Introductory Pages of the Doctrine and Covenants: Getting to Know the Book

Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Student Study Guide, (2005), 14–15

The first pages in the Doctrine and Covenants provide introductory and background information. The title page gives the name of the book, a brief explanation about what it contains, and publication information. The Explanatory Introduction tells what kind of book this is and how we got it. It also includes the testimony of the first Apostles in our day of the truthfulness of these revelations. The Chronological Order of Contents shows the order in which the revelations were received, along with the time and place. As you read these introductory pages, look for how we got the Doctrine and Covenants and why the Lord wants you to study it.

Understanding the Scriptures

Title Page

His successors Those who came next or followed him 

Explanatory Introduction

Temporal(paragraph 1)Physical, earthly 
Compilation(par. 2, 9)Collection 
Initiated(par. 3)Begun 
Preparatory to(par. 3)In preparation for 
Concert(par. 3)Agreement 
Divine manifestations(par. 4)Appearances by heavenly visitors 
Operative as an institution(par. 5)Functioning as an organization 

Testimony of the Twelve Apostles …

Grace(par. 2)Gift and power 
Successive(par. 4)Following, later 
Competent assemblies(par. 4)Suitable or authorized gatherings 
Theological(par. 5)Truths about God and His work 
Evident(par. 7)Clear, obvious 
Perpetuated(par. 7)Continued 

Explanatory Introduction—The Canon of Scripture Is Not Closed!

The development of the Doctrine and Covenants is evidence that the authorized scriptures of the Church (often called the “standard works” or the “scriptural canon”) are not to be considered complete. Many Christian churches teach that the Bible contains all of God’s word to man and that revelation has ceased. President Hugh B. Brown, then a counselor in the First Presidency, taught: “When Joseph came out of the woods where he had [the First Vision], he had learned at least four fundamental truths, and he announced them to the world: first, that the Father and the Son are separate and distinct individuals; second, that the canon of scripture is not complete; third, that man was actually created in the image of God; and fourth, that the channel of communication between earth and heaven is open, and revelation is continuous” (in Conference Report, Sept.–Oct. 1967, 120).

Bruce R. McConkie

Elder Bruce R. McConkie, who was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, explained what effect an absence of revelation has on the world’s understanding of the Bible: “And be it known that whenever a people believe the canon of scripture is complete; whenever they try to feed themselves spiritually upon the prophetic word of the past alone; whenever they are without prophets and apostles to give them the living word; whenever they cease to receive new revelations—then they are no longer capable of interpreting and understanding past revelations. The prophecies of the past can only be understood by living prophets who are endowed with power from on high and whose minds are enlightened by the same Holy Spirit who authored the ancient word. People without revelation take the only course open to them: they turn to interpreters, to scribes, to ministers, to theologians, who tell them what the ancient word meant, making their determination on the basis of intellectuality rather than spirituality” (The Mortal Messiah: From Bethlehem to Calvary,4 vols. [1979–81], 1:275–76).

Studying the Scriptures

Do activity A or B as you study the introductory pages of the Doctrine and Covenants.

Activity A iconSearch for Answers

As you study the Explanatory Introduction and the Chronological Order of Contents, answer the following questions:

  1. 1.

    What reasons are given for why these revelations were given?

  2. 2.

    During what years were more than seventy of the revelations received? Why do you think so many of them were given during those years?

  3. 3.

    Why do you think the Lord did not give the Prophet Joseph Smith all of the revelations at one time?

Activity B iconWhat Would It Be Like If … ?

From your reading of the introductory pages and the “Understanding the Scriptures” section, explain what it would be like if there were no living prophets to receive modern revelation.