How the Doctrine and Covenants has changed over the years

To get copies of the Prophet Joseph Smith’s early revelations in what’s now the Doctrine and Covenants, a person in the early 1830s would have to get permission to access the Kirtland Revelation Book and then hand copy them.  

“And by 1831, you’ve got a few people that had access to the revelations, but by and large, the members of the Church didn’t have access to them,” Elder LeGrand R. Curtis Jr., Church historian and recorder and General Authority Seventy, said at a recent Evenings from the Museum presentation.  

At a conference on Nov. 1, 1831, it was determined to print 10,000 copies of the revelations with the title “A Book of Commandments for the Government of the Church.” The revelations were also published in the Evening and Morning Star newspaper.  

Since then, there have been several editions of what is now the Doctrine and Covenants. Here’s some information from Elder Curtis on several of the editions.  

Book of Commandments, 1833  

  • Printed in Independence, Missouri.  
  • In July 1833, mobs destroyed the printing press and building partway through the printing.  
  • From the saved pages, 64 and a half chapters — as the sections were called then — were included.  
  • Sold for 25 cents each, and the owner bound his or her copy.  

Doctrine and Covenants, 1835 edition 

  • Printed in Kirtland, Ohio, in 1835. 
  • Contained the seven Lectures on Faith (the doctrine) and 103 revelations (the covenants). 
  • Accepted by the Church on Aug. 17, 1835. 
  • Included “the Appendix,” now known as Section 133.  

1844 edition  

A tribute to Joseph and Hyrum Smith was added into the 1844 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants. It was a smaller type size to fit it on the page.
A tribute to Joseph and Hyrum Smith was added into the 1844 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants. It was a smaller type size to fit it on the page. Credit: Screenshot from YouTube
  • Printed in Nauvoo, Illinois.  
  • 103 sections in the 1835 edition, plus 7 additional items.  
  • Section 111, now Section 135, a tribute to Joseph and Hyrum Smith, was added during the printing and printed in smaller text so that it would fit on the page at the end of the book.  

1876 edition  

Portrait of Apostle Orson Pratt
Portrait of Apostle Orson Pratt Credit: Church History Library
  • Elder Orson Pratt, then the Church historian, worked on the new edition.  
  • Sections were reordered to be in rough chronological order. 
  • 26 new sections were added, including sections 2, 13, 109, 110, 121-123, 132 and 136. 
  • Verse sizes and section headings changed.  
  • Expanded the table of contents.  

1921 edition  

  • A committee of 5 apostles — Elders George F. Richards, Anthony W. Ivins, Joseph Fielding Smith, James E. Talmage and Melvin J. Ballard — reviewed the Doctrine and Covenants. 
  • They recommended adding 20 sections, but none were added. (It’s not known precisely which sections those were.)  
  • Wilford Woodruff’s Manifesto was labeled as an “Official Declaration.” (It had been included in recent printings.)  
  • Lectures on Faith removed.  

1981 edition  

Doctrine and Covenants section 4.
Doctrine and Covenants section 4. Credit: Sydney Walker
  • 2 revelations that were in the Pearl of Great Price in 1976 — Joseph Smith’s vision of the celestial kingdom and Joseph F. Smith’s 1918 vision of the redemption of the dead — were added as sections 137 and 138. 
  • The 1978 revelation on the priesthood was included as a second official declaration.  
  • Footnotes were changed to correspond with the Latter-day Saint edition of the English Bible, which was published for the first time in 1979. 

2013 edition  

  • Section headings altered to incorporate new historical research, primarily through the Joseph Smith Papers project. 
  • Historical introductions to the official declarations added.  
  • Minor spelling and punctuation errors corrected.  
  • Footnote and index errors corrected.  
  • With new printings, minor adjustments are made as needed.