Monday, December 10, 2012

Doctrine and Covenants Lesson #1 "Introduction to the Doctrine and Covenants and Church History"

Explanatory Introduction to D&C; D&C 1

I was about to copy out my notes about the structural development of the Doctrine and Covenants from a lecture given by Bruce Woolley at BYU Education Week, when I discovered that Duane Crowther has put the same information online.  That saves me a lot of work!  Thanks, Brother Crowther!

Here is the link:  Structural Development of the Doctrine and Covenants

In addition, please also see Robert J. Woodford, "How the Revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants Were Compiled", Ensign, Jan. 1985.


THE IMPORTANCE OF THE DOCTRINE AND COVENANTS

My dear old friend, Sadie Sproles, joined the Church many years ago while living on the East Coast.  The missionaries told her that Joseph Smith asked questions and the Lord gave him the answers, he wrote them down, and that is the Doctrine and Covenants.  She immediately said, "I want that book!"  They gave her a copy and she received a testimony of the truthfulness of the restored Church through reading the Doctrine and Covenants.  "You're not supposed to get your testimony from the Doctrine and Covenants!" she says.  "You're supposed to get it from the Book of Mormon!"  But that's where she got hers.

President Benson said, "The Book of Mormon brings men to Christ.  The Doctrine and Covenants brings men to Christ's kingdom."  (April 1987 General Conference, quoted by Steven E. Snow, "Treasuring the Doctrine and Covenants", Ensign, Jan. 2009)  President Gordon B. Hinckley called it, "The constitution of the Church."  (ibid.)

THE HISTORY OF THE DOCTRINE AND COVENANTS

Okay, never mind; I can't resist printing up my notes from Bruce Woolley's lecture after all.  Everything following comes from his lecture at BYU Education Week, given August 18, 2005.

Sections 20 and 22 of the D & C were called "Articles and Covenants" and were sustained as scripture at the first general conference of the Church, June 9, 1830.  They were read at the start of every general conference through Joseph Smith's and Brigham Young's tenures as presidents.  In July of 1830, Joseph Smith wrote down previously received revelations

Brother Woolley says there are two characteristics of Latter-day Saints:  1) We're packrats (think food storage), and 2) we all have to have our own copy of everything. The faithful early saints wanted their own copies of the revelations.  Oliver Cowdery handcopied them for himself.  Then David Whitmer did as well.  Others followed.  They called this the Kirtland Revelation Book.

BOOK OF COMMANDMENTS (1831)

Finally a special conference was held in which to decide whether the revelations should be printed and published at Hiram, Ohio, November 1, 1831.  There were 12 members in attendance, the most well-educated church members (excepting Joseph Smith who was uneducated).  There were four more revelations received during those three days.  The consensus of the conference was that the revelations should not be published as making them too freely available would be "casting pearls before swine."  But Joseph Smith was for publication, and his opinion was ratified by a revelation which is one of seventy revelations published in the History of the Church and not in the Doctrine and Covenants.

The decision was made to publish 10,000 copies initially.  (5,000 copies were printed of the first edition of the Book of Mormon.)  Olivery Cowderey, Sidney Rigdon, and William E. McLellin were assigned to write a preface for the revelations during a recess in the conference.  They were stymied and finally asked Joseph Smith to pray for help.  The preface was then revealed to Joseph Smith, the first revelation to be dictated as it was received, and thus we have the only book in the history of the world whose preface was written by God Himself, now Section 1 of the Doctrine and Covenants.

Section 67 (the third revelation received at this conference) was given after the brethren were still balking at publishing the revelations because they thought the wording of them simplistic and unsophisticated.  It was then that Joseph Smith issued the challenge to the most educated, William McLellin, to write a prophecy which 1) came from the Lord, and 2) was new doctrine never before received on the earth.  Of course, we know the story:  Brother McLellin could not come up with a thing, and acknowledged that revelations received through the prophet were best as they were.

The fourth revelation received at this conference was called "Appendix to the Revelations," regards what will happen at the Second Coming, and is now Section 133. 

