As one studies the Doctrine and Covenants, he should remember that he is studying the message of the Lord Jesus Christ. This message is addressed to the people who make up the last greatest dispensation of the gospel—the fullness of times. A study of what the Lord himself has said concerning his message is found in section one of the Doctrine and Covenants. This revelation was given at the conference of the Church which convened at Hiram, Ohio, November 1, 1831, when the “Book of Commandments” was adopted by the priesthood assembled.
Appropriately, the Lord introduces section 1 with the announcement that it is he who is addressing “ye people of my church …” (D&C 1:1.) But his message is not only for the Church but also “unto all men, and there is none to escape …” (D&C 1:2.) Immediately one is made aware that the message of this dispensation is for everyone. In fact:
“ the voice of warning shall be unto all people, by the mouths of my disciples, whom I have chosen in these last days.” (D&C 1:4.)
And the revelations are to be published: “unto you, O inhabitants of the earth.” (D&C 1:6.)
In the performance of their duties, the Lord’s servants are to possess the power to seal on earth and in heaven. Not only the righteous are to be sealed up to eternal life by this power, but also those who reject the gospel and rebel against the servants of the Lord, after having accepted his message, are sealed up to damnation.” (D&C 1:8–9.) When the Lord comes he shall “recompense unto every man according to his work, and measure to every man according to the measure which he has measured to his fellow man.” (D&C 1:10.)
Why is the Lord’s message of warning directed to the people of this generation or dispensation? The answer to this question is found in section 1, verses 11 to 16, inclusive:
“Wherefore the voice of the Lord is unto the ends of the earth, that all that will hear may hear:
“Prepare ye, prepare ye for that which is to come, for the Lord is nigh;
“And the anger of the Lord is kindled, and his sword is bathed in heaven, and it shall fall upon the inhabitants of the earth.
“And the arm of the Lord shall be revealed; and the day cometh that they who will not hear the voice of the Lord, neither the voice of his servants, neither give heed to the words of the prophets and apostles, shall be cut off from among the people;
“For they have strayed from mine ordinances, and have broken mine everlasting covenants;
“They seek not the Lord to establish his righteousness, but every man walketh in his own way, and after the image of his own God, whose image is in the likeness of the world, and whose substance is that of an idol, which waxeth old and shall perish in Babylon, even Babylon, the great, which shall fall.” (D&C 1:11–16.)
This message is directed to the people of this dispensation (1) to prepare themselves before the coming of the Lord (D&C 1:11–12), (2) because of the apostate condition of the world (D&C 1:15), and (3) because men have set up their own gods. (D&C 1:16.)
Verses 17 through 23 tell through whom the gospel was to be restored, and what could result from this great event. Keep in mind what the Lord promised would result from the call of Joseph Smith as the head of this dispensation. Two questions emerge from this thought (1) does the history of the Church verify these promises of the Lord; and (2) in what part of this program have I participated?
“Wherefore, I the Lord, knowing the calamity which should come upon the inhabitants of the earth, called upon my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., and spake unto him from heaven, and gave him commandments,
“And also gave commandments to others, that they should proclaim these things unto the world; and all this that it might be fulfilled, which was written by the prophets—
“The weak things of the world shall come forth and break down the mighty and strong ones, that men should not counsel his fellow man, neither trust in the arm of flesh—
“But that every man might speak in the name of God the Lord, even the Savior of the world;
“That faith also might increase in the earth;
“That mine everlasting covenant might be established;
“That the fulness of my gospel might be proclaimed by the weak and the simple unto the ends of the world, and before kings and rulers.” (D&C 1:17–23.)
It is worthy of observation at this point to indicate that the “others” in verse 18, unto whom the Lord “gave commandments” are those persons who were to assist the Prophet Joseph Smith in this dispensation. Many of these had already been called and received commandments by revelation. Such men as Oliver Cowdery, Sidney Rigdon, Hyrum Smith, Parley P. Pratt, Orson Pratt, and many others make up the number.
