When we discuss the Sabbath in lessons, we can either focus on the things that we should not do to keep the day holy or we can focus on the things we can and should do. The 16th Gospel Doctrine lesson for the Doctrine and Covenants focuses more on the latter than on the former, discussing attending Sunday meetings and taking the sacrament first before moving on to the concept of a day of rest and keeping the day holy. And I think for most Mormons today the focus is on what we do on the Sabbath—go to Church.
I had a hard time finding a poem that fits with this week’s Gospel Doctrine lesson on spiritual gifts. There just aren’t many that even mention spiritual gifts, and most that do seem to be predominantly about another subject. But I was finally able to find one that focuses on the gift of healing, one of the gifts most emphasized in the LDS Church today. There are many others, of course, and the current tendency seems to be to classify things as spiritual gifts that are part of the normal process of learning and living the gospel—things like teaching, testifying and showing compassion as opposed to the more miraculous gifts of healing, speaking in tongues and prophecy. The following poem is almost a healing blessing itself.
What does it mean to consecrate? What are the kinds of things we must do, the attitudes and priorities we must have when we consecrate all that we have and that we are to the Lord? Doctrine and Covenants Gospel Doctrine lesson 14 explores the Law of Consecration, focusing on these attitudes and priorities and little on the practical effects of those attitudes. I believe that when we actually do live the law of consecration, our actions will be more like the ideal described by Eliza R. Snow in her poetic description of the Relief Society:
Lesson 13 of this year’s Gospel Doctrine manual reviews some of the most important contributions of Joseph Smith—the scriptures he brought forth. Through Joseph Smith we have not only the Book of Mormon, but also the Doctrine and Covenants, Pearl of Great Price and the inspired version of the Bible. In addition, Joseph Smith provided important clarifications of doctrine upon which much of Mormon doctrine is founded. The following poem addresses Smith’s inspired writings.
One of the most modified Mormon doctrines is the doctrine of the gathering—the idea that Church members should move to a central gathering spot to build up Zion in this dispensation. D&C lesson 12 teaches about this doctrine, the subject of many of the sections in the Doctrine and Covenants. Under this doctrine, Mormons have “gathered” to Kirtland, Ohio, Independence, Missouri and other areas in that state, Nauvoo, Illinois and Salt Lake City, Utah and perhaps other places. Other Mormon sects have likewise sought to gather members to central locations. Hundreds of thousands of converts have left their homes to travel thousands of miles as a result of the teaching that saints should be gathered in one place. And often after reaching the gathering place, they have suffered persecution there, and then moved to a new gathering place. In the following poem, Evan M. Greene expressed the feelings of the saints about this commandment.
One of the early focuses of the Doctrine and Covenants is missionary work. Repeatedly the Lord advises the Church in revelation that “the field is white, already to harvest,” and encourages missionaries to labor with “all your heart, might, mind and strength.” Church members are urged to prepare and to “open your mouths” to warn and convert neighbors. And these themes did appear in early Mormon poetry, including this work, which was written by the first Mormon missionary to die in the field outside of the United States, Lorenzo D. Barnes.
Lesson 10 of the Gospel Doctrine manual for the Doctrine and Covenants is one of those lessons that is a bit hard to characterize. It covers D&C 25, addressing subjects like “husbands and wives should support and comfort each other,” “meekness and pride,” and “rejoice and be of good cheer.” I found it hard to come up with a single subject that covers all of this, and the best I could do is a poem about friendship.
The formal organization of the Church on April 6, 1830, subject of Gospel Doctrine lesson #9 this year, was the culmination of many preparatory steps that Joseph Smith and his fellow believers took. When the organization occurred, the group had new scripture, new authority from God and a new prophet at its head. In the ensuing years it added other key elements to its structure, beliefs and practices, some of which are described below in John Hardy’s hymn. In a real sense, at least most of these elements are what we are talking about when we speak of the restoration of “the only true and living church.”
The restoration of the priesthood, outlined in the D&C Gospel Doctrine lesson #8, is central to the Church’s claim to authority and to our understanding of the course of the plan of salvation. Following the atonement of Christ, the authority to administer the ordinances required for eternal life must be a very important element of the plan and central to the preparation for the millennium, at least in the view of the author of this poem, John Hardy.
When discussing the first principles and ordinances of the gospel the focus is often on the details and less often on their purpose in the plan of salvation. The 7th D&C gospel doctrine lesson talks about faith, repentance, baptism and the gift of the holy ghost. In teaching these principles and ordinances, the focus should remain on Christ.
The principle of personal revelation is a foundation of Mormonism, a key to our understanding of the gospel. And few places in the scriptures make this as clear as in D&C 8 and 9, which are discussed in Gospel Doctrine lesson 6. There we learn, among other things, that faith is a key aspect of personal revelation. Thus to receive personal revelation, we need to remember the Lord, as is described in the poem I selected for this lesson.
