Doctrine & Covenants/Church History
“The Only True and Living Church”
The Church is organized in the latter days.
The Lord commands Church members to follow the prophet.
The Lord encourages Church members to meet together often to partake of
The Lord explains the duties of Church members.
A study of this lesson will help us learn about the restoration of the Church
of Jesus Christ through the Prophet Joseph Smith, help us appreciate the
blessings of Church membership, and encourage us to show the Lord our gratitude
for membership in His Church.
Scripture references for study:
20:1–36, 68–69, 75–79;
Our Heritage, pages 14–16
Note: Underlined scripture references have been hyperlinked
to the LDS Scriptures at LDS.org and will open in a new window.
Lesson 9 Handout (PDF)
The Church Is Organized
The translation of the plates was completed in June 1829.
Joseph Smith and Martin Harris were able to persuade Egbert B. Grandin,
manager and principal owner of the Wayne Sentinel (newspaper - Palmyra), to print the Book of Mormon.
Grandin agreed to the proposition for $3,000.
Since Joseph, Oliver, or none of the others had the money, Martin Harris
mortgaged his farm to Grandin. The agreement: if the $3,000 was
not paid within 18 months, Grandin was authorized to sell the Harris farm
at public auction to secure the cash.
Many difficulties arose during the time Book of Mormon was being printed.
Care was taken to protect the manuscript.
Oliver transcribed the entire manuscript.
The copy was taken to the printer in small quantities.
John H. Gilbert, the typesetter, tells of Hyrum Smith bringing the first
installment of twenty-four pages hidden under his vest, with vest and coat closely
buttoned over it.
The manuscript was picked up at night and taken back to the Smith house.
When it was returned home mother Smith says: "I
then placed it in a chest, which was so high that when placed under the
bed, the whole weight of the bedstead rested upon the lid. Having made
this arrangement, we felt quite at rest, and that night, the family retired
to rest at the usual hour, all save Peter Whitmer, who spent the night
on guard." (History of Joseph Smith by His Mother, p159)
In January 1830, Esquire Cole, ex-justice of the peace, published in the Palmyra
Reflector parts of the Book of Mormon, which had been altered. He promised his subscribers to publish a portion each week. He only stopped after the Prophet threatened to have him arrested for copyright
Joseph's mother said of Esquire Cole's work, "In
this, he had thrown together a parcel of the most vulgar, disgusting prose,
and the meanest, and most low-lived doggerel, in juxtaposition with a portion
of the Book of Mormon, which he had pilfered." (Ibid., pp164-165)
When that did not work, the people of Palmyra and vicinity held a mass meeting
and resolved to pledge themselves not to purchase a copy of the Book of
Mormon and use their influence to persuade others not to buy it.
This caused Grandin to stop the publication of the Book. After several
conferences with Joseph, Martin, and others, Grandin agreed to continue the work.
Martin was tardy in making the payment. On April 7, 1831, Martin
Harris sold 151 acres to Thomas Lakey for $3,000 in order to make the payment
Sometime prior to April 6, 1830, Joseph received the revelation now known
as Section 20 which gave information pertaining to the organization of
It has been called the Constitution of the Church.
This revelation, along with Section 22, are called the Articles and Covenants
of the Church.
President Gordon B. Hinckley: "This day
of organization was, in effect, a day of commencement, the graduation for Joseph from ten years of remarkable schooling. It had begun
with the incomparable vision in the grove in the spring of 1820, when the
Father and the Son appeared to the fourteen-year-old boy. It had continued
with the tutoring from Moroni, with both warnings and instructions given
on multiple occasions. Then there was the translation of the ancient record,
and the inspiration, the knowledge, the revelation that came from that
experience. There was the bestowal of divine authority, the ancient
priesthood again conferred upon men by those who were its rightful possessors—John
the Baptist in the case of the Aaronic Priesthood, and Peter, James, and
John in the case of the Melchizedek. There were revelations, a number of
them, in which the voice of God was heard again, and the channel of communication
opened between man and the Creator. All of these were preliminary to that
historic April 6." (Ensign, Apr 1980, pp11-12)
The organization of the Church.
