Here are some handouts I’ve created for use in giving an overview of the Doctrine and Covenants. They are combined into one PDF file (I originally had three handouts, but I’ve since added a fourth to the collection). The handouts are:
- Section Titles and Divisions
- Timeline of Revelations
- Chronological Reading Diagram
- Chronological Reading Checklist
Among other things, each handout explains how the sections of the D&C can be arranged chronologically, but each handout visually portrays this in a different way. I recommend printing front-and-back, so that you can hand out the entire collection on just three sheets of paper.
You can download the color version if you’re just printing out one copy for yourself (they really don’t have much in the way of color; they’re mostly black text with some rubrics). Or you can download the black-and-white versions, which I’ve tried to shade just right for photocopying.
Each handout includes an explanation on it. When I have some time, I hope to do an individual post for each handout, explaining in greater detail how I created it, what information it provides, why I made certain choices, and ideas for how to use it in teaching situations. For the time being, though, I just wanted to get them up here on the web so people can use them for the coming year’s adult Sunday school curriculum. Following is a brief description of each handout.
1. Section Titles and Divisions
This is a table of information similar to the Chronological Order of Contents in your print edition of the Doctrine and Covenants (note: my dates differ because I’ve used more recent research from the Joseph Smith Papers project). It has each section in numerical order, with the date and place it was received, as well as a suggested title I came up with. In addition, I broke the sections into five major geographical groups (2–40 New York; 41–112 Ohio; 113–123 Missouri; 124–135 Illinois; 136–OD-2 The West). Then within those major groups, I inserted headings that broke them down into minor groups of sections based on common themes, such as translating the Book of Mormon, or time spent in Liberty Jail (these subdivisions and their labels, by the way, correspond to the major and minor headings in the Structured Edition).
Hopefully this kind of dividing and subdividing helps readers keep track of broader patterns and events as they read, making it easier to remember the context—a particularly difficult task in this book of scripture, since it lacks a storyline. For an example of one pattern, see Figure 8: Separation as Migration, on page 39 of my monograph on spiritual death.
2. Timeline of Revelations
This is a timeline with all the sections placed on it according to date of reception. You’ll notice that a few sections fall on the timeline out of numerical order. The section numbers that are more than a year removed are bolded (and colored red, in the color version).
This timeline illustrates a few interesting patterns, such as the fact that over half the Doctrine and Covenants was received in just a three-year span, as well as the fact that fewer textual/literary revelations were received as time went on (some day I’ll get around to recounting a great insight from Richard Holzapfel about why that would be the case).
3. Chronological Reading Diagram
This is a diagram that I conceived of as a way of quickly guiding a reader who wants to know how to read the Doctrine and Covenants in chronological order. Doing so requires jumping around in the book, and it’s easy to get lost without a diagram like this. In addition, it explains how to read it in conjunction with the two other books of scripture from the modern era: Joseph Smith—History and the Articles of Faith. (By the way, with some careful printing and cutting, this handout can be made into a two-sided half-sheet.)
I think reading the scriptures in chronological order is a valuable exercise that everyone needs to try at least once. If we want to be serious students of the scriptures, it’s crucial to understand the sequence things were revealed in. I’m hoping this chart makes that easier to do for those who are keen on that endeavor.
4. Chronological Reading Checklist
This checklist conveys the same information as the Diagram (#3 above), but in a table format similar to the Divisions of Sections chart (#1 above). Many people will find this checklist easier to understand and use than the less-familiar diagram.
I removed the Place of Reception column and with the extra space I was able to include labels for the third-tier divisions (the thin grey lines). I also added a column showing the number of verses in each passage; this might help you pace your reading if you want to divide the book into readings of roughly uniform length.
For a more detailed explanation, see the post dedicated to the Chronological Reading Checklist.
Each of these charts (or some version of them) can be found in the table of contents and/or appendixes of my custom version of the scriptures: the Structured Edition of the Doctrine and Covenants. You can download the book for free; I’d recommend using it for your Sunday school reading this year.
I taught Gospel Doctrine today and used these handouts to identify principles and applications for our lives. As Latter-day Saints, we are accustomed to studying individual verses and drawing out insights from short phrases and individual words. However, many valuable ideas can also be gained by stepping back and looking at larger patterns. I hope these handouts help you do so. I’d love to hear from you in the comments section about how you’ve used these handouts, how you shared them, and what insights you gained from doing so.