Sunday, February 28, 2021

Doctrine and Covenants 20-22: The Organization of the Church

The organization of the Church took place April 6, 1830.  What things had to take place before the Church could be organized?  (Revelation on the nature of God, translation of the Book of Mormon containing the Gospel, Restoration of the Priesthood.)

Joseph and Oliver had received an explicit revelation describing the procedures to be followed on this day of organization after praying for direction in the bedroom of the Whitmer cabin.  They had received this revelation 10 months before the Church was organized (June 1829) and the Lord told them to take the time to do it right.  For example, he said to ordain each other elders, but to wait until they assembled and organized the Saints to do it, so that the Saints could vote on whether they would accept Joseph and Oliver as their two leaders.

So Joseph sent to all the Saints to invite them to gather at the Whitmer cabin for the first sacrament meeting in this dispensation, and the event of the organization of the Church.  In a conversation nearly 70 years later, David Whitmer said that there were about 20 saints from Colesville, 15 from Manchester, and 20 from Fayette, in addition to the six who became the official charter members.

At this meeting, Section 20 of the D&C was received.  Section 20 is a handbook of rules, a constitution for the Church of Jesus Christ.  It states that those prerequisites to Church organization had been met.  For example:
Verse 16 and on: God had revealed himself to Joseph Smith and others.
Verses 8-12: The Book of Mormon had been translated, offering additional proof of the nature of God.
Verses 2-4: The Priesthood had been restored and given to Joseph and Oliver.

This constitution also states the basic beliefs of the Church.  You can find all of the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel laid out here.  For example:
Faith in Christ: Verses 14-15, 25-27, 37
Repentance: Verses 5-6, 20-24, 37
Baptism: Verse 37
Holy Ghost: Verses 25-26, 35, 37
as well as guidelines for Priesthood ordinances (Verse 37 on through the end) and record-keeping.

In addition to following the commandments the Lord gave them, Joseph Smith also wanted the Church to be legally recognized.  Section III of the 1819 New York Act “to provide for the Incorporation of Religious Societies,” specified that, to become incorporated, a church needed to “assemble at the church meetinghouse” (the Whitmer cabin), elect no less than three and no more than nine male members to be trustees (Joseph Smith arbitrarily chose the number six) over the temporal affairs of the church, and two elders were to be elected to preside (Joseph and Oliver).  So the Church was organized according to law (although the original incorporation entry has actually never been found among the court records in Seneca County). (Garr, Encyclopedia of Latter-day Saint History, p.878) The six men were Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, Hyrum Smith, Peter Whitmer Jr., Samuel H. Smith, and David Whitmer.  (History of the Church 1:76)

Read aloud Our Heritage, p.14-15 ”With the consent…” to “…priesthood officers.”  Everyone who had already been baptized was rebaptized, now to become Church members, and several new members were baptized that day, among them Joseph Smith’s parents, Martin Harris, and Orrin Porter Rockwell, who was only 16 (HC 1:74-79).


Watch this 1-1/2 minute video, "Joseph Smith Organizes the Church."

I had never thought about children being present until I saw this video, but, of course, they would have been.  Just as when Christ appeared to the Lamanites after His resurrection, the children had front-row seats at this sacred experience.  They witnessed the ordinances and revelations received, and they felt the Spirit of the Holy Ghost.  In fact, there was a little 11-year-old boy named David Lewis who came to the meeting without his parents.  He wanted to line up to be baptized, but Joseph Smith told him he needed to go home and talk it over with his parents.  He did so, and they gave their permission.  Less than a month after the Church was organized, on David’s 12th birthday, Joseph Smith baptized him in a stream.  After the baptism, Joseph tried to persuade him not to go home because a violent thunderstorm had just broken.  But David had promised his mother that he would come straight home, so Joseph honored that obedience and let him go, and he gave him a promise that the Lord would protect him.  On the way, David became lost in the darkness and rain, but, recalling the Prophet’s promise, he exercised his faith and prayed for guidance.  After his prayer, he saw something that looked like a lamp.  He followed it, and it led him to his house (Kelly, Latter-day History, p.49-50).

Anyway, back to the story…

Joseph Smith said, “…after a happy time spent in witnessing and feeling for ourselves the powers and blessings of the Holy Ghost, through the grace of God bestowed upon us, we dismissed with the pleasing knowledge that we were now individually members of, and acknowledged of God, ‘The Church of Jesus Christ,’ organized in accordance with commandments and revelations given by Him to ourselves in these last days, as well as according to the order of the Church as recorded in the New Testament.”  (HC 1:78-79)  The name of the Church was later lengthened out to what we have now.  (See D&C 115:4)


Put up map of the world.  Paste dates on areas as they are discussed.  You can also use this map:

I have noted a few details below  about the spread of the church through various areas of the world.  For current statistics and more details about any individual country's history of missionary work, please check out the church's website, MormonNewsRoom, Facts and Statistics page.

If any readers from any of these countries would like to post additional information or personal stories of conversion, that would be fabulous.  Just add them to the comments, and I will link them into the article.

