The Doctrine and Covenants: The Voice of the Lord


Neal A. Maxwell

If asked which book of scripture provides the most frequent chance to “listen” to the Lord talking, most individuals would at first think of the New Testament. The New Testament is a marvelous collection of the deeds and many of the doctrines of the Messiah. But it is in the book of Doctrine and Covenants that we find a treasure trove of truths coming directly from the Lord Jesus Christ; we can almost “hear” him talking.

One cannot read direct words like those in the following 1831 revelation without feeling deep inside the majesty and power of the Lord:

“Thus saith the Lord your God, even Jesus Christ, the Great I Am, Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the same which looked upon the wide expanse of eternity, and all the seraphic hosts of heaven, before the world was made;

“The same which knoweth all things, for all things are present before mine eyes;

“I am the same which spake, and the world was made, and all things came by me.

“I am the same which have taken the Zion of Enoch into mine own bosom; and verily, I say, even as many as have believed in my name, for I am Christ, and in mine own name, by the virtue of the blood which I have spilt, have I pleaded before the Father for them.” (D&C 38:1–4.)

From the opening lines of the Doctrine and Covenants we see a concerned though omnipotent God, Jesus Christ, speaking unto “all men”:

“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.” (D&C 1:1.) The Lord goes on to declare that there are “none to escape” the “voice of warning … unto all people, by the mouths of my disciples, whom I have chosen in these last days.” (D&C 1:2, 4.)

From the book’s first word, hearken, on through to the last hearken in the book’s final verses, we see a pleading Lord who concludes with:

“Now, therefore, hearken, O ye people of my church; and ye elders listen together; you have received my kingdom.

“Be diligent in keeping all my commandments, lest judgments come upon you, and your faith fail you, and your enemies triumph over you. So no more at present Amen and Amen.” (D&C 136:41–42.)

In literally hundreds of verses the Lord speaks with almost unparalleled directness. We see an omniscient and omnipotent Lord tenderly tutoring Oliver Cowdery in the basics of revelation (see D&C 9). We hear Jesus of Nazareth, who suffered exquisitely beyond our capacity to comprehend, comforting a suffering Joseph Smith:

“My son, peace be unto thy soul: thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment” (D&C 121:7).

“If the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good” (D&C 122:7).

How can we help but see Jesus Christ not only as our Lord but as our Eternal Friend!

Our Friend is open with us about what lies ahead: we receive not only a grand vision of the three degrees of glory, but there is also some terror in connection with the final events prior to his Second Coming—including scourges during which eyes will fall “from their sockets.” (D&C 29:19.)

The Lord reminds us that he has made precise prophecies before: “Behold, I tell you these things, even as I told the people of the destruction of Jerusalem; and my word shall be verified at this time as it hath hitherto been verified.” (D&C 5:20.)

We not only see the Savior surveying the galaxies, but we see him looking into Oliver Cowdery’s heart (D&C 6:22) and revealing some of the personal challenges of Sidney Rigdon: “And now behold, verily I say unto you, I, the Lord, am not pleased with my servant Sidney Rigdon; he exalted himself in his heart, and received not counsel, but grieved the Spirit.” (D&C 63:55.)

Thus, in many ways, the Doctrine and Covenants is the modern equivalent in directness of Sinai, where the finger of the Lord wrote on two tablets of stone. (Ex. 31:18.) The Doctrine and Covenants not only directly sets forth certain covenants but also teaches us much about the Other Party [the Lord] to those covenants. In the episode involving the lost manuscript from the Book of Mormon, we see the interplay of the agency of man (with our freedom to fail) and the perfect foresight of a loving Lord who was ready with a new alternative once the lesson had been learned. (See D&C 10.)

We see a picture of the Savior who is all-knowing and all-caring and who supports his own. Such a picture contrasts sharply with Alma’s description of Lucifer: “And thus we see the end of him who perverteth the ways of the Lord; and thus we see that the devil will not support his children at the last day, but doth speedily drag them down to hell.” (Alma 30:60.)

The Savior always supports his prophets. Yet, while he supported his servant Joseph Smith, whom he loved, he did not spare him: “And now I command you, my servant Joseph, to repent and walk more uprightly before me, and to yield to the persuasions of men no more.” (D&C 5:21.)

Just as the Lord alerted his early disciples to their impending martyrdoms, so he promises the Prophet Joseph Smith, fifteen years before his martyrdom, that if the Prophet would be firm in keeping the commandments, he would be given eternal life, “even if you should be slain.” (D&C 5:22.)

