The Doctrine and Covenants is an invitation to all people everywhere to come unto Christ. In the revelations of this book “one hears the tender but firm voice of the Lord Jesus Christ,” inviting all to come unto Him “preparatory to his second coming.
The Lord Jesus Christ Himself speaks to us in the Doctrine and Covenants. The great majority of the words in this book are His own, and in those words are instructions on how to prepare to come into His presence. For this reason, the Doctrine and Covenants is “of far more worth than the riches of the whole earth.”
Prepare Ye, Prepare Ye for That Which Is to Come
This lesson is about the purpose of the Doctrine and Covenants as revealed in Section 1, which the Lord Himself calls “my preface unto the book of my commandments” (1:6). Section 1 was given by revelation to a priesthood conference held in Hiram , Ohio, on November 1, 1831. In this revelation, Jesus Christ explains that the purpose of the book is to help “all the inhabitants of the earth” to prepare to meet Him at His coming. The Doctrine and Covenants fulfills that purpose by teaching us the doctrine we need to know so that we may intelligently make saving and exalting covenants with the Father and the Son.
While the Book of Mormon invites us all to come unto Him, the Doctrine and Covenants announces that He is coming to us —each of us—and soon!
“Prepare ye, prepare ye for that which is to come, for the Lord is nigh,” He announces (1:12). By carefully learning the doctrine and abiding by the covenants of the Lord, we prepare ourselves to enter into His presence.
Hearken, O Ye People of My Church
To begin with, we are asked to listen carefully to “the voice of him who dwells on high.” This is the first step in preparing to meet the Savior. “Hearken, o ye people of my church. . . . hearken ye people from afar . . . listen together. For verily the voice of the Lord is unto all men” (1:1-2). The Lord is perfectly willing to make the path clear and to clear the path for us if we will only listen.
What are the consequences of a failure to listen to the Lord? “The rebellious shall be pierced with much sorrow,” He says. He reminds us by His choice of words that He was pierced for us on the cross; those who refuse to listen will find that they themselves must suffer as He did (D&C 19:16-18).
How shall we know what the Lord requires? “The voice of warning shall be unto all people, by the mouths of my disciples, whom I have chosen in these last days” (1:4). This principle cannot be emphasized too much if we are to prepare properly to enter the presence of the Lord. We are to heed strictly the counsel of prophets, seers, and revelators—the First Presidency and the Twelve—not just because they are good and wise men (which they certainly are) but primarily because they are called to be the mouthpieces of the Lord. “Behold, this is mine authority, and the authority of my servants . . . to them is power given to seal both on earth and in heaven” (1:6, 8). There are many sources of wisdom and enlightenment in the world, and we can profit from them, but only from the true messengers of God can we receive the guidance and sealing ordinances we need to come back into the holy presence.
Try an experiment. When you hear the living prophet speak, consider that you are listening to the very voice of God. Consider what it means to listen to that voice. Listen and do what is asked, and you will soon come to recognize the divine whisperings of the Lord Himself. There are far too many who critique, disagree with, or resist that voice—and yet it is the voice of the God of the Universe speaking to us: “Whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same” (1:38).
Those who resist that voice will be unprepared when the Lord comes, and there is a heavy price to pay. But if we pay strict heed to that voice, we will be prepared to enter the presence of the Lord.
Trust in the Arm of the Lord
Section 1 speaks of two kinds of trust, or faith: trust in the “arm of the Lord,” which represents His unlimited power (1:14) and trust in the “arm of flesh,” which represents the weak and limited power of man (1:19).
To trust in the “arm of flesh” is to have faith in something that is by its very nature untrustworthy. The “counsel of our fellow men,” no matter how well intentioned, is fatally limited (1:19). Each human being has “strayed from mine ordinances and broken mine everlasting covenant. They seek not the Lord to establish his righteousness, but every man walketh in his own way” (1:15-16).
By contrast, the first principle of the Gospel is faith in Jesus Christ, or trust in the “arm of the Lord.” “Thou hast with thine arm redeemed thy people,” declares Psalm 77:15. With His arm, the Lord will bring about perfect justice “on the day when the Lord shall come to recompense unto every man according to his work, and measure to every man according to the measure which he has measured to his fellow man” (1:10).
His absolute justice is absolutely trustworthy. Every sinful thought, every act of injustice, dishonesty, hate or lust will be answered, for “I the Lord cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance” (1:31). We could not trust a God who could not or would not require recompense for every violation of eternal law. The decrees of that law are perfectly fair and cannot be broken. “What I the Lord have decreed shall be fulfilled,” He says, “and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my words shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled” (1:7, 38).
The sobering doctrine here is that “the arm of the Lord shall be revealed,” and a day will come when “the wrath of God shall be poured out upon the wicked without measure” (1:9, 14). This immeasurable or eternal punishment must apply to every human soul, for “every man walketh in his own way”—everyone has sinned and come short of the requirements of the divine law (see Romans 3:23).
I Called Upon My Servant Joseph Smith
Because of this “calamity which should come upon the inhabitants of the earth,” the Lord “called upon my servant Joseph Smith, Jun.
, and spake unto him from heaven, and gave him commandments” (1:17). The calamity is the inevitability of judgment. We would all be lost—but the Lord came to Joseph Smith and restored to the earth the authority to prepare all those who will listen to avoid the calamity of judgment.
Why did the Lord call upon Joseph Smith?
- “That every man might speak in the name of God the Lord, even the Savior of the world” (1:20). In other words, every worthy man may hold the priesthood of God, which is the authority to speak and act in God’s name and to administer the saving ordinances of the Gospel.
- “That faith also might increase in the earth” (1:21). In an age when faith is rapidly draining from the hearts of people everywhere, the Latter-day Saints have renewed faith and hope to offer the world because God has spoken again to a prophet in our day.
- “That mine everlasting covenant might be established” (1:22). The everlasting covenant is the promise of God that, depending upon our faithfulness, He will take us into His presence so that we may enjoy eternal life and exaltation with Him. Because this covenant had been ruptured through transgression, it was necessary to restore and “establish” it anew.
- “That the fullness of my gospel might be proclaimed by the weak and the simple unto the ends of the earth” (1:23). We are to proclaim in every nation the gospel of Christ in its fullness. And what is the gospel? “He that repents and does the commandments of the Lord shall be forgiven” (1:32).
The calamity of the last judgment need not fall on us. Through the Atonement of the Savior, every single human soul may be exempted from judgment if he or she will only repent and keep the commandments. We can trust in the arm of the Savior to deliver us. Although the devil shall have power “over his own dominion” in the last days, the Lord Jesus Christ “shall have power over his saints, and shall reign in their midst, and shall come down in judgment upon Idumea, or the world” (1:36).
Search These Commandments
“Search these commandments,” the Lord says, “for they are true and faithful, and the prophecies and promises which are in them shall all be fulfilled” (1:37). This year we are invited to carry out this commandment of the Lord to “search” the commandments in the Doctrine and Covenants.
To search is to investigate, to explore, to thoroughly come to know the object of the search. The promises that the Lord makes to each of us in the pages of the Doctrine and Covenants are astounding: nothing less than to enjoy “from everlasting to everlasting” the gift of “eternal lives—to know the only wise and true God, and Jesus Christ, whom he hath sent” (D&C 132:20, 24). To qualify for such a blessing, let us search the book of Doctrine and Covenants with all our hearts and strive to live by its teaching.