The Doctrine and Covenants contains revelations the Lord has given in our day and refers to many of the people, places, and events in the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Before you begin preparing to study the Doctrine and Covenants, read the following information. It will help you understand some of the history and events surrounding the revelations.
People in the Doctrine and Covenants
The following accounts are brief histories of some of the important people you will read about in the Doctrine and Covenants:
Joseph Smith Jr.,the Prophet, “has done more, save Jesus only, for the salvation of men in this world, than any other man that ever lived in it” (D&C 135:3). He was born on December 23, 1805. Joseph Smith—History 1:5–54for a short history of his early life, his vision of God the Father and Jesus Christ, and the visits of the angel Moroni. Joseph Smith was given the priesthood by heavenly messengers and received many revelations. He translated and published the Book of Mormon, and through him the Lord Jesus Christ restored His true Church. Similar to other prophets, he was persecuted by his enemies, unjustly put in jail many times, and suffered many afflictions (D&C 121–23). He and his brother Hyrum were killed by a mob in 1844 because of their testimonies of Jesus Christ (D&C 135).
Emma Hale Smithmarried the Prophet Joseph Smith in January 1827 and wrote for him when he began the translation of the Book of Mormon. She was the first president of the Relief Society and chose the hymns for the first Church hymnbook (D&C 25:1–15; also 132:51–56). She suffered many persecutions and afflictions. Several of her young children died and her husband, Joseph, was killed by enemies. She stayed in Illinois when the Church moved to Utah. She died at Nauvoo, Illinois, in 1879.
Hyrum Smithwas the Prophet Joseph Smith’s older brother. From the beginning, Hyrum Smith knew that God had called his younger brother to be a prophet, and he remained faithful to that testimony (D&C 11heading, 6–26; 23:3; 52:8; 124:15, 124). He served as Assistant President and as a member of the First Presidency and was Patriarch to the Church (D&C 124:91–95). He gave his life in Carthage Jail with his brother as a testimony that the true Church had been restored to the earth (D&C 135:1–7). One of his sons, Joseph F. Smith, and a grandson, Joseph Fielding Smith, became Presidents of the Church.
Joseph Smith Sr.(Joseph Smith—History 1:48–50;D&C 4heading; 23 heading, 5; 90:20, 25–26; 102:3; 124:19; 137:5) was born on July 12, 1771, in Topsfield, Massachusetts. At the age of 24 he marriedLucy Mack Smith(D&C 137:5) and settled in Vermont. Successive crop failures and financial losses forced Joseph Sr. to move his family to the area near Palmyra, New York, in the vicinity of the Hill Cumorah. Joseph Smith Sr. was always very supportive of his son’s calling as the prophet of the Lord (Joseph Smith—History 1:50). He was baptized on the day the Church was organized, April 6, 1830. Joseph Smith Sr. and two sons, Hyrum and Samuel, were among the witnesses of the gold plates of the Book of Mormon ( “The Testimony of Eight Witnesses” in the front pages of the Book of Mormon). Joseph Smith Sr. was the first Patriarch of the Church and a counselor in the First Presidency. He died at Nauvoo, Illinois, in 1840.
Joseph Smith Sr. and Lucy Smith were the parents of 11 children. Their first child was a son who did not survive his birth. Their other sons wereAlvin(Joseph Smith—History 1:56;D&C 137:5–6),Hyrum( “Hyrum Smith” above),Joseph( “Joseph Smith Jr.” above),Samuel(D&C 23heading, 4; 61:35; 66:8; 75:13; 102:3, 34; 124:141),Ephraim(who lived only 11 days),William( “Testimony of the Twelve Apostles to the Truth of the Book of Doctrine and Covenants” at the front of the Doctrine and Covenants;D&C 124:129), andDon Carlos.Their daughters wereSophronia, Catherine,andLucy.Samuel Smith was the first missionary of the Church and served in a bishopric in Nauvoo. He suffered much persecution and died at age 36, about a month after his brothers Joseph and Hyrum were killed.
