This year the entire Church membership will study the Doctrine and Covenants. Its remarkable and inspiring messages will be taught and pondered in a score of languages and in a hundred nations across the earth.
It is a glorious book replete with words of heavenly wisdom. It contains the word of God to us of this generation.
The standard works are all indispensable to our understanding the things of God. The Bible provides the foundation of our faith: The Old Testament gives the word of Jehovah through His ancient prophets; the New Testament sets forth, in language beautiful and moving, the matchless life and sacrifice of the Savior of mankind.
The Book of Mormon stands as an added testament of Jesus Christ. Through its pages march the testimonies of prophets of the New World. Majestic in its sweep of history, its chapters are filled with the tragedy of war, with divine warnings, and with God-given promises. It speaks as a voice from the dust to a world that needs to listen.
The Pearl of Great Price supplies fascinating details missing from the book of Genesis in the Old Testament and from Matthew 24 in the New Testament. [Matt. 24] It also contains the remarkable and moving account of early events in the life of the Prophet Joseph Smith.
But the Doctrine and Covenants is unique among our books of scripture. It is the constitution of the Church. While the Doctrine and Covenants includes writings and statements of various origins, it is primarily a book of revelation given through the Prophet of this dispensation.
These revelations open with a thundering declaration of the encompassing purposes of God in the restoration of His great latter-day work:
“Hearken, O ye people of my church, saith the voice of him who dwells on high, and whose eyes are upon all men; yea, verily I say: Hearken ye people from afar; and ye that are upon the islands of the sea, listen together.
“For verily the voice of the Lord is unto all men, and there is none to escape; and there is no eye that shall not see, neither ear that shall not hear, neither heart that shall not be penetrated.” (D&C 1:1–2.)
From that majestic opening there unfolds a wondrous doctrinal panorama that comes from the fountain of eternal truth. Some is direct revelation, with the Lord dictating to His prophet. Some is the language of Joseph Smith, written or spoken as he was moved upon by the Holy Ghost. Also included is his narrative of events that occurred in various circumstances. All brought together, they constitute in very substantial measure the doctrine and the practices of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
I look with wonder at the farm boy of Palmyra. He had very little of schoolbook education. He knew little of the classroom. His opportunity for reading was severely restricted. But as an instrument in the hands of the Almighty, he spoke words that have become the law and the testimony of this great, vital work. The Doctrine and Covenants is a conduit for the expressions of the Lord to His people.
The variety of matters the book deals with is amazing. They include principles and procedures concerning the governance of the Church. Unique and remarkable rules of health, with promises both physical and spiritual, are set forth. The covenant of the eternal priesthood is described in a manner not found elsewhere in scripture. The privileges and blessings—and the limitations and opportunities—of the three degrees of glory are announced, building on Paul’s brief mention of a glory of the sun, and of the moon, and of the stars. Repentance is proclaimed in language clear and compelling. The correct mode of baptism is given. The nature of the Godhead, which has troubled theologians for centuries, is described in language understandable to all. The Lord’s law of finance is pronounced, mandating how funds for the operation of the Church are to be acquired and disbursed. Work for the dead is revealed to bless the sons and daughters of God of all generations.
It is evident from reading the Doctrine and Covenants that Joseph Smith had an all-encompassing understanding of the eternal purposes of God. The Bible is precious and wonderful. Feast on its strong and beautiful language. Likewise, draw strength and resolution, inspiration and challenge, from the Book of Mormon. Then receive instruction and understanding and promises of hope, comfort, and strength from the revelations of God given to this generation as recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants.
I love the language of the book. I love the tone of its words. I marvel at the clarity and strength of its statements, of its doctrinal expositions and prophetic promises.
In appreciation and by way of testimony, I offer a few of my favorite passages from this great book of revelation, together with brief observations. Each of you will have your own favorites. These are words which I have taken into my heart, words that have stirred me, words that have humbled me, words that have comforted me. Reflect on these declarations of God:
“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.
“For behold, and lo, the Lord is God, and the Spirit beareth record, and the record is true, and the truth abideth forever and ever.” (D&C 1:38–39.)
When critics mock, when enemies deride, when cynics belittle this work, there comes into my mind this tremendous statement of the Almighty. The Lord does not excuse Himself for what He has said or done. Every promise shall be kept, every prophecy fulfilled, “and the truth abideth forever and ever.”
