The Prophet Joseph Smith not only translated the Book of Mormon, but he also compiled other revelations that he received from God. Most of these revelations are found in two other books of modern-day scripture: The Doctrine and Covenants and The Pearl of Great Price.
The Doctrine and Covenants is a standard work of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Its main purpose is to instruct members and leaders about how the Mormon Church should be organized and directed in order to be in harmony with Christ's kingdom. It also contains many revelations about important doctrines. Most of the revelations were received by the Prophet Joseph Smith (133). The remaining sections (including 2 declarations) were received and written by other leaders of the Mormon Church.
Most passages in the Doctrine and Covenants have a specific historical setting and they were received from the Lord in answer to specific prayers. Many sections were the result of a request by a specific member, but their words have universal application, and this makes Doctrine and Covenants’ revelations still relevant today.
These revelations are recognized by members of the Mormon Church as "the will of the Lord,…the mind of the Lord,…the word of the Lord,…the voice of the Lord, and the power of God unto salvation" (Doctrine and Covenants 68:4).
It is important to realize that not all the revelations received by Joseph Smith are contained in the Doctrine and Covenants, but some of them are included in the History of the Church.
To the members of the Mormon Church the Doctrine and Covenants is the voice of the Lord Jesus Christ. This powerful book of scriptures confirms the teaching of the Book of Mormon, reveals new principles, explains them in more detail, and gives more instruction about the government of His Church. It also warns individuals and nations about the destructions that lay ahead if they will not repent. Thus, there is information in the Doctrine and Covenants that supports the prophecies regarding the Last Days found in the Bible.
History of the Doctrine and Covenants
Joseph Smith had received numerous revelations on gospel principles and instruction from the Lord on how to run The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and although the revelations were often announced in conferences, and Joseph often gave copies to missionaries and other Church leaders, most people didn't know what was contained in the revelations.
The printing press that was set up in Missouri by William W. Phelps solved this problem. In November of 1831, numerous meetings and conferences were held to discuss the printing of these revelations. By this point Joseph Smith had recorded 60 revelations. It was decided that ten thousand copies of the revelations would be printed in the form of a book. This large number was later reduced to only three thousand printings of the book. The book was entitled the Book of Commandments (the name was later changed to the Doctrine and Covenants in 1835, when an expanded version of the book was printed in Kirtland, Ohio), and the revelation found in Doctrine and Covenants 1 was to be included as the preface to the book.
An appendix was made for the book, and Joseph went through and corrected any errors that could be found in the written manuscripts of the revelations. John Whitmer and Oliver Cowdery were given the responsibility of taking the manuscripts to Missouri. They left on November 20, 1831, and finally arrived in Independence on January 5, 1832. In June, W. W. Phelps began setting the type for the book. The first edition was printed in 1833 and contained only sixty-five chapters. After the first edition, other revelations were received, and some earlier materials were deleted until it reached the current format.
Nearly a third of all the revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants were received between August 1831 and April 1834. Joseph Smith stated that the revelations in the Book of Commandments were "the foundation of the Church in these last days."
The Explanatory Introduction to the Doctrine and Covenants states, "Most of the revelations in this compilation were received through Joseph Smith, Jun., the first prophet and president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Others were issued through some of his successors in the Presidency. (See headings to Sections 135, 136, and 138, and Official Declarations 1 and 2.)"
As one of the standard works of the Church, the Doctrine and Covenants is unique in that it is not a translation of an ancient document. Rather, it is of modern origin and was given from God through his chosen prophets as part of the restoration of the gospel and the establishment of the kingdom of God on the earth in modern times.
The revelations relate to such gospel doctrines as the nature of the Godhead, the origin of man, the reality of Satan, the purpose of mortality, the necessity for obedience, the need for repentance, the workings of the Holy Spirit, the ordinances necessary for salvation, the functions and nature of the Priesthood, the destiny of the earth, the resurrection and final judgment as well as what comes afterward, the eternal nature of the marriage relationship, and the eternal nature of the family. The Doctrine and Covenants also reveals the administrative structure of the Church, detailing the duties of bishops, the First Presidency, the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and the Seventy, as well as the establishment of other presiding offices and quorums.
Lastly, the Doctrine and Covenants is a testimony that Jesus is the Christ, and that He governs His Church and speaks to His chosen servants in modern times as He did in ancient times.
Sections of the Doctrine and Covenants
The Doctrine and Covenants is divided into numbered sections, similar to chapters in a book. The following shows the sections in the Doctrine and Covenants, the date it was written, and the location where the section was written.
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