Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Gospel Doctrine Lesson 14: Revelation by Committee

Section 42 of the Doctrine & Covenants is a fulfillment of the Lord’s promise to give the newly restored church his “Law.” It was revealed to Joseph Smith in the presence of twelve elders of the Church. According to Steven C. Harper, author of “Making Sense of the Doctrine & Covenants,” (Deseret Book, 2008) ("Making Sense"), section 42 is actually a series of revelations (most of which end with “Amen”), which were then compiled into a cohesive document. What’s more, the earliest manuscripts of the revelation(s) contain questions that were posed to the Lord, whose answers constitute the reveled text. The questions were subsequently removed prior to printing.

It is interesting to know the questions that led to Section 42. Verses 1-10 answer the question, “Shall the Church come together into one place or remain as they are in separate bodies?” Verses 11-69 answer the question, “What is the Law regulating the Church in her present situation till the time of her gathering?” Verses 70-73 describe the obligations of priesthood leaders to their families while serving in the Church. The rest of section 42 was actually received two weeks after the preceding verses and directs Church leaders how to act according to some parts of the revealed law. See “Making Sense” at 140.

Does knowing the specific questions posed by the early Church leaders change your understanding of section 42? How? It sounds like this revelation was received by Joseph Smith responding on behalf of the Lord to the questions of a committee of Church members. What do you think of this mode of revelation?

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