In one-to-one highly personal revelations of the Prophet Joseph Smith, we can see the teaching process at work.

“Behold, thou knowest that thou hast inquired of me and I did enlighten thy mind; and now I tell thee these things that thou mayest know that thou hast been enlightened by the Spirit of truth;

“Yea, I tell thee, that thou mayest know that there is none else save God that knowest thy thoughts and the intents of thy heart.

“I tell thee these things as a witness unto thee—that the words or the work which thou hast been writing are true.” (D&C 6:15–17.)

As it reveals the power of the Savior’s direct utterances and his personality, the Doctrine and Covenants gives us immense truths which may not be fully appreciated unless read carefully. We are, for instance, treated to what must be one of the first laws of the universe—that we receive our blessings on the basis of obedience to law (see D&C 130:20–21).

We see a Lord wanting a humble people, but not one overly dependent in decision making, and encouraging members of Zion’s Camp to make their own decision about methods or routes of travel, because so far as the Lord was concerned in that circumstance, “it mattereth not unto me.” (D&C 61:22.)

How marvelously tender to have Christ, who hung from the cross by weary, bleeding arms, say to us about our duty to others: “Lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees.” (D&C 81:5.)

We see perfection portrayed in the pages of the Doctrine and Covenants—but it is an entreating and pleading perfection. On some occasions it is a commanding perfection: “For I, the Almighty, have laid my hands upon the nations, to scourge them for their wickedness.” (D&C 84:96.) At other times it is a commanding perfection: the same Jesus who centuries ago praised the centurion for his great faith (see Luke 7:6–10) now says of Hyrum Smith, “I, the Lord, love him because of the integrity of his heart.” (D&C 124:15.)

The Savior’s standards illuminate all pages. One of the Ten Commandments in its original form said, “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” (Ex. 20:14.) Incorporated within the Doctrine and Covenants, fittingly, is the added warning against mental adultery which Jesus first gave in his earthly ministry in the Holy Land: “And he that looketh upon a woman to lust after her shall deny the faith, and shall not have the Spirit; and if he repents not he shall be cast out.” (D&C 42:23.)

There are needed warnings to the greedy poor:

“Wo unto you poor men, whose hearts are not broken, whose spirits are not contrite, and whose bellies are not satisfied, and whose hands are not stayed from laying hold upon other men’s goods, whose eyes are full of greediness, and who will not labor with your own hands!

“But blessed are the poor who are pure in heart, whose hearts are broken, and whose spirits are contrite, for they shall see the kingdom of God coming in power and great glory unto their deliverance; for the fatness of the earth shall be theirs.” (D&C 56:17–18.)

Alongside the many warnings from a loving Lord come words of divine commendation to Edward Partridge (in section 41) [D&C 41], in which the Lord likens him to Nathaniel of old. Yet we see hope for us in our frailties; after this high praise, the Lord gave Bishop Partridge precise warning and direction: “In this thing my servant Edward Partridge is not justified; nevertheless let him repent and he shall be forgiven.” (D&C 50:39.)

What a marvelous year 1831 must have been, when revelations comprising thirty-seven sections of the Doctrine and Covenants were received! One cannot read Section 45 [D&C 45], with its elaborations upon Matthew 24 [Matt. 24], and not appreciate the desire of the Lord that his disciples be as fully informed as is appropriate concerning the events—both wonderful and terrible—which lie ahead.

There is the direct and glorious manifestation given to the Prophet Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery in the temple at Kirtland on April 3, 1836;

“The veil was taken from our minds, and the eyes of our understanding were opened.

“We saw the Lord standing upon the breastwork of the pulpit, before us, and under his feet was a paved work of pure gold, in color like amber.

“His eyes were as a flame of fire; the hair of his head was white like the pure snow; his countenance shone above the brightness of the sun; and his voice was as the sound of the rushing of great waters, even the voice of Jehovah, saying:

“I am the first and the last; I am he who liveth, I am he who was slain; I am your advocate with the Father.” (D&C 110:1–4.)

Indeed, to ponder the pages of the Doctrine and Covenants is to know that Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon spoke the truth when they wrote, “This is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives!” (D&C 76:22.)

The prayerful reader of this disclosing, divine volume will enlarge his testimony and draw closer to the Savior than he has ever been before!