The Doctrine and Covenants presents a splendor all its own, for there is beauty in truth. And when men are inspired by the Holy Ghost, the truths they reveal, no matter how simply presented, possess a convincing power, beyond words and beyond reason. (See D&C 50:21–22; D&C 68:3–4.)
This power is the spirit that permeates all divine revelation, a power that William M’Lellan could not simulate when he failed to produce a revelation equal to “even the least” of those received by the Prophet Joseph Smith. (See D&C 67:5–7.)
The power of the Holy Ghost has sometimes inspired prophets to break forth into verse and utter gospel truths in language that has all the richness and imagery of poetry at its best. Consider the following passages, which, like so many precious stones, one finds scattered through the pages of the Doctrine and Covenants.
Of Earth’s Majesty
The earth rolls upon her wings,
and the sun giveth his light by day,
and the moon giveth her light by night,
and the stars also give their light,
as they roll upon their wings in their glory,
in the midst of the power of God.
Of the Lord’s Return
And it shall be said: Who is this
that cometh down from God in heaven
with dyed garments;
yea, from the regions which are not known,
clothed in his glorious apparel,
traveling in the greatness of his strength?
Of Earth’s Vindication
The earth hath travailed
and brought forth her strength;
and truth is established in her bowels;
and the heavens have smiled upon her;
and she is clothed with the glory of her God;
for he stands in the midst of his people.
The passages are a witness to the prophetic calling of Joseph Smith. They also testify that he had received the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost—for he truly spoke “with the tongue of angels.” (See 2 Ne. 3:13; 2 Ne. 32:2.)
The Doctrine and Covenants is the only one of the standard works to be produced in modern times. While at first glance this volume of scripture may appear to be nothing more than a series of unrelated, episodic revelations touching on many different themes, it is more like a string of pearls held together by a common thread of religious history: the history of the restoration from the emergence of the “only true and living church” out of the wilderness of the great apostasy (D&C 1:30), to the final triumph of God over the forces of evil and the celestialization of the earth and of the sons and daughters of God (see D&C 76:106–108; D&C 88:14–29; D&C 130:6–9).
As such, the Doctrine and Covenants reflects the efforts of those divine messengers who appeared to the Prophet Joseph Smith “giving line upon line, precept upon precept; here a little, and there a little; giving us consolation by holding forth that which is to come, confirming our hope!” (D&C 128:21.)
In the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord not only confirms our hope by revealing future events, but he also puts great emphasis on contemporary issues, on matters of immediate concern, on the things we can do something about.
Because it is directed to the generation that will witness the end of the present world order and the ushering in of the millennial kingdom of Jesus Christ, the Doctrine and Covenants must, perforce, speak of darkness as well as light. For it is an honest book: it reveals things as they are, not as some men would pretend them to be.
Though there may be those who consider the Doctrine and Covenants prophecies pertaining to this last day (D&C 45:42; D&C 64:24) before Christ’s coming to the world as mere hyperbole, such is not the case. There is an undeniable literalness to the Doctrine and Covenants. Hence, the admonition to “search these commandments, for they are true and faithful, and the prophecies and promises which are in them shall all be fulfilled.
“What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.” (D&C 1:37–38.)
Most definitely, the Lord is as good as his word! For he has sent forth his Spirit “to enlighten the humble and contrite, and to the condemnation of the ungodly.” (D&C 136:33.)
The Doctrine and Covenants prophesies a terrible spiritual darkness, accompanied by divine judgments, before the millennial dawn witnesses the ushering in of that “day of righteousness” for which Jesus prayed and for which holy men have sought from time immemorial. (D&C 45:12–14.)
The gulf between the righteous and the wicked that has ever divided the human family is becoming wider and wider. This is in fulfillment of an 1831 prophecy: “… peace shall be taken from the earth, and the devil shall have power over his own dominion. And also the Lord shall have power over his saints. …” (D&C 1:35–36.)
While men see this world “through a glass darkly,” the Lord comprehends it with the searching eye of truth. Contrary to those who argue that the world is getting better, modern revelation asserts that it is, in fact, ripening in iniquity:
“For all flesh is corrupted before me; and the powers of darkness prevail upon the earth, among the children of men, in the presence of all the hosts of heaven—
“Which causeth silence to reign, and all eternity is pained, and the angels are waiting the great command, to reap down the earth, to gather the tares that they may be burned; and, behold, the enemy is combined.” (D&C 38:11–12.)
Thus it became the responsibility of the Saints to “say nothing but repentance” (D&C 6:9; D&C 11:9; D&C 18:6; D&C 19:21) to “a crooked and perverse generation” (D&C 33:2; D&C 34:6). In 1830 the Lord declared: “And my vineyard has become corrupted every whit; and there is none which doeth good save it be a few; and they err in many instances because of priestcrafts, all having corrupt minds.” (D&C 33:4.)
But a year later, in 1831, the Lord revealed that “the anger of God kindleth against the inhabitants of the earth; and none doeth good, for all have gone out of the way.” (D&C 82:6. Italics added.)
Clearly, the Lord is not one to compromise. All of the good intentions that motivate the various social, economic, and political programs calculated to bring peace and prosperity to mankind cannot change the fact that man is trapped in a state of sin and wickedness unless and until he returns to Christ, the only way of salvation.
“And the whole world lieth in sin, and groaneth under darkness and under the bondage of sin.
“And by this you may know they are under the bondage of sin, because they come not unto me.
“For whoso cometh not unto me is under the bondage of sin.
“And whoso receiveth not my voice is not acquainted with my voice, and is not of me.
