The 1829 “Articles of the Church of Christ” is a little-known antecedent to section 20 of the Doctrine and Covenants. This article explores Joseph Smith’s and Oliver Cowdery’s involvement in bringing forth these two documents that were important in laying the foundation for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Section 20 was originally labeled the “Articles and Covenants.” It was the first revelation canonized by the restored Church and the most lengthy revelation given before the first priesthood conference was held in June 1830. Scriptural commentators in recent years have described the inspired set of instructions in section 20 as “a constitution for the restored church.” In many respect, the Articles and Covenants was the Church’s earliest General Handbook of Instructions. Although Latter-day Saints typically associate the Articles and Covenants with the organization of the Church on April 6, 1830, this regulatory document had roots in earlier events: in the earliest latter-day revelations, in statements on Church ordinances and organization from the Book of Mormon, and in the preliminary set of Articles written by Oliver Cowdery in the last half of 1829.