"The rise of the Church of
Christ in these last days, being one thousand eight hundred and thirty
years since the coming of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in the flesh,
it being regularly organized and established agreeable to the laws of our
country, by the will and commandments of God, in the fourth month, and
on the sixth day of the month which is called April." (D&C 20:1)
WHY WAS THE CHURCH ORGANIZED ON APRIL 6?
President Harold B. Lee: "April 6, 1973, is a
particularly significant date because it commemorates not only the anniversary
of the organization of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
in this dispensation, but also the anniversary of the birth of the Savior,
our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ." (CR, Apr 1973)
Joseph Smith on the anniversary of the Church in 1833 recorded: "The
day was spent in a very agreeable manner, in giving and receiving knowledge
which appertained to this kingdom--it being just 1800 years since the Savior
laid down His life that men might have everlasting life, and only three
years since the Church had come out of the wilderness, preparatory for
the last dispensation." (HC, 1:337)
BY WHAT NAME WAS THE CHURCH CALLED WHEN IT WAS ORGANIZED?
The Church of Christ (D&C 20:1).
President George Q. Cannon: "The organization
was made on the day and after the pattern dictated by God in a revelation
given to Joseph Smith. The Church was called after the name of Jesus Christ;
because he so ordered. Jesus accepted the Church, declared it to be his
own and empowered it to minister on earth in his name." (Life of Joseph Smith the Prophet, p74)
In a revelation given to the Prophet in 1838, the name of the Church as
we know it today was revealed: "For thus
shall my church be called in the last days, even The Church of Jesus Christ
of Latter-day Saints" (D&C 115:4).
Joseph Fielding Smith: "The brethren at
times called it the Church of Christ and at other times the Church of the
Latter-day Saints, and this was becoming a fixed custom throughout the
Church. On this occasion the Lord called the attention of all the councils
to the fact that he had given the Church its name and by that name it should
be called. It is a very easy matter for us to adopt some other title, apparently
for convenience, as the correct name is rather lengthy. For instance we
have, in these later days, fallen into the habit of speaking of the Church
as the 'Mormon Church,' or as 'the Restored Church,' setting aside the
correct titles. It is true that even back in the days of the Prophet the
Church was at times called the 'Mormon Church,' but this was rare, although
we were quite generally referred to as 'Mormons,' and we answered to that
title. Since the Lord felt it important to remind the councils of the Church
of its correct name and inform them that by that name it should be known
in the last days, we should endeavor to carry out this commandment more
nearly than it is the custom for many of us to do." (Church
History & Modern Revelation, 3:114-15)
On April 6, 1830 several of the believers gathered at the home of Peter
Whitmer to organize the church according to the laws of New York. State
law required three to nine trustees to transact the affairs of a new religious
organization. Six men were selected: Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, Hyrum
Smith, Peter Whitmer Jr., Samuel H. Smith, and David Whitmer. According
to David Whitmer there were approximately fifty persons present.
Events during this meeting:
Opened with solemn prayer.
A vote taken by those present to accept Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery
as their teachers in the Kingdom and to organize the church according
to the commandment received (see Section 20).
Joseph ordained Oliver an elder, then Oliver ordained Joseph.
The sacrament was blessed and passed to those present.
Those previously baptized were confirmed and given the gift of the Holy
The Holy Ghost was poured out and some prophesied.
Several were baptized on the day of organization including the Prophet's
parents, Martin Harris, and Orin Porter Rockwell (almost 17 years old).
Porter worked odd jobs giving what little money he could to aid the Prophet
in publication of the Book of Mormon.
Give Heed To The Words Of The Prophet
During the meeting of organization, the Lord also gave a revelation instructing
members of the Church to follow Joseph Smith as the prophet. This revelation
is recorded in
D&C 21:1-2, 4-6.
WHAT IS THE COMMANDMENT FROM THE LORD?
Give heed to the words of Joseph Smith and receive them as if from the
Lord's own mouth.
Though these words were spoken of the Prophet Joseph Smith, this commandment
applies to all his successors.
