Come Follow Me: Doctrine & Covenants 3-5 “My Work Shall Go Forth” & 10-11 “That You May Come Off Conqueror”
The Come Follow Me manual is organized to follow the page order of the sections of Doctrine and Covenants, which do not follow the chronological order of the historical events they discuss. However, I find it much easier to discuss Doctrine and Covenants Sections 3 and 10 together, rather than several weeks apart, as they cover the same topic: the loss of the manuscript of the Book of Lehi, which would have been the first 116 pages of the Book of Mormon. This lesson plan may be used for Sunday School or home and family study on the dates scheduled for either Section 3 or 10 or both.
The Loss of the Manuscript
Describe the circumstances surrounding the loss of the Book of Lehi. You might paraphrase the following account from the book Saints, which is a narrative history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) published by the LDS Church.
In time, Martin [Harris] returned from Palmyra [New York] to [Harmony, Pennsylvania] and took over as scribe [for Joseph Smith, who was translating the Book of Mormon], giving Emma [Smith, who had been serving as the scribe] a chance to rest before the baby came.25 [She was pregnant with her first child.] 26 …Lucy [Harris, Martin’s wife] was suspicious of Martin’s desire to support Joseph financially. …After Joseph refused to show her the plates, she started searching the house, rifling through the family’s chests, cupboards, and trunks. 27
…Soon it was time for Emma’s baby to be born. The pile of manuscript pages had grown thick, and Martin had become convinced that if he could let his wife read the translation, she would see its value and stop interfering with their work.32 He also hoped Lucy would be pleased with how he had spent his time and money to help bring forth God’s word.
One day, Martin asked Joseph for permission to take the manuscript to Palmyra for a few weeks.33 Remembering how Lucy Harris had acted when she visited the house, Joseph was wary of the idea. Yet he wanted to please Martin, who had believed him when so many others had doubted his word.34
Unsure what to do, Joseph prayed for guidance, and the Lord told him not to let Martin take the pages.35 But Martin was sure showing them to his wife would change things, and he begged Joseph to ask again. Joseph did so, but the answer was the same. Martin pressed him to ask a third time, however, and this time God allowed them to do as they pleased.
Joseph told Martin he could take the pages for two weeks if he covenanted to keep them locked up and show them only to certain family members. Martin made the promise and returned to Palmyra, manuscript in hand.36
After Martin left, Moroni appeared to Joseph and took the interpreters from him.37
The day after Martin’s departure, Emma endured an agonizing labor and gave birth to a boy. The baby was frail and sickly and did not live long. The ordeal left Emma physically drained and emotionally devastated, and for a time it seemed she might die too. Joseph tended to her constantly, never leaving her side for long.38
After two weeks, Emma’s health began to improve, and her thoughts turned to Martin and the manuscript. “I feel so uneasy,” she told Joseph, “that I cannot rest and shall not be at ease until I know something about what Mr. Harris is doing with it.”
…The sun was rising when he arrived at his parents’ home in Manchester. The Smiths were preparing breakfast and sent Martin an invitation to join them. By eight o’clock, the meal was on the table but Martin had not come. Joseph and the family started to grow uneasy as they waited for him.
Finally, after more than four hours had passed, Martin appeared in the distance, walking slowly toward the house, his eyes fixed on the ground in front of him.41 At the gate he paused, sat on the fence, and pulled his hat down over his eyes. He then came inside and sat down to eat in silence.
The family watched as Martin picked up his utensils, as if ready to eat, then dropped them. “I have lost my soul!” he cried, pressing his hands on his temples. “I have lost my soul.”
Joseph jumped up. “Martin, have you lost that manuscript?”
“Yes,” Martin said. “It is gone, and I know not where.”
“Oh, my God, my God,” Joseph groaned, clenching his fists. “All is lost!”
He started pacing the floor. He did not know what to do. “Go back,” he ordered Martin. “Search again.”
