Nihilist Gospel Doctrine Lesson #1

Introduction to the Doctrine and Covenants and Church History


To introduce class members to this year’s study of the Doctrine and Covenants and Church history and to help them understand their place in the dispensation of the fullness of times.


  1. Study the following:
    • The verses and chapters specifically mentioned in the manual, but only if you have time.
    • Whatever remains in your mind palace from the last time we went through the D&C.
    • The ward directory, trying to figure out who the ward librarian is.
    • This brief note on the passing of another important American. 2016, man.
  2. Get the manuals. Or not. Whatever.
  3. Briefly consider reading the additional historical material for this lesson. Realize that nobody, including you, really cares enough to bother. Watch this video instead. It’s educational.
  4. Get the other thing. The…pamphlet? It’s white, I think.
  5. Get the stuff for the attention activity.

“Suggestions” for Lesson Development

Attention Activity:

Get some rocks. IMPORTANT: Clods of dirt won’t work. Neither will driftwood.

Hold up first rock. Note that the Book of Mormon is the keystone of our religion.

Hold up second rock. Note that the Doctrine and Covenants is the capstone of our religion.

Hold up third rock. Note that the Savior is the cornerstone of our religion. (Fun fact: He’s also a stone of stumbling to the wicked)

Try to avoid getting into the specifics of what any of that means. Seriously, does the capstone serve a purpose other than being on top of something? Is this saying that the D&C is just there to look pretty? That it is the final piece of revelation? Why is scripture always at the top of the building and Christ is at the bottom in this metaphor? Does any of this mesh at all with the temple/body of Christ imagery from Ephesians? Does saying things are vaguely like other things constitute insight? Watch this video about the brief history of the pet rock to take your mind off all of this.

Discussion and Application:

This lesson contains more material than is possible to teach in one class period. Don’t think of it as a sprint; it’s a distance race. Just start at the beginning and see how far you get.

Explain that this course uses a thematic approach in studying the D&C and Church history. This is not because Church history is often weird to our modern sensibilities (and, honestly, to a lot of 19th century sensibilities). This is because the important thing about scripture isn’t what was said, who said it, or why they said it; what is important is what the Church says it means.

Although the thematic nature of the of the course of study this year means that all sections of the D&C won’t be covered in the manual, participants should read all of it themselves on their own. Or not. Who’ll know, really?

Distribute copies of the manual and the little white book. Our History, maybe? You’ll figure it out. It’s important that all members of the church have a copy taking up space on a bookshelf in their home somewhere. Usually in a back room, but always in the front parlors of the truly devout.

Point out that class members share the responsibility to make this course successful. It is lucky that someone is thinking about that.

  1. The revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants address the needs of our day.
    • Read the third paragraph in the Explanatory Introduction, found at the beginning of the Doctrine and Covenants. Think about what you just did. You didn’t read scripture. You read a paragraph of an anonymously-written introduction telling you that you are about to read scripture. Ponder your place in the dispensation of the fullness of times.
    • Also, in the above-mentioned paragraph, the introduction calls the voice of Christ “tender but firm.” Is that creepy? I mean, if someone on the street said that, it would be creepy. But this is a church manual; can things in church manuals even be creepy? Doesn’t that violate some law of the conservation of supernality or something?
  2. The Lord authored the preface to the Doctrine and Covenants
    • You remember this from seminary. You’re golden.
    • In Section 1, the Lord raises a “voice of warning.” Notice all the warnings given in this section. How specifically do they apply to defending the family?
    • For whom is this message intended? Did you say everyone? Well, aren’t you special.
    • In D&C 1, the Lord foretells the great destiny of His latter-day work. I think we all know what He’s talking about.
    • In this section, the Lord explains some of the purposes for the revelations in the D&C. Write down all the reasons that you’re reading scripture. In a class designed to explain and discuss scripture. Because you need reminding? Ponder your place in the dispensation of the fullness of times.
    • Consider the commandment to search the Lord’s words in the D&C. Consider that you are discussing this in a class that takes a prescribed thematic approach to scripture. Place a cool washcloth on your head until the headache passes
  3. The course will discuss major events of the dispensation of the “fulness” of times.
    • I just noticed that the manual insists that fullness only has one “L.” Is that just an archaic spelling from the KJV or is it supposed to be significant? Because Word keeps changing “fulness” to fullness and I’m not going to go back through all of this and changing it. Does the curriculum department have a macro for this? Do any of you know of way I could get in touch with someone there?
  4. We can each help to move forward this great latter-day work
    • Ask class members to look around the room at the people in class. Explain that we are not here on earth at this time by accident. Really look at these people. Seriously, who are they? Why are we sitting here? I’ve never even talked to some of the people in this room. And they’re staring at me now. I…I need some air.
    • Consider the quote from President Hinckley about how growth is the most serious challenge we face as a church. The term he uses is “tremendous growth.” This seems awkward in the current context. Don’t look President Hinckley in the eye as you explain that that “tremendous growth” problem really isn’t around anymore. Hope he doesn’t ask any follow up questions. Ponder your place in the dispensation of the fullness of times.


