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Relationship to Section 42. The relationship of Verses 42:11-17 to the rest of Section 42 is discussed at D&C 42.
Message. Themes, symbols, and doctrinal points emphasized in Verses 42:11-17 include:
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- D&C 42:12. Verse 12 is directed to the “elders, priests, and teachers.” Since verse 11 right before it is directed to the missionary effort of preaching the gospel, it is tempting to read verses 12-17 as simply talking about the same issue. However, it is important to note that D&C 20 and D&C 84 clearly state that teachers, one of the three groups addressed in verse 12, are to stay with the church and not travel. D&C 20 also explains that all three offices have a responsibility to teach in church meetings. Since at least one of the offices addressed in verse 12 is not assigned any missionary duties, and all three offices do have a responsibility to teach in their church meetings, it is possible at least to read verse 12 as dealing with teaching specifically in church meeting settings. With this setting in mind, verse 12 explains that their sermons should teach the “principles of the gospel” - faith, repentance, baptism, Holy Ghost - with the Bible and Book of Mormon as the source.
- D&C 42:13. Verse 13 commands them to observe the “covenants and church articles.” This was a phrase commonly used to refer to section 20 of the Doctrine and Covenants, which recorded the duties these of elders, priests, and teachers. One of these duties listed in D&C 20 was to “conduct the meetings as [...] led by the Holy Ghost.” The remainder of verse 13 echoes this commandment by directing them to teach “as they shall be directed by the Spirit.”
- D&C 42:14. Verse 14 continues the theme and explains this process further: “And the Spirit shall be given unto you by the prayer of faith.” Faith is necessary, as is the process of asking. Yet, verse 14 opens up the possibility that even with this the Spirit might not come. “If ye receive not the Spirit,” it says, “ye shall not teach.”
- D&C 42:14: Not teach. There are several ways of interpreting this direction to "not teach." One reading is to assume that if one does not have enough faith to receive the Spirit, then one should not teach until that faith is present. A second reading suggests that like the Saints mentioned in D&C 50, it is possible to mistake other powerful influences as being the Spirit. To avoid this, a teacher ought to pray for the power to teach and see if it is granted. Then one can know that the power being sought is of God (for example, it might be inappropriate to share a personal story or a phrase from a patriarchal blessing, even though the teacher knows it would draw the attention of the class. Praying first and receiving the Spirit would enable the teacher to proceed without concern). A third possible interpretation is that a teacher should be open to the Spirit directing them to do something other than teaching - perhaps spending the time praying, singing, exhorting, or conducting a conversation with class members (see Moroni 6:9).
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Prompts for life application
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Prompts for further study
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- D&C 42:14. When do we know that we should not teach?
- D&C 42:15. Why all this "until the fulness of my scriptures is given"?
- D&C 42:14, 16. What is the difference between teaching by the Spirit and speaking by the Comforter?
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- A paper titled: "'To Teach or Not to Teach': Three Possible Interpretations of D&C 42:12-14" presented at the Embracing the Law seminar conference, is available in podcast form at mormontheologyseminar.org
- Blog post analyzing verses 12-14 and applying this to teaching Young Womens
- See discussion on these verses by participants in a Mormon Theology Seminar project at Embracingthelaw.wordpress.com 
Footnotes are not required but are encouraged for factual assertions that average readers cannot easily evaluate for themselves (such as the date of King Solomon’s death or the nuanced definition of a Greek word). In contrast, insights rarely benefit from footnoting, and the focus of this page should always remain on the scriptures themselves rather than what someone has said about them. Links are actively encouraged on all sections of this page, and links to authoritative sources (such as Strong's Bible Concordance or the Joseph Smith Papers) are preferable to footnotes.