In the same vein is this declaration concerning the diabolical schemes of enemies of the Church:
“I will not suffer that they shall destroy my work; yea, I will show unto them that my wisdom is greater than the cunning of the devil.” (D&C 10:43.)
In my own time I have seen much of the mischief of those who revel in demeaning this work and who would do all in their power to destroy it. These great words of the Lord, spoken through revelation, have given me comfort and assurance, as has the opening statement of section 3: [D&C 3]
“The works, and the designs, and the purposes of God cannot be frustrated, neither can they come to naught.”
I have stood with missionaries in many lands and quoted section 4. Each time I have that experience, these words of the second verse touch me with a deep personal sense of resolution:
“Therefore, O ye that embark in the service of God, see that ye serve him with all your heart, might, mind and strength, that ye may stand blameless before God at the last day.” [D&C 4:2]
There will be a day of reckoning. There will be a time of confession and accounting. Each day in mortality we are writing the text of that accounting.
Others of my favorites:
“Trifle not with sacred things.” (D&C 6:12.)
I couple this statement with these words found in section 63:
“Remember that that which cometh from above is sacred, and must be spoken with care, and by constraint of the Spirit.” (D&C 63:64.)
I am hurt when the name of the Lord is spoken in vain. I am distressed when I hear people speak of sacred things with frivolity and in a spirit of jest.
When I see people struggling with debt, as I see so very many—debt that holds them down and in many cases leads to repudiation of obligations and to bankruptcy—I think of these words directed to Martin Harris:
“Pay the debt thou hast contracted. … Release thyself from bondage.” (D&C 19:35.)
Anyone who has been trapped by debt knows something of that oppressive bondage.
“If ye are prepared ye shall not fear.” (D&C 38:30.)
This brief statement is a promise wonderful and sure. It carries a message for all of us—for the youth who wonders about education, for the head of a household who has responsibility for a family, for the business or professional man, for the teacher or the speaker, for the church officer. All of us occasionally face responsibilities that bring with them a sense of fear. Where there is adequate preparation, there need be no fear. Such is the promise of the Lord.
“That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day.” (D&C 50:24.)
This, to me, is a remarkable statement. It identifies the very essence of eternal progression, setting forth in a few words the opportunity and promise for growth that will lead us to perfection. It tells us that as we learn of things divine we shall be added upon in our understanding and become glorified in that light which comes from God.
“Behold, he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more.” (D&C 58:42.)
So many of us are prone to say we forgive, when in fact we are unwilling to forget. If the Lord is willing to forget the sins of the repentant, then why are so many of us inclined to bring up the past again and again? Here is a great lesson we all need to learn. There is no true forgiveness without forgetting.
Because of the constraints of space I must conclude my list. I do so with the glorious declaration of Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon recorded in section 76:
“And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives!
“For we saw him, even on the right hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father—
“That by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God.” (D&C 76:22–24.)
Such was the plain-spoken testimony of a prophet and his associate. Joseph gave his life in witness of the truth of that declaration, as recorded in section 135. He, with his brother Hyrum, were shot and killed on 27 June 1844 at Carthage, Illinois. John Taylor, who was with them, subsequently wrote:
“Their innocent blood … is an ambassador for the religion of Jesus Christ, that will touch the hearts of honest men among all nations.” (D&C 135:7.)
John Taylor spoke as a prophet when he penned those inspired words. The growth of the Church, spread among the nations, is a fulfillment of that prophecy, as it is a fulfillment of other prophecies set forth in this sacred volume:
It is my testimony, written with solemnity and great appreciation, that this remarkable book, dealing with so many matters of interest and concern to us, sets forth “the order and will of God” to this generation. Ours is the opportunity to read it, ponder it, and enjoy its words of counsel and promise.
Some Points of Emphasis. You may wish to make these points in your home teaching discussion:
The Bible, the Book Of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price are all indispensable to our faith.
The Doctrine and Covenants is unique among our books of scripture and serves as a constitution of the Church.
Primarily, the Doctrine and Covenants is a book of revelation given through the great founding prophet of this dispensation. It is a conduit for the expressions of the Lord to His people today.
Inspired instruction and promises of hope, comfort, and strength from the Lord await those who prayerfully read and meditate on the revelations recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants.
Relate your feelings about the Doctrine and Covenants. Ask family members to share their feelings.
Would this discussion be better after a pre visit chat with the head of the house? Is there a message from the quorum leader or bishop?