I’m working on a number of projects that analyze Mormon liturgy. One of the major themes across the projects is the shift from folk liturgy to formal. What that means is that in the early church, there were no rule books or written instructions describing how and why to perform various rituals and worshipful acts. Instead, people learned how to perform ritual generally by example or oral instruction. Those familiar with current church practice can recognize a difference in how things are done today.
In analyzing the situation, one important question is why there weren’t written ritual texts or handbooks. Such things are not uncommon in the time period. Nathan Hatch discusses the popular anti-creedalism in which Mormonism took part. But in rereading some of my notes, I came across William McLellin’s summary of a 1834 sermon in which Joseph Smith “preached three hours…during which he exposed the Methodist Dicipline in its black deformity and called upon the Elders in the power of the spirit of God to expose the creeds & confessions of men.” 
The Methodist Discipline was sort of a General Handbook of Instruction for the Methodist Episcopal church (schismatic Methodists also sometimes published their own versions). Smith’s characterization of the Discipline is pretty extreme (especially in light of Mormonism’s deep homology with Methodist polity and culture), and he reiterated his sentiments later in Nauvoo while discussing the famous case of Pelitiah Brown, who had been charged with teaching false doctrine. Smith responded: “I never thought it was right to call up a man and try him because he erred in doctrine, it looks too much like methodism and not like Latter day Saintism. Methodists have creeds which a man must believe or be kicked out of their church. I want the liberty of believing as I please, it feels so good not to be tramelled.” 
But wait. What about the Doctrine and Covenants? It was a compilation of revelations and commandments that were binding on the Saints, as well as the theological “Lectures on Faith.” Didn’t the Doctrine and Covenants act as a creed or instruction manual?
I’m reading Mark Ashurst-McGee’s dissertation right now. Good stuff. Early in the dissy, he discusses the Book of Mormon’s political theology where dissension and contention are the most serious concern, not concentration of political power. Moreover, the greatest solution to dissension is the revelation of the hierarch assimilated by a receptive populous. I think this applies very well to Joseph Smith’s approach to church policy and government.
Joseph Smith’s approach to his revelation texts is particularly insightful. The early revisions and aggregations are important, but what we see in Nauvoo is rather abrupt turn towards oral communication of revelation. By the time Smith dies, he has all but deprecated the content of the Doctrine and Covenants. Smith was not willing to be constrained, even by his own revelation. When church members tried to use the structure of ecclesiastical law against Smith, he quelled the dissension (or tried to) by receiving more revelation. The idea that a book of law would be ultimately binding simply didn’t fit into Joseph Smith’s religious world.
As it relates to church liturgy, the Doctrine and Covenants only mentions laying hands on the sick. These revelations were given in the first couple of years of the church, but in subsequent years, JS and others introduced anointing with oil (on the head, on the area of affliction and drinking it), baptism for health, washing and anointing for health, and an adapted prayer circle ritual for health. Women were also important administrators of healing ritual. The healing liturgy was dramatically diverse. Most of the rituals were introduced in a period when oral texts were the primary source of revelation.
- Jan Shipps and John W. Welch, eds., The Journals of William E. McLellin, 1831-1836 (Provo, Urbana and Chicago: BYU Studies and University of Illinois Press, 1994), 152.
- WoJS, 183-84.