Lesson 4: Doctrine and Covenants 1

Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Seminary Teacher Manual, 2013


By November 1831, Joseph Smith had received more than 60 revelations. However, most Church members did not have access to copies of the revelations. The Prophet convened a conference in Hiram, Ohio, to discuss publishing them as a book that would be called the Book of Commandments. A committee of elders drafted a preface to the book. Unsatisfied with this draft, those who attended the conference requested that Joseph Smith ask the Lord for a preface. After petitioning the Lord in prayer, Joseph received a preface by revelation. The Lord’s preface to the Book of Commandments became section 1 of the Doctrine and Covenants.

Suggestions for Teaching

Doctrine and Covenants 1:1–16

The Lord warns of the judgments that will come upon the rebellious at the Second Coming

You might begin this lesson by asking the class to ponder the following questions as you read them aloud. After sufficient time, invite one or two students to share their responses.

  • When has someone sought to get your attention and warn you about something? How did you respond?

  • How do you feel about that person’s efforts to warn you? Why do you feel this way?

Display your copy of the Doctrine and Covenants, and explain that in this book the Lord provides warnings, commandments, and instructions that are crucial for our happiness and salvation. Tell students that the Lord revealed section 1 as a preface to the other revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants. A preface prepares a reader for the contents of a book by summarizing the message and purposes of the author. To help students understand the historical context for Doctrine and Covenants 1, you may want to relate some of the information from the introduction to this lesson.

Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 1:1–3 aloud. Ask the class to follow along and identify words or phrases the Lord used to get the attention of those who would read His words. Invite a few students to share what they have found. (As students respond, you may want to explain that hearken means to listen attentively. When we truly hearken to the Lord, we will follow His counsel and obey His commandments.)

  • To whom was the Lord speaking in these verses? (The Lord was speaking to all the inhabitants of the earth, not just to members of the Church.)

  • What do you think is the meaning of the phrase “their iniquities shall be spoken upon the housetops, and their secret acts shall be revealed”? (D&C 1:3).

Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 1:4–7 aloud, and ask the class to identify how the Lord said He would deliver His warnings to all people.

  • How did the Lord say He would deliver His warnings to all people? (Students may use different words, but they should identify the following doctrine: The Lord speaks His warnings to all people through His chosen disciples. You may want to suggest that students mark this doctrine in Doctrine and Covenants 1:4 or write it in the margin of their scriptures.)

  • Who are the disciples through whom the Lord speaks and publishes His warnings?

Summarize Doctrine and Covenants 1:8–10 by explaining that the Lord declared He will judge all people according to their actions and how they treat others. Ask a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 1:11–14 aloud, and invite the class to follow along and identify further warnings.

  • According to footnote 12b, what event was the Lord referring to in Doctrine and Covenants 1:12?

  • In Doctrine and Covenants 1:14, what do you think the Lord meant when He warned that those who do not give heed to His prophets and apostles will be cut off? (They will be separated from the righteous and lose the blessings that are available through gospel ordinances and covenants.)

Explain that these warnings are necessary because of wickedness and apostasy throughout the world. Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 1:15–16 aloud. Ask the class to follow along and identify words or phrases that illustrate wickedness or apostasy. Invite a few students to report what they have found.

  • In what ways do people in our day walk “in [their] own way, and after the image of [their] own god”? (D&C 1:16).

Doctrine and Covenants 1:17–33

The gospel was restored through Joseph Smith to prepare the world for the calamity of the last days

Ask the class to scan Doctrine and Covenants 1:17 and identify the word the Lord used to refer to the wickedness, apostasy, and destruction that would occur in the last days. When students identify the word calamity, explain that in Doctrine and Covenants 1:17–33, the Lord gives solutions to help us through the calamity of the last days. (You may want to explain that the word calamity refers to disastrous events that are accompanied by great loss, distress, and suffering.)

Copy the following chart on the board, or provide it to students as a handout:

What solution did the Lord give for the calamity that would come upon the earth?

How can this solution help us face the calamity of the last days?

D&C 1:17


D&C 1:18–23


D&C 1:29


D&C 1:30


You may want to ask students to complete the chart individually or with a partner. Ask students to read the scripture passages on the left side of the chart and identify solutions the Lord has given to help us with the calamity of the last days. Ask them to write descriptions or draw pictures of what they find in the center column of the chart. In the boxes on the right, ask them to write brief explanations of how each of the Lord’s solutions can help us with the calamity of the last days.

After sufficient time, invite students to report what they have recorded in the chart. Responses in the center column should include the following: the Lord called Joseph Smith and gave him revelations and commandments (see D&C 1:17); the Lord has commanded His servants to go throughout the earth to proclaim His gospel and establish His covenant (see D&C 1:18–23); the Lord revealed the Book of Mormon (see D&C 1:29); and the Lord restored His Church upon the earth (see D&C 1:30). Responses in the right column may vary. Invite a few students to share what they have written.

To help students think further about the Lord’s declaration in Doctrine and Covenants 1:30, you may want to suggest that they mark words in this verse that express the following truth: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the only true and living church upon the earth.

  • Based on what you learned in the previous lesson about the Great Apostasy, how would you explain to someone why The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the only true and living church upon the earth?

  • What makes this church “living”?

Explain that through the gift of the Holy Ghost, the Lord is able to direct His Church with ongoing revelation. This continuing revelation is an example of how the Church is living.

  • Why is it important to you to know that you belong to the only true and living Church upon the earth?

  • What do you think the Lord meant when He stated that He was pleased with His Church “collectively and not individually”? (D&C 1:30). (Although the Church is true and as a whole is pleasing to the Lord, some individual members of the Church may not live in a way that is pleasing to Him.)

