Of all recorded scripture, the Doctrine and Covenants is unique because it is a record of Jesus Christ in our modern-day. Want to know more about it? Here are ten frequently asked questions about the Doctrine and Covenants to help you enhance your personal and family study.
What is the Doctrine and Covenants?
The Doctrine and Covenants is a sacred volume of scripture for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It contains revelations from Jesus Christ to leaders about the Restoration of His Church. It is used alongside the Bible, the Book of Mormon, and the Pearl of Great Price as the “standard works” of the Church.
What is the Book of Commandments?
The Book of Commandments was the planned precursor to the Doctrine and Covenants. It contained earlier prophecies from the Prophet Joseph Smith which had previously been published in Latter-day Saint periodicals. The publication of the revelations was approved by sustaining vote in 1831. In July 1833, as the publication neared completion, a mob destroyed the printing press, and most of the printed pages, yet to be bound, were destroyed. Caroline and Mary Elizabeth Rollins were among the brave souls who ran inside and saved remnant copies and pages. Today, no more than 30 copies are known to still exist.
When was the Doctrine and Covenants first published?
Not long after the destruction of the Book of Commandments, the Church gathered a committee to organize a new volume to replace it. Prior revelations continued to be revised and new ones were added. This first edition of the Doctrine and Covenants was published in 1835. Multiple editions have been published, with the latest edition being published in 1981. New revelations or declarations has not been added since that time.
What was the Doctrine and Covenants first called?
The Doctrine and Covenants was originally called “Doctrine and Covenants of the Church of the Latter Day Saints: Carefully Selected from the Revelations of God.”
Is the Doctrine and Covenants chronological?
For the most part, the Doctrine and Covenants is in chronological order. Approximately 6 sections of the 136 included are not placed in chronological order.
What time period does the Doctrine and Covenants cover?
The main portion of the Doctrine and Covenants covers from 1823 to 1847. The Official Declarations and Section 138 were added in 1890, 1918, and 1978.
Who wrote the Doctrine and Covenants?
Nearly all of the revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants were received by Joseph Smith from Jesus Christ, most often as an answer to earnest prayers. Multiple people transcribed and revised the revelations. One section describes the martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum Smith, one was received by Brigham Young, and one by Joseph F. Smith. The two official declarations were received by Wilford Woodruff and Spencer W. Kimball.
What is the Doctrine and Covenants about?
The Doctrine and Covenants is a beautiful testament to the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Revelations cover the governing of the Church in the Latter-days, revealed or restored doctrines, clarifications of scripture, individual revelations to leaders and their families, prophecies, and more. The introduction further expounds on what you can expect to read in the Doctrine and Covenants and especially its focus on Jesus Christ:
In the revelations, the doctrines of the gospel are set forth with explanations about such fundamental matters as the nature of the Godhead, the origin of man, the reality of Satan, the purpose of mortality, the necessity for obedience, the need for repentance, the workings of the Holy Spirit, the ordinances and performances that pertain to salvation, the destiny of the earth, the future conditions of man after the Resurrection and the Judgment, the eternity of the marriage relationship, and the eternal nature of the family. Likewise, the gradual unfolding of the administrative structure of the Church is shown with the calling of bishops, the First Presidency, the Council of the Twelve, and the Seventy and the establishment of other presiding offices and quorums. Finally, the testimony that is given of Jesus Christ—His divinity, His majesty, His perfection, His love, and His redeeming power—makes this book of great value to the human family.
Have portions been removed from the Doctrine and Covenants?
Yes! One of the largest revisions came in 1921 when the Church removed the first section of the book. This section, which inspired the “doctrine” portion of the book, is now known as the “Lectures on Faith.” It is a series of seven lectures given by Joseph Smith in the School of the Prophets in Kirtland, Ohio. Multiple theories about the removal exist, including that the teachings were no longer consistent with continued revelations and doctrines.
Here’s what the introduction to the Doctrine and Covenants says about past and ongoing revisions:
Joseph and the early Saints viewed the revelations as they did the Church: living, dynamic, and subject to refinement with additional revelation. They also recognized that unintentional errors had likely occurred through the process of copying the revelations and preparing them for publication. Thus, a Church conference asked Joseph Smith in 1831 to “correct those errors or mistakes which he may discover by the Holy Spirit…Each new edition of the Doctrine and Covenants has corrected past errors and added new information, particularly in the historical portions of the section headings. The present edition further refines dates and place-names and makes other corrections. These changes have been made to bring the material into conformity with the most accurate historical information.
How can I study the Doctrine and Covenants?
It’s easy to study the Doctrine and Covenants. It is available in full for free online here and the Come, Follow Me manual that covers it is available here. The Come, Follow Me manual is especially great because it includes links and references to other talks and historical resources.