Sunday School Lesson 25

Lesson 25: Doctrine and Covenants 84:33-44, 121:34-36

Section 84

Verses 33-40: Here we see “the oath and covenant of the priesthood.” What is required of us by this oath? What is promised us? What does it mean to receive the priesthood? To receive the Father? To receive his servants? Why can’t the Father break this covenant? What does it mean that the covenant cannot be moved?

How do these verses apply to sisters? Are the blessings described unavailable to women? Does verse 48 bear on this question?

Verse 43: What are “the words of eternal life?” How is to give heed to them the same as to beware concerning ourselves?

Section 121

We often quote these verses, but we less often refer to the first part of section 121, Joseph Smith’s prayer for deliverance (verses 1-6) and the Lord’s rebuke of him for that prayer (verses 7-33), a rebuke that also contains a prophesy of blessing for Joseph and destruction for the enemies of the Church. What do the verses we are reading today have to do with the first part of the section. (Of course, this section, with sections 122 and 123, are extracted from a long letter written to the saints from Liberty Jail, Missouri, where the Prophet and other early leaders were incarcerated at the time.)

Verse 34: Compare Matthew 20:16. Does the context of that verse help us understand what the Lord is saying here? (Compare also D&C 95:5.) What is the difference between being called and being chosen?

Verse 35: What does this verse suggest is the cause of the unrighteous use of power? In specific terms, how do set our hearts on the things of this world? Is verse 39 relevant for deciding whether this problem is common amongst us?

Verse 36: What are the rights of the priesthood? Do they differ from other rights? If so, how? What does it mean to say that the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected to the powers of heaven? How does having one’s heart set on the things of the world and aspiring for honor cause one to miss this lesson?

Verse 37: To what does “they” refer in the phrase “that they may be conferred upon us”? If covering our sins is wrong, does that mean we should announce them? What does it mean to cover one’s sins? How does what is forbidden here compare with what is required in scriptures
such as James 1:20 and 1 Peter 4:8? How could one use authority to cover his sins? How could we use authority to gratify our pride? How could we use it to gratify our vain ambition? What is vain ambition? Is there such a things as ambition that is not vain? Does “control or dominion or compulsion” refer to three different though related things, or does that phrase repeat the same thing in three ways for emphasis? Is all control, dominion, or compulsion unrighteous? What makes control, dominion, or compulsion unrighteous? Why is the Spirit necessary to authority? What does it mean to say that a person no longer has priesthood authority when he uses his authority unrighteously? The ordinances he performs are still valid until his priesthood is removed formally, whether or not he is acting unrighteously. So what does his unrighteous dominion cause him to lose? What might that understanding of losing the priesthood tell us about what priesthood is?

Verse 38: The phrase “kick against the pricks” (from Acts 9:5 and 26:14) refers to sharp goads used to guide oxen. What might it mean in this context? Are these three things—kicking against the pricks, persecuting the saints, and fighting against God—always the results of being left to oneself by the Spirit? How do they differ from one another, or do they?

Verse 39: Whose voice is speaking in this verse, the Lord’s or Joseph’s? If Joseph’s voice, what sad experiences might he be referring to? What does the phrase “as they suppose” do in this verse? If it is true that almost everyone exercises unrighteous dominion when given what they presume to be authority, what should our reaction to our authority in our callings be? to our authority as parents? as spouses? in the work place?

Verse 40: Verse 34 begins with the same sentence that we find here, suggesting that the discussion of verses 34-40 is about the fact that many are called but few are chosen. How does the discussion which occurs between the first part of verse 34 and this verse explain that many are called but few chosen? Does it shed any light on what it means to be called? to be chosen?

Verses 41-43: Does the phrase “power or influence,” as used here, perhaps indicate that we should think of power in terms of influence rather than in terms of control? What is persuasion? long-suffering? Is there a difference between gentleness and meekness? What does “unfeigned” tell us about the love required? What is kindness? What is pure knowledge? (What would impure knowledge be?) What is hypocrisy? guile? What does it mean for a soul to be without them? In the phrase “which shall greatly enlarge,” to what does “which” refer? to pure knowledge? to the series of things that began in verse 41? The last part of D&C 42:52 says we should bear the infirmities of those who have not faith insofar as they do not break the commandments. What might that point have to do with what is said here?

Verse 43: What does “reprove” mean? What does “betimes” mean? (Compare Genesis 26:31 for a clue.) Of the several possible meanings of “sharp,” which do you think most applicable to this verse? If we are to show an increase of love after giving reproof, what must we have already shown? How might someone reproved take the reprover to be an enemy?

