Lesson 7: Gathering to Ohio

“Lesson 7: Gathering to Ohio,” Latter-day Saint History: 1815–1846 Teacher Material (2018)

“Lesson 7,” Latter-day Saint History: 1815–1846 Teacher Material

Lesson 7

Gathering to Ohio

Introduction and Timeline

In the fall of 1830, missionaries called to preach to the Lamanites stopped in the Kirtland, Ohio, area to share the restored gospel. In a short time, more than a hundred people, including Sidney Rigdon and many members of his congregation, were baptized. In December 1830, Joseph Smith received a revelation in which the Lord commanded the Saints living in New York to gather in Ohio (see D&C 37). Joseph Smith and his wife, Emma, traveled to Kirtland, arriving in February 1831. Prior to Joseph Smith’s arrival, some of the Saints in Ohio had been deceived by false spiritual manifestations. Through revelation to the Prophet, the Lord helped the Saints discern and avoid deception (see D&C 4650).

October–November 1830Oliver Cowdery, Parley P. Pratt, Ziba Peterson, and Peter Whitmer Jr. preached the gospel in northeastern Ohio for several weeks.

January 2, 1831The third conference of the Church was held in Fayette, New York, and Joseph Smith announced the revelation commanding the Saints to gather in Ohio (see D&C 37–38).

February 4, 1831Joseph and Emma Smith arrived in Kirtland, Ohio.

April–May 1831Saints living in New York departed for 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 10–11

Suggestions for Teaching

The Lord commands the Saints to gather to Ohio

Write the following statement by President Thomas S. Monson (1927–2018) on the board:

“The great test of this life is obedience” (Thomas S. Monson, “Obedience Brings Blessings,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2013, 92).

  • Why do you think obedience to the Lord is the great test of this life?

Ask students to think about some of the challenges they have faced or may face in obeying gospel principles and commandments. Invite them to look for a principle as they study about the gathering of the Saints to Ohio that can help encourage them to faithfully obey the Lord.

Display the map “Mission to the Lamanites, 1830–1831.”

mission to the Lamanites map

Remind students that in the fall of 1830, Oliver Cowdery, Peter Whitmer Jr., Ziba Peterson, and Parley P. Pratt were called to preach the gospel to the Lamanites, or American Indians. On their way to the Indian lands west of Missouri, they stopped in Mentor and Kirtland, Ohio. During their stay, they shared the restored gospel with Parley’s friend and former minister, Sidney Rigdon, and with many others.

  • Based on your reading of chapter 10 of Saints: Volume 1, how did these missionaries’ preaching in Ohio impact the newly organized Church? (More than 100 people were baptized. The growth of the Church in the Kirtland area prepared the way for the Saints to gather to Ohio.)

Explain that soon after the missionary success in Ohio, the Prophet Joseph Smith received two revelations that would impact the future of the Church. One was a revelation the Prophet received as he worked on his inspired translation of the Old Testament. The revelation, recorded in the Book of Moses, recounted how the ancient prophet Enoch gathered together a righteous people and built a city of holiness called Zion, which “in process of time, was taken up into heaven” (Moses 7:21). The revelation also indicated that before the Second Coming, the Lord’s people would again be gathered together and build another city of Zion (see Moses 7:62). In the other revelation, recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 37, the Lord commanded the Saints in New York to gather to Ohio (see D&C 37:3).

Ask students to divide into pairs and locate chapter 10 of Saints: Volume 1. Ask them to read aloud with their partner from page 109, starting with the paragraph that begins “At the end of December …” and concluding with the paragraph on page 110 that begins “As the leader of …” Ask students to look for how the Saints in New York responded to the Lord’s revelations commanding them to gather to Ohio.

  • What stands out to you about the various ways Church members reacted to the Lord’s commandment to gather to Ohio?

  • How are these various reactions similar to ways we might respond to commandments and counsel given through the Lord’s prophets today?

  • What sacrifices did the Saints make in order to gather to Ohio? (See D&C 38:37.)

Display the following statement by Newel Knight, and invite a student to read it aloud. Ask students to look for what Newel Knight and the Colesville Saints were willing to sacrifice in order to obey the Lord:

“In obedience to the commandment which had been given, I, together with the Colesville Branch, began to make preparations to go to Ohio. …

“As might be expected, we were obliged to make great sacrifices of our property. …

“Having made the best arrangements we could for the journey, we bade adieu to all we had held dear on this earth … [and] we started the [early part] of April [1831] for Ohio” (Newel Knight autobiography and journal, circa 1846–1847, 28–29, Church History Library, Salt Lake City; spelling, capitalization, and punctuation standardized).

