New Website Gives Story Behind D&C Sections

  By R. Scott Lloyd, Church News staff writer

  • 22 February 2013

Title page to the Book of Commandments. A new section of the Church History website provides the historical context behind many of the revelations contained in the Doctrine and Covenants. 

Article Highlights

  • The new Revelations in Context website helps readers understand the historical context behind the sections of the Doctrine and Covenants being studied in Sunday School this year.
  • The Joseph Smith Papers project helped to provide the research for the new site.
  • Readers can learn more by visiting history.lds.org.

“The purpose of the series is to provide an easy-to-read, accessible way for members of the Church to get the backstories and the historical context for each of the sections of the Doctrine and Covenants.” — Matthew McBride, web content manager with the Church History Department 

Replete though it is with precious gospel truths, some readers might find a study of the Doctrine Covenants a bit daunting because it does not follow a narrative, as do, say, the Book of Mormon or the New Testament.

Yet, as much as any of the other standard works of the Church, the sections in the Doctrine and Covenants stem from historical events, in this case the events pertaining to the Restoration of the gospel and the rise and development of the Church of Jesus Christ in latter days.

That is why Church members in the Sunday School Gospel Doctrine course learn Church history in combination with their study of the Doctrine and Covenants. The doctrines and teachings in the revelations are often illuminated and clarified by an understanding of how they came to be.

That is the purpose behind a new feature offered on the Church’s website. Titled “Revelations in Context,” it can be found by going to history.lds.org, where a rotating banner includes a link to it. Links to relevant articles on the new site appear in a sidebar next to the corresponding lessons in the online Gospel Doctrine Teacher’s Manual at LDS.org.

As stated on the home page of the new website, it allows the viewer to “learn the stories behind the sections of the Doctrine and Covenants, including new insights from the Joseph Smith Papers.”

On the page, one finds a list of links to individual articles about such topics as Emma Smith, wife of the Prophet Joseph; the contributions of Martin Harris; the building up of the Church; the support Joseph received from his family members; and religious enthusiasm among early Ohio converts. Each article covers several sections in the Doctrine and Covenants.

“The purpose of the series is to provide an easy-to-read, accessible way for members of the Church to get the backstories and the historical context for each of the sections of the Doctrine and Covenants,” said Matthew McBride, a web content manager with the Church History Department.

He explained that the articles talk about individuals and groups of people who were involved “and why these revelations were so meaningful and relevant to them. We’ve tried to shed light on the circumstances and questions that elicited the revelations in the hopes that our readers will be excited to reread the revelations again with new eyes.”

Brother McBride said it was deemed desirable to work as closely as possible in this endeavor with the team producing the Joseph Smith Papers “because they are doing foundational and important research on these topics.”

“The series is intended, in part, to highlight their good work. We link extensively to the Joseph Smith Papers website to give people the opportunity to see the original documents that are posted on their site.”

For example, with the article about Martin Harris, the website visitor can click on links to images of original handwritten manuscript pages of sections 3, 5, 10, 17, and 19 of the Doctrine and Covenants as well as historic photos of Brother Harris and the Harris farm near Palmyra, New York.

The new website helps provide the story line for the sections.

“When you read the Book of Mormon, you are reading a story, so when you come to a sermon or some teachings, you understand the context,” Brother McBride observed. “This is not always true of the Doctrine and Covenants sections. Certain passages can be difficult to understand. We hope by telling these stories we can clarify what some of those passages meant to the early Latter-day Saints who heard these revelations for the first time.”