North America – 1830
No time was wasted.  Shortly after the Church was organized, missionaries were called to go forth.  Parley P. Pratt was among them.  He reported, “…we traveled on foot for 300 miles through vast prairies and through trackless wilds of snow – no beaten road; houses few and far between; and the bleak northwest wind always blowing in our faces with a keenness which would almost take the skin off the face.  We traveled for whole days, from morning till night, without a house or fire, wading in snow to the knees at every step, and the cold so intense that the snow did not melt on the south side of the houses, even in the mid-day sun, for nearly six weeks … [During this four-month mission,] we’d preached the Gospel to tens of thousands of Gentiles and two nations of Indians; baptizing, confirming, and organizing many hundreds of people into Churches of Latter-day Saints.”  (Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, p. 39-40)  Within the year, missionaries were also preaching in Canada.
Brigham City, Utah Temple
(This photograph taken by my friend,
Debbie Raymond.  She gives permission
to use for teaching purposes.)
As of February 2021, there are 9,400,000 members in 173 missions with 110 temples in North America. Are there any members from your family or your ward/branch that have served or are currently serving in North America?

Western Europe – 1837
In July 1837, the first missionaries arrived in England.  In the first 9 months, there were 1,600 converts.  By 1851 (14 years later), there were almost 31,000 members of the Church in the Great Britain Mission, over twice as many as there were in the United States and Canada combined.  Between 1850 and 1888, the missionary work spread to cover the entire continent and its isles: France, Switzerland, Denmark, Italy, and Sweden, 1850; Germany, Iceland, and Holland, 1851; Norway and Malta, 1852; Gibraltar, 1858; Austria and Hungary, 1865; Finland, 1875; and Belgium, 1888.  The work in Norway and Sweden was difficult until 1870 when they became religiously free.  After that, the Scandinavian Mission was the second most powerful mission in the Church. Many of these members gathered to the United States. Now, in 2021, there are 497,000 members of the Church in 34 missions with 14 temples in Western and Eastern Europe combined. 
Have any members of your family or your ward/branch served in Western Europe?

 London, England Temple
This picture from

Pacific Islands – 1843
Joseph Smith called four missionaries to the Pacific Islands, the first foreign language mission.  These missionaries endured extremely difficult circumstances; in fact, one of them died on the voyage there.  But by 1850, 2,000 French Polynesian islanders had been baptized.  The missionary work spread to Hawaii.  The mission (language, disease, culture, starvation) was so difficult that half of the missionaries went home.   But those who remained reaped a great harvest.  Within four years, 3,000 were baptized.  Several Maori priests predicted the coming of the true church. In 1881, Paora Patongaroa, an elder priest of the Maori people in New Zealand, fasted, prayed, and meditated for three days about which of the Christian churches his people should join.  After his fast, he reported to his people that the true church had not yet come to the island, but that they would recognize it when it came because the missionaries would travel in pairs, would come from the rising sun, would visit people in their homes, would learn their language and teach in their own tongue, and would raise their right arms when they officiated. (Brian William Hunt, "History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in New Zealand," BYU Master's Thesis, p. 28-29, quoting Matthew Cowley, "Maori Chief Predicts Coming of LDS Missionaries," Improvement Era, Sept. 1950, p. 696.)   Within a few years, the missionaries did come, and within eight years there were 70 branches of the Church in New Zealand.  By 1892, 10% of all Maoris were LDS. Presently there are 572,895 members in 17 missions with 10 temples in the islands of the Pacific Ocean. 
Are there any from your family or ward/branch that have or are currently serving in the Pacific Islands?

Apia Samoa Temple
Picture from

South America – 1925
Standing in Buenos Aires on Christmas Day, 1925, Melvin J. Ballard dedicated the land of South America to missionary work.  There were currently 12 members of the Church in all of South America, and all of them were Europeans.  There was not one native member.  President Ballard prophesied that the growth would start small but then become huge.  He prophesied that South America would be divided into more than one mission.  (Quite an understatement!)  It happened as he said.  After the first nine years of missionary work, there were only 329 members.  Gradually the growth picked up until in 1997, there were over two million members. Today there are over 4 million members in 94 missions with 21 temples in South America. 

Are there any members from your ward/branch or family that have served or are currently serving in South America, or that are originally from South America?

Asuncion, Paraguay Temple

Asia – 1949
Although the first three missionaries went to Hong Kong in 1852, they had no success and returned home. On July 14, 1949, standing on Victoria Peak in Hong Kong, church leadership, with Matthew Cowley as voice, re-opened Asia to missionary work, prophesying that there would one day be a temple there (Church News). (The same thing happened in Korea.) 

In 1901, missionaries went to Japan, where they experienced a very slow start to the work, but successfully translated the Book of Mormon (Encyclopedia of Mormonism). U.S. servicemen in Japan during WWII and its postwar occupation (including Elder Boyd K. Packer) started the spread of the gospel there. Now there are 130,000 members in Japan in 6 missions with 3 temples. 

Stastitics are unavailable for mainland China and proselyting is not allowed there, but members who join the Church elsewhere are allowed to meet. Here in Logan, Utah, we recently had a missionary serving from mainland China who was a second-generation member. 

By 1951, there were 30 regularly-attending Church members in Hong Kong. By 1960, there were 1,700 members. Now there are 25,000 members in Hong Kong. 

The first Asian temples were dedicated in 1980 in Japan, in 1984 in Taiwan, in 1985 in South Korea, and in 1996 in Hong Kong.

Missionaries have proselyted in the India subcontinent as early as the 1860s, but only recently has the church had a permanent presence in India.  The India Bangalore Mission was created in January of 1993 (October 1993 Liahona). Now there are nearly 14,500 members in 2 missions in India.

Presently in the 19 countries designated as "Asia" by the Church, there are 1,230,000 members in 44 missions with 8 temples.

