Mormon Scripture – Doctrine and Covenants/Part 1

By: Marvin W. Cowan; ©2000
Marvin Cowan continues his examination of the various texts Mormons claim as “scripture.” How does their Doctrine and Covenants measure up to their own definition of what Scripture should be? Does it confirm their own teachings?

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Joseph Fielding Smith, the tenth Mormon Prophet, declared, “In my judgment there is no book on earth yet come to man as important as the book known as the Doctrine and Cov­enants, with all due respect to the Book of Mormon, and the Bible, and the Pearl of Great Price, which we say are our standards in doctrine. The book of Doctrine and Covenants to us stands in a peculiar position above them all” (Doctrines of Salvation vol. 3, p. 198). Most people who have had any contact with Mormons know that they use the Bible and Book of Mormon. But few outside of the Mormon membership know anything about the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price. Yet, according to Joseph Fielding Smith, the Doctrine and Covenants is their most important book of scripture even though they claim to be Christians and Christianity has always considered the Bible to be their only book of scripture.

Unlike the Book of Mormon or even the Book of Abraham in the Pearl of Great Price, the Doctrine and Covenants does not claim to be a translation of ancient documents. It is composed of 138 “Sections” which are mostly revelations from God to Mormon individuals or to the Mormon Church. All but three of the Sections were given by or to Joseph Smith. The other three Sections were written by three other LDS prophets: John Taylor, who wrote about the death of Joseph Smith in 1844; Brigham Young, who wrote instructions on how to organize the Mormon move to the west in 1847; and Joseph F. Smith who wrote about his 1918 vision of Christ’s visit to the spirits in prison. There are also two “Official Declarations” or statements at the end of the Doctrine and Covenants that are not included in the 138 “Sections” because they were not given the same way as the others. The first “Declaration” was given in 1890 to end polygamy among Mormons and the second one was given in 1978 to allow black men to hold the Mormon Priesthood.

Mormons claim that their President is a prophet who gives current revelation to the Church. An editorial in the LDS Church News on September 3, 1966 declared: “With proph­ets and new revelation for current guidance of the people also comes new scripture, for as the divinely given revelations are recorded, they are added to the existing volume of holy writ and in this way the body of scripture grows. This then is another sign of the true church. …Revelation, therefore, is an essential part of the true church, constant, current revelation.” While the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price have all had many changes made in them, none of them have had additional “scrip­ture” added to them except the Doctrine and Covenants, and not much has been added to it! From 1847 until 1976 only the 1890 “Official Declaration–1” was added to the Doctrine and Covenants. That is hardly what could be called “constant, current revelation!”

However, in 1976 LDS President Spencer W. Kimball canonized Joseph Smith’s 1836 vision of the Celestial Kingdom and Joseph F. Smith’s 1918 vision of Christ’s visit to the spirits in prison. Both were added to the Pearl of Great Price in 1976 and then removed and placed in the Doctrine and Covenants in 1981. When their visions became LDS scrip­ture in 1976, both Joseph Smith and Joseph F. Smith had been dead for many years, so their visions were not “current revelations.” Why weren’t their visions “scripture” before 1976? Or, why didn’t God reveal them in1976 so they would be “current revelation” when they became LDS scripture? The only addition to the Doctrine and Covenants since 1976 is President Spencer W. Kimball’s 1978 “Official Declaration–2” which gave worthy black men the right to be ordained into the Mormon priesthood. That Declaration is not a revelation, but a statement about a revelation that Kimball said he had, much like Official Declaration–1 is just a statement urging Mormons to obey the law of the land about polygamy. Thus, the most recent “revelation” in the Doctrine and Covenants is the 1918 vision of Joseph F.
Smith which became LDS scripture in 1976. That does not support the LDS claim of “con­stant, current revelation” which is added to their “existing volume of holy writ.” If such revelation “is an essential part of the true church” as they claim, then Mormonism cannot be “the true church!”

While the LDS Church hasn’t added much to the Doctrine and Covenants, they have changed and deleted a substantial amount of material which we will discuss in our next article. Thankfully, that has not happened to the Bible even though it is 1800 years older than the Doctrine and Covenants. Mormon scripture adds nothing that is necessary to know in order to enjoy God’s very best in eternity. Jesus said in John 12:48 “…the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him [man] in the last day.” Notice that Jesus said that it was the word He had already spoken that will judge man in the last day. Thus, no prophet nor anyone else after the time of Christ can reveal anything that will change what men are judged by. Jesus declared, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man cometh unto the Father, but by Me” (Jn. 14:6). Notice that He didn’t say, “My Church,” or “My Priesthood,” or “My laws and ordinances,” or “My temple rites” or anything else is the way. He said, “I am the way…No man cometh unto the Father but by Me.” That is why I John 5:12 declares, “He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.” Neither the Doctrine and Covenants nor any other Mormon scripture can improve that message!

Our next article will discuss some changes and deletions that have been made in the Doc­trine and Covenants. For more information on this subject a good book is Line Upon Line, edited by James Bergera and published by Signature Books in Salt Lake City, UT in 1989.

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