“Chapter 12: Rich Treasures in the Scriptures,” Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Wilford Woodruff (2011), 115–24
“Chapter 12,” Teachings: Wilford Woodruff, 115–24
On March 1, 1845, Elder Wilford Woodruff, who was then serving as the presiding Church authority in the British Isles, received a letter from a friend in the United States. Included with that correspondence was a copy of another letter, in which a man outlined a plan to print the Doctrine and Covenants in England and secure the copyright there for himself. This man’s action would have prevented the Church from printing the book in England. Elder Woodruff wrote in his journal: “This certainly is a bold move, for an apostate or apostates to undertake to print the works of the Church and rob them out of it. I view it [as] nothing more than the mercy of God in putting the knowledge of this thing into my hands. I spent the day in examining the law to see what I could learn concerning securing copyrights.”1 He hired a printer to typeset and print 3,000 copies of the book.2 Then, having gained an understanding of British copyright laws, he secured the copyright in his own name on June 7, 1845, “in forty-eight hours after the last sheets were obtained from the printers.”3 Thus he preserved the Church’s legal right to print the book in England.
This was not the first time Wilford Woodruff worked to get the scriptures into the hands of the Latter-day Saints. Before the Doctrine and Covenants was ever printed, he copied many of the revelations by hand and took them on his missionary journeys. While he was serving his first mission in England, from January 1840 to April 1841, he worked with President Brigham Young and others to publish the first edition of the Book of Mormon outside the United States. He later assisted the Prophet Joseph Smith in Nauvoo, Illinois, setting type for the Church’s periodical titled Times and Seasons. Between March 1, 1842, and January 16, 1843, the following documents appeared in the Times and Seasons, many years before they were published in the Pearl of Great Price: the book of Abraham; Joseph Smith—History; the Wentworth letter, which contained the Articles of Faith; and a portion of the book of Moses.
Having helped the Saints get the scriptures in their hands, President Woodruff exhorted them to “lay them up in [their] hearts.”4 He said: “We should live our religion. We should practice ourselves what we preach. We should treasure up the words of life. We should search the records of divine truth. We should seek to comprehend the day and age in which we live. This is the way I look upon our situation to-day. I do not look upon the revelations recorded in these books, touching the dispensation of the fulness of times, as something that will pass away unfulfilled.”5
Read the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants and the records which the Lord has given unto us, and treasure up these revelations and see what the Lord has promised unto us. We then treasure up something of worth to us.6
It is our duty … as Latter-day Saints to contemplate, to reflect, to read the word of God, and try to comprehend our condition, our position, and our responsibility before the Lord.7
The world is far from the Lord. We ourselves are too far from the Lord as a people. We ought to draw near to the Lord, and labor to obtain the Holy Spirit, so that when we read the revelations of God we may read them by the same Spirit by which they were given. Then we can understand their [meaning] when given to the children of men.8
The devil is abroad in the earth, and he will destroy every person that he can. Search the scriptures that have come directly to us, as well as those contained in the Bible, and learn to comprehend the mind and will of God, which we can do by reading them when the light of the Holy Spirit is within us, and thus prepare yourselves for that which will come to pass in life.9
These things [the principles taught in the scriptures] are true. We should study them; lay them up in our hearts, and practice them in our lives.10
The Prophets, Apostles and Patriarchs have left their inspired writings on record for our use and benefit, and we shall be held accountable in the exercise of our agency for the manner in which we treat the Word of God that has come unto us.11
I am not ashamed to acknowledge myself a firm believer in the literal fulfillment of the Bible, as well as every communication of God to man. … I believe that holy men of old wrote and spoke as they were moved upon by the Holy Ghost, and that they meant what they said and said what they meant, and … “that no prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation.” [See 2 Peter 1:20–21.]12
I bear testimony that Joseph Smith was raised up by Almighty God as a Prophet in the last dispensation and fullness of times; that he brought forth the Book of Mormon and translated it by the gift and power of God for the benefit of the world in the latter days. I know that the Book of Mormon is true and is a divinely inspired record.13