While they were preparing the book for publication, William W. Phelps, the printer, published parts of it in the periodical, The Evening and Morning Star, using his personal copy of the Kirtland Revelation Book, and therefore is not a perfect match with the Book of Commandments.  (Sections 65, 68, 72, 76, 83, and part of 80)

While living with her uncle A. Sidney Gilbert, 15-year-old Mary Elizabeth Rollins gained a great love and esteem for the revelations that were to be printed.  In her own words, "One evening the brethren came to Uncle's house to converse upon the revelations that had not been printed as yet, but few had looked upon them, for they were in large sheets, not folded. They spoke of them with such reverence, as coming from the Lord; they felt to rejoice that they were counted worthy to be the means of publishing them for the benefit of the whole world." (Mary Elizabeth Rollin Lightner Autobiography, published by Robert Barrett on FindaGrave.com)

When the typesetting of the Book of Commandments was done and the copies of five large sheets containing 32 uncut pages each (160 pages total) had been printed, the press was destroyed by enemies of the Church.  The pages were thrown out into the street, but were heroically rescued by Mary and her 13-year-old sister Caroline.  (See James E. Faust, "Courage in the Cornfield", Friend, July 2007)

More from Mary's autobiography: 

"The mob renewed their efforts again by tearing down the printing office, a two story building, and driving Brother Phelps' family out of the lower part of the house and putting their things in the street. They brought out some large sheets of paper, and said, 'Here are the Mormon Commandments.' My sister Caroline and myself were in a corner of a fence watching them; when they spoke of the commandments I was determined to have some of them. Sister said if I went to get any of them she would go too, but said 'They will kill us.' While their backs were turned, prying out the gable end of the house, we went, and got our arms full, and were turning away, when some of the mob saw us and called on us to stop, but we ran as fast as we could. Two of them started after us. Seeing a gap in a fence, we entered into a large cornfield, laid the papers on the ground, and hid them with our persons."

 Picture from lds.org

"The corn was from five to six feet high, and very thick; they hunted around considerable, and came very near us but did not find us. After we satisfied ourselves that they had given up the search for us, we tried to find our way out of the field, the corn was so high we could not see where to go, looking up I saw trees that had been girdled to kill them. Soon we came to an old log stable which looked as though it had not been used for years. Sister Phelps and children were carrying in brush and piling it up at one side of the barn to lay her beds on. She asked me what I had. I told her. She then took them from us, which made us feel very bad. They got them bound in small books and sent me one, which I prized very highly."

As well she should!  Besides being of great spiritual value, they are the most expensive antique books relating to Church history today.  Only twenty are known to exist.

Those pages which were hand-cut, hand-assembled, and sewn together were printed up as the Book of Commandments. The Community of Christ (formerly the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) has published replicas through their Herald House printing company. 


My replica of the Book of Commandments--
much smaller than the present day triple combination.



Title Page


First page of the revelations

Because only the first 160 pages had been printed before the mob destroyed the press, this book ends abruptly at Section 64, verse 47 in the middle of a sentence.



You can see that in the original handwritten manuscript which W.W. Phelps was using, that final word "Ephraim" had been circled--the point at which he had stopped for the day.  (Herald House includes a facsimile of this page in their replica book.)


 (If you want your own copy of this replica book--and let's face it: why wouldn't you?--buy it from Herald House and skip Amazon where it's 2 to 10 times the price.)

DOCTRINE AND COVENANTS (1835)

A second special conference was held August 17, 1835 in Kirtland to discuss republishing the revelations in a new book.  Each revelation was read and ratified by the First Presidency, then the Quorum of Twelve Apostles, then the Seventy, and on down through the whole membership of the church.  They stood and voted in turn to sustain the book as scripture.  There is no evidence that there was a single negative vote.

The first edition of this book called Doctrine and Covenants was printed that summer.  It contained two sections: Joseph Smith's Lectures on Faith, and 102 revelations, divided into "chapters" rather than "sections".  Frederick G. Williams was the printer.

