How did we get the Doctrine and Covenants? (part 4)
This is the fourth and final posting in a series promoting our exhibit of the history of the Doctrine and Covenants, which will be up from now until April graduation. Previous posts have discussed the early manuscript versions of revelations, publishing revelations in The Evening and Morning Star in Independence, Missouri in 1832, and the creation (and near destruction) of the Book of Commandments (1833) due to the destruction of the Church’s press in Independence, Missouri by a mob of angry Missourians.
The destruction of the press in Independence delayed the printing of the revelations, but it did not halt this work. Plans were made to build a press in Kirtland, Ohio, where in December 1833 The Evening and Morning Star again appeared. The Kirtland press continued to print the paper until September 1834 when it was replaced by a new publication: The Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate. Past issues of the Star were reprinted in the Messenger and Advocate. In the meantime, Joseph Smith organized a committee to compile a volume to be known as the “book of covenants,” and which would be made up of items of doctrine and “other documents of instruction and regulation for the Church.” The result was a new volume of scripture entitled Doctrine and Covenants. The new title reflected the contents of the book: the first section included doctrine in the form of the “Lectures on Faith,” which were prepared for religious instruction for the School of the Prophets that had operated in Kirtland from November 1834 to March 1835; and, the latter part of the book was called “Covenants and Commandments of the Lord,” containing “items of principles for the regulation of the church, as taken from the revelations” received by Joseph Smith both prior to and since the organization of the Church in 1830. On August 17, 1835, a general assembly of the Church convened in Kirtland, and the Church members voted unanimously to accept this work as the Church’s third standard work, along with the Bible and Book of Mormon. The “Lectures on Faith” would be a part of the Doctrine and Covenants until 1921.
The history of the Doctrine and Covenants is central to the early history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 1835 was a banner year for the Saints because they could now hold in their hands a compilation of the most important revelations that Joseph Smith had received up to that point, as well as other points of doctrine that they could read and study by themselves. The publication of these revelations was not an easy task, and came often with much opposition and trial. Since 1835, this standard work has evolved and grown to include 138 sections and two official declarations, and is a cherished book of scripture reflecting the Church’s 9th Article of Faith:
“We believe all that God has revealed, all the He does now reveal, and we believe the He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.”
If you did not know how we got the Doctrine and Covenants, hopefully you do now. A copy of the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants, the first issue of The Evening and Morning Star (1832), and a rare copy of the Book of Commandments (1833) are all on display in the Special Collections Reading Room, along with manuscript revelations from the Newel Kimball Whitney papers, documenting the history of one of the standard works of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Come to Special Collections (1st floor of the HBLL) and take advantage of this special opportunity to view some important documents from early Church history!
Note: Since the exhibit is in the Special Collections Reading Room, you will be required to put all belongings in a locker provided in the lobby before you can enter to see the exhibit.