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Literature / Doctrine and Covenants

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Since Mormonism was founded on the principle of living prophets and continuing revelation, it has an open scriptural canon. The revelations and inspired writings of the Prophet Joseph Smith and his accepted successors are compiled in the Doctrine and Covenants (D&C). Unlike The Bible and The Book of Mormon, which are considered the Word of God translated from ancient records, these writings are considered God's word to his people in modern times.


The LDS version is online here here. Most of the RLDS (Community of Christ) version can be found here (section 165 can be found here).

Section numbers and verses refer to the LDS edition of the Doctrine and Covenants, unless otherwise noted.

Tropes in the Doctrine and Covenants:

  • Archangel Michael: In D&C 107:54, it's revealed that Adam is Michael the archangel.
  • Canon Discontinuity:
    • The Lectures on Faith were removed from the Doctrine and Covenants in 1921. The modern LDS edition says that they were omitted "because they were not given or presented as revelations to the whole Church."
    • Some Mormon denominations reject certain sections of the LDS edition because they believe they weren't inspired or written by Joseph Smith. For example, the LDS Church omitted a verse in D&C 101 affirming monogamy because it was believed to have been written by Oliver Cowdery; and the Community of Christ rejects the teachings on plural marriage in LDS D&C 132. Also, the Cutlerites continued following the Law of Consecration and believe the sections on tithing weren't written by Joseph Smith.
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    • Following the Succession Crisis after Joseph Smith's death, the canon of the D&C was also fractured. For example, the LDS D&C has 132 sections and two official proclamations, while the Community of Christ's D&C has 165 sections.
  • Deity of Human Origin: Those who are married by God's authority and remain faithful are promised that someday they will "be gods, because they have no end... because they have all power, and the angels are subject unto them."
  • Despair Event Horizon: While Joseph Smith was in Liberty Jail, he prays to know why God has seemingly left him. God responds by giving some comfort, saying he is "not yet as Job" and that all his trials will be for his benefit (see Sections 121 & 122).
  • Fallen Angel: How Lucifer became Satan, as described in D&C 76:26-28.
  • Fate Worse than Death: The Lord says that, for the Sons of Perdition, it would've been better they'd never been born (D&C 76:32).
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  • Handshake Refusal: One of the three grand keys for dealing with ministering angels and spirits in D&C 129 is that if you offer to shake the hand of a righteous spirit, he will refuse "because it is contrary to the order of heaven for a just man to deceive".
  • Hell Invades Heaven: Inverted in Joseph F. Smith's vision in Section 138. He sees Christ organizing the spirits in paradise to preach the gospel to those in spirit prison.
  • Holy City:
    • Independence, Missouri is designated the City of Zion (D&C 57:1-2).
    • Nauvoo, Illinois becomes important as a gathering place for the Saints after they're kicked out of Missouri.
  • I Have Many Names: Section 19 explains that "endless" and "eternal" are names of God, so when the scriptures say "endless punishment" or "eternal punishment" they're actually talking about God's punishment (not that the punishment has no end).
  • It's the Journey That Counts:
    • The background to Section 111 is that the Church is cash-strapped and its leaders hear there's money in Salem, Massachusetts. However, when Joseph Smith and other church leaders get there, they find nothing. The Lord tells them to get acquainted with the people of Salem because "there are more treasures than one for you in this city," meaning their treasure was actually the people they met in Salem. (That said, the wording of the section - "not displeased with your coming this journey, notwithstanding your follies" - does suggest that getting value from the journey is simply making the best of a non-ideal situation.)
    • This is the purpose of Zion's Camp in Section 105, at least according to an LDS Church-produced film on the expedition.
  • Lets See You Do Better: When Joseph Smith's revelations were first published, some people criticized the language. Section 67 is given as a response to these criticisms.
    [...] if there be any among you that shall make one like unto it, then ye are justified in saying that ye do not know that they are true;
  • Marry Them All: In Section 132, the Lord explains that the ancient prophets like Abraham, Moses, and Solomon were justified in taking multiple wives because He commanded them to do so. God then gives the same commandment to Joseph Smith.
  • Mystical White Hair: Christ has white hair, according to a vision Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery had in D&C 110:3.
  • Our Angels Are Different: Section 132 indicates that people who are generally righteous, but not married (or, at least, didn't have their marriages "sealed" by God's authority), become angels instead of gods.
  • Preacher Man: Joseph Smith.
  • The Punishment: Most of the Sons of Perdition are resurrected like everyone else, but they're cast out of God's presence with Satan and his angels.
  • Rule of Three:
    • Section 76 explains that there are three kingdoms in the resurrection, the Telestial Kingdom, the Terrestrial Kingdom, and the Celestial Kingdom, whose glory can be compared to the stars, the moon, and the sun (respectively).
    • Section 131 suggests that the Celestial Kingdom itself has its own three sub-degrees of glory.
  • Sacred Scripture: Defined in D&C 68:4:
    And whatsoever they shall speak when moved upon by the Holy Ghost shall be scripture, shall be the will of the Lord, shall be the mind of the Lord, shall be the word of the Lord, shall be the voice of the Lord, and the power of God unto salvation.
  • Something Completely Different: Section 113 uses a Question and Answer format.
  • Take That!: Section 49 is a direct refutation of Shaker beliefs.
  • Time for Plan B: After Martin Harris loses 116 pages of the Book of Mormon manuscript, the Lord instructs Joseph Smith not to re-translate this portion because it's a trap. Instead, He instructs Joseph to translate the Plates of Nephi.
  • Together in Death: The Doctrine and Covenants introduces the doctrine of eternal families. Following the deaths of Joseph and Hyrum Smith, John Taylor writes, "...In life they were not divided, and in death they were not separated!" (D&C 135:3).
  • Wham Episode: Section 110 starts with Jesus appearing to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery. Moses appears to them and gives them the authority to gather Israel and lead the ten tribes, and Elias promises that they will have the blessing promised to Abraham's children. Finally, Elijah gives them the sealing power, fulfilling the prophecy in Malachi 4:5-6, and paving the way for temple work.

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