Lesson 2: Doctrine and Covenants 1

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“Lesson 2: Doctrine and Covenants 1,” Doctrine and Covenants Teacher Manual (2017)

“Lesson 2,” Doctrine and Covenants Teacher Manual

Lesson 2

Doctrine and Covenants 1

Introduction and Timeline

By November 1831, the Lord had given more than 60 written revelations through the Prophet Joseph Smith for the benefit of the Church and individual members. To make these revelations more accessible to Church members, Church leaders decided to publish them as a volume to be called the Book of Commandments. On November 1, 1831, the Prophet convened a conference of elders at the home of John and Elsa (or Alice) Johnson in Hiram, Ohio, during which a committee of elders consisting of Sidney Rigdon, Oliver Cowdery, and William E. McLellin attempted unsuccessfully to write a preface for the Book of Commandments. After this attempt, Joseph Smith received by revelation what is now known as Doctrine and Covenants 1 (see The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 2: July 1831–January 1833, ed. Matthew C. Godfrey and others [2013], 104). The Lord declared, “This [revelation] is … my preface unto the book of my commandments” (D&C 1:6). He also declared that all people would hear His “voice of warning” (verse 4) and that those who refused to heed His voice and the words of His servants would be cut off from among His people. The Lord testified that the revelations given to the Prophet Joseph Smith are true and commanded His people to search them.

September 1831

Joseph and Emma Smith moved from Kirtland to Hiram, Ohio.

November 1831

A conference of elders voted to publish 10,000 copies of the Book of Commandments.

November 1, 1831

Doctrine and Covenants 1 was received in Hiram, Ohio.

November 20, 1831

Oliver Cowdery and John Whitmer left for Missouri with the manuscript of the Book of Commandments for printing.

Suggestions for Teaching

Doctrine and Covenants 1:1–17

The Lord’s voice of warning is to all people

Invite a student to read aloud the following account told by Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin (1917–2008) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:

Wirthlin, Joseph B.

“On December 26, 2004, a powerful earthquake struck off the coast of Indonesia, creating a deadly tsunami that killed more than 200,000 people. It was a terrible tragedy. In one day, millions of lives were forever changed.

“But there was one group of people who, although their village was destroyed, did not suffer a single casualty.

“The reason?

“They knew a tsunami was coming.

“The Moken people live in villages on islands off the coast of Thailand and Burma (Myanmar). A society of fishermen, their lives depend on the sea. For hundreds and perhaps thousands of years, their ancestors have studied the ocean, and they have passed their knowledge down from father to son.

“One thing in particular they were careful to teach was what to do when the ocean receded. According to their traditions, when that happened, the ‘Laboon’—a wave that eats people—would arrive soon after.

“When the elders of the village saw the dreaded signs, they shouted to everyone to run to high ground.

“Not everyone listened.

“One elderly fisherman said, ‘None of the kids believed me.’ In fact, his own daughter called him a liar. But the old fisherman would not relent until all had left the village and climbed to higher ground” (Joseph B. Wirthlin, “Journey to Higher Ground,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2005, 16).

  • Why do you think some people would not listen to or believe the village elders’ warnings?

  • If you had been one of the people who initially doubted the warning, how would you have felt toward the village elders after the tsunami?

Explain that like the Moken people, we have also been warned about calamites that are to come. Invite students to look for the Lord’s warnings as they study Doctrine and Covenants 1 and for truths that will help them know how to prepare for these events.

Invite a student to read aloud the section heading for Doctrine and Covenants 1, and ask the class to follow along, looking for when and why the Lord gave this revelation to Joseph Smith. You might explain that the compilation mentioned here was the earliest version of the Doctrine and Covenants and was called the Book of Commandments.

  • Point out that in verse 6, the Lord referred to this revelation as “my preface unto the book of my commandments.” How does seeing this revelation as a preface help us understand its purpose?

Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 1:1–4 aloud, and ask the class to follow along, looking for who would be warned by the Lord.

  • To whom would the Lord raise His voice of warning?

  • What warning did the Lord give in verse 3?

  • According to verse 4, how would the Lord send His warning to all people?

Summarize Doctrine and Covenants 1:5–9 by explaining that in these verses, the Lord declared that His servants who go forth proclaiming His words will have power and authority to seal up the wicked “unto the day when the wrath of God shall be poured out upon the wicked” (verse 9). Explain that this phrase refers to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

Invite a few students to take turns reading aloud from Doctrine and Covenants 1:10–16, and ask the class to follow along, looking for additional warnings from the Lord.

  • Why might verse 10 be considered a warning?

  • What phrase in verse 11 illustrates that the Lord is willing to let us choose whether we will heed His warnings?

What principle can we identify from the Lord’s warning in verse 14? (Using students’ words, write a principle on the board similar to the following: If we will not heed the voice of the Lord and the words of His prophets and apostles, then we will be cut off from God’s people.) Explain that to be cut off from God’s people is to be separated from the righteous and from God’s power, protection, influence, and blessings, and ultimately His presence.

