We ended up having class canceled a couple of times due to poor weather this month (unplanned), we missed one day because school was out (planned), and I’m pretty sure that I’ve only taught three times since my last post.
I’m not sure why D&C 137 was tossed in with this material, though I will say it did end up fitting perfectly with my class’s discussion. We had a very wide ranging discussion on the Priesthood in conjunction with D&C 107. I made a handout with the offices and duties of each of the Priesthoods in one column. In the second column, I listed the two priesthoods. I had planned for us to complete the activity separately, but during class it seemed like a better idea to do it as a group since my not-investigating visitor was there. The discussion was pretty great, covering everything from details about the Levitical priesthood to the temple. I think our visitor was surprised to hear us speaking so frankly about the temple. Nothing inappropriate was said, but she learned a lot of information that I’m sure she had never heard before. And to watch her as she heard how fantastic it is to commune with God from so many women was interesting, to say the least.
That discussion went on until after 11:30, and so I spent about 10 minutes wrapping up and then dropped the rest of the material I had prepared on unanimity of decisions by the First Presidency and Quorum of the 12 in favor of a short discussion on D&C 137. I wanted to hit infant baptism and my favorite topic within Mormonism: God is no respecter of persons. I realize that doctrine is not unique to Mormonism, but we are the only faith that really means it. We are the only faith that knows/shows how God’s plan saves everyone and gives them the glory they earn, regardless of their opportunity for baptism or to hear the Word during this life. We are the only faith that considers missionary work a matter of duty as opposed to optional, and we go even farther, trying to provide saving ordinances for those who’ve passed without the opportunity to hear the gospel during their earth life.
We read the first nine verses of D&C 137, I pointed out that the vision was of the future from our perspective (JS’s mother and father were not dead yet). Short discussion, but it was okay. I didn’t really have time to turn it to awesome.
Anyway, then we read verse 10, and I moved us over to Moroni 8 where we read from Moroni’s epistle to Mormon about infant baptism. Perfect.
The investigator was taking notes like crazy. I wonder what she does when she gets home…. Anyway, she’s got a few ideas that are not quite correct, but for the most part she’s golden, as most who engage in a careful study of scripture are. I’m not sure that she is going to get wet, but she is a seeker, and at least she’s still coming. I appreciate open-minded people.
I was pleased this lesson ended up going so well. I was having a hard time preparing for it. I had volunteered to help the lady I visit teach with judging this forensics (oratory) competition that was supposed to be 4 hours but ended up being 8 1/2…. and I was exhausted. I did have a lesson outline, but most of what we discussed couldn’t have been outlined ahead of time anyway. The Lord works it out.
My lesson objectives here were that students would learn more about how disciplinary councils work and why they are held, they’d learn about Zions Camp and be inspired toward greater obedience, and that they’d learn about the parable of the nobleman and vineyard.
We started out with D&C 101 and the parable of the nobleman and vineyard. While a student read the passage aloud, I “acted” out the story using blocks, clipart, and a Little People person. Then we talked about what each of the symbols represent. I didn’t like the explanation in the manual. Weird. This parable seems so obvious to me… Joseph Smith, watchman, can’t come to the city (see early sections where JS is prohibited from going to MO) because the squabbling people won’t build what they’ve been instructed to do and second guess their instructiosn. 12 olive trees = Tribes of Israel, for whom Zion is built.
Anyway, this section was a good tie in for D&C 103, where we talked in some detail about Zion’s Camp. We read vv 1-4 aloud and I asked students to watch for reasons the Lord allowed the Saints to be persecuted. This was review for the students who were present last week, but since so many were absent (had 10-11 at this class), it was good to set the stage again. What does “hearken all together” mean in v 4?
Next we read v6, where the Lord tells us what he wants to happen. Next vv 15-16, 21-22, where he tells us how it will go down.
Then I showed the Zion’s Camp video:
I was a little worried about this video because it’s a little hokey, but it worked out fine. I asked students to watch for parallels with Moses and the Children of Israel. We talk about the children of Israel as if they were just a bunch of whiners, but doubtless they made some of the same complaints as the Zion’s Camp marchers did, and they make sense.
I invited the class to imagine that they’d been asked to sign over all their property, 401k, retirement income, deed, car titles, investments… everything. What problems would you have had? We had a decent discussion here, along with D&C 105:3–6 where we talked about how Zion is a place where the Celestial Law must be lived. The people in MO weren’t ready, and Zion’s Camp showed that the ‘rescuers’ from OH weren’t either. It says something about us (IMO) that we still don’t have Zion — we aren’t ready to live that law either. Made the point that the law of tithing is a preparatory law for the law of consecration, parallel with Law of Moses as preparatory for the Higher Law Jesus taught. Decent learning here, I think.
