Doctrine and Covenants 20: The Constitution of the Church

Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Student Study Guide, (2005), 31–33


When the Prophet Joseph Smith was visited by the Father and the Son in 1820, he was told not to join any church and was given “a promise that the fullness of the Gospel should at some future time be made known unto [him]” (History of the Church, 4:536). The fulness of the gospel began to be made known as he obtained and translated the Book of Mormon, received the authority and keys of the Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthoods, and was given other instructions pertaining to the kingdom of God in the latter days. Doctrine and Covenants 20was originally called “The Articles and Covenants of the Church of Christ” and served as a handbook for the organization and government of the Church. It was often read in its entirety at Church meetings, along with section 22. It is sometimes referred to as the “Constitution of the Church.”

Understanding the Scriptures

Doctrine and Covenants 20

Manifested(v. 5)Made known 
Remission(vv. 5, 37)Forgiveness 
Vanities(v. 5)Foolishness 
Countenance(v. 6)Appearance 
Confirmed(v. 10)Made sure 
Sensual(v. 20)Concerned mostly with the physical senses and pleasures 
Meridian(v. 26)High point 
Justification(v. 30)To be declared not guilty 
Grace(vv. 30–32)The power of God 
Sanctification(v. 31)The process of becoming pure and holy 
Broken hearts(v. 37)Humble hearts full of sorrow for sin (no matter who has committed it) 
Contrite spirits(v. 37)Willingness to obey God 
Emblems(v. 40)Symbols, things that represent other things 
Expound(vv. 42, 46, 50, 59, 68)Explain in detail 
Exhort(vv. 42, 46, 50, 59)Encourage, try to persuade 
Iniquity(v. 54)Sin, wickedness 
Composing(vv. 61, 81)Who make up 
Commissioned(v. 73)Appointed and given authority 
Sanctify(vv. 77, 79)Make holy 

Doctrine and Covenants 20:1—Why the Sixth of April?

The baby Jesus

The Lord gave April 6, 1830, as the day to formerly organize His Church. President Harold B. Lee spoke of the significance of this date: “April 6, 1973, is a particularly significant date because it commemorates not only the anniversary of the organization of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in this dispensation, but also the anniversary of the birth of the Savior, our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1973, 4; orEnsign,July 1973, 2).

Doctrine and Covenants 20:9—The Book of Mormon Contains “the Fulness of the Gospel”

President Ezra Taft Benson taught that when the Lord said the Book of Mormon contains the fulness of the gospel it “does not mean it contains every teaching, every doctrine ever revealed. Rather, it means that in the Book of Mormon we will find the fulness of those doctrines required for our salvation. And they are taught plainly and simply so that even children can learn the ways of salvation and exaltation” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1986, 4; orEnsign,Nov. 1986, 6).

Doctrine and Covenants 20:27–28—The Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost Are “One God”

God the Father, His Son, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost are three separate personages. When the scriptures teach that they are one God, they are referring to the unity of the members of the Godhead. They can speak for each other and testify of each other because of their unity in purpose and doctrine.

Doctrine and Covenants 20:38–60—What about Church Offices Not Mentioned Here?

President Joseph Fielding Smith taught that inDoctrine and Covenants 20the Lord revealed only what was necessary “for the government of the Church at the time of its organization” (Church History and Modern Revelation,1:95). In later revelations we learn more about the offices mentioned in this revelation, along with others that were added as the Church grew. The Lord has continued, and will continue, to add and refine the duties and offices in His Church to meet the needs of its growing membership (Articles of Faith 1:9).

Studying the Scriptures

Do three of the following activities (A–F) as you studyDoctrine and Covenants 20.

Activity A iconThe Importance of the Book of Mormon

It is not surprising that a discussion of the importance of the Book of Mormon is found inDoctrine and Covenants 20—the“Constitution of the Church.” The Prophet Joseph Smith said: “Take away the Book of Mormon and the revelations, and where is our religion? We have none” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith,71).

  1. 1.

    List what you learn about the Book of Mormon fromDoctrine and Covenants 20:8–16.

  2. 2.

    From verses 17–36, list the doctrines that “we know” because of the Book of Mormon. Select one of those doctrines and explain why it is important to you.

Activity B iconThe Importance of True Doctrine

Elder Boyd K. Packer, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, taught that “true doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1986, 20; orEnsign,Nov. 1986, 17).Doctrine and Covenants 20:17–36lists doctrines that are fundamental to the restored Church. Choose two of those doctrines and explain how and why each one could have a powerful influence for good in people’s lives if only they understood it.

Activity C iconAn Interview before Baptism

  1. 1.

    Based onDoctrine and Covenants 20:37, list questions that might be asked of someone wanting to be baptized. Remember that new converts usually have little experience with the Church or the scriptures, so write the questions so the person would understand what you are talking about.

  2. 2.

    ReadMosiah 18:8–10andMoroni 6:1–6, and add other questions that might be appropriate.

Activity D iconMake a Chart

  1. 1.

    Doctrine and Covenants 20:38–60outlines the duties of various offices and callings in the Church. Make a chart like the following in your notebook and fill it in with information you gain from these verses.

    Office or Calling

    Duties and Responsibilities

      
      
      
      
  2. 2.

    What insights did you gain from what you listed in your chart?

Activity E iconWrite a Quiz

Doctrine and Covenants 20:61–84teaches about the responsibilities and duties of Church members.

  1. 1.

    Write 7–10 quiz questions about the important principles taught in these verses. After each question, write the answer and the verse where the answer can be found.

  2. 2.

    (Optional)Make a copy of your quiz without the answers and give it to a member of your family or another student in your class. Be able to explain any questions that are answered incorrectly.

Activity F iconTeach It to Children

Imagine you were asked to give a short lesson about the sacrament to the Primary children in your ward or branch. Write what you would teach them to help them better understand the sacrament prayers found inDoctrine and Covenants 20:77, 79. Write also about how they could make the sacrament a more meaningful experience. If it is appropriate, share a meaningful experience you had with the sacrament as part of your testimony to them. After showing your lesson to your parents and teacher and getting their advice, you may want to volunteer to give this lesson in Primary.