This week I began my studies of the Come, Follow Me lessons for the Doctrine and Covenants. This book of scripture is a compilation of divine revelations and inspired instructions received by Joseph Smith and a few by his successors. A study of the Doctrine and Covenants gives each of us an opportunity to hear the voice of Jesus Christ as He gives instructions for our temporal wellbeing and our spiritual salvation.
In our studies of the Doctrine and Covenants, we will learn about the gospel doctrines and principles as well as the blessings that come from being obedient to them. Since most of the sections in the Doctrine and Covenants are direct revelations, we will also learn how to seek and receive revelation for ourselves.
I studied Section 1 of the Doctrine and Covenants this week, and I thrilled once again at the words of Jesus Christ as He revealed His “preface unto the book of my commandments” (verse 6).
1 Hearken, O ye people of my church, saith the voice of him who dwells on high, and whose eyes are upon all men; yea, verily I say: Hearken ye people from afar; and ye that are upon the islands of the sea, listen together.
2 For verily the voice of the Lord is unto all men, and there is none to escape; and there is no eye that shall not see, neither ear that shall not hear, neither heart that shall not be penetrated.
The Lord continues in verse 4 to tell us: “And the voice of warning shall be unto all people, by the mouths of my disciples, whom I have chosen in these last days.” President Joseph Fielding Smith (1876-1972) spoke about the voice of warning and how it would be raised to all people:
I do not understand … that it is necessary that every heart be penetrated and every ear hear in this life. But if they have not heard, if this opportunity has not come to them through the preaching of the Elders and through the things that have been published in the word of the Lord that has gone forth by revelation, the opportunity is going to come to them and they must hear it in the spirit world.
And so the Lord in his kindness and mercy intends to bring these truths of this restored Gospel to every soul living or dead. In this manner every heart shall be penetrated and every ear shall hear (Conference Report, Oct. 1831, 16 as quoted in the Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual ).
Every person who has ever lived on the earth or will live on it will have an opportunity to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ – either here on earth or in the next life. Heavenly Father will extend the eternal blessings of the gospel to each of His spirit children.
Later in the revelation, the Lord said that a “calamity” would “come upon the inhabitants of the earth” (verse 17) and that He called Joseph Smith Jr. to proclaim His restored gospel to prepare the earth to avoid the calamity. Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained how the preaching of the gospel can help us avoid the calamity.
If we listen to the prophets of this day, poverty would be replaced with loving care for the poor and needy. Many serious and deadly health problems would be avoided through compliance with the Word of Wisdom and the laws of sexual purity. Payment of tithing would bless us and we would have sufficient for our needs, If we follow the counsel given by the prophets, we can have a life in mortality where we do not bring upon ourselves unnecessary pain and self-destruction. This does not mean we will not have challenges. We will. This does not mean we will not be tested. We will, for this is part of our purpose on earth. But if we will listen to the counsel of our prophet, we will become stronger and be able to withstand the tests of mortality. We will have hope and joy (“Hear the Prophet’s Voice and Obey,” Ensign, May 1995, 17).
Elder Hales said that we can avoid calamity hearing and obeying the prophets’ counsel. However, we will still experience challenges and tests even if we obey perfectly. The Lord continued by saying that He gave Joseph Smith the “power to translate through the mercy of God, by the power of God, the Book of Mormon” (verse 29). Think of it! Jesus Christ said that Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon under His power! Then He discussed the organization of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
30 And also those to whom these commandments were given, might have power to lay the foundation of this church, and to bring it forth out of obscurity and out of darkness, the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth, with which I, the Lord, am well pleased, speaking unto the church collectively and not individually –
31 For I the Lord cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance;
32 Nevertheless, he that repents and does the commandments of the Lord shall be forgiven;
33 And he that repents not, from him shall be taken even the light which he has received; for my Spirit shall not always strive with man, saith the Lord of Hosts.
Did you catch the words of the Lord? He said that the Church organized by Joseph Smith is “the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth.” A little further in the revelation, the Lord explained why we should study the Doctrine and Covenants.
37 Search these commandments, for they are true and faithful, and the prophecies and promises which are in them shall all be fulfilled.
38 What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.
The Lord said that the commandments written in the Doctrine and Covenants are “true and faithful” and that the “prophecies and promises” written in them will be fulfilled. He also said that it does not matter if we hear the commandments directly from the Lord or through His prophets because the commandments come from God. If the prophet counsels us to do something, it is the same as if the words were spoken by Jesus Christ.