Lesson 2: Introduction to the Doctrine and Covenants

Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Seminary Teacher Manual, 2013


Introduction

The Doctrine and Covenants contains “divine revelations and inspired declarations given for the establishment and regulation of the kingdom of God on the earth in the last days” (introduction to the Doctrine and Covenants). By prayerfully studying the Doctrine and Covenants, students can strengthen their testimonies of Jesus Christ and receive personal revelation.

Suggestions for Teaching

The Doctrine and Covenants contains revelations received by the Prophet Joseph Smith and his successors

    Begin the lesson by asking students the following question:
  • What books do you think the entire world would benefit from reading? Why? (Consider displaying a few books that you would suggest.)

After students have responded, invite a student to read the following statement by Joseph Smith. Ask the class to listen for what the Prophet taught regarding the Doctrine and Covenants.

Brother Joseph

“[The Doctrine and Covenants is] the foundation of the Church in these last days, and a benefit to the world, showing that the keys of the mysteries of the kingdom of our Savior are again entrusted to man” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith [2007], 194).

Explain that the Doctrine and Covenants is of such benefit to the world that President Joseph Fielding Smith declared that “it is worth more to us than the riches of the earth” (Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols. [1954–56], 3:199). Encourage students to look during today’s lesson for ways that studying the Doctrine and Covenants can benefit their lives.

Invite students to open to the title page of the Doctrine and Covenants. Explain that in order for the Doctrine and Covenants to be beneficial, we must first understand what doctrines and covenants are. Ask a student to read aloud the title page and the first sentence of the introduction.

  • How would you define the word doctrine? What is a covenant ? What is revelation? (You may need to explain that a doctrine is a fundamental, eternal truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ; a covenant is a sacred agreement between God and His children; and revelation is communication from God to His children. You may want to write these definitions on the board and suggest that students copy them on the title page in their scriptures.)

Ask students to turn to the eighth paragraph of the introduction to the Doctrine and Covenants (beginning with “In the revelations …”). Explain that this paragraph lists examples of some of the doctrines found in the Doctrine and Covenants. Invite students to read the first sentence silently and identify one or more doctrines they are interested in learning more about.

  • Which doctrines are you most interested in learning more about? How do you think you would benefit from greater knowledge and understanding of those truths?

Explain that although knowledge of these doctrines is of critical importance, the greatest value of the Doctrine and Covenants is found in the most vital truth it contains. Invite a student to read the last sentence of paragraph eight aloud, and invite the class to follow along and look for the truth that makes the Doctrine and Covenants so valuable.

  • What makes the Doctrine and Covenants “of great value”? Why is a testimony of the Savior so valuable?

  • How might your study of the Doctrine and Covenants increase your testimony of Jesus Christ?

Write the following principle on the board: By studying the revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants, we can strengthen our testimonies of Jesus Christ.

Invite students to consider how their lives might benefit from a stronger testimony of the Savior. Consider sharing how studying the Doctrine and Covenants has strengthened your testimony of Jesus Christ.

To help students understand how studying the Doctrine and Covenants can strengthen their testimonies of Jesus Christ, invite a student to read aloud the second sentence in paragraph one of the introduction. Ask the class to follow along and identify whose voice they will hear through the Doctrine and Covenants. After students have responded, write the following principle on the board: As we study the Doctrine and Covenants, we can hear the voice of the Savior.

Ask a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 18:34–36 aloud. Invite the class to follow along, looking for how we can hear the voice of the Lord as we study the Doctrine and Covenants.

  • What can we testify of if we study the Doctrine and Covenants?

You may want to explain that in the Doctrine and Covenants, terms such as “the Lord” or “God” generally refer to Jesus Christ. He is the speaker throughout the Doctrine and Covenants.

Ask a student to read aloud the third paragraph of the introduction. Invite the class to follow along and look for words that describe the Savior’s voice. (You may want to suggest that they mark what they find.)

  • What words are used to describe the Savior’s voice?

  • What benefits can come to your life from being able to hear and recognize the voice of the Lord? (Explain that in the coming weeks, students will learn about other ways to hear the voice of the Lord and recognize when He is speaking to them.)

To help students further understand how studying the Doctrine and Covenants can benefit their lives, consider displaying images of some of the people associated with the revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants: Brother Joseph (Gospel Art Book [2009], no. 87; see also LDS.org), Emma Smith (no. 88), John the Baptist Conferring the Aaronic Priesthood (no. 93), Melchizedek Priesthood Restoration (no. 94), Elijah Appearing in the Kirtland Temple (no. 95). Explain that as they study the revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants, they will learn important things concerning these people. Ask a student to read the first two sentences of the sixth paragraph of the introduction (beginning with “These sacred revelations …”). Invite the class to follow along and identify the circumstances in which the revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants were received.

