Have you ever wondered why the Doctrine and Covenants is so different from the other books of Scripture that we study? Well, to understand that we might have to go back to an even more basic question, which is what is scripture in the doctrine and covenants? The savior gives an interesting definition of scripture in Section sixty eight of the Doctrine Covenant. Speaking to his disciples, he says, and whatsoever they shall speak when moved upon by the Holy Ghost, shall be Scripture, shall be the will of the Lord, shall be the mind of the Lord, shall be the Word of the Lord, shall be the voice of the Lord and the power of God and to salvation.
So anything spoken under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost can be scripture. And this is a really broad definition that the savior gives to us. If you spoke by the power of the Holy Ghost in the sacrament meeting talk or gave a blessing or received a blessing by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, according to the Savior, it’s scripture. It’s the word of the Lord and the mind of the Lord. But not all great sacrament meeting, tax or patriarchal blessings get placed into the Scriptures.
So to understand that, we might need to introduce a different term, which is canon. The LDS Bible Dictionary defines Canon as a word that means a rod for testing straightness and is now used to denote the authoritative collection of the sacred books used by the true believers and Jesus Christ. So Canon is a collection of scripture that we know is scripture for sure, and that we use to measure new scripture and find out if it genuinely comes from God. Not all scripture goes into the canon.
And the canon in and of itself is an authoritative collection of scriptures that we used to know what God has said to us and to give guidance in our lives. Now the Doctrine and Covenants is the newest book in the canon of Scripture, and it’s important for us to understand how things went from being revelations or scripture given to the prophets and apostles of this dispensation into the scriptural canon that we use to measure truth. There’s several different ways that the doctrine and covenants was given to the early saints.
For instance, one method of transmission was angelic messengers. People like Moroni, John the Baptist, Moses, Elijah, Elias, Raphael, even Jesus Christ, along with other angels, appeared to Joseph Smith and his associates and delivered messages to them. Sections like Section two of the Doctrine Covenants, Section thirteen, twenty seven and one hundred and ten are these angelic communications where someone speaks to the prophet and gives them a message. When you read through the doctrine and covenants, it’s important to understand that you need to read the italicized section introduction in order to know the context.
And you’ll note in a section like Section twenty seven that the text of the revelation was given to Joseph Smith through a heavenly messenger. Another way the doctrine covenants was received was through divine instruments like the Nephi interpreters. Joseph Smith, especially early on in the doctrine covenants, received a lot of the revelations, the same way that he received the text of the Book of Mormon by using a divine instrument that gave the text to him. Almost every section up to about Section seventeen of the Doctrine and Covenants has a notation in its introduction that it was received through the German thumb and through these divine instruments.
The text of the revelations was delivered to Joseph Smith. Another way that the revelations came to Joseph Smith was through visions. Joseph Smith would often pray, asking a question and then have a vision delivered to him or one of his associates so that they could see and have explained to them that way some of the doctrines and teachings, some of the most important sections of the doctrine covenants like Section seventy six, section one hundred and thirty seven, and Section one hundred and thirty eight.
Tell us all about the afterlife, the three degrees of glory and what happens in the spirit world by showing the prophet what happens there and then having them record and write the vision. By far the most common means of reception of sections of the doctrine covenants is what we will call inspiration and confirmation. This is where Joseph Smith or one of his friends would have a question and they would petition the Lord asking for revelation. And the Lord would give Joseph Smith the words to say that he could write down on several occasions.
People were in the room with Joseph Smith when he received these revelations. The revelation, now known as Section Fifty of the Doctrine and Covenants, was received in the presence of several people, including partly P Brandt probably P. described the way the revelation was received this way. He said each sentence was uttered slowly and very distinctly, with a pause between each sufficiently long for it to be recorded by an ordinary writer in longhand. There was never any hesitation reviewing or reading back in order to keep the run of the subject.
Most sections, the doctrine covenants came this way. An important thing to remember is that most of the doctrine covenants came in answer to a question. If you’ve had questions, the doctrine covenants is a sign from God that it’s OK to ask those questions and that the Lord is anxious to answer those questions. But another thing to keep in mind, too, is that these revelations, even if they came from God, came through imperfect beings, through people that had flaws and problems.
And so sometimes the text. The revelation was changed slightly in order to better reflect what the Lord was saying at that point in time. If you look at the original documents of the doctrine covenants that we have, they did make slight changes to wording, though the substance of the text stayed the same. Another way that the doctrine covenants was given is through church proclamations. These are inspired documents created in collaboration among church leaders and like the Family Proclamation of the Living Christ or the recent restoration proclamation.
These proclamations talk about a specific issue like Section one. Thirty four talks about governments or official declaration one talks about the end of plural marriage. Section one thirty five notes the death of Joseph and Hyam Smith. And it’s important to recognize that these are inspired documents, but came to us in a slightly different way.
Another way that the Doctrine Covenants was received was through epistles and items of instruction. Often, Joseph Smith would write a letter to the church explaining or expounding on one of the doctrines that he had received. Sections like Section one twenty seven is a letter from Joseph Smith explaining how baptisms for the dead are supposed to be properly witnessed and recorded. Section 121, one of the most powerful sections of the doctrine covenants is a letter that Joseph Smith writes of the church to encourage them during a very, very difficult time.