We have the Bible—the stick of Judah—containing the law of God through Moses and through the ancient prophets and patriarchs. It has been handed down to us through the thousands of years that are past and gone. While libraries, like the library of Alexandria … have perished, the Bible has been preserved unto us, and we have it to read. It gives unto us the law of God given to the ancients. But there has been no change in that law, so far as the gospel is concerned, from that day until this. The Bible—the Old and the New Testament—gives unto us the law whereby we may be exalted and go back again into the presence of God and dwell with Him for ever and ever. It gives unto us the course we should pursue in order to receive a part in the first resurrection, that we may come forth clothed with glory, immortality and eternal life. It also gives us the history, not only of what is passed with the Jews, but of what is to come to pass. Then we have a Book of Mormon—the stick of Joseph in the hands of Ephraim—that was written upon [the American] continent by apostles and prophets. It contains, among other things, the teachings of Jesus Christ when he appeared, after his resurrection, in his immortal and glorious body, and taught the gospel here. Those revelations contain a great many principles. They show unto us the final winding-up scene, the situation of great Babylon and the judgments that were to come to pass in the last days before the coming of the Son of Man.14
Ezekiel says that in the last days the stick of Joseph in the hands of Ephraim should be placed with the stick of Judah, before the eyes of the nations in the hands of the Lord, for a special purpose—to gather the house of Israel in the latter days [see Ezekiel 37:15–28]. These two records were also to be made use of in order to preach the fulness of the everlasting gospel to both Jew and Gentile; and they will stand in judgment against the generation living on the earth when they come forth.15
Here is the Bible, the record of the Jews, given by the inspiration of the Lord through Moses and the ancient patriarchs and prophets. Is it an imposture, and as the infidels say, the work of man? No, it is not in the power of any man who ever breathed the breath of life to make such a book without the inspiration of the Almighty. It is just so with the Book of Mormon—all the ingenuity of all the men under heaven could not compose and present to the world a book like the Book of Mormon. Its principles are divine—they are from God. They could never emanate from the mind of an impostor, or from the mind of a person writing a novel. Why? Because the promises and prophecies it contains are being fulfilled in the sight of all the earth.16
Does the Book of Mormon contain a different gospel to that contained in the Bible? It does not. It gives a history of the people who dwelt upon [the American] continent anciently, tells where they came from and how they came here, tells of the dealings of God with them, and the establishment of the Church of Christ among them. They were visited by Jesus after His resurrection. Hence He said “Other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold and one shepherd.” [John 10:16.] … Both books contain the same gospel. There was never but one gospel and there never will be any other revealed to the human family.17
We have also the Book of Doctrine and Covenants, which you have in your houses and which you can read. This code of revelation was given through the mouth of the Prophet Joseph Smith, by the Urim and Thummim and otherwise. That book contains some of the most glorious and most sublime revelations God ever gave to man. It shows unto us what lies before us, what awaits this nation and the nations of the earth, and what is at the door of the inhabitants of the earth. These things are clear, they are pointed, they are strong, and they are the revelations of God, and they will be fulfilled, whether men believe it or not.18
I hold in my hand the Doctrine and Covenants, containing revelations given through the Prophet Joseph Smith while he dwelt in the flesh. Read those revelations, and from beginning to end they unite with all dispensations God has had on the earth.19
I consider that the Doctrine and Covenants, our Testament, contains a code of the most solemn, the most Godlike proclamations ever made to the human family. I will refer to the “Vision” [in section 76] alone, as a revelation which gives more light, more truth and more principle than any revelation contained in any other book we ever read. It makes plain to our understanding our present condition, where we came from, why we are here, and where we are going to. Any man may know through that revelation what his part and condition will be. For all men know what laws they keep, and the laws that men keep here will determine their position hereafter; they will be preserved by those laws and receive the blessings that belong to them.20
The Doctrine and Covenants [is] a code of revelations which the Lord gave to Joseph Smith. This book contains some of the most glorious revelation upon doctrine, upon principle, upon government, upon the kingdom of God and the different glories, and upon a great many things which reach into the eternal worlds.21
Note: For much of Wilford Woodruff’s life, the Pearl of Great Price was not one of the standard works of the Church. However, its teachings were widely read by the Saints, with excerpts first published in some of the Church’s periodicals. On October 10, 1880, the Pearl of Great Price became a standard work of the Church by action of the First Presidency and by a sustaining vote in general conference.
