his congregation.

September 1829–March 1830The Book of Mormon was printed in Palmyra, New York.

April 6, 1830Joseph Smith organized the Church in Fayette, New York.

September 26–28, 1830The second conference of the Church was held in Fayette, New York.

October 1830Missionaries left for their mission to the Lamanites.

November 1830Missionaries preached the gospel in Mentor and Kirtland, Ohio.

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 8–9

Suggestions for Teaching

The Book of Mormon is published, and the Church is organized

Grandin printshop

Show students the accompanying image, and explain that the red brick building with the blue sign above the door is Grandin’s printshop in Palmyra, New York, where the first copies of the Book of Mormon were printed.

printing press

Then display the next accompanying image, and explain that it shows a printing press inside Grandin’s restored printshop.

  • Based on your reading of chapter 8 of Saints: Volume 1, what obstacles did Joseph Smith face while seeking to publish the Book of Mormon?

If necessary, help students understand that because Joseph Smith didn’t have the money needed to publish the Book of Mormon, Martin Harris mortgaged part of his farm as payment for the printing. Joseph and Martin made arrangements with Egbert Grandin to publish 5,000 copies of the Book of Mormon for $3,000. In addition, a man named Abner Cole, who used the printshop at night to publish his newspaper, illegally printed excerpts from the Book of Mormon along with sarcastic commentary to mock and discredit the book. He desisted after Joseph Smith threatened to bring legal action against him for violating the book’s copyright.

  • In spite of this opposition, how did news of the Book of Mormon affect individuals such as Thomas Marsh and Solomon Chamberlin? (Both came to Grandin’s printshop after hearing about the Book of Mormon. They received and studied some of the printed pages of the Book of Mormon, believed in the truthfulness of what they read, and shared it with others.)

Explain that although Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon in about 65 working days, it took nearly seven months for the first copies to be published; the published copies became available for sale March 26, 1830.

Invite a student to read aloud the following statement by President Ezra Taft Benson (1899–1994):

Ezra Taft Benson

“A … powerful testimony to the importance of the Book of Mormon is to note where the Lord placed its coming forth in the timetable of the unfolding Restoration. The only thing that preceded it was the First Vision. …

“Think of that in terms of what it implies. The coming forth of the Book of Mormon preceded the restoration of the priesthood. It was published … before the Church was organized. The Saints were given the Book of Mormon to read before they were given the revelations outlining such great doctrines as the three degrees of glory, celestial marriage, or work for the dead” (Ezra Taft Benson, “The Book of Mormon—Keystone of Our Religion,” Ensign, Nov. 1986, 4).

  • Why do you think it was important for the Book of Mormon to come forth before the Church was organized and before many other important events of the Restoration occurred?

Invite a student to read the following paragraph aloud:

As early as spring 1829, the Prophet Joseph Smith received revelations that discussed establishing a church (see D&C 10:53). Preparations for establishing the Church began in June 1829, when the Lord instructed Oliver Cowdery to help build up His Church by relying on the teachings of the Book of Mormon (see D&C 18:3–5). Subsequently, Oliver compiled a document that included details about ordinances, priesthood offices, and Church procedures as found in the Book of Mormon (see The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 1: July 1828–June 1831, ed. Michael Hubbard MacKay and others [2013], 368–74). Possibly as early as summer 1829, the Lord also began to impart to Joseph Smith portions of the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 20.

Invite students to silently read the section heading for Doctrine and Covenants 20 and verses 1–4, looking for what the Lord revealed about the organization of His Church in the last days.

  • What truths can we learn from the section heading and these verses about the organization of the Church? (Though students may identify several truths, ensure that they identify that Joseph Smith organized the Church according to God’s will.)

  • Why is it important to know that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was organized according to the will of God?

Whitmer home

To help students visualize the location where the Church was organized, consider displaying the accompanying image of the rebuilt Whitmer home in Fayette, New York. You could also show them 360-degree views of the home on

Invite a student to read the following statement aloud. Ask the class to listen for how the Prophet Joseph Smith (1805–44) described the day the Church was organized.

Joseph Smith

“The Holy Ghost was poured out upon us to a very great degree—some prophesied, whilst we all praised the Lord, and rejoiced exceedingly. …

“After a happy time spent in witnessing and feeling for ourselves the powers and blessings of the Holy Ghost, through the grace of God bestowed upon us, we dismissed with the pleasing knowledge that we were now individually members of, and acknowledged of God, ‘The Church of Jesus Christ,’ organized in accordance with commandments and revelations given by Him to ourselves in these last days, as well as according to the order of the Church as recorded in the New Testament” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith [2007], 138).

  • According to this statement, how did the Holy Ghost affect those who were present on the day the Church was organized? (The Holy Ghost confirmed that the Lord’s Church was organized again upon the earth.)

Explain that after the meeting concluded, several individuals were baptized, including the Prophet’s parents. Invite a student to read aloud the following statement by Lucy Mack Smith, the Prophet’s mother:

Lucy Mack Smith

“Joseph stood on the shore when his father came out of the water, and as he took him by the hand he cried out, ‘… I have lived to see my father baptized into the true church of Jesus Christ,’ and he covered his face in his father’s bosom and wept aloud for joy” (Lucy Mack Smith, quoted in Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith [2007], 90).

