Commentary on Doctrine & Covenants 10

/ Doctrine & Covenants 10 / Commentary

Find helpful commentary on the verses below to better understand the message of this revelation.

Verses 1-4

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)

After the devastating events surrounding the lost manuscript, it was important for Joseph to receive reassurance that his calling and gift has been restored. The Lord also counseled Joseph to be diligent but not overtax himself as he worked to complete the translation. Temperance is one of the virtues the Lord emphasizes with frequency in the early revelations of the Doctrine and Covenants (see D&C 4:6; 6:9; 12:8). Even in a work as crucial as the coming forth of a new scriptural record, the Lord is mindful of the limitations of His servants and is careful to keep them from being overwhelmed. While a sense of urgency can assist us in carrying out the work of the kingdom, the Lord is careful to emphasize the importance of rest, contemplation, and self-care, lest we wear ourselves out prematurely in the work. (Doctrine and Covenants Minute)

Verses 5-9

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)

The stern statements made about Martin Harris in this passage must be carefully considered alongside the Lord’s words to Martin in section 5. While he seems to have acted out of impure motives, with the Lord even going so far as to say that he “sought to destroy” Joseph’s gift to translate, these desires may not have been obvious even to Martin himself. The primary counsel the Lord gave to Martin in section 5 was to humble himself (see D&C 5:28, 32) suggesting that part of Martin’s failings may have been enmity toward Joseph related to the gift to translate. Thus, in his role in the loss of the manuscript, Martin acted as an unwitting servant of the Adversary. Both Joseph and Martin sinned in treating lightly sacred things—first the manuscript’s safety and second the Lord’s twice-repeated counsel not to share the manuscript with others. (Doctrine and Covenants Minute)

Verses 10-19

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)

While the exact details surrounding the loss of the manuscript are still largely unknown, the Lord did reveal the aims of the wicked men who stole it. They planned to alter the manuscript and then publish it with alterations. When Joseph translated that portion of the record again, the two manuscripts would not match, casting doubt on the truth of the record and Joseph’s ability to translate… Mark Hoffman victimized Church members with a similar scheme in the 1980s. Then viewed as a legitimate document dealer, Hoffman began taking early narratives from Church history and creating forgeries with slightly altered details. Hoffman’s works told the same basic narrative as the originals did, but the doctored details he inserted created a storm of controversy and cast doubt on the validity of the entire story (See Richard E. Turley, Jr., Victims: The LDS Church and the Mark Hoffman Case, 1992). If Joseph had retranslated the lost manuscript and published it, it would have opened the door for such a plan to be implemented. Instead, the Lord had long before prepared an alternate approach—translating instead a different record that covered the same part of the story as the lost manuscript, thus avoiding the trap altogether. (Doctrine and Covenants Minute)

Verses 20-26

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)

While Latter-day Saints center their faith around God and Jesus Christ, it is also important for the servants of God to recognize the reality of Satan and his efforts to oppose the work of God. Indeed, one of the most important contributions of the Restoration has been to place Satan back in the narrative from which he had been removed. The Book of Mormon teaches that many “plain and precious” truths were removed from the scriptures (1 Nephi 13:28). A chief example is the attempt to remove the adversary from the story. For instance, the inspired translation of the book of Genesis, now found in the Pearl of Great Price as the book of Moses, shows Satan opposing Moses in the first chapter and then provides a prolonged explanation of his fall from heaven in Moses 4:1–4, before it explains the Fall of Adam and Eve.

 

In a similar vein, several revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants shine light on Satan’s efforts—past, present, and future—to hinder the work of God (see D&C 29; 50; 76; 86). The Book of Mormon also adds immeasurably to our understanding of the adversary’s tactics and aims, with Lehi succinctly stating Satan’s motivations— “he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself” (2 Nephi 2:27). One of the great functions of latter-day revelations is to fully expose Satan, his followers, and their work. While men are responsible for their own actions, Satan has continually engaged in nefarious acts designed to increase human misery. Rather than dismissing the adversary and evil as abstract concepts, Book of Mormon prophets identified Satan as “the father of all lies” and “that same liar who hath caused man to commit murder from the beginning; who hath hardened the hearts of men that they have murdered the prophets, and stoned them, and cast them out from the beginning” (Ether 8:25). (Doctrine and Covenants Minute)