Hong Kong, China Temple
Picture from

Ask the same questions about Asia.

Africa -- 1976

Although the church was established in South Africa in 1853, the gospel was not preached to black Africans until after the revelation on the priesthood (Gospel Pioneers in Africa, August 1990 Ensign).

"Anthony Obinna of Nigeria had a dream in 1965 of a beautiful building. “A personage appeared to me three times,” he said. “He took me to the beautiful building and showed me everything in it.” Anthony never forgot that dream, and later, when he came across a picture of the same building in an old copy of Reader’s Digest magazine, he recognized it. It was the Salt Lake Temple.

"He wrote to Church headquarters in Salt Lake City, Utah, for information about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, then continued to correspond. As he and others in his area learned of the gospel, they began to meet together in worship services and tried to live the gospel as best they could. It is no surprise that in 1978, when the first official Latter-day Saint missionaries arrived in West Africa, Anthony Obinna became the first native of Nigeria to be baptized in that country.

"Brother Obinna was only one of hundreds of West Africans who had been previously prepared to receive the gospel. These early converts were readied in a variety of ways. Some West Africans traveled to other countries, learned of the gospel while there, and then brought information back with them. Others learned from West Africans who already believed in the gospel. In these ways, congregations with testimonies of the Book of Mormon gathered in both Nigeria and Ghana. These individuals learned the gospel without the aid of full-time missionaries, and several of the congregations were unknown to each other" (August 1993 Ensign).  Presently there are 666,500 members in 35 missions with 4 temples in Africa. 

Are any of your family members or ward/branch members originally from Africa or have any served missions in Africa?

(If you or any class members are troubled by the delay in extending priesthood blessings to Africans, please see my blog lesson Continuing Revelation.)

 Aba, Nigeria Temple

Post-revolution Eastern Europe – 1990 (Russia)
When the Iron Curtain went up in 1945 after World War II, it sealed off a small group of Church members in East Germany and Czechoslovakia.  At peril of their lives, they continued to believe and meet to worship, as atheism became the official position of their countries.  All missionary work ceased, except what came over the airwaves and later satellites, including broadcasts by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

In 1968, in the midst of this time of religious oppression, Thomas S. Monson visited East Germany.  The Spirit of the Lord impressed him to promise those Saints, “If you will remain true and faithful to the commandments of God, every blessing any member of the Church enjoys in any other country will be yours” (May ’89 Ensign, p.51).  It was a stunning promise.  But the Saints did remain true and faithful, binding the Lord to His promise. One elderly woman, for example, when finally visited by Priesthood authority, produced a stocking containing her tithing for the past 25 years. 

The Berlin Wall came down on November 9th, 1989 (Apr.’91 Ensign, p.26). The Saints in Czechoslovakia had spread the Gospel undercover during the 40 years the wall was up.  In 1989, when the missionaries were able to return, they didn’t have to tract because there was a huge group just waiting to be baptized.  As for the Saints in East Germany, within 27 years, everything President Monson (then Elder Monson) had promised had been received, including, in 1985, the dedication of the Freiberg Germany Temple – a temple behind the Berlin Wall!  The Freiberg temple was so busy that patrons had to make appointments to participate in an endowment session (Ibid., p.52).

 Freiburg, Germany Temple

"In 1843, just 13 years after the Church's organization, Church President Joseph Smith called two men to preach in Russia. This assignment was canceled after the martyrdom of Joseph Smith in 1844. In 1895, a native of Sweden was sent to St. Petersburg, where he baptized the Johan M. Lindelof family. The family was occasionally visited by Church leaders in the early 1900s. In 1959, Ezra Taft Benson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, simultaneously serving as United States Secretary of Agriculture, visited the Central Baptist Church in Moscow and preached to an attentive congregation.

"In September 1989, Church leaders authorized a United States Embassy worker in Russia to begin holding group meetings in his apartment. Four months later, in January 1990, missionaries arrived in Leningrad. The first convert they baptized also became the first full-time missionary from Russia, who served in the Utah Ogden Mission. In February 1990, a congregation was organized in Vyborg. By mid-summer 1990, the Leningrad congregation, created in December 1989, had 100 members, and the Vyborg congregation had 25 members. In September, the St. Petersburg congregation was recognized by the government and in October a religious freedom law was passed. With membership in Russia at 750 in February 1992, two other Russian missions were organized.

"In June 1991, the Tabernacle Choir received publicity 'beyond its wildest expectations' as it performed in the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow and in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg). The choir recorded songs later broadcast to a potential audience of 339 million. In May 1991, the Church was officially recognized by Russia."  However proselyting missionaries were no longer allowed in Russia in 2016 due to anti-terrorism laws in that country and statistics are no longer available.

There are 11 congregations and a mission in Armenia with 3,500 members.  In great measure, Armenia was opened to the church because of the great efforts of LDS member Jon M. Huntsman, Sr., who built a concrete factory there which was staffed with LDS service missionaries and local Armenians to build safe homes after the devastating earthquake of 1988 which killed 50,000 people and left half a million homeless.  The first member of the church was baptized in 1992, and the church was registered in Armenia in 1995.

Middle East
And what is left?

In the First Presidency Message delivered by President Spencer W. Kimball in July 1979, he said, “The Spirit of the Lord is brooding over the nations to prepare the way for the preaching of the Gospel.”

