Church History Lesson 13 (D&C 5; 20; 28)
March 20-26

It is well to remember that the first members of the Church were all converts. None of them knew how to be a Latter-day Saint. They brought with them their cultures, traditions, and religious beliefs. And the idea of following a living prophet was completely new to them. Thus, the Lord had to remind them early on that “this generation” (meaning this dispensation) “shall have my word through you” (meaning Joseph Smith) (D&C 5:10).

Consider for a moment all of the essential truths, doctrines and ordinances were restored to the earth through Joseph Smith. Our latter-day scriptures, priesthood ordinances, priesthood organization, and temple principles and ordinances have all come from the Lord through the Prophet Joseph Smith.

Early Difficulties in Following the Prophet (D&C 28)

Just months after the organization of the Church, Joseph  received a letter from Oliver Cowdery which gave him both “sorrow and uneasiness.”

The Prophet Joseph Smith said:

“He wrote to inform me that he had discovered an error in one of the commandments—Book of Doctrine and Covenants: (D&C 20:37) ‘And truly manifest by their works that they have received of the Spirit of Christ unto a remission of their sins.’

“The above quotation, he said, was erroneous, and added: ‘I command you in the name of God to erase those words, that no priestcraft be amongst us!’

“I immediately wrote to him in reply, in which I asked him by what authority he took upon him to command me to alter or erase, to add to or diminish from, a revelation or commandment from Almighty God.

“A few days afterwards I visited him and Mr. Whitmer’s family, when I found the family in general of his opinion concerning the words above quoted, and it was not without both labor and perseverance that I could prevail with any of them to reason calmly on the subject. However, Christian Whitmer at length became convinced that the sentence was reasonable, and according to Scripture; and finally, with his assistance, I succeeded in bringing, not only the Whitmer family, but also Oliver Cowdery to acknowledge that they had been in error, and that the sentence in dispute was in accordance with the rest of the commandment.”1

Joseph returned to Harmony, Pennsylvania after this event, but the persecution there was getting much worse. Peter Whitmer, Sr., invited him and Emma to live with him in Fayette, New York. Newel Knight took his wagon from Colesville to Harmony to move the Family. They arrived at Fayette during the last week of August, 1830 “amidst the congratulations of our brethren and friends.” But all was not well with regard to following the prophet.

The Prophet Joseph Smith said:

“To our great grief, however, we soon found that Satan had been lying in wait to deceive, and seeking whom he might devour. Brother Hiram Page had in his possession a certain stone, by which he had obtained certain “revelations” concerning the upbuilding of Zion, the order of the Church, etc., all of which were entirely at variance with the order of God’s house, as laid down in the New Testament, as well as in our late revelations. As a conference meeting had been appointed for the 26th day of September, I thought it wisdom not to do much more than to converse with the brethren on the subject, until the conference should meet. Finding, however, that many especially the Whitmer family and Oliver Cowdery, were believing much in the things set forth by this stone, we thought best to inquire of the Lord concerning so important a matter; and before conference, we received the following.”2

Newel Knight said, “[Page] had managed to get up some discussions of feeling among the brethren by giving revelations concerning the government of the Church and other matters, which he claimed to have received through the medium of a stone he possessed. . . .  Even Oliver Cowdery and the Whitmer family had given heed to them. . . .  Joseph was perplexed and scarcely knew how to meet this new exigency. That night I occupied the same room that he did and the greater part of the night was spent in prayer and supplication. After much labor with these brethren they were convinced of their error, and confessed the same, renouncing [Page’s] revelations as not being of God.”3

Section 28 was then received and recorded. And in it, the Lord made clear that only Joseph Smith (and his successors) were authorized to receive revelations for the Church (D&C 28:1–8). Only Joseph was authorized to receive revelations for the Church.

The Prophet Joseph Smith said, “I will inform you that it is contrary to the economy of God for any member of the Church, or anyone, to receive instructions for those in authority, higher than themselves; therefore, you will see the impropriety of giving heed to them; but if any person have a vision or a visitation from a heavenly messenger, it must be for his own benefit and instruction, for the fundamental principles, government, and doctrine of the church are vested in the keys of the kingdom.”4

They held a conference at Fayette on September 26, 1830, and settled the issue for at last a while. Joseph presided (vv. 9-10). Oliver Cowdery was to speak privately with Hiram Page and settle things (vv. 11-14). Hiram Page’s revelation was discussed.

The Prophet Joseph Smith said, “The subject of the stone previously mentioned was discussed, and after considerable investigation, Brother Page, as well as the whole Church who were present, renounced the said stone, and all things connected therewith, much to our mutual satisfaction and happiness.”5

The Spirit of the Lord was strongly felt at the conference and with unity once again restored, several new revelations were given.

Ancient and Latter-day Scriptures Have Come Through Joseph Smith

The Lord told Moses in his day that “in a day when the children of men shall esteem my words as naught and take many of them from the book which thou shalt write, behold, I will raise up another like unto thee; and they shall be had again among the children of men—among as many as shall believe” (Moses 1:40-41).

We are seeing this prophecy literally fulfilled in our day. All of the following “words of the Lord” were restored through Joseph Smith:
—    The Book of Mormon
—    The Doctrine and Covenants
—    The Pearl of Great Price
—    The Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible

LeGrand Richards said, “As far as our records show, he has given us more revealed truth than any prophet who has ever lived upon the face of the earth.”6

The Book of Mormon

The Lord told Joseph in Egypt that in the latter days “a seer will I raise up out of the fruit of thy loins; and unto him will I give power to bring forth my word unto the seed of thy loins—and not to the bringing forth my word only, saith the Lord, but to the convincing them of my word, which shall have already gone forth among them” (2 Nephi 3:11).

