The Doctrine and Covenants of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

These are revelations given to Joseph Smith with a few contributions from his successors in the presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The title "Doctrine and Covenants" (commonly abbreviated "D&C") resulted from the initial successful publication of Joseph Smith's revelations in 1835 (an attempt to publish the revelations in 1833 failed because of persecution).1 Bound with the revelations were lectures delivered at a religious school operated by Church leaders in Kirtland, Ohio in the 1830s. The "Doctrine" in the title referred to these lectures, while "Covenants" referred to the revelations.2 The lectures were removed from the book in 1921 for several reasons, but the title remained.

The book is part of the "canon" of the LDS Church and regarded as an important source of doctrine and practice for the Church. It is sometimes referred to as "the revelations" or "the handbook of the restoration."

The revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants have been designated as numbered "sections" rather than chapters of the book since the first edition in 1835. For example, "section 89" is the famous revelation on Mormon health practices called the "Word of Wisdom." The book has gone through numerous editions with additions of footnotes, historical explanations and additional sections through the years. The revelations in the book have appeared in various orders. Initially, they appeared in apparent order of application. Those regarded as most fundamental to Church practice were placed at the beginning of the book. Later editions attempted to place the revelations in chronological order by the date of reception with two exceptions, section 1 and section 133, traditionally called the "preface" and "appendix" respectively (although the "appendix" is no longer the last section).

Not all the sections of the book are actual revelations. A few are excerpts of letters written by Joseph Smith, one is an account of Joseph Smith's martyrdom (written by eyewitness John Taylor) and at least one (D&C 134) was written by Oliver Cowdery, an early associate of Joseph Smith. Two are announcements of revelations rather than revelations themselves and are titled "Official Declaration." Not all the revelations in the book came through Joseph Smith. One section was given by Brigham Young and one by Joseph F. Smith (President of the Church from 1901 to 1918). The Official Declarations were announced by Presidents Wilford Woodruff (1890) and Spencer W. Kimball (1978). With these few exceptions the Church policy has been to restrict the Doctrine and Covenants to revelations given to Joseph Smith. A number of his revelations were added to the collection well after his death. On the other hand, Joseph Smith received a considerable number of (written) revelations which do not appear in the Doctrine and Covenants. Other revelations were mentioned but evidently never written in full or may have been lost in the many travels and forced moves in the early LDS Church. Still others may never have been written down at all and we only have evidence for them from asides, third parties or textual criticism.

The language Joseph Smith used in relating many of the revelations he received had the characteristics of seventeenth century English as found in the Authorized (King James) Version of the Bible. While he never offered any explanation of this, it seems natural that he would use the best construction with which he was familiar. That was found in the Bible education he had, particularly in the early days of his ministry. In addition, it probably seemed appropriate to employ what was viewed as sacred language in communicating a sacred text. As his command of the language expanded, so did his usage in communicating the revelations he received. However, it should be noted that even when Smith quotes divine messengers, the language is still reminiscent of the KJV. This language consistency perhaps makes it easier to locate and identify concepts and ideas across the scripture.

Following the 1835 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants, the next edition was published in 1844 in Nauvoo, Illinois.3 Eight more revelations were added to the 102 in the 1835 edition. These 8 revelations are now found as sections 103, 105, 112, 119, 124, 127, 128 and 135 in the 1981 LDS edition.

When the Brigham Young led Church arrived in the Salt Lake valley in 1847, they had no printing facility. The Doctrine and Covenants was published in England from 1845 to 1869. In 1876, Elder Orson Pratt was assigned to produce a new edition. The revelations were divided into verses which have been maintained in subsequent editions. Elder Pratt included 26 new sections (now numbered 2, 13, 77, 85, 87, 108-111, 113-118, 120-123, 125, 129-132 and 136). He removed the "Article on Marriage" found in previous editions. In 1879 Elder Pratt published the 1876 edition in England, adding footnotes to the text. This edition was published in 1880 in Salt Lake City and accepted by the LDS Church as its official edition.

The 1908 edition was the first to include the "manifesto" of President Wilford Woodruff (now known as Official Declaration 1).

The 1921 edition already mentioned removed the "Lectures on Faith" (see above) and pages were divided into double columns with new footnotes. The next major edition was published in 1981. Two revelations and one Official Declaration were added to this edition making 138 sections and two Official Declarations.

Traditionally the revelations have been published with short explanations or headnotes. The headnotes or explanatory introductions for the revelations given here are those from a pre-1981 edition (essentially the 1921 edition -the headnotes of the current edition are under copyright restriction and are not used here). These headnotes are not part of the revelations. The headnotes in this electronic edition are numbered as D&C1:0 for example - the 0 in D&C1:0 indicates the headnote of section 1. The actual verses of a revelation are preceded by designations like D&C1:15, for verse 15 of section 1 for example. The headnote of section 20 follows the designation D&C20:0, etc. These older headnotes are sometimes incomplete or inaccurate in some historical respects. For more in-depth discussions of the historical facets of the texts of the revelations see the new Annotated History of the Church.

The Doctrine and Covenants is divided here into 14 files, each file contains 10 sections of the book. There is also a link to the whole book as one file.

Copyright © 1999 W. V. Smith and the Book of Abraham Project
All rights reserved.

End Notes

1. This first attempt to publish the revelations of Joseph Smith was titled "The Book of Commandments." It was to be published in Independence, Missouri. Some incomplete sheets had been printed when a mob gathered and destroyed the Mormon press. Some of the sheets - enough for about one hundred incomplete copies of the planned book - were saved and books made up from the sheets. A few still survive. The revelations as printed in the Book of Commandments reappeared in the Doctrine and Covenants in 1835. However, Joseph Smith and the editorial committee corrected copying and printing errors, clarified some of the text, added explanations of Church offices not in existence in 1833 and combined some of the previous revelations into single sections (one was split into two sections). A detailed analysis of the revelation texts and their publication is found in Robert J. Woodford, "The Historical Development of the Doctrine and Covenants," Ph.D. dissertation, Brigham Young University, 1974.

2. The title "covenants" resulted from the popular title of the informally circulated Book of Commandments. This popular title was "The Book of Covenants" taken from the first chapter of that book titled, the "Articles and Covenants of the Church of Christ" (now known as section 20 of the Doctrine and Covenants).

3. Various collections of Joseph Smith's revelations are accepted by surviving churches who accept Joseph Smith as a prophet (for example, some accept only the Book of Commandments). The RLDS Church for example has added a considerable number of revelations given by RLDS Church presidents. No attempt is made here to discuss these various editions of Joseph Smith's revelations. The comments on various editions here apply only to those published by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

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