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Making Sense of the Doctrine & Covenants: A Guided Tour Through Modern Revelations Hardcover – October 15, 2008
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Have you struggled with understanding the Doctrine and Covenants? As a collection of separate and diverse texts, it can be rather daunting to study. After all, it is the only one of the standard works that does not tell its own story. Making Sense of the Doctrine and Covenants addresses this challenge in a creative new way. Rather than giving a verse-by-verse commentary, author Steven C. Harper takes readers on a guided tour through the revelations. Drawing on the earliest manuscripts of those revelations, he provides historically grounded insights into why each revelation was given, what it means, and why it matters. Chapters on every section of the Doctrine and Covenants begin by delving into the historical record to recreate the question or problem each revelation was given to resolve and end by showing readers the outcomes for individuals and the Church. Families and scholars alike will relish the depth and accessibility of Making Sense of the Doctrine and Covenants. It is an invaluable addition to any gospel library and a fascinating resource for anyone who wishes to become more closely acquainted with this marvelous book of scripture.
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For example, the law of consecration has never been rescinded and still applies to all the members of the church. Unfortunately, because of an editing error in the 1981 edition of our scriptures, many people mistakenly equate the law of consecration with the "United Order," which is actually the code name that Joseph Smith gave to the United Firm, a company created to unite the educational and publishing efforts of the church with the various operations the church had to care for the influx of poor converts gathering to Kirtland. When God disbanded the United Firm (which is called the United Order in our 1981 scriptures), He did not intend to end the law of consecration, but because many people today believe that the United Order is just another name for consecration, they believe that the law of consecration no longer applies to us. Even more pernicious is the false notion that the law of tithing -- as a "lower law" governing our financial obligation to God -- actually replaced the law of consecration.
Another example of a common theme (and this one almost seems too obvious to discuss) is how revelation is received. Most of the revelations in the D&C are in the voice of God, but there are several that were letters from Joseph Smith to the saints, and a couple that were declarations or articles written by church leaders regarding a specific topic (e.g., following the laws of the land, the death of Joseph and Hyrum Smith). No matter how received, however, revelation almost always comes as a result of real problems or issues the saints were facing and only after Joseph Smith (or whoever it is that received the revelation) thought long and hard about the issue or problem. God almost never zaps directly into our heads the exact message he wants us to hear; He expects us to deal with an issue by "studying it out" first and then coming to Him to seek confirmation that what we have decided is what He wants us to do. It is also interesting to see that, as a part of this "studying it out" process, Joseph almost always discussed the issue with those around him (and not just the church leaders), seeking their opinions and insight. In other words, God did not speak to Joseph and Joseph alone. Nor did Joseph do all of the thinking on a matter. The same thing can be said of the process by which President Woodruff received the revelation to end polygamy and President Kimball received the revelation regarding the termination of the priesthood ban.
Finally another pretty obvious theme: our church is a living and breathing church, responding to the challenges and issues of a growing organization. The doctrine, ordinances, and organization of the church developed over time, as the need arose. Accordingly, God did not ever reveal to Joseph Smith the organization for the primary or Young Women, or the use of the Aaronic Priesthood as a way to prepare young men to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood. Those developments occurred after Joseph was killed, and only as the need arose within the church (and as members, usually women who were not in the upper echelons of the leadership, presented their ideas to those in charge).