In the Middle East there are 4 congregations in Israel with 300 active members including BYU students and embassy workers (see reader comment below), 365 members in Kuwait, 245 members in Bahrain, 1,699 in United Arab Emirates including a stake center. 

 The stake center in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
has a dome instead of a steeple, to fit
with local architecture.  Services are conducted on
Fridays, the Sabbath observed in that country.

The BYU Jerusalem Center is NOT a proselyting center, but an educational institution. It is presently closed, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. There is no intention for the Jerusalem Center to ever become a temple or a mission home as such would be in direct violation with the Church's agreement with the government.

 BYU Jerusalem Center
Picture from Wikipedia

Music Video Finale
Here is a fun video on the growth of the Church from 1820-2017.

Some of the information about missionary work around the world came from the video “An Ensign to the Nations.”
All current statistics come from

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Doctrine and Covenants 18 & 19 + Chief Sagwitch and the Shoshone Saints



What was the first non-English language spoken in a General Conference talk?

Which ethnic group comprised the first non-white bishopric in the Church?

The answer to both these questions may surprise you: Native American Shoshone.


Above the baptismal font in the Brigham City, Utah Temple hangs a curious piece of art. It depicts white pioneer-era men laying their hands upon the head of a seated Native American chief. When I first saw this painting, I wanted to know the story but it wasn’t until 2019, when visiting the Star Valley, Wyoming Temple and seeing the same picture there that I finally learned the name of Sagwitch. Since that time, I have fallen in love with the story of Chief Sagwitch and the Northwestern Band of the Shoshone (Shoshoni). I’ve been shocked and embarrassed to realize their story took place in my own Cache Valley and yet it was new to me. I was excited to learn that Church historian, Scott R. Christensen, had recently written a biography, Sagwitch: Shoshone Chieftain, Mormon Elder, 1822-1887, and that the story of the Shoshone saints is featured in the second volume of the new Church history series, Saints: No Unhallowed Hand (p. 401-5, 509-11).

Although Doctrine and Covenants 18 & 19 were revelations given to the three witnesses of the Book of Mormon in the eastern U.S., the words of the gospel written there were applied in the lives of the Shoshone saints in the west. We all know a lot about the pioneers. Today I want to teach about this amazing group of Native American converts that exemplified true humility, the pioneering spirit, the doctrine of Christ, and the principles of repentance and forgiveness.

Sagwitch and Beawoachee


It is well-known that Native American tribes clashed with white settlers. Being hunter/gatherers, Natives required large amounts of land. The Shoshone roamed for hundreds of miles over the course of a year, gathering berries in one area, harvesting grain from wild grasses in another, shooting game in another (Christensen, 2-6). As pioneers settled and farmed those lands, their cattle destroyed the wild grasses that produced the staple grain of the Shoshone diet. What was homesteading to the pioneers was land-hogging to the Natives. The starving Natives resorted to taking the cattle that were on their grasslands. What was fair exchange to them was thievery to the pioneers. Although Chief Sagwitch sought peace with the newcomers, and although local Church leaders carried out President Brigham Young’s counsel to feed the Natives from the storehouses, it was hard for groups with such opposite lifestyles to occupy the same land. Fear and hostilities arose. Eventually something had to give.

At the end of January each winter, all the Shoshone tribes gathered at a hot springs northwest of Preston, Idaho to pray and dance together. The Utah Territory was virtually untouched by the Civil War going on back east. Colonel Patrick Connor of the U.S. Army, stationed in the Great Basin away from action, decided to make his name famous in battle by a surprise attack on the Shoshone in their winter quarters. On a bitterly cold day, January 29, 1863, he and his restless “California volunteers” attacked the nearly defenseless Shoshone families in their lodges along the Bear River, brutally torturing and killing from 300-500 men, women, and children. The soldiers were cruel and merciless, sparing none, treating the people like vermin that must be killed. It was the largest massacre of Native Americans in North America, the details of which would sicken the hardest heart. Sagwitch’s wife and some of his children were killed. His two-year-old boy, Beshup, was shot multiple times but survived and was later found wandering the battlefield in a daze, still holding a bowl of frozen pinenut gravy. His son, Yeager, a few years older, was saved by his grandmother who told him to lie down and pretend he was dead. Although she was still butchered, he was spared. Sagwitch was shot, but rolled into the freezing river and survived by floating hidden under some brush until nightfall.

When the soldiers left, Sagwitch returned to nurse the few surviving wounded. He found his baby daughter lying alive inside their lodge, next to his dead wife. Having no way to feed a nursing infant, he wrapped her in a blanket on her cradleboard and hung it from a tree, knowing that Mormon settlers would see her and save her. The morning after the battle, three Latter-day Saint men rode over the area, looking for survivers. They collected two little boys and the baby girl. All were taken in by local families (Christensen, 47-58).

For the next ten years, the small band of survivors suffered and starved.

“Pray aways, and I will pour out my Spirit upon you, and great shall be your blessing—yea, even more than if you should obtain treasures of earth and corruptibleness to the extent thereof.

“Behold, canst thou read this without rejoicing and lifting up thy heart for gladness?

“Or canst thou run about longer as a blind guide?”

