I’ve been substituting an early morning seminary class this week. It’s a Doctrine & Covenants course, and we’ve been covering Sections 132, 133 and 135. These include the eternal marriage covenant, plural wives, prophecy of Christ’s Second Coming, and martyrdom of both Joseph and Hyrum.
I drew a layout of the Carthage Jail yesterday morning, described the movements of each of the four in the upper room (Joseph, Hyrum, John Taylor and Willard Richards) during and after the attack, then discussed what happened between the killing and the time the bodies made it back to Nauvoo.
Joseph’s last words, “Oh Lord my God…” is a shorthand reference to the distress call for the Third Degree, or Master Mason. The entire call is, “Oh Lord my God, is there no help for the widow’s son?” Invoking the call, requires all other Masons to rally to help the one in distress. Joseph was aware members of the mob who came to kill him were Masons. By addressing the call to the mob, Joseph was putting the Masons on their sworn duty to provide relief. He was putting them to the test of their oath, which they failed.
It is good to stay in touch with younger Latter-day Saints through teaching opportunities. I teach Priests in my own ward. There are two interesting observations I’ve made. First, younger minds are more open and willing to be taught. They are interested in thinking or considering ideas. The more you can inform them, the better able they are to gain perspective about the Gospel. They possess a resource which diminishes with time – teachability (to use the vocabulary of scripture, humility). Second, the youth who have grown up using the current form of institutional teaching materials are woefully less informed than those who grew up forty years ago. They are every bit as interested and curious as past generations, but the material used to inform them has been so diminished in content that they are left with the most superficial of understanding of the Gospel. All you parents need to assume responsibility for fixing that with your own children. The institutional approach narrows the scope each year, leaving less and less substance taught.
I’ve studied the restored Gospel and church history for over 40 years. I continue to search more carefully into the subject year by year. There are so many things to appreciate. I think the most interesting, gripping and important subject you can study is the restored Gospel. Not through the kind of superficial inspirational drivel now sold by Deseret Book. You can go round and round with that kind of crap – won’t make one bit of progress there. You’ll be briefly entertained, and then lulled to sleep by such quasi-religious infotainment. You will never awaken to your awful situation by being coddled, inspired and reassured that “All is well in Zion.” If you intend to actually come to grips with the Gospel, you need to read the Book of Mormon, other scriptures, everything you can find about Joseph Smith, and original material or works based on original materials taken from then contemporary sources. The bibliography from the new book I’m working on has a number of great sources worth considering.
But the Gospel is not study alone. The purpose of study is to inform our conduct, our thoughts and our words. What truths we learn need to be put into action and lived. It is in the living that the power of the Gospel is released. As we “do” what we are instructed, we find ourselves in company with angels and Heavenly messengers.
That process which Joseph Smith describes in the Joseph Smith-History found in the Pearl of Great Price, still works. For any soul who decides to try it.