On Tuesday, November 1, 1831, a group of church leaders met in Hiram, Ohio and decided to publish a collection of revelations previously received by Joseph Smith. At the request of the group, three of those leaders drafted a preface for the book during the meeting. Their proposal was not well received, and the group asked Joseph to pray for guidance. In response to Joseph’s prayer, the Lord revealed the preface to the new book, which is published today as Doctrine and Covenants section 1. (See Saints, Volume 1, Chapter 13: “The Gift Has Returned.”)
In the first edition of this compilation of revelations, called A Book of Commandments, this preface is divided into seven paragraphs. In the current edition, called The Doctrine and Covenants, it’s divided into 39 verses. Here is a summary of this revelation, following the original paragraphing:
- Hearken. These words are for the whole world (verses 1-5).
- Authority. Those who carry these revelations to the world are authorized to represent God (verses 6-10).
- Prepare. Difficult times are coming (verses 11-16).
- Faith. Joseph Smith was chosen to help people connect with God (verses 17-23).
- Knowledge. The instructions in these revelations enabled Joseph to translate the Book of Mormon and enabled him and and his associates to establish the church of Jesus Christ (verses 24-33).
- Power. Peace will be taken from the earth, and the devil will have power, but God will be with His saints, and His power will ultimately prevail. (verses 34-36).
- Search. Study these revelations. Truth is eternal (verses 37-39).
I could further condense the message of this revelation into the following paragraph:
There are challenging days ahead, but God has prepared for those days by calling servants and teaching them eternal truths. You can trust those truths. Study them, and follow them.
Here are some of the truths taught in this section of the Doctrine and Covenants, with related Book of Mormon passages and blog posts:
- “Hearken, O ye people” (verses 1-2) – It’s important for us to not only hear the word of God but also to listen intently and modify our behavior accordingly (What Does It Mean to “Hearken?”). King Benjamin, in particular, urged his people to open their ears, hearts, and minds so they could receive the message God had commanded him to deliver (Mosiah 2:9).
- “To them is power given to seal” (verses 8-9) – The sealing power is more than the power to create eternal families. Fundamentally, it is the promise that God will honor the declarations of his servants, both on earth and in heaven (What Is the Sealing Power?). Nephi received this power after a particularly discouraging attempt to preach the gospel in Zarahemla (Helaman 10:4-10).
- “Prepare ye, prepare ye” (verse 12) – It’s important to plan ahead, work hard, and be innovative, just as the people of Captain Moroni did (Prepared – Alma 43:19, Alma 49:8). John the Baptist helped to prepare the way for the Savior’s earthly ministry, and we can likewise prepare the world for His Second Coming (1 Nephi 10:8, Alma 9:28).
- “They have strayed from mine ordinances” (verse 15) – The ordinances of the gospel make our faith more tangible, unite us with other believers, and ultimately bring us closer to God (Why Are Ordinances Important?). That’s why Malachi lamented his people’s abandonment of God’s ordinances and assured them that God would remembers those who keep them (3 Nephi 24:7, 13-18).
- “The weak things of the world” (verses 19, 23-24) – God works with ordinary people to do extraordinary things. They may be painfully aware of their deficiencies, but if they are willing to fulfill assignments from them, He can use their imperfect efforts to accomplish His perfect work. Both Nephi and Moroni relied on this truth, even as they worried about their writing abilities. (See 2 Nephi 33:1-4, Ether 12:23-28.)
- “After the manner of their language” (verse 24) – God speaks to us in a way that we can understand. That includes translating scripture into the native language of the reader (How Did Joseph Smith Translate the Book of Mormon?). The Lord has confidence in us, that increased understanding will lead to improved behavior (2 Nephi 27:35).
- “My Spirit shall not always strive with man” (verse 33) – Our hearts can become hardened over time, through repeated rejection of God’s word, until we become permanently unwilling to listen (My Spirit Will Not Always Strive with Man – Ether 2:15). As Moses taught, when we reject God’s words, we deny ourselves the joy of fellowship with the saints (1 Nephi 22:20-21, 3 Nephi 20:23).
- “The Lord shall have power over his saints” (verse 36) – Nephi saw in a vision that the influence of Satan will grow in the last days, but the power of God will be with those who choose to follow Him, and He will prevail in the end (1 Nephi 14:11-14).
- “Search these commandments” (verse 37) – We should look for connections, patterns, and themes as we study the word of God, so that we can better understand what He is trying to teach us (What Does It Mean to Search the Scriptures?).