“Or canst thou be humble and meek, and conduct thyself wisely before me? Yea, come unto me thy Savior. Amen.” (D&C 19:38-41)


Then one of the Shoshone chiefs had a vision in the spring of 1873 in which 3 men came to see him at his lodge and told him “that the ‘Mormons’ God was the true God, and that he and the Indians’ Father were one; that he must go to the ‘Mormons,’ and they would tell him what to do, and that he must do it; that he must be baptized, with all his Indians, that the time was at hand for the Indians to gather, and stop their Indian life, and learn to cultivate the earth and build houses and live in them.”

“Learn of me, and listen to my words; walk in the meekness of my Spirit, and you shall have peace in me.

“I am Jesus Christ; I came by the will of the Father, and I do his will.” (D&C 19:23-24)

The Shoshone leaders knew this was direction from the Great Spirit and immediately sought out George Washington Hill, a Latter-day Saint who had previously served a mission among the Indians and had worked extensively with the U.S. Indian Agents as a translator. The Shoshone had given him a name in their language : Inkapompy, “Man with Red Hair” (Christensen, 84-85).

George Washington Hill


During his mission, 18 years earlier, Elder Hill had healed several Natives with priesthood power and baptized 56 at one time (Christensen, 87), but he explained to his Shoshone visitors that he was not presently called as a missionary, so he didn’t know if he had authority to teach them. They came a second time and received the same response. But soon, completely unaware of this situation, President Brigham Young had a feeling he could not shake, and Elder Hill was called to serve another mission to the Natives in the area. Chief Sagwitch knew, through revelation, the very day that Elder Hill would arrive—May 5, 1873—and sent emissaries to meet him. 102 men and women were baptized that day—every adult there, save one who was afraid of the water (Wikipedia entry for Mae Timbimboo Parry). The next day Elder Hill wrote a letter to President Young. “Never felt better in my life nor never spent a happier day.” Another 20 Natives came a few days later and also joined the Church.

“Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God;

“For, behold, the Lord your Redeemer suffered death in the flesh; wherefore he suffered the pain of all men, that all men might repent and come unto him.

“And he hath risen again from the dead, that he might bring all men unto him, on conditions of repentance.

“And how great is his joy in the soul that repenteth!” (D&C 18:10-13)

“Wherefore, you are called to cry repentance unto this people.

“And if it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father!

“And now, if your joy will be great with one soul that you have brought unto me into the kingdom of my Father, how great will be your joy if you should bring many souls unto me!” (D&C 18:14-16)

“And of tenets thou shalt not talk, but thou shalt declare repentance and faith on the Savior and remission of sins by baptism, and by fire, yea, even the Holy Ghost.” (D&C 19:31)

Elder Hill created a scroll of pictures to use as a teaching tool for the Natives. On June 7, 1875, he baptized 168, and 7 more the next morning. By the end of the summer he tallied his baptisms in a report to President Young: the total was 939 (Christensen, 111).


“And speak freely to all; yea, preach, exhort, declare the truth, even with a loud voice, with a sound of rejoicing, crying—Hosanna, hosanna, blessed be the name of the Lord God!” (D&C 19:37)

Elder Hill and 800 of his Shoshone converts joined the Pioneer Day celebration in Brigham City that year. 300 Native men and women joined the parade with their horses. Two Shoshone men, James Brown and John, spoke along with Apostle Lorenzo Snow, and at the end of the day, they all joined in a Hosannah shout, “Hosanna! Hosanna! Hosanna! To God and the Lamb” (Christensen, 112).

Elder Snow was so impressed that he visited the mission with his sister, Eliza R. Snow, in the Malad area and spoke to 1,000 Natives, including Shoshone and Bannock tribes from Idaho. The attentiveness of the audience astounded them. Following the sermon, 300 more were baptized in the river.

But Elder Hill’s long-term mission was much more than simply teaching and baptizing. He was also concerned with their temporal welfare. Chief Sagwitch’s tribe entered into a daring experiment with Elder Hill. They were willing to give up the only way of life they knew, the hunter/gatherer life, and learn to be farmers. They struggled to get water to the dry land. They were forced off their first farm before they could reap a harvest. They tried again in a different location. They worked hard for a very small gain. But they never gave up.

“And as many as repent and are baptized in my name, which is Jesus Christ, and endure to the end, the same shall be saved.” (D&C 18:22)

As U.S. Indian Agents tried to force the Shoshone onto the Fort Hall reservation, Elder Hill and the Church leadership called upon the Homestead Act to keep their converts in their homelands, and it worked. They purchased land in Northwestern Utah and set up a town. The Shoshone chose to call it Washakie, after a great late Shoshone chief. The Washakie Ward meetings were conducted entirely in the Shoshone language except for the sacrament prayers. During a Church drive to make “every member a tithepayer,” the Washakie Ward was one of very few to report 100% tithe-paying.

Sagwitch and his second wife, Mogogah (Beawoachee) had been sealed in the Endowment House on February 22, 1875 (Christensen, 104). Now Chief Sagwitch encouraged his people to contribute to the building of the Logan Temple. Shoshone members traveled over the mountain to work for a week at a time at the Logan Temple. They donated thousands of hours of labor. Later, they traveled that route to do ordinance work for the loved ones they had lost in the Bear River Massacre. Sagwitch himself stayed in Logan for four days in March of 1885 to do his family’s work (Christensen, 174-177).

Shoshone women visit the Logan Temple

“Pray aways, and I will pour out my Spirit upon you, and great shall be your blessing—yea, even more than if you should obtain treasures of earth and corruptibleness to the extent thereof.

“Behold, canst thou read this without rejoicing and lifting up thy heart for gladness?