The spirit of revelation described in D&C Gospel Doctrine lesson #5 isn’t always credited with all that it deserves. During our lives, I think, we often receive inspiration that we don’t attribute to anything but our own decisions, while that inspiration makes subtle changes, pushing us towards the better. Other times personal revelation is very clear, appearing as the kind of direct communication whose source is all but undeniable. The following poem is an example of when and how personal revelation can appear, along with a meditation on nature and how it should turn our vision o the truth.
I think that we often think of witnesses as something outside of the event, added to fill a particular need or satisfy the desires of the world. But I wonder if this perception might not be incorrect, if witnesses are not, in fact, an important part of the process of communicating truth. A testimony is, after all, what a witness provides, and, at least in the church, it is hard to imagine communicating truth without testimony. In the fourth D&C Gospel Doctrine lesson witnesses to the Book of Mormon are an important part of the story of the scripture’s preparation. And the following poem provides, I think, an idea of the role of the witness, along with a lot about one of the three witnesses, David Whitmer.
[I am traveling for the 4th annual Brazilian Mormon Studies Conference — please excuse the delay in posting this.] Of our mythic founding stories, the First Vision is surely the most important. It appears regularly in manuals and conference talks, as well as in the missionary lessons, where it is among the first things that converts to Mormonism learn. So naturally it is a frequent subject for Mormon poetry. But most of the poetical treatments of the First Vision that come to my mind are descriptive, tell what happened instead of the role of the First Vision in the ages. And even when that role is discussed, I haven’t seen a more unusual approach than the excerpt below, which brings rich imagery to its view of the initial event of the restoration.
The second Doctrine and Covenants lesson makes the point that this modern scripture talks and teaches of Christ. That focus was easy to find in many Mormon poems and hymns, but the following poem has the advantage of talking about the Lord for what He has done for the Latter-day Church. Eliza R. Snow probably needs no introduction for most members, as her poetry still appears frequently in our hymnals. And in this poem her combination of praise for the Lord with references to the latter-day work makes this a good match for the lesson.
The initial lesson in the Doctrine and Covenants and Church History course of study points out that the revelations found in the text are meant for our time and cover our dispensation, while the history presented is the history of our people, as opposed to those who lived aeons ago. This course should, therefore, be relevant to us today in a way that the other Gospel Doctrine courses can’t hope to accomplish. The poem below discusses not only a few of the major events that opened our dispensation, but also follows the prediction often made; that our dispensation has a great destiny leading to the coming of our Lord.
For the past year each Monday afternoon my “Literary BMGD” posts have appeared each Monday — perhaps confusing some readers who have wondered exactly what these posts were all about. And those who clicked on them to read what they had may have been surprised to find that they were… poetry. What exactly is BMGD and why poetry? If I am going to continue these posts, I should probably explain:
I have been working on a paper looking at the Doctrine and Covenants, and my research has me thinking about how the texts of modern revelation were produced. I think that there are a lot of Mormons who assume that the words of the revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants were dictated word for word to Joseph. On this model, the Doctrine and Covenants is rather like the Qua’ran, which also consists of a series of revelations given to a prophet over a period of years in response to concrete historial circumstances. Pious Muslims affirm that the Qua’ran was dictated word for word in classical Arabic to the Prophet Muhammed and transmitted without error to the present. Some Islamic theologians have gone farther, declaring that the Qua’ran is uncreated in time. Rather, it is an eternal emanation of the Divine mind, the Word that was in the beginning with God incarnate in the world. (There are problems with this story of the…
Here are my notes. I decided to focus on OD-2.
Those who may have been using my notes for Sunday School lessons deserve an explanation, though a late explanation, to be sure.
Lesson 38: Doctrine and Covenants 38:30; 42:30-31, 42; 44:6; 52:40; 56:16-17; 58:26-28; 88:123-125; 104:13-18 I owe an apology to those who have been receiving these by e-mail.
Lesson 37: Doctrine and Covenants 1:38; 20:21-26; 21:1, 4-6; 43:2; 68:3-4; 101:43-54; 107:22, 91-92
Lesson 36: Doctrine and Covenants 58:2-4; 64:33-34; 82:10; 93:1; and 130:19-21
Lesson 35: Doctrine & Covenants 4:3-7, 18:10-16, 52:40, 81:5-6, 138:58
Lesson 34: Doctrine and Covenants 136
Lesson 33: Doctrine and Covenants 107:22-24
Lesson 32: Doctrine and Covenants 135
Lesson 31: Doctrine and Covenants 131 & 132:4-33
Lesson 30: Doctrine and Covenants 2, 124:25-55, 127, 128, Joseph Smith — History 1:36-39
Lesson 29: Doctrine and Covenants 124: 1-21, 87-90, 97-110; Doctrine and Covenants 126