Doctrine and Covenants 1: The Lord's Preface—a Voice of Warning

Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Student Study Guide, (2005), 15–16

A book’s preface explains the author’s purpose for writing the book.Doctrine and Covenants 1is the Lord’s preface to the book of His revelations in these latter days. Many people do not know that the Lord has called modern prophets, who receive revelation from Him. There are even members of the Church who do not give much attention to what the living prophets are saying. As you read this section, notice to whom the Lord is speaking, what His warning is, and why He gave it. These are major themes that will be repeated throughout the book.

Understanding the Scriptures

Doctrine and Covenants 1

Compilation(section heading)Collection 
Hearken(v. 1)Listen to and obey 
Penetrated(v. 2)Pierced, affected 
Iniquities(v. 3)Sins, wickedness 
Stay(v. 5)Stop 
Inhabitants of the earth(vv. 8, 13)People who live on the earth 
Seal(vv. 8–9)Assign, designate, or set aside 
Recompense(v. 10)Reward 
Measure(v. 10)Give or deal out 
Kindled(v. 13)Awakened, aroused 
Babylon(v. 16)A symbol for the wickedness of the world 
Calamity(v. 17)Disaster, affliction, catastrophe 
Obscurity(v. 30)A state of being unknown 
Dominion(v. 35)Area of influence 

Doctrine and Covenants 1:6—“My Preface unto the Book of My Commandments”

President Joseph Fielding Smith taught:

“Section one in the Doctrine and Covenants is not the first revelation received, but it is so placed in the book because the Lord gave it as the preface to the book of his commandments. The Doctrine and Covenants is distinctively peculiar and interesting to all who believe in it that it is the only book in existence which bears the honor of a preface given by the Lord himself. This, however, is consistent and should be the case, for it is, as he declares, his book. It was not written by Joseph Smith, but was dictated by Jesus Christ, and contains his and his Father’s word to the Church and to all the world that faith in God, repentance from sin and membership in his Church might be given to all who will believe, and that once again the New and Everlasting covenant might be established.

“This revelation known as section one, was given at the wonderful conference held in Hiram, [Ohio,] November 1 and 2, 1831, when the publication of the commandments was under consideration. The Lord here gives approval to the publication of his word, for he is desirous that his will might be made known. The Gospel has been restored, and the elders of the church had been sent forth to proclaim salvation to an unbelieving world that once again men might find their way into the kingdom of God. This preface stamped the revelations with divine endorsement and therefore the revelations went forth with greater power than otherwise would have been the case, and should impress all who read them, especially members of the Church, with their responsibility to keep the commandments which the revelations contain” (Church History and Modern Revelation,2 vols. [1953], 1:251–52).

For more information on the Doctrine and Covenants and the Book of Commandments, see “History of the Doctrine and Covenants” in this manual (p. 233).

Studying the Scriptures

Do activity D and two of the other activities (A–C) as you studyDoctrine and Covenants 1.

Activity A iconBecome Acquainted with the Verse Summary

Carefully read the verse summary printed before the first verse ofDoctrine and Covenants 1. In your notebook, list two subjects from the summary that you would like to learn about. After you have readDoctrine and Covenants 1, summarize what you learned about each of those two subjects.

Activity B iconIdentify Who, What, When, and Why

  1. 1.

    In your notebook, draw a four-column chart with the following column headings:

    To whom is the Lord speaking?

    What did He say would happen?

    When did He say it would happen?

    Why did He say it would happen?

  2. 2.

    From your study ofDoctrine and Covenants 1:1–16, fill in the chart with answers you find to those questions.

  3. 3.

    If you were to give a family home evening lesson on these verses, what would be the most important point you would want your family to remember?

Activity C iconHow to Survive the Calamity

InDoctrine and Covenants 1:1–16the Lord warned of the calamities that would come upon the wicked. In verses 17–30 He explained what He is doing to save us from those calamities. Verses 31–39 help us understand what we must do so that the Lord can save us from our sins.

  1. 1.

    Knowing the calamities that would come upon the inhabitants of the earth, whom did the Lord call to help us? (seevv. 17–18).

  2. 2.

    What were they to do? (seevv. 19–23).

  3. 3.

    What did the Lord do to help them accomplish what they were called to do? (seevv. 24–30).

  4. 4.

    How well have the Lord’s servants done in accomplishing their part?

  5. 5.

    What must we do to benefit from what the Lord has done? (seevv. 31–39).

  6. 6.

    How well are you doing with your part?

Activity D Scripture Mastery iconScripture Mastery—Doctrine and Covenants 1:37–38

Suppose you have a friend who complains about having to read the Doctrine and Covenants in seminary, saying: “There just aren’t any good stories in it like there were in the Book of Mormon. Why do I need to read all those revelations anyway?” Write a reply to your friend using what you have learned inDoctrine and Covenants 1. Give some examples from your own life or from what you have seen that show the truth of what the Lord told us in verses 37–38.