This replica is also published by Herald House printing.
(They also publish the original hymnal Emma Smith compiled,
which is teeny-tiny.)

In 1844 the second edition of this book was published in Nauvoo, the last one that was proofread by Joseph Smith.  The wording has never been changed.  Two more editions were published from these same plates in 1845 and 1846.

In 1876, 26 sections were added.

In 1908, the "Manifesto" was included.

In 1921 the printing was put into double columns and the book included 136 sections and the Manifesto.  Lectures on Faith were now left out.  James E. Talmadge was the editor.

In 1930 a different edition was published called Latter-day Revelation.  It omitted the personal revelations.  It was never sustained as scripture, however, and did not last.

Our current Doctrine and Covenants was published in 1981.




Sunday, December 9, 2012

New Youth Curriculum

I have launched another blog of teaching aids for the new youth "Come Unto Me" curriculum.  While I won't treat every discussion topic since I'm still doing this blog, I will have at least a couple of ideas for each month.  Follow the link on the upper right of this blog to get there.

Christmas Lessons

If you have more weeks than lessons in the month of December, here are some ideas for a Christmas lesson:

The Purpose of Christmas

Unto You Is Born a Savior

The Measure of Our Faith

Book of Mormon Lesson #48 "Come Unto Christ"

Moroni 7-8; 10

IDEAS FOR STUDY OF CHAPTER SEVEN

And now I, Moroni, write a few of the words of my father Mormon, which he spake concerning faith, hope, and charity; for after this manner did he speak unto the people, as he taught them in the synagogue which they had built for the place of worship.” (Moroni 7:1)

This is Mormon's great discourse on faith, hope and charity, almost identical in parts to another chapter of scripture—Where? 1 Corinthians 13, written by Paul, and D&C 46 revealed to Joseph Smith. The writing is so similar, we can only conclude that they must have gotten it from the same Source.  Here is a thought regarding these triplet chapters on faith, hope, and charity: They both follow instructions on how church organizations are to run, how meetings are to be conducted, and/or how church members are to view each other. What can we learn from that?

BRIEF OVERVIEW OF CHAPTER EIGHT

The text of chapter eight is a letter from Mormon lambasting a terrible wickedness among the people. “Wo unto such, for they are in danger of death, hell, and an endless torment. I speak it boldly; God hath commanded me. Listen unto them and give heed, or they stand against you at the judgment-seat of Christ.” (Moroni 8:21) What is this terrible wickedness? It's infant baptism! Why is this so awful? (Wait for class response.) 

The answer can be found in verse 20: “And he that saith that little children need baptism denieth the mercies of Christ, and setteth at naught the atonement of him and the power of his redemption.” Because of their mortal fallen state, being pure and sinless is not enough to save infants, but it is enough to qualify them to be saved by Christ through the Atonement. Saying that children need baptism denies the power of Christ. Those who believe thus do not know Christ, and knowing Christ is essential to being saved in his kingdom. Therefore, they are consigned to hell and endless torment.

CHAPTER TEN: MORONI'S FAREWELL

Gratitude (Remembering) Increases Faith.
Chapter 10 contains some scriptures that are very familiar to us. This is Moroni's great farewell, his parting words, his exhortations to us. Probably most class members could finish this sentence: “I would exhort you...” (Probably class members will respond with “that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true...”) This is the exhortation that we are most familiar with; however, there are eight exhortations in this chapter, and the first one is not to pray about the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. There is something else that we must do first, or it will not do any good to pray about the Book of Mormon. (Ask the class to glance over the page to find the first instance.)

Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts.” (Moroni 10:3)

Why must we remember and ponder first? Because we can have no faith that the Lord will answer our prayers unless an understanding of the character of the Lord is firmly established in our minds. We must know Him to have faith in Him. Moroni teaches us an important principle here about the importance of remembering and the power of thoughts. The more we notice and remember the mercy of the Lord in our thoughts, the greater our faith will become. Alma 32 teaches us that if we nourish the seed, or the word of God, it will grow. It is not that the word needs our nourishment to mature into a tree. It's that it cannot grow within us without our nourishing it and providing an ever-enlarging space for it in our garden. Thus, remembering and pondering—or we might call it gratitude—increases faith. (Write “Gratitude” on the left of the board and “Faith” in the center with an arrow going from Gratitude to Faith.)