Verses 27-33

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)

In the preface to the 1830 Book of Mormon, Joseph directly addressed this plan to discredit the Book of Mormon and paraphrased the Lord’s revelation to him about how the men who stole the manuscript sought to discredit the Book of Mormon before it was published. Joseph condemned the “many unlawful measures taken by evil designing persons to destroy me, and also the work.” He then described the plan of his enemies as follows: “Satan had put it into their hearts to tempt the Lord their God, by altering the words, that they did read contrary from that which I translated and caused to be written; and if I should bring forth the same words again, or, in other words, if I should translate the same over again, they would publish that which they had stolen, and Satan would stir up the hearts of this generation, that they might not receive this work” (Book of Mormon, 1830, iii, JSP). (Doctrine and Covenants Minute)

Verses 34-37

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)

Given the loss of the first manuscript, Joseph took further caution during the remainder of the translation process. While multiple people, including Emma Smith, Martin Harris, and members of the Smith and Whitmer families saw the manuscript and participated in translation, Joseph and Oliver took additional steps to ensure that the translation was protected until it was published.

 

In addition to the incident with Martin Harris and the lost manuscript, there were other attempts to steal the text of the Book of Mormon before publication. Lucy Mack Smith recalled that Abner Cole, the publisher of the Reflector, a Palmyra newspaper, began to surreptitiously steal portions of the manuscript and publish them in his paper. When Oliver and Hyrum Smith confronted him, Cole refused to stop publishing excerpts from the book. They eventually summoned Joseph from Harmony to confront Cole about his theft of the manuscript.

 

When Joseph arrived at Cole’s office and challenged him about his theft, Cole “threw off his coat and rolled up his sleeves,” approaching Joseph “in a great rage, roaring out ‘Do you want to fight sir, do you want to fight?’” Joseph replied, “Well now, Mr. Cole you had better keep your coat on for it’s cold and I am not going to fight with you or anything of that sort, but you have got to stop printing my book.” Cole responded, “If you think you are the best man just take off your coat and try it.” Joseph responded in a low, significant tone, “There is law—and you will find that out if you did not know it before. But I shall not fight you for that would do no good and there is another way of disposing of the affair that will answer my purpose better than fighting.” In the face of Joseph’s calm response, Cole backed down and the issue was resolved peacefully (Lucy Mack Smith, History, 1844–1845, bk 9, 9–11, JSP).

 

One result of the caution urged by the Lord was that during the printing process of the Book of Mormon, Joseph and Oliver made a copy of the work—the printer’s manuscript of the Book of Mormon. Due to a number of circumstances, all but a portion of the original manuscript was destroyed or lost, making the printer’s manuscript the earliest complete copy of the book in existence. The Joseph Smith Papers project has made the printer’s manuscript available for several years (Historical Introduction, Printer’s Manuscript of the Book of Mormon, circa August 1829–circa January 1830, JSP). In 2017, the Church acquired the manuscript from the Community of Christ. (Doctrine and Covenants Minute)

Verses 38-42

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)

What was lost when thieves stole the 116 manuscript pages of the Book of Mormon? We know very little about what was written on those pages. In the preface to the 1830 Book of Mormon, Joseph gave this description of the contents of the lost manuscript: “That I translated, by the gift and power of God, and caused to be written, one hundred and sixteen pages, the which I took from the Book of Lehi, which was an account abridged from the plates of Lehi, by the hand of Mormon” (Book of Mormon, 1830, iii, JSP). This description would indicate that the lost manuscript was Mormon’s abridgment of the early history of his civilization and would likely reflect the style of writing found in the book of Mosiah to 4 Nephi, with an omnipresent narrator arranging the history to encapsulate valuable lessons that often end with “and thus we see.”