Verse 44: What does it mean for someone to know that your faithfulness is stronger than the cords of death? Faithfulness to whom? to that person? What are the cords of death? In this verse, to what might “faithfulness” refer?

Verse 45: What does it mean for one’s bowels to be full of charity? The metaphor is very strange to us. Can you think of a way to help us understand it? What does the word “virtue” mean in this context? (Looking up possible meanings will help you see a number of possibilities.) One older meaning of “garnish” is “to outfit” or “to supply.” What might it mean for virtue to garnish our thoughts? What are the conditions for confidence given here? If we want confidence, what must we do first? What is “the doctrine of the priesthood”? What does the last phrase of this verse mean?

Verse 46: According to this and the previous verse, what will bring about the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost and the other blessings listed here? What is a scepter? Why might a scepter be mentioned here? What is a scepter of righteousness and truth? What does it
mean to have an everlasting dominion? What does it mean for a dominion to come “without compulsory means”?

For definitions from Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary of some terms in section 121 see: Definitions for D&C 121 (PDF format–requires Adobe Acrobat). It can be a useful exercise to plug some of these meanings into your reading of the relevant verses to see whether you see new possible meanings.

6 comments for “Sunday School Lesson 25

  1. Mine is a question, not a comment. DC 84:41 states: “But whoso breaketh this covenant after he hath received it, and altogether turneth therefrom, shall not have forgiveness of sins in this world nor in the world to come.”

    It is my understanding that murderers and sons of Peridition are the only ones who cannot have “forgiveness of sins in this world nor in the world to come.” Is that understanding correct? If so, how can DC 84:41 be reconciled with that understanding?

  2. I’ve been thinking about the phrase ‘cords of death’ (D & C 121:44) and wondering where it came from. It isn’t in the KJV but it is in some other translations of Psalms 116:3 and 18:4 where the KJV has ‘the sorrows of death.’

    Does anyone know what’s up with this? (The translations that have “cords” postdate JS.)

  3. Julie,

    Good question. I did a word search of “cords” in LDS Standard works. Some interesting things there–cords of vanity, cords of sin. I wonder if there isn’t an analogy to chains of death, bands of death and chains of hell–occurs in BofM.

  4. In reference to Comment #1:

    President Marion G. Romney said: “Now, I do not think this means that all who fail to magnify their callings in the priesthood will have committed the unpardonable sin, but I do think that priesthood bearers who have entered into the covenants that we enter into—in the water of baptism, in connection with the law of tithing, the Word of Wisdom, and the many other covenants we make—and then refuse to live up to these covenants will stand in jeopardy of losing the promise of eternal life.” (CR, April 1972)

    He later said: “With such a penalty prescribed for breaking it, one might be prompted to question the advisability of accepting the obligations of the covenant; that is, he might question it until he reads the verse which follows the statement of the penalty. There he learns that those who do not receive the oath and covenant are not much, if any, better off than those who receive it and break it. For in that verse the Lord says: ‘And wo unto all those who come not unto this priesthood which ye have received’ (D&C 84:42). Such is the sober import of ‘the oath and covenant which belongeth to the priesthood.'” (Ensign, Nov. 1980)

  5. I’m surprised “BETIMES” didn’t make it onto the word list. The modern definition is “once in a while; on occasion”, but the earlier (now archaic) meaning was “quickly; soon.”

  6. Julie,

    The Hebrew word in Ps. 18:3 is a plural form of chebel, which means rope (or cord). The KJV translates this as “sorrows” taking it as a word that is consonantally spelled the same but one letter different in Masoretic vocalization; the RSV returns to the meaning “cords.” (IE first vowel seghol = cord, but first vowel tserey = pang, thus sorrow.)

    A good argument can be made that that reading is a mistake here either way, and that the text should be conjecturally emended to read “the waves of death.” There are two lines of evidence for this: The parallel in 2 Sam. 22:5 has “waves,” not “cords,” and the parallelism in Ps. 18:4 should be with “currents,” for which “waves” would fit but “cords” would not. The reading “cords” may have come from the influence of the following verse, which has the “cords of Sheol” (this time properly in parallel with “the snares of death”).

    Ps. 18:4 is very similar to Ps. 116:3, but the elements Sheol//death are reversed in that passage, which is why we have “cords of death” there (as opposed to “cords of Sheol” in Ps. 18:4).

    So what does the expression “cords of death” mean? I think the key is the parallelism of the terms cords//snares and death//Sheol. The expression “snares of Sheol” would be a Semitic construction for the traps that bring a man down to Sheol; the expression “cords of death” would thus have a similar meaning.

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