“Behold, I am God and have spoken it; these commandments are of me, and were given unto my servants in their weakness, after the manner of their language, that they might come to understanding.
“And inasmuch as they erred it might be made known;
“And inasmuch as they sought wisdom they might be instructed;
“And inasmuch as they sinned they might be chastened, that they might repent;
“And inasmuch as they were humble they might be made strong, and blessed from on high, and receive knowledge from time to time.” (D&C 1:24–28.)
We discover in verses 24 through 28 what had already been accomplished and what would yet be realized in the lives of individuals who receive a call and faithfully perform their duties in the Lord’s service. Some of these blessings are: they come to understanding; their errors are corrected; wisdom sought for is obtained; as they sin they may be chastened and repent; and strength and knowledge come through their humility. Might we today who have embarked upon a study of the Doctrine and Covenants also expect that similar blessings will accrue to us by our diligence? (D&C 1:29–33.)
“And after having received the record of the Nephites, yea, even my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., might have power to lay the foundation of this church, and to bring it forth out of obscurity and out of darkness, the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth, with which I, the Lord, am well pleased, speaking unto the church collectively and not individually—
“For I the Lord cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance;
“Nevertheless, he that repents and does the commandments of the Lord shall be forgiven;
“And he that repents not, from him shall be taken even the light which he has received; for my Spirit shall not always strive with man, saith the Lord of Hosts.” (D&C 1:29–33.)
In continuation of the message that Joseph Smith was divinely called and others were appointed to assist him, the Lord sets forth the important fact that his Prophet has received power to translate the Book of Mormon and to bring forth “the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth …” (D&C 1:30.) There was to be no question in the minds of the members of the Church or of the inhabitants of the world as to the position The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints holds in the world. This proclamation by the Lord gives added confirmation to the teaching of the first vision and also to the many revelations which had already specified that there is only one way to eternal life.
It is further indicated that the Lord was pleased with his Church collectively, but the individual members of his Church had much to do in perfecting their lives. It is evident that the Lord wanted the members of the Church to understand that membership in his kingdom does not give license to sin for he “cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance” (D&C 1:31), but he will forgive the repentant. (D&C 1:32.) On the other hand, that person who does not repent, having received the light, is under the penalty of losing the Spirit of the Lord “for my Spirit shall not always strive with man …” (D&C 1:33.)
Toward the end of this great revelation which opened with the principal message of the Lord to the Church and to the inhabitants of the earth, there is a return to this fundamental purpose—the Lord desires that all men know of his voice of warning of judgments to come and know that eternal life may be won by living the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. This message is reiterated in section 1, verses 34 to 36:
“… I the Lord am willing to make these things known unto all flesh;
“For I am no respecter of persons, and will that all men shall know that the day speedily cometh; the hour is not yet, but is nigh at hand, when 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, and shall reign in their midst, and shall come down in judgment upon Idumea, or the world.” (D&C 1:34–36.)
(Notice the term “Idumea” is defined in the revelation as “the world.” It is synonymous with “Babylon” in verse 16 [D&C 1:16] which symbolizes the wicked world. Idumea was known as the country of Edom whose inhabitants held an inveterate enmity toward Israel.)
As one studies the Doctrine and Covenants, he knows that the gospel message brings joy into the lives of those who live its principles, while wickedness brings unhappiness. One also discovers that judgments do await the world and that one of these judgments—war—with its present-day potential for great destruction—is prophesied for this dispensation. The question of whether or not the prediction that “peace shall be taken from the earth” as stated in 1831, should now be phrased “peace has been taken from the earth,” is one which every Latter-day Saint should consider in the light of present conditions in the world. (D&C 1:35.)
Section 1, the Lord’s preface to his revelations, is concluded with the definite assurance that what has been given will all be fulfilled and that the Spirit of God bears witness that “the record is true, and the truth abideth forever and ever. Amen.” (D&C 1:39.)
The Doctrine and Covenants confirms ancient truths. It also gives more enlightenment about the events of the immediate future and man’s destiny than do other books of scripture. It contains some of the most glorious principles ever revealed to the world.