RS Lesson 32: Responding to Persecution with Faith and Courage

New to teaching or looking for ways to hone your craft?  Check out Amelia’s excellent post on preparing for Relief Society lessons.

by Lynette from ZD

Section 1: The enemy of truth opposes the servants of the Lord, especially as they grow closer to the Lord.

Joseph Smith comments that all religious societies have been persecuted at their first commencement.  Can you think of other examples of this?  Why might this be?  How do we view new religious movements in our own day?

The Church is obviously in a somewhat different situation today than in Joseph Smith’s time, in terms of being larger and more established.  How might this influence our contemporary response to persecution, as compared to that of the early Saints?  What things might be similar, or different?

Joseph Smith asks, “Shall a man be considered bad, when men speak evil of him? No. If a man stands and opposes the world of sin, he may expect to have all wicked and corrupt spirits arrayed against him.”  Does this mean that if people are speaking evil of you, if you encounter opposition, it is evidence of your righteousness?

What is the difference between “persecution” and genuine disagreement?

How can we avoid falling into the role of persecutors ourselves (whether of those inside or outside of the Church)?

Section 2: Those who love God will bear persecution with courage and faith.

Joseph Smith emphasizes that we should not “betray heaven” in persecution.  What does this mean, exactly?

Does responding to adversity with courage and faith mean not doubting or struggling?

Joseph Smith comments that “we feared not our opponents, knowing that we had both truth and righteousness on our side, that we had both the Father and the Son, because we had the doctrines of Christ, and abided in them.”  What is there to fear?  Why would having the factors mentioned here make a difference?

How do we hold on to our unique doctrines and truths without taking an adversarial and contentious stance toward everyone else?  One of the challenges in situations of conflict is that it’s easy for both sides to get defensive about their own views, and therefore less able to really listen to one another.  How can we avoid this?

When is persecution something we should simply let go, and when should we do something about it?

What are unhelpful responses to persecution?  What are better ones?  (A useful reference here might be Elder Hales’ talk on Christian courage, from the Oct 2008 Conference.)  How might the New Testament injunction to love our enemies fit into this?

Section 3: God’s mighty power will sustain those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake.

Joseph Smith says that God will sustain the persecuted.  But this doesn’t mean that the early Saints, and Joseph himself, weren’t subject to a great deal of suffering.  What does it mean, then, to be sustained by God’s power?

Why would we rejoice in our afflictions?  What does that involve?  How is it different from playing a kind of martyr role, or being self-righteous?  Can we both rejoice in our afflictions and still hope that they’ll end soon?

Referencing the New Testament, Joseph Smith says, “Let your hearts and the hearts of all the Saints be comforted with you, and let them rejoice exceedingly, for great is our reward in heaven, for so persecuted the wicked the prophets which were before us.”  Why would it matter to us to know that earlier prophets were persecuted?

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EmilyCC lives in Phoenix, Arizona with her spouse and three children. She currently serves as a stake Just Serve specialists, and she recently returned to school to become a nurse. She is a former editor of Exponent II and a founding blogger at The Exponent.


  1. Joseph Smith comments that all religious societies have been persecuted at their first commencement.

    Where does JS say this? This isn’t a challenge, but a search for a reference.

  2. Sure–it’s from the Joseph Smith manual:

    “Our religious principles are before the world ready for the investigation of all men, yet we are aware that all the persecution against our friends has arisen in consequence of calumnies [false charges] and misconstructions without foundation in truth and righteousness. This we have endured in common with all other religious societies at their first commencement.”

    And the citation is:

    History of the Church, 2:460; from a letter from Joseph Smith and others to John Thornton and others, July 25, 1836, Kirtland, Ohio, published in Messenger and Advocate, Aug. 1836, p. 358.

  3. jddaughter, the reference in footnote #4 (p.377 in the manual) is given as History of the Church, 2:460. More details about the letter “from Joseph Smith and others” from which the quote is taken are in the footnote.

  4. In presenting this chapter this Sunday I will have a hand-out supplement with two items:
    1. the Nehemiah (“…We Will Not Come Down”)story used by President Uchtdorf in General Conference seems appropriate. The post-burned-out-lamp part will be in the hand-out supplement.
    3. the “Six Destructive D’s” fron Elder Pearson of the Seventy at Gen Conf.

  5. The manual mentions that the guards “allowed” Joesph and others to escape (pg 371). How does that fit in with “we believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law”? Does anyone know what the charges were? Thanks!

  6. My calling has taken me outside my comfort zone!!! I seriously do not know what I would do without this web site – you ladies do such a fabulous job!!! Thank you very much 🙂 I have learned so much and keeps the stress level on a low scale when preparing my lessons.
    lmedina at osma1 dot com

  7. Lynette, thank you for crafting such engaging questions. I took out a piece of paper to make notes on the post and then continued to write down every single thing! I should have just pressed print.

    I think this could be a very interesting lesson, with the potential for some rich discussion. I’m going to try to skirt the proposition 8 issue as much as possible, because I know those issues may be too fresh and charged to deal with in a RS meeting format. I also don’t know if it’s respectful to compare the “persecution” members are facing currently to the violence and hatred that earlier Saints faced. I appreciate the parallels, but it has the potentital to make light of the sacrifices and suffering that was endured when we try to make them analagous. Thank you again for these great thoughts on the lesson.

  8. I’m really struggling teaching these lessons because it seems that they’re all the same. “life is hard, but not as hard as it could be.” “life is hard, get used to it.” “life is hard, but you can do it” “life is hard, do it anyway.” It’s exhausting trying to pull out constructive comments out of these topics when it’s the same thing every week. How many different ways can you say “it’ll be OK, it’s for your own good, and you’re strong enough”?

    You’ve offered great insight on the first 2 sections (thank you!), but I feel like leaving out section 3 altogether because it’s basically the same lesson we’ve had twice a month all year long. Is there anything new? (I ask because I don’t see it if it’s there.)

    Am I up in the night and just not reading this the right way? Help a Siser out! 🙂

  9. Amy I see what you are saying but those lessons are tender mercies for the sisters that hear them. They come at just the right moment. Perhaps it is the repitition that helps a sister carry on when otherwise she would not have had the strength. I think the best thing is to just go with what is in the manual and trust there is a reason it seems oh so similar to the others. I promise in time it will pay off.

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