Podcast #5 is about Lectures on Faith and how it was taken out of the Doctrine and Covenants. You can listen to it here
Many people assume that the 1835 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants was simply an updated version of the 1833 Book of Commandments. They assume it was a newer, more complete canon of scriptures. It is also believed by some, that the Lectures on Faith that was originally the “doctrine” portion of the doctrine and Covenants should never have been canonized and that the doctrines contained therein, are not entirely correct.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
I have written several articles differentiating the two canons of scripture and explaining how the historical context had drastically changed in just a few years requiring Joseph Smith to change the content of some revelations significantly.
While preparing for the above mentioned podcast, I read for the first time in recent years, the minutes of the church conference in which the First Presidency, composed of Joseph, Sidney, Oliver and Frederick, were commissioned by the church and the high council to compile and prepare what became the Doctrine and Covenants. The account blew my mind and answered some very important questions for me.
Furthermore, because of an email from a very astute person that listened to the podcast, I have been able to connect a few more dots for myself in my never ending quest to better understand God’s work through the prophet Joseph Smith.
Book of Commandments vs. Doctrine and Covenants
The Book of Commandments was written for the “Church of Christ” which was composed primarily of believing gentiles from the tribe of Joseph. It was composed of selected revelations that Joseph Smith received and the primary purpose was to highlight the COMMANDMENTS that had been to the saints including the law of the church and the law of marriage (currently section 42) the and the law of Consecration. It was written during the 3 1/2 years that the fulness of the Gospel was on the earth.
Conversely, the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants was written to the “Church of the Latter day Saints” which was on the crest of taking the knowledge of the gospel to the “dispersed of Judah” and the “outcasts of Israel” which would radically change the tribal demographic of the church membership.
The name of Christ had been taken out of the name of the Church by the time the Doctrine and Covenants had been published because of the transgression of the saints.
The Doctrine and Covenants was arranged for publication just as the restored church was beginning to take God’s word lightly and come under condemnation. Shortly after that, God would declare that the saints had collectively broken the covenant of consecration and would not be allowed to live the laws of Zion for a little season which would last for four generations.
God declared that the little season would be a time of chastisement and learning for the saints.
Because of God’s infinite foreknowledge of the events that would be taking place in the near future, the Lord inspired the leaders of the church to present and clarify doctrine that can teach the saints very important principles to overcome the stumbling blocks that prevented them from living the law of consecration and establishing Zion.
These items of doctrine contained in the Lectures on Faith have the capacity to prepare the hearts and minds of the saints for when the light of the fulness shines forth again if they study and believe them.
The real story behind the creation of the Doctrine and Covenants and the Lectures on Faith has been obscured and greatly misunderstood.
It has been shrouded in mystery, misinformation and confusion. In the podcast, we attempt to shed some light on this historical and doctrinal narrative through the lens of modern revelation and the true history of the church to show just how profound revelatory they are.
Regarding the truthfulness and significance of the Lectures on Faith, I agree with Bruce R McConkie who said-
In my judgment, it is the most comprehensive, inspired utterance that now exists in the English language – that exists in one place defining, interpreting, expounding, announcing, and testifying what kind of being God is. It was written by the power of the Holy Ghost, by the spirit of inspiration. It is, in effect, eternal scripture; it is true. Bruce McConkie (See also D&C 68 when God’s servants speak by the Holy Ghost it is scripture)
Sadly, some LDS apologists don’t feel that the Lectures are inspired, and therefore they have tried to destroy the credibility of the Lectures.
In recent years, it has been proven that Sidney Rigdon is the primary contributor of the first presidency in writing them and also in teaching the Lectures on Faith in the school of the Elders. Since character assassination has been employed by some historians from the time of Brigham Young to the present, most Mormons think that Sidney was a heretic so they have used Sidney’s involvement to discredit the Lectures.
That argument holds little water since Sidney had been appointed by the Lord to write for Joseph when he received revelations and to prove the revelations coming through Joseph using the words of the holy prophets in the scriptures:
And a commandment I give unto thee—that thou shalt write for him; and the scriptures shall be given, even as they are in mine own bosom, to the salvation of mine own elect.. thou shalt preach my gospel and call on the holy prophets to prove his words, as they shall be given him.