Martin Harriswas a wealthy farmer in Palmyra, New York. He befriended the young Joseph Smith and helped pay his expenses. For a short time he wrote for Joseph Smith as the Prophet translated the Book of Mormon. Later he sold part of his farm to pay for the printing of the first 5,000 copies of the Book of Mormon (D&C 3heading, 12–13; 5:1–15, 24–32; 10 heading; 19 heading, 25–41). He was one of the three special witnesses of the gold plates and was faithful to that testimony all of his life ( “The Testimony of Three Witnesses” in the front of the Book of Mormon;D&C 17heading, 1–9; 58:35–39; 104:24–26;Joseph Smith—History 1:61–65). Martin Harris left the Church in 1838, but he came to Utah in 1870 to be with the Church and was rebaptized. He died in 1875.
Oliver Cowderywas born in Vermont in 1806. He became a schoolteacher and learned about the Prophet Joseph Smith and received a spiritual witness of the Prophet’s calling while living with Joseph’s parents in Palmyra, New York (D&C 6heading, 14–24). In April 1829, Oliver Cowdery went to Harmony, Pennsylvania, to meet the Prophet.He became the scribe as the Prophet translated the Book of Mormon from the gold plates (D&C 8heading, 1–12; 9 heading, 1–14). He was one of the three special witnesses of the gold plates ( “The Testimony of Three Witnesses” in the front of the Book of Mormon;D&C 17heading, 1–9). He was with the Prophet Joseph Smith when the priesthood authority was restored and when many other revelations were received (D&C 13heading; 18:37; 20:3–4; 21 heading; 27:8, 12; 28 heading, 1–16; 47 heading; 69 heading; 104:28–30; 110 heading, 1–16; 111 heading; alsoJoseph Smith—History 1:66–72). He also served as an Assistant President of the Church ( Smith,Doctrines of Salvation,1:211). Oliver Cowdery left the Church in 1838 but returned and was rebaptized in 1848 (D&C 124:95). He died on March 3, 1850, in Missouri, before he was able to emigrate to Utah.
Peter Whitmer Sr.and his wifeMaryhad three daughters and five sons. One daughter, Elizabeth Ann, married Oliver Cowdery ( “Oliver Cowdery” above); their second daughter, Nancy, died when she was nearly four months old; and their third daughter, Catherine, married Hiram Page (D&C 28heading). The five sons were witnesses of the gold plates of the Book of Mormon ( “The Testimony of Three Witnesses” and “The Testimony of Eight Witnesses” in the front of the Book of Mormon).David Whitmerwas one of the six men who signed the document incorporating the Church as a religious society. He later served as a leader of the Church in Missouri until he left the Church in 1838 (D&C 14heading, 11; 17 heading, 1–9; 18 heading, 9, 37–39; 30:1–4; 52:25). The Whitmer family gave money, food, and a place to live to Joseph and Emma Smith and Oliver Cowdery during the translation of the Book of Mormon in 1829. The Church was organized in the Whitmer home in Fayette, New York, in 1830 (D&C 21heading).
Sidney Rigdonwas a minister in Mentor, Ohio, who joined the Church in 1830 after prayerfully reading the Book of Mormon. He was a counselor in the First Presidency from 1833 to 1844 and served in many other Church positions ( D&C heading, 3–6; 36:2, 5; 58:50, 57–58; 63:65–66; 71:1; 76 heading, 11–24; 82:11; 90:6, 21; 93:44, 51; 102:3; 124:125–26). After the death of the Prophet Joseph Smith, he presented his claim to lead the Church as its “guardian,” but members sustained the Twelve Apostles. He did not sustain the Twelve and was excommunicated in 1844.
Edward Partridgejoined the Church in 1830 and was the first bishop of the Church (D&C 35heading;D&C 36:1–7;41:9–11;42:10;50:39;51:1–4, 18;52:24;57:7;58:14–16, 24–25, 61–62;60:10;64:17;82:11;124:19). Bishop Partridge suffered many persecutions in Missouri and died in 1840 in Nauvoo, Illinois, at the age of 47.
Joseph Knight Sr.became acquainted with the Prophet Joseph Smith in 1826 and became interested in assisting with the work of the Restoration. He was more than 30 years older than the Prophet Joseph and often gave him necessary provisions so that the translation of the Book of Mormon could continue—including a wagon on the night the Prophet and his wife brought the gold plates from the Hill Cumorah in 1827. Brother Knight died at Mt. Pisgah, Iowa Territory, in 1847 during the exodus of the Saints from Nauvoo.