  • What blessings did the Lord promise the Saints if they obeyed His commandment to gather to Ohio? (The Lord would give the Saints “greater riches” if they obeyed His commandment to gather to Ohio [D&C 38:18; see also D&C 38:19, 32]. This suggests that the Lord’s promised blessings were greater than the sacrifices the Saints were asked to make.)

  • What principle can we learn from this account about how the Lord will bless us if we are willing to make sacrifices to obey Him? (Students may use different words, but make sure they identify a principle similar to the following: If we sacrifice to obey the Lord, then He will provide blessings that are greater than the sacrifice we have made. Write this principle on the board.)

Invite a student to read the following paragraph aloud:

The Saints did not fully understand the extent of the Lord’s promised blessings at the time they were commanded to gather to Ohio. In time, the fulfillment of the Lord’s promised blessings became evident: Shortly after arriving in Kirtland, the Prophet received the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 42, which sets forth the Lord’s law to help the Saints establish Zion. The Prophet received more than fifty other revelations in Ohio that contained direction from the Lord and precious gospel truths. The Saints were also “endowed with power from on high” (D&C 38:32) when they received an outpouring of spiritual gifts and manifestations during the construction, dedication, and use of the Kirtland Temple. Essential priesthood keys were restored in the Kirtland Temple, including the power to seal families for eternity.

  • How are these blessings greater than the sacrifices the New York Saints made to obey the Lord?

Display the following question, and invite students to ponder it and then write a response in their study journals: What blessings have you received for choosing to sacrifice to obey the Lord?

After sufficient time, invite a few students to share what they wrote with the class.

Testify that as we keep an eternal perspective, the blessings we receive for our sacrifices are always greater than anything that we give up (see Guide to the Scriptures, “Sacrifice,” Invite students to think about what sacrifices they may need to make to more faithfully obey a gospel principle or commandment. Encourage them to act on any promptings they may receive.

Joseph and Emma Smith arrive in Kirtland, Ohio

Explain that after receiving the Lord’s commandment to gather to Ohio, the Prophet felt “an urgent need to get to Kirtland” (Saints: Volume 1, 111). Willing to make sacrifices to obey the Lord, Joseph and Emma departed Fayette, New York, in the middle of winter, even though Emma was pregnant and still recovering from an extended illness. They arrived at the Newel K. Whitney Store in Kirtland on February 4, 1831.

Newel K. Whitney store

Display a picture of the Whitney Store in Kirtland.

Explain that Newel K. Whitney was a prominent businessman, and he and his wife, Elizabeth Ann (known as Ann), were recent converts to the Church. Invite a student to read aloud from page 113 of Saints: Volume 1, starting with the paragraph that begins “On February 4, 1831, a sleigh …” and concluding with the paragraph that begins “‘I am Joseph …’” Ask students to look for what occurred when Newel K. Whitney met the Prophet Joseph Smith.

  • What do you find interesting or significant about the conversation between the Prophet and Newel K. Whitney?

  • Based on what the Prophet said to Newel, what is one reason Joseph Smith had come to visit Newel and Ann in Kirtland?

Explain that some time before they were baptized, Newel and Ann Whitney had fervently prayed for guidance from the Lord and received a powerful spiritual manifestation. Invite a student to read aloud the following account by Ann Whitney:

Elizabeth Ann Whitney

“It was midnight—my husband and I were in our house at Kirtland, praying to the Father to be shown the way when the Spirit rested upon us and a cloud overshadowed the house. … A solemn awe pervaded us. We saw the cloud and felt the Spirit of the Lord. Then we heard a voice out of the cloud saying, ‘Prepare to receive the word of the Lord, for it is coming’” (Elizabeth Ann Whitney, in Andrew Jenson, Latter-day Saint Biographical Encyclopedia [1901], 1:223; see also “Newel K. Whitney: A Man of Faith and Service,” Museum Treasures series, Mar. 25, 2015,

Explain that the Lord’s promise that His word was coming may have been partly fulfilled when the missionaries first proclaimed the restored gospel in the Kirtland area. In addition, Ann remarked to her husband that she believed the Prophet’s arrival at their home in Kirtland fulfilled this promise. While staying with the Whitneys, the Prophet received the revelations recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 41–44. (See Elizabeth Ann Smith Whitney, “A Leaf from an Autobiography,” Woman’s Exponent, Sept. 1, 1878, 7:51; see also Jenson, Latter-day Saint Biographical Encyclopedia, 1:224.)

