The purpose of this lesson is to help us understand our place in the last dispensation of time. There is far more material than can be covered in one class period, so I am picking and choosing the things I feel are most important to discuss.
Reading Assignment: Doctrine and Covenants 1, and intro to Our Heritage.
A word about our privileges
The Lord has laid on our shoulders many of the responsibilities once held for the prophets’ shoulders alone. We are each going to be held accountable for the missionary work and temple work needed to be done for the salvation of God’s children. As those living daily under the blessings and guiding authority of the Melchizedek priesthood (a privilege once held only for prophets) we are expected to be living close to the Holy Ghost and receiving daily inspiration and guidance from the Spirit.
We are to be Saviors on Mt. Zion, helping the Savior in his great work of redeeming all of mankind on both sides of the veil. In exchange for this work we are promised the Spirit to sanctify us and through the Spirit we will come to understand the mysteries of God.
Yes, we have great blessings in this the last dispensation of time. We also have great responsibilities that go with these privileges. As we study the Doctrine and Covenants and the early history of the Church this year, I hope we will remember how great is our blessing and how deep is our obligation for those privileges. We are the living envy of every prophet and people of all previous dispensations of time. May we live up to these blessings.
In the Church we talk about three types of stones used in the construction of buildings. Here is a brief explanation of the three stones.
- Cornerstone – The foundation stone upon which all other stones are placed to begin to build. It determines the size and strength of the building. The larger the building, the larger the cornerstone. It determines the solidity of the building. If the cornerstone is not cut exactly square (straight sides) then all the other stones will not align correctly and the building is in danger of collapsing in the future. Christ is our cornerstone.
- Keystone – The Book of Mormon is the keystone of our religion. Christ has told us it is the most correct book on earth. It is filled with the doctrines of salvation and acts as a support to hold up all other books of scripture. This keystone ties our ancient scripture together with our modern scripture, and is a necessary part of our religion.
- Capstone – The capstone of a building is the final tile or stone placed to complete a building. The Doctrine and Covenants is the Lord’s Church’s capstone. It is the modern book of revelation and direction given to God’s people to direct them in the great latter-day work to prepare the earth for the Lord’s millennial reign.
The contents of this year’s study material is being approached thematically, not chronologically or even section by section. This means that there will be sections of the Doctrine and Covenants we will not read for class study. That doesn’t mean they are unimportant or shouldn’t be read. It means we need to read the whole book, but don’t plan on the kind of point by point study we can get from the Bible or the Book of Mormon. Those books are comprised of chronological stories, but this year’s study is not, so we will need to think about our studies in a different way – by subject.
The first section of the Doctrine and Covenants is the only currently-surviving example of a forward to a book written by our God, himself. He gave this revelation to Joseph Smith specifically to begin the book of Doctrine and Covenants. This is His message to the Church and to all the world. I know of no other book of scripture where the Lord wrote the first chapter himself. This alone provides a solid stamp of approval on the whole volume. Here is a quote from President Ezra Taft Benson.
President Ezra Taft Benson said: “The Doctrine and Covenants is the only book in the world that has a preface written by the Lord Himself. In that preface He declares to the world that His voice is unto all men (see v. 2), that the coming of the Lord is nigh (see v. 12), and that the truths found in the Doctrine and Covenants will all be fulfilled (see vs. 37–38)” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1986, 101; or Ensign, Nov. 1986, 79).
Scope of study
The manual is very clear that there is far more to be learned than can possibly be taught in the class periods at church. To really learn the valuable materials provided to us this year we will each be required to do extra studying on the side to put everything into proper perspective.
The Doctrine and Covenants isn’t the story of anyone. It is a series of revelations given primarily to the prophet Joseph Smith as the restoration of the gospel was in process of happening. It is very important that we all recognize and understand that the Lord did not give Joseph a finished product on his first visit. He treated Joseph, and the Church as a whole, just like He treats each of us. He gave them what they were ready to bear as soon as they could bear it.
Like our lives each progress from one piece of knowledge and one level of perspective to another, so too was the Church and its prophet learning and growing from one piece of knowledge and perspective to another. This is why the Lord refers to his Church as a living Church. Revelation is what gives this whole process life. The influence and guidance we receive through our companionship of the Holy Ghost, that member of the Godhead whose work it is to teach us the peaceable things of God’s kingdom.
Recognizing that the restoration was a long and painful process of humans being brought from a state of spiritual darkness into a whole new life of the light of revelation, will help us to be patient with the Saint’s mistakes and problems. If we look carefully at their behavior we will see much of our own rebelliousness and stubbornness. People are, after all, people. The age they live in doesn’t seem to make any difference. People are people.
So take the trials of the Saints, the troubles they got into, the chastisements of the Lord, and their process of repenting and growing to heart. Learn from them how they rose to their spiritual challenges. We too will be required to pass through many physical and spiritual challenges as we seek to be obedient to the Lord during our time in mortality. If you look closely, you will discover that we are not much different from the early Saints of the restoration.
I know I haven’t gone through the first section of the Doctrine and Covenants. Nor have I reviewed with you the information in the introduction to the Our Heritage manual on the history of the Church. I haven’t covered much that I could have covered. But what I have covered is important for us to understand and carry with us in our studies this year.
I have a personal fear as I approach this course of study. I am afraid I will see far too much of myself in the early Saints of the Church. Long have I condemned them for their weak faith and their clumsy manner of obeying the gospel. What I am coming to see is that I have just been unwilling to admit that I have been seeing myself and my own behavior in their history. I hope I am alone in all the Church in this view, but I fear I may not be. May we all seek the Lord’s direction this year and pursue His chastisements so we can repent and become better and stronger latter-day saints.