Doctrine and Covenants Lesson #9
The momentous meeting of believers held on April 6, 1830, established the Church according to the laws of the land and the laws of God. It was held as directed by revelation and opened the door for orderly missionary work and for the growth of the Church.
Organization of the Church in 1830
The organizational meeting commenced with prayer. After a vote on the organizing of the church and election of Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery as leaders, the sacrament was administered. The elders bestowed the gift of the Holy Ghost on each individual member present by the laying on of hands, and confirmed each of those previously baptized as members. Those present at the meeting enjoyed an unusual outpouring of the Spirit of the Lord.
Preparations for the establishment of the Church had been under way since at least June 1829. Joseph Smith received a revelation specifying that the Church should be organized on April 6, 1830. On that day, forty or fifty me and women gathered in the home of Peter Whitmer Sr. in Fayette, New York, to observe the event.
History of the Text of D&C 20
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. Although Latter-day Saints typically associate the "Articles and Covenants" (Section 20) 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.
The Articles and Covenants is a foundational document presented at the first conference of the church for the approval of church members. The Articles and Covenants included a brief historical prologue, a declaration of beliefs, and a description of the offices, ordinances, and procedures of the church.
The Legal Process of Organizing the Church
In nineteenth-century New York, individuals desiring to form a church had two legal alternatives: forming a religious corporation or organizing a religious society. This article presents evidence that the Church was likely organized as an unincorporated religious society and not a corporation.
Even in its infant stages, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints instituted various procedures which would allow its members to be organized and regulated effectively. One such procedure was the practice of licensing. Church leaders issued licenses to all men holding priesthood offices and also to all missionaries called to preach the gospel.
A Point about D&C 20:1
A careful look at D&C 20:1 shows that this verse was not a revelation by the Lord about his birth date. Although James Talmage in Jesus the Christ, chapter 8, cites D&C 20:1 as evidence, other prophets and many scholars have stated that Jesus was born on a date other than April 6, 1 BC.