This volume contains history, revelations, letters, talks and documents of value because of the teachings, commandments, principles, precepts and truths they contain. Two references mention the Book of Covenants, the title used for the 1835 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants.
The contents of this volume are arranged chronologically. The first document is a history written in 1838 by Joseph Smith to replace an earlier history kept by John Whitmer. Whitmer was the church historian from 1831 until he was excommunicated from the church in 1838. He refused to return any of his history and so Joseph wrote a replacement.
Beginning in March 1842, Joseph Smith’s History was published in the Times and Seasons. A shorter version of that history has been included in the Latter-day Saint scripture volume Pearl of Great Price. This volume contains every bit of the History Joseph Smith published as editor of the Times and Seasons and revisions made by Joseph in the Manuscript History. It is followed by selected revelations, letters, talks and documents in chronological order to show how events unfolded.
A significant portion of the content is relevant to organizing and guiding an institution. That institution, almost immediately following the deaths of Joseph and Hyrum Smith, departed from the commandments and compromised institutional equality essential to avoiding abuse of authority. Organizational materials are preserved, not because they should guide us today, but as a lesson from the past about what did not achieve Zion.
Zion is the unrealized destiny of the restoration. These scriptures describe Zion as people who are “of one heart and one mind” with “no poor among them.” Equality is a difficult challenge under any circumstance, but impossible when society is tiered by a hierarchy. Bankers, lawyers, doctors and businessmen are well paid to control the wealthy LDS organization whose ranks include many impoverished tithe-payers. It is a model of inequality.
The early saints, led by Campbellite converts, clamored for a New Testament church. The Lord accommodated their demands and, like Samuel calling a king to preside over Israel when they rejected God as their King, Joseph Smith established a hierarchy with stratified governance and layers of priesthood leaders. It became a magisterium akin to Roman Catholicism. Like the corruption of Catholicism, the Mormon hierarchy also abused authority and, with blood and horror, coerced its isolated followers until a disgusted nation sent the Army to restore secular freedom.
Although church structure was established and church offices filled before 1839, the Lord then revolutionized governance in a revelation declaring, “No power or influence can, or ought, to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood.” God removed any right to command and control. In its place, Christ commanded His followers, even those who would lead, to use only persuasion, long-suffering, gentleness, meekness, love unfeigned, kindness and pure knowledge.
After Joseph and Hyrum Smith were murdered, one of the hierarchy’s councils, the twelve apostles, assumed complete control over the church and its property. Over time the insular, distant and increasingly wealthy members of the church’s top hierarchy strayed from the guidance, commandments and doctrine essential for believers to become of one heart, one mind and to have no poor among them.
The book of Leviticus is filled with instructions about how to offer sacrifices and observe rites under the Law of Moses. Christians have preserved Leviticus as scripture even though the Law of Moses was fulfilled by Christ. Likewise, the materials relating to a church hierarchy are included in this volume even though they hinder establishing Zion.
In known history, Zion has been accomplished twice: once in the time of Enoch and again at the time of Melchizedek. There is no scripture referring to a hierarchy among the people of Enoch or Melchizedek, both of whom are referred to as teachers. Because of the result achieved in Melchizedek’s time, his people called him a prince of peace or a king of righteousness. However, those were honorary descriptions given to him because of the result of his teaching, not because he was an actual monarch.
If people begin with an unequal foundation, they are unlikely to achieve an equal result. Therefore, although the institutional materials are included in this volume, they are, like Leviticus, relevant to understanding the past and not a guide on how to achieve Zion. Also, there are some principles, precepts and guidance included in many of the revelations that are relevant to guide people today. Leviticus contains important information even though it is primarily superseded law (Examples that remain relevant include: “I am the Lord, that bringeth you up out of the land of Egypt to be your God: ye shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.” Leviticus also prohibits incest, condemns homosexuality as an abomination, and commands “love thy neighbor as thyself”). There is also value in preserving the materials establishing a church hierarchy. Therefore, this volume contains materials that, like Leviticus, were once commandments, but are now only part of understanding history and helping us to understand what did not, has not, and cannot bring Zion.
Scripture references in the T&C are written as follows: All referencing prior to Section 156 leave the original references intact and add references to the Old Covenants and New Covenants in [square brackets]. All scripture references beginning at Section 156 assume these Restoration Edition scriptures unless otherwise indicated.