Section 20 of the Doctrine and Covenants has been the most copied section of all the revelations, which reflects its great significance in the church and its history. The section, itself, is referred to as the “church articles and covenants,” and was given through Joseph Smith in Fayette in April 1830. Joseph Smith wrote of this revelation: “We obtained of him [Jesus Christ] the following, by the spirit of prophecy and revelation; which not only gave us much information, but also pointed out to us the precise day upon which, according to his will and commandment, we should proceed to organize his Church once more here upon the earth.”
The section gives a short history of the church/restoration, as well as all the stipulations regarding the organization and governance of the church, from the order of the priesthood to the sacramental prayers. The revelation is so comprehensive that one would be able to replicate the church in any place with this document. The first segment is a historical overview, followed by a description of the articles of faith and doctrine of the church, and then a ‘handbook’ of instruction regarding the order and rituals of the church. The responsibilities of each level of priesthood are given. The conditions of baptism are given. The complete baptismal and sacramental prayers are written out, and the methods regarding voting in the church and giving baby blessings are delineated, along with much more.
Thus, in section 42—called “The Law”—it’s easy to see why the Lord includes section 20 in his “Law of Gospel Teaching.” D&C 42: 12-13 states, “And again, the elders, priests and teachers of this church shall teach the principles of my gospel, which are in the Bible and the Book of Mormon, in the which is the fullness of the gospel. And they shall observe the covenants and church articles to do them, and these shall be directed by the Spirit.” Missionaries in that day were required to take with them the Bible and Book of Mormon, and a copy of this 20th revelation in order to convey a full sense of the gospel and the Lord’s church in this day. What a statement—to put this section next to the greatest two works of the Lord. That is truly a testimony of its immense significance in the eyes of the Lord and in the lives of church members.