Doctrine and Covenants Introductory Helps
The Title Page states that the Doctrine and Covenants contains “revelations given to Joseph Smith, the Prophet, with some additions by his successors.” These revelations include messages from God given through the Urim and Thummim, as well as other inspired communications in the form of thoughts, feelings, letters, visions, prophecies, prayers, visitations, minutes, teachings, and so forth.
The “additions” mentioned on the Title Page include Sections 135 (John Taylor), 136 (Brigham Young), 138 (Joseph F. Smith), Official Declaration—1 (Wilford Woodruff), and Official Declaration-2 (Spencer W. Kimball). This pattern has continued throughout this dispensation, although not all revelations are recorded in the Church’s standard works of scripture. President Spencer W. Kimball declared, “We testify to the world that revelation continues and that the vaults and files of the Church contain these revelations which come month to month and day to day” (Ensign, May 1977, p. 78).
Key statements from the Introduction include the following:
- “The Doctrine and Covenants is a collection of divine revelations and inspired declarations given for the establishment and regulation of the kingdom of God on the earth in the last days” (Paragraph 1).
- “The messages, warnings, and exhortations are for the benefit of all mankind, and contain an invitation to all people everywhere to hear the voice of the Lord, Jesus Christ” (Paragraph 1).
- “These sacred revelations were received in answer to prayer, in times of need, and came out of real-life situations involving real people” (Paragraph 6).
- “In the revelations one hears the tender but firm voice of the Lord Jesus Christ…. The work that is initiated herein is preparatory to His Second Coming” (Paragraph 3).
In August 1831, after receiving what is now Section 63 of the Doctrine and Covenants, the Prophet Joseph Smith recorded, “In these infant days of the Church, there was a great anxiety to obtain the word of the Lord upon every subject that in any way concerned our salvation” (History of the Church, 1:207). We are blessed to possess this same sought-after word of the Lord. Just as the earlier Saints, may we appropriately approach this year’s study with “a great anxiety” to learn more about our own eternal salvation.
D&C 1 “My Preface”
Eight years after the earliest section (Section 2), the Lord instructed the Prophet Joseph Smith to compile the revelations into what was titled Book of Commandments, published in 1833 (the Lord referred to the revelations as “commandments” in D&C 1:6, 17-18, 24, 30, 37). This first Book of Commandments contained 65 sections, including what is now Section 1, designated as the Lord’s “Preface” or introduction to the book (see verse 6). The next edition was published in 1835, with the title changed to The Doctrine and Covenants.
In verse 37 the Lord directs us to “search these commandments.” We must not only read, but also search. This verse also highlights “the prophecies and promises which are in them,” providing us with two more helpful guides to our study: We should look for the Lord’s prophecies and promises. Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve took this further when he taught, “As we hearken to the Lord’s spirit of prophecy, we can become, in our own way, part of the fulfillment of His prophecies and promises—part of the gospel blessing the world” (Ensign, Nov. 2020, p. 39).
D&C 1:1-7, 37-39 An Exhortation to Listen and Obey
To whom does the Lord speak in verses 1-7? What key words do you see in verses 1-7, 37-39? What do these key words invite you to do? Note the Lord’s “guarantee” in His use of the words “shall all be fulfilled” in both verses 37 and 38.
D&C 1:2-19, 32-38 “Shall”
These verses contain 30 occurrences of the word shall, expressing the Lord’s absolute declarations. What do you learn from these statements about the Lord, His work, and His purposes?
D&C 1:13-30 His Latter-day Work
According to verses 13-16, how did the Lord describe the world and its inhabitants in 1831? In order to avert “the calamity which should come upon the inhabitants of the earth,” the Lord called upon Joseph Smith and “spake unto him from heaven, and gave him commandments” (verse 17). Then in verses 18-30 the Lord reveals a glorious list of His many purposes in the latter-day Restoration, including:
- “That they should proclaim these things unto the world” (verse 18).
- “That it might be fulfilled, which was written by the prophets” (verse 18).
- That “the weak things of the world shall come forth and break down the might and strong ones” (verse 19).
- “That man should not counsel his fellow man, neither trust in the arm of flesh” (verse 19).
- “That every man might speak in the name of God” (verse 20).
- “That faith also might increase in the earth” (verse 21).
- “That mine everlasting covenant might be established” (verse 22).
- “That the fulness of my gospel might be proclaimed by the weak and the simple unto the ends of the world, and before kings and rulers” (verse 23).
- That the Lord’s servants “might come to understanding. And inasmuch as they erred it might be made known” (verses 24-25).
- “And inasmuch as they sought wisdom they might be instructed; and inasmuch as they sinned they might be chastened, that they might repent” (verses 26-27).
- “And inasmuch as they were humble they might be made strong, and blessed from on high, and receive knowledge from time to time” (verse 28).
- That Joseph Smith “might have power to translate … the Book of Mormon” (verse 29).
- That the Lord’s people “might have power to lay the foundation of this church, and to bring it forth out of obscurity and out of darkness” (verse 30).
What stands out for you in this list? Which of these prophecies and promises have been—or are in the process—of being fulfilled?
D&C 1:31-32 The Blessing of Repentance
We often quote verse 31 wherein the Lord declares that He “cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance.” This can be frightening to ponder, because we are all well aware of our own sins and shortcomings. However, this verse should always be considered in connection with verse 32, wherein the Lord promptly adds, “Nevertheless, he that repents and does the commandments of the Lord shall be forgiven.” This constitutes a great deal of “allowance” on the Lord’s part: When we repent, He forgives!
D&C 1:35-36 The Lord Wins
In verse 35 the Lord prophesied that “peace shall be taken from the earth, and the devil shall have power over his own dominion.” But He also stated that “the Lord shall have power over his saints, and shall reign in their midst, and shall come down in judgment upon Idumea, or the world” (verse 36). In our day it is easy to see the fulfillment of verse 35; but in contrast, our wonderful consolation is that we can also see and participate in the fulfillment of verse 36.