“Welcome to the Doctrine and Covenants and Church History,” Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Study Guide for Home-Study Seminary Students (2017)
“Welcome,” Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Study Guide
The Doctrine and Covenants is scripture and consists of a collection of divine revelations and inspired declarations that give instruction to Church leaders, Church members, and the inhabitants of the world in our day. It is modern revelation and stands alongside the Bible, the Book of Mormon, and the Pearl of Great Price as one of the four standard works of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
President Joseph Fielding Smith explained how valuable the Doctrine and Covenants is to us: “This Doctrine and Covenants contains the word of God to those who dwell here now. It is our book. It belongs to the Latter-day Saints. More precious than gold, the Prophet [Joseph Smith] says we should treasure it more than the riches of the whole earth” (Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols. [1954–56], 3:199).
The Lord Jesus Christ Himself gave a charge to those who have access to the Doctrine and Covenants:
“Search these commandments, for they are true and faithful, and the prophecies and promises which are in them shall all be fulfilled.
“What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same” (D&C 1:37–38).
President Gordon B. Hinckley explained:
“The Doctrine and Covenants is unique among our books of scripture. It is the constitution of the Church. While the Doctrine and Covenants includes writings and statements of various origins, it is primarily a book of revelation given through the Prophet of this dispensation.
“These revelations open with a thundering declaration of the encompassing purposes of God in the restoration of His great latter-day work:
“‘Hearken, O ye people of my church, saith the voice of him who dwells on high, and whose eyes are upon all men; yea, verily I say: Hearken ye people from afar; and ye that are upon the islands of the sea, listen together.
“‘For verily the voice of the Lord is unto all men, and there is none to escape; and there is no eye that shall not see, neither ear that shall not hear, neither heart that shall not be penetrated.’ (D&C 1:1–2.)
“From that majestic opening there unfolds a wondrous doctrinal panorama that comes from the fountain of eternal truth. Some is direct revelation, with the Lord dictating to His prophet. Some is the language of Joseph Smith, written or spoken as he was moved upon by the Holy Ghost. Also included is his narrative of events that occurred in various circumstances. All brought together, they constitute in very substantial measure the doctrine and the practices of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. …
“The variety of matters the book deals with is amazing. They include principles and procedures concerning the governance of the Church. Unique and remarkable rules of health, with promises both physical and spiritual, are set forth. The covenant of the eternal priesthood is described in a manner not found elsewhere in scripture. The privileges and blessings—and the limitations and opportunities—of the three degrees of glory are announced, building on Paul’s brief mention of a glory of the sun, and of the moon, and of the stars. Repentance is proclaimed in language clear and compelling. The correct mode of baptism is given. The nature of the Godhead, which has troubled theologians for centuries, is described in language understandable to all. The Lord’s law of finance is pronounced, mandating how funds for the operation of the Church are to be acquired and disbursed. Work for the dead is revealed to bless the sons and daughters of God of all generations” (“The Order and Will of God,” Ensign, Jan. 1989, 2, 4).
The Doctrine and Covenant is comprised of 138 sections and two official declarations. Many of these revelations were first published in book form as the Book of Commandments in 1833. Under the direction of the First Presidency, in successive editions of the Doctrine and Covenants, additional revelations or other matters of record have been added after being presented to and accepted by Church members during conferences of the Church.
The 1876 edition, prepared by Elder Orson Pratt under President Brigham Young’s direction, arranged the revelations chronologically and supplied new headings with historical introductions.
In the 1981 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants, three documents were included for the first time. These are sections 137 and 138, setting forth the fundamentals of salvation for the dead, and Official Declaration 2.
The 2013 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants includes revisions to study aids, new photos, updated maps, and adjustments to section introductions. The minor adjustments to the introductions are intended to provide a clearer and more accurate context for the scriptures.
Much of the historical information in this manual was taken from History of the Church and the Joseph Smith Papers Project. Of particular help were volumes 1 and 2 of the Documents series of The Joseph Smith Papers, published by the Church Historian’s Press (an imprint of the Church History Department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints). To view digitized images and read transcripts of the original documents in the Joseph Smith Papers Project, visit josephsmithpapers.org.