D&C Lesson #1: Introduction to the Doctrine & Covenants and Church History
1. Ed J. Pinegar, Richard J. Allen, Karl R. Anderson: The study of the Doctrine and Covenants is a study of God’s love for His children, for in these pages are laid down with clarity the principles and procedures for building Zion – as both a pattern of righteous living and a place where God can dwell with His people. By far the most important edition of the Doctrine and Covenants is the “edition” that resides in the heart and soul of each sincere and willing reader as a living testament of devotion to the Lord and His covenant plan of redemption. Alma taught: “he that will not harden his heart, to him is given the greater portion of the word, until it is given unto him to know the mysteries of God until he know them in full” (Alma 12:10). How much of the word is found “in us,” as Alma put it (Alma 12:13), is a measure of the quality of our hearts as receptacles of truth and our willingness to seek the confirmation of the Holy Spirit. Teachings and Commentaries on the Doctrine and Covenants, preface.
2. Joseph Smith: Prophets, priests and kings have looked forward with joyful anticipation to the day in which we live; and fired with heavenly and joyful anticipations they have sung and written and prophesied of this our day; but they died without the sight; we are the favored people that God has made choice of to bring about the latter-day glory; it is left for us to see, participate in and help to roll forward the latter-day glory, “the dispensation of the fullness of times”. Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 231.
3. Steven C. Harper: The early Saints delighted in the Prophet Joseph’s revelations. They read them over and over, committing some to memory. They copied manuscripts of the most important or personal ones and then copied the copies. They treasured these documents. The growing number of missionaries needed the revelations in their ministry, but copies could only be made by hand when the missionaries happened to be at Church headquarters or crossed paths with someone who had a hand-copied manuscript of an earlier manuscript. Access was limited, and the potential for errors great. The Saints needed to publish the revelations. Making Sense of the Doctrine & Covenants, p. 1.
4. Steven C. Harper: With Zion on their minds Joseph Smith gathered Church leaders at the Johnson home at Hiram, Ohio, in November 1831 to advance the plan for publishing the revelations. Oliver Cowdery asked how many copies the Lord wanted in the first edition of the Book of Commandments. The brethren voted for ten thousand, an extraordinarily large print run for such a project, and twice as many as the first printing of the Book of Mormon. They were willing to impoverish themselves to make the revelations widely available. … It may be hard for modern readers to fully appreciate their actions. A poorly educated, twenty-six year old farmer was planning to publish ten thousand copies of his revelations that called his neighbors idolatrous, commanded them to repent, and foretold calamities upon those who continued in wickedness. Making Sense of the Doctrine & Covenants, pp. 4-5.
5. Oliver Cowdery held up a printed but not yet bound copy of the Doctrine and Covenants and asked the Saints for their consent to publish it. William Phelps said that he had examined it carefully, that it was well arranged and calculated to govern the Church in righteousness, if followed it would bring the members to see eye to eye. And further that he had received the testimony from God, that the Revelations and commandments contained therein are true, wherefore, he knew assuredly for himself having received witness from Heaven & not from men. John Whitmer who transcribed many of the revelations for Joseph, followed with a similar expression of certainty, adding that he was present when some of the revelations contained therein were given, and was satisfied they come from God. Others followed. Levi Jackman arose and said that he had examined as many of the revelations contained in the book as were printed in Zion, & as firmly believes them as he does the Book of Mormon or the Bible and also the whole contents of the Book, he then called for the vote of the High Council from Zion, which they gave in favor of the Book and also of the committee. Newel Whitney arose and testified that he knew the revelations were true, for God had testified to him by his holy Spirit, for many of them were given under his roof & in his presence through President Joseph Smith Junr. Kirtland Minute Book, August 17, 1835.
6. Steven C. Harper: In 1844, the First Presidency announced plans to publish a second edition of the Doctrine and Covenants, adding seven revelations to the 1835 edition, including today’s sections 103, 105, 112, 119, 124, 127, and 128. … Orson Pratt of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles edited the 1876 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants. Under President Brigham Young’s direction, Elder Pratt made extensive changes that dramatically influence how we read the book today. He added several of Joseph’s revelations and one of Brigham Young’s, amounting to twenty-six new sections, including 2, 13, 77, 85, 87, 108, 109, 110, 111, 113, 114, 115, 116, 117, 118, 120, 121, 122, 123, 125, 126, 129, 130, 131, 132, and 136. Elder Pratt rearranged the order of the sections and divided them into verses. … But in an important sense the Doctrine and Covenants remains open. As a contemporary of Joseph put it, this book of scripture shows us that God is, not was; that He speaketh, not spake (Ralph Waldo Emerson). The future of the Doctrine and Covenants is as exciting as its past. Making Sense of the Doctrine & Covenants, pp. 8-9.
7. Ezra Taft Benson: The Doctrine and Covenants brings men to Christ’s kingdom, even The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth. The Book of Mormon is the “keystone” of our religion, and the Doctrine and Covenants is the capstone, with continuing latter-day revelation. The Lord has placed His stamp of approval on both the keystone and the capstone. Gen. Conference, April 1987.
8. Ezra Taft Benson: The Doctrine and Covenants is the only book in the world that has a preface written by the Lord Himself. In that preface He declares to the world that His voice is unto all men, that the coming of the Lord is nigh, and that the truths found in the Doctrine and Covenants will all be fulfilled. Gen. Conference, Oct. 1986.
9. Neal A. Maxwell: If asked which book of scripture provides the most frequent chance to “listen” to the Lord talking, most individuals would at first think of the New Testament. The New Testament is a marvelous collection of the deeds and many of the doctrines of the Messiah. But in the Doctrine and Covenants we receive the voice as well as the word of the Lord. We can almost “hear” him talking. Words like these sink into one’s marrow as well as into one’s mind, for the majesty and power of the Lord are so evident …. In many ways the Doctrine and Covenants is the modern equivalent of the thundering directness of Sinai, when the finger of the Lord wrote on the two tablets of stone (Ex. 31:18) – portions of the Doctrine and Covenants with the “thou shalt nots” (D&C 42) and the “Alpha and Omegas” are given by the voice of the Lord. Indeed, the repeated interlacing of truths in the Doctrine and Covenants with those of other books of scripture shows a precision too great to have been managed by something as clumsy as a computer. Only divine direction could achieve this grand consistency. Ensign, Dec. 1978.
10. This dispensation can be divided into six historical periods:
New York Period 1820-1830
Ohio-Missouri Period 1831-1838
Nauvoo Period 1839-1846
Pioneering the West 1846-1898
Expansion of the Church 1899-1950
The Worldwide Church 1951-present
(from the manual and study guide)
Next week: “Behold, I am Jesus Christ, the Savior of the World” (no specific reading assignment)