In the following excerpts from his journal, Elder Woodruff expresses his testimony concerning the book of Abraham, which the Prophet Joseph Smith translated by the power of God and which was later included in the Pearl of Great Price.
The Lord is blessing Joseph with power to reveal the mysteries of the kingdom of God, to translate … ancient records and hieroglyphics as old as Abraham or Adam, which causes our hearts to burn within us while we behold their glorious truths opened unto us. Joseph the Seer has presented us some of the book of Abraham, which was written by his [Abraham’s] own hand but hid from the knowledge of man for the last four thousand years but has now come to light through the mercy of God.22
The truths of the book of Abraham are truly edifying, great, and glorious, which are among the rich treasures that are revealed unto us in the last days.23
Brethren and sisters, let us read the revelations of God for ourselves, and when we read them, let us believe them, and try to live in such a way that we may be ready for whatever dispensations the Lord may have in store for us, and so that we can acknowledge his hand as Job did, and not find any fault with him because of his providences toward us. If we cannot comprehend them now, we shall be able to do so in a little while.24
“Who am I, saith the Lord, that I command and am not obeyed? Who am I, saith the Lord, that I promise and do not fulfill?” [See D&C 58:30–32.] … We have said, time after time, and year after year, that we live in a very peculiar age, generation and dispensation, and this is true. Time rolls on, carrying with it its events, and fulfilling the revelations of God, unto us especially. We live in a day of darkness; unbelief and infidelity are covering the whole face of the earth. … It astonishes the Latter-day Saints to see the amount of darkness and infidelity that are abroad in the earth. Hence, as Latter-day Saints, I think it requires on our part an increase of faithfulness in the practice of our religion, and in the various revelations of God contained in the Bible, Book of Mormon and Book of Doctrine and Covenants.
We see before our eyes, year after year, the signs of heaven and of earth, and the fulfilment of prophecy, but how much are we as a people increasing in faith in God? Do we increase in that respect in proportion to the increase of infidelity in the world? Perhaps I am not a judge, but it appears to me that we do not comprehend. The work in which we are engaged, and the Bible, Book of Mormon and the Book of Doctrine and Covenants are just as true to-day as they were twenty, thirty, or forty years ago. … I say that this work is just as true now as then, and so is the saying which I quoted—“Who am I, saith the Lord, that I command and am not obeyed? Who am I, saith the Lord, that I promise and do not fulfil?” I believe that the Lord will fulfil what he says; I believe that he will fulfil his promises unto the Latter-day Saints and unto the world, unto Zion and Babylon; and if he does there is something at the door, something for us, as Latter-day Saints, to do.25
I want to say to the Latter-day Saints: Exercise faith in God, and exercise faith in His revelations, and read them and ponder over them and pray earnestly that you may have a correct understanding of all that God has revealed, that you may grow in the light and knowledge of God, and see the importance of living your religion and of living uprightly before Him.26
Consider these ideas as you study the chapter or as you prepare to teach. For additional help, see pages v–ix.
What do you think it means to read the scriptures “by the same Spirit by which they were given”? (page 117).
Review the first paragraph on page 118. How do the scriptures offer protection from the influence of the devil?
In the second paragraph on page 118, President Woodruff counsels us to do three things with the scriptures. Why are these actions important?
What impresses you about President Woodruff’s testimony of the Doctrine and Covenants? (See pages 120–21.) In what ways is the Doctrine and Covenants “our Testament”?
Wilford Woodruff said that the truths in the book of Abraham are “rich treasures” (page 122). What treasures have you found in the Pearl of Great Price?
How do the scriptures help us prepare “for that which will come to pass in life”?(See pages 118, 122–23.)
What have you done to make your scripture study meaningful? What scripture passages have been particularly helpful for you? How have these passages helped you?
How can parents, grandparents, and teachers help children and youth study the scriptures and apply them in their lives?