Newel K. Whitneyowned a store in Kirtland, Ohio. He joined the Church in 1830 and became a great friend to the Prophet Joseph Smith. The Prophet and his family stayed for a time in the Whitney home, and several revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants were received there. Newel K. Whitney was called to be the second bishop of the Church and became the Presiding Bishop of the Church in 1847 (D&C 63:42–46;72heading, 1–8; 78:8–10; 82:11–12; 84:112; 93:50; 96 heading, 2; 104:39–42; 117:1–2, 11). He died in Utah in 1850. His wife,Elizabeth Ann Whitney,was a counselor to Emma Smith in the first Relief Society presidency.
Thomas B. Marshjoined the Church in 1830 after reading the first 16 pages of a copy of the Book of Mormon that had just come off of E. B. Grandin’s press. He became the first President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (D&C 31heading, 1–13; 52:22; 56:5; 112 heading, 1–19; 118:2). He became angry with the Prophet Joseph Smith and began to persecute the Church in Missouri. He left the Church in 1838 and was excommunicated in 1839 but was rebaptized in 1857.
Parley P. Prattand his brotherOrson Prattjoined the Church in 1830 and were members of the first Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in this dispensation. Parley P. Pratt served many missions for the Church (D&C 32heading, 1–2; 34 heading; 49:1–3; 50:37; 52:26; 97:3–5; 103 heading, 30, 37; 124:127–29). He wrote many sermons and hymns that were published by the Church and was one of the early pioneers to arrive in Utah. He was killed in 1857 while serving a mission in the southern part of the United States. Orson Pratt also served many missions for the Church (D&C 34heading, 1–10; 52:26; 75:14; 103:40; 124:127–29; 136:13). Acting under the direction of the President of the Church, he added 26 revelations to the Doctrine and Covenants, changed the sentences and paragraphs into verses, and placed the first footnotes in the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price. He wrote many books on religious and scientific subjects and was one of the first pioneers to arrive in Utah. He was an Apostle for over 45 years, until his death in 1881.
Terms in the Doctrine and Covenants
In New Testament times Jesus Christ taught His gospel, chose Apostles, and organized His Church. After His Atonement, death, and Resurrection, people rejected the Apostles and changed the doctrines of the gospel, and the true Church of Jesus Christ was taken from the earth. This “falling away” (2 Thessalonians 2:3) from the true Church is called the Apostasy.
The Lord chose the Prophet Joseph Smith to restore (bring back) the gospel and the true Church of Jesus Christ, which had been taken from the earth because of apostasy. Joseph Smith, by the gift and power of God, translated the Book of Mormon, whichcontains the gospel of Jesus Christ. The Lord also restored the priesthood authority, covenants, ordinances, spiritual gifts, Church organization, and so forth, that was on the earth in New Testament times (Articles of Faith 1:4–7, 9).
The Gathering of Israel
The Old Testament tells of the Lord changing Jacob’s name to “Israel” (Genesis 32:28;35:10). The descendants of Israel’s 12 sons were called the “twelve tribes of Israel,” or the “children of Israel.” In some places in the scriptures they are called the “children of Jacob” (Psalm 105:6;D&C 109:61), and in other places they are simply called “Israel.” Members of the Church today are also called “Israel,” “the house of Israel,” or the “children of Israel” (2 Nephi 29:14;D&C 103:17).
Because of their wickedness, 10 of the 12 tribes of Israel were conquered and taken away as captives (2 Kings 17:18–23;1 Nephi 22:3–4). These tribes are called the “ten lost tribes.” The rest of the tribes of Israel, called “Judah,” or the “Jews,” later were also conquered and scattered (2 Nephi 6:8–11).
The Lord promised He would gather His people Israel in the last days (Jeremiah 16:14–15;1 Nephi 22:24–25;2 Nephi 9:1–2). This gathering began with the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the true Church through the Prophet Joseph Smith. Members of the Church first gathered in the United States, in the state of New York. Later, the Lord told the members to gather to Kirtland, Ohio (D&C 37:1–4). In 1831 the Lord commanded some members to prepare a gathering place for the Church in the state of Missouri (D&C 57:1–2), and by 1838 the rest of the Church had gathered there. Because some members, however, did not obey the Lord’s commandments, and because of persecution by enemies of the Church, in 1839 the Church moved to Nauvoo, Illinois. After the death of the Prophet Joseph Smith, persecution forced the members to leave the state of Illinois, and the Lord led the Church to a gathering place in the western part of the United States. ( the map section at the back of the triple combination.)