“Or canst thou run about longer as a blind guide?”

“Or canst thou be humble and meek, and conduct thyself wisely before me? Yea, come unto me thy Savior. Amen.” (D&C 19:38-41)

In the end, Chief Sagwitch gave his life for his friends and his testimony. As Federal agents came to arrest the white administrators of the Washakie community for polygamy, Sagwitch and a few of his men took them into nearby Rough Canyon, disguised them as Indians, and hid them. It was very early spring and still cold. Sagwitch contracted pneumonia there and died before he could be rushed to medical care (Christensen, 186-187).


Washakie men served their country during World War II, and many men and women were hired to work in civil defense at Hill Air Force Base and the Ogden Army Depot.

The Shoshone people at Washakie had significant skills. They were readily hired because they were such good workers. They weren’t stuck on a reservation so they were available,” Christensen said. “It gave them a completely different future compared to their relatives at Fort Hall. Many were also retained after World War II” (Trent Toone, “Bear River Massacre’s Unexpected Aftermath Includes Forgiveness and Hope,” Deseret News, January 24, 2013).

Sagwitch’s descendants followed his example of leadership. That toddler boy who was found wandering the battlefield wounded at the Bear River was adopted by a Mormon pioneer family and became Frank Timbimboo Warner, probably the first full-blooded Native American to serve as a proselyting missionary, serving three times to three tribes. Sagwitch’s oldest surviving son Soquitch was ordained an elder and called to heal the sick of the Washakie community. His daughter-in-law Towange Timbimboo served in the Relief Society presidency for many years. Yeager, the middle son, served as Young Men’s President in the Ward and as counselor in the bishopric. He was invited by President Heber J. Grant to speak in General Conference in April of 1926, which he did in the Shoshone language, translated by his bishop.

 “Since I have accepted this gospel, I have felt to be a friend to this people and I have no desire to kill or to do anything wrong that would displease the spirit of the Lord…I rejoice in the work that I have accomplished in this Church, the acceptance of the ordinances of the gospel, the performance of the same in my own behalf and the work that I have accomplished in behalf of my dead kindred…I want to encourage you to be faithful and serve the Lord and keep his commandments” (Conference Report, April 1926).

Yeager’s son Moroni Timbimboo was the first Native American bishop, serving in the Washakie Ward in the first all-Native bishopric in the Church (Christensen 190-195).

Moroni Timbimboo family

Moroni’s daughter, Mae Timbimboo Parry, became tribal historian and an effective national activist for tribal rights. Her son, Darren Parry, served as Chairman for the Northwestern Band of Shoshone and successfully purchased back 550 acres of the Bear River Massacre Site, which is presently being transformed into an interpretive center with the aid of Utah State University (John Devilbiss, “A Healing Ground,” Utah State Magazine, Winter 2021, 39-45).


Although Martin Harris had never met a Shoshone Native in 1830, his obedience to the Lord’s counsel to finance the publication of the Book of Mormon changed their lives for generations. “…Impart [thy property] freely to the printing of the Book of Mormon, which contains the truth and the word—which is my word to the Gentile, that soon it may go to the Jew, of whom the Lamanites are a remnant, that they may believe the gospel…

“And thou shalt declare glad tidings, yea, publish it upon the mountains, and upon every high place, and among every people that thou shalt be permitted to see.

“And thou shalt do it with all humility, trusting in me, reviling not against revilers.” (D&C 19:26-27, 29-30)

Sarah Tickpatecky was baptized on that first day that George Washington Hill visited the Shoshone camp. Her husband and baby had been killed in the Bear River Massacre. Her descendent, Rios Pacheco, honors her legacy. “You look into your heritage,” he says. “They have set that example, that tradition, and you see the work they have done. You find the need to follow that example…The church teaches us to overcome hatred. True conversion means finding forgiveness. The family I come from has set that example” (Toone, Deseret News).


Watch a video conversation between Darren Parry and Scott Christensen at here.

Read Yeager Timbimboo’s testimony in General Conference here, April 1926, p. 136-138.

Read about Sagwitch at in Church History Topics here and in Saints:No Unhallowed Hand here and here

Read the Deseret News article here.

Read The Bear River Massacre: A Shoshone Historyby Darrin Parry, Shoshone storyteller. (I just ordered it and can't wait to read it myself!)

Read Sagwitch: Shoshone Chieftain, Mormon Elder, 1822-1887, by Scott Christensen, Church historian.


Sunday, February 14, 2021

Doctrine and Covenants 14-17

Doctrine and Covenants 14-16 addresses individual members of the Whitmer family, who had heard about Joseph Smith shortly before opening their home to him for the translation of the plates. Each of them was willing to follow the Lord by following Joseph the Prophet and each was desirous of knowing exactly what the Lord would have him do. Mary was already doing what the Lord willed her to do by hosting Joseph, Emma, and Oliver and was rewarded with a witness of the plates. Her sons received personal direction from God through the Prophet Joseph Smith.

Doctrine and Covenants Section 16:

aHearken, my servant Peter, and listen to the words of Jesus Christ, your Lord and your Redeemer.

For behold, I speak unto you with sharpness* and with power, for mine arm is over all the earth.

And I will tell you that which no man knoweth save me and thee alone—

For many times you have desired of me to know that which would be of the most worth unto you.

Behold, blessed are you for this thing, and for speaking my words which I have given unto you according to my commandments.

