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D&C 1| Background & Context
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Date: 1 November 1831

Place: Hiram, Ohio

Doctrine and Covenants Reference Companion

By 1831 many religious and political groups were publishing newspapers and books, reaching wider audiences than ever before through the medium of print. How could the Saints follow suit? The growing number of missionaries was to strictly apply the revelations in their ministry, but copies of them were scarce and could be obtained only by copying them by hand or by crossing paths with an elder who had a copy.

The Lord had called experienced editor William W. Phelps to be a printer for the Church (D&C 57:11). Then the Prophet Joseph Smith convened a council at the Johnson home in Hiram, Ohio, in early November 1831 and laid a manuscript called the Book of Commandments and Revelation before Church leaders ["commandments" is often used as a synonym for "revelations" in the D&C]; it was time for the revelations in it to be published. [There had been about 65 revelations received up to this point which were here proposed to be included in the Book of Commandments.] The council voted that the revelations should “be prized by this Conference to be worth to the Church the riches of the whole Earth.” Oliver Cowdery asked “how many copies of the Book of commandments it was the will of the Lord should be published in the first edition of that work.” The council voted to publish ten thousand copies, a number later reduced to three thousand…. A committee of the Church’s best writers drafted a preface for the book, but the Lord revealed his own preface through Joseph Smith. Joseph spoke the words of the revelation slowly as Sidney Rigdon wrote them down [see D&C 1]. (Largey, Doctrine and Covenants Reference Companion, p.712, (2012), © Deseret Book Company. Used by Permission.)

From Revelations of the Restoration (Joseph Fielding McConkie and Craig J. Ostler)

The matter of selecting revelations for publication was considered at a special council of high priests held in Hiram, Ohio, beginning 1 November 1831. This revelation, which affirmed the Lord's interest in the matter, was received between the sessions held that day. (Revelations of the Restoration, p.39-40)

William E. McLellin (Eye Witness)

The first of November, 1831, a council was called in Joseph's translating room [second floor, southeast corner of the the John Johnson farm in Hiram, Ohio].... The object of the council was to determine relative to printing Joseph's revelations. Hours were spent in talking the matter over, and it was finally decided to have them printed. Joseph, Oliver and Sidney were appointed a committee to read them over and prepare them for the press. (“From a Letter dated Dec. 14th, 1878,” in John L. Traughber Papers, J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah)


A committee had been appointed to draft a preface [to the Book of Commandments], consisting of [William McLellin], [Oliver] Cowdery and, I think Sidney Rigdon, but when they made their report the conference picked it all to pieces. The conference then requested Joseph to inquire of the Lord about it, and he said that he would if the people would bow in prayer with him. This they did, and Joseph prayed. When they arose, Joseph dictated by the Spirit the Preface found in the book of Doctrine & Covenants [D&C 1] while sitting by a window of the room in which the conference was sitting, and Sidney Rigdon wrote it down. Joseph would deliver a few sentences and Sidney would write them down, then read them aloud, and if correct, then Joseph would proceed and deliver more, and by this process the preface was given. (“Letter from Elder W. H. Kelley,” Saints’ Herald, 1 March 1882, 67)

Hiram, Ohio Conference Minutes

Minutes of a conference held in Hiram, Portage Co Ohio, Nov. 1 1831

Elders Present
Joseph Smith Jr Sidney Rigdon
Oliver Cowdery William E. Mc.lellin
David Whitmer Orson Hyde
John Whitmer Luke Johnson
Peter Whitmer Jr Lyman Johnson

... Oliver Cowdery made a request desiring the mind of the Lord through this conference of Elders to know how many copies of the Book of commandments it was the will of the Lord should be published in the first edition of that work. Voted that there be ten thousand copies struck. Adjourned until after noon.

Preface [D&C 1] received by inspiration[.] (Minutes, 1–2 November 1831; josephsmithpapers.org)


Aftermath and Outcomes of D&C 1

Hiram, Ohio Conference Minutes

[In the afternoon session on that same day] Br. Joseph Smith jr. said that inasmuch as the Lord had bestowed a great blessing upon us in giving commandments and revelations, asked the conference what testimony they were willing to attach to these commandments which should shortly be sent to the world. A number of the brethren arose and said that they were willing to testify to the world that they knew that they were of the Lord.

Revelation received relative to the same [D&C 67].

Conference adjourned until morning....

[The next morning, November 2,] Conference convened.... The Revelation of last evening [D&C 67] [was] read by [Oliver Cowdery] the brethren then arose in turn  and bore witness to the truth of the Book of Commandments. After which br. Joseph Smith jr.  arose & expressed his feelings & gratitude concerning the commandment & Preface [D&C 1] received yesterday. Conference closed. prayer by br. Oliver Cowdery. (Minutes, 1–2 November 1831; josephsmithpapers.org)

Steven C. Harper (LDS Scholar)

Doctrine and Covenants 1 introduces readers to the author of the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord Jesus Christ, and acquaints them with his literary voice. He quickly frames the book in a typology of opposites: Babylon strays from God's order, breaks covenants, and does things its "own way" (v. 16). The restored Church is the vehicle out of Babylon. It reestablishes the broken covenants, facilitates repentance, increases faith, and proclaims the gospel to all mankind. The Lord is pleased with his restored Church, if not all of its members. He forgives and saves all the repentant. Babylon, meanwhile, is doomed to destruction (v. 16). The entire Doctrine and Covenants is framed by the contest between the type, Zion, and its antitype, Babylon. Section 1 informs mankind of the inevitable choice to be made between them to repent and be saved at the Lord's imminent coming, or rebel and be damned. It authoritatively establishes a repentant embrace of the Lord's covenant, available fully only in his restored Church, as the only alternative to impending calamities. (Making Sense of the Doctrine and Covenants, p.20, (2008), © Deseret Book Company. Used by Permission.)