Faith Brings Peace

Moroni's father Mormon had seen terrible atrocities in his day, just about the worst things that you can imagine: cannibalism, rape, murder, slaughter of children. And yet, Mormon's words teach us that it is possible to enter into “the rest of the Lord” on this earth, in this life! Read carefully:

Wherefore, I would speak unto you that are of the church, that are the peaceable followers of Christ, and that have obtained a sufficient hope by which ye can enter into the rest of the Lord, from this time henceforth until ye shall rest with him in heaven.” (Moroni 7:3)

This correlates with the message the angels proclaimed at the birth of Christ: “Peace on earth, good will to men,” which is more aptly translated, “Peace to men of good will.” Amid terrible strife in the world, Mormon and Moroni knew peace because they knew the Lord. (Write “Peace” on the right side of the board with an arrow going from Faith to Peace.)

In chapter ten, Moroni gives us a lot of information about the Lord that he hopes we will use to build our faith. Each time he exhorts us to do something, he reveals a little more about the character of God. We discussed the first two already:
The Lord...
  1. (Verse 3) ...is merciful.
  2. (Verse 4) ...will reveal truth.
  3. (Verse 7) ...has power.
  4. (Verse 8) ...gives us his power through gifts of the Spirit.
  5. (Verse 18) ...gives us everything that is good.
  6. (Verse 19) ...is predictable.
  7. (Verse 27) ...will hold us accountable.
So the concluding exhortation is...

(Verse 30) Come unto Christ! (The theme of our youth curriculum!)

Ways to Increase Gratitude, and therefore Faith, and therefore Peace

When we remember experiences, write them, or tell them to others, the experiences increase in size in our consciousness and have an effect on us and our relationship with any other people involved in the experience. Often people will say, “When I was growing up, we always...” [Fill in the blank with “...gathered around the piano to sing carols”; “...went on a picnic up the canyon” ; or whatever cherished memory they choose.] In fact, they only did that thing a few times, but they have enlarged the memory of it by recalling it so often an so fondly. Unfortunately, sometimes people will use this principle to their disadvantage in nursing a grudge: “She always...” [Fill in the blank with whatever bad treatment she gave the person on occasion.] The offense grows greater with remembering.

Just like thinking, writing, and telling about incidents with other people influence our relationship with them, thinking, writing and telling about “what great things the Lord hath done for us” influences our relationship with Him. It is wise to write the Lord's mercies in our journals, recount them to others, and remember them frequently in quiet moments. This is why Elder Eyring has counseled us to record such things in our journals, and why we have testimony meetings every month.  (See "O Remember, Remember", from October 2007 General Conference.)

A study of the scriptures can also enlarge our memories and increase our gratitude to the Lord. The title page of the Book of Mormon declares that the book was written to “show...what great things the Lord hath done for [our] fathers.” The conclusion to the first chapter of the Book of Mormon testifies, “Behold, I, Nephi, will show unto you that the tender mercies of the Lord or over all those whom he hath chosen...” (1 Nephi 1:20)

CONCLUSION

Let's read Moroni's very last words (you may also want to read verses 32-33): “And now I bid unto all, farewell, I soon go to rest in the paradise of God, until my spirit and body shall again reunite, and I am brought forth triumphant through the air, to meet you before the pleasing bar of the great Jehovah, the Eternal Judge of both quick and dead, Amen.” (Moroni 10:34) (Then you can show the first 4 minutes and 45 seconds of the video “How Rare a Possession,” ending where Moroni deposits the plates in the ground and the screen goes dark.)

Now we've buried the plates—in January we'll dig them back up! Get ready to study Church History and the Doctrine and Covenants.


