This book was prepared as a “collection of essays written to give deeper insight into historical and doctrinal aspects of those revelation, epistles, and instructions which constitute the Doctrine and Covenants” (1). It consists of fifty-two chapters written by thirty-three different authors who represent a broad range of scholarly expertise in the areas of the Doctrine and Covenants and Church history. The editors have attempted to achieve a blend of the sequential approach and the topical approach to the study of the Doctrine and Covenants. Overall, this blend works well. Not all sections of the Doctrine and Covenants are discussed, nor are those sections treated given equal weight. The emphasis is on those sections where the writers’ expertise would best be used.
This approach allows for the meaningful application of each scholar’s particular strengths. For example, in the essay on the mission to the Shakers and section 49, the writer makes good use of the diary of the Reverend Ashbel Kitchell, which was discovered only recently. Kitchell was a minister in the Shaker community, and his diary is an aid to understanding both the actions of Leman Copley and the problems concerning the doctrines of the Shakers to which section 49 is addressed. Similarly, in the essay on section 111 the writer draws upon recently discovered documents to give insights into the travels of Joseph Smith and his companions to Salem, Massachusetts, and the challenges they faced there.
Another strength of the book is in its doctrinal insights. The essay on sections 6, 8, 9, and 11 is very instructive on the process of revelation and develops the idea that God had first to reveal how to receive revelation to a people who were not used to receiving revelation.