This prophecy has reference to the Book of Mormon, which will also convince people of the truthfulness of the Bible. Together, they will “confound . . . false doctrines and lay . . . down . . . contentions, and . . . establish . . . peace among the fruit of thy loins, and bring . . . them to the knowledge of their fathers in the latter days, and also to the knowledge of my covenants, saith the Lord” (v. 12). The ancient prophet Joseph predicted that this latter day prophet’s “name shall be called after me; and it shall be after the name of his father.  And he shall be like unto me; for the thing, which the Lord shall bring forth by his hand, by the power of the Lord shall bring my people unto salvation” (v. 15).

The Doctrine and Covenants

From 1823 to 1831, Joseph Smith received more than 60 revelations from the Lord. These were circulated via handwritten copies but were not generally available to all members of the Church until late 1831, when Church leaders decided to publish the revelations in a volume called the Book of Commandments. As the volume continued to grow with 45 new revelations, it became known as the Doctrine and Covenants.

Thus, more than 100 new revelations from God were given to His people through the Prophet Joseph Smith—an astounding volume of God’s word unlike anything else published elsewhere in scripture.

The Pearl of Great Price

The Pearl of Great Price is only 61 pages long, but its contents span the eternities, from the Grand Council in Heaven, through the creation, the fall of Adam and Eve, and the Atonement, to the restoration of the gospel in our day, to the Savior’s Second Coming, the Millennium, and our eventual everlasting life. It contains the writings of Enoch, Abraham, Moses, Joseph of Egypt, the Lord during His mortal ministry, and the history of the Restoration through Joseph Smith. It ends with a declaration of our beliefs in the form of the Articles of Faith. And all of it, in its present form, came to us through Joseph Smith.

The Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible

Soon after the Church was restored, the Lord instructed the Prophet Joseph to begin making inspired corrections to the King James Version of the Bible (D&C 35:20; 37:1; 45:60-61; 73:3-4; 93:53). This had two purposes:

—It became a personal study program for the Prophet Joseph Smith. As he read the Bible in depth, he learned much about the Lord’s dealings with His people in ancient times. This added depth and perspective to the new things he was receiving by revelation in our time.

—It provided the catalyst for the receipt of many new revelations. As Joseph would read the Bible and wonder about its teachings, he would take the matter to the Lord in prayer. In response, the Lord would reveal to him the fulness of the truth concerning those teachings. For example, the vision of the degrees of glory was received after Joseph had read John’s writings concerning “many mansions” in heaven and also two resurrections—one for the righteous and the other for the wicked.

Joseph Smith’s corrections to the Bible were not what we would normally call a “translation.” He did not translated from any ancient record or script. Rather, he was guided to make corrections to certain passages and to restore passages that had been lost completely. It was an inspired revision rather than a pure translation.

Doctrines Restored Through Joseph Smith

The chart on page 74 of the “Come, Follow Me” manual highlights some of the doctrines of the gospel that were restored or clarified through the Prophet Joseph Smith. It is important to review these doctrines and think about how important they are to us personally today.

Subject                                Scriptures in                         Scriptures Given through
the Bible                             Joseph Smith

Physical nature of             Matthew 3:16-17                  Joseph Smith–History 1:17;
the Godhead                      John 4:24; Acts 7:55                     D&C 130:1, 22

Our creation in                 Genesis 1:27                           Moses 6:8-9
God’s image

Apostles & prophets          Ephesians 2:20; 4:11-16    D&C 107:23, 33, 35, 39, 58;

Melchizedek Priesthood   Hebrews 6:20; 7:17            D&C 84:19-25; 107:1-8, 18-19

Aaronic Priesthood            Hebrews 7:11                       D&C 13; 84:18, 26-27, 30;
107:1, 13—14, 20

Mode of baptism                Matthew 3:16                       3 Nephi 11:22-26; Moroni 8:8-12;
D&C 20:71-74

The gift of the                      Acts 8:17                              D&C 20:41, 43; 35:6; 121:46
Holy Ghost

Premortal existence            Jeremiah 1:4-5                  D&C 93:29; Abraham 3:22-26

Baptism for the dead          1 Corinthians 15:29          D&C 128:16-18

Resurrection                        Job 19:25-26                      Alma 11:42—45
John 5:28-29
1 Corinthians 15:22

Three kingdoms of glory   1 Corinthians 15:40-42    D&C 76:50—112; 131:1

Eternal marriage                Genesis 2:24                       D&C 131:1-4; 132:19
1 Corinthians 11:11

Our potential to become    Romans 8:17                    D&C 88:107; 93:20;
like Heavenly Father                                                                   132:20-24

When we consider the sheer volume of revealed and inspired writings we have received through Joseph Smith, we should be both amazed and thankful. And we should also know that the process of the Lord revealing His will through His prophets did not end with Joseph Smithy’s death. Many important revelations have been received by each of our prophets—some published and others remaining privately among the First Presidency’s records.

One thing is for sure: If the Lord has something to say to His people in the latter days, He will say it through His anointed and living prophet. For we have always, and will continue to have, the Lord’s word and will through him.

1.  History of the Church, 1:105.
2.  History of the Church, 1:108–110.
3.  Lyndon W. Cook, The Revelations of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 39–40.
4.  History of the Church, 1:338.
5.  History of the Church, 115.
6.  In Conference Report, Apt 1981, 43; or Ensign, May 1981, 33.

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