Invite students to search Doctrine and Covenants 1:31–33 and identify what the Lord said about sin and repentance.

  • How does the Lord look upon sin? How can we be forgiven?

  • According to Doctrine and Covenants 1:33, what happens to those who don’t repent?

  • What does it mean to have “light” taken away?

Doctrine and Covenants 1:34–39

The Lord directs us to search the revelations and commandments contained in the Doctrine and Covenants

Summarize Doctrine and Covenants 1:34–36 by explaining that the Lord again expressed His desire to warn all people to prepare for His Second Coming. Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 1:37–39 aloud. Ask the class to follow along and look for the truths the Lord emphasized at the conclusion of His preface to the Doctrine and Covenants.

  • What truths did the Lord emphasize in Doctrine and Covenants 1:37–39? (As students share the truths they have identified, be sure the following are clear: We are to search the commandments the Lord has given. The Lord’s words will all be fulfilled. The Lord’s words are true whether they are stated by Him or by His servants.)

  • Based on what you have learned today, how can you be blessed if you search the commandments and revelations the Lord has given in the Doctrine and Covenants?

Invite a few students to share how searching the scriptures has blessed their lives. You might also want to invite students to write in their class notebooks or scripture study journals a goal to study the Doctrine and Covenants daily during the school year. Ask them to consider when, where, and for how long they will study each day. Inform them that you will periodically follow up to help them be successful in their daily study.

scripture mastery iconScripture Mastery—Doctrine and Covenants 1:37–38

To help students memorize Doctrine and Covenants 1:37, write the first letter of each word on the board. Have students recite the passage together (using their scriptures as needed) until they can recite the entire verse using only the first letters to help them. Then erase several of the letters and have them recite the scripture again. Continue this process until all the letters have been erased and the class can recite the verse entirely from memory. Repeat this process with Doctrine and Covenants 1:38.

Note: Because of the length of this lesson, you might want to use this activity on another day when you have extra time. Or you might complete portions of this activity over the course of several days at the beginning of class.

Commentary and Background Information

Doctrine and Covenants 1:14. “Give heed to the words of the prophets”

Elder M. Russell Ballard taught:

“It is no small thing, my brothers and sisters, to have a prophet of God in our midst. Great and wonderful are the blessings that come into our lives as we listen to the word of the Lord given to us through him. At the same time, knowing that [the President of the Church] is God’s prophet also endows us with responsibility. When we hear the counsel of the Lord expressed through the words of the President of the Church, our response should be positive and prompt. History has shown that there is safety, peace, prosperity, and happiness in responding to prophetic counsel as did Nephi of old: ‘I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded’ (1 Ne. 3:7)” (“His Word Ye Shall Receive,” Ensign, May 2001, 65).

Supplemental Teaching Idea

Doctrine and Covenants 1:30–33. “The only true and living church”

You might use this teaching idea after helping students identify the following truth in Doctrine and Covenants 1:30: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the only true and living church upon the earth.

Ask students to consider how they would respond to the following situation:

A friend who is not a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints asks, “I’ve heard that members of your church believe in Jesus Christ and the Bible. But don’t you also claim to belong to the only true church? If my church also teaches about Jesus Christ and the Bible, how can you say it isn’t true?”

Invite students to share how they would respond in this situation. To help the class understand that many other churches do possess some truth, you may want to ask a student to read aloud the following statement by President Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:

“Now this is not to say that the churches, all of them, are without some truth. They have some truth—some of them very much of it. They have a form of godliness. Often the clergy and adherents are not without dedication, and many of them practice remarkably well the virtues of Christianity. They are, nonetheless, incomplete. By his declaration, ‘… they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof.’ (JS—H 1:19).

“The gospel might be likened to the keyboard of a piano—a full keyboard with a selection of keys on which one who is trained can play a variety without limits; a ballad to express love, a march to rally, a melody to soothe, and a hymn to inspire; an endless variety to suit every mood and satisfy every need.

“How shortsighted it is, then, to choose a single key and endlessly tap out the monotony of a single note, or even two or three notes, when the full keyboard of limitless harmony can be played.

“How disappointing when the fullness of the gospel, the whole keyboard, is here upon the earth, that many churches tap on a single key. The note they stress may be essential to a complete harmony of religious experience, but it is, nonetheless, not all there is. It isn’t the fullness. …

“Now we do not say they are wrong so much as we say they are incomplete. The fullness of the gospel has been restored. The power and the authority to act for Him is present with us. The power and the authority of the priesthood rests upon this church.

“… The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the only true and living church upon the face of this earth, of which I bear witness” (“The Only True and Living Church,” Ensign, Dec. 1971, 40–42).

  • How might the analogy given by President Packer help someone understand the difference between churches that possess some truth and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?

Invite a student to read aloud the following statement by President Gordon B. Hinckley:

“God be thanked for His marvelous bestowal of testimony, authority, and doctrine associated with this, the restored Church of Jesus Christ.

“This must be our great and singular message to the world. We do not offer it with boasting. We testify in humility but with gravity and absolute sincerity. We invite all, the whole earth, to listen to this account and take measure of its truth. God bless us as those who believe in His divine manifestations and help us to extend knowledge of these great and marvelous occurrences to all who will listen. To these we say in a spirit of love, bring with you all that you have of good and truth which you have received from whatever source, and come and let us see if we may add to it” (“The Marvelous Foundation of Our Faith,” Ensign, Nov. 2002, 81).

  • How can we follow President Hinckley’s counsel and invite others to join the only true Church without being offensive to their beliefs?