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THE DOCTRINE AND COVENANTS
On September 24, 1834, a committee composed, of Joseph Smith, Jr., Oliver Cowdery, Sidney Rigdon, and Frederick G. Williams was appointed by a general assembly of the church to "arrange the items of Doctrine of Jesus Christ for the government of the church of the Latter Day Saints, which church was organized and commenced its rise on the 6th day of April, 1830. These items are to be taken from the Bible, Book of Mormon, and the revelations which have been given to the church up to this date, or shall be until such arrangement is made."
After working faithfully upon this task until August 17, 1835, the committee announced that their work was ready to present to the people, and another general assembly was called. All the priesthood present in Kirtland were organized and sat with their especial orders. When the assembly was seated, The Book of Doctrine and Covenants was presented to the body by Oliver Cowdery, a member of the First Presidency and also of the committee. He was followed by Sidney Rigdon, who explained how they intended to get the vote of the assembly upon the book.
W. W. Phelps bore record to the truth of the book, followed by John Whitmer and John Smith, president of the high council in Kirtland. The high council in Kirtland then ratified it by unanimous vote. Like procedure was followed by Levi Jackman, president of the high council in Missouri. The written testimony and unanimous vote of the Twelve was read, as they were absent in the East engaged in the work of setting in order the various churches. Elder Leonard Rich, president of Seventy, spoke, and the Council of Seventy accepted and acknowledged its truth. Bishop Whitney of Kirtland and his counselors, Acting Bishop John Corrill and his counselors, John Gould, president of Quorum of Elders and the elders, Ira Ames and the priests, Erastus Babbitt and the teachers, William Burgess for the deacons added similar testimony. The book was then accepted by the whole congregation.
If there were any objections they were not recorded.
At the time of the general assembly Joseph Smith and Frederick G. Williams of the First Presidency were away from Kirtland on a mission, and the Twelve were busy organizing the local branches into districts throughout the Eastern States and Eastern Canada. They were fully informed of what was happening, however, and joined with the other two members of the committee of compilation in signing the following testimony:
To the Members of the Church of the Latter Day Saints; Dear Brethren: We deem it to be unnecessary to entertain you with a lengthy preface to the following volume, but merely to say that it contains, in short, the leading items of the religion which we have professed to believe.
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 second part contains items or principles for the regulation of the church, as taken from the revelations which have been given since its organization, as well as from former ones.
There may be an aversion in the minds of some against receiving anything purporting to be articles of religious faith, in consequence of there being so many now extant; but if men believe a system, and profess that it was given by inspiration, certainly the more intelligibly they can present it, the better. It does not make a principle untrue to print it, neither does it make it true not to print it.
The church viewing this subject to be of importance, appointed, through their servants and delegates, the High Council, your servants, to select and compile this work. Several reasons might be adduced in favor of this move of the Council, but we add only a few words. They knew that the church was evil spoken of in many places--its faith and belief misrepresented, and the way of truth thus subverted. By some it was represented as disbelieving the Bible, by others as being an enemy to all good order and uprightness, and by others as being injurious to the peace of all government, civil and political.
We have, therefore, endeavored to present, though in few words, our belief, and when we say this, humbly trust, the faith and principles of this society as a body.
We do not present this little volume with any other expectation than that we are to be called to answer to every principle advanced, in that day when the secrets of all hearts will be revealed, and the reward to every man's labor be given him.
With sentiments of esteem and sincere respect, we subscribe ourselves,
Your brethren in the bonds of the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ,
Joseph Smith, Junior,
F. G. Williams.1
Kirtland, Ohio, February 17, 1835.
The written testimony of the Quorum of Twelve appears in Doctrine and Covenants 108A: 5, and is as follows:
The testimony of the witnesses to the book of the Lord's commandments, which he gave to his church through Joseph Smith, Junior, who was appointed by the voice of the church for this purpose: We therefore feel willing to bear testimony to all the world of mankind, to every creature upon the face of all the earth, and upon the islands of the sea, that the Lord has borne record to our souls, through the Holy Ghost shed forth upon us, that these commandments were given by inspiration of God, and are profitable for all men, and are verily true. We give this testimony unto the world, the Lord being our helper: and it is through the grace of God, the Father, and his Son Jesus Christ, that we are permitted to have this privilege of bearing this testimony unto the world, in the which we rejoice exceedingly, praying the Lord always that the children of men may be profited thereby.
A further testimony, giving light on the attitude of the early men toward the revelations, is that of John Whitmer, historian of the church and intimately connected with both the Book of Commandments and the Doctrine and Covenants. In his "address" when leaving the editorial chair of the Messenger and Advocate, in March, 1836, after bearing testimony to the Book of Mormon, he adds:
I would do injustice to my own feelings if I did not here notice still further the work of the Lord in these last days: The revelations and commandments given to us are, in my estimation, equally true with the Book of Mormon, and equally necessary for salvation, it is necessary to live by every word that proceedeth from the mouth of God; and I know that the Bible Book of Mormon, and book of Doctrine and Covenants of the Church of Christ of Latter Day Saints contain the revealed will of heaven. I further know that God will continue to reveal himself to his church and people, until he has gathered his elect into his fold, and prepared them to dwell in his presence.2
This book, now having the endorsement of the entire church, superseded the Book of Commandments and became one of the standard books of the church. Additions have been made from time to time.
1 Church History, page 578.
2 Messenger and Advocate, Volume 2, page 287.
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