RS Lesson 31: The Prophet in Liberty Jail

“God Shall Be with You Forever and Ever”: The Prophet in Liberty Jail

Posted by Zenaida

I think this lesson is powerful enough to stand on it’s own almost straight from the manual. I would not read it verbatum, but I would be sure to cover the pieces of the letters that ended up in the D&C.

The opening section describes the terrible conditions they had to live in. Here you can find pictures of the building and a model depicting what it might have been like when the Prophet and the men with him were encarcerated there.

Probably my favorite section in the D&C:

“O God! where art Thou? And where is the pavilion that covereth Thy hiding place? How long shall Thy hand be stayed, and Thine eye, yea Thy pure eye, behold from the eternal heavens, the wrongs of Thy people, and of Thy servants, and Thy ear be penetrated with their cries?

“Yea, O Lord, how long shall they suffer these wrongs and unlawful oppressions, before Thine heart shall be softened towards them, and Thy bowels be moved with compassion towards them?

“O Lord God Almighty, Maker of Heaven, Earth and Seas, and of all things that in them are, and who controllest and subjectest the devil, and the dark and benighted dominion of Sheol! Stretch forth Thy hand, let Thine eye pierce; let Thy pavilion be taken up; let Thy hiding place no longer be covered; let Thine ear be inclined; let Thine heart be softened, and Thy bowels moved with compassion towards us. Let Thine anger be kindled against our enemies; and in the fury of Thine heart, with Thy sword avenge us of our wrongs; remember Thy suffering Saints, O our God! and Thy servants will rejoice in Thy name forever. …

“… My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment; and then if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes.”7 [The paragraphs in this section are also found in D&C 121:1–8.]

Why does God allow us to suffer?

How do difficult circumstances sometimes “awaken our spirits to a sacred remembrance”? In what ways can trials and persecution “bind our hearts” to family members and friends? What experiences have you had that relate to these truths?

Also another good one:

“If thou art called to pass through tribulations; if thou art in perils among false brethren; if thou art in perils among robbers; if thou art in perils by land or by sea; if thou art accused with all manner of false accusations; if thine enemies fall upon thee; if they tear thee from the society of thy father and mother and brethren and sisters; and if with a drawn sword thine enemies tear thee from the bosom of thy wife, and of thine offspring, and thine elder son, although but six years of age, shall cling to thy garments, and shall say, My father, my father, why can’t you stay with us? O, my father, what are the men going to do with you? and if then he shall be thrust from thee by the sword, and thou be dragged to prison, and thine enemies prowl around thee like wolves for the blood of the lamb; and if thou shouldst be cast into the pit, or into the hands of murderers, and the sentence of death passed upon thee; if thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.

“The Son of Man hath descended below them all; art thou greater than he?

“Therefore, hold on thy way, and the Priesthood shall remain with thee, for their bounds are set, they cannot pass. Thy days are known, and thy years shall not be numbered less; therefore, fear not what man can do, for God shall be with you forever and ever.”9 [The paragraphs in this section are also found in D&C 122:1–9.]

Elder Holland gave the following lessons to be learned from this situation in a CES fireside in September :

(Also  found here.)

The first lesson “is that everyone, including (and perhaps especially) the righteous, will be called upon to face trying times,” resulting in “a spiritual loneliness.”
He then stressed, “But whenever these moments of our extremity come, we must not succumb to the fear that God has abandoned us or that he does not hear our prayers. … He is there. Our prayers are heard, and when we weep, He and the angels weep with us.”

The second lesson, according to Elder Holland, is that the Savior himself, though perfect, suffered trials so that He could deliver others from theirs.

“We need to realize that just because difficult things happen — sometimes unfair and seemingly unjustified things — it does not mean that we are unrighteous or that we are unworthy of blessings or that God is disappointed in us,” Elder Holland said. “Of course sinfulness does bring suffering and the only answer to that behavior is repentance. But sometimes suffering comes to the righteous, too.”

After reciting some of the Savior’s trials as contained in Doctrine and Covenants 122:4-7, Elder Holland said, “In giving us this sober reminder of what the Savior went through, the revelation from Liberty Jail records, ‘The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than he?’ (Doctrine and Covenants 122:8)”

“No. Joseph was not greater than the Savior and neither are we.”

Because the Savior experienced trials, Elder Holland said, as we follow Him, we can expect also to have trials.

Through the Atonement, the Savior “experienced all of the heartache and sorrow, all of the disappointments and injustices that the entire family of man has experienced from Adam and Eve to the end of the world in order that we would not have to face them so severely or so deeply,” Elder Holland said.

The third lesson of Liberty Jail, he said, is that in times of difficult feelings, “the Lord reminds us from the Liberty Jail prison-temple that ‘the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only (or “except”) upon the principles of righteousness’ (Doctrine and Covenants 121:36).”

He said that we learn from the Savior and prophets “that the real test of our faith and our Christian discipleship is when things are not going smoothly. That is when we get to see what we are made of and how strong our commitment to the gospel really is.

Also, since it’s Easter, if you didn’t get a chance to hear it in another meeting, this lesson could be augmented by listening to “Consider the Lilies.” I think it would be a great way to end on a hopeful note after discussing this difficulties of the Prophet’s suffering.

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5 Responses

  1. Lorrie says:

    Love the music suggestion!! Since I am teaching this lesson on Easter, I am going to draw some parallels between Joseph’s feelings of abandonment and separation with the Savior’s in the Garden as he went through the Atonement. I am using Elder Holland’s conference talk this week as a guide. There are smiliarities and differences to explore. Thanks again for all your posts — I use them regularly in my lesson study and preparation!

  2. Lori says:

    Its important to note that the prophet never asks the question why. Why must the saints suffer? He only asks how long.

  3. Carrie says:

    This song goes so well with this lesson!! I would have never thought of it. Thank you so much for your hard work and beautiful posts, much appreciated. Carrie

  4. Kiri Close says:

    LIBERTY JAIL: an oxymoron.

    cool.

  5. amelia says:

    I love all this comments..
    God Bless!

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