This simple, yet profound statement tells me that He leaves nothing up to chance. So when there is a major event that rocks the world, we should look behind that event to detect God’s hand shaping things to bring about His purposes.
This investigative method is particularly important when studying the Doctrine and Covenants. Unlike the other standard works, the story is absent. Instead, the D&C is a collection of revelations the prophets throughout our dispensation have felt to be of critical importance to us.
But reading scripture without story requires a different approach. Each revelation did not simply happen. Rather, these revelations were answers to questions or solutions to problems.
To capture the purpose behind the revelation, we need to look for the story. So the best way to get the most out of the D&C is to connect each section to what was happening in Church history at the time.
This investigation is made easier when the Church included references to pages in the volumes of History of the Church that provide part of the story. Here is the link for the online version of History of the Church.
Rather than focus on the story with which we are all familiar, let’s see what forces came together to put Joseph in the situation to ask which church was true.
As a result of the Revolutionary War, the Native Americans were largely pushed out of the northeastern states, including western New York. That meant there was cheap and virgin land for farming.
Money was scarce for many of those tilling the land, so they farmed the soil of larger land owners. Western New York was attractive to the poor New England farmers. So they left behind their unprofitable and depleted farms for the untamed lands of New York.
Joseph and Lucy Mack Smith were among those who made this migration west.
This westward migration concerned the organized religions in the east. These farmers were mostly firm in their Christian faith, but they left their established churches behind. To remedy this problem, the major denominations started traveling revivals to reawaken the need for organized churches.
Young Joseph was not alone in his quest for the true church. Many people he knew and loved were likewise on this quest. In fact, this own family was divided between the Methodists and Presbyterians.
I am convinced it was no accident that the Smith family lived in an area of religious excitement. I am sure God placed Joseph right where he needed to be to have the strong desire to ask which church was true.
I see in this example, God carefully molding historical events to help bring about His purposes.