On April 6, 1830, the Church of Jesus Christ was organized in the home of Peter Whitmer in Fayette, New York. In preparation for this event, Joseph Smith received a revelation with detailed instructions on how to administer the church. That revelation, which has been called “the Constitution of the Church,” contains information about:
- Church history and doctrine – the Book of Mormon, our Heavenly Father, the Atonement of Jesus Christ, faith, repentance, baptism, and the gift of the Holy Ghost, justification, and sanctification (Doctrine and Covenants 20:1-36)
- Duties of members and various officers – elders, priests, teachers, deacons, and members (Doctrine and Covenants 20:37-69)
- Ordinances – blessing of babies, baptism, and the sacrament (Doctrine and Covenants 20:70-79)
- Record-keeping (Doctrine and Covenants 20:80-84)
During this inaugural meeting of the church, Joseph received a revelation reaffirming his role as the first elder of the church and reaffirming some of his spiritual gifts. The Lord instructed church members to receive his words as if they came directly from the Lord, “in all patience and faith” (Doctrine and Covenants 21:5).
Within days, a controversy arose. Even though the Lord had specified that people joining the church should be baptized (Doctrine and Covenants 20:37), some people who had previously been baptized wanted to become members of the church without being baptized again. Joseph prayed and received a revelation reaffirming the requirement of baptism for entry into the church. “Enter ye in at the gate, as I have commanded” said the Lord, “and seek not to counsel your God” (Doctrine and Covenants 22:4).
Here are lessons I have learned from these revelations:
- The Book of Mormon teaches the principles we need to understand in order to receive the grace of God through the Atonement of Jesus Christ and return to our Father in Heaven: What Is the Fulness of the Gospel?
- We each have unique capabilities, and we therefore each have unique opportunities to contribute to God’s work: Gifts and Callings – Moroni 3:4.
- Our good works constitute the tangible evidence that our repentance is genuine: What Is “Fruit Meet for Repentance?”
- Baptism can remind us to strive to emulate the unity of the Godhead: What Can We Learn from the Words of the Baptismal Ordinance?
- The sacrament prayers both consist of three parts – the petition, the purpose, and the promises: What Can We Learn from the Sacrament Prayers?
- The sacrament can connect me to past spiritual experiences and help me remember times of closeness with God: “Which I Have Shown unto You” – 3 Nephi 18:7.
- Taking upon ourselves the name of Christ can have many meanings: Ye Must Take upon You the Name of Christ – 3 Nephi 27:5-6.
- Members of the church must do our very best to abandon all of our sins, not just some of them: That They Truly Repented of All Their Sins – Moroni 6:1-3.
- The words of prophets may push us out of our comfort zone as they challenge us to be better than we have been before. We must follow their guidance “in all patience and faith”: Preaching and Testifying Boldly – 3 Nephi 6:20-21.
- We should approach God in an attitude of learning, not of demanding: Seek Not to Counsel the Lord – Jacob 4:10