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D&C 3 is addressed to Joseph Smith.
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- Received: early July 1828 at Harmony, Pennsylvania
- Prior section in chronological order: D&C 2
- Next section in chronological order: D&C 10
During April - June 1828 Joseph Smith and Martin Harris translated 116 manuscript pages from the Book of Mormon plates at Harmony, Pennsylvania. During that time Martin repeatedly asked Joseph for permission to take the manuscript home to show to his wife at Palmyra, New York. Joseph inquired of the Lord and was told "No." Martin prevailed upon Joseph to ask again with the same result. Finally, on the third request, Joseph was told that Martin could take the manuscript only if he bound himself to certain conditions, including that he was to show the manuscript to only five people. Joseph was also told that he (Joseph) would be responsible for Martin's adherence to these conditions.
Upon returning home to Palmyra, Martin showed the manuscript to several people in violation of the conditions to which he had agreed. After a month, Joseph traveled from Harmony to Palmyra in July 1828 and learned that Martin had lost the 166 page manuscript. Upon returning home to Harmony, Moroni temporarily returned the urim and thummim to Joseph, and through them Joseph received D&C 3.
For a brief overview of D&C 3 in historical relation to the rest of the Doctrine & Covenants, see Historical Overview of the Restoration Scriptures. For lengthier discussions of the historical setting, see Historical Context of the Doctrine & Covenants, chapter 2 or Church History in the Fulness of Times, chapter 4.
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- D&C 3:1. Three categories of things ("works," "designs," and "purposes") are described as not being able to do two things ("be frustrated" and "come to naught").
- D&C 3:3: One eternal round. That which has a beginning will surely have an end. Take a ring, it is without beginning or end; cut it for a beginning place, and at the same time you have an ending place. (Joseph Smith, The Words of Joseph Smith, p. 60. Webster’s 1828: 1. Anything round, as a ring. 2. A series of changes or events ending where it began; recurring in continuance; a cycle; 3. A course of action or conduct performed by a number of persons in turn, or one after another, as if seated in a circle. Neal A. Maxwell: "Repeatedly God has described His course as reiterative, "one eternal round" We mortals sometimes experience boredom in the routine repetition of our mortal tasks, including even good works; and thus vulnerable, we are urged not to grow weary in well doing (Galatians 6:9; D&C 64:33; 84:80; Alma 37:34). But given God's divine love, there is no boredom on His part amid His repetitive work, for his course, though one eternal round, involves continuous redemption for His children." Not My Will, But Thine, p 53.
- D&C 3:4: For although a man many have many revelations. This verse seems to indicate that Joseph Smith had indeed already had many revelations. Interestingly, however, this revelation is the first that Joseph Smith committed to writing. It thus seems that something about the revelatory experience behind what is now section 3 made Joseph Smith decide to begin recording revelations. What might be behind that decision?
- D&C 3:7: Feared man. Joseph may have been concerned that Martin Harris might withdraw support and funding.
- D&C 3:9: Thou art Joseph." It would seem unnecessary to remind him of his name, unless this is a reference to something Joseph had translated, such as the prophecy of a latter-day Joseph.
- D&C 3:15. All of Section 3 could have been spoken by Moroni, who was Joseph’s primary director and mentor. Notice, for example, that all the references to God and Jesus Christ are in the third person, and the parts that are in the first person could well fit the voice of Moroni. Interestingly, Section 10, which is clearly a sequel, is likely a conflation of two revelations: verses 1-6, which in the same voice as this revelation and was delivered in September 1828, and verses 7ff, which are in the voice of God and were delivered the following May. (See Max H. Parkin, "A Preliminary Analysis of the Dating of Section 10," The Seventh Annual Sidney B. Sperry Symposium, The Doctrine and Covenants, Brigham Young University, 1979, pp 68-84.)
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- D&C 3:2: What does it mean that the God's "course is one eternal round?"
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- The oldest surviving copy of D&C 3 is the one copied by John Whitmer into Revelation Book 1, p. 1-2, presumably during the summer of 1830.
- D&C 3 was first published in the 1833 Book of Commandments, the earliest edition of what we now call the Doctrine & Covenants.
- The text of D&C 3 in significant editions of the Doctrine & Covenants can be found at:
Related passages that interpret or shed light on D&C 3.
- D&C 3 and D&C 10 both address Joseph Smith's loss of the 116 page manuscript and how he should proceed in light of that loss.
Doctrinal references cited on this page.
Historical references cited on this page.
- One eternal round Neal A. Maxwell thought this meant that God did the same work over and over: 'Repeatedly God has described His course as reiterative, "one eternal round."' Not My Will, But Thine, p. 53. ISBN 088494672X
- D&C 3: Map. The relevant Church history map is here, and here is a picture of the Smith house in Harmony.
Footnotes are not required but are encouraged for factual assertions that average readers cannot easily evaluate for themselves (such as the date of King Solomon’s death or the nuanced definition of a Greek word). In contrast, insights rarely benefit from footnoting, and the focus of this page should always remain on the scriptures themselves rather than what someone has said about them. Links are actively encouraged on all sections of this page, and links to authoritative sources (such as Strong's Bible Concordance or the Joseph Smith Papers) are preferable to footnotes.