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The Doctrine and Covenants is primarily the collection of Joseph Smith's revelations and inspired declarations that were supposedly received from God. Intriguingly, the Doctrine and Covenants contains historical organizational sections that are very similar to the prophet Muhammad's revelations that were collected in Islam's Qur'an. For Mormonism, the importance of the revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants cannot be overemphasized, for they contain many of the unique doctrines of the LDS Church.
The Doctrine and Covenants has gone through several revisions over the years. Joseph Smith began selecting and collecting his revelations in the summer of 1830. His first sixty-five revelations were initially published in Independence, Missouri, in 1833 under the title Book of Commandments for the Government of the Church of Christ. As Joseph Smith received more visions and revelations, a revised and enlarged compilation was published in Kirtland, Ohio, in 1835 and 1876 as the Doctrine and Covenants of the Church of Latter-day Saints. Today's 1990 authorized version of the Doctrine and Covenants contains 138 revelations or sections plus the two official LDS declarations ending the practice of polygamy in 1890, and allowing worthy black males to enter the LDS priesthoods in 1978. The Doctrine and Covenants, not the Book of Mormon, contains most of the primary doctrines that are totally unique to the LDS Church.
Pearl of Great Price
The LDS scriptural volume Pearl of Great Price is only approximately sixty pages in length. It is a diverse collection of translations, narrations, and revelations written by Joseph Smith from 1830 to 1842. Over the years, several revisions, subtractions, and additions have been made to the Pearl of Great Price collection.
The first collection of Joseph Smith's writings carrying the title Pearl of Great Price was completed in 1851 by Mormon Elder Franklin D. Richards. This collection continued to grow in use and became an official LDS scriptural book on October 10, 1880. Today, the Pearl of Great Price contains the book of Moses, the book of Abraham, the Prophet Joseph Smith's revisionist translation of Matthew chapter 24, Joseph Smith-History, and the thirteen LDS Articles of Faith.
The Book of Moses
The book of Moses is a small excerpt from Joseph Smith's so-called translation of the early chapters of the book of Genesis, which he began in June 1830. Its eight chapters incorporate teachings that were supposedly lost from the Bible that give additional information about the plan of salvation, the creation of the earth, and the Lord's dealings with Adam and Enoch.
The Book of Abraham
The book of Abraham is Joseph Smith's translation of an Egyptian papyrus manuscript that he purchased in 1835. It contains five short chapters with three facsimiles and explanations. Although the book was originally written in Egyptian, Smith claimed that through his God-given supernatural abilities he discovered that they contained extrabiblical writings of the patriarch Abraham in his own handwriting while he lived in Egypt (Gen. 12:10-20). The translation of these so-called writings of Abraham was initially published in 1842 in the city of Nauvoo, Illinois.
The book of Abraham contains several uniquely LDS doctrines, such as the plurality of gods, the preexistence of humans, and the organization of the world by several gods out of existing matter. The book of Abraham was also used to exclude male blacks from the Mormon priesthoods.
Since the original papyri had apparently disappeared, the LDS Church claimed that the book of Abraham was a direct translation by Joseph Smith, who had used an Egyptian alphabet and grammar that the LDS Church had in its possession. In 1966, however, the Mormon world was rocked when some of the book of Abraham's original papyri were discovered at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art. The files contained a bill of sale from Emma Smith, Joseph Smith's widow.
After a thorough examination of the papyri and the three facsimiles contained in the book of Abraham, it was authoritatively declared by Egyptologists that the present content in the book of Abraham has nothing at all to do with the original papyri. Actually, the facsimiles and papyri turned out to be pagan Egyptian funerary documents.
Now that it is a proven fact that the LDS book of Abraham has no relationship at all to the Egyptian papyri purchased by Joseph Smith back in 1835, Mormonism now states that Smith did not really translate the extant papyri, but simply used them to obtain supernatural revelation from God. The unfolding saga of the book of Abraham affirms that Mormons embrace their scriptural books-including the Book of Mormon-not based on historical authenticity but through an irrational faith.
Joseph Smith claimed in Doctrine and Covenants 45:60-61 that God called him to begin his revision of the New Testament. This section of the Pearl of Great Price contains Joseph Smith's revision of Matthew 23:39-24:5 in which he adds material concerning the second coming of Jesus Christ.
Joseph Smith-History contains excerpts from his official testimony and history of the LDS Church, which he published in 1842 in Nauvoo, Illinois. It contains his version of the First Vision, the Moroni visits, the receiving and translating of the Book of Mormon gold plates, and the restoration of the Aaronic Priesthood.
The Thirteen Articles of Faith
The Articles of Faith of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latterday Saints are thirteen short, concise creedal statements of basic beliefs and doctrines of Mormonism that were written by Joseph Smith and published on March 1, 1842.