Explain that later that evening, individuals who had participated in the day’s events gathered in the Whitmer home. The Prophet stepped outside to be alone. Invite a student to read aloud the following statement by Joseph Knight Sr.:

“[The Prophet] appeared to want to get out of sight of everybody and would sob and cry and seemed to be so full that he could not live. Oliver and I went after him and came to him, and after a while he came in, but he was the most wrought upon that I ever saw any man. … His joy seemed to be full” (Joseph Knight, Joseph Knight reminiscences, undated, Church History Library, Salt Lake City; spelling, capitalization, and punctuation standardized).

  • Why do you think his parents’ baptism was such a joyful experience for the Prophet Joseph?

You may want to share your testimony that Joseph Smith organized the Church of Jesus Christ according to God’s will as well as your appreciation for blessings that are available because the Church was restored.

The newly organized Church faces opposition

Explain that on the day the Church was organized, the Lord promised the Saints protection against the “powers of darkness” if they would heed the Prophet’s words (D&C 21:6; see D&C 21:4–6). The Saints would need this protection against the increasing opposition they would experience.

  • Based on your reading of chapter 9 of Saints: Volume 1, what are some ways members of the newly restored Church experienced opposition? (Students may mention that Newel Knight was attacked by the devil, mobs in Colesville tried to prevent the baptisms of new converts, Joseph Smith was arrested twice, and Hiram Page purported to receive revelations for the Church.)

  • What problems might Hiram Page’s purported revelations have caused for the Church?

Explain that when the Prophet Joseph Smith learned about the revelations Hiram Page claimed to receive, Joseph spent most of the night in prayer, seeking the Lord’s guidance. The Lord’s answer to the Prophet’s prayer is recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 28.

Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 28:2 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what the Lord taught about the role of the Prophet Joseph Smith within the Church. Ask students to report what they found.

  • What doctrine can we learn from this verse? (Using their own words, students should identify the following doctrine: Only the President of the Church can receive revelation for the whole Church.)

  • Why would this doctrine be important for the early Church members to understand?

  • Why is it important for us to understand and remember this doctrine today?

Missionaries preach the gospel in Ohio

Explain that in the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 28, the Lord instructed Oliver Cowdery to tell Hiram Page that Hiram had been deceived by Satan (see D&C 28:11). In addition, the Lord called Oliver Cowdery to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ to the Lamanites, or American Indians (see D&C 28:8–9). Over the next month, Peter Whitmer Jr., Parley P. Pratt, and Ziba Peterson were called to serve with Oliver (see D&C 30:5; 32:1–3).

Parley P. Pratt

Display an image of Parley P. Pratt.

  • Based on your reading of chapter 9 of Saints: Volume 1, how did Parley P. Pratt learn about the restored gospel? (He met a Baptist deacon who had a copy of the Book of Mormon and allowed Parley to read it.)

Invite a student to read aloud the following statement by Parley P. Pratt (1807–57) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Ask the class to listen for how the Book of Mormon affected Parley.

Parley P. Pratt

“I opened [the Book of Mormon] with eagerness, and read its title page. I then read the testimony of several witnesses in relation to the manner of its being found and translated. After this I commenced its contents by course. I read all day; eating was a burden, I had no desire for food; sleep was a burden when the night came, for I preferred reading to sleep.

“As I read, the spirit of the Lord was upon me, and I knew and comprehended that the book was true, as plainly and manifestly as a man comprehends and knows that he exists” (Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, ed. Parley P. Pratt Jr. [1938], 37).

  • What stands out to you about Parley’s experience of reading the Book of Mormon?

  • Based on Parley P. Pratt’s experience, what principle can we learn about what will happen as we earnestly study the teachings of the Book of Mormon? (After students respond, write the following principle on the board: As we earnestly study its teachings, the Book of Mormon can convince us of the truth and convert us to the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.)

Explain that as Oliver Cowdery, Parley P. Pratt, and their companions traveled to fulfill their mission to the American Indians, they stopped in Mentor and Kirtland, Ohio, to introduce people to the Book of Mormon. Their message was well received, and over a hundred people were baptized.

Write the following questions on the board:

  • What effect did the Book of Mormon have on Sidney and Phebe Rigdon?

  • In what ways have you been blessed by studying the Book of Mormon?

Divide students into small groups of two or three. Ask the class to locate chapter 9 of Saints: Volume 1. Ask them to read within their groups the account of Sidney and Phebe Rigdon’s introduction to the gospel on pages 100–101, starting with the paragraph that begins “In the fall …” and continuing through the end of the chapter. Then invite them to discuss in their groups their responses to the two questions on the board.

To conclude, you may want to invite a few students to testify of the power of the Book of Mormon in their lives. Encourage students to study the Book of Mormon each day so they can be continually blessed by its power.

Invite students to prepare for the next class by reading chapters 10–11 of Saints: Volume 1.