And now, behold, I say unto you, that the thing which will be of the most worth unto you will be to declare repentance unto this people, that you may bring souls unto me, that you may rest with them in the kingdom of my Father. Amen.

John is told almost the same thing in Section 15.

*The second definition for “sharpness” in Webster’s 1828 dictionary, after “keenness of an edge or point” is “not obtuseness.” If you are unsure of the meaning of “obtuseness,” its opposite is “clarity.” So the Lord is speaking to Peter with clarity for his individual situation, assuring him that He has power over and concern for all the earth (“mine arm is over all the earth”).

Peter could know this was the word of God to him and not just the words of Joseph Smith through the revealing of Peter’s personal desire in v. 4, but undoubtedly also through the verification of the Holy Spirit.

“Now, what do we hear in the gospel which we have received? A voice of agladness! A voice of mercy from heaven; and a voice of btruth out of the earth; glad tidings for the dead; a voice of gladness for the living and the dead; glad tidings of great cjoy.(D&C 128:19)

The Whitmer men joyfully became witnesses of the gold plates, disciples of Jesus Christ, and missionaries of the Restored gospel. Did they have any idea what was ahead of them? As one learns about the history of the Church, the consequences of becoming a member in these early days seem almost unbearable: persecution, migration, loss of homes, murders and rapes of family members, poverty, sickness. Was it worth the sacrifice they did not realize they would be making?

In the end, the Whitmers counted the cost too great. Although they were always true witnesses to the Book of Mormon and the gold plates, they lost faith in Joseph Smith as a prophet and in the cause of the Church.

“[In 1838] the Church was forced to migrate [from Missouri] to Nauvoo. The Whitmers did not go. John Whitmer stayed at Far West, a city that vanished and left him with an isolated farm. David Whitmer moved to Richmond, where he first worked with team and wagon, then developed a successful livery stable and transportation business. John and David lived in Missouri forty and fifty years after the Mormon exodus, though most of the family did not survive beyond the mid-1850s. Father and Mother Whitmer died in Richmond in 1854 and 1856. Jacob Whitmer, Book of Mormon witness and Missouri high councilor, became a farmer and shoemaker in Richmond and was buried near his parents in 1856. (Richard Lloyd Anderson, “The Whitmers: A Family That Nourished the Church,” Ensign, August 1979)

I’ll be honest: I can’t imagine what it was like to be one of the early converts, to live so close to the Prophet during trying circumstances that he didn’t look like a prophet anymore, to endure the taunting from the great and spacious building after reaching the Tree of Life. None of these Saints lived a charmed life, and I’m sure they asked themselves, “Isn’t this supposed to be a plan of happiness?” And some of them, like the Whitmers, couldn’t find the answer.


Let me draw upon a story of another Saint from another era who did endure to the end.

Sister Jean A. Stevens said, “My mother lived a rich life, full of happiness, joy, love, and service. Her love of the Savior was reflected in the way she lived her life. She had a remarkable connection to heaven and a gift and capacity to love and bless everyone around her.”

How did this woman become this way? She must have had a fairytale life, with a wonderful wedding, and all the things in life to make it comfortable and enjoyable, right?

“In the Salt Lake Temple, Mother received her endowment, and then they were married for time and all eternity by President David O. McKay. Theirs was a humble beginning. There were no photographs, no beautiful wedding dress, no flowers, and no reception to celebrate the occasion. Their clear focus was on the temple and their covenants. For them, the covenants were everything. After only six days of marriage and with a tearful good-bye, my dad left [to serve a mission in] South Africa…

“Three years after Dad returned from his mission, World War II was raging, and like so many others, he enlisted in the military. He was away from home for another four years as he served in the navy aboard battleships in the Pacific…

“In all the seasons of her life, Mother was strengthened and blessed by her love of the Lord and by the covenants she faithfully made and kept” (General Conference, October 2014). 

The making and keeping of covenants can bring happiness, joy and love into our lives despite heartbreak, war and loneliness.

President Eyring told us, “You were tutored by [Heavenly Father] before you came into this life. He helped you understand and accept that you would have trials, tests, and opportunities perfectly chosen just for you. You learned that our Father had a plan of happiness to get you safely through those trials and that you would help bring others safely through theirs. This plan is marked by covenants with God” (April 2014 Conference).

So the plan of happiness follows a pathway of covenants.


Let’s draw a picture of happiness. This is our real-life fairytale.

[Draw a stick figure princess in the lower center of the chalkboard. Have each person in your class or family copy what you draw onto their own piece of paper.]

This is the prince/princess. That would be you. We all live in a dark world with evil and sorrow, but there are stars to guide us, points of light from the heavens. And we each carry a light, the light of Christ, to light our path.

[Draw a scepter in her/his hand with a star on the end.]

[Draw a path from the stick figure to the lower center of the picture.]

This is the strait and narrow path. It is strait (not “straight”) which means it is restricted. We don’t get to choose your own path or how to walk it; we follow exactly as it is designed. This path is the Gospel Path, and our part to play in the gospel is basically the 4th Article of Faith. We exercise faith, repent, get baptized and receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost. We are allowed to enter into the kingdom of God on the earth (the church). We take upon ourselves Christ’s name and become members of his family, with the possibility of inheriting what he has. We act in his name, in other words we do what he would do if he were here. We promise to keep the commandments, to bear each other’s burdens, and to stand as witnesses of God. (Mosiah 18:8-11)

[Write “BAPTISMAL COVENANT” on the path.]

