2017 brings to Adult Sunday School the Doctrine and Covenants and church history. Let’s just take a moment and offer up thanks that the plan for topical Sunday School lessons was scrapped. Now, the Doctrine and Covenants is a great opportunity, because we have more context for it than any other scripture in our canon. There is also a fair amount of terrible material masquerading as study helps out there. This post is an outline of the best resources we have for approaching the text and preparing lessons in the coming year. Also, as a bonus, BCCers will be putting up lessons throughout the year, including lesson-specific resources.
Introductions, contexts, commentaries, and questions
I think that the three best and accessible resources are:
Check out my review, here. This book is already eight years old, and there has been a lot of important work since. Still it is great all-around resource.
There is a free version online [Thanks Jim!]. This book is questions, not answers. But they are good questions, and will perhaps help you think of new ways of approaching the text and your lessons.
- The LDS Church History Department, Revelations in Context
I understand that these will be collected and published by the church. In the interim, they are Besides being available online, and in your LDS Library App under “Church History,” [Update] you can purchase a hard copy from the distribution center. These are great essays giving excellent context for the revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants.
The Joseph Smith Papers Project is critical here. And the website has done a lot of important work to get documents and volume introductions up.
For the deep dive, however, the introductions for the individual documents are only available printed Documents volumes. They are pretty spendy, so they are probably best for people that have a long-term commitment to research. Still, check out the volume intros:
- Revelations Volume 1: Manuscript Revelation Books
- Revelations Volume 2: Published Revelations
- Documents Volume 1: July 1828 – June 1831
- Documents Volume 2: July 1831 – January 1833
- Documents Volume 3: February 1833 – March 1834
[Update] Also the Document introductions and annotations are available from the published volumes one year after publication. So when you go to the JSPP website and select, for example, a revelation text. You can read the document intro, which is invariably important.
And if the deep dive really is your thing, let me recommend Robin Jensen’s “‘Rely upon the Things Which Are Written’: Text, Context, and the Creation of Mormon Revelatory Records” (MLIS thesis, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, 2009). This really changed how I see the revelation texts. I think it is only available from ProQuest, if you have institutional access, or you know someone.
The Gospel Doctrine curriculum isn’t just on the Doctrine and Covenants. Church History is also a topic for lessons. Here are some suggestions on that front:
Matt’s volume is an engaging wonderful one-volume history of the church. It is on Audible, if you prefer to go that route.
I will not deceive you, this is a bit of a slog to get through, and probably best for people committed to research. It has weaknesses as well as strengths (see my review here). But most of the revelations came from Kirtland, so this is a good place to go if you want to bone up on the era.
Others to think about might be Bushman’s biography of Joseph Smith, Turner’s biography of Brigham Young, and/or Kimball’s biography of Spencer Kimball (out of print, but available used and on Kindle). As mentioned, I’m sure that we will have article and chapter suggestions for the individual lesson posts we put up.
If there are other resources that you have found helpful, feel free to share.