I've been kicking around the idea of an analysis of the Doctrine and Covenants for a few years now and I think I'm ready to pull the trigger. As with my commentary on the Book of Mormon, I'll be keeping my eyes peeled for contradictions, dangerous doctrines, and teachings that don't align with what the church claims in the present day. As this book of scripture isn't, strictly speaking, fictional, there will be less for me to point out when it comes to plot holes and amateurish storytelling. I suspect all of that may be compensated for with opportunities to point out divine edicts that make no sense and passages that demonstrate God's subpar command of modern language.
So let's dive in.
Warning, Live Without Warning
Section 1 constitutes a revelation provided specifically for inclusion as a preface for a publication of the Lord's collected musings. I'll begin by highlighting verse 4:
And the voice of warning shall be unto all people, by the mouths of my disciples, whom I have chosen in these last days.
Interesting that this book of scripture starts with themes of fear, warning, and authority. Not a great tone to set. I mean, I suppose a lot of this made sense in the culture of its time when millennialism was a big deal, but as far as its use as present-day scripture is concerned, it's not a great look.
And also, the voice of warning still hasn't gone to all people because the church is so tiny and has such limited influence outside of the mountain west region of the United States.
Weighted Grading System
Moving on to verse 10:
Unto the day when the Lord shall come to recompense unto every man according to his work, and measure to every man according to the measure which he has measured to his fellow man.
This is simply not true. This does not jive with our understanding of how God "measures" us. He has his own standards that humanity has no power to change. This is why apostles teach against gay marriage by saying society's standards may change but God's will not.
The weirdest part is that this seems to imply that if we go easy on each other and not look down on rapists, then God won't punish us as harshly for our own rapes. I have never met a Mormon who believes this is the case. By that logic, the eat-drink-and-be-merry crowd probably has the best shot at exaltation.
Zero Tolerance Policy
Our favorite uncompromising deity flexes his uncompromising muscles of uncompromisingness in verse 31:
For I the Lord cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance;
Why not? A being as wise as God should understand that there is a lot of complexity in the world he's created. He should know it's not that black-and-white. There are plenty of things that you can do that are wrong but that are understandable considering the circumstances. But God can't cut us a slight degree of allowance for doing bad things with good intentions? I mean, it's his fault that it's so tough to determine what's right anyway since he sent us through the veil. If there are degrees of glory why can't there be degrees of infraction against his commandments?
And how does this work with what is often termed Lying for the Lord? How does this work with Joseph's denial of polygamy? With Ballard's claim that the church leaders have never hidden anything? And with all the dishonesty in between?
A Crooked Catchphrase
Verse 35 contains one of the more dubious claims in this section:
For I am no respecter of persons, and will that all men shall know that the day speedily cometh; the hour is not yet, but is nigh at hand, when peace shall be taken from the earth, and the devil shall have power over his own dominion.
Here is the first point in the Doctrine and Covenants when God proclaims that he is "no respecter of persons." This phrase will be repeated many times. And at this point, it may be true according to the historical record. But according to the pseudohistorical record (by which I mean the racist-against-Native-Americans Book of Mormon) and the subsequent historical record of the church, yes, he fucking IS a respecter of persons. He plays favorites all the time, all the way back to the Old Testament up until this decade when his church enacted policies that blatantly favored straight people over gay people...well, at least over people in gay relationships. And their children. And of course there's all the "shall I tell you concerning the negro race" bullshit in the middle. And the ongoing issue with pretending women are honored but not giving them the priesthood or addressing the overwhelming cultural oppression and repression.
Other than that, though, God is, more or less, no respecter of persons.
Search, Ponder, and Pray
Perhaps the most preface-y element of this preface is showcased in verse 37:
Search these commandments, for they are true and faithful, and the prophecies and promises which are in them shall all be fulfilled.
Ah, here we have the tender mercies thesis statement. Just like the Book of Mormon doesn't really support Nephi's thesis statement, I think the following 139 chapters will demonstrate that these "true and faithful" commandments will contradict each other and that the promises and prophecies have not all been fulfilled—some of their deadlines have expired.
Godly by Association
Verse 38 may represent Joseph's attempt to align his reputation with God's to make his words as unassailable as the Lord's:
What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.
And this leads us into the murky sinkhole of prophets speaking as men. God is saying that his promises and prophecies are all set in stone whether it's his voice saying them or whether it comes through his prophets. He's trying to make sure we take his prophets seriously...which is exactly how we get so much bullshit and miscommunication in the church.
See, when you're taught things like this, it doesn't make a lot of sense to pick and choose what teachings of the prophets you want to follow. Because if it can carry the full weight of God's word, it seems really risky to ignore. Which is why indoctrinated Mormons can be racist, sexist, or homophobic. Sure, the racism has been "corrected," but fifty years ago racism from the pulpit was indistinguishable from God's will.
It seems really irresponsible of God to say something like this and then utterly fail to either properly control his prophets' message or to provide us with a reliable method for determining when a prophet is speaking as a man.