Often Joseph Smith would receive the voice of the Lord in the middle of these letters he would be writing. And then suddenly the voice of the Lord would be present and those parts were clipped out and taken and put in as these sections of the doctrine covenants.
Another way that the doctrine covenants is different from the other books of scripture. Is that not every revelation that was given to Joseph Smith is canonized in the doctrine covenants. There are nine uncategorized revelations that we’re aware of, and in order for something to become canonized today, it has to go through a review process where the first presidency, the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and then the general church will choose to sustain it. So over time, the doctrine and covenants has continually been changed and altered, and we can expect in our lifetime to see major changes in the doctrine and evidence as well.
The doctrine and covenants originally started out with a totally different name. In eighteen thirty one, Joseph Smith held a conference at this home in the Hiram, Ohio. The purpose of the conference was to discuss how to publish the revelations that Joseph Smith had received, and the results of it were that they work together to publish a book called The Book of Commandments. Now, a copy of the Book of Commandments is very, very rare today because the printing press for the Book of Commandments was being printed, was attacked by a mob in 1833 and burned down.
Only a few copies of the Book of Commandments remain. And the only reason why they exist is because several brave members of the church, including Mary Elizabeth Rollin’s lightener and her sister Carolyn, ran into the burning structure and grabbed the prints of the Book of Commandments and then ran out and hid with them. Because of that, only a few copies of this book were able to be found, and they’re incredibly valuable today. But the church regroups in the nineteen thirty five published for the first time the doctrine and Covenants.
If you were to take a look at an eighteen thirty five edition of the Doctrine Covenants, you notice a couple of things. The first time the name Doctrine and Covenants appears within these pages, and the doctrine generally referred to a series of theological lectures called the Lectures on Faith. The lectures on faith were good for instruction, but not necessarily revelations, and they were what was defined as the doctrine. If you turn to the second section of the book, it’s listed the covenants and commandments of the Lord doctrine and covenants.
And these covenants commandments are the revelations that we’re familiar with. The today, as later editions of the Doctrine Covenants were produced, the lectures on faith were decarbonised and removed from the canon because they weren’t revelations. Strictly speaking, though, we still think that they’re very, very good instruction and the term doctrine and covenants stained because the revelations themselves had plenty of doctrine and plenty of covenants. So it stayed the same ever since then, that when it comes to the doctrine and covenants, there’s a few things about it that make it unique and different from any book of scripture that we have.
First, the doctrine and confidence is the only book of scripture of modern origin. Every other book, the Book of Abraham, the Book of Mormon, the Old Testament in the New Testament are of ancient origin. The doctrine and covenants is just a baby and scriptural terms. Comparatively, it’s less than two centuries old. Secondly, the Doctrine Covenants was written originally in English. So if you’re reading the text in English, you are reading it in the original language it was received.
Next, the Doctrine Covenants is the only book of scripture that has no storyline. It’s very important when you read the doctrine covenants that you study the section headings so that you know the historical circumstances, so that you’re aware of the story of the doctrine and covenants as you read it. And you know why and when the revelations were received. Finally, the doctrine and covenants is almost exclusively the voice of Jesus Christ. Almost every revelation of the doctrine and covenants is the same.
You’re speaking to his disciples and giving his witness his warnings and his counsel as to how they’re supposed to bring forth the gospel. If you produced a red letter edition of the Doctrine and Covenants, every single page would be read because almost every single word in the doctrine covered in. Comes from our savior, Jesus Christ, the doctrine and confidence is meant to be used alongside the Book of Mormon and other scriptures to enhance our testimony and help us understand the gospel present Astroturf, Benson said.
The Book of Mormon brings men to Christ. The Doctrine and covenants brings men to Christ kingdom. The Book of Mormon is the keystone of our religion and the doctrine covenants is the capstone with continuing latter day revelation. So you’re maybe already familiar with thinking of the Book of Mormon? Is the keystone the thing that holds our entire doctrine and theology together? The doctrine and covenants is the capstone. It tops everything off and finishes it. And it’s intended to take us a little bit further in understanding the mysteries and the doctrines of God.
The Book of Mormon teaches us the basic gospel of Jesus Christ. And then the doctrine and Covenants is like an AP class that comes along and explains more on the nature of man, the nature of God, and how the plan of salvation works in our own lives. If the Old Testament is the record of the Israelites and the New Testament is the record of the Christian disciples and the Book of Mormon is the record of the Nephites Jared ITZ and Maimonides.
The Doctrine and Covenants is the book of the Latter day Saints. It’s our book. It’s our record and our witness of the world that Jesus Christ still exists today and that he didn’t just speak anciently, but that he speaks to people today in our time. And beyond that, the works of God will continue until the great Jehovah shall say the work is done. The doctrine covenant shows us that God is not the great I was, but God is the great I am.
And the God still leads and guides men and women in our day through the power of his spirit.