Latter-day Saint Life

10 Fascinating Facts About the Doctrine and Covenants You Probably Didn't Know


MR says: Did you know that as few as 30 copies of the "Book of Commandments" survive today and that one recently sold for 1 million dollars? And did you know 18 revelations in the Doctrine in Covenants were given before the Church was organized?

A few years ago I was doing research at the DeGolyer Library at Southern Methodist University [Dallas, Texas].  I spent the afternoon wearing white gloves  going through every page of Mary Elizabeth Rollin’s copy of A Book of Commandments. She was the young woman who, with the aid of her sister Caroline, rescued some of the sheets of the Book of Commandments that had been scattered in the streets after a mob destroyed the press in Independence, Missouri on July 20, 1833. 

I was especially intrigued by her memories of that eventful day.  In Mary’s own beautiful hand,  she inscribed the following inside the front cover of her book:

“These Revelations were taken from the mob in Jackson County where the Printing Office was torn down–it was in large sheets Just from the press, the Mob threw them into the Street.  Mary E. Rollins and Caroline Amelia Rollins Gathered some of them and ran away, the Mob pursued them but we hid in a corn field.  I saved the first Revelations ever published.”  M. E. [Rollins] Lightner

As I sat there gently thumbing through the text of Mary’s book, it was as if I could feel and see the history that I was holding in my hands.  I could see the mob destroying the press.  I saw Mary and Caroline anxiously awaiting  the opportunity to come out of their hiding place and rescue some of the sheets.  I could feel the tensity in the air as they hid in the cornfield as the mob desperately searched for them. 

I could see Mary quietly reassure Caroline that the Lord would protect them as they lay motionless on top of the sheets protecting the revelations.  I could feel the relief felt by these sisters as, later that evening after the mob had left,  they found the printer’s wife, Sally Phelps, and gave her the pages.  And finally, I could feel the immense joy felt by Mary Elizabeth Rollins as she was given this very copy of the Book of Commandments by Oliver Cowdery–after he had finished binding the loose sheets.

I am fascinated by the early history of the Church–especially the history of “how” we got the scriptures.  Here are ten little-known facts about the Doctrine and Covenants:

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The first part of the book contained seven lectures “on the DOCTRINE of the Church.”  These seven lectures had been taught in the school of the prophets the previous winter.  These “Lectures on Faith” would become part of the Doctrine and Covenants for the next 86 years.  However, the Doctrine and Covenants committee of 1921, which included James E. Talmage and Joseph Fielding Smith, recommended that the  “Lectures on Faith” be removed.

The reason for doing so was stated in the Preface: “Certain lessons, entitled ‘Lectures on Faith’, which were bound in with the Doctrine and Covenants in some of its former issues, are not included in this edition.  Those lessons were prepared for use in the School of the Elders, conducted in Kirtland, Ohio, during the winter of 1834-35; but they were never presented to nor accepted by the Church as being otherwise than theological lectures or lessons."

Images from Meridian Magazine.

For more history about the Doctrine and Covenants and for great insights to help you better understand this inspired book, check out The Doctrine and Covenants Made Easier or Doctrine and Covenants Reference Companion at Deseret Book.