In General Conference- President Uchtdorf asked that we study the scriptures and handbooks and become experts on the doctrine of the priesthood. He told us this would help us to live up to our privileges as priesthood holders. He told us to start with Doctrine and Covenants chapters 20, 84, 107, and 121. In an effort to do that, I will be posting basic impressions I get from each of the four D&C sections he mentions, then further my study as time goes on. I’d love your thoughts and input as well.
Context- This was the original articles and covenants of the Church, prepared for the organization of the Church on April 6, 1830 (though not completed until later). The greatest current reading I am aware of for the context from which this revelation came is in BYU Studies 43:4 (2006)- having to do with how Oliver Cowdery put together a fore-runner to this document. It cannot be said Joseph used Oliver’s document (which he was commanded to prepare in another revelation) as the foundation of his revelation, as they are very different in several regards, but it can be said that Oliver provided revelatory input of his own from his previous revelation into the Articles and Covenants (As all evidence indicates that Oliver helped write D&C 20). I don’t have the Joseph Smith Papers to check what stance they take on this.
First, I am impressed at the simple and frank way the beginning of the church is put forth here. Joseph received the remission of his sins (what we refer to as the 1st vision) then he fell back into trouble, but finally received the work of bringing forth the Book of Mormon.
Second, it is important to note that the work of Christ is set forth here as sanctification and justification. I’ve posted on this before, here. Kent (MC) talked about it here. (Blake’s Comment here even points to this scripture). I know Mark D. has also discussed it, but I can’t recall where.
Third, as the fall is expounded, it is explained differently here than elsewhere. Here God commands that Adam and Eve “Love and Serve” but they transgress and so become sensual and devilish. How does this tie in with the fruit? How does this tie in with the “fall forward”? (Also, since it’s in the same breath, Man, created in the image of God, is here male and female. Geoff J and Erastus Snow smile knowingly…)
Fourth, since the objective here is the doctrine of the priesthood, it is important to note that this section, in regards to priesthood, is really a list of doings- lead meetings, administer the sacrament, baptize, visit members in their homes, exhort them to pray and fulfill family duties. (What family duties?) etc etc. It seems from this that the “doctrine of the priesthood” has more to do with praxis (doing the right things) than doxa (having the correct understanding).
The most interesting “doing” to me is captured in vs. 68- “The duty of the members after they are received by baptism.—The elders or priests are to have a sufficient time to expound all things concerning the church of Christ to their understanding, previous to their partaking of the sacrament and being confirmed by the laying on of the hands of the elders, so that all things may be done in order.” Are we giving sufficient time previous to partaking the sacrament and confirming a member, but after baptism that the elders/priests can expound all things concerning the church to the baptisan’s level of understanding(or, alternatively, so that the baptisan may understand)? I have seen many times when a person is confirmed at waters’ edge, only to never return to church. Should we take this scripture more seriously? How much time is a sufficient time? Do we forgo this because the lessons/discussions are taught before baptism?
Finally, as an FHE idea for my family, and since we have a 7 year old who will turn 8 in August, we are going to try to focus lessons on each requirement for baptism in Vs 37:
And again, by way of commandment to the church concerning the manner of baptism
1. All those who humble themselves before God
2. and desire to be baptized
3. and come forth with broken hearts and contrite spirits
4. and witness before the church that they have truly repented of all their sins
5. and are willing to take upon them the name of Jesus Christ
6. having a determination to serve him to the end
7. and truly manifest by their works that they have received of the Spirit of Christ unto the remission of their sins
shall be received by baptism into his church.