Embracing the Law

Reading Doctrine and Covenants 42

Joseph M. Spencer Jeremiah John

According to Joseph Smith, Doctrine and Covenants 42 “embraces the law of the church.” In this collection of essays, six scholars probe the significance of this revelation, especially the significance of its status as “law.” In what ways is D&C 42—especially the law of consecration—binding for Latter-day Saints today? These wide-ranging essays argue that the law remains in force, but in many different ways.

MTS full


These sort of theological ventures are incredibly helpful to me in taking a new and different approach to reading scriptural texts. They open new paths of understanding and challenge familiar assumptions.

All of the papers in this volume are thought-provoking and worth consideration. Each article is unique in its perspective and well-researched. I found it setting the bar for Mormon studies and Mormon theological examination at a lofty level. It is a volume well done.

Robert Wheadon

Thunker's Weblog

Embracing the Law contains useful and fascinating readings of Doctrine and Covenants 42. Both the Latter-day Saint faithful reading the book to gain a better understanding of their scriptures and non-Mormon scholars wanting to understanding the historical and theological legacy of Joseph Smith as a prominent nineteenth century religious figure would do well to consult this volume.

Stephen O. Smoot

Ploni Almoni blog

The perspectives shared are exceptional and each of the essays will hugely contribute towards the reader's understanding of D&C 42, yet collectively they do not try present a definitive answer as to how we should understand the law. The book is highly recommended for anyone who is looking to start their own exploration of the revelation, but is not recommended as a shortcut to a set of uncontested conclusions. The essays should definitely be seen as the start of a discussion rather than the end.

About the Editor

Joseph M. Spencer

Joseph M. Spencer is assistant professor of ancient scripture at Brigham Young University. He earned a PhD in philosophy at the University of New Mexico and has published extensively on Latter-day Saint scripture and theology in BYU Studies Quarterly, the Journal of Philosophy and Scripture, and the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies where he serves as editor. Spencer is co-editor of the book series Groundwork: Studies in Theory and Scripture. His other books include Reading Nephi Reading Isaiah and For Zion: A Mormon Theology of Hope.

Table of Contents

  • Introduction
  • Summary Report
  • "I Will Give unto You My Law": Section 42 as a Legal Text and the Paradoxes of Divine Law
  • "That My Covenant People May Be Gathered in One": The Law of Section 42 of the Doctrine and Covenants
  • Teaching in Zion
  • "Thou Wilt Remember the Poor": Social Justice and a Radical Reading of ‘The Law of the Church of Christ’ (D&C 42)
  • Consecration, Holy War, and the Poor: An Apocalyptic Approach to Doctrine and Covenants 42
  • Remnants of Revelation: On the Canonical Reading of Doctrine and Covenants 42
  • Bibliography
  • Contributors
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Publication Information

  • Publication Date: May 2017
  • ISBN 13: 978-0-8425-3003-3
  • Page Count: 140
  • Format: paperback, epub, html
  • Price: $ 15.95
  • Imprint: Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship

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The views expressed here and in Maxwell Institute publications are those of the individual authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the Maxwell Institute, Brigham Young University, or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“Seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith.” (D&C 88:118)