As the resident scriptural scholar in the restoration movement, it made perfect sense for the Lord to give Sidney that assignment. Further, Sidney had been given the keys of the school of the prophets. The Lord had given Sidney and Frederick the assignment to teach and prepare the missionaries for the ministry. Who else would be more likely and more qualified to write the doctrine portion of the doctrine and Covenants in conjunction with the other members of the First Presidency?
One of the real reasons that the church expunged the Doctrine portion of the Doctrine and Covenants from the canon in 1921, is because it conflicted with some of the revelations that Brigham Young later incorporated into that canon of scripture in 1870’s.
Perhaps one of the most controversial things in it is the description of the godhead and the nature and character of God. It teaches that the Father is a personage of spirit and that the Son is a personage of tabernacle and the Holy Ghost is not a personage at all, rather it is the mind of God. The teachings that Brigham Young inserted erroneously proclaimed that the Father has a body of flesh and bone and that the Holy Ghost was a personage of spirit.
Noel Reynolds, anLDS apologist has publicly stated that Joseph Smith had nothing to do with the Lectures on Faith-
“There’s actually no historical evidence that Joseph ever looked at them or touched them.”
He implies that Sidney Rigdon pulled a fast one on Joseph Smith by placing them in the Doctrine and Covenants while Joseph Smith was out of town.
When you finish this article you will realize that is a silly and nonsensical declaration.
To begin with, Joseph Smith and his brethren of the First Presidency had been commissioned by the church and high council to create what is now referred to as the Lectures on Faith a full year prior to it’s publication.
For that reason, Joseph had to have had an intimate understanding and involvement in the preparation of the document. That is probably why he felt comfortable being out of town on business during the general assembly in which the work was sustained and voted on by all of the priesthood quorums and by the entire the church.
Secondly, the original preface to the Book of Commandments had a written testimony of the truthfulness of the work over the signatures of Joseph Smith and his brethren showing that Joseph was familiar with it and endorsed it, if not one of the contributors of it. Members of the First Presidency would never insert Joseph’s signature without his permission. It would have been obvious that Joseph would notice it when reading the canon of scripture.
Thirdly, Joseph lived for nine years after the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants was published and he certainly would have noticed that the Lectures, and his signature under the testimony and endorsement had been put in there without his approval. He would have corrected the problem if in fact they are heretical and should not have been canonized.
Fourthly, the Doctrine and Covenants was published a second time during Joseph’s ministry under his direction, and he left the doctrine portion of the Doctrine and Covenants in it. He never said anything derogatory about them.
One of the things that I became aware of in preparing for this podcast is that the terms “School of the Prophets” and “School of the Elders” were not interchangeable. They referred to two very different theological schools that were held at different times for different reasons. It is often said that the Lectures were prepared for the school of the Prophets.
That is not correct.
Those principles in Lectures on Faith were no doubt understood by those participants in that first school of the Prophet, but it was actually the school of the Elders in which the Lectures were prepared and taught.
-School of Prophets vs School of Elders
School of the prophets took place in early 1833. It was commissioned by the Lord in section 88 and addressed again in section 90. (school began in early 1833 about one year after the vision in section 76…. Feb 16 1832 )
Only the “first elders” who were clean from the blood and sins of that generation were allowed to participate.
The purpose of the school was to prepare the high priests who will go forth in power for the last time in the 3rd watch.
Interestingly, those “First Elders” that were participating in the school of the prophets that began in March 8, 1833, were told that they did not need to continue laboring in the mission field at that time.
Yet he made it clear that those elders that had not yet been cleansed from the blood and sins of that generation, to continue in their missionary labors until further notified.
“ Therefore, tarry ye, and labor diligently, that you may be perfected in your ministry to go forth among the Gentiles for the last time, as many as the mouth of the Lord shall name, to bind up the law and seal up the testimony, and to prepare the saints for the hour of judgment which is to come;
That their souls may escape the wrath of God, the desolation of abomination which awaits the wicked, both in this world and in the world to come. Verily, I say unto you, let those who are not the first elders continue in the vineyard until the mouth of the Lord shall call them, for their time is not yet come; their garments are not clean from the blood of this generation.;
And ye shall not receive any among you into this school save he is clean from the blood of this generation..”
The School of the Prophets was a very exclusive and small group of probably about 25 high priest/prophets. they practiced the missionary ordinance of washing of feet to become clean.