“It is all in vain,” Martin cried. “I have looked every place in the house. I have even ripped open beds and pillows, and I know it is not there.”
“Must I return to my wife with such a tale?” Joseph feared the news would kill her. “And how shall I appear before the Lord?”
…His mother [Lucy Mack Smith] tried to comfort him. She said maybe the Lord would forgive him if he repented humbly. But Joseph was sobbing now, furious at himself for not obeying the Lord the first time. He could barely eat for the rest of the day.42
…When Joseph returned to Harmony in the summer of 1828, Moroni appeared to him again and took the plates away. “If you are sufficiently humble and penitent,” the angel said, “you will receive them again on the twenty-second of September.”1
–Saints: The Story of the Church of Jesus Christ in the Latter Days, Volume 1: The Standard of Truth, Chapters 5 and 6, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2018
Trusting God Rather Than Fearing Man
The Lord chastened Joseph Smith for losing the manuscript, but he also offered encouragement. Invite the class to silently read D&C 3:1-15 and look for ways the Lord rebuked Joseph and ways the Lord encouraged him.
- List on the board (or chat box, if the class is online) phrases from verses 1–15 containing the Lord’s rebukes.
- List phrases containing encouragement.
2 For God doth not awalk in crooked paths, neither doth he bturn to the right hand nor to the left, neither doth he vary from that which he hath said, therefore his paths are straight, and his ccourse is one eternal round.
3 Remember, remember that it is not the awork of God that is frustrated, but the work of men;
4 For although a man may have many arevelations, and have bpower to do many mighty works, yet if he cboasts in his own dstrength, and sets at naught the ecounsels of God, and follows after the dictates of his own will and fcarnal desires, he must fall and incur the gvengeance of a hjust God upon him.
5 Behold, you have been aentrusted with these things, but how strict were your commandments; and remember also the promises which were made to you, if you did not transgress them.
9 Behold, thou art Joseph, and thou wast chosen to do the work of the Lord, but because of transgression, if thou art not aware thou wilt afall.
10 But remember, God is merciful; therefore, repent of that which thou hast done which is contrary to the commandment which I gave you, and thou art still chosen, and art aagain called to the work;
11 Except thou ado this, thou shalt be delivered up and become as other men, and have no more gift.
13 Who has set at naught the counsels of God, and has broken the most sacred promises which were made before God, and has depended upon his own judgment and aboasted in his own wisdom.
14 And this is the reason that thou hast lost thy privileges for a season—
15 For thou hast suffered the counsel of thy adirector to be trampled upon from the beginning.
D&C 3: 1-15
- What truths do we learn from Doctrine and Covenants 3:1–15 that can help us remain faithful to God when we feel pressured by other people to do something we know is wrong?
- What does Joseph’s experience teach us about how the Savior helps us overcome our mistakes?
In D&C 10, Joseph Smith received the revelation reinstating him to his work of translation.
- What advice does the Lord give Joseph as he return to work? How can we apply this advice to our own lives’ work and callings?
- How do we “pray always”?
The Lord’s “wisdom is greater than the cunning of the devil.”
Although Joseph Smith had been forgiven by the Lord, there were still natural consequences for his actions. The Lord warned Joseph that he would not be able to retranslate and publish the book of Lehi now that the unpublished manuscript was in someone else’s hands.
16 And then, behold, they say and think in their hearts—We will see if God has given him power to translate; if so, he will also give him power again;
17 And if God giveth him power again, or if he translates again, or, in other words, if he bringeth forth the same words, behold, we have the same with us, and we have altered them;
18 Therefore they will not agree, and we will say that he has lied in his words, and that he has no agift, and that he has no power;
19 Therefore we will destroy him, and also the work; and we will do this that we may not be ashamed in the end, and that we may get aglory of the world.
