listen
Scheduled for study Dec.28-Jan. 3, 2021. The preface to the Doctrine and Covenants contains God’s explanation of why this book of commandments was given and contains a commandment to all the world to listen to the revelations given to Joseph Smith, His prophet.

Day 1

Doctrine and Covenants 1 – The Lord invites me to “search these commandments.”

Think of Doctrine and covenants 1 as the Lord’s personal introduction to this book of His latter-day revelations. What does He want you to know about the Doctrine and covenants? Ponder this question, and write down any impressions what come as you read section 1.

It is pretty difficult to write a preface to a work before you have even written it. The purpose of the preface is to tell you what is already in the work, and what to look for or what to expect from what it contains. For these reasons, the preface is usually the last piece to be written. In the case of the Doctrine and Covenants, the revelations had already been given and recorded then assembled in the desired order. Now it was time for the Lord to introduce the newest book of scripture in a millennium and a half.

In all the times I have read the first section of the Doctrine and Covenants, I have more or less skimmed it, thinking that this is just the standard blah, blah, blah, intro that most books have. There are a couple of key scriptures we quote all the time in this section, but I considered those the exceptions to the rule, and ignored the rest. This is the first time I have read this section seeking for actual understanding and meaning. I am surprised at how much there is in here.

Look at verse 14.

14 And the arm of the Lord shall be revealed; and the day cometh that they who will not hear the voice of the Lord, neither the voice of his servants, neither give heed to the words of the prophets and apostles, shall be cut off from among the people; (emphasis added)

The manual extracted the phrase “hear the voice of the Lord,” and asked how we can “hear Him,” to quote a popular current phrase from the prophet. There is, of course, the physical listening to, and paying attention (to hearken) to what the Lord has said. But there is also the matter of learning how to search for his word and how to live it. We can hear him by respecting and honoring his ordained servants, the prophet and the apostles. Then there are the scriptures and all the written words of counsel we have available to us in the form of scriptures, and talks from God’s servants. But it doesn’t end there, for we also have the spoken counsel of God’s servants who live in our local area, our Stake Presidents, Bishops, quorum and auxiliary leaders. Finally, we can hear him by listening to the light of Christ, our conscience, and the Holy Ghost, whose influence should be with us all day, every day.

When I realized how many ways there are to follow this injunction to “hear Him,” I was amazed that we are actually surrounded by God’s words, His influence, and His blessed counsel. But that counsel and those commandments aren’t going to be advertised to us on television or on the Internet. We must take the responsibility to search God’s words and seek His counsel. The weight of living the words of God is on our individual shoulders. His servants have done their work, and are currently doing their work. The question each of us must ask is, “Am I doing my share to learn God’s word and live what I learn to the best of my ability?”

Day 2

Doctrine and Covenants 1:1–6, 23–24, 37–39 – God speaks through His servants, and His words will be fulfilled.

Think of Doctrine and covenants 1 as the Lord’s personal introduction to this book of His latter-day revelations. What does He want you to know about the Doctrine and covenants? Ponder this question, and write down any impressions what come as you read section 1.

Yesterday we talked about all the ways in which God’s words can reach us. Today the lesson it about how trustworthy those words are. Many of us don’t really think about the amount of trust we put in God’s words, often because we only think about the scriptures and the prophet when we consider what we will trust as being God’s words. But what about the counsel we receive from our local priesthood leaders, or the promptings we receive from the Spirit or our conscience each day? Aren’t those God’s words just as much as anything the prophet would say or the scriptures would teach? Really? Shouldn’t the source of those words all be the same? This is something we need to seriously consider.

The scriptures are the universal counsel of God to His children from generation to generation. Only rarely are new scriptures added to the canon. But more immediate and current are the words of God’s servants at times like General Conferences. Even more immediate and timely are His words that come from those doing His work each and every day, and from the Spirit, who influences our life from hour to hour. In other words, what do we believe? Do we believe that God only spoke a hundred years ago, or a thousand years ago, or do we believe that He is still speaking to each of us today, this hour?

If we believe that the words of God, as found in the holy scriptures, will all be fulfilled, then why not His words as given to us through the Spirit while we are on our knees, or while we are actively serving in His name? Is not one form of God’s word as valid and relevant in our life as another? Aren’t all of God’s words of equal truth? Something to think about.

Now, lest you panic and think I am saying that my words should be as relevant to you as the prophet’s words are, remember that there is also a line of command/authority the Lord always honors. I have responsibility for seeking God’s word in my life, but if my upline priesthood leader, be it my Bishop or my Stake President give me counsel then I am to follow their counsel. We must seek for conformity to God’s laws in the counsel we follow. Does what we are told or read square with the words of the current prophet? Do they follow the canon of accepted scripture? This is where we need to learn wisdom. I cannot proclaim “scripture” in any form for anyone I do not have authority to direct in God’s name. The Bishop can only receive revelation for his ward. Only the prophet can receive revelation for the whole church. This line of authority keeps us all safe from the wiles of Satan and those who would lead us astray. In this way we can always trust what we are hearing and taking to the Lord for verification. But we must learn for ourselves how the lines of authority work so we are always safe from deception.