Brother Joseph
Emma Smith
John the Baptist Conferring the Aaronic Priesthood
Melchizedek Priesthood Restoration
Elijah Appearing in the Kirtland Temple
  • What phrases in this paragraph describe the circumstances in which these revelations were received? (“In answer to prayer,” “in times of need,” and “real-life situations”).

Display a piece of paper with the word You written on it. Point out that just like individuals from Church history, we also go through situations in which we need divine guidance. Invite students to describe situations that may come up during the school year in which they could benefit from the Lord’s guidance. Invite a student to write their responses on the board.

Explain that each revelation students will study this year is an additional witness that God truly lives, that He speaks to His children, and that He guides His Church.

  • How can these additional witnesses help you when you are in challenging circumstances?

  • Based on what you have read in paragraph six of the introduction, what must we do to receive divine guidance in our times of need?

Help students identify a principle from paragraph six by writing the following incomplete statement on the board: If we _____________________________________________, then the Lord will _____________________________________________.

Invite students to summarize what they have learned by completing this statement. Students may use different words, but their answers should reflect the following principle: If we pray for help in our times of need, then the Lord will give us guidance.

Ask students to turn to paragraphs four and five of the introduction. Summarize these paragraphs by explaining that they provide an overview of significant events in the Restoration of Jesus Christ’s Church on the earth, including the First Vision and other divine manifestations, the translation of the Book of Mormon, the restoration of priesthood authority and keys, and the organization of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Tell students that they will learn more about these sacred events during their course of study. Explain that these divine experiences came as the Prophet Joseph Smith and others sought the Lord’s help and guidance.

  • When have you faced a situation in which you needed the Lord’s help or guidance and you received it?

Invite students to turn to the “Testimony of the Twelve Apostles to the Truth of the Book of Doctrine and Covenants,” which is in the introduction. Ask a student to read the first two paragraphs aloud (beginning with the phrase “We, therefore, feel willing …”). Ask the class to follow along and identify phrases that impress them.

  • Which phrases from the Twelve Apostles’ testimony of the Doctrine and Covenants stand out to you? Why?

After students have responded, remind them that at the beginning of the lesson they were encouraged to look for ways that studying the Doctrine and Covenants can benefit their lives. Invite students to write in their class notebooks or scripture study journals how they hope the Doctrine and Covenants will benefit their lives and what they will do to help this happen.

When students have finished writing, challenge them to prayerfully study the Doctrine and Covenants every day this school year as a way to help them hear the Savior’s voice and receive guidance from Him. You may want to conclude by sharing your testimony of how studying the Doctrine and Covenants has helped you experience these blessings in your life.

Commentary and Background Information

What is the relationship between the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants?

President Ezra Taft Benson taught of the relationship between the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants:

“The Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants are bound together as revelations from Israel’s God to gather and prepare His people for the second coming of the Lord. …

“The Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants testify of each other. You cannot believe one and not the other. …

“The Doctrine and Covenants is the binding link between the Book of Mormon and the continuing work of the Restoration through the Prophet Joseph Smith and his successors. …

“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’ [D&C 1:30]. I know that.

“The Book of Mormon is the ‘keystone’ of our religion, and the Doctrine and Covenants is the capstone, with continuing latter-day revelation. The Lord has placed His stamp of approval on both the keystone and the capstone” (“The Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants,” Ensign, May 1987, 83).

From revelation to publication: Different editions of the Doctrine and Covenants

In November 1831 the Prophet Joseph Smith met with elders in Hiram, Ohio. The group decided to compile and publish some of the revelations that the Prophet had received. They selected 65 revelations and titled the compilation the Book of Commandments. By the summer of 1833 most of the compilations had been printed, but a mob destroyed nearly all of the copies. As a result, very few copies exist today. Another edition was approved and published in 1835. This edition contained the Lectures on Faith (see the introduction to the Doctrine and Covenants) and 103 revelations. This edition, therefore, was the first with the title Doctrine (the lectures) and Covenants (the revelations). (See History of the Church, 2:243–251.)

A few more editions (each adding new revelations or making slight improvements to the organization) were printed periodically until 1981, when the Church published a new edition of the triple combination, in English, with expanded footnotes and cross-references and a new index. At that time, the Prophet Joseph Smith’s 1836 vision of the celestial kingdom and President Joseph F. Smith’s 1918 vision of the redemption of the dead, both canonized by the Church in 1976 and originally added to the Pearl of Great Price, were added to the Doctrine and Covenants as sections 137 and 138. The 1981 edition has 138 sections and two official declarations: the Manifesto, issued in 1890 by President Wilford Woodruff, and the declaration on priesthood, issued in 1978 by President Spencer W. Kimball. On March 1, 2013, the First Presidency announced a new edition of the English scriptures. Most of the adjustments that were made in this edition are in the study helps or the headings of the Doctrine and Covenants or entail minor spelling corrections to the text. (For more detailed information about the different editions, see the Revelations Correspondence Chart in “Corresponding Section Numbers in Editions of the Doctrine and Covenants,” JosephSmithPapers.org/reference/library.)