This was a great loss, but remember that the Lord said:
3 Remember, remember that it is not the awork of God that is frustrated, but the work of men;
More than 2,400 years in advance, the Lord anticipated that Joseph Smith and Martin Harris would lose the Book of Lehi, and had prepared by inspiring Lehi’s son, Nephi, to write his own book which covered much of the same subject matter. Nephi’s record replaced the lost manuscript is now found in 1 Nephi through Omni.
38 And now, verily I say unto you, that an account of those things that you have written, which have gone out of your hands, is engraven upon the aplates of Nephi;
39 Yea, and you remember it was said in those writings that a more particular account was given of these things upon the plates of Nephi.
40 And now, because the account which is engraven upon the plates of Nephi is more particular concerning the things which, in my wisdom, I awould bring to the knowledge of the people in this account—
41 Therefore, you shall translate the engravings which are on the plates of Nephi, down even till you come to the reign of king Benjamin, or until you come to that which you have translated, which you have retained;
42 And behold, you shall publish it as the record of Nephi; and thus I will aconfound those who have altered my words.
While Nephi did not know the particulars about what would happen to his father’s record, Nephi indicated that he knew the Lord had a plan and a reason for asking him to create a similar record.
5 Wherefore, the Lord hath commanded me to make these plates for a awise purpose in him, which purpose I know not.
6 But the Lord aknoweth all things from the beginning; wherefore, he prepareth a way to accomplish all his works among the children of men; for behold, he hath all bpower unto the fulfilling of all his words. And thus it is. Amen.
1 Nephi 9:5-6
- How does the Lord compensate for humans’ sins and mistakes?
- What evidence of the Lord’s wisdom and foreknowledge have you seen in your life?
- How have you seen that the Lord’s “wisdom is greater than the cunning of the devil” (Doctrine and Covenants 10:43)?
- How does this knowledge strengthen our faith in Him?
Invite the class to silently read D&C 10:55-70 and find phrases that begin with “I am” or “I will.”
- What do we learn from the “I am” phrases about who Jesus Christ is and what He is like?
- What do we learn from the “I will” phrases about what He does?
56 But it is they who do not afear me, neither keep my commandments but build up bchurches unto themselves to get cgain, yea, and all those that do wickedly and build up the kingdom of the devil—yea, verily, verily, I say unto you, that it is they that I will disturb, and cause to tremble and shake to the center.
58 I am the alight which shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehendeth it not.
61 And I will bring to light their marvelous works, which they did in my name;
62 Yea, and I will also bring to light my gospel which was ministered unto them, and, behold, they shall not deny that which you have received, but they shall build it up, and shall bring to light the true points of my adoctrine, yea, and the only doctrine which is in me.
63 And this I do that I may establish my gospel, that there may not be so much acontention; yea, bSatan doth cstir up the hearts of the people to dcontention concerning the points of my doctrine; and in these things they do err, for they do ewrest the scriptures and do not understand them.
64 Therefore, I will unfold unto them this great mystery;
65 For, behold, I will agather them as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, if they will not harden their hearts;
66 Yea, if they will come, they may, and partake of the awaters of life freely.
“Each of us is more than the worst thing we’ve ever done.”
Because the stern rebuke of Martin Harris found in Doctrine and Covenants sections 3 and 10 is so prominent, and recorded out of context with the other events of his life, there is an unfortunate tendency among modern church members to vilify him. However, both Joseph Smith and Martin Harris moved on from this incident, were forgiven by the Lord, and continued their missions as leaders of the church.
Each of us is more than the worst thing we’ve ever done.
– Bryan Stevenson, author of Just Mercy
Having a special interest in Martin Harris, I have been saddened at how he is remembered by most Church members. He deserves better than to be remembered solely as the man who unrighteously obtained and then lost the initial manuscript pages of the Book of Mormon.
– Dallin H. Oaks, The Witness: Martin Harris, April, 1999
Here are some facts about Martin Harris that Dallin H. Oaks presented when he defended the legacy of Martin Harris in General Conference in 1999.
