I’ve been a Gospel Doctrine teacher for a very long time (best calling in the Church—just sayin’). That means I’ve taught the Doctrine and Covenants/Church History over and over again. Over the years, lesson plans have changed. There are three basic ways to teach and study the D&C: 1) read it straight through; 2) jump around looking for themes; and, 3) read the sections in chronological order. To me, the third choice is the best for studying church history alongside the D&C. Reading straight through is my second choice, and let me go on the record saying you should just do number 1 if you’ve aced choices 3 and 2.
This year, we’ll be reading straight through. That puts more responsibility on you as far as church history is concerned. Decide now that you are going to invest in this extra work—not just because learning our history is important, but because then you can understand what was going on when each section was created. The D&C is a collection of revelations, and most often, revelations came to Joseph Smith when he asked questions. What was going on to make those questions arise? It’s enlightening to find out.
Here are some suggestions for doing this extra work. Following any one of them will enhance your learning and build your testimony this year. The more of these you do, the better informed you will be. Many of these come from this year’s Come, Follow Me manual for Gospel Doctrine teachers. Others come from my own experience.
1. Pay attention to chronology
In your D&C, find the chronological list of sections. Often they do run along as they are found and numbered in the D&C, but sometimes, they don’t. Keep checking back to it and see if you can explain what is happening in church history at any given time.
2. Use the Institute Manuals as study companions
Check out the two D&C manuals, with both versions available for teachers and students. Don’t assume you want the student manuals. Check out the teachers’ manuals, too. That’s where the answers are. Add to your choice the Church History in the Fulness of Times manual. These are excellent course manuals with historic details you may never have heard of.
3. Study the essay series “Revelations in Context”
“Revelations in Context: The Stories Behind the Sections of the Doctrine and Covenants” is a collection of essays about the history surrounding the revelations contained in the Doctrine and Covenants. The context provided in this resource can help you better understand what the Lord’s words in the Doctrine and Covenants may have meant to the early Latter-day Saints.”
4. Read the first volume of Saints
The first volume will take you through most of the D&C’s history, so if you haven’t read it yet, now is the time. Saints is a masterpiece. It’s much more up close and personal than most history books. You’ll feel like you were really there.
5. Read Church History Topics
“Numerous articles about the people, artifacts, geography, and events of Church history can be found at ChurchofJesusChrist.org/study/history/topics.”
6. Church magazines will publish articles in a timely way
“Correlation” is the Church’s middle name. Expect timely articles supporting your study to show up in church magazines right when you need them. Make a habit of checking for them.
7. Support your Come, Follow Me lessons with church media
Check back often at the Church Media Library at churchofjesuschrist.org. There will be images, videos, and other offerings that will help you make this a family effort.
8. Use the resources provided here on Third Hour
Every week we will provide links to all sorts of materials. Find them here. Use them to prepare your home lessons and to guide your own exploration of the D&C and church history. We will also be writing articles about the meatiest sections of the D&C.
How are you going to enhance your D&C study this year? Share in the comments below.