Doctrine & Covenants/Church History
Lesson 39
“The Hearts of the Children Shall Turn to Their Fathers”

Lesson Highlights

A study of this lesson will help us understand the need to seek out our ancestors and receive priesthood ordinances in their behalf.

Scripture references for study:  D&C 2; 110:13–16; 138; Joseph Smith—History 1:37–39; Our Heritage, pages 98–99, 101–2, 105–7
    Note: Underlined scripture references have been hyperlinked to the LDS Scriptures at and will open in a new window.

Lesson 39 Handout (PDF)

Redemption of the Dead

One of the magnificent doctrines of the latter-day restoration is that of salvation for the dead. On May 15, 1829, John the Baptist appeared to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery on the banks of the Susquehanna River restoring the power and authority to perform baptism. 

On the evening of September 21, 1823, young Joseph Smith retired to bed. He called upon the Lord to forgive him of his sins and to request a manifestation that he might know of his standing before the Lord.

On Sunday, April 3, 1836, a few days after the dedication of the Kirtland Temple, a meeting was held in the temple that included the passing of the sacrament. Wrote Joseph Smith:  "After having performed this service to my brethren, I retired to the pulpit, the veils being dropped, and bowed myself, with Oliver Cowdery, in solemn and silent prayer. After rising from prayer, the following vision was opened to both of us" (HC, 2:434-435). The record of this vision is contained in D&C 110. Joseph and Oliver saw a vision of the Lord and were subsequently visited by Moses, Elias, and Elijah.

On August 10, 1840, Brother Seymour Brunson died in Nauvoo. It was at Brother Brunson's funeral that the Prophet Joseph Smith first taught the doctrine regarding baptism for the dead. Joseph Smith: "I first mentioned the doctrine in public when preaching the funeral sermon of Brother Seymour Brunson; and have since then given general instructions in the Church on the subject. The Saints have the privilege of being baptized for those of their relatives who are dead, whom they believe would have embraced the Gospel, if they had been privileged with hearing it, and who have received the Gospel in the spirit, through the instrumentality of those who have been commissioned to preach to them while in prison." (HC, 4:231)

The completion of the Salt Lake Temple gave even more emphasis to work for the dead since this temple was close to the largest body of Saints.

Joseph F. Smith - A Vision of the Savior's Visit To The Dead.

Temple Building Continues.

Temple Attendance.

Gospel Doctrine Notebook

Record your thoughts on the work for the dead as revealed in this dispensation through the Prophet Joseph Smith. Are there things you can do in your life to increase your service in this great work?

Resources Used In This Lesson

A Woman's View: Helen Mar Whitney's Reminiscences of Early Church History edited by Jeni Broberg Holzapfel & Richard Neitzel Holzapfel.

BYU Studies.

Conference Reports (CR).

Discourses of Brigham Young.

Discourses of Wilford Woodruff edited by G. Homer Durham.

Doctrines of Salvation by Joseph Fielding Smith.

Encyclopedia of Mormonism edited by Daniel H. Ludlow.


History of the Church (HC).

Gospel Standards by Heber J. Grant.

Improvement Era.

Journal of Discourses (JD).

Messages of the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints compiled by James R. Clark.

Studies In Scripture edited by Robert L. Millet and Kent P. Jackson.

Times & Seasons.

Women of Nauvoo by Jeni Broberg Holzapfel & Richard Neitzel Holzapfel.

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Changes last made on:  31 July 2017