The Lord continues to fulfill His promise to gather His people, but today we are commanded to build up the Church wherever we live. As Elder Bruce R. McConkie, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, said: “Israel shall be gathered one by one, family by family, unto the stakes of Zion established in all parts of the earth so that the whole earth shall be blessed with the fruits of the gospel” (“Come: Let Israel Build Zion,”Ensign,May 1977, 118).
History of the Doctrine and Covenants
The “unfinished” Book of Commandments, published in Missouri in 1833, contained 65 revelations the Prophet Joseph Smith received from the Lord, but there were others to be placed in the book (D&C 1:6and the section headings forD&C 1; 67; 69–70). In 1835, new revelations the Prophet Joseph received from the Lord, together with those published in the Book of Commandments, were published as the Doctrine and Covenants. This edition of the Doctrine and Covenants had 103 sections (there were 2 sections numbered 66). Since then, Presidents of the Church have received many more revelations, and some of them have been added to the Doctrine and Covenants. Elder Howard W. Hunter, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, said that God “continues to provide guidance for all his children through a living prophet today. We declare that he, as promised, is with his servants always and directs the affairs of his Church throughout the world” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1981, 88; orEnsign,May 1981, 65).
JST (The Joseph Smith Translation of the King James Version of the Bible)
Many important parts of the Bible have been lost or changed (1 Nephi 13:24–29). The Lord commanded the Prophet Joseph Smith to make many corrections to the Bible (D&C 35:20;41:7;45:60–61;73:3–4;93:53). These corrections are called the Joseph Smith Translation, or JST. Some of the JST changes are found in the footnotes and in the last pages of the Church’s publication of the King James Version of the Bible. As the Prophet Joseph Smith worked on the translation of the Bible, the Lord gave him revelations that explained many parts of the Bible (D&C 76; 77; 86; 91; 93; 113; 132; also Moses; Joseph Smith—Matthew).
The Law of Consecration
The law of consecration teaches that all things belong to the Lord and that everything He has given us should be used to help build His kingdom on the earth (D&C 104:11–18). In the early days of the Church, members who chose to live the law of consecration gave their money and property to the bishop and received in return a stewardship (money, property, and other responsibilities). What they received from the bishop became their own property and was used to take care of their own needs. Whatever they produced that was more than they needed was returned to the bishop to help the poor and the needy (D&C 42:30–39). The law of consecration was given to help members overcome pride and selfishness and prepare them to live in the celestial kingdom (Moses 7:16–20). For a time, some members of the Church tried to live the law of consecration, but they were not able to fully live this law (D&C 105:1–5, 9–13). Today, tithing, fast offerings, donations to Deseret Industries, the Church welfare program, giving of time and talents, and other sacrifices we make for building the kingdom of God are all part of the law of consecration (D&C 119heading).
The Doctrine and Covenants refers to Zion as:
Another name for the area of Independence, Missouri (D&C 57:1–3). The phrase “land of Zion” in the Doctrine and Covenants refers to this part of Missouri.
A city to be built in Missouri in the future (D&C 45:64–71;84:2–4; alsoArticles of Faith 1:10). In the 1830s, members of the Church were not able to establish (live the laws of) Zion, but the Lord promised that the city of Zion would be built at some future time (D&C 58:3–7;101:16–21;105:1–5).
Zion’s Camp was the name of a group of about 200 men and a few women and children who obeyed the command of the Lord in 1834 to go to the “land of Zion” (D&C 103:22; heading and verses 22–35). They traveled over 900 miles (1,450 kilometers) from Ohio to Missouri to build Zion ( “ Zion” above) and to help members of the Church who had been forced out of their homes by mobs. When Zion’s Camp arrived in Missouri, the Lordtold them to “wait for a little season” (a little while) to build Zion (D&C 105:9; heading and verses 1–19). Many of the men who were obedient and faithful during Zion’s Camp later became leaders in the Church.
The sections of the Doctrine and Covenants are introduced by section headings. The headings tell when the revelation was given, whom it was directed to, and some of the history of the Church at the time that the Lord gave the revelation. You should always read the section heading as you study each section.