"For verily the voice of the Lord is unto all men, and there is none to escape." (D&C 1:2.)
In Sunday School Gospel Doctrine class this year, we have an opportunity to study "the voice of the Lord" through revelations in our own time as recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants. As the course of study unfolds, we will see that doctrine and history are powerfully linked: For us to have a better understanding of gospel principles, we need to have also a knowledge of the settings or circumstances in which specific revelations were given.
We ought to be keenly aware of the importance of knowing the doctrine of the Lord's Church but also of having an understanding of its - and our - history. Last year we commemorated the sesquicentennial of the Mormon pioneer trek across Iowa; this year we will commemorate the 150th anniversary of the trek of the pioneers across Nebraska and Wyoming and their arrival in the valley of the Great Salt Lake. These pioneers, who accomplished heroic tasks, became valiant figures in the history of the Church. Stories of their lives and actions have inspired faith, demonstrated courage and exemplified the rewards of perseverance. But our history as a Church did not begin with them, nor did it end when the lifeless body of the last of their hardy band was laid to rest.
The pioneers who came to the Salt Lake Valley on July 24, 1847, were beneficiaries of a legacy passed on to them by even earlier stalwarts of the gospel of Jesus Christ, stalwarts such as the Prophet Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum who gave their lives for the gospel cause; stalwarts of countless people whose testimonies were backed by untold sacrifices.
As we read the pioneer accounts, we might be reminded that we, too, are part of the ribbon of faith-spanning generations. First, we receive a spiritual inheritance from our predecessors, be they our own ancestors or "fellow citizens in the household of faith." Second, we add our own stamp and bequeath a legacy to those who follow us, either as descendants or as converts into the Church family.
Just as our history as a Church continues to unfold, the Lord also continues to direct His Church. We, as Latter-day Saints, firmly believe in continuing revelation. "We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God." (Articles of Faith 1:9.)
The Doctrine and Covenants contains many of those revelations.
Speaking at the April 1987 general conference, President Ezra Taft Benson said: "The Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants are bound together as revelations from Israel's God to gather and prepare His people for the second coming of the Lord.
"The bringing forth of these sacred volumes of scripture, `For the salvation of a ruined world . . . cost the best blood of the nineteenth century' - that of Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum. (D&C 135:6.)
"The Doctrine and Covenants is the binding link between the Book of Mormon and the continuing work of the restoration through the Prophet Joseph Smith and his successors.
"In the Doctrine and Covenants we learn of temple work, eternal families, the degrees of glory, Church organization, and many other great truths of the restoration. . . .
"The Book of Mormon brings men to Christ. The Doctrine and Covenants brings men to Christ's kingdom. . . . The Book of Mormon is the
keystone' of our religion and the Doctrine and Covenants is thecapstone' - with continuing latter-day revelation. The Lord has placed His stamp of approval on both the keystone and the capstone."
At the 1950 general conference, President Joseph Fielding Smith said: "Not only do we have the revelations given to the prophets of ancient Israel, given by our Savior when He was on the earth and by His disciples in that first century, but the Lord has continued to speak; He has given many revelations to others. We have them. We are blessed with the Book of Mormon which contains the principles of the gospel so clearly stated, that we do not stumble over them. We have the Doctrine and Covenants, which is our book particularly, containing the revelations given to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and to all the world if it will have them. . . ."
The Lord has set forth so clearly principles of eternal truth. Certainly, we will be edified as we study and ponder the revelations contained in the Doctrine and Covenants, and will be inspired as we learn more of the history that frames this sacred book of scripture.