  • What do these accounts teach you about Joseph Smith? (Students may give several correct responses, including the following: Joseph Smith was an inspired Prophet of God.)

  • What do these accounts reveal about Newel and Ann Whitney?

  • What principle can we learn from these accounts about one way God answers our prayers for divine guidance? (After students respond, write the following principle on the board: As we pray for divine guidance, God may show us the way through His chosen servants.)

To help students understand this principle, explain that Heavenly Father may answer our prayers and desire for guidance as we study the scriptures and the teachings of Church leaders, listen intently to general conference, and seek counsel from local Church leaders.

Joseph Smith receives revelation to help the Saints discern false spiritual manifestations and avoid deception

Explain that not long after the Prophet Joseph Smith (1805–44) arrived in Kirtland, he observed that “some strange notions and false spirits had crept in among” newly baptized Church members (Manuscript History of the Church, vol. A-1, p. 93, Some had misunderstandings regarding the influence and workings of the Holy Ghost.

Invite two students to take turns reading aloud the following statements by John Whitmer and John Corrill, two early Church members. Ask the class to listen for examples of behaviors that occurred among some early converts in Kirtland.

John Whitmer

“Some had visions and could not tell what they saw, some would fancy to themselves that they had the sword of Laban, and would wield it [like a soldier on horseback], some would act like an Indian in the act of scalping, some would slide or scoot … [on] the floor, with the rapidity of a serpent. … Thus the devil blinded the eyes of some good and honest disciples” (John Whitmer, in The Joseph Smith Papers, Histories, Volume 2: Assigned Histories, 1831–1847, ed. Karen Lynn Davidson and others [2012], 38; capitalization standardized).

“[Some of the early converts] conducted themselves in a strange manner, … sometimes running out into the fields, getting on stumps of trees and there preaching as though surrounded by a congregation, all the while so completely absorbed in visions as to be apparently insensible to all that was passing around them” (John Corrill, in The Joseph Smith Papers: Histories, Volume 2, Assigned Histories, 1831–1847, ed. Karen Lynn Davidson and others [2012], 143; punctuation standardized).

  • What do you think the danger or harm could be to the Church if such behaviors continued among the Saints?

Explain that the Prophet Joseph Smith inquired of the Lord regarding these behaviors and received the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 50. Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 50:2–3 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what the Lord revealed about these strange spiritual manifestations.

  • What did the Lord teach the Saints regarding these spiritual manifestations?

  • What are some ways the adversary seeks to deceive Church members today?

Display the following statement by the Prophet Joseph Smith regarding the “strange notions” and “false spirits” among the Saints, and invite a student to read it aloud:

Joseph Smith

“With a little caution, and some wisdom, I soon assisted the brethren and sisters to overcome them. … The false spirits were easily discerned and rejected by the light of revelation” (Joseph Smith, in Manuscript History of the Church, vol. A-1, p. 93,

  • What principle can we learn from the Prophet’s statement about what will help Latter-day Saints discern falsehood and deception? (After students respond, write the following principle on the board: Through the light of revelation, we can discern falsehood and deception.)

To help students understand this principle, invite a student to read aloud the following statement by President James E. Faust (1920–2007) of the First Presidency:

James E. Faust

“There is … an ample shield against the power of Lucifer and his hosts. This protection lies in the spirit of discernment through the gift of the Holy Ghost. This gift comes undeviatingly by personal revelation to those who strive to obey the commandments of the Lord and to follow the counsel of the living prophets” (James E. Faust, “The Great Imitator,” Ensign, Nov. 1987, 35–36).

  • Why do you think obeying the commandments and the counsel of living prophets helps us receive and use the gift of discernment?

  • What else can we do to invite the light of revelation so that we can discern falsehood and deception? (See D&C 50:21–23, 29–32, 35.)

Conclude the lesson by sharing your testimony of the principles taught in this lesson and encouraging students to act on these principles. Invite students to prepare for the next class by reading chapter 12 of Saints: Volume 1.

Commentary and Background Information

Strange notions and false spirits

The Prophet Joseph Smith (1805–44) explained the danger that the religious excess and false spiritual manifestations in Kirtland presented for the Church:

Joseph Smith

“Soon after the gospel was established in Kirtland, and during the absence of the authorities of the church, many false spirits were introduced, many strange visions were seen, and wild, enthusiastic notions were entertained … , calculated to bring disgrace upon the church of God, to cause the spirit of God to be withdrawn, and to uproot and destroy those glorious principles which had been developed for the salvation of the human family (Joseph Smith, “Try the Spirits,” Times and Seasons, Apr. 1, 1842, 747,; punctuation standardized).