So where does this path lead? Well, a kingdom has to have a castle, right?

[Draw a temple outline.]

In fact, it is the House of God. By entering into the temple and making covenants in which we are initiated, endowed with power, and sealed together as families, we join the covenant that God made with Abraham and become members of the House of Israel. Abraham is now our ancestor and we belong to his family. The terrestrial world is symbolized by the moon, and we enjoy the greater light that the moon has as it reflects the light of the sun into the dark world.

[Draw a moon by the temple.]

Keeping our temple covenants helps us become a terrestrial society: good people trying to help each other become better. As children of Abraham, we are obligated to “bless all nations of the earth” through the Priesthood (the power of that runs His church), and “gather Israel,” or seek, teach and invite others to join the House of Israel in this life and vicariously through family history and temple work.

[Write “HOUSE OF ISRAEL (ABRAHAM)” on the temple.]

Before Abraham’s time, Heavenly Father made a covenant with his ancestor and the symbol of that covenant is the rainbow.

[Draw a rainbow over the temple.]

I know you are thinking that the rainbow covenant was made with Noah after the flood when God promised He wouldn’t flood the earth again, but that was just a renewal. The original covenant is found in the Joseph Smith Translation appendix. It is also mentioned in D&C 76. Enoch led a city entrenched in wickedness, and he taught them through Priesthood power so thoroughly over a long period of time, that they became too holy for this earth and the City of Enoch was taken up to heaven. (Read JST Gen. 9:21-25.)

When the people on earth have created a Zion society by “embracing the truth” (which we do when we are baptized) and by looking upward, the City of Enoch will come down from heaven and join Zion on earth. We look upward when we keep our temple covenants. All the symbolism in the structure and the interior of the temple pulls our eyes upward, just as the ceremony pulls our perspective heavenward, and the covenants will fit us for a Zion society, where everyone is equal and there are no rich or poor.

Article of Faith 10 relates to both Enoch’s and Abraham’s covenants:

“We believe in the literal gathering of Israel and in the restoration of the ten tribes, that Zion (the New Jerusalem) will be established upon the American continent; that Christ will reign personally on the earth; and that the earth will be renewed and receive it’s paradisiacal glory.”

In fact, the temple connects heaven and earth even before the final days. Angels minister to us, miracles happen, prayers are answered every day as we keep the covenants we have made. The heaven we create on earth, Zion, will eventually be joined by the City of Enoch and become the real Heaven.

[Write “ZION COVENANT (ENOCH)” on it. Under it, write “Create Zion.”]

The first covenant of all was made with Adam and Eve when they left the Garden of Eden.

[Draw a sun above the rainbow.]

We came to this earth by “falling” from heaven. We were separated from God, and we were no longer pure and holy because this world is full of sin and error. But this was necessary to gain the knowledge and experience needed to become like God so He allowed the Fall to happen, and then provided a Savior for us. Jesus Christ would “fit us for heaven” as the Christmas carol says, through His Atonement, which would free us from our sins through repentance, and the sins of others against us through forgiveness, and make us holier and better than we could be on our own, so that we could become Celestial beings and enjoy Eternal Life, or God’s Life, ourselves. (Read 3 Nephi 27:13-14.)

All of these covenants are only possible because of Christ’s atonement, His part in the Gospel covenant. Article of Faith 3 reads,

“We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel.”


Each of these covenants is part of the New & Everlasting Covenant of the Gospel (See Elder Marcus B. Nash, December 2015 Ensign), and the whole thing operates by love: God’s love for us, and our love for him and for our brothers and sisters on earth.

[Draw a heart around the entire picture. Write “NEW & EVERLASTING COVENANT” above the heart.]


God’s love: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whoso believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

Our love: The statement that love is the sum of all the commandments is found in every book of scripture. (Deut. 6:5; Mark 12:30-31; D&C 59:5-6; Moro. 10:32) I like the way it is stated in Romans 13:8-9 “…He that loveth another hath fulfilled the law…if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.”

Keeping the New and Everlasting Covenant does not just bring us happiness in the next life; it makes us happy here, because the most joyful experience in the world is to feel and share God’s love.

As Elder Nash said, “For all who abide the terms of the new and everlasting covenant, the reward is joy and peace in this world and eternal life in the next.”

Paul wrote to the Romans, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” (Read Romans 8:35-39) As long as we have the love of Christ, we will have happiness, despite times of trial.

Everything that happens outside our power will be a blessing to us, even things we might term as “bad.” As Paul taught, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

So the great news of the gospel is that a life of happiness does not depend on everything working out the way we plan, and no bad things happening, and being able to follow all our dreams and hopes, and having enough money to buy what we want, and getting the exact number of children we want, and never having a crime committed against us, and having perfect health and beauty, and any other things that we don’t have control over. It does not depend on what happens to us. It depends on something we have total control over: the keeping of our covenants to love God and our fellow human beings.

Now we can see how Sister Stevens’ mother lived a life filled with “happiness, joy, love and service,” despite missing out on some of her fondest dreams and enduring great periods of loneliness and trial at what should have been the most pleasant time of her life. We can see how many of the early Saints persisted in the Church despite torturous circumstances and painful loss.

There is no permanent disappointment or sorrow on the covenant path.

It is the love of God and for God and others that brings us the greatest joy, the greatest happiness and the greatest peace in this life.


For a lesson about the Three Witnesses (and the fourth), please go to