“‘Search These Commandments,’ Lesson 1: Introduction,” Doctrine and Covenants Instructor’s Guide: Religion 324–325 (1981), 1–2
“Lesson 1,” Doctrine and Covenants Instructor’s Guide, 1–2
The Doctrine and Covenants is the word of the Lord given to the Latter-day Saints and to the world for their salvation.
A historical overview of the Doctrine and Covenants is of value as one begins a study of this work of scripture.
The manner in which the revelations were received is significant.
There were several important textual developments as the Doctrine and Covenants was printed in various editions.
The Doctrine and Covenants contains the word of God given in this dispensation.
Prophets testify to the truthfulness of the Doctrine and Covenants.
Latter-day Saints have a special need and obligation to read and study the Doctrine and Covenants.
D&C 1:37. What commandment has the Lord given the Saints?
D&C 33:16. Why does the Lord give us the scriptures?
D&C 42:12–13. From what sources are the missionaries to teach?
D&C 88:76–78. What are we to learn from the study of the Doctrine and Covenants?
Teachings, pp. 7–8. Why are the revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants important to the world today?
Discourses, p. 128. What is the purpose of the Doctrine and Covenants?
Gos. Doc, p. 45. How does the Doctrine and Covenants help us in our understanding of other scripture?
DS, 3:192–94. How did we obtain the Doctrine and Covenants?
DS, 3:199–200. What is one way to study the Doctrine and Covenants?
DS, 3:202. Are all of the revelations given in this dispensation found in the Doctrine and Covenants?
Spencer W. Kimball, in CR, Apr. 1977, p. 78. Does the Church continually receive revelation?
Joseph Fielding Smith, in CR, Oct. 1931, p. 17. Elder Smith explains the importance of the commandment of the Lord to “search these commandments” (D&C 1:37).
Neal A. Maxwell, “The Doctrine and Covenants: The Voice of the Lord,” Ensign, Dec. 1978, pp. 4–7. What are some of the great truths recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants?
H. C. Lambert, “The Book of Doctrine and Covenants,” Improvement Era, Sept. 1951, pp. 714–15, 734. Contains an account of some of the editions of the Doctrine and Covenants and also the languages into which it had been translated at the time the article was written.
John A. Widtsoe, “Study of the Book of Doctrine and Covenants,” Improvement Era, Nov. 1904, pp. 1–6. The importance of studying the Doctrine and Covenants is discussed as well as suggested methods on how to study the book.
Begin a discussion by asking what is known about how Joseph Smith received the revelations recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants. The different ways in which the revelations were received could be listed on the chalkboard. Be careful to discuss revelation only as it pertains to the historical setting of the various sections throughout the Doctrine and Covenants. (Lesson 5 of this manual deals with personal revelation.)
According to the way they were received, the revelations contained in the Doctrine and Covenants may be grouped into the following categories:
Voice. Joseph Smith indicated in D&C 130:12–13 that “a voice declared” to him that which he gave as prophecy.
Inspiration and confirmation. These terms refer to a broad category of heavenly communications which come by the spirit of prophecy and revelation through “the still small voice” (D&C 85:6). The Spirit acts upon the mind of the recipient, giving thoughts and ideas through inspiration.
These must then be expressed in the recipient’s own language and according to his ability. Also, at times, an individual seeking understanding may study concepts, come to a conclusion, and then ask the Lord for a confirmation of the truth of what he has determined. Instructions from the Lord to Oliver Cowdery, recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 9:8–9, give an example of this form of revelation. Inspiration and spiritual confirmation are the means through which the Lord most often communicates to man. These were also the means by which most of the revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants were received.
Discuss the following points, but be brief.
November 1831. Decision to publish the revelations
Book of Commandments. Published in 1833 in Missouri by W. W. Phelps; most of the copies destroyed by a mob
1835 edition. At this time the revelations were first published under the title “The Doctrine and Covenants.” Contained 102 sections and the Lectures on Faith
1844 edition. Contained 111 sections and the Lectures on Faith
1876 edition. Contained 136 sections and the Lectures on Faith
1921 edition. Headings and footnotes included as prepared by Elder James E. Talmage; Lectures on Faith taken out because they were theological lessons and not direct revelations
For additional references on the different editions of the Doctrine and Covenants see Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 3:192–96 and the introductory lesson in the student manual. There have been several other editions of the Doctrine and Covenants. More of these editions could be added and discussed according to the time the teacher feels he can spend.
To help students understand the importance of the Doctrine and Covenants, the following scriptures could be marked, discussed, and cross-referenced in the Doctrine and Covenants: D&C 1:37; 11:22; 26:1; 33:16; 42:12–13; 88:76–78; 88:118.
Take time to work through these references so students will understand their importance.
Read and discuss the statement by Elder Joseph Fielding Smith on the importance of the Doctrine and Covenants for our generation (Doctrines of Salvation, 3:198–99).
To help students set a goal to read the Doctrine and Covenants, share your personal testimony of the importance of reading and studying the Doctrine and Covenants.