President Ezra Taft Benson: "The most important
prophet, so far as we are concerned, is the one who is living in our day and
age. This is the prophet who has today’s instructions from God to us. God’s
revelation to Adam did not instruct Noah how to build the ark. Every generation
has need of the ancient scripture, plus the current scripture from the living
prophet. Therefore, the most crucial reading and pondering that you should do is
of the latest inspired words from the Lord’s mouthpiece." (New
Era, May 1975, p16)
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO GIVE HEED TO THE WORDS OF THE PROPHET?
H. Dean Garrett: "The most vital
step in preventing deception is to follow the prophet of God. Note that
a member is to give heed to 'all' the words the prophet gives and do so
by walking in all holiness before the Lord." (The Doctrine and
Covenants, A Book of Answers: The 25th Annual Sidney B. Sperry Symposium,
WHAT WILL BE THE RESULT OF GIVING HEED?
"...the gates of hell shall not prevail against you" (D&C 21:6).
"...cause the heavens to shake for your good" (D&C 21:6).
President Harold B. Lee: "Now the only safety
we have as members of this church is to do exactly what the Lord said to
the Church in that day when the Church was organized. We must learn
to give heed to the words and commandments that the Lord shall give through
his prophet, 'as he receiveth them, walking in all holiness before me;
... as if from mine own mouth, in all patience and faith.' (D&C 21:4-5.)
There will be some things that take patience and faith. You may not
like what comes from the authority of the Church. It may contradict
your political views. It may contradict your social views. It may interfere with some of your social life. But if you listen
to these things, as if from the mouth of the Lord himself, with patience
and faith, the promise is that 'the gates of hell shall not prevail against
you; yea, and the Lord God will disperse the powers of darkness from before
you, and cause the heavens to shake for your good, and his name's glory.'
(D&C 21:6)." (CR, Oct 1970)
Meet Together Often To Partake
of Bread & Wine
"It is expedient that the church meet together
often to partake of bread and wine in the remembrance of the Lord Jesus"
Joseph Smith states that at the first meeting of the Church, "We
then took bread, blessed it, and brake it with them; also wine, blessed
it, and drank it with them" (HC, 1:78).
So important is this commandment from the Lord that the sacrament was part
of the organizational meeting of the Church.
Elder Melvin J. Ballard: "I have always
looked upon this blessed privilege as the means of spiritual growth and
there is none other quite so fruitful in the achievement of that end as
the partaking, worthily, of the sacrament of the Lord's supper. We eat
food to stimulate our physical bodies. Without the partaking of food
we would become weak and sickly, and fail physically. It is just
as necessary, for our spiritual body, that we should partake of this sacrament,
and by it obtain spiritual food for our souls." (Improvement
Era, Oct 1919)
Elder Melvin J. Ballard: "No man goes away
from this Church and becomes an apostate in a week, nor in a month. It
is a slow process. The one thing that would make for the safety of every
man and woman would be to appear at the sacrament table every Sabbath day.
We would not get very far away in a week-not so far away that, by the process
of self-investigation, we could not rectify the wrongs we may have done.
If we should refrain from partaking of the sacrament, condemned by ourselves
as unworthy to receive these emblems, we could not endure that long, and
we would soon, I am sure, have the spirit of repentance. The road to the
sacrament table is the path of safety for Latter-day Saints."
(quoted in Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, 4:121)
Review the sacramental prayers -
D&C 20:77 & 79.
WHAT PROMISES DO WE MAKE WHEN WE PARTAKE OF THE SACRAMENT?
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO REMEMBER CHRIST ALWAYS?
HOW DOES THE SACRAMENT HELP US REMEMBER HIM?
WHAT PROMISE IS MADE TO THOSE WHO PARTAKE WORTHILY?
The Prophet writes of the following incident a few months after the organization
of the Church: "Early in the month of August
Newel Knight and his wife paid us a visit at my place in Harmony, Pennsylvania;
and as neither his wife nor mine had been as yet confirmed, it was proposed
that we should confirm them, and partake together of the Sacrament, before
he and his wife should leave us. In order to prepare for this I set out
to procure some wine for the occasion, but had gone only a short distance
when I was met by a heavenly messenger, and received the following revelation,
the first four paragraphs of which were written at this time, and the remainder
in the September following....