I can’t remember what it was now…. oh wait, a student shared with us her experience being a new member called to serve as YW president. When she discovered that several of her YW were sexually active, she made arrangements to take them to the health center for birth control. When she mentioned it offhand to the bishop, he FREAKED, lol. Anyway, somehow that started us into church disciplinary councils, and made a funny transition to D&C 102.
I told the class about my child who was aware of someone going through a disciplinary proceeding. She asked me why the person was seeing the Bishop so much. I asked her what were some reasons you might need to talk to the Bishop. “Murder?” I didn’t want her thinking this person was a murderer, so I listed some of the reasons you might need to talk to the Bishop. I explained that though I knew what was going on it wasn’t my place to share that information, but she could certainly ask to the individual. We talked for a few minutes about the reasons that someone might see the Bishop. When I was teaching Seminary, I told my students that when their sins relate to a temple recommend question, that’s the time to see the Bishop. That may not cover *every* instance, but it definitely covers most.
I read several quotes from the manual, and several students had experiences they could share <– again, nice to teach adults. They were clear on the two kinds of councils and who would be sent to each (Bishopric or Stake Presidency). Nonmember visitor had some questions about not taking the sacrament. We wrapped up with a discussion of why disciplinary councils are a blessing, not a punishment.
Class today went long, but everyone loved it. I finally had to cut them off at 12:30.
I wrote this lesson on a slip of scratch paper. :) I can’t remember why now…
Anyway, only four people showed up for this class. Several are ill because of the snow, and I think the threat of more weather kept many home. The ice storm came that night as I recall.
I started out having students read aloud the following quotes. We spent a pretty fair amount of time talking about the circumstances surrounding the expulsion from Jackson County. Good discussion. So few students were present that we combined several of the quotes into one longish reading.
“The original inhabitants of the area became increasingly suspicious as the number of Church members in Jackson County grew rapidly. Many people feared they would soon be outnumbered by the new religiously motivated pilgrims from the East. The ‘old settlers’ were from a different background than the incoming Latter-day Saints, and it was natural that cultural, political, religious, and economic differences arose.
“Jackson County’s residents were a rough-and-ready group who had come from the mountainous regions of several southern states to the western edge of the United States to find freedom from societal restraints. Most of them were uneducated and lacked the cultural refinement that was more common in New England and the East. Many of them indulged in profanity, Sabbath-breaking, horse-racing, cock-fighting, idleness, drunkenness, gambling, and violence. …
“The old settlers viewed the growing body of Saints as a political threat, even though members of the Church did not run for office or vote as a bloc during their short stay in Jackson County. By July 1833 the Mormon population in the county was almost twelve hundred, with more arriving each month. Some members boasted that thousands more were coming to live in the county. … Local citizens were naturally apprehensive of a religious zeal that predicted that all ‘Gentiles’ (non-Mormons) would be cut off when the millennial kingdom was established in Jackson County.
“Protestant ministers also resented the Mormon intrusion into the county. Latter-day Saints were labeled fanatics and knaves and were denounced as gullible and ignorant because they believed in and frequently experienced miracles, prophecy, healings, revelations, and speaking in tongues. Jealousy and fear of losing some from their flocks added to the antagonism of the ministers. …
“In addition, Mormon merchants and tradesmen successfully took over a portion of the lucrative Santa Fe Trail trade previously dominated by the Missourians. Some of the old settlers feared that the Church members were determined to take over their lands and businesses. Moreover, the Saints ‘did not purchase goods from the local merchants, as they had no money, but traded among themselves at the Church storehouse. … Some of the old settlers were selling their property to the Mormons and moving away. This meant fewer and fewer customers in the stores, and future financial ruin’ for the remaining old settlers [T. Edgar Lyon, “Independence, Missouri, and the Mormons, 1827–1833,” BYU Studies, autumn 1972, 17–18].
“To complicate matters, in the spring of 1833 the Missouri flooded, destroyed the landing at Independence, and shifted the channel of the river away from the community. A new town, Westport, with a better landing, was established farther upstream, and the business in Independence declined. Entrepreneurs in Independence blamed the Mormons for this situation. Foreseeing what the future might bring, some of the old settlers offered to sell out to the Saints. Members of the Church wanted to buy the farms and possessions, but did not have enough capital to do so. This exasperated the Missourians, and soon they were spreading tales of how poverty-stricken the Mormons were.
“The Missouri frontiersmen feared and hated the Indians. Their antipathy increased in the 1830s as the government began to resettle eastern tribes on lands just west of Independence. After the 1832 Black Hawk War, citizens of western Missouri petitioned Congress to establish a line of military posts for their protection. The first Mormon missionaries came into this tense atmosphere declaring the prophetic destiny of the native Americans. The old settlers were afraid the Saints would use the Indians to help them conquer the area for their New Jerusalem. Matters were further complicated by Protestant ministers who were jealous of Latter-day Saint proselyting efforts among the Indians.