They were told that the physical location of their school would ultimately be held in the Kirtland temple and that they would receive an endowment of power in a solemn assembly to take the everlasting gospel into all the world. Naturally, many thought that the upcoming solemn assembly would be the one, however we now know that it will take place at a future time. The school of the Prophets took place January through April, 1833 (Millenial Star 14:358)
The School of the Elders did not begin until late 1834 just as the saints were being downgraded and ultimately told that they were under condemnation.
As many as 400 men and some women attended these meetings.
You did not need to be a high priest or a prophet to attend that school, nor did you need to be clean from the blood and sins of that generation. The school of the elders did not practice the ordinance of washing of feet because they would be performing their missionary labors during the interim time when the fulness would not be on the earth.
These classes were held two times. Once in November 1834 to March 1835, and a second time from November 1835 through March 1836
This explains why Joseph, Sidney, Oliver and Frederick were not sent as missionaries across the great waters when the new wave of missionary work was commissioned in section 118.
They had been cleansed and prepared for a very different mission than the rest of the elders. They were being held in reserve for the second part of their ministry in the 3rd watch when they will go forth in power. During the School of the Prophets they were visited by the Father and the Son.
Zebedee Coltrin was a member of the school of the prophets and he told how the Father and Son made an appearance and was seen by himself and others and he describes the Father and the Son the same way that Lectures on Faith describes them with the Son being a personage of tabernacle, even wearing clothing while the Father was a spirit personage that was surrounded with a consuming flame of fire.
It was the quorum of the Twelve Apostles that would tarry in the vineyard and conduct the next preliminary missionary work despite the fact that they were not yet cleansed from the blood and sins of that generation..
One of the things that blew my mind as I was doing research for this podcast was that in the September 24, 1834 General Assembly of the church, the following commission was given to the First Presidency of the Church which was composed of Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon, Oliver Cowdery, and Frederick G. Williams. They were to-
..arrange the items of doctrine of Jesus Christ, for the government of his church of the Latter Day Saints, These items are to be taken from the bible, book of Mormon, and the revelations which have been given to said church up to this date, or shall be until such arrangement is made.
Did you catch that?
The primary essence of the assignment given to the First Presidency was for something further to be written by these brethren. These brethren were to arrange items of doctrine for further clarification and they were to prove the doctrinal suppositions from the Bible, Book of Mormon and the new revelations that had come through Joseph!
Nothing was said about updating the Book of Commandments.
In fact, nothing was expressly said about canonizing a new set of scriptures per se.
The primary emphasis in the commission given to the First Presidency was not to compile the revelations into a canon of scripture. It was to write an inspired thesis on the doctrine of Christ. The inspired thesis was to be backed up by the existing canons of scripture and the new revelations that Joseph had received.
That is exactly what the Lectures on Faith is.
Once you realize this information, you realize just how seriously wrong it was to separate the doctrine portion of the Doctrine and Covenants from the covenants portion of the Doctrine and Covenants, because the doctrine contained in the Lectures on Faith was the primary purpose of the commission.
Compare the wording between the commission and the preface on the finished work.
The Commission to Create the Lectures
to **arrange** the items of **doctrine of Jesus Christ**, for the government of his church of the Latter Day Saints, These items are to be taken from the bible, book of Mormon, and the revelations which have been given to said church up to this date, or shall be until such arrangement is made
The Preface of the Lectures
“The first part of the book will be found to contain a series of Lectures as delivered before a Theological class in this place, and in consequence of their embracing the important **doctrine of salvation**, we have **arranged** them into the following work.
The above description of arranging items of doctrine of Jesus Christ and doctrine of salvation from the scriptures is a perfect description of what became known as the Lectures on Faith in conjunction with the scriptures which contain the covenants of the Gospel! Lectures employs countless references from the scriptures to support the suppositions being presented.
The link to the joseph smith papers to view the minutes of the general assembly for this historical item is here-
The term “items” is referring to a written description of the doctrine of Jesus Christ based on the written word of God in the scriptures.
Hopefully you are experiencing a paradigm change like I did.
Lectures on Faith was a specific response to a specific commission to write additional items of doctrine based on the scriptures.
In part two of this series I will share with you an astounding observation that one of my readers shared with me about the commission to write additional clarifications about the doctrine of salvation which incorporates the doctrine of Christ.
In the mean time, I encourage you to listen to the podcast.