We are privileged. Mostly. Ponder if you really think that is a good thing. Lie down until the feeling passes. 

original lesson here.


  1. Kevin Barney says:


  2. Wonderful. But note that “fulness” is part of the gnosis that really shouldn’t be discussed or even mentioned in a public forum. (Related not to be mentioned topic: Is King James English the language of heaven? Or why does it persist in 19th century revelation?)

  3. Love it. If I were still teaching the GD class, I’d use some of it. Maybe that’s why the bishop was inspired to release me. But if it was, I don’t think he knew it.

    Chris, The 19th century revelation version of King James Bible English (some of which was archaic even in King James’ time) is rather more inconsistent in its grammar and usage that the King James Authorized Version. I rather like Roger Terry’s suggestion that maybe Moroni learned English, 19th century culture, and King James English imperfectly and was the translator who made words appear on the seer stone in the hat. Of course, I’ve not yet found a translation or origin theory with respect to the BoM doesn’t have some potential problems. Oh dear, I may have mentioned several things here that are not to be mentioned!)

  4. Thank goodness: now I don’t have to prepare my first Primary lesson!

  5. Mary Lythgoe Bradfford says:

    I think I will stick with the hall class–

  6. Marvelous!

  7. Just remember that D&C/Church History is one year that you have to get through before you can go back to the Old Testament and read about cities of refuge for accused murderers; talking donkeys; wild dogs eating the corpses of wicked kings and queens; bears mauling prophet-mocking children; and Elijah mocking the priests of Ba’al by saying that their god is off taking a dump.

  8. “For whom is this message intended? Did you say everyone? Well, aren’t you special.” ftw

  9. You’re testing the M* bloggers outrage limits, aren’t you?

  10. I’m worried about you, John.

  11. Lol.

  12. Goodness, this gives me some hope that cultivating a sense of humour about all this might keep me sane.

    John, you’re a star.

  13. I am so glad I didn’t read this until after I taught this lesson today. I would not have been able to stop occasional snort-laughter from escaping.

  14. That felt like a full body dry heave. Painful, but cathartic.

  15. I emailed this helpful lesson plan to my husband today. Whilst he was teaching the lesson. Guess my New Years resolution to stop causing mischief might’ve fallen at the first hurdle.

  16. Regarding “tender but firm”; Burger King has TENDERCRISP (all in upper case at their website) chicken sandwiches. Is that kind of the same?

  17. Kevin Barney says:

    Several of these things (like “tender but firm”) actually came up during our actual GD class, and I had to bite my tongue several times to keep from guffawing.

  18. Not fasting but wondering about fullness says:

    Searching “fullness” on pulls up many JKV, BoM, D&C and other uses of “fulness”. Interestingly (or not), it also pulls up “fullness” in JST John 1:16. I understand most of the work on JST was done 1830-1833, after the BoM, but prior to some of the D&C uses of “fulness.” Are both spellings original to JS or do we have an editor’s hand in the different spellings? Assuming inspired spelling, what eternal principle(s) should be understood from the use of both or the places they are used?

  19. Best read of the year. Looking forward to 2017.

  20. Dang. Tender but firm sounds exactly like how you know if your pasta is al dente yet. And yes, this came up in our lesson today, and I just thought “This lesson material is . . . terrible. Like, so bad.” Someone in class did ask who wrote the introduction we read in class, though. The teacher didn’t know and suggested they try to find out as an assignment. Good luck with that.

  21. Elizabeth says:

    We got snowed in and they cancelled everything after Sacrament meeting. Lucked out this week, didn’t have to teach this or anything else!

  22. I read this before today’s lesson, where our very earnest teacher spent a lot of time on cornerstones/keystones/capstones and we read the “tender but firm” bit. As a result I had a hard time being appropriately “reverent” during those portions of the lesson.

  23. Hubby taught. Handout showing the main changes in each major printing of D&C/Book of Commandments. Discussed why we don’t share the D&C the way we share the BOM. Asked what people wanted to learn. Comments showed that people don’t feel comfortable with D&C or enjoy it as much as other scriptures. We are a small rural Midwest ward but with a charismatic teacher who will take us on a great ride.

  24. Geoff - Aus says:

    John, I enjoyed your insight/humour. Not sure when you put this up, could you be aware some of us would like to read this before church and are 17 hours ahead of you. Can you do that?

    Assuming you are continuing these.


  25. “Does saying things are vaguely like other things constitute insight?”

    Beautiful — this pretty much encapsulates 95% of what happens at Church these days, and probably always but somehow it’s been much more noticeable in the last five years.

  26. “This is because the important thing about scripture isn’t what was said, who said it, or why they said it; what is important is what the Church says it means.”

    Ouch but so true.

  27. “Discussed why we don’t share the D&C the way we share the BOM.”

    What was the answer to that one, Joanne?