“And by this you may know the righteous from the wicked, and that the world groaneth under sin and darkness even now.” (D&C 84:49–53.)
It is unfortunate, but both scripture and history attest that the way of sin and death is traversed by the many, while few will “enter into life.” Thus, the world brings judgment upon itself, for the Spirit of the Lord—the Spirit of life and peace—“shalt not always strive with man.” (D&C 1:33.) But that the Father has done all in his power, employing every possible approach and using every possible appeal, to save his children from the demands of the law is beyond disputation. Note the power of the Lord’s poetic appeal:
“O, ye nations of the earth,
how often would I have gathered you together
as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings,
but ye would not!
How oft have I called upon you
by the mouth of my servants,
and by the ministering of angels,
and by mine own voice,
and by the voice of thunderings,
and by the voice of lightnings,
and by the voice of tempests,
and by the voice of earthquakes, and great hailstorms,
and by the voice of famines and pestilences of every kind,
and by the great sound of a trump,
and by the voice of judgment,
and by the voice of mercy all the day long,
and by the voice of glory
and the riches of eternal life,
and would have saved you with an everlasting salvation,
but ye would not!”
When the great judgments begin, there will be those who “shall lift up their voices and curse God and die.” (D&C 45:32.) But they will not be justified in doing so, for the judgments will be the natural consequences of their own misused agency.
Man, not God, is ultimately responsible for the judgments of the last days. (See D&C 109:49–53; D&C 84:96–98; D&C 97:22–25.) The Lord’s plan is a plan of life. It is not God’s will that destruction must precede the fulfillment of that plan. It is an unfortunate necessity imposed upon him by the rebellious conduct of many of his children.
However, the Doctrine and Covenants is concerned with more than the tribulations of the last days. Being true scripture, it is a book of promises, of great expectations for the righteous—as a body and as individuals.
The divine church has been brought forth “out of obscurity and out of darkness.” (D&C 1:30.) In a manner of speaking, its calling and election has been made sure, for it is the foundation of that kingdom seen by Daniel which “shall not be left to other people” (Dan. 2:44), but which “shall roll forth, until it has filled the whole earth” (D&C 65:2). The Church will never apostatize again. (D&C 38:9.)
The Lord has promised his servants that “their arm shall be my arm, and I will be their shield and their buckler. …” (D&C 35:14.) For “I will gather mine elect from the four quarters of the earth.” (D&C 33:6.)
The New Jerusalem shall be “a land of peace, a city of refuge, a place of safety for the saints,” during the judgments of the latter days. (D&C 45:66.)
When he establishes his millennial government, the Lord has promised the Saints no ruler but Christ, “for I will be your king and watch over you.” (D&C 38:21.) It is then that the Saints “shall be a free people, and ye shall have no laws but my laws when I come.” (D&C 38:22.)
The Lord has promised the Saints that they “shall be the richest of all people.” (D&C 38:39.) They shall inherit the kingdom (D&C 38:9, 15; D&C 78:13; D&C 82:2–3; D&C 136:41) and will dwell upon this earth both in time and in eternity (D&C 38:20). When the earth receives its paradisaical glory, it will yield of its strength to the blessing of all of its inhabitants. (D&C 59:16–20.)
The faithful are promised the crown of a glorious, celestial body in the resurrection (D&C 29:13; D&C 88:28–29), and having received “a fulness of truth” (D&C 93:26–28) and therefore “a fulness of joy” (D&C 93:33), they will “comprehend even God” (D&C 88:49).
Thus, the Saints are promised eternal life, “the greatest of all the gifts of God.” (D&C 6:13; D&C 14:7.) In other words, the Lord will bestow the treasures of heaven upon his faithful sons and daughters—all that the Father possesses. (D&C 84:38.)
Eventually, the Latter-day Saints will be numbered with the Church of the Firstborn, the celestial assembly of God in eternity. (D&C 76:54–70; D&C 78:21; D&C 93:22.) As such, they “shall inherit all things.” (D&C 78:22.)
After the Lord has redeemed his oppressed peoples of all ages (D&C 133:52) and resurrected this fallen planet as “a new heaven and a new earth” of celestial glory (D&C 29:23; D&C 88:17–19), the Saints will obtain “an inheritance before the Lord, in the holy city” (D&C 63:49). That inheritance will assure them of an everlasting place in the presence of the Godhead. It will be the perfection of love, marriage, and the family. It will include a totality of knowledge, power, dominion, freedom, and joy.
In the meantime, the Lord assures us: “He that seeketh me early shall find me, and shall not be forsaken.” (D&C 88:83.) He invites us to draw near to him with the promise that he will then draw near unto us. (D&C 88:63.)
Those who accept this invitation receive the “unspeakable gift of the Holy Ghost” (D&C 121:26), which will lead them into all knowledge and truth, being their constant companion to the extent that they qualify for his association (D&C 121:29).
The gift of the Holy Ghost is the means by which the Lord fulfills the promise: “I will give unto as many as will receive me, power to become my sons.” (D&C 39:4; D&C 11:30; D&C 35:2; D&C 45:8.) These sons and daughters of God enjoy answers to their prayers (D&C 46:28–30; D&C 50:29–30; D&C 98:1–3), the signs that follow faith (D&C 35:8–9; D&C 84:65–72), the gifts of the Spirit (D&C 46:8–27), physical and spiritual health (D&C 89:18–21), and “peace in this world” (D&C 59:23).
How gracious is the Father! What a treasury of prophecies and promises is the Doctrine and Covenants! How grateful we should be for this precious volume of modern scripture!