 

Joseph describes the length of the manuscript as “one hundred and sixteen pages,” but it is possible that the manuscript was more or fewer pages than that exact figure. Several scholars have pointed out that the length of the manuscript translated from the small plates of Nephi was also 116 pages (and two lines) in length. It is possible that Joseph did not know the exact length of the lost manuscript so he used the length of its replacement as an estimate (See Mackay and Dirkmaat, From Darkness Unto Light, 2015, 102–103, n58). (Doctrine and Covenants Minute)

Verses 43-52

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)

What was gained when the small plates of Nephi were used as a substitute for the lost manuscript? Without knowing more about the contents of the 116 pages, it is impossible to compare, but the Lord gave His own endorsement when He stated that “there are many things engraven upon the plates of Nephi which do throw greater views upon my gospel” (D&C 10:45). The information found in the scriptural record of 1 Nephi through Omni are an invaluable part of the Book of Mormon’s contributions. The teachings of Lehi on the Fall of Adam and Eve (2 Nephi 2), the words of Jacob on the Atonement of Jesus Christ (2 Nephi 9), and the soul-rending “psalm of Nephi” (2 Nephi 4) are just a few examples of the sublime words of salvation found on the small plates.

 

There is no doubt that Mormon was a skilled historian, but to hear directly the thoughts and feelings of Lehi, Nephi, Jacob, Enos, and others is a great blessing for the readers of the book. Nephi records that on the small plates he would “write the things of God” (1 Nephi 6:3). He further added, “For the fulness of mine intent is that I may persuade men to come unto the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, and be saved,” promising that he “shall not occupy these plates with the things which are not of worth unto the children of men” (1 Nephi 6:4, 6). The clarity these writings offer about the doctrine of Christ and the way to salvation is virtually without comparison in the entire scriptural canon. (Doctrine and Covenants Minute)

Verses 53-60

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)

Another important function of the Book of Mormon is to show that the God of Israel is the God of the whole earth “manifesting himself unto all nations” (Book of Mormon title page). It is easy to dismiss the Old and New Testament as tribal writings composed by a small ethnic group during a more primitive age. However, the Book of Mormon, in telling the story of the Savior’s “other sheep,” opens the door for us to view Jesus Christ’s global ministry and His role in bringing light and salvation to people of all nations. In serving this function, the Book of Mormon expands the story from the tale of one small nation in one corner of the world to an invitation to the entire human family, regardless of their geography, ethnicity, or history, to participate in the grand saga of redemption carried out by Jesus Christ. (Doctrine and Covenants Minute)

Verses 61-63

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)

Another great contribution of the Book of Mormon, particularly the small plates of Nephi, is that it supports and clarifies the points of doctrine contended over by readers of the Bible for millennia. While Latter-day Saints revere and honor the Bible as an invaluable part of our scriptural canon, it has often served as a battleground for Christian factions. In contrast to this ambiguity, Nephi recorded that an angel revealed to him a central purpose of the records brought forth in the Restoration:

 

And the angel spake unto me, saying: These last records [including the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price], which thou hast seen among the Gentiles, shall establish the truth of the first [the Old and New Testaments], which are of the twelve apostles of the Lamb, and shall make known the plain and precious things which have been taken away from them; and shall make known to all kindreds, tongues, and people, that the Lamb of God is the Son of the Eternal Father, and the Savior of the world; and that all men must come unto him, or they cannot be saved (1 Nephi 13:40). (Doctrine and Covenants Minute)

Verses 64-70

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)

While in the Doctrine and Covenants most references to “the church” refer to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, here the Lord expands the definition of the church to include anyone who repents and comes unto him (D&C 10:67). This definition aligns with later statements in the revelations, such as Doctrine and Covenants 97:21, which defines Zion as “the pure in heart,” a term encompassing not only Latter-day Saints but all sincere people who strive to live according to the truth they possess. In this sense, the church becomes a large typology, embracing all who do good.

 

Elder Bruce R. McConkie wrote, “The church of the devil is every evil and worldly organization on earth. It is all of the systems, both Christian and non-Christian, that have perverted the pure and perfect gospel: it is all of the governments and powers that have run counter to divine will. . . . It is the man of sin speaking in churches, orating in legislative halls, and commanding the armies of men” (Bruce R. McConkie, The Millennial Messiah, 1982, 54–55). Taken typologically, the church of the devil is a powerful symbol for the influence of evil in all its manifestations.

 

If we apply Elder McConkie’s logic in both directions, texts such as Doctrine and Covenants 10 allow us to visualize the pavilion under which the church of the Lamb resides to be enlarged to include “every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ” (Moroni 7:16). Membership in the church of the Lamb in this context expands beyond denominational lines to include all who genuinely strive to do good according to the light they have been given. (Doctrine and Covenants Minute)