  • What words or phrases did the Lord use in verses 15–16 to describe the people who have cut themselves off from the Lord? How might these words and phrases describe our world today?

  • What do you think it means that “every man walketh in his own way … after the image of his own god” (verse 16)?

  • How can living at a time when many follow after the world make it difficult to heed the prophets and apostles?

To help students understand the importance and urgency of heeding the words of prophets and apostles, invite a student to read aloud the following statement by President Henry B. Eyring of the First Presidency:

Eyring, Henry B.

“Every time in my life when I have chosen to delay following inspired counsel or decided that I was an exception, I came to know that I had put myself in harm’s way. Every time that I have listened to the counsel of prophets, felt it confirmed in prayer, and then followed it, I have found that I moved toward safety” (Henry B. Eyring, “Finding Safety in Counsel,” Ensign, May 1997, 25).

  • What counsel or warnings have the Lord’s prophets and apostles given recently? (Consider sharing a few statements of counsel or warning from a recent general conference.)

Ask students to consider how well they have heeded that counsel and what they might do to give better heed to counsel and warnings from prophets and apostles. Invite them to follow any promptings they receive.

Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 1:17 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what the Lord said He did because of the calamity that He knew would come upon the earth. Before the student reads, explain that the word calamity in verse 17 refers to the affliction, misery, and adversity that would come because of the wickedness of the world.

  • According to verse 17, what did the Lord do because He knew the calamity that would come in the last days? (Students may use different words, but make sure they identify the following truth: Because the Lord knew the calamity that would come in the last days, He called Joseph Smith as His prophet and gave him revelation and commandments. Invite students to consider marking this truth in verse 17.)

  • In what ways do the calling of the Prophet Joseph Smith and the revelations and commandments he received help us withstand the calamity of the last days?

Doctrine and Covenants 1:18–33

The Lord gives Joseph Smith power to translate the Book of Mormon and establish His true Church

Invite students to scan Doctrine and Covenants 1:18–23, looking for the effect the commandments and revelations contained in the Doctrine and Covenants would have on the world.

Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 1:24–28 aloud, and ask the class to follow along, looking for additional reasons the Lord gave these commandments and revelations.

  • According to these verses, what are some ways that we can be blessed by studying the revelations found in the Doctrine and Covenants?

Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 1:29–30 aloud, and ask the class to follow along, looking for what the Lord gave Joseph Smith and others power to do. Invite students to report what they found.

  • How did the Lord describe the Church in verse 30? (Help students identify the following doctrine: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the only true and living church upon the earth. Encourage students to mark this truth in verse 30.)

  • What do you think the phrase “the only true and living church” means? (If needed, you might refer students to the student manual commentary for Doctrine and Covenants 1:30.)

Ensure that students understand that the Lord’s declaration concerning His Church does not mean that other churches are not without some truth. President Gordon B. Hinckley (1910–2008) taught that our invitation to those of other faiths is to “bring with you all that you have of good and truth which you have received from whatever source, and come and let us see if we may add to it” (“The Marvelous Foundation of Our Faith,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2002, 81).

To help students better understand the Lord’s declaration that His Church is a “living” church, display a plant and an inanimate object such as a rock (or show pictures of these items). Ask students to describe the characteristics of something that is living, such as a plant, compared to an object that is not living, such as a rock. (A plant changes, grows, needs nourishment and light, and can produce fruit.)

  • How might this relate to how The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a “living” church? (One possible answer is that the Church continues to adapt to changing cirumstances in the world and to grow in understanding through ongoing revelation from God.)

  • Why do you think it is important to understand that while eternal truths and doctrines do not change, the Church continues to adapt and grow according to the revealed will of the Lord?

  • What experiences have helped you come to know that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the only true and living Church?

Doctrine and Covenants 1:34–39

The Lord’s words and revelations contained in the Doctrine and Covenants are true and will all be fulfilled

Summarize verses 34–36 by explaining that the Lord expressed His desire that all people be warned to prepare for His Second Coming.

Invite students to read Doctrine and Covenants 1:37–39 silently, looking for truths the Lord taught at the conclusion of His preface to the Doctrine and Covenants. You might explain that faithful as used in verse 37 means sure, reliable, or trustworthy.

  • What truths can we identify in these verses? (Although students may identify several truths, ensure that they identify the following: The Lord expects us to study the Doctrine and Covenants. The prophecies and promises of the Lord are true and will all be fulfilled. The words of the Lord are true whether they are spoken by Him or by His servants.)

Invite students to write one or two sentences based on today’s lesson that summarize why they feel it is important for them to study the Doctrine and Covenants. Invite several students to share what they wrote. After students share, encourage them to continue searching and studying the Doctrine and Covenants.