I love the story behind the origin of D&C 1, as it supports one of the key verses in the section, namely that “The weak things of the world shall come forth and break down the mighty and strong ones, that man should not counsel his fellow man, neither trust in the arm of flesh.”
This description of the events is from the new manual Revelations in Context:
“According to McLellin’s recollections, he, Oliver Cowdery, and possibly Sidney Rigdon had been appointed to draft a preface for the Book of Commandments. Yet when the men presented the preface to the conference, its participants ‘picked it all to pieces’ and ‘requested Joseph to enquire of the Lord about it.’ After bowing in prayer with the conference, Joseph, according to McLellin, ‘dictated by the Spirit the preface,’ doing so as he sat by ‘a window of the room in which the conference was sitting.’ McLellin remembered that ‘Joseph would deliver a few sentences and Sydney [Rigdon] would write them down, then read them aloud, and if correct, then Joseph would proceed and deliver more.’ According to McLellin, ‘by this process the preface’–now Doctrine and Covenants 1–‘was given.'”
If anyone in the early church qualifies as a “mighty and strong one,” it is Sidney Rigdon. His theological training and erudition made him a natural choice to write the preface. Oliver Cowdery was also well educated compared to the young and untutored Joseph Smith. Yet, the wisdom of the world failed to produce an introduction fitting the commandments in the Book of Commandments.
This isn’t to mock the committee process. Great modern day documents that we consider revelatory such as the Family Proclamation and the Living Christ have been produced by inspired committee.
However, what we can see clearly is that the Lord speaking through his prophet can confound the wisdom of the world. The Lord knew exactly what message he wished to have leading into the Doctrine and Covenants. And he communicate that message through a still young and relatively untested prophet servant.
The words in this revelation and in the Doctrine and Covenants are not of man, but of God.