“Search These Commandments” Lesson 1: Introduction

Doctrine and Covenants Instructor’s Guide: Religion 324-325, (1981), 1–2


Theme

The Doctrine and Covenants is the word of the Lord given to the Latter-day Saints and to the world for their salvation.

Theme Analysis

  • A.

    A historical overview of the Doctrine and Covenants is of value as one begins a study of this work of scripture.

    1. 1.

      The manner in which the revelations were received is significant.

    2. 2.

      There were several important textual developments as the Doctrine and Covenants was printed in various editions.

  • B.

    The Doctrine and Covenants contains the word of God given in this dispensation.

    1. 1.

      Prophets testify to the truthfulness of the Doctrine and Covenants.

    2. 2.

      Latter-day Saints have a special need and obligation to read and study the Doctrine and Covenants.

Study Sources

Student Manual

Introduction

Standard Works

  • D&C 1:37. What commandment has the Lord given the Saints?

  • D&C 11:22; 26:1. What should we study?

  • D&C 33:16. Why does the Lord give us the scriptures?

  • D&C 42:12-13. From what sources are the missionaries to teach?

  • D&C 88:76-78. What are we to learn from the study of the Doctrine and Covenants?

  • D&C 88:118. What could be included in a list of “the best books”? (see D&C 90:15; Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 3:203-8).

Basic Library

  • Teachings, pp. 7-8. Why are the revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants important to the world today?

  • Discourses, p. 128. What is the purpose of the Doctrine and Covenants?

  • Gos. Doc, p. 45. How does the Doctrine and Covenants help us in our understanding of other scripture?

  • DS, 3:192-94. How did we obtain the Doctrine and Covenants?

  • DS, 3:199-200. What is one way to study the Doctrine and Covenants?

  • DS, 3:202. Are all of the revelations given in this dispensation found in the Doctrine and Covenants?

  • Spencer W. Kimball, in CR, Apr. 1977, p. 78. Does the Church continually receive revelation?

Additional Sources

  • Joseph Fielding Smith, in CR, Oct. 1931, p. 17. Elder Smith explains the importance of the commandment of the Lord to “search these commandments” (D&C 1:37).

  • Neal A. Maxwell, “The Doctrine and Covenants: The Voice of the Lord,” Ensign, Dec. 1978, pp. 4-7. What are some of the great truths recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants?

  • H. C. Lambert, “The Book of Doctrine and Covenants,” Improvement Era, Sept. 1951, pp. 714-15, 734. Contains an account of some of the editions of the Doctrine and Covenants and also the languages into which it had been translated at the time the article was written.

  • John A. Widtsoe, “Study of the Book of Doctrine and Covenants,” Improvement Era, Nov. 1904, pp. 1-6. The importance of studying the Doctrine and Covenants is discussed as well as suggested methods on how to study the book.

Some Suggestions for Presentation

(Ideas Other Teachers Have Used)

How We Received the Doctrine and Covenants (Chalkboard Illustration)

Begin a discussion by asking what is known about how Joseph Smith received the revelations recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants. The different ways in which the revelations were received could be listed on the chalkboard. Be careful to discuss revelation only as it pertains to the historical setting of the various sections throughout the Doctrine and Covenants. (Lesson 5 of this manual deals with personal revelation.)

According to the way they were received, the revelations contained in the Doctrine and Covenants may be grouped into the following categories:

  1. 1.

    Personal visitation. Angelic messengers such as Moroni (section 2), John the Baptist (section 13), an angel (section 27), the Savior, Moses, Elias, and Elijah (section 110) delivered messages.

  2. 2.

    Urim and Thummim. Many of the early revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants were given to Joseph Smith through the Urim and Thummim (see D&C 3, 6-7, 11, 14-17).

  3. 3.

    Vision. Through the visions of heaven, objects or personages may be shown which are beyond the veil or are hidden from ordinary sight. Section 76 is an example of this (see also D&C 107:93).

  4. 4.

    Voice. Joseph Smith indicated in D&C 130:12-13 that “a voice declared” to him that which he gave as prophecy.

  5. 5.

    Inspiration and confirmation. These terms refer to a broad category of heavenly communications which come by the spirit of prophecy and revelation through “the still small voice” (D&C 85:6). The Spirit acts upon the mind of the recipient, giving thoughts and ideas through inspiration.

    These must then be expressed in the recipient’s own language and according to his ability. Also, at times, an individual seeking understanding may study concepts, come to a conclusion, and then ask the Lord for a confirmation of the truth of what he has determined. Instructions from the Lord to Oliver Cowdery, recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 9:8-9, give an example of this form of revelation. Inspiration and spiritual confirmation are the means through which the Lord most often communicates to man. These were also the means by which most of the revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants were received.

Various Editions of the Doctrine and Covenants (Discussion)

Discuss the following points, but be brief.

  1. 1.

    November 1831. Decision to publish the revelations

  2. 2.

    Book of Commandments. Published in 1833 in Missouri by W. W. Phelps; most of the copies destroyed by a mob

  3. 3.

    1835 edition. At this time the revelations were first published under the title “The Doctrine and Covenants.” Contained 102 sections and the Lectures on Faith

  4. 4.

    1844 edition. Contained 111 sections and the Lectures on Faith

  5. 5.

    1876 edition. Contained 136 sections and the Lectures on Faith

  6. 6.

    1921 edition. Headings and footnotes included as prepared by Elder James E. Talmage; Lectures on Faith taken out because they were theological lessons and not direct revelations

  7. 7.

    1981 edition. Updated headings and expanded cross-references; sections 137-138, and Official Declaration 2 added

For additional references on the different editions of the Doctrine and Covenants see Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 3:192-96 and the introductory lesson in the student manual. There have been several other editions of the Doctrine and Covenants. More of these editions could be added and discussed according to the time the teacher feels he can spend.

The Importance of the Doctrine and Covenants (Scripture Chain, Discussion)

To help students understand the importance of the Doctrine and Covenants, the following scriptures could be marked, discussed, and cross-referenced in the Doctrine and Covenants: D&C 1:37; 11:22; 26:1; 33:16; 42:12-13; 88:76-78; 88:118.

Take time to work through these references so students will understand their importance.

Personal Commitment to Read the Doctrine and Covenants (Discussion)

Read and discuss the statement by Elder Joseph Fielding Smith on the importance of the Doctrine and Covenants for our generation (Doctrines of Salvation, 3:198-99).

To help students set a goal to read the Doctrine and Covenants, share your personal testimony of the importance of reading and studying the Doctrine and Covenants.