Church History
Book of Commandments

“Book of Commandments,” Church History Topics

“Book of Commandments”

Book of Commandments

In the first few years of the Church, the only access most members had to the Lord’s revelations to Joseph Smith was through handwritten copies on loose sheets that circulated among the Latter-day Saints. Church leaders and missionaries relied on these copies for direction and inspiration. Near the end of 1831, Joseph convened a conference to determine whether and how to publish these revelations. He and other Church leaders wanted to ensure that accurate copies were widely available to Church members. In a revelation that Joseph received at the conference, the Lord approved compiling the revelations and revealed a preface for the forthcoming book.1 A committee called the Literary Firm was tasked with overseeing the book’s publication.2 Latter-day Saints often called the revelations “commandments,” and the Literary Firm used this word in the compilation’s title: “A Book of Commandments.”

photograph of Book of Commandments open to title page, Wilford Woodruff signature on facing page

A Book of Commandments, published in Independence, Missouri, in 1833.

Printing began in 1832 at a print shop in Independence, Missouri, owned by William W. Phelps. The printing was nearly complete in July 1833 when a mob ransacked the press shop. Several Saints risked their safety to salvage pages during the attack. Members both in Missouri and in Kirtland, Ohio, bound the salvaged pages into a few incomplete books, but the hoped-for release of thousands of copies was thwarted. Church leaders soon began another effort to publish the revelations.3 They succeeded in 1835, publishing them in Kirtland under the title The Doctrine and Covenants of the Church of the Latter Day Saints, which the Saints sustained as “a law unto the church” and a “rule of faith and practice.”4

Related Topics: Doctrine and Covenants