Friday, March 6, 2009

Is He Talking to Me?

One of my ongoing challenges with the Doctrine & Covenants is trying to decide what, exactly, I am supposed to do with it. So many of the revelations, particularly the earlier ones, seem to be directed to specific individuals, facing specific situations. Section 25 is a perfect example. This revelation closes with the Lord telling Emma Smith, “[T]his is my voice unto all.” Yet, the section is a tangle of general admonitions to avoid pride and worldliness and keep the commandments, along with very specific directives that were clearly intended for Emma and her unique situation. She was told to support Joseph in his calling, act as his scribe and compile a hymn book. These were not instructions for “all”; they were personal instructions for her.

The challenge repeats itself over and over in the D&C. Many of the sections are in response to specific questions or directed to specific individuals. Yet they have become scripture, supposedly with broad - - even universal - - application. See D&C 1:38; 25:16. How do you interpret these revelations and decide what they really mean to us? Is it reasonable to conclude that Lord’s instructions to Oliver Cowdery on translating the gold plates are a pattern for how I seek answers to my prayers? Does the direction to Emma to support Joseph in his calling as a prophet and “rejoice in her husband, and the glory which shall come upon him” really have application to how I should treat my wife? What am I to make of the Lord’s instructions regarding whether specific missionaries were to travel by land or water?

I wonder if our attempts to "liken the scriptures unto ourselves" are sometimes a bit too superficial. Maybe Emma’s instruction to rejoice in her husband was more about accepting and embracing the challenges the Lord had given her. Maybe it teaches us more about submission and gratitude than about marriage and family relations. For me, that is the challenge of the Doctrine & Covenants - - trying to understand what the real message is for us. For that, I think we need to know the context and background, in addition to the words. We cannot always take things as they appear on the surface, but need to think and study and work at it. Realizing this makes me appreciate Joseph Smith all the more. Understanding revelation is hard work.

1 comment:

  1. I've often wondered why certain short sections containing a mission call were added to the D&C. It seems strange that the entire church would benefit from these personal revelations.


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