“The conflict between the Saints and the old settlers came to a head over the slavery issue. Missouri had come into the Union as a slave state under the famous Compromise of 1820. Slaveholding was limited, however. The old settlers prized their right to hold slaves and despised abolitionism. Some of the Saints brought abolitionist sentiments from the North and East, and the possibility of a black rebellion was a fear throughout the South at this time. In 1831 Nat Turner’s slave uprising in Virginia had resulted in the death of over seventy whites and one hundred slaves. An irrational fear of revolts swept over the slave states. Therefore, Missourians were highly aroused early in 1832 by rumors that the Saints were trying to persuade slaves to disobey their masters or run away.
“To squelch the rumors, the July 1833 Evening and Morning Star ran an article cautioning the missionaries about proselyting among slaves and among former slaves, known as ‘free people of color.’ Unfortunately the local Missourians misinterpreted this advice to mean that Brother Phelps was inviting free blacks to join the Mormons in Jackson County. The article caused such a furor that Phelps issued an ‘Extra’ explaining that the Church had no intention of inviting free blacks to Missouri, but his denials were to no avail” (Church History in the Fulness of Times Student Manual, 2nd ed. [Church Educational System manual, 2003], 130–32).
On Saturday, July 20, 1833, between 400 and 500 angry Missouri citizens met at the courthouse in Independence, Missouri. They chose a committee to draft a document outlining their demands of the Mormons. They demanded that no more Latter-day Saints be allowed to move to Jackson County and said that those already living there must pledge to leave as soon as possible. In addition, they demanded that the Church newspaper stop publication. When these demands were presented to the Church leaders in Missouri, the Church leaders were startled and asked for three months to consider the proposition and to consult with Church leaders in Ohio. The group of Missouri citizens presenting the demands denied the Church leaders’ request. The Saints then asked for 10 days, but they were allowed only 15 minutes to respond. (See Church History in the Fulness of Times Student Manual, 2nd ed. [Church Educational System manual, 2003], 132–33.)
Due to mob violence in Jackson County, Missouri, in July 1833, Church leaders in Missouri agreed to leave the county. However, in August 1833, a council of general Church leaders in Kirtland met to discuss the difficulties in Missouri. They sent instruction that the Saints in Missouri should not sell their land or move from the county unless they had already signed agreements to do so. Church leaders petitioned the government and used available legal channels to maintain their lands in Missouri and seek justice for those responsible for the violence. After hearing of these actions, and believing that the Saints were not planning to leave as expected, non–Latter-day Saint settlers attacked the Saints again. On the night of October 31, 1833, a mob of about 50 horsemen raided the Whitmer Settlement, west of Independence. They unroofed 13 houses and whipped several men, almost killing them. These attacks continued for the next two nights in Independence and other places where the Saints lived. Men were beaten, and women and children were terrorized.
Before the Saints were driven from Jackson County, Missouri, they had received several warnings that they would suffer afflictions if they did not repent. For example, in January 1833, Joseph Smith chastised William W. Phelps and Sidney Gilbert for “the spirit which [was] breathed” in letters they had written, stating that such a spirit was “wasting the strength of Zion” and would “ripen Zion for the threatened Judgments of God.” Orson Hyde and Hyrum Smith, writing to Bishop Edward Partridge, his counselors, and a conference of high priests, sent a letter of warning to Church leaders in Missouri. They referred to a letter from Sidney Gilbert that contained “low, dark, & blind insinuations.” They also condemned another letter that had implied that the Prophet was “seeking after Monarchal power and authority.” Because of these transgressions and others, Orson Hyde and Hyrum Smith warned that the Saints in Missouri would face “a scourge & a judgment” (see Documents, Volume 2: July 1831–January 1833, volume 2 of the Documents series of The Joseph Smith Papers , 367, 373–74).
I gave each student a copy of the following definitions and quote from Elder Christofferson:
Chasten means to discipline or correct.
Try means to test.
Sanctify means to make someone or something pure or holy.
Purpose of “divine chastening”
Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught that “divine chastening has at least three purposes:
(1) to persuade us to repent,
(2) to refine and sanctify us, and
(3) at times to redirect our course in life to what God knows is a better path” (“As Many as I Love, I Rebuke and Chasten,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2011, 98).
One of the good things that came out of this discussion was the realization that the determinant for whether a trail brings us closer to God or drives us away from Him is our own agency. I used several questions from the manual to lead the discussion, though many were answered during discussion and I didn’t have to actually ask them. <– one of the joys of teaching adults.
What questions do you think the Saints in Missouri may have had at this time?
Have you ever wondered why the Lord allows His Saints to experience affliction?
How can chastening help us become sanctified?
We covered D&C 101:10–12 and 38. I had planned to play the audio scriptures for this passage because I have one illiterate student and another who is nearly blind, but both of them were absent, so we read this text and discussed what we found comforting from these verses.
I didn’t feel like this was a fantastic lesson, but it was good. I do wish more could have been there because we spent so much time on chastening and suffering. I think it may have been helpful for some of the students.