President Ezra Taft Benson has said, “The Book of Mormon brings men to Christ. The Doctrine and Covenants brings men to Christ’s kingdom, even The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, ‘the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth’” (Ensign, May 1987, page 83).
Unlike the Bible, the Book of Mormon, and the Pearl of Great Price, the Doctrine and Covenants is a book of modern revelation received from 1823 to 1978. One of the most important differences between the Church and other religions today is the belief in continuing revelation from the Lord to His prophets.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was organized on April 6, 1830. In June of that year, Joseph Smith read the Articles and Covenants of the Church in a conference, and they were accepted by the Church members (D&C 20, 22). The Lord told Joseph Smith to begin making copies of the revelations he had received. In 1831 the Lord gave Joseph Smith His approval to publish the revelations by giving him the preface for the new book (D&C 1).
President Joseph Fielding Smith said, “The Doctrine and Covenants … is the only book in existence which bears the honor of a preface given by the Lord himself. … It was not written by Joseph Smith, but was dictated by Jesus Christ, and contains his and his Father’s word to the Church and to all the world that faith in God, repentance from sin and membership in his Church might be given to all who will believe.”
In 1833, sixty-five sections were published in the Book of Commandments. Unfortunately, a mob destroyed the press and most of the printed copies. In 1835, the book was printed again; it was called the Doctrine and Covenants and included 102 sections. A new edition, published in 1876, contained 136 sections divided into verses.
Several sections of the Doctrine and Covenants pertain to messages revealed to Joseph Smith by heavenly messengers—Angel Moroni (D&C 2), John the Baptist (D&C 13), an unnamed angel (D&C 27), and Jesus, Moses, Elias, and Elijah (D&C 110).
Some of the revelations given to Joseph Smith were for certain individuals. Emma Smith, for instance, was told that her first responsibility was to her husband. She was also commanded to make a selection of hymns for the Church (D&C 25).
On Christmas Day in 1832, Jesus prophesied to Joseph Smith that there would be a civil war in the United States. He also revealed that there would be future wars in the world (D&C 87).
The will of the Lord concerning the Saints’ exodus to the West was revealed to President Brigham Young at Winter Quarters (D&C 136).
When a new edition of the standard works was published in 1981, both Joseph Smith’s vision of the celestial kingdom (D&C 137) and President Joseph F. Smith’s vision of the redemption of the dead (D&C 138) were included. A summary of the revelation to President Spencer W. Kimball, giving priesthood and temple blessings to worthy men of all races in the Church was also added (OD 2).