Day 3

Doctrine and Covenants 1:3, 24–28, 31–33 – If I am humble, the Lord’s chastening can lead me to repent.

Think of Doctrine and covenants 1 as the Lord’s personal introduction to this book of His latter-day revelations. What does He want you to know about the Doctrine and covenants? Ponder this question, and write down any impressions what come as you read section 1.

I assume you have read the verses for today’s lesson, but I would like to single out verses 24-28 and ask that you read them again. As you read them, look at what they say with the perspective of a loving Father trying to prepare His children for the weight of eternal glory He wants them to enjoy in the future.

24 Behold, I am God and have spoken it; these commandments are of me, and were given unto my servants in their weakness, after the manner of their language, that they might come to understanding.

25 And inasmuch as they erred it might be made known;

26 And inasmuch as they sought wisdom they might be instructed;

27 And inasmuch as they sinned they might be chastened, that they might repent;

28 And inasmuch as they were humble they might be made strong, and blessed from on high, and receive knowledge from time to time.

As I read these verses I am able to run down a mental checklist of truths. God’s desire is for me to understand what I have done wrong, so I can right it. Check. I need to know when I am in error, or I can’t fix it. Check. If I seek wisdom from my Father, He will teach me. Check. When I have committed any kind of sin, He chastens me, not out of anger, but because He loves me and wants me to have the opportunity to repent and be better than I currently am, and hence happier. Check. If I am humble, and accept His chastisement, I will be made strong. He will bless me and give me knowledge of eternal things from time to time. Check. What a loving Father we have.

Sometimes we mistake God’s efforts to help us and bless us by feeling like He is trying to punish us or put us down. We need to remember that we should feel sorrow for our sins. The weight of a sin is a real thing. He wants us to be relieved of these weights on our soul through repentance, but to do so we must work through the pain and sorrow of having committed the sin in the first place. Trust in the Lord in this process is paramount. At some point we will come to learn that God is always on our side, and always striving to bless us with as many opportunities to become better as we will let Him give us.

What holds us back in our progression is not God’s punishments or chastisements, but our own unwillingness to accept those punishments and chastisements as opportunities for growth and improvement.

Day 4

Doctrine and Covenants 1:12–30, 35–36 – The Lord restored His gospel to help me face the challenges of the latter days.

Think of Doctrine and covenants 1 as the Lord’s personal introduction to this book of His latter-day revelations. What does He want you to know about the Doctrine and covenants? Ponder this question, and write down any impressions what come as you read section 1.

After proclaiming the judgments that are about to come upon the whole earth, God gave us a wonderful list of blessings He has prepared for our enjoyment starting in verse 17.

17 Wherefore, I the Lord, knowing the calamity which should come upon the inhabitants of the earth, called upon my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., and spake unto him from heaven, and gave him commandments;

It is easy to forget that the Lord has already seen the future of all things. He knows them as intimately as He knows the present and the past. Because He knows what is coming for us, He has prepared ahead of time special helps to get us through the calamities that are coming. These will bless the spiritually prepared. Read the verses that follow verse 17 (verses 17-23) and you will see a short list of some of the reasons God gives for the commandments He has already given to Joseph Smith in the Doctrine and Covenants. Take some time to study these verses. See what other verses in this first section will also give you reason to thank the Lord for His goodness and bounty to those who live in the latter days.

FHE/Personal Scripture Study

Doctrine and Covenants 1:30 – What does it mean to say that the Church is “true and living”?

There are two fundamental truths that set our church apart from all others:

  1. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is founded on revelation and restored truths found nowhere else.
  2. The Restoration is an ongoing event that will continue until the Savior returns. This means there will be continual changes due to the ongoing revelations received by God’s prophets.

There is no such thing as a living thing that doesn’t change. If the church never changed, it would become obsolete. The world is changing daily. The social conditions and needs of mankind are modified on a regular basis, based on the choices God’s children make to either come closer to Him or go further away from Him. His church needs to be prepared to handle these changes, and it is prepared, because we have the gift of revelation. This is what makes the church vibrant and alive.

There are those who say that because we don’t do things the way things were done in Joseph Smith’s day that we have strayed from the true path. What they are failing to recognize is that the Restoration is not finished. Just as the changes in religion Joseph introduced were unheard of in his day, so too will some of the changes introduced in our day be considered as radical. Who would have foreseen just two years ago that we would be having church each week in our own homes and that the temples around the world would be closed to most members? Who would have foreseen that the High Priests and Elders quorums would be merged into just the Elders Quorum? So much of what is happening, and what will happen in the future, will be a surprise to us. But just like we see that these changes have been for the better, we will be grateful the Lord is guiding His church by making changes in the future that will continue to bless us and make us stronger. These changes are, in and of themselves, evidence of the truthfulness of the gospel we preach to the world.

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Harken, O Ye People

Week 1