- “This prosperous and upright older man befriended the young and penniless Joseph Smith, giving him the $50 that permitted him to pay his debts in Palmyra and locate in northeastern Pennsylvania about 150 miles away.”
- “There, in April 1828, Joseph Smith began his first persistent translation of the Book of Mormon. He dictated, and Martin Harris wrote until there were 116 pages of manuscript.”
- “About nine months after Martin’s rebuke [for losing the 116 pages], the Prophet Joseph received a revelation declaring that there would be three witnesses to the plates and if Martin would humble himself he would be privileged to see them (see D&C 5:11, 15, 24). A few months later, Martin Harris was selected as one of the Three Witnesses.”
- “One of Martin Harris’s greatest contributions to the Church, for which he should be honored for all time, was his financing the publication of the Book of Mormon. In August 1829 he mortgaged his home and farm to Egbert B. Grandin to secure payment on the printer’s contract. Seven months later, the 5,000 copies of the first printing of the Book of Mormon were completed.”
- “Later, when the mortgage note fell due, the home and a portion of the farm were sold for $3,000. In this way, Martin Harris was obedient to the Lord’s revelation: ‘Thou shalt not covet thine own property, but impart it freely to the printing of the Book of Mormon. …Pay the debt thou hast contracted with the printer. Release thyself from bondage.’” (D&C 19:26, 35)
- “He was present at the organization of the Church on April 6, 1830, and was baptized that same day.”
- “A year later he was called to journey to Missouri with Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon, and Edward Partridge (see D&C 52:24).”
- “In Missouri that year—1831—he was commanded to “be an example unto the church, in laying his moneys before the bishop of the church” (D&C 58:35), thus becoming the first man the Lord called by name to consecrate his property in Zion.”
- “Two months later he was named with Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, Sidney Rigdon, and others to be ‘stewards over the revelations and commandments’ (D&C 70:3; see also D&C 70:1), a direction to publish and circulate what later became the Doctrine and Covenants.”
- “In 1832 Martin Harris’s older brother, Emer, who is my great-great-grandfather, was called on a mission from Ohio (see D&C 75:30). Emer spent a year preaching the gospel near his former home in northeastern Pennsylvania. During most of this time Emer’s companion was his brother Martin, whose zeal in preaching even caused him to be jailed for a few days. The Harris brothers baptized about 100 persons.”
- “Back in Kirtland, Ohio, after his mission, in February 1834 Martin Harris was chosen by revelation to serve on the first high council in the Church (see D&C 102:3).”
- “Less than three months later, he left Kirtland with the men of Zion’s Camp, marching 900 miles to Missouri to relieve the oppressed Saints there.”
- “One of the most important events of the Restoration was the calling of a Quorum of Twelve Apostles in February 1835. The Three Witnesses, including Martin Harris, were appointed to “search out the Twelve” (D&C 18:37), to select them and, under authority granted by the Prophet and his counselors, to ordain them.”
- Amid conflicts among church leaders in Kirtland, Ohio, “he was released from the high council in September 1837 and three months later was excommunicated,” yet he never “deviated from his published testimony or said anything that cast any shadow on its truthfulness.”
- “He was rebaptized by a visiting missionary [from Utah] in 1842…[and became] a “Mormon preacher.”
- “During part of his remaining years in Kirtland, Martin Harris acted as a self-appointed guide-caretaker of the deserted Kirtland Temple, which he loved.”
- Finally, in 1870, Martin’s desire to be reunited with his family in Utah resulted in a warm invitation from Brigham Young, a ticket for his passage, and an official escort from one of the Presidents of Seventy. A Utah interviewer of the 87-year-old man described him as “remarkably vigorous for one of his years, … his memory being very good” (Deseret News,31 Aug. 1870). He was rebaptized, a common practice at that time, and spoke twice to audiences in this Tabernacle.”
– Dallin H. Oaks, The Witness: Martin Harris, April, 1999