The Doctrine and Covenants is a book of answers. Many of its sacred revelations came in response to questions asked in humble prayer.
One of the first sections Latter-day Saints will study in January with “Come, Follow Me” is Joseph Smith’s account of his question that initiated the Restoration of the gospel — and his experience in the Sacred Grove, in which Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ appeared to him.
After concluding 2020’s gospel study with Moroni’s invitation to receive a personal witness of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon, the lessons on Joseph Smith—History will serve “as the link from the Book of Mormon to he who was given the responsibility of bringing that to light and translating it,” said Sunday School General President Mark L. Pace.
Because Joseph Smith fulfilled his prophetic call, “the Lord has been able to work with members of His Church to restore His gospel and move it forward,” he said. “The Doctrine and Covenants is the history of the beginning of the Restoration, and we are blessed to live now as the Restoration continues.”
As a new year of “Come, Follow Me” begins in January, the Sunday School general presidency said they hope Latter-day Saints realize the Doctrine and Covenants is “more than Church history.”
“It’s the teachings of Jesus Christ through His Prophet and how to direct and guide His work in this dispensation,” President Pace said.
To parents, “we’d like to remind them that the kitchen table is surrounded by investigators,” he added. “Testimonies are built as children read the scriptures, and the example of parents reading the scriptures is a very powerful example to their children. …
“The private revelatory experience that will come as individuals humbly read the Doctrine and Covenants and feel the influence of the Holy Ghost confirming truth, changing hearts, bringing about conversion — that is by far the most important thing that will happen.”
Wrapping up the Book of Mormon
Though 2020 has been a year characterized by the global COVID-19 pandemic, “it has not been a year of suffering spiritually,” President Pace said. “The spiritual growth that has happened in the lives of the Latter-day Saints as they’ve read the Book of Mormon with ‘Come, Follow Me’ has been remarkable.”
The power of the Book of Mormon in the pandemic: How Saints are ‘spiritually thriving’ amid challenges
This year, the Book of Mormon has become part of members’ daily lives, said Brother Milton Camargo, first counselor in the Sunday School general presidency. “They’re reading, they’re having fun, they’re sharing spiritual experiences,” he said, referring to what he’s seen on social media and in group chats with family and friends.
Members have also been applying the Book of Mormon to present day challenges. For example, in reading Mormon talk about faith, hope and charity in the middle of a war, members are saying, “We’re in the middle of the pandemic, and we have to talk about faith, hope and charity and blessing the lives of those we might not be able to see in person,” Brother Camargo said.
Brother Jan E. Newman, second counselor in the Sunday School general presidency, said his thoughts have turned to the Prophet Joseph as he has studied the doctrines in the Book of Mormon this year. “He could not have written this book. … These are the words of ancient prophets translated by the gift and power of God. No doubt in my mind.”
During this “bicentennial year” celebrating the foundations of the restored gospel, Brother Newman was reminded, “The thing that started everything was the First Vision. Without the First Vision, we don’t have the Book of Mormon.”
Diving into the Doctrine and Covenants
About three years before the Prophet Joseph was born, his mother, Lucy Mack Smith, became ill. “I am not prepared to die for I do not know the ways of Christ,” she recorded in her history. Pleading with the Lord to spare her life, “I covenanted with God [that] if He let me live I would endeavor to get that religion that would enable me to serve him right.”
At last, Lucy wrote, she heard a voice that said, “Seek and ye shall find … Let your heart be comforted.” From that time forward, “I gained strength continually. … I thought that I would make all diligence as soon as I was able to seek some pious person who knew the ways of God to instruct me in things of Heaven.”
Lucy’s written experience is one of three “Voices of the Restoration” excerpts that appear in the “Come, Follow Me” lesson on Joseph Smith—History 1:26. Also included are excerpts from Joseph Smith and William Smith about the faith of their parents.
This added context found in several lessons brings “a very human touch” to the Doctrine and Covenants manual, President Pace said. “To have quotes and journal entries from people who were living through it makes the whole experience more intimate.”
In addition to the “Voices of the Restoration” excerpts, the Sunday School general presidency encouraged Latter-day Saints to use the following to enhance their study:
- Introductory Materials — ideas for using the “Come, Follow Me” manuals and improving personal and family scripture study
- Revelations in Context — a collection of essays about the history surrounding the revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants
- “Saints” — a multivolume narrative history of the Church. Volume 1 and Volume 2 cover the same period of Church history as the Doctrine and Covenants
- Church History Topics — articles about the people, artifacts, geography and events of Church history
- Other resources found in the “Restoration and Church History” section of the Gospel Library app
Brother Camargo suggested looking at the revelations and their sequence as one’s “journey into the gospel.” Many of the revelations are answers to specific questions — such as “What is it that the Lord wants me to do?” — and some of the early revelations address principles of revelation, keeping the commandments and preaching the gospel.
The Lord did not give every detail about the Restoration all at once, Brother Newman added. “There were a lot of things that He allowed the Saints to figure out, and I think that’s how the Lord works with His children. He doesn’t spoon-feed us. He gives us principles, He gives us doctrines, and He lets us connect the dots, and they all lead back to the Savior.”
After studying Joseph Smith—History and all 138 sections of the Doctrine and Covenants, Latter-day Saints will conclude gospel study in 2021 with the Articles of Faith, Official Declarations 1 and 2 and “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.”
The most recent proclamation, “The Restoration of the Fulness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ” read by President Russell M. Nelson during April 2020 general conference, is included in the Appendix.
President Pace said he hopes Church members “won’t be in too big of a hurry” and that they study at the rate encouraged by “Come, Follow Me.” He also hopes they remember President Nelson’s direction to study the Book of Mormon every day.