This is Christmas week, so I’m going to do my best to throw some holiday cheer into this post. There’s a good chance we will actually make to the year 2021: It’s only ten days away. This time around we aren’t looking for a happy new year … just a new year. Because any year will be better than the last one. By the time President-Elect Joe Biden is inaugurated, some of you readers will have received one of the new Covid vaccines. By April Fool’s Day, half or more of us might get a vaccine. In 2021, you might very well strike up a conversation with a stranger with, “So, which vaccine did you get?” In the year 2021 we can go to restaurants again, we can shop in a store instead of on Amazon, we can have friends over for a dinner party, and we can safely ignore Trump’s tweets (because he will be a noisy ex-President rather than our Commander-in-Chief). We will hopefully measure national Covid deaths in dozens, not thousands, by mid-year. I am hopeful and confident that 2021 will be a good year.
And in the year 2021 we will begin a new year in the LDS Sunday School curriculum, which will cover the Doctrine and Covenants. Sometimes the D&C year covers LDS history as much as the D&C as a book of scripture, but this year the focus seems to be primarily on the D&C sections as texts. The manual is available online: Come Follow Me — For Individuals and Families: Doctrine and Covenants 2021. In light of hawkgrrrl’s Unpopular Norms post last week, here is your first discussion question for the day: Are you doing the Come Follow Me curriculum at home? Every week? Once a month? Not ever? If I had to guess, I’d say maybe one in three active LDS are doing any regular study at home, and maybe one in six are doing it more or less once per week.
I had thought that with the release of the first two Saints volumes (the new four-volume officially sponsored and published history of the LDS Church) the focus this year would have been on the history. I thought those volumes would be the focus of study and reading. Nope. Maybe next time. Here are the last four chapters in the new study manual:
- Nov. 29 – Dec. 5: D&C 137 and 138
- Dec. 6-12: Articles of Faith and Official Declarations 1 and 2
- Dec. 13-19: The Family: A Proclamation to the World
- Dec. 20-26: Christmas
It sure looks like the Articles of Faith, the two official declarations (the newish title now applied to the 1890 Manifesto and the 1978 announcement ending the priesthood and temple ban for those of African ancestry), and the Proclamation are becoming informally upgraded to scriptural status. Second discussion question: How do you feel about the Proclamation on the Family taking one more step toward canonization?
The final topic to throw out there is what books you might use or recommend for those who are reading the D&C along with the lessons but want a good reference book or a meatier discussion of the issues raised in varioius D&C sections. Here are a few of my recommendations:
- Revelations in Context, a bunch of topical essays put together by historians in the LDS History Dept. These are quite informative, offer great historical context to most of the sections, and can be used in teaching LDS Gospel Doctrine class without the visiting stake high council guy verbally wiping the dust off his feet in your direction in class.
- Steven C. Harper’s Making Sense of the Doctrine and Covenants: A Guided Tour through Modern Revelations (Deseret Book, 2008). Short and sweet chapters of three or four pages for each section of the D&C. A paperback version with a different cover was issued in 2020, but it doesn’t appear to be a revised version or second edition.
- Richard Bushman’s Rough Stone Rolling. So much of the D&C revolves around Joseph Smith that this JS bio doubles as historical context for the D&C. Bushman’s commentary on the contrast between revelations and translations, for example, and his doctrinal analysis and discussion of the meatiest sections of the D&C (76, 84, 88, and 93, as I recall) are excellent.
One book that’s missing is a good critical edition of the D&C, or at least a good study edition. For the New Testament, there was Thomas Wayment’s excellent The New Testament: A Translation for Latter-day Saints. For the Book of Mormon, there was the Maxwell Institute’s Study Edition, by Grant Hardy. I just can’t think of a similar book for the D&C short of digging into the Joseph Smith Papers Project. Here is the best place to access some of the JSPP material:
- Joseph Smith’s Revelations: A Doctrine and Covenants Study Companion. This is a really great resource.
So here is your third and final discussion question: Any other books you use or recommend for those stalwart students of the D&C who are going to read it, section by section, with this year’s Come Follow Me study program?
In closing, safe travels to all during this Christmas week. May we all survive until we get through the line for a vaccine shot or two. Sympathy and condolences to all those who have lost a friend or family member earlier in 2020. Sober and quiet Happy Holidays to all. May 2021 shine brighter on you and your family.