What is the rhyme or reason behind how the Doctrine and Covenants is arranged? They are not organized in chronological order. Neither are they arranged topically or by priority as far as I can tell. There must be some logical reason for why they have been placed that way.
The sections of the Doctrine and Covenants are arranged chronologically, with some exceptions. The first and most obvious exception is Section 1, which was put first by divine commandment:
Behold, this is mine authority, and the authority of my servants, and my preface unto the book of my commandments, which I have given them to publish unto you, O inhabitants of the earth.
(The original publication of revelations that we call The Doctrine and Covenants was originally titled The Book of Commandments.)
The other notable exceptions occur at the end of the Doctrine and Covenants, starting with Section 133:
- Section 133: This section was originally an appendix to the Book of Commandments. It was later assigned a section number at the (then-current) end of the revelations.
- Section 134: This is not a revelation, but a statement of belief accepted at a general assembly of the Church in 1835 and originally intended to be included at the end of the Doctrine and Covenants.
Sections 135 and 136 continue the chronology established through Section 132, and were placed at the very end of the book. Section 135 is the announcement of the martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum Smith, and Section 136 is the will of the Lord given by revelation to Brigham Young. Until 1981, Section 136 was the last numbered section in the Doctrine and Covenants.
- Section 137: This is a marvelous vision the Prophet Joseph Smith received in 1836, but which for some reason was not included in earlier compilations of the Doctrine and Covenants. Along with Section 138, this was officially added to the Doctrine and Covenants in 1976 as an appendix; Gramps remembers well the small booklet with a sticky strip designed to insert these into our then-current copies of the D&C. In 1981, when the special footnoted edition of the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price was released to match the 1979 LDS edition of the King James Bible, these two revelations were assigned regular section numbers at the end of the sections.
- Section 138: A magnificent and important vision by President Joseph F. Smith. Its addition to the D&C is discussed in the paragraph above on Section 137. This section along with Section 136 and the two Official Declarations constitute the only four revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants that were not received or dictated by the Prophet Joseph Smith.
The “Official Declarations” have been retained as the last part of the Doctrine and Covenants, though Official Declaration 1 was actually made by President Wilford Woodruff before the revelation in Section 138 was received by President Joseph F. Smith.
Other than the cases mentioned above, the sections in the Doctrine and Covenants were intended to be in strictly chronological order. In a few cases (such as Section 74, Section 94, and Section 99), incorrect record-keeping or simple ignorance of the exact date of the revelation resulted in the revelations being out of order.
The Church leadership has determined that the non-chronological ordering will be kept to preserve the familiar section numbering.