"In obedience to the above
commandment, we prepared some wine of our own making, and held our meeting,
consisting only of five, viz., Newel Knight and his wife, myself and my
wife, and John Whitmer. We partook together of the Sacrament, after which
we confirmed these two sisters into the Church, and spent the evening in
a glorious manner. The Spirit of the Lord was poured out upon us, we praise
the Lord God, and rejoiced exceedingly." (HC, 1:106 & 108)
Section 27 teaches an important principle: "For,
behold, I say unto you, that it mattereth not what ye shall eat or what
ye shall drink when ye partake of the sacrament, if it so be that ye do
it with an eye single to my glory—remembering unto the Father my body which
was laid down for you, and my blood which was shed for the remission of
your sins" (v2).
HOW CAN WE PARTAKE OF THE SACRAMENT "WITH AN EYE SINGLE" TO THE GLORY OF
Duties of Church Members
"The duty of the members after they are received
by baptism.—The elders or priests are to have a sufficient time to expound
all things concerning the church of Christ to their understanding, previous
to their partaking of the sacrament and being confirmed by the laying on
of the hands of the elders, so that all things may be done in order.
"And the members shall
manifest before the church, and also before the elders, by a godly walk
and conversation, that they are worthy of it, that there may be works and
faith agreeable to the holy scriptures—walking in holiness before the Lord."
WHAT DOES THE LORD EXPECT OF MEMBERS OF THE CHURCH?
Robert L. Millet: "The call to discipleship
is a call to a higher righteousness. The Saints are asked to put
off the natural man, put away the toys of a telestial world, and grow up
in the Lord. They are summoned to be obedient, to keep the commandments,
to manifest 'by a godly walk and conversation that they are worthy' of
membership in the Church and kingdom of God (D&C 20:69). They
covenant to take upon them the sacred name of Jesus Christ, to bear the
same with fidelity and devotion, and to behave as becomes Christians. In short, they covenant before God and man to see to it that their actions
evidence their Christian commitment. Disciples are expected to have
"But there is more. Life in Christ is more than correct behavior, more than appropriate actions,
more than what we do. It is being. It is what we are. True disciples seek that sanctifying influence that derives from the Holy
Spirit, so that they come to do the right things for the right reasons. Life in Christ is characterized by pure attitudes, motives, and desires. Disciples are expected to have pure hearts." (An Eye Single
To The Glory of God, p55)
Elder M. Russell Ballard: "Many of you were baptized
when you were eight years old, and you may not realize that this is the promise
you made to your Heavenly Father when you were baptized. Always remember that
you are under this covenant. Your Heavenly Father has promised in return that He
will give marvelous blessings to those who honor their covenants, keep His
commandments, and endure faithfully to the end. They will be sealed by the Holy
Spirit of promise and will be 'given all things'
D&C 76:50–54, 70), including
an inheritance in the celestial kingdom (2
Ne. 31:16–20)." (CR, Apr 1993)
Photographs from my trip to Fayette, New York in 2010
Reconstructed Peter Whitmer home in Fayette, New York - Site of
the organization of the Church on April 6, 1830
Reconstructed Peter Whitmer home in Fayette, New York
Interior of Peter Whitmer home - Room where the Church was
organized on April 6, 1830
Gospel Doctrine Notebook
Record your thoughts on the topics discussed in this lesson. What does the
restoration of the church of Jesus Christ mean to you? How can you manifest to
the Lord that your gratitude for this incredible blessing?
Resources Used In This Lesson
An Eye Single To The Glory of God by Robert L. Millet.
Church History & Modern Revelation by Joseph Fielding Smith.
Conference Reports (CR).
Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon by Joseph Fielding McConkie and
Robert L. Millet.
History of the Church (HC).
History of Joseph Smith by His Mother, Lucy Mack Smith.
Joseph Smith and the Restoration by Ivan J. Barrett.
Life of Joseph Smith the Prophet by George Q. Cannon.
The Doctrine and Covenants, A Book of Answers: The 25th Annual Sidney B. Sperry
Gospel Doctrine Class
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Changes last made on:
09 January 2017