YMF Sunday School is a series where members of the yMf community prepare Gospel Doctrine lessons and present them on this blog. Readers are encouraged to discuss lessons in the comments section. This week’s lesson is lesson 27 in the Doctrine and Covenants & Church History manual: “They Must Needs Be Chastened and Tried, Even as Abraham”. The lesson was prepared by Hanna H.
To learn about the early Saints’ efforts to establish the city of Zion in Missouri, to learn about why the Lord chastens His people, and to consider how we can help build Zion today.
Before reading this lesson, consider reading through the student study guide for this lesson (the link is provided above). It includes readings about the background history for this lesson, questions to ponder, and a scripture chain. I also think it would be helpful to read Chieko Okazaki’s talk “Baskets and Bottles”. You could also say a prayer, sing a hymn, meditate, or do something else to help you get into the right frame of mind if you would like. I have included questions to ponder throughout the lesson; you are welcome to answer them yourself, discuss them with a friend, or share your answers (as well as any other comments or questions) in the comments section.
1. The Saints settle in Jackson County, Missouri, and are later driven out
In July 1831, Joseph Smith received a revelation designating Missouri as the place for the city of Zion (D&C 57:1-3). Members began settling Missouri, and by 1832 there were more than 800 Saints gathered into five branches in Independence and the surrounding areas of Jackson County. There was a time of peace, but by the end of 1832 problems arose both among the Saints and with other settlers. In July 1833, the tension with other settlers escalated into violence and continued for many months, and in November the Saints were driven from their homes.
2. The Lord instructs the Saints who were driven from Jackson County
When Joseph Smith heard what was happening, he prayed and received the revelation that is now Doctrine and Covenants 101. This revelation explained that the Lord had allowed afflictions to come upon the Saints in Missouri because of their transgressions, because they needed to be “chastened and tried, even as Abraham,” and because some Saints had been slow to listen to the Lord (D&C 101:2-8).
- What are some of the reasons the Lord chastens the Saints today, and you individually?
- How does it make you feel and respond?
- How can you remember to recognize that the Lord’s chastening is a demonstration of His love in hard times?
The Lord also explained that He would show compassion to the Saints after chastening them. He promised that (a) He would not cast them off and would be merciful, (b) His indignation would fall upon their enemies, (c) He would save, gather, and comfort them, and (d) Zion would be redeemed in the future (D&C 101:9-19).
- What are some ways the Lord helps us feel His love and mercy in times of need? How has He done this for you individually?
- How do you keep things in perspective during hard trials? How can you better recognize loving blessings the Lord has given you even when you feel He has abandoned you?
3. Zion’s Camp is organized and marches to Missouri
The Saints asked Governor Daniel Dunklin of Missouri for protection and help. He agreed, if they would organize a group of men for their protection. In February 1834, Joseph Smith organized a group of men to march to Missouri to help them (see D&C 103). They went almost 1,000 miles when the Lord revealed that they would have to wait for the redemption of Zion, and the camp was disbanded. While many felt Zion’s Camp was a failure and a trial, the participants saw manifestations of the Lord’s power and were able to prove their willingness to obey the Lord and sacrifice all things.
- Are you willing to make hard sacrifices for the Lord? How would you feel if you were asked to make great sacrifices and then your help was no longer needed?
- How do sacrifices help us become better people? How can we become more willing to make sacrifices for the Lord?
- What is one thing you are willing to start doing or stop doing to show the Lord your love for Him and willingness to improve?
On top of their many sacrifices, the early Saints experienced many difficulties. Trials can feel unfair and too much to handle. It’s okay to feel confused, hurt, scared, and alone. We can receive comfort from God, from people with similar experiences, and people with different perspectives. I would ask you to remember that sometimes the Lord allows us to experience trials according to His design, but many times trials are consequences of our own actions, the actions of others, or simply a condition of our mortality. Not everything happens for some deep and cosmic reason. Agency and mortality have consequences, not all of which are positive. Growth can occur from every trial, but it’s good to realize that not every little bad thing is a chastening from the Lord.
4. The Lord reveals that His people must “wait a little season for the redemption of Zion”
The Lord promised to redeem Zion and restore His people to their lands, but this promise was conditioned on the Saints’ obedience (D&C 103:5-8, 11-14). Just as ancient Israel was not able to enter the promised land for 40 years because of their disobedience, the Lord revealed that modern Israel would have to wait for the redemption of Zion because of the disobedience and dissension of some Saints (D&C 105:9, 13).
The Lord gave requirements for the eventual establishment of Zion: we must learn obedience, care for the poor and needy, be united, gain more experience, and be endowed with power from on high (D&C 105:1-13). We may at times feel that the Church as a whole does not adequately achieve these objectives. When this occurs, it is vital for us to remember that the Church is made of imperfect people–including ourselves. We mustn’t expect the Church as a whole to change or improve without our own individual effort. Everyone has the right to express hurt when the Church or fellow members cause pain. However, if your goal is to help build Zion, then it is important after expressing concerns to follow the counsel found in D&C 121:43, following up with forgiveness, suggestions for improvement, effort to bring about those changes, and love.
To build Zion we must be willing to work with everyone. It’s easier (though still difficult!) to achieve this with people with whom we have similarities, but we aren’t called to build Zion with just them–we have to be unified with all of God’s children. That means we have to learn to love and work with people who aren’t like us, those who are less orthodox and more orthodox, those who are more conservative and more liberal, those who are more apathetic and more passionate, those of different sexes and ages and cultures and sexual orientations and races and ethnicities, and those of other faiths entirely. As Chieko Okazaki taught, “Let us rejoice with each other, listen to each other, learn from each other, and help each other apply those principles as we deal with our different circumstances, different cultures, different generations, and different geographies.”
- What people do you have the most difficulty relating to and working with? How can you can learn to love them and work with them to build Zion?
- Will you pray this week for love for someone you struggle relating to? (Moroni 7:48) What will you do this week to improve your relationship with them?
Tune in for next week’s Sunday School on Lesson 28: “O God, Where Art Thou?”