Sunday, December 2, 2012

Book of Mormon Lesson #47 "To Keep Them in the Right Way"

Moroni 1-6

A PRIESTHOOD HANDBOOK

After recording the story of the Jaredite civilization, Moroni was surprised to find himself still alive and decided there must be something else he could contribute to the record.  Perhaps he considered that he was the last member of the Church before an apostasy, and that the Church would have to be restored from the ground up, so he added a brief Priesthood handbook, chapters 1-5.

It is very interesting to think that his society, so different than ours today, had the exact ordinances that we do, and with the exact wording.  This was also revealed to Joseph Smith (a revelation possibly initiated by his reading Moroni's words), so we know we are supposed to do the ordinances in the same way.  In our worldwide church, we have many, many different societies, many different cultures, and yet we all participate in the very same ordinances.  Beyond that, our meetings, unlike those of many other denominations, are conducted under the direction of the Spirit.  (Moroni 6:9)

If you have a well-traveled member in your ward, you may like to ask him or her to share some experiences of attending church in other wards and branches around the world.



 REQUIREMENTS FOR BAPTISM

Moroni then listed five requirements for prospective members to meet if they desired to join the Church through baptism:
  1. "And now I speak concerning baptism.  Behold, elders, priests, and teachers were baptized; and they were not baptized save they brought forth fruit meet that they were worthy of it.
  2. "Neither did they receive any unto baptism save they came forth with a broken heart and a contrite spirit,
  3. "And witnessed unto the church that they truly repented of all their sins.
  4. "And none were received unto baptism save they took upon them the name of Christ,
  5. "Having a determination to serve him to the end."  (Moroni 6:1-3)
 And then he gave the expectations for those who were already in the Church regarding the new members: 

"And after they had been received unto baptism, and were wrought upon and cleansed by the power of the Holy Ghost, they were numbered among the people of the church of Christ; and their names were taken..."

Why was this important?  To meet a quota?  To make sure their tithing got collected?  No.  It was so the members could be aware of them in order to follow the Savior's injunction in the New Testament to "feed my lambs."

"...that they might be remembered and nourished by the good word of God, to keep them in the right way, to keep them continually watchful unto prayer, relying alone upon the merits of Christ, who was the author and the finisher of their faith."  (Moroni 6:4)


"All of us have tried at some time to nourish another person’s faith. Most of us have felt the concern of others for our own faith, and with it we have felt their love. More than a few of us have had a child look up to us and say, 'Would you like to go to church with me?' or, 'Would you pray with me?' And we have had our disappointments. Someone we love may not have accepted our attempts to nourish his or her faith. We know from painful experience that God respects the choice of His children not to be nourished. Yet this is a time to feel renewed optimism and hope that our power to nourish will be increased.

"The Lord through His living prophet has told us that He will preserve the bounteous harvest of new converts entering the waters of baptism. And the Lord will do it through us. So we can have confidence that by doing simple things, things that even a child can do, we will be granted greater power to nourish tender faith...


"Those new members of the Church are His children. He has known them and they have known Him in the world before this one. His purpose and that of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, is to have them return to Him and to give them eternal life if they will only choose it. He has led and sustained His missionaries by the Holy Spirit to find and teach and baptize them. He allowed His Son to pay the price of their sins. Our Father and the Savior see those converts as tender lambs, purchased with a price we cannot fathom.

"A mortal parent may appreciate, in some small way, the feelings of a loving Heavenly Father. When our children come to the age when they must leave our direct care, we feel anxiety for their safety and concern that those who are to help them will not fail them. We can feel at least some of the Father’s and the Savior’s love for the new members of the Church and the trust They place in us to nourish."  (Elder Henry B. Eyring, "Feeding His Lambs", February 2008 Ensign.)

This would be a great time to have class members share times when they or members of their family were "remembered and nourished by the good word of God" through members of their congregations.

"We can by simple obedience help the Lord to take the lambs, His lambs, into His hands and take them in His arms home to their Father and our Father. I know that God will pour out the powers of heaven upon us as we join in preserving that sacred harvest of souls."  (Elder Eyring, ibid.)

(Pictures in this post are from lds.org and are legal to use for teaching purposes.)